Praise Song: Old City, Old Selves

Go back to your old haunts in your old neighborhoods and what do you find: they remain and have disappeared.

— Colson Whitehead, “Lost and Found”

Praise the city you hardly see anymore, with a glass and steel Marriott rising right over the spot of the long-gone Mexican cafe where you’d sometimes sit alone at the counter eating migas. It’s all any of you talk about–where the city you once knew has gone, and how long it took to get wherever you were going in the traffic, the traffic. As if everything isn’t always changing anyway, as if you could still be 19 or 31 or 42 and strolling through streets ever familiar. And then, praise that day your old life comes marching toward you carrying who you were when you first set foot in the city. The writer in overalls reading a book in a coffee house was once you, now isn’t, but you know you once embodied that ease.

041015Then while you sit at a different counter eating fish tacos and drinking red wine, up walks a man you had one date with 15 years ago. It was your first fall or spring, and the first time you realized that the temp in this city can shift 30 degrees in a matter of hours. What you remember is how he walked down the sidewalk a pace ahead of you, to your right, trying to block the wind. Praise that you knew his face when he said hello. Praise that there are still writers and coffeehouses and books to pull from satchels. Praise that no matter how tall the new buildings, you still know the way home.

April 9, 2015

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Praise Song: Books of Poems

040315Praise how they come into the world, despite their unlikeliness, and how they just keep coming. Praise lines, verses, stanzas spilling down the page, praise white space en mass in this paperless age. To judge the Balcones Prize, I  must read 37 books, and in this box they wait for me. Inside, a thousand poems with their pronouncements, their suggestions, their nuance, their clarity. They wait for me from cold apartments in Soviet Russia and the once-burned landscape of Hiroshima, from the deep seas of a father’s past and hands joining across a kitchen table. Praise the belief that we still have something to say. Praise the publishers who help us to say it. Praise the notebooks and napkins and open Word documents out of which they came. Praise the order, the voice, the desire to find just the right word. Praise, again, the lines, verses, stanzas, white space. Praise the music. Praise the need to speak it.

April 3, 2015

Meet-iversary

033115Most days slide by on the calendar without much to say for themselves, and it’s true that I’ve made it my intent to celebrate in those days the small things — feet on the coffee table outside on the deck, the perfect Spanish tortilla, bluebonnets dashed with unexpected pink. But some days stand out on the white pages of dates. Today, for example. It’s the day I sent my friend Jane the latest draft of the poetry manuscript I’ve been working on. That deadline kept me going. And on this day 11 years ago Chris and I met for the first time. We shared a plate of fajitas and began the conversations that’s been going ever since. We’ll celebrate tomorrow, when I don’t teach until 9pm. Tonight we connected late, when I got home, talking as we often do at the kitchen table. Some of it was funny, some of it dark, but all these years later our appreciation for each other is undimmed.

March 31, 2015

Me and Angelina Jolie

I wrote about women and health and the very necessary candor of Angelina Jolie in a piece published in Role Reboot today: Why Angelina Jolie Really Is a Badass. I am grateful that I got to contribute to a conversation I think is important.Screen shot 2015-03-25 at 10.15.25 PM

It was, truly, a day of firsts. My name next to Jolie’s (her name, her face). A flurry on social media that called me–ever the well behaved one–a badass. And the fact of overcoming my very deliberate nature to write something quickly from a place where I was moved and release it into the world. Mark it down, friends.

March 25, 2015

Poetry in the Sun

020615What more can I ask from a Friday afternoon than this: the weather breaks, sun arriving after days of gray. I take my freshly painted fingernails to Koriente, where Jay begs me not to blog about the restaurant. He’s too busy already! On the back deck I open L’s manuscript, these short poems shot through with storms and wind, with fathers and daughters, with grackles and butterflies, with pink shirts and rabbit ears. I make notes in pencil. I flip forward and back again. At the table next to me, they talk about seeing Elijah Wood at the coffee house. I’ve come to understand that the world is often a harsh place. We must love these bits of sweetness.

February 6, 2015

Letters

013115Traveling alone in the days before the internet, my stops to pick up letters from home were sometimes what saved me. They made me feel connected, less lonely, loved even when I was surrounded by strangers. One day I took a train from Florence to Venice and back just to secure a handful of letters that were waiting for me at the Amex office. If I dug into a box in my closet, I’d find them there today. But I don’t write letters much anymore, and don’t receive them either, now that technology has offered so many news ways to connect. But this week I got a short and beautiful letter — accompanied by a short and beautiful poem — by the friend I most often correspond with. It carried sad news, and I held those pages at the kitchen table and cried a bit, for the news itself and for the way we are no longer young, buffered from the hard things life can deal us. I responded to the letter with an email, though it deserves paper and ink. The letter in the photo, though, goes back to an earlier innocence. My sentences, offered in the the most legible print I can manage, and Chris’s drawing, are on their way to San Antonio. The recipients are six and four, early readers, and we don’t see them as often as we’d like.

January 31, 2015

What We Need for a Writing Retreat

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A full weekend day. Art on the walls. Yellow chairs that glide on wheels. Three women, pens in hand. Chocolate. Tea. Diet Coke. White boards wiped for the occasion. Markers. Compassion. A heart bent on opening. Clutter cleared. A twice-yearly commitment to spend a day in wild imagining. Strategy books. Tarot cards. A polka dot blanket offered by a daughter. Belief. Courage. Dreams.

January 18, 2015