Friday, November 16, 2012


Today, I work on part two of the three-part poem that will culminate in a fourth part. Confusing.

I posted the yellow poem earlier this week.

I've been battling the pink lines for days now. Don't mention the blue or I might have a coughing fit.

What the hell
what the hell are you
what the hell are you going
what the hell are you going on about?


If I think of the poems (index card exercise) as three parts of a triptych, maybe I will find a way to order the seemingly unrelated lines that relates them. The leaps must happen in my head before they can happen on paper. This Jon Foreman song playing on my computer ("Southbound Train") helps.

In class, we have been reading David St. John's latest collection, The Auroras. DSJ talks about this book in three parts as if it's a poetic triptych. But it doesn't feel like one to me, and I said so in my required book review. It's not a terrible book, but it feels lazy to me. I will write more about that for class. This is not the place for babbling on school work, though school work is everything. Except when it's not.


My daughter is in AP art this year. She has several required projects that are to contain specific elements but that she can render in any way she chooses. A three-part self-portrait she completed early in the semester won a best of show award at a local juried art contest. Her latest project is to illustrate a piece of writing. She asked me if she could illustrate one of my poems. It's such an honor, you know? I know I'm a major fuck up in a lot of ways, but this kid proves that I have abilities.... or, no, it's all just her.

I sent her a sampling of five poems with a lot of rich, visual imagery, three of the poems a little lighter than my usual grief-riddle crap. I thought she'd pick the one about my childhood, a scene when my little brother was chasing lizards. She chose a sad one. But I know why. The poem is about an experience I had with her granddaddy about a week before he died. She's been wanting to illustrate this poem since I first began drafting it. She's seen several versions of, and she loves it. It's fantastical and sad and filled with weird images that cross over into another realm. She's planning a sort of pop-up book or poster, she said, and she described some of what she will do. She asked me to write an "explanation" that she might incorporate into the drawings, but when I started writing that, I felt so sad I had to stop. And that's when I understand that this idea of saying the unsayable in poetry is exactly right. I can write a poem about the moment I realized my father was about to leave me. But writing it in straight prose without ..... Oh. I don't feel like going on about this any more.

It's a lovely thing that my daughter wants my art to be part of her art.


The top index card in the pink stack reads, "My daughter's hair is [like] a forest." The next card is a quote that I will not include here. It's something a real person said that I wrote down on the card. I feel a link between the two cards, though I can't yet figure out why the lines are linked. The quote is devastating. The hair is a forest. The words are vines? Anger in the forest. Words the speaker can't take back. An ending.

How cryptic is this?


bye now

Monday, July 2, 2012

writing in the dark

What does it mean to write poetry in the dark? That’s a line that just popped into my head as I was sitting in the Muskingum County Public Library in a comfy chair under bright, fluorescent lighting but without an outlet to charge my laptop.

I am one of about 415,000 AEP customers still without power from the June 29, 2012, “catastrophic” storms that rushed through here that Friday evening. I’m lucky. No tree branches fell on my house or my daughter’s car. My house is dark so it’s still relatively cool. I have plenty of batteries, lanterns, flashlights, a battery operated fan (and another is arriving tomorrow). My daughter’s father and I are on excellent enough terms for him to be willing to let me and her hang at his house as much as we want or need to. In fact, he’s happily insistent, so I don’t feel like a burden. My Girl is sleeping upstairs in her bedroom here; I’m down in the dining area typing while my friend, her father, reads the paper and listens to jazz.

I’m writing in the dark.

I’ll close my eyes now and type until the burning stops (my eyes hurt). Even though this power outage is inconvenient and our power is unlikely to be restored until July 8 (a Sunday. It’s now Monday, July 2), I don’t feel the burden of victimhood or anything. It’s just a week. My refrigerated items (mostly) are stored in Bill’s refrigerator; my next door neighbor, who has power, has offered to let me run an extension cord to her house and plug in some things; a friend (a band booster friend) has offered to let me and the Girl sleep in their air conditioned camper.

Still, I’m thinking about poetry and writing not darkly, because I feel oddly happy, but in the dark. Dark drenched. Dark heat. Dark wind.

Where do I get my poetry? Is it poetry? Does it matter if I call it poetry? I suppose it does in some circles, not even just academic circles, but circles that believe in the power of poetry, not in the Power of Something That Might Be Poetry But is Really Just Prose that Sometimes Has Somewhat Interesting Line Breaks.

How’s THAT for a new genre?

My back is aching from sitting on this barstool/chair at the bar on the other side of Bill’s kitchen. I should lean back into the chair.

Silence behind me. Bill turned off his music. I think he’s dozing. I should stretch out on the carpet and dream of dark poems, darkly poems, darkening poems.

Being in the dark isn’t an evil thing or a bad thing. I like the dark. It’s the color my hair used to be before it turned white. It’s the color of my father’s eyes, my daughter’s eyes (my eyes), it’s the color of the Mediterranean and my favorite ballpoint pen.

(Is "dark" a color? Does it matter?)

But where’s the poetry? Today? Still stuck in my head, maybe. I wrote out some memories while I was at the library, childhood things I’d like to put into poem or essay, then snippets of conversations I heard, the whimpering of a tired toddler who just wanted someone to read to her but came from a family that doesn’t read and only was in the library to stay cool, argument between two people at another table about someone who was pissing them off. I left when people’s crankiness started to wear me out. I’m a natural born hermit, so being out and about so much does make me tired.

My daughter stayed the night with a kind friend, but the conditions were difficult, and she only slept two hours. She was hotter there in the air conditioned house than she would have been in my stuffy living room (her bedroom with me is upstairs, and it’s unbearably hot up there at night without a window unit).

Her night was dark and hot.

Mine was dark, warm but less hot, thrashing legs under my red sheet (I bought red sheets as a joke soon after I moved into my dreadful little house eight years ago), bad dreams.

The bad dreams make it easier for me to face my ordinary days. I laugh about them when I wake up. How can I not laugh at dreams involving David Hasselhoff competing on a talent show (and losing)?

This isn’t about poetry. This isn’t even about dark things. This is just about … life? Ordinary life.

I hope our power comes on sooner than July 8, but if it doesn’t, what can I do? Waiting is something I do pretty well. Accepting is something I’m learning.

And joy, for some reason, I feel great joy today. Maybe I’m tired. Maybe it’s that last night I had nothing better to do than sit, motionless, in the dark for a little while before I decided to go to bed and read by book light. I communicated with the still darkness. It was a great goodness.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

the one where I kind of review a film my girl and I watched last night

I borrowed three movies from the library this past week, as if I might have time to watch them. I did watch Chicago one evening when the Girl was out and I couldn't focus. I'd seen it before, of course, and had a hankering to see Richard Gere do what I think he does best (oh, that courtroom tap dance!

though I wish we could just watch the tap dance without so much courtroom).

I also borrowed Nowhere Boy, which the Girl and I have been wanting to watch due to her love of the Beatles, especially John Lennon. No time so far. We'd both like to be more awake when we pop that into the DVD player, though I may punt it up to her so that she can watch it alone when she can't sleep, maybe tonight, since she's got to get back to her dad's at some point very soon.

The third movie I borrowed was Young Adults, which stars Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt. It was written by Cody Diablo and directed by Jason Reitman, the same team that created Juno. The Girl and I couldn't quite settle after graduation (she did not graduate last night; the band plays through the ceremony. I attended because I'm fond of some of the class of 2012 band members) and very, very late dinners, so we decided to try to stay up to watch it. It was well past 10 p.m. when we started it.

This film is ... interesting. It's kind of like an Ann Hood novel in the way that the characters don't change; there is, as one reviewer put it, no character arc. That reviewer found this good, a truth, that people don't really change in reality, that character changes are something movies have taught us to expect.

Well, now, I think that's bullshit. I think people do change. Or at least can change.

Here's a brief synopsis that I didn't even steal from online:

This self-centered, "messy," depressed woman named Mavis Something, who has escaped her small hometown of Mercury, Minn., to live in the "MinniApple," where she's found "success" writing a young adult series, returns home to try to win back her high school beau, though he's happily married and has a new baby to boot. She encounters another old classmate, Matt, who is still suffering the effects of a terrible, violent crime against him that occurred during high school, and they form an oddly sweet and genuine friendship.


I'll call this film a blue/black comedy. It has moments when you think you're supposed to laugh, but instead you find yourself covering your face with your hands and shaking your head out of sheer mortification for this obviously disturbed young(ish) woman.

"She looks so much older in this movie than she did in Snow White and the Huntsman, my Girl said. "Why is that?"

"Maybe make up? Maybe she was more made up in Snow White? Do you like it? Should we keep watching it?"

"Yeah, let's keep watching it. Do I like it? I don't know. It's ... entertaining."

It is entertaining in an, "I'm so glad I'm not quite that fucked up even though I'm not exactly totally mentally healthy," sort of way.

The film is always better when Patton Oswalt (who plays the disabled Matt) is on screen. I didn't quite buy his character as being stuck in the past, though I know I was supposed to. Oswalt has such an incredible intelligence and sweetness to him, an openness that makes me feel as if I know him even more than I get to know the character Matt. (one site describes him as having "agnomen," which I understand but is a weird word, so let's just say they claim he has an "Everyman" sort of onscreen nature, while I find that he reminds me of specific people I love who are nothing like Everyman, though maybe that's what Everyman really is, that person who is so familiar to you you're sure you've known them for three decades, if you've been alive that long).

It's a strange film with an odd ending that had no resolution, really, or closure. Not that I always need a film to wrap up neatly and nicely. Fuck, sometimes my best poems end with dangly bits just dangling out there (there is one that has a resolution that needs to dangle instead to be truer to what the poem wants to be. And, yes, my poems know what they want to be even when I'm not sure. Sentient beings).

I'm glad I checked this movie out of the library and didn't pay to rent it. I'm not sorry I watched it because my daughter and I got to spend some time together, talked while we watched, caught up. I don't lightly toss away opportunities to talk to my daughter. She's so busy, and I'm so busy. Even though I didn't even kind of start to fall asleep after the film was over until close to 2 a.m., the time I spent watching Young Adult was not wasted.

But next time, a better movie? (not that this one was bad; it was just blue/black and claustrophobic).

bye now

Thursday, May 31, 2012

the one where I wait

1. last band picnic for me forEVER is now over.

2. I like the sound of "ever" and "over" in the same line. it feels like a mouthful of "r"s, like strawberry candy or something.

3. I've been home for nearly two hours, but I can't seem to settle.

4. My Girl and a gaggle (I use this word a lot) of kids are going to the midnight showing of Snow White and the Huntsman. 

5. "Can I go?" I asked when she asked my permission.

6. "No! We're teenagers. Parents aren't ever allowed to come to the movies with us!"

7. "Just kidding, mama. I love you."

8. I can't get the scent of potato salad out of my head, but at least I didn't have to serve the meat.

9. I seem to be off meat.

10. can't even stand the thought of the beef in my own bolognese sauce.

11. it's a pity.

12. I need to write some marching band poems even if they don't have the heft of the dead parents poems that I was writing last term (and the term before).

13. the band is real life, is my life, is hilarious and sometimes not hilarious.

14. I adore the kids.

15. Have I mentioned that I love teenagers?

16. Since my kid won't be home until after 2 a.m....

17. ... I might drink some coffee

18. because I'd rather wait up than wake up from a deep sleep

19. though I don't really sleep that deeply any more

20. and I wish I could remember what I was dreaming just before I woke up this morning because it was rich, read, lush (kind of like spaghetti sauce, but it didn't involve food. I think it involved cabaret).

21. My feet hurt from standing behind the food table for such a long time.

22. I did a project for the boosters (I AM a booster. I feel like I have to keep reminding myself that I'm a booster, and if I'm doing a project for the boosters, I'm doing a project for me)

23. that made the new president aware that I have certain skills

24. that he does not have and that others don't have.

25. uh oh.

26. has something to do with my ability to piece things together creatively and competently using a computer.

27. he was a little disappointed that even though I can write, I cannot draw.

28. (two different skills, dude)

29. I think I'm going to have just as much trouble saying "no" to the new president as I did to the last president.

30. Sweet man

31. with a sweet wife.

32. I signed up for things - waffle batter, chaperoning, uniforms.

33. but I put a qualifier by my name - "if school allows"

34. there's probably a poem in that.

the one where I try to break through a wall

Went on a "what if" bender a couple of days ago that suited the title of this post. The first sentence was, "What if I never write another poem?"

It wasn't a healthy line of questioning, so I deleted the words, pulled up some poems in progress, did some things offline, lived, sorted, thought about cleaning (ahahahahahaha!).

The wall is imaginary. It is made of pollen and insomnia and insecurity. I can blow it away with an asthmatic breath or scrub through it with a Mr. Clean magic eraser.

What if
what if
what if

In two hours or so, I give myself to the Band Boosters for a few hours of volunteering. It's time for the annual band picnic that kicks off the 2012-2013 marching season. I'm helping with either food service or volunteer sign-up sheets. My Girl is now a band senior, and she and her classmates are taking their jobs as leaders seriously. They will take the freshmen under their capable wings and keep the other underclassmen in line.

(wow. clichécichécliché)

Drum line.




Fundraisers (waffle wagon, waffle wagon, waffle wagon)


I reformatted and printed off all the sign-up sheets for parent volunteers.

I'm thinking I need to keep my name off all those lists.

Packet of poems for my summer residency is due June 24. I haven't written a single new poem since April. Need no fewer than 10 pages worth.

(Will I ever write another new poem?)



My Girl went to Cedar Point with the Key Club yesterday, parked her car in the high school parking lot, came back to this:

She had made a comment a couple of days ago claiming she wouldn't notice if a friend had put sticky notes all over her body. Since she was out of town, but her car wasn't, the friend decided to try to make her notice.

I love these wicked teenagers. Love them.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

after the outing

And my hands now smell like soap, finally, after two hours of smelling like onion, potato salad, meat, grease. The golf outing was, I suppose, successful. People returned from the green laughing and happy, even happier when they saw the spread the Booster mamas had put on (I am a Booster Mama).

I love these people, the band boosters. I love that they work so hard not just for their children, but also for mine. We worry about the kids whose parents neglect them, and even when those kids are difficult, we have ways of recognizing when we need to allow ourselves to spare some extra love.

Sparing extra love for a child, even a child who is a head taller and weighs a hundred pounds more and tends to break things or stop listening, is worth it. It's always worth it.

I love the Boosters, but I love their children more. In the fall, I don't know if my school workload will allow me the time to help in the intense and regular way I've been helping since my daughter was a freshman (she's about to become a senior. GAH!!!). I managed it last fall, but my professor was not that demanding (I now realize after a term with a mentor who made me feel like I was really in grad school, bless her, and I mean that). This coming fall, I need to keep writing poems toward a thesis and also have to pound out at least 20 pages of a major critical paper.

I keep joking and saying I can pound out 20 pages in three hours.

And I can.

But not quality writing, not well researched and well thought, not formal, not organized.

I can't wait to dive in.

My Girl is off to Subway with two friends. She took a pasta salad with her. Something happened earlier at another friend's house that she doesn't want to talk about.

So I won't. We won't, you and I, discuss my daughter.

I ate a hotdog for lunch. I eat one hotdog a year, so that's it for me. When the band picnic comes up at the end of the month, I'll just be eating pasta salad and chips, I suppose.

My body is rejecting meat. Or maybe meat is rejecting my body.

There's a poem in this.

I started writing it two days ago.

I keep starting various poems because I have so many I want to tackle, but I am distracted, and I haven't been able to focus through to a completed draft, not even a completed shitty draft. I'll pick one in a little while and stick with it until Monday.

For now, I need to be domestic. I need to run a load of laundry.

And boy do I need a nap.

the one where I dash out words and then dash out the door

7:28 a.m. My daughter sleeps. I'm glad. She was thinking about joining a friend at our farmer's market, was going to help her "sell shit or something. Someone in her family makes stuff, and Friend helps sell it at the farmer's market."

The friend makes stuff, too. I hope she's selling her quirky little treasures.

I am off to a golf outing this morning.

What's a golf outing?

Really, I'd like to know.

The Band Boosters (I'm a band a booster) are sponsoring the outing as a fundraiser to help us pay off the new uniforms. People pay to play. There are all these little tweaks or prizes or whatnots.

To me, golf is like some alien being's form of performance art. I have never understood it, not even when I had a couple of days of golf class during college gym. I found the grip unnatural and the club oddly angry.

I'm going to the golf outing as a worker bee, food staff. I've got tomatoes and onions to slice up, a huge rectangle of sliced American cheese, baked beans, etc., all of which I will load into my little car after I do something with my terrible road of hair that's likely to get me more lost than I would be if I were bald.

This will all be over by 11 or 12, and I can come back here to think about that poem that wanted me to start it. It's about a man I used to know. Thinking of trying a persona poem, though I don't relish climbing into this man's head to find his voice.

Odd man.

Broken man.

I didn't know him well, but I knew him well enough to know that after my daughter was born, when I encountered him and his girlfriend (who was my good friend) at a concert at the college, my girl in my arms, and he reached out to touch her hand, I recoiled, and made sure his fingers did not touch her baby skin.

"Recoil" is not a word I use often.

I have no time to be here. But I needed to write this morning, a freewrite. Boring maybe.

At some point after I get used to writing out loud here, I'll stop apologizing for my posts. If they are boring, people won't read them, and that's fine.

It's all practice anyway.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Girl didn't tell me the drain was clogged after she took her shower this morning.

Had been slow
portents of hair rats growing in the pipes

oceans of hair rats
slimy, nude black tails
flicking across my Soft Scrub clean tub

The plunger does its job first
sucks out a clump of schmutz that's the exact size and shape of that rat I once saw in an alley in Texas in the neighborhood
a little too close to the train tracks

but I don't trust the plunger
it's too carefree

I take apart the outer bits and pieces of tub plumbing - the drain in the tub's body

the lead into the wall where the stopper is

is the true access to those tunnels of muck and hair mice

My auger is broken
though it works
if I work it right

it's just too difficult for me to shove and spin and twist, then watch it spit and fling where the black bit won't stay attached to the other black bit
bend in the pipe ridiculous and too sharp
like some bend in a terrible
mountain road

My knees sore on the hard floor despite the old towel I use for a cushion.

I will buy a new auger, the kind I can attach to my drill to make an electric auger.

I will be professional

This means Lowe's, that terrifying store where the employees all look official and competent but refuse to meet a desperate woman's eyes

when she is lost in the plumbing repair section.

I know what I want.

I've done this before.

I will churn through the bowels even though the drain is now draining more smoothly, the plunger did its job,

joyful job

a temporary fix, though.

My Girl will be home in less than an hour.

I will put the bathroom back together and wipe the rust stains and pipe rat droppings from the tub

bleach, baby, bleach

rubber gloves

yellow and new now soiled

I'll buy the auger a little later
soil my sore knees tomorrow

It's a beautiful day out there

there's a village of angry memories in my pipes

somewhere, someone is cutting down a tree

and I hear the ocean in my bathroom fan

Sunday, May 13, 2012

a Sunday in May

Special day? Mother's Day? Mother every day even when my Girl isn't here. Felt her first flicker in me around July 1994, those little fetus feet slamming against the walls of me. So grateful to have her.

As a daughter, well, I'm not one any more, though you could argue that I suppose. Once born to someone, whether they live or die, you're still theirs, right?

Nope. That's not the way it feels. Gone is gone.

But not.

I feel my mother constantly and recognize her in my reactions to the world, see her in the mirror, hear her when I laugh or my daughter laughs. So. I'll argue with myself about this motherless mongrel business. I am a daughter, I had a mother, she is gone, I'm not a daughter, I am, I'm not, I am, I'm not.

Both true. Both lies.

Words are lying assholes.

Everything is making me cry today. A post on Facebook by my daughter's best friend still has me crying. Her mother died when she was 13. She's now nearly 17. She's a beautiful girl, so articulate, so aware of what she had while she had it, what she doesn't have now that her mother is gone.

Motherless mongrel?

My own daughter treated me to surprises last night: a batch of what she called chocolate muffins (really just cupcakes without the frosting because she knows I don't like frosting) that she baked at a friend's house, a bouquet of fake flowers (fake because she knows our cat eats real ones), a bag of Ghirardelli's Dark Cocoa squares. Little things that mean something to me, proof that she knows me and sees me even when she's rushing out the door to live her lovely life.

We will invade her father's house later this afternoon. I'm bringing my own pasta sauce; he's supplying rolls, salad, maybe some wine. "We'll have family time," my daughter says. And even though we're a weird family, two separate houses, connected mostly by our past and this child of ours, we are a family.

So. I feel great joy today because I have my beautiful daughter in my life, but I also feel great sorrow for all my motherless friends or friends who are not mothers and are sad about it, and because I miss my own mother fiercely even after 18 1/2 years.

This is the way my life wants to be. Joy and sorrow sitting next to each other, touching, noise and color turning to some kind of funny, sad song.

so there.

Friday, May 11, 2012

no title

I want to write like no one is watching because that's when I am best able to get to the heart of things. I write to learn and to communicate, to connect. I can't seem to write free, though. I feel self-conscious and kind of stupid even for trying to keep a blog I insist isn't a blog.

I've been writing in an online "diary" for more than twelve years. I started in February 2000 just as my little family and I were in the process of moving from the Yale house to the pink house. I was still administering my father's trust, was spending gobs of time with my preschooler, was working hard not to fail in my marriage. I was writing a novel, writing poems, doing some freelance editing. I was busy and sad. I missed my father, was trying to allow myself to grieve peacefully, but the trust work overwhelmed me, and every fresh chore created a fresh wound. I discovered that diary site through a grief discussion board, I think, followed some really angry women who hated one other grieving woman to the hated woman's diary (grief does weird things to people, sometimes makes them mean), started reading her and was smitten with the process of writing true in partial publicity. (She's a lovely writer. I still read her.)

That website. Wow. It's gone through some changes, and I suspect won't be around much longer because its owner has a "real" job now and can't be arsed to take care of his space. He's just one man (with three volunteer "admins") trying to take care of what? Let me check the number of members (some paying members, some not). Ah. Close to 400,000 members, but that could be inaccurate since he doesn't much update.

That's not what this is about. I'm trying to convince myself to make the transition from writing privately to writing publicly. Why? Because I want to. I have things to share beyond the poems I'm writing for school. When I decided to start the MFA, my mantra was "Be open; be brave." I want to extend that beyond school, beyond poetry.

The blog is so different from the diary, though. Writing in the diary is like stretching or like chatting with a friend over coffee. Writing in this blog is like giving a speech to a roomful of critics without realizing I have spinach between my teeth or my skirt is caught up in my pantyhose, and I moon the room when I turn around (true story. not the speech part, but the mooning a roomful of people, teenagers, actually. yes, yes, I am a true dork and proud. those teenagers still love me).

Even though only about five people wander by to read here, I feel protective of the "characters" I normally write about easily in that less public space, including myself. I'd like to figure out a way to be open and brave without sacrificing security (I am a contradiction - a private person prone to too much self-disclosure). May not be possible.

Today, I just want to write here, straight in the window, no writing in Word and then copying and pasting. I want to allow myself to write about anything, about cold feet, about how my coffee tastes funny today, about Band Boosters, about plastic wrap, about my husband's new Corvette, my desire for a second tattoo (another one my daughter designed), how I love my changing/aging body, the section poem about lizards I thought I'd have finished by now, walking, sun.

The dog a couple of houses up the street has been barking all morning. I like him, though. He's a good dog. I don't mind his barking. I can hear him clearly from my bedroom, but not as well from this study. I want to hug his big head and tell him everything will be fine.

So, I was going to try something with this blog, thought it was time, but I was wrong. I will wait until I feel braver, less sad about some of the shifts in my life, less inclined to be hyper-sensitive. I'll get there eventually.

Sometimes words are lying assholes. What I write here or anywhere is true, maybe, in the moment I write it. But it might not be true tomorrow. Sometimes what I write is nothing. The words are just words.

wild onion

just words.

the end.

Monday, May 7, 2012

just words

more loss
more thunder


waging a war against myself lately. I say, "Why aren't you writing?" then pound out journal paragraphs on my laptop. I see an old woman when I look in the mirror. I'm not ready to be her, so I won't be her. I have poems that need writing and revising, friends' words I want to read so that I can comment in a helpful way.

the urge to sleep has been greater than the urge to write or to do anything, really.

I'll see my way to wakefulness soon. Exercise will help if I can only work through aching joints and motivational problems. Who do I live for?

That's the stupidest question I've ever asked. Also, I ended that sentence/question with a preposition. No gold star for me.

My daughter will be home from school soon. Or she will text me and tell me she is going off to do something with someone before she comes home. No, I am wrong about that last bit. She just walked in the back door.

So. Without proofing, I will post this and hope no one reads. Or hope someone reads and sees something that matters to them.

Something in you matters to something/someone in me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

school work and recovery

writing about a Laura Kasischke poem today for one of my "critical papers." Writing about "Fatima," which is a poem I love so much I dreamed it last night. I almost could have written the poem (and i can be self-deprecating here where I'm not in class (which is just a discussion board) and won't annoy anyone but you, and you don't read, really, so it's all right) except that I don't yet have her skill.

Every time I read this poem, I crawl inside it like I'm crawling into the back seat of a car that a friend is driving. I'm going on a journey with a bunch of drunk girlfriends. Have I ever been on a journey with drunk girlfriends? Kind of. I've been to plenty of seedy carnivals, and I have carnie stories to tell, but none of these stories is as interesting as Kasischke's story, and I know this isn't true because what seems uninteresting to me about my life might seem quirky and astounding to someone else, especially if I write it well.

She writes it well.

She twists me around throughout the poem, starts with what seems like a theological statement, "God exists," and then completely leaves the church and enters the "festival of mud." Which could be a ritual of mud, a liturgy of mud (I know I'm rather fond of the word "liturgy"; it seems to be one of the things that keeps me grounded even though I don't go to church).

"Instead/we are a group of teenage girls, drunk/at one of those awful/carnivals in a field..."

Instead of staying home and thinking about the fact that God exists, the girls decide to get drunk and live recklessly in the rain. I know something awful might happen because the poet tells me something awful might happen. It's an "awful" carnival. I have been to plenty of awful carnivals. I've had toothless ride operators flirt with me and tell me they like my hair while I'm standing there with my 3 year old. I've had cute, smoke saturated game hawkers propose marriage to me while I'm surrounded by a group of friends. Why? I don't know. It doesn't really matter. It's the scene that matters. It's what could happen in the scene almost more than what does happen in the scene.


I will steal the above for the essay and continue writing on it, at least until noon when I'm tired of it and just need to let it go. At 4:30 p.m., my professor will call, and we will talk about my third packet of poems. I just read through it for the first time since I sent it last Wednesday. It's not as dreadful as I thought, and I think that if I can get myself to avoid being frozen or distracted or fucking lazy, I'll be able to take what I've done and make it all into work that would be thesis-worthy.

I like this idea of a poem being "thesis-worthy." The thesis will be a collection of my best.

It's still only March, and we have weeks left of class, but I feel it winding toward an ending. I am looking toward those two and a half months in the summer when I will add to my stash of poems. So many poems. I'm proud of myself for writing so much, for continuing to write even when I feel like I'm failing. When one is a poet, failing doesn't seem to matter in the process. I write anyway because I have to write.


I am damned tired though I went to bed before 1 a.m., took a nap yesterday afternoon, even slept for a bit this morning after my daughter went to school. So much stress in our lives right now. It's not huge, ugly stress, just ordinary stress, the kind that builds up until little things like getting lost in a city we're trying to leave makes me cry in front of my 17-year-old daughter.

I fear I've turned her more neurotic than she might have been if I'd been a "stiff upper lip" sort of person.

But I decided many years ago to be who and what I am even if who and what i am is sometimes a neurotic, self-deprecating asshole.

Monday, March 19, 2012

like no one is watching

three-minute shower
dash to the band room
pizza parties to treat kids for their hard work and excellent contest scores

I don't have time
but I don't have a "real" job
so they call
even though I have hours
and hours and
hours of work to do toward this week's poetry packet for school

and hours

power nap refreshed

I'm better

but I need to take that three-minute shower starting right now

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

just a post between posts and things

I should be writing poems or posting responses to books or thinking up my next critical essay topic.


I should be stripping beds or running to the store for fresh raspberries (my girl's favorite fruit right now) or vacuuming the living room around her stacks of art supplies and drawings.

But I am distracted and can't seem to focus.

I started writing some drivel that i thought would become a poem that I might have posted on my class discussion board, but it's overwrought and over-written.

This morning I piece together a lunch for my daughter while she still sleeps.
The raspberries are spoiled, green-rot etched into their floral edges.
This early spring reminds me of death, and I smell the decay in my flowerbeds and on my own skin.

I am not a fan of spring. Spring overwhelms me with things growing too quickly, the asthma it triggers, the mud and dirt and need to pay someone to mow since I am allergic to grass. Life is too busy, and I always have insomnia in the spring.

By the anniversary of my father's death in early June, I'll be exhausted and sad.

or not.

I have opportunities coming up that make me happy though they don't make me any money. On March 31, I'm auditioning to read poems at the Columbus Arts Festival in early June. I just need to pick five minutes worth and start memorizing around writing poems for class, around reading, around house and child and volunteering and out-of-town trips.

It's so sunny today, so warm. I missed winter. We didn't really have one here. When we lived in Texas, winter was a rarity, but here, I've gotten used to the idea of hunkering down under blankets and wearing socks to bed. My skin needs to be frozen before it can thaw. It does feel as if I'm rotting from the inside out.

Ah well.

Back to work with me. I've got a poem spinning around in my head so fast that I can't quite make out its words, though I think I see its structure.

It's a pretty structure. I just hope it doesn't suck as much as I always think my work sucks (my work doesn't suck; it's just part of my process to think it does).

Later, I might try to tackle the second Scintilla prompt for today though I'm feeling so old that I can't remember any of my "firsts." Hm. That's a lie. I've had some recent firsts that I could ponder.


In case you are wondering, I do not consider this a real blog; I consider it a journal.

Scintilla, Day 1, prompt 1

The Scintilla Project

Who am I?

I am sagging breasts and age-spotted face. I am white hair, chin hair, elbow hair.

I am 16 in my taste buds.
I am motherless at 35.
I am orphaned at 40.

And now I am 53.

I am dust and pasta sauce, socially-awkward-pansy-pinko-liberal-pacifist-recluse-shy-girl-celibate-happy.

I am memory of grassy hills and the itch that came after rolling down one just before it was time to bathe at night in spring in Maryland, still my 8-year-old self under my skin, skin still allergic.

I am mother.

I am poetry student, editor, writer, laughter, volunteer.

I sing psalms to my empty house, but only when I believe. I don’t always believe.

I am maple tree and clover and wild onion and broken branches scattered over a muddy, thin-grassed yard.

I am dirty siding and Greek meatballs and the word “Yes.” Too rarely the word “No.”

I am never spring.

I am often late.

I am phone-phobic and bad with money, and I like your mouth and the color of your eyes and how you tilt your head to the side when you listen to me listening to you.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


It's Thursday of my spring break week, which means my professor is likely to start posting assignments and suggestions as early as Saturday to get us back into the semester.

Here is what I've done this week of rest:

- I've read more fiction than poetry (what a lovely indulgence!)
- I've written bilge
- I've slept
- I've watched a couple of films I hadn't seen
- I've hung out with my daughter when she's been home
- I've clipped the cat's claws
- thought about scrubbing down my bedroom
- thought about tackling the mounds of paper in my study
- thought about the fiction book I will write on when I'm finished with my MFA
- thought about a project that I hope won't cost me too much money but might be a grand way to get the area youth interested in poetry without forcing them to sit inside and write with a "practicing" poet though maybe they won't feel forced if they understand that when I say writing with a practicing poet, I mean, I write with them and share my process with them and show them how I - personally - get from A to C to M to Z (though Z is usually a hard destination for me to find)

So far, I haven't submitted poems to the two journals I vowed I would target, but I have the rest of today and tomorrow. If I'm going to take my work seriously, I have to send it out. I have to give the work and myself the respect we deserve.

So I will.

I also haven't read the next collection on our syllabus by Robert Dana (well, I've started, and I feel kind of terrible, but I don't like his poems at all, and he is gone from us and has a prize named after him, and from everything I've heard or read was a really nice guy. Makes me feel bad that I don't like his poems so far), nor have I read the next chapters in our "text" book, though I have read a few more poems in the "Next Generation" anthology.

I've been a sloth.


It's pretty much spring here, which means I feel like crap physically but am energized mentally. Once the clock changes over on Sunday, I will fall into Insomnia Land. Because this is an Annual Event, I'm prepared and won't fight it. If I don't fight it, I might find that I can sleep. If I can't sleep, I have other things I can do in the middle of the night that will keep me productive and happy.


I have been writing poems about my father, about grief, about family (? - liar). I'm drafting one in my mother's voice. Or - hm. I'm not sure whose voice it's in yet, but it promises to be both sad and funny if I can make it work. I'm worried it will be too "big," that I'll lose the vision, that I'll try to toss in the kitchen sink.

Here's my next step in the writing of this poem: take out the word "worry" and emphasize the word "write."


I'm going to participate in a very cool prompt project starting next week (Wednesday, March 14) that a friend dreamed up with two of her friends. I don't have time, but the prompts aren't poetry-related from what I understand (though I'm sure I could make anything into a poem if I felt like it since I'm so much in poetry mode). They are story-telling prompts. Since I write every day whether I'm writing poetry or not, I thought I'd take my daily free write time and hand it over to The Scintilla Project: a fortnight of story sharing. (Now, you have to love anyone who uses the word "fortnight" and "story" on the same line and gets away with it.)


It's raining.
I hear a siren.
I hear my mother's voice telling me a story about her dating days.
I want to get out her costume jewelry and lay it out on top of my quilt, touch the shoe clips, imagine what sort of dress she might have worn to go out, whether the story she tells is from before or after her first husband died (before, I'm almost certain. Since I can't ask her, I'll just decide that is so).

Sometimes I forget my parents' faces, but I rarely forget the sounds of their voices.


(Just in case you were wondering, and in the interest of clarification, I do not consider this a true blog; I consider it a journal.)

Monday, January 2, 2012

I will write free or burst (one)

Shower runs. Stuff in house builds itself up on top of stuff in house. Last day off before my daughter's next semester of high school begins. I have one more week before my next semester of grad school begins. I have not used this time off wisely to catch up by writing reams of new poems as I'd planned. I turned into a pudgy sloth, physically and mentally.

Ho ho ho.

Snow last night and today, light. Just licks the streets and yards, tips the cars. Tonight and tomorrow may be worse, but "worse" is relative.

I miss my relatives, but not all relatives. I miss my sister (and her family) and my brothers (and their families). Sometimes I feel as if I'm no longer a part of any family at all except my two and a half person family here in Ohio.

If I stretch my fingers out as far as the tendons and skin will allow, I might be able to touch my sister's face.

The coffee is strong. I love the way it feels thick on my tongue.

I will say this once to get it out of the way and then get out of my own way as soon as my semester starts: I'm terrified about this next semester, worried I will not be able to prove myself better than the professor thinks I am or could be. I am older than she is and probably have been writing longer, but not writing poetry longer, not writing poetry in the mindful way that she writes poetry. I'll just have to keep reminding myself to Be Open; be brave. I can and have and will and want to and when I allow the work itself, the poems themselves, to be in control, oh, such joy!

What will I do with this MFA when I'm done? It doesn't really matter.

I'm supposed to begin teaching some workshops Jan. 23, but I don't think they'll make. I could probably make them make.

The shower has stopped. My daughter is done or will be soon.

My eyes are gluey, but I feel all right today, not too tired, not too panicked, happy enough, healthy enough (if a little plumper than I like).

I feel like posting a minor disclaimer here or reminder: this is not a blog; it's a journal.


ps - Oh God! The sound of my child laughing as she Skypes with her dear friend warms me. She needs this laughter.