Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Good Advice

I'm reading a book about poetry. I just read that Juan Ramon Jimenez told Claribel Alegria not to write free verse. "You have to go through all the traditional forms. You can free yourself after that. Then you will know what you are doing." Great advice.

My own poet-mentor gave me the same advice. Alexander Whitaker at Berry College told me: "Learn all the forms intimately. Write those meters in your head over and over. Use those forms until you know all the nuances. Then, later, when you break the rules, you'll know what rule you're breaking and why. It will mean more to you and your audience." That was probably the best advice any one ever gave me about writing. I still write in those old forms. I like the rhythms, the meanings of themselves. And it does make breaking the rules that much sweeter. And I do like breaking rules.

Writing by the rules taught me that rules have reasons. They exist because they matter. They remain because they continue to matter. And if you didn't have rules, you wouldn't know who your revolutionaries are. If no one is out breaking those rules, reinventing reality, then we know we aren't growing. And when people are out breaking those rules, we know where the autocrats are ruling. And we can break free of their power.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Too Strange To Not Be True

I did something embarrassing. You know those ads for internet match makers? I finally succumbed and had to look. Really, I've never done it before. But there it was. There I was. Time on my hands when I really should have been doing something productive but didn't want to. So. I peaked.

Of course, the first thing I learned was that you have to provide a profile of your own. Yikes. I don't, like, want anybody to actually, like, pick me. Not really. Well, I might, but let's face it, Jack the Ripper would pick me. John Boy Walton would just walk on by. Mr. Right would never recognize me from an online write up. Not that I equate John Boy as Mr. Right, but at least he isn't Mr. Axe Murderer.

So, I did what any other lurker would do. I made up something. As far as my online profile goes, I'm a 62 year old, hindu woman, 4'2", weigh 230 lbs., have no hair, 10 children living at home with me, have no income and am looking for a serious relationship with someone who is over 6'9" and independently wealthy. I figured that anybody who'd bite at that profile had to be at least interesting.

So, I lurked. I searched. There are easily 300 single/separated men in the area of Canton to Blue Ridge who are actively looking for love. No shit! They are all, to a man, over 6' tall, self described good looking, Christian of religion and Conservative of politics and own a Harley. Okay, one is agnostic and is 5'2", but he wants a good woman to cook for him and be sweet, so that even rules out my alter ego, not to mention me (well known for NOT sweet). WTF? Is there no variety? NO. They have 'blond' hair and blue eyes. They like long walks on the beach (I like tall cocktails at the beachside bar). They like cooking gourmet dinners (I like eating gourmet dinners, but not the ones usually cooked by Harley riders and let's face it, they're going to be out riding the Harley and want to come home to a gourmet dinner, not cook one). They are sincere and loyal (which is why the mother of their children is nowhere to be found). They smoke. WTF??? Where were these men when I smoked? Oh, yeah, they're Conservative Christians.

So, now that I've satisfied myself that the pool really is comprised of neanderthal losers, I've come across a dillemma: Someone sent me an email. OMG. I can't read it, because I will NOT pay whatever it costs to actually, literally look for love online, but I am so curious to know who would email someone who fit the description that I could just bust. Oh, well, curiosity killed the cat - no need to worry about it. It's Jack the Ripper.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Come out, Come out Whoever you are! (shameless self promotion)

I stumbled on my stats page today. I knew it was there, but hadn't really bothered. Somehow, I keep thinking of this as my digital diary, where I rant to myself, pretending that other people actually care and read it. Then, I saw that I had followers. Then, I saw that I had followers I didn't even know. Actually, follower is more correct. So, today, I looked to see what my stats could tell me about the growing number of people who read me.

This month alone, 127 different people viewed me at least (on average) 4 times each. Wow. For all time, it's 423 people. 423 different people. In Germany, Denmark, UK, Croatia (really? Croatia?), United Arab Emirates (GET OUT!), Canada, China, Singapore, and Iran. Iran? OMG! I'm global! Who are you people? Now, I don't mean that in my snarky, cynical tone. I mean that in my, oh, I love you, you are my friends, you read my words, I want to love you back tone.

Apparently, a number of you pop in just to see if I've posted something lately. Most of you pop in via Facebook (likely after I've shared that I have a new post). I wish it would tell me who you all are. I know who 8 of you are - my dear, loyal followers. I get to like you best of all because I know who you are. The rest of you, I really would love to know who you are. Please share. Please, if you read me, leave a comment. Or don't. If you would like to comment, but don't want anyone to know who you are or read your comment, please email me at And if you really like me, feel free to make a donation. Really. Shameless as that sounds, I have a bit of the Steven Colbert self promotion instinct that begs for cash and attention whenever and where ever I can. And that is pretty much everywhere. The link is just to the right, and you can click on it and it will allow you to make a donation via Paypal. If you don't have a Paypal account, then trust me on this - you should. Paypal is an excellent company (short of the fact that they are owned by Ebay which is evil, but WTF, it's an easy and safe way to send money to me from anywhere in the world. If you know of a better way, let me know). If you like, I will send you a print, a photograph or a painting in exchange for your donation. Go to L. J. Burton Fan Page ( and pick out one you would like. Or just leave a comment. Anyone who leaves a comment is exempt from donations. For now.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I'm reading Bill Moyers' book The Language of Life, a companion to his series on today's poets. I wrote my first poem at age 6 in the back seat of the family Buick. I thought is was great. I was really amazed with myself. I wrote poetry nearly every day after that for at least 20 years. There were some breaks. When I was 11, we moved and my mother tossed my box of poetry. That pissed me off so bad I gave it up for a while. Until my first crush and there I went. I wrote nearly every day again. In college, a favorite professor volunteered to read my poetry and help me with my writing. His constructive criticism was exhilarating. I wrote more and better than I'd dreamed possible.

I was 27 when I moved out of an apartment with one of those roommates from Hell. I went far off one way, roommate went far off another. Roommate took that box of diaries and all the poems contained therein. Never to be seen or heard from again. Breaking up is hard. Going back, even for one's life work, can often just not be worth it. I like to imagine some distant future, grandchildren cleaning out an attic find the Lost Years of my poetry, thus completing my legacy to the great relief of literary critics everywhere.

I've written maybe three poems in the interim, two of which are lost to posterity. There might be some in my diaries, but life has been full and rich and painful and joyous and I don't really want to revisit my diaries, even to loot them for lost verse. I prefer to move forward. These really are the best years of my life, I promise you that.

Still, as Barbara Kingsolver noted, unwritten poems become dust bunnies. Dust bunnies multiply and lurk under the bed, waiting to attack you at night, in early morning, whenever they can. I have today been assaulted by the attack of the dust bunnies. My early instincts have awakened and now my soul shall be heard.:


An Apple keeps you well and wise,
a Banana safe and pure.
Pears will never show surprise,
A Mango's always sure.
Cherry is so very merry
as it is with many berries.
But, ah. A Peach.
So out of reach,
will steal your friends,
and when she's done (and just for fun)
she'll turn around and suck you in.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Women's Hall of Fame

Who knew? I had no idea there was such a thing. There is. These women were inducted this year:

St. Katharine Drexel
Dorothy Harrison Eustis
Loretta C. Ford
Abby Kelley Foster
Helen Murray Free
Coretta Scott King
Lilly Ledbetter
Barbara Kikulski
Donn Shalala
Kathryn Switzer

I want to know more about these women, and will look them up. I would say I would write something about them, but I hate to make promises I can't keep. It's nice to know there is such a place. They have a website: There are a total of 236 women included. In all of America, that's what we came up with. I think we can do better with numbers. Quality can't be challenged, even if quantity is desperately lacking.

Most of the women inducted this year are still alive. It's touching to look and see and say - I know her! My known is not alive. Coretta Scott King - more correctly, Yoki's momma. As many of you know, she was no icon to me. She was a classmates mother, a human being, someone who did not think twice about snatching me baldheaded if I did wrong. Honestly, she never raised a hand to me. She raised an eyebrow. The woman had a look - most mothers then had one, but I swear to you black women ruled the world with it. White women just never caught up to any black woman's look. Freeze you in your tracks. A room full a screaming, playing, running, jumping, terrorist children at full speed and Momma King could sneak up to the door, stand there, never say a word, just aim that look. Instantly, nine full speed children stop dead in their tracks. Paralyzed. No doubt, we are all better people for it.

It seems strange to me sometimes how much black women took part in the proper upbringing of white young ladies. Every black woman I ever knew considered it her sacred duty to make sure I kept my dress and shoes clean and tidy, sat like a lady at all times and respected my elders. Any one (or all) could take me down if I even had an un-lady-like thought. "Young ladies don't act like that, missy, sit straight in your chair." "Don't cross your legs, that's trashy." Trashy. OMG - the horror of all horrors was to be trashy. We had thousands of strange, arcane rules of behavior instilled in us perpetually. But we were watched, attended, loved, nurtured and are better women for having been raised by the legions of Southern women, black and white, who never wavered in their determination to see us grow up to be great women.

Great women rule the world. From the cradle to the grave, day in and day out in a million little ways they raise us up. Our village is all the better for it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


The concept of letting go of something pleasant for a period of time as part of a spiritual journey is as old as the world. It's one of the aspects of Catholicism that I like. It seems to have caught on lately in most Christian journeys, too. A good idea is always just that.

Should everyone try it, then? I've been in austerity central for the last few weeks. I haven't counted the days, but it may well have been forty, more or less. As is usual in my experience, money comes in fits and flurries. Being self employed, there are lean and fat times. Have just emerged from the lean, I'm disinclined to extend that experience further. On the other hand, doing so might be a good exercise in self control. I'm still not smoking, but I could use to make further efforts on that diet resolution. Fits and flurries. Fat Tuesday saw me eating cookies and drinking wine. Ash Wednesday just isn't motivating me to much.

I'm not really Christian, anyway. My father was Catholic and my mother Jewish. I'm the youngest of three. I remember them fighting tooth and nail with my sisters trying to get them to say prayers, to go to catechism. I remember them giving up on trying to force me. I was something of a bulldog of a little girl, anyway.

This is the time of year when winter's hardships lighten up their grip and make life more of a celebration than a bleak survival. On the other hand, winter stores have likely been used up while planting is only just begun. There isn't much in the way of food in the historical pantry. Saving up the last of the best of what is left for later celebration is a wise custom. Making a spiritual journey of necessity is a healthy twist on what otherwise just seems more bleak at a time of year when we are all emotionally past dealing with more bleak.

I'm of the mind to make some symbolic sacrifice for this period of time. I have too much planned that is inconsistent with foresaking too much food or alcohol. I could do it, I suppose, but I'm sure God wants me to have the fun I've planned. I'm not sure God gives a fat rat's ass whether I sacrifice mindfully or not. My own personal philosophy for the last ten years would say She especially would not want me to do so - "What? I've given you so much! Enjoy it. Eat, drink, laugh." Ah, that's what I'll do. For each day of Lent, I will make some one laugh. Laughter - the song of Heaven.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

This is a test - if it were real, there'd be better instructions

Welcome to my latest fun -- pictures from my trip to Nawlins with Donna and Karen. I'll figure out how to get music to play with it soon - until then, have fun! LAISSEZ LES BON TEMPS ROULER!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rich Girl, Poor Girl

A highly financially solvent woman once asked me "why do poor people think rich people should give them money?" Huh???? It was said in a particularly snotty tone of voice. I wasn't even sure if she was including me as one of the rich who had found the answer to the pesky little problem, or one of the poor who was trying to suck money out of her. Given that I was working with her on a home improvement project for which she was paying me, because I needed work and had no money, I knee jerked to the latter. I was initially tempted to rip her a new one but there were just too many things being undersaid in her question that I just couldn't leave it not bitched about:

1. Rich people - would you define that for me, please? Who's rich? You? If you had a brain, you would hire somebody else to use it for you! You got yourself some money, don't you? Good for you. Why do you think that makes you better than me? How'd you get that money? Your daddy and granddaddy and great granddaddy died and gave it to you! And when your Momma dies, God rest her soul, you will get even more! Weehaw! That sho nuff makes you waaaaaay better person than me and so much better off than I can imagine. I once sat with a friend and wistfully said "I sure do wish I was rich." To which friend responded "Why do you think you aren't?" I have friends who love me, a good educations, the enthusiasm for good work and the ability to laugh loudly and with all my heart. Turns out, I'm pretty rich.

2. Poor people - would you define that for me, please? Jesus said there would always be the poor among us. Yes, we know there are those who have no home, no food, no education, no hope. Of all those things, we can easily provide for all but hope. Hope comes hard. It takes real effort. It takes time, imagination, and some days it takes absolutely everything you got. Sometimes, every thing you got isn't close to enough. I got money today, but I can't buy $50 worth of propane to get me through to next month when I'll have $100 more to toss at it, but they won't shot up for less than $200. Who knew it would be this cold in October. I thought for sure I could make it until December 1st with just a little faith. November 29, and I get the propane. November 30, a tree falls and smashes the house. No such thing as a propane refund. So, you who daily calls 1-800-DO-IT-FOR-ME to have your toilet paper changed, would it really hurt you to actually give a little money to a genuine, bona fide person who has none? I can live all year just on what you spend in one month at Walmart. Without even being thrifty. Who's poor? Within 2 hours I have a place to live with heat, thanks to a friend who just happens to have a house. Thank you God for your plans for me. Thank you God for friends. I will need another place to live next year, and as I walk into church full of faith that You will lead me to where I need to be, a friend needs help, would I, could I, please, live in her basement? We all provide.

3. Why is giving money to poor people so wrong? There's this attitude that if you have no money, there must be some lingering, underlying, nefarious moral issue at work in your life. Somehow, you just aren't good enough. For me, it worked like this: I got out of college and began to meticulously, carefully, deliberately plan my life. Of course, life happened other wise, and I rolled with the punches, got back up, went back to planning, got better and better jobs, better and better educations, better and better homes and better and better stuff. Then, one day, out of the blue, it all came tumbling down. Blindsided on a Tuesday. I hit a big, fat, hard brick wall. Family health problems and my own personal issues collided into a spiral of reality checking like I never imagined. In a world where what goes around comes around, I had to face up to a whole lot of mean, angry bad shit.

I got therapy. I got God. I was born of Jesus in a dream, and summoned to a conference with the Prophet (not profit) Muhammad (peace be upon him, praise to him, peace, love, and whatever it is that is said - and why don't I know this yet?). Buddha laughed. When the dust had finally settled, I emerged happier, wiser, and with a greater ability to laugh at myself and the world in general. I had no plan. I gave up. God wants me to do something, God knows how to get it done. God knows I don't. That was my plan. That is still my plan. I don't have any money, because God don't want me to have no money. God has her reasons. I have no idea what they are, but I have a roof over my head, I have food to eat, I have heat, beauty, laughter and the best friends anyone could ever want or hope or pray for. I'm still not poor.

As for the friend, I still like her. I disagree with her on a lot. I don't see her much anymore, but that's another issue for another day. So, when she asks me why poor people think rich people should give them money, I just tell her what she really already knows: Because Jesus said so.