Pre-BB Gun Sharpshooter


I am not certain what for … but was my father a fallen angel? He is pictured here, age 3 with his teddy bear. This bear and wool jacket still exist … once the jacket was freakily hanging from the rafters in their basement on a little satin-wrapped hanger with the sun and the sun-seeped cobwebs nearby catching the light just so. It was ghostly, but angelic. Like the photo of my mother shirtless on the pony that I posted recently, this is a favorite of my father. Something is behind his left shoulder … looking a lot like a wing, an angel wing, looking ceramic even … as if he’s a Hummel. Since he is three here, I am thinking this is pre-BB gun for him. Therefore it is pre-shooting the eyes out of the sockets of his sisters’ animated dolls dad. I bet the BB gun would be a good reason to make this innocent, squinting, teddy bear toting, lopsided angel fall. I say this in the most admiring way … I love my dad and his giant array of eccentricities, even that he still tells the same jokes now that I am 30 that he told when I was a 5. When you tell the same jokes for 25 years it shows a stamina and maybe also a Sisyphusian burden.

I wonder if this photo was taken in Darlington, Pennsylvania where my dad was born (and I can see my grandmother snapping it, kneeling down in her Sunday best) … or if it was somewhere in Ohio. The landscape behind him I love like a Wyeth … that little window in the top of the photo implying both escape and imprisonment. He is a man like no other … but I think we all think of our fathers that way. I told him “happy father’s day” and it was an uncomfortable moment like it is to say “I love you” before we hang up. But through the years, my mother and I have been able to inject emotion and expressing it gradually into the house (my father’s family being a orb of suppressing of emotion and secrets) … little by little. There’s mom and I sneaking through the dark, sleeping house with syringes full of emotion: squirt squirt into the molding … squirt squirt into the floorboards.

Since the day I moved away from home my dad has told me the sports scores of Ohio sports teams on the phone. I have never been a fan in any respect of sports … but I listen to him, or try. But maybe not well enough. And sometimes I think he notices my fake response to the Cleveland Indians’ losing streak and says simply, I don’t understand you. That is both a heartbreaking and a renewing declaration for a parent to say to a child. It leaves me thinking again: So who am I anyway? Remember, dad, I came from you … I look like you … having the “McGath eyes” everyone oogles about at reunions … your eyes, nose, anxiety … and you say how I am now becoming a haunting living memory of your sister, Shirley (the one who gave me a little mind disease you will not acknowledge) … remember me?

And then you bought me a Thoreau quote on a placard to hang in my new apartment … and I thought, Oh, you were listening.

Published in: on June 29, 2007 at 12:06 am  Comments (4)  

Transfixed by Lorna Simpson


The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts has an amazing exhibit — Lorna Simpson. Above is one of my favorites in the exhibit inspiring a poem. As Barbara Guest, Frank O’Hara, and Kenneth Koch showed us eloquently during the New York School movement in the 1950s, art and poetry are inherently related. Kinsman if you will … their efficiency of image and emotion. So run, don’t walk to this exhibit.

The KIA and this exhibit will be a part of the August 3rd Art Hop in Kalamazoo. I will be one of the feature poets reading poems at the KIA that evening inspired by Simpson’s work. I have several drafts of several poems right now … mostly about wigs, hair, and sexual perversions (and I say “perversions” in the nicest way). The August Art Hop performance will be 6-8 with poetry and music. I am only one feature … there are some great poets reading as well and a wonderful band called The Movement (Fire’s house band as a matter of fact). I think I will have more musings on this later …

Lorna … Lorna … Lorna … get thee to the KIA (especially on August 3rd).



Published in: on June 25, 2007 at 1:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, June 22nd Reading in Kalamazoo




Tomorrow I will be the feature poet at the Kalamazoo Poetry Slam at Fire (1249 Portage St.) tomorrow, June 22nd at 8:30. There is an open mic and a slam before my reading. I will be reading from my collection, Small Murders as well as from my almost completed new collection, The Luck of Anhedonia. Of course I will be selling and signing books … please visit and http://www.kzooslamorg.

When you get there, just go in the door under the big blue “F.”



Published in: on June 21, 2007 at 9:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chuck, keep besetting my heart like this …


You harass my heart, Chuck … but inexplicably, in inexplicable ways. I do hope when I finally make it back to Portland you will allow me to buy you a coffee in an anonymous diner so we can chat about that everpresent underbelly and its inherent and confounding beauty. I finished Diary early this morning. This was not the usual one to two night read because I felt so much for the main character, Misty Kleinman. Just as I felt sympathy pangs of pain from Monica Drake’s Nita (Sniffles) in Clown Girl, I felt so about your character, Misty.

It is funny and interesting that even in a realistic unreality like those in Diary and Clown Girl I found an odd sense of solace in knowing someone else grapples — sometimes blindly, sometimes not — with similar emotions and thoughts that permeate everything in my life. And the terror comes when you begin to think: So who am I anyway? Am I the one I was yesterday? The one I am today? This is the terror of unbridled and out of control emotions and thoughts. I think that is why I find beauty in the darkness, in the terrifying … sometimes we become used to the parts of ourselves we wish were not there, had never come, but they’re there … and you get used to it like you would eventually get used to a suddenly missing limb.

Then, you attempt to find your center … the filtering funnel.

The other day I went by a sweetly modest looking church and they were selling strawberries in the lawn. My first thought: Ah yes, strawberries for Jesus. My second thought: If I eat a Jesus strawberry maybe my center will be instantaneous. And perhaps that’s why everyone in that lawn was beaming … laughing … and they were so genuine and lovely. I didn’t stop … it was after another one of those 20-plus hour sleep marathons I am having often these days. And as often happens, days later … I am regretting that I passed up holy berries.

But I had my Palahniuk … and Misty Kleinman to break my heart and invigorate my mind … thanks to you Chuck. But … keep besetting my heart like this and it will be no better than a worn-down futon mattress. Love, love, love to you, my imaginary reader named Chuck.

Published in: on June 19, 2007 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mothers & Moths …


So in the midst of self-reflections naturally comes reflection on one’s family. Pictured here is my mother. I think the only things I inherited from her: her round face, toes, and creativity since she is blonde and blue-eyed (not the brunette / green-eyed me). The Kirtley’s (my mother’s side) seemed so much to be the “happy” ones … the opposite to my dad’s “sadder” familial counterparts. With moths taking over my apartment right now I was looking for metaphorical meaning — a clashing of the real & metaphorical world. But as Freud said: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And I am supposing that sometimes a moth-riddled building is simply that. But these oddities of life always get me thinking (overthinking actually) and all of this led to reflections of my mother.

When I was a teen all of my friends saw her as “the cool mom” since she let us watch MTV (Headbanger’s Ball and 120 Minutes being favorites of sleepovers) and she always had a sincere respect and interest in all of us — no matter how angsty and weird we got.

When I was a little girl and liked to dress up in thift store gowns and other over-the-top finery, she let me go out into public like this … and she would lug my plastic Fischer Price grocery cart to every store we went to … indulging what she jokes about now as my “endearing and endless eccentricities.”

Her constant encouragement of my creativity and bookishness, her trying but not pushing me to not be so shy and quiet with the world has been a profound and absolutely necessary aspect to every phase of my life.

And the words “mother” and “moth.” Moths seem to be these almost-there creatures … the word moth not being completed to become something more. Mothers are the there and beyond creatures. In any case, I am going to try to embrace this mothness, a colony of sorts, and to borrow your recent phrase, Ben: I’m going to make it mine.

Published in: on June 13, 2007 at 8:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hawthorne Street, PDX: Damp & Delicate

Still missing Portland, but greatly enjoyed my evening at The Livery in Benton Harbor, Michigan on Wednesday. I had an appreciative and attentive audience (even though it was small: quality, not quantity) and sold some books. I met some very talented and interesting poets I hope to see there next month. The Livery slams are the 1st Wednesday of each month, 8p-10p. More info available at:

My next feature reading is at Fire (1249 Portage St., Kalamazoo) on Friday, June 22nd at 8:30. My book will be for sale for $14 and can be signed.

And as for Portland … it invaded my dreams last night. I was walking on Hawthorne. There were lots of people, more than there ever was on the streets at any given time. But those creatures again … wandering, following me … sea creatures walking on pavement, taunting and threatening me as they always do. I get sick of feeling bad about myself so much because of all of these extraneous elements. I know it was just a dream … a recurring one just in a different environment. I was trying to get somewhere in a hurry and they were distracting me from my purpose and holding me back. And Freud would have a field day with the cigar I was chewing on and the sword at my hip.

And the solitude I felt I needed is beginning to feel empty. I want the aftermath of people again. My books have suddenly become so quiet. But I have flamenco guitar to look forward to tomorrow. And the consequences of my constant crossroads … Hawthorne Street and my hollowing heart.

Published in: on June 8, 2007 at 4:49 pm  Comments (2)  

2 House, 2 Minute Limit



It is always wonderful and truly intriguing to me when something that begins as an assignment of sorts — and an assignment you want no part of — evolves into something you do want that all the while helps and heals and teaches. What began as “required journaling” evolved into what I am now thinking of as a memoir. My story is hardly interesting, it is actually quite mundane … especially my bookish and shy teen years through age 20. But what I am realizing a lot I think was always there but now it has smacked me in the face — how my latebloomerness was a blessing and a curse. My first love was a graduate student, a fiction writer … I was 20 and he was 25. I was an intern on a graduate student literary magazine and this gave me exclusive entry into the oh-so-exclusive “parlors” of graduate student writers for drinks and discussion … and often debauchery. This was the first time I “allowed” myself to socialize really. I felt comfortable in an academic environment … not the suffocating discomfort of my small northeastern Ohio town. It was all so freeing and so was feeling like a woman for the first time: I was desirable?

After “courting” me for months, telling me grandiose things about my talents, mind, and beauty I was convinced (stupidly) I was in love. At one of these parties, after I made my by then trademark Sapphire Bombay martini with 3 olives (two green and a black in the middle) he said that “kind of bye bye.” He told me he wanted me for my mind … the discussions he could have with me, how I was broadening his literary breadth of knowledge. But … he wanted a fellow graduate student (a very attractive but not so smart Shaker Heights trust fund girl) for her body. I asked him first if all this was because I hadn’t put out … but I told him I wanted to wait and make sure he meant what he had been saying to me. Sometimes I think I had more sense then than I do now at 30. Then I threw my freshly shaken martini in his face and left.

He followed me out, saying my name in that childish “oh come on” tone (which I found irritating and out of character for him). I think after following me about 2 houses, I was no longer worth the “fight.” What I need to understand now is why I still have that 2 house, 2 minute limit …

Andrew Wyeth has always been a comfort to me. I think it may be the rural, Ohio-esque landscapes and farmhouses of his work. He is able to find a beauty in deterioration. In his paintings “deterioration” becomes instead “reinstallation,” a “realization,” a constant “revision.” And I am sure you know where I am going now … like life.

Expect more Wyeth and more memoiric musings … lucky you.



Published in: on June 6, 2007 at 12:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Mourning Portland … Still


Maybe I am torturing myself, listening to this Blonde Redhead album … the only thing I listened to in Portland as I wandered the streets in pure unbridled bliss. The looming threats of thunderstorms this weekend will prove nice for all the reading I plan to do … still on that Chuck Palahniuk kick, reading Diary now. I am also rereading How Proust Can Change Your Life. And, again, Joseph Conrad’s “The Return.”

I do look forward to what I can these days … my readings and the hope they are well-attended and books are sold. Going back to Portland … feeling that multi-leveled bliss yet again.

I hope also to calm the arguing voices of my aunt and Anhedonia who have been invading my thoughts and dreams … hearing them in odd day moments in the deep recesses of my mind. I can only calm them as I have calmed the other times like these, however rare they are … by writing poems. I have been journaling about these moments but find they do not go away with prose, only poetry — the deep, efficient imagery and emotion of poetry. My other moment like this was a few years ago when a sea creature hovered above my bed and I ended up staying up all night in the seeming safety of every light turned on in the house. That is also when the nightmares of sea creatures began. So I named her after the mythological creature, the creature I believe she may have been — Scylla (Scilla).

But now … visited by people. Somehow this is more disruptive, disturbing. I guess it’s because they have the capacity to love, hate, and their arguments often sounding so unforgiving. It is often a resemblance to my life … highlighting my weaknesses and challenging my tiny nub of strengths. Geez Louise … I feel like Harvey Pekar and his voices arguing in American Splendor.

Happy Thunderstorms …

Published in: on June 1, 2007 at 1:35 pm  Leave a Comment