Category Archives: Searching

Big Drummer Man

What if the Little Drummer Boy grew up
to be Big Drummer Man, a butcher perhaps,
with skins aplenty to manhandle across the tops
of barrels and pots and one precious little cup
that someone drank some special wine out of,
(Jesus maybe, yes, that’s who it was),
so that all along the Via Dolorosa,
every single, sorrowful step, there rose a
tattoo (the skin kind is the second definition,
thank you very much), a pummeled out
percussion code, spelling with every beat
not “inadequacy,” but “indignation,
causing Mary to nod to the beat and from
up high the grown-up baby smiled at him?

I know the little drummer boy did his thing in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem, but hear me out–any kid who plays a drum for a baby isn’t going to just GO AWAY, especially not after mother and child both encouraged him. I figure he stuck around and made a nuisance of himself, kept in touch, essentially stalked the holy family, drumming the whole time, and I picture them feeling about him the way I feel about the song–partly charmed, partly annoyed.

Not happy yet with the title. I considered these:

OK WHAT WISE GUY PUT A CROWN OF THORNS IN THE MANGER

WE CAN’T HELP SEEING A CROWN OF THORNS IN THE MANGER

ON THE HEAD OF THE BABY IN THE MANGER LIES A CROWN OF THORNS

HEY DRUMMER BOY I CAN SEE YOUR HOUSE FROM HERE

CHRISTMAS IS SALT, EASTER IS PEPPER

Behind. Alive. So Bright.

New snow and hoar frost and every cliché
about crystals and diamonds and stars—
my commute the other morning was bright
while my mood was altogether grim, standard
mid-semester stew of “I am so far behind”
with big chunks of “I live in squalor” and
an extra soupçon of regret. Remonstrance
aplenty as I set out for work and yet
those damn sparkles everywhere,
especially on the red blackberry canes,
and I won’t say the grimness diminished,
but I played like each spot of silver
shining in the morning sun was one more thing
I needed to do that wasn’t yet done
and honestly I’ve never felt more alive.
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The snow, thankfully, is mostly gone. But the bottles in my garden are glowing.

This Specific Grief So Far

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.”

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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.)

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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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.

 

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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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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.