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[Today's subject line is from Frank O'Hara's Having a Coke with You, which I encountered via a marvelous introduction by the keeper of the Read A Little Poetry blog.]

I hadn't planned on writing any full poems today -- the reasons I worked a nonstop 12-hour stretch yesterday are not yet dispatched to the land of Done -- but I do have one soon-closing-market's guidelines stored on my bookmarks bar, and when I clicked on it earlier this morning (largely in a Please Let Some Fun Prompt Park in My Head To Amuse Me While I De-skank My Kitchen Floor instead of Brain Hamster-Wheeling Ad Pointlessium Through All the Things I Have to Crank Through Tres Vite), some conversations that took place the past two days tilted into the brainpan and twined-extended-curled themselves into a new story. Eventually.

Today I also produced several batches of tomato pumpkin bao . . . .

Tomato Art Fest 2018

. . . . and ran into various people from various circles in the course of wandering around my neighborhood's annual Tomato Art Fest, and inadvertently accomplished some Christmas shopping, and picked up a yard sign for my preferred vice mayor candidate (#TeamTorah) from the voter registration booth. I have also spilled sparkling wine on the gas bill, transplanted two Christmas pepper seedlings, made anchoïade (so tasty on pak choi!), boiled a potful of peanuts, and tugged at a few weeds around hollyhocks I didn't plant. (Yay for self-seeding!) I received some invitations and queries this week that have eased a bit of the ache/insecurity of not being as important to various people as I used to be (the head totally gets it -- it's not as if I stay on top of personal messages or correspondence myself -- but it has to quell the tendencies of my inner eight-year-old (and eighteen-year-old, for that matter) to grieve wholly foreseeable results and turns. I contain multitudes, and they are sometimes seriously tiresome.

But I also received a sparkly-fun six page letter from Rae today, and the BYM has been good about sending me updates from the road, and my poem "Decorating a Cake While Listening to Tennis" (text and audio) is now up at Rattle (it appeared in print earlier this summer). And, I just soaked for as long as I wanted in my tub, with the water as deep and as hot as I could make it, with a stack of magazines (mostly from my mom-in-law) and a fragrant candle (from my gal Rooo) and a box of matches with a Conan Doyle quote (from my assistant). Any one of these things would have been viewed by eight- or eighteen-year-old me as a very special treat -- and I get to enjoy them practically every day. It is wondrous to have these things, and I do not take them -- or, really, anything of comfort or convenience or connection -- for granted.

This entry was originally posted at https://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/149240.html.
22nd-Jun-2018 11:55 pm - fizzy Friday
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My name and foot
Etch A Sketch of my name and foot by John Taylor

John and me Etch-A-Sketch-ing at the entrance of Nick Cave: Feat. Photo by Marlow Amick.

Nashvillians, the show closes Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Get your tails over there!

And while you're in the museum... there is a sweet spot in the Gordon Contemporary Arts Gallery, to the left of the intro wall for The Presence of Your Absence Is Everywhere, about six feet back, where the light brings out the everywheres in white letters surrounding the title treatment, which happen to be invisible (absent) if you aren't standing in that spot where the light hits them just so. It is So Very Cool. I love this show so much. Come see it if you live here! (And come to An Evening of Chaos and Awe, too, which will feature music inspired by her work, along with a special dish by Maneet Chauhan.)

This entry was originally posted at https://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/148930.html.
29th-Apr-2018 11:06 pm - gathering rosebuds while I may
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gathering rosebuds while I may

I snuck in a few minutes of gardening before night fell -- uprooting some fistfuls of weeds and lopping off the iffier branches of the rosebush. There are tiny purple flowers occupying a corner of the yard, and bright white chickweed (I think) blossoms that close up at night. Alas, the geranium from Desire did not survive the winter, and the the whirlwind anemone isn't showing any signs of life. But, I have plenty of seeds stashed in old jars and shoeboxes and the like. Some are probably as dead as the geranium and the anemone. But some . . .

I had several observations saved for the Plus Ça Change department, but the only one I can lay my hands on at the moment is an endnote in Paul F. Ramírez's forthcoming book, Enlightened Immunity: Mexico's Experiments with Disease Prevention in the Age of Reason. It struck me as rather relevant to the firing of Father Conroy, in tandem with the wake-up call Bill Gates is attempting to sound regarding the "significant probability of a large and lethal modern-day pandemic occurring in our lifetimes":

Rather than lead to systematic, preemptive transformations in social policies by governments, sixteenth-century plagues produced a degree of elation or relief resulting from the connection drawn between disease and the elimination of poverty, commonly achieved through the elimination of the poor. [Brian] Pullan, “Plague and Perceptions of the Poor,” 121.

[rummages through bag] Oh, here's another one, from the April 22 NYT:

PHILIP GALANES: We’re living through a time right now where men in power who’ve done ugly things —

DENZEL WASHINGTON No. We’re not “living through a time right now.” It’s always been this way, from the beginning of time. Pick one: from Caesar to Caligula. Now, it’s just on the news cycle every 15 seconds.

And, today, the nerd prom take that has stayed with me, from Kara Calavera: "This #WHCD set was a career-making moment for @michelleisawolf the same was that @StephenAtHome's was for him [in 2006]. The press's reaction to hers is nearly identical to the reaction they had after his."

This entry was originally posted at https://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/148580.html.
28th-Apr-2018 11:18 am - counting joys like trees
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Today's subject line is from Eternity, a poem by US poet laureate Tracy K. Smith that she read on Live from Here last weekend. Though what I've been replaying over and over is Gaby Moreno powerhousing through Live from Here's cover of "Techno Cumbia": La technocumbia que te traigo te dará el placer / Para que muevas tu cuerpo, de la cabeza a los pies. . . .

Lord, this month. It was already going to be complicated enough without my car getting burglarized (followed by literally dozens of subpoena calls -- because the sheriff's office uses an automated service that doesn't recognize responses from my mobile phone, and it took multiple calls to his staff to get it to stop, and oh, look, he's running for re-election. Guess whom I'm not impressed by at the moment?) and our largest exhibition having to close five weeks early and one of my car's hubcaps merrily rolling away on I-65 after being liberated by a particularly vicious pothole. Did. Not. Want.

But! the sun is shining today, and there are dozens of buds on my Sky's the Limit rosebush, and the Christmas cacti and kalanchoe are in full bloom, and I have what I need right here at home (specifically puff pastry and jams) to improvise something for a reception later today (following the ordination of my church's assistant pastor, who is moving on to serve as a hospice chaplain). My parents-in-law gave me an early birthday check that I am applying toward lifetime membership in the John Rae Society. I have to power through a ton of work this weekend, but I can do it in supercomfy leggings and ratty shirts. But I also enjoyed dressing up for Keeneland last weekend...

ready for Keeneland

... where I came out ahead on my wagers, thanks to Sundress, High Fashion Star, and Ravish (trifecta) and Smart Response (show)

winning trifecta!

... and my honorary big brother and his partner spoiled me all weekend long. Treats included bourbon, bourbon-laced brownies, brownies, and a brown-butter popcorn sundae ... decadence followed by 8 a.m. hot yoga. It all balances out, right? ;)

Speaking of yoga, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily published Hot Yoga Chaff last month and A Calm, Fixed Mind earlier this week.

Batch 1 of the experimental tarts are out of the oven and, well, they wouldn't win even a second look at a state fair, let alone any ribbons, but I popped a couple into my mouth while cleaning up, and they'll do. Lord knows I love to hit things outta the park, but sometimes it's enough just to be bringing a bit of sweetness and air.

This entry was originally posted at https://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/148225.html.
31st-Mar-2018 09:57 pm - long swirling clouds of fog
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Tonight's subject line comes from the first line of a letter Elizabeth Bishop wrote to Robert Lowell on April 1, 1958. It was actually a sunny day here, but I liked seeing the phrase just now, as well as the pleasure of peeking at a letter written sixty years ago (replete with frustration about a worker stealing apples and singing awful songs, a snotty jab at my beloved Ciardi, and kinder talk of work and mental health, along with paragraphs on babies, birds, books, and cities).

It would have been nice to go singing, shopping, or simply walking/biking around in the sunshine, but my body was tired, my brain fried, and my kitchen filthy, so I put on a nightgown when I rolled out of bed and have spent the day moving slowly between chores and diversions. I wrote a postcard poem and postcards to voters:


I abandoned my plan of trying a new recipe with the chicken thighs in the fridge; instead, I tossed them into a pot with bay leaves (from my big sister), carrots (that had been in the fridge for weeks), a yam (that had been on the counter for weeks), the dregs of a jar of pasta sauce, and garlic (from Penzeys) and let it all stew for a while. Tomorrow I may add lima beans and an onion, but I may also just let it sit some more, as there will also be two services to sing in and tax paperwork to tend to. Plus I'd like to paint my nails and retouch my hair and sleep for about a week more before heading back to the office. Wishes, horses, la la la.

The timing is not right for me to sign up for The Iteration Project Partner Program, but it sure sounds cool.

This entry was originally posted at https://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/148016.html.
27th-Mar-2018 12:56 am - Earth Adored
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The subject line comes from a lovely dance by Joseph Pimentel based on a Moravian hymn that he taught yesterday during the closing session of Nashville's Playford weekend. There was also "Candles in the Dark" with Mady from Chicago (who wore jeweled lizards in her ears on Saturday), a fine "Bishop" with Fred from Houston (who wore lizard-printed socks on Sunday), a galloping "Spanish Jigg" with Leonard from DC, whirling around with Will (a transplant to Tennessee who misses his old marshes something fierce) during the last waltz, and other romps and swoops and "luscious" turnings-about, to borrow one of the caller's favorite adjectives.

Earlier this month, there was Dancefest in Durham (that's me in the white sweater and gray skirt), which featured plenty of, ah, learning moments. In one exercise, Kalia Kliban sent everyone in the right file out of the room, taught the dance to everyone in the left file, and then had them attempt to convey the moves nonverbally without any assistance from her. I misread my partner's attempt to communicate "Figure 8" so thoroughly that I bodychecked him, which had him laughing so hard he could barely talk about it afterward. (Later, our waltzing was so over-the-top it had people on the sidelines laughing as they chatted with me later. And that wasn't even my wildest spin around the room that night.) But there was sublime dancing to be enjoyed as well (within those same waltzes as well as within the English figures), and the dance I've spoken of most often since coming home has been Kalia Kliban's "The Flying Sorceress." I was able to put full trust in my partner (Joe from Asheville) during the poussettes, and it in fact felt like flying as we swooped across the room (crossing but not crashing into other lines) and back again and again. Magical!

Honorary Mama passed away a week ago. It was time, so there is plenty of relief amid the feeling bereft. Yesterday I came across both an envelope and a postcard I had pre-stamped and pre-addressed to her back in January and then set aside because some other image or combination of enclosures seemed more fun/compelling those mornings. I shall repurpose them for notes to politicians or the like, in Nancy's memory.

There is a lone yellow tulip in my front yard. When I see it, I say, "You lovely sturdy thing."

This entry was originally posted at https://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/147759.html.
3rd-Mar-2018 09:10 pm(no subject)
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So it turns out it wasn't me who'd left the eggs out but the BYM, who'd prepared some for himself this morning, so they would've been safe to restash. Ah well. The gist of the conversation that followed:

Me: Some critter will enjoy them.
Lui: Something ovidiperous.
Me: *rolls eyes*
Lui: It is too a word! Look it up!
Me: *types* Nope.
Lui: Gimme that. Oviparous... ovivorous! See?
Me: *rolls eyes*
Lui: So what would you call a critter that eats its own eggs?
Me: *starts reading aloud choice bits from "Why Some Animals Eat Their Offspring"* ... "filial cannibalism --"
Lui: Yeah!
Me: "... grow up fast or get eaten"
Lui: That oughta be a tattoo.

This entry was originally posted at https://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/147559.html.
3rd-Mar-2018 11:09 am - inventories
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Well. Given the headline-hollerin' weather, I feel like my flight left Philadelphia in the nick of time. A summary of the NJ-DE-PA circuit:

5 trips to the nursing home
1 February Fling (advanced English country dancing)
1 afternoon of waltzing
2 waltz lessons and 1 swing lesson
3 solid Italian meals
2 apples and 2 chocolate muffins purloined from the hotel breakfast buffet
3 bags of coffee purchased as gifts
2 pairs of boots purchased for myself
1 ratty Taiwanese towel finally binned
1 ratty washcloth cut up to wrap around damp toothbrush head
1 poetry submission
assorted lines jotted down and/or typed into my phone, but not expanded-on in time for the deadline in question, but that's OK, because I was stonking TIRED through most of the trip, and I get sparklepoints for choosing safety/sleep over ambition/FOMO
1 dinner plan cancelled because of feeling too dozy on the drive back from NJ. I still have much to learn about realistic scheduling.
50 object labels, 5 wall panels, assorted menu updates, and other projects herded along remotely
1 sparkling peach jelly sake shot + 1 bowl of shanxi cat ear lamb pasta at Suga. They were both REALLY tasty.
an hour+ of good conversation with the friend at Suga, during which I finally confessed that my birthday is in May, not March, but I hadn't said anything before because I'm used to other friends being calendar-challenged (one handed me a very nice bottle of Scotch on my 44th with "this is for all the years I missed...") and in any case what's not to like about celebrating being alive from May 9 through May 8 every year?
1 "Stop Profiling Muslims" sign seen, in the window of Joe Coffee Philly. I promptly went in and ordered a spiced golden mocha.
1 bourbon cocktail at the Oddity Bar
2 hours in Manayunk, where I didn't find any postcards, but I did huff and puff up some hills (can't wait until my wonky ankle regains full strength/reliability. Lungs, too...) after sipping on some Invisible Ink (an IPA) at the Goat's Beard
assorted compliments re the hair (green) and tattoos (glittery) and dancing (I do enjoy being sought out)

I went to bed early last night, and I was so tired that I hadn't remembered about the cut apple or carton of eggs I'd failed to put away. Merde! On the upside, it's a sunny day, so it was less of an ordeal to fling them onto the compost patch than it would've been on a filthier morning. Also on the upside, it was chilly when I got out of bed, so I started my day in a fleece top and a fleece vest, which was like shuffling around in a light nonsmothering cocoon. And I'm now wearing a poet-ninja tee that was a birthday present from another friend -- another light nonsmothering cocoon. :)

As usual, the day has sped by faster than my plans for it. But it remains a fine day. I have defrosted homemade onion soup for lunch (see, ancestors, see? I'm not wasteful -- just absent-minded! This is also how the garlic powder ended up in the fridge...), ordered books for my church library, and moved half of my home library room to other parts of the house (and recycling/resale bins). Progress! Also some laundering and rehearsing and filing and corresponding and wrapping.

Rejections received: 4
Dresses binned: 1 (it was time, ancestors! I paid less than a dollar for it in the first place, and it had become shaggier than a bedraggled sheep...)
Hilarious "nope" exchange of looks with the BYM after trying "savory" Lunar New Year cookies from a relative: 1

This entry was originally posted at https://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/147405.html.
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Today's subject line comes from Mary Oliver's Wild Geese.

The cardboard coffee-cup sleeves in my hotel room exhort, "COOL IT! You can't book a vacation with injured fingers." It took me a minute to realize it was referring to hot beverages, since what's on my mind at the moment is the discerning act (for an assortment of reason, right now the word "balance" is skunked to me*) between what can feel like incessant pressure to Do More vs. self-care vs. making excuses for snaggety things one would rather not (as opposed to cannot) tackle. They wear each other's clothes, and sometimes the people strongly urging that I not sacrifice health and sanity for ambition/achievement are also the ones simultaneously mountainizing molehills in the name of ideals (including the illusory grail of a "balanced" approach/treatment/what-have-you to some of them snaggety things), which in turn gets in the way of me meeting my existing promises.

[* Hadn't read Elizabeth Gilbert on the topic before looking up something else midway through writing this entry, but yeah. What she said there.]

Old George, a dancer I'm fond of, once told me that experienced dancers make tons of mistakes but recover from them better/faster than novices. I'm thinking of how some very successful people in my circles didn't do their part in projects we worked on together, and how irritating that was but also how ultimately irrelevant, but also how I don't want to be that kind of person and that's why I keep saying no on a regular basis to numerous worthy asks, and how several people have told me I'm their hero/inspiration for my ability to do so. I'm thinking of how I know I need to dial back even further when I have to jettison or even cancel existing plans, and when it's a relief when things fall through, and how FOMO, like many other afflictions, is something that hasn't permanently gone away but returns again and again to be dueled with. How my tendency to overplan means that I spent several hours reading up on things I did not have time to pursue in the first place, but it's also how I found the wonderful restaurant where I answered my craving for homemade pasta after a particularly nerve-shredding visit to the nursing home (where a resident with dementia demanded help I could not give, where I was gently reprimanded for wheeling another resident to the dining room [her request, but it turns out she's supposed to wheel herself for PT reasons], and an aide claimed my honorary mama's caregiver had set out only one sock last night and thus not put them on [but said caregiver, who is fan-freaking-tastic, checked the drawer and the socks were together. WTF]).

Where I'm going with this venting? It can be either or both gratifying and uncomfortable when people praise me for all that I get done, because I do pride myself on stubbornness, smarts, and stamina and am pleased when those qualities are recognized, but sometimes the complimenting has the tinge of backhandedery or self-justification, especially when the dialogue essentially filters through as "You're superhuman (or crazy), and I'm not, so I'm going to ask you for this last-minute favor..." I want people to see me as a (re)source, and for my beloveds** in particular to not feel undue constraint about asking me if I would like to help out with a this or that, but I get as pissy as the next diligently boring corn-hauling ant when I feel taken for granted.

[** And, it's probably no accident that my beloveds tend to be people who, being often of cloth or wiring similar to mine, generally don't lightly or habitually make demands of me in the first place.]

I hesitate to post this, since I too can be as bad as the next screenhead when it comes to worrying about whether a subtweet (subpost?) might be about me or if I've effed up Yet Again without realizing it. (The saying of "You know what you did" when angry? Instant friendship-ender, that. I've been called a mind-reader multiple times because of my ability to pay attention and commit key/interesting details to memory, but the label doesn't make it so, and even if my background/values/temperament weren't distinctly atypical, history has shown that I can be spectacularly clueless at times -- which has been true of a number of people in my circles. So.) But I'm hearing/seeing/sensing frustration and exhaustion from multiple corners in reaction to so much Be More! Do More! YOLO! Sleep when you're dead! You haven't given as much as ____! You aren't _____ until you _____! in the air and on the airwaves, and I'm not immune to comparison syndrome myself. (Will I forever feel a pang whenever I find out that yet another friend/acquaintance made Phi Beta Kappa, and feel thoroughly ridiculous for that flash of envy? It hasn't made an iota of difference in my career or love life or health, the fees would have been a significant burden, actually qualified individuals deciding against membership is a recurring thing, not every school has a chapter, etc., blah, blah, OY. [To my credit, I'm not so obsessed that I knew any of those details (except the first) until a few minutes ago, and it doesn't take a psychologist to figure out that right now it's a trigger because Honorary Mama has been proud all her life of being PBK -- her key (and the chain it was on) was one of the pieces of jewelry she made a point of repairing and keeping -- and we're at a juncture in history where honors are rightfully being questioned and analyzed in depth in terms of who awards and receives them and the presence of privilege in the mix. And, on a more personal level, the yearning for and (non)pursuit of prizes and recognition and (not) being chosen is a recurring motif in conversations and reflections, as is the witnessing (and sometimes experiencing) of delusions and cluelessness (I have been that singer/actor at auditions with zero sense of how inadequate I would have been in the parts I coveted, and I have also zipped my lips and sat on my hands when encountering versions of that younger self: it took me long enough to get to a place where I was ready to acknowledge that I wasn't as good as I thought I was, and it's a lesson my avocations are inherently designed to teach me over and over again. I have been blessed with sufficient confidence to send work out again and again -- and also the analytical skills to read something a few months/years/decades later and conclude that I wouldn't have accepted/purchased it either).])

Anyway -- what I sat down to say? Some people do need to be told to sit ass in chair and put in the legendary 10,000 hours before they angle further for attention. I have been that person, and as unready for that admonition as anyone else raised on fairy-godmother-to-the-rescue tales. Some people are better off in the company of kindred spirits looking askance at words that rhyme with "flaweductivity" and coming up with superpowers. I have been that person. Some people alternate slip-slogging through mud and serenely spending hours in a rocking chair by muttering about how none of this will matter in a few hundred years because humanity is heading toward extinction faster than not but for the time being, we (being able) still owe it to God to bake chicken pies and brighten at compliments (especially when the compliments come with tattoos) . . .

chicken hand pies

cards (and tattoos!) from friends

. . . and right now, I am that person. And now I shall half-rush through breakfast and half-ass my makeup and hair and get myself to the places I have promised to be at today, and there will also be pockets of time later today where I shall treat myself to something delicious food- and/or drink- and/or sightseeing/hearing-wise, and linger over it for longer than strictly necessary, and feel gratitude from head to toe for being alive.

This entry was originally posted at https://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/147114.html.
24th-Feb-2018 08:32 am - dazzled at least ten times a day
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The subject line comes from Mary Oliver's Blue Horses, the full line being "It must be a great disappointment to God if we are not dazzled at least ten times a day." Blue Horses was a gift to my honorary mama from one of her actual daughters and her wife, and it came to the rescue yesterday when I was visiting her at the nursing home.

I don't have much to say about ALS that doesn't involve copious streams of profanity. HM used to talk enough for the both of us, and now I can't even make out when she's saying yes or no, and it's a struggle for her caregivers as well, and she doesn't have the muscle control or strength even to lift her head. But we carried on as best we could yesterday - the Jewish yoga book I brought didn't lend itself to reading aloud as easily as I'd hoped, but the Oliver poems did, so I ended up reading the entire volume to her.

At any rate, I knew this trip would be challenging from the get-go, and I am adequately equipped in experience, resources, and temperament to deal with said challenges, so meet them we have and shall. My flight left Nashville three hours late, but that meant I could catch up on some work and catch some Olympics on the bar TV. For all her flaws, Ayn Rand did write some things that have resonated and remained with me, one of them her characters' love of cities (aka demonstrations of human mastery), and one thing I have loved about landing in and driving around PA/DE/NJ after nightfall is getting to behold the beauty of so many lights and of ornate factories wreathed in steam.

Also, the young women at both the rental car counter and the hotel desk were both friendly and competent in spite of it being 3:30 and 4-effing-a.m. respectively when I showed up in their lobbies, and last night a man named Luigi saw me out to my car after my meal at his restaurant; a fashionably scruffy man sauntering by cheerfully bellowed, "Was it good?" -- his words and smile transforming him from possibly-sketchy-guy-on-kinda-sketchy-block to guy-who-lives-in-the-neighborhood-enjoying-the-fact-that-people-stop-in-to-enjoy-Luigi's-cooking.

There's more to say, but now it is time to don clothes and makeup and head north for more visiting and some dancing.

This entry was originally posted at https://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/146704.html.
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