Archive for the ‘Quotedium’ Category

Winter’s all-nighter a terrifying 2:30 a.m. joyride to the airport in lazy champagne bubbles of fizzing snow, your dashboard reading twenty-three below.

I-29 punctuated with stalled-out cars and trucks — blinking hazards a festive spritz of twinkly lights, glowing emergency roadside triangles, the light-show rave and swoop of ambulance beams gyrating on a backdrop of white, snow-banked shoulders.

So many metal beasts with stopped hearts, waiting for defibrillation.

Your turn-signal blinkers too frozen to blink. Your engine softly coughs.

Your toes turn to a painful glitter of icy sparkling nubs.

Your breath circling from your mouth in such a hyperbole of cascading swirls and plumes that you swear you’re exhaling out your own ghost.

(Out with the old / in with the new)

And you’re almost glad of it — this exhalation, this scourge — even though you fear it will leave behind only a frozen carapace that, when thawed, will shatter like glass under hot water.

What you welcome, though, is the aperture: a dazzling, scoured space to welcome light.

3:30 a.m. airport’s fluorescent glaze, ribbony rat maze to the TSA checkpoint, back-scatter x-ray scan, and security pat-down seems surreal after being spit out of the frozen, cavernous black.

When you land in MSP there’s a hubbub in the terminal: a dalmatian puppy! Everyone wants to stop and smile and pet this warm and polka-dotted and newly-wagging life.

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Today four below zero, with a low of negative fourteen.

Tomorrow, seven below, with a low of negative twenty-two.

Shivery-braille-of-goosebumps-rising-under-three-fleece-blankets-in-the-morning cold.

A sandwich your chilled lunchmeat of self with a heating pad in back, the hot toasted breath of a space heater in front, garnished and condimented with four pudgy cats kind of cold.

Car-battery-dying-a-quiet-death-in-the-middle-of-dinner cold. Frozen blue corrosion like a blueberry slushie spilled around the battery cable terminal.

Cold snap means a heaving lake of ice tinkling a song of clear glass wind chimes and broken champagne flutes.

The nylon of your down coat crackles like brittle sheets of aluminum foil.

The cartilage inside your nostrils stiffens to hard cold rubber.

Your blood slows, your thoughts turn sluggish and you misplace your phone, despairingly search through the alley trash, raw and pink as any unfurred thing in the snow.

So much ache and sting; this numb, stale freezer burn.

Such a brutal hostage taking: this confessional spill of the body’s most intimate heat and light, this non-consensual vulnerability.

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Che Vuoi???

For the past month, in my Panda Planner, under “passion project” I’ve been writing down “Resurrect Blog???” I’m not sure what’s up with the question marks . . . perhaps it has something to do with too-many ongoing priorities, the constant feeling of overcommitment and overwhelm, the coming to terms with dwindling reserves of energy. Yet I’ve been stubbornly writing it down every week as something I want to do for myself: something I want to do for myself as a writer, as a person.

The question marks, though. They seem a little bit wistful to me. So much of 2017 has been conducted in Emergency Crisis Mode. Dealing with a cancer diagnosis and surgery in April. Eight weeks post-surgery having to return to Wyoming to help my elderly parents (after they stopped speaking to me three years ago, following the publication of my book, Dandarians), followed by a mad dash back to Vermillion several days before the fall semester started  to hit the floor running in the most ungraceful possible way for a busy and chaotic semester: behind, unprepared, stressed, tired, preoccupied, cancer experience completely unprocessed.

At the time, I felt that the late start was worth it, though, because I thought that I’d managed to get things squared away for my parents well enough that they would at least be in a temporarily safe holding pattern: house much cleaner and in better working order, adaptive equipment purchased, contractor hired to make accessibility renovations, home healthcare in place. After my father returned home from the care center, though, where he had spent the summer rehabbing a broken hip, my parents immediately began refusing their home healthcare services, and in a matter of weeks, everything came unraveled: my father was driving again against doctors’ orders, my parents were both losing too much weight, they were having trouble with meals and bills and dates and prescriptions, failure to thrive, failure to thrive, failure to thrive.

My father went back into the hospital in early December, is now back in the care center, and my Japanese mother’s alone in the house again for the second time in their 62-year marriage. On top of a constant clusterfuck of professional commitments and deadlines, there’s now a veritable tsunami of daily problems that need to be solved: legal, financial, medical, domestic.

I’m the only child, and also now the only one in the family who currently has the capacity to think clearly, and it feels lonely.

Facebook feels hollow and lonely, too, in certain ways. I miss the potential for nuance, for complexity, that seems more possible in the blogosphere.

Resurrect blog???

I think of the ways in which blogging played a role in the genesis of my third and fourth books of poetry. Of the ways in which blogging helped me to write my way into becoming a budding essayist. Of the ways in which blogging was so formative to creating a sense of writerly/poetic community during times that I felt isolated or lonely in the SoDakian Tundra.

Everything right now feels so ???: the constant hideous uncertainties and instabilities perpetrated by a cruel and corrupt administration, ever-looming ecocide, coming to terms with one’s parents’ mortality, coming to terms with one’s own mortality.

Maybe the tentativeness of Resurrect blog??? is about feeling simultaneously embroiled in a flurry of overcommitment and hopelessly stymied/paralyzed. Feeling overstimmed to the point of numbness. Like the helicopter-wing thrum of dragonfly wings stilled in amber.

And it’s not that I wish for certainty, which strikes me as being much too rigid, and inflexible, anyhow.

Maybe I just want more quiet space to articulate my own ??? Or perhaps to see if any of you are feeling ??? as well. Or to hear possible responses to this sense of ???


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the holland tunnel
a long shiny paper towel tube
(if paper towel tubes
were like the insides of abalone)
streaked by a graffiti
of red headlights
i tried to cut my bangs
with cuticle scissors
in front of the mirror
at hotel 17
which is never a good idea
but i had a sudden
and terrible desire
for them to be somehow
more kathleen hanna-esque
i bought hello kitty ugly dolls
and the infinite wait
at forbidden planet, plus
tons of bendis and ellis
it’s sad to wake up at home
alone in a hungover fog
of jetlag and ativan and pokemon
i can hear the cats busily licking
condensation from the shower curtain
in the next room, hello?

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Well, so there have been rumblings and grumblings and artillery fire in the distance, and I have insisted on being very ostrich-head-in-the-sand-y about things here at Heartichoke Headquarters, but the first department meeting of the fall semester always, to my mind, constitutes the official opening salvo of the academic calendar.

I feel like I’m still, in many respects, processing what feels like a gloriously whirlwindish summer — much in the same way I’m still organizing and editing photographs from my travels. I’m at an interesting place where the images and physical memories of being in the places where the pictures were taken still seems quite fresh and clear, but the photographs themselves — particularly the ones I like the most — seem like a shocking surprise. They are rapidly becoming their own discrete objects. This process seems more fluid to me — more like a Polaroid developing — than the instantaneous not-the-thing-itselfness — that constant separation/mediation between thought/image/speech/memory — that happens with poetry and prose. During my travels, I consciously made an effort to spend time with the camera down, simply looking/being without the mediation of the lens, without documenting, and these are the moments I can call up very clearly within my mind. The pictures, though? Constant surprises after-the-fact. I love this process of re-vision.

But the fall semester. It loometh.

I think what I appreciate the most about summer is the opportunity to become more of a student myself again. To learn/try/see new things, to read off-topically and on-topically, to establish better (ha!) study habits, to just sometimes be very still/quiet, and — most importantly — to reestablish connections with my own writing that inevitably deteriorate during the height of end-of-the-semester craziness (if not earlier). So I’m concerned about losing sight of some of these things once I layer some of the other components back in. Mostly it’s not wanting to turn into Grading Borg. Or, worse yet, Crabby Procrastinating Grading Borg.

I adore fall, though, and the clean slate-ishness of the new school year. I’m happy about the classes I’m teaching, and really looking forward to seeing my students again. This always seems like a time of excitement and energy for me: shiny protractors, new rulers, crayons with wax-perfect tips, the smell of fresh pencil shavings, and pinkpink erasers!

In the meantime? There’s a Lemon Refrigerator Cheesecake (with homemade lemon curd) chillaxing in the fridge for tonight’s back-to-school departmental potluck.

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1. My internet has been quixotically fritzy for the past 3-4 days, and I can’t quite isolate the problem. At first I thought it was an Airport/Time Capsule problem, but then I moved directly to ethernet, and I’m still regularly disconnecting. So now I’m wondering if the cable connect is being disturbed while the side of the apartment is partially dismantled for the construction of a new balcony/porch. Or maybe it’s just my iMac being capricious? In the meantime, all is vaguely untrustworthy just from the fact that I find feral feline teethmarks all over every single power cord and ethernet patch and cable line. I’m currently blogging from the Netbook using 3G, but I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time before this remaining frail umbilical is severed as well.

2. Speaking of apartment repair, it was unnerving to wake up to pounding and scaffolding, no balcony, and my landlord and his father stationed right outside my dining room windows, blaring KFUCK: The Universe’s Most Loathsomely Treacly Country Hits Ever or somesuch on their transistor radio. Today I heard that Exes in Texas song. Eesh. Although? I did also hear Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Which, okay, I kind of <3, to be perfectly honest. I used to love the Glenn Campbell show, and Rhinestone Cowboy? My favorite. Le sigh. When I was four, I told my parents I was going to marry Glen Campbell. Of course, I'd also earlier announced plans of pleading my troth to Gomer Pyle, so clearly I was a Very Disturbed Child. Or, maybe we just had shitty television reception then in Laramie, Wyoming. Only two stations came in reliably and the bunny ears, wrapped in podgy silver rolls of tinfoil (as if that was supposed to help!), had to be constantly tweaked and gyrated. We didn't even get PBS.

3. Have been gloriously holed up (That sounds suspiciously a lot like gloryholed, doesn't it? Which sounds, well . . . naughty, doesn't it?) Oh hell, now I have to start this sentence all over. Have been gloriously holed up readingreadingreading and writingwritingwriting and hanging out with the cats, and sweeping up the crockery after the cats break the crockery, thereby entailing the picking out of new crockery on eBay for the cats to break. It's pretty awesome! And such a shame that the summer is rapidly drawing to a close. How about let's add on another month please? Pretty please?

4. I recently realized that I've been procrastinating completion on a book project, because I'm very unsure of what sort of direction I might want to take next/after. I hate being in limbo between creative projects, and like to have at least a little bit of a start of something new before I finish a book. (You know, all that Hemingway-esque Always Leave Something to Work on the Next Day crap, right?) But deliberate procrastination seems equally crazy, and just another form of stuck-ness. I am all about the Anti-stuck-ness these days. Stasis (as in stuck-ness, and distinct from, say, stillness, which is completely different and not a problem) = suffocation, paralysis, and (not to put too fine a point on it) death. But worse, because you're not actually dead yet. So it's like being buried alive. Even worser? It's self-inflicted! So maybe what I'm saying is that Stasis = Self-Inflicted Zombification. Like you ate your own brains! (Confession? It's entirely possible that I had waaaaay too much caffeine today. Mea culpa.) So no more procrastination on this book project. I’m moving forward.

5. Enough buckshot to constitute a blog post yet? I say yes.

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Oh, this poor ghost town of a blog!

Inhospitable to the trolling of search-engine spiders who simply shriveled up and died clinging to a rusted meta-tag.

Even the virtual tumbleweeds stopped rolling through months and months ago.

Even outlaw spambots stopped hiding out here.

Mostly I’ve been traveling all over the place. Pinging and ricocheting here and there like a demented pinball. I love it . . . I love going places, and I love impersonating my Author Function. But I’ve been constantly either Frantically Preparing to Leave Town or Frantically Catching Up From Having Been Out of Town. It’s been hard to settle in and find a routine, a groove, and so I’m constantly mole-whacking instead.

You should probably know that I’m very fond of moles.

I’m recently back from a wonderful summer residency teaching at the University of Nebraska low-residency M.F.A. Earlier this summer I read and gave workshops at the WyoWriters’ Conference in Cody, Wyoming. I visited the Heart Mountain internment site which was powerfully humbling and moving, and I also then spent several beautiful and hallucinatory days in Yellowstone National Park. Later on in the month I took a trip up the inland passage of Alaska, and spent a few days in Seattle after. Part of The Next Thing I was nattering on about in blog posts from the start of this year had to do with Making Things Happen, and travel is definitely One of Those Things. So I went. And I saw some stuff.

I’m obsessed with taking pictures. And thinking about what it means to take pictures. So this summer has been filled with taking a shitfuckload of photographs. And reading Barthes’ Camera Lucida, Lia Purpura’s On Looking, and John Berger’s About Looking. For starters. I bought a refurbished Nikon D5000 from eBay at the start of the summer, and it’s — well — amazing.

Random Japanese Mother Tidbit: In response to my nose piercing, I caught my mother calling me a Hole Punch under her breath when I saw her in Cody.

Okay. I think that’s all for now.

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