Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Louisiana fog is a weird kind of fog. You can sort of see the sun behind it, like in San Francisco, but Spanish moss makes the whole thing unsettling. On the way out to the cemetery I visit every time I come home, we pass a huge bayou filled with ducks and a few egrets. The ducks walk over to a nearby gas station that has a donut shop. Anyway, while at the fog-filled cemetery, my mom saw a chicken not too far off from where we were standing, the place our family always stands when we go out there. Did the chicken escape from a farm? I also wondered if maybe someone was recently practicing voodoo, but chickens involved with voodoo are generally sacrificed. They say most houses in New Orleans have chicken heads buried in the backyards. The fog has burned off and I remember now that I wanted to write about a certain hate-filled, conservative town, but all I can think about is that chicken. I hope it doesn't get hit by a lawnmower.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I've Already Been Called a Yankee Three Times This Trip

My niece/sister complained that she was surrounded by Yankees on the way to my folks' house in the middle of Louisiana. She was sitting between the old man and I. He, clearly, is a Yankee, who pauses before answering most southerners because he doesn't want to say the wrong thing or he didn't understand what was said to him. Am I a Yankee? I remember the first time my niece/sister asked me what a Yankee was. We'd been at a family reunion and apparently she heard someone call me that. When I was in college, I had a friend who thought anyone who lived north of Shreveport, Louisiana was a Yankee.

So maybe I'm part Yankee, no? Is that even allowed? At a wedding this weekend someone asked me if I was originally from Brooklyn and I found myself saying yes. She looked so impressed. The old man corrected me, of course, explaining that I had southern people and the whole moving around thing. Tonight, while at an all-you-can-eat soul food buffet restaurant, our waitress kept calling me baby and asked me if I was okay and did I want more sticky buns. I wanted so badly to say yes ma'am and thank you very much, but all I could muffle out was oh yes and thanks. My mouth was full of sweet potatoes and I felt like I didn't have any manners, but really I hate manners and I hate even more that I felt embarrassed for not having much of a southern accent. I just wanted her to stay talking.

It is the end of squirrel hunting season and the beginning of deer hunting season. In the middle of Louisiana, many folk are walking around in weird camo or orange pants. It's unsettling, knowing what they're doing out there in the woods, the camo being so obvious, the shooting, the killing, the skinning, and the potential eating. Someone's freezer is gointabe full, you know what I'm sayin? I know what your pants mean, you know what I'm sayin?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Laura Marling on a Warm October Night

The old man and I went to see Laura Marling play last night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, which used to be known as North Six. The old man and I went on our first date there, standing awkwardly next to each other as Dirty Rainbow blasted out our ear drums.

I was incredibly looking forward to seeing Laura Marling and didn't at all expect her voice to be so drippingly soulful. Her album really doesn't do it justice. Her voice (in person) is edgier and textured, like looking at a painting after having seen the print. She sang songs from her second album, which sounds pretty damn good.

Laura Marling sparks in me the (VERY) occasional comfort I have with growing older. It's nice to grow older if it means you get to see young people like her come along. I don't mean in any following-in-my-footsteps, bullshitty kind of way. What I mean to say is that all is not lost because someone comes after you, someone really great, someone within your lifetime. I guess this goes without saying, but I was filled with so much admiration while watching Laura Marling on stage. Her new songs are so wise in this brilliant but structured sort of way and you can't help but want to sit her down and say where did you get it? She truly is awe-inspiring.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Hat Box Has Come Down

I've been hunkering down with Bernd Heinrich's Winter World, which details how animals survive during winter. When bears hibernate, their heartbeats slow down to almost eight or less per minute. Some turtles bury themselves in mud and can hold their breath for thirty of winter's coldest days. The winter world of the book is focused on New England, as Heinrich resides in Maine and Vermont. (New England winters are easy to romanticize, especially if you're not from there. Have you ever been night skiing on lantern lit lanes? Sigh now). My only complaint about the book is that Heinrich often takes babies (a flying squirrel baby to be exact) from their sleeping mothers and takes nests home with him to study. Can't he observe without stealing?

Anyway, snowshoe hares change from brown to white during winter. The color change takes about a month, which can make hares a target for predators during early snowfall (and they are still brown) or late snowfall; the hares turn completely white by late November. Heinrich wonders if the hares know about their color change, that they are practically invisible once they are white. Heinrich writes, "I doubt that a hare knows whether or not it is invisible because the totally white hares I've seen on brown background made no apparent effort to hide" (26). I couldn't help but think about Rilke's "The Eighth Elegy," which addresses how, according to Rilke, animals aren't encumbered by death because they, more or less, aren't hampered by the world. He establishes the idea of the Open, an eternal/God-type realm, a forward sort of place that isn't the future. We are so apart of the world, we think, that when we die we leave this world. Only when we are close to death are we over it. Rilke writes, "For close to death one sees death no longer/ and stares out instead, perhaps with the wide gaze of animals" (lines 22-23). Rilke couldn't be talking about any real animals, just the animals of example, eating their berries and nibbling their hind quarters until they get hit by a car or something. Who can say what animals are and aren't aware of, but the idea that on the animals v. human scale, one of us contributes to a cycle of life while the other takes the Harold and Maud approach, to live life to the fullest because you aren't going to be around forever. Sounds as though it were freeing, right? But we know it's just a confident sort of fear, a fear with tree planting and hearse stealing...

Heinrich often reminds me that the chipmunks and the snowshoe hares will be eaten, will be the winter meal of another animal desperate to overload on calories before cozying up with its young somewhere safe. Have a listen to "The Eighth Elegy" by Rainer Maria Rilke, from his Duino Elegies translated by Edward Snow.

Monday, October 19, 2009

More Eyes that Slant, More Woolens

We left the city yesterday in windy rainy weather for the last day of the New York Sheep and Wool Festival. For the first time I saw cashmere sheep and Leicesters (they have fur not wool), and petted some Alpaca and merino sheep. The whole thing about livestock is so weird. Livestock. When eating becomes feeding, a year before dying. We just sort of take everything from these scared little creatures: their bones become plates, their milk for cheese, their wool becomes yarn, this yarn becomes superwash merino that I'm going to knit into socks. I worked on a sheep farm and we always knew that before winter, most of the lambs would be loaded up and sent to Blood Slaughterhouse. Even my friend #4 who would ram my butt while I was changing out the water.

After livestock we went to Woodstock where friends of ours just had twins. The babies were sleeping in two baskets on their living room table. I read books to their toddler and one of the babies woke up and puked on one of my friends. It seemed so nice, being new, sleeping wherever someone puts you, being little. One of the trees outside their house had turned bright red. Funny how October is almost over.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Children Are you Still Feral

Last night I asked the old man if there could possibly be feral children running around, you know the kind that run with the wolves and tigers, the kind that don't know language, the kind who scratch. In the old man's cynic ease he said something about terrible parents who abandon their children, you know, of course there are feral children running around. Who is the cynic here: the one who thinks the world is too picked over, that there is no more such thing as being feral OR the one who thinks a feral child is a product of the ultimate human abandonment. I have a friend who went backpacking around the world and she said that everywhere she went, she stepped on a soda can or plastic bottle, even in freezing temperatures, even in the jungle.

I started Bhanu Kapil's Humanimal last night. The text itself is kind of strange, switching between a large print narrative, the writings of Reverend Joseph Singh (the man who found two girls living among wolves), and Kapil's journey through her research of the two girls' story as Singh tries to make them upright. I couldn't take my eyes off the photograph of the two girls, given to Kapil by Singh's great-great-granddaughter. The girls are lying naked on top of animal pelts (?) or blankets in the middle of perhaps a grassy field/road next to a white building. They are both little and their hair is shorn to their scalps. One of the girls sleeps fetal and the other sleeps over her. I want to be both of them at the same time, their comfort and discomfort, long toes, longish arms, someone you don't want to put a blanket over.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

List: Temporal Art

  • light on hair
  • heirloom tomato salad
  • food in teeth
  • wet receipts
  • nestlike pile of cat hair behind the door
  • where sneezes land
  • breathing newspaper in the subway
  • tired eyes
  • you know what
  • two bikes locked together (they love each other!)
  • pile of roasted vegetables, mostly orange
  • falling asleep with a book
  • falling asleep with a pen
  • steamed milk in coffee

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tunnels Mean Something But I'm Not Sure What

Apparently things open up in New York City in Autumn. For example, the cemetery on East 3rd Street opens up briefly around this time. I took the old man there on our first date, but another couple were graphically pursuing their own strange romantic inclinations on the hood of a nearby car, all of us locked out with no mausoleums or grave markers to hide in/behind, so we continued on to my favorite yarn store.

Open now is the Atlantic Avenue subway tunnel, the first in New York City. It was once part of the Long Island Railroad, which made stops to Brooklyn when Brooklyn was a wee village. The old man and I had to climb down a man hole into the tunnel and I have to say that I was disappointed by its mere four steps on a precarious ladder. I wanted many steps, I sort of wanted to fall, to go down into the depths, I wanted it to be harder to get to. There are tunnels like this all over the city, well, all under the city, and it seems strange that these old structures aren't that out of reach. Also, I was very afraid that a rat was going to run across my foot, but there weren't any rats in the uninhabited tunnel.

The man who found the tunnel talked to us about all kinds of interesting New York City facts, but the old man had to retell them because I wasn't really listening. I was wondering why all the other people had come, what happened to the woman who was pooped on by a bird while we waiting in line, how come I stupidly bought an environmentally friendly flashlight that charges when shaken in a weird masturbatory way and gives off minimal light, how a tall happy man climbed down the manhole while carrying a baby, if I could carry a baby and climb down a manhole.

Do you remember a band called Frente? I don't know what happened to them, but they had one album which has the best cover of "Bizarre Love Triangle." While in the tunnel I hummed a song of theirs, about you and me and a tunnel of love, but I was surrounded by strangers, and the words actually are you and me and the labor (labour) of love. I kept tripping on old railroad ruts, sort of hearing a story about horses freaking out next to the trains down there. How long do you think I could've been alone down there?

We had to leave before the end of the tunnel tour, but at least we heard the story about how the laborers shot and tore apart their overseer, burying him in the tunnel. A half hour late, we jumped on our bikes and rushed away into a day that had warmed on the city.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dumplings and Trumpets: Chris Martin

To call a book of poetry beautiful is somewhat problematic, but I like problematic so I'll go ahead: Chris Martin's American Music is an incredibly beautiful beautiful book of poetry. The difficulty in calling something beautiful is that it's such an over-achiever of a word. What words are you supposed to say after? Calling something beautiful means you've been rendered speechless, that (fuck!) there just may not be a word to describe your reactions to American Music. Nevertheless, I am comfortable with being arrested (uh, in the poetry sense) and will carry on.

American Music is a book that drives in and out of art and film, in and out of daily routine, in and out of literature, of city and subway, the people around. If you're new to the city, you should read this book. If you're turning older, if your age isn't giving you leverage or grants you a kind of leverage that make young people call you SIR or MAIM, or if your age is a reminder that someday you will die because you will grow so old that you will die, you should read this book.

Perversion is a prevailing worry throughout the book. Is someone becoming a dirty old man? Dirty being there all the while yet brought further out by age or city life. Worse yet, being a dirty old man means there is no boys-will-be-boys boyhood anymore, that somehow everything must be accounted for. "...not often am I/ Prepared for violence," Martin writes in "Fertility for Dummies", "though I find it/ Natural, in me as in/ The World, and it remains/ Revolting, the brief/ Desire to trample something/ Living, loving certain/ Registers of collapse..." What you see in that there quote is the beauty prior mentioned and also the italics, the way Martin infuses all his poems with a long list of writers and artists.

Something else I'd like to point out is that the poems sort of wind their way down to their closings. Martin doesn't stop much for punctuation outside of a comma and a question mark, and the poems make their way, connecting phrase after phrase, either making long Faulkneresque sentences or doing away with sentences altogether, to make room for thought. It's easy to get used to and it's fun teaching myself how to listen to the phrase, how to make it work as I read, while somehow becoming a better writer and thinker because of it.

Have a listen to "Subcutaneous Concerns." There are two New Yorky references in this poem, the first being Neckface, the tag of a graffiti artist here in town, and the second being the Gowanus Canal, a canal in Brooklyn that five east-west bridges cross over. Chris Martin is going to be reading near there this weekend for Yardmeter.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fantasy Feature No. 23

Those poor pieces of painted linen. This was the plan: you'll paint them then you'll trace something on them with pastels. Boy howdy you thought pastels were oily and not chalky and your pastels turned into dust when you started to draw on the painted fabric. Only you can't draw for shit. So you hooked up your computer to the old man's projector and practiced tracing photographs on brown paper. You were up on a ladder, holding onto the wall, you'd been thinking on this for months, and the shapes were so beautiful. The old man said hmm and don't you want to cover the books. The paper was lovely and the pastel glided over it and you thought fuck this might be working, but your childhood rocking chair you traced looked like something out of Tron. You had one and your sister had one and now no one can sit in them. Everyone is too big and you suck at everything.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Are You Still Blushing From Last Night? I Am

I've written about hands before, how I think you can tell what instrument someone plays by the way he or she holds his or her hands. (Really, is it so wrong to use their here?) My former cello teacher has the most celloie looking hands you've ever seen. Anyway, I noticed in grad school that most of the poets I know use a kind of staid circular motion while talking with their hands. Their palms tend to point to themselves and their hands sort of balloon around them. Almost all of the painters I know hand-talk in squares, as though everything were some sort of canvas. Up and wide, space, light these hands say.

Well, at last night's reading, I met two women who are modern dancers. Their hands spoke in swirls and swoops. I don't think the women knew each other, but they reached far and wide with their hands, somehow encompassing their whole bodies--hands as hips when the hips are sitting. I wanted both of them to invite me to their performances, but they didn't. I guess I'm happy enough just watching them talk.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fantasy Feature No. 1

Will you forget everything when you die. Will you be smoking a cigar in a lawn chair. What is all blackness like. Who will remember you and does it matter. Will it be painful. Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof says you have to feel pain to know you're alive. Barf. What will it be, in the end--too much drinking, too much salt, not enough fiber. What did you do well in your lifetime. Are you going to be this bitchy in heaven. What if what you believe is where you go in the end. You want to stay here and do stuff. You want to be a ghost so you can watch people having sex. You mean, you want to be a ghost and protect your family, friends. You want to be a ghost traveler. You will hold your breath for a long time when you're a ghost and you won't scare anyone. Is what you do totally empty because you will die. Bring your old dog Daisy. Bring chocolate cookies. You met a man who rolled cigars for a living. You lost a lace shirt your grandmother gave. What are you supposed to do with all this yarn. You want so badly to be Hob from The Sandman.