More exchanges

Monday, August 29, 2011


Me:  Look at that person.  That ibis.  That egret thing.
Mom:  That's a sandhill crane.

Me:  I feel like my recall hasn't been the same since I hit my head.
Brother:  I just haven't been the same since that roller coaster car jumped the tracks . . .

Me: [reading People magazine]  Why is Shiloh Pitt-Jolie such a little cross-dresser?*
Brother:  I don't know, Joanna.  Some of your questions are beyond the scope of my knowledge.

*FYI, I actually think little kids should be cross-dressers. It shows character.

Quotes from Mom

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Another one of Bill's weird birds.  Bill likes birds.  [shrug]"

"I'm glad you're getting old.  Otherwise you'd be dead."

"Why didn't you bring me spirit orb candy?  I didn't want to eat it.  I just wanted to set it on my desk and look at it."

"Here's the quote from Groucho Marx at the beginning of part 2 of my book:  'I'm not crazy about reality, but it's still the only place to get a decent meal.' "

"I know I'm charming.  You don't have to state the obvious." 

Florida again

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Monday, August 22, 2011

I got a few things done in my new office.  Here it looks like that shrinking hallway from Willy Wonka.
And I bought this minimalist bouquet (freesias) because I was told that fresh flowers would make the house spirits happy.  I got this vase as a going away present the year I taught 10th grade English in St. Paul.  I like the vase, but I may put the flowers in something else. 
My little brother was featured in this German newspaper article.  The article is about his biculturalism-- he was raised in Germany and the U.S.-- and it was written by his best friend since kindergarten, Anika.  I'll have to post this funny picture I have of them on the first day of kindergarten when I can find it.  They have those huge square backpacks German kids carry and the traditional huge cone of candy.  Now she's writing newspaper articles and he just started a graduate program in urban planning.
Also, Clifton is back from his trip up north.  Here he is doing the ritual pantomime re-enactment of his travel.  (And don't worry-- I'll hang some stuff on the walls at some point.  Maybe in September.)  

Top ten things that freak me out about ghosts

Sunday, August 21, 2011

(for Todd Colby)

1.  Todd Colby goes, "I read an article in the New York Times that there are more ghosts reported in Brooklyn than anywhere on the planet!"
2.  Great.  Haha.  I didn't say anything about GHOSTS.  I just said I couldn't SLEEP because Clif's in BUFFALO.
3.  But now I'm thinking about the ghosts again.
4.  The first night we slept here, I had a dream about the people who had lived here before.  I discovered all their old clothes from the '40s.  The woman, especially, was happy that I knew who they were.
5.  But the attic still felt sad and unsettled.
6.  Until we unpacked our stuff and vacuumed.  Then it felt ok again.
7.  Until Clif went to BUFFALO.  And left me here with the GHOSTS. 
8.  Sometimes it's just trapped sadness, like the feeling of Elizabeth Bishop's mother that wells up at dusk in her childhood home.
9.  My other friend goes, "Poor Joanna.  Every place you live turns out to be haunted.  Must be hard." 
10.  Anyway.  Ghosts don't like to be talked about.

I Hear You Sometimes from a Veil

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I have since childhood been sleepy and loved
and trying to work it out

A friend calls
and I report on my eye circles
He says, I thought I could count on you 
to take care of yourself
But we have a project
A proposed collaborative project
something about crossing dimensions
something about a veil

I will leave the attic door open
listen for you in a dream 
if I can sleep tonight
I'll call to let you know
what you said

Watching the Basquiat documentary again

Friday, August 19, 2011

Radiant child.


Monday, August 15, 2011

The new place is starting to get arranged.
If you ignore those two end tables that don't go there.  And the lampshade with no base.  And the empty basket that doesn't go there.  And the fact that my tall bookcases are still in the entryway because they wouldn't fit up the stairs.  Etc.
I wasn't sure how I felt about the two small attic rooms in our duplex after we moved in.  They seemed haunted and/or overly womb-like.  Now I like them again.  Here is my office/garret/guest room.  My friend Wendy and her brother made that small painted table in high school.  That Marimekko pillow was my gift to myself when I first moved to New York three years ago.  I thought, "A pillow of jaunty mystery.  Just the thing."
I just noticed that this closet has a glass doorknob.  You can't see it very well, but this painting is by my friend John. It's called "Setting Out."  I'm always setting out. 

Recent news

Monday, August 15, 2011

1.  I have been accepted for a month-long residency at the Vermont Studio Center for May 2012.  Hopefully I will have a good start on my second poetry manuscript by then. 

2.  Nic Sebastian has read one of my poems in that wonderful voice of hers for her website Whale Sound

3.  My friend Wendy, who I've known since we were 17, is visiting.  Usually I visit her in Boston.  But this time she is visiting me in my new digs in Brooklyn.  And she brought her talismanic travel object, a smirking Canadian doll.  It's Bonhomme, the mascot of the Quebec Winter Carnival, and he only scares me a little.  Middle Ellie seems fine with him. 

Today I Discovered

Friday, August 12, 2011

A button painted onto the windowsill.

A bunch of old photos of old friends, looking ten to twenty years younger.

Why there are so many books and movies about old houses that hold secrets.

The necessity of slowing down, in order not to walk away without your money or hit your head so hard it leaves a dent. 

There has been a turn toward autumn, and breeze, open windows, and cicadas remind me of Kansas, even though I am in Brooklyn.

I am in Brooklyn.

I still want to go to Coney Island.   Lawrence, Kansas and Coney Island. 

Wise Up

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Sunday, August 07, 2011

1.  I am re-reading that book of letters between James Wright and Leslie Marmon Silko, even though (because?) it makes me cry every single time.

2.  I read in the Boog Festival today.  It was a day of much changing weather.  A highlight for me were the poems of my pal J. Hope Stein.  A low point was having to leave after five hours due to poetry over-satiation, not getting a chance to see some of the poets who followed me, and leaving my red folder of poems somewhere!

3.  Oh, also I went to brunch with my pal and her friend Ambrose after her reading and before mine, and we talked about how the world is apparently ending, or how New York is like The Plague or Death in Venice this summer, or how Gary Shteyngart wrote a novel last year that predicted some of our present state.  (I'm teaching the Shteyngart novel, so I contributed that part.  The best thing I ever learned from Gary Shteyngart was when I asked him a question after a reading of his, and he made some comment about how his iPhone makes him feel less human, and how we shouldn't cross streets in New York and look at our iPhones at the same time, or something.  It is true.  I almost got run over while crossing the street and looking at my iPhone at the same time.  I am not cut out to be a cyborg.)

4.  What's a poem again?  What's the difference between a poem and a story and a memory of something that happened to you when you were a kid and an email you write to a friend and a blog post?  Emily Dickinson is looking at me from my Kindle screensaver with this look on her face like, "What?"  (I'm reading the Shteyngart on Kindle but the Silko and Wright in actual book form.)    

5.  Go team.

Here Comes the Sun

Friday, August 05, 2011

Almost everything

Monday, August 01, 2011

Almost everything is still in bags and boxes, and I’m constantly walking around thinking things like, “Where’s my green cup [the one I didn’t break]?” and “Where’s my Oil of Olay?”  This morning I woke up thinking, “Where is my last bike that got stolen?  I want it.  Where are the Tretorn tennis shoes I wore in ninth grade?  Where is the slim gold watch my mom bought me that year?”  That was the year my mom had finished her degree and had a good-paying job, and I could pretend to be solidly middle class in public.  Or, well, maybe I could pretend before that.  When I was in fifth grade and she was still in graduate school, she worked as the assistant director of an outpatient rehabilitation center, and she somehow bought me the good kind of stylish Levi’s, two pairs of Nikes, and two or three of the Izod polo shirts I had been coveting.  But my style still vacillated back then, and I also had barrettes with long leather strings with feathers attached.  I remember visiting the rehabilitation center and going on the swings with an autistic boy who was suddenly in love with me, my leather stringed feathers trailing out behind me as I swung.  Sometimes I would wear two different Nikes to the mall because I thought it was funny.  I had a button that said “Why be normal?,” and I wore it for Halloween, along with a few different shirts layered weirdly on top of each other and a cardboard toilet paper roll covered in glitter as a ponytail holder.  I went trick-or-treating with Angela Lowery among the nice houses between my apartment complex and the pool.  I’m not sure anyone understood my costume.  It was 1980, and I was in Knoxville, and all the other “Why be normal” people had gone to the Lower East Side of New York,  but I was only ten and I didn’t know about that.  And, anyway, I was with Angela Lowery, who never had to try to be weird.  Everyone knew about Angela.  She was kind and remote and really sort of otherwordly.  She lived with her mother and grandparents on Flenniken Road, and her face and her mother’s face and her grandmother Polly’s face were all the same Cherokee face.  She was one of those complete-unto-herself people.  She knew how to clog dance.  She was lovely and inviolable and, at times, a little unsettling.  One time the teacher asked her for her homework, and she said, “Homework cramps my style.”  Where is Angela?  Last I heard, she died young in a car accident.  I want her back.  
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