Cash, Grass or Ass – Nobody Rides For Free

My first car, a ’67 VW Bug, had this saying glued to the ashtray. I’ve always hated cigarettes and cigarette smoke. It was my bold way of saying, “This car don’t run on looks or love.” It also kept my ashtray clean.

Today’s the first day of spring or was that yesterday? This is a topic my mom and I always argued about. Who cares what day it begins, right?

Welcome to my new-fangled old blog. Have not posted in two years, following the deaths of both my birthmother, Sweet Caroline, and my mom who raised me, The Rose.

I’ve left the former poems and pieces up. They are compost for the new — some relevant, some not. Remnants of a life scratched and clawed for since my non-immaculate conception (still a mystery).

Sift at will while wearing boxers, briefs or boy shorts — beverage of choice in hand. In the past I might have said, Let Me Entertain You or maybe even this:

Nevermore. Nevermore. No more Boop-boop-de-boop!

I’m here to connect with all you other moths — children of the flame. Those of us who tried to do it all but crashed and burned along the way.

Leonard Cohen said, Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.

I say, Sometimes life’s a drag. That’s when you flick the tip.


CRUSHED (in a good way)



 noun: a strong feeling of romantic love for someone that is usually not expressed and does not last a long time

Most important thing to know about a crush if you are the crusher? Not allowing crushee to know about the crush. My “love” poems are groundhogs. If they see their shadow they go back in to hiding for about ten years.

Here’s a couple “loves” that I read in Ballard last night in honor of VD. The first, Moon-Pull Pure is for a former TESC classmate who was my neighbor years ago. The poem is from 2012.


Moon-Pull Pure


you need to hear this

warmth of thigh
cementing space
between neighbors
causes quiet titillation
nice prayer flag
my pick-up line
forget oysters
the ink on your fingers
is foreplay enough
a writer’s aphrodisiac
placing palms together
hippy-incensed haze
words make out
in utility candle light
Send it to the New Yorker I say
you ARE that good
forget the decade between us
never mind bellbottoms or
Pampers in 1970
ingest moon-pull pure
connect the dots before
snow melts

Patty Kinney
January 2012


The second, Nessun Dorma (None Shall Sleep) should be read after (or while) listening to Pavarotti’s last performance of the same name. Nessun Dorma is an Aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccinic’s opera, Turandot. In this poem, written in January 2013, it seems Mr. Pavarotti is the object of my affection. Not so. This one is for that one guy. A top secret crush for the ages. The poem was written in about ten minutes and has never been revised.

Nessun Dorma” (None Shall Sleep)

Are we not formed as notes of music are, for one another, though dissimilar?

                                                                            -Percy Bysshe Shelley

This must be written in permanent ink or marked with
a photograph. Preserve the goodness. Remove earring,
bracelet, brain. Do stars tremble with Love? Hope?
Does the night sky hyperventilate? Am I alive listening
to this beautiful singing?

Mr. Pavarotti, I will get a tattoo on my left forearm exactly
where I pinched flesh under nearly full moon, thumb and
forefinger witness to my disbelief. Is there a symbol for
breath, air, lungs? Impeccable Lagato! A clean attack
has been made.

I am like no other. I will whisper my secret on your closed
mouth. It’s the silence that makes you mine. At dawn, I’ll
roll over, do a fly-by at the funeral of my former self. The
girl is dead. The house is cold, cat batting air above wreath
of rosehips.


Patty Kinney
January 2012


Crushes sustain me. I hope they do the same for you. Love.




Balancing The Writing Life – Right After My Nap

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I went away for the summer. Although I didn’t leave home, I was gone. I wrote (no blog posts), I read, I swam, I sunned. I drank summer ale, and I ate the garden’s rainbow. And sleep, there was lots of sleep.

In September, to jostle myself awake, I attended Poets On The Coast, a writing retreat for women held in Nye Beach, Oregon at the historic Sylvia Beach Hotel. The workshops kickstarted my words the year before, helping me to carve out a prolific year of writing.

Fall is here with its carpet of leaves and scarf of fog. Summer is packed in a storage unit.

I am stacked to the rafters with writing projects, mentoring, teaching, and po-coaching. My full plate is now a tray. I grieve the meetings, readings, lunches, and friends I am unable to fit in.

In the past, I always feared the other shoe would drop and someone would twirl around on a mountain peak and in their best Julie Andrews voice proclaim, “The hills are alive, but Patty is a fake.”

Call it a miracle, but the fear is beginning to fade. Confidence is a potato plant. It flourishes above ground, but what sustains me are those hidden spuds – the ones I have to dig for.

Summer taught me to pen in a day of hibernation on the calendar for every day of crazy busy. It seems to be working. I didn’t miss the blog during those morning swims or evening ales on the porch, but I’m willing to post on a regular basis again (between naps.)

Esther Williams As Muse

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I am Esther Williams.

My bangle bracelets seize the sun, bounce it to your black and white television in Technicolor.

Notice the sheen of chlorine in my hair causing ripple effect like a flat rock tossed on smooth glass.

Ponds are not for me – scaly fish, water mollusks waiting beneath docks.

Give me a pretty girl pool, smell of chemicals promising clean. I will dance on the water’s mirror.

Dive deep. Join me. We are all synchronized. Water is forgiveness in the shallow end of day.


I am a swimmer. Have been since I was five-years-old. Growing up, Mom took us swimming every day during every summer until high school. We swam at Long Lake, Black Lake, Capitol Lake, and if the weather was not nice, we swam at the indoor high school pool.

There was a teenage lifeguard named Deanne, who took me under her wing and home for dinner one day. I met her mom and sister. No dad. We ate in the living room on TV trays and talked about Desi Arnaz, Jr. and Liza Minnelli.

Deanne told me I was such a good swimmer I should sign up for synchronized swimming. I agreed, figuring it was my ticket to becoming a movie star like Esther Williams. I did not want to marry Fernando Lamas, but I did want to share my life with Desi Arnaz, Jr.

My days of synchronized swimming are foggy as steam erping from the locker room showers. I had a fancy, rubber bathing cap covered with colorful flowers. My instructor, Mrs. MacDonald, gave her daughter “T” all her attention. I also recall how my butt kept floating up when it should have been executing a fancy mermaidish move under the water’s surface. Years later, I did join the high school swim team (Go Ramfish). My event was the breaststroke (just like Esther).

The best thing about the being a member of the girl’s swim team was the BOYS swim team. You had to make sure to look the boys in the eye and not the Speedo. I remember the green tinge in Bill Petty’s blond hair, making it look like a shiny penny.

I never became a swimming/beauty/movie star like Esther, but I still feel that freedom when I’m in the water that anything is possible. And I’m still ready for my close-up.

Care And Feeding Of The Rejected Poet

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I am a poetry toddler. Although I’ve been writing poetry since the first grade, have had a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing emphasizing poetry and nonfiction for nearly a decade, and been involved in the local poetry “community” for many, many years – I am a poetry toddler.

Earlier this year, I submitted my poetry chapbook to my first “contest.” I’ve had a good amount of success getting the individual poems published in literary journals. I thought I had a grip on that golden horseshoe, the lucky winner, the chosen one, as I held my book in my hands.

I was not shy about letting people know that I had a “good feeling” about submitting my chapbook. People were nice and said great things, which of course egged me on to believing that my work had a chance, a shot with this small press. I had put all my eggs in one basket. This was the contest for me. If I did not win, I would at least be a finalist!

Damn. Have you ever had to eat crow? It ferments in your mouth like rotten grapes. It gets stuck to your teeth. You can’t even remove it with floss. Crow is finding out that you were way out of your league. You were toddling around in a messy diaper at the prom.

Last week, when I received the email letting me down softly and announcing who won the contest, I put down my pen and stuck my thumb in my poet mouth. Also, there were the finalists, great poets who I adore and admire and would never put my poems “up against.”

It’s been a week or so. In that week, I went back and read two important books that had been calling to me for months. Lola Haskins’ Not Feathers Yet: A Beginners Guide to the Poetic Life; and Ordering The Storm: How to Put Together a Book of Poems, an anthology edited by Susan Grimm. They are my Dr. Spock, helping with the care and training (and revision) of this toddler.

Alas, I overhauled my manuscript. It’s been on the floor (I tossed it up in the air), my desk, the couch, my bed (yes, I slept with it one night.) It’s been candy, a dish that I can’t walk by without picking up a random piece (page) and chewing on it.

Later this week, I will remove my binky/ego and send the thing out again. Nobody likes to see a toddler with a binky. I will leave the terrible twos behind for the get over it threes. One day, I will be ready for that prom, poems pinned to my breast, a corsage smelling of tenacity, hope.

The Girl Who Got “Got” – Nature vs. Nurture

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Nature. Hands down. Nature. Winner of the mirror ball, the mother lode, the lottery of “I Just Want To Find Someone I Look Like.”

When I was a little girl, I called myself Mrs. Hogan. I’d put on a church hat, sit at a grey metal typewriter table and pretend I was a writer. I am told my Mrs. Hogan had a certain air about her – the way she moved, talked. She was upper crust – society’s child.

I was adopted when I was three months old. Up to that point, the nuns at the Catholic Children’s Home in Seattle “looked after me.” I want to believe there was a young, pretty nun there like Sally Fields from The Flying Nun TV show. This young nun would have held me close to inhale that baby smell, sang to me, rocked me to sleep, and kissed the top of my head.

That was not the case. When my parents “got” me in October 1959, I came with a note saying I was fussy and wanting to be held. Not much has changed. The note also said I was constipated and needed Karo Syrup in my bottle at least three times a day.

When you’re a kid, the hardest part of being adopted is not having anyone around you resemble. Family reunions and other get-togethers are painful reminders that you’re “different.”

When I was 33 years old, I made one phone call and found Mama Caroline, Sweet Caroline. Originally from Memphis, she lived 60 miles away in Seattle. During our first phone conversation, I asked if she had thick hair, bad teeth, and liked to swim? I put away my copy of “Are You My Mother.” I’d found mine.

I said goodbye to Mama C last week. I loved her so. She was 93. We looked just alike, loved opera, and had an appreciation for a nice looking man. Our favorite colors were purple and orange; our favorite flower – a pink rose. Mama loved to dress up. She had style. Flair. She favored scarves and jewelry as do I. I do not, however, share her wild attraction to leopard print clothing.

Today, I’m sporting the orange-tinted lipstick of this very private woman from Memphis who loved baseball and always treated me as if I were an angel that had fallen to earth. The perfect daughter – which I was not.

During that first conversation, Mama Caroline did mention my great grandmother’s name: Johanna Hogan. This Mrs. Hogan lived in Chicago’s Hyde Park area, and she always wore a hat.

I am all “Memphis” although I’ve never been. I lay down at night with the blues and have been told there’s a “southern way” about my manners. Mostly, like Caroline, I’m the goofy girl on the playground pranking the boys. There’s still time to be the rebel in animal print, attending operas, wearing a fresh coat of lipstick listening to La Traviata, eyes closed, conducting the orchestra with my index finger.

Do The Hustle – There’s A Lot More To Being A Poet Than Writing Poetry

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One, two, three, clap – I am a poet. What came to mind when you read that? Aimless wandering on a wooded sunlit path, journal in hand, taking notes on the nature? Watching bees circle my “Sexy Rexy” pink rose bush, attempting to pollinate their prize – me jotting notes on scraps of paper while downing a cup of coffee at the local bakery, having eavesdropped on the young couple in the next booth discussing whether or not to get pregnant?

That’s the fun part of poetry – when you actually get to sit down and write – the creative process of transforming a fleeting thought into something others can connect with whether it be about homelessness, conundrum of mental health, whacked out relationships or waiting for the orange poppy on the front porch to bloom and how that reminds me of a Matisse painting I like.

But, there’s the whole “other” side of the poet’s life. The readings sought out, the endless mechanical submitting machine we must become, the networking with other poets, artists, and writers to stay afloat on the surface of what’s happening now. The jealousy and envy. The ego. The hustle.

It’s not unlike dancing to that KC and the Sunshine Band song. Three steps forward, clap, three steps back, clap. Back and forth. Write, submit. Write, read. Write, network. Mary got a poem accepted at the Georgia Review. Clap. Johnny is the featured poet at that one cool place you’ve always wanted to read. Clap. Betty is teaching a poetry workshop on my turf. Clap. My turf!

I received wise advise from a wonderful poet at a writing retreat last summer. She said before you do anything check to see if you are doing it for ego or craft? Don’t get me wrong; I love the hustle. And although I wish I had an administrative assistant to help keep me organized, I thrive on most of this “other” stuff.

Some days, I just wish to be one of my poems, judged only on the words I’ve strung together to make that important connection with others – readings, manuscripts, submitting poems, networking all dangling somewhere out of sight and away from the place in my heart that knows why I dance this dance.

Then I Sang – On The Death Of My Birthmother A Few Hours Ago

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“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and melt into the sun.”

-Kahill Gibran


My 93 year-old birthmother died about 55 hours ago. What does a daughter do? I’ve had a pedicure (orange polish), a haircut, cleaned the house (even my closet), and eaten only vegetables since.


I’ve bought new shoes, new sunglasses, and two Vera Wang scarves, and I’ve repotted six geraniums on my porch. I’ve listened to every sad song on Spotify that reminds me of her, particularly her favorite opera, La Traviata, “The Fallen Woman.”


I don’t feel anything. I’m just here like a shrub. It was a beautiful death if there is such a thing. On the last day, I brushed Mama Caroline’s hair and told her she looked like Grace Kelley. First, I hummed How Much Is That Doggie In The Window and Oh What A Beautiful Morning. Then, I sang.


I read her a poem I wrote in January about being undone by Pavarotti’s rendition of Nessun Dorma. I stumbled through the Hail Mary for the 20th time in a week but nailed The Lord’s Prayer.


I wish I’d applied the lipstick I found in the drawer to her dry, cracked lips. Also, I should have played Elvis. She was a Memphis girl. I was told the hearing is the last to go.


In the end, she died as she lived. Alone. Independent. Stubborn. Sense of humor intact. A comic tragedy tucked in a pocket like a blue rosary.

Little White Lies – My Old Resume



Patty Kinney

Address blah blah, phone number blah blah

I am interested in obtaining a position where I will utilize my organizational, communications and general office skills. I am an energetic and outgoing committed professional. I believe strongly in diversity and I excel at interpersonal relationships.

Skills: Legal Secretary, Medical Receptionist, Court Administrator, Customer Service. I have experience with multi-line phones, photocopiers, petty cash, fax, digital cameras, personal computers and software: Microsoft Office. I have excellent editing, proofreading, research, revision and scheduling skills.


What a bunch of CRAP! The above is the first couple of paragraphs from a 2008 resume of mine. Nothing against office work or secretaries, it is just not where my MAD skills are found. Holding down a “normal” 8-5 job is a bed of nails. So I’m a writer/poet.

This doesn’t sit well with my mom. She has always thought I should be a secretary. That is, of course, after I dropped out of beauty school. Beautician was her first choice for my life’s work. It’s just not how I tick.

Never mind that I have both a BA and an MFA in Creative Writing, Mom still pictures me steno pad in hand, taking dictation. I have boxes of steno pads, Mom. They are just full of poems.

I do have a past in office work, but the above mention of organizational skills is just a flat out lie. Furthermore, the part about excellent editing and proofreading skills – not true. Also, I freak when I see a multi-line phone or a fax machine, and the only part of Microsoft Office I use is the word processing portion.


The last job I held was in 2008. I was a medical receptionist at a family medicine clinic. I lasted six weeks. The day I left, I had a total meltdown while trying to multi-task a phone call, the patient standing in front of me, and about six other VERY important officey things. I went to the clinic manager in tears and quit. Within about 45 seconds, I was in my car and down the road pledging to never put myself in that position again.

Now, I write full time. I follow my passion. I rise early in the morning, shower and dress as if I were going to a “real” job. My resume is no longer a work of fiction.

Pink Bike, Earth Shoes And Treasures From The Dump



My 11 year-old son wanted to dye his hair green today for Earth Day. It is his way of showing his support for our Earth. It turned out dark brownish black, not green. I told him he was paying homage to the deep, rich soil – the earth.

Most of us are curious about each others’ lives. This curiosity led me to wonder if other people were at the same place that I am when it comes to being “green?”

My furthest back memory of taking care of the environment is when I rode my pink, 3-speed bicycle to Chinook Junior High on the third Earth Day in 1973. I was in the 8th grade. I also recall wearing “earth shoes.” I don’t know what the particular genesis of this shoe was, but I recall that they toe tipped upward and the emphasis of walking was placed on the heal. One company that made these shoes in the 70’s is still in business and the shoes today are damn cute!  Check out:

Our family recycled before it was cool. You see my dad worked at the dump on Marvin Road. (Yes, it was called a dump before it ever became a landfill.) Dad moved garbage around with a Caterpillar tractor. This was before recycling. Every day, I would wait for him to come home. I heard his truck when it rounded the corner down the block. Sometimes he had old colored bottles, once new shoes from Sears – endless treasures every day. We weren’t poor. My dad and I just shared a love for the “pre-owned.” This is where my lifelong love of things vintage, some call it junk, began.

A few years ago, when my-then seven year-old began to admonish me for leaving the water running while I was brushing my teeth, I knew it was time to step things up. I began to pay more attention to my recycling habits. I changed out my light bulbs for compact fluorescent (CFL) ones. I curtailed a lot of my running around, making a rule for myself that I wouldn’t drive unless I had at least three errands to run or several appointments in the same day. I wash in cold water, keep my thermostat on 62 degrees. I drive an economical car. I shop at thrift stores in order to recycle goods, and I donate items I no longer need.

There’s a copious amount that one can do to become more green. I, myself, need to do more.  We all must make changes to avoid the repercussions of global warming and other environmental challenges. It starts at home, one compost pile at a time.