Upon Finding a Sand Dollar

Seeking receipts for car service printed
during the past year, instead my hands
found in the corner of a heavily papered
glove compartment not gloves but this:

One flawlessly, quietly intact sand dollar.
This flying saucer of the ocean had been
forgotten under bent-at-the-edges receipts
mounting for nearly two years, which goes to

show how often the convertible’s corners
are cleaned – and which leaves slight
judgment of self as to why this was not
discovered earlier, but most importantly:

How did it get there? Marine missiles fire
in the memory, ruling out that it might be
from our local beaches, nor a souvenir from
Mom’s house where she, too, collects shells.

Instead the weaving mind rolls itself into
the coastline of a Del Norte County town
where once we stopped as a family of four
for chocolate hermit crab cookies, then,

decades later I returned–a lone woman–and
found the bakery gone, and went to the beach
instead and put my naked feet in the water and
walked the sand strip, my spaniel smelling

the radius of his leash. If memory is correct,
which it is sometimes, it was an older man who,
seeing my aloneness, gave the trip its purpose
with the gift of one of his roundest sand dollars.

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Grocery Shopping

Fluorescent lighting. The morning donuts are almost gone. Of those who hang behind: one maple, three chocolate, zero fritters.

No matter. In the bakery department today I am a simple passer-by. Would I have stopped had there been fritters?

The wide and waxed highways lead me instead to milk, or milks plural as there are so many, mayhaps too many.

A traditionalist, of course I choose to take you home, half-gallon carton whose expiration date reads my birthday.

It’s that time of year again. Sealed and untasted, but I adore you more than all the milks of the last eleven months.

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Where to Begin

The question of where to begin
is preceded by: what do I believe
is my purpose, acknowledging
aliveness and what that means
on scales large and small?
How much time do I have
(how much do I think I have),
what can be done with it, and
how do we ensure both a roof
above our heads and a wheel
of brie at the ready. Necessities.
Rosemary crackers makes three.
Fig jam makes four, but
I was not born for counting;
instead, purpose reveals itself
as testing the Universe with
parts picked apart as flawed
to discover time and again
it is this marred condition
the Universe responds to.
Full circle: where to begin?
There is not a where, really
just a when; only time and
who knows how much of it
other than: it is here now.

(written February 2019 and intended as the first post on this site, but I changed my mind at the last moment in favor of First Photographs, which was the first poem I read aloud to those close to me, and held this poem as a draft until now)

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Oceans and Lakes

The impending ocean announces itself in a way that lakes do not. I’ve seen more lakes than I’ve cared to count lately; mountain lakes and manmade lakes and reservoirs and the always strange and briny Mono Lake. Rarely do these still and scentless bodies of water give you a heads up that they are there (particularly if you’re not a map watcher). You often must come within sight of their waters before you think, “Look at that, there’s a lake here.”

But the ocean is for the devout, in that you do not have to see or hear it to know it is there. Our body senses its existence. The atmosphere changes, the wind blows a new way through the car window and the air weighs more heavily around your being. It begins to smell like water—powerful, unconstrained saltwater—from many miles away. It speaks to us.

Be wild here, says the Northern ocean, and I am bundled up and unruly, flipping shells and jumping rocks and peering into every tide pool.

Relax, says the Southern ocean, and I am under the sun and into a book, my purple-patterned towel spread across hot sand.

Somewhere between these two cultures a wooden pier juts out and divides north from south. Once used for shipping, a bait shop now draws in a steady population of quiet fisherman who, in turn, pull a population of gulls who keep a close eye on the day’s catch.

I keep a close eye on the ocean. I am a girl who grew up near water, a girl who took many childhood trips to the marina with her parents, and whose father owned a sailboat, a power boat and  a handful of smaller boats – not all of which I can recall, but I’m sure I counted at least two canoes sitting in our yard before I’d turned 21. I know this as I sold them after my father passed away. A man of Native American descent named Tomas came to buy them one afternoon, carrying them away from the grassy slope where they rested upside down, and that is as far as my memory goes as it has been many years – and because the mind is funny about what it chooses to remember.

And as I am a girl raised near water, one day after weeks in the deserts and mountains of inland states the ocean was a welcome sight and sound and smell. There I stood at the shore knowing that a handful of hours south these same waters were breaking against San Diego, and three days north they would filter into the Puget Sound and swell much more gently alongside my hometown, Seattle. This realization is akin to looking up at the moon at night to know that you and someone you miss and maybe love are both under the same sky, except we are both—we are all—not only under a moon, but along this shore. Connected by currents, all types of them, both water and human.

(written summer 2014; revised for ColetteKay.com)

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Notes from the Floor

You know what I have discovered? Don’t laugh
but . . . the joy of the living room floor!
Two weeks back, moving the coffee table aside
left an expanse of freshly-turned blue rug
that beckoned: come be a child on me
and now we (Dog and I) are down here
playing with squish toys (his, not mine,
although truly everything he owns I own).

I have set up a watercoloring station
atop a local newspaper unfolded wide,
filled a plastic cup with water and brushes
and blended together the half-dozen shades
that comprise a New Mexican sky at dusk,
tumbleweeds tiny dots on the horizon
(my whale painting did not fare as well,
spreading into a seafaring Rorschach).

One day I laid on my back and listened
to guided meditations and new age music,
but have also sat with legs V’d outward,
a second mug of hot chocolate at my side,
watching halves of forgettable movies,
with predictable plots and English scenery
not thinking about who I am vs. should be
and if those people are the same (yes).

On my stomach I later read poetry aloud
to a visitor; he stoically crossed his arms
and I am not sure heard the lines about mice
blurted from my lips, nor did he join me
on the floor, nor play on the tree that fell
in the canyon. Wouldn’t anyone? I recall
that weightlessness does not belong to the
burdened. I know. I have lived there, too.

I would like to tell everyone the good idea it is
to go without furniture, how sometimes
matched living room sets (albeit comfortable)
are one of many ways we become slow adults
sliding aimlessly into cushions not unlike how
we assume college degrees, cubicles, crock-pots
and come to believe life is an arrangement
when it is in fact a nonsensical blip on the floor.

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