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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

October Snow
© 2011 Mary Saracino

The thick, wet snow 
burdens the boughs
of startled maple trees
the menacing visitor arrived
bearing its unseasonably early gifts;
in the front yard
the smallest tree, once splendid in its flaming glory
unable to conceal
its naked soul
its delicate leafless limbs
no longer able to hide
its longing
for summer sun
for nesting birds
for languid days of
endless desire.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumnal Equinox
© 2011 Mary Saracino

Red maple leaves
sail through the crisp morning air
returning their brilliant
cargo to the waiting lap of earth
they kiss the soil
& bear the darkness
of winter’s biding time
saying farewell to
summer’s heat &
blazing sun
equal parts
hope & death
this day, this equinox, a reminder:
all that rots

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

MOTHEROOT Memoir Writing Workshop

I'm teaching a memoir writing workshop in Central Denver on Saturday, October 15th. Check out the attached flyer for more info.

Here's a brief overview:

You don’t have to be a celebrity to write a memoir. Everyone has a story to tell because everyone’s life is touched by poignant events and memorable experiences. The birth of your first child. The day you got married. The valuable lessons your parents taught you or the story of their lives. That trip that changed your life forever. The day you were diagnosed with cancer.

For less than the cost of a month’s worth of Starbucks lattes you can learn how to fine-tune an idea, develop your story, and craft a first draft version of a compelling memoir that showcases your personal experiences. No previous writing experience necessary.

Saturday, 10/15; 9:00 AM-1:00 PM; Central Denver   
Fee: $85; Buddy Discount: Enroll with a friend; pay only $80/person

Reserve your place by October 1st

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Donna Henes, The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife

Donna Henes’ ground-breaking book, The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife, is now available in e-book format from and other places. Part mid-life training manual, part middle-age manifesto, this powerful book is a clarion call for clarity and courage as we face and transform what it means to be a middle aged woman in the world, today.

Though many of us are no longer occupying our childbearing/child-rearing role, we haven’t yet reached the level of wise elder. In that in-between realm, Henes invites us to claim our sovereignty, embrace our Queendom and assume our rightful agency.

From the very first page, The Queen of My Self rings true. Cultivated in the soil of authentic, first-hand experience, Henes writes (and speaks) with unabashed honesty. Forthright, humorous, tender and inspiriting, this book will enliven your soul and hasten your determination to be the best you can be. It will inspire you to reclaim every remnant of your soul that might have been misplaced, lost, or stolen during your journey from girlhood to womanly maturity.

Henes draws upon her more than 30 years of experience as an internationally recognized urban shaman, writer, and artist. She’s led countless celebrations, rituals, and ceremonies and she’s written numerous books and articles. In short, she’s been around the proverbial block a few times, and because she has, she possesses a wealth of embodied knowledge, which she so generously shares with us in this remarkable book. Her stories are as delightful as they are instructive. Her anecdotes are poignant and real. Her hope is boundless and her keen ability to tell it like it is, is refreshing and empowering.

She writes: “I offer my services as the advance scout.” And, any woman lingering in the shadows between self-doubt and self-reclamation should heed her offer, for she encourages each of us to become the “mature monarch, the sole sovereign” of our own life and destiny.

As the book unfolds, you’ll learn about Henes’ story and the stories of other women, throughout time and from many different societies, situations, and stations, who’ve crossed the challenging river of transformation to created rich, daring and dynamic lives. Henes intersperses folklore,
poetry, myth, practical suggestions, exercises, affirmations, celebrations, rituals,
and invocations to create a must-read handbook.

Whether you’re just entering the middle years of your life or have fully and unequivocally arrived in that grand land of opportunity, the Queen archetype is a perfect fit for the 21st century woman.

As Henes’ notes, the Queen is “Not yet old, yet no longer young, She is a regal Queen standing in Her proper place—after the Mother and before the Crone in No Woman’s Land. She plants Her flag and claims Her space in this previously uncharted midlife territory. Still active and sexy, vital with the enthusiasm and energy of youth, the Queen is tempered with the hard-earned experience and leavening attitudes of age.”

Get ready to savor this gem of a book. Then toss out any of the outdated ideas of how you thought a middle age woman was supposed to act, feel, or live her life. Crown yourself Queen, not just for the day, but for the rest of your precious, splendid life.

For further information about Donna Henes’s work or to request a calendar of
upcoming events, a list of publications and services, and a complimentary copy
of Always In Season, contact Mama Donna at

To order an e-book or print book version of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife, visit:

Art and Words Editions (The publisher of the E-book)



Link to the book page in iBookstore (Apple's bookstore app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod). If you don’t have the app installed, it will link to the iTunes pages on Apple's site. 

US store:

Great Britain store:
Queen Mama Donna Henes

Friday, May 6, 2011


On the day I was born you nearly bled to death
perhaps a sign that our lives were marked for strife
but a mother’s womb is a thing of power
a proving ground for life and all its mysteries
you called me first-daughter and I shouldered
that responsibility, sometimes bearing
too many of your sorrows
always bearing mine
our lives are as entwined as our DNA
that mitochondrial ribbon of memory
tethers us to the long sighs of mothers and daughters —
Maria Fiora Petronilla Lazurri
Maria Assunta Rocchiccioli — and other
more ancient daughters, mothers,
grandmothers, great grandmothers –
whose names we do not know
strong women who loved and lost, laughed and cried
dreamed and despaired and lived — always
lived knowing that blood runs deep
and primeval bonds are never severed
whether our days are carefree or fraught with pain
something carries us forward
something that knows mothers are imperfect
and daughters are too
something that knows us each by heart
celebrates the joys and sorrows
blesses us all the way through.

Not mother by birth, but second mother by chance
your fierce spirit a reminder
that a woman strong is a mighty beauty —
though some would not agree
when first you married my father
my twenty-something eyes had seen too much
yet much more lay ahead
at your table I have feasted on roasted chicken
with potatoes, polenta simmering in red sauce,
savory meatballs and homemade fried dough
listening to your stories about your sisters,
heeding your reminder to always cherish mine
there’s something in a woman’s bones that celebrates
the twin sustenance of food and sisterhood,
something that honors the balm that resides
in the love of mothers—biological or not —
that knows life is painful and bearable
knows, too, that only love sustains us
through the long walk home

When first I met you my life lay in shards
at my feet, splinters of mirrored glass reflecting
worry and woe back at my astonished eyes
discontent called my name
you asked me to look closely
wait and listen for my truth, for answers
I never cried in front of you
yet the kindness in your eyes
called my name
steeled my courage
led me home
together we mended
the fragile fragments
fashioned woe into a window
a doorway
a way in & out
of my delicate, willing heart

Voice clenched in terror
I sat before you
too many secrets trapped
in too many memories
my lips afraid to speak
my brain shattered by shock
I wanted to shout, but could not
I wanted to silence years of no-no-no
dive, singing, into the boundless sea of yes-yes-yes
I longed to drown in epiphany, be reborn
a woman whose tongue was ablaze
with voluptuous vowels
loose-limbed consonants
I could not have known
the way out was strewn
with prayers and poems
pictures drawn of fierce, howling mouths
the dark eyes of a young girl staring back at me
her twisted mouth clamped shut
her lonesome hands reaching
for something it would take me years to recognize
when at last the stifling air stirred
I began to cry and sculpted Amazons of clay
fists clenched against injustice, wanting — always wanting —
to laugh, to dance, to say what I needed to say
without censor, without regret, without retaliation
and you, a patient midwife,
witnessed my bloody birth without flinching
breath after precious breath you stood resolute
as I gathered the lost syllables
reclaiming the nouns, verbs, plump sentences
of my mother tongue
the native language of my soul

Mother of mothers dark and divine
your secret keys unlocked ancient doorways
ushering me down dusty roads
peppered with red poppies and parched ruins
Sicily captured me, cradled me in her fragrant arms
coaxed my soul from its too-long slumber
your audacity, your heart, your laughter
spoke of things long forgotten
daring me to speak as well
and to remember
Her name
Her name
Her name

Thursday, April 14, 2011

by Mary Saracino

I was bred to appease
close the gaping mouth
of desire
a child speaking
in the foreign tongue of docility
relying on conforming consonants
denying voracious vowels their due
jailing truth behind clenched teeth
taunt lips, a shaking, frightened heart.

Even then something inside
refused to cooperate
prowled the dark alleyways of muscles
scrawling thick, bloody letters
on the walls of veins staining the bedrock
of sinew with graffiti
something stood proud like a furious flag
called for revolution
something howled: "I am not for sale."

Even under the sullied breath of childhood
I sometimes whispered whole
sentences of insubordination
befriended the slang of dissension
quietly at first
then more confidently, questioning
each syllable that stuttered across my startled mouth
all that my voice withheld
my relentless heart demanded.

Long miles from youth to now
ripened into insurgence
not anarchy for its own selfish sake
not lawlessness
but justice breaking free.

The years ferried me past complacency
away from the shoreline of orthodoxy
beyond the borderlands of muteness
far from the places where a woman’s silence
is her best kept secret
where she must always know her place
abdicate her will
keep her mouth shut.

Now rebel nouns and verbs dance
upon the tender tip
of my tenacious tongue.
A woman must always ignite her voice
speak of her hunger
satisfy the ache
of purpose that gives birth to defiance
suckle it to her breast
tend to it as if it were
the last child on Earth
the only hope for humanity’s survival
because it is.

Friday, April 8, 2011

by Mary Saracino

Crows don’t seek bread
or sheltered warmth
but something else more sustaining
something that defies gravity & time
the whims of shifting seasons
unrelenting heat
bitter cold
sheets of pouring rain
and all the many other
encumbrances life trusts
upon birds & humans;
the crows’ sturdy black wings carry them
over rooftops, treetops, highways
one lands on an eave, turns her head
blinks at the sun glinting off the metal
downspout; another circles an aspen
claims a limb, waits for who knows what
I watch from the sidewalk, head cocked
wondering if crows worry about
sleet and snow and boys with BB guns
or getting safely home
the birds don’t mind if I stare or fret
they leave me to my musing
I sit on the grass, gaze at the clouds
distracted by my own illusions
when I turn back, the crows
have left their roosts, flown away
off to places unknown to me
places beyond the reach of my
limited ways of knowing.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What Starts
by Mary Saracino

What starts is never what arrives;
the eager door swings open
hopeful feet step on stones from here to there;
we traverse the long road from home to hinterland
wearing shoes dusty with dreams
a tattered coat, a hat soggy from sleet or dew
our bellies hungry for bread, meat, comfort;
we begin the journey as pilgrims
befriending fields & lonely mountaintops
biting brambles & whimsical wildflowers
beneficent bees & boisterous birds;
we sing to towering oaks & thorny roses
swollen rivers & murky lakes
chilling winds & replenishing rains
biting snow & blistering sun;
we end the journey as refugees
longing for where we started
uncertain of where we have arrived
our skin tougher, more wrinkled
our hearts opened, yet weary
our hopes & aspirations forever altered
by the weather, the whims of chance
the kindness or cruelty of strangers
the losses & joys, laughter & tears
gathered or spilled along the way.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Vernal Equinox

Halfway between night & day
We pause, hearts momentarily held in equilibrium.
We glance toward the east then the west
certain that the sun will not desert us.

Our bare heads welcome the howling winds of warming March.
Fierce air fills the hollows of our ears as we stand
determined to merge with the elongated light
poised as it is between melting snow & pregnant buds.

The ripe soil seeds hope in our souls.
We clasp hands, sing symmetrical dreams
relinquish winter-weary sleep
& all that ties our bones to cold death’s memory.
The dark recedes as bright spring claims us
greening everything it touches.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mother Moon

Tonight the Mother Moon rises pregnant in the sky
shining her resplendent light upon the world
dazzling us with the fullness of her being
reminding us that we are never alone.
Some say the full moon triggers madness
unleashes wild desires
untamed hopes and dreams
unchecked passions.
I say the Mother Moon unloosens hope
and the promise of transformation
her light a beacon, urging us inward
to claim our lunar memory
find our way back
to the original womb of consciousness
that soul-seed of the world that
birthed the human psyche
syncopated the beating of the human heart.

St. Joseph’s Day March 19, 2011

In Italy, San Giuseppe is a hero, not a cuckold.
He married an unwed pregnant woman
raised a son who was not his own, without complaining.
On his feast day a table is laid, a three-tiered altar
adorned with flowers, candles, fava beans, wine, cakes,
bread and cookies made of flour
to honor the beloved carpenter’s saw dust.
In America, in enclaves like New York City, New Orleans
Kansas City, Chicago, and Providence
Italians give bread to the poor
filling bellies emptied of sustenance
filling hearts emptied of hope
to pay homage to this regular Joe
a man of the people, a soulful soul
who listened to the angels, not the cynics
who did the right thing when the right thing was called for.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Whale Dancer Prayer

In the heart of the whale
In the belly of the sea
In the womb of memory
One love
One life
One world
One people
One peace

Thursday, February 3, 2011


1.      Tuscany

I am northern cinghiale
savory, untamed
claiming the thick forests as my home
I am pungent pecorino seasoned with sheep’s milk
timeless as the undulating Tuscan hills
shimmering with sunflowers,
scented with cypress
my veins run ruby with Chianti
my bones grow strong on succulent
green-gold, first-press olive oil
my eyes behold the faces
of mountains, the shadows of sorrow
my ears ring with rumors, whispered
in the ruins of Etruscan hill towns
where women always stood eye-to-eye with men
sustaining the wide, round world.

2.      Puglia

I am southern fava beans
simmering in earthen bowls
rosemary-scented roast lamb
purple-kissed eggplant
zuppa di mare, spiced with saffron — yellow-orange,
fragrant with the perfume of North Africa, West Asia
the lands from which my ancient mother-tongue —
my original heart — sailed
the aqua arms of the sea
hug the high-plains habitat
of my Apulian ancestors
the curved, stone-washed trulli
glisten under the furious, scorching sun
the voices of dark-skinned
Madonnas reverberate through my marrow
releasing a concerto of yesyesyes!
as the hot wind whistles
through the dusty open fields
dances on the delicate petals
of crimson poppies
tickles the feathery, flaxen
tassels of winter wheat.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Unsung Songs

"There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you."
--Maya Angelou

Some stories we bear as whispers
secrets too terrible to tell
silently they cower inside us
lacking the courage to fly
their telling unspoken
of places so broken
the heart is unable to mend
but life and its woes
its joys and its blessings
calls us to rush out the door
race through the streets
let loose a whoop
gather the stars in our arms
in the dark of the night
under the light of the moon
the places inside you are listening
with the mouth of your heart
let the telling begin
sing the unsung songs of your soul
unsilence the stories you've silenced
unburden your bones and be free
dance in the dark with the gypsies
relinquish your agony

Thursday, January 6, 2011

La Befana

With eyes the color of mortal sin
a heart as magical as the moon
she spends her days sweeping
and baking
mending and tending
preparing her home for love
and for hope.
Some say the Magi stopped at her doorstep
inquiring about Bethlehem;
they wanted to visit a special child,
they asked Befana to show them the way,
travel with them; but she declined.
Wiping tears from her cheeks
she longed to cradle her own dead children
long ago taken from her arms.
The Magi left, but Befana’s sorrow did not;
she filled a sack with toys
and cookies, bread and sweets
to soothe the soul and sustain the body,
she straddled her broomstick,
flew from house to house,
leaving presents on darkened doorsteps,
seeking the Divine in every child,
not one, particular, Savior born in
a manger or a cave,
but all the girls, all the boys
whose laughter and joy
save the whole, wide, round
world from despair.

Note: In Italian folklore, La Befana is the kind, old woman with magical powers who brings gifts to the children of Italy on the eve of the Epiphany.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Blessings of Ravioli
The ravioli lay on floured
pillow cases on your dining room table
looking like stuffed pillows
themselves —
the dough kneaded smooth,
then rolled to the right thickness,
the spinach and ricotta filling
dropped like clusters of
snow-crusted grass
onto the naked strips of pasta,
plumped into fullness
with a quick fold of the dough,
the corners tucked in place with the
pinch of a fork.

Your hands move in a holy rhythm.
You anoint the ravioli with
flour to prevent them from drying out.
White halos the arch of your cheekbone as
you laugh and sprinkle, saying,
“Bless these ravioli,” like some Italian nun.

I laugh, too,
reminded of my Catholic grade school days.
I wish we had known each other then.
We could have draped our little girl bodies
in my grandmother’s
gaudy red and yellow aprons
and watched her wrinkled fingers press each ravioli
into perfect form.
“The secret’s in the touch,” she told me.
Life is full of such holy mysteries.

How could I have known
the blessings of ravioli
passed from Grandma’s hands
to mine, and now to yours.
I touch your floured fingertips
and smile.
There is grace here
and beauty beyond words.

©1993, Mary Saracino
Originally published in Writers Who Cook, Herringbone Press (Minneapolis: 1993).