Friday, May 19, 2017

Joan Dobbie and Elizabeth Bruce

The picture above is from Cambridge (Central Square?), not Eugene, OR, but I thought that it would fit Joan Dobbie's first piece.

It's good to be back.  After a tough semester, I am starting The Song Is... up again with some  pieces on not driving by Joan Dobbie and Elizabeth Bruce.  The fall/winter/spring contests continue!

Joan Dobbie

I used to fly in my dreams. That's how I knew I was dreaming. If I wasn't quite sure, I'd flap my wings (arms) and lift off. Mostly I didn't fly too awfully high, but sometimes I did. I flew up to the tops of the trees. Sometimes really tall trees, almost as high as the clouds.

In 2013, in my regular life, I realized that my periferal vision was bad, not good enough anyhow. I decided to stop driving.

From then on to now, I bike and I bus.

Biking is still sort of magic for me, gliding up over the earth. I feel like I'm flying. I could well be dreaming.

The other night, as often, I wasn't quite sure if I was or I wasn't. I jumped high as I could, flapping my arms, and, THUD, landed flat on my feet. "OMIGOD," I thought, "I'm really awake!" That's what I thought. And then I woke up.

My interpretation: Now that I fly in my everyday life, my brain doesn't quite know how to handle it. "Must be she can't when she's sleeping," it thinks.

My advice: If you want to fly high in your everyday life, get rid of your car. Trade it in for a bike.

copyright 2016, Joan Dobbie

What it is to be moral
(With Thanks to Nicole Taylor whose bus conversation poems inspired me to listen)

The young lady clearly had an extra chromosome
and all the sweetness that often goes with that

Beside her, an almost handsome young
guy, his speech only slightly impaired

They knew each other well, probably from school.

(The bus pulled to a stop and another couple boarded, she holding a bundled blue blanket to her breast, he, folding up the stroller, tucking it under their seat)

"I wish I had a baby,"
the words were spoken softly, but clearly.

He reached over, tenderly touching
her cheek with the back of his hand

"I could give you one," he said
and she froze. "Don't you touch me! Ever!"

He drew back."You are engaged to
be married. Daniella is my very best
friend. Don't you ever touch me again."

"I'm sorry," he said, again,



as if there were no other words
in all the world.

"Daniela would be jealous," she repeated,
tears rimming her small hooded eyes.

"I'm sorry," he said, turning away, she looking
down at the floor, me

out the window

Copyright Joan Dobbie 10/16

Elizabeth Bruce sent me one of her "one dollar" stories, which I am posting below.  


Originally Published in Firewords Quarterly (Issue 6)

in the United Kingdom in 2016

“One dollar!  Woo hoo!”  She shouted up the basement steps. “Honey, I found an extra dollar in your jeans’ pocket. Another dollar, darlin’, for the kitty. That’s good news, isn’t it?”
“Oh my, and look at this,” she added, pulling a handful of coins out of another pair of jeans, covered in dust from the quarry. “Another 75-cents in your other pants. Why this is a happy day! Seaside vacation here we come!” She slipped the dollar bill and coins into the pocket of her apron and turned back to the washing machine.
She held the rumbled dungarees in both hands and looked up the stairway past the bare light bulb hanging down and waited though no reply came, only the garbled drone of Monday night football playing on the TV in the living room.
She turned back to the laundry and after a moment footsteps clunked across the kitchen floor above. The refrigerator door opened and closed quickly, and the cushing sound of a beer can opening wafted down the stairs.
She stopped and listened to the rattle of his key chain clipped onto his belt loop.
“Baby,” she called quickly, the quiver in her voice swaddled in the sweetness she’d been known for, the sing songy uplift he’d once adored. “Want me to make you some nachos, darlin’?” 
“I got some of that new picante sauce you like so much. Why, folks say it makes homemade nachos just as good as the ones at Los Lobos.”
She twisted the ruffle of the apron she wore constantly these days it seemed, stretched tighter now across her midriff softer and wider as it was like the other wives, the ones with babies in tow though no baby tugged at her bosom after all, cranky for want of mother’s milk. She’d have been the one to do it too, nurse her baby the old fashioned way, like their grandmas and great-grannies had done, low-class and nasty though the girls today said it was, and swore they’d rather die than sink so low. Never you mind, she’d told the other gals before her baby’d come, then gone, so tiny and weak and early. Never you mind, she’d said to him as well, though in her heart she knew he hadn’t been ready either for a baby or a wife or the life she’d tried to make for them and wanted still to have.
“So, why don’t you just settle in and let me make you some good ole nachos?” she shouted up the steps, picking up another bundle of dirty clothes.
“Why, they say it’s going to rain tonight anyway, and you know those tires are so bald, they’re ‘bout to burst. Ain’t no good in the rain, honey. You said that yourself why just last week. And Lord knows, if anyone knows best ‘bout cars it’s you, sugar.”
She held up a white t-shirt, found a spot of grease, a Big Mac dribble maybe or chicken fries, and poured extra detergent on it, rubbing it together like her mother used to.
            “No sir, no good in the rain at all. Just think what a hardship it’d be having that old jalopy go crashing into one of them big oak trees down close to town. Why, where’d we be then, without a truck or money enough to fix it? I know how that pains you, darlin’, having things go wrong like that. Why, you need your rest, sweetheart. You work too hard to be burdened with troubles like that. Yes siree, you deserve better, husband, much, much better than a smashed up pick-up and being stuck out her in the middle of nowhere with just stupid old me for company.”
She paused and tilted her ear toward the stairway, cradling a new bundle of dirty clothes like the sleeping child they’d never had. The television rumbled on. She lifted a dingy undershirt from the pile and breathed in its acrid odor. One-by-one she peeled clothes from the pile, checked the pockets and tossed them into the washer: his Tennessee Titans t-shirt, the dress shirt he wore to church, plaid boxers, cotton socks, dungarees, pushing them all into the same jumbo load, whites and colors together until only his Sunday trousers were left.
“Why if we use the kitty we’re getting close to having all the money for some brand new tires, so you won’t have to give it another thought,” she said, pressing the trousers to her chest and waiting, waiting for a response that didn’t come, again.
She sighed and held the pants out before her as she had the dungarees and searched the pockets one by one. A half pack of gum, a gas receipt, crumpled tissue, three pennies, one dime, a nickel, and there in the front left pocket, a bundle of dollar bills. She smiled and glanced up the stairs, holding the dollar bills in one hand, her mouth already open and ready to shout out the good news.
But then she stopped. She looked again at the folded bills and peeled them back slowly like lettuce leaves and there, nestled beneath the dollars was a single condom, its silver foil unbroken.
She stopped, her arm bent, the crinkling packet perched inside the green bills in her hand. For a long time, she looked at it, its shiny package a perfect square like a York Peppermint Patty.
Then, silently, she slid the packet back inside the bills and started to put it into her apron pocket with the other loose change.
But then she stopped and looked around the basement, at the shelves full of paint cans and yard tools. She crossed over to a group of boxes stacked against the wall, and opened one labeled “Christmas.” She dug around inside and pulled out an old Christmas cookie tin. Holding the metal box between her knees she pried the lid off and slipped the bundle of bills inside. She started to press the top back on, but then stopped and scooped the extra dollar and jumble of coins from her apron pocket and dropped them into the tin as well. The coins rattled and she quickly closed the metal box.
Glancing up the steps, she slid the cookie tin far back onto the laundry shelf behind the spot remover and fabric softener. Pausing, she flopped her bag of rags over the tin and turned back to the laundry. She scooped out a ladle of detergent and sprinkled it slowly over the wash. She turned the washer level to jumbo and pushed the hot/warm button and the machine came alive before her, a cascade of clean warming water rushing over his dirty clothes.
“No, siree,” she said, to the open washer, her voice rising ever so slightly. “Not one more worried thought ‘bout them tires. A body can just drive, and drive and drive without a care in the world once them tires are fixed. Now, won’t that be nice? Won’t that be worth all the one dollars in the world?”

I'll finish up with a little music.  

Let's start with Melba Liston's "Insomnia":
I think that she may be playing trombone on Randy Weston's "1st Movement: Uhuru Kwanza (Part Two)":
Here is Randy Weston's "The Healers":
I'll finish with his "African Cookbook":

Let's do this more often!


  1. I love Joan Dobbie's flying poem and her bus poem. Joan has such a way with really observing herself and others. I will not ride my bike without thinking of flying from now on! The poignancy of that moment the girl confronts the guy is very real.
    I also love Elizabeth Bruce's short story Bald Tires. I love the detail and how she figured out what was going on, and how to preserve herself in a less than ideal situation, despite her sweet desires and obvious dashed hopes. She is not letting anyone know she knows, nor will it ruin her mood though its clear she has plans in the making.

  2. I enjoyed being back to your site and reading tonight. Like the Flying poem very much, and the other poem as well. Bald Tires was fun to read as well.

    Thank you.