DAY 17

today = a study in rejection

my body rejects medicine health healing

I reject the news for weeks now

another rejection of my poems in my inbox

my own face unrecognizable in the mirror

featureless and searching

reject happiness reject fame reject stamina

the mountains the sun reject me now too

an image persists some adaptable picture

of home

DAY 16

the shape of my own body huddled underneath a pile of blankets. the perfect sphere of a seedless tangerine, network of white veins. discarded cups and mugs of lukewarm water at my feet. sick day. endless day.

DAY 15

not an image, just a sound: the neighbors howl and stomp and slosh their cups and cackle; the dog barks and barks and barks; I'm sandwiched in between.

DAY 14

why do dogs ache for the scent of something dead on their fur?

how shall you name these dried out plants? dusty beetle, elongated tail, crumpled mum, ember, barren arm, flat turf?

how is this to-do list from a year ago different from today's?

why do you concern yourself with it over and over and over?

how big the breath? how awake are you now on this walk, or ever?

DAY 13

morning. a ribbon of pink sky. fleeting fleeting. a row of birds on the street lamp. a ribbon of highway. cawing like jokes. like did you hear the one about? that one.

DAY 12

Today something beautiful today. Something joyful today. today joy. today beauty. I spend a lot of time around booze even though I don't drink anymore. Is that the beauty/joy? Or is that pride. Or is it laziness. Or is it this life. Joy/beauty of process. I say process so much lately and I wonder if I gave this word an image what would it be. Today. Peaks of citrus fruit in plastic quart containers. Glistening a bit yes the fresh ones glisten. I use a long serrated knife to halve these green and yellow bodies then quarter them then a little nudge with the knife across their bellies so they can kiss the lip of a glass and stay. I stay in this process. It's the shine of the fruit that's beautiful though. And joyful. My hand pushing the knife and keeping the ends of the fruit in little piles to discard after. Making something neat and clean and glistening and joyful and beautiful today.

DAY 11

Behind two fogged mirrors these apocryphal images: teeth falling out of their sockets, joints frozen or sticky as molasses, silvery hairs sprouting like hay. Old people stuff. In between mirrors a yellow yellowing Post-it note carried from one house to another: I am enough. Fat black marker, all caps. I am enough.

DAY 10

Moved so fast today I see a blur of faces in my mind's eye and nothing to remember. I am all feeling and no picture. A staircase I climbed up and down so many rounds. Slow and plodding. Abstract carpeting underneath my clogs. The creak of a 100 year old building gentle and certain. Aging. Above the mezzanine on this round: lights bright as though they were turned up for closing time, but it's not closing time. The sheen of a leaf in the bouquet seems plastic, too bright. All of it, blinding.

DAY 9

clouds lately as stubborn as my sadness this unrelenting __________

I want to see stars tonight and I can't tell you why I'm sad but

there are none  instead in this field where the dogs roam blind

i crunch across snow remnants which provides the only light  no

you are off in the distance with your cell phone beam watching for shit

these patches of snow shift and stick like foam  the foam of the ocean

suddenly everywhere  you still distant I spin and spin on this freezing foam

dizziness a little like drunkenness and I'm in the waves I'm the foam here see

 

DAY 8

Today I try, again, to teach my students how to show instead of tell. How to make a mood with words. It's hard for everybody, I say. But this is what we're here to try to do. I have no idea what we are really here to do, but I say this to them. I go looking for images because I don't know how else to remind myself about writing and being awake and mattering. Crumpled cars litter the highway this morning. Drivers stumble around outside of their cars and they aren't supposed to be there. I think about how the snow isn't supposed to slow things down here but it does. Watch how slow we move past the wreckage pretending not to look. Everyone looks. I could show you my mood but I don't know how to name it. I want to pretend it doesn't exist. The dogs and I walk the path between the soccer field and the cemetery. A fine layer of snow covers both expanses and there's the sun dropping behind the mountains after only half a day of coming out. Geese hover over the field. A lone bird veers off or is it a drone? A woman stuffs little pieces of tissue into her nostrils and they turn red immediately. She sits on the Calvary Baptist Church's stone sign and I ask if she's alright but we don't really slow down either. A man loads discarded metal and machinery onto his teal Chevy pickup. The nosebleed woman was white and the truck man was brown. Why do white writers avoid such naming? It's hard for everybody, I decide. Which is not good enough but also true.

DAY 7

Icicles hang like fangs. Teeth. Slippery daggers. Arrows. Temporary weaponry. Transparent truths. Beside them limbs sag from snow's load. All of this quiet. All of this gone tomorrow?

DAY 6

On the sixth day, there are six black birds in a jagged line across the sky so full of clouds the mountains disappear and blue seems impossible.

DAY 5

It is true that I go looking for notable things. Perhaps more this month than usual. Oh don't we overuse that phrase these days, "now more than ever"? We need this now more than ever, we should do that now more than ever. But me, I do it too, now more than ever. It's true that looking is a little bit of a balm. It's true that getting outside (and outside and outside) is a little bit of a balm. Not looking is also a a balm. But the news finds us now more than ever. I can't say why things that happened today happened. Here is something: Kenneth Rexroth's poem laid out on two pages. The black print fine, the white space expansive. Fat borders of white space. One title in bold black. I read the poem aloud to myself and stare at the white space. The gloss of the page. His repeated phrases. I wonder if it was for Veterans, this poem. Or maybe just his friend. There is a dedication, a man's name. I can't remember which. But I wonder if it wasn't for all of us, now more than ever.

DAY 4

Today the wind. Last day of daylight saving time, whatever the hell that means. I read and get more confused about it. The wind wagging strings of unlit light bulbs in the sun, against the awnings. The bar door open like a barn, dead leaves skittering across the wooden floor, leaves gathering in corners near trash cans and underneath tables. The wind whips a customer's hair about her face; she presses it back to sip her drink. To shift toward her drinking partner. I move all day without stopping because then what? I've had ringing in my head and ears for weeks, but today, now, what I hear is wind.

DAY 3

Light at night. Late at night. Streamers of red and white on the drive home. Who can see all this light without the word power. From my lips, power. Inhale light, exhale power. No. Inhale power, exhale light. White light from all these cars, hungry for power, for gas, for distance, for home. At stoplights I rub my eyes and blink back little blindspots from all this light. Red green power. Tree trunks wrapped in white sheaths of light. Spheres of all sizes hang from trees, spheres full of light. trees like power sources all night. What celebration is this? Last light I see tonight: Whitest moonlight in a black sky.

DAY 2

We move through clouds. I ask over and over are those clouds or is it smoke? Sometimes out loud. Mostly silent. Factory in between farms billowing smoke. We say we hope it's steam. Only heat and air and water. Nothing bad. I expect the worst too often. We drive up and through more slabs of heavy white air. Toward white peaks of mountain. I say I need to see something huge today, something glorious, so we drive west. On the road to the park where the mountains glimmer and stand ready to take anything, who cares how bad, the clouds burn off. We leave them behind. A herd of elk cross the very road we drive and I gasp at them, I say stop the car, here is the thing I've been waiting for. As if they are for me. This velvet and antler and limb. This gaze through us, into another place. I picture my hand on a body. As if I could get that close.

DAY 1

A drugstore in the afternoon. A headache. I wait for my prescription. Man asks is this where I can get a flu shot. Man stands in line for flu shot. Man carries a small tote bag with papers in it. This detail, it makes me feel sad for him and also myself. Because he is fastidious. Because he is the most healthy looking man I've ever seen in line to get a flu shot. Because when he gets to the counter he says I've never had a flu shot before, I've never had a prescription filled here before. Man is an anomaly for these reasons. Because I stare at his skin, the tight cinch of his belt around his trim waist, the tuck of his t-shirt, the coarse rise of his hair. This could have been my father. Not this man, not a flu shot in a drugstore, but the age of a man like this, the second half of his life. My father only had the one half. The beginning of aging, and then the end. When I think of my father I think of the sea. I find him there. I find him in a drugstore. A sea of turquoise boxes with vaporizers and humidifiers stacked against the wall behind which all the medicines are kept. The splashes of orange and black everywhere on the day after Halloween. Everything must go. Everything must go. 50% yellow stickers hanging from shelf after shelf as I exit. As I wade through.

I Forgot How To Write Poems (& other false narratives I entertain)

I’m reading a book by Sharon Salzberg that’s kind of like a roadmap for self-love. How to get there, what to do when you encounter some bumps on the way. Because we will (and have been, forever).

I can’t think of too many people in my life who love themselves in a profound way, or have much awareness around such self-love, or view this as an endeavor worthy of lifelong devotion and commitment. Salzberg is a lovingkindness meditation expert, and believes this practice is the way, the direct and true path, to loving your whole self. Incidentally, self-love must develop in order to experience true and lasting love with others, and life itself.

Lots of stuff gets in the way of our self-love. In fact, much that prevents us from doing so occurs before we are old enough or conscious enough to even have a clue. Lots of conditioning. Tricky little roadblocks here, there, and everywhere. But all it really takes is one, and we’re done. One instant (or a series of instants) that indelibly codes into our bones how we think and feel about ourselves, about our worth, about how we love. This might sound like bullshit to some, but it feels real to me, especially now.

Until we decide not be done. To pay attention. To shift. To change stories.

Is part of our current crisis in this country a lack of self-love? Is this some granola spiritual BS or is it accurate? How do you change a whole entire nation’s story? Tell one that is more radical, more real, more love? How do you change what we think of as necessary?

Of this conditioning, these narratives we create throughout our lives (often untrue), Salzberg writes: “Mindfulness practice helps create space between our actual experience and the reflexive stories we tend to tell about them.”

I can’t explain every bit of what’s happening with me and my consciousness in the past several months, but I am letting go of some old, false narratives that I had pretty much exhausted. I clung to them. I knew them by heart. I don’t even entirely know why, but I am letting them go. I am wiping the slate clean. I have space and time to do so. I have a heap of devotion and I am bound to this new space. To feeling. To letting all the parts of me sing (and stomp my feet and scream and sob and stagger and sting). To “the full catastrophe.”

In my writing though, I am wrestling intensely, still, with this idea of the personal and its validity in the world, to an audience. I can’t believe I’m even worrying myself with it after all these years. But what I realize now is that this conflict, this very struggle is a false narrative I’ve absorbed, and one that persists within me. Why isn’t the personal story I live, and want to write about, enough? What would make it more valid? Some political strain? Would my writing matter, then? Or would I allow it to just be in the world without an agenda, without a consciousness other than the one in my feeling heart? Isn’t good writing just good writing, despite how personal it is? No matter the content? How is this struggle to write the personal any different than the path to self-love?

Salzberg knows that self-love has the unfortunate misconception that it is selfish, narcissistic, even self-indulgent.

No.

Nothing is more radical, more necessary.

 

I get that. I do.  No bullshit.

Yet these sticky narratives hang around, despite my devotion, my space, my consciousness. I hear myself saying things like I’m too old. I missed the boat. I don’t have anything important or different to say. I am running out of time. I’m too angry and fearful to have compassion for everybody. The world is too fucked up for this to matter or to change. And then there’s this, which I said to Tommy yesterday as we hiked up a big ass mountain in the cold and rain:

I forgot how to write poems.

He laughed and said Of course that’s not true.

I think about poems the next night as I’m chopping my vegetables for chili and listening to Gillian Welch. Her sad voice and these familiar food smells make me feel more awake and more real love than I knew even the moment before that sad thought. My dogs watch me with their sad eyes, begging. Everything is sad. Wanting to turn dinner into a poem is sad.

Wanting to matter and make changes is sad. Knowing your essential self is what it is can be sad.

 

But I haven’t forgotten desire and that is the only way I know to make poems. I mean desire in that I want to connect with you (you!) despite any amount of sadness I carry around. Desire in that I want to change my old, stubborn story(s). Desire in that I want to be here for a little bit longer, loving myself and learning how to give this full and complete attention to what’s near and not near me. Appreciating this world despite. Just despite.

Desire to talk about this. Giving my true attention to every single thing. So that I may be more available to you. To those I don’t understand. To radical desire. Radical love. Radical realness.

 

Lovingkindness Meditation:

May I be filled with lovingkindness.

May I be well in body and mind.

May I be safe from inner and outer danger.

May I be truly happy and free.

 

(say it for yourself first, and then others).

(I don’t know. I’m just trying it out. Feels OK).

**Why I don't want children, ever (because I am too much of a JERK)

We walk into Whole Foods around lunchtime and I am full of judgment and vitriol for the fiasco unfolding all around us. Why? Is this hard to imagine? TD and I just finished a stunning morning hike in Eldorado State Park.  It's the day after Labor Day. I was full of gratitude and awe just moments before—reveling and struggling and loving it all, not wanting it to end. I am reminded of how I used to walk out of a really deep, healing yoga class and watch just how quickly I would fall back into the muck of everyday life around me, which I shamefully admit sometimes brings out the worst in me. Which I shamefully admit I don’t immediately stop myself from engaging, even though I know better. Watching people, judging them, spurring on the criticism of just how crappy we humans can be. I know, I know that such harsh judgment of others is 100% a reflection of my own inability to truly accept and love myself. I know this and I engage it anyway, at least for a few ugly minutes. But in Whole Foods today I am walking through the hot bar aisle trying to fill up my plate with vegetable korma and lentils when I almost run into a person’s shopping cart, full of insulated bags, and their BABY stroller, with a real live sleeping baby in it, parked directly in front of the yellow curry. No owner in sight. I kid you not. I stood there long enough, my mouth gaping open, to see if the owner of these carts would come trotting back to claim their wares. No, in fact, they did not. I was dumbfounded. Truly. In my mind I thought what insane white privilege, what wealthy, ridiculous trust and audacious entitlement! The freaking NERVE!

Naturally, I stomped off to stand in line with my husband, after loading up a big piece of naan atop my plate, feeling a bit of this irrational rage misdirect itself at him for what, I don’t know. On the patio where we sit and eat, a couple allows their baby to sit and scream on the table, while the other toddler runs around chasing butterflies or something. The mother talks about her email account and where they should “scooter” later. I suddenly tell TD I only have enough compassion in my heart for a dog, and that’s that. I am too cruel, too prone to fits of rage and judgment, despite all of my spiritual quests and therapy. I can only love Hank unconditionally, I can only forgive my animal's degree of foolishness and bad behavior (which is also mostly my fault, of course). I can only love one creature at a time this much, besides my husband. A child would undoubtedly ask too much, would break open the careful boundaries of my selfish heart, would inevitably cause me to do insane things. Imagine having to foist this degree of criticism on myself, while parenting. No thanks.

As we toss our plates into the compost bin and walk back to our dogs waiting patiently in the car, I am reminded of just how absurdly privileged I am, too. What an asshole. To take beautiful hikes on a Tuesday with my husband and my dogs. To eat a huge plate of food from the hot bar at Whole Foods and to take a freaking bag of cookies home with me. To lick frosting off my fingers. To not have to endure a fucking natural disaster today. To not have to worry about where we will sleep. To not have to worry about whether or not my child can continue her education in the United States, or whether or not she will have to find a new goddamned home in six months. To lose track of my appreciation for my life during the span of a lunch break. To chat with my husband about what we should have for dinner tonight as we playfully hit each other for rounds of punch buggy. All of my scorn tossed back into the wind and forgotten. Almost all of it.

Heart of a Saturday Night

 

I wanted to keep writing after the MFA

I wanted to give voice to my move from VA to CO

I wanted to explore nonfiction and essay and the unknown

I wanted to share? To be heard? To practice? To engage continuously in process?

To publicize that a little bit? To hold myself a little bit accountable?

 

I don’t know. All of those things are still true.

 

I didn’t write a memory a day this month. This month isn’t even over yet, but I faltered. I got sick for a week, I got hired to teach. I forgot how consuming it is to prepare for teaching. I remembered so much of what that feels like. I also learned what teaching in a brand new place and level feels like. The conflagration of old/new in nearly every moment.

 

I’m learning to rewire myself. The way I feel things, the way I think about things.

I wrote myself a couple of letters.

I didn’t get everything I needed in my childhood. Did anyone? I got a lot. But I didn’t know all that I needed until now. I’m not sure how to share this, or why. Or if.

 

So many days feel fruitless. I fell down the rabbit hole of social and news and allowed myself to watch video after senseless video in the days after Charlottesville. Then I pushed it all away. Then I feel guilt and shame. I feel fatigued by all this bad shit that goes on and then I know that’s how power works and how complacency is the desired result (mine). More guilt and shame. I think about what I can and can’t say to students. Politics is a stupid word and not even what this is. Do I want to know how they feel? I say the word community to them and look around for meaning (recognition) in their faces. Everything must have a reason or a purpose I say. Give me evidence. (Nothing has a reason, I think. Stupid words).

 

I look for poems. I point out clouds to my husband and tell him that one looks like a brain. He says that one looks like a Greek god’s beard.

I pet my dog for a long time and it is still not enough (for me, not him). I even push him away after a while and then go back to stare at him minutes later and wonder what he knows.

Since January 1 I’ve written down something every single day that I’m grateful for. I don’t know how many days it’s been. Am I happier for all this noticing and appreciation? All this.

 

I say only write couplets tonight. I say only post something profound. I say wow look at your ego! I say be less serious.

 

I go into nature periodically and step into my practice right away. I can’t breathe I’m slow I’m not good at this. I’m not good at what? Give me more of this. What happens out there, I’m bringing it inside. Turning toward myself. Crafting crappy sentences. This. I know there’s something there for me. I keep going back and struggling and fighting myself and feeling happy, after. I think this is probably my book, what’s happening there. The whole terrain of intimacy and appreciation and struggle spread out before me.

 

I ask my students to write about self-reflection. What is it for. They mostly tell me it’s when they think about how to improve themselves. I say what if you suspend that. What if you just chew on stuff a little bit. See what happens there.