Green cactus; Red rock

Green cactus; Red rock
photo by Linda Hoffman Kimball

Monday, November 30, 2009

Two Sonnets for the Fairwell of Alopad


The Antics of a Rotund Swine Anxious for His Morning Repast


The puddle
The mud. He’ll

in glop.
In slop.


This is the last night of Alopad. Tomorrow, Dec. 1st, I will move on to the delightful full time demands of Christmas, shifting lifestyles (from Midwestern to split Midwestern/Mountain), family frolics, etc. I loved this challenge and have learned a lot. Perhaps by the goofy range of tonight’s two sonnets you think I haven’t learned anything about poetry. But I have.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Horse Power

Horse Power
By Linda Hoffman Kimball

Driving home from church today
I thought about my ancestors.
Not my ancestors in general,
But the specifics of how my
19th century kinfolk got around.
They had no cars, so how did they
Get from place to place in their routines?
Once they got here from Germany and Sweden
They settled in Midwestern cities.
Did they own buggies and horses?
Did they hire horse taxis?
To get groceries and supplies, did Jacob
Go out to the stall behind the house,
Stroke Blaze’s soft nose, slip her an apple,
Attach the accoutrements
And set off clop-clopping down the road?
Where did he get feed for her? Who shoed her?
On what occasions did she need a vet?
Was she merely an important tool,
Expected to work, taken for granted
Like I do my car in the garage?
Or did my great-grandfather rub her down,
Coo to her in his German dialect,
Inhaling the sweat and strength
Of her with a grateful heart?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Carmax Cattle Dog

Carmax Cattle Dog
By Linda Hoffman Kimball

While waiting for my estimate
I start up a conversation with the white haired woman
with the dog in the customer service room.
The woman has clear blue eyes and a broad Midwestern accent.
The dog, keen and alert, smiles up at me expectantly.
She – the dog, not the woman – looks like she’s part wolf or coyote.
“She’s an Australian Cattle Dog,” the woman explains.
“Most people think she’s a small German Shepherd,”
The dog lies fondly and obediently at the woman’s feet,
Brown eyes wide open, observing everything.
“They try all sorts of combination for this kind of dog.
They need just the right mix for the work they have to do.
She’s active all day long.”

Before me is a small dog bred for keeping massive Aussie cattle
On the hoof and in the herd.
In her suburban adopted land what challenge, what satisfaction
Is there in keeping an eye on plastic chairs
In the Carmax waiting room?
What if, I wonder, I, too, have ancestral impulses:
A primal knowledge of planting the best seeds
Perfectly by the phases of the moon;
a gift for handling clay and forming it
into aesthetically fine and practical forms;
a knack for sussing out water and minerals
hidden deep within the earth?
Is this why I am, like this lovely animal,
Restless because the tasks required of me now
Have no bearing on what I was anciently meant to do?

I'm trading in my car of the last 6 years for a diesel engine vehicle. I went to Carmax yesterday to see how much they'd give me for it. Little did I know I'd have an existential moment in the waiting room while Noah and Noel checked out my vehicle.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cautious Advent

Cautious Advent 
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

I guard myself against the baubles and the bright lights.
No malls, no 4am door-opening deals.
I will fast-forward through the ads
With the tantalizing prices.
Do not tweet the bargains to me.
The lure is strong, and the
Holiday hum a siren song.
Lead me not into temptation.
I am in it for the peace on earth,
The joy to the world, the silent night.
Help me focus not on the meltdowns,
But on the fifth candle,
The brilliant Center of it all.

I love the folderol. I embrace it all. The merriment and the fabulous store windows and the wrapping of gifts, the music.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Perfect Match

Perfect Match
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

He wasn’t much of a conversationalist.
Not a quick wit. Not the brightest bulb.
Short for a guy – just my height.
Not so much skinny as wiry.
A nice guy. Just a very nice guy.
But oh – with his hand on my back,
On the dance floor with basketball hoops and slick blond floors.
The slightest shift of pulse,
The nuance of his finger tip
and I would follow with a sigh,
spin out with a flair,
curl in to his tight a-tempo embrace
– in step, in time,
(and somehow, for the length of the tune)
in love.

It’s been a long time since I thought about this fellow. But tonight, watching Donnie Osmond win Dancing with the Stars,

Monday, November 23, 2009

Still, Iraq

Still, Iraq
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

Scorching air. Lungs clench.
Mutilated reasoning.
When will they come home?

We’re about to enjoy family time and the luxury of bounty. Soldiers are still in Iraq and Afghanistan

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gratitude -- a chiasm

– a chiasm
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

For this miraculous blue whirl, fragile and amazing, dazzling and complex;
For this shining sea-to-sea, alabaster-citied experiment that can, that can;
For this place of roots and parkways, mixing-it-up by the lake;
For red brick and mortar, nestled, neighborly;
For blankets, apples, oatmeal, piano keys
I offer thanks
From the snug of my pillow;
In the jewels of the windows’ glass;
Through every familiar route and new discovery;
Along cornfields, desert, prairie, red rock, mountains, seashore;
On this great, good gift of orbit and earth, deep, sparkling and strong.

Chiasm is a poetic form that shows up in Biblical and other ancient texts

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Word Play

Word Play
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

 S C R A B B L E
                      L A T E
   N  I G  H  T  S,
         O       I
         O      M
         D      E

This visual word play took a lot longer to get lined up approximately correctly than it did to think up. Sometimes "art" and technology don't get along all that well.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Well Fed

Well Fed
-for Oprah

by Linda Hoffman Kimball

I raised my babies on Oprah,
Spooned fed them from jars
of her candor and sass,
Sweetened their binkies
with the books she suggested,
Marinated them in the wonder
of what women can do
when they take themselves seriously.
I taught them “turn your wounds to wisdom”
like a nursery rhyme,
like grace over a meal.

I’m not an Oprah groupie, just an admirer. Since she first appeared on AM Chicago I liked her style – so honest and funny and smart.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Salvation Army Comes to Wilmette

The Salvation Army Comes to Wilmette
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

Well-groomed ladies of the fine north shore
Go walkin’ on into the Dominicks store,
Strollin’ right past the jingle bell man
Playin’ and swayin’ by his bright red can.
While they hunt for lettuce and meat,
He’s jivin’ on the sidewalk with his bell and a beat.
He’s havin’ a ball with his ring-a-ting dance.
His feet are keepin’ rhythm with a tap and a prance.
Customers stop, and he gives a grin.
He doesn’t care if they drop coins in.
Watch how he shakes it high and low,
Fast on the right side; left side’s slow.
He nods to the ladies and the toddlers there.
His syncopated jingling fills the air.
He says “God Bless!” when folks walk by.
How can you not just love this guy?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ocean Solace

Ocean Solace
by Linda Hoffman Kimball


I love the sound of the tide on the shore. It must be one of the most ancient sounds on the planet. So primal and elemental.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hungry Near the Hen House

Hungry Near the Hen House
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

A gremlin from lands of the Nether
With a face creased and ugly as leather
Rubs his greasy old chin.
Then he launches right in
Gobbling chickens from toenail to feather.

It’s a crazy, busy time here. I've got plates spinning,

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ten Items or Fewer

Ten Items or Fewer
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

The woman places her items on the belt.
They shiver down toward the cashier, a parade of her life.
Salad in a bag – a splurge
When an entire head of lettuce costs half as much.
But Tom said to get the good stuff;
The dinner might mean a promotion.
Two tomatoes – vine-ripened this time.
She remembered Tom’s gripe:
“None of those tough ones like you got last time.
No flavor and hard as a rock. What were you thinking?”
Four thick steaks.
“Not too fatty, but some in just the right places
To make it extra good,”
He’d said, patting her rump, raising his eyebrow.
A box of tampons.
She can measure her life in empty tampon boxes.
Creepy leers are all he ever offers.
That's fine. That's fine.
Cheese. Mild Cheddar.
Not bleu, not feta, nothing too pungent.
Like her, the cheese needs to do its job:
Add a little bit of interest,
But not call attention to itself.
A bag of little red potatoes.
Just like his mother always serves.

All rung up, she reaches to take the bag from the cashier.
“Do you need help with that?” the cashier asks.

Too much time in the check-out line. Instead of staring at the Enquirer headlines, sometimes I imagine all sorts of things

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Stuff of Names

The Stuff of Names
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

My sister Holly had a knack for naming things.
Her doll, named for its stuffing, was “Cotton.”
Her toy cat bore the moniker of
Holly’s no-nonsense, confident,
Approach to getting on in the world:
“Kick,” the cat.

For the most part my menagerie bore
Descriptive names:
“Plaid” the dog, white-headed but plaid-rumped.
Another dog earned “Orangie Jingles”
For his color and the bells in his ears.
(He was a lesser animal in the pack.)
Another plaid little dog,
Given to me by my Dad,
Received “Whiskers” for a name,
“Since,” I told my dad, “He doesn’t have any.”
I liked things whole and complete.

I wonder why I named my
Beloved elephant “Susie.”
In my mind she bore no resemblance
To my sister Susan who was
And therefore a lifetime’s more
Put together.
Also, Susan was neither gray and white,
nor endowed with huge, fluffy ears.

And, while my dad called our mother
“Sooz” frequently (though her name was Mary),
My elephant was a dearer confidant
And more comforting solace,
Willing to dab sorrows away anytime
With the pink end of her trunk.

When I began this musing on the playthings of my childhood, I didn’t realize I’d find something raw wanting to come out.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No Good Deed

No Good Deed…
By Linda Hoffman Kimball

He leans against the stair rail,
Wiping the gritty blood off his chin.
Staggering up, he spits out a black molar.
“Curse you, hag, and your iron pot.
One time I actually eat your stew
With no complaining, and here’s my thanks.”

He can hear her down in the root cellar
Moaning and wailing, not piping down yet,
Rattling the chain and shrieking.

“Nope, I told you he ain’t down there.
And no food neither, woman!”
He hollers sideways and bruisy.

“Ain’t been real food for weeks and you knows it.
You oughta be thanking me
For being so resourceful.
All those weeks near to starving and
The answer to our needs
Right under our noses
( – mine’s probably broke now –)
And we, all this time, not never noticing.

“God do provide now, don’t He.
So I done it up right like a grateful Christian.
And didn’t I come back right on time
Like I said I would
From the woods with meat all cleaned and cleaved,
Ready for that damn pot?
Why are you carrying on so?
You even said you liked it after that first bite,
Wondering was it squirrel or rabbit.

Shut yer caterwauling and get back up here.
We’re fed now, so it’s done and done.
And when you come up,

Bring his collar with you.
He don’t need it no more, and
It might make a broth if we boil it down.

Today I attended “Prairie Writers Day,” an excellent day-long conference sponsored by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators of Illinois. We heard many variations on the main parts of any good story: Character, Plot and Voice. I decided to riff a little on that, and, while it probably isn’t really appropriate for children’s lit, it was a fun (if twisted) romp.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Ancients

The Ancients
By Linda Hoffman Kimball

How long does it take
To learn the sacred truths
Set out by the Great Creator Spirit
At the beginning of humanity?
Time has nothing to do with it.
Wisdom, Honor, Bravery
Seep from the caul.
Who is not brave if not the infant
Slapped in the face with winter winds
Before she can even suckle?
Any bawling babe is honorable when hungry.
Is there more honor than
In voicing the truth –
That a stomach is empty
And there is ravening want?
Wisdom is there in the determined little fist
Gripping the finger of a protector,
Instinctively knowing
Life depends on
The strength of connection
To a power beyond one’s limits.
Our journey is not one of learning;
It is of remembering.

I attended a “Friend-raising” meeting for the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian this evening. It set me to musing

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Preparing for the Future

Preparing for the Future
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

Is the wilderness
Sharpening its ravenous claws
While I pack boxes?

In a month I will be in Utah

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Spice House on Central Street

The Spice House on Central Street
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

One step inside and you can almost feel
the camel’s breath on the back of your neck.
In the distance you hear the taut snap of canvas sails.

Close your eyes. See
the Indonesian children, thin but strong,
dark skinned, ebony-eyed,
culling through the crystals,
swiftly plucking out debris
like darting hummingbirds.
The jingling and clicking of the girls’ bangles
Mingle with their laughter.

Toward the back, the solid
Eastern European women
caucus sternly over pickling methods.
The Swedes, their lilting voices
interweaving like braids of perfect dough,
have dabs of flour, cardamom and cinnamon
on their cheeks and aprons.

The Spaniard,
dressed in an improbable red jacket,
Delivers his precious, tender threads of saffron,
and departs quickly,
the merchant’s pouch safe in his pocket.

Short bronzed men, still sweating and pungent
from hauling the baskets down the hills,
exchange stories of the peppers,
some so hot even their throats burned. Or how,
when Garcia hired them for his cocoa crops,
their digestion improved just by
inhaling the dew on the plants.

Then the hypnotic women, slimmed waisted,
stand silently,
with their woven trays of samples
– long, slender, brown, moist, supple,
voluptuous vanilla beans.
Tahitian treasures.

A few blocks away on Central Street is an amazing shop called The Spice House. That’s all it sells – spices.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ode to Jazzercise

Ode to Jazzercise
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

Single Ladies come today
Dressed for exercise and fun.
Beyonce sings and they chasse.
Come on. Put a Ring on one!

Queen Latifah shakes the floor.
All the grannies lunge and glide.
They all Walk the Dinosaur
Filled with energetic pride.

Working moms and college girls,
Pump it up and shout “Wha-hooo!”
Fantasizing in their swirls.
Don’t you wish that it was true?

Plump or thin or young or old
We all know, yo, dis whuzzup:
Edgy hits or classic gold
We will never give you up!

This little fluff was inspired during my sweaty workout tonight at Jazzercise. I’ve been going there, usually with my sister, for several years now. It’s a perfect blend for me.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Jamestown, Jr.

Jamestown, Jr.
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

At the far end of the playground,
Behind the baseball backstop
The miniature settlement thrives.
Twigs, sticks, stones of the right shape,
Leaves, nuts, solid clumps of dirt
Clarify the fields, the common, churchyard
And comprise the tiny dwellings.
Beetles and ants are the pack animals.
The main crop in this new incarnation
is not tobacco (which is wholly inappropriate
for 6th graders).
Instead, the fields produce
Quick growing scallions,
Starts for which made their arduous journey
From the motherland,
in the pocket of a plaid coat on a school bus.
Tall as redwoods,
The mighty onions cast strong shadows
Over the homes, huts and out buildings.
The times are prosperous and peace reigns.
No aristocrats bickering about calluses and manual labor.
No threats over weapons, axes, metal.
No attacks on the natives.
No brutal uprisings.
There are rumors about Pocahontas
But the details are unclear.
Who can bother with gossip when
The roof has just blown off the stables,
An acorn dropped into the water supply,
And the recess bell rings?

When I was in 6th grade, my friend Pam Loresch and I used to spend our outdoor recess time cultivating a miniature community we called Jamestown, Jr.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My Mite

My Mite
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

This day of rest
Was heaven blessed.

It's at an end.
Amen. Amen.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Two Sonnets for Saturday

Sonnet for a Lake Discovered while Hiking
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

trees --

Barefoot Mid-afternoon Break
on the Shore of Lake Michigan

Blue lake,
you make
high sun
my fun.
Wet treat
Let feet

Okay, we’ve got a two-fer today. Years ago I took a creative writing class where the professor had us write sonnets using single words.

Friday, November 6, 2009

ICHP & Isaiah

IPHC & Isaiah
(Intra-Perioneal Hyperthermic Chemotherapy)

"Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hands, which he had taken with tongs from off the altar..." Isaiah 6:6

by Linda Hoffman Kimball

Cancer clamped
crusty and gelatinous
in my husband’s gut
- his vitals and bowels.
With slow, relentless onslaught
(a dozen years of dumb, deadly work)
it filled every vacant space;
gripped every surface;
gooey sludge
crushing, stressing,
suffocating him
from the inside out.

A scan,
looking for something mundane,
Spotted the scourge.
Quick as we could say
We were
Down the dark hall,
Into the no,
No, no, no,

Our/His only hope:
Stretched in cruciform,
Deliberately split, slit
Sternum to stem,
Scooped, scraped,
Redundant entrails
And the shimmering
in steel bowls.

Then Isaiah’s hot coal:
Swathed, sloshed, scoured
into the raw vacuum,
“Lo, this hath touched thee;
and thine iniquity is taken away,
and thy sin purged.”

And will we yet have this second,
Greater cure?

And I cried with you, and we said,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts:
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

I spent several hours this morning in the LDS temple whispering in white, calling down the powers of Heaven to cleanse and prepare women for the bounty God has eternally in store for them. It made me recall the stark surgery my husband endured

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Decorating the Cultural Hall

Decorating the Cultural Hall
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

I don’t know how to ask for what I need.
Wheedle? No. No wheedling.
All my requests need to
A) get the tasks done and
B) keep their spirits strong.
Who knows who needs what?
I may need the basketball hoop draped with crepe,
But they may need hand-holding
Or an appeal to their manliness
Or a reward
Or a command from God channeled through me.
Who knows?
And then there’s the flack, the backlash –
The “too soft,” “too strong,”
“too bossy,” “too passive,”
the “too worldly,” “too liberal,”
“too conservative,” “too prudish”…

Can’t anyone just get up there and drape the hoop?

This poetry writing is starting to get to me. All the introversion of images and mood. All the navel-gazing bugs me.  It’s taking too much time and mental energy. Besides,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


-- for Chris
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

He climbs rocks
Gripping those lucky holds,
Improbable muscles flexing.
From the ridges of his finger prints
Dangles his (dear) life.
By those slim margins –
The who of him –
The precious hymn of him
Upheld by good ropes
and Grace.

My husband Chris has remarkable hands. They’re among the first things about him that I loved.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


by Linda Hoffman Kimball

Spring teases with frills and ribbons,
Pastel confetti, garish greens
Pulsing and sassy.

Muscular summer flexes,
Sweating in the cornfields,
Slick at the weekend beach.

Autumn holds nothing back,
Revealing its earned gold, its rubies
Spread against dark trunks.

Winter knows its chill, linear tasks:
Locking up, turning out the lights,
Standing silent sentinel.

Where to begin. Today’s poem will be about…Broccoli? Nightmares? Puppies?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Midwest Thanksgiving

Midwest Thanksgiving
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

East of Dubuque
Quilted pastures roll
In green and golden swells,
Humming choruses of bounty.

On the next rise
Cows munch and huddle,
In bulky black and white,
Lowing exultations.

In November, 2008, I went to Dubuque to visit my friend Alyson Beytien. After a rejuvenating weekend stay, I headed home, east into Illinois farmland.