Ritual for Cold, Humid Mornings
The rain cloud swelling inside your skull wakes you
before the alarm. Breathe. Unclench your jaw. Slip
your fingers under the fleece beanie and rub the
tender spots on your scalp. Pop one OTC anodyne.
Pray you won’t need more. Finish the glass of water
on the nightstand. Slow motion shuffle to the kitchen
for a migraine antidote breakfast. A jumbo cup of half
caf, half decaf instant coffee. Inhale the steam to melt
the mist in your head. Stir blueberries, walnuts,
and chia seeds into a bowl of goat yogurt. Swallow
two turmeric capsules. The TV’s hum soothes
as you breathe, unclench, rub, and wait for the sun
to vaporize the gloom. Finally, the ache shrinks enough
so you can get dressed, feed the pets, make the bed,
wash the dishes. By noon, you roll out the Prince purple
yoga mat on the strip of weed lawn between the palm
fronds flapping like crows and the bed of yellow, sunset
orange, and aromatic lavender roses. Bees buzz
around the blossoms, too busy powdering themselves
to bother with you. Breathe. Unclench. Stretch
into downward dog, careful not to kick the tortie cat
crouched on the edge of the mat. Warn the swallowtails
and painted ladies sailing above to stay out of the range
of her leap. Today is a good day. No need for the pill
that traps you in a shadow, or worse, the self-administered
injection that makes you seasick. No Lady of Shalott
locked inside your home. Your head allows you to rise
without whirling. Take the dog for a walk to the hilltop.
Weave a story or poem. Turn up the funk and dance. Enjoy
this lull while you can. Tomorrow’s forecast threatens fog
thick as a curse, the kind that pulls a spiked rope taut
from your left temple to your left trapezius,
stranding you on the mattress for days.
My Backyard Garden Office
The camellias and bougainvillea
came with the house,
giving me a head start.
First, we planted the nopal
in honor of Grandma’s cactus garden
that I only saw in a photograph.
By the time I was born,
she cooked with nopalitos from a jar.
Next, a row of roses: dainty white, joyful nectarine,
optimistic yellow, and fragrant lavender—
a reminiscence of the roses that greeted us
on the walkway to Grandma’s front door.
Then, a Meyer lemon and an orange tree to bring
my San Bernardino Valley roots back to me.
When the weather is right, I unfold
the beach lounger beneath palm fronds
and read or ruminate. I write on the patio
surrounded by potted plants—
jade I cut from Grandma’s yard decades ago,
black zwartkop, aloe vera, and ferns. Nearby,
my tortie cat pounces on a grasshopper,
a bee chases a monarch off milkweed blooms,
and an Allen’s hummingbird—that copper-orange
flame perched on a powerline—
plummets to the Mexican
sage’s purple velvet spikes.
My writing process is like my gardening.
Deadhead the roses to spark new buds.
Leave some leaves in the beds
to nurture the soil, and weed with hand tools—
the fork puller and claws, not toxic spray.
Dig deep when transplanting succulents
so they root and thrive. Harvest prickly
pears and lemons late enough to ripen,
but early enough before they rot. Search
for bird nests before trimming the camellias.
With the trowel, lopper, and pruner,
create arrangements, refresh lines,
and cultivate joy.
My backyard garden—
where Grandma’s nopal writes odes to the sky
and my palabras push upward from the soil
and unfurl in the sunlight.
A Rose, Red as Sangria
For Mama on her 80th birthday
She chassés in a cha cha rhythm
to Santana’s “Smooth” guitar riff.
Her scarlet lined, black lace
sways with her curves.
Twirls flutter the flounces
on her skirt like fans
on a summer day in Sevilla.
A rose, red as sangria,
adorns her chignon,
whispers an incantation.
the click of her tongue
keeps time with the beat.
This isn’t 80 is the new 40.
This is Dorothy today:
wife, Mama, grandma,
great-grandma, a bad ass
former single mother
of four daughters
who bought a home
without a co-signer
or child support,
siren, lover, woman.
long before the hash tag.
The band plays her favorite
Clear some space.
Dorothy’s going to
get her groove on.
That’s my Mama—
first on the dance floor,
last to leave. Forever
Young in bloom.
Gray clouds conceal
spring sky. Handwriting poems
stills the beast of grief.