Saturday, June 30, 2012

It is nearly impossible to remember how cold I was last week. Today it's bullfrog weather--air sultry and thick, grass sopped from last night's thunderstorm. By 9 a.m. the heat is already pressing through a veil of mist. The pods on my peavines are fattening. The arugula has bolted into white, square-toothed blossoms. Japanese beetles are fornicating on the rose leaves.

On today's schedule, music: first, Paul's piano recital; then an evening of band practice. I am reading A. S. Byatt's The Children's Book and am filled with fin-de-siecle melancholy, which is not helped by the fact that Blogger won't let me add an accent grave to siecle. 

Here's a poem by Edward Thomas, dear lost friend of Robert Frost's heart. He died in France, killed in action in 1917.

The Cherry Trees  
Edward Thomas
The cherry trees bend over and are shedding,
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed.

And here is the poem that Frost wrote after Thomas was killed.

To E. T. 
Robert Frost 
I slumbered with your poems on my breast,
Spread open as I dropped them half-read through
Like dove wings on a figure on a tomb,
To see if in a dream they brought of you 
I might not have the chance I missed in life
Through some delay, and call you to your face
First soldier, and then poet, and then both,
Who died a soldier-poet of your race. 
I meant, you meant, that nothing should remain
Unsaid between us, brother, and this remained--
And one thing more that was not then to say:
The Victory for what it lost and gained. 
You went to meet the shell's embrace of fire
On Vimy Ridge, and when you fell that day
The war seemed over more for you than me,
But now for me than you--the other way. 
How over, though, for even me who knew
The foe thrust back unsafe beyond the Rhine,
If I was not to speak of it to you
And see you pleased once more with words of mine?

Friday, June 29, 2012

I thought you might like a glimpse into the land of Frost. The first photo is the barn, where we hold the Conference on Poetry and Teaching. This is no dandified ex-barn-turned-conference-center: it's got mice and squirrels and the scent of old tools and mosquitoes and dampness and no heat . . . and the "no heat" bit was pretty hard this year, given a week of 55-degree rain. Nonetheless, when I polled the participants about the possibility of moving to a warmer place, not one person wanted to spend the week anywhere else.

The second photo is the front porch of Frost's house, where we ate lunch and huddled in the evening and stared across the valley at the mists of Lafayette Mountain. As you can see from my flipflops, the temperature did manage to moderate on the last day of the conference. For most of the week I was wearing winter boots and a turtleneck.

As far as I'm concerned, this was one of our best conferences yet. The participants were varied and engaged and heartfelt and brilliant and modest and hilarious and idealistic and pragmatic, and they loved loved loved loved words with all their hearts. It was such an honor to sit among them as a colleague.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Things are going well here in Franconia, but, no, I have not seen a bear yet. I am resigned to the possibility that I may never see a bear in Franconia, even though they seem to frequent the back porches of every other resident in town. Nor have I seen the groundhog this year, though I'm told he's been arguing with his wife underneath the house all spring. Apparently groundhog arguments are quite amusing to overhear, and I look forward to anthropomorphizing his complaints for you.

In other news, I took a nap and went outlet shopping. None of you will be surprised about the nap, but a few may be surprised about the shopping. Outlets are not my natural habitat.

Robert Frost would say hello if he knew I were writing to you. However, he's out in the barn having an arm wrestling contest with Walt Whitman.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

This morning I received an email from Judy Taylor, painter of the murals that I mention in my essay "Labor: A Romance," telling me that she'd read the piece, liked it, and was sharing it with others.  I don't know Judy personally, so this was a surprise and an honor. I'm glad to know that what I said made sense to her.

Today I leave for the Frost Place; and as usual, I have no idea about whether or not I'll be able to write to you while I'm gone. The weather is supposed to shift from crazy humid to crazy dank. Ergo, packing is difficult.

I'm also trying to decide what to read tomorrow night. If you have suggestions, feel free to leave me a note.

And the violin comes too. Maybe it will emerge from its case, maybe not. It's like a caterpillar that way.

Friday, June 22, 2012

My essay "Labor: A Romance" is out in the IWW Book Review.

And our band has some new photos. As you can see, we all accidentally wore matching outfits.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

It's been so hot. The peonies I bring into the house as buds are overblown by sunset. Gusts of thunderstorm wind carry the fragrance of roses and wet asphalt. The gloaming is overrun with fireflies and quarreling hummingbirds. The blue-edged sky is a painting by Titian. In Boston Big Papi hits a grand slam as Tom and I play cribbage and drink ice tea. Upstairs, in our attic bedroom, the fan roars.

Now, at dawn, the temperature still hovers at 70 degrees. Everyone except the poodle and the hummingbirds is still in bed. I am sitting at my kitchen table, drinking coffee, half-reading an Iris Murdoch novel, thinking about the poems of William Blake, trying to remind myself to plant a new batch of lettuce seeds before I leave for the Frost Place on Saturday. As usual at this time of year, I have been poring through Frost's notebooks, and his voice--cranky, opinionated, mysteriously exact--is lingering in my ear. In sound, it is nothing like the austere cacophony of Blake.

Now, at dawn, the chickadees are repeating their little hoarse tune. The rose-breasted grosbeaks crack seed at the feeder. The sky is a deep, almost blackened, blue, veiled by linen cloud. Frost writes, "There is a residue of extreme sorrow that nothing can be done about and over it poetry lingers to brood with sympathy. I have heard poetry charged with having a vested interest in sorrow."

Yes. And this beauty is its own sorrow, one that is also such pleasure to mourn.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Got up, got all the boys up, drove to the berry farm, picked 45 pounds of strawberries.

I guess I know what I'm doing for the rest of the day.  Too bad I can't read and hull berries simultaneously, but I think I'd cut off my finger with the paring knife.

I foresee a great deal of whipped cream in my future.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Good thing. Out of the blue, getting an email asking if I'd be interested in putting together an online chapbook, including interview, essay, and audio along with 20 poems.

Bad thing. Tom dropping a tree on the raspberry patch.

Good thing. Waking up in the middle of the night; hearing my son bumbling in his room; going downstairs to yell at him about playing computer games; discovering that he's so engrossed in a giant book of essays that he can't go to sleep.

Bad thing. Going to the dentist because my jaw hurts. Wish me luck.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Rhubarb pie today, and perhaps a spinach tian, but certainly a houseful of pink and white and magenta roses. I have fallen in love with my flower gardens this year. Beneath my study window the mock orange is blooming; the fragrance is like a park in Rome in May. The last of the iris cling to beauty; the spiky baptisia are just beginning to open their violet peaseblossoms; the lupines are riotous. But oh, the peonies--so gloriously blowsy, like a demimonde dance-hall belle at Maxim's.

If anyone cares to stage a scene from A Midsummer-Night's Dream in my yard, now's the time to do it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Following is the last chapter of The Vagabond's Bookshelf.

 “Some Unsuspected Author”

Just as I finished writing this book, I learned—or thought I learned—that someone else had already written it. For, while reading novelist Martin Amis’s collection of essays (which I’d bought without knowing a thing about them, except that the volume was light enough to carry on a long train trip), I came across his review of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature, a collection of the writer’s posthumously published university lectures on works by Austen, Dickens, Flaubert, Proust, Kafka, Joyce, and Stevenson. According to Amis, Nabokov’s goal in these lectures was “to instil a love of literature by the simple means of revealing his own love.” He devised these talks because “he wanted to teach people how to read.”
One of the novels under discussion was Austen’s Mansfield Park; and as soon as I began to imagine what Nabokov might have to say about Fanny Price, I was seized with both fear and delight, in near equal proportions—a confused reaction that was also well salted with embarrassment. I doubt I would have dared to write about Mansfield Park myself if I’d known beforehand that Nabokov was a specialist on it, for he is one of those writers who intimidates me even at the level of his adjectives. Whatever he might have to say about Fanny would surely render my own words moot.
Oddly, at the moment I stumbled into Amis’s review, I was already enmeshed in Nabokov’s toils; for I’d just finished my tenth or so rereading of Lolita, a book I’d first encountered as a young teenager, when my mother, who was working on her master's degree in English, was assigned it in a course. The novel appalled her, for reasons she declined to explicate. I gathered, however, that sex had something to do with her creased brow, so I promptly read the book as soon as she wasn't looking. I was disappointed: it was less prurient than I’d hoped it would be, even for a girl with such modest expectations of prurience, mostly because . . . I mean, really, come on, be realistic: when the chief seducer’s name is Humbert Humbert, the X-rated factor instantly assumes an entirely new algebraic significance.
Over the years, as I’ve returned to Lolita, my sympathies have shifted back and forth among the central comedic tragedies: poor stupid awkward romantic H.H.; poor grubby rude shallow Lo; poor boring infatuated Charlotte. Clare Quilty is really the only character I can wholeheartedly dislike at every reading. If anyone deserves to be murdered by a gun named Chum, it’s him. But during this season’s pass through the book, I found myself, for the first time, almost entirely distracted by Nabokov’s idiosyncratic control of the English language, especially as he superimposes it onto the 1940s American landscape of movie magazines, midwestern motels, suburban home decor, and educational philistinism:
We climbed long grades and rolled downhill again, and heeded speed limits, and spared slow children, and reproduced in sweeping terms the black wiggles of curves on their yellow shields, and no matter how and where we drove, the enchanted interspace slid on intact, mathematical, mirage-like, the viatic counterpart of a magic carpet.
This is English, certainly, and beautifully grammatical to boot, but it’s a strange, comic, terrible version of the language. When Humbert says, “I stopped [my car] in the shelter of the trees and abolished my lights to ponder the next move quietly,” the verb abolished is both absolutely accurate and absolutely wrong; and this, I think, is why I find it so difficult, when reading the novel, to come to any settled conclusion about right and wrong, love and perversion: because the sentences themselves reinforce the conundrum of ambiguity with such exactness.
Thus, with the rhythms of Lolita pounding in my grammatical synapses, I opened Lectures on Literature, burdened by my overcharged awe, pop-eyed and prepared for illumination. And what happened (at first) was more gratifying than I’d expected: I was flattered. “Curiously enough,” declared Nabokov, “one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.”
But despite this delightful opening gambit, my star turned out to be a meteor, and fell. “There are . . . at least two varieties of imagination in the reader’s case,” announced N. “So let us see which one of the two is the right one to use in reading a book.”
First, there is the comparatively lowly kind which turns for support to the simple emotions and is of a definitely personal nature. . . . A situation in a book is intensely felt because it reminds us of something that happened to us or to someone we know or knew. Or, again, a reader treasures a book mainly because it evokes a country, a landscape, a mode of living which he nostalgically recalls as part of his own past. Or, and this is the worst thing a reader can do, he identifies himself with a character in the book.
What can I say? What can anyone possibly say? Either I decide to agree with him, or I don’t. There is nothing, at this stage of my life, that I can do. For far too long, I’ve identified myself with Natasha Rostov and Pierre Bezukhov, with Fanny Price and David Copperfield. I can’t read like Nabokov: I don’t have the slightest interest in drawing maps of the settings in Mansfield Park, nor do I revel in his plot-summary descriptions of the novel’s structural elements. Possibly such an approach would be invaluable for a fiction writer . . . but I am merely a fiction rereader, and I don’t want to change my ways.
My friend Thomas Rayfiel reminds me that Nabokov’s lectures were never meant for publication and that his teaching gigs were mostly a way to pay the bills. As soon as Lolita hit the big time, he quit his job. It’s also true that these lectures can be very funny, often inadvertently. As Tom remarks, Nabokov talks about Mansfield Park “as if he’d never heard of Jane Austen before.” Consider, for instance, comments such as this one:
We had to find an approach to Jane Austen and her Mansfield Park. I think we did find it and did have some degree of fun with her delicate patterns, with her collection of eggshells in cotton wool. But the fun was forced. We had to slip into a certain mood; we had to focus our eyes in a certain way. Personally I dislike porcelain and the minor arts, but I have often forced myself to see some bit of precious translucent china through the eyes of an expert and have discovered a vicarious bliss in the process. Let us not forget that there are people who have devoted to Jane all their lives, their ivy-clad lives. I am sure that some readers have a better ear for Miss Austen than I have. However, I have tried to be very objective.
The dingbat jocularity of this passage is so funny and touching that I suppose I can forgive the writer for lambasting my brain. Really, the very idea that I have just used the word dingbat to describe a writer as skilled as Vladimir Nabokov is enough to make me forgive him almost anything.
            And this is the essence of my point. When Nabokov claims, “It is clear that [Austen] disapproves of” the family’s play-acting venture in Mansfield Park, I can shout, “No, no! It’s only clear that Fanny disapproves.” And when he blunders on to aver that “there is no reason to suppose that Jane Austen’s sentiments do not parallel Fanny’s,” I can snap his book shut in disgust and go outside to hang laundry. But I can’t deny my lurking pleasure in his humanity. Yes, he was a real reader, and though he was tone-deaf to Austen, he considered her earnestly and with a cogitating joy in his own discoveries. So what if he’s wrong? So what, for that matter, if I’m wrong? We rereaders go back, and back again, to these books because they challenge us—not as students but as human beings splashing boisterously in the shallows of our own brilliance, and our own blinkered ignorance.

I sit at my desk now and wonder how to end this book. Who, of all the writers on my shelves, requires the last word? I lean back in my chair and look up, and there stands Walt Whitman, leaning against his doorway, waiting for me . . . dear striding, loud-mouthed Walt, who soaks up the world like ink—its stories and music halls, its farms and harbors, its sermons and whispers and shouts: who fearlessly turns the world into the palette of himself. And Walt does have something to say to me, and to you, as I should have known he would:

I doubt it not—then more, far more;
In each old song bequeath’d—in every noble page or text,
(Different—something unreck’d before—some unsuspected author,)
In every object, mountain, tree, and star—in every birth and life,
As part of each—evolv’d from each—meaning, behind the ostent,
A mystic cipher waits infolded.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

First thing this morning, Tom and I got up and hauled 50 bales of hay from the other side of town to our barn. It used to be that haying took us all summer, and then it took all week, and then it took all day. Now, with just one old goat to our name, it takes an hour. Still, I keep my hand in the farm business, barely. Before 8 a.m. I managed to fill my nose with seed dust and my boots with grass stems. I scratched up my forearms and tore a bigger hole in the knee of my jeans. I jounced on the front seat of a pitching, wobbling hay truck with the one I love.

And then he swept out his truck, took a shower, donned a nice-boy shirt, and drove off to an art opening.

I, on the other hand, ate chips for breakfast. For as Sir Edmund Spenser has remarked, "More sweet than nectar, or ambrosial meat, / Seemed every bit which thenceforth I did eat."

Friday, June 15, 2012

In the midst of my graduation preparations, I was also reading Patricia Meyer Spacks's memoir On Rereading, which George Core at the Sewanee Review had asked me (for obvious reasons, I suppose) to review. I'll save my comments on the book for the review itself. All I'll say here is that it did remind me how steadily my rereader's brain longs for its old friends.

Although Spacks mentioned numbers of books that I, too, reread often, she did not mention the one that I instantly starting rereading, just as soon as I'd finished reading her book: Louisa May Alcott's Little Men. Alcott is an instructional writer. Basically her books for young people are manuals on how a rural progressive temperate abolitionist intellectual in mid-nineteenth-century New England might choose to raise children. Characters and anecdotes vary, but her purpose does not. In Eight Cousins we learn about the kinds of comfortable clothes that are appropriate for active healthy young ladies. In Little Women we learn about the consequences of public humiliation for small school crimes. In Little Men we learn about the important balance between book learning and physical labor. Etcetera, etcetera. In and among these lessons are Dickensian-esque descriptions of comic babies, ink-stained young authors,  hooligan pillow fights, and melodramatic entertainments as well as serious moral conversations and sentimental tenderness.

I know these books sound awful, but for some reason I just love them. When little Daisy receives, as a present, a teeny-tiny working cookstove, with a boiling kettle and real smoke from the stovepipe, and little pans of cream set to rise, and a little skimmer to skim off the cream, and a wee little bib apron, and tiny china cups and saucers, and miniature pie plates and vegetable steamers and potato mashers, I am still filled with pleasure . . . even though I now own most of these things as an adult and have to use them every day.

Something about these books, with their sturdy optimism and their open heart, continues to reach out to me. They are clean--in the way that a fresh wind off the bay is clean. They are not art; they are barely literature; but they mean well, and they do well. I'd rather read Alcott than Emerson any day.

That said, once I'd finished Little Men, I immediately went back to the bookshelf to find its sequel, Jo's Boys. AND IT WASN'T THERE.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

This is a small thank-you poem to two friends who lifted my heart this week: Angela, who walked along an open ridge with me in the windy sunshine, with the long grasses rippling before us and the red-winged blackbirds swirling up from the ditches; and Teresa, who read a new poem I had written and then wrote to me about it, in words that were not praise or criticism but deep attention.

Sometimes I feel like the loneliest person on earth, but not this week, not with the two of you.


Robert Frost

We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone really find us out.

'Tis pity if the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.

But so with all, from babes that play
At hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.

[from A Boy's Will (1913)]

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sorry to be so late with this morning's letter to you. Not surprisingly, the graduation extravaganza threw numerous concrete blocks into the pathway of getting-things-accomplished-at-my-desk, including a book review for Sewanee that was due two days ago. But by ignoring you for a few hours today, I did manage to bang out my 900 words and hit send. That's one thing to cross off my list. Now all I have left to do is edit someone else's memoir, hone an anthology, tweak a poetry manuscript, answer a dozen emails, and prepare to manage a teaching conference.

Today is also the anniversary of the murder of Amy, Coty, and Monica.

Amy's mother Linda came to Paul's eighth-grade graduation on Monday night. Afterwards, my own mother said, "I have never seen such a sad face before. Never in my life."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Poem for My Graduates

Blue in Green

Dawn Potter

Talk about art being its own worst
story: once I made the mistake
of playing Kind of Blue to snare
a baby into slumber.

Compare the crime
to those water-green lilies that teachers
Scotch-tape over the reading corner.
Now picture Monet shuffling the hallways
among our fluorescent children.
He would die of remorse. Meanwhile,
I knifed Miles for the sake of an hour’s
enchanted sleep. Who knew how soon
that breathing baby would light out
screaming into the blue? 

[forthcoming in Same Old Story (CavanKerry Press, 2014)]

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Flaming dessert works perfectly! Turkey easily feeds 20 people! There are never enough crab-stuffed tomatoes!

(Here's hoping that someone else took pictures of that dessert because I was too busy flaming it.)

Now I'm off to iron for Graduation #1. See you on the other side.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

As of 10:21 a.m., I have made 3 batches of mayonnaise and 2 pots of coffee, brewed a gallon of ice tea, boiled 10 eggs and 8 pounds of potatoes, made 1 giant potato salad and 2 loaves of banana bread, swept the floors, cut a bouquet of purple and yellow iris, and spoken sternly to a sassy ex-8th grader. Turkey, crab-stuffed tomatoes, and baked alaska flambee are still to come. Sassy ex-8th grader has been warned not to reignite.

Friday, June 8, 2012

I received an acceptance last night from the Industrial Worker Book Review, which is going to publish an essay about labor that will, in some form or another, eventually be the preface of my embryo western Pennsylvania manuscript. I'm extraordinarily pleased to know that my writing will appear in a union publication, and this is a really interesting one. You should check it out.

Today is J's last day of high school, P's last day of Harmony Elementary School. Possibly it is also the last morning they will ever quarrel about who gets to shower first and complain about who's used up all the hot water. I love my boys, but I don't believe that I will ever miss that quarrel.

And in 15 days I will be sitting on Robert Frost's porch, looking at this view. You come too.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Here in Harmony, in the midst of our graduation parties and Mardi Gras dances and silly photos and speech writings, we have had a shock. One of the seventh graders in our pack of middle school puppies  has suddenly been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Everyone is reeling. This new pain is nothing like the horror we felt when Steven Lake murdered Amy, Coty, and Monica last June, but communally we have a scar, and it's throbbing now. We are all close to this family in one way or another, and the emergency has suddenly brought home to me what I had already been pondering as I'd been compiling my so-called speech for Monday's eighth-grade graduation: how much I care about the children that my own children have grown up with--these human beings I have known since babyhood without ever being personally responsible for their maintenance yet who have trusted me as a presence, and whom I have trusted in return.

In Harmony the margins of privacy are ambiguous. The fact that everyone knows everyone else's business can be frustrating, even maddening at times, but it also means that we've all had a hand in the lives of these children who aren't our own. We've offered affection, food, a ride home when they're sick; we bark at them when they do something stupid on Facebook. And now one of these children is desperately ill. And we are not her parents. We can do nothing but stand alongside her family and ache for them.

Theodore Roethke's poem "Elegy for Jane" has always moved me, even before I had any children to love, even before I lived in a town where no one's secrets are her own. It is a grief to grieve, but it also a grief to watch others grieve. I'll spend this evening playing music with her dad, and that is about the only useful thing I can do. At least it's a way to speak.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My friend Jamie pointed out that western Pennsylvania made the Washington Post this week. I haven't been back to Fayette County for close to a decade, but it seems that some things never, ever change: the photo, the interviews, the politics, the fears, the unromance, the dirt, the beauty, the grainy comedy, the affection.

I read that article and my first thought was "What am I doing here, 800 miles away, surrounded by all of these stupid books?" It was not a useful thought.

Today I begin step 1 of my graduation cooking: making the ice cream for La Surprise du Vesuve, otherwise known as Baked Alaska Flambee. For years the boys have been begging me to make this, and now I am. In addition to homemade ice cream molded in the shape of a mountain, it involves a spongecake base, a 10-egg-white meringue, and an eggshell filled with flaming cognac that courses down the side of the mountain. Here's hoping this isn't a melty, messy disaster.

I'm also going to start baking many, many loaves of sourdough French bread, to be thrown into the freezer and then quickly thawed on demand. Altogether there will be 15 of us milling around the cottage all weekend, so my meal plans include a giant turkey, a giant lasagna, and a giant _______. Feel free to fill in the blank for me.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rain rain rain flooded basement (again) slugs slugs slugs grass grass grass weeds weeds weeds puddles puddles puddles

Cookbooks recipes grocery lists shopping shopping shopping

Dress shirts dress pants dress shoes neckties ironing ironing ironing

Speech writing speech editing speech writing jokes jokes jokes time wasting

Hand holding dancing singing prom photos prom photos prom photos waving goodbye moping sighing hugging mom and sighing lying in bed and staring at photos falling asleep with her photo under the covers

Graduation gown smart-aleck-how-I-'d-like-to-tailor-it comments derisive remarks on poor-quality fabrics marching practice marching practice using mortarboards as frisbees wondering why it's always the same people who can't figure out how to move their feet in rhythm


Monday, June 4, 2012

The Smile
William Blake

There is a Smile of Love
And there is a Smile of Deceit
And there is a Smile of Smiles
In which these two Smiles meet

And there is a Frown of Hate
And there is a Frown of disdain
And there is a Frown of Frowns
Which you strive to forget in vain

For it sticks in the Hearts deep Core
And it sticks in the deep Back bone
And no Smile that ever was smild
But only one Smile alone

That betwixt the Cradle & Grave
It only once Smild can be
But when it once is Smild
Theres an end to all Misery

[from the Pickering Manuscript, c. 1807]

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Notes from a Traffic Jam

Dawn Potter

Roadmaster truck creaking up from its netherworld,
swaying past the fizzing lights of a diner,
then sliding like a boxy snake into the unremembered night—

Window glimpse of optimists on a couch,
bending forward in eager profile to toast Fortune
with a pair of giant paper cups—

Oh, sometimes I fear I’ve lost the will to imagine
this comedy, this ugly beauty, this moving-picture world.
On and on it runs, trundling out the bumpkin tale of our species

yet wanting nothing from me: neither eye nor heart,
nor sneer, nor timid idle word. I bide my time in this car
like a beetle trapped on a floating weed, biting my nails,

squinting into the disembodied glare of your lanterns,
but you, you, you are a million dream-years away—
you, closing your India-print curtains against the dark;

you, shifting your haunches, humming your tune.
When I remember to hate myself,
I hate myself for not loving you enough—

you, who never lay a thought upon me.

[forthcoming in Same Old Story (CavanKerry Press, 2014)]

Friday, June 1, 2012

Today I descend, once again, into the netherworld of 8th-grade graduation festivities. Baseball season finally ended last night, just in time for a giant pizza party at my tiny house tonight and then tomorrow's prom at the old grange. Possibly your town doesn't turn 8th-grade graduation into as big a deal as high school graduation, but Harmony does. Thus, as one of the class advisors, my primary roles this weekend are shop, decorate, chaperone, shop, chaperone, decorate, decorate, shop, boss people around, shop, chaperone, iron, iron, iron, stand around in corners, and mop up spilled soda.

My older son, who really is graduating from high school next week, stands back, laughs sardonically, and says, "Whatever you do, don't buy Kool-Aid. That is stooping too low."