Librarytour: East Boston Branch, BPL


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This rainy week in Boston reminds me of another rainy week.


It was fall. My partner and I had the day off and what better way to spend it than exploring the library? Particularly a new branch. Not just new to us, but new to the network.


Walk through the community garden, up the stairs, past the porch, and enter East Boston Public Library‘s spacious, one-room(ish) affair with clever, moveable elements and variety to appeal to all types of users.




Gray thought it may be outside, inside this fresh, welcoming branch is sun and surprises.





Whole Heart Greenwich


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One of the things I appreciate most about long-term friendships is that we get to grow and change together.


We’re sold the idea that friendship is telling secrets at summer camp, laughing over the fryer at that first job, playing video games in the college dorm, or drinks with buddies at the bar. Thank goodness that’s not all. I’m glad the experience isn’t so simple or static or one-dimensional.




Even when it makes me sad or wistful, I’m glad that the long-term friendships in my life have included moving boxes, commiserating over disappointments, tales of exhaustion and woe. I’m glad they’ve included the willingness to feel embarrassed, learning how and when to give space, and listening as carefully as we are able.

Our individual worlds seem so small, but when we combine forces -live our lives together- they feel large.


My Personal Political



Baby Pho, 1978

I was raised radical. You can tell by just by looking at me. Right?

When I recount my childhood, the images I share, the stories I choose: organic garden in the back yard where I ate horseradish and sucked on sugar cane straight from the earth; reading the Qur’an beneath a tree with my mother and brother; celebrating Kwanzaa instead of Christmas; my brother writing reports on important Black people in history, which he turned in to our parents; largely eating and identifying as vegetarian; listening to Islamic prayers on the radio on Sundays; my parents splitting childcare equally (or so it seemed to me); and going places and attending events that did not seem to appeal to other Black families (NJ State rock & gem show, anyone?)

I was taught character over color, over gender, but never to ignore the importance of culture. Family reigns important, but friends are family, too.

I wasn’t permitted to straighten my hair, and I can’t recall that I ever asked.


Teen Pho, 16?

My personal political is that I’m not really all that political, not in the ways I’m used to seeing/hearing/experiencing. However, to people I meet, I’m aware that it can appear that I walk my politics: it’s my hair (“how long have you been natural?” “oh, since childhood”), my wide smile, my inability to appear or to act other than I am. I speak very little code. I’m nearly the same everywhere, to everyone. I have too many opinions about too many things. Picking one side makes my heart sink with dread, because I see the other. I don’t like to leave people out, not even myself. Where people see problems, I try to look again. And again. And again until I can pull apart what I’m seeing and find the kernel of opportunity, of creativity, of solutions -maybe just-for-now, maybe for the long term.

Like most people I’ve met, I continue to search for where I fit. With my refusal to follow the paths laid out for me, I’ve been: the only girl among boys at the 3rd grade lunch table ; the only non-GirlScout at camp, rocking that windsurfing board; the 13-year-old learning how to train bonsai trees in a class of students age 30+; the sole Black occupant at the youth hostel in Dublin, tagging along with a young White couple; the single, long-standing Black employee at a dotcom; the writer among visual artists at a Failure Support Group; novelist among dancers.

Phoebe in the sun

Adult Pho, playing with light

My personal political says: go, see, connect, regret, laugh, mourn, listen, struggle, learn. It does not offer answers, but sometimes it helps me find the questions.

Walking Boston – A Sonnet


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Conversation with a friend today brought to mind an Italian Sonnet I wrote for ‘Forms of Poetry,’ a class taught by the luminous and charmingly irreverent Bill Knott back in my time at Emerson College.

Ask me today what distinguishes an Italian Sonnet from an English or Contemporary, and I couldn’t begin to tell you. Similarly, I’m not 100% sure why some words in the poem are bolded, other than it has to do with willfully breaking the rules related to pentameter.

I’m not much of a poet. To my memory, that was my reasoning for enrolling in this class (and by enrolling, I mean taking my poetry-phobic self by the figurative collar and giving myself a good shake) that I count among my favorites and most influential. Though I remain, not much of a poet, I do love the sonnet.

Enough dylanizing, as they used to say in my high school writing classes.

Walking Boston/Eyes Shut

See my mistake? I leapt to learn this town
Inside and out but now I know so well
(too well) the streets, the smells, the way brick walls
can soak in sound like snow, and have you found
my error? How I spend my time withdrawn,
how I trek the streets alone until
my thoughts run dry and I give up and stroll
with my eyes shut to pass the time. I’ve known

All along my mistake, my faulty thinking.
I thought this Boston winking down at me
Was magic. But perhaps I put the splendor
There? Maybe, while I dreamt-walked, it sank in.
When I awoke to cross the street I may
Have lost it and the city let me wonder.


The Reading Life – Favorite Begs & Ends


In a recent assignment I created for my writer’s group, I asked members to identify their favorite beginnings and endings. Readymade blogpost, what-what?! 

The Assignment
Select/identify three to five of your favorite beginning and/or ending sentences from books, articles, poems, what have you. What moves you about each?

Phoebe’s Favs

“I can’t believe you’ve come back
Like the train I missed so badly, barely
Which stopped and returned for me. It scared me
Humming backwards along the track.” – sonnet by Brenda Shaughnessy, “Rise” –love the imagery & sensuality, the “meet-cute” of the mundane & the shocking

“Tyger, Tyger burning bright” –sonnet by William BlakeThe Tyger– intrigue, danger, fire, tigers, wow!

EQ This cover alone brought me careening into the world of comics, of which I’m now a lifetime Reader (cap intended)

“She was not someone’s sister, she was not someone’s child. She was Dolores, and Dolores was the good guys.” – Bruce BrooksDolores: Seven Stories About Her –I think this is the best summarization of a character; the tone of these two lines has inspired several characters in my own novels

“Peace, tremulous, unexpected, sent a taproot out of nowhere into Morgan’s heart.” –Patricia McKillipRiddle-Master: The Complete TrilogyThis quote appears, unbidden, in my thoughts on a regular basis and has deeply influenced what I think an ending should be

“It was only then that Burl noticed that someone found him a real pair of shoes. They seemed quite new, and they fit him well.” –Tim Wynne-JonesThe Maestrosays so little, says so much, I ♥ the practical

So how about you, my friend? Begs & Ends?

What Is It: Street Sign Guy


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Not so long ago, I noticed this drawing on the back side of the Rindge & Latin High School in Cambridge.


I thought: hmmm. Then, one day, I biked past at around dusk and discovered this:


Ah ha! A perfectly placed street sign turned this bit of silliness into a full-on character, with personality. (Maybe that’s why no one has yet painted over it?) Other than graffiti or street-art, I don’t know what one calls this type of offering, but I’m a fan. Every time I pass, makes me smile.

Long live the Street Sign Guy.

Whole Heart (Accidental) Hiatus



This accidental Whole Heart vacation, where energies led away from updating this blog, I took part in the following:

Waved so-long, but never goodbye, to good friends Patricia and Yutian, who are continuing their adventures in congressional fellowship-ness (sounds fancy) and law down in DC.




Bid a final goodbye to my Cousin/Uncle Bubby who, through his teasing, fun-loving nature, taught me how to show up for life. And show up well.

Bubby and Phoebe

Took part in two retreats – one up in Concord, MA with Our Commonwealth, one in Rockport, MA with a group of writer friends.





Completed a draft of my middle grade novel that I feel, finally, has something of value and uniqueness to tempt the market. Connected to this, got to engage in some really great research via zines.


Fell in obsession love with fan fiction in a big way. That’s a post for another day.

Practiced standing up . . .

(c) Agassiz Baldwin Community 2014

(c) Agassiz Baldwin Community 2014

. . . learned about surrender with OnBeing podcast.

What will the next season bring?


Novel Summer



Dear Wholeheart friends,

I’ve been remiss! This summer, June to September, was spent winding my novel down to a close. Ten years of running towards it/running away/running-in-circles finally culminating in my typing the final words of a strange, difficult, fun, inspiring adventure. Can’t tell you more yet, but soon, I hope.

In the meantime, please enjoy this little snapshot of autumn moving in.


Dance It Out In the Boston Dance Underground


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Some eleven or twelve years into my Boston life, I discovered what I’ve dubbed the Dance Underground. Not clubs. Not classes. Not weddings or any other official-type events. More like dancing in someone’s living room with a whole host of new friends. Or biking down the Southwest Corridor path and discovering a free dance night hosted in a converted garage. That kind of underground.

Sliding scale cover charge sign

the baby dances

From the annual Cambridge City Dance Party to the Holi Color Festival, there are just so many low (and no!) cost ways to shake your groove thing. Including one frighteningly wonderful offering in my own backyard.

globe string lights

hoola hoops and giant slinky

alison & adreinne at dj station

Modeled after Cambridge’s Dance Freedom and Dance Friday weekly events, Dance JP is the child of two well-organized, tune-toting members of the Boston community. On the third Saturday of each month these ladies and accompanying volunteers rent and set up a function room at the First Baptist Church on Centre Street. There’s food, pillows on which to lounge when not dancing, hoola-hoops, and string lights. And the crowd. Wow, the crowd. Age 0+, age 60+, age everybody-in-between. The smiles and bare feet. The moves and grooves. The leaps and laughter. It’s not something to miss.

See you there?

view of feet in dance space

chatting on the dance floor

out-of-focus dancing at dance jp

balloon and people dancing


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