Sunday Morning Afternoon

Ten Reasons for (not) writing:

  1. California is burning.
  2. Our white nationalist president is blaming California for the fires.
  3. There is a civil war going on in this country, and the right is better armed.
  4. Mass shootings r/t #3.
  5. Refugees walking hundreds of miles to be greeted by armed troops at the US border.
  6.  Initiative 1631 (a policy to combat climate change) failed to pass in Washington State, funded by big oil, so we may as well just prepare for the worst.
  7. It’s a big season for deaths. I attend deaths, hence, I’ve been busy.
  8. Prop 2 failed. No new library for Sequim, Washington. Property owners win.
  9.  Promises to keep.
  10. The new kitten is eating all of my plants and then taking naps on the keyboard.tyg on keyboard

 

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Sunday Morning from Moue to Musing

tyg.jpgIt’s been hard to keep up with blogging the past few weeks because of computer troubles, and a new kitty who got dehydrated and had to go back to the vet on Wednesday after her spay on Monday. And green eyesBo, who decidedly doesn’t want to share me with Tyg. And other annoyances.

I work as a nurse practitioner at a rural family medicine clinic. Although I call myself a poet, I have worked all of my adult life in the health care system. We had a staff retreat yesterday, which turned into an emotional event, changing (at least my own) irritation at having to go to a early meeting on Saturday morning to gratefulness that I have a job that matters and work with people who matter to me. It could have been a gripe session– as medical providers we are, of course, very privileged economically, and yet find plenty to gripe about in our work settings. So it was heartening to find that our strongest consensus concerned asking leadership to be more generous and more committed to our support staff– the nurses and medical assistants, the front desk and call center staff– without whom nothing would happen at the clinic. There has always been something family-like about working in health care, whether in the ER at Beth Israel Hospital in NYC; doing abortions in Tallahassee, Florida; providing care to HIV positive women in the South Bronx; or providing palliative care to trauma patients at Harborview in Seattle. There is the sense that we understand what’s at stake and therefore, are able to look beyond our differences and actually care about each other, take care of each other.

So unlike the way the world seems to be working these days.

On the poetry front, I have a review of Robin Becker’s The Black Bear Inside Me up at the Rumpus.  

Here’s a teaser:

I seem to have a lot in common with poet Robin Becker, who recently released a new poetry collection, The Black Bear Inside Me. We are both Jewish lesbians, post-war baby boomers, raised in large East Coast cities (Becker in Philadelphia, me in Washington DC) who knowingly present with “East Coast Jewish” attitude. One difference: Becker is strikingly butch, and I lean femme.   

 

Things I think I know for sure: 

I'm voting against tyranny and hatred.
I'm working, at least until I retire, which I expect to do in 2020
    when I turn 70.
Poetry has saved my life. More than a few times. 

 

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Sunday Morning Musings

DSCN2463The morning sears its way into my day. There is the sparkling glint of sun on water and across Discovery Bay I can see the snowy top of Mount Baker and the backside of Port Townsend off to the East. I am blessed with this view when it appears out my window as I sit at my desk and wonder what to do next. How different life seems to me on a day when no fog rises up to obscure my view, no rain smacks at the glass. And yet, some days I can convince myself that Port Townsend, Mount Baker, the whole damn universe, is still there, even when I can’t see it. Or feel it. Or find it. Or be a part of it.  My own fear of death seems easy to overcome with the thought that this, all of this, will all go on with me or without me.

Embracing death, notwithstanding, I am able to feel anxious about my many failures. I’ve fallen behind in promises, and nothing feels worse to me than not meeting deadlines, failing to fulfill a commitment, or having a dirty house. These are things to get over. The universe is made of dust, as I was recently reminded, and moving the dust around is not always a productive activity. Determining what is really worthwhile can be debilitating. So much seems worth so little.

Writing a Sunday blog joins me with others in a way that helps me to connect with a common purpose. I seem to be able to continually write poems. I’ve started meeting with a small writing group in my rural area that is proving to be a remedy for the sense of isolation I feel most days.

I’m sick with worry about our planet, but I guess that’s nothing new. Just because I am a nihilist at heart does not mean I am disengaged. I am trying to uncover meaning, step up to the plate, look for opportunities to serve, seek crevices of hope.

 

Until Another Summer

Today. Ash sky followed by lemon sorbet.
The way it began: dogged and bowed. And how it turned:
to mirth, rebirth. Buttery hungers. It’s trite to say
I long for sun and vitamin D. I can’t remember
when a summer licked me so utterly
with forked tongue, so soothingly
cuddled my head and testified
there is another there, there.

 

 

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Monday Morning Look Back

It’s not that I didn’t write a blog yesterday, it’s that I didn’t post it. I felt, more than usual, at a loss for putting my thoughts down in any way that might make sense. My Sunday morning was blemished by dropping one of a set of my beloved Frida Kahlo earrings down the sink drain, gone forever, and then having to tell a coveted journal that the poem they wanted had been accepted the day before by another journal.

I reminded myself (as I did when I lost my dead best friend’s amethyst ring on a Greyhound bus) that the ring (the earring, the lost object) is not really lost, just no longer in my possession. I reminded myself to be very grateful for the acceptance and to resolve to submit again to the longed-for journal. I composed myself, in much the way I might compose a poem. Made the best meaning of it that I could.

Then I went to a death, which reminded me how everything matters, but different things matter differently. I volunteer to assist people who wish to use Washington state’s death with dignity law, meaning I guide them through the process and am with them when they swallow lethal medication and die peacefully. If you are curious, you can read about our law here.

My feelings, thoughts, impulses are all quite confused today. I found a poem of mine that took me a good while to remember the title of, that might belong here instead of any clarity on my part. Something is found, in that case.

Things go missing

Odd things, like my duffel bag —
where could it be
when I need to unpack it?
Strange things like words
I’m sure I know,
swear I love,
gone.

You are gone
and I don’t even remember your name,
although faces are never gone. Although never
is a word to never use.

These things I seek are not vanished, just mislaid,
not here, not there, not where
I will ever meet them again. In flesh.
Matter/energy and all that.

There is a finite beyond
which I never question and there is that word
never again, because I can’t find a better one.

In my limited, limited, lost brain’s ability
to withstand all the things that are here,
I am pleased to announce:
things go missing.

from blinded by clouds, Hyacinth Girl Press

 

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Sunday Morning with Heartbreak

This is heartbreak

I’ve squandered this vow mindlessly scratching
a sterile sore. The portents were plain,
nothing would come of it.

Still I dream. Last night, seven dead mice
strewn across my coverlet, harking back
to an arresting image—Bodily Harm

rat emerging from vagina. I do not
make these things up, I’m too weary.
There is not enough salve

on the continent to swathe this busted body,
nor breath to resuscitate this heartbreak.

 

originally published at SoundZine, February 2011
with reference to Bodily Harm, by Margaret Atwood (1981)

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Sunday Morning Muse with an Embarrassment of Novel Riches

In past decades, let’s say my pre-teen years through my forties, I often read more than 50 novels in a year. Then, in my fifties I started reading poetry in earnest.  A poetry lover since childhood, I was less likely to buy books of poetry than to buy novels; less likely to read all the way through a book of poetry than a novel; less likely to have poetry friends to talk with about the poetry I was reading. Then, I started writing poems myself. Now I spend most of my reading time with books of poetry.

But now I have an embarrassment of riches of novels! Three books that I’ve been on a waiting list for at my local library all came to me this week. These are:

The Overstory by Richard Powers- (502 pages!!) 
which was just shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje (285 pages) 
whose The English Patient was a Man Booker winner

There There, by Tommy Orange (304 pages) 
whose short story in the New Yorker inspired me to write a poem, 
but that’s another story.

 

Can I read three novels in three weeks? In particular the upcoming three weeks? I have my doubts. I’ll probably reorder The Overstory and read the other two. But I’ll keep you posted.

As an aside, I read more slowly than I used to and this means that, though I spend about the same amount of time reading as I used to (given the vagaries of other obligations, for example, work, running a press, writing, volunteering) but digest fewer words. This is partly due to changes in vision which are common at my age, partly due to the slowing-down effect that reading poetry has on its readers, partly due to the distracting effect of screen reading and social media, but in some part, I’m not sure why my appetite is so much less voracious for novels than it used to be. When it comes to novels, I buy few, but often pick up 1/2 dozen at a time from the library. Why? Because these days, I have a new novel reading habit: I often start novels but don’t finish them. In fact, I often go 30-50 pages in and decide “no, I don’t want to read this.” Let’s just call it, “time is running out” for anything that doesn’t enlighten me or bring me pleasure.

 

In other news, in poetry, the current pile on my nightstand includes:

Unforgetting, Christine Potter (Kelsay Books, 2018)

Prairie Fever, Mary Biddinger (Steel Toe Books, 2007)

Hapax, A.E Stallings (TriQuarterly Books, 2006)

What the Living Do, Marie Howe (W.W. Norton & Co, 1998)

As If, Anna Meister (Glass Chapbook Series, 2018)

Let’s just note, for what it’s worth, the novels are all by men, the poetry, all by women.

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Sunday Morning Muse Without Ado

It’s no longer Sunday morning. I haven’t heard from the muse yet today. I am feeling somewhat gray, like my hair and the weather. I’ve too much on my must-do list when truth is, I really don’t want to do anything. Maybe I need more coffee. Or a nap.

bosie-is-a-girl.jpg The news around here is that the new baby girl has earned her own name. She’s Tig. You may or may not know her lesbian namesake.

Yesterday I did a workshop and reading at the Book Tree in Kirkland Washington. During the workshop, which was meant to be about strategies for getting our poems out into the world,  most of the time was devoted to sharing our ideas about how we create poetry community. I’ve seen a lot of negativity on social media about the larger poetry community, which always unhinges me. My experience, other than the typical frustrations of rejection, has been overwhelmingly positive. It was heartening to hear how local poets solve the problem of finding/making community which supports their ability to stay positive about reading and writing poetry. There are dozens of monthly poetry readings in smaller communities surrounding Seattle, most of which include open mikes. Regular poetry readings are held at libraries, book stores, restaurants, bars. We shared information about free write groups, social media groups where rejections get posted and laughed about, small group work-shopping, writing reviews, book groups that only read and discuss books of poetry. There are annual and biannual regional conferences that most of us attend whenever we can.

I felt like we had just created a poetry community in the room.

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Here is the interview I did with Jen Rouse that appears today at Bekah Steimel’s blog 

Her new book, Riding with Anne Sexton, is not simply ingenious, it’s quite a tour de force! I hope you will order a copy!

 

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Sunday Morning Muse with Bitter Honey

I think about bees when I drip honey on challah and apple slices. Tonight is the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, which always seems a more natural time for reflection and endings than in the deadness of winter. The harvest moon. The start of the school year. The end of summer, time to account for whether enough grain has been stored to get us through the inevitable winter months. Although there is argument for January 1st too, a moment when we are poised over the dark abyss, but take heart in remembering that we are going back into the light. Again. I wonder how we bear all of this repetition, so eagerly anticipated in childhood, and so foreboding as we age.  Another year, expectations of ritual celebrations and foods and annual mammograms. I will make apple-honey cake, I always do, and take it to work where my posse of co-workers–whom I have great respect and love for– have come to know and expect that I will feed them the ritual foods of my religion- potato latkes, knaidlach soup, apple-honey cake. I am used to being “the only Jew” but not to so much kindness and curiosity.

And these things that belong to our private selves in contemplation. The winter darkness that I accepted when I moved to the PNW, because I craved solitude and found it here. The inevitable depression I will feel as the rainy darkness overcomes me. I will think about suicide. I always do. I will know that I always do and that it will slowly ebb back into something less dire. The need to write and the knowing that without poetry  life would be too burdensome. The feeling that I am not grateful enough for what I have– my health, a job, a writing life, family.

The manuscript I am working on now is titled, “why I hate to cry”. I cried yesterday listening to a radio program that spoke about social isolation (specifically, the way men–not just straight men– are groomed to avoid emotional relationships with other men, to their detriment.) This interested me, but why was I crying? I suppose I understood that I am “like that”, I avoid emotional relationships, but is it too my detriment? I really can’t say with any certainty.

This is all very complicated, as I contemplate retirement. For so many years I have spent so much of my emotional reserve in taking care of people-as-patients, I don’t seem to have much left for friendship. I wonder if I will be like one of those “men” who retire and find themselves at a loss for meaning. Who fail quickly; who die shortly. Who am I, if this is how I see myself in retirement? And yet, I am longing for the freedom to pursue the possibilities of connection. Of traveling and meeting all the poets that I only know on Facebook and Twitter. Of having meaningful conversations. Of learning to cry again without hating myself for it.

I wish each of us some sweetness in the new year. Layered into what we all fear, even know, is happening. The wrecking ball, the earthquake, the failure of democracy, the loss of habitat, the disappearance of bees, famine and war, cancer, overdoses. All of it. May it be mingled with some sweetness. Some tears. Some love.

Here is a poem. It takes a longer view, I suppose, of how I feel today:  http://www.versedaily.org/2018/icewouldsuffice.shtml

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Sunday Morning Muse with #SeptWomenPoets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m in on this: reading women poets in September, which, if you follow on Twitter, you will see delicious suggestions of many, many books you will want to read (or re-read), some poets you’ve never heard of but are grateful to know about, and a sudden urge to spend all of your allowance on (yes) books of poetry by women.

There is no sign-up; there are no rules, no commitment, but the idea of reading books of poetry, reading women poets, reading while thinking “this is a woman, a poet, a book of poetry by a woman” gives a certain delight.

Even if you have been doing this all year long for many years.

I have a pile of books that I intend to read (at least some of) this month, and hope to write reviews of (at least a few) here on my Sunday Morning Muse blog.

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What’s up?

I’m excited to be reading in Portland
Incite Queer Writers Read Forum
Wednesday at 7 PM
Literary Arts
925 SW Washington St, Portland, Oregon

https://www.facebook.com/events/315871768986680/

Hope to see some Portland friends there! Vancouver WA too!

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Sunday Morning Muse with Smoke at Reentry

I returned osmoken Monday from a week at the Jersey shore and a few days in NYC to a reentry into the smoky conditions of the Pacific Northwest. You can get a visual on how many fires the West Coast of North America is dealing with here.  I’ve also noticed more than a typical number of earthquakes over the past two months. I monitor the ones in the Ring of Fire here. The Ring of Fire is the large basin of land surrounding the Pacific Ocean where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

I think it’s fair to say, at least regarding our fire “season” that we have reached a “new normal” meaning fires all year round in this region. We’ve seen quite a few respiratory problems at the clinic over the past couple of weeks. It’s certainly unpleasant particularly since we only get a couple of months of sunshine where I live, but of course, it’s been worse than just smoke for people and animals in the fires’ paths.

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I have a review of Max Ritvo’s forthcoming book, “The Final Voicemails” (Milkweed Editions, 2018), up at the Rumpus.  Max Ritvo was an enormously gifted poet who died at age twenty-five, two years ago, on August 23, 2016, after a prolonged bout with cancer. His posthumous collection, The Final Voicemails, will be released on September 11, 2018.  As a nurse practitioner who cut her milk teeth watching young gay men die in droves in the 1990s, I was tremendously moved by Max’s courageous work in the face of his death. I hope you will read my review, and more so, that you will read his work, which includes the also posthumously published, “Four Reincarnations”. 

I am finding writing reviews of poetry to be very engaging, an activity which forces me to read very closely and deeply into a poets’ work. My next review for the Rumpus will be “The Black Bear Inside Me” by Robin Becker (Pitt Poetry Series, 2018).

Let me know if you want me to review your book on my blog!

I’m also looking forward to seeing an interview I conducted with Jen Rouse, coming soon on Bekah Steimel’s blog. Headmistress Press published Jen’s “Acid and Tender” in 2016, which was a finalist for the Charlotte Mew Prize. Jen has a fabulous new book, just released, that you don’t want to miss. It’s called “Riding with Anne Sexton”. Check out this poem from the book that was published on Glass: A Journal of Poetry, called Anne Sexton Talks to God. It will knock your socks off, I promise!

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