Monday, January 30, 2012

*Poem: "Mustangs"*

                                                                        -for Susan now

 The thing I admire about Marilyn is how she tried,
with makeup, with movies, with husbands.
In that last film with Gable and the mustangs,
black and white Nevada desert,
she was really good. But then, she was always good.

She looks like a voluptuous ghost,
stiff blonde wig to make her hairdresser's
work easier on location.
Marilyn did her job, when she got to the set,
when she let loose, went into motion.

Even in black and white, her eyes still
burn like blue coals, even this late
in her soap opera of her life.

Did she stall out of terror—of Gable?
She looks so at home in his big tanned hands,
ready for bedtime stories and tucking in.
Not the camera; they had a thing, her steadiest beau.
Their love alone has stood the test of time.

Maybe under those Western stars, far Vegas overkill
black between the lights, endless Sierras
rimming the horizon, she felt even smaller.
Maybe Norma Jeanne
kept Marilyn up all night.
"We're all dying," she says in the film,
and what kind of line is that to stuff
in the mouth of the woman you used to love?
Bitter Valentine, a caution to other women
who think they're safe with a writer.

Mustangs at the end of Gable's rope
snort and buck, give a good performance,
slick with prop sweat.

I admire how she worked to stay alive.
Consider how little Norma Jeanne
was ever worth on the open market.
She knew that with Marilyn
the sky itself
was the

CAR  12/2/99

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

*They Come In Threes*

This one has absolutely nothing to do with poetry, but the events of the last couple of weeks. Three deaths in one week is just stupid in anyone's life. The myth is that poets thrive on death and tragedy. Just like everyone else, we each react in different ways. I wasn't particularly thrilled, nor was I inspired to pen an ode to each of the three who passed. Yet my work was affected, as every life changing event will affect your art.

My Auntie Dottie died on January 15 after complications following a heart attack. She was a funny, caring woman who has been through a lot in her 71 years. I will probably never really grasp the fact that she's gone. I chose not to go to the services for various personal reasons, but even seeing the body sometimes doesn't make it any more real.

There is this cast of characters in my family, the aunts and uncles I grew up with, and in my mind's eye they never change, they never age, and they never die. I suppose moving away from Long Island to go to college, then never quite moving back, has frozen them in my mind. In a way, they are all parts of the foundation I built my life on. When they die, my foundation is literally rattled. This is how her death affected me. The landscape is forever changed.

I haven't written a thing about her yet, but I'm sure she's somewhere back in my arsenal of images. I am working most diligently on a chapbook of poems about horses, having grown up around them. So did Aunt Dottie. I usually shy away from dedications on my chapbooks, but this one will be for her. Maybe I can include that beautiful picture of her on horseback, as a teenager. That would be perfect.

My friend Rosanne called me about the death of our friend Susan the day after I found out about Aunt Dottie. Susan, Rosanne and I were all part of the Stone Ridge Poetry Society back in the mid ‘80s, but I don’t remember Susan from those days. She always said she remembered me! Of course, I was the woman with two first names then. At least that much did stick in a person’s mind!

Everything that could possibly be wrong in someone's life was wrong in Susan's, yet whenever we spoke, she always had a plan, several plans for the future. Ultimately, her body failed her, in part due to stress, but I'll always be inspired by her persistence. She, too, was a funny woman, smart and independent. It's the stubborn independence that may have contributed to her early death at 57, but it also enabled her to live the life she wanted for many years. I will always miss her hospitality, her insights, her easy ear. Real confidantes are sometimes hard to find, and Susan was one. I hope I listened sometimes, too.

The third passing didn’t hit as close to home as the first two, but was still saddening. In the spring I reconnected with my ex sister-in-law, thanks to Facebook of all things, and she and her husband Andrew even attended one of my readings. Unfortunately, Andrew was in and out of the hospital for most of the summer and we never got together again except for my visit to his hospital room one day.

Bella was so obviously the reason for his being. I'm sure she kept him going. They made the trip down by car to Florida for their annual snowbird exodus last fall. He died last Thursday, his body finally too tired to go on. I haven't spoken to Bella yet in person, but I'm flattered that in all her grief, she thought to call and leave me a message about Andrew. I long ago lost any rank or importance in her family, but not to Bella I guess. I can't wait to see her again.

Before these passings, I had fallen into a regular routine of writing and revising poetry for at least an hour a day. I hope to get back to that, and have done some work in the last couple of days. I hate when people pretentiously speak on behalf of the deceased, oh, ‘So-and-So would have wanted it that way…’ We can’t really be sure. Susan knew how much poetry means to me. Aunt Dottie and Andrew knew I was a poet. It just wasn’t a part of their life experience.

I have to continue. I don’t have a choice. I’m the one who’s still here, somehow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

**COAST TO COAST- Poetry Chaplet**

COAST TO COAST, original poetry chaplet by Cheryl A. Rice, c. 2011 Flying Monkey Press, only $5, postage included.

From the title poem:

"Coast to coast doesn't have to mean
Silver Zephyr, Orangeland Express.
There are commuters, the bi-coastal,
but the way I was raised, it's a world away."

A collection of poems about love lost, found, then lost again on opposite sides of the country. Quantities are limited!

Email me at for the address to send your order to! Thanks!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

**2012: Year of the Chapbooks!**

            2011 ended on something of a downbeat. In October, I was "let go" from my job as manager at the Inquiring Minds Bookstore in Saugerties. This was not a surprise, and I should have been preparing for it long before it happened. And it’s not without a little satisfaction that I now learn that I was replaced by a part-time manager! Onward and upward!

            Eligible for unemployment, I have spent a good portion of the last three months organizing my life. After last summer's horrific storms, I was inspired to begin tackling the piles of goods I have managed to store up in the basement of Casa Diva in the ten years I've been here, and the five my boyfriend has spent here as well. Consolidation, charity, out in the trash-- all options have been exercised. I don't ever want to move as much stuff as I did when I moved in here. The thing is, this house was the first place I was able to have all my possessions in at one time since I lived with my parents. It is time to let go of so much.

            I have also used the time to put together a couple of chapbooks, mainly from existing work, and I'm pleased to announce that I have TWO chapbooks scheduled for publication in 2012. In December, I put together a small chaplet through my own Flying Monkey Press as well. "Coast to Coast" is only $3, and believe me when I say quantities are limited. I'm not trying to be cute; only sixteen of them came out well enough to sell!! The chaplet is an homage to a special person who inspired a number of poems over the years, and although not enough to qualify as a full blown chapbook, I felt I wanted to get what work I had regarding this person out there, and in some kind of collected form.

            I sent a manuscript titled, "My Minnesota Boyhood" to Finishing Line Press back in February for their New Women’s Voices contest and heard nothing about the outcome until just a few days ago. An email informed me that the book had been accepted for publication, outside of the contest. Attached was their standard contract, requiring a presale of fifty-five copies for the minimum press run. Although satisfied that my work was in fact acceptable, I was somewhat annoyed at their total lack of communication beforehand. I had to keep checking their website to find out when a winner had been declared in the contest. In this age of email, I don't see any excuse for not sending a quick note to contestants.

            My friend Guy Reed had a book published by Finishing Line last year, and neither of us was altogether thrilled with the experience. Strange delays, oddly impersonal, form-type emails-- one had to wonder if his manuscript had been read at all. The final product was very nice, though in my opinion a bit overpriced at $12 for a stapled binding, but the content is of course excellent. I highly recommend "The Effort to Hold Light," and it's available through either Finishing Line or Amazon.

            In the meantime, I offered the same manuscript to Dayl Wise at Post Traumatic Press, based in Woodstock, NY. He had already put two months work into the book when I got the email from Finishing Line. He thought I was crazy to turn them down, I supposed because in some circles they might qualify as a "real" publisher. Dayl's press, started to in part provide a forum for the writings of military veterans, is as real as it gets. If I was to receive some sort of cash prize, I would have had second thoughts (see above). But all things being equal, I will continue to "dance with them that brung me," and "My Minnesota Boyhood" will be coming out in the next couple of months.

            A second manuscript, this one a collection of poems inspired by the city of Albany, NY and my experiences there over the last twenty-plus years, is in the works. Dan Wilcox is the proprietor at APD Press in Albany, and a longtime friend. He puts out few chapbooks these days, what with demonstrating and reigning as the Capitol District's Old Beatnik of Letters, but what he does do is carefully selected work. I am honored that he's accepted my work. I think we might be looking at fall for this one, and it's as yet untitled, but I will keep you posted on its whereabouts. 

            In the meantime, I'm writing, revising, and oh yeah, looking for a day job. I in no way believe that I'll be able to earn a living as a poet, and frankly, this gives me the freedom to write what I like, instead of what others assign to me. Better for my art, better for my mental health. Pass along any leads on work, and let me know if anything sounds interesting... anything, really!! It's been too long and I have no excuses for getting at least one update a month up here. Mea Culpa, as the overeducated say.

            Happy 2012!!