Wednesday, September 30, 2009

8.0, 6:48 a.m. (Poem)

8.0 at 6:48 a.m.

It registered
random images
flat dulled life-bereft

taking out
a mere few feet
above the sea

what mere minutes before
was just waking to a day.

four to be exact
ocean disturbances
smashing their ways to shore.

What do you say to the left-behind?
That God spoke there?

On American Samoa
in Pago Pago in Niua
on Tonga
as far away as Australia
half-way between
New Zealand and Hawaii

they did not have 5 minutes
from earthquake to tsunami
to get away
to run uphill
to answer fear.

The sea, you see,
is home now.

Faith gets tested
on a day like this
a day for us like any other

8.0, 7.6
6:48 a.m.
at morning's call.

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas
All Rights Reserved.

On Any Given Day: A Fragment (Poem)

A wonderful group of poets I recently met online jam on Twitter and share on their blogs their creative, witty, and very often moving words. One member of the group, Kelly Langner Sauer, shares with me a "call home" feeling about Virginia, where I was born and live. And, like the rest of the group, she writes beautifully and from the heart, with intelligence and experience as guides.

A few days ago, I took some time to read as many as I could of Kelly's archived posts to her blog, "This Restless Heart".  Single words or phrases caught my attention, and I wrote them down. Then, I looked back at my jottings and saw a poem, perhaps nothing more than a fragment, on the page.

Here's what I saw:

On Any Given Day: A Fragment
for Kelly

On any given day
I remember the lovely gray
the color I am wearing
this pre-dawn hour:

a dream of my own
God has timed out
just for me.

Notes: Read these words or lines in their original contexts on This Restless Heart blog as follows:
Lines 1 and 3, "This Is Us: Life at Our House" (September 18)
Line 2, "Rain-Play" (September 21)
Line 4, "A Morning Ramble" (September 19)
Line 5, "Baby Rememberies" (September 20)
Lines 6 and 7, "A Sister Party" (September 22)

Our Random Acts of Poetry prompt for this Friday was to discover what can come from a few inspired words of another writer. I offer this poetic fragment, as well as my poem that found its genesis in Glynn Young's piece, "Sunday Morning Rain", on his Faith, Fiction, Friends blog.

Hazardous Duty: Ode to My Kitchen (Poem)

I wrote this after I came across L.L. Barkat's Random Acts of Poetry prompt to write about rooms in the house. I offer it as an amusing trifle.

Hazardous Duty: Ode to My Kitchen

I have no taste
for the violence
my kitchen demands of me

to squeeze and score
fillet and fry
flash-freeze and melt

ground grind and grill
mash whip whisk
or beat till stiff.

I conscientiously object
to chopping things to bits
when it's enough

to simply pare away peel back
or toss and throw together
what's simmered steamed or stewed.

But ask me for my recipes
and I'll tell you:
not just any Bloody Mary will do.

Copyright Maureen E. Doallas
All Rights Reserved.

The Meaning of Art II

The Meaning of Art, from Creature Comforts. This is just a hoot. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Fury of Love and Devotion (Poem)

This poem, from my manuscript The Provocation of Goodbyes, is one of six in which I experimented with writing in the voice of such women as Eve, Juliet, Ophelia, Lady MacBeth, Desdemona, and Jeanne d'Arc. As always, your responses to my poem are welcome and appreciated.

The Fury of Love and Devotion

(Lady MacBeth)

The image emerges
like a sudden fever.

In the candlelight
soft by your bedside

a desperate dream
grows in your mind
deep as the root in new ground.

Your hands paint air
the color of ambition.

They poise honor
on a slip of bitter metal.

Velvet words their own lies trace.
In your mouth
they bleed with devotion.

Your open eyes,
they would feed this vision
of justice rising like a new moon.

But unnaturally you sleep
retrieving the prize
rubbed scarlet with his love.

Copyright Maureen E. Doallas
All Rights Reserved.

Asian Art Aficionados Alert: Very Vietnamese

Come Celebrate and Make a Connection!

The 1st Annual Vietnamese Contemporary Art Festival '09 opens this Friday, October 2, at Northern Virginia's Eden Center, a center of all-things-Vietnamese, including the Eden Center Clock Tower, an exact replica of downtown Saigon.

The festival, hosted by the Eden Center and Galerie Brigitte, an art gallery and art consulting firm specializing in contemporary and 20th Century Vietnamese art, kicks off with a benefit for local charities, including the Asia Society of D.C., the Vietnamese Literary & Artistic Club, the Institute for Vietnamese Culture & Education, Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped, Art Space Falls Church (Va.), and the Coalition to Abolish Modern-Day Slavery in Asia.

The charity event, to be held from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., will feature for purchase art, fashion, home decor, and holiday gifts. Festival visitors may, in lieu of making a purchase, donate directly to one of the featured charities.

Galerie Brigitte will donate, for the duration of the festival, 15 percent of all sales at its gallery.

Eden Center's address is 6751 Wilson Blvd., Fall Church, Va. Galerie Brigitte is at 11411 Sunset Hills Rd., Reston, Va. For additional information, e-mail Brigitte Le at

Having Your Art and Eating It, Too

Got cake?

Chef and cake artist David Supley Foxworth of MallowDrama is into art in an edible way. He makes cakes his canvases.

Want a taste?

If you live in the Washington, D.C., area, head over this weekend to the Edible Art Exhibit at Ayr Hill Gallery in Vienna, Va. For two days, Friday, October 2 (11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.), and Saturday, October 3 (11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.), Ayr Hill is featuring Foxworth's large "cake canvas", a hand-painted reproduction of Claude Monet's Woman with a Parasol mascarading as a chocolate-cherry confection.

Go late and go Saturday. At 4:00 p.m., at the close of the show, free slices of the promisingly delectable canvas will be cut and served.

Bon appetit!

Ayr Hill is located at 141 Church St., N.W., Vienna, Va. 22180; 703-939-3880.

For images of some of Foxworth's other creations, including Munch's The Scream and van Gogh's Irises, click here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

No Ordinary Alchemist

I'm discovering mosaics, those tiny pieces of glass or stone that, when placed in the hands of an alchemist, will leave you wondering how the magic happened.

My latest find is Marco Bravura of Ravenna, Italy. His work in mosaics astounds. Take a minute to watch this video about Bravura's extraordinary mosaic fountain, Ardea Purpurea, and then spend a few more minutes watching this video on Recuperi d'Oro.

The Ravenna Mosaic Festival opens October 10.

But, art? What does it mean?

I've just finished reading a stunning Jeffery Overstreet essay about the Martin Provost film Seraphine. Read the essay here.

I mention the essay because Overstreet, who confesses to being "astonished to tears by a painting", beautifully relates what art means -- both to those who make it and those who can't live without it. He writes:

"Art, if we look closely, can fine-tune the undisciplined instruments of our minds and hearts, thus helping us see life-changing revelations beyond the canvas."

He concludes by weaving into the inspiration that art is Emily Dickinson's words about "stand[ing] ajar to welcome the ecstatic experience".

Art. What we experience, after all, is God's own creation.

October Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Go Pink!

Thought for the Day

Religion is "ethical alchemy. . . ." It's not about belief but about how we behave. . . . ". . . Any belief that leads to hatred of others is illegitimate."

   ~ Christine @Abbey of the Arts quoting scholar Karen Armstrong on her blog today

Karen is a TedPrize winner for her wish to create, launch, and propagate a world-wide "Charter for Compassion". Her bio is here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lacamas Creek (Poem)

I wrote this just a few minutes ago for my friend R.D.T. whose loss of his brother, like I of my own, touches me deeply.

Lacamas Creek
for R.D.T.

Ritual is annoying,
not for me,
just ask anybody
who really knows me.

But your waters,
your waters
I see how they run deep

Run fast
as the love
I painted for you.

And where you begin
where we end up
must begin our giving over

Of what we have left
Of you who left us behind

On a dirt path
among green tints and red
on snags of rocks
at water’s edge

Life I cannot see
greeting what remains.

Your ashes take their time.

I turn
our mother’s wheelchair

Head home.

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas
All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

PORTRAIT by Matisse: Homage (Poem)

This is another poem from my 1978 manuscript, until now unpublished:

PORTRAIT by Matisse

Yours is a music
of morning sunlight:
    a shaft of wheat,
but also the mood of a pale moon,
the blue of the town madam
    on Christmas eve.

You, poet of crayon
and cutout and glue,
   dance me through October dew.

    It is champagne-colored,
    lighter than swallows in flight,
    a thought at rest.

    I slip onto your easel
dressed in the scarlets
of mad words and open sores.

Even when you set me
against a background
    not exactly white,

    men smile at me.

The laughter in your hands
is contagious after all.

Copyright 1978-2009 Maureen E. Doallas
All Rights Reserved.

That Old Voodoo Magic

Imagination is more important than knowledge. ~ Einstein, as quoted in reader comment

Fascinating piece over at Religion Dispatches: "Rum and Gunpowder: How to Take Out a Vodou Doll" by Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, assistant professor of religious studies, University of Miami.

Head in the Clouds

I love the Pooh stories, and recently, while browsing the Web, as I am ever wont to do, I happened upon a site that invited me to linger in a magical place. It was a lovely virtual experience. I could have been in "The Hundred Acre Woods" and, along with Pooh, Piglet, and the rest of the gang, have felt right at home.

I'm talking about the Spherical Reading Room that is part of The Treehouse Gallery, a collaborative, self-funded, and self-sufficient public project offering both children and adults the delights to be found in creative explorations in the midst of nature.

The place, which, alas, is now being dismantled and put in storage for the season, was in London's Regents Park and was open from July 19 to September 6 this year. Daily offerings ranged from workshops and spoken-word events to debates and other live performances.

Erected along the banks of Boating Lake, this kingdom for "reinventing the discarded" consisted of a group of treehouses, all hand-built structures of reclaimed city waste and chemically free, naturally occurring materials. Anything produced onsite was reused in one or another form.

The Spherical Reading Room, my favorite - unsurprisingly, because I love and collect books - was among the treehouses. Literally crafted from a plane tree and the highest structure on the lake-site, it could be reached only by climbing a rather steep and winding set of stairs leading to a trapdoor. (Here is where I see Tigger simply and gracefully bouncing his way to the top.) Able to accommodate seven book-lovers at once, the room was encircled by a shelf of curated books, all protected in their bark-bound slipcases. (Can't you just imagine Pooh's disappointment at opening one of these and seeing no jar of honey? Christopher Robin, however, would have whiled away the hours contentedly, his head in the clouds.) It could even be used on days plagued by London's rainy weather, because provision had been made for wrapping the room in a kind of protective bubble.

Elsewhere on the property were Medicinal Herb Gardens, The Round Table, The Sound Garden, The Budding Hub Gallery, and a structure dubbed Orbidesic Dome Stage.

The Treehouse Gallery, once put in storage, will not be able to reopen next summer without donations.

The wonderful Copper Canyon Press is among Treehouse Gallery supporters. If you have a bit of change to spare and are looking for a good cause, this is one.

And if you're inspired here at home, across the sea, take your head out of the clouds and consider what good you could be doing by helping to erect a Treehouse Gallery and a Spherical Reading Room in your own backyard or community.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Oh, So Long Ago - Senor Neruda's Memoirs (Poem)

That homage to Hopper's art I mentioned in any earlier post impelled me to dig out an old poetry manuscript, "The Provocation of Goodbyes". Written in 1977-78, about two years after I'd graduated from Vassar College, where I'd been reading a lot of the so-called "Confessional Poets" and wondering where my ivory-tower education was going to take me, the manuscript includes 7 homages or dedications: to dancer-choreographer Isadora Duncan, the painter Matisse, the composer Frederic Chopin, the painter Pablo Picasso, magical poet Pablo Neruda (I used to be able to read him in Spanish), and poets Anne Sexton and Robert Lowell.

Kind of bold of me, don't you think, to be so young and write about these greats?

I have no idea if the poems in my manuscript are any good. I really didn't try to shop them around. And, some of them, I still like, a lot. But, as I said, Glynn's poem about Hopper's painting got me to thinking. . . So, here's one poem I've unearthed from the manuscript. Please don't be shy about telling me what you think of it. (Note: Forgive my inability to find the character that goes over the "n" in Senor. Always, the way poems look on the page matters to me a lot. I couldn't duplicate here how the poem looks in the manuscript, where I laid it out over 6 pages.)

Senor Neruda's Memoirs


Che Ernesto Guevara carried poems and pistols.
Neruda's cantos ran with his blood
in a Bolivian jungle. They played like bullets
in the soldiers' backs.


Neruda said the closest thing to poetry
is a loaf of bread
or a ceramic dish
or a piece of wood lovingly carved.

So he poured his words
into the glass of another language
only some of the world speaks.

He gave light to the mines of Coquimbo.
Now they glitter like dew on a silver fish.

He left the smell of fresh ink and crisp paper
at the broker's, who traded his wife's voice
for a rainbow of lightning.

He melted the snow on broad-sided mountains
to water the dust on Santiago's tongue.

He found the blue of Chile's sky
in the bellies of volcanoes, its silence
in a guitar in Spain.

Neruda's the rush of roots
after a sudden breath

the warm tear on a face in love

the sound of adolescence missing a beat.


The sea could rise above him;
the wind make of him a sail.

Too young he was
for the blackness of his dress,
the year climbing to its close.

But when asked,
the poet shaped in the man
remembers a ride on an empty road
and the color of rain in his childhood
and the look of a long-necked swan
that would not sing when it died
heavy in his arms one undone afternoon.


Meanwhile, his name;
the time and place adventure traced.

This would be Neruda:

a diary of shorelines
a journey of borrowed phrases
a work of nights, alone/together

Habit his heart followed to a stranger's land.

In Paris people uncovered their heads
to feel the daylight of his words.

New York strung its darkness before him.
Stockholm made him an expensive diploma.

Later, medals marched across his chest
and men in high places
shook his hand like a walking stick.


The life of a poet is all a disguise.

In the eyes of a woman
Neruda is the ceremony of an open palm.


Neruda wove the gaps in his life
into tapestries he hung around the world.

In his own country they shimmer
like lies before the firing squads.

Copyright 1978 - 2009 Maureen E. Doallas
All Rights Reserved.

How do you do it?

I've been asked many times, "How do you do it?" The "it" is, write poetry.

I never know quite how to respond to that question. After graduating from college, I wrote a lot of poetry; then I got married, and the poetry writing slowed, until it almost stopped completely, and I put the manuscripts away. I put pen to paper (literally, I didn't have a computer then) only to write "occasion" poems, that is, to celebrate a birth or a birthday or a wedding. I worked too many long hours editing other people's work and felt spent and uninspired when I got home, and life at home wasn't conducive to writing. I went through divorce after 16 years of marriage and then fell in love again and married again. I went back to my after-work-hours creative writing but, again, mostly restricted it to the "occasion" poems.

Two years ago, when one of my two brothers called to tell me he had cancer and did not have long to live (he defied the odds he was given and lived until May 5, 2009), something broke open in me, like the well of tears the two of us shared over the phone, and the poems started coming, sometimes seeming to write themselves. The poems became the words I could not speak aloud, although I did share some of them (see "Enough" below) with my online cancer-support group and wrote others for members of the group (see "Garden I" and "Michael's Melody" below). The manuscript I have now includes more than 50 poems. I'm still writing.

As you know if you've read my posts on the creation of a "twoem", I've joined Twitter, and last Tuesday night, for the first time, took part in an online poetry jam. And let me assure you, what I produced that night bears little resemblance to what's in my manuscript. And that's a good thing! It tells me I'm healing.

So, how you I do it? I have no idea. I simply accept what I do as a gift. And hope the gift keeps on giving.

All Art Friday

Today, I'm inaugurating "All Art Friday", a feature that will offer periodically a list of not-to-be-missed art-related items.

Ever wonder what inspires poets? Take a peek at Glynn Young's new poem, "Edward Hopper's Room in New York (1932)" posted this morning on Glynn's Faith, Fiction, Friends blog. Glynn recently found a poet's voice hiding beneath the voice he's been using for years in his professional corporate writing. Glynn, so glad you can - and do - sing a different tune now!

Art heals. If you find yourself in Charlotte, N.C., between September 25 and October 23, take a detour to an exhibition of art by war-traumatized children. Andrew Briggs, founder of Freedom in Creation, is responsible for bringing the show to Charlotte. Click here for a feature article about the children's work, "Queen's Exhibit Chronicles Art Therapy Program for African Children."

Have a confession to make? Washington, D.C.- and Bogota-based artist Carolina Mayorga will be making an appearance for one night only, on October 2, at the headquarters of Washington Project for the Arts (2023 Massachusetts Ave., N.W. Washington, D.C.). During the opening reception for "The Miraculous Artist", an interactive installation comprising video, performance, live music, and printed matter, Mayorga will be happy to hear your confessions for free, offer advice, and, for a small fee, send you home with a set of laminated cards offering "solutions" to your individual problems. "The Miraculous Artist" will close October 30.

Got money to burn? Philadelphia's Fuller's Fine Art Auctions is auctioning art and collectibles from the estate of Betty Gordon. Gordon's collector's eye ranged widely: Slated to go under the gavel on October 3 are 19th C. and 20th C. works by, among others, Picasso, R.C. Gorman, and Joan Mitchell, as well as folk art.

Make art part of your visit to D.C. in 2010. The Renwick Gallery, one of Washington's gems, has announced that its 2010 schedule of exhibitions will include "The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese-American Internment Camps, 1942-1946". The Japanese word Gaman means to "bear the seemingly unbearable with dignity and patience." Guest curator and organizer for the show, which will open on March 5, 2010, and close on January 30, 2011, is San Franciscan Delphine Hirasuna, author of The Art of Gaman. Featuring more than 100 objects, including toys, games, musical instruments, and ornamental displays crafted from scraps and found materials, this exhibition promises to be both interesting and instructive. Added benefit: After you leave the Renwick, you can walk across the street to the White House and say hello to President Obama.

Blogging is an art, too. I've discovered so many wonderful writers on the Web. Here are just four you should know about: Laura (a.k.a. L.L.) Barkat, Kelly Langner Sauer, Glynn, and Diane Walker. And writing blogs is not all they do!

Orchids, koi, and peacocks. That's what you'll find on my Website Transformational Threads, noted in my profile to the right. Over the next quarter, I'll be posting interviews with the artists whose work I've licensed. Their life stories are fascinating, their art deserving of wider attention. Seeing their original work in oils, acrylics, watercolors, and silk re-created in custom hand-embroidery called "thread paintings" is a delight.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Garden I - Lost and Found (Poem)

The following is one of three "Garden" poems that, like "Michael's Melody", began as prose and were then reworked into poems. In revising, I removed words needed for prose but not poetry, and substituted a few nouns or adjectives that better described the meaning I wanted to convey. I have never met the person to whom this poem and Garden II and Garden III are dedicated but I can say that he has graced our online cancer support group with openness and intelligence and darn good practical advice. Note: We in the support group use the garden metaphor for remembrance, for healing, to create a "place" for respite and contemplation.

Garden I

Lost and Found

for Ned L.

Push through.

See that what
lasts mere days
lasts for time beyond
what we imagine
or wish for ourselves.

Push on.

Take your break there
where flowers

Sit among the
never to flower,
among the ribbons
of color already faded,
biding time to stream.


Follow the path
to the labyrinth,
walk it head down,
let your tears stain
both beginnings and ends.

Look up.

The sky perhaps will be black,
perhaps blue.
Maybe the sun
won't be shining;
maybe it will.

Maybe you’ll run
through the notion
of this or that moment
not counted on.

Release your thanks
for her presence
in your life.

Let them trail.
Let them collect.

Clouds have filled to bursting.

your spirit claims
what time remains.

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas
All Rights Reserved.

Exclaiming Over Errant Ellipses

Think an ellipsis is when the moon moves in front of the sun?
~ On

Sometimes I think I live in a cave. After all, how could I have been an editor for more than 30 years and just today have learned about Californian Jeff Rubin's "National Punctuation Day"? National Punctuation Day, no less [my emphasis added]!

You think, maybe, it's because I was just too busy querying misplaced apostrophes, putting semicolons in their place, erasing errant ellipses, and trying to get staff writers to figure out the difference between "you're" and "your"?

Or, when my son was in grammar [LOL] school, it was left to me to explain that when I say, " 'Miami', you needn't raise the question, 'Yurami?' to make sure you understand what I'm asking." [My son's become an excellent writer, by the way.]

According to a column in today's Washington Post, errors vying for Top Punctuation Mistake Awards are misuse of apostrophes, failure to use serial commas, lack of knowledge of where to place semicolons, and out-of-control insertion of dashes.

My experience shows that even Harvard graduates can't master these finer points. And Rubin can teach semicolon use to third graders in 30 minutes?


Grammar fanatics, this day is all yours. Celebrate!

Now, I've got to dash.

Tweet Me a Twoem III: Finale and Encore

Our "twoem" from Tuesday night's Twitter fest morphed into a "twepic" under the skilled hands of participant Glynn Young. Read "A Tabloidian Twepic" in its complete, and dare I say final, version here.

I am amazed.


The following, a beautiful James Baldwin quote, from Baldwin's "Nothing Personal" (a collaboration with photographer Richard Avedon), I dedicate to my friend R.D.T., a a wonderful painter who has suffered the recent loss of both his brother and father:

And love will simply have no choice but to go into battle with space and time, and furthermore, to win.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tweet Me a Twoem II

As my esteemed Twitter colleagues have posted to their blogs some of their contributions to last night's online poetry fest, I think it's only right I come clean and reveal some of my own. To wit:

one golden thread
she began to pull
releasing sounds carried to the stars


nights too long gone
she stalks words
giving comfort where marauding moons play


so light in space
leaves business man
aching for that touch that says,
I'm here,
night lifts her gown


to find --
horrors --
the tiny hoof
that began this all


pray tell
who might receive
tender comings and goings below
the marble monument to nonsense


fawning fauns
do make for Dancing with the Stars
a most surreal experience


DeLay, not!
such is glaze on wood
faun's foot sticks
like Vampiress's lingering drops


his points be taken well
or not
I dare refrain from saying
what I really think of this


sadly, Liberace caught his sleeve
on angel's rubbed-raw wing
and music then did end
throughout this space


and Vampiress made a killing
selling bright orange vests
on back of which she quoted teacher
"I'm no target
for alien abduction"

Twas fun was had by all.

Hunger (Poem)

This recent poem is part of a manuscript I have been writing for the last year or so. After a long hiatus, I took up poetry again as a way to make sense of my feelings about the experience of my brother's cancer. My poems are dedicated to my brother, who died May 5, 2009.


The door opens
Away from the edge
Where you wait,

Your bread and wine
A sure thing now.

I try to fill the frame
With love enough
To make the end not happen.

It happens
I'm hungry, too.

Take. Eat.

We have all the time in the world.

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas
All Rights Reserved.

Daniel Pearl World Music Days

The Daniel Pearl World Music Days is a month-long event, beginning October 1, that includes a series of world-wide benefit concerts to promote peace and tolerance. The concerts, in which all musicians' participation is welcome, honor the efforts of the late Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Pearl was a musician, and so music has become one means through which the Daniel Pearl Foundation honors Pearl's memory. The Foundation was established after Pearl's death to promote cross-cultural understanding in journalism, music, and an array of innovative communications.

On Saturday, October 3, musicians and an 80-member choir representing 17 different faith backgrounds, will be offering residents of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area "One Humankind: An Evening with Mosaic Harmony", hosted by the Quixote Center's Nicaraguan Cultural Alliance. The live event, with Maureen Fiedler, host of the radio show Interfaith Voices, will be held in Bethesda, Md., at River Road Unitarian Church, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($25 per adult) may be purchased by mail through Interfaith Voices, P.O.Box 5031, Hyattsville, MD 20782; or online at

Related Site: Click eStage for an online multimedia gallery of lyrics, poems for and dedications to Pearl, stories and articles, and Pearl's own writings.

Tweet Me a Twoem

I have a confession to make: I stopped resisting and joined Twitter last night. A few months ago, I joined FaceBook. Do you think maybe I can tell my son now that I've got a firm footing in the 21st Century?

I didn't join Twitter to twitter per se. I joined because I wanted to be part of the creation of a "twoem" - a hybrid term describing what can result when you wax lyrically, if sometimes bizarrely, on Twitter.

Yesterday evening's poetry jam, which involved a witty group of online writers, including L.L. Barkat and Glynn Young, received the first prompt - tabloid headlines - at 8:30 p.m. CT (9:30 p.m. here in Arlington, Va.). For the next hour, we exchanged round after 140-character round, with lots of virtual laughter. Glynn is expecting to post the new twoem on his blog on Thursday. For more about the night's entertainment, click here and here.

Tweeting twoems on Twitter tis twight a delight.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

'A woman is a woman. She is God's creation.'

A woman is a woman. She is God's creation.
~ Homaira, 40, Mother of 5, Profiled in "Behind the Veil"

Too few of us take time to learn about the people in the nations where the U.S. is at war, people whose lives are punctuated with fear, insecurity, poverty, lack of services, illiteracy, and the daily, unceasing barrage of gunfire or exploding bombs. Their wrecked lives have no equivalent for us. As Homaira, the illiterate mother of five who is forbidden to work, says during filming of a powerful documentary on Afghani women, "How can we know what will happen next?"

So rarely do we see their faces. The faces are behind the veil. Behind the veil, the stories are told.

Jessica Leeder, a Globe reporter in Afghanistan, aims not to remove the veil but to give us a glimpse behind it. Her reporting, produced as a series called Behind the Veil: An Intimate Journey Into the Lives of Kandahar's Women, should be made available as widely as possible, shown in high schools, before church groups, in Congress.

The lives of the women whom Leeder profiles (Homaira is one) are as "disturbing" as they are pock-marked by the "mundane", as unsettling as they are hopeful.

Watching these videos, I focus on the eyes, try to catch the tone of voice, quickly read the words in translation on the screen. . . and come away asking, where does the hope come from?

The answer, perhaps, is in Homaira's utterly optimistic, if heart-breaking, refrain: "A woman is a woman. She is God's creation."

Faith knows no bounds.

Book About Death Gets Carried Away

A New York gallery, The Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery, became a mob scene last week, when visitors lined up, crowded in, then laid claim to an unbound A Book About Death.

I tried to get my son, who attends New York University, to go uptown and take whatever was left. Alas, no such luck. I'm reduced to content myself vicariously with these few words from Matthew Rose and an online show (the bricks-and-mortar one ends today).

The story from Matthew, who lived to tell about it:

From Matthew Rose:


A Book About Death, a project I launched in March, opened on September 10, 2009 at The Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery, 537 Broadway, NYC, NY 10012.

We had more than 1000 people attend the exhibition opening night, with a 500-person line waiting an hour to get in; a live web cast showed the happenings in the gallery to a worldwide audience of about 2000 from Beijing to Boston. Why the interest? Because the exhibition and the 500 or so works that comprise A Book About Death is free. It's the only exhibition that you can take with you... for free. Some of the well known artists who participated: Yoko Ono, Eric Andersen, Caterina Verde, Peter Schuyff, Sol Kjøl, Geoffrey Hendricks and 480 others. Visitors collect the cards from the boxes on the floor and walk out with the entire exhibition.

All information along with the downloadable Press Release and the posters (also free for download) is on the blog/site:

I encourage you all to either go to the exhibition, collect the book or send a proxy. Already several museums have made collections; artists and curators will re-exhibit the show in other countries and use the blog and site as a support structure.

The exhibition is open Tues - Sat 1 pm - 7 pm. It closes at the end of the day Tuesday 9/22.

Please don't let this opportunity to collect an historic work of art... free. Please copy and paste this e mail to a friend who might be interested in this work. The edition is limited to 500, so there are not many around. Installation shots are on the blog and the FaceBook site. E mail me with questions:

Best, Matthew Rose

Georgia O'Keeffe, Meet Dr. Frankenstein

I owe that heading to a description in a cultural feature in Wired magazine, "Force of Nature: Artist Puts Petal to the Metal for Electrifying Images", about the extraordinary work of Robert Buelteman, author of Signs of Life.

Buelteman uses a "high-voltage photogram process" called Kirlian photography. I'll leave it to you to read "Force of Nature" to understand the process.

In the meantime, give yourself a jolt.

Autumn Equinox - 'Gone to Seed' (Poem)

Today is the Autumn Equinox. It announces what in Virginia is one of the most beautiful times of the year. Here's a new poem to celebrate the season.

Gone to Seed

Fireweed done producing,
gone to seed,

Brilliance cuts a swath
through green's shallowing shelter.

Agitated Monet yellows
burnished van Gogh reds:
two nods to nature's talents.

Lips of leaves crisp

Reminding me
I carry a palette
that cannot compete
with summer's last firing.

If I'm lucky,
my hand will find its way
before the final fall,

letting me catch
one memory
to sustain me.

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas
All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Renewal (Poem)

This poem, written for the upcoming Random Acts of Poetry, is inspired by Glynn Young's "Sunday Morning Rain" of September 20.


My cup is empty;
yours drained.

Watch! When you place
your hands just so

Clouds cramp from fullness.

International Peace Day

If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone, will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Today is International Peace Day.

Click here for a message for peace, then ask yourself what you can do to stop hatred, discrimination, destruction.

Reach out, extend a hand, offer a smile and kindness.

(Thank you, Louise Gallagher, for posting the link to HeartMath.)

Talking About Time (Poem)

Time is too much of an issue for too many friends, their days dizzying, their minds exhausted and their souls depleted. Their preoccupation with time prompted this poem.

Telling Time

At any moment in time
you are serving time:

watching the clock
punching the clock
working 'round the clock.

You say you have no down time.
You have a timetable to meet.

You must be on time
never get behind time
and in no time

Budget your time
bill for time
charge for time
without ever taking your own time.

I say by the time
you're done measuring time
by the hour the minute the half-second

Your time has come and gone.

I value my time, too,
but I don't eat up time
trying to find time
to have the time of my life.

Most of the time
I take time
at the right time
just for me.

You say you can't change time.

I claim anyone can change over time.

It's a timeless argument,
this notion of keeping time.

So, for the time being,
let's save us both some time.

After all,
if all you can show for your time
is that you're a ticking time bomb

We must be living in different time zones.

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas.
All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Marry, Marry Not Contrary

Marriage may not be for everyone but this extraordinary 107-year-old, profiled on CNN, knows why marriage is right for her. She's been married 22 times. . . and is looking again for someone new to invite into her life.

Read her story here:

With thanks to my friend Ina in New York, who pointed me to this wonderful story.

Not Pulp Fictions

"I wouldn't be okay if I didn't have a place like this."

The place is a studio in Vermont. The speaker is a veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and other war-related injuries.

The veteran is participating in a unique art therapy program, the Combat Paper Project. Some of his buddies are in the Warrior Writers Project. Others are the subjects of a documentary directed by Sara Nesson, "Iraq Paper Scissors".

Veterans in the Combat Paper Project and Warrior Writers Project are learning how to use art to heal. In the CPP, the vets make paper out of the uniforms they wore while serving in the desert cities in Iraq and the aeries of Afghanistan. They cut, tear, mash to pulp the cloth that used to cover and protect their bodies and make sheets of paper out of which come extraordinary limited-edition prints, artists' books, writing journals, and the like. They literally reclaim their uniforms to save their lives. The experience of papermaking that leads to artmaking requires shedding the layers of guilt and "unsettled anger" and "intrusive thoughts" from the wars left behind and creating on the canvas of the past (that is, the uniforms) a path to live in the present.

Through the word - written as well as spoken - the veterans in the Warrior Writers Project aim to create what one workshop participant described as "something useful." The soldiers' writings, including some deeply felt and evocative poems (see and hear, in an online video, the piece titled "You Are Not My Enemy"), are performed and collected into books.

Art can move us. As the veterans in these programs are finding, it can also save us.

If you're one of the many thousands of Americans who drive around with that yellow magnet that says "Support Our Troops", take a minute to think about that word "support" and then make a contribution that matters more than a ribbon with three words.

These therapy programs are unique, creative, and vitally needed. To support them is to give peace of mind back to our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, spouses or life partners, and friends who are serving or have served on our behalf, to offer light out of a zone of hell that most of us will never experience, let alone understand.

Give Me an 'I - F - A - W- T- E -A - Y - A' Day

I teach English to a young and very motivated El Salvadoran who early on told me how much she enjoyed painting. I encouraged her to think of ways she alone and the two of us together could use art to help her learn to read and write.

Recently, Ana surprised me at the end of a lesson by presenting me with an unusual and special gift: two rocks that she had brought back from a week-end rafting trip and then hand-painted on both sides. On one stone Ana had painted butterflies; as each side is different, one red and one purple, with the respective butterflies in complementary colors, I can turn this rock over every other day and enjoy a new piece of art. On the other and larger rock, which was rather hefty, my student had created a swirl of colors in heavily applied paint to which she'd added in a few areas green metallic flakes. The rock looked to me like a kind of map, the swirls like shibori, maybe the river of white water on which she'd journeyed, and the green flakes offered the merest suggestion of the forest where she'd camped. What Ana had described in her writing assignment she had made manifest in her rock paintings.

I was delighted to receive this gift that was of the elements and created with heart.

Tomorrow, September 21, is "International Find a Way to Encourage a Young Artist Day". I'll be offering Ana a lesson a little out of the ordinary.

What do you intend to do to encourage the young artist(s) in your life?

'Air Aware'

Here's an example of stunning writing, "The Air Aware", by David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World:

If you have time, listen to the audio of the text (be sure to close your eyes):

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Michael's Melody (Poem)

The poem below is for my friend Michael for whom music is so much more than notes or a score. Originally, I wrote Michael a prose piece that returned to him the story he shared about Melody, his beloved partner, and her struggle with and, in 2006, death from cancer. Recently, I went back to the prose and turned it into poetry. Michael, I hope you like this just as much.

Michael's Melody
for Michael A.

Her name was Melody.

Your life with her,
a succession of musical tones
you committed to memory.

She performed her songs
her way, your own material
her steady backup.

What chance music
you made together
merged whole notes and half-steps

Ascending and descending
the scales of dogged beats
till family came round

And all you and she could hear
were appoggiature: discordancies --

Eventually resolved a tempo --

Or accidentals
requiring you both to ad lib.

You hit some mistaken sharps,
she, some deliberate flats

Trying more than once
to create a best-selling album.

You did manage to finish
a few tracks:

By day, allegri and vivaci;
by night, appassionati.

In between, atonal;
often, augmented

Many days a due.

Infrequent broken chords
imposed an unaccountable countermelody
for counting the hours by.

Mostly, the articulation was clear.

You learned to play in unison,
being careful to allow the occasional cadenza.

Unnotated, a new theme --
this one titled Cancer --
introduced itself in your score.

It took many variations,
and your songs, Michael,
became through-composed:

The music for every stanza
different, and always,
always with few rests.

This is how it went.

And so this is how it went:

Ever in perfect pitch
but the tempo forever changing.

Presto to ritardando,
piannissimo to grave.

The coda, finally
followed by caesura:

The lead too quickly silenced.

When the percussion started up again,
the chorus offered its round.

Repeated. . . held. . . resolved.

Your tempo now pecato, calm,
you begin the post-lude.

The heaviness in the lower register lifts.

Wary, though,
you watch for deceptive cadence,
unanticipated dissonance.

You fear missing the downbeat.

Still, you understand
the dynamics much better.

You know how to get through
by going back to the beginning.

After the anniversary march,
even you admit
duets could be a possibility.

You're ready for your encore:
this first one a solo

con intensita
on cue.

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas.
All Rights Reserved.

It Only Takes Four Words

And speaking of . . .

Patti Digh, author of life is a verb and one of the most creative talents around, really knows how to use four-letter, oops, four little words, and now she's put together her very own collection, "Four Word Self Help". Read her advice here:

This contender for Best Little Pocket-Book Guides has more than a dozen categories - from Social Media, to Diversity, to Travel, to You Yourself, to Other Stuff - into which Patti sorts her guides while parsing the meaning of the phrase "short and sweet."

Not wanting to miss an opportunity to add my own four-cents' worth, here are a few of my Four Words (for) Self Help:

My guide to understanding Art in America - Just Make It Up

My guide to buying a Salvador Dali - Buyer Beware Beware Beware

My guide to enjoying foreign-language films - Just Read Their Lips


My guide for students using Cliff Notes - Think You Can? Not!

My guide to completing reading assignments - Start Hitting the Books

My guide to surviving your teen's heavy metal phase - Just. Turn. It. Off.

My guide to writing in iambic pentameter - Gotta Keep the Beat

I'll add to these categories periodically. Now, get creative! And share your own Fab Four.

Depp Diving

Patti Digh, are you out there? He's been, his 156-foot motor boat, anyway. Last word was, the Vajoliroja was spied at anchor in the Chesapeake Bay. And did you hear? Johnny Depp himself will play Tonto in a film called - what else? - "The Lone Ranger".

Friday, September 18, 2009

Artists' Answers: Peace Postcards

Art has the power to move us deeply. Can art also promote peace?

Thoughtful artists around the world are offering their own answers to that question by participating in an interactive event sponsored by the Art Therapy Alliance and the International Art Therapy Organization: "Art Peace Sustainability". The project calls for artists to submit in postcard format work or works inspired by such questions as "Does the creative process of artmaking resolve conflict?" and "How do art, peace, and sustainability intersect?"

Go to, read the questions, and then ask yourself how you might respond to the call.

You'll find instructions for how to submit your postcard(s) for peace and sustainability at the Art Therapy Alliance site and at either of the following:



The project's blog can be found at:

An Unmasked Affair

A unique and enormously creative benefit gala, Courage Unmasked 911, to support needy head and neck cancer patients attracted the participation of more than 100 artists from around the United States, each of whom transformed into fine art a radiation mask that had been used to position and immobilize a cancer patient during treatment. The artists' masks were auctioned on September 9 at American University's Museum at the Katzen Art Center.

See the gallery of extraordinary masks here:

Masks not sold during the auction are expected to be made available through a gallery in the Washington, D.C., area. Check the Courage Unmasked site for details.

Stopping to Look at 'The Faces'

I always have to stop when I see them.

They are "The Faces of the Fallen", a collection of pictures of the men and women in U.S. service in Iraq and Afghanistan who have died.

The collection, updated twice a month and available online at the Washington Post, my daily newspaper, now numbers more than 5,000 faces, many with "that look" we associate with Marines, others softened by smiles; some, their eyes hidden by their "shades". (What else do the sunglasses hide?) Overwhelmingly, they are male and young - my son's age (21) or younger, often - although this morning's "Faces" included a number who were in their 30s or even 50s.

Accompanying the pictures in the paper: name and age and hometown; date of death; also a few lines about how they died - by suicide bomber, improvised explosive device, a sniper's gunshot,"natural causes". Online, you can search by age or year of death, home state, military branch. And you can hear tributes, courtesy of Washington Post Radio, that aim to make the pictures real for us by offering, perhaps, a quote by a mother, a father, a life partner, or a friend, maybe a colleague who fought alongside the soldier who died.

I always have to stop when I turn the page and see them. I don't turn the page again until I've looked at all the faces, read the accompanying notes, taken in the loss, because I'm not looking at the 5,130 faces all at once, just the most recent who have given up their lives in the desert of Iraq, along a sand-whipped highway, in Afghanistan's crags. Every one is one too many.

I once wrote in a letter to an editor that there should be a room in the White House wherein is posted the picture of every person who dies because of "our" wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the President should have to go to the room each day and just sit. . .and look. Then look some more. Until he can take in the loss. And do something about it.

Albert Einstein wrote that "[a]ny intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction."

Will we ever move in the opposite direction? Away from the violence, the loss? Could looking at "The Faces" the way we looked at the picture of a child running down a highway in Vietnam get us into the streets, on the Mall, at the doors of Congress?

I always have to stop when I see them. Do you?

"Faces of the Fallen":

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Offer 'Enough' (Poem)


Where do we take cover
Once the dying's done?

To name the pain
Is not enough
To push what's deeper forward.

We have to learn again
To bare our hearts
To bear our grief

To make refuge within ourselves
Respite from the catechism
Practiced daily, bedside.

Feelings, not being felt
The way we finger rosary beads,
Don't fall into line so neatly.

Words can't mimic nor hands mime
What we look for in the red swirl
Yet to stain our thirsting lips.

The cup, lifted,
Becomes the one true compass

Pointing us back to that first place
Where someone else reached out
To catch us.

I wrote "Enough" yesterday evening. I welcome your comments about my new poem.

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.