SOL Tuesday My Bestie

Let me tell you ’bout my bestie because she’s not likely to tell you about herself. My oldest friend on the earth. She has seen me through two marriages, a host of boyfriends, the raising of two very distinct boys, the whole of my teaching career; through two graduate degrees, the burial of both of my parents, my competitive running streak as well as a couple of knee surgeries. She is the best of the best and we haven’t lived in the same city since 1987; not on the same continent since 1991. See, I told you she’s really my bestie.

Cliche but true – we were college roommates. She was the lanky hurdler/ long jumper from Maine and I was the Black girl from Cleveland – both of us proud to have been accepted into our first choice Ivy League school. We corresponded in that first summer before arriving on campus, exchanged pictures and background stories. I still have those letters – hand written on legal pad paper in legible but not overly neat print. By the time we actually met in person, we had a good idea of what we were getting into. No clicking needed, we were a successful match.

It’s funny to remember that first year, how we hung out and found a reasonably good mix of friends. We ran track together, worked several shifts on the dish line together, shared a unique sense of humor. She was lack, I was luster. While we had some upsets in there too, when we reunited to share a dorm room overlooking the main green our senior year, it was time extremely well spent.

After graduation she moved to pursue her dream of working in public television and I was bent on getting back to my long distance boyfriend in Vienna. Now we’re these middle aged ladies in our 50s who love a good long zoom chat to catch up and cackle. She’s the person I called to join me at the funeral when each of my parents passed away. She’s seen me fall in love, out of love, call it quits and call it a day, counseled me through “I do” and then “I don’t”. It has taken me half a lifetime but by now I know, she has always been my great love, my bestie, Cath.

The way we were, the way we are.

SOL Tuesday Trying stuff out

Cacophony

What the trees said on my last walk:

What the leaves on those trees whispered as I walked:

What the trail kept bringing up, step after step:

What the birds hiding in the branches called after me:

Chatty twigs, chuckling stones, throaty roots, insistent finches

I heard them but could not answer back.

Saved by the bell hooks

“In our society we make much of love and say little about fear.”

– bell hooks, All About Love, 2001. p. 93
Fear about little
say and love
of much
make we our society.

In society make of 
and little fear
about say love
much we,
our.

Love society
fear little
make much and 
say our
In we of about

we about fear in society
our little love of much
say,
make
We make little of love
say much in society
about our fear.

We fear love, society, in and about much, say little of our make.

Make society love much
in our fear little say of we
about

SOL Tuesday Notes on Reading

I can read again. Like whole books within a week or even a couple of days now that I’m on break. It’s wonderful and sobering at the same time.

My current reading streak started about 3 weeks ago when I stumbled across a novel about 10 year old twins who catch on fire when they’re upset and it felt like the world was back in order when they got to have a happy ending.

My favorite lines from the fire twins in Kevin Wilson’s Nothing To See Here:

“And if it’s bad?” Roland said. “Like at Gran-Gran and Pop-Pop’s?”

“We’ll just burn it all down,” Bessie said. “Everything. Everyone. We’ll set it on fire.”

p. 105

Roland and Bessie won me over early on. Their grievances were not misplaced. Lilian, who becomes their caregiver and eventual guardian, has got to be one of the most endearing kick-ass heroines I’ve ever come to appreciate in a novel.

I brought home a bunch of poetry for spring break. Young poetry, recent poetry. Poetry where I get the political and cultural references because I am living them. It’s a source of amazement to me that these poets and I are working with the same alphabet and after that they take off for the stars.

I also realized that not everything we read needs to be breathtaking or heart-stopping. We need breaks. A book I just read where I did not love the main character at all – I call it a filler. (It was My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, by the way.) Something to tide me over, maybe in preparation for The Next Big Thing. Maybe not. The fact that I can mentally afford a filler right now astounds me.

I don’t care about swear words in my reading the way I thought I used to. I recently purchased a book that has f*cking on every page. The title is Do The F*cking Work. And sometimes I feel just like that.

Without any previous knowledge of the author or her place in pop culture, I picked up Little Weirds by Jenny Slate from the school library. I was reminded a bit of Amy Krause Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life and of Ross Gay’s essayettes in The Book of Delights. Collections of both concrete and ephemeral things held up to the light or against the darkness for our consideration. Fantastical and silly and relatable, I loved everything about these short delicious pieces. It’s how I want to write when I grow up.

I have one book on the bench in the kitchen. American Sonnets For My Past and Future Assassin by Terrence Hayes. 70 sonnets some of which elude me and many which call me in for a conference. I keep it in the kitchen and read a sonnet or two after breakfast or lunch. These are poems that feel best to read on a full stomach.

An annoyance: Book blurbs that tell you about a book you are not currently holding in your hands.

I’m so grateful to be able to read again. With abandon. It’s like breathing again smoothly following a nasty head cold. Like when you can hardly remember ever having been sick.

That’s saying a lot.

SOL Tuesday Where X marks the spot

I am learning all over again
what is dear
and beloved.

A warm summer evening
lush green grass surrounds
a reddish wood 
beneath their slow dancing feet

Cheek to brown cheek
in close and sure
so sure of every step
as if there were never
a forgetting 

I want to blush
at their embrace
I hardly know them this way
these familiar strangers
to whom I owe everything

but before me and ever
after
they remain each others'
treasures.

For a moment,
their moment
I saw where x
marks the spot.


I spent several days in search of a precious photo album which contained my favorite picture of mom and dad. It must have been 1996 or 97 when my oldest was around 3. We visited my godparents who had a house out in the ‘boondocks’ as my mother called it. Of course we had ribs and potato salad and music. When my parents got up to dance on this generous patio I snapped a photograph that has remained deep in my heart although I have only looked at it a handful of times in the many years since. Today I found the album and recovered the picture which I will now frame and hang up in our new apartment.

Photo: S. Spelic

SOL Tuesday April 6th Poems

Sometimes we walk the earth with more feelings than our bodies can contain. Some of us go ahead and write a poem or two to take the pressure off.

The lost lemons

I found the lemons, he wrote.
among the potatoes.
Imagine!

Lemons are tricky, I replied.
Bright yellow secrets
hiding under dull
dusty potatoes.



Tears

How you like your tears?
Singular and leaky, one pitiful drop 
after another;
Or maybe like a gush,
flash flooding your face and every
tissue you can find?

You keep them tears a secret
they'll divulge your business
some other time when you think
they are long gone.
Folks afraid of tears let loose
Tears can break things.

Ever think about how tear and tear
look alike but ain't the same
but could be related;
causal cousins sometimes
tears that tear,  
not hearts but facades.
the slow steady work of salty 
water damage.





 

SOL March 31st Another Year of March

A year ago I wrote a post called “The Year of March”. Today we have “Another Year of March.”

One year ago, I was just getting a grip on how to “teach” PE from my living room and balcony. Today I had to push myself to complete the SeeSaw tasks for my students as we enter another lockdown period of distance learning tomorrow.

365 days ago, I was sad for the Slice of Life Challenge to end. Today I’m sad again.

One year ago my 12 year old 6th grader was losing steam, feeling mostly cranky about doing school at home. Today my 13 year old 7th grader is thriving and making the most of his hybrid experience; able to take this next lockdown in stride.

One year ago I shared a household with my husband. Now that is no longer the case.

A lot can happen in a year and a lot can happen in minutes. The question is always what we notice and how we allow those experiences to shape us.

I’m different now after a full year of pandemic reality. It would be worrisome if I hadn’t changed in some way.

What I noticed in my last post of last year’s challenge was the remarkable faith. Faith in us, in our humanity, in our increased sense of interdependence.

Listen:

Remember, then, how we recovered

how long it took until we found not the way back

but chose a different path

One that held space for everyone who needed it

A path that afforded more humanity and care

than we had seen in centuries.

That was us, you remember.

We did that.

From The Year of March

Well, that recovery is slow to come and arrives in fits, starts and mirages. One year on and we may be a good deal wiser but not necessarily more humane or gentle or justice-driven.

But at least we know that we are vulnerable and reliant on others in too many ways to count. We know that the help we receive may not come in the form we asked for. We know that even our best selves are not immune to selfishness and envy. It has been a year to remind us that not all learning is chosen.

As I leave this nourishing and affirming space, I want to remember Slice of Life as a place I come to dream in words; a place I return to again and again to choose learning and growth and fellowship in writing and humanity. Such that even another year of March is a gift bestowed.

Thank you all.

SOL March 30th Six-word Stream

son’s laundry mistaken for mom’s – cool.

whip smart, slow start, looks sharp

No one is in a hurry today.

Wowzers, let’s stretch this truth, yup.

just kidding you know I’m lost

Something different I said, not this.

There’s no measuring absence is there?

Home base is no good metaphor.

What’s missing is everything, not more.

“Imma leave the door open, girl…”

Wake up writing all through March

Tell me a sorrow you’re hiding.

I don’t meditate. It shows, yo.

Peace: someone’s idea of your silence.

Hold that thought. Hold it in.

Speak up now and risk alienation.

Alien nation merged is no accident.

Bright idea gets the parking lot.

Get to school already, future tardy!

Going, not gettin’, on my way.

Masked up, we enter the campus.

A school day, whatever that means.

SOL March 29th Journal Junk Drawers

A preponderance of words

spilled spread

pressed onto page upon page

One hundred years of journals for a life half that long

To wit, a startling number of blank notebooks
traveling across time
from desktop to shelf to box in a cellar
only to re-emerge: a practical curiosity
what was it I wanted to say?

among these finds
also greeting cards unused
still waiting to say Happy Birthday
or Thank You
in mint condition with an uncertain future
stationary stationery - a memoir

Why is life like a junk drawer
stuffed full of minutiae?
my miscellany runneth over
keys, stamps, coins, love letters
antacids, business cards, memory stick
AAs, safety pins, expired warranties
erasers and pens, bank statements.

In the end, there will come 
The Great Disposal
Until such a time
journals will fill and be lost
journals will be bought and set aside
journals will be kept and leafed through
journals will be my junk drawers
for the duration.

SOL March 28th Golden Shoveling

Fran Haley introduced Golden Shovel Poems in her slice today:

Try digging with the Golden Shovel yourself. Take a line from a poem or a favorite book, speech, or song that has special appeal to you and transform it into something of your own. Each word in that line becomes the ending word of a line of your own poem (or the beginning word, if you prefer). Your poem may reflect an aspect from the original work. It may not. A Golden Shovel poem can mean whatever you wish; it’s just inspired by the line you use to create it.

Fran Haley, Digging For Awe: Golden shovel poems
"Our stars weren't meant for
 their sky. We have never known
 the same horizon." 
 - Clint Smith, "Canon" in Counting Descent.
What we know is that our
reaching and grasping towards stars
reflected a desire we weren't
prepared to justify, to say what it meant. 
Stars are not property. For
whatever reason they decided their
version of sky
could never be the same that we
might claim too. Have
faith, rest assured, one man's never
is but a wish. Not known,
not fact, only speculation. The
stars remain the same,
we become the horizon.


"we bring a part of where we are from
to every place we go."
- Clint Smith, "Meteor Shower" in Counting Descent
Whatchu mean we?
You see all this meaning I bring:
a feast of metaphor and magic, a
philosophical smorgasborg in part,
a banquet of 
ideas. Check out where
the difference between I and we
grows wide, grows deep. Are
you seeing the gap from
not enough listening to
overbearing surveillance every
time I enter this place?
It's no picnic, you know. We
say we're good. My heart says go.



What a challenge! I had no idea where I was going with either of these and yet here they are. Something like this might really unfreeze some learners. I usually resist given structures but this one intrigued me just enough and truly got me to dig.

SOL March 27th Tired of Boxes

Tired of boxes. Full boxes, empty boxes, cardboard boxes, plastic boxes.

Almost every box seems to hold one treasure or more: Photographs, a student’s note, a creation by one of the boys. But I’m still tired of wading through their jumbled contents. One box contained final bits of junk from our last move that we literally never touched in the 12 years since. Although tempted to dump it all, I found some gems: The ad through which I found our nanny for N. in 2008, a bunch of mixtapes from the 90’s, magnetic poetry just waiting for a reprise.

It’s the photos that always draw me in, though. Still in their developer’s envelopes in collections of 24 or 36, I see and remember the way we were and that we were not always the same people. Today it was pictures of the motorcycle trip my husband and I took to Italy and Spain when I was 3 months pregnant with N. followed by snapshots of my oldest son when he was about 11. There I am with my favorite niece, both of us smiling brightly into the frame. That was the summer I arrived in Atlanta and she picked me up from the airport. How are you? She asked. Pregnant! I said. And we laughed for most of the car ride back to my brother’s place.

I’m still tired of boxes and all these parts of me they carry.

It’s actually not the boxes that I’m tired of. It’s the need to decide over and over again which parts of myself and my story I’m going to keep and which ones I can shed.

One day the boxes will be gone – stored or recycled – in any case, out of sight. Right now, I can hardly wait for that day to arrive.