Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gratitude Gazelles & Giraffes in the Shape of Babies & Baby-Aunts

A day yesterday, good workshop, strange cakes and a nice story about a gazelle clock. Thank you world for your various kindnesses.

Dinner at my favorite Mexican joint--half-cafe/half-pinatas-strung-from-the-ceiling-grocery. Today is a long walk, some writing, more friend-time and the paying of November's too-many bills on November's too-little funds. I splurged a little: new, wonderful lamp, and a pencil skirt with giraffe print.

Even Monday's faculty meeting is nearly instantly-redeemed by a very-looked-forward-to lunch at a quiet Japanese place near Dublin. (That sounds so international.)

Confession of the Oak Tree

I would shed my leaves in an instant,
If I could shake their delicate skeletons

off my frame, those brittle reminders
of last season's small failures.

I want to be bare and unencumbered.
Strip me naked; my rough bark

no longer shames me the way it used to.
Leave smooth skin to the saplings,

tender and thin, yet to survive
the droughts and floods I have weathered.

Sheath me in gnarled knobs and dimples,
a woody armor thick enough

to protect the sap I used to spill
at the peck of every careless bird.

Copyright © 2009 Alice Pettway All rights reserved
from Barbed Wire and Bedclothes

Friday, October 30, 2009

Some of These Flowers Put Off Light

No mummy cake for us

but I did find a green alien cat cake with bloodshot plastic eyeballs. A good workshop was had by all and as you well-know by now: there is no bad time for frosting or tenderness.

"It could be just me though,

because I'm not a big fan of suicide."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Enough, enough and in plenty
There will be three books at my obsequies
Which I take, my not unworthy gift, to Persephone.

You will follow the bare scarified breast
Nor will you be weary of calling my name, nor too

To place the last kiss on my lips
When the Syrian onyx is broken

--Ezra Pound, of course

I can't help but love the Cantos, even if parts of their maker trouble me. Such music. "Not deeds, but hopes" I heard them described but I think they are poetry with a capital P. Yummy musics.
Gathering my Personal Affections

into my best samsonite, or into the board room
for the required haircut. Misheard or mistaken,

my personal affections look back at me benignly
like a boy reaching for the wrong wrist at the store

looking up with a face that started to say Mommy.
My personal affections roam harmless or hungry,

harried or pointed, sarcastic and sad. They run
in packs some nights, more like bison than cattle,

like large frightened waterbirds on legs jointed
as flowers, I watch for as much as out for them.

(In honor of my students and their wonderfully-strange brains. I see a mummy cake in your future or some eyeball cupcakes.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"I'm sorry I was late

I chopped half my finger off."

"My aunt's name is Delilah, she has plastic surgery."

Student quotes for October 28.

Rainy Days & Mad Greeks

and lovely Italians.

Woke up early to get ready all that oregano of a day and plans changed, so I thought (as L wrote to charge that I have not been keep her updated) I would write a little, post some poems in honor of such grayness. (It's that one sky--you know the one--dirty-sheet in color and not at all inviting.)

Made soup last night and the cumin-smell is still hanging around in the kitchen.
The cumin smell reminds me of Salt Lake and long lunches at the Indian buffet. And the cold--that weekend in the cabin,the pride I felt in serving soup in bread bowls. Funny.

Loving the new protein mix, today's special smoothie was lemon creme. A little dash of lemon extract and lots of pure vanilla, some flax oil. And my favorite coffee. The day begins all lemon creme and chocolate velvet and low on the promised-oregano, so I'll clean my apartment, run some dishes and laundry and at long last, drop off the recycling.

For now, an offering:

Why I Can't Cook for Your Self-Centered Architect Cousin

Because to me a dinner table's like a bed--
without love, it's all appetite and stains. Let's buy
take-out for your cousin, or order pizza--his toppings--

but I can't lift a spatula to serve him what I am.
Instead, invite our favorite misfits over: I'll feed
shaggy Otis, who after filet mignon, raised his plate

and sipped merlot sauce with such pleasure
my ego pardoned his manners. Or I'll call Mimi,
the chubby librarian, who paused over tiramisu--

"I haven't felt so satisfied since..." then cried
into its curls of chocolate. Or Randolph might stop by,
who once, celebrating his break-up with the vegetarian,

so packed the purse seine of his wiry body with shrimp
he unbuttoned his jeans and spent the evening
couched, "waiting for the swelling to go down."

Or maybe I'll cook for us. I'll crush the pine nuts
unhinged from the cones prickly shingles.
I'll whittle the parmesan, and if I grate a knuckle

it's just more of me in my cooking. I'll disrobe
garlic cloves of rosy sheaths, thresh the basil
till moist and liberate the oil. Then I'll dance

that green joy through the fettucine, a tumbling,
leggy dishy we'll imitate, after dessert.
If my embrace detects the five pounds you win

each year, you will merely seem a generous
portion. And if you bring my hand to your lips
and smell the garlic that lingers, that scents

the sweat you lick from the hollows of my clavicles,
you're tasting the reason that I can't cook
for your cousin--my saucy, my strongly seasoned love.

--Beth Ann Fennelly

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy One Month Birthday You Bad, Little Man!

My nephew, the dignified Baby Evan George McKinnon is one whole month old today.

It's your world, E and everything so shiningly-possible.

Thank you for being. Your Auntie-S

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Favorite Student Quote of the Week

"Can I take off early? I left a pot of minestrone cooking."

And we were in-class writing and he had the assignment and is laser-bright and beyond and so off he went and today brought me minestrone just when mechanics and panics (various, various--and can you tell I've been teaching Love Song again?) had had their way with me this Thurs Day and it was barely halfway through.

To good minestrone and meridians. To mechanics on Parsons Avenue who are attempting to save me from this rude wake-up call. Huzzah!
How to Like It

These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns
is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.
A man and a dog descend their front steps.
The dog says, Let's go downtown and get crazy drunk.
Let's tip over all the trash cans we can find.
This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.
But in his sense of the season, the man is struck
by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories
which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid
until it seems he can see remembered faces
caught up among the dark places in the trees.
The dog says, Let's pick up some girls and just
rip off their clothes. Let's dig holes everywhere.
Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud
crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,
he says to himself, a movie about a person
leaving on a journey. He looks down the street
to the hills outside of town and finds the cut
where the road heads north. He thinks of driving
on that road and the dusty smell of the car
heater, which hasn't been used since last winter.
The dog says, Let's go down to the diner and sniff
people's legs. Let's stuff ourselves on burgers.
In the man's mind, the road is empty and dark.
Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,
where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,
shine like small cautions against the night.
Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.
The dog says, Let's go to sleep. Let's lie down
by the fire and put our tails over our noses.
But the man wants to drive all night, crossing
one state line after another, and never stop
until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.
Then he'll pull over and rest awhile before
starting again, and at dusk he'll crest a hill
and there, filling a valley, will be the lights
of a city entirely new to him.
But the dog says, Let's just go back inside.
Let's not do anything tonight. So they
walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.
How is it possible to want so many things
and still want nothing? The man wants to sleep
and wants to hit his head again and again
against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?
But the dog says, Let's go make a sandwich.
Let's make the tallest sandwich anyone's ever seen.
And that's what they do and that's where the man's
wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator
as if into the place where the answers are kept—
the ones telling why you get up in the morning
and how it is possible to sleep at night,
answers to what comes next and how to like it.
Stephen Dobyns

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"And here I am transporting you to the outskirts of my life--an unwanted animal.
And there, I am holding us over the fire--treat or captive. And once,
you wandered indoors, the palace grounds your playground, the button that made
the gates open and close warmed to your touch and the passersby looked up
at the windows glowing with glowing and kept walking. And now, I place you
there, in the scene with the extras, and I draw a bath, a small boy and girl stick-figured and holding a withered-balloon, a conclusion, the blinds, and (is it your) shadow there
where I thought I would never place it, flickering a little, but from this distance, it's terribly hard to say."
A. Montreal, from After Alls
The Second Slaughter
Achilles slays the man who slayed his friend, pierces the corpse
behind the heels and drags it
behind his chariot like the cans that trail
a bride and groom. Then he lays out
a banquet for his men, oxen and goats
and pigs and sheep; the soldiers eat
until a greasy moonbeam lights their beards.

The first slaughter is for victory, but the second slaughter is for grief—
in the morning more animals must be killed
for burning with the body of the friend. But Achilles finds
no consolation in the hiss and crackle of their fat;
not even heaving four stallions on the pyre
can lift the ballast of his sorrow.

And here I turn my back on the epic hero—the one who slits
the throats of his friend’s dogs,
killing what the loved one loved
to reverse the polarity of grief. Let him repent
by vanishing from my concern
after he throws the dogs onto the fire.
The singed fur makes the air too difficult to breathe.

When the oil wells of Persia burned I did not weep
until I heard about the birds, the long-legged ones especially
which I imagined to be scarlet, with crests like egrets
and tails like peacocks, covered in tar
weighting the feathers they dragged through black shallows
at the rim of the marsh. But once

I told this to a man who said I was inhuman, for giving animals
my first lament. So now I guard
my inhumanity like the jackal
who appears behind the army base at dusk,
come there for scraps with his head lowered
in a posture that looks like appeasement,
though it is not.

Lucia Perillo

Friday, October 16, 2009

Contemplating a Drive Away

that highway feeling, the clearing of the cobwebs.

I have been thinking about seasons with people, seasoning with someone the first time (cardamom, ginger, paprika, aside) and how the first winter is something special that always rewrites winter anew, and fall, favorite season, only made more lovely by the shared color of leaves.

Of leaves: there is this. It's been a long time since I had more than a season with a someone. My first Columbus friend was a late-February find and by summer, gone. This past summer had me waiting to winter-away with someone and now it's cold. And I am thinking of the seasons in Alabama, how smoothly they glided one into the next and how hard so many things were, but the constant months of Riverside Drive, the knowledge that winter would come and no one would go, seems to me now a kind of crazy paradise of riches.

So it's the characters, frozen in place and waiting that I have been turning back to these days. Naomi: laughing when one story opens and laughing still, I have been unable to find her a way out. Elsa, based on a dream-name of a child someone and I never had, and a woman, no younger than eighty-something, but luminous--I mean it--whom I saw in a wonderful, funky movie theatre in Atlanta and who began The Things that Rain Touches in me so many years ago. I have returned to it, armed with a friend's story of her own great-aunt and a way to finish. And these new stories: some stardust in their dust motes, I can feel it. And the novel, the essays: all my life's work and all backburnered while the world and its flimsy characters runs my months through a wringer and for what? Not enough. I am feeling that conviction again to silence the phone and winter-in with the only people I am certain will hold to their words.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Feeling of home, feeling of home.
Caramel should not be pushed to a point of bitterness.
This mind half shell of Jordan almond,
half idea of a spiritual home.
Living in attics for a decade, I looked
down through snow at passersby.
Fingerling potatoes dying in a drawer,
I saw crumbled border trees throw
yellow money at the sky: each metropolis
never trying to catch anyone as he fell.
I really believed better everything's exposed
conglomerate rock, that makeshift showroom tub
barely big enough to stand but not turn around in.
We could pearl gray snow flung like the dead.
I could soap bar silver without wasting a drop.
Used to be, the historical hysterically renovated
Boston Commons, pink dough heads lining the prow
of a tree ornament, Faneuil hall
pronounced Daniel full of humid women,
the affluenza professors: was the light wrong?
My bad, bad faith in rivers poured rain
a useless windshield. But now to lay eyes on
straw-colored and beer-colored brick
thread-like gradations of ochre color,
a milk grey everything finished, even a small chip of lilac
sky sliding across each eye. It might be the cold.
I heard of a painter who decided she would do without color--
paint animals without color. Or fruits. Used to be, I'd
understand that decision to waste not even a tube of red
and now I can't take it; I can't take the thought
of the actress who'd said
she planned to starve herself to nothing
then rebuild with solid muscle. Each fever
wants to self-swaddle with precision.
This isn't about a lacquered boutique but a for-once
rise-up feeling nothing is missing, the mind
a candy dish with a ridge across the bowl. The feeling
nothing is missing the mind. Eating red delicious
apples one after another that had once tasted bitter.
The car driving uselessly a route the shape of a square.
Pale blue arrows on the Tom-Tom a reason for going
going off-route. Holding up traffic five hours to throw an ascetic
off a bridge. Trundling between knot and go. Suddenly,
in the right place. I gaze at the absurd alikeness of two
shining pints of water: one bubbled, one still.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Back from Tampa

& baby Evan: much-missed already. It's odd how someone so small can take such hold.

I am cleaning the proverbial porch, as well as the literal one. It's a good season for me: fall.

There are things one can't hold onto and it's good to have a season that reminds.
It's late, I'm wistful or it's early and I'm certain, either way...

I keep falling like the rain, you've got your umbrella in my way.