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.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Amazing Paco

Paco Keopanya, my house mate, is a little Asian guy. 

I'm pretty sure he's shorter than I am at five-feet-five-inches tall. Even though he works out at the gym, I think I could knock him down if I felt like it. Although in the summer when he wears short sleeves, I did notice his awesome arm muscles, about six times as big as they "should" be.

When I failed to interest Paco in yard work, I weeded by myself, day after day, filling my big garbage cans. I could drag a full 55-gallon can, but I couldn't lift it, so I asked Paco's help. He agreed. To my surprise, he carried two cans at a time, up the big hill to the pick-up spot.


I'd nearly finished my yard project except for a dozen "weed" trees (an eight-foot maple and some shorter ones) too thick to cut with my clippers.

Paco noticed my work. "How are you going to get rid of those trees?"

"I'll ask Chris at Forest Green to cut them down."

"I could just bring some guys from work and a chain saw," Paco put on his EGM cap, "and we could cut them down."

Several days later, Paco mused, "Maybe I'll just take an axe and cut them down myself."

He disappeared.

In a short time, he was back. "Well, I did it. Boy, am I sweating. Those guys at my job, they work like that for eight hours shifts. I don't see how they do it."

Paco took a shower.

I figured he just chopped down the maple tree, so I looked. He'd cut down all those trees, chopped them up, put them in garbage cans, and hauled them up the hill to the pick-up spot. Two at a time, no doubt.

I felt amazed.

When he came out of the shower, I praised him. 

He shrugged it off. "Want to go for ice cream?"

Thursday, September 5, 2019

My Scuzzy Cat

Ruby, my plump orange tabby, doesn't know how to clean herself.

Thinking she's bathing, she licks her coat, swallows her fur, and days later regurgitates a schlumpy hairball. 

Her method disgusted me so, I decided to teach her to take care of herself.

I filled the bathtub about halfway, water not too hot or too cold, and dropped her in it.

Goodness, I never knew a cat could fly!

Practice makes perfect, of course, so when I see her again, I'm going to plop her in the tub repeatedly, until she's immaculate. 

Or never speaking to me, whichever happens first.