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With Flying Colors


By all accounts, Baby’s 1st Flight was a success.

Sure, there were a few bouts of excessive wiggling accompanied by the occasional ear-splitting devilish squeal. And there were also a few crankypants cries when Miss Cheeks was trying to nap and not able to get as comfy (e.g. flat on her face) as she would have liked.

goodie-bagBut those goodie bags did the trick with garnering the goodwill of nearly all of our airborne neighbors, excluding the sourpuss elderly couple who clearly were too good to be sitting back with all us riffraff in coach.

They certainly charmed the 3 teenage boys who sat behind us on the flight home. They received their bags o’ sugar with exclamations of: “No way!” “For real?!” “Awesome.” And my personal favorite, “Dude. I’m totally tweeting this!”

When we landed at O’Hare, I had a few bags left and passed them out to the flight attendants and pilot on our way off the plane.

 Turns out that was an excellent decision, because the day after we arrived home, a special FedEx package arrived for Lucette. aa-letter

The letter reads:
“Dear Lucette,
I received a phone call from the crew on your recent flight from San Francisco to Chicago. They were all so impressed with your grace and gentle spirit on your first flight.

On behalf of American Airlines, it is an honor to include you among our loyal customers.

We wish you a lifetime of safe travel and joy discovering the world.”

The package included a “My First Flight” certificate complete with AA wings and a gold pendant for a necklace.

I admit, I got a little verklempt over that one. Such a nice gesture, and completely unexpected.

Lu’s first trip to her Mimi and Papa’s farm in Illinois was quite eventful.


First, though, we had to stop at Lou Malnati’s and introduce her to real Chicago pizza.

Safe to say she’s a fan. (And she made her daddy proud with the amount of pie she put away.)

 The week that followed was full of hot July weather, lots of swimming, lap chickens, meeting horses,horse mooing at guernsey cows and winning over a black lab named Charlie, who became Lucette’s devoted servant after noticing the copious amounts of food that were tossed over the side of her high chair.

Even though she’s too little to remember, I showed her the house I grew up in out on Palmyra Road and introduced her to many of the places that were the landmarks of my childhood.

We’ll do it again when she’s older, I’m sure. But this time, her first time, will stick in my mind.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, a business idea for Public Relations Plane Kits for Babies is in the works, thanks to my entrepreneurial sister. I’ll keep you posted.

-Lo, who says that a lap chicken is a chicken who sits in your lap, of course.

Fantasia/The Gelding

fantasia_runMood: Astonished
Drinking: The Usual

It’s a first during Poem-a-Day Poetry Month: 2 for 1. That’s right. One day, two poems.

It’s as rare as a three-legged cat, but it sometimes happens.

Both of these poems kind of go together, anyway, so it’s only fitting to present them that way. They’re both about the same guy and yes, that’s him over there on the right.


You were all wrong for me, yes
but that never stopped a girl
from falling in love. I had a
bad boy complex even at
age 12.

But bad boys don’t love you back
the way you wish they would.

You never forgave me
for tying you down,
for filling your mouth
with cold metal.

And though I tried to
make it up to you with
a warm bed, a good gallop
through pliant green fields,

you wouldn’t let me break you in.
I could never make you gentle.

The Gelding

Side by side, we tracked
chronic circles in the snow
until his knees buckled
and he fell gently to sleep.

The man in blue coveralls
swooped in then with his scalpel
kneeling in the slush
to do his work.

I stood feebly by
clutching the useless
lead line in one mittened hand
trying not to watch.

The cuts came quickly,
with business-like amounts
of blood. Castration as cure
for misbehavior.

When it was over, the vet
tossed the soft pink testes
across the paddock
to his waiting collie.

That’s when I finally broke
and bent to stroke the gelding’s
sedated head, murmuring soft
comfort and betrayal.

-Lo, with a thing for the blue-eyed boys.

Borrowed Horses

fantasia1Mood: Tasty
Drinking: Canned

Someone in a poetry group I belong to recently shared a poem by Cecilia Woloch.

I’ve never ready any of Cecilia’s work before, but this one is very lovely, and reminds me a lot of my own memories of bareback rides through woods with my sister.

So I thought I’d borrow it and share it here, because it’s exactly the kind of poem that should be out there in the world, garnering all kinds of accolades and adoration…

(A technical note: A “pantoum” is a form of poetry similar to the villanelle. You can find the definition here, if you’re interested.)

Bareback Pantoum
by Cecilia Woloch

One night, bareback and young, we rode through the woods
and the woods were on fire —
two borrowed horses, two local boys
whose waists we clung to, my sister and I

and the woods were on fire —
the pounding of hooves and the smell of smoke and the sharp sweat of boys
whose waists we clung to, my sister and I,
as we rode toward flame with the sky in our mouths —

the pounding of hooves and the smell of smoke and the sharp sweat of boys
and the heart saying: mine
as we rode toward flame with the sky in our mouths —

the trees turning gold, then crimson, white

and the heart saying: mine
of the wild, bright world;
the trees turning gold, then crimson, white
as they burned in the darkness, and we were girls

of the wild, bright world
of the woods near our house — we could turn, see the lights
as they burned in the darkness, and we were girls
so we rode just to ride

through the woods near our house — we could turn, see the lights
and the horses would carry us, carry us home
so we rode just to ride,
my sister and I, just to be close to that danger, desire

and the horses would carry us, carry us home
— two borrowed horses, two local boys,
my sister and I — just to be close to that danger, desire —
one night, bareback and young, we rode through the woods

-Lo, who can feel the hoofbeats pounding beneath the lines.

She is a Death Star

Mood: Sugarhigh
Drinking: Water

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, they say.

And although I like to pretend I don’t listen to them, cliches usually become cliched because they contain a dollop of truth.

Which is why, a few months ago when this dude from Vermont contacted me and said, “Hey, I run a small indie press and I’d like to publish a chapbook with you,” well, I thought about it for two seconds and said “Hell, yes.”

And so I present to you my third book, She is a Death Star
(21 poems about her)

It’s a true chapbook, meaning that it’s small and waif-like and folded and stapled and low-tech. And it’s available in very limited quantities. And I’m not selling it on this site.

You can get this sweet little thing at only two places. Maybe three…

1. Scintillating Publications
Send your $6 to:
Joseph Veronneau
21 Russell Street
Burlington VT 05401
or email him at

2. Quimby’s Bookstore
1854 W. North Avenue
Chicago, IL

3. Any poetry reading I am featuring at.
Time and venue info will be posted here well before the reading.

If you’re wondering why you should part with your hard-earned six bucks for another stack of poems from me, here’s what you’ll be getting…
She is a Death Star contents:
1. Slow Roast
2. Pretty.Good.Girl.
3. Sylvia
4. Goldfish
5. The fake boobs win again
6. Sterling Girl
7. Scrapbook
8. Sappho
9. Continental
10. Eve
11. Breathing
12. A Charitable Donation
13. Anonymous
14. SFO 1607
15. Crash Protocol
16. Samba
17. What It Means to See Her
18. Nemesis
19. She Said Saturday
20. Equinox: Vernal
21. Alter Ego

Two of those poems were first published in Shedding the Angel Skin, eight are in The Secrets of Falling, which leaves 11 shiny new ones that you can only find in She is a Death Star. A pretty sweet deal for a surprise chapbook, don’t you think?

-Lo, who once got a gift horse named Fantasia.

Home on the Farm

thefarmMood: Rainy day delinquent
Drinking: Mint & honey tea

As long as there’s no great March snowstorm to keep me earthbound, I’ll be picking up my bags at O’Hare in a couple of days and pointing my rental car west, toward my parents’ farm.

My grandfather passed away several weeks ago, and the relatives-in-charge opted to postpone the memorial service until “spring”. I don’t know exactly why they consider Illinois’ version of March to be spring, since anyone who’s spent a winter or two there knows better. But the date has been set. So I, along with several other long-lost relatives from various states betwixt here and there will be traveling through the snow this week to pay our respects.

I’m always happy to return to the small town where I grew up. (As long as it’s for a visit and not for good.) I like to drive the roads that I used to know so well, the roads that used to make me feel like such a big fish, and see what’s changed since I last passed that way. Palmyra Road always has a few surprises. For one thing, it’s not even called Palmyra Road anymore. I think they changed the name to Prairieville Road a couple of visits back.

When I was a tiny thing, it used to be called Rural Route 1. Then, for the duration of my childhood and teen years, it was Palymra Road. Home of “Son Shine Acres”, which is where I lived from age 2 to 21, give or take a few months here and there when I was at college or pretending to live in more exotic locales like Indiana.

My parents owned a big grey farmhouse and 1.5 acres of land which housed a huge garden, a dog kennel, a chicken coop, a horse barn, and my dad’s oversized garage. For most of my childhood, we also rented the 10 or so acres of land across the driveway, which included a silo, barn, and several large outbuildings, as well as a pond, a giant cottonwood tree, and a couple of acres of rolling green hills.

I learned to ride a horse there (and broke my arm getting bucked off a donkey there). I spent countless hours carrying 5-gallon buckets of water from the well up by our house all the way down to the big red barn, which didn’t have any running water for a long time. In the winter, when the pails of water would slosh down my legs and freeze inside my boots, that path from house to barn seemed 5 miles long.

The picture above is the view from our kitchen window out over the yard, down the lane, ending at the big red barn. My dad took this photo on a winter day when I was only 4 or 5. For most of my formative years, this view comprised the largest part of my world.

My parents don’t live at 497 Palmyra Road anymore. They sold the place and moved on when my sister was in college. My bedroom with the dusky blue horseshoe wallpaper belongs to someone else now.

But every time I’m back in town, I drive the old blacktop, turning right off Route 2 by the Shell gas station, up Lord’s Hill (which seems so small now compared with San Francisco inclines), past Vitale’s Holstein farm, and then slowing down for a look as I drive past the scene of my first bike ride, first snowman, first puppy, first costume party, first horse, first skinned knee, first kiss, first driving lesson, first mulberry, first falling star, first everything that makes a childhood a good one.

It doesn’t look like much anymore. Some of the trees in our huge front yard are missing now. The Son Shine Acres sign is gone. There are no more beagles in the backyard. And who knows what ever happened to my favorite bike, the one with the banana seat and the handlebar streamers.

But it’s still a magical place to me.

So I’ll be seeing you soon, old homestead. And you, too, Sterling Girl(s)! Leave a light on for me. I’m coming home.

-Lo, who still knows where Erwin the bird is buried out in the apple orchard.

Cool and the Gang

Mood: Daydreamy
Drinking: Sweet Green Tea

I’m really not all that cool. There have been a few people, recently, who seem to think I register rather high scores on the coolness meter, but they would be very mistaken.

It’s true that I have hidden sometimes behind a shiny cool veneer, but it’s just for show. The slickness is only skin deep, and it doesn’t last long. Peel it away and you’d find a bona fide dork hiding beneath.

I’m fine with it. Having accepted my innate lack of cool, I’m much more at ease than I used to be, back when I thought coolness actually counted for something. Back when I thought I might be able to do more than fake it.

In high school (because that’s where it really gets embedded, doesn’t it?), I was well known for my lack of anything even remotely resembling cool. I had the wrong clothes (from second-hand stores), the wrong hair (bangs weren’t poofy enough), the wrong hobbies (I rode horses instead of boys), the wrong attitude (I turned term papers in early), the wrong everything. But the beauty of it was that back then, I was too clueless to care.

I spent most of my time daydreaming about being an Olympic-level equestrian, flying over fences on my thoroughbred steed. (In reality, my “steed” was a second-rate Quarter Horse named Fantasia with blue eyes and a penchant for biting.) When I wasn’t thinking up four-legged fantasies, I was hiding up on the roof by the chimney or behind the big chair in the living room, nose buried in a book, ignoring my mother calling me to dinner.

I spent so many hours reading, my mom called me “Bookworm”, although she said it with equal parts pride and exasperation. When my sister and I were little tots, mom was the one who took us on weekly trips to the Dixon Public Library. We would fill up an apple box with books, only to return the next week and exchange them for more. By the time I hit junior high, I was sure that I had read every single book in the children’s section at least twice. So I moved upstairs to the big “adult” books.

I got good grades, I studied hard, I won essay-writing and speech-giving contests, and I never went on any dates. By the time I graduated high school at age 17 (wearing tafetta and green eyeshadow), it was just starting to dawn on me that maybe I should be paying a little bit of attention to boys. Or my hair. Or something besides my horse. (What is it about girls and horses, anyway?)

I made a little progress in college. Mastered the art of mascara. Purchased my first pair of non-hand-me-down jeans (at WalMart). Actually ventured out to a bar once in awhile. But I stuck to my tried-and-true formula: Keep your head down, study hard, get good grades, graduate. I did manage to move on from horses to boys, but I was extremely gunshy. There was a boy in my poetry class who asked me out for “coffee” so we could talk about “poetry”, but I was so scared of the prospect of sitting across the table from a guy I didn’t know, alone (horrors!), that I turned him down and scurried away, hair in my face and eyes on the ground. (I can’t remember his name, but always wonder what would have happened if I had said yes.)

I could take you through the whole excruciating evolution from farm girl to gothling to potty-mouthed poet, but the point is… (what is the point? I thought I was going to write a post about kids today and how they don’t read enough books, but now I’m stuck on the cool train.) The point is that I’m not cool.

Cool is the girls who could flirt effortlessly. The girls who knew how to french inhale. The girls who giggled at my granny panties because they had been wearing leopard-print thongs since sixth grade. The girls who shaved their eyebrows off and then drew them back on, flawlessly,with charcoal pencils. Cool is equal parts confidence and cruelty, beauty and bully, rebellion and reason. Cool is completely put together without giving a shit. Effortless perfection. Brazen misdirection.

Cool is the people I was fascinated by but couldn’t stand: the cheerleaders, the mall rats, the guitar players, and Linda Mocklin, who won every trophy at every horse show, her dark hair perfectly in place, while I trotted behind, sweaty and disheveled, hoping Fantasia wouldn’t buck me off this time.

Cool is the people I wanted to be: the purple-haired punks, the waifish ballet dancers, the girl at the Green Mill Slam who recited her poem, eyes closed, two perfect nipples poking through her threadbare white tank top, and Star Le, who always looked like a diminuitive goddess come down to earth, her ink black hair falling just so, dainty wrists bent at all the right angles, her porcelain skin glowing against the dark.

I have gotten lucky and fooled a few people along the way, although the deception is no longer premeditated. But I’m really, really, really not cool. I’m a nerd. A dork. A misfit. A wallflower… I love to dance, but prefer long nights at home reading a book. I love to get dressed up, but I never look perfect. I love to buck fashion trends and do my own thing, but I leave no Gwennabes in my wake. I love to write, but have no bestsellers. I love to rebel, but start no revolutions. I love to smoke, but I never inhale.

You can only be cool if you’re not really trying. You can only be cool if you don’t really care.

And though I don’t try, and I don’t care, and so for the first time have an actual shot at it, being cool is no longer relevant. I’ve discovered something far better and more satisfying…

Just being me.

-Lo, who attended high school football games to stare at the cheerleaders.

Brokedown Girl

Mood: Ever-changing
Drinking: Water to melt the vicodin

I was twelve the first time it happened.

Like millions of other twelve-year-old girls, I dreamed of owning a horse of my very own. I would have even accepted a pony. What I got was a donkey.

His name was Jackie. He lived for years on the farm of some unfamiliar relatives. I ended up at their house, along with my family, for one of those generic end-of-the-year holiday celebrations that bring all the unfamiliar relatives together, the overly-attentive uncles, awkward cousins, and busybody aunts with their sweet corn casseroles and green jello desserts.

Being the loner tomboy type of twelve-year-old girl, I wandered out to the barn to inspect the herd of lumpy sheep and long-eared goats and hide from a blue-haired and frightening great aunt. And that’s where I met Jackie the donkey, lumpy and long-eared and bored out of his fuzzy little burro brain.

Somehow I convinced my dad that Jackie wouldn’t be as much of a “hayburner” as a horse would be. He was smaller, for one thing. Almost pony-ish. And somehow my dad convinced our cousin-twice-removed Martin to part with his much-ignored donkey in exchange for two tens and a five.

And that’s how it happened, the first time I broke my arm. Because donkeys are really nothing at all like horses, and Jackie had no intention of making my equine dreams come true.

I’d try to gallop off into the sunset and he’d plant his tiny hooves, do a little fancy bunny hop with his back legs, lower his stubby neck and whoop! Off I’d slide, right between those rabbit ears. Which was great fun, in and of itself.

Yep, it was all fun and donkey games until the day our friend Nathan wanted to pony up and ride double. I hopped on first and my mom hefted Nathan’s bulky bottom up into the air. He had barely touched down when Jackie decided he’d had enough and showed us all a new trick ? a very fine impersonation of a real bucking bronco.

Nathan flew right back off the way he came and immediately set off howling.

I hung on for a few more seconds before sliding off Jackie’s other side and slamming my shoulder into the ground much harder than I ever thought possible.

My first broken bone was just a cracked humerus requiring only a sling and the indignity of wearing button-up flowered pajama shirts to school. My mom took over pigtail duty and I remember only a few aspirin and a quietly persistent achiness.

This second time around isn’t nearly as cute. Boy isn’t very skilled at ponytails, although he does try hard. And I’ve got more than one bottle of doctor-prescribed painkillers and plenty of pain to kill.

There was no bucking burro, either. Just me and a four-wheeled ATV and an unfortunately placed sand dune.

Here’s how it happened: Boy, LeeLoo, and I went down to Pismo the weekend before last to meet up with my sister, her just-home-from-Iraq husband, and their marshmallow of a hound dog, Yoda.

The plan involved a lot of food, fun, and four-wheeling on the Oceano dunes. It did NOT involve me snapping my left wrist in an unnatural manner whilst hitting a mogul kind of, um, fast and hard.

But here I am, a one handed typist, with my ulna and radius bones broken at the wrist joint.

Tomorrow I’m going in for surgery to become part bionic woman as they insert a metal plate to hold my wrist together. I’m hoping this means future fun times in airport security lines!

In the meantime I’m trying to come up with a good technique for covering the keyboard with just five fingers. Oh, and I’ve got a skull and roses sling on order. No pajama shirts this time.

Wish me luck, internet!

-Lo, who got not only riding lessons, but an actual horse out of the last broken bone mishap. Wonder what I’m gonna win this time?