If a woman is not Cleopatra, who owns Egypt?

On March 21, 2009, a sweet old hag of a good girl whispered goodbye to su hijo in the East Los Angeles apartment that echoed as hollow as the heartbeat that stopped right when she wanted it to, regardless of whether or not she knew it was what she wanted.

She wrote a poetry chapbook and published in 2002.  Alane Rollings helped her edit it and so was gifted a signed copy – could anyone give a more personal gift?  (Did not J.K. Rowling have the same idea when she turned a book into a piece of a soul?)

Alane was the second wife of writer Richard Stern – not that anyone outside of academics would know who he was since he basked in the shadows of his fellow friends and writers (he said after all, that he didn’t need to write, only that he wanted to do so). But Richard too died and Alane survived him, although she moved out of the house that reminded her of him.

And she left all her books.  Once the writer was gone, the writing never mean anything to her either.

And so it came, that a poetry chapbook by the name of Good Girl was given to Wilson. Wilson owned an antiquarian bookstore in Chesterton, Indiana.  And like a good girl, it sat quietly on the shelf, gathering dust but holding back the sneeze.

Until one very normal August Saturday morning, when I nodded to the accordion player at the European Market and ducked in the bookshop to avoid the piercing glare of the sun AND and the florist who heard me say that buying bouquets of sunflowers were a waste of money.

And finally, such a chapbook finds a home on my own bookshelf, awaiting the day when I can read it to my baby girl.  Because she needs to know that womanhood is ugly and that some people add mascara and blush to the title of “mother” to disguise the pain that comes with it – the heartbreak that I’m sure that same baby girl will inflict upon me before too much time passes.  Because all decent human beings need to know who Lee McCarthy is.

And just to give you a tease, here’s a stanza from a poem called “Conrad’s Mother”:

A woman who lives alone

will go out at nine o’clock at night

to buy ranch dip for the carrots, cappuccino

truffle chocolates for the office, and yoghurt

even though they’ve taken the h out.  

Friendship is measured in miles and smiles.

Hello, old friend.

And (yet again) we begin the checklist of “catching-up” the way we always have, the way I always do since my friends live so far away. Our reunions are bittersweet: we both have coffee breath and we can’t talk because we are smiling too hard.

I got married a month and a half ago.
We moved into an apartment with laminate wood floors AND a gas range.
I’m working full-time – I even have medical insurance.
I just found out that my poetry chapbook will be published and available for sale.

When the publisher confirms the release date and sends me the PDF to approve, I’ll let you know. It’s like a portable, in-your-hands, new-paper-smelling copy of this little blog. You can take me wherever you want – as if you couldn’t already do that since this blog is mobile friendly.

I suppose then we won’t be long-distance friends anymore if I’m in your pocket…

I live in a world created by Elizabeth Bishop.

Now that I’ve finished my undergraduate degree, I suppose I need something else to occupy my time – as if a wedding, new city living, and new job wasn’t enough!

My new goal is to find happiness.

I’m not sure what this looks like for me.  To be honest, this is the first time where I’ll actually be able to do and have what I want…I just wish I knew what I wanted.

I think I’ll be spending more time here, indulging in my creative outlet.  Drinking more tea and clacking on these keys.  I’m in the process of trying to get some poetry published. Turns out, I’m not too bad at it — according to the magazines that I’ve submitted to, anyway.  I’ve made it past the couple rounds of rejections and I’m awaiting the final verdict in a couple more places.

One thing that I plan to experiment with this summer is the writing process of sestinas. It’s a rather complicated fixed verse form consisting of six stanzas of six lines each, normally followed by a three-line envoi. The words that end each line of the first stanza are used as line endings in each of the following stanzas, rotated in a set pattern (see image).
I have one in the works currently – I even have a little literary nibble to share with you.  This piece is called “Graduation” (which makes terrible sense since writers nearly always write about what they know).

Like ants swarming a hill, I marched mechanically next to you
as the teeming crowd lumped us into boxes, our bright futures
fated as our cardboard crowns perched precariously on our heads –
further evidence that our participation trophy childhoods hadn’t lost
its steeled grip on the helm that directed our prescribed paths
while we gulped anti-anxiety pills down like the rest of our choices.

I’m also practicing my editing process.  It helps when I hate everything that appears on the screen because I’m then so motivated to change it.

New goal: Write a sestina a week.

 

Don’t be married unless you’ll be very married.

Marriage
BY LAWRENCE RAAB
Years later they find themselves talking
about chances, moments when their lives
might have swerved off
for the smallest reason.
What if
I hadn’t phoned, he says, that morning?
What if you’d been out,
as you were when I tried three times
the night before?
Then she tells him a secret.
She’d been there all evening, and she knew
he was the one calling, which was why
she hadn’t answered.
Because she felt—
because she was certain—her life would change
if she picked up the phone, said hello,
said, I was just thinking
of you.
I was afraid,
she tells him. And in the morning
I also knew it was you, but I just
answered the phone
the way anyone
answers a phone when it starts to ring,
not thinking you have a choice.

Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes.

Preface

Love is
when one plus one gives you two
and morphs back into one
complex
consecrated
comglomerate
that somehow subtracts one
and one more
and one more
and one more
without shrinking.
Eventually
there comes a moment
when forever only lasts the space of the
QRS complex on the monitor
and you ask yourself
how you decomposed
back to
one
when you feel as hollow as
zero.