Interview In Which Anna Becomes a Solar Eclipse

Do you love him?

I gave him a porcelain doll with my face on it.
She closed her eyes when you tipped her head back,
spiky black eyelashes drooping down over glass bulbs.
On her back, I wrote “Better to be choked in the ocean
than be strangled by misery.”

Does he love you?

He believed in resurrection but not salvation.
A spider is only as fat as the flies
that land in its web.

Were you happy?

We learned to jitterbug together.

But were you happy?

We never spoke of it.

Do you miss him?

My favorite time of year is just before spring,
when there is no green, only the promise of green.

What will you tell your daughter?

There are coyotes in the city now.
We used to keep chickens in the back yard,
but one morning, I went out for eggs and all I found
were feathers.

(I am, once again, imitating Traci Brimhall. I can’t help it.)


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Some poems are shorthand (#NAPOWRIMO14 Day 13)

My dissertation follows the first 20 or so years of a character named Cecelia. Cecelia’s parents are not awesome (for all kinds of complicated reasons) and I want, when Cecelia gets married (at a rather young age by our standards), her marriage to be a stark contrast to her parents’ marriage. This poem, which isn’t the most successful poem I’ve written, is really shorthand for that contrast. I hope I’ll be able to pull this off with more finesse on subsequent drafts. For now, I give you this:

Cecelia, Age 18, Makes Coffee Before Her Husband Wakes Up
Who needs a honeymoon? We’re here, Paul and I, in this small, quiet house.
We’re quiet in this house, Paul and I. No shouting, no cursing. Paul snores
like an old man, but when he’s curled up behind me, his arm where
my pillow should be, I count each breath until I fall asleep.
I drink coffee now, a little milk, a little sugar, and when it’s warm
I sit on the back stoop and watch the tomatoes grow. It won’t be long
until I turn these mornings over to a child, then two, then more.
Those babies, my babies, they’ll always know I want them. No one
should feel a chill at her mother’s hand or wonder where her father
sleeps at night. When Paul wakes, he’ll come to the door, ask
what I’m making for breakfast. There will be a cigarette in his lips
and sleep in his eyes. I sip my coffee and wait.


Also, since weekends are for Arts & Crafts poem, here’s another erasure for you.


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PhD Drop Out (#NAPOWRIMO14 Day 10)

PhD Drop Out (To be sung to the tune of Beauty School Drop Out)

I don’t look at it as dropping out! I look at it as a very strategic career move.
–Frenchy, Grease

We begin with ontology, epistemology,
numerology: six years, one thousand pages
each week. Sleep masks don’t shield
our eyes from the words we gather.
Hegemony, misogyny, misanthropy.
We breed hate in the logic machine,
teach ourselves to master the art
of asking unanswerable questions,
questioning unquestioned systems.
We lose each other in a soup of study
carrels and burnt coffee, cut our teeth
on the soft leather elbow patches
we aspire to wear. This much I know
for sure: I am smarter today
than I ever wanted to be. I’ve no wish
to fight, only to take these books back
to the library and go home.

When the poems don’t come – A progress report

So NaPoWriMo started off with a bang, and I was really happy with a couple of the drafts I wrote last week. But Sunday came (a great day, to be sure–full of poetry and friends) and I had nothing left to put on the page. And yesterday, well, I wrote a thing, but it’s not worth putting into cyberspace. Will I write a poem today? By god, I hope so. I don’t like thinking that all I’ve got in me are 4-5 poems at a time. On the other hand, I don’t love having a bunch of crappy drafts to wade through, so sometimes forcing it doesn’t seem like the best idea. At least I’ve given myself permission to count revision among my 30-in-30…I can whip a couple of old poems into shape and be back on track.

As for my other April goals: I have not applied for a single, solitary job yet this month. Clearly I’m self-sabotaging. I spend a fair amount of time worrying about life without paychecks, which is resulting in a kind of job-hunt-paralysis. Still, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think I could apply for 30 jobs in what’s left of April, thus still meeting my goal.

And then there are steps. I’m on track there, but only because I gave myself March 31′s steps as a freebie head start. As of last night, I’m at 70,727 steps. 3 days between 3/31-4/7 I did not meet my goal. We’re supposed to have some glorious, spring like weather this week, so maybe I’ll get a couple of 15k days before the week is out. That would make me feel better about my low count days last week.

Are you noticing a pattern, readers? A tendency toward procrastination and catching up, maybe? It’s true. I wish I could say I was a slow-and-steady kind of gal, but I’d be lying.

Anyway. That’s how April is going. I’ll be back soon with more poems for you.

a good day for hugs

#NAPOWRIMO14 Draft 5: Arts and Crafts

Last month, I taught a workshop on erasures and centos and collages. It was a whole lot of fun, and though I didn’t write along with my students, I wanted to. I’ve decided Saturdays in April (or at least this Saturday in April, who knows) will be for Arts & Crafts poems. Now, I admit, this first attempt came out ugly as hell. It is what it is.

IMG_20140405_083002703 IMG_20140405_083310477_HDR


The second photo is of the book’s cover. It’s a silly self-help book that I LOVED when I was in college. Now it’s art supplies.

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#NAPOWRIMO14 Draft 4: Agatite Avenue

Confession: I am feeling unpoetic today. It’s been a busy week and I’ve been putting in long days doing fairly creative work. I’m pretty well spent. But! There was a reading at school today. Maggie Andersen (the nonfiction writer, not the poet) and Kathleen Rooney read some really cool stuff, and I wrote down some things they said. Then I mushed it all together and this came out:

Agatite Avenue: A Heard Poem (with thanks to Maggie Andersen and Kathleen Rooney)

Because they don’t have it, they don’t want it.
No records exist of this hateful empty.
Near is not the same as close. It’s unkind

but accurate, artistically underscored
by an insomniac’s awareness–
oh god your wrists are so small.

The desire for a well ordered life makes her brave.
Maybe you rushed it just a little. Her work
on how to be uncontained by rooms,

what you’re drinking while you watch him
attempt aloofness. We wore boas and loved
doing it in the bathroom. We invented bifocals,

the chickenpox, a giant coffee mug in which he keeps
his quarters. He’s a free lunch kid for crying out loud!
You know what I wish. I will make inseparable cities

if you say so. As long as your lungs will let you
say Thursday. Real cities have a lot of firefighters
but no cats. There’s plenty of room at the bottom

of riddle road. I don’t know what I’m in the process
of becoming. Touch receptors could only be abrupt.
Lots of investigators like the scent of babies.




#NAPOWRIMO14 Draft 3: Seven Ways of Looking at a City

With apologies to the late, great Wallace Stevens, I present to you my third April poem.






Seven Ways of Looking at a City

after Wallace Stevens


1. Along the north shore, a warble. Sing

the freshwater and afterglow.


2. When it rains, it rains for days. At night,

a man and a woman dance

and dance.


3. Bricks become the dark edge of longing.

I do not know their mortar.


4. Oh, steel workers, why do you burn?

Bring water to the lathes.

They turn and turn.


5. Say you’ve forgotten the city’s old men.

Their hats wear the trees, their shoes

dance in the devil strip.


6. When the river catches fire, the city

tightens its belt. The city

tips its cap.


7. Streetcars and telephone wires. Women

speaking where no women spoke

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#NAPOWRIMO14 Draft 2: Such Is Life In the Land of Preposterous Magic

Such Is Life In the Land of Preposterous Magic: Cecelia Escapes to the Cellar

Who made the castle’s fainting couch from fennel and coffee beans? A lilting voice is a harbinger of madness. Lie still, little darling, lie still. You learned how to gather pollen with the backs of your knees, built a honeycomb under the bed. Your beeswax in the shape of a feather. Stitch it together to build yourself wings. When the snow comes in April, after the white blossoms on the apple tree have bloomed, stretch your wings over your shoulders—wait a moment while your frame learns to balance their weight—and take to the street. The world is quieter when snow falls, and you will hear your feathers rustle and rub. This is necessary. Watch the snow fall. Settle your eyes on one flake, study how it takes the wind as canopy, how it flies and rests at once. This is how you will take off. Beeswax wings will carry you from the cold street. Where will you go? The girls in the kitchen are laughing for you, blowing bubbles in dish soap. If you want to return to the castle, close your eyes and picture a cocoa field. If you want to see the ocean, think of broken glass. Your wings, your knees know the way. The princess has been waiting, her pink hands cupped in her lap, turning the green chaise to a rocking horse or a lily pad. If you ask, she can teach you how to change things. Bury the golden seed of your fear with the tulip bulbs—it will grow into something softer. Lie still.

Screenshot (42)

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#NaPoWriMo14 draft 1: Cecelia, Age 11, Explains It All

My favorite story is Red Rider—do you know why?
My daddy told me that story the day before he left.
He told me the Big Bad Wolf isn’t as bad as they say—
he doesn’t eat the Grandma, he just hides inside her.
I’d like to hide inside my grandma. She’s fat enough
to hold me and no one ever bothers her. Old as door knobs,
my grandma. I think she knows everything
but I only understand some of what she says, so I guess
I’ll never learn it all. There’s a lot I do know, though.
I know my daddy left when I was six and he won’t
come back any time soon. Before he left, we ate
meat every day. Pink hams shining under sweet glaze,
pot roasts big as my head. Now, mama makes
tomato sauce and sometimes I steal salami
from the cellar. It’s grandpa’s special stash
(he keeps wine down there, too, but I don’t like
the way it makes my teeth suck) and he’d whip me
if he knew. My grandma would say I’m a rappinatore
just like daddy. I guess that’s why we’re poor now.
Mama works real hard but she only takes what’s hers,
goes to work in the morning wearing pretty dresses
and high heels. She says she makes it so when people
pick up the telephone, they can talk to whoever
the want. She knows how to bring people together.
My daddy only knows how to keep them apart. We go
to see him on Saturdays. He smells like mint
and acts real sweet, but if nobody was watching—
well, I don’t want to talk about that. When he first
went away, mama told me he was sick. She thought
maybe he’d be back soon I guess, thought if she lied
to me I’d think my daddy was a good man. I never told
how one night I woke up thirsty, went to the kitchen
for a glass of water. He was at the sink, scrubbing
blood from his shirt the way grandma did when I tripped
in the street and bled all over my Sunday dress. She cursed
and cursed at me that day. Anyway, Daddy was washing
blood from his shirt and on the kitchen table
was a big pile of money and a pair of kid gloves.
Uncle Jimmy and Mr. Rick were there, too, the three of them
whispering until Daddy got real mad and the other two
left in a hurry. I went back to bed without a drink
and the next day Daddy said we were moving to California.
I didn’t like it there. I missed my cousins and the gulley
we weren’t supposed to play in but did. We were only
there a little while, and then one day mama told me
Daddy had gone away and we were going home.
I knew Daddy wasn’t sick, just like I knew it wasn’t his blood
in the kitchen sink that night. But I didn’t say a word.
Mama was so sad, and it seemed to make her feel better
to think I didn’t know. I wish she’d kept on lying.
I don’t like going to the jail. All the men look at me
like I’m Red Rider with a big bottle of gin. Daddy says
the wolf isn’t so bad, but I know how the story ends.

mom with grandparents

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Out like a lamb

Look! A screenshot of the weather app on my phone!

Look! A screenshot of the weather app on my phone!

Social media tells me that some parts of the US are getting some crap weather right now, but in Chicago, March is doing its job and leaving on a sweet note. It’s got me feeling hopeful and excited for spring.

I have big plans for April. Number 1 is the usual April plan: write a poem a day. I have never successfully completed this challenge, but I’m going to give it another shot. Sometimes April poems get really weird…they hang out in my files for years and I’m afraid to get rid of them. But this year, I have a dissertation to write, and really nothing bad can come of trying to write as much of it as possible in the next 30 days. I think I’m going to allow myself to count revisions as part of the 30-in-30, so on days when nothing is coming to me, I can at least polish something up and call it a day. I’ll post the poems to the blog for a minute, but probably won’t leave them up here since a lot of places won’t publish poems that are available online. (On the other hand, I haven’t been submitting poems at all lately, so I guess I don’t have to worry about that. Maybe in May I’ll make a big push for publications after all my April poems are done.)

Number 2: Apply for 30 jobs in 30 days (or less if I get a super sweet job offer before the end of the month).

Number 3: Walk 300,000 steps. I’m super in love with my FitBit, but it says that healthy people take 10,000 steps a day and I hardly ever get there. I can typically get to 5000 without really trying (except on days when I work from home and it’s super cold out) but 10,000 requires a little extra effort. At any rate, I’m hoping with the weather perking up a little bit that I’ll be done hibernating for the season. I was feeling like the blob people in Wall-E yesterday when Benny and I walked to the neighborhood BBQ place yesterday (I know…I’m my own fat joke), so yeah. 300,000 steps. I’m going to give myself a little bit of a buffer and count today as part of the total.

And that , my friends, is my plan for April. Plus, you know, getting through my last semester ever of being a teacher. 15 class days left!

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