Sunday, June 28, 2009


Many people think German is ugly but I’ve come to love it. I’ve lived here almost two decades and still learn something new everyday. Some think the sound of German too hard. My brother finds it hilarious. When I visit him he greets me and the kids by shouting all the German words he knows (and laughing about it), a list that includes Schnitzel, kaputt and Totenkopf. We laugh, too. German is funny, sometimes, but also expressive.

I admit to loving all the high-falutin’ words that float about intellectual circles – Zeitgeist, Weltanschauung, Weltschmerz, lebensmüde, Schadenfreude- as well as words with less ambition.

One of my first favorites was fünf, a simple little one, meaning five. It reads as if you’re trying to clear lint from your nose. The /ü/ is pronounced like a deep /u/, only purse your lips and flatten your nostrils. Sort of. Fünf would make a good name for a cat or small dog, or a whiskered pig.

Another is wunderhübsch, which is the product of German’s ability to smush words, as many as you like, up together into a new word. Literally it means wonderfully pretty. The first and last time I heard someone use it was when Luisa was a baby and a young woman said Luisa was wunderhübsch. I found that very sweet. Luisa was and still is wunderhübsch, but this is not a word I hear much. Hübsch alone is also good!

I also like the words that start with /pf/, like Pfirsich, or peach. It’s such a jumble of consonants, and when you say it, it goes down so suddenly it’s hard not to be amused. I also love Pfeffer, Pferd, Pflaume, pfiffig, and I mourn the Pfennig.

One I learned fairly recently is Stickstoff – as in nitrates, used in fertilizer. This is a laugh. Don’t forget that in German an S before a consonant is pronounced sh. It’s funny to hear grown-ups having a conversation about Stickstoff.

One of the best words is doch, the word used to contradict a naysayer. It’s irreplacable, and I love it for its right-on usefulness rather than its sound. The closest English equivalent would be “did, too!,” (or "is, too") as in “you stepped on my foot,” – “no, I didn’t,” – “doch!”

I also love Schmutz (dirt, grime, smut) and Dreck (ditto) and Gejammer (wailing or complaining), and a lot of anatomical words. But I’ll leave those for another day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

the smoke enters my mustache

There’s a lot of noise out in the universe. We miss most of it in our little spaces.
For example, barking dogs. Right now, you can’t hear the one driving me nuts.

And really, what is with the dog star?
That must be loud. I bet it keeps whole neighborhoods awake.

Take my temperature. I feel a little better already.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

the dark, i'm all for it

I didn’t hear many people celebrating the arrival of summer over the weekend, but a few long faces did lament how the days will now gradually get shorter. All I can say is Thank You! I prefer the sun in small doses, and the less daytime the better.

When I lived in New Jersey I don’t think it stayed light much past 9 pm in summer, but in Germany at the time around solstice the day ends at about 10:30 pm. And dawn is already creeping up at 4 am. I know because I was up this morning at 4 and my first thought was whaaa? The sunrise/sunset guide claims the sun rose at 5:15 am and set at 9:39 pm. While that may be true, there is a definite before- and afterglow.

I’m not crazy about summer to begin with. I’m only glad the solstice means the tilt and curvature of the earth will let the ridiculous length of days start to erode. For the night to be pitch black seems natural. I like the stars and the moon, or if it’s raining, plain old soggy black.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

i come from a state of astonishment

After feasting, mint restores coherence.
The sky appears impermanent this morning.
I’m taking it personally.
The wind is sorry, going grey.
slate grey, smug grey, sullen grey, worm grey, symphonic grey, rock-bottom grey, dungeon grey, dove grey, radium grey, brain grey, vesper grey, slush grey & blue intrusion
Concerning my prescription:
Can I still eat citrus?
Can I light long candles and drink wine?
Can I succumb to Catholic mystics?
Weltschmerz. I wash mine down with coffee.

one fox sighting = one gin & tonic

The new Dirty Napkin is up, including my poem Emergency Subsitutions.
Charmi has a wonderful poem in the issue, too, called A New Mythology. It moves seamlessly and appears to have been effortless but it's doing some hard work, with pacing, progress and surprise. I also liked Timothy Pilgrim's Side Effects May Include.
Otherwise, it's too early for me to have read everything. Go over and read it for yourownself!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

uncle teardrop

I finished another book from my challenge today: Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell. I really really liked this book. It’s got story. It’s got character. It’s got plenty o’ words grouped up together in good groups.

I knew I’d like Winter’s Bone from the first paragraph. Take the first sentence: Ree Dolly stood at break of day on her cold front steps and smelled coming flurries and saw meat.
The first interesting thing about this sentence is “break of day” and its lack of “the.” Woodrell could just as easily have written “the break of day” or “daybreak,” but no. Something a little off there, a little old fashioned? Ok. And then the sentence becomes a string of senses – the cold, a faint smell on the air, then the wallop of sight.

2nd sentence: Meat hung from trees across the creek.
What I like about this sentence is – having just gotten to the end of the string of the first sentence – this picks up right where we left off, as if being re-jolted by what we just witnessed: “...meat. Meat...” I like the meat/trees/creek long -ee- happening here soundwise. And the image brings me something macabre. What kind of meat?! I know from this there are going to be some sacrifices made I this book.

Then: The carcasses hung pale of flesh with a fatty gleam from low limbs of saplings in the side yards.
Here Woodrell has dispensed again with the “the” before “low limbs,” and plays again with sound - flesh/fatty, low/limbs, saplings/side. I’m impressed. Can he keep it up? What I especially love about this sentence, though, is “pale of flesh.” It’s almost Elizabethan. Or is it Ozarkian? I’ve no idea, but I dig it. I also like that fatty gleam of meat contrasted with the saplings that have to bear it. And I learn later in the book about the young bearing up under their history.

Now the killer: Three halt haggard houses formed a kneeling rank on the far creekside and each had two or more skinned torsos dangling by rope from sagged limbs, venison left to the weather for two nights and three days so the early blossoming of decay might round the flavor, sweeten that meat to the bone.
I could rattle on some more about language here, but mostly look at that metaphor. I know this book is going to involve something ripening. This is a story about a 16-year old girl growing up in poverty with meth heads and other sundry characters, including a guy named Uncle Teardrop and a Shakespearian trio of witches. Experience is going to round the girl out. As a reader I’m happy about the “sweetening,” a foreshadowing that tells me this story won’t be all bad – there’ll be something good in it, or at least worth working for.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

killer headache

my headache is a pervert / a dope fiend
hoodlum / meat eater / worse

a thug / a plagiarist / smuggler
an arsonist / bling king / worse

my headache is a pyro / crack head
a swindler / loan shark / worse

a scapegrace / shoplifter / whore
phisher / a cut-throat / worse

a crook / bloodsucker / mafioso
worse / my headache is an optimist

Sunday, June 14, 2009

my 3 sons

My first dog was Toto. We got him as a puppy when I was about 5. He was a black & white mutt, and friendly. When my parents divorced three or four years later, my father took Toto with him. I don’t remember being too unhappy about it. There was enough to be unhappy about. My mother said my father needed the dog to protect his new house, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t want either of them.

When I was in junior high, we adopted a little poodle named Bunny. Dumb name, but she came with it. Every step you took, she was at your heels, nipping your feet, trying to get you to play. I considered this my sister’s dog. My step-father was also fond of her. We never took her for a walk, just let her relieve herself in the yard. We had a big yard. She was a small dog. She died of smoke inhalation when my mother set the house on fire with a cigarette.

My father also had a dog named Django that I often used to dogsit. This was a shepherd mix, a nice dog, mostly because he wasn’t mine. He was brown with beigy red patches, head more labrador than shepherd. He lived to be very old and was put to sleep to end his suffering. Why do we consider this right and kind when it comes to dogs but not to people? This is screwed up.

I have a dog now, too, named Stella. She’s a handsome dog, friendly and well behaved, aside from eating garbage and other dogs’ shit. I like her but at this point I know I’m not a dog person, or a cat person, a rabbit person or fish person. I’m hardly even a person person. But the kids and husband wanted a dog and I went along. On the evening before we got her, we all voted and I indicated a desire to vote no. They looked at me like I’d taken a shot at the pope, but luckily missed, and was thus responsible for the pope for the rest of my life.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

throw down your arms

Chinese Phrase Book (War Department: Washington, Dec. 10, 1943) Dissemination of restricted matter – the information contained in restricted documents and the essential characteristics of restricted material may be given to any person known to be in service of the US and to persons of undoubted loyalty and discretion who are cooperating in Government work, but will not be communicated to the public or to the press by authorized military public relations agencies.

Chapter 1: Emergency Expressions

Please help me : ching BAHNG MA-AHNG
Please come and help : ching LA-EE BAHNG MA-AHNG
I am lost : waw MEE-EE la / LOO!
Where is there a village? : SH-UM-muh DEE! Fahng / yo R-UN J-YA
We are American soldiers : waw MUN / SHER! may GWAW R-UN
Are there soldiers near here? : FOO! JIN! / yo MAY-EE yo / BING
Are they our enemies? : SHER! DEE-EE run ma
Don’t try any tricks! : la-oo LA-OO SH-ER SH-ER duh
Did you hear what I said? : TING J-YAN! la / MAY-EE yo
You will be rewarded : YO-OO BA!oo cho / GAY-EE nee

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

your hallucination is under new management

I recently mentioned poets being compared to other poets and how that sometimes irks. Of course it’s not confined to poets - also actors, artists and other writers are compared to their predecessors and contemporaries. I’m sure this bugs them, too. Still the publishing industry seems to think that, rather than originality, comparing writers to other writers is a good marketing strategy. Check out this advertisment for Elizabeth Kelly’s Apologize, Apologize! from the NYT.

*”Begs comparison with Daniel Wallace and JOHN IRVING.” (Caps theirs)
*”With the linguistic mastery of a Carol Shields or a JULIA GLASS, Elizabeth Kelly’s debut novel comes down hard and strikes the bell.”
*”Meet the Flanagans, a quasifunctional family that might give JONATHAN FRANZEN pause.”
*Dave Eggers fans should enjoy Canadian journalist Kelly’s rambunctious first novel.”
*”An imaginative and energetic triumph…Think of Dostoevsky on laughing gas.”

That's it. I have to say this really blew me away. What a crutch! Hardly a word about the writer herself or her book except in relation to other writers or other books.

Ok, so the real question now is if you want to read this. Because maybe you do.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

the rain is done gnawing your discarded saltines

Hey I have a poem up at Juked.
It's my 10th poem in Juked, which is a pleasure, and also means they'll be contributing to my social security payments.
Thanks, Juked.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

from train 21

mind the gap mind the rush
pigeons on pronged claws

mind the cologne overdose
every separate death
mind the uniform that moves the broom

don’t look take it easy have a great day
step fast from the doors upon disembarking

mind the pigeons
plunging through the sky
like a dirty hand through water

Friday, June 05, 2009

till the eagle grins

I finished the first book of my book challenge over a week ago – The Crimson Petal and the White. It was okay. Enjoyable but not really satisfying, what is typically called –for better or worse- a romp.

I’m now halfway through Helen Vendler’s Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen Out of Desire, which has helped humanize Stevens for me. I love his poetry anyway, and if anything, this book only makes it better.

I’m also nearly done with Down and Out in Paris and London, which I started on the train to Paris last week. I was under the impression the book was non-fiction/reportage, but when the narrator at one point is asked to write some political articles and says he has no political opinions, I was thrown for a loop since Orwell certainly had political opinions. I looked on the back cover and it says “fiction.” So let’s call it autobiographical fiction, and more autobiographical than fiction, unlike the “memoirs” you see these days that turn out to be frauds. It’s an excellent book.

When my mother arrived last week she not only brought me some books I’d asked for, but also a stack of books she planned to read herself, including Netherland, The Reserve and The Sorrows of an American, all of which I will inherit before she leaves. In exchange she gets my copy of Continental Drift. It is ridiculous considering the number of books she is going to leave behind, but I love that book so much, I am almost tempted to tell her she can’t take it.

But that would be too horrible of me.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

i'm making life too complicated

I am not wearing brown today
I am wearing black and I invite you
to believe in a shirt that’s purple
Fashion makes demands
like should the socks match the slacks or the shoes
I am living the wrong answer
Then the question of mixing gold with silver jewelry
and the shorts best suited to ugly legs are called pants
I will never achieve a black belt the same shade as my bag
Unfortunately when I fell to earth I woke up
in a country where socks clot sandals
which is confusing
The other day we visited a department store in Paris
took the escalator past lingerie
My daughter asked what is lingerie
Before I could begin to think
my husband explained underwear
simple as that
beyond me to say

Monday, June 01, 2009

unbuttons the tongue

Check out the new Literary Bohemian, where I have some wine blurbs in the form of postcard prose . As we say here in elsewhere, "welcome you enjoy." Of course there's lots of other good reading to be had in this issue, including Dave Rowley's Letter Written on a Paper Crane.

3 tokens

sportscar: She’s touching the wheels when the call comes; she’s young, tonguing the hood in the mannish slang of the last century. Lipsticked, she’s a sport, a shiny body.

thimble: You thought it a helmet, dainty with immunity; you thought you’d hide in bed but we snuffed out the thumbsuck, the meat stuck under your fingernail.

horse & rider: Imagine this could go on: collecting profits, paying dues, rolling the dice to land on the carpet, where it’s your bluff. Imagine rearing up and exposing yourself. As if you cared: As if no one would snicker at your haunches, made of chalk, while on the boardwalk the rains start.
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