Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Journey

Tomorrow morning my Christmas journey takes me to Crestone, Colorado, a tiny village north of Sand Dunes National Park in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. I don't know what I'm looking for, or what's looking for me. I'm not particularly drawn to this place nor any other and feel more leaf-like than anything else. Hopelessly beautiful leaves skittered by wind; maybe that's all we are, no more or less beautiful than all this wondrousness, this matter.

What is it to be in one's fifth decade? When I ask such a question my mother's pragmatic, judgmental  voice answers, tisk, tisk, tisk. And I feel shame. My mind bothered my mother. She believed there were questions we shouldn't ask. She didn't think we should delve into what suffering is. She believed I was selfish, proud, unsatisfied with how things are, unnecessarily contemplative. She believed I needed to pray words empty of thought. I believe my mom struggled to survive and that, in her own way, she silently puzzled over philosophical questions. But maybe she just drank instead.

My son calls our problems First World Problems as a way of delegitimizing his suffering. My son tells me it's easy to say but harder to live.

This line of thought leads me to think of the ancients puzzling out what it is to be alive with our particular kind of consciousness. How to live in the present. How to reduce suffering. Not avoid, not ignore, not abolish. But reduce. How to recognize the causes of suffering in one's own life and the lives of others. How to be compassionately detached. I want to tell my mother to be quiet. My emptiness, my stillness is mine. We're not all equipped with your no-nonsense disposition, Mom. A blackbird is never just a blackbird. Not more than. Just more. All. I quit drinking before I had children. I sought help and grew to have the strength to get out of a dysfunctional marriage. I earned a PhD. I was an upstanding community member and bread-winner for 25 years. I was my ideal self during this time of raising children.

I wasn't my ideal self in the two years following my husband's death, which caused unpropitious living circumstances for my youngest son's last year-and-a-half of high school. He was 16 when Bill died.

Since my husband's death, I've been searching. First I tasted physical passion. I tasted the fame of a small pond. Then I tasted security. Passion was too painful, fame too shallow, security too lonely.

My role in my grown children's lives has changed, is changing.

Everything changes.

A family that bought flowers at our flower shop shared their suffering with my sister and me. The father had died, and the mother was so crippled by his death she refused to accept the gift of fresh flowers. Cut-flowers die, she explained. She refused to visit her late-husband's grave with the flowers her out-of-town children sent. She didn't want to think about his name carved in stone, she explained. These two refusals (I assume there were more) caused the entire family (and by extension my sister and me) untold suffering. The woman's grown children insisted on sending their mother fresh cut flowers as some sort of immersion therapy, we were told. She was refusing to face her husband's death. She refused to accept them--their flowers, their therapy, their conception of what her suffering should look like, how long it should last, etc. She told us she'd accept silk flowers, but not fresh flowers. We told her children this. They wouldn't be swayed. On one occasion, the angry and exasperated receiver called another good customer, who, in turn, called our mother to report our insensitivity. Every holiday and memorial day the problem escalated until we refused the business. Our refusal was met with incredulity and incivility.

People have to be given the space to work through grief in their own ways and in their own time. Maybe that mom will never enjoy fresh flowers again, maybe she won't ever visit her husband's grave. My dad wouldn't arrange an all red rose casket piece because there was one on his mother's coffin. He was nine-years-old. Maybe the children will never understand their mother's grief and maybe their mother will never understand her children's. What they all need to do is recognize and accept, lovingly, how grief has changed them. Death is an experience for the living too. An experience that changes the living.

Maybe I am refusing to accept the gift of Love. Maybe that's what our culture of getting and spending does, refuses love. I am exhausted by culture and marketing--this I know.

I also know that I am ambivalent, which causes me to suffer and causes suffering to those who love me and those I touch intimately. I am afraid to step out of the World and embrace living. I am afraid to learn how to live another way. I have been considering ancient texts, both Western and Eastern. I have been considering theologies and contemplations on living. Maybe that's what is drawing me to Crestone.

Here's a poem by William Wordsworth

The World is Too Much With Us

by William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God!  I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Spring Creek Prairie

I'm spending a few days before Christmas at National Audubon's Spring Creek Prairie located in Eastern Nebraska, near Lincoln, the state's capital. My friend A is the caretaker and she's graciously, generously opened her house to a weary traveller, me. It's glorious here. Last night it snowed a bit, but before flakes formed in the too warm air they fell as rain, then freezing rain the effect of which has encased little and big bluestem, switch grass, side oats, indian grass, and my favorite, needle-n-thread grass in sleeves of ice and tiny glassy droplets. Necklace, pearled-lace, these words blanch the beauty. The prairie luster has no comparison.

Michael Forsberg
The sofa is my bed and it's located just beyond a plate-glass window that opens onto rolling grasslands; that opens to the southeast; that opens to austere -- not simply austere the adjective -- but to austere itself. Muted hues bleed into one another as the sun rises, and a careful observer is able to see incremental changes as the light increases.

In my journey to discover what Gary Snyder has called no-self, I've been conceiving "nounless." More than discursive, prior to discursive and all encompassing, the no-self. Interconnectivity. Energy frequencies. Water.

The only thing a leaf eats is sunlight.

We place a log into the stove. It's a log. It is transformed. We accept its warmth.

Here's a poem I like by Robert Creeley

For Love,
By Robert Creeley

for Bobbie
Yesterday I wanted to
speak of it, that sense above   
the others to me
important because all

that I know derives
from what it teaches me.   
Today, what is it that   
is finally so helpless,

different, despairs of its own   
statement, wants to
turn away, endlessly
to turn away.

If the moon did not ...
no, if you did not
I wouldn’t either, but   
what would I not

do, what prevention, what   
thing so quickly stopped.   
That is love yesterday   
or tomorrow, not

now. Can I eat
what you give me. I
have not earned it. Must   
I think of everything

as earned. Now love also   
becomes a reward so
remote from me I have
only made it with my mind.

Here is tedium,
despair, a painful
sense of isolation and   
whimsical if pompous

self-regard. But that image   
is only of the mind’s
vague structure, vague to me   
because it is my own.

Love, what do I think
to say. I cannot say it.
What have you become to ask,   
what have I made you into,

companion, good company,   
crossed legs with skirt, or   
soft body under
the bones of the bed.

Nothing says anything   
but that which it wishes   
would come true, fears   
what else might happen in

some other place, some   
other time not this one.   
A voice in my place, an   
echo of that only in yours.

Let me stumble into
not the confession but   
the obsession I begin with   
now. For you

also (also)
some time beyond place, or   
place beyond time, no   
mind left to

say anything at all,
that face gone, now.
Into the company of love   
it all returns.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bone white

The tree outside this window is bone white in the harsh sunlight of Monday morning. How does one write a blog post after the events of the weekend? In a Connecticut elementary school, twenty-six people, twenty of whom were younger than eight-years-old, were killed by a twenty-year-old kid wielding semi-automatic weapons belonging to his mother.

Sirens shriek past the house. Two police cars, flashing, race through the red light.

When my children were young, I sent them to the local Montessori school, where Miss Debbie and a group of other women nurtured and protected them. My oldest son learned how to read there. He was four. My younger son learned how to articulate. He was three. I never worried for their safety, not once.

How do we go back to school today?

My sons grew up. They attended a small-town Lutheran school, where, a week after my oldest son's eighth-grade graduation, the principal was accused of pedophilia. He took his own life before summer's end.

A common mnemonic aid in differentiating the word principal  from the word principle is to think the principal is your pal. 

The following year, letters and complaints revealed the seventh grade teacher as a pedophile, too. This man, rather than gassing himself in his garage, made a public apology to the congregation. Some people want to blame the Friday, December 14th, 2012 massacre on the ban on school prayer.

I want to write "prayer does nothing" but I'm afraid to. I don't know what prayer does. I don't know what happens after we die. I do not want to cling to or frighten myself with superstitions. I know a deranged young man, after killing his mother with one of her own automatic weapons, walked into a school and brutally killed twenty-six people. I know there have been several similar massacres in US history. I have no idea why it's legal to buy and own semi-automatic weapons.

What use do these weapons have?

I haven't been a perfect mother. I'm a control freak according to my oldest son. My younger son is beginning to agree. I haven't been able to recuperate from the shock of my husband's death from cancer. Over the past seven years, I've completely dismantled my life. I don't know how to live. Today I'm thinking of becoming a real estate agent.

My sons are alive. I don't think they've been molested by a teacher; I don't think the religious superstitions hurt them too much. They weren't threatened by gunmen in grade school, high school, college; and haven't been threatened at the mall or the movie theater.

The plane tree outside this window is as white as bone. Its seeds, the size and shape of jacks balls, dangle from delicate branches as if earrings. Some seeds will germinate. Some volunteer trees will be mowed down, some will be pulled up, some will grow spindly in the yard, some will push tenaciously through cracks in the driveway, some will cling to the foundation of the house. None will flourish without proper nurturing. I don't know how the families of this weekend's dead will survive their grief, but they will survive.

We must love one another. We must forgive. We must have empathy. We must be patient. We must talk openly. We must admit and examine our confusions. None of us is perfect.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Notes on Building a Table

Un-martyr me, says St. Orphan-Heart.
Raven steals the light—the shy one
hard to hold, like a chip of diamond
in a jeweler's tweezer. You dazzle
my mind, Midday-Light-Slippery.
The pens huddled and bound with
a rubber band ate, dressed the mountains
in water, peltethe windows
with rain. Did you notice
the freeze dryer evaporated our lives,

and just as with carnations, it left
the color perfect? Glued brittle flowers
in store-bought wreaths.
The Bell-mare leads horses away
from the barn; She also leads herdsmen
up Monte Terminillo. I'm reacting

To a cheese and tomato sandwich.
What a huge and terrible sandwich
In the airport, and Man-Standing-Near-
The-Shoe-Store has a bite taken out of
his ear, asks me to marry him as we pass
through customs. And Man-Who-Wonders-
With-His-Sandwich is no longer in sight.
The moon, low on the way here. And fog
defines a marshland. Incommensurable
feels so unlike Life-on-Earth. Does this have
to do with her ability to move,

She wonders. Lewis sings. Damion
paints hazard-yellow stripes horizontally
on the lip of each of the trail's steps. (This
isn't to say that Damion and Lewis are
not enormously fat. They are.) Our conversation
drifts to the particulars of Tony's & Marie's
lives. It's best to go in the morning.

By afternoon the wind can be too strong.
We walked long and hard uphill
past groups of men on bicycles,
groups of women in bakeries. We crossed through
yards, fenced dogs barking. All day we walked,
sometimes humming, sometimes alone, sometimes
in cackles and descriptions of potato dishes,
neighbors with gardens, whole moon nights,
grade-school cruelties, the mind's huffing
vortex. Two men work with sheep.
The highway traffic miles below, unsteady.

Six blue marbles in a box on the computer
desk, which is next to a sofa and a chair,
both draped in blue spreads. Blue birds,
(they must be), chirp from somewhere beyond
the barred window, beyond the wall, beyond
the castle garden on one side, the road that leads
from the forest to the grassy meadow, where
bareback, the self, that muscled beauty, comes
fully into its own will on the other.

© draft, Denise C. Banker, all rights reserved

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


It is the playful sense of humor that strikes me in  Zen Master Raven, sayings and doings of a wise bird, Robert Aitken.

One evening Woodpecker asked, The term doubt seems to be used in an unusual way in our practice. How do you understand it?
Raven said, "What's this?"
Woodpecker asked, "Well, what is it?"
Raven asked, "What is it?"

Sometimes it is best to hold still, where there is no gasping for words.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Introductions and Discoveries

This weekend my friend Jake introduced me to the poems of Amy Gerstler. I'd not before heard of Gerstler so I Googled her name. How is it I'd not read any of this poet's work? Her first book was published in 1986. She won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1991, and her latest collection, Dearest Creature, was published by Penguin in 2009. Altogether, she's written dozens of books.

In this morning's e-mail, there was an interview with Donald Hall attached to a note Jake sent. In the interview, Hall briefly considers the problem of fame that gives way to obscurity. He asks readers to look back on the list of Pulitzer winners and ask themselves how many names they recognize.  He also asks, backhandedly, if anyone knows (or cares) what caesura is. All this Donald Hall lamentation could be shrugged off as old man nostalgia. It could also be thought of as a person who hasn't internalized that pithy proverb about the river and stepping into it, twice. And it could be Donald Hall asking "does anyone even remember Donald Hall the poet?" I do, but not necessarily for his poetry.

Here I am weaving many threads together.

It's difficult to keep up with all the poets writing today. Even the really good ones go unnoticed in the river's rushing torrent. The poet's students may recognize her name. The poets who are actively competing with her begrudgingly recognize her name, and some editors and critics recognize her name. Take consolation, though, dear poets: I can drop Mark Strand's name in a group of highly successful physicians and not one of them will recognize his name, which is arguably one of the late-twentieth century's most notable. Poetry is a small pond; so does it matter that we don't recognize all the names or know all the voices croaking in it? Or is it more important to recognize, and honor, the fact that we can be introduced to voices with whom we can, with the tap of a finger, further our relationship?

I'm reading Amy Gerstler's The True Bride. I think Amy Gerstler knows what caesura is. Caesura is internal pause. Initial caesura falls at the beginning of the line; medial in the middle (most common), and terminal at the end of a line. A masculine caesura follows a stressed syllable and the feminine follows unstressed. Caesura is silence. Metrical time is suspended. Many of the lessons given in caesura rely on poems from poetry's past: Greek, Latin, Anglo-Saxon poetry. They rely on Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Pope, Poe, etc. Refreshingly, the link I've provided above discusses caesura in W.S. Merwin. An older edition of Writing Poems (1991) devotes one sentence to caesura. Given the distance and this depth, we might be justified in questioning caesura's importance.

I'm going to attempt to illustrate caesura using some lines from Amy Gerstler. I wonder, though, if poetry is still song.

Caesura in Amy Gerstler's Alice and Lewis from The True Bride:

Once I was, but am no more; // his subject, his concern. I was but ten
when I met him. He babysat for me. // Took me out in a rowboat.
My parents trusted him. // Ink sketches, the box camera, his
eyes: he took my picture // so many times. Drew me to him.
I wished to be his mistress, // whatever that meant: a shepherdess
or milkmaid; the farm girl // collecting eggs in her apron,
pictures in my book. ...
(the poem continues but I don't want to infringe on the poet's rights)

It turns out, I think by being able to identify the caesura in these lines, we can see that poetry is song—


Going back to 1986, there are four Pulitzer winners whose names I don't recognize.  

Friday, December 7, 2012

Willa Cather and Sue Rosowski

This morning the clouds are gray like stoneware clay. And I like to think of the sky, when the low clouds impose a ceiling on its infinity, as an unfired clay bowl, inverted. On this day, 139 years ago, Willa Cather was born. One of my favorite characters in literature is her creation, Ivar, the natural man in O Pioneers . But I don't want to write about Ivar, Willa Cather, or O Pioneers. I want to write about Cather scholar, Sue Rosowski. She died two days after George Bush, Jr. was elected president the first time, which was actually the second time that man would rule our so called democracy. (We'd all console ourselves with the fact that Sue didn't have to know Bush won.) The day I found out Sue died was November 5th, 2004. At the time, I was teaching at a fundamentalist university on the Great Plains. The students in my Global Issues class were sleepy. It was an early morning class. Looking out onto the sea of occluded faces, suffering the fact that George Bush would again be the punk-in-chief, was too much. I must have said something fairly alarming, or, maybe, under the stress of living, I whimpered a little (my mother lay dying, too) because, after dismissing the class and heading back to my office, before I could hang up my coat, the campus pastor tapped lightly at my door saying so-and-so-student had given him a call to report the state of my emotions, and would I like to talk, or to pray together. This visit was a mixed blessing, to be sure.

I want to write about Sue Rosowski. Sue was a scholar, a teacher, a guide, a friend.

The first time we met, we chewed over some passages from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. The next time we met, we argued over my reading of the loon chapter in Thoreau's Walden. Sue was the reason I was accepted into the doctoral program at the University of Nebraska. She actively believed in me. She was the chair of my graduate committee before I switched to a focus in creative writing. And to illustrate what kind of Chair she was, I offer this anecdote.

Sue and I hadn't formally met for a period of time. And in that time, I'd changed my focus of study in the graduate office, rearranged the roles my committee members played, and kept pushing forward. All without mentioning it to Sue. One afternoon I received a note from Sue that said we were overdue to meet. We needed to catch up on my progress and get some paperwork filed. I responded, a meeting was scheduled, we met. I'd forgotten all about telling Sue she was no longer the chair of my committee. Later, after we met, I discussed what I sensed might become an issue with the graduate chair, who suggested we create a story about why Sue was no longer the Chair but a reader, and then tell it to Sue. I said, why would we do that? I'll just tell her the truth. (Ah, the truth. Seldom a first choice in political matters.) I was never very good at program politics. I never understood why professors would be upset to know they were no longer obligated to serve in whatever capacity on a student's committee; but several people warned me of a possible snag. I didn't understand the rabid competitions between students in the program. Professor H will be angry if you don't... So-and-so will be furious if you tell her your poem was published in X journal... The creative writing professors will be angry if your Chair is a Comp/Rhet. person... Sue will be angry to find she's no longer the Chair of your committee, etc. I doubted this, yet, was fearful. What if Sue is angry? I thought. What if my neglect ruins our friendship? Sue was a busy scholar and teacher. She was busy keeping cancer at bay. She was editing a book. She had two sons and a husband. She had other graduate students. She won't be angry or hurt, I thought, she'll be relieved.

Sue and I scheduled another meeting to discuss my written comps. At that meeting, we talked about her life. We talked about mine. We cried a little because she was fighting this disease, and university life, graduate school can be so stressful. Finally, I told her she was no longer the Chair of my committee, and how sorry I was that I hadn't let her know sooner, and how afraid I'd been to tell her she was no longer the Chair of my committee. I was really falling apart by this time. Sobbing, I'm sure. It's hard to do things right when you're under so much pressure. It's hard to be strong all the time. Graduate school's confusing. There was a long pause. And then Sue began to laugh. She laughed. And laughed. A contagious laugh. We laughed. For a long time, we laughed. University politics are so ridiculous, if for no other reason, they build walls between people. Walls built of baseless fears.

Every winter I head back to Nebraska and make the drive to the old Germantown Cemetery to visit Sue's grave. I loved Sue Rosowski. I still do.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

All Art is Alchemy

Yesterday I went to Seattle Art Museum to see the Elles: Women Artist from the Centre Pompidu, Paris. Before I say anything more about what I feel is a fine show, I want to say the French feminine pronoun, elles, seems an odd entry. Also, SAM's sign welcoming visitors to the show uses the word seminal in its headline. This seems an arbitrary word choice. Why wouldn't they have chosen the word pioneering? Or groundbreaking? As for the pronoun elles, that choice feels deliberate and not a little bit tricky—why would the show's curators have chosen to use the word those? It felt, to me, like the word other. Maybe this word choice is itself art. All this considered, I did enjoy seeing two floors of the museum dedicated to artist who happen to be women, and, overall, the show seemed a genderless representation of modern art, complete with its grinding machines, whimsical satire, and shock-treatment. There was Pop, Cubist, Minimalist, Dada, Surrealist art. The show included works from Gerogia O'Keefe, Dorothea Tanning, Imogene Cunninham, Fida Kahlo, Cindy Sherman, Susanne Valadon, Natalia Goncherova, and many more noted artists, both living and dead (there was an entire wing dedicated to Atsuko Tanaka, which was my favorite part). Some pieces were overtly gendered, some were not. —I do like the abstractions. I came away feeling like women aren't as angry as we used to be; but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the anger is hidden under makeup and breast implants; squeezed into tight t-shirts and ultra low-cut jeans. What I really feel is that we still haven't figured out how to represent ourselves. We're still trying to say, dear culture, stop caging us in your representations of us. We haven't yet stopped seeing ourselves as objects. But the Pompidu show isn't about how we represent ourselves. It's about filling a museum with underrepresented and marginalized artists. It's about prejudice, and sexism is prejudice. Ultimately, after walking through the show a couple of times, I needed to take refuge. Bernardo Stozzi's Hagar and the Angel, which is one of my favorite paintings in the SAM, is where I had to rest. One of the reason I like this painting so much is, as the description says, the metaphorical wilderness is created from nothing but darkness. And, I like Hagar.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The two crows, who seasonally raise a family in the Western Hemlock that graces Quincy Jones' niece's house across the street from mine, are at their winter perch in the naked branches of the ash tree next door. And this morning is so clear I can see the Cascades from my upstairs window. Last night I rediscovered the poet Jim Simmerman, who died in 2006, and whose Twenty Little Poetry Projects generated an anthology, Mischief, Caprice and Other Poetic Strategies, edited by Terry Wolverton, published by Red Hen Press. Theodore Roethke wrote, "poetry is an act of mischief." In this blog entry I'll write briefly about the words mischief and caprice, and secondly about Jim Simmerman's poem "Yoyo."
It is a mistake, I think, to conflate the notion of mischief with the notion of play. To play a prank on another may be considered play, but, if the play is mischievous, I'm inclined to believe it may be harmful or, at the very least, annoying. I don't remember play as an annoyance. My uncle Phil, a noted prankster and bully, once threw several black-cat fireworks into the fireplace fire while my dad was dozing on the sofa. The explosions so frightened my dad, a WWII era vet, he nearly cried. Dennis the Menace isn't mischievous, he's a neglected little boy. Puck, if I dare mention Hank Ketcham's and William Shakespeare's creations in the same breath, is a mischievous character; he knows his pranks are painful to his targets and, in the end, he asks us to forgive him. Play, then, in my mind is actually harmless; mischief is not. Pranks are adolescent. Caprice suggests unpredictable, whim, vagary—abstractions, none of which, are particularly comforting. How is poetry mischievous? How is it caprice?
In Jim Simmerman's poem "Yoyo," we meet a boy (it's safe to assume we meet the poet as a boy) who is excited about going hunting with his "distant country cousins." The boy, though, isn't excited about killing birds; he's excited about "rising with the birds," which he mistakenly conceives as the act of flying: "like we'd all just open our eyes and stretch/ our arms and fly right out the windows,/ ...". The cousins, on the other hand, think the boy is a "yoyo" meaning idiot, dope, fool, and, as the poem moves forward, we see the boy, bird-like, flapping his arms to warn the doves, "fly away! fly away!"—here there is a reference to St. Francis that's immediately negated so we know we're not going to take a high road, so to speak. The word yoyo signals the poem's first turn. We're now in another distant memory, a birthday party at which the boy (the poet) was "made to be king and wear a paper crown/  made to stand up as they said my [his] name wrong. I was made/ to applaud the Yoyo Man as he spun/ his way through a dozen foolish tricks:/ ...". The Yoyo Man performs his tricks poorly. Gives every guest at the party a plastic yoyo except, maybe "he couldn't even count," the birthday-boy, our speaker. Tears ensue. But in the end the Yoyo Man slips his own yoyo onto the boy's finger, which signals another turn. The poem gets overtly philosophical, and we're brought into the present, "...I lost the yoyo/ years ago and never missed it till today,/ or the Yoyo Man...". So can the turns in the poem be considered caprice? We go from this story to this story. We're asked to think about hunting; we're made to think about St. Francis, then not; we're made to see the boy as king, etc. And, to add to the caprice, the poet, throughout, has been repeating the line, "I can only think I've killed something." We don't know what that is nor why he's saying it; but, in the poem's final stanza, the poet says "But still I act like it's alive, like/ it'll come dragging itself home somehow and, so I suppose my cousins were right:/ I am a yoyo. ... duping myself with a dozen dumb tricks, ...".
The poem might be whimsical in its evocation of the innocent boy and his rougher cousins; poignant in its evocation of the Yoyo Man and his clumsy attempts at entertainment. Simmerman may even be considered mischievous in that he sets us up for a light, entertaining memory—we've all been an innocent fool, we've all experienced some less-than competent entertainer. Maybe Simmerman's caprice can be found in the turns the poem takes: first we're hunting, now we're at a birthday party, now we're considering some "it" that's been killed. In the end though, what might make poetry mischief and caprice is that it often, like  Simmerman's poem has, stabs us in the heart when we don't expect it: We're all Yoyo Men, yanked this way and that, even the sun is "spinning up like a yoyo in the east." We keep believing the thing we've killed (our innocence? Our ability to believe? That we'll change? Our creativity?) will come back. We keep doing things compulsively. Maybe, in a poem, mischief and caprice are tools that work in tandem to teach us something.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


I've been away from my blog for a long time, and I'm not making excuses, but... I've been busy. Here's to my dedication!

Flash Fiction: Are You Lonely Tonight

Dan had never had sex with anyone but Stephanie, and now she wanted a divorce. She'd been acting different, more so than she'd ever before acted. Dan and Stephanie live in a fruit-cake town, not "fruit cake" like someone's granny used to bake, that would have been ok; but West-Coast-bastion-for-der-Brikenstock-early-retiree type fruit-cake town. Stephanie had taken to hanging around with grannies who believed they could move tables with their minds. This activity, mind over matter, has a cult name, but it isn't important because it will not again be mentioned. Dan is a biologist. So is Stephanie, for that matter, and Dan, because he wants to be egalitarian, like everyone here, wants to understand how a biologist can believe old women can move tables with their minds; he's not patronizing Stephanie nor doubting the old ladies' abilities. Dan is seeking answers by studying Zen with a gay Zen Master, who talks too much, and is covered with tattoos and piercings. The Zen Master's partner is x-military, and looks it. They fly the American Flag. Dan also fears it was the knitting group, which he's taken to calling the "stitch-n-bitch" group, which is rather cliché, but no less apt, that led Stephanie astray. Perhaps, he thinks objectively, it was the visits to the porn shops in the nearby big city with the newly divorced fellow stitcher, Lois. Maybe. Nonetheless, Dan has his own way of coping with Stephanie's final decision, which is to divorce; and, he is, therefore, determined to, as we say, move on.

This is where I come in. I'm Tonja S. Gooding, but beyond that there is little else you need to know about me.