January 10, 2015
i am pretty much a misanthrope.
and unabashedly so.
for the most part
i distrust people
and think the world,
on the whole,
my general response to the world
has been to create a bubble around myself,
one of as much beauty and acceptance as i can find.
i’m lucky in that i’ve a lot of privilege
relative to the rest of the world;
i’m (excessively) educated.
all things that help to counteract
the palpable oppressive force of the straight world.
(it wasn’t easy growing up queer when i did. at all.)
and so today i find myself nearly moved to tears
(the strange man plastering the walls in my bathroom
is the only thing really keeping me in check)
because i’ve been bombarded from all sides
by random acts of kindness,
kindnesses of which i’m rarely in need
and i would never have expected to receive if i were.
it began at the red hook in ferndale,
a coffee shop i frequent semi-regularly.
for whatever reason, i only had my debit card on me, and
for whatever reason,
it was declined.
which is odd,
as i just got paid yesterday.
the worker bee shrugged it off,
telling me not to worry about it,
and waited on the next customer.
a little chagrined
but figured i’d pay for it the next time i was in,
chalking it up to one of the small perks of being a regular.
but then i realized that i’d just ‘bought’ a bagel
at the new york bagel baking company
not ten minutes prior.
i recalled the lady saying she needed to run my card again.
on the second swipe told me i was “all set”
and i headed off to the red hook.
i can only surmise
that she spared me the embarrassment
of telling me my card was declined
and just gave me my bagel.
my middle class guilt made me queasy
and i vowed to tip big the next time i bought a bagel.
then the final straw.
as i headed home i realized i was low on gas.
i wasn’t sure i’d make it home.
i found a single dollar in that compartment
between the driver and passenger seats
(what the fuck is that called, anyway?!)
enough for about a half a gallon.
about two miles from home,
with my fuel meter telling me i had 0 miles left,
i pulled over to a gas station,
handed the attendant
my sad little dollar,
and pumped the .56 gallons of gas into my tank,
plenty to get me home to my wallet and another gas station.
as i hung up the pump,
the attendant’s voice came over the speaker
telling me, and anyone else in hearing for that matter,
that the man in line behind me said that
he’d put $20 on my pump if i wanted.
a wave of unfamiliar emotion came over me,
some combination of
what i can only describe as
a combination of fear, shame, and humility.
shouting, “no, no, that’s ok!”
with no clue how the attendant could hear me,
quickly hopped in my car
and spend away home.
i’m not sure what to say about all this.
i just knew i needed to write it all down as soon as possible.
i knew i needed to document what happened to me because, somehow,
i don’t know what it means,
i don’t know what my reaction says about me.
i think maybe it’s actually very sad
that such small kindnesses
could disconcert me so.
that people being kind
is so outside my personal experience
that the experience of kindness overwhelms me.
perhaps that proves i am right,
and the world is just as shitty as i think it is.
but at least for today,
that it was less so.
July 19, 2014
it’s a minor talk,
reflecting on my time
as a writer in residence there.
whenever i give a talk,
whether i’m in the middle of writing it
or working on my delivery (practice makes perfect!)
i turn to poetry for courage and inspiration,
to calm the feeling that i just may
vomit at any moment.
today, i’ll post two of my faves.
because, if poetry is good for me,
it’s likely you could use some more in your diet.
i doubt i’ll ever be as good as these women
and certainly, today’s talk pales in comparison.
here’s hoping their obvious fearlessness is catching.
July 15, 2014
i don’t know how many of you have a soul mate,
someone who enters your life so naturally
that you can’t imagine that
they’d not been there
that person is veronica.
and we’ve been friends for a decade this summer.
as she revisits the place where our friendship began,
separated, i struggle to find the words that
do my feelings justice.
so i figured i’d steal someone else’s.
initially, i turned
to a book of poetry
a textbook from the study abroad where we met.
i thought i’d write here some of my favorites:
“the goat paths” by james stephens
since it calls to mind
the ireland i see
when i close
“a last confession” by w.b. yeats
on which i wrote a paper
talking about the homosexual imagery,
the first my professor had read in his career.
the essential “a disused shed in co. wexford” by derek mahon
but while important, i only ever really liked
the title and the second stanza.
“bread” by brendan kennelly
but that last line
is just way too erotic.
but while nostalgic
none were right
(or perhaps not)
i turned to the work of adrienne rich.
in honor of our friendship, past and present,
i give you sonnets i and iii from twenty-one love poems.
Whenever in this city, screens flicker
with pornography, with science-fiction vampires,
victimized hirelings bending to the lash,
we also have to walk . . . if simply as we walk
through the rainsoaked garbage, the tabloid cruelties
of our own neighborhoods.
We need to grasp our lives inseparable
from those rancid dreams, that blurt of metal, those disgraces,
and the red begonia perilously flashing
from a tenement sill six stories high,
or the long-legged young girls playing ball
in the junior highschool playground.
No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees,
sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air,
dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,
our animal passion rooted in the city.
Since we’re not young, weeks have to do time
for years of missing each other. Yet only this odd warp
in time tells me we’re not young.
Did I ever walk the morning streets at twenty,
my limbs streaming with a purer joy?
did I lean from my window over the city
listening for the future
as I listen with nerves tuned for your ring?
And you, you move towards me with the same tempo.
Your eyes are everlasting, the green spark
of the blue-eyed grass of early summer
the green-blue wild cress washed by the spring.
At twenty, yes: we thought we’d live forever.
At forty-five, I want to know even our limits.
I touch you knowing we weren’t born tomorrow,
and somehow, each of us will help the other live,
and somewhere, each of us must help the other die.
i can hear the morning birds already.
June 5, 2014
mary oliver – ‘wild geese’
May 11, 2014
as i’m now officially living in the burbs de detroit,
(think 50s ranch, not 90s ticky tacky subdivision)
i’ve made it a hobby to explore the city a little bit everyday,
seeking out the pockets of fabulosity amongst the more visible deterioration.
[as a side note,
i no longer have any fucks to give
when it comes people’s obsession with discussing detroit’s decay.
it’s almost always people who don’t live anywhere near the city,
and i’m really sick of hearing from you.
formed on your 24 hour layover
or decade-expired michigan citizenship
has become overly tiresome.
speak to me only of detroit’s slow revival,
of the cool new restaurant or shop you found.
tell me where to go, not where to avoid.]
part of my interest lies not only in my physical proximity to the city, but an emotional one. i am the first of five generations in my family
to not live in the city since immigrating to the united states.
several branches of my family came here from europe
settling generally on the east side and in corktown.
my ancestral ‘estate’ still stands not far from belle isle,
though it’s apparently owned by some shell corporation
of a sleazy slumlord and,
since its abandonment
roughly two years ago,
has been thoroughly looted/gutted.
a neighbor has seemingly illegally appropriated the lot adjacent,
originally my great great grandmother’s garden,
to use for off-street parking.
but i digress.
i’ve been lusting after a shinola watch ever since they relaunched the brand. i cannot afford a watch currently (or for the foreseeable future) but they’ve expanded to other merchandise (the bikes! i want a bike!)
so i wanted to see what i could see.
i’ve been interested in two james because i like the idea of supporting a michigan/detroit company via drinking. every fucking one is into michigan beers, but i generally hate beer and find most of the michigan beers to be extra assay (as in butt flavored). ironically, i hang out right down the street from two james at astro all the time,
but never knew they were there.
boys. gotta work on your signage.
anyway here’s my report:
though i initially set out for shinola, my trip got off to a false start, as i was distracted by two wee stores kitty corner from shinola: city bird and nest
from which i bought these cards
and this air plant,
when i finally crossed the street,
i found there was little in the shinola showroom i didn’t want
but i settled on this wallet.
my old louis vuitton has served me well for 10 years,
and has begun to show signs of wear. it’s time for a pinch hitter.
shinola’s leather goods are made by horween in ste. genevieve, mo.
let’s see how american manufacturing holds up against french, shall we?
(i’ll get back to you in 2024)
i ended up in the two james tasting room. it was a little muggy in there,
and the number of douche-baggy mid-level business people
made it so i could really only tolerate one cocktail.
however, that cocktail convinced me
to take home these six bottles.
(r to l: old cockney gin, 28 island vodka, grass widow bourbon x2, corktown rye dog, & detroit fig leaf old timey drinking vinegar made exclusively for two james by mcclary bros.)
if you do nothing else,
find a way to try the grass widow bourbon;
it’s for real.
we shall see.
p.s. the tulips were my gift with purchase from shinola.
nice touch, shinola.
March 6, 2014
February 21, 2014
just popping in to plug my shit again.
i’ll keep it brief:
Friday, February 21—Live Readings by the Broad MSU Writing Residents
6–7 PM | Free and open to the public
The Broad MSU, in partnership with the MSU Department of English and the MSU Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, is pleased to announce the Broad MSU Writing Residency! This residency features six graduate students who will create monthly public readings that respond to an art work on view at the Broad MSU, while utilizing core themes from the upcoming exhibition, Postscript: Writing After Conceptual Art. The live readings will begin at 6 PM, and will take place in the galleries alongside a corresponding work of art. (Meet at the Information Desk at 6 PM before moving into galleries.)
i’m one of the residents.
if you like,
and you could see me make a fool of myself.
i’ve been in a nostalgic,
sentimental, sappy kind of mood,
here’s a poem i came across, a sonnet
that has been nagging me for few days now.
poetry is good for you. so read it.
by marilyn hacker
You did say, need me less and I’ll want you more.
I’m still shellshocked at needing anyone,
used to being used to it on my own.
It won’t be me out on the tiles till four-
thirty, while you’re in bed, willing the door
open with your need. You wanted her then,
more. Because you need to, I woke alone
in what’s not yet our room, strewn, though, with your
guitar, shoes, notebook, socks, trousers enjambed
with mine. Half the world was sleeping it off
in every other bed under my roof.
I wish I had a roof over my bed
to pull down on my head when I feel damned
by wanting you so much it looks like need.
February 18, 2014
By Audre Lorde
I have studied the tight curls on the back of your neck
moving away from me
beyond anger or failure
your face in the evening schools of longing
through mornings of wish and ripen
we were always saying goodbye
in the blood in the bone over coffee
before dashing for elevators going
in opposite directions
Do not remember me as a bridge nor a roof
as the maker of legends
nor as a trap
door to that world
where black and white clericals
hang on the edge of beauty in five oclock elevators
twitching their shoulders to avoid other flesh
there is someone to speak for them
moving away from me into tomorrows
morning of wish and ripen
your goodbye is a promise of lightning
in the last angels hand
unwelcome and warning
the sands have run out against us
we were rewarded by journeys
away from each other
into mornings alone
where excuse and endurance mingle
Do not remember me
nor as the keeper of secrets
I am a fellow rider in the cattle cars
you move slowly out of my bed
saying we cannot waste time
January 31, 2014
so i’ve been waffling about whether or not i should mention this
not only on the blog, but even to people i know.
but i decided, why not.
i am a ‘writer in residence’ at the broad museum here at msu,
and tonight is my colleagues and my first public reading/performance.
The Broad MSU, in partnership with the MSU Department of English and the MSU Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures, is pleased to announce the Broad MSU Writing Residency! This residency features six graduate students who will create monthly public readings that respond to an art work on view at the Broad MSU, while utilizing core themes from the upcoming exhibition, Postscript: Writing After Conceptual Art. The live readings will begin at 6 PM, and will take place in the galleries alongside a corresponding work of art.
to say that i’m nervous i laughably inadequate.
i imagine this is the feeling a fox must feel
when chased by a pack of dogs.
so if you’re a knitter in the area,
i would love to see your face
while we talk about art.
it might help me keep things in perspective
or at least keep me from vomiting.
*tip of the nib to adrienne martini for the title of this post,
which i’ve shamelessly appropriated.
August 30, 2013
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.