This will be a sketchbook of sorts, a place for various fragments that have some weight or are placeholders, or generative sparks. Sometimes they’re quotes or notes or found items. They aren’t arranged in any order. These things could come from yesterday or 10 years ago. I’ll just write about a group of them in some random way whenever possible.
I don’t remember if this is something I noted to myself, or whether it came from a conference with Richard McCann. It’s definitely the kind of thing he helped me start thinking about so whether it’s from him or not, I think of him when i see it.
This is a quote from Stanley Kunitz, but I don’t remember when he said it. I like that it figures the poem as being composed of resistance rather than on the other side of resistance, which is my usual hazard of thinking, that i have to get over something before writing the poem.
I found this label in the basement of Stanley’s building on W. 12th St., in the recycling room, where I often found excellent boxes. This was in a paperboard box, the kind you get at Flax that hold great promise for a life that keeps papers in beautiful sleek boxes so that you will know exactly where they are. I have many such boxes, but I have yet to have a system for them. This person, though, sorted their socks at least into Long Brown Socks, Short Socks, and Long Black Socks, from the tags I found in these boxes. Somehow this label feels like an article of tremendous faith. An effort to make sense of a material life, to do what’s possible to carve into mystery. What I wonder is whether these boxes were discarded because the person evolved an even more sophisticated classification system. Or whether maybe the person moved, or possibly died. No matter how precisely you sort your socks, you will still die at some point. But while you’re living, when you reach for long brown socks, that’s what you get.
I think this had something to do with the sense that in attending to the deaths of so many people in my life I somehow felt that if I did that really well, whatever that would mean, it would buy me some kind of clemency.
A guy said this to me at Vixen in Provincetown. He also bought me a bottle of Saratoga water. He told me I was holding the cue too high and I remember distinctly the habit of deferring his advice, as if I were waiting for a different life, when I could actually implement this advice. What I remember is his earnestness, like everyone else who has ever given me sensible advice that I have shunned, as if I were in too much of a hurry to actually listen to him. Also, It reminds me that i want to write something about billiards. My friend Susan and I took a pool class at Brownstone Billiards in Park Slope right near the subway station. Our teacher’s name was Billie Billings. Also, this is on the envelope for my yearly letter from the Work Center informing me that I haven’t received a fellowship. Last spring, I had just received that year’s letter when Farnoosh and I decided to go to the Botanic Garden and the envelope proved useful for establishing SF residency, which meant we could go into the garden for free. So the envelope made possible a mini-fellowship for a couple of hours in the fragrance garden.
I’ve long been fascinated with it, the way lightning extends into sand and creates rock. liquid into solid in the shape of the sand, with the force of the bolt. This is from Paxton’s Gate, a store that feels like the logical extension of Heron Hill, the garden shop I had for five years in Fredericksburg. I bought a little piece of fulgurite for Lauren Ewing because she once gave me a poem that mentioned fulgurite.
This bottle of Evian was in The Fairmont Hotel mini-bar from when I went there to hear my friend’s mom give a paper at a psychoanalytic conference. I kept it because it reminds me of that way things are hyper-presented in the insular world of a hotel and there’s a kind of logic to it that suggests that water can reasonably be $8.00 a bottle. One time when I was sequestered in a hotel in Baltimore for about a week, doing linguistics research for a case between McDonald’s and Quality with my professor Roger Shuy, we ran out of paper, and Rob Litowitz, the main lawyer working on the case, went to the front desk to get some because it was late at night and the clerk told him it would be $25/ a ream. “With the emphasis on ‘ream,’ he said when he told me the story as he put the paper in the printer.
David Beck, who makes the most wondrous miniatures, said this when I went to visit him with Elizabeth King. It’s connected with a million things I’m interested in that have to do with scale and ways of knowing. I’m fascinated with this threshold when there’s a kind of skill/instinct that starts to come into play that isn’t so centered in thinking. Niki talked about this in relation to going mushrooming. How she started to see with her whole body.
This is a Polaroid recording the way I took off my flannel pajamas such that it looked as if I had dived out of them into the floor. I hadn’t noticed I took them off this way, all in one sweeping gesture, including the socks, until Steve, my then partner, asked me, How did you do that? I actually didn’t know how I’d done it, so I recreated it, and realized this was always what I did when I came in to take a shower. Basically, while I was peeing, I took my pants off and skimmed off my socks in the same gesture and then turned the whole thing upside down on the floor. This, i think, is one of the great gifts of having a partner, to help you see when you do things like this. Things you wouldn’t know how to do on purpose, but for which you have a strange and particular expertise.
That moment gave rise to this poem, “Molt.” (from the fantastic Fishouse site)
I came across this kind of soap dispenser at the Grail House in upstate New York at a Village Zendo summer ango. It really struck me, how this product is predicated on a sense of not letting someone be alone for a minute. As if we need to be so looked after and entertained, even when we’re just washing our hands. Basically, I LOVE this poem (by James Tate) and kept this scrap on the wall near my desk for the last couple of years.
I don’t remember who said this, possibly Thaddeus, but it taps into a whole world of having songs go through your head while you’re in silence. For much of the summer when I was on garden crew at Tassajara, I would be singing Whole Lotta Love because the snack area for students is called The Back Door, and just hearing that phrase, especially against a ground of hearing no recorded music, would be just enough to get that song going through my head. “I wanna be your back door man.” Richard’s stunning cover. Instructive how he managed not to indicate the genre. A passage I love from Moby Dick. It helped me move through many consternations and affrights. Jumper cables from the Heinous task table installation at Headlands. I made vellum versions of various tools that are often used as metaphors for getting tasks done.