Other Flowers

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My short review of James Schuyler's Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems is out in the current issue of Pleiades

On or around my birthday

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Drove up with my pal Douglas from NYC to Henniker, NH, where we read at New England College as alumni readers for our former MFA program; stayed with friends Mary-Catherine and Adam in Henniker; had zombies and crab rangoon with my poetry mentors Paula McLain and Malena Mörling; took the bus to Boston to see one of my oldest friends, Wendy, who had made a homemade cake for my birthday (her first!-- it was delicious); went for a walk in Brookline, Mass. and bought these books; realized I had a huge welt-like spider bite on my leg [photo redacted].  Hello. 

Solstice Activities So Far

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

1.  I did a ceremony involving arugula, blue cheese, strawberries, and a Blue Moon beer.  A lunch ceremony.

2.  I read some poems by Elaine Equi.  One of them starts, "The name Equi means horses in Latin."  Then I thought of something I recently learned: "The German word for Cooper is Fassbinder."   

3.  I thought about the idea of renewal.  It came to me like a Joseph Cornell box-- something with a ballerina looking sad but determined.  Maybe some string representing the trajectory of thoughts; an old postcard with new writing across the old image; and a plant from under the ocean that looks like lace made of clay.  Maybe it's a plant, and maybe it's an animal.  The point is, once you've made an art box assemblage, you're free to get on with things.

4.  I'll offer you this service, in the form of a summer incantation:  "Take it easy.  Let it go.  Just go ahead and let it go." 

I Feel Spooky, Tina

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

(after a line by Peter Davis)

The only person named Tina that I remember knowing was from 4th or 5th grade.  She was small with a cute doll face and fine curling hair.  She looked very fragile with a strawberry birthmark on the side of her face, a sad, unsettled look about the brow.  In truth, my main memory of her is one day when Tina, Tammy, and I were taken down to a basement classroom to begin learning the flute.  Maybe the unsettled look only happened on that day.  Maybe her name wasn't Tina. 

Tammy was one of the middle-aged fifth graders.  There were a few girls who looked like 47 year-olds in shift dresses.  I imagined that they were required to do all the housework and bring their dads beers while their moms worked overtime at crap jobs.  These middle-aged kids had a resigned look about them, and it was both creepy and comforting to be sitting there learning long-division with them wafting preternatural competence and brokenness out into the room.   

I hope that Tammy hasn't worked too hard in her life.  I hope that she is now a teacher of the flute.  And, Tina, if that is her name . . .  I hope she owns a condo and drives a Cadillac.  Maybe a vintage MG. 

We all lived at the base of some mountains.  This meant different things to each of us.  That was the year I was a complete latch-key kid unto myself and I skipped a month of school to stay home and watch I Dream of Jeannie.  One day I missed a field trip to the bread factory, and someone kind who I didn't know very well-- Tammy?-- brought me my free sample of bread, a miniature loaf, all perfect and small in its cellophane.  For the rest of the time I lived in that town, whenever that baking bread smell from the factory wafted my way, I felt an unaccountable longing.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How worried are you about a continuous notion of “I”
and whether the you who did whatever thing ten years ago is
the same you today, and what this has to do with character building
or absolution or how people in different geographical locations imagine
you when you come to mind for them, if you do, given what you may
have done ten years ago?  Do you think about this often?  Sometimes?
Rarely or never?  Do you think things when you’re pouring granola
onto your yogurt like, “What if it’s all a lucid dream, and if it is, what do
I choose next?  Why did I choose the granola with the vanilla if that
wasn’t the granola I wanted?  Why didn’t I lucid dream someone 

coming to restock the kind of granola I did want?”  The granola, then, 
proves it isn’t exactly that kind of lucid dream.  It’s a different kind, 
where you might end up trying a different kind of granola or moving 
back  to the Midwest or adopting a tiny animal that comes out from 
under a car  at the laundromat and naming it Andy Garcia, and having 
it narrow its green  and crazy eyes at you in love and partial devotion 
for the next fourteen years  before it leaves this body, changes form, 
becomes some next  thing you don’t even know about, 
that you can’t and don’t even want to control.

Good News from Sunday

Monday, June 13, 2011

1.  Sitting in a window eating sushi and udon noodles.
2.  Two ten year-old boys eating at a table by themselves, a serious look about them.
3.  On a bench in the evening eating plain frozen yogurt with blueberries. (That good, slightly sour kind of frozen yogurt.)
4.  The Upper West Side couple who walked by with their toddler perched in that high kind of stroller (the kind for running?).  The toddler's face lit up by the iphone he was looking at. 
5.  The Argentinian cab driver who asked me where I'm from and then asked if Myrtle Beach is in North Carolina or South Carolina.
6.  A "small-boned woman dressed as a jackal" on a movie set in my friend's apartment.
7.  Getting in bed with Carrie Fisher's memoir.  She had famous parents like me, except mine aren't famous.  

Thoughts at the NYPL

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

I should have been a librarian.  I've always liked the smell, even though the summer when I worked at the college library taking ancient bound journals off the shelves to be re-bound, the ancient decaying dust (and mites?) got into the skin of my hands and made me feel like a drug addict with itchy hands.  Mostly, though, the decaying smell is a comfort to me.  Is intellectual home.  The smell of decaying books, I mean, not decaying flesh.  But I learned this recently:  There's some chemical that our bodies need, that we're basically made of, that is found in meat that is just starting to rot.  Scientists and French people have found that the food that appeals to all palates is food that mimics this just starting to rot taste.  Like Parmesan cheese.  I'm not being fanciful.  This is a nonfiction musing.  I learned this from a student of mine who is a ballet dancer.  Some people drilled a hole in her bones to repair the fracture she'd been dancing on all those months.  One thing I've learned:  I like knowing a person in one context, and then going to see them in their work context and realizing, "My God, that person can leap about!"  I have also learned that most people have a compelling story if you stop complaining about your haircut long enough to notice.  For example, since I moved to New York, I've met the guy from the radio who convinced himself he had a British accent when he was a teenager.  I've met a woman from Kentucky who flew over Kansas in a prop plane, surveying it all.  Also, my physical therapist has family in Argentina and co-owns a house on Fire Island.  He likes the quiet out there and sometimes finds it hard to get up on Monday morning and take the train back to Manhattan and press on people's backs on the 12th floor of a building near Macy's.  I've learned all that and more.

New York Public Library

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Yesterday I went to the library.  The NYPL was built during the Progressive Era to "establish and maintain a free library and reading room in the city of New York."  Public spaces like this make me feel ok about life.  Optimistic even.  Currently the library is facing a budget cut that would close many branches, cut community programs, and could cause the library to be open only four days a week.  Speak out.


Monday, June 06, 2011

"I have talked to them about this and that, I have explained the twilight, admittedly.  But is it enough, that's what tortures me, is it enough?"  --Waiting for Godot

Morning list essay

Saturday, June 04, 2011

1.  I don't think consciousness lives only in the mind.  All your cells know it.  Or-- how do we say it?  Mind is everywhere?

2.  I should spend the summer re-reading Emerson.

3.  Reading Reznikoff, Niedecker.  Who else?  Poetry isn't just in the poets.  [And do I even mean "poetry"?]

4.  I love Americans and their solitary hunkering down into ideas.  Esp. Americans of the 19c who wrote wild and tortured books.  Dickinson.  E. Stoddard.  Thoreau.  Even Poe.  In the 20c, Jean Toomer does it in Cane, this hunkering, letting the material get almost out of hand.  There's a slipshod gracey genius running amok.

5.   Eudora Welty had it.  Found it funny.  Dressed it in gloves and set it on the steps for us to see before it tore off its coat and bonnet and ran away, out of frame.

6.  An extra-social social act.

7.  What's that thing at your shoulder, just out of frame?  Feel it?

[photo: Elizabeth Stoddard]

Poem for my birthday month

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Recently and Soon

Twice this week the feeling of someone sneaking up on me.  The feeling a ghost  got in.

Conversations with friends about whether we are more used to “penis” as a reference or “vagina.”  Or, rather, who is punished more for having sexual feelings and parts and talking about them?  Whose feelings and parts are co-opted more?

What if I were to introduce “vaginal slickness” into a poem about lawn furniture or clowns?

A feeling like a joke buzzer, but not in my hand.  Somewhere else. 

I can’t stand how beautiful things are.   So I neglect to dust or throw out old papers.  This helps a little.

All morning the mind drifts, gentles, then turns and does a dizz-wax thing before gentling again.  Yard work, irises, the sadness of Vincent van Gogh, cash prizes, the physical beauty of others as something to be withstood like, you know, the ocean.  Cash prizes (again).  Inner beauty like a winding spool in the sternum.  Then a far-off feeling like a  joke buzzer, but in another area.

I have to say it:  The blessing of having had friends with whom to discuss organs.  Breath.  Shapeshifting.  Note modulation.  The buzzing in my ear. 
So much drifting of the mind and body.  I’ll be 40 soon.  I’ll be over here reading Thomas Merton and doing leg lifts to get in shape in time. 

The sun swinging back and forth on its string all month every month like a slowly turning crystal in some hippie’s window, until later we’re not even the ones here anymore and it’s all people not even born yet.
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