Monday, October 31, 2011

from Everyday Processes of Manufacturing and Civilization

The high point of ending a trip by plane is the ritual of the baggage claim. Like a litter of monstrous kittens suitcases emerge from the airport’s underground bowels. The conveyer belt puts them on parade. Hands pluck at the luggage, expressive faces ask is this one mine, is this yours. Gradually the travelers scatter, bearing bag by bag home and away.
Among the processes I most like to observe is toast browning in the toaster oven. After a slow start, color rolls across the bread like wind, like a brushfire, or a swarm of locusts darkening the plain. I am loath to abandon the lookout; I don’t want to let the dark go too far.
I’ve never minded washing windows or mowing the lawn. I’m not a big believer in progress, I am not a believer at all, but I like the advancement towards an end – I like to watch, if not take part. I could spend hours by the fireplace poking the fire.
In our world of myriad invention, all processes must bow to the Polaroid photo. As the images take shape, who could fail to be enthralled? Who hasn’t seen the Polaroid as a backward-looking crystal ball? It goes from murk to uncertain to your dad in his swimsuit. Within a minute it rewards its observers, traveling from frothy surf to welcoming shore.

Friday, October 28, 2011


It's been a long time since I made a Friday confession so here's one: I have in middle age bought a number of clothing articles that I never wore, and that I knew I would never wear. One year it was a woolen dress, skyblue, gathered at the waist and v-necked. Truth is I already had the same dress in practical black and loved it, and wore it, but when they marked the skyblue one down I bought it, too, knowing it was impossible. Who can wear skyblue? With what stockings, with which shoes? But if we buy paintings, or books for their covers, or a smooth stone to fondle, and pack beautiful photos away in scrapbooks to peruse once in a while, why not some beautiful piece of clothing we like to feel or look at? I still have the dress. It hangs in my closet like a raindrop that won't drop. When I saw it in the store it called to me like a Rhine siren.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

dilly dilly

For all my bellyaching, this morning saw a beautiful sunrise in Germany. The sky was festooned in high pinks and bright blues, like the room of a yet-to-be-born baby, whose parents are holding out for the big surprise.

Friday, October 21, 2011

perhaps this valley too will burn

For all its failings, America still does the best sunsets. While the population toils, the sunset doctors are cooking something wonderful up beyond the hills, woodlands and highways. One evening it’s blues and purples with chemical yellow rays. The next goes goth in pink frills and black clouds. They blossom like psychedelic cabbages, and leak pale scarlet like amniotic sacs. America I love you because in Europe I have to install a metal windmill in my mind and rub my eyes in absinthe to achieve anything near your least radiant machine; I have to half smother myself in macaw and flamingo feathers. Whenever I think of what I miss most, and I try not to, the red queen strolls boneless into the sky and technicolor tears bloom behind my eyelids.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I've been so busy traveling and visiting this past week I haven't had time to mention my very good news that I'll have another chapbook out next year, "Homebodies," from Hyacinth Girl Press. This is a collection of 'home totem' poems about household objects, and other poems set 'at home' or dealing with the concept of home. It includes some wine poems, "Whisk," "sPonge," "Faucet Song," and "Dollhouse," which appeared in Escape Into Life.

I was thrilled to have this chapbook accepted. Physical things are my favorite writing subjects, i.e. forks, knives, spoons and kneecaps.


There is a sink that won’t be filled
that won’t offer water

Rooms without doors
Children on their backs in bed

There are chairs tucked up to the table
docile where sedation reigns

Little house, in death the snow
will cover you like a doily

Wolves will circle your horses
frozen beside the sleigh


All the names

We got to see the 9/11 memorial in New York last week and it was stunning - very solemn, the colors sombre and dark. The typeface for the victims' names is indeed Optima, something I was wondering about in a previous post. It works well. The fountain is gorgeous and the water turns a mineral green at the bottom of the pool, which empties into a true abyss - you cannot see the bottom of it. I, and the whole family, thought it was beautiful.

What struck me afterwards, however, was how much in contrast it seems to stand to the rest of America these days, or at least the northeast coast. The shabby houses along the bus route to NYC, all the infrastructure falling apart. You see clearly that millions of dollars have been sunk into the memorial, and rightly, and yet it is sad to so much else neglected.

The memorial is very close to Occupy Wall Street, and we headed over to have a look. It was underwhelming, to be honest, and of course a number of vendors (capitalists? opportunists?) set up shop selling t-shirts and falafel on the sidelines of the demonstration.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


It's discouraging to go to my mother's local library and find they have no Lydia Davis.

But it's also crazy to go to the local thrift store (enormous) and find they have a volume of Rene Char in translation on the $1 book shelf.

So I got the Char book, and took Art Spiegelman's "Maus" out of the library.

It was lovely weather today. We went to the Statue of Liberty and felt the wind blow.

Thursday, October 06, 2011


Tomorrow we fly to NJ via Ottawa and tonight we pack. I won’t be taking many books because I will surely bring some back, though I must be careful not to go overboard. Last time I had to pay an overweight fee. My mother says Kindle is the answer, but I still love paper books that make good tinder, and if I had a Kindle (or whatever) I’d surely spend 80% of my waking time connected to electronic gadgetry. When you think about it, even my stove is electric, and so is the tram that takes me to work. And I spend a lot of time with lamps.

I am taking The Liar’s Club, which I’m reading now.
And I’m taking The Book of Disquiet, which I’m still reading.

I won’t take any poetry because I have a bunch of chapbooks waiting at my mother’s. I can’t remember which, but DGP does this “bundle” deal with chaps, which are $7 a piece, but $5 as part of a bundle of 5. If you like poetry, it is dumb not to go over and pick some titles, including mine of course.

I also thought it would be cool to enter my chap in a giveaway at GoodReads, and I made the entry period longish thinking not many people would sign up. But apparently the GoodReads giveaways trigger a mass reaction in which whoever and whatever signs up. Right now 360 people “want” my book. It’s kind of sad, because 356 of those people just want something for free. Frown. So if you’re on Good Reads and read poetry please sign up. I just did. Can I win my own book? Let’s see. laugh

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

mind map

When I read the newspaper, I often mix Belfast up with Belgrade, requiring strenuous mental leaps.

Even more often, I mix the Pantheon up with the Parthenon.

Slovenia and Slovakia are a constant challenge that might not be worth it. For me. Personally.

Recently I read a poem called "Chad" about a man and his family posing for a photograph. At the end, I asked, "What does this have to do with Chad, landlocked country south of Libya, population 10 million, broad arid plains, desert in the north, lowlands in the south?"
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