silver gray honey


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We got engaged in December. It was cold and clear. In front of cameras of course (it doesn’t count if no one’s watching).

The next day, it began. It was cold and sharp. In my car along the Turnpike (with no one watching, of course).

I wouldn’t say the real you came out because I don’t think there is a real you.

You are honey mixed with gray silver micah. Lacking form and shape. You cannot be held but you stick and don’t let go. Clinging to my hands and I cannot quite get all of you off my skin. Dirt and remnants of what was and what wasn’t latched on.

I soak them in water. Warm and clear. And I watch as you dissolve and wash down my drain.

An ee Cummings poem for your Monday

i like my body when it is with your

body. It is so quite new a thing.

Muscles better and nerves more.

i like your body. i like what it does,

i like its hows. i like to feel the spine

of your body and its bones, and the trembling

-firm-smooth ness and which i will

again and again and again

kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,

I like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz

of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes

over parting flesh. . . . And eyes big love-crumbs

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

-ee Cummings

the tap shoes daddy spray painted silver for your first recital


for the other shoe to drop, to drop and disappear


for the dust to settle, to see if you’re still here

is it still you or someone else

someone with fangs and claws

someone from the darkness

see that’s why I need this pause

the earth and the wind and the water and the fire

spinning round and round and round

down the hill arms crossed hitting bumps, rocky ground

and once I hit one of those rocks just right


it knocked the wind out of me

and I was so scared that I might

never breathe again, might die right there and then

might have already had my last breath

but didn’t know it when

I drew it because I hadn’t hit that rock

and I never saw it coming

tumbling down the hill so innocently humming

the songs that go round and round your head

when you’re young and stupid and

sleeping in your twin bed with

your Kurt Cobain poster on the ceiling above

on the phone til 1 AM because

you’re so fucking in love

the way you love

when you’re young and stupid and

don’t see the rocks coming

the ones that will knock the wind right out of you

as the end of innocence comes running

to take away

your naivete

go head and pray

it’s end of day

now you’ll find your way

in this brand new play

whose lines you don’t yet know

a different kind of show

all the other players, though,

seem to know which way to go

and so you follow along

mouthing the words to the songs

Mama said don’t watch the other girls dancing

don’t copy them

You know the dance

So, dance

the way mama taught you

But those days are over


you’re standing on a a new kind of stage

you can look but there’s no lines on the page

it’s a brave new world you’re making up as you go

now on with the show

even though you technically are


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Love came and

cracked open my ribcage.

Reached in and grabbed my beating heart and dug its nails in.

Pulled out


not hard enough.

My myocardium stuck on the shards of my ribs like jaggers.

Lacerated and bleeding, still beating.

Contractions spurring more


My chest empty,

a hole where my heart should be

(even though it is technically still there)


you are physically not

(even though you technically are)

And it kills me

Friday the 13th

I threw my wedding ring into the river today




into the Allegheny it sank

To the bottom where there is

no light.

we met on a river

got engaged by a river

lived by a river

moved and made a home by another river

this river.

In a river we were born and

in a river today we died.

He tried to pull me




to a place where there is

no light.

But I broke free and swam




to the light.

you tried to starve the light in me

you’re still in darkness, I am free

I am not yours, you are not mine

these waters broke the tie that binds

I am not yours, you are not mine

these waters broke the tie that binds

I am not yours, you are not mine

these waters broke the tie that binds

So mote it be

baptism, mikvah, Negril

Tears and the ocean both being salt water is not

an accident.

Tears met with comfort release our pain


connect us to one another.

For a moment we are weightless,

surrounded by the warm salty water of the Womb.


Beneath the surface, the sounds fall away

(There is only Her heartbeat)

The salt stings our eyes and we must close them now

and wipe away the salt water.

Emerging from the warmth into

the bright light of the Sun,

the cool air moving past us,

the noise of ordinary life around us.

(the tears dry,

their molecules moving into the air, into the sky, to the clouds

to be returned again to the rain, to the ocean)

We are renewed now.


Returned a little closer to who we were

before we left the safety of the ocean we all began in.

And knowing this is one to which we can return


Drip, drip, drip (better times up round the bend)


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Water torture encompasses a variety of techniques using water to inflict physical or psychological harm on a victim as a form of torture or execution

I’d like to start this post by pointing out the term “Chinese water torture” is racist and nonsensical actually. When this torture technique has been used, it has been mainly by Europeans and there’s no recorded instances of the Chinese ever having used it.

Ok, onward and upward.

There’s this book by Lundy Bancroft I bought years ago titled “Why Does He Do That?” It’s about abusive partners and the many myths that surround our ideas of abuse. He’s a counselor that works with abusive men who either want to change or have been forced by the courts to undergo counseling. We often say abusive men need to learn to manage their anger but Bancroft argues that abuse isn’t an issue of out of control anger. Rather, it is a systemic, deliberate process used to control for the benefit of the abuser. They don’t need to learn to control themselves; they need to learn to stop controlling their partner (and everyone else in their lives they’re controlling).

In the book, he details ten different categories of abusers. The one I am going to talk (err-write) about today is the Water Torturer.

We’re all familiar with the idea of water torture. Not the waterboarding done by the US government. Rather, this idea of tying someone down and dripping water down onto their forehead slowly, drip by drip. The drops come randomly and it induces a psychological breakdown.

Lundy uses this as a metaphor for the kind of abuser who doesn’t yell or hit. He is always calm and appears to the outside world to be a great guy. He rarely slips up and lets anyone see what he’s really like. He knows how to push his partner’s buttons and get *her* to scream and get emotional. Then he says “why are you getting so worked up?” “you really need to work on your mental health problems” “stop abusing me.” He doesn’t punch or kick but he engages in subtle physical abuse such as blocking her from leaving the room or following her around the house arguing when she tries to get away. He doesn’t engage in blatant sexual abuse such as rape but rather makes degrading comments about her sexual interests, her appearance or withholds sex. He makes extensive use of sarcasm, put downs, controlling where she goes, controlling money, undermining her sense of self worth, isolating her from friends and family, badmouthing her to other people and gaslighting. Lots and lots of gaslighting.

Because you see, like Harry Houdini who helped popularize the idea of water torture, he depends upon an illusion to keep her with him. He depends on creating distractions so neither she nor the outside world can see what he really is and what he’s really doing.

The good news, friends, is that you don’t have to remain strapped down to that table. The damage done by this abuse is extensive, but most definitely something you can heal from.

You just have to keep in mind the Wizard of Oz is not real and keep your eyes on the little man behind the curtain. It’s hard to do, but you’re a badass so you got this.

I see this a lot in my practice. I have women who come in with black eyes and broken ribs, but more often they come in telling me stories of emotional abuse like this. They’ve been so worn down by it, like a pebble in a stream that becomes small and smooth over time from the water flowing over it. They are too tired and broken to leave. And they’re in love. And they’re addicted to the chemicals our brains grow to crave when we’ve been in toxic, tumultuous relationships for so long.

The University of Illinois did some research and noticed there are 5 stages to leaving an abusive relationship. The first two stages encompass the very beginning of the abused partner noticing there is something very wrong, something that goes beyond normal relationship issues. She’s nowhere close to leaving, but the spell has started to wear off. Stage three, women start to notice the effect of the abuse on their children. They start viewing the abuser’s behavior as abuse on a regular basis. And they start preparing to leave. Maybe they tell a friend what’s going on. Start stashing away cash in case they need to run. Call a domestic violence line. Stage four is an interesting one.

Stage four is the yo yo stage. You leave but then you come back. You might end up yo yo-ing several times before you truly leave. Why? Because he says he’ll change. Because being on your own is hard, financially, logistically (with kids), emotionally. Because he gets other people to guilt trip you. Because he won’t “give up on you.” Because you’re addicted to the brain chemicals. Because this dynamic is comfortable to you. Because you love him.

Stage five is the final one. You have left and you have stayed away and aren’t going back. The researchers define this as having left and stayed away 6 months or more. The abuse can continue if there are children involved and you are forced to have continue contact with your abuser, but it’s much less than before and you can begin to heal and move on.

It’s hard as doctor to have patients in those first four stages. Hard for friends and family too. But you can’t skip stages and you can’t rush someone through them. They have to make the choice to leave and stay left. You can support them by listening without judgement and validating their feelings. If you’re a friend or family, offering help with kids and other logistics can help too. And if they yo yo back, be there for them. They may be afraid to tell you. They may avoid you. Don’t give up on them. The abuser will likely make even greater attempts to isolate his partner if she goes back, so stay in her life whatever way you safely can and let her know you’re there is she ever needs you.

A lot of doctors shy away from dealing with the issue of intimate partner violence because they find it so frustrating to have a patient that won’t leave or who goes back. There are a lot of reasons women stay or return. And the sad reality is, sometimes it’s safer or necessary for her to stay. Being there to keep her as safe and supported as possible is hard, but it can be life changing for her. If you abandon her because she won’t leave, you’re just continuing the patten of the abuser, seeking to control her.

The longer you stay, the harder it is to leave. So, if you’re in a relationship with a water torturer, don’t put off considering leaving. A lot of times the reasons we come up with to stay aren’t as convincing if we discuss them with someone outside the relationship like a therapist, domestic help line or friend. Once you’re down in his world of gaslighting, isolation and control, your sense of reality is skewed. You need someone who isn’t riding that Tilt-A-Whirl.

Once you are out, the healing is not necessarily the most fun process. It’s kind of like when someone is getting over opiate addiction. There’s a lot they need to dig out from. A lot of pain and sadness and the practical part of rebuilding your life. But there’s also joy. And as the months pass, there is less and less pain and more and more joy. And you will look back and say, how did I do that all those years? How did I survive? And you’ll see what a badass you are. And that there are far better things at the carnival than the broken Tilt-A-Whirl. And you and your kids will eat cotton candy and laugh and sleep soundly at the end of the day cozy in your warm, safe beds.

Are you a Mary or a Rhoda? Maybe both.(of divorce and white hot suns)


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Someone crying a solitary sad tear

I cried a little on my way into work this morning. Well, not work exactly. I was actually driving to the tire place near my office because I got another flat. Presumably due to hitting the curb too many times trying to squeeze into a parking space in front of my house, a popular place for people from all corners the earth to park. Not that I’m bitter. Anyway, back to the crying. I was crying because I didn’t have a head scarf on. I was crying because my divorce was a little about more final now.

This is not my street but the parking looks similar

I started wearing my headscarves five years ago. Was it really five years? It went so fast. It was after my husband and I had reconciled, for the second time. I decided to wear the scarf for a lot of reasons. I’m sure I’ve written posts about it on here. I covered my head on my spiritual journey of my youth. Covered it studying Judaism, covered it exploring Islam, covered it, ultimately as a Catholic (turned post-Catholic). It was a way for me to remember God each day. But it was also because I was married. Muslim women who wear hijab do so whether they’re married or not. Same with the Amish. But Orthodox Jews cover their hair when they’re married.

And I’m not married anymore. Mostly.

Divorce doesn’t happen in a day. There’s the day you file, the day you tell the kids, the day you tell everyone else, the day you move out, the day you change your name back, the day you write up your custody agreement, the day you divide up your assets and debts (the physical ones anyway. Not sure you ever stop dividing up the blame and resentment but I hope so), the day the decree is handed down. But these are just the outward signs of the true divorce, the one inside you.

I don’t think judges get your wedding rings before pounding their gavel on your divorce decree that looks like an elementary school perfect attendance certificate but maybe I’m wrong

I chose to stop wearing my headscarves this weekend after a year and a half of considering it. I thought and contemplated and prayed and searched my heart and consulted the cards. And I knew it was time. I’m still devoted to God and I’ll still wear it on certain occasions. But, for me, a head scarf is for married women. And I’m not married anymore.

But as I was crying, I thought, why are you crying? It’s not that I miss my husband. I reeeeeeally don’t. It’s definitely not that I wish we were still together. I reeeeeeally don.’t. It was something else. A marriage is more than the two people in it. There are the two of you and then there’s who you thought they were and who they thought you were. There’s the couple you thought you were and the couple they thought you were. There’s all the people in your life and what you thought your marriage was to them. There are your kids and what it was to them. And there are your hopes, the life you thought would unfold over the next 30 or 40 years. Your identity as a married woman, now a twice divorced woman. It is a slow, painful death. But.


It is followed by rebirth. All those contractions and dilating and blood and fluid and pushing until you think you might split in two like a wishbone, are worth it in the end. You emerge bloody and red and crying. You might even have some meconium in your lungs to work out. The air is cold and you miss the comfort of the womb, but there’s no going back. Here you are.

I wish I could say there’s a big boob waiting there to comfort you, but there’s not. After all, you just gave birth to yourself. The only teet is your own. Okay I’m going to drop this metaphor now. It’s getting a little bit too weird.

Where was I? Oh yes, scarves.

When I started covering my head, after we reconciled, if I’m being completely honest with myself, it was about more than God. And it was about more than being married. It was to contain the part of me I had to put deep inside in order to keep my marriage together.

We reconciled because I couldn’t financially afford to leave but we also reconciled because I couldn’t stand to be alone. It took me 40 years to get to a place where I could be alone and not fall apart. Okay, 42; I’ve definitely fallen apart during this divorce process and had to have some very strong external motivators to keep me going. Anyway, when I went back five years ago, it was in resignation. Resignation to the fact I couldn’t afford to leave, resignation to the fact I wasn’t strong enough to leave but I wasn’t strong enough to stay. I knew if I went back this time, that was it. I was in it for the long haul. I couldn’t keep putting my kids through the back and forth. Or myself. I needed to be stable and give them a stable home. I needed to grow up and accept my life for what it was. And so, I knew I had to resign myself to the parts of my husband that always made me want to leave. I had to accept the control and paranoia and misogyny and irrationality and the messy house and everything else. And I had to dim my light, so I didn’t outshine him. And so I covered it with a scarf and said goodbye.

How many of us spend our lives dimming our light to keep the people in our lives happy?

Well, fuck that.

It’s been a long journey of spiritual growth and therapy and a lot of blog entries and a few very good friends. But I have started shining again. Gradually, over these past few years. And now, the scarves are off and I’m aiming for supernova levels.

A photo of me seen this weekend grocery shopping in hoop earrings and platform sandals

It’s not just him. It’s so many people who’ve been in my life. And that’s life. That’s the fallen world we live in where people are insecure and jealous and afraid and don’t realize there’s room for all of us to shine. A million white hot suns. Feel free to stare directly at us, it will not damage your retinas.

And so, I find myself thinking of Gloria Steinem and Rhoda Morgenstern and all the other fabulous, confident, free spirited 40-something women with good hair. I am not someone new. I am just stripping away all the layers I’ve used to dull my shine. The self-imposed vernix. I am becoming more me.

I’m throwing my deep purple scarf in the air, ’cause I’m gonna make it after all.

Aqua Tofana, the cunning woman’s divorce

I recently asked a patient how their Mother’s Day had been and they replied, not good. Their mother had found out her partner had been slowly poisoning her. I asked them if this person seemed the poisoning type, any history of violence or mental illness? No, they responded. It was a total shock. And I thought to myself, why would someone poison their spouse instead of just divorcing them? And then I thought about what divorce is like and I wasn’t as stumped.

My friend told me about a prominent pastor who’d slowly poisoned his wife and made it appear as though she had a terrible chronic disease so he could garner attention and sympathy (narcissist much?). Another friend related to me a tale of a man who had poisoned his wife (by slipping it into her prenatal vitamins) right before she got into her car, hoping to make it look like a car accident but the poison kicked in too quickly and he was caught.

And then a friend told me the tale of Aqua Tofana.

olden times drawing of Aqua Tofana bottle

Giulia Tafana lived in 17th century Italy. She made cosmetics and holy oils for women by trade. But, she also helped over 600 women kill their husbands with a poison she made called Aqua Tofana. She succeeded for decades but in 1659 she and her daughter Girolama Spara were put to death for their crimes. Well, by one account anyway. Another has Tofana dying peacefully of old age and her daughter taking over the family business.

Spara operated as a kind of “cunning woman” who sold charms and cures to the gentlewomen and nobility of Rome. These activities would not only have introduced her to potential customers, but would also have given her a shrewd idea of which of her clients were happy in their marriages and which unhappy – not to mention which might be desperate enough to seek drastic remedies, and be able to keep a secret.

The thing to keep in mind is that in 17th century Europe, women had no rights. Your husband could beat and rape you as much as he pleased. Your father could pick your husband for you. Women had very little control over their lives and divorce was not a thing back then. What was a girl to do? Giulia Tofana had the answer.

Aqua Tofana was a unique poison. It was colorless and flavorless and only 4 drops was enough to kill a man (or, as the primmer source goes, “sufficient to destroy a man”). The wife would put the first drop in his food or wine and he would feel a bit off, a bit tired. Then in a a day or two she would slip him the second drop and he’d feel worse. By the third drop, he was vomiting and diarrheaing all over the place (which she probably had to clean up) and calling for the priest. And the final drop did him in.

Administered in wine or tea or some other liquid by the flattering traitress, [it] produced but a scarcely noticeable effect; the husband became a little out of sorts, felt weak and languid, so little indisposed that he would scarcely call in a medical man…. After the second dose of poison, this weakness and languor became more pronounced… The beautiful Medea who expressed so much anxiety for her husband’s indisposition would scarcely be an object of suspicion, and perhaps would prepare her husband’s food, as prescribed by the doctor, with her own fair hands. In this way the third drop would be administered, and would prostrate even the most vigorous man. The doctor would be completely puzzled to see that the apparently simple ailment did not surrender to his drugs, and while he would be still in the dark as to its nature, other doses would be given, until at length death would claim the victim for its own…

To save her fair fame, the wife would demand a post-mortem examination. Result, nothing — except that the woman was able to pose as a slandered innocent, and then it would be remembered that her husband died without either pain, inflammation, fever, or spasms. If, after this, the woman within a year or two formed a now connection, nobody could blame her; for, everything considered, it would be a sore trial for her to continue to bear the name of a man whose relatives had accused her of poisoning him.

She initially disguised it as cosmetics but soon moved to hiding it in holy oil bottles marked Manna of St. Nicholas of Barri. This was appropriate because a priest, Father Girolama, was getting them their supplies. (A crooked priest??? Shocking, I know, but it’s true). It was also appropriate because what gal doesn’t want jolly old St. Nick bringing her some Aqua Tofana? Slip a bottle of that potion under my tree, Santa!

Is there Aqua Tofana in Santa’s sack?

We don’t know if any of this is true, of course. The witch hunts were still going in the 17th century as part of a broad and violent effort to suppress female healers, midwives, artisans and craftspeople. Maria Mies refers to this process as Housewiferization . European women were being removed from the public sphere and confined to the private sphere of the home. It’s possible the tale of Aqua Tofana is entirely a result of the times. But I think most women would like to think it’s true. Not because we’re homicidal, but because, well, patriarchy sucks. Being powerless sucks. Why shouldn’t those 17th century men have at least been a little afraid their wife might poison them if they treated her like shit?

We don’t have to poison our husbands these days. We can just divorce them. There’s less vomit to clean up. But it doesn’t make nearly as good a story.


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a prose poem on pandemic and human connection (or, angels knocking)


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My receptionist is back and I had an in office appointment today. Almost all of my appointments have been by phone since March 13, 2020, but even with the rare in office appointment, I would greet the patients and have them go into the room with me. Now, she roomed the patient and then I went in. Before I did, I did the doctor knock. That sort of quick, short littler knock you do as you’re opening the door. You pop your head in first and then walk into the room and give your excited greeting. I came really close to crying. I had no idea how much I missed that knock. That moment where you’re standing outside the door and you pause and prepare yourself mentally for what’s on the other side. Sometimes it’s a brief, happy moment. Sometimes it’s a frantic review of the chart that you really should have done sooner. Sometimes it’s a feeling of exhaustion and dread and “can I really make it through another patient today?” If it weren’t for this pandemic, for this seismic shift in how we do medicine, I would have never appreciated that knock, that moment, that island of time and place that is the outer edge of the intimate relationship between doctor and patient. There is joy in my bones right now. The quiet sound of angels singing. A feeling of home in my heart.