year 26, day 280: "I am the child I was, living the life that was mine," from Anne Sexton's "Three Green Windows"

I've been reading Anne Sexton, thinking about influence, and sadness, both hers and mine. I don't know what to do with my grief anymore. I have these strange hopes and memories chasing hurt and loneliness and brokenness. It's been a sad few months. I know I've been self-medicating in books and miles. Finally, recently, in friends & family. We used to talk about a more perfect openness, but you are farther than you have ever been & I was never as close as I thought.

Over the past few weeks I've read a number of things that meant something to me. These are a few of them:

"we are the people who held these things; a home is meant to be a container, these things these people can no longer be contained," 

from "Re: House(s)," by Martha Collins

"Vos sos el Dios de los pobres,
el Dios humano y sencillo,
el Dios que suda en la calle,
el Dios de rostro curtido.
You are the God of the poor,
the human and simple God,
the God who sweats in the street,
the God of the weather-beaten face," 

from the song "Nicaraguan Peasant Mass" by Carlos Mejia Godoy, quoted in "The God of the Weather-Beaten Face," by Martin Espada

"All over their arms

did not descend to wrap them up like babies

As promised

there is a lot to pray to
on earth," 

from "Scary Parents," by Michael Dickman

"I want to be with everyone here,
with their lattes and mochas,
while the water rises
and the top of the Golden Gate bridge is blinking in the surf,
when the aliens land and eat us, 
as soldiers from another country drag us by the hair from our yards,
while the valley is flooded and all its talk about vastness and god has drowned,
I want to know their names, mis amigos, their hands reaching out toward mine,
when the flights are rerouted away from our loved ones,
lets all lift a glass or child into the air, openmouthed
as we watch the final cruelty performed simultaneously
with the last kindness," 

from "Amigos," by Matthew Dickman


year 26, day 229: "There is no night darker than a night of fires," from Italo Calvino, A King Listens

After an indeterminate hiatus, the lady is back. I've re-jigged my numbering system. With the artist-husband home I've lost count of the days since he left. Lord knows I could never keep a pattern.

I started reading John Cheever today. He kept coming up in other books I would read, mentions of short stories or the Cheeveresque style. I can't converse on what that is, but I'm a little taken with the nostalgia of the preface. Some people play sentimental so sweetly.

After eating a burrito, and then some Apple Jacks, and then falling asleep for a few disorienting minutes, I finished Under the Jaguar Sun by Italo Calvino. I didn't realize until the postscript that he died before finishing the book. Esther Calvino wrote that she would prefer readers to consider Under the Jaguar Sun "not as something Calvino started and left unfinished but simply as three stories written in different periods of his life." Three stories written in Paris, Rome, and Paris. Calvino has this burrowing, repetitious style that somehow obscures and then haunts my patterns of thinking. The writing is brilliant, but it's never immediately clear to me; it sort of descends on me somewhere between the beginning and the end of the story...

A little bit like Denis Johnson. I didn't think I liked Jesus' Son until I got to the end of the first story: "And you, you ridiculous people, you expect me to help you." It just burrows in.

It's been a strange summer. I've spent half of August and most of July thinking about the boxes of cotton talking back, thinking about Lou Reed (via Youtube) singing on a stage in Paris, thinking about year 26 and all the things I couldn't predict.


days 38-42

Thoughts in lieu of blog-style prose:

I'm dreaming big dreams again, perhaps too fragile to share.

Work is the same: slowly-moving projects, the ever-opening of boxes, and a coordinated dance of polite hellos. I sit in a line of traffic (candy bowl, shortcut) so my desk sees a lot of lunch breaks, bathrooms, raised voices, mail runs, suits and flower prints.

Barry emailed this morning that Amelia had her baby last night. I was also up at 4am, unaware, and typing in a powerpoint. I had a sudden push to do my schoolwork while their (yet unnamed) boy was born.

On the train home I finished re-reading Garage Band. I read it a couple years ago and loved the understated feel of it: blurry watercolors and sketchy lines. I still recommend it. 


On a whim I bought it a few months ago with Sam Shepard's Motel Chronicles. Both lovely. Garage Band ends, "and about how things come to an end and begin again." Sam Shepard wrote (about his father, 8/29/80 Santa Rosa, Ca.), "It seemed odd to me how a man who loved the sky so much could also love the land." I am romanced by cadences as easily as he (my gone-away artist-in-residence) is swayed by pictures. In that way, we're both visceral.

One more artist-on-the-brain: Tada Chimako (1930-2003) who wrote:

the hot water
in the abandoned kettle
slowly cools
still carrying the resentment
of cooler water
(from A Spray of Water: Tanka [the hot water in])


"So affable are our smiles that they are always mistaken for the real thing"
(from From a Woman of a Distant Land)


day 37

I'm late on this, but I can't get over this iconic kiss. 

Read an article on the Vancouver riots here.
Watch a video of the couple being bowled over by the police (pre-kiss) here.

days 21-36: the day i met joe

I spent an hour outside of Shaws talking to Joe. Joe's this older Cantabrigian (white jacket, slacks, dirty Patriots hat) who waited under the overhang during the rainstorm. He was listening to this handheld radio and telling me stories about the end of days. He's upset with Obama. He says the country doesn't care who's in the White House, they're just looking out for their pocketbooks. The economy is the number one issue this election, he said. I agreed. The world is getting worse, he saidLook at that tornado in Springfield. Just wait until hurricane season. If something big started in the Atlantic and worked its way up to New England, that would just be it. He told me there was a massive hurricane in New England in 1938 (before they named hurricanes) that had Providence, RI under 20 feet of water. He told me I should have seen Hurricane Carol that hit Massachusetts in the 1950s. He advised that I read the papal prophecies of Malachi, not Malachi from the Bible, he said, but the Malachi who was the Bishop of Arman in the 5th century

We talked about Whitey Bulger and his arrest in California. That cocky bastard, Joe said, was going on about 'give me a public defender or give me that 80 grand you confiscated back inside my house.' He said the man was ruthless, just another sign of evil in the world. 

Joe told me how he worries about financial collapse, and how he's hoarding silver, waiting for the price to explode. He has over 4500 ounces of silver in his room. They shut off the lights, he said, but I'm sitting on all that silver. Isn't that ironic? he said, laughing.

Walking home later I decided I should talk to more strangers. If I'm serious about giving my writing a shot, I'd like to talk to more people. I'm not as interested in my own stories as I am in other people's lives. I felt kind of like Katy Grannan photographing this woman:

I don't remember the story of how they met, but I know the woman loved being photographed and still calls Katy constantly. If life's about making stories, art is about telling them.

I've been awful about posting, but here's a wrap up of the past few weeks.

I ate dinner with Betty and Nellie. Nellie's a filmmaker from BU who just made a documentary about pigeon racing: Young Bird Season

I went to Martha's Vineyard last weekend with some girlfriends. My favorite part was the ferry. I liked being out on the top of the boat, hair blowing in the wind. We went to a couple of beaches, saw the oldest carousel in America, looked at the town of painted houses, and walked open markets. My friend Aubrey has a house on the Vineyard. President Obama stayed right next door last summer and after our trip, I can see why. It was like vacationing in a pastoral wonderland. I kept having romanticized visions of the Hudson River School.

Not much other news. Quinn finally sent me pictures of some of the art he's been working on. It's so good. I'd post it here, but I don't want to steal his thunder. I'll link his tumblr when he gets back and updates his website. I sometimes joke with Quinn that he loves art more than he loves me. While I don't really believe that, the boy is an artist. If you had to lose your husband to a higher cause I guess I can't be bitter about beauty.

Last thoughts: I had an umbrella stolen at the Cambridge Public Library (pretty damn hateful). I've been reading a lot of poetry (particularly good are Matt Donovan's book Vellum and Kevin Prufer's book National Anthem). 

I decided to read all of the 2010 Whiting Award winners. I want to read Dear Blackbird by Jane Springer, but I can't find it anywhere. I am dreadfully impatient with books. I once had a book shipped from Australia because I couldn't wait for it to come out in the states. (If there is one irrational, un-budget-friendly thing that I do, it's that I buy books.)

A couple of weeks ago I saw an early screening of Emma Robert's new movie The Art of Getting By. I liked it. My one complaint (other than the kids being 'NY-too-cool') was that the girl (Emma Roberts as Sally) wasn't interesting. Was 2 hours too short a time to develop both characters? Are women only interesting relative to what males are doing to them/feeling about them? Overall, still worth seeing. In my favorite scene the boy lays immobile for hours and listens to Leonard Cohen's Winter Lady. That about sums up adolescence.


days 19-20: thoughts on loneliness/the frontier

I got an email from Scott Brown today. He thanked me for my email about the education system and assured me that he understood the important role that public schools play. That's all well and good, but I didn't email Senator Brown about the education system. Doing my duty as an involved citizen I emailed (and called his office) on Thursday asking him to sign the "Dear Colleague" letter circulated by Jack Reed (D-RI) and Olympia Snow (R-ME) in support of federal funding for libraries. I sympathize with the fact that the man is busy, but he needs some new interns. If you're going to send a form letter, at least make it relevant. In case you're interested (and from Mass) Senator Kerry signed the letter.

Yesterday was Dan Hadley's 30th birthday. I met some friends at Life Alive to celebrate. They serve weird organic/fusion food and it's a favorite among friends. I have mixed feelings about it, but they do an amazing wrap (called The Child) that I always get: peanut butter, jelly, banana, dried fruit, and granola in a wrap. It comes sans granola but I always request it. After birthday with Dan I was supposed to meet Rhonda and Claire to watch a movie with the young women in our ward. I planned to bike over but in the ensuing rain I flaked out. I probably should have gotten a ride but my heart wasn't in it.

At Outstitute today (a special women's Outstitute because no boys showed up) I was telling the ladies that my median emotional level is lower since Quinn left. That's not really an excuse to shrug off my obligations, but it is what it is. My choice of media today didn't really lift my spirits. I finished watching Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love (beautiful story about two people who don't end up together), read more of D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers (sad, power struggle about a wife of a miner who's unfulfilled in her marriage), and started reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking (the autobiographical account of the year her husband died). 

The boy on the cover is named Thomas. Photo taken in 2005.

Wong Kar Wai. Photo taken in September 2008.

I did read one interesting book not related to loneliness: Richard Renaldi's Fall River Boys. The photo book has been sitting on our coffee table since Quinn left, but I've never looked at it. Fall River, Massachusetts is most notable for being the town where Lizzie Borden murdered her parents. Most of the photographs are portraits of young boys from Fall River taken between 2001-2008. While the photographs were interesting, what I really liked was the introduction. Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours, wrote a fascinating intro on Lizzie Borden, dead-end towns, and what it means to be American. He suggests that Lizzie captured our collective imagination (and was remembered, beyond the rhyme) because she was the "good girl who couldn't take it anymore," the Victorian spinster who "broke under the pressure of that most insidious of ongoing tortures, small-town respectability." Looking at pictures of these young men on the cusp of becoming he speculates about whether they'll escape and wonders if where they're going will be any better than where they've been. 

This was my favorite part:

"Any of them could get on a bus and go somewhere, anywhere, though some would undoubtedly do so at considerable cost: abandoning lifelong friends, sick parents, even families of their own. If you take the journey, you will die out of one life and be born into another. There may be no more quintessentially American story than that."


day 18

After work I went to see a pre-screening of Super 8. I think the J.J. Abrams-directed, Spielberg-produced film comes out on Friday. I’ve been interested in Abrams since Star Trek, and I wasn’t disappointed in his latest. Super 8 follows a group of young teenagers as their town experiences an alien attack. Casting for the kids was pitch perfect and I kept clapping my hands together about how charmingly it was narrated. In a few scenes the emotion would have been better understated, but overall, Super 8 was a pretty, fast-paced film that didn’t take itself too seriously.

On the train to and from work and after-work movie, I’ve been reading. I’m in the middle of Salinger’s Nine Stories. Coupled with Super 8, my head has been full of other people’s narratives: Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948, Boo Boo at the dock, The Laughing Man, the end of the Comanche Club, Eloise mourning Walt, and Seymour with the pistol at his temple. I have three stories left, and I’ll read them before bed. I like Nine Stories better than Seymour; Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenter; and The Catcher in the Rye. I can’t say whether I like it better than Franny and Zooey because I don’t remember the plot beyond her beating heartbeat. I haven’t read F&Z since Ryan Labonte told me it was his favorite book in 2005. Maybe I’ll read it next. I was thinking about reading Sons and Lovers.