Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dog days

It was a slow week. My husband broke his arm. I struggled like an ox with a poem. At about 91F on Friday, we had the hottest day of the year, alleviated by rain. Germany's circumcision debate continued to brew, the Olympics started, and my daughter returned from a camping trip in the south of France.

Yesterday I won the GoodReads poetry contest with Dictionary Illustrations. Every month the site's largest poetry group holds a contest that gets about 200 entries. This was the seventh time I entered and the fourth time I won (over about 4 years). I thought I'd had this poem up on the blog before, but I guess I only posted about it. The seed of it is here. It's also in Excuse me while I wring this long swim out of my hair.

Dictionary Illustrations 

Searching for a word I set off
browsing the dictionary illustrations,
pages flush with fish

and obscure instruments and myriad
breeds of duck, which, colorless,
end up looking much the same.

These artists don’t dawdle
amongst the obvious; they illuminate
the oriel window; they trace

the lobate foot of the grebe.
The reindeer appears tame and boxy
on paper, gigantic antlers bearing

the weight of reincarnation.
On page 1291, drawings disambiguate
the difference between paly

and paly-bendy, two patterns of heraldry:
think roadblock versus barbershop, TV
off-air image versus LSD.

They don’t do verbs in dictionary pictures,
so for zip here’s an inch-wide depiction
of two men intent on fencing.

In one two-page arrangement,
the seahorse floats peacefully beyond
the reach of the scythe. Pen-and-ink

sketches break the columns up
like little windows opening
from one side of the brain

to the other. Tiptoe through, and pay
attention to the shapes of leaves,
which can be hard to describe.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sleepless Fragments

At two, I trace the lamp from base to switch, 
wide awake, circling an urge for hours. 

Like holding a telescope to the bones – 
the cat’s purr, gurgling a dirge for hours. 

To revive the blooms of cut hydrangeas, 
lay them in cool water, submerge for hours.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Reaching the undulating area

I am vaguely afraid of revolving doors. Especially the automatic ones, like those at my office, make me uneasy, since they are out of my control. If I must enter them while they’re in motion, I can’t help but think of joining a game of jumprope. Two people stand at each end, turning the rope, and you have to plunge in, and overcome the fear of getting thwacked. 

Or better, I think of swimming in the ocean. Some people just throw themselves in without worrying. But when the surf is churning, some stand at the edge and calculate when to enter. You don’t want to get stuck at the shoreline when a big wave comes plowing in. You need energy and good timing to make it out past the crashy part, with its shells and stones, to the undulating area. Once in, it’s fun, the peril abates, until it's time to get back out.

There's a word for the fear of waves and wave-like motion: kymophobia. 

Thx to Shannon Rankin for the collage image

Friday, July 13, 2012


I finished Little Dorrit. It took me over a month, but it is long, and I had a couple projects going. It never struck me as one of Dickens’ most famous, and I was thinking it might be so-so, but it was wonderful. Everything you want from Dickens - humor, well-drawn settings, colorful characters, orphans, villians, penalties to the bad and rewards to the deserving. And, man, there is a lot of deserving going on. I cried all over it.

To my surprise, Time Magazine rated Little Dorrit as Dickens’ 3rd best book. I don’t know the judge’s credentials, but I am glad to see there are some on the list I’ve yet to read. Before I’d ever read Dickens my favorite was Oliver Twist because of the 1968 movie, which I saw as a small child and adored. It surprised me that the book is only #10. Bleak House, #1, made me roll my eyes occasionally, but I read it in 2000, a year I spent in a very bad mood. Great Expectations, #2, was the first Dickens I ever read (9th grade), and I re-read it some years ago and do think it’s marvelous. I love that Dickens always has some mysterious secret going. Little Dorrit was not an exception.

Here’s the list, and the order. 1) Bleak House 2) Great Expectations 3) Little Dorrit 4) David Copperfield 5) Our Mutual Friend 6) A Tale of Two Cities 7) The Pickwick Papers 8) Hard Times 9) Dombey and Son 10) Oliver Twist.

Monday, July 09, 2012

swords & dagrrrls

The earth is not round; it is a geoid, larger around the equator than from pole to pole. As it should be.

I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance, said Socrates. 

The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes, said Czeslaw Milosz. 

Your ignorance is more scandalous than my promiscuity, said the Riot Grrrls. 

In the morning, for what it’s worth, I open my eyes.

The sword looks foolish beside the dagger. 

Asymmetry, too, has its own gorgeous order. 

(Not writing, but typing.)

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Long stretches, and short

Study links cat litter box to increased suicide risk
Study links dust to glacial melting

Study links low IQ to racism, right-wing beliefs
Study links juvenile arthritis to pet store dogs

Study links motivation to finger length
Study links Hitler's genocidal tendencies to playing violent board games

Study links owning a dog to feminine appeal
Study links narcissism and Facebook activity

Study links bestiality to penile cancer
Study links flowers to increased productivity

Study links night shift to breast cancer risk
Study links flaming water to fracking

Study links masturbation to prostrate cancer
Study links rural suicides in China to stress

Study links hair relaxer to early puberty in girls
Study links smoking to hot flashes

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Cape

The wind is my little cape,
all smoke-ring theatrical. 
The cape is my wing, 
steering me onto 4th street, 
into weekends and kiosks. 
Once the clasp’s fastened, 
it’s a small leap to the catwalk, 
the bullfight, to knighting 
sidewalks with my footfall, 
or staging Dracula’s black madness. 
Out and about in it, shop windows 
reveal my inner magician. 
My cape is not much to look at. 
Some don’t even see it. 
I wear it walking 
to my day job, and when 
moonlighting as me. 
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