I looked, but found something better



I found a treasure instead. My piano, “Three-Legged Dog”, a 1917 parlor-grand Steinway piano, helped me write this poem for her coming-out, coming home party in 2000.

We celebrated her arrival in 1920’s costume and music.

She was born in Chicago in 1917, went to New York, was renovated, and settled in my living room many decades later.

So, here she is, my Three-Legged Dog, sharing her poem.

(I would scan the original  poem but, I’m happy to say, red wine stains cover some of the words. So I’ve retyped.)


Well, I’ve seen a lot of changes 

many looks on many faces

But I’m wondering what you think of me tonight.

So I stand here in my glory

many years and many stories

And I hope to shed for you a little light.

So looking back, we’re sorting

we begin the process courting

of a kinship to discover varied pasts

And I hope that you will find me

just a little more enlightening

than the accumulation of years gone by too fast.

My insides renovated

many hands participated

in the making of this body – Parlor Grand

I’ve been sheltered, I’ve been trampled

left behind and gently sampled

But I’m balanced on these three legs where I stand.

Have you seen me at my low times

or my even just-for-show times?

Can you tell when I need company by sight?

Let me do some rearranging 

’cause the times, they keep on changing

So I’m wondering what you think of me tonight.

In front of you I’m standing

so proud of parlor granding

and though it seems you haven’t known me very long

I’ll keep us entertaining 

for the years that are remaining

’cause the bond I have with you is very strong.

So, I’ll be here ready for you

and I’ll try hard not to bore you

I’m  lucky and I thank the stars above

And I’ll be open, you will hear me

it’s my fortune if you’re near me —

CD-W, 10-24-2000

(or is this me I’m really speaking of?)








Staring at Fear


Madam Fannie Porter stares at fear. (From The Last Bordello)


I reminded my fingers to turn the knob slowly, quietly. I crept through the kitchen’s side door and held my breath.

A voice in the parlor. Not one of my girls. I tiptoed into my bedroom and made my way to the far wall. Wiped my sweaty, shaky hands on my dress. Removed the painting.

Only Reba and I knew about the coin-sized peephole Constructed long ago for keeping an eye on questionable customers. Exactly my eye level, as intended.

The voices would be clearer now. I inched the cork from the hole. Fighting for breath, I peered through the hole and into the parlor.




When Words Kill

Cono Dennis, after realizing his father read his private letters.

Cono Dennis, my father, age 18

I might not have sparred with him but I stopped him cold and I don’t just mean by showing off my defense skills and putting him in a head lock. As sure as a sharp axe can cut through and splinter a log and slice a thin piece of paper, a sharpened pencil can do the same thing. Words are powerful; they can be weapons as sharp as an axe. “Gene, I want to kill my Dad,” words that must have reverberated and Echoed in Dad’s ears just as loud as a sawed off shotgun, or blue lightening bouncing off a cow’s head. And just as loud as his slap across my face. I don’t think I meant for him to find all those letters, but he did.


From No Hill for a Stepper, the novel based upon my father’s life from age two till age eighteen.