April 30th poem

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


April 29th poem

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Mirror

Clif sighs,
takes a sip from his cup,
& looks vacantly into the middle distance,
so the baby sighs,
takes a sip from his cup,
& looks vacantly into the middle distance.

April 28th poem

Monday, April 28, 2014

Reading and Writing

Finish unloading groceries and eating a snack of hummus and pita chips.  Sit down to write poem with a movie playing in the background in which Patrick Swayze plays a hillbilly cop.  Begin trying to read a poem by Ruth Stone.  Tell C that I wish I still had my own room to go into to read.  He begins talking about gluten, how he thought it was a sugar problem some people have with it, but it's actually a protein problem.  Say, "OK.  I'm going to read and write now."  Begin trying to concentrate on reading a poem, but look up to see a scene in the movie that has several actors I recognize, but younger, and begin naming some of them.  C gets up to open a bottle of wine.  Sit at desk with back to the TV to look through notebook.  Hear a bunch of screeching tire noises from the TV.  Tell C that I will take some wine, too.  He doesn't pour another glass, but leaves the bottle on the counter.  Get up and pour 1/2 glass of wine.  Sit down at desk again.  Pick up a different book.  James Schuyler is saying, "Suppose you had your life to live over/ knowing what you know?/ Suppose you had plenty money"  Helen Hunt is playing the violin on TV.  She is on a porch in Kentucky in a flowered dress and says she is the violin teacher.  Wish that you were on a porch in Kentucky.  She has the same generic southern accent that non-southern actors always have in movies.  You consider looking up where she is from to further justify your annoyance.  Begin writing a poem in which "the baby toddles toward a boy with a basketball/ lifting both arms and waving as he toddles/ as if greeting a long-lost Army buddy."  Wonder if the Army buddy would really be "long-lost," and if these buddies would really greet each other that way.  Think about the confusion of the boy with the basketball.  It was unclear whether the baby was greeting him specifically, or just showing excitement.  Either way, the boy was unsure how to react.  Drink wine.  Read a couple Schuyler poems about summer plants and wish for summer, even if the "sun smites."  It is late April, but it feels like another Schuyler March-- "lacks charm."  Realize you are simply going through the book looking for phrases to write down, and that you would rather do this than write your own poem tonight, but that really you would rather go to bed.

April 27th poem

Sunday, April 27, 2014


April 26th poem

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Even then, parked at the crest of a large hill in a Tennessee Valley town,
waiting for my mother to run into the Smoky Mountain Market
surrounded by dark green,
held aloft by the hill, held in by the convex lid of the sky
and across Chapman Highway an empty lot of kudzu
its junk & soul secret
even then I felt  Where are we? 
felt  Home.

April 25th poem

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Having slept so little and a wave of recognition
and pure affection when "Across the Universe" comes on,
the way John says Words are flowing out
Like endless rain into a paper cup.
His Liverpudlian cup

Having slept so little
I'm a trembling cup.

April 24th poem

Thursday, April 24, 2014


I was hoping to someday make it
to California where (I imagine)
things are(n't) flat &
(im)possible &
professionally lit

April 23rd poem

Thursday, April 24, 2014

[with Todd Colby]

Sumptuous Dress

On the subject of human finery, he could talk for hours, which made us uneasy as he rifled through the remains of each survivor's belongings.

April 22nd poem

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


April 21st poem

Monday, April 21, 2014

False Cup-and-Saucer

It never occurred to her to be conventional.
Sometimes she wished it would.

April 20th poem

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I Have Hitched My Wagon to a Star 
(a collaboration with Todd Colby)

Here, I'll explain it to you with this white board. 
I'll mount it on a Show-Go-Round and make it revolve 
when I have another lesson to teach you. 
The kind you can sink your teeth into, as per your 
email sent to me on 4.2.14. And I quote: 
"There is a plausible heap in the works, 
that's why I am committed to the worst in you."
You will sing another tune when you learn
the truth of our situation, how I've tied
myself to you and tied this suitcase to my
wrist, as per your email on 4.12.09. And
I quote: "I can really talk to you, you know?"
On the other hand, there is nothing but blood meal
to consume in this cramped apartment, that and some
stewed carrots with rice (I know you love that).
Thus are we are tied to each other.  Thus do we wander 
through the desert.  Thus is some inexorable third entity
tied to my wrist, dragged along with us. Do you want 
a smoothie? Would you like an afternoon  alone with 
200 messages? What is "beyond unacceptable?"
You always understood me so well, even that time
you asked if I was a replicant or a star being from
outer space like Jeff Bridges in Star Man. 
But as I explained that fateful day: I get my news 
from cable & my wine from Trader Joe's.  I am 
only too human and fallible. Don't tug on the rope, dear

April 19th poem

Saturday, April 19, 2014


April 18th poem

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Day in the Life

A meal of oatmeal and organic bananas? I'm thinking and nibbling
on chocolate, Friday April 18th, 3:03 pm.  Lifting the filter I see
there's more coffee and do a "I see there's more coffee" dance.  The green
on that scrawny tree seems to be alive.  The sky is doing that thing
where it's glarey and white and overcast.  It's like someone trying
to be kind to you through the filter of their hangover so not really
caring.  Earlier a drama teacher in someone else's clothes and mustache
socks came to watch my son.  I descended to the underworld.  I emerged
two neighborhoods over where people seemed real today (Greenpoint).
I bought a bagel with scallion cream cheese on my way, thinking
"Oh!  this is the deli where I went with the Soy Bomb guy that time
I accidentally got drunk, having had drinks before dinner and during
dinner with the artists and the psychotherapist and forgot what
neighborhood I was in but it was here, I guess?" I never even realized
those were the days, I guess?  I guess those were the days. Tomorrow
I promise to write a poem that isn't about writing itself. Or I'll put on
sack cloth to go with my new hair ("shorn").  I'll put on art clogs
and call it a day.

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.

April 10th poem

Thursday, April 10, 2014

(collaborative poem with Todd Colby; revised today)
Track 28, 2:45 pm
The instruction manual was etched in glass,
and made a sound like a mouse or a dreaming
woman making small squeaks in her sleep
when you ran a fingernail over her parent's teeth.
Her parents adored her and it showed 
in their well-faded jeans and moisturized palms.
They all smelled of coconut oil and sandalwood, 
as per the instructions.  As per their understanding,
suffice it to say chemistry textbooks have many
excellent images for making collages, which is
why she failed the class but won at compiling 
spray adhesives.  All the while, this mystical
being was ensconced in a wondrous world called
"what New York had become." Which is why I am
a principal in Atlanta. During recess the dogwoods
did sway in the wind.  They did sway and I did
sway.  Thank you for coming in this afternoon,
Mr. and Mrs.  Buncombe.  I sorely appreciate
your children and your pie. There will be a day
when you forget my name, but I'll be dead by then.

April 9th poem

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Compassion poem

Once when I was teaching 10th grade American lit, I came to class just emotionally empty for whatever personal reason or non-reason, wondering how I'd ever beam the appropriate amount of attention and good cheer toward my students that day.  I was scowling maybe and preoccupied as the students filed in, and they just ignored that part or didn't see it and beamed good cheer, attention, and humor out from themselves like we'd all tried to do to the best of our abilities on previous days.  Had I banked some cheer for myself just by trying to be a decent person to my students on those other days?  However it happened, they were giving it back to me and didn't even know they were doing it.  They were just being decent people.  We'd made a space for each other to do that, be decent people even on empty days.  That kind of thing-- small acts of kindness and attention-- bounce around like light bounced off a small mirror this one kid used to flash light in another kid's eyes until I told him to put it away.  Even not being heavy about the mirror continues to bounce around.  This theory of good humor and bouncing energy is important but must be held lightly, the way the boy held the mirror and the way he put it away again. 

April 8th poem

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Tuesday April 8 
(after Bernadette Mayer)

an overcast somewhat warm day someone is the city is having
a beautiful time doing i don't know what.  i begin writing this
and the baby intervenes by biting a yellow crayon pointing
at the microwave to deflect attention then grabbing my pen
bobbing his head to the music crayon breath geh-geh-geh
he says and bites my scalp a little where i crouch on the floor.
that sad velvet underground song comes on "ain't got nuthin'
at all." then e bites a big hunk off the green crayon and i stop
to clean it off his teeth. we say bleh at each other and he runs
away come back!  "oh sweet nuthin' ain't got nuthin' at all."
microwave beeps again the last few sips of coffee.  when the baby
sets something down, he does so carefully and takes his hands away
with fingers delicately outstretched but i turn around and the red
and green crayons he just set down aren't there.  what if he waved
his hands and disappeared them?  gosh.  no here they are
on his coat.  sleight of hand. now that "makes no difference"
song.  rick danko is my favorite from the band besides
levon helm.  but this is my morning jacket. e is now
busy in his playpen.  says, "ah."

April 7th poem

Monday, April 07, 2014

(collaborative poem with Todd Colby)

Gaining a Purchase
I forwarded you a quality of life list.  Let's brainstorm because sooner or later a bird makes a delightful meal for the workers.   At noon, we'll meet in the circle to work on value-added vision boards, after which the servants will bring in cucumber sandwiches and tea.  They have been instructed to control their gazes. More importantly, the servants are required to maintain an air of objectivity regarding the prudish ineptitude of not only the citizens, but the material desires of all involved. We are spiritual beings having an earthly experience, but not all the members of the team are on board.  Patricia has promised to meditate upon the question.  Robert is going to throw some psychic energy my way to see what sticks. We should adjourn by 12:04, when we'll be treated to ocean vegetables and a fermented red beverage made from firm ground. See you there!

April 6th poem

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Tea Fortune

"This is a sorry culture, babe.  You have to make your own."
--Alice Notley, "A Bitter Treason"

A sorry culture and I must return to the homeland
absorb the vibe-a-rations where the sky is right

I am somewhat comfortable
with the semiology of Brooklyn
(stomach flips sideways writing that)

somewhat more comfortable with how the sky fits
the land in North Carolina or even Kansas
and the roads through the what is the word
want to say roughage, but it is . . .
want to say verbiage
roads fit through the I'll just say trees and grasses

Pick a card
I'm thinking High Priestess
but I dig out the old mass market paperback and turn
to Death When you see this card think of: 

Mastering the Tarot: Basic Lessons in an Ancient, Mystic Art
by Eden Gray, pub. 1971
same year I was conceived in North Carolina and born in Kansas
or, wait, I guess I was conceived in 1970

a small burning
a small bun in
or just, Hi, I am here to steal your tarot book later

April 5th poem

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Case Studies

"[A]ll those happy hippie plans gone awry."
--Eleni Sikelianos, The Book of Jon

When I was a kid, we were always doing things like going to visit some angry guy with a bushy beard in the woods who couldn't finish his half-tree house mountain retreat dreamscape because his father wouldn't turn over the damn money.  There was always a farm sold out from under someone else and the disappearing funds.   The disappointed older generation with their hairdos and handbags, and the disappointing younger generation with their hippie-dippy anger.  Still, we rode up into the mountains on the border of NC and TN to check in on the simmering, under-realized utopias, the burlap and health food feel of it all.  The world wasn't really that different.  The women were still in the kitchen.  My family had no money and so the anger was more diffuse, or was actually just humor mixed with sadness, a dash of resentment.  Then my mother went back to grad school.  She thought she was turning me into a social scientist by leaving all those case studies of pygmies and schizophrenics around-- I read anything-- but I observed too much to fit between the rails of discipline.  My idea of narrative drifted, listed, became loose and unstructured, tending toward poetry, all of it much too qualitative and speculative to win many government grants.  Oh, well. 

April 4th poem

Saturday, April 05, 2014


April 3rd poem

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Dear Bonnia,  

How do the myths lay down road in a girl eating pound cake in the South
at her grandmother's table?  There's the one about the goddess and her chariot
pulled by cats.  The one about the man who wanders, the family left behind.
And then there's the weaving of the disparate stories into a founding myth.
Years wandering, the horse behind the gates.  The underworld.  What disparate
strands we all of us weave.  Especially Bonnia of the sad and happy eyes.
How and when do we come up from underground?  By which I mean myself.
By which I mean any daughter-wanderer, any hero-mother who stays behind, wondering.

April 2nd poem

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Freyja in Brooklyn

I misplaced my chthonic majesty and lost my feathered cloak
in the last move.  All I have left is this reindeer skull diadem
with antlers, all out of context.  People mistake me for mere shaman
or Pratt student.  How to remember one's role in the weather--
bear down and bear down all winter until everyone's breaking
and broken, pale on the subway.  Still, my sorcery's all jacked
up.  I'll move clouds about until it comes back to me, turning
the wind this way and that, like an old-timey radio knob.
If Odin were here, he'd say, "Out-of-sorts goddess.  That's no
way to go through life."  Either way, I'll meet half of you
halfway down your long last road. 

April 1st poem

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

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