Category Archives: On Wisconsin

And then you see the crossing guard dancing

She has the greatest hats, this crossing guard, cheesehead of course,
and jester’s bells, but lately there is no hat capable of covering up
her bare head so you know there’s chemo of some kind happening
which you haven’t mentioned to your kid but of course he’s noticed.

Sometimes each day’s a shithole full of rotted wood and spikes,
rusted iron ones that gouge you on the way down and down
and unfortunately you can’t stop knowing then, there’s always more
bad news and bad decisions and consequences you kind of did
but didn’t quite deserve but then the Pogues are next in the queue
and there isn’t anyone better than Shane MacGowan to illustrate
however much life sucks, however big a mess it is, there is joy
and music in the middle of it, in the goddam muck of the middle of it,

and then you see the crossing guard dancing as she points and signals
and you and your son together feel brought low by her being sick
then lifted up by her dancing and you nearly sob on the way to work
with happiness, with gratitude, for drunk tanks and police choirs
and you say out loud, “my heart” by which you mean your child,
and also the leaves starting to change color, and just your little, little life.

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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.

The Insufficiency of Peripheral Grief

The wreck happened just up the road from me,
right when my brother and his girlfriend got to town.
Here’s the update you never want to see:
“The motorcyclist later died.” I didn’t know
I knew him until today. My mother kept
the obituary for me because she saw he swam
where I swim. I know his daughter from years past,
but hadn’t seen her grief on Facebook yet.
What can I say about a man I barely knew?
He was the perfect swimming lane neighbor.
Not too chatty, not a swamper, not a splasher,
not a drifter, nothing to distract me from the blue,
blue water I love. I guess he loved it too.
What good can writing a sonnet at this point do?

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The man’s name was Michael O’Leary–I didn’t realize I knew him until I saw his picture, and even then I had to imagine him without the glasses (because he didn’t wear them in the pool). His daughter was my student a long time ago. She’s pretty great & I’m very sad for her & her family. 67 is just way too young.

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Gullywasher

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At least no one was tailgating tonight
on the way home from work. It was a mess
of almost hydroplaning in the ruts
and lightning striking—BAM! with thunder right
away. And super low visibility
sometimes, I’d think “I should pull over now”
but then I couldn’t see where or how
and then it would clear up a little. Briefly.

The mulberries and mulberry-flavored bird shit
on my car is gone, washed away to compost
somewhere I don’t know where. Is that it?
You accept your level of suffering and the most
you can do in the dark is find the tiniest spot
of light? Clean car, and I’m alive. That’s actually a lot.

I Can’t Stop Saying Hoagy

“I’m a bit disappointed in myself. I know I could have accomplished a hell of a lot more… I could write anything any time I wanted to. But I let other things get in the way…. I’ve been floating around in the breeze.” Hoagy Carmichael

I’ve realized I don’t know much about Hoagy
except how happy his music and his name make me.
I’m not even sure I knew that “Heart and Soul”
was really a song beyond plunking it out
on any random piano. I first heard “Hong Kong Blues”
from a George Harrison album. Weird but true.
Hoagy sings the whole song in “To Have and Have Not”
which my sweet little town showed on the big screen last week.
He called his onscreen self a “hound-dog-faced
old musical philosopher noodling on the honky-tonk.”
When someone who did so much still wants to say
it wasn’t enough? It was enough. Even just that scene
when Cricket asks, “Hey Slim, are you still happy?”
That smile, that wiggly dance, that smile expanding.

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This is Hoagy Carmichael’s house in Bloomington, Indiana.

Allure

Before the play I watched her sit, posed, on a rock,
one knee bent up, near her chin. She was covered just so
modestly with what can only be called a frock,
one bright red shoe dangling from a pedicured toe.
Let me say more about her fabulous dress
which I got to observe going down the hill after
the play. Sheer and sleeveless, white, a mess
of summer flowers painted on the skirt.
Everything looked expensive and just exactly right.
I haven’t mentioned yet how old she was.
Seventy-something I’m guessing, which is why
it wasn’t a surprise to see her favoring her knees
as we made our way to the parking lot and why
I can’t get the way I saw her first out of my mind.

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These are my red shoes. Not hers. Still.

 

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I saw her before and after seeing The Unexpected Man at the Touchstone @ American Players Theatre (which is wonderful and which you should go see and which I will write about more if I can think of anything to say other than “perfect”) so of course I couldn’t possibly say anything to this woman about any of this.

Stay

When it’s cold and dark next winter, I will wish
for summer, crave it more than sugar, more
than sleep. When I start to feel bone-chilled, I’ll push
my memory buttons hard, hunting for
a night just like last night. Until the sun
went down, it was truly hot, still 90 at six
on our way to the park, sunglasses on,
multiple water bottles filled to the max.
When the sun finally hid behind a barn,
it was suddenly cool. My son’s team lost again
(they often do). It’s hard when you’re 12 to lose
and learn from it, to lose and not feel blue
all night. But he spent the ride home cheering for heat
lightning along the horizon, big and fast and pink.

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