tossed onto my friend’s
mother’s lawn. Clean entrails. No blood. A staggering fawn
huddled against the house. Unrelated? What spell?
Whom has she offended?
Bury it? Leave it be. Let the night creatures
who remove such things do their silent work.
:: rough draft
Drove home in light rain after a long day at work, thinking about the strange and awful dream I woke from yesterday: a split-open finger that somehow opened my whole hand, like two halves of a baseball glove but half-filled with peachy juice and flecks of–What are those? I asked the technician, who replied faintly, Bugs. And I shook out the liquid, horrified, poured out the essence of whatever was harming my hand, and she held it then and filled it back up with something warm but growing warmer, and I asked, will there be much pain, and she nodded, Very much pain, as the burning grew unbearable.
New poem draft: “Hindsight,” based on a line by Roxanne Halpine-Ward from her chapbook This Electric Glow. Completely unrelated to the dream above.
After what was probably the hardest and most stressful day of work since I started this job back in September, all I could really feel driving home tonight, an hour late, was gratitude. Since I started in this field, I have worked for companies that routinely lied about seemingly everything–to their employees, to their customers–just to avoid the sometimes difficult but truly necessary moments of honesty and accountability that will find their way, trust me, they will, to perch on the shoulders of the lazy, the shirkers, the abusers, the takers. Because I am a middle child (it seems as good an explanation as any), I’ve always winced at unfairness, wanting everyone at the table to share. (The motto of my poetry press has been, from day one, “Pie for everyone.”) But even on a day like today, when I knew I was taking on duties that weren’t my own for the sake of benefiting the client, for my own professional pride, and to avoid the usual obfuscations and delays so prevalent in an industry where “creative answers” are generally accepted (they’re lies, people)–even on a stressful day where a project I hadn’t been told of dropped into my day like a giant water balloon and sopped and slopped over all the work I had intended (and needed) to do, I got through it. I got through it by commiserating with a coworker, by sharing the tasks, by acknowledging the stinky sleight-of-hand unfairness of the situation, by focusing on the needs of those affected. And, on my way home, I remembered the job I had for nearly eight years, in retail, where both customers and management tore down my self-esteem in myriad daily ways. And I knew how lucky I was to have the job I now have.
I remember how I used to wish for every store associate that they would be lucky to find better jobs and rise into a happier position in their working lives. I remember how I used to joke that if I won the lottery, I’d give each of the store associates enough money to walk away for a year, and how we’d laugh at how small the “escape fund” needed to be (because we were all paid so terribly little). I remember feeling absolute despair and rage almost every working day. And I think about the mental and emotional toll of slogging through jobs like that, and the horrible negative impact on one’s health and well-being.
Last week I walked, for the first time, into one of the stores where I used to work and was immediately caught up in the retail rhythm, scanning for store associates, noting who greeted me, who directed me to what I needed, who followed up. Basic behaviors I helped train and drill into all our associates. As I looked into their faces for our brief exchanges, the same impulse rose up in me to apologize: I’m sorry you’re still here.
On Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights:
When I tried, in a fit of delight, to read aloud to my husband at bedtime a few of these brief essays, despite his history of falling asleep during (or against) my reading of certain poems, not even his disengagement (he distrusted the voice, he said, and felt it was shaded with a certain smugness) (an assessment which truly baffled me) could dim my pleasure at reading these, reading them out loud. I. Loved. This. Book.
On Reilly D. Cox’s The Death of Sargon the Gardener:
I sought out Reilly’s work based on the strength of a single poem, “Shoveling Snow,” originally published in the journal Rust + Moth. I’m moved by this collection’s imaginative lyricism–some of the poems feel like voice stagings, some are tighter, some more rangy, but there’s this overall folk/mythical quality that shimmers throughout.
[Seven Kitchens Press, 2020, Number 5 in Volume 4 of the Editor’s Series]
On Dale Corvino’s Worker Names:
Of the three stories in this chapbook, I enjoyed the last one most (“Traumatic Book Review: Alive, by Piers Paul Reed”). It had more depth, more development, more nuance, and didn’t seem to be trying so hard to *be a story* (if that makes any sense).
Full disclosure: I met the author when we both presented on a panel about chapbook publishing at last year’s OutWrite Conference. He spoke quite engagingly about this project. I do look forward to reading more of his work.
[Gertrude Press, 2019, winner of the 2018 Gertrude Press Fiction Chapbook Prize]
I have a new chapbook manuscript. At least, I think I do. Right now I’m absolutely convinced it’s good, it’s solid, it’s publishable. I know this feeling will wane in a day or two. But I’m happy that it includes several new poems from the past year or so.
I marry the sad ones.
On Jonathan Bracker’s Attending Junior High:
I’ve published one of Jonathan’s previous chapbooks, Civilian Aboard U.S. Navy Ship at Sea, back in 2011. This collection ranges more widely in voice, telescoping into the past-as-present but also taking the long view of retrospect: what was it like to grow up gay in Texas in the 1940s? Was there even a name for it then–in the speaker’s consciousness, in the middle school setting fraught with inexplicable attractions, burdensome social mores, a total lack of positive role models?The poems elicit genuine empathy for a speaker trying to navigate identity in a time and place most of us can barely imagine.
[Seven Kitchens Press, 2020, Number 6 in Volume 4 of the Editor’s Series]
On Aiden Shaw’s My Undoing:
Haaaaaaated it. Kept hoping the narcissism would give way to some worthy realizations, some kind of personal growth. Kept thinking it was time to bail on this but kept slogging through it–fortunately a quick slog because there’s not much to slow one down and make one ponder the writer’s life and world view. Would like to reclaim my time. Would use the singular personal pronoun in my sentences here but Mr. Shaw has already used all the “I”s on himself.
[copy obtained via PaperbackSwap.com and re-posted there should anyone want it]
Very good poetry group today–they’ve all been good, actually, at least the one per month that I’ve been able to attend (I work three Saturdays a month and then get one three-day weekend), but this was a smaller group, eight of us, and every poem prompted some great, helpful discussion. Jerry’s poem, in particular, just broke my heart and moved the whole group. He often writes with humor, but this was just a stunning grief-induced lyric that prompted me to urge him to send it out. Christopher Nelson’s Under a Warm Green Linden was on my mind–I’d just received the two newest chapbooks from Green Linden Press–and I suggested he send the poem there.
Checking my email in the car before heading home from poetry group, I found an email from Christopher (how weird is that?)–he’d just accepted my poem, “Soap,” for publication in June. The poem is about academia, about imposter syndrome, about grief over my father–it took me a couple years to write it. I’m so happy to have it find such a good home.
Home on my day off: sewing chapbooks, printing page sets, filling orders. T & I talked at some length this morning about the house: what we are looking for and where, how much we want to spend, how I don’t want us to overextend because I don’t want him to be stuck in a house he can’t afford should something happen to me. It’s very strange to make these plans and know that they must necessarily include the eventuality of my own debilitation or even death–I feel fine, I’m in reasonably good health, I have a new job I’d like to keep for the foreseeable future. But how will I feel in ten years, when I’m verging on (yikes) seventy? It’s a gamble against time, and it hasn’t really sunk in that I may not have enough.
I want him to have a home, to have that security. We’re on track, I think, to do it this year. With any luck, we’ll celebrate my turning sixty in the house we’re buying together. Who could have predicted that I’d have this chance?