Archive for July, 2006


On the way into my office the other day, I came upon a squirrel on the steps just outside the entrance, vigorously licking the brickwork of the building. His front paws were braced against the building, his rapt squirrel head was bobbing away, and I could hear his tiny little squirrel tongue rasping against the brick.

I mean, really. What can one even say to a squirrel like that?

1. No one likes a brick licker?

2. Stay back, oh ye potentially rabid and/or demented Beastlet of the Corn?

3. So brick’s the new black?

4. Brickalicious?

6. No, no, no . . . that Tony Hoagland poem read light switch not masonry.

6. Hunh?.

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[Fucktarded, Overcompensatory Stab at Saucy Badinage]

It’s the time of year when I feel compelled to post gratuitous cheesecake shots on the internet, inevitably accompanied by some sort of Fucktarded, Overcompensatory Stab at Saucy Badinage in a pathetic and thinly-veiled attempt to disguise this compulsion as an Actual Blog Post when really, I’m just posting gratuitous cheesecake shots on the internet.

Scandalous! Yes! I know!

[ / Fucktarded, Overcompensatory Stab at Saucy Badinage]

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In June, purple musk thistles took over the banks of the river, where they attracted the ministrations of skittering swallowtails and slow fat lazy bees that wobbled over the blooms like grumbling, yellow-and-black pom poms. I took pictures because they reminded me of artichoke flowers and I thought they were pretty, although when I looked them up later on the internet, they were described everywhere as a scourge and a pestilence. I understand that it would be horrible to have to clear entire fields of this resilient thistle. I suppose I really shouldn’t like them very much. But I hate being told what to do, so even still, I can’t stop my eyes from taking pleasure in them.

Late in the afternoon, the carp mill about near the surface, feeding on insects. Mostly, they are just the idea of carp  all mysterious fin, shape, and shadow  but sometimes I can see their open mouths breaking the surface of the water, snapping open and shut like greedy plastic coin purses. Sometimes I hear them leap and splash back into the river like big, slippery bars of soap.

Once there was a turtle, with a blue-green shell, sunning itself on a rock underneath the lookout. It slowly stretched its head to look up at me. When I moved to try and take a closer look back, it slid off the rock into the water, and a spume of silt curlicued up in the water like a silky question mark.

Once I passed a bank of deep grass, where a wild turkey first stuck out its preposterous head, then padded down to the bike path and jogged away  pausing to turn around and look back at me for a moment  before resuming its jogging down the asphalt path.

Sometimes, there are talcum-powder-soft toads that lightly plop about along the same bike path.

Swallows’ nests are stuck up in the crevices of the bridge’s underpass like gum under a desk, and the swallows also fly up inside the bridge itself through structural metal piping. When they swiftly disappear up into one of the metal tubes, they almost look as if they’re being sucked up into a vacuum cleaner attachment.

Once, in the old riverbed underneath the suspension bridge, where oyster mushrooms unfold themselves like ivory fans on fallen tree trunks, and the hoof prints of deer send mixed messages regarding direction, I found a foot-long earthworm, damp coils gently pulsing in the shade. What rhythms, I wonder, does it answer to? Does its unconscious rippling open and close to the same magnetic metronome that makes our own hearts open and close? Why doesn’t it find its own largeness, its raw vulnerability, more disturbing?

Once, a Painted Lady butterfly  Painted Ladies are always friendly  landed on my hand and decorated my skin like a bright, three-dimensional tattoo for over a mile. She uncoiled her sharp tongue, clever as a coat hanger, to taste the salt on my skin, and when the wind blew, I could feel the tiny pincer grips of her feet dig in so that even as her wings riffled in the breeze, she held fast, until we finally parted ways before crossing the suspension bridge.

On the bridge, there is a message. Someone has written:

If I can’t be
with her I’ll
be there for her
I’ll wait forever.

And, if one is traveling away from me (or perhaps coming my way, but only if one insists on looking in the rear-view mirror), there are even meta-narratives on the street signs.

No one likes to be told what to do. But still, it’s hard to stop the eyes from reading, isn’t it?

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1. Scary When Overcaffeinated

Me: [To students this spring] I’m telling ya! It’s going to be a veritable clusterfuck of poetry goodness!

* * *

2. At Spring Commencement

Me: [Whispering to S.] Wait a minute. You’re kidding me. Are all the dental hygienists actually wearing a white construction paper tooth affixed to the button of their mortar boards?

S: [Without missing a beat] I guess it’s a good thing we don’t have a School of Proctology.

Me: Snort. Snorfle. Hee. Hee hee hee hee!

[At which point I am rather ignominiously shushed by a Professor Emeritus sitting in the row in front of us.]

* * *

3. Tour de Force

S: What was the name of that speaker who came and spoke on [X] two years ago?

Me: Oh, crap. I know exactly who you mean, but I can’t remember the name. Now it’s going to bother me. [Squinching face and knocking on side of head.] Wait, wait. Don’t tell me. Was it [Y]?

S: [Squinching face and waving arms about like windmills] Nope. That’s not it. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You know I’m terrible with names.

Me: Crap.

S: [Yelling triumphantly] It was [Z]!!!

Me: OMG, you’re right! That’s amazing! That’s exactly it!

S: Can you believe I actually managed to retrieve a proper name and pull it out of my ass like that?

Me: No, that was amazing. It was a tour de force. An outright Mnemonic Colonoscopy!

* * *

4. Fourth of July

E: [Being an incredibly Good Sport after an Incendiary Explosive Device deployed on her front driveway by three ten-year-old boys and her husband rather flamboyantly ricocheted into one of her trees in an exciting sprezzatura of sparks] Oh, well . . . [weakly]. Tree Tree.

Me: So is that like the WASP equivalent of Tree Schmee?

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Today, the Seventh Day of the Seventh Month, is Tanabata, the Japanese Star Festival.

Do you have a wish? Today is the day you should make it.


I. Sumida River

Rice-paper lanterns bob
like sake-flushed faces,
drowsy old men, and the river
makes my ukata sleeves flutter.
Hand-painted fans slice
the heat, and chilled sushi
disappears into my mouth
from ivory chopsticks.
As the crowd of rented boats
nudge each other music
becomes confused–geisha
strumming her shamisen,
a kabuki actor singing.
Soon the firework artists,
Tamaya and Kagiya,
will have their contest–
thunder of geta shoes pounding
the sides of the boats
in judgment.

II. Orihime’s Song

I came from mulberry trees
where farmers lined wooden
trays with fragrant straw.
A weaver girl, singing
to the sharp claps of shuttle,
drumming treadle, I made
silk cloth of worm thread.
But when you came, my loom
fell silent, we made love in
mulberry groves, intoxicated
as birds eating fermented
berries. And when the gods
watched us, they were jealous,
threw two stars into the sky.
I burn alone, but know you
feel my warmth, understand.
And for this one night I am
a woman and you will row across
the Milky Way to me. Impatient
to feel your fingers touch
my face, your mouth drink me,
to have you inside me again.

III. A Thousand Cranes

I go to the bamboo grove,
cut down a young tree
to set in front of my house.
For days I fold
rice paper cranes,
a thousand.
I string them together
with silk thread,
tie them onto the tree.
I write a tanka, a wish,
roll it into a scroll,
place it at the very top.
I am selfish.

Last night I dreamed a wish I thought I’d forgotten, and even this morning it was slow to evaporate, and so I will mix it into an indelible swirl of ink, like the dew from Taro leaves used to write the Tanabata wishes.

Do you have a wish? Today is the day to make it.

Write your wishes in the comment box below, and dive into a chilly river of stars.

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