Saturday, December 31, 2011

How better to go out than in gratitude

2011 was hard on my household. My lovely-lovely was diagnosed with renal failure and his father passed away--all in a few months. I had my first set of scary medical test results and then months later, an okay. Still, things took their toll. But the house is warm with life and love and I am here, waiting on the edge of my seat for 2012. No matter what those Mayans think.

Because 2011 has been rough on us all, but as Rilke says: Love the questions. Live the questions.
To 2012! Love and best wishes,

Six Kinds of Gratitude

I'm someone's small boat,
far out at sea,
sailing from what has so long sustained me
toward what I don't know.

My joy is the sound
of the water purling around me,
but is it my hull
or the great ocean moving?

Are those flies I hear, or a trick of the wind,
faintly human voices,
or a whistle of breath
in the nose of my sleeping dog?

Without me there is no confusion.
Buddhas see no difference between
themselves and others; Angels,
between the living and the dead.

At last I've discovered
the secret of life:
If you don't leave
you can't come back.

Deep in the Earth there are pockets of light
that did not come from Heaven,
and yet they are the light of Heaven
deep inside the Earth.

This bird is the birdness of a bird.

—Dan Gerber, A Primer on Parallel Lives

And of course, Rainer. Always Rainer.

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions”

R.M. Rilke is the man!

A Tinselly Farewell to December

Holy Ghost
by Brian Brodeur


My mother spreads tinsel snow over the kitchen sills,
sets the cedar manger in its place, arranging

the hollow plastic magi next to a cradle
displaying the baby Jesus missing an arm.

The little enameled figure of Mary kneeling
embraces something only she can see. Pinned to the banister,

our crocheted stockings sag. All afternoon
she listens to laundry click in the pantry dryer,

packing layers of chocolate cake and home-made cream
into Tupperware for the Heath-Bar trifle we love.

Light moves across the counter, almost touching her hand,
shattering over an open drawer of knives.

From "Snapshots 1," Other Latitudes (University of Akron Press, 2008).
Used with the author’s permission.
"I should tell them
there’s a music for the lost, a song
that cannot be stifled, celebrating those who are.
It sounds like jangling, scraping,
a hacksaw through metal. But still
it’s a song, and its dissonance is lovely.
It belies the second-hand clothing
and the stubbly beards and the stumbling.
Through the jeers, the noise of machinery, the silence,
an anthem makes itself heard."

from The Refugee Camp by John Drury

Whose work I have long-loved. The latest continues to astound. Rarely have I met someone who has such a sense of the arts and their play and his own play with all of that knowledge in his work. But here's the really rare part: he writes it all as a poet would not as someone wooden who knows a lot. (You know the poems I mean, they sound smart but dead.) Drury is a scholar's poet and a poet's scholar. There is someone real inside all of that wisdom who still manages to say it all with warmth and sometimes, whimsy. I took any course that I could from him at the University of Cincinnati and left the classroom bowled-over by how much we learned and how much fun we had learning it.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Lady Alice is Her Name

The mac book. I love it. Cindy-Lou taught me how to grab images and so I have. My desktop is sea of colorful minutia. It thrills to me to look at it all: paper lanterns, New Orleans, my lighthouse, a periwinkle crayon on an old piece of fabric of flocked dark red roses, a vintage taffeta and lace heart-shaped candybox, an amphora with a silhouette on it, oil slicks, spider lilies, Sophia Loren, three icicles, a gloved hand holding three tulips, a ship in a lightbulb, sno cones, tiny, tiny sofas and one photograph snatched from a friend's wall, of pomegranates hanging in front of a stone cherub built into an arc of a crumbling red brick wall. The photograph is shot perfectly from a kind of side angle and so fills the viewer with a kind of inexplicable longing. It is just enough and yet it creates a hunger. I am going to use it when I teach the ekphrasis class to talk about that effect--how writing should do that--ache you a little, make you want more and yet, feel strangely satisfying in that unquenched need. Very sensual. Like pomegranates.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tiny Furniture & Au Lait Lotion & a Blow-Out

Watching the first, wearing the latter (I love the way it smells) and counting my blessings that M wasn't hurt during the third. Far left lane and a total blow-out and it was night. Just finished writing a poem that does not love the halogen light but that very light helped save the day.

Not a wholly productive day but not terrible. Favorite lines so far: "I once saw him sitting on a crate of onions reading Osterling." Then, later:
"Poems are basically like dreams, something everyone likes to tell other people about but no one likes to hear if it's not their own. Which is why poetry is a failure of an intellectual community."
"It's not too poemy, which I like."

This film is making me miss my dangly earrings days. Tomorrow I will wear dangly earrings.

by Ales Steger translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry January 2009
The whole time he tells you what to do.
His voice is chocolate candy filled with hysteria.
He is a loving blackmailer. An owl blind in one eye.
It is enough that he sees half the world to command the other half.
He gladly inspects himself in the mirror, but goes crazy if you praise him
Before another. He is not your property. He is not your adornment.
Only when you dance and when you make love with him, he coos.
Then cages open. Then he is the white message bearer of the gods.
Gradually you detach him more often, hide him in a box, misplace him.
But his bite at the lobe still whispers to you.
As if Eros holds you with invisible filigree pliers
And solders words of guilt and the silence of betrayal into your ear.
A copy of a stone from Sisyphus’s mountain is set inside it.
You roll hope uphill. And you roll downhill drunk, despondent and alone.

Poem Disguised as What I Should be Reading Right Now

Which is how to plan my courses (two of which are very new and exciting, but lots of new and exciting work and prep. too). And how to paint my wall called Toasted Marshmallow or French Vanilla, I forget which paint swatch I chose and how to prep the wall that will be Malted and do you notice a little bakery lust in my selection of off-whites? For the record, the accent wall is Mourning Dove, so let it not be said that I am focused on the lyrical, the melancholy, the simple carbs. Oh, wait...

I am wishing I were more here, less facebook. Here feels like the right ruminations about writing. There feels like self-billboardizing. I don't like it, and yet, I look. It's a clever way to pretend to friend and unfriend and it lacks the sense of consequence and courage, (like reality television). In fact, like reality t.v., it actually numbs one from feeling the sense of consequence. Thoughtlessness abounds and rarely does one stop to contemplate the actual emotional ramifications of things said and done. Here, I assume it's me alone plus maybe just a few of those wandering googlebot things that move eyeless (I first wrote "love eyeless" hmmm....) and gathering but never really gathering. (The instructional designer boyfriend assures me that such things watch the blog, too.) So here is like a way to type out what I think I am thinking and thus, cleanse the palate or rough draft out the next thing I need to say on the more official pages of my life. About those.
So New Years' resolutions are silly. They don't last. But a habit takes twenty-one days to form, so my reading tells me, so why not these twenty-one. Like starting today. I want to work on things in a more balanced fashion. My schedule allows whole days where I can paint and another day where I can sort clothes, if a deadline is coming up, I write like a fiend to finish something. Good writers, writers with good habits, work a set of hours a day at a writing project, then a set schedule for class planning, housework, etc. I read an interview with Donald Hall once and he said he advanced each of the many, many, many writing and journalism assignments a little bit with time meted out so that he might make his various deadlines. They are various and many and he always does. Plus he's said to be a damn fine teacher, as well. Even after Jane died, Hall continued to write and send his work out (I worked on a literary magazine at the time and we received a strange elegy that was later picked up by, I think, TriQuarterly.) Anyway, proof, that not even grief, much less that flitty, meandering mind of one Intagliosa, could keep a good writer from getting his good writing accomplished. With that, I leave you to a wonderful poem that was sent along to me by a kind woman who found the audio of my "Lucy" poem some years back and had always wanted the text. I was sent her note and when I responded, telling her how happy it made me that my poem stayed with her the way certain other poems had stayed with me, (yes Taije Silverman I am talking to you, also Eliot Khalil Wilson, Ilya Kaminsky, Sean Thomas Dougherty, Richard Siken, Laura Kasischke, Simone Muench, and too many others to list)... she wrote me with this lovely title which I read, envied and shared.

Now to that new day I promised myself.

Matthew Olzmann


Here’s what I’ve got, the reasons why our marriage
might work: Because you wear pink but write poems
about bullets and gravestones. Because you yell
at your keys when you lose them, and laugh,
loudly, at your own jokes. Because you can hold a pistol,
gut a pig. Because you memorize songs, even commercials
from thirty years back and sing them when vacuuming.
You have soft hands. Because when we moved, the contents
of what you packed were written inside the boxes.
Because you think swans are overrated.
Because you drove me to the train station. You drove me
to Minneapolis. You drove me to Providence.
Because you underline everything you read, and circle
the things you think are important, and put stars next
to the things you think I should think are important,
and write notes in the margins about all the people
you’re mad at and my name almost never appears there.
Because you make that pork recipe you found
in the Frida Khalo Cookbook. Because when you read
that essay about Rilke, you underlined the whole thing
except the part where Rilke says love means to deny the self
and to be consumed in flames. Because when the lights
are off, the curtains drawn, and an additional sheet is nailed
over the windows, you still believe someone outside
can see you. And one day five summers ago,
when you couldn’t put gas in your car, when your fridge
was so empty—not even leftovers or condiments—
there was a single twenty-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew,
which you paid for with your last damn dime
because you once overheard me say that I liked it.

–from Rattle #31, Summer 2009

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Touche Today

Because I couldn't stop the dead/they ambled up to me.

Or so it's been. A long year. A long, long year. But some of it still scarlet shawls, collected animal bones carved cryptically to read a thing about vintage quilts made into tipis and what it means to teach, to be taught, to have words amass loss into something meaningful.

The other day I pulled up a poem to show a student a certain tone and the lines and within it the line about the people who loved the speaker being sad since the speaker died struck me anew as a mean thing and it reminded me of a coffee meeting a few weeks back with someone who didn't like any of his wives or women or me and how I left reeling from it and thinking that literature should bring about the best of us. So today saunters in, a little stooped as a Thursday can be and with it, an elegy by a student who wrote of the universe's overcoat and another student urging him to search that coat for spare change and change and then this title little sonnet about sugar and our sweetness galloping away with us, consumed by our consumption, done in by our need for the lovely and honeyed and I am saved enough by that. But then the mail and that cranberry crimson shawl made for me by one of my first university students ever. A girl wicked-sharp, a teacher among students even then, and now, all degreed-up, married, a grown-up but still armed with the whimsy and knitting needles both unmetaphored, restored to a world where a thing can be spun into something both necessary and playful and warming a needful day into play.

I could say more about a snapshot of Glen Campbell or a poem called a canzone shared with me by a favorite poet or about lite eggnog and spiced rum or smoke kittens or tadpoles so tiny when they burst into froglets that we call them the preemy and they burst out like a dark star against the turquoise gravel. Or a sister named of all things Antonia, who is indeed My Antonia and my best friend and my light star in a world of dark gravel. Or that I live in a house now with a someone who loves me despite myself, sometimes in spite of myself but makes a night like this pitch-black from the city's distance, a little warmer, a lot brighter.

In light of that, here's a poet whose work I await in book form:

Conversion Blues

– for Rachel

tell us about evening and about the bright
star tell us about the huge dark wall
where it is pinned so if no one is looking
the sky is really burning and tell me it is my eyes
that douse it all to soot, black branches
with one root in carbon and budding eternity.

explain that once a month a family of owls covers
the tree, winks at us, refuses to explain their singing.
when snow is thinly falling we see you there,
the slowest star, and I hear you thinking
of a story, that mute wetness spread across the field is you
clearing your throat, all stories being born

from silence. what story: the snowflakes
cut from the sun are large as cars in the darkness
and grow small and doily when licked
by January stars. what story: barefoot,
running in the wake of the plow,
cold black clods and white sun blessing your steps,
no Jesus yet to dream you into majesty, earth

being enough, no steeple secrets, no divine moons
to pin back your hair, no soap for your tongue, no lye,
no alabaster mothers to sew in a new tongue
and holy toast, cracked as headstones, for you to chew.
are you ready to climb to the top of the stairs?
to tell me about the star nation, the unnamed,
what some grandfather of the clean, glowing
cafes and dive bars of the moon

call morning, a newborn's grouchy hunger?
the dew its mouth and tongue sing for?
think of me in the low thorns, hunched like an umbrella,
my small ribs breaking toward the clouds like love.