Sunday, December 31, 2006

Top Ten: The Final Few

Still one short. There are a few more good books I read in 2006, but great? The best? I'm not entirely sure.

8. A Loeb Classical Library Reader, by the Loeb Classical Library

V. Detrahere igitur alteri aliquid et hominem hominis
incommodo suum commodum augere magis est contra naturam
quam mors, quam paupertas, quam dolor, quam cetera,
quae possunt aut corpori accidere aut rebus externis.
Nam principio tollit convictum humanum et societatem.
Si enim sic erimus affecti, ut propter suum quisque emolumentum
spoliet aut violet alterum, disrumpi necesse est,
eam quae maxime est secundum naturam, humani generis
societatem. Ut, si unum quodque membrum sensum hunc
haberet, ut posse putaret se valere, si proximi membri valetudinem
ad se traduxisset, debilitari et interire totum
corpus necesse esset, sic, si unus quisque nostrum ad se rapiat
commoda aliorum detrahatque, quod cuique possit,
emolumenti sui gratia, societas hominum et communitas
evertatur necesse est.

V. Well then, for a man to take something from his
neighbour and to profit by his neighbour’s loss is more contrary
to Nature than is death or poverty or pain or anything
else that can affect either our person or our property. For,
in the first place, injustice is fatal to social life and fellowship
between man and man. For, if we are so disposed that
each, to gain some personal profit, will defraud or injure
his neighbour, then those bonds of human society, which
are most in accord with Nature’s laws, must of necessity be
broken. Suppose, by way of comparison, that each one of
our bodily members should conceive this idea and imagine
that it could be strong and well if it should draw off to itself
the health and strength of its neighbouring member, the
whole body would necessarily be enfeebled and die; so, if
each one of us should seize upon the property of his neighbours
and take from each whatever he could appropriate
to his own use, the bonds of human society must inevitably
be annihilated.

9. Only Revolutions, by Mark Danielewski

A rounding circles with hooks,
shimmying duckily, if
the Bentley Mulliner blasts clouds
now of hotoil seizure. Rusty shrapnel
plincking Picnickers, Fishers, Weary
Laborers failing at leisure
Towards worse
By Bobo to Hushpuckena
By Dinkering Eskimo Chickens.

Allways away with Sam.
Even if I've scraggly hair. Gross
overalls. Have to pick my nose.
He's why September never goes.
Our Subaru SVX releases curves.
I'm a thousand Septembers. And he's
all deserts east when the payloads explode.

Top Ten: the Year-end Rush

I know, I know, the year's almost over, and I'm only 5 in. And unfortunately, I've lent some of the best books I've read this year out, and can't quote directly from them (the hazards of being a best book, I suppose). So I might end up falling a bit short. Regardless: onwards!

6. Number 6 gets included on the list on a bit of a technicality -- the book came out in hardcover in 2005, but the paperback came out in 2006. And the publicity resulting from the publication of the paperback brought me to one of the best readings I went to in 2006. So there.

Magic for Beginners, by Kelly Link

Jeremy runs all the way, slapping his old track shoes against the sidewalk for the pleasure of the jar, for the sweetness of the sting. He likes the rough cottony ache in his lungs. His coach says you have to be part masochist to enjoy something like running. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Its something to exploit.
Talis opens the door. She grins, although he can tell she's been crying, too. She's wearing a T-shirt that says
I'm So Goth I Shit Tiny Vampires.
"Hey," Jeremy says. Talis nods. Talis isn't so Goth, at least not as far as Jeremy or anyone else knows. Talis just has a lot of T-shirts. Shes an enigma wrapped in a mysterious T-shirt. A woman once said to Calvin Coolidge, "Mr. President, I bet my husband that I could get you to say more than two words." Coolidge said, "You lose." Jeremy can imagine Talise as Calvin Coolidge in a former life. Or maybe she was one of those dogs that don't bark. A basenji. Or a rock. A dolmen. There was an episode of 'The Library,' once, with some sinister dancing dolmens in it.

7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
Graphic lifted from Salon's review, as I've lent out my copy

Friday, December 22, 2006

Maeby Baby

Welcome to the world, Georgia Maeby Green Rogalski! . You couldn't have chosen a better set of parents. Way to go, kid!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Home again

It's 3:16 AM here in Boston. That's just after midnight my time. Brian and I actually went to bed hours ago, but I woke up at 2:30, far too awake to be in bed or even think of sleeping.

So now I'm downstairs with the dog, who thinks all rules must be suspended, if I'm home and we're up so late. He keeps trying to climb into my chair with me (instead of staying in his chair, as he's trained to do), and he's sniffing around, convinced that treats are afoot. Oh, poor thing, he's blinking so sleepily.

Anyway. Happy Christmas(ish)! And to all a good night.

Monday, December 18, 2006

More towards the top ten

Light and Shade: New and Selected Poetry, by Tom Clark


Summer night
klang of stars

inner acoustic

water diamonds
the oars

Towards a Top Ten, Take Two

3. The Ladies of Grace Adieu, and other stories, by Suzanna Clarke

There were horned heads, antlered heads, heads carapiced like insects' heads, heads as puckered and soft as a mouldy orange; there were mouths pulled wide by tusks, mouths stretched out into trumpets, mouths that grinned, mouths that gaped, mouths that dribbled; there were bats' ears, cats' ears, rats' whiskers; there were ancient eyes in young faces, large, dewy eyes in old worn faces, there were eyes that winked and blinked in parts of the anatomy where I had never before expected to see any eyes at all. The goblins were lodged in every part of the house; there was scarcely a crack in the wainscotting which did not harbour a staring eye, scarcely a gap in the banisters without a nose or snout poking through it. They prodded us with their horny fingers, they pulled our hair and pinched us black and blue. Dido and I ran out of End-Of-All-Hope House, jumped up upon Quaker's back and rode away into the winter woods.

Snow fell thick and fast from the sea-green sky.

4. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party

A man in a topiary maze cannot judge of the twistings and turnings, and which avenuue might lead him to the heart; while one who stands above, on some pleasant prospect, looking down upon the labyrinth, is reduced to watching the bewildered circumnavigations of the tiny victim through obvious coils -- as the gods, perhaps, looked down on the besieged and blood-sprayed Troy from the saftey of their couches, and thought mortals weak and foolish while they themselves reclined in comfort, and had only to snap to call Ganymede to their side with nectar decanted.

So I, now, with the vantage of years, am sensible to my foolishness, my blindness, as a child. I cannot think of my blunders without a shriveling of the inward parts -- not merely the dessication attendant on shame, but also the aggravation of remorse that I did not demand more explanation, that I did not sooner take my mother by the hand, and --

I do not know what I regret. I sit with my pen, and cannot find an end to that sentence.

I do not know what we may do, to know another better.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Towards a Top Ten

So the year is drawing to a close, and, never one to pass up the opportunity to reccommend books, I thought I'd list my ten favorites. In the interest of imposing rules (so as not to range all over as I am wont to do), I limited myself to books published in the last year.

I do hate ranking things though, so these aren't in any sort of order, just the order that they come to mind. And in the interest of not exhausting you, poor reader, with too much reading material to take in at once, I'll be posting my selections, with excerpts from each, in dribs and drabs over the next few days.

These first two seem like they should go together. I'm often introducing books to one another in this way, placing them side by side on the bookshelf as if I were seating them next to one another at a dinner party (and so this is why Elizabeth Cook's Achilles can be found between the Fagles Illiad and Tom Clark's Light and Shade. I do have a system, after all).

1. What is the What, by Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng.

I was sitting with my mother, helping her boil water. I had found kindling and was feeding the fire, and she was approving of the help I was providing. It was unusual for a boy of any age to be as helpful as I was. There is an intimacy between mother and son, a son of six or seven. At that age a boy can still be a boy, can be weak and melt into his mother's arms. For me, though, this is the last time, for tomorrow I will not be a boy. I will be something else -- an animal desperate only to survive. I know I cannot turn back so I savor these days, these moments when I can be small, can do small favors, can crawl beneath my mother and blow on the dinner fire. I like to think I was luxuriating in the final moment of childhood when the sound came.

2. Grief Lessons:
Four Plays by Euripides, translated by Anne Carson.

Midnight my ruin began.
Supper was over, sweet sleep was drifting down,
after songs and dances and sacrafice
my husband lay in our chamber,
his spear on its peg.
He was not watching
for Greek sailors
to come walking into Troy.

I was doing my hair,
I was binding my hair,
staring down into the bottomless lake of my mirror,
before I fell into bed --
a scream cut the town,
a roar swept the street...

I left my bed in just a robe
like a Spartan girl
to supplicate holy Artemis. Useless! Sorrow!
I saw my husband killed.
They drove me down
to the salt sea.
Then I looked back as the ship set sail,
pulling me further and further from Troy
and I fainted away.

Monday, December 11, 2006

On the killing of darlings

The hardest thing about writing a syllabus is the editing down. Last semester, I had the gall to actually edit the Iliad (and I questioned throughout the course whether I'd done the right thing, though I'm happy I included all the supporting texts I did).

But this time it's even worse. There are stacks of texts I consider essential to a course in Classical Philosophy, and only a finite number of classes in the semester. Must I sacrifice the pre-Socratics in order to include Seneca and Epicurus? But the pre-Socratics are so nutty and fun! And how can we read the Republic in its entirety if it means sacraficing either the Crito or the Apology? And what about the Phaedrus (my absolute favorite)? Aaaaugh!

So, brilliant readers: what texts do you think are absolutely essential readings in Classical philosophy? What shouldn't students be allowed to live without?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle!

It's raining, I have a headache, and I've been listening to nothing but Chrismas music for hours. Is it any wonder I'm in an odd mood?

The last few days have just been dingey. Thursday night, I had a bunch of poet friends for a reading, which was just so much fun, but as soon as everyone was gone, or even before, I got into that funny way of thinking I have, wherin I think everyone's just humoring me, and they couldn't possibly like me, and oh, I should have worn a different shirt. Then Friday I started in with this head cold I'm sporting, and now I'm just sitting pathetically on the couch, worrying about insurance and medical stuff and wishing I'd done everything up til now differently and for God's sake, Nora, what else do you want out of life, that when everythings so nice you've got to sit around and mope about it?

Do you ever have images just pop into your head? I was just sitting here, staring at my desk (note to self: shouldn't that teetering pile of books find their way back to the bookshelf?), when suddenly I saw with three dimensional clarity the little beach near my family's summer place up in Vermont, that twilight wash of red rocks and cedar trees, and the murky depths of weedy water. Hm.

My iTunes Christmas shuffle just popped on "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," and I misheard it as, "Come now, count thy every blessing." Perhaps it's time I did.

Anyway, before this post gets any more schizophrenic, I'm off to count every blessing. And do laundry.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Insert funny, self-depriciating title here

Check out the latest issue of Five Fingers Review! That's my piece on the cover:

Five Fingers Review Cover

And you'll have to buy a copy to see the rest, as my blogger layout goes all screwy when I try and put them in (or if you're really cheap, go to my flickr page. Cheapo). Anyway, it's a collage based on a poem that I *think I posted an early form of up in this here blog (I'll have to poke through the archives a bit and find that). But, yay! I'm published! I feel so excited, and so, so exposed.

I don't think this issues in stores yet, but you can eventually find it at your local Barnes & Noble, or order it online (sometime in the next few weeks) through Small Press Distribution.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Things that were inordinately confusing Sunday morning at 9:00, after having stayed up until 6:00 the night before

1. The line at Starbucks
2. The infinite variety of green tea (3 different kinds? How do I know what I like?)
3. The xerox machine at school
4. Keirkegaard
5. Sunglasses.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Oh dear

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?

You will be smothered under a rug. You're a little anti-social, and may want to start gaining new social skills by making prank phone calls.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Friday, December 01, 2006


I know, I know, it's not official until Sunday. But it's advent-calendar season, at least, and that's enough for me. We (finally!) bought our tickets home today, and a good thing, too -- we weren't even able to get seats together on the way out, the flights are so full (and our only options were redeyes or a million different layovers and transfers (we took the redeye)). Hmpf.

Not much to report. A trip to the lumberyard this morning, followed by a very lazy day for me (including a two hour nap -- I was grouchy and decided I needed a time-out). It's December! Hurrah!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

Today was one of those days when I found myself wondering what it might be like to have a child. Such thoughts aren't rare of course -- I'm almost thirty, and Brian'll be inching into late-thirties territory come May. Some might even say we're adults (though they wouldn't say that whilst looking over our finances, or while evaluating our housekeeping skills, for that matter).

Anyway, all sorts of things trigger these thoughts -- friends getting ready to welcome their own bear cub into the world, pictures like this one, the little boy who stopped in front of Brian and I while we were on our way to the post office and cried out "I'm jumping up and down!!!!" while leaping clumsily into the air -- even the advent calender my dad sent (which looks just like the one my sister and I used to take turns opening as kids) got me thinking of the long slow march of time and the need for some sort of generational continuity.

One of our dog-park aquaintances runs a little dog walking business on the side. He's out of town this week, so Brian and I have taken over walking some of his clientelle, which includes a funny little pair of Maltese that Brian and I walked before I headed off for work today.

As little dogs go, this pair seem to fall into the cute-but-awful school -- neither smart nor socialized, and somehow undoglike in behavior, refusing to walk or be walked with any sort of discipline or enthusiasm, but rather dragging against their leashes, and alternately cowering from and attempting to chase pasing cars and pedestrians.

Despite all this, I do like these small dogs, and so when one of them (I never learned to keep them straight), ended up with a small remainder of poop stuck to his backside, I did what any responsible doglover would do, and attemted to scoop said remainder off, my hand safely wrapped in poop bags, as Brian distracted the dogs (now within the sight of home, and straining eagerly at their leashes) with the promise of invisible treats. Unfortunately, right in the midst of this delicate procedure, the dog's long lsutrous and fancy tail moved, creating a poop-smear flag that danced jauntily behind him for the rest of the walk home, mocking my efforts.

It's an oft-repeated bit of wisdom that pets -- dogs especially - can work as a stand in for actual human parenting. And as I Brian and I held the wiggling dog betweeen us in the bathroom, endeavouring to wash poop out of white fur, I realized that parenthood can wait.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

So not cooking dinner right now

I should be making carrot soup. I found a recipe, I've got the ingredients -- heck, I have enough carrots to fill a small village with carrot soup, thereby creating an underwater city of in-the-dark-seeing, orange inhabitants (our veggie box has been carrotacular these past few weeks).

But am I cooking? No. I'm eating goldfish and wondering if I have a toothache (or am I just tense?) and poking around on these here internets. Because apparently I am determined not to eat healthy, fresh or local. Ever. Ooh, I wonder if there are any brownies left.

So I found out today I will most likely not be doing Latin next semester -- the grad student who was the independant-study impetus is going to France for a year, and there's going to be an actual, formal class offered (the Classics department! It just doubled!), so I don't see much of a point in offering it around to anyone else. Ah well. The good news is that my life is a heckuva lot more managable, what with not having to prepare an extra course in a dead language I've never taught before.

Anywho. Brian's home from jujitsu. Best go see if we can't scrounge up some soup somehow. 'Night all.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Obviously, this posting every day is starting to wear

You know what song makes me angry? That "More Than Words" song by Extreme (do you italicise band names? I'm too lazy to check). I mean, how lame is that song? Ooooh, how do I know if you love me if you won't have sex with me? Oh, boo hoo, I'm so pensive. Plus, the hair. Ugh.

Hmmm. According to Wikepedia, that song came out in 1990. Maybe it's time I let that anger go, eh? I mean, I can remeber hearing that song (and being annoyed by the lyrics) on the bus on the way home from Junior High. I'll have to add 'get over Extreme anger' to the List of Things I Need to Do Before Turning Thirty in April (ha! what an awesome addition to any to-do list).

And it's entirely possible that I'm just dirty minded. Cause reading over the lyrics, all he ever asks for is some hugging.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Oh, so many things to take in over the past 24 hours. Last night, my friend Hope took me to see Cat Power at the Fillmore ("to cheer you up," she said, which makes me wonder how down I've seemed lately). Whatever the reeason, I'm glad she persuaded me to go (easy to do: just hand me a ticket and say 'here'). Chan Marshall's such a lovely singer, and so endearingly awkward on stage (usually the awkwardness of others bothers me -- I'm so shy and clumsy myself that I find it excruciating when it's reflected back at me. But this was just such an honest and straightforward awkwardness, it was welcoming).

Then tonight we went and saw Vajra Sky at the Rec Vic on Haight Street, followed by drinks and food at the Alembic. Plus to top it all off I'm reading Seneca's "On the Shortness of Life," from which I get this morsel:

Of all people only those are at leisure who make who make time for philosophy, only those are really alive. For they not only keep a good watch over their own lifetimes, but annex every age to theirs. All the years that have passed before them are added to their own. Unless we are very ungrateful, all those distinguished founders of holy creeds were born for us and prepared for us a way of life. By toil of others we are led into the presence of things which have been brought from darkness into light. We are excluded from no age, but we have access to them all; and if we are prepared in loftiness of mind to pass beyond the narrow confines of human weakness, there is a long period of time through which we can roam. We can argue with Socrates, express doubt with Carneades, cultivate retirement with Epicurus, overcome human nature with the Stoics, and exceed limits with the Cynics. Since nature allows us to enter into a partnership with every age, why not turn from this brief and transient spell of time and give ourselves wholeheartedly to the past, which is limitless and eternal and can be shared with better folk than we?

What more can I add to that? Sometimes you just gotta be mute.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

One of my favorite poems

Leda and the Swan, by W.B. Yeats

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By his dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
How can anybody, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins, engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

One of the things I like about this is the way that it presents the stark inevitability of the story -- from Helen's conception, we go to the "broken wall, the burning roof and tower/And Agamemnon dead." It's just so beautifully done.

The cat is objecting to my typing and I should go (I'm jarring him slightly everytime I move, and he gets this look in his eye. Could I be any more of a tim'rous beastie?).

In other news, I want this. Anyone got 60,000 Euros lying around? I could be your hermit-for-hire.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I simply can't stop eating beer bread. And it's so easy to make, and the house smells so good when it's baking, and oh! is my life hard.

Here's the recipe. I made it up (using half-remembered recipes from my youth and whatever I could find in the kitchen) Thanksgiving morning:

3 cups flour (this was the one thing I had to run out and get Thanksgiving day, and they only! had! white! flour! at the one grocery store still open. So the bread I've been playing Chronos-and-his-children with is made completely of unhealthy and uncomplex carbohyrates. Oh well).

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt (plus a little bit more)

3 tablespoons sugar

approx 3 palm-fulls of fennel seeds

a little more than that of sesame seeds

about half a stalk's worth of rosemary leaves

grated cheese (I've been using Pecorino Romano, which has a nice sharpness that goes well with the yeasty beer flavor. As for amounts, I have no idea -- I've just been going with what looks right - maybe 1/4 a cup?).

1 bottle (12 oz) beer (I've been using Sierra Nevada).

Preheat the oven to 375. Mix together the dry ingredients, then add the beer. Stir until you've got a nice dough-like consistancy (you might need to add more flour if it's too sticky). Oil up a bread pan and plop it in. Bake for about an hour.

So yeah. It's pretty yummy. And you've got to start eating it, see? 'Cause if we all gain a few pounds at once, we'll look the same as ever relative to one another, and won't seem to have gained any weight at all. And that's what makes America great.

You know, now that I think of it, we totally have oat flour in the pantry. Hurrah! Time to try out a new recipe!

Friday, November 24, 2006


Sleepy and restless today. Perhaps my tofurky did not agree with me. But we got a fair amount done today, nonetheless: walking and feeding two (well three if you count ours) housefuls of pets, making a long overdue trip to RadioShack (finally I have toner cartidges again) and generally cleaning up after yesterday's messy cooking extravaganza (we went to a friend's house, but I managed to trash our kitchen anyhow, even though all I made was beet salad and beer bread. Cooking is an art. Oh, yes).

In other news, I've become addicted to looking at Craig's List real estate listings for other cities. Do you have any idea how cheap land is on Prince Edward Island? Or apartments in Crete?. Oh! Or a secluded island home!

I'm ridiculous. Someone really needs to take my internets away.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Simple Gifts

Oh, I'm just so gloomy today. Hardly appropriate for thankgiving. So, in honor of the day, a list of things I'm thankful for:

1. My writing window looks out at ground level. This part of our apartment, towards the front of the house, is partially below ground, so I look out at the garden at the garden's own perspecive, flush with the clover and well beneath the roses. It reminds me of when I was a kid, and loved looking at things from underwater. The simplest change of persoective does so much sometimes.

2. Brian is a wonder. He's talented and educated and possesses a native intelligence about the workings of things that puts my absentminded movements through the world to shame. Plus, as my mother noted this past summer, "he's very good-looking" (and now my mother's blushing).

3. We got fresh herbs in our CSA box this week, and the kitchen smells like a holiday.

4. I have a wonderful mentor at school (the word 'mentor' seems bandied about a lot in buisiness contexts these days, but to me it'll always be the goddess Athena appearing in disguise to Telemachus). He's got me teaching Latin next semester, and is almost entirely responsible for the rest of my teaching career as well.

5. The cat is fat, and likes to lie next to me, snoring.

6. I've got more good books to read right now than I know what to do with. Some I can't mention because they're Christmas presents to be (I have to make sure they're good before I go giving them away after all), but they are, each one of them, so satisfying and fascinating in their own right that I'm having trouble deciding which one to pick up next, and so just keep handling each one in turn.

7. My family is far away, but I know they love me.

Seven seems a good number. Happy thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Another poem today, because I'm working

Gnosticism VI
by Anne Carson, from Decreation

Walking the wild mountain in a storm I saw the great trees throw their arms.
Ruin! they cried and seemed aware

the sublime is called a "science of anxiety."
What do men and women know of it? -- at first

not even realizing they were naked!
The language knew.

Watch "naked" (arumim) flesh slide into "cunning" (arum) snake in the next verse.

And suddenly a vacancy, a silence,

is somewhere inside the machine.
Veins pounding.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Like a little motor

My hand is on the cat and the cat is om my lap. Kind of a funny sensation: purring in three dimensions. The cat's so much frendlier now that the weather's cold. He comes running to greet me when I get home, and pops up next to me sometimes in the night, his fur still cool and smelling like outside as he kneads a soft patch by my head.

Anyway. Working on a plan of attack for Latin next semester; I'm thinking we'll work our way up to Ovid, then spend as much time as possible on the Metamorphoses. I figure it's good fun for poets and gossip-lovers alike.

Tomorrow i've got to turn something in for workshop. I'll most likely go with Metis revisions, unless inspiration strikes sometime in the night. It could happen.

Mmmm. Cat is warm. All we need is a cozy fireplace and a library. And a haunted tower with a secret passage that leads to a damp, neglected crypt. Or something.

Monday, November 20, 2006


by Tom Clark, from Night Sky

Black doldrums, then a stir, then tackle snapping —
Which would you prefer, the calm after, during
Or before the storm? Anxious news flutters
Its broadsides across our ragged, tattered
Sails; lightning darkens, and it rains more
Than if the sun, drunk the night before,
Staggered by a wave, fell below the hatches;
While the moon, tossed overboard, washed ashore
On that island which no sailor reaches,
Returns to haunt our sea-locked ship, and night
Comes back to unsettle restive stagnant day.
A rotten state, finally, bearded by flies,
Dogged by the death of the wind at noon
And the breathless simoon at evening;
Black doldrums, then a stir, then tackle snapping.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Instructions for Being Sick

1. While reading, realize you have a headache.

2. Decide to rest your eyes for a moment, see if you feel better.

3. Sleep for five hours.

4. Wake up, feeling groggy and feverish.

5. Decide to read a bit, see how you feel.

6. Repeat step one.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Headache plus crashy Firefox. What better recipe for snappy blogging?

Do you want to see my desktop image? Of course you do:

Friday, November 17, 2006

Just a report today.

Oh, I just don't have the posting in me today. I'm neither happy nor angsy enough to generate blog content.

Brian got up early today and cleaned the house. The house is so much pleasanter clean, but I somehow never think of that when it's dirty. You'd think cause and effect would be easy enough to figure out.

I found out today I'll be teaching agian next semester. The course the committee chose (wow, there's a lot of double letters in 'committee') isn't my number one favorite of all the courses I proposed, but I'm thrilled nonetheless.

So,I'm working on Latin for tonight, and reading Marcus Aurilius.

Eh, that's all I got. Take that, NaBloPoMo.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Thursday List

Five Things About Me You May or May Not Know:

1. My face's overweening youthfulness is well-established. At twenty-two, I got carded on my way in to see "Fight Club" -- an R (or was it PG 13?) rated movie. At 29, I'm still semi-regularly carded for alchohol, and the first thing I remember after waking up from surgery this past fall was the nurse saying "how old are you honey? 'Cause you look 12" (in my post-surgical haze, I felt obligated to tell some sort of joke at this, and was really frustrated that I couldn't think of one).

2. My lucky color is green. My favorite color is infinitely mutable (right now it's orange), but green has been my lucky color since the third grade. I've never lost a game of parchesi, I always play green and that's that (I also have not played parchesi since the fifth grade, for fear of losing my streak).

3. My favorite number is four. I don't know why. I also like the word twelve. I can remember, as a kid, looking forward to saying, "but I'm only twelve!" when called upon to performe some great feat. As near as I can recall, the situation never arose.

4. I don't particularly like cake. Cheesecake I despise*. I do like chocolate, though.

5. For the longest time I was convinced that, at some point in the distant and hazy past, I had known how to make sandcastles with rooms and hallways inside. As a child I was very frustrated that I couldn't remember how this was done. My sister could make timy wigwams out of moss and twigs. My twigs always snapped or catapulted the moss off their backs. Which doesn't have anything to do with the sandcastles, really -- I just wanted the list to look symmetrical (with long entries on either end).

* EDIT: As I was falling asleep last night, I got to thinking: I don't think I actually dislike cheescake -- I often like it once I'm eating it. It just doesn't tempt me at all for some reason. So I guess I'm against the idea of cheesecake. Lemon mirangue, too.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lazy Wednesday

Class, then wine with poet friends. Now I'm on the couch with fizzy water and cheese and crackers awaiting a late dinner with Brian. Not a bad life, but what I really want is a way to segue into this image (via Boing Boing):

It makes me larf.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sunny Tuesday

Sure enough, it's sunny today and I miss the rain. Everything's so green though. That's the odd paradox of winter in San Francisco: it's cold and rainy, but never so cold that things stop growing, so the rain only makes things greener, pushing out the gold dry grass and replacing it with bright new growth.

I've found out I'll be teaching at least on class (an independent study in Latin translation) next semester, but I'm still waiting to hear back about the rest. My aim is to get enough teaching gigs to quit my day job and just write & teach. Here's hoping anyway. I do like my office job (as office jobs go, anyway), but I'd so much rather just structure my own schedule around doing the things I want to do (as opposed to the things I don't mind doing, so log as I'm getting paid.

Anyway, speaking of which. Back to writing for the morning, then off to work.

Monday, November 13, 2006

No prayers for November to linger longer

Actually, I'm rather enjoying the rain. But, gah! has it rained a lot the past few days, that chill-bone, tree-stripping rain particular to November. Today was just so chilly and wet, which made the poem we read for Keats class seem as if it were written for an entirely different season (and to be fair, it was written in September, which is a season unto itself):

Ode to Autumn, by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

And speaking of Keats and other heroes who died too young, Achilles by Elizabeth Cook is proving to be brilliant. Definitely reccomended for the literature dork in your life.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Chilly Sunday

Oooh, it's so cold here -- low 60's according to my widgets! Brian's usually the more-easily chilled of the two of us, but for some reason he's decided the house needs airing, so I'm sitting here, all bundled against the cold, while he sits obliviously next to the open door in nothing but a tee shirt (and pants, you dirty-minded guttersnipes). Brrrrr.

I just finished mopping the kitchen floor. I'm such a hopeless mopper -- I really just moved the dirt around a bit. But it actually does look much nicer, and I feel like I've done something at least, so I can justify taking the rest of the day to hit used bookstores with my friend Justin. I'm probably not going to buy much, as I could blow through my whole savings if I allowed myself free reign in bookstores, but the copy of Achilles (by Elizabeth Cook) that I ordered through Modern Times last week came in on Friday, and picking that up should satisfy my book buying urge.

Noonynoonynooo. I guess that's it for now.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

an open letter to the monster cat

Herr Katze:

I understand that, as the weather gets colder, it is only natural to seek out the body heat of other warm blooded critters. But would you please stop lying on my chest with your face scant centimeters from my face? It's kind of creeping me out.


One Who Feeds You

PS: I would like to get up now.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Ten things I've been enjoying lately

1. The latest issue of Tin House (esp. the interview with Lynda Barry).

2. "The Red Balloon" on You Tube (Oh, except it was removed for 'terms of use' violations. Poo. Nevermind).

3. Dream Angus, by Alexander McCall Smith (thanks for the reccomendation, mom!).

4. Soup with leeks and potatoes in it.

5. Wearing sweaters and generally bundling against the chilly fall weather.

6. The 'Dykes to Watch Out For' archive on Planet Out.

7. Sneezing

8. Homemade pizza with tomatoes and green olives and yummy melty cheese.

9. The wine with a cowboy on it that we got over at Bi Rite.

10. Latin.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Maybe I’m amazed

In a comment over on Tricia’s blog earlier today, I mentioned how reluctant I was to move to San Francisco lo these many years ago. Nothing against the city itself, really – at the time I’d never even been to San Francisco, and could hardly imagine what it’d be like (I didn’t even imagine there’d be hills. How could I not know about the hills?). It was the change that frightened me: the huge, life altering, move-across-the-country-and-what-do-you-mean-I’ve-got-to-fly??? of it all.

But looking back, I can’t believe that the rightness of our move out here, or our lives out here was ever in question. Everything in our lives, it seems, has come together in amazing and unexpected ways. Case in point:

Brian's latest work-in progress

When we lived in Massachusetts, Brian wasn’t really sculpting – one piece a year for Christmas, maybe, but that was it. I wasn’t writing, either. In the going-on-four years we’ve been here, the essence of our lives have been transformed, brought forth from itself in ways that are at once the most natural and the most amazing things.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

When the Dog Bites, When the Bee Stings

I really love teaching. It's without a doubt the hardest thing I've ever done (think you know about something? Try preparing lectures on it and then fielding random questions about that and everything else you know for three hours), but it's also absolutely, positively the most rewarding job I've ever had. Think of all the best conversations you've had in your life, and multiply them times a million. Plus you get to make people read things you love. What's not to like?

It is hard. And I can't beleive how busy I am (I'm teaching one class this semester. One. How do people ever do this full time?). My writing is paradoxically hindered by teaching and fed by it. One of my old writing profs used to say that teaching takes us a lot of oxygen, which is true, but oxygen's rare on really high mountain peaks too, right? And people seek those out. Once you get used to how thin the air is, you can enjoy the view.

In other news, yay!

via boingboing

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

And now, a bookshelf interlude

One of the first things I do when I find myself at someone's house is start poking through their bookshelves. Partly it's curiousity about the bookshelf-owner -- do they like Jane Austen? Do they own a copy of The Story of O? And part of it is that I'm just plain addicted to reading. I can't go a day without it, and can't have any text in front of me without wanting to read it.

When I was a kid, my mom would often ask me to clear the table for dinner, only to find me a half and hour later, completely absorbed in the leftover newspapers from breakfast. I'm the world's slowest filer, too -- do you have any idea the things that get stuck in files? They're facscinating. And don't get me started on the internet -- for every hour of research I do, I spend at least two hours on blogs or wikipedia or true life ghost story pages.

Anyway. Here's a picture of my bookshelf (the one in the living room, by the front door):


Monday, November 06, 2006

Oh, Monday is such a very long day.

I just got home at 11:00, having left the house at 9:30. But I do love Mondays. I get to have my Keats class, and I get to hang out and drink beer with poets afterwards. Which is why this post is so short. The End.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A bit of what I'm working on

The Age of the Earth:

First there was the void. And from the void were born the primal things: the earth and the pit below the earth, and gloom to fill the pit, and love (also known as desire), and night.

Night was the world’s first mother. She lay with Gloom and gave birth to Day.

Next Earth brought forth from herself Uranus, the sky, to cover her. And Uranus lay down upon the Earth, and they had many children.

The Principle of Intrusive Relationships:

When an igneous intrusion cuts across a formation of sedimentary rock, it can be determined that the igneous intrusion is younger than the sedimentary rock.

First came triplets, the Hecatonchires, all boys. They were strong and wild, and Earth laughed as she watched them, each hundred-armed and fifty headed, as they gadded clumsily about, stumbling and interrupting and doing many-handed somersaults, which is really the only way to do things when you have one hundred hands. And Earth was happy. She soon gave birth again to three more: the Cyclopes. They were loud and clever, and so she named them Lightening, Thunder and Bright.

Uranus lay with her again, and in time she gave birth to a dozen children: six boys and six girls. These children were beautiful, well-formed. They moved freely between their mother and father. Some guided the sun, and planets in their courses; others were more conceptual, and embodied fertility and memory.

Uranus loved these handsome children, but despised their siblings. He hated to see the hundred-armed boys crawling on their mother, their rough flesh an affront to her purity. He hated the flash of the Cyclopes’ hammers, hated their alien rumbling cries.

So he exiled them from his sight. The Hecatonchires he cast into Tartarus, beneath the bed where their mother Earth lay, and the Cyclopes he forced beneath Earth’s mountains. There they scrabbled amongst the hot, fractured rocks, living only on sulfate minerals and hydrogen split from water by uranium’s radioactivity.

The Principle of Cross-cutting Relationships:

Faults are younger than the rocks they cut.

Earth loved all her children, and could not forgive their father’s cruelty. She sang lullabies in the dark, pressing her lips against the rough mattress, and could hear her hundred armed boys clap and moan. When the Cyclopes lit their forge, she would cry out in pain, and Thunder would echo back a rumbling cry.

The universe in those days was a bedroom. It was small and dusty and all that was in there was an old bed and a wardrobe with a door that stuck in hot weather. Earth lay in the bed, broad-breasted, the secure foundation of all forever. She smelled like copper and wore a flannel nightgown.

She mourned her exiled children, and could not bear to look at the sky, her husband. Finally she went to her free children, the Titans, with a sickle she had forged from her own flinty flesh.

“Take this,” she said, “and end your father’s cruelty; set your brothers free.” The elder five Titans trembled, fearing their father, the distant lord of stars. Only the youngest, Chronus, dared take up the scythe against his father, for he, of all his brothers and sisters had no calling, and embodied nothing but himself.

He secreted himself behind his mother’s bedroom door waited in ambush. When his father was distracted, he leapt forth from behind the door, swinging wildly. So Uranus was unmanned, and his castrated flesh sunk into the sea. And where his blood and semen hit the Earth, giants and nymphs and the goddesses of vengeance were born.

Earth took the ancient ocean as her second husband, and life began: trees and flowers springing forth, and animals, and the first men creeping from the folds of her nightgown.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

And Saturday, too!

Isn't it frustrating how, when you're in a funk, it's completely impossible to remember what being happy feels like? I know I was happy just last week. Ecstatic, even. Poop.

Brian's off at his studio. I drove him away with my histronic discontentedness, what with the sighing and the moaning and the flying off the handle at things which are really fine most of the time. Maybe falling to the floor and demanding he find a sane girlfriend is not the best way to keep a man. Hm.

Monster cat is very much attached to me today. I can't sit or lie down without him curling up on top of me. Frustrating and comforting all at once.

I wish I were a lighthouse keeper (why? What would lighthouse keeping do for me that house keeping does not? I think I just want aloneness, wet rocks, a snug room, and the wild sea). Stupid automated lighthouses. Stupid sonar.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday friday

I don't work on Fridays. I don't have school, and I sit around the house and think of all the work I need to be doing... lecture notes for Wednesday, line-edits for workshop this Sunday, reading for my Keats class on Monday. Plus housework, and writing, and I should be going to the gym, too, to try and keep too much scar tissue from building up inside me, making the next surgeon's job more difficult.

Have I mentioned that I hate my scars? When the bandages first came off, I loved them -- they were so narrow and elegant and neat looking. But now the lower one has gotten all raised and bumpy and just horrible looking and I hate it. And there's nothing I can do, really, except smear more cocoa butter on it, and feel its ugly wormy edges, and wish I'd somehow done better at forming scars, that my body didn't have this embarrassing tendancy towards excess.

So anyway, I have plenty that I should be doing, and even plenty of fun, interesting books that I could be procrastinating with, but instead I'm sitting here, with the cat as usual, wishing I could think of something to do.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tonight the moon has a silver ring

There's a ring around the moon tonight, which always makes me a bit morbid and over-dramatic. I blame childhood exposure to poetry. It seeps into your bones at that age.

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintery sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy flax,
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
That ope in the month of May.

The Skipper he stood beside the helm,
His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
The smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake an old Sailor,
Had sailed the Spanish Main,
"I pray thee, put into yonder port,
for I fear a hurricane.

"Last night the moon had a golden ring,
And to-night no moon we see!"
The skipper, he blew whiff from his pipe,
And a scornful laugh laughed he.

Colder and louder blew the wind,
A gale from the Northeast,
The snow fell hissing in the brine,
And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amain
The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
Then leaped her cable's length.

"Come hither! come hither! my little daughter,
And do not tremble so;
For I can weather the roughest gale
That ever wind did blow."

He wrapped her warm in his seaman's coat
Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
And bound her to the mast.

"O father! I hear the church bells ring,
Oh, say, what may it be?"
"Tis a fog-bell on a rock bound coast!" --
And he steered for the open sea.

"O father! I hear the sound of guns;
Oh, say, what may it be?"
Some ship in distress, that cannot live
In such an angry sea!"

"O father! I see a gleaming light.
Oh say, what may it be?"
But the father answered never a word,
A frozen corpse was he.

Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
With his face turned to the skies,
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
On his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
That saved she might be;
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave,
On the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear,
Through the whistling sleet and snow,
Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
Tow'rds the reef of Norman's Woe.

And ever the fitful gusts between
A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf,
On the rocks and hard sea-sand.

The breakers were right beneath her bows,
She drifted a dreary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew
Like icicles from her deck.

She struck where the white and fleecy waves
Looked soft as carded wool,
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
Like the horns of an angry bull.

Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
With the masts went by the board;
Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,
Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,
Lashed close to a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
The salt tears in her eyes;
And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-weed,
On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of Norman's Woe!

I used to love this poem when I was a kid. A sort of horrified love -- I was afraid of rings around the moon and sea weed, and had weird nightmares with cartoon sea captains lashing themselves to masts on dark stormy nights (am I just making this up, or did Mighty Mouse do a version of this? Is that just my id?).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Oh, November. I'm not so fond of you.

I mean, November's nice and all, with the Thankgiving and the pies and the harvest and stuff, but I'm really not digging it this year. I know, I know: we're just one day in. But that one day? It has been sucky.

It all started last night. The jelly beans my co-worker generously shared got me sick. Like, literally sick, with the urping and the moaning and everything. Not exactly what I needed to get me going on my lecture notes for Agamemnon. Then 10 people were shot in my neighborhood.* 10! Shot! With guns! And then I lay awake all night imagining how horrible if Brian got shot, or I did, and what if a stray bullet came through the window while I was up late working at my desk, and Brian slept through it and woke up to a dead me on the living room floor.

Anyway, most of today was merely mediocre. My class tonight was low-energy and blah, and I really couldn't seem to engage the students for any length of time. And then I made an embarrasing mistake and gave my students incorrect information which I'm going to have to correct next week (nothing says 'I am an authority on the subject matte who you can trust' like telling people to forget what you told them the week before). And then I opened a letter from my insurance company letting me know that they are "reviewing" whether or not to pay the latest of my medical bills, which totals $55,499.15.

Which is kind of an awesome realization: I spent (more than) $55,499.15 in only three days. And I barely got out of bed! But think of all the better ways I couldv'e incurred that much debt in three days! Brian and I could have gone out for Thai food in Thailand! I could have paid off my student loans -- and gone out for pizza!

Anyway. I'm sure the rest of November will be just peachy. For tonight, though, I think I'll just pretend it's April. Happy Easter everybody!

*okay, so nine people were shot. This morning the paper said ten. Humor me, I'm grouchy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I'm trapped under a sleeping cat

I'm working on a poem for my next workshop, and my feet keep coming out all wrong:

Métis (a fragment after Keats)


Volcanic Age: young gods but newly bound,
And she a barefoot girl with owl's eyes
The source's maid, Oceanus' sound
And gentle counsel; mother of the wise
Girl Tritogenia, migrainous surprise
Athena: seahorse child of Zeus' crown.
Wise Counsel slept mornings in, hair unbound
Gainst Zeus’ thund’rous arms, soft igneous thighs
Like rocks smoothed soft by rivers; longing lovers drown’d.


As dreamers sleep conjoin’d in Jungian fens,
Their exit breaths informing ev’nings gloam,
And lovers drown in exhalations -- men
Drawn off the path by light from phantom homes
As Aphrodite, luminescent, roams
The cookie-batter continents again.
So Métis, turning in her sleep, a wren
Spelunking snugly in her mountain home,
As biggest boy exhaled a soft psookhen.

But really. You try fitting Tritogenia and Oceanus into a Spencerian stanza. And that psookhen bit? Totally not sure about it. But see the liguistic path from 'psyche? Eh? Eh?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

An Update for my Mother, Who Wishes I Would Update More.

Oh, hello. The cat is sound asleep and I'm sitting in a pile of books and papers. I had class this morning at ten and stayed up 'til four last night. Somehow that seems to be the way my mind wants to work; it gets more and more awake as the night goes on, and then by the time I force myself to bed (because the room is a little wobbly and my eyes keep wanting to shut) it's racing so fast that I can hardly sleep. I didn't mind getting up five hours later, either. Though I did take a bit of a nap this afternoon.

I'm working on course proposals for next semester. One I like right now is 'Odysseus and the Search for Self' looking at the Odyssey, Philoctites, and Ajax. And maybe that new Margaret Atwood book. I'm not sure.

I'm also applying of to San Francisco State for a second BA (in Classics this time). Every time I tell one of my old professors, they say I should go straight for the Masters and just make up the languages somehow (I mean go to class and stuff, not re-invent them). I wonder if they think I'm smarter or more learned than I am, or if they have a more realistic sense of what'd be expected of me in a Masters program.

Part of me just wants to be a kid again, an undergrad only smarter this time, happier. Better dressed.

I need to call my seester. Hi, seester.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


So I was supposed to go into surgery yesterday. Unfortunately, though, my insurance won't cover this whole shebang until January (when, apparently, it'll cease to be a pre-existing condition), so here I am, out in the world, neither hooked to a morphine drip nor free of my schwannomic influence. Alas. (It just occured to me that I could start blaming my schwannoma for all sorts of things. "Excuse my absence from work today... I am under a schwannomic pall... What? I must pay for these groceries? But my schwannoma, it is hungry). Anyhow.

I'm kind of sad not to have this all done with, but I can't say that i regretted not being in surgery yesterday (though I was in an odd mood, like perhaps I really shouldn't be around at work and in class. And I slept til noon, perhaps in protest).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


This is totally a guilt post (oh, don't you wish it were a gilt post, with pretty golden doodly bits all over?). Its late, I've been working on my lesson for class tomorrow, and suddenly, urgently, I decided that I Must Update My Blog Now. So, hi. Here I am.

Again, this is probably old news to my 5 readers, but just in case any of y'all aren't among the folks I email recently, here's the update on Herr Lump: benign. A benign tumor of the nerve sheath, to be specific. Schwannoma,. It's even fun to say.

The only bad news in all this (and it's not that bad, really, unless you're me) is that I have to go back in for surgery in two weeks so that a real live neurosurgeon can actually take the tumor out. But after that, all should be fine. Which is good, because, surgery? Not a fan.

I'm actually kind of excited to have elegant little scars along my collarbone, once all this mess heals. I can be a woman with a past, a possible ex-sword fighter or wildebeast wrangler. A wombat chaser. These are all starting to sound like euphamisms.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I don't want to go to work today. Also, I don't want to get out of bed. I had a dream last night that I was Harry Potter.

Monday, September 04, 2006


The cat is sleeping on my lap. Which is to say the bulk of him is on my lap -- I'd say that approximately 60% of the cat is currently above my pelvic region. His head is nestled in a pile of papers stacked next to me on the couch, his front legs twitching languidly to one side. His back paws are propped up on the couch arm, stacked awkwardly as if he just fell from a great height (he hasn't). He is snoring.

I taught my first week of class last week. It was fun, but I'm kind of panicking about the fact that I have to teach again this week. Me. Teach. Again. Eek.

I'm also going in for surgery this week. This is most likely no surprise to any of you. All (guessing here) five? of you already know about the lump, the inconclusive biopsy, the surgery this week to take the whole thing out. If you didn't know (or even if you did) don't worry. It's more than likely nothing; I'm fine. Well, I'm depressed and anxious. But yeah, that's pretty much 'Tuesday' for me, anyway.

The cat just sort of rolled over, and he's now snuggling with my laptop's power supply. It's cold tonight in San Francisco; I don't blame him.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

And I Play Ma Jongg with him.

SF Pride 2006
Originally uploaded by Oldvidhead.
I was just poking around on Flickr, and found this photo of my friend David (aka Mrs. Vera) from this year's Pride. Mrs. Vera is actually a collaborative work between David and his partner Michael Johnstone, and you should totally check out their work here.

This is one of the things I love about living in San Francisco. Despite the high rents, despite the gentrification, there are still artists here, living and working and playing Ma Jongg on Mondays.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


So I ran into Armistead Maupin the other day. Literally.

At least that's what I told my sister when I called her a few minutes later. I told her that we'd collided, and I'd said excuse me, and that a carful of men had ridden past in a converable, singing the 'lonely goatherd' song from The Sound of Music. This, I told her, was the reason I lived in the Castro. Stuff like this happens all the time.

In reality, there was a good three-foot saftey zone between the Armistead and I. We made passing eye contact, if even that. He was looking over something that looked like a bill, and I was regretting my shirt-choice and realizing I was late to work. No words were spoken, no limbs intertwined or even bumped. I didn't see the 'lonely goatherd' men until I went around the corner. Mary? Forgive me. I lied. I embellished.

But that's what writers do. We make the truth better. How do I know (well, besides the fact that I've been exaggerating since I learned how to talk)? Armistead told me (and a roomful of other writers) tonight, at the Novel Writing and Publshing Seminar at 826 Valencia. So there.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Uncanny Valley

A moth is sitting on my ring finger as I type this. It feels so strange -- not just tickly-strange, but unheimlich, like I'm breaking some deep-set and rooted taboo. Just my luck: sit down at my desk to finally write, next thing you know, I'm the Moth Bride.

Anyway. So I'm done with school. That might be fairly temporary though; I'm looking at a few grad programs (one a Ph.D, one yet another MFA), both of which have deadlines looming, both of which I might apply to. I say 'might' because I'm having trouble deciding which to go with, and because, well, I'm busy enough already.

Busy with what, you may ask, O imaginary reader. 'This and that,' I'd reply, and then we'd both sit and ponder how much of our lives are spent this-or-thating, and before you know it whole weeks dissapear out of the 'future' drawer, only to show up crammed inside in the overstuffed 'past' drawer and oh God the moth is going for my beer.

Anyway (did you know Brian has started counting how many 'anyways' it takes me to finally get to my point? Not all the time, that would be horrible, just sometimes, when I'm being especially pedantic and digressive). Anyway.

I have been busy. With the Day Job, which takes up an awful lot of air, despite only being 6 hours, thrice a week, and 3 hours, twice a week. And with getting ready for teaching next semester, which entails lots of reading & listening to lectures-on-tape, and basically giving myself my education thus far all over again, so that I don't feel underqualified. And with not writing, which takes up more time than you'd imagine.

Meanwhile summer's here, and even though seasons in San Francisco bear almost no resemblance to the ones I had growing up in Massachusetts, there's always that funny tug of memory when the weather changes (like the distinctive beach-ball smell of sunblock, which pulls me, for a moment, back into every summer day I've ever lived all at once).

And now I'm thinking about summer, and I've lost my train of thought entirely.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

dun dun DONE!

There it is, kids! I turn it in tomorrow.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Time travel

I just got this email. I've got to say, my timing's impeccable.

(The following is an e-mail from the past, composed on Sunday, April 17, 2005, and sent via

Dear FutureMe,

Well, I hope you have (almost finished) your mfa by now, and nothing in our life has changed drasticly for the worse. Brain's great, eh? Six years by now! You go, me!

Give my love to everyone,


Friday, April 14, 2006


So, last night when I finally crawled off to bed at around 4:00 or so (I don't know why I can't get to bed at a normal hour anymore, but that's topic for another day), I was thinking about how lucky Brian and I have been since we moved here. I've finished not one but three degrees, he's started making art again and found a studio space to do it in, we've made a whole new set of wonderful friends and reconnected with old ones whe had lost touch with, and -- the most astounding luck of all, we have lived for nearly a year now practically rent free, exchanging odd jobs and cat-sitting for our apartment.

This housing situation has made it possible for me to devote all my attention to school, for Brian to accept fewer web design jobs and work more on his sculptures, and has introduced us to yet another round of really great people, including our landlady Jana and our upstairs neighbor, Ira.

So, the class I'll be teaching at New College is just the latest in what seems like an endless stream of good news. And going to bed last night, I couldn't help but wonder, in that it's-4AM-and-God-I'm-tired way, if maybe we didn't deserve it. After all, I've made so many mistakes in my life, messed up so many good oppurtunities. Could the universe really still have such a store of good luck set aside for me? Shouldn't a meteor be hurtling towards us or something?

So when Brian woke me up this morning to tell me the cat was missing, I couldn't help but see it as fate's fickle finger pressing down. Nine-One-One -- the cat that is -- tends to be a homebody. He'll usually hang out in whatever room we're in when we're home, and when he does go outside (there's a cat door built in to the back door, and he can come and go at will) he usually just sticks to the porch or wanders into one of the adjoining yards. It's very, very rare that he won't come when he's called, particularly when we're holding treats.

But this morning he didn't come, and he didn't come. Brian and I scoured the house and yard, checking every place we thought a cat might get trapped, or (god forbid) hide if he were sick or wounded. We pressed our ear to the floor, listening for faint meows from the crawlspace below the house and poked through the construction site next door. I even checked the refirgerator, on the off chance that he'd jumped in when I got myself a glass of water before bed.

Finally, we just decided we'd have to wait, and that if he wasn't home by 3 or 4 this afternoon, we'd start printing up lost cat signs and knocking on neighbor's doors. We were hoping he'd just wandered in to someone else's kitchen, or maybe fallen asleep in a patch of sunlight too far from our yard to hear us calling. I tried to work on my thesis, but couldn't concentrate. Finally, I just decided to take a book and lie down for a while, hoping my nerves would settle.

I hadn't even made it through one chapter when the cat walked in, looking sheepish but otherwise fine. We picked him up and hugged him (and for once he didn't complain about being held) and fed him an obscene amount of treats. And he's here now, purring and snoring and generally being his awful cute self.

I guess we're just lucky.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Poetry Thursday, plus good news

First the good news: I just found out I will be teaching in the fall, a course called Revenge, Justice, & Civilization: The Trojan War & the Classical Tradition, which was honestly my favorite of the three proposals that I put together. I am very excited, and very nervous, and very very wound up right now.

So, with the Trojan War as our theme, here's an excerpt from Christopher Logue's All Day Permanent Red, his reinterpretation of the battle scenes from Homer's Iliad.


Silence and light

   The earth
And its attendant moon
(Neither of great importance
But beautiful and dignified)
Making their way around the sun.

  Bread trucks have begun to stream
across the vast plateau,
fair skies, high cumulous cloud --
the birds are in full throat
as the sun lights up the east.
   Who is it sees
Set in the north Agean sea, their coasts
Nosegays of seaweed tossing Ida's snow,
The Isles of Imbros and Samothrace?
   And over there -- grapes ghosts and vocal grottoes --
Greece. Above it Macedon,
Its wooded folds declining til they meet
Those of Carpathia and Kagan Gorge,
Through which, fed by a hundred tributaries since
It crossed the northern instep of the Alps,
The Danuge reappears.
   Eyes to Italy
(Where squirrels go from coast to coast and never touch the ground)
Then up, over her cyclorama peaks
Whose snow became before the fire before the wheele, the Rhine,
Below whose estuaries beneath an endless sky,
Sand baars and sabre grass, salt flats and travelling dunes
Lead west, until, green in their shallow sea
That falls away into the Atlantic deeps
He sees the Islands of the West.
   He who? Why, God, of course.
Who sighs before He looks
Back to the ridge that is, save for a million footprints,
Empty now.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Oh really I'm fine

I shouldn't blog while it's raining. It's never anything a break in the clouds and a walk through the puddles won't fix.
I've been having trouble with sleeping lately. Not with falling asleep, I can do that fine. I just can't seem to stop sleeping for hours on end.

At first I was staying up late working, going to bed at 4:00 AM and sleeping in til noon. But for the last week or so, it's been shifting. I'll go to bed earlier, but sleep til one. And waking, I won't feel particularly rested, as I seem to have the strangest dreams right before I wake up. The predominant theme of these dreams seems to be guilt (my own), and sometimes retribution (other people's). Also fish. I've always been afraid of fish.

Tune in next week for more Nora goes stark raving bonkers!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Heck, why not have poetry Sunday, then, too.

It is national poetry month, after all.

The Good-Morrow
John Donne

I wonder by my troth, what thou, and I
Did, till we lov'd? were we not wean'd till then ?
But suck'd on countrey pleasures, childishly ?
Or snorted we in the seaven sleepers den ?
T'was so ; but this, all plesures fanices bee.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desir'd, and got, t'was but a dream of thee

And now good morrow to our waking soules,
Which watch not one another out of feare ;
For love, all love of other sights controules,
And makes one litte room, an every where.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let Maps to other, worlds on worlds have showne,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

My face is thine eye, thine in mine appeares,
And true plaine hearts doe in the faces rest,
Where can we find two better hemispheares
Without sharp North, without declining West?
What ever dyes, was not mixt equally ;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none doe slacken, none can die.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Day late Poetry Thursday

Time flies when you don't know what day it is...

Tom Clark
Artificial Light

Without it, what savage unsocial nights
Our ancestors must have spent! All those deadly
Winter nocturnes in caves and unillumined icy
Fastnesses: they must have laid around and
Grumbled at one another in the dark like the blind,
Fumbling each other's features for the wrinkle of a smile.
What tedious repartee must have passed! Perhaps
This accounts for the dullness of much archaic
Poetry, whose somber cast is notorious and must
Have derived from the traditions of those
Long unlanterned nights. Jokes came in with candles.
How did they see to pick up a pin, if they
Had any? How did they get dinner down? Think of
The mélange of chance carving that must have
Ensanguined dining after dusk! Lights out,
Not even love's what it's cracked up to be.
The senses absolutely give and take
Reciprocally. One wants to know whether that's
An elbow, a knee, or the night table
Before one returns the favor of a friendly nudge.
Wasn't it by the midnight taper all writers once digested
Their meditations? By that same light we ought
To approach them, if we ever expect to catch
The tiger-moth of inspiration that dances
In the word incandescent.

from Like Real People
Black Sparrow Press, Santa Rosa, Calif., 1995

Sunday, April 02, 2006


So here I am sitting in front of the computer at 4 AM, surfing the internet while my work sits untouched in a minimized window. And so I thought, why not take an online test for Adult ADD, because hey! There might be something to all that.

Incidentally, anyone know if those herbal remedies (hypnitol, Focus ADDult, etc) work?

Oh look, a peanut.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Kitty Perfectionist

Workin' on my thesis? Oh, yes. Workin' hard.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Poetry Thursday: Brian Teare

So I just found out about Poetry Thursday over at be present, be here, and decided that, it being Thursday, and poetry being on my mind, hey! I might as well join in.

This is a poem I just recently found online over at Blackbird. It's by Brian Teare, who just happens to be one of my favorite teachers over at New College, and whose work is just absurdly, intimidatingly good.


Lent Prayer

The way prayer is root to precarious : two crows creep
the steeple. Not winter,

not spring. Given a chance,
a season out of season will write

bastard pastoral, elegy
full of errant splendor and spent sheets of sleet, rain all spondaic

and unrelenting. Pallid nouns look familiar
but they're dead :

after thaw, after crocuses, even tulips : new snow, and robins
caught on a border without name, lost

to a scrim of frost, dozens
dead, each a lace of lice. The way soul has

no certain etymology, how weirdly what's rootless goes
wrong-like, fog

erasing syntax that holds
nouns in the sentence called landscape, looks like : streetlight tree

snowdrop stray-cat tow-truck leaves sidewalk snowmelt : except
what's visible

shifts, wind
arranging things,

the neighbor's lit window gone down the block like a dog
off its lead.

But all the small-town lights have left
for the Susquehanna

where they lean over water and rinse long-
billed birds into shallows, cattails

that shiver
the river like quills

sunk in dark ink. If I bring
to the banks what nouns I've found,

what of it?
Clean of scene they shine

in the mind like fish flick water open, switchblade-
quick : weathervane

horse-cart milk-pail police-tape
farmhouse snowplow : if

I put them back, I'll hate the tableaus
they make : cows

crapping in crabgrass; on Market St.,
little flags flapping; or two Amish girls

pressing curd through cloth;
dirty water. It's written :

the opera house burned
in 1906. What is it goes on living

in a town like this, between penitentiary and nicotine, the way form lives on
in both feign and fiction : arson

or accident, the plaque says this
is the original cornerstone : because

the root of error is wander,
who wouldn't want

out of a town so wrong? The current's fed under the bridge
like fabric to a sewing needle, each light

a small satin boat
stitched slow in folds.

Who wouldn't want to go
to them,

the lights? As prayer is
route to precarious, the river trembles on its treadle.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Keep your fingers crossed

I just submitted some undergraduate course proposals for next semester. And I have so much bad undergraduate karma to work off, I don't even want to think about it. So wish me luck! Time spent teaching undergrads = less time in Purgatory.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Crazy, definitely crazy

So I've had this habit, for pretty much my entire academic life, of going completely stark raving bonkers as soon as any project nears completion. I sit around for hours, obsessing over my manifold failings: all the things I should have said but didn't, all the things I said and did that I shouldn't, the way my butt looks in these jeans, which are awful comfy, but sheesh, what am I thinking?

And so it is that now, as I'm scrambling to finish my thesis, which is due in less than a month, and get my reading done for this weekend, and I need to type up a paper for the class I'm taking with ZZ Packer(name drop! Woo hoo!), and write the course proposals that my poetry professor suggested I do (which I just found out must be in by this time next week), I find myself trolling through myspace and friendster, and friends blogs, and friends of friends blogs, and just wanting to send out a mass email screaming I'm just so sorry for not being the friend you wanted or needed. And I'm so sorry to have bothered you with this here apology. And this one, too.

Yup. Weirdo!

Friday, March 10, 2006

And this is how I feel right now

Unfocused at best. All eyes and no brain. An empty something something something.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Originally uploaded by Nora Sawyer.
This mural is on the side of one of the grocery stores in our neighborhood. It always makes me want to cackle in solidarity. Because I love bannanas and grapes too, and if I could enjoy them while busting through a wall, you know I would.

Monday, February 27, 2006

dreams are strange

Slept like a bump-on-a-frog-on-a-log-in-a-hole-in-the-bottom-of-the-sea after The World's Longest flight from Portland to San Francisco. Apparently,when it's really windy in SF, they close all but one runway at SFO, which means flights are delayed all over the world, and planes waiting for landing have to circle and circle and rise and fall and rise and fall in a dark foggy world lit by nothing save the blinking lights on their wings, and the passengers inside start to wonder if maybe they have died, and this is limbo, and if so, it's a good thing they thought to grab the new issue of the NewYorker before they boarded.

But anyway, we finally landed, and I was met by Brian, who had been getting worried because on the telescreens my flight had shown up as delayed delayed delayed before disappearing altogether, and he had thought I might have left this this dimension, too. And then I went home and slept the sleep of the not-dead-yet, I dreamed that I was watching a soap opera wherin a baby was brought back to life when someone was electricuted during a fight and knocked up against the cabinet in which its body was being kept, and the camera zoomed in on a headline which read Miracle Baby Found! Is Cleavland Next?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

We're paying that cat too much

I just saw a mouse. We share this house a cat who weighs more than twenty pounds, yet mice (because as Carl Sagan once said, where there's life, there's community) are frolicking beneath my desk.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

I grew up in a cat house. Not in the 'House of the Rising Sun' sense, but rather a more concrete and furry phenomenon: a house with nine cats. Cats were everywhere, on every sofa and every chair, swarming the house and surrounding evirons with thier purry furriness, their living being.

And for the longest time, I identified as a cat person. Cats are soft and slinky, they insinuate themselves into laps and armcrooks and the extended waning afternoon of a good book. Cats give the sort of affection I'm comfortable with: slightly standoffish, but unabashed and complete, in its own peculiar way.

When I was ten or so, we added a dog to the mix -- Francois Couperin (Le Grand), a large and clumsy aging labrador who added a new dimension to my experience of pet ownership: companionship. Here was an animal who did things with me, rather than around me, whose experience of the world took place alongside my own, rather than in some nearby and sympathetic but ultimately unrelated plane. And another dog followed, this time a puppy that I got to pick, who alone of all his squirmy siblings crawled into my lap and fell asleep. His name was Merlin.

We got Merlin when I was 14, and as awkward and miserable as any teenage girl in suburbia. And he was a perfect companion, equally happy walking aimlessly for hours or sitting patiently while I sobbed into his fur. And when I fled periodically home from college, after hours of intermittent sleeping and crying on the train between Annapolis and Boston, Merlin was my comfort, patient and silent and perfectly, exactly what I needed.

But of course I did grow up eventually, and there was a wider world of needs than home and dog could provide. And Dog love is such a visceral, present thing, it doesn't lend itself well to long distance. It doesn't seem like its enough to stand outside on Chistmas morning with the dog you only see twice a year, to sink your fingers into the fur that gathers around his collar and hell him how much he means to you. But that's all I could do, and that's what I did.

When Merlin died this morning, he was already incredibly old for a dog his size. My mother tells me she was starting to wonder if maybe he was the only thing on earth that never would die, that would just keep going. But of course he couldn't. Nothing does.


"Facts" I dreamed were true this week:

1. George Harrison and John Lennon are still alive, but share a body and don't go out much.

2. William Hershel was one of a set of triplets, but ate the other two soon after birth (in my dream, I read it in a book, and thought, "I don't need to know that.").

3. If I were to write a novel about high school, it would take me the better part of an afternoon.

Things that have reminded me of C.W. Bayly recently

1. A pair of orange tennis shoes and a tasteful plaid scarf.

2. At Freddies by Penelope Fitzgerald.

3. Seeing St. Etienne at the Fillmore, and ordering a greyhound at the bar.

Things I like about making lists

1. No need for follow through (you list things, you stop)

2. Numbers

3. Using the "bold" tag (it makes me feel like I know html)

4. Items in a list feel kind of like a paneled comic strip, which gives the last item a certain weight, regardless of merit.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Things I got in the Mail Today

1. Marlboro College Alumni Revitalization Task Force flier

2. Pacifica Graduate Institute admissions packet

3. Cell Phone Bill

4. New T-Shirt! lookie!