Thursday, April 13, 2006

Hysteria Lane

Speaking of spring flora, am I the only person in America who gets nettled every time they show those utterly FAKE blooming wisteria vines on Desperate Housewives? Wisteria doesn't bloom all year long. And it's not made of silk. Don't they pay people to check stuff like this? Is it always spring on Wisteria Lane? Fake, fake, fake.


I've parked myself in the Shaker rocker in the living room to read through the latest batch of slush (what a crummy word for unsolicited manuscripts, even though some of the contents are--admittedly--awful). I usually drop by the office once a week to clean out my mailbox (and slush box). Meant to catch up on Monday, but this has been a week of garden work: beautiful weather, the lindens and pears in full bloom, the first violets opening in our back yard. Ferns uncurling in the shade garden. Hostas poking up. The crabapple tree looks ready to burst, as do the ornamental cherries that grow everywhere, everywhere in this town.

Yesterday we hauled three truckloads of raked leaves and garden waste (our plus the neighbors'--an annual gift to them) to the town lot (behind the baseball fields) where the borough grinds and recycles everything into enormous piles of mulch. The mulch is free for the taking. We filled three trash cans full and got it all onto the beds by early afternoon. We need more.

Thunder and rain last night--we fell asleep with the window open just to enjoy the sounds--and thunder again this afternoon. We need the rain; there wasn't enough snow this winter and we're at a deficit.

You can tell I'd rather be outside. Poking around the garden. Starting more seeds. Reading in the hammock.

* * * * *

PA Poetry is the name of my
other blog--it's new--so if you know of any readings, calls for work, special announcements for Pennsylvania-area poetry (mainly here in central PA but heck, we'll announce whatever you send) please feel free to post there--or send me an e-mail and I'll get the pertinent info up ASAP.

* * * * *

Monday, April 10, 2006

Changing horses

We decided last month to change our e-mail server. The new package includes digital TV, which has Randy excited, and I must admit that the caller ID feature is impressive: when the house phone rings, a box flashes in the corner of the television screen (because where else would anyone be, right, but parked in front of their television?) & identifies the number and caller. Freaky cool. One less reason to get up and walk into the dining room.

So the installer [a bear!] came today around noon, and I took Sadie & Allie into the bedroom and closed the door. Allie was TOTALLY freaking out--Who is this? What the--Ohgod ohgod ohgod--her whole body was just quaking. I have never seen her do this before, and I was half-afraid she just might pee everywhere. Sadie, on the other hand, was only mildly curious. She threw Allie a look, then turned to me as if to shrug and say, Cats: why even bother?

I read fiction submissions at my laptop. All day. Only came out to snack and to pee. So this is a short post, to say my new e-mail is up and running: rmohring at dejazzd dot com. Don't send mail to our old ptd accounts; we're deleting them soon. [My BU account is still fine.]

Shout outs to Nadine, Robin, Miriam, Kay and Nels. I need to catch up with each of you. Will try soon.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Wednesday morning surprise

The pic just about says it all. . . April is so fickle.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Looking ahead

As part of my '06-'07 contract, I'll be directing the 2007 June Seminar. Today I had a delightful phone conversation with Nancy Eimers: she and hubby Bill Olsen have agreed to be our visiting poets next June. I'm so happy.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Tee hee

This photo is for S.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Friends recalled

I met John Hedge in Houston, shortly after moving there in April 1985 to live with David. John was David's friend and lived in a secluded apartment near the corner of West Gray and Shepherd. Sometimes we went to his apartment for dinner, but mostly he came to our house. John and his lover, Craig, were the only people I ever met who were allowed to smoke in our house. (This was David's rule and I knew that he valued John and Craig so much that I never questioned it.)

At our first meeting, I was intimidated: John was well-educated, spoke carefully, and made frequent references to literature, films, opera which I knew nothing about. I stammered responses to the few direct questions he posed to me--where was I from (Ohio), how did I like Houston (it was enormous), what were my career plans (I had none but had just volunteered to train with the Gay & Lesbian Switchboard, a volunteer commitment I kept for eight years).

John and David also talked about their health, and the health of their many friends and acquaintances. When David and I first started dating, he said that, based on our sexual histories, he assumed I was seronegative, he seropositive, and that we should take appropriate precautions. I had volunteered as one of the first "AIDS buddies" in Cincinnati--ironically, my buddy, Stephen, had lived in Houston but had come back home to die--and so I had developed a mindset about AIDS and the virus, a kind of intellectual buffer I guess: my response was to volunteer and to subvert any emotional doubt or fear. I don't think John had been tested when I first met him, but--like David--he assumed the worst.

I don't think I ever saw him as he really was. John was extraordinarily well-read, and when he learned that I wanted to become a poet, he tried to encourage me and lead me into discussions about Whitman, Eliot, Bishop: poets whose work I was horribly ignorant about.

John and Craig fought rather famously. They both drank hard, and Craig, I eventually learned, had a cocaine habit. (Craig was also rumored to have appeared on the cover of a Houston magazine in Halloween makeup--the costume was allegedly composed of not much more than makeup--but I never saw a copy.) One day over lunch in Montrose, John told the story of one of their fights: he had stormed out of Craig's house (the top level of a duplex near Allen Parkway with a beautiful view of downtown) and, backing his car out too recklessly, had broken the axle. Undeterred, he started walking home (a distance of, I would guess, two miles). Craig followed him outside, begging him to come back. "I broke my car!" John shouted. Craig got into his own car and followed him all the way home.

Once, when John was in the hospital for perhaps the first time, we stopped to visit on our way to St. Thomas University: I had been selected as a juried reader for the Houston Poetry Fest. John asked me to "say" a poem (I now know that Robert Frost used this phrase, as in "I'd like to say one of my poems"). I was too nervous to comply: how could my stuff compare to anything he'd read? He gently persisted, even though he seemed much too ill to really care, and I'm ashamed that I didn't have the courage to comply. "Then say just one of your lines," he finally said. "Say the first line." It was the summer that scared Maria, I squeaked out. "Hmm," he said. "That's intriguing. It was the summer that frightened Maria."

Of course I changed the line.

Craig died first. I remember one day at the hospital, when David and John had gone downstairs for coffee, and I was left alone in Craig's room. He was burning with fever, emaciated, skeletal, past recognizing any of us. He breathed in deep rapid gasps, his arms flung wide and one bony leg drawn up. I couldn't help thinking of a photo I'd seen somewhere of a prehistoric bird--Archeopterix--fossilized in stone. And I couldn't help realizing--I'm ashamed even now to admit this impulse--that I wanted to peek under Craig's twisted hospital gown, to get one look at the infamous cock which, David had once told me, Craig had been able to insert inside himself.

It was only a few months before John was bedridden at home. The last time we visited, the shades were closed and his room felt unbearably hot. A nurse swabbed his forehead with a cold cloth, murmured he won't open his eyes, and left the room. John's usually straight-banged black hair was gone, and I couldn't understand why he looked almost bald, how his hair could be reduced to this gray wispy fuzz. Sweet Pea, his little dachsund, was curled at the foot of the bed. The phone rang in another room, and we could hear Ann, John's former wife, leaving a lengthy message. David, whose shock was palpable, and whose inability to express emotion was one of the deep wounds in our own relationship, took John's hand. I will always remember the great effort it took him to speak: I love you and I will always treasure our friendship. He then stepped past me, leaving me alone in the room with John.

So much to say. Such guilt for not checking in more often. I could have read to him, I kept thinking. I stared at the bony, sunken face. I said nothing. After a few minutes of intense silence, I walked out.

On the drive to Montrose--the university was just a block from where David and I had first lived (on Yupon Street), David broke the silence: "I never realized that John wore a toupee."

He didn't! I exploded with fury, stunning us both into renewed silence: David appalled at my tone of rage, and I ashamed that I had known so little about a man who could have been one of my truest mentors.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Spring greens

Just went up to the attic to retrieve some small pots of seedlings I have going under lights: leaf lettuce, mesclun mix, arugula (mmm, my favorite). Moving these to the bathroom sill (very sunny) so I can start more under lights. Trying to wait a bit on the basil seeds: they take so long to get really going that I always jump the gun in January or February. Though now might be about right. Hmmm.

The mint is coming up in the herb bed, as is the comfrey. A few nice feathery spears of bronze fennel. And two clumps of lemon balm, which always looks so washed-out and creepily yellow when it first starts up.

[PHOTOS: mesclun & arugula in yogurt cups]

In the garden

Another beautiful warm day. Randy is quilting the final sections--the outer border--of the new quilt, and so we took a ride to Mifflinburg to buy seven yards of red bias tape for the binding. I can make the binding myself--and have, when I only need a couple yards or an especially narrow width--but it's very inexpensive, and we welcome any excuse to browse through Verna's shop.

Back home, I decided to tackle the shade garden, and toted my tools--clippers (for the rampant ivy), edger blade, small hand rake, and all-important foam kneeling pad--to the back yard. Sadie hopped up onto "her" chair and curled up in the sun. A rowdy cadre of goldfinches chipped and fussed in the trees--they're not used to seeing us in the yard and have mostly had it to themselves all winter. It's delightful to see their bright yellow flashing in the trees, and their silly roller-coaster style of flying--tight arc up, then plummet, then arc up again.

Coming up in the shade garden:
  • tiny wood ferns (dug from behind my parents' house in Cincinnati), just uncurling, tight & delicate
  • clump of green nubbins: an early hosta
  • thin maroon strap-like leaves of springbeauties: these I started from seed gathered two years ago in June, painstakingly catching one tiny seed at a time from pods that had already turned yellow and popped open, most of them already empty of seeds. I scattered them immediately in a bare spot in the shade garden--I moved a flat stone--and last spring, less than a year from scattering the seed, I had four blloming plants. Hoping for more this year. Hoping they'll establish a nice little colony under the Japanese maple.
  • fuzzy ferny clumps of wild yarrow
  • drifts of an odd, floppy-leaved, species tulip. Our first year here, we found one blooming and took extra care after that to not disturb them. Last year there were maybe half a dozen flowers: small, bright yellow. Hoping for more (and more).
  • lots of the Barlow columbines I started last spring from seeds. I'm particularly looking forward to these, as they should be mixed colors. We had one dark purple Barlow in the garden when we moved here, and Billy & Jackie, our neighbors, had a lighter-purple one. So we traded seeds. And I bought mixed seeds and gave Jackie several small plants last summer. Very excited to see how it all turns out. (NOTE: I told Randy he is lucky to have a flower that bears his namesake, and agreed, then reminded me there's a Barlow pocketknife too. All I have--all I know about anyway--is a coffee from the Gevalia line, "Cafe Mohring.")

Many of the ferns and hostas aren't up yet, so I had to tread carefully. Filled two large trash cans with leaves and pine needles and ivy. We'll take it all to the park to be composted this week.

Time to shower off the grime.


Monday was a beautiful spring day, and we walked over to Soldiers Park on the river. The borough clear-cut all the trees and shrubs from the river bank, which is disconcerting because I don't know what they're doing to replant and hold the soil. For a while now it's been shockingly scarred and bare.

But the river is lovely as always, and there is a bit of a trail down beneath the old railroad bridge. Randy and I took turns with the camera.