My Valentine for the Brokenhearted

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One of my Great Uncle’s letters




A Valentine for the Brokenhearted

Cover art by Ciara Crozier

Revised, re-covered, and re-released, Chatterbox, 2nd Edition, is available just in time for the dreaded chocolate-filled holiday in the middle of February. Inspired over the course of a tumultuous year, told in a four-part sequence: Chattering, Cracking, Craving, and Knocking, Chatterbox will entertain every cynical heart. Raw, honest, irreverent, and tender, Chatterbox Poems delve into life’s losses: divorce, abandonment, infidelity, and faith.

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Photo Credit: Tony Hicks


“See that tree?” My sister motions at a nondescript tree, with leaves – a deciduous tree among the pine and spruce and fir.

We are sitting on the back deck at happy hour. That’s what she calls the afternoon interval before dinner when she drinks a couple of glasses of white wine. Happy hour.

“That tree,” she continues. “Gets covered in little red berries…But they don’t ripen…They take so long…Not even in October…They’re finally ripe…So then the leaves fall off and you can see the berries, dark red, all over the tree…And the Robins come…They must be Northern Robins, because they haven’t migrated and it’s October! The robins come and eat all the berries…which must have fermented in the tree because the robins get drunk and then drop down and splash around in the birdbath like drunken idiots.”

My sister’s deck chair faces the Buckthorn; it is directly in her view. A hummingbird hovers by the Bee Balm at the edge of the garden. It’s high summer. There’s a long time to go before fall.


I have been spinning
my poor-me’s into gold
for all the days
I can recall.
And using that gold
to buy everything
that I can hold.
But there is more to spin
each night

I am standing in the rain
wondering when
you’re going to show up?
Cold, and soaked,
with all this gold
in my pocket.
And I am only going to wait
another hour
or two
then you can go
and get your gold
from some other soul.

To all you fools
who didn’t buy,
my outrage is screaming
from the tallest tower,
naked and bullied
and ashamed.

I’ve told you,
now you know my name.


From Poems from the Chatterbox

photo credit



My lips shall not speak a resolution this year.
Instead they will whisper a prayer
kiss a hand
press it to my cheek.
Bereft and longing
but I cannot resolve a path –
Will not resolve a path.

I pick my way through the orchard
stepping over ancient fallen branches
and rotting fruit corpses.
The sun
sinking into the horizon
blinds me, though there is a tree in the distance
a silhouette
black and invisible
and I am pulled forward
even as it disappears.
I say to Adam,
get out of my way,
you’re blocking my view.

I am mesmerized by that tree.

I hear my beating heart
a serpent hissing
a bird in laughter.
Trust that God does not mock us.

Turn over the hand
kiss the palm
let it happen
without resolution.



from Poems from the Chatterbox

Baby Zombie







I am trapped
can’t escape
banished to the cellar steps
examining my shoes
through my tears.

Living in this house
moving room to room
singing behind the curtains
floating in the bath.

I am a baby zombie
bumping into walls
while everyone
goes about their day.

How can I know
what I missed
if I never knew
it was missing?
My heart knows.

I am broken.
Need a doll doctor
to sew me up,
clean these eyes
bend back my leg

And walk out
the door
and keep on walking
til this house
is far behind.

But I am trapped
by the fear
that there is nowhere
but here.

Chew my arm off instead.


from Poems from the Chatterbox








I peel a clementine
and contemplate the world.
My world.
Soft little peel
spongy, barely clinging to the fruit
gives way easily
like a thin chemise.
He handed me this orange
so perfect and round
absolutely quenching
sweet and bursting in my mouth.

The sky storms
winter falls
the sun obscured
by a million miles of frozen tears.
I know what I want
what my heart wants.
The lingering bitterness of citrus on my fingers.
for more of this magnificence
this sun in the palm of my hand.

Pray for wisdom.
Fill me up.

From Poems from the Chatterbox








I say yes
to this gift
on my knees
fumbling for words

You want me this way,
this madly?
Then I am yours.
And I say yes
to this gift

I didn’t see to read
I couldn’t find the lock
I wouldn’t turn the key
I didn’t hear
what I could not say
it was there in my mouth,

The light pours in
the early morning
I feel a whisper
and it wakes me
my first thought is of him
your prayer on my lips
lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.

I say yes
to this gift
this prickling quenching numbing
and humbling
I am blessed.

I say yes.

From Poems from the Chatterbox

The Apple Tree


Gnarled old thing
with twisted limbs
and thick grey bark.

I lean on the fence
as birds fly in
disappear into the leaves
flutter off drunkenly.

The fruit glows
dark and shining
like eyes across a room.
I wonder
for I’ve ate apples
sweet and new
but I’ve picked apples
wormy and dry.

Such a divine old tree.
Somehow so familiar.

This fence is falling down.

From Poems from the Chatterbox

Hello Winter

jack-o-lantern-hello-winterThe winter is coming
the colour falls from the trees.
Soon the boughs will be barren
outside the window.
The light goes faster,
the day is gone before I know it,
and the candles want lighting.

I carve a pumpkin,
numbing my hands
in frozen pulp.
Stabbing eye holes
and a maniacal grin.
I light the jack-o-lantern
and watch it giggle
at the darkness, flickering
and cooking
its own brain.

A scarecrow
comes to life.
He stands before me,
plaid shirt, cocked head.
Makes me follow him into friendship
with his sad stupid eyes,
fools me down
a long, long path.

While he’s sleeping.
I find the matches.
Light his shoulder,
watch it smoulder.
Watch him blacken,
curl up and, fry,

Hello winter.

From Poems from the Chatterbox


book-863418_640On the way to writing workshop I pass a book sitting out on a planter as though waiting for someone to take it. People do that these days; instead of keeping things forever as in olden times, they throw things away; purge, recycle, declutter. And someone, on this fine October day, decided to place a hardcover Roget’s Thesaurus, red, yellow, and black dust jacket intact, out on their planter for someone to pick up.

The collector in me wants to take it. I’ve never owned a hardcover thesaurus before, and my old yellowed paperback is barely holding together with crackled masking tape. But the lazy, sore shouldered pragmatist in me says, don’t be silly, you don’t need more to carry, and besides, you never use a physical thesaurus anymore. It’s true, now when I edit I keep open on my browser.

I walk a little farther. At least I could take a picture of the thesaurus among the fall colours on the planter. I could post it on Instagram where I like to put my anonymous pictures, pictures without people. Is it sufficiently ironic to find this orphaned book on the way to writing group?
But I have already passed it. And to take a photo now means stopping and going back, aiming and shooting, and maybe someone will be watching me and I’ll feel foolish.

It’s then I remember the prayer I prayed this morning: please Universe, show me, give me a sign; am I meant to be writing?

Last Whisker

How can it be?
I strain to see
and pluck and pull –
futility –
and feel the prickly
little wire
poke through again
each week, each hour,
like a menopausal weed
upon my witch’s chin.

And then
the old man, afraid and spent,
fingers frail as chicken bones,
pulled down the shades,
lost his stones,
bid goodbye,
death by poverty,
alack, alone.

And as I stroke
my soft new chin
in pleasant contemplation
I feel no more
the stubborn prick
of days of sin.
My inner whore delighted
to be free and faithful
gorges on gingerbread,
little boys,
and wild boar.witch-1461961_640

The Riding Lesson

stallion-422110_640As the car drove onto the gravelled parking area I was suddenly reminded of the Freiderich’s farm, the crunch of the driveway, the slam of car doors.

My sister would strap on a velvet hard hat and hop onto a horse for her weekly riding lesson. The other riders and horses walked slowly in a circle around the sawdust ring. The instructor, her fiery red hair loose and wavy to her shoulders in a white turtleneck, jodhpurs, and tall black boots stood in the center of the ring, a whip in her hand, giving instruction, and smoking cigarettes.

I waited with my mom behind the window. An hour, an interminable weekly hour. The farm’s owner, Mrs Freidrich, collected horses and everything in the waiting room was a precious antique rendered worthless in my opinion by the horse in its composition. There were horseshoe ashtrays and paintings of thoroughbreds, rearing Lipizzans with clocks embedded in their stomachs, but the piece that drew my attention over and over was Lady Godiva. She was solid black metal, smooth except for two raised nipples, Godiva and her mount, frozen in iron, bareback and bridleless.

I hated waiting but only sometimes did I dare venture out of the waiting room into the stable. The horses’ names were tacked above their stalls and they stood with their giant round rumps to the aisle gazing out of small dirty barred windows except for one, the stallion, Perusso. He was jet black and had a long unkempt mane. He stamped and snorted, pacing in his box stall, prison cell. If I stood on a straw bale I could look in through the bars, into the darkness, and sometimes catch Perusso’s wild white eye.

I dreaded the horses getting loose. Breaking down their tethers and galloping around inside the stable. I feared that once free their first task would be to kill all the humans.

I was trapped there too. At the riding lesson. Not that those killer horses cared but I was trapped there too.

Green Stone

lake-996634_640 green stone poem







I am hopeful.
It comes in waves.
you will discover
you love me.
My despair
keeps crashing
battering at the break wall
says you won’t.

But I am as hopeful
as the large sky
and blue lake
that filled my eyes
and the tiny green beach stone
I pocketed
on this
St. Patrick’s Day.