Thursday, December 30, 2010

watching the murders fly by


I've been awake since around 4:40am. The moon was lovely outside my window, and Venus. I tossed and turned for a long while, my body achey. I've been trying to get the tension out of body with massages, chiropractic visits, stretching. I'm loosening slowly, the process is painful.

I went out with an old friend last night, had too much to drink and some old demons came back to piss me off. We were having a good time then something flipped and I went from being happy to morose. Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe it was the fact that after years I finally got to yell at my friend for old transgressions. He told me, among other things, that I'm too guarded and not trusting. Fair enough, in the context of our friendship. Or it was a jab to counter the ones I'd been sticking. I have a cruel streak. I know I do. Guarded, hmmm. I can agree with that, sober.

A poet I once studied with told me that in my writing I only allow myself vulnerability at the very end of a poem, just a peek of emotional insight. Maybe. I just looked at a poem I've been editing and I can see why someone would say that. I think there is a fine balance between being revelatory and mysterious. I want to dance that line. A character in a book I once read said something along the lines of a woman without mystery can never be truly beautiful. I think the same can be said about writing. Why read if there is nothing to be discovered? Why write if it isn't a way of exploring and learning oneself? Ugh. I hope I don't come off sounding like a guest on Oprah, all dazzled with my brilliance and shit. Once I have this damn poetry manuscript sorted out I'll read for vulnerability, see where it peeks out at me like one of those creepy/cute spirits in Miyazaki films. (see image above)

The morning is beautiful and clear. Outside the window crows are flying Northwest to wherever their daily hunting or playing grounds are. Every evening, before sunset, hundreds of crows fly Southeast. If you pay attention you can follow their line in the sky. I used to know where they roosted at night, it was terrifying and thrilling to be near. Thousands of crows cawing and flying. Murders upon murders of crows. The recent rains have made my balcony garden explode. Old seeds I didn't even know were hibernating have come life and my pots are rife with basil and dill, leaf lettuce. I love mornings and should spend more time in them.

To quote Seth in yesterday's Citybeat, "if (this video) doesn't make you laugh or cry you have no heart."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

with a knife in my teeth

I worked on a poem yesterday that had all the old bravura of my younger days with a bit of the pragmatism of these days. I dig it. I doubt I'll ever show it to anyone but I'm still pretty pleased with myself. I made myself place something almost cringe-worthy in the poem, an image that makes the (imagined) reader uncomfortable but not so that the reader stops reading. Plenty of hyperbole and a shot of plain ass sadness to ground it. Oh formula, how I'm getting to know you.

The holiday was good. Lots of family time, lots of alcohol. We stayed at my parent's house again Christmas night, again breaking the old rule of no daughter can share a room with a man without being married. I think my parents might be over the rule. We played drinking games again with my little sister and her friends. I'm too old to play drinking games but in the spirit of wanting to not be completely lame I did. I'd already spent a good part of Christmas night curled up in a chair in the corner, reading and annotating my brand new copies of The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton and How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. My family is really into games, Scrabble, Taboo, Smart Ass, Apples to Apples. Love is pretty competitive and fits right in with the yelling therein. Even in crowds of people I love I often choose solitude.

No plans too exciting for the New Year's celebration. We'll probably stay at my parent's house again, spend the evening with family, drink with my baby sister that night, watch football in the morning with my dad. There is a Mexican tradition of eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, one grape for each tolling of the bell. Each grape is a wish pertaining to a month in the year. I haven't eaten the grapes for years, I've spent the last two years at a bar and two before that home alone. This year, silly as it seems, (and so many traditions are), I'm making wishes.

Yesterday afternoon I sat on my balcony, eating mint chip ice cream with a tiny spoon. I watched the insects on the bamboo and wondered how hard it would be to learn to play the accordion. I chided myself that I should have been writing but then I remembered that it's between the living and the stillness that the writing comes. And it did.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

merry merry

Nothing to do with the holiday but I love this song.

Friday, December 24, 2010

ghosts of Christmas past

Thinking of the holidays, for obvious reasons ,and how I've spent them during my life. I've been all over the place.

Growing up a Jehovah's Witness, we didn't celebrate anything. Christmas was a big, fat no-no since Jesus was born in April or October and it was really a pagan holiday dressed up for Christ or whatever other bullshit they fed us to keep us meek. I always got excited anyway, I couldn't help it. Beneath my disdain for the "worldy" people, I was jealous and eager to observe. I wished I could have believed in Santa. I remember being in the first grade, sitting at my desk in quiet disdain while the other kids told our teacher what Santa was going to bring them. In my head I was thinking your parents are a bunch of liars. Pretty sad, not to have been able to indulge in that childhood swell of fantasy and imagination. I secretly loved Christmas lights. I loved Christmas carols, despite not being able to sing them. I'd wake up early on Christmas morning, even though we didn't celebrate. I'd sit stewing in my jealousy, knowing that in the neighborhood around me and the world around that, kids were madcap wild with joy, opening presents. I would sit thinking yeah you have Santa now, but when the world ends in a firestorm you're going to die and I'm going to live forever.

After the Witness years my family celebrated in a half-assed kind of way. I was a teenager and atheist, full of goth (non)sensibilities and I still carried a deep guilt over celebrating a holiday I was raised to believe was evil. At the time my parents were struggling in their marriage, my dad wasn't living with us part of the time. Christmas was an attempt to be a big bandaid on the amputation leaving the religion had caused. We weren't unhappy to be out of the religion but we had no anchor as to what we were supposed to believe in anymore. Christmas was an awkward time of gift giving that had no sentimental value. It was different for my baby sister, she was raised almost completely outside of the religion and has always had birthdays and holidays. Her joy was a beautiful thing to watch, it still is.

In my early twenties it got somewhat better. I was in a relationship for years with a man who had a young daughter I adored and Christmas through her eyes was fucking magical. I also had outgrown a majority of the guilt I felt for celebrating.

I think of the oddest Christmases. Christmas in Mexico during my quasi-bohemian artist colony days, celebrating with a group of brilliant madmen, a chosen family. I remember walking through the cobblestone streets late at night around Christmas. It was during the posadas, the 12 days leading up to Christmas. Strangers would stand in their doorways, inviting me and anyone passing by into their homes for a slice of cake, spiced punch. They did it as an homage to Joseph and Mary who found little hospitality on their way to Bethlehem. My favorite memory is of walking home late one night and passing by a mechanic's shop; they had a junked out car on the roof decorated with singing Christmas lights. It was across the square from a church. Men had come in from the mountains with donkeys loaded with firewood. The men would sell the firewood then use the money to buy gifts for their families. The men slept on the stairs of the church while all the donkeys were tied up in the square. As I passed through the square I remember looking to my left at the car on the roof with singing lights then to the right at the donkeys and sleeping men. I had an overwhelming feeling of peace and joy. I don't know what about that scene struck me but I was elated.

The year after Mexico I was spending my winter in Switzerland. Christmas week we went sledding, snowboarding; warming our bodies after with fondue. I wrote a piece about it that is available online here. I've never watched the video. I'm pretty sure I was a little drunk when I performed. So it goes.

Then however many years later Christmas in the midwest. Kansas. My standout memory from that holiday is one of my favorites. We went to a Christmas Ever service at the Mennonite church. I remember liking the service, how unpretentious everything was. People came in their overalls and boots, nothing formal and the pastor spoke mainly of loving one another. At the end of the service everyone was given a candle and asked to gather in the front of the church in a circle. The lights were turned off and the pastor went around lighting everyone's candle with his. Then he led us in an a capella version of Silent Night. After he stood thanking everyone for coming. He then said I'd especially like to thank those of you who have joined us from foreign lands. His eyes landed on me and he smiled and gestured to me and asked And what foreign land are you from young lady? I smiled and said Southern California. I got a kick out of it.

Then the sad, wretched Christmas of getting dumped over Skype by the man I was madly in love with. The most horrible words ever spoken to me: I don't love you. I'll never love you. If I had the choice to love you I wouldn't. The gift of that experience is knowing that if I could recover from that wounding and devastation, I can recover from anything.

The last few holidays have been laid back. Here in town, family. We'll spend tonight at my aunt's house. My dad's side of the family and his six siblings and their families. It will be chaotic and loud. Everyone will bring their dog. I'm bringing Love and his dog. Tomorrow morning we'll spend with my parents and sisters. Nothing too exciting. Gifts, brunch then not much else.
I still don't really like the holidays but I'm getting better at not falling into a deep depression around them. I avoid the stores. I spend a lot of time alone, reading, writing. I spend a good amount of time thinking where was I last time this year? and the year before that? where am I now in comparison? I like where I am this year.


or



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

deluge

This is some ark weather indeed. Find your match, get on the boat. The rain hasn't stopped and won't stop. The ground here is easily saturated, the roads not built to carry the water away. I hate driving in the rain around here, potholes galore, careening vehicles. I need to go out into the weather to buy a couple of gifts and to gather things. My dad has a bag of seeded pomegranates for us to juice, my mom has a bag of Puerto Rican food my grandma sent. I'm going to make my parents a pot of clam chowder. I may make a batch of tomato soup here at home later.

I slept early, happily last night after dinner at the Vag with Love. A couple of months ago we went down there on Saturday night for one drink. We saw a friend who was there and ended up meeting a group of really cool men. We ended up sitting with them on the patio until almost 2 in the morning. The restaurant closed but the owner was deep into the discussions we were wrapped up in and brought out bottles of unfinished wine. It was one of those rare instances wherein everyone meshed; the conversation was intelligent, witty and loud. It reminded me of my younger days among the drunk, hand-roving, intellectual ex-pats in Mexico. A late night of dialogue. We ran into one of the men from that night last night. We hope to all meet up again and have another one of those evenings, but with less alcohol as the next day was brutal.

I find I have such few intellectually dynamic conversations. So much of what is talked about is superficial. I have a couple of great friends I call when I want my mind blown but we don't interact regularly. I talk on the phone about once a week with my brilliant friend Eric, who is one of the most intelligent human beings I've veer met. We live about a mile away from each other but rarely get together; when we do I can barely sleep afterward because I can feel my brain stretching (for lack of a better description). I love the Eleanor Roosevelt quote Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people. I should make an effort to group together the friends I love talking about ideas with, see if they mesh. I'm such an isolationist sometimes. Reading a book about personality types, I'm self-diagnosing. Ha! And rereading this paragraph I'm also kind of a snob.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

in sleep

Last night I went out with Love and friends of ours. We drank a lot and had a pretty fantastic time, including a heated moment wherein Love defended my honor against a creepy man who said something horribly disrespectful about me the last time we saw him out. I had many bourbons and slept heavily when we got home. I was going through my phone this afternoon and came across fragments of poems I wrote last night when I should have been sleeping. A lot of time as I'm in the half-awake state right before sleep lines come to me that I tell myself I'l remember but I never do. I've gotten into the habit of grabbing my phone off the nightstand jotting the lines down in a notepad application. I love going through the notes and looking at the lines, sometimes I use them and sometimes they just stay in my phone, reminding me the writing comes when it comes. The fragments of poems from last night are fragments I want to use. One beginning I called "Bed Weather." Another is an ode to bourbon which I'm sure has been done but there are a couple of lines I think will work.

Two days until the solstice. I'm so ready for the days to start to grow longer. I'm tired of hibernating.

I dig this poem. the jaws of lusty squirrels Beautiful.

Rain predicted heavily the next couple of days. Lots of indoor time for me, reading and writing. Naps. Making candy. We're not big into Christmas in the family but will spend it together, one of my favorite cousins in coming in to town and I'm excited to see him. I haven't eaten a candy cane yet. I should get on that.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

reading to write

I find myself turning to certain books when I need or want to start writing. Last night I was working on a draft of a short story. When I read it back to myself it felt cold and stilted, not at all the tone I was aiming for. And the story wasn't presenting itself the way I wanted it to. I turned to one of my favorite books The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes. (I'm partial to the Sam Hileman translation.) When I read Fuentes I want to write. And I wrote. I have a new beginning to the story.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

theft, ideas, muse

As I was falling asleep a idea came to me for a series of vignettes based on a writing exercise I have assigned on the rare occasion I've been asked to teach. Maybe poems, maybe prose. Perhaps a little of both. I remembered a manuscript a friend sent me, how at first glance it was nothing special but after a second read I couldn't get the stories out of my head and to this day I think about them. My imagined project is similar in scope. I like it. Epistolary.

Last night B and I had dinner and talked for a long time about how ideas of ours have been taken from us. Stolen. I readily share ideas with loved one and don't mind inspiring or being muse. I believe the Picasso quote is Good artists borrow, great artists steal. An idea was taken from B recently and received a lot of good press and it bothers me. Recently I saw a line of mine used in another writer's work. It doesn't bother me but I wouldn't have minded at least an email sent my way in gratitude for the 3 words. The theft of B's idea is ugly, the theft of mine was mildly annoying.

Back in the claws of a short story I've been wrestling. I have the entire damn thing outlined and just need to get it out. A mentor told me earlier this year not to force my writing. But Jesus, I've been labor with this one forever.

I met an old friend yesterday afternoon. We talked about writing. He is pretty damn established and has always pushed me to establish myself more. He's been trying to convince me to get into an MFA program as long as I've known him. Nope. No thanks. No way. There was a long article in Slate a couple of weeks ago on MFAs. I don't want one. I can't see myself wanting to teach in an MFA and take time away from writing. Why go into a career about writing that doesn't give the writer any time to write? I don't get it. Go work at the Home Depot, don't waste your intellectual energy on others. Come home revved, write.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

the great communicator

The dissatisfaction is rampant in me lately. A part of it is the season, the early darkness and how artificial the joy we're supposed to be feeling is. Jesus month, everything on the History Channel is about Jesus. Every Lifetime movie is about a lost love returning in time for the holiday. Christmas music on the radio. Tinsel in every window. Joy fucking joy fucking joy. Meanwhile I'm broke, workless, hungry for something real. It exhausts me. I can't wait until this time of year is over. January 2, I await you as the wife of a whaler standing on the widow's walk. And here I steal the beginning of one of my own poems: You will return. Drop to the deck from a passing night, return sinewy, lovely. You who drove my heart's head underground

I suppose this is the season to write poetry thought the poet in me is ragged and tired of poetry. But the prose writer in me isn't fully wake either. I wrote a poem for Julian Assange last week and read it at the ACLU Freedoms of Expression II event. It wasn't my best work but it was an honest. It was short and to the point. My performance was the shortest out of the entire line-up, which I like. Always leave them wanting more, my mantra.

I love the title of this song by Sufjan Stevens. Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day (Well You Deserved It)


Friday, December 10, 2010

ACLU Freedoms of Expression II


Tomorrow night. Be there.


the stars like dust

Last night I was sitting on the balcony late, looking at the skies. When I look at the sky at night an Issac Asimov quote always comes to me:

The stars like dust encircle me
in loving mists of light,
and all of space I seem to see
in one vast burst of sight.

I remember the quote because of a small encounter I had over ten years ago while I was waiting tables. I had a young, kind of nerdy man sitting in my section. He was awkward and a little tense so I made an effort to draw him out by asking him what he did, et al. He was an astronomy student, getting his PhD. At the time I was in an astronomy class so I chatted with him about nebula, gamma rays, breadth of galaxies. It was a short interaction. When he left I went to clear his table and he had left me an extraordinarily large tip. On the receipt he had written the Asimov quote and a short note thanking me for making his day with our conversation. I pinned the receipt to my wall at home and thus memorized the quote. I wonder if the young man remembers our conversation.

Insomnia again is monster. Late last night I watched Orion creep across the sky. I made myself take a sleeping pill. The effects wore off around 4am and I was wide awake and went to look at the pre-dawn constellations. If only I could write at the hours my mind roams. But I always think I'll be able to fall asleep again as soon as I wake up and I stare at the ceiling for hours, the light at the edges of the window changing.

Last night before I went to be bed I read a couple of old journals. Reading one was pretty wrenching. My heart was freshly broken, days maybe. Every pain was on the page, all of my anger, shock. I was boxing a little back then, I think now only that physical discipline kept me from completely unraveling. In the scope of the journal I dissect what went wrong in my relationship, the emotional shortcomings of the man I had been loving. The journal went with me to Cuba where I did my best to embrace the experience but my heart wasn't in it. The journal came home with me. B made his first appearance in my journal. Deciding to move out of my old place also was on the pages.

I haven't journaled in years. I looked at the last journal entry I made, August 19, 2009. I should, I know I should but so much of the same crap is in the pages. Reading through the pages I see my patterns, the same tired ruts I wheel myself through again and again in hopes that maybe the next go around the scenery will change. I should write about that.





Wednesday, December 8, 2010

manuscript, musings, ego, disappointment

I've tentatively decided to to put together a manuscript for a poetry book and submit it to a first book contest. My old roommate and friend Geoff has been prodding me for years to submit more work and to take my self more seriously as a writer. What does taking myself seriously as a writer even mean? I write, I love writing. I read, I love reading. I contemplate my work and study it. I lose sleep over adverbs and pronouns. Last night as I waited for sleep to come I poured over poems in my head, wondering how they would speak together in a collection; what could be said about the writer. I've never given much consideration to being a writer for a living or making any money off of my art. I keep the money and the art separate because it allows me to keep my writing sacrosanct, holy. Writing is never a job or chore. It belongs to me and only me. Fame and recognition become less important to me the older I get. I am consecrated to my writing as my namesake in the bible was consecrated to her god. I write because I love it, because I have always been and will always be writer and crafter of stories. I'm proud of myself when I look at my folio of work and turn the pages. Even the old writings I would never these days consider sharing with the public make me happy because they were the base for what followed.

And yet. . .

There is a part of me that worries that I'll be an 80 year old woman, stiff of body and dissatisfied with what am about to leave behind. I was lamenting to a good friend last week my torpid ambition and he said to me Don't confuse lack of motivation for laziness. Ashé. I hope that is my ailment, lack of motivation. I read published writings at times and know I can do better. I know what I have to say and how to say it.

I look at what I've written about and it is all over the place. A lot of my earlier writing was about sex and sexuality, I had just come into what I call sexual ego and I was thrilled with it; my writing reflected the headiness that new power inspired, the prowess and inner growl. Then the writing went into the disappointment that followed the discovery of sexual ego, the failed relationships and discord of physical desire versus emotional needs. I dipped latently at times into identity. The writing of the last couple of years has been about narrative and myth since like Eve, I've discovered my own nudity and have known shame. Parable and allegory. Storytelling. Aren't all the great lessons told through story? Maybe this is why I've been more into prose than poetry the last couple of years. But poetry is the meaty heart, my diaphanous language, the love of cerebral music.

Monday, December 6, 2010

on desire, panic

Thinking a lot about desire these days. Going through old poems and other writings, desire has been a theme I've touched on again and again. Not just carnal; lust, sexual, physical, but desire for emotional and, for lack of a better word, spiritual intimacy, connection. My work these days, and aspects of what has driven it, feel dried out. I read an old poem last week at Voz Alta with the line before she began drying up in protest against the end of desire,//before she knew the limits of luck. The poem wasn't a self-portrait or anything even close to one, it was an exercise that turned out a pretty good poem. But the line has been resonating in my head for a while now, did I fulfill my own prophecy? My former insouciance is gone. I don't know if I've outgrown that aspect of my life or if the last couple of years I've just stopped trying. Certainly heartbreak and disappointment figure heavily into how one reacts to external and intellectual stimuli. I tire so easily of people. I miss ideas.

Very little gets me excited these days. My life is fairly even keeled. I have little drama. I have companionship and close emotional ties but there are times, especially lately, when I can't sleep thinking that I'm wasting my life. My insomnia has been a beast the last couple of weeks. I fall asleep easily enough then the panic comes and I'm wide awake thinking of the places on this earth I haven't traveled to. I think of how much time I spend in the service of others without paying attention to my owns needs. I think of my body, aging each second. I think I've painted myself into a corner, a life free of threats and heartache but the other side of that bitter coin is a life free of passion and true joy. Then I remind myself I'm a writer, this may be common, sometimes panic is at the heart of creation.

I don't even have the desire to finish this blog entry.

Friday, December 3, 2010

body

This week has been rough. Nothing has really gone as planned and I've been feeling the tension in my body. I've actually been feeling the tension in my body for months. Last night I went with my sister to the Casbah to see Nortec Collective. I met up with my friend Gerardo, aka Acamonchi and we ended up dancing the entire long Nortec set. I don't remember the last time I danced so un-selfconsciously. I completely let go, was sweaty, hair flying everywhere and the release I felt was so, so needed. I don't spend enough time in my body, if that makes any sense. I'm a pretty cerebral person. I'm always thinking or writing or reading. I feed my body, clothe it, wash it. but I never let it let loose and move. More movement is in my future, it has to be. I'm exhausted today but feel as if a weight has been released.