Friday, March 31, 2017

Thank God for that

This is for Becky's family, in this difficult time.

The choices we think
We have to make
Aren’t really our choices.
They are our things
To live with.
They are our life
To live through.
They are.
They are.
They are.
Here we are
Thank God for that:

Thursday, March 30, 2017

How could we not?

What counts as an exotic animal? One that has lived thirty years in an old fish tank? One that is next going to live in a plastic sweater box from Walmart? One that goes to an exotic animal vet?

The tortoise
Is at the vet
For exotic animals.
He is thirty years old
And going strong.
The overnight visit
Is for nasal draining
And a blood culture.
The vet recommends
We get a plastic sweater box
From Walmart
To keep him in.
What is an exotic animal?
He has outlived
Two cats
Who were long lived
In themselves.
We now have two more
Our trainer wonders
How we keep animals
For so long.
How could we not?
How could we not?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tuna fish

I can still taste the tuna fish.

Some days
The poems arrive
In my in-box,
They seem more poignant
Than other days.
Some days
Like today
I didn’t hear
The alarm
Which went off
Three times.
I never heard it.
It did wake up
My beloved
He informed me
You can have another
Ten minutes
That’s my line
I thought.
I was having a dream
About making a tuna fish sandwich
For a woman I was visiting
In a nursing home
And then eating half of it.
This is when I missed
Three alarms
Only to arise
Eat breakfast
Realize the tuna fish
Didn’t count.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Soon enough

When order comes undone, I miss it. This week one of the things which brings order to my life will be missing. It will most likely be back next week. 

When order
Comes undone
And I must create
New order
In my dreams
Ask the cats
Ask the tortoise
Ask the sun
Ask the moon
Even ask my feet
Where new order
I know it all resides
Ah order
You live somewhere.
Soon enough
I will find you
Or you
Will find me
Maybe even
Shake my hand.
Soon enough

Sunday, March 26, 2017


I was a Classics major in college. My senior thesis was comparing two translations of Homer's Odyssey. Lattimore and Fitzgerald. I chose Fitzgerald. His rosy-fingered dawn has always stayed with me. This is Rose Sunday, the Sunday those churches with money for pink vestments wear rose and maybe add a flower or two around the altar.

Forty years ago
I wrote a thesis
On the rosy-fingered dawn,
Which translation
Said it best:
The literal
The poetic.
I chose poetry.
I continue to choose poetry
Nigh on
Forty years later.
The thesis is gone.
The poetry remains
Rosy-fingered dawn
I hold up my hands
Picture the sun
A poem
In itself.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


It's amazing what a long long sleep will do. It's amazing the number of excuses we can make. It's Saturday. It's gray. The cats are furry. We will order pizza for dinner.

We slept
Way too long
Now we have to plan
Oh Saturday
The schedule is all
Out of whack
This is not the first Saturday
This has happened
This one though
Takes the cake
Here we are
Here I am
Confessing this
To the world
I blame it on the rain
The hard hard rain
This morning
The cats snuggled in
I did not have
To compose a sermon
Though it’s been years
Since I have preached.
This is my sermon
For today.
Has yet
To be planned.
We will eat

Friday, March 24, 2017

Happenstance man

Growing my happenstance person at a time.

I work my way
Down the list.
I am not good
At asking for help.
I made a list
To begin with.
It started
With the logical folk
I hope
I pray
It will include
The happenstance.
I am not quite ready
For happenstance.
I met a happenstance man
At the gym
He called me Ma'am
He thanked people he knew
For being there.
He was amazing
Shaved head.
Happenstance man
I want to be
like him.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Wise people

In over thirty years of Nativity pageants I have experienced the range.

One year the wise men
Played by the parish triplets
Were joined at the manger
By their best friend
Another year
In a parish
With no children
The wise folk
Came down the aisle
In feathers and bells
As Native American dancers.
One couple was so disturbed
They left the parish
Took their gourmet cookware
From the parish kitchen.
This meant
Parish dinners were potlucks
from then on.
Wisdom comes
In many forms.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Once, in parish ministry, I launched a program called Adventures with Catharine. I invited people to teach me something. One parishioner tried to teach me to make mayonnaise. She was a chef. I, not so much. We had lunch afterwards, with mayonnaise she had made. We laughed a lot. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

Years ago I learned
I am not good
At making mayonnaise
From scratch.
It was dreadful.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Kelly Flanagan's new book Loveable  has now hit the shelves. I recommend it...highly. We all need people to pick us up, swing us around, say How's my girl? or How's my boy? Nothing compares.

Growing up
I would visit Janet's house
Her father would greet me
At the door
Grab me
Swing me around
How's my girl?
That's all it took
For me
To know
I was seen
Janet's house had a kitchen clock
They kept it an hour ahead
So they wouldn't
Be late for things.
At my house
We were always early.
Early did not mean
Being seen.

Catharine Phillips
March 21, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

vernal equinox 2

Still waiting for the quarterly seizure. Spring does not seem to be my time. Expectations come in surprises.

Not long ago
I poised for a seizure
On the vernal equinox.
It never came.
Here it is again.
I have ceased
The expectation.
Of course this means
It may not come.
Of course this means
It may.
This is the way
Of expectations
They say
Live with it
They say
Live without it
They say
Keep living
They say
Then move on
To the next thing.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

I learn to let go

So many things. I had a guest who determined to "help" me clean up. She "cleaned up" things we never thought to get rid of. I will not go through the list. The intentions were good, I know. Still.

I learn to let go
So many things
I learn to let go
Cotton cloth
Prepared for quilting
It seemed necessary
For a whole life
But now
I learn
Then I learn again
It seems to take

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Much shorter

Years before the blog I wrote a poem with an elephant with an antimacassar on its head and  hippopotamus. Then I buried it in one of the volumes of poetry I had written. This morning Sam Portaro, a good friend, emailed it back to me. I still like the poem but realize I write a lot shorter these days. I also use punctuation. Gifts: they're everywhere.

Come everywhere
All the time.
When the next one
Will turn up
It’s hard to know.
That’s why
They’re gifts.
Today I found
An elephant, a hippo
In my in-box.
I learned.
I write poems a lot shorter
These days.
Much shorter.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Missing poem

I went to a poetry workshop once in Santa Fe. We all brought ten poems. One of mine included an elephant with an antimacassar on its head and the lady who lived behind me who kept a water feature in her living room with a hippopotamus. I remember being told the elephant was a cliche by one of the workshop members.It is still a favorite poem...except now I can't find it...

A poem has gone missing.
I may find it again.
It hides in one of the volumes
Stacked in the bedroom.
Of course
There are ten volumes
In the guest room
I write one poem
A day
I liked that one.
Maybe its day
Is gone.
Maybe it will appear
In some form.
Or not.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

More books

I admit it. We are book people. Still... I am the one who decided to take on a new profession...sort age 50. Then I had my first seizure. Now I work at figuring things out again. Hmmm. I love the new profession. I am good at it... still it looks different than I expected...Hmm. 

We have more books
Than we can handle
Professional degrees
All fill the shelves
Including the room
We have left
For years.
Now we speak
Of the next move
Where we will go
Which shelves
We will clear.
They are many.
Not a surprise
I am the one
Who decided
To take on
A new career
At age 50.
Time for a new start.
More books.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Feeding frenzy

I know the lady in red puts out corn for the ducks. I think she may spread bird seed as well, but I'm not exactly sure

Feeding frenzy
The ducks
The grackles
Battle through the snow
There may not
Be enough
For us all.
Snow flies
Get in the picture
Knock snow
Off branches
The grackles
Take them on
Small feathered
Large furred.
It’s hard to tell
Who’s winning.
The ducks
Hold their own.
They don’t care

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Forty dollars

I like the idea of people leaving funerals and giving money to those in need. Maybe five dollars at a time.

He does not want flowers
At his funeral
He says
Take forty dollars
From your pocket
Give it to the next person
You see
Who needs it.
Don’t worry how
They’ll spend it,
They’ll squander it.
Squandering is in the eye
Of the giver.
No flowers at my funeral.
Dribble forty dollars
Through your fingers
To the next person
In need.
I will be remembered

Saturday, March 11, 2017


Waiting to see whether Felix needs to be hospitalized.

We consider the tortoise.
He is thirty years old
The same age
As our son.
He has now had
His Vitamin A and K
The vet is concerned.
The tortoise
Is getting a full work-up.
He may need
To be hospitalized.
We do not know
What a turtle hospital
Looks like
Will he get his own room?

Friday, March 10, 2017


Do hawks hunch? It seems they do.

We passed
A hawk
On the telephone wire.
He was almost
As a hawk,
Hunching the way
He was.
I have never seen
A hawk hunch.
Now it seems
I have.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


I'd like to say I do writing instead  but I'm not sure this is true either. I have a wonderful conversation with a friend about the different chapters in our lives. I am trying to figure out whether this is the writing chapter of my life.

Do you
ever play
Your guitar anymore?
He asks
In the middle
Of the 30th birthday dinner.
I think of one guitar
In the corner
Of the family room,
One guitar
Next to the bed
I think of singing
Wee baby moon
Lying in the sky
With its little silvery toes
In the air
I think of singing
A six year old
To sleep.
I don’t.
I am caught.
Why not?
He asks.
Why not?
I don’t know
I say.
He says
We move on
To the next subject.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Two cats

 Two cats, two personalities

Thank goodness
We have two cats.
The first one escaped
The carrier.
My beloved is bloodied.
The second cat
Is older,
Never knew
What was coming,
Walked right in
To the carrier
Realized on his way
Out the front door.
He will be home
In no time.
The younger one
May be traumatized
Until her turn
In two days.
Then again
She may have forgotten.
At least
We hope so.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Lonely cotton

I used to make doll quilts. I tried a whole bed quilt once. I got about half-way through. Now I have a massive box filled with wonderful cotton. We are talking about moving. It's time for the cotton to go.

It’s time to clear out
The cotton
From the box
At the end of the bed.
I have a taker
Who sews every Wednesday.
The cotton has been lonely,
Stuffed in that box.
It calls out to me:
Let me be used
For good
Some good.
It’s time.
It’s time.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Fish, fish, more fish

I wonder if some people's Lenten discipline may be a Lenten celebration and if that's ok, after all. Hmm.

Our favorite neighborhood restaurant
Is filled
Every Friday
In Lent.
Battered cod
Is simply too much
To resist.
We have learned
Our usual table
Next to the window
Will be unavailable.

We will return
In Easter.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Goodbye job

My feet are on their way back.

Now that I am receiving my pension
The job appears,
The one I always thought
I wanted.
Goodbye job.
I no longer drive.
My feet
Have begun their way
No job.
Goodbye job.
Hello feet.