Did I Say?

Did I say that I want you?

Alice enters the room and stares at Jimmy, waiting. How can he not remember? He yelled her name three times a few minutes ago. Her knees need replacing, and the hallway—stacked with bins of her half-finished crafts and quilts—requires negotiating. He had sounded afraid, almost panicked. She responded as fast as she could hobble, but, now, he looks up at her, baffled.

Alice’s children had warned her about getting involved with a man that late in life. Her daughter had complained, “He just wants someone to take care of him.” Her son had been less tactful, “He is broke. He needs your money.” What money? Her mortgage had been paid off a few months before her husband died (eleven years ago, but it feels like yesterday), and she is the sole the beneficiary of the modest life insurance policy he left behind. It covers the property tax and puts food on the table, not much more than that. She had heeded their warnings for two years, but Jimmy’s persistent pursuit had proven charming. Or maybe she had just grown weary of driving herself around town and pulling the garbage to the curb once a week.

Jimmy takes the garbage out now, at least if she reminds him; and he is a good driver, provided she pays attention and tells him where to go. When the kids ask her about Jimmy’s driving, she ignores them. (She doesn’t tell them about the woman he nearly hit in the parking lot of the grocery store last month or how she had to grab the steering wheel last week when turned the wrong way down Highway 35.) She hides the car keys from him, so he can only drive when she is with him.

Did I say that I need you?

He had told her that he was going to rake the leaves out back and then watch the golf tournament on tv. His shoes sit on the mat by the back door, clean, empty. He looks at Alice, vacant, the television remote upside down in his hands. The tv is off, the leaves, not raked. Jimmy turns away and stares at the blank tv screen.

Alice wants to yell at him, no, to scream, but Alice loves Jimmy too much to raise her voice. She walks over to him without saying a word and presses the power button on the remote control. He grins as “Wheel of Fortune” lights up the screen. As he fist pumps a correctly guessed letter, he shreds her dreams in a dignified air of victory.


©2020 Tanya Cliff


This is my response to Stephen’s Level Up Challenge that combines several prompts. Thanks to all these talented humans for the prompts:





Fins and Feathers

shall we travel together?
not back, but ahead
yet, look back
regretting neither float nor flight
that led fin and feather
to this place
look back and consider
we collected nothing
but memory
for all things pass
except love
even the shells we collected on the beach
filling our mesh bags
cracked and crumbled
we shook and sprinkled the remnants
through the gaps
over the chicken feed
the hens laid prolifically
we ate all the eggs
collecting nothing
but memory
”How long does a kiss stick to a cheek?” he asked.
”Forever, silly,” I answered.
even the cheek will fade to dust
as will our fins and feathers
only love will linger
now, let’s swim and soar, crossing
rivers deep and canyons wide
just passing
carrying memories in gossamer packages
spun by the living motions
of our fins and feathers
in float and flight
the love that lingers
bound forever to us, tight


Words and Photography ©2019 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in poetry & free verse.

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Journey (revision)

the world extends its frozen branches to you
with the decadence
of greedy, icy-jeweled, cruel hearts
your wandering self shivers

you hold out a lonely hand
to feel something
but the frigid limbs burn
branding exposed skin with red-marked scars
you’re numb with bitten touch

you open your hungry mouth
to taste
but the frozen berries stick
you strip them off your tongue
your words come out stained with blood

you brush against this plant, trying to flee
leaves crackle
in mocking laughter
but you, instead, remember love’s warm fires
you sigh homesick desires

you gaze in troubled wonder
to see anything
but the ice reflects the winter sun
blinding your eyes in dazzling sparkle
you squint and tears fall

you inhale, longing for life’s fragrance
and smell nothing
the flowers are all hiding in buds
leaving your nostrils dripping
you sneeze the cold of rejection

you turn and journey home
steps quicken
weary traveler, you know the way
come near, sparks awaken all your senses
at home’s hearth, rekindle your soul’s flame


You can read the original version of Journey here.

Words and Photography ©2017 & 2019 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in poetry & free verse.


for the holding
for this time-worn fabric
for the rough and frayed of life lived
that caught the edges of unraveled scarf
violently tossed by tempest’s wind
calming the storm within
for this sticking


Words and Photography ©2019 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in poetry & Rictameter Verse.

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A Growing Haiku

adventure awaits

step ahead and glance behind

know that I am there


Words and Photography ©2018 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in haiku & poetry.

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Note: Photo taken at Stonefield Village, part of the Wisconsin Historic Society

She Sings

why does she sing?

she turned 91, the old bird

her life’s mate was just caged in the nursing home
he can’t remember why
his once lengthy repertoire has been reduced to a few, sweet notes

her handicapped son still lives at home
needing her patient care
all he could ever do was chirp

the last of her friends died years ago
their songs now silent
she takes her coffee with younger generations
their noisy squawks sometimes give her a headache
but she never complains

she goes on singing, the old bird
and smiles and laughs
and shares a story
or ten

she sings
not because her life’s bird landed on a beautiful branch
in a flawless tree

she sings
as a bird in life’s tree
she can


for my Granny, who still tells the best stories and is an avid bird-watcher


Words and Photography ©2018 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in poetry & free verse.

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The Paint Brush

paint brush
in growing hands
my dreaming progeny
experiments in bold color
unabashed, she crafts O’Keeffe in abstract
flower frolics across canvas
young fingers in the lead
such fortunate
paint brush


Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in poetry & Rictameter Verse. Bookmark the permalink.



world extends frozen branches
with icy-jeweled, cruel hearts –
your wandering self shivers

hold out your hand
limbs burn
leaving red marks on exposed skin –
you’re numb with bitten touch

open your mouth
berries stick
peeling buds off tasting tongue –
you spit out bloodied words

brush to the side
leaves crackle
reminding ears of love’s warm fires –
you moan homesick desires

stare closely
ice reflects
blinding eyes with dazzling sparkle –
you squint, shed many tears

breathe in
scent disappoints
leaving nostrils cold and vacant –
you sneeze rejection’s virus

journey home
steps quicken
sparks awaken all your senses –
at hearth, rekindle your soul’s flame


Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in poetry & free verse. Bookmark the permalink.

(Inspired by my oldest son’s return for spring break. There’s no place like home.)

Should I Warn the Neighbors?

“Should I warn the neighbors?”

We are lighting a smoke bomb today. I’m good at this. If the wind is favorable, the smoke will travel to the top of the old, oak tree that towers over my driveway. No one called the fire department in a panic last time. The man across the street lingered in his own driveway sweeping leaves that didn’t exist just so he could watch, but we avoided the sirens and red and blue lights.

Still, it’s a dilemma. Do we alert people or not?

This time we are shooting a stop-motion video in Barbie-doll scale. The smoke bomb for this shoot is full, human-sized. I could engulf a pink, plastic convertible many times bigger than the one my Ken doll occupies. That is a lot of smoke. It should make for a good sequence of stop-motion pictures, unless I am engulfed in smoke too, in which case I will simply keep snapping and hope for the best.

We are using fake blood for this video as we did for the last, “The Fake Guy”. I know a recipe that looks convincing and has a great splatter property. It is made almost entirely of powdered sugar with just a bit of cocoa and a massive amount of red food coloring. Yes, it’s edible. Yes, it’s gross. What is the amount of blood needed for a Barbie-doll bombing accident? Last time, I mixed a cup. I needed a teaspoon. Those dolls were small. I am good at math, but I tend to overdo things.

Ken’s doll double required some post-apocalyptic mutilation. I didn’t want to damage him too much, so I used a small hammer and tapped. That was pointless. Who knew that plasti-Ken had #absofsteel? I grabbed my industrial goggles – no selfies here – and the big hammer and pounded away with all my might. An exhausted 30 minutes later, and Barbie’s beau has a few gaping wounds.

“Should I warn the neighbors?”

What would you say? “Hey, I’m shooting a stop-motion video with Barbie dolls in my driveway. I’m going to be spilling fake blood and lighting a large smoke bomb. Please don’t panic when you see the mini-mushroom cloud rising above my roof line.”

My children think I’m weird and funny. That’s a good thing. It keeps them interested, laughing and engaged. My antics also teach them to think outside of the proverbial, collective box and take creative risks. We will be all hands on the “deck” of my driveway. At least one of them will be standing by with buckets of water should anything go wrong. What could possibly go wrong?

My only real dilemma:

“Should I warn the neighbors?”


Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in short stories. Bookmark the permalink.


Said the Waves to the Moon

waning and waxing ~

inconsistently passing ~

dark, then light, my night ~

though I touch your face or not ~

my tides, you’re ever moving


Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in tanka & poetry. Bookmark the permalink.


Dedicated to my dad, who holds the record for the worst Valentine’s Day present ever given to me – a stiff, ugly stuffed bear with blood-red, coarse hair – a gift that inexplicably made his little girl’s heart beat faster. I haven’t felt his arms around me or heard his voice since I was a teenager. I still have that bear hidden away in a box, and I still feel his love moving my tides, encouraging me daily to keep going.