Sunday, December 31, 2017

It was a balmy seven below at 3:45 a.m. when I got up to take my son to the airport this morning. Today is going to be a tough one stamina-wise. This afternoon I'll be traveling two hours north for a New Year's Eve band gig, playing from 9 till midnight, and then driving 40 minutes to Wellington in the exhausted dark. I'm just hoping I can hold myself together, and find a way to take a nap somewhere in the interstices.

For now, though, I am awake and slowly working through stacks of laundry. Yes, that's the sound of a functioning washing machine and dryer you hear. And maybe you also hear the refrigerator humming and the kitchen range clicking on. If only we had running water in the kitchen, this place would be a palace.

I guarantee that tomorrow morning I will not have the wherewithal to write to you, so I'm wishing you Happy New Year now. May your evenings at home be sweet and joyous, may you read many books and listen to many songs, may you linger outside in the crisp air, may the Red Sox avoid trading Jackie Bradley, Jr., and may Trump and his posse get dragged off in paddywagons.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

This morning it's eleven below at the Alcott House, and we have a new sink (without water) and a new range hood (without a stove), which means that yesterday Tom had to torture himself by going outside into the cold and cutting a hole in the kitchen wall while I was torturing myself among the sale-starved crowds at L. L. Bean. But we both survived, and now the range hood is in, and now the boy has a warm coat and warm boots.

Today, we'll get a stove and a washing machine, maybe even cupboard shelves. For the moment, however, the cat and I are sitting quietly in the living room watching the wood fire leap. I am going to copy out a couple of Levine poems this morning and do some housework and take a trip to the bank. I need to practice a few songs for my show tomorrow because, yes, I will be playing a New Year's Eve gig in frigid Dover-Foxcroft, where it will get down to twenty below or so. Wish me luck and thawed fingers.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Twelve below in Portland, Maine! This feels like Harmony weather; it was never so cold here last winter.

I've just come inside, after a brief flurry of suburban chores: e.g., putting the trash and recycling beside the curb. I did also carry out ashes and bring in firewood, which gave me the illusion of doing actual chores. But really: this residential-neighborhood lifestyle is awfully cushy: a furnace that goes on automatically! electrical outlets in the kitchen!

Yes, we do indeed have electrical outlets in the kitchen . . . and a working refrigerator. No sink or plumbing yet, but a fridge and lights feel like a significant advance. Today Tom will install the stove and make the washing machine functional. Clean towels! Baked potatoes! Such luxury!

Yesterday the place was swarming with electricians. Though I'd like to imagine it will be swarming with plumbers today, I'm not holding my breath. I think a kitchen sink will be a 2018 innovation.

In other tasks: I might send a poetry ms to a contest today. I might not. I definitely have to take the boy clothes-shopping before he leaves for Chicago. Also I have plenty of reading to do. Yesterday Tom brought back a truckload of goods from storage, including a single box of books labeled "Biography F-J." It appears that my subject matter this week will be very structured.

A row of cabinets/temporary countertop without doors or sink hole but with functioning coffee grinder and electric kettle.

Dining room with stack of unpainted doors, work coat, and jumble of undistributed stuff. But at least we have a candle.

Living room decorated with furniture, fire, giant box, and self-satisfied cat.

Refrigerator with Elvis and gift magnet from son. I actually think my cat is a Republican.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

We're home.

The temperature outside is four below zero, with a high of six forecast for the day. But the little house is snug. Last night we basked beside the woodstove, and in a few minutes I will light it again. Miracle of miracles, the electricians will be here at 9 a.m. to turn off the power while they install a new fuse box and finish installing outlets. Thank goodness for wood heat.

I am amazingly happy to be here. Last night I could hardly sleep; I was too excited. The cat is also thrilled. He can't stop running up and down the stairs and yowling happily into corners. After a three rooms, even a small house is a mansion.

It's too dark to take photos for you, and anyway everything is topsy-turvy. But all is good.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

This morning I got notice that Vox Populi has published my long poem, "A Duet for Uncle Paul." Many of you followed the research behind this poem. Some of you heard it at the Frost Place. One of you, my dear friend David Dear, was instrumental in its genesis, revision, and performance. And so here it is, finally, in print.

I should say that the published version does not include my original indenting; apparently, WordPress can't handle the format. And even beyond that small blip, I am not entirely happy with this version. I think it's a bit flabby and awkward, possibly saccharine in spots . . . though the power of sentimentality is, in part, the point. But it's in the air now, and I can trim and tug at it, eventually.

And I still have that new poem I wrote yesterday morning, which is hidden in my pocket like a gold piece.

* * *

Tomorrow is moving day, and we don't yet have the wifi hooked up at the new place. So you may or may not here from me again soon.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas morning in Amherst, Massachusetts.

The snow is sifting quietly through the white pines, down onto the huge bony rhododendrons, the carpet of dormant pachysandra. I am the only person awake.

Yesterday morning, as I drove back and forth at sunrise, the first lines of a new poem leapt into my mind, a celebration poem, a poem of happiness. It has been a long, long time since I last had the sensation of pure joy pouring through my imaginative life.

I don't know who or what gave me that Christmas gift, but I am honored and grateful.

Love to you all.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Yesterday Tom and Paul lugged Tom's gorgeous custom cabinets from shop to house. And the new sink arrived in the mail--but with a dent in one side. And our next-door neighbor shoveled our sidewalk. And I had to drive the cat to the kennel through an ice storm. And the boys and I had a beautiful noodle-soup dinner at Honey Paw.

As you can see, the day had its highs and lows, but mostly highs. Tom began installing the cabinets and cogitating about a stopgap refrigeration strategy. I tacked up temporary bedroom blinds (e.g., big clean dish towels) and hung a temporary bathroom door (e.g., a shower curtain). Now we are both awake at 4 a.m. on Christmas Eve, no doubt because our brains won't stop clicking and clacking about everything we need to do before we can leave for the holiday. I have more carloads of stuff to drive over to the house this morning; Tom has more kitchen stuff to do. Ah, the spirit of Christmas.

I will try to remember to take some photos of the cabinets for you. In the meantime, I send all of you my best love, with hopes that you have a sweet, peaceable, and comic holiday.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Well, Friday was their last chance, but they blew it: the plumber and the electrician did not give us the gift of water and power for Christmas. So on Wednesday we will be moving into a house with brand-new unusable appliances, nowhere to put our refrigerated goods, and no power of cooking anything more than toast and grilled-cheese sandwiches. I guess we will be channeling Harmony-in-a-power-outage, which is to say: we'll be hoping the temperature stays cold enough so that we can leave coolers of food in the yard.

On the bright side: the freezing rain hasn't started yet.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Now that I own a house, I have also returned to the land of snow shoveling. We have a lot of sidewalk to clear and a longish (for a city) driveway, so our plan, eventually, is to acquire a snowblower. As with most of our plans, eventually is the key word. Thus, I spent a chunk of yesterday shoveling out about two-thirds of what needs to be cleared, and today I'll go finish that up before heading north for band practice.

As I was working yesterday, a young woman stopped to watch me. She was wearing high-heeled boots and was picking her way gingerly down the center of the slushy street. "I hate the snow," she announced, and then asked, "Do you like the snow?" I told her I did like snow but was not especially fond of shoveling it.

She looked at me thoughtfully for a few moments before inquiring, "Why are you moving the snow?"

At this point I realized that she had probably not lived in this country for very long, so I explained that I needed to clear the snow out of the driveway so I could park my car in it. "Oh!" she exclaimed, enlightened, and then continued her walk down the street.

This is the kind of interaction that makes me like Portland.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

We have a moving date: a week from tomorrow, the U-Haul will lug our stuff across town.

So, yes, this is what my holiday week looks like. Tomorrow: drive north for band practice. Friday: appliances arrive. Sunday: drive to my in-laws' house for Christmas. Tuesday: drive home. Wednesday: move. Sunday: take my kid to airport; then drive north for a New Year's Eve gig. New Year's Day: drive back to the new house and work and work and work.

In the meantime, Tom will be spray-finishing cabinets grouting the floor installing cabinets trying to track down the plumber trying to track down the electrician loading the U-Haul driving the U-Haul unloading the U-haul and more and more and more and more. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Monday, December 18, 2017

This is what the kitchen looked like on Sunday morning. Try to concentrate on the beautiful slate-colored tiles and the brand-new door and window, while ignoring the unpainted purple wallboard that will be covered by cabinets, and the two-by-fours that the cabinets will sit on, and the hanging wires and the empty electrical boxes, and the little white tile spacers that I will remove sometime today.

There's still no grout yet, but there will be later in the week. Tonight, however, Tom will start spray-finishing the cabinet interiors, and I will continue packing and lugging, taking a break now and then to actually do some paying work, and to spend time with my kid, and to make sure we have meals and such.

Yesterday I finished ploughing through a giant three-novel Le Carre compendium that I can now return to the library. I think, for the moment, I've read all the Le Carre I need to read; and the only books that remain unpacked are a stack of New Yorkers, Austen's Mansfield Park, Levine's Breath, and a bio of Queen Victoria that my mom just gave me for Christmas. So I guess my parameters are set.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

While poor Tom was tiling into the night, Paul and I were eating pizza together and then attending a Maine Red Claws game, where we got to watch minor-league Boston Celtics hopefuls crush the Salt Lake City competition. Plus, the half-time show involved about 50 middle schoolers riding around the court on unicycles to the accompaniment of electronic Christmas music. It was an enjoyable evening, though I couldn't stop feeling bad that we was having fun while Tom was still toiling away on the floor. Ah well.

Today he is already back at it, and meanwhile I am girding myself to grocery-shop and to sweep road salt off the apartment floors and to clean the apartment bathroom and to hunt down a few big cardboard boxes for packing and to do a bunch of other things that are equally uninteresting to record.

Sorry these posts are so incredibly dull. C'est la vie, here in the unsettled land of moving.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

This morning I feel a bit more energized, but yesterday I wondered if I'd reached the end of my exhaustion rope. Two days of driving, followed immediately by an afternoon of frantic room painting, then grocery shopping, then making dinner . . . and in the midst of my busy day someone slid into the back of my car--fortunately at such a slow speed that neither of us had any damage, but for a few sickening moments I thought I would have to factor car accident into the stresses of the season. Oddly, even the realization that all is well car-wise contributed to my sense of imminent collapse. And when I look back at this list of "things that are making me tired," I note that none is particularly strenuous. Much of my weariness is simply marathon-related, and I feel guilty about even mentioning it, given that Tom is so much more wrung out. But we are crawling over the finish line, no doubt about it.

At least now we have one strong young man on the premises to help us move. I need to acquire at least one more, and figure out a moving date, and rent a truck. We still have no plumbing, but Tom is starting to lay tile this morning. So I think we will have a floor ready for the appliance delivery next Friday.

Now I need to go eat my breakfast, and pack a lunch for Tom, and load some movables into the car, and and and and and. I hope that you are having a pleasantly slow Saturday with coffee and a book. It will make me feel better if at least one of us is.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Eighteen degrees in Portland, and the sidewalks and roofs are slick with ice. The air is stiff and sharp. Tires crunch on chunks of frozen slush; foot passengers skid up and down the hill, heads down, hoods pulled tight. The city feels Bleak House-ian, "and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill."

But I'll be leaving it for 24 hours or so. I'm off this morning to fetch the college boy home for the holidays, and we'll stop at my in-laws overnight before rushing back tomorrow morning so that I can slap a second coat of paint onto the kitchen walls and ceiling before Tom starts tiling this weekend.

I doubt you'll hear from me tomorrow. You'll just have imagine me embarked on my boring car ride across the wilds of southern New Hampshire, listening half-heartedly to podcasts and drinking lukewarm tea from a travel mug. At least I won't be sliding up and down the mountains during a snowstorm . . . that is to say, I don't think I will. One never knows about mountain weather.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Women and Voting

How lovely to wake up to good news in Alabama, a victory achieved because people of color voted for Doug Jones in droves. Thank you, thank you, thank you for keeping that revolting Roy Moore out of national politics.

But what the hell, white people? This time, laziness and indifference worked in the Democrats' favor, as I presume many of the state's white voters would have opted for Moore. Yet that same laziness and indifference factored into Hillary Clinton's defeat, and they will come around again to bite progressives, just as they bit Republicans last night.

Why do so many people take their franchise for granted? In yesterday's election Alabamans were faced with a candidate who once said that America was a better place before Congress granted voting rights to African Americans and women. Alabama's black citizens fought back against those words. Alabama's white women did not.

The #metoo movement has focused on sexual harassment and assault, but perhaps it should also turn its attention to this other version of sexist assault: the ways in which men have controlled women's ability to speak freely about issues that concern them, to cultivate an individual political conscience that does not necessarily align with that of the men around them, to see their right to vote as a treasure and to claim that treasure every chance they get.

My grandmother was born in 1915, before American women could vote. In historical terms, that was not so long ago, and women's hold on our franchise can still feel fragile and insecure. It is in no woman's best interest to elect a candidate who believes the nation would be a better place if we all kept our mouths shut.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

And here is the shadowy standing desk in her new home.

I spent some time yesterday copying out Levine poems and beginning to transcribe the poem draft that my friend Nate and I have been working on together. The draft began as an experiment in communal invention, constructed as alternating stanzas. Now we are ready to revise, but we've decided to do it separately. So I had the pleasure of standing at my desk and beginning the task of recopying our initial draft so that I can absorb its sounds into my fingers.

Tomorrow will be kitchen painting, all day long--first the primer coat and then the ceiling and then, I hope, the walls. On Thursday I need to go pick up Paul for Christmas break, and I would really, really like to get the painting done before I drive away. Thus, today is errand-running, and packing, and moving a few this-and-that things, and maybe doing a bit more poem copying. I miss having my desk here in the apartment, but I'm glad to imagine it waiting for me across town.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Even the oldest hands will spend hours worrying about their backs, their flanks, the cars that pass and the cars that don't, the streets they cross, and the houses that they enter. Yet still fail, when the moment is upon them, to recognise the danger that greets them face to face.

--from Smiley's People by John Le Carre

* * *

I think today will be the day that I will cart my standing desk to the new house. In some ways, it's too early to do this, given that we can't move in for a few more weeks. But, as I argue to myself, the more things I can lug piecemeal in my car, the less we have to do on the big moving day. [Also, I just want to write over there. That's the real reason.]

And I'm planning to bring over the smaller houseplants and line them up in the unfinished upstairs bathroom, where they'll be out of the way. [Also, I just want to look at green things in the house. That's the real reason.]

* * *

By the way, I'm aware that I should be writing some sort of essay about all of these accusations of sexual misconduct, the uproar among men of power, the politicizing responses, etcetera, etcetera. But I've got so many conflicting feelings about what's going on right now. I know that some of my automatic reactions hearken back to the evils of "don't make a big deal about it, honey," and "just let it go, honey," and "no one likes a shrew"--those wretched control mechanisms that have kneecapped women for millennia. So I'm going to wait a while and see what begins to sift out among my thoughts and emotions. In the meantime, if you have thoughts, confused or otherwise, I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

This is how I celebrated the snowy day: I dug out a few strings of lights and tangled them through the banisters.

And then I lit an inaugural fire in the woodstove. I wish I could manage to take a non-crooked picture of the fireplace, but you get the idea. Lawn chair, wet hats and gloves, small woodpile, and a flame. I haven't lit a wood fire for more than a year, and I was enthralled. In Harmony we often kept the stove going 24 hours a day, so a year without fire was a very strange one.

This is the view from my living room window. As soon as the snow began to fall, the little children who live across the street rushed out to catch snowflakes, and Tom and I rushed out to go for a walk, and the neighborhood cats sat on their windowsills and sulked.

Yesterday we had Christmas lights and a fire in the stove. I was tidying instead of tearing things apart. Tom fetched home the tiling materials, and the kitchen walls are almost ready for sanding. I'm finally beginning to image a habitable house.

I went upstairs and lay down on the bedroom floor so that I could see what the view will be from our bed. It's modest, like everything else about this house: all I could see was the neighbor's peaked roof, a tall bare maple, and a cutout of sky. But modest is okay with me. I've spent a year in an apartment with the most beautiful view in Portland, and have itched and sighed and despaired. Clearly I am not cut out for high-class living. I cannot wait to wake up in my little 1948 working-class cottage.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Tonight we will enjoy our first accumulating snowfall of the season. I wish we could celebrate it in the new house, sitting beside the new woodstove, watching the shadows flicker on the new paint, instead of slogging back and forth from house to apartment to house to apartment. But so be it.

Today we will pick up our order of floor tile. We will buy a kitchen stove, a medicine cabinet, and some towel bars. Tom will spread another layer of joint compound on the kitchen walls. I will wash windows and light fixtures and toilets, lug some construction materials down the basement stairs, vacuum up some ugly dirt, and possibly thread a string of Christmas lights through the banisters, just to cheer us up.

A year ago, you may recall, I was dealing with frozen well pipes at the Harmony house, along with myriad other water-related problems. This is better than that.

But I tell you: next year I will have a Christmas tree and decorations. I will bake Emily Dickinson's black cake and make eggnog. I will send cards. Just you wait and see.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Yesterday morning I bought $2,000 worth of kitchen appliances. But of course the store doesn't deliver between Christmas and New Year's, so now we have yet another rock-and-a-hard-place to deal with. We've got to get the floor tiled before the fridge can go in; we've got to move out of the apartment by December 31. Did I mention that I will never, ever, ever again move anywhere at Christmastime? I cannot believe we've done this two years in a row.

In calmer news: I did manage to snag an hour upstairs in my new study. And miracle of miracles, I revised a poem. Gray sunlight filtered through the north-facing windows. I felt as if I were sitting by myself in an artist's studio. The house creaked companionably. When I looked out the window, I saw our two enormous Norway maples, and beyond them the neighbors' back yards, and beyond that a quiet street. I sat in a lawn chair, with a stool beside me as a desk. That was the only furniture in the room. But I had my laptop for writing, and Levine's poems and Mansfield Park for reading. To me, the laptop has always felt like a contemporary version of the Brontes' lap desks, which I have coveted since I was a child--long before the advent of computers. I tuck it under my arm like a book, and then I sit down, and open it, and there I am among my thoughts and papers. It is like using technology to pretend to be a Luddite, but it also feels like a physical link to a particular version of women's lives--those women who, between peeling potatoes and darning socks, managed to pull out their lap desks and find a way to write and write and write.

Today: an oil change for the car, and then back to the house to wash windows and touch up paint. And maybe I'll sit in my lawn chair again, and maybe the words will rise and float again in my little room.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Three Thoughts about Loneliness

It is . . . the pardonable vanity of lonely people everywhere to assume that they have no counterparts.

[from The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carre]

* * *

Take a look. Clouds, trucks, traffic lights, a diner, work,
a wooden shoe, East Moline, poached eggs, the perfume
of frying bacon, the chaos of language, the spices
of spent breath after eight hours of night work.
Can you hear all I feared and never dared to write?

[from "The Two" by Philip Levine]

* * *

My uncle neatly typed his novel scrap onto pink paper. He folded it, and slid it into an envelope, and mailed it to my father. Undoubtedly, like any writer, he let himself dwell for a moment on the dream we all dream—that he had created something rare and beautiful, that he had left his mark on the art. If I cannot bear the thought of your laughter, that’s because I know that I, too, would have laughed . . . if he had not been my child to protect.

This is the strange point we’ve come to, my uncle and I. My oldest son is nearly the age that my uncle was at his death. I have crossed the years, shifting from infant to mother. But he is still a raw young man, the child of the family, forever earnest and awkward and silly. Forever lost.

[from "Lost Time" by Dawn Potter]

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

I think--and I hope this isn't magical thinking--that I am done with the upstairs floors. So, for the moment, I have almost nothing to do at the house. I might wash caulk smears off a few windows today, and I might touch up a paint gash in my study. I could shop-vac up a load of ugly dirt. I could investigate the garden to see if any of the remaining kale leaves are worth harvesting.

I am also contemplating the idea of bringing my laptop to the house and trying to write or revise something. I have not yet attempted to put words together in those rooms, and I wonder how the ghost will react when I do. Perhaps all I'll do is copy out another Levine poem, but that would be a good experiment too.

Losing the Harmony house was terrible, not least because it was the place where I made so many books. This doll-house apartment has not been at all conducive to my version of art, and I wonder what I will do if the Alcott House also turns out to be wordless. I don't think it will, but I worry.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

I am learning to hate urethane. The sanding and the floor washing between coats, the 45 minutes spent stirring the glop in the can, the poisonous miasma, the hours of crawling around on hard floors, the nastiness of paint thinner, the instructions on the label that claim "Covers in two coats!" when you have a premonition you might need four.

Today will be coat 3, and I sincerely hope my premonition is wrong.

On the bright side, the odor of urethane overpowers the smell of the eleven cats who previously lived in the house. And Tom has almost finished the first coat of joint compound in the kitchen. And I bought an affordable airline ticket for my kid. And the cat mostly allowed me to sleep all night.

Today will be a rainy day, and I have not yet spent a rainy day at the house, so I am looking forward to that, even though the basement will probably get wet. And yesterday I did enjoy eating lunch and reading Mansfield Park and watching the sunlight filter through the streaky front windows.
Before dark I'll feel the lassitude enter
first my arms and legs and spread like water
toward the deep organs. I'll lie on my bed
hearing the quail bark as they scurry
from cover to cover in their restless searching
after sustenance. This place can break your heart. 
[from "Keats in California" by Philip Levine]

Monday, December 4, 2017

This is my study, with the first coat of finish on the floors. The floorboards are fir, which has reddened up beautifully, and I love the contrast with the blue and white walls.

On the windowsills are stones from Isle au Haut, off the coast of Stonington. They were among the few decorative items that did not go into storage when we moved from Harmony. I just couldn't bear to give them up. They are sea-smooth and heavy, slightly pockmarked, and the color of slate tinged with blue--a source of peace for both eye and hand. Sometimes I think hefting those stones got me through last winter's despair.

Today I'll give the floors a second coat of finish, touch up some ceiling paint in the living room, copy out a few more Levine poems, read Mansfield Park over peanut butter and crackers in the new dining room, and listen to the new quiet in the walled kitchen.
Suddenly a match flares, I see
there are only us two, 
you and me, alone together in the great room
of the night world, two laborers
with nothing to do,
so I lean to the little flame and light my Lucky
and thank you, comrade, and again
we are in the dark. 
[from "Today and Two Thousand Years from Now" by Philip Levine]

Sunday, December 3, 2017

In the doll-house I generally avoid complicated meals because the kitchen is so small that I have to wash dishes between each step. But last night I decided to make a polpettone, an Italian-style stuffed meatloaf, which I filled with spinach, feta, olives, and pumpkin seeds. I did indeed have to wash dishes all evening long, but the meal was worth it. Despite the multiple steps, the process is simple and the stuffing ingredients are variable according to what happens to be in season or in the refrigerator.

Perhaps I was feeling extra cheerful because (1) Baron and Janet drove over to see the new house after his reading, and they have been significant sources of affection throughout my leaving-Harmony ordeal; and (2) the kitchen has walls and a ceiling!

Perhaps I was also feeling cheerful about having gone to the reading, absorbed complicated thoughts about Lear and human suffering, visited with people I love, and reminded myself that a world exists beyond paint and caulk . . . but that a language of paint and caulk also has its eloquence.

Getting back to those walls, though: The kitchen now has insulation, and that has made a surprising difference in how quiet the house is. It was never a noisy place, but all of a sudden it has become snug and self-contained. I think this must be making our ghost so happy. And there is comedy involved, too, because Tom bought moisture-resistant sheetrock for the kitchen, which instead of being plain white is the color of eggplant. There's something very funny about a purple ceiling.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

I would like to be asleep, but the cat said no, so here I am, sitting up in the dark, waiting for the kettle to boil.

* * *

Yesterday the electrical inspector said yes to the kitchen wiring, so today Tom will be able to start actual work on the floors and walls. Perhaps he'll get me started on urethaning the upstairs floors, but at noon I am going to Westbrook Library to listen to my friend Baron Wormser read from his new novel, so that might mess up the timing.

I have been steadily copying out Philip Levine poems. They are very tired pieces, exhausted by loss and aging. It is sad to live inside them, but sweet as well. Yet unusually they are not triggering any need to make poems. My writing life doesn't have the wherewithal to exist just now.

Last night Tom and I went out for a late dinner to our favorite neighborhood restaurant. We sat at the bar and ate Spanish ham and brussels sprouts and smoked rabbit and grilled mullet, and we admired the bartender's athletic drink-shaking, and I had a little talk with another local poet/teacher who happened to come in with her partner. It all felt good.

And another nice thing happened: I got an email indicating that a really well known small press is considering Chestnut Ridge. No promises, no reason to believe the editors will decide to take it . . . but they've held it since last March, and have had other open reading periods since then. So someone, maybe, is giving it a third or fourth look.

* * *

Of course now that I'm awake, the cat has gone back to bed.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Because there was still no usable sink at the house, I had nothing to do over there yesterday except to catch up on yardwork. So yardwork it was. The many maple leaves are now raked into heaps along the fencelines and into the front-yard garden beds, ready to spend a long winter decomposing into beautiful mulch. Why do gardeners bag up their leaves and get rid of them? That makes no sense to me at all.

I've been feeling a bit stupid lately, the result of general tiredness and a small head cold. I managed, for instance, to buy all the ingredients for chicken soup except for the chicken. I've been trying to combat my weariness with poem-copying: so after acquiring Philip Levine's Breath, I have transcribed a few poems, partly because my friend Teresa dislikes his work and I want to see whether or not I agree with her. I think I don't, but I'm not quite sure what I do think, and I'm also not quite sure if this is a good-enough book to use as an example, or maybe it's a great book and I'm just too trapped in my head-cold brain to recognize literary merit. Any of these things might be true, and I think my dim-witted sentence structure explicates the situation nicely.

I'm told that the sink is now fixed, so I guess I can go back to painting and caulking today. Trudge, trudge, trudge.