14 Oct 2018

Devotions, Redux.

Written by sally @ 1:42 pm — Section: sally

I’ve made a Mary Oliver Frankenstein poem from the pages of Devotions. Oliver’s delight in the world is inspiring. I don’t want to mythologize her, but none of her poems are about how she was a real jerk that one time; they’re all about a whippoorwill and the dappled light and the crispness of an apple, and mostly unspoken gratitude for all of it. (Surely she’s been a jerk at least once, right?) Her poems make me want to be a better human on the planet. Oh, Mary Oliver Poems, you’re as close as I’m ever going to get to reading scripture.

“How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.”

Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have.

You want to cry aloud for your mistakes. But to tell the truth the world
doesn’t need any more of that sound.

I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.

There are many ways to perish, or to flourish.
How old pain, for example, can stall us at the threshold of function.
Memory: a golden bowl, or a basement without light.

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

We do one thing or another; we stay the same, or we
Congratulations, if
you have changed.

What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
darling citizen.

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

The poems, in approximate order of appearance, though I did some shuffling and now they’re all out of order):“Thirst”

“The Poet with His Face in His Hands”


“Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches”


“To Begin With, the Sweet Grass”

“Mornings at Blackwater”

“When Death Comes”

11 Oct 2018

Too Close to Home, Too Near the Bone.

Written by sally @ 9:59 am — Section: sally

Last night I went for drinks with a couple of friends, and when I got home, it was dark. Unfortunately it getting dark at night is a thing that happens regularly. I got out of my car, and I thought I heard a voice say “hello.” Hello? I said. Hello? No answer. I sped-walked (speed-walked? speededed-walkeded?) to the spot where the motion light would come on. Thankfully there was no one there, but I was so scared that I went inside and cried for an hour.

I let people know about my weirdnesses so I’m not caught off guard: I have to eat lunch early or else I turn into a monster. I don’t like public hugging. I hate surprise parties. I’m afraid of getting murdered. Basically my nightmare would be a surprise party with no food in which everyone hugs me and then takes turns murdering me.

I haven’t always been particularly afraid of murderers, and I envy my pre-fear self for moving about in the world without that particular baggage. As it is, now I carry it around with me, sometimes shifting the weight so it doesn’t feel like that much of a burden. In a certain light, I can convince myself that it keeps me safe.

A few years ago, I briefly dated a man who ended up scaring me. One night he got angry and spoke to me with such rage that I was convinced that he was going to kill me. Obviously, I ended it (and also, for the first time ever, deleted every email, put every gift in the trash can, threw away the pages of my journal that talked about him), but I remained afraid.

Maybe my brain’s danger receptors are out of whack and he was not, in fact, thinking of killing me; even so, when I think about that night, my brain experiences it all over again, and I sweat and panic. My brain makes a quick association between a man’s angry words and his violent actions. And so, in my relationships since, I explicitly say: please don’t do this. I can’t handle it. I am not built for this. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to request not to be screamed at or called names. (I shouldn’t have to ask, but I do. Just in case.)

Relevant: last week I received an email that scared the shit out of me. I read it, I panicked, I sweated, I cried. I read it again, same reaction. Every time I tell someone about it, I panic and sweat and cry. It made me afraid, and last night when I thought there was an email sending murderer in the bushes, my brain panicked and sent all the sweat and tears my body could produce to the surface. (At least I didn’t also pee. #blessed)

I don’t know how else to get through it besides continuing to talk about it and to panic and sweat and cry in the process. Maybe if I panic and sweat and cry enough, I can get to the other side of it, but I am so sad and so angry that this is where I am.

4 Oct 2018


Written by sally @ 1:23 pm — Section: sally

Whew, what a summer! I wish I meant that in a vacationy way, like whew, all of those trips to the French Riviera really wore my ass out! I mean it in more of a whew, what a pile of loss, strange events, sweetness, happiness, disappointments, all sprinkled with a shit ton of books. I suppose that mix would not be the worst way to spend one’s life.

Things I’ve Read:
The Idiot by Elif Batuman (duh, see below)
The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett (eh)
Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley (pow! I got Paleyed)
Still Me by Jojo Moyes (I’m not saying anything bad about this because one time I said one of her books was boring on Twitter and she replied)
The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson (do you like cholera? what about poop? what about the history of sanitation? if your answers to any of those are yes, you’ll love this book)
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (beautiful)
So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell (devastating)
A Double Life by Flynn Berry (read in one day; this is/is not an endorsement)
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (I gave up after the description of when she quits her job/Whoopi Goldberg’s lady parts)
Heather, the Totality by Matthew Weiner (why?)
At Home in the World by Joyce Maynard (perfect)
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (pretty good!)
Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves (zzz)
Transcription by Kate Atkinson (good, but it’s no Life After Life)
French Exit by Patrick deWitt (I liked roughly 20% of this)

And I’m currently reading Penelope Fitzgerald’s Hidden Voices and Stuart Turton’s The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. NO I AM NOT TRYING TO ESCAPE REALITY OK MAYBE A LITTLE

Also, after a weeklong experiment in which I have avoided gluten, I am very sorry to report that my lifelong stomach issues are just…gone. Huh. Still trying to figure out how to reconcile my relationships with cheeseburgers and pizza, but I really do feel so much better that I think I’ll be fine. Plus, I can see being in a mood where a cheeseburger would absolutely be worth a little Terrible Bathroom Experience (TBE). #butts


25 Jun 2018

Wasn’t That My General Policy?

Written by sally @ 9:53 am — Section: sally

I’m in the middle of reading Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, which is at once hilarious and weird and confusing. Much of what is making me love it is a specificity about 90s college life, namely the kinds of posters it was important to have on one’s dorm walls (Ansel Adams, Klimt, Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue), the new concept of email, etc. Every few pages I get a pain in my chest because the narrator, Selin, has a crush on an older guy and they mainly communicate via email. THAT SOUNDS SO FAMILIAR. The first time they go to a bar, she gets drunk after one beer (THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED). When they go to a cafe she can’t read the menu (SERIOUSLY THIS HAPPENED TO ME). He attempts to flirt with her and she doesn’t understand and is unable to respond (HI). Here is a part that made me gasp:

“Is it so strange?” Ivan brushed against my ear with the back of his hand. I felt my body stiffen, I was filled with dread. And yet, I knew I wanted him to touch me — didn’t I? Wasn’t that my general policy? (280)

Obviously, this book is much bigger and important to the world at large than the eerie similarities to my own life, but it’s speaking to me in a very specific language.

Update on the emotional breakdown in my last post: still having it. I’m doing a lot of reading and lamenting.

10 Jun 2018


Written by sally @ 6:05 am — Section: sally

A few days ago I was painting random children’s faces at work, as one does. I did not have a large repertoire, though I did practice some. I could do a caterpillar, butterfly eyebrows, a cupcake, a heart, a basketball. Most kids were fine with whatever. Some asked for clowns or a specific sports logo and they were out of luck. Other kids said, “I want Spider-Man,” and I’d say, “How about a caterpillar in Spider-Man colors???!?!” and for some reason they’d agree.

Then a kid came along who asked for a machine gun. A what?!

–I want a machine gun.

–Sorry, no machine guns.

–Oh, is that too hard?

–No, it’s a gun.

–What about a .22?


–A rifle?


–Why not?

–I don’t draw guns on children.

He was 8. His mom was right there. (He ended up getting a blue balloon on his cheek. He wanted his whole face painted blue but I said no.)

8 Jun 2018

O Cardiologist, My Cardiologist.

Written by sally @ 10:42 am — Section: sally

• I have been trying very, very hard not to complain about wearing a stupid EKG monitor for a month, and I have made it to Day 17 so here it is: it sucks. The sensor pad things are eating my skin. I have to wear pants so it can go into a pocket. I could wear a dress, but then I’d have to wear a FANNY PACK THING around my waist, and there would be an awkward lump. (I tried this one day. Awkward lump.) This afternoon we are having an outside work event, and it is four million degrees, and doing the setup I nearly died of sweat drowning. To add to my complaint, the EKG wires are ALSO all sweaty now. I am healthy and attractive.

• I’d like to introduce a new feature of this almost-defunct website called Notes from the Notes App on My Phone. This entry is from 2016:

Two biddies at cardiologist discussing everyone they know. Her nephew had open heart surgery and do you know why? Because he ate a hamburger every day!

A doctor at this clinic has a wife who can’t cook. Her grandson was their personal cook for awhile but they complained the pot roast with potatoes and carrots was too fatty.

They are going to count their blessings because their friend can’t bend over to put on her socks anymore.

7 Jun 2018

As If He Went On and On.

Written by sally @ 3:07 pm — Section: sally

Yesterday on a trip to the Delta I saw the following:

1. a casket truck pulling out of a donut shop
2. truly exceptional kudzu monsters
3. a sign with arrows pointing to the left that said


which made me think this would be a great saloon madam name, should I find myself time traveling.

I just finished Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight, which I loved, and which I found unexpectedly heartbreaking, to the point that I, keeper of the black heart, actually cried a little. It has sentences like these:

“But she loved the name Marsh. It sounded as if he went on and on and was difficult to cross, to fully understand, that she would get her feet wet, that burrs and mud would attach themselves to her.”


“And then as she sweeps a cedar branch out of her way he recognizes the faint line of bones at her neck that brings his affection back to what he thought was no longer there.”

Can every book be this beautiful, please?

Speaking of: a coworker had All the Light We Cannot See on her desk, and I said, “That’s such a great book.” She said she’d just finished it. I asked if she cried at the end. She said no. When I just sat there looking at her, she said, “World War II: I mean, it wasn’t great for anyone.”

31 May 2018

Some Things I Have Interpreted as Signs Lately and My Appropriate Reactions.

Written by sally @ 10:21 am — Section: sally

You believe in cards
And you believe in signs
But I’ll be leavin’ soon
I’m here tonight

–“Curtain Calls,” the Old 97s

Dead car battery: quickly catalog everything bad I’ve ever done in my life, which naturally led to this point of utter punishment

One person says something mean: immediately believe this is how every person feels about me 100% all the time forever

In one day, encounter not only an ex-husband but an ex-boyfriend on a dating app: DELETE APP AND DIE ALONE

Finale Thoughts.

Written by sally @ 6:47 am — Section: sally

So The Americans ended last night, and I uncharacteristically stayed up to watch it, and then I couldn’t go to sleep because I kept thinking about the following things:
1. Stan’s identity has been crushed.
2. But Stan gets to be a dad to Henry!
3. God, Henry. Not only the betrayal that Paige felt when she was told her parents were big old liars and spies, but also the abandonment. Good luck at school, Henry! You have no home.
4. Back to Stan: the actor who plays him is perfect, as is his tic, which, if manufactured, should win an Emmy.
5. Best Manufactured Neurological Disorder.
6. Is a tic a neurological disorder?
7. I could google it.
8. From everything I read on Twitter, it looks like everyone was rooting for Philip and Elizabeth to make it out. And I realized, in that scene in the parking garage (THE SCENE), that I did not want Elizabeth to make it out. Philip, yes. I have forgiven him for his murderous, stuffing bodies in a suitcase ways, since he went to EST and had a crisis and was still a dad and experienced SUCH JOY going country dancing. But Elizabeth. Nope. I was willing to sacrifice her to save Stan’s conscience.
9. Could they not have given us a glimpse of Martha anywhere in the season?
10. I’m satisfied with Renee’s smug smirk and perfect Russian curls being enough to wonder about. Stan will wonder…FOREVER.
11. Think about Stan waking up the next day.
12. Stan: The Man Who Loved Too Much
13. Elizabeth: Who Needs Her?
14. Philip: Maybe They Have Country Dancing in Russia
15. Paige: Does She Get Immunity or What?
16. Oleg: FREE OLEG
17. Claudia: Who Kez
18. Henry: A Story of Ping Pong Regret
19. Renee: Smug Smirks 4 Life
20. Kimmy: Who?
21: Martha: Keep Searching That Bleak Grocery Store for Your New Life, Friend
22: It was a good show.

13 Nov 2017

This is How My Mind Works.

Written by sally @ 9:07 am — Section: sally

1. I heard the Chad and Jeremy version of “If I Loved You” at the grocery store the other day.
2. It explains a lot about me that I naturally assumed the store was playing it just for me, because who else would care?
3. Or identify Chad and Jeremy?
4. Fun fact: the guy who played Will Cortlandt on “All My Children” is Chad’s son.
5. Why do I know this?
6. What year was I born?
7. I still love “All My Children” and think about the characters regularly.
8. And yesterday I found a Tad Martin birthday card that I have been saving to send to my college roommate for like, 15 years.
9. A long time ago, the Big Lots in Starkville closed, and everything was 90% off.
10. 90%! I bought everything.
11. Including a “on your 100th birthday” card.
12. Ann said, “Who are you going to send THAT to?”
13. I said, “You.”
14. I waited eleven years.
15. Then I sent it to her for her 40th birthday.
16. BAM!
17. But back to “If I Loved You”: Carousel is my favorite musical about a dead asshole carnival barker ghost.
18. The end.

26 Oct 2017

Notes from a Notebook.

Written by sally @ 10:05 am — Section: sally

Looking for a particular poem last night, I found a notebook I started in high school that’s full of poems, quotations, and later, when things get interesting, scraps of conversations. You can see my progression from “dimwit” to “person with some of a brain” by the choices of things I recorded (no one needs quotes from Gloria Vanderbilt, teenage Sally).

Some favorites:

“You’re so cute—I could puke!” 

This was yelled by a person whose friend I made out with/spurned roughly 8 hours previous. My boyfriend, with whom I reconciled immediately post-make out, and I were admittedly bebopping down the sidewalk holding hands and were likely fairly pukey. It’s one of the best things anyone has ever screamed at me on a public street.

“What if you decide not to go to your class but go to lunch instead? And what if you meet your lifelong mate at that lunch? And what if you had gone to class like you should have?” —-Dr. Edra Bogle

My world lit professor said this in 1992 and it deeply affected me. I’ve always gotten wigged out thinking of all the different versions of a life I could be living, and how tiny choices determine our fates, and then here’s old Dr. Bogle just confirming that I needed to skip class more often.

“I do not know how to let anything important happen to me.” —Rilke, in a letter to Clara, May 1910

For awhile I thought I could relate to this, which is why I wrote it down, but later it occurred to me that I’m responsible for pretty much everything important that’s ever happened to me. In books, people are just sitting around minding their own business when things happen to them, but this has never been the way things have rolled for me. (Outside of BAD things happening, of course. I interpret “important” to mean non-tragic.) I’m not saying I made the right choices or anything, but when it comes down to it I almost always have to start whatever it is: pulling a thread from a sweater that unweaves itself, sending an email, saying yes, opening the door.

24 Oct 2017

This Thing We Have, Will It Mean Anything?

Written by sally @ 9:09 am — Section: sally

In the spring of 1999, I started dating this guy who was few years younger than me, but who was also a mechanical engineering major, which meant he was like 11 years old emotionally. His friends were all virgins and were very giggly about the whole thing. (This guy wasn’t a virgin; he had proudly done it, like, twice before me, but…ok, that’s pretty much a virgin.) So one time we were all headed to the bar, me and the merry band of virgins, and the Old 97s song “Melt Show” came on in my car.

Here’s an explication of the lyrics and the event.

In the front row at the Melt Show
I fell in love with you and that was three weeks ago

Naturally, at the time of this particular event, the pretty much virgin (PMV) and I had been dating about three weeks. One of the virgins in the car emitted a sound close to a gasp at this line.

We fooled around, you let me have it for free


Yeah, it worked out, out real nice
I showed you how to and you showed me paradise


Now you’re killing time and it’s killing me
Oh, and is this more than some old summer fling?
Oh, this thing we have, will it mean anything?

One of the virgins: Awww.

Oh, when October rolls around, will you sober up and let me down?
Will you sober up and let me?

Another virgin: NOPE.

At this point, I died of embarrassment. My soul escaped out the car window and snagged on the antenna, fluttering in the breeze as a bunch of virgins MOCKED ME FOR HAVING SEX WITH THEIR FRIEND via an alt-country song.

21 Apr 2017


Written by sally @ 2:48 pm — Section: sally

Yesterday in a meeting we got on a tangent and were telling airport stories. My usual one is that because I grew up in the Dallas area, D/FW airport is the main airport I ever encountered. I didn’t do a lot of traveling, but I did do a lot of dropping off of boyfriends or parents at the airport. Anyway, when I moved to Mississippi, a friend asked me to pick him up at the Jackson airport and when I drove up I thought I was at the annex/garage/woodshed of the REAL airport. Ha ha ha Jackson is small and terrible ha ha.

But yesterday I was thinking about how I did have to drop off/pick up my college boyfriend a lot — he worked as a trainer for a big box store and flew around training people how to sell TVs and camcorders. One day I was waiting for him — and this was in the mid 90s, when you waited at the gate — and I got to talking with an woman in her 40s who thought it was very romantic that I was picking up my boyfriend.

She sort of wistfully talked about her college boyfriend, and her current boyfriend, and I felt guilty for thinking that I was probably going to break up with mine soon.


Once I started thinking about this moment, I saw the scene: it was dark, and we were standing at the window looking at the plane. Except the plane wasn’t there yet, so that wasn’t right. The woman was very old and wore a scarf on her head. Except she wasn’t that old. It occurred to me that I’d merged the actual event with this scene from Moonstruck (watch it all, or zoom to 1:00 to begin):

Oh, memory, you scamp. This is why I don’t believe anything anyone ever tells me.

10 Apr 2017

19,358 Calories.

Written by sally @ 11:41 am — Section: sally

I’m teaching a comp class this semester for the first time in a million years — it’s been 14 years since I taught ANY class and 17 years since I taught THIS class. I am loving it, as my students are surprisingly engaged and talkative. It doesn’t mean they are particularly good students who do the readings or anything, but at least they’re engaged in the classroom.

Three or four of them show up really early to class to just talk (like 30 minutes early), which is both annoying and fun. Annoying because I better be ready for class, but fun because these are 19-year-old boys who, instead of doing 19-year-old boy things, have elected to come to class early to talk to me and each other. It is during this time that I learn the most about them — namely that they are full of beans.

A few weeks ago, they were talking about how much they eat and one said that he once ate six Big Macs, two large fries, and a 20-piece nugget. That simply can’t be true, right?

A few weeks later he claimed he ate two and a half footlong Subway sandwiches. That was two footlong meatball marinaras and only half of a footlong sweet onion chicken teriyaki. That is 30 inches of sandwich. Think about the bread alone. 30 inches of bread. Then add a bunch of meatballs and stuff.

After this, another kid apparently thought, “This big eater kid is getting a lot of attention. Time to join the ring.” He said that in his hometown, there’s a pizza place called John’s where they have a challenge where if you can eat ALL of the mega giant pizza, you get it free. That’s a thing that restaurants have, ok. Let’s hear some more. He said it had a six-foot diameter.

My desk in this classroom is about five feet long. I asked him if he was actually saying that the pizza that he ate WAS BIGGER THAN MY DESK. He said yes. I asked what toppings were on it. He said it was meat lover’s. Hmm. There was a little grumbling from the others because somehow a six foot pizza was believable, but eating six feet of sausage, hamburger, and Canadian bacon was TOO MUCH. He said look, you can look it up.

However, he didn’t remind us the name of the restaurant at this point OR say where he was from. However however, I remember stuff! Not anything useful, like state capitols (Spike has a test today and our review session was prettttty pitiful last night), but I remember useless things like where this pizzaliar was from. So I said, “Ok, John’s Pizza in Ridgetown, got it.” And then he said, “Well, actually, I’m not sure they still do it.”


Anyway, I DID look them up, and they DO still do it, only the pizza has a 30-inch diameter, NOT A SIX-FOOT DIAMETER, which provides gluttons with 52 slices. I won’t mention it to him, but looking stuff up and proving people wrong is my hobby, and this whole thing brought me such satisfaction. The food talk, the lies, the facts — this teaching thing is awesome!

I just figured the calories for these three claims:
Big Mac Extravaganza: 5,318
Subway Festivities: 2,525
52 Slice Affair: 14,040

4 Apr 2017

The Barf Baby.

Written by sally @ 10:21 am — Section: sally

Spike and I went to see The Boss Baby, and boy, was it awful. Let me count the ways. (Note: this post isn’t clever; it’s just a rant that I need to get out of my system and then I’ll delete it and we’ll all be happy again.)

1. Tim, a seven-year-old only child, has the full attention of his parents; when asked “do you want a baby brother?” he says nope.
2. When he’s asked this, the mom is visibly pregnant.
3. Soon after, a taxi arrives and a baby gets out wearing a suit.
4. This is his baby brother.
5. The parents seem to accept that he wears a suit, like babies have a choice or something.
6. The parents completely ignore Tim.
7. Like, to the point I almost cried.
8. Tim and the baby join forces to spy on the parents’ business; they work for a puppy company that is about to reveal its latest product.
9. Why is the Boss Baby so interested?
10. It seems that people love puppies more than babies, and Baby Corp can’t have this. Babies must dominate the love.
11. Boss Baby, if successful, will get a corner office and will disappear from Tim’s life altogether.
12. Boss Baby has some baby thug friends who work for him in the neighborhood. There are some black triplets, the only POC in the movie.
13. Through some hijinx, Tim and Boss Baby discover the new product is a puppy that stays a puppy forever.
14. Instead of just calling Baby Corp and saying “yo I figured it out, can I get some backup” the fate of all babies is on the shoulders of Tim and Boss Baby.
15. They succeed and Boss Baby goes away.
16. Some memory zappers erase the parents’ memory so they won’t be sad that THEIR BABY IS GONE. Tim declines the memory-erasure.
17. Tim then writes Boss Baby a letter that says “do you want to be my brother” and then Boss Baby comes back.
18. The mom is not pregnant this time but still gets a baby?
19. Everyone is happy.
20. Except me.

I’m fine with the whole “babies just arrive one day” thing but you can’t have the mom be pregnant and get a baby and then NOT pregnant and get a baby. Follow your own rules, stupid movie!

Someone also tell me what the justification is of having all white people in a movie made up of DRAWINGS. Can’t be casting troubles.

Instead of a cloud of smoke that erases Boss Baby’s presence, each human must be zapped personally. Did…anyone take this baby out anywhere? To grandma’s house? The grocery store? Did the parents not say “hey we’re having a baby” at work? I’m real fired up about this.

Also, if I were an only child with a baby sibling on the way I’d be terrified that my parents would never talk to me again.

I hate this movie.

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