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TST: How to break spaghetti

Okay so everyone is going to read this and say, “You mean you only just figured this out?” But I’m passing it on anyhow because I’m proud of having figured it out:

You know how you’re supposed to  break dried spaghetti before you put it into boiling water? Particularly if you have a kid who refuses to actually wind his spaghetti while eating it and you’re tired of chasing trails of olive oil slime down the fronts of his shirts? Whenever I break a handful, even if I do it right over a humongous pot of water, inevitably – like some kind of explosion – there are broken off pieces EVERYWHERE. Seriously, all over the place, no matter what grip I use and how careful I am.

So I was thinking about bread crumbs (long and completely irrelevant story) and an idea came to me
[Macaroni seller, Naples, Italy] (LOC)

1) take a plastic bag (for me, ziplock – I keep old ones because I’m cost conscious mostly but I like to think it’s eco-conscious too – at least if you’re going to buy the damn things…okay, I’m digressing. Sorry)

2) put the spaghetti in it

3) close/zip the bag

4) twist the bag and the stuff inside it.

Ta dah! Broken spaghetti, all flying bits caught in bag rather than all over the floor. Note that spaghetti ends are sharp, so a heavier duty plastic bag will end up with indents (though I haven’t had one poke through yet). So  you may want a designated ziplock bag just for this purpose. If you use a thin plastic bag (like reuse a vegetable bag from the grocery store), it’s a one time thing – it’ll hold the bits in, but it’ll have holes so one use only. I keep my designated ziplock stored in the pantry right next to the bags of dry Trader Joe’s spaghetti. Now if I could just get the sprite to use a darned fork when he’s eating dinner…

Days 9, 10: Jellyfish, Drizzle

Yes, I’m behind. I blame the sudden appearance of a dog disguised as a moose (or vice versa) and the fact that I keep getting slightly ahead on writing poems and then get a poem (YAY!) that I want to respond to instead.  I’m not sure how jumping off from a poem about pancakes and sunrises ended up being on a postcard with butterflies and talking about bees, but the ways of writing are strange and surreal, esp. at 2 a.m.















Inspired by Chris J., Day 8

When we start getting postcards, the idea of the August Poetry Postcard Fest is that you send a poem to your next poet inspired by the poet you got a poem from most recently. So it’s like playing operator, but with poems. Mostly, on this one, I love the card.


Sirenia, Poppy, Day 7

We had another poet added to our list and since she should have received my first poem, I sent one to her today as well as to the person who was next on the list given where I was.

I wish I could do this every day for the rest of my life. Even if most of the poems I wrote sucked.








There was a relationship that I never thought I’d be able to write about – I tried once but the fiction was frightening and painful. I wrote Poppy without realizing that I was writing about that  relationship until after I re-read it. For the first time, I’m glad it’s over.


Caliban, Days 4 and 5

Got my lovely first postcard with a sleek, beautiful poem – a poetic reminder of why we write. As a result, I’m feeling extra-guilty that I’m behind on posting these (I also realized that I’m going to have to stop putting the text of the poems up – long story, but basically, they seem to being harvested. My own person bot fan club…woohoo).

Anyhow, the two from this weekend:













Did you know that Caliban was sometimes portrayed as a half-fish, half-man? I didn’t…something new.

Day 3 Phoebe, Like Penelope

Phoebe, pill like Penelope

Bones as hard as rock and roll, store
Phoebe, physician like Penelope, waits.
Not a spider,
Not a crow,
But a bivalve.
Once she starts to weave this story,
There’s no turning back,
Whether he comes through a door,
Whether there is mud on his boots,
Whether he leaves glove-smudge or fingerprints,
Whether he carries a gun.
Phoebe carries hers like a pearl.

Day 2 (August Poetry Postcard Fest)


the monster

cuts silver ribbons

like a mayor of night

and a million million

eyes splinter into

fragments of light.

this is no ordinary

Argus, healing who coalesces

in the four

corners of the underworld, healing

sings only in silver

and never sleeps.


August poems Day 1

With my previous post, I made this crazy commitment to write a poem a day and send it off to another poet, as part of the August Postcard Poetry Fest.

I’ve been avoiding posting poems in public online spaces, because many venues (ahem. y’all know who you are) consider those poems then to be “published” and won’t let you submit them.

So why the exception here? Partly, these are so rough that it’s a good exercise in humility. Plus any that I’d consider for publication would need a serious overhaul (don’t think rhinoplasty; think witness protection program). Most importantly, though: publication isn’t the *point* of the August fest. It’s about loving writing, about connecting with strangers,about…well,singing together in the subway when the train stops and goes dark because there’s a glitch on the rails.  In that spirit, I’m sharing them here:

“Elephant Walking,” Eadweard Muybridge


They thump like ventricles
through the savannahs. Bent
grasses rise at their passing.
Somewhere outside a rainforest,
they learn again to paint.
What looks like opportunity
is recollection, recovered
in a crush of wild color.
In other places, they
circle their dead,
crying, return the next year.

*Note: No recipient names and addies for obvious reasons; have also given text of poem rather than making you struggle with my handwriting.


I made a New Year’s promise (semi publicly, no less) that I was going to start writing practice again. The work life involves a fair bit of writing at this point, but for a while I did it every evening. And then, I didn’t, and I don’t know why.

I got the idea of writing practice as a practice (like meditation) from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones – to write every day,  just to get the hands (or hand equivalent) moving. To breathe the rhythm and to get all the garbage out of the head and onto the page/screen. I’m one of those writers where I need the inspiration to be good, but writing practice helps me to be open to inspiration when it happens (largely, I think, decluttering my head).

Postcard from Malaya 1948 Ken Mayer CC license 2.0 Photographer is not responsible for any of the text content in this post.

Then I remembered my private New Year’s resolution – something else I’d been wanting to do  – writing letters. I have a lot of people with whom I correspond who for one reason or another don’t use email much. Moreover, I’m an avid collector of cards and stationary (I’d post a picture of the collection of boxes that takes up the wall by my desk, but it’s just embarrassing).

So I took a look at the two promises and said, well, hell with it. I’m going to write to people – real people, whose feelings matter – and writing practice is going to have to wait. It’s not like I have really bad writer’s block right now anyhow. And the sprite is such an attention hound that it’s hard for me to have a real conversation with friends – the phone is just not an option, but letters still are.

One funny thing is, since I started this, I’m writing more poetry and I only just made the connection that maybe the two things are related. Somehow, writing letters became writing practice.

But the real synchronous moment was when a FB friend posted a link to the “August Poetry Postcard Fest.” I’d never heard of it. But there it is – writing practice, poetry, correspondence, everything right there – and not such a huge commitment that I’ll lose the time to correspond with my friends. Moreover, it sounds like one of my dreams come true. I’ve had lots of fantasies (okay, this is a truly embarrassing admission) of doing things like “dollar booths” at school fairs  – you come up, give me  a theme and a dollar, and I write a poem. I love the idea of just letting a poem go out into the world, giving a stranger words. On top of that, I love getting mail (thus,  all those correspondents). So this…THIS is synchronicity. I got onto the coordinator and asked if it was too late (since in theory I should have been on a list days before, since it starts TOMORROW), but he was very kind and put me in and I’m so excited by all this that I could just jump up and down.

The things that can make me happy, sheesh. Since the first postcard should go out the door tomorrow a.m., I’m going to go rummage through my boxes of postcards to find one that says “beginnings” to me. I may post scans of some of the poems from the fest before I send them off – especially the bad ones – just to keep myself humble. And because this is going to be So. Much. Fun.


no. no. nonet.

This afternoon, I found out that a nonet I wrote called “Dark in the Woods” won a Poetic Form Challenge at Writer’s Digest and will at some point find its way into print in the WD magazine.  Before I get into my (inevitable, deep, dark, psychological) navel gazing around it, I have to give credit where credit is due. The Sprite’s been listening to Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass in the car (he could just read them, but he likes the Brit accent on Audible’s version) and there are certain phrases in the latter that we both like. Which have inspired six poems including this one (the original title was Hurricane in the Woods). And he’s also said a couple of interesting things that have inspired two more poems. The kid has a real knack for putting phrases together and has absolutely no filter/editor – it makes me wonder if I haven’t given enough credence to the possibility that he could end up being a writer.

Anyhow, back to my navel gazing. Because the WD poetry blog has a bunch of people who are consistent about hanging out there and are often FB friends (with me and with one another), there are a fair number of congrats coming my way in addition to those of my own friends. And  I’m having the worst time responding to them,  because I’m still kind of shocked that I won. I mean, consider this: I’d never heard of the form before Robert Brewer mentioned it on his WD poetry blog and never

tried it before this challenge. And I almost never enter these challenges – I think the only one I’ve  tried till now was haiku which at least is a form I’ve had some experience with (and yeah, preposition, so shoot me). And the poem is not exactly a happy one. I usually avoid writing about depression, because – like Beelzebub or my largest cat – if you name it, it comes running up to twine around your ankles and generally make a nuisance of itself. And I almost didn’t enter at all – the three nonets I wrote were so depressing that I actually asked the spouse to read them to make sure they weren’t too depressing to post (put it this way: the one about depression  is the cheerful one). Add to that that I was positive that one of three nonets by other people that I liked the best would be the winner  (I’ll give myself “good taste” credit since all three of them showing up in the top 10), and it seems absolutely bizarre that my nonet was even in the running.

There’s psychologically something “up” with this – partly this recent and really annoying lack of confidence in my writing  and partly my inability to assess my own work. The poem I had published at Pif magazine, for example, I threw into the submission group at the last minute as a lark. Seriously. I thought the poem was funny but that no-one would ever consider it to be Literature.

So I guess the object lesson is a boring one  because it’s been said so often (by me, to others, for which I owe all of you who’ve had to put up with my sanctimonious “just send it back out” advice an apology) : ignore all the “no thank yous” and “not for us”-es, and just keep sending them out. It’s like I’ve got this huge blind spot in my writing so until I can find a writing group, I’m going to have to do this by trial and error, by feel.