They lose their wings in battle,
Michael, Gabriel, Raphael.

Amid the chattel of war
one may never notice

dried sticks of grace left behind
unceremoniously scattered

among the leftovers.
Michael, Gabriel, Raphael,

phoenix, paragon, paradigm.
Through His unyielding love

warriors again are adorned,
valor once more apportioned.




Author’s Note:

This weekend brought me back to my oasis on the outskirts of the city. I am again spending the weekend at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia, Colorado.

This is my fourth or fifth retreat in the last several years. It is a silent house. The only ones who talk are the Jesuits or Sister Eileen who run the sessions. Of course, there are always those who try to whisper and don’t realize that when you are in a silent house, a whisper is just as obvious as the coals trains passing by.

But I welcome the coal trains. They are soothing. I grew up near train tracks and lived most of my years somewhere close enough to hear them if you listened very carefully. I no longer live near this sound that is so comforting, so I eagerly await my stay here.

This weekend brought a change for me, though. It was a surprise. One reason I always attend guided retreats is that I have been afraid that I wouldn’t be able to fill my time alone. Well, I have grown in my ability to be quiet and alone and not get bored. Hoping to put a very stressful few months behind me, after attending several of the talks, I told Sister Eileen I was taking a break. I needed more quiet. I hope I didn’t hurt her feelings.

I walked. I did my daily passage meditation that I am in the process of learning near a statue of St. Francis with little birds chirping all around me. And I walked more. I walked around taking photos of the deer and rabbits and the flowers. I walked to the gazebo on the hill.

On my way back from the gazebo, I noticed the once fully covered bark path was now getting a bit sparse. Earlier storms carved tiny valleys, now dried, in the path. Mud curled drying in the sun and sticks of bark were spread thin. It was here that I was inspired to write. During liturgy this morning, Father Kinerk mentioned it was the feast day of the Archangels – Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Putting these two events together gave me my idea for Archangels.

Fifty-Five Words


She bent down to get a closer look.  She walked the spring awaiting this very morning.  First just a trilling.  Then two in harmony.  Finally, sticks shaping a gentle cup to hold the delicate bundles.  Days of sitting.

Her fingers caressed the broken shell.  The dried feathered frame curled on the cement.

Another spring wasted.


It winked at her.  Deep in the cobalt night three eyes, just her’s and Sirius’.

Every August she climbs the rise when birds begin their dawning canticle, reminding her of his soft brown eyes, clouded by the years, saying good-bye through her tears.

And here she rests, fancying him playing with the angels in Elysium.


She thought it might burst.  She once heard of a man’s that did, poor soul.  It wasn’t right for so much joy to cause such harm.  She refused to take a breath just to stay alive.   She would not bend to such science.

What good is being alive without feeling his smile filling her heart?

Author’s Note:

In between appointments today, I had a little time for me. That always means time for writing at a coffee shop, hopefully, with Leroy, my husband, who writes, too.

As I was walking down the hall afterschool yesterday, Jenny, one of the fifth-grade teachers was posting another 55 Word Story written by one of her students. She glanced at me and said, “Still waiting.”  Again, I promised one was forthcoming. One day soon.

Waking up this morning, I decided today would be that day.

Because I didn’t get exact directions from her, I searched the Internet to find the rules. According to Wikipedia, “The origin of 55 Fiction can be traced to a short story writing contest organized by New Times, an independent alternative weekly in San Luis Obispo, California, in 1987.” Of course, there are now many sites claiming the title and I could take my choice. I followed the rule that the piece would be exactly 55 words. I do not count the title in the word count.

After reading these to my husband, we decided that they might be too sophisticated for fifth grade students. However, I know that Jenny wants her class to read what I write as a writer. I really do not write young adult work, but do want to share with them my voice. I’m excited to see their reaction.

I’ll let you know what happens.

P.S. I love to post what Leroy writes when we share time together.  He decided I should present a 55 Word Story that is more age appropriate for the 5th graders. This is Leroy’s story:


by Leroy Leonard

Sometimes in the morning Leroy walks a mile or so up a hill, above a swimming pool and a firehouse; in his hand, a wooden flute.  Then, in one breath, Leroy floats out, over the sleeping world toward a glow where the sun will shortly rise.  Afterward he ambles sleepily home feeling a little loopy.


he made a pair of shoes like Dorothy’s
to lead you home when you are through

grey, like a man’s with bright red trim
on the left lights compass the beat

the right side sports three blinking eyes
a pledge to return one safely

ahead of the night’s bone chilling
in tune with Dorothy’s lament

I prefer my crimson red sway
bold radiance lighting my path

no stepping lightly I have little fear
of centaurs and monstrosity

my crimson reds boldly present
me to the dance no graves to smite

no need for guided travel
one perfect route is not my way

my red slippers do not blush
but blaze a course to kismet

Author’s Note

I always find it interesting how stories collide in my life.

Yesterday, as I was driving home from school, Judy Garland crooned one of my favorite songs as I was listening to the news on NPR. It seems that a British artist, Dominic Wilcox, has created a new type of ruby slippers, ones that will actually get you home. Amazing and creative technology mixed with art, you have to smile.

Arriving home with little more than an hour before my book club meeting, I decided to visit TweetSpeak Poetry.  The beginning of the school year is very busy and doesn’t allow me the luxury of my daily visit and writing challenge.  I so look forward to the Tweetspeak muses. They inspire me. I miss them.

A lovely image by Nicola Slattery and poem by Maureen Dollas greeted me at Image-ine: Red Shoes.  A Picasso-esque figure  sits dreaming over a pair of red shoes. The portrait is just what pleases my eye. It is not too sentimental in that the colors limit themselves, bright with a touch of melancholy. The roundness of the figure gives a soft touch. Yet I glean something serious, maybe a wondering of what more there is to life with the possibility sitting at her fingertips?

The two stories collided and, hopefully, normalcy will soon return and I will be back to Tweetspeak and writing with regularity.

Hand Over Hand

He tied his boat off and

Started to climb the cliffs
In another life he would have gone to the office
Neatly patterned in communion with the others
Grey suit and blue stripe tie
Each piece succinctly chosen

Rarely looking back
And never giving up
In the ash that settled from the falling sky
No one foresaw his unfolding

Foot first, then hand over hand
In the crisp air and the silence of the still water
Reverently he climbed
Each move perfectly planned, neatly patterned

Taking breath, not of ash settling from the crumbling building,
A breath of humid air, clean of man.
Blinded by the same sun that
Lit the day when the crumbling buildings
Ended the impregnable asylum of safety

Counting each hand over hand,
Another foothold
Taking breath
Catching the light
Hurrying no more

Bathed in his own sweat
And not the drops from
The chin of
The man whose
Each hand over hand, each foothold
Reached out
Ending the inevitability of his
Author’s Note:

Tonight at Wednesday Afternoon Writers, Niki supplied our prompt. Starting with an amazing photo of an island rising out blue water.  It was a solid mass rising into the sky and capped by a frothy cloud, much like a hat.  She added the opening line, “He tied his boat off and started to climb the cliffs…”  Then we were given these following words to incorporate: singe, rain, fire, table, catch, battered.

This image and prompt put me into an arena in which I was not comfortable. When that happens I never go to writing a story, a poem is comfort for me. To challenge myself a bit, I decided that instead of incorporating the words into the poem, I would simply write them down the side and use the letter of each word as the first letter in each line of the poem.

Rather quickly an image formed and I found myself writing on a topic that really is something I have not approached. I realized that my poem enveloped a man of the 911 tragedy.

The Python Doctor

“Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” Alan Swann

I’m making excuses.

The beginning of the school year for teachers is a busy time. Plus everyone gets sick. There is an odd combination of stomach virus and strep throat going around. Maybe just allergies? I think not.

Writing has taken a back seat taunting me with even more guilt about not getting things done. So I decided that I would post my piece from last week’s Wednesday Afternoon Writers pretty much as it stands. Not much editing other than making sure the sentences are complete. Everyone, along with myself, decided that I didn’t know if I was writing funny or serious. Humor, yet alone dark humor, is not easy to write or do. Ask Mr. Eastwood about this.

“Dying is easy. Comedy is difficult” is credited to Edmund Keen among others. I prefer it as quoted by  Alan Swann, played by Peter O’Tool, in the lovely film “My Favorite Year.”


“We’ll always have vultures eating our dead,” Baba said as she wrapped up the only pieces of Papa left in the barren field.

The sun was setting and we had walked for hours upon hours the fields surrounding our town. Papa had disappeared days before while I was at what passed for school and mama was in town shopping for whatever was left on the shelves and could sit in our bellies as some sort of nourishment.  Luckily she took Grey with her even though he wanted to go with Papa to the fields. Mama thought it best he go with her. She said she had a feeling and when Mama had a feeling, we learned to respect her intuition

Baba stayed in her room saying her prayers to the icon of the Blessed Virgin that she kept wrapped in her mother’s scarf and placed carefully at the bottom of her pillowcase. She didn’t worry about the Czar’s Cossacks bothering her, but the paint decorating the tiny picture would bring someone a lunch if he traded it properly. And a lunch meant another week of survival. But no one would find it Baba’s bed.

Baba mumbled her words almost silently so Papa wouldn’t hear. He had given up on the Lady and her Son and their Father long ago. But not Baba, she would pray with the fervor of her youth paving a golden path in the afterlife for herself and all her loved ones, even Papa.

So when the Cossacks came, Papa rapped on her door with the three taps that told her to crawl under the bed and not make a noise. She did.  Holding the icon to her breast and wrapping the woolen shawl embroidered with the colors of summer around her head she crawled under curling into the tightest ball her stiff old bones would allow.

Papa stepped out of the house and shut the door. That click was the last we ever heard from Papa. Baba waited under the bed repeating prayers that would hold her son in safe arms through his trial. When I returned from school the house was empty and all I heard was the wearisome chanting coming from under Baba’s bed.

After Mama and Grey returned with a scoop of lard and some tea, we sat around the table and made plans to find Papa.

Mama said the townspeople were telling stories, horrible stories of the Cossacks and if we ever found Papa, he would surely be dead. And so he was.

Early the next morning, Mama, Baba, Grey and I set out to the fields stretching to the east and walked till the sun was high and then we turned and searched the same field all the way back home. We repeated the process until the third day when we found what was left of Papa. In a way it was a release. We didn’t need hope clinging to us, poking at us, makings us feel. We didn’t want to feel anymore. We just wanted to be left alone.

Baba and Mama and I took turns carrying what was left of Papa to the graveyard where generations of our family laid beneath the crusted earth under the cold, icy sun. We also took turns digging the hole. Even Grey, at five years and thin as kindling, tried to help. But Mama made sure he didn’t work too hard. A cold would surely mean a trip to the Python Doctor and that was the last place you wanted to go.

Baba had named him the Python Doctor because when Baba was pregnant with Mama and had been in labor for four days refusing to be cut open, the good doctor began telling her a story of his time in India and what they did when babies refused to leave the womb. It seems that pythons were brought to the women and wrapped around their stomachs and left to squeeze the child out.  Once the story was told he moved quickly to a box with holes bored into the sides and top, reached in and pulled out a long, writhing object. In her delirium, she saw the snake approaching her, gave an earth shattering scream and Mama was born.  The Python Doctor assured everyone that Baba was hallucinating from her pain. But Baba, nor Grey, ever went to the Python Doctor unless it was the last hope of survival.

After Papa was properly buried and prayers said and wildflowers placed gently by each of us on his grave, we returned home, packed the most important belongings we had and could carry in old flour bags slung over our shoulders.

Without even closing the door, we left the home that had housed generations of our family. The winter wind blew in the front door and through the vacant rooms and out the windows Mama and Baba had left open so the good spirits of the family would be released into the world in hopes of leading us to a new place we could call home.

Author’s Note:
Leroy designed our writing prompt this past week at Wednesday Afternoon Writers. Each of us gave him the title of one of our favorite movies. Niki gave “Dr. Zhivago.”  I offered “The Philadelphia Story.” Leroy’s was, of course, “Monty Python and the Life of Brian” and Sheila said “Casablanca.” From there Leroy made up four new titles and kept four words for each of us to use. We then each picked a number that correlated to the titles along with the four words (Cossacks, yare, vultures, release) and the starter (“We will always have….”) to write our pieces. Interesting writing to say the least.