Storytelling Writing

Hindsight is 2020


In my version of the 2020 apocalypse, I lit incense and whispered fervent prayers to Saint Anthony and Ganesh. I started meditating. He bought a gun safe. It’s as definite in his living space now as the altar to Buddha is in mine. This should not come as a surprise. I have loved on the cusp of the yin and yang all my life, and it has been no different with him these past seven years. Of the first gift I gave him, he wondered: Speartip? Pestle? Arrowhead? “It’s a heart shape rock,” I swooned, our end-time a forgone conclusion.

Creativity Writing Zine

The Latest News Zine

Back in the early 90s, I created a newsletter called The Latest News as a way to keep in touch with college friends and family. It had essays, quotes, photos, bits and pieces of personal news.

I didn’t know it was a “zine” until I read about the zine phenomenon and learned about Mike Gunderloy who reviewed and cataloged thousands of zines in his publication Factsheet Five. I sent him a copy of The Latest News and he reviewed it, and the next thing I knew — BAM! More than 350 people had subscribed and were reading my little 4-page, photocopied newsletter zine!

And then more BAM! The New York Times interviewed me about zines. And Tom Trusky, a professor at Boise State University invited me to be part of a zine exhibit called Some Zines: American Alternative & Underground Magazines, Newsletters & APAs. And later, The Latest News was featured in several retrospective books about the zine phenomenon: Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture and The World of Zines: A Guide to the Independent Magazine Revolution.

Flash forward…I hate to say this, OMG…30 years, and BAM! MANIFEST (zine) showed up on my creative radar.

It’s been 12 months since I launched this new project, and I can’t tell you how amazed I am at the response. Folks from all over the planet have read about Divine Intervention and Cat Lady Confessions, they’ve discovered It’s About Time and what one does about Crickets. And they’ve been enthusiastic and supportive about what comes next.

I don’t know what comes next…or should I say which idea comes next, because I have a bunch! I hope you’ll stick around for the adventure.


  1. Factsheet Five
  2. New York State Library, The Factsheet Five Collection
  3. Some Zines: American Alternative & Underground Magazines, Newsletters & APAs, Tom Trusky
  4. Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture, Henry Jenkins III, Jane Shattuc, Tara McPherson, Duke University Press Books, 2003.
  5. Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture, Stephen Duncombe, Verso, 1997.
  6. The World of Zines: A Guide to the Independent Magazine Revolution, Mike Gunderloy and Cari Goldberg Janice, Penguin Books, 1992.
  7. Want to know more? Check out a Zinefest near you!

Creativity Writing Zine

If you are a dreamer, come in…

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
come in!

— Shel Silverstein

Indeed, if you are a dreamer, a wisher, a magic bean buyer…then you must visit THE SHOP at Guilford Art Center. It’s truly one of the most unique shopping destinations, offering a selection of contemporary American crafts and jewelry handmade by local artists and others from across the country. You’ll find works in glass, metal, ceramics, wood, fiber, paper, toys and much more.

Much more…like copies of MANIFEST (zine)!

I’m excited to say that MANIFEST (zine) can now be purchased at THE SHOP at Guilford Art Center, along with copies of my books and postcards. Check it out!

Guilford Art Center

411 Church Street
Guilford, CT 06437

Wednesday 12 – 4pm
Thursday 12 – 4pm
Friday 12 – 4pm
Saturday 10am – 4pm

PLUS, if you stop by this coming weekend — July 10 — you’ll get to peruse one of the Art Center’s Summer Artisan Pop-Up Events!

Creativity Writing Zine

What is MANIFEST (zine)?

Photo from the Sojourner Truth Library’s Zine Library at the State University of New York, New Paltz

According to Wikipedia, a zine — pronounced zeen — is a small circulation, self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images, usually reproduced via photocopier. It has no defined shape or size, and may contain anything from poetry, prose, and essays, to comics, art, or photography.

A zine is a multi-purposed publication form that has deep roots in political, punk, feminist, artistic, and other subculture communities. Original zinesters are rumored to include Thomas Paine, Ben Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Margaret Fuller.

• Check out this great page about zines: What is a Zine?
• Read: “A Brief History of Zines” at Mental Floss
• Visit the Barnard College Zine Library
• From Buzzfeed News: “How Zine Libraries Are Highlighting Marginalized Voices”

Let’s consider…

MANIFEST (noun) : a list of contents

MANIFEST (verb) : to make a record of; to set down in permanent form

MANIFEST (adjective) : easily understood or recognized by the mind

Then see also MANIFESTO (noun) : a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer;

and see also, especially, MANIFESTING (noun) : the creative process of aligning with the energy of the Universe to co-create an experience that elevates your spirit and the spirit of the world;

at which point, you might begin to understand… Manifest (zine)!

Creativity Writing Zine

Happy International Zine Month 2021!

Download the poster.

Thanks to Alex Wrek at Stolen Sharpie Revolution, we’re celebrating INTERNATIONAL ZINE MONTH! Stay tuned for lots of good zine things and consider these ways to celebrate throughout the month of July!

Family Memoir Writing

Life Lessons from Dad

Study hard, be smart.

Weigh the pros and cons of your decisions.

Stand on your own two feet.

Hard work is a key to success.

Dream big.

Love what you love with passion.

When you fall off a horse, get right back on.

Laugh a lot and often…

and you’ll come out on the other side just fine.

That’s my dad and me, college graduation 1988. Today would have been his 78th birthday. Life is fleeting — perhaps that is the biggest lesson of all.
Creativity mindfulness Nature Writing

Finding Leonard Cohen down a Rabbit Hole

One of my favorite things about the work I get do to for my books and zines is the sleuthing. Hunting down random (often misappropriated) quotes, getting permissions to reprint, finding hard copy proof. Evidence for my readers — and myself — that I have done due diligence to make what you hold in your hands valid and true to the best of my abilities.

As a student of English literature and journalism, and as a life-long writer and citer, I feel an incredible responsibility to validate as many of my references as possible. To remind my readers, for example, that it was Henry Stanley Haskins who wrote “What lies behind us and what lies before us are but tiny matters compared to what lies within us,” not Ralph Waldo Emerson or Gandhi, and not Buddha.

When I was writing LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, in which I used that quote, I actually spent six months researching and properly attributing quotes. That task included rabbit holes like the quote sourced to a 1970s motivational poster printed by an academic publisher in Texas written by a retired social worker in Oak Park, Illinois.

I get a little geeky when it comes to that kind of thing. Like a dog with a bone. Truth be told, I love it as much Alice loved going on her adventures!

My most recent adventure involved Leonard Cohen and a 60-year-old book.

While I was working on the spring issue of MANIFEST (zine): CRICKETS, I found a beautiful poem by Cohen called “Summer Haiku.” The poem appeared in his book The Spice-Box of Earth of which there was a rare, limited edition hardcover edition that included illustrations by Frank Newfeld, a renowned Canadian illustrator and book designer.

There were several copies of the book available online starting at around $200, which is a tad higher than my budget for the zine project. Less expensive copies did not include the Newfeld illustrations, and by this point in the adventure those were key.

I did find and purchase issue number 56 of The Devil’s Artisan: A Journal of the Printing Arts that featured Newfeld’s work on delicious, offset-printed, antique laid pages. It even included a letterpressed color keepsake of Newfeld’s illustration for Cohen’s poem “The Gift,” which appears in The Spice-Box of Earth.

I went on to find a bookseller in Canada, Steven Temple, who owns a copy of the 1961 edition. Searching through the 10,000 books he attends to in his home-based bookshop, he found and took the photo of “Summer Haiku” that appears in CRICKETS.

Of course, I was still curious. What did the rest of the book look like? How many poems were there? How many illustrations? How could I see it? Read it?

My local library did not have a copy of the book, nor did Google Books. According to a 2016 article in Toronto Life, the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library is “home to 140 banker’s boxes worth of Cohen’s archives” including “handwritten notes and letters, portraits, CDs, paintings, novel manuscripts, books, early drafts of his poetry and lyrics, and even art he made when he lived as a Buddhist monk.” Would it include a digital copy of The Spice-Box of Earth?

It did not.

Nor did the online Library and Archives of Canada or the Canadian Electronic Library. But on the Hathi Trust Digital Library website there was a helpful “Find in a Library” link that, when clicked, revealed some familiar and within-driving-distance names: Yale University, Wesleyan University, Connecticut College.

Lightbulb! I immediately emailed a woman I know at our local library, Deb Trofatter, who is the Associate Librarian for Reference Services and Technology, and asked…by any chance…can you get a copy of…

Which is how, on May 15, I came to have in my hands a 60-year-old hardcover copy of Leonard Cohen’s The Spice-Box of Earth to savor and share.


The Spice-Box of Earth, illustrated by Frank Newfeld. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1961).

• Click here to purchase my book LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness

• Meditations in Wall Street by Henry Stanley Haskins (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1940).

• The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When, by Ralph Keyes (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2006).

• Learn more about The Devil’s Artisan : A Journal of the Printing Arts

• Discover Steven Temple Books

• Read “A look inside U of T’s massive archive of Leonard Cohen poems, letters and pictures,” in Toronto Life

• Check out the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

Alice photo from a Fortnum & Mason (London) holiday window display, possibly 2006. Photographer not found yet.

MANIFEST (zine): Crickets is a riff and a rant about the consequences of creative bravery. It’s a 24-page, full color booklet that includes a curated Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure. Click here to order your copy today!

Creativity mindfulness Nature Writing

The Healing Process

The storm took so much it’s difficult to consider — gone the familiar, the known path. Feet so sure there was no need to gauge progress. It was how I became present again, how I stepped back in the moment.

It was where I could breathe, let go, release my rooted stride. Slough off thoughts. Embrace the solitude with just a heartbeat and birdsong for company.

But her wide canopy of solace is gone now, and I have been hobbled.

Those sacred spaces of breath and respite are changed.

And so am I.

So I take a different path this morning and it comforts me.

It whispers…

This rabbit will caretake the old path.

This turtle, hopeful, lays its eggs. As does the robin.

Part of this snake is here but its heart has moved forward,

and this spider writes her poems in the spaces left behind.

Essay ©2021, Jen Payne. If you like this essay, be sure to purchase a copy of my book LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, available here.
Creativity Writing Zine

Spinning Jenny

Volume S of our 1976 Encyclopedia Britannica collection did not have much to say about the Spinning Jenny. What it was: an early machine for spinning wool or cotton. Who created it: James Hargreaves from Lancashire, England. When: 1764. And a short sentence about its significance in the industrial revolution.

I can still see the two-sentence paragraph description and its line drawing of the Spinning Jenny sitting on the page. What I could not see at the time was the 500-word essay being requested by my 6th grade social studies teacher Mr. Jacobson.

So I did what any good writer would do. I improvised!

What is a spinning wheel used for? How does it work? Where does the wool and cotton come from? What was life like in Lancashire? What was life like in 1764? Who was James Hargreaves? What was the industrial revolution?

Et voila! Essay.

Pulling from different sources, I spun together that essay and earned an impressive A- for my effort.

Ironically, one of the reasons the Spinning Jenny was so important is that it allowed a worker to use multiple spindles of material in the forming of thread.

Fast forward 40-something years, and I am still spinning. Still pulling from multiple sources to form threads of thought that get woven into my writing and creative work.

I love the experience of that process. Going down the rabbit hole of “what do we have here?” and finding winding paths to all sorts of unexpected discoveries.

I love the organic nature of those discoveries — what reveals itself as I walk along those paths. A bit like Alice, I suppose, wandering and Wondering in that strange, unexplored land.

I love the challenge of digging deeper to find some key piece of information that completes the story. I love doing research and following breadcrumbs.

The best part, of course, is when it can all finally come together. Tie off all of the threads, weave the ends together. See the conclusion of the hard work: the poem, the book, the zine, this essay.

I suppose, if you think about it, that make me a Spinning Jenny, wouldn’t you say?

©2021, Jen Payne, but only 360 words. For more good words, check out my Etsy Shop now!

Creativity Poetry Writing

April Is National Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture. Click here to learn more.

Here at Random Acts of Writing, I’ll be writing a poem a day at part of NaPoWriMo…or attempting to, at least, muse willing. Join me? Or check out these other…

30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

  1. Sign-up for Poem-a-Day and read a poem each morning.

  2. Download a free National Poetry Month poster and display it for the occasion.

  3. Read 2020’s most-read poem, Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Kindness.”

  4. Record yourself reading a poem, and share why you chose that work online using the hashtag #ShelterinPoems. Be sure to tag @poetsorg on twitter and instagram!

  5. Subscribe to the Poem-a-Day podcast.

  6. Check out an e-book of poetry from your local library.

  7. Begin your virtual meetings or classes by reading a poem.

  8. Talk to the teachers in your life about Teach This Poem.

  9. Learn more about poets and virtual poetry events nation-wide.

  10. Read about your state poet laureate.

  11. Browse Poems for Kids.

  12. Buy a book of poetry from your local bookstore or from Three Chairs Publishing.

  13. Make a poetry playlist.

  14. Browse the glossary of terms and try your hand at writing a formal poem.

  15. Create an online anthology of your favorite poems on

  16. Attend a poetry reading, open mic, or poetry slam via a video conferencing service.

  17. Sign up for an online poetry class or workshop.

  18. Donate books of poetry to little free libraries and mutual aid networks.

  19. Research and volunteer with poetry organizations in your area.

  20. Take a socially safe walk and write a poem outside.

  21. Start a virtual poetry reading group or potluck, inviting friends to share poems.

  22. Read and share poems about the environment in honor of Earth Day.

  23. Take on a socially safe guerrilla poetry project.

  24. Read essays about poetry like Edward Hirsch’s “How to Read a Poem,” Mary Ruefle’s “Poetry and the Moon,” Mark Doty’s “Tide of Voices: Why Poetry Matters Now,” and Muriel Rukeyser’s “The Life of Poetry.”

  25. Watch a movie, lecture, or video featuring a poet.

  26. Write an exquisite corpse or a renga with friends via email or text.

  27. Make a poetry chapbook.

  28. Make a poem to share on Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 29, 2020.

  29. Submit your poems to a literary magazine or poetry journal.

  30. Make a gift to support the Academy of American Poets free programs and publications and keep celebrating poetry year-round!

Poster and Text from #NaPoWriMo, #PoetryDaily
Creativity Love Memoir Poetry Wellness Writing

The S.S. (Space Ship) Pussiewillow II

The S.S. Pussiewillow II is a whimsical machine by inventor-sculptor Rowland Emett, who was known worldwide for his intricate machines that whirr, spin, flash, sway, and quiver, going nowhere, doing nothing, poking fun at technology. It appeared on display circa 1980 in the Flight in the Arts gallery at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, complemented by music composed and performed on antique harpsichords by Trevor Pinnock. This indescribable kinetic work became a favorite of adults and children alike. The object was taken off display in 1990, but visitors with long memories still ask about it.

From the postcard:

The S.S. Pussiewillow II, a Personal Air and Space Vehicle of unique Stern-wheel configuration, with Flying Carpet attributes, by Rowland Emett, O.B.E. An adapted Kashmir carpet is enmeshed within a light Jupiter-ring, which undulates and spins to provide False Gravity. Twelve variable-speed Zodiacs spin up to ensure activation of suitable Sign, to nullify adverse contingencies. In combined Control Module and Hospitality Room, the Pilot, accompanied by his Astrocat, pedals lightly (aided by helium-filled knee-caps) to energize Stern Paddle-wheel. There is an elevated Power-boost G.E.O.R.G.E. (Geometric Environmental OARiented Row-Gently Energizer), and a Solar Transfuser for trapping random sun-rays. Module is shown in open attitude, revealing possible Extraneous Being being won-over by Afternoon Tea, and toasted tea-cakes.

“A memory I wasn’t entirely sure was real, of finding something that seemed completely but wonderfully out of place in the National Air and Space Museum,” says the person who took the video below, and I completely agree. Like them, I too, remember wandering around the Air and Space Museum and finding myself in this magical room with its dancing machine and fantastical music. I’ve kept the postcard (above) tucked away ever since — what fun to revisit the memory all these years later!

Postcard and text from the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 1981

If you like this magical creation, you’ll LOVE the It’s About Time issue of MANIFEST (zine). On sale now!

Memoir Poetry Writing


In the pieces of memory
and scraps of conversations
transcribed in situ
I will tell you about
the headless groom
and the dead dog,
about the failure of Saint Raphael
and the irony of the phrase
“you could get hit by a bus.”
I’ll tell you the 15,000 words that broke me
and the ones that almost put me back together
until I realized my heart was better
cracked wide-open like that anyhow.
Now all I need to do is type

Happy Ending.

on the last page
and hope it will suffice.

Poem ©2017, Jen Payne. Image: Woman writing, Edouard Manet.

If you like this poem, you’ll LOVE the Divine Intervention issue of MANFEST (zine)

Memoir Poetry Writing

Identity Theft

I look
in the mirror
and see nothing.
Pieces of familiar fall away.
Sticks poke at what’s left.

Start from scratch
or use a box mix?
Put square peg
in square hole…
that’s never been my style.

I take a walk
to get answers.
Insert A into B, get C.
But all I see is ocean.
Vast and unresolved.

IT doesn’t seem
to need answers.
In. Out. Back. Forth.
Up. Down. [Repeat.]
I take my cue and leave.

It’s OK. Really.
I was bored with me anyway.
If you please,
may I see something
in a polygon?

Poem ©2008, Jen Payne. Image: Girl in front of mirror, Pablo Picasso

If you like this poem, you’ll LOVE the Divine Intervention issue of MANFEST (zine)

Living Poetry Wellness Writing


Be the change you wish to see in the world — be the change you fear.

Serve it up in bite-size pieces and make peace with it because resistance is futile.

Change comes and change comes and change comes
and you change and you change and you change.

Extra change in your pocket
is just reserve for the next detour.


Better to live in fluidic space, liquid and organic,
bending time, not biding,
moving from here to there effortlessly.


Because an object at rest stays at rest
but an object in motion stays in motion

and we all know it’s the motion in the ocean that counts.

Poem ©Jen Payne

If you like this poem, you’ll LOVE the Divine Intervention issue of MANFEST (zine)

Poetry Writing

Suggested Title: Tenacious

No matter what we think
or how it feels,
we don’t really break break,
even our break downs
imply eventual turn ups.

Oh sure, we bend a little,
(bend over backwards, too)
fold under pressure sometimes
lean into the pain
collapse with exhaustion
appear to come apart at the seams
and yet…

And yet.

Upon this holy ground of spirit
there is still room to breathe,
we are not damaged, we are flexible
we are not falling apart, we are rebuilding
we are not broken or undone.

By the very fibers of our being,
we are strength and grace

Poem ©2021. An ekphrastic poem written by Jen Payne, inspired by the sculpture Untitled by Lisa Wolkow, featured in the Guilford Art Center Faculty Show Keeping On.
Poetry Writing

Waning Crescent

The moon and I shared space today

before the world awoke

and though we both were silent

it felt as if we spoke

about this wild spinning thing

and how it does transpire

the comedy and tragedy

and all the little fires

That golden wink up in the sky

a secret shared with me

our sweet spot in the morning

its rare tranquility.

Poem ©2021, Jen Payne. Photos from The Lilith Zone.
Poetry Writing

Dance! I say. Dance!

I told him once it was a dance,
and I hyphenated
the push – pull – go – come
like a tormented poet might.
How clever the analogy!

(And how could he not love clever?)

Watch me pirouet, I said.
Put a spin on this
so the song doesn’t end,
and the routine goes on forever.

(Did you see that? Clever again.)

It’s the same old song and dance, love.
We can’t side-step the family dance-step,
it’s in our genes, and I don’t mean Kelly, so…

I’d like to shake things up a bit,
you know, move with the times…
Why not dance this year’s dance to—
the pachenga.

Poem ©Jen Payne

If you like this poem, you’ll LOVE the Divine Intervention issue of MANFEST (zine)

Poetry Writing

In a hopeful, albeit futile, attempt to control the fates of 2021…

I am a Winter Warrior

and a Manifesting Angel

I’ve Finished Strong
and Started Stronger™

Unraveled My Year™

Found My Word

and my Theme Song

I did an Angel Card reading
and consulted the Runes

I’ve completed my Vision Board

committed to Read 50 Books

set my Intentions

and in a hopeful, albeit futile, attempt to control the fates of 2021,

I wrote my Resolution:


Poem ©2021, Jen Payne. Painting, Femme couchee, dormant by Felix Vallotton

Nature Poetry Writing


Perhaps it is the same flock,
the one I met years ago,
the one that startled me
here on this shore
that very first walk,
when every rock and curve,
every wind and wave
was unfamiliar still.

Perhaps it knows me now,
this flock of small fidgety birds,
always nervous or impatient,
quickened by anticipation of
the next wave, skittering
to the beat of their sharp trills,
quickly quickly ahead
never near enough for hello again.

Until this morning when I,
in keen focus on a resting shell,
became for a moment
likewise and warmed by the sun,
looked up to find myself surrounded,
heart quickened and nervous
that one false move would startle them,
their gathering at my feet.

Poem and Photo ©2020, Jen Payne. If you like this poem, then you’ll love WAITING OUT THE STORM, a collection of my poems about Cape Cod. Click here to buy the book now.
Poetry transition Writing

Sun Rise

This morning, I watched the sun rise —

or rather, I watched myself move forward
forward uncontrollably into the sun

The owl went first, the one sitting on a branch across the marsh.
Then the giant maple, her arms outstretched and welcoming.

I seemed to step into the rising myself though I made no movement —
none that I could tell mechanically, despite the velocity of change.

The velocity of one thousand miles each hour, imperceivable —
imperceivable almost, except for the first bird who let out a gasp,

a tweeeeeet! as the she smashed into the first rays of light,
a joyful surprise at how quickly the change snuck up on her.

Or how quickly she snuck up on change — remember?
She, without a lifted feather of flight, raced forward to meet the sun.

The owl and the marsh and the maple went into the light, too,
a face-first dive into the oncoming rays, into the change of day.

How easily we forget this constant movement, this constant change
give up our own velocity and blame it on the sun rising,

roll over in bed to look out the window, tucked under illusions of security
think it rises to spite us, harumph at the inconveniences,

forget to marvel at the wild magic of it all, the whooosh! of day
the velocity of our lives careening without injury forward.

Poem and Photo ©2020, Jen Payne

When the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down

This morning, not feeling particularly one way or the other, I took a walk in the woods. My Eeyore-gray rain jacket seemed enough, I thought, until the louder rains came. So, I tucked myself under the branches of a sweet, young hemlock who smelled green and damp and seemed not to mind me much. I was less alone than one might imagine, there on the torrential edge of morning — in the air, I could smell the fox lingering and musing to herself on my wet and getting wetter predicament. I think I heard her laugh. Then the storm subsided just enough for me to start again, and so I did, up and towards the simmering pond when there — just around the bend — I spied the bobbing yellow coat of a kindred spirit. He sloshed through a puddle or two, and nodded with a smile that said Hallo as we passed. Hallo I smiled back, good thinking, that umbrella. Yes, yes. Good thinking and good morning.

©2020, Jen Payne

This Thanks Giving

This year — oh this year — has been challenging. The pandemic seeps into all of the nooks and crannies, as silent as air but as powerful as water. It brings with it immediate and obvious damage; it slowly wears away at what we thought bedrock; with time and time and time, it creates fissures and chasms.

But just like water, the pandemic also brings change. It washes away what was stagnant; reveals the things we were needing to see; carries with it a different way of moving around in this world. And in that way, creates new life…even when it seems to not.

The challenge, as we wait for this sickness to ebb, is to settle into the contradiction. To get comfortable with the unknowing, to sink our bare feet into the here and now, to consider what we might find hidden in the flotsam and jetsam.

And in that way, no matter, here on this day of Thanksgiving, we are — each of us — able to give thanks.

Thanks for struggle and challenge.
Thanks for breathe and the semblance of health.

Thanks for the clamor of the world still turning.
Thanks for the silence of stillness.

Thanks for what we let go.
and thanks for what we hold dear.

Happy Thanksgiving
with Love,

Creativity Poetry Spirituality Writing


For this
this ground beneath my feet,
the signs of seasons, yes, and change
forever change




greatness in small things……….and large
this, this ground beneath my feet

holds everything
…..and me

spinning forward across a galaxy
…..a universe

and She of all things
in every footstep

here, this ground beneath my feet

Poem + Photo ©2018, Jen Payne.
Poetry Writing


It was just the other summer day
I wondered if your hair turned gray.

If you loved her still enough to stay.

And then as if in cue today,
I saw your car pass my way.
That telltale glance gave you away,
the smile that always could betray.

And I, with so much left to say,
kept still and let this poem aweigh.

Poem ©2020, Jen Payne. Photo by Pedro Figueras from Pexels.
Poetry Writing

Our Sad Riddle

Alive without breath,
As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail never clinking.

My nephew, fresh from the pages of Tolkien,
sees a fish carcass on the beach,
predicts Gollum! though we both wonder.
He considers the waves left from a storm,
the wind that blows us each askew,
thinks with furrowed brow, like me
as I sift through those things I know:
the trespass of raw sewage
and slick film of leached oil,
the change of warming waters,
our persistent lack of rain.
But he’s off on a new adventure now,
throwing boulders with grunts and gasps,
Take that! he yells, a holler into the wind
as loud as mine would be if allowed
to grieve the things he cannot see.

Poem ©2020, Jen Payne. One of the riddles of Bilbo and Gollum in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
Poetry Writing

Found Poem: Eau de Parfum

a deconstructed garden
the secondary scents
or quieter facets of floristry
often overlooked:

freshly cut stems,
crushed leaves,
rich soil

as beautiful and evocative as the flower itself

what lingers

green hyacinth and dewy muguet
mandarin, hyacinth, freesia


©2020, Jen Payne. Taken from the website description of Malin + Goetz perfume.
Poetry Writing

When it’s so hard to see…

This morning before dawn I found myself
looking for black pants in the dark.

In the dark before dawn,
I was looking for black pants

and found it apt metaphor
that search in the dark

for hope when it’s so hard to see
as hard to see as black in the dark

that search for hope
that’s hard to see, these days

these days and most days,
black as the dark before dawn

an outstretched hand unseen
in the dark, this morning, with hope.

©2020, Jen Payne.
Living Love Poetry Writing

Measuring Water by Sound

I want to know the color of your eyes, not just the browns and greens of them, but by the specific Pantone colors of their constellations.

I want to know by rote how your tongue forms the syllables of my name, the way your lips make words in the dark.

I want to know your skin like I know these sheets, how they caress my shoulders, hug my hips…where they rest against my belly.

I want to know you by sound, the way I know I’ve poured enough water in the pot for coffee we’ll drink by moonlight at 3.

This poem appeared in the anthology Coffee Poems: Reflections on Life with Coffee published by World Enough Writers, 2019.

Words ©2015, Jen Payne. Image: Monhegan’s Schoolteacher, Jamie Wyeth
Family Memoir Writing

The View From Here: August 31

The View From Here: August 31

The view from here today is this: a shelf in my office. A still life snapshot: longtime friend Winne the Pooh, introduced to me by my Dad when I was a baby; my UMass diploma; the when-in-Paris photo with my friend DeLinda; a Wonder Woman mug; and the very last photo I have of my Dad.

He died less than two weeks later, August 31…twenty-five years ago today.

I always think: I’m glad I asked him to take off his sunglasses that day, because you can see his eyes in this photo. How they connect up with his smile, mirror his laugh.

I always think — if I look hard enough — I’ll see an angel hovering above our heads, hidden in the shadows, waiting.

I remember that day: a cousin’s wedding, the whole family together for the first time in 20 years, his laugh while he played on the floor with his great-nephew, the feeling of not wanting to leave, of wanting just a few more minutes with him.

Now it’s a photo that says more than I can ever tell you. And it sits on a shelf, next to the love he introduced, next to the education he encouraged and the travel he inspired. On a shelf, and on shoulders strong enough to carry all of that forward.

And more: me, Wondering through this life without and yet so very much WITH him. Every day.

©2020, Jen Payne
Poetry Writing

Sims 2020

Sims 2020

If one if familiar
with the virtual world
of the Sims,
then one well knows
how task = reward.

One must
work work work
to earn money,
read read read
to gain intelligence (points).

Don’t forget to
talk talk talk
smile smile smile
to make friends.

It’s important to
wash wash wash
to keep healthy (points),
exercise exercise, too.

All of this, this, this
to maintain the house you
built, built, built,
the relationship
for which you
kissed, kissed, kissed,

and your
happy happy mood.

So if one is familiar
with the world
of the Sims,
then one well knows
how virtually similar

these 2020 days
feel, feel, feel.

©2020, Jen Payne.
Wellness Writing

11 Years and Counting


Get support — it takes a village.

Read Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking.


If I can, you can, too.

I promise.

Poetry Writing

Poetry is…

Poetry is a fresh morning spider-web telling a story of moonlit hours of weaving and waiting during a night. — Carl Sandburg

Photo ©2020, Jen Payne.
Poetry Writing

Found Senryū

Testing 1 2 3

To Live Alone in the Woods

and Write, Wild She Goes

©2020, Jen Payne, senryū based on email subject lines.
Poetry Writing

Sunday Reading

for Nan

I rise up from my Sunday recline
long enough to select a proper bookmark

for surely this story deserves better
than a torn and tattered scrap
from the used bookstore, used

deserves, perhaps, a bookmark
made by an artist friend
from cut paper instead —
attended, intricate, precious

intended for just this…
this intricate story cut
from words and time
from memory and nerve

cut from the heart

©2020, Jen Payne, while reading Simple Absence: Poems & Reflections by Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely.
Poetry Writing

Dream 072220

There was snow
and she was her usual
ornery self about the matter —
I don’t like snow
in a sweet huffy fit
mirroring her petulant
I don’t like trees
when she’d sneeze.
How I miss all of that,
but I digress…

There was snow
and she was her usual:
the smile-and-laugh
approach to hard hard life,
a big and bold disguise
a wink even, I think,
and then she left.

She left and then
the living room light
turned on by itself
lit from a beam of sun
she never saw coming
coming through the window
then the radio lit for morning…

Tell me all your thoughts on God
‘Cause I’m on my way to see her

©2020, Jen Payne for Mary Anne, with thanks to Dishwalla and Counting Blue Cars.

Memoir Poetry Writing


In the pieces of memory
and scraps of conversations
transcribed in situ
I will tell you about
the headless groom
and the dead dog,
about the failure of Saint Raphael
and the irony of the phrase
“you could get hit by a bus.”
I’ll tell you the 15,000 words that broke me
and the ones that almost put me back together
until I realized my heart was better
cracked wide-open like that anyhow.
Now all I need to do is type

Happy Ending.

on the last page
and hope it will suffice.

Poem ©2017, Jen Payne. Image: Woman writing, Edouard Manet.