Nothing by Name

Published by Shaggy Dog Press, Westport, NY Dec. 2011

Ruby lived alone in the house she was born in on a remote upstate New York farm.  She never knew the benefits of electricity or running water, and supported herself raising sheep and selling blueberries.  Her needs were simple and profound, her life as purposeful as the paths she wore from house to barn to well to outhouse.

In this novel, told through free verse, what was comes and goes as freely in Ruby’s mind as what is -- the hard and lonely childhood, a distant father and abusive brother, the man she loved, a stillborn child. Characters and events spark to life as Ruby revisits them in her memory and through conversations with Dawn, who befriends Ruby late in her life and learns the measure of a simple life.

Inspired by the life of Rachael Scripter of Galway, NY.

Review excerpt: "Like Pablo Neruda's Elemental Odes, which sang of the beauty of things as common, as overlooked, and needful as the soil beneath our feet, Nothing By Name opens the reader's eyes to a world that might otherwise have never been noticed and may teach us all lessons in common decency and quiet courage."

Excerpt stanza:

What she knew.
Very little by name. But what the sky would bring by the press of air. Horses coming long before she heard them. Trees by the bee talk of the locusts in spring, River rush of pines, oboe through the apple tree. Birds by their arrival and departure. The smell of water underground. The hesitation of everythingbefore a storm.How wood splits down the seam.


Published by Philomel Books, Penguin Group, NY, NY March 2008

Skylar is a children’s novel (ages: 9 – 12) of the very eventful and comic misadventure of five fat pond geese who attempt their first migration.

Along the way, the geese learn what it is to be a flock and discover within themselves "the way" -- that mysterious, powerful force that enables geese and other birds to navigate the ancient migratory routes of the earth.

Excerpt of review: Strong characterization and scientific detail blend together in an inviting yet suspenseful tale of migration, loss and accomplishment. Realistic black-and-white illustrations add just the right touch.  Kirkus Book Review

The story has its humorous touches as well as some poignant moments. A respect for wildlife is implicit but not forced, and this will teach children more about caring for the environment than all the endless warnings and cautions they hear. Kids will love Skylar and his four feathered followers. They will want to read this book more than once. Reviewer: Carolyn Mott Ford.


“Yes, Skylar,” said Roosevelt, “you can show the way.”  Now the geese were honking with laughter.

“You are the point goose,” Loomis taunted.  “Isn’t that what you always call yourself?”  His long, loose goose body began to lurch with laughter.

“Or are you a point goose without a point?”

The Woman of Too Many Days

Published by Calyx Press , Corvalis, OR, 1999

The Woman of Too Many Days is a book of linked poems about a homeless woman living in Albany New York.  She enters your life with a great sideways thrust of her hips until she settles into a rock, thump, rock-her own rhythm. She is a bad accident of a woman in wingtip shoes.

Review: THE WOMAN OF TOO MANY DAYS looks at the world askew and approaches wisdom throug h paradox. She is a realist, a magician, a crone, a seer, a maker of great fictions and a teller of truths. Vulgar, she sprays mango out her nose; elegant, she carries an old music box because 'music is the hardest child to leave behind’. Mary Cuffe’s creation is compelling; this book keeps you listening - David Swanger.

In a culture of too little respect for difference, The Woman of Too Many Days is a compelling and cohesive collection that quite confidently insists on the value and wisdom of the homeless crone at its heart.  Deb Casey


You might think I know

the woman of too many days. 

I don’t.

At least, I try not to.

She goes on and on,

but I don't listen.

She happens to be where I am.

She happens everywhere,

like a bad accident of a woman.

Story Quilt: Poems of a Place

Galway Public Library, Galway NY, 2007

A book of community poetry by the people of Galway, NY.  A result of the Story Quilt Project, winner of the Joseph Shubert Award for Library Excellence in 2007.  Mary Cuffe Perez was creator and director of the Story Quilt Project and editor and contributor to Story Quilt: Poems of a Place.