Pictures of Life and Everything

I know the feeling of desperately wanting to take a picture. Pictures to tell a story, pictures to save a moment in time, pictures to show how I see the world.

My dad, when I was young, loved to take pictures of me, of my mom, of my siblings. He even put me in one of his commercials, for a playpen. Then when I was about ten, he stopped. Was film too expensive? Did it annoy my mom? Did his muse leave? I don’t know. Maybe his muse came to me. I love taking pictures.

I have a memory of watching film being developed. This memory might actually be of a television show or documentary. Dipping paper in chemicals, moving it to another chemical tray, and one more, each time more of the picture would emerge. Then wait and the page was filled, the memory there for all to see. Magic.

Saving holidays, birthdays, vacations, daily life. One snapshot in time brings back so many memories. For instance, the picture of my birthday party, where I am blowing out candles on a cake. We are having so much fun, laughing, anticipating eating cake. But what isn’t shown is that this is the fourth take, we are laughing because my dad made us set this scene up over and over until he got just the right shot. There is a picture of me standing on a bridge across the San Antonio River (many years later I would take a picture of my kids on that bridge), I don’t know if because the sun was so bright or if I moved or my dad did, but I look like a ghost standing there surrounded by sunlight. I liked to make up stories about that little girl ghost. Maybe my dad did too because he is the one who kept that photo.

My dad loved to set up takes so they would be just so. He rarely just took a picture. I am the exact opposite. I wait for a moment to happen and then snap. I love action shots, especially of my kids playing. Soccer or Monopoly; climbing trees or reading a book. I always kept my camera at the ready. A good bit of the time they didn’t even know I had taken a picture until we picked up the prints at the store. Now with my grandchildren and a cell phone it is even easier to capture them.

Pictures are memories, moments in time, moments that may never come again except in our minds. The memories demand sharing to complete the process of the moment. I love seeing my family sitting snuggled on the couch looking at an album. They are saying remember this. And then that happened. Yes, I often take a picture.

—Melissa Tolliver

In the Trees at Evening

“and you too have come / into the world to do this, / to go easy, 
to be filled with light / and to shine.” 
from “When I Am Among the Trees” by Mary Oliver

In the Trees at Evening

You too have come
into this world to touch
the hands of someone you love,
to look into the leaves
and be glad.

And, yes, there is pain,
pain so bright it is almost fire.
It burns into light.

Sometimes when all around us
is shards of glass,
broken walls, 
it is hard to remember
that this world is our home,
that hands still touch.

The sky at evening 
fills with a rose
that comes from burning,
a tender flush
that comes through sorrow
to reach us.

Someone says, isn’t it your duty
to be sad, to lament
all that is lost,
to rise up in anger?

Perhaps that is the work of the day
but now evening has come
to find its way through the branches,
and I look up
and am glad of the light.

—Sarah Webb


Prompt: “Today my blind and deaf granddaughter put her hand on the top of my head as I was eating an apple, and she laughed.”


So happy to hear this prompt because I find I tend to waddle in the dour, sour, and sad. Yesterday after my doctor’s visit, I went to Central Perk CafĂ© and happened to sit next to two women signing in American Sign Language. One was an earnest Black woman, head in turban, and her facial expressions where the same as you would expect in any animated 20- or 30-something person – very intense gesticulations, the pointing-finger wagging the rest of the upper body for extra effect. In fact, I think the queer community has appropriated this animated style of gesticulation under the rubric of “extra.” There was an occasional sound uttered, but just watching these women talk to each other was so mesmerizing, I found myself rudely staring. They stared back at me; I then caught myself and I had to slowly spell out in my limited ASL “Oh, I’m sorry.” 

Anyway, I had been to my doctor’s, was fasting, had my blood drawn, and made my way to the cafe un-caffeinated, hungry, maybe even hangry, when I sat down at the table next to these two women. The cafe is near the Texas School for the Deaf and there’s a large active vocal deaf community here in Austin.  Also a large blind/visually-impaired community – TX School for the Blind. And also nearby, a scaled down state hospital for the mentally ill. 

The disabled community separated itself from the mentally ill a long time ago for a variety of reasons: political, societal, stigma, funding streams, etc. But people overcoming whatever their disability is the single most continuous inspiring wonder to me in the world ever since I can remember remembering. I tear-up; my voice catches with emotion; I find I can go on.

My last boss at the hospital is a well-respected psychologist, wheelchair-bound, born with only mere stubs for legs, married, and bore a healthy child. And I understand that it took a village, meaning she needed and received a ton of help. Working with her has been one of the high points of my career. She has since moved on and I miss her. The occupational nurse at work who gives us our flu and COVID shots is deaf, can read lips pretty good – but imagine this when we were masked for three years.  She couldn’t read our lips. I always booked my time with her when she wasn’t busy so I could slowly letter-by-letter sign her my questions and answers. Sometimes we would default to old-school paper and pen. But at least I tried.  I think the last time with this last shot I signed “Love you” instead of “Thank you.” I left, awkwardly.

My daughter was severely speech delayed. We had to learn simple sign language for a 4-year-old in three-times-per-week speech therapy so that she could catch up for preschool. She was the happiest kid in the group, always giggling and taking the lead in their group activities that also served to coax them to speak. I can still hear her laughter when it matured from giggles to a child’s belly-laugh for the first time for her at age five.

Recently there was a short film nominated for an Oscar about a troubled teen meeting a deaf, mute, and blind man at a bus stop, played by an actor who really was deaf and blind, and in the scene was writing out he was lost. The story was based on fact and was transformative for the teen. He learned that empathy softens, just a bit, a 17-year-old’s antipathy for the world. There’s a funny Netflix comedy about the trials and tribulations of a cute gay guy with cerebral palsy. And remember the son on “Breaking Bad”?  So much visibility for the disabled as actors nowadays - surely for the good.  

But I do not romanticize their pain and suffering. I stopped saying long ago, “There but by the grace of God go I.” That’s still ‘othering,’ simply put. NO! Pain in this life is unavoidable. We all share in its suffering. And just like people overcoming their disabilities, the manner in which we suffer is a matter of choice. 

—Todd Cornett

Hand on Head (in gratitude to veda smith)

“I spent the afternoon with my Granddaughter, I was chewing an apple and she put her
hand on my head and she laughed. She is blind and deaf.”

the daughter of my daughter lives complete
with presence akin to gravity
that holds her gently attuned
without shadow or light
without boisterous or whispered vocabulary
and is perhaps content
with what I hope is love
as hand on head
with not a single doubt
she knows me by my chewing
and she laughs
and certifies
that where there’s touch
we are
a certain beautiful thing

—Ed Sancious

She’s Dead and Is

Tragedy rarely gives a heads-up
which is why it’s not so scary to run with scissors, 
it’s getting too near the edge that equals dread.
and she, like a lemming magnetized to cliffs,
loving that tenuous moment 
encouraged stillness to encounter chance.

She confessed
“it brings me closer to the sublime
and resolves most mysteries”. 
As proof she shared that
“elephants speak below the hearing of humans”
and swears
they told her that the universe pivots 
on dual confessions - 
  • one confirms that love is blind,
  • another always says yes to letting your light go out.

She mutters and repeats and mutters
these invocations like a monk intent on sainthood 
with a whispered benediction 
“to just feel it.” 
“To be like purloined moonlight giving texture to the dark.”

She offers thanks and gives instruction
saying an ending must have the strategy
to nod like you’re in the know
with what the voices of angels intone
as they, like elephants, vocalize low.

She waits 
for memories and 
feelings and
questions to come,
staying chaste
like acolytes on Sunday morning cruising the aisles, 
spreading incense to mask the stink of death,
an aromatic diversion inviting faith,
the kind that comes without
guarantee of reward.

Hers was a life that struggled 
to live the lessons learned
that love has no human face
and hers is that of a stranger.

So now no more attempts to flee
that tenuous moment 
when stillness embraces chance 
and romance accommodates apocalypse.

She’s dead and is still remembered
like a thousand Roman years 
of empire in decline
love can imitate Byzantium.

—Ed Sanctious

two hearts might make a hero

in this paragon’s fortress of solitude
all my thoughts are heroic.

as more and more
it takes less and less
to hold this imaginable, 
almost alien, hope that love
might breed us into heroes
with powers to fool and pardon
with an x-ray vision to see, 
and be, 
that tender infinity 
between those moments of making a self.

in truth, I wonder if love can have a hero

although there are those times without doubts 
about the clarity of supposition,
where there’s touch
that certifies
that we can be 
a certain beautiful thing.

two hearts that craft a hero’s code.
that spooned, attuned,
in semi-sacred consolation
for 20 and 10 remembrances
which lessened the room for doubt.

yet still …
even with heated flesh on flesh 
I find sometimes 
it’s lust 
that gets defined 
as love.

but hoping heroes are human too 
with all the villains of imagination subdued 
we are just hearts 
enticed to hold each other’s 
every fragile awkward gesture,
affirmed to be enough.

two heroes, two hearts 
without the need to be persuaded.
to simply be an imprint 
on impermanence, 
heading home

remembering, embracing 
the rhythm, 
the patience 
of ordinary things,

which is all that love may very well be.

—Ed Sancious


The photo was taken by my classmate Yaacov in Israel of the Mediterranean at sunset.  
My dad might have seen the same sunset in 1920 at the age of 6 in Beirut.  
Buddha was the work of AI. All I did was to bring these two voices together.

—Kim Mosley

About Dismantling Grief

“Dismantling Grief is never a straightforward thing. Start
with a handful of earth, scattered over the wrapped
body lowered into the ground.” 
from Dismantling Grief  by Zeina Hashem Beck

a handful of dirt
not enough to bury you
nor enough for grief

—Paul Causey


is there anything?

there is life

there is life
that comes with audacity
making the smallest part
a thing to submerge the mind and heart 
with unreasonable wonder and joy
and too, there are acts within this life
that burn through souls and flesh 
and bone and blood with horror 
determined and justified
that out-screams any dialogue of peace and justice

and yes 
there is darkness 
that lighting of lamps
can shape to just be shadows
and there is light that’s best known 
by the nuance of gloom

each moment accepted 
has an option 
to ease attachment
that makes chaos almost sweet
with less attention 
to grooming memories 
to live as changeless certainties

and here’s the thing

not each moment will be a nourishment
but each can advocate for wonder
for a life like a river
that’s moved by its own way of being.

—ed sancious

May We Exist

How often do we see?
How often do we see ourselves?
How often are selves inclined to be seen? 

Is certainty only face to face?

The body tries to say all, 
yet it barely offers what it can.
Wholeness, by design, 
hinges on the lyrics of the heart.

Syncing breath with being.
Embracing ancestors in the blood.

We are birthed inert, yet bonded,
by ordinary miracles 
and manageable necessities.
Being human – being perfectly imperfect.
Being mindful,
learning there is that watershed moment
which is a drop, 
which is a stream, 
which is the wave
that washes away illusion
that without the mud
there will be a lotus.

—ed sancious

Christmas Cactus

I left you alone.
Two weeks without water.
When I came back I thought your limbs drooped heavy 
because: flowers.
Some already sticky, rotted fruit, 
others waiting to burst forth into the sun.
I considered giving you away, as easily as you’d been given to me.
You are a cactus, you don’t need water.
If your withered greens fall off in places it’s because you are a cactus.
You don’t need water.
You don’t need love.
You don’t need attention.

Alone at home, I doused you in a bath of tap,
set you outside 
to listen to the insects hum
to feel the warmth of the day’s last rays of sun. 
When chill descended, I brought you in, 
considered dinner:
lion’s mane mushroom rips, garlic smashed, asparagus singed.

When it was done, I turned to find your limbs raised up.
It was probably just a little bit.
But you looked a ballerina, revived and ready to dance

Forgive me, little teacher.
I didn’t love you, I didn’t tend to you.
But you still did the work of bursting forth with flowers.
Forgive how quick I dismiss. 
Forgive how little I look around 
to catch your beauty, most profound.

—Emily Romano

Blue Sky

a blue sky
stretching out before us
wisps of clouds
along the distant horizon

Mt. Tam in the background
my Mt Fuji
the Golden gate bridge
magnificently across the Bay 

my little dog Noodle
sits close and shivers 
together we look from
our mountain bench 
inspired by the panorama 
Noodle frightened
by the vastness    

—Bruce Linton

while the world was on fire

while the world was on fire   
I watched carefully 
as the low sugar 
strawberry jam 
spread across the 
thinly sliced  
sourdough batard bread, 
the smell of the
the Arabian coffee 
was intoxicating,  
our small dog "Noodle" 
chewed on her bone relentlessly,  
Carolyn did her concert in C Minor 
as she unloaded the dishwasher,
our bird clock chimed 10am with the Owl hooting, 
the rain had stopped
outside our open door to the garden 
Japanese maples rested for winter

—Bruce Linton


Salvation requires so little says Carol Hamilton, praising an old Inuit woman who sat out a blizzard under the snow. The storm raged but the woman didn’t rage. She would live or she would die. She waited to see. When the storm eased, she broke out into sunlight. Neither lost nor found, she made her way home.

I admire such calm, the giving way—to the elements, to what is needed. Sometimes that quiet comes to me—to any of us—the car sliding across black ice, the crash, and that silence in which we wait to hear
is this life, or is it death? And they seem strangely the same.

Other times I try not to thrash about. I clutch, drowning, hour after hour, not for life or safety but for something firm beneath my feet. A teacher of sorts, a man with problems of his own—like all of us— once sang a scrap of song to me. The words are mostly lost, but I hear the line that mattered. Cause I’m already standing on the ground.

Something beneath my feet—the calm itself, resting in it. No matter what, it will be well.

—Sarah Webb

The Wild Red Cry

“…when you hear out of the same twilight the wildest red outcry.” from You are Standing at the Edge of the Woods by Mary Oliver 

While the darkness is a friend,
there are times when it harbors things I do not trust.
The wild red cry is not a stranger
to the ears but it is the harbinger of death 
and of whom we do not know.

In the darkness,
we are blind to the habits of the wild,
yet they are always there.
We are blind to the story
that unfolds without the light of day.
So, we extrapolate from what we know
into what we do not and believe that it is the truth.

There is a finality in that scream.
Is it yours? Or is it ours?
Humanity is estranged from the woods
and has been for millennia.
We do not know where the wild red cry originated,
but we have come to know it,
to savor the taste of the blood that it embodies.
It appears that we cannot get enough
and like the predator in the dark of night,
we hunt for it in the differences between us.

Once, there were animals to be feared
Whether by day or night,
but now humans top that list.
No wonder the other animals shun us, fear us.
No wonder the world is slowly dying.
We are standing at the edge of the woods
wondering when the wild red cry 
will be heard again, not if, but when,
and whose cry will it be?

—Paul Causey

At the Edge of the Woods, Unable to Say It

Indifferent, cold
the working of law.

Or, filled with light
mild, blinding.

Here in the trees
we leave a little of who we are.
In them I don’t stand as tall.
The pines stretch above
and the cliffs.

Water widens. 
Wind slants it with gray,
with lines that trail.

Life is in it
and death.
Cold pierces, teeth tear,
all in that vivid light.

A wind crosses the trees
and all are murmuring.
A fire comes 
and all are burning.

Not this tree’s branches, that tree’s branches,
but a raising and lowering.

One moment a single trunk,
a fistful of needles
alone in its grieving, in its dying.
The next, a green
that spreads along the mountains.

and then night.


caught in edges
mourning, loving, fighting

a trembling of water

—Sarah Webb

In Response to Saigyo: A Prayer

 “let me not spend my life 
                lamenting the world’s sorrows
for above
in the wide sky
the moon shines pure.” Saigyo

Flying is such a joyful thing,
I can’t do it when I’m sad, or angry,
or even when I’m asleep
and don’t feel anything at all.
Which is most of the time really.
You need joy in order to fly.

So please “let me not spend my life
lamenting the world’s sorrows
because being able to fly is such a rare
and beautiful thing.

I’m afraid by lamenting, 
I wouldn’t be able to recognize joy 
when it found me,
and I would miss that terribly.

So please, let me be joyful
let me fly to that beautiful, pure moon
Shining in that vast, wide sky.

Please, let me fly.

—Paul Causey

Ghazal for Gaza

Since all the walls shattered, since they bombed this land,
where will you sleep now, where will you wash, what is your home?

Will you sit in the rubble that once was a street, will you wrap your shawls tighter,
bubble chickpeas in sauce, use bed frames for firewood, is this now your home?

The palm trees still standing, that sway in the rain, the sound of the ocean,
the water that rains in buckets for drinking, is this now your home?

The songs children sing, the clapping adults, the purring of cats,
the siren, the bullet, the beating from soldiers, is all this your home?

I have a house with four walls, that I wish was more infinite,
so I could invite you to rest, to drink water and bathe, and say this is your home.

These words I write may be left on a page, or a screen, in love and in rage.
If you read them and cry, if you read them and smile, say this is your home.

Prayers to Allah, prayers to Jesus, prayers to people, deaf to your calling,
in silence, in speaking, outside in snow, inside in your heart, is this all your home?

I ask of the universe, please, cleave compassion, in dark hearts of men.
Tell them the air that we breathe, the light that we share, this is our home.

—Sol Frye