I Do Not Know What To Do With My Grief – A Poem From Last Year

Last year, my parents, my brother, and my old cat passed away over a four month period, and grief seeped into my life deeper than I ever expected.  Today is a year since my mom passed away, and when I was very young, she bound a paper booklet of my poems for Christmas.  My writing from last year is more raw and unpolished that I usually post, but it feels right to share it today.  And I hope if you are grieving, it will help ease your sense of loss or isolation.

by Victoria Nations

This stray keeps hanging around, uninvited.
I’ve tried for weeks to ignore it.
Lumpy thing, dropped on my doorstep.
I’ve tried pushing it off the stoop, and it won’t budge.
It just lays there.
Ignoring it makes it whine, keening until I’m forced to acknowledge it.
Then it just rolls over, boneless, daring me to move it.
If I could get my arms around it, I’d heave it up and toss it over the side.

The longer it lays there, the more it spreads.
Slumping over when I try to scoop it up,
prop it up into some sort of shape.
When I push harder, it just oozes between my fingers.
It’s so stubborn.
I don’t know what to do with the damned thing,
this misshapen waif with sad eyes and thick body,
melting like a tar baby, and just as tricky.

Every morning and night, I have to face this thing.
It wants into the house. It wants to ride in the car.
I’m ready to throw up my hands at the sticky mess.
It wants to spill all over everything.
And I’m tired of trying to make it do something.
Do anything,
Or just leave.

Orphan eyes stare from its drooped head,
and track me when it’s rolled over to face the sky.
Its gaze smolders. And I keeping thinking
when I try to lift it, it will be too hot to touch.
My skin will burn with
painful welts that everyone can see.
And I won’t have to explain anymore
why my eyes tear up when I come close to it.
When I think about it.

But the wretch is lukewarm at best, just a bland pudding
that’s impossible to mold and repugnant to touch.
I can barely stand it, but perhaps letting it spread is best.
It can seep into the ground,
or harden so I can pry it up,
chip it off in crumbled bits.
Working it just glues my fingers together,
clumps clinging to my hands,
weighing down my arms so it’s a struggle to lift them.
And the poor thing is still as deformed and ugly as when I started.

I want to gather it up in my arms and form it
until it creates a great sculpture.
I want to fire it hot until it has a glassy sheen,
and glaze it with color. Though I’d be just as happy
if it cracks and breaks in the heat
so I can sweep it up and throw it out.
So I can brush my hands off, free of this mess.


Chicken Purse – A Poem

by Victoria Nations

I need a new purse
and I want to find one that looks like a chicken.
It will be life-sized and feathery,
and have little horny feet that stick out of the bottom
because truly elegant purses have feet.
The head will have a pink, rubbery comb
and bright plastic eyes.
And I’ll carry the straps over my shoulder
so I can tuck the chicken purse under my arm.

Everyone will notice my chicken purse.
They’ll wonder if I’m carrying a live chicken
or a stuffed one that’s dead.
I’ll talk to it, stroking its neck
and cooing to it lovingly.
And people will think it’s adorable,
or kind of sad, the way I talk to my stuffed chicken.
They won’t notice how it has a perfectly sized sleeve
for my laptop, and cunning little pockets,
and pen holders inside,
though they really should assume it has those features.
I wouldn’t have gotten my chicken purse if it weren’t functional.

I’ll set my chicken purse next to me when I dine.
And I’ll tell it “stay,” and give it a piercing look
like, “You’d better not disobey me, pet chicken.”
But it won’t really be a pet; it will be a purse.
And I’ll compliment it when it sits obediently through the meal
and reward it with bits from my plate.
And when the check comes,
I’ll pull my credit card from under its wing
and thank it for holding it for me.
But I’ll tap it on its beak when it tries to peck the paper.
It will need to learn to behave properly in a fancy restaurant.

Anyway – A Love Poem

by Victoria Nations

She has no red hair,
and no gray,
and only a few freckles
peppered across her putty nose,
and splattered down her back.

She’s the tall one,
the strong one
who owns a tool belt, but
leaves the dead opossums
to me, along with the lizards
and big bugs.

She’s a delicate flower,
nearly crushed by a giant,
snuggling man child, and
fighting for space
amongst twenty-five cats,
and unexpected skeletons,
and feet in the freezer.

She just stacks the
bags of heads higher,
keeping it all organized,
and squeezes her wife and boy
when they pile on her,
showing her weird objects,
and she loves them anyway.

Happy birthday – and anniversary – wishes to my lovely wife and Monster Woman.


by Victoria Nations

She stood on her hands and spun
so her dress
in a wide circle.

The sky above her filled with
green skirts and
grey crinolines,
the lace sweeping her legs as
they spread
and bent
to keep steady.

Her hands
gripped the ground for balance.

Her feet
wiggled with joy.


by Victoria Nations

Doodling things with tentacles
And teeth

That’s not right
It should be beaks and tentacles
And suction cups
And delightfully slimy skin

It should be aquatic
And shape-shifting
And fast


There it sits
Furry and toothed
A cunning eye turned up
And tentacles

I can’t see where all the tentacles are attached
Only an odd number are showing
I’m worried
I think I may have missed one


by Victoria Nations

I saw the sun sink into the ocean
and the water steamed up where it touched,
and though the ocean was large,
the sun was so much bigger.

I watched the sea boil away as
the sun kept sinking down,
and finally it sat balanced on the ocean floor.
A sheath of glass spread around it
until the sand gave way, brittle glass
breaking as the ocean fell,
sinking into the Earth, making
a smooth glassy tube
lit from within

My heart broke to see the sea creatures
boiled until there was nothing left,
the drifts of shells charred by the heat and
clacking together as they popped like corn
and shattered.

There was nothing in the darkness that fell
traveling down from the sky with the sun,
slamming into the bottom of the ocean.
The sand cooled and crackled in the dark.
I could sense the ocean canyons spread out before me,
But all I could see were stars overhead,
so many falling that everyone’s wishes
would come true before they hit us.

Prey – A Poem for Storms and Migraines

by Victoria Nations

The fluorescents warn me
Teasing with flickering no one else can see
Rushing sounds in my head
Hearing the ocean inside a shell
The vibrations push me
Threatening if I sway back and forth
To keep the seasick rhythm
I struggle to hold myself still
The air gets darker
Brightening the flashes
Sickening as a strobe
Somehow thudding
The weight presses
Squeezing air from my chest
Clamping down on my neck
Holding it at that awkward angle
I try to explain the claw points
Holding my fingers just so
Mixing up my words
I stop trying and wait for it to let go
My eyes squeezed shut
Hunched, one hand covering my head
The other fisted to my mouth
That will make it forget me and move on

Writing Longhand, Editing with Doodles and Diagrams

Daniel Kraus’s recent article about authors who write longhand really struck me.  The authors describe how writing longhand slows them down and makes their writing tighter.  They describe the tactile satisfaction they get from the task, how the work they produce is tangible.  Their descriptions are compelling

When I write (fiction, poetry, or reports for my day job), I typically write on an electronic device, as I have since I was very young. My legal secretary mother used an electric typewriter since before I could remember, and I learned to type  on the QWERTY keyboard in elementary school. My early-adopting father brought home an Apple II when I was eight years old. I went to college in 1987 with a portable Zenith computer with a tiny green screen. I wrote everything on computers way before the elegant interfaces of Mac and Windows.

And I still write stories and poetry on my computer.  It lets me move text around quickly, or jot down several words to see what would work in a passage.  Scrivener lets me structure longer works, rearranging the order of sections and making notes to myself.  I use my smart phone’s touch screen when a poem or story idea strikes me away from a computer, and then I email it to myself for later.

But I realize I write differently at work.  I write meeting and field notes in longhand by necessity, with a shorthand of arrows and stars.  These are transcribed on the computer, when I can emphasize things based on my doodles and insert the margin notes.  Part of me has reservations that real-time electronic note taking could interfere with the intimacy of talking with people. The conversation, and hurried shorthand note taking, captures the organic interaction of the conversation.  Revisions can take place after, when things can be laid out with better structure.

This sounds an awful lot like what the authors said in the article.

Another realization: I edit my stories and poetry longhand. I have to see a piece compiled and printed to be able to truly take a knock at it. Then I write all over it with arrows and margin notes.  I draw diagrams of timelines. I doodle hairstyles and  facial expressions on character heads to describe them properly.

My biggest reason for not writing a story longhand? It’s too slow – my typing is faster than my handwriting.  I can’t get the ideas down fast enough.  But maybe that’s not what I should be striving for.  Maybe writing longhand would slow down some of the self-editing that come with typing.  Maybe the deliberate work of transcribing is a better time to work on structure and word choice.  Very interesting ideas for me to ponder.

Do you write longhand or type your drafts, and does it change for different types of writing or revisions?  I’d love to hear your comments.

Abandoned House – A Love Poem

by Victoria Nations

Abandoned house with
Sun bleached board face
Drooping and gapped from
Years and years of rain and heat
Crinkled so it
Cracks, so its
Filmed windows tilt
Up at the corners
Gabled window
Turned up and
Still cute after all these years
Mostly centered over the
Black double doors
Falling into a
Sideways grin