Chimera Song Mosaic
Friday, March 26, 2004
So cool . . . listening to Jordan's blog through The Jim Show. I guess I should rethink my position on the new new thing. It's just that it intimidates and frustrates me. I think to myself, surely I don't need to learn about this because if it's really important, I'll find out about it sooner or later. You don't know how long I resisted CDs (didn't seem like much of an improvement) or the Internet (ditto--and why do I have to capitalize it? Bow down to technology!) This is such a dangerous position to be in, politically, and I'm trying. But I soothe myself with the idea that it's also a position of poetry (naive, uninformed poetry, but poetry nonetheless): abstract, associative, both analytical and ruminative, meditative and synaptic. Or there are other theories: egoism, self-centificiality (oh yes, that's a new one), Shelleyesque optimism (or Pollyannaesque; take your pick). Both critical and unconditional (I hate "interpreting" poetry; I either like it or I don't, although some critical and interpretive views have enabled me to appreciate that which I did not automatically have a taste for). A lumper and a splitter.

So, to mend my ways, I offer this: coming to our community college campus in McAllen, TX, in April--Jim Hightower! So much fun! This is the result of my political scientist officemate, the fabulous Jenny, who is a throw-a-spanner-in-the-works type and general rabble-rouser. To whom I have been obliged to confess my ridiculous lack of knowledge about political goings-on on numerous occasions.

This is the most open I have been in my blog in long time. I reveal myself. I throw myself out there for disapproval. It feels cleansing. I have never in my life (that I recall) felt so keenly a need for approval: I recognize this in my recent blogging binge, my overly wrought letters of recommendation (for students and faculty), my efforts to organize parties and generally chat-up coworkers, my maddening desire to have the entire English department over to my house for a backside of midsemester party, my presenting a series of poems on my blog. All of these are overt efforts to receive some attention! It's really quite sick. What's next? Feeling sorry for myself? Ahh, my third or fourth favorite emotional state, next to jealousy. Speaking of that, this is the first time in months I haven't wanted to be in NYC or San Francisco or Houston--because I would love to be in Chicago! Who knew AWP was so cool. I was in New Orleans a couple of years ago, and I didn't see anyone I knew (but had a riotous good time). But whom would I see? Whom do I know? (This goes back to the attention-seeking behavior).

And speaking of other things I didn't know: The Orchid Thief is a real book! I'm not kidding; I didn't know this, but apparently everyone else did. I think graduate school really did a number on me because I was so sure that this was the smartest screenplay ever written that I gave myself over to Kaufman completely and let my imagination go crazy. I decided that he wrote the book--or parts of the book--just to write the screenplay, and this gave itself over to a number of complexities that I relished and turned over in my head while pausing numerous times, rewinding, replaying, and explaining my theories to my sister, who had her own theories, and we ended up taking a good five hours to watch the film all the way through.

What I thought Kaufman did seemed, to me, the writer?s ultimate act: sacrifice of his or her art (because, you know, he could have written the book and the screenplay, not one or the other; the book didn't have to die for the screenplay to be born). Also, it seemed highly creative, in the way that creating an entire world seems more ?creative? than interpreting something that is already there (but I could be wrong about this too because maybe the only difference between adapting a novel or translating a poem from another language is that you have to share the credit, which chiefly goes to the original creator?so maybe this is more about owning and selling out than I previously thought).

I was also convinced that the twin was actually only an extension of the screenwriter, representing what he knew deep down he should be doing, what all writers should be doing: selling out. (This works in the same way that there wasn't really a psychiatrist--at least, through most of the movie--in The Sixth Sense.) Anyway, like I said, I applauded Kaufman for taking what seemed like a perfectly good idea for a book and gutting it and exploiting it for the purpose of his screenplay (it should be noted that this situation is not without irony, for books, even nonfiction, non-novels, are generally regarded to be a higher form than screenplays (probably chiefly by the old-fashioned types like me who regard it as such chiefly because it is old-fashioned--perhaps folks who actually regard poetry as right up there, if not the highest form (if such things can be compared with any intelligence)--and because it so cleanly fits into the economy and culture of our society, ever shifting power up and up (away from the screenwriters) to the fewer and fewer (up to the executives), and, in effect, selling out).

Another note of subtlety from my primal perspective of Adaptation: presenting a book that appears to actually be a good book as appendage to the plot (o pedestrian narrative!) of a film is akin to presenting a song in a film about a fictitious singer, and the questions tease and strum: is it a good song? is it a real song? if this is a real song, if it were conceived in a moment of real production of real art (by a real artist?), would it have a greater chance of becoming a real real song, a good song? would people sing it? would it be on the radio?

Kind of like looking at (rereading) your own writing for the first time.

This brings me to my conclusion about Adaptation and The Orchid Thief: I liked my assessment of the film better before I knew the "truth." So this one tiny example perhaps proves a theory that has been bouncing around in my head for some time: that (sometimes) creations (ideas, poems, interpretations, stories) are better from the naive mind, the feral mind, the uninformed (and unformed) mind--that perhaps something that gets in the way of creativity is information (facts, dates, statistics, other's opinions, reality). It is often impossible for me to grasp something that I have not probed and processed and questioned myself, sort of like learning things the hard way. I often have (what I think are) sparks of insight, only to find out that other people have known it for years. But what about a spontaneous re-knowing of it, or learning of it? Not to erase history, not to start from scratch in all things, but in some things to delay knowledge in order to foster originality (of course, this whole theory can be refuted by the theory that no one really has an original idea in the first place, that all ideas stem from somewhere, nuggets from overheard conversations, images that process as rhetoric, tunes whistled in a vacuum. But if no one acknowledges the idea's inception, the why the obsession with ownership?).

Why the obsession with authenticity?*

Why the obsession with thoroughness? (And the now commonplace idea: if I never read (future tense) The Orchid Thief, is it a real book? Haven't I already read parts of it by watching and listening to Adaptation? Isn't that enough to say you have "read" the book? Have I read Underworld just because I know one of the sections is labeled "Cocksucker Blues"?)

As a break from too much thinking and a chance to get outside and play, consider this game Marisa and I devised today (and will copyright directly so that no one can claim our original idea): pick two coworkers who are absolute opposites in every way (and maybe even dislike each other) and image them going to a conference (like AWP!) together (they may or may not share a room). You can even pick your own counterpart. It's fun. And if they ever have AWP in Hawaii (like APA, the sellouts, have done), I am so there.

*If you don't believe me, look at this stuff I copied from Kristen's Spam Poetry blog (her project is explained on the site if it's not obvious to you). I think Kristen is pretty cool (her project, at least), but others . . . (I removed the identifying parts of the posts and moved some around, which is a blatant plagiarism hopefully in the spirit of her project and appreciative rather than offensive. Posts are separated by random spaces. Oh, the poem in question from 2/13/04 is pretty cool too):

{begin quotation marks here}

This is totally lame and the idea's
been done to death. The problem
here is that poetry is an exercise
of one's understanding of the language
and creativity ability to use it. You
don't have to have either of those
strengths to do this. You're
simply regurgitating, not CREATING.

Who are you pfft!? Some great poet?

Who are you pfft!? Some great poet?

[. . . and some . . .:]

Hey, great concept. I'm totally jealous I didn't come up with it; i guess my poetry is just the plain old usual kind. Keep it up, this is so interesting!

[ . . . and others again . . .:]

What a load of utter cack!

that other poster's right...poetry
means you actually USE the
tools you claim to understand...
like the English language.

you don't have to understand
ANYTHING by copying and
pasting shit

By copying spam ( words written for you ) you're not 'writing' anything like you claim up there in your site description.
At least be honest about it or don't describe it at all since it's so obvious only some souless hacks could generate such utter nonsense...What is spam? It's words no one wants to read? Much like this um....poetry ( and that word is used incredibly lightly in your case ).

thats not poetry. bush is cool, but not dumb. who do u think got us thru the terrorist war huh?

[ . . . and then it comes: the positive regard, followed by the offer to "sell out":]

Wow, it appears that you have angered more than a few! Congratulations! As the true goal of the poet is to stir the emotions of others, I'd say you are a great success! Besides, look at the crap you have to work with-- why the meer constraints alone are enough to make all but the most daring poet run away, perhaps sticking his pen in his eyes in hopes that he never has to read again... (okay, so I'm picking on you, but it is in fun)

The fact is: I am a fan. Perhaps it's been done before but I've never seen it, and to those who detract from you, I hope they all get a million SPAM E-mails tomorrow. Please come see me at my blog and contact me about an interview at my magazine. -J***, Publisher ***Magazine

Thursday, March 25, 2004
Now that Jim (frisky) and Stephanie (eloquent) have expressed so fabulously what I determine to be writers' block (o banal term!), I am totally in sympathy with them, utterly in agreement (the pain! the panic! the smiley faces!) . . . what's more I am constitutionally resistant to change and stubbornly refuse to post comments in comment boxes and will instead continue to comment on my website, the one I own; I don't want to draw on your paper* (even though I recognize the superior efficiency of it and have lots to say about Jim's acutely accurate, hyperpostmo drawing of "The New Poem," which looks curiously like "Bill" of "I'm Just a Bill" and Stephanie's spot-on circling the blanket for that happy trance where we actually write them) and seem incapable of updating my links (so I also have to now admit to what Jim has already prophesized: I am annoyed at the switching of locations. It seems unnecessary and is the cause of a wee amount of shame at my being unable to keep up and somehow seeming to slight others by not updating my links: woe! Be that as it is, I do support the groovy new looks and the right to flaunt one's fluency with webdesign). For me, HTML was fun for five seconds, and I just don't know what the heck I'm doing. I think I should write a poem before I update my links. I really think I should write a poem. I'm sorry, but it might suck. I think I should post it immediately.**

*except Catherine's paper, which I do want to draw on. Maybe because it makes me think we are sitting in homeroom together.
**When I say "immediately," I don't mean right now, for goodness sake; I mean when I get to it since I still have 19 essays to grade today. I mean as soon as I get to it, as it gets to me, or as I force it out of myself.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004
In today’s mail: a check from my work for mileage reimbursement and two rejection slips. I toss the three scraps of paper onto a pile of yet-to-be-graded blue books—the very thing whose painful completion indirectly funds my mileage check. The message is clear: these are the things that are valued, and these are the things that are not.

I have been following the comments to Silliman’s blog entry of March 22nd (the one Jim points to), and I have to snort at someone’s trepidation about poetic sellouts. Sellouts? What is there to sell out! Happily, happily, I would sell my poetry. I wonder, am I going to get 5.7 million for it, like the Ebay kidney, before the biding is stopped by well-meaning poets everywhere, whose chief goal is to keep it real?

I am going to be the first to jump at the chance for a cushy life, doing (this sounds so hokey, but if it weren’t true, why would I bother?) what I love to do, should the chance ever arrive. And I am not going to grant the academic-for-life the title sellout, because regards of how few classes he or she has to teach and how few office hours he or she is held to, there’s still a handful of students and a modest parcel of essays that somehow don’t quite feel like one’s life work. I’m talking a Stephan King setup (read his recent scriptobiography, On Writing.) Is this going to happen to a poet anytime soon? I am not waiting with, as they say, bated breath. I think we poets can rest fairly easy that ours is a realm where the selling out is a pipe dream rather than a paranoia.

Sunday, March 21, 2004
The sun is worshipful today, so I made shorthand out of this observation and was (for perhaps the first time in years) moved to strip off all my clothes and lie in it, or as they used to say in the 80s, "lay out," or better yet, "tan." But I won't.

Lucy and Lars were rolling in it, not really even squinting their big, brown eyes. Lucy especially collapsed in the grass and lolled round, refusing to move, while Lars and I checked the new growth on the plants. Most exciting to report is that the Mulberry continues to make those highly sweet plump berries with stubborn green twig attachments (are they not quite ready to be plucked?), the water lily, hardy and dependable, will offer two (!) small flowers this week to hover over the tiny red pads, the Hong Kong Orchid has one sprout that seems to appear from nowhere--it has positively erupted from a bare place on the stalk, and the Purple Orchid makes many fast-growing and bright leaved shoots, promising that it has decided to live after all.

Lucy's black fur was scorching hot when I touched it! She grins so much when she is outside! So I left her there to come inside to blog, with Lars trailing me, the old goat.

Then I found more stuff: a scintillating poem from the desert! I love the second part about the "I" and the mother, and the fact that there is discovered "counterfeit" art. Maybe all art is counterfeit. Poetry too.

My only contribution to all this is that we revive Strawberry Shortcake's "berry" (as in "berry nice") and perhaps also the term, "bull corn" (as in "Bull corn!").

I woke up so late today because last night I was surprised by my very own surprise party, hosted by my good buddy Jen and attended by all (leider, not all!) of my Valley friends, who are my closet friends now because I have been living in the Valley for four and a half years, and on days like this, I really can want to stay.

But always in the back of my mind is the grating knowledge of what I am missing. For instance, this Tuesday (March 23rd), Brazos Bookstore in Houston is hosting a fabulous reading by Greywolf Press, featuring Nick Flynn and Matthea Harvey, among others. Do I need to say this? I wish I could go! I'm going to have to be embittered about this as I attend workshop on Tuesday. And I have yet to write my poem for workshop. And the papers I have to grade! They poison everything--even this: the sun; the garden; the loving friends--until I get them done, 20 hours of actual grading time from now. Should I write my poem first, or grade 20 essays? If I write the poem, I will be in a happy state, whether it's useful to me or not, and I won't bring myself to begin grading until 5 pm or so. If I grade the essays first, I will relieve a lot of this tension that has kept me at the shattered edge all week, and when I finish, I will feel an odd mixture of disappointment, regret, pride, and relaxation--I think this is all contained in relief--and I won't be able to write a poem in this drained state. The two minds--the critical and the creative--don't mix on the same shift.

Friday, March 19, 2004
29 Psalms, California

I had such an unsettling experience today. I did not recognize my own handwriting, and after the lady had taken it from my sight, Lance criticized me for not being able to reproduce exactly my signature from when I was 16. For one thing, I didn't really like who I was back then, so I wasn't going near that ridiculous signature. For another thing, I am very apologetic about my handwriting, and no matter how I try, it just doesn't seem to get any better. (Funnily enough, I am a teacher, so when my students ask me what that means, I just shrug and tell them. And then I apologize.) Let me explain further: we were in a notary's office in Reynosa, working to get my Mexican nationality reinstated. In Mexico, Lance explained, your signature means something; it has to match itself, or it will be questioned. He said he has had several checks returned, uncashed, from the bank because they questioned his signature. Sure enough, the notary saw me loop my name onto the page and frowned with concern.

"Is this how you sign your name now?" she asked.

"Yes, this is her current signature," Lance said.

"It's fine as long as all the documents match," she said.

I didn't say a word. The brief exchange was in Spanish. As far as the notary was concerned, I was mute and illiterate. This is not a dream, but it was like a dream, to be illiterate. I started crying (there it goes!) right after the notary left us alone in the office, and Lance told me not to worry, that I could study Spanish during the summer when I am not teaching.

"What's the use?" I said. "Then I'll just go somewhere else and have to go through it all again!" (referring to travel or life abroad). But I was just being difficult and, as I have been lately, defeated.

This is not the same as traveling in a "foreign" country; this is signing your name to an official document that you can't even read. This gives me a fraction of insight into what non-native English speakers must experience when getting their driver's license or buying a house or filling out citizenship applications. Or people who can't read.

Needless to say, it was freaking me out. It didn't help when Lance said, "You don't know what you just signed; I could be screwing you over," and "I'm a semi-competent Spanish-speaker." I looked at him and said, "Then why did you let me sign it? That document written in legalese?" He said, "Oh, I understood all of it; I can read anything." Rubbing it in.

But he didn't mean to rub it in. He actually then helps me by telling me that native Spanish-speakers sometimes make mistakes (although it sure doesn't feel like it when you are speaking to one), just like native English-speakers, mispronouncing Venez-OOH-ala and saying something is "pitch red"--they are misunderstanding their own language. But I am too Spanish-naive to hear it. Everything "they" say sounds perfect to me--a perfection I can't approach.

But earlier, while we were in the waiting room, two nuns came in and Buenos dias'd when they should have Buenas tardes'd--and everyone acknowledged it! I couldn't believe it! The difference between Buenos dias (morn to oneish) and Buenas tardes (after oneish to pre-darkish) has always given me the greatest anxiety--I can't even greet someone. When I asked Lance about the mix up, he said, "People are always mixing it up." But he added, "But it is only five after one."

The other funny thing about the nuns is that, when they came in, Lance and I looked at each other and were totally shamed into silence. We had just been talking about atheism, and I was about to explain to him how I might, hypothetically, explain to my students why I am an atheist, and in walk the nuns! With their Buenos diases! It was like the beginning of a joke--or a Seinfeld episode. I thought it was just surreal. Just today, a student had asked me in class if I was an atheist. I said, "Am I am atheist? Don't you think that question is a little personal?" But my problem now is that I wish I had told him (them) the truth. Why not? Doesn't it help atheists everywhere if we come out? (I suspect there was at least one in the class.) Doesn't it give students one example of a lovable atheist (who has control of their grades, no less)? I'm 30 years old, for goodness sakes! Do I need to keep hiding from people?

But the reality is that I want my students to like me--I don't want to be a pariah. The majority of my students have made it very clear that they love God--some--and not a small number--have even written personal essays about how God saved their lives and how they were sinful and greedy and horrible people before they got back to Jesus (I have a hard time imaging these sweet students as any kind of person I would reject, but I guess I have to take their word for it). Most of the students are Catholic; some are Christians, who typically announce it on the first day of class. This makes me cringe; I have un-fond memories of being badgered by would-be evangelists in high school. Am I afraid of my religious students? Maybe, but I do also want to be sensitive to those who have had more of what I would consider sheltered lives; I don't want to shock or influence them with my reality. One 40ish student recently told me that she was shocked to discover that the author of Nickel and Dimed smokes poet (or pot!) occasionally. I was shocked at her being shocked. And a little toke is a long way away from eschewing salvation.

So this is yet another thing I don't know what to do about. I have figured out language acquisition, though. I think people learn languages (primary or secondary) because they are motivated to do so. My parents tell me that I resisted learning to speak until I was three or so; I had an older sister who was (and still is) a very perceptive advocate. My best success with Spanish has been when I was staying with a new friend in Venezuela for a couple of months, and we were stuck in the apartment together with nothing to do, she not speaking English, and me having a pretty big Spanish vocabulary, but a lousy lead-in. If there's someone you want to play with or trade with or sleep with, and there's a language barrier involved, you will overcome it. If not, you are in for some serious effort before you'll see any results. So the passive stabs at Spanish and German and French that go on in American high schools are, by and large, setting people up for disappointment. Best to turn to Maslow's hierarchy of needs with a willing other language speaker.

This is such great news! I love The Little Door Slides Back--I actually walk around my house and read DEMONOLOGUE (the one with the "ward I adored and tortured in four ways") often. In fact, if someone asks me to read, I might just read that poem. It seems like enough. Also, I totally agree with Josh & Drew on the narrative thing. And to look at it from the story's standpoint (although do we really need to because the stories are in the majority and have us beat by a mile?), there is not enough room in a poem for a proper narrative. I'm sorry, but if it's a story I'm interested in, I want to know a hell of a lot more about it.

Freaky too how were are reading Keats right now in British Lit. When my students get back from their spring break, we're going to do "Lamia" and "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" with the PRB! The PRB rocks! The weird thing is, the best one was Waterhouse, and he wasn't really a PR. No, it's not Barney, but it's the PRB! (I really do love writing and saying PRB--I must think it makes me hip, possibly because some people might think I am talking about gangbangers.)

I said: The murderous haunt of flies on summer eyes

And Keats said: "The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves"

But you, know, not in this order.

I had not looked at my new garden for a long time and perhaps--perhaps!--that is why I have been so off balance lately.

But just today, I have seen: the Hong Kong Orchid, which has stopped blooming for a few weeks and therefore disappoints, has now indulged me with a skinny loop of a beginning branch; everyone's Orchid Trees are in full flounce and blooming promiscuously, but our Purple Orchid has been a dry stick in the mud since we planted it a month ago, and we had little hopes of its recovery. Now, it has at least seven shoots! The peach tree: it has lost most of its blossoms, is spiky with green leaves ensiform, and is now studded with infant fruits! These pale pink and yellow fuzzies are the shape and size of dove hearts, and they look like dove hearts--or miniscule dog's vulvas. Everywhere the Wild Texas Olives are filled with brazen white flowers, but ours is little more than a stick, but now (at least) it sports vigorous green hearts, scratchy as cats' tongues. Also, the flies crawling over it are uncommon flies, just as the other trees have invited in spectacularly unfamiliar insects--flies and bugs and bees and mock-wasps (not to mention the fat spiders!). The Weeping Mulberry is throwing its new thin branches down to the ground and poking out red berries--and ripe purple ones so sweet! I have never tasted an actual Mulberry; they taste like debris*. The spicy Jatropha tree is, well, spicy hot with red blooms that the bees and flies like best. Last of all, the roses, closest to the house, have not surprised me in a long while; I can see their new, red leaves--but today! You really have to get close to plants to become intimate to their headlong mutability: these baby rose plants have buds. And if I look closely, so does my Panama Pacific water lily, imported from the old house, brought back from near death in the patio basin, struggling back to life with many fist size green and speckled leaves--red at the edges from the sun!

*Let it be known that Mulberries do not "taste like debris," but I find this collaborative mistype with Spellcheck to be intriguing. For posterity's sake, they taste like dewberries. My opinion. Spellcheck, although creative, is more of an idiot savant--he doesn't even recognize his own name!

Thursday, March 18, 2004
No, it's not too long! If you have to say what you have to say, then you have to say it. Your poet friend will love it, the audience will love it. A good introduction is the perfect first course.

Well, it turns out that today is my birthday, and I am 30, but I am holding up remarkably well. No crying. Maybe because I did so much pre-crying that there's no need for during (or afterwards). So you really can prepare yourself for anything with enough anxiety and fussing and a little bit of fret--anything inevitable, that is!

It's really sort of anticlimactic. Which is also a cliche, I think.

So, anyway, Happy St. Paddy's Day. Today is my birthday. Fuck Google*.

So I am maybe not going to grade today, but I am not going to be a bad girl either. I had fun with my students discussing Nickel and Dimed today, and they even forgot to ask me for their essays until the end of class (not in the middle of it, disguised as a subject-relevant question). I invited every stray student wandering the halls into my office. Today there were some major breakthroughs in campus miscommunication between faculty and support services. I have looked around my office, around my house, and realized that since I have been back home, I have really let things go. But today I feel capable of getting it together again. Or maybe I'll just go take a nap.

* Let it be known that I actually love Google--it's just that today when I saw her stripped of friendly green Celtic Cross, I felt a bit betrayed. Couldn't the owners of the techy job that every Gen-x-er envies pick a person at random and decorate this engine for his or her birthday? It's really not too much to ask.

Plus I just thought of another reason why this is a great birthday. Lance, who never writes poetry, wrote me a fabulous poem yesterday, to the tune of "Stop All the Clocks; Turn Off the Telephone." It's so cute; it's mine; I don't know if I could share it.

O! and someone just delivered flowers! They are so pretty, with Birds of Paradise and eucalyptus. They are from my in-laws! I can't believe this. I really do feel spoiled now. I am starting to think that the best gifts for lifting the spirits are the cliched ones. They are high impact and decadent (except the poem didn't cost much, but they don't, do they? Not unless you count economy of the spirit), but they really make a person feel special: chocolates, flowers, handmade and ceremonial poems (which I wouldn't read otherwise, of course).

I think I'd better stop now least someone suspect dementia.

What if--at the end of it--it turns out that the cliches were right all along?

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Well, I just have to say, it: by the time you read this, I will more than likely be 30. And I have to say this: I will more than likely cry tomorrow; I have already done a little premature crying ("--mature"! Ha!).

Anyway, what I have to say is that, although I was sure I recognized myself in "Bartleyby the Scribner" when I read it in high school, now I have to say that the more and more I live my life, the more and more I find I live it in cliche.

Darn! He beat me to it! I wanted to be so cool as to spot Jordan Davis's review in the most recent Boston Review, which I read with pleasure (the whole thing, yes--well, mostly--but especially the review). You can read an actual copy of it in actual print, as I did, or follow this link: Way to go!
Monday, March 15, 2004
Yes, Josh, since you ask, here is my short series on Barney's Cremaster Cycle (this mainly has to do with the character portrayed by Ursula Andress, The Queen of Chain, but I would love to write more Cremaster poems. I saw "him" and "her" at the Guggenheim this week last year. But I need to see more to write more--perhaps someone should get me that great big glossy Cremaster book for my birthday? Hmm? Where is a patron when you need one!)

I. The Queen of Chain: The Accidental Goddess

The two globes at her head represent
the contents of her longing.
Dreams empty from her ears
into the spheres of glass-happiness.
Her lips purse as if never kissed
and dry in the still wind of the oubliette
as if a long-forgotten orifice
were throbbing under the surface,
under her dress; her knees move slow against
the lacquer-fashioned fabric of stain,
of brood after brood, mood after mood,
of provocative, art-fashioned ignorance.
She longs for a beach and a white bikini,
for two dolphins to swim beside her,
for a rein of gold in her fists.

II. The Queen of Chain: The Dowager Denizen

Hearken how the bees swell
and artifice hums around her,
face fixtured and expression locked
in intimacy, in mimicry.

Harpoons festoon her longing
with an incised cry, a particular homogeny
of elegance and violence:
Brides fall by the wayside all the time.

Why risk it all—all for a life
of honey and umbrage? The queen rests
her hip against her heart, hard;
this is the hand upon her waist, wasted

shut and grim as a spinster
squandered on the stairs of age.
Play, play, play me a song . . .
in that slice of heaven reflected

in the perfect bubble of her crown,
so all the wild orchestras unite
in frantic symphony of release,
as the dominant echoes measure beauty

in the urn of her hidden ear,
the dark indentions of her hand—
just as an icon carves its own image,
into a mountain of perfection, glass limbs.

III. The Queen of Chain Honors Her Oubliette

Play until she is a heap of closure and longing,
till the spiraled violence of her cage is a birth canal
of entries and especially exits . . .
till the sacred tremble of her heart is heard
no more in the festered dreams of those without hope or friendliness.
When the accidental goddess is asked about her last exit,
she will pry her chin from collarbone,
shake her apron of lead and reply:
“This is the only home I know;
where you see a dungeon, I see a kitchen of stars;
where you see a minefield,
I see the pigeonholes of starry domiciles,
the potential violence of the bright explosions
of their lives, happening again and again.
“I have been blessed with this happening.
I thank my memory; I thank the hand of god in my spine—
centrioles, metronome—the stiff poles of opposite end—;
I thank my glass legs to abstraction.”
That and other terse morsels of our time
play in her head. Suppose her arrogance,
her violence, would win her over in the end?
Why wouldn’t she want to be like us—
motivated by the same dull praise
and short-lived benefits? Why not enter in
to the expectation of the sexes? The role of mother and parent
is lost to her. Such simple options—and all at once—such tyranny
of place and time and subject—
such harmonious tyranny.

IV. The Queen of Chain: Comedienne

The Queen of Chain
bundles her fat in front of her
like an organ of immunity.
She is no longer a victim:
de-sexed, degraded—,
disregarded—life’s cycles have
no meaning. Her ovaries hatch,
egg after egg is absorbed
into the folds of her dress.
She plays herself a song
over and over in her head:
“There was an old Lady,
who lived in a shoe . . .”
She shakes her glass leg.

I have been away from all electronic gadgets for the past week and have soaked up many a low-tech, sensual pleasure while in Houston this past week . . . but I am too late in my return and have missed Catherine's Birthday! And now the Ides of March! O woe! But we are just shy of them, and I of Saint Paddy's Day. Because I could not bear to be mistaken in this: Catherine's birthday is on the 14th, and mine is on the 18th. I will be 30, not Catherine, who has 363 days left of her twenties. Lars and Winnie (bless them!) are somewhat past over the hill.
Friday, March 05, 2004
I just woke from a terrifying dream in which my friends discovered what a monster I really am.

I turned around and faced Lance and spoke this dread outloud to him; he just laughed.

Then I said, “I am so glad you know what I mean!”

I have been moving around a lot these past years since college; every two or three years, I completely relocate. This makes my outing less of a danger. However, now I have been living here for four years, and it is increasingly harder to bite my tongue, to keep up my “pretty” persona.

Sometimes I say this to me friends, and they say, “You? No! You’re so nice!”

The truth is, I’m not nice. But I have been working on it since my senior year in high school when I realized that very few people can get away with embodying the Byronic Hero. Also, I didn’t want to get away with it—I wanted to be a nice person, to love my family, to say, “Bless you!” when someone sneezes, to hold the elevator door, open. (These last few are particularly cunning and fool pretty much everybody.)

I think my cathartic dream is the result of a couple of things: reading Frankenstein and criticisms (of course, examining Byron also obliquely); my students asking today if I support gay marriages, and instead of dodging the question, instead of keeping up the preferable, nonjudgmental, nondenominational, seeker-of-knowledge, fair argument, and interesting possibilities-type-of-teacher, I just thought, “Why lie?” and said, “Yes.” This was followed by a rather pathetic qualifier: “I think everyone should be able to get married to whomever they want,” that probably did very little in the way of convincing my students to consider my point of view. I would go into damage control mode on Monday, but today begins, let me say this correctly . . . SPRING BREAK! so I have to wait until a week or so from now, when they will have probably forgotten all about me. I feel too much: every essay about raising a child with cerebral palsy; a family suffering through a six-year-old’s brain cancer; a virgin’s horror of vaginal hemorrhaging almost to the point of death; a first person narrative of having one’s throat mauled by the family dog, only to immediately realize that animals should be respected and treated humanely—I feel every one of them, and I can’t keep them out of my head. I feel like I am responsible for these students’ tolerances and prejudices and (yes) votes. Can you imagine the colossal self-importance I must be feeling as a teacher? This is where the Byronic Hero comes in, and yes, where and why I need to stop teaching.

But the idea of my close friends outing me is really scary. They are my intellectual and poetical support networks. My dream was such a clear-cut vignette of fraud: in a workshop at my home, one “teacher” underlined a word randomly in my copy of Frankenstein, and everyone was asked to come up with an analysis based on that word (I can’t remember my actual word, and I think it wasn’t even a real word, perhaps). Very quickly, I came up with a response, not too profound, but not too sketchy, either. It seemed to be more of a response geared to garner praise rather than to increase scholarship or wonder (hopefully I don’t write poetry that way, but you know . . .). Unfortunately, I didn’t explain it very well, and I think someone interrupted me before I could finish. I flew into a rage; I demanded that everyone leave my house. It seems that in my paranoia at being discovered a fraud, I turned into a monster. Or to phrase this another way: the monster is maybe not dependent on my temper, but rather my insecurity.

Or it could be another thing: since I have stopped taking birth control pills, I have had a little harder time controlling my temper, hiding what I don’t want people to see (as Byron never would, but since I am not a very beautiful person, incredibly rich, or phenomenally famous, I’d better watch myself). I feel particularly edgy before my period. But it might not be this because I have never, unlike my poor student, had any troubles relating to my cycle—no cramps, no patterns of headaches--things are pretty regular. Not one to jump to conclusions (ideally), I have also been restricting my diet—no refined sugar or sugary things. Lack of sugar is making me a little bit mean!

But I don’t care; I always write my best poems in the spring time, and I have most of the rest of the semester’s grading spaced out pretty well and will make time for poems. This is the last week of my 20s. Bye-bye.

Powered by Blogger