Monday, December 24, 2012

eternal return

2013: year of the Snake

The snake biting its tail: the sign of eternal return, the cycles of the world repeating themselves. Time keeps passing and yet there is still more of it -- even scientists don't agree on the nature of time. (The topic "time" is the subject of this year's "Flame Challenge," and I look forward to the results.)
Compiled into this year's card, eleven quotes from ten philosophers on the nature of time : Aristotle, Blaise Pascal, César Aira, Saint Augustine, Henry David Thoreau, Thich Nhat Hanh, Albert Einstein, André Breton, William Shakespeare, and T.S. Eliot. Held together in the shape of a sphere, made of interconnected circles, continuing the theme of eternity.

The pattern for the paper bauble was discovered through the Guardian; the text was sourced using a vast array of leads from articles on the nature of time (researched for the ongoing calendar-project) with assistance from Google. Circles of text were laid out in InDesign, printed onto linen-weave resume-stock paper, and then the work of editioning began.

First the pages were printed then folded: each circle in half, and the half-way point between the circles, so that they would align when glued together. (Folding happens before oiling, since oiled papers crack when folded.)

Oiling provided durability and shine and a bit of translucence, and test pieces were treated with boiled linseed oil, purified linseed oil, tung oil, and (yes) WD-40. 
I had wanted to stitch the edges of the pages together, but my gluing skills are vastly superior to my stitching skills (as evidenced by a sample of each).
Then the gluing. Glue, fold, weight, glue, fold, weight, trim, glue, insert string, fold, weight, open, trim, place in wrapper, place in envelope.

Forecasts for the year ahead aren't auspicious. Bunker down and be well.

Friday, December 21, 2012

in the shadows of the house

One year we had a hut way up near the top of a mountain, in the Himalayas. It was the first place we had stayed where each house was designed first for the comfort and ease of the house spirit, and only as a secondary consideration for we humans and our lives. There were half-hallways and windows in unexpected places and doors that opened but only had walls behind them, they didn't lead anywhere. Our house spirit was as old as the mountain, so silent and still that for many weeks I took him to be a rock, or a sculpture. Then, suddenly, one day he looked directly at me as I raced across the house to the kitchen. That look stopped me, anchored me in place. I cannot tell you how long I stood there, silently, staring deeply into his eyes, which were so black they held all of the past, and all of the future.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

the pride

One could say only the big cats mattered, they were the only reason any of us were here. The big cats were what had paid for the cage, for the tent, for the costumes, even for the stage lights. I do not think the big cats cared about any of this. Big cats care about very little, or they care about very much but their thoughts stay private, hidden deep within their feline hearts. We would have been nothing at all without them, but I wonder if they knew they would be nothing at all without us, as well.

Stories abound about circus cats, about private zoos, stories about hunters and cruelty and orphans and training through pain and fear. We were not of that type. Nor were we cat-whisperers, speaking in the feral feline body language beloved by the media. We were a family that was as much of the big cats as it is possible to be, and yet still be human. In my earliest days, hours after my birth, I was nestled in my crib with a lion cub, both of us helpless, disoriented, curled together for warmth. We shared a bottle, and although the lion cub grew into the fullness of adulthood while I was still a toddler, it kept me as a member of its family, groomed me, shared my meals. Other children were given dolls to play with, or tasked with working in the fields, but not in our family. New cubs were born, and although I could barely walk, a kitten was placed in my arms, a kitten which soon outgrew me, every year until I was a teenager, and my family was a pride of big cats.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -17-


The creek ran dry. It ran dry every summer, when the last of the rains ended and the springs emptied out, and then we used the ravine as a boundary line between the past and the present. It ran dry early, and I had just watched Indiana Jones for the millionth time, and I was excavating the creek bed, looking for dinosaur bones or Indian artifacts or something. There had to be something. The sun rose high in the sky, and I held my spade tightly, and I dug, searching for the bones of the past.

Monday, December 10, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -16-


-- You got a flashlight?
-- Yeah, somewhere. Hold on a sec.

I found the tent zipper, put on my shoes.

-- Cold out here.
-- You going to the privy?
-- Yeah.
-- Watch out for raccoons. They scout around, have rabies.
-- Go back to sleep.

I went into the site, walked past the rows of sleeping Scouts, all of us learning how to live with nothing but a pocket knife and a box of waterproof matches. The stars filled up the sky and I found the outhouse by its smell as much as by the flashlight.

-- Smith, that you?
-- No, he's back at the tent.
-- Trenton, there's something in the outhouse. Go find a stick so we can bash it, or scare it back to the forest.

I looked towards the woods. Between something in the outhouse and needing to go into the woods to find a stick, I didn't need to go anymore.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -15-


"Clearance prices today only zero financing you got a job we've got the car you deserve to drive a brand new shiny ____"
do wop de dee de ta ta ta dum wop

I muted the television. The phone rang.
Unknown caller.
Probably a telemarketer. They're like locusts.
The sun set. I stayed in the rocker, looking out the window.
It was dark inside except for the television. The Price is Right on mute. Someone was winning a dinette set and a trip to Greece. They'd go to Greece and hate it, too many crumbling old buildings, all that oily fishy food, rot gut wine, tiny men who didn't speak English. Then they'd find out they had to pay taxes on the value of the fiasco, and the amount they owed in taxes for a trip they hated, well, they could have done a cruise out of Miami on one of those gorgeous ships for the money they owed the government. They'd like the dinette set, though they'd eat in the living room, in the rocker, watching reruns of The Price is Right and remembering when they won.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -14-


(kettle whistles)

-- Shit!
-- You okay?
-- This goddamn kettle poured fucking boiling water all over my hand. You've got to replace this piece of shit.
-- Bad day at work?
-- You have no fucking clue. The worst.
-- You want  a martini instead of that herbal woo woo hippie shit?
-- Now you're trying to get me plastered?
-- It might help.
-- A hangover's the last thing I need.
-- Then don't gulp it down.
-- Don't make me a double. A single's plenty.
-- There's more where that came from.
-- Hell, isn't there always?
-- Chinese or Indian?
-- What the fuck?
-- Takeout. You want a curry or the lo mien?
-- Lo mien, I guess. What a shithole of a day.
-- That went down fast. Hold on a sec, I'll get another.

Friday, December 7, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -13-


-- Bad harvest this year.
-- Yep.
-- May have to let some workers go.
-- Yep.
-- Not sure I can make payroll this month.
-- What's the bank say?
-- Overextended, grace period lapsed, insufficient collateral.
-- What's all that about?
-- It means they don't give a rat's ass.
-- What you gonna do?
-- Dunno. The land's all but worthless. Mortgaged higher than I could sell it for.
-- You guys got anything else you could sell?
-- Like what?
-- Like on that Roadside Treasures show. Maybe you got a famous painting in your attic, worth a bundle, and you don't even know it.
-- Ha. Yeah, I've got the fucking Mona Lisa just waiting to write me a check.
-- You might. What else you gonna do?
-- Dunno. It's been a bad run. Luck's gotta change.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -12-


-- Today we're going to look at the cardiovascular system.
-- Why?
-- I'm sorry?
-- Why are we looking at all this stuff? It isn't like it matters what's an artery and what's a vein and what a ventricle is.
-- You don't think the functioning of the body matters, the way you need to know about changing a car's oil?
-- I don't know anything about car oil. That's what a mechanic does.
-- Well, what do you want to know about? Maybe we can study that instead.

Hands go up all over the room.
-- STDs.
-- How many beers before they can haul you in for DWI?
-- How many joints before it's DUI?
-- What's the story about the band director?
-- How do I get over the high jump bar?
-- Is it true that mascara causes pink eye?
-- What's cellulite?
-- Why don't roaches die when they're microwaved?
-- What's this growth on my foot?
-- How do you kiss?
-- Let's just go surfing.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

30 Poems, completed

The fundraiser for the Center for New Americans, Thirty Poems in Thirty Days, officially ended with the close of November.

Through the use of the laptop alarm settings, a poem a day was actually written -- one of which was composed in Logan Airport at six in the morning, having been awake since three and driving into the city for departure. The text was typeset while waiting for the snow tires to be mounted on my car, and printed at the handy local print shop.

Now available, for a donation of any amount, to the cause above: the thirty poems chapbook!

[the usual caveats and disclaimers apply]

17 Very Short Stories. -11-


It was light in the room, it was dawn. Maybe 6 a.m., maybe a bit later. The bed next to me was cold, the pillow flattened but only the recollection of sleep remained. I went downstairs, through the empty house, looking for something, a note, a clue. The newspaper lay on the doorstep, an imprint upon the dew. I made coffee, read about education overrides and sports scores, listened to the empty house. The phone never rang.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -10-


There's not much to do when you're fishing. Cast, reel, cast, reel, tug, new bait, cast, reel, cast, catch, bucket, new bait, cast, reel, cast, reel, catch, bucket, kill, grill.

The bones lay piled next to the fire pit, a yearling bear excavating them, looking for pieces of trout.

Monday, December 3, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -9-


The car battery was completely dead. Not a click or a glimmer of lights on the dashboard. Twenty degrees outside. No jumper cables in the trunk. No cell phone service. I walked across the parking lot to the road, where there was some traffic. Then I was stuck -- how to flag down a stranger in a moving car for a jump? I didn't have $60 to pay a tow truck driver and there wasn't anyone around who looked like they could help too much.

I went over to the parking lot of the McDonald's, figured there'd be somebody who could help out. Big, burly guy in tattoos comes marching towards his car, carrying a dinky white bag.

-- Sorry, I need a jump.
-- You got cables?
-- Nope.
-- Where's your car?
I pointed. -- Over there.
-- Okay.

He got into his van, big black van with tinted windows, and I walked back to the car, waited in the cold for the day to get started.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -8-



-- Hello?
-- Is this Mrs. ___, at 17 Oakdale?
-- No, she's the next house down, the red one.
-- Oh, my apologies. What number is this?
-- Fifteen.
-- And your name, ma'am?
-- I'm sorry, I didn't catch who you were with?
-- Sorry, ma'am. I'm with the Center for Research on American Values. We're conducting a census on the town's growth plan.
-- How can I help you?
-- If you'll just give me a moment of your time, I have some questions for you.
-- Go ahead.
-- Do you mind if we step inside? I wouldn't want all the heat to go to the outdoors.
-- Aren't there only a couple of questions? Go ahead.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -7-



-- Biscuits are ready.
-- Could you give me a hand? I can't get to the oven.
-- They aren't quite browned on top yet.
-- Maybe two more minutes. Set the timer, will you?
-- Did you make the gravy?
-- There wasn't time. Not with your mom arriving early and then Tommy screaming all night.
-- What do you think is wrong with him?
-- The doctors says "It's colic. He'll outgrow it." I'm not so sure. He's not really there all the time.
-- Have you seen anyone else?
-- What am I going to tell them? What's normal, anyway?
-- Well, you seem worried. Maybe they could get therapy for him or something.
-- How do you give therapy to a kid who's just started crawling? Should like a crockload of BS to me.
-- Maybe. But if they can calm him down, you could get some sleep.
-- That'd be the day. God. What's your mom up to, anyway?
-- She's upstairs. She's taken to spending her mornings praying.
-- All morning? That's just weird.
-- She's lonely. It gives her someone to talk to. Better than the soap operas she was watching.

Friday, November 30, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -6-


--What jeans should I wear?
-- I dunno. The white ones.
-- The white ones make my ass look like an elephant.
-- Wear the leggings, then.
-- Do you think he'll even notice? I mean, does he even know I exist?
-- He's got to know. You sent him that playlist.
-- Yeah, but does he know, know? Or are we just all buddies?
-- No, wear the leggings. They're a lot better.
-- You know that guy in our chemistry class?
-- The basketball player?
-- Yeah. He has the hots for you.
-- Not my problem.
-- Why not? He's cute. His dad has a Mercedes.
-- You want to go to homecoming in a guy's dad's Mercedes?
-- You bet. Better than the old boat of a Chevy my brother drives.
-- Is he still with that girl?
-- Tiffany? Yeah, they're still together. She puts out, you know.
-- Ugh. Gross.
-- Totally.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -5-


Silent, on the hillside. The spaniel sits, patiently, an expression of eager anticipation gathering at the eyebrows. The man lowers himself gingerly to the ground, forms a splint from fallen tree branches and a handkerchief, calculates distance to the road, likelihood of hypothermia, amount of blood loss. He does not intend to die on the mountain. He knows that if he falls asleep he will never wake up. The spaniel sits, patiently, awaiting the command for their next action, watching his master for cues.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -4-


Hotel ballroom.

"Name tags, did everyone get their name tags? I'd like to welcome you all here tonight. Before we get started with the keynote speaker there's just a few orders of business to take care of. You will have been asked to fill out a short personal survey with your registration packet. We're going to come around and collect those now. Gentleman in the green shirt -- yes, you, thank you -- please stand and come to the front. This won't take but a moment. Thank you for helping us out. Ladies and gentlemen, this fellow will be representing all of you as our speaker demonstrates his techniques for hypnosis and spiritual healing on the path to a better life. Welcome, all the way from Tel Aviv, the famous Professor _______!"

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -3-


Full baskets of apples, piled everywhere. Apples on the counter, on the coffee table, on the washer and dryer, in the bathtub.

-- What were you thinking?
-- They're gorgeous, bright red, perfect. You'll never find a better harvest.
-- But what were you thinking?
-- Winter. Winter. Winter. Winter is coming, so quickly, so cold.
-- But how shall we live, surrounded by apples?
-- I have a plan. Don't worry.
-- I don't. I can't.
--Trust me. This time, trust me.
-- Too many times. Too many times.
-- Don't leave.
-- I can't stay.

Monday, November 26, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -2-


Woman gives birth to ape baby.
Elephant in zoo speaks Korean to scientists.
Secret love triangle between the pope and his butler.
Tax loophole: My Yacht is My Kingdom.
Ways to lose weight: The Chocolate Diet -- you never knew!
100 Recipes for Pomegranate, Nature's Superfood.
Tainted flu shot poisons junior high.
Secrets of the Stars: "We're just like you!"
Princess found passed out in Hollywood bar.
How to play the lottery -- and win.

-- That'll be $17.50, ma'am.

I paid for the assortment of crackers and cheese and regretfully put away the guide to a reality that existed elsewhere, true stories of lives I would never lead.

Outside the moon rose and frost gathered on the grass.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -1-


In an elevator.

-- Snow today.
-- None too soon.
-- Got your gear?
-- Nope, still in storage. Didn't think I'd need it.
-- We're ready. We're off to the mountains.
-- Remember when you went last year?
-- That didn't work out so well, near destroyed the marriage.
-- Things better now?
-- Not so much. Figure if only one of us comes back down the mountain, that'll be okay, too.

-ding- 17th floor.

Friday, November 23, 2012

water & water everywhere

Ampersands leading to below the surface of the city.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

from the air



Thursday, November 15, 2012

early onset

Text to follow all in good time. Scenes from the present tense, fire and ice:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

second order transitions

Overhead, masses of starlings were gathering in trees, along power lines, gathering and disbursing into starburst clouds of birds scattering in the air, forming patterns like fireworks then settling back in among the trees. The squirrels were hyperactive, but it's hard to tell the difference between when a squirrel is being a squirrel and when a squirrel is possessed by the devil, so I ignored their manic frantic games and watched everything else. The trees even seemed taut. Maybe that's ridiculous, maybe trees are always rigid and still because they're trees and not because they are preternaturally hyperaware of some dramatic change in the environment, just as squirrels always run around in random circles regardless of the state of the universe. That's a fair criticism, but there was something different about the trees, something attentive and watchful, that hadn't been there before, and there was something different about the squirrels, something acutely fearful, and squirrels are never afraid of anything, god or man or dog or demon.

This is a delightful description of the question: is glass a solid or a liquid? And I do wish the author and I were related, instead of merely sharing a surname.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

thirty poems, begins anew

Last year, DYP! brought you the 30 Poems! chapbook, as part of the Center for New Americans literacy campaign in November. Send me an email to subscribe to the 2012 production.

This year, in a month that promises to be nose-to-the-grindstone all-work-and-no-play, the morning alarm has been set. Every day a little jingle rings out at 7.30 in the morning, and an electronic message in a brilliant cheerful shade chirps: "Write a poem!". Prompts available here.

11.1.12 : "Get acquainted with the thirty days of November: ask them what they expect from you."


Each day, a vertebra formed
By a column of words, stacked:
Filled with the animating fluid of ink,
Linked by the sinews of definition,
Muscular prose,
Flexible articulation,
Holding the body in alignment.

Here, the month passes
Through silent nights
And muted days
As I trace the vertebrae
Of your sleeping back.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

eye of Osiris

I could see it standing in the water. Perfectly still. A reflection of itself fell into the water below, and the bird stood motionless and I stood motionless and not even the wind disturbed our consideration of one another. I moved first, the crane so placid and immobile that I felt pinned by the eye of Osiris, and there were places I had been and things I had done that I didn't want the gaze of the bird to unlock. The air was empty of sounds, that quiet time when the haze and heat from the afternoon still weighs heavily, too heavily to commit a crime or to start an expedition. Even the mosquitoes lay still and satiated, and the crane, satisfied as I turned away, spread its great wings and rose above the water. The movement of the bird broke the silence, or the flight of the bird brought with it the evening, for in the swamp it is hard to tell where myths end and superstition begins.

In amongst these reeds I had built my first playhouse, I had paddled an old rowboat, I had hidden from science fair projects and school plays, and then I had left. There was no particular reason to leave, but there was no particular reason to stay, and when you're a kid you get that itchy feeling that maybe there's something worth knowing about that's just behind the curtain of kudzu and moss. Back in those days it was okay to hitch, no one thought twice of a kid and a guitar ambling along beside the road, because every other car was full of kids doing exactly the same thing.

I would say that those were the adventurous years of my youth, full of threatening situations and dubious encounters; but, not really. That all came later. No, during those years no amount of dirty cheeks and greasy hair could hide the Sunday school that was wide and clear on my face, and so mostly I got picked up by a lot of Buicks being driven by grandmothers. I had no idea how many grandmothers there were on the road, going between places, but a kid hell bent on seeing real life doesn't want to see the view from a Buick, so I settled down on the coast with everyone else, and we didn't have much to eat and paid our rent in piles of small change. If you've read one memoir of a misspent youth, you've read them all, so I'll spare you the details. Things worked out and then they didn't work out and then it was middle age and your brain starts playing tricks with your memory.

Like I couldn't remember if I had had a motorboat or a rowboat, of if I had colonized an island or some unvisited corner of our back lot, and did we really ever see alligators in church or was that a big brother myth, and the spirit lights that lined up in the branches of the swamp oaks -- were they still there? What made them glow so brightly when the moon dashed behind the veil of the clouds? At night I began to dream of my childhood, but my dreams were not of the childhood I remembered, and I wondered: were my dreams true, or was my memory true, or had the vision of youth been clouded by fantasy and fairy tales?

There were lots of reasons not to go back, especially on account of not having written to anyone in all those years, but there were lots of reasons to get out of the corner I had boxed myself into, and the reeds were as good a place to go into as anywhere. Maybe they wouldn't welcome me with a hog-roasting, but I didn't think they'd run me out of town. It's funny, when you go back to someplace, the things that don't really matter. I didn't take the bus. I didn't take the train. I didn't fly. I didn't hitch. The world changes and I changed, too, and the roads are no longer full of rosy-cheeked adventurers hopping across the country. I drove, not a car of any notable appearance, nothing with a personality attached to it like a Volvo station wagon or a Land Rover or a BMW. Nothing that would qualify as a jalopy. My car didn't say I'd made it, but it didn't say I despaired of ever belonging to polite society.

I drove; the roads were open and wide and free, the skies were clear, and I refused to become maudlin or sentimental. That's harder than you realize, thirty hours in a car and most of the stations playing Johnny Cash, headed back to where the past happened. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to get nostalgic and start to remembering a fuzzy version of how things had been, but that doesn't do anybody any good. There was suddenly a moment when the kudzu came back, and I rolled down the windows, and smelled, smelled as hard as I could, but everywhere these days smells the same. There was the scent of diesel and the scent of french fries and the scent of asphalt in the sun, and so I rolled the windows back up and there was Johnny Cash urging sentimentality all over again.

What I remembered were small bungalows in untidy disarray, a Methodist church, a school built in the best post-War styles of institutions; I remembered the grocery store and the post office and the spot where newspapers were delivered on Saturday afternoons, Sunday early edition. How did they already know what the Sunday news was going to be, to deliver it on Saturday? Anything could happen, I'd always thought, and those papers would all be wrong, they would have printed the wrong future. No one could explain this to me, as a child, or maybe I never asked, or I only asked the wrong people.

The town had grown, boomed with refinery money, and all spread out where there used to be houses up on stilts were funny little suburban subdivisions, full of the faux Tudor mansions in every development everywhere. I got lost trying to find my old house, caught in an endless strip of King Arthur cul-de-sacs and Guinevere Lanes looping around fountains. They had tried to turn the spongey ground into lawns, but it seemed ephemeral, imported. When I extracted myself from Lancelot Avenue and passed the show house for Merry Men Estates, there was the live oak I remembered, the cluster of bungalows gathered together against the onslaught of development. It didn't look like a place where fairy lanterns would be lit in the trees after dark, or like a place where the reeds grew so thick entire islands were hidden from view. It looked like the future home of an outlet mall or an interior design showroom, more merchandise for the growth of houses.

There were people in the houses, though, they weren't bulldozed or abandoned, and suddenly I realized I had no idea what to say to them. If my family had died or moved on, well, that was that. And if my family was still there, well, was that better or worse? I had no idea. Johnny Cash had been singing and I had refused to get all soppy and now I needed a script, or a plausible excuse, or something. There was a place near the road just dry enough and wide enough to leave my car, so I parked and walked and tried to think and tried not to think. The road ended near the brackish water, and dotting the horizon were oil wells, and everywhere the smell of refineries. I guess that's the smell of money these days.

There had always been an old boat that only leaked a little bit tucked up anywhere a road ran out, and so I searched around and found one, a rowboat peeling blue with a canoe paddle underneath. It floated well enough, and the water flowed around the reeds and under the moss; under the distant canopy of the rigs everything else was empty. I kept listening for the frogs, the swamp children, the shrimping boats, and the first creature I saw was that crane.

I had been told that long ago we were all hatched from the eggs of cranes, that we lived near the water to stay with our family. In the stare of the crane was wrapped not only the righteousness of the gods but also the expectations of the family, the unblinking stare of my crane-like grandmother as she had me recite Bible verses and weave crosses out of palm leaves before Easter. As the crane flew away, I could see the remains of an old wooden post, and I paddled towards it, certain it was not the old dock, but not so certain as to be willing to pass by. There was the croaking of frogs and the whirring of insects as night descended, and, as I held on to the old post, the fairy lights in the trees began to glow with life.

They were warm, the warm yellow of candles, about the size of baseballs, and they floated above head level, distributed among the trees. As a child I thought they led to a magical fantastic place somewhere else, some other world, and night after night I would follow the fairy lights, certain they would reveal their secrets. They always led me back to where I had started, at dawn, next to my boat; there was no secret gate to a special place. But, still, that sense of maybe, maybe, beckoned. No one was making a pot roast for my dinner, no school master expected to quiz me over state capitols in the morning, and there was nothing else except a Holiday Inn Express with oil workers prices waiting for me. I docked, found the dry land amidst the reeds, and looked up. The fairy lights glowed as evenly as any street light in any city, and I stepped under the trees, not quite sentimental and not quite full of belief in old tales, but wondering, if this time, something would be different.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

the folding and unfolding of a finally released secret

Every evening the tree folded its branches into itself. Every morning it unfurled like an umbrella. It was the tree that we would use as base in our games of tag, hide and seek; the tree that we climbed and picnicked under. It was the only tree we knew that folded and unfolded itself together, keeping a curfew all its own.

As a child, I thought that every town had a tree that opened and closed, because that must be the way of trees, and it was only years later that this ignorance was corrected. Then I wondered why no outsiders had ever come to marvel at our tree, and then I began to doubt my own memory. Folding and unfolding trees were a natural impossibility; surely it was some other type of plant, or a trick of light, or some other prosaic cause of what we called our origami tree.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

there but for the

So, right, at this point what I ought to have done was step as hard as I could on the gas pedal and get back to paying bills and making Sunday dinner, but although I knew that would have been the right thing to do, my foot pressed down on the brake pedal instead, and I found myself stopping in the road, not caring that I was blocking traffic. Years of passing by the shrine and just barely noticing it, and suddenly I have to be right in with whoever these people were and whatever vortex drew them in. And even though I didn't really want to take part, soon enough I was "excuse me" and "pardon me" and "sorry, ma'am" until I had elbowed my way up to the first line of onlookers, and I could see what had been engraved into the marble of the bench.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

to contemplate


There are many things in this world which I do not understand. Some of these are a source of joy, and some of befuddlement, and some lead to all sorts of dark and turbid emotions best not dwelt upon. In the category of baffled joy I share "Time and Material," a dumpster from the charming city of Ottawa.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

deep in the heart

The big, empty road, big, empty sky. Out there on the horizon are mountains, or hills, but it is hazy and distances are hard to judge. I would say "no destination" or "empty destination," but that wouldn't be true, even though I might wish it to be. There's a destination, I just don't want to get there any time soon. Truth be told, I don't want to get there, ever. It's all well and good to talk about being an adult and having free will and controlling your own destiny, but when the phone call comes, we're all called to reckoning, and we all get into the car.

I remember driving this road way back when, back before I knew that roads could look any different. Back then I had never even thought about highways through forests or winding mountain roads or bridges over shipping channels or tunnels under bays. I had never thought about ferries or beltways or choosing the inland route to avoid the city, because back then none of these existed. It was all and only big empty road, big empty sky, distant haze, shimmer of sunlight brighter, ever brighter. In those days if there was an old church or barn falling to bits by the highway, well, that was just someone else's grand dream blown all to bits, and that's what happens.

Every so often the freight train would lumber past, endless rows of cars, matching containers full of anything from West Texas Intermediate to nuclear waste sent out to be buried in No Man's Land, to cotton to cattle. None of the compartments were labeled, and being so far away it would have been hard to read the labels anyway. Somehow, whenever there was a train, there was also a field of cows. I don't know how that worked, but I'd be driving along surrounded by the emptiness, and suddenly I'd be driving parallel to a train and there would be a field of cattle, then the train would end and the cattle would thin out. Sometimes there were livestock without the train; but not very often.

There aren't as many of either, anymore, cattle or freight trains. This drought has seen to the loss of all the cows, empty parched fields even drier than they used to be. I don't know what happened to the trains, but they're almost disappeared, as well.

This land used to oppress me with its emptiness, I'd go out at night when there was hardly any moon at all, and the Milky Way would spin and turn all around me, and I'd get dizzier and dizzier trying to see where the river of stars began and ended, spinning, spinning until I collapsed in the empty field, and had to close my eyes against the endless sky. Never make a promise under the open sky, it disappears and gets hopelessly lost when there is nothing to hold it true. Never believe a promise made under the open sky, for the promise ends as quickly as the words dissipate, language becomes breath and then is lost.

Promises were made, in good faith, and faith was deep and pure and elemental. For how could we not have faith, watching the lightning storm appear from no where, come dancing in from the distance, a sizzle on my arms, and then everything is changed. The air sparkles for the rest of the night, and then the sun rises and the skies fill with limitless yellow and blue. Faith brought us locusts and snakeskins and bluejay feathers, faith was as ever-present as the geodes in the rocks we cracked open under the railroad bridge.  Faith was not in god or in man, but faith held in the workings of a clockwork universe, that tomorrow and today and yesterday followed the same patterns of light and life. Promises were dangerous, promises were the province of god and man. God makes us a promise, he speaks through a burning bush, but god is a wrathful god, and withholds promises until punishments are meted out and justice is served. The promises of god cannot be understood by the minds of men, and so I kept my faith in the sunset but relinquished the inconstancies of a vengeful god.

The promises of mankind were a different sort altogether, for there were no simple promises, there were only promises with addenda and conditional clauses and expectations and substitutions and maybe thens. I watched the live oaks shudder in the wind, declined the promises, and held strong to my faith in the cottonwood and the river. Autumn, and then winter, and the endless dry summer where the air shimmers and the afternoon never ends, and the wide open sky and the empty road.

On the road, the pine trees arrived first, saplings and then towering giants, each pine cone a Christmas present, the ground draped with needles. The pines chased the sky away, and then the land rose up to meet the sky, the mountains seen so often from a distance brought into focus. The sky a different color, having to compete with the pines and the mountains, and there is very little lightning, and the stars are less bright. My faith, the deep current of faith, begins to thin as the landscape changes, and when the road enters a tunnel on the side of a mountain and comes out over the blue, bright blue of a glacial lake, the last of my childhood deserts me and I dive deep into the icy water. There are flowers, tiny purple flowers, and towering oak trees, and meadow grasslands, and the roads switch back upon themselves so frequently I do not know which way I am oriented at all, or which direction the road will lead.

All of this is new, and at every turn out, the car stops, and we all open and pour out from the doors, and gaze, and gaze. I cannot believe this is the same sky I have seen my entire life, for nothing about it is the same. It is a different depth, a different color, voices have an altered tone, the stars are in the wrong place. I look at the people around me, my companions, my reflection. We appear unchanged, but how can we be the same person we were, when even the lodestone of our faith, the sky, has changed? I wonder; I do not know. I hold out my hands, and there is a cry of "What are you doing? Get back in the car!" and at night under the stars the night feels slower, smaller, quieter.

The world of yellow openness is a lifetime away and it recedes, and I forget it. When the sky does not command every view, every eye, then my mind suddenly feels open to see things that were hidden before. I see chipmunks and rabbits and heron and the thousands of mirrors reflected by sunlight on the pond. I see joy and love and hate and despair distilled down into their essences, thick syrups in tones of red and amber and purple and green. I see the shimmer of recognition in the air when arriving some place I've been before, and I see the hollow outline of my shape waiting for me in places I have never been. When words are spoken they no longer dissolve in the endless sky, but they get caught on branches, under leaves, in the bend of a stream, at the tip of a bird's nest. Going into the woods I surprise a squirrel, and read the scrap words it has harvested along with its acorns.

Where words are trapped, held, and remembered, I begin to believe promises, and in belief in promises the corner which used to be filled with faith an lightning is now filled with words and intentions. Here, under this rock: this is the clause, as it was spoken, as we agreed. The air grows thick with words and with promises, and in the winter the skies drop snow and we ski over hills of stories. My bare feet reach into the mulch of generations of conversations, and the days lengthen into years, and I forget, I forget.

I forget the open sky and the omnipresent night and the translucence of humans on the landscape, until the summons arrives. The horizon drops and empties, the air thins, and I am alone without even an echo for company. The vastness of the suddenly empty universe is indescribable, and, disoriented, I lay upon the ground and there is only sky, only sky. This is not my home, for without the anchor of faith or the ballast of promises, I do not exist, there is nothing to hold my incoherent atoms together, and the urgency of the summons dissolves in the wind. For here by the empty road I am no longer myself, I have no compass to guide me, and there is nowhere to go, except deep into the heart of the heavens in the endless night sky.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I Hardly Knew Ye

They don't seem to be gathering any sort of food, but who's to say, since it isn't as if ants carry grocery bags. I wonder if maybe something happened to their old house, maybe a boot stomped in, or ant poison, or a hose flooded them out. It's hard to really know, since ants don't use suitcases or packing boxes any more than they use grocery bags. I'm trying to decide whether I should start by following them to where they are going, or start by following where they are coming from. I wish there were two of me, that I could go both directions at once, not for the first time.

Since I've seen plenty of ant hills, and plenty of ant hills stomped in by boots (sometimes mine, when I was playing wrath of god), and plenty of ant hills covered in poison (sometimes I'd dusted them with a box of baking soda and then poured over the white vinegar from under the sink, making a real, live, exploding Vesuvius, and all the escaping ants were the residents of Pompeii running for their lives), and plenty of ant hills flooded by hoses (sometimes by me, when I was reenacting Noah and the flood and I'd been forbidden from going "anywhere near the sandbox, ever again, ever"), anyway, I knew where the ants probably came from, but I had no idea where they were going. So I followed them that way.

It was easy to see them on the sidewalk, their little black bodies all in a row, but when they crossed over into the grass, they were hidden by the blades and the clover, even though the lawn mower had just come through yesterday. I wondered if maybe the blades of grass were to the ants like forests were to us. And then I wondered if forests were to ants like solar systems were to us. And then I wondered if maybe we were just like ants in somebody else's solar system, and things like earthquakes and volcanoes and shooting stars were just some little kid being bored and playing with our home just to watch the ruckus. I didn't like that idea very much, it made my head hurt, so instead I got down on my belly to try and see the path the ants were taking through the grass.

Monday, September 24, 2012

in the blood

I was out hiking the other day and came across an old quarry site, and there were bits of granite laying about that were just about the same color as that old paper weight. Kind of greyish pink, with tiny shiny flecks of quartz, though I'm not too good on rocks. But it got me thinking, and I must be that age where nostalgia and dementia are fighting a battle for the upper hand, because before you can say Newcastle I was sitting on a rock in that quarry reenacting my grandmother's lecture, every tic and gesture. And it was all right there for the taking, I hadn't forgotten a word. The central part with the kerchief took some improvisation, since I'm not in my kerchief years yet, and when I started talking about the woods and could only see scrubby desert all around I began to realize how ridiculous it all must seem, if anyone happened to catch me carrying on like that in an old quarry.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sept 23 | 4 pm

September 23
4 p.m.
Neilson Library Browsing Room
Smith College

Thursday, September 20, 2012

summer lament

Our bonfires burned hot and high and turned to embers that still sparked the next morning, we were thorough in collecting every piece of driftwood, every twig, every fallen log. Sometimes we wished for only the sound of the wind rattling through the trees, even the sound of the fire was too loud, too much, we poured buckets of water over the flames and listened to the quick boil and then nothing but branches moving in the wind. The wind was a constant companion but so changeable in its moods: here, gentle, there, a howl of agony, and still I fear the wind, do not know if it is cruel or kind.

There are nights now when I awaken, the moon is arisen, the stars move across the sky, and the wind reminds me of a thousand promises, all broken. For the wind has said to me: I told you all my secrets, but you were young and could not understand. The wind has said to me: I told you all my secrets, and you were grown, and could not hear. The wind has said to me: I told you all my secrets, but that was so very long ago and you have forgotten, forgotten them all. And it is midnight and the grasses rustle and I know there were words and promises, but I cannot remember what they were, and I am sorry.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

all hallow's eve

We walked down the hall, then the house made a groaning sound, and the monster went "Mrmmm" and we continued down the stairs. All of the downstairs rooms were empty, since it was the middle of the night and everyone should have been asleep, but as the monster moved through the downstairs, from the living room to the dining room to the kitchen, I felt like we weren't alone. Then I realized we really weren't alone, that all of the walls were covered in moving shadows, so many of them that I couldn't count how many other monsters there were. We got into the kitchen, and I opened and unlocked the backdoor, and I went out into the backyard, and stood, looking at the house in the moonlight.

It was covered in moving shadows over all the outside walls, and it was groaning, and the monsters were all making "Mrmmmmmmm" noises, and in the shadow of the moon, I could see the outline of the foot of the monster that I had followed all the way downstairs. I couldn't believe how many monsters there were, swarming around our house like it was a beehive, and I knew that I could never sleep in my new bedroom again. The same monster on the back porch made another hand shadow puppet in the light of the moon, and it was very clearly waving me goodbye.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Charon / passageways

There is so little space, and so much to pack. Water, and grains, and here, in this corner, the locket you gave me when I promised always to remember. The memories crowd in and around, push to be included, but they can't fit. I've tried, oh, I've tried so very hard to save a little pocket where the memories will fit, but there are dry socks and a wooden spoon and a tin cup and bowl, and water, and grains, and there's only room for the locket left, and everything else I will have to forget.

I will have to leave behind what it felt like to hold your hand, cool and dry, callused and strong. I will have to forget the shape of your eyebrows, hovering in disbelief as I struggled to master all you tried to teach me. I will have to forget the way the deer stood in the garden, watching us, so intently, as we sat on the porch in the evening air. I will have to forget the crispness of the lettuce fresh from the garden and the tang of the first radishes. I will have to forget the melodies of Schubert you hummed and conducted, as if you were the entire orchestra, and with this I will forget not only the look of utter contentment so rare on your face but I will forget music, its ebb and flow and deep emotional churning. I will have to forget sitting quietly, just so, drinking coffee thickened with the reward of a task well done, the sound of ice against glasses, the plate empty of biscuits.

But here, with the water and grains I travel with, I will bake bread, and every time I will be reminded again of the smell of rising yeast, and this will awaken the smell of coffee, the smell of the fire as we played cards late into the night, and I never once won. No one told me, beforehand, that in order to journey into this our future I would have to forsake the skeleton of the past, and now it is too late. Too late.

The saddlebags are full, the canteens the last of this cool constant spring that I will ever taste. My heart was too heavy, it weighed down the horses, it had to be lightened. There, across the sky, watch, look, the first of the migrating geese. They carry less even than nothing, they have utter faith in the future and equanimity in the present. Soaring, darting across the sky, how many miles do they travel per hour, per day, per season, so lightly, so lightly. And then, in the moment of watching the birds, quickly, then, quickly, and I am astride, and we are away.

The air is cold and empty, and before us are footprints, are hoof prints, of horse, mule, cow, dog. We are all leaving: there is nothing left here, nothing remains but the shell of a life once lived, a live lived perhaps too forcefully. Now the bill comes due, our little lease ends, the gasp of a lifetime, the silent emptiness of wastelands ahead, to cross over. We traveled lost in our silences, individuals without society, across earth baked brown and abandoned. We traveled together but told no tales, for our tales were only of the past, and the past was lost. Every day the sun rose later, evening came quickly, dew froze into prismatic droplets in the morning air. The ground grew harder, and then our breaths left ghosts of ourself in the air, and there was ice upon the thin, thin stream that marked the boundary.

Something in my mind made me hesitate, I felt that this stream should be a mighty raging river, but without memory, I knew not why. Abandoned on the shoreline was a shack, nothing more than corrugated metal, a sign: Ferry Crossing, hourly; Price, one coin, no return fares. There was nothing to indicate that the ferry was used any more, for the water, though cold, was neither wide nor deep. A man, once chubby, but now with the excess skin that accompanies unpleasant futures, leaned against an oar in the shadow of the shack.

--There's no more ferry service, you see, but you can hire me on as a guide, if you like, to show you where you're going, he called out to us, but my companions did not listen; they had already forded the stream, and were waiting for me on the other side.

-- No, thank you, not today, I replied, preparing to cross.

-- There'll be no tomorrow, or there'll be only tomorrow, god speed, he cried after me, without anger.

Midway across the stream, my horse fumbled, took a moment to find footing, and in that moment, I turned, and tossed the ferryman my locket. "To remember!" and then we were across, and it was winter.

It was cold, deep winter, the ground frozen for so long that there were no distinct prints along the path, but the path was worn heavily from use, and we knew our way. The breath of the horses grew labored with their efforts, but I no longer left clouds of frozen mist when I breathed. I was lighter, lighter than I had ever been before, my heart was light and my mind was light, and as I cooked my grains in the half-light that never became day, the beauty of the fire was almost overwhelming.

My companions and I had spread out and separated, for although we were all travelers along the same path and going to the same place, we had no need for company, or for the safety of numbers. There was no fear of getting lost, no fear of danger when sleeping unprotected in the open. The air was cold, cold, but still I slept upon the frozen ground, not for long, but deeply, and my dreams were the dreams of the universe. As I slept my mind became part of the clockwork mechanism of the sky, my thoughts were placed among the constellations. When I woke in the mornings, my mind came back from so very far away, from such different lands, it took longer and longer for my brain and my body to synchronize to one another; the horse began to grow impatient.

And so I retrieved my canteen, my grains, and I let the horse go on ahead, at its own pace, as I journeyed barefoot along the trail of the lands where there is so little distinction between night and day, where it is foreign to be awake and natural to be asleep. My supplies are running low, the canteen has almost nothing left in it, but there is no stream, no ice that I can melt over my fire. The handfuls of grains grow smaller and smaller, but I do not despair. There is no call to despair, for many, many others have made this journey before me, and many will come after me, and the journey always succeeds.

We always arrive at that place that is not a place, purged of the distinction between the individual and the universe. There is no way to fail, to become lost, and so I take a sip of water, chew a handful of grains, and walk onward. Although there is no sense of time, time passes. I realize that I have been traveling through a forest once I am no longer in a forest, and realize there are no longer any trees alongside the path.

Ahead is the distant outline of the city, built densely and deeply in this cold land, and as I continue towards it, the city grows larger and takes form. Everything is the gray of slate after a rainfall, and there are tall buildings with pointed roofs, some tiny cottages and some giant complexes. There are no houses along the road, but when I reach the city gates, suddenly, the buildings are there, one against another, and filled, filled with people and animals of all sorts. There are no plants: no geraniums in window boxes, no farmer's market stalls, but it is winter, and there is snow. There was no snow outside the city, it all falls within the city walls, and the noise, the noise is astonishing.

For so long have I traveled in silence that I had forgotten the echoes of cities, ringing footfalls, the songs of commerce. I have forgotten how to speak, I have forgotten how to understand language, and I am amazed. As I make my way to a tower, and up and up the tower steps, all around me are barks and bells and chatter and hoofbeats on the cobblestone streets. Still I continue, up, and up, and up, until the street noises die away, and I hear a lone piano playing Schubert, quite close. The brightness of a moon shines through the open window, and everywhere, across the sky, are the millions and millions of stars. In the room at the top of the tower, the piano continues to play, and there is a plate with biscuits, freshly brewed coffee, and I sit, silent, arrived in a place that I know, unburdened by memory.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

all that remains

They told of evenings when the air was so cold even the flames of their fires stood frozen solid in place. If anyone had the misfortune to be caught outside when the fires froze, then they themselves were frozen solidly in place, and the next day, all that remained was their skeleton, transformed overnight into a tree. Every spring, the trees were covered in tiny purple blooms so fragrant hummingbirds would nest in their branches, and every summer the trees would leaf out in colors more brilliant than any others in the forest. My great-great-great-grandfather's great-great-great-grandfather was a tree, and my great-great-great-grandfather's great-great-great-grandmother collected his branches, and added them to the fire every evening in winter. The fire glowed a deep rich red, and smelled of pipe smoke and of pine cones, and in the embers were glass buttons, small coins, the nibs from fountain pens.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

official invite

So the truth is that if I had spent less time exploring every major waterway in the New England and upstate New York region, and more time sitting in front of the keyboard, stories would have appeared in a typed form throughout the summer. But what's the point of owning a wetsuit, taking swimming lessons, having roof racks for a kayak (and a kayak), and learning how to scull and skip stones, and then not being in the water?

I knew you'd understand.

Friday, August 24, 2012

draft 2

It's all the local blueberries. They're preventing me from typing up drafts. Blame the blueberries.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

there is a season

It's that time of year again!
Blueberries, apples, and peaches : storytelling and good eats.

4 o'clock in the afternoon
September 23, 2012
Neilson Library
Smith College

postcards in process

Monday, August 6, 2012

away away at the shore

DYP! is experiencing the full bliss of August and will return, eventually.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

and in that time

Two thousand million years ago, I was not me, we were not us. The seed from which our soul would spring had not been earthed, the earth from which we would grow remained still granite, the oceans were neither fresh nor briny but still made of molten lava and the dust of meteorites and the tears of the future.

Specific and alone, cells which as of yet were not cells, were not organisms, gathered as sets of data, information, floating in the winds of time. Time had not yet striated into past present future but all time was one and we were all one in time. The past had not been invented, the future had not hatched.

One yearned to be invisible, for in invisibility there was safety, and without the protection of organisms, cell walls, skeletons everything was open to the gaze of the world. The primordial sludge had no being and no form, and as we were all one  and all one in time there was no safe haven for the quiet midnight thoughts to grab footholds and form consciousness. If we had had invisibility we could have hidden our hearts from the communal, could have told stories to each other beyond the all seeing eyes of the vastness of the world.


reading an essay by Calvino's translator

thunder thunder toil and trouble

Friday, July 20, 2012

under the eaves

The wall was crumbling. Not everywhere, most places it was still a wall, built to keep livestock in and invaders out,  piled stones fitted against each other, gaps neatly filled in with concrete mortar. There was one section, though, where the wall was crumbling. If you were careful about it, the broken pieces made a ladder to the top of the wall. We had taken to sitting on the topmost area of this divide, looking at that mysterious place we knew we weren't allowed to go, but the lure of the forbidden was growing stronger than our fear.

"Come on, I dare you."
"Why are you so determined to do it?"
"Why are you so afraid?"
"I'm not afraid. I just don't want to."
"Scaredy cat. My brother says the house is totally empty. Nothing to stop us nosing around."
"Nate's been inside?"
"All the time. Tells me it's become his place."
"What, to smoke? He can do that anywhere."
"No, girls. So it can't be scary, or girls wouldn't go in."

I had heard other things about that house on the other side of the wall, things that made me want to stay far away, even sitting on the wall was too close. But those things I had heard, well, they were sissy stories. Not stories I was supposed to believe in. Not real true facts.

"Nate says there's an attic filled with all these old clothes. For dress up, like costumes. We could get something good for Halloween."
"Like what?"
"Like suits of armor, maybe. We could be knights and carry swords."
"You think there are suits of armor in the attic? I bet it's just an old wedding dress, or one of those big wool coats with lots of holes, and no buttons. No attic is really full of costumes like that."
"Well, it might be. And it's Halloween next week. Come on."

And he jumped over, just like that, and got a grass stain on his knee, so there was nothing else to do. I jumped over, and my stomach went from butterflies fluttering around to a great big rock weighted right under my belly button. The house didn't look that bad, not in the daylight. We had come to the wall right after school let out, and left our backpacks at the other side before climbing to the top. There was a long lawn between us and the front door, but no one had ever mown it, and the yellow grasses came up way past my knees. Brambles grew along the ground, and caught on shoelaces and stuck to our blue jeans, but now that we had jumped over, Andy was almost running towards the house.

"What's your hurry? My shoelace is caught."
"Oh, come on. Don't be such a slowpoke. It isn't haunted or anything."

It might as well have been haunted. The roof was about to fall in, and that winter, just after the Christmas blizzard, the roof did fall in. All of the upstairs windows had been cracked and broken, and the outside walls had spray paint on them. The front door was closed and all the downstairs windows had been covered with boards, but Andy had started walking in a circle around the house, staying close to the building. He was moving so fast that I struggled to keep up: overgrown rhododendron bushes grew right up alongside the house, and I tripped and stumbled over the roots.

"Where are you going?"
"There's a door, a real door, it's the easiest way in."
"Have you been in before?"
"Nah. But I asked Nate. He said everyone just came in through the kitchen."
"Who else is here? I thought we were just going to look around."
"He said it would be okay for us to show up, just as long as we didn't bother them. So we won't be alone in the haunted house you're so afraid of."

I was more afraid of Nate's friends that I was of being in the house alone, but it wasn't something to say out loud. Nate's friends were all in high school, some of them had even dropped out of school, and they told jokes I didn't get and used words I didn't know. They weren't really mean, the way tigers in a zoo aren't mean, but they still have sharp claws and big teeth and eat little kids. Andy found the back door, which maybe had once been boarded up and locked, but someone had taken a hammer or a crowbar or something and bashed it open. I could hear noises from inside, but not really who was talking or what they were saying. I closed the door behind me, and stood in the dark kitchen, looking around.

"That fireplace is big enough for us both to sit down in. It's big enough for a bicycle."
"Hey, look over here --" Andy pointed to the wall next to the fireplace, and was opening doors. Well, the doors were open, but he was putting his head inside the doors, like he was looking for something.
"This must go to the cellars. I won't make you go down there, rats as big as housecats with big yellow teeth and rabies. But I bet this is where we want to go."

Behind one of the doorways was a staircase. It was dark, there weren't any windows built in to let in light, and the stairs were close together, steep and rickety. Andy bounded up them, but I left the door at the bottom open so that I could see where I was going. It still felt like Andy had been here before; he didn't have to think or look at a map, and he almost ran up the stairs. I walked carefully up to the second floor, being careful not to slip, because there wasn't a railing to hold onto, only the wall, and I could barely see where I was going.

"Come on! The attics are way up on the top." His voice echoed in the stairwell, and I walked faster, getting used to those close-together stairs that my entire foot didn't even fit onto.

"I'm almost there. How far up is it? This house is huge!" and with that, I stumbled over the next turn in the staircase, and finally reached the top.

"Six stories, can you believe it? If I had a house this big, instead of a dining room, there'd be a great big pool on the first floor, with a diving board from the top of the staircase, and real fish swimming in it!"
"In this place, if there was a pool, it'd be filled with piranhas."
"Ha! Much better than goldfish."

We stood in the gloom of what were the attics, but the attics were bigger than my entire house, the attics were bigger than any house I had ever been in. In my house, the attic was one great big room that I got into by lowering a ladder on a string in the hallway ceiling, and inside was a lot of pink insulation and old picture frames and boxes filled with stuff, like my mom's old dresses from her crazy hippie days. This attic went on and on and on, with rooms and rooms full of things I didn't have names for.

"Hey! Andy! What's this called?" I held up something that looked like a popcorn popper on a long stick.
"I dunno. But get a load of this!" He had found some type of rug or coat, I couldn't tell. The attics were dark and dusty, and so as I walked across to him, my shins kept bumping into things, strollers, chairs.

"Whoa! Is that a real bear?"
"You bet it is. Head and everything. Didn't know they were this big, did you?" Andy put the bear head up on top of his head, and draped the front paws over his shoulders. The rest of the rug ran down his back and along the floor behind him.

"That is so cool. What else is there?" I found a zebra skin rug, without a head, just stripes, and a rug that might have been a leopard, it was all spotted, but there was a big hole right in the middle. "It's like something got hungry and ate the leopard, isn't it?"
"I don't think it would taste very good." Andy still had his bear rug draped like a cape, but I didn't want to wear any of the other animals. It was spooky, to think of being all wrapped up in dead skin.
"Hey! Where are those suits of armor? I want to try a helmet on for size."
"Look over here. I'll bet these are real swords, too." He held an African spear in each hand, and had the bear skin rug propped up on his head, and he looked just like an Indian medicine man from our social studies textbook. Beside him was a shiny pile of metal, and when I reached over to pick up a piece of chain mail, I could hear hoofbeats. Which was crazy, because we were inside an attic, six floors up, and there weren't any horses anywhere near us, but they were hoofbeats, and they were loud.

"Do you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Andy's voice had gotten deeper; he almost growled.
"It's like horses, like in John Wayne movies, like they're right here."
"Oh, they just use coconuts in those movies. You going to try on that armor?" His voice really was growly, and, when I looked over at him, he was crouched down, his front arms still holding the spears, and he was looking straight at me. His eyes were kind of yellow, and he didn't really look like Andy anymore.

"Andy? Are you okay? What's going on?" The hoofbeat noises were getting louder, and I jumped behind the pile that had the chainmail on top of it.
"What are you doing in my kingdom?" said the growly voice that wasn't Andy anymore.
"What do you mean?" I stammered. I wanted to turn and run down all those stairs, but he was between me and the door, and it was getting darker, too dark to be able to run with all the stuff in the attics in my way.
"I don't want to disturb you. I'm just looking."
"Why are you in my land?" And it wasn't Andy anymore, it was a bear, and it held two spears in its hands, and I didn't know what to say or do to get Andy back. I was too afraid to scream and my feet were glued where they were.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

alors! shipwreck!

 just when you think the seas are calm, and all is safe

treacherous shoals appear

and all is lost

iced tea and sorbet 

crammed into fourteen hour workdays, the in-between bits filled with InDesign, back issues of the Economist

Monday, June 25, 2012

the beautiful briny sea

 encampment on the Harbor Islands, in the shadow of military barracks

seawalls, crumbling into the sea
 little boats versus the elements

to the lighthouse!

Friday, June 15, 2012

the time, high noon

Sounds of door slamming, engine starting.

C: Damn this parking lot. You'd think we were all grandmothers, the time it takes everyone to make their way out.
A: What's your hurry? Tell us now, we're here.
C: Well, you remember back when there was that mix up in the human resources office down at City Hall?
B: You mean when they paid the janitors what the town planner usually got, after the computer system was somehow upgraded?
A: I always thought some wise ass high school kid hacked into the system and rearranged some numbers.
C: Well, anyway, not that one. No, I mean, you remember the mess when they accidentally shredded the registers of births, deaths, and marriages?
A: That was when they were, what, microfilming or scanning the records, right?
C: Something like that. It turns out they used a low bid firm for it, and they didn't check references.
B: Do they ever?
C: But it gets worse. So they said that all of the records had been shred, but it turns out that they weren't only not shred, they weren't scanned or digitized, either.
B: Hold on. I need something stronger than iced tea.
A: This means what I think you're saying?
C: You bet it does. None of us were born, none of us were married, and those headstones in the cemetery are just for show.
B: Yeah, but where are our records?
C: Well, you listen to the six o'clock news. Where do you think they are?
B: Seriously?
C: Absolutely.
A: I need something a whole lot stronger than iced tea.

Meanwhile, in an industrial prefabricated building that could be anywhere at all.


reading Google maps

weather: the livin' is easy

Saturday, June 9, 2012

knocked all out of habit

"It's so much easier now, you see, that the ghost trains are running a more consistent schedule. Why, years past we'd be out waiting with the new moon, and even though that was the scheduled night, why, any little alteration would delay things like you wouldn't believe. There were plenty o' times we were left stranded all night, had to wait for the next new moon, and like as not had to find a new city to wait in. The trains were temperamental like you wouldn't believe."

"Wait, so there's a schedule? You're here for a final destination?"

"No! Don't answer!" my niece interrupted, "We don't want to know where we're going until we get there."

Margie winked at me, but before either they answered my question or offered more clues about where we might be going, someone else arrived in our compartment. He looked like one of the dwarfs taken straight out of a picture book or a costumed actor from a stage set. Everything about him was stereotypical, the green wool vest and the pointed brown beard, and he looked up at the children and set his satchel on the lower berth. I couldn't tell if he spoke loudly enough to be heard accidentally or not, but his "Ack. Foreign travelers. Wish they'd go back to taking their own trains," was unmistakable. He propped his head on his bag, sprawled across his berth, and the smell of whiskey permeated the air. I hoped it came from a flask, and not that he reeked of it naturally.

In the skin of a lion / by Michael Ondaatje

sunshine + rain, but no rainbows

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

time / tide

taking the castle, by kayak

clouds in the window
carved books

carved books II

recent journeys in the Saint Lawrence, reenacting the war of 1812.

Monday, June 4, 2012

four tell-tale signs

Our grandmother wore it until the night her breath ceased and her heart stood still, and my sister would not see another sunrise. As I scattered her ashes in the current of the river, watched her drift towards the ocean, the sky glowed deeply in the full sun of early summer. We were to leave, to make way for the rains and the strangers who were to arrive, but we were not to be destroyed. I could not hear or read the words of the fates in the shape of a cloud's shadow, but my heart drew me through the lands of our ancestors, and we would change and become strangers ourselves. When the sun was overhead, at midsummer, I gathered together an expedition, a reconnaissance mission, and we set to create a space for ourselves, a point of stability under the shifting sands of fate.

AMC schedules

raincoats and waterproofing

Saturday, May 26, 2012

dust motes

It is not that the attics were forbidden to us, not in so many words. But the attics were the most foreign and mysterious place I'd ever been, for we had three of them at our house, and no cellar at all, and the attics were full of all of the parts of us that we couldn't recognize but were told were our memories. As a child I believed that my memories were sacrosanct, that everything held suspended in formaldehyde in glass jars, where I could not just play back the memory of a perfect score on a test or the death of a dog or the arrival of a new kitten. Instead the memories were still and always alive, just there, and at any moment I could step sideways and be in the memory and it was all as clear and sharp as on the day it happened.

The attics challenged this notion of memories held in suspended animation, for they were full to overflowing with things I was supposed to recognize as belonging to myself, yet everything was all wrong. It was the wrong shape, the wrong color, the wrong size, the wrong item altogether, so it must be somebody else's past, some other accidental life living in this space that I wasn't forbidden from but wasn't really supposed to be in, this maze of memories held by someone who wasn't me. That summer I hid in the attics for hours, determined to find the person responsible for all these items, the mysterious suitcases and animal cages and nightgowns and musical instruments and aquariums and strollers and chairs.

reading about relativity
weather : the scent of peonies, all about

Friday, May 25, 2012

Keywords Relating to the Incident

marmot: stout bodied short legged burrowing rodent with coarse fur, a short bushy tail, and very small ears
They do not make good pets. Although they are more intelligent than hamsters and gerbils, their inability to settle down into domestic family life makes them inappropriate companions for all persons engaged in traditional bourgeois lifestyles. Marmots have been known to exchange important files with those of dubious merit, to shred passports and marriage certificates, to finish all but the last tablespoon of milk in the fridge and leave it for someone else to find, and to steal the dog's favorite chew toy and the infant's security blanket. They are mean spirited creatures, bored easily and capable of getting into constant trouble.

epitome: typical representation or ideal expression

Although it is all in the context, for what might be construed as typically egregious behavior by one might be an idyllic exaltation of expression in another. There are those who find the personality quirks of troublesome marmots to epitomize all that is wrong in adopting rodents. There are those who believe the marmot epitomizes the furry elegance of stout bodied creatures with small ears.

roister: to engage in noisy revelry
While there are devotees who will argue that the boisterousness and mischievousness character of the marmot merely signify its passion for roisterous parties within the extended family unit, those of a more calm and detached manner will recognize mindless abandon and drunkenness even in rodents, and call it what it is, which is simply antisocial rudeness.

definitions courtesy of Merriam Webster

Sunday, May 20, 2012

between planes

That was how it happened, and I took a turkey feather and ground oak galls down into powder, made ink from the powder of oak mixed with ash from our fire, and I was going to write out our stories, our past. But we had no paper, there were only books, and the books were already filled with writing. The books told how to combat a rattlesnake bite, how to drill a well, how to build a cabin right and true, how to treat frostbite, how to amputate when gangrene sets in, how to attend childbirth, how to plant crops when the moon is new and fog dances lightly over the ground. These were sacred texts, the commandments that ensured our survival, and my stories had no place in those books.

So I took my turkey feather quill pen, I took my ash and oak gall ink, and I wrote our stories wherever they would fit. I wrote on the fabric inside our caravans. I wrote on the outside of our wagons. I wrote on my clothing, I wrote on my skin. There were so many stories, and no where to write them, for we were always moving, there was no time, no materials. The stories were frivolous, silly, unvalued, and as I filled in margins and the backs of maps, the others began to see an illness in my obsession with the stories.

May 16, 2012

hi ho, Silver:


(new timing belt to follow in the very near future)