Friday, March 28, 2014

Pigeons, sleep & pizza

I have nine poems in Houseboat today -

Mind the Gap
Snooze Button

Self-Portrait with Lava Lamp
Ingrid Wears Bangs

From the Back of My Mind
Subway Rider

Saw You, Want You

Saw you - corner of 8th 
and Crescent, asking 
a lady in fur for directions. 
My mouth went limp when 
you called her “ma’am”.
You smiled, and I felt
I might not have to walk 
through life carrying this boulder 
between my hands. I want 
to lie down in your drawl, fall
asleep in the crook of your eyebrow.
I kick myself for wearing 
that hippie poncho, for not 
having the car to drive you 
where you meant to go.
I never did anything
like this before.
I was the 5’5 brunette
carrying a takeout pizza.
The walk signal went green.
I sneezed, and
you blessed me.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Week

Watched: American Hustle, & pleasantly surprised
Saw: An old man with head wounds being cared for by five people (ambulance soon arrived)

Received: New passport, in which I will look like I just woke up pissed off and unwashed for the next 10 years
Gave: Pen to a pen-less colleague. Really, gave. Did not lend. A big deal, pen-wise. 

Liked: The sunshine
Disliked: The sunshine

Read: All Quiet on the Western Front
Listened to: Soprano singing Donald Rumsfeld found poetry

Started: Planning a visit to friends in Switzerland
Stopped: Following a negative train of thought, at least temporarily 

Ate: Warm goat cheese with thyme and honey
Drank: Rioja

Bought: New towels

Remembered: Abscam
Resolved: to tidy my desk (done!) 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

That side

There was a bus and subway strike today so I asked my neighbor if he’d take me to work. Turned out his office moved so he could only drop me at an S-Bahn station on the western edge of the city, where trains from out of town were still running in.

Neither of us knew the slightest about the geography of that part of town and he dropped me at a depot that was admittedly desolate. But I didn’t want to trouble him any more than I already had so I said no worries, I’d figure it out. It was near the station and he said there was a staircase that likely went to the train platforms. 

There was nothing there but wiring, fencing and steel beams and the little abandoned depot. I walked around it and found the staircase, a twisting rusted thing. It was my best possibility. 

The staircase was full of graffiti and pigeon shit and I don’t know why my neighbor’s wild guess that it might go the platform made me think it went to the platform. I got to the top and found myself on a narrow walkway that I soon discovered ran between train tracks, since a train whooped by and nearly took off my coat. I figured I’d keep going. There wasn’t much to go back to. 

It was a hike but finally I saw the end and indeed it seemed to lead to the platform. Unfortunately there was a gate. Nearing the end I hoped the gate was open but didn’t really expect it. I started to think about whether it was climbable, and whether I wanted the people on the platform to watch me with my office clothes and book tote and purse climbing a fence awkwardly and possibly unsuccessfully. Tough shit, I thought. But the latch turned and I made it through. 

On the other side, a sign said “No Public Entry, Access to Train Yard Only,” and even though I came from the no-sign side the first thing I thought of was Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” 

As I went walking I saw a sign there: 
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing." 
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Top 10

Chanson Triste - Bidu Sayao (Duparc)
Rich Girl - Lake Street Dive (Hall & Oates)
The Magic - Joan as Policewoman 
Reptile - Lisa Germano
Factory - Martha Wainwright 
Jacob Marley’s Chain - Aimee Mann 
En Gallop - Joanna Newsom 
Louise - Bonnie Raitt  
Lived in Bars - Cat Power
Montparnasse - Jessye Norman (Poulenc)

(most listened to songs sung by women - home iTunes version)

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Leertasten, or the keys to emptiness

When I touch the keys on my keyboard I feel each one is a kind of launch pad. I launch a word letter-by-letter, or I launch onto a new line with 'return,' or launch some emptiness onto the page with the space bar.

With the many busy-nesses I’ve had going lately I’m all the more appreciative of my spacebar art, an arrangement of old space bars at different stages of discoloration. In German they're called 'Leertasten," or "empty keys." I look at them in their clean white frame, left-aligned, like the lines of a potential poem. Like blank verse. Or a silent, ragged piano. 

I’ve mentioned Harald Geisler on my blog before. I supported his Sigmund Freud typeface and typography calendar campaigns, and I eat the air off one of his witty plates. His space bars make my little study seem larger, less crowded, and open to emptiness.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Colleagues who read

Pat was down-to-earth, frank, and smart. She was friendly but never tried to put a rosy glow on anything. She could turn my “I can’t talk now I have work” into an entertaining, 20-minute, largely one-sided conversation about her Ohio aunt’s miserable driving. A conversation she’s likely forgotten about Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier was for me what clinched our friendship. When she spoke German, her American accent made me afraid of my American accent.

And it was a most remarkable, a most moving glance, as if for a moment a lighthouse had looked at me.
Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

Carl was guarded, and wary of co-workers in a “I’m only here to work” kind of way. I respected his space but it was difficult because he was the best-read colleague I ever had. Bolano, Houellebecq, McCarthy, Knausgaard. Despite his apparent ignorance of women writers, Carl was a magnet.

Where in this pukehole can a man get a drink? he said.
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

James was a dork in the best way - stupid jokes, elaborating into absurdity, puns, and intellectual fetishes. He was my mirror image, with a beard. He lent me his copy of the silly Portuguese Irregular Verbs, a must for Germanophiles and Germanophobes. 

Professor Dr Moritz-Maria Von Igelfeld often reflected on how fortunate he was to be exactly who he was, and nobody else. When one paused to think who one might have been had the accident of birth not happened precisely as it did, then, well, one could be quite frankly appalled.
Alexander McCall Smith, Portuguese Irregular Verbs

Frieda was not terrific at her job and I was her boss so there was that. But she was an easy-going and curious person. She was lanky and modest, a great smiler with an engine of a laugh. She got excited about story ideas at first, but wasn't great on the follow-through. We swapped a number of books and never agreed about any of them and I was sorry to see her go.

One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.
Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle

Hans and I sat next to each other for years. He was a bubbly snob who drove to work because only riff-raff take public transportation. Most of the office disliked him because he barked, but I enjoyed his good points. His favorite book was Brideshead Revisted, and though I wanted to do him the favor, I never read it. I am grateful to him for introducing me to John Banville, whom I’d not heard of and who has since enriched me immeasurably. 

This is the only way another creature can be known: on the surface, that's where there is depth.
John Banville, The Book of Evidence

Barbara and I are friends in any case and since they moved her desk opposite mine she has noddingly endured many of my book gushes. She lives out of town and thus only ever really shops at the train station, where she found a crappy bookstore that at odd times has some good English remainders. The other day she sent me an email from the shop: “I’m in the bookshop and they have The Luminaries. 5 euros. Should I get two?” Yes.

It is a feature of human nature to give what we most wish to receive.
Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries

Saturday, March 01, 2014


In like a bookmark, out like a lamb. 
In like a warhorse, out like a thaw. 
In like a hoof print, out like a flame.
In like a slinky, out like a shout.
In like a lion, out like a light.
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