Monday, December 30, 2013

Annette Funicelo is Cast in Your New Year’s Poem

The bar of each year of your life is set like a game of Limbo
to wriggle or shimmy under, or just barely slip through that period
of the film where what you sought was not what you got.
You didn’t plan for the letter you sent to be returned to sender,
the grain of your own handwriting on the envelope covered
in the high court of post office codes. You wanted to keep in touch.
This year you tried to reach out, connect, bend toward the light
backwards. Look at you! Trying! The revelers at your beach
didn’t get the file on the quiet you needed. They all danced,
played their ukuleles in the key of too loud.
You fell into their barbecue pit.

Well now, it’s time to walk on fire, match the accident
with an event of your own making, strike a note
of such volume the string vibrates its highest and resonates
for nothing but the greater good. You meant it, see? Springy
footsteps are the answer. Bounce the inflated ball into the air
but don’t expect to know where it will land since seals have a way
of popping their charmed noses up. You can’t decide on a deck
or a basement when it comes to levels for this year, but the cast
holds the rope anyway. You choose how to pass under it,
trip on a brick, sail through the air, land on a flowered towel
or in the surf. It’s all finesse, seeds of foam at the shore’s edge
as the audience gets a wink of a mermaid’s tail. Credits. Song.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Woman Who Set Herself on Fire Lives in the Library

Libraries are home to so many lives, real and imagined, and those made real through imagination. There aren't many places in our society that can claim to hold so many spirits aloft, bouyed by words and the scent of acid-nibbled papers, and the promise of a few minutes (or hours) of escape. A case can be made for the theatre, but you have to pay an admission there. The library is free to everyone.

When we moved from New Jersey to Northeastern Pennsylvania in 1975, my mother was disheartened by the offerings sprinkled along the strip-mined landscape. There were bars, "adult shoppes,"(adding the extra "pe" made the porn seem classier?) and more bars, but where was the library? She was relieved to find it on the main street of the town nearest to the woods where our house was being built. It was over a bar, if my child's mind remembers correctly, but it was there.

Alice was the name of the librarian, and she became a family friend. She was a large woman with twinkling eyes and a chuckly laugh. Summer reading clubs were big in the 1970's and my sister and I racked up shiny stars on the charts as we bookwormed our way through Blume and Drew, Wilder and Baum (I know I sneaked a few lower level Seusses into my list to keep up with my sister). If I were able to enter that second story library today, I could walk you right to the shelves where the Steven King books were in the adult fiction, and the place where that mystery whose title eludes me now sat among the young adult books, or the spot under the eaves where Alice stored encyclopedias and other book sets that were donated. I helped her to organize that space one summer. It was dusty and hot, but I really felt like I was doing some good, and the fact that she let me made me feel more like an adult. There were Christmas parties, Girl Scout puppet shows, and time after school as Mom chatted with Alice. As I grew up in my hometown library, I lounged in the corner and flipped through the Seventeen magazines, or got lost in a girl's sixteen different personalities in the well-worn copy of Sybil.

Today my local library is just around the corner and up the street. It's an easy walk, and a pleasant one. In front of the building is a sculpture of a poem by Emily Dickinson that is incised into a piece of metal so the reader can see through every word to what is behind it. What is behind it? The Lancaster Public Library. The first words of the poem are an invitation: I dwell in Possibility --

I tend to hang out in the basement of this library. The lack of light and noise makes for a cave-like feel and it helps me to focus. It's a place where anything is possible, yes, but here is where I will make one thing happen. It's a good place to write and read, because it is far from the bank of computers that are filled with internet browsers, and the scent of the books in the basement is just right. At any given time during my reading and research I can be sitting next to a teenage girl seeking information on platelets for a report, or a homeless man finding some rest at the table. The librarians try their best to hush cellphone use, but I've heard plenty of one-sided conversations. The upstairs rooms are for children and teens, and there are some multi-purpose rooms I haven't been in yet but hope to someday visit through a program. The Juliana bookstore has plenty of gently used books for sale, the proceeds of which support the library.

My husband and I were married in one of my favorite libraries - the Osterhout Free Library on Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre. Built in 1849, it was once the First Presbyterian Church. Melvil Dewey, creator of the Dewey decimal system, was asked to act as an advisor to the library board. He  suggested that the board buy the First Presbyterian Church, and use it for ten years until permanent arrangements could be made. This was in 1887. It is still a library today, and a magnificent one. I immediately fell in love with the glass floors of the second floor space that overlooks the main room, and the extensive poetry collection, and the reading room with its common lights and orderly newspaper rack. I wrote a family cookbook here, and attended poetry readings. I arranged for a poet to come in and give a workshop and reading through the ALA, I ran a few workshops and writing circles there myself. I spent hours pouring over the microfiche searching for a baseball team from the early part of the 20th century that a hospice patient played in when he was a kid. I read a newspaper article about a woman who set herself on fire in a cemetery, and wrote a horrible formal poem about it. There are so many spirits there in six point type on microfiche film, letterpressed into thick paper in the city directories, or forever dancing at the holiday feast, asking to be read.

We were married in this library because I wanted all those witnesses - the woman who set herself on fire, the Line who fell in love with a Dot, Walter Mitty, the Velveteen Rabbit. There are times when I'm in a library and I think that there will never be the same configuration of people again - the real ones checking out their books, and the fictional ones on shelves or resting behind the eyelids of the dreamer. I wonder if the books that sit next to each other day by day, week by week, year to year, ever tire of what each one has to say. Sometimes I slip one in the wrong slot just so it will have a new neighbor to talk to, and then change the configuration of the spirits in the place. It's not necessary, and it probably irritates the librarians to no end, but it adds to my sense of wonderment about libraries and words, and the flickers of lives we brush up against in our lifetime. Some barely glow at the hem of our skirts and cuffs of our shirts, while others blaze and consume us.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Self-Portrait in a 2002 VW Beetle

The Bronski Beat sings
run  away/turn away/run away
as I shift into fifth gear,
push through fog that shrouds
the tops of trees. Sometimes
I want to pass my destination
and step on the first train to anywhere,
watch the landscape and backyards
from a passenger’s point of view.

Once I passed a cop on a motorcycle.
Unwise. “You want to tell me why you think
it’s a good idea to pass me?” he asked.
The shadow of his hat darkened my door.
“I’m in love,” I answered as if it were
a universal excuse, then said,
 “Not with you, of course.” Also unwise.

My mind clutches the scrap of an idea
while I’m on the road, and the white noise
of the pavement under my tires sings
that thought into an entire musical,
complete with sets and homemade props.
With the sunroof open, all my thoughts
go to seed like a dandelion in a gust of summer.
My hair imitates.

I scrawled POETRY across an old political
bumper sticker, then added one that says
“Reading is Sexy,” another that claims “I like this,”
and a pink circle with “I love the hoop” written
in the center. I believe it’s possible
to have too many bumper stickers.

In the little plastic vase on the dashboard
I keep a pair of chopsticks and two pens.
The glovebox is a morass of papers
that prove the car is registered and insured.

In dreams my car is an anchor that drags
me into the mazy haze of underwater
swimminess, a lake that wants to swallow
my life. I spin off an empty highway
and land in my own madness.

The other night, I dreamed my middle name
was Joule – a unit of energy in my center of being.
I think of myself as Joule inside this red bubble.

I wave to the crossing guard,
tap my fingers on the steering wheel to the Bangles’
Going Down to Liverpool to Do Nothing,
and unroll the window to feel the air
howl its big, empty questions in my ears.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

In Invitation to Participate in Something Real

I'm working on a multimedia piece that explores the idea of self-image and the internet. This piece is part of a whole larger work that is a collaboration with my husband, Dan Waber. The seeds of my idea come from some disillusionment with social media. I'd love your help with my plan, which will be part writing, part movement, part image. If you're intrigued, read on for the seeds that are sprouting to form the project, and the specifics for participation.

The Seeds

Seed One: A couple of years ago I was on a television show. It was a really great life experience, but nothing I continued to pursue. I now get casting calls for a variety of projects, including what are called web promos. A web promotional is a video created to go viral. Many of them are the heart-tugging or "this is so totally amazing OMG!" videos everyone is sharing because they are so "true." They aren't. Most of them are stealthily (or not so stealthily) disguised advertisements. What's so insidious about this type of advertising is that no one wants to admit that they've been kanoodled into sharing an ad. You shared it to your wall, and all your friends have liked it and commented on how touched they were, or how brilliant it is, or any number of comments that make you feel satisfied for having shared it. A great example of a web promo are the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty videos. It's a more obvious campaign - Dove is a company that produces a line of beauty products - we all know that so they aren't hiding anything. What I find creepy about it is that they create videos (which likely had casting calls, btw) that encourage self-esteem while selling you products that promise to erase lines, firm skin, and give you super shiny hair. I'm going to just call that campaign out for the bullshit that it is. There are many others, and they get shared as if they are truth. They are propaganda.

I once got a casting notice looking for "soccer mom types" to be interviewed on a news program about a current event. It was a rush call. It wasn't a testimonial for a product - they were casting people to look like they are "on the scene" to ask them questions about what was going on. The people who actually were on the scene either didn't look good enough or couldn't speak coherently I guess. Whatever the reason, they needed to gloss the news up a bit.

Seed Two: Last week I downloaded an app for my phone called Perfect 365 after reading about it: "Perfect 365 is a one-of-a-kind portrait app that allows anyone to easily select trendy makeover styles or fine-tune every detail of their face to get perfect portraits. It's fun. It's easy. You'll want to enhance all your party photos and share them with everyone!" That fueled my curiousity about what makes us feel like we have to be perfect all the time, or somehow better/younger/faster/smarter than we are. It also dredged up some thoughts on my own self-image issues and what I share online. Fun times.

I took a couple of photos and pushed them through the Perfect 365 app, and this is what I got. The top photos are the originals. The bottom photos are the "fun and easy perfect portraits!" Sorry about the nightmares you are about to have (I'm referring to the "perfected" photos that erase all personality from my face).

Perfect 365 can make my nose thinner. I can also slenderize my face, eliminate blemishes, soften skin, add foundation, change my eye color. You can do all sorts of "perfecting" manipulations with this app.

Seed Three: A friend shared some stories about Ok Cupid and Tinder. Tinder (another smartphone app) culls your Facebook profile photos and location, and matches you with people in your area. From there, a person can "like" you based on your photo alone. If you "like" them back you can contact them. My friend said that she puts Tinder on her phone for awhile, waits to get a "like" or two so she feels good, and then she never contacts anyone and deletes the app.

Seed Four: Seed Four is just a stew of all these things - research into the McCarthy era for an upcoming poetry residency, the emails I get for casting calls seeking women 25-40 years old who are "pretty, elegant, and charming but approachable with a down-to-earth quality," (what does that even mean?) the advertising I see shared through social media as if it were real, the reality show casting calls, fashion magazines, my own weirdo desires to be beautiful. The perfect storm for creativity, and for exploring what is real and true.

With the ability to easily change how you look, what is real on social media? What do you believe is true? What do you think about how you look? I've got a lot of questions churning after erasing all of my neck wrinkles.


If you want to participate, you'll be asked to do the following:

Answer a few questions about self-image, self-esteem, and the internet.

Email me a photo of yourself for a Perfect 365 manipulation. You'll get to approve or deny the use of the photo in the finished piece.

If this seems like a women-only project, it's not. I would love to hear from men, too. If you are interested in participating, please Email me.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Will You Perform/Read/Teach for The Angry Divorced Fathers Club?

No, thanks. I do a few events each year for free, but entirely at my own discretion.  This list of reasons goes for the writing portions of my life, as well. When you ask an artist to perform for free, you are essentially asking them to add value to your event for nothing in return but the promise of “good exposure.” My husband and I once had an event coordinator at a bookstore read us a memo from corporate headquarters about how they needed to provide free events to bring traffic into the store. This was just after she asked us to run a writing workshop for free. This was not going to be good exposure for us. It was just taking advantage.

The performer or artist you want at your event still paid out of pocket to be there for you through her education, insurance, and rent, among many other things. Not to mention her time. Please factor these things in when you ask anyone to perform or teach at no cost. (These are my reasons for not doing everything for free - other artists likely have their own set.)

I pay for classes to get good enough to be able to perform and teach.

            I’ve learned from some incredible artists. I paid to learn from them because they worked hard to get good enough to teach and perform. I still take classes and workshops from writers, hoopers, actors, and dancers whose work I like because I want to learn more and get better at what I do. It’s professional development. Hours and hours of it.  What I do is not just “for fun.” Well, it IS fun, but it’s not “just for fun.” It’s hard work, and it costs real money, to get better at what you love.

I pay for rehearsal space to get good enough to perform.

            Hoop practice can’t happen in my apartment, and good rehearsal space isn’t cheap. It adds up. Someday, I hope to have my own space to teach and rehearse and share with others. That will cost money too.  I know, because I once had a space for writers and artists to share their work.

I practice every single day, so I’m good enough to perform and teach.

            Good writing doesn’t happen because I slack off and don’t write for several weeks. It’s not like I put on my fancy eyelashes and costume, and ta-da! I can hoop! It all takes work. I’m not perfect. There are days when my body is really very sore. There are days when I feel like everything I do just sucks, but then I continue to work at it.  Why? Because I want to be the best I can be when someone hires me. I want to give a meaningful performance. I want to write a really great poem.  Go read a greeting card and then read something by Fleur Adcock. You’ll notice the difference.

I have insurance so I can perform and teach.

            What? Yes. I pay each year for separate insurances – one for instruction – and the other for performance.  There is insurance out there for performing poets, too. Google it, poet friends, then carefully consider whether or not you should continue to get up on the table to shout your poetry over the audience without it.

Making costumes takes time, talent, and money.

            This doesn’t come up so much in the writing part of my life. Yet. I’ve had to learn how to sew better, and I hate to sew. Fringe isn’t cheap either, let me tell you.

I love what I do, and because I love it, I want to honor the other artists who are involved in learning their craft so they can succeed. Do I care about the Angry Divorced Father’s Club? If they seek to become less angry, then yes. Will I perform for them for free? No. You just can’t continue to make your art well if you don’t get paid. Eventually your checkbook says 0, and it’s not long before the checkbook of your spirit has a negative balance as well.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Let's Hoop Camp in the Forensics Lab

On the first day, a spell of yellow caution tape
and fake blood seeds the girl’s imaginations.
I hang a banner of light cotton pennants,
peel the fake footprint pattern off the floor.
The room is huge, perfect for the investigation
of movement and ecstatic dance. Death was here
once, ok, but we can rise above that bar.

My suitcase with the word “Happy”
spelled out in bright duct tape letters
shares space near a glass-fronted cabinet
that holds a dummy in a grey suit. He leans
as if he’s been clubbed in the head. He has, the girls
decide, because look, I’ll bet he was coming up
from the basement when she hit him with the brick.

We whirl all week, spin outside ourselves,
bond into the Hoop Unit. Girls, circle up, I say,
and they hoop to the center of the room, or I sing,
Hoop, Hoop! and they respond with a Hooray!
so voluminous the glass in the cabinets rattles.

Every day I’m witness to their methods
of friendship. The peels from shared oranges
curl in the corner on a paper plate. Decks of hoop
tricks decorated, circumferences calculated,
personal boundaries stretched, they twirl and laugh,
secure the scene.

I hide the film of storyboards set up by the CSI class
in a grainy drawer, close the lids on footprint foam.

Happiness sometimes has no key and so has to pick
the lock, or spend hours filing down metal
until she can spring herself and her partner, Joy,
who are the perfect match. They court Trouble
on occasion, but their work songs are so full,
sealed with the physical evidence of a life well-lived.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Homemade Cheese Crackers

We're trying to eat better around here. I've got an app on my phone for it. Really. I'm a total thrill at the grocery store where I scan items and the app shows me what is in the so-called food I've just scanned. We don't buy much at the grocery, but my husband likes Cheez-Its. They are not food. Honestly, I liked them too, but when I found out they have TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone - a chemical linked to causing ringing in the ears), I threw them out of the pantry and looked for a good cheese cracker recipe. I found one at (and she found hers from, and modified it ever-so-slightly to use wheat flour instead of white. I also doubled the ingredients because I knew we'd want more.

There are a couple of things you gain by making your own crackers: the delicious smell of them baking, and the satisfaction of knowing what's in your crackers because you made them. You just don't get that experience by sliding a box of pre-made crackers from a shelf. These would be really fun to make with kids. Very easy.

3 cups (12 oz.) grate extra sharp cheddar cheese
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2-3 tbsp. milk

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Put everything except the milk into a food processor. Pulse the processor, 5 seconds at a time for 5 or 6 times until the dough is in coarse crumbs.

3. Add the milk and process until the dough gathers together in a ball. 

4. Roll the dough out on a floured board with a rolling pin that has been floured. Roll until the dough is about 1/8" thick.

5. Cut the dough into 1 inch squares. Or, you can do what I did and break out some of your smaller, cuter cookie cutters for some sassy shapes. If you want the Cheez-It style hole in the center of each cracker, poke a hole with the flat end of a wooden skewer. Don't use your purple pen.

6. PLace the crackers at least 1/4 inch apart on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

7. Bake for 12-15 mins. until the edges are just starting to brown.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rondel Supreme of Unbeing for Hoopers

Close your eyes and spin.
The swimminess of poetry,
letters loosed, swallowed with glee,
dissolve with each turn. Unpin
thought and let it go. The din
of the daily erases with velocity.
Close your eyes and spin
the swimminess of poetry.
Pop and static, you’re the song in
heavy rotation, a dark ocean of free
forgotten foreverness. You can’t un-be?
Oh, here you can. Ha, ha! A win
to close your eyes and spin
the swimminess of poetry.

Sonnet for a Sad Dream

There’s a way to pack the chandelier
that no longer fits in with the rest
of your furniture’s bleak and blear.
Each crystal dangled undressed

except for its prisms, twisted on wires
of twilight metal. Use tissue paper.
No. Toss them in a glass box, amplifier
of their song. Unsayable stars, capable

of anything, ask them about the basement.
They will tell you how broodiness
and longing can build a monument
to the wrought scrollwork of sadness,

how once taut links will ease to the floor,
relaxed. Inside each teardrop, the salt of furor.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Self-Portrait at 44

When I was seven years old
I was sure I was going blind.
I sat on the floor of the bedroom
and stared down the calico pattern on the bedspread
until the little yellow flowers buzzed
into apple red background blurriness.
A stuffed duck dissolved into a furry moon.
The curtains, unsuccessful in their ruffles,
disappeared into the light of outside.

I never told my mother.
How could I harpoon her heart?
“My youngest daughter can’t see.”

Focus and unfocus,
it’s a trick I’ve played through the years.
I still don’t know what I want.
Sometimes I can’t see the beauty in my own neighborhood –
the two workmen on top of the roof across the street
who stretch out, smoke, and laugh into the clouds they make,
or the little girl who tears apart  hydrangeas for confetti.

Command plus plus the view,
take up wearing glasses. See?

Sometimes I’m happy but music pushes me into a lump of tears
and then the song ends and the DJ comes on
with the little jingle that announces the station 
and I feel foolish because the whole day was there all along.
That’s what I want.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

For a Young Friend Who Wants a Bra

Nothing yet.
Soon enough the fabric
buckles, deploys boys.
Your lively thoughts play
down the street, overheard
by mothers who wish
they had the energy,
the same instrumentation
of imagination.

Memory shames.
I kept a growth chart
of breast progress,
held a loopy washcloth
over my chest in the tub
and cupped my hands
over the nothing
that was there. I hoped,
and then I lost interest,
and packed a bag
to run away from home.
I lost interest in that too,
the idea sillier than
saving my nickels
for a chihuahua.

Don’t worry.
You’ll grow as you’ve grown,
an arrangement so fetching
you won’t even notice, lost
in the drowsy navigation
of your beautiful days.

Monday, February 18, 2013

This Title Needs You To Read It As a Title

This line has a syllable count of ten,
and this line has eight syllables.
This line makes you think of bears.

This line is set apart from the rest.

This line is nothing without you, reader.
Maybe only the punctuation will remain.
                                                       ,              .
Nope, not even that, this line says.
This line won’t finish itself, it needs me.

Ah, but the day?
The day doesn’t need me to finish.
Ten syllabled trees will sway
and darken against the sky without me,
eight syllables of footsteps will own the pavement,
bears will still grizzle or be stuffed cuddlers.

This line will still be lonely, maybe,
or original. Or both.

All of these lines need you.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Sixth of February Lemon Cake

This is the cake I baked for my mother's birthday. She loves lemon! So do I, so I've been experimenting with lemon cake recipes, tweaking and adding, subtracting, and tweaking again. This one is based on a Martha Stewart cake recipe which I found on the Everyday Food website, but I changed some of the ingredients and added a couple. This is a keeper, and I'm calling it The Sixth of February, because that's my mother's birthday. If you ask me for a lemon cake, and I like you, this is what you'll get.

The Sixth of February Lemon Cake


1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature, plus a bit more for the pans
3 cups cake flour (I used Softasilk)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
grated rind of 1 meyer lemon
juice of 1 meyer lemon
1 jar of Dickson's Lemon Curd

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter two 8-by-2 inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. (This is a pain in the rear. I trace the bottom of the pan on the parchment paper, cut it out, and then use the first one as a pattern for the second. If anyone has a better suggestion, I'm all ears!) Butter the parchment once you've placed it in the pan, and dust with flour. Tap out all the excess. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set it aside. Grate the rind of the lemon into a small bowl. Halve the lemon and juice it, taking care not to let seeds into the juice. Use the paddle attachment on your mixer, and beat the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the eggs one at a time and add the vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Add the juice of the lemon and the lemon rind last, and mix on low until it's blended.

Divide the batter between the two pans evenly, smooth with a rubber spatula, and tap the pans on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pans in the middle of the baking process. Put the pans on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes, then flip, and peel off the parchment. Invert the cakes on the racks and let them continue to cool with the top sides up.

When the cakes are cooled, use a serrated knife and trim the tops of the cakes to make them level. (What a shame! You'll have to taste the extra pieces!) Split each layer into two so you have a total of four layers. Place the bottom layer on a plate or cake stand and with an offset spatula top with some lemon curd, spreading it evenly but leaving an inch of bare cake on the outer edge. Place the second layer on top, and repeat the process until you get to the top of the cake. 

For frosting, you're on your own. Don't feel cheated. I'm not much for measuring during this process, I test as I go along. I make a simple buttercream frosting (butter, confectioner's sugar, vanilla, dash of milk), and add a little lemon juice to it. I'm not much for measuring during this process, I test as I go along, which is why you're on your own. Have fun!

Monday, February 04, 2013


You are everywhere, and covered in snow
in a park where no one even sleeps anymore.
You are the various conversations
between black gloved, very important men.

You are the screen door flung wide
that everyone tries to latch shut.
Whenever I return to you, a fight breaks out,
or someone shoves an eggplant in a tuba.

Oh, my blastoff of lions, my symphony of planets!
I write your name in water spilled on the countertop
and cover myself in books. I lie down in their pages
and swim around in all those letters. You
are in the story that is very near the sea, see?
I am trying to take you home with me.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Other People’s Happiness

Other people’s happiness
is not yours to hold. You
weren’t there for the flower
made of felt,  last night’s
baking scent still snugged
in the rafters, the titmouse
on the feeder. Confess,
that under your system,
everyone else’s happiness
may be as important to you
but you will never understand it.
The seeds of thistles, glory
of fire, temptress spots of the body,
cracked hands prized with dirt,
bootclack on the sidewalk,
salt spit at the corner of the mouth,
blue sky wine.

What pleases you
is not what pleases others,
and tapers to monosyllabic
in the attempt:
Street lamp winks off at dawn,
leaves creak shut, curl,
lift in the sun.

What other people own.

Friday, January 25, 2013


It’s the day I lose what’s left of my wisdom. There’s not much. I’m not sure I really ever had any, and if I did, it was probably on loan. Out they go, the teeth that should have been liberated twenty years ago. The waiting room is all morning television and fluorescent light. Outside, a piece of plastic tries to strangle the branch of a tree. Three other people wait for their names to be called like they’ve made an appointment for a mugging. A large man in a plaid overcoat talks to his ride about every little thing that can go wrong with wisdom tooth extraction. This is his way of overcoming his nerves, I say to myself as I read my book harder. Reading harder means I ask my husband if he will listen as I read to him. He's reading something by Pynchon, and seems happy to oblige, but he also knows it will relax me to read out loud. I hope this will block everything else out, but in this case I only hear the plaid patient's freight train nervousness over E. B. White’s essay titled "Poets". It goes something like this:

These are busy days for poets. There’s dry socket. You hear about that? Now happily, those days will soon be over; because America is to have an authoritative listing of major poets. I was pretty damned wobbly the last time I walked outta here. All a person need do, when confronted by a doubtful bard or a poem of uncertain proportions, will be to thumb through “Who’s Who in American Poetry” to discover if the writer has attained his majority. Yeah, it could get so bad you pass out. You might throw up.

I hope anesthesia is like an elevator ride. You get on, press the button, and for awhile you’re really nowhere – between floors. Ding! You’ve arrived, awake again. I think I might have interesting visions. Maybe I’ll see my dad, or my grandmothers, or some Gordian Knot will be cut.  I finally understand string theory! I can juggle!

My blood pressure beeps up anxiety. There’s a television in the new room too, where they’ve taken away my book and glasses, and connected me to enough wires to keep me cataleptic. A couple of missed veins later, a needle full of something that makes me feel like I’ve had a few glasses of wine, and claret swims behind my eyes. I’m between floors without knowing I’ve even stepped onto the elevator. I am not anywhere.

My husband tells me my heart rate went up when the nurse asked me if I was ok. It went down when I was told he was in the room. That’s the room I always want to enter when I get off the elevator. The one with him in it.