Thursday, May 28, 2009

où sont mes fruits

After a few last minute mishaps, we’re off to Paris tomorrow. My daughter will turn 13 there on Sunday. I told her any visitor who turns 13 in Paris, who enters their teens, will have a good love life when they’re older. She bought this, and I was glad she accepted it as a superstition possibly in currency beyond her own mother’s mind. I think of how my father and step-mother told me they’d had an astrologist do everyone in the family’s charts –I was about 13 at the time– and they sat me down one day and said oh how we hate to say this but your chart shows that you’re going to have a life of suffering - a sad suggestion I often refer back to.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to Paris, also to suffering there. I’ve never been much of a francophile, but I do love the country’s red wines, the perfumes of Guerlain and Chanel, the word fromage, which is so droll, and especially Eric Satie and Guillaume Apollinaire, whose “Montparnasse” is one of the few poems I know by heart. I learned it in French by singing it to the music composed for the poem by Poulenc.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I am eternally grateful to cabbage.
There is an orange farmer in Spain whom I can’t thank enough.

To John, from the bottom of my heart! From the bottom of the bottomless blue blue blue pool.

Thanks to my mom with a capital O.
Pastilles have earned my abiding affection.

My deepest gratitude belongs to skank of all sorts.
I’ll never forget Molly. Molly, you old dog.

Somewhere there’s a small grouping of ants I owe a number of revelatory moments to.

I’m forever indebted to Bank of America.
I couldn’t let this opportunity go by without mentioning Ms. Schmeling, former nun and niece of Max.

Particular thanks to every Wednesday.
To my colleagues at the university. I tender you my grateful acknowledgement.
Have I overlooked someone?

For all his time, emotional support, suggestions, insight, the car, the fur coat, the pillow plumping?

I gratefully wish to acknowledge.
I wish to gratefully acknowledge.
I acknowlege the grateful wish.
Gratefully I acknowledge to wish.

With grateful appreciation?

I owe many evenings of vacant pleasure to candle wax dripping down bulging chianti bottles swaddled in straw. Thank you, thank you.

I am grateful to those journals that rejected me shortly before going under.

It’s been my privilege to continue sleeping on a 14-year old futon the dealer said should last five years.

To all the natives who invited me into their homes.
To Miranda W. for her generous guidance without which I would hardly be able to brush my teeth!

I hover many hours raptured with generosity.
To Dr. Beykirch, neurologist and human being.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Is he strong? Listen bud,

Yesterday I read 150+ pages of The Crimson Petal: 361 pages to go.

Yesterday I home-made tomato sauce; today it’s hamburgers.

Yesterday I was killing myself in increments; today “go forth and prosper.”

It should be warm and puny today but now it’s damp and mismanaged; Yesterday it was cramped and overcast. I took a shower. This is an advertisement for rain.

I’m not eating my Wheaties, loving my neighbor, taking out disability insurance; time is money.

I got up around 7 am yesterday; today it was 5.30. Yesterday was a holiday.

I politely asked Carlo to roll onto his side last night when he was snoring and my effort was a great success; today who knows.

I hate tv; tv hates me.

Carlo is taking Luisa to an opera tonight; Miles and I are watching Spiderman. He’s got radioactive blood.

The insects will outlive everyone.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

didactic cognac

I had a poem accepted at The Dirty Napkin this morning - "Emergency Substitutions." It's a somewhat older poem and I'm glad it found a home. Two other poems were turned down, so of course after my blip of happiness for "Emergency Substitutions," I began lamenting for the other two poems. Maybe they're really bad, or stupid, or maybe my older poems are better than my new poems, or boring, or spastic, or mabe I'm spastic, or old, or maybe I should just accept the blip of happiness and then shut up. Anyway, "Emergency Substitutions" includes cognac, heat deaths, tv news, cooking, eggs, medical research and all kinds of stuff and I hope you will read it when it comes out.

It's a holiday here and Luisa and I have ruined two cakes! The first one simply failed and the second crumbled. Ach, who cares. We're lounging around, reading books and spooning cake crumbs into our mouths.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Since we're five months into the year I figured it was about time to join a book challenge. Last year it was the Booker Challenge, and this year it's 999 from Goodreads - read nine books in nine categories. Shouldn't be too tough. Here's my list.

1. The Crimson Petal and the White – Michel Faber (Historical Fiction)
2. Down and Out in Paris and London – George Orwell (Non-Fiction)
3. Like You’d Understand Anyway – Jim Shephard (Short Stories)
4. Evocative Objects: Things We Think With – Sherry Turkle, ed. (Essays)
5. My Mother, My Self – Nancy Friday (Feminism/Psychology)
6. Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen Out Of Desire – Helen Vendler (Literary Criticism)
7. Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer – James Swanson (History)
8. Winter’s Bone - Daniel Woodrell (Contemporary Fiction)
9. Butcher’s Crossing – John Williams (The American West)

I admit to being a bit lukewarm on some of these books, namely the essays and the Nancy Friday book, but I should read them so this is a way to get me to do it. I'm reading The Crimson Petal now and it's quite good, but since it's 894 pages long I resisted putting David Copperfield on the list. I think it's even longer. I'd like to read it "in the near future," but I'm not making any written commitments. Of course there are a bunch of poetry books I'd like to read, but everything I have, I've read, and I don't know when I'll get a new batch.

Charmi's doing the challenge with me, I hope. If you're on Goodreads and want to join, please join!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What I Read in the Paper

Everything about sand storms and aircraft and sleep.
Everything about offshore.
About fires wailing across the west.
Great amounts of wheat.
Everything about drones and rooftops.
The moon on the rooftops.
The moon’s poverty on the rooftops.
Attention. Details.
About face.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I didn't know what it was. I didn't want to know what it was. But it seemed to come up so often I couldn't avoid eventually finding out what it was - like waterboarding, back in the day. Except I thought waterboarding was a water sport, and it turned out to be an "advanced interrogation method." And I thought paintball must be something like skee ball, but it turned out to be a advanced form of torture.

Monday, May 11, 2009

the smell of worn pennies

I finished John Banville’s The Book of Evidence a couple days ago. I really enjoyed it, mostly because I enjoy despair and self-loathing, especially if it’s couched in a good story by writer with a fabulous vocabulary.

Banville is the saint of sumptuous sentences. Check this out:
“I drank my drink. There is something about gin, the tang in it of the deep wildwood, perhaps, that always makes me think of twilight and mists and dead maidens. Tonight it tinkled in my mouth like secret laughter.”

Okay, that’s three sentences. It’s mostly the center one I mean, but also the sequencing - 1) the simple set-up, 2) the sensual ravishing, and 3) the kill-off - is masterful.

I did a somewhat longer gush on Goodreads, but here I mostly want to point out his mastery of the “as if” construction.

1. “I had not thought paper would make so much noise, such scuffling and rattling and ripping, it must have sounded as if some large animal were being flayed alive in here.”

2. “His left eyelid began to flutter as if a moth had suddenly come to life under it.”

3. “She drove very fast, working the controls probingly, as if she were trying to locate a pattern, a secret formula, hidden in this mesh of small deft actions.”

4. “Her pale colouring and vivid hair and long, slender neck gave her a startled look, as if some time in the past she had been told a shocking secret and had never quite absorbed it.”

5. “When I spoke to her the poor girl turned crimson, and winclingly extended a calloused little paw as if she were afraid I might be going to keep it.”

6. “I have always loved that hour of the day, when that soft, muslin light seeps upward, as if out of the earth itself, and everything seems to grow thoughtful and turn away.”

I recommend this book (although Athena is better). I warn you that the murder is horrible and sad. Also, the characters are horrible and/or pathetic. A lot of reviews I read complained the main character was too despicable. Still, I recommend the book to anyone who thinks the “general awfulness of everything” can be redeemed by art.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

donnez moi pour toujours une chambre à la semaine

How long have I been telling my mother that someday we'd visit Paris when she's here? Well, finally I booked train tickets and rented an apartment for two nights. It'll pass as a Mother's Day present, although we won't be going until the end of May. Whatever! Beautiful city, Paris is. Can't wait to tell her.

Thanks to Carlo, who speaks French, and who argued for staying over rather than just going in the morning and coming back at night.
And thanks to the kids, who promise to cooperate in sightseeing without too much complaint.

Image courtesy of Montreal photographer Irene S.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

morning meeting

There’s nothing worse than showing up for the daily huddle with your fly undone.
You could show up with some funky bedhead and it wouldn’t be as bad as arriving with your fly undone.
You could come with a button unbuttoned and folks would just think oh you know he fumbled and it wouldn’t be as obliviously embarrassing as showing up with your fly undone.
You could come with an untied shoe and your boss would point it out without a problem because it’s not as delicate a matter as having your fly undone.
You could arrive with poppy seeds and cream cheese between all your teeth and it wouldn’t be as bad as huddling with your fly undone.
Ok wait yes it would be as bad it would be worse because coming with your fly undone is human but coming with poppy seeds and cream cheese between all your teeth is inhuman.
And if you came with your shirt on inside-out it would indicate there’s something seriously wrong, not just rampant neglect or a simple hurry but something worse than blowing off brushing your teeth or arriving with your silly fly undone.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


When I still lived in America, it was my job to ensure that the square footage of wall-to-wall carpeting accounted for a minimum of 18% of all geographic surface area, not including Alaska and Hawaii. I went all around the country in my donkey cart measuring this. I liked to start in hotels, virtual layer cakes of carpeting. As I gained experience, it got so I could calculate everything in my head, without using my ruler. I just multiplied the number of floors and subtracted the bathrooms. Throw rugs and orientals, popular in the nicer hotel lobbies, didn’t count. This was a job to be done barefoot, to connect with all textures – the high or low pile, woolens and shags. In homes and convention centers, churches and offices, I went around on all fours with my ruler and my recoiling fiberglass measuring tape. I saw carpeting the color of corn and of ruby and every shade of beige. I saw shoes, and sandals holding painted toenails. Sometimes I pocketed a sprung button or key. I found the pits of fruit under couches and spied mucho chewing gum under movie theater seats. I saw coffee stains, red wine and juice splashes and puke and dried peas and I was enriched by the presidents’ faces I saw embossed on a million lost coins and I know wall-to-wall carpeting isn’t the only thing that makes America great.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

all the old fevers

I have a poem called Monarchs in the new issue of DMQ Review. The artwork in this issue leans towards the comic, but it works. I particularly like the pieces they matched with the poems Naked Air, and The Secret Language of Feet. If you click on the artist's name on the homepage, he'll explain what canaries mean.
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