Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writer Friends, Gertie Stein, Elbert Hubbard, & Thomas Helbig at Guido W. Baudach

When I had my first poem published, I wanted to tell everyone. & yet I didn’t because I felt some sort of shame. My professor JL, someone I look up to and trust, told me it was “smart kid syndrome”: at some point, I had been taught that accomplishments were like dirty little secrets.

I’ve published since that first inking, and I still have a hard time sharing that fact with people. Why? Well, it’s not just the “smart kid syndrome.” Instead, it’s because so many of my writer peers annoy me on a daily basis. If they’re not promoting themselves on their blogs or via their Facebook statuses, then they’re shooting out form emails asking me to buy the issue in which their gem is tucked.

This isn’t to say that I am unhappy when I hear about my friends, acquaintances, and coworkers finding success – I attended Hollins University, a space that encourages community (i.e. friends reading friends, interdisciplinary lovefests, dining hall pow wows about the things we're reading, the thrill of reading one another’s work, etc.). I love it when a friend shoots me an excited text or email about a publication. I loved the feeling when I helped a friend published her short story (i.e. Fugue, a stunning space for words).

The difference seems to be in self-promotion. I grumble like my father used to when people market themselves or “network” with other writers. We’re outsiders anyway; why the heck are we trying to promote ourselves?

Perhaps I’ve attached something too holy to poetry. Perhaps I just want my friends to relish in their work without seeking the approval of an over-caffeinated and over-worked editor. Perhaps I just want the emails to be more personal and to not include a link asking me for $10 in exchange for three copies of a journal I do not have time to read.

Perhaps I need to be less grumpy and close-minded about this. I mean, after all, I didn’t like Gertie Stein the first time I read her: took me three years, a fierce professor (Cathy H.), and some heavy-duty reading and evolving before I could make sense of Tender Buttons.

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”

-- Elbert Hubbard

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Photo of You Disappearing -- Elizabeth Spires

Photo of You Disappearing -- Elizabeth Spires

Mount Charleston, Nevada

Seven years ago, you stood at the top of a mountain,
solitary in the snow. In faded jeans and a windbreaker,
you smiled, or tried to smile, as a friend snapped a photo.
You had gotten the news a month before, a clouded X-ray,
then a scan, and now behind you (or ahead?) a range
of snow-covered mountains, pine trees pointing up toward
frail wisps of cloud, the sky blue cobalt bleeding into black.

Are ends like beginnings? At your service,
the minister said, She fixed her eyes upon that shining shore.
If I climbed the mountain, would I find the trail you took?
Would your footsteps lead me to a pass that opens west,
always west, where you went on alone, no turning back?
I stare at the picture that tells me everything and nothing.
You are smiling. The air is perfectly clear.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Patchwork Family

I went away to the mountains for Labor Day weekend.

Smores, tire swings, hammocks, a campfire, a 95-year-old grandmother, a double rainbow, pow wows, walks on a farm: We were so high up that the sky really did seem within reach, each blink of the Milky Way weeping towards us.

This is what I crave: my patchwork family.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Free Chocolate

Yum, a free sample of chocolate.

"She was a girl who knew how to be happy even when she was sad. And that’s important—you know." -- Marilyn Monroe

How can you not appreciate Mikey Burton's interpretations

of classics?

Gummi Bear Chandelier

(again, again: i'll forever repeat this.)

“When children learn to count they naturally add and multiply. Subtraction and division are harder to teach them, perhaps because reducing the world is an adult skill.”

-- Jeanette Winterson

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Jouko Lehtola Photography

“A part of kindness consists in loving people more than they deserve.”

-- Joseph Joubert
Jouko Lehtola


Saturday, September 11, 2010

C215, Paris



I know that dying is how we escape
the rest of our lives. I think that trees
send us a message: do not believe

you are lucky. The skins of apples
and the peeler will marry; it’s simply
a question of when. Believe

in mourning and carrion birds.
Look how their fleshy treasures
dissolve in the sun before their very eyes.

To love something
you must have considered what it means
to do without. You must have thought

about it—the coefficient of the body
is another body—but do not forget
that there are people who are willing

to staple your palm to your chest.
Know there are places it isn’t wise to go.
Begin again if you must: there are ways

to make up for what you have been before,
the dust in the corners that collects you.
Sympathy is overrated.

Rethink how lack
becomes everyone’s master, drives us
into town and spends our money.

Quiet: the trees are napping.
Water meets itself again.
We reach for the days that precede us

and the world keeps us from knowing
too much. The body loves music,
the abandoned road of it;

each day a peel
lengthens in the shadow of blossoms,
fabric weaves itself into light.

Pay attention to the patterns. They repeat—
terraces erode, groves lie fallow—
order is cognate of joy.

-- Margot Schilpp, Manifesto
(thank you k.t)

Textbook Statistics



"Textbook Statistics" — Arkaye Kierulf

On average, 5 people are born every second and 1.78 die.
So we’re ahead by 3.22, which is good, I think.

The average person will spend two weeks in his life
waiting for the traffic light to change.

Pubescent girls wait two to four years
for the tender lumps under their nipples to grow.

So the average adult has over 1,460 dreams a year,
laughs 15 times a day. Children, 385 more times.

So the average male adult mates 2,580 times with five different people
but falls in love only twice in his life—possibly

with the same person. Seventy-nine long years for each of us,
awakened to love in our twenties, so more or less

thirty years to love our two lovers each. And if, in a lifetime,
one walks a total of 13,640 miles by increments,

Where are you headed, traveler?
is a valid philosophical question to pose to a man, I think, along with

Why does the blood in your veins travel endlessly?
on account of those red cells flowing night and day

through the traffic of the blood vessels, which if laid out
in a straight line would be over 90,000 miles long.

The great Nile River in Egypt is 4,180 miles long.
The great circle of the earth’s equator is 24,903 miles.

Dividing this green earth among all of us
gives a hundred square feet of living space to each,

but our brains take only one square foot of it,
along with the 29 bones of the skull, so

if you look outside your window with your mind only,
why do you hear the housefly hum middle octave, key of F?

If you listen to the cat on the rug by the fire with
the 32 muscles in your ear, you will hear

100 different vocal sounds. Listen to the dog
wishing for your love: 10 different sounds.

If you think loneliness is beyond calculation,
think of the mole digging a tunnel underground

ninety-eight miles long to China
in one single night. If you think beauty escapes you

or your entire genealogical tree, consider the slug
with its four uneven noses, or the chameleon shifting colors

under an arbitrary light. Think of the deepest point
in the deepest ocean, the Marianas Trench in the Pacific,

do you think anyone’s sadness can be deeper? In 1681,
the last dodo bird died. In the 16th century,

Queen Elizabeth suffered from a fear of roses.
Anne Boleyn had six fingers. People fall in love

twice. The human heart beats 3 billion times — only — in a lifetime.
If you attempt to count all the stars in the galaxy, one

every second, it’ll take 3 thousand years, if you’re lucky.
As owls are the only birds that can see the color blue

the ocean is bluish, along with the sky and the eyes
of that boy who died alone by that little unnamed river

in your dreams one blue night of the war
of one of your lives. (Do you remember which one?)

Duration of World War 1: four years, 3 months, 14 days.
Duration of an equatorial sunset: 128 seconds, 142 tops.

A neuron’s impulse takes 1/1000 of a second,
a morning’s commute from Prospect Expressway

to the Brooklyn Bridge, about 90 minutes,
forty-five without traffic.

Time it takes for a flower to wilt after it’s cut from the stem: five days.
Time left our sun before it runs out of light: five billion years.

Hence the number of happy citizens under the red glow
of that sun: maybe 50% of us, 50% on good days, tops.

Number who are sad: maybe 70% on the good days—
especially on the food days. (The first emotion’s more intense, I think,

when caught up with the second.) So children grow faster in the summer,
their bright blue bodies expanding. The ocean, after all, is blue

which is why the sky now outside your window is bluish
expanding with the white of something beautiful, like clouds.

Fact: The world is a beautiful place—once in a while.
Another fact: We fall in love twice. Maybe more, if we’re lucky.

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Hello, New England

It's barely dipped below 70 degrees, and I am cold, cold, cold.

Oh, home(s).

Friday, September 10, 2010

Letters Are Holy

"A letter is holy. A story /
is holy hands reaching out into the world /
...Every place / I've been
is on fire with words."

-- from "Being" by Eireann Lorsung


Hello, hello, hello.

I’ve moved from New Orleans to Massachusetts – South Shore for now. It’s surreal to be in New England for the fall -- for nearly 10 years, I’ve had to travel South this time of year: first to VA, then to NOLA.

Moving means revisiting and revising memory: The process of sifting through letters, journals, and photographs. I was brave this time, brave enough to read through my account of the summer of 2008, when my father died (it’s surreal to type this to a semi-public forum, and yet, it’s a fact that he died). The stop of the heart non-fiction -- fact -- the accompanying grief framed by (non) fiction :: I'm far enough now to see that throbbing moment.

I was walking in a daze. How hard I was hurting (and sometimes still hurt)…. It's the emotional equivalent to watching someone walk around with a huge gash in their forehead: The person may not discuss the gaping wound, but it's impossible not to notice.


New Orleans, Louisiana

(I'll love you forever)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

This summer was always in bloom :: the wildness of family.


“A certain type of perfection can only be realized through a limitless accumulation of the imperfect.”

- Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Friday, September 3, 2010

Guess Who's Back?!

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” -- Gilda Radner