16 December 2006

All the thoughts that escape me

as I lie on my back pressed beneath piles of blankets, nose cold, contemplating the twining ivy stenciling along the top of my bedroom paneling...

This week, misshapen buildings and profiles, all my half-formed impressions of downtown Providence came circling around me, peering down at me, when I laid in my bed.

In the morning, when I would have been scrambling for the bus, I wondered about my bus driver, and the three passengers who I ride with from my stop, I wondered about the old man sitting in the Bank of America reading the paper, and the businessmen who smoke in the alley beyond the revolving glass doors, and the boy with tattoos who is always in the Arcade, and my make-believe-homeless woman, who always has her hair a different color and wears new clothes while she begs.

I thought about the uneven cobblestones outside of the Hanley Building, and how my kitten heels always get caught between them if I am not careful. Inside, to the claustrophobic little lobby, the white brick face inside the stairwell. Outside, all the places I walked for lunch, along the river or to basement cafes, or inside the Arcade—always a last resort. Because the air smells like oil and the echo is too much and the people in there are all stereotypes from some other world.

It seemed distant and foreign and not at all like it had ever belonged to me, a morning like that, walking from the bus plaza to my office, humming and clicking my clogs down the street. It seemed like a pencil sketch or a claymation village, and very very far away.

I lay beneath my blankets perfectly still, as the sunlight came in, webbed and white, between the curtain lace, in stripes between the blinds, and a wrenching sense of passage, the heavy vacancy of a closed door, a corner turned, a view altered.

You magnify the beautiful, reduce the ugly, and fall in love with the memory traced out in your mind...

13 December 2006


or i'll push you, he said, i think, between things, beneath everything, yesterday.

when my boss called up and said i should decide if i want to stay past january. but before that, too, when i was praying all last weekend in virginia about who i am and what i should do.

i was crouched to jump anyways, but i was fearing the motion, i was doubting myself, i was afraid of my false intuition.

but this morning i didn't have to go to work. and that felt strange. i emailed my resume out two places - maybe i'll be mary poppins soon - and i vaccumed my room for the first time in months. there were lots of paper slivers on the floor, and pennies.

i read eudora welty and planned my second-to-last english class. and i journaled furiously on my own time. i didn't fight with anyone in my family. but i fought myself a lot. and i think i tried to press myself through a wrought iron gate a few times, one that is locked, and

i always get hurt when i do that.

in any case. its late.

i don't know what is coming next, but that's ok.

i said: push me to the lip of true life, along the edge above the abyss, i want to dance there, on one foot.

i said: this is all too routine, mix some things up, let me move around a bit, see something else.

i said: i don't believe in what i am doing in this office, in this room with the brick walls and the bamboo wallpaper, in my corner with hardly a desk.

he said: leap, or i'll push you.

and he did.

07 December 2006

And any action

is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat…

It's not the night before the trial anymore, you've used up all the time you've got for idle speculation, for lying awake, somehow you passed straight through the night without blinking, and now it's day.

Get going, you've only just begun, sitting curbside in the winter sun, just flown in, striding between brick faces through sunlight and falling snow. Get going, before these words get lost on your tounge.

Can't you see, the day is breaking?

It is back home and back to work where the day has borders and late nights wake like a weight on your chest, and you can’t pull hard enough to cinch the girdle of the world, narrow the globe.

I thought I felt your hand on my back
And with it there I knew I could be anything
So I will trace every dream I have
Around the outline of your fingers
Pressed against me

To the dreams that keep me up all night:
If I move to January will you come with me?

06 December 2006

(to myself last year)

Dear Last December,

I saw you on Saturday night and that is when this whole thing got hard.

All at once you were right there ahead of me, your figure moving beneath the yellow lights, and I thought I was going to divide into a thousand pieces. The hat was drawn over your eyes and your head was bowed. You were striding straight forward, across that windy sidewalk, through a freshly constructed hell.

Oh misperception. Oh unwarranted tears. I can't stop you. I didn't before and I can't now.

Oh Virginia, I had to come closer before I could get further away.

I was afraid that if I got closer, we might collide, meet eye to eye. I was afraid you'd get back inside of everything. I didn't want to remember how it felt to be you, or that once you were me.

Look at you—so blindly keeping walking. You're so angry and foolish and wrong! You're so hemmed in by your own assumptions, so trapped and entangled! I would bind up your feet. I would stop you where you stand. I would close up the road in front of you. But I can't.

I think you need to go that way, somehow.

Now I am living at home.
At home I am healing and learning to heal.
I will heal you, if I possibly can.

You don't know, you don't, how the world will shift up, or when it does what the contours of the road will be. One day you'll wake up and this doubt will have loosened its grip. One day the serpents will unknot and slip traceless from your stomach. One morning you'll feel as if a whole layer of self has evaporated, disappeared; but the parts that hurt won't exist anymore.

It might make you feel empty, at first.

Wait it out.

Here, much farther on the other side, there is a new generosity towards everything. Whatever happened or whatever you've done, whatever think has been done to you, you'll heal. Wait for the marks of mercy—they'll come, sometimes scripted in unknown tongues—you'll feel their touch and you'll learn to read them. And maybe here, quieted and at peace, the curiosity will begin to burn you again, to probe the darkness unafraid,

And maybe I will.

Monday Afternoon

24 October 2006

Public Transportation Autumn

The bus driver waited for me today, at my regular stop. I was across the way counting change and rearranging my scarf. If you come every morning they start to expect you, and I do. I pay my fare, say good morning, and walk to the very back of the empty bus. I sit in the same corner, sideways beneath the heating vent and read or write all the way into the city.

I never rode school buses growing up and I was afraid of them. One morning when I was walking to the Post Office early, the bus stopped and the doors opened and the driver tried to make me get in. I was about eight, and a very diligent pen pal, and it was never too early to walk the hundred yards up to the town square and mail a letter. I froze on the side of the road as the exasperated driver looked at me like I was very stupid. “Get in!” He shouted, at last, clearly frustrated. From the back I heard my neighbor, Eli, calling, “Hey—hey—leave her alone!—that's the home-schooled kid!”

“Our driver is such an idiot,” he told me later, when we were playing in the woods.

For a little while though, no—for years actually—I planned when I would walk to the post office watching for the bus out of our front bay window, and if I forgot and saw the bus coming I would hide in the woods. Even when I was driving places during school hours with my mother, I would always duck out of sight in our station wagon when we passed a school bus—always, that moment on the curb would flash through my mind.

My first school bus ride was two spring breaks ago when Jules and Amy and Sarah and I were in Charleston, South Carolina to run The Cooper River Bridge Run 10k. The driver had pinned up diagrams of where all the kids sat and if the driver that morning was the same woman who usually drove the bus, she had a sweet and soothing disposition. It was about 50 degrees that morning, outside the rain was coming down in ice-cold spears and it was only 5:00 and still dark. We'd gotten hardly any sleep the night before the race because we'd stayed up making a lot of pancakes for ourselves while watching the news—since that was the night the Pope was dying. While we stood in the rain at the starting line wearing trash bags like ponchos, our friend Eva was over in Italy, in St. Peter's square, attending memorial vigils.

But that was my first school bus ride and we were in the South and it was too cold for April so our driver had the heat all the way up and some soft gospel music playing as we drove between crumbling stucco houses through neighborhoods with fenced in churches and irate billboards about hell.

The bus was nice. The seats were soft. At last I was warm and drying a little bit after the hurricane conditions of race registration. When we pulled up to the starting line I didn't want to get out and run the race.

When Johnny and I were little and my dad was still an engineering student, we would save all our bread heels and stale Kix or Cherrios from the bottom of the box and the burnt waffles that came out last and things we'd dropped on the floor during the week. And some weekdays we would go wait at the bus stop by our apartment complex, with the little blue stroller all folded up like an umbrella and mommy would take each of our hands and we'd climb up between the hissing doors when the bus stopped and go feed the ducks at the small green college pond.

The seats inside were blue and it was usually cold, even in the summer. I sat close to mommy and there were lots of strangers. We would feed the ducks and surprise daddy at the engineering building or at the library, and then mom would take us to the art section in the University store. I would follow her as she bought sea sponges and kneaded erasers and new paintbrushes or specific shades of water color...

When I was six we moved out of the apartments and there were no bus rides for years—only the threatened one that morning on the way to the Post Office, until this summer when I graduated and couldn't get a car. I work in the city now, most days of the week, and take the bus to get there. At first all the bus-people made me uncomfortable, but they don't anymore.

The people who ride the bus with me today are the students and the poor and the independent elderly—like the man with the little felt cap and a brown and gold houndstooth jacket who sits a few rows up with a polished cane and pleated wool trousers who is probably somebody's grandfather. And there are great-aunties on the bus, like the woman across from him, with curled white hair and funny old purses, carrying an umbrella when its not cloudy.

The heat blows and I keep to myself, reading or writing, speculating or praying, all the way to work.

I am always a little disappointed when we pull into the plaza and I have to walk to my office. If I haven't gotten all written out during the drive up, it is inevitable that I'll have to catch up with myself by hiding in the bathroom with my notebook when I first get to work.

In a little while, maybe, I'll have a car and this hour-long space will be lost for a season, in the name of saving time.

But even if I get a car soon and its a while before ride the bus again, I think someday I'll have an outrageous purse and some hideous shoes and wear marvelously audacious lipstick, when I am old.

No one will be able to stop me from getting to the city—umbrella in hand—ready for any unexpected weather.

28 September 2006

Hungry like you.

The sea rises up in the most unexpected places—the salt in your eyes and in your blood—the motion beneath everything, the commotion in your hollowed hand and ear, wallpapering the silence, rhythmic and haunting.

Swaying in the boughs of a walnut tree, pressed against the sky with the green paper leaves, you might think you hear the ocean in the tree tops, you might think you see the waves in the grass.

Spreading blankets on lawns and beaches to watch the cold slide of stars across a black sky. Drinking fluid night through the open windows of a train, shaking along the tracks, hearing a sound in all the vibration, reaching across all the red rooftops and grey bridges, in the middle of the land, on the top of a hill, the voice of that reaches your ears, hungry like the grinding of the surf over stones

Hungry like you.

You know that this is dangerous--waking up like the morning after a fever broke--trying your limbs and finding soundness instead of ache.

You know that real boldness is damn dangerous. Have a healthy sense of your own danger. Tread slowly. Don't let the fearlessness in. Don't loose yourself to hope. You might get reckless with your love again, and actually begin to forgive people for all the things they never meant to do. You might see beauty in everything. You might start to Trust.

You might start to pray recklessly again. You might ask for more than you can handle. You might try to walk on water again.

And, oh God, what then?

To: Sarah and Paulina and Matt and Vysehrad and the Deutsche Bahn and Chris Piecuch.

26 September 2006

Here, the intersection of the timeless moment

Is England and nowhere.
Never and always.


...all the times I've left my house and all the different ways: late for the airport or painfully early, running out the door or going slowly (crying), leaving yelling or silent, early mornings and late nights, resolved or unresolved...

...and journeys all feel a little bit the same, standard procedure and standard carpets or tile or florescent lighting. Security guards all have the same facial expression, staring into their little monitor screens, peering inside my luggage...

...today's trip through Boston hardly feels unique: saying “Goodbye” to Mom on the steps, all the smaller children gathered around ... up to Providence for an ordinary sort of afternoon, lunch on Wickenden, showing Matt around a little since he's never been ... all the usual sorts of conversations and amusements, music and books, and well-known laughter...

...the commuter rail felt familiar, the burgundy vinyl seats, a little cracked, and the windows fogged and clouded as time ran over us quickly as we talked and made last minute phone calls...

...flying through the night, through Canada, across the ocean. I've never been this far away. But the world is the world, and all the people in it, standing up or buckled in and sitting down, are the same. Every face is a clue, pointing to a memory or a revelation, and there is no way to read behind the skin of someone else's profile, or guess the direction of their eyes when they are lost in the current of thought...

(7 September 2006)

05 September 2006

everything's mine but just on loan.

london / berlin / prague
07-18 sept 2006

Re: Days between Days

An airplane scrapes the sky, slicing higher, trailing lines like chalk, that begin distinct and fine and then spread, disappearing, erased by an unseen wind. Like the unseen wind in the laurels outside my window, that reaches up to the oak-tops and shakes leaves to the ground, that moves the curtain lace in my bedroom.

The sun burns shapes into my carpet, webbed negative space falling across my bed and onto my arm where I write, shadows, uneven and dark.

I am walking amongst uneven shavings, curled pencil carvings, dangling in long unbroken spirals. The discarded pieces of the whole. The missing days, that have fallen out of the calendar, at the edge of the end of summer.

It's gotten cold again at night, but my windows are staying open. My brothers have been coming down to my room at night to sit on the edge of my bed and talk or sometimes play guitar. And I am starting to feel changes in everything again, as physically as the drop in temperature.

Everything is shifting again. I've needed this for a while and hidden from it.

I work myself up. I say I identify with Kant, believing in the existence of the Divine but feeling incapable of reaching it.

I'm not even reaching.

Then, I think of that night, Jamie, sitting up in your room with the one candle burning finding a few words for one another and beginning to understand our own selves through our own prayers. I know we reached right across that theoretical line. All the nights you came over, Sarah Mac, and we laid on the floor with the one light on and talked to God. Stretching back to stairwell days when we were children, Jules, sophomore year and hard-to-digest letters and learning the honesty that comes when someone cares enough to be truthful.

We can say what we like about the breakdowns of communication, the impossibility of adequately conveying what we mean, the insufficiency of words, the slowness of speech—but in prayer the spirit cries out in deep-rooted soul cries, groans that mean more than words, internal wails that phrases can only fit loosely, but that capture acutely the very thrust of meaning.

Language is unreliable, but those cries are Heard.

Prayer will force me back to the truth about myself and the truth about Mercy. Mercy reaches across the line even when I don't want to. I pray, sometimes in spite of myself and my suffering is soothed; my restlessness is stilled; my thirst is flooded; hunger finds satisfaction.

Knock me so far out of myself that I can't get back inside. Lock me out. Lock me out. Collapse the awning over the door, chop off the front step, leave me without shelter, without entry. Drive me away from myself. I am so entangled inside, fingering myself, crawling deeper, knotted together. Don't let me back in.

28 August 2006

Lord, not you

it is I who am absent.

20 August 2006


a novel I've never read by an author who writes in breathing living prose that peels up off the page, taking shape, in images, voices, sounds--as cold as the ocean, as dark as my morning coffee, as soft as the ending of summer--melancholy, but not pessimistic

the opening of a new room upstairs, rearrangement of my mental furniture to accommodate some new metaphor, effortless removal from the present, fragrant and real as the lilacs next door, tragic enough to weep over

I want to fall, lost, between words, arranged like I've never seen, disappear for a few hours or a day, fall in love with yet another act of fiction, I'm all acts of fiction,

and so are you.

Oh Jake, Brett said, we could have had such a damned good time together.
I said. Isn't it pretty to think so?

10 August 2006

august, i'll see you soon

under yellow moons

(to those of you who filled up this summer... so much love)

02 August 2006

How far is the nearest church?

I go out into the street and walk toward six o'clock bells, chasing steeples, striding down Newbury Street, because it is close, trying to walk off the frantic feeling of unrest that has risen up within me.

I would have thought that waking to a fog horn and eating breakfast looking out over the sea would have rested my soul. But even there on the blue front porch the morning was too hurried, there was too much motion in the nervous rocking of the porch swing, and I don't think I've prayed for days.

On the morning after the wedding, Courtney and I took the train from Rochester to Boston. I read poetry to myself as we crossed salt marshes and passed harbors with red and white boats and salty faded docks. Yellow and green buoys bobbed in the gentle tide; beyond them a grey ocean disappeared into the fog. We left the ocean for mill stacks and the edges of the city, plunging into dark North Station, where we took the green line, underground, to her apartment.

The week began without pause. It was already past noon when we walked to brunch, through the glassed-in shops at the Prudential Center, up and down platinum escalators, past immaculate shop windows, to sit outside beneath a street-side umbrella in an open-air cafe and have grapefruit and coffee and scrambled eggs. There were lots of other people out in their sweatpants and flip flops, just out of bed, letting someone else make them breakfast.

Here the weekend is a finished affair. All the conversation is about the coming week. As a waitress takes our dishes away, I look out into the passing street and watch the hours drive by. We sit for a while and say plenty of nothing until we are back in her apartment and the day is sinking towards dinner, leaning toward Monday.

Beyond the sofa where we sit, the bay windows open into the street, looking out at the brownstone flats across the way, the wrought iron fire escapes, the aged bricks meeting cracked stoops and uneven sidewalks.

I cannot listen
I cannot talk anymore.
I cannot think.
I have no words.
I go alone out into the street.

Boston, why are all your churches locked? Why is there a woman in the garden, on a bench, laying rocking in the summer heat? Why are your doors closed to the homeless and closed to me, in search of refuge and words of peace?

Four churches with closed doors, a fifth, miles away and the service has already begun.

I've been riding trains and buses for days. Sleeping in unfamiliar places and having new conversations with old friends. Friends that I have not seen for years, who I thought had out grown me or I had out grown, and here we all are at the wedding of a friend.

We are so grown up, drinking cocktails in linen summer dresses with elegant hair, dancing to the jazz band and talking about it. Look, Rachel is getting married. Now we have stories to recall, when we were six we played make-believe about when we were twenty. And here we are: And We're So Very Grown-Up.

Here are people I have loved but never think about, suddenly slivering into my world, with their evening-sized slices of reality, faces that bear hints of memories, familiar lines and distant thoughts. I cannot seem to reach across the years or find the words, to tell them what sort of person I am today, compared to who I was when we played in the bushes behind our childhood church. Struck by my emptiness, desperate because of it, desperate to pause before the week is really upon me.

There is a hush in the chambered room, falling deep beneath the echoing voice that reads the homily. Words stratify in the air, separating above, floating up towards the dark cavernous ceiling, hovering by the organ pipes and the flaming red glass. They fall onto my ears in pieces as I slip into a backside pew. Words about Jesus withdrawing to a quiet place. Words about the need for rest.

Lots of other people have come in from the streets. I don't know the words to any of the songs. I don't know where to find the liturgy. Distracted, I don't even try to look. Feeling selfish and guilty about the whole weekend, there is an inner conversation that will not fall silent.

I am listening, unfeeling as my friends go on, probing my spirit cautiously, wondering why it lies so dormant, wanting to speak but not knowing what to say, looking across the train or the table or the room: please, please, please, just read the love on my face. Because I have no words.

Isn't there a spirit within me that ought to form itself into words? Shouldn't I have answers to confused conversation since I have all this hope and peace? Unsettled by strange conversations the past few days, while I am talking the room shifts, the words stop even as my mouth keeps moving, when I realize that I feel neither hope nor peace.

I rise for communion beneath the throbbing organ notes and return to my seat still frantic.

I rest my head down to pray and as I am about to weep I feel a hand on my back.

Ma'am, we need to close the church.

Boston, why are all your churches locked?
Soul, why are you so empty?

I go back into the street, the big door closing behind me, clinging to the words on the kneeler in my pew: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

25 July 2006

some things

come full circle.

(a year later and i feel the same.)

15 July 2006


Sylvia Plath would have admired my self-pity this morning. It is a season of remarkable constancy. Each morning is the same, waking up far too soon to crashing knives and dropping spoons, forks falling on the tile floor and the deliberate tap of Dad's footsteps in the hall outside my door. Andrew crawls in at the foot of my bed to tickle me and Lydia is right behind him, giggling mockery, “Hannah-banana, the day is almost over!”

It's 7:23am.

I've been singing Over the Rhine and driving all around downtown Coventry this morning, collecting passport photos and money orders and standing in the sluggish line (twice) in the bleak corrals of the Coventry Postal Service. Thinking helplessly, beneath all my motion, that I have no ambition, and am doing miserably at finishing my summer credits, stopped up in my writing as well as in my spirit, the remaining days pressing in miserably, suffocating me.

A year ago I was dragging my heels, pulled closer and closer to a return to school. Today I am counting the days and the pages to the completion of my project and my true release from academic demands. But finishing credits won't release me from the burden to become. And I think that is what weighs on me now. Who am I becoming? I am so disillusioned about who that is supposed to be. I remember a conversation last fall with Dr. Mitchell.

"You do realize, he asked, that the life of a writer is hard and often sad?" I nodded.

Is it worth being a writer only to posses the moment of vision, the sharp instant in which your potential creation hangs in the air before your eyes, rotating in perfect completion? Is the vision a curse or a gift? Glimpses of what ought to be, do they discourage or encourage me? Is the vision my torment or my hope?

"Is it worth it?" is the wrong question. If you have the vision it will burn you until you release it.

This week I set up study in the library basement at a round table that I scavenged from the storage room and placed behind a broad chimney pillar. It is quiet underground, pulled back from the street, beneath humming fluorescent lights and blowing air conditioning ducts. I sit between the yellow walls and green-painted shelves, surrounded by tables covered in trays of discarded romance novels and the uneven bindings of donated hardcovers. I feel like a secret down here, because the door at the top of the stairs is locked and sometimes they forget about me. I am hidden like the tiny shelf of twenty-five cent paperbacks in the literature section, forgotten in a basement. The windows are above my head and ankle high on the sidewalk, they blink dustily out into the daylight between the overgrown shrubbery.

I feel almost guilty when people do come down, because no one can see me immediately. I shout out my presence the instant the door opens. But most of the time they lock up the library while I am still downstairs, I emerge into the blue light of a closed library.

I complain about these credits, but they are purchasing me one last summer of freedom. They justify a six-hour workweek, teaching swimming lessons at a private pool and riding jetskis afterwards. They're the reason I can take off for the ocean late at night, to sit on the rocks with my friends, sharing bottles of wine and conversation. The writing can be forced out in library basements or drawn out reflectively as I sit in tea shops and coffee bars. After I have written myself bleary-eyed, I can stay up in Providence for rooftop dinners and spontaneous dancing.

And the people here are wonderful. Come up and meet them.

The journals of my favorite authors, Plath and Camus and Hemingway, all said that it is best to write out of the midst of life. It is best when you are exerted on every front, watching real people live and living yourself, spending time outside watching both the night and the sunrise. I think I have that this summer, more than any other time in my life.

I am excited, and a little bit afraid, that I know there is more to pray for...

Discontented with everyone and discontent myself. I would gladly redeem myself and elate myself a little in the silence and solitude of night. Souls of those I have loved, souls of those I have sung, strengthen me, support me, rid me of lies and the corrupting vapors of the world; and you, O Lord God, grand me the grace to produce a few good verse, which shall prove to myself that I am not the lowest of men, that I am not inferior to those whom I despise.

- Baudelaire

14 July 2006

dear jules,

i even miss morning runs.

08 July 2006

He smiled understandingly--

Much more than understandingly.

It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

06 July 2006

she was incurably dishonest

for some reason i keep thinking back to this post.

01 July 2006

Adam's Complaint

Running alone out of my road beneath the new leaves that surprisingly have grown wide and deep green since I came home this spring. There is shade at midday, despite clinging humidity, and a sun that burns through the haze.

Run because you remember that at another time in life, when you had finally accepted the frame of things and learned to want what you already had, you were running every morning.

My life shifts and changes and I begin to go back, to retrace, the times and places I was most happy. I read my journals from other summers and try to pick out the fragments that composed other glad summers, then I try to reenact them to regain them. The last summer that I threw off uncertainties and drove away my apathy and denied my bitterness and forgave my enemies and found God, I was running every morning.

I've been running again, even though I would rather walk slowly.

Life is composed of pieces, books and songs, individuals and institutions, moments and moods, inconstant and fluctuating.

You were born insatiable. This is how it has always been, you find the thing that makes you feel alive and you kill it with your overzealousness. You choose an idea or a person and you strain them beyond their potential, you make them your entire world. You are so eager to taste the fruit of the earth that you forget and choke on the seeds.

Without a center I will seek to find a center. Without perfection I will seek to name something perfect. And so I am flung, dissatisfied, from passion to passion, forever a youth in my never-stilled appetite.

Connect the most hungry part of yourself with the single Immortal Constant. Moderation is impossible without God. All the pieces of life must be fluid, turning on the Unmoved Mover. All your love must really be given away, with no expectation of return. The love you receive must be accepted as it is, not demanded again, recognized as a gift.

You have to understand that you have always been loved enough, and that while you didn't deserve that in the first place, it is all you need. Any love beyond that Love is lavished abundance.

Some people,
no matter what you give them,
still want the moon.

The bread, the salt,
white meat and dark,
still hungry.

The marriage bed
and the cradle,
still empty arms.

You give them land,
their own earth under their feet,
still they take to the roads.

And water: dig them the deepest well,
still it's not deep enough
to drink the moon from.

Denise Levertov

28 June 2006

I am up before noon.

Really up, upright, seated at the table, feet flat beneath me on the tile floor, watching my brothers bleach the back porch. I've made breakfast and am reading the Leisure & Arts page of the Wall Street Journal beneath the warm stripes of sunlight that fall through the skylights over my face. It's been a long time since I've read this page. I'd forgotten what mornings are like when you actually get up.

There is time to read the gallery and book reviews, time for strawberries in my cereal, time to watch Abby and Lydia fight over who gets to make a castle out of the cereal boxes, and time to pour Andrew juice. I can talk to my dad before he leaves for work. When I make the coffee, Dad says that I brew it too strong, but when I drink it black my day improves with each measured sip.

Last summer I stayed out late just often enough to tip the balance of my days. In the mornings Johnny would come knock around six-thirty and I'd crawl out of bed fifteen minutes later to drive to the Physical Therapists. I was never really awake yet so I remember those primeval hours only in snatches, flashes of brightness beneath florescent lights and a drop-ceiling, in a room with pink walls, sound bytes and voices, first impressions slowly filling in, as Matt's sarcasm and Mark's dry humor became familiar and the regular patients occupying the two rows of doctor-office-beds learned our names.

It was like a parade or a two-person circus, lunging and skipping down the center aisle between the beds. Johnny was doing some agility work to prepare for fall track and I joined in, not awake enough to realize the absurdity of the drills, all the crunches and push ups. I felt my way after him and followed instructions in a haze of four hour's sleep, determined not to let it show.

But it showed. I didn't say a word and they noticed. My sister answered the phone at this office in the afternoon and when she came into work Matt would ask her questions about me—“Is Hannah shy? Is she grumpy? Does she like coming here at all?” I liked it but didn't have the energy to show it. I liked how all the injured athletes and the retired policemen and the grandparents sat and talked about town gossip that I'd never known existed. I liked that they had a back porch full of tomato plants. I liked looking at the blind albino frogs in the fish tank by the front desk—they had such long teeth. Someone told me they could bite fingers off. Was this true?

I liked making my fifty-cent cup of coffee when the workout was all over and drinking it slowly as we drove away to work.

This summer Ruth has my old job at WAJ. She comes home in the afternoon and tells me stories about the waterfront and lunch break and all the people I know. So many of the same staff came back. I worked my first day teaching private swim lessons today and it had me up far before usual.

All the sudden you wake up and it is summer. There are birds in the yard and you are not sure of their names, but they have been waking you up to cool summer mornings since you were small. The humidity slips into the house early, between your feet and the tile floor, you hear it click with each barefoot step. You cross the lawn to feed the rabbit and water the garden. Water from the garden hose tastes a certain way and the morning glories have opened along the stone wall and you are driving to the beach soon in an old blue Bonneville, with sagging ceiling cloth and rolled down windows, breathing air that smells like a memory.

It's always been summer on these days in the middle of summer and in the summer you always get up early and go to the water.

24 June 2006

Only God can skin you.

A sense of entitlement is the surest way to hurt yourself and destroy others. There is a twisted logic that slides into your head, beneath your skin—or maybe it was already there—but there is poison in your convictions when your only reference point is yourself. Too much introspection will kill off all the good things. When you are dredging the depths of your own soul, do not expect to find truth, for the truth is not in you. It is better to keep your mouth shut for a while after an inward journey—spend some time observing the outdoor scenery.

Don't expect your eyes to adjust immediately.

Sometimes your purest moment of righteousness is really your greatest blunder of hypocrisy, your penetrating vision has captured every curve of a mirage, and your absolute judgment is about to dissolve.

If you realize you deserve nothing then you will begin to see grace.

Usually, you are the problem, and all the problems you see in others, the things that make you angry and restless, frustrated and jealous, are the reflection and the manifestation of the dissatisfaction that comes when you refuse to be satisfied in God.

If you try to suck things out of this life
That aren't there
You'll destroy yourself
And others
People are not going to satisfy you and you cannot satisfy yourself. Neither can you change yourself.
Like Annie Dillard says: the interior life is often stupid.
As Darcy was telling me the other day, in the body of Christ we recognize our own weakness and when we see it in others we never dare to exploit it. We remember God. We remember the Holy Spirit. We remember miracles. We believe in the struggle in which each person is engaged. We encourage. We uplift. We believe. And we protect all of ourselves with forgiveness.
Like Eustace learned, sometimes your own reflection is the most terrifying thing you will ever see. Sometimes it takes a lot to make you stare yourself down. After you've discovered what you really are, even then: only God can skin you.
You are blind and you cannot find your own way.
You are broken and you cannot fix yourself.
You are sick and you cannot heal yourself or others.
You are fallen and only God can raise you.
Only God can skin you, and the tearing away of your old self from your new self may take a long time. Only God can bind you up and clothe you again, in the right frame of mind.
You must live day to day, hour to hour, building alters and giving thanks. But you cannot weight any day with the task of full resolution. Yes, you are forgiven and loved, your sins are spread far and forgotten, but you cannot push a day beyond its limit without bending it at the edges and thrusting yourself into disillusionment. Life is also a series of days and weeks, months and years, individual actions and clinging habits. Change comes slowly and later healing.
Your truest apology to those you've hurt is not articulated in words, it is not expressed in sincere vocalizations, it is only realized in your dedication to your own transformation. Not giving up. Letting yourself become new. Make me new.
If we try to make heaven out of earth
We'll destroy the earth
Trying to suck something out of it that's not there
Trying to satisfy hungers that can't be satisfied down here

We enjoy this life
But we know there is more to come
This is not all there is
We are immortal

(poem from Linford)

20 June 2006

A victim of introspection

It seems to me that more than ever I am a victim of introspection. If I have not the power to put myself in the place of other people, but must be continually burrowing inward, I shall never be the magnanimous creative person I wish to be. Yet I am hypnotized by the workings of the individual, alone, and am continually using myself as a specimen. I am possessive about time alone, more so now that my working hours are not spent studying for myself, but dancing attendance to a family.

Here I am in the midst of a rich, versatile family, as close as I could get. I have made my wish come true – almost – and as it were, picked up the roof of this lovely, spacious white house and walked in. True, in actuality I am relegated by my position to a circumscribed area of confidence, but even so, here I am. Yet so constantly am I moving, working, acting, that I do not often thing “How strange this is ... I am competently frying eggs for three children on Sunday morning while the parents sleep.

I must learn more about these people – try to understand them, put myself in their place.” No, instead I am so busy keeping my head above water that I scarcely know who I am, much less who anyone else is. But I must discipline myself. I must be imaginative and create plots, knit motives, probe dialog – rather than merely trying to record descriptions and sensations. The latter is pointless, without purpose, unless it is later to be synthesized into a story. The later is also a rather pronounced symptom of an oversensitive and unproductive ego.

-Sylvia Plath

19 June 2006

our boat may be leaking

but at least it's the right boat.

"over the rhine may never sell as many records as other bands, but everyone who has ever bought one has become an artist."

13 June 2006


does the trick.

A few days of no writing and I am feeling damn prolific. And after a day in the city, bursting. The two-minute-shower that kept me from my notebook was too long. I think I lost about twenty dozen thoughts to the steam and green walls.

I am coming home without conclusions but with hundreds of questions and quotations. But today is Lydia's brithday party--yes two months late. She was waiting for one of her friends to get goats, but by the time they got the goats she decided she wanted to have a western party instead of a farm party. So now the western party is two months late. So the whole house smells like chocolate cake and there are helium ballooms and plastic spoons and soda (which we never buy) in the fridge and someone is mixing frosting and the boys are vaccuming and pushing back the couches.

We're always pushing back the couches. Sarah told me a few days ago that she always wonders what our living room will look like the next time she comes over. It changes daily, according to our needs.

So I think I am going to go out into the woods with my notebook, like I used to when I was little, when I read a lot of L. M. Montgomery and probabally bordered on pantheism and spent as much time as I could by the river singing under bridges or climbing trees or engaging in monologes and writing stories about girls named Adele and their secret hideaways and tame beasts.

Oh and there was the hemlock grove.

The Railway Station

My nonarrival in the city of N.
took place on the dot.

You'd been alerted
in my unmailed letter.

You were able not to be there
at the agreed-upon time.

The train pulled up at Platform 3.
A lot of people got out.

My absence joined the throng
as it made its way toward the exit.

Several women rushed
to take my place in all that rush.

Somebody ran up to one of them.
I didn't know him,
but she recognized him immediately.

While they kissed
with not our lips,
a suitcase disappeared,
not mine.

The railroad station in the city of N.
passed its exam
in objective existence
with flying colors.

The whole remained in place.
Particulars scurried
along the designated tracks.

Even a rendezvous
took place as planned.

Beyond the reach of
our presence.

In the paradise lost
of probability.

Somewhere else.
Somewhere else.
How these little words ring.

- Wisława Szymborska

09 June 2006

Playing Hemingway

I am watching cars on a one way street from a cafe window in Providence. I don't feel like a stranger. The girl who poured my tea is reading Aristotle's Nichomacian Ethics, the boy leaning on the bar is doing Physics, and the man next to me has articles from Jstor.

My window is right beside the stop sign and I am sitting with a tall cup of tea and my notebooks spread over the table watching the cars bump by, bouncing to a stop, circling the block, or disappearing from sight. And my thoughts are like the cars, stopping or yielding, but never staying still; I can't seem to hold any of them long enough.

People are walking with their umbrellas closed up, leaning on them or swinging them oddly. It was supposed to rain and still might and has been raining since last Thursday. When it rains everything at home turns green and everything in the city turns to grey, steam and smoke. I've been taking the bus up here in the afternoon - its a short walk from the plaza to college hill and there is more space here than I ever get at my house. But when I finally sit still I have such a flurry of thoughts that I hold the pen and swing my legs and paint on the table with drops from my tea. And I watch the cars, reflected in reverse on the bottom of the glass shelf above me. They drive, doubled, collide with their reflection at the stop sign and go on their way.

I write in snatches and fragments, in short-hand, in references, unable to catch the meaning of all the motion in my mind. I'm probing for truth, beneath all my confusion, trying to remember the truest things I know. I'm writing with a scalpel, trying to carve my way to meaning from memory. I'm making speculations about all the strangers around me.

"Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.

Then you would hear someone say, "Hi, Hem. What are you trying to do? What in a cafe?"

Your luck had run out and you shut the notebook.

-A Moveable Feast

28 May 2006

Sufjan + The Office

...the consequences of sharing with my brothers...

18 May 2006

You must go by the way of dispossession...

Sometimes what we want the least is what we need the most.

We live beneath a Mercy that stretches further than we can see, supported by a Knowledge that--when revealed--will only unhinge our minds, and by all this we are cradled gently--more gently than we know--above shifting and obscure paths.

All that did and didn't happen this year forced me to realize that love is never simple and our lives are not meant to be hoarded but shared. Grudges aren't worth holding but are hard to let go. Dissapointment comes only when we are too specific in our guessing ahead.

Because of dissapointment, I became a better friend. Because of what I didn't have, I was opened in weakness to people that I will be very sorry to leave.

My understanding of love is new: no matter what, I know nothing. And knowing that is enough, for now.

16 May 2006



Human nature is so faulty that it can resist any amount of grace and most of the time it does. The Church does well to hold her own; you are asking that she show a profit. ... It is easy for any child to pick out the faults in the sermon on his way home from Church every Sunday. It is impossible for him to find out the hidden love that makes a man, in spite of his intellectual limitations, his neuroticism, his own lack of strength, give up his life to the service of God’s people, however bumblingly he may go about it…

It is what is invisible that God sees and that the Christian must look for. Because he knows the consequences of sin, he knows how deep in you have to go to find love. We have our own responsibility for not being “little ones” too long, for not being scandalized. By being scandalized too long, you will scandalize others and the guilt for that will belong to you.

It’s our business to try to change the external faults of the Church—the vulgarity, the lack of scholarship, the lack of intellectual honesty—wherever we find them and however we can. ... In the meantime, the culture of the whole Church is ours and it is our business to see that it is disseminated throughout the Church in America. You don’t serve God by saying: the Church is ineffective; I’ll have none of it. Your pain at its lack of effectiveness is a sign of your nearness to God. We help overcome this lack of effectiveness simply by suffering on account of it.

To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness. Charity is hard and endures; I don’t want to discourage you from reading St. Thomas but don’t read him with the notion that he is going to clear anything up for you. That is done by study and more by prayer.

-Flannery O’Connor

New Histories

I think I started writing this post way back in August on the day I got back to school. Coming back I felt like a sponge, squeezing into a tiny hole. I started writing this then, daydreaming about the day when Eva and I would pull up behind some liquor store to gather the ironic boxes, all colorful with seals and calligraphy, so we could pack.

I'm boxing up books in wine boxes.
And I'm packing my shoes: red suede, stacked wedges, kitten heels.
I'm throwing away the clothes I've hated for four years.
I never have to be that girl again.
This girl again.

I came back last August to a campus full of strangers because I'd been living an interior life. And I was angry and the place felt ugly with audacity, the mockery of bright brick and white columns and ridiculous lawns with perfect flowerbeds. I watched you out my windows and wrote papers in the dark.

Driving back on Rt. 7 a night ago, I leaned over to Eva and told her, "This is the last night we drive back to campus after a weekend in the city." Because everything is shrinking and receding, bending and peeling, skewing with departure, shifting and folding behind me, like a great collapsible pop up book of roads and buildings and green pastures and cardboard clowns with nursery rhymes along the page bottoms.

But as it folds behind me I am suddenly realizing: THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE THAT I LOVE right now. You were all parts of my weekend and of this morning. You were in conversation or exploration or laughter or solidarity. You were songs and poems and afternoon mockery. You are my new history, the friends I just got this year, who came in when my world broke apart and became all of the glue and the plaster and the love that made me feel like I do now: confident to go where I want and do what I please and write long letters to leave behind me.

This semester the windows have stayed open, like I said they would, with the wind swinging the burnt orange india curtains and the light striking my eyes in the morning. And the songs I've been singing have meant less and less and less than they used to. Because sometime I stopped bleeding. Bitterness is temporal but love is enduring. And this place is fading.

I have a lot to say right now. On Saturday Josh stopped me mid-sentence as I ploughed through a rant and told me that I just needed to graduate. And it's true.

I don't have my wine boxes yet, but I think the sooner I start packing the better, and the sooner this place folds behind me, the more ready I will be to page back through.

I will never forget any of you.

11 May 2006

Infants, Imbeciles, and Domestic Animals

"If we were dealing with rational people you would have a case. But these people are not rational. They only respond to intimidation and manipulation. They want cowardice. But you aren't going to give them the satisfaction of that, are you?"

You certainly did not.

"Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be 'cured' against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. But to be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we 'ought to have known better,' is to be treated as a human person made in God's image."

-- C.S. Lewis

09 May 2006

Unless I visit...

I never have to come back.

I realized that in chapel today and smiled hard.

But Mitchell classes are a different story. This is my last time in this room with the desks circled and Dr. Mitchell sipping from his tall steel thermos, Matt and Zach and Tim and David snickering knowingly, Samantha's tilted chin and articulate remarks, Nathan squinting over the pages, Katie scowling at her margin notes to understand and the low fluorescent lights, the dull steady hum of the tempermental AC, and the way that the day, cold or sunny or rainy, seems to creep into the windowless classroom, on our coats or in our hair or in the way we hold ourselves in our seats. It's grey and rainy today and we're all in turtlenecks, cords, rain slickers, things we probably piled away in the attic last week when it was hot and had to dig out yesterday morning when it got cold again.

Of all the places on this campus, this is one that I would come back to, take people to. As long as Dr. Mitchell is the professor in it, because it is here, with the desks in this formation, first in Philosophy, then in Modernity, Post-modernity, and Society, now in Conservative Political Thought, that I have gained the most. Time doesn't change in this room. All the books we've ever read are open here--poems by Elliot and stories by Camus and the philosophies of Nietzche and Kierkegaard and Aristotle. I took a few weeks out this semester to finish my fiction class. I didn't come to any Mitchell classes last semester. But I am back now and here it is. Different but not. Grounding me for the greater upheaval. These classes have singularly made this education worthwhile and coupled with Freedom's Foundations, persuaded me that there was some merit in staying at this school at all.

We are reading Wendel Berry today and talking about community and bedtime stories and sex. I'm not even taking this class, but I've done most of the readings, highlighted my books, taken notes far more than for any other class this semester. This is the impressive class that the media doesn't talk about when they profile us.

I remember two years ago when the New York Times article came out and I was furious because the journalist had sat in on our Modernity class, listened to us, and told Dr. Mitchell that our discussion was on the same level as his grad school seminars at Yale. But he didn't say a word about us when he wrote about the school. Instead, he took pictures of the awkward couples and wrote about the most absurd rules that we had, and talked about the fanatics. I was furious when the article came out, read it at midnight when it was first posted on line, went raging around the dorm over it. But I have since come to realize, slowly, that these classes are almost best-kept-secrets around here. In this basement classroom, and the people in it, who have kept me sane all these years—but especially this one—are the exception to most of my school. And whole time our college president stood in front of chapel today all I could think of was this and I didn't want to smile or clap for him. And I realize that pretty soon I won't have to even see him or think about him if I don't want to.

But I wonder how next year will be for the Juniors and the Sophomores and the Freshmen who stay here. And for Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Sillars who are the only remaining sane professors. They will be so alone on the faculty in their back-room offices in separate buildings.

I try to explain this desire for distance to my mom. The desperation for distinction from other products of my background and even from my faith. I am not ashamed of my education or of Christianity, but I am deeply saddened by what people who share my upbringing and my religion have done and stand for. But I'm not ashamed of this classroom, or the people in it. And I am not ashamed of Christ, and who He would have me become.

Even so, it is going to take me a little time, a little space, after graduation before I find much confidence in the context that has formed who I am.

08 May 2006

One more poetry class to go.

In the main-building bathroom putting on makeup this morning (because I rushed up so that I could get breakfast). As I look at my face, elongated in the glass, I suddenly remember the first time I slipped in here, almost four years ago, after an incidental late night, checking my face and marveling that I didn't look half as bad as I felt, or feel half as bad as I should, and consequently concluding that I could stay up as late as I wanted. I thought I was pretty impenetrable until I got pictures back over Christmas.

Freshman Hannah, gazing back. In a red coat, and brand-new chinos, and little black mules, with a messenger bag just-so, and fool-proof fake glasses, and that really really short hair all mussed in a hundred directions. Laughing at herself and the world because she'd just discovered there was no punishment for skimping on sleep. I'm not sure whose looking back at me from the mirror today—but she's not as optimistic about anything.

“One class more,” Ash says.
“It's ending,” I say.
“Slowly,” says Eva , looking across the lawn at the 50 degree day.
And when someone slaughters a recitation of Little Gidding in class, I decide that it's ending slowly as well.

05 May 2006

Salvation through writing

Novels are all populated by people you've actually met. Your own novels by the people you've loved or hated, laughed with our shouted at, cried on or because of, seen on street corners or out of the corner of your eye, at checkouts and stoplights, passing you walking or running, people who have made your heart burst or collapse, who you have judged or have judged you, who have contributed to your birth and your life and your death.

All your life is soil and the seeds from the discarded fruit, the dead plant, the shriveled pod, germinate in the refuse--the dung--and your art--your life--is composed of all that has died in you or around you, yet rises up cleaner and stronger and more fragrant because of the death, out from the death. Every piece of you has a purpose, even if that purpose is simply in the discipline of sacrifice. And in the work of the novelist who captures true life, whose characters you recognize, the recognition comes because they have truly lived and you understand because so have you.

This is the consolation of the existentialist: any experience can be hammered into art.

This is the consolation of the redeemed: every facet of existence can be transformed into praise.

This is your sacred role: reappropriation. Truth is a scalpel and sometimes it cuts away more of you than it gives, but the cycle of loss yields to a new understanding that will release your altered perspective into a new vision. Everything that has happened to you belongs to you, even in its death, as raw material.

01 May 2006

re: i'm gonna drive to the ocean

i had to drive all those miles to look myself in the mirror beneath a blotchy fluorescent light, as i sat on a polyester hotel bed quilt, and saw a face i wanted to forget, a person i've tried to bury who will probably be more present more often in the days to come.

not the person i've built, the person i've held up to you, not the face i've chosen, but the face beneath the face that twists out from beneath my facade.

she is young and her eyes are burning with discontent.
she is insatiable because she thinks only of herself.

27 April 2006

if i had wings

i would fly away
and be at rest
i would wander far away
lodge in the wildnerness

i would hasten to my place of refuge

from the stormy wind and tempest

psalm 55

24 April 2006

Any morning this week or last

We are cheerfully vindictive. Ashley and Eva are sipping Earl Grey with raspberry syrup and I have my green tea. We are laughing at old stories and people we will miss. And not miss.

I will miss these mornings over breakfast, egg sandwiches, granola, pineapple and tea, even the edge of our cynicism. We feel beautifully alive and awake, but jaded, jaded, jaded, and laughing at everyone in the cafeteria, even ourselves. Reviewing poetry reading or proofing papers or pretending to do both but not really caring. Everything feels false and irrelevant and almost over.

We know everything these days—who we do and do not like, who we are and aren't—or maybe just who we were and who we don't want to become anymore. It is easy to glide at this point, forgetting that there is a face beneath my face, a self beneath my self, a reality beneath this reality, that awaits me in a few short weeks.

All the seams of my world are loose and I can hear the creak as it comes ondone, the snap of string drawn by the motion of my thoughts or the motion of others or the hand of God. Sometimes it makes me a little desperate.

I am scrawling lists across the back of my hands with serpentine script, unraveled letters, to reflect the state of my days – all loose ends and wash-away-ink-plans and not enough time, but far more time than I am going to have when I move home in a few weeks.

How long have I been viewing everything through a button hole? I think the buttons are about to pop, bursting off, and the fabric is about to fall away. The world outside is crawling with things I've never seen. And it's alive, alive, alive with ideas—new thoughts, new words, new voices. And work and car payments and rent and taxes and brown rice and spinach. Whatever it takes to not give up at all.

We're promised the world, aren't we?
We can do anything we want, can't we?

For the first time in my life I belong to no one and no one belongs to me and when the summer ends I can do whatever I can pay for.

Is that going to feel like freedom?
Does the world arch open on everyone this way?
By unraveling before their eyes?

19 April 2006

I woke up in the middle of August

We left Virginia in the dark, driving between quiet hills, sleeping with jackets on and the windows closed because the wind still whips hard and cold across the corn fields, cutting the glittering lake into a hundred pieces, blowing my skirt when I come out of chapel or out of class or walk to lunch, reminding me that I have elbows and knees and knuckles and cold fingertips. But I slept while Eva drove and didn't wake up until midsummer--Down, further, through the hills, under the hills, along the coast, between Carolina Pines and then Georgia Oaks, growing in the red clay, under the palms and magnolias, drooping under Spanish Moss. Full leafed, verdant, Florida. It will all be brown dust by true August, but it looked like everything I know of deep summer.

We took turns driving and sleeping. Read All the Kings Men when we got stuck in traffic. Warren's south unfolded from the pages, all around us. When we took a side road to find a post office, I was searching the sidewalk for Haze and his hideous hat, gazing down backwards wondering if the Misfit was positioned just out of sight in his black hearse. Because it was the real south, and Flannery O'Connor seemed obvious, not strange or violent or improbable. While Amy filled out her tax form on a small-town curb, Eva and I talked to an old man whose shop advertised "Dead People's Things For Sale."

And then on, to our own island, where we spent a couple days walking the beach and collecting sand dollars and climbing dunes and spreading sleeping bags on very hard earth beneath the Live Oaks and Cedars and Palms at our campsite.

And then to Daytona Beach... which was too much latex for any of us.


11 April 2006


Let's get to the edge of this uneasy quiet,
Hang bending at the end of a branch.
Can we sway long enough to finish
Subject-shifting and pocket-paper tearing?

There is time for you to study the edge of my skirt
and I, the tip of your shoe
--did you ever notice those scuff marks?
Or I, that loose thread?--

If we can creep softly enough
To the arching borders of this pause,
Perhaps in the silence we'll remember
What strangers we really are.

Wait for the breaking branch,
Dropping into regions beyond words.
In falling we'll unfold
And be known.

10 April 2006

09 April 2006

And what you thought you came for is only a shell, a husk of meaning (Fourth Quartet)

From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfillment.

Faith doesn't mean you have answers for anything. It is the cultivation of your sense of mystery. Because mystery contains the room for hope, hope that is bigger than any object, hope that is in a framework far larger than yourself.

Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity

(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Thank you to: Dr. Mitchell, David, Katie, Nathan, Matt, Jeff and Samantha... for adoping a lit major for the weekend.

I do not know much about gods; but i think that the river is a strong brown god (Third Quartet)

The river is within us, the sea is all about us...

And we've been on it, paddled to the sand bar, walked the beach, been chased back by a furious windstorm. Now it's time to light the fire and have more tea and read for hours longer as the rain comes down in torrents and the wind sweeps up leaves.

My mind is lost as we sit beneath our blankets, I am remembering so many recent nights...

Lying awake, calculating the future,
Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel
And piece together the past and the future,
Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,
The future futureless, before the morning watch
Whem time stops and time is never ending;
And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning, Clangs
The bell.

You must go by the way of dispossession (Second Quartet)

You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstacy.

Morning and fog. This is the palate that I know: the greys and blues and smooth of the sea, and the wings of birds, their salt-air cries over sand dunes and wild roses, low sky, high water. Sitting close to the windows in the back room, close to the river, brackish water, stretching out into the sea. It begins to rain, wet against the window panes. We read poetry after breakfast. We say we'll talk for an hour, but none of us believe in watches—Faulkner says that clocks kill time—and we've gone well over.

In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

These are words for the knight of faith. And Matt makes excellent french press coffee -- best black.

Other echoes inhabit the garden. Shall we follow? (First Quartet)

Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence.

Cups of tea stacked up on old books, curling steam. We have turned out all the lights. Why are holy places dark places?

Samantha says the wind sounds like the Harpies, screaming along the corners of the house, and speaks of the dancer, at the still point of the turning world.

David says that England is covered by time, a beautiful and oppressive history, English pride and resentment, pressing down.

We agree that Love has no time – and Nathan mentions the Boethian Wheel, the Primum Mobile - Love is the centerpoint.

Katie talks about eternity, set in the hearts of men. We will always be longing, frustrated by the limitations of our lives and our words.

Like Derrida said, Matt reminds us, we're all watching words slide around eachother, clumsily.

And Dr. Mitchell quotes Plato – because music touches the soul of children – and prepares them to behold true beauty. There are children in this poem. Who are they? Who are we?

We play music for one another – Simon & Garfunkel, Addaggio for Strings, Over the Rhine, and Tu Se Morta - we've all chosen music for our objects of beauty.

And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation...

We are speaking exactly of this: that this moment in the dark is something we will never ever get down well enough for ourselves or for others to behold again fully. It exists only in memory and memory is fleeting. It is expressed only in words and words are too imprecise. Even as we sit here, in the dim borrowed house, creaking in our chairs, speaking in quiet voices, we are loosing everything we have to the tyranny of time.

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing dust on a bowl of rose-leaves

I do not know.

07 April 2006

O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark...

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

T. S. Elliot
Here's to a weekend alongside the river god...

06 April 2006

The questions are real.

They never stop—like the steady summer rain falling outside my window. I’ve got Miles Davis on the stereo. It’s a “Kind Of Blue” kind of day, if you know what I mean. Some truth is waiting here to be collected, placed on my tongue like a wafer in communion, if only I could ask the right questions.

Who is Jesus?

What difference does it make in my day-to-day life?

Wouldn’t it be easier to be simply an artist and not, dear God, a Christian artist?

How are we to be peacemakers and not a doormat for the world?

How, and my own inner house ever be in order?

Will I ever not be swayed by the world and culture and our place in it?

Will I ever be able to clear my head of petty thoughts long enough to walk the war-torn, bloodstained streets of Belfast, for example, and feel more than that this is good song material?

This bothers me.

Why is it so hard to keep a relationship alive?

This bothers me.

Why do men and women fundamentally break each other’s hearts?

This bothers me too.

Humans are fallen, humans are ethereal. The world is corrupt, the world is beautiful. I hate you, I love you. I keep wishing the fundamentalists are right—that everything is cause and effect, black and white. But I stare up into the mystery, and it’s gray and thick like humid summer rain.

04 April 2006

irregulars amongst the regulars

Dec 2005
manufacturing our own mystery

31 March 2006

And if you're lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.


29 March 2006

"I'll take it."

This post is dedicated to...

- Miss Sarah Droby who persuaded me to buy the coat.

- To Cecil, from the Baxter (see below) who made it catch my eye.

- And the friend who described it as a "Jenny Lewis coat, so happy it's sad."

May 13 - today I bought a raincoat - no, that was yesterday - yesterday I bought a raincoat with a frivolous pink lining that does good to my eyes because I have never ever had anything pink-colored, and it was much too expensive - I bought it with a month's news office pay, and soon I will not have any money to do anything more with because I am buying clothes becase I love them and they are exactly right, if I pay enough. And I feel dry and a bit sick whenever I say "I'll take it" and the smiling woman goes away wtih my money because she doesn't know I really don't have money at all at all. For three villanelles I have a blue-and-white pin-striped cotton cord suit dress, a black silk date dress and a grey raincoat with a frivolous pink lining.

- Sylvia Plath

Except my coat isn't even grey on the inside & it was on sale...

28 March 2006

i love you all...

but i don't want to come back.

22 March 2006

"Is that a Gromwell?"

This movie is my favorite happy movie of the year.

I watched it tonight.

Days between Days

You might not believe it but the tick of the kitchen clock echoes through my house all day.

Tick-tick, click-click
Clock snips time in two

Despite all you've heard about how many people live here and how noisy it is, most afternoons are long and still, broken only by the entrance and exit of people going to music lessons or classes or track or outside to play. Sometimes the phone rings and every few hours there is the groan of the stairs when Dad comes down to the kitchen to make more green tea. Abby reads Lemony Snicket on the couch, her feet twitching and turning with delight, Andrew and Lydia color at the table, Lydia biting her tounge side to side in delicious concentration, Mom steals a nap in her bedroom. Things don't speed up until dinner time.

I've just woken up from an accidental nap, hot and long beneath too many blankets, and am trying to decide if I should run it off before dinner and try to make some vibrant plans for the evening.

Vibrant plans.

This break makes me think of Jack Burden's great sleep in All the King's Men. I can't believe that I didn't bring that book home with me this break. He finishes his master's thesis and sleeps for months in some cheap apartment down in Louisiana. I wonder if that is what I will want to do at the end of the summer?

These days come every spring, usually in June when I get back from school and my job hasn't started, but I get pieces of them throughout my breaks, scattered and silent. Freshman year I thought days like this were over. I remember laboring over my Latin and cramming for exams and constant stress over not finishing my reading or being prepared for class and sitting at the bottom of an empty stairwell, so overwhelmed by the constant motion, craving meaningless days. I thought I would never again have the time to fall between the cracks and get lost for a little while.

“But what about the days,” I once asked my mother. “Between the weeks? What are they called?”

I was sure that minutes and hours and days couldn't hold all of time, all of reality, that somewhere things fell through the cracks, there must be some pardon to the precision of the clock and the calendar. I realize that I've found those days. Days that begin and end in vague greyness, job applications, naps and many cups of tea, conversations that will return later in dreams and memories, ideas that seem too hazy to make out, restlessness that cannot be quenched with walks or runs or long journaling sessions.

There is a place in me that feels very hard right now. A place that refuses this rest and wants to toil so badly--or maybe a part that doesn't trust the quiet or feel that it is right to sleep when I feel so lost. I don't know how to accept the rest. I want definition and direction and I want to run with fury. These are the days between days, days wondering where all my idealistic dreams went, contemplating automated job rejection messages that pop up on my computer screen and settling in to filling out yet another formulaic lesson in my distance-learning fiction class.

And tick-tick, click-click
Pass the hours

Someone I really like to hang out with...

20 March 2006


(so good to be back)

somewhere in everyone's head something points towards home,

I got picked up on Friday by him:

Somewhere in everyone's head something points towards home,
a dashboard's floating compass, turning all the time
to keep from turning. It doesn't matter how we come
to be wherever we are, someplace where nothing goes
the way it went once, where nothing holds fast
to where it belongs, or what you've risen or fallen to.


It all goes.
Hold on fast
to thoughts of home
when they come.
They're going to
less with time.


Forgive me that. One time it wasn't fast.
A myth goes that when the quick years come
then you will, too. Me, I'll still be home.

- Miller Williams Shrinking Lonesome Sestina

17 March 2006

black roses

jules sums up a lot of what i feel about what happened yesterday.

15 March 2006

the sky is big enough.

yet again.

so much.

i'm bursting.

so much.

take the gift,
give ungrudgingly.
be at peace,
love recklessly.

ask me.

good things are happening.

14 March 2006

the night sky is an ocean

Last night I wanted to borrow a car and drive to the sea. I asked a couple people how many hours it would be. Inland claustrophobia: five hours away. How have I lived five hours from the ocean for four years? I don't know. So, Amy and Eva and I spread a sheet on the lawn and laid down, so I could see the sky. I needed to see something big and remember the size of God.

The first thing I want to do when I am back in Rhode Island is walk the beach.

the lord said to jonah, "what right have you to be angry?"

we have no time to be jaded and no time to be bitter, no time for doubt.

only time to cry out: help my unbelief.
and believe there will be an answer.

there is always strength enough.
and always abundant mercy, gleaming beneath, every shadow.

i've been fighting my way to the bottom of a well, for a long, long time.

but i think i finally touched the bottom and my feet are digging into the sand, and i'm pushing off.

13 March 2006

Long is the Day

Softly the ocean
I’m coming home soon
The sea’s not wide enough
To fill this wound
And long is the day
Long is the day

Love, take this madness
That sleeps with me
Maybe you are stronger
Than ever I’ll be
And long is the day
Long is the day

-Kim Taylor

12 March 2006

Cast off the fears that hold me here

Give me strength to find the road that's lost in me
Give me time to heal and build myself a dream
Give me eyes to see the world surrounding me
Give me strength to be only me

I hope it's true, because a lot of things are going wrong

When a lot of things start going wrong at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born--and this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.

- Anne Lamott

06 March 2006

Fair enough, fair enough

I wanted to sing you a song
This gift I was given has all come out wrong
I wanted to give you so much
I came all this way just to hand you a (broken) crutch

I let it go
This life I know
Seeds that we sow
May come to dust

I let it go
One thing I know
What's real will grow
Inside of us

I wanted to lay by your side
Take this small world and open it wide
I wanted to write it all down
Your skin was the paper your pages unbound

Lonely is just how I feel
Alone in the world and the world's a wheel
Spinning these thoughts in my head
I tangle with you and we hang by a thread

There may come a day when this dream dies
Fair enough fair enough
Until then we lay down our own lives
Fair enough fair enough

- Bergquist & Detweiler

rend your heart, not your garments.

realizing more things than i can name about selfishness and fears that motivate everything i do. realizing how much i've done in the name of love that was really motivated by hatred and resentment, underpinned by pride.

forget the former things, do not dwell on the past
see, i am doing a new thing!
now it springs up, do you not percieve it?
i am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

this is a new brokenness that is freeing me in places that i was resigned to bondage. i am most broken over the idol i made of myself and the precious things i offered at that alter.

04 March 2006


i have so much to say.


i've just been given the most unexpected and amazing gift.
i want to tell you myself. call me.

(edit: don't cheat and ask someone who knows)


something to remind me how big God is.