Archive for January, 2006

Radiohead. Coffee. Caffeine gradually making synapses and neurons glitter and flash like the shiny furious rustling of honey-bee wings in the hive after sunlight makes them stir from their cold torpor.

There’s someplace I should really be right now. But I’m not.

In truth, there’s not enough light today to soften up the honeycomb — the maze of hexagons vexing and labyrinthine, unyielding as frostbitten stop signs.

Today I’ve been thinking that perhaps my undeveloped super power is something along the lines of bee vision. That I can look at someone and read the ultraviolet phosphorescence of their honey guides — the where and how of their hidden or withheld or unplundered sweetness — even when no one else can or cares to. When the sweetness has been plundered too roughly or too many times so that there isn’t any left, or when there’s something wrong and there was never any sweetness to begin with.

This knowledge is, of course, only one small facet of a larger maze of complexities. It is an incomplete, and therefore extremely dangerous, knowledge.

These secrets trouble me.

But in case you were wondering if I notice/d you, or if I can see through you, the answer is quite possibly Yes.

Yes, I see you.

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Background Information:

Name: Artichoke Heart

Department: Department of Perpetual Wistfulness Interspersed with Intermittent Bouts of Chagrin

Date: January 16, 2006

Rank: Associate Professor of Perpetual Wistfulness

Degrees in Reverse Chronological Order:

M.F.A. in Muse Chasing (a.k.a. Learning to Become Whimsy and Caprice’s Bitch)
M.M. in Misanthropic Tendencies Coupled with Social Maladroitness
B.M. in Filial Disappointment

Expectations, consistent with institutional policies and subject to the concurrence of the dean and vice president, for faculty unit member performance with respect to teaching and academic advising, research, scholarship and creative activity, and service during the evaluation period as per comment of department head pursuant to Section ____.

To try and not be an asshole, to play nice with colleagues (even ones that bite), to give Students of Perpetual Wistfulness whatever they need, to successfully keep Onerous Avalanches of Administrivia at bay, to chase the muse to hell and back and somehow make sure not to come back empty-handed.

Describe your major assigned responsibilities during the evaluation period:

(a) Assist Students of Perpetual Wistfulness in any way possible;

(b) Demonstrable Muse Chasing;

(c) Serve in excruciatingly important administrative capacity as Departmental Mermaid (even though no one really ever knows whether or not to take the Departmental Mermaid seriously, and even though I had initially hoped for something much more unassuming — not as unassuming, say, as Departmental Albatross, of course — but perhaps something more along the lines of Departmental Crouton, or whatnot); and

(d) Chair subcommittee in charge of drafting gob-smackingly significant assessment document on The State of the Artichoke Heart.

Proposed major performance objectives for the next evaluation period:

(a) Acquiesce to the fact that I must once again learn to dance the Tarantella;

(b) Learn to become more forthcoming about when something makes me want to bioluminesce (or else maybe just shut up about it and keep it to my own damn self, for fuck’s sake . . . I go back and forth on this . . . opinions/suggestions welcome);

(c) Write a short story in the shape of a Russian nesting doll;

(d) Work on a novel;

(e) Play hooky on the first windy day in spring and spend all afternoon flying my heretofore unlaunched but most exceedingly marvelous Jellyfish Kite;

(f) Remember to just be;

(g) [ t h i s s p a c e l e f t i n t e n t i o n a l l y b l a n k ]; and

(h) Develop a super power, preferably something along the lines of Mothra’s antennae?

Assessments and recommendations re: faculty member’s performance to be completed by Immediate Administrative Supervisors in Comments Box below:

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Early this morning there was a ridiculously loud insistent beeping coming from the front street, accompanied by massive metallic clanging and persistent wooden thwacking. The beeps seemed to be set to the exact same metronomic marking as my alarm clock. They were also almost identically pitched to the tone of my alarm clock — perhaps just the merest bit sharp. It’s time to wake up, I remember thinking to myself. You’ve been dreaming for far too long. You have to wake up.

And so I did.


I’m letting old painful things go and I’m coming unraveled — but in a good way (I think) — like kite string coming unbound in a reckless unstoppable unspooling so that I can tumble back and forth with the wind in blueness and light. I don’t really know what to make of myself right now. I like the unknowing.


(It is, I’m well aware, somewhat embarrassingly obvious that sunlight has a deleteriously euphoric effect on my psyche. I refuse to feel chagrin about this, though. Because if one were to do a Schenkerian Analysis of one of my typical Seasonal Affective Disorder poems (usually I end up writing one SAD-trope poem a year at some point during the winter months) — in which the overall harmonic skeleton is boiled down and plucked apart and boiled down and plucked apart until there’s only a large-scale architectural motion from tonic (I) to dominant (V) back to tonic (I) again — my Seasonal Affective Disorder poems would all boil down to Not Enough Sunlight = Bad (tonic/I), It’s Sucking Away My Very Will To Live (dominant/V), Not Enough Sunlight = Bad (tonic/I). (Hmm . . . almost like a blues riff, no?) And you know what? I’m glad that poems, SAD or otherwise, are not subject to Schenkerian Analyses, which I always thought were utterly fucking boring and pointless anyhow. But what was I saying? Yes. A deleteriously euphoric effect.)


Here is where I like to go to be outside by myself and think.

It’s on the other side of the suspension bridge, through a path of moss-covered trees bent into strange shapes, down to the secluded bank where the matted-down yellow grass smells dank and sweet. On calm, overcast days, the water looks like polished jade.

I like to stop at the landing for awhile. I like to look at the odd quirky shapes of old trunks, and the weird lace of branches.

I really couldn’t give a shit if the sky is preoccupied with its own weather, petty quotidian obsessions, and insecurities over global warming, because today I looked up and fell into unrequited love all over again with the frighteningly expansive possibilities of all that blue.

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In a cluster of dead trees there are many red-headed woodpeckers. If I stand very quietly, they become used to me and resume their percussive tapping. The trees have different notes, timbres, and tones, and each bird taps in its own particular rhythm. I close my eyes and listen.


The Wells Fargo Wagon or what-the-fuck-ever (I so love tmesis) finally arrived in South Dakota with my long-awaited contributors’ copies of BLOOM! Wonderful poems contained therein by our very own C. Dale Young and Emily Lloyd. Yay!


S: You sound really happy.

Me: Thank you. I am.

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Me (Taking P’s wrist): I love this watch. It looks really good on you.

P: It’s a man’s watch. S. bought it for me last year. Do you want to try it on?

Me: Definitely.

P (Taking my wrist and lifting up sleeve): Which watch are you wearing tonight? Oh, I love this one.

Me: Here. You try it on. We’ll switch.

P: Yeah. Let’s switch. (A few moments later.) My watch looks really good on you.

Me: Yeah. Mine looks really good on you too.

Astonished Male Onlooker: Did you two just trade watches?

Me: That’s right. We switched.

P: Yup. We switched. (We laugh gleefully).

P (To me): Let’s just stay switched for the rest of the night, okay?

Me: What are you telling me? Are you saying you’d like to drive? I could let you drive, if you’d like.

P: I don’t get it.

Me: Sorry. I forgot myself for a moment.

P: I need to maintain good boundaries. I’m still just too Lutheran, you know.

Me: Yeah.

P: We can hold hands, though.

Me: Okay.

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Confession: In real life, I sometimes avoid any meaningful social interaction with people until they’ve been on my radar for a year or so. That way, I can observe them from a safe distance and get used to the idea of them. I don’t think I actually do this on purpose, but I’m not convinced that makes it any better. It occurs to me that I’ve become much too adept at Batesian mimicry. It occurs to me that I need to stop.


I walk down to the river this afternoon to see what it looks like in the rain. The current is moving a little bit more quickly today, and cold drizzle punctures the gray-green surface in an insistent pizzicato that leaves a succession of ring prints, like many tiny wet glasses quickly set down and then plucked off a coffee table without coasters. I bring an umbrella, but don’t use it. The rain, I finally decide after careful consideration, doesn’t mean me any harm. And so I give in to it.


Last night there is music and happiness and laughing. A pot of body glitter is passed around the table and the women’s faces, the tops of their lovely exposed holiday breasts, sparkle in the dark and the smoke. There is dancingdancingdancing. There is beer. And blues. Crisp, elegantly sexy guitar solos and searing, intricate fiddling.


At one point in the evening, I am cajoled into having a drink at the Elks Club with two other women. I am told that if I go to the Elks I will officially become a local. As if the F.O.E. is a litmus test of some sort. When we arrive, we might as well be sci-fi outer-space Amazons descending down the stairs of our 1950’s B-movie rocket ship. I decide to pretend to be a sci-fi outer-space Amazon during my stint at the Elks Club. (I rule with an iron fist, I tell myself as I drink my Budweiser.) There are many cowboy hats and hubristic belt buckles. There is two-stepping. The room is set up like a high school dance. There are sweet elderly couples holding hands and dancing cheek to cheek. A very nice woman goes around the room with a large platter of deviled eggs and offers one to everyone. Even to me, the baffled sci-fi Amazon from outer space. And you know what? There’s no way in a million years I would have ever thought to have made those deviled eggs up.


After the band, a party at Prospect House. (The houses here are sometimes named: Prospect House. Brookman House, etc.) There is impromptu music in the living room. My friend M. plays guitar and sings with two other women. Their voices are sweet, and flicker in the candlelight.


This year I will learn to become better at trust: trusting the circumstances, giving my trust more freely to other people . . . trusting in myself.


At the river this afternoon a muskrat came floating down the current in the rain. It lifted up its head to gaze at me as it passed the wooden landing where I stood, then slipped below the surface again. Its tail curlicued for one moment in the air like a black question mark. Of course I know the question. Will you tell me the answer?

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