“Why the Frogs Sing” Accepted by WhimsicalPoet

My mom and her dad. Unknown photographer. Not sure when this was. 1947? ‘49?

Many thanks to Sara Altman, Editor of Whimsical Publications, for accepting “Why the Frogs Sing,” which is about my reaction to the death of my mother. When I got the call telling me she was dying, I had an odd sensation of lightness. Later, I woke up when it was still dark. It was a steamy Southern night, and the frogs were chorusing.

A few years ago, I heard a story on NPR about how frogs in a lake (as I recall) near the Atlanta airport were unable to chorus due to noise pollution from the planes. Because they could not produce their intimidating group noise, owls were picking them off.

My imagination connected the image of frogs borne upwards to the lightness I had felt when I first heard Mom was going. I felt many confused things about Mom’s sad life and her death during, but apparently not from, COVID. I thought of the abuse she had endured as a child, and of how hard she had tried to escape the mental illness that landed her in a home far away from me, and of how hard she had found it to socialize with us even for a short time the last time we saw her.

It seemed to me there was a parallel between the frogs’ short, desperate lives and our own, between their singing to cheat death and our efforts to give our lives meaning, and between their ends as they were borne aloft in the owls’ talons and the feeling of a lightening of burdens and at the same time an emptiness that i imagine death brought to Mom, and that I certainly felt.

This is what I tried to convey in the poem. Again, I’m grateful Editor Altman found it suitable for WhimsicalPoet, and I look forward to familiarizing myself with that publication.

“Kayaking on Lady Bird Lake” Accepted for Hotazel

Train bridge over Lady Bird Lake. Taken by me.

I was surprised and pleased that Editor Linda Mostert and team accepted my poem, “Kayaking on Lady Bird Lake,” for the new South African journal, Hotazel. I think this poem is one of the better ones I have written, and I am excited that it will come out in South Africa, where I have not published before.

Lady Bird Lake, much like South Africa, is a study in contrasts. On the one hand a kayaker finds themself in an urban wilderness, nesting ground for several species of water birds, not to mention turtles and the famous bat colony that makes its home seasonally in the tiny space between the surface and the concrete undergirding of one of the bridges across the lake. On the other hand, the lake has a lot of trash in it, and giant skyscrapers, including a new Google tower, rise on every side. These contrasts are oddly parallel to my experience of taking a bus outside Johannesburg to visit an elephant sanctuary, though I did not think of that at the time.

Lady Bird, too, seems to me to embody many contrasts. I have only read her Wikipedia bio, but her decade of determined work on what was then Town Lake supports some of the details I read about this apparently traditional Southern lady who famously concerned herself with the beautification of US highways. Though some might consider that preoccupation the kind of lesser field deemed appropriate for ladies before the era of feminism, Lady Bird was the first First Lady to have her own office and staff to carry out her initiatives—in other words, she transformed her position into a real job with some real power. “The Highway Beautification Act was informally known as ‘Lady Bird’s Bill’” (from her Wikipedia bio). She was also a trained journalist and a successful businesswoman who used an inheritance to help her husband run for Congress.

As for the supposition that Lady Bird’s beautification efforts were a sort of decorative hobby (a supposition I myself had entertained, I admit), the amazing urban biome she got constructed at the lake that now bears her name shows how important and serious her work was. In fact, she reminds me of my mother, who was also raised to be a Southwestern lady, but worked hard to earn her Ph.D. in art history and become a professor.

Finally, the art of the lake presents yet another evocative set of contrasts. Graffiti, often regarded as vandalism and defacement. becomes a shifting tapestry in which mostly anonymous artists put their stamp on the lake and make their voices heard. For me, the command, “BREATHE,” on the bridge depicted above, evoked the tension between the peaceful solitude I found in the kayak and the busy urban culture around it, between the natural richness and the sinister throwaway culture of our times, a culture embodied not only in the trash of the lake, but also the fate of George Floyd and so many others.

I look forward to my study of these contrasts appearing in a land of different, often troubling, contrasts, and I hope to see other, similar work in Hotazel.

People waiting for the bats to come out of the bridge. Taken by me.

Poll Watching Poem Out Today, and a Review

Photo credit: Melissa Wilkins, “Jolley’s sporting a new Trump 2020 flag.” 2 March 2019. Wikimedia CommonsCC BY 2.0.

I am excited to see my poem, “Poll Watching: Alabama, 2020,” up at Third Estate Art‘s online journal, Quaranzine. Many thanks to the editors.

I wrote about Third Estate Art and the poem here. I will only add that my day of poll-watching was long and very depressing. I had naively hoped that the yam’s mishandling of the pandemic would turn off some of his supporters, but no. Indeed, even though the Dems won that election, the threats to our democracy are by no means over. Nor is the pandemic, and very little is being done on climate change. What is the matter with our politicians of both parties? Do they not go outside? These are rhetorical questions. I know it’s just greed and the desire for power.

But enough about my country. Let’s go to France and then do A Review:

This is really Episode 5.

Two Poems Accepted by DASH


I am excited to report that two of my poems, “Trump Signs Bibles in Alabama” and “Golden Age,” have been accepted by DASH Literary Journal, which is produced by students at California State University, Fullerton. Besides taking pleasure in being recognized by the young and hip at my advanced age, I am always relieved to place my edgier work, and always happy to have work in print journals and publications affiliated with colleges or universities.

I also believe it’s important to sound the alarm about climate change, whose effects are so starkly portrayed in the photo above. “Trump Signs Bibles . . . ” calls out all of us for not doing enough and instead too often retreating into the kind of magical thinking that consoled those who got their bibles signed.


“Golden Age,” I dashed off, appropriately enough, in response to a writing prompt that was part of an application. As I recall, the prompt asked applicants to describe their birth as a mythological event. I may have strayed a little wide of the mark on “birth” (if, indeed, that was even the word–I can’t remember), but thinking of parallels between mythology and my family history helped me to portray that history’s more violent and primal aspects in appropriately archetypal terms in this brief prose poem.

As always, I am grateful to the editors and eager to read the journal. I hope that everyone with extra time now is using it to read widely and adventurously.   


Photo credits: The White House, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump Visit Alabama. 8 March 2019. Wikimedia Commons. PD.

Jacopo Zucchi [user, Sine Fine], The Age of Gold. Ca. 1565 [image, 2 March 2020]. Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 4.0.

Three Poems Accepted by M58


Graphic I created for my poem, Can #10: spindrift Sparkling Water

I’m very happy to report that my poems, “Can #10: spindrift Sparkling Water,” “Can #13: Progresso Bread Crumbs, Italian Style,” and “Trending Facebook Feed Senryu,” have been accepted by M58. I’m grateful to Editor Andrew Taylor for accepting these, and for his work publishing avant-garde poetry in diverse forms.

I do not love work that is experimental to the point of being utterly random and obscurant, but I do like adventure, surprise, and being asked to bring an active imagination to texts. Unfortunately, I have found journals dedicated or even open to such poetry to be few and far between, and as I mentioned, I was essentially trolled by an editor for presuming to submit such material.

So again, especially grateful to Andrew Taylor, and looking forward to reading more of what M58 has to offer.