Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems
On the one hand there’s me, and on the other there’s you. For a while it seemed that these disparate systems could be reconciled theoretically, but as it turned out, they belong to two different worlds entirely, two universes that are spinning away from each other, two realities that will never collide again.
lies down in a snowdrift a theory of motion
The minute (it seemed) I learned to read, my mother exhumed her old books from my grandparents’ basement and a few minutes later (it seemed) I had read them all. Nancy Drew, the Dana Girls, Trixie Belden: A throng of intrepid, sensible girls with perfect middle-class manners, politely but eagerly scouring the world for clues. And finding them! So many clues! I was desperate to find clues, desperate for a mystery. I eavesdropped whenever possible. Skulked around opening dresser drawers. Rifled through the mail, learned to steam open envelopes. Turned books on their side and shook them, hoping for something to drop out—a ransom note, plans for a bank robbery, a lost will. But there was never anything in my child’s life worth the name of mystery. That all came much later.
deep in the brambles I hear my heart rustling
Oh! I forgot to tell you that I went to Paris this summer!
I was all set to show you photos of it but the uploader isn’t working for inscrutable reasons of its own. So I guess I have to resort to words.
Paris looks exactly like Paris. It’s a shock, seeing as how so many places don’t really look like themselves these days, except maybe for a little bit in the middle. You can see the sky everywhere in Paris because they don’t believe in tall buildings. They also don’t really believe in ugly buildings. They have some, but they don’t believe in them.
Paris also tastes exactly like Paris. I went into a little bit of mourning when I came back to America because it had become clear to me how terribly wrong almost everything about our food is, from the ingredients to the preparation to the quantity to the places we eat it to the amount of time we take to eat it. I’m not sure how sanguine I can be about the future of a country that doesn’t even know how to eat.
I understand spoken French on about the level of a three- to five-year-old child, though I don’t speak it nearly that well. One of the things I want to do someday is stay in France until I can speak the language like a grownup or at least a middle-schooler.
My sister and I stayed in the 11th arrondissement, which is now my favorite arrondissement, in the Airbnb apartment of a woman whose furnishings were so exactly to our taste and so perfectly French that we want to be Céline when we grow up. Or maybe just we want to be ourselves, but in the 11th arrondissement.
That’s all I’ve got today, no poetry, maybe tomorrow.
I’ve been reading a lot of dystopian novels lately for some strange reason (also popping beta blockers and reading up on the immigration policies of any country that seems like it might be marginally more sane than my own, though let me tell you those get rarer by the day). What’s interesting about dystopian novels is that, though they propose a dozen different ways for the world to end, some quite baroque and imaginative, they are not really about how everyone dies. They’re about how people manage to live. They’re exploratory proposals for a hypothetical future where at least some of us come out on the other side of the disaster.
comparing a lily with a double helix
rising seas time packed in water
as cold as you can get a burning bush
glass shards that’s for remembrance
I spent all day walking around downtown doing my Christmas shopping, which I like to do all in one day because it makes me feel more like an elderly lady from a small town in England who goes in to London once a year to do her shopping and then staggers home on the train with a load of parcels, “parcels” I tell you not “bags” or “packages,” and possibly sees a murder happening in a car of a train going the opposite direction and then, mirabile dictu (this is the kind of thing I’m pretty sure elderly ladies from small towns in England say all the time), manages to solve the murder. Ok, so that was Miss Marple, but my point stands: All at once, in the town center, is the best way to do your Christmas shopping. If we were meant to do our shopping online or in big box stores, we wouldn’t have been given souls, not that I believe we actually were given souls or that there is any such thing as a soul or anyone to do the giving, but you know what I mean.
a snow globe
in a snow globe
in an evidence locker
Other Christmas traditions I feel strongly that everyone who observes Christmas should observe:
a squirrel scrambling
across the roof…
I still feel imaginary
I’m thinking of this blog, this month, as an Advent calendar, a thing I have a slight obsession with because I like to count and I like Christmas. If you do one thing every day in the month of December you can feel time obligingly passing and heading like an arrow straight for Christmas, and also then you have done twenty-five things, which is satisfying because it’s five squared, a substantial round but also square number.
four calling birds the smoke rises faster than I can count it
The first time I meet the daughter, we’re eating grocery store sushi—in fact, we’re eating it in the grocery store, under dim fluorescent lights, next to a window looking out on the falling dark of early autumn. Our reflections take shape in the window as the dark grows.
not a family anymore
all at once
the geese rise
The nine-year-old is suspicious of me; she doesn’t have any more idea than I do what I’m doing here. I’ve forgotten how to make conversation with a nine-year-old. I keep asking her the annoying, dumb grown-up questions I swore I would never ask and she keeps giving me the annoying, dumb answers I deserve. To add insult to injury, both she and her father are more proficient with their chopsticks than I am.
fumbling for my pepper spray the way leaves redden
Hoping for distraction, we open our fortune cookies, but none of the futures we find there are even wrong enough to laugh about. Embarrassed, we look away from each other, toward the dark window, where we see only our own blurred reflections, trapped here in the present, forming a wavering triangle.
not the underworld
just the silence
of no more cicadas
“What are we doing next?” she asks, and her father, crumpling his fortune, tells her, “Your guess is as good as mine.”
unearthing potatoes it will only get colder
He says his name is Jack but as it turns out his name is not Jack and many other things he says about himself turn out not to be, in the strictest sense, true. However, his real name also begins with J and is four letters long, so is it a lie, really? He doesn’t seem to think so, so you decide not to, either. How much of what someone says is supposed to be true, anyway? How much of the truth do you really need to know?
how are you
how are you
do you have
me do I
what the hell
passing clouds a text alert
freezing into crystals what’s left of the dialogue
plot summary…rain into snow
It’s hard to write fiction these days. I blame this on the feeling that everything that’s happening is fiction—that we’ve walked sideways, or gone through a wardrobe, or dreamed ourselves into a world where you’re forced, every hour or so, to hit yourself on the forehead and mutter, “Where the hell am I?”
what they answer
This part of the day—the mystified, head-banging part—is the only part of it that feels real. The rest is like the minute just after you wake up when you haven’t left the dream world but haven’t fully arrived in the real one either—when you look at your surroundings and want to weep because it isn’t the world you remember.
probably not forgiven yet grackles
The thing about crossword puzzles is that all the words in them are on leashes and have been taught to do tricks. Words like that never ask difficult questions or haunt your dreams. They curl up obediently next to you and keep you warm while you rest your brain. You tell yourself that you’ll turn back to wild words eventually—when the fever subsides, when the pain dulls. Meanwhile, you’re accustoming yourself to being entertained by extended paws and subservient positions.
A state of bored restlessness: 5 letters.
to the egress…
the shock of cold air
This morning I bought a Christmas tree in the pouring rain. Twelve hours later it still smells so overwhelmingly of Christmas tree that it’s starting to irritate my nasal passages. I hate it when I get when I want.
the Advent calendar
ragged around the edges
Saturday. This morning two turkeys wandered the front yard while I scrambled eggs. I did the crossword puzzle and listened to podcasts, refilled my antidepressant prescription and returned my library books. Someone in Pittsburgh felt he had to kill Jews, so went to a synagogue and did so.
I’m wearing a warm black sweater, as if the dark itself were comforting me.
There’s nothing left to do but write poetry.
rain all day
a sharpened knife
I think adjectives are underrated
and I am very particular about prepositions
I have been to Samarkand, I have seen a courtyard
decorated for a wedding, long tables set out
under the trees, all the place settings adorned
with oranges and Coca-Cola
I am not very fond
of any of my names
I have a sister, I have ten living cousins
and one dead, I know the full names
of all my great-grandparents, I spend too much time
thinking about how genes are sorted and combined
(Some things go here
that can’t be discussed in public)
I appreciate how elephants communicate,
over great distances and in such low tones
that no one but other elephants can hear them
As a child I spent a lot of time in the attic
visiting the unwanted things
I am clumsy, I can’t throw balls
or catch or hit them, I’m always falling,
I have bruises I don’t understand,
I’m always bleeding somewhere,
learning the steps of the simplest dance
is utterly beyond me, when I stand
and talk with people I’m never sure
where to put my hands or head,
I’m never really sure
where any of the parts of my body are anyway
My car is yellow,
my bedroom is purple,
I dream in color
In the first dream I remember
Dracula chained me in the attic
and flew in every night
to see how I was getting on
I don’t like birds I might just be jealous
I read the same books
over and over, always order
the same thing off the menu,
hardly ever take up
with anyone new,
do you understand
what I’m saying
I sleep on my left side. I am lying on it now.
It’s cold in this room, the window might be open,
it’s November now, it’s dark, the cat
is pressing herself into my leg, my birthday
is in February, I’m a winter child, did I mention
I’m cold, always cold, and this poem
is shuddering with cold
Happy May Day! I almost forgot it was my six-year blogiversary. But when I remembered I knew I had to post so as not to break my winning streak of having posted every May 1 since 2010, and also just to say I’m Still Here. I’m even writing poetry occasionally and it’s even being published occasionally, as in this awesome issue of moongarlic that just came out.
Still I have to say that I’m more and more being drawn to work in prose, which requires me to turn my brain less inside-out to write it. I think my brain got weary of being turned inside-out. I think maybe I need to give it a break from that for a while. I’ll let you know how it works out. I hope everything is working out for you.
Sorry I haven’t been around much. I actually have been writing, I’ve just been keeping it selfishly to myself and trying to figure out what to do with it, along with everything else I’m always trying to figure out what to do with. (Life would be so much easier if I didn’t feel this constant need for it to make sense.)
Also I’ve been working on a few other haiku-related projects, which have come to fruition lately. Please check them out, because they’re kind of amazing, and I feel I can say that because for the most part they involve other people’s writing, not my own.
Hope you’re all well. I have firm resolutions to begin contributing to the blog again, um, some time soon. I’ll let you know if I figure out the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.
In between decorating my Christmas tree and then staring at it adoringly every night, binge-watching TV shows as if they were about to discontinue TV, making perfect Yorkshire pudding for the first time in my life (#goals), oh, and working, I have sometimes found time this month to do things that pertain to poetry, such as writing it and reading it. In particular I’ve been reading a lot of haibun, because it’s my turn again to edit the next issue of Haibun Today. Which reminds me, you should send me some haibun. [And please don’t tell me you didn’t know the deadlines or the guidelines or, I don’t know, the fault lines, they’re all right there in the link.]
Uh, what do you mean you don’t write haibun? Don’t you think it’s time to try? I mean, read some first, maybe some of Harriot West’s or Peter Newton’s or Bob Lucky’s or Carol Pearce-Worthington’s, you know, the really great ones, and then lie around indolently thinking about the stories you have known, and then tap into that story-filled indolence and write, because spending hours lying around doing nothing before you start writing is how the real pros do it, trust me on this. Read, then stare into space, then write. It’s a time-honored formula.
Okay, I have to finish up an episode of “Broadchurch” and then get into bed and scribble while lying sideways with my eyes half closed. Now you know why my haiku so often make no sense whatsoever.
the only moving thing
the eye of the poet
Oh hi. Thanks for putting up with me for the entire month of November while I wrote a story backwards. What was that all about? If you’d like to investigate you can click on November 2015 in the column to the right and read the story forwards, which is not the way I wrote it but is actually the way I intended it to be read. For quite a while I’ve been thinking that since blog posts appear in reverse chronological order, then obviously to make a story appear in chronological order on your blog, you must write it backwards. Well. Sometimes I get these ideas and run with them. Sometimes they run with me.
In case you were thinking of asking, writing a story backwards is confusing, disorienting, challenging, and freeing. I recommend it to people with writer’s block. One thing you shouldn’t ask me is what the giant is supposed to be about. She’s a giant. Isn’t that enough for someone to be about?
I’ll be moving on to another writing project now. Probably writing forwards this time. For a change.