Bird Game

From Enough For a Book, 2016.

Bird Game

A whole pack of sparrows
in that bare-limbed bush
crowded in together
among the twisty branches
Quick they are gone
all their wings set to work at once
with a sound like
a pack of cards shuffled
very fast and very hard
and then thrown up in the air.



No Matter How I Look

No Matter How I Look

In the store window
no one pinches pennies.
No one wears clothes with stains
that didn’t come out in the wash.
None of the pots and pans
have burn marks on the bottom
the rugs have never felt a muddy boot
the plates have no chips
the broom is not worn into a splayed-out stub
the refrigerator door is not dented.
In the store window all things are possible
everything is new and no one
says I know better than you do because
I’ve got some experience in me.



From the collection published in 2016, Enough For a Book.


In the overheated dusty silence
of the reading room at the library
and I mean the kind of silence only a room can have
that’s full of people
Someone sneezes.
A good solid effort of a sneeze
nothing small and timid about it
from an anonymous someone
at a table
some rows back from where I am sitting
the sound
not intimidated by the two-story high ceiling.
All down the row of tables
we whisper – bless you.


Why Not Paint Some Flash Fiction? Stories from February 13-16

You may know that I am an artist as well as a writer of poetry, and that I have an art blog, Claudia McGill and Her Art World , in addition to this one. Recently I’ve completed a set of illustrations for a writing project, 28 days of flash fiction at Fictive Dream, an online magazine devoted to the short story.

The event is called Flash Fiction February and is going on right now, with a new flash fiction story each day. I’m showing you the artworks and presenting a short analysis of how I interpreted the story in paint, inks, and collage. I hope that once you look over what I’ve set out here, you will visit Fictive Dream and read the stories!

If you want to know more about the artwork side of the project, my art blog is currently featuring the artworks I did plus some posts outlining the ins and outs of my illustration process. 

13. On February 13, No Vacancies by Anne Goodwin. From the text, I had a very clear visual picture of the setting – it was a very atmospheric story. The first picture I did (Image 44) focuses on the stairs and the room. I began by gessoing the paper in black to emphasize the darkness and depth. The elements are suspended in the sparkly rainy night, the room a black hole with that miserable light bulb hanging from the ceiling the only note of feeble contrast to the dark and dreariness.

As the lady character said in the story, it’s a room. Maybe not even that, it seemed to me. More like a trap. A dungeon. Imprisonment for a night’s rest! A bit scary. This is the feeling I wanted to convey with the dark colors, low contrast, and simple shapes.

Image 44 Fictive Dream 12-30-18 201939

The second image for this story (Image 45) takes the viewer through the thought process of the narrator in anticipating the room’s appearance. First there is the bright child’s room, then the student’s room, and then the reality – empty and dark with just enough light to see that there is nothing there of warmth and comfort, in fact, just…nothing. The bad kind of nothing.

I wanted to show the difference between the idealized rooms and the reality. I gessoed the dark half of the painting with black and on the brighter half I painted directly on the white paper – it gives even more contrast to the colors.

Image 45 Fictive Dream 12-30-18 201940

Fictive Dream editor Laura Black’s comments:

Both options you created for No Vacancies, without doubt, are a great fit for the story and the decision could have gone either way. However, in this instance, I not only considered the best image for the story but the overall effect on the Home Page thumbnail views. I thought it was time for another monochrome illustration and this fit the bill perfectly. In relation to the text, image #44 reflects the despair that the two characters are feeling at the end of the piece. It just shows how, in the right hands, so much can be conveyed in black.

14. Cargo, by Steven Connolly, on February 14. The balloons featured in the text were the main and obvious motif here – they direct the story, seemingly alive and active in of themselves. They are agents of freedom.

I made two images. They have in common bright lively colors and round shapes. I also used limited amounts of black ink to sharpen the colors by contrast. I wanted to focus on the hopeful aspects in this story rather than the sadness. In both cases I set the balloons in the sky, because they are free there and under no one’s thumb, unlike the refugees and the boy in the story.

The first one (Image 38) is more of a static portrait of the balloons with their strings, crowding the sky in ranks, maybe as they just start out on their journey.

Image 38 Fictive Dream 12-24-18 201932

The second painting (Image 37) shows the balloons in motion, dangling their tags covered with drawings.

Image 37 Fictive Dream 12-24-18 201931

Laura Black’s comments:

Despite the sad context of this story, I love its originality and exuberance. There’s optimism in the way those balloons tap tap tap their way to the young boy. Both of the illustrations you created for this story would have worked well – they’re both vibrant and both make us of the balloon motif. My reason for choosing image #37, however, is that the balloons have movement – you can feel them floating through the air. I also found the slightly lighter blue background very appealing. Just lovely.

15. Little People, by DS Levy, on February 15. This story involves a couple who visit real estate open houses, an activity familiar to me – visiting open houses on Sunday afternoons is a long-time family tradition, both when I was growing up and then in adulthood with my husband (whose father was a real estate broker).

My take on this story was that the characters Dick and Glenda seem mischievous on the surface, but their activities have darker undertones. They are playing jokes on people they don’t know, in their own homes, those homes that they have entered under the guise of another activity altogether, and doing so in an anonymous kind of passive-aggressive way.

Additionally, they are leaving toy army soldiers, with their aggressive connotations, using them to criticize or admonish the inhabitants. As they do more of it, it feels more and more invasive and you start to wonder what new ideas they might get…

I made two images with a common color scheme. The first image (Image 11) includes an army green section advancing on an open field of red tones. The green represents the soldiers and the pink/red/white  area is for the “carnage” the characters envision the soldiers leaving. It also stands for the ice cream stop at the end of the story that may or may not be escalating the warfare.

Image 11 Fictive Dream 12-8-18 20193

In the second image (Image 10), I wanted to depict the setting as I envisioned it, suburbia, as the hobby is focused on homes and the very suburban activity of visiting open houses. I put a shape suggesting a house in an army-green landscape-like setting and I set red/pink edging its way into this tableau to represent, once again, the “carnage” the army soldiers wreak.

Image 10 Fictive Dream 12-8-18 20192

Laura Black’s comments:

I loved Little People by DS Levy the moment I read it. It takes a while for the darker side of this story to sink in which is why I chose image #11. The artwork privileges the colours of ice cream and days out. Overall I felt this image was more in keeping with the story – at least, one’s initial reading of it.

That said, image #10 is among my favourites of the whole project. I love the dominant rich green and how it complements the touch of red and pink on the left. The small, black house conveys a secretive quality. Anyhow, I made my decision and I’m pleased to say that I was able to use image #10 for the promotions leading up to February.

16. Recruitment (with Bosco), by Louis Gallo, February 16. This story involved a family on a college recruiting trip. I visualized the story in terms of the college campus with red buildings, the line of parents and prospective students on tour, and then Bosco the dog looping around the whole scene.

The dog’s name comes from a kind of chocolate syrup (I didn’t know this fact and so I researched it to make sure I understood where I was with this important point) and so I included the color brown in various ways in the three images I made. I also included a green campus and red buildings – in my everyday world, many colleges include at least one building, usually the oldest and most revered, constructed in a red brick classical-architecture type style and sitting on a big green open area, so I chose that combination to represent stuffiness. The buildings and people are straight and stiff, bent on making a good impression. Bosco lightens things up with big sweeping strokes and interferes with the decorum.

Working with the story, I was very clear on the structure of the paintings, but I tried out three different looks to satisfy myself, because I was just not sure which one I liked best. My thinking was, rather than censor myself and just do one, I would make the versions and give Laura a choice.

Additionally, the looping paintings, well, I created them in one orientation and then flipped them, and then unflipped them. Finally one was left as I painted it and I turned the other one around. I won’t tell you which one is which. Some things need to stay a secret.

Here are the three versions. Image 39:

Image 39 Fictive Dream 12-29-18 201933

Image 40:

Image 40 Fictive Dream 12-29-18 201935

Image 41:

Image 41 Fictive Dream 12-29-18 201936

Laura Black’s comments:

The star of Recruitment (with Bosco) by Louis Gallo is “a sort of battered Boston terrier” that attaches itself to a group of parents on their campus visit. The dog is the colour of Bosco, which I’d never heard of but found out was a chocolate coloured drink. No wonder then that of the three pieces you prepared for this story I chose image #39. You show the path the dog takes in both illustrations but it seemed fitting to go with the Bosco-coloured path rather than the white of image #40. I was also very taken with the green background of #39, this really appealed to me. This is a charming story (and one that imparts some wisdom), and it’s accompanied by a rather charming image.


And there you have it- the fourth four stories and their images. Thank you for reading.

Notes on the Flash Fiction February 2019 illustration project

My practice with each story was to read it very carefully, making notes and small sketches about elements that sparked a visual image. Fictive Dream editor Laura Black also gave me her input for each story. All the artwork is non-representational as outlined in the specifications Laura had for the project. The paintings are about 11.5″ x 7.25″ each and are primarily acrylics on watercolor paper, although there is some collage work as well. I usually made a couple of images per story and Laura chose which one would be displayed with the story.


Shadorma 24

Shadorma 24

A casual look
offhand cool.
The aloof
luxury of not caring
about the answer

Image 30

Small Artist Sketchbook 2018 Image #30030


This poem is from my Small Artist Sketchbook 2018. Similar to my previous Large Artist Sketchbook 2017, I created artwork in a book over a period of time, 2016-2017-2018, and later wrote poems to go with each image. This book contains only haiku, shadorma, or tanka. All poems were published in the collection Clean Canvas in spring 2018 (without their illustrations).

In the sketch book, the poems are on the facing page for each illustration – here I am only showing you the illustration, with the text beneath it. Each poem is numbered according to my master list and the date refers to when I wrote the poem, not when the illustration was done.

Read and enjoy, and thank you!


Divided in Two

From Enough For a Book, 2016.

Divided in Two

Standing in the vestibule
in the cold space between outdoors
and indoors. The phone in her hand
pressed to her ear and she listens.
The phone in her hand and her brow wrinkles
her eyes narrow. The snow falls outside. I enter
the vestibule
bringing more cold air with me. She does not see me.
She is not cold. The words in her ear have taken her.
She is gone. She was not here.
I saw her.


Put Pen to Paper Marathon 2019 Week 6

The Marathon journey is in its third year. Put Pen to Paper is the current incarnation.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! I spent the day writing poetry, a nice place to be today, doing something I love to do.

I had the idea of doing snippets in my mind, since I posted those stragglers a few days ago. And snippets need to be done at home. The library is just not that fond of a flurry of tiny paper bits all over the floor. So I planned my day around that activity. Snippets, I mean, not paper flurrying.

I started off the day by going to my local grocery store cafe (the one you are used to seeing me go to is closer to Montco than this one near my house).

The store is undergoing remodeling, it’s a busy store anyway, and there was a crush of men (yes, pretty much just men, that’s what I observed) buying flowers for the day. Let me tell you the place was just crazy. Perfect for writing Little Vines!

PO2-14-19 (10)

My current Little Vines source material notebook. I take notes on TV shows, bits of conversation, songs, you name it. I also use the opportunity for handwriting practice (if you remember, I re-learned how to write in cursive about two years ago, but that is a story for another day).

At lunchtime I came home and set up the snippet situation. I went down to my art studio and got my materials out.

Now what I should have done to prepare was to cut out lots of words and phrases beforehand. I did not do that. Because I got too busy over the past few days. So I spent about an hour on this task and let me tell you, I am rusty at it – I felt unsure what to cut (more like what not to cut. I liked every word I saw today).

PO2-14-19 (5)

Finally I got things going. What I do is, I lay out the snips of paper and then arrange them in groups – either by parts of speech (nouns, verbs, etc.) – or by themes (words that pertain to the ocean, let’s say) – or by…whatever looks good together. In other words, there is no system.

My rule is, three lines (or maybe four). But no more. I have done longer collage poems, but snippets are snippets, and that’s that.

I worked the rest of the afternoon, ending up with a handful of snippets. If you try this form, let me warn you – it’s a slow process. Each session yields just a few poems. You need to go into it with patience.

PO2-14-19 (4)

When I was finished, I debated leaving the board with the remnants as it was. If I know I am coming back every day to work, that’s what I usually do. Today, though, I feel it will be several days before I will have time again, so I swept up the words and left them ready for the next session. It’s not a bad thing to do this, either – it refreshes the combinations so that next time, I do not work with old thoughts.

PO2-14-19 (3)

All right, I’ll show you a couple of snippets. Oh, one more thing – usually I glue the print to a painted ATC background. Ooops, I did not have any ready. So I used paint cards and I’ll cut them to size. Note to self – paint backgrounds!


And now, Little Vines. Let’s do them all today, the whole list.


one day very soon
in our pesticide-free front yard
they will get married
those two herbivores

if you’d like to make plans
Right now I am in deep and headed for grievous trouble
I’ll get there sometime tomorrow mid-morning

This Valentine’s Day reflect upon your feelings
for the man standing before you
a bouquet of cold-bitten grocery store roses in hand

a very through cynic
I had hoped I could change him
Peel that sour lemon
sprinkle him with sugar

a stolen watch
an unsealed envelope
you decide to turn a blind eye one more time

it’s just work stuff and so boring
tough to explain and the kind of thing
that makes you lose your appetite

figuratively I got carried away
literally I’m up on libel and slander charges
moral of the story: pay attention to those pesky words

the last four days
the rate of change
I never had a beard before. What next?

it is dimly possible
in a thousand years
but no way this Valentine’s Day

I see a practical woman
no intention of bringing trouble
until someone offered her a reward for it

the monsters have come back this year
now we’re up to thirty
I guess we’ll have to expand the table in the living room

a source of pride to the kitchen
the presence of a masterful cook
with a very active sense of spicy and piquant

my gardening chores squeezing me and distressing the garden
I’d rather be a tiny lizard sunning itself
let the garden decide its own style

my suggestion
mix up the paperwork
there is something about a good flummox
it takes the pressure off

I don’t give up
I just slow it down
until I can catch hold of it

that one stubborn chili pepper
if only someone had put a tracker on it
before it got loose and obliterated your stomach

no I won’t do it
unless you tell me
you’d rather do it

I signed the papers
handed over the key to the treasure box
Sorry but my non-disclosure agreement prohibits saying more

I let the robot translate.
Once I understood I said:
I’d be delighted but not until after lunch.

The death threat and
I think I’ve got good news for you
It’s nothing personal. Just business.

a memorial service
for her artificial identity
the virtual life can be so cruel

You are way out-of-bounds
you not-so-model citizen of the Pliocene
This is my cave. Now scram.

wait I hear the bus backfiring right now
leaking oil at the corner stop
quick pack up that suitcase and get out there

Our family color is pink
Our family style is aiding and abetting
No focus group needed. We know what we like.

every night
in negotiations with our dreams
we ask and answer questions

Listen up
the dentist said
It’s a simple day-long procedure

so who cares
it’s just one page missing
a silent space in the midst of cacophony

that cute little baby smiling at you
oh she’s smart all right
and a determined double crosser

of course I interrupted the doctor
she was doing it all wrong
it’s the can opener first then the chainsaw

the rainbow a fugitive
laughing in your face
while you look for gold footprints

fresh and clean
the baby one minute after her bath


Thank you for reading!