Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Our Journey with Parkinson's

Early this summer I shared a poetry reading with a colleague and mentor, Pat Riviere Seel at the local library. We had a few sweet attendees, including my husband, Patrick. I had written a new love poem for him, and as I read it, I looked out at his face. It was completely blank, a strange sort of stare. I kept reading, trying not to take his expression to heart, but it wasn't until his diagnosis not long afterward, that I learned the effect is called "Parkinson's Mask."

We had known that something was wrong for a long time. Patrick's increasing muscular weakness, his fumbling over simple tasks, his depression, what did it mean? We feared it was dementia, so when the neurologist diagnosed him in July we were not unhappy. 

We drove directly to a Dunkin' Donuts and talked over coffee and honey dipped crullers, holding hands I remember saying "At least I am not going to lose you. Whatever happens, you will still be all there. You will be you." I have watched my Aunt Margaret slip away from me because of dementia; she doesn't know who I am any more, and it has broken my heart (as many of you with similar experiences will understand).

As months have gone by we have had time to make room for Parkinson's in our lives. We have been learning as the symptoms increase. Our lives are going to change. I recently reached out for help with You Caring. If you would like to lend a hand, please forward the link  PATRICK'S YOU CARING WEBSITE  to a few of your friends, particularly musicians who know Pat and me, who might be interested.

In love and friendship, Cathy

Monday, October 30, 2017


The poet at Samhain
Samhain is the old Celtic name for All Hallows’ Eve, October 31st

Dragon of my self-admiration,
the time for roaring is over.
Come with me to winter’s cave.

If you wish, I will whisper, down
the tunnel of your hoary ear,
praise for your lavender
and bottle-green scales, 
the gyrations of your
your whipping tongue --
but you must be still.

Tame your breath, warm the small
wood creatures below the hawthorn;
observe robins courting the holly tree,
eager for red fruit to soften, mature.

Marvel while snowflakes float
and whirl, tumble from invisible 
nets in a cobalt sky.

Listen while children sing
in bright, piping voices.

Watch as the light from
their candles threads, winking,
through the groves at midnight.

All of this will happen without you:

The trees, brown sticks in the snow,
will worship the icy silence.

The branch’s trickling song will persevere
beneath silvery panes.

Emerald mosses, soft and wet,
will cling to granite and quartz, 
spread fingers through
furrows in the damp
bark of the leaning oak
who guards the spring.

Poetry by Cathy Larson Sky from her chapbook Blue egg, my heart (Finishing Line Press, 2014) 
Paintings by the famous Sulamith Wulfing
Photos by Cathy Larson Sky, from the family land in Spruce Pine, NC.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

LOVE (notes from a weary heart)

I’m not good at love
But I’m not bad at it either
I show up
I try
Maybe that’s all love is

I’ve hurt people who loved me
I’ve loved people who hurt me

Love and hurt seem to

Go hand in hand

Love is hard
An ambiguous art

Where does it live in me?
I can’t find it

It’s a lost continent
Among so many warring 
Places, inside

It has something to do with the color green

And a few times I have
Felt it arrive from nowhere
Most recently,
Outside a hospital gift shop

Love is not magnificent
Like a cathedral
Which cannot be God’s Love

Because I don’t believe
Love can be that big
It seems to work small

No one knows what it is
Everyone knows what it’s not

Not hate
Not killing
Not violence

Not screaming/hitting
(We tell the sandbox kids)

Little boy playing in the sand

I want to study love

And I tell myself I do
But what is there to learn?
More like, how much is there to unlearn?

I wish love could be large
I wish it could be contagious

Like war and
Like viruses


Romance, Valentine, Together, Couple

Cathy Larson Sky      September, 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Twice in my childhood I was seriously humped by dogs. Once at a family summer camp. The older girls lip-synched to “How Much is That Doggie in the Window” for Talent Night. I was given the part of The Doggie; my lines, “Ruff Ruff.” As I crawled onstage on all fours, the camp owners’ terrier, Sporty, dashed in out of nowhere and mounted me from behind, clinging and humping while I tried to scurry away.

The whole thing was a spontaneous hit. All the grownups howled.

The second time, I went with my parents for a visit to some new neighbors. We were all in the parlor having soft drinks when I heard a dog whining in the basement. René, their French Poodle, our hosts explained, wasn’t allowed to greet guests. I begged to meet their pet, not understanding their protestations. How could a French Poodle, the popular image on everyone’s swing skirt (second only to the Eiffel Tower) and the inspiration for the Poodle Cut hairdo, be a problem?

Finally the neighbors gave in and opened the basement door.  René bounded up the stairs and made a bee line for me, knocking me to the floor for some frenzied humping. While his owners scolded and tried to restrain him, I scrambled behind the sofa. René broke loose and attempted to leap over the sofa before he was caught and again exiled to the basement. René had the full poodle coiffure but his pompom ears and tail made him even more sinister.

These brief encounters, what did they mean? What was their lasting significance in my life? As I matured, and began the search for love, each Knight in my life eventually revealed his inner Fido, your basic male Homo sapiens, a pronate in search of a supinate. 

Feminism arrived, and it became normal for lovers to assume either, or both, or some variation on the classic roles and postures. But I couldn’t figure out what this acute form of attention really had to do with love. My first taste of one of life’s eternal conundrums.

What do we know that a dog doesn’t know? Aristophanes, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Woody Allen: they don’t know. But they know the question is great material. Love. Lust.


 Are infinite.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Here is a picture of myself and my high school boyfriend Gregory in August 1965. We were 17 and 19 that sailing summer. Young love grew too complex and we lost touch for decades.  Now he lives in a seacoast city near London with the ocean a mere walk away while I look out my window to see the Blue Ridge Mountains and deer grazing fallen apples in my back yard. I couldn’t imagine in 1965 I would leave our home state of Rhode Island or the shores of Narragansett Bay. Greg and I have been internet pen pals since 1999, when I discovered on Amazon his first brilliant book on popular art and culture and sent congratulations. We talked and keep on talking. I sat down when we first got in touch and jotted down a rhyming poem to honor our shared past:


A small boat bobs upon the bay
A mere speck in the tide.
Memory’s the vessel
Where youth’s dominion hides.

Love without love’s wisdom,
Love’s patience, or love’s care
Skimming over wavelets
Shimmering in the air.

Undiscovered sorrows
Just dreams, forgotten soon –
Too busy with the sunshine
Too rakish with the moon

Too full of life to know it
Too drunk with swollen kisses.
What is the stuff of paradise?
We wake to find that this is.

(copyright Cathy Larson Sky) 

 photo credit: G N Votolato

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Tonight the tempo is lashing. Ladies and lords chase an invisible fox. Inside the music I dive through choppy white water, cram notes onto the bow in random bunches. Lose phrasing. Lose connection. When Eoghan straps on his accordion (his box) there’s a change. Eoghan’s foot tap is steady. Metronomic. His fingers roam the buttons. Pleated bellows wad and stretch. 

I lean my good ear into the bank of sound, focus on Eoghan’s bandwidth. After a few measures, I’m in the flow. A friend takes the seat beside me. He’s eager. Puts his flute together, slaps its case shut. When he starts to play, he’s outside the beat. Flute’s a fluttering sparrow. He raises an eyebrow my way.  Help? But I can barely hold my own. We both start going under. Eoghan’s taking a smoke break. I shoot him a look.  Help!

Catching on, he drops his cigarette and raises the accordion to his lap. Couple of phrases, the tune’s back on track. When I mouthe thank you Eoghan holds my gaze and bows to me in courtly slo-mo. Never missing a note. When his head’s bowed, I swear I see a halo around Eoghan’s skull. Then (on the wall behind him) a golden tunnel. Ancestors stream through the ether, fine electrodes humming. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


This past May, my poetry won its first awards. The news came in three e-mails that felt like beams of light during the dreary 2014 winter of illness in our home. First I heard of an honorary mention, then a third place, then a first in the North Carolina Poetry Society Annual Contests. People asked where they could read the poems, but I had to wait to share them until they were published in Pinesong, Awards 2015, the annual anthology from the NCPS. Here is the first prize winner in the Thomas H. McDill Award, Lemniscates. The title is a fancy name for the eternity symbol. The poem is about apocalypse on both an individual and collective level: the beauty that comes when old patterns break apart. My journal art from 1979 seems to fit.
“In my beginning is my end” T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets


At dawn, a mule deer and her fawn graze on fallen apples; the doe senses my watching. Eyes meet and hold, then her long neck bends again to fruit.

My boot rakes rain-soaked mint growing wild by the kitchen door. Scent rises, tinged with forgiveness.

In ancient Peche-Merle caves, hand prints in red ochre and cinder dance on scorched walls. Underground pools congeal and rise, soak crevice to ceiling with bright algae.
Soft now, a dream.


Shrill cries: a legion of eagles passes overhead, blocks the sun. Grey feathers float towards earth.

Everywhere, houses begin to shake and sing with voices of the dead; dishes tumble from hutch shelves. Smash. In Africa they say of breakage: spirit has been set free. 

  Beavers dance beneath a pink moon. Smack mud with flat tails.

In the metropolis, sulfurous hell-bubbles explode. Blue arctic wind clears the stink; butterfly bushes burst the concrete, flutter with lapis, gold, orange.          
The jelly-roll land writhes: a glittering emerald serpent, a belly dancer’s sequined girdle. Fearless, children ride its waves, shouting, till nightfall.

Sun returns, a kindergarten drawing, benevolent, cheeks turnip-round. Its lemon rays warm all. No more you, me, them.


Rubble becomes art,
how we live. A kind of thick bread
fragrant with herbs.

(copyright Cathy Larson Sky 2015, first printed in Pinesong Awards 2015.)