When you’re not around

May 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Every morning around 9, I drop Lena off at daycare, go to work, and return around 5:30 to pick her up and take her home.

Do you know what happens between 9 and 5:30 each weekday? Nothing, right? Lena’s just at a glorified babysitter’s, right?

I’m thinking of Beth Ann Fennelly‘s poem, “First Day at Daycare”, and epigram that says, “My daughter comes home smelling like / another woman’s perfume”

This morning, Lena and I went for a walk on the greenway behind our house, and Lena stopped to look at a dead cicada on the ground. She stopped me to say, “Ooh, Mommy, look at this.”
“Yeah,” I say, “That’s a cicada,” thinking that I am imparting some great knowledge onto my daughter.
“Mr. John told us about cicadas last week,” Lena says, so matter-a-factly it just tugs at my heart.
“Really?” I say. “Did he talk about the music they make?” Mr. John is the music teacher. That much I know!
“Yes,” Lena responds again. “They go buzzzzzzzzzzzz.”
That they do, small one, that they do.

I started to explain the life cycle, because goddammit I can teach my kid something too, but she was already on to the next fallen twig from a tree, twenty feet ahead of me.

L is growing up. Overnight, it seems. Every morning is a new unexpected emotion, or phrase. I pick her up from school and she is a fountain of what she did that day, or what her friend’s did. She’s this catalog of who is sick, who is on vacation, who’s parent picked them up or dropped them off that day.

And I’m just me. About twenty paces behind this whirlwind of a kid at any given time. Sometimes she lets me catch up. I get glimpses of who she is becoming and where she’ll go. And then she’s off again. And I couldn’t be more thankful for every moment I spend with this kid.


Silent prayer

May 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Please god

Take me away from these men in pastels and khakis.
Leave them with their visors
their bloody marys
white russians.

I wonder if they are actually illiterate
or just dumb.
This elevator is going up, asshole.

Golf is best on an HD tv
in a room I am not in.

I hope your flip flops get caught in an escalator.

I hope your beer warms up unnaturally fast.
I hope the airplane loses your clubs.

I hope your tiny pencil you use to take score, breaks.
Oh wait that’s miniature golf.
I hope your larger pencil breaks too then.

May your caddy come down with food poisoning
and you also.

Give me a man who likes baseball and whiskey
who wears neutral colors and
who does not wear his sunglasses on a string around his neck.
It looks kind of like a dumb necklace.

Please god,
get me to my real man.
Take me home.


April 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

when I’m bored in lab
I put all my things in the centrifuge
turn it on
pretend it’s a bomb
and run away.

Another way to get a thrill
is to leave things slightly unbalanced
and hope for the best.

Science is fun.


March 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

In this episode of Things That Used To Mean A Lot To Me But Then I Forgot About Them And Recently Rediscovered Them And Have Discovered That They Now Mean Something Different Than They Used To…(phew) (for previous episodes, see here.)

I present you all with a poem.

John Amen

Choose the butterfly over the chrysalis.
Choose light, the ballroom, the well-lit restaurant.

You have for lifetimes strummed minor chords
on the coast of a dead sea. Think major, spindrift.

The sex between you and grief is becoming mechanical.

Despite your vestigial sentiments to the contrary,
a scab’s story is much greater than that of a scar.

Your cock is not an umbilical cord, it is your
heart’s mouthpiece. Choose sunrise, please.

It is time to do something that might cause
embarrassment. Let emptiness mother your child.

Put away the map, where we’re going won’t be on it.

There is nothing particularly inspiring about a death wish.

You have learned all there is to learn from the woman in black.

It is time to stop insulting ecstasy. Masochism
is an empty udder. What was is a cipher. Pick
the rose over the injured dove. Pick warm waters.

Attend a circus. Go for the comic. There is nothing
more mediocre than the association of dysfunction with genius.

Indulge in color. Believe me, there is not a problem.
Plumb bright places for new symbols.

Recommendation: study evergreens.
Find me. We have much to talk about.

I remember reading this poem and falling in love with it at like, sixteen. I loved the imperative statements, I loved the images. I loved, “Think major, spindrift”. I love the couplets, I love that it breaks the couplets. I love that it returns to the couplets in the end.

In high school this poem was telling me, Figure out your own style, yo. And go with it. It was telling me to read more poetry out loud but Don’t fall into the trap of writing poetry that only sounds good out loud. (I still don’t think I’ve fallen out of that trap yet.) (Speaking of which, gotta go cross something off my life list I wrote a new poem and I read it aloud at an open mic!) And actually, I came back to this poem again in college. I’ve got a funny way about these. I was reading a different poem today that was an instructable poem, it was all, “Be happy” and shit, and then I immediately set to google to find this poem, which I had forgotten about. (Google search went from, “recommendation: consider evergreens” until I remembered it was “study”. Booyah.) Anyway: found this poem again in college and sort of got it again. I got: “There is nothing more mediocre than the association of dysfunction with genius,” for the first time.

And then I found it today. And I’m all, sweet, put away the map because where we’re going we won’t need it. And the whole poem, really. I mean, it feels more adult, now. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps, kid. Love yourself, and all that. Quit looking down the well, you didn’t drop anything, and if you did, don’t worry about it. I love this poem. Love love love it.

Poetry and homage

December 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

2010, a year spent with my head so far up my ass that I didn’t even realize that one of my favorite poets died.

Overstatement, obviously, but in today’s New York Times Magazine, there was a short biography on the poet Lucille Clifton, and it reminded me of a poem that just hit me so hard, in high school, again in college, and again right now. It’s the first time I’ve read it since I had Lena.

the lost baby poem

the time i dropped your almost body down
 down to meet the waters under the city
 and run one with the sewage into the sea
 what did i know about waters rushing back
 what did i know about drowning
 or being drowned

 you would have been born into winter
 in the year of the disconnected gas
 and no car    we would have made the thin
 walk over genesee hill into the canada wind

 to watch you slip like ice into strangers' hands
 you would have fallen naked as snow into winter
 if you were here i could tell you these
 and some other things

 if i am ever less than a mountain
 for your definite brothers and sisters
 let the rivers pour over my head
 let the sea take me for a spiller
 of seas    let black men call me stranger
 always    for your never named sake

Lucille Clifton

I read this in high school, I don’t remember where, and I didn’t get it at first. For a while, I remember. It was just the words really, how it sounded when read out loud, and it didn’t need any more meaning than the crescendo of if i am ever less than a mountain/for your definite brothers and sisters… the well-placed enjambments and pauses, ah…this poem, this poem to me exemplifies what poetry has the power to do.

Okay, and then I became more worldly and figured out that it was about a miscarriage, and it really started to make sense to me, and the words that I had previously loved for their simple beauty together combined to tell a story as deep and full as any novel. And the images became as real and hauntingly beautiful as the words that created them. Isn’t that cool, I remember thinking, that a poem can do that?

In the world of facebook and twitter and blogging, the invention of tabs within internet browsers, I have become an expert multi-tasker. I am able to look up articles on PubMed, check genes and chromosome positions on UCSC genome browser, while simultaneously watching clips from the Daily Show and keeping up with celebrity gossip blogs. It is the gift and the curse of my generation.

The one thing I haven’t been able to multitask on is writing. Do you remember when I used to like, write poetry? I mean, I did, I swear. If you don’t remember I don’t blame you, but I did.

Things are slowing down now. Lena has the wonderful ability to entertain herself. There are less tantrums (at least for this month), and I’m learning again to have time for myself. I’ve started to work on some short stories, some poems, and a new year’s resolution of mine is to go to an open mic and read a poem. I used to love reading poems aloud. I never had too much confidence in my writing alone, but I did have confidence in my delivery, in my ability to convey to an audience with my voice, what maybe my words alone could not. (This is why, and I’ve always loved when we did this in my creative writing classes, sometimes the most helpful thing is to hear someone else read your poem aloud. You can see where they think the emphasis and pauses should be, and then you rewrite and revise based on that.)

Oh what was I saying? Oh yeah, that I’m writing more. And I read this poem this morning and that line, that if i am ever less than a mountain line, hit me again. Brought tears to my eyes again. Those words!


if i am ever less than a mountain

anyway. It’s the tagline to my blog now, for the moment. I just want it there to remember (though I could never, ever forget.)

It’s wonderful here, today. 4 inches of snow, Lena and I still in pajamas, enjoying the spoils of christmas, love, and a happy family.

Happy Holidays, everyone. And I wish every one of you the best for the New Year.

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