Downhearted Blues

I gets up in the morning with the blues
3 different ways
I have two mind to leave here
I didn’t have but one say staySon House “Louise McGhee”

I am just gathering thoughts here.

My final department meeting was last week. I still have a job, for now. I will become part of a large department at a four-year comprehensive UW school, and we have yet to begin the task of figuring out how that will work, what it will look like, especially in light of program closures at UW-Superior and UW-Stevens Point.

I have been feeling paralyzed by grief and rage at the dissolving of my institution, the University of Wisconsin Colleges.

To say that my resolve to keep doing this job has been crippled by more than 3 years of continuous shock-and-awe reorganizing and restructuring is an understatement. So far it hasn’t helped me to know that my feelings are echoed by my colleagues all around Wisconsin, all of whom get up and keep doing the best they can at their jobs.

I get up in the morning every Monday after a night of severely broken sleep to face my students who are either a) very worried about what this new change means for them, or b) not worried because we (faculty and staff) have been able to maintain a semblance of normal operations for them over the past several years of continual budget cuts. I do my best to teach them what they will need in future semesters to be successful students and citizens, no matter where they end up.

Then I eat lunch at my desk while reading emails and downloading documents related to the very large committee I’m a part of that has some fairly enormous tasks ahead of it.

Then I drive 35 minutes to the other campus. Then I have a 90-minute meeting that lately has just been us coming up with all of the questions we don’t have answers to (yet) but that have to be answered before any substantive work can be done. (This is repeated ad nauseum for all of my colleagues across the UW System, some of whom have three or more multi-hour meetings per week plus their full 4 course load.)

Then I drive 70 minutes to my house, with my thoughts chasing each other on the hamster wheel that passes for my brain at the close of the day.

It’s a shame, a lowdown dirty shame.

And it’s not sustainable.

The day my third mind to stay changes to “leave” will be an interesting day.






On Honeyboy Edwards

On Honeyboy Edwards

Washing dishes is blues music so Pandora brings me
Charley Patton’s “Bo Weevil” beamed down and a shiver
of recognition goes up my spine a shiver of collapsed
time to 1998 when I shivered in another cold wind
off Lake Michigan head tucked into pea coat to visit some
Chicago Southside apartment down some little dim
stairwell into the elderly bluesman’s bedroom dragging
kitchen chairs across green checkered linoleum
around the bed while he picked up a red guitar
and became Honeyboy with a smile when I asked him
to play “Pony Blues” he picked his way through weeds
of memory picked his way to call up Charley Patton for me
raised Charley Patton from the Delta cotton fields for me
picked and slid a bottleneck over the strings and raised the dead for me
And if he sees me now he’s saying  with a laugh
“Little girl why you cryin’ in your kitchen
for the voices of the dead?”
Why am I crying for the voices of the dead
raised now and caught in ones and zeroes
in a web I can’t see

1st draft
16 April 2018
Sometimes new work up and smacks you in the face. And sometimes your husband has to tell you to go sit and write it down. And you do.

I was pretty lucky to have met Honeyboy, even luckier to have been invited into his home, luckier still to have a personal request–“Pony Blues“–played for me. A song he learned from Charley Patton himself. Especially when as we were leaving my companions looked at me and said “We’ve been trying to get him to play that for us for years, and you just walked in and smiled and asked nicely and he just did it. For you.”

I never really consciously traded on being pretty, but looking back on it I think a pretty girl asked him nicely and he said OK. Simple. And flattering, all these years later, to think of it while washing dishes and staring out the window when Charley Patton comes on.




Talk Talk

I can’t breathe. How am I going to make art?

You’re waiting
On miracles
We’re bleeding out

And prayers
Like cake in a crisis
We’re bleeding out

While you deliberate
Bodies accumulate

Sit and talk like Jesus
Try walkin’ like Jesus
Sit and talk like Jesus
Talk like Jesus
Talk talk talk talk
Get the fuck out of my way

Don’t be the problem, be the solution
Don’t be the problem, be the solution
Don’t be the problem, be the solution
Problem, problem, problem, problem

Faith without works is
Talk without works is
Faith without works is
Talk without works is
Faith without works is
Dead, dead, dead, dead

Sit and talk like Jesus
Try walkin’ like Jesus
Sit and talk like Jesus
Try walkin’ like Jesus
Try braving the rain
Try lifting the stone
Try extending a hand
Try walkin’ your talk or get the fuck out of my way

“Talk Talk” is the third single off A Perfect Circle’s forthcoming album. Like “Doomed” and “Disillusioned,” it is very much a political statement about the current state of our society.

Another school shooting yesterday, another 17 dead kids and adults. I’m over here trying to figure out how to get back to making art–to write, to collage, to just absorb the world and here it comes at me screaming in terror in the dark before the sun comes up. I don’t know what to do, except resist.

Art is a form of resistance. We have to keep resisting, reconnecting to the resonance, to borrow Maynard’s phrase. I resist.



Mary Oliver: The Artist’s Task

This is timely, as we were talking about this last night after dinner–that I let myself be interrupted and find it difficult to get back into the Flow. So it’s yet another sign that I need to get back to work…

Vox Populi

It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses…

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A Researcher’s Guide to the #Resistance

#resist #furiousvexation

Dr. Micah Allen

Note; the bottom of this post will be continuously updated with resources and action links. Please add any useful resources in the comments, to be added to the list.

This topic needs no introduction; if you are not already aware of the crisis and political turmoil I’m not sure this document could reach you anyway. This is for the woke scientist, scholar, and other academics ready to fight fear with resistance. I’m not exactly sure how to best arrange this document but it must be written. My goal is less to review the state of affairs, of which I’m sure you are aware, but rather to provide concrete tips and guidelines so that you can break free from ‘oh-dearism’ and leap into action.

With that in mind, lets break this down into a few sections:

  1. No action is too small.

On the progressive left, particularly among intellectuals, we have a…

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John Muir Had a Hickory Hill Farm

John Muir Had a Hickory Hill Farm

Hewn out of  wildness
of endless trees, paradise
for birds and wild children

Sierra Club Article

(This post is a placeholder — this week has been crazy busy and I am coming down with something–but yesterday I gave a public lecture that included some readings from John Muir and I feel connected to his spirit today. We have a huge shagbark hickory tree on our land, and it is the centerpiece –the reason we bought the property 12+ years ago–our house will be built to orient my library window with the tree in the center. We had discussed calling the place Hickory Hill Farm, and now I feel like that’s what it should be. I am so very lucky, I know.)

Hickory Honey and Tony

Lines Composed in the Dark

Lines Composed in the Dark

Moths batter at fluorescence
I try to sleep in Ohio but it’s Chicago
that keeps me awake:

Fire department sirens on Western Avenue
shouted conversations in Polish
the hollow boom of too much bass

The sodium orange burn of never-quite-night
when the sun slides behind the ComEd building–
There are ways of looking at an absence

through the rolling Ohio fields of timothy
against the falling veil of Brandywine creek
drifting past smokestacks and silent huletts on the Cuyahoga

like a series of relics wrapped

and buried beneath the Chinese chestnut tree in the yard

[OV MFA thesis 1999
Revision 4 April 2016]

[Confused sense of place and dis-location in this one–I was living in the Ukrainian Village in Chicago–near Nelson Algren’s haunts– but homesick for Ohio. I am also obsessed with (disused) industrial locations–the Jaite Paper Mill at the bottom of Highland Road that closed when I was a kid; my grandfather worked on the docks; my father worked for J&L Steel (later LTV) (later bankrupt but naturally the executives got paid). I think there’s a lot in here. I just need time to excavate. #mapyear ]