Friday, September 30, 2016

On the Nature of Understanding by Kay Ryan

Say you hoped to 
tame something
wild and stayed
calm and inched up
day by day. Or even
not tame it but
meet it halfway.
Things went along.
You made progress,
it would be a
lengthy process,
sensing changes
in your hair and 
nails. So it's 
strange when it
attacks: you thought
you had a deal.


Saying It To Keep It From Happening by John Ashbery

Some departure from the norm
Will occur as time grows more open about it.
The consensus gradually changed; nobody
Lies about it any more. Rust dark pouring
Over the body, changing it without decay—
People with too many things on their minds, but we live
In the interstices, between a vacant stare and the ceiling,
Our lives remind us. Finally this is consciousness
And the other livers of it get off at the same stop.
How careless. Yet in the end each of us
Is seen to have traveled the same distance—it’s time
That counts, and how deeply you have invested in it,
Crossing the street of an event, as though coming out of it were
The same as making it happen. You’re not sorry,
Of course, especially if this was the way it had to happen,
Yet would like an exacter share, something about time
That only a clock can tell you: how it feels, not what it means.
It is a long field, and we know only the far end of it,
Not the part we presumably had to go through to get there.
If it isn’t enough, take the idea
Inherent in the day, armloads of wheat and flowers
Lying around flat on handtrucks, if maybe it means more
In pertaining to you, yet what is is what happens in the end
As though you cared. The event combined with
Beams leading up to it for the look of force adapted to the wiser
Usages of age, but it’s both there
And not there, like washing or sawdust in the sunlight,
At the back of the mind, where we live now.

"Dear Son,
Every woman tells the story of her labour, just like old men regale youngsters with their exploits in the war. It’s our mothers’ privilege. So here’s mine. I know you’re not interested, but tough. Here goes.
I was just a kid and scared witless. I made out I wasn’t, but I was. My mother warned it wouldn’t be pleasant. And it wasn’t. I laboured with you for twenty two hours; my contractions were five minutes apart from the first two hours, and then four minutes apart for nearly fifteen, then three minutes for what seemed like forever. I didn’t think it would ever end.
And you know what? It didn’t really, because after I FINALLY delivered you (with the cord around your neck no less – freaking us all out on top of that!), I then only got to sleep in ten to sixty minute increments for the next THREE MONTHS solid. I thought I would die. Perhaps if I hadn’t been so young, I might have, so swings and roundabouts.
You were cute. There’s no denying that. But I do remember thinking I must have the worst baby in all Christendom, ‘cos all you did was cry. When you weren’t crying, you were grizzling. During the day, you slept those ten minute catnaps. Ten minutes! Then you cried yourself yourself to sleep non-stop for three hours every night, between 9pm and midnight like clockwork. After that, you’d wake every hour after that until 7AM. Then the vicious cycle would begin again.
The doctors said you had colic, but I figured you were acting out because I was a teen mum. If I were older (I reasoned), less stupid, more experienced (!), I would surely know what to do with you?? Nope. The reality was, even my own mother didn’t know what to do with you … and she’d had five children, not one of them when she was a teenager.
Once, you stayed awake and crying, for NINETEEN hours. Nothing would pacify you. We tried everything. I thought I would go insane. My mother thought she would go insane. By the end of that episode both of us and my eight year old sister were gibbering wrecks and your eyes were bright red, like a baby vampire. I thought you were here to suck the life out of me.
Then you got to twelve weeks old and you were suddenly completely different.
I guess the colic was gone, or maybe you decided you might as well make the best of things, after we got off to a bad start. You were no longer this grizzling, mewling babe of Satan, but the sweetest, smiling little angel. It was a literal overnight change, it was incredible. It was like a creature of the night had taken pity on me and snuck in and swapped you, taking the evil one back to Hades. That was fine by me. The previous version of you hated my guts. This new you LOVED ME TOTALLY. It felt good.
And it continued to be good after that, for a really long time. Sure we had our moments – we’ve always argued, possibly because we’re so similar – but you were one of those little kids that’s always chatty; always interesting; and totally hilarious. You were a bit naughty and man, could you backchat … But overall, you were what is commonly known as “a great kid”. I knew this because everyone would say how great you were, like it was this huge surprise a kid like me could have a kid like you.
And you’re STILL great. There’s so many brilliant things about you, I can’t even list them all. You’re clever, funny, handsome, interesting. But every mother thinks that, right? But in *my* case I speak the truth.
So, parenting is harder than anyone thinks. Ironically, I have grown to realise this more and more as I’ve got older, which means you have ended up my “experimental child”, though perhaps every eldest child is to some degree. I have made mistakes it’s true, but I take responsibility for them and I always apologise. I will no doubt make more mistakes … and I will apologise. Again. I will always apologise if I do you wrong.
But you’re sixteen now and I see that grizzling, mewling Satan babe in you again … I have done for some time. That’s okay ‘cos being a teenager IS a bit like having colic for about five years, instead of three months. I was a teen Mum remember; I can recall what it’s like and won’t tell you simply to grow up, whilst treating you like a child, like some of those OLD parents.
What’s more, I no longer have to stay awake with you all night, so I can afford to be charitable (though I do wish you’d go to bed earlier, you look washed out, boyo). But anyway. Want a quiet life? Here’s how to get me off your case:
1) Appreciate relationships need repairs and maintenance, just like cars.
Ignore them and they rust or worse, break down. It really is as simple as that. So don’t just tolerate your loved ones; consider them. Cherish them. Make sure they KNOW you cherish them.

2) When it comes to relationships, it doesn’t matter what YOU think, if the other person does not.
This is why the repairs and maintenance is important and why NOTHING should go left unsaid, especially when it comes to expressions of love, appreciation or consideration. ‎
So, here’s a tip: when a loved one says “Why are you doing this?” the answer is NOT “I’m not, you’re crazy”. Instead, if you are confused, think instead “WHY would she think that? What am I doing – or not doing – that makes her react in this way?”

3) Relationships are a TWO way street.
Ask yourself honestly if you give your loved ones get what they need from you, spiritually. Words are cheap: what actionable steps can you take?

4) Dodging, ignoring and making people wait when they are upset or angry is wrong.
When others reach out to you and actually ask for your help in resolving an issue, to dodge or make them wait is a slap in the face. It makes them feel like you don’t care about them. Yes, other people can overreact and yes, sometimes the problem is theirs, NOT yours. But never withdraw, never ignore. You’re better than that.

5) Relationships are ultimately about give and take.
If you take something, then it’s only right to give something back in return. People who give too much become doormats, but equally those who take too much will find themselves all alone, as they are marked by society as “selfish”. Most of us will fall somewhere in the middle, but during various times of our lives we will lean towards one end or the other. But overall, it’s best to try and maintain balance because that is healthiest not only for other people, but you as well.
‎‎I am your mother. There is NOTHING you can do or say that will make me abandon you, but this may not extend to other people or partners in your life. So instead of thinking, “Why does she ALWAYS GO ON at me”, think instead, “Is there something she knows that I don’t – and could doing what she asks actually HELP ME in the long run?”
Because believe me kiddo, I’d rather being having another G&T and watching ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK on DVD than putting your behaviour under the microscope *again*, y’know?
Mum xx"

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"It took me ____ years to emerge from the grief of ______. You have to forgive women like me. We dont know any other way to do life than than to throw our bodies at it. I was the kind of woman whose relationships were grenades and whose life became a series of car wrecks-anything to keep the girl I was-safe from this world."

"When I go back and think about the men I have loved, or thought I loved, (or wish I could've loved) it is with a split apart heart.

Monday, September 26, 2016

I'm New Here by Gil Scott Heron

Ode to Masturbation by Ocean Vuong

because you
     were never holy
only beautiful
to be found
     with a hook

in your mouth
     water shook
like sparks
     as they pulled
you up
     & sometimes

your hand
     is all you have
to hold
to this world
     because it’s

the sound
     not the prayer
that enters
     the thunder not
the lightning
     that wakes you

in lonely midnight
     sheets holy
water smeared
     between your thighs
where no man
     ever drowned

from too much
     thirst & when
is the cumshot not
     an articulation
of chewed stars
     go ahead—lift

the sugar-
     crusted thumb
& teach
     the tongue
of unbridled

to be lost in
     an image
is to find within it
     a door so close
your eyes
     & open reach

down with every rib
the desperation
     of unstruck
piano keys
     some call this being

human some call this
     walking but
you already know
     it’s the briefest form
of flight yes even
     the saints

remember this
     the if under every
the breath brimmed
     like cherry blossoms

foaming into no one’s
how often these lines
     resemble claw marks
of your brothers
     being dragged

away from you
     you whose name
not heard
     by the ear
but the smallest bones
    in the graves you

who ignite the april air
     with all your petals’
here here here who
     twist through
barbedwired light
     despite knowing

how color beckons
i reach down
     looking for you
in american dirt
     in towns with names

like hope
success & sweet
      lips like money
laramie jasper
      & sanford towns

whose trees know
     the weight of history
can bend their branches
     to breaking
lines whose roots burrow
     through stones

& hard facts
the memory of rust
      & iron
      & amethyst yes

touch yourself
      like this part
the softest wound’s
      after all

the lord cut you
to remind us
      where he came from
pin this antlered
     body back

to earth
      cry out
until the dark fluents
     each faceless
beast banished
     from the ark

as you scrape the salt
      off the cunt-cock
& call it
      be afraid

to be this
to be so bright
      & empty
the bullets pass
      right through
they have reached
     the sky
as you press
     your hand

to a blood-warm
like a word
      being nailed
to its meaning
     & lives


"God. Poor ________. I wish I could go back and apologize. He was never cut out for a woman with a rage in her bigger than Texas. Although I've since learned that extreme passivity has it's own power."

Saturday, September 24, 2016

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Note to self:

"Treat yourself like someone you love. Listen to what you want and need and give it to yourself. Be your own friend."

Announcement and Next Steps

In the absence of anything as definitive as blood type
or maths, I am delighted to declare
I found the back to the earring, also
the mildew is banished, albeit temporarily.
I want to share this news with you,
a check against the inventory of living.
Personalized necklaces point to living.
Customizable anything suggests it’s all worth it.
Sometimes it’s “oh this iced finger bun”
others it’s “put something in the diary to look forward to.”
This is an elaborate mural in an ill-frequented part of the city.
My diary is full and the bakery is out of buns.
Indoors there needs to be a swap from idle teasels
to cacti. (Some sort of permanence that works in the way I work — 
water, light, a finger touch confirming my edges.)
I only have cats to verify I’m there.

I am building up evidence. Some bodily. Some constructed.
On balance, perhaps I am more a person who racks up
indicators of taste as proof of living. There are condiments,
playlists, preferred linens. I first got drunk
on Cinzano. There was no one taking notes. I used to dream
of sex in a fully upholstered room with no windows or doors.
This idea of rabbit fur rugs and buttoned velvet cushions,
immaculately conceived. Always snagged on the detail
of things — how even did I come to be inside,
nevermind out. The sex wasn’t the point. What I seek
is magic like an intact lipstick mirror in an antique handbag,
my own nifty (crackerjack?) endurance. Or to discover
a gulping heart within a privet hedge. Or the druzy quartz
of someone’s eyes long gone and to say it!

I am dying to be written about in your diary
and my self-involvement extends to endless
photographs of my eye makeup, which might be described
as “signature.” FYI I prefer a fine brush to a pen.
What can be said about slush, about the corners cut when cleaning
the fridge. What can be said about what is considered
to be ordinary. Crucially, love is a desire
to be a witness and be witnessed, how you might skate
past the provisional. If the house were burning down
I would rescue all the photographs they’ll tell you
or select that option in the quiz. Now the photographs
are in the air and my increments of living, too. We can still
hold hands, eat noodles with the lights off, have deliberate sex.
There is an obscure audience, always. My personal schmaltz,
strumpet wardrobe, the lacquered soles of dancing shoes.

The e-mail I sent has the subject line (no subject).

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

You, If No One Else

Listen, you
who transformed your anguish 
into healthy awareness,
put your voice
where your memory is.
You who swallowed
the afternoon dust,
defend everything you understand
with words.
You, if no one else,
will condemn with your tongue
the erosion each disappointment brings.

You, who saw the images
of disgust growing,
will understand how time
devours the destitute;
you, who gave yourself
your own commandments,
know better than anyone
why you turned your back
on your town's toughest limits.

Don't hush,
don't throw away
the most persistent truth,
as our hard-headed brethren
sometimes do.
Remember well
what your life was like: cloudiness,
and slick mud
after a drizzle;
flimsy windows the wind
kept rattling
in winter, and that
unheated slab dwelling
where coldness crawled
up in your clothes.

Tell how you were able to come
to this point, to unbar
History's doors
to see your early years,
your people, the others.
Name the way 
rebellion's calm spirit has served you,
and how you came
to unlearn the lessons
of that teacher,
your land's omnipotent defiler.

Note to Self

Wherever you go, there you are.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Harvest Moon

“I was suffering the easily foreseeable consequences. Addiction is the hallmark of every infatuation-based love story. It all begins when the object of your adoration bestows upon you a heady, hallucinogenic dose of something you never dared to admit you wanted-an emotional speedball, perhaps, of thunderous love and roiling excitement. Soon you start craving that intense attention, with a hungry obsession of any junkie. When the drug is witheld, you promptly turn sick, crazy, and depleted (not to mention resentful of the dealer who encouraged this addiction in the first place but now refuses to pony up the good stuff anymore-- despite the fact that you know he has it hidden somewhere, goddamn it, because he used to give it to you for free). Next stage finds you skinny and shaking in a corner, certain only that you would sell your soul or rob your neighbors just to have 'that thing' even one more time. Meanwhile, the object of your adoration has now become repulsed by you. He looks at you like you're someone he's never met before, much less someone he once loved with high passion. The irony is, you can hardly blame him. I mean, check yourself out. You're a pathetic mess, unrecognizable even to your own eyes. So that's it. You have now reached infatuation's final destination-- the complete and merciless devaluation of self."

“Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”

“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That's the only thing you should be trying to control.”

Thursday, September 15, 2016

When the townspeople
gave the teenaged Buddha
a glass of wine
so delicious he grew
to an unthinkable size
and froze into a blue statue
that shielded the town
from a wave that broke
upon his back
and would have swept away
the town if he’d not tasted
the wine and afterward the people
were overjoyed and said
they would do good deeds
like carpool their children to school
more often and plant lettuce
everywhere while the Buddha
melted into water and receded
into the calm sane sea.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The New Intelligence by Timothy Donnelly

After knowledge extinguished the last of the beautiful
fires our worship had failed to prolong, we walked
back home through pedestrian daylight, to a residence
humbler than the one left behind. A door without mystery,
a room without theme. For the hour that we spend
complacent at the window overlooking the garden,
we observe an arrangement in rust and gray-green,
a vagueness at the center whose slow, persistent
movements some sentence might explain if we had time
or strength for sentences. To admit that what falls
falls solitarily, lost in the permanent dusk of the particular.
That the mind that fear and disenchantment fatten
comes to boss the world around it, morbid as the damp-
fingered guest who rearranges the cheeses the minute the host
turns to fix her a cocktail. A disease of the will, the way
false birch branches arch and interlace from which
hands dangle last leaf-parchments and a very large array
of primitive bird-shapes. Their pasted feathers shake
in the aftermath of the nothing we will ever be content
to leave the way we found it. I love that about you.
I love that when I call you on the long drab days practicality
keeps one of us away from the other that I am calling
a person so beautiful to me that she has seen my awkwardness
on the actual sidewalk but she still answers anyway.
I say that when I fell you fell beside me and the concrete
refused to apologize. That a sparrow sat for a spell
on the windowsill today to communicate the new intelligence.
That the goal of objectivity depends upon one’s faith
in the accuracy of one’s perceptions, which is to say
a confidence in the purity of the perceiving instrument.
I won’t be dying after all, not now, but will go on living dizzily
hereafter in reality, half-deaf to reality, in the room
perfumed by the fire that our inextinguishable will begins.

Flowers by Wendy Videlock

They are fleeting.
They are fragile.
They require

little water.
They’ll surprise you.
They’ll remind you

that they aren’t
and they are you.
“Other people’s actions are the result of their own pain and not the result of any intention to hurt you.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Propositions by Stephen Dunn

Anyone who begins a sentence with, “In all honesty ... ”
is about to tell a lie. Anyone who says, “This is how I feel”
had better love form more than disclosure. Same for anyone
who thinks he thinks well because he had a thought.

If  you say, “You’re ugly” to an ugly person — no credit
for honesty, which must always be a discovery, an act
that qualifies as an achievement. If  you persist
you’re just a cruel bastard, a pig without a mirror,

somebody who hasn’t examined himself enough.
A hesitation hints at an attempt to be honest, suggests
a difficulty is present. A good sentence needs
a clause or two, interruptions, set off  by commas,

evidence of a slowing down, a rethinking.
Before I asked my wife to marry me, I told her
I’d never be fully honest. No one, she said,
had ever said that to her. I was trying

to be radically honest, I said, but in fact
had another motive. A claim without a “but” in it
is, at best, only half  true. In all honesty,
I was asking in advance to be forgiven.

Note to self:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself you have built against it." 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"The truth will set you free-but not until it's had its way with you."

Monday, September 5, 2016

To Be of Use by Marge Piercy ❤️

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

This Corner of the Western World by Jennifer Chang

Dark thing,
make a myth of yourself:

all women turn into lilacs,

all men grow sick of their errant scent.
You could learn

to build a window, to change flesh
into isinglass, nothing

but a brittle river, a love of bone.

You could snap like a branch—No,

this way, he says, and the fence
releases the forest,

and every blue insect finds an inch of skin.
He loves low voices, diffidence

on the invented trail,

the stones you fuck him on. Yes
to sweat’s souvenir, yes to his fist

in your hair, you bite

because you can. Silence
rides the back of your throat,

his tongue, your name.

Jennifer Chang, “This Corner of the Western World” from The History of Anonymity. Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Chang. Reprinted by permission of The University of Georgia Press.
Source: The History of Anonymity (University of Georgia Press, 2008)