Monday, September 30, 2019

I spent a chunk of the weekend tearing out my tomato plants. The fruit had stopped ripening, and it was time to fill a bushel basket with greenies and say goodbye. This week I will slowly tear out the peppers and the eggplant and, sadly, the rest of the sunflowers. They have been a delight all summer, and the garden will be lonely without them.

This morning it's cold, and dark, and a freight train is rumbling north. The Red Sox have played their last game of the season, and winter is on the way. I'm grateful for lamplight and hot coffee and a thick red bathrobe. I have much editing to do, and next week's Monson class to prep, and all of the housework waiting for me that I ignored over the weekend.

I think I'll make clam chowder for dinner. I think I'll pick a giant bouquet of the last of the dahlias.

I'm reading Eavan Boland's Object Lessons, just beginning Leah Umansky's The Barbarous Century. I'm washing hats and scarves and sweaters. I'm nervous about the fate of our nation. In one week I will turn 55.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Last night I dreamed I moved into a different house, and then, suddenly, into yet another different house. Each one was progressively larger than this one. The last was so fancy that it had a bathroom patio. I apparently had children living with me, but they were not the children I really have: they were  a boy and a girl, about high school age, who, like me, were completely confused by the constant moving. Meanwhile, I was trying to make dinner without any kitchen equipment, Tom was trying to find our missing stuff, and the two children were staring at us like deer about to be shot. It was all very unnerving.

This morning I'm in a post-dream hangover, which I hope will wear off soon. Everything feels extra-ominous, and the half-clear events of the dream scratch at my memory. For some reason I was very worried about interior doors--their quality of workmanship, not their imprisonment uses. Did this new fancy house have cheap modern hollow-core plywood doors? I'd just moved away from a house with vintage fir doors. How could I? Shouldn't I rethink everything?

I was relieved to wake up in the Alcott House, with its small familiarities . . . and its fir doors. I have no idea why they mattered so much to me in my sleep. But the truth is, the Harmony house had nothing but cheap hollow-core doors and I certainly did not want to leave them. So what's with the door fretting? And what on earth is a bathroom patio? And who were those anxious borrowed children?

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Lately I've had the oddest sensation: I feel as if people are actually reading my poems. I don't mean I'm selling more books or getting more acceptance letters, because I'm not. But the few poems that are out there, the ones eddying downstream, are being fished out, examined, considered, before being dropped back into the brook. Only now and again, of course. I'm not talking about a trove of readers. Still, something is different.

Anyway, I feel different, which I suppose is the point. Not being read has been, for me, a basic fact of the endeavor. I've been published, repeatedly, but I've never had an audience. So even this small shift is surprising. I recognize that it's a social media phenomenon, but that doesn't make it less surprising to me. I've kept this blog since 2008, and only now has the shift happened. Clearly, social media recognition is no more automatic than anything else.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Yesterday I bravely (for me) invited a poet I hardly know to have coffee together, and we actually enjoyed each other's company, and I think we might do it again. So that is something. As you know I can have high anxiety around writers who seem to have everything together (networks, jobs, prizes), which is stupid of me but nonetheless real. So it felt like a step forward for me to be taking a step forward with her.

Plus, it rained all evening!--a beautiful, gentle, steady rain--and this morning the air smells of leaves and water.

I have been (maybe like you) pinned to this Ukraine business. Finally, can we hope? I feel such desperation to get rid of this wretched marionette and his thousand evil strings.

Why does the page lie on the table by the window? Why are the table deserted and the pen to one side of it? Why am I about to make an unwritten poem into this small biography of the silences it retreated into? 
--Eavan Boland, Object Lessons

Thursday, September 26, 2019

On editing days, I'm mulish and habituated: desk work in the mornings, other stuff in the afternoons. So whenever that pattern is disrupted, I feel as if I'm getting nothing accomplished, even if I am. Yesterday, a morning dentist appointment threw me entirely off-balance; my Friday-morning yoga class drives me crazy, though I also love it. It's dumb to be so habit-ridden, though I guess it's not so dumb that I've figured out how to get stuff done.

Sometimes I wonder if that's the primary adult goal: learning to finish what you start.

Anyway, enough of this boring talk. Look outside! An edge of sunrise is lifting over the roofs of the houses--pale lavender-grey, the color and sheen of a silk gown that Jane Eyre would refuse to wear.

The clock is ticking in the kitchen; in the distance traffic rumbles over the bridge.

I'd like to write today, but I know I have to work on other people's manuscripts.

But enough of this boring talk. Look outside! The silk gown has vanished, and now the white sky is fingered with slate, and the chimneys point heavenward like characters in a Dickens novel, and the sad leaves on the trees cast invisible shadows, and far away an ambulance wails like the speaking dead.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Well, day 1 in Monson was a dream. Two dozen Central Maine kids appeared in the studio doorway at 9 o'clock sharp, nervy and smiling, and also deeply unsure about what they'd gotten themselves into. Half of them went off with the painter Alan Bray; the other half stayed with me (and my friend Jaime, who has  kindly volunteered to help out with the program). And so we spent the next few hours getting to know one another, writing some letters, reading some Lucille Clifton, looking at photographs, imagining our own prayers for ourselves and the world. The students were wonderful: eager, curious, concentrated, funny, open. And this was just the first day! What luck!

And now I'm back at the Alcott House, getting ready to waste a perfectly good morning at the dentist.   Ugh.

In other good news: impeachment proceedings. Finally.

Monday, September 23, 2019

This morning I'll be editing academic manuscripts; this afternoon I'll be heading north for an overnight with friends; tomorrow morning I'll lead my first class at Monson Arts; tomorrow afternoon I'll be home again. Thus begins a new bi-weekly cycle in my work life.

Along the way, maybe we'll get a little rain. We sorely need it. And maybe I'll figure out how to enjoy driving. At least there won't be any night travel; that was the hardest thing about my band commutes--so much driving at night.

Yesterday I cleaned house furiously in the morning, then had a slow lunch out with Tom, then cooked/gardened/did laundry furiously in the afternoon and evening. I talked to both of my boys on the phone, sat on the couch reading a novel, fell asleep hard at night. I feel as if I have nothing to write that would tell you anything new . . . and yet the quotidian round is, in itself, a kind of writing practice: I do this, and this, and this, and this, and all of them are small, and few are noteworthy, yet they force me to watch and listen and be patient, to take the comedy and tragedy where I find it.
Let me look back again. The table is round and drab; the worn linen stays on the armrests; the sky is full of the light and danger of spring. The same gulls. The same pupils walking and laughing below the window, the same slight and irritating grinding where they walk on the gravel. The usual text is spread out, creased at the edges.
--Eavan Boland, Object Lessons

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Portland Public Library book sale yesterday! Here's my haul:
The Complete Poems of Cavafy, translated by Rae Dalven, introduced by Auden 
Eavan Boland's Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time 
Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems (which I already own but it's in that adorable City Lights edition, a 1968 printing, and in perfect condition, so I couldn't resist) 
John LeCarre's The Little Drummer Girl 
plus a birthday present for my son which I'm not going to reveal here because sometimes he reads this blog
And I picked up my new compost bin and assembled it, and I did a lot of work in the flowerbeds, and I made an apple pie and chicken-and-rice soup with fresh salsa, and then Tom went out to see a band and I stayed home happily on the couch.

Today is housework day, though we're also planning to go out for lunch and take a walk beside the water. The weather is dry and weirdly warm. I'm struggling to keep the garden alive in this drought, and the backyard is downright crispy. The light is autumnal, yet I'm back to wearing summer clothes.

Here's a bit from the Boland book, which I've just opened. I don't entirely buy into this reading, but I'm intrigued.
In an odd and poignant way these two lives, of a poet and a woman, have proved to be formidable historical editors of each other. In previous centuries, when a poet's life was an emblem for the grace and power of a society, a woman's life was often the object of his expression: in pastoral, sonnet, elegy. As the mute object of his eloquence her life could be at once addressed and silenced. By an ironic reversal, now that a woman's life is that emblem of grace and power, the democratization of our communities, of which her emergence is one aspect, makes a poet's life look suspect, can make it appear, to a wider society, elite and and irrelevant all at once. Therefore, for anyone who is drawn into either of these lives, the pressure is there to betray the other, to disown or simplify, to resolve an inherent tension by making a false design from the ethical capabilities of one life or the visionary possibilities of the other.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

I have a new poem up at Vox Populi--a longish piece titled "A Listener Sends Six Letters to God, in Autumn." I wrote it last fall, and now here it is this fall, reminding me of the way in which this season always makes me linger and listen along the water's edge.

Last night I went up to Hallowell for a really sweet reading: happy to see friends in the audience, to visit with my co-reader friend Adrian Blevins, but also realizing I hadn't driven on the highway at night for quite a long time . . . probably since I stopped going up north for band practices. I can't say I miss that part of the project.

Today, though, I magically slept an hour over cat-time, and later Tom and I are going to a library sale, and then I'll set up my new compost bin, and also maybe make an apple pie, and definitely make chicken soup. For some reason I feel in need of the pleasures of the weekend, maybe because I know I've got to travel on Monday.

I'm reading William Trevor's Last Stories and of course Dante is always on my mind. Regret and loss: The autumn tales.

Friday, September 20, 2019

I spent all of yesterday out of the house, much to the disgust of the cat. Today, I'm back to editing, and maybe a yoga class, and prepping for tonight's reading in Hallowell.

My meeting yesterday was on Commercial Street, a busy artery tucked against the Portland waterfront. Shops, wharves, fish merchants, restaurants, kitsch stands, tourists, cruise boats, office workers, homeless people, ferries: the street is always a scene. Also, it's really hard to park there, so I stowed the car about a mile away, at the end of the Eastern Promenade trail (near where I used to live in that apartment that made me cry all the time), and walked into town along the bay. The day was beautiful and bright, the water blue and full of pleasure boats, and I wondered, yet again, why I hated living down here so much. I do enjoy visiting it.

But, really, it seems like someone else's world: all these fancied-up Victorian condos, and steel-n-glass apartment buildings, and giant shiny-wood sailboats, and even a little yacht moored among them like a fat bulldog.

Meanwhile, a woman sleeps alongside the pretty path, huddled up over her backpack, her pants sliding down, her breathing rough.

She's wedged up against a crabapple tree. Probably the crew can't see her from the yacht.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The temperature is currently 41 degrees, so cold, yes, but no frost. Nonetheless, yesterday afternoon I picked all of my big peppers, all of the tomatoes that showed any signs of ripening, the eggplant, the okra, and I pulled the rest of the carrots (not for frost reasons, but for making-space-for-garlic reasons).

I'll be at a Telling Room curriculum meeting all day. I doubt I'll be teaching for them much this year, given my Monson Arts schedule, but maybe I'll figure out a way to fit in a few sessions. At the moment I'm finding it hard to believe I'll have time to do anything more, though I'd also been hoping to propose another 24PearlStreet class this winter. I've got so much editing, and boy stuff to fit in as well--a trip to Chicago, a directing debut at Bennington--and I wake up in the night wondering, Oh, how will I do it? And then I fall into strange and distressing dreams about trying to find an apartment in Houston (where I've never been), and both the boys are small again, and Tom is nowhere to be seen, and we end up in a horrible place beside a highway off-ramp, in which the kitchen counter is also a bike rack and all three of us have to sleep in a room weirdly littered with tawdry princess decorations.

But in daylight hours I'm more or less keeping myself calm. Last night I lit the first fire of the season in the wood stove, climbed under the couch blanket, and began reading Ilya Kaminsky's Deaf Republic. The cover design is terrible, but don't let that distract you because the collection is completely stunning. It's the best book of poetry I've read in quite a while. If you've read it too, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The autumn busyness is descending upon me again, and I hope I can keep up. Fortunately, my car is healthy again. The horrible noise was created by a slightly bent rotor backing combined with normal sitting-still rust. The garage fixed the backing and charged me nothing. But heavens! What a noise it was! Anyone would have been appalled.

I managed to get a large chunk of work done yesterday--editing, manuscript review--which is good because I now have twice as much editing on my desk, plus class planning today and an all-day curriculum meeting tomorrow. The Monson Arts high school program begins next week, and I am nervous--for no good reason, I guess. Just the usual jitters about the unknown. I expect the kids are nervous too.

I've been reading Alice Munro's Runaway, a 2004 collection that includes a number of stories I've never seen before, though I thought I'd read just about everything she's written. And I have two poem collections in my stack: Ilya Kaminsky's Deaf Republic and Leah Umansky's The Barbarous Century.   There's a frost advisory tonight, though I have a hard time believing that coastal Portland will be hit this early. Still, it's possible we have reached the end of the summer garden. Farewell, bounty.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

On Friday, I'm reading at the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell, 7 p.m., alongside the poet Adrian Blevins. And it looks like my car is getting fixed today, so I'll actually be able to drive there. If you're a Portland-area person in need of a ride up, let me know. I'd welcome the company.

It's cold out there this morning, high 50s, and dry as dust. We're in desperate need of rain. This morning I have to bring my car to the garage; then I'll be back to editing, manuscript reading, a phone conference about teaching. . . . At least there are three new poems to add to the sheaf, after my weeks of no-writing. And I think they're not too bad. So that's something. That's a lot, really.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Housecleaning, grass cutting, harvest work: I made pesto with purple basil (it looks confusingly like olive tapenade), diced two quarts of poblanos for the freezer (my hands were burning), and cooked up a batch of tomato sauce, also destined for the freezer. Then we went out for Chinese food with friends, and now here I am, sitting in the dark, drinking coffee and waiting for the cat to boss me around.

Tonight my poetry group reconvenes after its summer hiatus, and I can't decide whether to share my Otis Redding poem, my Olivia Newton-John poem, or my cow udder poem. I'm leaning toward cow udder.

I have some things to say to you about the Anita Brookner novel I finished yesterday morning, but my copy is upstairs and I don't want to wake anyone. Brookner puzzles me as a writer: she often manages to seem detached and engaged at the same time, and I'm not sure how she constructs that odd tone. But among other things she's very good at talking about how it feels to be a writer: that is, the person who is sitting in the chair doing the lumpish work of clanking together words. Not that annoying stock character, Poet with a Message, who can be hard to stomach.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Yesterday was cool and grim and rain-threatening, without rain. It was a disappointment. What we need is a two-day downpour--the ground is dry, dry, dry--but the forecast shows only sun. My car continues to squeal threateningly and must be hospitalized. Tom and I went to the Goodwill and bought two books (Alice Munro and Anita Brookner), a pack of Dixon Ticonderoga Number 2 pencils, and a checked shirt. Then we took a walk around Mackworth Island and discovered some fine graffiti:
Birds are not real.
In the afternoon I made this pie: fig and pear in a puff shell. Decoratively imperfect but I'm improving, and the flavor was excellent.

I read most of the Brookner novel (Hotel du Lac), lost spectacularly at cribbage, walked to the meat market and bought pork chops, revised a poem, and did nothing at all housework-wise (other than cook extravagantly), which was stupid, given that we have overnight company arriving today. Still, it was extremely pleasant to spend the day making a pointless yet lovely pie and devouring a novel.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

On the bright side, I finished a poem draft. On the dim side, my car is making a weird noise.

The poem grew out of a set of four random words chosen from a book--a trigger I've been finding so helpful for the past couple of years: this time, mellow, real, California, island. Naturally my thoughts turned to Olivia Newton-John; also, a girl I went to high school with named Dawn Mello; also, the fact that California was basically the same as fairy land to me in those days; and the poem ended up being a treatise on overlapping words and young know-nothingness.

The weird noise in the car is a squeal coming intermittently from the driver's-side wheel well that may or may not be brakes, a sticky caliper, random rust because the car was sitting for a few days. . . . Isn't it lovely when not driving a car makes something go wrong?

It's cold this morning--down to the mid-40s--and I'm thinking I ought to harvest the rest of the poblanos and put them into the freezer. Tomato production has slowed, but the kale is finally jumping into the fray after spending two months looking spindly and sad. Last night I made a thick garlicy tomato sauce with a dishpan full of San Marzanos (which spellcheck idiotically suggests I edit to  Maroons). Today I'll harvest a new batch of radishes and order some seed garlic and make a pear pie. I'm feeling a bit oppressed by the closeness of neighbors, but that can't be helped. On the other hand I do live in a place where, when I take a walk, I often run into a poet laureate. That never happened in Harmony.

Friday, September 13, 2019

I woke up in the middle of the night feeling crazed about my various obligations--teaching driving reading manuscripts editing being a good daughter being a good friend--and then finally fell asleep again and dreamed that I was in "Louisiana," a place that looked exactly like a map, even in real life (e.g., flat, brightly colored), but was also littered with giant kettles full of poison and a general air of secrecy and foreboding, and then somehow, suddenly, I ended up on a very fast train climbing into the "Alps." The train was composed of a row of single seats, like a Richard Scarry train (without rabbits in engineer caps), but was open on one side so that I had to hold on tight to keep from falling onto various mountain peaks. The trip was not restful but it was way better than "Louisiana."

Then the alarm went off and the cat bit me encouragingly, and I got up and went outside and dragged the compost can to the curb.

My brain surely does love to invent.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Whatever-it-was turned out to be fleeting: I appear to have recovered from yesterday's ick and even managed, late in the day, to trudge into the garden and tear out some useless groundhog-damaged Brussel sprouts plants that were flopping all over the place and producing nothing. Today, I'll be getting a haircut, working on teaching plans, cogitating over Frost Place faculty possibilities, carving a poem draft, going to the fish market, lamenting my lackluster Red Sox, wearing a long-sleeved shirt, admiring my new sneakers, copying out the Inferno, wincing at the onslaught of more editing, waiting for a paycheck, hanging out with the cat, staring through windows, folding towels, making the bed, washing dishes, rereading a Louisa May Alcott novel, denouncing the government, chattering to some member of my family, the same old stuff I always do.

I was listening to a This American Life episode about people who began with a Plan A about what to do with their lives but somehow ended up in Plan B--and I am not one of those people. I always wanted to read and write books, and play with animals, and have a little house and a family. And I did, and I still am, and nothing has changed. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

I apologize for the late post, but, ugh, stomach problems. I did eventually manage to eat some toast and drink some tea, and I'm feeling better now, though still delicate. It's a good thing I don't have any pressing obligations today; stomach problems are not always so well timed.

But let's not talk about stomachs anymore. Let's talk about John Barth's The Tidewater Tales, which, as I hinted in a previous post, has a backstory in my life. I first came across this novel when I was about 25 years old, living with Tom in Providence, not yet married but soon to be. I had never heard of it before but read it at his father Michael's suggestion, in a copy that Michael pulled off his own shelf and loaned to me. The novel is full of postmodern trickery, which I found hard going at 25 and not so difficult at 55. Nonetheless, it remains a handful: packed with melodrama, authorial interference, baby worship, nautical lingo, repartee, storytelling, time travel, magical realism, literary criticism, Cold War crime, and nudity. I enjoyed it at both readings, though it has the odd characteristic of feeling both light-weight and tome-like at the same time.

So here's the strange thing: I have read this book exactly twice, and my readings were 30 years apart. At the first reading I was 14 years younger than the main characters: without children, without a long-established partnership, without a vocation but wanting, somehow, in some way, to write. At the second reading I was 16 years older than the main characters: children grown, in the midst of a long marriage, with an established life as a poet.

The book itself is focused on two main anxieties: (1) that fraught moment in a couple's first pregnancy, in their last days of being a pair, as they sit on the cusp of becoming an entirely new familial entity, and (2) writer's block. At my first reading I was beginning to want children but only in the vaguest sort of way. In any case, the couple in the novel seemed impossibly old. Why would they be having children at such a late date? Still, I knew something about writer's block: at least an infant's version of it, when a would-be writer has no stamina and no material and no craft knowledge, just a facility with words and a lot of pent-up feelings and a whirlpool sense of dread and need. At my second reading I was stumbling backward, family-wise: the moment when the familial flurry retreats back to pair-hood, and one has to relearn the simple calculations of I see you; you see me. Imagine being 39 again, with a 10-year-old and a 7-year-old! But writer's block: today my entire conception of what that means has transformed. These days I hardly understand it as a proposition: even when I'm not writing, I'm consciously/unconsciously taking notes, stowing away material, experimenting, re-seeing. Being a poet is being me.

So in a way this book has worked as a peculiar sort of frame for my life as a mother/wife/lover/friend and for my life as a poet. It's odd, because Barth is not at all the sort of writer I'm naturally drawn to. In fact, I don't think I've ever read anything else he's written. But for some reason The Tidewater Tales has turned out to tell a little of my story too.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

We went out last night to see The Big Sleep on 16-mm film, and the evening opened with a 1928 Robert Benchley short called The Sex Life of a Polyp, which was actually quite amusing. And it reminded me of Aunt Margaret--not my aunt, but Tom's great-aunt, who was a Hollywood actress under the name of Margaret Bert. Look her up on IMDB sometime. She had bit parts in some of the most famous movies ever made: Singin' in the Rain, Brigadoon, Easter Parade, that kind of thing, and she also appeared in a few of these Robert Benchley shorts. Aunt Margaret played the Mother or the Maid or the Nurse in close to two hundred films and TV episodes, often uncredited, almost always a stock aging lady type.

Margaret Bert was born Margaret Birtwistle in Lancashire, England, at the end of the 19th century. She must have come to America early, because she began her theatrical career dancing at the Ziegfeld Follies (as did her little brother, Tom's grandfather, who eventually left show biz and went into regular biz). I don't know much at all about her personal life, though Tom's father does remember spending time with her when he was a child. I don't think she was married or had children of her own. But somehow she managed to make a career for herself, playing parts that were as far from starring roles as one could get.

Monday, September 9, 2019

I dusted, vacuumed, scrubbed all morning, and then in the afternoon T and I ambled down the street to Porchfest, a free neighborhood music event, with bands set up in driveways and on porches, and families milling around in an atmosphere of general good cheer, surrounded by semi-okay performances, sprinkled now and then with good and/or sweet ones. And then we came home and I made breakfast for dinner: roasted potatoes with scallions and parsley; roasted red peppers and Green Zebra tomatoes, with eggs baked among the vegetables; a cucumber and cantaloupe salad.

Today: various telephone calls, some Frost Place and Monson planning. Maybe I'll send out some submissions.

I've been thinking a lot about that Amy Lowell poem I posted yesterday. One hundred autumns ago she wrote that small piece. One hundred autumns have passed, and still: here we are, striving to hold on to our tiny losses. A leaf. An edge of silver.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Down at the end of the street, a freight train squeals and rumbles north. It is strange, living so close to an active track. I wake in the night and hear trains. I sit in my car waiting for trains to pass. What's in those cars? Anything could be in those cars.

Autumn melancholy sifts down through the weary trees. Windows are shut, sweaters buttoned. Cicadas scree in the drying branches.

I wish I had something to say, but what?

Amy Lowell 
All day I have watched the purple vine leaves
Fall into the water.
And now in the moonlight they still fall,
But each leaf is fringed with silver. 

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Dorian is roiling up through the Gulf of Maine toward the Atlantic provinces, and here in the seaport it's spitting rain. No wind yet, though a breeze is supposed to kick up later today. Down East counties (Hancock, Washington) are on a tropical storm watch, but our Casco Bay is tucked away from any real weather. So on this dim morning, as I nestle under a couch blanket and think about sweaters and socks, I'm also drinking black coffee and listening to raindrops tick on the vent hood and not worrying about trees falling on the house. What destroyed the Bahamas is nothing more than a passing thought here. The disjuncture is terrible.

I have no particular plans for today, except to run an errand downtown and maybe freeze some chard. Yesterday I got a shingles vaccine, so my left shoulder is as stiff as a signpost, but better that than shingles. I spent some time in the afternoon working on Frost Place stuff, pulling my thoughts together about my upcoming Monson gigs, and forgetting to buy airline tickets to Chicago. So I'd better get that done today too.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Autumn really has arrived: I wore long pants all day yesterday, and a long-sleeved shirt, and soon I'll be putting on socks and a sweater and closing all of the windows and thinking about lighting an evening fire in the woodstove. Yesterday I tore out my sad cucumber plant and made a jar of gherkin pickles using the tiny fruits I stripped off the vine. I stuffed peppers with eggplant, sausage, and rice, and I cooked tomato sauce, and I spread compost around lily plants. I read poems and I read a novel and I talked on the phone with my mother and my son. I played cribbage with Tom, and I went for a walk to the meat market, and I discussed sheep-raising with the guy across the counter. I listened to a small amount of baseball and I watched Foxy Brown.  I washed sheets and hung them on the line to dry. I made the bed. I washed dishes. I considered a manuscript.

It's been good to have a few days filled with this sort of desultory busyness: reacquainting my thoughts with my hands, my daydreams with the season.

I'll be turning 55 in a month. I'm coming to a version of terms with my carapace. What else can I do? I'm happy to be alive.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

On September 20, I'll be reading at the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell, Maine, with Adrian Blevins, 7 p.m.

At the end of the month I'll be starting my year-long high school poetry class at Monson Arts.

In mid-October I'm going to Chicago to visit my kid.

On November 1-3 I'll be leading a weekend poetry class at 26 Split Rock Cove, a retreat center in Thomaston, Maine. It will center around the work of Hayden Carruth and Jane Kenyon, and we'll use those conversations to trigger both new work and revision.

In late November I'll be in Bennington for my other kid's senior directing project.

But today I'll be at home reading a poem packet, and maybe moving some compost, running the trimmer, washing sheets, stuffing peppers. It's been a while since I've been able to relax into writing and home stuff, and the garden is certainly in need of harvest attention. I've got chard to freeze, probably tomatoes and eggplant to deal with, and a sad cucumber plant to tear out. I've got my own poems to revise, and other people's poems to mentor.

I'm still reading Barth's The Tidewater Tales. Someday I'll tell you the story of the reading/re-reading of this book. It's very specific, and to me feels very odd. But that's a tale for another morning.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

I did get a lot of editing done yesterday, and I tried to can tomatoes, too, but apparently the rubber gasket on the lids had gone bad so none of the jars would seal. It was very irritating. Still, I did mow grass and roast a chicken and make mashed potatoes, and cool air sifted through the evening windows, and the Red Sox came back from a large run deficit to almost win even though their pitching was horrible, and I finally beat Tom in a cribbage game, and it was a sweet early autumn night when a homesteader's thoughts turn to "guess it's time to move some firewood into the house this weekend."

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

I spent yesterday going nowhere in the car. It was a fine break from the past couple of days. In the morning I shucked, boiled, cut, bagged, and froze a bushel basket of fresh corn; then harvested a dish pan full of various peppers--poblano, sweet Italian, bell, Serrano--and cut, bagged, and froze them. I'll have tomatoes to deal with this afternoon--a small canner load, but I'm short on freezer space here at the Alcott House.

And I'm back to editing today, and I have a poetry manuscript to review, and grocery shopping to fit in somewhere on the schedule . . . but the boy is happily back in his milieu, anxious to get started on his work, and Tom and I enjoyed a pleasant day in which we hardly saw each other because we were too busy humming around our own hives.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Home, finally, after two days spent mostly driving. The boy is installed in his room, we played lots of cards with my father, and I now have 30 ears of his corn to steam and shuck and freeze. But I came home tired, and it was lovely to find Tom making a good dinner, which was still good even though the power went off in the middle of the cooking, and we ended up spending the evening standing around candles in the kitchen shucking and eating raw mahogany clams with lemon and horseradish instead of the cooked ones he'd planned . . . not at all a disappointment as the clams turned out to be superb on the half-shell. In Harmony we could still cook without power but had no water. Here we have water but no stove. Adjustments must be made.

Anyway I'm glad to be here. The boy is glad to be back at school. Rain is moving in today. I'm fretting about the Bahamas and the hurricane path, of course, but so are you. I have a headache and a stuffy allergy-ridden nose, but I also have a hot cup of coffee and a quiet sofa. It feels as if autumn is underway, and I'm glad.