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

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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