too many days sine linea

I lose track. I loose track– rails running all over the place, box cars clattering, precarious, full of everything under the sun: piles of dust, tilting coat racks, stained kitchen sinks, out-of-date vehicle registrations, vegetable drawers of dessicated fruit, a bed with a knit blanket in place of a bottom sheet, so many post-it notes, the wrong type of cat food, answering machine messages of robotic voices saying, please call us as soon as possible at 1-800-…

where are words in all of this? somewhere down underneath the debris. but I’m still waking to the occasional lightbulb. this morning’s revelation was that the university hasn’t actually paid me for the course I taught this spring. which seems like a pretty big one.

but anyway. consider this a place-holder. lameass, but the best I can manage. something just to say, hello. kind of like tapping the spacebar to keep the screen saver from kicking in. meanwhile, we will continue circling, waiting for a break in the fog.

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sister.

today I wrote a letter to my neice, who is also my sister, and another letter to her mother, my brother’s wife, whom I also love and whom the law calls my sister. and I spoke with my very only sister on the telephone, and she was not, as sometimes she is not, a friend to my mind, but sister nonetheless. and we did not mention our mother, who cannot see us and who, while her sister lived, loathed her, not flesh, not blood, but by circumstance sister nonetheless. we spoke of our brothers, who in effect define me, as precocious one, as little sister, belonging. and then I was speaking to my therapist, who is smarter than any sister and has about a thousand sisters herself (I see them at the movie theatre with their children and outside the ice cream store downtown), and she set my head to right. I spoke to her about the friends who are not sisters and the friends who are sisters, here, and there when I wish they would be here, who mend me, who help make up my mind in various ways, though it is always work, it is always work with women.

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Suspension of Disbelief

Reach for the rabbit and all you get is the foot,
keychained and spent of luck, oblivious of kicking
as you’ve been kicked in the groin by adulthood
and gradeschool classmates alike. Softness yields
to steel-toed workshoes of tough kids like Rick
and Tony who never learned to aim higher.
The quickest route to victory best, and you
spitting blood (probably bit your tongue) and
seeing black and so you learn the hard way.
The way that pain tells truth, needle to the lobe,
direct and vivid. Softness yields to nothing lasting,
all flummery and bosh, sleight of hand,
hose that run, colors that run, amok in the wind
that blare through the small of every night,
pillow under your head ablaze and saturated
with wakefulness and possibly vermin. You
imagine their microscopic legs scaling you,
plated bellies grazing your ears now, your
cheek, now your eyelids– you’ve heard
how fleas drive for the eyes once in every
twenty-four hours to drink from your tears.
This is salt, and you scratch it in, search
for another cooler side. And for a moment,
before it goes stale, you imagine you fit,
tucked snug inside that top hat. You can hear
the audience’s howl and hunker down
where it’s dark and safe in here, for now.

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“Tell the truth.”

most provocative bumper sticker I’ve seen in awhile. maybe ever. which says something about the extent of my relativism.

black block letters on a white background on a white honda odyssey. and little itty bitty microtext in a line below that, goddamnit, I couldn’t from my seat inside my vehicle get close enough to read, even nudging practically right up against the bumper. not even any other accompanying stickers or decals of affiliation or positionality to give a girl a clue as to context. blank fuckin’ slate.

I mean, come onwhose truth, for starters? which truth? are you talking Truth, buddy, like the bible-thumping variety? or the kind-of opposite, verifiable scientific certitude? geezo, that dang thing could mean so many simultaneous contradictory things…

and even so– even if we’re just talking the everyday variety of factual accounts, what he did then what she said– tell the truth always? and all of it? don’t you think there are some cases where that’s arguably the least constructive approach to communication?

it’s just so fuckin’ bald, that imperative. so impossible. that’s what pisses me off. of course, it’s probably meant well, crafted and marketed and peeled and stuck on the fiberglass with the best of intentions. but seriously. nothing’s given me pause like that in days.

which is probably precisely its rhetorical point.

postscript:
yikes. if it’s this, well, then I guess I have my answer. I guess it makes sense that I got so pissed off without even knowing exactly why. black and white. exactly. fuckheads.

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what is this?

whatever it is, it is changing. maybe indeed that is one of the few defining characteristics. also that it’s stuff I’ve written, stuff I’m writing. kind of all scrambled-up together. the stuff that collects in, say, a navel. but it used to be more coherent– used to be primarily dream-narratives– the words I wrote down in the book I keep beside the bed after I woke up, then typed-up, revised, “polished” for public consumption, somewhat. then, with the advent of the blogger tool, it changed dramatically. became more declarative, more… discursive. not to get too academicky or anything. but it fits. the words accumulating seemed– because they *were*– more directed toward an audience. from the get-go. and now what change do I have in mind? well, cross-posting, to be blunt. because it’s bugging me that my attention directed elsewhere necessarily causes this, my primary sarah site, to languish. so I’m thinking I just might gather up and re-post here stuff I’m writing elsewhere, like the topic project. not only does that let me feel like I’m at least somewhat actively keeping a hand in here, but it also begins to concoct a kind of collection of diverse bits of writing, if only for my own consultation. so as not to have to hunt and sift later. or that’s the rationalization. anyway. so there.

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antiques

So sure, of course, there’s the antique clock guy with the Civil War replica cannon out in front of his two bedroom ranch with the drawn curtains and the little narrow walkways between piles of old newspapers—newspapers on the floor and on the couch, newspapers all over the kitchen table and counters, piles of newspaper stacked up in the sink. But the truth is I’ve never found a successful way to write about that guy. About finding his terse little ad in the classifieds, “Clocks repaired,” and calling the number listed, penciling down the painstaking directions by phone—“You’ll know it when you see the cannon out front”—knocking on that water-damaged, laminate-peeling front door and standing out in the August heat and cicada-buzz, while the uncertain seconds ticked, my old schoolhouse clock balanced against my hip. That place was back out behind the dead mall, the ghost mall with the synthesized music playing to no one and a saturating air of failure all but discouraging every last shopper from venturing too far inside—back on those little windy, forgotten streets off the old highway, streets all named for trees that don’t grow around here anymore: Sycamore, Hickory, Slippery Elm—streets lined with identical ranches, postwar era slap-em-up sheds for the working man, Sears aluminum siding, trompe l’oeuil shutters, same after same modular layout, only a half-barrel full of red geraniums or an inert facsimile of armament to set one place off from another. But no. I can’t write about the clock man or leaving my clock behind and never going back for it, it spooked me so. Well, not “spooked” exactly—not like he seemed dangerous at all—though Hollywood would cast him that way, a shut-in serial killer indulging in light cross-dressing and bondage—but this guy was gentle, and kind, I’m sure. A little acid. A little old fashioned and seeming all out of sync and maybe disgusted with the times, with the people bringing their busted quartz movements to his doorstep. All those winding keys with nothing fit left to turn. Weights unstrung and no chime following. He didn’t spook me so much as leave me with a lingering bollix, a vague, disquieting sense that the glossy facade of things was fundamentally ruptured. That newspapers leaked out. Men living in twilit rooms under low ceilings, rarely glimpsing another human being. Old clocks going unrepaired and silent, still. But I don’t know how to write about the clock man—

So instead I’ll write about ants. Ants and their hymenoptera antics—or if you’re frenchy-wannabe, their antiques. So the ants, God bless their little soulless carapaces, are slaughtering themselves upon the altar of my Britta water pitcher. I’m not quite clear on the why and wherefore, what everlastingly irresistible pleasure obtains from climbing a slick plastic tower and shimmying your tiny ant self down through crannies and charcoal filter to, lo, ultimately drown yourself in a reservoir of just exactly what you could find in any old puddle outdoors. Every day I have to dump and disassemble the entire contraption, washing in the process hordes of tiny black cadavers, and squirming live ones, down the drain. A less sadistic person might just put out chemical traps already—this routine’s been going on for a couple of weeks by this point—but I just keep hoping some simple dissuasion will serve—or for the weather to turn at last and put this first-spring frenzy of self-sacrifice to an end. The thing is, it’s not even like we’re parched—like they’ve got a really good reason to crave the water. Back in the drought days of San Francisco in the early ‘90s it made some amount of sense when the ants paraded in and couldn’t seem to slake their thirst sufficiently at the kitty cat’s water dish. I thought at first, back then, it was the food that drew them, like picnic ants in cartoons on t.v. I watched their progress and noted the route, attempted a number of dissuasive measures before settling on one that worked: finally rigged a whole trapeze apparatus out of twist-ties and a rectangle of cardboard out of the recycling. Elevation proved the key. Those few centimeters of air served conclusively to flummox the whole ant regiment—turned ‘em around to head back into the wall and out to wherever else there might be the next source of hydration. To be honest, I don’t know why I don’t just break down and buy some traps—not like I’ve never used them in the past. Not like I have some philosophical goddamn position against offing the little pests outright. I mean, I’ve squished plenty fast enough with my finger when I’ve caught lone ones scooting along the counter. And it’s not just the disinclination to bring poison, however contained, into proximity with my drinking water, either. Somehow I just feel I owe the critters—as blind purpose-driven and incomprehensible as they may be from a homo sapien vantage point—a fighting chance. At least to make a different choice, not tricked, who’s to say if the right choice particularly—just different. Seems the least I can do for my fellow planet inhabitants. Least indeed. Every time I turn that pitcher inside out under the faucet my stomach takes a sick turn at the sight of all that scrambling. Maybe it’s just plain time I kept my water in the fridge.

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carnies.

The only carny I ever met was set up on a side street in Lower Manhattan—Ring Toss or Pea Wheel or what have you—Lorelei and I had run down to Pearl River for me to pick up some last-minute gifts/trash care of the Chinatown importers before my flight back to Iowa. I’d spent the week in long braids, littler clothing than I can fit into today, and had run the gamut of a line-up of metropolitan dates—at that stage I was chomping at the bit to flee my landlocked midwest life, feeling oppressively single, lonely, and questioning every last choice, not least of which the choice stemming from seeming inertia to continue on with the whole debt-incurring business of graduate school toward the ultimate, and long distance, goal of acquiring a Ph.D.—not to mention in a social science field when I knew myself to be a humanities girl through and through. Lorelei had moved east mere weeks before and had been living amid the musty waste of a dead or institutionalized old man’s West Side apartment, lining up his oddball and in places ingenious art collection for sale. Trying to keep the orphaned lapdog from shitting all over the place or driving the co-op members to action with its barking. New York. It all sounded good enough to me—intriguing at least if distinctly urban gothic—and I’d been shopping the New York Public School System’s web site for possibilities. I figured under the declaration of general literacy emergency even an MFA in poetry just might slip into a position at the front of a high school classroom. So this was intended as my initial, reconnaissance trip. Plus I’d been keeping myself busy with the dates lined up ahead of time online—somewhat flakey and sleazy across the board, but farmland beggars get down off their high horses and quit being so choosy after awhile. In any case, I felt just fine, sporting my particular exotic brand of pseudo-rural persona, done up in overalls with the tiniest of tshirts beneath and braids aided by sparkly little-girl butterfly clips—working that I’m-in-the-big-city-and-young-enough-and-desirable-enough-and-the-horizon-stretches-wide-before-me swagger—when that horizon literally split itself open with thunder a hundred feet outside Pearl River’s exit, and we dashed down the first side street and under a handy striped awning. We noticed then that the thoroughfare was closed off to motor traffic and lined with a series of such tented mechanical midway contraptions as make up a carnival these days—convertible trailers that uncollapsed to reveal a variety of culturally regurgitated Fun: Balloon-a-Rama, Spinna Winna, Hoop Shot, Rising Water, Frog/Turtle Pounce, Spill the Milk, and the like. Cheap plushies strung up swaying in the blowing rain. Hawkers leaning against their respective rentals each with the compulsory cigarette curled in a fist. Our guy shot us a lazy smile, invited us to try our luck, and, receiving a negative, proceeded to regale us with tales from The Life. In fact I’ve lost the details to the intervening years and doubt my own powers to reimagine the specific flavors of ramble and sawdust—chintzier and grittier than our wide-eyed romantic notions of carny life comprehended—but that tang of modern gypsydom—free agents contracting their chosen midway specialties, packing ‘em up and driving on to the next town in caravan with all the rest—or maybe packing in for a couple months to surf or hike should the notion seize—it smacked essentially of freedom to fresh-sprung workshop poets. And as we walked away, headed for the subway back uptown, Lorelei and I marveled together at the sheer weirdness of the world’s, and by extension our lives’, scope of possibility.

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