When Making Lasagna on Sunday Afternoon Feels Miraculous

The never-ending snow floats past the bay window where our houseplants hang out, clean our indoor air, and provide respite from the white landscape of a Minnesota winter. The last time I checked, the snow pile outside the front door formed from our many winter driveway clearings is taller than I am. Some of the flakes hitting the driveway right now melt on contact. 

In our kitchen, I open two cans of whole peeled tomatoes, empty them into a strainer over a big bowl. I break them open with my hands, one by one, to take out the fibrous core bits. Juice drips into the bowl thick and red. A bit of juice erupts from a tomato between my thumbs, squirts onto my sweatshirt. The sweatshirt is old anyway, so it doesn’t much matter. When each tomato has been squished open, forced to bleed into the strainer and bowl, I turn my attention to dicing an onion, mincing garlic, heating olive oil in a large skillet. 

I’m making marinara sauce on this Sunday afternoon, which will be followed by roasting zucchini, steaming spinach, and assembling vegetable lasagna for our dinner. There is nowhere else I’d rather be than here, working with my hands, engulfed in the aromas of vegetables cooking, spices offering their assorted notes. 

Daylight savings time kicked in overnight. This is the first year in a long time that I didn’t feel grumpy about the time change. Usually, it irks me that we move our clocks back and forth so people can be more comfortable with the available light at the end of the work day. Time is a construct, an organizational tool; it doesn’t change the actual amount of daylight. The sun and moon and stars will move how they’ve moved for millions of years no matter what we do. But, somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that moving the clock around to a new time is what we need to do to get the most out of the length of our days. In a society that offers flex time and remote working and never really seems to stop, this no longer makes the sense it once might have. But I’ve stopped caring. I’ll do what I’m going to do no matter what time it is.

There is a pot of flowering bulbs amidst the plants in our bay window in the living room. It was a gift from our neighbors across the street after we kept their driveway clear of snow and picked up their mail while they were away last month. There are pinkish-purple tulips, tiny yellow daffodils, purple hyacinths that scent the whole living room. The daffodils, first to bloom, lean into the sunlight; if I turn the pot around, they lean the other way. I find it fascinating when plants do this, that they know exactly which way to turn to get what they need.

The marinara sauce turns out thick, chunky, and rich. I give the sauce a whirl in the food processor, put it back in the pan, add basil, olive oil, salt, pepper, and sugar. I cover the pan, leave it on the back of the stove until I need it. 

There is something about working with vegetables in the winter that feels miraculous: bright green zucchini in my hands, yielding beneath my knife, turned into perfect little half-moons that I toss with olive oil, spread on a parchment-covered baking sheet, slip into a 450-degree oven. It roasts until tender and browned in spots. Meanwhile, I put an entire package of baby spinach into a steamer, wait for it to wilt, run it under cold water, squeeze the water out, chop it up. That these plants, which I could not grow in my yard right this minute, are here in my kitchen really is a miracle even if we don’t usually think of it that way. Who goes down the aisle of the grocery store and tallies up the miracles? Maybe we all should.

Once the lasagna is assembled, I take my time washing all the dishes and utensils I used to make it, wipe the counters, pour a glass of wine. I put the foil-covered lasagna in the oven at last, its finish time expected somewhere after 6 p.m. I sit at the dining room table facing the window, watch the sky shift from sun almost coming through the clouds to a dull gray. Wind huffs through the pines in the backyard, snow shaking loose from a few branches. All winter, I’ve looked out back for the owl that used to hang out in our neighborhood; I haven’t seen it anywhere. A Prince song comes on the local radio station I’ve been listening to all afternoon: When Doves Cry. No doves in the backyard either.

The oven timer sounds. I take the foil off the lasagna, put it back for a few minutes to brown. The aroma wafts up into my face: tomatoes, cheese, spices, zucchini, spinach. A medley. In the next half hour, my partner Mick and I will sit down together, savor this food, this house, this life here in Minnesota. 

And we will know that what we have is good. Very, very good. Miraculous.

cover image courtesy of Hansuan_Fabregas, Pixabay.com.


This past week, a coating of ice dressed up every tree around here. It coated the streets and sidewalks, too, but I still found it beautiful.

Oak leaves bejeweled.
Icicles on every oak branch.
A fairy-tale crabapple tree.
The birch tree in an ice garland.
White pine needles like spun glass.

While we wait for the spring equinox this month, winter gives us a little reminder that it, too, offers delicate, temporary beauty.

Happy March.

all photos by kcmickelson 2023


As I type this post, it’s Valentine’s Day. I spent the day caring for my baby granddaughter Maeve. It’s raining and raining, damp and chilly and gloomy. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in front of our fireplace, my partner gone to band practice for the evening, and thinking about what an un-Valentine-y day it felt like.

It wasn’t the childcare or the non-stop rain or that Mick’s band really needed to keep their weekly practice on the calendar (upcoming gig) that made this day feel un-Valentine-y. It was the pall cast over this sweet day by Monday night’s shooting at Michigan State University. Another shooting. More lives lost. Another story that should horrify us all. The knowledge that nothing is going to change right this minute, no matter how ridiculous it is that the United States is locked into its love and defense of the right to carry guns.

I try to remain hopeful, to carve out sanctuaries with art and literature and family time, and to support efforts to change the national conversation about Second Amendment interpretations. All the bloodshed that has occurred in just the last 10 years alone should have sparked significant change in our laws, but that didn’t happen.

What the hell is wrong with us? The way that people line up on one side or the other of this whole issue, digging in and refusing to think beyond their own little cranial cavities, puts us at a stalemate. Meanwhile, people die every day from guns in this country. According to the Sandy Hook Promise website, 12 children die from gun violence in America every single day. That comes to 4,380 kids a year. Teachers die. Parents die. Co-workers die. Bystanders die. All of these people were loved by someone.

My last post talked about keeping One Minnesota Crone a sanctuary, but today I just couldn’t. There has to be a way out of this vise-grip of an idea that America’s freedom is entwined with the ability of every single person to have access to firearms. It has done us no good. Violence is not going to be solved by the ability to carry concealed weapons so that the bad guys will be deterred (news flash: they won’t), and we are numbed to the scale of what is happening here. Eye-for-an-eye thinking just ramps everything up.

Every day I worry about my son, who teaches at an alternative high school, and about my daughter-in-law who teaches at a charter high school, and about my daughter who works in HR at Target. All of them are potential targets. I worry about my oldest granddaughter who is now in middle school. And then I have to do something with all that worry, which is why I write, paint, take photos, meditate.

But I have to do more than that. I was on Facebook earlier, commenting to a friend who is on the faculty at Michigan State, about taking my anger and concern to the voting booth, using my dollars to support those who are able to shift the national conversation around gun access. But that doesn’t feel like enough in this moment either. Mick and I marched at the Minnesota State Capitol after the Parkland shootings, listened to others who were victims of gun violence, felt hopeful that something would happen. That was five year ago. Five years. How many lives have been lost since then?

CNN reported today that there have been 67 mass shootings (meaning 4 or more people shot in one attack) in the United States so far this year. That’s more mass shootings than there have been days so far in 2023. In checking the Gun Violence Archive, I discovered that there were two mass shootings today and another one yesterday that I wasn’t even aware of. And as for my question above about how many lives have been lost to gun violence in the past five years? The answer is 91,247, not including suicides (source: Gun Violence Archive).

This is unacceptable. On this rainy Valentine’s Day, my heart hurts.

My Creative Spark Journal

Prologue: As I got this post ready, I was keenly aware that I was not going to address what is going on in the United States – and the world – right this minute: multiple mass shootings, another Black man killed by police, the loss of women’s rights on 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the continued assaults by Russia on Ukraine, and so much more. All of these things flow into whatever art we make, into the statements we put out into the world as creative people. I thought about how One Minnesota Crone can offer a refuge and it felt like that’s exactly what was needed right now. A refuge. A reminder that our creativity matters, that our voices will do what they need to do at exactly the moment when it’s right. A thoughtful piece of art that has taken time to craft will have its impact.

My creative spark journal

I have a 4X6″ Canson sketchbook, black covers, heavy paper with a little tooth to it, binding loosened from years of use, that lives on my writing desk most days. Inside this sketchbook are sketches done with words: quotes, memories, flashes of thought scribbled in my favorite Cretacolor Monolith 6B pencil, quick-writing pens filched from credit unions and dental offices and veterinary clinics, Flair markers in assorted colors, colored pencil. The first dated entry – and they are all dated – is 3/20/11; it’s a six-word story about zombies (yeah, I know – what the hell was that?). I have scribbled in this book off and on for 12 years. The one requirement for anything that gets put onto these pages is that whatever it is, it has made me stop, inhale sharply, caused the word “wow” to erupt from my lips, or ignited a cascade of images that light up my mind. The zombie thing was absolutely image related. I even drew a little monster hand pointing to a bowl of frosted flakes. Must have been breakfast time.

The first entry in my old sketchbook makes me laugh every time I see it. I’ve never done anything more with it.

Words and ideas that matter to me used to be picked apart on the pages of journals that I kept for years. I’ve seldom done daily journaling, but frequent journaling was a huge part of what I thought I needed to do as a writer. I processed everything in those journals – parenthood, politics, religion, sex, love, travel, anger, grief. Those pages were for my eyes only. Once I got the little sketchbook, the shift away from frequent journaling began its slow drift. It made more sense to me as a poet and essayist to have fragments from which to work; their succinct nature suited me and gave the next thoughts broad leeway. If someone read my sketchbook out of curiosity, it wouldn’t be a big deal. I didn’t need to process everything as much as I needed to understand there are a lot of paths to creative work. And there are a lot of creative mediums in which to muck around.

Biology often shows up in my sketchbook.

Lately, I’ve been scribbling a lot of fragments in the little sketchbook as I’ve read Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass. I started the book months ago, knowing as soon as I began it that it was a text for which I would have to slow down. I read several other books concurrently, but none of those nudged me to copy quotes and thoughts into my sketchbook. Braiding Sweetgrass did. Over and over, I found myself putting my finger on the page, looking out the nearest window, and thinking about how I take care of the earth. Then I would have to scribble something down, think about what to do with this bit of wisdom, that piece of the story of how the United States came to be, or some scientific fact about fungi and algae and symbiosis. The little sketchbook had been sitting on my desk for weeks, unopened, and then boom – there was much to add.

Quotes from Robin Wall Kimmerer have hit home too many times to count these past few months.

I love that this is how the creative process works: we move along looking around, reading, watching, asking questions, listening, and then there it is, the piece of art or literature or fact that we cannot resist engaging with. The thing that we turn over and over in our heads. The one that our partners get tired of hearing us talk about, so then we must stop talking and start making something. Craft our response in whatever form works that we then send out into the world to see if anyone else engages. Even if no one does engage, we’ve still had our own epiphany that might change how we inhabit the world. We’ve still learned something.

Creative work is never wasted. I’ve had moments when I’ve questioned the value of making a poem that maybe three people might read, or a painting that is destined to either live in my basement or get painted over, but not anymore. It all affects the next project and the one after that and the one after that. Ultimately, it affects how I live in the world and the excitement with which I welcome each day. 

I don’t miss my old habit of frequent journaling at all. My little old sketchbook is a great collection of sparks and memories and ideas. It’s almost full. I have a new one, the same kind of Canson 4X6″ sketchbook, ready to take over. The new one sits on the windowsill above my painting table, its stiff binding waiting for its invitation to loosen up and let the covers flop open to reveal clean pages that beg for their turn to hold a spark. I have no doubt there’ll be plenty to put in there. 

The new journal, hanging out in my art space, waiting its turn.

New Year, New Energy

As I type this post, I’m relishing having time for creative work of all sorts. I spent a few hours this week playing with poster design for a friend’s band – the one in which my partner Mick plays saxophone. I’d forgotten how much I like doing this kind of thing, playing around with page layouts and borders and fonts and soft edges on photos. My challenge is always not to overdo any special effects, to remember that one font is all that should be present and it sure as hell shouldn’t be comic sans. My son the artist has made sure I know these things.

This cover was a collaboration with my friend Constance Brewer. I did the background painting, she did the overlaid print and text.

My friend and off-and-on poetry/art collaborator Constance Brewer and I have also renewed our commitment to working together on some poetry this year. Somewhere along the way during the pandemic, my desire to work on poetry left me and I knew it was time to just let it be. That was a good decision; this is a welcome shift at what feels like the right time. I’m a big fan of taking breaks to regain/realign perspective and refill my creative reservoir. And I’ m grateful for other creative friends who understand the way creativity ebbs and flows.

What do others do to fill that reservoir? In the past, I’ve recharged with travel, reading, hiking with my camera, cooking, going to the movies. Sometimes a long conversation will do it, but not always given my tendency to be quiet when I need to recharge. Often, time just sitting outside somewhere without people is enough.

That said, I’ve been thinking about what 2023 might look like for creative practice and inspiration. Where to get it. How to keep it going. Doing band posters and collaborating with Connie are a start. There are already two trips on my 2023 calendar, one to Seattle and one to France. I got a new camera in the fall, so am thinking about where to hike when the weather is warm enough that cold fingers aren’t an issue. And there are assorted art surfaces in my basement waiting for me to put paint on them. There are ample opportunities to learn and create.

This is as close as I ever get to anything designated as a resolution.

In other news, I was invited to contribute a poem to a SongSLAM team in the SongSLAM Minneapolis that took place at the Ice House on January 6, 2023. Twin Cities musicians/composers Melissa Kristin Holm-Johansen, Scott Senko, and Bryon Wilson chose the poem Fall Farmers Market from my chapbook, How We Learned to Shut Our Own Mouths, as lyrics for their composition.

Here’s the poem:

Fall Farmers Market
by Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

Splotches of red, green, purple, orange and yellow 
Monet together until I put my glasses on,
grocery list in hand, morning air crisp, clear.
Farm trucks form two parallel lines,
back ends facing each other,
tables straining beneath this morning’s harvest.

I can’t resist the warty pumpkins
even though Halloween is over a month away. 
Nor can I pass up perfect purple eggplant, 
cherry tomatoes of red and gold,
shiny orange peppers,
earthy inky beets with bits of dirt
still stuck to their skins.

I dream of baba ghanouj, vegetable kebabs,
sheet pans of roasted goodness.
In this moment, pandemics seem far away, 
cruelty impossible in the face of such abundance. 
All I want is to cook for everyone,
show them the many colors of love.

And here’s an audio from the rehearsal:

The team placed third in the competition. How cool is that?

Not a bad start to 2023.

Happy New Year!

One year ago, I launched One Minnesota Crone, broadening the focus I honed at One Minnesota Writer to include other art forms and celebrate mature creative women who are doing exactly what they please.

Thank you for coming along on this journey, celebrating the many gifts that crones bring to the world, and, just maybe, gathering ideas for yourself. Perhaps you’ve even changed your mind about what the word crone really means.

All that said, I wish for you all a 2023 full of whatever you love in the company of whomever you love.

Here’s a poem for this first day of 2023:

by Edward Hirsch

Today I am pulling on a green wool sweater
and walking across the park in a dusky snowfall.

The trees stand like twenty-seven prophets in a field,
each a station in a pilgrimage--silent, pondering.

Blue flakes of light falling across their bodies
are the ciphers of a secret, an occultation.

I will examine their leaves as pages in a text
and consider the bookish pigeons, students of winter.

I will kneel on the track of a vanquished squirrel
and stare into a blank pond for the figure of Sophia.

I shall begin scouring the sky for signs
as if my whole future were constellated upon it.

I will walk home alone with the deep alone,
a disciple of shadows, in praise of the mysteries.

– from 180 More Extraordinary Poems for Every Day selected by Billy Collins, New York: Random House, 2005.

– cover image by Geralt at Pixabay.com.

– winter scenes by kcmickelson 2022.

Tilting Toward the Solstice

December, my friend, thank you for your long, dark nights. The way the stars twinkle in the black sky. Silence. How snowflakes glisten when light hits them. The crunch of hard-packed snow beneath my boots. An owl’s early-morning hoot. Crows gathered in trees, their chorus drowning out everything else. My breath made visible as I exhale.

December, your gifts go beyond beribboned packages and boisterous holiday parties. Your cold arms nudge me indoors to hibernate. Your special offering of sustenance is rest. You know best. Just look at the way the garden slumbers beneath its white blanket.

And so I welcome the Solstice. The opportunity for rejuvenation. Moments of awe over pretty lights in dark nights, both man-made and natural. The quiet space that feels safe. The place from which I’ll emerge with new energy for a new year. 

Look for miracles. They’re everywhere.

Happy Solstice.

all photos by kcmickelson 2022

Hello, Winter

I’m writing this on a Tuesday, late in the afternoon. My granddaughter Maeve has gone home for the day. We spent a lot of time today standing in front of the windows watching snow fall, birds gather at the feeder, trees cradle all those white flakes. Snow piled up in the driveway, covered the three heart-shaped markers for our old dogs beneath the crabapple. The world as we could see it transformed into a clean, pure landscape of new possibilities. By the time my son Shawn came to pick up Maeve, we had a good six inches of new snow. Maybe seven, judging from the first cut of our snowblower just a little bit ago.

These first storms of the season here in Minnesota always bring traffic troubles, spinouts and cars in the ditch, people late no matter where they’re going, schools closing early or not opening at all. People sometimes have trouble digging out, depending on whether they own a snowblower and are physically up to the demands of moving snow. Weather forecasters get their moment in the spotlight, gesturing over maps of storm tracks and sharing snowfall totals from all over the state. It’s all part of winter, of life in a climate where snow is a certainty every year. 

I love winter in spite of its challenges. I’ve lived in Minnesota my entire life, learned very early that preparation was key to being safe and able to show up to work or school. I’ve also learned winter gives us opportunities to slow down that we should take advantage of whenever possible. During the summer, I am loathe to sit in my office and write when I could be outside. But now, with the snow coating everything and the temperature dropping, my office is inviting and warm, the light through the south-facing window bright. It’s time for all the thoughts I carried in my head all summer to be put into writing or poured into a painting. It’s time to think about creative projects I put on the back burner while I hiked in the woods, pulled weeds, photographed birds. And it’s time to rest: early nightfall, cozy blankets, red wine, good books, and a simple delight in that fairy-tale falling snow. 

Speaking of books, I’ve been reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass, in tiny bites over the past several weeks. Mick gave me this book the Christmas before last; it took me until now to feel like my head was in the right space to read it. And I feel rewarded for waiting: this is one of the most beautiful books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Kimmerer’s combination of plant science and indigenous knowledge is so well communicated and so thoughtful that I don’t want to rush through this text. I don’t want to miss anything important. My years of gardening with Mick have taught me how important it is to pay attention to what is going on in our own little piece of earth, to be patient and wait for it to show us what works. Kimmerer’s book reinforces that idea and expands beyond it to what stewardship of this earth really means. She talks about the disconnection between most of us and the natural world. That disconnection is not a good thing as it keeps us from understanding the very life forces that sustain us all. I’ve felt that disconnection dissolve just a little when I’ve sat in my own garden for solace. I’ve also felt that disconnection dissolve when I’ve watched the falling snow and given in to the invitation to slow down and rest. 

Early on in the book (I’m halfway through), I was struck by the stark differences between a gift economy and a market economy, and the idea of responsibility for the gifts we share versus the greed that develops alongside what we think we can just buy. These are ideas I’m thinking hard about at this time of year when every single retailer has a sale designed to make us buy more and more and more with no regard for what that means in terms of having too much, of wasting resources and tossing things out because we no longer use or need them even though they’re perfectly functioning things. I’m thinking about what that does to our inclination to appreciate what we already have. And I’m thinking about the legacy we leave our grandchildren when we are hellbent on acquiring more stuff instead of taking care of our little spot on this planet and each other. It’s hard to buck an entire culture built around money, but there are plenty of small things that shift the focus to other kinds of wealth. The more time I spend outside, quiet and observant, the more I feel that shift.

I’ll be reading Braiding Sweetgrass for a while longer, little bits before I go to sleep at night. I enjoy the way Kimmerer weaves plant information and ecology into stories about people and connection. I want to linger over this book, absorb its wisdom, and carry it forward.

It’s a perfect winter read. 

Cover photo taken at Old Cedar Avenue Bridge Trailhead, Bloomington, Minnesota by kcmickelson, 2021.

November • Thanksgiving • Home

When I first thought about today’s blog post, I watched squirrels come to the water bowl on the deck. The water was frozen. It was time for putting things away. I carried the deck chairs and little table to the garage. I put away the temple bell and our iron crow we call Edgar Allen Crow, tipped the glass table that fits nowhere else on its side before it could be buried beneath snow. 

The activity felt good. The air felt sharp inside my nose. Birds flitted in the stalks still standing in our garden. Back in the house, I remembered how cold I’d been the night before and threw another blanket on the bed.

November warns that winter is bearing down with bare-limbed trees, skies pregnant with snow, thin first layers of lake ice, geese V-ing across the sky, breath visible in front of our faces. This is November in Minnesota. The warmth of the kitchen offsets falling temperatures and my thoughts turn to cooking, looming holidays, family. 

I remember one Thanksgiving when it was just me and my parents, when I was perhaps 12 or 13.  Let’s go for a ride Cass, my dad said while Mom fretted over something (turkey? stuffing? cooking in general?) in the kitchen. Dad and I went up to Indian Mounds Park in St. Paul, where we stood in the cold looking out over the Mississippi River and downtown St. Paul. The sky may have been that powdery blue specific to very late autumn or it may have been filled with November-ish gray. That wasn’t the important thing to remember. The important part was standing in the cold with my dad, our cheeks reddening, our breath dragon puffs, just us in a quiet Thanksgiving mood in an empty park where we could see forever. When we got back home, the turkey was stuffed and in the oven, the kitchen smelled wonderful and Mom was done fretting. Dad probably made a brandy and seven, his holiday drink, and he would have made Mom a gin and tonic or maybe something with that lime-flavored vodka she had a phase with. And Mom would have gone into their bedroom, reached up on the highest closet shelf, and brought out a big box of chocolates from which we would each select just one or two before dinner. 

Over the years, we might go to my brother’s or my oldest sister’s house for Thanksgiving, where there were plenty of kids and laughter. We might have my other sister home from Colorado, staying in my tiny bedroom with her husband while I shared sleeping space with my mom.  As an adult, I’ve seldom traveled on Thanksgiving, save one trip to New York when my son Shawn was little and a few times to Wisconsin while my father-in-law was still alive. In fact, the last Thanksgiving he ever celebrated was one that my family all went down to spend with him. We’ve hosted for university students who had nowhere else to go that day. We’ve hosted for friends. And we’ve been with just ourselves. Holidays are changeable days; families grow and must accommodate in-laws and children and so much more. 

No matter what we do this Thanksgiving, I will cook in some way. I will find time to be with people I love, perhaps not on the day itself but close. And I marvel at just how much this time of year is tied to Minnesota for me, this wintery place with such big seasonal shifts and its reminder that if we didn’t know how to prepare for the leanness of winter, we might know a little less about the value of what we have.


After I put the patio furniture away and wrote about Thanksgivings past, I remembered that my mom’s old recipe box was up in the cupboard above our stove, right beside my own old recipe box that I only pull out at this time of year. I have a fudge recipe that I’ve made every year since Shawn was six; he’s 41 now. My mom, too, had a fudge recipe she made every year, so I rifled through her old recipes to see if I could find it. 

I did find it, along with a few other recipes she made every single year. I might make one or two of these this year – not the fudge, because I have my own tradition – but these others are kind of fun. I love seeing my mom’s handwriting, remember the incredibly heavy manual typewriter she sometimes used to type up recipe cards and how she always included who she got the recipe from. It always amuses me how many of these recipes she had given that she did not like to cook.

Here are those recipes. Have fun with them if you’re so inclined. They might need some tweaking. Happy Thanksgiving however you celebrate, in whatever place you call home.

recipe photo by kcmickelson

cover photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Let’s Talk About Poetry: Household Gods by Bonnie Proudfoot 

Household Gods by Bonnie Proudfoot. Russell, KY: Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2022. Poetry chapbook. $14.00.

Bonnie Proudfoot’s first poetry collection, Household Gods, is firmly grounded in Queens, New York, held fast in the arms of family, steered by the passage of time. It offers a constant push against the roles handed to women even as women are remembered, honored, and elegized. I was struck by the numerous threads of how women are often discounted, pushed to conform, stripped of their innocence, and denied help, how women who push against their assigned role are disappointed or worse. 

Bonnie Proudfoot

While the title poem, Household Gods, deals with the fierce tenacity of a grandmother and the inheritance she left, it was the poem, Elegy for Kitty Genovese, that really struck me as the heart of this book. The first segment, Scar, begins with, “If my old neighborhood is my body….”, fixing this poet’s connection to Queens. Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed and raped on her way home from her job as a bartender in the Kew Gardens area of Queens near where Proudfoot grew up, represents every woman who ever tried to be what she wanted rather than what society said she should be. Her demise was far more grisly than most, but the implications of the story as it unfolds in this poem are clear: the world is a dangerous place for women who stop pretending to fit in and no one is going to be of much help, so just believe what you are told. Love offered is part of a woman’s protection. Anyone who doesn’t love you doesn’t care what happens to you.

The Kitty Genovese murder happened in 1964, but the lessons remain. Time has not softened the world for women; it has only become more polarized. This is hinted at in the end of the opening poem, El Tiempo: “….The past // is gaining ground, it’s snapping at her stamping heels. We / clap faster and faster, hold tight to each other when she bows.” We see the narrator’s innocence torn from her in the poem, Changeling, when a man on the bus, “waited one step between you / and the exit door, thrust / his finger up your plaid skirt / hard enough to make your stomach // ache, and you did not have the words / to describe that, but you had / to be stupid and powerless / to let that happen. You lost // a bit of wonder every day.” How many women experienced a similar incident in their adolescence? I know I did.

Loss, anger, and grief are all represented over time. Later, in, Throwing Like a Girl, the narrator longs for things to be different: “…now all roads lead to / humiliation, the kind of shame that arcs / back and forth between you and your / body. It cools you down, gets / in the way. You want to be nimble, / you want to mean business…” She goes on to vow that she will, “figure out / how to get your own self / back into the game.” There is a counterweight to loss, anger and grief: determination.   

Ms. Proudfoot is not just determined for the narrator in these poems. She is determined for anyone who becomes the target of anger or is discounted, like the little brother who, “never quite seemed to fit, as if a smack / could slap somebody straight…” in the poem, Once, and the same brother who wanted to fix everything in the poem, Silt and Mystery. She is determined for those who were unjustly killed, like Martin Luther King, George Floyd, Tamir Rice, and Breonna Taylor who all show up alongside Holocaust survivors in the poem, How many pages of photographs.

All this grief, all this determination, eventually calls into question whether forgiveness ever happens. What are we to do in the face of rage? Injustice? Unfairness? Do our family ties, inheritance from our grandmothers who never gave up, show us the way? We must eventually consider what we each bring to the table, as in the poem, Sweet Forgiveness: “….None of this food, like sweet forgiveness itself, / could ever be bought, it had to be touched / by the hands of those who cared for us, served when it / was most needed, waited for, earned.” Sometimes what we need is right there in front of us – our daily sustenance. We are called to share it with one another.

I wanted to know more about the person behind these poems, so I sent Ms. Proudfoot a few questions. She said she doesn’t always know where her poems come from or what sends her toward any one subject, but she was game to answer my questions anyway. Here they are as answered. 

What would you like people who come to your poems to know about you and what would you like them to take away from your work?

I did not set out to write this book, but after I turned 60, I know my gaze began to turn inward as a way to figure out more about what shaped me, and these recent poems seemed to be most energized when I was able to connect to the earlier years of my life, the years that I had turned my back on as I ventured out into the world. At some point, I had a manuscript of linked poems about coming of age in the 1960’s, and that taught me that what I had thought I turned away from was always going to be a part of me. 

You had a lifetime as a glass artist before your chapbook was published. How do you see your work as an artist informing your work as a poet? Are there similarities in the way you layer each piece of artwork and the way you layer each poem? 

Such a great question!  

Although glass reflects my thoughts abstractly about balance, light, color, mood, poetry is another type of communication altogether, so deeply personal, so connected to thinking and living. There is no screen between my inner life and the world in my poems, as there can be with glasswork. I do think my love of narrative will sometimes come through in glass and in poetry.

When did you first begin to write poetry? What was it that drew you to it as an art form? 

I began to write poetry in high school, gravitated toward it in college, but something held me back for a while; I felt like I had more living to do, and more writing to do. I wrote a novel in linked short stories, and then began to write poetry with a kind of passion. It took me a long time before I could figure out how to write a poem that I wanted to read, and how to allow language to take me somewhere unexpected. 

Do you have any future poetry collections in the works? 

I am working on poems all the time, but I feel like it might take me a while before I see how they link or at least rub shoulders with each other. I do know that the themes that I explored in Household Gods are not quite done with me yet.

Do you have a favorite poem from your chapbook? 

I like “Superpowers”, also “Mimosa”, and “Broken Moon.”

If you’re interested (and I hope you are) in getting your own copy of Bonnie Proudfoot’s chapbook, you can order one at https://sheilanagigblog.com/sheila-na-gig-editions-quick-shopping/bonnie-proudfoot/. In addition, you can find out more about her writing and glass artistry at her blog, https://bonnieproudfootblog.wordpress.com.

Thank you to Bonnie Proudfoot for engaging in this conversation about her work. It is always an honor to read another poet’s collection, especially when it resonates so broadly and deeply. 

Photos courtesy of Bonnie Proudfoot.