Dream 010107


Are you sure?
she asks in a whisper.
Nodding, he sets
his hand against
the small of her back,
pulling her towards him
until they disappear —
falling stars

Poem from the archives, while I work on finishing my book. Words ©2007, Jen Payne.

IMAGE: Evening Star, Franz Stuck

The Times They Are A Changin’


It was, really, a rather ordinary house. Small and sufficient. Big enough for him and for her and their children at some point, I imagine. Red with white trim. A small yard out back.

He would sit on the front stoop and wave if you happened to walk by — a neighborly greeting, no matter your relation. You would often pass her on the sidewalk on your way to the Post Office right next door.

Every year, the arrival of spring was broadcast up and down Park Place by the grand display of two magnificent magnolias. Standing guard at the front walk, their canopy enveloped the home in luscious pink blossoms. Their breezes whispered of age and history and time passing…

Today, a dumpster sits in the yard, overflowing. Sections of the linoleum she wore upon at suppertime, the wallpaper from the den where he read the paper, the staircase they walked each night, together. And on either side of the front walk, two lifeless stumps broadcasting for all to see — change.

A dentist’s office I hear. Bright and shiny. Antiseptic. Ordinary.

Poem from the archives, while I work on finishing my book. Words ©2009, Jen Payne.

IMAGE: Red House, Jack Bush, 1943



I called it my “midlife crisis,” a succinct synopsis of a year that saw my entire way of being shattered and slowly rebuilt. In conversation, I needed use only those words for receipt of understanding nods from most. A good thing, as explanation would require the reassembly of emotional dreck into some illuminating narrative.

Once upon a time, it began with a moment that shook the ground at Richter Scale magnitudes…

…facades imploded, one then the next and the next, until I barely recognized the world in which I was living.

Slowly, and with little alternative, I tossed the familiar onto a pile curbside: the relevance of work, the attachment to agendas, the solitude of illusions, the complacent ennui…

…until time came, with Ecclesiastical allusion, to build up a new life. A new way of being that honored truth and authenticity, passion and connection, joy and creativity.

At a business luncheon, many months later, I sat in bold, new life regalia — the monotone conformity gathering seagulls in some past-life wasteland.

“Are you an artist?” the Senator asked as we shook hands across the table, and I smiled at the cursory classification.

“No, sir,” I wanted to say, “I am a butterfly.” But I held my tongue and nodded politely.

From the archives, while I work on finishing my book. Words and mixed-media collage, ©2008, Jen Payne.

Dream Sequence


full-length feature —
he comes to me
each night.
Every night.

In patchwork scenes
from waking-life…
across the table
in a restaurant,
by the water
at the beach,
in an elevator
at the museum.

Extras walking
back and forth,
standing, waiting.
I don’t recognize them
or him.
He is the news anchor,
the clerk at the store,
Bill Clinton?
I laugh and turn over
in my sleep.

“Where are you?”
I ask.
“Are you OK?”
“Are you safe?”
He responds
as if reading a
script I wrote myself.
My words, my answers…
drop meaningless
on the pillow.

I can feel him —
his hand in mine —
and smile
before waking fully.
Small comfort
in the quiet
since his passing.

Poem from the archives, while I work on finishing my book. Words and photo, ©2008, Jen Payne.

Image: We Live in Her Dreams, Miriam Schapiro.

I dream about us dancing


When we first met,
I dreamt about your hands.
There were so many reasons not to,
but I did.

It was never anything illicit.
Simple gestures of affection:
a hand on my arm,
a touch of my shoulder.

Perhaps it should have stayed that way.

It’s been years since then,
but I still dream about your hands.
There are so many reasons not to,
but I do.

It is never anything illicit.
Simple gestures of affection between strangers:
some event years from now,
your hand on my back as the music plays.

Words ©2014, Jen Payne
Image: The Concert, Marc Chagall



My Dad was a chemical engineer and a big proponent of education. So, when my seventh grade science class was studying the chemical elements, he thought it would be a great idea to do a show-and-tell like experiment for class. (And we wonder why I ended up a little geeky?)

The experiment involved a filter, two beakers, charcoal, cotton and cranberry juice. Inside the filter, I layered the charcoal and cotton, then sat it on top of one of the beakers. I poured the second beaker — full of cranberry juice — into the filter, and out came water! Clear water!

I remembered this as I was walking in the woods this morning. It was not a very quiet walk—there were thoughts and ideas cartwheeling and somersaulting all over the place!

I am coming off of four pretty fun, jam-packed days of celebrations. I saw lots of loved ones and connected with even more online, took a road trip, went shopping, had a few excellent meals, enjoyed some cocktails, did some writing, watched a couple movies. That’s a lot of people, places and things to process!

So I just kept walking—up the hill, around the bend to the meadow filled with morning sun, into the woods where the mushrooms show up, over the footbridge to the rocky path where I sometimes spy snakes, then down through the cool stand of pines, over the bridge by the bench to the field grown tall with wildflowers, and back alongside the pond where the egret hangs out with turtles, to the parking lot.

Chattering all the way. In my head. With barely a moment’s rest.

But as I neared the trailhead carrying the thought of my Dad and that science experiment, I realized—sometimes these walks are for quiet, and sometimes they are for filtering. And either way, I leave much clearer than when I arrived.

IMAGE found on Seesaw Designs