Jun 302014


“Our task is to stamp this provisional, perishing earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its being may rise again, ‘invisibly,’ in us. We are the bees of the invisible.”

—Rainer Maria Rilke, in a letter explaining the Duino Elegies

A woman was walking along the street with her lover. But they weren’t really lovers. Not yet. And this yet was an endless thread between them. The yet was really a never; they both knew it. This made the whole thing possible. So she was walking with her never lover and she was telling him about her father, how he had a briefcase, when she was a child. It was a special briefcase, an extra one, not the one he carried to work every day. She and her younger sisters were not allowed to touch the special briefcase, which seemed full of mysterious things. Paper clips and envelopes, embroidered patches and manly medals, tubes of mysterious salve, pens wrapped in green rubber bands. Her father also kept a box of band-aids in the briefcase. Always, there were band-aids in that briefcase. Of all sizes. But her father kept the briefcase locked, and he stuck it on a top shelf in the linen closet, where he had a little desk.

“Your father had a desk in the linen closet?” asked her never lover.
He rarely asked her questions, but he was in a generous mood.

“Yes,” she answered. “My dad built a little desk for himself. In the closet.”

“That’s strange.”

“It was a very big closet,” she said. “We kept band-aids in the kitchen, too, in the cabinet. But my mother, she had a hard time staying organized, and she always let the band-aids slip away, there just never were any around when you needed them. If I cut myself, well, I naturally thought of the band-aids in my father’s briefcase. But it was locked, so I just. I just . . .”

“Bled,” said her lover.


Jun 132014


“I never wanted to be well-rounded, and I do not admire well-rounded people nor their work. So far as I can see, nothing good in the world has ever been done by well-rounded people. The good work is done by people with jagged, broken edges, because those edges cut things and leave an imprint, a design.”

—Harry Crews

The other day my friend posted a Karen Carpenter remix to Facebook. It’s a 1971 recording of ‘Superstar,’ just the lead vocal over a bass guitar and a simple drum track. Apparently she nailed the vocal in one take.
Comment: “Her control is awesome.” Yes.
Comment: “She had a lot of control–maybe too much.” Yes.
And if you look at the thumbnail photo that accompanies the song file, she looks gaunt. Controlled. Flawless. One take.

We didn’t listen to very much music in our house when I was growing up in the seventies. But my dad must have liked The Carpenters, because he was obsessed with Karen after she died of anorexia in 1983.
“Karen Carpenter,” he chanted repeatedly. “Dead at 32.”
This speaks volumes about my dad, not as much about Karen.

“People are always trying to find a link between Karen’s illness and a single heartbreak. But I don’t associate it with anything.”
–Richard Carpenter, her brother and the other half of the pop duo, The Carpenters

The idea behind the song ‘Superstar’ is that a touring rock god has abandoned his groupie, a girl who loves him. Karen Carpenter didn’t write it but she sang the hell out of it.
Controlled. One take.
Pining away for a peacock.

Richard Carpenter was addicted to quaaludes. He went to get treatment for it and while he was gone Karen made a secret record all by herself, but no one at the label liked it and it wasn’t released. It finally came out in 1996 or so. It’s pretty awful, but still, they could’ve let her release it.

“Karen Carpenter,” my father would mutter. “Dead at 32. Dead at 32. Dead at 32.”

Karen married a guy who spent all her money. She really wanted kids but her husband was fixed, he got a vasectomy before he met her. He didn’t tell her this until a few days before the wedding. And Karen’s mother, Agnes, wouldn’t let Karen call off the nuptials.

“There were times that I did lose my temper, but it was always out of love.”
–Richard Carpenter

Bangs can only do so much for you when you have a hole in your heart.
A jumpsuit can only do so much for you when you have a hole in your heart.

(a hole the approximate size of a super-deluxe condo in Century City)

Karen’s parents kept a bedroom for her in their California home. Even though she was thirty-two. She was found dead in that bedroom, in their home. That’s where they found her.

Apr 292014


“Whenever I’ve tried to free my life from a set of circumstances that continuously oppress it, I’ve been instantly surrounded by other circumstances of the same order, as if the inscrutable web of creation were irrevocably at odds with me. I yank from my neck a hand that was choking me, and see that my own hand is tied to a noose that fell around my neck when I freed it from the stranger’s hand. When I gingerly remove the noose, it’s with my own hands that I nearly strangle myself.”

—Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet

Marie moved to the Bay Area on her own. Her friend had offered her a place to stay, in a big fancy mansion owned by a world-renowned, wealthy male artist. The artist was friends with Christopher Walken, who was sitting there at the dining room table when Marie arrived. So Marie had a late lunch with him while her friend went out to run an errand. Marie was immediately drawn to Walken’s magnetic sexual energy. They sat on the couch after they ate and pressed the soles of their bare feet together. His feet were tinted orange, like he had a liver disease, hepatitis or something, and he was pretty old and frail but Marie wanted to have sex with him anyway. He had somewhere to be, though, so Marie took a raincheck. After Walken left, Marie realized that her friend, who had invited her there, had not returned. She had said she’d back in a few minutes.

Marie explored inside the mansion, which had a bizarre vibe. All the bedrooms had multiple beds and mattresses, and bunk beds, like it was a commune or a cult or something, but there was no one around. So Marie started getting scared; maybe she was going to be expected to have sex with a cult leader or the famous male artist or something in order to stay at the house for free. And where was her friend? Marie tried to settle on an unused bed and a place to put her suitcase. She was thinking maybe she would be safest in the top half of a bunk-bed in a corner of a room on the third floor, but the top bunk was pretty high, abnormally so. What if she rolled out while she was sleeping and fell to the floor?

Then she looked out the window and saw that the back yard was full of hot tubs and a big swimming pool, but she only saw men out there. Lots of them, with beards and long hair. It was some kind of mineral-bath healing center. Marie shivered. No, this was not going to work for her. Then she remembered that she had plenty of money, and she could afford to stay in a hotel until she found her own place.


Feb 072014


“kiss the snake so you that you may gain the treasure”

—Rumi from “Love is like a Lawsuit

to go deep

just dive
or take a diving class
or sign up for a diving class, but never go
or read a catalog about diving classes
or watch people dive at the pool
or watch people dive on TV
or watch TV





Dec 132013


“After that life in the singing dream,
I woke, and feared he felt he was the human
sleeper, and I the glittering panther
holding him down, and screaming.”

—Sharon Olds, “Not Quiet Enough”, from the book Stag’s Leap, c. 2012

I bought Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds last year because her face flickered by on my facebook news feed and I liked her face. I remembered I had a boyfriend in college who went around with books by Sharon Olds and Jorie Graham. Which is pretty interesting now that I think of it, but at the time I thought all twenty-year old men could relate to the poetry of older women with daddy issues.

Stag’s Leap is a book of poems about a divorce. But not just any divorce. The worst kind of divorce. What is the worst kind of divorce? I used to think they were all bad. But now I know a few divorced people (as opposed to children of divorced people) and I see that divorce is not bad. People wouldn’t get divorced if it were a bad choice. It looks like a very good choice, even a fantastic thing, for the married people who choose it. It’s really an act of deep acceptance. This marriage isn’t working. Let’s get divorced.

But sometimes it’s good for one partner, bad for the other. That’s what Stag’s Leap is about. The worst kind of divorce being this: after thirty years of marriage, Sharon Olds’ husband left her for another woman.

The poet found a photo of her husband’s mistress in the washing machine. She showed it to him.

SHE: Hey, honey, isn’t this a photo of that woman you work with?
HE: Yes, we went running together, she gave me the photo. It must have fallen out of the pocket. Of my shorts.
SHE: Oh.

In the photo, the other woman was wearing a bathing suit.

Stomach-ache. All over.

Here’s the arc of the book: complacency, discovery, shock, despair, fear, anger (restrained), acceptance, liberation. At last Olds sees that her husband has freed her, and himself, from a bond that was built on buried truths and undiscovered selves.

But you know what? The sex was good. Up until the day he packed his stuff up and moved across the city. The sex was good, people.

Well, he eventually marries the mistress.
Does Sharon Olds find a new guy or gal?
We don’t find out.

She is mourning the death of her young sexual self. Which left when her husband walked out. Can’t get that back.

She builds poem after poem from the same five colors and the same stack of wood by the sea. Reshaping. Retelling. Seeking. Sculpting. And it’s so deliciously good. You read the poems, you feel the pain, you cry, you keep reading, you get used to the pain, you don’t cry anymore. You keep reading, you get a little weary of the pain, you flip ahead a few pages. What happens next is . . .

Oct 062013


In the Body of the World
I am an Emotional Creature
Insecure at Last
Necessary Targets
The Good Body
The Vagina Monologues
A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and a Prayer
The Men Who Killed Me

—titles of books by Eve Ensler

ITCHY BOOK REVIEW: Boston Adventure by Jean Stafford, c. 1944.

It’s a novel about a girl, Sonie. We grow up with her as we read. Sonie is smart and pretty and damaged, she is trying to make her way in the world. The way she is damaged is that her mother is mentally ill– all this taking place back in the early 1900s, when they came right out and called you insane. The lunatic mother drives Sonie’s father away. Not that he is a gem of a guy or anything but he is her father, he tells her stories, kisses and hugs her, keeps her clothed and fed. The father is German, the mother is Russian; they are immigrants who literally met on the boat to Ellis Island. The father finally hits his limit with the crazy mother, he has taken enough, and he leaves. He leaves his wife. He leaves his daughter. You know, goes out for cigarettes and never comes home.

Sonie, trapped in a life of poverty with her crazy mother, takes a job as a waitress at a hotel in the seaside suburb of Boston where she lives. She also works as a maid for a wealthy family whose daughter is in her class at the public school. Sonie is about thirteen when her dad takes off, and until she is eighteen she supports her family with these jobs. The crazy mom has had a second child, a boy, somewhere in there, and this baby turns out to be a nutcase, too. The boy only lives until he is five, when he wanders out in a snowstorm and dies. The crazy mother has killed the boy, effectively, and Sonie finally puts her into a state-run hospital for the insane, a madhouse, as it was once called.

Sonie then moves to Boston to work as a personal assistant, though it wasn’t called that at the time. She lives in a big, fancy house on Beacon Bill with a rich, old, mean, proud, aristocratic, frigid spinster named, of course, Miss Lucy Pride. Sonie has always known Miss Pride, who was a frequent guest at the hotel where Sonie worked as a waitress. Miss Pride is Sonie’s womanly ideal: restrained, self-controlled, autonomous, loveless, cruel. Everything to admire.

Miss Pride has a niece named Hopestill, who is a bad seed. Sonie is a good seed. She’s the best seed. The obstacles she overcomes! We, the readers, are just as brave, pure, glorious, and embattled as Sonie. We follow her everywhere. How we love her. We want her to marry Dr. McCallister, the handsome, young doctor who treats Sonie’s mad mother, and who eventually courts Sonie in a fit of charitable lust. But of course, Dr. McAllister is really in love with Hopestill, the bad seed.

We are given a couple of passionate kisses, and they are good ones. The kind of kisses a woman thinks about for the rest of her life. Sonie has a thing for handicapped men. But she doesn’t love them. Still, this is a step ahead of her crazy mother, who rabidly hates all men. But the mother is out of her mind, of course. Locked away.

Aug 142013


1. When I get angry, the main thing I do is

a. cry.
b. yell.
c. sulk.
d. swear.
e. throw things.
f. get sarcastic.

2. When I say “Just leave me alone,” I mean it

a. 100 percent of the time.
b. 75 percent of the time.
c. 50 percent of the time.
d. 25 percent of the time.
e. 0 percent of the time.

3. When I get mad at you, I want you to

a. leave me alone to work it out myself.
b. get mad at me too.
c. be rational and not react.
d. hug me.

4. True/False
I hold grudges.

from The Marital Compatibility Test by Susan Adams


1. The main thing I do when I get angry is rant and rave. Before I had kids, I cried. And I rarely cry now. There’s got to be something very multi-layered and historical going on for me to cry from anger.  I don’t exactly yell, either. Can we call it raising my voice?

When I really yell, well, that’s rare. If I worry about the neighbors hearing me, then I know I’ve been yelling. And honestly I don’t think that has happened more than five times in ten years.
So that’s good, right? I mean, I should be proud of that. Should I be proud of that?
Back in the day, I did sometimes throw things. Water, out of a glass, for example. And when I was little, I used to throw my stuffed animal. He was a raccoon. Well, he is gone now. Seriously, gone. He’s dead. Probably not even in a landfill. That was a long time ago. I don’t throw things anymore.

And I don’t get sarcastic when I’m mad. I’m too sensitive to be sarcastic. Sarcasm is insensitive. It’s trying to catch someone with his mental/verbal pants down. See how slow you are? That’s what sarcasm is. I don’t do that. Why are people sarcastic? Stop it.

2. Okay, so I never, never want to be left alone when I’m mad. Even if I say LEAVE ME ALONE. Or GO AWAY. GET OUT OF HERE! (etc) Any and all of that, if I say it, it’s absolutely not true. Don’t go anywhere and especially, please, don’t go to sleep.

3. But that doesn’t mean I want you to hug me. That would be dumber than hugging a cactus. A cactus with a gun. You would never do that, right? And I hardly expect you to be rational and not react. What is the point in that? That wouldn’t be a fight. That would make me furious.

What was the other option? Get mad at me, too. Yes, that’s what I want. But not quite as mad as I am.


All right. What else. True or false: I hold grudges.

False. I don’t hold grudges.


May 182013


“Just because a cat has her kittens in an oven, you don’t call them biscuits.”
–Vicki Lane, Art’s Blood  by way of 'In the Laurels, Caught' by Lee Ann Brown (Fence Modern Poets Series, 2013).


There was this man I used to know, I want to call him a guy, but he was more of a man to me than a guy, and he appeared to be very smart. He wore glasses, he was a lawyer, and he had graduated from Harvard. Smart. He said to me, and he was trying to be helpful and kind, he said, “I know that you are only playing dumb. That underneath your ditzy act you are a very smart girl.“

People wear jeggings, thong underwear, wallet chains.

My first true romance was in junior high school with Scott, a boy in the grade above me. When he called me at home he always said he was watching “The Three Stooges,” and I sensed that he was trying to impress me, though he didn’t need to. I was completely smitten, drugged with love. It was really about his eyes and his basketball uniform.

People enjoy watching horror films, sitcoms, and talk shows.

The first time Scott kissed me I was chewing on a king-sized bite of a Snickers bar. This failed first kiss was a source of shame and remorse for me. Then it became a joke between us. Scott put me down pretty quickly, though. He exchanged me for a cheerleader with shorter legs and when he did it, he did it on the phone. He quoted the parting scene in Casablanca. I took little comfort in the reference, as I had never seen the film. In fact, I had never even heard of it, and there was no Google or Youtube to help me out.

People miss the Twinkie, though we turned our backs when it was still alive.


film clip is from the Three Stooges, Three Little Sew and Sews, 1939
song is “Surround Me With Your Love,” Stephane Pompougnac, 2003

Apr 252013

“It’s a completely unnavigable river, always empty, because of its irregular course and its sand bars. In France, the Loire is considered a very beautiful river, especially because of its light . . . so soft, if you only knew.”

Marguerite Duras, from Hiroshima Mon Amour




What she is saying is . . . she wants a war. She has no respect for her elders. Her mail carrier is black. What she’s saying is, war is immersive. A total experience. It’s life and death, obviously. Don’t play that jazzy flute in her face and act like you know so much. Don’t tell her how she is supposed to feel. She’s never done this before.

When she is so tired and sick that there’s nothing left to do but read a book, she can’t find her glasses. She looks all over the house for what seems like hours and then she screams as loud as she can at the top of her lungs. She watches TV instead.

Later, she finds her glasses in the car.

When she feels badly about her whole entire life, it’s because she is made of love. Understand? Name any bad feeling. Envy. Self-hatred. A sense of lack, or worthlessness. Generic fear. All of that junk is really just deep, immense love that’s been turned upside down and twisted. 

Being made of love and feeling like shit—they’re the same exact thing! That’s dark magic.

Don’t play that jazzy oboe in her face and pretend to be free. Just because you can smoke a cigarette. Speak French, instead. Take it all the way. I’ll translate.

You can’t navigate the river. It’s unnavigable. That means no boats. Do you realize that? You and your jazzy barge.

Someone dropped a marble through her open window, and she saw it fall and roll across the floor. Then the weather got warm, and her hair grew back. She rode a bike to Paris. It took two days.



Mar 252013


“There was nothing in sight but woods, and Billy began to be worried. Which way was the road? When he looked for the sun to find what direction he should go, he saw that the sky had become very dark and stormy. It looked very strange, and he was a little frightened. They must get home before the storm.” C.W. Anderson, from Blaze Finds the Trail


She works the “I’m crazy” angle. She’s been working it for years. You should know. You’re her friend.

How do you deal with her when she gets like that? Just go over and hold her hand. Talk to her. Don’t run away. Don’t get mad. Don’t tell yourself lies of any kind. Just talk to her. (Good listeners don’t come along every day.)

Try this: “What is it that you would like to tell me?”
“I’m sad,” she might say.

(That’s it? That’s what turns her into a monster? Yup.)

You say, “Don’t be sad.” (Wrong! But you say it anyway.)
“Stop being sad,” you say.

“I can’t,” she says. “I like routine. I like the sad routine.”

“You’re not sad! You don’t act sad. If anything, you act mad. Really mad.”
“Only to hide the sadness.”

“Okay fine, you’re sad. Why so sad?”
“Because I feel empty.”

“And what’s making you feel empty?”
“It’s the fullness. The abundance. Snack packaging. American Girl Dolls. Junk mail.”

“So where would you be happier?” (You are raising your voice. Watch that.) “East Germany in the seventies? You think that was fun?”

“I don’t know,” she says. “Maybe an island? Somewhere warm and laid-back?”

“A Caribbean island? Have you talked to people who live down there? They’re bitter as shit.”

(She starts to cry. You suck at this.)

“I don’t have a place,” she tells you. “There is no better place. That’s why I’m sad. Stop yelling at me!”

Now you feel pretty lousy yourself. You tell her to go live on a Hollywood set. Preferably for a sitcom. You say, “Go live in a spec home. Spec homes are always clean. Go live in a tent. A tent in a parking lot. A tent on the balcony of a high-rise. Go live in your mother’s garage!”

(Wow. Some friend.)


film clip is from Starship Troopers, 1997, directed by Paul Verhoeven
song is “Your Ghost,” by Kristen Hersh, from Hips and Makers

Mar 112013


“The whale! The ship!”

from Moby Dick by Herman Melville


Dear young lady on the train, talking into a cell phone:

I’m not mad at all. I don’t mind listening to your conversation. After all, this is not the quiet car. Actually, I want to climb over the seat and hold your hand. I want to tell you there’s nothing you can do about all the hurt you’re gonna feel when the man you were with last night doesn’t call. I can hear how excited you are. Your friend is very nice to talk to you for . . . look! It’s already been an hour and five minutes. To tell it in full detail is to relive it. I remember that. And then . . .and then . . .  and then you landed in his arms. She’s a good listener, your friend, but I know you’d do the same for her. As I did in my day. Now I’m married bla bla bla.

What I want you to know is there’s nothing in the world you can do to make him THE ONE if he’s not THE ONE. And even if he is THE ONE, that’s no lifetime guarantee. That’s going to be up to the gods as well. Just please don’t get mad at yourself over things you said or didn’t say. Don’t worry about your next move. You’re really not in charge of what happens, so relax.

It’s probably not going to work out. You know this yourself, but you won’t admit it, because you think it’s your job to make him love you. Darling girl, that’s not your job. It’s beyond your control. I can’t back this up with tea leaves or star charts, but I know it.

Still. It’s rolling. See where it goes.


film clip is from Dangerous Liaisons, directed by Stephen Frears, 1988


Feb 282013


“If somebody holds two doors for you in a row, do you thank him/her twice? (Up to you.) How do you handle a foil-clad baked potato? (Peel the foil off, but don’t crumple it into a ball.) On the morning of their departure, is it rude for the hostess to bowl into her guests’ bedroom, rip the sheets off the mattress, and suggest they leave early in order not to miss their plane? (Er, yes.) What should you say at a restaurant if your sister-in-law starts shoveling condiment packets into her purse?(“You know, you could get into trouble doing that.”)”

–Mark Caldwell, quoting Elizabeth Post, in A Short History of Rudeness


Dear Miss Manners,

My husband always hijacks my stories. I will be in the middle of telling our friends about something that happened, and Hank will butt in and say I’m not telling the story right. I do embellish my stories, but that’s not the same as lying. Hank thinks I’m a liar. So he starts correcting me, and I ignore him, but then he’s talking over me and he usually ends up finishing the story. For example, last week I had words with another customer at a furniture store. I’m very pregnant; I was sitting on a display ottoman and I was in this guy’s way. The guy gave me a lot of lip; I gave it right back. Next thing I know he’s threatening to beat up my husband. He wants Hank to meet him out on the sidewalk in front of the store. (Even this a-hole would not beat up a pregnant woman.) I was telling the story last night at dinner with our friends but Hank took over. He made it so dry and factual, like a towel-and-sheet inventory. He didn’t land the ending at all; it could have been so funny; I was really disappointed. What do you do about someone who is always finishing your stories for you?

Fat Lip

Dear Fat Lip,

Are the stakes really so high? It was just a story about a neurotic woman at a furniture store. If you can’t get perspective on that, then tell your stories when Hank’s not around. Tell them to the baby. Babies are good listeners, since they can’t talk. Also, you’re probably not as funny as you think you are. Maybe you take people hostage with your long tales, which is really just as rude as interrupting. Your husband is helping you out by cutting you off. Even your letter ran long.

Yours truly,
Miss Manners


film clip is from Naked by Mike Leigh, 1994 (Criterion Collection)

Feb 122013


‘We may reduce almost all the moral instruction which has been or can be given to children to the following formula.

“You must not do that.” “Why not?” “Because it’s naughty.” “What does naughty mean?” “Doing what you are told not to do.” “What harm is there in doing what you are told not to do?” “You will be punished for your disobedience.””Then I shall do it so that no one finds out.” “You will be watched.” “I shall hide.” “You will be asked.” “I shall tell a story.” “But you must not tell stories.” “Why not?” “Because it’s naughty.” “Why is it naughty?”

The circle is inevitable.’

Jean Jacques Rousseau, from Emile


If Mike were raised by panthers, he would stalk around in the high grass and pounce on antelope and deer. If Mike were raised by British royalty, he would pinch bottoms at exclusive parties and run from the press. If Mike were sent to high school, outside of Cleveland, he would answer his teacher’s question when his turn inevitably came. He would try to give a reasonable answer based on the highlighted section of his textbook. And he would realize that even though the Wars of the Roses did definitely happen, and even though European history in the middle ages is recorded fact, it is also utter, irrelevant nonsense which will not come in handy at all when he takes his place in the adult economy of Ohio. He will design pop-up ads for used cars and auto parts. He will succeed.

By then, he won’t behave well to please his mom and dad, or his teachers and coaches, or to avoid their wrath. He will simply have to follow his own moral compass, installed via a system of punishment and reward. And even then, is it the fear of punishment or the hope of reward that keeps him in a straight line? That keeps him from screaming out loud when his wife starts in on him again?

She wants to talk about her feelings; he wants to put on his socks and shoes. That’s what TV is for–to cope with your feelings. Turn it on in the morning, if you have to. That’s what cupcakes are for, beer and wine, coffee, coffee cake, coffee hour, happy hour. He will buy her some earrings. He will eat candy.

Down in the kitchen, she makes a loud noise that is calculated to get his attention. Bang. What? Did you she throw a bag of frozen bagels at the backsplash? Never mind. It’s just a game. It’s one of those games that seems like it will never end. But then it does. One person goes down the chute. The other climbs a ladder. Just like that.



Jan 072013


“My family says: “Don’t ever see him again!” And implies things in a low voice.
But my eyes have their own life; they laugh at rules, and know whose they are.
I believe I can bear on my shoulders whatever you want to say of me.
Without the energy that lifts mountains, how am I to live?”

from “All I Was Doing Was Breathing” by Mirabai, Shiva devotee (1498-1565) found in Women in Praise of the Sacred, ed. Jane Hirshfield (HarperCollins, 1994.)


Are you mad at me? Because you seem mad. I don’t know. Your body language. Your eyes and mouth. You haven’t been laughing at my jokes. Some of them have been funny. You’re sure you’re not mad? Oh, okay. I knew it. What did I say? What? I didn’t say that. When did I say that? Wait, that was more than three weeks ago, when we went to Meg’s party. You can’t be mad at me for that. It doesn’t count anymore. Besides, that means you’ve been chewing on this for three weeks. How am I supposed to look at something as rank as that? The interaction has officially expired. All the planets are in different positions. Stars have exploded. Cells have regenerated. I’m not even the same person. It’s too late.



film clip is from Scanners, dir. by David  Cronenberg, 1981.

Dec 312012



“That sorrow can make one demented may be granted and is hard enough; that there is a strength of will that hauls close enough to the wind to save the understanding, even if the strain turns one slightly odd, that too may be granted. I don’t mean to decry that. But to be able to lose one’s understanding and with it the whole of the finite world whose stockbroker it is, and then on the strength of the absurd get exactly the same finitude back again, that leaves me aghast.”

Soren Kierkegaard, from Fear and Trembling


Who can explain these things? It was an event in a college hockey arena. The house lights were on, and people were mingling around on the ice, except there was no ice. These people weren’t children, but they weren’t adults, either. They were eighteen. They were at that frustrating age where they couldn’t get respect because they didn’t really deserve it.

One of the young women and one of the young men just walked straight up to each other through the crowd. Following some unspoken inner guidance, they both immediately decided to find love there, in that connection. They left the arena together, and their lonely friends tagged along behind them in envy.

Destined or not, the new relationship didn’t work out because the young woman was too prejudiced. A year or so later they tried again, but it didn’t work out because the young man was too immature. Then they tried being best friends, and she rode around in the car with him and his new girlfriend. That didn’t work out; the new girlfriend didn’t like it. The young man came back to her one last time, but by then she was too self-destructive. They drifted apart and found lasting connections with other people, which was mature and sensible. These two were deserving of respect.

That night at the hockey arena, the sense of mutual recognition had meant a hell of a lot. Turns out it didn’t mean what they thought. It didn’t really matter at all. Twenty-five years later, the only people who care about it are the kids the woman had with her eventual husband. Her kids seem to realize that their existence depends on the profound randomness of love. They ask about her phantom boyfriends, who were tried on and later returned to the store. She answers with gusto, speaking over her shoulder to her curious children in the back seat of the car, driving them back and forth on a road so familiar it no longer exists.


Dec 102012

Emil Nolde, Dancer, 1913




from The Complete Rhyming Dictionary The Complete Rhyming Dictionary and Poet's Craft Book (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1936.)


Hey, I saw that video you made. 31 million hits. Wow. That’s a lot of hits. Crazy. People probably think I’m a real jerk, to jilt a girl as pretty and smart as you.

I don’t know. When I’m with someone, the sweat and the smells, the feeling when I say goodbye after breakfast, have a good day. And then I walk up the street. It’s hot as hell; the city smells like fish. Some guy is hosing off the sidewalk in front of his bodega. He doesn’t sell bananas, only plantains. Suds on the pavement. Maybe it all comes down to the way a person tastes. I was just looking for something different.

I’d say you were sweet, but you weren’t; you thought about yourself all the time. My mom thought you were sweet. She heard your song on the radio. She said she always knew you’d make it, because you walked really well in high heels, even though you didn’t need them. She said she hopes you have a friend in her forties out there in L.A. Some nice lady who can show you how to take your makeup off with no hands.

It’s dumb how much people think and talk about love. It’s some kind of permanent curse, and you’re just passing it along. You’ll be alive for a long time after you stop pining away for perfect love. Handsome won’t even matter to you then.

You know how sometimes your parents show you a photo, tell you a story, and then it becomes one of your memories? Even though you were way too young, when they took the photo, to remember anything.

Actually, my mom says you can call her. Her home number is still the same.



(painting by Emil Nolde, Dancers, 1913)