Wednesday, April 20, 2005

This little piggy

Have you seen The Meatrix?

(warning: contains sound)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Spin Again

Had a dreamlike weekend in the Twin Cities... and came home to the something good.

I won a research appointment for next year. At a school that I love. On a beautiful campus ten minutes from A's new job. So I get to spend next year researching and writing my book, instead of adjunct teaching. And, to paraphrase Virginia Woolf, I'll finally have a job (and office) of my own.

I'd been so completely certain that I wasn't going to be chosen for this appointment that I hadn't even dared hope. When the notification finally arrived yesterday, it was in the slim envelope characteristic of all rejection letters. I almost didn't open it, so sure was I that it held bad news...

Guess I'll have to to trust that funny voice in my head.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Something tells me

Monday 12:42 a.m.
A boy walks in front of my car at the stop light. Draped over his arm is a hairy, shiny-chested, gorilla costume. The boy notices me noticing, and he smiles.

Tuesday 3 a.m.
Adam and I spend our second night nestled in the single bed, on account of the houseguests. I'm thankful that we fit so well, and sleep so comfortably, in such a narrow spot.

Tuesday 12:14 p.m.
I step into the shower, struggling to keep stress at bay. “Something good is going to happen,” says a voice inside my head. I step out of the shower, wrap myself in a towel. “Something good is going to happen,” the voice insists. The corner of my lips turn up, in spite of myself, and the voice surges forward like a train.

“Somethinggoodisgoingtohappen… Somethinggoodisgoingtohappen... SOMETHINGGOODISGOINGTOHAPPEN!”

Well, okay, I think. I’m ready.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


The cracker experiment may be the only experiment that teachers made me do in both the first and tenth grades.

Both teachers used the same set-up: "Chew this cracker thirty times — and learn a little something about chemistry in the process."

By about the eighth chew, I was worried I might run out of cracker. So, I gathered, were my classmates. Giggling softly, we forced our jaws to perform micromovements ("....twenty-six....twenty-seven...twenty-eight...."). Our saliva's enzymes broke the carbohydrates into simpler sugars, and the salty starches began to taste sweet.

Sometimes revising my manuscript can be like this. Revisited, that which seemed bland will occasionally turn sweet.

Meanwhile, spring has broken with astonishing loveliness. Adam and I have kissed and made our peace. I'm still behind on deadlines, but am managing to tackle one little thing at a time. Now that the sun is shining, I've laughed out loud at how little time remains. Either I'm going crazy or I have gained perspective. Hard to say which is which.

Existential RPW Poem

The Little Black Heart of the Telephone

That telephone keeps screaming its little black heart out:
Nobody there? Oh, nobody's there!—and the blank room bleeds
For the poor little black bleeding heart of the telephone.
I, too, have suffered. I know how it feels
When you scream and scream and nobody's there.
I am feeling that way this goddam minute,
If for no particular reason.

Tell the goddam thing to shut up! Only
It's not ringing now at all, but I
Can scrutinize and tell that it's thinking about
Ringing, and just any minute, I know.
So, you demand, the room's not empty, you're there?
Yes, I'm here, but it might start screaming just after
I've gone out the door, in my private silence.

Or if I stayed here I mightn't answer, might pretend
Not to be here at all, or just be part of the blankness
The room is, as the blankness
Bleeds for the little bleeding black heart
Of the telephone. If, in fact, it should scream,
My heart would bleed too, for I know how pain can't find words.
Or sometimes is afraid to find them.

I tell you because I know you will understand.
I know you have screamed: Nobody's there? Oh, nobody's there!
You've looked up at stars lost in blankness that bleeds
Its metaphysical blood, but not for redemption.
Have you ever stopped by the roadside at night, and couldn't
Remember your name, and breath
Came short? Or at night waked up with a telephone screaming,
And covered your head, afraid to answer?

Anyway, in broad daylight, I'm now in the street,
And now telephone anywhere near, or even
Thinking about me. But tonight, back in bed, I may dream
Of a telephone screaming its little black heart out,
In an empty room, toward sunset,
While a year-old newspaper, yellowing, lies on the floor, and velvety
Dust thick over everything, especially
On the black telephone, on which no thumbprint has,
For a long time now, been visible.

In my dream I wonder why, long since, it's not been disconnected.

(from Robert Penn Warren's Now and Then: Poems 1976-1978)

Friday, April 08, 2005


...with my husband this morning. Over houseguests.

This is the week of deadline hell, so I wasn’t all that thrilled when two of Adam’s grad school friends asked to stay with us on Tuesday night. But, hey – they’re exceptionally nice people, so who am I to be so selfish?

But then there was the strange matter of the apartment guide that turned up in our mail several weeks ago. Assuming it was junk, I started to recycle it. Adam stopped me, explaining that it was for the Korean post-doc. The Korean post-doc who had written him out of the blue last fall, and for whom he had volunteered to find housing.

I thought that was a generous thing to do — typical Adam. So I handed him the guide and forgot all about it.

Forgot all about it, that is, until two days ago, when Adam casually mentioned that M. is arriving here from Korea on Monday, and—oops!—he never did get around to finding her housing. So M. would be staying in the guest room (i.e., my workspace) for one night.

“Okaaay,” I said. “But how could she be staying here for only one night if she has no place to live?”

“She’s going to be here one night and one night only,” swore Adam. “After all, our friends N. and S. are coming the very next day.”

Fine. Whatever. Two nights of houseguests in this very hectic week made me secretly crabby, but I could deal with it.

In fact, I’ve barely been home lately. Instead, I’ve been working in our campus office all day, almost every day this week. On Wednesday night, I worked here until 2:30 a.m. Working for hours in this windowless box is challenging in the best of situations, but it’s been even harder since I realized (anew) that we have no control over the heat. It’s an unseasonable 70 degrees outside, and the heat is on full blast. Alas, the heat cannot be turned off (I’m told) until April 30th. Illogical, yes, and just what I would expect from this university. Fed up with sweating into my laptop, I told Adam that I probably would be working more at home this week.

Adam looked nervous. It turns out that M. from Korea is coming on Sunday, not Monday. (Adam insists this was always the case, and that he never told me otherwise.) And it turns out that M. does, in fact, need to stay with us more than just one night. (Adam further insists that I should have deduced as much. Wha?)

My husband is baffled by my irritation. Why am I so inhospitable to helping someone from another country? he wants to know. Why must I see myself as the victim? And why am I completely overreacting to this “little snag in our plans”?

Here is how I see it: The houseguest situation is not, and was never, “our” plan. I could be amenable to housing someone long-term IF I had been given fair warning and IF the timing were not quite so awful. At very least, I would like to have been told the truth of the situation from the beginning. AND NOT TWO DAYS BEFORE THIS WOMAN IS COMING TO LIVE WITH FOR AN INDEFINITE PERIOD OF TIME.

“You are becoming Chicken Little,” said Adam.

Funny. I didn’t feel like Chicken Little. I didn’t feel HYSTERICAL, Adam. But, now that you mention it, maybe I am. Maybe the fact that your concern for your work is “discipline” and my concern for my work is “overreacting” is making me so. Maybe the fact that I am about to stop being an academic, and I'm worried about what this will mean for our relationship, has me a trifle UPSET.

And by the way—maybe you shouldn’t have told me that you woke up twice during the night that I was in our campus office and that you worried then where I might be. Because even my Chicken Little brain might notice that you weren’t worried enough to pick up the phone.

Bah! I hate, hate, hate it when we fight.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A Poem from Walt

There is a boy I once loved (and love still) named Joe. For a while, in the late '90s, wandering Philadelphia was our thing. Joe is one of those friends of my youth in whose energetic company the world suddenly becomes larger, more beautiful, and more alive with possibility. So I wasn't too surprised when, on a July 4th in downtown Philly, we bumped into Walt Whitman.

Walt wasn’t dressed with the weather. The band of his hat was dark with sweat. He read aloud hand-scrawled versions of his own poems, which Joe and I lingered to hear. This seemed to please Walt quite a bit, and he asked if we had any requests.

“Out of the Rolling Ocean, the Crowd?” I said.

Walt rifled eagerly through his notebook, and then gave me a crestfallen look. Apparently, he hadn’t written that one yet.

“That’s really okay.” (I felt awful to have upset Walt.) “Just read me one of your favorites.”

Walt nodded, and dug into his knapsack. Out came The Norton Anthology of American Poetry. Walt flipped to the index. Then he flashed a smile so broad it rippled his great beard.

“Out of the Rolling Ocean, The Crowd,” he began….

Out of the rolling ocean, the crowd, came a drop gently to me,
Whispering, I love you, before long I die,
I have travel’d a long way, merely to look on you, to touch you,
For I could not die till I once look’d on you,
For I fear’d I might afterward lose you.

(Now we have met, we have look’d, we are safe;
Return in peace to the ocean, my love;
I too am part of that ocean, my love—we are not so much separated;
Behold the great rondure—the cohesion of all, how perfect!
But as for me, for you, the irresistible sea is to separate us,
As for an hour, carrying us diverse—yet cannot carry us diverse for ever;
Be not impatient—a little space—Know you, I salute the air, the ocean and the land,
Every day, at sundown, for your dear sake, my love.)

By poem's end, Walt's face was wet with tears. He hobbled forward and wrapped me in an emotional (and slightly pungent) bear hug. Then he grabbed Joe and hugged him, too. All of us teary now, Joe and I thanked Walt and said goodbye. We drifted to the waterfront, toward the stirrings of live music.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


A old grad school acquaintance appeared the in the Chronicle recently. He who wasn’t especially likable back then came off in the article as quite a thoughtful fellow.

“That’s what the competition in graduate school can do,” said Adam. “It can bring out the worst in people, and temporarily turns them into pricks.”

“Or,” I offered, “surrounded by such pricks, a graduate student can instead get in the habit of offering up her jugular. And then that graduate student will spend the rest of her life in a state of seething resentment."

“Like I said,” Adam blithely continued, “Graduate school can bring out the worst in people.”

Triage and Tunnelvision

I spent most of spring break and five full days last week finishing off an article that, at last, has been sent off for publication.

Now I have one week — one week! — in which to send my dissertation manuscript off in time for a deadline the publisher gave me over a month ago.

Oh, and I have to write a conference paper on brand new material. Technically, that's due tomorrow, although it's another week yet before I present.

If I grade three student essays each day day, I can stay on top of my grading in the midst of this maelstrom. All of Monday and Wednesday are pretty much "lost" to teaching, teaching prep, and overflow reading for class, but there's not much I can do about that. Plus, the students from this semester have made the springtime sweet. So there's no way I can cut back on them.

I have only a little more than month before unemployment. How then could this school year be ending with as much frenzy as any other? And how can I start feeling more awake? My deadline and writing-induced narcolepsy is kicking in again...

Monday, April 04, 2005

Dear Pope

When you became Pope, my grandfather was unnerved. “I’m older than the POPE!?” he said. It was an odd moment for him.

Now you’re gone. And my grandfather is still here. Except that he’s not my grandfather anymore. Some paranoid man, one who is violent and cruel to his daughter, is living in his body instead.

So, please, dear Pope, maybe you could see about taking my grandfather with you? My mother has been taking care of him for over ten years now, and I think she’s done her part for the culture of life.

Please, Pope. I don’t mean to be snarky. I loved my grandfather, and, despite our differences, I always did like you. I’m also glad that you’re not suffering anymore. But I think you really owe the women in the Catholic Church. So how about doing just this one favor for my mom?

Thank you.