Friday, October 10, 2014

the whiteness of the whale

summer mountains.  no pictures of fall mountains because i've been too busy looking to photograph.
i've spent the past two daytimes in the mountains by myself letting time rest for a minute.  starting last weekend i decided to practice boredom and nowness.  actually, i didn't decide to do that, but stumbled into it because i was staying in a place that had no internet or t.v.  i brought books and notebooks and music, but i got really interested in doing nothing, thinking nothing, sitting & talking about nothing.

turns out i like nothing quite well.

so i did very little this week except enjoy the ground i'm standing on and my body's fleeting residence on this earth--letting the flaming trees in the canyon and the brightness of the late fall sky & sun take care of me.  too many more words than this won't help me to say what i mean.  

i guess i don't mean anything.

just happy, today, to be.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Stevie Didn't Want This

A well-earned, mostly open Wednesday wherein all I did was revise one nine-page story for submission to a place Lara recommended.

It's all I did, when I started the day with a list of four things. At least.

Why do I forget these things should go faster than they do?

How much does it suck that I have only one really good day in the week to do this, and that I ended up at a PTA-related event tonight.

I was just reading about Stevie Nicks, how she never wanted to be a parent because she wanted to be an artist and being a parent means a lack of focus and PTA meetings. And Stevie didn't want that.

I actually find myself volunteering at PTA.

I write this on the eve of my oldest's 16th birthday. Here we are together, age 34 and one month:

everything new

it's the birthday of sister gertrude stein's tender, tender buttons

on the mountains of which my poems often speak.  including the one on this blog.

i'm about to read it.

i wrote this weird little piece, about christmas of all awful subjects for a poem, and was inspired by sister stein.

hope it's something.

if not, it's something.

one of the most important works.

setting off 2013                        from merry christmas chapter 22

was it starry? stilly? were clouds smoky, low, or thick were we breathing burdened air particulates from wood smoke & car exhaust? was a stave of psalmody bouncing between the walls of our mountains, here on the wasatch front, here in our valley of valleys? was our basin filled with a hymn from some solo from some lit bungalow near the lake? were the feet of the soloist beautiful? was it christmas day or right before? were we anticipating or regretting? were we disappointed yet? were we recalling pleasant havens—and glades eternally vernal—fruit & mead?

i recall that it was not altogether unpleasant to be so cold.  deer foraging in grassy starry patches down the meadow of locust lane & children donned velvets & fowls & beasts laid upon the table for us, burnished, roasted            (((flowers were continuing on the mountain and low the valley without our attentions)))                         & the families & bigger families still in the concentric way of families in private beauty places & so on & so on & we thought some one would break us & so on & we searched for a break we never found & so it was as it were                         and all

Monday, September 29, 2014

sistahs in zion & a mormon moment part 2 ::: on missing out on kumbayah

sistah beehive and sistah laurel
this weekend a black woman, that is to say a woman of african descent*, prayed at the opening session of the very important international meetings mormons call "general conference."  this was a historic event, as it was the first time a black woman had prayed in a session of general conference. this was an important time for showing the world that mormons are trying to overcome racist practices that have haunted our legacy, a legacy that,  to my mind, should be much more radical and inclusive than it currently is.

sister dora mkhabela, "natural hair diva" of the young women's general board.  the first woman of african descent to pray in general conference. 
i listened to the sistahs in zion radiocast this morning, and really felt how deeply white sisters, and especially progressive white sisters who espouse inclusion and progress so vocally, have failed black sisters.

"i wanted to celebrate.  i waited.  time will tell, and time did tell.  there was nothing." (on the silence in social media from white mormon sisters, particularly mormon feminists after sister mkhabela's prayer.)

nobody put out a hand to start up the kumbayah circle (an african song, the sistahs said.)

white mormon feminists did not speak about this historic moment until their black sisters started the ball rolling.

this was not okay.

it is not okay.

a caller on the show phoned in to say that we shouldn't be surprised--that american mormons should be expected to enact racism in the same way other americans enact it--with awkwardness and silence.

the sistahs defended their pointed attack on mormon feminists, saying that mo fems, of all people should be on this--should be a lot better than we are--because we are so loud in our criticism of inequality.

i hold mormons to a higher standard, just like the sistahs expected more from white mormon feminists in recognizing the milestone of sister mkhabela's prayer.

when you're raised mormon, you're taught from early days that there is something special about your religion.  that with mormonism, you can embrace the entire globe of humanity, future and past, with the gospel of jesus christ.  the mormon gospel of jesus christ, the one that is both similar to and different from other christian congregations.

the one of supposedly the ultimate inclusion.

like the sistahs in zion, i have always expected more from my mormon brothers and sisters.  maybe i shouldn't, but i do.  i was raised to be aspirational and idealistic, because of my religion.

it might be okay for people "of the world" to be hypocrites, but mormons should be less hypocritical, far less hypocritical,  because we are so loud at proclaiming and proselytizing our ultimates.

so it's not okay with me when mormons:

1) embrace & enact racism
2) vote to deny health care, food, clothing, housing and human rights to our brothers and sisters
3) embrace capitalism above the care of individual human beings and the health of our planet

being a mormon is pretty hard.  it might be why mormons succeed in such large numbers relative to our tiny minority status (14 million members, according to official mormon church data).  we learn to sacrifice by spending a lot of hours at church, in service, in donations to the church, in trying to be better every day, and in learning to be part of a community that we didn't necessarily choose to be a part of, from the day we are born, for those of us who are born mormon.

we can do hard things.  we do hard things.

and we can do even harder things.

i expect us to.

despite all of my questions, doubts, and the tiny amount of understanding, or maybe even the complete lack of understanding, i hold about god, the universe, this planet, the weirdness and majesty of humanity & nature, i stay a part of my religion because of its aspirational qualities.  listening to the sistahs in zion, i was struck by their devotion even within a hostile environment--a racist and largely white american mormon setting where they nonetheless have found truth and the motivation to serve, teach, and work to be better every day.

we aspire to hold all things equal (our doctrine says this).  we aspire to be a zion people in zion (meaning the utopic time when jesus comes again and the lamb lies down with the lion)--and we aspire to that NOW, not only when jesus comes again.

sistahs in zion once again don't get to rest.  they must be exhausted.

they have to tell white sisters that we hurt them again, especially the ladies who are working for gender equality and should know better. we need to give them a break.  they can't keep up the work on their own.

we owe them, the world, all our sisters, a break.  and a kumbayah.

*mormons historically denied "peoples of african descent" the priesthood, and some prophets reinforced teachings about the "mark of cain" as reasons for the priesthood ban.  so it's important to note that sister dora mkhabela is of african descent, not a "woman of color" as some are calling her.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

& thus we see

what i wore to my reading last friday night.

i love fall, so julie inspired me to throw together an impromptu rosh hashanah dinner last night, in honor of another new year.  we talked about how fall is so much more appropriate for celebrating new year's than january.  i made anna's brisket, 

if i had a jewish grandmother, would she approve of my fancy sterling silver?

and quickly tried to learn about the 100 shofar blasts. turns out it's not a quick learn.  i'm still thinking about this:

tekiah, moan-ululation, tekiah
tekiah, moan-ululation, tekiah
tekiah, moan-ululation, tekiah
tekiah, moan, tekiah
tekiah, moan, tekiah
tekiah, moan, tekiah
tekiah, ululation, tekiah
tekiah, ululation, tekiah
tekiah, ululation, tekiah

apples & honey=sweet new year

i'm in a fight with myself, or my body, or mind, or sickness or a big black dog.  the good thing now is that i know we'll make up and be at peace again someday, because i've been through this so many times before.  

thanks to julie's coaching, i've managed to stay fairly productive, and keep reading and writing every day, working on projects, and keeping up with teaching, kids, etc.  

i'm still reading susan howe's the birthmark and for fun, a book of essays by nora ephron, i remember nothing.

re-reading adrienne rich's blood, bread, and poetry.

working on mormon lady times essay and moby dick poems, mostly, and it's time to start on the third installment of the moby dick puppet opera libretto.


i'm excited for the weekend.  we're going to see brecht's galileo tomorrow night, then leaving for l.a. on saturday to hear anthony braxton play.  

it's good to have things to look forward to.


here's a little ditty from the moby dick project.  it's silly, and entirely lifted from moby.  i have a lot of other new poems, but they're still in process.  i don't know if this is anything, but i thought i'd try a concrete poem of sorts.  it's from the chapter on the measurement of the whale's skeleton.  ishmael talks about how unlike the whale its skeleton is.  he looks at the spine tapering into marble sized bones, and says that the priest's children stole the smallest pieces to play marbles with.  i wanted the poem to look like it's subject. so i tapered it.  

just a silly bit of fluff.

dead attenuated skeleton stretched in the peaceful wood
(chapter 103 “measurement of the whale’s skeleton”)

even the largest
of living things
tapers off
at last to


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ephemeral Fall Inertia

The view from my computer
 I had a big beautiful perfect fall day in which to work, and got not that much done.

One thing I realized is that my fiction--now all in Google docs--is a mess. Completely disorganized. I can't find anything. I was supposed to send some stuff out today, but did not.

But I did randomly pull up a story--my life feels rather random these days--and began to work on it again, and tried to pull it away from its original inspiration--an old friend, no longer living. He died around now--in 2001--a couple of weeks after September 11th of drug-related causes. And I've never gotten over it.

So maybe pulling up that story wasn't so random after all.

Inspired by Lara, several hours after this, I went out to read more in Stuart Dybek's recent collection of flash fictions.
The view from a tippy chair.

Friday, September 12, 2014

to not add a last line

god fugitive: a bosom friend outfit.  no, not that kind of bosom.

i'm on the downswing after the debut of god fugitive: a bosom friend.  

accomplished nothing yesterday.

today i hope to work on my essay on O, for dialogue's pink issue.  i hope it works out.

i also need to work on a stupid little thing called laundry, teach my online class, and get together an email list to invite people to my reading next friday.

spend some quality time with my children, who have been neglected for the past week.

figure out something fun to do for date night.

last night i did readings for a 9/11 memorial recital.  i feel weird about 9/11 memorial stuff that happens outside of nyc.  the recitalist chose the readings, but asked me to add one to it, so i did.  and that was tough, too.  i was trying to avoid anything that would have weird connotations in the context of the music and video feed that went with the readings.  

turns out everything has weird connotations in that context.  but, score one for poetry!  the recitalist told me that when she sent in the texts to the people making the programs, the whole office stopped to read this poem. 

so haters who hate poetry, take that, and read this.

They jumped from the burning floors—
one, two, a few more,
higher, lower.

The photograph halted them in life,
and now keeps them   
above the earth toward the earth.

Each is still complete,
with a particular face
and blood well hidden.

There’s enough time
for hair to come loose,
for keys and coins
to fall from pockets.

They’re still within the air’s reach,
within the compass of places
that have just now opened.

I can do only two things for them—
describe this flight
and not add a last line.