Category Archives: Authenticity

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.

 

 

Lying Awake After Six Hours of Sleep and Finally Admitting That’s All the Sleep There Is

It’s pretty early to be thinking “How
can this day be redeemed?” But when you draw
from a deep well of self-loathing, trust me,
you can ruin your hours well in advance
of inhabiting them. Insomnia is
such a fucking waste. Of time,
of course, and energy, and the sheetness
of sheets,  so innocent with their way
of seeming cool and warm as needed.
Note also: I wasn’t asking
“How can I redeem this day?”
Well, no. Because that would indicate
some level of control. A modicum.
I very well may sleep
a little better tonight.
I could stand outside
and get absorbed
in how very gold
the goldenrod.
But some days there is no resolution.
There is just the question of redemption
and the passing of time and giving up
or almost inadvertently
having an o.k. but unredeemed day
that will not count on any list
of very good or very bad
days of any description at all.

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Rotten Apple Yoga

Apple, apple, mother-fucking apple.
I tried counting, the way counting
can be meditative. I got to five.
Listing colors worked a little better:
yellow, red, green, brown, black,
beige, rust, orange, peach, pink,
dark red, dark brown, white, off-white.
I modified some poses to enable
picking rotten apples simultaneous to
breathing, just breathing, well, mostly breathing.
Cat pose, cow pose, quad stretch—those worked best.
I talked to my right wrist as it began to hurt
and then my left when I shifted.
My knees both hurt but not at once.
“Hello tightness, my old friend”
I’ve begun saying to my lower back and hips,
but not tonight when I was gleaning
from below the apple tree I loved
when we bought the house but which now I hate.
Somehow my familiar pains were simply not
there tonight. It’s standing and sitting that hurt me
most, not crawling on my hands and knees,
putting all those apples into one broad, galvanized bucket,
one five-gallon cat litter bucket, and then aiming
so many more apples onto an old bed sheet.
I started saying apple, apple, apple, in my head,
apple, apple, apple, two apples, three apples,
another apple, apple, apple, apple.

This task I loathe is loathsome largely
on account of the symbolic baggage that grows
prolific with the apples:

I waste resources.
I am a woman from whom things get away.
I don’t keep up. My ambitions don’t match my energy.
I am lazy. The person I thought I was 20 years ago
when we bought the house is not the person I am.
I have a million mason jars I don’t fill
with anything
but dust.
The mother-fucking tree isn’t even on our property.
Why am I the only one who worries about attracting
yellow-jackets? Why haven’t I hired someone to prune it?
Why haven’t I sabotaged it so that, dead,
it would have to be cut down? Why won’t my husband
prune it back the way the orchard pictures show?
Why won’t he cut it down?

Why don’t I remember to put out the organic fly traps
in time? Why don’t I make applesauce every year?
Why don’t I pick up the few apples that drop
every day and add them to my compost pile?
Why don’t I have a compost pile at all?

I am an awful person. I must be.

I thought all those thoughts. I tried not to.
But I thought them anyway.
And when I thought those thoughts, I also thought,
my t-shirt’s riding up. I’m not going to pull it down.
What if someone sees the white expanse of belly
and hip laid bare right at this very moment?
And then I thought so what if someone sees?
None of what they see should be a surprise.

Each time I thought those thoughts I also thought
apple, apple, apple. Red. Blood. Brown. Apple.
Rabbit carcass. Or possibly excrement.
Apple, apple, apple, apple, apple, apple.
Then I was breathing deep in my big belly,
the belly this shirt’s too small for,
breathing in and also out, a little longer out,
and in again, the rotten smell, the cider smell,
the smell of apple after apple, apple, apple.

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I’ve written about this tree before, a poem called “On Conscientiousness,” which I see myself lacking.

But there really were moments tonight when all that was in my head was “apple” and my body was just a body that existed to move rotten apples from one place to another.

I’m not going to say nirvana, but it was not loathsome or even particularly unpleasant. Interesting.

 

 

Poem for a Cold Spring Which I Somehow Entitled Grace

This was published a very long time ago in Tar River Poetry. I am now motivated to try to ascertain if Tar River Poetry still exists. [UPDATE: It does! Here’s the 30th anniversary issue--I published there almost 30 years ago.] It’s always so misery-inducing when spring is cold. I don’t care how much I love British mysteries set in cold, wet, beautiful places. I don’t want the place I live to be cold and wet and beautiful in APRIL. I want warm and wet and beautiful.

This was long before I met my husband, long before I had a son. But I was babysitting a lot. I’m curious now where these girls are. What happens to the children of writers with interesting names?  (I actually am invested in that question now.)

I’m reading this tomorrow on WRCO, Richland Center’s radio station.

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GRACE

Hymns don’t work on this baby–only torch songs
bribe her fussing into sleep. I’ve planted
Lady Day deep in her downy head:
“Summertime,” mostly, though it’s a cold spring
in Montana, nowhere near humid enough for blues.
Her sister sleeps upstairs, rousing choruses
of “Amazing Grace” still bouncing off crib slats
like a holy mobile set loose.I stand guard, willing
my notes into warmth until the windows bead up
like a glass of tea, my voice ungainly
and stubborn as a weed. I don’t believe
nothing can harm them, but tonight nothing will.

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“Summertime” is one of the songs I’ve always sung to my son. That and “Blue Moon.” I tried adding “Tennessee Stud” to the mix but I can never remember all the words. My husband sings a version of summertime that is medley with “Whipping Post.”

Two things strike me about this poem now (well, lots of things, but I have to save something for the radio show). First, this was before I started writing a lot of sonnets, but it seems to me this wants to be a sonnet. Second, I had nurturing to spare back then.

Go Ahead and Do Nothing

If I loved you before I realized we are really, really far apart in our views about how to respond to school shootings, then I still love you. If I liked you, respected you, before, I still do.

If you’re posting all kinds of articles and links and memes I don’t agree with, I’m probably not responding.  If you’re posting things I agree with, I’m not responding much to those, either.

Here’s my blanket response—go ahead and do what you think is right.

If you think it’s a mental health problem, vote for people who will fund mental health care.

If you think mental health care is messed up, vote for people who will reform it.

If you think it’s a matter of domestic violence and toxic masculinity, the vote for people who are funding shelters and education.

If you think that we need to arm teachers, vote for people who will make that happen*

If you think the FBI dropped the ball, vote for people who will fund the FBI, or work to reform it however it needs to be reformed.

If you think schools and communities need to do a better job fighting against bullying and making sure no child is ostracized, then vote for people who will fund schools and community organizations who are already trying to do that. Or if you think schools and communities need to do something differently, figure out who’s doing it right, and support them.

If you’re not sure what the answer is, do some research. It would be nice if we could research gun violence as a public health issue, but we can’t: Still, there is research out there to read. From other countries, who don’t have the school shootings we have.

If you think there’s nothing we can do, then go ahead and do nothing. Keep doing nothing.

But if, like me, you think there is something we can do, let’s all just go ahead and do it. Join organizations that are working for what we think is the right thing to do. Let’s all vote for people who don’t just SAY the right things, but are actually voting the ways we think they should.

Maybe you’re already doing that. I, personally, could work a lot harder in terms of sending money, working on campaigns, getting involved in organizations. So that’s what I’m going to do. I just made a donation to Moms Demand Action, which I first heard about last year in church.

Why now? Why not sooner? I don’t know. The answer to “why not sooner” is easier–I tend to be cynical about the possibility of progress.  Why now? A teacher I admire wrote a really impassioned piece I found moving. And Emma Gonzalez is just one more example of why I’m pretty excited about Generation Z.

So, anyway—you go ahead and do what you think is right, and I will, too, and we’ll see how it goes. I’ve read that the majority of Americans support sensible gun legislation (but I haven’t researched it, to be honest). So we’ll see.

The only option that seems absolutely inappropriate to me is doing nothing. Although, I suppose if I revert to my cynical self, if you disagree with me, then go ahead and do nothing. OR just go ahead and keep posting stuff on social media. Which I mostly won’t respond to.

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(I don’t tend to post a lot about politics, anywhere. I don’t think this’ll be a trend.)

*I’ll quit teaching when teachers are allowed/encouraged/actually armed in my school, but I’m pretty ready to retire anyway–could you just make sure the wheels of legislation turn slowly enough so I get about four more years in? Here’s a blog I wrote a while back talking about why I think arming teachers is a cowboy fantasy

But I don’t need a magical t-shirt

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I was at a fun concert the other night & one of the musicians was hawking t-shirts and said, “they’ll make you look 15 years younger and 15 pounds thinner.” I thought and then said outloud, “But I don’t care about either of those things.” In that moment it was 100% true.

What an interesting journey I’m on. The Health at Every Size book has certainly helped.

Time to Get Weird

Having spent a fair bit of my life trying to fit
in spaces not designed for me, I’m now,
at 52,proclaiming fuck that shit—
I’ll squeeze in if I want or I will go
all rogue and say no thank you when the nurse
says “can we get your weight?” I swear I felt
like fucking Che Guevara. Own my mess
is one of my mottos. What I haven’t dealt
with yet I’ll either tackle or accept.
And if my tackling’s super slow, that’s also fine.
I now proclaim my life a modest success
chock-full of laughs. I’d rather be funny than right.
Ars longa, vita brevis, tempis fugit.
It’s time to write it all down before I forget.

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Happy Birthday to me!

We’ll see how well I hold to this resolution, but I am trying to accept my slow tackling. Acceptance–that’s the word from now until the end of the year. I picked a word for the year in January, momentum. Still a good word. Still aiming for that. But acceptance now, too.

Part of the fun of birthdays in this social-media-age is the flood of messages on Facebook. I’m trying (not always possible, thanks Facebook) to say thanks to all of them, and take a moment as I do to really be thankful for that person’s presence in my life. Some of them are very much from my past, so I try to think about that time for a moment.

This poem has Latin, which I won’t apologize for–people who don’t know it can Google, right?

And profanity–also won’t apologize for that, either.

It’s kind of a listing of mottos–the Latin ones, own my mess, my life a modest success, I’d rather be funny that right. It’s a middle-age indulgence, I think, the choosing and listing of mottos.

I thought of “I’d rather be funny than right” while I was driving and almost had to pull over because it made me laugh pretty hard. It’s just true.

My Mom often finds pink and yellow birthday paper for me because although neither one is my favorite color, the two of them together are my favorite color combination.
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