“Friday the 13th comes on a Thursday this month.”
		~Churchill LaFemme (Walt Kelly)

My youngest sister married a widower on a Friday the 13th in Lent. She had to clean the first wife’s clothes out of the closet when she moved into his house. Her choice of a date was criticized. Eventually she and her husband had 7 cats. She died on a Sunday in June, twelve years later.

“I soften with my sunshine and my showers/ The heart of earth,” H.W. Longfellow wrote in his poem “April.” It recently occured to me that he was referencing Chaucer, whose “smale foweles maken melodye,/That slepen al the nyght with open ye,/So priketh hem Nature in hir corages.” However, I disagree with Henry’s choice of Zodiac figures: it’s hard to see April as a bull, no matter how wreathed his horns. I prefer Chaucer’s ram.

My maternal grandmother died in April. So did two of our cats and one of our dogs. An old colleague of mine just died and another is dying, as is my 101 year old godmother. What’s up with that? 

It will be warmer than 80 degrees today. If anyone dares say to me that it’s “lovely” or something similar, I might knock them down.

Yesterday, I found an enormous blob of springtails in the ephemeral stream that runs through the gully below our house, thousands of them. Tens of thousands of them, with more drifting in. Strangely, they are not considered insects, but Collembola and there are perhaps 8,200 species of them. There can be as many as 300 million in an acre of land. I looked at a few with a hand lens. They are charming little things with six legs and antennae. They appear purposeful, and seem to engage with one another.

Maybe “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love” in spring, but it seems old women’s heavily turn to the pains in hips and feet and how gardening gets harder every year. That’s hardly fancy, however. Just simple fact. 

Five fanciful things: 1. The clay troll I made to guard the pallet bridge over the gully.  2. Mermaids.  3. Dragons.  4. Forty red tulips sending forth leaves in the vegetable garden. 5. Trying to write a zuihitsu on a hot April day.


O Again: 7. Emmanuel

O Again


O Emmanuel (already)

O God-with-us
in NICU bassinets
and nursing homes
and truck cabs
and warehouses.

on battlefields
and bombshelters
in churches
and congress (even there).

dashing through the snow
on city sidewalks
in the bleak mid-winter.
O. That’s all. Just O.

*(cat typing. Why not here, too?)

O Again: 6. O Not

O Again

6. O Rex* (O dear)

No. Just no.
No king. 
It never works.
Even so-called good ones.
Not even a god because

nobody has ever agreed
about which, or how.
What we need 
is the desire bit.
O Desideratus.

O Desire for kindness,
O Desire for compassion,
O Desire for joy,
O Desire for peace.
O Desire. Amen.

*"King of nations and their desire."

O Again: 3. O Clavis

O Again

O Clavis

O Key, O keys.
I lost my Irish grandfather’s keys 
on a sidewalk in the snow.
O necklace of skeleton keys.
But I have his broken clock,
and photos of his children
glued in a celluloid box.

O keys, lost keys.
I was afraid of Opa who spoke
Russian and German and Polish
but whose English was remote. 
I have his silver and porcelain
wine tray painted with plums. 
O lost Clavis, O Radix lost.

O Again: 3. O Radix


O Radix (misread)

O Root.
Before coffee, I read:
Root of Jesse standing as a sign 
among the peonies. 

People, not peonies.
Had peonies once.
Tried to do them in
because botrytis blight.
They kept sprouting.

Radix, root, radish, etc.
If you plant a grafted apple tree
and bury the graft by mistake, 
the original takes over. 
Radical thought.


O Again

O Sapienta (Fifty Years later)

Holy Wisdom sets things
in order. If there is an order
to set. If there are indeed
things. Moreover, what
does it mean to be wise?

Premise: Holy Wisdom might
show us the path of knowledge.
Why would that be a path and how,
precisely, might it be revealed?
Furthermore, what can be known?

O Sapienta: Holy Wisdom. 
A good night to conceive
a philosopher on an unheated 
waterbed in a cold bedroom.
We didn’t have a clue.



Why do you keep feeding us?
We don’t give you much:
a few bones, some onion skins,
now and then something like
a token of pinecones and twigs
or a lanyard we made at camp.

You’re tired, I know.
You look tired. And old.
All those wrinkles and cracks.
And you don’t smell so good,
not any more, 
not even after the rain.

What happened to your jewels—
those little birds and buggy things?
Are you letting yourself go?
I wouldn’t blame you
since we don’t seem to care much
about how you look, or what you do.

And where would you go?
And when we’re hungry,
where will we?

Thanksgiving, 2022



This one from the milkweed growing against

all odds on the edge of my driveway or

one of those rescued from a predator

in Polly’s patch. Remember the story

that one might change the weather of the world?

Maybe not the movement of its wings.

Maybe just the vision: that brave orange

and black animal, fragile against a leaf,

blown across the sky, what it’s like to change

that way, and who knows who, seeing it, will change?




Mary F. C. Pratt

This play was part of a 24 hour play festival from "The Garden of Voices," a producer of podcasts like "old fashioned radio dramas." We started at 7 p.m. The playwrights had till 9 a.m. to send the scripts to the producer, and the directors and actors had till 7 that evening to rehearse. The plays were then presented live on Zoom, and will be available later as a podcast.
 The participants decided on a charity--Planned Parenthood--and came up with  some themes that fit in with the charity's mission. I chose these: 
Generational differences in mentality of what families should be.
Young couple deciding if it's the right time to start a family


SUSAN	        A retired teacher, in her 70s. 
JENNIFER	Susan’s stepdaughter, a businesswoman in her fifties.
JASON	        Jennifer’s son, working the gig economy. In his twenties.

SETTING 	A coffee shop. The present.

At “Rise”:	Coffee shop sounds. SUSAN is seated.

Hi Gram. Thanks so much for coming. 

Not a problem. What are grandmothers for?

Cookies? Birthday presents? Moral support? 

All of the above. Where’s your mother, speaking of moral support?

She texted awhile ago to say she’s running late. Some meeting she can’t get out of.

Well, okay then. This will give us a chance to get caught up. I’ve hardly seen you since you’ve been driving that delivery truck.

I know, right? Weird hours. But it’s the best job I’ve had for awhile. Anyhow. It’s good to see you, Gram. 

Likewise. I’ve missed you. So what’s up? All you said was you didn’t want to talk to your mother alone. It sounds serious, kid. What’s going on?

Well, it is kind of serious. Oh, I don’t know. Maybe we should wait till Mom gets here.

Why? So you won’t have to repeat yourself, or because you don’t want her knowing that you talk to me sometimes when she’s not around?

Ha. All of the above. Can you read my mind?

Of course not. It’s just that it’s a lot like mine.

Yeah, it is, isn’t it? And that’s weird because I’m not even related to you.

Be that as it may. Your grandfather is related to you, and I’ve been married to him long enough to know how his mind works.

Um. Not like mine for sure.

Exactly. Now what’s going on?

Well, you know Darcy?

Of course I know Darcy. You’ve been together two years.


Wow, already. But yes, I know Darcy. 

Well—we’ve been thinking about having a baby.

You and Darcy?

Yeah, Gram. Me and Darcy.

Of course. You just caught me by surprise there. Your mother will have a shit fit. But I guess you know that or you wouldn’t have asked me to be here.

Yeah, she will. And it’s weird because you won’t. Have a fit. I mean, you aren’t, right? And I knew you wouldn’t. And she’s younger than you, no offense. I mean, obviously because you’re her stepmother and all, but. . . 

Well, technically I could be her stepmother and younger than she, you know. If your grandfather had married somebody very young after your real grandmother died.

Hey, you are my real grandmother. Cut it out.

I know, I know. And you are definitely my real grandson. So, real grandson, your mother will have a fit. That’s a given. How about your father?

Wbo knows? I don’t care. I haven’t seen him forever. He’s never even met Darcy. All the family that matters is you and Grandpa and Mom. Would it bother Grandpa?

Of course not. He’s all about live and let live. You know that.

Yeah. He didn’t bat an eye about Darcy.

We’re old hippies you know, sweetie. We invented sex and drugs and rock and roll and shacking up. “Living together without benefit of clergy” they used to call it. How quaint is that?

So what happened to Mom? How come she’s so—straight?

She got religion. And—she rebelled, right? Goes both ways. Our parenting style was pretty casual, to say the least.

Yeah, but you married Grandpa. I mean, you weren’t like in a commune or something.

Okay. All right then. So, Jason, you and Darcy want to have a baby?

Ooops. Here comes Mom.

			(Door opens, JENNIFER enters.)

Jennifer, over here!

(From the counter.)
I’m going to grab a coffee and I’ll be right there. Though God only knows I don’t need more.

Take your time. (To JASON) Okay. You’re on. And no matter what, I’ve got your back.

I’m really nervous about this.

Of course you are. It will be fine. Really.

(Comes to the table.)
So what are you two plotting? Jason, you look so guilty. And so do you, Sue. What are you plotting?

The revolution, what else?

It wouldn’t surprise me. God only knows we need one. We need something. The traffic on Main Street, even before rush hour, is as bad as rush hour. And the price of gas! And now they want to raise our property taxes again, and for what? And clearly the government’s gone to hell.

Jennifer dear, we know all about the world. It is a mess. We agree. So let’s not talk about that. We all agree it’s a mess. We’re here because Jason has something to say that’s even more important than property taxes. Jason?

Yeah. Well. Um. Mom. Darcy and me are thinking about having a baby. We’ve pretty much decided to. I mean, it isn’t completely definite yet, but we’re pretty serious.

What? A baby?

No need to inform the whole café, Jennifer. It is exciting, but still. This is a family matter.

Exciting? Exciting? It’s appalling. Jason! I thought you’d outgrown this business. I mean, living with Darcy without being married, but now this. . . 

Mom, you’re the one who didn’t want us to get married, remember? You thought it would blow over. Well it didn’t. We really love each other. And now we want to have a baby.

But why? Whatever for? With the world going to pieces, and you don’t have a real job—

When your father and mother had you, Jennifer, the world was going to pieces, too. The war in Viet Nam was going on and on, we all figured the Soviets would nuke us, we were just beginning to understand about how bad air and water pollution were. And, well, my dear,  we had no real jobs. Your dad was doing seasonal apple picking when your mom got pregnant.

But he went to college. He became a professor. He wasn’t just a—a barrista, or a van driveror whatever.

When your mother got pregnant, your father was a dope-smoking wanna-be artist, Jennifer, and your mother thought she was the next Edna St. Vincent Millay. I was a budding herbalist, pardon the pun. Your father didn’t go to college until after you were born, after we were married. I was there. I know.

But he always told me. . . 

I know what he always told you, and I never corrected him. You were conceived on a commune, presumably by your father. You survived your birth, but your mother, who was my dearest friend, didn’t. And your father never wanted you to know because it was so awful and so hard and because, yes, he managed to make something of his life after all.

Wow, Gram.

Sue, I didn’t. . . .

I know. And it’s all right. Those were the best of times and the worst of times. It was crazy, but we thought we’d change the world. We really thought we would. And we really loved one another out there on the farm, and it all sort of worked for awhile. You were the second baby born there, and we were all so happy till your mom started bleeding and we didn’t get her to the hospital in time, and she died and it all just fell apart after that. It all just fell apart.

But I thought she. . . 

I know, Jennifer. I know. Your dad and I will sit down with you later and tell you the whole story. 

Sue. . . 

But this conversation is about Jason and Darcy. And by the way, Jason is not what you call “just a”van driver or “just a” anything. He’s a responsible person, trying to make a living in a hard world.  And Darcy is a law clerk, for goodness’ sake. So even though the world is going to hell, they’re as equipped as anybody to be parents. Better equipped than we were, believe me.

I don’t know what to say.

Try saying nothing.

Uh, Mom? You okay?

I don’t know. I’m not sure. I don’t know what to think. I didn’t know any of that. I thought Dad and Mom lived in a house with a bunch of people when they were in college. I didn’t know it was a—commune. I’m going to—I’m going to the restroom. I have to go put some water on my face. I’ll be right back.

You sure you’re okay, Mom?
I will be. I will be okay. This is just a lot. I’ll be okay.



Is that for real? I mean, all that weird stuff about grandpa and drugs and communes?

Of course it’s real. You’ve seen the photos of us on the farm.

Yeah, but I didn’t know it was—I mean, I didn’t know it was something like that. Mom said it was when you were in college, like she said.

Sweetie, I told you we invented sex, drugs and rock and roll. Flower power. All you need is love, right? And your grandpa and I don’t talk about it much because—well, we just don’t. It’s our past and it’s hard to get younger people to understand what it was like. Like we didn’t understand our parents growing up in the depression and World War Two. And your kids won’t understand you growing up in the trump and covid and climate change years. 

Thanks, Gram.

For what? It isn’t over yet. Your mom will have more to say.

I know But thanks just for saying that about my kids not understanding. My kids. Mine and Darcy’s. Or kid. I think we might only try for one.

Here she comes.

(Entering.) There. I feel a little better. I can handle this. Okay. So Jason,  maybe you can handle parenthood. It will be harder for you than it was for your father and me, but maybe not as hard as it was for your grandparents. I get that. I think. But Jason—-

You’re going to adopt, right? I  mean, Darcy’s a—man.

Yeah, but no, Mom. We’re planning to—I mean we’re thinking about—trying for a biological one.

But Darcy’s. . . 

He has a uterus, Mom.

But Jason. That’s—-what will people think? What will—

What will the neighbors say? Is that what you mean, Jennifer? Is that what you’re worried about? 

Well, it’s just—unnatural. It’s too strange, Jason. It’s just too strange and unnatural and you just shouldn’t do it. If God wanted men to have babies—

. . . he would have given them uteruses? Or is it uteri? In this case, Jennifer, that’s exactly what God, or whatever,  has done.

			(Brief silence, and an increase in coffee shop sounds.)

Oh. Oh. I didn’t think of that. There’s so much I don’t understand. The world is so complicated. I just don’t understand anything any more.

Has anybody ever understood anything? Really understood anything?

Well, I always thought I would someday. When I got to be your age, maybe. Sue, don’t you understand at least some things?

Nope. Hardly anything. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. Life goes on. And now you get to look forward to being a grandmnother yourself. That is, if Jason and Darcy decide to go through with it. Are you going to, sweetie?

Well, yeah. We’ve pretty much decided to. We were just hoping Mom wouldn’t mind too much. And, well, we’d kinda like to get married first. Do you mind that now, Mom?

It will take—well. It will take some getting used to. Seeing Darcy pregnant? Okay. I think I can do that. I always liked Darcy. And sure. Clearly you two love each other, so get married. I think 

it’s time. My son-in-law, the mother of my grandchild. It sounds strange, but—yes. I can say it. Can’t I, Sue? My son-in-law, the mother of my grandchild! I like it!

Thanks, Mom. Love you.

I love you, too. And oh! Look at the time! I’ve got to run. I’ve got to get dinner on the table before  choir practice. ‘Bye!

‘Bye, Jennifer. I am proud of you.

Thanks, Sue. ‘Bye.

Weird. I all worked way better than I thought it would. What happened? 

Stories work. Perspective works. And love, Jason. Love works. We’re among the lucky ones, you know? Love’s not all you need, but—it’s most of it. 
Thanks, Gram.

Any time. 

End of Play


the world, the flesh

An unexpected poem.

        the world, the flesh

They did it to me when I was too young
to resist: in my name they renounced 
my skin, my heart, my lungs,
my sex, my brain, my little fingers. 
They renounced my senses, 
my fears, my hungers, my animal urgency.

They renounced the world. 
The deserts and trees, mountains and seas,
everyone who crawls and swims and flies:
denizens of the dirt, tigers and dogs and whales.
They don’t have souls the story goes,
and all that matters is what isn’t.

When the trout lily leaves emerged, 
when the bears came out of their winter dens,
when the buds swelled on the maples,
every spring we remembered our renunciation. 
How strange when the empty tomb
recalls the garden and the flesh. 

I repent. I reclaim all I was taught, 
along with the devil, to renounce. 
Beginning with this patch of ground 
where rotting trunks flower out their fruits,
where robins overturn the unraked leaves
and acorns sprout along the edges of the unmown grass.