Category Archives: on writing

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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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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Offerings to the Utter Brilliance of the Present Moment

As we were leaving, the sweet Vietnamese woman at Chu Minh Veggie Deli on Jackson and 12th bent down to stand face to face with our son in his rubber boots and his raincoat, and handed him a crispy vegan springroll wrapped in a napkin. “Because you are special,” she said,

and I felt my heart in my chest, standing by the window in the cramped deli as the birds took off in a mass from the telephone line outside and swirled into the grey sky, feathered bodies reflected in the puddles of rainwater laying on the pavement.  There was a sign on the wall behind a potted plant that said “We care more about compassion and protecting your physical and spiritual health than we do about making a profit” and it was as if they didn’t need to advertise it, they just needed to affirm it, somewhere, commit it to the visual world in case someone bothers to look closely,

which is how i feel about the tattoo on the back of my neck, which says

basic goodness

and is usually covered by my collar and my hair.

:like a declaration of compassion tucked behind the leaves of a potted plant,  like the reflection of birds swirling into a grey sky in a puddle of rainwater on the pavement, like the momentary connection between that woman and our small son

Offerings

to the utter brilliance of the present moment

 

 

 

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The Car that Brought You Here Still Runs, Most Days

The poet Richard Hugo, who grew up in this neighborhood when it was still filled with woods, once wrote:

The car that brought you here still runs.
The money you buy lunch with,
no matter where it’s mined, is silver
and the girl who serves your food
is slender and her red hair lights the wall

the lines are from the poem “degrees of grey in phillipsburg”
i sipped espresso earlier and wanted to write my own degrees of grey
the baby loaded canned food into a miniature stroller
and trucked around the house
i thought maybe i’d write after i got some Things done
paid bills, and laughed with the baby as he fed me raisins,
both of us laying on the kitchen floor
talking about birds,
each in our own language.
later i watched a raven alight on a power line in the wind,
then stubbed my toe on a can of tomato paste
scrubbed the diaper bucket
extricated a penny from someone’s tiny cheek
measured our unfinished windows for trim

that night while my husband fed the baby beans and rice
and the rain came down sideways
then paused to let a near full moon glow through wind driven clouds
I heaved opened the garage door
and laid out long pieces of smooth pine on sawhorses
Annie the dog laid by my feet, keeping a close eye on the outside
and i learned how to stain wood.
which turned out to be a much more mindful task than i’d expected
i made mistakes, noticed where i’d applied the stain too heavily
or where the shadow my body threw had fooled me into using too little
i think of my craftsman father while i work,
and Roger Lyons, who built things for his mother in this garage
when they were both old

these boards will become trim around the windows in our bedroom
which is drafty like a barn.
(on cold days we can see our breath before we get out of bed)
Once this piece of land had a barn,
with cows, chickens, pigs, and rabbits.
Annie Lyons raised 6 children in this two bedroom house
which she and her husband purchased at the height of the Great Depression
Maybe she went to church with Richard Hugo’s grandparents,
who raised him
and said little.
Maybe they shopped at the same neighborhood pharmacy
in a brick building that is, most recently, a Cambodian grocery.

i want to write about living in his old neighborhood
and being a waitress whose hair shimmers in the dark of a brewpub
moving in between close tables with a master’s degree
and a grace that she lacks outside of work.
She met ranchers with this kind of grace while doing graduate research in Nevada
men who could shear a sheep without nicking it once,
handling the hundred pound animals like armfuls of silk
who became all knees and scuffed boots in the kitchen.
she is a waitress who ten years ago kept the phone numbers men left
never intending to call a single one of them
just quietly flattered because she never thought anyone would find her beautiful
Now she knows the truth:
every waitress in the history of waitresses
has been loved for the duration of a meal
by lonely hearted diners
who coudln’t help but
“instantly feel a tender regard for her” as Abbey wrote.

I want to write about the timeless poetry of the unrequited waitress crush
and the quiet satisfaction of knowing that someone is a little awed
every time you hoist a tray to your shoulder
and take the stairs
but first i need to wash every dish we own
the baby is wearing soft pajamas with nonslip feet
and stacking blocks while the dog watches with her head cocked.
i am listening to ambient unclassifiable music that claims to be
moody and dynamic instrumental indie rock
or something
ought to drink tea now
but my espresso percolator is calling darkly to me from the burner
stained by a thousand rounds over the heat
handle missing, angular spout pointing toward an empty mug.

the car that brought us here still runs
most days
although the return of the check engine light is as certain as the oncoming fall.

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Instead of revising chapter VI,

I am staring at an
Outrageous poppy
Which is the perfect shade of orange,
dusted with black pollen and ruffled like a hippie girl’s skirt,
twirling out of the narrow neck of a blue glass bottle
which is, of course, the ideal shade of translucent cornflower blue

the door is slightly open
and the sound of falling water repeats
itself
a lazy june breeze keeps the leaves in motion in the yard
under Grey skies so bright they make the back of my eyes ache

Grandma and Grandpa have the baby
And now that I’m not constrained to writing in his naptime
I am unhinged

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