Hollow People


The Harlow monkey experiment is about monkeys who are not taken care of by their mother. The monkeys who had the wire mesh mother and no love grow up to be very strange. They do not know how to love; they do not know how to care about the other monkeys, some of them cannot even mate. My students read this and they wonder. Some of them have no loving parents. Does that mean that they will grow up and be unable to love? They wonder.

Because many of us grow up without love and we want to love anyway. Everywhere I see parents who stay with their children, who stay with their spouses and family. People who love wildly and dream big.

But I also see hollow people. Something is missing from many of us in America. You see people who don’t understand that the greatest of these is kindness. Just being kind seems to be missing from the DNA of way too many people.

Hollow people can leave their children. Can fail to take care of their wife and children. Can push past you on the street. Can cut off old ladies in traffic. Can come up to pregnant women and say, I hope it’s a girl, they’re so much easier. Can say to a pregnant woman, I hope it’s a boy, a man needs a son. Can say to a pregnant woman, I hope it isn’t autistic; autism is such a curse.

Can say to a parent of an autistic child, How can you bear it? Can say to a parent of a disabled child, Are you in mourning? Do you feel that God has abandoned you? Can say to the parents of a gay kid, Is there any chance that your kid will get better? Can say to the parents of a lesbian, Is your daughter the boy or the girl; I’ve heard the boy lesbian likes breasts and the girl lesbian does not. Can say to the mother of a child who is “different,” Maybe he’ll outgrow that.

Can say to a person who is underemployed, Just work harder, do what I do. Can say to a person who is poor, Why do you choose to be poor? Can say to a person who hasn’t found love, If you looked harder, love would find you. If you tried harder, love would come to you. If you were a different person, you would be loved. If you were normal or could pretend to be normal, you would be loved.

If you were thinner, you would be loveable. If you didn’t have that crazy kid/kids, you would be loved. If you didn’t have that shitty job or live in that shitty trailer park, you would be loved. If you walked in the world like a Ralph Lauren model, you would be loved. If you cleaned up your act, you would be loved. If you were somebody else entirely, you could be so happy and loved. Everything would be so perfect, but you’re not.

And what I say to the hollow people? I am. Indeed, I am. I inhabit the I am.

Published in: on April 19, 2014 at 4:29 am  Leave a Comment  

What I want to tell my friend about her husband

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The reason the scorpion stung the turtle who was carrying him across the river is that it was in his nature to sting. It is very difficult to change a person’s nature unless they are still growing. (As in, ah, you, young man, bi now, gay later.)

A husband who loves you will want you to feel safe. Will want you to feel shelter. Will want you to have a life that feels like a dream, a party, a song, a river in which you are in a canoe with no holes, like your life is a picnic when it does not rain and when it does rain, you have a huge tent to walk under and in that shelter, you are both womb safe.

A husband who will want to make sure always that you are not afraid and that you want to come home. A husband who changes diapers. A husband who is willing to tell your parents that he will take care of you. A husband who is willing to make good on that promise. A husband who takes care of his son and of you and who sees you. Who sees you completely. Who sees you not just as a body, but as a whole person, your energy, your being a mom, your voice, your spirit, your wild lovely self.

There is a story you enter when you decide to have a son. The boy is your son, but he is also his father’s son. You want the father to see you as the giver of his son but also to see you completely as a separate person. You are not just a story of someone who produces his heir. You are not just a beautiful girl/woman. You are a person. Your own person.

In the bullring, there is a place for which the bull will fight, a place in the ring where he feels safe; it’s called la querencia. It’s his safe place. We all have or should have a querencia, a place where we feel safe and the husband should help you protect that safe place, should understand it.

For most women, once you have a child, the safe place is fairly simple: It’s your kids are. And it’s living somewhere with your kids that they are taken care of and you aren’t sweating blood. When my kids were small, we had a yard and in that yard a slide that went into a small wading pool, a cocker spaniel and a lot of trees. I wanted to know my kids could grow up in that park space, have enough bananas, be able to go to the beach. I wanted to know the bills are paid, and that I could enjoy being a mom without sweating the small stuff and that I could still have time to write.

It isn’t too much to ask. It isn’t too much to want. It isn’t too much to reach for. Ask for a place in the world where you can raise your child and be loved. Ask for him to fight for you. Give love and ask for love in return. I wish you well. I wish you love.

Published in: on April 18, 2014 at 2:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chicago Dreaming

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Chicago is a very male city. Unlike Savannah, San Francisco or even Los Angeles, Chicago is male. It will steal your stories and carry them off into that wind. I think of the migration from the South, talented young Black men and women moving north to escape Jim Crow laws, coming to Chicago, New York, St. Louis and making music there. I like the jazz of Chicago, but the pizza is too thick for me.

Nicelle and I landed at 11 last night on Virgin. I was exhausted when we got here. I plan to catch up on sleep a bit. We’re here for a conference which is happening one mile away. I may not get to the conference today, but I plan to be there tomorrow. Nicelle is going to speak on Friday, I am speaking Saturday. We are speaking about poetics. I’m sure we’ll be electrifying whatever it is we say. I look forward to it.

Tonight we are reading at Seminary Coop. This Hilton on Michigan is surrounded by stores I’ll never step inside like Coach and Fendi and women’s clothing stores that have real clothes for real adult women. I did see H& M though, that was encouraging. Right near the Poetry Foundation there is a Trader Joes which is cool. It’s across from a great looking church and a sign for Goose Island beer. In Chicago, all this stuff works together.

It’s not too cold here, the sun is shining on the lake, and I played my trusty hotel iPod in the room while getting ready to go down to the ALA and to the Poetry Foundation. I love going there. I like seeing Emily Dickinson’s white dress in its case, I like the poetry books and the hum of poetry when you’re there, I like the feeling of drowning out the cacophony of commerce for one hushed breath when poetry can whisper to you.

Tonight after the reading there is a dinner at the Nile Restaurant. There are twenty-five people going to this dinner. Probably going to be very fun. What I hope I can do is have a drink with everyone. I want to meet the twenty-five but unless it’s your family, massive restaurant dinners lead to you getting stuck with a large bill and you can’t even remember what you said or who you talked with. They know each other, so they’ll have a good time. I can just drop in, I think. I am going to become more social and extroverted in my next life. Like my friend Darlene.

And if you are going out to dinner with twenty-five family members, that could be crazy too. Our family going out is usually my two kids, their significant others, Jared and Kelly, and Mark and me, that’s eight. Mark’s other son lives in Portland, but if he were around, that would still only be ten. Maybe sometime they’ll be grandkids and we’ll get up to twenty-five. Who knows?

I’ll let my blog readers know what I think of the Nile Restaurant when I drop in tonight. Sounds Egyptian. Or at least Middle Eastern. Russian food tomorrow night. The sun shines on Chicago.

Published in: on April 17, 2014 at 8:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Watch out for flying monkeys


I do not want to become a flying monkey. Flying monkeys fly all over doing bad things. They work for witches and they kidnap young girls with small useless dogs. (By the way, speaking of dogs, I’m going to digress here for a moment and say, I am really tired of people who talk about their dog’s illness as if it were a child. It’s not a child. I understand a little grief when the canine hits the dust, but come on people. You missed a meeting because of your dog? You missed dinner because your dog was queasy? People get way too emotional about their pets. I like all 20 parakeets, all three dogs, both cats, the eight nameless chickens, I even said a prayer for chicken number four may she rest in peace to the Great Chicken God in the Sky, may her feathers ever keep her warm, may her eggs come out with ease. I am just sick of people making out like their pets were people. They aren’t people. They’re creatures.)

Back to flying monkeys. There are a lot of ways you can be a flying monkey. Travelling around all the time and not getting anything done. Travelling on vacation and leaving your spouse behind. I spoke with someone the other day who is going on his summer vacation and leaving his spouse behind. That’s flying monkey behavior. Zipping around on weekends and never being at rest: Flying monkey behavior. Never really listening to anyone because the voices in your head are too loud? Flying monkey. Not keeping promises to friends of things you said you would do but then just didn’t bother to do? Flying monkey. Complaining that you can’t show up on time because your dog is sick? Flying monkey. You aren’t getting along with your kids so you decided to just leave them with the other parent and get away and live your own life? Flying monkey.

Flying monkeys are the opposite of Buddhists. Flying monkeys do not live in the present but are always rushing to the next thing. They do not live life mindfully. Sometimes they forget where they are. Sometimes they forget who they are. They forget what matters to them. They lose their moral center. They start crying that friends don’t understand them, that nobody likes them, that they’re starting to feel misunderstood. Pretty soon, they’re right.

As I said, I am concerned about myself. I am travelling way too much for me at least. I’m starting to lose track of where I should be and I’m not listening well. Those are definitely the dirty signs of flying monkey, but the good thing is I see this, I’m paying attention and I plan to get myself back with my feet on the ground. Watching the coffee grounds as they fall around the roses. Watching the rose petals as they fall on the grass. Watching my Japanese maple, the leaves opening and opening. Watching the figs ripen. And running into all that air.

Flying monkeys lose track of who they are. I’m remembering.

Published in: on April 16, 2014 at 2:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

She had to beg for underwear.

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Don’t try to convince other people that your way is right. In my first marriage, my ex had two guy friends who were married to these women who were completely squished. Stomped. Walked on. Walked over. Walked around.

I remember we were over at this guy’s house we’ll call Jimmy. I wanted to go out with the wife and get pizza while the men were going to stay with the kids, and my ex said, Sure, Jimmy and I can watch the kids and give them a bath.

It turns out Jimmy had never been left alone with his children let alone give them a bath. My ex had to do the bathing and getting them into the jammies. Jimmy gave his wife $5 a week spending money and sometimes he asked for it back. He did all the grocery shopping. He was a marathon runner and they were super Christian so they had this idea that he should be able to do anything he wanted and she should have to just bow to his wishes.

The other guy was Mormon. His wife had to beg for underwear. I think I gave her some of mine at one point. She was a beautiful blond girl and they lived in, you guessed it, Utah.

Here is the funny thing: At the time, neither of these women seemed particularly unhappy. Sure they complained a bit, but don’t we all? They were in their twenties, they thought they were in love and they were living out their lifelong dream. A male had asked for their hand in marriage. They now had a husband and children. They were inside the right story doing God’s will. They were inside the story they had always aspired to be in.

I wanted to tell them that they were wrong, that they were actually miserable, that begging for panties was a bad thing. My ex agreed with me that this treatment was wrong, but even in our idiocy then, and it does amaze me looking back to think of what we did not see, even then, we knew that pointing out to someone who is happy with her life that you would hate her life is not helping to make her life better. Both those women eventually grew up and left those men. In their own time. Having too much information dumped on at once just gives you more than you can process.

I know a couple women now who I want to walk up to and say something. I want to say, Every time he takes a trip without you and leaves you behind, take a trip of your own and leave him behind. Go out in the world, get the job you dream of. Fix up the house the way you want it to be. Cook the food you like. Take time to take care of yourself: Get a massage, a manicure, a pedicure, a facial, a new hairstyle, flying lessons, trapeze lessons, go fishing, go ice fishing, never let a man be the hero of your life. Be a hero in your own life.

But I don’t. Because being a hero requires finding the hero in yourself. I am a hero, I left the cult when I felt God rising in me. I cannot give you hero. You have to find that for yourself.

Published in: on April 15, 2014 at 11:42 am  Comments (1)  

Wednesday-Saturday in Chicago!

Chicago, Here we Come!

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Nicelle Davis and Kate Gale!

I’m excited about going to Chicago. I need to get out, see the world, travel, visit all the capital cities, be expelled from them one by one. Just like Casanova! My friend, the poet Nicelle Davis and I are going to Chicago for three days, at least I’m going for three days. I have to get back on Easter because 4/20 is Mark’s birthday! And we have to go out for sushi etc.

Nicelle and I are speaking at a conference on poetics, and then, Red Hen meetings and this reading at the Seminary Coop. The other thing that I am planning for Chicago involves going to the Russian Tea Time. I’ve had some good times there over the years, drinking flights of vodka and eating borscht. I really like Russian food, and at the Russian Tea Time, they also have all different kinds of vodka—horseradish is my favorite.

The Goldilocks Zone tour is going well, and it does go on and on. I can see why authors like doing the whole tour in six weeks of hard travel. Because I teach, I can’t do a six week tour. I am doing an eighteen month tour for GZ and my fall release book Echo Light and working around my teaching schedule and Red Hen meetings/travel.

The reading is exciting, but all this travel is just a tad bit exhausting. As soon as I get home, I pack for the next trip, I drop off my clothes at the cleaners and I get ready to go again.

In my dream life, I get enough sleep and I’m not doing quite so many things. I like the idea of eight or nine hours of sleep a night. I’d be like a new woman. Not that the woman I am isn’t fantastic enough, but I would be even more fantastic with a lot more sleep. Ah well, that’s what the summer is for. Sleep, writing and dreaming.
April 17 at 6:00 pm – Seminary Co-Op, Chicago IL with Nicelle Davis
April 23 at 7:00 pm – Diesel, A Bookstore, Brentwood CA with Rex Wilder
April 24 at 7:30 pm – Mrs. Dalloways, Berkeley CA with Douglas Kearney and Peter Kline
May 5 at 7:00 pm – City Lights, San Francisco CA with Peggy Shumaker and Douglas Kearney
May 13 at 6:30 pm – Annenberg Beach House, Santa Monica CA with Kim Dower, Ron Koertge and Jim Tilley
June 18 at 7:30 pm – The Press Club, Portland OR with Ursula K. Le Guin
August 17 at 5:00 pm – Busboys and Poets, Washington DC with Douglas Kearney and Michelle Chan Brown
September 10 at 7:00 pm – New England College, Henniker NH
September 13 time TBD – Poets House, New York NY with Nicelle Davis and Gregory Orr
October 23 at 4:00 pm – UCSC Living Writers event, Santa Cruz CA with Andrew Lam
November 13 time TBD – Colorado College, Colorado Springs CO
November 20 time TBD – Wayne State College, Wayne NE




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Published in: on April 14, 2014 at 8:54 am  Comments (1)  

Hilary Clinton, can she be president?

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I want to see Hilary elected, and I hope that she runs in 2016. But it will take more than my wanting her to win for that to happen. She is an amazing fund raiser especially in NY which is the most important place in America to be able to raise money. And women love her, but she is going to have to get some men to vote in her favor as well.

Let’s talk about why there are men who hate Hilary. Men fear women who have power. A woman with power is a monster to most men. The monster is the woman who might actually wield power. A significant percentage of men in America do not respect women. Laugh at women. They assume the men should be in charge of where the family lives, how the house looks, how much their wife drinks or whether she is allowed to drink at all, what her last name is. They control the money. To make the little women happy, they give the little women money to shop; they buy them a dress or shoes.

Hilary is not a little woman. She does not wait for men to tell her what she can and cannot do. She moves forward with her convictions. And that is frightening to men.

England can elect Margaret Thatcher; Germany can elect Angela Merkl, even India has had a woman head of state. But not America where the men like little women who stay in the background.

Hilary stands for whatever is most frightening to men. She does not pretend to be small. She does not pretend to be the background. She does not become invisible.

Here is why I think all women should vote for Hilary and men as well. Hilary might be able to make change happen. Obama has not been able to stop any wars, improve education or help us on our way toward more jobs and better lives. I believe in Hilary.

People say Hilary wants power. Men want power all the time and nobody faults them for it. But if a woman wants power, it is frightening to men who want to believe they can control the world. Hilary represents power in skirts, and for most men that is the most frightening kind of power.

I can’t imagine anyone in my husband’s family voting for Hilary. His family are Republicans and/or they believe that men are the boss of things. I generally equate Republicans with wanting the men to be n charge; the wife’s “job” is to cook, take care of the house etc.

Some people would say that Hilary’s problem isn’t men hating her. It’s Hilary herself. But, I disagree. Being a stepmother has issues because you enter a story of the evil stepmother and it can be difficult to extract yourself. The British have the story of Queen Elizabeth I and the story of Queen Victoria, so a woman prime minister can enter the story of a powerful woman who turns a country into an empire. Hilary enters the story of a woman with serpents for hair. America has no glorious female monarchs whose story she can enter. But, she can enter the story of us. We, the women of America, like Hilary have raised children. We don’t leave our children. We only leave our spouses if we must. We do our best to raise a family, while working and we want to fly. We want full personhood. That’s an American wish. To walk tall in the world, to do what is right, not to be a bully, to understand and appreciate the beauty of the world. I think Hilary wants all of that too. I wish her the best in 2016. I believe that she has the force and stamina to win the presidency and I wish her the very best.

Published in: on April 13, 2014 at 6:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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LA Times Book Festival, something for everyone, celebrities, poetry, books, food

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Celebrities are our royalty, so they play out the story of our age. Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband Chris are getting a divorce. An amicable divorce.

But they are going to continue to be good parents and get along for the sake of Apple and Moses. That is the future of divorce. Making it work for the children. The whole thing where you ruin the children’s future in the process of the divorce is wrong. But it still happens every day. People hire a lawyer, go to war with their ex and in the process, their children’s lives are trashed.

Mickey Rooney said, People are always asking me if I’m short. Since my last divorce, I’m short about $100,000.” Of course, that’s a laughable amount in today’s market where people walk away from millions when they get divorced.

Paltrow is committed to making a lot of money off her celebrity. She has an online business called Goop. Goop sells really overpriced stuff like $350 pillows as People magazine points out. Our pillows don’t really match anything but we got them at the Home store for a lot less than $30. I also like their note that besides making money off the little people in America who think they can look like her by doing the little Tracy exercises and eating the special foods. If I were a celebrity, I would look like a million dollars too. I do like it when celebrities like Paltrow complain about how hard it is to be a celebrity mother. How hard is it to pay the bills and make it all work if you don’t have Paltrow’s money? What if you are a poet running a non profit, now I am going to bet that is a lot harder than Paltrow’s life. I am very close to my people, the people who do the work for me. On the other hand, I love Paltrow in movies, I’m over the moon about her performances even when she’s cheating on Matt Damon I still love watching her. I wish her the best with her amicable split. And Chris is a rock star so he will be fine.

If you could change anything you wanted to about your spouse, what would you change?

Most people who have been married for more than a few years, have something they would change. Divorce happens when there are too many things you want to change.

I don’t have a long list of things I would change about my spouse, but I am always seeing other people’s marriages and thinking how I would change their spouse. I would roll up my sleeves and start in with the training.
Here are the rules:
1. I am not required to cook. You can cook or we can order takeout or I can cook if I feel like it.
2. I do the laundry if I feel like it (which in my case I do)
3. I can wear whatever I want to and I can wear makeup or not as I wish. Ditto for jewelry, garter belts, high heels, suits, jackets.
4. Unless I am an alcoholic, you can’t tell me that I am not allowed to have a second drink because you women shouldn’t have more than one drink because you don’t like women to have fun.
5. When I choose to cook, you eat your food and be nice even if it doesn’t turn out perfectly.
6. We both need to be nice to the in laws. We don’t have to love them but we have to play nice.
7. Raising the kids is the hard part. One parent is usually more permissive than the other; just roll with it and do your best to negotiate. Don’t expect me to be a perfect parent; that is not going to happen.
8. When you want to yell, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if it is worth getting yourself into a position where I’m not going to want to speak to you for a long while?
9. Hygiene: Bathe every day and brush your teeth twice a week, and do the man scaping.
10. Clean up after yourself and keep the house cleaned up behind you.
11. Be a man and fix stuff. You don’t have to be a plumber and an electrician, but you need to be able to replace a water heater, the garbage disposal, a faucet, build a book shelf, put in water pipes in the back yard, plant a tree, build a fence, bury a dead dog, change a tire etc.
12. Treat me as well as you did when you were first in love.

Kate Gale on running an indie press and her Festival of Books favorites



Annenberg Auditorium

11:00 a.m. Poetry: Forms of Consolation: Traditional and Experimental Poetics
(Conversation 1111)
Kate Gale
Jessica Piazza
Elizabeth Robinson
Lynn Xu

I don’t know what we will say about this subject, but it will be good!

And Doug Kearney is reading at the poetry stage at 3:30 pm!

And Saturday night I am reading at Beyond Baroque! you should come!

12 April, Saturday – 8:00 PM

“ROY MASH writes a deliciously engaging and clever sort of object poem. With an exhilarating precision, his poems uncover
those illuminating perceptions that lie buried beneath the commonplace.” – Steve Kowit.

KATE GALE is the author of
several poetry collections, including Mating Season (2004) and Fishers of Men (2000) and The Goldilocks Zone, 2014.

She is the founder and managing editor of Red Hen Press and editor of the
Los Angeles Review.


London Book Fair was amazing.

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All these people in the book business and interested in how books are made. And buying and selling rights of books.

On the flight back, we flew New Zealand Air which had some pretty bad food and was on the way to Aukland. The guy in our row is flying from London to Los Angeles then to Aukland. The big problem with New Zealand Air is not the sardine seats or the bad food, it’s the fact that the plane has no air. You’re thinking, you are kidding. Not. I’m not kidding. The AC is at the back of the plane where they serve food, but where the passengers are, no AC.

Mark went to Foyles to shop for books. We went out last night for the best Indian food we’ve had since the last time we were in London. This made all the Indian food we ever have in Los Angeles taste like it’s cardboard. I had a whole fish and I am crazy for restaurants that serve whole fish. There is this place in Pasadena called Shiro’s that serves whole catfish. I love the catfish. I probably was formerly fish and that’s why I like fish. I like fresh oysters, oyster shooters and oyster Rockfellers. I am not fond of fried oysters, but if there are no other oysters, I’ll roll. I have to leave for Chicago on Wednesday. In Chicago, I know exactly what we are going out for. Russian food. I’m looking forward to getting home for a few days. Seeing the dogs.

I seriously doubt that I will have any oysters in the near future, but I like to think about them. We arrive late tonight in LA. My question is just how many miles can I run tomorrow? If I can run, I can clear my head.

Published in: on April 10, 2014 at 9:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

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