The Mourning Dove Tells Me

I hear the coo of a mourning dove,
swaying as a porch swing does 
in the breeze by itself,
and I remember this time last year.
Spring was coming, 
but we didn’t predict 
the total eclipse.

I want to hug the person I was, 
scared and so lost.
To mother the child
when a bosomy clasp 
in a rocking chair
could still ease the pain.

In late February, 
crystalline light outlines 
the cypress fronds, 
shards of ice lose their edge, 
green points push 
out of the brown, 
and I want to run outside 
like a child 
who sees a friend at the door.

Dare I trust spring again?
The vaccine is here, but 
three thousand died every day
last month. 
In Los Angeles, funeral homes
rent refrigerated trucks 
to hold all the bodies,
and in Maryland, graves 
can’t be dug fast enough 
with shovels and backhoes,
so they must lay dynamite.

Conspiracies keep felling minds,
and the virus keeps morphing 
into new mutations
in South Africa, Britain, and Brazil.

The song of the mourning dove
swaying up, up and then down
seems to tell me,
Cry for all we have endured, 
for how strong you’ve been.

John James Audubon

Let the knots unloose,
the rain soak into you.
Let the ice thaw, and
the sun light up 
every one of your fronds.

Allow the wind to decide 
what branches need to fall
and which can still point to the sky.

Plant your feet deep in the ground,
and let every tendril take up 
the fertile funeral of last year’s loss.

Like the rain that has seen tragedies 
and majesties that you will never know,
you too must return.

Those choirs of geese 
making giant arrows in the sky,
those woodpeckers drumming,
these snowdrops blooming —
they are here to lead you out.

Receive, let go, fly.
This is what it feels like to be alive.

A Rainbow Puddle Under the Fig Tree

Diana and her new friend 
make hearts out of snow 
with plastic molds
my sister mailed
from Arizona.

They press a heart 
onto the tip
of a fig tree branch,
decorate it with 
food coloring —
red and yellow,
green and blue.

Like a sno-cone 
once bright 
with syrup,
the heart
begins to pale, 
and drip by drip,
onto the sidewalk 
a rainbow spills.

New Book: My Beautiful Terrible Pandemic Life

I am happy to announce the release of my book, My Beautiful Terrible Pandemic Life, a compilation of the micro-memoirs, poems, and essays published on this site since the start of the outbreak.

Publishing online has been great for communicating with speed and ease, but after months of sending words out into the ether, I felt the urge to hold something in my hands. I have always loved paper and print and keepsakes, and with book-making options so advanced these days, I figured I could easily put one together.

It turns out making a book is not as simple as cut and paste. Formatting the manuscript in one application and then another took weeks, and decisions needed to be made and re-made about trim size, paper type, fonts, margins, and spacing.

At least the content was all set, I thought. But when I looked over what I had written back in March, I wanted to make some changes. But revisions triggered a whole new round of proofreading, and I created fresh typos in the process of correcting old ones. And then there was the whole question of designing a cover, a technical and artistic feat I was not cut out for.

After many rounds of formatting and revising, printing and proofing, the interior text finally met both my standards and those of Amazon’s print-on-demand service. My friend and graphic designer Alston Taggart rescued me from the amateur cover I was attempting to make, and I feel like I’ve been sprinkled with the magic dust of a big publishing house.

The book is finally finished and is available to anyone who would like a copy.

Holding this book feels like being with an old friend. The pandemic that caused so much suffering and death also provoked growth and new life, and for me this book exemplifies that bewildering paradox.

I will keep writing here — with an updated look and abbreviated name (Painting with Words) — because the ongoing losses and gifts of this time continue to show me how nothing lasts and everything is special.

Thank you for reading, receiving, and allowing my words into your life. Connecting with people through my writing has shown me that we are never really alone and this has been the greatest gift of all.

Your support and readership helped bring this book to life:

My Beautiful Terrible Pandemic Life: Micro-memoirs, poems & essays

Thank you.

A Fall Poem, by Diana

On a nice fall day,
go outside and rake some leaves,
then when there is a big pile,
jump in it, and laugh until you’re tired.

Then take a walk and
smell what it smells like in the fall.

Then go back home and
get your coat and shoes off
and then sit by the fire
and warm up with a blanket.

Sit there for a while and
maybe play a board game
while drinking tea or hot chocolate
or something hot.

After that, talk about something
with your family or freind
and do an activity with them.

by Diana, age 7

Time to Cast Off

You know you have become too safe 
when you can no longer grow 
if you stay where you are.

When the shell that has protected you
is now what hinders you.

And so, like a crab who knows 
when to molt, you must find 
the weakest part of your armor,

the fracture that aches the most.
This is where you start.

You must break your own shell,
and carefully back out
each limb and each eye,
until you are tenuous and new again.

You must disrobe like a lover
before her mate
and enter once again
the cycle of death and rebirth.

For if you are not brave enough
to be unhidden,
you will bring about 
the very danger you fear the most.

Lakkana Boonrat/Shutterstock

Colossus

I help my son Mark with his homework
in English Language Arts

For months he’s been reading
a novel in verse about a girl 
who flees Vietnam
to America

We are asked
if she felt welcome

I know the answer and
feel so ashamed 

“Give me your tired,
your poor, 
your huddled masses”

We did not live up 
to our promise

I cry inside but I stop it below my throat 
because I can’t explain to Mark why


I want to believe there is something 
or someone
that will always embrace me
take away my sorrows
my brokenness

This is too much to ask of a country 
with its government of men
institutions 
codes and tribunals

The meek shall inherit the earth
they say in the Bible

I used to think this meant 
the meek will conquer the strong

But now I know it means
I cannot be embraced
when I am brazen

It’s when I’m huddled and poor 
that I am fingertips away
from the immensity

Hello and Welcome

Photo by Cassidy Dawn Photography

This blog is an unfolding page of micro-memoirs, essays, and poems inspired by the massive changes in my life caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Before all this happened, I couldn’t find the courage to share my writing. Now sharing my writing helps me find courage.

If this is your first time here, you might want to scroll down and begin with my original post, Feeling Naked, and go forward from there. You can find more about me here.

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Photo by Cassidy Dawn Photography