Tuesday, April 29, 2008

“To Be Looked At (From the Other Side of the Glass) With One Eye, Close To, for Almost an Hour”

after Duchamp, 1918
for Lisa B.

squinting I saw you fragmented like rain or glass, splintered
the way time broke into the number of paintings
or how many seconds you could study Monet and still get
the point or how I came around the corner to Wyeth’s
Christina’s World or finding something new and feeling
my heart leap into my eyes and Lucien Freud with his
whippets and nudes, what would Sigmund say? But
there’s no time for contemplation because twenty
dollars for two hours is ten dollars an hour I can
still do simple math even after three days in New
York City (four dinners, two movies, one play,
countless glasses of wine, one overpriced martini,
two trips to H&M, one bowl of soup, three Stellas)
& what makes it more worthwhile than you
waiting up like the mother you are and we're eating
chocolate and wanting to go home but never
to leave and all the pictures and the notes scrawled
in Moleskins, the coffee consumed and the bagels
Central Park and the simple sensation of strolling
up and down the streets, rain or not, and the subway
ride and the taxis and I want to see the whole thing
up close again, both eyes open because if art can be this

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Albertson's at 17th & 9th

When can I go into the supermarket
and buy what I need with my good looks?
Allen Ginsberg, “America

I’m only looking for a lemon when I think of tonic water
so I need that too but what have I got except my two
legs, strong from running, and my skin, too dry,
I have blue eyes, but I’m not good at flirting,
and sure I have money, but I want to buy what I can
get, not what I can afford, and I remember a story
my husband told about his grocery store days
stalking the shop lifters, the guy who ran out
with the twelve pack of beer and how he wrestled him
across four lanes of traffic, his down jacket
bursting like a shot duck and I never had to
do that but I had to touch the bleeding meat
so I feel I’ve paid my dues and I cut and marked freight
which is what they call groceries before they throw
them on the shelf and now that I’m here in the aisles
lit up like Christmas Eve, I want it all, the Baked Lays
and the Doritos, the corn chips and the neon yellow
Gatorade that reminds me of soccer practice and my
bleeding leg from some high kick and sure I need
tampons and lip gloss, who doesn’t? But I want
chocolate and what kind can my good looks buy
me tonight? just another Monday with no plans
I could be convinced to smile at the checker
gets me only a smile in return the problem
with capitalism is capital with a capital C
which is everyone’s problem these days
saving 40 cents on bananas is like winning a fucking
Nobel and I say again, I’ve got these legs and some
blue eyes and no breasts to speak of I could fit a bag
of chips beneath my shirt and run for it
but what happens when I come back tomorrow
because I need another lemon or maybe
what I really need is a twelve pack of beer

(This is actually yesterday's poem, because I am so behind I am just writing...I heard "America" on KRCL this afternoon so that's why this.)

New Poem

from The Wilco Fragments

all my lies are always wishes
ashes of American flags

when I use words they float without gravity near my face or fall like dead seeds to the floor the way weeds flourish without rain but flowers die and how leaves can blow clear of the lawn but cigarette butts and candy wrappers huddle in the gutter waiting for me to happen by and the smashed beer cans stay but the buds of roses and blossoms of lilacs fall after just minutes and where do they go? somewhere I can’t see them, across the street with the college students who eat pizza on the stoop and smoke cigarettes letting their dogs shit in our yard and pretty soon the whole planet is covered with dandelions and detritus but where are the individual letters the way an F can unfurl like a flag but somehow the lies balloon inflated with sunshine and open space or how a W flies like a flock or C hangs in the sky like a moon I apologize for what hasn’t actually happened but the pollen is out and my eyes are filled with possibility the way something might happen if only

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Late Poem

This poem is actually about last week, but I'm so behind I may never catch up. Here it is.

Son, Sick

Is it wrong that I enjoy it?
Not his nuclear forehead
or the redness of his
eyes nor the vomit
I have to clean up
off the floor, no I enjoy
the warm proximity of him
when I put my lips to his forehead
to take his temperature
I adore his near-ness
the way a fever jerks him
back to childhood out
of his seven-year-old attitude
too old
to touch mom
to need mom
and suddenly I’m alive
the bringer of the Gatorade
the one’s who cool washcloth
feels like ice and spring at the same
time and he’s lying, quietly
listening to me read, he puts
his head on my shoulder
he nestles into me
nestles! and though I don’t wish
for him to be sick, in fact
I pretend he’s well so I can
send him back to school,
I actually love the days
when he sleeps without struggle
walks directly into my arms when
he wakes when his voice
doesn’t rise to a whine but instead
settles against my skin
a cool, considering hand

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

ED 6 & 7

So I fell behind, but I was catching up on poems, so that's something, isn't it?
Like Hightouch, I try to make dinner at home. This week it was all about leftovers. We ate Sunday's meal Monday AND last night. So that was Earth Day 6: eating what you have on hand. (I know I'm copying Hightouch, but copying is a form of reusing, and it's not wasteful!)
And for Earth Day 7: stop unnecessary trips in the car. As the owners of only one car, MB and I rationalize a good deal of our travel. But sometimes it's not necessary for him to drive me all the way to campus, etc etc. So when only one of us goes to campus, we will take public transportation. If it's the campus near our house, MB walks. I sometimes ride my bike. If it's the campus farther away, we can take a bus/train/bus combination. Or, at the very least, someone can drop someone else at the train, thus eliminating the longest part of the drive.
Also, I have convinced MB not to buy a new vehicle (because I don't want to invest in obsolete technology), but instead I think we're going to get a rack for the top of the car we do have so that if we ever do go camping, poor Son won't be crammed in the backseat with a million things. And we have the dog now, so there's that.
Thanks for the Earth Day Challenge! I'm looking forward to composting and attempting another garden this summer.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

New Poem

I heard this amazing story about Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayer on "Fresh Air" today. Steve Lopez is a columnist for the LA Times and met Nathaniel Ayer on Skid Row. Nathaniel was a brilliant musician who dropped out of Julliard because of mental illness. Lopez helped him get back into music and wrote a book about their experiences called The Soloist. I was inspired by a part of the interview to write this poem. I hope you will listen to part of the story. I know you are busy. At least think about listening to part of it.
Here's the poem:

The Apartment

is waiting for me with its windows and hush hush hush
if I can’t hear the sirens or rain how will I know my body
exists and the world of noise and sensation
the music of the dripping sink the thumps upstairs
as if the building is a living thing and we are
its heartbeat all night
I push the cart up and down the street watching
the apartment building turn on its eyes
and close itself like a mouth that wants to sing
but can only belch and groan
if only the apartment were the size of my hand
I could lift the building to my lips and blow
the sound of music the humming of kitchen
lights the refrigerator the startling silence
of night cars going by and the way the moon
howls its glow if I wanted to be inside
I would turn myself out like coat lapels or socks
but the city is my mind lit up like Sunset Boulevard
walking all night pushing this way and that and even
the silence makes a sound like the echo of wind
in a paper cup can you hear it?
inside I curl on the floor I hear
the apartment sleeping the eyelids of sleepers
fluttering in dreams and if I cannot dream
then I do not blame the apartment I
believe it cradles me like a park bench
that wants to melt but cannot help
what it is being only the right shape
and so much metal

Sunday, April 20, 2008

ED 4 & 5

So I slacked yesterday and did not post. But it was because I was cleaning my house and nursing sick Son.
But, I didn't use a bag at REI and I reused a box from Christmas for my gift. So, for yesterday the theme was REUSE.
I'm about to go to Whole Foods, and I'll bring my own bags. And I try not to use those little plastic bags, but sometimes I do.
My other goal for today: get a new gold filter for our new coffeemaker. Our old gold filter has holes in it, and we have been using paper filters (which we can compost, but still). So that's for today: gold filter replaces paper filter and paper filter waste.
Don't get blown away in all this wind! Batten the hatches!

Friday, April 18, 2008

ED 3

I'm not sure I can take credit for this, but I will, given the Earth Day Challenge. MB bought a composter today at CostCo (of all places! So ecologically incorrect!). It is made of 90% recycled materials and it will help us recycle our materials (so many coffee grounds!!) into compost for the as of yet non-existent garden that may, one day (the distant future), grace our yard.
So that's today. Tomorrow we begin composting. Let's hear it for composting!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Sublime Appeal of Sherlock Holmes

Why do I love him so?
His heroin habit, his rough talk to Dr. Watson,
the way he finds a mystery within a mystery
we didn’t even know was there? In “A Solitary
Bicyclist” a woman is merely afraid of being followed.
But that’s to my untrained eye. Holmes sees
the larger mystery, the greed in men’s hearts
and the lust in their souls. If they have souls.
I’d guess that Holmes doesn’t believe in the soul,
because he can find no evidence of it on his
shirt sleeve, it leaves behind no residue, it can’t be
tested for. Holmes believes in numbers, and facts,
and, it turns out, boxing. He calls a clean left
“delicious” and sips his scotch. One wonders
about the exact nature of Holmes' relationship
to Watson, but perhaps that is too twenty-first
century. Watson marries eventually, Holmes dies,
but then returns, just like the villain in one of his mysteries.
Holmes tells Watson he is supremely unhelpful,
and I can’t help but think he’s telling the truth.
Is it always best to tell the truth? Holmes might say yes,
but here our minds diverge. Perhaps it is best to tell
an approximation of the truth, the way Holmes
remade himself as a beggar or an old man, so as to
sidle up to the suspect or the victim, to get a closer look,
a better angle, to surprise the truth unawares. I believe
Holmes might agree, though not directly. He would nod,
and say perhaps. Best not to commit oneself. He could
unriddle clues disguised as chimera, but tricked himself
last, the truth disguised as needle, as alchemy, as getting
away with it, though it, in the end, was getting away with him.

ED 2

Today I'm going to try not to take 2 showers. This sometimes happens if I have to go teach and then I work out or swim later and have to shower again. Today I am just not showering in the morning. I don't actually have to meet with students today, instead I'm sitting in my office while they drop off essays and then meet in their workshop groups. So I'm hoping no one will notice that my hair is in a ponytail, and that I smell slightly of french fries.
After this, I'll workout at the gym and shower there.
My other promise is to take shorter showers at home. I think I need a timer with an alarm. Or a shower that just turns off in protest.
I am a super long showerer and I admit that. But I'm trying to change my ways.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Earth Day Challenge

So I agreed to be more Earth Friendly, in general, but at least for the next 7 days. I heard a guy talking about biking, especially to places less than 2 miles away. So I probably could bike to the grocery store, etc. But not until it stops being freezing and snowing just because it feels like it.
Today, I tried to not use plastic bags to bring my lunch. First of all, bringing my lunch is much more Earth Friendly than buying it at school, because of the packaging and napkins and whatnot. But I always bring at least three things for lunch. So today I brought my carrots in a small container instead of a plastic bag. That's good, right?
And I promise not to write a bad poem today, which will cut down on the much-complained-about poetry pollution.
That's day 1.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another American Idol poem

Well. This one was better in theory. But here it is. It's here. Right now.

Michael Johns: We Hardly Knew Ye

I read the news today, oh boy
my first thought was: is America crazy?
Really? You want to get rid of him? The hot
one with the Australian accent?
I have some fantasies that involve conversations
with famous people, in which I act casual and cool,
and so with Michael, I say, hey, I liked your
interpretation of “Bohemian Rhapsody,”
like didn’t mean to make you cry
very, um, heterosexual.
But, don’t be silly, I know I’ll never
get to see him or Jake Gyllenhaal,
or French kiss Willem Dafoe (the 80s one),
or even touch the thumb of Kevin Bacon,
thinking the whole time how many degrees
separate us, like the mere inches between
Dolly Parton and Michael Johns the week
he sang I like your look, I love your smile
and I was thinking, get over here! Me too!
But I’ll never be that close to him, close
enough to say, Hey Michael, will you
call my name as you walk on by?

He’d reply, sure. No problem.
But outside my dream life he sings,
dream on, dream until your dreams come true…
The closest I’ll get to him, or anyone, might be
the distance between the stage and the audience,
or, translated, the distance between celebrity
and real life. Here I am on the couch and there
they are on the screen. Except for Michael.
Oh Michael. Where are you?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Finally. A poem.

Poem in Which My Husband Slams My Fingers in the Car Door

and Then We Attend a Baseball Game

Why on a Saturday when the sun shines do we sit in the shade?
Such are the vagaries of buying baseball tickets as the game starts,
families straggling and crying, children not surrendering their dreams
of new hats and pink ice cream, instead crying and pleading and screaming,
waiting for their parents to give in. But first, I screamed.
I didn’t scream because I was angry or frustrated or mad,
the normal reasons for screaming, at least in my universe.
No. I was merely getting into the minivan, not mine, of course,
but my father’s. My hand was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The news took a second, maybe two, to travel to my brain.
And then I screamed. I screamed so loud that later the neighbor
asked my husband if I was okay. Yes, he said. I closed her hand
in the car door. Don’t worry, I said, my hand throbbing. It’s only
my right hand. I won’t need it for anything, thinking of the writing,
and all the grading that needs to get done in the next two weeks, and
the novel or the stories that might not get written after that, not to mention
that I won’t be able to shovel out our backyard for our new patio
because my hand will be bruised and purple and lame. But I’m fine.
I took some Advil, iced my hand and, upon arrival at the baseball game,
had a beer. Then we shivered in the shade, watching batters, left-handed
and right. We discuss mirror images and backwards writing and how, when
learning to read, a word can be a sound or a picture. For me it was a picture,
which was how I could tell a Gris from a Picasso. Or whatever. That’s just
an example. When I’m not thinking about how cold I am, I’m asking
questions about what makes a .485 batting average what it is, and also,
to tell the truth, I’m thinking about the damage bats can do, and I’m
checking out the women in my section to see if they are my age,
or younger, and which babies are cute or fat or both. My son’s tongue
is red and he looks like an alien, which is what he is, most of the time,
a creature that doesn’t know what it wants and rarely understands English.
But now, as I’ve figured out, my hand is not crippled, in fact it’s fine, under
the influence of Advil, and baked potatoes, mushrooms and wine.
I can’t tell my husband, of course, because then where would I be?
I have to pretend to suffer, and in pretending, I do suffer, because
acting is being. I know that much. But the key is in convincing him
that I suffer, which doesn’t take much, believe me. Hey, my fingers hurt,
they’re swelling, look? Pass the wine.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I'm teaching a workshop on writing about Home this month. Here's a little something I started at the first workshop on Monday night.


Later it wouldn’t be the basement
or the solo bedroom with gold trim
or the orange bookcase

It would not be the apartment on Marigold
or the duplex on Chubbuck Road
It wouldn’t even be the house, finally
ours, on Chase. Home?

Who can say
It’s not this small kitchen
or the dusty baseboards
the muddy backyard
the arrangement of four walls
and furniture, beds and sofas
or the accumulation of books and time

It’s the presence of bodies
in such a space
the husband, the son, the dog
and the kind of quiet
that only emerges
from sleep & snow

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

today's poem is...

For which, I apologize. But after watching two hours of Idol Gives Back, complete with dying kids in Africa, poverty in Kentucky, I just wasn't happy. I think I want to go to Africa.
But, in any case, I revived something I wrote as prose last year after seeing The Devil Came on Horseback, about the genocide in Darfur. You should see it. Or at least see some of Brian Steidle's photographs. Amazing and horrifying. I'm in awe of people who have such courage. This, then, is the poem.

Poem To Be Read With Eyes Closed After Looking at Brian Steidle's Photograph

There was a girl.
See her?
She curves in the shape of sleep
red dress clinging to her bones
her wrists might slip from the chains
that bind her to the tree where
she was burned
she is a heap of ash

don’t ask yourself how old she was
don’t ask where you were
or what you were doing when

the problem is evil
is injustice
is the men on horses with knives
and guns

but what do these words mean?
knife gun
I have heard them spoken
but I don't understand

don’t ask what you could have done
I’m sorry, but she’s not the only one
Think: it could have been a girl in a pink
skirt or the baby I saw, tiny in a yellow blanket

Don’t say I didn’t know
Don’t ask what could I have done
It’s both too late and too early

See this hand and the muscle
in it, the red still living
and don’t ask why
do it now

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The DFL is...

Over! Hallelujah!
But there is no rest for the wicked. I must read two reams of student drafts for student workshops. I must read for my class. And then I can rest, briefly, and perhaps attend a baseball game. And finish a book and see some good trashy movies.
And then the sprint for the finish line of the semester.
Thanks to those of you who attended. I appreciate it!!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Haiku for Two (slow) Days

I didn't write a poem yesterday. But I did make a killer slide for my presentation (thanks to a good suggestion from Lisa B. who is shaming me in the poetry writing department).

But in any case, I'll put two haiku on here so that technically I am not behind, though usually I don't write haiku and I don't think that they really count.

Haiku for Middlebrow's Defense
Oh tall man, talking
mechanisms of realism, so smart
want to watch TV?

Haiku for first long run of the season
is everything always uphill?
running towards mountains, sun
metaphor for life

I know they're no American Idol sestina. But maybe I'll start a series of formal poems on TV shows I like. I can't wait to write about Old Christine!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Second Day: Second Poem: Sestina

Don't worry. My productivity will fall off, rapidly, as soon as I don't have so much other work I'm avoiding.
So here it is.

American Idol Sestina

What are their names again? Ramiele? Sayesha? Those Davids,
and all the others I love, Danny, whom I’ll never forget,
until next season, when new Davids or Dannys grace the stage.
At my age, I should be over this, the fawning, the popularity,
the whole high school feel of it, complete with the judging,
only this time I love it, because it’s American Idol!

And the reasons I love American Idol are one: it’s American Idol!
Okay, that’s not logical. Really? I love the hot guys, Michael, David,
whether they were strippers or not! Who am I to judge
what the singers did before? I'm like an amnesiac, I forget
because I want to forget. I just want simple things: popularity,
unconditional love, fame. I want the world to be my stage,

as if I could be in contention with such talent, but at this stage
everyone’s “talented,” right Paula? Each is the next American Idol.
But it’s a singing competition, right Simon? Not a popularity
contest. If it’s about talent and singing then David wins. But which David?
They all blend together, the handsomeness, the voice, it’s so easy to forget
who is who, or that not everyone can really sing. I can’t! But I can judge!

And that’s a talent unto itself, being like Randy or Paula or Simon, judging
who’s the best, who can sell records, make money, who has the best stage
presence. Each week I think anyone could win but it changes, I forget
that only one person can be the very best, the real best, the next American Idol.
And every year there’s one person everyone thinks will win, this year it’s David.
But is he really the most talented? Or only the cutest? Or the most popular?

They’re not the same, in Simon’s semantic universe, talent and popularity,
though to the American public they are pretty much equivalent. And who’s judging?
We are! Even when I don’t call, I critique the style of Christy Lee Cook and David,
I pretend that I know how it is to sing the song, to stand up there, alone on the stage
wanting attention so desperately that I'd go so far as trying out for American Idol,
but I’d have to be a complete idiot to do that, right? What? Did I suddenly forget

that I can’t sing? Or do I want to meet Simon so badly that I’d forget
my tone deafness or that I’d end up on the hideous reel? But it is a popularity
contest. Choose me, each contest sings. Each thinks she’s the next American Idol.
But not everyone can be the best. There’s only one best. Though each night the judges
say at least twice, “That was the best!” And the contestants stand there on stage
little amnesiacs, forgetting that everyone in the end, loves David, votes for David.

David is never in the bottom three. David would never forget
the lyrics. On stage, it is all about popularity, not sheer, raw talent.
But the allure is in the judging, the judgment, the judge: I choose the next American Idol.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April: Am I Supposed to Be Poeming?

Lisa B & I did agree to write a poem a day in April. But, given the DFL deadline (don't ask!), I forewarned her of my slackitude.
But. I have a poem I started last month, and I thought I would contribute it for day one. I may not write a poem a day for the next few days, but starting the 9th baby, I'm there.
(A brief aside, I saw my name flash by on the large sign on the busy road which runs by campus. It scared me!)
Here's my poem:

from Letters from Ex-boyfriends (a series which exists only in my mind! And in this one poem!)

Cut-Up #1

an atom is mostly empty space—
his hands soft as paper, the side of his face
I want to tell you what electrons can mean
how his jaw tightened when he began to lean
and the way I see the universe now, in relation to you
to kiss me, but that was never what he would do
which resembles how the cosmos and an atom differ,
instead he would whisper, I love you, only to defer
only in terms of scale, so we might say they are the same, equal
the events which lay on the horizon, upheaval
how a cell is the body and at the same time only part
as in: wanting to love is not the same as having heart
but when I touch your body, I never get to you
only in some contexts does one plus one make two