March 2018




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Mar. 3rd, 2018

So it turns out it wasn't me who'd left the eggs out but the BYM, who'd prepared some for himself this morning, so they would've been safe to restash. Ah well. The gist of the conversation that followed:

Me: Some critter will enjoy them.
Lui: Something ovidiperous.
Me: *rolls eyes*
Lui: It is too a word! Look it up!
Me: *types* Nope.
Lui: Gimme that. Oviparous... ovivorous! See?
Me: *rolls eyes*
Lui: So what would you call a critter that eats its own eggs?
Me: *starts reading aloud choice bits from "Why Some Animals Eat Their Offspring"* ... "filial cannibalism --"
Lui: Yeah!
Me: "... grow up fast or get eaten"
Lui: That oughta be a tattoo.

This entry was originally posted at


Well. Given the headline-hollerin' weather, I feel like my flight left Philadelphia in the nick of time. A summary of the NJ-DE-PA circuit:

5 trips to the nursing home
1 February Fling (advanced English country dancing)
1 afternoon of waltzing
2 waltz lessons and 1 swing lesson
3 solid Italian meals
2 apples and 2 chocolate muffins purloined from the hotel breakfast buffet
3 bags of coffee purchased as gifts
2 pairs of boots purchased for myself
1 ratty Taiwanese towel finally binned
1 ratty washcloth cut up to wrap around damp toothbrush head
1 poetry submission
assorted lines jotted down and/or typed into my phone, but not expanded-on in time for the deadline in question, but that's OK, because I was stonking TIRED through most of the trip, and I get sparklepoints for choosing safety/sleep over ambition/FOMO
1 dinner plan cancelled because of feeling too dozy on the drive back from NJ. I still have much to learn about realistic scheduling.
50 object labels, 5 wall panels, assorted menu updates, and other projects herded along remotely
1 sparkling peach jelly sake shot + 1 bowl of shanxi cat ear lamb pasta at Suga. They were both REALLY tasty.
an hour+ of good conversation with the friend at Suga, during which I finally confessed that my birthday is in May, not March, but I hadn't said anything before because I'm used to other friends being calendar-challenged (one handed me a very nice bottle of Scotch on my 44th with "this is for all the years I missed...") and in any case what's not to like about celebrating being alive from May 9 through May 8 every year?
1 "Stop Profiling Muslims" sign seen, in the window of Joe Coffee Philly. I promptly went in and ordered a spiced golden mocha.
1 bourbon cocktail at the Oddity Bar
2 hours in Manayunk, where I didn't find any postcards, but I did huff and puff up some hills (can't wait until my wonky ankle regains full strength/reliability. Lungs, too...) after sipping on some Invisible Ink (an IPA) at the Goat's Beard
assorted compliments re the hair (green) and tattoos (glittery) and dancing (I do enjoy being sought out)

I went to bed early last night, and I was so tired that I hadn't remembered about the cut apple or carton of eggs I'd failed to put away. Merde! On the upside, it's a sunny day, so it was less of an ordeal to fling them onto the compost patch than it would've been on a filthier morning. Also on the upside, it was chilly when I got out of bed, so I started my day in a fleece top and a fleece vest, which was like shuffling around in a light nonsmothering cocoon. And I'm now wearing a poet-ninja tee that was a birthday present from another friend -- another light nonsmothering cocoon. :)

As usual, the day has sped by faster than my plans for it. But it remains a fine day. I have defrosted homemade onion soup for lunch (see, ancestors, see? I'm not wasteful -- just absent-minded! This is also how the garlic powder ended up in the fridge...), ordered books for my church library, and moved half of my home library room to other parts of the house (and recycling/resale bins). Progress! Also some laundering and rehearsing and filing and corresponding and wrapping.

Rejections received: 4
Dresses binned: 1 (it was time, ancestors! I paid less than a dollar for it in the first place, and it had become shaggier than a bedraggled sheep...)
Hilarious "nope" exchange of looks with the BYM after trying "savory" Lunar New Year cookies from a relative: 1

This entry was originally posted at

Feb. 26th, 2018

"you do not have to walk on your knees / for a hundred miles"

Today's subject line comes from Mary Oliver's Wild Geese.

The cardboard coffee-cup sleeves in my hotel room exhort, "COOL IT! You can't book a vacation with injured fingers." It took me a minute to realize it was referring to hot beverages, since what's on my mind at the moment is the discerning act (for an assortment of reason, right now the word "balance" is skunked to me*) between what can feel like incessant pressure to Do More vs. self-care vs. making excuses for snaggety things one would rather not (as opposed to cannot) tackle. They wear each other's clothes, and sometimes the people strongly urging that I not sacrifice health and sanity for ambition/achievement are also the ones simultaneously mountainizing molehills in the name of ideals (including the illusory grail of a "balanced" approach/treatment/what-have-you to some of them snaggety things), which in turn gets in the way of me meeting my existing promises.

[* Hadn't read Elizabeth Gilbert on the topic before looking up something else midway through writing this entry, but yeah. What she said there.]

Old George, a dancer I'm fond of, once told me that experienced dancers make tons of mistakes but recover from them better/faster than novices. I'm thinking of how some very successful people in my circles didn't do their part in projects we worked on together, and how irritating that was but also how ultimately irrelevant, but also how I don't want to be that kind of person and that's why I keep saying no on a regular basis to numerous worthy asks, and how several people have told me I'm their hero/inspiration for my ability to do so. I'm thinking of how I know I need to dial back even further when I have to jettison or even cancel existing plans, and when it's a relief when things fall through, and how FOMO, like many other afflictions, is something that hasn't permanently gone away but returns again and again to be dueled with. How my tendency to overplan means that I spent several hours reading up on things I did not have time to pursue in the first place, but it's also how I found the wonderful restaurant where I answered my craving for homemade pasta after a particularly nerve-shredding visit to the nursing home (where a resident with dementia demanded help I could not give, where I was gently reprimanded for wheeling another resident to the dining room [her request, but it turns out she's supposed to wheel herself for PT reasons], and an aide claimed my honorary mama's caregiver had set out only one sock last night and thus not put them on [but said caregiver, who is fan-freaking-tastic, checked the drawer and the socks were together. WTF]).

Where I'm going with this venting? It can be either or both gratifying and uncomfortable when people praise me for all that I get done, because I do pride myself on stubbornness, smarts, and stamina and am pleased when those qualities are recognized, but sometimes the complimenting has the tinge of backhandedery or self-justification, especially when the dialogue essentially filters through as "You're superhuman (or crazy), and I'm not, so I'm going to ask you for this last-minute favor..." I want people to see me as a (re)source, and for my beloveds** in particular to not feel undue constraint about asking me if I would like to help out with a this or that, but I get as pissy as the next diligently boring corn-hauling ant when I feel taken for granted.

[** And, it's probably no accident that my beloveds tend to be people who, being often of cloth or wiring similar to mine, generally don't lightly or habitually make demands of me in the first place.]

I hesitate to post this, since I too can be as bad as the next screenhead when it comes to worrying about whether a subtweet (subpost?) might be about me or if I've effed up Yet Again without realizing it. (The saying of "You know what you did" when angry? Instant friendship-ender, that. I've been called a mind-reader multiple times because of my ability to pay attention and commit key/interesting details to memory, but the label doesn't make it so, and even if my background/values/temperament weren't distinctly atypical, history has shown that I can be spectacularly clueless at times -- which has been true of a number of people in my circles. So.) But I'm hearing/seeing/sensing frustration and exhaustion from multiple corners in reaction to so much Be More! Do More! YOLO! Sleep when you're dead! You haven't given as much as ____! You aren't _____ until you _____! in the air and on the airwaves, and I'm not immune to comparison syndrome myself. (Will I forever feel a pang whenever I find out that yet another friend/acquaintance made Phi Beta Kappa, and feel thoroughly ridiculous for that flash of envy? It hasn't made an iota of difference in my career or love life or health, the fees would have been a significant burden, actually qualified individuals deciding against membership is a recurring thing, not every school has a chapter, etc., blah, blah, OY. [To my credit, I'm not so obsessed that I knew any of those details (except the first) until a few minutes ago, and it doesn't take a psychologist to figure out that right now it's a trigger because Honorary Mama has been proud all her life of being PBK -- her key (and the chain it was on) was one of the pieces of jewelry she made a point of repairing and keeping -- and we're at a juncture in history where honors are rightfully being questioned and analyzed in depth in terms of who awards and receives them and the presence of privilege in the mix. And, on a more personal level, the yearning for and (non)pursuit of prizes and recognition and (not) being chosen is a recurring motif in conversations and reflections, as is the witnessing (and sometimes experiencing) of delusions and cluelessness (I have been that singer/actor at auditions with zero sense of how inadequate I would have been in the parts I coveted, and I have also zipped my lips and sat on my hands when encountering versions of that younger self: it took me long enough to get to a place where I was ready to acknowledge that I wasn't as good as I thought I was, and it's a lesson my avocations are inherently designed to teach me over and over again. I have been blessed with sufficient confidence to send work out again and again -- and also the analytical skills to read something a few months/years/decades later and conclude that I wouldn't have accepted/purchased it either).])

Anyway -- what I sat down to say? Some people do need to be told to sit ass in chair and put in the legendary 10,000 hours before they angle further for attention. I have been that person, and as unready for that admonition as anyone else raised on fairy-godmother-to-the-rescue tales. Some people are better off in the company of kindred spirits looking askance at words that rhyme with "flaweductivity" and coming up with superpowers. I have been that person. Some people alternate slip-slogging through mud and serenely spending hours in a rocking chair by muttering about how none of this will matter in a few hundred years because humanity is heading toward extinction faster than not but for the time being, we (being able) still owe it to God to bake chicken pies and brighten at compliments (especially when the compliments come with tattoos) . . .

chicken hand pies

cards (and tattoos!) from friends

. . . and right now, I am that person. And now I shall half-rush through breakfast and half-ass my makeup and hair and get myself to the places I have promised to be at today, and there will also be pockets of time later today where I shall treat myself to something delicious food- and/or drink- and/or sightseeing/hearing-wise, and linger over it for longer than strictly necessary, and feel gratitude from head to toe for being alive.

This entry was originally posted at

"marked / by a red felt pen / by God"

The subject line's from Gemma Gorga's "It's Late," which will be at Poetry Daily for a year.

I just fixed (after a half-dozen or so sporadic attempts over the past three days) an outer zipper on my suitcase with bar soap and scissors. Go me!

Some of the dances at the February Fling I attended:

  • Ties of Love (a new dance by Jenny Beer [of "Keys to the Cellar" fame] -- "the tune may change, but here's what it is for now" [qfm] -- presented at the dance to David and Carolyn Tilove, who recently moved from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh)

  • Gotham Farewell (a recently choreographed dance by Beverly Francis, who is moving from New York to Ohio)

  • Pharmacist's Pleasure

  • The Introduction (danced with a beautifully precise partner, and oh, they are wonderful, those moments when someone who has just met me realizes, "Oh yes, this one has the timing/flirting down," and the dance blooms because you're both in full connection to each other and the music. And it doesn't hurt my ego to be sought out for dances -- particularly since I regularly and occasionally literally crash back to earth in the course of attempting other forms, including at Mostly Waltz yesterday. Though I also got to whirl through Jonathan Jensen's "Candles in the Dark") with a lovely man, and we did not stop to fix my undone shoelace.

  • The Dusty Miller

  • Autumn in Amherst (the keyboard player = composer of the tune)

  • Quite Carried Away

  • Companions

  • The Way of the World (modern dance by Jenna Simpson)

  • Farmer's Joy (Joseph Pimentel)

  • One couple showed up with elven ears (which went quite well with their finery, and they often look as though they're up to something even without pointy ears...) ... and the ears sprouted on several otherwise generally proper dancers later in the evening. I was reminded of another dancer's observation at an Asheville after-party earlier this month: "English Country Dancing is full of odd ducks, and that is a reason I am drawn to it."

    (During the course of the Princeton evening, I was reminded that ECD does seem to draw a high number of mathematicians and other scientifically minded types -- I forget why Ars Technica came up during the refreshment break, but vaguely recall trajectories and velocities being part of the conversation.)

    This entry was originally posted at I see comments at DW, IJ, and LJ (when notifications are working, anyway), but not on feeds.

    Feb. 24th, 2018

    dazzled at least ten times a day

    The subject line comes from Mary Oliver's Blue Horses, the full line being "It must be a great disappointment to God if we are not dazzled at least ten times a day." Blue Horses was a gift to my honorary mama from one of her actual daughters and her wife, and it came to the rescue yesterday when I was visiting her at the nursing home.

    I don't have much to say about ALS that doesn't involve copious streams of profanity. HM used to talk enough for the both of us, and now I can't even make out when she's saying yes or no, and it's a struggle for her caregivers as well, and she doesn't have the muscle control or strength even to lift her head. But we carried on as best we could yesterday - the Jewish yoga book I brought didn't lend itself to reading aloud as easily as I'd hoped, but the Oliver poems did, so I ended up reading the entire volume to her.

    At any rate, I knew this trip would be challenging from the get-go, and I am adequately equipped in experience, resources, and temperament to deal with said challenges, so meet them we have and shall. My flight left Nashville three hours late, but that meant I could catch up on some work and catch some Olympics on the bar TV. For all her flaws, Ayn Rand did write some things that have resonated and remained with me, one of them her characters' love of cities (aka demonstrations of human mastery), and one thing I have loved about landing in and driving around PA/DE/NJ after nightfall is getting to behold the beauty of so many lights and of ornate factories wreathed in steam.

    Also, the young women at both the rental car counter and the hotel desk were both friendly and competent in spite of it being 3:30 and 4-effing-a.m. respectively when I showed up in their lobbies, and last night a man named Luigi saw me out to my car after my meal at his restaurant; a fashionably scruffy man sauntering by cheerfully bellowed, "Was it good?" -- his words and smile transforming him from possibly-sketchy-guy-on-kinda-sketchy-block to guy-who-lives-in-the-neighborhood-enjoying-the-fact-that-people-stop-in-to-enjoy-Luigi's-cooking.

    There's more to say, but now it is time to don clothes and makeup and head north for more visiting and some dancing.

    This entry was originally posted at

    Feb. 19th, 2018

    the drunkenness of things being various

    The subject line's from Louis MacNeice's "Snow." Which we don't actually have here, as it's above 70 F (according to @NashSevereWx, we hit a record-breaking 76 F a couple of hours ago). The temptation is to ignore the must-do list and putter about in the yard, but I would also like to get enough sleep before driving around the northeast later this week, so I'm sipping a glass of Barcelona cava (left over from Saturday's brunch, and still bubbly!) and mopping the floors, retouching my hair, de-skanking a heating grate -- you know, the things one must absolutely get out of the way before buckling down to paperwork and phone calls and the other things that shove aside mopping the floors and retouching my hair most weekdays.


    Indoors, the largest of the Christmas cacti is magnificently in bloom, and my little quartet of romaine/bok choy stubs supplied leaves for today's salmon salad. There are also new buds on the kalanchoe.

    I've noticed the cardinals out and about today, with two pausing on the fence just outside my window. I look at the cardinals on the holiday address labels sent to me by some charities. My other windows are open, and a couple of yards away, someone is attempting to force notes out of a wind instrument -- possibly a saxophone. I might be shaping some lines in my head about seasonal and boundarial messiness.

    In 2016, J. S. Graustein wrote about trokeens at Folded Word and invited readers to submit them. Last week, unFold published "Lab(orare est orare)" as a video.

    And, at Vary the Line, I posted "Calculations":

    This entry was originally posted at

    Feb. 16th, 2018

    10 facts

    Tagged by [personal profile] xochiquetzl.

    When you get this, please post 10 facts about yourself and then pass it along to 10 followers.

    1. I've lived in my current house since 2000. During the first sixteen years, a yellow rosebush by the side of my driveway would bloom each year. Since I hadn't planted it and it didn't require any care from me, I called it my "rogue rosebush." It was paved over when our new driveway was poured, but last spring I planted a new yellow rosebush in my front yard, and it is doing well.

    2. I like my coffee black and my whisky neat.

    3. I worked for the Mondale/Ferraro campaign in high school, for a civics assignment.

    4. One of my physics classmates threatened to spit on me when she saw my button.

    5. I can be stupid frugal at times, but I did just toss an onion into the compost pail without trying to salvage any part of it. Mind, it was so old that it felt like one of those squishy stress balls handed out at trade shows and corporate seminars.

    6. I made a promise to my mother on her deathbed that I knew I would not keep. (She did not want an obituary published.) This is also the woman who yelled at me for wasting money when I brought the flowers my mother-in-law had asked me to buy.

    7. I will be flying north soon to visit my honorary mama, who turns 89 soon. She is dying from ALS but her mind is intact. There will be champagne.

    8. My honorary big brother and his boyfriend will be coming to my house tomorrow for brunch. We met 31 years ago (a number of significance because he was a Baskin-Robbins boy at the time).

    9. The first time I went ice-skating was at a rink in downtown Chicago.

    10. My household didn't have cable when I was growing up. A friend taped a selection of music videos for me to enjoy, and that's how I first encountered a-ha's "Take on Me" (amused nod at Vincent Zhou).

    Tagging: [personal profile] antisoppist, [personal profile] dichroic, [personal profile] geri_chan, [personal profile] lore, [personal profile] gramarye1971, [personal profile] kass, [personal profile] lomedet, [personal profile] rymenhild, [personal profile] wendylove, [personal profile] missizzy

    This entry was originally posted at I see comments at DW, IJ, and LJ (when notifications are working, anyway), but not on feeds.

    Feb. 15th, 2018

    71 degrees after sunset in February

    Colleague walking me to my car: Someone asked for you today. Did they find you?

    Me: Hmmm, no. Odd.

    Colleague: They seemed nice. Polite.

    Me: Well, some of the people who know me are. And then there's the riff-raff.

    Colleague: Peg, we all know some riff-raff.

    Me: Well, of course we do. Live long enough, you're gonna run into some riff-raff.

    Colleague: Now you're sounding like my pastor.

    This entry was originally posted at

    Jan. 28th, 2018

    "love / where the topsoil is not dead"

    Today's subject line comes from Khaya Osborne's When All the Dandelions Have Wilted, the Scratch of Tobacco is So Much Less Damning, via Frontier Poetry's Exceptional Poetry From Around the Web list.

    Signal-boosted by tweeps: Brian Bilston's Refugees and Irene Klepfisz's Perspectives on the Second World War.

    Week in review: Six poems rejected, five images rejected, one new poem drafted and submitted. See previous entry for links to the two now online.

    I logged more than fifty hours at the day job last week, and wasn't good for much by yesterday evening, so instead of going out, I opened a bottle of cava and pan-fried four scallops with a strip of pork belly, with leftover rice and fennel rounding out the meal. Then I divided the rest of the night between song/dance prep and housework.

    There's a line in Philip Gefter's "Place Beyond the Pines" (published online as The Place Beyond the Fire Island Pines, about Columbia County, that particularly resonated with me when I read it in the bath some days ago: "I like to think of the region as a sprawling artists' colony, where everyone is almost pathologically productive, keeping a safe distance from one another in their secluded studios while still wanting to know what everyone is working on."

    Sending you thoughts of both naps and seeds from my secluded studio, my dears.

    This entry was originally posted at

    Jan. 24th, 2018

    "You can't help but write more than one at a time"

    Making Africa

    A few weeks ago, I tossed a couple of sandwiches and a half-eaten cucumber into a bag that I took with me on a work trip to Atlanta (the photos in this entry are from the visit to the High Museum). I ate the sandwiches and part of the cucumber. The bag still isn't fully unpacked, but I fished out what remained of the cucumber early last week. Thank goodness for solid ziploc seals.

    It took me most of another week to drag the compost pot to the yard, which encapsulates it being cold, me being sick, and things being hectic. (I added "club soda" to my mental shopping list earlier tonight, and just a few minutes ago noticed the two-liter bottle of club soda I'd brought home last night and completely forgotten about. And -- as if in reproach -- it promptly fizzed all over half the kitchen when I opened it. Some days the comedy is everywhere.)

    Making Africa

    Anyway, some things are getting done, and some new poems are online -- "Lost Wax" over at and a sestina over at the CDC Poetry Project.

    Last month Sidekick Books published an Advent calendar of window poems; mine was on Day 2:

    Making Africa

    Today's subject line comes from Maxine Silverman's Shiva Moon (published by Ben Yehuda Press, which is bringing out my friend Rachel's Texts to the Holy next month), in a poem titled "A Small Craft Advisory," which I bookmarked earlier this month even though at this point there's nothing subconscious about references to 1930s Germany and 1940s treatment of Japanese Americans bleeding into and all over my drafts and correspondence. Silverman:

    Years back if the S.S. crashed a poem
    at once I'd rub them out. . . .

    Nazis aren't subconscious anything.
    Generations after Auschwitz, they still have their way
    with us, show up when you least expect. That is the poem.
    The rest -- commentary.

    This entry was originally posted at

    Jan. 21st, 2018

    when the stamps fit

    Tonight's letters to my senators were about how the money spent on the dictator-in-chief's golf trips could have fed thousands of homeless veterans.

    I just printed a copy of this women's march sign to mail to my honorary mama (language NSFW):

    Actions for introverts:
    Postcards To Voters:
    Americans of Conscience:

    This entry was originally posted at I see comments at DW, IJ, and LJ (when notifications are working, anyway), but not on feeds.

    Jan. 12th, 2018

    "Needing drastic forms of admiration is a virus"

    The subject line's from "Qum," by Tim Dlugos (who, among other things, was called the Frank O'Hara of his generation and had planned to become an Episcopal priest before AIDS killed him). It's the January 12 entry in A Year in Poetry, edited by Thomas E. Foster and Elizabeth C. Guthrie.

    During dinner, I read Mimi O'Donnell's piece in Vogue about her life with Philip Seymour Hoffman, and about how her kids and she are living the loss four years later. The final paragraph:

    This fall, after a long campaign by my kids, I agreed that we could get a family dog. They had their hearts set on a French bulldog, and after some research we found a breeder and picked out a puppy, a girl, whose picture was so cute it was almost insane (and I’m not a dog person). The moment we made the decision, Cooper said, “She’s going to die. Dogs don’t live very long, so we’re going to see her die.” In her birth and in her coming to us, we were also mourning her death. Something about that felt right, knowing that everything you meet or love is going to die. I was in awe of my kids that they were able to hold both things in their heads at the same time. That’s who they are now. And it hasn’t stopped them from loving this little creature (her name is Puddles) scampering around our apartment. None of them wants to hold back. They’ve given their hearts to her, without hesitation or reservation.

    Me, I'm probably another 6-12 months from opening heart and home to a new-to-me dog. My schedule needs to become several degrees less breakneck for me to spend adequate time with any additions to our household, and I'd also like to see through some major repairs while we are pet-less (among other things, a patch of ceiling has been shedding plaster every time someone takes a shower). But I do greatly miss the affection and entertainment our past furballs have provided.

    January 2016 January 2016

    It's currently 59 F in Nashville. (The high yesterday was 69 F.) The temperature is supposed to plummet to 29 F by mid-morning. That is bonkers. Who knows what the roads are going to be like.

    Although it will likely be months before I'm back on the water, I'm dreaming of it:

    January 2016

    This entry was originally posted at

    Jan. 6th, 2018

    Off Calendar

    Green Hills Starbucks, 6:30 am

    I'd hoped to stay in bed, but duty called,
    but had I not been out I wouldn't have stopped
    for the slow treat of a tall peppermint mocha.

    Although I had the pew-bench all to myself,
    the shop seemed full of congregants --
    a grizzled gentleman holding forth on Churchill,
    younger creatures conferring on clothes for clubbing,

    and who-knows-what-fresh-hell-now unspooling
    across the phone and laptop screens. I'm too far away
    to see what's being said, and I am fine with that,

    for right now all I want is to steep in the sweetness
    of sitting still, of studying glass
    being both filter and mirror, night-edged research
    sharing its margins with daybreak, the sky

    the pink of the Christmas cactus blooms at my house,
    the plants flowering on, beyond the carols and candles.

    This entry was originally posted at

    Jan. 1st, 2018

    tattooing the darkness

    [The subject line is from Bei Dao's New Year, translated by David Hinton.]

    Culling unloved photos from the drives --
    blurry loaves, a squinting ex,
    streaks alluding to nights that no one
    else this side of the afterworld can recall,
    much less light up with the lived-through-it --

    my husband peers at my screen, asking
    about my codes while knowing
    I'm not going to make any sense.
    On cue, he groans. I kiss his neck,
    advise him just to call our advisor
    should I get hit by a pedal tavern.

    "I will," he says, "after I burn
    all the pedal taverns down." "I'll do
    my best not to get nailed by one." He nods
    with feeling. I've seen him throw
    whole albums into bins, and
    t-shirts into rag-piles. I myself flung
    his aunt's old clippings and ledgers
    into the dumpster -- records I would
    have loved to pore over, some other lifetime,
    but there was no time to spare and no room
    and even what I hauled back's since been further
    "curated" down to what I can swear
    I'll probably wear, and even then
    I still have to tell myself, "Get real!
    No one's going to study your dozens of drafts,
    let alone save them, and that's not even
    how you'd want them to spend their days, not
    when the world will still need defending
    from despots, not to mention
    friskier frolics--" I want to be
    the kind of ghost that kicks their butts
    into dancing alone at the disco
    should they want to dance when no one else is game
    and the strength in their no when they know
    they're overdue for tea with just the trees.

    This entry was originally posted at

    Dec. 30th, 2017


    As quoted by Michiko Kakutani in her review back in February (

    “His mind was freshly inclined toward sorrow,” Saunders writes of Lincoln, “toward the fact that the world was full of sorrow, that everyone labored under some burden of sorrow; that all were suffering; that whatever way one took in this world, one must try to remember that all were suffering (none content; all wronged, neglected, overlooked, misunderstood), and therefore one must do what one could to lighten the load of those with whom one came into contact; that his current state of sorrow was not uniquely his, not at all, but, rather, its like had been felt, would yet be felt, by scores of others, in all times, in every time, and must not be prolonged or exaggerated, because, in this state, he could be of no help to anyone and, given that his position in the world situated him to be either of great help or great harm, it would not do to stay low, if he could help it.”

    [Looked it up because Chris Thile's show rebroadcast the segment with the author today, with an unexpectedly funny intro (on figuring out who would narrate the novel, and then "I was raised Catholic, and to me, Purgatory is, like, the DMV..."). Haven't listened or watched to the whole reading yet, but I want to be able to find both it and this quote again.]

    This entry was originally posted at I see comments at DW, IJ, and LJ (when notifications are working, anyway), but not on feeds.

    by the seat of my broom

    Down the street . . .

    Hanging onto my hourglass-sand-scoured ride
    as it swerves and dips, wrenches and screeches
    its way through the jagged turn of this year
    onto the fog-wreathed bridge of the next --

    the first of many gauntlets waiting ahead.
    Some may well dissolve with huffing and puffing
    but I have seen what straw can devour --

    like plague, like lava -- as it fans out within flames,
    rippling, ripping everything near the fury
    into indiscernable ruins. Ninety years hence --

    or just nineteen, or hell, even nine --
    this story will be ancient, all too possibly buried
    beneath triumphant lies. But meantime, meanwhile -- time notwithstanding --

    meanness must be countered, rugs rolled away
    for air to meet rot, hearths unwalled
    to hands trained in mending and measuring what's true.

    Down the street . . .


    For another stare-and-riff inspired by this site, see Frames at Vary the Line.

    This entry was originally posted at

    Nov. 27th, 2017

    that kind

    I have a new post up at Vary the Line, featuring pumpkins and angry riffs prompted by Anne Sexton:

    Some other time, I might write about the recent day a girlfriend and I spent in Florence, Alabama, where we visited Rosenbaum House, Alabama Chanin, and FAME Studio. Good eats at the Chanin Factory, and some scribbling there as well.

    The factory also had a BIG rack of free postcards, and a stack of Doug Jones brochures right up front. So I grabbed one of every blank card of Alabama origin, and spending part of tonight writing yet more postcards to voters:

    This entry was originally posted at I see comments at DW, IJ, and LJ (when notifications are working, anyway), but not on feeds.

    Nov. 12th, 2017

    "a tree that's standing by the water side"

    [The subject's line from "We Shall Not Be Moved." A Mavis Staples recording is playing while I type.]

    Postcard to Alabama

    Election Day is Tuesday, December 12.

    This entry was originally posted at I see comments at DW, IJ, and LJ (when notifications are working, anyway), but not on feeds.

    "a tree that's standing by the water side"

    [The subject's line from "We Shall Not Be Moved." A Mavis Staples recording is playing while I type.]

    Postcard to Alabama

    Election Day is Tuesday, December 12.

    This entry was originally posted at I see comments at DW, IJ, and LJ (when notifications are working, anyway), but not on feeds.

    Nov. 4th, 2017

    Jewish American writing

    In this year's edition of "The Greats," T Magazine included essays by three Jewish American novelists. The final paragraphs of each essay -- as they should -- kick and stick.

    Nathan Englander:

    It's partially the idea of shifting identity that drew me, all these years later, to a character who is American but Israeli, who is both patriot and traitor, who inhabits more than one self, by virtue of being a spy.

    That's what I latch onto when thinking about contemporary American Jewish novels engaging with Israel, the ideas revolving around fluidity, of borders drawn and redrawn, of changing landscapes and altered realities. As for my initial discomfort with being labeled, I don't know if it's age that has changed me as much as the current climate here, in America, my home. But I'm telling you, with white supremacists resurgent and wielding power, this pulled-pork-loving, drive-on-Saturdays secular Jew has never been happier to be called a Jewish-American Novelist. One yarmulke isn't even good enough for me, these days. I'm writing this with a half-dozen stacked, like pancakes, on top of my head.

    Nicole Krauss:

    As Israeli artists, inventors and youth claimed [Tel Aviv], the culture they began to pump out was the antithesis of the one at large that grew out of a diasporic, Ashkenazi, religious, post-Holocaust idea. Instead, it was a modern, secular, Middle Eastern reality without cultural precedent. For the first time in the country's history, there was new Israeli music, food, art and humor that reflected the physical and emotional reality of a fraught and urgent Jewish existence whose context is Arabic rather than European. It's no coincidence that Israeli society hijacked the narrative of itself around the time that modern Hebrew, also forcibly willed into fresh existence, fully caught up with the complex conditions of the lives of its native speakers: For language itself is generative, and to be able to describe is to be in the possession of creative power.

    So it is that diaspora Jews find, for the first time in 2,000 years, that they can’t claim Israel as their idea, or its reality as an extension of their own. However related, it is something authentically other now, and the Jews of America and Europe, most of whom don't speak Hebrew, have only narrow access to the inner conversation of Israeli being, and can only look upon it from the uneasy position of being neither inside, nor yet entirely outside, beyond the range of its consequences. Israel, which is making sense of itself, has confused our own sense of being, and the novel goes straight toward that confusion, just as it will always go toward heat, toward what is still undecided and so most alive.

    Joshua Cohen:

    Jews in America are always being called upon to declare their loyalties--which of our identifiers do we put before the hyphen, and which do we put after: "Jewish" or "American"? This recurrent query--which Jews in America ask themselves with all the breeziness of an online test, and anti-Semites in America ask with all the gravity of an Ellis Island examination--is inevitable but pointless. Jews are more secure in contemporary America than they have been in any other country in Jewish history. This is because America is a country in which the citizens define the ideologies, not the other way around. This, ultimately, is what the fundamentalists hate: America’s constitutive capacity for change, which they regard as the evil face of self-determination. Nazis, Klansmen, ISIS--all fundamentalists resent the mutability of human life and the fact that, in a technologized world, no manner of racial or ethnic or religious or cultural purity can ever be guaranteed, as if an "inalienable" right.

    The country I dream of is a place in which all humans are free to take their indoor voices out into the streets, both as proud members of families — however myriad, however defined — and as their own liberated individual selves. America has been this country only rarely; Israel has been this country almost never. The one country I've ever lived in that's consistently fulfilled this dream has been the Novel.

    This entry was originally posted at I see comments at DW, IJ, and LJ (when notifications are working, anyway), but not on feeds.

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