Monday, December 29, 2008


Hello, Michigan.

I used to eat at Mr. Taco in high school, and I don't think any of us really examined the logo until later. Seems like the most crass eating establishments withstand economic crisis here. Except for Denny's, which was shut down for running a meth lab in the basement. Also, now you can walk into a shop that only sells old hotel decor. I haven't been in yet. It used to be a Goodwill. Before that, a pool hall. Before that, a Video-To-Rent.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

blizzarding, etc.

To cope with yesterday's blizzard, it became necessary to hole up with David and Jeff for legendary snowday festivities. By noon, we were at the grocery store picking out items for the day's various meals: cheese quesadillas, scallops wrapped in bacon, lemon chicken with capers and rice pilaf. Over the next 24 hours, some things happened: hot toddies, wine, lots of eating, a mildly disgruntled scrabble game, Fishing with John (the Willem Dafoe and Jim Jarmusch episodes), collaborative poems, several snowy laps around the house in intervals, snow angels in the middle of Route 9, passing out to Scrooged, waking up severely hungover but pretty blissful. I can't imagine a blizzard better spent.

Tomorrow, I head off for an epic 2.5 weeks in Michigan. After that, 5 days in Portland (the Oregon one) visiting B. Slagle. I am excited and anxious for all prospects. Fingers crossed that the forecasted big snow dump tomorrow doesn't result in an airport slumber party.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

living patterns

It's getting to that point in my life when I'm really starting to notice my stunted, childlike habits. This is mostly because I've realized how many of my friends have grown-up apartments and grown-up cooking skills, and how much time I spend marveling at both.

I'm bad at these things. I live in an elderly woman's wood-paneled basement with nothing on the walls. Every mismatched piece of furniture I own came free from the side of a road somewhere, except for my couch, table lamp, and bed, which were free from other sources. I don't have a dresser. I like the idea of cooking, but am riddled with anxiety about it enough to not actually attempt much of anything. I cook pasta and canned sauce or pierogies when I'm feeling adventurous. The other day I had a mini-crisis in the supermarket when I had to convince myself not to buy frozen burritos. Granted, my eating habits have steadily improved over the years, but still. These are not "grown-up" things.

And then I think about my grandma, whose apartment was a complete disaster zone and whose culinary pinnacle was making chrusciki (a very simple polish pastry) maybe once a year. Everything else she ate came in the form of a Schwan's frozen dinner that "the Schwan's man" would deliver to her doorstep in bulk every couple weeks. I suppose everything evens out somehow, and I love you grandma, but this is not what I want for myself.

In closing, I will maybe try harder. Though it doesn't help that I share a kitchen with two women who have far superior cooking skills and who, whenever i enter the kitchen, call me "Sandwich Queen" or not-so-cleverly quip, "well, I'm glad someone is using the toaster oven."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

installing values everywhere

Values by installation? Sign me up. Seems like a much more permanent solution to things.

Also, I think writing letters to Elvis might make us all feel better. Let's try it. Ready, go.

Monday, December 1, 2008

it's a place i'd like to be

[Galaxie 500 - Tugboat]

When I was 17, I started swapping mix tapes with a girl in San Francisco. The first one she sent me had this song on it. It's still one of my favorites.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

two variations

-Kenneth Koch

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!







Sunday, November 16, 2008

some delights

Partly because I finished reading Thermal Delight in Architecture by Lisa Heschong (which is fantastic), but mostly because I found a stash of firewood and kindling under the stairs, I decided it was time to christen my fireplace. I think I like my apartment more as it gets colder outside; there really is some kind of thermal attraction going on here. So I suggest you read this book and build a fire, maybe at the same time.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

happy halloween, etc.

I gave my students Halloween candy at 9 this morning. Later, they made jokes about people dying in Iraq. Mistake?

Otherwise, I'm excited 'cause this is thriller, thriller night, and no one's gonna save you from the beast about to strike.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

having a coke with you

I read some poems in front of people last night. I haven't done that in a very long time. The sequence revolved heavily around Catholicism and outer space, which wasn't entirely planned, but I guess that's the way it happens sometimes.

There's nothing quite like sharing work with a room of people you admire and having it turn out that they might admire you a little, too. I'm trying to learn how to handle that.

In other news, here's Frank O'Hara:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

what you need is an imitation of home

I've spent the last three days cranking the dehumidifier and sucking spiders into the vacuum cleaner. New England humidity is different from Michigan humidity and New York humidity, and I still can't really put my finger on the exact difference. Living in a basement complicates things, too. On Thursday I came back from a two-week stint in the Midwest to spiders chilling in every corner and white mold on a pair of my shoes. The air in my apartment was like breathing carpet. There are so many spiders continuing to surface here that I'm starting to feel like I'm the intruder. But I guess this will make me tougher as I adjust to my wood-paneled, astro-turfed basement home.

Someone sent me this video the other day, mistaking me for another person. Somehow I think it's better--and funnier--coming from a stranger.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

bye, etc.

I will miss our Princess Palace on Macdonough Street. And the whole city, too, I'm sure. And the people I allowed myself to cozy up to over the past couple years. I guess I'm just starting to realize how much is altering, and not just for me or in this particular situation. I think, throughout this whole process, I've been a bit dismissive until now. Maybe it's not as bad since I didn't realize it, or maybe it's worse. I'm not sure.

Tomorrow I am moving to a strange new place, again.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

17 dreams for you

Hi, I made you a mix.

yes, have some.

My first boyfriend, Joe, gave me the very first mix I ever received. It was in his GMC Safari, right after he--very prematurely--told me he loved me. At the time, I remember feeling embarrassed that someone would even conceive of compiling a mess of songs with solely me in mind. I eventually got over that, and then I tried to get over joe by tossing the mix after he dumped me (for the second time). After that, I handed over my only copy of his band's album to my next boyfriend, who was none the wiser about its origin.

For whatever reason, I seem to keep a firm hold on things that I'll never use or look at again, but all the artifacts I actually want to resurface are now unrecoverable.

Anyway, enjoy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

the stuff of nightmares

The first vivid dream I can remember happened when I was 4 years old. It was very soon before my dad moved out, and he had started rocking me to sleep in the living room every night (I think it was more for him than it was for me). He would always fall asleep before I did, but that was our routine and I think we both liked it that way. On one of those nights, I dreamt that I had been separated from my family. I walked for hours in a nightshirt, crying, stumbling through the woods behind our house, until eventually I came face to face with an enormous tiger. Through some hazy sequence of events, it was revealed that the tiger was actually my dad; he said that he had eaten the rest of our family, and if I wanted to see them again, I'd have to crawl onto his tongue and be swallowed, too. So I did. When I woke up I was staring into his sleeping face.

I've always had many, many more nightmares than regular dreams, and I've grown so accustomed to them over the years that I can often control the endings. If, for example, someone is chasing me with a knife, or a gun, or some other weapon (which is usually the case), there comes a point near the end (when I'm usually trapped against a wall, or I'm stuck running in place, etc.) where I can just stop, catch my breath, and realize that the way to make the situation disappear is to simply acknowledge that I'm asleep. I rarely have to fight back. The worst cases, not surprisingly, happen when I discover that I'm not the one in control after all. These always end badly.

I'd like to know about other people's dreams.

It's been this way for as long as I can recall, back to that rocking chair nightmare. Most of the time I don't realize how unsettling it is to others that I've just grown to accept my subconscious for the way it is. Really, what else can I do?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

letter to lorca

from after lorca:

Dear Lorca,

I would like to make poems out of real objects. The lemon to be a lemon that the reader could cut or squeeze or taste--a real lemon like a newspaper in a collage is a real newspaper. I would like the moon in my poems to be a real moon, one which could be suddenly covered with a cloud that has nothing to do with the poem--a moon utterly independent of images. The imagination pictures the real. I would like to point to the real, disclose it, to make a poem that has no sound in it but the pointing of a finger.


Things do not connect; they correspond. That is what makes it possible for a poet to translate real objects, to bring them across language as easily as he can bring them across time. That tree you saw in Spain is a tree I could never have seen in California, that lemon has a different smell and a different taste, BUT the answer is this--every place and every time has a real object to correspond with your real object--that lemon may become this lemon, or it may even become this piece of seaweed, or this particular color of gray in this ocean. One does not need to imagine that lemon; one needs to discover it.

I love Spicer's letters to Lorca--the simultaneous care and wrecklessness with which he writes.

I've never written about writing too much. At least not in this way. I always think about what to say if asked what my poems (or anyone's) are, or try to be, or are there to accomplish. Those are abstract questions, and maybe they're not important anyway, but I've always felt anxious about explanations. Maybe I just don't piece things together this way. Most of the time I vacillate between feeling wholly inarticulate and justifiably observant, and somehow I always get stuck trying to explain something when I haven't fully processed it yet. But then again, maybe I just never really finish processing anything.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

sweeping down the plain

I'm not so good with this, I guess. The upside, however, is that I've been focusing more writing energy on poems. This is good. Very good. This is especially good because in just over three months, I'll be sitting in my first graduate poetry workshop with some brilliant writers and I don't want to embarrass myself. In other words, I'm moving to Amherst, Mass., in August to start an MFA program in poetry. I will also be adopting the teacherly legacy passed down from everyone in my immediate family (read: everyone); this means that I'll be teaching a section of freshman writing. I am honored and thrilled and nervous about all prospects. More about this later.

In the meantime, I'm going to Oklahoma. Tomorrow. When I land in Tulsa, Brian will greet me and I will be whisked away to meet the rest of the Jones clan. Already I have been promised the best barbequed meat of my life, the best steak of my life, and a very epic tour of Oral Roberts University. While I'm excited that multiple promises involve meat (and the other involves a nefarious Charismatic Christian institution with a 200-foot-tall "prayer tower"), ultimately I'm looking forward to finally meeting his family. To quell the pressure and anxiety, brian insists that they already think lowly of me, so really I can only rise in their estimations. Inspiring.

Monday, April 28, 2008

this is the day

I like noticing when people stop, mid-thought and mid-step, to change direction. The precise moment when priorities or desires shift. I always wonder about the one that's winning.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

walking the cow

A few weeks ago I had grand aspirations and plans for this month. But none of those will probably happen, partly because I spent this whole week writhing in bed due to the whims of some mysterious stomach demon, and partly because my ambitions usually get the best of me. Uplifting, I know. But I will write more! And read more! Pictured above is my to-read and to-finish list for this month, but, you know... ambitions.

In other, irrelevant news, today I am lusting for the very epic picnics that spring and summer will bring. Special thanks to our (well, Brian's) new wine/dishwear/utensil/cheeseboard-toting picnic backpack. Oh the alfresco adventures we will have.

Friday, March 28, 2008


We almost spent three days trekking through frozen, snowblown Montréal, but ended up on a bus to Philadelphia instead, from one city's Chinatown to another. On mornings we studied maps, then set out with half-formed plans for the day. I think, now and then, the best vacations are spent dodging museums and monuments and more museums in an effort to discover the more intimate, tucked-away histories of a place. We wandered Center City, Old City, up and down South Street, then in and out of neighborhoods I can't name, dropping into bars and shops and record stores. We saw Oneida play, watched a bedraggled dive bar jazz trio, watched a zombified Jesus strutting around on Easter Sunday (hilarious? inappropriate? both?), sought out cozy restaurants and ate well, drank well, slept unexpectedly well in a hotel bed. Then, on Monday, we left on another bus back to another Chinatown. I don't know, maybe the weekend was uneventful in a storied vacation sense, but hey, sometimes the lazy and impromptu and unscripted respites are the most sorely needed and all that.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I found this in a used copy of Jorie Graham's Region of Unlikeness. These artifacts always excite me and break my heart at the same time. While I don't think I could ever give up a book with a personalized inscription, there's an intimate comfort in knowing that, at some point, another person purchased the book with love. But it makes me wonder: why did Maureen and Marshall need to rid themselves of it? Oh such mystery and history.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

shades of gray

When winter settles on this city, snow seems to hesitate. I never thought I'd miss Michigan winters, but day after cold, gray, windy, stunted day, I keep expecting results that seldomly deliver.

Friday, February 1, 2008

another february

Holidays here and gone. Hopped on and off 5 planes to and from Michigan, where I spent seven full days mostly huddled in my parents' suburban nest, eating, laughing, playing board games and card games and arguing, as always. I met two new nephews, reconnected with old friends in crowded bars and basements and living rooms, drove Brian from the bus station to the house I grew up in and watched eagerly, nervously as the new world collided (or meshed, I hope) with the old. Made me wonder where I stand in all this, hovering in some "home"-shaped purgatory, New York vs. Michigan. I think I might always linger somewhere in between where I live and where I came from, and I think I'm okay with that.

Came back to an empty apartment and a new record player, appropriately christened in a ceremony involving Thriller, the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Brooklyn Lager. Rang in the new year with cajun food, a crowded party with poor dj stylings, and then Les Savy Fav, the perfect ending. Got a promotion and an unexpected raise (sweet, sweet justice), finished remaining applications, and caught a cold just in time for an orchestra audition I had to cancel. February will bring long-overdue visitors, desperately needed tax returns, housewarming and farewell and birthday parties. As for this weekend? A bowling excursion to Sunset Park and a Superbowl feast lacking any trace of Superbowl coverage. In March, I'll be on a train through the Adirondacks to Montreal, a trip I've been fantasizing about for years.

In the midst of everything, I'm anxious for spring and to fill empty, misused spaces with something meaningful--whatever that may be. I look forward to finding out.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

holiday freeze

Once I'm settled again, once lingering applications are in, and once I have returned to a whole, happy person, I will recount events and maybe write here more than once a month. In the meantime, please keep on keepin' on.