Archive for August, 2004


I’m off to the South Dakota Festival of the Book in Sioux Falls, SD, where I’ll be giving a poetry reading with Frank Pommersheim at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday (today) at the Multicultural Center, and another reading/discussion with South Dakota Poet Laureate David Alan Evans and Nebraska Poet Laureate William Kloefkorn (sadly, I, myself, am completely unlaureated) at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday (tomorrow), also at the Multicultural Center.

At any rate, I’ll be back Sunday afternoon, and then, on Monday, donning my academic robes to celebrate the official start of the new academic year. (Literally, too, with the robes. There’s a convocation thingy that involves full regalia.)

I have also, by the way, decided on two new Blog House Rules. (You know, like John Irving, but without the literary or cinematic panache.) They are as follows:

1. No drunk blogging wherein one self-flagellates over one’s chronic state of dorkhood.

2. No drunk dialing in tandem with drunk blogging, in which one simultaneously bemoans one’s chronic state of dorkhood, thereby dorking out even further.

That is all.

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Because . . . unless my gaydar’s off, which is rare, I could swear they’re all gay.

Okay . . . maybe not all of them. Just the ones who are obviously dykes.

The thing is, though, they all wear engagement and wedding rings, and I see them with their “husbands” around town sometimes. Are they simply in denial? Is it all an elaborate ruse to make sure nobody attempts to rattle the closet door?

Sometimes I think that maybe it’s like Minnesota . . . where sometimes you swear the women are gay but they’re really not, and maybe I’m just confused . . . but then one day I was shopping in the Hy-Vee and noticed kd lang was playing over the loudspeakers. And then Melissa Ethridge. And next it was the Indigo Girls.

I wish they would just go ahead and be gay. It would make me feel so much better.

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There’s a low, steady roll of thunder, the popcorn sputter of raindrops striking the air conditioner, and the breathy swish of trees brushing their wet sleeves against the night.

There’s wind, and it makes the wind chimes play their obsessive, four-note melody over and over, the hollow wood chimes softly rattling like bones.

I like it . . . this roll, strike, swish, chime, and rattle. Roll, strike, swish, chime, and rattle.

It makes me sad in the way I like to be sad.

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Now that the birds have discovered the Free Lunch that is my bird feeder, I’ve been able to enjoy watching the birds who come to my front porch. So far, there’s the obsessive-compulsive blue jay who shoves empty sunflower seed husks into one of my rose pots, an entire swarm of house finches, several mourning doves with their songs that sound like deep, hollow wooden flutes, a handful of sparrows, a white breasted nuthatch, a red-headed woodpecker, and a black-and-white something that may or may not be a bobolink.

The mourning doves are particularly bold and on the afternoons when I go out to my front porch to write, they sometimes come and hop about right next to me as I’m tap-tap-tapping away on the laptop.

I also saw a mud swallow’s nest recently under the eaves of the local Pamida. There were four marshmallow-fat baby swallows cheeping and cheeping in the nest, and the mother swallow tried to dive bomb my head when I stood underneath the nest to look at them.

When I tell people about the recent bird-watching, though, for some reason they feel compelled to regale me with gruesome bird-gone-wrong stories.

One acquaintance, for example, described leaving a metal bird feeder out throughout the winter and when it became extremely cold, discovering, much to her horror, the remnants of frozen bird feet stuck to the feeder.

My Japanese Mother described a nest of blue jays outside her kitchen window: “Such cute little babies, all peach-ka peach-ka singing and then next thing you know that bastard neighbor cat came and got it. Only thing that stink cat left is little tiny feet in nest. How you like that? Blue jay suppose to be such good luck but not if get eat up by cat. I hate that cat!”

And then my landlord weighed in yesterday with his two cents, describing a newborn baby bird that had fallen out of a tree. Seeing a swallow’s nest nearby, he put the newborn back in the nest, even though it didn’t look like it was faring too well. The swallows dumped the (by then dead) baby bird back out, though, and abandoned the nest, and when he looked inside the nest several weeks later he found that they’d abandoned their eggs as well. “My wife told me that, basically, I’d taken a dead baby, probably from a different species altogether, and put it in their nest,” my landlord said. “So I guess I left a dead baby in their house.”

“Man,” I said. “That’s gotta be majorly bad feng shui.”

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The anthology Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation, has just been released from the University of Illinois Press. Edited by poet (and blogger!) Victoria Chang, who did a marvelous job, the anthology presents a diverse selection of Asian American poets under the age of 40, including fellow bloggers Nick Carbo, Oliver de la Paz, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and Yours Truly!

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Two snippets from my day:

Sometimes, when I step outside, The Bean Bean likes to make himself useful by launching himself out the front door onto the porch, where his modus operandi is to roll about in birdseed and poke around for suspicious goings-on. He’s a facilitator, that one.

Well, he slipped out today while I was on my way to water the pots on the front porch, and so I decided to let him sniff about for a little while as I watered. This is when the next door neighbor came out and began snapping away at her hedges with a large pair of metal hedge clippers.

The Bean Bean took one look at those hedge clippers, registered their massive snapping sounds, and then proceeded to freak the fuck out. He dropped low to the ground, ran back and forth along the porch in a dead panic, and then launched himself at the living room windows several times–frantically scrabbling at the slippery glass, and then falling back down on the porch where he scuttled around some more. It was apparent that he wanted back inside the house, so I opened the door and he skittered inside, then immediately went skidding under the bed.

It was at this moment that I realized he’d been frightened by the horrid abomination of what he perceived to be an enormously oversized and freakishly sharp pair of the dreaded cat toenail clippers.

Then, later on in the afternoon, during a phone conversation with my Japanese Mother:

JM: I find such nice cannister for kitchen. So nice elegant tulip (she pronounces it Two-Lip) pattern. You can put coffee, sugar, flour inside. Made in Japan! Do you want it?

AH: Actually, I have kitchen cannisters.

JM: I not talking about cheap-oh plastic kind. Stupid waste-of-money kind. This is very elegant kind. Made in Japan!

AH: My cannisters aren’t plastic . . .

JM: [interruping me] No, not that lousy metal tin kind, either!

AH: Thanks, but I already have a set of ceramic cannisters. They have roosters on them. Don’t you remember? I showed you pictures of my apartment on my computer when we were in Billings.

JM: [getting mad] Yeah, I see it all right! Make me shock! So lousy cock-oh-roo-doo-roo! Who going to get such stupid bad-taste thing like that? Such tacky and low-class! Everybody think you some kind of no-education French farmer. You can’t invite your department over for formal dinner party when look like that. You should have get Two-Lip instead. Good kind. Made in Japan!

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The first time I get called a lesbian is in the fourth grade. I attend a University lab school, and instead of taking fourth-grade classes I go upstairs and take advanced classes in English and math with the eighth and ninth graders. My best friend at this time is a bit of a math genius, and she goes upstairs to take classes with the junior high students as well. Because we’re in the fourth grade, and because we’re best friends, we sometimes hold hands.

“Lesbos!” the junior high boys repeatedly yell at us. “Dykes!” As a matter of principle, I feel that we should continue to hold hands, but my math genius best friend refuses to hold hands with me any longer after several weeks of sustained heckling. Before this happens, though, a well-meaning eighth grader gently takes me aside and tells me that I should really stop holding hands with my best friend. “You don’t want people to think you’re a lesbian, do you?” she asks with concern.

I have a little crush on this girl, this well-meaning eighth grader. Her name is Karen, she has white-blonde hair that she wears feathered back, and she has a charming way of blushing bright red all the way down to her fingertips. I also have a crush on a boy named Robert. He has dirty blonde hair that he wears feathered back and he is nice to me. Sometimes I fantasize that, like a real-life junior high stoner Barbie and Ken, Karen and Robert will date. I’m not really sure what this says about me.

I have no idea what a lesbian is, only that I’m clearly supposed to not want to be one. That it’s terribly important to do whatever it takes to keep people from thinking that I’m a lesbian. That I’m already geeky beyond all human comprehension, too brainy for my own good, bi-racial, and for God’s sake, the last thing I need is for people to think that I’m a lesbian!

I’m in the fourth grade. This is Laramie, Wyoming.

The last time I’m called a lesbian (as an epithet) is about one year ago, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I’m still seeing the Canadian Dyke at the time, and she’s come down for a visit. Seeing the rainbow sticker on the rear window of her car as we’re driving through Sioux Falls, a baseball-hatted young man in a bright red pickup truck with oversized tires revs his engine and pulls up alongside us, then throws his lit cigarette at us. Honking and obscene gestures ensue.

He continues to tailgate us until the Canadian Dyke finally pulls into a parking lot. He squeals into the next space, and spits a wad of tobacco out of his driver’s-side window. His truck has a gun rack. (If this were fiction, his character would be such a stereotype, a cliche, that it would be problematic–a cardboard cutout character that I would have to revise.)

“Faggots!” he screams at us. His face is bright red. He’s apoplectic. He’s probably around the same age as some of my undergraduate students. “You’ve got a fucking faggot sticker on your car. Fucking faggots!”

I stare at him, astonished, through my window.

He stares back. “Fat fucking faggots!” he amends.

I have the absurd desire to burst out laughing. Doesn’t he even know the right slur or epithet to use? A part of me hates him right back and wishes him harm. A part of me wonders idly if he has a loaded gun inside the truck to go with that gun rack. A part of me wants to counsel him: “Honey, we’re not faggots. We’re lesbians. Dykes. Are you retarded? Are you a fucking moron, or what?”

The Canadian Dyke is attempting to leap out of the car to beat the shit out of him, or so she says. I have her firmly grasped by the collar of her shirt and I’m telling her to simply drive away. Undoubtedly, she can probably take him. But I have no desire to see her beat up a young man who’s around the same age as some of my undergraduate students. I’m not convinced that he doesn’t have a gun or a baseball bat inside his truck. The rage I feel is suddenly replaced by exhaustion, hollowness, and depression. Eventually, I talk her into sitting back down into her car and driving away. She’s pissed off at me for the rest of the day.

I’m not really sure what this says about me.

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The problem with having multiple submissions out to literary journals is that one’s mail carrier ends up becoming a far more prominent person in one’s life than he or she really needs to be. Indeed, the very title, Mail Carrier, begins to take on hushed and hallowed tones . . . it’s granted initial caps and italics, and garnished with breathily mythic and resonant overtones. During the hour in which mail is typically delivered, one finds oneself starting to hover a bit . . . all normal household duties coming to a bit of a standstill so that one can hover all the more effectively. Not only that, one finds oneself turning into Creepy Wingnut Lady With Multiple Cats–peering out from behind the curtains every couple of minutes to monitor the progress of the [breathily mythic and resonant intonation] Mail Carrier [/breathily mythic and resonant intonation] coming down the block.

It’s not, admittedly, a terribly flattering side of my personality.

Nonetheless, when (despite the intensity of aforementioned hovering and peering and monitoring) all that’s left in one’s mailbox is a measly catalogue–a crap catalogue at that, with shoddy and uninspiring goods arranged in aesthetically unappealing layouts–it is bitterly, bitterly disappointing.

Because here’s the thing . . . it’s not even that I mind getting the reject slips back anymore. (Sure, an acceptance letter is clearly a gazillion times better than getting a reject slip, but I’m okay with the fact that an acceptance letter is statistically bound to be the exception to the rule). In fact, I even enjoy receiving the reject slips back because it’s as if I’m finally receiving an answer to a question flung out into the void. It’s really the waiting and curiosity that I can’t tolerate. It’s like having a half-finished task hanging over my head . . . once the submission comes back to me, even if it’s with a reject slip, I can finally have the satisfaction of crossing that particular literary journal off my list for that particular submission like an item on my to-do list, and then move forward with new plans.

So, yes . . . nothing interesting in my mailbox for days and days, and today I get that crummy catalogue. It was an affront, I tell you! An affront!

Not to mention that when days and days pass by with only junk mail, or uninteresting mail, I sometimes become convinced that my mail carrier is not my friend any longer and that, in fact, my mail carrier obviously wishes me harm. Not only that, my mail carrier is clearly an Emissary of Satan, and is deliberately withholding my mail simply to bug the crap out of me.

Because that’s what Emissaries of Satan do in their spare time, when they’re not training dobermans and mollycoddling the Antichrist.

Okay, I know . . . obsessing over whether the mail carrier is really an Emissary of Satan? Also not a terribly flattering side of my personality.

But did I explain how bitterly, bitterly disappointing that catalogue was? It was just a few smidgins away from being an Osh Kosh By Gosh-esque affair. I swear.

So, I’m in the Hy-Vee later on this afternoon, buying some fresh salad greens, when I happen to spot my Mail Carrier/Emissary of Satan casually and oh-so-innocently selecting bananas. I mean, the nerve! As if nothing were up!

It was only with great restraint that I refrained from shaking him down in order to force him to relinquish all of my mail that I’m feeling pretty certain he’s been withholding from me all week long.

Bananas, indeed!

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One of my poems has been “reprinted” in the current issue of the online literary journal, The Melic Review.

Click here to check it out!

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Okay. So I realize that all of you have undoubtedly installed your airport cards and managed to hook up your wireless routers ages and ages ago. In fact, by now, your elementary-school-aged children–hell, even your dogs and cats with their very own blogs and such–have probably been wireless for a veritable coon’s age.

[Long-Winded Digression]

Do any of you ever wonder about that? Why a coon’s age? What with the contemporary proliferation of four-lane interstates and all, I would think that the longevity of a raccoon (which is actually comparable to a dog, but then why not a dog’s age?) has, if anything, statistically decreased. So why not a parrot’s age? Or a giant Galapagos tortoise’s age, for that matter?

[ / Long-Winded Digression]

What I’ve been blithering on about, in a pitiful attempt to give more substance to what is doomed to be a hopelessly insubstantial blog entry, is that I finally cracked open that little white keyboard on my iBook (does anyone else feel that iBook keys suspiciously resemble Chiclets?), popped in an airport card, hooked up my Belkin router, and voila! I’ve finally, after a giant Galapagos tortoise’s age, gone Wi Fi!

Kudos and adulation are not (absolutely) necessary. (Unless, of course, you simply can’t restrain yourselves, then please, by all means, knock yourself out.)

So now I can be online anywhere in my apartment. Hey! Blogging in the bedroom! Blogging in the bathroom! Blogging in the closet! You know . . . because I can.

I can also now finally blog on my bowery front porch, amongst the pots of flowers, wind chimes, and bird feeder. Ah, the tranquiity . . . so soothing, so Zen. I feel compelled, however, to confess that after wistfully complaining to everyone I know that the birds weren’t coming to my bird feeder . . . after whinging at tedious length that I felt overlooked, insulted, and horribly slighted because the birds were clearly smugly turning up their little bird nostrils embedded in their little bird beaks at my exceedingly fine and well-stocked bird feeder . . . well, the birds have finally come. House finches, mainly. And they’re really quite charming, what with their birdy hunger and birdy fluttering, their birdy pigging out, and six-at-a-time birdy squawking and squabbling over choice positions at the bird feeder, and kooky birdy habits of occasionally bonking into the windows and making the cats short out and fall into seizured-birdy-overload convulsions. So there’s that.

There’s also a lovely blue jay, who insists on compulsively picking up empty sunflower seed shells and poking them into the pot of my Broadway Lights miniature rose bush. Not the pot with the Red Cascade miniature rose bush, mind you, or the pots of geraniums either, for that matter . . . just the pot with the Broadway Lights miniature rose bush. And then there’s the squirrel who, in a vainglorious (but nonetheless futile) attempt to partake of the seedy goodness of the bird feeder, insists on perching on his hind legs on the front handlebars of my bike–chuttering his displeasure and aggravation over this shoddy and discriminatory state of affairs in resonant and aggrieved tones.

It’s kind of like a scene from Walt Disney’s Cinderella, with all the woodland creatures being all woodlandy and such. Except, like, my chipper and peppy woodland creatures all seem to be highly caffeinated . . . or on crack.

So, in summary. I’m Wi Fi. And I’m blogging indoors. I could be blogging outdoors. But I choose not to. Because, you know . . . I can.

Did I mention that I’m Wi Fi?

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