Saturday, April 4, 2020

Teaching post

[52nd anniversary of the MLK, Jr. assassination]

Thoughts and tasks for the coming week

Dear class--

On our walk this morning, Lilith and I didn’t go to the cemetery but to Koolau Shopping Center to see how businesses are faring. They’re mostly closed, though a lot of people wearing masks were going into and coming out of Times Supermarket. One restaurant had been destroyed by a rogue vehicle before the lockdown, so it’s completely boarded up. The movie theater is empty. Signs of the times. If you want to read something totally bracing about COVID-19’s effects try this:
Hope you don’t get harassed about subscribing . . .

But then be sure to balance such reading with something like Stephen Colbert’s twitter feed. His meme about how much he aged in the past month is pretty funny (from a kid with braces to an old guy with white beard). See

I’ve been doing my own meditations and attention exercises on my blog. The fun stuff comes of my walks with Lilith. People say all sorts of things to me; little do they know that I go home and write it all down! The single-spaced entries are mostly these vignettes:
A lot of the rest is nattering.

I’m asking you to read Joseph Han’s ORPHAN this week, here: You can download the pdf for free. This collection began its life as a chapbook, namely a collection that’s either sewn or stapled (saddle-stitched) together. Tinfish’s designer, Jeff Sanner, did a series of these chapbooks, which he slipped into clear plastic envelopes, like records. They were printed at Kinkos, though he did some silkscreen work on the cover in his garage.

Here’s the week’s schedule:

Monday, 4/6/20: Read Lorde, Lofty (368-371); Joseph Han’s Orphan, here:
Wednesday, 4/8/20: Write your response to Orphan and two responses to two other responses . . .
Friday, 4/10/20: Writing day. Write a poem inspired by the reading. Hand in exercises and experiments.

And here are some questions to consider in writing your responses. Do one of them, or combine:

1. Han is obsessed with language (Korean and English) and with cosmetic surgery (which takes the body itself as a page) in this chapbook. Discuss the ways in which language and body come together in at least one of his poems.

2. Han’s speaker is the American son of Korean parents. Write about how the differences between nationalities and languages affect his relationship with his family. Use specific examples!

3. Write, in detail, about something that struck you as you read the chapbook. You might even think about the design work (which was done separately, but complements the text). Or think about the relevance of Audre Lorde's essay to Han's work.

This is a really difficult time, so please stay in touch. You can email me at any time, or call 808-. I don’t usually “friend” students on facebook or instagram until the semester is over, but am making an exception this time around. You can find me at Susan M. Schultz (FB) or susanmschultz (instagram). I post lots of photos of Lilith.

Remember, we are living history in a way that many generations do not, so keep writing. This experience will change all of us.

Aloha, Susan Schultz

Meditation 33

4 April 2020

A constant need to be on-line, to click, to link, to follow the spokes that, deprived of their rims, resemble buds of the corona-virus, or a dog's toy. To burrow in, to figure out: no, there’s none of that now. Just the dailiness of pulling moss off the lanai, walking the dog, speaking at a careful distance. Zoom: the impression of intimacy without the intimacy. Someone asks what smells make you feel nostalgia. I think: diesel exhaust as I walked home to my drafty flat in London. Chestnuts cooked on the streets of Grenoble. Just off H1 near Nimitz, I smell those chestnuts without signifiers. Free-floating senses, like anxiety, pressure wash the present down to its concrete bone. The cat comes up, sniffing. He too does research, stares at the cracked door.

I number this meditation in order to save it. I call it a meditation because I’m trying to think. Think through. Confront the map, its measles-like dots across a continent and some islands. I remember the domino effect, how I tested it with black wooden blocks, dots like inverse braille. All fall down. Now it’s the domino of breath. The bus driver who worried about a woman coughing is now dead. Mouth to mouth resuscitation now deals death. Incompetence and malevolence are one. Even to save is to stay away.

One of the questions is how to write. “Write it!” No question of righting the ship. The captain walked to the dock alone, his socially undistanced crew cheering for him. We shed our titles, as writers or as officers. Self-promotion is a skeleton. I see a dinosaur skeleton gaze out from a window down the street, which makes me feel oddly happy. Children inhabit the age of extinction, but in a good way. The skeleton appears to smile, but who knows what dinosaurs felt, especially when the earth started to go against them.

In New Orleans, you felt the violence of the slave market. In Cambodia, you sensed the bones. The missing limbs were evidence enough. Captain Cook’s men took no precautions. #RESIST, a neighbor’s sticker reads, while another neighbor flies his American flag, lighting it from below at night. Chiasmus of symbols, a conflict foretold. The poor believed soothsayers during the Plague, Defoe reports. They wanted readings. The readings would reassure, or they would not. I read plague literature. Camus begins from the ordinary. This is ordinary, not normal.

Oregon sends ventilators to New York. Interstate treaties are signed. The vents will return to Oregon when New York is done with them, or done with. The governor loves his little brother a lot. The little brother speaks to us from his swanky basement. He feels guilt for having breathed en famille. We cannot catch that virus on-line, though Zoom can easily be hacked. We will go with the impression of proximity if it no longer exists. We don't put our dead on carts, but in refrigeration trucks lined up against hospital walls. There’s a chill in the air.

Is this how it’s done? Seated at home, far from the madding crowd, the ICUs and the ventilators and N95 masks and the constant struggle to breathe, or not be breathed upon, the sirens that fill the night, the homeschooling, the homeless sleeping in parking lot stalls when thousands of hotel rooms are empty, society as a skeleton whose flesh is tearing off, of corruption that cannot feed us, the huge lumps beneath the skin into which they thrust knives, the gnashing and wailing on the streets. Defoe walks down 5th Avenue and marvels at how things remain the same. The rest of history is but punctuation. This the throbbing of lights on the Empire State Building, the call of civil defense sirens, the mutation of silence into a mechanics of noise. Stand on your balcony at 7 p.m. and clap. You are audience to history, last responders rising to cheer its first.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Meditation 32

--This was to be a series of meditations that included more abstraction than I am wont to use these days. I wanted to think about the world I attend to, its walkers and philosophers. But the pandemic has shut abstraction down. Meaning's stuck in quarantine, as are we. My ambition for these entries dissolves, as ambition must. I want simply to chronicle the day to day under the threat of COVID-19. I will retain the label "ordinary life" for some of these entries, even if there's nothing ordinary any more. The new is not normal.

3 April 2020

Dear Patriotic American: do not ask what you can do for your country, ask what your country fails to do for you. “We’re all at the helm now,” a fellow walker says over his left shoulder as our dogs sniff at each other. Donne had his flea, and we our virus. The world paradoxical: we are closer for being apart. The bank has blue tape to put our feet behind. I step aside to let two joggers by. This is not writer’s block, because I can write just fine. An older woman pushes her walker around the block; she walks more quickly than we do, wheels clattering up hill. A self-stroller, she pushes the handlebar against loss of balance. Gravity is still in order, and the weather still fickle. Out back, a maintenance guy is mowing. Must be an essential service. “It’s ok,” Bryant says, “he’s getting a paycheck.” I remark to a tree trimmer that he’s still working. His face lights up. Thank God. No longer looking for the quick connections, the inadvertent puns, the fertile typos. The mountains, Dogen writes, are walking, and we are walking in them. We cannot see them walking because live inside of them. The zoom conference gave us permission to speak our minds through tiles of tiny heads. Play twister with the squares on this screen. The neighbor with two Rottweilers and a black Dachsund has a chain link fence beside her concrete lanai. Between concrete and fence I spy dog toys. The spiky balls resemble COVID-19. Co- meaning with. Vid records image. Corona is the sun, the virus its stunted rays. The dog lost the sun and virus; to him they are invisible. But we see them with eyes of accident. Eyes that we’re now advised to cover, along with our mouths and noses. Our ears are hooks, our noses off-set shelves. The brain is a carrier. The aircraft carrier’s captain was fired for saying his soldiers didn’t deserve to die of the virus. He did not go down with the ship; he walked down the gangway to a waiting car, then turned to wave to his men and women. His emails were unsecured. He called his sailors “assets.” The asses have gotten too big to cover, though the president fully intends to keep golfing. We’ve rented the golf carts to let him play, and play.

Who's at the helm?

The second time I crossed paths with the bearded white man with two large dogs, he said, "I recently saw someone wearing that shirt." (My Obama 08.) "If only," I responded. "We're all in this together," he said. "With no one at the helm," quoth I. "We're all at the helm now," he said, heading downhill.

Piko peed

Was walking Lilith around the court (parking lot) last night when K came home. She walked toward her house in her Delta Airlines uniform, wearing a mask that seemed eerie in the artificial light. Her daughters, husband, and long-haired dachsund, Piko, came out to greet her. The girls started running. Their parents quickly shouted at them to stop. "I need to wash up," K said. Then, through an awkward laugh: "the dog is peeing on the sidewalk."

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Lilith meets a boat pilot

Ran into a neighbor from down the road whose small terrier has very erect and fuzzy brown ears. A knitted red rose graces her neck. I ask him how isolation is going. He says he's still working; he pilots the boats that guide Matson ships into Honolulu harbor. "Keep the toilet paper coming," I say, and we laugh.

* I got a correction from a friend: It isn't the pilot boat that guides the ship in; it's the pilot himself, who travels by boat to the ship and is picked up or dropped off at the harbor entrance. Go down to Sand Island and you can see the process. See also The Pirates of Penzance and

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Lilith missed the mail man

"Our mailman is a loon," was how Bryant greeted me when I got back from my walk with Lilith. "You mean, you didn't know that?" said I. Oh yes, he knew that. B had told him he was glad to see him wearing gloves. Well, he'd hadn't been told to, but he wears them for other reasons; not worried about the pandemic. It's all about getting ad revenue from people who watch TV. He doesn't believe the growth in cases could be anywhere near as bad as claimed in the news because it's not going up 2, 4, 8, 16, etc.. B pointed out that 30% a day IS exponential growth. He also doesn't believe in global warming. There are more polar bears now than in the 1930s. B responded that of course, people aren't shooting them now. They're bothering the Inuits, he said, there are so many of them. Yes, and the Inuits' houses sink in the mud in the summer, B responded. But I gather the mailman won the argument when he claimed that the ice cap has gotten larger--harder for "Deadliest Catch" fishermen to get fish. And yes, B found, the ice is larger this year than in several years. Therefore, no climate change and no coronavirus. Case closed!