Saturday, November 29, 2014

End of semester reflections and a poem, "Stones"

 End of semester reflections and a poem, "Stones"

                I’d often been asked odd questions before- one day a young Korean woman asked me what size shoe I wore and because I didn’t feel like answering, I launched into a talk on taboo questions in America.  Another day, a young Asian woman asked me, “Why do you teach?  It must be so boring- all those mistakes, those corrections.”  My answer was that I liked to learn. 

             I’ve been re-reading “Disgrace” and Coetzee’s main character reflects on that idea. “The irony does not escape him: that the one who comes to teach learns the keenest of lessons, while those who come to learn learn nothing.” I suspect my idea is not so much learning humility but worldliness, meaning cultures of the world and cultural norms outside of my own. That I have certainly found.  On one job interview I responded to a question saying I had probably taught students from most countries around the world.   

            I found a poem I’d written ages ago, perhaps when I was teaching at the University of Barcelona.  So often in those days I resented a poem lost as I stood in front of yet another classroom or a storyline I wanted to write down with so little time to do so.  These days I am softer, more appreciative of this work I chose and I have learned ever so much while enjoying myself.   Perhaps the teaching is what I will remember more.




Through the camel's eyelid,

one step off

the tree in bloom,

just out of reach

of day to day.

Freed from the cave,

I carry a sack of stones

to the classroom

to impart one by one

to the open mouths.

Outside, the softness

of the new

spring leaves


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Snow Clues

     Did fortune shine on me?  I moved back to Buffalo in April 2007, not too long after an October snowstorm cracked trees heavy with leaves and took down power lines.  The storm was still a topic of conversation and the cause of the escape of a friend whose car had been crushed by a fallen tree. Just not tough enough, I thought.
     I moved to Atlanta in August and despite a few glitches have managed to find a job and get somewhat settled in.  Nostalgia for Buffalo still remains yet I have to admit I am relieved I left before this devastating November 2014.snowstorm.  And I know what I'm talking about- I lived through two of the big blizzards- 77 and 86 and they remain in the deepest part of my brain that scans the neighborhood for grocery stores I can walk to wherever I move. 
    This storm makes me sad.  Just when Buffalo was getting positive press for being one of the most bicycle friendly and livable cities, and all importantly, one of the most progressive, the weather strikes a blow.  We're back to stereotypes.  Hope all of you are safe and warm!

     Snow Clues is the title of a poem in my third chapbook, Dance the Truth, and it's the subtitle of a mystery novel I wrote which is waiting for one last edit and a publisher.  Will fortune shine on me?

Snow Clues

Walk the winter white world
our prints merge
with animal indentations.
Who crossed this path first?

Sleighs pass

The sparkle white
Snow sleep lures
most of all.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Finding my Way Home

This move from Buffalo to Atlanta has my father’s imprint on it.  Odd you might say, considering he’s been dead for decades, yet he’s been appearing in my dreams since before I left for Atlanta in August. Yang energy could be enough of an explanation for making this move.  What does it take to uproot oneself?  An upheaval of sorts, a burning dissatisfaction, or the perpetual longing for something more?  In my case, it wasn’t the upheaval but the sense I had to escape a kind of rust belt poverty and that time was running out for finding a good job. 

Back to the dreams which seemed to be foreshadowing this change. My father appeared in all the standard dreams of home, the childhood home where I lived for the first 17 years of my life and which still is the only place that bears the archetype of home.  In those dreams death is always a factor, usually my mother’s.  She is sick, we call an ambulance, or we weep at what has already occurred.  The house stands in one of its many forms, sometimes bigger or shabbier than I remember but always an important protagonist.  In one dream I came upon vomit in a room- the symbol of which I’m still trying to figure out. 

Then, in one dream, he flat out asked me why didn’t you have children?  My response was, aren’t my stories and poems enough?  Perhaps it’s a genetic question and in that case I have no answer or a million.  Years ago a Peruvian shaman I met told me I had a genetic make-up that was rarely seen and I carried more of my father than my mother.  One thing I know is I inherited his love of wanderlust.


Here’s a poem from my first chapbook:


Finding My Way Home


The Hmong bury placenta,

close to home.

Danger rises in direct proportion

to their distance from it.


The Navajo began

the long march home

where each tree,

each stream tells the past.


The spot that fixes me

to the ground, floats.


Lost in the birches

and pines of the Baltic,

following the storks south,

to nest in the bell towers

of Castillian churches,

I´m finding my way home.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Atlanta 2, me 0 and a flash fiction piece

By the strangest twists of fate (apologies to Bob Dylan), the two times I have spent time in Atlanta I've been in car accidents.  You can ask how that is possible when I don't even drive.  Well, this is a car city like so many "newer" cities in the South and West.  You really can't go many places without a car as I've learned in my carfree innocence.  This is such a car city that I don't even dare to ride my bike except in the depths of the suburbs or on preplanned bike routes. 
     The first accident happened when I first returned from Spain to the US.  My sister and I were going to a poetry reading which of course, we never got to.  It wasn't too bad and we weren't hurt nor was the car but the accident (more of a fender bender) happened in the middle of the domain of Emory University so there were 3 sets of police cars that arrived on the scene along with an ambulance.  My first thought was I had no health insurance but fortunately I didn't need any treatment.
     November 1, which just happens to be my birthday.  Is that a bad omen when a car accident happens on your bday?  Does it set the tone for the year or is all the collective bad energy dispersed?  I need to consult my astro friends on that one.  Anyway, we ( my sister and I again) were entering a highway (of which Atlanta has a multitude, perhaps like LA) when an elderly woman ran a red light and hit the back end of the driver side of the car.  The next thing I knew we were  in the car facing the wrong direction, looking at oncoming traffic.  Fortunately, a police officer was getting off work, saw the whole thing, and stopped traffic.  What I do know is that to avoid getting into a car, I took 2 trains, a bus, and a long walk to get home.
    Food for thought again- am I in the right place? 

I've attached a car story- one I wrote for a prompt exercise.  Hope you enjoy it!

Cars, Today, and Tomorrow


Calvin was always complaining about progress and how the US was falling behind. Now he was back on the same jag.  ¨It´s true, Doug.  Look at China.  Cars show how far a society has come.  Progress. Now they´ve got more than us.  That´s an indicator; everything is Chinese; it´s because they´ve got cars now.¨

¨Come on Calvin, what are you nuts?  What´s this poison soup we´re breathing? Carbon m-o-n.-o-x-i-d-e.  Take a deep breath of that shit.  Fill up those lungs.¨

The two men were standing on the overpass of Route 20 A next to the mall waiting for the AAA to pick up Calvin´s car.  Smoke was billowing out from under the hood and the engine looked like it was ready to blow.  Doug couldn´t believe it; even with his car practically on fire, Calvin wouldn´t stop defending cars.  ¨The Chinese are now ahead of us in pollution too.  They got big black clouds there.  You can´t see the light of day in some of those cities.  That´s progress?¨

¨Think of it; the smell of a new car. Picture it a Jag or, let´s say a Porsche.  Soft leather, heated seats in the winter when you get into that baby.  Cream color interior, GPS, a sound system better than you got at home.¨

¨Get out of here, it´s not sex we´re talking about.  And hey, dude, dream on. Where do you see a Jaguar?  What do you call that over there that´s smoking up a storm?¨  Doug pointed to the 20 year old Chevy ten feet away.   ¨You think it could explode?¨  He stepped farther away just in case.

¨Nah, only on TV.  It takes a lot to get one to blow.  You got to cover it in gasoline.  My car is fine.¨

¨What´d you do, forget to put oil in there?  You with your cars.¨

Calvin ignored Doug and continued his reverie.  ¨Power, that ´s what you want.  That feeling under you.  You can take on the world.¨

¨How long did they say?¨ Doug was getting impatient with the triple A.  ¨They´re usually pretty good.¨

¨An hour about.¨

¨That Chevy has seen better days.  Maybe you should get that dream car.¨

¨The Chevy was Dad´s.  Still got some life in it.¨

¨Yeah, if you keep pumping your paycheck into it.¨

¨At least I´m not on some corner waiting for a goddam bus.¨

¨Well, at least, I´m not poisoning anybody.¨

¨You kidding. With those buses.¨

¨They´re ecological now.  They burn natural gas.¨

¨Next you´ll tell me they burn chicken shit.  You luddites are going to set us back a few centuries.  Then you´ll be happy.  You won´t have any cars, no lights, no TV, now that´s ecological.  Get your garden going.  Make your own clothes.  What kind of future is that?¨

Doug laughed, ¨I´ll keep my way.  You stay in that pile of shit.  I´m going to walk to the mall.  That´s where we´re supposed to be right now.  I got to get my daughter´s birthday present.¨

¨See how you get home.¨

¨Hey, I´ll take a bus.¨

¨Remember that´s why we´re in this mess.  There is no bus.¨