Friday, December 06, 2019

Notes: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

"I am writing because they told me never to start a sentence with because. But I wasn't trying to make a sentence--I was trying to break free."

"To bake a cake in the eye of a storm; to feed yourself sugar on the cusp of danger."

"If we are lucky, the end of the sentence is where we might begin. If we are lucky, something is passed on, another alphabet written in the blood, sinew, and neuron; ancestors charging their kin with the silent  propulsion to fly south, to turn toward the place in the narrative no one was meant to outlast."

"When does a war end? When can I say your name and have it mean only your name and not what you left behind?"

"The time, while pruning a basket of green beans over the sink, you said, out of nowhere, "I'm not a monster. I'm a mother."

"I came to know, in those afternoons, that madness can sometimes lead to discovery, that the mind, fractured and short-wired, is not entirely wrong."

"He was only nine but has mastered the dialect  of damaged American fathers."

"Ma, to speak in our mother tongue is to speak partially in Vietnamese, but entirely in war."

"We sidestep ourselves in order to move forward."

"I was once foolish enough to believe knowledge would clarify, but some things are so gauzed behind layers of syntax and semantics, behind days and hours, names forgotten, salvaged and shed, that simply knowing the wound exists does nothing to reveal it."

"A storm of mother."

"That she was waiting. Because that's what mothers do. They wait. They stand still until their children belong to someone else."

"We were exchanging truths, I realized, which is to say, we were cutting one another."

"I never wanted to build a "body of work," but to preserve these, our bodies, breathing and unaccounted for, inside the work."

"Is that what art is? To be touched thinking what we feel is ours when, in the end, it was someone else, in longing, who finds us?"

"A page, turning, is a wing lifted with no twin, and therefore no flight. And yet we are moved."

"Remember: The rules, like streets, can only take you to known places. Underneath the grid is a field--it was always there--where to be lost is never to be wrong, but simply more.

As a rule, be more."

"What have we become to each other if not what we've done to each other?"

"All this time I told myself we were born from war--but I was wrong, Ma. We were born from beauty.
     Let no one mistake us for the fruit of violence--but that violence, having passed through the fruit, failed to spoil it."

"To be gorgeous, you must first be seen, but to be seen allows you to be hunted."

Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
Mourning Diary by Roland Barthe
Roland Barthe by Roland Barthe
50 Cent

Is Trevor pointing us toward the Trevor Project?

Monday, November 04, 2019

When Love Begins

Don’t Hesitate
–Mary Oliver
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Monday, October 07, 2019

53 Months

Hundreds of Purple Octopus Moms Are Super Weird, and They're Doomed

January Gill O'Neil

I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden in the shade.
—Ringo Starr

The article called it “a spectacle.” More like a garden than a nursery: 
hundreds of purple octopuses protecting clusters of eggs 
while clinging to lava rocks off the Costa Rican coast. 
I study the watery images: thousands of lavender tentacles 
wrapped around their broods. Did you know there’s a female octopus 
on record as guarding her clutch for 53 months? That’s four-and-a-half years 
of sitting, waiting, dreaming of the day her babies hatch and float away. 
I want to tell my son this. He sits on the couch next to me clutching his phone, 
setting up a hangout with friends. The teenage shell is hard to crack. 
Today, my heart sits with the brooding octomoms: not eating, always on call, 
always defensive, living in stasis in waters too warm to sustain them. 
No guarantees they will live beyond the hatching. Not a spectacle 
but a miracle any of us survive.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

The Terrible Victory

Perhaps the World Ends Here 

by Joy Harjo
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

"Perhaps the World Ends Here" from The Woman Who Fell From the Sky by Joy Harjo. 

Friday, August 02, 2019

Five-Dollar Bills

The August Preoccupations

Catherine Barnett

So this morning I made a list

of obsessions and you were on it.

And waiting, and forgiveness, and five-dollar bills,

and despots, telescopes, anonymity, beauty,

silent comedy, and waiting.

I could forswear all these things

and just crawl back into the bed

you and I once slept in.

What would happen then?

Play any film backwards and it’s elegy.

Play it fast-forward it’s a gas.

I try not to get attached.

But Lincoln!

I see stars when I look at him.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

How Good


Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz

The figs we ate wrapped in bacon.

The gelato we consumed greedily:

coconut milk, clove, fresh pear.

How we’d dump hot espresso on it

just to watch it melt, licking our spoons

clean. The potatoes fried in duck fat,

the salt we’d suck off our fingers,

the eggs we’d watch get beaten

’til they were a dizzying bright yellow,

how their edges crisped in the pan.

The pink salt blossom of prosciutto

we pulled apart with our hands, melted

on our eager tongues. The green herbs

with goat cheese, the aged brie paired

with a small pot of strawberry jam,

the final sour cherry we kept politely

pushing onto each other’s plate, saying,

No, you. But it’s so good. No, it’s yours.

How I finally put an end to it, plucked it

from the plate, and stuck it in my mouth.

How good it tasted: so sweet and so tart.

How good it felt: to want something and

pretend you don’t, and to get it anyway.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Which wife?


Edna St. Vincent Millay - 1892-1950

She is neither pink nor pale,
 And she never will be all mine;
She learned her hands in a fairy-tale, 
 And her mouth on a valentine. 

She has more hair than she needs; 
  In the sun 'tis a woe to me!
And her voice is a string of colored beads, 
 Or steps leading into the sea. 

 She loves me all that she can, 
  And her ways to my ways resign; 
 But she was not made for any man, 
  And she never will be all mine.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Writing in a time of Cholera

This is Just to Say

I have written
a page
of words

toddlers torn

the wall, funded
federal death penalty

Forgive us
my words
so cold
and so still

Saturday, July 27, 2019

We are what we repeatedly do

Thursday, July 25, 2019


By Barbara Reyes

there is ghazal swimming inside of her, wanting to be born. on the matter of foretelling, of small miracles, cactus flowers in bloom on this city fire escape, where inside your tongue touches every inch of her skin, where you lay your hand on her belly and sleep. here, she fingers the ornate remains of ancient mosques. here, some mythic angel will rise from the dust of ancestors’ bones. this is where you shall worship, at the intersections of distilled deities and memory’s sharp edges. the country is quite a poetic place; water and rock contain verse and metaphor, even wild grasses reply in rhyme. you are not broken. she knows this having captured a moment of lucidity; summer lightning bugs, sun’s rays in a jelly jar.
this is not a love poem, but a cove to escape the flux, however momentary. she is still a child, confabulating the fantastic; please do not erode her wonder for the liquid that is your language. there is thunderstorm in her chest, wanting to burst through her skin. this is neither love poem nor plea. this is not river, nor stone.

Barbara Jane Reyes, "Asking" from Poeta en San Francisco. Copyright © 2005 by Barbara Jane Reyes.