Monday, November 13, 2017

Wonder Lust

Plane, cloud


I miss the pause
for mystery

the beguiling crook
of the crone's
withered finger

how a crevice advancing
through a toppled log
can fit the whole
of a kingdom, comfortably

   moss overtop
       to muffle
          the secrets

I miss the wondering wave
of not knowing
collapsing upon
some silver-sighted shore

where the questions sprawl
across rocks
like sirens
calling, calling, calling

for more



Friday, November 10, 2017

Blog Anniversary: 10 Years Later



Ten years ago,
I slipped inside
a backyard rocket
and launched myself
to the moon

Strange thing is—
I live here now.

Not quite as bouncy
as I was back then

Not nearly as beholden
to the eyes of men

And yet—

You should see the Earth
from my perspective

Blue and beautiful

   if full of Martians

and thick with treasure
I long to explore


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

One Year Ago

Memory

How to mark a year like this?

Has it, in fact, been a year? Time seems as slippery as everything else.

A year ago, I woke up to the knowledge that we were about to elect Hillary Clinton president of the United States. I was happy for the historical significance of the milestone, though I was not as excited as I was in 2008, when Barack Obama ascended to that office. The campaign had been too ugly, the divide in the country too troubling, and for as much as I hated Donald Trump, I did not love Hillary. I did, however, believe she'd make a good president, though I doubted she'd be given the chance to succeed by the opposition party in power. Still, when placed next to her competitor, I didn't see how a rational person wouldn't prefer her by a hundred million squintillion to one.

But anyway, that morning I was high on anticipation, filled with the sweet, near-relief of it all being done. In 24 hours, I would never have to think about that man ever again: or not as an existential threat, at any rate. Early in the morning, I went out to fill the bird feeder at the top of our hill which faces a steep, wooded ravine behind our backyard. As I approached the feeder, I stopped short.

There was a stag standing beyond the chainlink fence.

He looked at me. I returned the gaze. In the space between breaths, I counted ten or twelve points on his rack. He was imperious. Imposing. Magnificently wild. I'd never seen a buck so near before. They're notorious loners: people-shy.

In the film of my memory, he snorts and stamps his hoof a little. In reality, I think he simply walked on, crunching the fall leaves as he went.

A little thrilled, I chose to see this encounter as a sign. I'd never seen a stag so close! Our country had never elected a female President! It was meant to be, wasn't it.

That night, as it began to dawn on us that the impossible was fast becoming the nightmarishly probable, I fell off a cliff, like so many of us did.

Today, I'm still down here, struggling. Horrified. Disgusted. Mourning what we've lost and almost despairing of what's to come.

I still don't feel like I understand what happened. Nor do I know how we reclaim our footing and place in the world.*

I know this, though: I've stopped believing in signs.


------

*I wrote this before the Tuesday elections, and the subsequent wave of Democratic victories in Virginia, New Jersey, Maine and elsewhere. Citizens came out in high numbers for an off-year election and rejected Trumpism full-throatedly. A startlingly high percentage of the new Virginia officeholders are women—including the first transgender person ever elected to a state legislature—spurred to action by their love of country and hatred for what Trump and the Trump-enabling GOP have wrought. 

I am buoyed by these results. I am heartened. They are a chink in the side of that cliff. Now let's all grab hold and climb. 


Sunday, October 15, 2017

January 20, 2017

Blue Autumn


Ever since then,
it goes like this.

We eat. We sleep.
Sometimes we dream
before getting up
and losing the thread.

We walk the same steps
to the bathroom,
the sink.
We sit down
We rise.
The floorboards creak.

We reach for our phones,
inevitably.

Click

and free fall down holes without any roots.
Ghost walk through mirrors which enlarge and distort.
On rooftops patroled by wolves in wolf clothing,
we sit on adrenaline and wait. some. more.

Click.

Why this grief we've invited
that's just within reach?

Trump. Puerto Rico. Mass shooters and "balance."
Nuclear war. The first amendment. Environmental armageddon.

Ire comes early. Shock, then despair.
Because—none of it's as shocking as it was last year.

We put the stone in our pocket,
get ourselves off to work.

Back home, tucked in bed, we dread
what's in store for our children's kids.
Wonder at the blitheness
with which we gifted them life.
Would we change it?
No. But it's a thought.

And yet
the most of us—
we do keep our heads.
We've adjusted—roughly—to
the nightmare we live,
ears barely ringing from the blanket alarms,
eyes blindly scanning for the next savior
or devil.

Denial—oh yeah. But only in spurts.

Hope?

Oh, Obama. Hope is changed.

For fear's made us children
in our abuser's house
and hope is most dangerous
when the tyrant is scared.

And yet, what I want
on this crisp, Sunday morning
that seems, by all appearance, so ordinary
is for someone to cover
my screen with their hands
and to say:

"I don't know, either,
baby bird, little lamb.

But it's autumn outside.
Look.
All the things—they're changing again.

Point your finger out there,
to the ones you can touch.

Take the roof off the sky—
see how high we can jump."


Friday, October 6, 2017

Witness





The insects are settling down

Their chatter is losing its vehement sexual edge

that need to be close to one like ourself—
a cry in the night
now squeezed by the throat

Delirious, they asked too much of the summer 
and summer obliged them, sending all her confections 
to the lilies and the valleys they preyed upon 
where everynight was a feast to completion,
a sigh of the sword passing straight through the heart, 
chain metal bursting, like blossoms in heat

You kings and you queens,
you knights and vassals 

Now bats—
the phantom marauders of autumn—
circle the skies overhead

and I watch their ballet
breathlessly

as they pluck the feckless heathens of August 
into their mouths   
without breaking speed

their madness an engine timed out to the minute 
the silence enthralling, 
the hum within  

So the moon, white and fat, 
parts her trees like a bride
in mourning again

So the leaves and I tremble,
witnesses


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Green heron




I'm not as sold
on you
as I am
on your cousin

You have little
in the way
of her arabesque
angles

and know nothing
of the slow, melodious way
she takes umbrage,
packing up the long legs,
concert hall wings
crook neck 

into an island
she heaves out
and then skyward

raising the calm
of her own private ocean

feet far behind
like a lover's old token

until dropping anchor,
en pointe and alone.


Lucky,
you don't seem to mind
the comparison,
too busy listening
to the indiscreet
secrets
of minnows

feet tucked in slime
eyes grim and primordial

on the shoal of a river

the blue guy
let slide.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

41

I cried to find there was poetry left. 

"Come home," she said. 

I did. 




Friday, August 18, 2017

Disease

Self-Portrait


I can’t remember how to 

  write

the fear and the dread 
are
swamps

not founts

the words 
I cupped
been bulldozed to

 dust

and I feel dead inside 
dead inside 
dead and-

 lost

  
cannot - 

 right.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Best 100 Novels Challenge

The Champ!

Nathan Bransford posted a list of his 100 favorite novels and extended an invitation for other bloggers to do the same. Intrigued by the idea (and eager to waste some time), I decided to take him up on the challenge. 

It was a fun, if exasperating, exercise. What I found most difficult was evaluating books I hadn't read in ages, but remembered having strong feelings about. It's difficult to rank the things you love, anyway, but how to rank books you last read in high school against the ones you read last year? I'm a different person now. The older books' nuances (and sometimes, entire plots) might have escaped me in the intervening years. In the end, though, I figured if the book was powerful enough to have left an emotional fingerprint, then it deserved to make the cut (though it likely ended up in the bottom part of this list). 

I did not include collections of unrelated short stories, shorter novellas or memoirs. 

So, without further ado, here's my list of the top 100 novels: 
  1. Jane Eyre
  2. Anna Karenina
  3. A Room with a View
  4. Persuasion
  5. Women In Love
  6. Gilead
  7. The English Patient
  8. The Razor's Edge
  9. Emily of New Moon
  10. On Chesil Beach
  11. A Passage to India
  12. Charlotte's Web
  13. Bel Canto
  14. Madame Bovary
  15. Olive Kitteridge 
  16. Pride and Prejudice
  17. The Age of Innocence
  18. Anne of Green Gables
  19. The Corrections
  20. Breathing Lessons
  21. Silk
  22. Home
  23. Crime and Punishment
  24. The Anthologist
  25. Middlesex
  26. The Book of Ruth
  27. The Burgess Boys
  28. The Remains of the Day
  29. Middlemarch
  30. Villette
  31. The BFG
  32. The God of Small Things
  33. Freedom
  34. Lila
  35. My Ántonia
  36. The Sorrows of Young Werther
  37. A Thousand Splendid Suns
  38. Mrs. Dalloway
  39. Atonement
  40. The Road
  41. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
  42. Jude the Obscure
  43. Les Misérables
  44. The Lowland
  45. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
  46. Sense and Sensibility
  47. The Portrait of a Lady
  48. Great Expectations
  49. Mudbound
  50. The Grapes of Wrath
  51. Winesburg, Ohio
  52. Of Love and Other Demons
  53. The Art of Fielding
  54. The Sense of an Ending
  55. The House of Mirth
  56. Little Women
  57. To Kill a Mockingbird
  58. Mrs. Dalloway
  59. Life After Life
  60. One Hundred Years of Solitude
  61. Siddhartha
  62. The Namesake
  63. An Artist of the Floating World
  64. A Map of the World
  65. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  66. The Ten-Year Nap
  67. And the Mountains Echoed
  68. Elegies for the Brokenhearted
  69. Little Children
  70. And Then There Were None
  71. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret
  72. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  73. Emma
  74. Digging to America
  75. The Vagabond
  76. To the Lighthouse
  77. Animal Farm
  78. White Teeth
  79. Amy and Isabelle
  80. A Farewell to Arms
  81. Things Fall Apart
  82. The Scarlet Letter
  83. The Song is You
  84. Elective Affinities
  85. Talking It Over
  86. The Great Gatsby
  87. The Red and the Black
  88. The Westing Game
  89. Station Eleven
  90. Howard's End
  91. Life of Pi
  92. The Wings of the Dove
  93. Lady Chatterley's Lover
  94. Wonder Boys
  95. Tess of the d'Urbervilles
  96. My Name is Lucy Barton
  97. Searching for Caleb
  98. Norwegian Wood
  99. All Quiet on the Western Front
  100. Brooklyn
So there you go! No doubt I've forgotten a few. And I clearly have some big holes here. No James Joyce, no Marcel Proust, no Toni Morrison, Herman Melville, or Vladimir Nabokov—not because I haven't read their work, but because I haven't read any one book to completion. I hope to remedy that someday. I'm also not that adventurous when it comes to genre fiction, and I know I'm missing out on some wonderful mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, etc. 

If we were keeping tabs on frequency of mentions, Anne Tyler, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Strout, E.M. Forster and Marilynne Robinson would take the prize. 

One final note: Jane Eyre may or may not be the best novel of all time, but I've come to believe that the novels we read at a formative age (I was 13) are the ones that stick to our souls and won't let go. I've read that book a couple times since in the intervening years, and it's always held up. I love Jane. I love Mr. Rochester. I even love poor Bertha, raving away in that attic of hers.   

They're why I fell in love with literature. And they're at least partly responsible for why I write today.

Thanks for the fun challenge, Nathan! I hope others take it up. If you do, be sure to share your list in the comments section of Nathan's original post, and he'll link his post to your blog. 



Saturday, May 6, 2017

Like the weather

Campus couple

when he lowers his voice
and raises his eyes 
to ask her a question

her heart skips a beat
stomach falls

and she wishes
them both
away

from it all
so the rain
could be the answer 



Friday, May 5, 2017

The Gaffer

(photo by Dennis Jarvis)

Lousy at speech,
she became a writer

marching her words out
single file 

(some missing shoes,
others tottering)

instead of enduring the
alarm bell's clamor

sentences smothered,
meaning kinked

everyone panicking,
losing their shit—

hearing that crunch of bone
on teeth.  



Now, years later,
I'm still learning

what it is
to make a story

where to shine
the point of focus

to feel the scourge  
of self-immolation

leave my body 
for the length

of a page — and

shape the fire
into glass




Friday, April 28, 2017

Snapshot

photo by Saul Leiter

Sometimes I long 
to know less 
of a thing 

To catch hold 
of an outline 
and have it 
draw me in, 

while still pulling
slightly
away


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Once



Take my hand, let's plunge 
into woods, dart between pines
like fairy-tale riffraff
sprung from a cage

Something is lurking, 
Something sees 
Is that why the rocks are so rigid and straight?
Why else should we stick 
like words to our page?

What if, instead, you let go
of my hand
and pushed me, ungently,
into a lake? 

What if I laughed
instead of getting mad,
slime on my head
a fish up the leg?  

Impossible to live
like orphans, you say, 
but it's spring 
and I'm drunk 
and I want to 
be nuts 

The clock says I've lived
but half of this life 

I want to get wet,
be charged with a quest,
kiss your hot neck— 

storm the castle

make off with the lamb 



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Francesca

© Francesca Woodman

As if volcanoes 
were born
to make art
of the lava

You, Francesca,
a human
person

Young. Naked.
Even in dresses.
Needful as
the living dawn.

Young. Dead
by the time
that I turned
five. 

Francesca Woodman,
a suicide 
a great 

crawling 
prostrated
obscured
in full daylight 

laughing silently
through
your lens

with a slippery, feral, 
unnatural intent. 

Gaze made 
of marble, 
Body ether

I bet you thought gravity 
would bend.

Baby-girl voice.
Varicose ambitions.
Your mother, the ceramicist,
didn't quite get you,
did she  

But your father, the painter,
let go of his canvas
chasing you through
the halls of your pictures,
to be trapped like Escher
in the mind of your eye

Francesca —

Italia. 

Woodman —

New England.

How uncanny your black,
how holy your linens

But you — 
you are still the something
Other. 
You ghost.
You specter.
You witchy shapeshifter.  

Francesca: 
Girl eternal.

Francesca.
22 years old when the body
struck pavement.  

Francesca. 
Wallpapered in 
to the seam 
of your story. 
Lacquered.
Canonized.  
Ethereal angel.  

And so.
But then.

You got what
you wanted.

Francesca, 
Francesca—
what a price.  




© Francesca Woodman