on the unreliability of memory

dear world, dear life,

today I write to you in order to acknowledge that my view of you is wildly skewed. and that I’m sorry for that fact and also, on a more upbeat note, that I’m attempting to realign my perceptions of the past and the present to be more accurate and truly appreciative. but it takes constant work and a degree of vigilance I’m unaccustomed to, and I am human, so there are recurrent points of slippage.

take, for instance, old grudges. they lurk! o, how they’re inclined to lurk. and fester and shift and morph and grow into shapes of things that no longer even remotely resemble what they purport to represent in the real world.

this morning I had a big bout with my own carnival of distortions– went the rounds with all three rings, and, after some possibly unnecessary woe and tears, emerged clearer-eyed and -headed and -hearted on the flip side, I’m *most* pleased to inform you.

imagine, if you’re game, how one might misremember– o, willfully! overweaningly! albeit all on the quiet-like and subconscious– the sequence of events that transpired in actuality– malign and sneaky retrospect recrafting the stage to cast so-and-so as pencil-mustachioed villain– while documentation from the time reveals this person in the guise of protagonist.

ultimately, I’m left feeling not altogether certain which view, if either, is real or accurate. maybe both, at least experientially. but still. the wild pendulum of perspective is something to contend with.


Your day should not feel like wasted time—rather it should serve as a discovered doorway to a walled garden of wonders: sexuality, intensity and relief, remembered fragrances from childhood, Jean Naté and 4711, an entire multiply-desirable world cohering in specificities like single-celled organisms and budding tree branches, late afternoon wind, stars invisible in daylight.

Be uncomfortable though a cold room impedes response— issue invitations to your several fears and warm to their subjects.

Listen to the pair of nesting doves outside the bedroom window, who oboe in the equinox.

Pay attention to tiny fissures, which have a tendency to creep, but face the very beast wherever you detect it lurking, say, in the curtains or the shape of habitual expressions.

Lubricate generously with olive oil and sweet nothings. Grasp implements with firm confidence.

Gaze into every face you pass, and when you look inward, be aware of the variety of lenses and attitudes you maintain.

Time being relative until it ends, rules make up the girders that rot out in an evolving structure.

Beware of poppycock.

Wear loose-fitting trousers, and limber up conscientiously as you imagine the dance.

Learn to perform several strokes and how to pivot underwater.

Write things down as often as you have occasion. Read with good appetite.

Cultivate preferences with gracious extravagance. Shoulder onward. Listen.

Fog will lie in valleys and sunlight move the wind. Seasons will be both purposeful and tedious, life challenging unless you do it very quietly. Fields fare better for having grown weeds.

You can be too careful; you can be awfully foolish. Apologies are no more important than forgiveness. Love with kindness the hearts you’ll shatter, your own included.

Acknowledge truth when you encounter it. Be willing to question even things you suppose you know. Act courageously or not at all–and then find something to act courageously about.

Déjà vu may simply be a waggle of the kaleidoscope crystals, or its opposite, dreams the pieces that shake out in the shape of moving pictures.

Consider the art that history has made of insomnia. Allow yourself naps.

Although we’re engineered to find small things endearing, the common tendency is toward carelessness and spite. Loving attention to the ingenuity of patterns can be a lifelong consolation.


My better half and I have a difference of opinion regarding our media consumption, one case being Californication– which I’ve gobbled up gluttonously via Netflix and love for its scripted twists and turns and which I suspect he finds smug and smarmy.

In all fairness, it is definitively smarmy– slinky, sexy smarminess being its veritable modus operandi. smug to be sure, set in self-satisfied L.A.

In point of fact it gets me with its brand of smuttiness– witty, wordy, misadventurous– makes me think: if there is an ego and a superego, surely there must be a superid– which would be Hank Moody.

good morning, morning

good morning, sunshine. good morning, friday-chris-home-and-sleeping-in-mandatory-furlough-day. good morning, art play table with all your project scatterings and possibility. good morning, break in overcast skies. good morning, salty laps to swim in cool blue water. good morning, library books and library audio book cds to listen to. good morning, train bells and traffic out my window. good morning, benign rumblings of metal wheels on metal tracks, larger world-deep rumblings yet distant, if threatening to radiate in widening concentric circles outward across the paths of untold lives. good morning, breeze-blown commuter pedestrians. good morning, guy locking up pink-handlebarred bike and guy zipping down the roadway with tight trousers on bright neon yellow bike. good morning, spring-calling birds perched and flying through park trees. good morning, spent grasses of last year and budding branches. good morning, pollen-fuzzy catkins and shamrock blossoms.

good morning, good morning, good morning.

on pokeyness

so this morning, re-resolved (solved again and again?) and fortified against habitual deer trails of self-deterance, I stayed abed girded only with El Capitane the iphone, whose micro screen precludes distractions such as multiple visible browser windows, and pulled up Pokey Mama once more– smart lady, she even has a mobile app version of blog posts!– and picked up reading through from the beginning, as I’ve been yearning to do daily (acutely despite the zillion self-distraction tactics which I’ve made my true profession).

I got a dozen or so posts along, brainsplosions occurring at regular intervals, until I finally had to stop, get up out of bed, go make coffee, and wait in antsy dancey hopstep for the toast to pop– so I could go write.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, free of charge– this here’s the greatest gift one writer can give to another: the inspiration to respond in kind. the best sort of reading I do prompts it, that conversation in scrawled or tip-typed syllables which I so blithely maligned in my last post.

[deep breath]

by golly, I can’t un-say that the writers’ workshop did a number on me– or, really, to be more exactly precise, not so much the workshop(s) its(their)self(ves) around the big serious tables in the dey house– more the social scene that revolved around my two years in the program– and really, if I’m going to be 100% honest with both of us here, only a windbaggy vocal minority within the surely more diverse and varied, veined with secret, quiet channels, social ethos present at that explicit moment in the workshop’s history.

what’s more, I did it to myself. hell, if I don’t own my own responsiblity in this farcetastrophy right now, it’s likely to go on plaguing me forever– I tagged along at the heels of those bolder friends into the night glare of the foxhead bar. I sat there listening and gawking while the literary cocks puffed their breast feathers in display around the pool table, and I bought their brand of bullshit. or deplored it while internally buying it wholesale. nobody dragged me, nobody shackled me to those ages-inscribed wood-topped booths. I opened my receiving orifices and took it all inside and let it pile up atop of my own good voice like so much rotten packing material and let it fester there, squashing down anything I might think to say until the stew burned hot and white in my belly. for ten years. I did that to myself.

I stopped myself writing poems— the writing that had literally saved my skin just a couple years prior– all those sproutlings grown into contorted little hermetic contraptions, I took them in my own angry grasp and throttled them off right at the root.

and why? because other people sounded smarter than me.

what a boatload of smelly carp.

whew. I didn’t really intend to write about the writers’ workshop when I sat down at Mister Macbook this a.m. thanks for that, too, Miz Dryansky– for the permission to detour and meander– so much nicer than deterring and mouldering.

what I meant to write about this morning was the tendency toward stuckness. and fertility anxiety of several varieties. and self delusion and the gracious occasion to glance back over it with kinder eyes toward ourselves and all our human foibles. and in good Pokey Mama fashion, maybe I did just manage to enact that last one after all. and maybe I can be okay with allowing the other bits to filter forward in organic fashion in future blog posts sometime, whenever. maybe I’m not really ready, yet, to address the baby-making petrifaction that freezes me barren for more years than I can count. whatever. I will, I expect, find unstuckness in my own good time. for now it is a beautiful and immense gift simply to be able to write something.

aft agley

this morning I woke resolved to forge some progress against the ever-cascading anthill of to-dos– but first, of course, just had to check in with email and facebook… and before I’d even drawn stuttering breath found I’d been suckered deep along meanderings of yet another sparkly novelty– the gorgeously-writ Jennifer Michael Hecht’s The Lion and the Honeycomb (o tip of lurking landmass) on Best American Poetry (thanks once more to Laurel for the pointer).

as the drifts of precise pleasure mixed with vague desire and inkling despair over my own incidentalist scribbly pursuits mounted deeper around my ears, I slammed shut the laptop and jumped up, threw off slouchy garb, and bolted into the hottest possible shower to melt away mental frostbite and all-consumerist lassitude.

hot damn, but folks forge astonishing accomplishments with their lives all around in this … (what’s that thing called that you look through and turn and see the horizon repurposed in fractal…? I’m looking at one right here before me, made of stained glass and flower petals, but the substantive thing itself refuses to yield its name… ah, thanks, chris–) kaleidoscope world.

for what it’s worth, let me lay it out right here: the iowa writers’ workshop put me right off my appetite for poetry. period. kaput.

oh hell, maybe ellipsis. lately I’ve felt myself creeping obliquely back, like a pigeontoed catburgler in snowshoes.

anyway the point is I’m guilty of throwing the baby out the window and gargling the spitty bathwater, spiting only myself.

but all those whiskey-fueled literary-name-dropping debates left me feeling so utterly frigid and alienated that I bolted for the nearest fortification of pulsing humanism, pasted on poetic blinders, and hummed a bedlam la-la-la as I pottered away in any other available direction. that’s how much I hated (and I don’t really like to use the word “hate”) the pomp and bloat of area windbags.

not so long ago the lovely Katrina Roberts reposted a bit on Facebook by Mark Doty which made a case to exorcise the use of “academic” from the critical lexicon of poetry altogether, as “tired” and meaningless– and I, from my glittery red vinyl diner breakfast booth across from chris, flipping through iphonelandia while attending the arrival of miraculous eggy concoctions, started gagging, predictably enough, on my coffee.

lately I’ve felt wracked with regardless apoplexy over topics I suspect I badly comprehend, having ostriched away a decade and more– poetry, labor unions, etcetera– topical issues raging the airwaves and rocking me with intense reaction I feel ill equipped to back up substantively in debate. my reflex against the pro-union bandwagon played out on facebook with my own foot lodged snugly in the offending orifice (my own), though I suspect I still have a, possibly equally misguided, bone or two to pick there. I’m learning, late in the game, that eating crow is personally instructive, at least. I’ve little doubt that airing my sentiments about the State of Poetry in America will land me in a smellier kettle yet, but if that’s not the purpose of the blogging platform, to air and, ideally, exorcise and improve upon our host of ignorances and prejudices… well, I’m guilty of misusing the tool. go ahead. lob your corrections my way.

from all I’ve seen in the course of my admittedly narrow and subjective experience, poetry-in-america and academia are virtually synonymous. unless you take into account slam poetry, which it strikes me the ilk of journal-published poets seldom does. straight-up poesie as practiced in our day and age has evolved, specifically through sponsorship within the halls of academe, into the “comfortable discourse of a mandarin elite” just as Robert Scholes indicated it might. who else but poets and employed academics even reads poems? it’s an honest question. who, without the schooling requisite to engage in the conversation, even thinks or cares to ride its rarefied currents? the more I wrote poems, when I was writing them, the more the approved process seemed to turn in upon itself, inverting ever more until what resulted sealed shut with a hermetic hiss.

for why? I ask you. honestly, I do.

because I miss the making of them– poems. I miss that little, delicate, exacting metalsmithing of syntax and the afterglow glee of the thing wrought– even if no one else could, or wanted to, read it.

no time to waste

paddling around, arguing with myself over every last little thing until I’m exhausted by the tug of war and finally resort to escapism of several different kinds, I waste time.

the fact is I am not of an age where potential counts for anything whatsoever– only the work of daily action, only engaging with our outright, most intrinsic and authentic selves. in actuality, it could all be taken away in the next breath, or the next, or the one after that, in an accident of transportation or health or random circumstance.

all my life I’ve done battle with a fierce internal editor– one part the wrassling wild inner heart from which flows most vivid creative juices and the other this starched and pinned, bespectacled and buttoned-up magistrate whose hyperactive gavel decrees out of order over and over on a hair trigger. much of my life has been spent knuckling under to presumed civilizing forces– keeping myself in check, toeing an arbitrary line, fastening the lid shut with spit and chewing gum and heavy books of rules of order.

what works itself up inside springs from pressure cooking and, sooner or later, blows the patch job wide open in great swoops of unrestrained impulse: five year old me, unable any longer to bear being ignored by the grownups, walked down to the river, scooped up a jugful of water, and tossed it high up in the air, up to the the bridge where they all sat above me, soaking the back of the worst offender; after college, miserying my way through a cardboard “real world” job/lifestyle (with repeated violent bouts of salmonella-induced vomiting– there was a terrible outbreak in the eggs that year– surely signifying some urge for psychic expulsion), I got up one day and drove from the west coast to the east of our broad country, all unannounced upon the doorstep of a virtual stranger, in search of a big answer; hating it long enough, I’ll quit my job or move to a new city without a well-articulated or -constructed plan of next steps– just do. and deal with the consequences.

a sloppy and wasteful way of proceeding. and for what? some rationalized idea of being acceptable/responsible/normal? by no means even a desirable goal.

wouldn’t it be better to evolve some better terms between the savage and the jailer? the savage, after all, far from truly savage– at most bleedingly human, substantive, weeping, real– full of the force of aria and tarantella– my own best self, squashed and shackled, wanting only to shine out and range onward openly.


Lately, prompted by some very articulate women I’m connected to and reading (thanks to Facebook, by golly– so it’s not a 100% time-waster, only about 99.5%…), I’ve been considering Writing Issues– particularly those challenges involved in being a woman who writes (or doesn’t “write”…); the complex array of considerations around being a woman of child-bearing age (just barely) who has not, as it were, borne substantive fruit of one kind of another; questions of value/progress/success– all really rather in keeping with the theme of “work” that’s developing in the current incarnation of NavelGazer.

I’ve been dialoguing with myself as I read along, venting the occasional spewed thought-bit over diner omelettes to Chris, paddling feelings around with the hot water mix in the bath, watching the ins and outs weave through the grainy 3 a.m. air that hangs above the bed– and mulling, more than anything, just how I might, for my part, crystallize my own thoughts in writing— narratively, cogently, in actual (lord help me) reader-readable fashion.

I’m painfully aware of my own inclination toward the hermetic and apocryphal in the language concoctions I stir up and pepper through this digital interface. I know I hide out inside the blur of elusive syntax, skitteringly allusive prose– suspect I dodge fixing and discernment in lieu of opening myself to the sorts of heavy handed judgment of early years. It is, quite frankly, a cowardly approach to writing.

I’d truly like to speak more plainly and openly here– not forgetting or dismissing the dance I’ve done down these several years with the ethics around revelatory truths not exclusively my own. I’ve learned in painful ways how even incidental, seemingly innocuous bits feel threatening to others who’ve not themselves released those bits for public consumption. In consequence somewhat I’ve settled into the verbal tick here, online, of skating ellipses around any sort of particularized personal truth– apart from the very most internal, subjective, and personal of all, the bits I see day to day, flying fragments, stuttering partial whispers.

But I’ve been reading other writers who seem to manage it with so much more aplomb, cleanly, forthrightly, with simple backbone, humility, and grace– for example Amy Dryansky– poet, artist, essayist, mother, and author of the beautifully thoughtful blog Pokey Mama. And Pokey Mama makes me consider one way I might approach my own narrative more directly: piecemeal. That is, by attempting it in small portions (oh, Melida Mae, gobble that whale, bit by mealy bit, dear girl). One small part today, another another day, explicitly picking up the thread of the last.

Coincidentally this morning A.Word.A.Day struck me to the core with sitzfleisch, that very “chair glue” I often despair of, and in particular this: “Sitzfleisch is … often the difference between, for example, an aspiring writer and a writer.”


Well, I hereby resolve: I’m gonna work me up some sitzfleisch and give this writing thing a bit more of a concerted whirl. Maybe in small bits, but by golly I’m’a diggin’ in.