Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I don't want you to lose your balance when I pull the rug out from under you, but I've GOT to REFINISH THESE FLOORS!
They're grey with wear patterns and scuffed from stumbles
And you can barely see the wood beneath layers of buildup
The grain is marred with scratches and pock-marked by carelessness.

Like the time you wore your golf shoes in the house.
I know you're sorry, and what's done is done
But we're on the verge of no return and if I don't do something now, the floor will give way
And then the ceiling
And then the walls.
And there will be no place for either of us to come home to.

I blame myself.
I meant to say NO SHOES IN THE HOUSE
I should have said NO SHOES IN THE HOUSE
I should have insisted NO SHOES IN THE HOUSE!
But you needed your orthopedics and I wanted to support you
And I thought it would be fine, with proper care.

But mostly, I thought you would tread softly.
For when I met you, you were a carpenter. Born to work with your hands.
Your strong, gentle hands, taking rough-hewn pieces and fitting them together
Sanding smooth and nourishing with elixers until they glowed from within
Under your careful hands, even awkward things became beautiful.
I chose you for your hands.

So I thought you would tread softly.
But one thing led to another
Orhopedics to moon boots to platform clogs
And eventually you put aside those hands
And looked to your feet.

You were going to be the next Gregory Hines
So the tap shoes came out
And the rhythmic tapping did a number on these floors.
And you were no Gregory Hines,
But I wouldn't have minded
Except now, you don't even dance.

When did you choose the corner office and the leather desk set?
Where you sit, downcast
Your hands, shackled with cuff-links

While I stand, contemplating the state of these floors
And while it's not the worst it's ever been, we almost didn't make it back the last time
In Oregon where the incessant rain tap-danced a number on these floors.
And I feared my number was up, so strong was the temptation to cross the double yellow line
And I can't go back there.
I'll go it alone before I go back there.

So it's time to refinish these floors.
If I go it alone, you may not like the outcome. It may not feel like home
So step out from that desk and lend me your hands
Or hold onto something while I rip the rug out from under you
Because one way or another
I've GOT to refinish these floors.

(c) 2010 Jeanene Vesper

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Apparently it's half past April. I'm not sure how that happened. I mean, I understand the rudimentary mechanics of the earth turning and moving from day-to-night-to-day and onward through the seasons. I get that, at least at a level that would allow me to follow along on a wall calendar.

But what I don't get is how my calendar pages got flipped to April and nearly to May while so many things from last month's list (and if we're being honest, last year's list) still lie unfinished, uncrossed off, and, some, even un-begun.

As I contemplate the weight of un-completed to do lists, I realize that even the lists themselves aren't complete. Meaning they aren't even completely written.

And, rocked by that realization, I have to duck to avoid being hit square in the chest by a wave of panic that brushes my cheek as it rushes by, saturating my low places and eroding the foundations of my confidence.

On the other hand, un-begun has a nice, meaningful, almost magical sound to it. As if by acknowledging the epic-incompleteness of something, we somehow gain power over the tasks and hopes and dreams that remain in the wish-space, un-begun.

Un-begun is too important to lie lost in the middle of some paragraph, weighed down by page upon page of heavy prose. It deserves to be brought to the uncrowded light of a song or a poem, where, standing on its own, it becomes more magical and important. And that would be a beginning for un-begun.

But it would also be the end-of-the-beginning-of-the end. Because like modesty is lost the moment it's acknowledged, un-begun gets un-done the moment its begun, and, adding more 'un' becomes un-un-begun.

(c) Jeanene Vesper 2010

On the Verge or Over the Edge?

Am I on the verge or over the edge?
Gotta get to to your window so I'm crawling that ledge
And I'm trying my best just not to look down
On the sharpest parts of the dullest town

I've had way too much sleep, but not near enough rest
My stomach is full but there's a hole in my chest
On the surface I'm fine but underneath I'm a mess
I've got dirty overalls under my fancy party dress

And I can't move on til I find what I've lost
My heart's a stolen bankcard with a high-limit cost
So I retraced my steps, but I already knew
That the last time I saw it was when I last saw you

You showed me color, now all I see is gray
And the sky is full of clouds on the sunniest day
So I'm balancing on the edge of a knife
Cause to live without my heart wouldn't really be a life

Am I on the verge or over the edge?
Gotta get to to your window so I'm crawling that ledge
And I'm trying my best just not to look down
At the serpent filled waters that beckon me to drown

Please look for my heart; You'll find it on your shelf
It beats for your love, you can check it for yourself
It's young and brand new; it's fresh out of the box
It was kept in storage til you undid the locks

As it jumped to life, it scared me to death
When you kissed my lips and you stole my breath
But Panic gripped my arm and dragged me away
And tore a heart-shaped hole in my sleeve that day

So tall are the walls and deep is the moat
And it's hard to cross over with a hole in the boat
I push aside my fears so I can beg another chance
Because without you in my heart, there's no music for this dance

Am I on the verge or over the edge?
Please open your window; let me in from this ledge
My eyes fill with tears and my chin drops down
But you touch my cheek, then kiss away my frown

(c) Jeanene Vesper 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


If this thing we're working on just doesn't work
And I'm tipping the scales at half-past jerk
And we can't face the dread of another day
And it's clear we'll fall apart if we stay

If the "us" we love is buried too deep
Under layers of worries that haunt our sleep
And the waking hours still mask the view
Of essentials that once had numbered so few

The only thing clear is we've lost perspective
And I fear even that may not be objective
I can't quite recall why we did this, can you?
Right... Retiring young, at age fifty two
With a paid-off house and a pool of blue

We hold out til then, and finally chill
I might make it, thanks to this little blue pill
Just 14 years til I can relax
In the mean time, I'm besties with Pfizer's Xanax

The numbers worked out when we did the math
It all added up at the start of this path
When I double check now, though, I see some big gaps
Like the price of sanity and the cost of its lapse

It's sapping our strength, building this pile
And it's so rare now that I see your smile
I foresee, like Jenga, an inevitable fall
And us, being crushed neath the weight of it all

Like earthquake victims, we'd be trapped beneath
All this stuff that we bought by the sweat of our teeth
We might not make it, but if we survive
Will we be happy and able to thrive?

If we spend all we have, both time and soul
To chase what seemed a reasonable goal
And if, in fact, we do make it through
Will we retire, soul-crippled, at age fifty-two
Having lost, on the way, the true "me and you"?

This anniversary, let's mark the occasion
By deconstructing this complex equation
And stripping bare our list of needs
Let's prune out the wants and the choking weeds

Instead of a sparkling pool of blue
Let's take one suitcase or possibly two
Passports and plane tix in trade for our cars
Swap thread-count for hammocks hung under the stars

Someplace warm , but mostly remote
We'll fish off shore from a tiny boat
We'll shed all the stuff that's crowded our brains
And build on the "us" and the love that remains

And in this soft life that some would call rough
We'll find peace in carrying only enough
Healthy and strong and finally free
Remind me again why this was Plan B?

(c) Jeanene Vesper 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Peace in the Pieces / Get These Words Out of my Head!

"Oh, this? This isn't my long term plan," I explain, when circumstance requires me to talk about my current job. "This is just until I can start doing what I really want to do."
"What's that?" their faces ask.
"I'm a writer," I say with the same certainty as if I'd just been asked how many toes I have. "My longer term plan is to write. That's what I'm going to do."

"Oh, how interesting! What will you write about?"

This is the part where I start to feel as if someone just asked me something crazy about my 10 toes, like "what socks will you wear two weeks from Tuesday" -- which, although it may seem a perfectly reasonable question to the asker, seems both random and irrelevant to the owner of the toes. And the socks.

Because for me, writing has never been about the "what". The content has never driven the writing. But rather the writing has revealed the facts and illuminated moral lessons and thematic links between seemingly disparate topics.

I'm a writer because my brain is full of words. They swirl around inside my head, bumping into one another and making little linkages -- words that might sound the same, or have similar vowel patterns, or maybe words that are synonyms (or cinnamons). I pair pears, or pare pairs of pears or bear bears. (Mmmm, cinnamon bears.) The point is, I have bunches of words in my head that fit together somehow -- they WANT to link up. I know they do. But I don't really know what they want to be. Yet.

It's a little like building a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle -- You've got half a cardboard box full of pieces, but you've lost the the lid-half of the box-- the part with the picture on it that shows what the finished product will be. For all you know, these are randomly-cut pieces of cardboard that don't even belong together. But as you paw through the pieces in the box -- the half without the picture, mind you -- you see things that might go together -- similar shapes, or colors, or maybe two or three that look like they could be foliage or water or possibly sky. But with everything still in the box, stir as you might, you're not going to know what the picture looks like until you start putting the pieces on the table and sorting them into like-patterned-piles and moving them around until things start to fit together. But even without doing that, you've seen enough to believe that this is a bona fide, go-together puzzle, not 5000 pieces from 5000 different boxes. You know that these individual bits will come together to form a cohesive picture. Even though you can't really say what the picture will be. Yet.

That's how it is with the words in my brain. I've been stirring the pieces in bottom half of the box for quite a while. Occasionally I've put a handful on the table and found two pieces that "fit" -- color pattern and topic, Tab A goes into Slot B, etc. So I know I've got the makings of a fully-interlocking, spread-glue-on-the-back and hang it on the faux-wood-paneled-wall of your 70's-era-basement-game-room puzzle masterpiece. But to date, I haven't had the table space to start sorting and building in earnest. But the puzzle box of my brain is getting full. And sometimes all I can hear is the clatter of the giant word-puzzle shaking around in its brain-box. So it's time to make time. And table space. And to get these words out of my head.

And I honestly don't know if I'm building Monet's Waterlilies or a Velvet Elvis or a Sad Creepy Clown. The finished product might be classy or kitschy, Sotheby's or Saturday Flea Market. But the pieces WILL fully interlock. And the picture will emerge. And I'll finally find peace in the pieces.

Peace in the Pieces/Get These Words Out of My Head (C) Jeanene Vesper 2010