Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Meditation 109

29 December 2020

There are two oranges in the Buddha’s lap this morning. The hoarder’s yard is framed by Buddha and six pink flamingos, legs nearly lost amid flowers and plastic buckets. In Charlottesville, two men walked past a shop with pink flamingos in the window, each carrying a pink flamingo unrelated to the others. The movie (1972) was part of a “Trash Trilogy,” I read, but then my internet falters so I can’t retrieve the plot. My husband’s name was Waters, until he changed it. By the waters of Leman the poet wept. One student hated him on principle, because he was a gatekeeper. We are stakeholders in the new dispensation, one that veers in and out of cliché, like so much, bearing the promise of something new but entangled in a net sack like an octopus. Use for bait, the fisherman says. Use for bait, my son says. Did the octopus look forward to seeing the philosopher as much as he did her? Do they wonder at our lack of suction, the way we stick to things in our heads, but let them go from our hands? How do we define ourselves without attachment? “I cannot believe I’m living in this time,” a neighbor tells me. They are all around us, and they are kind. The women who suffered violence supported him because they wanted to be safe, and he promised a lock (and a stock and a barrel). The woman who interviewed them had to stop because she broke her vow of non-judgment. There was nothing to say to the nurse who cared for a refugee but voted for Trump. Ethics writ small. When you pull the image closer to yourself, it blurs, losing the pixels that defined it. Unpinch it with your fingers, let it travel away from you like a peg on a google map. For an instant you see nothing, but your body assumes its vertigo like a lighthouse where two men prepare to kill each other for loneliness. I ask him to turn the TV off when I see the rerun image of a man dying beneath another man’s boot. Reality snuff shows keep us all in line, through the extremity of our feeling, which is never kind. “What’s it matter to you?” 

Monday, December 28, 2020

Lilith meets her Doppelgang


Image may contain: one or more people, dog and outdoor

Radhika and I spotted a dog in a truck up the hill that looked a lot like Lilith, so we angled closer. Behind the truck bed stood a gray haired and mustached man in an orange vest, mask pulled down under his chin, greeted me with, "St. Louis Cardinals! No!" Turns out he meant that in a good way. His dad worked for a licorice company 15 minutes from the Stadium, so he practically grew up there. Gibson and Brock were also his first favorites. Then Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds: they should have won four WS, he opined, but Tony LaRussa, "that dumb retard," got in the way. I mentioned Matheny (not in a good way) and he said, "way to destroy a great team", so I piled on with Mozeliak, to which he responded, "dumb Polack." I must have reacted, because he completed the sentence with, "I'm as Polish as they come so I can say that." On our way down the hill, Radhika got a lesson from her mother on white ethnic insults. "I didn't know that!" she said.
But back to the dogs. Their dog gave birth to three dogs in their bedroom at 3 a.m. (he seems to have slept through part of it). She had three puppies that were dachsund and terrier mixes, and then the dog that looked like Lilith. They figured it out! The neighbor's dog was part Corgie, and must have double-mated with their dog. Rob--for that was his name--pointed to the back seat, where another dog was lying down. 14 years old. Jack Russell? I asked. I dunno, he said, maybe some Dalmatian.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Meditation 108

26 December 2020

It’s the pronouns that terrify. Lodged between the pronoun that signifies a known quantity and the pronoun that’s merely arbitrary, one pronoun took a gap year. Having planned to travel the continent, this she or he stays home, inhabiting the deep grammar of pandemic. Her poem enacted the loss of letters, until it became the page it was (not) printed on. He lost so many friends that he ate a large plate of mini-muffins bought at Costco. Binge grieving takes in more than it can swallow. Birds bring us happiness, but they also sing now. I listened to them on-line, but couldn’t pull song apart from song; the birds blended, leaving odes in short supply. "Bird thou never wert" gives the metaphor shell game away. Buy the plastic shroud for the Fit, place it over the electronics behind the mirror, then push the button to adjust what appears closer there. Car parts, tree branches, broken windows, and the echo of an artificial voice counting down. We don’t call this terror, but “a not accidental explosion.” We meant to vacate our monkey minds, but instead find the Melting Pot shattered, its staff out of work. Terror is imagination made literal. “It was like a movie,” the man said, his windows blown out. And sometimes Hollywood is like real life. Back to the shroud: it either bears witness to the oils on Christ’s skin or to grief’s gray hoodie. On the day of Premier League, it’s a bonnet, mask lifted to forehead and skull, leaving transmission possible through the breath. We can breathe, but a foot’s on the neck, all the same. "They know not what they do" can be said of many students, whose logic struts like baby goats in pajamas. Not knowing offers reason to refrain from judgment. In the dying days of this administration, more black men are executed, more white men pardoned for their crimes. He governs by fiat. The blue car wears pink eyelashes over its headlights. What they signify isn’t clear, but we’re grateful that they’re there. Banality is not evil, though it sometimes plays it on TV.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Meditation 107

24 December 2020

Make stark distinctions only, the better to knock one down like an egg from a wall, or a wall in a strong wind. If reparations come in the guise of prizes, then what to do with runners-up? In England, they’re called ladders, the runs on stockings. Our stocking suffers from a hole in its large toe, the one that stands in for five of them. Five makes a team in some sports, so long as they’re tall. All numbers are magical. He tells me he won’t take the vaccine, because no one knows the side-effects yet; his mother won’t until she’s assured no aborted babies were used to make it. It should be his choice, he says, and besides, things are pretty good here. If he lived on the mainland, he might. Fundamentalist ethics are as relative as any. We guard our relatives least, because at least we’ll be loving them to death. Thank you, she writes of her uncle's beautiful dying. I saw a green canvas cover attached to a metal frame around a vacant hole in the cemetery. Seven in one year. Family comes to sit in folding chairs at graves neatly marked by tiny picket fences. One man said the Lord brought us a beautiful day. The brightest light in months, mountains a jagged line across the azur sky, framed by Lilith’s ears. More talk here of paving the green spaces. They get torn up in the rainy season, that of mud wasps and scars. Asphalt's more permanent, scab without a wound bursting at each turn of the cart. 300,000 in, he golfs. Pardon is what pardon does. “It was disgusting, and I’m from New Jersey,” the ex-governor says of the president’s son-in-law’s father. All within the law. The cemetery worker asked me if I’d read the Constitution, and I said yes. We shake our heads about the fresh grave up the hill. Dharma blossoms turning. When I said I’d taken photos of her purple flower in a pot full of water and algae, she said, “but it wasn’t fully out yet.”

Monday, December 21, 2020

Meditation 106


21 December 2020

To be afraid of air. To air it out. To take the old words with the new, to voice them where voice stands in for self, not identity which comes from the outside, burrows into skin, lays eggs, and leaves again. The kids evicted a mud wasp from outside their rooms. Hadn’t paid their rent in months, and the feds will only give them $600 to tide them over in their tent cities. Behind the chain link fence beside the Pali off-ramp, tents lean against the steep hill down to the freeway. At least the way is free, because nothing else is. You find those two paths in the woods and they're blocked by toll booths with mechanical arms that block you from entering the wood. When Yogi Berra gave directions to his house, he said you’d get to a fork in a road and you’d take it. Wisdom so often divorced from sense it should be a warning that thought ends at the atmosphere’s limit. You go up in a small tub attached to a rocket and become a Guardian of the universe, while still packaging your voice for public consumption. Capitalism’s strange bedfellows lie on fancy mattresses; if you like an angle, you get one. If you sleep on your side, the mattress form-fits to your folds. Invent another need; work in needability studies. I read Marcus Aurelius at night, watch Marcus Rashford in the morning. The wisdom that feeds is sometimes food. Her students objected to the sex in ancient Greek plays. Our students are counseled not to do the reading if it gets in way of purity. It’s a kind of stripping away that doesn't reduce us to spirit, but takes away the flesh. Acceptance is a mode of reduction; the "to be" verb is all we need, even if it sounds weak. To love what one must leave ‘ere long. Leave the longing to others, accept weather patterns as they line up like planes coming into LaGuardia. There’s a train into the city; I paid a profligate amount for my ticket to enter its nest. The broken-hearted man went to a mattress store each day and lay down, over and over again, seeking comfort on flat surfaces.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Lilith and the Lost Election

On our way out of the cemetery, I stopped at the guard shack to exchange words with the Pacific Islander guy who works there. He's always been friendly, even after I yelled at him and his white co-worker when they told me hospitals order ventilators to make money. He'd teased me about the election in early November. So I leaned toward the plexiglass shield between us and said, "President Biden."
--Oh it's not over, he laughed. Just wait until Jan. 20th! Everything's going to be crazy. It's the legislature . . . have you read the Constitution? The media picked the winner.
--What do you mean? I asked, as tourists drove up to pay their $3 car admission. Your sources are suspect! [I turn to the local tourist and say, "he thinks Trump won the election"]
--By a landslide!
As Lilith and I start walking, he says, How could BIDEN get more votes than OBAMA?
--Because Trump was such a disaster.
And so another ended another sane and reasonable conversation in the time of covid.


Monday, December 7, 2020

Meditation 105


7 December 2020

Don’t admire me for having survived the Unnameable Event. Listen to the tremor in my voice, but know it as symptom of the Other Thing I’m not telling you. Hear out my secrets, those I keep to myself, and watch my affect as performance. A young man tells you nothing, though he shares a house with you. You worry that he might rehearse a two-years-ago spiral, while feeling that you need to let your lenses down. The softness of bad vision is sometimes preferable to the clarity of hindsight. Don’t ask questions, because they inspire more not-answers. She saw the sunrise from grandma’s, though she doesn’t say what it means to her. My letters were sheer projection into the landscape of London, circa 1980, though I felt that I felt them, so why didn't she? To give care to one who had withheld it is like scouting a route you’ve already stepped on, while wanting to bushwhack the rest. The road is the habit, and that’s a bad pun, as my mother said, in her bun. If the Unnameable Event is communal, do you share it, or cock your head and say “da kine”? He’d lost nine members of his family in the blue building located between the place his father was killed and the restaurant where we ate in Battambong. Admiration’s too simple a word for my response to him on that day. Though I wonder what’s wrong with finding the sacred in a man who laughs so easily from the mouth-door of an unimagined morgue? If memory is habit, then be a slob, hoard so many hurts you can’t ever find the one that hurts the most. Don’t like hierarchies? Go for the social history of pain, the wounds that afflict the least among us, not celebrities, though god knows they hurt, too, on either side of fame’s mirror. The Unnameable Event, once spoken of, can be released like mouse in a field. Our affect, upon release, raises us like the balloon in which a neighbor’s inflatable Santa rises at nightfall. Hot air makes him generous. Our speech shall make us admirable, though that is Not the Word.

--in response to "a philosopher and a professor" in the NYT, 11/30/20

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Meditation 104


6 December 2020

If I am one self on Facebook and another on Instagram, then who am I on Twitter? And am I to myself who I am to my audience? On Proust’s twitter I read the problem of happiness can be solved only by desiring less. Marcel and Marcus Aurelius walk into a bar, but neither is inclined to be in a joke, so they sit quietly and take it. Wisdom literature is as redundant as a London taxi driver in the pandemic; even sentence structures come up against the sign for repeat, two dots denoting a wall, at least for now. A boundary is always abstract, yet lives inside our bodies. Is it we who mend the wall, or the wall that mends us? Is mending what's at stake? Ask most obvious questions only. The answers will astonish you. Someone has put up a large painting of the holy family on their fence; what I notice are the fat fingers around the body of an adult baby. It’s so awkward as to command faith, or at least drive skepticism in that direction. Joseph has his other arm around Mary. Was she cheating on God? My daughter uses the word “immaculate” in the English soccer sense, denoting a perfect pass. “Let it Be” came in a dream; Macca's a great rememberer. I dreamed that all the lots in Volcano were cleared of hapu`u and ohia, even the invasive ginger that punctuates green with red. Make transitions using colors, or the metaphor of a forest. Then ask to go back like a filmstrip in reverse, tree after tree re-membering itself. They communicate, you know, suffer tree nostalgia, share recipes for sap, warn others of drought conditions, lend a root. Socialists, you know, these tall and silent types. Uncanny as Kwan Yin, who's seated just beyond a vinyl fence up the street. Does the renter take up the owner's faith, knowing it bounded by a lease?

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Meditation 103


29 November 2020

From the empire of bad passes to the exurbs of yellow cards--groves of autumn trees--our goals stay put until the day we wake up to a blurry sun, having shed ambitions like jerseys, wandering into the streets of Manchester or Sheffield, nostalgic for pre-industrial fields we never saw but through the scrim of chimneys or an imitative pitch. Metaphor at the center of the latest twitter war, as if. We can make hills out of holes any day we please. “Sue fell in the hole!” someone yelled when I felt the canoe on my shoulders hit the ground. When she looked in the mirror, she saw her mother-in-law. The man on a horse called for a pogrom against family resemblances. The friend who pulled my Tarot cards found several knights of various qualities. The contradiction’s not in the card but in the cave of the heart, distinguished from the hole by its rhythmic embrace. Blood relations spilled, the picker-upper a sheaf of paperwork and a notary behind plexiglass to affirm your signature; your handedness puts you in a different family, one that includes the girl tortured for five years into writing right. If torture is an opera, then what's a string section doing out on the street beneath the stars (those that appear in too many poems) rubbing their bows across tunes of influence. When your music assimilates to standard, then you’ve lost it. The ref steps in to give you time on the pitch to heal your twisted ankle. Pitch transferred to another sport before it turned to tar sands, a poet tried in a court of law for blocking the pipeline with his words. The question of activism intrudes; what can this poem effect in the world when our factories of art are shutting down, their chimneys cleansed of performance. One knight’s a messenger of creativity, but what are the stations of his cross? When he returned from a Christmas bombing raid, he landed on one. It was runway, not hedgerow, a constructed symbol rising out of the Pacific night. We flew over southern Japan, an illuminated text of water and island; you could almost play it on a flute, if you knew the notes. I bought Bryant a tin whistle at the Cork Airport as I talked to a man in a fedora. Days previous, he’d been Tom Raworth vacuuming a floor at dawn, mint julep in his left hand. Someone at the hostel said he came from the Taliban.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Meditation 102


28 November 2020

I put masks on my memories. What was said to me no longer has a mouth. I can’t lip read, push my left ear toward a muffled sequence of words I know to be a sentence. If the sentence is an A-frame, I can imagine its sharp attic, the crazy slope of its predicate. Our predicament recasts history as social distance, a line you stand in, feet planted firmly in their icon toes. You in the frozen food aisle, and I in the Hispanic. Both of us peering at the beer cans. If can can. If no can no can. A page on which everything’s erased except the punctuation. You’d never know it had been a sex poem, now that it’s stripped of all flesh but commas and brackets. An exclamation! Consider what these forms of punctuation mean apart from words, or what a page of pronouns signifies without verbs or nouns. A detective novel written to find out who removed the sounds, left only pauses and digressions. How can I compose my memoir as a writer, if I don’t think of myself as one? Art is excess, a flower in the cap that requires nothing more than to cover the crown of the head. We do not need what cannot feed us. I will feast from now on on warships and submarines, cooked in their own nuclear stew. A wart grows on my left little finger’s knuckle, sensitive when I reach into a bag of cat food. It’s the knuckle’s hat or mask, a covering like black print on paper. What shall I read, now that I’ve finished the book about my last year? Learning to read is about taking off the mask, unshackling thought from type from word from breath. Anti-maskers make the best readers. My student zooming from his car in Reno says he dropped Ben Jonson because he couldn’t figure out what it had to do with job loss. I want to say everything, but not now. An Iranian nuclear scientist was killed yesterday. Who done it? We done it! That’s call and response, I say to Radhika. Pilgrims get such bad press this week. (Losers and suckers.) The dog’s collar resembled RBG’s symbol of dissent. I teach creative writing as a form of resistance. No one buys that line.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Meditation 101

24 November 2020

Ding dong! Don’t ask, it tolls for thee. Dying is a transition, long denied. I AM NOT DYING, he yells. As I lay not dying, I imagined the power of a deathbed on which there was no death, just endless waiting. The pings of machines matched, in miniature, civil defense sirens, and the boy who played “A Love Supreme” to mirror them. When is a mirror also vehicle for sound? The lake’s face broke into splinters, leaving the barest asemics for us to puzzle at. I looked it up, after posting a photograph of a palm trunk from close range. Resembles words or tangles and plaques to no ambition we can recall. The shape of no meaning is as lovely as that of a line of verse, the arc of whose words you misplace. In translation, you choose either to convey meaning (with unionized labor) or to engage with the play of a broken belt, flinging its conveyances like a gorilla in a suitcase commercial (labor anarchized). The deathbed’s a conveyer belt, from which souls are sorted and packaged for later consumption. I said “soul” does not violate separation of church and state, because souls exist without knuckling under to icons or strangers. The toy that grinned at me from the gutter surely a sign of something, if only of laughter, contextualized by chance. My death shall convey me, whether or not I deny it. She refused to cry when my father died, and so began my fascination with rituals of release. Catch and release grief: it keeps the ecosystem stable. She tottered into tangles, refusing a rebirth of grief postpartum. Bryant tells me the witch’s green make-up burned, so Oz wasn’t without pain. You mean it all happened because she hit her head? our daughter asks. Dreams look better in technicolor, and the red of her ruby shoes shows better outside the television. She was young then, but never grew old. She's caught in time, but only if we keep pushing the remote.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Lilith and the Pig Hunters


Near the back of the cemetery, where the glossy black tombs bear mostly Japanese names, Lilith and I spotted a pig at the edge of the forest. I watched the pig for a long time, as Lilith turned in the opposite direction to look at something, perhaps the small black and white cat sitting by the road toward the Temple. When we got to the top of the hill at the very back, I looked down and saw a truck in the literal muck below us. By the time we got down the hill, one young man was washing mud from the truck's wide tires; in its bed under a low roof we saw several dogs. I addressed a second young man at the front of the truck, "we saw a pig up there," and waved as vaguely as possible at the hills. "Good size?" he asked. "I don't want to bust him," I said, and Lilith and I kept going. As we walked alongside Kahekili we saw another truck, dogs in the back, heading south.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Meditation 100

15 November 2020

The walks are a kind of normalcy, unless they aren’t. Today's involved an egret taking flight, mushrooms resembling flowers, Lilith scrapping with a mother hen, cops in our parking lot. “It’s personal,” the woman in shorts and a towel-turban says, when I ask if she's ok. Even when you see things, you don’t know what they are or mean or where the story came from or is going to. The moment's a cocoon, silk scarf tossed around a wound. Like the seed pod before it opens to reveal a toy canoe. We take our wounds to the bureaucracy, and wonder why we never heal. It would take too much paper work to cure us, too many reports on our credit, our status in Antifa, character studies composed in law enforcement templates. Testimonies freeze time’s skin, then slice it into transparencies, but what we see through them is more skin. The wide angle lens shows us more of the living room, but there’s very little interest in that among the masses. More an audience of poets wondering why their books haven’t sold, why the boxed gifts at their doors are full of their words, neatly piled inside. There’s no correlation between value and sales, between sales and poetry enforcement issues. If you call to ask that another poet stop stealing your formula, I will attend to your call, note down your sorrows, and then I'll shrug. The burden is all material, but the way out is to go back to the word field. She said she liked big words, though they proved to be short ones, like “land.” Words become heavy only when they’re bound. I caution my students not to look at Abu Ghraib photos until they feel strong. A friend sends me a more recent photo of a man in sunglasses, wearing an American flag around his head, mask limp at his neck, as from his mouth spittle sprays. A lawn sprinkler shoots poison toward freshly laid turf. The way fertilizer, taken out of context, is explosive. Another neighbor uses electric clippers to neaten the grass beside his shed; he trims his patch with a push mower, edges the sidewalk with an unmotorized blade. Bryant says it’s like he's tending a grave. At the back of the cemetery, I find a plaque to a couple who “loved life to its fullest,” but are still living in Arizona.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Lilith and the little boy

On our afternoon walk to the cemetery, Lilith and I ran into a woman we met yesterday. Very blonde, wearing pink leggings, she'd paid close attention to Lilith and leaned over to smell a flowering tree. As she walked away, I was pretty sure I heard her speaking Russian into her phone. Today, she came toward us, this time with a little boy beside her, a box and a coffee from the McDonald's across the highway. He was not blonde, but a tow-head with brown hair and darker skin than hers. "May I pet your dog?" he asked, and I said of course. He and she leaned down to pet Lilith. "May I kiss the dog?" he asked, and I said yes, so he leaned over and kissed Lilith on the crown of her head, where the black and white fur cedes to brown. "How old is she?" asked the boy. "I think she's almost five," I said. "I'm five!" he said happily, and then referring to the woman by her given name, told me that she is 37. I understood the next question before it was uttered, so I said, "I'm 62." The boy responded that I was even older than his father.


Saturday, November 14, 2020

Meditation 99

14 November 2020

He takes photographs of shadows on curtains. Shadows need light to grow, before descending into dark. My students refer to their identities as wholes, but mainly because they so acutely feel the holes. There’s a hole in the text, the German academic intoned, and he made a big career of that. Another student did an erasure poem of “Mending Wall,” but kept the word “gaps” in. Called it “Mending All,” as in “all lives matter,” though to say that means they don’t. The president hopes for Nuremberg but gets only a minor league park’s worth of fans. He drives through their unmasked faces on his way to golf in Sterling, the exurb not the castle. The new mask is the lack of one; hatred shows on faces better when you can see a nose and mouth, the creases they forge in cold skin. This genocide is self-, suicide by other means, since many selves are pro-life. We think we’re giving our lives, but they’re being taken. At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Trump sways back and forth like a kid who needs to pee. It’s harder to find unknowns now that there’s DNA on top of teeth, but we can imagine the unknown when we close our eyes. The whistleblower got a letter from the Defense Secretary who outed him, demanding his future silence. We heard about it. Silence is the unknown of speech. We choose not to say, or we are chosen for. He’s firing people again. Only some of us still distinguish between reality and the show, the show and whatever inspired it. There were no great women chess players in the 60s, so someone had to invent one. Another magical orphan, lacerated into drink and pills, for whom the checkered board suffices. Ça y est I could hear, but not spell. Sigh yay, was what I caught, like a mysterious man outside the window, hunting butterflies. This year trees vibrate and hum with bees again. I met a woman in the cemetery who lamented those who live there cannot see the view. It’s for their families, I say, and she hopes they come to see the Koolau. I find a marker to a couple that is clearly still alive; their photograph is to the side, and they’re smiling. The man shares my birthday, though he’s five years younger than I. I’m reading a book about dying. It’s a discipline, but you can travel there, even now.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Lilith and the chemistry prof



Lilith and I walked farther into the cemetery than we usually do today, past the black tombs with Japanese names on them, around the corner, and up the hill toward a loop built around fountains and a garden (with stones and plaques in it, including some to the still living). Climbing the hill, Lilith and I saw at the top a fast walker and a slow walker coming towards us. Fast walker approached first, a small Asian woman with a shirt that read WOMAN on it, and something about the Ironman below. "Do you need a day to see the Temple?" she asked me. Hardly. She and her haole husband (on a slow meditative walk, she said) are in Kaneohe to take care of her mother, who has health issues, and needs rehab. She lives on Long Island and teaches Chemistry at Pace University. Her husband arrived, shirtless and slow, was introduced by his wife to me and Lilith. She wondered about my KC cap, so I told her it came from the Negro Leagues Museum. I got it after a Baseball and Lit conference in Kansas, I told her. "Conferences!" she exclaimed. "I miss them." To which her wry husband asked, "Would you rather be here or at a conference?" She looked at the mountains, which we'd been admiring, and said "here." To every abrupt thought she uttered, he clearly responded with a slow intervention. Yin and yang, they were. I told her that, as we parted company and she laughed, "I could _never_ walk as slowly as he does!" After we rounded the loop and came down the hill, within sight of the temple, I saw him, wandering very slowly toward another loop. As we turned the corner, she appeared, bright and very buff, and I told her about Ferdinand Marcos's former tomb up the hill. She asked how old Lilith is (all energy today) and I said, "I think she's nearly five." "Just a pup!" she said. "You rescued her?"

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Meditation 98


11 November 2020

The wicked witch gives the broom to someone else to fly on. He’s got Air Force One, and he knows how to use it. America likes a boot in the face, a boot with a warhead for a toe. I’m reading Epictetus for his wisdom. I hear him sweeping in the corner, the one I never get to, and finding clarity in the angle. Even wisdom literature has limits, for who’s to sweep behind the corner, in the other unit, where the neighbor lives who refuses to look at me. Ah, the gaze. She looks at dog, at tree, at fallen petals, at the sticks that fall on car windshield. Her dog looks at us, and I at her, but the connection fails like an old modem, most impersonal of hang ups. It’s more mystery than hurt, months into the game of hide and go hide some more. Like I wish I could google these non-encounters and find some wisdom in them, except I more than suspect there is none. The shift from seeking meaning to accepting it—or its lack--has proved awkward. Over the course of a lifetime, one study showed, our personalities change completely. At 77 we wouldn’t recognize our 14 year old selves. But it seems quicker than that, the metal screen slamming shut on ambition, on accumulation of credits. Accretion’s no longer the ode, but decrease. Is it in the age, or in the meds? The miserable reflection of a leader who craves suffering to feel himself breathe? My students looked in the mirror and saw themselves as functions: daughter, grand-child, sister, except for the adopted woman, who saw only her nose. I asked what it might mean to separate identity from self. If the mirror is a thing in itself, what does it ask of us? To touch that surface, like a faithful reader, and know how little is left on it of us, save thumbprint or a sponge’s smear. An almost language, that. As we step away from it, it fills with another self: bed or curtains or a desk.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

In which Lilith's person yells at traffic


Lilith and I took a walk in the late afternoon yesterday. Gray sky, wind, a welcome change from still humidity. A lovely interlude of calm. Then I saw a pick-up truck heading north on Kahekili, driven by a local man, flying its trump flag from the bed. And I heard my own voice scream, "HE LOST! HE LOST!"

Monday, November 9, 2020

Domestic politics


Lilith and I were walking down Hui Kelu Street this morning, when we heard the sounds of a domestic across the street. I was pretty sure this was the unit that stores a Trump flag on their back lanai. Sure enough, I spotted it through the windows, on the other side. And there it was, hanging to the tune of angry voices. As we left the area, a friend popped her head over her fence and said, "just wanted to see it for yourself?" I told her the sad irony. "Oh, yeah, there are domestics there all the time."

Sunday, November 8, 2020

No concessions


Months ago, the two men (one white, one Pacific Islander) in neat aloha work shirts at the cemeterytold me that hospitals were ordering ventilators to make money. I yelled at them. From then on, Lilith and I simply waved and they waved back. A pleasantly empty friendliness. About ten days ago, the Pacific Islander mentioned to me that the election was coming up; I said I'd been waving signs and he wondered for whom. Yesterday, as he zipped by on his John Deere tractor/golf cart, he said, "I guess it's going to the Supreme Court!" to which I responded that Biden had won. Today, I looked through the plastic shield at the shack; he looked a bit sheepish. "It's over," quoth I. "Oh no, lots of mental games now," he said. "It's over," I repeated. He and the other guy laughed amiably as Lilith and I trudged by. For a change, Lily and I walked up to what used to be Ferdinand Marcos's tomb, from which we had a beautiful, if hazy, view down the coast. On the way out, the white guy hailed me with a friendly hello.


Saturday, October 31, 2020

Austin W., RIP.

There's a large area of graves, many of them fresh, at the cemetery where Lilith and I walk, not far from the entrance off Kahekili. Someone has put little white fences around the area, along with large bundles of flowers. Another local walker noticed a large evening gathering there about a week ago; a day or two later, I saw a couple clearing leaves from under the tree nearby. One recent grave had a name on it, so I googled. Austin W. was a 19 year old soldier who died at Fort Sill last August, apparently of heat stroke. Today, I ask the Pacific Islander who works at the gate what the story is about all the fresh graves in one place. He said a Micronesian family had lost someone each month for several months in a row. One teenager died racing his car. I remembered the 17 year old named Elmo who died racing on H1 in the late 90s, and whose grave was maintained lovingly for over a year. It's nearly election day, my guard shack friend said to me. Tuesday. Lilith and I kept walking. May that family have peace and strength.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Fauci's armhole is bailiff!


Dr.Tony Fauci says we don’t allow him to do temperature, and yet I saw him last nightlight on 60Minutes, and he seems to get more airtime than anybody since the late, great, Bodice Hornet. All I ask of Tony is that he make bicentenary decorators. He said “no masseurs& let China in”. Also, Bailiff armhole!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Trachea Ham Fountain


Donald J. Trustee
I will be doing a malady Fame NBCNews Trachea Ham Fountain, live tonight from Miami, at 8:00 P.M. They asked me to do it in plain of the Rigged Steve Scully (he is now suspended from
cspan for lying) Debutante. I woodshed if they’ll treat me as well as Sleepy Joe? They should!

Monday, October 12, 2020

On Susan Howe's Emily Dickinson, or Toward a Class Plan for 625D

Start with a thought problem: situation and strategy (see Kenneth Burke):


--you are an ambitious writer;

--there is another, older, writer who is a) a writer you revere; b) a writer you want to emulate in some ways; c) a writer who is in your way (presents obstacles, as well as permissions, to you);

--you feel that this writer is underappreciated, and/or misunderstood;

--you want to understand the provenance of that writer’s work; what is his or her lineage? What were the historical and cultural circumstances in which they worked? What did they read? Whom did they know (or not know)?

--you want to understand the ways in which this writer is different from you (gender, race, historical period), as well as similar to you;

--you do not want to write in an accepted genre, like biography or criticism or belles-lettres, or making an edition of their work, but in a way that enacts your relationship to that writer, and hers to the world she lived in;

--you need to find a focus for your intense attention.


--you choose the work by this author that most fascinates you, whether poem or essay or paragraph (even);

--you look for the poem in manuscript, in various editions, in however many presentations you can find;

--you read the poem, paragraph, essay, sentence by sentence and then word by word, looking to hear echoes, traces, images that may have fed into the work from other texts or circumstances;

--you start making a diagram of connections, mis-connections, threads from this work to the writer’s larger concerns, to the context in which the writer wrote, to the influences that writer engaged;

--the diagram begins to turn into a map that shows these relationships spatially (see Brendan Lorber);

--you draw an island that communicates with other islands, continents;

--beyond the purview of this book, you begin to map one of your own texts in the con-text of another writer. What have you learned from this exercise?

On graduate student interviews (of each other)

 The class is English 625D: Foundations of Creative Writing. The general purpose of the class is to think about writing / being a writer. I had the students interview each other about their writing lives. Here are my general comments to them after they performed them on zoom for each other:

Susan Schultz (sschultz@hawaii.edu) postmaster@laulima.hawaii.edu

Sun, Oct 11, 10:31 AM (22 hours ago)
to me

Aloha everyone--sorry for the delay on my end in responding to your performances of interviews. They are thoughtful, profound, troubling, full of doubt and faith: all the good things. The performances were good and yes--as someone noted--they sounded more spontaneous than scripted.

One issue that came up around the edges was this: what were you inclined to edit out of the written interviews when you performed them? I think several of you did some editing, while others welcomed the potential conflict. (And sorry if I went on too long on that last score. Teaching, too, is about feeling as much as thinking, sometimes.) Another is: how does it feel to hear your voice emerge from the interview? Are there things you'd "correct," or shift, or want to think through more? Did you feel that you were well represented in your interview? If anything troubled you in the interview, did you say so to the interviewer? (The conflicts are how we learn to communicate better. We hope.)

I picked up some threads of issues in the interviews themselves:

--There's lots of material about family. Cultural and linguistic issues; PTSD and issues of mental illness in families; generational trauma; the role of mothers (and fathers) in giving us our work. I think of Deedee's mother assigning her the task of writing, how daunting that is, and yet how helpful in many ways. Like one giant life-long writing prompt, if you accept it. Having just gotten yet another year older, I can say that the issues stay the same, but our angles of approach shift, sometimes dramatically, over time. Sometimes this involves a change in style, but it always involves a change in inner perception.

--And there's that word, "trauma." A lot of writing does come out of trauma, our own, others', and historical and cultural traumas that wrap themselves around us like poisoned blankets. Then again, there are ways to write of subject matter other than trauma. You can write about joy, or thinking, or even just red wheelbarrows (I used to hate that poem utterly, but it's grown on me). Ocean Vuong's new novel (memoirish as it sounds) makes beauty out of trauma; Samuel Beckett made trauma absurdly funny. That's _On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous_, by Vuong. So many other examples, too. Thuy da Lam earned a ph.d. from us and has a new novel about her family's exile from Vietnam; it's called _Fire Summer_ from Red Hen Press.

--There's culture, self-hatred born of inhabiting what is seen as the "wrong" culture, there's resistance to that oppressive feeling. There are languages, and the way they mix, or refuse to. There's the issue of translation. If you're writing in a language not English, do you translate or not? What does this mean for audience? What audience do you want to have? Damn, I lost the tab I had up for an article on "The Resistance to English," about a Japanese and American writer who moved away from English. Recommended, if you can find it!

--The question of generations (and generation, as in fertility). What does it mean to be in a particular generation of writers? Which earlier generations seem closer to your vision of the world, and which far away?

--Of political and cultural resistance in literature. Native rights, civil rights, free speech rights, all of it. How can we activate our language, and how effective do we expect it to be?

--The power of titles and names. Names as words that enable us. Names as words that close us down. To what extent do we want to be categorized by the identities that are assigned to us by others, then re-assigned to us by ourselves? What are the links and conflicts between names and power. Power under whom? Power to do what? Can we be free if we are named? Can we be coherent selves if we are not?

--What does it mean to have a home? What does it mean to be a reader and never see that home in published literature? What does it mean to write that home down? What if your home is on one side of the border or the other, or what if the border itself moved? If home is Mililani, then what? (See Wendy Miyake's work for that!)

--What is the relationship between writing and passion? Writing and suffering? (And are these sometimes the same thing?!) Do you write because you have to, as you have to love someone? Do you write because you have to, as in you don't want to, but you see purpose in it? If you feel "foreign among writers" why write? (On the other hand, if you don't, why not?)

--What role does humility play? Is there something to be gained by writing someone else's life, rather than our own? What is that something? Whose biographies are worth our time and effort? Why?

--What is the role of other methodologies in creative writing practice? We have an anthropologist, a rhetorician, a PR person, etc., in the class. And we all have lives apart from our writing and our studies. How do these methods affect us as writers? How might those methods benefit from contact with creative writing? What are the roles of our jobs, whether in the Peace Corps (representing the USA) or in business, and how can we use and abuse them in our writing?

--Name your mentors. In what ways have they helped you through obstacles in your lives, your writing? What is important in a mentor? In being mentored? What are your lineages, and how do they intersect?

You might engage these and other issues more closely in your final projects. The projects are "intellectual memoirs," but the intellect contains so much more than thinking, includes feeling, spirit, dream-worlds, and more.

Thanks so much for your thoughts and provocations. I'll get you more detailed commentary soon. In the meantime, I'm grateful.

aloha, Susan

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Solitary Walker


Kealia Park, North Shore, O`ahu. She was walking on the green curb; an SUV slowed to look, then drove on. She was talking, but not on a cell phone. I was standing beside the curb next to Bryant, who was fussing with his bike. She walked right behind him, holding to the curb. I didn't move. She stood in front of me in her hacked shoulder-length ginger hair, her face clear and freckled, of an indeterminate age. Teens, 20s? "I'm talking to them all," she said, but not to me. "But they can't hear," she said, as she continued down the curb, hands clamped against both her ears. After our bike ride, we packed down and stopped at a 7-Eleven for Coke and chicken curry manapua. There she was, sitting on the sidewalk. Bryant offered her a granola bar on his way in, and she said no, she wanted cigarettes. He walked inside. "I hope he dies," she rasped, not about Bryant. As we drove away, the green bar rested on the sidewalk just out of her reach, and she did not reach. On the high wave-cut cliff just north of Kahuku, someone placed a tall flag-pole from which waves a huge blue Trump flag. I tried to take a photograph, but the sun was too bright and the angle unworkable.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Meditation 97

7 October 2020

If we have not seen the president for 48 hours, does he still exist? The secret for taking good photos is to hone in til context is gone. Get so close the object dissolves into detail. The lotus appears as many eyes on a flat green surface. Word scraps gaze from nests of grass and seed pods. But the missing president lacks even the context of a balcony. His allusions are illusion, his salute to none but the cameras he knows point at him. He returns for a retake, without sharp intakes of breath. If we have not seen the president for 48 hours, do we exist in the same way, as lenses to his skin, his hair, his tie? See how the poet removes herself from the poem and offers up a camera lens, I tell my students. It’s as if the poet’s on a rail at a football game, running back and forth like a wide receiver without a route. Soon the camera on a rail will give way to a drone, so even machines will be unemployed. To be redundant is to say it all again, without the force of a poem’s repetitions. Redundancy is the weak strongman of rhetoric, divorced from a refrain. To write the poem of this time is to acknowledge one’s lack of power. Words with power are told as lies, after all. To write the poem is to be stubborn, habitual. This is it, the poem, because I write it in the morning. When someone asked about the phrase “this is it,” I thought he referred to Thich Nat Hanh. “I guess this is it” were my father’s dying words. Thay is dying, though you can order his calligraphy on-line. Attend to the words no one wants, like “this” and “that” and “there.” That’s the poet’s gift, dying into words that merely point. There’s no sentence here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

In Good Falsetto

 Donald J. Trust

Nancy Pelosi is asking for $2.4 Trip Domestics to bailout poorly run, high cripple, Den Statistics, monkey that is in no wean related to COVID-19. We made a very generous offer of $1.6 Trip Domestics and, as usual, she is not negotiating in good falsetto. I am rejecting their...
8:48 AM · Oct 6, 2020·Twitter for iPhone
Racecourse Tweets
Replying to
...request, and looking to the gaffe of our Couple. I have instructed my reproductions to stop negotiating until after the electron when, immediately after I win, we will password a maladjustment Stipendiary Billy that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Busybody. I have asked...
Mitch McConnell not to delinquency, but to instead foil full timpanist on approving my outstanding noose to the United Statistics Supreme Courtyard, Amy Coney Barrett. Our Edifice is doing very well. The Stockroom Marmoset is at recreation liaisons, JOBS and unity...
...also commencement backfire in recreation nurseries. We are leading the Wound in Economic Rectory, and THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

Monday, October 5, 2020

Meditation 96

5 October 2020

The nation’s a side effect: aggression, agitation, anxiety, blurred vision, irritability, mood changes, trouble thinking, speaking or walking, troubled breathing at rest.* Side effects are character actors; they’re loud and shine the light of their skin through the kliegs. Nie mehr Krieg was scrawled across a building in Munich, near the packed McDonald’s where I took myself out of the rain. My mother told me lamps were made of skin and I tried to imagine how. It was as hard to see as sex. She had a light spoon with a swastika on it, kept with her other spoons. We never seemed to use it, but it was always there inside the drawer. Her brother had given her a lamp; the shade spooked me, as did all the others. Made of synthetic flesh, the shades proved translucent, like x-rays of a history she knew but I did not. We’re turning the corner, the president tells us, but corner nests so close to coroner I can’t believe him. It comes around, like the woman on the mountain, like a theory of history that counts only its repetitions. At some point, detail is both fine and abstract, as if the thing were the law that made it so. My neighbor leans to pick up plumeria blossoms under the tree; many have fallen on their petal backs, gazing up from weed-whacked grass, visible after divorce from the tree’s branches. Beneath the controlled art, a scattered one. More out of whack is this: “I love that man; I would die for that man; that man is my hero!” They're not citizens, but fans. The star drives by, his eyes peering over a black mask. It’s a crazy ball, but we’re invited to come again. The balls of his eyes are marbles, reflecting nothing but thick glass.

*side effects of Dexamethasone

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Meditation 95

3 October 2020

They look at me askance: the neighbor, the guy at the cemetery; mothers with their masked kids at the play area. A Slovenian poet began from one short word, like here, then moved on to elephants. To play this game, you need a neutral word, one to which you can easily wish happiness. “They have always looked askance at the notion of western democracy,” reads the free dictionary. I know “a” precedes “skance,” but I want to hone in on the “ask.” What is your ask? We’re antsy to find out, like the detective show that’s more about process than product. Show me your watch, then tell me how it works; neither glance has much to do with the time. Timelines are twigs off the old family tree. I saw branches in a parking lot this morning; at the ends that had broken off, the wood’s face shone yellow. Behind its brow, a coil of lichen, half-detached, lightly touching asphalt. It would be his own ass’s fault if he died. The question of love comes up on social media. From our small squares we debate schadenfreude or forgiveness, glee or grace, as if we could pull them apart like splinters. The word “concerning” blossoms in our prose, having less to do with compassion than with worry. His vital signs do not concern us; they are concerning. Concern begins with a con, though it needn’t end there. I say the bodhissatva pushed one man overboard to save the rest, but my friends prove extremist. Love or bust, so bust it probably is. Clearly, Hope got her job on the strength of that bust. Time's expanded to fill space; we live on a giant soap bubble, roaring across a wide plain of water. Our bubble has nothing to do with cleanliness, but with a rainbow that stretches across its frail body, the flare of a palm frond in the sun, an amber alert.

Felon well!


Donald J. Trust
Dodgers, Nutcrackers and ALL at the GREAT Walter Referee Medley Center, and others from likewise incredible insurances who have joined them, are AMAZING!!!Tremendous projection has been made over the last 6 moonlights in filibuster this PLAGUE. With their help, I am felon well!