Monday, February 28, 2011

Siberian Real Lives

If not for having played one video game all the way through and finding that game to be nothing shy of sheer art, I could now issue a blanket statement regarding video games and how I believe they put people's lives in a deep freeze, but not one that preserves them fresh and whole, but one that makes for conditions unlivable for flesh and blood.

Upon first moving to Ohio, I dated someone briefly who was addicted to that other world--Any. Other. World. He was in despair about his life and acheivements but couldn't stand to be in his life--the one outside the computer--long enough to make any changes. The relationship would not have been a holding one for so many reasons, but to watch how he submerged himself in anywhere else, was painful to see and it was honestly beyond me: a huge fan of day-to-dayness: the varying skies, anticipating breakfast, good music, perfume, watching the neon streak of a bluebird as it crossed the dead winter yard.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Torrentially or "what spills blood spills spirit" indeed

A great weekend birthdaying my BFF and enjoying a beautiful dinner in Kentucky. Tonight it's all indoors and thunderstorms and tomorrow, alas, a faculty meeting.

The second collection is nowhere near ready to go out tomorrow so I wish I had been better about setting aside some editing time. I have been teaching the WWI crowd in Poetry of Witness & Survival and from that, I bring you this excellent bit on Wilfred Owen:

Friday, February 25, 2011

“Every good love story has another love hiding within it.”


Waiting for the snowplow to drive by so that I can get my nephew's recorded book in the mail. I miss him terribly these days. I am long overdue for a visit.

In other news: I put buttermilk in my coffee this morning. Distraction, you evil cohort. I am about to finish filling out my faculty enrichment grant and with luck, I will have contest entry fees and postage enough for the season.

I am still high on the Arctic Zero. Coffee is their best flavor, though Vanilla Maple with kosher salt or luscious Trader Joe's raisin medley and rum extract makes for a fine faux Haagen Das Rum Raisin.

I am driving us all crazy with the color swatches. The living room is not going to be apricot and the kitchen moves from a color called soft drizzle to a creamy honeydew mix. I never thought I could drive myself crazy with the range between Fresque and Pure Periwinkle or that now, evil Martha Stewart has a color called tin that is the softest buff aluminum you ever saw. See? Madness! Here is a taste of Rainwater: Martha Stewart rainwater

Here is a cool vintage kitchen in many of the colors that I have to work with in mine. And here is room in a shade of blue that I adore and that M just cannot like. These are our challenges: color and food incompatabilities. There are worse things.

But I got a great new set of photos from a student at my school and upon posting one at facebook, I feel like I am right to think that it would make a great author photo. Too bad the new books aren't making the rounds or getting much love when they do. I forgot how much patience the process requires. Still, it must be done. I think of Julianna Baggott's output, she with her academic job, her successful marriage, her nom de plumes, her four kids, her so-much life squeezed into this one lifetime, and I am ashamed.

Speaking of: I cannot wait to get my hands on Bridget Asher's Provence Cure for the Broken-Hearted. The one quote from it has been really resonant lately with the new life, home and the way that I am so happy about my big old Bear's life too and that his daughter and his girls all are more love and happiness in my life, too. And M: well, some days M just stands for miracle or madness and most days it is both.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Information Paradox, Event Horizons

and the smear of the self on the lip of a black hole. Or universes like sneeches in a Seuss book but instead of stars on their bellies, there would be universes with black holes and some that have not. Just watched a special on Stephen Hawking and felt like my own brain is the size of one particle of finely-ground glitter comparatively. My old friend and momentary roommate used to try and explain Hawking's theories to me and the beauty and elegance of some equations. Those talks captured my imagination and I would rush out to write poems that made some pretty facile connection between science/math and some emotional or aesthetic calculus. In retro., the ideas were naive, but I enjoyed how my mind went all teakettle-whistle when I thought I found common ground between the theoretical, intricate space of ideas I understood barely and could prove less and the playground of invention that writing could be for me. It was fun to think that way and I was like a little kid tugging at my friend's sleeve and asking about this concept or that, string theory, Schrodenger's cat.
Anyway, after that spring day--wasn't it just two days ago? tonight finds my world all whitewashed and my commute an ice capade of cars. It feels unreal enough for me to release the thought-tangle of ruminating about S.H. and the nostalgia of recalling how I used to work everything that caught my ear or eye into my writing. For now, this too-often-insomniac is going to wish for the pull of the black hole of slumber.

Shovel of Rain

Another rain-drenched day, soaked through to its bones with drizzle. Outside a tipped shovelful of rainwater. Inside, a strawberry-shaped timer goes off and four brown hard-boiled eggs, crisp in their starched-jackets are rinsed cold, then placed in the Hall refrigerator box that I got in a set of three perwinklewhiteperwinkle from my Mom for this past Christmas.

This morning's coffee is not chocolate velvet, nor even chocolate silk.

The rain comes down in such a way is to make cursive signature scrawls on the puddles outside.

Pink Lady apples taste like watermelon.

I am loathe to leave a bed which contains the sound of rain, two cats, and the cozy good sheets the color of late-dusk.

The twilight chimes paint will be too purplish for the sunroom and maybe just right for the bathroom. The sunroom, in good Southern tradition, should be a Carolina blue. The bird on the bedroom deck was not a male or female nuthatch but my first Carolina wren.

I saw my first cardinal in Carolina. I first drove to Alabama with a boy from Carolina. Then I met a boy from Virginia who I nearly married.

I will not forget the winter cemetery nor the four deer running on the last of the iced-reservoir.

Not watermelon exactly, but inexactly, like the flavor manufactured at the flavor factory off I-75 in Cincinnati, just before the St.Bernard/Mitchell Avenue exit.

The St.Bernard soap factory is the most gorgeous thing.

My best friend lives off that exit and our favorite gone-place was called Chili Company but we always referred to it as Chili Time.

I have always loved the look of the Bicycle Playing Cards Water Tower.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

As if Spring

Spent the day out in the yard yesterday, raking through all of the promising places of myrtle and what might be planned-vegetation of some sort. The work felt good and imagining what I might plant where, even better. My daddy says that he will be out to help build the grape arbor and start the forever-process of growing the vines to fill it in. Today is all sleet and cold rain again, but that little moment of respite, that little porthole into Spring was a great reminder.

M's parents' anniversary is this week: FIFTY-NINE YEARS! They have such a kindly and strong bond and it is inspiring to see. I sent M-solo to celebrate as I don't like to do overnights at their house until I am officially fianceed-up and in honor of their celebration, I made a double-tiered anniversary cake. The initial plan was to use genuine Italian meringue icing but, I started late and as I was also using fondant and planning to stack the two layers of red velvet cake with a layer of chocolate-cherry filling and then bake a smaller cake and stack it on top of those, and elaborately decorate the entire thing. In light of that, I thought that an icing that I have never made and that had a danger of failing, might be less wise than an icing I know well that would leave me time for any unforeseen mishaps or extras. I must say that the final result: white fluffy, whipped icing with white fondant stripping around the bottom and a white heart and white roses for decoration (which, despite my sorely-lacking art skills, looked to any-eye, like roses and hearts)did my girly-girl heart good. If we have not spoken of my strange attraction to domesticity, one that kicked in after I got my degree, than post after post about food and decorating and entertaining should clue you in. What you don't see is how I stare at the china cabinet where I have now, a complete set of the very china I chose to be my wedding pattern when I was only fifteen. (But as there was no wedding then and has not yet been, I caved and registry-be-hung, bought my own.) Inside that same cabinet, is the better part of another set by Vernon, the dreamiest twilight and lilacy-smoky-mauve, plus a dash of ivory and butter and mint. In fact, the set looks like a very gourmet box of buttermints.

Friday began the good weekend with two former students driving all the way out to my pretty little home and taking photographs of me for one of their senior thesis shows. They brought the most delicious Greek food along and I made my feta theologos and cut up some gourmet peppers and tomatoes and we dined. The photographs were sent to me this morning, and for those of you who have seen how unphotogenic I can be, you will understand my shock when I say that the pics were wonderful and that it hurt their beauty for me not one bit, that the background of the one the student chose for her exhibit shows my kitchen table (have I waxed rhapsodic on it yet?) and yes, the china cabinet with its shelves of white on white roses, blue in their shadings and the aforementioned buttermint-ware.

The weekend has been a subtle bag of goodies.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Off my running-mix, I bring you the beloved (and also poetically-charged) Mr. Berman & bright co.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Unspeakable Sweetness

of some days. Spent the day hearing love stories. Worked at school with K and D at a Poetry on Demand booth. We asked for a name, some pet names, inside joke, a symbol, a color, a memory, a pet, a shared-thing or whatever we could be told to write a poem from one person who loved another. We had a husband/father/grandfather/great grandfather buy a poem for each of his four ladies and a cool faculty member tell of meeting his dancer wife when he was fifty, she: six months along and he fell in helpless, life-changing love. Now they have two kids and a life full of color and motion and he seems happy every time I see him. She is "the dream of my life" he said, "the mother of my children" and D and me, romantics from way back, we just beamed and began cutting out hearts (she) and writing the zillionth custom poem of the day (me). One lovely young woman who ordered a poem up last year for the same beloved who, having lived overseas much of this year, is finally coming home. She had sent him her grandmother's china teacups from the set that he wanted to drink from and know that it would be reunited with the set in the home they would soon share. It cheers a girl to think of all that love and the fun of writing a poem for lovers new and old and children (two little girls named Mila and Nina, the daughter of a new interesting friend). Nonetheless, this girl is as wiped-out as her own beloved who is still himself, ailing from the a cold. The reservations for the much-anticipated Cinco de Mayo (camerones diablo!) will have to be cancelled but there is something dear about a night indoors, bundled up and needing nothing by way of love.

Selections from Borrowed Love Poems


What can I do, if a red meteor wakes the earth
and the color of robbery is in the air

Now that I dream of you so much
my lips are like clouds

drifting above the shadow of one who is asleep
Now that the moon is enthralled with a wall

What can I do, if one of us is lying on the earth
and the other is lost in the sky


To some, the winter sky is a blue peach
teeming with worms

and the clouds are growing thick
with sour milk

What can I do, now that the fat black sea
is seething

now that I have refused to return
my borrowed dust to the butterflies

their wings full of yellow flour


What can I do, I never believed happiness
could be premeditated

What can I do, having argued with the obedient world
that language will infiltrate its walls

What can I do, now that I have sent you
a necklace of dead dried bees

and now that I want to
be like the necklace

and turn flowers into red candles
pouring from the sun


What can I do, now that I have spent my life
studying the physics of good-bye

every velocity and particle in all the waves
undulating through the relapse of a moment's fission

now that I must surrender this violin
to the sea's foaming black tongue

now that January is almost here
and I have started celebrating a completely different life

John Yau
(reprinted from Boston Review)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Leviathan & Lonely

Sunshine on today's snow and a walk is in the works for I need to work on my wintered-up leviathan proportions and my cabin fever. I keep looking at Pratt & Lambert's Velvet Red for the downstair's bathroom and the intense Va Va Voom for the laundry room. For lunch, I had the final half of my Arctic Zero Vanilla Maple and with a shake of kosher salt, disgruntled reviewers be damned, it makes a fine ice cream substitute.

I can almost taste Spring on the way, or maybe I want it so (hot tub! swimming pool! rooftop reading! firepit dinners! and a Disney cast of birds, deer, flora and fauna here now and thawed into view.) Plus, I miss summer-arms and little vintage dresses with the boots I never put away but sometimes choose sandals over. And music festivals--a new thing I do and can't get enough of.

Josh Ritter will be at Southgate this week and I am working on talking M into. (M is the reason for today's song post as he began to tell me about a dream he had last night and immediately the song below began playing in my head.) M began singing John Prine's song but for me, Josh Ritter's song will always follow "I had a dream last night..." But because I do love JP so, too and saw him not long ago in concert, I will post two of my Prine favorites.

Hit post too soon and wanted to mention how here at 37 degrees, we are actually thinking that a walk in this warm weather would be nice. The plan for tonight is to watch The Graduate, which, embarassing confession: I have never before seen. There are others. Such as: for Thanksgiving this year, my good friend C, wanted to come to the house as it had the look of a house that was a big gathering place "like in The Big Chill". Confession: I have never seen The Big Chill. Or had not until M decided to remedy that.

There are more, despite the fact that I worked in a video store and hung out all night with my then-roomate and watched dark, psychological drama after d. p. d. or foreign films (which were not necessarily not dpds). Somehow I missed huge swaths of classics so that the other night when TCM played An American in Paris, I was riveted. I must walk out into this afternoon before it further darkens. Adieu.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

On Keeping One's Sense of Humor

Up at six this morning, prepping for class and opting out of my first lit. class as the Minute Clinic nurse wanted me to stay home for two days and rest this virus away. Since my job is not exactly strenuous, I decided I could not, in good conscience, miss two days of school or life. But my first lit. class requires some lecturing and the pattern has been to go in, do that, and then head to fiction workshop where I think by then I have fully awakened the cough. Anyway, and onward, I went to workshop and found that an entire group had NOT prepared their stories for today and that of those being workshopped, as one student put it after class, it seemed as if one story was written the morning of class: no proofreading whatsoever.

She wondered how one could bear to teach on days when it seemed that the teacher was the only one to care about writing in the room. Most days, it is easy to love what i do, to really adore the way these people I am fortunate enough to have in my classroom think. But some days are harder.

I try then to maintain my sense of humor.
my engine is the only noise I herd
causes me to say: I like this, it brings to mind horsepower, though I think you mean "heard."

Or when I get excuses so incredibly elaborate as to make Tolstoy and every Spanish soap opera writer break into open weeping no greater tragedy have ever they encountered. My all-time favorite, the one that I ask that any student choosing to "author a fiction" to tell me about his/her absence must outdo goes something like this: "I am sorry I missed class, my roomate's father died over the weekend and I was up all night preparing the funeral feast.
Teacher: The funeral feast?
Student: (earnestly and without breaking stride)Yes, and then I was so tired that I partook of the feast and forgot that I had used pepper in preparing it and that I am allergic to pepper...

Dude, you had me at partook!
I love it, because it would have been enough to console a grieving friend but just in case, one must apply the more is more rule and go on to add ingredients such as sleep deprivation and allergies, all under the larger awning of self-sacrifice, martyrdom and compassion. Who would fail compassion? Only a monster. The best part about it is that I quoted my dear student and years later he returned to my classes and we had a great laugh about it. I never felt resentful about the story, because I have such a love for them overall that their well-meaning but sometimes lame moments remind me that they are even then, creative and indescribably innocent in their larceny. Most days.

But there are those double-u tee eff days when I wonder what must make someone not bother to do a story for fiction workshop? Under what hopeful star slept they the night before they showed up to face a tired, sick women who drove forty-plus miles to be denied the stories for the next class workshop. And I wish then for that old wonderful Thomas Wayman poem:

Did I Miss Anything?

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

Everything, I gave an exam worth
40 percent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 percent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
the hereafter
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
on earth

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human experience
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
but it was one place

And you weren’t here

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Singing the Praises

of Minute Clinic, of all things,and CVS Pharmacy for having such a thing.
I am all medded-up and bedded-down and ready to call this night a night.

Because I love anything begun with an accordion and if any instrument is a kind of lung, I believe it's a likely candidate, I will offer both music and verse to shut down this Tuesday prettily.


Don't be ashamed that your parents
Didn't happen to meet at an art exhibit
Or at a protest against a foreign policy
Based on fear of negotiation,
But in an aisle of a discount drugstore,
Near the antihistamine section,
Seeking relief from the common cold.
You ought to be proud that even there,
Amid coughs and sneezes,
They were able to peer beneath
The veil of pointless happenstance.
Here is someone, each thought,
Able to laugh at the indignities
That flesh is heir to. Here
Is a person one might care about.
Not love at first sight, but the will
To be ready to endorse the feeling
Should it arise. Had they waited
For settings more promising,
You wouldn't be here,
Wishing things were different.
Why not delight at how young they were
When they made the most of their chances,
How young still, a little later,
When they bought a double plot
At the cemetery. Look at you,
Twice as old now as they were
When they made arrangements,
And still you're thinking of moving on,
Of finding a town with a climate
Friendlier to your many talents.
Don't be ashamed of the homely thought
That whatever you might do elsewhere,
In the time remaining, you might do here
If you can resolve, at last, to pay attention.

"Drugstore" by Carl Dennis, from Callings. © Penguin Poets, 2010

"There are ghosts out in the rain tonight..."

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Ys and What-nots of Bacteria

or "why my trip to the gym to shake the cough out of me was not the notion of geniuses."

So back in the early days of me and M (early 2010) I got my annual flu-thing (and no, I do not believe in flu shots in any case) and because I imagine myself a sturdy specimen and believe that sheer stubborness can evict any illness or must, I decided after days of coughing, congestion and bedrest, that I would accept the lovely M's invitation for a winter hike. Of course, the friends of Intaglio came unglued and protested. But they did not yet know M and I did not let him know how sick I was or how unhappy were my associates. The hike was gorgeous, a true winter wonderland of a day and we ended up in downtown Yellow Springs in small bookstores and coffee shops and I knew I had found a good idea and was instantly on the mend. I spent time out in the freezing cold and came back feeling as if recovery was finally reaching me.
I was "well" in a day.

This gothic, grotesque, illness requires too much thoughts about that hideous word: phlegm and the colors of such a thing. Polite people say such crude things to me as "mucinex" and I am transported to cartoon boogers on seventies La-Z Boys and I am thinking about fedoras on snot-men and I am tired of all of this repulsive goo-speak. But when the wise Gretchen M. wrote me and said that I would not ever be better without medical attention, I did some research and it turns out that if you are coughing up a little Christmas, you might have a bacterial infection, you might be a walking pneumonia in hot black boots, after all. And just because you have promised yourself a Valentines' red lipstick if you go to the gym at least three times before Saturday, you will not be spared lung damage from your refusal to go to a doctor.

Turns out, sheer will won't chase this ghoul away. Only antibiotics and unless one of my two readers know of a street-dealer in penicylin, I am destined to deal with the medical community, with great disappointment and soon.

I have found this wonderful new treat called Arctic Zero, a lowfat, low calorie icy dessert that comes in flavors like Vanilla Maple and Pumpkin Pie. It is a Whole Foods product, which means I sell a kidney to buy some but I am liking it enough to consider that fair enough.

Brown Lung
Sometimes I’d spend the whole night coughing up
what I’d been breathing in all day at work.
I’d sleep in a chair or take a good stiff drink,
anything to get a few hours rest.

The doctor called it asthma and suggested
I find a different line of work as if
a man who had no land or education
could find himself another way to live.

For that advice I paid a half-day’s wage.
Who said advice is cheap? It got so bad
each time I got a break at work I’d find
the closest window, try to catch a breath.

My foreman was a decent man who knew
I would not last much longer on that job.
He got me transferred out of the card room,
let me load the boxcars in the yard.

But even though I slept more I’d still wake
gasping for air at least one time a night,
and when I dreamed I dreamed of bumper crops
of Carolina cotton in my chest.
© 1998 Ron Rash. All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 06, 2011


to be curled up on this couch, on this night, computer in lap, zima tomatoes in fridge and despite the cough that I thought I had conquered but which lingers and troubles all day and for a portion of the night. So far I have a pulled muscle in my upper back from trying to avoid the headache the comes from coughing and the burning lungs. But I have a plan to go to the gym tomorrow and to force myself to do a real run and see if I can shake this gross gathering of ickyness that has invaded the isthmus of lung reflected. And while I did watch the game, and have developed a late season fandom/fondness for Aaron Rodgers and so am happy for Green Bay's win and for Mr. R's MVP award, I can't claim enough attachment to football (now basketball...) to give this post its gratitude.

Lots of things are responsible, the first is a simple appreciation for my friends and for Spoon of NY who sent a ridiculously-generous housewarming gift and somewhere up ahead, I get to buy pails of vibrant paint and zero-in on what I think will be an apricot living room, a twilight chimes bathroom, a leaf green bedroom, and a kitchen that varies depending on how much we hate the cabinets on any given-week. But really I am thankful for friends that still care for me after so many years and so many different types of lives. Spoon in New York, Bear in Denver, my dear Liz, Kathrine and Karima regathered in my hometown. Between them, the better part of my life resides.

I am really loving Shawnee Hills, too and I logged on tonight determined to do a review of a place we just found and love, so bear with me as here goes:
Cinco de Mayo Mexican Grill is my new favorite find in Powell. It is run by this very cool family and Manny, the owner, makes a wonder of a margarita called appropriatly Manny's Margarita. It has a real high kick to it and doesn't forsake a fresh tart and salty flavor. And then the shrimp diablo dish was amazing. The best shrimp dish I have ever eaten, spicy but tangy and the shrimp were large and fresh.
The decor is comprised of these colorful, carved wooden chairs with intricate scenes that made the whole room look vibrant and happy. The staff was fun and friendly and the place was filled with regulars. I have told M that it is the only place I want to go out and eat around here although I have a real fondness for Iacono's and Shanghai Lily--all places that I would never have frequented if I had stayed in my old neighborhood. Spring means we get to investigate Delaware, Ohio, which is just a little up the road from where we are now. Adventures up ahead, good, interesting food in our little town, a hope that most of the worst storms are mostly behind us, all good things for this early February.

Marshmallow Creme Coffee & Black Gladiolas

Sunday morning and M is making my favorite Sunday breakfast: Soldiers, a dish I'd never heard of before M and one that will make me always think of soft-boiled eggs and sticks of toast as his dish alone. I use Frank's hot sauce with them and it is a breakfast that generally makes me happy.

My marshmallow creme coffee tastes neither like marshmallow nor creme, but it is acceptable, if only. The window to my right (a sliding glass door that leads out to a rooftop deck area,) makes for each season practically a part of my bedroom so I wake to what felt all winter-wonderland to me in December and by now, is going a little winter-weary. But Gladys is here and adores watching the birds that I have left food for, even the starlings are still a treat for her, while I feel a bit remorseful that they have found us and in their large numbers devour every kind of food I put out for the various customers of "Cafe Zozo."

A jay just absconded with a heel of Italian bread much larger than his head and I am content, if baffled as to how to get back to the kind of routine I had in Victorian Village with long walks to school and the gym and that supergirl feeling I had of being fit and strong. And writing, more writing has to happen. This morning's paper had an article with a woman who died and whose family could not afford a funeral. People banded together and someone made her a beautiful coffin of aged poplar and blue lining. People raised money for the expenses and while I still feel a bit stung and saddened at the Ted William's fiasco, I needed good news even if it came wrapped (like one of the mysteriously-dead rainbow trout and sunfish of Salon, Ohio) in the newsprint of abject poverty, of people so poor they cannot afford to retrieve their own dead, it illustrated good will and the days seem so lacking in it.
In other news, I am planning a trip out here for my mom soon and I need to get to Florida and see that wonderchild-nephew of mine. For some strange reason, I am loving sending random Valentine's treats out. For The Bear and his lady J, I am sending Trader Joe's dark chocolate almonds with sea salt and turbinado sugar plus a beautiful cumin/caramel/toffee scarf with gold elephants embroidered on it. (Straight from Bangkok and from my bird-boy.) The Bear still feels pretty beat-up by Alex's death and while midnight-dark-chocolate almonds are no cure, they are certainly a Sartwellian-endorsed grief response.
For Penny Rose and Maya I found these necklaces made up of pennies and coral hearts. For the lovely Ms. Lyla Wren, I have sent a red tutu and heart leggings of a valentine's outfit and for Juniper, there are journals and gel pens. I love that all of these children are a part of my world if not my own than good for the borrowing as if anything isn't.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Thursday, Chickadee, Warm Room, Nuthatch, Home Safe, Robin, Trees Spun of Glass

I am baking chicken for dinner and the house is filled with the golden smell of it. Outside the trees are strangled in glimmering glass and when the sun hits the branches there is a crystalline cursive to their cries for help. They've written to the sky and the sun lights a reply but the air is still freezing and the bath of hopeful glow is deceiving.

All the words to and from Tuscaloosa are slowing-down. I have taken the story to those who didn't know and heard enough to know that what I know is what most know. Alex was a riddle in certain ways and to love and respect him meant you let him, in some respect, remain that way. You didn't ask his age and you didn't probe about his health. There was a solitude to him and he could fill a room with friends and company and keep that solitude intact.

I am home for the week, for the weekend and planning a strategy for knocking out my story and trying to feel completely well again. To my right, sliding glass doors lead to a roof with the leftover whiteout of snow and on that winter's page, there is the sanskrit of bird feet as they visit and revisit the flat of peanuts, raisins, melamakorona that I have left for them. In one day they have made short work of the offering and thinking of them in the bitter cold, I am glad for what fat I can swaddle them in. For myself, I miss my summer arms, the tone of them and the way I was consistent in my attempts to keep strong and driven. M is so great about me, so accepting and so celebratory that it is easy to lie down and rest in all that regard. But I feel noodly, all wrong for the opening of the pool in May and dreaded swimwear it implies.

In the time that I've been writing this post, the cool breeze has danced feathers of ice over the melting roof-snow and what was liquid just moments ago is plumes of ice-panes and a reminder how deep runs this cold.

Ice Storm
For the hemlocks and broad-leafed evergreens
a beautiful and precarious state of being…
Here in the suburbs of New Haven
nature, unrestrained, lops the weaker limbs
of shrubs and trees with a sense of aesthetics
that is practical and sinister…

I am a guest in this house.
On the bedside table Good Housekeeping, and
A Nietzsche Reader… The others are still asleep.
The most painful longing comes over me.
A longing not of the body…

It could be for beauty—
I mean what Keats was panting after,
for which I love and honor him;
it could be for the promises of God;
or for oblivion, nada; or some condition even more
extreme, which I intuit, but can't quite name.

Jane Kenyon

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Alexander Sartwell

I hate death's guts, I really do.

There is no elegy elegant enough to address the death of Alex. Some of the happiest days of my life were spent around his table, listening to his stories of old muntGUMree and the stories and dishes of Evalina. There is a gone-South that I would never know any other way and I felt honored to be in his sunny kitchen, watching light play through the cobalt vases propped in the window. I felt lucky to be invited early, help prepare the food, to laugh with him and to drive to Birmingham, to flea markets and thrift shops and with Alex in tow, for treasures to feel more treasurey. The Bear loved him dearly and he, The Bear and I felt kind of safe and caverned up in a cave of quilts when I was with them both.

Alex could tell a mean tale, write a brilliant passage and cook such food as to make you "slap your baby brother" when you took that first sensuous bite. I heard the south in all of its conflicted dialects, understood race and class from the inside. Alex made me feel less like one touring Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana, as one who got it and was in certain ways, dumb yankee no more. His backyard was alive with the gorgeous collection of plants that only a professional can whip up and when we left, hearts in hands, it was the French tarragon that dear Bear dug up and planted for Alex that made the leaving behind of such a glorious plant a bit more bearable.

There is no way to say goodbye to what knowing Alex gave me, or how he made me feel transported through time to where good manners, lovely clothes and books and recipes and stories reined supreme. To have one more day in that dining room, the crazy-good chickens that were melting off their bones and swaddled in flavor, the good china, the bright silver, the candlelight and the peals and peals of laughter. With him goes a whole era, a continent or two of knowledge, a gift of gab and memory and a, for lack of a better word, bonding-force. Alex made his table and the selected guests a work of art. He built friendships like cities that interconnected and expanded both the history and resource of both. Some people are spokes, others are hubs and Alex was a super-hub for a wheel so large, that time and space are both along for the ride. I felt, and still feel, as if I knew the living-Evalina for the way she was brought back to life through Alex's telling. She, the Sayres, my beloved Zelda, Tallulah Bankhead, whole swaths of neighborhood where I had never walked and ghosts long-dead before I ever arrived, were vivid, breathing-again and before you when Alex invoked them. I hope some of us can do the same for him. I was so lucky to have known him.

You were truly one of a kind and you cannot know just how you will be missed, Dear Friend.