Saturday, December 29, 2007

podrías decirme otra vez

Amado mio ¿podrías decirme otra vez
Que seamos dos personas que
Van a enamorarse?

Deseo oír la historia antes del
Viento frío entre por la
Ventana y apaga nuestra vela.

Quiero escucharla como si
Yo fuera una semillita que no sabe
Los tormentos o las estaciones.

My love, could you tell me again
That we are two people
Who are going to fall in love?

I wish to hear the story before the
Cold wind comes in through the
Window and blows out our candle.

I want to listen as if I were
A tiny seed that does not know about
Storms or seasons.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

pretty porcupine

Chris said I was pretty like a bowl of granola,
and I never quite knew what that meant.

David said I looked pretty with make-up on,
but don’t think it was a compliment.

André called me mon petit chou,
which, I think, is French for “my little cabbage.”

And I thought that Kevin thought I was beautiful,
but one night he told me that I was just average.

Brian said I was pretty even with a mop on my head.
The mop, however, was my new hair cut.

Justin told me I was absolutely gorgeous,
but he was a notorious, conniving male slut.

Juan Carlos told me I had beautiful blue monkey eggs,
so I said maybe we should just speak Spanish instead.

Paul said I had unusually small nostrils,
but who really cares what Paul said?

Kyle told me I was the prettiest older woman
he had ever seen in his young life.

But Jason said I was his smallest porcupine,
and now I am his wife.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

cookie poem

There is no thing
so painfully sweet
as the taste of a cookie
you cannot eat.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

in the beginning: a study in grammatical time

Part One: The Long Version

This is the story about the beginning of the stars, except there really was no beginning so to speak, at least not in the way that we say beginning, because that would imply that time existed before time existed, which it could have, semantically speaking—I mean, we could ask, “What was there before time began?” but this logical lexography just can’t hold up to empirical evidence, which is to say, it was more like a non-beginning with a lot of stuff going on all at once, but the stuff wasn’t there before in the same way that it was there after the big non-beginning of the beginning of the stars and then stars were born, and from star dust, on a molecular level, your hands, my eyes, this page, these words.

Part Two: The Short Version

This is the story about the beginning of the stars. There really was no beginning, so to speak. At least not in the way we say beginning. That would imply that time existed before time existed. It could have existed, semantically speaking. We can ask, “What was there before time began?” But this logical lexography leads nowhere. It just can’t hold up to empirical evidence. In other words, it was more like a non-beginning. But there was a lot of stuff going on. And everything was happening at one time. But the stuff before was different from the stuff after. After the big non-beginning of the beginning, stars were born. And from star dust came hands, eyes, words, this page.

Friday, November 2, 2007

the most important event of the year

If you live anywhere near Portland, or can reach Portland by means of any available transportation, you belong at the spectacular SUPPORTLAND event on Sunday night Novemenber 11th for the most important event of the year.

Please feel free to forward these websites to everyone you know! If you need directions or have any questions, leave a comment and I'll be in touch. See you there.

Monday, October 22, 2007

i’ll have a bug sandwich with that latte, please

I am in the middle of a Puerto Rican rainforest eating a bug sandwich because a tree frog landed on my arm when I was four. We exchanged petrified glances, it leapt away, and I spent the next twenty-plus years of my life believing that the tiny red-eyed amphibian was some manifestation of The Great Cosmos, sent to instill in me an insatiable sense of wonder at the natural world, and bestow upon me my duty and calling in this life: Save the rainforests.

I lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico until I was five and I remember Puerto Rico well; although the memories are distinctly, and unalterably, from the perspective of a child who was too young to be unnerved by giant flying cockroaches, and who was thrilled when the little geckoes scampered off, leaving their tails behind in my hands. The Puerto Rico I knew had a coconut tree, a banana tree, a couple of pet parakeets (all named Charlie), some fireflies, and a tree frog. It also had a tropical rainforest, the place where said tree frog came briefly into my life and unwittingly changed the course of it forever.

Growing up, and continuing into my adult years, I studied plants, biology, and rainforest everything with intense passion and dreamed of returning to the rainforest one day. I also longed to return to Puerto Rico—the Puerto Rico that consisted of a coconut tree, a banana tree, a couple of Charlie’s, some fireflies, and a tree frog.

In December of 2005, I returned to the first place I knew as home. I came to Las Casas de la Selva, the site for the Rainforest Enrichment Project, as a volunteer research assistant with the EarthWatch Institute. I had signed up months in advance and happily maxed out credit cards to purchase plane tickets and requisite jungle gear. “I’m going to be a botanist,” I repeated to myself every time I left the outdoor store with another bag of camping miscellany and truly ugly outdoor clothing, “I’ll need all this stuff.” The opportunity to become actively involved in rainforest conservation was a dream come true, utterly priceless.

After arriving at base camp in the southeastern mountains of Puerto Rico, it took less than two minutes for me to realize that Puerto Rico had changed a lot over the last two decades. Namely, it had a lot more bugs than I remembered, and a lot less indoor plumbing.

I stepped off the bus transporting the volunteers to the site, strolled toward the dining hut, took in the grand sight of fresh salsa and yucca chips, and THWACK! Big, black bug in the eye. It was huge, not your average garden variety fungus gnat. And I have eyeball phobia—I’m afraid of mine and yours. My hands flew up to my face and I blindly asked whoever-was-there-no-one-in-particular where the bathroom was.

I felt less than comfortable in my rainforest surroundings given that I just had to hold my eye open and pull a giant insect out of it, but I had only been there for a couple minutes, and I knew I had a full ten days of dodging insects ahead of me. I figured I’d wash the bug germs off my hands and rejoin the group as if I were a rugged outdoorsy type who was used to this sort of thing.

It’s difficult to get that clean feeling from an icy cold trickle, roughly the diameter of a spaghetti noodle, and a bar of natural soap that, until your unsuspecting hand came upon it, served as an overstuffed sofa for a squishy little lump of baby lizard. Baaadd neeewws, I reflected, I’ll just dry my hands on this old pink towel, carefully avoid the sleeping towel frogs nestled in the folds, and make haste for my hand sanitizer. Now, I realize that facing the prospect of not being able to wash one’s hands for the next ten days may not induce the same hyper-neurotic, paralytic dementia in everyone. It just so happens that if I were asked to describe what I thought hell was like, I would answer that hell is having perpetually dirty hands combined with an eternity of inadequate water pressure.

After the first fairly challenging day, I was able to adjust to my surroundings as well as any plumbing-loving urbanite could reasonably be expected to. I was secretly proud of myself and continued to harbor visions of botanizing in ugly jungle pants. Then I went frogging.

We had been frogging all night in the rain, and when the rain subsided we gathered on the forest floor for a nice packed-lunch dinner of fix-it-yourself sandwiches and granola bars. I was fond of the fix-it-myself sandwich because it meant that I never had to suffer the wretched substance that is mayonnaise. I could skip it and opt for the mustard. I could also forfeit my portions of deli meat and elect to subsist on cheese alone. On this night, we had worked hard and I was extremely hungry—so hungry that I was tempted to barter bandanas and duct tape for crusts and lettuce.

I first noticed the sandwich being eaten by a fellow volunteer sitting across from me. The narrow beam from my headlamp became a spotlight on the grotesque. The sandwich was no longer a sandwich, but rather a veritable menagerie of swarming organisms. I quickly turned the spotlight to the half-eaten sandwich I held in my own hand. It was covered with a thick, dark layer of moving insects. No white bread in sight.

Staring down at the abhorrent spectacle I held in my hand, two opposing forces battled for supremacy: Everything I Believe To Be True and Hunger. EIBTBT declared, “That. Is. Dis. Gus. Ting! Throw it into the trees, now!” But Hunger countered sensibly, “You’re hungry, you’ve already eaten half of it, and it doesn’t seem to be bothering anyone else. So what’s the big deal?” Much to my surprise, I switched off my headlamp and finished eating my bug sandwich.

As we made our way toward base camp that evening, tromping through razor grass on steep, muddy slopes, the rain returned in full tropical force. It cleared the atmosphere of the congested flying insect traffic, and I could finally breathe. I could smell the rainforest smell I remembered from my childhood, there’s nothing like it. Looking out through the rain-induced clarity, I noticed that I could identify plant species even in the dark. I could differentiate between the shapes of leaves in shadows, and between the subtle, myriad shades of green. And amid tumbling gallops through tangled understory, I was struck with that sensation I had upon my first meeting with a tree frog: pure wonder. This forest is home to an inconceivable variety of life. It is extraordinary. And the truth is, it may not survive civilization.

I have yet to reconcile my city-mouse sensibilities with my impassioned devotion to rainforest conservation since, it would seem, to be a good conservationist, I would actually need to spend more time in the rainforest—with the bugs and without plumbing. Could I ever learn to get used to it? Could I go back with an open mind, cast off my preconceived notions of cleanliness and expand my definition of edible for a higher purpose? for justice? for the rainforest? My mother, who has remarked that I could never live in a city that didn’t have a certain famed, ubiquitous coffee shop on EVERY block, thinks this is highly improbable. “You have never liked camping,” she reminds me. And she’s right. Sometime between my first encounter with a tree frog and my last, I developed into an obsessive-compulsive city-girl with eyeball phobia and an incorrigible desire to do something good for my first true love, the natural world.

When asked recently if I would go back, I answered with a hesitant, “Ummm, yeah . . .” Then, suddenly remembering that I’m still paying for the abundant stash of jungle gear at the back of my closet, I added, “of course I would.”

With plenty of bug repellent.

Monday, October 1, 2007

dropped off the edge off the world?

Actually just the continent. But I'm back and I'm way up in my Spanish vocabulary and minus all my luggage. Which would you rather have?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

a brief history

I like relativity and quantum theories
because I don’t understand them
and they make me feel as if space shifted about like a swan that
can’t settle,
refusing to sit still and be measured;
and as if the atom were an impulsive thing
always changing its mind.

~ D. H. Lawrence

I have a Swiss cheese kind of science background—substantially rich in some places, holes in other places. Explain why a clock ticks faster as it nears the event horizon, no problem; add numbers larger than the amount of fingers I have, that’s asking a lot. Bifurcate a logistic equation, sure; multiply fractions . . . I have no idea how to multiply fractions.

Among the many and varied causes of this Swiss discrepancy are two major contributors: The first is the jerk who sat behind me in 7th grade math class. Jerk put bugs in my hair unbeknownst to me until sometime toward the end of class when the bugs migrated from my head and commenced roaming the rest of my topography. The discomfort caused by the insects was negligent compared to the devastating humiliation caused by sneering, pointing peers, so, I never went back. Hence, a mathematical education that does not exceed the 7th grade level, and, holes. I quit going to the rest of my classes shortly thereafter, having concluded that school was for learning about humiliation, fear, and self-loathing, and not where I could learn about what makes clouds look the way they do or how those rings around Saturn got there in the first place. A few bad years and a lot of dangerous substances later, I re-entered school as high school student, where I met the second major contributor.

Pete taught science classes at the alternative high school I attended, introduced me to what would become an insatiable, absorbing passion for scientific understanding, and saved my life. I was fortunate enough to attend Pete’s Space Science class where I discovered that I was not stupid, just miseducated, and that science, more than anything else, yielded the most satisfactory answers to my insufferable and growing tower of mostly unanswerable questions. Thus began some filling in of the empty spaces.

I became addicted to Scientific American. I read Asimov, Feynman, Hawking, Gribbin, and Davies. I read about atoms, relativity, quantum theories, chaos theories, Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, the paradox of self-referential systems, history of science, and philosophy of science. I even received a [fancy tech school] “Medal of Achievement in Math and Science” and a small scholarship because the admissions committee assumed I had the mathematical qualifications due to the high level of promise I demonstrated in my science classes.

In college I took all the chemistry, physics, astronomy, biology, and botany classes I could take without calculus prerequisites and taught myself the math I needed on a case by case basis. I am in love with covalent bonding, I dream chemical reactions, and I have a veritable encyclopedia of astronomical and botanical lore and nomenclature stored in my brain.

When I enrolled in college for the first time (a long time ago), I fully intended to be a Physics major and go on to become a Professor of Physics. I registered for pre-algebra three times and finally passed on the fourth try. I was yet undaunted and still cultivated dreams of theoretical physics notoriety. I would say that naivety is the mother of courage. During the subsequent decade of my on-again-off-again college career I would register and withdraw from college algebra more times than I have fingers. However, because I understand now that learning mathematics requires a step ladder process, and I could not seem to leap up even to the bottom rung, I finally gave up trying to take college algebra—bye-bye Physics major, hello Arts and Letters.

I still want to become a Physics Professor. I took Complexity in the Universe I with the noted physicist Dr. Semura and more than once he suggested I become a Physics Professor. I take this to be the greatest compliment I have/will ever receive in my life-time. I followed up with Complexity in the Universe II and discovered that I really enjoy writing science based, big questions, what-does-it-all-mean-reflection stuff. So, what does an Arts and Letters major who loves science but can’t add, and who loves writing but wants a steady income, grow up to be? A restaurant manager. An art school applicant. An avid “science for the lay person” reader. And maybe, someday, a poet.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

letting go: a lesson in resumptive modifiers

She couldn’t have known how the stars would burst behind her eyes when she finally let the night fall, a night that would have been thankful for a moon or two to keep it from collapsing so utterly.

So this is the way it comes down, she thought, heavily.

So with the night fallen to its knees all around her, and stars exploding, she resolved to finally pick up some of the pieces of the day, pieces that had broken up and scattered themselves years ago in the pallid litter of a languishing room. But beneath the unbearable dark, her hands were hers, were responsible for letting go of the rope, were gathering shards of light and slivers of remembrance.

She searched for solace. She searched for some consolation.

She sought string and tail feathers in the ruble and promised to fashion a proper kite, a kite that was tangible enough to pull the night up off its knees, and fly through the prevailing headwinds, trailing the heft of time behind it.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

the orrery

Round and round
the planets go, the planets go
without a sound. Without a sound,
the planets go, the planets go
round and round.

Round and round
the moon circles, the moon circles
without a sound. Without a sound,
the moon circles, the moon circles
round and round.

Round and round
the sun spins, the sun spins
without a sound. Without a sound,
the sun spins, the sun spins
round and round.

Round and round
the planets go, the planets go
without a sound. Without a sound,
the planets go, the planets go
round and round.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

so, what am i going to do with my bachelor's degree in arts & letters? exactly what i should've done fourteen years ago

Dear Admissions Committee:

My life goals and career goals are intertwined: wake up on most days and create something (life), and get paid for my creation (career). Actually, I have to wake up and be creative or I devolve into a melancholic killjoy who doesn’t get invited to art openings or cocktail parties. I know this to be a fact of my existence and therefore am confident that my career must involve creative pursuit.

I need a job that allows me to reconcile my internal inclinations with the demands of living in reality, to any extent that this is possible, and I strongly believe that self-employment is the answer to this conundrum. Also, I am certain that I excel when I combine my analytical skills and artistic faculties to communicate abstract ideas. So, ideally, I would like to become a self-employed, skilled communicator of abstract ideas rendered in aesthetically pleasing ways. I have known this for many years and pursued writing as one avenue toward this goal; however, it seems to me that words alone are fairly limited in what they can say. But a single word set in a stunning font, or paired with a particular shade of green, can be a very powerful messenger.

I believe an education at [fancy art school] would give me both the artistic foundation and technical training that I need to pursue a career as a creative professional. I am also excited about the opportunities provided by [fancy art school] to learn from experienced professionals and become involved in Portland’s art community. I think there can be no substitute for peer critiques to foster growth and generate quality, and looking at a sample of the work produced by students at [fancy art school], it is obvious that excellence presides in the learning environment.

I feel I have a strong creative intuition, but I know that I am lacking the skills necessary to execute a visual message to the best of my ability. I believe that my education at [fancy art school] will give me the skills to become the artist that I am. E. E. Cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” It also takes time and a lot of money, but it sure beats growing up to become who you really aren’t.

Thank you very much for your time. Sincerely,

Thursday, August 16, 2007

the day before my last day of a fourteen-year Bachelor’s degree: order of events

9:37am: miss the bus, walk/run to my first job
9:45am: realize that I rubbed make-up remover all over my face instead of moisturizer
10:05am: arrive five minutes late to my first job
10:05am-1:00pm: teach writing, my students thank me and hug me, I cry. I love my students.
1:22 pm: miss street car, run/walk home
2:00pm or so: eat gigantic bowl of chili with half a diced onion on top while writing final paper
2:thirtyish: notice my kitty’s eye is swollen shut and watering
2:thirtyish: minor kitty freak-out, call vet, resume paper writing
4:14pm: not finished with paper, not dressed for second job, call work and tell them I’ll be five minutes late, finish paper
4:19pm: walk out the door and see bus going by, RUN, look down to make sure I have put pants on
4:35pm: arrive five minutes late to second job, fully dressed. Brush teeth (at work).
4:35pm: manage a restaurant, train a manager, host a restaurant, train a hostess, make people calm and happy in high-stress situations (can I put that on my resume?).
7:15: trusted colleague offers mints, I accept.
Around 9:00pm: fire manager trainee, go home
9:46pm: eat fried plantains, the most delicious food I have ever eaten
11:42pm: drink glass of wine, revise and edit final paper
1:33am: can’t sleep

Friday, August 10, 2007

senior thesis: not sure if this even remotely answers the question

I will be graduating this term with a BA in Arts and Letters because I never could pick just one discipline in which to focus my academic study. When I began my college career over a decade ago, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. The problem was that, at the time, Harvard was the only school offering a degree program in Ethnobotany. Harvard does not accept poor kids from alternative High Schools who haven’t taken a math class since the seventh grade and who still think SAT is short for satisfactory. Denver Community college does. So I began to study biology (the “botany” part) and anthropology (the “ethno” part) with great determination and even greater delusions. I wanted to become The Best Ethnobotanist in the World.

The idea is simple: Save the rainforests. The only way to save the rainforests is to find something that the world will recognize as a valuable commodity and sell it, without destroying the forests in the process. Medicine yields an extremely high return on investment and can be extracted from the vegetation with minimal impact. And everyone in the world needs medicine. So the really interesting thing about plant medicine from the rainforest is that the indigenous rainforest people are the experts. And the really interesting thing about indigenous rainforest people is, well, everything; not the least is a perception of reality that is completely foreign to a poor girl with a questionable education.

So, one discipline led to the next in my quest to become The Best Ethnobotanist in the World: Biology led to chemistry led to physics led to astronomy led to logic led to philosophy, etc. And on the Arts side, anthropology led to politics led to language led to literature led to writing. . . Throw in a bunch of full time jobs, a couple moves across the country, military service, marriage, divorce, and a life-time of debt, and all this culminates in a Bachelor of Arts in Arts and Letters.

So what can be said about the perceptual lens of my discipline? My “discipline” came about haphazardly as a result of the desire to protect what I love. Throughout my studies I have encountered obstacles and opposition, but the original intent is still intact. I will graduate with a BA in BS, failed attempts, hard feelings, no math skills, my goals unreached and ultimately unattainable, but I still want to save the rainforests. And I know just how many disciplines it may take to reach the world.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

my prayer

God (or whomever) grant me a sense of humor
To accept the things that surprise me,

The ability to laugh
When I surprise myself,

And a great smile
When I have nothing else.

Monday, August 6, 2007

taming of the shrewd perfectionist

I have a secret weapon against the shrewd perfectionist. A little tid-bit I was lucky enough to come across in a book about the publishing business written by a prominent New York editor: A good writer will write 98% total crap in his or her career and only 2% not total crap. That 2% comprises such works as Moby Dick and Sons and Lovers. But I suspect it took Melville and Lawrence a whole lot of crap to get there. This same editor (whose prominent name escapes me at the moment) also divulged the following gossamer shred of aspiring writer hope. Referring to the majority of manuscripts he receives, the author claims that “Yoda better syntax had.” Ha! Take that deliverer of non-encouraging words.

Since I now wield a nice percentage ratio, I figure I can commit to writing total crap for most of my career and somewhere therein should be a nice 2% of not total crap that I can extract, put on display, and say, “See, I’m a good writer!” and no one else will ever know the depths of the foul language from whence it came. Also, I’m quite certain I syntax have better than Yoda.

And so do you.

As a writing tutor, the most common introduction I hear is, “I know this is really awful. I’m a terrible writer.” Not even a hello or my name is. And this I have learned to respond to with complete silence. I hand over a pencil and explain that sometimes it’s easier to see things with a pencil in your hand. Something about putting the physical activity of holding a pencil together with the isolation that normally accompanies the writing process seems to bring about a keener awareness of the connection between the words on a page and the ideas in the mind. I try to make it clear that when we look over a piece of writing, we are trying to make sure that the sentence on the page actually says the sentence that’s in the head.

This is a two-way journey, of course. Sometimes you don’t know what your head thinks until you see it on the page. This is why I write: To figure out what the hell it is I want to say. And this is precisely where that 98% crap comes in handy. It often takes an entire essay of really bad writing to find out just what, exactly, your point is. And if you don’t spend that valuable 98% getting to the 2% that actually says something, how else will you ever get there?

Certainly not by believing that you don’t know how to write or that your writing is really terrible. Writing is a skill, just like cooking, that can be learned. Sure there are probably better cooks out there than you, a writer always has Shakespeare to live up to, but no one else can make exactly the same thing, ever. And no one else can ever think the same things in the same way. So, don’t stop yourself from finding out what you think before you begin. And then, when you know what you think, try to make your sentences reflect your thoughts as accurately as possible. We’re not aiming for world-changing grammar; just a sentence that makes sense. The rest will follow.

Remember, we have a nice and friendly ratio to work with. Commit to your own 98% crap with clarity and accuracy. Try to connect the act of thinking with the act of writing. Tell the shrewd perfectionist that you’ve got work to do. Then go to your writing tutor and learn about semicolons.

Friday, August 3, 2007

una estrofa para mi insomniodoro (translation follows, corrections welcome)

Amado mío, por la madrugada,
Tu no dormir es un pájaro dañado,
Asustado de sus propias alas que baten.

Mi despertar es un nido
Musgoso y húmedo por rocío—
Esperando, pero demasiado pequeño
Para contener todo tu insomnio.

My love, in the early morning,
Your un-sleeping is an injured bird,
Afraid of its own beating wings.

My waking is a dew-damp,
Mossy nest—
Waiting, but too small to hold
All of your sleeplessness.

Monday, July 30, 2007

paul thinks the moon is boring

O cold marred magma, O turning pitted gibbous!
Your elliptical eccentricity, your diurnal libration,
Is strikingly inconsequential
To our insipid imagination.

I was first introduced to astronomy when my father told me to walk in a circle around a small fern to demonstrate how we see the phases of the moon from Earth. This was the most incredible thing I had discovered in my four years on this planet, and the only thing to trump the small green lizards whose tails came off in my hands and then grew back again.

Two years later my father built his own telescope in our attic. He even ground his own lens. That was a couple decades ago, but I can still recall the smell of whatever the sticky-smooth, orangish substance was that he used to polish the glass.

Then I saw the rings of Saturn. They were really out there, just like all the books said they would be. What about Pluto? Or comets? Were they really out there, too? And how did those rings around Saturn get there anyway? And why are there craters on the moon? I remember believing then that all the answers were already known, and that all I had to do was read enough books in order to discover them. This belief soon proved false, but not before I had come across enough unanswerable questions to lead me to General Relativity at a relatively young age.

For some reason, the notion of gravity as a consequence of the curvature of space-time was much easier for me to grasp, and a lot more interesting, than some other more fundamental concepts immediately applicable to life. Fractions, for example, were completely lost on me, as was the generally agreed upon notion that science was not cool and MTV was. Even now, I can’t add fractions, or dress the fashion, but I can explain why a clock would tick faster as it approaches the event horizon.

And even though I’ve been thinking about the fabric of space-time and event horizons for longer than some of my classmates have been alive, I still find the subject matter infinitely fascinating. In fact, I don’t know what could be more fascinating than an impossible-to-ponder-all-the-possibilities universe right outside our window—except, maybe, those tiny tail-falls-off-and-grows-back-again lizards.

So, speaking of infinitely fascinating subject matter, I was shocked to hear a friend of mine say recently, “The moon is so boring, it would be better if we could project movies on it . . . or something.” I do realize that I am a prisoner of my own perception paradigm, but even so, it had never occurred to me before that someone might find the moon to be a boring thing. To my way of seeing things, this was blasphemy, absurd, and untrue. All my wonder, curiosity, passion for science, appreciation of the natural world—my solace within the confines of unnatural surroundings—it all began with the phases of the moon. When I look up at the glowing, pitted gibbous today, I am no less astounded than I was when I was four.

I felt sad for my friend and for our closest lunar relative. I wondered what it would be like to be a prisoner of a perception paradigm that did not include moon-magic. Was Saturn boring too? The constellations? I felt like I was in sixth grade again, when all the kids thought that I was boring, and I thought, Sometimes I am more at home in the universe than I am among my own peers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

the beginning of the end of a very long journey

She thought she had been traveling for as long as she could remember, which was a very long time because the seabird had a very good memory, but the ever-questing seabird had finally come to rest.

She knew she was home because she wasn’t looking for it anymore.

Friday, July 20, 2007

on the scale of things, relatively speaking

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stares—on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

~Robert Frost

Which is more vast and complex: the universe or the human experience of it? I never can decide. I imagine that this would be easier to determine if we had a highly sensitive vastnesscope with which to detect the average vastness absorption spectra of any given system—lots of blue in that open-system universe, some yellow showing up in that closed minded individual. A complexity scale would come in handy, too. How complex is the universe? Oh, it weighs in at about 257 VLU (very large units), that’s a little bit more than a medium sized orange, and a little bit less than my cat.

Now that I think about it, what I really need is an unfathometer so I could ask, “Hey, Todd, how unfathomable is the night sky?” And Todd could answer within a 5° ± accuracy range, “Well, seems to be about 81° RU (ridiculously unfathomable)." Of course my next question would be, “Hey, Todd, how unfathomable am I?” And Todd would tell me to place the unfathometer under my tongue for six to eight minutes to get a good reading. I presume I am a great deal unfathomable, but then, so are cypress trees and leaf-cutter ants. Which makes me wonder, Is insignificance scale invariant?

Recently, my cosmic imagination has been stuck in a scale invariant rut. All the usual late night ruminations about vastness, complexity, and other such unfathomable things, eventually wind up falling into my scale invariance memory basin. I think this is because the relation between scale invariance and fractional dimensionality puts a significant twist in the paradox of nondenumerable infinity and seems to lead to the satisfactory conclusion that, indeed, something can come from nothing. This is a very big thing, as far as I can tell, since apparently the coming into existence of the entire universe rests on this single, difficult-to-accept concept.

Also, it seems to me that some species of information may be scale invariant, and depending on what form the scale invariant information takes on, or more accurately, what kind and how many quantum particles the information is made of, I think it’s possible that the universe could have been planning on me for the last 13.7 or so billion years. Not that this would make me any more significant than the onion I chopped up and put on my pizza; the universe would have had to have been planning on that onion too, and this I must concede if I am to be a non-discriminating scale invariant information theory maker-upper.

So the real stickler is that even if I’m right about this whole S.I.I.T (scale invariant information theory) thing, which may have absolutely no scientific basis whatsoever but it’s my imagination so I can make up whatever I want, I still come around to the inevitable question of significance. The reality of my own insignificance on the universal scale is something that used to bother me a lot as a kid. Perhaps this early, intimate familiarity with ultimate futility is what compelled me to begin questioning the nature of the universe, and human experience, in the first place.

Today, however, I have learned to reconcile the knowledge of my insignificance on the universal scale with the understanding of my significance on a much smaller scale. Namely, the one that consists of me, myself, and my cats. I love my cats, and to them I am rescuer, food giver, care taker, pooper scooper, adopted mother, and basically god. That’s significant enough for me to sleep at night. After, of course, I contemplate vastness and complexity, the human experience of the universe, and the necessity of an unfathometer.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

places i have lived

1. Small house (apartment?); Lakewood, CO
2. Coast Guard housing; San Juan, Puerto Rico
3. Coast Guard apartment; Queens, NY
4. Rental house on Aqueduct; Littleton, CO
5. Grandma’s basement; Littleton, CO
6. Pulte townhome; Parker, CO
7. Mom’s apartment; Littleton, CO
8. Dad’s townhome; Parker, CO
9. St. Luke’s Loony Bin; Denver, CO
10. Mom’s apartment; Littleton, CO
11. Ron’s house; Littleton, CO
12. In my truck; Various Cities; CA, OR, WA
13. Emily Dickinson studio; Denver, CO
14. Emily Dickinson studio (corner unit); Denver, CO
15. Ron’s house; Littleton, CO
16. Pearl St. studio; Denver, CO
17. In my truck; Davis, CA
18. Weird apartment; Davis, CA
19. Matt’s apartment; Sacramento, CA
20. Tiny studio; Sacramento, CA
21. Ron’s house; Littleton, CO
22. Logan St. one bedroom; Denver, CO
23. US Coast Guard basic training; Cape May, NJ
24. With Nicholas Hartshorne (deceased: Thank You, Nicholas!); Portland, OR
25. Irving studio; Portland, OR
26. Glisan house; Portland, OR
27. With Andre; Snohomish, WA
28. Seattle house; Seattle, WA
29. Seattle house #2 (with bitchy lady); Seattle, WA
30. Gordon’s studio; Portland, OR
31. Nob Hill studio; Portland, OR
32. Weird house; Portland, OR
33. High-rise; Portland, OR
34. Vista St. High-rise; Portland, OR
35. The Adeline studio; Portland, OR
36. Condo; Portland, OR
37. The Adeline studio (again); Portland, OR

Monday, July 16, 2007

professional ice-cream eater (the one that earned me a "B" in advanced poetry writing)

Did I ever tell you
about the marvelous day
I ate ninety two scoops of ice-cream
before they melted away?

You may say, “That’s impossible!
A truly astonishing feat,
to eat a ninety two scoop dripping, slipping,
tipping tower of sweet!”

Well, that’s just what I did
and I’m here to tell the tale,
so gather in close
and listen up well.

It wasn’t that easy, no
it took some preparation:
Lots of sleep, some TV, and proper
ice-cream eating education.

I slept in on Monday,
I slept in on Tuesday too—
I would have slept in Wednesday,
but I had some practicing to do.

I went out to the ice-cream shop
and ordered up a single.
I ate that scoop so fast, indeed
my tongue began to tingle.

I ordered one more scoop
(I had to work on my technique)
to overcome the trouble
with a cone that has a leak.

I watched TV on Thursday
to give my teeth a rest.
After weeks of eating ice-cream cones,
I thought that would be best.

On Friday I was ready,
my days of practicing were through.
I wouldn’t stop at seventy,
I would eat all ninety two!

As I walked up to the counter
I felt a shiver in my knees,
“Ninety two different scoops
on an ice-cream cone, please.”

Strawberry, peanut butter, pistachio, rocky road,
caramel, coconut, and cherry a la mode.
Mint chocolate chip, cookies and cream,
butter pecan, and fudge truffle supreme.

Blueberry cheesecake, coffee almond swirl,
peppermint, peach, and raspberry whirl.
Banana surprise, chocolate chip cookie dough,
(Could you spare me the scoop of vanilla though? Yuk.)

I took that ice-cream cone in hand
and smiled because I had a plan:
Eat a little from the top, and a little from the bottom,
when I reach the middle, I’ll have eaten the whole lot of `em.

My plan worked quite well,
I am happy to say.
I ate all ninety two scoops
before they melted away.

People looked at me in awe,
they clapped and cheered and sang, “Hurrah!”
I handed out my business card to everyone on the street,
“Professional Ice-Cream Eater, My Business is a Treat.”

Saturday, July 14, 2007

i don't like gum

I don't see the point of chewing something that isn't food. Which brings me to my next point: It's not food. You're not supposed to swallow it. And I don't know about you but I believed them when they told me if you swallowed gum it would stay in your stomach forever, or for seven years or something. So I never chewed gum becuase I was afraid I might accidently swallow it and spend the rest of my life with gum in my stomach. How could you accidently swallow it? you ask. Well I'm not sure but that's what I was afraid of and the last time I chewed gum, which was five years ago, I accidently swallowed it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

my first true love

I have read somewhere, “I know a woman who would marry a poem,” though I cannot remember who said it, or who it was said about, and after having searched now in all the possible books in my collection, I shall have to quote the line here and appropriate the author as soon as I come across it again. Perhaps it was Browning about Browning, or Yeats about Maud, but now that I think about it, it may have been someone about Edna St. Vincent Millay. I’m not sure.

I am sure that it could have been written about me, by anyone who might know me well enough, or even by someone who has known me briefly but has heard me speak of my favorite poem. Anyone would surely have noticed the devoted reverence and singular, empathetic adoration in my voice.

I would marry a poem if I could and I know which one I would take to be my lawful, wedded husband.

I found Tennyson’s “Flower in the crannied wall” when I was fifteen, just before I was admitted to the juvenile loony bin for being, admittedly, a juvenile lunatic. I came across it as I was studying for the literature part of the GED examination. I was actually searching for the answer to a question about "Daddy" and in doing so I had just discovered Sylvia Plath, and that she rose with her red hair and ate “men like air,” which I thought was very interesting.

But when I found “Flower in the crannied wall” I thought that someone else before had felt exactly the same way that I do; that I was not alone; that maybe it was ok to have so many questions and so few answers; that I had found a tiny sliver of miraculous beauty in a dark, dark world; that I had found myself, my soul, and my true love.

Tennyson’s little flower saved my life. I even graduated from high-school.

We have been together ever since and I think we shall be ’til death do us part.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

everybody read

Reading is extremely important to me but I hadn’t noticed the extent to which reading has been a cornerstone of my entire life until I thought about it for an assignment. It all began with some star bellied Sneetches who had “bellies with stars” and some plain bellied Sneetches who had “none upon thars.” My mother must have read Dr. Seuss’s Sneetches and Other Stories to me a million times when I was very young because I had it memorized before I could actually read the words.

These stories and their lessons are an integral part of my moral composition.

From The Sneetches and Other Stories I learned not to judge others by their appearances or differences; I learned that stubbornness can keep you stuck in one place while the whole world goes on around you; I learned that sometimes you don’t do the right thing and now it’s just too late; I learned not to fear something just because I might not understand it completely. I don’t know who I would be today if my ethics weren’t firmly grounded in the teachings of Sneetches, but I perhaps wouldn’t have grown up to be such an ardent advocate for the lives and rights of indigenous people around the globe.

I also loved the music of Dr. Seuss. His books incited a love for words, lyricism, literature, and, ultimately, poetry in all its incarnations. I have read that Dylan Thomas and W. H. Auden cite Edward Lear and nursery rhymes as their first poetic influences so I don’t feel so ashamed of admitting to my totally un-academic primary influence at this point. Besides, the Sneetches led to Winnie-the-pooh, which led to E. B. White (and consequently, as far as moral composition goes, vegetarianism), which eventually led to Jack London, Herman Melville, Shakespeare, Tennyson, and D. H. Lawrence, to name a few influential favorites.

But more than a moral compass and few fancy literary references, reading gave me worlds to explore, ideas to ponder, opinions to disagree with, new ways to see reality, and sanctuary. I didn’t grow up with television or friends; I grew up with books and what I found in them became everything to me. I still count the tubby bear with very little brain as one of my oldest and dearest friends and I return to visit frequently. I truly am what I read.

In my experience, reading has always been a solitary endeavor. Prior to my introduction to the Everybody Reads program, I had not considered the widespread implications of a group of people reading and discussing the same book outside of academe. It seems to me now that this particular project has the potential to connect individuals in a community in profound ways. Most fundamentally, if only for a brief time, reading the same book gives all kinds of different people something in common. Even if ideas and opinions about the book differ, an incredibly diverse population may be linked through an artistic medium.

Suddenly, the businesswoman has something in common with the server who is delivering the wine. And the city commissioner has something in common with me. It seems a venerable platform for inciting communication across social boundaries.

I am interested in the different ways to communicate a message to a diverse population, but I am especially drawn to the mission of Everybody Reads because of the message of next year's chosen book A Long Way Gone. I feel a personal attachment to the plight of Ishmael Beah because I’ve had a close friend who was a Sudanese war refugee. Ojulu and I were coworkers in a commercial greenhouse and we spent long, extremely hot hours together doing difficult labor, learning to communicate, planting seeds, trading stories, laughing, and we even once prayed for a crop of canna lilies that we accidentally planted upside down.

Ojulu taught me to suspend my preconditioned notions of the way the world works, and I tried to teach him how to drive. He had a bullet wound in his ear and scars the size and shape of small pebbles all over the side of his head from shrapnel. Ojulu was fluent in five languages, and rapidly learning English, and had dreams of becoming a doctor. Still, customers would walk in to the greenhouse and shout at him as if he were deaf, dumb, or no more a person than the shrubbery they were shopping for.

I know that what Ojulu suffered in his life is unimaginable. I know that he continues to suffer from the war and he always will. Witnessing the cruel treatment he endured in the place that was supposed to offer safety and relief from the cruelty of his homeland was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I have hope that Ishmael’s story may enlighten a public, provoke empathy, and instill compassion so that others like him will be safe here and offered the respect and solace that they deserve so much.

Maybe the community reading of A Long Way Gone will change some people’s minds and attitudes. Maybe it will cause one person to think before he or she assumes something about a person’s life based on the color of their skin. Maybe communication can create change.

Maybe the world would be a better place if everybody read The Sneetches.

Monday, July 2, 2007

question, asked with as many infinitive verb forms as possible

I learned how to roller skate forward and backward and how to round my corners to pick up speed. I finally learned how to control the tips of my skis, although I never could understand how to make them come to a complete stop. I learned how to do long division and then I learned how to multiply fractions, but now I can’t remember how to do either one. I learned to sing in key, but only when no one was listening. I like to play the guitar, but I haven’t in a while because I can’t remember where I put it. I wrote a couple songs, but I forgot how to play them. I learned how to iron, get a job, wait tables in a fancy restaurant. Later I learned that I didn’t want to wait tables. But it was too late. I learned how to make the best of things. I wanted to travel extensively, but I settled for seldomly. I wanted an education but first I had to figure out how to pay for one. It took a while to learn how to work and go to school at the same time. I learned how to overcome obstacles. I wanted to defeat the dragon, but instead we called a truce. I learned how to bear impossible burdens. Then I learned how to adopt homeless kittens and feed them and give them a good home. I learned how to make lasagna and how to bake chocolate chip cookies. But what I really want to know is, does anybody know how to unwrap the damn CD celophane wrapper?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

tres colores (translation follows but i'm still learning so it might not be perfect)

No tengo palabras bastantes
Para decirte como la poesía
Me hace una mujer loca como
Una gata que tiene hambre.

Solamente puedo tratar de
Mostrarte el color de la noche
Y mi alma que esta llorando
Porque no tengo palabras bastantes.

Amado mío, cuando estoy contigo
Yo puedo oír los latidos
De mi corazón.
Y cuando no estoy contigo
Yo puedo oír los latidos
De mi corazón.

Soy un pajarito del mar
Atrapado entre
Amor salado del mar y
Libertad sosa de azul.

Escribo para que
Yo puedo decir lo que no puedo decir.
Escribo en español para contar la verdad.

Three Colors

I don’t have enough words
To tell you how poetry
Makes me a crazy woman
Like a hungry cat.

I can only try to show you
The color of night
And my soul crying
Because I don’t have enough words.

My love, when I am with you
I can hear the beating of my heart.
And when I am not with you,
I can hear the beating of my heart.

I am a tiny sea-bird
Trapped between
Salty sea-love and
Bland, blue freedom.

I write so that
I can say the things I cannot say.
I write in Spanish to tell the truth.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

split personality

Obsessive-compulsive Urbanite Goes to the Jungle

I stepped off the volunteer bus, took tired strides toward the dining hut, and THWACK! Big, nasty bug in the eye. It was huge, not your average garden variety fungus gnat. And I have eyeball phobia—I’m afraid of mine and yours. My hands flew up to my face and I blindly asked whoever-was-there-no-one-in-particular where the bathroom was.

It’s difficult to get that clean feeling from an icy cold trickle, roughly the diameter of a spaghetti noodle, and a bar of natural soap that until your unsuspecting hand came upon it, served as an overstuffed sofa for a squishy little lump of baby lizard. Baaadd neeewws, I reflected, I’ll just dry my hands on this old pink towel, carefully avoid the sleeping towel frogs nestled in the folds, and make haste for my hand sanitizer.

Now, I realize that facing the prospect of not being able to wash one’s hands for the next ten days may not induce the same hyper-neurotic, paralytic dementia in everyone. It just so happens that if I were asked to describe what I thought hell was like, I would answer that hell is having perpetually dirty hands combined with an eternity of inadequate water pressure.

Passionate Naturalist in the Jungle

I stepped off the volunteer bus, smelled the rainforest smell and, strolling gleefully toward the dining hut, got my first close up view of Machimus cingulatus. It was enormous, much larger than the average garden fly. After carefully handling the beautiful insect, I went to wash my hands before indulging in the fresh yucca chips and homemade salsa set out on the table.

It can hardly be called “roughing it” in the jungle if there is a sink with running water just a few steps outside of your tent. Thankfully, the baby lizard lounging on the bar of soap reminds me that I am, indeed, the minority life-form around here. I turned to dry my hands on a soft, pink towel and, to my delight, spotted several sleeping tree frogs nestled in the folds. This is heaven, I thought.

Now, I realize that lizards and frogs may not be the first things that come to a person’s mind when asked to describe paradise. It just so happens that if I were asked to describe what I thought heaven was like, I would answer that heaven is sharing the sink with a baby gecko in the middle of the rainforest, and realizing that we all belong here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

the real truth

It’s not that I wasn’t smart enough to pass the fourth grade.

I was plenty smart, ninety-eighth percentile smart. Reading was my favorite subject and I looked up the words I didn’t know before I was asked to, just for fun. That’s how I learned what tangible and nomadic meant. Science was my second favorite. When our class was learning about weather, I memorized all the different types of clouds and their names: cirrus, nimbus, stratus, cumulonimbus. Over and over I said those names, letting them roll and sweep and bounce through my head. Just thinking those words was fun. It was the same with birds, and then constellations: Orion, Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, Cygnus. I knew more constellations than anyone else in the fourth grade. And Math was always easy, just boring.

So when Ms. Jostess requested a parent-teacher conference to discuss Why Autumn Is Failing The Fourth Grade, my parents were a little surprised. Then they were a little more surprised to find out that I hadn’t done a single homework assignment since oh, about the second week of the school year, which was almost over now. I was doing fine on all the in-class activities and my test scores clearly showed that I was capable of doing the work, so why hadn’t I done any homework? they all wanted to know.

I lied and said that I didn’t know it was supposed to be turned in; I accidentally threw it away; I didn’t understand it; I didn’t have time; it was boring; I lost it; my sister stole it; and, yes, my dog ate it.

But the real truth is that I quit doing my homework once I realized that if you didn’t do your homework, you had to sit on the bench during recess and you weren’t allowed to go out and play with the other kids. The other kids said I was ugly and stupid and weird and had big teeth and too many freckles and they threw dirt in my hair and tried to pull my pants down, so going out to play with them at recess was the last thing I wanted to do. I’d rather sit on the bench.

I thought I had found the perfect solution: don’t do my homework, don’t go to recess.

That’s why I was failing the fourth grade.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

here's a little ditty with summative modifiers, can you find them all?

The Coquí (pronounced ko-KEE) frog is so named because that is the sound it makes. Or more accurately, that is the sound of its mating call (which leads me to wonder what we would be named if we were so named for the sound of our mating call, but that's another story). And if you are in the middle of a Puerto Rican rainforest at night, this is the sound you will hear—all night long—a moonlight sonata played by 2000 piccolos all tuned to a slightly different key. This is the inimitable call of the Coquí.

It is said that the call from a single frog, whose mature size rarely exceeds a full inch in length, can reach 100 decibels at only a meter away, a noise level roughly equivalent to that produced by a chain saw, jack hammer, printing plant, riveting machine, or speeding express train.

This sound will accompany you wherever you go and no matter what you are doing—to bed, or trying to sleep, for instance—but it is especially prevalent if you are in fact crouched amidst the wet, leafy understory where the population of human is outnumbered by Coquí 50 to 1 in a single bush, a good ratio if you are a human crouched in the bush for the sole purpose of spotting and capturing the tiny, bug-eyed amphibians.

Speaking of bugs, those are also in the bush with you and the frogs. However, because I spent a significant amount of time crouched in Coquí habitat, I prefer to remain ignorant of the actual ratio between human and insect population, surely some ungodly factor that one should not contemplate if one is to continue frogging in the Puerto Rican rainforest at night.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

d.h. lawrence cover, very humbly in honor of

Under the Oak
~D. H. Lawrence

You, if you were sensible,
When I tell you the stars flash signals, each one dreadful,
You would not turn and answer me
‘The night is wonderful.’

Even you, if you knew
How this darkness soaks me through and through, and infuses
Unholy fear in my vapor, you would pause to distinguish
What hurts, from what amuses.

For I tell you
Beneath this powerful tree, my whole soul’s fluid
Oozes away from me as a sacrifice steam
At the knife of a Druid.

Again I tell you, I bleed, I am bound with withies,
My life runs out.
I tell you my blood runs out on the floor of this oak,
Gout upon gout.

Above me springs the blood-born mistletoe
In the shady smoke.
But who are you, twittering to and fro
Beneath the oak?

What thing better are you, what worse?
What have you to do with the mysteries
Of this ancient place, of my ancient curse?
What place have you in my histories?

Under the Oak
~Decomposed by me

You, if you weren’t such a placid idiot,
When I tell you there is something terribly bizarre about existence,
You would not turn to me with that dumb look on your face and say,
‘Ooooo, the nightshade is so fragrant.’

Even you, if you could comprehend
How the balmy hues of darkness descend and press upon me, complicit
In ungodly musings, you would get it through your thick head that
I’m actually serious about this shit.

What I’m saying is that
We stand here as if this oak is an innocuous thing, but in its presence
My soul’s eternities stream away as if lured by some soil-born dream,
And I know an old Shaman stirs in my essence.

Listen, I’m telling you I am bound to this oak, this gorgeous agony,
My own life is struck from me.
I’m telling you this unbridled empathy implores me, and I bleed
Ages of sympathies at the foot of this tree.

I can see a kind of devastating beauty
Even in the midst of this disastrous date.
But who the hell are you, flitting about like a vacillating Tit,
As if you share my fate?

What makes you so much better? I know what makes you worse.
You have no clue about the mysteries
Of my perceived reality, or of my wretched writer’s curse.
You have no fucking idea who I am, or how I’ve suffered through my histories.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

tales from an expert bus rider

The following are entries from the wildly anticipated Diary of a Neurotic Bus Rider due to be published whenever the #20 bus shows up so that the author can deliver the manuscript to the publishing house. The #20 bus has been known to be completely unreliable and therefore has caused the author to be late to work, class, happy hour, and other important functions on occasion and through no fault of her own.

April 24, 2007, 7:46AM, #20: Why did I sit in this seat? How could I have not seen that disgusting Kleenex wadded up on the floor? Disgusting-Kleenex-depositor must have been sick. Now I’m sitting here and all the sick germs are parading up and down the seat, my pants, coat sleeves, and into my ears and nose. I should get up and move to another seat. Just get up, look casual, grin, and MOVE! But then someone might think I was weird or something, to just get up and switch seats for no apparent reason. Yes, that’s right. I’m worried that the man wearing Mickey Mouse ears and debating loudly with himself whether Elvis prefers maple bars or French crullers will think that I’m weird for getting up and, quietly, moving to a different seat. I’ll just stay here and suffer.

April 24, 2007, 6:28PM, #15: With a solid twenty years of experience, I like to think that I excel at bus riding. Although I was standing at the bus stop, I missed the bus due to being totally engrossed in David Sedaris. Had to wait another thirty minutes for the next bus. Got on the next bus, but bus driver was a lunatic, angrily screaming at passengers for reasons unknown. Had to get off the bus. Waited thirty minutes, got on bus again, opened David Sedaris again, missed my stop. Had to walk twenty minutes back home. Fortunately, when I called my friend to explain why I would be late, he relayed this pertinent advice: “You have to get on the bus, stay on the bus, and get off the bus!”

Saturday, June 2, 2007

yes, it's just me

I was craving saffron risotto fritters, and when you’re craving saffron risotto fritters, well, really nothing else will do, so I took myself out to one of my favorite restaurants, the only place I know to get said SRFs. I waited an absurdly long time to be acknowledged by the bartender because, “Oooohhh you’re dining alone I’m sorry I thought you were waiting for someone else I didn’t realize you were by yourself I’m sorry.” Yes, it's JUST ME, which means that I, more than the cooing, kissy couple next to me, deserve a drink. I should have left but I really wanted my fritters, you know?

Also, I’m in the business, and when a single diner comes into my restaurant, I’m very nice and I do whatever I can to make the single diner feel comfortable because I’m a single diner and I know that it’s usually an uncomfortable, at the least, experience.

So anyway, I’m all awkward and gawky at the bar next to cute couple with accents, receiving bad service and sucking it up because I want nothing else at the moment but saffron risotto fritters. And a mojito.

And in a way, I guess I also wanted someone to just be nice to me.

When I finally get my drink, there are two small, black straws in it but one of them is about ¾ inch shorter than the other. What the hell? I had to keep evening out the straws to get anything out of them so I looked like an idiot and my fingers got all sticky.

Then, my SRFs were delivered. I picked up the lemon wedge and squeezed . . . lemon juice right into my eyes. My eyes teared up so badly that I couldn’t see and I was trying to wipe them with my sticky mojito fingers.

Now I looked like a blithering, ridiculous single diner crying alone at the bar over saffron risotto fritters. And you know what? That’s exactly what I was.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

garden of going

The sea pinks leap up at my feet today—
sprightly pink, blossom puffs.

The sea pinks, the cowslips,
the candytuft are saying, Home, home.

Even the flax, in all its grey
swaying, says, Staying, staying—

But I think of the untamable
flame-red hibiscus that said, Roam, roam,

And the forget-me-nots bend
their tiny blue heads—
leaving. Leaving.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Bird came down the Walk—

1. Emily Dickinson Attends a Poetry Workshop

Who is the “I” anyway? There are way too many I’s. Very self absorbed. Also, all the rest of the pronouns are ambiguous. Is he a lover? A father? God? Is she your sister? You’ve thrown a bunch of unnecessary they’s into your writing as if everyone else is a faceless, nameless pronoun, and you alone possess some superior contexts. You should have been more careful about clearing up those deficiencies in revision. Your readers have no idea what to make of a passage with no clear characters or even a hint of any concrete subject. And by the way, who is “it”? What laps up the miles? As for mechanics, you should really read over the rules for comma usage—all those dashes are terribly distracting. And I’m not sure if anyone has told you, but rhyme is out. So is personification of animals and inanimate objects. Maybe you should just stick to writing letters, hack.

2. Emily Dickinson Stays Home

Emily Dickinson is hailed as one of America’s greatest poets. Since the nineteenth century, her poetry has been read, studied, and admired by generations of adoring fans. Her verse is both enigmatic and psychologically penetrating, and it is rendered with unparalleled grace and wit. Dickinson’s poetic imagination knew no boundaries as she fearlessly charted unmapped intellectual territories. Her piercing observations of humanity and the natural world continue to inform and inspire her audience today. Dickinson’s technically adventurous poems were unprecedented when they were published and her stylistic trademarks—odd punctuation, noun capitalization, elusive characters—remain forever imprinted in the poetic cannon as a hallmark of her undeniable genius.

Friday, May 11, 2007

putting myself on: a study in creative ambiguity

She put on her raincoat and went north. “Going to see,” she said.

She had meant to say, “I’m leaving this dry-cracked earth, this red desert full of sun-scorched allegories, this perennial prison with prickly windows, the heat, you.”

She had meant to say that she no longer lived inside of herself and that she wanted to marry a birch tree instead, or a poem. But she didn’t. She had only thought about it.

She didn’t fill the locks or break up the ice trays. She meant to just after she tore down the yellow walls and painted them with sand to remind her of thirst. But she forgot.

Snowdrops don’t bloom here, she remembered as she lifted her head for the first time since she remembered. How long had it been now? A blazing noon? A suffocating century? One white enfolding? She had no way of knowing, only clocks kept time.

“This time,” she meant to say and turned away, burning.

She had meant to pull up the hot floor with her hands before she left, uproot the foundation, quake the heart, and heave the undone allocations into the sky. She thought for a moment it might look like rain. So she put on her raincoat and went north.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

been very busy fighting for poetic justice, here's one that's sure to appall some people I know

Me in Haiku

Sing long silly songs
eat fudge, French fries, fried wontons
happy hedonist

poems not Prozac

Never talk to god
I claim to be atheist
but she talks to me

small boat sailing on the sea

Roots hang on to hope
after rains wash home away
tenacious seedling

Pretty porcupine
seeks soft-shelled crab with complex
for joint tax filing

You: carry the bags,
put spiders outside, love cats
Me: iambic ink

*obsessive compulsive disorder, clinical depression,
acute social anxiety disorder, personality disorder

Monday, April 23, 2007

this is how i practice compassion

I. Star Pants Man Makes Me Angry

Star Pants Man is in front of the bus trying to put his bicycle in the rack. I’m late for class, the bus was late picking me up, and now a man wearing electricolor star pants and a giant orange, spongy slice of Wisconsin cheddar cheese is taking an awfully long time to put his bike in the goddam bike rack.

The bicycle bobbles up and down, to the right, down again, up, way up. Star Pants Man grins and shrugs. Bobble. Grin. Shrug. Bobble left. Grin.

Oh. Come. On!

When the bicycle finally bobbles into its proper riding position, Star Pants Man is so ecstatic that he actually lets out a little, “Peep!” of cheer and flutters his hands in the air like someone who has amazingly managed to hammer both thumbs simultaneously. Grin.

Get. On. The. Bus. Star Pants Man!

Now he’s digging in his star pants pockets. “Huh, huh,” he shrug-gestures to his shiny blue hunk of making-me-late, “just didn’t want to get on the bus this morning, huh?” A dime rolls down the chute. Some more digging. “I know I gotta nother nickel in here somewhere, huh, huh.”

Star Pants Man, next time I’m gonna pay for you NOT to ride.

II. Star Pants Man Amuses Me

Star Pants Man is in front of the bus trying to put his bicycle in the rack. I’m late for class, but those electricolor star pants are worth it. To go with the pants, he wore a fabulous giant orange, spongy slice-of-Wisconsin-cheddar-cheese hat. It matches perfectly! It’s a good thing I caught the late bus or I would have missed out on the outfit of the year.

The bicycle bobbles up and to the right a bit. Now it bobbles off again. The bike pops in and out of Star Pants Man’s hands like an indecisive Tango partner; it just won’t settle where it’s supposed to and go along with the ride. But Star Pants Man is undaunted. He grins into the dashboard window, shrugs, and takes his errant partner for another dip.

When he finally subdues the bicycle into its proper riding place, Star Pants Man is so ecstatic that he, “Peeps!” cheerily and flutters both hands in the air like a second grader who just named all fifty states and their capitals.

Way to go, Star Pants Man!

He gets on the bus and, digging for some change, grins as if this just couldn’t be a better day. “Huh, huh,” he chuckles, nodding at his shiny blue trickster, “just didn’t want to get on the bus this morning, huh?” Change rolls down the chute.

Star Pants Man, next time your ride’s on me.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

request (as politely asked for in trochaic prose)

You can smoke my cigarettes, and you can drink my finest whiskey. You can keep me up all night, just wasting all my time. Later, we’ll eat peanut-butter chocolate ice-cream. You can wear my fuzzy, bunny slippers if you want to. You can steal the fluffy pillow.

I will make the coffee in the morning and I’ll measure out the sugar just the way you like it. We’ll make Danish pastry as we listen to Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti album. You can look through my collection, play your favorite songs—Dylan sounds much better when you listen to the record—you can even sing along with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I’ll bet that you know every word to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

Honey, when it comes down to it, you can do no wrong. There’s just one small exception: Please, don’t dangle prepositions, baby. It will drive a woman crazy.

Find out what trochaic is here!

Monday, April 16, 2007

what i don't know

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

~Alfred, Lord Tennyson

What I don’t know about the universe and what I would like to know about the universe is the same thing: Why does it exist?

To me, why the universe, humans, consciousness, and even I, all exist is the most compelling inquiry. It is also maddeningly the most elusive. But how can we claim to know anything if we don’t even know why we know it? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to find out all the answers I can; it’s like putting a billion piece puzzle together. The only problem with the cosmic puzzle is that even if I could put most of the pieces in their respective places during my lifetime, the whole picture would never emerge because of the One Missing Piece: Why.

We've learned a great deal about how our universe exists by measuring and calculating a many number of things, and, to some extent, what exists in our universe through quantifiable observations. The when seems to be accounted for, but then, do we really understand the nature of time well enough to derive a finite number from a possibly infinite set of circumstances?

In commenting on the age of the universe we inevitably find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum because if we say that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old, what we are implying, semantically and literally, is that there was a point in time when the universe was one second old.

This logical lexography gives rise to the Heap paradox and we may ask, “What was going on one second before that second when the universe was one second old, and before that second before that second?” ad infinitum. The real clincher is that if time did not begin until the universe began, then it makes no sense to ask, “What happened before time began?” but this is, nonetheless, precisely what I what I want to ask.

I come to cosmology with the same fascination and reverence I have devoted to the study of botany. Thrilled by the language involved, learning the technical details, and gaining a more meaningful understanding of the world around me, I never tire of hearing the words dark energy or cotyledon.

At the same time, I realize that I can learn all about big bang theory, expanding space, photosynthesis, and how growth comes from meristematic tissue, but will anyone ever know why a flower grows?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

answer to the grad school application request: please describe your interest in poetry

It seems strange to say that I have an interest in poetry; I have an interest in botany. It is something outside of me and I can choose to pursue botanical lore and milieu at my leisure. I can choose to learn more about the life cycle of bryophytes if I want to, or I can put the magnifying lens away, satisfied to have seen plenty of gametophytes for one day. Botany is my past time; it is a quiet retreat. I can go to it when poetry is making me crazy and it is always a sane endeavor.

I do not have an interest in poetry—poetry is a part of me, like my hand. I cannot choose to pursue poetry at my leisure or simply put the book away, satisfied to have learned enough for one day. It is not a retreat, but rather, it is what I live, see, hear, dream, and struggle every moment, and it is very rarely quiet.

Sometimes, I like to think that I write to keep myself sane, but the wild lexis of a poet’s brain affords me no such solace. Instead, I “labor by singing light” because I must, and then take a walk with the trilliums because I can.

what's better than a "A" in advanced poetry writing?

Thanks Rurality! By the way, for all appearances, it seems that Rurality is living my dream life. So if you've ever wondered what I want to do with my long sought for "A" in advanced poetry writing, this is it. I would also like to have a telescope.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

garden party

If I were as red as the red-flame hibiscus, I would know something about freedom. Nothing could be that red and restrain itself.

I would arrive at stately garden parties wearing only my crimson petals, and I would need no introduction when I entered a room full of local flora. The hollyhocks, in their pale, ruffled blossoms, would rumor in pastel whispers. “Really,” they’d say, “we’re very distant relatives.” The old roses would blush with recognition—they were wild too, once, and red. But now they glance around, heads lowered, their hips just not what they used to be, they look so old-fashioned. The daffodils wouldn’t take any notice; they’re too narcissistic. But the bachelor buttons would. And as I promenade, petal-perfect, among the perennial favorites, the white-eyed violets would shrink.

If I were as red as the red-flame hibiscus, I would know nothing of self-doubt, or shame. You just can’t be that red and worry about what the lilies are saying.

I would mingle with the magnolias without the slightest hint of style envy. I would ask sweet William to dance, even though he’s much shorter than me, and I’d show him how we tango, stems entwined, under the tropical sun. The bearded iris would be jealous, but I’d save some twining for him. Then the boxwood would hedge in. And when I took them in my heart-shaped foliage, they’d beam, proud as poppies.

If I were as red as a red-flame hibiscus, I would be beautiful. There’s just no denying it if you stroll around in the world the color of sangria and summer kisses.

I’d lilt and saunter as if I were queen-of-the-meadow. I would step out in full bloom, and the johnny-jump-ups would not forget me.

If I were as red as the red-flame hibiscus, I would never wrap my fear around me and close up tight, like a tulip in the night.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

this is the conversation that you don’t want to have with the cabby, which unfortunately I did

“What the hell’s takin’ this light so long, I’m just gonna run it.”


“Hang on there. Huh, huh. It’s just like that old turtle in that one commercial with the car, huh, huh, you seen that one?”


“Yeah, I’m waitin’ for em to tell us that Larry’s the father. You know, we all know he’s the father of Anna’s baby. And that Stern guy, you know, he’s just a scumbag murderer, you know he should be going to jail. What’d you say, fourth and what?”

“Lincoln. Fourth and Lincoln.”

“Yeah, that Stern guy, he’s a baaad man. He needs to be punished, you know, he’s a murderer. He needs to be put in jail. Then he’ll file some appeal cause he’s a lyin’ cheatin' lawyer, you know. He’s out there treatin’ Anna’s baby like a, a, just a money maker. Not even like a real person, you know, like he’s the Devil. Yeah, he’ll be punished. Like the devil he is, you know. GOD will punish him.”


Thursday, April 5, 2007

translation happens

It's the first day of the Spring term, and I walk into my Introduction to Spanish Literature class five minutes late and without my travel mug. Where did I leave my coffee mug? is the foremost question in my brain. And second is, Where in the hell is my coffee mug?

I take my seat and notice that la profesora had written the words "La Edad Media" on the chalkboard, which I quickly translate as "middle age." I'm a little confused about why we're discussing middle age in a Spanish Lit. class, but I figure it will lead into some significant literary work about middle age or written by an author during his or her middle age. You know, the Reverse Obscurity tactic employed by Literature Professors across the nation: "Let's think about the advent of the three-hole punch. Hmmm. . . and what does this suggest about Eliot's vision of civilization in The Waste Land?"

So, whatever, that's fine with me. If I can remember where I left my coffee mug, I'll consider my time here well spent.

La profesora had apparently instructed the class to form groups (my least favorite classroom activity, second only to "introduce yourself to your neighbor"), and discuss amongst ourselves, in Spanish, what middle age meant to us.

I caught the tail and broken-end of some of these discussions, but I had no idea what anyone was talking about. What the heck does a feudal system have to do with middle age? Unfortunately, however, I was the first student called on to share with the class, in Spanish, what middle age meant to me.

"I have many hair that is grey, and the eyes no see anymore much because I being near to the middle age."

Silence. Laughter. Lesson learned.

La Edad Media = The Middle Ages

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

jobs not listed on my resume (in reverse chronological order)

  • House Painter, all women house painting crew; Seattle
  • Sales Person, Gay and Lesbian Yellow Pages; Seattle
  • Seaman, Dishwasher, Pressure Washer; United States Coast Guard; Portland
  • Lunch Server, El Rio; Sacramento
  • Flower Grower/Herb and Perennial expert, Dardano's Flowerland; Denver
  • Imax Usher, Natural History Museum; Denver
  • Cashier (knife and ammunition counter), Army Surplus Store; Denver
  • Activist against excessive packaging, COPIRG; Denver
  • Sandwich Artist, Subway; Littleton
  • Ice-cream scooper/eater; Baskin Robbins, Littleton
  • Trail Builder, up to the Castle Rock rock; Castle Rock

Monday, April 2, 2007

new blog color, same "a" worthy content

It seems that my vision is worsening in proportion to my sense of smell improving (see "quitting smoking stinks" below). Instead of searching for the leaves-etched-into-the-gold-rimmed glasses that I purchased at the Ugliest Glasses in the World Store, I decided to change the background and font color so I could see better.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

rest assured, i'm not asking for an "a" for my alliterative rhyming haiku

Love Letter to Duane Locke

Oh, Duane,
you bitter old bastard, nobody loves
spiders. If she says she does,
she’s just saying it to impress you. However,

I am a woman who puts the spiders out.
I do not love them, but I will not stand for
spider killing in my house.

As for the rest, we agree on many things;
although I’ve never seen do-it-yourself sponge painting
turn out very well, I would love to sleep
in a in a sea of dithering daffodils. Also,

I prefer flowers, even dead ones,
to limousines, and I am thrilled by caressing
the skins of most living things.

And you say you don’t care
if some beautiful woman falls in love
and kisses your poems after you’ve been dead
three hundred years, but,

you must have thought about it enough
to have made that comment. Duane,

I am your damn dark sparkle of sunflower shadows.
And if you pull the arrows out of the side of the oak,
my Druid blood will soak into your bones,
and I will finally be home.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

kiss my funny, sarcastic ass, professor

rhyming haiku is fun to
do de do de do

Friday, March 30, 2007

quitting smoking stinks

The worst thing about quitting smoking is that the whole world stinks. And I don't mean the world is a dreary place since I decided to deny myself one of life's greatest pleasures. I mean the world stinks.

Four weeks ago I walked in the world blissfully unaware of what it smelled like. Today, a stroll through the mall, or a quick jaunt across town, induces the olfactory equivalent of nails screeching down a chalkboard. Aside from the intrepid piss smell that permeates public transportation as naturally as clogs permeate Portland, getting on the bus used to be a relatively benign olfactory experience. Now, a bus ride is a malodorous assault on my virgin sniffer. Aqua Net, Downy, Pabst, Revlon, Marlboro, Calvin Klein: all agents of scentual harassment. And these are the masking scents.

Like the elephant exhibit, humanity smells like sh*%.

The ability to smell someone’s dirty hair and watermelon Bubblicious from five feet away is a horrifying side effect of not smoking. At school, I passed a guy in the hall that smelled like a combination of bad breath and leather waterproofing spray, and I had to move from my seat when someone sitting next to me smelled like moldy socks and salmon.

Yesterday I took a long bus ride home from the dentist and, unable to endure the stench of damp humans, I stuck my nose into the sleeve of my jacket and quietly pleaded for my old, dulled sense of smell back. I imagined sniffing bleach every day before I left the house to damage my olfactory cells. I thought about carrying around a small container of coffee beans that I could bury my nose in for bus trips, and I envisioned sneaking sniffs of whiskey from a flask during classes.

What happened to my right to choose what odors are allowed in? If I wanted to smell a pink geranium, I could lean in close, stick my nostrils right up to the blossom, and wah la. If I wanted to find out what my tomato soup smelled like, I could put my nose near the bowl and take a whiff. Twenty-seven days after my last breath of non-scented air, my right to a serenely odor-free existence has gone with the smoke.

According to the Daily Success calendar that came with the nicotine patches, Day 27 recommends: “Treat yourself to a bottle of cologne to celebrate your improved sense of smell.”

Listen, if you’ve ridden the #33 bus on a rainy day, you’d know there ain’t nothing to celebrate.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

fat kitty with a little head

Flora was growing into a fairly well-adjusted kitty, and I was growing into a fairly well-adjusted sober adult, and we lived happily together in my beautiful studio apartment. But she really wanted a little brother.

I began searching for a brother for Flora, but I knew that he would have to be a very special kind of kitty if Flora and he were to live amicably. He needed to be brave enough to not be put off by Flora’s own shyness, and he needed to be sweet enough not to scare her.

I was also looking for a non-black kitty, since I already had a black one, until I was informed by a woman at a cat shelter that no one wants the black kitties because they are plain, and that plain black kitties go un-adopted more than any other kind of cat. Flora’s getting a plain, black brother.

Huckleberry had been removed from a decrepit house where he, and 22 others, had suffered neglect and abuse. His tail had been broken and would always be short. I saw his picture on the Humane Society website and knew he was the one for us.

His adoption summary lauded him as a fun-loving, easy-going kitten but it turned out to be slightly incorrect. Huckleberry is a heedless, crazy, delinquent who is also very needy and appears to suffer from OCD and attachment disorder. He never lets me sleep or do my homework. He fights with his sister.

We love him so much we can’t imagine life without our plain black, ¾ tail, fat kitty with a little head.

Get your plain black, lovable delinquent here!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

good day to be a member of the gourd family

Today, for the first time in my life, I was presented with the occasion to use the word Cucurbitaceae in an ordinary conversation. "Ordinary" meaning that the conversation did not occur within that happily Latinate, mystical realm known as Botany Class. In Botany Class, it is not uncommon to throw around such rag-tag phrases as, "I see there are some Apion antiqumm affecting this Cytisus scoparius." (Translation: There are some weevils eating this scotch broom plant.) In fact, among fellow amateur Botanists, the person who can rattle off the highest number of phonetically-challenged Latin names in one sentence, wins.

"Wow, look how tall the Allium schoenoprasum are getting, and the Foeniculum vulgare is really healthy, but there's a couple of Trialeurodes vaporariorum flying around the Solanum esculentums."

I win.

Yes, it's true, once you cross over into the land of unabashedly unpronounceable botanical nomenclature, a rose is not even a rose. It's Rosaceae.

Simply because I can, I drop these multi-syllabic monstrosities on my botanically declined friends whenever possible—"Can you believe the Dicentra spectabilis is blooming already?"—but they're my friends and they’ve learned to ignore this sadistic spouting of plant names.

Aside from the name dropping, I also enjoy flaunting my penchant for completely unremarkable plant facts. I like to work in a little uninteresting information between the Latin abominations, and I'm especially fond of dishing tid-bits about the underdogs of the plant world. You know, give a small shout out to weeds, or liverworts (Hepaticophyta).

"Look at this beautiful Anthocerophyte! Did you know that hornworts typically have only one chloroplast in each cell?"

So, imagine my delight when, as I was having my hair shampooed at the salon, I noticed that the shampoo smelled like honeydew and asked my stylist what kind it was.

“Ummm, currr, cuuu, bita? Cuuu. . . oh, I don’t know. Something and Tea Tree oil.”

“Oh, Cucurbit,” I relished my helpfulness. “Cucurbits are the family of plants that include squashes and melons.”

“Like the Latin name or something?”

“Yeah, short for Cucurbitaceae.”

Saturday, March 24, 2007

alliterative rhyming haiku is cool no matter what your poetry professor may have told you

Sing long, silly songs
eat fudge, French fries, fried won tons
happy hedonist

Friday, March 23, 2007

bat kitty

I don’t even know who I was before I was the kind of person who said things like, “Come ’er bat kitty, my little fat kitty with a little head, get your kitty crack!” But I’m sure I’m a much more likeable person now.

Flora was scared and very shy when I brought her home. She stayed under my bed for weeks, and I had to crawl under there and feed her from my hand. The people at the Humane Society told me she was found on the street in North Portland. She had been abandoned and showed signs of abuse. When I saw her tiny, frightened kitty soul recoiled in her cage, I knew she had to come home with me.

Her adoption summary read:

Have you ever heard of beneficial Flora? (of course I had, I'm a botany geek) Are you looking to improve your overall physical and emotional well being? (actually, I was trying to quit
drinking) Well so am

Well, have we got a lot in common. Come on my poor tiny, frightened, abandoned, and abused little black, bat kitty. I may not have much, but I can offer you a quiet home where you can stay for the rest of your life.

Get your kitties here!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

snow crumbs

"Courage is fear that has said its prayers." ~Anne Lamott

I imagine my fear is a tiny, trembling mouse, hands pressed together in a steeple, up on her two tiny, pink mouse-feet, next to a little mouse-bed with daisy print sheets. I don’t know to whom or what my fear is praying, or even what she prays for, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Maybe she just whispers shakily to the moon, “Snow crumbs . . . snow crumbs,” and that is enough.