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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The Drawn Line

Excitement at breakfast: a house centipede
dropped from the ceiling (the ceiling fan?)
onto the kitchen table and skittered
(that is their word; almost nothing else
so purely skitters as they) through the clutter
on the table and onto the floor.
My husband rushed in responding
to the hollering and the laughing.
We don’t kill house centipedes at our house.
We gather them up and move them outside.
All of us do that, but this time my husband did
because my son and I were still laughing
and hollering. I kept saying how
I thought it was a mouse. I must have said
“corner of my eye” a dozen times.

The gentle gathering and removing is the mode
for spiders too, for my husband and son. It isn’t mine.
I blithely kill spiders inside. I don’t even apologize.
We all smush ants, every spring
in the seasonal onslaught of ants
which recedes by the middle of June
whether or not we clean obsessively
or put out syrupy poisons, so lately
we do nothing but annihilate them on sight.

And once again I’m fascinated by that line
we draw and where we draw it,
what we kill and what we eat
and what all we’re willing to tolerate.

What makes us say “oh well,”
what makes us say “enough,”
what makes us say nothing at all
because we didn’t see it skittering,
not even from the corner of our eye.

_____

Here’s a great blog post about house centipedes, which advocates for not killing them. I concur. But I’m less open to any blog about live and let live modes for spiders. Or ants.

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The End of the World Will Be So Pretty

“I can feel St. Elmo’s fire burning in me”

some 80s band

Fallout will make the sunsets stunning
someone told me and I believe it,
just like pollution from St. Louis once
turned the sky above the American Bottoms pink
to contrast nicely with the deep dark green
of the Cahokia Mounds.

Those mound-dwellers had it all
but they don’t have what we have,
so much potential as wasted as
the best chocolate-chip cookie in the world
chewed four times and spit out
by someone with different body issues
than I have, having never wasted a cookie,
never not once in my whole life,
unless you count as waste that whole
eating more calories than you burn thing,
in which case I waste food all the time,
but I don’t count that way and I wish you wouldn’t.
 
If only self-loathing could contour
my shape! If only rumination paid off
in dollars and not cortisol!
If only the strange map of cracking
in the front left panel of my Ford
could show me the way to solvency.

Are all the mustards invasive?
The splash of yellow I see in fields now,
and Dame’s Rockets everywhere—
it’s hard to hate them
with their bright mauvey pink bouncing
in the breeze that is somehow not
strong enough to discourage mosquitoes.

Reconciliation comes before repair,
at least I think it does, and so I try
to love what’s here and who I am
and the massive disasters around me
and trust I will know what to fix when
it’s time to fix and until such time
as fixing is all I care about, I will just let
the fact that I am a large woman make me feel the same way
a bad song from the 80s can make me
happy, just happy, just really happy.

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A simpler time in the dirt

It’s my cousin Jodie’s birthday today (she’s a year older than me and we’re old enough that her age is starting to startle me) and I was trying to think of a childhood memory to share.  Here’s the one I decided on:

Growing up out in the country, there weren’t a lot of people around and the people who were around were mostly family. My Gran’ma Roane (great-grandmother) lived right behind us, my Aunt Becky kitty-cornered to her, and in the other direction, Gran’mommy and Gran’daddy and then just a little past them, my cousins Jodie & Rob and their parents. We rode our bikes back and forth A LOT.

One early spring day when we were 10 and 11 or so, which means Rob was around five, we pulled an old shower curtain out into the middle of a soy bean field.  It was just dirt and dried up remains of soy bean plants–too early for anything to be planted. We tromped across the field to a place where it dipped down some. You can see where in the picture, about halfway down–east of the road, there’s a curving green stripe that I think was a creek.  We were on the west side of the road, and on that side, it only resembled a creek when there was too much rain for a long time. I remember we wanted to be where no one could see us.  But this is the flat part of Southern Illinois, before you get into the driftless region with the Shawnee National Forest and other gorgeous variations of height in the landscape.  So however hidden we thought we were, I’m sure Gran’mommy could see us from the north, and Mom and Dad could see us from the south.

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Jodie & Rob’s house is the green square. Gran’mommy and Gran’daddy to the left of that. My house was down where the road curved. See what I mean about not very many people?

But we felt unseen, and saw ourselves as explorers. A ship on a sea? I think so, but it might’ve been a wagon. Not a spaceship, I don’t think.  Our main spaceship adventures happened in my closet.

I don’t remember anything happening. We just tromped in a field, pretended something for a while, then tromped home.

But wow–what a sweet time that was, to be able to amuse ourselves with an old shower curtain in a bare dirt field for probably hours.

Love ya, Jode! Happy Birthday!

Remarkable

 

Something remarkable happened today—
I looked in the mirror and I liked how I looked.
(I was wearing a swimming suit, by the way.)

There’s something you should know—how very much I weigh,
and the fact that my back is fused and strange and crooked.
Something remarkable happened today

in the locker room mirror. I thought, “Hey–
nice hip.” (The right one sticks out and I had it stuck.)
I was wearing my bright blue one-piece, by the way,

the one that inspired a very fit man last month to say
“New suit, looks good.” I mostly just said thanks,
which means another remarkable thing happened that day.

I didn’t make excuses. I didn’t say
I’m sorry I’m not leaner. I didn’t choke
for wearing a swimming suit. By the way,

I thought my entire body looked okay.
For me to think that—it’s like lightning struck.
Something remarkable happened today.
I was wearing a swimming suit, by the way.

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Thinking About Camille Paglia in the Pool

I think she’d have a serious suit.
I think she’d wear a swim cap, no matter
how short her hair was currently.
I think she’d have a lane preference
and I think she’d express it to anyone
already there. I think she’d get her way.

Would she be a swamper? A splasher? A drifter? No,
I think she’d move through the water cleanly,
like an angry little otter. An opinionated knife.
She might critique my stroke. She might admire my
persistence. She might have a theory about how I float.

What would it be like to care so much
about everything? My husband’s like that.
I am not.

______
She’s got a new book coming out, apparently–will probably buy it. Still think about Sexual Personae now and then. This article brought her to mind.

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The Bright Side of Confusion

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I am not currently confused but I have been thinking about confusing things. Not things that currently confuse me (although they might if I thought about them too much), but categories of things that are confusing. Such as

Things that confuse me:

How many cups are there in a pint? I think two.  How many pints in a quart? I’m guessing two.  How many quarts in a gallon? Is that also two? I don’t think so.   If the answer really is two for all of them, then why don’t I trust my answer? I have to look it up every time. Which doesn’t always help:

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No way I can remember that. I think it might not be right, also.

Things that confuse other people that don’t confuse me:

In my little town, our grocery store is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. We love having a grocery store here, so we try to shop there a lot.  For reasons unknown to me, the store closes early on Saturday and Sunday.  (Could be a lot of good reasons. Football might be part of it. Or church attendance. Not sure.  But this isn’t actually the confusing part.)  On Saturdays, they close at 6 p.m. On Sundays, they close at 5 p.m.  My husband can never remember which one is which, and he’s not alone. I figured out a mnemonic for it–I was born in 1965, so 65, so 6 comes first on Saturday and then 5 on Sunday.

This list actually isn’t very long.

Oh–I can absolutely still sing the Big Mac jingle perfectly. I did it for a class just this semester. We were looking at the Crying Indian PSA & I wanted them to also see a typical 70s commercial, so I showed them the McD’s commercial where people try to, and fail to, sing the jingle. I asked my students at the end if they thought I could do it & they looked skeptical, so I did it.  They seemed pleased. One of my proudest teaching moments, I tell you.

Things that would be less interesting if they weren’t confusing:

This is actually what got me started thinking about things that are confusing.  There’s that saying, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But usually, when people bring it up, they reference it as if it’s impossibly confusing.  Often the phrase, “how does that go?” is part of the conversation.  So people start making up variations, “The friend of my enemy is my….” or “The enemy of my friend is….” I think the fun of bringing it up is the automatic variation, the sense of uncertainty, which is appropriate when you’re thinking about enemies and friends and not sure which is which.

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Wikipedia is partly certain about it SANSKRIT, but then not sure CITATION NEEDED which seems appropriate to me with this.

 

(Now that I think of it, the McDonald’s commercial was probably aiming for this category, but since I can sing it so easily, I’m now wondering if there’s really anyone who can’t.)

And then I thought of “feed a fever, starve a cold,” which, when you say it, you almost always have to say “or is it….” and you trail off. I feel like this is from a Listerine commercial, anyway. (Which makes me wonder if the whole point of advertising is to pretend to answer a question that people are confused about, about which people aren’t really confused. Or wouldn’t be, if you didn’t put it on a commercial.) But my point is, if we knew for sure, we wouldn’t do it anyway, because when you have a cold, you usually have a fever, and if you have a fever and you’re hungry, you should probably go ahead and eat, and if you’re into intermittent fasting, you probably should take a week off if you’re sick. Maybe intermittent fasting is what made you sick.

And finally, that whole first-cousin once-removed, second-cousin twice-removed conversation that my family has periodically. The point is not to figure out the family tree. The point is to start talking about extended family and give ourselves an out at which point we can stop talking about extended family, and “I can never remember how that works” is a great way to cease and desist. One year we had a fun tangent, in which my Gran’mommy started talking about double-cousins. She meant when someone has a cousin by blood and by marriage, and we all knew what she meant, but Southern Illinois is southern enough we’d all heard jokes and hints and rumors about double cousins, and it was all related to incest, which of course isn’t funny.  Except that once, pulling into our family reunion, Mom told my brother and me that some of the cousins we would see that day were far enough removed that we could safely date them. I don’t think we asked “how many times removed?” I just remember making barfing noises together, a rare moment of sibling harmony for that time period.

I’m trying to think of more things that allegedly or certainly confuse us, that we’d enjoy less if they weren’t confusing.  Any ideas?