Stories I Tell

Lexi-Staffordphoto credit

I woke a little sad this morning. I don’t know why. It happens. I think I might take it personally when the sun doesn’t shine. Fought myself and went for a run. The altitude really gets me and I only began to feel older and older and then something light happened to lighten my heavy load. John Prine provided me a little perspective. His words in my ears brought balance to my imposed suffering.

“Please don’t bury me
Down in that cold cold ground.
No, I’d druther have “em” cut me up
And pass me all around.
Throw my brain in a hurricane
And the blind can have my eyes.
And the deaf can take both of my ears
If they don’t mind the size.”
-“Please Don’t Bury Me,” John Prine

Yeah, I got big ears.  How better to feel these wonderful vibrations. Perhaps, that is as burdensome as it really is. Thanks, John.

Learn more about Tami Satterfield and how to live a joyful life at

We were low,
Him and me.
Lower than the dusty ash
Spilled on the ground

And on my mama’s shoe.
Acting like a lady,
She fussed at the peculiarity,
Me a dirty smudge on her white skirt.

Oh, we were dirty.
Me and her on a road to disaster,
Like trash blowing,
Circling the grounds of domestic troubles.

She knowed-
I rolled,
Laid in the mud with him-
Lied like the rug he wrapped me up in.

It was a dirty mess.
My head and a horseshoe.
I found it difficult to hit it satisfactorily.
I was out of luck

With him and his dominion over my flesh.
Over my dead body
Raised my babies fat as a pigs on it:
“She never was no good. Done run off like a dog.”

But there’d be no peace. Me, a dog with a bone,
My jaw running, a slow promotion bleached white from the sun
Loosely hinged and chattering
To keep shit from settling in my mouth.

I held it together.
Made my way out.
My bones slipping away from the narrow choices,
A rock and a hard place.

A dog betrayed him.
Sniffed me out like a game of hide and seek
Inside that blanket of love he rolled me up
So as to catch all the gooey love that run out of me.

I finally saw the light of dawn
Clean and white. Ground to dust and ash
I settled down,
Astonished at the difficulty that is my homage.

June 12, 2015

OBITUARY 07/10/14

Oh, my heavy heart.

My dear friend, Ringo, departed.

Gone from this world on the energy of this full moon in Capricorn, he takes with him my love and leaves me our sweet memories, now blunt and thorny – bittersweet. How fitting — he was an old goat.

A fine creature. A noble, four legged, hoofed beast with the patience and benevolence of a saint. He was friendly and generous with his time. Anyone who knew him said so. It was true. It was the truth of him. He was a beautiful, old, charitable soul.

I will sorely miss his company. Lumbering my way, his head lifting to meet my approach. The look of curiosity in his wild eyes, meeting me half way, walking all the way at my side, chewing his cud seeming to mull over my mood. I will miss rubbing the brittle old scratchy hairs, white with age, on the sides of his face. I will miss nearly kissing his black goat lips, the temptation if it weren’t for the green goo in his teeth. I will miss his lordly belching and pissing, his physiological response to my presence – his way of substantiating rapport, teaching me that we were in fact similar and not different – both tethered souls to ever-aging bodies. I long one more look at his broken polled horn that gave the impression of a skewed halo. One last tug at the tuft of hairs bearded at his chin. What I would do for one last time of sharing peppermint candies.

The last time I did see him, he looked me straight in my eyes. It seemed odd, him looking straight through me. He looked straight into my eyes and I misunderstood him. “Are you okay?” I asked. He held my gaze. I mistook what he said, didn’t know he was looking past the old body of me and into my soul. I didn’t know he was saying goodbye. It doesn’t make any difference that I am a slow learner. He knew. He knew I would figure it out.

How lucky am I to have known him – to have studied and practiced lessons of life under his sage guidance?

May he rest in peace. Ringo, the last of the bad boys.


Outside, snow fell from the dark Midwestern sky and added to the gray street slush. Inside, men’s slippers filled our shopping cart, each shoe bound to the other with a strong, thin, white string so that when father tried them on for size, we saw that he was a prisoner. When mother was satisfied, she took the soul-less brown, vinyl shoes with the Scotch plaid lining, indicating a bedroom purpose, from his feet and threw them in the cart. She paused, her eyes shifted sideways to the left, remembering Grandfather and some uncle. She reached for two more pairs, tossed them in the cart, and then for good measure, tossed in another two. “Just $4.96 Each At Your Savings Store, Christmas 1974, Where Your Dollar Buys You More.” Richard Milhous Nixon was not a crook, but even so, Gerald Randolph Ford clumsily stepped in with the distracted burden of keeping too many people’s secrets.

Father hardly noticed. He was a dreaming man. “Daughter,” he said. “Imagine,” and his hands gestured, creating waves through the harsh blue, fluorescent light illuminating the expanse of what appeared as pirate’s booty. Kmart was a rich and exotic land with street after street of products inspired by organic polymers produced at a high molecular mass.

Father directed my attention to row after row. Men’s work boots, women’s dress shoes, children’s snow boots followed by steel rounders of turtlenecks spilling into more rounders of slippery polyester bathrobes and floral, flame-retardant flannels, found just three years later to be toxic. All on plastic hangers. I knew that farther back there was a wonderful world of toys. Just last Friday, allowance in hand, I shopped the shelves and purchased myself a Craftsmaker Paint By Numbers of an orange kitten playing with a big, red ball of yarn. Somewhere behind us God spoke and the drove chased a portable, blue police light set atop a wheeled cart. The light circled the attention of the Kmart Shoppers to the sporting goods department. In the news, Patty Hearst, toted an M1 Carbine and the Second Amendment Foundation was established to promote our legal right to bear arms. Kmart didn’t miss a beat.

Despite the blue light cattle call, Father had my attention. He had my full attention, like he was pulling rabbits out of a hat. He asked me to imagine that we were in the back of a semi-tractor trailer, just the two of us, and that this was all a movie. The slippers, my mother, my sisters, the Blue Light Special, all the Kmart Shoppers, the cold ham sandwiches with shaved lettuce in the deli cases. All of it, the coveted red, frozen, carbonated drinks known as ICEES piled richly in red, white, and blue paper cups, the smell of stale yellow popcorn, the international best selling Elton John’s Greatest Hits albums, the gold-tone electric ladies’ Timex watches, the talking Mrs. Beasly doll. The whole thing. Like Christine Chubbuck and Hank Aaron, he proposed something unbelievable.

“Girly, what do you think? This is all a movie.” His hands swept from front to back like he was swimming in lovely waters. “It’s just you and me in the back of a semi-tractor trailer and a big screen.” He looked me right in my eyes, the moment forever imprinted on my mind. He dared me to disobey. A greater question was asked. Had he trusted me with the secret truth of the universe or was he slipping under a great wheel and taking me with him? I looked around Kmart. I looked back to him. My eyes not seeing him, but imagining a nightly news story. He had a far away look. “Yep,” he said resigned, looking out as if there was no escaping the walls of Kmart. He walked ahead of me, preaching, to no one in particular. I picked up my pace. “Its all an illusion,” he shook his head, “and the only real thing is you and me and the tractor trailer.” His voice trailed off and he pointed to traces of trash on the floor. I struggled to make a tenuous connection between fact and fiction. Father walked off still prophesizing, walking away, stealing any sense of security I’d ever had. Kmart parted in his wake, like the Red Sea, troughs to his right filled with the likes of plastic baby bottles and Playtex 18-hour girdles and to his left the gutters had their fill of snow scrapers and Turtle Wax. In 1974 pigs were feeding everywhere.

Things went a blur in the watery waves of confusion. I think I staggered, or maybe just dodged a shopper, my sailor legs trying to keep up with Father. The distance between us growing. No perfunctory courtesy would bring us closer together. I knew there could be no deliberation. I swallowed my fear and cast out all doubt. Disciples don’t hesitate. One skip over, and I jumped forward, all my trust in that fifth wheel hitch. Adrenaline, a hormone often responsible for poor judgement, fueled my childish imagination and I saw Father as Sonny Pruitt.

Ahead a sign read, Double Cheeseburger, Onion Rings And A Coca Cola, All For Just 88 Cents. Father led us into the temptations of the K-Cafe and I thought I heard the hum of the big rig beneath the elevator music of Merle Haggard singing Movin’ On. And then, as we stowed our cart, wild and stubborn with a wheel going its own way, I was sure I felt the moveable tandem of the 18-wheeler adjust. Father stood right, aside Mother as she ordered, placing his hand just behind her left shoulder. My sisters missing the moment as they messed with the majestic, red, velvet rope that led us to the place we had always been heading.

I read a message inscribed across the bottom of the big menu board above the counter. The message from above read, Kmart Is The Saving Place. I felt sure it was a sign that I’d done the right thing, that it was all coming together, that my confidence could be fully restored. Then, someone shoved me from behind, knocking me hard and taking a bit of the wind out of my smooth ride. I looked to Father to make sense of it, but he’d taken a leave. His eyes weren’t anywhere near the road of redemption. It seemed he had completely abandoned me. Perhaps the earlier lurch was a large pot hole, smack dab in the middle of the road and he’d been knocked silly. His full attention was now with the red-faced boy in the aqua polyester uniform penciling our dinner order onto a small paper pad. When the order taker finished taking orders from Mother, Five Coca Colas, 3 hamburgers with pickles and mustard, a cheeseburger with tomato and lettuce, a double cheeseburger with the works, 3 orders of french fries and an order of onion rings, Father rejoiced, “That’s a big 10-4 good buddy.”

It was to be my last supper with Father in which there was a remnant – a mustard seed even – of pure, unadulterated trust. On recollection in the following days and with greater consideration over the coming years, I would learn that it was a very dangerous thing to completely trust an imprisoned man.


"Speculations on the Structure of the World" by T. Boehle mixed media on canvas 2011

“Speculations on the Structure of the World” by T. Boehle mixed media on canvas 2011

A dull colored, insulated metal crate sat outside the front door on the front porch of every house up and down the street.  I used it everyday playing house and store.  And once lined the bottom with little fists full of pulled grass for a toad.  I was going to keep him and raise him to be mine.  I would teach him all I knew about love and goodness.  We would be happy together.  I held him carefully cupped in my fat pink mitts, sticky from a sweet drink and stained with grass and earth.  It was just the two of us.  And I imagined all that our lives lived together would provide for us.  I brought my face close in to share my joy; to show my friend my smiling face.  Mouth full of new teeth.  Corners stained orange.  And he returned my heartfelt gesture.  Pee dripped from the spaces between my fingers and without notice I left him go.  Opened my hands and he fell to the ground, righted himself and hopped under a bush at the edge of the porch.  I wiped my hands on my shirt.  “Come on,” someone called and I ran out after a mob of kids chasing a musical van.  No money in my pockets or in my dirty hands.  I didn’t know enough to care.  I was just learning about toads, and pee, and ice cream trucks.

"Two Parallel Lines Extend Infinity" by T. Boehle oil on panel 2010

“Two Parallel Lines Extend Infinity” by T. Boehle oil on panel 2010

She cut it on a milk bottle that slipped from her hand as she lifted it out of the insulated metal crate that sat beside the front door on the cement porch.  I was there and heard the crash of glass and saw the milky white spill across the grey cement and run down the front steps.  And then there were three big, bright, brilliant red rubies; perfect spheres against the dull grey cement.  Caught in the sun they sparkled and danced and I was mesmerized.  My friend pointed to the jewels, “Your mama ate a penny”, she said as she pointed.  “That is why her blood’s so shiny.”  I looked up to my mother holding her badly cut arm and watched the blood level its way to the end of her elbow and drip like a leaky faucet.  Crimson droplets fell into the milky white pool.  Fine, tiny veins grew like rivers with banks bathed in pink.  It was so pretty, this white puddle painting streaked with pink and dotted with blood red.  I saw her differently that day, as artist and performer.  My mind full with the vision of her eating pennies like popped corn.

"Each paradox is understood only from its own level of perception" by T. Boehle oil on panel 2012

“Each paradox is understood only from its own level of perception” by T. Boehle oil on panel 2012

I dreamed of a tortoise as big as a car swimming in turquoise waters and with great excitement I called, “Hurry come see!” I felt the anticipation of other’s joy at witnessing such splendor.  The steady work of gracefully gliding through glass waters.  I watched from a bank of windows on a boat that rocked and rolled, bowing in your greatness.  And then, it seemed that I was disconnected from joy when you passed behind the only wall stationed between the windows.  I felt lost and disoriented.  Not making sense of where you’d gone.  And like a child learning that a toy train rounding the tracks isn’t gone when it travels through the tunnel, but only out of site.  Relieved and restored, I may have clapped my hands and stood reaching on tip toes when I saw you come from behind the blind. You are still here even when I can’t see you.

"I Once Was a Line of Trees on the Crest of a Hill" by T. Boehle oil and plaster on board copyright 2010

"I Once Was a Line of Trees on the Crest of a Hill" by T. Boehle oil and plaster on board copyright 2010

It washed over me.  Like a hot flash it engulfed my chest. Tight and restricted, bound by some greatness.  My head was slow to realize the meaning of the pain. The burning hot sensation of sorrow rose from my heart to my voice and from deep within I drew a long and low moan.  Startled by its audio frequency, fear now mixed with sadness.  I found myself confused.  I didn’t know my own depth.  From where did I draw this convulsed and agonized creature?  And then, without notice, like the sudden drop in a carnival ride I plummeted into an abyss so deep and dark, surely I had died.

Breath caught in my throat, of no use to my lungs or heart. I held his unshaven face in my hands.  A fleeting thought of how beautiful his face when clean-shaven.  I bit my tongue and realized my true transgression, surprising myself and him by my touch.  How long had it been since I touched his face?  That I dared to hold a part of him in my hands?  I kissed his cheek; “my favorite boy”, I said through a dissolving wall of tears.  His face widened with the slight parting of his lips, as they drew back, muscles pulled his cheeks towards dancing eyes.  I couldn’t watch.  And so, thrust myself to hide my head aside his.  Something tightened in and then around my throat and I fought to speak my mind.  The heat of it burned and rose to disfigure my face. Ugly with raw emotion, I managed to break through breaking down.  “I will miss you desperately.”  Breathe.  I drew a breath and brought some composure to myself as I drew back to meet his eyes.  He still held the slight of his smile, but his eyes were rimmed in tears.

Theie appearance, like a performer’s cue though neither of us were performing, our scene was well choreographed.  It was beautiful.  I knew it and he knew it.  It’s beauty provided us shelter from the raw reality of grief and sorrow and fear.  “I am so excited for you.”  I positioned myself with greater distance.  My hands resting at his elbows.  “Go and show everyone just how wonderful I know you are.”  I stepped back.   Our eyes letting the other go, ever so slightly, but all the same.  The muscles on his face working easily to draw that fabulous smile into place.  A crowd pleaser for sure.  Another step back put me three quarters turned from his square.  Somewhere in my mind I knew it is all math.  He had been a part of the sum of my existence and without him I was a fraction of myself.  An irrational number.  One that can’t be expressed, like the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.  Would the object of my life become the counting and measuring of the distance between us?

I drew a cleansing breath and felt it douse the fire.  I gave him that all knowing smile and raised my eyebrows reminding us both that I once had great influence.  I once moved the stars and the moon.  And it was I who told him of the great green room.   I was once the center of his universe.  My hands slipped from his elbow, one catching one of his hands.   I held it knowing it wouldn’t last long.  It was all coming to an end.  “Everyday,” I said taking my last shot.  “Go.   Everyday, and share how wonderful you.” He allowed me this.  Granted me one last wish.  In the fairy tale of my mind I curtsied like an old nursemaid to the young prince.  Keeping that to myself, I began my descent back to the car.  Just as I turned he got the last words in. “Thanks mom. I love you”.

I saw his face, his lips move to make the words sing from his mouth.  Overcome by the beauty of it all, I turned slumped in pain and grief.  I didn’t see him climb aboard the bus.  I sat in the car knowing that there was no other option for me than to peer into the darkened windows hoping to catch a glimpse of him.  Waiting for the bus door to close.  Listening for the mechanical sound of the driver shifting into drive.  The bus lurches forward in sound and space. And he is gone.  No amount of my watching will change that.

"Fractals Measured the Circular Energy of the Circus" by T. Boehle copyright 2008

Theodore Rathke wrote that she moved in circles and the circles moved with her.  How surprised I was to realize he spoke of her.  My girl, turning and spinning circles for all to see   At first, I turn from the exhibition of it.  Uncomfortable with the attraction.  I heard others comment and saw them stop to stare.  Some herding their children on, others gentle on knee pointing her out, still others encouraging theirs to speak with her.  To stand alongside her, to join her circle.  In the grocery store they speak of her to me.  I saw, they would say.  I heard, they would say.  I am not responsible — first said with fear and urgency and later with swelling pride.  How did she come to spin her own circles?  I don’t wonder long.  My question answered as quickly as asked.  She came that way.  Spinning circles and the circles spinning with her.

"Pink Kisses" by T. Boehle-Satterfield oil on panel copyright 2010

The cutting tone of her speech, “And you said, and you always say, and you never do” came at me sharp and clear until the force of it knocked me in the head like a blow from a baseball bat.  I know I flinched, sitting there in the passenger seat of the car while he drove and she battered away at the side of my head.  I need to swim, I thought.  And I imagined the words shot from her mouth slowing until they felt thick like deep water moving.  And I noticed that the hairs that had stood on the back of my neck were relieved and they floated out and away from me like the hairs on my head.  I moved my arms just to test the force of the current I was up against and to my surprise it wasn’t bad.  I smiled and with delight and certainty I exhaled.  Lovely, beautiful bubbles rose to the waters surface each carrying light and color to the other side.  I breathed in the experience.  So calm.  So refreshing.  Finding terra firma, I deliberately pushed off.  Determined yet poised.  I took stock in my swift and efficient ways.  I lifted my head to the light and felt the sensation of my face breaking through to the other side.  So perfect a feeling: to be a part of something and notice the moment you are apart of that something, and realize it coincides so perfectly with the moment you are a part of something else.  The break.