Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Choose

I gave up home for freedom.
I chooe to cruise the globe rather than surf channels.
What’s a life hidden?
Who’s alive buried?

Years of torturous travels down highways to climb ladders with buckets of concealed slop teetering at the top, waiting for a misstep to pour down upon my head, burying me beneath shattered dreams and unknown hopes.

Joys that might have been.

The only thing to do is wade through, pick through the slime to salvage a bit of breath that will carry me on its wing to somewhere—away from the nowhere.

I choose rose-colored clouds with just a hint of gray rather than heavy blackness with only a hope of rosy.

I choose to eat the rainbow swirl split beneath lollipops of light rather than submit to a foreshadowing of a small life ended.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dealing with the Past

Black clouds swirl, familiar and heavy with pain unknown, pain unanswered and pain unasked.

What is today without a yesterday? And what can possibly be made of tomorrow?

The journey becomes drudgery. Adventure and wonder abandoned on the wayside to make room for backpacks and pullcarts, out dated luggage, nothing more than worn and tattered baggage. Arms reach, lungs empty, tears flood for the one’s left behind, forgotten too quickly in the dust. Forward motion prohibits recapture, demands dismissal. What else can be done?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Civil War

The twitch of an eyebrow, the drop of a shoulder
The heaviness of footsteps or the click of a door
Down the hill of life rolls that fatal boulder
Collecting words unspoken as fodder for war

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Journey

Four Miles
August 2010

Four miles, two of swamp, boulders and felled trees

Two and one-half miles of adventure
Scared a buck, spotted a doe, heard an eagle

One-half mile of excruciating torture

Dragging and praying every inch

It’s not age, it’s idleness
It’s not fat, it’s consumption

It’s not fatigue, it’s weakness
It isn’t orthopedic, it’s delusion

Today four miles, two miles of rugged

Entering the trail-10:30am

Dense woodland both sides. 'Think' it's part of Superior National Forest.

End of the trail. WHAT trail??? Perch Lake. 12:16pm

As close as I could get without being swallowed by swampland. 

This was a part of the trail. I'm pretty proud of myself!!

Timber Wolf Lodge quarry. 1:04pm. Only another quarter mile to the cabin. By now, I was praying for a vehicle but none arrived to save me (thanks Nanci), and I got back to the cabin at 1:30pm. Only crippled for a few hours. Those who know me are aware that this is pretty impressive.

The View from the Sofa

The North Woods
August 2010

Stretched before a gentle fire surrounded in cast iron, the concert beyond the picture window unfolds to whispers of cobalt or azure illusion and crested gray mingled with tiny shimmers of russet, umber and camel. Daily they scamper, peck and tussle over birdseed. The backdrop is a ripple of hunter, moss and kelly, which reveals glimpses of cloud wisps floating above ten thousand lakes in the ‘land of sky blue waters,’ a power that surged and sliced between granite and gneiss, nurturing tall, lofty pines and eerie birch woodlands. So absolute is the serenity it allows silence amongst us, periods of gazing in stillness at the skies without words or concern. Air so clear you truly smell fertile earth, bountiful water, the musky, damp moss that clings and drips from roofs, trees and blankets rocks—a spongy, rich green sheathe. The soaring symbol of this Turtle Island competes with loons and man for aquatic sustenance. Bucks crash through broken birch while Monarchs and Zebra Swallowtails flutter from Horseweed to Arrowhead surrounded by Flower of the Dead.

The recital of late summer sights cause wonder of deep frigid winters—the pristine and hushed dwelling of gray wolves and black bears.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The One That Got Away

August 10, 2010 - Timber Wolf Lodge, Ely, MN

There's always one isn't there?
Always the story of the thirty-pounder,
The fight of your life, exhilarating, heart-thumping
Did-you-see-that one that got away.

Mine wasn't like that

He was pretty and shiny and
Might have been a keeper

I was exhilarated and my heart-thumped
When he got away, but he was average,
Just average.

The north winds blew
Eagle screeched overhead
White caps raged
Beneath clear then cloudy skies
Over Bear Island Lake

Twenty years since my last time
So long I'd forgotten what I remembered
The cool touch of the pole
Or the proper movement for satisfying results
The proficiency, the experience, somewhere within.

Once I'd been skilled, not expert, but adept
Now it was like the very first time
All over again
The one you want to forget

He was alert. He recognized the awkwardness
What was that shimmy in the palm of my hand?
At the moment I realized he was mine
He flicked me off and disappeared into
The pond that's full of one's just like him.

He was pretty and shiny and
Might have been a keeper

But he was only average.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Debate vs Argument

The poisonous blast of ignorance rips at my face,
bursts my eardrums, sears my nostrils and chokes
the breath in my lungs. Its black cloud lingers
overhead, dropping random bombs of deadly gas. The
heat stifles and torches with murderous intent.
There is not one moment of calm which would attract
peace. Disaster thunders without cessation and hope
is burnt cinders whisked away by the force of hate.
Hate that will not be harnessed. So much better
would be the breeze of reason.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

another chapter in the 500 word commitment


Crimson Red. That was the name of the hot new lipstick and Dot loved how it looked. It emphasized her emerald eyes causing them to sparkle and glow. Night cat eyes, she’d been told. She blotted the lips on tissue paper just like Redbook had said, and patted the rouge as well. Her jet black hair was curled in the stylish Victory Roll. She smoothed the skirt on the belted cotton sun dress and twirled around so the fullness ballooned out, showing her silk covered legs. A last glance in back to check the seams and a pinch on the cheeks to enhance the rouge and she felt like any of those models in Vogue. It all was a wise purchase with her weeks tips from the diner.

“What are you doing in there Dottie? Don’t think you’re going out again. Your grandma needs tending to.”

Her father’s rough voice set her teeth on edge. He could yell all he wanted while he was playing with his train city in the basement but he never did the tending. He came home black from the coal of steam engines and expected his bath waiting and his dinner after. Then he’d disappear for the rest of the night playing with more trains. Ever since her mother had died, Dottie became the woman of the house without any of the womanly pleasures.

“Granny’s done and in bed, father. Yes, I am going out again. I’ve worked all week too you know.”

She knew when she said it there was going to be a fight. William Stroebe didn’t take kindly to being talked back to by anyone in his house. Her only recourse was to get Granny involved. She slipped into Granny’s bedroom with the purple iris wallpaper-covered walls and soft candle glow. Her half frame was tucked into the white eyelet bedspread that she’d made for her dowry when she was a teenager in Germany. Dottie loved the softness of the bedspread, the tenderness of Granny’s voice and the exciting stories she told about escaping Germany for the gold paved streets of America. Granny knew adventure and she knew desire. She also knew heartache from the death of a husband and a daughter, and the pain of losing both legs to gangrene. Her body was crippled but her heard and mind weren’t and she was Dottie’s champion. Her splotched translucent hand patted Dottie’s when she sat on the side of her bed.

“Don’t you worry honey, he just wants you to be safe. He doesn’t understand a girl needs to dance, to sing and laugh. He’s forgotten.”

“Now Louise Klaussen, don’t you stand between me and that girl. She can’t be running around all hours of the night. She’s just eighteen. She’s down at the hall with all those soldiers and that will only be trouble. Dottie, go wash that stuff off your face and take off those trashy clothes. You’re not going down there.”

“Bill,” whispered Louise, “she needs it. Try to remember what it was like to laugh. Remember when you and Christine used to go to the same kind of halls and dance all night? Dottie’s not an old woman. She’s got energy to burn and a love to find.”

“Don’t talk all that stuff to me Louise. Christine and me were married when we danced all night. No one is going to want to marry Dottie if she’s out all night dancing and God knows what else.”

Here it was. Dot had heard it over and over. Her father had made her go to church every Sunday since her mother passed and she’d heard it there as well. The sin of women and men. The sin of the flesh. The fallen woman and how she brings shame to herself and the family and ruins life for everyone. There was never anything said about trust. Never anything said about love unless it was the love of God. God’s love was doing nothing for her but she hadn’t done anything about it. She was what her father called a “good girl,” but there was no telling him that, so she remained silent and let her Granny tell him the way it was.

“You shouldn’t talk about your daughter like that Bill. Christine would be ashamed of you. Dottie knows right from wrong but keeping her locked up is only going to make her rush into things and that’s when the wrong happens. She’s got me all washed up, dressed and settled in bed for the night, so you just let her go have some fun now and quit your complaining. Go on now, go back to your trains and let me get some sleep.”

Granny nestled deeper into the eyelet bedspread. Dottie knew she wasn’t going to sleep. She’d be up for hours reading Emily Dickinson or Jane Austin or some other woman writer of love and angst. Sometimes, Granny was still awake when Dottie came in and they’d eat cold leftover potato pancakes with applesauce while Dottie told her all about the soldiers and the new dances, like the jitterbug. Then Granny would have Dottie show her the dance moves. Dottie would whistle and hum the current hits like “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” and she’d swing herself around the room in the candle smoke. Granny knew Dot needed a mother and she tried the best she could without legs.

Her father grumbled something about a time and left the room. They listened to his hard steps thumping down the basement stairs then they both giggled and hugged each other like teenage girls.

“I love you Granny.”

“I love you too little girl. Now go have fun and don’t make me a liar.”

She smiled and picked up her book off the nightstand. “The Pride and the Prejudice.” Dottie was right but she didn’t say anything. She jumped and skipped out of the bedroom, out of that house and down the marigold lined walk that shimmered in the porch light, and danced right out the white wooden gate, leaving it standing open in her excitement.

Mary was waiting for her on the corner under the streetlamp. Mary was a long legged, stocky girl with bouncing blonde curls. They went to high school together, the same church and they worked together at the same diner—breakfast and lunch shift. Mary’s father, Hans, worked at the train yards with Dottie’s father and she went through the same trouble at home. Mary’s mother had died last year in childbirth and she took car of the newborn and running the house just like Dottie, but she didn’t have a grandma with no legs to take care of. She didn’t have a grandma to stick up for her either. Mary put her makeup on at the dance hall because if she didn’t it would be all smeared from the tears of fighting with her father.

“I almost didn’t make it this time. I had to run out of the house. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I go home. I might not have a home,” Mary said when she hugged Dottie hello.

“Don’t be silly. They can’t do without us. Who would cook and clean and wash their clothes for them? Come on, let’s forget about them and go dancing.”

That was the night Dottie met Second Lieutenant Boyd Crane, a fighter pilot in the US Air Force. What a dream!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

flash poetry

Whispers Gently Kiss

Whispers gently kiss
Away the nightmares’ darkness
Soft breezes linger
Caress the moments’ movement
Ether to reality

Saturday, May 22, 2010

writing commitment

500 words per day, that's the commitment to the Summer Novelist's Club on Facebook. a bunch of Columbia College grads, students, alum & professors. It feels great but i wonder why i need to have a commitment for something that feels soooo damn good.

the start:

Pink cherry blossoms mingled with lavender magnolia blooms to fill the crisp spring air with a perfumed welcome. Beyond the tree-lined gravel drive were rainbow clumps of full-bloomed tulips peeking through knee-high grass. There, at the end of the pastoral scene, sat a weathered plantation, graying paint-peeled columns stood solemn guard over the black holes of fractured glass. A warning caw of a crow lingered on the breeze. Marie sat beneath a cherry tree, elbows on knees, chin in cupped hands, and sighed deeply, drenched in her surroundings.

I’ll be damned, this is the house from my dreams. She picked a blade of grass and stuck it in her teeth. Marie pulled the letter out again, straightened the worn creases, its corners yellowed and ragged from constant fingering. The faint scent of lavender still wafted with each shift of the delicate stationary. She stared for the millionth time at the cramped script etched into the tiny pink rose watermark.

July 12, 1992
Dear Marie

I was terribly sorry to hear about Dot’s death. Please accept my sincere condolences. I’m sitting here watching the simple little ceremony and I’m sure she would’ve loved it. Your mama was always an outside girl. Never knew anyone as easygoing and full of fun as she was. She was certainly the free spirit of the family. You all look like your daddy—a lot.

I’ve known your mama since she was a little girl and we never lost contact over the years. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Dot I wouldn’t be alive today. She was a great woman, your mama. I hope you know that. She never did get to come visit like she wanted to so I’m inviting you. She always wanted to come when the cherry trees blossomed, so if you come maybe you’ll come then. That would make her happy.

Anyway, we’ll be prayin’ for you and your mama and maybe we’ll see you all soon.

Yours Truly;
Louise Stroebe

And so here she was and the cherry trees were in bloom. She creased the paper yet again and put it back in her shirt pocket. It was certainly peaceful and serene but she couldn’t imagine her mother being ever wanting to be here. “Outside girl, easygoing and full of life” was not the general description of her mother by anyone. Up until the day of the service Marie had thought of the woman as a little Hitler, and then not even that little. She lived her entire life, and tried to make Marie live her life in stoic, regimented order. Marie was the radical Harley riding, free-loving, free sprit, not her mother. Yet, when she and the kids let the winds of Lake Michigan take the ashes, Marie had a tingling sensation that she may have been a bit mistaken.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May 2, 2010

She ventures amongst the living but momentarily
Less than thrice within as many days
Excuses abound to validate and justify
Only the necessities of life
Account for the occasional contact with humankind
Otherwise, she paces up and back with questions
Hesitation and eventual submission to nothingness
Sunrise, sunset, dawn to dusk and round again
Creativity is null, absent, escaped with activity
Ideas suggest a well-maintained mind in working order
One wonders to what extent however, without live stimulation
Or the true health of what is current

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WFMT National Poetry Month Winner

this is one of four winners for WFMT's celebration of National Poetry Month where they requested a poem inspired by Debussey's "Clare de Lune." this was mine!

My Ballet of Life
Donna Kiser

I watch through the blackness that becomes indigo.
I wait through the indigo that becomes a gold shimmer
of the silky embrace that never disappoints,
the constant rapture that chases shadows
into the brilliant light of truth and touch that
will carry the transformed through the heavens of peace.
A gossamer whisper speaks of quiet hope
longing for the lush joy beyond transcendence.

I sit on a pier of frigid or steamy cement peering
with pounding heart for the explosion of sunrise
over Lake Michigan that presents serenity to a
sleepy, stoic, often ungrateful Chicago.
Powerful serenity to protect without crush,
without smother of the flight.

This is my sunrise, my comfort of
good morning from Grandfather Sun.
My ballet of life in Chicago.

There are others more pronounced,
more famous, more unique, but
none are here, none are mine.
The whispy burnt sienna over Guimaras Island,
the waltz of the sun in Tre Cruces, Peru,
the unforgettable Haleakala, Maui for me does not compare
to sullied gulls screeching welcome in cloudy or clear skies,
to the unimpeded anticipation of possibility.

Nowhere is there my sunrise, my comfort of
good morning from Grandfather Sun.
Nowhere is my ballet of life like this.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

She Just Wants to Go

She Just Wants to Go
March 1, 2010

She just wants to go home. Her head is bald and cold. Her fingertips sting even inside gloves. Her feet are wrapped in wool inside fur-lined boots and still, they are frozen. She wants to be rid of this deep freeze beside the lake even though it will be icier 70 miles west. The wind will race across the open fields and whistle through the aged window panes. But those panes will be covered in plastic and heavy drapery, and they will be closed. Unlike Marie’s windows that are either open—‘cracked a little’ as she says—or closed with only mini-blinds between the chilled glass and the room, which is then inevitably refrigerated. She’s shivered for a month.

She just wants to go home. Home where there is no living area only soft bedrooms, no neighbors that visit constantly, no coffee perking incessantly. Her son was alone and needed her but where was she—having chemotherapy in some massive complex west side Chicago. He isn’t alone any longer, his wife returned but still, they need her and she is miles away with a woman who hates plastic bottles and Fabreeze and shopping. A woman she’s known for thirty-eight years and has become a complete stranger, a woman she can’t imagine having as a friend.

She just wants to go home. She’s adamant that no matter what, she will be home tonight. No matter that it’s the worst blizzard in twenty years, no matter that everyone refuses to drive her there. She’s headed to Metra in whiteout conditions, with tires that have never been rotated and slide through stop signs, screeching to within inches of bumpers. Marie bitches at each instance of crash possibility.

“See, and you wanted to drive down 88 that’s all open highway. Shouldn’t even be driving here. And you really need to do something about these damn tires. I’m not driving this car anywhere until the roads are dry, so if you want it home, your son’s gonna have to come get it.”

Marie repeats it every time she pumps the brakes and the car continues onward, reaching wantonly for the others cars creeping through the storm at rush hour. Okay, she says, forget it, to take her back, and she’ll get home another way. But they are already passed the halfway mark and Marie says it makes no damn difference if they drive north or south, it’s the same shit all over. So they continue toward the shrouded lights of Ogilvie station distorted through the white. Taxi cabs honk, sirens blare, CTA buses loom all around but Marie makes it to the curb.

She just wants to go home. She doesn’t care if she can’t walk, if it’s sleet and ice, doesn’t care if there’s hundreds of people coming and going, pushing and bumping. She can’t wait for Marie’s daughter to get out, to help her out, she’s out, she’s going home and she’s down, under the car. Her hat has fallen off and her bald head screams at the world, “Look at me! I have cancer and I just want to go home.” Terry’s stocky 5 foot frame picks up her 6 feet of 95lbs and carries her to the train, puts her in the seat and tells her to have the conductor help with the luggage. She nods, she sighs, she leans back and sleeps.

She just wants to go home. She calls Bobby, tells him she’s in the first car of the train and she’s on time. When the train reaches its destination, end of the line, Elburn, IL, she drags herself from the seat. The white haired man offers his assistance but she snatches the luggage away.

“My son’s picking me up.”

She shuffles down from the train one step at a time, stands in the silent whiteness and sees no one. Where is Bobby? Where is Marie? She begins to cry and drags the suitcase along the platform in some direction that she thinks is correct. She cries and whimpers and there is no Bobby, no Marie. Then out of the blinding swirls strolls Bobby and she falls into his arms. He shoves her off and grabs the suitcase.

“What the hell is wrong with you? This isn’t the first car. This is the last car. You just had to come home now, huh? In the worst weather of the year. Make me drive in this shit when I just want to be home with my family. I don’t know ma, what the fuck is wrong with you.”

She just wants to go home. She pulls herself up as straight as possible and shuffles as quickly as she can to keep up. She just wants to go home, home to her son and here she is.

Now, she just wants to go to California.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Writers resource links

writing is such a solitary act that we often forget to connect with others, however, to become better and to get published, someone must do the connecting. here are a few resources:

just a few to get you started.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Holding Hands

My grandfather’s hands reach through the thick
Steam clouds of America’s great iron horses.
Strong, weathered hands covered in the black crust
Of coal dust immune to hot water and lye suds.

Our fingertips have never met over the years and
Tears that flow over the calluses and carpal tunnel.
A daughter’s freedom fight waged against the Old country
Rigidity and bigotry smothered the familial, and losers all.

Yet, so much of me is scorched by the railroad steel and
The Pennsylvania soil toiled by Germanic stoicism.
I am he, cupped in those battered hands that reach silently.
He is me, flowing through fingertips onto stark silence.

Mute stoicism brands us through the centuries with
Destruction still to the familial, with only the hope that
Past century’s lessons learned will last, and at last
Conquer the stubborn Attila the Hun barbarianism.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Years Day-2010

The Dawn of the New

Cherished silence post revelry
Blue moon shimmers over still waters
Chosen solitude refreshes and reminds
Whispers that all is well, past and future

I await the dawn of the new
Rising on plentiful dreams and possibilities
Whether sunshine or clouds
The movement is perpetual

Beneath the coldness of winter
Wrapped in sparkling hoarfrost
Plump and juicy ripe fruits
All await the dawn of the new

The day blooms in nurtured bonds
Essentials of existence meted thru
A shared exchange of gifting
The body wearies yet the spirit exalts

Dusk lowers on satiated slumber
Dreams drift in delicious ease
Gathered together effortlessly
To await the dawn of the new