Monthly Archives: April 2012

I will come on the breath of the wind.

I spent most of the day today at work reading about the female spies of the Civil War. So clever, and brazen, and defiantly faithful to their flawed, male-dominated countries.

As for the photographs from the Library of Congress, I clicked on this one sometime after my last post. I’m pretty sure this is the same guy, only in this photo, he is wearing a Confederate uniform. Maybe he was a spy. But for which side?


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yankee bayonet

This is incredibly cool. I wish the Library of Congress website weren’t so cumbersome. I spent most of today filing through pages of song sheets from the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s, but most of that time was navigating the poorly constructed pages.

This guy is an unreliable hero in an unwritten story:

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one line to keep you safe

I woke up today early, afraid. My fears are generally pedestrian in nature, small worries, easily dissipated or ignored. But sometimes I get this irrational surge of alarm for someone. It’s always associated with proximity, as if as long as they are close, nothing bad can happen to them. It’s a strange and unreliable belief that because I love them, they are protected, but that if they are too far away, they are vulnerable. I woke up this morning, cold and anxious, trying to think of a way to convince him to come back just for a little bit, just so I can make sure he is ok, maybe so I can replenish whatever protection I can give him. I don’t remember if I dreamed something terrible, but I woke up this way, as if I were still dreaming something terrible. It put me out of sorts, and I got up and made coffee to shake it off, but I felt bad. I went back to sleep, and maybe would have slept until tomorrow, but Tom woke me up to get lunch with him. And dear Tom is so very real and practical and solid, that just talking with him about the brain chemistry books he’s been reading, and the band, and how we now both have Kindles OMG, and about Ana’s school and work made me feel silly for feeling so freaked out this morning.

I’ve been sick for a couple of days. Maybe my weird clammy anxiety this morning is just a symptom of the flu or something. Still, I came home and turned on my music, and the second song that came on is PJ Harvey’s One Line. Spooooooky.

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The ghosts you chase you never catch.

Today is my birthday. Or, that is what I’ve been told, and I suppose I have no real reason for doubting its veracity.

Normally, the boys have a show, and I go, and it’s my birthday show, and we dance against the inevitable awareness that this human suit is aging still, and oh, it makes no difference. But today is different, because I haven’t lately had enough time alone with my ghosts and angels, and things are about to get very busy. So today I have resolved to stay home, read books, and watch movies. I bought myself Portrait of Jennie, Wings of Desire, which was one of the first foreign films I saw, and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which has one of my very favorite Bernard Herrmann scores. I also bought myself four books, which I can’t possibly finish all of today, but once I get going buying books, it’s hard to stop.

Tomorrow is for dancing. Today, I am luxuriating in story.

I have reached a point in my life where I have everything I need. I don’t imagine requiring anything I don’t already have for the rest of my life. So this year, I am finally going to start working toward having the things that I just want. I may make a list of those things at some point, but wants are flighty, so it may not be necessary or relevant, really, to do that.

However, I am pretty excited about fencing classes. And I want to buy archery tackle of my own, so I can continue practicing that. Two things I have absolutely no need to know, unless there is a zombie uprising at some point, at which time they will have become things I need. There’s a weird flux between wants and needs, I’m finding. Still, on to the wanting.

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poem 2

I was telling Wancy about a book I just finished, Zeroville, and about how I don’t know, even though I couldn’t stop reading it and finished it in two days, how I feel about it. He looked it up online and read a summary which mentioned something about how it examines how films become an object of worship, like gods, and he said, “It’s like that line in your poem.” My mind stopped, and then it said, My poem? and I said out loud, “What poem?” And he said, “Right? Your one poem? ‘We sat on fences with splinters in our hands . . . ?'” And I said, “That poem! You have that poem?” Wancy had the poem I’ve been searching for. Apparently I gave it to him ages ago, and he is using part of it to open his novel. I am so excited that I don’t have to go hunting for it in my parents’ basement. I am also further disturbed by the feeling that I am not entirely real.

I wrote this sitting at a dining room table, flanked by a caged parrot and a caged pig. It was a challenge, to write something decent incorporating words that were thrown at me at random. He was lying on the floor somewhere between my heart and the kitchen, eyes closed, just giving me words in intervals, words that had little if any connection to the one previous or following. He didn’t have any idea of what I was writing, and I had no idea most of the time how to write in the words he gave me, but I did, because I didn’t want him to win, and because no matter how absurd the words he chose were, they were the right words. I feel like we used up all of our right words together in that one time. It would explain a lot of what happened later.

This doesn’t have a title, and the I I am now wants to edit it, strip it of its gawky elements, make it sleeker, but I think the thing I love most about it is its storm. And a storm is just water when you take away its rough elements. So, anyway, here’s what was carelessly called “poem 2”:

we sat on fences with splinters in our hands
and I could never decide which way to climb down.
this dilettante, with wild extrapolations on the
Moment that never comes
doesn’t speak a word by voice but waits
for clouds and icecream to take their toll
with clichéd speeches and trains of thought
that roar between ears at bedtime
with fairy tales that old us lies and
laughed as we discovered the truth
Mother who strapped we in belts to keep we
locked inside when the metal gouged and
ripped on impact Our chronology of my attempts
at freedom, shot in the wing every day for 20 years
til no wings were left–but feet–
the man on TV with the benign smugly smile
prophesizing the fables in literal expectations which
we plundered for treasure and gave up when us
found blood and rocks instead of diamonds and
loves Me whose desperations led to do what thou
wilt frantic explanations and redemption after the
coupon had expired and the three fold law had folded
in on itself, poured page after page into
words to ease the malignant plasma that ate the soul
he with splinters not only in hands but in legs and
arms and face track-lined and angry took the blame
for it all while she who claimed peace and ideals lay
finally in stagnant womb face down, crying for that
other road on shoulders of Mom, a reduced and
illuminated zygote screaming unleashed for a
cigarette and cup of joe in early morning illusions
Me who broke a pencil and cried 3 hours straight
until I lost the conviction of my pencil’s
importance and eyes were red and itchy and called ugly
and told not to be a child and find some visine
Me who looked with red ugly eyes to find Polynesian
heaven encased in a bottle of lace and dark eyes
and beautiful eyebrows Me whose private hell was
located in Antibus although the place and name
is unfamiliar hells, when private, have no boundaries;
Houses of gold and marble with grand staircases that
when seen in a fashion slide quietly against the grain of
atoms until dropping stippled onto white unlined paper
is where he, who found his word that all of his life he knew
he possessed, wrote it down and reveled in its concise
contortions We who kissed toads from backyard creeks
to see if shining people with deep rumbly voices
would arise only found cold skin and unblinking eyes
We who in such dense air found flight to be the only
means of movement claimed the plethora of Hollywood
movies to be our existence
and from its lies we built our belief

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time capsules

Old computer files are amazing, like finding your childhood diary (waiting, and waiting, for an old computer to chug through the cobwebs to pull up the old stuff is, however, not amazing).

Many summers ago, I came up with a project. I had a couple of polaroid cameras, and a bunch of film, and I took photos of whatever happened to be there. Then I wrote a sentence on the photo, and dropped them in different places. I found the document in which I’d written bits of things to use for the photos. I don’t remember what got used and what didn’t, but I remember the impetus for these:

Maybe this is how life skips, shattering the anticipated progression.

This is a checkerboard strewn with the carved marble pieces that look grown-up and at once alien and familiar; it’s chess, before you know the rules and the moves and the strategies. Before you know that one mistake can bring down the kingdom. Before you understand that each move is connected, and that the belief that this one move won’t affect the sanctity of your King is entirely unfounded. And that you can’t take it back. Because that’s it, that’s the game. That’s it.

I brought you here knowingly; why should I want to take you back?

Hold this for a second. Sucka.

Twice a fortune cookie told me I believe in the goodness of mankind.

He said that I say “ichthyology” like a kiss.

A wolf taught me patience, and taught me to hurry with it, because time is short, and impatience will make time unbearable.

That was a really fun project. I’d kind of like to reprise it, but refine it a little. Give it more mystery, and a way to follow it somehow. This is something to work on, for the summer maybe.

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My computers are filled with the beginnings of stories. I put together my 2003 desktop today so I could start her up and look for a poem I wrote back in the late 90’s, a poem which is haunting me and I can’t find, probably because I boxed up all my poetry notebooks and took them to my parents’ to hide away in their basement so I’d never have to look at them again, only now I want this one poem, and can’t find it anywhere. I’m going to have to make a trip downstate to find it, I think, if the box survived the flood and hasn’t been lost for good. I think I put them in a plastic bin sort of thing, so they’re probably still there, the wretched things.

The 2003 computer didn’t have the poem, but it has a bunch of story beginnings I might revisit. This one was meant to be a story about a typical relationship, born of comfort and loneliness, where one party is seriously in love, and the other just wanted a warm body to sleep next to. The general idea was that he dies, and finds himself in the “next world,” which is strikingly similar to this one, and he’s excited because it’s a chance to start again and do things he really wants to do, only she comes for him to bring him back to her. It’s like Orpheus and Eurydice, only backwards and fucked up. It was meant to be a comedy, but got really sort of dark on the legal pad, and because I wanted it to be funny, not depressing, I’d only typed the very first part so I could rewrite it in a lighter direction. Of course, I didn’t, and have only this now:

She is always saying fucked up things like this. Things that make him uncomfortable and almost angry. Things like, “What if you don’t have a soul?” and “What if the economy crashed and there was another Great Depression and you couldn’t get work and you had to live in your car?” and “What if terrorists attacked Chicago and you couldn’t get out of the city?”  What if, what if, what if what if? What the fuck. This time it is, “What if I died, right now? What would you do?”

“That’s a fucked up thing to say.” Irritated and maybe – afraid? What does she want from this question?

“I know,” automatic; she’s used to the initial parry,”but what would you do?”

“I dunno. Call your Mom, I guess.” He knows that this won’t be good enough. Twin clouds of disappointment poof over her chin, and she nods and doesn’t respond. He groans inwardly.

“Why would you even ask that?” No answer. “What?” No response. “Ok, then, what would you do if I died right now?”

She perks up, as she always does when it’s her turn to extrapolate. “I would come after you, and I would bring you back.” She says this simply, with no affectation, and he can feel his stomach sink. She reaches across to the driver’s side, where he sits slumped and waiting for the signal to GO, and she touches her fingertips lightly to the hand that clenches the steering wheel. Her answer is the sort of thing he will never think to say, not even after a hundred years of being given such examples. It’s not her, he thinks, it’s just that I’m not romantic. It’s not her, it’s . . .  It’s her. Being more specific, it’s the combination of her and him. He just doesn’t have any real feelings about her. She’s a lamp, a chair, a decent but not extraordinary coffee maker: useful and appreciated on some low, comforting level. This is not a revelation for him; this is the undead refusing to stay buried in the dank subconscious. He buries it again – he is nothing if not persistent – and squeezes her hand briefly. His is clammy and placating, hers is warm and dry.

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