Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"The Dead Are Not" -- Patricia Traxler


Click here to listen to Patricia Traxler read this poem.

The dead are not dead
yet. Always they take
their time, and we wait
politely, dreading
how real it will
have to be, sooner
or later, and at the
same time longing
to know that reality.

Nights, as we reach
to switch off our bed lamps
and close our eyes,
we dare it to take us
into its mouth
that smells of tar,
saltwater, sludge,
take us up then let us
tumble endlessly,
blameless again
and helpless as any new life
forced out for the first time
into the terrible light.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hmmm... the Onion Got Me!

Heroic Computer Dies To Save World From Master's Thesis

May 17, 2006 | Issue 42•20

WALTHAM, MA—A courageous young notebook computer committed a fatal, self-inflicted execution error late Sunday night, selflessly giving its own life so that professors, academic advisors, classmates, and even future generations of college students would never have to read Jill Samoskevich's 227-page master's thesis, sources close to the Brandeis University English graduate student reported Monday.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Initial thoughts on a dissertation

I'm a planner, okay? I love dreaming of the future. Now that the thesis is done, I'm reading books on identity and place -- specifically multicultural spaces that support, enhance, and strenghten multiple ethnic and racial groups and the larger community that includes us all.

Today at lunch I was reading Geographical Identities of Ethnic America.

The following describes in tantalizing vagueness why this will be the subject of my next degree. I even thought of a title for my dissertation/book today: Leaving Room: A Politics of Freedom and Inclusion.

Sexy, huh?

Some quotes from this latest book to pique my interest:

4: “Underlying the theme that place and space and place are influential in the articulation of identity is our premise that identities are socially constructed. Constructed, as Manuel Castells (1997) points out, because identity is the source of people’s meaning and experience”

Think William James here. Race and ethnicity may not exist in any proveable way with definitions that even most of us would agree with. But the point is that people find them to be useful constructs to describe themselves, make meaning of their communities/lives, or organize for action and/or economic vitality. That’s powerful! So why don’t we understand better how identities are contested in space and how to harness the power of multiple identities to SHARE spaces. That’s where I come in.

Think about how amazing and revolutionary this idea would be – Palestine and Israel, Rio Rancho/ABQ/Bernalillo/Corrales/Santa Ana Pueblo, Barelas/Downtown, etc.

6: “two themes: 1) how space and place influence racial and ethnic identities and 2) how individuals and groups acting on their identities create spatial patterns and landscapes.”

Again, understanding how each of these processes work and being able to reverse them to be successful prescriptive – to create places that support, enhance, and strengthen multiple identies – is the real trick.

7: “collective patterns of identity can be imprinted on landscapes and places over time, transforming the landscape. Subsequent landscapes bear the imprint of the strength of the ethnic group to re-create the landscape with material and nonmaterial symbols and forms of social interaction. Language, religion, kinship patterns, settlement, agriculture, and labor patterns become visible on the cultural landscape of a region as global forces of migration become localized over time. The power of the local landscape lies in its ability to reinforce racial and ethnic identity of second and third-generation residents as well as new immigrants to the region.”

Geography takes a rather narrow and yet too specific view of this shit. There needs to be a way to bridge sociology, geography, community planning, and urban design.

12: “Geography is an important mechanism for reinforcing racial and ethnic identity and experience, and that geography is partially defined by race and ethnicity. What holds this group [of collected authors] together is an interest in raising awareness of the ties that bind North American racial and ethnic groups to their spaces and places. All the contributors also uphold a commitment to share their insights and information about a particular racial or ethnic group in the broader context of other group experiences.”

I agree with their premises and assumptions. I think it needs to go further. Geography tends to only be analytical; I would want to make it implementable and practical in a political and spatial sense. Easy enough, right?

But where? Which university? Which department? Cultural Studies? Urban Studies? Planning? Sociology? Geography?

Anyone have suggestions?

Monday, May 08, 2006

1977 -- Jeffrey McDaniel

from Alibi School

The family around the table and a silence
so compact no words can break it.

Not even a pigeon swirling through the window
can nudge mother's poorly taped grin.

Her face has the euphoric glow of a mathematician
whispering a formula into the whorl of a rose.

Her eyes are tiny stones testing the black
silk bags she lugs them in.

Since father banned television the sons stare
at the marriage dangling from the ceiling.

Each month it sinks another couple inches
until it's in their food.

No wonder they don't eat.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Facts about the Moon

Dorianne Laux
from Facts about the Moon

The moon is backing away from us
an inch and a half each year. That means
if you’re like me and were born
around fifty years ago the moon
was a full six feet closer to the earth.
What’s a person supposed to do?
I feel the gray cloud of consternation
travel across my face. I begin thinking
about the moon-lit past, how if you go back
far enough you can imagine the breathtaking
hugeness of the moon, prehistoric
solar eclipses when the moon covered the sun
so completely there was no corona, only
a darkness we had no word for.
And future eclipses will look like this: the moon
a small black pupil in the eye of the sun.
But these are bald facts.
What bothers me most is that someday
the moon will spiral right out of orbit
and all land-based life will die.
The moon keeps the ocean from swallowing
the shores, keeps the electromagnetic fields
in check at the polar ends of the earth.
And please don’t tell me
what I already know, that it won’t happen
for a long time. I don’t care. I’m afraid
of what will happen to the moon.
Forget us. We don’t deserve the moon.
Maybe once we did but not now
after all we’ve done. These nights
I harbor a secret pity for the moon, rolling
around alone in space without
her milky planet, her only love, a mother
who’s lost a child, a bad child,
a greedy child or maybe a grown boy
who’s murdered and raped, a mother
can’t help it, she loves that boy
anyway, and in spite of herself
she misses him, and if you sit beside her
on the padded hospital bench
outside the door to his room you can’t not
take her hand, listen to her while she
weeps, telling you how sweet he was,
how blue his eyes, and you know she’s only
romanticizing, that she’s conveniently
forgotten the bruises and booze,
the stolen car, the day he ripped
the phones from the walls, and you want
to slap her back to sanity, remind her
of the truth: he was a leech, a fuckup,
a little shit, and you almost do
until she lifts her pale puffy face, her eyes
two craters, and then you can’t help it
either, you know love when you see it,
you can feel its lunar strength, its brutal pull.


Dorianne Laux
from Awake

From behind he looks like a man
I once loved, that hangdog slouch
to his jeans, a sweater vest, his neck
thick-veined as a horse cock, a halo
of chopped curls.

He orders coffee and searches
his pockets, first in front, then
from behind, a long finger sliding
into the slitted denim the way that man
slipped his thumb into me one summer
as we lay after love, our freckled
bodies to pale starfish on the sheets.

Semen leaked and pooled in his palm
as he moved his thumb slowly, not
to excite me, just to affirm
he’d been there.

I have loved other men since, taken
them into my mouth like a warm vowel,
lain beneath them and watched their irises
float like small worlds in their open eyes.

But this man pressed his thumb
toward the tail of my spine
as if he were entering
China, or a ripe papaya,
so that now
when I think of love
I think of this.

Her First

Dorianne Laux
from Facts about the Moon

Who remembers what she told me.
The year.  What actually happened.
Which hospital. My mother.  The man
who died in her arms.  Gone from memory.
Only that he was her first.  Only my mother
in her uniform, white, unblemished
or stippled with blood.  And his eyes.
The hand she held as he held on.
Long enough to say the wordless thing
that needed saying.  Her eyes answering,
then speaking aloud the only words
that could be said:  It’s alright, I’m here,
Okay.  Her telling me how she held on,
never looked away, ushered his soul
into the unknown with a handful
of words, a direct gaze, almost visible,
almost a color, a cone of warmer air
shimmering between them in the bleach-
scented room, a thin stream of Muzak
blushing through the speakers
in the hallway outside the open door,
the slick canted floor they would
gurney him down on tiny rubber wheels,
that oiled, spun freely, easily,
as they turned the corner
toward the morgue, the institutional
gray walls not, thank god, the last color
he would see but the sea-blue corona
of her eyes, irises spiked with amber,
flecked with green.  Fully open
and seeing him.  Whoever he was.
Whoever he had harmed or helped,
loved or failed to love, finally, mercifully,
of no importance now as she watched over
the last minutes of his anonymous life.
His large death fluttering down
under the soft black wings of his lashes
as he left this sweet, brief world
and entered into the next, hand
in hand with a godless woman
who would always remember him.
His rust-colored eyes saying
good-bye to her, to this life, in a time
I remember now.

What’s Terrible

Dorianne Laux
from Facts about the Moon

It is terrible, but not very terrible – Ursula K. Le Guin

To leave your only child waiting at the airport
for an hour, lost in traffic, lost in thought,
is terrible, but not as terrible as kicking
your brother in the stomach, beating your sister
with the phone, forging your mother’s name,
spitting on your stepfather’s grave.
Though this is less terrible than moving away
to another state without saying good-bye,
just throwing the stereo in the trunk between
the quilts and pillows, strapping the baby
into the backseat and driving off, leaving them all
to their own intricate plots.  And though you know
it’s wrong to speak of their divorces and minor
car crashes, suicide attempts, evictions,
hospitalizations and Vicodin addictions, their self-
inflicted wounds—the bullet hole in the wall
puttied over with toothpaste—this is not
as terrible as living without them, a dim set
of archetypes in what’s left of your memory,
small figurines on the bottom shelf of your
daughter’s heart—you’ve kept her away from them
so she could grow up normal—now stranded
in an airport lounge after a summer with her
born-again father who in spite of you
she demands to see.  Terrible thing, the family.
But not so terrible as being abandoned
in a glass room with your suitcase and a bored-
off-her-ass stewardess, flipping the pages
of a book your mother gave you before you left,
your fractured, frazzled, mysterious mother
who’s not sure how to love you, the one
you’ve forgiven over and over, a book you finally,
in an act of desperation and fear, turn back
to the first torn page and begin, earnestly, to read.



Dorianne Laux
from Facts about the Moon

I’d forgotten how fast it happens, the blush of fear
and the feeling of helpless infantile stupidity, stooped
over the sink, warm water gushing into a soapy bowl,
my fingers plunged in, knuckles bumping the glass
like a stillborn pig in formaldehyde, my aging eyes
straining to read the warning label in minus-two type,
lifting the dripping deformed thing up every few seconds
to stare, unbelieving, at the seamless joining, the skin
truly bonded as they say happens immediately, thinking:
Truth in Labeling, thinking:  This is how I began inside
my mother’s belly, before I divided toe from toe, bloomed
into separation like a peach-colored rose, my eyes going slick
and opening, my mouth releasing itself from itself to make
lips, legs one thick fin of thrashing flesh wanting to be two,
unlocking from ankles to knees, cells releasing between
my thighs, not stopping there but wanting more double-ness,
up the crotch and into the crotch, needing the split
to go deeper, carve a core, a pit, a two-sided womb, with
or without me my body would perform this sideshow
trick and then like a crack in a sidewalk
stop.  And I’d carry that want for the rest of my life,
eyes peeled open, mouth agape, the world
piled around me with its visible seams:  cheap curtains,
cupboarch doors, cut bread on a plate, my husband
appearing in the kitchen on his two strong legs
to see what’s wrong, lifting my hand by the wrist
and I want to kiss him, to climb him,
to stuff him inside me and fill that space, poised
on the brink of opening opening opening
as my wrinkled fingers, pale and slippery,
remember themselves, and part.