Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tiny luscious

No, it's not my drag name--nor anyone else's that I know of, though now that I ponder, it wouldn't be a bad one. I'm referring to my windowsill tomatoes, two of which are nearly ripe. The smaller has a prominent nipple and is about the diameter of a nickel. The larger is a day or two behind in ripeness, and the diameter of a quarter.

I will eat them very slowly, using the tiniest sterling dollhouse-scale cutlery. No. Though I would if I had some. What is the proper way to eat a miniature tomato you've grown from mail-ordered heirloom seed on your office windowsill? That sounded boastful. Like a tomato. Full of robust braggadocio. Blaring about its own luscious gifts, its juicy contents, skin so ready to pop. If this plant could talk, it would bark like a dog in a Brooklyn window: "HEY!"

Or ding like a bell: tomato's done.

Shivering with antici--


[photo: "Micro Tom," 8/30]

Monday, August 28, 2006


Just a quick hey, y'all before I crash for the night. Mondays are hard because I have trouble falling asleep on Sunday nights. Maybe if I hadn't stayed up to watch the Emmys? (Which were terrrribly produced, he queened.)

And--and--am I the only one who thought Barry Manilow looked exactly like Liza Minnelli? (And kinda sang like her, too?)

Thanks to Charlie and to Steve for the unexpected pick-me-ups. The best kind.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

It's in the cards, dummy

So I have been trying to get into the habit of drawing a random card from my Tarot deck every day: a snapshot, if you will, a heads-up barometer of how things are (or how they're about to be). And the results have been truly uncanny. I mentioned one card in passing about a week ago, but didn't really say much more about it, and hadn't planned to. Until today.

One of the poetry books I'm teaching this fall was written by a friend. And I thought it would be great if he could perhaps visit my class, so I invited him. I couldn't invite him to give a proper reading--these things are scheduled at least a year in advance, we're a small campus, coordinating among several departments is mind-numbing--but a class visit, and an informal lunch talk, yeah, that I figured I could manage.

I realized that I needed to tap into some of the money that's available for this sort of thing, so I did some research, talked to colleagues, downloaded the proper forms. And it turns out that I need a sponsoring department before I can go to anyone else as a cosponsor. Okay, no problem, but time is running short, and classes are starting, and though I've talked informally with someone from my potential sponsoring department--and then followed up with an e-mail--I haven't heard back. Days pass. I send a follow-up e-mail, forwarding and amplifying my initial request. And there's still no response. I'm teaching, I'm running from meeting to meeting, there's course materials to load on Blackboard, the projection monitor doesn't work in my 8:30 class and I have to schedule a tech appointment--those of you who teach know exactly the myriad ways that one's time gets fractured and pummeled during any given day (and then the next, and so on). So I'm waiting to hear back, because I need Sponsor #1 before requesting any moolah from #2, and I'm starting to realize that I have absolutely no idea how to coordinate a simple campus visit, like do I need to keep track of five or six account numbers? assuming I get co-sponsorship from that many departments and organizations? And so I talk with another colleague, who explains that the sponsoring department pays for everything from their budget, and all the other donors just transfer their allotted funds into that budget at the appropriate time.

Okay, okay, that makes sense, but I still haven't heard back from #1. So I e-mail again, something polite but you know, kind of desperate, like "I'm still waiting, he-he, and could ya just say yes or nay b/c time's running short and all?"

And I hear back, immediately, that #1 has not only okayed this gig, but okayed it twice. It's embarrassing, yes, but I'm also scratching my head: WTF??

Turns out my Junk Mail Filter is randomly sucking in e-mails. They never make it to my In Box. I contacted someone at the Tech Desk who said oh yeah, her junk filter was acting up too.

So I unjunked my "real" e-mails, sent a thank you/apology to #1, and then I sent another e-mail: a general "hey guys, sorry if I've been slow to respond to anything, but my mail filter is junking your e-mails and I just found out." Now I'm not STUPID, I did not send this second e-mail to, like, FIFTY people or anything, only to the handful whose e-mails I un-junked an hour ago.

So I get a reply, a very helpful reply, from a colleague, with a very helpful tech-suggestion, and as I'm reading his message I realize that MY message--like a long strand of toilet paper stuck unbeknownst to my shoe--MY message has an earlier message attached to it. It's not, fortunately, the panicky desperate one from today. It's the initial message, asking #1 to help sponsor the campus visit. So now a bunch of people who have no need to know about this project (not that it hurts at all that they do) can--and probably have--read the whole length of that piece of toilet paper.

It's no big deal. It could have been worse. It could have been AWFUL.

Which brings us to today's card, the card I turned this morning, before my 8:00 class, the one I puzzled over, not seeing how it might relate to my day. Not heeding its warning.

You've probably guessed: it's The Fool.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Classes begin

Classes begin tomorrow: my poetry seminar meets at 8:30, and I'm totally looking forward to it. I was still tweaking the syllabus this evening, and decided to change the reading order: we're going to start with The Saint of Letting Small Fish Go.

* * * * *
Totally incapacitating headache this morning: I had to call Randy to come take me home a little after nine. Several hours and various medications later, it's still there--lurking in my skull like a nasty centipede.

Go away.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I will never be hip

I will never be hip. Nor young again. Nor do I wish to be. So it didn't sting all that much to receive an e-mail today from Reb Livingston, rejecting my poems for the new Bedside Guide to No-Tell Motel anthology.

But it's very weird that just the other day, as I was chatting with my friend Betsy, she asked if I knew Reb (I don't). And that Reb was staying overnight at Betsy's apartment. Which used to be my apartment. And did I know where to get a good brunch in Lewisburg?

A glancing near-acquaintance. What if I'd been invited to brunch? Or had run into the two of them on the street? We're a verrrry small town. How nearly did I just avoid an awkward moment?

Today's random tarot card: the Six of Wands. I like this one; it feels very Leonine. Lots of work to do, but if I apply myself, my efforts will be well-received. Or that's what it's saying to me, anyway.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

As before a journey

Can't sleep tonight: it's the kind of sleeplessness that usually precedes a trip, or the first day of the semester. Woke at 2:30 and tapped a note into my PDA, the light from its little screen bright against my face. Gave myself Reiki. Thought about an essay that Third Coast rejected almost two years ago. Tried to remember all the words to "Famous Blue Raincoat."

The dog was circling the bed. 3:20 AM. Got up to let her out. Found my shorts in the dark. She was in disbelief: I'm usually the snoring bear who can't be roused.

Downstairs, in the laundry room, watching Sadie through the window: faint white blur slipping behind the hedge to pee, only slightly more distinct than my own reflection in the glass. It's been raining gently. Hope it lasts. Sadie steps back onto the patio, checks to see I'm at the door, heads down the brick walk to the back yard. Number Two. I go into the kitchen, pour a half-glass of water. When I check back, she's amorphous, moving toward the door. I think of the title of Mary Ruefle's new book: A Little White Shadow.

Quiet. A few crickets and the hum of someone's air conditioner down the street. Sadie's on the futon, licking the rain off her paws. I'm trying to remember the color pattern on the webworm caterpillars that used to invade our yard when I was small: a series of tiny grids, sort of blue-green, unexpected among the darker stripes. Almost the blue of a jewelweed seed, the astonishing robin's egg blue revealed when I would scrape the seed coat with my thumbnail. But I think I'm confusing the colors; I'm certain about the jewelweed--touch-me-not--and less sure that the caterpillar had any blue at all.

[photo: Night View #8 ]

Thursday, August 10, 2006


It's the transmission, not the clutch (what do I know?), and will cost us a tight thousand bucks to have it replaced. We may have the truck back by Monday.


* * * * *
Here's a job posting for all you fiction writers out there who wouldn't mind living in Kentucky. [ tenure-track; starts Aug 2007; apps due by 12/1/06 ]

* * * * *
Randy just fixed our toilet with a universal flapper he bought at the local hardware store. The plastic mechanism is bright yellow and the brand name is Hornet. I'm in love with the term "universal flapper." Say it with me. Don't you feel like smiling?

* * * * *
Does anyone have hands-on experience working with CLMP's submission manager program? They're pushing it right now, and though I've managed to streamline and tailor our own submission database (the database and the tracking procedures) over the past few years, I'm always open to a new time-saving program. Anyone?

* * * * *
The cicadas are in full orchestration. Last year, the mega-brood didn't make it this far north, though it got as close as DC--lots of poems from that area about cicadas. I'm guilty as well of using cicada imagery in at least one poem. I've also thought that the empty husks would make great (read: macabre) Halloween jewelry.

* * * * *
Lily and Janie were just at the back door: our "Sweet 100" tomatoes, which we've allowed to range through the flower bed (and somewhat over the fence that separates our yard from the Kellys'), were apparently loaded with ripe tomatoes. The girls spied them through the fence, and their mom helped them pick a nice little bagful. Good neighbors are such a--I started to write "blessing" here, but it sounds so Pollyanna--I should check with Charlie and see what term he'd use (tee hee).

[photo: viola face]

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dove request

Does anyone have a copy of Rita Dove's poem "American Smooth"--just the poem, not the book--that they can e-mail me? Soon? --Thanks much.

* * * * *
Tinkering with the syllabus for my Tuesday/Thursday class: which order do I want to set for the chapbooks? We're reading six this fall:
  • Michael Sowder, A Calendar of Crows [New Michigan Press]
  • J. Gabriel Scala, Twenty Questions for Robbie Dunkle *
  • Benjamin Scott Grossberg, The Auctioneer Bangs His Gavel *
  • Betsy Sholl, Coastal Bop [Oyster River Press]
  • Kent Maynard, Sunk Like God Behind the House *
  • Catherine Pierce, Animals of Habit *

*- Kent State

I am looking forward to catching up with a bunch of new chaps this fall. I've taught some of these a couple of times now, and I wanna clear the slate and play with a new batch. Any suggestions?

Oh, and I have some copies of my own to trade, if anyone's interested.


Just for fun, I've started a new blog: WTF is This? Submissions welcome. Enjoy.

Monday, August 07, 2006


Just walked to the office, schlepping a bunch of hanging file folders: I'm trying to sort & organize old files and to take advantage of the two roomy file cabinets in my new office. So much paper ends up in boxes. Less these days--I'd say I achieved a major shift about a year ago, after working toward it for a while: a combination of requiring my students to turn in 90% of their work online and of finally becoming more efficient with (and trusting of) my computer and laptop (and those handy USB jumpdrive thingies).

* * * * *
We were treated to a nice dinner last night by Steve & Kathryn, who picked us up. Three orders of blackened salmon with mango salsa, two orders of watermelon gazpacho (yummy, but could have been more picante for my taste--can't wait to make some!), one order of basil chicken over couscous. I wanted coffee after, but refrained.

* * * * *
Nice to see Robin Becker featured on Poetry Daily today. I love her work and can't see why she's not, well, bigger. Looking forward to reading the new book, Domain of Perfect Affection.

* * * * *
New fun word: planemos. They're planets that orbit each other rather than circling a star. Several have been found over the years, but apparently this new pair is causing a buzz.
One quote from this BBC article made me grin: "They appear to have been forged from a contracting gas cloud, in a similar way to stars, but are much too cool to be true stars."

* * * * *
Just got a call from HR: time to schedule my benefits meeting. Sweet words: health insurance. After three years without. (Happy feet!)

* * * * *
Still working on the new story. It's coming through slowly, about a page a day, but still feels much larger than I initially thought. This is a good thing; it means I'm letting it be what it wants to be instead of clamping down and prodding it into some safe form/length/shape. Here's an excerpt from what I wrote Thursday morning:

Charlie leaned closer, examining the mask: a papier mache Green Man composed of individual leaves, each hand-layered onto a paper pulp base form. I tried to construct the mask based on photos I’d made of Nelson sleeping on the sofa—hands folded across his chest, exhaustion tugging his features like gravity itself, he always looked like he was practicing—but in the end, I asked him to model for it.

“A death mask?” he mused, arching his eyebrows.

“I’m thinking more of a Green Man.”

“What, again?” he groaned, and I remembered the afternoon I’d posed him endlessly amid the branches of a bushy camphor tree on the lawn near the Menil Museum. The tree had been cut to the ground at some point, but multiple trunks had arisen to ring the central stump, a platform I coaxed Nelson to stand upon. Shooting roll after roll of film in the late afternoon light, I coached as he peered dutifully from the glossy thick leaves—a little more covering the forehead, now just the left side—while his patient expression turned weary, then stoic, then openly curious: had I captured the essence I was asking him to provide? Were we through yet?

* * * * *

[photo: gourd vine climbing past our (second-story) bathroom window, 8/2/06]

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Farewell to the Fishers

All right. I am officially lifting my ban against any discussion of the Six Feet Under final season. We watched the last episode tonight, open-mouthed and leaning forward during the end sequence, which was, I think, in the heady minutes after, simply perfect. The final shot of Claire--the eyes! Wow.

[photo: crow leaving maple, 8/3/06]

Update: click here to watch the final sequence on YouTube.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The squeaky wheel...

...precedes the emphatic clunk. Or it did this afternoon, anyway. On our way back from State College, where we had a rapturous birthday lunch at Say Sushi, the truck started making squealy noises. A loose belt? I wondered, itching to loosen my own after so much exquisite food. And so affordable. So worth the wait (we make the pilgrimage to Say Sushi maybe twice a year). Anyway, in the middle of our journey, in a dark wood (literally, the road passes through Bald Eagle State Forest, and we were following two wide-hipped RV campers) the squealing escalated to a grating crescendo, and Randy couldn't get the truck back into gear. "Let's coast," I suggested brightly, as we slalomed down the mountain road. Meaning: please don't let the fun end here. Meaning: think of the towing charges. And we coasted a bit, and the truck slipped back into 4th. Fourth was fine with me. Fifth gear? Ehh, overrated, who really needs it, we're two queers in a pickup truck, we don't need to go over 45 mph on a rural mountain road.

And so we tooled along, holding our breath. "If we make it to town, should we just drop the truck directly at Buck's?" asked Randy. (They know our truck at Buck's. They just fixed the starter two weeks ago. In fact, they had to re-fix the clutch two summers ago, after it went out on my trip to New York--another story, but the damn clutch went out on the George Washington Bridge! As Cher said in her farewell concert after riding a sequined elephant onto the stage, "Top that, you bitches." But I digress.) Sounded like a good idea to me.

Out of the woods. Passing Cowan, which meant maybe eight miles to go. At this point I'm thinking, we need groceries. "If it still sounds okay when we get home, maybe we can use it to run errands this weekend and take it over to Buck's on Monday," I suggested hopefully.

Three miles to go. KERRRRRR-R-R-GRRR-R-THWOK-UNK-UNK! Or something like that. A loud, grinding, heavy sound of something mechanical popping out of place and emphatically not going back in. "Can we coast?" I asked (meekly). Not into town of course--I'm not a complete frothing idiot--but maybe a few hundred yards, say to that gravelly patch up yonder? And we did. And at that point, I realized (again) why we carried cell phones.

Thanks to Deirdre and Bill, for driving out to pick us up.

[photo: cast-off lawn mower flywheel (or something mechanical from a lawn mower; what do I know, I'm no rocket scientist), 3/1/06]

Thursday, August 03, 2006


... tomorrow. I don't feel a day over 45.

[photo: bicycle sprocket in store window, 7/22]

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Okay, I know I said I would never complain about the heat again after leaving Houston, but...

... this is ridiculous. I got lightheaded just walking home this afternoon.

* * * * *
Reading Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood this week: I've only read her stories and letters before. I was hooked immediately into the world of Haze Motes; my god, O'Connor can establish a voice in one deft sentence.

* * * * *
Also picked up a new (for me) book by Allan Gurganus from the library--The Practical Heart (I think) (it's upstairs; I am not moving from this spot for a simple fact-check). . . I love his work. Looking forward to this one.

* * * * *
We picked our first cucumber this afternoon: it's outrageously huge. The vines are loaded; I wish our tomatoes were doing as well (alas).

* * * * *
I am ditching the ball game in the 9th inning (Philadelphia vs. St Louis) and heading upstairs where it's air conditioned. Though with all the southern fiction I'm reading this week, maybe I should read some John Haines or something to draw a cool northern breeze?

[photo: miniature rose in our garden, July (digitally torqued)]