Mouths Full of Flowers



A bouquet of squash blossoms will disappear by lunch, their orange flowers pinched from the green, minced into quesadillas and eggs.


The fifteen-year-old poses, hands full of marigolds and carnations, chrysanthemums that echo the pattern of her dress, a bright textile from Oaxaca’s coast. Tonight, she will receive her first bouquet of roses, will dance with her father. Will dance as if she is still his little girl.


Even aphids could not deter my own father from deadheading the roses to devour them stop iceberg lettuce. Alarmed, sister and I worried about insects and poisons.

He tasted good dirt, the right mix of shade and desert sun.


The temple bell stops but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers. ~Basho

A Dog Fight on a Loop

Wild DogJPGDo you hear a lot of dogs barking? I wonder beneath the 80s music in the cafe.
I’m convinced there’s a wild pack of dogs advancing, but no one else seems to notice. It’s like a dog fight on a loop in the verdant park just outside the door.
Two men enter delivering crates of bread. They say nothing of the wild dogs, referring only to the weather and Sunday plans.
“Hungry like a Wolf” plays in the cafe, and I’m sure the universe is playing a trick on this tourist. Still I heed the warning of the song because there are messages everywhere (and this one is in English) and perhaps “they are on the hunt. They are after me.”
  • Following is a list of short stories made into films. These pieces are interesting for the way the story is translated to make something unique.
  • 36 hours and Roald Dahl’s “Beware of the Dog”
  • Total Recall and Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”
  • The Swimmer and “The Swimmer” by John Cheever
  • The Minority Report and Philip K Dick’s “Minority Report”
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and James Thurber’s story of the same name that is more like most recent version
  • The Killers and Hemingway’s story by the same name
  • The Adjustment Bureau and Philip K. Dick’s “The Adjustment Team”
  • Brokeback Mountain and the same story by Annie Proulx
  • There’s a ton of Stephen King ones, including “Shawshank Redemption”
  • The Incident at Owl Creek Bridge and Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and F Scott Fitzgerald’s story
  • Brewster’s Millions and the novel* by McCutcheon





Maybe it is because you’ve spent twenty days alone, but you see your sister’s cat everywhere in Oaxaca; he’s unmistakably smoking a pipe, posed with a storm cloud above his head.

Some days you write home to see if you are still real.

One afternoon, your mother slyly offers: you’re as real as your sister’s cat.

So, still, you have no answers.


  • What does it mean to be alone? For a week? For a month? In your home? In a foreign land?

Alone for a Week


I washed a load of clothes

and hung them out to dry.

Then I went up to town

and busied myself all day.

The sleeve of your best shirt

rose ceremonious

when I drove in; our night-

clothes twined and untwined in

a little gust of wind.


For me it was getting late;

for you, where you were, not.

The harvest moon was full

but sparse clouds made its light

not quite reliable.

The bed on your side seemed

as wide and flat as Kansas;

your pillow plump, cool,

and allegorical. . . .

I Have Wasted My Life


You grab the blind man, wrapping your left arm under his right to shuttle him to the spot where a flower is painted on the blue wall.

He knows you by the scent of your shampoo and your silence. You don’t doubt your Spanish will sound worse given his heightened senses just as you know you’d waste time announcing yourself. The breeze told him you were behind him a block before you even noted his hat.

How much sharper would your senses be if you weren’t watching the pomegranates ripen on their trees, if you couldn’t see the swallows scavenge for rice, if you didn’t waste entire mornings trying to precisely name the sky’s blue?






you have journeyed with intensity. You should regret nothing, neither hours waiting for buses without schedules nor long evenings vigilant for summer’s abundant rains to pass.

Traveler, these are the reminders that the roads zig and zag and, by design, demand you rest enough to be rested, ready to throw yourself into the next and the next glorious adventure.

Traveler, you have taken every opportunity to sense this place, looked into the eyes of the children, the animals, the weather.

You can predict what comes next in the afternoon’s plot, you have done your job, you know this story, their story, by heart.


Listen to this piece, and write to yourself about your own travels.


Asking Questions: the Test in Protest


And what happens if we all don’t vote?

Consider this question and a new form of poem: The Quiz.

  • Quiz
By Linh Dinh

Invaders invariably call themselves:
a) berserkers
b) marauders
c) frankincense
d) liberators

Our enemies hate us because:
a) we’re sadists
b) we’re hypocrites
c) we shafted them
d) we value freedom

Our friends hate us because:
a) we’re bullies
b) we hate them
c) we’re hypocrites
d) we value freedom

Pushed to the ground and kicked by a gang of soldiers, about to be shot, you can save your life by brandishing:
a) an uzi
b) a crucifix
c) the Constitution
d) a poem

A poem can:
a) start a war
b) stanch a wound
c) titillate the masses
d) shame a nation
Read more, and learn the answers at:

Try your own quiz poem.

The Synthesis of Hyacinths and Biscuits


On the plaza where the artists show fresh pieces and work while you select your favorite recollection of your travels, you find: a gallery’s worth of lovers positioned on park benches entirely unaware of the surreal gigantic ladies floating in space close by and as naked as stars.

The canvases are wild with color as if these ladies sail on Zapotec rugs; traditional landscapes feature this valley in the rainy season: Mexican green grasses and hills and nothing grazing, not a single dusty goat.

These plains are plain.

Three Oaxacan sky blue sheets of plywood overflow with insects as terrifying as a nightmare you had as a child: wasps swarming darkness and your pillow.

No one smiles in portraits. Not even the lovers. It is as if no artist has mastered the fine art of teeth.

A still life seems to spill from an upset bowl, pomegranates defy gravity, a flute of champagne has mostly vanished. In another composition, voluptuous pears and golden peaches march as soldiers, led by one green grape. Or, they are a symphony with a grape conductor. Either way they are loud and in motion.

Of course, you are neither surprised by the entwined lovers nor the magic.

Even the charcoal wooly mammoth in a parade with a band along the Alcala pedestrian avenue makes sense. You have seen her yourself.

  • “Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits…and echo asking a shadow to dance.” –Carl Sandburg

What kinds of strange combinations can you imagine? Offer us the most surreal synthesis to make magic.