Thursday, October 31, 2019

Teaching Ruby to Purr

My orange tiger cat, Ruby, is a big cat, but she has such a little purr I can barely hear it. 

Not only that, but she hardly ever purrs, only when I slick the top of her head and not every time, even then.

"Ruby," I tell her, "it's not seemly for such a big cat to make such a little noise."

She rolls her eyes at me, but she says nothing.

The veterinarian says Ruby's purr is normal, and so does the humane society, but I disagree. What do they understand about social niceties? 

Obviously, it's up to me to teach Ruby how to purr louder.

First I trained myself how to make a low continuous vibratory purr, like a cat's but much louder. Then every time I stroked Ruby, I purred. Whenever she purred, I purred louder. 

This went on for weeks, but she didn't change an iota, except she laid her ears back.

Maybe cats don't learn from humans. Maybe I need another cat. I think I'll go to the humane society and pet kittens until I find one with an appropriate purr. Then I'll bring him home and shut him in a room with Ruby. Maybe that will work.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

OCTOBER 24, 1986 - 2019

no more booze or daily hits of Mary Jane
sober & clean for 33 years
you can do it; I did it

Marilyn June Coffey

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Hail Barney!

On a visit to my dentist, I turned up Omaha's 90th. Street work signs, tall and orange striped, kept me inching down my single lane. Men working prevented me from reading street signs, but I felt certain I had a ways to go to turn left on Maple Street.

After a while, I wondered if I'd missed my turn, a major street with traffic lights galore. Then I realized I had.

No problem. I'll just hang a left at the next major artery. 

Miles flew by before I found an artery and turned. The new street looked unlike a city street. Few buildings. Few cross streets. Even some yellow blossoms. Where am I? 

I drove and drove. Then I saw a sign: Fremont 20 miles. Oh my God, I'm halfway to Fremont, a town northwest of Omaha. 

Spooked, I whipped a left onto a deserted two-lane highway with a 55-per-mile speed limit. I drove south, I thought, but I wasn't sure. Miles passed before I saw a place to ask for help. 

I turned into a complex of high-end homes, the kind where many sport names. I pulled into a road and stopped to check my iPhone. 

Then someone pulled up beside me and stopped his shiny black truck. An older man rolled down his window. "You okay?"

I rolled down mine. "I'm lost."

The man smiled. "Where you going?"

I told him.   

"I'll take you there. Just follow me."

He turned around and I followed, thinking are you crazy in the middle of nowhere following a man you don't know? Even so, he seemed a better option than my iPhone which had never heard of 129th and Maple Streets. Just like her!

We drove and drove mostly along 168th Street. We crossed Military Avenue and Fort Street, familiar names. When the man pulled his truck off the road, I pulled in beside him.

He got out of the truck, taller and older than I'd thought. "Hi. I'm Barney."

He stuck out his hand and through my rolled down window we shook. 

"I think you can take it from here. Maple is the second stoplight. You take a left and—"

"Barney, thanks so much, you've really made my day."

In the Omaha World Herald, I've read about people like Barney, who do you a kindness without being asked. Usually they're folks who pick up your tab in a restaurant. I never thought I'd live to meet one. I'm so glad I did. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019


The first time I fell down, no one could have been more surprised than me. One moment I walked in my neighborhood and the next instant I lay flat on my face on the sidewalk. I didn't seem hurt, so I got up and went home.

The second time echoed the first, only I noticed that I tripped on a crack in the sidewalk.

The third time I tripped on a crack as I walked to some Lincoln, Nebraska, event. I crashed face first to the cement, but got up and carried on. A friend with me observed, "Marilyn, you really ought to get a cane." So I visited Kubat's Pharmacy and chose a simple style: black to match my shoes and my belt.

The fourth time I fell as I walked in my garage. I held my cane in my right hand so I couldn't fall on my face. Instead, I fell on my left side, into a display of snow shovels. I fell hard. This time it hurt. I got up, all right, but I lived for a week with a magnificent bruise on my left thigh.

The fifth time I fell, I missed one step as I stepped down two indoor steps in a church. My cane lay in my car. I managed the first step down but when two friends moved forward to talk to me, I looked at them and forgot to look at my feet. One foot stepped completely over the second step into pure air. I pirouetted and slammed to the floor on my back. My head cracked  louder than thunder.

What to do. I didn't feel hurt, so I rolled over and pulled myself to my feet. The teacher brought me ice and a towel. I sat out most of the exercise class. By then I noticed a swelling as large as an egg on the back of my head, but I didn't feel dizzy and I had no head ache so I drove home. There I treated my disaster with more ice packs and with a huge bowl of ice cream.

I don't experience myself an expert in falling, since I've never fallen on my right side, but I'm getting ready. I use my cane everywhere I go, and I hold it with my left hand to prepare myself for that right-side descent. When it happens, then I can brag that I've mastered the four forms of falling: front, back, left and right sides.  

Thursday, October 3, 2019

ON LEARNING TO WALK Or what the physical therapist told me:

Don't slump. 
Stand straight, 
shoulders back, 
head up. 
That's right.

But don't shuffle, Marilyn. 
Lead with your heels, 
not your toes.

Stand up straight. 
That's it. 
Pull your shoulders back.
That's better. 

Keep your head high.
Don't look at your feet. 
Look ahead of you. 
Look at where you're going.

Now swing your arms; 
Let them hang loose
Don't bend them.

Coordinate your arms and legs: 
right arm, left leg. 
Left arm, right leg.
That's it.

Now speed up.
You've got it.
Just relax.

Thursday, September 26, 2019


September 22-28 is national Banned Books Week, an annual event that celebrates our freedom to read.

My novel Marcella is among the dozens, no hundreds, perhaps thousands of books censored by libraries or schools.

"Marcella" published in 1973.

Marcella was blocked for its sexual language, the usual reason for suppressing books. Well-known titles banned for sexual content include Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James; The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; The Color Purple by Alice Walker; and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

Other reasons to ban books include offensive language (examples are To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck); racism (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain); use of occult/Satanism (J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series) and curiously enough, for its religious viewpoint, The Holy Bible.

Marcella's sexual crime was petting her pussy. That made my book the first novel written in English that chronicled female masturbation. 

Feminists lauded Marcella. Gloria Steinem called my book "an important part of the truth telling by and for women." Ms. magazine published my menstruation chapter as "Falling Off the Roof." Alix Kates Shulman praised Marcella in the New York Times: "Coffey skillfully weaves together the religious, sexual and musical themes that comprise the trinity of Marcella's obsession."

New York, London, Australia and Denmark produced my novel, making me an internationally published author. The New York Public Library displayed Marcella in the United Nations' International Women's Year, 1975.

People, Jet, and Newsweek cited Marcella. The Los Angeles Times, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and many other publications reviewed the book.  Most supported the novel. One wrote that my last chapter, a "masterpiece of frenzied writing," outstripped James Joyce's Ulysses!

However, the Orleans, Nebraska, library censored my naughty book.

"We did it to protect your family," Genevieve Dugan, a librarian, said. 

How unnecessary! 

My sister, Margaret, had already suppressed Marcella. After she'd pored over my book, she told our parents not to read it, and they did not.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

FLIES, A War of Attrition

Tempted by a door propped open
they enter – a half dozen of them.

I ignore them. It's autumn. They'll soon die.

They fan out around the house, 
sunbathe on my window panes, 
hover in the kitchen, my office.

But when they dive at my food
I swing whatever comes to hand:
the New Yorker, the utilities bill
I know that solid paper just creates
a wind to warn the fly away.
I don't believe in taking life.

The flies multiply. On day four, 
my tolerance snaps
I grasp my seldom-used fly swatter.
I'm awkward, create motion but no death.
Slowly my form returns:
teeth clenched, I stalk them
I whack flies on the window
flies on the counter
flies in flight flies anywhere
but being a pacifist
I notice what I do.

Days pass, I sweep bodies by the score 
into my dust pan but the number 
of flies seems constant
as if the dead reproduce themselves

Finally they're all dead but one. 
He hangs diligently in my office
walking the slant window of my computer
evading all attempts to kill him

He seems drawn by light to my screen
by warmth to my hand where he loves to sit
rubbing his fore legs together.
Shaking my hand fails to dislodge him
he clings like a sailor on a ship
until my hurricane breath blows him away 

Then one day he lands 
on my yellow file cabinet
in such a groggy state
that when I hit him with a poem
I don't know who is more amazed
that he dies: he or me.

I struggle 
to feel triumphant
but am unable to grasp
that I miss him.