Sunday, February 28, 2010

This and that

Today's the last day to nominate a blog post for 3 Quarks Daily's Arts & Literature Prize. Full details here.
Day Two of spring break:
  • essays graded: 0
  • chapbook review copies addressed & ready to ship: 10
  • copies ready to ship to buyers (thank you!) and entrants (thank you!): 15
  • new chapbook covers designed: 2
  • inches of new snow received: 0
  • hours till we finally get to see Avatar: 3
  • spending my Sunday as I choose for once: priceless

Friday, February 19, 2010


When you phoned I was far, and sleeping,
but they brought me the message and I ran,
I ran to the phone where you were,
you were speaking, we two were speaking,
when I ran back to the room I no longer
knew we would speak again. Twenty minutes
and I was gone, there was a plane,
and another, there was a friend who took
me to you, you were asleep. I didn't know
there was still any question, I only learned
later, everything later, weeks later I was
still frightened of all that I learned.
I swear though I knew it was there I scarcely
saw the hose taped to your mouth, its ridges
that breathed in case you did not; scarcely saw
the twin tubes coming out of your chest or
the blood running through them and into the pump
that returned to your wrist, quietly, steadily,
what belonged there. The slenderer tubes
that entered the side of your neck I scarcely
noticed; not the empty ones waiting for something
not needed, not the ones drawing fluids
from three labeled bags. They had washed you,
I barely noticed the yellow stains and the blood
that remained on your skin. They had cut you,
I did not see the bandages holding the length
of the chest, they lay where I should have been
lying, I did not understand. I did not see
the wounds on your side where some scalpel or saw
had been dropped or some heated or iced tool
had burned. The monitor's chiming ws nothing,
someone would come, they would turn it off.
The slash stapling the crease of your thigh was
nothing. When the nurse turned the white valve
near the collarbones' nest before opening one
on the wrist, there was not one cell of my body
that needed to understand. I barely felt the bars
where my hand fitted into your hand, the rail
that days afterward still tracked my cheek.
The urine that drained to the sack below us must
have been warm, I must have touched it, I should
have known it was warm wih your warmth but I did not.
I waited. I knew the sweetness I smelled
on your body was powder, was baby powder, I did
not understand, but I knew they had given you back
to this world for a second time and I waited
for you to agree. I waited for you to open your eyes,
a first time, another, another. I waited until
you were sure, until every part of you stayed.

:: Jane Hirshfield, in Five Points 1:3 (1997)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Two things that happen to be going on at the same time this week seem to have overlapped, at least emotionally, in my (what? mind? heart is more like it)--in me.

First, I've been making the rounds in my department, getting letters of recommendation lined up for the necessary and energy-consuming job application process. I'm currently in my third year of a one-year visiting contract: I love what I'm doing and where I'm working, but there's no hope of it becoming a permanent gig. Reality looms.

And second, I'm shooting PDF copies of a chapbook by one of our upcoming Seven Kitchens authors to a few folks who have generously agreed to write blurbs.

I know that writing a blurb is nothing like writing a letter of recommendation. I've done a few of both, though, and I can tell you that to me they feel much the same: in the end, I always feel that (a) I could have done a better job and (b) the friend/colleague/student should have picked someone else (because that someone else could have done a better job).

As for being on the receiving end, the truth is that I come unraveled when anyone says something truly thoughtful, positive, and supportive about my work. You might not think that a Leo should have such difficulty with praise, but I do. I lose it for a moment--a brief moment, like today when I saw the letter a generous colleague had written for me: I had myself a good, quick cry and then, with a scant ten minutes left to prepare for class, I pulled my act together like Mama Rose and threw myself into what I do, sometimes, almost as well as the man described in that letter.

As I said in a quick message to our author mentioned above, it's very good to have such good friends, mentors, colleagues. And I want to thank them--hers, mine, and yours--all of you out there, trying to do what we do as well as we can do it. My life has been so enriched, and I am truly grateful for every gesture, large and small, that all of you have made to help hold someone else up, keep someone going, keep someone teaching and trying and writing and growing.

Just that: one enormous thank you, too huge for me to accommodate in words (see above), but if I could--if I could stay conscious of this feeling and inhabit it with intention, maybe you might could imagine a thank you as constant and quiet and present as your next breath. And the next one. That's me, giving thanks. To you.