Mr. Prufrock’s Decision

Audacious cretaceous crabs crawled along the beach.

I longed to ride.

I must apologize.

I got confused.

I could never sit astride

a dinosaur

or a tiny mammal

                                                though my hands can sometimes

scuttle sideways with the crabs.

I’ll scrawl

an ornate bridle

and a willing silver steed.

I’ll call him Mr. Prufrock.

            This bit confuses me.

                                                            A grasp and a gallop, 

a barnacle and a pinch.

I am reminded that

tomorrow will be barnacled and repurposed.

Let’s leave it there

beached like an ancient edit

forever pummeled by sand and wave.

My dear Mr. Prufrock, though hooved, you write with the audacity of a sea horse.

Our Breath is the Wind of Dreams

Dreams by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Covered with snow.

To Breathe a Dream by Linda Doughty

Taped to my desk and handwritten on a torn scrap of paper, Langston Hughes’s “Dreams” reminded me each day to hold fast. I was a paraprofessional, working at the Chatham College Library. I would earn $10,050 a year, with scant benefits. My title was Technical Services Assistant. We worked in the back of the library, processing and cataloging books and other library materials. I discovered the wonders of OCLC*, stumbled over countless other acronyms, F-keyed my way through WordStar, found joy in mail sorting, quashed my disbelief at the bureaucratic snarl of invoice processing and budget review, and supervised docile undergraduate students. I also learned how to find thin books to stow in the middle drawer of my desk so that I could read. Assigning fund lines for payments glazed my eyes over and there were days when I couldn’t take one more call from a vendor. My peripheral vision was good and I was adept at pushing the drawer back in with my belly. I read “The Old Man and the Sea” this way.

I was demoralized. I was holding fast to my dream of becoming a professional flute player. I’d recently completed my Master’s degree in Flute Performance at Carnegie Mellon University but had no money nor confidence. A conducting student had attached himself to me and it took years to shake him loose. He wanted me to “put my life on hold” and support his career. I made excuses for him. He was from Argentina. He was Jewish. His ancestry was Eastern European. He had childhood trauma. Surely he would understand my desire for a more egalitarian relationship and overcome all these obstacles to understanding me. Love would provide clarity in due course, of this I was confident.

I decided that he should get his doctoral degree in orchestral conducting, in large part due to a series of unfortunate circumstances that resulted in him losing his questionably appointed job at Carnegie Mellon. Basically, his mother had an affair with the new Music Department Head, who hired her son, misappropriated university funds, and lost his job in less than a year. Since I worked in a library I had access to the materials that allowed me to research our next step. The University of Arizona had both a doctoral conducting program and a library school. It seemed sensible for me to pursue a degree in library science. Tucson looked to be an active arts community. I thought we would have many more opportunities in a smaller, western city than in old-monied Pittsburgh. He applied and got into their conducting program. Then I applied and got in as a doctoral student in flute performance. We would both be graduate teaching assistants. This was my dream. He asked me, “When are you ever going to start acting right?”

I dreamed my way into a successful playing career. I burned through a couple of marriages then dreamed my way into a better life. I dreamed a son, I dreamed a family, I dreamed a life with pets. I dreamed horses back into my life.

I dreamed of retirement. I dreamed of quiet, of still, of peace, of time filled with cloud shows, of butterflies on blooms. Covid-19 opened that space. I grasped the doorknob. I let go and opened my hands. I stepped through the door with gratitude and horror.

I’ve burned. I’ve smoldered. I’ve erupted. Not proud of that part.

Dreams don’t die. Dreams drift like clouds. Breath has a warmth to melt the snow. Brokenness heals and healing breaks us open. Our breath is the wind of dreams.

“I think,” Tehanu said in her soft, strange voice, “that when I die, I can breathe back the breath that made me live. I can give back to the world all that I didn’t do. All that I might have been and couldn’t be. All the choices I didn’t make. All the things I lost and spent and wasted. I can give them back to the world. To the lives that haven’t been lived yet. That will be my gift back to the world that gave me the life I did live, the love I loved, the breath I breathed.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Other Wind


Cowboy Church

I watched my left knee bouncing up and down. My toes were on the ground and my heel was jiggling. I wondered if the movement was becoming automatic and beyond my control. I had lost interest in the Sunday school lesson at my grandmother’s Methodist church. The teacher had proclaimed that animals “do not go to heaven.”  She said something else to me that I noticed but didn’t hear. When my parents came to pick me up after the service the teacher pulled them aside. I wasn’t quite out of earshot but I kept my indignation to myself.

The next time we drove to Colorado Springs to visit my grandmother she said that she had a surprise for me. She ushered my family into her small, two-bedroom apartment through the back door. Her housedress was light green with a busy floral pattern. She bent toward me, preceded by the aroma of Emeraude and Newports. “Give me a kiss!” she implored while shoving her cheek into my face. I held my breath and marveled at the softness of her skin under its fine veil of powder. “You girls sit here at the table while I talk to your mom and dad. I’ve put out a couple of carrots for you and here are the swords.” She carried a plastic container from the windowsill and placed it on the Formica table. “See how many you can get in there!” I hoped that this wasn’t my surprise.

It was kind of fun to pierce the carrots with the colorful cocktail swords. My sister and I kept it up for a few minutes but ran out of swords. We scooted off our chairs and walked into the living room. “Linda Sue, will you promise to put flowers on my grave?” My blood ran cold. I imagined myself in a frilly pastel dress, ankle socks, and church gloves. I carried a bouquet of white flowers. Shadows flitted over the casket, there to bid my grandma farewell. I couldn’t think of anything more frightening. I was eight years old and unfamiliar with the tradition of placing flowers on graves. My great grandfather’s funeral the previous year was open casket, but no one made me do anything. When we visited him at the nursing home he had spoken to me in a way that was not frightening. Seeing him dead was much less frightening than imagining grandmother dead.

I blushed and fell silent. My mother admonished me with a raised eyebrow and a hiss. I replied, “Yes. Will Margo have to do it, too?” There was some muttering about the baby sister and how she was too young. I resigned myself to the responsibility while hoping that when the time came I’d be old enough not to be afraid. My grandmother smiled and asked me if I was ready for my surprise. I nodded my head and hoped I wouldn’t have to do anything else on her grave. “Tomorrow morning we are going to get up early and go to the Cowboy Church at the drive-in movie theater. You’ll like that, won’t you? The cowboys will be riding horses and you can put the offering in the hat when they come around.” I heard the word “horses.”


The raspy words of Cowboy God did not impress me any more than the Sunday school teacher’s admonitions had. Granted, words had to battle to emerge from the drive-in movie speaker. The speaker clung to the rolled-down window of grandma’s new Chevy Nova. When the horses came around I strained to see. I watched the haunches of the yellow horse stop by the driver’s window. Dad placed the offering in the hat because I couldn’t reach from the backseat. The inverted Stetson obscured my view of the faces of both horse and rider.

“Oh, that was special!” I thought grandma’s exclamation was unwarranted. “We’re going to go to Furr’s now.” Furr’s was a buffet-style restaurant. I was a picky eater. There was a lot to choose from, but not much choice. In a whisper, I asked mom if Furr’s was a restaurant for old people.

Mother helped Margo and me through the buffet line. When we got to the end, the checkout lady said, “That little girl’s eyes are bigger than her stomach.” I looked at the sad beans on my tray. Mother replied, “It’s okay, she can eat what she wants.” Margo’s tray was laden with fried chicken and desserts. I then realized that the lady wasn’t talking about me. I watched the red Jell-O on my tray quiver and I wondered if it had taken on a life of its own.


By the way
strides fall in threes
marking their way,
four hooves

leave the way;
I recall hoofbeats.

I can hear: words prance

on heat spirals,
circling upwards. I hesitate to

say it. Each movement
begins anew and repeats
an earworm: horses

sing the chorus. Memory
a strangling anchor
I grasp: static
white noise, spilling over
the basin’s edge – urgency
swells, moves ribs
heels and hooves
tucks tail
Don’t force. The deafness is sounding.
What is sung: we are cruel
to be kind – we are wasted
on the horses, lost
in their thrall
sweaty backs melt into blue jeans
melded, unfixed wildness
up and through, both
unfound and flowing momentum
hearing the sound
ears forward
cupping the wind,
time and bodies are broken together
my kindness carries no song.


Makes you think

to consider pink.


Blood on a tissue.

Baby blanket.


Nauseating peeps.

Pink balloons float

against blue sky.

You’d think we could do better.


Yellow is exuberance loosed

from green to bloom,

bucking in warmth.

Yellow is light,

bitter spice,

surprise, then delight.

Yellow is inhale or exhale,

spring or fall,

first or last.

Yellow is small sunbursts

penetrating eyelids,

I walk on life in process. 

Yellow is straining light

towards light.

I give up.


Blooming Palo Verde tree

On Strike

I’m on strike. I don’t belong to the Musicians Union anymore. Since Covid-19 slammed us in 2020 I have been fully retired from performing or teaching the flute. Even so, I consider myself to be on strike.

It’s been an ongoing annoyance to me when the name of a performing musician is not credited. I cheer when I see a televised opera production or broadcast concert that lists the instrumentalists’ names, and not only those of the conductor and the production staff. I have written letters to the editor when the name of a reviewed musician has been omitted, or credit has been given to the wrong performer. Open the program! And herein lies the problem.

I bought a partial subscription to the Tucson Symphony’s Classic series this season, now that we are slowly returning to in-person concerts. While my husband and I enjoyed the four concerts, the programs did not contain the names of the harpists, the extra musicians, or the substitute musicians. This practice began while I was still playing with the TSO. I was never a contracted player but I was a regular substitute and first-call substitute for most of those 30-plus years. My name would be listed because the program was printed for each concert, with an accurate listing of performers. I was paid at the same rate as the contracted players. I was doing the same work, after all!

One of the ways symphony orchestras appear to have decided they could save money was by printing programs at the beginning of the season and with more than one concert per program. The list contains only the names of contracted orchestra members.

Appeal to the union, right? That does no good if one is a substitute musician. Even though Arizona is a right-to-work state, I spent several years as a dues-paying union member because I wanted to support my fellow musicians. However, there was absolutely no benefit to me. If you are curious, there is pertinent information in these two linked articles.  

Appeal to my colleagues? I tried. One orchestra committee member told me point-blank that they had more important issues to address.

To be clear, I never was anything close to a “scab.” I was frequently called in to substitute and, quite frankly, cover the asses of colleagues who wanted to take a better gig, had a conflict with other work or felt they weren’t quite up to the task of performing certain repertoire.

I loved my work, but I’m old enough and wise enough now to love myself more. We won’t be spending our money or our time on many future Tucson Symphony concerts until credit is given where credit is due. While it may not make any difference within the organization, it will make a difference to me. Consider me an audience member, on strike.

Bright Red Windblown Mane

Pale sunlight streams through bright red windblown mane.
A memory attends this pause in time.
My heart, my all soars high on this refrain.

My mind recalls a breeze of childhood pain.
Sharp wind-whipped mane enacts a pantomime.
Pale sunlight streams through bright red windblown mane.

A gallop through that field was near insane.
I feel the rush of that far summertime. 
My heart, my all soars high on this refrain.

She tripped, she fell and on the ground I’d lain.
I got back up and brushed away the grime.
Pale sunlight streams through bright red windblown mane.

It seemed beyond my grasp that she’d ordain,
I let her go and live beyond my crime.
My heart, my all soars high on this refrain.

A second act, I’m older, more humane.
My song continues, cantering in rhyme.
Pale sunlight streams through bright red windblown mane.
My heart, my all soars high on this refrain.

Sweet Al gazing out at his new pasture home in Amado.