Sunday, January 8, 2012


I do not remember these things
— they remember me,
not as child or woman but as their last excuse
to stay, not wholly to die.

~ Janet Frame's "The Place"

The shuffling and banging together of poems has quieted, the slipping almost stopped. As I piece together these bits of thoughts that I call poems, they make all kinds of racket ("a systematised element of organized crime," Wikipedia ;) New threads emerge, old ones seem raveled and frayed. Being home has been like this. Settling back into an old life that no longer exists, dusting, baking, finding new homes for things from my most recent past life, missing things and people.

How to talk (briefly) about my own manuscript. Today is my niece's fourth birthday and I feel like I just met her two weeks ago. It's true, they grow up so fast. I didn't go to her party. Blame geography, the dog's dislike of children, this manuscript. But I am thinking of her. I am thinking of finding the stars uncountable with her in her back yard the day after Christmas, the playhouse lamp beckoning, bedtime fast approaching. The old chair in my kitchen that would look great in her room. I am thinking about helping her play Pac Man on her mother's iPhone. I am thinking of my sister and wondering how she does it all... so well.

These poems are certainly for them. Old love stories. Thresholds. I am thinking of Elizabeth Bishop's take on lost things. Dickenson's advice on telling the truth. Adrienne Rich's words on all the little lies we tell. These poems are certainly for them, too. There are airplanes and linens, manicures and landscapes. There is furniture. Even love. This is me, closing a chapter. There is nothing left to do but begin again. And vacuum up the pine needles. And put this manuscript in the mail.

Here's a video to hold you over.

Friday, January 6, 2012


The cat almost snores on the clean sheets, papers and books under his head, and the next load of laundry is almost done. American washing machines are SO much faster… and bigger. And the dryers. If you’re even lucky/rich enough to have one in Paris, (usually a washer/dryer combo) you have to wait two hours for jeans and a couple of towels. I still air dry plenty of things—undergarments. My favorite tops, those new fuzzy sock slippers I got in my Christmas stocking, which I’m sure would combust from the heat or at least lose all the sticky dots on the bottom of the feet. Filou loves these socks but only when I’m wearing them.

He also “loves” the corner of the bedspread when it hangs long enough for him to hump. When it doesn’t, he looks at it, then at me, and whines. He also loves the throw blanket on the sofa.

I have a sheet fetish. Pure cotton. Mix-n-match. Folding fitted sheets so neatly you can’t tell they’re not flat. But I can. The worst part of doing the laundry is the socks, never coming clean enough, forever losing their mates, escaping the pile, all that pairing and tucking and stuffing into the only drawer I can spare for them. No. I prefer sheets, even towels, their plush stacks on the shelves. Something like my grandma’s linen closet, but never quite.

All of my (current) favorite blankets come from France, each with its own little history—where it came from, which beds it has dressed in which apartments, who slept beneath it. All of them increasingly soft and supple from use. I left only one behind, but it was as much his as it was mine. It was the only one that ever felt like “ours.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fif Walk - 2012!!!

Sat down to write to you today. This is what came out. I was tempted to turn it into poetry. Maybe it is. Anyway, hello from Long Beach… And happy 2012!

The first half of our walk around the block, I am thinking about work. Finding work. What I will write to whom and how. I start to develop a cover letter in my head. The dog darts back and forth across the sidewalk. Leaves crunch. Tree to shrub, sniffing all the way… “Dear Sir or Madam, I am writing in response to your request for applicants.” He stops predictably at the corner, by the lamppost, does his business, steps away and huffs, scratches at the pavement while I clean it up… “My experience in not only administration but also in sales, management, and training/teaching should fulfill nicely all of the job’s requirements.” We cross the street.

Coming back down the other side, he does more of the same. By the time I see a man—with two dogs, 150 yards or so away—he is crossing the street, then passing us. Filou smells them, then hears them, then sets his sights on them and leans into his huff and scruff. Though the street between us is not wide, the man and I do not speak. I am thinking about how much information to give in my cover letter. Do I mention my time in France? How there were always so many people on the streets? How that last day—on our way up Rue de la Roquette to buy new rings so we could put the old ones in a drawer and move on—how that German Shepard came after him, sensed his fear, and began to snap and snarl. How I lifted him into my arms and that German Shepard kept after him, sniffing his backside, and how those punk-rock homeless guys just stood around laughing and I didn’t find the French to yell at them. « Elle est ou, sa laisse ?! Control ton chien, merde. » No « monsieur. » They would never call me madame.

The man across the street probably would speak to me, if I spoke to him… or even looked at him. I second guess my etiquette. Rue de Lappe was a different crowd, cluttered and drunken at night, high heels on the cobblestones. You try not to make eye contact, which is hard when you like to watch people like I do. Only in the morning was that street ever quiet, littered with broken glass and a feel of propriety. Paris wakes up slowly, especially Rue de Lappe. But I was thinking about work, about rewriting my resume for the fourth time this year. I was walking the dog and letting the coffee sink in.

When we get home, the Rose Parade is being rebroadcast. The surfing bulldog on the most anticipated float of the year can’t catch a wave. The wave maker seems to be giving them troubles, but the TV is on mute so I’m not really sure. No troubles this year, please. You, up there. Maybe a budget trip to Paris, a couple of part-time jobs to cobble together. A little spare time for writing, lots of reading. I don’t ask a lot. Maybe I should.

But I was talking about walking the dog, how it’s different here.