Category Archives: meditation

gone to the printers

I think this might be like arriving at base camp at the foot of Everest

I know its an awful lot like being 37 weeks pregnant.

maybe you dreamed of it

surely you worked for it

but as the time nears

you realize, increasingly

that you have absolutely no idea

what you’ve gotten yourself into

 

and the dark clouds form and disperse

as you reckon the size of the leap

you have made

peering at the place you think you’re going to land

readying the things you think you’ll need

asking for mentors, safety nets

realizing that when you need financial security more than ever you are sloughing it off

to pit yourself against the challenge

of doing this thing

and doing it well

aprons and layers falling

revealing the dream vulnerable to the raw air:

 

I,

Writer

terrified, quaking, tired and certain

there is no perfect draft, there is no truly ready time

the story is past due

 

and gone to the printers.

finally finished, and only just begun.

Downwind: A People’s History of the Nuclear West.  November 2014

 

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bigger than a blog post, smaller than a breadbox

I haven’t been doing much creative writing lately,

because this:

Fox_sketch-1

 

is coming out in the fall and contrary to what I’d somehow fooled myself into thinking,

my work is only just begun.

More to come lovelies, I promise. all sorts of things are moving and shaking.. a website, a video, events, travel. opportunities for folks to support getting the stories in my book out into the world. For now… disjointed waitress poetry will make an attempt to return, because learning how to market a book gives me a headache, and I need to write creatively again.

 

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ask questions. people will tell you their stories if you promise
to listen
roll “history” around in your mouth
and see how it sounds when you say it out loud

test it out for righteousness
and the metallic taste of propaganda
coated in sugar

understand that the difference between those hours and these is not a flat timeline

the past inhabits the present
and the present inhabits the future

and you feel your familiar ghosts crowding in;
unknown ancestors
dreams of your former self
storied poets
anonymous nannies
and private photographers
college dreams
and immigrant fantasies,

Americana writ thickly across the land

and you in the midst of it
becoming a part of the past

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mending a pair of pants we bought because we could afford them

This morning, while my son watched children’s television in the other room,
I sat by the open window on the bed and mended a pair of corduroy work pants
sipping my coffee and letting spring wash over my skin through the screen.
As I worked to knit the button hole back together,
I noticed how few stitches had been used to assemble the belt loops,
how there were loose threads
and poor workmanship here and there
and then I pricked my finger with the needle.
while swearing and applying pressure,
i glanced at the label,
and realized that the fabric I held in my hands
had been been held by a woman, or man, or child,
in China

i read “made in china” a hundred times a day
but i don’t realize much.
i think:
“ugh.”
then: “we can’t afford to buy things made fairly,
and “after all, i do try to buy second hand, so that helps, right?”

and there’s not much realizing after that, just an unspooling narrative of rationalization

like so much tangled thread
sure we bought the pants because we could afford them
and we could afford them because that person in China
made a few dimes
for these seams
and went home to a crowded room in a toxic city
hundreds of miles from their families
who they might see once a year.

I think about who made these pants,
and think about my seamstress great grandmother
an immigrant Eastern European woman
who fled the land of pogroms with (most of) her children
to Philadelphia
just a few years
after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
where, after her husband’s death from tuberculosis,
she made a living sewing theater curtains and
beaded bags
for wealthy women

and holding my mending by the window i think that these are not trivial connections
but literal ones
we can feel
as we bleed tiny drops of blood
into the same fabric

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newyorkminute

photo 4

It wasn’t until the last day that I sat on a corner bench and raised my collar against the cold and cracked my journal: for four days I followed his tall and purposeful stride through the subways and the sidewalks and the elegant lobbies, beneath the sky-filling spans of bridges and down the hallowed and corrupted aisles of urban cathedrals, through the temporary winter foyers of artful restaurants and past the legions of doormen, (some of whom i am convinced we have interrupted in the midst of composing poems), along the curving sidewalks of frozen Central Park and over the very ground where John Lennon breathed his last on the day my mother heard my heartbeat for the first time, in and out of taxi cabs and up the stairs of the Jane hotel for a cocktail but not a 99$ room, into the darkened bustle of gay bars without women’s restrooms which makes me laugh, buzzed on gin and freedom while musicals are projected onto the walls and the scarcely clad bartenders ply their trade, past graves marked and over graves unseen and through gusts of paper confetti drifting onto sidestreets after a Lunar New Year parade, taking refuge from the biting wind over yet another cocktail and elegant scallion pancakes, seitan marsala with figs unrolling on my tongue and fennel soup eddying across my notion of what is possible, exorbitant shop windows and resilient beggars, and meanwhile there are ghosts, millions of them, Ginsberg ogling muscled Puerto Rican delivery boys in the East Village and Dorothy Parker tapping her pen on the tabletop next to her drink at the Algonquin, the woman who shares my name who was murdered in Central Park a few years back and whose face I know from the pictures, precious babies who died from adulterated milk in the tenements by the thousands because their malnourished immigrant mothers couldn’t produce breastmilk what with all the stress and work outside the home, each of us here chasing our own particular version of the American dream in this island city built on ancient bedrock and washed over by the storms of the Atlantic and I’ll just stop there for now because the laundry won’t do itself.

KP and RR… crazylove and wildgratitude.

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for Jack Heil.

photo(4)

it would seem that there are not too many threads
between you and I

your exit came nineteen years before my arrival
and I have only a few snapshots
in the stark black and white
of the postwar years
when you married my grandmother
and held my mother on your lap
in a white tank top
with a St. Christopher medal around your neck
and a bottle of Imperial in her tiny hands

and I have only a few stories
of how you traveled for work
and how the six kids would pile in the car
to drive old highway 99 to the airport
and see you off
back in the day when you walked across the tarmac
and up the stairs
if you needed to take a plane

of how you were at a convention in Florida for work
with my Grandmother
and there was a sitter for the kids back home
and the last night you sat with her on the beach
and watched the waves
and the next day, she took one flight
and you took another
and you did not come home

of how your death tore a hole in your family
and how your widow stitched it together as best as she knew how
and your children healed in their own ways
and they grew with the scars.

Some scars never heal,
some are open even now,
fifty years later.
Your grandchildren have seen them.
We grew up bathed in the echoes
of what seemed to us a distant tragedy
and so you are part of our lives
and now we are trying to fathom
which part
that is.

so I have a few photos
and a few stories
and tonight, it occurs to me that I have something else
I am your granddaughter
I am one-fourth you.
I do not know which parts of me come from you
but it cannot be denied
that we are connected in ways
that are timeless and unknowable

and I have your headstone
and I visit it sometimes
with cedar boughs or incense
sometimes I bring you coffee
and your great-grandson,
and I wonder what you would tell me
if you could
speak
now

“maybe death
isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us–”

― Mary Oliver

In memory of all those lost on Northwest Orient Flight 705

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a dead gull and a map of the world

(orderpad note 1/19)

Driving home from Violet’s 2nd birthday party,
which was sweet in every way imaginable,
Callum and I discussed the colors of the things we passed,
orange backhoes and green trees, yellow cars and blue signs.

I passed a seagull in the righthand lane,
its wings were outstretched,
and it had been run over several times.
And I thought about the colors of the scene,
and about flying
and how sometimes life is wrought
with unpredictable happenings.

Callum chattered in the backseat, showing me his party favors in the rearview
Ahead, I saw a crumpled piece of trash dancing along the shoulder of the highway
I reached one hand into the backseat to receive
the item my son needed help with
and in that moment
the trash lifted up into the wintersky
and was unfurled
by the wind

revealing before me a perfectly unfolded
map of the world

i exited the highway
and drove up the hill to our house
demonstrating
how to blow into a paper whistle party favor
which was yellow
and unfurled with a tweet
at the end of the curl of paper,
much to my two-year old son’s delight.

and that was the end of the poem.

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