Half-Vast

Half-vast is way too close to half-assed,
both in how it sounds and how I do it,
aim for one and miss. Too slow. Too fast,

the one I want goes hurtling past.
Like ice melting and turning itself into fluid.
Half-assed is way too close to half-vast,

which is a measurement so imprecise
it’s no surprise I so consistently lose what
I aim for. Consistently miss. I’m slow. How fast

and clever and organized do I need to be?
I can’t begin to explain or even intuit
how perpetually close half-vast is to half-assed.

I still very much want my teachers to be pleased.
I want, I want. All my grinding duties
aim for safety and miss, too slow or maybe too fast

for anyone I want to impress to be impressed.
I had elaborate plans. They are somewhat ruined.
Half-vast is way too close to half-assed.
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound so depressed.

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Imperiled

The snow’s off-white, the house is white, the sky
is pewter-gray, the buggy’s black, and also black:
the horses and most of the laundry on the line
except for a little rose and green and one kind
of blue so patently Amish it should be called that.
Oh, and the underwear, the private flying
proudly in the open, nothing white,
just various degrees of beige that look like linen
sails billowing, contrasting very slightly
with the piles of dirty snow they’ve shoved aside,
the temporary patio furniture of winter
the children might jump off of when there’s time,
when they’re not hard at work or cutting a slice
down the shoulder of the road: when it’s ice
I’ve heard they skate there but I
have only ever seen them standing by
their parents or in a circle outside
what I think is a school where they were either
playing or getting ready to fight,
which I know they aren’t supposed to do. So why
did it look so menacing, the four or five
boys I saw, closing in on another child
as I drove by, that’s what I do, I drive on by,
that’s what we do out here, the road signs
with the graphic horse and buggy trying
to tell us slow down, watch out, use your eyes,
because the next hill you’ll go over is blind
and you won’t see them until you’re right
on top of them, a whole family on your right
with bright specks of color but mostly wearing night.

Slide1

This month I’m trying to hunt for green as I drive–I’m considering it mindful driving. One of the shades of green I see on Mondays when I’m driving to Kickapoo High School, as I drive through Amish Country, is the occasional green shirt on the clotheslines of Amish families–close to the shade above. The laundry on the line is mostly black and beige. But some blue and green and a shade of kind of rosy-plum.

DIES IREAE DASYPODIDAE

She tattooed a purple armadillo on her ass
but wouldn’t say why. Also a caption that read,
“The armored possums are advancing fast.”

She’s always been the type with lots of worries,
chief among them, ways she could end up dead.
She tattooed a purple armadillo on her ass

then said she felt as though she’d run out of gas.
As though nothing made it fun to get out of bed.
The armored possums are advancing fast

already into Southern Illinois. They crossed
the river bottoms by letting out all their breath.
She tattooed a purple armadillo on her ass

but she still makes so much sense to me. At least
I think I can guess why she did what she did.
The armored possums are advancing fast

is just her way of saying everything’s gone past
recovering. There’s precious little hope in this world.
She tattooed a purple armadillo on her ass
because the armored possums are advancing fast.

 

Slide1

The Color of the Month Is Green

My Gran’daddy’s tractors were always red,
but the riding lawn mower was green.
We borrowed it to mow our acre and
the ditches in between

his house and ours. This was back when
the sun was still our friend,
so I wore a tube top and short shorts
to circle and circle the yard

in what was, I guess, a widening gyre.
Everything I cut
I was allergic to. Sun-fried,
itching, miserable, but

at 14—just beautiful. Just so—
I had knockoff Ray Bans—
I turned dark pink, not really tan—
I’m telling you I glowed.

_____

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Image by Charles & Hudson, used with Creative Commons License

_____

I’m trying an experiment this month–meant to start in January, but didn’t–I’ve picked a color to look for when I’m driving, all month long.  It’s an attempt at mindful driving.  To see my commute differently. To meditate on the colors I notice. The color for February is green, and when I think green, John Deere is one of the things I think of, and also one of the things I see on my commute. So this poem is a meditation on green. And on John Deere.

Is a sonnet also an algorithm?

1
An algorithm’s just a recipe
Computers follow. Machines are very good
At sorting ones from zeroes. I wish I could
Go as wantonly through everything,
This here, that there, no this, now switch, stay there,
But all my categories are too fluid.
In bubble sort you tackle pair by pair
Comparing each thing to the thing next to it.
Merge sort means you cluster first and then
Arrange your groups then group your groups again.
I didn’t know it had a name, the way
I’ve always tackled stacks that needed to be alphabetized.
Shouldn’t we see more order every day?
If algorithms truly run our lives.

2
An algorithm’s just a recipe
Computers follow. Machines are very good

Go as wantonly through everything,
At sorting ones from zeroes. I wish I could

But all my categories are too fluid.
This here, that there, no this, now switch, stay there,

In bubble sort you tackle pair by pair
Comparing each thing to the thing next to it.

Merge sort means you cluster first and then
Arrange your groups then group your groups again.

I didn’t know it had a name, the way
I’ve always tackled stacks that needed to be alphabetized.

If algorithms truly run our lives.
Shouldn’t we see more order every day?

3
An algorithm’s just a recipe
But all my categories are too fluid.
Go as wantonly through everything,
At sorting ones from zeroes. I wish I could
Computers follow. Machines are very good
This here, that there, no this, now switch, stay there,

If algorithms truly run our lives.
I didn’t know it had a name, the way
In bubble sort you tackle pair by pair
Shouldn’t we see more order every day?
Merge sort means you cluster first and then
Comparing each thing to the thing next to it.
Arrange your groups then group your groups again.
I’ve always tackled stacks that needed to be alphabetized.

4
An algorithm’s just a recipe
If algorithms truly run our lives.
But all my categories are too fluid.
Go as wantonly through everything,
I didn’t know it had a name, the way
In bubble sort you tackle pair by pair
Shouldn’t we see more order every day?
At sorting ones from zeroes. I wish I could
Computers follow. Machines are very good
Merge sort means you cluster first and then
Comparing each thing to the thing next to it.
Arrange your groups then group your groups again.
This here, that there, no this, now switch, stay there,
I’ve always tackled stacks that needed to be alphabetized.

_____

Lately when my son gets stuck on math(s), we’ve taken to watching various BBC specials on maths on Netflix. The latest we’re watching is on algorithms, with Marcus du Sautoy (pictured below, with a box symbolizing facial recognition algorithms).

NOTE: Part 2 is Bubble sort, but I didn’t take it through each step. It seemed boring and conveyed to me more clearly than ever why Bubble Sort takes longer than merge sort.

There are videos that show the different sorting algorithms. I find them hypnotic.

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Poem Too Gross to Read

I woke up once to the sight of vomit
pouring like an upside down fountain
from a camper on the top bunk
down to the floor where it blossomed
into a stunning mess, ten feet across,
almost perfectly round.

Nothing about it was beautiful.

I was the counselor so I had to clean it up.
I half-heaved a thousand times at least.

Imagine waking up to vomit every day.

Imagine the thing that makes you gag the fastest.
Someone else’s vomit? Someone saying vomit?

One time when I was swimming laps I saw
a giant loogie floating below me, sinking
slowly toward the filter. It had tentacles
of slime coming off of it. It was green.

You know how we say “I just threw up
a little in my mouth” to joke that something
strikes us as horrifying or just bad news?

My son says that every day. It’s not a joke for him.

He just now choked on what he’d regurgitated.

The disease that causes his nuclear reflux
is hard to pronounce and not commonly known.

Because the pain’s inside of him some people think
it’s mostly inside his head or that he’s lying
or exaggerating or maybe just an unpleasant child.

What he has is invisible and what they can’t see
they can’t believe, apparently, but I wonder
if they could see this: maggots sliding and oozing
inside a jack-o-lantern. More maggots

inside a pus-filled cut in the arm of a woman
whose plane crashed and she wandered in the jungle
for weeks and her feet blistered and bled and cracked.

That one time in honors math class when the weird guy
popped a big stinky zit and it sprayed onto
all the really smart students next to him.

When the sad girl threw up on the bus
and it ran down the runnels of the rubber mat
and the bus driver poured the pink sawdust on it
which was supposed to soak it up but just made it worse.

I would do anything for my child.
I would write something I can barely stand to read.
I would ask people to read it and if they said no,
I would ask them if they know how lucky they are—
they can choose to avoid the thing my son can’t avoid.

Asking for a Friend

Where does ramshackle end and squalid begin?
How do you know when you’ve crossed the line?
Thanks for your help. Just asking for a friend.

Wow. One matchbook collection more and you’d be in
a clutter monkey reality show of your own.
Where does ramshackle end and squalid begin?

And if there is a demarcated line, can
you live inside the shape you’ve bent it in?
Thanks in advance. Just asking for a friend.

When your life falls apart, what does that mean?
Will your house ever be clean, ever again?
Where does ramshackle end and squalid begin?

What if you remember one scary time when
one of your cousins seemed way too interested in
your secret parts. Asking for a friend.

You don’t recall his touching you like that back then.
So why his interest? You were so scared. So why?
Where does ramshackle end and squalid begin?
(I know you know it’s me) asking for a friend.

—–

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(This is actually an organized spot in my house, where we store paper to recycle and reuse. But it LOOKS messy.