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Archive for January, 2011

No matter what I say, you say

No matter what I say, you say
my intention was always to leave.

You sum it up in words
more articulate than ink.

Much faster than I can begin,
you pluck the words you think.

I become the drunken janitor
swaying on her feet.

It is to that cup sitting there
I speak to now,

the spoon hidden beside the saucer
placed beneath your cup.

This is where my mind wanders
as all your words go up.

I see you sitting at your kitchen table,
the coffee almost gone.

No matter what I say, you say
you’ll always be alone.

I end in our beginning
ten years ago tonight.

I have forgotten our first words
I could only seem to think,

I must stop myself from staring
I must sit inside my seat.

All my words are refugees
with prosthetic wooden feet.

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Joseph Massey

The Process

Cross-stitched
outside sounds
double the day’s

indoor confusion.
How to untwine
noise, to see.

There’s the bay,
highway slashed
beneath; water

a weaker shade
of gray than this
momentary sky’s

widening bruise.
The page turns
on the table, bare

despite all
I thought was
written there.
………………………….
by Joseph Massey

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Judi Schultze is an artist who lives in Boulder.These paintings are from her collection Magical Places.
Heading to the Sea From Peggy’s Cove
Chester Boathouses
Skiff Heaven
The Barn on the Hill
Red Village by the Sea

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Tonight, I asked my students to share their favorite story. This is what one student wrote:

Once in the ancient land of India, there lived a simple boatman who ferried passengers across the Ganges to a town on the other side. The boatman was down to earth and had no cares for what went on in the outside world.

One day while the boatman was on his daily run paddling across the river, a scholar entered the boat from the city who knew many things. He sat in the boat as the boatman continued to paddle.

This went on for quite some time until the scholar felt something needed to be said. “Oh boatman,” he asked, “Do you know of evolution?” The confused boatman replied, “No, I do not sir.” The scholar’s eyes widened and he said, “Why, you fool. Twenty-five percent of your life has been wasted.” The boatman shook his head and continued rowing.

The scholar could not keep silent. “Boatman, how many planets are there in the solar system?” The boatman shook his head again. “What is this,” boomed the scholar. “Fifty percent of your life has been wasted.” The scholar took time to revel but could not keep silent for long.

“Boatman, when did the first man land on the moon?” The boatman shook his head again and looked at the sky. The scholar looked up also. There were black clouds gathering. “It looks like it’s going to rain,” said the scholar.

As he said this, the clouds grew more dense and the winds started to blow. The boat started to toss and turn violently. “Row faster,” the scholar screamed. The boatman stood up. “What are you doing,” the scholar cried. “It is too strong, sir. I hope you know how to swim.” The scholar sputtered, “Swim? I don’t know how to swim!”

“Then your whole life has been wasted,” the boatman said and dived into the river. 

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Jen Bervin is a poet and installation artist. When I rediscovered the letters from my mother and saw her use of the + sign and dash mark, it reminded me of Bervin’s 2006 installation piece The Dickinson Fascicles.
From 1858 to 1864, Emily Dickinson gathered 800 of her poems into 40 groups and stab-bound them into booklets, called fascicles.
Jen Bervin, The Composite Marks of Fascicle 28. Cotton and silk thread on cotton batting backed with muslin. 6 ft h x 8 ft w.
I wanted to see what patterns formed when all of the marks in a single fascicle, Dickinson’s grouping of poems, remained in position, isolated from the text, and were layered in one composite field of marks. — Bervin

Detail, The Composite Marks of Fascicle 19.
The fascicles from which I made composites showed clearly identifiable shifts in the size, gesture, frequency, and distribution of the marks. In contemplating such an odd physical study, one naturally forms one’s own questions about the nature and meaning of the marks; it makes their presence on the facsimile manuscript page more striking, systemic, factual—and their omission from typeset poems more evident. — Bervin

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You don’t really see the impact that an ashram has had on you until you leave the place and return to your normal life. Only then, said the former nun from South Africa, will you start to notice how your interior closets have all been rearranged.  
 — Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

I heard these lines on my iPod today as I continued to look through boxes in my closet. I opened one card and found the only lines from my father in the whole menagerie of photos, cards, trophies, report cards, certificates, newsletters, textbooks and old ESL teaching material: 

Darling, this card says a lot about the way we feel about you. You will never know how Momma and I love you. Daddy   There on the underside of a Hallmark card my mind jarred back in time as I recognized the handwriting.

Nine other letters from my mother are in the box, written when I was at summer camp in the mid-70s:

Well kid — I’m telling you — the next time you go to camp — your dog has to go too — this dog — wow — she has looked everywhere for you — she thinks we are hiding you some place + our neighbor said she keeps coming over there looking too — Last night I thought maybe she would like to sleep with me — so I took her blanket back and put it on the foot of my bed then I went in the bathroom — and I heard your daddy laughing — when I went out that dog had pulled her blanket off my bed and pulled it back to the den and was trying to get it back on the couch — it looked like she was trying to say —look if you want a blanket get one of your own — so I finally took her — the blanket and put her on my bed and she was happy — Well I have got to do the dishes so you have fun and remember you are coming home on the bus — I will meet you when you get off — Love from us — Mom

As a child, I didn’t notice my mother never used periods. In one continuous thought joined by dashes, she listed the events of her life. I’d receive several letters the week I was gone. She talked about ironing her uniforms for work, painting the house, rearranging the furniture, giving a woman a toolbox as a shower gift and all the errands she ran on her day off. She asked about my swimming lessons and gave updates on my softball team. I remember how excited I was to receive them.

Now I realize the summer camp was down the road from the facility for tuberculosis-susceptible children she was sent as a child to be fattened up. She didn’t want me to feel abandoned as she had.

Classes started this week at the community college where I teach, and my students will be doing the same timeline journal I did in Clue class in 1977. It includes: a page of failures, successes, heroes, comparisons, likes, dislikes, questions, special times, observations, emotions, opinions, feelings, a time line with photos, a collage using magazine clippings and an acrostic poem. I hope my students open a box one day and find that life, moving vans and a wet basement haven’t eaten away the words.

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the letter e

It’s not the words that bother me,
it’s all this dust

flaking off the edge of my mother’s letters
decayed in a water-stained box,

the letter e laying in the middle of the floor
no longer connected to anyon-

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I found this letter from my mother in a water-damaged box last night:

June, 1982

My Dearest —

Sitting in a quiet house, you hear lots of strange sounds, sounds you normaly wouldn’t have heard. Being alone tonight at this time, my thoughts drift back 18 years ago when I spent a day very like one, but very different too.

That quiet evening turned out to be a very special day in our lives. Tears of joy had been shead 8 months earlier when my doctor told me we were expecting another baby, our prayers had been answered. We hugged + kiss and cried and then in great panic we all tried to be first at the phone to call Nanna + Grandaddy. Of course, we let your brother win as it was really his prayers that had been answered. I had given up [because of] months and years of heartache, but he never faltered —

Someday he would have a “something”. By then no-one [missing text] we would take any thing we could get — Granny was in New Mexido at the time visiting your aunt and uncle — so in my haste to get a note to them, I misspelled the word pregnant by leaving out the “n” and a quick reply came back from your aunt saying that she knew why it took me so long to get that way … “I couldn’t even spell it.” [missing text] for many a year I heard that.

Baptismal dress in photo made by my grandmother.

During the next eight months, we could have named a [thousand] girls — but not a single boy. [Missing text] could we agreed on — some nights the decussions became quite heated, so it would be dropped until a later time — only for the same thing to happen all over again —

How lucky we were, we [missing text] only got a girl, but she was healthy as well as “Beautiful”

Some times around midnight that night, your daddy couldn’t stand it any longer — he had already called your brother and told [him] and he had proudly announced it to Nannia and Granddaddy [and] had to wake me up + bring you in so I could see you — When I first [laid] eyes on you I thought you were the most beautiful baby I had ever seen — and how happy I would be to have one that pretty — but I knew that one couldn’t be mine

I thanked the nurse + told her she could take you back. Much to my surprise they kept bringing that same beautiful baby in — they insisted you were mine + I got to bring you home — what joy — what a day — your brother and your daddy had been there every day + all the night as long as they could stay, + the day you came home was a lovely Saturday morning — the whole family was there + as I was wheeled out with you in my lap — your brother came flying across the room and we all hugged + cried, right in the middle of the hospital — what a sight we were — the nurses were laughting with tears running down their faces — they also shared our joy —

I wish you could have seen our house as we approached — there was Kathy, Nancy, Corinne, Susan, Bobby, Janet, every kid that lived on our street [missing text] wait to see their baby — of course there was Granny — she [stood] there quietly waiting her turn with all the out-stretched arms. I put you in Granny’s and she carried you in the house + laid you in your little crib — then one by one I let them all [hold] you, but your brother came first — then Nancy + so on until they had had their turn — the phone [rang] + a neighbor said “Send them out, I told them not to go to your house,” + I told her I asked them to come in and reminded her they had waited a long time too — and after assuring them they could come back they left — but you continued to be their “baby” —

We had you baptized when you were 18 days old — and continued to carry you to church and Sunday School every Sunday — you hated it and it was a real chore to bring you up as a Christian but some where along the line as the old saying goes, it took.

Thank goodness for pictures — because the years have gone by so fast —

Suddenly it was your first birthday + what a beauty you were — I went back to [work then] + we continued our [missing text] but happy lives —

At brother’s wedding

By the time you were [missing text] old you let everyone know you were old enough to go to school but your mama wouldn’t let you. Then came kindergarden and school. You loved it + throughout your school years you always did [missing text] and had many friends —

When you were 10 yrs. old, your brother  married and you were the “nothing” as we “jokeingly” called you in the wedding — you were too old for flower girl + too young for bridesmaid, but they made [a bridesmaid out of] you any way —

Soon after that the braces went on your teeth to correct the front ones from bucking out — your daddy couldn’t see any point in it because he couldn’t see the front teeth growing out. All he could see was beauty. The week the braces came off and the teeth were pretty + straight you went swimming and broke off the two front [teeth]. I don’t know who was [sadder about] that me or your dentist.

Your life in high school was a busy time — with your studies taking most of your time — but we still found time for your tennis, music, newspaper + at age 16 to start working at the grocery store — as a checker — so you’d have money to buy a car —

A few weeks ago you graduated [missing text] had + did receive many honors — you always made us very happy —

This week you started summer session at M.S.U. to get acquainted with college life where you will [missing text] as a full time student in [missing text]

Today you are “18” — [missing text] magic — now you can vote and get married — and enjoy all the priviledges of being an adult — But this priviledge comes the responsibility.

Your future is now your [missing text] the foundation has been laid — you must build on it —

Easter Sunday

Your Father and I have tried to teach you + guide you with love and not force — we have instilled values in you that you can draw on for the rest of your life — we are here when you need us — so whenever we can help you, it will be our pleasure —

The Lord has blested you in many ways — so as you mature in wisdom and years — may you remember:

If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciple — and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free

John 8:31-32

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Unfinished, 18 x 24. Charcoal and graphite on watercolor paper.

Unfinished, 18 x 24. Charcoal and graphite on watercolor paper.

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Geraniums

From a journal done in my CLUE class in 1977 when I was 13:

Comparisons

Flower — The flower I compare myself to is a geranium. I compare myself to a geranium because it stays indoors all the time as I do, it has its own little place in a planter as I do in my room, and it would brighten any room.

Day — I compare myself to a fall day. Fall is a season of the year which is neutral between Spring and Winter. Fall is not Fresh and anew as Spring but it’s not as cold and hard as winter. Instead it is neutral between the two. (I know Fall comes between Summer and Winter).

Animal — I compare myself to a gorilla. A gorilla is fast learning as I am and a gorilla is gentle and funloving until someone or something makes it mad, then they are absolutely vicious. I am this way too.

Car — I compare myself to a Datsun. Both I and the Datsun are efficient and a Datsun can go a long way without much gas as I can on food.

Likes and Dislikes

I like the smell and the taste of ripe watermelon when it has just been cut open, I like the sound of celery when someone bites into it, I like pancakes when they are hot off the griddle and as big as my plate, I like a mystery I can really get involved in and cant take my eyes off of, I like being lazy, I like it when Barbara Streisand hits a high note, I like Barbara Streisand’s singing period, I like the feeling I get when I beat a person in tennis (especially pro-set), I like being alone in my room, I like being quiet, I also like laughing, I like it when people compliment me, I like having muscular legs and arms, I like when my brother and sister-in-law are here, I like doing things nice for people, I like soft rock music but I like powerful church music, I like the feel of a swimming pool on a hot summer’s day, I like getting good grades in school, I like doing good at piano practice, I like writing this paper, I like being neat, I like the taste of fattening foods.

Schedule Go to school, of course, go to Confirmation at church on Tuesday at 4:00, piano lessons on Friday at 4:00, I usually spends my nights watching T.V., listening to stereo, doing homework, doing my exercises, and getting a shower. I go to bed at 10:00.

Cecil B. Demille

All the World’s a Stage

Assignment: Pretend Cecil B. DeMille is doing an epic about your life. How would the movie go?

Act 1: Am born, go through Tom Boy stage

Act 2: Become a teenager and have regular teenage problems

Act 3: When grown — go to college, become prominent Investigative Reporter, get rich

Failures and Successes

Failures — I am a failure at being another Nancy Drew, I am a failure at being a basketball star, I am a failure at being as skinny as the girls next door, I am a failure at having a good complexion and NO freckles, I am a failure at singing as good as Barbara Streisand and Julie Andrews, I am a failure at being a naturally smart person (I’m book smart), I am a failure at playing the guitar as good as John Denver, I am a failure at having long, beautiful, thick, black hair that never gives me a problem, I am a failure at being a babysitter for brats, I am a failure at being a girlfriend (I wish I had the chance), I am a failure at keeping things short when I write (as you have just noticed), I am a failure at trying to get people to understand me, I am a failure at trying to be original when I write, I am a failure at expressing my feelings on paper, I am a failure at being me. I really am a failure at being original on paper. Some people think I really have talent in writing, well I got news for them, my writing is the pits. When I write, I don’t like to write the same old dull stuff that everyone else does. I want to write something that is new and creative that will break the monotony.

Successes — I am a success at memorizing, I am a success at playing my music right at Piano practice, I am a success at keeping on an exercising program, I’m a success at keeping a secret, I’m a success at being an alto, I am a success in most my subjects in school, I am a success at having people like me, I’m a success at being neat, I’m a success in tennis, I’m a success at making people believe I’m something I’m not, I’m a success in both making people happy and getting them depressed. I shall explain my success of making people believe I’m something I’m not. I was thinking of the people at my church when I wrote this. I was the first child born and baptized at my church and they make me feel like I’m something special. The fact that my brother has gone into the ministry has not helped this matter any. This is alright that they feel this way about me but I feel I can’t be myself around them.

Drawing by my niece

 The Thing About The World Is

From a “blog” my 12-year-old niece e-mails my family by the name, The Thing About The World Is:

MERRY CHRISTMAS !!!!!
Hello everybody and as it says above, Merry Christmas. Today isn’t going to be a blog and actually to mention it once again I am going to have to cancel the blogs do to lack of computer time. So actually I wrote out a blog for today but decided it would be better if I did a Christmas email so here is the original blog and then i will do the plan that i am going to do with the christmas blog.

BUMP,SET.SPIKE!

You run up to the net with an intimidating look on your face and spike the ball across the court. The whole team surrounds you and lefts you up in the air and chants your name. Your team just won the volleyball tournament. You look back at the other team and they are saying stuff like: We suck, we’re losers,, and it’s all your fault___ tehn someone’s name is mentioned. So, there are two things you can do, One, you could yell back,” That’s right we won!” Then walk out the door mad-mouthing the other team. Or, walk over to teh other team and say, ” You guys did a great job. Second place is better then third.” Then you walk away and go on with life. What would you do.

So that was today’s blog and i know it was boring but now i have some christmas things you can talk. When you are done reading this blog i want you to find a pen/pencil and paper and write out a christmas list and send it to me and i know i can’t do anything to make it happen but sometimes it is better to tell other people about you wishes then keep them all to yourself. Then i want you to find three things with the word christmas on it and tell me what it was..like i will give you an example fro both of them

My christmas list
– a new itouch
-a flip camera that works
-clothes
– and to hear everybody’s laughter when they open there presents tomorrow morning
and for you to smile so much that you laugh
BYEZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

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