"I can't think without a pen in my hand!" - Me

"I can't think without a pen in my hand!" - Me

A Friendly Guide to Navigating this BLOG

If you have visited this blog before, you will notice I've made some changes. A Pen in My Hand is going to be dedicated to lighthearted anecdotes and whatever else I feel like writing. I have started another blog for topics that are more serious/spiritual in nature. See the link in the sidebar to visit that blog.

I sincerely hope you find something here worth reading; but if not, take heart. There are about six billion other blogs out there to choose from.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Slammed by Poetry

I pay my three dollars, and the man behind the table stamps my hand with a red skull and crossbones.
The red ink matches the gauges in the man’s ears,
Gauges the size of silver dollars
Dollars like the ones I just gave him.

I claim one of the few empty chairs in the room and sit with my back to the bar.
Facing the microphone,
Facing the crowd,
Eager to listen.

I want not just to listen, but to hear.
To hear the hearts behind the voices,
The souls behind the symbols,
The minds behind each metaphor.
I want not just to look but to see.
To see beyond shaved heads and shredded t-shirts,
Beyond and beneath sweaters and sport coats, leather and lace,
And hair in a rainbow of colors.
I want to take in both the lies and the truth,
To see and hear it all.

Poets take turns standing for three minutes in the spotlight behind the microphone,
Baring their souls to the crowd,
Naked and not ashamed.
Poets are not ashamed to shout out to a room full of strangers their fatal flaws and private pain.
They spread bare arms wide and show us their scars –
Marks left behind by needle or blade.
And we clap for them.
We clap for their battles with anorexia, bulimia, heroine, and cocaine.
We clap for the nooses that did not tighten enough and the EMT’s that arrived in time.
We clap for the soul-flames that flickered so perilously but now stand before us, weaving their words.
Souls hanging on by a thread.
We are all just here for the words.

The best poems bypass the mind altogether,
Evaporating into emotion the moment they strike the ear.
Syntax dissolves into meaning
Like a snowflake touching the tongue.
Nothing is left to analyze or study,
Just the tingling sensation of cold on the skin.
Or the reverberation of a fist to the gut.

The best poems stun us silent for a moment.
The poet steps back, uncertain, from the microphone.
Then we remember to clap.
We clap loud and hard
Not for the pain, but the alchemy.
The poet has bled out words, shimmering and glorious, and we are amazed.

For two or three days afterwards, I feel raw,
Haunted by what I have heard.
But too soon the word-painted images blur and fade
Like the ink of the stamp on my hand.
My own words that could have been poems
Get turned into lists instead.
My heart stops throbbing with the pain of others,
And life gets ordinary again.
I can look without seeing.
Listen without hearing.
And that is no way to live.

When the bodies I pass on the street become soulless to me,
It’s time to go back
To pay my three dollars
And have my hand stamped anew with the blood-red symbol of death.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Loyal to a Fault

I held the Lenscrafters coupon in my hand. "Half off any new frames," I read. It would be fun to get some new glasses, I thought. Then I sighed wistfully and tossed the coupon into the trash.

I can't go to Lenscrafters, you see, because I have been seeing the same glasses guy since I was a teenager. He's a nice guy, and he has a private shop in my home town. Not a chain store or a franchise. Just his own business, making glasses and selling them to loyal customers like me. It wouldn't be right to go somewhere else.

I am still ashamed about last summer when I cheated on my glasses guy. I was walking through the mall when I saw the giant sign in the window of Lenscrafters. "Buy any regular glasses and get a pair of prescription sunglasses for free." What? Free sunglasses? I imagined myself reading crystal clear words off a page in the bright sunlight, reading sharp clear street signs as I drove down the highway, seeing and not squinting at the same time. It was too much to resist. I went into Lenscrafters and got the glasses.

A few weeks later, I needed them adjusted. They kept sliding down my nose. The Lenscrafters guy had tried to make them fit me right, but he didn't know my ears and my nose like my own glasses guy does. So, I brought my sunglasses into my guy's shop. I hung my head and handed them over.

"Can you adjust these for me?" I mumbled.

His eyes widened and then turned misty as he slowly reached out and took the glasses from my hand. "You didn't buy these here," he said.

"I know," I whispered. "There was a sale and..."

"How much did you pay for these?" he asked, his voice just a little accusatory.

"Nothing," I said. "They were free with the other pair I bought."

"The OTHER pair?"

I nodded.

He looked at me then looked away.

"I'm sorry," I said.

He busied himself with heating the frames and bending them to fit my ears and my tiny bridgeless nose. When he placed them on my face, they were perfect.

"I won't go back there," I said. "Not ever."


The glasses guy isn't the only one who has me in his pocket. I am also a helpless captive of my dentist.

I went to the same dentist all of my life. Year after year he would rave about my perfect teeth. No braces needed. Never a cavity. Straight, healthy and strong. I liked my dentist, but the pressure to be perfect placed a terrific strain on me. If I ever did get a cavity, I would be overcome with shame. Plus, as I grew from child to adult, I started to dislike the perky little office and its too-cute decorations. I didn't want to look at rows of ceramic frogs or stuffed animals. I wanted to go to a grown up dentist office -- perhaps one closer to my home.

One day, I got a letter in the mail. My dentist was retiring. Here was my chance, I thought. I'll keep my final appointment because it's already scheduled. Then, afterwards, I'll bolt. I'll choose my own dentist for the first time in my life.

I was lying flat on my back in the vinyl chair, scanning the room, saying a mental "goodbye forever" to the bullfrogs in bonnets that lined the shelves of the office, when I heard my dentist's voice in the hall. A wave of nostalgia rushed over me, but I thought, "No, it's been a good run; but it's time to move on."

Suddenly I looked up and saw a very young face bending over me. He couldn't have been much more than twenty. And my dentist's voice was saying to me, "Krista, this is Dr. Lindquist. He's taking over all my patients. He'll be your dentist now." Then he added to his colleague, "You won't have any trouble with Krista. Her teeth are always perfect!"

"Wonderful," I said to the smiling boy hovering above me.

By the time he retires, I thought to myself, I'll be beyond the need for dentists.

I settled in for my cleaning and tried to avoid looking at the mob of grinning, gloating frogs.


Loyalty, I have decided, is a kind of slavery for people who are just a little bit neurotic -- like me.