Surrealist Doodle

Surrealist Doodle
This was used as the cover of Karawane in 2006 and I have included it in on a number of bags and postcards over the years. Someone on the subway asked me if it was a Miro. I was very flattered!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Nowhere to go

Ok, this is a short story I wrote using a prompt from The Writer magazine. I actually took 5 verbs (they only recommended 3) to weave into my story:

Button
Delay
Quiver
Muster
Quit

I very quickly realized that I had written myself into a corner and decided to self-consciously go along that route. You will see what I mean.

Nowhere to go


Her voice quivered as she spoke into the phone. It took all of the confidence she could muster. A deep voice bellowed on the other end. She quickly hung up, hoping there was no way to trace the call, but of course there was. Everyone had a way to retrace calls these days. As the young woman in the café had said to her horrified café confidante, there is no such thing as privacy anymore. She knew that. So why did she do something so stupid. Why would she think that she could trust something so private in such a public venue? She should have just gone to the internet. But she needed to hear the soothing sounds of someone’s voice in her ear, a voice as soothing as a hand stroking her hair or rubbing her back.


She decided to go out. She buttoned up her jeans and pulled on a t-shirt, slipped on her boots, and went out the door. It was a warm night and she decided to walk the 10 blocks or so down to the bar that she had been meaning to go to. As she got closer, the cell phone in her pocket began to ring, a ring that said the caller was unfamiliar, but when she looked at the number, it was not an unfamiliar number at all. She put in back in her pocket and continued walking.


Being new to town, she didn’t know anyone yet. She had moved here less than a month ago after she had quit her job and decided to reinvent her life. She had taped a note to her boss’s door, using a bit more tape than was required for the job, and gave her 5-minute notice and a forwarding address for her check, her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend’s address. She left town two days later, go a PO Box and arranged to have her mail forwarded. In three days time, she had changed her whole life, including her cell phone number. There was only place that knew her number. She looked around instinctively, knowing that she was being silly and paranoid. No one was paying her any attention, but was that a good or a bad thing? Could someone snatch her off the street without being noticed?


She walked up to the bar and put her hand out to pull open the door. Something stopped her.


It was the realization that this scenario had been played out with every possible ending. If she met someone and had a one-night stand, it would either be the pornographic version, or the post-modern “wasn’t that meaningless” version. If she went in and no one noticed her, it would be the sad and lonely Lifetime women’s movie or it would be the self-help realization that she didn’t need anyone but herself all along. Come to think of it, that was also a potential Lifetime movie, made for lonely women that didn’t want to admit it and tried to seem empowered. Perhaps she would have the crime novel ending, in which the mysterious stranger from the phone sex line would have tracked down her neighborhood from the incoming phone line and had started hanging out, in hopes that she would start to take chances with her lonely, empty, sexually unfulfilled life and he would be there to snatch her. (This was also a potential porn plot line, although much darker and one that she was loathe to admit that maybe she had come across once or twice in her internet viewing.) Perhaps it would be the action movie ending with all of the same plot lines as the crime novel/porn story ending, except that she would get away and potentially kill her captor. If she went in and nothing either happened or failed to happen, if people talked to her and she felt good but left alone and didn’t call any of them, that would just be a modern slice-of-life film or novel, or maybe a short story. She started to feel a sense of panic rise in her as she stood at the door, delayed, unable to stay or go.


OMG, she thought. Maybe she was stuck in some kind of hipster stream-of-consciousness writing!


Guy Debord was right. Living in an overmediated culture, there was nowhere to go, nothing original to be done. Our life is prescribed, stolen from us in a media feedback loop so intense that there was nothing to be done that hadn’t already been mapped out in some way, easily recognizable as an Oprah book or a movie of the week. She had created a situation in which an original response to whatever would happen to her was impossible.


She stood at the door with her hand out. The world as she knew it was now stopped, although people were clearly moving, asking if she were going in, edging around her, and eventually asking if she was ok.


She nodded absent-mindedly but remained frozen.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Review of Carole Maso's Mother and Child

My review of Carole Maso's Mother and Child is up at Rain Taxi. It's a gorgeous book, as always, and also a very relevant series of allegories for our time. Read the review, then read the book!

Carole Maso’s work to date has been characterized by a lush, almost otherworldy writing, a style in which the reader experiences everything more deeply—the beauty of the world as well as heartbreak and longing. On top of this, her writing constantly folds back on itself. Maso’s work often goes off into what seem to be tangents, yet as soon as you go with her down a path, she will lead you (sometimes gently, sometimes forcefully) back to the previous idea, braiding stories together. . . .

Read on here:

http://www.raintaxi.com/online/2012fall/maso.php

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Junk Food/Non-Organic Manifesto

Junk Food/Non-Organic Manifesto

Our planet is becoming more and more polluted every day. People fool themselves every day into thinking that they can escape this, moving to organic farms, to buying organic fruit, vegetables and meat that is raised on the same types of food.

These people are delusional!

Is if PCBs and other toxins, run off from farm chemicals, etc. don’t touch organic farms, as if they are somehow immune. As if the fallout from Fukishima, the Bikini Islands, from the Asian tsunami does not wash upon our distant shores and pollute our air and our land. As if we are not still feeling the environmental effects of Bhopal,Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island.

Darwin has taught us that only the fittest survive, but what is it to be fit in today’s society? Nature teaches us that we must adapt. The time has come, friends, to adapt to our pre-apocalyptic world now, before the post- and apocalyptic render us extinct.

It has been said that Twinkies have a shelf-life of 30 years. That is over 1/3 the shelf life of man himself. The so-called junk food of today will of necessity be the health food of tomorrow, the food of the astronauts is upon us. Tang and Doritos and Twinkies will soon replace the rotted asparagus and broccoli that the contaminated ground now house. The time has come to inoculate ourselves so as to be prepared to survive the wretched earth that will be left to us. Ours is not only to survive, but to thrive.

It must be asked, if these non-organic foods can stay preserved for so long, what must the benefit be to human kind? Indeed, already it is discovered that corpses are taking longer to decompose as a result of these non-organic diets. Soon that will also apply to the living. Perhaps the secret of eternal life is to be found in a candy bar, not in a leaf of lettuce.

The answer then is not to retreat to organic farms based on a nostalgic notion of yesteryear, but to embrace the non-organic future that awaits us. But we must do it now so that someday our bodies will be ready.

It will not be an instantaneous process for most. You will have to gradually abandon not only your eating habits but your very ideas of health itself. You must embrace that which you have been told is toxic, begin eating these things made in factories that will continue to be made long after the animals and the plants are inedible. You must hoard these things in bulk, en masse, lay up your treasures now, so that they will be here, ready and waiting with their long shelf lives, to be consume after the grass withers away the barns grow sick and empty.

Two new cut up poems

The following two poems were written after I went to see John M. Bennett give a reading in Minneapolis this afternoon. For years I had tried to write in Spanish and in English, especially back when my Spanish was a little bit fresher, but it always came out too forced. When I heard John read this afternoon, for some reason it occurred to me to use Spanish and French language source texts for my cut up poems, so here are a couple. I was really impressed at the way they came out more or less grammatically accurate with what was going on in the English part of the poems!

Enjoy.



Transperences (Fr)


Too bright. Outspoken. A community
of women. En realidad, el director.
Political despair, 13 spins, the massacre
donde los hombres, musical and
programming the relation between
the appearance of des orages se
troublent the rose garden. Strike
of people on dit in bookstores, shooting
the innovative: a window, a phone, a
wheelchair, doorway of humanity.



Imperative


Early and often did the lord,
Greatly relieved to hear,
Bound to end by shaking hands,
Durant toute la semaine, after
Several thousand years of oppression,
Declare I am becoming.

En cualquier parte parezca que dominating
Even in the long shot,
Civilian casualties are inevitable.
So it began.

On est arrive, carrying the cross
Himself, the posturing that sometimes fulfills the
Conditions, willing to face himself. Me parece
Que the ideal ripens within our spirit
In the bathtub.

The lines were clearly drawn.


Monday, September 24, 2012

The Mind[less] Muse: A Poem by Laura Winton

This is a blog/ezine called the Mind(less) Muse which published experimental and avant-garde poetry.  They recently published a poem of mine named "Dustbowl."



The Mind[less] Muse: A Poem by Laura Winton

Jellyfish Whispers: A Poem by Laura Winton

This is a poem that I had published on a writer's blog other than my own!  The poem is called "Autumn."  The blog is Jellyfish Whispers.


Jellyfish Whispers: A Poem by Laura Winton

Monday, September 10, 2012

Community and Continuing Education with Laura Winton

 Hey friends!  If you live in the Minneapolis area, "like" my page on Facebook for Continuing Education.  You will get the run down on my classes in media, theatre, cultural studies, writing, and literature.  All classes are currently $100 or less and run for 5-6 week.  There's nothing to lose and you will get more facebook posts to read!  Yippie!!


Community and Continuing Education with Laura Winton

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Class starting at the end of September: Playing with Words: Or, Creative Writing for the Non-Creative - MCTC Continuing Education & Customized Training

This creative writing class starts at the end of September.  We leave with at least 3 new pieces every week and we talk about some different approaches to kick start your writing.  Everyone should take this class!  Seriously.  Everyone.

I have posted a number of poems on my site that have been created over the years in these classes.  Troll through my page and if you like what you see, and you live in the Minnesota Twin Cities, click on the link and sign up!  It's only $95 and you get one full CEU (Continuing Education Credit) as well.



Playing with Words: Or, Creative Writing for the Non-Creative - MCTC Continuing Education & Customized Training

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stealing Souls

I would really rather when you take pictures that you not look directly into the camera.
I can feel you stealing my soul.
I mean
I can feel you staring at me
And I am naked in front of you
I like to sit naked at the computer.
In front of the window.
But that’s different. The neighbors are not looking right at me.
And if they are, serves them right.
Close your blinds, mind your own business.
Mrs. Kravitz.
This is not supposed to be a poem.
It’s supposed to be clipped dialogue
I almost typed lipped
Clipped lipped.
Conversation.
Streamofconsciousnessonlymywordsonlyruntogethersometimesandi’vebeentypingforsomanyyearsit’sreallyhardformenottohitthespacebarbutthis
Isn’t my stream of consciousness anyway.
This is.
This is my consciousness.
Sentence after sentence. Each sentence a paragraph of its own.
Independent thoughts like a ladder dependent on what came before.
You know, steps.
Where were we?
Rapunzel, the steps to my window!
Rapunzel! Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.
Through your pictures.
Stop stealing my soul and climb down here instead and look me in the face.
Stop gazing at me through your camera. Every photo is a webcam until itself.
And the men and women merely players.
It’s silly but I have a page full of pictures all staring at me and none of them ever says anything or answers.
I feel judged.
Their Mona Lisas are equally enigmatic.
You seem to be smiling . . .
But.
I feel you stealing my soul.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I felt briefly sad this morning, set aside my anger as I imagined you afraid. Remembered when you called every minute, we couldn’t get enough of each other. It’s sad not to love you anymore.

You said I said you did you said you said you would you didn’t i did not i never you said.

I wish I knew how to leave without pronouncements.

When I think of you I want to go to New York
Paris
Chicago
somewhere large and exotic and far away

You do not listen and you do not speak
I cannot know you nor become known

When I’m lonely I got to public places to call you
(empty house)
To be angry with you is to be mad at the world.

I dreamed of a widow with five beds.
I dreamed of a woman with 5 beds.
I dreamed of a woman with two heads.
(spinster)
I dreamed of a widow with five

In love with the light brown boys

I wait for fate to take me away from him. The though of giving him up hurts too much. I lack
time
distance
the will

to walk away. I don’t want to walk away. I can’t make it better and I can’t walk away. I will say something that I cannot take back.

It’s not like a gunshot or a disease. Always we try to pinpoint “the thing” that hurts us the most, but unlike physical death, it’s a lot of different causes, indications.

After a fight, the need to connect with someone else, the desperate need to prove that someone can still love you. That you are still worthy., The fear of losing others, of losing everyone. I want to break up with the whole world at once.

She wandered the streets wondering if she had more crying to do.

She went to the movies every day for nine days. Permission to cry without having to know why, without summoning logic and analyzing feelings and understanding and explaining herself.

To lose what sustains you is to lose everything.

She sat alone, seeing a strong man walk by who might be menacing, who might look safe but prove otherwise, lurching toward her. Sometimes she wondered if she would resist the rape. The murder. She could look at a man and feel his thumbs at her voice box, his big fingers straddling her throat and in her wondering, closed her eyes to surrender like a drowning, flailing her arms involuntarily but sinking into the earth accepting her body as a grave being dug a coffin being built, to surrender and be quiet.

We’re all afraid that our detractors are right about us. We want to be worthy of our eulogies but we fear it will be our enemies critics who will have the last word instead.


I need to go where there is no music.

Maybe we need love because we need god. We see the divinity in other people and desire communion, transmission.

All the great mystics were epileptic. Is god a disease? Or are we pre-wired, hotwired with the commission?


Love is radioactive. It dies in half-lives and never fully extinguishes.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Forgetting

When a building breaks open, a weighty air rushes out, settles like soot on the living bodies around it, perhaps small bits left behind of every other spirit that walked entered passed through traversed, bits of each one of us undusted fingerprints left behind, suddenly shaken from the surface.

Downtown silent downward faces. Quick glances away from eye contact, the silent bus ride getting there. When the bustle of the farmer's market at noon gets quiet you can hear the helicopters in the dances one short city mile away. All the cliches rush out -- heavy hert, the brick on the chest. My insides are full of cement limestone seeming to harden and weigh down my steps. I feel my legs move disconnected from my torso in some kind of cast.

No one mentions the people who lived under the bridge. They were not supposed to exist, so their disappearance is just another wish fulfillment self-fulfilling prophecy. You were never here (anyway). I pray too that you never existed in that moment that you (re) appear now Houdini of the under/overpass, uncensused neighbors.

Street preacher shouting "thou shalts" adds to my headache, piercing through several blocks of sound barrier. At least say something consoling I shout to him in a footstep, in a breath(er). At least put your arms around someone, move away some stones, show yourself (to be) a miracle not a menacing voice another layer of soot settling in an aftermath.

To forget even a moment seems a sin.

How long is the right amount of time for forgetting?

Friday, July 06, 2012

The dark side of love (a journal entry)

He never forgave me for falling in love with him.

I exist [am allowed] in his domain to adore him. But not too much. And I when I fail to adore him, he becomes angry with me. And when I look at him too closely, smile too much, he says things to put me in my place, to make sure I know that I will never be enough for him, that I do not deserve his attention. He is never not angry with me. Not really.

When he hurts me I want to be raped.

To be pushed into a corner, grabbed, bent over a wall.

I know all of the psychobabble and all of the different explanations about helplessness, about the external manifestation of how I feel inside. To analyze it, reduce it to a talk show or cosmo cover would turn it into a cliche. I could pay someone by the hour to ask me the right questions to extract the exact reasons so I can get better but it won’t make him stop. The releases, the feel of rough hands, focused only on the moment, out of my control, pushed farther into dark feelings than I can take myself.


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Ecstasism

What do people want to be?

I wonder as a I look at them walk down the street in their clothes, women mannish preppy frumpy. What are they putting on? What does it make them?

Me, I want to be quiet, still. But I still want to be heard. Want to shut down the to-do lists and shoulds and tv shows and news and bombings and mother’s voice, lover’s voice. I want to be heard from the silence without speaking or even having to think a single word. To radiate meaning.

That I may seek not so much to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love, to be consoled as to console.

Words and moments linger, an afterburn, a sunspot. Desire & regret; self-satisfaction & replay. It’s never really that we want to live forever or remain in a single moment of former glory, but for every moment forward to be like our best, for every minute to be worthy of a replay, so splendid and full of affirmation that it pushes us forward and forward until looking back, remembering, remains an act reserved for our eulogizers.

I’m getting overstimulated again, when it’s quiet that I said I wanted, isn’t it?

You’ll have to excuse me. I’m prone to ecstasy. Ecstacism. Outbursts. Exuberance. Protuberance. Tubers. Goobers. Gompers. (Samuel. Union leader.) I get giddy.

The bus is so jarring I can’t read my own writing. Where are the socialists now when we need public works. Who will step forward with their uncashed taxed refunds and say this pothole is mine! Stand back while I fill it in!

An old woman with a shopping cart.

A young woman, vibrant on the outside, secretly afraid of everything. Afraid of the phone. Afraid of men. Afraid of ridicule.

A bodacious middle aged woman. Young face. Varicose veins. Learning self-possession. Unlearning fear.

So many things to become. So many clothes to put on.

As I write this under white puffy clouds, fathers in Iraq are stocking up on nerve gas antidotes.

Such things will never touch me unless I dwell on it. Remind myself. I need to be reminded.

I don’t want to put on camouflage and a long face. Everywhere it should be sunny and even dark clouds in the distance should mean only rain and not fear.

Annunciation.

Glad tidings.

Does every story need a point?

A plot? A moral? A narrative arc? What is the thread of our lives so that we know that we are ourselves? Through operations and changed and removed organs, through people forgotten and dead and cut off from us, lives we may never return to, yet something holds us in, keeps everything from falling out in a big mess on the floor in front of us. But what was the moral of the story?

I ramble. I rage. I wonder. I cry. And so I should be still. And radiate. So you can understand me.

Lunge. Lurch.

Perch. Porch. Scorch. Scrounge. Scourge.

Scourge.

Scour. Scowl. Scourge.

With thorns.

Make yourself quiet. So you don’t feel it. Make yourself quiet so your body forgets you. So you forget to feel.

Annunciation.

Announce. Pronounce. Denounce. Renounce. Renown. Redoubt.

All of these things that come spilling out of my head when I’m trying to figure out what to be. When I’m trying to radiate

meaning.

Ruts & ruts & ruts & synapes & moats and potholes & veins & interstates & things that travel the same path forever. Only the river can change its course. I can(not) be silent. Can(not) quiet the cacophonies symphonies tympanies that accompany me. I am not what I am trying to be.

What do people want to be?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Draft of a poem for my mother on her deathbed.

This is a poem that I found on my computer. It was written during the last days of her life, 2 1/2 years ago, while she was unable to communicate with us--at least in the way we were used to communicating with her. It's not finished. It's just a little something I dashed off.



Strange to think of you now

lying between present and past tense

between now and then, not knowing where you are

not alive and not dead, not being able to talk to you

body pumped full of morphine and

unconscious nurses full of

caring and

bad advice telling

my poor father not to talk to you

Don’t be silly telling me

I can’t talk to you I can’t help you

pass through the door I can’t say

goodbye to you and I see grandma

and your grandma and you when you were 30 and me

when I was eight a living photograph now

opening their arms to you I see you standing with them

without me and I see you in so many memories

laughing sardonically and appreciatively

sharing the joke inside.

The only way to laugh.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Life, Only Better

This was something I found in a journal that I had written a few years ago and found recently. This will be my last post for a while. I would love to know what you think.



Life, Only Better
(Tentative title for now)

Sometimes I need to just look out the window and think.

Sometimes I need to write something down and not develop it with examples, anecdotes, lists in 3s, with a thesis and a conclusion.

The thing about writers is that they can’t just have a thought. Everything has to become something. Thought is pressure to write. Not writing is guilt. Blasphemy. Squandered. What if the words (The Word) never comes back? What if in the course of remembering and recording you lose the beautiful phrase? Does the composer lose the melody sitting at the piano thye way I drop words at the keyboard? Is it not enough to have one thought? one beautiful moment? Must every note lead to a symphony, an opus? Each word the voice of a single angel raised to a cacophony?

“The problem with being a genius is that you spend a lot of time sitting around doing nothing.” --Gertrude Stein

A year ago I was looking for you.

I don’t want to write a whole book about you. My life is not a book. Too disjointed and unruly and the ending is unclear and I never seem to figure out the plot.

My mind is not a book.

No one lives in a book. Books are not “life only better”. Only anal retentives think that.

I want to write and live movie trailers, with all the good stuff pulled into split-second cutaways, glimpses of the beautiful, explosions, and a great soundtrack.

And here you are.

I was wandering the streets in the snow wondering your name.

Every day I wait for you to leave.

I wanted you to make me feel better. To love you . . . was going to make me better.

Curving back on itself . . . what is the term? Concave? Elliptical? In the story it always curves back on itself, ties everything together even when it looked like nothing fit.

Novels imply there’s a grand design to life, a plan, a plot, a logic, an author.

A reason.

I am more random than that.

Switching from story to living (life) changes the words the cadence the way you live them the experience of your palate. Do you write to live on your mind or do you write to say things outloud?

Do you want to be read or to be heard? Do you write to say everything at once, or do you write to focus?

I thought of you as a reader.

The cafe is an oasis from life. Here is the desert island you are stranded on with only 3 possessions, only the items in your purse . . . a desert island with music and tv and sofas and lattes. But only a bit of yourself.

People resent artists for wanting what they themselves are not allowed to have either.

I envy the mad addicts, so lost in themselves that they have no room for the details of daily life, have faith that their muse will provide and someone will look out for them. I with no siblings, no dowry, no spouse, must fend for myself, straddling, required to feed myself, keep a roof over my own head in a world that is increasingly harsh, that gives no quarter to those who are different, those who desire anything more than the creature comforts craved by those who resent me. My wants are not so different--a roof over my head, money for going out, a doctor when I am sick, the occasional trip to see friends or family, to be be inspired by a new city. But the audacity of expecting such things in return for my mere art, my innermost, without sanction for my labor, a CEO to sign my check, an incorporation to keep the books . . .

Nothing in my home is fixed until it affects someone else.

When the war comes I will be free of responsibility, when the creditor/landlord/collector finally has other concerns.

Is there an understanding that never fades? Even Dresden was rebuilt. The shadows of Nagasaki are monuments now. Art. Memory. Museum. All knowledge becomes memory eventually.

How will I become a stranger for 40 days?

On Tuesdays the Somalian women go to English class. They get on the bus bringing with them the smell of Sandalwood.

On Tuesday I get on the bus with my hair wild, disoriented after a night of poetry and war reports.

You make me want to write
you make me want to write
you down.

I could never write on the bus. Not because of motion sickness, but because I cannot stop looking out the window, watching moments pass and time pass in marvels. Once I was [there] and now I am [here], minutes across a city, hours across a state/country/continent.

It’s sad when you can’t [don’t][don’t want to] love someone anymore. When you feel sorry to remember. Now that the daydream is over, this is not your story anymore. It’s just something I’ve written
remembered
lived

and I watch for you at the window mechanically, without desire
Miss you with annoyance

One year later, like always, I sit in the cafe watching for you outside the window. I have your phone number committed to memory [permission to speak] have seen your house walked your dog hugged your lover. I try to remember your mysteries. What it was to want you.

Anticipation.

Familiar.
Like always I watch for you.
I forget what it was to be strange
etranger
(e)strange(d)

What is the shelf-life of grief?
Anniversaries give us permission.

You are a conversation with myself.

I wrote you a letter by committee.

Is God a narcissist? to require us to love him?

Maybe god’s infinity comes from us. If god is love, and that love is unrequited, does god become finite, diminish? in existentialism, maybe god is not really dead, just burning himself up like the sun. Love is finite only when nothing comes back to you in return. It makes you stingy.

Unrequited love’s a bore--Jack Kerouac

At one I time I wanted to give you things. Take you places. Show you.

At one time.

Which is to say, not anymore.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Academics against editing

I have lost my ability to edit. I might be like the pupil in Eugene Ionesco’s The Lesson, the one who can only add and not subtract. The student who can add things to infinity but cannot subtract 4 from 7.

What does it mean to add everything the comes into your awareness, your field of vision, to a book, a performance, a poem? Especially with a poem. To set your guidelines and then only add. It does seem to be only poetry where I have lost my ability. Then again, there IS the dissertation . . .

Cheryl told me the story of a professor at Augustana whose dissertation was over 1000 pages. What if, instead of trying to edit it down, you added every element that was relevant (as if you were a poet and could rhyme element and relevant). Not that you wouldn’t be “rigorous” in choosing your arguments, but that you would throw every argument into the stew and then argue for or against one, ticking off everything possible until you got down to the core of your argument, and so then your argument that could have been expressed in a sentence or a page or one small chapter becomes a behemoth, a life’s work, of over 1000, 10000, 10000000000 pages until you lost track of the zeroes? What if you just accumulated all of the scholarship. Isn’t that what we talked about in graduate school, reading Derrida, who is only read by graduate students, half of whom (or more) don’t like or understand him? Isn’t that what Derrida was talking about in Archive Fever? The desire to archive, to accumulate, to collect knowledge? Collecting knowledge like it was garden gnomes or stamps or world coins, attempting to have every single one that is still known to human kind. What if my dissertation were like a huge giant stamp collection of every idea that was relevant to my topic? That would be a life’s work, crossing out things as they no longer become relevant, keeping a library, an archive, or all the things that have been discovered and disproven over the years.

This is what it means to be an academic that cannot edit. That leaves you with only poetry.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Untitled first draft of an old poem

some poetry is not meant
to change the world but
to be
a mash note a lover’s breath something
that would otherwise go unsaid a touch that would
otherwise go unfelt there are moments
that everything is changed. i’m struggling to
keep equilibrium my thoughts
break like bad poetry my heart beats a little too fast
strains like it wants to burst out like it might die
so exquisitely one last bang and then a stop but i know
it’s not like that yet. everything feels changed. i’m not ready. this poem
will not change the world any consciousness
except between you and me is not
to be published read shared remembered is not posterity
is only a string (of words) between your heart and mine a memory
the morning your hands your lips on my neck your hands on my skin
the reach between my legs and on the road everything
changes i don’t know if you feel it scares me to not know
the memory burns my body remembers and it’s stubborn it gets
stuck remembers you desires nothing
else won’t let me know burns remembering where your hands
were burns in my breasts my skin makes me remember everything
distracts me when i walk embarrasses me when i talk
to others when i talk to you struggle to listen over the talking of my body.
transcend. i know you want to transcend. my body wants to hold you in place
out of time to live in memory stop everything
is changing.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Candidate House: The Politics of the Future

This was a blog I wrote during the 2008 election, but it didn't get a single hit for some reason, so I am reposting it now, in the spirit of the zeitgeist.

Whatever that means.


Candidate House: Politics of the Future


Ok, so in a previous blog I outed myself as hooked on a lot of bad reality TV. Not all reality TV mind you. I, like anyone else, have my discernments here, too. But anyway . . . it seems to me, and I suggested this to friends back in January before all of the infighting and fiascos and monsters and such, that we need a primary process that responds to how Americans really make decisions, that responds to the "reality" of America as it currently stands.

So I was thinking, we should replace the primary process with one or more reality TV scenarios. Imagine Edwards and Romney and Giuliani and Huckabee and Hillary and Obama and McCain and families all living together in Candidate House. Uh huh. And then further imagine different challenges each week a la The Apprentice one week perhaps, American Idol another week, Big Brother, Fear Factor (eat those bugs, Huckabee!), etc. Depending on the number of candidates, the challenges could be weighted and candidates voted off periodically, and then the two remaining candidates campaign against one another.

I haven't worked out all the bugs yet, but we've got 4 years to work it out. And come on. If Diebold's election machines won't work properly to give us fair elections, then maybe the producers of American Idol can still guarantee us a little democracy.

Whaddayathink?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Meditations on Perloff, Dworkin, and Meaning


In the US, a mass society with a large university-educated population inevitably breeds an “official verse culture” (Bernstein 1986: 246-49) – a culture whose discourse is as conventionalized as any other mass discourse from advertising to political campaign rhetoric to legal language."
Marjorie Perloff

“The tradition has always been that you may more or less describe the things that happen but nowadays everybody all day long knows what is happening and so what is happening is not really interesting, one knows it by radios cinemas newspapers biographies autobiographies until what is happening does not really thrill any one . . . . The painter can no longer say that what he does is as the world looks to him because he cannot look at the world any more, it has been photographed too much and he has to say that he does something else.”

Gertrude Stein, “What Are Master-Pieces” in Perloff, 162-3

“Writing is 50 years behind painting.”
Bryon Gysin



In 21st Century Modernism, Marjorie Perloff takes up the virtues of a literary avant garde, arguing that despite its seeming absence, despite declarations that the avant garde is a purely modernist beast murdered at the hands of post-modernism, that the avant garde of the early 20th century was only an infancy, a beginning, and that it remains relevant today, that is post-modernism that in a way, and I am massively paraphrasing, perhaps even projecting my own opinion here, wore itself out. I think of the metaphor, growing up in Illinois, of a tornado in a valley, a destructive force to be sure, but moreover, one that eventually wears itself out because it has nowhere to go, so it spins and spins until it has no more strength. The point here, and I digress, is not to engage in a debate on post-modernism vs. modernism, a debate that I am not really ready to settle at the moment. But I am very distrustful of the proclaimers that all that came before me is now dead and over. Further, my own personal take is that postmodernism itself is not contrary to the avant garde, but emerges from it. That if Futurism, for example, with its embrace of a fascistic nationalism, can be seen as the ultimate form of a modernism that is born of enlightenment values, emphasis on apparent rationalism, and the rise of the nation-state, then Dadaism, with its embrace of ir-rationalism, of nonsense and it’s highly inter- and anti-nationalism, along with its progeny Surrealism with its interest in the dark occult and the unconscious, make up the beginnings of the post-modern, of the multiplicity, of the backlash, and that therefore, modernism and post-modernism are temporal but contemporaneous to one another.


Perloff’s assessment of an unfinished literary avant garde, aborted, perhaps before it could be fully realized, when it was merely quickening, is near and dear to my heart then. If we take Bryon Gysin at his wise word that writing is 50 years behind painting, then we can look back 50 years ago to see Abstract Expressionism, particularly of the Pollock strain, all form and accident, lacking not only representation, but meaning itself. What is the meaning inscribed into a splatter painting? A chance operation? If meaning is created, if it is gleaned somehow by an audience member, it is nonetheless, not a meaning that can be “read” infallibly, deciphered authoritatively by a critic. It is an accidental meaning, a meaning created by a subconscious connection to a form or element or color within the piece, a synaptic pre- un- sub- conscious meaning, not a semiotic meaning to be read.


Where is the abstract expressionist poetry? Even a pre-splattering, Surrealist Pollock, a poetry of images to evoke imagination, idea, fully over meaning, story, intent? For all of her avant garde sympathies and apologetics, which are mighty, Perloff still spends much of her time explaining the meaning of things with a reading of poetry that still seeks to explain, that is about metaphor and enjambment and all of those things that matter most and maybe only to graduate students in English, not readers or audience hungering for the liberations (even if they don’t conceptualize it that way or don’t know that they are hungry yet) of imagination, of images. Watching her decipher a poem by Charles Bernstein, ironically, can make it harder for me, personally, to distinguish it from the non-avant garde poetry she sets up as contrast. Is it because her own avant garde of today is Language Poetry, a poetic avant garde immersed in and engaging with semiotics and teories of meaning in ways that, at the end of the day, still engage more with rather than subvert, semioitics and the tendency to “read everything as a text?” After all, if everything can be read as a text, is it possible to create a text that is not meant to be read, but felt, experienced, understood on a different level? Can we have experiences outside of language, and in particular, can we use language to create experiences outside of language? A heady question (pun appreciated, but not intended), to be sure.


Even Craig Dworkin, whose work on the avant garde I greatly admire and who has influenced and supported my own ideas immensely, has, in some of his writings on Zaum (To destroy language”, Textual Practice (18)2, 2004, 185-197) still focused on meaning. Dworkin describes the work of zaum’ as a utopian activity that seeks to circumvent what he sees as “totalitarian” desires to fix meaning. Using semiotic analysis, Dworkin suggests that zaum’ actually can be read not through the usual system of differences, but through chains of similarities and through linguistic and syllabic innuendo. In his reading, Dworkin shows that the “problem” to be solved with zaum’ is not that of making meaning, but the difficulty of limiting the number of possible meanings within each work. He places zaum’ within a matrix of nondiscursive literature including children’s nonsense rhymes as well as lettrism and experiments with concrete and sound poetry. Nonetheless, the very basis of his work shows that we have a hard time talking about poetry, even the avant garde, outside of semiotic analyses. While his work may be about “limiting” meanings, it still assumes that with enough imagination, we can learn to “read” the short syllables of zaum, to somehow understand them. To talk about them on the rational level of academic discourse seems to make it difficult, if not impossible, to talk or even think about them outside of that discourse. Is this the same criticism that writing about performance faces, that it potentially kills the very thing it seeks to examine? Is the avant garde, even a literary one, not always inherently performative, a performance, in the way in which the reader and audience must individually, privately engage with the piece, even if not necessarily on a private or personal level, the way they would with a piece of confessionalism?


Of course, I do not mean to belittle the great work and thinking done by Dworkin and Perloff and others. But it is to say that few people have been able to truly rethink poetry and language and the functions of language. If, as Perloff says, poetic culture has conventions just like advertising or journalism or all other forms of writing, and if as Stein says, those forms of writing make the “reportage” function of poetry are dated and irrelevant (100 years ago in Stein’s day—let alone today in our over-mediated cable television clear channel CNN You Tube etc etc world) then what is the new function of poetry, the Dadaist post-modernism of a poetry that is about freeplay and free association of language to generate its own pictures of a 1000 disjointed words to make the picture of a Pollock, quite outside of story, narrative or even (c)overt attempts at meanings, outside of any attempts at something that can be fixed, understood rationally, something to stimulate both left and right brain simultaneously, not only one or the other separately or sequentially.



“If we could change our language, that’s to say the way we think, we’d probably be able to swing the revolution.” (John Cage, M 210)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fluffy's Run

There is a dream. It is a recurring dream I’ve had over the years. Sometimes just every once in a while, sometimes more frequently. I’ve had it twice in the past two weeks. I am always on the lam. Sometimes someone is trying to kill me. Sometimes it is more graphic than others. Sometimes someone comes along in my sleep and stabs my mother or Cheryl, the two women who have been most important in my life. Then they come and stab me in the back. The dream is so real, that I feel the terror. I am pinned in my sleep, unable to move. I hear the sound of the knife enter. It takes me several minutes of panic and terror before I can get to a lucid place from which to wake myself. I try to force my limbs to move, my eyes to open.

Other times, killers are chasing me down and I am always just one step ahead of them. They always manage to find me, yet I do escape just before they arrive. Sometimes I am a fugitive from the law. Sometimes I am caught up in intrigue. The most recent time I had this dream, there was some kind of underground railroad trying to help me, yet the men who were trying to kill me had still managed to find me. There is never an end to this dream. I am always just a step, or a half a step ahead, and they are relentless in their pursuit. I always wake up in the middle, exhausted, like a cop drama that has no ending. I have had this recurring dream since I was eight years old.

My dog used to run in her sleep. But I think it was a more pleasant running than mine. She would yelp and kick her feet and you knew she was dreaming of chasing a cat or running with a pack of freewheeling dingos. Maybe she was being chased by other larger, meaner dogs, and maybe she, too, woke up tired and that might have been why she slept all day.

It’s not that I believe that people are out to get me, and this is not a proving my mettle dream. It’s just a tiring running to keep up with things, to stay one step ahead of everyone -- maybe of expectations, of the bill collectors. Maybe it's a need to escape and the person chasing me is the life, the history, the baggage that I can't get away from. Maybe it's a symbol for everything that would try and distract me from the things that really matter. And the running is a distraction. When you are on the run, the only thing you can think of is safety. In life, as in dreaming, I am always grateful for a brief period of respite.

Untitled draft of poem

I am never away from you.
Coming home brings me no refuge
angry posted notes
on my forehead bleeding backwards into
my brain I wish I had a mirror in my head
for deciphering or my teeth would turn to a paper shredder

I no longer write notes by hand like an artist
instead of typing like a secretary feel the curve of the letters
beneath my wrist fluid and beautiful when you talk to me
I draw jagged lines the rocks I want to jump off
cliff dive into another place into a blue ocean
not a shallow brown river where you split
my head shoot between the ideas William Burroughs Tell
s me to hold still while you
hold me down waiting for bubbles
to stop bubbles are not for children
but for breathing you take away all my bubbles

Vesuvius and its many dead virgins
are now ash left behind drawn on my forehead
to remember like an angry posted note
I do penance for the sins I hope to commit
gleeful at the ones I do not
when I come home there is no respite from you
your words wake me up in the middle of the night and fuck me
while I’m half asleep
was it good
for you?

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Hidden Performances Everywhere

Conceptual/Performance Artist (is there any other kind?) Adrian Piper writes about “Hidden Performances,” about herself as a self-conscious art object. At least, I thought she had. Since studying her at NYU, I have always had the term “hidden performance” in my head, but upon returning to the text that I have been drawing from, she doesn’t ever actually use the words “hidden performance,” but “catalysis” to describe a whole range of performances that she has been engaged in. It’s a tired writer’s device to define a word in your text, except when it is an unusual word that is being used slightly out of context. Then, since the person writing the article (me) had to look up the word just to make sure that it meant what she thought it meant and was being used in the usual way, it seems appropriate. Or maybe it shows my ignorance. But I will take that chance. Catalysis is defined as “the action of a catalyst, especially an increase in the rate of a chemical reaction.”

I had also harbored the belief for a little while at least, that Piper had not necessarily intended for people to stare, to interact with her, but was just trying to see if they would. Upon revisiting at least a few of her writings in this regard, I think I had somehow come to a wrong conclusion. She did, in fact, in keeping with the nature of catalysis and of changing people, desire some sort of reaction, a kind of provocation.

In that spirit, allow me, please, to digreess with some “hidden performances,” some acts of catalysis, both of my own and of others.

I have taken to walking around town in bunny ears, lately, a kind of hidden performance, not necessarily trying to provoke or be provocative, and sometimes I even forget that I have them on, except today it is windy and I am waiting for a bus, writing this at a bus bench hunched over a notebook with the bunny ears alternately falling in my face of in the opposite direction off the back of my head.

Not trying to be deliberately provocative, but occasionally looking up at cars to see if the drivers are noticing. I know, or at least I think I know, what bunny ears symbolize. At home, they are sexual, put on for flirting purposes with lingerie or a bra and panties, at most. They conjure up images of Playboy bunnies. And so I am doubly self-conscious at times about them, since outside the walls of my home, I do not always think of myself as a particularly sexy being. But wearing them out in public, the young woman at the counter at McDonald’s gives me a smile and simply comments “nice bunny ears.” The male clerk at the mini-mart in my neighborhood silently nods at another customer, as if to say, “check this out” but the man is, deliberately or not, focused on buying some discounted candy and does not look at me. But I see the clerk, and I see that he has a slightly derisive look on his face, which causes me to feel that I have to explain myself, so I blame it on my boyfriend, who is also with me, saying that he dared me to wear them, although that is not entirely true.

Not deliberately provocative, I am trying to push my own boundaries. When I was 17, I would ride my bike around my smallish hometown wearing a bright green pair of oversized sunglasses that stuck out way far away from the sides of my head. At that time, the glasses were a true novelty, a new thing, the latest thing, and I had never heard of Adrian Piper, but I definitely knew that I was doing a performance of difference, causing passing motorists, bicycle riders, or pedestrians to come into contact with something unexpected, and was both self-conscious and unself-conscious in the process. Now, 30 years later, weighed down with social expectations, decorum, and “appropriateness” I have decided lately to take the small but highly visible step of wearing my bunny hears in public.

I knew the social significance of bunny ears, I think, and so today I have juxtaposed them with wearing a Hothead Paisan t-shirt, one from 20 years ago when I was 60 pounds heavier and so is 4 or 5 sizes too big on me. One that declares “I’m not your fucking spritzhead girlfriend!” and points a gun out of a car window at anyone who looks. In mixed company, adults and children, I wear an overshirt so that I can control the “reveal” of the t-shirt. Again, I am inside/outside, ambivalent/daring about the performance. As I leave the bus, the female bus driver says “Goodbye Bunny” and smiles. I stop to wish her a nice day.

Late at night, the bunny ears are decidedly sexual. Semiotically, they have definitely taken on a different signification. Earlier in the day, I am largely innocuous, non-threatening to women and fun, like the Easter Bunny or some other storybook creature, to children. I walk with a friend of mine around dusk and someone walking down the other side of the street says “So that’s what a Playboy Bunny looks like!” I holler back, “Not hardly, but thanks.” We laugh, but the whole social significance has changed and will continue to do so as the night wears on. Walking around the dark streets of Minneapolis, I start to get the one-honk car horn followed by the slowing down of the car in question. I have come to assume, after years of walking around at night in various neighborhoods, that this is a signal for prostitutes or “bunnies of the evening.”


Meanwhile, earlier and back on the bus, there had been a guy that I have seen around town, a type of performance artist himself. He wears a terry cloth headband and aviator shades and he carries a large boombox with him wherever he goes. He’s a nerdy looking white guy, age indeterminate, very skinny with his hair buzzed short, who goes around town playing basketball alone, boombox blaring. Sometimes he wears more outrageous shades. He is pretending to smoke on the bus today for anyone who is looking, and several young people are looking at him and smiling a little mockingly it seems to me. He is very self-conscious of doing a performance. I have seen him quite a few times over the years and he is never in public as a “private citizen,” but is always performing. He normally rides a bus down Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, between the Stephens Square neighborhood and the Phillips neighborhood, where he can play basketball in a highly visible location. Today, he is across town in Northeast Minneapolis, headed back downtown. Today, there are two “hidden performances” and the passengers on the bus don’t know which one to conspicuously ignore.

He is possibly the better performer, playing self-consciously for anyone who will engage with him, who will even glance his way. I often pretend not to pay attention, simply because I don’t want him to change what he is doing because of me, the way light acts differently as either a particle or a wave when you look at it. I on the other hand, simultaneously don’t want to be noticed and yet am amazed when people don’t react, likely the result of living in a relatively closed culture for the past 18 years and the exact reason for my hidden performances now.

In this regard, I suddenly think back to an episode of The Simpsons where Homer, finding out that his mother had been a Hippie, starts going on “freak outs” to liberate people’s “button-down minds.”

In the sculpture garden at the Walker Art Center, a man places his own hat atop the head of a green statue of a man. I wonder if he is inspired by me wearing the bunny ears. I think of the public statue in South Minneapolis, of a man sitting on a bench in front of a row of businesses. Periodically, someone comes along and leaves a knit hat or a baseball cap on the statue’s head. I wonder if these people think of themselves as performance artists or think of themselves as somehow contributing to the world of art. The fact is that there are things like this that go on every day, in every city around the world. There are those that approach any piece of public art with such reverence that they would never dream of touching it or interacting with it, so conditioned are they that art is sacred. And then there are times when someone dares to interact with it, to intervene, and make it their own.

A few years ago I had organized what I called Coin-Op Laundry open readings at a local Laundromat that had out-of-this-world acoustics. No one ever went to this landromat and to prove that fact, it is now defunct. I told everyone to wear their “laundry clothes” and to come and do their laundry while we read. I wore on old ratting skirt and a t-shirt. I got on the bus with my plastic laundry bag full of laundry. I noticed people were trying to avoid looking at me and I realized, these people think I am homeless! So I took that as liberty to act like a crazy vagabond person, talking to myself (louder and more than usual) and rocking back and forth in my seat. I took that liberty, that wide berth that people give to someone on the margins, and I was completely unself-conscious about my performance.

I do, in some cases, want a reaction from people. I want to change their attitudes. I want them to encounter something out of their ordinary daily lives and not necessarily see the “difference” as a threat. I live in a place at the moment where people use “different” to indicate something bad. “That’s . . . different” is a way of indicating that your method is strange to them, sometimes downright threatening. Actions undertaken in this context may or may not produce an immediate reaction. But I do want people to think about what they have seen. Maybe they will loosen up and have fun, in the case of the bunny ears. Maybe they will rethink their assumptions in the case of the coin-op poetry. Maybe it will cause me to reconceptualize all of those things myself, on those nights that I am on the bus and tired and I just want to be left alone rather than being bothered or confronted with “difference,” when I don’t want to deal with a proselytizer, a rapper, or any other type of performance artist

It also seems to me, that this could also be seen that as an artist/art object, one could even be trying to get into the mind of the “art object,” of the Mona Lisa, the Venus DeMilo, the Pollock “splatter painting” to work inside-out of the art object, the way that an actor would use sense memory to get at a character. And then for the artist, they cause the public to encounter this piece of art in a new way, to encounter an “art object” as a living being. I think that this would also be part of Piper’s goal of eliminating the “art object” as a discrete entity, bringing it to life, into being, into something that the “spectator” could interact with, rather than just viewing. Is that the point of walking around with a towel in your mouth, or deliberating creating a foul odor to wear on your clothes in close quarters with others? Is it to get at the feeling of someone looking at you, feeling unable to touch you, talk to you, or even to comment on what you are doing, to break through the decorum and sense of “social appropriateness?” Is it to see just how much people can or will take or “eccentricity/madness” before they will react?

People all around me are snapping pictures in the sculpture garden. I try not to notice if anyone snaps a picture of me. They probably won’t with all of these “true” art objects around.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Travel Journals: Minneapolis-Chicago-Indiana, September 2001

I'm pulling this out of my archives. It's a piece of writing that I've never really done anything with--my travel journals leading up to September 11, 2001.


Travel Journals, September, 2001


Again (and always) at the bus station, feeling out of sorts. Uncertainty over small things—whether or not to check my larger bag (I have 3 bags including snacks—1 over the limit); will I get a seat to myself where I can stretch out to sleep? I don’t want to be the last one getting on the bus. Maybe I should just go home and scrap this trip. When did I become so ill at ease with the world? Two drunk men hover around the bus terminal. One wanders in, stops inside the door standing still and weaving. Through the doorway, our own gazes are fixed, impatient and hopeful, waiting to board our bus. The man assumes we are staring at him, pauses, begins shouting at us. Why are you all staring at me? I didn’t do nothing. I DIDN’T DO NOTHING. He mutters and crosses from one side of the station to the other.

Earlier another drunk man passed through the terminal, escorted by security. There was no evidence he’d done anything wrong beyond his obvious mental and partial physical incapacitation. The cop “steers” the man over to the lockers for some reason. I thought I saw the cop slap at the man, but in peripheral vision, hard to say who smacked whom. The cop is trying to get the man to use a locker, but the man is having difficulty. Hell, I’m sober and I had a hard time using them. The cop starts yelling at him impatiently to just follow the directions and the man becomes more and more frazzled, more desperate, starts yelling “mind your own . . . mind your own . . .” More slapping. Really, it’s more like swatting and I can’t tell who started it, but it’s making me anxious and my sympathies fall with the man being slapped as he struggles with the locker. Suddenly the cop grabs him and starts throwing him around, throws him over a table, handcuffs him and takes him away. I can’t figure out why he had to be in this guy’s face in the first place. I never know what to do in these moments. I want to yell and tell the cop to leave the poor guy alone. All I can manage is to seethe passively, muttering “fucking cops”.

The originally scheduled bus is overloaded, so they call in a second bus. Drivers are called in the middle of the night and we finally leave at 2:00 am, an hour and forty minutes later than scheduled. Damon Wayans does not hassle me about my bags and I manage the much-coveted back seat of the bus, which has three seats rather than two, in which I can stretch out and sleep through the night trip. I watch the Seattle-bound bus next to us fill up like a clown car, wondering how they’ll fit all those people into that bus. I start to feel anxious for them and finally settle into my own seat, grateful and sleepy.

After five hours of intermittent sleep, Chicago—where the trains make the streets shake and everyone pretends not to notice. I walk down from the bus depot, down Canal Street, which I always think is the coolest name ever for a street. Down Jackson. Down Wabash. Already too exhausted and restless to land anywhere. It’s always unbearably humid when I’m in Chicago. People must sweat here even in February. My jeans weigh down my legs, making me too heavy to walk, so overweighted that I become weightless, like an astronaut in a heavy suit, clumsy, unnatural. I’m completely paranoid that I will get sick—get a cold—out here on the road and be miserable for the next 10 days. An abortive attempt to eat Jerk Chicken pita and read arts papers. The unbearable humidity and lack of sleep make this the wrong choice of cuisine. Abandon heavy spicy gravy meat and move on to the lake. I wander around the Art Institute. Look at the Surrealists. Sit in the Café. In Grant Park I stretch out, backpack under my head, and sleep. I pride myself on my ability to sleep anywhere—on a bus, by the lake in Chicago. It feels so good to stretch out in the grass after a night scrunched into bus seats and 6 hours of walking the city. I take off my shoes and curl my toes into the grass, feel earth beneath my sweaty, soggy astronaut jeans.

Back at the bus station, I can’t help but wonder why they abandoned the much larger shelter on Clark and Randolph, right in the middle of the Loop, for this small, crowded, out of the way station. Ten or 12 blocks from the lake, at least 6 blocks from anywhere to get a sandwich or a bit to eat. The old station had a Burger King, a gift shop, several levels to explore. You had the sense you were in the city, not hanging among warehouses in an even seedier area of town. Too many undesirables at the old station, I’m sure. The new station is constantly filled to capacity with lines of people passing through, waiting for connections that never arrive.

Hammond, Indiana. GI housing and power plants. Towers like giant monsters everywhere. Like those dress maker dummies, only huge. Mutant, foreboding. Angry women with their hands on their hips. I haven’t been on terra firma since I got on the bus. Interstate 90 from Chicago into this first part of Indiana is like being on the el trains. The highways are all built above ground like one humungous overpass. I start to feel a bit seasick overlooking roofs of small houses but completely unable to determine anything about the land we’re traveling above. Once again I have scored the less crowded of two buses and have a seat to myself. There are even empty seats on this bus, unlike the one that everyone else was struggling and fighting to get on only 15 minutes before mine. Smugly, I stretch out, take off my shoes, and rub my feet as I look out the window and scribble. More power plants. Domes and pools. Indiana must be the Newark of the Midwest. Dinner stop coming up in Elkart, home of the mini-motor home.

Indiana is unimpressive. I made a good choice leaving Chicago at night. This is the “old economy”—smokestacks and lighted towers. Social realism, Soviet style art glorifying the unity of the grime-covered workers. Glum lifeless apocalyptic future of automatons working beneath a permanently hazy gray sky.

Indiana must steal or gamble away all of its road funds. This is the worst maintained toll road I have ever been on. What do they do with the money? For all of the ugly sprawl of mall areas, the conformist monoculture of chain restaurants and department anchor stores, neon is a friend to both the insomniac and the night traveler. Miles of dark highway with nothing to gaze upon, save for the reflected headlights in the opposite bus window and intermittent glances at the moon leave you stranded and suspended, lacking any concept of time and geography. Signs of life outside the window, distant from the highway, anchor you, keep you from drifting too far. It’s not quite home, but so familiar nonetheless.

10:30 pm. The Ohio Turnpike. Another new state.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Memoir of my mother

I am teaching a class on writing, specifically on memoir writing, through community ed at Minneapolis Public Schools this summer and so this is something that I started writing in my head as I was thinking about the class. It doesn't have a title yet. I suck at titles. And who knows if I will go anywhere with it. But this is the beginning, a kind of tribute.


This is what I remember. My mother died 2 ½ years ago now, although embarrassingly, I can’t remember the exact date. It was somewhere between her birthday, October 16th, and Thanksgiving. I believe it was around the 13th. It was on a Sunday morning about 9:30 Central Standard Time. Despite my imprecision, I can say that for the first two years at least, time for me, stopped, which is probably why the date is so imprecise. My measurement of time stopped. I didn’t realize it, but the person against whom I measured my sense of time was now gone and so time literally stopped. For the next two years, I couldn’t remember what year it was and so consequently, how old I was. I was perpetually 45 years old, which was the age I was when she died. I even had a hard time remembering how old she was when she died.

She said to me once that she still didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life and that now it was nearly over. This was a few years before she died, before she even got sick.

In response to my requests “Mom, can we go to Disneyworld, New York, California, Fill in the Blank next summer? She would always reply “I don’t know, I could be dead by then.” And she was always around. So I didn’t really take those threats seriously.

I told her she should write her memoirs, her history, in the time she had left. But she said she probably wouldn’t.

This is what I remember of my mother, scattered: and collected from various memories that she told me about her childhood, mixed with memories of my own. Of course now that she’s gone, thankfully, I don’t remember any of the bad parts. Those are intellectual memories now, not emotional ones. I have forgiven her for all of the “bad” memories and they have no hold on me anymore. I have only funny memories, good memories of her now, as saccharine as that may sound. I don’t mean it to. It’s just the way it is.