Guest Blog: Julie Peterson: twenty two

i was twenty two when last i saw you

taillights shrinking as you drove home to your wife

and family,

supper cooling on the table.

maybe no one waited

at the window hoping

you’d be home soon.


five thirty every night

the big green truck

ground to a stop and

father swung his lunchbox out,

his polka dotted hat

and dirt lined face

a welcome sight.


later, i wished for men

with worker’s hands to pat

my hair and fix my roof

accountants and historians

proved less than satisfactory



poets and glaziers are skilled

with angles and sharp edges

neither one forgives mistakes since

glass drops out when caulking shrinks

and clever words can’t mask the cracks.


it’s not equal

she said,

though i don’t remember why she even said that.

most likely, it had to do with the red taillights

a declarative,

class is dismissed.



Guest Blog: Julie Peterson: Edwin’s Hat (revised from 2008)

Ah, Death
Flesh stripped from bones
Left bare to shine in the moonlight
Knocking together like
Mah jong tiles on the table,
Old wise women
Suck tea through their teeth
And laugh at the sound.

It’s a shame old men are the only ones
Who wear fedoras and
Cover their heads, like I should,
To hide from my own judgment.
The skeletons in my closet
rustle behind the coats and umbrellas
my father left behind
when he died.

I couldn’t find my feet beneath me to
Walk to the graveyard to say goodbye.
Instead, when I left him on his deathbed
I said, “See you later”
My suitcase bumping into my heels like a drawbridge
Snapping up behind me.

Now, years later
I dream of a blanket of hats.
I am comforted by tweed and herringbone,
Corduroy and felt,
Parisisal and scally,
The fine lace cap on a baby
Asleep in the castle
Of her own making.

Guest Blog Julie Peterson: the secret fire

sometimes, in that moment

when night and day balance gently on the edge of a bowl

that is an upturned eye

hope rises inside, at first a whisper

then builds like a fire that finds purchase in the driest needles

rushes with great fervor

toward the next hungry bite.

my fear of death is not so much of dying

as leaving this home

the beams and bones crumble and shift with each hard frost

until a good jacking up

levels one’s perspective

and makes right the structure.

why not pack up all the old chipped dishes,

sort through phone bills, love letters,

detrus that reminds us that one time

we loved something

other than coffee and toast

and working furnaces.

in the driest summer

a whisper of moisture pushs

up and out from the hot earth

gathers, builds, streams down the hillside

toward the gristmill and those granite wheels

that wait to spin and churn the fat heads of grain

almost to dust.

a rising loaf of bread soothes me like

my grandmother’s strong hands

whose Irish roots lay

tangled with potatoes and grasses and thatch.

druid magicians, their secrets nearly lost

except for the magic that is baked into my bones.

Guest Blog, Julie: Her Power Manifests in All Directions

At age 53, I am getting tattooed.  Yeah, old(ish) lady in the tattoo shop getting art on her back by a dude about the same age as her oldest child.  This art is a thing of beauty, two pieces that are blended into one big piece, a sun and a moon and a garland of flowers around it and over it.  You have to see it to believe it is lovely, etched into my skin. The sun is like origami, quite structured with shades of yellow and orange and swirls of deeper orange, the yellows of Tiphareth and the oranges of Hod.  Beauty, harmony, the Son, yellow gold.  Splendor, structure, reason, orange, Hermes, the messenger.

Ten petals for Malkuth, Earth, the Kingdom.  The knaves or the Princesses and tens. The final Heh in YHVH.  The mighyt and portent daughter of a King and a Queen: a Princess powerful and terrible.  The moon, Yesod, is upturned like a bowl, in purples of two kinds and more swirls.  A stylized sign of Isis, of Intuition, the spiritual moon which shines at midnight.  ELOHIM, “her power is manifest in all directions…EL being the dominion of the day, IM being the dominion of the night and HE in the middle being the remainder of the forces (the stars), participating in both dominions.” (Meditations on the Tarot). Intuition, born of intelligence turned above (faith at first hand) and wisdom (knowledge at first hand).  The kind of intuition one earns, from living and suffering and forgiving and growing.  My intuition, finally heard and honored.

Her power is manifest in all directions….

The sun and moon represent two paths, Temperance and the Sun path.  Colors and correspondences.  A Spirit wheel in the middle, St. Andrew’s cross and the equal armed cross, like a pie with 8 pieces, woman and God.  The flowers are pink and red, of Gevurah, Mars, severity, power, strength, justice.  The emerald and jade greens of the lstems, leaves and thorns are of Netzach or Venus, the angels of ELOHIM, linking the two most feminine of the planets, Venus and the Moon or Yesod.

All this in drawn in ink on the back and neck of me, a Catholic girl who last year returned to the faith of her childhood, much to her surprise after wandering in the proverbial desert not 40 years but almost.   I go to Mass every day, then to work as a therapist in a local mental health agency three days a week.  I take what might be thought of as confessions from people who have no church but yearn for absolution anyway.  I can’t give that, but I lift them up with listening and sitting there, being present.  Sometimes that is all people want, though if I were a man, I could be a priest now and tell them their sins are forgiven.  We all really want forgiveness, when it comes right down to it.  What they have to figure out for themselves is that the forgiveness that matters is theirs.  They have to give it to themselves.  We are already forgiven, in God’s eyes, so flawed are we that we can only handle the remorse part, and of that I have plenty.

I am presently working on changing the way I think about myself, and by presently I mean for pretty much my whole life.  Last fall I got my eyebrow pierced.  I usually forget it is in there and so when people look at me closely and then away, I wonder why?  Oh, right, the eyebrow thing.  I like the fact that it’s on my face, in theirs.  How am I being judged as a result of this?  I like that I don’t remember it is there, that I am more fearless on the outside.

Her power is manifest in all directions...

Not so long ago, I realized that I have spent most of my life being afraid of my own body.  It is a pretty good body, works nicely and in reasonable shape.  I remember being in ninth grade and having no girlish shape and no monthly cycle yet and feeling much too tall at 5 feet 8 inches.  I wore moccasins and slouched quite a bit, something that I needed to correct as an adult.  I had not kissed a boy and feared it would not happen.  I kissed a boy finally in grade 10, a boy I didn’t really like who put his hands places I would rather he didn’t, but I let him since I feared saying no.  I stopped talking to him one day and pretended he didn’t exist as my way of breaking up.

I don’t remember having a discussion with anyone about becoming a woman, or about sex or about why it might be ok to use birth control.  I got pregnant at 19 and had an abortion, fearing telling my parents and motherhood and the end of my college career.  The man who was the father was horrified at my news and urged me to quickly make an appointment to terminate the pregnancy.  I complied and killed a part of myself, and child who would be 33.  I think at that point I became so depressed it could have gone either way but somehow I eventually stumbled onward and across country and graduated college with a degree.  I now have a stepdaughter who feels like my own, 3 children, and had one miscarriage and one abortion.  I hate writing that word but it is the truth.  I know quite a few women my age whose story is similar to mine, but each of us has our own particulars to sort out.  I don’t know why I never talked with anyone about being pregnant, never told my mother.  I think if I had, she would have been very supportive.  Or if she’d been angry at first, I know that she loved me and would have loved any baby that came along.  I know I love my grandson more than I could have ever imagined.  I feel like the sun shines more brightly and the moon reflects more deeply in my world with him in it.

It hasn’t been quite a year that I have been without a cycle, that cycle of the moon, so I am not yet in menopause.  I welcome it, though, the freedom it gives me to be at peace with my body.  I never was conscious of being so in fear of it, the fear that came from silence and shame and worry I would be fertile and moist and womanly.  Why were the mothers in my lineage all fearful, I wonder?  It was passed down to me and I want it to end now, for good.  What choices would I have made if I had known of my own power and the good of living in the body of a woman?

I am particularly taken by a passage from a writing by David Griffin on Malkuth and the Tarot reference of Malkuth and the Knaves or Princesses and the tens of Tarot.  He writes, “The Princesses are figures of amazons standing firmly by themselves, neither riding upon horses, nor seated upon thrones, nor borne on chariots.  At once violent and permanent, she is therefore symbolized by a figure standing firmly by itself, only partly draped and having little armor.  Yet her power existeth not save by reason of the others, and then indeed is mighty and terrible materially, and is the throne of the forces of the Spirit.  Woe unto whomever shall make war upon her when she is thus established!”

Yes, that is who I would like to be now, the Princess amazon who I was not then.  Now I walk firmly, stand taller and have a belly that is not flat, a shape that is womanly and tall.

I mark my back with pictures of the sun and the moon and flowers, Tiphereth, Hod, Yesod and Venus.  My skin is beautiful, to me.  I want to live in a Garden when I am Eve, Binah, Isis, Venus,Virgo, Aphrodite, an amazon Princess.  Where, with a picture that stays on my skin until I die, I commit to someone, something, but mostly to me.

Her power is manifest in all directions…

What do you google?

WordPress keeps track of the search engine searches that have brought people to my blog. It’s nice to know that people are searching for my blog by name. There are several versions of Mel’s Madness (add blog, add my name).

Every author I have ever mentioned in my blog has  brought hits to the site. Emily Rapp being the top hitter. And Arthur Plotnik comes in second (anyone know who he is?). Conspicuously missing is Michael Pollan (my current hero).

There are several queries for things Irish, from the Queen’s visit (which isn’t really Irish, but I’ll set that aside for the moment), to Cuchulain, to Irish grandmothers.

There are several requests about resume writing, including one search that asked… is it ok to have footnotes on resume. No, it is not! I hope in reading my blog about resumes that particular person learned something. Really? Is that a question for google? Is that a question?

The most commonly googled request that brings people to my page is eagles, Decorah or Norfolk. I have loved following the Decorah eagles this spring. Part of me is sad that they have taken flight. I have written a great deal about them (including an extended essay that has been sent out … hopefully to be published).

Along the way there have been some interesting, if not mysterious, queries. They cause me to worry about the world. They cause me to wonder how such a query landed someone on my blog…

Ignatius Press. A Catholic press? Really? Queried more than once. I have never mentioned Ignatius. Rarely mention Catholicism, except to note I am a recovering Catholic, and don’t talk about presses, so what the hell?

Scooby doo obesity. Because obviously kids are fat because Scooby eats Scooby snacks. Obviously. Nothing to be inferred about the parent googling such a thing while child sits (probably with Happy Meal) watching cartoons for hours on end. I hope you learned something from my post!

Julie fears madness in the tomb should she wake early because… Two people googled this. Really. I’m sure it landed them on my page because Julie, who I have known since the early sixties (from the Catholic school) did a guest blog for me. And you know, my blog is titled Mel’s Madness. So, ok. But I really want to know what the hell that means. When I google it, I get Romeo and Juliet. Whatever!

How to make a revolving bookcase(!?!) I have no comment about this. I find myself wondering if this person wasn’t watching the episode of Scooby Doo where Shaggy and Scooby go round and round on the revolving bookcase and can’t get off…

I’m interested in the demographics of the people who read my blog. Do you tell people about it? I would be grateful to my regular readers if they reposted links on their facebook and twitter pages. I am cross posting on Open Salon (see link to the right)—and am actually getting quite a few hits there. It is sort of scary. But the idea behind blogging was to get my work out there. Be noticed. Have an audience. Get published more.

The other side of blogging is habit. To write every day. Every. Day. Audience creates accountability. And so, I write most days. I am going to, over the course of the next several months collect up the humorous stories I have written over the years and create a book… Is there a story you think should be included? Whether it is posted here or not? Then the question becomes who to market it to… Suggestions welcome.

My humorous stories bring me the most feedback from readers, and yet every one I have ever submitted has gotten a rejection letter… I try to reconcile that. My serious stories are well received, published. Maybe I am marketing my humor to the wrong places? I don’t know…

Ah, well, off to my day job…

Word Count: 660

Blue words: request, quite.

Guest Blog: Julie Peterson: serpent, mother, goddess (for mia)

Close to perfect poetry, enjoy! Thank you Julie!

serpent, mother, goddess (for mia)

the fire of her soul bubbles up
like champagne uncorked
and spills from her eyes in fiery abandon,
her heart having yearned for a return to the womb
of the place of her birth.
goddess, mother, sister, venus, isis, priestess
holds the serpent in her hands, not underfoot
though she could crush it if she chose.
she does not.
instead, she gathers all the lightning of the sky into her arms
and heaves it forward in a
mighty thrust toward the ends
of the heavens, toward dreamtime, toward waking,
toward the lip of the future that quivers with
unspoken promises and kisses and prayers.

what quiet dreams and waking roars of thunder might clash
in her bosom now that she has turned her tanned face from her past and away from the sullen tossings of her angry adolescence,
raging and screaming at the crushing weight
of her fatherʼs battered wrath.


it is not hers to keep any longer,
she has chosen to set this old story gently in the hills
so green, rolling like the early contractions of birth.
she stands silently
feet planted in the soil of her Mother.
Her brother, her sisters beside her, behind her,
above her, below her.
all the strong yet gentle hands of the women who now smooth
her hair with mud, her eyes colored with black,
her feet bare and hardened by miles
of travel up the mountainʼs breast.

now she understands the reason for her journey
the nights she waited quietly
in the shadows
while the owls circled and the bullfrogs
croaked in the shrinking ponds.
no longer is she drifting in the water of uncertainty
that murky place of doubt and dread.

quietly, she stands then journey forward
the mothers left her here with a water skin and a stick.
walk, dear sister, return to your youth
the time of your birth
when you leapt from your motherʼs womb into a life
of your choosing.
now it is time to take the stick and press


writing the song of your future with your feet,
with your lips with this stick and travel
toward it, as surely as your first breath was breathed.
now, she moves into the night
the light of the moon overhead and the whisper of those creatures


and hidden by the grasses in her ears.
in the distance, a drumming, quiet at first
then louder
her heart, perhaps, answers as she makes her way forward
splitting from the trail and toward the ocher cliffs she knows
jut outward toward the stars and then beyond.

each step is echoed by the rattle of the strands
of beads that circle her
caressing the bare of her back and her neck, long
and browned by the sun
venus, given form, a sephira of green and copper
nightingale, dove, peacock and swan
beat their wings with abandon
circle and push forward
now! they say.


emerald, jade, malachite, copper beaten into
sheets and wound around her
on her wrists and neck and ears,
swinging and tinkling with each footfall.
she is beautiful, glorious, strong
no match for those who wish to possess her
though her gifts are freely given
when she is approached with love.

it is nearly impossible to see her now
in the distance
if you turn your head
just slightly, her strong form moves there
over the rise in the green mists and the mud huts
with their tawny grasses stand on the earth as they have
since the first mother sprang from her lovers rib.

you might wonder if she will return to you
but do not. all is as it should be, rock unto rock,
breath unto breath, blood warm in her veins. nothing will ever
stop her now. she is home.