Tuesday, December 30, 2008

under the weather....

Well, it was great being with the fam in Ohio for Christmas, but unfortunately we brought a nasty flu bug with us to "share." Stella had it, then my mom, then me, then my dad. We're all finally recovering.

I'm working on a list of things I've learned and discovered this year, taking stock of everything that has happened the past twelve months. Knowing me, I'll probably get it posted around February--but I'm trying!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

merry merry

Here is one of my family's favorite carols, sung in the original German. It was particularly beloved by my Granddad, Floyd Lemmon.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

home for the holidaze

We made it. I packed, picked up a rental car, picked up the kids at various locations, and drove us all to Ohio safely. Ohhhhh that doesn't tell the half of it. Plenty of mishegas (as opposed to Michigan).

But I made the drive in only 9 hours. Unbelievable. I love I-78!!!!

WHEEEEE!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

those winter sundays

It's the third Sunday of Advent, and the weather is definitely wintry. I'm feeling nostalgic, and it's about time the kids and I got some Christmas decorations up. I thought I would also make chicken and noodles, which was my favorite dish growing up. My mom would make it when I came home from college, or from wherever I was living (Boston, Cincinnati, etc.). Sometimes she made her own noodles; I think nowadays she uses these delicious Amish noodles from the farmer's market in Yellow Springs.

Her recipe is purist: just chicken and noodles in a thickened brothy sauce. You serve it over mashed potatoes--never mind the duplication of carbs. Makes it feel like an old-fashioned Sunday dinner here in Astoria.

Here's Robert Hayden's poem about Sundays he remembers from his childhood.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

a period of hyphenation

Erika tagged me for a meme. I think I've gotten a tag before, but I've never actually done one. Giving it a shot:

RULE ONE, I have to grab one of the books closest to me, go to page 56, type the fifth line and the next two to five lines that follow.

RULE TWO, I have to pick five people who love books and who could receive the Bookworm award with honor.

The book closest to me (right by my keyboard, actually) is the new version of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, with illustrations by Maira Kalman (it's signed, no less! and it was a gift!)

Page 56 has a funky Kalman illustration, captioned "What a wonderful show!" and depicting very colorful people doing things like sleeping, sitting (wearing a tutu), wielding a watering can, and playing the violin. So I went to page 57 for the lines:

but a dictionary is more reliable. The steady evolution of the language seems to favor union: two words eventually become one, usually after a period of hyphenation.

bed chamber bed-chamber bedchamber
Wild life wild-life wildlife
Bell boy bell-boy bellboy


(anyone else hearing "Quadrophenia" right about now?)

Tag: Carly, Vicki, Reb, MacGregor, Daniel

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Friday, December 05, 2008

random catchup

I've been trying to be all literary/philosophical/witty/artsy/heartfelt/introspective/creative lately in my postings. And the result is that I have a bunch of fairly self-absorbed, occasionally cryptic pieces of prose that don't necessarily tell the story of what's going on in my life.

While I can't really talk about EVERYTHING, you know, I do want to give some various thoughts and updates.

How are the kids? They're pretty good. Really. Bobby had a flu this past week he caught in PA (thanks, David!)--it started on his birthday :( and he was home from school three days, which made for some scrabbling around so Mom and Dad could work. We're having a party for him and 6 or 7 of his closest friends tomorrow at the apartment (Lord help us). My baby boy is nine. Unbelievable. Stella is her strong-willed yet adorable self. Well, the strong-willed part is asserting itself quite a bit more than usual lately. Yesterday I got a call from her teacher expressing concerns that Stella has been having tantrums and crying fits, mainly around "transition" times. Everyone keeps asking, "Is something different at home?" but it really isn't--Mom and Dad each spend about the same amount of time with her, and the routine, other than the holiday, is pretty normal. I'm wondering if it connected to a cognitive growth phase--she is able to understand thing in more complex ways, but is still not able to articulate her own thoughts and wants and needs. I can't imagine how frustrating that must be. She can still be a lovey, though, despite her bursts of temper. And she has a fetching new haircut.

How's work? Oh, don't ask. It's the end of the term, and I'm facing the usual pile (physical and digital) of student work to comment on. This semester I'm teaching an extra class for some extra bread, and it's just about killed me. Fortunately, my students are great--they never cease to amaze me with their insights and energy. I really do love teaching at FIT.

How's your writing? While my participation in the actual process of writing has been limited to therapeutic journal pages and comments on student papers (and emails, text messages, and the occasion blog post), things are definitely a-brewing on the literary front. Last week I got the page proofs and cover design for Saint Nobody. Just sent in the corrections yesterday. After all the years and tears and fears, it's really, really going to be published. And thanks to Red Hen Press, it looks marvelous. And it looks as if Denise and I may have a publisher for our chapbook of collaboratively written ABBA poems--stay tuned on that. I'm hoping to get back to the memoir in January. We'll see.

How are you? Hmmm. That's a tough one. OK. Surviving. Praying a lot. Running and doing yoga when I can. Trying not to be too much of a drama queen (and you know how hard that is for me)--sometimes succeeding at that. Grateful for friends--amazing people I have leaned on this past year, listening ears and sage advisors and fun socializers and cool and smart and solid and trustworthy. I'm so lucky. I only hope I can be as good a friend to them as they have to me. And grateful for my mom, whose birthday is tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

six months in a leaky boat

This morning, as I was contemplating some "personal growth issues," I remembered one of my favorite songs from Split Enz, the precursors to Crowded House.

I have no idea what the Finn brothers had in mind when they penned this tune, but the leaky boat image struck me as a great metaphor for some things I have been going through. I've realized, after hitting some very stormy seas, that I need to patch the leaks in my own boat, rather than expecting to be carried along in someone else's--which practically ensures a capsize, especially since their boat is bound to have some leaks, too. Making my own repairs, maybe I will be better able to sail steadily alongside another seaworthy craft someday.

The imagery buoyed me, to coin a phrase. And the song worked the magic it always has, which causes me to be completely incapable of listening to it less than five times in a row. Thank goodness for YouTube! And thank goodness I had brought my headset to the office.

There's a wind / in my sails / will protect / and prevail

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

sent text

9:53 am: Going to mediation now--hopefully last session--light a candle for me!

10:04 am: Train delays. be there as soon as i can.

11:57 am: "I....don't remember what day it was..."

12:00 pm: Every day's a new day!

12:03 pm: Piped in @ ann taylor! retail therapy---session went well

12:07 pm: Thx--it went well--mascara intact.

12:14 pm: size 6 jeans are the best revenge!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

over the river

Last Thanksgiving, in the wake of the news that my marriage was ending, I took the kids to visit with my brother David, his wife Jennifer, and their family in State College, PA. Not only was it great to talk with them, but we also had a wonderful dinner at Jennifer's parents' house in Williamsport. After dinner, David and I took Bobby and his cousin Davey on a walk to the Little League Hall of Fame, just a few blocks from the house.

On the drive home at the end of the weekend I popped in a CD that had come with an issue of Paste magazine Bob had picked up somewhere. It was a compilation of contemporary music that spanned the sort of alt-Americana-singer-songwriter-pop-rock genres I favor. I kept coming back to one song, "All in Good Time" by someone named Ron Sexsmith. I'd heard the name on WFUV but couldn't place him, and in fact always got him mixed up with another singer-songwriter with a similar name, Martin Sexton. As I played the winsome tune over and over, I let the lyrics sink in:
But in these hours of serious doubt
Through the coal black lonely night
Something told me, “it’ll work out”
Something deep inside
Was comforting me

All in good time
the bad times will be gone


I was far from believing that things would ever get better. I didn't see the point in hoping for a future where "it'll work out." I didn't believe "everything happens for a reason," "God has a plan," "something better is in store," or "when a door closes a window opens," or any of that. But still there was something about the combination of Ron's music and voice and optimistic message that stuck, and somehow buoyed me, just for a few minutes. It wasn't until later that I learned that he had gone through a divorce with children himself, and had grown up in a "broken home" after his father left the family. Something struck a chord and I felt the songwriter's voice "deep inside...comforting me" like an old and trusted friend.

This year, Thanksgiving will be different. Bobby is riding to State College with my friend Jeannie and her Boston terrier, Otis, to spend the holiday with his bestest cousin, Davey. Stella will be with Dad and his family, and I'm taking a bus to New Jersey for a peaceful dinner with my Uncle Phil and Aunt Cheryl. And I am thankful for family, for love, for my kids' thriving and having a good time, for quiet time, for the tentative optimism of a new political era in the face of economic woes. I'm thankful that I have been able to keep on, do my job (for the most part), take care of my family, not give up despite very strong urges to do so. Most of all, I'm thankful for the faith that has returned to me, for the people who have been praying for me to get back there, and for the someone who has pointed me back in that direction.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

why ron sexsmith should be a superstar

Not because he has a voice like Wings-era McCartney. Not because he is praised not only by McCartney himself, but by Elvis Costello, Chris Difford, Elton John, and many other greats. Not because he has put out over a dozen amazing albums since 1995 and still hasn't achieved the international fame he deserves. But because he writes lyrics like this:

From the ashes of a broken home
I sent a message to the great unknown
And through the music on the radio
You came to set me free
This is how I know you hear me

This is how I know our trials are not in vain
This is how I know we'll rise and love again
This is how I know
This is how I know


"This Is How I Know,
" from Exit Strategy of the Soul

(Now if only I had a Canadian cell service provider, I could download a ringtone of that song.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"the new phone books are here! the new phone books are here!"

Not really, but I did just receive first round galleys of Saint Nobody from my beloved Red Hen Press, and I'm giddy as Navin R. Johnson in The Jerk! Thrilling, exciting, and scary! Can't wait to see the cover...I promise a peek when I do.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

the one o'clock poets strike again...

READING TONIGHT! EXTRA! EXTRA!

The One O'clock Poets
read from their anthology, This Full Green Hour
Tuesday, November 18
7:30 pm
Perch Cafe, 365 5th Avenue (between 5th and 6th Streets)
Park Slope, Brooklyn
http://www.theperchcafe.com/

Please join us!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

in case you were wondering

Say you found my blog by googling my name. Say you heard my name through a mutual acquaintance. Say you were curious about me and thought you would check me out online. Say you read some of my poems, saw my students' comments on Ratemyprofessor, went to my department's website, saw my public Facebook listing, and read my postings as a guest blogger on the Best American Poetry blog.

And say you were still curious. Who is this Amy Lemmon person I've heard about who lives in New York? you wonder. So here you are on my blog, trying to read between the lines of my cheerleading, kvetching, and kvelling, clicking on my photo, looking for any clues to what makes me tick.

First of all, thanks for reading. I'm flattered that anyone would spend time with my maunderings, since I know how busy you are. Now let me make your sleuthing a little easier with a few facts that aren't in my "About Me" profile.

-I grew up in Ohio and led a relatively sheltered life until my twenties, when I moved to the east coast then back to Ohio for graduate school, where my "liberal education" was completed. Or so I thought until I moved to NYC.
-I was raised in a politically and religiously conservative environment. The political I've diverged from significantly. The religious--well, I have diverged, but I still have respect for the faith of my fathers (and mothers). I'm working on my own version. Stay tuned.
-I grew up feeling like my family were the only people with our particular brand of beliefs. This dovetailed nicely into my already well-established sense of alienation from my peers stemming from hyper-sensitivity and an inability to discern "kids being kids" making fun and teasing from kids really hating me, which finally began to dissipate when I went to college and discovered beer.
-I once had ambitions to be a musician. I started piano lessons at six, played violin at ten, picked up oboe and trumpet in high school, was voted "Most Musical" in my senior class. Then, in college, after one term as a music education major, I switched to English because the music department building was just too far a walk from the main campus. That, and practicing so much made my neck hurt.
-Instead of being a musician, Reader, I married one. I moved to NYC in 1996 as a newlywed because my husband played jazz and got a full scholarship to grad school. I was finishing my PhD in English from the University of Cincinnati at the time.
-Twelve years later, I still live (with my kids) in the same two-bedroom apartment in Queens that I moved into less than a month after my wedding.
-I am in the middle of a divorce. Not a "messy" divorce, and not an "amicable" divorce, but just a plain old emotionally draining, heart-wrenching, soul-search-inspiring, therapy-requiring, do-what's-best-for-the-children intoning, financially discouraging, thoroughly depressing yet apparently necessary divorce.
-I did not expect to be getting divorced less than a dozen years after saying "I do." This does not mean I thought my marriage was perfect. It's just that throwing in the towel wasn't my idea. Although I'm starting to warm up to it.
-The whole divorce experience has thrown me for a loop. It has painstakingly laid a crunchy layer of chaos over my baseline neuroses and occasional hysterical tendencies that is quite astonishing in its power to thwart any plans, goals, or good intentions I might have.
-No matter how sideswiped I've been by the crunchy chaos, I have never for a minute considered keeping my kids from their father, or doing anything to damage their relationship with him. I know how much that would hurt them. (Okay, so one time I said "Daddy is an a*****e" in front of my son. But it was raining and there were no cabs and I had been late picking him up from after-school chess and felt like a total failure as a mother. And the kid had asked why I was upset.)
-I am grateful that my kids' father is still around a lot, even though it makes separating from him excruciating at times. It's good for the kids, who adore him, and heck, I can use the free childcare.
-Here's a secret: I have come to believe that maybe, just maybe, all this is part of a Plan, and that Somebody is in charge of the blueprints. I just have no idea what the deal is, where I fit in or what I am supposed to do. I am trying to be okay with not knowing, and just trust and have faith. You can imagine how hard this is for me.
-I am ambivalent about the public nature of my presence here. I want to blab to the world but feel anxious when strangers (such as you, dear reader) find me, especially when it has something to do with someone I am dating.
-Oh--did I tell you that I have been dating? No? Sorry. Forgot to mention that. (Actually, I haven't mentioned it on purpose. It's private, and as you know this is a public forum.)
-I find "dating" to be an odd and antiquated term, a bit "dated" if you will, because the experience post-divorce has felt for me more like hearing a carousel and letting the captivating music and smell of peanuts and popcorn lead me off the paved path only to get sucked into a wind tunnel while simultaneously trying to squeeze into a wetsuit in anticipation of being dropped into a deep, dark, cold ocean when the tunnel abruptly ends. But sometimes, sometimes, I catch that carousel and let it spin me 'round and 'round, intoxicated. (Maybe my memory is going, but I do not recall it being quite this way the last time I was single, in my twenties.)
-I have a tendency to be a bit of a drama queen. Let's just say I have a close relationship with my inner Eloise.
-I find music to be incredibly healing. For a broken heart, or a broken home, I highly recommend Ron Sexsmith. Or K D Lang. Or practically anyone Canadian.
-I do not wish to spend the rest of my life without a partner. Conversely, I do not want to be with someone just so I can have a partner. I want the (or a) right person. I want it all!
-I feel guilty for not blogging enough about my kids lately, especially about the T21 community and special needs advocacy. I wonder if I seem completely narcissistic to the casual reader.
-My extended family (I am the eldest of six children) is precious to me, but I don't always feel as if I fit in.
-My friends are invaluable. Simply put: I would not be here without them.
-My relationships with most of my friends are complicated. This is probably because I have the most satisfying and intimate friendships with people who are as complicated as I am.
-Sometimes I need a break from my friends, and my friends need a break from me. I am trying to teach myself that this is Okay and does not mean that I should not be friends with anyone. (I'm starting to realize that the same principle might just apply to romantic relationships, too.)
-I am, quite often, my own worst enemy.
-I love, I love, I love. It's my nature. Sometimes it hurts and it ain't pretty. But I can't seem to live any other way.
-I'm procrastinating right now. Papers, papers, papers. I have a tendency to hype up the negative aspects of my life when I am overwhelmed with work, as I am now. (In this economy, people who are employed should not complain. So I'm not. About work, anyway.)

If you want to know more about me, ask our mutual acquaintance for my email and I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Thank you again for your time. Have a good day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

welcoming the godfather

It's been years in the making. Lee Gutkind, dubbed "the Godfather behind Creative Nonfiction" by Vanity Fair, is our writer-in-residence this week at FIT. I've had the pleasure to welcome Lee to two of my classes and introduce a lecture he gave yesterday on the public and private voices in creative nonfiction.

Tomorrow, he's reading from his own new work:

Room D211
Fashion Institute of Technology
7th Ave @ 27th Street
1-2pm

Books for sale. New subscribers to Creative Nonfiction magazine will get free back issues. A fantastic time will be had by all.

no visible injuries

Just received a text message from an unfamiliar number in the 914 area code (Westchester County):

im ok no visible injuries just want todeal with some emotions

I felt strangely relieved, although the message was most likely sent by mistake, by a perfect stranger. I texted back, "Who is this?" but got no response.

Meanwhile, CBC Radio 2 is playing an interview with their reporter Melissa Fung, who was just released after being held hostage for four weeks in Afghanistan. Her captors said they were part of the Taliban, but she later learned they were "just" a family who practices kidnapping as a profession.

However, the Taliban's attacks on civilians continue. (I'd like to know why this is only showing up in the Canadian media, nothing in the U.S.)

Melissa Fung is physically improved, but still suffering from sleepless nights after her ordeal. The two Afghan schoolgirls have been blinded by the attack, and are too afraid to go to school. But the misdialing Westchesterite is unscathed, or at least among the walking wounded, recovering in the suburbs of the Tristate area.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

poppies for remembrance

In the U.K. and Canada it's Remembrance Day. Here in the States we call it Veteran's Day. But first it was Armistice Day, a commemoration of those who gave their lives, and a celebration of the end of the War to End All Wars.

Two poems for the occasion: "In Flanders Fields," by Lt Col. John McCrae of the Canadian Army, and "Dulce et Decorum Est," by Wilfred Owen, one of the best of the Great War poets. Both men died in 1918, just months before the armistice.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

here i am baby

Presenting today's solo living room dance selection, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered."

Pity my poor downstairs neighbors.

levitas and gravitas from phil ochs

Lest we take ourselves too seriously...

Love Me, I'm a Liberal

I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
Tears ran down my spine
I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
As though I'd lost a father of mine
But Malcolm X got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I go to civil rights rallies
And I put down the old D.A.R.
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don't talk about revolution
That's going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
I'm glad the commies were thrown out
Of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
As long as they don't move next door
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

The people of old Mississippi
Should all hang their heads in shame
I can't understand how their minds work
What's the matter don't they watch Les Crane?
But if you ask me to bus my children
I hope the cops take down your name
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I read New Republic and Nation
I've learned to take every view
You know, I've memorized Lerner and Golden
I feel like I'm almost a Jew
But when it comes to times like korea
There's no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I vote for the democtratic party
They want the U.N. to be strong
I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts
He sure gets me singing those songs
I'll send all the money you ask for
But don't ask me to come on along
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old union hymns
But I've grown older and wiser
And that's why I'm turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Phil Ochs, 1966

A timely commentary on this song on Kim Ruehl's Folk Music Blog here.

(Listening to Pete Seeger sing "We Shall Overcome" right now...)

Friday, November 07, 2008

when first we laid eyes i swore to no compromise

Thanks to WFUV I remember why I love the Decemberists. Nothing like a solo living-room dance-and-sing-along to a tragic Romeo-and-Juliet story to rev you up for another round of paper grading!
Check it out so you can dance, too:

godspeed

Godspeed
Keep the lighthouse in sight
Godspeed to you
Keep the lighthouse in sight
Godspeed to you
Put out the light
And hope that I make it alive

Jenny Lewis

Thursday, November 06, 2008

regret

I wouldn't even trust you
I've not got much to give
We're dealing in the limits
And we don't know who with
You may think that I'm out of hand
That I'm naive, I'll understand
On this occasion, it's not true
Look at me, I'm not you

I would like a place I could call my own
Have a conversation on the telephone
Wake up every day that would be a start
I would not complain of my wounded heart

New Order, "Regret"

contemporary gothic reading tonight


Gothic: Dark Glamour
Contemporary Gothic Literature
Thursday, December 6, 2008
6-7 pm
The Tile Gallery at the Museum at FIT
Seventh Avenue at 27 Street
New York, NY


FIT students, faculty and staff read selections from Anne Rice, Margaret Atwood, Sylvia Plath, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and more.

(including Moira Egan)

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

we did it

I say with our President-elect, God bless the United States of America. Amen.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

election '08

I'm not even gonna try to pretend I want you to vote for "the candidate of your choice." Like everyone else, I want you to vote for the candidate of my choice. Maybe our choices are the same. Maybe not.

I love Trig Palin, but I have serious issues with the way his mom "wears him around like a Coach bag," as a friend's teenage daughter has said. The fact that Gov. Palin and I share a bond as parents of children with T21 does not at all endear me to her politics, any more than my admiration for McCain's POW experience sways me in his direction. Good people in the wrong place can be bad for a country.

Vote. Pray. Love.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

blue fifth review

The Fall 2008 Issue of Blue Fifth Review, edited by Sam Rasnake, is now online.

This issue features new work by...

Melissa Buckheit, Rachel Lehrman, Kenneth Pobo, Amy Lemmon,
Susan Terris, Steve Meador, Robert E. Wood, Laurel K. Dodge,
Karen Head, Scott Owens, Yun Wang, Collin Kelley, Amy Riddell,
Marge Piercy, Tammy Ho Lai-ming, Felicia Mitchell, C. S. Reid,
J. Alan Nelson, C. E. Chaffin, Deborah Vatcher, Leslie Marcus,

and more

Saturday, November 01, 2008

dos princesas


Stella Bella with Bobby's friend Islam's little sis. Backdrop courtesy of Astoria Flower Shop.

the power of the juxtaposition of opposites in sparking memory, provoking thought, and stirring the emotions; or, how to wallow in pop music

My fave radio station WFUV is doing a show right now they call "Point-Counterpoint." The concept is to play songs that either contain a an argument between opposites (e.g., "Should I Stay or Should I Go Now" by the Clash) or work in pairs to counter each other, the most obvious pairing perhaps being Neil Young's "Southern Man" and "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynrd Skynrd.

The last set included four tunes about various stages in relationships. Starting with Chicago's "Beginnings" and Roy Orbison's "It's Over," it concluded with "(Just Like) Starting Over" by John Lennon and "Overs," a Simon and Garfunkel song I was not familiar with.

John and Yoko's Double Fantasy was one of the albums that presided over AOR radio during my adolescence. I even recall hearing "Starting Over" at the skating rink once. Hearing it now, I feel a pang--it's about a long-term relationship that renews itself. In fact, it sounds like an anthem for mid-life parents, "Why don't we take a trip alone...like we used to in the early days"--perhaps before kids and mortgages and parent-teacher conferences and IEPs and bus schedules and the barrage of grown-up responsibilities and the dull, steady accumulation of irritations and resentments.

"Overs," which is quite obviously about a couple parting, is at least as sad. "No good times, no bad times, / There's no times at all, / Just the new york times." This is a story of love grown, not cold, but tepid. "We might as well be apart / it hardly matters." Why do some relationships work, and other fail? When do you give it the old college try, and when do you say enough is enough and call it quits? If after one union ends you make a commitment to another, who's to say that won't turn out just as badly down the road? Where do the dreams of beginnings go? Wherefore the resolutions, the vows, the promises? Where are the snows of yesteryear--oops, sorry, wrong century.

Longing, nostalgia, questioning, grief, resignation, hope, fear: when one is a poet, I suppose it is all grist for the mill.

Friday, October 31, 2008

trick or treat, astoria style


A battle-ready Anakin Skywalker and the demure Princess in blue.

anniversaire

Halloween is not a happy time for me this year. There is no other way to say this. A year ago tonight Bob told me he wanted to separate. I had taken the kids out trick-or-treating by myself while he was working, and then when he came home, long after they were asleep, it happened. Life as I knew it started to creak and crack and crumble around me.

Today I am being gentle with myself. Although I acknowledge the feelings that come up, I am trying not to "dwell on it," as my mom used to say. I am focusing on getting some of my mountains of work done. I am focusing on having fun with the kids--this year we are teaming up with another family for trick-or-treat. I am going for a run. I am remembering to breathe. I am looking forward to tomorrow.

I am also reading Psalm 27. Yesterday I got a card from my Aunt Jan, my godmother, suggesting that I read the following verses:

1
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?
The LORD is the refuge of my life; of whom then should I go in dread?

7
Hear, O LORD, when I call aloud; show me favour and answer me.

14
Wait for the LORD; be strong, take courage, and wait for the LORD.

Because I cannot for the life of me find the white leather-bound Revised Standard Version my grandparents gave me as a kid (probably around the age I would have been confirmed if my family had stayed with a church), I have been using The New English Bible (Oxford Study Edition) I bought for Tony York's "History of the English Bible" course in grad school. Anglophile that I am, it's the very thing, except that I often miss the familiar cadences I recall.

Yes, Dear Reader, Saint Nobody has just put Bible verses on her blog. No, she has not gone off the deep end. Well, maybe she has, but she is starting to believe that a Presence, a Power is there to rescue her from the depths and buoy her to the surface. She's bobbing in the waves, getting some air, just enough to keep going, and sometimes more.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

random access memory: september song

Princeton, New Jersey, was like a town from a storybook. The campus with its stone buildings, literally ivy-covered. The fountain in front of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The libraries and laboratories, the famous architects, the English-style garden and the art museum with its eclectic collection and its one spectacular Van Gogh. The chapel--more like a cathedral, really--with brilliant stained glass, vast vaulted ceilings, a sense of reverence and stillness yet full of life. The Richard Serra sculpture, "The Hedgehog and the Fox," two tremendous panels between which you could hide, no one would see you while you walked through it, you could take someone in there and kiss them and no one would notice.

The shops and restaurants on Nassau Street--Labyrinth Books, Small World Coffee, the old hoagie shop and pizza place, the newer Thai and sushi and Mexican restaurants, the Blue Water Grill with its comfortable booths, casual elegance, and four stools at a counter in the back. You bring your own wine because licenses are few and far-between, the two of you just have to drink the whole bottle. The movie theater a real old-fashioned cinema with no commercials or trailers, just popcorn and soda and swingy padded seats, and the film that had a scene where one of the main characters attends a boozy, cigar-filled Princeton alumni dinner, bellowing with his classmates:
In praise of Old Nassau we sing,
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Our hearts will give while we shall live,
Three cheers for Old Nassau.


The residential streets quiet in the soft dark, stars showing through carefully pruned trees, spacious houses presiding over tidy but comfortable lawns. The cars in their driveways, a green Beetle proclaiming Free Tibet and Obama '08.

The funny little train that goes back and forth to the Princeton Junction station, just two passenger cars, like a toy train, called "the Dinky" by the locals. The schedule and the time for departure, the return to the city, the lingering goodbye and yes, the tears, the embarrassing tears, the whistle and the steady turn of the wheels, the distance, the hopes, the blurred landscape turning from green and brown to gray, the beginning of autumn, the end of a beginning.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

not so fast....

Well, I suppose it was inevitable. No sooner had I written this post about how calm and cool and copacetic I was about my divorce, than the skies clouded up and darkened, and the waves gathered to crash on the sandy (rocky?) shore of my psyche. Or something along those lines.

Divorce, my friends, is hell. Plain and simple. It is exponentially more hellish when children are involved. It takes a long, long time to "move on" in any meaningful way, and even when you think you've started to do that, something can happen to trigger all the yucko feelings you thought you'd started to leave behind.

I think I am experiencing the anniversary effect--meaning, since it was Halloween night when my marriage was handed to me on a platter, the crisping air (which MacGregor refers to as "that first chilly scent of Canada") and signs of orange-and-black faux-ghoulishness start to remind me of the real horror of grief, shock, abandonment, guilt, failure, fear, etc. etc. etc.

Love is not always enough. The best of intentions falter. Resolutions wither and die. Things change. Leaves, like plans and hopes and dreams, turn and fall and crumble to dust.

But yes, there is always the promise of far-off spring, that cliche of cliches for new beginnings--but no less apt an analogy for that. There is hope. There is faith (more about that, soon). There are grace and forgiveness. There are, thank goodness, lots and lots of kleenex. (No one really thinks you're crazy for crying on the subway, right?) There is tomorrow--and tomorrow, as Scarlett O said, is another day and, as Annie reminded us, only a day away.

Friday, October 24, 2008

miz lonelyhearts in the lone star state

She's at it again: the fantabulistic Jilly (aka Jill Alexander Essbaum), having returned stateside (namely, the Republic of Tejas) from a lengthy sojourn in Switzerland, is moving and shaking on The Best American Poetry Blog. No longer qualified to be a European correspondent, she's set up shop as an advice-to-the-lovelorn-and-poetry-challenged columnist (at least for this week). Head over to her "Dear Jill" posts...and send her your romantic and poetic "befuddled messes," as she puts it. She's spot-on, pulls no punches, and cracks me up.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

classic gothic

This evening from 6-7 pm, I'm introducing a reading of classic gothic fiction and poetry, as part of the Museum at FIT's exhibit Gothic: Dark Glamour. FIT faculty, students, and even an alumna will read selections from such favorites as Poe's "The Raven," Stevensons, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," and, yes, Bronte's Wuthering Heights.

It will take place in the Museum's Tile Gallery, on the lower level of the E Building, 7th Avenue at 27th Street.

Now I'm off to find a shawl worthy of Heathcliff's Cathy!

Monday, October 20, 2008

down syndrome awareness month

Hard to believe that it's been a year since I took up Tricia's "31 for 21 Challenge" and posted almost every day during October, Down Syndrome Awareness Month. I've been too busy and distracted to post about it yet this year, but it has definitely been on my mind, especially as the election frenzy escalates.

Readers who know me will find it as no surprise that I am not a fan of Sarah Palin. I think McCain's choosing her was a cheap shot; I agree with those of you who think she is unqualified and find the prospect of having her as second in command downright frightening. I have strong objections to her political and ideological views, to put it mildly. I hope Barack and Joe kick their behinds all the way to the Arctic Circle.

But I have to admit that I am not ungrateful for the positive attention that her son Trig has brought to the Down syndrome community (I won't go into the negative attention, often in the name of "political humor," rife with uses of the "R word" and other slurs). The fact that someone so in the public eye is the parent of a child with Down syndrome can only shed light on the condition and the many individuals who have it.

Let's just hope some of that positive focus lingers, even when Trig's mom and her running mate, um, well....we shall see in just a few weeks, shan't we?

Oh, and as a special treat, here's a pic from Stella's day out in the city--including a Dan Zanes and Friends concert--last spring with her new friend, Emma Sage, and blogger mama pal, Tara (photographer extraordinaire).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

emotion and calmness

From Nature doth emotion come, and moods
Of calmness equally are Nature's gift:
This is her glory--these two attributes
Are sister horns that constitute her strength;
This twofold influence is the sun and shower
Of all her bounties, both in origin
And end alike benignant. Hence it is
That genius, which exists by interchange
Of peace and excitation, finds in her
His best and purest friend--from her receives
That energy by which he seeks the truth
Is rouzed, aspires, grasps, struggles, wishes, craves
From her that happy stillness of the mind
Which fits him to receive it when unsought.


William Wordsworth, The Prelude, (1805) Book Twelfth

Sometimes when I'm feeling agitated, unsettled, or even a bit desperate, I grab a book of poetry and open it, I-ching style, to see what comes up. The passage above was the result of such a search today. In the margin are my notes from a summer class I took in graduate school with the wonderful Professor Les Chard. In blue pencil (leftover from my freelance editing job) I wrote, "emotion & calmness," "active & passive," "grace?" and " 'rehabilitation'."

Although Wordsworth is clearly asserting his belief in the power of capital-N Nature to foster the imagination and restore "right reason," it spoke to me more about the vicissitudes of human nature, in particular my own vacillations between intensity and calm.

It was a quiet day on the surface here, but internally I weathered storms worthy of Prospero's books. This happens from time to time--a plunge into the depths, feeling unable to navigate the turbulent waves. I guess I am still seeking some sort of guidance, and these times are when I feel its lack most keenly. For now, I'll just try to keep feeling my way until the tempests pass and light breaks through the clouds again.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

the "d" word

It's been almost a year now. It wasn't my idea. On Halloween night, 2007, my partner of over 14 years and husband of more than 12 informed me that he wanted to separate. I knew we had our problems, that neither of us was what anyone could call "happy," that our difficulties had increased markedly in the past few years. But I just didn't consider divorce to be an option. My parents have remained married, happily from all accounts, for better or for worse, since June 9, 1962. I expected the same from my marriage. Bob and I had always said we would stay together no matter what. We had two kids we both adored, one with special needs. We needed each other to get through the days and weeks, sharing parenting so we could both work and scrape together a living in New York City. During those moments when things got particularly tense and the subject of splitting came up, we quickly dismissed the idea, mainly because of the kids.

So now it was on the table, and I had no choice. He wanted to separate for "at least six months," then revisit the marriage. Meanwhile, we would work with a mediator on a separation agreement. He slept on the couch or stayed at a relative's until December, after Bobby's birthday party, when he moved into a shared apartment a few blocks away. It wasn't until January that I realized that he didn't really want a trial separation and faced the fact that my marriage was over.

The past year has been one of the more difficult of my life so far. The hurt and confusion behind this post from last November was only the beginning. I've weathered countless emotional storms and found myself blindsided again and again by feelings I thought I had already been through, dealt with, put behind me. I've learned that grief, as so many of you must know, is not a linear process. You don't progress through Kubler-Ross's stages steadily and in an orderly fashion--anger, guilt, even denial cycle back often when you least expect it.

Now, though, nearly a year later, I can honestly say that it is very likely our lives--all of our lives, the kids' included--may very well be better for this decision. In the intervening months I have had many opportunities to mull over our relationship and see the signs that I had ignored all along, the issues I thought I was willing to compromise on but deep down allowed to fester into anger, bad humor, ultimately contributing to depression and other stresses in my life.

What I feel best about now is the fact that, no matter how stormy or venomous or uncontrollable my emotions seemed, I never allowed them to push me into decisions that would be less than ideal for my children. As the title of this blog implies, I am no saint, and I made mistakes, acting out, venting within earshot of the kids when I felt I couldn't avoid it. There were times that I actually hated their father, I couldn't stand the sight of him in the cramped two-bedroom apartment that had been "ours" but was now mine, where for logistical reasons he took care of the kids most of the time. The boundaries were blurred, and I wanted clarity.

I couldn't imagine parenting these wonderful and challenging little people on my own, but working with their dad now that we were no longer life partners seemed equally impossible. Friends suggested I give up on mediation and get a lawyer who would help me get what I "deserved." Family members urged me to get full custody, even move away from New York. But I knew how much that would hurt our children, and although I wanted nothing to do with him anymore, I got through it and somehow put up with it (albeit often kicking and screaming) for their sake. I honestly don't know how, since I'm not exactly the martyr type, but it has gradually gotten easier, and now things seem much less fraught.

Now that we are within striking distance of closing the marriage chapter of our lives, I can appreciate the good things about the man I married. Bob is a wonderful father. The kids adore him. He is also a good friend, and now that I have started to recover from the heartbreak his choice has caused, I can see the possibility of a future that includes my children, a parenting partner, and perhaps even new relationships that are happier and more functional. The marriage is broken, but the family goes on and--I think, I hope--thrives.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

saved by the Mel

What a lovely day to be caught in the rain (or at least drizzle and fog). I've been car-sitting for a friend who's overseas for a month--I get to use the car in exchange for moving it on the alternate-side parking days. When he dropped it off my friend noted that the automatic windows were temperamental and had stopped working, leaving them stuck open. "They always start up again eventually," he assured me. Unfortunately, though, they didn't start up again, no matter how many times I tried, and by the end of the week there was heavy rain in the forecast. When the deluge began on Thursday night, I was out on the street trying to cover the windows with garbage bags and electrical tape. You can imagine how well that worked.

So today I used the car to take Bobby to a birthday party and drop Stella off at Dad's. The car wasn't totally waterlogged, fortunately, but I did get a wet behind from the seat (and so did Stella). I went to lunch at a lovely cafe in Long Island City, savoring salade nicoise, cafe au lait, and pain au chocolat, chuckling over the latest issue of The Onion, and generally clearing my head of some muck and gunk that had built up for a few days.

Afterwards I started up the car again, intending to swing by Socrates Sculpture Park. Immediately one of the best vocal renditions of all time came on WNYC: Mel Torme's "Lullaby of Broadway." I snapped my fingers, bopping and singing along, as I made my way up Jackson Avenue. At a stop sign on a side street, I idly pressed the window control button, as I had so many times the past few days in a futile attempt to get the windows to close. This time, the window went right up. I pushed the other three buttons. The other three windows went up, too!

Maybe it was driving around a bit, charging the battery. Maybe it was hitting some bump that got some shorted-out wire in the system to reconnect. But I like to think it was Mel, the Velvet Fog at his scat-cat best, filling the little car with his special brand of electricity on a foggy day in L.I.C.

hard times come again no more

After hours of "YouTubing" various musical selections (with a heavy emphasis on one of my faves, Rufus Wainwright), I found this gem. The Stephen Foster song, penned just before the Civil War, is powerful in its simplicity--I first became aware of it in a version by Syd Straw and John Doe on Syd's album Surprise. This version, with a very young Rufus, his mom Kate and aunt Anna McGarrigle, Emmylou Harris, Mary Black, and others I have yet to identify, is simultaneously goosebump-inducing and healing. Enjoy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

this lovely book

Vicki is sharing with us the cover for her beautiful book, This Lovely Life. From all appearances, it will be almost as beautiful outside as inside. Almost.

She has also, miraculously, been blogging in the wake of her unthinkable loss. Some of the entries chronicle the painstaking process of revising her manuscript for publication. Six passes, she says! Brava, brave Vicki!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

friday thoughts

The date says Saturday, but it's still Friday night as far as I'm concerned. The book party last night was a smashing success. And it only reminded me even more acutely how lucky I am to have my collaborators, the One O'Clock Poets. We are all lucky to have found each other and kept coming together once a month, sometimes more, sometimes less. The process has really helped me bring so many poems to the page, and make them better and stronger.

In other news, I'm tired, but I can't get myself to go to bed.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

two full green hours--TONIGHT!

In case you're in NYC this evening and looking for something to do...
You’re Invited to a Poetry Book Party

Come Celebrate This Full Green Hour: An Anthology by the One O’Clock Poets

GUILLERMO CASTRO
AMY LEMMON
KATRINKA MOORE
JOAN LAURI POOLE
ELIZABETH POREBA
SARAH STERN

Thursday, September 18, 2008

7:00-9:00 p.m.

Teachers and Writers Collaborative
520 Eighth Avenue (between 36th and 37th Streets), Suite 2020, New York City
For directions please visit: www.twc.org/events.


This Full Green Hour, published by Sonopo Press, will be available for purchase.
Light refreshments will be served.

***

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THIS FULL GREEN HOUR

“The poems of Castro, Lemmon, Moore, Poole, Poreba, and Stern riff off one another most delightfully through subject matter and syntax. These Magnificent Six have accomplished something amazing—a dynamic and tangential conversation through poems, each voice intelligent, nuanced, distinct.”
—Denise Duhamel

“A disarmingly playful spirit of generous camaraderie is at the heart of this anthology. Boldly, it intersperses the work of six distinctive poets in such a way that we not only get to know the individual voices, but are also let in on their poetic conversation…. This hour is indeed a full one.”
—Elaine Equi

“These six poets lead the reader to moments of delicious tension and exhilarating discoveries.”
—Scott Hightower

two full green hours--TONIGHT!

In case you're in NYC this evening and looking for something to do...
You’re Invited to a Poetry Book Party

Come Celebrate This Full Green Hour: An Anthology by the One O’Clock Poets

GUILLERMO CASTRO
AMY LEMMON
KATRINKA MOORE
JOAN LAURI POOLE
ELIZABETH POREBA
SARAH STERN

Thursday, September 18, 2008

7:00-9:00 p.m.

Teachers and Writers Collaborative
520 Eighth Avenue (between 36th and 37th Streets), Suite 2020, New York City
For directions please visit: www.twc.org/events.


This Full Green Hour, published by Sonopo Press, will be available for purchase.
Light refreshments will be served.

***

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THIS FULL GREEN HOUR

“The poems of Castro, Lemmon, Moore, Poole, Poreba, and Stern riff off one another most delightfully through subject matter and syntax. These Magnificent Six have accomplished something amazing—a dynamic and tangential conversation through poems, each voice intelligent, nuanced, distinct.”
—Denise Duhamel

“A disarmingly playful spirit of generous camaraderie is at the heart of this anthology. Boldly, it intersperses the work of six distinctive poets in such a way that we not only get to know the individual voices, but are also let in on their poetic conversation…. This hour is indeed a full one.”
—Elaine Equi

“These six poets lead the reader to moments of delicious tension and exhilarating discoveries.”
—Scott Hightower

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

blogalalia

I. Am. So. Tired. I can't believe I still haven't posted yet on the BAP blog. I'm in the middle of it. As soon as I finish, I can go to bed. Ahhhhhh.

Monday, September 08, 2008

mad for BAP!

This is the THIRD TIME I HAVE TRIED TO POST THIS! Dang Mozilla Firefox. Please go to the Best American Poetry blog, not only because I am a guest blogger this week, but because I am in such fantastic company (including pals Bruce, Denise, Jilly, Jimmy, Moira, Reb, et al.) that I am humbled.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

random notes

It's the second week of classes here at FIT, hence the blog-silence. Just too much to do, to think about, to compose and type and disseminate. The kids are having a bit of trouble getting used to the back-to-school routine, which means Mom has to stay up with them until they finally settle down (which has, unfortunately, been more like 10:30 or 11).

The good news: 1) Thanks to Stella's respite worker Krystal, we've found an afterschool program, where she will go three days a week (Krystal works there, so she'll have a pal to acclimate her, and someone to bring her home). She'll make friends, do homework, and generally keep the learning going after school hours.
2) I love my classes! I'm teaching two sections of Creative Nonfiction, one online Creative Writing class, and a brand-new course, Poetry Writing, that my colleague Stan and I created. All of them are chock-full of eager, bright, and energetic people who are diving right in to explore the writing process (and, of course, reading some great stuff as examples and inspiration).
3) I have a new favorite band: FLEET FOXES. The Rolling Stone blog says, "Think CSNY performing Pet Sounds." I've become obsessed with their harmony-laden, acoustic-based, folk-and-pop influenced stuff, so much so that I paid someone about double face value for tickets to one of their sold-out NYC shows in October. Go to YouTube and check out "White Winter Hymnal," then listen to the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby," and you'll see what I mean. (I actually played them at the same time and realized that both songs are not only in the same key, but nearly the same tempo.)
4) WFUV is playing Andrew Bird right now. RIGHT NOW. (Well, they were when I started this post.)
5) The new exhibit at the Museum at FIT opens tonight: GOTHIC: Dark Glamour, and I'm going to the opening! The exhibit opens in tandem with the release of the book of the same name, a collection of essays edited by Valerie Steele (one of my personal heroes) and Jennifer Park. There are a whole series of special events connected with the book and show, including a Tim Burton film fest, and two literary readings of gothic works, classic and contemporary. In a bit I will be donning my version of "gothic"--all black, of course, rather subdued, and no dramatic makeup--can't wait to see what the rest of the crowd is wearing!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

the magic of 47

It's my buddy MacGregor's birthday! He's turned 47, that weird and magic number. Head on over to Glossophagia and wish him a happy one! And you can read about the number 47 here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ABBA on BAP!

The editors of the Best American Poetry Blog have generously posted "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" the first of two ABBA poems they'll be putting up, written collaboratively by Denise Duhamel and myself.

While you're there, check out the postings by this week's fabulous guest blogger, Moira Egan! Bravissima!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

some links: two very kind mentions

I've had the pleasure of having my work mentioned on a couple of sites recently, and thought I would pass along some links to you-all. On August 4th, WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana, broadcast Jenny Kander reading my poems "Scar" and "Cardinal" on her lovely program "The Poets' Weave." Click here to listen to the podcast.

Also, the fantastically creative, wise, and compassionate Susan O'Doherty (author of Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: A Woman's Guide to Unblocking Creativity, described two readings from Letters to the World, including the one I participated in at Cornelia Street.

Go here to read the post.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

back in nyc

I made it back a bit ago and decided to jump online before I begin the prospective ordeal that is returning the rental car (in case you haven't heard, I had a minor accident a few weeks ago that resulted in the insurance company declaring the Honda minivan--2001, 160,000 miles--a total loss).

The kids and I had a great time with family and friends in Ohio and PA. The drives were, for the most part, uneventful (I managed somehow to keep the kids from killing each other in the back seat, and Stella only got out of her seatbelt a couple of times). We were much more comfortable than I'd expected due to a surprise upgrade from "full-sized" to "luxury"--they gave us a Dodge Charger, a huge black mobile that my brother David called a "mafia car."

As always, re-entry is a little hard. Fortunately, the touch of flu I picked up at the end of the week has been summarily dispatched by a new miracle drug--Tamiflu--and I feel almost normal, physically.

Perhaps I will head to the gym after the rental gauntlet. And a quiet evening at home before things start up, bright and early, at FIT tomorrow. I hereby resolve to post more frequently, even while the crazy semester is going on.

In the meantime, go to MacGregor's blog for a fantastic Robert Lowell poem.

Friday, August 15, 2008

the tao of yellow springs

Just a few miles south of my parents' house lies the lovely village of Yellow Springs, Ohio. It's sort of like a little oasis of artsiness and liberalism in conservative Southwestern Ohio. I find myself spending a lot of time there when I'm back home. The Antioch Writers' Workshop, Ohio Silver, and Dino's Cappucinos are some highlights. The kids are partial to Mister Fub's Party, an eclectic toy store that has been there at least since I was in college.

Have spent time there with some very good friends, taken yoga classes at a lovely studio on Dayton Street.

And, of course, there is the Local Celebrity, whom the kids and I saw hanging out on a bench the other day.

I think I'll head into the village for a latte now...

Monday, August 11, 2008

what's "hi" in the middle....

So here I am in (uncharacteristically cool, un-humid) Ohio. Had a wonderful family gathering last night--which turned out to be a birthday party for me, my bro John, and my nephew Sammy--who knew? Got to see all of the siblings who are still hanging around near here, and to meet Don, who will be my brother-in-law in May when he marries my youngest sister, Katy. I'm so happy that she has found love again after such a tragic loss, and that she and the boys have a great guy like Don in their lives now. And he is a fabulous cook--Don and Katy whipped up a Mexican fiesta of a feast. I'm glad there is some of that cheese dip left over.

Today my horoscope says, "Embrace your shortcomings by accepting where you are in life, but don't try to change your current attitude by rewriting your history. Write your future instead." Sounds like a plan, if I can manage it. Here's to the future...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Letters to the World reading tonight!

Just a reminder, in case you haven't received the email blast or Facebook invite. I'm excited to be part of this reading to promote the wonderful anthology of poetry by women!
Tuesday, August 5, 6:00 p.m.
Cornelia Street Cafe, 29 Cornelia Street, New York, NY

LETTERS TO THE WORLD ANTHOLOGY READING
Cover $7 (includes one house drink)
Poets LouAnn Shepard Muhm, Mendi Lewis Obadike and Amy Lemmon read from the international anthology Letters to the World (Red Hen Press), joined by NYC poet Tim Suermondt.

Monday, August 04, 2008

quotable quotes

It was a wild and wacky weekend. I spent way more time than I probably should have on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Here are some random bits:

"I respected him in a certain way--with his hookers and his plaid--because the world was changing, and it wasn't for the better."
--MacGregor Rucker, Lower East Side, 8/2/08

"Just because it's poetry doesn't mean we have to slit our wrists."
--Greg Sanders, East Village, 8/3/08

"The android in you loves the android in me."
--Paula Carino, live performance at Arlene's Grocery, 8/2/08

"Cell phone or schizo? It's really hard to know."
--The Larch, ibid.

"Come on over, drunk or sober."
--The Actual Facts, ibid.

And one more, perhaps providing a gloss on much of the previous:

"ALCOHOL: THE CAUSE OF, AND THE SOLUTION TO, ALL OF LIFE'S PROBLEMS."
--Chalkboard behind the bar at Arlene's Grocery

Friday, August 01, 2008

two readings!

Two readings coming up, both Red Hen-related, one wacky and impromptu, the other well-planned in advance:

Sunday, August 3, 6:30 p.m.
Home Sweet Home, 121 Chrystie St. nr. Delancey St.
New York,NY 10002
FREE admission

In conjunction with Envoy Gallery and the Thorstein Foundation, Opium magazine presents a Sunday evening litstravaganza like never before. Hosted via satellite (aka iChat) by Opium founding editor and Literary Death Match co-creator Todd Zuniga, onlookers will hear Americans Greg Sanders and Amy Lemmon live from NYC, Lee Bob Black, an Australian, tape delayed from NYC, and Nick Royle taped delayed one second via iChat (aka satellite) from Manchester, UK. Plus, the readers will be interviewed in lightning fashion. Excitements galore!
---

Tuesday, August 5, 6:00 p.m.
Cornelia Street Cafe, 29 Cornelia Street, New York, NY

LETTERS TO THE WORLD ANTHOLOGY READING
Cover $7 (includes one house drink)
Poets LouAnn Shepard Muhm, Mendi Lewis Obadike and Amy Lemmon read from the international anthology Letters to the World (Red Hen Press), joined by NYC poet Tim Suermondt.

bearing down

OK, Red Hen absolutely, positively needs the final manuscript of Saint Nobody TODAY. I'm gonna finish it. They gave me an extension because I had a car accident last Thursday (I'm OK, but the car may be totaled--we're waiting to hear from the insurance company today). I just submitted final grades for my online classes on Wednesday. Stella's bus comes at 2:45, so I have five and a half hours.

I've been working on a couple of poems I have just not been satisfied with--one of them, "Venus of the Interstate," is even in the chapbook, Fine Motor.
Time to shut the laptop and get to it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

finally writing again

I did it. I went to Paragraph yesterday for the first time in months, and I wrote. After dropping Bobby off at Tae Kwon Do camp I found myself on the subway going to an appointment that was actually for today. so I headed to 14th Street. My key still worked, I remembered my combination for the inside lock. I went into the "quiet space" and found one of my favorite desks empty. I checked my locker and found some books I had been missing, and a brand-new Mead composition book. Then I settled in.

It was like magic: I did my "morning pages" first, then browsed through some of the books for inspiration--The Mind and the Brain by Schwartz and Begley, Page After Page by Heather Sellers, The Poet's Companion by Addonizio and Laux. I had also brought with me Joy Katz's fabulous first collection, Fabulae.

First I did some serious revision of one of the Saint Nobody poems, "Venus of the Interstate." It's in my chapbook Fine Motor, but I'm just not happy with it. I had sent it to several poet friends for their feedback, and somehow yesterday was able to really give it a thorough working over. I don't think it's "finished," but maybe I am ready to "abandon" it (pace Valery and Leonardo).

Then I went into the "cafe space" for a snack, and was inspired by a China Green Tips bag, of all things, to draft a completely new poem.

All told, I was there about three hours before I had to head home for Stella's bus. In that short time I was reminded that I can do this. I was able to feel that full-of-words, full-of-images, full-of-infinite-connections that means poems are in progress.

Thanks, Paragraph! I think I will be continuing my membership.

Monday, July 28, 2008

love for Evan's family

Please send your thoughts and prayers to my dear friend Vicki Forman, her husband Cliff Kamida, and their daughter Josie as they commemorate the life of Evan David Kamida. There is a public viewing this evening from 5-7 PST and a memorial service tomorrow at 11 a.m. PST. Vicki's blog has more details, and a beautiful photo of Evan taken recently at school.

me and little j.a.

I am honored to share a birthday with the great American poet John Ashbery. Edward Byrne has a wonderfully informative post on his blog about the association between J.A. and the painter Fairfield Porter.

I had a lovely celebration with good friends on Saturday night involving dinner at Little Giant and a serious hang at my new favorite place, The Whiskey Ward (incredible DJ playing XTC, New Order, U2, and other excellent "vintage" tunes). Tonight the kids and I are having a little fete at home with my good friend and fellow Astorian, Lee.

I wonder how Mr. Ashbery is celebrating?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

what an idiot

The ever-vigilant Vicki pointed out this article in today's New York Times, evidence that there is still an incredible amount of ignorance out there about developmental disabilities. I won't even put the dude's name in this post since that would only give more energy to his words (and people would find my blog by googling him, argh).

cost of living

I'm back in the Big Dirty after a lovely week in the Pacific Northwest. This morning after getting the kids off to school and camp I had a very expensive hour and a half. First, I bought 12 gallons of gas. Then I went to Key Food and stocked up, not only on food, but on cleaning supplies and those funky newfangled lightbulbs. As the cashier scanned the items and the tally mounted I joked to myself I'd need a second mortgage to pay for it--the joke being that I don't have a first mortgage.

Then I had to park at a hydrant for a few minutes while I lugged all the stuff upstairs (the alternate side parking rules meant there were no parking spaces in front of our building until 10 a.m.). Sure enough, when I came down, a lovely young woman was writing me a ticket. When I asked her to stop writing it she says, "How can I stop writing? I can't stop writing once I've started." It occurred to me how much I would like to hear that in a very different context--say, from my students, or myself. It also occurred to me that my groceries were costing me another $115 now that a ticket was in the mix.

Welcome home.

Friday, July 18, 2008

lives of nobody's saint

There was a man in the East named Nobody, and that man was like another Job, great among all the people of the East. For he was great in race and lineage, great in power, great in knowledge, great in compassion and mercy, great in manifold perfection, great in honor and reverence, great in daring, great in glory and felicity. All these things are shown in Holy Scripture.

I'm working on final corrections (yikes!) to the manuscript of Saint Nobody. And this morning I've been reading about the medieval and early modern tradition of the Saint Nobody--sometimes called Nemo, Nought, Niemand, etc. Awhile back a reader of this blog told me about Martha Bayless's book Parody in the Middle Ages: The Latin Tradition, which has translations and original Latin texts of some very interesting stuff.

Right now I'm reading "The Combined Nemo"--a wickedly tongue-in-cheek treatise on the holy figure of Nobody that basically compiles a lot of references in the bible to things that "nobody" is, does, or can do. It's very bizarre. (Scroll all the way down this page to see one 16th-century representation of a secular Nobody, who is to blame for all the broken and missing things in a bourgeois household. It's most likely going to be on the cover of my book.)

Another article I read mentions the connection between a Nobody character and the wise fool, such as Shakespeare's Fool in Lear. It occurs to me that this character must also be connected to one of my favorite tarot cards--The Fool, which has the number zero in the major arcana.

I'm not sure how any of this is going to help me finish my book, but it's a lot of fun to mess around with and think about.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"a place of first permission"

--Robert Duncan

For me it is that back yard, that grand half acre, green and groaning with wind and insects, the lying on my back looking at the sky, blue with clouds impossibly high--the blue I ascribe to someone's eyes, someone who once looked at me nakedly [in wonder in admiration in disbelief in... love?]--someone whose eyes turned on me so briefly and are so turned no longer.

"She it is Queen Under The Hill" the mother the other the me
the girl lying on the grass, the cottonwood fluff floating in the still-clear air of late May
the ground beneath with its little bumps and craters
the field beyond opening and opening

Often I, too, am permitted to return to a meadow and to that yard adjacent to the meadow. The two trees gone--or is it just one gone, one remaining? The terrible storms and the chainsaw, the firewood. The former gravel pit greened over and good for sledding.

The cows. The creek. The crawdads in the creek, the sunnies and bluegills and very occasional trout. The full catastrophe of country cliches, the down-home dowsing, the swampiness and black black loamy muck aspark with weeds.

"a disturbance of words within words" and the hollow tree for imagining Alice's rabbit.

The wet legs, the sopping shoes, the mud of it. The cud. The thistles and the flowers on the thistles. Queen Anne's lace and miniature daisies. Escape and bringing a friend and making up friends as you go along the streambanks.

The place of place.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

puget sound bound

Next week I will be at historic Fort Worden State Park for the Port Townsend Writers' Conference. I get to spend a little time with friends in Seattle at either end, too.

I'm not doing a workshop--just a writers' retreat. And there's a wonderful movement studio right on the state park premises. I've been to Vancouver, for the AWP conference a few years ago, but never to Washington State.

I'm really excited. I'll feel even better after the 6 and a half hour flight is over, I'm sure, and I will able to see the fabulous work of my friend David in person.

Today I bought a huge suitcase and two new hoodies (emulating Kim's fashion sense, and also layering for the weather). Tomorrow it's laundry, a couple of errands, and time with the kids, who will be back from the Jersey Shore--before I leave on Saturday.

In the meantime, lots and lots of grading. (Hello, EN361 online students!!!)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

a rose is roses

I bought the roses for myself. That's the time I needed. I needed rose. A rose in the valley with lilies. The lilies were too expensive. The lilies were. Under my mother's bay window in the backyard and they were in the backyard in the old house, too. She had planted from bulbs perennial. How had they been? How and where? Who and why? The nerve!

The bracketing of a life by roses--ivory tinged with green and the tips slightly rosy, dawn-like. The roses in plastic. The caterer buying roses at market, fancying herself a midwestern Martha Stewart. It was 1996, end of the milennium, end of the century. End of a time with a way of life, end of one city and beginning of a new city. It has been twelve years, a dozen like the dozen or two of these roses in the green rubber band. A band of rubber or a band of gold. A band to beat the band--gold, rubberized my finger until the flesh beneath it shrank. Hand swollen from baby-carrying, baby-feeding, baby-weight left over. The band gone, the ring off. Now the finger back to the old size, the band faded marking from the flesh.

The band he was with. And the band he was. And eating was not, and wine was, and the dance of band and roses on the side table. The roses were not red. They were not yellow. They were this color, color of paper lightly singed, color of burnt sugar and cream, color of time this time and mine. Mine.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

around again: tuesday

the day heats up
the track is not yet steaming
each lap another key,
another key, turn it on the ring
put it in a basket
(a-tisket a-tasket)
send the basket up the river
with the barges
and the water taxis
send it up the river,
send it to the bronx
the island, the harbor,
the great big old atlantic

Sunday, July 06, 2008

anniversaire

It would have been our twelfth wedding anniversary. I guess it sort of still was, although there is no longer a "we" to celebrate it.

Instead, I had a lovely dinner with my lovely friend Denise at Pastis. The weather was perfect for sitting outside, the food was good, the conversation excellent, and the crowd lively enough to bring some cheer.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

fab fourth

Yesterday I spent the evening with good pals Greg and Jeremy and an assorted cast of walk-ons.

We started at the Whiskey Ward, described in one review as a "No bullshit saloon off Delancey Street for serious drinkers," then headed to Schiller's Liquor Bar for dinner (yes, it's a restaurant, too), where we saw Sex and the City's Chris Noth and John Corbett enjoying cocktails at the bar.

We didn't make it to Greg's apartment rooftop, as planned, for the Macy's fireworks--we rather lamely watched some of the glow from the street outside Schiller's--but it was a great time nonetheless.

Friday, July 04, 2008

before they get better...

Things decidedly did not get better yesterday. The person I have started to refer to as my "baby daddy" was so dreadfully ill (he told me he was "wreathing" in pain) that I had to fend for myself with last-minute, cobbled-together childcare.

I did not make it to Transitcenter to pick up my replacement Metrocard before they closed (early, at 3). In fact, I barely made it to my evening class. But I made it, and it was awesome.

(For those of you illustrator types who are reading: you rock! But you knew that already.)

And now guess who has the parvovirus rash, which is not common among adults, especially on the face?

Yep. And on the face, too.

But I am going to the gym, no matter what. And I have plans to drink whiskey on the Lower East Side this evening. And watch fireworks from a rooftop. It's an improvised Fourth, with a few good friends.

I have a really thoughtful introspective little piece on Independence Day in the works. May not get it up here until the 5th, but I will, I promise.

Happy Fireworks!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

and now for the other shoe....

Bobby had a fever of 102 last night. So he's not immune. Thank goodness for ibuprofen, the miracle drug.

In an experience reminiscent of the run-around Vicki got with Evan's prescription for orthotics, had an unsuccessful and very frustrating attempt to replace my Transitchek Metrocard yesterday. I made a frantic trip to their offices near Bryant Park only to be told that they did not replace cards after 3 p.m. (although their website says only that they are open until 4:30) and thus will spend an additional $4 in fares before getting my new one today. This time for sure!

Plop.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

it's official: i'm falling apart

When I was a kid my brothers and I had this little ditty we would sing from time to time: I'm falling apart, diddle-a-dih-dih. It had somehow surfaced admid the aural chaos on one of the many "radio plays" we recorded on the battery-powered cassette recorder--mostly unscripted and improvised, and usually hilarious. Much to our mother's chagrin, the private joke--at least the "diddle-a-dih-dih" part--survived well into high school, and even infected some of our school chums.

It's an apt tune for the way I'm feeling right now. I don't want to be an alarmist here, but I am fairly sure I have, if not lost, then seriously misplaced my datebook/calendar/addressbook. A.K.A. my Life. I think the last time I saw it alive was last Wednesday, when I went to my poetry group meeting. I think I had my West Chester Poetry Conference brief-bag, rather than my omnipresent backpack, but it's not there. Nor is it in either of my backpacks (the Gym backpack and the Work backpack), nor any of my purses, nor my myriad AWP souvenir totes.

It's not in the kitchen. It's not anywhere in my bedroom, at least not that I can see. I checked under the bed, even. I'm hoping it will surface somewhere around the apartment.

In other news, our family has been struck by Parvovirus 19, the cause of Stella's yucky rash. Unfortunately, you don't really know the child has it until they get the characteristic rash, and by that time the contagious period (which has lasted the previous week) is basically over. Now Bob and I obviously have it (joint and muscle aches, fever, general malaise and Extreme Crankiness, which makes things just that much more pleasant under the circumstances).

This article has more info if you are interested. My favorite part is this:
Many adults and some children develop joint pain (arthralgia) or joint swelling (arthritis) weeks after the parvovirus B 19 infection. Involvement is usually symmetrical and most often involves the hands, wrists, knees, and ankles. Joint difficulty can wax and wane for months and usually disappears without causing permanent damage,

Yikes. That'll put a damper on my burgeoning athletic career. And it's a perfect day for a run in Astoria Park, too.

Bobby, so far, is fine--and we hope he does not get it, perhaps being immune from a previous infection. He has been happily attending his TaeKwonDo summer camp where he learns "Confidense [sic] Discipline Respect" and bows to the Korean and American flags. He also goes swimming, does arts and crafts, and generally bonds with some cool kids--and, best of all, is not sitting around whining and playing Nintendo DS or Wii. The first morning he got there and immediately started pounding the heavy bag with some cohorts (despite a lingering shiner from his playground incident and a sore arm from a reaction to a booster shot). He's doing great.

Ok, potty time for Stella Bella. It's a beautiful day, and I may be able to trundle outside for a bit with her, at least to do laundry, before heading to FIT to prepare for another session of my night class.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

gone with the wind


Today on the way in to teach my fabulous Creative Writing for Illustrators class for FIT's M.A. program in Illustration (I'm so lucky to get to work with these excellent people--and I'm not just saying that because I told them about my blog and some of them will be reading this), I made it onto a W train that was just about to pull out of the station. For some reason, the trains were all running on the middle tracks, which meant they were express from Astoria Blvd to Queensborough Plaza. It also meant they were packed, especially the car I was in, even at 2:30 in the afternoon.

I walked to the front of the car in search of a seat, or at least a space to lean. I settled on the space in front of the doors, which I knew would be opening at the next stop. I was holding one of my prized possessions, my Transitchek Unlimited Metrocard--I am not exaggerating when I say that Transitchek has saved my life. They deduct the fee pre-tax from my paychek, and I get to ride subways and buses as much as I darn well please.

I have been keeping the card in my wallet, and make a habit of replacing it right after I use it, but after paying my fare I had to run up the stairs and catch the departing train. I turned to try and open my backpack, and the card flipped suddenly out of my hands. It landed, not on the floor, but in the interstices between the door and the doorway--I watched helplessly as my dear unlimited Metrocard slid swiftly, so swiftly, through the crack and, presumably, to the outside of the train car.

This means (1) I have to pay $4 in fares I normally would not. And (2) I have to spend some of my valuable time tomorrow getting a replacement card at the midtown offices of the Transitchek company--not at all on my way to anywhere I need to go. Just what I would love to be doing. Sigh.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

i hear music when i look at you

What could be better than Sinatra singing "The Song Is You" with the Billy May Orchestra?

Ella Fitzgerald singing "All the Things You Are," perhaps?

Or what about Peggy Lee's version of "Bali H'ai"?

My goosebumps have goosebumps, courtesy of Michael Bourne on WBGO.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

june is bustin' out

Just heard a fabulous big band version of the classic from Carousel by Frank West (thank you, WBGO). I can't believe this month, the most brilliant of the year, is almost over. It's been a rough one--work, family, "personal issues," etc.

Two of my dearest relatives have been in the hospital with conditions related to kidney stones (they're doing OK, but it's tough). The kids have ended the school year with a few minor but uncomfortable ailments--Stella has some sort of virus (Coxsackie or Fifth Disease) that has put her under the weather for a few days--the rash appeared today. And Bobby bruised his eye and cheek area in a playground incident ("Daniel pushed me into Adrian") and had to get an xray yesterday that, thankfully, ruled out a broken cheekbone.

I finally gave in and, after vacuuming with our limping Hoover, turned on the AC. Ahhhh. Tonight the kids are with their dad, and after I finish a bit of the mountain of online grading, it's vegan dining with a Very Cool Poet Girlfriend and drinks afterwards, perhaps with others joining us.