Three Love Lessons

My mother ridiculed me
for cleaving to one pair
of boyish arms
instead of embracing many lightly
and clinging less tightly.
Always more, always less
never enough
she always said.

It took five decades
to learn that my yearning
was as natural and good as heartbeats
‘cause burrowed between
that kind boy’s arms
was the first and only place
I ever felt safe
ever was truly held
ever could fully melt
into gravity.

Her critique
was but a statement
of her own self-hatred;
my elsewhere clinging
an indictment
of her maternal failure.

This is a lie:
“You cannot love someone else
until you love yourself”,
for we are taught to love ourselves
by being loved.

It took me four decades
plus five years
to first know self love,
after clasping dozens of boys
both kind and cruel.
On a high desert ridge
over an ancient valley
during waning summer
I imagined turning
the same adoration and tenderness
that gushed for my dear ones
back upon myself
like a rebellious river.

It was a Revelation
like lightning crackling down
upon Moses’ mythic mountain
I received Divine wisdom
suddenly grasping self love
like a woman having a real orgasm
after 1,000 nights
of hoaxes.

So this time
it only took two months
to realize
there’s a difference
between missing him
and feeling lonely.
I now recognize
I don’t miss what we had
as much as I miss
what we never had
I miss what’s been missing
my entire life.
I’m a lonely child
never truly seen
who studied to be Big
and Impressive,
who practiced having Presence
in Intellect and Form
so she would not evaporate
into the impotent,
dusty air.

I felt cradled
in the arms of a hungry ghost
who wasn’t really there
but it was enough.

I mistook his fickle affection
for love
his calculated walls
for good boundaries
his ambivalent loyalty
for kindness
his lack of stewardship
for whimsy.
I carried his baggage willingly
until their weight slowed my steps
and their rotting contents oozed
onto my shoes.

Our inconsistent joy
and his partial presence
made my long solitude
more bearable
A parched woman stumbling in the desert
needs a sip of water
from time to time.
His oasis quenched me enough
to solider on
alone again
across the dunes again
unable to give up
this yearning
for true gravity —
this searching
for home.

© S. Rinderle, November 2021

Photo: Three Hearts Center, West Allis, WI


This year
I have built no
altar to the dead.
For the first time
in half my life
I’ve gathered no
keepsakes nor mementos
of those already gone
lit no candles
holding vigil for the death rattle
in what I hasten
to pass.

This year
my life is my altar:
Lost sense of place,
of belonging
and any striving
to make it so.
Lost friends
lost foes
both still beckon
my attention like ghosts.
Lost illusions that people
are anything other than they are
or chose.
Lost hope that I am anything
other than I am –
unrelenting, broken,
and bold.
Lost desire to pretend otherwise.
Lost faith
in my role in progress
my power to
change anything
other than my
self loathing.

This year
my body is my altar:
207 years of legacy ending
my mother will have
no heirs
I only regret
I never wanted them
never trusted
never felt a tribe
of sturdy shoulders around me
it was only up to me
and it was the one thing
I couldn’t do alone.

It is Samhain.
I fling my belongings to the winds
burn letters to ash
under a full moon
merciless and unforgiving
remembrances now hollow and thin
like abandoned trees.
I lay waste to the past
my rotted flesh.
I must be buoyant and

I weep
only because of the smoke.

I urge the months on quickly
seasons to pass expeditiously.
I’ve had enough of deaths.
This year
I lay my barren womb
and stubborn ghosts to rest.

Next year
I will have come back to life
my essence revived
resurrected from ash
by the sun.

Next year
I will be

© S. Rinderle, 11/1/15


Sacred Heritage of X

Despite what you’ve heard
women run the world
and everyone knows it
except women

Men need women
children need women
women need women
The World has ventured too far
past the point of no return
we are the dying canaries
choking in the coal mine
the ragged spring honeybees
searching in vain
for nectar


We are your women
Our bodies bear witness
to the multiple failings
of The World
our thyroids fade
where our voices strain
our cells turn cannibal
devouring our Selves
we falter, exhausted
stumble on, pharmaceutically
we forget names
of loved ones
yet still expected to remember
all of his-story


Our granddaughters will re-member our bones
with pity and awe-full pride
just as we ponder our grandmothers
wondering – how did they do it?
Endure, push forward, maintain
stay sane, sometimes thrive
manage a smile
wear those uncomfortable


What will our granddaughters say?
We are not machete, plow
or icebreaker
clearing a path
for others to follow
We are tangled forest, fertile earth
abundant ocean
standing firm
between path clearings
Our generation
holds back further erosion
We are neither stone nor rocket
We are catapult and launchpad
critical yet quiet
we hold steady
and wait


We have tried to write the whole book
honor our deprived mothers and
illiterate grandmothers
make up for their lost time
now in our mid-summer
our change
our charge
is to get our paragraph right
prepare for irrelevance
we are but a bridge


Our granddaughters will marvel at our bones
our stamina and courage
their hardier flesh and nimbler Spirits
will know
they couldn’t have made it without us
even if their minds forget
they will be too busy
running The World.

© S. Rinderle, 2015
~ For ka ~


I’m from here
but I don’t belong here
is not home
where I exhale
the set for my night dreams
my heart fit
this place is just fit
movie set
fast breath
big lips and small dogs
tight butts in tight jeans
skinny spandex, white teeth
tidy coiffed landscapes
and green
rolling in dough
(k)needed by mountains
of gold

As I wander
the trees root more solid
than I remember
all thickness, texture and joy
they invite climbing
and stretch beams
one gaze not enough
to harvest all their races…
bougainvillea in four flavors
hibiscus in two
bottle brush, lemon, eucalyptus
exotic pods and broad leaves
hummingbirds and gold finches
in November
palms of diverse size and shape
curious like Dr Seuss trees
birds of paradise
this is paradise
to a spirit of stone
and sand

Yearning wells.
Things grow easily here
the desert is hard
desert people stark
cracks shift cracks
the ancient sedimentary rock
of memento and heart
like the Whittier quake
I collect familiar leaves
like memories shaken loose
oak, magnolia, liquid amber, birch —
my mother knew them all.
She is a bird now
above I spy others
fly like her
I must have met them before
wild emerald parrots
up a spiky trunk
chatting atop slender fronds
unnoticed and mundane
yet I stand

People smile more than I remember.
They say hello from their bicycles
sing while riding solo
talk to babies in strollers
cross the street with traffic
their grass is thick
sprinkled with tiny shamrocks
like abundant good fortune.
I wonder if they know what it’s like
to live in a desert
make sure everything is always locked
and held tight
middle class here is wealthy rich anywhere
I see it
but no longer believe that
all money is sin
all poverty virtue

I crave ease.

Maybe my parents were right
I waste and surround myself
with the not-good-enough
while the not-yet-good-enough
still isn’t

Things are now changed.
I root more solid
broad feet planted
trunk thicker
taller branches wide
eyes clearer
sternum forward
I’m ready now
I belong better
I still believe
just no longer sure where I believe it

Maybe it’s time
to come home.

©S.Rinderle, November 2014

On Anger

I’m angry
because my parents didn’t want me
like all children should be dreamed and coveted
I was the fruit of duty
conceived one spring evening
after church
I was born
on Sunday

I’m angry
because my mother didn’t love me
like all girls should be
adored and mentored
because her mother didn’t love her
the latest in a long matriline
of hollow faceless dolls
filling their withered daughters
with dry, empty breath

I’m angry
because I couldn’t run free
always the good one
trimmed of messy edges
neat and symmetrical
a patch in the family quilt
weakly sewn together
pulled in all directions

I’m angry
because no one could comfort me
and my self-soothing
dramatic pleas for help
sudden welts
closed-up bronchi
spasmed colon
and fits of self-mutilation
inspired rejection
instead of redemption

I’m angry
because my father didn’t
straighten his back for me didn’t
widen his shoulders for me
never taught me
to stand up protected
my boundaries too permeable
for safety or resilience
letting in all manner of
virus, bacteria
free radicals
and human plague

I’m angry
because the world taught me
I’m a girl
I’m not allowed
beauty and brilliance
I’m not afforded
affection and respect
I’m second to any mediocrity in the room
if it has a penis
and a deep voice

I’m angry
because circumstance
was not the way it should have been
rarely just or logical
so much imperfection and harm
easily avoided
or remedied

But as I reflect
relax my tightened triceps
was exactly
as it had to be
and I’m okay

I’m free

I’m no longer

© S.Rinderle, 2013

Without you

I missed you today
not an unnatural emotion
but unnatural for me
in the midst of a song
that’s not about you
contemplating my lover’s familia
there you were


In 43 years I don’t remember ever
feeling this way
not even
in the 13 since you disappeared
I still recall
that 2 a.m. phone call
from 1500 miles away
the hardest phone call
my father ever made
his voice saying
“sweetie, she died”
and my roommate
who understood no English
lurching downstairs crying
because of whatever
was coming out of me
after that.

I stood in line at the airport
in my black coat
and by the time we got
to the tarmac at LAX
to sit and wait
for a gate
while they harvested your organs
in my absence
I’d had all my feelings.
Impossible to explain
what it’s like
to lose your mother
the one person you know nothing without
whose womb was ground zero
for your very existence
Even though I sometimes hated her
often pitied
usually feared
and always mistrusted
I now miss the best she did
and the things she never gave
not because she didn’t want to
but because she was unable.

I wonder now if she didn’t love me
because I didn’t love her.
I’m sorry mama
I so wanted you to see me
my simmering rage
and oldest daughter’s pain
kept me from seeing you
seeing true
and now at 13 years of distance
and safety
I can finally admit
the garden of my life
is more thirsty, faded
and barren
without you.

© S. Rinderle, 2013