Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Reading 50 books by people of color: a blog challenge

Earlier this year I signed up to do the 50books_poc challenge, to read 50 books by people of color.

Part of the fun of this has been noting other people’s books and reviews, getting leads on good books to read that I’ve never heard of, and participating in discussions. Today I saw a question about history books by POC especially focusing on history of Asian countries or regions. So I contributed a bit by looking at my own bookshelves. While I have mostly fiction – and an entire bookcase full of mostly-fiction from China, Korea, Japan, and India – I picked out some histories, historical fiction, and stories that are kind of political or that I learned history from – especially socialist realist fiction, which I love.

Here is my list of recommendations for history,

Korea Unmasked, a comic book history of Korea, very odd and interesting, by Won-bok Rhie. I particularly recommend this as a view of Korean history and China and Japan that you will not get from a Western source.

A New History of Korea – Ki-baik Lee This is the most tolerable in style and authoritative feeling history I have found in English. I would love to see comparably well-sourced and annotated Korean history books but written for a mass audience or maybe sort of more pop/journalist storytelling style of history.


Feminist Cultural Politics in Korea
– ed. Jung-Hwa Oh. A collection of academic essays. Very interesting!

Korea Forty Three Centuries by Tae Hung Ha. (A bit dull and textbooky like so many English translations of Korean history, but full of interesting details.)

A Handbook of Korea Extremely boring AND YET STILL INTERESTING. It is a very “official publication”.

And here’s a few interesting novels which sort of, well, have a lot of history in them:

The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River by Ding Ling (really, anything by her that you can find in translation to English is pretty awesome.

My Innocent Uncle – Ch’ae Man-Shik (short stories)

A Ready-Made Life: Early Masters of Modern Korean Fiction (more short stories, again heavy on the politics)

But I have more to say as I gaze fondly over my bookcases, with a full heart!

So, a few years ago I went on a reading spree and sought out books from China. I read some of the major classics like The Scholars, Outlaws of the Marsh (or The Water Margin, or The Marshes of Mount Liang), Journey to the West, and Story of the Stone (Dream of Red Mansions or Dream of the Red Chamber). They are very huge long complicated epic novels. I read them in multiple translations. As well as all the “classic” scandalous books I could find like Golden Lotus and The Peony Pavilion and The Carnal Prayer Mat. Ranging backwards in time, I read some translations of Sima Qian (or Ssuma Chien), The Three Kingdoms, The Pearl Blossom Fan, and whatever stuff Arthur Waley translated, some buddhist scriptures, and translations of Mencius and Confucius. And the Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature. And a lot of other random stuff that was quite old, that gave me more background to understand stuff going on in the epic novels. Moving into the 20th century, I read translations of both versions of Rickshaw Boy. They are quite different – one with a happy ending kind of tacked on. Then, a completely wonderful anthology which I highly recommend, called Literature of the People’s Republic of China. It is crucial if you want to get a flavor of literature in 20th century China! I read other authors like Ding Ling and Gu Hua and I’m sure I’ve mentioned him before, you should read Wang Shuo’s Playing for Thrills if you are going to Beijing to get a good unhealthy dose of modern cynical street thug postmodernism. (This balances out the socialist realist novels about love and wheelbarrows.)

That isn’t even counting the poetry and I have read rather a lot of Chinese poetry as well. Maybe best for another post.

Basically, I have this secret self-taught degree in Chinese literature which I never particularly get to talk about or share. It was a reading kick that lasted many years. I still re-read the long epics, which I love the best because they suck me into a completely different world full of hundreds of characters and they last a good long time. (I read fast, so a regular paperback novel is over in a couple of hours.) I have a lesser knowledge of classics from India but have read multiple versions of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, Pancatantra (one of my favorite books ever) and I read every single Penguin classic from India as well like the Rg Veda, Upanishads, Kathasartsagara, and so on. And I have a similar middling depth in Norse sagas which have a similiar feeling of epic scope and a huge cast of characters.

The Korean history books I list at the top of this post are from Rook’s completely separate reading kick over the last 2 or 3 years – I have read some of them but not all.

My goal in doing all that focused reading was to get some real depth in something that was not my background and not what I was being taught or that everyone around me assumed was true, so I could have a better picture of reality, history, truth, human nature, and the nature of stories. That has been a driving force for me since I was a teenager and began to read as widely as possible. The beautiful thing for me is that there is always so much more out there – infinitely more amazing literature than I could ever manage to read in a lifetime.

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Getting rid of books, fiction, A-C

The books in my own library function as my external memory. I’m going through some of the fiction bookshelves in my office to get rid of some books. So that I remember what I’ve read, and where I could find certain information or stories again, I’ll record what’s going out the door. (And if you want any of these books, ping me to come pick them up. Otherwise – donation.)

Frozen Future A prophetic report from Antarctica. Ed. by Richard S. Lewis and Philp M. Smith. 1973. A very cool book with lots of charts and diagrams. I like knowing what people thought was going to be the future in 1973. This was part of my 1999 inhalation of everything about Antarctica, just before Rook went to work at the South Pole for 6 weeks.

The Speedwell Voyage: A true story of survival at Sea in the Bestselling Tradition of The Endurance. Piracy & mutiny in the 18th century. Kenneth Poolman. Okay, but not great. Too far removed from the source. Why not just re-read Hakluyt again if you’re going to go there.

The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition. Caroline Alexander. Coffee table book. Again… go to the source.

Nisa: Life and Words of a !Kung Woman. Marjorie Shostak. Interesting but sometimes I want to slap the anthropologist. Nisa is cool.

Travels in West Africa. Mary Kingsley. Fabulous, but falling apart and missing some pages. I will tear some more out and save them for envelope art and throw away the rest. I especially remember the scenes where Kingsley is lost in a mangrove swamp.

The Book of Weird. Why do I even have this?

Paula, and Stories of Eva Luna. Isabel Allende. I so don’t need this. Allende bugs the ever living crap out of me. I kept House of the Spirits just to critique the hell out of it.

Ranger’s Apprentice. John Flanagan Utterly unmemorable YA fantasy book. Why do I have it?

Dragon Keeper. Carole Wilkinson. YA book set in China. Passing this one on to Moomin. I think someone sent it to me for review. Read it, can’t remember it… I think it was okay…

A whole bunch of Kushiel books. Jacqueline Carey. Might have re-read them once over while sick. Could get from library so easily. Worth keeping? What do you think? In 10 years, or 20, will I still be able to find a copy? I think so.

Xenocide. Orson Scott Card. Advance uncorrected proof.. Going, going, gone.

Agatha Christie. 4 huge hardback collections of mysteries and short stories. Mostly Miss Marple. Others too. Okay, these are around so that when I have a cold, I can tear through them. Again, couldn’t I just send someone to the library to fill me up with junk reading? Yet, these are relatively compact. I’m torn. Miss Marple Meets Murder. Miss Marple Complete Short Stories. Five Complete Miss Marple Novels. Then another book with 5 Tommy/Tuppence novels.

John Dickson Carr. hardback “Three Detective Novels.” See above.

Wit’s End. karen joy fowler. Liked it, not necessarily going to re-read it.

Territory. Emma Bull.. Ditto.

Nancy’s Mysterious Letter. This one sucked!

Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill. Volume 2. Great, but why do I have two copies of volume 2 and NO VOLUME ONE?

The Fortunate Fall. Raphael Carter Fabulous. Duplicate copy!

The Collected Stories, Isaac Babel I remember these with affection but have not touched the book for 15 years… Out it goes, if I want to read Babel again, will go to library.

Lynn V. Andrews. Jaguar Woman. sacred journey blah blah. Don’t remember it. Why do I have it? Not the sort of book I would even bother to read. At least not since I was about 13 years old. Book 3 of a trilogy I don’t think I’ve read.

MLA handbook 3rd edition good riddance

Bruce Chatwin. In Patagonia Duplicate copy of a rather loathsome book. It’s so loathesome that I’m keeping copy 1.

La última niebla. La amortajada. María Luisa Bombal. Good stories but likely I am not going to translate them. I will stick with poetry. Someone out there wants this book. Will donate to library…

El Aleph. Borges. Duplicate. In spanish

The Fall of the Towers. Samuel R. Delany. Duplicate copy. paperback.

Sundiver. Startide Rising. David Brin. I so don’t need this on my shelf. Left over from high school.

Oroonoko. Aphra Behn.. Duplicate copy!

Phantom Islands of the Atlantic Okay but just not worth keeping on the shelf. Better idea than execution.

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Here is a picture of me, right this minute

take a photo right now meme

I was thinking today of this time when a friend of mine said at a poetry reading, a big group one that I’d been going to for at least a couple of years, “I’m so grateful your husband lets you come out to these things” and I nearly keeled over from shock and laughter. Seriously I started laughing my ass off. “Let me”? Now that is something I have never in my relationship with Rook felt for a single second controlled either one of us. We don’t “let” each other do stuff. I really think we are just ourselves.

Somehow this got me thinking of my relationship in college with my old boyfriend Dr. Dick. I dated him from when I was 18 to when I was 20 or so and we lived together for most of that time in a big co-op. I thought how maddening it was that he would never talk about anything. But he would listen to all my crazy ideas and shit. Basically, it was like this blog, all 5 million words of it, but coming out of my mouth every night. But then as things started to go weird, I had less to say. He would go, *long silence*… “What are you thinking.” And I would, basically to avoid saying what I was actually thinking which was OMG FUCK YOU WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE WHY DON’T YOU EVER TALK, I would start babbling distractedly about whatever came into my head. If I said “What are YOU thinking” or more neutrally, “I dunno what about you?” He would just handwave and turn it back on me. Somehow, this combined with a strange life where he knew when I had class, and my work schedule, and my co-op work things, and if I went out the door of our (shared with many people) living room to the outside, he’d always ask me where I had been, which got to feeling like he was suspicious and weird, because I’d go, “Laundry room” and he’d go, “But you were gone an hour” and I’d feel a giant SURGE OF RAGE at having just washed his fucking clothes along with mine, but would tamp it down and go, “Yeah I stopped by the TV room and hung out watching star trek with some people” and he’d go, “Oh? Who?” and I’d then use the Distracting Babble technique to get us out of that kind of conversation. So, this rarely got direct, but you can see it was nasty. Ever been in a relationship like that? If you just pretend it’s not there, you can act freely. Have you ever done that?

As some of you imaginary long-term readers may recall, the creepy punchline is that all along, Dr. Dick was secretly engaged to this woman who had moved out to Austin with him as his fiancee but agreed to live separately so as not to be distracted from their PhDs. WHO FUCKING KNEW. So he would go off and have sex with her at lunch. And she never, ever, came to his place – how is that? How? At least she was like 1 million times dumber than me… Man! I felt really bad for her too and the nice bit of the story is she went off, married someone else, had 2 kids as fast as possible, and I hope lived happily ever after. Anyway, while she was off in a women’s dorm, I lived with her fiancee (!!!) basically like we were married. The truth all came out in a giant wave of drama when the fiancee approached me at random as her boyfriend’s cute next door neighbor who she propositioned — she thought she was snagging an HBB for her man. It went so, so, wrong.

In contrast to that tangle of lies and paranoia and silence, and in contrast to the expectations of my poetry-writing friend as to the conditions of interpersonal relationships, in 10 years with Rook I don’t think either one of us has done anything more than say “I’d like to go to Finland” or “I’m in love with this other person too” or “What if I change careers”. The other person has always kind of gone, “Huh.” and then we talk about it. But there is no LETTING… or permission-giving.

How otherwise could any sane person tolerate life? I’d like to know?

The other thing that popped into my head tonight was a series of photos one of my friends did. Sabina took a ton of photos of all of us, people she was close to, and said it was for a project. She let us look at all the proofs and pick out the one we liked best of ourselves as a portrait. At the end of the project she showed us sort of an exhibit, and she explained. Every person had 2 photos mounted on the wall. The first was the one that they picked, the way they see themselves or want to be seen. The second was *how she saw them, their essential self or personality*. The whole thing was horrifying. Barb had picked something where she was dressed up, girly, uncomfortable and tight looking. Sabina had picked one of her that was just… the same way I saw Barb… smiling, full of hilarity to the point of painfulness, intense as hell. (But, if you knew her, you would know that she would see only that it made her nose look too big, or something that her friends would never think of.) Paul I think had picked a very Arty looking photo of himself with one of his sculptures looking very Brooding Young Man About Town but Sabina had put next to it one where he was looking right at the camera very sweetly – a person essentially sweet and a little confused…. Oh, the horrid truth! In the photo of me that I’d picked out, I was sitting – maybe on his lap but maybe just next to – with Dr. Dick and all my body language self-effaced and went “I am a couple” and “My attention is all on this man”. I swear to god… I was *simpering*. It was not till I saw the rest of the exhibit, and the two photos together, that I realized: I’d picked it because it looked like what I thought “happy couple” should be and because startlingly Dr. Dick did not look like an alcoholic zombie in that photo (as he usually did) and I wanted a nice picture of us together. In the photo of me that Sabina picked out, I was pensive and a little out of focus, surrounded by books. I think Dr. Dick was very blurry in the background, far away. It contained all her love and pity, I think, for where I was and couldn’t quite be as a person, as a feminist. You’ve had fantastic friends with shitty partners, and wished you could jolt them out of it, but knew you couldn’t and they’d take their own sweet time and you just hope they become *more themselves*? Yeah me too. Yet: I could swear even now that most people thought I was free, was myself, was perhaps remarkably so to the point of being “inspiring”: Sabina saw I wasn’t. I was that person who was not quite being herself; limiting myself and “letting” myself be limited. Staring at Sabina’s portrait of me as her beloved friend, I realized right down to my core that she had taken a photo of Actual Me. It was like a photo of the Me of my journals, a self that didn’t have a public home and that I didn’t know how to live as. Thanks Sabina!

I thought tonight of the person I was in 1989 who would babble to avoid the questions about where I was and who I talked to and wondered, which bits of that self are still in there? How am I behaving? How am I sort of messed up? I appreciate the ways I have grown bigger – and more free. It feels like I stretched and stretched and kept going and never stopped or was satisfied, always wanting to be new. But I am also still that person from 1989 – and also the 16 year old girl cowering on the kitchen floor screaming about Constitutional Rights and free love as her dad spit in her face. And who will I be 10 years from now? How do we contain all these selves? I feel like a whole person, a free person. What is the lesson of Sabina’s photographs, besides that you are not entirely who you think you are?

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Hello from the surface of the motherfucking sun

It’s ONE MILLION DEGREES in my house. I have iced my head and watered the pavement. Can’t think, can’t move! Ill-feeling and cranky! I need an IV and a salt lick. No, fuck it, it’s brain in the jar time. *Schloop* (removes brain from skull & places into nice cold jar with internet connection)

We went out for pizza – Moomin says he is good at pinball – I agree as he kept scoring 5 million more points than I was able to – he’s fast on the flippers. I get all James Dean reckless and end up tilting.

Long good day working, helped out Squid a bit in the corners, could not muster up the energy to do more tonight.

It has been weird to have Rook act the stay at home and to come across him earnestly filling out forms, doing all the paperwork, magic food appearing in house and suddenly all cooked and stuff, the bags of things to take to donation were whisked away, it is eerie, pleasant, and guilt-inducing all at once, along with a very unworthy feeling of NOW YOU TRY IT THEN, HA, which I wish I didn’t feel. Actually my gratitude at not having to fill out those school forms knows no bounds. Just not having to *track* everything… Is it really okay? I find that I really, really, really love it when people make me food. Who doesn’t love it? But, especially now. It makes me want to cry. It always seemed to make sense for me to be doing all the form filling out and insurance-company-calling and crap, but I can’t remember why, even when we both worked, and both had the same commute. Maybe I need to let go of that for a bit. And putter in the garden a little, and focus my house-labor efforts on getting rid of books and things.

I suggested going to the beach tomorrow but that is kind of a dumb plan as I am not prepared at all – there is no beach food – I have no gas – I am physically in bad shape – The thought of wheeling myself down the long path fills me with horror and pre-exhaustion – But I felt bad that I have not done anything special with Moomin and it seemed like a good idea to get us all out of the house. Really, I would like to stay in bed until it is too hot to bear, and then maybe just go to the library. Can I change the plan? I already invited his friend to come… maybe just a regular play date instead and i could sit and play a good long board game with them, and have ice cream. Then fall back into bed. Much more my speed. I meant to do a board game thing tonight, but instead, pizza, books, and pinball. Then I collapsed into bed & computer.

Sunday will be swimming at Squid’s house. Ordinarily Zond-7 would come down for a bit but this week we can’t. I will miss him at the pool party. must – remember – not to drink too many lemon drops – at Squid’s house -

Cats – get off me – you’re sweaty, enormous, hairy animals – it is too hot to cuddle – Why do I not have several box fans in this house, and a minion to gently sponge me with ice water or lemon-flavored vodka –

Read more of the Crypto book, got to the bit about Clinton & Gore, their wonkiness, and the Clipper. WTF! And read a bit of Flora Tristan, and the first Narnia book (which Moomin is about to read) to imagine what Moomin will think of it.

Getting that crazy late-night feeling. Rook is snoring and peaceful. Cats as i mentioned are all over me. I want to cry for no reason and read snippets out of books and jump around and write crazyass poetry and drink some tequila and type till I pass out into this blog, quotes from the most beautiful books, complaints & celebrations, melancholy & nostalgia for bloggings-past. I’d like for the oddest & most rare & true things to come out of my fingers and come to you, in some sort of moment of little bits of paper flying around like the illustration of salome with birds in the comic book version of Wilde’s play. I’d like to do FABULOUS THINGS and just pretend to act like they are usual. I’d like to throw things up in the air and have them, with no explanation, NEVER COME DOWN, and for no one to act surprised by this. Long streaks of rainbow paint coming out from the heels of my converse as I skate around over the pavement, painting out comet-tail footsteps that melt & dissolve into the cement. It’s just what she does, that badgerbag chick over there. *shrug* If even that much notice.

And so to bed.

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Russian gangsters and Japanese philosophers, side order of trauma

Life has been a curious mixture lately with a bit of horrible intense drama and a bit of slack and routine, cramps and whining and sleeping late; yet as usual, though I think I’ve been doing nothing, when I look back and count up, everything seems so full, so good, so luminous. I feel like I’m riding a giant wave, exhilarating, heady with power. I have worked long days with the good feeling of knowing what I’m doing, being useful. I’ve had some bad days physically, and emotionally, but also, kept my shit together, and have a brain full of ideas and books. What I love, I love to be thinking and getting new information, playing, talking, looking at things with my awareness open. This week despite emotional lows I am full of poetry… I am Having an Interesting Life I suppose…

I’m reading a fantastic book that the SkaRat recommended to me, called I Am A Cat, published in 1905. It’s so good! It’s hilarious & sad. The introduction laid out charmingly how the author- Soseke Natsume – was something of a failure in his career & as a scholar – his teaching career sort of crappy – his pittance of a scholarship to go to London – which he mostly failed at because he hid in his room for 2 years doing nothing but reading a ton of books. OMG… my kind of person. It is all the cat’s pomposity and charm as he observes Human Nature… the scribblings of his human & the funny (catty!) conversations of the slack-ass scholar’s obnoxious, pretentious, half-assed friends. I keep thinking that surely the different characters sketched out must be making fun of particular figures from some intellectual scene in Japan at the time. I love the translation… it flows beautifully and succeeds in being funny (or at times in conveying that something complicated has just happened that would be funnier in Japanese, which as a translator, I appreciate).

I am also still reading the Crypt0 book but it is lost in the house somewhere. It is very good. Though… has that annoying golly-gee drooling P0 Br0nson flavor to it where you just want to go, Jesus, get a room already with your dreamy-eyed hacker boys. At least it does make it clear – the homosocial nature of geek culture. It was odd to read of what’s his face staying in McC’s house where I worked too. I could picture it (not the specific physical setting – I mean that I know the atmosphere well.) It explained some things to me about the feeling of working there and what was expected – expectations that one would have a sort of salon of underemployed geniuses who do your domestic labor and settle in a bit like extended family – not that I don’t appreciate some of the judgements and sentiments of that – but a fate I would particularly like to avoid from either side of the equation, underemployed genius side, or benevolent salon-aspiring employer whose homoerotic bonding time period had sadly passed with N. and M. in the late 50s and early 60s. Honestly the more I contemplate that looming fate for myself the more I want to do it co-op style or not at all. Anyway, read Crypt0 book and besides the actual ideas, thought of the cultural phenomenon where you do what RS4 did and ride your collective exhilarating wave of thought & collaboration, but it is not permanent, like having a brilliant rock band, and you may never get that synergy again in life, which seems awfully melancholy. One would just refuse to believe it.

My other book has been Godfather of the Kremlin which ummm what’s his name in Brussels recommended during a moment when I felt like there was no possible conversational topic since I was not really part of their work meeting, did not share their wonky knowledge of their topic, and did not want to talk about myself, so I asked this obviously interesting person what unusually good books he woudl recommend. It was this one. I’m enjoying it greatly… it’s super business-politics wonky and explains Russia in the 90s and specifically how Berezovsky and other capitalist gangsters looted the country during privatization… the whole thing with the vouchers is so horribly fucked up.. and I was deadly fascinated with the aeroflot story – the textbook case of how to loot a company you don’t own.

The emotional stuff has been difficult, I have felt intense about my physical issues and had a lot more pain this week, and also, had some fights with Rook over things, which brought up more issues for me than I know how to rightly deal with myself. It kind of brought up old family issues for me. I have particular difficulties when people are angry with me. Oh, can’t I be a grownup and not think back on things that happened over 20 years ago — haunted by ghosts? I understand ghosts now. I am happy with myself- and yet – not. Also, trying to face the ways in which I am, actually, an asshole. That’s hard! Rook is also very stressed in his job and this is his last week. He quit! I’m so glad he did, and think it is the right decision. I find it fairly easy to talk about most of my emotional problems or issues or dilemmas but he does not and I did not realize what he has been through. I also felt like, last year, with my health problems, I wanted him to have more support, he did not, I did not know how to provide it, I had my own issues and needed emotional support which he didn’t really know how to do either. I hope that is clear, yet vague… I was caught up in my loop of cranky pain, hating myself for not being able to be happy and full of attention and cheerful – hot and sweaty – upset with life – thining that i have not done enough – and that if I am in pain now, I might be in more tomorrow, or unable to even get up and therefore i should use the last of my strength to clear the laundry off the floor and make the room less disgusting – in case I am stuck in it for days – and thus trying to chivvy everyone else around me suddenly to clean and wanting to cry at being The Nag and also full of resentment at needing or wanting help and/or at years when it was my job to do the housework – And the reality of it is that we screamed at each other at the top of our lungs about housework… I am embarrassed… and that spilled over into arguing about everything – but I need to talk about it. I think we made it up and had a good conversation. And for some people that might be normal and part of life, but for me, not. Meanwhile I thought lately that things were calmer with a person who I mortally offended last year causing endless drama and pain, and yet who will not attempt to work that out with me in any way. I wish we could just sit down and talk. Or, if not, then I wish she would step off, keep her emotional pain to herself, and not lay it on me and people close to me. For various reasons, we are peripheral to each others’ lives. And we have to accept that and negotiate some way to tolerate that. That’s what I think. I can do it if they can. But, terribly, I feel that unholy feeling that something is being projected as being part of me, when it is actually that other person. In other words, that they have major boundary problems and the exact problems they have, they are attributing to me, and that, somehow, while not my Fault really, is partly because of my own strong personality, stubbornness, and what is either my assholishness or shininess depending; so that I am horribly aware that if I were somehow Lesser of a person, there would not be a problem; yet because this other person and I are both rather Rocketship in our approach to life, they bristle and cannot tolerate and I bristle and cannot back down.

I admire an uncompromising, unconventional person who has a strong personality, very much, often even when they position themselves in opposition to me or they clearly hate me or find me annoying as all fuck. A person who insults me, I can often look past the insult, and see the information. I also have Theories about how as a society we need people who don’t have great filters and who ignore social cues. I am one of them… But you know, some people are more extreme than me…. I appreciate what is good about them. Holy crap though, I don’t mean anything bad. If I’m offending, just tell me to my face… would the world end?

Other people have their own childhood-families and their own ghosts and histories… I am aware… So I will think about my responses to anger (paralysis, trapped, need to flee… flight reflex… ) and try to be easy on a person who has their own baggage, that I might trigger. But, it is not fair to the person triggering it, not to tell them or talk to them. I can’t erase myself, and won’t go away. The things thrown at me or accusations — and the tangible results of that — bring up my own irrational painful issues; abandonment in general. Therefore it seems logical to attempt negotiation, even if that is crazy moon language. Though I would just plain like the chance to explain myself, I would also willingly shut up and listen, not say anything, go away and think about it, and try not to go on the defensive etc. I see no need to hash it all out, but to establish reasonable boundaries, and what are the actual goals of talking at all. I do not expect some buddy buddy outcome here. I just want not to cause suffering to a person, and not to suffer their emotional outbursts and the effect direct or indirect they have on my life. I feel okay that I am saying this on my blog, and that I called the person to make the direct and sincere offer of “let’s talk”.

Meanwhile. Moomin has had “camp” which is really just day care, at his old school from a year ago, and though I thought he would find it boring, he seems to be having fun playing that he is squirrels with Jos3lyn and Mar1s0l and their entourage, and in the corners of time, reading Nancy Drew books. I had a call that he bumped his head, during a meeting at work, and ducked out to hear him sobbing with ice on his head, could tell he was okay but rattled, went to get him, admired the enormous bump on his head as he ran around and begged me to stay just long enough to have the ice cream sundaes… and enjoyed seeing the kids myself that I used to play board games with at recess… J0anna and the others…. I thought of M4rcus who was the most hawk like of them all and full of scorn and who could almost beat me at chinese checkers. (I would not insult him by letting him win – he was too smart not to see through that and be offended.) I miss getting to be a little bit involved at the school.

It has been 100 degrees or over – unbearable in the house – I got home today from SF, got the old library books, picked up Moomin (braving the horrible hill) and took him to the library. Worked a bit – looked up books with him – the Pilot met us there with Peanut who wants to play computer games – Moomin found a Nancy Drew and several books with magic & dragons in them – Maybe I can make it a custom to go there with him in the evening one night a week and just sit and read. We all went to the new Japanese restaurant on Main and Rook met us there. It’s not really very good… alas… I would not go there again … H1guma is still best in town. We had a nice dinner though. Moomin is eating more foods. He gets into the idea that it is korean food (will eat kim bap, fried tofu, the pickled gourd or radish thingies, and the other day with me and Rook at the korean restaurant in mtn. view he wanted to learn to read hangul characters. I am happy he has an interest but mostly just happy he will now eat more than 10 different things, 5 of them fruit.

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The mildest of adventures in London

Already I’ve lost track of the days but I didn’t want to forget lying on the leather couch in the trendy-empty bar looking out the window at some blue sky and the brick building across the narrow lane. The bricks were sooty gold with red-brick stripes and the outline of what seemed to be a ghost building underneath. The window and door frames, dark green, strangely the same color paint as the bar’s interior metal beams. I thought about the history of the building, and what it would be like to maintain it now as a facilities person or trying to run cable through it. I wondered why there were doors in a row on every story leading out into the street. Did there used to be a hallway? Zond-7 came back from ordering at the bar and said no – it was a factory and look up higher, there’s a winch. For winching out the finished websites perhaps since that’s what they make now, in the factories. We made up silly things, like the ftp man doing his rounds. “Bring out your files! Bring out your files! Uploads for downloads!” The telnetster in traditional garb, mostly superseded by the ssh man in his dapper uniform and neat-brimmed hat. Sad, really.

Later we figured out why that bar (so nice – called Cantaloupe) was empty – there are like 50 other trendy-ass bars but with patios and on hoxton square just a couple of blocks away. Not that that should matter since every ratty bar and pub is crowded here even on a Tuesday night.

street angel

We spent a whole extra day recovering and working from bed, only venturing a few blocks from the flat to grab some food. I have the very-local geography down, now, and know where to buy food and how to go find a taxi and the tube station and what other directions might be good to explore.

I am really enjoying c. and a.’s flat in every way. It’s so cute and perfect and cosy! I did my conference call from the hammock. The next door kids are cute as hell and it cheers me to hear them playing. I enjoy their art and funny kitschy stuff… and how cleverly they store all their crap… their million-page FAQ about their house and office and neighborhood, and their lovely gleaming red espresso machine (kitchenaid) and let’s not even go into how nice I think the damned washlet is. hahahah! Washlet!! I’m not super in love with having a million stairs, but on the other hand I can take my time, treat it as physical therapy, and it’s probably good for me. I’m trying to think what I can do in return or what would be nice to leave them… stock them up with nice groceries… nice coffee etc. And in general I have good “letting people crash at my place” karma so really the thing to do is to keep passing that on.

Observation, people in Britain do not say Hello or anything at all to strangers on the street. They take this so far that they don’t even look at you in the face, which makes it damned hard to tell which way to barrel forward in your speedy wheelchair.

fruit at night

Today I left Zond-7 sweating over his deadline while I ran off to the British Library for a couple of hours. I felt like I had to break a little barrier of going places by myself. Thought about taking the Old St. tube to St. Pancras or King’s Cross or whatever but then realized it was a bit late, I was tired, screw it, it would then become all about sweatily going through miles of tunnels and ramps and being ill natured at railway employees’ passive aggressive “help”. So, a taxi.

London taxis are AWESOME! I said this before, but here it is again. If you are in a wheelchair and have money to spend like water then just take taxis everywhere. All the black cabs are mega-accessible. The back doors slide open like a van, a ramp comes out, there are hand rails, seats swivel and fold down if you need that, and the back seat is huge with a big empty wheelchair-holding space.The taxis stop for me! They don’t fuss or freak out too much. A little bit, but not bad at all. I don’t need the ramp and I can pull my chair up into the taxi, without having to take it apart or fold it up.

London taxi access

You see what I mean about mild adventures. Hey you’re on your own in a strange city! What will you do! OH I KNOW I’LL TAKE A TAXI TO THE LIBRARY. Okay! Yes! In fact, that is what I always do!

Then I wander around and take photos of graffiti and street art and bricks and manhole covers.

The British Library (the giant new brick building) has very good wheelchair access. I especially appreciated the signs, big, high up, frequent, and very clear, pointing me to ramps and elevators.

Revolution Revolution

So at the library I got my reading pass. They get you to line up and ask if you have ID and details of what you want to see. They don’t really care what you want to see and you don’t have to prove anything to them about your research project; they just want to know that you know that there’s a specific thing in the library that they own, that you want to look at! So they ask “Do you have something written down or printed out” … but mostly to rule out the people who should go to the public library to check out a mystery novel or look something up in the encyclopedia or whatever. I had jotted down the names of a couple of poets and began to open my notebook and they waved me through. If you don’t have “details written down” then they shunt you over to some computers where you can look in the catalogue and come up with a list of books. After this queue I filled out a web form (nicely accessible computer with huge monitor and huge font) and then waited till my number was called. A few questions later and a photo… now I have a nifty 1- month card! So I will be looking at a bunch of books by (and about) Emilia Bernal, and some suffragist newspapers and I might also look for women’s newspapers from 1830s France as I suspect they might be in there and it will give me a thrill.

I figured out by scouting it out physically that it will be easy to take the tube there and then harder to get back (because of having to come up the Old Street ramp) so it’ll be better to take a taxi back.

After a bit more work at “home” we went out to an indian restaurant on brick lane. I took a lot of photos of great street art.

It’s exhausting to wheel up and down all those curbs. they are oftn very low but even an inch up and down is tiring. My hands hurt like hell. Also… holy hell… bricks and cobblestones are hell on my back, it’s like the vibrations from “Wages of Fear“.

In the library as there wasn’t enough time left to order any books, I went to exhibits. There was a great exhibit of chinese, korean, & japanese color wood block printing on the 2nd floor. I wrote down a bunch of them to look up later. A lot of the bird ones I wished I could show Minnie. Here are my notes

- Ten Bamboo Studio 1634
- Soken Sekisatsu 1768 Hojakuchu “Dazzling simplicity in … prints”
- a literary and artistic gathering 1839 chikutenzan
400 artists and writers with names. i sat there a while and counted the women. there were 22. many facing each other or sitting in groups, not isolated from each other
- shin kawazu (..awase) 1820 New Poetry Competition of Frogs nifty anthology/collaboration
- kawa… bumpo = awesome
- The gifts of the seas umi no sachi 1762 mica used in ink for prints for fishy sheen!
- kimpaen’s picture album 1820 (bumpo, same guy) Kimpaen gafu. Birds birds birds!!!
- Wang Cheo pictures of foreign things 1998 made me think of “woolgathering”

chocolate for women, right?

Then saw huge Ramayana exhibit which made me think of talking with Neha (nehavish) about Surpanakha (who i did not find in the exhibit though i didn’t see all of it and she is perhaps not in every version) but mostly in this exhibit I was excited to see books written on palm leaves. One of those things I’ve often read about and wondered what it is really like… it is like thin flat fan blades about the size of an 8 inch ruler, with 2 holes drilled in rolodex style, polished smooth maybe with some varnish or sizing, and very small delicate writing.

Swooned at lovely book binding, maps, illuminated manuscripts exhibit. I thought of how lucky i felt when i worked at the geology library and dennis let me look at the super rare illustrated books he kept back in his office. amazing french books with taxonomy & botanical illustrations & fossils… The book that blew me away today and got me to tears was a persian one from 1610 ad , Anvar-i Suhayli which is a version of Kalila & Dimna / Pancatantra. written by Husayn … v…. Kashifi (can’t read my own handwriting!) for Prince Salim who became the emperor Jahangir. Now anyone who has bothered to read this for the last N years knows I’m obsessed with the Pancatantra and all its derivatives!

This might sound very exciting but consider that most of my time in London so far has been spent within a 3-block radius of this bed where I am lying 90% of the time peacefully Computing the same as I would anywhere else in the world, in the midst of a small mountain of used kleenexes and allergy meds, reporting intermittently that my legs and knees and back and hands hurt like hell and that I need more chocolate.

flyers

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Thoughts on the geography & economics of cyberspace from the Brussels airport

I noted the shapes of houses as soon as we crossed from France to Belgium. Houses even built alone in the middle of a field go straight up in a narrow box shape, like a brick stood on end, and a pointy roof, as if built into an invisible row of narrow box townhouses crammed together. I wondered if they had been in a row over the years and fire, age, or war destroyed the others? Or is it the function of laws and the accepted size of a single plot of land and house footprint? Or style detached now from any of those things so that if you built a house in the middle of a field, it would be that obelisk shape like a slice of cake standing alone?

I noted in my 4am haze on the way to the airport that there were not many billboards. Our notions of wasted space, bare space, unused, *needing* colonization and exploitation. Once you start painting “Chew Mailpouch” on the side of barns and slotting tiny ads into parking meters, every informationless space is an opportunity. Our rush to ad-driven web is such a colonization. We don’t put ads in the margins of books – but we do in magazines, which are replacing the book. Cyberspace was thought of by Gibson & Sterling early on as a sort of cave that paralleled our reality but underneath it or outside of it, using stuff it internally knew to build models of corporations, people, geographies, wealth and power. Relationships were not modelled that I can think of, other than as the flow of money – or were they modelled as information flow as well? But when I look at the world I am seeing it with *missing information*, missing overlays as in Spook Country or Stross’s Halting State, with not just facts and advertisements but game systems and fiction, enhancements to objects and thus to geography. Already I notice that my own geography differs from other people in that (as Zond-7 and I just did) I head for a power outlet or a wifi hot spot, rather than a chair and a window. We compete with other little technocratic foraminifera for the most mineral-rich spot in our ocean, detecting currents invisible or unimportant to our fellow travellers.

As I consider information-rich areas as somehow attractive or nutritious I think of windows again, or televisions, or paintings and art.

The “wasteland” idea I was talking about in my last post: we invent the idea of wasteland or uncolonized space, as with Patagonia or Antarctica or “The West” or Mars, areas that are occupied in one way or another but that by circumscription of language can be made empty. I was thinking of this as I looked at the cultivated fields next to the strips of land (waste land) alongside the railway (and that exists also along highways) and wondered that it is not under cultivation. That ecological niche costs too much to exploit, it has a particular transaction cost and the economy is such that it is not “worth it” to produce goods from the strips of land. Then i thought of the fire prevention goats in my county, a flock of goats which is herded from area to area to eat the underbrush in dry weather, entire fields of thorns, weeds, tall bristly grasses. In an area where people keep goats in order to survive, the roadside and “vacant” area weeds would be a hot commodity. In ours, the county actually pays someone to feed their goats. The roadside could grow hay mowed and sold, or it could be mowed and composted (which perhaps it already is). The amount of things that it is less expensive to *throw away* than to use boggles my mind and seems inherently wrong. So I looked at the side of the road and thought “why isn’t it being used?” and then realized that no — the weeds provide seeds to birds, habitat for insects, unpaved surface for rain to return filtered to groundwater reserves, and other benefits I can’t think or or see and which in fact drive me crazy when I see pointlessly concreted-over areas next to streams, where there could be useful weeds. When I was 17 or 18 I used to glue or wheat-paste little posters with poetry and stories on them onto parking meters, bus stops, bathroom stalls, or any places where people seemed to be waiting or liminal or stuck, as “OccuPations of Uninhabited Space” , OPUS for short, named after Takver’s mobiles in The Left Hand of Darkness, as an attempt to counteract the information colonization by advertisements with a different kind of information — the encrypted information, the steganography of fiction and poetry. My colonizations were invasive, were graffiti, were wrong, in a way that paid advertisements were not. Easy construction of web pages have made more space, more territory, for all of our information-emitting habits, our billboards to the future, our overlay of stories. I knew the instant I saw Mosaic for the first time that there would be enormous attention grabbing flashing colored advertisements not just colonizing the screen space of our machines but the internal landscape of our attention. A certain kind of space would be created in us that was not there before, for the organization and absorption of information.

Thus, the way it is “wrong” or colonialist/imperialist to look at the Patagonian landscape or a small town by quiet river and seeing it as empty and unused, full of potential, or misused, unfertilized (coded female and in need of impregnation) because not full of industry, mills, factories, garbage dumps, bustling workers and trains and tourists — in that same way I would question our assumption that “the Internet” is an empty space with infinite ecological niches waiting (yearning!) to be discovered and exploited. What we are seeing as “the Internet” while obviously a real thing is also an idea and a geography. I thought of the roadside weeds, the in-theory-valuable growing power or living-space of the land by the train tracks, and the way that pay-for-recycling created paying work for people collecting cans and bottles from trash, and speculated that “there should be” a movement to find and expose and create infrastructures for people to step in and use tech tools to create entire economic niches. A way to use web tools to lower the transaction costs, for those flocks of goats or the opportunity to publish books on the seat backs of buses. I thought of couchsurfing.com, and the site that lets people register the fruit trees in their suburban yards, to get rid of a surplus of plums, lemons, apricots. There *are* many such niches. But is this approach doing harm in some way? We might say of course not as “the Internet” does not have previous inhabitants to be damaged or ecosystems destroyed but it is the potential I wonder about and what avenues become narrowed as we barrel down these particular highways. For example, everyone wants to publish a book. They have photocopiers, they have paper and pens, why don’t they publish it in the sense of making it public by pasting it up on the wall somewhere public? It is not just the ambition of making it big and “publishing” 50,000 copies of that book because of the ways poets jockey and shark for their little 200-run letterpress hoo-ha dumpster-fillers or space-taker-uppers unread on their friends’ shelves. It is also because of property rights; it would be illegal for me to paste up my novel’s pages on the wall of the train station, even though it wouldn’t be particularly offensive, it might entertain people waiting in line, it might be aesthetically just as pleasing or unpleasing as the bare wall. As we colonize our vacant planet of Internet we have to watch out for the pressures that then make every space owned, even potential space (consider domain names).

Okay. I’m ready for my overlay implants now.

Onward to Budapest!

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Fixing sidewalks, and a day of poetry


pleo nuzzling olpc
Originally uploaded by Liz.

Moomin and I woke up late but I am superefficient in the morning and I got him to choir on time, laying out his clothes for him to get dressed before he got out of bed into the cold to eat his cereal. I drove him the 2 blocks to school, not able to deal with the thought of my cold fingers on the wheelchair rims at 7:30 in the morning.

Then I worked for a bit just to fix a few little problems. I will do Real Job ™ work more seriously tomorrow. Today was for me.

I got all fired up over Caltrans and the ADA and started this Flickr group, “Inaccessible!”.

A blog for photos of inaccessible places and spaces. Ever been frustrated at lack of wheelchair access, insane potholes in the sidewalk, stairs, badly configured bathrooms too small for wheelchairs, badly placed handrails, elevator buttons too high for you to reach? Snap a photo, label the place as clearly as possible, and explain why it is a barrier.

My hope is that this group will be useful to building owners and people who want to make their environment more accessible. It also helps those of us with disabilities to express our frustration and to record daily encounters with barriers to access. Documenting the problems may also help us to follow through and try to get those problems fixed by the people responsible for them.

and wrote this: Caltrans evades responsibility for sidewalk ramps.

And then olivia_circe came over and we worked for NINE AND A HALF HOURS on organizing and submitting my poetry and translations to journals. I am so grateful. It is a huge weight off my mind to know that I’m plowing through all that built up work of 10 years or so. (The years before that, I mostly don’t like the poems enough any more to send them out.)

I’m learning from this that it is hard work to send out stuff. It is not just some mental block I have or some self destructive, self sabotaging impulse. It’s a lot of work! Two fairly smart efficient people spent almost 20 person-hours just now to get that shit together! And it is only the very tip of the iceberg.

We are putting all the information into my private wiki. First there is finding places that I want to send stuff to. Then figuring out what to send. Then looking up guidelines and reformatting and putting together the work according to those guidelines. Then often a bio for me and if it’s a translation, for the original author. Then on top of that they often want an introduction written, or something about the translation process. THEN… a cover letter. (Which I keep as short and to the point as I can with no sucking-up or bullshit in it.) Then email in whatever file format they want or print and snail mail. So, a lot of work. We sent 6 submissions out, queried 5 other places, and set up framework for a lot of other stuff. I have been dumping originals and translations into an author page, and then olivia_circe has been going in and gardening out the individual poems into their own pages. Then, lists of journals and guidelines and deadlines, interlinks, a master list of submissions (or as I now like to call them after one feminist journal’s explanations of the evils of submission, “offerings”), pages on individual authors, sample query and cover letters, ALL THAT.

So, if it took us 20 hours to do 6 submissions it is no wonder I have barely done 4 or 5 submissions a year.

It feels so good and right to be doing this!

I am astonished as I see the enormous pile of work that I have done, and that I get no real-world respect or credit for having done and that almost no one sees. Holy crap. I need to get it out there. Seriously, people.

Plus, olivia_circe is fun to hang out with.

I picked up Moomin and looked at his schoolwork, got him a snack, etc. We talked about his Math-athon and about Abraham Lincoln, he read some Spiderman DVD comics, and went outside for a while. I fed him and Nukie pizza while they did whatever it is they do in his back yard in the half-torn-down and gutted garage building and their piles of rocks and treasure.

Then I went off into mad poety talk over here for National Poetry Month’s beginning and wrote a bit about one of my favorite poets that I’ve been translating for a while. I wrote about why I like him and his work and why I feel a certain kinship and understanding.

Moomin and I wrote some emails together to family and then I read him more of Farmer Boy, we looked at the globe and talked about geography and history and politics and travel, railroads, race, Native Americans, the early U.S., and so on. I will say more about that tomorrow but for now I need to STOP TYPING.

I walked well most of the day, but towards the end began to squeak and freeze up every time I had to go from sitting to standing or vice versa. By 8pm I could not walk much any more and I am back in the wheelchair in the house. But, am doing just fine. I will go to work in the morning tomorrow and then come home to rest. Zond-7′s nephew who has moved here without a lot of support or backup or anything, needs a place to stay for a bit and he called me today to ask if he can stay here. It would work out well for me not to be alone all week and he is a lovely house guest and does not make work for me and sweetly offers to do errands.

Okay, bath and and a book and bed. I don’t have any April Fool things planned. My head is just in another sort of space at the moment.

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To do list, with rewards


pool
Originally uploaded by Liz.

An online-friend who translated a long obscure poem I also translated is coming tomorrow! I’m excited to have someone to work with. We read each others’ versions of this poem and thought they would be improved by a mashup. So I think tomorrow will be lovely.

Charge, full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes, never mind maneuvers go straight at ‘em. My leg hurts a little but as usual in the morning I’m fired up, cheerful, and ready for action. Here’s what I’ll do today!

- clear out work inbox
- Wash sheets
- make bread (in bread machine, takes 10 min)
- show up at work 11am – 1pm
- go home, rest
- get out my translation project and give it a good 3 hours
- Clean my office (lick and promise)
- clear off the desk (cheat by stacking the papers)
- pick up Moomin and help him with homework
- obtain yogurt, eggs, pizza, carrots, parm. cheese, mozzerella, basil, tomatoes (get Rook to do this?)
- fold all the laundry (can be left for night)
- do a little more work at night so i am caught up and can slack off on Wednesday

I have no idea if me and the Other Translator will get along, but surely so. I spent a couple of years obsessing on this poet (J. de I.) and more time getting into the context of poetry in the early 20th century and the interconnections she had with other poets (mostly poets in Argentina, Spain, and France, but elsewhere in the Americas). Nobody else I’ve ever met particularly cares about this unfashionable poet. The Other Translator’s online work (her own poetry, I mean) is good, by which I mean that unlike most poetry it doesn’t make me want to barf or slap someone upside the head. That doesn’t mean we’ll be instant best friends and I don’t expect that, but it is one of my dreams to do good writerly collaborations with other people, and I think doing that with another poet is one of the nicest things possible. When I did with Yehudit it was like being in the poet-insanity of “flow” for days — intimate creativity. I hope she is a hard worker and likes to concentrate and that she will GO THERE.

The poem itself is dorky and lovely at the same time. It is J. de I. at her most high-falutin’ in her late-modernista-romanatic-gushing style, in fact her style of 1924 or 1930 but written more like 1969; a little preciously overwrought and frenchified in a long prose poem that I think is very Andre-Gide-ish. So if you picture someone who has been publishing since 1918, and put them in 1969, and she’s surveying her life as an artist, and trying to describe it in an extended conceit that she is on an island alone, shipwrecked… It is “uncool” in all the ways you might think but I love it.

So far instead of doing any of these things I have gossiped online with my sister and blogged all this. Still, I’m infused with happy confidence.

Onwards!

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Letter to my body, 2006

I wrote this letter to my body a couple of years ago, after I came out of surgery. Anesthesia, for me, is an out of body experience, or hyperspace, or coming out of stasis or starship cold sleep. Waking up from sleep is like that too, sometimes, if I’ve been dreaming hard.

This is for BlogHer’s A Letter to My Body roundup, which kicks off BlogHer’s new Body Image topic.

Oh, body. I like you okay even if I crack jokes about wishing to be a brain in a jar. It can be creepy and nostalgic and connected-feeling to look at your calves and see the exact sturdy calves of my grandmother. Animals and inheritance. I can think of each part of you and what you have meant to me; times you’ve hurt me or I’ve hurt you, times I’ve blessed or cursed you, skateboard accidents where blood poured out and I felt so sorry for the careless damage to your lovely complexity; yet later, other times I’ve hated your sluggish response, the kneecap crepitations, the sparkler fuse from sacroiliac to the painful flipper of my right foot, the way you’ve been dead weight I have to lift with my hands from bed to wheelchair or drag behind me like heavy, ugly meat. Your stubborn refusals to breathe and the exhaustion. You’re so fragile & yet robust, like a car that’s utterly dependable to keep running and yet that makes worrisome mysterious noises, rumblings, backfires, leaking oil and fumes into the driver’s seat. A spaceship with a rogue AI in some of its limbs and engines, so that the wires that come out of my pilot-self in the navigation console are getting strange messages. My orders get lost on the way to you, eddying in electronic backwaters, static on the line, sensory input down. You refuse to be a perfect tool for me, you buck and protest, you’re a horse and I’m the rider, and you let me know it.

The instant my baby came out and I held him in my arms, I felt like you and I were whole. I was all together in one piece. A sense of rightness washed over me. We were solidly together, machine and brain, flexing our powers, no more static or disconnection, all the nerves and wires working right. Right. Solid. In the center. Connected. Geometric. A moment of perfect mathematical understanding. Numbers and equations mapped to a graph that I understood, beautiful algebra, numbers becoming a physical object. That was me! Connected all the way through, really inhabiting where I am. For so many months I had been not-alone, with another person in me, always conscious of that loneliness assuaged: then he was outside me but still connected by the cord, and I could see him, and he wasn’t part of me anymore, and I was alone and whole. I was me (again? finally?) and there was a shock of recognition. I welcomed my baby into the real world, I held him and realized I was me and no one else. All the parts of me that I had separated out, because I could not possibly be THAT, or that, or that other thing, or that quality, or at least not all at once… those parts met and merged and were happy. I imagine death to be like that, in the best of worlds. In labor, after labor, I was proud. My body and I worked together like olympic athletes, will and flesh.

The times I’ve cried, so rarely, after sex where like magic I am my body and understand it. When you, my body *work* and when I am you, and don’t feel so alone in my head. When I’m not fighting or struggling. When touch feels good instead of a battle for control.

I feel like that today. Waking up from anesthesia was a nightmare, almost knowing, almost conscious, but knowing I could not move, trying to become pure Will, pure consciousness, and wrassling your unruly mule… finally I could whimper a little.. fighting for breath… I said “help” and then “cold, please, warm” and a nurse came, told me to breathe, “What… beep… beeping…” You have to breathe, the oxygen monitor beeps, remember to breathe… the terrible weight on my chest, the squeezing. “shaking… legs… ” She brought me warm blankets and an electric warmer to quiet the convulsive trembling in my legs, which made me remember the transition phase of labor when my legs were about to explode with the twitching and shaking. Laboring in the bath like a spastic electric seal. Finally I could move a finger. I could almost swallow. I said to myself the few poems I can remember, Where like a pillow on a bed a pregnant bank swells up to rest the violet’s reclining head, sat we two, one another’s best…. We then, who are this new soul know of what we are composed and made, the atomies from which we grow, are souls which no change can invade. Beloved, gaze in thine own heart, the holy tree is growing there, from joy the holy branches start and all the trembling flowers they bear. The changing colors of its fruit have dowered the stars with merry light the surety of its hidden root has planted quiet in the night. If I were tortured I would wish to have been a better memorizer. To be trapped in my mind completely, oh it is hell and must be endured. Tools for enduring. If I wait and promise then my body will come back to me. Do not think of the movie “Waking Life”. Avaunt. I’m so glad I can hear. I can move my finger just a little. Thank you, my body. The doctor comes, I know her voice. She doesn’t know how glad I am of her megadykey solidity. My eyes open a little to consecrate her a blurry angel. I am her for a moment in her radiant body, squeezing my own hand. I hear myself croaking “Sister”…. “My sister… want ….my sister…” But she can’t come in. “Do you hurt?” “No… hard, control, not to be in control.” A sentence! Oh thank you mouth. If I had music, I could breathe. I swallow, almost. Stammering. Breath. It’s so hard to breath and then the beeping, then I remember to breath and I say my bits of poetry again. That we are tired for other loves await us, hate on and love through unrepining hours, before us lies eternity, our souls are love and a continual farewell, unloose the cord and they will wrap you round, I see my life go dripping like a stream from change to change I have been many things, a green drop in the surge, a gleam of light upon a sword. Green, muscadine. Breathe, and breathe, and breathe… I open my eyes. There’s a clock. I’m so happy, the numbers change on the clock, across the room, enormous, but I can’t see what they are without my glasses. How great webs of sorrrow lie hidden in the small slatecolored thing! The woman next to me has been moaning, I heard them say earlier “your lung has to reinflate” and I say “it’s so hard, you can breathe, you can keep doing it”. I know she hears me. She moans again. “It’s hard” she says. “Jamal…” Yes… I know… I want my sister, too, like she wants Jamal, whoever he is. She sounds old. Her son? “I’m breathing too” I rave to her. “It hurts” she says. Some nurses come back over. “Your oxygenation is 100%, you’re doing fine, you’re doing great, your breathing is great.” I know otherwise, she is struggling like I’m struggling. It looks fine on the monitors but we are fighting, will over body. I make my eyes open again and I make the head turn. She looks at me too, amazing. How? “Hurts!” I tell her. “Damn!” she says, looking like she wants to laugh, but there’s no breath for it. Yeah, she knows me, I’m glad. We are glad for nurses and monitors but also glad that other people hurt and know other truths. I moved my head! I’m looking around! There are other people! Like a basketball slamming through a hoop and into another universe, like a starship turning inside out in a black hole and coming out the other end in a spray of light somewhere it can’t imagine, I’m not “making my head move” or “making my eyes open” but I am moving my head and opening my eyes, and I am them. My body, I’m sorry… I’m sincerely sorry for the ways that I demand to be the captain. So much of the time I am your patriarch. For a moment I see how it’s wrong and I see how to be whole, all of us together in my body (me). A nurse comes to wheel me out, to the second recovery room, where someone will know me. I ask him about the World Cup. My brain thinnks in Spanish. I welcome, welcome, the effort, the enigma, the codebreaking, the healthy work of it, I could do a crossword puzzle, I could solve equations, I could parse a sentence, I could put all the parts of my body into a taxonomy, to be comforted that the gears are oiled and meshing. Sliding in and out of unity, body and mind, I’m not sure who is “I”, but am happy not to be helpless. The captain slides into his chair, I am comforted, I’m back in the saddle, I can see forever, I could fight the laws of gravity and fly off the gurney, naked, and light everything up with the fire of thought, so that in that moment everything would be permitted, for everyone, and they also would become whole. I can’t wait to stand up and walk, to pee, to talk, to look at someone who looks at me. Intense gratitude. I’m so glad.

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