Friday, March 29, 2013

First Day of Retirement

(for Bill) 

Life is full of firsts.

Sometimes it feels like that's all there is.  You pass one milestone, only to start over again as a shaky beginner.

Just when you begin to feel that you've gained some expertise,

it might be time to let all that go.  Zen Buddhists call it "beginner's mind."  

Or you could just call it, "Welcome to the world.  It's all one big first."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Harvard Museum of Natural History

(for Wendy)

When you take the bus to Cambridge to visit the museum, do not get too sidetracked when walking through Harvard Yard-- either by your lack of direction or by the one shiny toe of the John Harvard statue.

You will want plenty of time to enjoy the specimens.  A few things to know:  Yes, all the glass flowers are really glass.  Please do not lean on the cases.  And, no, you are not the only one who is given pause by the sad gorilla in the corner.  He was tracked for days many years ago.  You'd be sad, too.

You may have gone to a state school at which you received an stellar education (ad astra per aspera!), but you will still appreciate that there is such a thing as a "Harvard Mastodon" with a suspicious history.  You will appreciate that there is such a thing as a narwhal.  And the bizarre and lonely animals that evolved in isolated South America:  Hello. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Quick-draw Friday

All the strange meetings we have in our dreams . . .  Last week one of my students said she met me on the street and we decided to go to Sbarro for lunch.  I'd never choose Sbarro for lunch.  And last night I went to visit my brother.  He was attending a small liberal arts college where the lack of structure turned into something nefarious, but I couldn't figure out what.  Then I was visiting Montana with a friend, but I accidentally drove off without her and ended up at that mountain from Close Encounters.  Where will I end up tonight?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Things I Used to Be Scared Of, Part 1

Putting on turtlenecks (because something might grab you while you're waiting to be able to see again)

 Falling asleep in a dark room
 Seeing a ghost of an old lady when I get up at night to pee
(OK, I'm still sort of scared of that one . . .)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Truth's Secretary

When I was a smaller human, I liked the idea and practice of paperwork.  
I was set up with a desk and old office supplies, and I would stamp things, and staple them, and take them to my mom for her initials, then initial them myself and put them in the proper pile. 

It was not dolor to me. 

But if my life had been only that—yes, dolor.

It was the comforting click-clack sound of stapling, the deeply familiar blue-black of the stamp pad ink.  O, how I loved my date stamp, with the moveable numbers!

Sometimes I would add a thumbprint to something, if it needed to be extra official. 

Charles Simic wrote this:  Each one of us, our poets claim, has the potentiality of being the truth’s secretary for a brief spell.”

And, anyway, “metaphor,” via Latin, via Greek means “to transfer.”  Means, also to link things, connect them, be an attentive amanuensis.  To staple together.  (Also, remember carbon paper?  Carbon paper fits in here somehow.)


To:  Joanna
Re:  Notes for a poem

The other day on the subway (the B train), the sense that everyone was doing a performance piece, playing themselves, costumed and attituded, Cindy Sherman-style.  The delight of that, the momentary satisfaction of seeing your own “character.” 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dear Brother:

That summer Mom paid me to stay home with you during the day instead of working at the library, sorry I got up every morning and put you in front of the TV and fell back asleep on the couch for a couple hours while you watched Fraggles and your weird Maya the Bee show and the Beetlejuice cartoon, which you loved but which gave you nightmares. 

Also, you’re welcome.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Suze Orman Prose Poem

Watching Suze Orman before bed seemed like a recipe for whatever, but I did it anyway.  I was not bringing home $25K per month, like the guy who called in to ask permission to send his four year-old daughter to private grammar school for $36K/year.  (APPROVED.)  In bed I put in my earplugs and took sleepy breaths.  The radiators were off, even though it was still winter outside, even though it was late March.  I thought of horse breaths on a chill day.  Have I ever seen horse breaths on a chill day in real life?  If I had gone to a private grammar school, would I still be here thinking of horse breaths on a chill day?  Oh, Suze.