April 17th poem

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Signs and Portents

Once nearly twenty years ago, she had become oddly immobile after her second year of grad school.  Immobile may be the wrong word.  Reluctant to leave the house, maybe.  Looking back, she could recall odd details like pausing at the end of her block on what was probably a beautiful summer day to look at a black bird with iridescent-flecked feathers (at the time she thought it was a grackle, but later learned: starling).  The bird had a small, evenly-shaped stick of some kind lodged in its beak in a way that looked uncomfortable and, strangely, menacing.  She decided it was a bad sign and went home to drink iced tea and sleep on the couch with the blinds down.  Before she'd left campus, she'd checked out most of the books by Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster she hadn't previously read, having decided that she would become a Woolf and Forster scholar, and she moved her reading chair into the middle of the room and made a stack out of the books, then sat there reading them one by one and moving each one from one side of the chair to the other.  Later, she drove her small car into town and stood in the back room of a used bookstore in front of the shelf that held the letters and biographies of Woolf.  It took her a long time to decide to buy Quentin Bell's biography, which was a first edition and expensive, and she began to wonder if anyone was watching her stand in front of the shelf, holding the large book and then putting it back again multiple times.  At some point, she must have spoken to the man she was sporadically seeing, indicating to him, possibly indirectly, that leaving the house had become difficult.  One day he surprised her by bringing her another large stack of library books.  He had decided to become a scholar of contemporary Mexican American literature, and had further decided that she would enjoy reading all the books of poetry and fiction that the university library had by Mexican American women.  He came to her door looking somehow contrite and surprised her with these books, so she put those books next to her chair and read those, as well.  It was a very large stack, and many of the books were set in the Southwest, a place she had never been and still hadn't been to this day.  What seems strangest to her now when she looks back on this memory is her one omission.  She could never make it through Woolf's The Waves and still hadn't read it. 

April 16th poem

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


"So much khaki and uncombed hair!" is how my mom described the Unitarians that time she was trying out being a joiner.  Another time we got the giggles when the white gospel troupe very solemnly intoned, "For-- I-- shall-- consider-- my-- cat-- Jeoffry---."  Still, the decision is clear:  once I'm settled, I'll join a gym with childcare and whatever denomination has childcare and a tolerance for pantheism. 

April 15th poem

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15th

It drizzled all day, and by afternoon, overcome with the thought that I had become a bad luck person, I fell deeply asleep when the baby did, each of us entering some kind of deep well of our own. (Think about what a good metaphor "sinking" would be for such a sleep, if it weren't already a commonplace.) I sank on my hard and comforting sleep bier, an effigy of myself, in time to meet R on a train platform somewhere along his journey. My one really tall ex-boyfriend! Well, there are a couple tall ones. I told him all the troubles, holding on, even then, to my newly reborn feeling of self-sufficiency. A kind of leather armor of self-reliance. "Carapace" is the word I'm thinking. My son was strapped to me, as he would be in life. Next we were wrapped up in a fleece cape-like blanket, and R was hugging us to him and swaying us along the platform, walking and swaying, walking and swaying, until the baby and I let go our worries and were completely relaxed, completely at ease. Even now, I feel that was nice of him to do.

April 14th poem

Monday, April 14, 2014

Poem in a Late Style

Today I kept getting turned around in the Village
then I got home and someone on TV asked if I had a turkey neck
Do you have a turkey neck? the caption said
I don't know I don't know
I just don't know anymore

April 13th poem

Sunday, April 13, 2014


How to cultivate wound-deep knowing
with only these scrawny trees around.
Even on the first really warm day
strangers at the park remain closed-
faced, squared off.  The wrong kind
of wounding.  One girl, though,
blond, Hasidic, alone in middle childhood
surreptitiously follows you around
the playground.  Testing out
knowing.  Going the wrong way down
the slide, twisting into a circle to get
her shoe back on.  Soul pate, is what
you think. Whole-souled human,
kenning what she can.

April 12th poem

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Notes from Today
(Or, Poem with Stolen Lines*)

Morning at the cafe there's a woman at the next table dying of consumption. Well, she's coughing and reading Renata Adler.  Coughing and reading, coughing and reading.

I am enraged at the cafe but why?  (Tiredness.)  I am looking at job ads I am looking up words I know the spelling of because reading final final proofs makes me look up words I know the spelling of.  Hello strawberry sweet cheese kolache hello iced Americano.  Everyone get out of my way.

What year was it that I read that Buddhist book that said to pause in doorways and think this moment or think nothing lasts.  (Which was it?  Both/either.)

Everyone is bothering me.  Everyone was once a helpless baby and they all still need so much love I can't take it.  I'm beaming out love and exhaustion.  I want to cry because we were all babies.  My gift is glittery and eternal.

I go to Central Park to see my partner's (?) good friend from high school and her baby who looks like my partner's (?) Aunt Catherine.  She (the baby) is named after a beautiful Buddhist concept.  I think she will be a wise teacher and learner.  I think if she had glasses on a string she would look just like Aunt Catherine.

On the subway, my baby touches a lady's fingernails, gazes at a lady, eats pieces of cereal, squeals, laughs, beats his head on my sternum, shares a joke, needs a nap.  On the subway, my baby.

I am singing us, I guess.  

I am eating dinner.  I am victorious and hurried, dinner-wise.  Listening to the music that fell between rocksteady and reggae and has innocent lyrics.  People just wanted to dance in the underground clubs and the politics were fucked.  Is what I'm told.  Please turn it down I'm tired.

If I had my mouth, I would bite

Once when I was a teenager I was sleeping in the small room upstairs at my grandmother's when my uncle Joe came home from wherever and started cracking pecans with a nutcracker at the kitchen table while I dreamed that he was eating knuckles.  I could see him sitting at the table cracking and eating them.  Then I went downstairs and he was sitting at the same table eating pecans, and I said, "Oh, I thought you were eating knuckles."  That's how I feel when I fall asleep from seven to ten while putting the baby to sleep.  "Oh, I thought you were eating knuckles."  I'm half-asleep, but which half I don't know.

Transformation transformation transformation.  It just never ends, you know?

Doors are tricky.

Good night.

*some of the italicized lines are from Brenda Coultas, Maureen Thorson, Eleni Sikelianos, Gregory Crosby, and Todd Colby. 

April 11th poem

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mysteries of Carports and Other Places

"first you're in the womb
or some other insular place"
--Bernadette Mayer

then for years an only child, others' houses unsettling
you, harsh words over dishes and how things are no longer
where you set them down when you go back later

at home, you let the cats claw at your scalp like yarn
you wander out to the carport to burn things with matches
douglas hurst lopes in sideways from down the street
to torment you with his pert little face (which face you
also have but don't think of yourself as having)
neither of you know what to do about the other's face
and there is the exchange of insults like Pip 
and the fine young gentleman, all sharp eyes and longing,
competition to be smartest at school (you are smartest
but he is smartest in math)

you have driven him off
you are alone in the kitchen staring at the empty fridge
seized by an imp of perversity, you take out the cool whip
and hershey's syrup, mix up a big bowl
take a few bites and leave it
the wiz is on hbo again and diana ross
looks so sad in harlem you'd like to go there
and eat dinner with her family and walk outside to sing
with snow in your eyelashes

April News Update

Friday, April 11, 2014

Amid my NaPoWriMo posts I wanted to take a second to share some exciting updates:

Extract(s) recently featured me in a three-question interview about themes, process, and short-format writing. They also shared a few excerpts from last month's release, The Itinerant Girl's Guide to Self-Hypnosis, which you can learn about about at Brooklyn Arts Press.

Please join me on Thursday, April 24th for a Dual Release Party at Berl's Poetry Shop in D.U.M.B.O., where I'll be reading from Itinerant Girl alongside fellow Brooklyn Arts Press writer Bill Rasmovicz.

In other news, I'm eager to announce that my second (!) book of the year was released April 3rd. Titled Crown, it's now up on the Ravenna Press website as part of the Ravenna Pocket Series.

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