Street harassment Shugs and Fats style

Shugs and Fats: Cat Call


Visit the Shugs and Fats YouTube page.

Visit the Shugs and Fats website.

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Hillary for America: Getting Started

Visit Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign website.


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I Drink You

By Scott Gressitt

waterAs I sit here drinking you
I drink and drink. I quaff your soul
I pour you down my throat and swallow
every single drop of you.

My glass is never empty now
I drink and drink. Yet there is more.
You ever spill new seeds of joy
to tantalize and pull me in.

Your depth is worthy of a ship
I drink and drink, and with each draft
I sense each subtle flavor borne
aloft in rivers of your juice.

I sit so still, just listening
I drink and drink and still hear more,
So rich and complex is your voice
and every move and manner, fine.

You are a painting. I look on.
I drink and drink, I search each line
Both tone and hue, they capture me
and tug against my stony heart.

You smile again and I dissolve
I drink and drink, my lips are soaked.
My guts are pulled apart by you
till I have nothing left to save.

I will not pull the main sheet in.
I drink and drink, the ship, in irons.
The wind is furious off both rails
but I’m content and safe with you.

I’ll spend a month just being here
I’ll drink and drink and damn the clock
The world says work! It says obey!
And all I want is more of you.

I’ve spent a lifetime driving hard
I drink and drink, your potion stills
The only care I have just now
To drink and drink, and drink of you.


About Scott Gressitt

ScottGressittMugAn amateur writer and rapscallion, I write of my past, a life laden with extraordinary events.

I have walked in places most of the population avoids.

Besides scars and bruises, I’ve collected experiences that frighten, delight and entertain.

I write with the intent to take you on a wild ride where all your senses are fully engaged.


Photo Credit: Peggy2012CreativeLens via a Creative Commons license


Writers Read at Fallbrook Library Presents


A Celebration of National Poetry Month

Dedicated to the Life of Fallbrook High Student Taylor Alesana

And Featuring:


NPMPoster2015_8.5-11_2Shy But Flyy

Kari Hawkey


Conney Williams

Preceded by open mic for original poetry and prose

Date: Tuesday, April 14, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Location: Fallbrook Library, 124 S Mission, Fallbrook, 760-731-4650

Bring your favorite poem or flash prose to share during open mic, and then be wowed by our featured poets—each with a wonderful and distinct way with words.

Shy But FlyyShy But Flyy is a Texas born, and now Long Beach-based, singer-poet. She is best known for her performances with strictly percussion and vocals. Shy collaborates with many bands including LBPOD, which consists of percussion, spoken-word and song.

Along with her singing, Shy hosts many open mics in Long Beach, including Griot Café, at Shades of Afrika, and Xpressions, and she co-hosts Flight School Open Mic, in Culver City. Shy is currently working on a CD. The single “Up And Down,” produced by Dae One, is available on iTunes. Her poetry collection, The Meaning of the Blues, is available on Amazon.


KariHawkeyKari Hawkey is a multifaceted writer.  She grew up in Southern California, but has wanderlust and enjoys traveling the world. Kari instructs middle school students in English Language Arts, and Research Methods to Masters of Education students.  She was former Poetry Editor at The Coachella Review, and is currently an Intern Editor for Smartish Pace: A Poetry Review. Her work has appeared in Burningword and Straightforward, and she was finalist for the 2013 Pocataligo Poetry Prize. She was recently the recipient of the 2014 Lucille Clifton Scholarship for The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley (thanks to former Poet Laureate Robert Hass). Kari holds a Masters degree in Educational Administration, an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts with an emphasis in poetry and screenwriting, and is currently enrolled in a doctoral program. Kari is also an interior designer focusing upon eco-friendly design. You will often find her at a local theatre, art exhibit, Nordstrom’s sale, or just reading a book at the pub down the street.


ConneyDWilliamsConney D. Williams is a Los Angeles based poet, actor and performance artist, originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, where he worked as a radio personality. Conney’s first collection of poetry, Leaves of Spilled Spirit from an Untamed Poet, was published in 2002. His poetry has also been published in various journals and anthologies including Voices from Leimert Park; America: At the End of the Day; and The Drumming Between Us. His newest collection, Blues Red Soul Falsetto, was published in December 2012.

Conney has performed his poetry on television, radio, galleries, universities, grade schools, coffeehouses, and stages around Southern California and across the country, including the Black Arts Festival. He is a talented public speaker with more than thirty years of experience.

Poets’ collections will be available for sale and signing.

For more information about Writers Read, contact K-B Gressitt at or 760-522-1064.

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washing blood from your hands

By Conney D. Williams

she cheated on me
without my permission
committing violence in a way
Manson only imagined
when he visited the LaBiancas’
she even asked
for my assistance
wanted me to inflict my own wounds
cut myself deeper
with the sincerity of lies
no blinking
no change in facial expression
a polygraph couldn’t detect
her deception
lowering her body temperature
to Antarctica levels
she is Novocaine
compassion and mercy
escaping the prison of her  lips
like coup d’état refugees
she has done her grieving
worn her best black
it is me dumbfounded
that she has died on our Calvary
no more resurrections
she has a new disciple
hiding prayers
between her thighs
she wants to grant them
like she saved me in 2007
i am indigent (lover)
sleeping inside a love…decayed
because she is already gone
she has left the gravesite
poured the dirt and
buried what was once us
beneath the moans
of her new Messiah


About Conney D. Williams

ConneyConney D. Williams is a Los Angeles based poet, actor and performance artist, originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, where he worked as a radio personality.

Conney’s first collection of poetry, Leaves of Spilled Spirit from an Untamed Poet, was published in 2002. His poetry has also been published in various journals and anthologies including Voices from Leimert Park; America: At the End of the Day; and The Drumming Between Us. His newest collection, Blues Red Soul Falsetto, was published in December 2012.

Conney has performed his poetry on television, radio, galleries, universities, grade schools, coffeehouses, and stages around Southern California and across the country, including the Black Arts Festival. He is a talented public speaker with more than thirty years of experience.

Read more about Conney at

Photo credit: Meco via a Creative Commons license.

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Women in Words: At the Parsonage

 By Penny Perry










Outside the wind and rain
Charlotte and her sisters
made famous. Gravestones
march up the hill to windows
of this high ceiling room.

Rain drips from my closed
umbrella onto her hardwood
floor. I can almost hear
her father’s sermons,
the scratch of Brontë pens.

Five foot one, a hundred
and ten pounds I’m an
Amazon, a clumsy giant
next to her white dress
on the headless mannequin.

No matter how hard
I could hold my breath,
or suck in my belly,
I would rip those dainty
stitches, pop those buttons.

How did Charlotte, a tiny
candle of a woman ignite
Jane and Rochester’s bonfire,
listen to the sounds of her
sisters fading breaths?

Slow, small brain,
furry old heart, I lumber
closer, reach to cradle
her dress in my wet,
broad arms.

About Penny Perry

Penny Perry is a six-time Pushcart Prize nominee in poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in California Quarterly, Lilith, Redbook, Earth’s Daughter, the Paterson Literary Review and the San Diego Poetry Annual.

Her first collection of poems, Santa Monica Disposal & Salvage (Garden Oak Press, 2012) earned praise from Marge Piercy, Steve Kowit, Diane Wakoski and Maria Mazziotti Gillan.

I write under two names, Penny Perry and Kate Harding.

Explore the Brontë Parsonage Museum

Photo credit: Courtesy of the Brontë Society and Parsonage Museum.

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Women in Words: The Falls at Wailua

By Ron Pickett



Kate and I walked along the path toward the Wailua Falls overlook. Two women had set up a camera on a tripod and were preparing to shoot video of the falls across the gorge. They seemed comfortable directing the other tourists through their “set.”

We passed by and crossed the highway to look into the river valley beyond. I overheard them talking as we walked past, and the words and their implication started to become clear.

The younger woman, in her late forties, was operating the video and describing for the older woman what to do and say. The older woman was her mother; they looked alike and had the familiar way that a mother and daughter work together when they are close.

“That’s over 400 inches of rain a year,” the younger said to her mother, who then carefully repeated the words.

The mother moved to the railing, looked into the camera, and said them again while the daughter taped. The older woman was attractive, but in my brief glance when we passed, I had noticed something that at first I could not identify.

We returned from the lookout across the road and again passed through their camera angle. The daughter was giving her mother more lines, checking that she had them correctly and then focusing the video camera on her and directing her to recite what she had been told. This might have been abrupt or controlling, but it wasn’t. The daughter was at all times, in both her manner and her touch, caring and gentle and clearly loving towards her mother. There was a patience and a courtesy that encircled each move she made, every tone in her voice—there could be no doubt about the relationship between the two women. The process was slow and had to be repeated often, but there was no shortness of temper, no expression of exasperation. The daughter was accepting, nurturing and loving in everything that she did and said.

The mother had the look of someone slightly dazed, a little bemuse or befuddled by the things that were happening, but she wore a slight smile.

We walked to our car and drove away. As we looked back, the daughter was still working gently with her mother. She was taking as much care as a professional photographer and director would. It was as if the video was incredibly important, that it might well be one of the last.

At dinner, in our hotel restaurant, we saw them again. The mother carried a bag filled with gifts, and the daughter led her toward the exit, hurrying her along.

I wanted to run after them, to tell the daughter what a wonderful person she was, the importance of what she was doing to her mother and to her—to all the people who saw them caring for each other. But before I could move, they disappeared from view.


About Ron Pickett

Ron camera ethiopiaRon Pickett had a long career in the U.S. Navy, including serving in command positions in the United Kingdom. He received a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Science and master’s degrees in Counseling and Leadership and Human Resource Development.

More than 90 of Ron’s articles have been published in more than 18 periodicals. He has written three books, I Got Away With It – Perfect Crimes, Discovering Roots, and Getting Published in Journals, Magazines and Other Periodicals: A How to Book. He is the editor of Soul Balm, by Paul Pickett, all of which are available on

Check back Sunday for our final Women’s History Month offering or subscribe (upper right corner) to receive email updates.

Photo credit: Joel via a Creative Commons license.


California initiative: Sodomite Suppression Act

The folly of California’s ballot initiative law—and attorney Matt McLaughlin


Huntington Beach attorney Matthew Gregory McLaughlin finds homosexual sodomy such an “abominable crime” that he is using California’s ballot initiative process to propose a law calling for the guilty to “be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.” Apparently, the rest of us are free to continue buggering one another with impunity.

So far, McLaughlin’s effort has qualified for signature gathering, so you all can look forward to Sodomite Suppression Act petitions at your local grocery store (if McLaughlin actually has the resources to circulate petitions).

Mr. McLaughlin is troubled. So is California’s initiative process.

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Women In Words: Hooters

By Marit Anderson



No, I don’t mean the restaurant
that serves beer and buckets of wings
delivered by busty babes
to bleary-eyed men
who secretly want to wear lace panties.
I mean boobs
mine to be exact
and mine to extract
as in rip them out of my chest.

If I sliced the skin
and what it protects
with an x-acto knife
I could pull out the plastic fun bags
implanted in this human sculpture
decades ago
when I confused love with lust
when I convinced myself
I would like me more
and have more fun.

After augmentation surgery
what a response.
Men drooled
women were pissed.
I noted it all
bought sexy underwear
and revealing tops
that now seem obscene.
Me, the girl who was first kissed
at sixteen
by a boy who didn’t seem to care
that I was tall and skinny
a carpenter’s dream
boys then called girls
who were flat chested.

In the nineties
I was an expert witness
in a suit brought by a woman
whose confidentiality was breached by a medical group.
I sat across the desk from her attorney
proud that I was considered
an expert in human behavior.
He told me his wife
who had been his secretary
had breast cancer
that she threw up all night
her hair was falling out.
“She was so beautiful,”
he said.
“Now, the two best things about her are gone,”
he said.
“Her boobs and her hair,”
he said.
She said
She was at home
puking in the toilet
trying not to be dead.

I listened with interest
and thought at the time
my decision to buy big breasts
and douse my head with poison
to make my straight blonde hair
more wavy, streaky and bouncy
so smart guys like this lawyer would love me
was a good one
to insure my survival
in this man’s world.


About Marit Anderson

MaritAndersonPhotoMarit Anderson grew up and down the coast of California. After earning degrees in Food, Nutrition and Dietetics from Loma Linda University and UC Berkeley, a Masters degree from National University in Counseling Psychology, a Masters in Clinical Psychology from United States International University, and a doctorate in Psychology from USIU, she had a 20-year psychology practice in San Diego. She also presented workshops and consulted to businesses, including several animal welfare agencies. Her career was halted in the early 21st century by an automobile accident. After several years of recovery, she is now enjoying life in a slower lane and new possibilities.

Check back Friday for the next Women’s History Month offering or subscribe (upper right corner) to receive email updates.

Stay Real photo credit: A Olin via a Creative Commons license.


Better with bacon?


From comedian Jenny Hagel: Is it true everything is better with bacon?


Subscribe to Jenny Hagel on YouTube.


Women In Words: Clete’s Procedure

A Short Story by
Dan McClenaghan

aboutc7Juanita insisted that Clete get a colonoscopy. He was sixty years old and had never had one, for God’s sake, and no telling what sort of malignant mischief was brewing in the depths of his bowels. His former excuse, that they couldn’t afford it, no longer applied. He’d picked up a federal job, hired on thanks to a boyhood friend, Danny Lopez, the supervisor at the mess hall at the Naval Hospital on the Marine Corps Base just north of town. Now Clete, a proud dishwasher, had honest-to-God medical coverage, and the next thing he knew he was fasting for forty hours, then drinking a gallon of a vile and sulfurous concoction so noxious that, after the second glass he, dubbed it “The Devil’s Piss,” a beverage that caused him, over a very nasty four hour period, to shit out everything in his torso, including, it seemed, his liver and his lungs.

That done, Juanita drove him to the clinic, his innards grumbling from the necessary starvation that preceded the chemical assault on his digestive system. “Hungry like a bastard,” he moaned to his wife, and when they passed an In-N-Out Burger featuring a man walking out the front door to his car with a white paper bag, laden, from the looks of it, with a Double-Double and an order of fries, Clete took a long look at the man and his food and broke down and cried the rest of the ride to the hospital.

He checked in at the clinic, and they gave him the dreaded tie-in-the back gown, set him up on a hospital bed, and rolled him onto his side. He noticed that the person behind him was a man, and he pondered that—even given the embarrassment factor—he’d have preferred a woman doing this job. He couldn’t imagine a man having the suppleness of touch, the empathy, the nuanced dexterity to make this thing as easy and as comfortable as possible. And the dude was as big as a professional wrestler, fingers the size off knockwursts, Clete noticed, as that scope in those giant hands left Clete’s peripheral vision and poked deeply, smoothy into his ass.

The sedation they’d given him—considering Clete’s anxiety level—proved inadequate. He lurched up and jumped off that hospital bed, yowling like a spanked Chihuahua. He hit the ground at a full run, a panicked sprint that stayed in place for three seconds until his stocking-ed feet caught traction on the linoleum floor. And then he was gone. …

Juanita was reading a Stephen King book in the waiting room when Clete burst through the door, knees pumping high, gown riding up his skinny thighs, three feet of the embedded scope’s tube whipping out behind him as he dashed bug-eyed by her and out the clinic’s door.

And perhaps it was a good thing it had been a man with that scope, because—at the risk of rolling into sexist territory—a woman might not have been able to chase the escapee down and tackle him in the parking lot, and carry him—arms and legs thrashing, tail lashing—back though the waiting room to the hospital bed, to administer a more robust level of sedation and complete the procedure that Juanita had insisted he get.
About Dan McClenaghan

DanMcClenaghanMugI write stuff.

I began with my Ruth and Ellis/Clete and Juanita stories in the early 1980s. At the beginning of the new millennium I started writing reviews of jazz CDs, first at American Reporter, and then (and now) at All About Jazz. I’ve tried my hand at novels, without success.

I’ve been published in a bunch of small presses, most notably the now defunct Wormwood Review. This was in the pre-computer age, when we whomped up our stories on typewriters, then rolled down to Kinkos to make copies, which we stuck in manila envelopes, along with a return envelope with return postage attached. Times have changed.

Aside from the writing, I am married to the lovely Denise. We have three wonderful children and five beautiful grandchildren; and I am a two-time winner—1970 and 1971—of the Oceanside Bodysurfing Contest. Kowabunga!

Check back Tuesday for the next Women’s History Month offering or subscribe (upper right corner) to receive email updates.

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Women In Words: The Story of Menil, Moon Maiden

By Ruth Nolan


A Cahuilla Child, from the Edward S. Curtis Collection

You created me, brother, you got people right,
not the twin who made them face-backwards,
or into ludicrous stone-hens, you made me Moon,

delight of the people, beautiful sister smiling in her
room, a perfect, orbed syllable. And then, you
violated me, in ways unspeakable, you knew your

heart belonged to Coyote, and he roasted your
skin, the people gathered acorns in the long rows
of oak trees at the base of Tahquitz Peak, silent

in their respect for the thunder, and visioned past
Pedro Chino, great shaman on the deer hunt who
transformed himself into a mountain lion so he

could reach the highest peaks more quickly from
the desert floor, the women sang songs at the oasis,
and they planted trees from the canyon. I know,

I felt the mountain lion stalking me, that late day
I’d climbed San Jacinto Peak, and no one, even you
could see me there, dusk whispering to me, and I

was scared, three miles to go and the trail waning
dark. And so I went away, sad, at your command,
for you knew you could not keep me there. The

lions left prints in the snow as they tracked their
kill, just the way you bruised my skin and broke
my cheeks, and the people can only say that you

were not very nice to me, and so I went away. And
lucky for you, they remembered to pull your black
heart from the fire just before Coyote finished his

rabid feast, and you returned to them, you look
to the sky and see my wan smile, a waxing candle
light, and now my name is Eve, I’ve developed a

roundabout way of coming and going, filling the
orbit of your mind in slices and full pies, sister
you created and violated and sent away, I slant

through your opaque window, where you lie alone
at night, wanting me to fill in your hollow side,
your absent twin, I study you, I am shadow-fill.


About Ruth Nolan

ruth_pictureFormer BLM and USFS wildland firefighter Ruth Nolan is Professor of English and Creative Writing at College of the Desert, and a poet/writer whose work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in The Rattling Wall; Short Fiction Los Angeles (Red Hen Press, 2016) KCET Artbound, Los Angeles; New California Writing (Heyday Books 2011); the Sierra Club Desert Report; Riverside Press Enterprise-Inlandia Literary Journeys; the Pacific Review; Women’s Studies Quarterly; American Indian Review; Rhino Baby Press Lit Mag; Tin Cannon; Orangelandia: the Literature of Inland Citrus (Inlandia Institute 2014); Pacific Review; Tin Cannon; Poemeleon and San Diego Poetry Annual.

Ruth is winner of the Mojave River Review Magazine nonfiction chapbook contest for California Drive, forthcoming from Mojave River Press in 2015. Ruth earned her MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts in the UCR Low Residency Program in 2014, and her M.A. in English/Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University in 1995. She is at work on a memoir based on her firefighting experiences. More of her writing can be seen at

Click here to learn more about the California Cahuilla creation stories.

Check back Sunday for the next Women’s History Month offering or subscribe (upper right corner) to receive email updates.

Photo credit: A Cahuilla Child, from the U.S. LOC Edward S. Curtis Collection

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Women In Words: Parting Gifts

By Lesléa Newman

“I can’t die before July 28th,” my mother said as soon as her doctor strolled into her room at Long Island Jewish Hospital. “I have theatre tickets.” Then, exhausted from the effort of uttering those two short sentences, she lay back on the pillow and shut her eyes.

Dr. Nadroo put a calming hand on my mother’s arm and looked at me, her large, liquidy eyes filled with concern. Had the cancer that began in my mother’s bladder and migrated to her liver and kidneys finally reached the outpost of her brain?

“It’s true.” I hastened to reassure the good doctor that my mother still had all her marbles. “It’s not just any play. It’s my play.”

“Oh, are you an actor?” Dr. Nadroo asked in the soft melodious voice my mother found so soothing.

“No, I’m a writer.”

“How wonderful.” Dr. Nadroo smiled, as a beam of pride flashed across my mother’s ashen face. Then the doctor got down to business.

After she listened to my mother’s heart and checked her vitals, she told her to rest and left the room. I trailed her into the hallway.

“Will she make it?” I asked.

The doctor busied herself with my mother’s chart, then kindly offered me three words: “It’s not impossible.”

I tucked Dr. Nadroo’s sentence away like a gift as I returned to my mother’s bedside. Though even if she’d told me my mother couldn’t possibly live another three weeks, I would not have believed her. The play, based on my short story, “A Letter to Harvey Milk,” had been in the works for seven years and my mother had assured me many times she would attend opening night even if she had to crawl. “What’s taking so long?” she asked periodically as the years dragged on. “Tell them you have a sick mother,” she joked. But now it wasn’t a joke. I had a sick mother. A very sick mother. And time was running out.

IcarrymymotherMy mother—my smart, funny, generous, kind, beautiful mother—was battling not one, but two fatal diseases. In addition to the cancer that was eating her alive, she also suffered from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. In the beginning, the COPD didn’t faze her. She simply threw a portable oxygen tank into a pouch, slung it over her shoulder, and trotted off to play bridge or mah jongg or have a little nosh at the diner. But ten years out, my mother could not cross a room without gasping for breath, even with the extra oxygen. She took frequent naps. And the cancer, not to be outdone, had progressed, too. My mother’s tumors were devouring her. She lost forty pounds. Though she was in constant pain, she refused to take painkillers, preferring to tough it out, and no one was tougher than my mother. When the pain got too great, which was often, her face clenched like a fist and she let out a moan that wrenched my heart (though time and again my mother assured me she wasn’t moaning, she was “kvetching”). I couldn’t imagine her ever leaving the hospital, let alone getting her hair and nails done, dressing up, and attending the theatre. But I couldn’t imagine seeing the play without her, either.

I hadn’t always felt this way.

From day one, my mother and I were polar opposites. The very first word I ever said to her was “No.” From an early age, I knew I wanted a life that looked very different from the life my mother led. She was a “housewife,” as we called stay-at-home moms back then. To my scornful teenage eyes, that meant she cleaned up after my father, two brothers, and me. Who would want a life like that? It was the early seventies and I was a hippie, dressing in green khaki pants and embroidered peasant blouses. When my mother pointed out that wearing army pants was no way for a “peacenik” to dress, I stormed up to my room and slammed the door. I became a vegetarian, which my mother took as a personal rejection of the pot roasts and beef stews she cooked and served. My mother disapproved of everything: my hair, my clothes, the African-American track star I snuck out to meet (and whose love letters she discovered). During one particularly heated argument, my mother yelled, “I hope someday you have a daughter just like you.” I screamed back, “I’m never going to be a mother,” spitting out the word like a piece of maggot-infested meat. The day I was to depart for college couldn’t come soon enough for either of us.

When I was twenty-seven, I came out as a lesbian. This did not improve my relationship with my mother. To avoid a scene, I wrote her a letter. She sent one back, saying she was sure I was under somebody’s influence. “You’ve always been a follower,” she wrote. “If they were marching up Fifth Avenue stark naked with frying pans on their heads, you’d be the first in line.”

After that, communication between my mother and me dwindled down to a once-a-month icy phone call. Though I was in my late twenties, I sounded like a surly adolescent as I barked out one-word answers to her questions: “How are you?” “Fine.” “What’s new?” “Nothing.” The only topic we could discuss in a civilized manner was the weather.

And then my mother got sick. Very sick. She collapsed on a cruise ship in Mexico and was taken to a hospital in California. I flew across the country not knowing what to expect. When I tiptoed into her ICU cubicle, my mother, who had a breathing tube jammed down her throat, a feeding tube stuck up her nose, and an IV jabbed into her arm, lifted her weary head and blinked at me as though she couldn’t believe her eyes. My own eyes filled with tears and my mother raised her right index finger, pointed a red polished nail at me and shook her head. I knew what that meant: No Crying Allowed.

One morning a few days later, a nurse stopped me en route to my mother’s cubicle. “Your mother had a bad night,” she said. “We gave her extra morphine. She won’t wake up for at least six hours.”

As soon as I crept to her bedside, my mother opened her eyes.

I sat down and studied her. My mother appeared so weak, so exhausted, so depleted. Clearly this could be the last time I ever spoke to her. What parting gift could I give her so she could die in peace?

“Mom, I love you and I couldn’t have asked for a better mother. I know I haven’t been the easiest daughter. I’m sorry.”

My mother slept for the rest of the day, and that evening I returned to my hotel with a heavy heart. The next morning I arrived at the hospital fearing the worst. But to my surprise, my mother was sitting up, more alert than she’d been in days. “She took a turn yesterday,” the nurse told me. “We’re about to remove her breathing tube.”

For the next seven years, my mother told anybody who asked her, and many people who didn’t, that I had saved her life. We became the dynamic mother-daughter duo I’d always wanted us to be. We spoke on the phone daily about all sorts of things: what was happening in my life, what was happening in her life, current events, fashion, and yes, even the weather. Every evening she supplied me with answers to the New York Times crossword puzzle (my mother never met a puzzle she couldn’t finish). I visited her whenever possible. I could barely remember what we had ever argued about.

And then her diseases kicked in big time. My mother became unable to clean the house, cook for my father, or manage their home. An aide was hired. There were many trips to the hospital. And then came the news that “A Letter to Harvey Milk” was at long last going to enjoy a one-week run in Manhattan, as part of the New York Musical Festival.

My mother rose to the occasion. Fortified with a blood transfusion, she left the hospital. She did indeed get her hair and nails done. The theatre had a large café, and my mother held court from her wheelchair. Though it was my day, my mother was the center of attention, and I didn’t mind one bit. Many of my friends had never met her. When one of them told her, “I’ve heard so much about you,” my mother shot me a look, and then asked, “Anything good?” My friend replied, “Everything good!” And all of us laughed.

Soon it was time to take our seats. The play, based on a short story I had written twenty-five years earlier, focused on a fictitious seventy-seven-year-old widower named Harry Weinberg and his friendship with Harvey Milk, the nation’s first openly gay elected politician. But somehow, I’d forgotten the other storyline, which centered on Harry’s creative writing teacher, a young Jewish lesbian who was estranged from her parents. Talk about a thinly disguised piece of autobiographical fiction! I wondered what my mother was thinking as the character based on me told Harry about her deep loneliness and how she longed for family connection.

The play ended, the audience applauded, the cast took their bows. And when the lights came up, I looked at my mother, she looked at me, and we fell weeping into each other’s arms.

Every time I spoke with my mother after that, she told me the day we saw the play was the best day of her life. She never mentioned what it cost her. Attending the theatre was her parting gift to me. Three weeks later, she was back in the hospital. One week later, she entered hospice. Five days later, she died.

One of the first people I called was Dr. Nadroo. Upon hearing the news, she paused, then said in a solemn voice that washed over me like water, “It was an honor to be your mother’s doctor.”

“It was an honor to be my mother’s daughter,” I responded. And it was.


About Lesléa Newman

Leslea NewmanLesléa Newman is the author of sixty-five books for readers of all ages. I Carry My Mother is a book-length series of formal poems that explores a Jewish daughter’s journey through her mother’s illness and death and her own healing.

Lesléa’s other books include the short story collection, A Letter to Harvey Milk; the novel, The Reluctant Daughter; the poetry collection, Nobody’s Mother; the novel-in-verse, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard; and the children’s classic, Heather Has Two Mommies. Her literary awards include poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation. A former poet laureate of Northampton, MA, she currently teaches at Spalding University’s low-residency MFA in Writing Program. Her newest poetry collection, I Carry My Mother, was recently published by Headmistress Press.

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