Five Facts about Facts

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

1. My mother saved many of my old worksheets from one or two of my elementary school years, which is why I know that when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, we had to do a worksheet in which we differentiated between facts and opinions.  We also had a unit on different advertising methods-- the bandwagon approach, celebrity endorsements, etc.  What we were expected to do in Language Arts at that young age astonishes me now.  This was a public school in a not-well-off area.

2.  My recently-turned-four year-old sits on the potty and demands an audiobook.  I tell him that he needs to sit and think for a moment, that he's just thrown a hard ball at my face without thinking and he needs to slow down.  He retorts, "I don't want information about myself!" Then asks, "Is that information?"  I tell him that it is.  His brain is working on a lot of things, which seems to make it harder for him to control his body.  Later at the museum, he reads me a sign about an island-- having somehow taught himself to read in the last month or so-- but pronounces it "is-land."  I tell him what the word is and he tells me that, no, it says "is-land."  Outside at the museum, he asks me to play bad guy.  I am a super villain who is wreaking havoc, which he can fix with his robot hands.  Finally, I run out of ideas for havoc, and when he asks me what problem I will cause next, I sit on a large rock and tell him, "I've turned into a rock."  He says, "Don't cause problems with yourself.  Cause problems with the world."

3.  Then there's the time Amanda and I got drunk in graduate school and conflated two nineteenth-century novels, retelling the plots to each other in a folie a deux of misremembered narrative.  A grad student a deux.  A folie a whatever you call the shared mind that close female friends move in and out of, Jesse laughing at us from across the table.  (Nevertheless we persisted.)

4.  Ghosts.  I would like to speak to someone who has seen an actual ghost.  Most of mine are vivid dreams or confusions upon waking.  Even many of the stories recounted on the show Celebrity Ghost Stories seem to me to have been particularly vivid dreams.  Some involve voices coming through telephones.  But there was one that featured an actor and his wife on a bike tour of Ireland.  They stopped to walk around a long-abandoned village, interacting with people who, they later learned, were no longer there.

5.  Most hotel rooms feel haunted to me, but this may be because I am an "intuitive" who picks up on lingering energy.  There are two kinds of people in the world, and one of those kinds uses the word "energy" in that way.

Seven Facts about Roses

Thursday, March 23, 2017

1. In Salisbury, NC when I was a kid there was a discount store called Roses.  I think it was near Bob's Big Boy.  One time my uncle John took me to the Bob's Big Boy and cut up my spaghetti for me.  I liked how he went out of his way to take me places and let me know I was loved, but I questioned his spaghetti technique.

2.  A dear friend I know from the computer sent me a care package a few weeks ago-- tea from the farm of a Catholic witch; a rose oil candle to bring out my inner saint; some peppermint oil to wake me up.  It's nice when we can all take turns caring for each other.  Enough to go to the post office, even!

3.  The rose candle is burning now.  It's Reiki charged.  This morning my four-year-old took it off my dresser, then saw me open my eyes to see what he was doing.  Without my glasses on, I couldn't tell what he had until he brought it over, saying, "Here, smell this."

4.  Rose-scented products make me think of my mother, and for some reason I have found them especially comforting since the election.  First, I bought myself some rose-scented hand lotion on sale, in a shaky "I-can-still-buy-myself-rose-scented-hand-lotion" gesture.  Then I received this candle.  "If we share this nightmare/ Then we can dream Spiritus mundi."  The Police said that.

5.  Life can be traced in a history of doodles.  Sometime around seventh grade, a rose doodle, which I can't remember how to draw now.  Around eighth or ninth grade, I learned how make a high-heeled shoe.  By tenth grade, a face with squinched-up eyes and Robert Smith hair.

6.  I have found myself unable to commit to growing flowers.  People born in late June are supposed to be homebodies and flower growers, but I keep moving house.  I may look into some plants for spring, but roses will have to wait a bit longer.

7.  On a whim, I Googled "Joan of Arc rose."  According to the Antique Rose Emporium,
Jeanne dArc is a dainty but vigorous rose with semi-double, pure white flowers borne in clusters. Like all Noisettes, it betrays its Musk ancestry by a grand fall display and a strong fragrance. Attractive red hips often appear at the same time as the flowers. It is best used as a pillar so that the flowers may be readily seen, or it can be grown as a free-standing bush. Wherever it is planted, Jeanne dArc will create an almost perpetual display of Southern beauty.  OK, then.  

Cultivate and circulate

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Three things:

1.  Today I was in a horrible mood, and I made myself go for a nature walk, during which I began to feel better.  In fact, I received a prophecy from some sunbeams on my walk.  (See picture.)  The prophecy was something like, "What was that poem I wrote that used the word 'circulate'?  Look at that again."  I found it!  It's called "Our Biography," and I originally posted it on this blog.  Here.

2.  I have a new Instagram project (if such a thing exists) in which my friend Jessica Mesman Griffith and I post weird insights into the lives of melancholy moms.  Tips on creativity and mothering.   Not really.  It's more like if the troubled teens from Heavenly Creatures grew up to be disaffected Gen X mothers?  Er, maybe not.  Maybe it's about how to stay alive by allowing yourself to be inappropriately amused by that which you find unsettling?  I really need to work on my elevator pitch.  For my new Instagram account.      

3.  Here's an excerpt from the essay about my relationship with the Beatles I may or may not be working on:  The next day, Granny is peering out the front window at dusk to see who has a candle out for John, muttering, “I lit one for Kennedy, but I’m not lighting one for him.”

OK, good night!  Happy full moon, I guess.  

Community Writing Workshop

Sunday, February 26, 2017

I'll be teaching a writing workshop at Nido Durham on Saturday afternoons March 11th to April 15th.  Enrollment is limited to 8 participants.  Join us to jumpstart your writing practice!  Register at

Similar Boat

Monday, February 13, 2017

My son, almost four, asked me what happens after people are buried in the cemetery.  As gently as possible, I suggest that their bodies become part of the earth and their souls go up among the stars.  He starts crying and says, "Promise you won't let that happen to me." 

I drop him off at preschool after a weekend alone with him.  He is to decorate a book about his family that has photos pasted inside.  "Maybe you should draw Mimi and Bibi," I say.  They didn't print that picture out, so my parents aren't in there.  While I talk to the preschool teacher about his stubborn weekend, he draws a train, an infinity sign, and a pirate.  "Show Ms. B your 'ignoring face'," I say.  He rolls his eyes up and to the side, then closes them and lifts his eyebrows, setting his mouth imperiously.  "That really is the best face," the teacher says. 

Why I'm a poet:  
Once, around the year 2000, my mother visited me in Philadelphia, where I was in graduate school.   I took her to campus with me, and we saw a blond young woman walking along wearing black platform shoes which, in the style of the day, looked vaguely orthopedic.  "Look," I said.  "It's one of my students."  "That poor girl," my mother responded dryly.  "She has two club feet."  

I am writing in a small notebook that I've been losing and finding for a few years.  I find something I wrote in late summer 2012:  " 'In my delicate condition.'  I was born in a delicate condition."   

I go to the food co-op and drink a cup of dark coffee with half and half.  On a lark, I sprinkle nutmeg in it.   I see that they have more of the heart-shaped maple apple hand pies made by a local pie company, and I buy another one.  This will be my breakfast.  I know the woman who made this pie.  I know that she was diagnosed with and treated for thyroid cancer shortly after she received insurance through the Affordable Care Act.  Her daughters used to be in preschool with my son.  They have the sweetest faces, the dearest love for one another.  Their gazes are steady and assessing.  

On a visit to my grandmother, she tells me, "Everyone is a little crazy."  She says that her mother used to say that.  On her coffee table is a book of essays by Marilynne Robinson I gave her for Christmas and a Time with Bannon's face. 

I find this in my small notebook:  "How do I spend my remaining time upon the earth? etc."  Elsewhere I've written a note to remind myself to write a poem titled "Similar Boat."  


Monday, February 06, 2017

source: MoMA

I've been thinking a lot about William Kentridge's work lately. I saw a Kentridge exhibition at MoMA in 2010 that stays with me. His work seems relevant to what I was talking about with a group on Sunday about how/why to make art at this time. Our talk led to ideas about how form might need to be interrogated in this cultural moment, and we brought up things like collage; living with the questions; making your own genre or existing at the intersection of genres; and situating oneself in relation to larger social structures. Kentridge uses many of these methods, as does the poet Claudia Rankine, who we brought up in our talk. I think this is a time to read, view, and promote the work of artists of color, and in addition to Rankine, I find myself turning to the poetry of Lucille Clifton and Joy Harjo, the art of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and Teju Cole. It's also a time for white artists to continue to interrogate and help crack open the structures we're working within, which is why I'm sitting with Kentridge this morning.

Seven for today

Friday, February 03, 2017

1.  My son called 911 this morning (again).  He was supposed to be listening to his Ramona audiobook on headphones so I could sleep for another twenty minutes, but he fiddled with the locked phone until it made an emergency call, then he handed it to me.  "Here, you talk."  I opened my eyes to see what he'd done, then panicked and hung up.  They called back a minute later.  "No, no emergency.  Just my three year-old.  Sorry."

2.  I ask a friend to tell me to write 500 words.  She tells me to write 500 words.  I pick up a favorite book, Abigail Thomas's Safekeeping, to remember about writing, about narrative windows into a life. I read about Thomas's second divorce.  "There were no happy answers," she writes.  I read a sad part about how her parents paid for her son to go away to boarding school, and he called her, homesick, begging to come home.  She writes, "Some things are so sad you think they can't get better and nothing will be ok.  She didn't make it better, although she tried, later.  It got better by itself."

3.  Yesterday we went to the playground for the hour before sundown.  My son keeps asking me if it's still winter.  I say that it is, even though some of the days have been unseasonably warm.  Yesterday was Groundhog Day.  The beginning of February is also Imbolc.  The park we go to is a sort of oval basin of lawn with stone steps at one end.  We run into three girls from preschool there, two of whom are twins.  The non-twin really wants E. to play with her, and she crouches beside him as he stuffs old leaves into the bottom of an overturned riding toy.  "Elias, do you want to play wedding?  Do you want to play wedding, Elias??"  Finally, with some prompting from me, he replies, "I want to play digging."  Later, he tries to join his friends as they climb up one structure and hop onto another on repeatedly.  One of the twins tells him the game is only for girls.

4.  Before we leave the playground, E. becomes increasingly tired and hungry.  I can see it in how he begins to roam around, looking for opportunities to be belligerent.  I try to coax him toward the car with the promise of peanut butter crackers, but it's only when I distract him by pointing to the clouds that he agrees to be picked up.  "Are they stratus or cumulus?" he says.  I'm not sure.  Stratus, maybe. "All clouds are made of water vapor," he tells me.

5.  I've been very angry, I tell my friend over text.  So have I, he says.  And it's slipping out in the wrong places.  Yeah, I say.

6.  This morning after the 911 call, my son wanders into the kitchen to oversee the coffee making.  It is his job to smell the coffee after it is ground, and he becomes agitated if he misses the chance to do it.  I try to doze again, but find that I am agitated.  Is it an emergency?  I say a spontaneous "Hail Mary."  I'm not Catholic, but I've always loved Mary, and I like the idea of "hailing" her.  "Hail, Mary.  Come in, Mary.  Over." By the time I am at the end of the prayer, my body has relaxed.  May we all be cared for.  All of us poor sinners.  All of us who care for others.  Now and at the hour of our death.

7.  What I wanted to say was that there were all kinds of people at the playground.  I stood over my son, watching him stuff leaves into an overturned toy with another boy as they made "dragon soup," and I thought, "This is America.  This is America.  This is America."
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