in it and away from it

I show up at huron mountain in a state– it’s an off-season gathering, some sort of social obligation, and I’m weeping and shouting at my father in a public space, the dining or club room– I’m thoroughly beside myself– at the time I don’t consider the display; I’m entirely focused on my anger and frustration with my father– but later, after I’ve calmed down somewhat, I realize what I’ve done. I’ve made a spectacle of myself. I have to get out, get away.

since I arrived by plane, I have no car, and it’s dark and I’m not entirely well, so I don’t know that I can handle the old brown jeep on the roads– but I go. on the road all the oncoming traffic is driving on the wrong side– they keep having to turn quickly and get in the other lane– I’m flashing my lights and honking and driving slowly in order to give them time to move out of my way.

other cars are stopping at the railroad tracks, but I race right across and glimpse an approaching train.

I go to the inn in town and try to make myself inconspicuous in the public spaces– I just need some time to rest and recover. a member of the staff tries to take me around to introduce me to the other guests, but I say, no no no, I’m quite fine– I’d just like to sit quietly and read if that’s okay. so she goes away, and I turn to the contents of the inn’s library. I see, all along the top of the old upright piano, piles of magazines all stacked together and buckled and warped with water-damage– and I wonder, why in the world does she keep these?

10 things I hate:

1. people spoofing my url to send spam

2. the movie Kids

3. destructive stupidity and downright meanness

4. things crawling on me

5. fear and despair

6. roast beef hash with green peppers

7. insomnia+allergies over christmas at my parents’ house

8. losing someone I love

9. fillings without novocaine

10. waiting


when the urgency blows in,
comes over me, threatens to overcome
what landlubberly steadiness I’ve build up
with alphabet block by block, primary colored
illustrations of trains and toy sailboats aboard,
I seek to duck it, to dull it, to
drive it from the beat of blood in my ears
with great gulps of seawater– make it some way less
poignant by melting the edge with salt–
anything I can swallow might solve it,
cool me or at least lower the melting
point that hovers at my throat– that thrill
for more than I ever believe I can have–
what stalls me, oh choke of distrust–
and while I’m riding so wave-high, the fear
mounts as well, borne on swells of hope–
vertigo urging ever higher while I cast
for sandbags to shore myself,
my coastlines too loose
to hold, too available to erosion–
but always the what-if hovers
like some blazing promise just above the horizon,
big enough to grab, and I reach and fall
over and again into the curl of what is wet
and bears me up once more in its own tidal time.

in motion

I notice a hole in the hardwood floor, a gap to the space below, rooms with light coming up– and then I see more holes, scattered, worn by walking– and it occurs to me, viscerally, that this floor is undependable. I try to imagine a way I might fix it– and there’s even a guy downstairs who might do it for me– but really I’m leaving this place, so I don’t much care.

there’s a channel of cool fresh water outside, and my friend and I go to swim in it– it’s like a living snapshot of a river, just this little piece framed by concrete and then the rest flowing in and away at either end and out of sight– all we can see is what’s right here, bright and clear and in motion. I say, I’ll bet it would be good for lap swimming— and my friend gets right in and goes to work swimming against the current– which is strong, and she struggles. and me? all I want is to get in and ride that current away.


I’m watching a whale rise from the water– it’s blue-black and round like a cartoon whale but big as life and alive. I want to touch its rubbery, resistant skin.

I’m standing in a kind of gigantic hall– a confined space– I think maybe I’ve fallen to the floor from higher up. the ceiling is midnight-, deep-space- blue, and when I look up, I see swarms of airships darting far above– so many it’s boggling. and I turn and ask the person beside me, “are they always up there, above us, and we just can’t see them in the light of day, in the natural air? are there always so many?” and the person beside me says, “yes.”

my dear friend has died. I’ve gone to the seaside town for the planned-celebration-turned-memorial– and I can hardly bear it. I can’t stand to be alone, but there are queues of people lined up to pay their respects– I avoid all that and seek out our mutual friend who’s keeping busy hosting a gathering. I’m having trouble finding her in the crowd and collapse in the shadows, overcome by grief– she finds me by my sobbing. I cannot believe or bear it that our friend is gone. I don’t know how to continue– everything that was right before now seems entirely wrong and out of whack. how can all the world just go on as before, now that she’s left it?

the truth?

I’ve fallen off on writing. so much happening– but I don’t want to spin out of control, out of any semblance of self-knowledge, once again. I need to keep tabs. but I’m *happy* now. I feel so well– in motion and at ease. I’ve let up. keeping expectations small and realistic and entirely achievable seems to help, to work. a low, bright horizon, shining back warmly over me, every day.

sometimes, from time to time, there are dark bits, banks of cloud shadow that drift through and cover me– for a time. momentarily. last night a brief one, reflecting on how my story, and stories like my story, where there are no tidy, all-things-working-out-with-a-hollywood-happy-ending endings, never get told– and I felt frustrated and dark.

but these stories are the ones that go on. this is the story I live. in a world where people’s actions and reasons for acting are questionable and often not fully pardonable, though we must pardon them. maybe the actions even defy ethics we’ve been taught to uphold, to live by.

perhaps we don’t always know ourselves. I would like to see this kind of story told. not cast in the shape of tragic self-destruction, but rather represented as… a version, a view of how we live.

my story, as I interpret it, fails to get told unless I tell it. and I do, sporadically. of course *my* story is surely swathed in self-involvement, quite possibly self-delusion. but what if I’m not entirely deluded? what if mine is a perfectly valid way of seeing, and showing, events and people and choices? complex and difficult, many-dimensioned and often even unconscious. should this story never get told? and why would that be?

well, for me, for fear of harming others by telling a “story” which inevitably involves them though they have no say in what I write and may indeed object to it. how could my story not involve people? otherwise it’s poetry– or something– what I end up writing, mostly. there you go.

nonfiction’s hard. the kind of critique that gets levelled in workshop? “why should I care about this?” I know– lorrie moore has been there before. if I could only spoof it and bypass feeling it. but it taps doubt. self-involvement is the sin by which contemporary memoirs are condemned, in legion. so I hesitate to add to that morass, being most thoroughly self-involved, as you see. quelle dilemme– a writer afraid to write.

then again, it doesn’t really seem to stop me.

in my sister’s house

I’m walking around my sister’s house in her absence– there’s some immense, imprecise sadness– someone missing, dead? gone? something. there are rooms after rooms, and I’m amazed by the size of the house– just when I think I’ve tapped it, I discover a staircase to an upper level. the place is full of furniture from our grandmother, and I’m a little peeved that my sister has ended up with so much of it– but this isn’t real envy– I don’t actually want any of it myself, I’m just kind of awestruck by how put-together and grown-up and stylistically coherent and large my sister’s house is. she’s a new mom, and I’m trying to help with the baby but don’t really know what I’m doing.

objects in the distance appear bigger

there’s big destruction threatening– something huge and irresistible– at first it’s unclear exactly what, and then I look out the window and see a king kong monster headed my way, the ground trembling with contact shocks. it’s scaling a building down the block, and I realize there’s no way to hide. then I look again and realize it’s just a lion escaped from the demolished zoo and on the loose– and I think, well, there are surely more, other big cats, carnivores, wild animals, all roaming the streets. I’m scrambling onto a moving train car when the lion catches up with me and fastens its teeth onto my leg– I try to shake it off, but it’s attached with an unbreakable grip. the most important thing is that I board this train– so I just pull the animal up after me– and see that it’s no bigger than a domestic housecat, tho all claws and teeth. I take its frail neck in my hands and squeeze and twist until I’ve throttled it. this takes a long time and is very personal and immediate, and I’m a little horrified by my own brutality. but the point is, I’m safe now.


I’m sitting on the wood decking around the water courtyard– the water flows beneath us, but in the wide square at our feet it’s shallow and black against the bottom– decayed leaves and mud, probably, but the water above clear. the person sitting beside me is covered in soapy foam– it just sprouts spontaneously, or I suddenly see it. I begin scooping water by handfuls to stroke along the arms, rinsing the person’s smooth skin clean while they sit still and patient for me to do this work– it never occurs to me that they might rinse themselves– it’s a kind of care-full tribute. the arms go well, but when it comes to the face, I have to carry the cupped water such a distance and turn my hand at such an agle that most of the water slips away and it becomes little more than a caress along the the cheek and jawline– in the gesture love grows.