Saturday, August 19, 2017

19 August 2017


I want to write an honest sentence about something else. Once upon a time, there was a young woman named Something Else. She lived on the windward side of a mountain that bled clear water when it rained. Something Else had a GPS whose voice took her Somewhere Else, a small cafe where music was unplugged and everyone spoke in measured tones about the return of the trade winds. Something Else wrote lists of the lists she needed to make, of socks and shoes, of people she wanted to meet, of the emotions she refused to feel. That she lost her scraps of paper to the wind hardly mattered; she had made something of her imagined life, something that mattered to her. It was material fact, even if Someone Else on the other side picked it up later, not knowing anything about her except that her culture mandated clean socks and laughter. When the dirty water sprinklers started, all the children screamed and ran off the field. One left the list behind, and words melted into themselves and the soil. Socks were sacks and laughter was a curve ball. Who's to say we should match fantasy to fact, when fact is so bad for us? Something Else kept writing lists of food she never ate, of team sports she never played, and of goals she never pursued. But she found the road to Sublimity, where the eclipse would occur. The event that is the lack of the only event of which we can be certain. Lucretius, brah, had nothing on the heliotrope in his garden. One could make a happy beginning after the minute of totality, or one could rest in the shadows. I want not to allude to tiki torches, though they do cast a dubious light. The politics of purity is clueless, no candlestick, no baseball bat, no back room or garden. So Something Else planted her own clues, putting down an air plant's roots and watering the air after the wind stopped. She tempted butterflies with her milkweed, listening for wings in the late afternoon light when sunset drew orange pencil over the mountain's lash. Those who shall be last are first, she thought, as she averted her eyes from the screen.


--19 August 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

15 August 2017


I want to write an honest sentence. “I don't want to kill people, but I will if I have to.” He's pulling guns off his body in a motel room in North Carolina as his computer screen cups a swastika to the camera. The pale white woman with large glasses asks him about the woman who was killed; he assures her that more will die. He speaks in dead logic, noun verb object, always an object of scorn. Animals. He says he misplaced a second AK-47 for a moment: “imagine that!” Gun grammar employs active voice, even when it's silent, wrapped around its owner like a mink stole. On a walk with my bright blue Schwinn, my father pulled me off the sidewalk into some trees. The police had gone into the woods on the other side where an empty car was parked. Just in case. Just in case someone should get angry and drive to the mall. Just in case someone had been radicalized by his faith. Just in case we were walking down that narrow brick-lined street at the wrong time. Just in case the car was weaponized. The woman with wide open eyes was killed; I want her eyes but not her end. To the martyr go no relics save some iPhone video, a couple of photos, some flowers laid inside a heart near Water Street. You can sit with a relic. You can sing to it in frail voices, but you cannot rest within the instant gratification of grief. Which is his gun of choice, the long or the short, the one in his pants or the one strapped to his ankle? American murderers are good consumers, just like the rest of us. “The master looks down on us every day from his mountain,” a black woman says. This is nothing new, it's just more visible. Identify this bearded white man, the one who beat up the after-school aide who pushes the swings so well. As fashion statement, hoods do better. My friend remembers turning a corner at UVA and finding himself face to face with the Dalai Lama. In the photo he appends, it's 5:11 p.m.; the Dalai Lama's right foot juts out in covered shoes. Allmost the dandy, he holds his dark robe up. “He smiled and nodded.”


--15 August 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017

12 August 2017


I want to write an honest sentence about the white man at the gym. I on my elliptical and he on his stationary bike, while above us Rachel Maddow preaches in closed captions. I keep my eye on him and on the captions until—out of nowhere, it seems to me—he yells “PIG!” while maintaining his unmoving stride. He's often here, in Green Bay cap, peddling off (or on) his fire and fury, telling the woman who sneaks a peek at Maddow that she's a “socialist fool.” I want to ask if he's ok, but imagine he punches me in the face, gets thrown out. There's hate on many sides, Trump tells us today, after a car plows into a Charlottesville crowd, killing one woman, injuring those to whom he sends his “best regards.” The young men in the video are handsome, in casual slacks grasping tiki torches. Perhaps they go to a gym in Ohio or Alabama or Charlottesville to make themselves pretty for the cameras. No hoods, no robes. Just those damn tiki torches like our neighbors have on their lanais. The Dodge Challenger's front bumper destroyed, it sits stationary in an intersection near Fort Street Mall. The woman who was killed, I read, was simply crossing the street. At a small diner in Williamsburg a white couple grumbled that a black woman hadn't smiled at them. She left with her daughter; they skipped down the street, the one holding a bag, the other in pig tails. She hadn't been there to serve them. I mumbled an apology to the waitress. “You noticed, did you?” she said. Red brick serpentine walls blocked us from gardens near the lawn. I sat on a young man's lap in one garden, kissing. There's no accounting for emotional flooding; it means so little. In Kathmandhu, they ask if you want to visit the Jew (zoo). Today, men yelled, “Jew won't remove us.” I'll hide in that sonnet with the remover to remove. The last president tweets about love. He's an outside agitator now.

--12 August 2017

Sunday, August 6, 2017

6 August 2017

I want to write an honest sentence about career, about the way I can't write an honest sentence about career. It's a stand-in word like a hat rack, denoting motivation and—always—hypocrisy. I may have volition, but my desires are never pure. If I'm with you 80% that makes me more dangerous than if I'm only with you for a dash through the park with my dog; her name hearkens back to demons and early feminists but can't be found in Genesis. To say you're an “ally” is an act of aggression, reads one thread. To be an older woman is to be not-seen; to be a young man is to see oneself too clearly as deficient. Have you ever seen Trump play with his boy? The fault of parenting is most of it. I try to stand on the other side of the white fence, wearing my break-away collar so as not to break my neck, but there's no letting go, exactly. When I sat next to her at the Corcoran, I could feel my substance being sucked into hers, the pain of it. Take inventory of your family's traumas. They pale before the Khmer Rouge, though that's in there somewhere, too. Pale or no, we deal with what we're given (no gift). There's an aura around things in one's late 30s, Ashbery notes, but by the late 50s, there's an absence inside of everything, an ache like the hapu'u fern that fills a rain forest but leaves holes for the light. It's the Holier Than Thou School of Poetry, setting one poet on the top of her pedestal, inventing her motivations whole cloth, the better to knock her down like Saddam. The shroud of Turin bore only one silhouette, but these are ghosted by the stain of our desire for attention. Not the attention we devote to bird song but to ourselves. He tried to fake himself out in the mirror before he knew who he was. That wasn't Narcissism but self-discovery. He gave his son his false name, the one he called radio stations with to defend his primary self, the one with the name we know him by. My son's name denotes community, but also means he's handsome. We wear the same caps; they denote an identity we can traverse without real pain.


--6 August 2017

Thursday, August 3, 2017

3 August 2017


I want to write an honest sentence about injury. When is analogy injury? When song mimes trauma, or the other way around, as if two girls singing “this girl is on fire” mimicked the deep state's heavy metal? A boy leaned into speakers at a London club, circa 1978, while the rest of us jumped up and down. There was a back door. That was no Khmer Rouge self-education camp. (“Does arm have a b on the end?” my daughter asks, thinking it like the word “numb.”) Memory is always already proximate, a dolphin leaning toward the pier to rub its nose against a cat. Or a hooded man bound to a metal bunk bed beside the other who will never leave the room. Or forged to resemble either. The man who was most kind to my parents writes that the statute was at fault for his conviction. Evasions of is as as. Sylvia Plath's angered me. Daddy didn't put you in a camp. One wonders how to punish someone who so ably punishes himself. Adding insult to injury, perjury to testimony. It's another thing if we're all implicated, wondering where the books we left in the mail room went on more than one occasion. Self-cratering is not self-care. My reliance here on sayings—buy the styrofoam bowl and add water to taste before putting it in the microwave—reflects the fault in my chest. That's an analogy for burning. Where in your body do you feel this lack of knowing anything? At Kilauea Iki the walls of the crater appear as scrims of rock; in each pile along the path there are black and orange rocks, and those whose surface is aluminum. At polite distances, ohi'a push out their tufted blossoms and spikes of grass bow. The lava field is a zendo of sorts. As we drove back from Kona, the volcano shone red in sulfur smoke to the right of Mamaloa Highway. “I'll always remember this day,” our other daughter said from the back. Whether or not that was an honest statement hardly matters; we cannot know what that verb form holds.

--3 August 2017

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

2 August 2017


I want to write an honest sentence that is not like the others. Form to follow function requires me to better think about function. The newest experiment is spare record of water drops on broad leaves. Too much detail denotes trauma, too little the same. Repeat signs were emojis before the fact. “There there” or “the the” finds laughter in repetition. An old Cambodian woman asked for more gruel and was killed in front of our friend. My students could not forgive him his laughter. They couldn't stop bringing it up. Our friend gave them his trauma and they blamed him for it. I wonder how they remember him from their late 20s or early 30s, driving to work, feeding their kids, mowing their lawns. Only later did I see it as a kind of generosity of spirit, his offering up of story. Later iterations of his were softer, until trauma seemed to have bled out, and we'd arrived at a horrible going to camp narrative that didn't jar us from our desks. Most American workers have suffered the trauma of bullying or mobbing in their jobs; psychologists need to understand the phenomenon of ganging up on scapegoats and forcing them out of work. Jeff Sessions oddly knows this, the racist bully. Administration, typically, sides with the mob; most others remain silent and are traumatized in their turn by what they witness. The survivor is scarred, but at his best sanctified by this experience. Saints don't get much health insurance, however, or tuition money for their kids. You've gotta be in the 1% to express your empathy, but once you're there, you've got your eyes on a different prize. This morning birds punctuate the forest with song. A distant bulldozer diminishes their surround. When I asked students to give examples of systems, one said “buddy.” Beside the road a layer of rock holds up a layer of soil. It's thinner than you might think, spongy with dead hapu'u fronds. If you don't learn the names, they'll all disappear. If you do, sing them in rounds. Spread the trauma of repeated sound.


--2 August 2017

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

1 August 2017


I want to write an honest sentence. I want to write experiments are the new realism, that they must be conscious, even if their subjects are not. The Alzheimer's home a colony, run by a bureaucracy of outsiders, its rules unreadable to the residents. Land and rent its raw materials. A cure for memory's lacerations, this band of crickets, birds, helicopters, my husband scraping the wood stove. “They're so beautiful,” she said of the same flowers, over and again. The red spotted orchid's a double-decker, petal laid lightly over petal. The next day it's shrunk to a red point on a green stalk. On Haunani Road, an Asian man stops his truck and gets out. There's a handicapped sticker on his mirror, and his legs are bent oddly, painfully, out. “There's a sign up the road,” he tells me, “to say they're going to subdivide five acres into 12 lots and build houses.” And those cars! Abandoned, rusted, sinking in front of an empty house. “The community should have a say,” he tells me, before getting back in his truck. I find the sign, cloaked by vines, date it back to 2010, hope it's been forgotten, or the papers misplaced, and then turn off Hanunai onto a gravel road toward Wright. Development is forgetting by way of accumulation. First you scrape the rain forest off the lot, then you let it sit, a few trunks upright in the dark earth. To remember is to love the material world, to add onto it. Consider that there's ambition in forgetting, even in being forgotten. He was so resistant to attention, Miho says of Saijo, that no one's heard of him. Only a bit player in that movie, sick man in a hospital who watches his healthy Beat friends light out for the territories. To be forgotten is perhaps the greatest blessing, but he cannot ask his friends to abandon the picture of him by his stove, talking always talking about political corruption and the blessings of pot. To be abandoned is not the worst of it. There used to be i'iwi's on I'iwi Road, but they fled to Mauna Loa when mosquitoes arrived. The only i'iwi you see here is a dead i'iwi. They sound like rusty hinges, opening and closing in the forest canopy. I took a picture of a gate on Laukapu Road whose post was more rust than iron. Lace is an old lady's hobby, she was told. But red lace in a rain forest forgets its category and dissolves.

--1 August 2017