Saturday, February 25, 2017

Dense fog this morning. No sign of a sea or a park. The houses on the street are draped in veils. Sky and air are indistinguishable.

I am sitting on the couch drinking black coffee and wondering if I am feeling better.

Last night I made braised farmers'-market duck legs with red wine and prunes, served on a bed of wild rice and brown rice. It was a lovely meal, and not even difficult to produce in the doll kitchen . . . unlike bread, which is just unpleasant. It makes me sad to have lost my bread rhythm.

When I was visiting my parents earlier this week, I found myself wandering around the house, amazed at the roominess. Look at this counter space! Look at this bathroom with a window!

But of course I do have an ocean. And shops with excellent bread. And really good water pressure in the shower.

I never did get started on War and Peace yesterday. Instead, I forced myself to read some political articles in the New Yorker. Maybe today I will be smarter and stick with Napoleonic chaos instead of our own.

I keep meaning to mention that I'll be teaching two workshops this spring. The first will be a half-day session here in Portland, on March 25 . . . a reprise of the essay-writing class I led in Rockland last fall. The second will be an all day poetry-writing and -revision class up north in Trescott, on May 6. I think the Portland class is almost full, but there might be a space or two left in it.

My band is also playing two gigs this month: March 10 at the Squaw Mountain Music Festival in Greenville (with the Mallett Brothers) and March 17 at Pat's in Dover-Foxcroft.

Surely I will not be sick for any of these events. [Sigh.]

Surely Donald Trump will not be elected president. [Wishful revisionist sigh.]


Friday, February 24, 2017

I'm still striving to quell my whatever-it-is virus, but I did manage to edit all day yesterday, deal with a whiny cat, muddle through a non-draining-washing-machine problem, prepare a palatable meal, and go out to a basement bar hidden behind a secret door to watch my friend's daughter's boyfriend do a standup act. So that's something, I guess.

Here in Portland, the temperature is 45 degrees above zero, with a rainstorm in the offing. The sidewalk conditions are sloppy/icy/muddy/thawing. The bay is pale blue. The sunrise is fading into pearl. Two dogs are quarreling over a frisbee.

Today I am going to begin rereading War and Peace for the thirtieth time (or the twentieth? the fortieth? who knows?).

And you might like to read this brief essay, "Artists Dying," by my friend Tom Rayfiel. As I told him, reading it pushed me to recall my own artists-dying experiences, one of which involved the country singer Porter Wagoner inside a white leather suit that seemed to be his only link to life. And of course there was my best friend from college, the actor Jilline Ringle, who, as she was dying of cancer, physically morphed from a glamorous chanteuse into the body of a woman who seemed to be a man dressed up as a glamorous chanteuse . . . a sort of artificial drag queen. Anyway, read Tom's essay and I have no doubt you'll begin to remember your own artists-dying vignettes.

Bargain Shopper

Dawn Potter

I miss you, Jilline, though stuck in this frozen so-called spring
I don’t picture you regretting my grim haunts; you, the girl
Who adored high summer, sporting your cheap slinky cling-
Tight blouses, those cat-eye shades propped in your dyed curls,
Your pink-flowered skirts, and a pair of flapping tacky lamé slides
On your big sore feet. Your beau-idée of taste was a dollar sale
At Marshall’s, the two of us name-dropping Ruskin and Gide,
Stage-whispering, “There’s your boyfriend,” across the gaudy aisles
At first sight of every funny-looker we met: those goat-
Faced circus clowns, those clad-entirely-in-blue albinos—
What freaks wandered this earth! . . . and you, decked out
Like a discount drag queen, lovingly deriding my beige vinyl
Sandals half-mended with bread ties.  Only your puff of frail hair
Mentioned you were dying. The freaks pretended not to stare.

[from Same Old Story (CavanKerry Press, 2014)]

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I have returned from my Vermont ordeal, which was an ordeal only because I had a relapse and spent the entire trip on ibuprofen life support. I drove hours and hours, and ate meals, and chatted like a dutiful zombie, but of course everyone could tell I was really the pathetic facsimile of a dutiful zombie. I went to the doctor as soon as I got home, and this morning I am, once again, beginning to rise from the ashes. But geez . . . common cold cannot be the correct term for this viral quicksand. Plus, look at my metaphorical drip: zombies, a phoenix, quicksand. That is surely a sign of serious illness.

Anyway, onward. Perhaps I will be more Hemingway-esque tomorrow.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Whatever you do, avoid catching this so-called cold. I came back from band practice feeling worse, and now this morning I can't tell how I feel . . . maybe the same, maybe better. If I had a doctor in this town and if it weren't Sunday and if I didn't have to drive to Vermont tomorrow to bring the boy back to college, I'd probably call her up and ask for antibiotics. As it stands, however, my choices are hot beverages and positive thinking. So I will declare, "I feel great!" and blame the New York Times for false reporting. That should work.

I've been rereading Aracelis Girmay's stunning poetry collection the black maria, and now I'm about to start Jacques Rancourt's Novena. Jacques was an intern at the Beloit Poetry Journal when I was working there, and I'm so excited about his book. It makes me happy to know he's doing so well, writing so well, getting the attention his work deserves. Sometimes things work out the way they should.

I also want to recommend another book, one that everyone in our doll-house has become enamored with: Ancient Land, Sacred Whale: The Inuit Hunt and Its Rituals by Tom Lowenstein. Last week Paul bought it on a whim at the used book store. He knew nothing about it but wanted to learn more about the Inuit. Turns out that the book is a strange and magical amalgam of poetry and ethnography: a mixture of translations and commentaries centering around the myth and the actualities of the Tikigaq people's annual spring bowhead hunt. The prose is beautiful and evocative and instructional, and it's no wonder that Ted Hughes, of all people, refers to Lowenstein's Tikigaq translations as "works at once of detailed scholarship and high poetic achievement." Reading it is kind of like reading Moby Dick and kind of like reading The Golden Bough and kind of like reading Njal Saga. It's enchanting.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Last night: a giant water main break and a sinkhole downtown "big enough to fit an SUV," according to the local paper. This morning: a boil-water order for our entire neighborhood. Plus, all of our local streets have been marked "Emergency No Parking." City living is so relaxing.

Though, in fact, it is relaxing. I mean, the toilet still flushes and the shower still works. We have heat and electricity. And for a change, Tom and I aren't the ones digging up the water lines and fixing the break. In fact, the whole event has put us into a good mood. All we had to do was boil a few kettles' worth of water and pour it into my stash of empty canning jars. Simple.

Today, on this sparkling sunny day,  I'll be walking downtown to get my hair cut. Later I'll be driving north for band practice. I'm feeling almost well again. It's good to be lighthearted.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

It's possible that I might be feeling better this morning, but I don't want to jinx anything by claiming victory too early. I'm supposed to drive north for band practice tomorrow, and singing continues to seem like a bad idea. Still, it's been 20 minutes since I last coughed or blew my nose. That is certainly progress.

I also hope I become less stupid. I kept receiving emails yesterday that assumed I knew how to think or make decisions: "What kind of poetry workshop do you want to teach?" "How do Common Core goals relate to what you do at the Frost Place?" "When will you be ready to take on another editing project?" My brain had no answers for any of these questions. It could barely figure out what I should make for breakfast.

Do you know the Laurie Anderson song "Baby Doll"? Some of its lyrics seem particularly apropos:
Well, I'm sitting around trying to write a letter.
I'm wracking my brains trying to think
Of another word for horse. 
I ask my brain for some assistance.
And he says:
"Huh . . . Let's see . . . How about cow? That's close."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tom got me a sled for Valentine's Day. I got him a dozen oysters at Eventide Oyster Company. However, we were too sick to sled or eat oysters, so instead we spent a slack-jawed evening on the couch drinking tea, blowing our noses, and staring at episodes of Arrested Development. I feel slightly better this morning, but still pretty much like crap. Nonetheless, I am going to rally my inner forces and go for a walk before the snow starts up again. And I am going to sweep the floors. And possibly I am going to edit a manuscript without inserting errors. Tom, who is a mathematically precise carpenter, says that he has been measuring things wrong for days. Likewise, I have been barely able to figure out how to change a sentence from passive to active voice. [Look, a sentence written in passive voice! You fix it, because I can't be bothered.]

On the bright side, however, I have not engaged in any treasonous conversations with Russia . . . or have I? I mean, as Trump's campaign pal Paul Manafort points out, “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’” Geez, any one of us could have accidentally discussed dropping sanctions or fixing an election. I'm sure all of the White House officials are as pure and innocent as newborn babes [choke, cough, sneeze].

These past three weeks of governance have felt like a century.