Wednesday, October 31, 2007

holiday fun

I have to admit to being a halloween grump. I discouraged the kids against going out, mostly because it's not well known here and we have been literally screamed at by some older people. Nevertheless, Miles made arrangements to go with a friend and Luisa was going to tag along, but then this friend couldn't go. Miles then arranged to go with his (boy)friends, and Luisa broke into tears because she had no one to go with. So instead of being glad she'd stay home, I started a campaign trying to find a friend for her. Luckily someone turned up and Luisa transformed into a cat and was out the door within 2 minutes.

To "cheer" her up when we at first couldn't find anyone I told her my favorite heart-warming halloween story. I was around six or seven and had spent the afternoon trick-or-treating up and down the lovely tree-lined streets of middle-class America. When I got home with the booty, I spread it out in all its shiny paper glory on the floor of my bedroom. I arranged it in rows, in circles, I made heaps and walls, all the while snacking away. My dad went by my room and told me that was enough - I should put the sweets away and stop eating. I said I would and as quickly forgot the promise, and kept on building, sorting by color, and chomping away. So when he went by again he was furious and stuffed all my candy in a bag and threw it out all over the front lawn. I was crestfallen, but powerless. While I sat crying in my room with the door closed, my sister Lisa snuck out to collect my candy, which she gave back to me, with my dad watching. He doesn't remember this story.

there’s even some evil mothers, they’re gonna tell you everything is just dirt

I finished reading Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer a couple days ago. I’d long wanted to read it, and with the movie out I wanted the book industry to beat the movie industry to the punch.

Krakauer is a good writer, thank goodness, but the best thing about Into the Wild is the story, because it is the essential story – the yearning for purity, the need to prove yourself to yourself. I appreciated not getting too close to the subject Chris McCandless, that he was known mostly through his actions and hearsay from the people he knew or encountered. It helps the reader project him as an alter ego, which he surely is for many. Call him a fool, but anyone who loves nature and knows mainstream materialism can’t help but sympathize with wanting to chuck everything.

Overall I liked the writing. I think Krakauer could have trimmed some of the historical comparisons he draws, especially that of John Franklin, who leads an expedition of men to their deaths. Hardly the same thing! But for the most part the parallels were interesting, including that with Krakauer himself. As I said, McCandless is an alter ego for many people, even me, who also spent a lot of time after college camping alone in the woods – not on any scale close to the subject or author, but enough to understand where that longing comes from. Surely the book became as popular as it did because there are so many people who have felt the same.

Krakauer heads every chapter with at least one quote from a writer, usually a naturalist, and chiefly Thoreau. I bet it was a lot of fun picking those out, but by the end I was only reading halfway through them. Not that they weren’t good, but they grew tedious. Much more interesting were the references to books McCandless had along with him and the notes he scribbled in the margins of Dr. Zhivago, the last book he read. I love knowing that.

In the end, I felt sorry for McCandless. To condemn him seems a way to turn your heart off, to distance yourself from how unfortunate his story is. He was a young, smart and apparently very likeable man and despite all his bravado he didn’t really expect to die. Of course, now as a mother, I can’t help but experience stories like this without that soft membrane around me, and as terrible an end the adventure is for McCandless, my heart really cracked in two for his mother.

As Krakauer writes, "At that stage of my youth, death remained as abstract a concept as non-Euclidian geometry or marriage. I didn't yet experience its terrible finality or the havoc it could wreak on those who'd entrusted the deceased with their hearts."

Monday, October 29, 2007

if i were a man

somewhere there's a beard with my name on it
a nest for crumbs and smoke
because life comes at you from all directions
when you're a man

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
(read the stories)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

hist wist little ghostthings

"Halloween is coming. The kids are getting fat..."
But not Bugboy; nope, he's wasting away.
I miss not having Halloween in Germany. It exists but it's not very popular, and it confuses older people who have no idea what's going on. Anyway, on the everyday superficial level, Germans aren't the friendliest Volk to begin with.
Maybe I could use Bugboy to scare them off? I found him browsing at Etsy. One of his friends might also work...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Confession

I enjoy sneezing. The tingle high and deep in the nose is just the beginning. I love the pouchy sensation that makes me squint, my shoulders hunch, and how the sneeze is like a flush that makes me feel like I just woke up in a new world.

not to confuse "Incident" with "Accident"

"Philippine plane overshoots runway; 19 injured in incident"

(compliments of Yahoo! news)

I mean, why? Is "incident" more sophisticated? It sure as hell isn't precise.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I’ve always loved lighting matches. I love the scratch of it. The fwaaah of ignition. I especially love wooden matches. Matchbooks, made of paperboard dipped in thin wax, bend too easily; the matches are short.

I like how the flame pools blue near the wood, blonde heap of fire all around it. And I like how the matchhead, burnt and abandoned by flame, embers red and turns skeletal. But most of all I love the smell of sulphur when the match is extinguished, a hut in autumn doused with dry rum.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

from the umpteenth floor

The journal Silk Road accepted my poem High Heeled. Silk Road aims to publish poems about "place," and I figured being in high heels is a kind of place.

Elsewhere I got a rejection from Rougarou. That's right, the doping results came in the poems were disqualified from competition.

Also Heliotrope sent me a rejection. The handwritten slip came two years and one month after I submitted, beating a previous record. I wonder why folks bother at that point. Nice journal, though!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

now i've heard everything

the horse whisperer
the dog whisperer
the ghost whisperer
the whisper whisperer

Saturday, October 20, 2007

"here come my night thoughts on crutches" - c simic

There I was wide awake in the middle of the night with jetlag. My husband was beside me and my thoughts drifted to snore remedies, to pharmaceutical solutions, to side effects, to accidental death to manslaughter, at least the word manslaughter.

What a weird word: the (unpremeditated) slaughter of man. Weird that when the victim is a person, (man)slaughter is 2nd degree murder. When the victim is a cow, slaughter is a side of beef.

Also weird is the idea of involuntary manslaughter. Tell me a word with more aggression and willfulness packed in than slaughter. Massacre comes close, but the “aw” in slaughter slows it down, making it more graphic and tripling the evil! Say someone runs a light and hits a man, fatally. Would we say the driver slaughtered the man? That would be provoking the jury.

Also weird is that involuntary manslaughter can be bloodless as well an unintentional. Like dropping the blowdryer in the bathtub. Like a pharmaceutical side effect.

But the weirdest thing about manslaughter, which gave me the creeps lying in bed wide awake with jetlag, is how broken up and apostrophed it becomes man’s laughter.

Which is usually involuntary.

Friday, October 19, 2007


I have four poems up in FRiGG:
so, what's it like living in Germany
The Persian's Reach
Station Evangel
From Train 21

Thursday, October 18, 2007


My brother made up a word
(at least I think he did):
"citiot," which is of course
a city slicker who doesn't know
diddly about the country.
I guess this includes me
and my tick phobia.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

2 hrs like heaven

I spent two hours entirely alone, except for the proprietor and two cats, in a used book shop in Philly, The Book Trader on Fairmount Ave, while my mother took the kids on a tour of the now-defunct penitentiary across the street. The two-story shop is crammed to the ceiling with hardbounds and paperbacks. The floors, too, have small stacks of books you have to push aside to see what’s on the bottom shelves. I spent about an hour in the poetry section, which was surprisingly good and varied, a whole wall overflowing with fat and skinny books, free and formal, collections and anthologies. I picked about eight books, especially glad to find one by S.J. Marks, whom I read in an anthology I bought at the same shop last year.

After assembling the poetry, I told the shop owner how I was having trouble getting into a book. Fiction can disappoint me much more than any non-fiction can. My expectations must be higher. He suggested the classics. I bought Kafka’s complete stories.

Living in a non-English-speaking country, of course I appreciate online bookstores. But the great thing about a real-life bookstore is having the book in your hand, being able to look at every page, compare it with other books, check the size and style of the print, the blurbs, read a passage or two, check out whether the spine is about to split. It’s also great to run into books that you weren’t looking for, or to be led through a short trip of triggers and associations. Even excluding price, I love used bookstores because of the random selection, the scribbled dedications inside the books, the smell, the all-the-time-in-the-world feeling. I found a book signed by poet Susan Stewart but ultimately put it back. I felt I could, because this has happened to me before.

I have been meaning, for example, to read Saul Bellow but can’t remember which book is considered his masterpiece. Having the books in hand, to be honest, didn’t help - there were all kinds of superlative blurbs on the back of each book. So from Augie March, Herzog, Humboldt and Henderson, I finally went with Augie March because of the picture on the cover, a 1933 photo of State Street in Chicago. I also remembered I aimed to read Russell Banks’ Continental Drift, and they had that, but they also had Cloudsplitter , which looked more promising.

I spent $82.37 on 11 books.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sunday, October 07, 2007

lonesomer dove

On the plane, I began reading a book in English that I bought at a used book store in Germany. The previous owner was apparently German, or something else, and every paragraph has a number of circled words, which must be those s/he had to look up. The words include tug, shoat, begrudged, keen, chaparral flats, roofless, mesquite, lumpy adobe, stomping and gnats. The reader gave up on page 3. Come to think of it I don't recall how to say gnats in German, though I'd been walking through swimming veils of them every day before I left.

Anyway, I gave up on page 30. Although the writing was good - I asterisked at least five sentences that were nicely built or pleasingly funny - the characters seemed caricatured. I wanted to like it, but I don’t think I have 945 pages worth of time for it. I jumped ship for Mystery in Spiderville.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

land ho

oh short-pile carpet of Newark airport
oh centrifugal force of the baggage claim
oh miasmic humidity of New Jersey
oh sleepy faces, bedhead, dishevelment
oh unalien city
oh airplane chicken teriyaki
oh immigration pledge to courtesy
to full disclosure
to tedium and dignity

Friday, October 05, 2007

friday confession

Guess what? Now I have 7 friends on facebook and one friend request from a woman I don't know. I also belong to three groups, one of which is called "Abridged Books are a Travesty to Classical Literature." But I confess that earlier this year I read the abridged version of The Gulag Archipelago. I feel real bad about this and hope my membership in afore-mentioned facebook group will not be revoked. Because god forbid I would choose to read abridged books, but I asked for Gulag for Christmas last year and abridged is what I got. I couldn't start whining, could I? "Santa! Abridged books are a travesty to literature and an insult to me!"

Here's the group manifesto: "We exist to say abridging books is an offense to classical literature. Who is to decide what in the book is important and what isn't? Whoever is abridging these works of art may be taking out some parts of the book the author deemed most important to the plot, moral, or development of the story. Not only that, but you are depriving us of the originally intended story. Abridging books should be outlawed the same as plagiarism."

This is quite unfair of me, and I fear I may indeed now be kicked out of this group, but the wording here is a bit screwed, isn't it? For example, what is up with that last sentence? It's like a crazy little children's poem.
"Abridging books should be outlawed the same as plagiarism!"
"Wearing mittens should be mandatory the same as eating vegetables!"

It also looks to me like the busy "Whoever" who is depriving readers of "the originally intended story" is in big trouble. Surprise! when "whoever" morphs into "you!"

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


I stopped at the bakery this morning to get my raisin rolls for breakfast. The lady said they had a new baker so the rolls were different. I looked at them. They were bigger. “Do they cost the same?” I asked, not because I cared but because I already had the 1 euro 30 cents change counted out. They did. I noticed under the light that the rolls were baked with white flour and were brushed with sugar that lay gleaming on top. I wasn’t too happy about that. Daniel, who works as an IT tech at my office was also at the bakery, but I stood behind a big guy so he couldn’t see me. I hate “running into” people. I have absolutely nothing to say. Daniel is nice, though; he has fixed my computer a million times. And he has a long ponytail. I like ponytails on men. But only ponytails. If the hair is really long, I don't like when it's shaken out. That’s freaky. My husband hates long hair on men. He also doesn’t like earrings. Our 9-year old keeps asking if he can get an earring when he’s older and my husband always launches into his evil eye-roll. I tell our son there’s nothing wrong with an earring. Earrings can look good on men, some men. If the man doesn’t look good to begin with, though, an earring won’t help. What can I say about my husband? He’s a small, dark handsome guy from Italy. Some of his prejudices make me laugh. Like whenever someone is drinking tea, he says “tea is for sick people.” I don’t know – I find that hilarious. He also doesn’t like raisins. Neither does our son. But I do. Except the raisins in these new raisin rolls have miniscule seeds in them, which I dislike biting. And since I have to tear the roll in order to dunk it in my coffee, I get the sugar goop all over my fingers. And since I can’t use the computer keyboard without fingers, I have to suck off the goop. Which is gross considering everything. Which is a way of digesting everything.

how is it

more picture than word
more north than south
more Bach than Mozart
more mountains than ocean
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