Merwin’s Butterflies (Poems Save Lives)

One of the Butterflies

WS Merwin


The trouble with pleasure is the timing
it can overtake me without warning
and be gone before I know it is here
it can stand facing me unrecognized
while I am remembering somewhere else
in another age or someone not seen
for years and never to be seen again
in this world and it seems that I cherish
only now a joy I was not aware of
when it was here although it remains
out of reach and will not be caught or named
or called back and if I could make it stay
as I want to it would turn into pain.

Waking Life

Fuseli’s The Nightmare

It’s morning again, another morning in which waking up literally hurts. I feel like the woman in Fuseli’s painting, The Nightmare, in which a little imp squats on her chest. Even asleep she looks like she’s in terrible pain. I wake up feeling that pressure. Those of you who know me know how this painting has haunted and fascinated me for nearly twenty years. As I get older, I begin to understand more about the unconscious mind, how it’s processing input with or without our permission. That imp on the sleeping woman’s chest has come to represent, for me, the outward expression of her Continue reading

Object Lessons: Old Pajama Bottoms, Bowling Balls, & Solitary Selves

This morning I woke up at 6 a.m. I’ve been doing this every morning since Ben left. It’s like my sleeping body is jolted into terrible memory every day. This morning I decided to watch a little Louis CK stand-up on my laptop to distract myself. Despite the fact that I could barely concentrate or keep my eyes open, I caught a few similes that killed me. Continue reading

a short note on vistas


There’s nothing like looking out when you’re trying to heal from a great sadness. Like walking, vistas take you out of yourself. I’ve had a hard time coming out the other side of my father’s illness and death. In the months—almost a year now!—since he died, I can’t imagine where five years went; I’m often perplexed by the events of those years and by how grief affected me. When we were in Vermont, Ben and I saw some amazing views—mountains and sky and clouds—from our small patch of borrowed mountain, to longer hikes up to a spindly fire tower with amazing 360˚ views.

Vermont says green mountain for a reason. Having only lived in the northeast for 3 winters—in Boston, where buildings afford different, more static vistas—I can’t imagine what it’s like for these mountains to be covered by snow. I know skiers love it, but I think I’d hate it. All the green and wildflowers and sounds of healthy streams coming off the mountain replaced by freeze. Reminds me of Mark Strand’s Great Forgetters. Once they’re done destroying the world as we know it, there’s the “cold zero of perfection.” But then there’s the “blaze of promise everywhere,” which forces a new perspective. Where there’s nothing, the hope of something.


photo from

Last week in Vermont, before life changed forever—yet again—the dog and I found Buttermilk Falls. Take a right at the Masonic Lodge. Drive until the road ends. Those are the directions I had, and once we’d been here a few days, I realized those directions were all I needed. Buttermilk Falls is a series of three small waterfalls cascading into rocky streams and swimmable pools. Neither Pikey nor I was used to this kind of water play—crystal water, slippery rocks, but we got the hang of hiking around the shallows together. It’s like a secret dance when you have a dog, especially a large, klutzy one like Pikey. We have to get into rhythm together or he’ll just drag me all over the place.

Continue reading