2/25/21 Workshop – Live Reading by Joy Cutler

My Beshert, or the Curse of the Stolen Potatoes (an excerpt) 

By Joy Cutler

It started on my 38th birthday. It’s raining buckets. It’s raining cats and dogs. It’s raining so hard that it’s raining buckets of cats and dogs. It’s also the day I have an appointment with a nephrologist to find out when I have to start dialysis. I might be the most pissed off person in New York City.

Coming out of the subway station I battle with my umbrella, the rain and wind join forces to attack my defenseless body, which is no way to treat the BIRTHDAY GIRL! Fuckshitgoddamnit!! My crappy black umbrella turns inside out, flips over and tries to escape down W. 66th St like a crow with a broken wing. When I catch up with it I wrestle it down to the ground and smack its pointy end on the sidewalk to teach it a lesson. Thwack! By the time I find the dialysis clinic I’m a sopping wet mess. The clinic is in the same building as the Alvin Ailey Dance Company’s rehearsal studios. As I soggily squelch my way towards the dialysis entrance I see gorgeous, young dancers smoking cigarettes while standing under a bouquet of colorful well-behaved umbrellas, their hands held in elegant poses as they talk. A dancer pliés as she smokes, her fuchsia umbrella bobbing up and down. Another dancer grabs his right foot and in one quick movement, swoosh!, lifts his leg above his head holding the pose as he exhales. They’re so damn perfect. I hope they all get emphysema.

(shouts) ”Don’t you know you’re mortal, you stupid idiots?”

No, I am not in a good mood.

I push the elevator button. When the elevator arrives an older guy in workman overalls gets on with me. He watches as I push “B” for the basement.


I can’t believe he’d ask me something so personal, but I tell him the truth, “Not yet.”

The elevator lets out an arthritic groan and continues its painfully slow descent. Silence. My elevator companion pipes up.

“Hey, I just did a plumbing job at Charlton Heston’s apartment. And you know what? He’s a very nice person.”

In a voice as flat as a flattened flatworm I say, “That’s fantastic news. (big sigh) It’s my birthday today.”

I don’t know why I tell him that.

The elevator lets out a terrifying belch and stops. The door opens. I can see tired-looking dialysis patients lying on recliners with what looks like red tubing between each person’s arm and the churning squat machine next to them. Oh. Right. The tubing isn’t red, that’s their blood flowing towards the machine. Gross.

My elevator companion waves as I step out. “Happy birthday! And good luck!”

If the door hadn’t closed right then I’d have grabbed the screwdriver off his tool belt and thrown it at his head. Happy birthday my ass. This has to be the worst birthday of my entire life. Even though my kidneys are trying really hard to keep up with all their jobs, I’m exhausted. Lab tests confirm what my body knows already– walking more than a few blocks makes it hard to breathe, I’ve got anemia because my bone marrow stopped making enough red blood cells, my brain feels fogged in, it’s hard to sleep, my blood pressure is elevated and I hardly pee anymore which is just plain weird. I would love to hate this disease for doing this to my faithful kidneys, but I just can’t. Alport Syndrome is a part of who I am and I can’t hate it without hating myself too and I have enough crap to deal with without that. Right now I want to turn around, go home and watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood where no one has dying kidneys. I want Fred Rogers to wrap me up in his cardigan and sing to me and I don’t even like Mr. Rogers. My mother’s right – this is all her fault.

Reflective writing prompt: Write about your beshert.


2/10/21 Workshop – A Poem by Lucille Clifton

Fred and Lucille Clifton


the death of fred clifton – Lucille Clifton


age 49

i seemed to be drawn

to the center of myself

leaving the edges of me

in the hands of my wife

and i saw with the most amazing


so that i had not eyes but


and, rising and turning,

through my skin,

there was all around not the

shapes of things

but oh, at last, the things



Reflective writing prompt: Write about a time of clarity

1/21/21 Workshop – A Song by Sekou Sundiata

Forsaken Sea – Sekou Sundiata

Always go in low tide

                        High tide comes

Always go in low tide

                        High tide comes

We always go it seems

We always go to the ocean

We always go to the ocean at low tide.


We could walk

We could walk deep

We could walk deep into the sea and never be

in over our heads.


We do not believe

We do not believe

We do not believe

that drowning is for us.


High tide comes out of the water the same way

for the last billion years.

There is nothing new.


We know when to swim, and when to wait.

We know when to swim, and when to wait.

The waves come in and go back out

                        For the last billion years

                        The ocean still emotional

                        Singing in our ears

                         Always go in

                        Always go in low tide, high tide comes

                        Always go in low tide, high tide comes


 High tide comes out of the water the same way for the last billion years.

There is nothing new.

We know when to swim and when to wait.

In the car

In the car the road

In the car the road murmurs beneath the wheels

The ocean, so emotional, in our ears.


We seek without looking

The smallest token, passes and settles

into what music is about, music is about.


You could say

You could say we are dancing

And from this one thing we know 10 things

From this one thing we know 10 things


We always go in low tide

When high tide comes


We always go to the ocean

We always go to the ocean at low tide.

We see without looking at the music the water makes

                                                We know when to swim and we know when to wait

                                                We always go in low tide, high tide comes

                                                Always go at low tide, high tide comes

                                                We do not believe

We do not believe

We do not believe

We do not believe

That drowning is for us.


High tide comes out of the water

The same way for the last billion years.


Yes, you could say, you could say we are dancing

And from this one thing, we know 10 things.


We always go in low tide

High tide comes.

Reflective writing prompt: We do not believe…..

1/13/21 Workshop – A Poem by Noor Hindi

Breaking [News] by Noor Hindi

We’ll wake up, Sunday morning, and read the paper. Read each other. Become
of each other’s stories, a desperate reaching
for another body’s warmth—its words buoying us through a world. We carry
graveyards on our backs and I’m holding a lightning bug
hostage in one hand, its light dimming in the warmth
of  my fist, and in the other, a pen, to document its death. Isn’t that terrible?
I’ll ask you, shutting my fist once more.
In interviews, I frame my subject’s stories through a lens to make them digestible
to consumers.
I  become a machine. A transfer of information. They  become a plea for empathy,
an oversaturation of feelings we’ll fail at transforming into action.
What’s lost is incalculable.
           And at the end of  summer, the swimming pools will be gutted of  water.
          And it’ll be impossible to swim.
Reflective writing prompt: Write about something lost

12/22/20 Workshop – A Poem by Hilda Morley

Winter Solstice by Hilda Morley

 A cold night crosses

our path

The world appears

very large, very

round now       extending

far as the moon does

It is from

the moon this cold travels

It is

the light of the moon that causes

this night reflecting distance in its own

light so coldly

(from one side of

the earth to the other)

It is the length of this coldness

It is the long distance

between two points which are

not in a line        now

not a

straightness       (however

straight) but a curve only,

silver that is a rock reflecting

not metal

but a rock accepting


(a scream in silence

where between the two

points what touches

is a curve around the world

(the dance unmoving).

new york, 1969

Reflective writing prompt: Write about the light of the moon.


12/15/20 Workshop – A Poem by Wislawa Symborska

Life While-You-Wait by Wislawa Symborska

Life While-You-Wait.

Performance without rehearsal.

Body without alterations.

Head without premeditation.


I know nothing of the role I play.

I only know it’s mine. I can’t exchange it.


I have to guess on the spot

just what this play’s all about.


Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,

I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.

I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.

I trip at every step over my own ignorance.

I can’t conceal my hayseed manners.

My instincts are for happy histrionics.

Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliates me more. Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.


Words and impulses you can’t take back,

stars you’ll never get counted,

your character like a raincoat you button on the run —

the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.


If only I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,

or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!

But here comes Friday with a script I haven’t seen.

Is it fair, I ask

(my voice a little hoarse, since I couldn’t even clear my throat offstage).


You’d be wrong to think that it’s just a slapdash quiz taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.

I’m standing on the set and I see how strong it is.

The props are surprisingly precise.

The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer. The farthest galaxies have been turned on.

Oh no, there’s no question, this must be the premiere.

And whatever I do

will become forever what I’ve done.


Reflective writing prompt: Write about waiting, or, Write about a time you had to improvise

11/30/30 Workshop – A Poem by Alberto Rios

When Giving is All We Have – Alberto Rios

                                                    One river gives

                                                    Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.

We give because nobody gave to us.


We give because giving has changed us.

We give because giving could have changed us.


We have been better for it.

We have been wounded by it-


Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,

Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.


Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,

But we read this book, anyway, over and again:


Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,

Mine to yours, yours to mine.


You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.

Together we are simple green. You gave me


What you did not have, and I gave you

What I had to give-together, we made


Something greater from the difference.


Reflective Writing Prompt: We give because…

Reflection – Ecclesiastes 1 and “The Second Coming”

Uncertain times indeed! A time when institutions seem to be wearing out but with nothing new to replace them. We’ve been here before.


You’re invited to read and respond to these two offerings from 1919 and Ecclesiastes 1. You will find “there is nothing new under the sun.”

The Second Coming


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?



The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.


11/13/20 Workshop – On Healing and Repair

On Healing and Repair

“Healing wasn’t always the best. Sometimes a hole was better left open. Sometimes it healed to thick and too well and left separate pieces fused and incompetent. And it was harder to reopen after that.”

– Ann Brahares


“If you desire healing,

let yourself fall ill

let yourself fall ill.”

― Rumi


“Un-winged and naked, sorrow surrenders its crown to a throne called grace.”

– Aberjani


“Time didn’t heal, but it anesthetized. The human body could feel only so much.

– P.D. James


Believing the lie that time will heal all wounds is just a nice way of saying that time deadens us.

– Jonathan Nolan


“Time heals all wounds. And if it doesn’t, you name them something other than wounds and agree to let them stay.”

― Emma Forrest


“In time, in time they tell me, I’ll not feel so bad. I don’t want time to heal me. There’s a reason I’m like this. I want time to set me ugly and knotted with loss of you, marking me. I won’t smooth you away. I can’t say goodbye.”

― China Miéville


“To recognize one’s own insanity is, of course, the arising of sanity, the beginning of healing and transcendence.”
― Eckhart Tolle


“A daily dose of daydreaming heals the heart, soothes the soul, and strengthens the imagination.”

― Richelle E. Goodrich


“We heal up through being loved, and through loving others. We don’t heal by forming a secret society of one – by assessing about the only other ‘one’ we might admit, and being doomed to disappointment.”

― Jeanette Winterson


“The wounds that never heal can only be mourned alone.”

― James Frey

Reflective Writing Prompt: Write about being healed, or, write about a time you practiced Kintsugi in your life.

11/5/20 Workshop – On Reconciliation

On Reconciliation

“Moments of kindness and reconciliation are worth having, even if the parting has to come sooner or later.” – Alice Munro

“Zen doesn’t believe in the reconciliation of opposites because from the point of view of Zen, there is no point of view.” – Frederick Lenz

“The world is not dialectic – it is sworn to extremes, not to equilibrium, sworn to radical antagonism, not to reconciliation or synthesis. This is also the principle of evil.” – Jean Baudrillard

“You cannot disown what is yours. Flung out, there is always the return, the reckoning, the revenge, perhaps the reconciliation. There is always the return.” – Jeannette Winterson

“True reconciliation does not consist in merely forgetting the past.” – Nelson Mandella

”Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” – Walt Whitman

“If there is to be reconciliation, first there must be truth.”- Tim B. Tyson

“The astonishment of life is the absence of any appearances of reconciliation between the theory and the practice of life.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Art is both a vengeance against reality and a reconciliation with it.” – Francine du Plessix Gray

“Architecture is the art of reconciliation between ourselves and the world, and this mediation takes place through the senses.” – Juhani Pallasmaa

“It was like any other relationship, there was jealousy on both sides, there were split-ups and reconciliations. There were also fragmented moments of great peace and beauty. I often tried to get away from her and she tried to get away from me but it was difficult: Cupid, in his strange way, was really there.” – Charles Bukowski

Reflective writing prompt: Write or construct a graphic meme about reconciliation