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The Unexpected Timeline

September 28, 2016


NOTE:  Preparing for the next critique session of my writers’ group, I chose to explore the first of two given prompts.  Having in hand the theme of “unexpected,” I wrote the following prose poem last Friday evening.  Thus, the “yesterday” of this poem was September 22, 2016.


Each of us has a timeline with many planned and expected happenings; then, also, for each life, there is the timeline of unexpected happenings.



The Unexpected Timeline


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



At age ten,

bouncing down the stairs from the living area

into the first kitchen

of the restaurant

and colliding with a pan

of boiling water:


summer burns,


change of summer swimming plans.


At age 29,

having just toured the Astor Garden

and part of the mansion

in Newport, Rhode Island,

realizing the debonair son of the house

was formally presenting to me

a huge hybrid rose of variegated pinks:


Cinderella moment,


envy of all the old ladies

on the tour bus.


At age 33,

having completed all preparatory work

to become a certified braille transcriber,

handing my brailled manuscript

to an employee

at the Library of Congress:


transition of life.


At age 47,


my extraordinary dad

and my first cherished Leader Dog Keller

within exactly two weeks:


duality of grief.


From June 6, 2009,

until July 1, 2010,

having together

my retired guide dog Heather

and my then young Leader Dog Zoe:


joy and harmony.


On March 16, 2016,

my remarkable Leader Dog Zoe’s

extremely sudden passing:



rupture of two hearts.



walking with fourth Leader Dog Willow

and meeting a former student,

hearing his kind and complimentary words

about my teaching English:



Now, my former student

is the city’s construction supervisor

for two 32-story skyscrapers,

four blocks from my townhouse.

Next, when I hear

the incessant pile-driver’s

breaking the peace,

I will think of Peter, his work and kind words:

I will think of how life goes on,

builds upward,

with and without precious parts,

to new points

on the unexpected timeline.



PAW-NOTE:  On September 24, this past Saturday, Leader Dog Willow and I marked three months of our working together in Milwaukee,  by walking fifty blocks and stopping at Panera, which was one of Zoe’s favorite places.


Have an unexpectedly wonderful week!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


September 28, 2016, Wednesday



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  1. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–This beautifully written piece is a reminder that we never know what’s around the corner. The balance of painful and joyous events shows that life is composed of both, and it’s up to us how we deal with what is dealt to us. The way you describe Zoe’s death as “two ruptured hearts” is so powerful. And how nice to have a positive comment from the former student to help you deal with the construction noise. I will be thinking about and re-reading this poem often.–Sue

    • Hello, Sue–Knowing a reader wants to “re-read” a poem of mine is a much appreciated comment. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on “The Unexpected Timeline.” I am so glad that my blog gives us another way to keep in touch. Warm regards, Alice and Willow

  2. PJ Lumb permalink

    As a therapist, I often use a timrline, or lifeline, to help people remember, and honor, significant memories and life events as a way in to healing. This poem is clearly a beautiful, straightforward path–Timeline–for your life, Alice. What an open, pure, vulnerable view into a life well lived, filled with joy, accomplishments, love and loss. As usual, thanks for sharing your life, and your gifts.

    • Hello, Paula–Thank you for connecting my poem with one aspect of the important work that you do. I certainly appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts on my blog.

      Warm regards, Alice

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