Sure sometimes Wisconsin gets cold in the summer, jacket-weather cold,
but almost always the end of August is muggy hot
and the machines we need to do our jobs so often stop.
They just stop. They take the pages we labored over,
every policy researched and thought through, assignments shaped
for permanent learning, an ongoing attempt to balance love
of students with love of subject, excellence and kindness weighted
the same. Those very pages—stuck together like hands in gloves.
Like makeup slathered on. Like sandwiches. Or shredded like potatoes.
Or torn like deckle edges. Or folded up like accordion pleats.
So just this once dear universe, benevolent being, ghosts,
please let the stupid printer simply print. Extra seals
of blessing might include collating and stapling. Thanks.
Honestly, this small thing would be enough for today.
(potential part 2--a prayer for actually staying alive during our 4th COVID semester)
It isn't time to stop wearing them completely. Not quite yet.
(My Dad's nursing home. Young nieces. The immunocompromised.)
But I want to celebrate because it’s time to wear them less.
I’m picking one mask to compost in the garden. A favorite
from the ones I’ve sewn? Black N-95? Baby-blue surgical? I can’t decide.
It isn’t time to stop wearing them completely, not quite yet,
so at most I’ll bury one. Memorial Day weekend. So I won’t forget
the people who lost their jobs. Got sick. Three and a half million lost lives.
I won’t forget. But I want to celebrate. It’s time to wear masks less.
Now I’m wondering which kind of mask would break down fastest.
Should I cut the elastic off first? Would the magic still work? Here’s why
I’m not going to stop wearing masks completely, not quite yet:
I don’t want to cause a single retail worker one split second of stress.
Long ago, we buried my son’s placenta in the rhubarb. That spot means life.
Thanks, dirt. Thanks, scientists. Thank-you Jesus we can wear masks less.
And with this mask I am also burying any possible lingering regret.
I didn’t write King Lear. Or bake bread. Or deep-clean. My brain was fried.
It isn’t time to stop wearing masks completely. Not quite yet.
But I am celebrating because it’s time to start wearing them less.
And yes, I do know that we celebrate Memorial Day OFFICIALLY to remember armed services members who gave their lives in service to our country. (I also know the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but honestly, if I want to say something nice about a veteran and I pick the wrong day and you correct me? I think you’re an asshole.) BUT LISTEN. MY GRAN’MOMMY ROANE USED TO PUT FLOWERS ON TOMBSTONES OF VARIOUS RELATIVES ON MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND, AND THEY WEREN’T VETERANS. So if I want to use the holiday to just remember something, I’m gonna.
Also note: this is my front porch office, which I like to refer to as the FPO. (I also have a BPO.) This is a nice big old stalk of rhubarb which I’ll admire out here for a day or so and then do something with. Other rhubarb this year has gone to friends, been bartered for a fabric stash, and is going this evening into a new baked beans recipe called Red Beans and Rhubarb (same basic sauce as normal, boring baked beans but w/ red beans & chopped rhubarb. It may be awful. I’ve made it up. Have never tried it.)
The big vase behind the rhubarb is a recent gift from my amazingly talented brother. The wooden cut-outs are a gift from him from long ago–each cloud does indeed have a silver lining.
Also, as for me and my house, we are fully vaccinated. Fully marinated. Or I wouldn’t consider going mask-less.
No cowbirds here. None in our yard. We’d holler at ’em. Scare ’em away. Throw rocks.
Of course I’m lucky to have a job. Lucky I’ve been working from home since late March. Lucky in that there’s a chance I’ll get to teach my courses the way I want to this fall–all online, but lots of group work for students to interact with, and lots of one-on-one conferences with me (possibly in person, depending).
But universities are opening for all kinds of reasons other than “this is healthy and safe and best for the public good.”
Am not the productivity queen, though trying,
every bad habit I have is worse right now.
I’ve learned a new word—“recrudescence.” Wow
is that my life at 3 a.m. I keep thinking I’m dying
from the virus that makes my lips a little blue
but is not, not according to the test, the hot new sick.
You can learn a lot about a person in a pandemic,
but what you think you know might not be true.
I’ve been thinking about the shows I used to watch after school.
Who would and wouldn’t wear a mask because it was or wasn’t cool.
Leave it to Wally to be the most consistent.
The Beave would try but lose his in a minute.
The actor who played him just died—let’s take a second to grieve—
or really however long we need—but I think we can all agree
Eddie might wear his mask in front of June,
but he’d take it off the moment she left the room.
“Of course not dear,” Lovey says to her Mister
but she puts her mask back on when he looks away,
which is often, as unabsorbed as he is with her.
Dollar signs in his eyes and under his nails.
Who’s in Lovey’s eyes when she closes them?
She’s just smart enough to play dumb.
It’s not the rich man who sets her heart drumming.
It’s not her husband’s coconuts she’s rubbing.
Once more amusing myself takes an extra turn
as I’m sorting through what I’ve learned
in quarantine. It’s you I’m unhappy with, you
and your mask, or your lack of a mask, you make me rage, make me panic.
You can learn an awful lot about people in a pandemic,
but what you think you know might not be true.
Aline is a poet
Bob likes to fish
Chuck likes to throw things
Doug plays in the dirt
Ed likes to teach
Fanny likes to WHAT? WHAT DID YOU THINK I WAS GOING TO SAY?
Gale is a blowhard
Hi says hello
I spend so much time
Just amusing myself. I wonder if I can
Keep it up when we start
Losing people we know to the virus.
Mom and Dad are in lockdown
Now, we can’t hug them
Or even visit except online.
Prayers seem distasteful when the religious
Quacks sound them the loudest.
Really trying to focus, to be there for my
Students, but I feel stunned a lot of the
Time. But I keep trying. Which of
Us will turn out to have the right
Vision for how this all will
Work? Imagining the future takes e-
Xtreme optimism, which I don’t have. Do
You? Let’s talk about it more on
I’m not much of an optimist, but in a few weeks, my azaleas will be blooming.
Attention, please–both from and to the very best
of audiences any company could ever hope
to play to, so we hear–that cellophane
you’re crinkling deci-bells itself far, far beyond
your little ears–and also, when the music starts,
post-intermission but before the actors
reappear, that’s not your cue to talk
a little louder–no, it means shut up.
What’s more–I could go on. I won’t. It’s just–
we’re so lucky that it feels routine.
Each night they crank up the volcano, test
the atom bomb, make love from paper, walk
a cobweb tightrope, grow trees from lowly beans….
We’re privy to it all, all summer, face to face.
There is more than routine magic in this place.
American Players Theatre on a moony night.
This is the last weekend for up-the-hill shows at American Players Theatre and for most of the shows in the Touchstone Theater. A Doll’s House, Part 2 begins later this month and runs through the middle of November–I’m super excited to see it.
It was a fantastic season and I’m so happy it’s not quite done.
The first bit of that very nonce-y sonnet up there–that’s me being crabby. I’m more and more comfortable being crabby. And then the sestet–that’s me being appreciative. Which I’m also more and more comfortable being.
So lucky to live down the road from this routinely magical spot.
There once was a trope so wrongheaded, I’ve never forgotten
how fetid: “a woman’s period,” (the very young man said)
“the falling ash at the end of a lit cigar.”
The women in the class (of course it was a class)
said together like a chorus, “no,
no, no, it’s nothing like that, not at all.”
And now we’re grown up and now we’re grown old
and where is he now, that redhead?
In the bar where the mermaids wait tables, an old man
leaves a tip on a napkin: “You would be so much prettier
if you smiled more.” He looks less at her face than her ass
and at home he writes poems about “how her titties are
shooting out her shirt like two cannon balls.”
No one needs to read it to think “not at all.”
Just killing time before a movie–there was a Twitter exchange about dirty old man poems & I was inspired. (The title relates to the Twitter exchange.)
The braille of my hives reads “nettles,” which
I’ve tackled just in time this spring, instead
of waiting until they’re taller than my head.
I should cook them up but won’t. There is so much
I am not doing with this gift of time
that was stolen just today from a woman younger
than me with children younger than mine. Also, her
good words reached farther and did more work than mine.
In this specific grief so far, what have I learned?
The God we prayed to didn’t grant our prayers.
Some plants protect themselves–beware. Beware–
female stinging nettles produce more stinging hairs.
I see pain and possibility everywhere.
“O death where is thy sting?” Right fucking here.
Rachel Held Evans, a writer I admired and learned from so much, has died. She was one of my favorite thinkers on Twitter and I appreciated her blog posts and books. I never met her. I never said “I think you’re great,” not even in a tweet. So there’s this sadness, in proportion to how much she occupied my brain and engaged my heart, and there are so many others hurting so much more.
What else can I say except–read her if you haven’t already. And we all need to understand what she said in her last blog post:
“It strikes me today that the liturgy of Ash Wednesday teaches something that nearly everyone can agree on. Whether you are part of a church or not, whether you believe today or your doubt, whether you are a Christian or an atheist or an agnostic or a so-called ‘none’ (whose faith experiences far transcend the limits of that label) you know this truth deep in your bones: ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.’
Death is a part of life.
My prayer for you this season is that you make time to celebrate that reality, and to grieve that reality, and that you will know you are not alone.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
darkness and light and pain and pleasure
(At some point, I will be more in the mood to celebrate her life. Right now, I am grieved and angry, and I feel confident she would support my feeling of my feelings.)