The guest of honor is a famous writer. Wherever she goes words trail behind, whether dropped carelessly or deliberately discarded no one knows. This reminds me of a story. I begin to tell it but someone stops me, intimating that someone else would be offended. Smoke signals. Finger spelling. I close my mouth and climb under the table, where I count legs and try to make them come out even but it never works so I conclude that someone has only one leg. Having conducted a further examination I conclude that the one-legged person is the famous writer. I guess I never noticed she had only one leg because of the words, so many words, camouflage for every disability, balm for every wound.
the last word in the book bittersweet
Yesterday—this is the kind of day it was;
this is the kind of season it was—
I was Persephone,
and I ate whatever seeds they gave me,
despite whatever warnings I had heard,
despite being disappointed, in the dark,
by the scent of the pomegranate.
No one can keep track for long
of what they’re not supposed to eat.
No one can imagine what small acts of will
will follow them from one season to the next.
Nothing, in the dark,
tastes as real as the dark itself.
Free verse: here, now
Haiku: Modern Haiku 42.3
When I was three my grandmother gave me a fancy baby doll with a wooden chest full of lovely clothes. It had staring, startled, cold eyes and arms and legs permanently thrown out as if to stop itself from falling. I cut its hair back to the root, colored in its face with crayons, and hanged it by the neck from the stair railing with a spare piece of string that I can only assume I was saving for just such an occasion. Eventually I hauled the thing up and let it live, but I don’t think I went so far as to name it or give it any motherly care, such as wrapping it in a blanket, carrying it around tenderly, or conscientiously taking it for a walk in a baby carriage. No one bothered giving me any more dolls for the remainder of my childhood, which was fine with me because I had a lot of reading to do.
a clutch of duck eggs
the corner of the backyard
where we bury things
Pregnant with my flesh-and-blood child a couple of decades later, I explained to my husband, repeatedly, in increasingly panicked tones, that I had absolutely no idea how to care for an infant and was terrified by the very idea. I asked him if we could go to the kind of parenting class where they give you a fake baby—okay, a doll—to practice carrying around and burping and diapering and so on. He told me I didn’t need a class, it was easy and I would get the hang of it in no time, and this turned out to be true. Which was a relief, because even the word “doll” still gives me the creeps.
the chill of
prose: here, now
“a clutch”: A Hundred Gourds 1.1
“spring snow”: Modern Haiku 42.2
A Hundred Gourds 4.2, March 2015
In high school you smoked a total of about half a pack of cigarettes over the course of a year or so. The point of smoking, every time, was to feel terrible, or, at least, terrible in a different way from the way you already felt. The smoke, which was literally impossible to inhale because for God’s sake, you can’t breathe fire, tasted irresistibly of death.
dusk the temptation of zero as a denominator
It isn’t true that young people don’t understand or believe that they’re going to die. They take stupid risks and experiment with dangerous habits because life doesn’t seem to them particularly precious. They haven’t had it long enough to prize it and besides, for adolescents, life often seems so complicated and difficult that the thought of lying peacefully in the ground with no one bothering them for an indefinite period is an attractive option. Cigarettes give the requisite feeling of unavoidable mortality, the promise that you won’t have to put up with this bullshit indefinitely.
at the apple’s core
Some kids cut themselves to feel the same way but you couldn’t stand the sight of blood. Some kids drink or take drugs but you didn’t want to alter the way your brain worked, you wanted to alter the way everyone else’s brain worked. Some kids take up a regular smoking habit but for you, getting used to it was not the point. The point was to have something that felt especially bad precisely because you were not used to it. The point was to choke and gasp and feel your throat sear and tears come to your eyes and know, for those five minutes, exactly why it was that life felt so unpleasant. The point was not to die, exactly, but to be reassured that dying was possible.
most of me emerges
from a cloud
Prose: here, now
“dusk”: Modern Haiku 43.2
“deep autumn”: A Hundred Gourds 1.1
“thunderclap”: Presence 45
I have a habit of planning out in my head the perfect version of everything — books, men, houses, planets. In the alternate reality where these Platonic ideals exist, writing poetry is nearly effortless, and all poems are songs.
the odds against
In bed with me: five pillows, six books, three notebooks, two pens, a laptop computer, a cell phone, a complication of wires, a spare sweatshirt, a bag of grapes, an empty cereal bowl, two cloth napkins, my purse, a heating pad, a pile of forms to fill out to placate the insurance company and my employer and the home health provider, one of those claw tools to pick up things you can’t reach, a cat (sometimes two), worry, confusion, longing.
No, there’s not quite enough room for me.
prose: here, now
haiku/pwoermd: Frogpond 35.1
A Hundred Gourds 4.2, March 2015
Questions to ask yourself in the spring:
How high is blue?
Why is why?
If never, then what?
Was it ever spread so thin?
With wings, is it necessary?
Are the complete works complete?
If you turned around, would it be there?
Are we all remembering the same planet?
begins a new
why not only yes
I write to you from the hospital, where I’m busy being temporarily disabled. My back decided it had had enough of holding up my body, so it went on strike, in very dramatic fashion — an ambulance had to be summoned in the night, to rescue me from the place I’d become trapped after attempting to walk around my house and nearly fainting from pain. The many astute observers in the emergency room astutely observed that I was more or less unable to sit, stand, or walk without screaming. (Cue horror film soundtrack.) So they sent me upstairs to the regular part of the hospital to lie down quietly, though after two days in the hands of the nurses and physical therapists I can in fact walk, using a walker, without screaming but not without sweating and breathing heavily. Then I have to go back to bed for a while, lie on an ice pack, and think about nothing. I’ve become very good at thinking about nothing. I could probably choose to regard this entire incident as a sign that I needed to think about nothing a whole lot more.
You might assume that three days of lying flat on my back would give me plenty of time to write something more interesting than “My back got hurt and I have spent three days lying flat on my back,” but you would be wrong. That is exactly as interesting, at this stage of my temporary disability, as I am prepared to be. Don’t worry, though, I’m sure that soon enough I’ll forget how to think about nothing instead of something.
among the pills they give me a glacial erratic
Night after night this week I’ve lain in bed listening to the downpour, night after night the downspouts shake and the aluminum chimney sings and the roof holds up delightfully under the battering. By day my intestines are uneasy, I’m lonely in a shivering kind of way, and I worry about everything, more or less, that anyone in the world has ever worried about, but by night I have the rain to think about and the rain is always enough and always has been. I dreamed one night that I went out for a walk in it and got wet and cold, but when I woke up I was warm and dry, which is a normal way to feel in the morning but it felt extraordinary. The thing about rain is that no matter how many times it happens it seems like a miraculous phenomenon, or maybe that’s just me. I’m easily surprised and thrilled. I’m easily distressed and alarmed. In the middle is not a place I often am. Here I am in my forty-seventh year and I can’t locate the middle, though possibly I’m getting closer and just can’t tell because it’s a labyrinth and I can’t see over the walls and it’s raining so hard that I can’t hear the minotaur roaring.
spring rain it will probably be poetry when it’s over
Easter morning: a child’s pink ball rolls beatifically down the street, trembling with thrilled indecision whenever it encounters a twig, a pebble, a leaf, an irregularity in the surface of the earth. Mysteriously, no child is in sight, no child’s cry of loss can be heard. There are no flowers here yet and we are somber people on our street so the ball is the only pink thing around, more pink on this weak-sunshined early spring day, perhaps, than it has ever been in its pink existence.
three or four gumballs
in my pockets
I’ve forgotten to decorate my house for Easter, or maybe I just thought I didn’t deserve any pastel symbols of joy, I’m not sure. I haven’t forgotten, though, to think about Peter, who lied three times and thus broke his own heart. That’s the only part of the resurrection story that I’m sure must have really happened, and that’s the part that always seemed to me the most cruel. But the pink ball wobbles down my hilly street, I sit alone at my kitchen table watching it shine, and it occurs to me for the first time that Peter was forgiven.
a little more alone
Prose: here, now
“sap rising”: DailyHaiku, July 10, 2011
“every spring”: Acorn 27
as a weathervane the crucifixion
in case he returns an embroidered jesus
converting betrayal to binary
I toss your indifference out the window, expecting it to splatter on the sidewalk, but it turns into a hornet, begins to buzz furiously, flies back in, and settles on my shoulder.
lemon out of all proportion
today the clouds are a Google doodle. I think a few pixels are burned out in the sky. there are tendrils of ivy curling out of my wifi modem. a songbird with a hyperlink caught in its throat perches on my clothesline, where I’ve hung my URLs out to dry. from the pine across the way, a crow croaks cunningly at me to re-enter my password. I almost fall for this trick, but then I drop my phone in the violets and it becomes a violet, a large and shimmering one, and I pick it and eat it and begin to ring.
through radio waves
It’s April, which means it’s National Poetry Month, which means it’s National Pwoermd Writing Month. Thanks to Geof Huth (https://twitter.com/geofhuth) for creating this festival and inviting us all to join it. Some years I’ve written a pwoermd every day in April but my participation will probably be sporadic this year. I’ve gotten too wordy and prosaic to get properly into the spirit of things. Still, I feel that pwoermds deserve all the encouragement they can get. So here’s my contribution for April Fool’s Day. Poor liberty, poor despised thing.