Tuesday, July 31, 2012

20 things : after

1. Ok so welcome to after.

2. it's thin like a napkin, friable, leaves crumbs in the couch

3. he said he still has scabs on his mouth and tongue from the fucked up intubation

4. the feeling I have when I hear this / is part of after / of what comes what comes next / next meaning the rest of our lives

5. want to stick that feeling down down subzero down

6. wake up time to not think about this

7. two wandering poems that I've found homes for in the last few weeks, for example

8. ... and yay and lunch. 

9. right out of the hi-def bright blue sky a ribbon of canaries and they each fall flat on their little conical faces --and black droplet eyes --and brown & yellow fluff --and wings amputated--

10. immediately I fell too into deep sleep and my face hit the sand and the sand filled every opening

11. who is going to pull me / us up the laughter of babies and sand in my mouth

12. she sent me one of those memetic surveys where you have to talk about yourself in the most inane way / I'll answer like I was him instead I'd rather be / I'd rather put my throat in the way instead / busted throat not really you are being melodramatic chakra

13. ... and tonight I'm supposed to have a beer and be all smiley at the reading.

14. it is true that I'm glad to leave the house even though hi-def sky even though canaries

15. feathers curl up like fur I think that one is a mutated color he's so cute

16. zip the mouth up and tap tap tap tap head held proudly

17. while all the lower beings cogitate on our worst punishments 

18. no I've forgotten about it by now don't remind me

19. So how are we feeling today?

20. the cage is white metal bars / pleasant / the fluid upward arc of the roof

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


So YWI is now over SAD loved those kids loved them and I don't know how many are coming back for the fall if any well I guess I will have to love new kids then the weekend which started out sad but Mike and I scrubbed like hell the carpet in the bedroom to deal with Ravi's territorial behavior and decided indefinitely no cats in bedroom though I miss Ruskin & snuggling I know he does too b/c he doesn't get that much solo time with me and he's getting older maybe we'll let him back in for winter but Mike has surgery on the 27th so need relatively clean room for recovery sorry kitties

then we said officially farewell to Andrew SAD but also I got to meet his other friends which was neat and his best friend's stepmom makes AMAZING VEGETARIAN FOOD I almost wanted to re-convert the meal was so freakin bliss-tastic after that I don't remember Sunday much maybe that was the day we scrubbed the carpet I do remember writing two poem drafts and putting off yoga then I got a cold Sunday night and so yesterday I mostly watched tv 

brain in tofu state you know the extra silken variety that falls apart in your hands I had plans like submitting to Hayden's Ferry and designing second summer tattoo but will have to postpone them until feeling less crappy 

today I have to get my hairs trimmed and if it looks really really like crap maybe re-dye this aft but if not put that off too then A then Hem's tonight 

I have that revolting / fascinating feeling of being extra ordinarily snotty like my head is cut off from my body it is certainly cerebral except I get out of breath doing the stairs and did I mention the cold provoked a fibro flare (that happens sometimes not always) and when you run your hand along my arm it feels like ground glass lodged in my skin and you are trying to dislodge it


Thursday, July 19, 2012

More writing with the kids...

Intern K's workshop was "Interview with a Character." The workshop was for fiction people I think. They were supposed to generate interview questions and then have their character answer them. It was creepy how the characters answered them. Do writers of fiction really have that many personas in their head at one time? How crowded! Anyway, I took this in a different direction. I wrote a sort of poem consisting entirely of interview questions. The speaker becomes increasingly manic... I think s/he has boundary issues :)


Why did you pick this coffee shop? 
Is there an animal you always seem to see in cloud formations? 
Have you ever looked up the Rorschach test online? 
Did you see the same animal?
How do you take your coffee? 
Do you even like coffee?
Is there a single life event that you think will make you happy or fulfilled?
What are your views on acquisition? 
Do you regret that one time behind the 7-Eleven?
How do you interpret all those fire dreams?
What was the last object you lost? 
Mirrors: approach / avoid?
How does it feel to be a slave to corporate brainwashing?
At what age did you realize you liked coffee? 
Does the day really destroy the night and the night divide the day
or is that just some acid-laced bullshit? 
Sushi: approach / avoid?
Baths or showers?
Do you feel your life needs to contain a passion?
Did you collect anything as a child?
If you could save any object in those fire dreams what would it be?
Do you think a cat is closer to being an object or a human; why?
Did you have any hobbies as a child?
Birds: approach / avoid?
Who have you loved that has died?
After someone has died, are they a that or a who?
Do you worship a god or gods?
Do people have auras or is that just some new-age bullshit?
Were you the quiet kid in class? 
Do you believe in the need for role models?
What about movies based on comic books? Lives of the saints?
When do you believe in restraint?
If you could change one thing about the person you most admire
what would it be? 
People who use the word literally and then elaborate with something
that is literally impossible: approach / avoid? 
When is lying forgivable? 
Would you like a glass of water? 
Do you have a motto or mantra? 
Doy ou believe in the power of mantras to change your thinking
or is that some Eastern religious bullshit?
Power tools: approach / avoid?
What is the value of friendship? Of marriage? 
Would you say you came from a "broken home?"
Would you say you have a "rich inner life?"
When are cliches forgivable? 
What is the / who would you / if you could / on what occasions—
vis a vis death?
Which words or / how is the / your favorite—
in regards to marriage?
Do you want me to stop recording now?
Have you lied about anything during this interview?
Are you sure?
Have you had enough? 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

20things : nightmare

1. You know when you have a nightmare, but it's not your baseline gee that was disturbing nightmare?

2. But rather it's a truly helpless burning into your neural pathways with you forever nightmare?

3. Yeah, I had one of those last night, or rather this morning. 

4. I was in a lot of pain at the time and of course you know how it is with morning dreams. They're weirder.

5. It was one of those lucid nightmares in which you try and fumble your way out, and you think you do, except you've just woken into another layer of nightmare.

6. The worst lucid nightmare I've ever had was four layers deep.

7. This one was only two.

8. Except I hadn't had one in awhile.

9. Better living through chemistry?

10. Anyway, when I woke I was just so profoundly grateful for my own stupid life.

11. For 6:30am, for envelopes, for emptying the dishwasher.

12. My first thought was I want cookies for breakfast.

13. My second thought was I can have cookies for breakfast.

14. And I kind of misted over there for a second about cookies for breakfast, because I know where the cookies are, and it was about time for breakfast.

15. They're in the freezer. It's so hot, even at night. The idea of deliciously cold cookies... 

16. But I didn't really want them. I would get sick if I ate that. I wanted, and had, the idea. The delicious idea.

17. Now I have to make a lesson plan because I felt too crappy to do it last night. But right after I woke up, the idea for what I wanted to do just fell into place. 

18. I could see myself doing it, writing on the board. I could hear the kids writing, reading their stuff out loud.

19. Funny because I knew last night I was teaching Neruda's "Ode to My Socks" today. Although I cringe at that line about the decrepit fireman. 

20. I want them to start with simplicity: envelopes, emptying the dishwasher at 6:30am.

Monday, July 16, 2012

20things : car

1. I was there and he wasn't.
2. I was in the middle of the street and so was he.
3. I would say three paces separated us.
4. He'd turned left on red. The light had been red for several seconds with no car activity.
5. What O&M people taught me to refer to as an "all quiet."
6. I didn't even hear the -- how did I not hear the engine?
7. The city is all engine.
8. It was a T intersection. The cross-street was one-way left.
9. The traffic light's only options are a red light and a left turning arrow.
10. So if you are walking you have to walk on red or else you get people turning in front of you.
11. They are affronted if you try to go. So, walk on red.
12. But the cross street is one way away from me. It dead-ends. There should be no cars in my path when the light is red.
13. Granted the intersection is confusing. For pedestrians.
14. But for cars there are two options: red light or green turning arrow.
15. The light was red. I started crossing. No arrow.
16. And then flash.
17. Yes I was using the cane I can hear someone carping were you using the cane I use it all the time now.
17. (Funny how it's my dad's voice I hear when.)
19. It was like shoomph there-was-your-almost-death shoomph.
20. He was on his way to another red light and didn't want to miss it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

FW: Hybrid

Incidentally, this is the FW that came out of the viewfinding exercise:

Bird head. Neck trumpet. Shadowy orbit where the socket should be. Can you pick lice off your chest with that narrow beak? Your beady birdy eyes scan the approaching wave. Your fingers skim the water's surface. The cirronimbi stretch high above you : unreachable fluff to line a nest you don't need. You listen to caws and calls that you can't make with your human throat, your waterbird voice. Sometimes the hybrids turn out mute. With a big body you need so much more to feed you.


So yesterday J. (the other J!) led the writing warm-up in homeroom. She did an exercise to focus them on details and imagery by proving each student with a paper viewfinder and asking them to examine some object they had on their person, or nearby... many of the students did indeed pick up minute details that graced their everyday objects, which they had not noticed before. Since I was the teacher who was not leading, I also participated in this exercise. When J. had walked in (we get there earlier than the kids) I wanted to touch the viewfinders. I was intrigued by this exercise. 

I think if all of us teachers could just spend a week sitting in on each other's workshops, we would. Or at least I would. I love doing the exercises and activities that my peers have come up with. I alove writing with the kids. This may not be common to everyone though. I know some writers who hate FW and timed exercises because the pressure leads to performance anxiety and the words won't come easily. Personally I find that FW (and the like) really work for me. The inner editor is silenced! I work better under pressure. Unfortunately I also use this excuse as to why I'm a procrastinator in other aspects of my job (grading) but that's bullshit. Maybe grading just hurts less if you have to do it quickly without obsessing. My problem is that i still obsess, but then I must obsess quickly. 

Anyway TANGENT. I really want to concentrate on those viewfinders. I have used these before to pick out details in a photograph, where you lay the photo on the table and move the little frame around. When I do large watercolor / acrylic washes, I'll use the frame to find the areas that contain the most interesting patterns to cut out and repurpose. But for this exercise the students were holding the viewfinder up to their faces, like a camera or a telescope. 

So you can picture it better, it was just a little frame make of cardstock. The opening was a rectangle about two inches wide by one inch high. I tried to do the same thing and immediately discovered that the viewfinder was actually way larger than my field of vision. When I held it up to my eye, the viewfinder disappeared. I sat there for a second thinking, hey this is kinda cool, moving it back and forth and watching it disappear. Jill's cool vision tricks. Then I thought to myself, holy crap, my visual field is actually smaller than that

I have a document. It's probably close to 20 years old now. It confirms the shape of my visual field, as much as a visual field can be measured. It's jagged. Like an irregular polygon. I had somehow imagined it would be round. {shrug} Eyeballs are round. The visual field chart is a series of concentric circles, like a dart board. To get that kind of record, the docs, or their belabored technicians, have to perform a visual field test.

I hate visual field testing. Every time I go to the ophtho, they want to do a visual field test. It's one of the reasons why I don't go. I know. Bad me. Bad. These tests involve the tech sitting on one side of a concave plate (okay, in my memory it's concave. It might actually be just like a big drawing board) through which they can shine a tiny light, like a laser pointer. They ask you to focus on the light and, without moving your eye at all, tell them (or hit a buzzer or whatever) when the light disappears. Then they mark the spot on the other side of the plate with an instrument. From the way it sounds I imagine it's a pencil on a sort of metal arm. I can tell it's a pencil because of the sound the multiple erasures make when I say shit! I moved my eye or Sorry! My vision jumped. I hate and dread these tests. First of all, the impulse to track a moving object with your eye is nearly overwhelming that it is so difficult to hold the eye still (shit! I moved my eye) Secondly, trying to hold the eye still (as they ask you to do for most of the damn ophtho tests) causes my nystagmus to go batshit crazy (sorry, my vision jumped). Basically, the more they ask me to hold still, the more I shake. 

The last time I went back to the ophtho was to get reading glasses. I could have go to a regular eye doc and lied but I knew I was supposed to go to a specialist and I hadn't been in ten years and they would probably just refer me anyway once they had a look at my eyes. The poor bastard who had to do my field test was a total newb. Like, literally, it was the very first test he had done on anyone after getting out of medical school or something. I felt so bad that he was getting me. After about five minutes of mutual frustration, he was like I don't think this test is really beneficial for you. I was like amen brother! I don't know if he genuinely felt that way or if he was just trying to get out of performing a difficult procedure, but I didn't care. My visual field isn't degenerative. Plus they have other crazy tests now where they can track your eyeballs with computers and stuff. 

So, the viewfinder. I have to move my personal viewfinder around and around an object, a person, a street to get the big picture. I want to make an analogy here, about how I'm so detail oriented and tend to lose the larger perspective easily... but it would all wrap up too easily. There's no metaphor. It's just a paper frame. I'm finishing this blog entry while I'm supposed to be supervising students in the park. There's some awful folk duo.... I mean... the songwriting.... it's .... they tend to like cute themes. Every so often I look up. The students are chatting. They have their notebooks out. Typed pages are being passed around. The ones at my table are playing Exquisite Corpse. One girl passed me a note about a sonnet crown. Seems like learning is taking place. I feel a little antisocial about blogging while they're doing a team-based exercise. The band is so bad. And loud. I'm dragging. These kids are so good. I'm totally being the pinnacle of leadership. I'm going to miss these kids when they go. They are going to spoil me for future students. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Dear My-Hip-and-Lower-Back-Muscles:

Please forgive me for not remembering all of your names. I need you to really cooperate here. I need you to not spaz on me until after 7/27. Really, August 1 would be ideal. I realize that I'm not keeping up my end of the relationship as well as I could. I have been remiss in some areas, and I'm sorry. I'm dehydrating you. Not feeding you protein. Sleeping in contorted ways and then having nightmares which stiffen my whole body. You can't blame me for that last bit though. The unconscious can be so wily. I'm going to try harder to at least give you more fluids and maybe yoga on Saturday. You like yoga, remember? I realize holding my torso up is a real task, and many times I tax you with bad posture. After that thing I have to go to tonight, where I'm sure the seats will not be to your liking, if there are seats, I'm going to try to remember to do some stretching before bed, which should help, yes? Please don't make me put on the back brace. Everyone agrees on how much we hate it.

Yours in bodily unity,


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

So this is the first of the freewrites I mentioned...

... that I would include here to somehow maintain a bloggable [blog-worthy? blog-appropriate?] chronicle of my time w/ YWI. [The kids were great again today. Brilliant, even.]

J. led the students in a choral poem of selected lines from Terry Tempest Williams' "Why I Write," in which they had to speak the line that resonated most with them. If we're not leading, we're writing with them. The line I chose was "I write out of the body." Then they (we) had to write freely based on the line. Here's what my subconscious urped up, unaltered except for the brackets when I forgot a word and punctuation.

I write out of the body. I write in spite of the body. I write to define my body. Also to remove limits. To remove the space between us. I write though I am terrified of what comes. I leap. I have never climbed a tree, ridden a bike, driven a car, walked a straight line. In writing I leap and stick the landing every time. Or fall and allow myself the falling. When I was a childI had dreams about falling, belly first, through the roof and into the attic, through the night sky and int the roof, through a different universe into this one. I sometimes dreamt about flying and it was glorious. More often falling though. Writing brings me back to the edge of dream, no pesky superego, where flying and falling almost equal one another. I admit that sometimes [when] I write I dream myself into a different body. Every poem is a new body. I stretch my arms and legs wide to inhabit the skin of it. Sometimes I am dull, foggy. Heavy, almost immovable body. The pen refuses to move. The cursor blink blink blinks and I close my eyes and think how much better to be doing anything else, but don't really mean it. Would I choose another body [?] New, elegant carapace? No. I write into the body, this body, my own.

More just-in-time lesson planning to do. Or to sleep for 14 hours. Hmmmm. Yeah; no; I kid; workshops first.

Monday, July 9, 2012

quick update

So, the reading went really well yesterday. Decent turnout. I read all the vulnerable stuff, with the little scaffold I had built for it and the whole thing was paced really well with only a few awkward moments. Andrew did well too. I hadn't heard his work, ever, really. Not like that. It made me --what's the opposite of retroactively --proactively? miss him. I just really realized oh dear, he's leaving. But I'm so proud of his decision to go back to school. And there were pictures. Many pictures.

And the first day of teaching went well today, despite some mild chaos. I took the hour that I didn't have to be in class and explored a few floors of the Cathedral so I could get my bearings better. I think that was a maybe-not-entirely-kosher thing to do; I was supposed to be somewhere else... but I feel more comfortable with the building now, or at least the parts of it I have to go to.

The kids are pretty great. Eager writers, sense of humor, open, energetic. I like having that energy reflected back at me, you know? Compared to the times where I've put it in and... well... yeah. This is going to spoil me. But it will also get harder. The pace will pick up.

I might blog some of my freewrites / writing exercise responses. We end up doing a lot of them and they get pretty surreal and fantastic. I like writing with the kids. There's a good group energy happening.

Okay, lesson plans are done for tomorrow. Time to collapse. After six months off, I'm kind of outa shape :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The picture will not change

17.5 hours later and I am staring into the same dark, inhabited by the lights that look like tiny globes from here.

I'm afraid to say what I really feel at this moment.

Tomorrow is the reading in Lawrenceville.

I got all my stuff together this afternoon.

It will be vulnerable.

Oh please hear me.

No one's going to read this.

This is not a 20things but if it were then I'd feel more distance from it and I could write something bizarre and pretend it's not real.

I hide my need with a smile.

Okay, a half smile.

I'm charmingly quirky.

Except right now, in this moment when I'm afraid to say what I really feel, I'm uncharmingly crazy. It wouldn't sound any better if I told the whole truth.

If I was the one reading this I would back away.

The ceiling fan is making the same sound it was making 17.5 hours ago. The air is still plenty warm from the day.

I swallow need.

Here's a song (Neutral Milk Hotel : Two-Headed Boy Pt. 1)
You might as well close your eyes because the picture will not change.

Taking stock halfway through the year

It's about quarter after four in the morning. I can't sleep because the cat has parked his large self in front of the window a/c and is taking up all the good cold air. Why, you may ask, do I not just toss him? Because he is older, and his kidneys are iffy, and he sort of has this grudge against the world, and I am his favorite person, and he only lets two people pet him besides me. He is a huge cat, with large intimidating fangs that he has used in the past. I can wrap my arms around him, play with his paws, look in his ears, feed him unpleasant things. He will snuggle with me in the bed. Not at my feet like many cats, or in the crook of my knees, but he wants his back against my chest. His head under my chin. And then he purrs.

It is rather flattering, in an odd way, to be the preferred, nearly exclusive  company of such a... I don't want to say unpleasant, because he's not unpleasant to me... such an idiosyncratic animal. I know that he wishes he were the only cat in the world, and that I were the only human. He's really neurotic. The vet says he should maybe be on prozac. But I've held off. I worry about him in the heat. He's spent most of the last two days wrapped around the water bowl. I'm scared that somehow the heat is going to make his kidneys go south. I will dip my hand in the water and spread it over his ears, his head, down his back to cool him off. I am probably the only person he would let do this. So he has discovered the window a/c we've turned on for sleeping, and he's, like, RIGHT up in there. And he is a huge cat. Long, tall, broad, muscular. Some people think he's overweight but I don't think he technically is any more. Still, he takes up all the damn room. So I can't sleep. I came down to get an ice pack for my neck, which has been in pain since this afternoon. Oh bones. Oh muscles. Oh delicious cold.

What does one do with insomnia? I don't have it too-too much anymore since the med switch. Years ago, I used to do dishes in the middle of the night. Ha! not anymore. So of course I just sit in the dark and think and think and think and think and think.... and apparently tonight I blog.

June just ended. It's halfway through my year of not-working. It's easy to go down the vortex of rumination tonight.

A surprising envelope arrived in the mail yesterday. Shocking, really. After I politely declined to teach this past spring (which was really really really really hard to turn down), *and* they took my picture off the adjunct faculty page (you can see a little blank space in the web page where I used to be), lo, do I get a contract for the fall. Mind you, I've never spoken with anyone about my schedule or whether I was teaching in the fall. The contract just mysteriously showed up.

It's still sitting on my desk.

The familiarity of it, the structure, the certainty of what I would be doing, is appealing. Without teaching, somehow I don't feel legitimate --although I am starting a temporary CW teaching gig on Monday that makes me super-excited (not comp! not comp! not comp!). But, my neurotic brain says, it's not at (cue choir of angels) the Almighty University. I don't know when I'm going to have another university job. I don't know when I'm going to want said job. Adjuncting was absolutely draining for me.

And, I'm going to say this next part out loud (well, type it out loud) even though it scares the crap out of me: I don't know, with the combined forces (forces? sigh. it's 4:30 am) of my multiple disabilities, if I will ever be able to handle the rigors of a full-time university job. But I probably won't ever get to teach anything but comp without one. Thinking about this for too long takes me to a very bad, lonely, anxious place. I cannot predict the future. So I just need to not go there.

[I push off with my feet so that my desk chair rolls to the low spot in the floor --this house is 100 years old; nothing is plumb. Away from the monitor, I can't see anything in the absolute darkness of the living room except the amber globs (globs?! it's 4:55 am) of the streetlights, or maybe those lights are from the cemetery...]

I think about turning off the monitor and lying on my back on the floor in the very-dark. Sometimes my back likes the unyielding wood surface. But the other two cats will think this is a game. They will come and climb on me. After 5 now. It's their hunting time. They amuse each other but I am the ultimate amusement.

I am trying to keep the following things in mind. Since January (the start of my year off)

Sent to 45 journals. 34 rejections, 9 pending, 6 acceptances, with 13 poems taken.
4 MSS sent. 2 rejections, 2 pending.
Readings given: 4, with another one tomorrow night. And I have another tentative thing lined up for September.

I always want more than I have. I always know I could be doing more. Those journal subs fall short of my goals. I should have sent way more than 45 by now! And the MSS total... sad. The damn thing will never get published. I rarely pause and think, how great this is. I've accomplished more in six months than I did in six years of adjuncting.

I will turn off the monitor now after I press the "publish" button. I will lie on the floor in the dark to ease my back and neck. And the fucking cats will think it's awesome, and I will not think they are awesome. And I will stay there for as long as I can stand it. And then I'll get an ice pack, de-hair my shirt, and try for more sleep.

Friday, July 6, 2012

20things : Unstuck

1. In the heat I become unstuck from myself.

2. It starts with a papercut on my left thumb.

3. My skin curls back like an aging piece of tape until my whole torso unpeels.

4. Like a giant hand pressing down on the crown of my head, the heat bids me kneel.

5. My fall to the floor seems endless.

6. But, I think, it's not so bad down here, on my back, on the tile.

7. Breezy, even.

8. I see why the cats like it.

9. They stretch to their longest possible length.

10. They show a lot of belly.

11. Then my fascia, my muscles, grow brittle and snap.

12. I'm thinking I really should blog this.

13. My bones desiccate, dissolve.

14. It's like an oven in here!

15. Not the heat, but the humidity!

16. My liver slithers from where there used to be ribs. Then my spleen. Then all the fancy ductwork that held it together.

17. I notice my liver is the color of the grout between the tiles and wish we'd picked a different color.

18. There's nothing much to do but look up at the ceiling fan.

19. Whirl whirl whirl.

20. The heat makes me so dizzy.

Here's how you write a damn essay.

This moved me to tears because 1) There is no metaphor to describe how amazingly he writes and I would just sound stupid by trying. You need to just go read it. 2) I felt, deeply. 3) I saw a bit of myself.

Planet of the Blind: Frank Zappa, Disability, and the Fourth of July

I had the privilege to work with Steve for three years at OSU. In fact, not that I planned it, but he's why I went there in the first place. He changed my life. And I'm feeling free to gush because I'm pretty sure he's not gonna read this.

20things : Long Distance

*thanks to Daniel Shapiro for giving me the idea for this one

1. Facebook comment: I like having the recordings because now I can listen to you read whenever I want. I can resist the urge to call you and plead for you to read me a poem over the phone.

2. Okay, that's it. I'm changing the outgoing message on my phone:

3. Ms. Khoury only accepts phone conversations in poem form. For all other topics, she'll be happy to arrange a meeting, or send some email.

4. I still haven't changed my cell back from the Ohio number, and it's been seven years. 

5. In 2006 I got called up for jury duty in Franklin County. I had to send them a document proving my new location.

6. Among the top ten ways to get out of jury duty: move.

7. I'm just shy on the phone. 

8. You know that moment, when the two people try to talk at once, and then it's like you go; no you go; no you go? 

9. That's what it's like talking to me. 

10. I make exceptions for family.

11. It's easy to get my mom to do all the talking. I just keep asking questions.

12. Or, first my stepmom does all the talking, then she makes me do all the talking. 

13. My dad says hang on I'll put [your stepmom] on the phone.

14. In my formative years before there was internet, I was one of those girls who would tie up the phone line.

15. Once I read a boy the better part of some novel that we had to take a test on the next day. I don't remember which. Let's say it was Hard Times or The Grapes of Wrath.

16. Reader, I liked him.

17. My mom would yell at me every fifteen minutes to hang up. She did not believe we were doing homework.

18. He got a better grade on that damn test than I did.

19. What was the significance of the stairs? Their hats? That dog on page 63?

20. Endless essay questions. I don't know. I don't remember. Can I just put my head on the desk for a minute? A scrawl that trailed off the page.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Easier to spell

A guy in the rooms said, "I call it god because it's easier to spell."
By pray --and I wish I could express the act with a word other than that one --I mean, mostly, speaking out loud to the darkness. Sometimes, just thinking at the darkness [....]
Sometimes, in a freakout on the subway, in a theater, in the park, I'll type long stream-of-consciousness prayers into my phone.

Mike Doughty
The Book of Drugs

20things : energy

1. This guy passed me on the street and said loudly, directly, so I knew it was addressed to me : you look good! You walk with such energy.

2. I walked past him. Ignored him. With energy, I suppose.

3. My energy was somewhat more tense after that.

4.. Full disclosure: I was walking to meet friends...

5. And nearly unraveled once I met these friends, but it was not the time for unraveling.

6. Also someone bought me pie.

7. By the time I was done with the pie, I was centered.

8. It took 10 years of training and humiliation to make me walk so well. Am I doing the math right?

9. You can hardly tell I ever walked funny at all!

10. The white cane is certainly a distraction, though, to one's observation of my feet and what they're doing. Usually.

11. And / but it's like a metronome to me. 

12. Fuck him anyway.

13. I can fall with energy too.

14. In fact, my falls are quite spectacular.

15. I saw my sister fall once. She looked so soft, like a ballerina plie-ing off the edge of the driveway.

16. In fact, some ligaments in her knee were bending the wrong way at the time.

17. I feel like there's some aphorism here about not judging the outside of someone, etc. 

18. Once I was clothes shopping and the shop clerk told me I looked like a dancer. I made a scoffing noise and then felt bad. 

19. it's not you it's me it's not me it's you it's not you it's me

20. : metronome. 

Wild gratitude

So I just want to say thank you, although those words are inadequate for how much your friendship means to me. Especially those of you who have sent me such warm fb messages of late, and keep coming out for readings no matter how cramped the venue :) 

The Hem's reading on Tuesday, I was expecting it to be sort of meh. I was definitely having an off day; stress / anger were eating me; I was totally scattered and cerebral and just not feeling it. 

[the ambient temperature of my work area here, off the living room, has got to be over 80 degrees, so forgive me if this starts to sound loopy]

But you know? Hem's turned out to feel sort of transcendent. I don't know if it was the act of reading these particular poems or the audience's reception --it was all new stuff and vulnerable material, most of it revised with no outside input) --but I'm still feeling buoyant. [Like maybe I'm okay just as I am.] Joan made a recording for me, which was fabulous... I'll share it as soon as I figure out how to chop it up into individual poems.

I love the end of this poem "Wild Gratitude" by Edward Hirsch. Here's a link to the whole thing. But these lines...

"...teach us how to praise—purring 
In their own language, 
Wreathing themselves in the living fire."

There was a person at that reading who asked me after, in tones that sort of implied he was pretty confident of the answer, "Are you a Christian?" I was like, "Nope." He said, "Are you sure?" I was like, "Pretty sure..." He seemed to want something so I shrugged and said, "I was raised Catholic but now I'm ..." "You're what?" "Severely lapsed." I was really hoping that he wasn't going to ask me to accept Jesus as my personal savior or anything, but the conversation did not go in that direction.

Bad things were done to me in the name of religion. And I'm pretty over it... sort of... but I get tense when people try to pin me down on what I believe. But praise as a kind of purr... I can feel that.

I think sometimes I get so wrapped up in my head that I forget how to praise. And by praise I mean give profound thanks. To readers of the blog who pop up out of the ether. To friends who buy me dessert for dinner. To Mike who "fixed" my text-to-speech problem by tweaking a deeply-buried setting. To a soon-to-be teaching colleague who did not make me feel hideous [or should I say confirm my already-in-place feeling of hideousness] when I asked for help. It feels good to be so grateful. Almost like purring.

To reiterate: 
I asked for help from a person I have not yet met [read: stranger], who doesn't know me, and I got acceptance instead of rejection. I'm writing it down here so that I can attempt to cement this lesson in my mind. I know it will fall out soon enough but maybe I can get a few more days of that interesting hopeful feeling.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fear is the ghost of pain.

Mike recently sent me a link to an essay by Mary Ruefle appearing in the June 2012 issue of Poetry called "On Fear." In this essay Ruefle explores the nature of fear, first by giving a personal anecdote, then an observed anecdote, then establishing a definition for fear, then putting her own thoughts in conversation with many sources --everything from the CIA's Exploitation Training Manual to a pilot, an ER doctor, and a poem by Wallace Stevens. After she probes Keats's "negative capability" and sort of refutes its goodness, its necessity, she comes up with this idea of a sort of "positive capability" that fear gives us, to impel us forward in our creative work. In her closing paragraph, she confesses, "I am much less afraid than I ever was in my youth. . . . At the same time, I feel more afraid than ever. And the two, i can assure you, are not opposed but inextricably linked." 

Yes, I completely rushed through summing up this essay for you, because I'm impatient and it inspired me. Her idea of navigating fear as a young person vs. fear as an adult brings to mind this song I once loved called "Kid Fears." The Indigo Girls wrote it with Michael Stipe doing a guest vocal. There's one particular lyric: "Secret staircase, running high, / You had a hiding place. / Secret staircase, running low, / But they all know now you're inside." The entire song is pretty abstract, but this lyric strikes me. It reminds me of the game you play when you're small and hide your head under a blanket... the idea being, "if I can't see you I must be invisible." When you are young, you have a secret path to invisibility from the predators. As an adult "they all know now you're inside..." You are stripped of the gift of innocence. You know the predators can see you. Perhaps they've seen you all along.

As a child, my secret path to invisibility was my imagination. I couldn't quite play like the other kids, although I tried. I preferred to spend my time alone though, in a world of my own creation. Some of my fears were "kid fears," monsters in the closet, under the bed, but others were actual fears. These other fears still resonate in me. Some of them still possess me. Being hit. Being touched. Being deserted or lost. Falling. Falling.

Falling was the big one; still is. I hurt myself a lot as a child, though thankfully only once broke bones. And I still hurt myself. Although heart disease runs in my family, I'm pretty sure I'm gonna go from a bizarre home accident or the complications of same.

I can see: things that are a) not moving or b) moving slowly and c) where I expect them to be in space. 

My kid-body wanted to go at 95 mph and my brain and eyes could not keep up. I was raised, not explicitly but more implicitly, not to cry about my bloodied bits. I was raised to be normal and falling so much was definitely not normal. As I grew older, I remember "shaking it off" many times so that other kids would not pay me any mind, and also being shocked and a little embarrassed for one of my friends, for example, when she slipped on a patch of slick grass in the yard and hit her head. I felt awkward because she was screaming as if someone was stabbing her, and we were nearly teenagers. By that point, I had learned to shut it. 

I'm not saying this was healthy. In fact, all those emotions had to go somewhere, and I think they went into my body. What does that mean? Well, I have fibromyalgia. It has to do with neurotransmitters for pain that won't shut off, even when pain is not present. Or they turn the pain up to 11 when really it's only a 4. As if one can really be objective about a quantity of pain... but you get the idea. 

One of the lines in Ruefle's essay that stuck out to me was toward the beginning. It's basically her quoting Tony Hoagland quoting Auden, but the gist is, "fear is the ghost of pain." I fear the basement stairs because I have fallen down them before. I fear the appearance of that particular belt because I have been hit with it before. 

I have always felt this way about falling. One could almost say, "I fear walking because walking is basically lifting your feet and catching yourself before you fall, and I'm not so good at that." Of course I don't fear walking! But ... I have chronically stiff and knotted muscles. It has been observed by ahem, professionals and also (annoyance!) by my mother that I am "very tense when I travel." Travel, meaning ambulate. Only in the past year or two working with A have I begun to recognize and consciously attempt to reduce the tension. Using the white cane again has helped mitigate the tension somewhat. It feels the ground for me and also provides another point of balance because it's a third contact with the pavement. 

It has helped mitigate the tension, but it doesn't undo thirty something years of tension. Fear is the ghost of pain.

I have this new job I'm starting. I've been chasing it for a long time and I'm so glad I got it. It's not very glamorous but it will involve teaching creative writing again. The only thing is... as the start date approaches, one communication snafu or another has prevented me from receiving vital information such as the room or even the floor(s) where I'll be. The building I will be working in is ... kind of revered by those in the city. You might even say it's a site of tourism. The architecture is grand and gothic. It has many entrances and winding stairwells. All of which, to me, look the same. 

My friend K says that communication issues like this happen more frequently than I think. She said me the other day, "Did I ever tell you about my very first day of teaching? I went to [the school] and asked for a schedule. Well, they didn't have one. I asked which classroom was mine. They didn't have that for me either." 

Buildings that are triumphs of grand or modern or atmospheric architecture are usually not triumphs for me. I remember my first day of teaching at a particular university. One of the eateries was designed to look like a pub. Big booths, dark wood. I fell down a short (as in three steps) flight of stairs and hit my head on the floor. And humiliated myself of course, in front of the lunchtime crowd.

Time is ticking away, and I really want my room assignment(s). 

 I can get lost in a bathroom if it's big enough. A BATHROOM. It's embarrassing. I have t to do routes many times before I get them down to where I am comfortable. I don't move casually from room to room, floor to floor, building to building, but I work very hard to make it seem like I do to other people. 

The ghost of pain. Getting lost in a bathroom. Maybe it's a restaurant bathroom with dim lighting because it was trying to be all fancy and cavernous and atmospheric. Or having to pee so badly but knowing I will not be able to locate the rest room before it's time for my next class. 

If I get the opportunity to do a dry run on Friday, of my new workspace, I will literally be writing down or voice-memoing exactly where I went in, exactly what left / right / straight paths I take, which stairwells, etc. Because when I go back on Monday it will be almost as if I hadn't visited on Friday.  Honestly, I would have liked a month of preparation time instead of a day.

My fear has caused me to really consider just dropping out of the new job before I have it. This job that I have wanted and striven for, for a year. Part of me really wants to be like, "no. I give up. This communication situation is beyond my ability to tolerate, and it's going to fuck with me physically." 

I am bad at speaking up. At asking for help. Because then I will be a liability instead of an asset. I need h. What's that? I need hhhhe----. Pardon? I need help! So shut up and fuck off. I'm working on it. But breaking these constructs down is like approaching a brick mansion with an axe. 

The ghost of pain. Looking incompetent as a teacher when I walk into the wrong room, into walls, into desks, into children. The kids don't see how hard I work just to maintain. Sometimes the cracks in my facade are very deep indeed. About a month or so into my job at the same university with the pub-cafeteria, I tore some ligaments in my knee. From stepping into a pothole as I was getting off the bus. Fall number 16,250. And then I walked up the giant hill to my school because I was trying to "shake it off." 

Anyway, they put me in one of those rehab leg braces where you can lock and unlock the knee of it. My knee-thing was locked. I nicknamed my leg "baby redwood" because that's what it felt like. I felt like a relatively small person carrying around a tree as big as I was. I used a cane (the standard kind, not white) to walk, except I didn't use it 100% of the time in the classroom. One day I had sort of casually hung it on the edge of the teacher table, which I was leaning on the edge of as we went over some point of rhetoric or other. And I don't know how it happened but I think I must have jumped up in enthusiasm at some student making a good point because ... on my way back to the teacher table (may I remind you, I have no depth perception) I walked into the open classroom door. With some amount of force. You know... the skinny part of the door. The door's thickness. The door was open, and I transported my skull into it. So hard that I fell straight backward as if I'd been struck on the forehead by a faith healer... and.... me and my redwood leg landed *fwomp* or more like *phthunk* on the ground. On my back. Except I couldn't get up. Because I had no practice in hauling my ass off the ground with a redwood leg. 

So one of the biggest kids... I think he was seriously on the football team and he totally looked like one of the kids who would have picked on my throughout my school years, had the graciousness to ... well. .. he pretty much pulled me straight up, like my backward fall in reverse. 

So yeah, I had tears of humiliation and tears because I had sort of hit the bridge of my nose, along with my forehead, and that just brings the tears out reflexively. I sort of brushed myself off, leant back onto the teacher table and continued the lesson from where I left off. At first there was minimal participation. I think they expected me to say "class dismissed" or run (hobble? scurry?) my way out of the room or... I dunno. I think they maaaaaybe thought I was a little psycho for picking back up. They saw how hard I hit. The whole door rattled. But I must have had a grim look on my face because we finished the damn lesson and they went on their way.

Have I blogged that story before? Because it feels like I have. Well, it is a recurring ghost, that one.

Fear is the ghost of pain. Blind woman teaching. Blind woman falling. To mix some cliches, I've got my fingers crossed about Friday but I'm not holding my breath.