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