27 Apr 2012

Oh, Good, a List.

Written by sally @ 12:42 pm — Section: sally

Spike and I went to my grandmother’s house a few weekends ago for a visit, and I’ve been meaning to tell you several things:

1. I drove on the Jerry Clower Highway.

2. A place on Jerry Clower Highway was selling baby pot-bellied pigs for $50.99. I almost called just to discuss this price point. That extra $.99 intrigues me.

3. Two things happened while talking to my grandmother and cousin that reinforced the awkwardness I usually feel around my family. I try hard to assimilate and talk about pot-bellied pigs, and then these things happen:

a. My cousin has a new(ish) baby. My grandmother said, “Look at his eyelashes! Wonder why boys always have the eyelashes?” and I said, “It’s the same reason male birds are the pretty ones, the ones with ornamentation; to attract females.” Crickets chirped. I continued: “You know, because women are the ones who are impressed with such things!” I stopped myself before I started quoting this song from “Hair”:
There is a peculiar notion that elegant plumage and fine feathers are not proper for the male
When actually
That is the way things are in most species.

b. My grandmother, whose father was a twin, said something about how my cousin Rusty would probably be the one to have twins. I dumbly started talking about eggs and sperm and how boys don’t ovulate. To my grandmother.

4. I also opened the medicine cabinet in the front bathroom, which was full of old man toiletries and medications. They were my grandfather’s, and apparently had not been touched since he died…eleven years ago.

5. Spike stepped on a bee! The bee stung him! It occurred to me as he howled that there is no easy way to discover if your child has a life-threatening bee sting allergy except to see if he stops breathing (thanks, A Taste of Blackberries, for making me PETRIFIED of bee stings as a kid!), but he kept screaming and thus did not die. (I gave him a Benadryl before bed anyway.)

6. I hung clothes on the clothesline for the first time ever. I did not hang this item out of principle:

7. Speaking of principle, I would like to thank Beverly Cleary for addressing the difference between principle and principal in one of the Ramona books. The principal is your PAL so that is how you spell that one. I think of it every time I spell those! (Including the one above.) (Obviously.)

8. Not grandmother’s house related: a few weeks ago I had a dream that Richard Lewis plotted to kill me, which reminded me “hey Richard Lewis exists” and also “I used to love that show Anything but Love” and so I got the first season on Netflix. While it is very 1989, Richard Lewis is a super fox. The hair. People, the hair. It is luscious. It is its own character. He tosses it, he strokes it, he preens it. I would let the hair kill me in a future dream. Best dream-about-getting-murdered-leading-me-to-remember-a-tv-show ever!

23 Apr 2012


Written by sally @ 12:29 pm — Section: sally

I just saw on Twitter that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was released ten years ago today. Ten years! I sat there and stared at that tweet for awhile, trying to figure out how it could be so/how I could prove them wrong.

Wilco toured when it first came out, and on the way to the show, my then-husband was mad at me. He was never mad at me, and I found it exhilarating. I was so exhilarated that I made up new nonsense lyrics to “Kamera,” something like “I’ve got some caca/in my eye,” and was happily singing along. It was one of the best days of our marriage. And apparently it was ten years ago!

And speaking of April 23, four years ago today this baby I know was extracted from my body, this really cute baby with a lot of hair and a pug nose. I’m having a hard time with time passage lately, but wow: four years old, Spike? HOW COULD YOU? We had a very nice pirate-themed party this weekend (although a week ago Spike said he wanted pirates NEXT year and a soccer party THIS year and I had to say, you know what? NO) and today he went to school wearing a t-shirt that says “I AM 4” and with some four-shaped cookies for his class.

Happy birthday to my favorite child!

P.S. I’m listening to Deee-Lite as I write this. I borrowed this album from someone twenty-two years ago.

20 Apr 2012

I’ll Ruin This By Saying, “Rilke is My Jam.”

Written by sally @ 7:30 am — Section: sally

At night he stands up, the distant call of birds
already deep inside him; and feels bold
because he has taken all the galaxies
into his face, not lightly–, oh not like someone
who prepares a night like this for his beloved
and treats her to the skies that he has known.

–from Rilke’s “The Spanish Trilogy” (2)

16 Apr 2012

The Night was Pitiless.

Written by sally @ 2:05 pm — Section: sally

Washing the Corpse

They had, for a while, grown used to him. But after
they lit the kitchen lamp and in the dark
it began to burn, restlessly, the stranger
was altogether strange. They washed his neck,

and since they knew nothing about his life
they lied till they produced another one,
as they kept washing. One of them had to cough,
and while she coughed she left the vinegar sponge,

dropping, upon his face. The other stood
and rested for a minute. A few drops fell
from the stiff scrub-brush, as his horrible
contorted hand was trying to make the whole
room aware that he no longer thirsted.

And he did let them know. With a short cough,
as if embarrassed, they both began to work
more hurriedly now, so that across
the mute, patterned wallpaper their thick

shadows reeled and staggered as if bound
in a net; till they had finished washing him.
The night, in the uncurtained window-frame,
was pitiless. And one without a name
lay clean and naked there, and gave commands.

–Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Stephen Mitchell)

14 Apr 2012


Written by sally @ 8:42 am — Section: sally

The Junior High School Band Concert

When our semi-conductor
Raised his baton, we sat there
Gaping at Marche Militaire,
Our mouth-opening number.
It seemed faintly familiar
(We’d rehearsed it all that winter),
But we attacked in such a blur,
No army anywhere
On its stomach or all fours
Could have squeezed through our crossfire.

I played cornet, seventh chair,
Out of seven, my embouchure
A glorified Bronx cheer
Through that three-keyed keyhole stopper
And neighborhood window-slammer
Where mildew fought for air
At every exhausted corner,
My fingering still unsure
After scaling it for a year
Except on the spit-valve lever.

Each straight-faced mother and father
Retested his moral fiber
Against our traps and slurs
And the inadvertent whickers
Paradiddled by our snares,
And when the brass bulled forth
A blare fit to horn over
Jericho two bars sooner
Than Joshua’s harsh measures,
They still had the nerve to stare.

By the last lost chord, our director
Looked older and soberer.
No doubt, in his mind’s ear
Some band somewhere
In some music of some Sphere
Was striking a note as pure
As the wishes of Franz Schubert,
But meanwhile here we were:
A lesson in everything minor,
Decomposing our first composer.

–David Wagoner

13 Apr 2012

Sweet Breeze.

Written by sally @ 3:36 pm — Section: sally

I Have News for You

There are people who do not see a broken playground swing
as a symbol of ruined childhood

and there are people who don’t interpret the behavior
of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.

There are people who don’t walk past an empty swimming pool
and think about past pleasures unrecoverable

and then stand there blocking the sidewalk for other pedestrians.
I have read about a town somewhere in California where human beings

do not send their sinuous feeder roots
deep into the potting soil of others’ emotional lives

as if they were greedy six-year-olds
sucking the last half-inch of milkshake up through a noisy straw;

and other persons in the Midwest who can kiss without
debating the imperialist baggage of heterosexuality.

Do you see that creamy, lemon-yellow moon?
There are some people, unlike me and you,

who do not yearn after fame or love or quantities of money as
unattainable as that moon;
thus, they do not later
have to waste more time
defaming the object of their former ardor.

Or consequently run and crucify themselves
in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.

I have news for you—
there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room

and open a window to let the sweet breeze in
and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies.

–Tony Hoagland

10 Apr 2012

Let’s Talk About Your Heart.

Written by sally @ 8:53 am — Section: sally

The Teacher

I was twenty-six the first time I held
a human heart in my hand.

It was sixty-four and heavier than I expected,
its chambers slack;
and I was stupidly surprised
at how cold it was.

It was the middle of the third week
before I could look at her face,
before I could spend more than an hour
learning the secrets of cirrhosis,
the dark truth of diabetes, the black lungs
of the Marlboro woman, the exquisite
painful shape of kidney stones,
without eating an entire box of Altoids
to smother the smell of formaldehyde.

After seeing her face, I could not help
but wonder if she had a favorite color;
if she hated beets,
or loved country music before her hearing
faded, or learned to read
before cataracts placed her in perpetual twilight.
I wondered if her mother had once been happy
when she’d come home from school
or if she’d ever had a valentine from a secret admirer.

In the weeks that followed, I would
drive the highways, scanning billboards.
I would see her face, her eyes
squinting away the cigarette smoke,
or she would turn up at the bus stop
pushing a grocery cart of empty
beer cans and soda bottles. I wondered
if that was how she’d paid for all those smokes
or if the scars of repeated infections in her womb
spoke to a more universal currency.

Did she die, I wondered, in a cardboard box
under the Burnside Bridge, nursing a bottle
of strawberry wine, telling herself
she felt a little warmer now,
or in the Good Faith Shelter,
her few belongings safe under the sheet
held to her faltering heart?
Or in the emergency room, lying
on a wheeled gurney, the pitiless
lights above, the gauzy curtains around?

Did she ever wonder what it all was for?

I wish I could have told her in those days
what I’ve now come to know: that
it was for this–the baring
of her body on the stainless steel table–
that I might come to know its secrets
and, knowing them, might listen
to the machine-shop hum of aortic stenosis
in an old woman’s chest, smile a little to myself
and, in gratitude to her who taught me,

put away my stethoscope, turn to my patient
and say Let’s talk about your heart.

–Hilarie Jones

9 Apr 2012

That Vase.

Written by sally @ 1:49 pm — Section: sally

Home is so Sad

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.

–Philip Larkin

8 Apr 2012

From Raymond Carver’s Notebook.

Written by sally @ 8:29 am — Section: sally

7 Apr 2012

Jujubes, Aspirins!

Written by sally @ 8:18 am — Section: sally


Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!
You really are beautiful! Pearls,
harmonicas, jujubes, aspirins! all
the stuff they’ve always talked about

still makes a poem a surprise!
These things are with us every day
even on beachheads and biers. They
do have meaning. They’re strong as rocks

–Frank O’Hara

(I am really loving Frank O’Hara lately.)

6 Apr 2012

Five Stars for Sure.

Written by sally @ 1:12 pm — Section: sally

Here is something fantastic: I’ve been reading Steve Almond’s Candyfreak, which is just one of the more perfect nonfiction reads. First off, it’s about candy. I love candy…maybe too much. I eat candy EVERY DAY. This is something I don’t advertise, because candy gets a bad rap (as it is, you know, bad for you). Also, it is infantile to love candy as much as I do. Secondly, it’s not merely some nonfiction writer’s exploration or history of candy. Steve Almond loves candy like no one else loves candy. Third, it is hilarious. Of course, I left my copy in the car so I can’t quote and prove it, but trust me. Fourth, did I mention it’s about candy? And people’s relationships with candy? I just read how one lady puts her Snickers under her leg to warm it up to almost-melted before she eats it. THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!

In the section I just finished, Almond visits Lake Champlain Chocolates, makers of the Five Star Chocolate Bars. He goes on at length about the quality of ingredients and insane deliciousness of these, and visits with a candy bar creator, who just mixes up pots of awesomeness and eats it all day. There is much discussion of the Hazelnut bar in particular, especially about the curiously light and crispy bits that are inside, which turn out to be feuilletine (thanks, Top Chef, for letting me recognize this word!). I was salivating.

Anyway, this morning I was at Fresh Market, which I never go to, buying a plant for my in laws for an Easter/”happy 41st anniversary I got you this $7 plant” gift, and behold! They carry Five Star Chocolate Bars! AND I AM EATING THE HAZELNUT ONE RIGHT NOW AND Y’ALL, THE FEUILLETINE IS AMAZING.

Dispensable in the Imagination.

Written by sally @ 8:09 am — Section: sally

Light clarity avocado salad in the morning
after all the terrible things I do how amazing it is
to find forgiveness and love, not even forgiveness
since what is done is done and forgiveness isn’t love
and love is love nothing can ever go wrong
though things can get irritating boring and dispensable
(in the imagination) but not really for love
though a block away you feel distant the mere presence
changes everything like a chemical dropped on a paper
and all thoughts disappear in a strange quiet excitement
I am sure of nothing but this, intensified by breathing

–Frank O’Hara

5 Apr 2012

First Bunny Died.

Written by sally @ 8:04 am — Section: sally

A Step Away from Them

It’s my lunch hour, so I go
for a walk among the hum-colored
cabs. First, down the sidewalk
where laborers feed their dirty
glistening torsos sandwiches
and Coca-Cola, with yellow helmets
on. They protect them from falling
bricks, I guess. Then onto the
avenue where skirts are flipping
above heels and blow up over
grates. The sun is hot, but the
cabs stir up the air. I look
at bargains in wristwatches. There
are cats playing in sawdust.
to Times Square, where the sign
blows smoke over my head, and higher
the waterfall pours lightly. A
Negro stands in a doorway with a
toothpick, languorously agitating.
A blonde chorus girl clicks: he
smiles and rubs his chin. Everything
suddenly honks: it is 12:40 of
a Thursday.
Neon in daylight is a
great pleasure, as Edwin Denby would
write, as are light bulbs in daylight.
I stop for a cheeseburger at JULIET’S
CORNER. Giulietta Masina, wife of
Federico Fellini, e bell’ attrice.
And chocolate malted. A lady in
foxes on such a day puts her poodle
in a cab.
There are several Puerto
Ricans on the avenue today, which
makes it beautiful and warm. First
Bunny died, then John Latouche,
then Jackson Pollack. But is the
earth as full as life was full, of them?
And one has eaten and one walks,
past the magazines with nudes
and the posters for BULLFIGHT and
the Manhattan Storage Warehouse,
which they’ll soon tear down. I
used to think they had the Armory
Show there.
A glass of papaya juice
and back to work. My heart is in my
pocket, it is Poems by Pierre Reverdy.

–Frank O’Hara

4 Apr 2012

I Did Care.

Written by sally @ 8:04 am — Section: sally

The Correspondence School Instructor Says Goodbye to His Students

Goodbye, lady in Bangor, who sent me
snapshots of yourself, after definitely hinting
you were beautiful; goodbye,
Miami Beach urologist, who enclosed plain
brown envelopes for the return of your very
“Clinical Sonnets”; goodbye, manufacturer
of brassieres on the Coast, whose eclogues
give the fullest treatment in literature yet
to the sagging breast motif; goodbye, you in San Quentin,
who wrote, “Being German my hero is Hitler,”
instead of “Sincerely yours,” at the end of long,
neat-scripted letters extolling the Pre-Raphaelites:

I swear to you, it was just my way
of cheering myself up, as I licked
the stamped, self-addressed envelopes,
the game I had of trying to guess
which one of you, this time,
had poisoned his glue. I did care.
I did read each poem entire.
I did say everything I thought
in the mildest words I knew. And now,
in this poem, or chopped prose, no better,
I realize, than those troubled lines
I kept sending back to you,
I have to say I am relieved it is over:
at the end I could feel only pity
for that urge toward more life
your poems kept smothering in words, the smell
of which, days later, tingled in your nostrils
as new, God-given impulses
to write.

you who are, for me, the postmarks again
of imaginary towns—Xenia, Burnt Cabins, Hornell—
their solitude given away in poems, only their loneliness kept.

–Galway Kinnell

3 Apr 2012

Oh, America.

Written by sally @ 8:26 am — Section: sally

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