by Patricia Florin

Crisp cold creeps in window cracks

and nudges winter cobwebs

as I sit at my desk strewn with papers

and a lacey, red heart.


Mardi Gras and Lent

taxes and romance

snow and sun

all in this modest month.


I look out at its

well-bred blue skies

naked tree bark gleaming in glass light

as two by two geese prod mud.


Yesterday’s sun burned my face and

frog-croaks notched the air.

Tomorrow, they say, it will snow.

No matter. February,

the gentle winter kin,

soon relieves us of what it has wrought.



Rain Has Fallen

by H. Ní Aódagaín

Rain Has Fallen

Oh, blessed sweet manna of the sky, we’ve waited so long for you.
The hills and valleys sing your praises and all the creatures big and small,
from the furtive black bear to the delicate damselfly, bow to you in thanksgiving.

You have quenched our thirst, brought sustenance to leaf, grass, tree and field.
The birds spread their wings in joyous abandon as your cleansing waters pass over them, flowers open their petals and the fruits of the garden rejoice in your coming.

Oh, sacred water of the heavens, hear this prayer of gratitude.
Your coming has brought such joy.
May you be beckoned again and again by our humble appreciation.

September, 2015


by Heather Murphy
(originally published in Atticus Review)

Christmas day, we climb into Tom’s green pick-up with our shoes all wet from the melting snow to go to his parents after my mother braids my long brown hair to make the electricity stop and all the marmalade rolls are gone. Tom, who loves us since the summer and moved into our apartment with his new coffee table, has a new marble-ended ponytail holder I gave him out of my pack, and the sideways sun glints off the clear little marbles in the truck when he leans over to turn off the emergency brake like they might have some magic in them. I kept the purple ones and the red ones and gave him the clear ones since we use the same kind and clear is like a boy color. He put down his beer and put one in his long red hair right away when I gave them to him, putting the other one in his pocket. He said he would never lose them.

The sofa and chairs and every single lamp at Tom’s parent’s house are covered in clear plastic and the living room flashes like the quickly turned pages of a magazine because of tinsel and the Christmas tree lights. Even the carpeted steps leading to the upstairs are plastic on top, with bumps underneath, like mean little spikes you could bleed on if you turned it upside down. Tom’s parents talk with the Irish accent because they used to live in Ireland before they came to Philadelphia. They give me Baby-That-A-Way in front of the fake Christmas tree with the big blue bulbs. You squeeze her puffy orange fists, which are cold plastic, and her legs walk. She came with red pants and matching red and white polka dot shirt with frilly short sleeves. They gave it to me because they like all my freckles and they said I look like an Ireland kid they used to know that’s dead now. When my mother sees the doll she frowns and smashes out her cigarette like it’s a bug she’s trying to kill, even though she doesn’t kill bugs because it’s against our religion. She hates dolls more than she hates Neil Diamond.

I’ve never owned a doll before. We have naked, headless Barbie tied to a cord to turn the light on in the basement since my mom can never find the string in the dark, but I’ve never played with her because my mom said she’s art, not a toy, and plus I’m afraid of her. Lauren and I never play with dolls anyway; we play Office and Boarding School, or pretend we are detectives. Lauren is my best friend. Her dad sometimes goes crazy and she has to come over and stay with us late at night sometimes and sleep in my bed with me and my cat, Rascal. If her dad has to go to the mental hospital, we get to miss school the next day and my mom makes us German pancakes. It happened just the other day and Tom took us to Howard Johnson’s and told Lauren to get anything she wanted. Sometimes Lauren goes with her mom to the hospital to see her dad there and crazy people who smell like throw-up and poop ask Lauren if she has any cigarettes even though she’s only nine. I laughed when she told me that because everyone knows nine year olds don’t smoke.

After we eat ham and Tom’s dad gets drunk and yells about Tom’s long red hair and the dirty draft dodgers, we leave in a huff and drive back to our apartment and Lauren is on the porch with lips all cracked and white, red nose like Rudolph, and puffy eyelids like Baby-That-A-Way’s little hands. My mom takes her in the bathroom and tells Tom to put the kettle on for tea and when they come out, I let her play with Baby-That-Away and she drinks the tea and I say out loud that it’s really good that her dad did it in the day time this time and she didn’t have to go out on the roof to knock on my window and wake me up like that one time, because there was snow on the roof now and that was dangerous.

She says, “At least we got a white Christmas!” and plays with the doll. She doesn’t even try to listen when my mom talks to her mom on the phone. We sit under the real Christmas tree in our living room and make pretend that Baby-That-A-Way is a boy, and we are grown up sister detectives who are going to adopt him and teach him karate and turn him into a spy for secret missions. I ask Tom why his dad doesn’t like baseball because it’s been bothering me. “Did one of the players have long hair and it made him mad?”

“What are you talking about, kid?” He likes to call me that.

“He said the draft dodgers didn’t deserve the country and they should leave, and he said a bad word,” I remind him.

Tom laughs and I know I made a mistake. Sometimes grown-ups talk in very stupid ways. And think kids smoke when they’re only nine and leave the wrappers on all their furniture and go crazy in the middle of the night or Christmas morning when they should be like the dads on television, wearing red and green and smiling. Baby-That-A-Way is lucky she’s just a fake, plastic kid and she’ll never have to grow up and try to figure all this dumb stuff out. She won’t even have to walk anymore and she can just stay in my bed and relax because I know for a fact that my mom will never buy me batteries after these ones die.

Fall is Coming

by Clara Bell

This has been a great year in the garden. My family benefited from the miracle of planting and reaping with what seems little effort. My husband rototilled, my neighbor brought seasoned manure collected from her horses, and I purchased some plant starts. My husband and I installed an irrigation system, so that with water and a resplendent summer sun, we got delicious, copious, sweet melons for several months. There were tomatoes, beets, onions, chard, lettuce and more, but the melons were the big surprise. They tasted better than anything we had ever eaten, other than the tomatoes I was once served from the Crimea; they will stand out in my memory as being better than chocolate.

Not only did the melons taste unbelievably good, they ripened one after the other, so as not to be overwhelming like zucchini that you can’t give away fast enough. We could savor one a day or every other day, since we had my dad and his wife visiting for a month. From time to time, it was a pleasure to gift a melon to the neighbor or to someone who would appreciate it.

The pumpkins also thrived. We were shocked at how large the leaves were. Like elephant’s ears. Then the pumpkins themselves were enormous. I had to throw out a lot of those that could have developed, so that we only ended up with about four in all. Otherwise, we would have had pumpkins spilling over onto the lawn or throttling the carrots and spinach rows.

Melons have the added advantage that they don’t require any processing. You could pickle them, but they are not good candidates for canning. Therefore, you can consume all of them without feeling that you should be doing something more with them, saving them for the rainy, dreary days of winter.

Now, in the middle of October, I recall the canning frenzy. First, tomatoes in marinara for spaghetti. That went in several stages. Some of the jars have basil, others have garlic and onions. It will be fun to see how it all turned out and what I can do better next year. Definitely, I will plant more plum tomatoes. They have less liquid and more pulp.  I drank a lot of fresh tomato juice from having processed the beef tomatoes. Tomato soup and aspic were out of the question. My husband does not like tomato soup, any more than he likes the juice. And my least favorite food is aspic, specifically tomato aspic. It conjures up memories of a luncheon at Mrs. Spiegelberg’s when I was a child. It turned me off to anything savory with gelatin forever.

After the tomatoes, there were the pears, the apples, the plums and lots of pumpkin to process. We can look forward to pumpkin and apple pies, to spaghetti with homemade, homegrown tomatoes, to pears in juice, and plum jam. It just might get us through the season ahead that keeps us indoors and when we will need to remember the cloudless days of summer to cheer us up.

We now have to prepare for the rains. It means transplanting sensitive plants into pots, to place indoors or in the greenhouse. It means staining the deck and wooden fences to protect them from the onslaught of daily showers. Some plants need to be pruned and protected from frosts with mulch, leaves, or branches. We say goodbye to the garden, to the prospect of sun, but it is not too sudden. We have something like an Indian summer. We look forward to the fun of Halloween and the fellowship of Thanksgiving and Christmas as the winter sets in. We indulge in memories that these holidays dredge up from long ago, when mom and dad were the center of our universe, when everything was magical and still before us.

The leaves will fall soon. We feel a bittersweetness with the changing of the seasons, all the more poignant with the physical changes as we age and ache here and there. Our own winter lies ahead of us, but we suck every bit out of the spring and summer and onset of fall to live off the memories in the future as we plan to do with our canned goods in the pantry. They may have taken some effort to acquire, but they will warm and cheer us when the time comes.

Generation Slap

by Heather Murphy

Sometimes, when Christmas is getting close, people around here ask me what I want and I get all excited like a little kid, thinking of the possibilities. Too bad I can’t ever come up with anything. Unless of course something obvious is broken. I’m serious—I draw a complete blank. Even when I peruse those horrid catalogues, I just end up talking to the glossy pages about what junk they shine back at me and how no one needs any of it.

Strangely, my own opinion on anything is starting to flow down this path of aggressive apathy and I think it’s why I am not able to produce anything currently, other than fiction. When I want to write a blog, it’s because I have a big old important damn thing to say about something, but lately, I just don’t give a crap.

Until today. I read this thing on the internet by this guy, and he called the children of Generation X, Generation Wuss. I laughed out loud at the piece. Sorry. He’s right about so many things and I am willing to admit to my own contribution—I too have an over-sensitive kid with an inflated sense of self-importance who spends a wee bit too much time on social media keeping up an image of himself and who cannot do one seventy-fifth of what I could do at his age. So then I had something to say, and here I am typing my important opinions again.

Helicopter parenting is getting most of the heat and I can totally understand why—I see its results all around me. I personally am not guilty of the helicopter style and have verbally criticized the practice in front of my own kid, because I don’t censor myself all that much in front of him–I was never taught how to do that; my own mother did not spare me the contents of her mind–so I’m always saying stuff like, “kids who aren’t allowed to climb trees become clumsy,” because I have seen that sort of thing before and I want my kid to know I ultimately get the credit for him being so agile.

But you know, I really blew it in other ways. I sort of got sucked into that “letting him win” kind of thing when maybe, I shouldn’t have. It was the path of least resistance because he acted so insane when he lost and I just could not deal with it. Maybe it’s because he is an only child and has not been properly broken in and put in his place the way people who’ve suffered beat-downs from siblings have. I also let him eat too much garbage since I wasn’t allowed to have any and it turned me into an obsessed, conniving sugar junkie. I figured, let him have it, then he won’t have to live a double life like I did. He’ll just be all bored with it like my friend Amy in the second grade when I stared, open-mouthed into her pantry the first time I went to her house. She just yawned at the twenty boxes of sugar cereal and the mini marshmallows and peanut brittle because she could eat that crap any time she wanted. She had no idea of the painful roots of my wonderment at the availability of treats, could never understand why I would rather find the key to the freezer and get at the tasty-cakes her mom stored there instead of going out to the garage to climb on the roof. But it didn’t really work out that great with my son; every night, the kid thinks he is entitled to dessert, and if I say, “did you do your homework?” he says, “can I have my dessert?” like I am his personal chef or something, and sometimes I make a snide remark back because that placement of “my” really gets under my skin even more than his expectation that I produce something.

But it’s nobody’s fault but mine. I’m the one that just had to make sure I did the opposite of what my own mother did. I bet plenty of you out there did the same thing with something else, if not sugary foods. But can you admit it? Because there are plenty of people out there whose kids are acting like shit and they are not taking any credit, let me tell you.

Reading that piece was like hearing parts of my own rant, mirrored back to me. Generation Wuss. It’s quite an indictment. He mentioned a contest at somebody’s daughter’s school, how they had a tug of war and the coach called it after four minutes and declared it a tie, giving everyone a ribbon. I thought that was stupid, and I am usually criticizing most forms of adult-engineered competition for kids, saying it engenders discord and disharmony among peers, but I’m down with a rough game of tug-of-war, mud pit and all. Children have to compete with each other, adults do it, we all do it and we can’t help how we are hard-wired—we want to see how we measure up with our age group and we want to see what happens when we try hard. If everyone is the same, then what is the point in effort? Kids give up too easily these days, just throw their hands up and run away, I’ve seen it, have you? When my own kid is not good at something straight away, he all too often wants to quit and won’t listen to my lectures about effort and results.

Let’s face it, young people now have a more, shall we say, compact attention span. They are used to immediate results, not waiting. No one wants to wait anymore for anything—they get all bitchy if they have to wait, it’s surely an American thing, exacerbated by the conveniences of technology, but you used to have to wait for everything—when I was a kid.

Ok, I said it. Is that what this is about? Just one of those moments every single generation has had with the one after them, thinking they are clueless and incapable? It must be. This isn’t an important opinion or an insight blog, it’s a purely natural moment in human development, a kind of milestone happening here! And anyway, my kid is only twelve, and he does like vegetables and hate facebook and I have time to work all the rest of it out because he doesn’t have all the symptoms of Generation Wuss the guy mentioned. We can totally beat this.

Squat, Wriggle and Roll


On a Thursday morning in March, I squatted by an irrigation valve on my farm waiting for my husband’s voice to direct me. “Okay, try turning it back on again,” he yelled across the field. Tom was repairing an irrigation leak with electrical tape. “Looks good. You can leave it on for now, ” he called. As I stood up, I heard the faint sound of a car turning onto our half-mile driveway. Through the trees, I saw a black jeep- a vehicle I didn’t recognize. Annoyance bubbled up in me. We live twenty minutes from the closest town. If strangers travel here, they are either lost or going to stay a while. I had not planned on entertaining random visitors that day.

Near the house, a tall, skinny man dressed in a suit pulled himself out of the drivers seat. He turned around in a full circle, leaning back slightly as if off-kilter. “It’s so beautiful here!” he called out in a nasally voice. As I made my way over to him, I could see his suit was brown polyester, the kind you might find at Goodwill, the kind you might use for a Halloween costume, not one you’d wear to work. He wore coke-bottle glasses and supportive brown shoes, one heel a half inch higher than the other. “I just can’t believe what a beautiful drive that was and how nice this place is,” he said to me. My annoyance dissolved immediately. Most visitors, even the regulars, step out of their rigs and remark on the windy roads that induce carsickness or exclaim something about our remote location. This stranger was focused on our farm’s rugged beauty. I liked him at once.

After turning around in circles twice more, he stuck out a hand and introduced himself; “Charles Smithey from the USDA, here for an inspection of your store. “ I momentarily panicked. What store? What the hell is he talking about? And then my brain clicked into action and I realized my predicament.

Months earlier, an email had landed in my virtual clutter announcing that farms with Community Supported Agriculture programs would be allowed to accept food stamps from customers. My husband and I run a small, organic produce farm and coordinate a cooperative CSA program that delivers weekly boxes of seasonal produce to 235 families. While I love our work– stewarding land and providing high quality, locally produced food, I also struggle with the inherent elitism of the organic food movement. I spent a lot of time volunteering at soup kitchens as a kid, and remember well the slop we doled out onto pink plastic plates for the hungry of Washington D.C.; our goal simply to fill hungry bellies. As an adult, I sell heirloom tomatoes and mesclun salad mix for a premium, well beyond the price range of most people. More than a third of the population in my county live in poverty, with about 20% using food stamps. I thrilled at the chance to bridge these two worlds; to bring an element of social activism from my youth to the sustainable food movement.

Within the hour, I was on the phone with Deborah Stills from the Food and Nutrition Division of the USDA. Her voice sounded hoarse and weathered as if she had been screaming into the wind all morning, yet she was excited to be breaking new ground with me.  If we succeeded, our CSA would be the first in Oregon to accept food stamps. We spent the better part of the next two months exchanging phone calls and messages. I waded through reams of dense federal protocols and cajoled the eight farmers in our Cooperative, who live miles down different dusty roads, to leave their tractors in spring, sort through their disorganized desks and scan forms off to me. Finally, I had all the paperwork in hand and faxed it into the USDA. The next obstacle required more angling: food stamp recipients need to swipe their cards and punch in a pin number to purchase food. This meant that our CSA members would have to drive over an hour each week to pay for their shares at our farm. Deborah and I racked our brains for solutions. At the time, she seemed as determined as me to push this through. In each scenario we conceived, the logistics seemed insurmountable. It finally dawned on me that the only viable option would require deceiving Deborah. I would have to get both the EBT card numbers and the four-digit pins from members and punch in the numbers at home. Food stamp recipients are told explicitly to keep their information private and businesses are not allowed to ask for their numbers. After a few soul-searching moments, I opted to disregard the law. Meanwhile, Deborah stopped asking me specific questions about payment, turning a blind eye and becoming my silent accomplice. We were making slow, but steady progress.

The last application form befuddled me. In the eyes of the USDA, our CSA was now considered to be a store; the application questions related to inventory, staffing, square footage and hours. We don’t have store hours. But we do deliver CSA boxes on Thursdays between 10 am and 3 pm. I filled in the application to the best of my ability, and here I was, three weeks after submission with Charles Smithey at my doorstep ready to inspect our store on a Thursday morning at 10 am.

“So, where is the store?” Mr. Smithey asked, his tone genuinely excited. I explained that we didn’t have a brick and mortar store, since we deliver our produce to drop points all over the Rogue Valley. His demeanor remained friendly and enthusiastic. “Well, great! So, um, where is the inventory?” The inspection required photo documentation. Not quite sure what else to do, I led him out to our fields.

“Well, we just planted lots of carrots and beets in these beds, which we’ll be harvesting and delivering in June, “ I explained as he snapped away and squeaked with pleasure at the tight rows of lacey green. I silently considered what else might be considered “inventory.” We walked passed a hundred-year- old apple tree in bloom. I pointed, “We’ll be harvesting and delivering fruit from this tree in the fall.” More clicks from his camera.  We strolled over to our refrigerated trailer, which held several boxes of sprouting potatoes harvested last fall. “And here are some root crops,” I chirruped. I kept my voice hopeful and bright, trying to hide the ridiculousness of describing rotting potatoes as our inventory.  Mr. Smithey played along. I had no idea whether he was in on the charade or simply kind-hearted and clueless. Either way, I felt immensely grateful that he was our inspector that day.

A week later, Deborah called me. “I got the photos.” Dead silence. “What were you thinking? These won’t work!” She sounded incredulous but also slightly amused, which gave me hope. I explained the challenge of showing inventory in March, when most crops had just been planted. She sighed. We were back to fitting a square peg into a round hole. “Okay,” she said. “Take some photos of the boxes on your first delivery day and email them to me and I’ll see what I can do.” She sounded like a worn-out mom.

I realized after hanging up with Deborah that change takes place through the persistence and creativity of individuals working in large, unrelenting bureaucracies. Deborah and Mr. Smithey, unknown to each other but collective cogs in a huge machine, had given me the benefit of the doubt. They were willing to wriggle through the turnstiles of business as usual to make good food available to the people who need it most.

In June, I snapped a few photos of our first CSA box , which was filled with new potatoes, kale, salad mix, radishes, carrots, herb bundles, and strawberries, and emailed them to Deborah. A week later, she called with good news. “I got the new photos and we are sending along your EBT machine next week. Congratulations! We did it!”

Writing Process- Tag, I’m it!

by Rose Macrory

As part of a web-wide blog tour of writers, my oldest friend asked me to participate by sharing thoughts on my writing process

Jess Weitz, author of the blog Seams, and I met in nursery school in Washington D.C. in the mid-seventies; our first combined memory is fighting over a green chair at the age of three (our birthdays are a day apart.)  Though we enjoyed an exciting urban upbringing as best friends, we both ended up living rurally in Vermont and Oregon as adults. Now instead of looking for the next best club to visit, we compare notes on our goats, gardens and semi-feral children. I love Jess’s blog and am honored to be chosen to follow along with this writing “chain letter.”

I believe if you work your way back through the linked posts, you’ll find your way to the beginning of the tag thread.

Next, I am tagging two writer friends of mine, both of whom also contribute to Letters to Pomona.

Kirsten Shockey is a mother and homesteader, writer and educator. She finds solace in the warmth of hand milking a cow on a frosty morning and the beauty of twisted trees along a roadway. She is passionate about helping people take responsibility for their food. She writes about life and sauerkraut, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband have a forthcoming book on fermented vegetables by Storey Publishing. She has published articles in magazines, is a contributing writer to a radio series, and maintains a blog at fermentista.us.

Laurie Easter lives and writes in a funky little cabin off the grid and on the edge of wilderness in Southern Oregon. She holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She loves to read, cook, garden, travel, eat chocolate, and spend time with her family and friends, especially out in nature. Here is her blog.

And now to answer the questions:

What are you working on?

I am in the beginning phases of revising a middle-grade-reader historical fiction book about the Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1886. I am also in the middle of writing a grant for my job to get funding for beginning farmer education.

How does your work vary from others in your genre?

I don’t know that I can claim a genre yet. I am new to the world of writing fiction and chose middle-grade historical fiction because the majority of my best parenting memories involve reading that genre aloud to my two kids. I am interested in writing about complex political and social issues for readers aged 9-12, though a lot of other writers are doing that as well.

Why do you write what you do?

I adore kids and I am also fascinated by many periods in history. I have always identified with child protagonists, even as an adult, and love the arc of coming-of-age stories.

What is your writing process?

I do best with a lot of structure. I wrote the first draft of my book in about nine months, with a per day work count (400). After lots of long walks, I wrote the outline to the story with plenty of room for change, and then set to work writing it all out. I love my writing group because I feel accountable to someone other than myself.