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.)
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 ]
A few confused frogs burrow
Back into cold mud
2 April 2016, Sheboygan County, WI
We had a good spring snowstorm yesterday morning/afternoon that dumped 3-4″ of wet, cars-in-the-ditch snow. Today it’s in the upper 40s and the sun came out for a little bit, so it’s almost all melted already. The clouds are moving fast and the forecast is calling for cold and more snow in the coming week.
April is, after all, the cruelest month.
A Body Map of My Life, Part 1
[YOU ARE HERE]
LOCATION: Right forearm along ulna (March 1971-present)
DIAGNOSIS: Port wine stains, approximately 5” x 2.5” at widest point
TREATMENT: Extra sunscreen with zinc; assuring nurses and doctors that yes, I am safe in my home and no, it’s not a bruise and no, it hasn’t changed size or shape recently
FOLLOWUP: Glad it’s not on my face where it would be exposed to daily sun damage
LOCATION: Left hand, index finger, first knuckle (2002)
CAUSE: Stubborn insistence on closing stuck old window
DIAGNOSIS: Cut that luckily did not sever any tendons
TREATMENT: Seven stitches and an upside-down V shaped scar that still itches 14 years later
FOLLOWUP: Still stubborn but more cautious around glass and things that are stuck
LOCATION: Perineum (2004) (2008)
CAUSE: Beautiful, perfectly formed big-head babies (both over the 100th percentile) due to genetics (both parents have larger-than-average skulls)
DIAGNOSIS: Tear (2004)/incision (2008)
TREATMENT: Stitches that itch like a mad bitch on fire; ice packs changed hourly for a week; 8 weeks of no sex
FOLLOWUP: Willful, creative, intelligent children with thick mops of curly brown hair and big brown eyes with long lashes; shortness of breath when I come across a tiny sock in the back of a drawer
LOCATION: Right hand, back, 3” below pinkie, 2” from wrist (July 2014)
CAUSE: Spider bite
DIAGNOSIS: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which I keep calling Marcus Aurelius because I can’t remember the word “methicillin”
TREATMENT: Multiple visits to doctor and two separate trips to the ER; over a month of sulfa drugs (which is what they use to treat MRSA even if you’re not allergic to penicillin); second trip to ER concludes with 6” of linen tape packed into a wound so deep I can see my tendon move when I open and close my hand—the tape must be pulled and cut daily for two weeks as the wound heals underneath it; I have never been so grossed out by (or afraid for) my body; I fear losing my hand, or dying of sepsis while my husband is out of town
FOLLOWUP: I did not lose my writing hand. Still not afraid of spiders.
LOCATION: Everywhere all once
CAUSE: Everything and nothing
DIAGNOSIS: Some fraying around the edges; mostly intact and still functioning
TREATMENT: Acceptance of failure and frailty; wine; friends; books; writing
They’re not babies anymore. Don Pedro Island State Park, March 2015
These are my thoughts now
brittle like the bottom of a new ice cream cone
like iron heated once too often
like stands of October corn
like Grandma’s hip
like old paper
crumpled and scattered for the cat
to paw at under the refrigerator.
[from notes summer 2014; first draft 7 June 2015]
Spring over Marshland
Wide expanded blue
empty for three crows whirling
Tight purple buds wait.
Brown drain tile hummocks
relentless welling water
Pokes of green uncurl.
Earlier form, April 2012
New version, April 2015
On Parkwood Avenue, Toledo
(after William Carlos Williams)
Across the street
an old woman
in a see-through
hoses off the porch
glasses and grey hair
perched atop her head in a bun
Toilet brush in hand
she scours the lime-green vinyl
hose scrub sweep hose
Her shrubs wriggle under a spray
of droplets and dirt
until she’s satisfied
her pots back into place
(Original draft Spring 1995 while living in Sarah Lundquist’s house after bad breakup with boyfriend–also while studying WCW in graduate seminar.)
Revised in 2010.
Revised today 5, April 2015.
I am taking advantage of NAPOWRIMO to dig out and re-work older work, as well as a way to prod me into doing more new work. I have had ideas percolating for a long while, but have not forced myself (or allowed myself?) to carve out any time in my very long days to do any writing for myself.
I have been a fist for so long–clenched and angry over things I cannot control–that I shut off/down the part of me that plays with words and meaning.
Four things are opening the fist:
- My students in my creative writing class, who daily impress me with their willingness to take risks
- Re-reading my favorite Modernist poets (Frost, Eliot, Williams, Stevens, HD) in order to teach them to my literature students
- My association with Cyprianism and its tenets. More about which at a later date.
- My husband’s own creative endeavors, most recently with handmade shaving brushes and imported cream and unguents through Bare Knuckle Barbery .
For my own sanity, I open my fist and words fly out.
Almond Blossom, 1890
Vincent Van Gogh
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam