The Battlefield Where the Girls Say I Love You

That's just the thing: we will never tell you we love you. In fact, we're here only to hold hands across state lines and yell at the world. We're here to try to touch you across this chasm of flown things. Not even that. At most, I will teach you how to make a gin smoothie when there's nothing left in the house. Hannah can teach you several languages and what to do when your car breaks up with you. Thanks for coming out.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Boooooo! BOOOOO!

Here’s what it is: people in waiting rooms aren’t just unattractive, they’re misshapen. I mean, Aaron and I were in a pediatric clinic’s lobby (he’s fine, just a check-up) for two hours yesterday, and I have never seen such a parade of freaks. Like escapees from the set of that X-Files episode where all the people were inbred and crawling out of car trunks. And I know what some of you are thinking: They’re SICK! Cut them some slack! But sick is coughing, looking a little peaked, hair messy. I KNOW sick looking. It’s what I look like every morning. Sick is NOT teeth growing out horizontally like little yellow docks and children in soiled clothing gnawing on chair legs.

Oh, and I’ll tell you something else, I think all this talk about Halloween costumes getting sluttier is justified. Let’s just say that when I was five, I didn’t aspire to be the French maid that was hoping to escape the hell of her life by screwing the boss in a closet. There was this poor kid in that waiting room yesterday, couldn’t have been more than seven. She was obese, gobbling a giant bag of candy, and wearing a shirt that showed her stomach and read in glitter: my sexy ass. MY SEXY ASS. Are you kidding me.

My kids are going out tonight in Angel and Spiderman costumes as per decent. Maus is wearing a mouse costume. Bring on the sugar.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


if you have not seen the movie Once, see it as soon as you can. it's an irish film--low budget, but incredibly pretty. the actors do the vocals, and are just wonderful. for a taste, go to (i like "falling slowly")

Friday, October 26, 2007

La Casa Loco

1. But it’s true. Maus POOPED in the kids’ room. She hates them. Jumps at their voices and looks at me reprovingly when they’re around. She also POOPED in their bathtub. If they’re home, she hides and only slinks out when they’re gone. She’s been trying to get my attention. Climbs to the tops of curtains and hurls herself off. Hangs from the furniture in this totally depressed way. The other day she even tied herself to the fan and kicked the chair out from under her.

2. Aaron is crying. I made them clean their room. This is not why Aaron is crying. Aaron is crying because I told them they could go upstairs and play. ‘What’s the matter?’ I ask him. ‘But if we play, it’ll get messy. And we’ll have to clean it all up again!!’ He’s sobbing. I’m not surprised. These are the things that upset his whole universe. This is the Aaron who wailed when he was told to wear his new shoes (‘but they’ll get DIRTY!!!’), the Aaron who burst into tears when he had to stop to zip up his bag (it’s a waste of TIME!!), who screams when the cat scares him (sits there).

But looking at him, I totally get this exhaustion. The endless parade of plates to be washed, clothes to be folded. Why do we bother with any of it.

‘Well, that’s how it goes, honey.’ And I almost bawl because it’s so true.

He’s inconsolable and, right now, is sitting up there playing with a brown paper shopping bag.

3. Kan only looks at herself. That’s all she wants to do. She’d gaze at her
balloon reflection in a spoon before making eye contact with you. Her teacher showed me this book the class made. A compilation of little autobiographies. Kan’s was a love letter to herself. ‘She’s confident,’ she says meaningfully. A cautious smile.

4. I bought a scarecrow. It’s out there right now. You could drive by and see it. There, next to the pumpkins. Looking festive. You don’t have to tell me. What’s next? Holiday towels? Fucking cringe. But anything’s possible.

Still waiting for a better word than ‘poop’ to use in the following sentence: The cat pooped in the kids’ room. For the record, I have never used ‘pooped’ for tired. Jesus Christ, let’s not get crazy.

Also, I learned that voice from you. Which is what you use when you’re trying to strong-arm someone into doing something that they absolutely do not ever want to do—i.e. me into going to Charleston, a boyfriend into a 5am jog. And now, you’re/she (God, I don’t even know who I’m talking to anymore) doing this thing where you hang up on me. All. The. Time. I start a story. You hang up. It’s abusive. Your sister didn’t call you. You hung up on me to answer her call and look what happened. Morgans! Break it down!!!

this is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down.

i have to say this, because it so totally surpasses what's happened to hannah (see? we'll just call it that..."what's happened").

preface: when i was a kid i thought grown-ups who didn't have children were weird. like, way weird. i didn't get it. what was wrong with them, i'd think, while eating pads of butter off a cutting board or as i bit my sister's big toe so that she had to go to the hospital. i mean, WHO DOESN'T HAVE CHILDREN? IT'S UNNATURAL.

skip to: i call my sister, molly, just now because we're having a morgan family reunion at the folks. partay, people. all weekend long. i've been told to bring cheese and fruit platters (this and wine are all i'm good one's dumb enough to have me, say, bring a roast). she answers, only it's as if she's in a nightclub on the dance floor. and if you know my sister, who has a strange affinity for sweater sets, this is not an option.


me: what the fuck is happening?

her: shake it, morgy! go luke! go luke!

in the background: will smith's song, "switch." the entire family (including 5 and 2 year-olds)is singing in unison. after an entire minute, she turns it down.

her (still shouting): hey, mame! sorry. we're driving home from school and totally breaking it down.

i take the phone away from my ear and just stare at it. i don't want them. i don't even want goldfish at this point. furthermore, i don't understand.

they were like two dolphins in the immensity of the atlantic--one playful, the other stuck in a tuna net.

i set my alarm for 6:45, which means i got out of bed at 7:53...thinking my class began at 8:30, which it does everyday but friday, when it begins at 8. i don't even have time to wash my face. i've slept in my contacts so my eyes are twitching kind of like the woman's on strangers with candy.

it is all i can do to speak in a way the class may understand about terrance hayes (and for some reason levels of violation women experience in their teens, larry levis, the sox game, my loathing of anne sexton, halloween costumes, the pros and cons of staying at a hampton inn, hannah, and old navy).

later, a student walks into my office, knocks on the wall. i turn around.

"how were people during the byzantine empire buried?" she asks. i'm flattered that she thinks i might know the answer, that anyone i've ever met might know the answer. all i can think, though, is how phonetically pleasing constantinople is, what was that poppy song...

"you think sarcophagi?" she asks, prodding. i'm horrified that she knows this word so early in the morning, that she's using the correct and awkward plural.

i don't answer her. i just turn back to my e-mail. it's too much, you know? and i'm thinking this must be how i'm going to parent, just completely shut off when one of us overloads.

the reason i'm bringing this up is that hannah is driving me crazy. she's doing this thing where she talks like a mom--with all the passive-aggressive charm of a sunday school teacher--and i can't take it. simply cannot. she's using words like "peeved" and even--i can hardly bring myself to say this--"pooped." as in tired. as in maus pooped in the kids' room. this morning, after she browsed at target for an umbrella, she took them to the grocery, said to kan when they get there:

"who wants to be the engine while i steer?" i think she's talking about the cart. aaron's making vroom noises in the background.

okay, so listen. i already know how she's planning to get me back for this post, so i'm going to go ahead with it.
i'm inarticulate. there are many things about which i am not knowledgeable. say, cars. say, film. say, scientology. basic geography...

there's a CHANCE i made reference to the italian/turkish border yesterday, the one that doesn't exist. i was THINKING of the slovenian/italian border. anyway, i just said it wrong. hannah proceeds to tell me that, in fact, turkey is seperated from italy by various other countries.

point is, i was telling a lovely story about a man who had to kill a chicken when he went to visit his ex-girlfriend's family in northern italy. and she didn't care. this, the one man who gives perfectly justifiable gifts after doing nothing wrong (say, a value pac of tic tacs). and she just has to pick pick pick.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

a man walks into a wall. again.

all i'm certain of is the red sox. in life, i mean. in life and in regard to some semblance of kindness. and in moral clarity.

lately, i have been amazed by men. not amazed in the fluorescent goodness of chivalry kind of way. more like i'm standing here watching a man beat himself over the head with a frying pan. and even though i have been watching him do it all day, or for a few years, i'm surprised.

which is nothing special except--and hannah can attest to this--it's not a single person. it's a slew of you. it's like watching the graduating class of ridiculous beat themselves in unison over the head with a frying pan.

i tried not to do this. you know? i love men. i love their company, the whole air of mystery that comes with, you know, them not being women. but i feel like i'm living inside the carnival of bad decisions. to be fair, i'm a part of it. like, i recognize the roller coaster is going to hang upside down for a full minute and none of the seatbelts work but i'm waiting it out in line.

i'm trying to do this without specifics, and yet we all know you have to give the writing a house.

a man cheats on his girlfriend. they fix the problem by moving to, say, kansas, only so he can cheat on her there as well. with a girl who lives in alabama.

a man leaves his wife on her 4oth birthday, says, "i didn't want to look back one day and see that my life was a compromise. also i need to focus on my paddling, take it to the next level." (refers to canoe, i think)

a woman tells a man she's pregnant. the man, in turn, says "interesting" softly to himself, takes his baseball hat off and then puts it back on...backwards.

a man is not there for a woman the only time she has ever needed him. he also owes her money. he doesn't call for a couple days, then does, drunk and from a golf course.

all of these men regret whatever it is they've done that was supposed to be more fun or less compromising or whatever and attempt to get the women back by offering up mix cd's and the latest edition of paste magazine.

How could they get together? They were like two people who couldn’t get together.

When Mamie last came to visit, we moved in unison. Think synchronized swimmers, the sweet grace of aquatic ballet. In Target, we did not gesture wildly. Our arms moved in slow arpeggios. A pair of harpists escaped from the stage to buy children’s socks. Surely, we looked a little startled at the cheap quality of light. In the evening, we gathered the children to us, took turns reading, while outside the moon drifted slowly, like a buoy, in the trees.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. What really happened is that Mamie came home at 230 a.m. I thought she was staying elsewhere. The doors were locked; I was asleep. A distant pounding. I stumbled to the front door and flung it open. Looked around. Nothing. I started to close it when I heard, “Wait!! I’m here!” Cue Mamie falling out of the hedge. "I was looking for the secret way," she told me. There were bits of pine straw in her hair. For the record, the hedge at the front of the house is impassible. Nothing makes it through there. Nothing, except Mamie. “I was going to, you know, open a window. Tap on a brick for the opening,” she continued, trying to pat my shoulder and missing by a foot. I followed her inside. She kept going, “Ssshhh. Ssshhh.” Even though I hadn’t said a word. “Ssshhh, do you, by any chance, have some small amount of alcohol? Just an itty-bitty bit? Ssshhh!”

Against my will, I’d started to wake up. Concentrated on drinking as quickly as possible while someone on speaker phone screamed, “I love you Mamieeeee!!” As soon as I started feeling happy, Mamie fell asleep in her rocking chair. “I needa gottobed.” It’s her signature move. She’s with you, she’s with you, and then with the terrible stubbornness of a child, she abandons you. I showed her where she was supposed to sleep. She toddled over to my bed and curled up in it. With all the blankets. I slept in the living room.

The next morning, she told me that she woke up later and didn’t know where she was. She padded around the house, and prodded gently at my stomach to reassure herself that I was me. I remain indignant about the fact that she ever thought it was okay to do that.

And now, months later, we’re still off. There’s more than highway and a really fucked up yard-zoo with giant plastic animals between us. We’re living worlds apart and our yelling is like voices muffled over water. Everything we say and do comes out wrong and isolated. We’re clearly in the winter of our marriage. She calls laughing. I tell her to get it together. I panic about something, she says she has no sympathy. This week, there’s been some sort of turn-around. Mamie is euphoric, is the playful dolphin while I am the one stuck in a tuna net. She seems to be ending every story with: And then, they said they loved me. Or: And then they started a petition to keep me in their lives forever or their lives would no longer have meaning. At which point I scream, “I KNOW!!!”

People often ask if Mamie and I are actually in a fight. The answer is obviously yes. Still, if we’re on opposite sides of the lake, at the very least, we still keep our eyes trained on what the other is doing. Even if it’s just to say, “Stop it. Stop looking at me.” Today, I told Mamie I would drive there with the kids—me in a loose nightgown with my hair in a messy braid, them asleep in the backseat—only to beat punch kick someone. And I meant it, so that’s something.

hannah and mamie had never met. they were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

okay, i'm teaching a forms class. apparently. only i didn't exactly know that until recently. so, instead of, say, immersing them in the ghazal, we're reinventing the poetic device. (shut it. stop laughing. hannah's having her classes write beer jingles. so there.) and really, jarvis, in a fractured world such as this, how can me saying that you're like a moon stapled in the sky really contain all that you are? all that i want to say you are?

closing time at the second avenue deli

this is the time of night of the delicatessen
when the manager is balancing a nearly empty ketchup bottle
upside-down on a nearly full ketchup bottle
and spreading his hands slowly away
from the perfect balance like shall i say
a priest blessing the balance, the achievement
of perfect emptiness, of perfect fullness? no,
this is a kosher delicatessen. the manager
is not like. he is not like a priest,
he is not even like a rabbi, he
is not like anyone else except the manager
as he turns to watch the waitress
discussing the lamb stew with my wife,
how most people eat the whole thing,
they don't take it home in a container,
as she mops up the tables, as the
cashier shall i say balances out?
no. the computer does all that. this
is not the time for metaphors. this is the time
to turn out the lights, and yes,
imagine it, those two ketchup bottles
will stand there all night long
as acrobatic metaphors of balance,
of emptiness, of fullness perfectly contained,
of any metaphor you wish unless
the manager snaps his fingers at the door,
goes back, and separates them for the night
from that unnatural balance, and the store goes dark
as my wife says should we take a cab
or walk, the stew is starting to drip already.
shall i say that the container can not
contain the thing contained anymore? no.
just that the lamb stew is leaking all across town
in one place: it is leaking on the floor of the taxi-cab,
and that somebody is going to pay for this ride.

alan dugan

*side note: this week we're reading nin andrews' any kind of excuse and terrance hayes' wind in a box. i figure if we're talking forms, we might as well start with prose poems and move into verse? anyway, we're talking about terrance hayes. or i'm talking. and my hair's getting crazy. and i'm comparing him to c.k. williams in the way his narrative moves into the meditative. only he's better and younger and his is the complex story of a post-civil rights black man. and really what i mean is that i'd like to marry him...only everyone's kind of laughing. and i think at me...until someone starts humming "dick in a box" but then changing the words to "wind in a box." and now nothing, nothing will ever be the same.
and also, also, Hot College Student wrote a poem about a fat shirtless guy watching the packers game in the freezing cold. it's a letter actually, a direct address. but it moves into this thing about how men are always giving women their jackets, but then the women complain about being hot because we can complain about anything. it ends, though, with this turn. "isn't it us, though, really? looking around for something to give to a woman other than a jacket?" anyway, it turned out pretty beautiful.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

seems to me i'm boston, hannah's cleveland

well, well, well. if we would all flip through our urban dictionaries (which is what i'm doing while my students are writing poems using anti-similes, which we'll get to), we find:

indo: marijuana, specifically modern cross-breeds of indonesian (hence, "indo") indica strains with western sativa, resulting in pungent, broadleafed...trees.

friendship is never about winning or losing........unless it's unavoidable.

nevermind. we won't get to anti-similes. i realize now it'll just make my teaching look crazy...i'm pretty sure i just went on a rampage about poetic devices. i think i called them "contraptions," quoted that alan dugan line about metaphors: "shall i say that the container can not / contain the thing contained anymore?"

that being said, hannah is like the setting sun, the surprise of gulls falling into line at a water's edge.


Monday, October 22, 2007

precisely, erock. precisely.

you know we gangsta

omg. i'm dying laughing. so is mamie, which is bad bc she's speeding on a highway somewhere.

me: i think the zoloft is making me lose my funny. i need the hysterical panic/depression for it.

mame (comfortingly): nah, dude. you're funny. you just don't realize it. you're too listless. i mean that last post was totally funny. indo? i mean, that was great.

me: what?

mame: the thing about the indo in the fridge? that was awesome. that's why i called you snoop.

me: what are you talking about?

mame: indo... isn't that some kind of weed?

me: what? god. no! it's short for indochine. as in, the thai restaurant.

mame: i thought it was weed!! i thought it was weed!!

me: the more you scream it, the crazier you sound.

instead of leftover indo and wine, i have fifty servings of disney cake in the fridge

Mamie, don’t think I don’t know what you’re about. The giant gummy bags? Gummy burgers, gummy fried eggs? I thought you were there for me.

The other day, Mames called from Old Navy to tell me she’s bought Kan purple jeans and a gold sweater. I tell her we’re not raising Beyonce over here. Kan, of course, loves them (“Aaahoooh!).

Let’s face it though: nothing, not the personalized piggy bank, not the Swan’s Lake jewelry box, not the ballerina necklace and bracelet, will beat out the Bratz doll. The one that spent the night before the party at a revived Studio 54 doing lines in the bathroom.

In the end, I guess it went swimmingly. I’m already forgetting it in my signature defensive style. Little girls wearing wreaths fed ducks and played on tire swings. They hit the piƱata with surprising vim. That bit was sort of unsettling--they would smile sweetly, then suddenly get v. determined and MAD and momentarily look like little lunatics. Like, they were supposed to hit 3 times, but it was apparently hard to stop once they got started. They just kept going, while the adults clapped and whimpered in terror. Some of those with bad aim wound up beating me instead. But it’s fine. Light bruising. Whatever.

And then. Kan’s been begging me to eat lunch with her at school, especially today because it’s now officially her birthday. I don’t have the time or the masochistic desire to eat fish sticks in a windowless room full of children (shudder), so I just drop off cupcakes. Kan is sent to collect them with a friend. She sees the box, says, “Ooooh, cupcakes.” Walks up, takes the box, ignores me, and walks off with her friend. “You’re welcome,” I shout after her down the hallway, “not a problem! Happy birthday!” I’m like the person who’s been broken up with that doesn’t get it yet. She looks back at me like, “Ew, did it just speak?”

Who cares. That birthday party was so five minutes ago. Now, we need to CARVE PUMPKINS!!!! DECORATE FOR HALLOWEEN!!!! BAKE PUMPKIN EVERYTHING!!!! WE NEED GHOSTS AND SCARECROWS!!!! MOOOOOVE!!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

you're simply fourth place

The scene at the appreciation luncheon was startling. Mot Znuk was not his normal heavy-lidded self, but charged up somehow. I’m starting to link this behavior to situations involving free food. Remember the involvement carnival? The Jesus dogs?

So, he’s all amped about the potato salad, is waving his fork about, is telling his chicken if no one were watching he’d be using his hands (“I’d get in there, I’d eat you right up”). I want to shout gross, but don’t because I’ve dropped food down my front. We’re a disaster. I’m outrageously uncomfortable. The giant bird mascot keeps coming really close and waving and I can’t find the eyes.

“In his mouth, in the beak,” Mot says peering, squinting. Then, with his mouth full, he’s telling someone who’s stopped by our table, that we don’t know, “This is some spread; really, a fine spread.”

Point out to Mot that I’ve eaten five cornbread mini-muffins. “You’ve got muffin fever,” Mot says jovially. I wipe butter off my wrist. He wipes chicken off his sunglasses and whisper-screams like a little girl when the chancellor walks up. Disaster.

Plus, they’re playing “You’re Simply the Best.” On loop. As in, it’s the only song playing. Nearby someone uses the term “critters” in a conversation about safaris. We get seconds.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

don't think i won't fedex her a pinata.

i stepped out today for some crest whitening strips and kan's birthday present. here's the thing: i hate buying gifts for little people. i tend to fail miserably, like the time i bought morgan galoshes and a paisley one-piece bathing suit. she had no idea what the galoshes were and threw them across the living room. upon opening the suit, she mumbled, "my mom hates this kind. she says the tie around the neck won't stay tied and could kill me." my sister felt so bad that the next morning they had a photo shoot in aunt mamie's ridiculous choice of apparel and mailed the pictures to me.
whatever. i'm so mad at hannah i could scream. it nearly caused me to buy kan dora the explorer dolls that talk and really ugly clothes that would embarrass hannah. i nearly bought kan a journal, for crying out loud. SHE'S SIX. morgan's almost six and i know when she put together the invitations for her pretend party, they were supposed to say, "you're invited..." but instead read, "mollymorganlovelovelovemorgan." molly's my sister's name but i thought for sure kids didn't think their moms had names till they were, like, 11.
anyway, this morning i suggested we go on a 24 hour vacation. that's it. just a day. we leave early, get to charleston by 10, shop all day, eat a nice dinner, and go see the avett brothers at the music farm. not a big deal. it's on a sunday, for christ's sake. she says, " i can't leave them." jesus. my parents were gone for the better part of the 1980's. and look, we turned out fine. once i was old enough to reach the kitchen sink, they paid me to stay home alone. as an incentive. she says, "i could get arrested." no, what could get her ass arrested is her finally losing it.
so, we've both had traumatic weeks. well, mainly me. and not traumatic in an "it's all copy let's blog about it" way, but in a "hell, i guess parts of this will be funny in 20 years" kind of way. so i'm yelling at her about charleston and she yell-whispers at me (because she's at school), "i'm trying to be gentle with you but you're making it very difficult." whatever. chucktown, baybay. get your palm tree printed flip flops ready.
so here's what i'm thinking. talley takes morning shift--you know, take the kids to pcj and out for a game of eye-spy in the park. then, tom could teach them how to let their guards down by starting up a game of "trust." perhaps kimi could take them with for yoga. simona has 'em night shift, jarvis brings them to the creative writing office in the morning, and we're home before you know it. before you know it!!!! who's with me???!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Kan's bday, first lines, and other forms of useless

Awful day. I went to some party supply store, walked around with a basket for an hour, freaked, and left. This birthday is becoming the person who hunts you down that you don’t want to see, so you suddenly find yourself darting behind trees or throwing yourself headlong into the nearest closet or hiding in the ladies’ for an hour.

I had invitations made. Xeroxed some painting of Kan's that I dug up, so I wouldn’t have to use her invitations which thankfully weren’t done, because they all depicted the same thing: she, standing in a whirlwind of sparkles, wearing a tiara, with a long, miserable line of smaller-sized girls queuing up to deliver an array of oversized presents.

When I was jotting down info on the inside of the invites, I lost my head completely. Do I have them RSVP? Do I not? Who ARE these people? I’m distracted because I’m talking to Mamie, so I decide to end with my number and the phrase “if confused” in parentheses. Which I clearly just meant for myself.

Later, I call my Mom from the parking lot of the party supply store. Need help! I shout. She says, Just be sure that you SAY that people can’t just leave their kids there. I can’t answer because I’m having a heart attack. Leave their children??? The invites will now include a hand-written addendum: RSVP. And we are not responsible for your brood/offspring/pet humans should they be left unattended.

And now for something completely different. Various beginnings, courtesy of the kids:

“When I was upstairs counting my coins…” (Kan)

“When I was scrubbing and scrubbing the cat’s belly…” (Kan)

“When Kanasta gets old soon she would be a grandma, but still kinda alive you know...” (Aaron)

“Hannah, do you KNOW what I’m thinking about DOING?” (Kan)

“Do you want to watch me count my coins?” (Kan)

“What would happen if the duck swam into the fountain and went spinning high up in the air and then fell down like this see see like this…” (Aaron)

“What would happen if it was midnight, and what would you say?” (Aaron)

“Hello. Hi. Are you sitting there? I cannot play with you. Yes, you’re black with an apple and—what did you say? Oh, okay.” (Aaron in a conversation with my laptop)

And finally: I hate Disney. Goodnight.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


i'm on "break," which is that time in the middle of the three hour poetry class when i let the students leave class for snack or the flash drive they left in their dorm room. (you should know, snack inevitably involves some flavor of frozen yogurt mixed with some kind of cereal. it's really sick.) i take the phone to the edge of campus and call hannah:

me: i feel like i have to physically get away sometimes, like calling from my office would be too close.

hannah: i know. i've been thinking about how nice a weekend day care would be.

me: you should join one of those gyms where the have included child care. maybe gold's does it?
like, you could just have an hour a day for yourself. to workout. maybe sit in the sauna.

hannah: huh. you think you'd have to stay there for the hour?

me: hannah! yes.

hannah: no. f*ck that. i need an hour to myself for drinking. for grading papers.

me: you could grade on the bike.

hannah: on the bike? jesus. i'm not like you people. shouldn't you be solving a crossword puzzle while on the elliptical machine, somehow simultaneously making an omelet and breaking up with someone?

me: hate you. can i blog about this?

hannah: no.

me: please? it's funny.

hannah: no. fine.

this is all that has happened today. that's why.

a student just left my office. not just any student. the very same one who a) uses lines like, "spinning the harsh threads of language into a sturdy rug," or, "if birds of paradise are mentioned, it is only because they are being grilled and eaten," or "the grays and oranges of simic's palate can't be sorted into a box with colored pencils and stray rubber bands," or "this surprise, like cockroaches, scuttles black against a clean white sheet." (don't worry, i asked her permission to quote from her papers to anyone at any given moment.) the same one who b) spent an entire sunday sketching a possible tattoo for me based on mark doty's poetry triangle.

so she says, "i had this dream you were a blackjack dealer. you had on the red vest, the white collared shirt with the sharp cuffs."

me: uh huh.

her: anyway, i go up to you and i whisper, "you've got the sheet." and you're like, "no i don't," but then you give it to me.

me: what sheet?

her: the sheet that has all the secrets of synthetic division on it.

me: oh.

her: anyway, something's not right about it and i can't get the problem. i'm like, "mamie, the problem won't break." but you just nod and tell me to keep at it.

me: well, that was nice.

her: yeah, but i couldn't get it. (she does some weird hand motion at me.)

me: so?

her: (frustrated) so i didn't win the lottery.

she mumbles some sort of napoleon dynamite-ish "gosh." it has become serious.

me: what do you want from me? i teach poetry.

her: nothing. forget it.

i yell after her to "keep at it." she doesn't laugh. we are in a fight because of some dream that i was a math wizard disguised as a gambling dealer. i miss high school so much.

*oh, and there's this: the new york times today ran a FRONT PAGE article in house & home titled "good design, happy cats?" it's about cat furniture, how it's always been a design nightmare (what with the climbing trees made out of cheap carpet), but how now designers are invoking a frank lloyd wright approach. your home can be a cat's heaven and stylish!!! this problem, says the writer, "has been a dilemma for years." skip to the next page, say, page D7: "Rwandans Weave Baskets of Hope." WHAT? only in f-ing america. page SEVEN. six pages AFTER the AGE OLD DILEMMA of cat furniture!!!! i hate everyone.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

shit we'd like back

1. the cereal. give it back. there’s no way we ate all that
2. kan’s ‘warm fuzzy’ (pink cotton ball). it was right THERE on the floor
3. aaron’s pencil with the green eraser. also every other pencil he’s owned that has been taken from us
4. one battered copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; we weren’t done
5. kan’s water bottle that she took to the park ‘that one time’
6. my bourbon
7. aaron’s penguin sticker
8. my bourbon, and also the ENTIRE CELLAR of wine which has gone missing
9. aaron’s polyester spiderman outfit (**actually, mea culpa. that monstrosity is in the attic)
10. all our socks
11. the seven hours of sleep you keep taking from me nightly. put them back in their rightful place, before 5 am
12. mamie. last spotted running and talking on a cell phone somewhere in sc
13. my fucking bourbon

Monday, October 8, 2007

and one for my homies, eluard and breton

"your lives are starting to take on a french surrealist flare...where each poem/painting involves a jester, a balloon, and someone being lifted into the air..." --mamie in gchat

A full week has passed, and I was just going to turn my back on the trauma. But then, Saturday happened.

It’s like this: ever since I enrolled the kids, they’ve been coming home with folders of junk. Stacks and stacks of papers that scatter and blow around our house like so many neon leaves. And most of these have been about an event which has instilled in me the deepest sense of foreboding. I didn’t know what Fall Festival was; I didn’t particularly want to know. Every time I caught sight of yet another request that I bake a cake or donate my life savings, I would viciously stuff it in the recycling bin. You must understand, you must appreciate, the sheer volume of literature we’re talking. Now there will be musical chairs. And now, pony rides. And now, Mrs Whatshername has convinced Mr Whathisname to don a horse costume. And finally, a series of complicated and useless activities designed to make me turtle up in the remotest regions of my soul.

To my infinite relief, the kids didn’t ever mention it. Maybe because they’ve been too busy gibbering a nerve-jangling Spanish song (the whole song is comprised of a single line to be reeled off rapidly and tunelessly: buenos dias, buenos tardes, buenos noches a ti ti ti). At any rate, I grew pretty smug about the whole thing. Being too cool, I thought, must run in our blood. I mean, we’re into social events, just ones that aren’t punctuated with exclamation marks. All they want is to be studious, to listen to Vivaldi’s Fall, or at least Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions, and to watch appreciatively as I write a memoir that will at once fund their college educations and deliver prose so luminous, unprecedented, and startling that people will cry out, Bravo! I am stabbed in the heart by the galloping beauty of this book!

Anyway. Last Friday. We’re walking to the bus stop when I notice the other children are behaving rather oddly. As in, they’re running full tilt at us, mouths open and screaming. I look around wildly for the snarling dog, the escaped convict. Then the screams become more distinct: FALL!! FESTIVAAAAL!!! Oh, Jesus. Really? I look at the other parents like, Hey, reel in your contagious offspring. Kanasta and Aaron tighten their grips on my hand, look up at me confused. I try to look reassuring, Don’t worry kids, I’ve got your backs. Glare at the other parents, and grumpily await their sheepish apologies. Their arms go up in an impromptu cheerleading exercise. They grin. They scream. FALL FESTIVAAAL!!! Christ. The kids are blabbering. Kan’s expression is curious, is succumbing, is tensing with joy. I can feel Aaron rocking on the balls of his feet. Uh-oh.

After school, they want to skip daycare and go straight to Fall! Festival!!! It doesn’t start for another five hours, I tell them, as if that’s any deterrent, as if that’s anything but five more hours in which to get AMPED. In the humid evening, we appear on the scene. I’ve brought my game face, but no adult back-up. I’m considering those leash things. Kan wants to dig in a bucket of sand for a $10 keychain that unaccountably reads STOP YOUR FEET. Aaron wants to bounce in a netted tent. But this, people, is where the failures, the gruesome inadequacies of humanity reveal themselves. A boy about nine runs up to Aaron. He’s red in the face and growling. He punches the air. His mother puts a meaty hand on his shoulder, desperately tries to hold him back. Arrrgh! Rrroweeeerrrr, says the kid, flailing his fists. Aaron tries to climb up me to safety. Someone walks by dressed as a horse. Mr Whatshisname is regretting his marriage, his life. The horse head is on backwards and there are wads of gum stuck to the sparse mane. It’s wretched. I can’t spend our pre-purchased tickets fast enough. Dark now, and the whole place has taken on the unsettling atmosphere of a rave (or whatever gatherings happen now, post-1995). Glowing necklaces and the like. The rest of the evening involves me running crazily back and forth from where Aaron is fishing in a waterless kiddie pool for lollipops to where Kan is getting butterflies painted all over her forehead, hair, and clothing. I yank her out of there before they can spray-paint her hair purple.

Finally, we are in forlorn line of people, shuffling along in a shadowy field behind the school for a ride on a miniscule and melancholy pony. Children are trundled off one by one, for a slow walk in the semi-dark. It smells of river, of damp and rotting pine.

Cut to Saturday. I’m not thinking of Fall! Festival!!! anymore. I’m thinking of quiet, of introspection, of coffee and 800 mils of Ibuprofen at regular intervals. I love that every time I go out on my back deck post 8pm (otherwise known as bedtime-the-moment-of-grace) and pop open the bottle of wine and light a cig, that I feel some sense of accomplishment. I think I’m so smart. Always, the dry-mouthed and aching morning is a surprise. At Dixie this morning, the kids and I huddle together over the menu, only to find that it’s dwindled to three items. I keep turning it over and over, wondering if there were more gallon jugs of wine that Mot brought by and I just don’t remember. But why is the menu limited? Well, because it’s Riverfest!!! The horror. Thing is, I’ve been treating excursions like reconnaissance missions. Leave, avoid brightly colored objects, distract the children with indie music, threaten them with toy boycotts, and buy. milk. fast.

When we walk out of Dixie, it’s a world of jugglers and clowns and giant ice creams. We watch skaters skate, wee girls dance. People try to sell us real estate, funnel cakes, deep-fried candy bars. The kids point at people in wheel chairs, we sit on a bench to discuss general evils of pointing. We buy: one tiger puppet (Smacks—all his toys have names that are variations on Max), one shitzu puppet (Molly). It’s raining on the way home, and I’m thinking of how that pony stopped in front of me and nuzzled the palm of my hand, her eye large and liquid. Her eye was a sad ocean. Her eye was the long-lashed eye of a drunken woman drowning in said sad ocean.

let 'em work, let 'em live: a poll

in college, my friend's older brother worked as a roadside construction guy. not even that. he held up the STOP/SLOW sign that guided traffic. he did this for months, and i would've felt bad for the guy if he hadn't been such an ass to me when we were kids.
i don't trust people who have never had god-awful jobs. they build character, assuming you don't have to stick with one for too long...assuming, also, we're talking jobs that are legal.

i worked at the same bar for seven years, beginning as a hostess the same month i turned fifteen. by seventeen, i had taken shots of bourbon off the hot food line and directed patrons to their seats by imitating an air traffic control guy, using rolled silverware in lieu of flashlights (precisely the reason my children will never work in bars).
the summer before my sophomore year in college, i picked up a second job at victoria's secret. i hung underwear on cushioned hangers, wore a black wool suit in july, and answered the phone all day like this: "thank you for calling victoria's secret, home of the new lightly lined, deep V, cotton bra collection." after seven days i called in, saying, "i'm not coming in."
janice, my boss, said, "this morning?"
i said, "no, not ever."
i vaguely remember some threat about not EVER being allowed to work for the limited corporation again.

at the same age, my sister managed to get fired from her stint at ACE hardware. also from her work at a calabash drive-thru.

in grad school, i worked first as a catering server and was forced to wear a full annie lennox tuxedo. i tried constantly to feel like a guest at these parties, thought for sure at times that i blended in, that i might meet mr. somewhatbetterthanwrong while carrying around trays of mini crab cakes, one white linen draped over my shoulder, my hair a frizzy mess from the kitchen's heat lamps.

the best, though, the absolute best was my year-long run as the manager of a day spa. even better, this opportunity only occurred after morgan (friend morgan, not niece morgan) moved to brooklyn and i became her successor (she had hired me as a receptionist). i argued with reps about nail polish colors we desperately needed but were out of: "what do you MEAN, havana nights red and holy pink pagoda are on back order? joan smythe is going to FLIP when she comes in for her manicure." or, even more often, entire bridal parties showed up at dawn on saturdays for "up do's." these were a stylist's worst nightmare. inevitably, half of the hairdressers would be hungover and unaccounted for, their whereabouts unknown, and i'd be left with a hysterical bride named christy to deal with.

this is why it infuriates me when struggling artists who have never done manual labor or worked in a restaurant say they can't find work. give me a break. a good bit of my thesis was written while priming and painting all the doors and entryways of wilmington's bellamy mansion.

and it always comes down to this: you call your mother to say, "that's it. the guy at table 6 thanked me for a shot of frangelico by shoving money into my back pocket and slapping me on the ass like we were at platinum plus." or, "i scrubbed the porch of the bellamy with something that LOOKED like murphy's oil soap but was actually some sort of acid."
to which she replies, "at least this will make for good material." or, if she's really asking for it, a chipper "it's all copy." i'm over it. i don't want any more material; god knows i don't have time to make any sense of it.

anyway, a poll: i want to know shitty jobs, and i want to know them now. i feel like we've done this before? on tom's blog? somewhere? i don't care. jobs. now. MOOOVE!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

what we talk about when we don't talk about the childrens' multiple personalities (or viggo mortenson)...

mac and i decide to go to the movies today. (don't worry. we'll get to the children. we always do.) it takes us a little under an hour to decide on one (eastern promises). begins at 2. mac says something like, "i'll meet you there at 1:40." this seems a little excessive. it reminds me of my sister, who says things like, "if you get to the movie one minute late, i'm going in without you." and then when i am one minute late, drags me in by the arm.
i negotiate. 1:48 it is. i go to the sport authority store before. for cross trainers. seems to me between asics and new balance, someone would get it right: a shoe across between silver socks and lumber jack hiking boots. i find a pair. i grab a propel sport water. i walk next door to the theater. mac is not playing video games, which i had predicted. instead, he is spending 12000 dollars at concession. i approach. he hands me two 96 ounce cherry cokes. he's holding a tub of popcorn the size of dallas, says, "if we finish it, we get refills." he chastises me for not grabbing enough napkins. it's too much. all of it. i gain a hundred pounds by simply looking at the soda.
when i get to my parents' house later today, they hand me a paint can and instruct me to take it to molly's house (the sister). when i get there, gavin (husband, saint of a brother in law) is sitting in a fold out tailgating chair on the lawn, miller lites surrounding, "when doves cry" is blaring from the ipod thing. luke, the two year old, is wearing a phillies hat so big it comes down to his nose. he's bumping into things. morgan, age five, is leaning against a tree, sobbing. i go to her because she seems the most in need somehow.
me: what happened?
her: justin said he's having a party and i can't come.
i roll my eyes. this is boy/girl 101. i'm annoyed and slightly disappointed. have i taught her nothing?
me: this is easy, morg. you tell him you're having your own party and that he's not invited.
i'm mortified that she's run away from him, crying. the running away i can get down with, but this show of vulnerability.
me: listen, you can hang out with me. i'm cooler. older.
meanwhile, i'm holding a blue stuffed alien that talks. she tells me it's called a bibble. she looks wary.
i play soccer with the dog and a tennis ball. morgan goes inside, comes back with hand drawn invitations. she stomps to the cul de sac, where the boys are. i hear her say:
"i'm having an end of the year halloween party. you are all invited except that you can't bring your bikes or justin."
side note: luke is not actually drinking miller lite. i would never allow anyone i love except for gavin drink such an abomination.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

enter Michaela

Mim (my wife) to Aaron: Remember the trajectory of the fork? Plate, mouth. Plate, mouth.

Kan, talking to the cat: Even if I didn’t have you, it would be okay because I have a Michaela.

Mim/Me: Who?

Kan: Michaela. My imaginary friend, Michaela. She’s standing right here! (Points to empty space at the table.)

I see an opportunity, and I’m taking it.

Me: Hey, Kan… do you think your imaginary little friend would like to spend the night in Mimosa’s room and watch her sleep?

Mim: No.

Aaron nods vigorously, says: Mmmmmhmm. Plate, mouth. Plate, mouth. (Broccoli tumbles.)

Kan: She HAS been. She stands and sleeps in there every night.

Me: See?!! She LOVES you.

Kan: Sometimes she stands in the living room…

Me: You mean, when Mim comes home late at night and the lights are off that Michaela is just standing there in the dark just waiting for her?

Kan, gleefully: Uh-huh.

Mim: (gurgling sound) Don’t you think she wants to go home to her OWN family?

Kan: Nope, she has no family.

Me: Ils sont MORTS!!!

Aaron: HANNAH!!! Everybody eats everything!! (Sings this next bit) They can eat birds, they can eat crocodiles, any kind of manimal, maniminals, manina… um elephants.

**I read this to Mim, and Kan goes, Who are you sending that to? Mim says, Our friends. Delighted moans from the children. Kan screams, I can’t believe I SAID any of that! Aaron screams, inexplicably: JESSICA!!!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

i'm in a fight with mamie

She doesn’t care, doesn’t have time, or the inclination to fight back. Which only makes me crazier. She’s too busy for me, for all of you. You should feel resentment, as I do. She’s out there, living. I’m blogging and you’re reading it.

Today was a cruel joke. I wake up when it is still night to hunt my father down on g-chat. Instead, Mamie’s there. We both write the same thing: What the f*ck are you doing up? Except mine’s the only legitimate question. Mamie has strep. Don’t feel sorry for her—she has strep, and she also just got back from buying bronzer (it’s like the patch for tanning saloners). She follows up with: Are you always up at this hour? I hate her and don’t answer. What does “a.m.” mean? she asks. I tell her it means “ante meridien.” She says, Lame and I’m going back to bed. I get up, make organic waffles with flax and blueberries. **

The children wake up, get dressed, eat, and do their homework as they’re eating. It’s 7:00 am. The first lesson I have for them is: wait until the last minute for everything. As Aaron is sounding out “monkey,” I’m crouched under the table pulling on his socks. Team effort. When I glance at my watch, I see with relief that it is still 7:00 am. I’m smug. We swagger to the bus stop. First ones, we point out to each other. Time drags by. We’re all nervous. The children hold my hands. Suspiciously, I look down at them and say, Do you have school today? They shrug. I look down at my watch. It’s 7:00 am. Is problem. We rush back to my house, but the alarm clock reads 7:15—we should still have been there on time. I look for a schedule of classes—no luck. I call the school, and accuse them of shutting down everything without a notice. Oh no, we’re all here, the sweet secretary tells me. What time is it? I demand, watching the children remove their shoes like, Guess life is cancelled for the day. The secretary tells me it’s 8:10. All of the clocks have either stopped or read the wrong time. I look around in a panic. Who is doing this? I almost shout.

**As I was writing this, Mamie called to tell me she was blogging. Well, I’m just not re-writing this. And it’s not that I miss you here on the blog Mames, but everywhere. Like in my heart. This is the root of the root, the bud of the bud, the sky of the sky. Something something of a tree called life. I carry your heart, I carry it in my heart.

vase of dead flowers on the mantel and everywhere is--socks, socks, socks!

we know. you don't think we know? we're not blogging. how could we? we don't sleep, we certainly aren't writing (well), we have aphasia. it's like this: your live in girlfriend/partner/spouse asks you to do ONE LITTLE THING, say, move the winter coats from the attic to the hall closet. or, repaint the deck chairs. you know what happens when you don't do it? (hannah's been nagging me to blog since sunday.) you say something idiotic and asking-for-it like, "guess what i did today?" what follows should be brilliant because you biked paris mountain or you got published or you figured out how to shave in the 2 ft by 2 ft shower. but you can't, because she's saying, "well, i certainly know what you DIDN'T do today. i ask you to do one thing, ONE THING...and i've got the children, for god's sake, while you're out gallivanting around with the guys."
this is my life. and we don't even live in the same state.
so, back to writing: you can just imagine how the poetry's going. listen, my rationale is this: britney spears loses her children. this is not so fascinating. but she finds out, gives them over, and GOES DIRECTLY TO THE TANNING BED. and radiohead is putting out a free album. and my student has shaved his head because of the bermese military. and my mom's drinking a bit too much and telling george--at his reading--that he really needs to have a book on tape. anyway, man, the world has gone from shifty to shiftier.
which brings me to five am this morning. can't sleep. fever. again. and i hate this. if you know me, the following won't surprise you: sickness is an act of failure. i can't have it, don't have time for it. but it's 4 hours until i can go to the vitamin shoppe and spend a hundred bucks on wellness.
i sign on gchat, meaning to talk to my friend kent who works in london. only, hannah pops up...but in that really annoying way where the red dot's beside her name. like, i'm here but f+ck off. this is our chat:
me: what the f+ck are you doing? go to sleep.
han: what are you doing? it's 6:30. *meanwhile, it's actually 6.
me: i can't blog! getting strep again!
han: about to wake up the kids. jesus, mame. wtf. you need the bourbon and honey thing.
me: are you awake like this every morning?
han: every f+cking day.
me: hannah is busy. you may be interrupting.
han: look outside. no wait, you can't. it's DARK.
me: whatever.
han: MOOOVE!
me: what does "a.m." mean?
han: huh
me: i guess "p.m." is post something.
han: hurts
han: ante meridien
han: from the latin for moon.
han: am going to make waffles with blueberries and flax.
me: lame
han: i'll call you at 9 when i'm getting ready. *what we do every morning
me: i'll be getting my hair chopped off and dyed. bye.
han: fine. bye.

see? we can't BLOG!!!! what the hell is happening. i return to a poem i've been working on for four f+ing years. i can't end it. i can't end this stupid, rancid, poem. i end it, "she finally said what she needn't say: i will see you in the morning, i will see you in the morning, i will see you in the morning." REALLY!!!??? blackberry, blackberry, blackberry. hass is the only one who can get away with that sort of copout of an ending. even bishop's is a lame, false, sense of closure in "the fish." rainbow, rainbow, rainbow! REALLY???!! because the fish won't die but won't live either and the colors? the colors are coming from motor oil. i hate everyone. what's worse is, i'm listening to the new t.pain/chris brown song, "put you to bed." (what? do you actually want to step to this right now?) and i get to the chorus:
i love it (i love it)
you love it (you love it)
everytime (everytime)
we touchin (we touchin)
i want it ( i want it)
you want it (you want it)
i'll see you (i'll see you)
in the morning (in the morning)

see? who the hell told me i could be a poet? now what i could do is make bank writing songs like "budda love" and such for keith sweat, jordan knight, and the like.