Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The whole house smells like jasmine tea and I am contemplating the reasons I shouldn’t go Christmas shopping at the moment. I sent two more copies of the manuscript off yesterday. Funny how it gets easier, this being a poet. I feel that way about being a human sometimes, that the more comfortable I grow in my skin the easier it becomes.

This past weekend I had my cards read. I have this wonderful reader who isn’t the scary kind of reader with scarves and a crystal ball but more of the wise woman, tea kind of gal. I like that. A good reading feels like the focusing of a lens and though I don’t believe in hocus pocus I do believe that everything is energy, thought, action. We send out into the universe what we need and the universe as a good conductor sends it back.

Anyway, she said the universe wanted to talk to me about my work which considering the last time I had my cards read four years ago, where the universe wanted to tell me to get the hell of out of my marriage, meant things were looking up. She said the book will do well. Hell that was worth the price of admission. She said, Teresa, deep down you know who you are, you will always know this. You know you have to write and that’s the job you’ve been given. The praise or criticism that ultimately comes from that has nothing to do with the act itself.

Strangely, that felt incredibly freeing. I will be read. I will be published. (Well unless she lied;) And I have the freedom to write, whatever and how ever I want and though, in my head that’s how I believe great art is made, sometimes as a writer, I pull into the room, in the act of creating, the reader. The reader’s expectations, desires. I’m beginning to see the reader does not belong in the birthing room, that’s not the place at all. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 28, 2005

Today to keep my mind busy I went to my favorite store to buy octopus. I am teaching myself sushi making skills. Okay, I am making octopus cucumber salad but it’s kind of like sushi. I cut. I eat.

After I get over the horror that SOMEONE has piped Christmas music into my wonderful Asian market I find Jesus has brought me a new tea section. I’m not talking a white girl tea section but this: purple plum flowers, lavender, bitter melon. These are in little clear bags so if you push your little white girl nose to the plastic you can smell things. Oh and there are these huge barrels of beautiful things I can’t pronounce that my whole head fit into.

The thing about me you should know, when I find something exciting I call over perfect strangers to share the experience. Yes I AM that lady in the tea section. At one point today I had three people in a barrel. Not bad for a days work.

And yes Rebecca Loudon I did buy you bitter melon tea for Christmas. Doesn’t that just sound lovely?

crossing fingers and all other body parts

Okay this sucks, I can’t tell you the really BIG news because the really BIG news is not final and it’s a possible that being one of the top four does not make me the top one. I am probably jinxing myself by typing all this out anyway but the only people I have to talk to about this tonight are 7 and 11 and all they said was does this mean we can buy a pony?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Bird’s Skeleton Is A Boat

Name the ship sparrow, dry spindle of wings--row, my son row.
October’s field of grass is a dry sea. Nailed to the tree
there’s a white card, a woman with a head full of snakes--
"to find God one must burn." My head is a fire, nothing is holy.
In Revelation it states: angels sit at the right side so full of love
they become flame, ash, ignite, begin again. Underneath the wing,
the sparrow is a church. All good crows disguise themselves as birds.
The holy are drowning themselves in ordinary days.
They are walking in fields. I’ve spent a lifetime with fire.
I cannot find prayer. My head is water. It’s time to launch the ship.
It's time to feed the sparrow--burn, my child burn.

white bull

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Yesterday was a perfect day. We drove a few hours to Wisconsin and on the way we saw a white bull by the side the road. Bella’s still swears it was a GIANT sheep. It felt magic. I wanted to pull the car over, open the window, feel it’s breath on my face.

In the afternoon we had dinner with my best friend. We have been friends forever. We are magic. After dinner we colored, played UNO with the girls and the four of us danced to eighty songs in the living room, then we went for a walk b/c it was cold and clear. Everything smelt like “before”. The way the sky gets ready for a big storm.

I drove home in the dark. I drove home to voices and this morning I woke up to six inches of snow, the girls in my bed. We made eggs and sang to Cassidy and now the girls are with their father and I have spent all afternoon under the down comforter with the book “Winter Birds,” two bananas and a cup of tea.

It is really sad and aching. The kind of book you can fall into and not find your way out of and I have read all of it. I feel guilty b/c I have read it the way I do, when I’m hungry for something, and this book which probably took him years to write is mine in an afternoon.

I wanted to write this all down b/c this is my day. Because I feel guilty for weird things, my friend being happy and married; she has her whole family to take care of her if she ever falls. The girls are gone and though I hunger for this space continually, I walk around like a blind man touching walls when they are not here.

Someone has given me money b/c they believe I can write books which made me excited a few days ago and now scares the shit out of me. What if more people give me money? What if they want more books? What if all I have is a long line of people believing in something that isn’t solid? I truly could be a woman who exists mainly on air.

If the children had not seen the white bull, I wonder today if I would know it was real? I am like that sometimes, that's why my teachers use to say, take her outside don’t let her read everything. My lines are cloudy, I fall into things too easily. I've been struggling since birth with the concept of the white bull.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


… in the mail the biggest check I’ve ever received for writing was in my box

…..I needed to prove it to myself so I took a photo

….I answered “I am a writer” to the man who asked me at the pool

….my daughter said, "now I know why this is beautiful' when I showed her the poem

….in stillness I'm okay and I go on

….I know what we will find

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Monday, November 21, 2005

In summer the song sings itself
yet in December the river grows quiet-- the trees lonely.

No one would notice the blue if not for emptiness.
Silence, a voice without letters.

If we took lessons from the lark we’d leave.
In our mouths we’d place the last feather, hold it in our teeth.

Memory has no room for winter, the whole season forgets.
Even you, my darling do not remember.

If my name found the feather, if in your mouth
was a nest, we'd begin.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

growing pains

I spent the day looking at middle schools for Olivia—this fact alone is fricken frightening. I am very drawn to one of the only Montessori middle schools in the country. They have a college writing curriculum, there are guitars in the lunch room for kids to play. It seems wonderful, a bit small but wonderful.

Today Olivia said she had three notes from boys in her backpack who wanted to “date” her. I asked her how this made her feel what she said to them. ”Well I told them I wasn’t ready to date yet. I’m still a kid.”

Please still be a kid I wanted to say, stay a kid for a bit longer. I know I am on borrowed time. Knowing this doesn’t make it easier. True fact: I trust my daughters to grow into beautiful women. Another true fact: I will miss them being beautiful children.

Ahhh, time is our pet until she bites our hand—that is a line from the new book. You know I have to start reading more when I start quoting myself;)

Poetry news: one acceptance…all else is quiet. Please let me get the national endowment grant, dear poetry god. Please let me have more time to write and when the silence comes give me something to write about. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ballard Facts

It is warmer in my fridge right now than my kitchen.

If you blow bubbles outside they shatter.

Ten, four year old boys in an art class ought to be illegal.

We now have hot water.

Poetry Northwest took “I am Talking of Fever.” the sequel “I am freezing my ass off in Minnesota” should be written soon.

Leo Busgali (the famous psycho-therapist) says we should embrace our own personal smell—it is truly overrated.

My neighbors left for Paris today. I wished them well and then hated them secretly.

I found writing cabins in Jamaica on the ocean (with a maid) for 35 dollars a night.

I hated my neighbors less.

Next week I find out if I won a National Endowment Award for the manuscript.

Then I am going to Paris.

I keep having dreams where I am walking through angels.

Last night the moon was full, the first snow on the ground and I felt like I was sleeping in a giant light bulb.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

40 shopping days left

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Random Notes from that Ballard Girl

First snow: the girls and I woke up at three am and watched it fall. We had our mouths against the glass, dreaming and in the morning the car was frozen and Bella had to crawl through the trunk let us in. We spent our time trying to protect ourselves from what we thought was beautiful: hats, mittens, boots. This is so much like love I thought. What am I wearing to keep warm?

Monday a water pipe burst in our basement so when we got back from school there was a foundation. I tried to shut it off but I couldn’t. I ran upstairs to look for help and realized once again, I was the only grown up here. I was the help. I hit it with a hammer. It worked. Note to self: hit more things with a hammer.

Olivia asked when it will stop being like this. When she will not feel like she is falling too fast out of childhood. Never, I wanted to say. Now it begins. You will be 12 soon, it is falling. But I think I said there are special places inside ourselves where we’re always children which we never loose. Today I want to believe that.

Everything I do, I process with writing. The foundation, the snow, my girls. Someone who loves me, yelled at me this week because it is not fair really to be in love with me. Everything is open. I operate in this medium which is so vulnerable. Do not love me, you will be naked. I mean it both literally and metaphorically.

The conference with Kate DiCamillo went well. She said, I could spit right now and hit someone more talented than me but it's all about discipline. How badly do you want it? I sent four manuscripts off the next day. I want it that badly.

I decided I will be a children’s book author and write about dogs that die, parents, that die, friends that die. Really, it does seem if you want to be a children’s author you need to kill something off. I am already a girl who can use a hammer.

I am mad at the poetry god. I want it to be worth more, this thing that I love. In the world in which I live I want poetry to be worth something. Why, when you say you are a poet, people think you write about death. No, I say I write about life. Next time I will point them to children's fiction.

Today I do not want to look at the poetry manuscript. I want the house to be clean. I want to bake bread. I want to listen to Eva Cassidy and watch the snow fly in the backyard. I want to be a woman who wants nothing more than happy children and a clean house. Why is that not enough for me? Maybe I should try the hammer on myself.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Open Letter To Paul (Celan)

I do not appreciate that way you’re standing over my shoulder, watching as I put the poems in order; shuffle, reshuffle. I do not like the look in your eyes, which says it is not there yet…or maybe ever. Fifty perfect poems. Carolyn said forty. You say fifty. I do not like how you assume, I’ll listen because you’re dead, because I can find 200 pages of perfection in a dead man’s book. You’re bothering me again. I’m taking down the photos of us on the Rhine. You’re right, I should have taken more notes. I could learn to write in pencil, maybe spell correctly. I need a system. I’ve lost something, I’m not aware of and of course, now it becomes valuable. Stop staring at me in black and white—blink your eyes. I’ve news for you. If you were a mother you'd be better off. You’d have ten perfect poems, laundry and swim practice. You’d be talking to men who cannot hear you, because they’re easier to live with, then the ones who can. You’d stay away from rivers. You’d bake bread. Okay, maybe you wouldn’t bake bread, you’d clean the counters and organize the shelves, make sure the children are fed. Then you’d be tired Paul. Trust me. The ten poems would be beautiful and you’d stop being judgmental because honestly, I think you’re a little harsh. If you count the idle minutes in my day, you’d see that 50 perfect poems are like flight. Did you know that? At the origin of our DNA we have the exact same make up in our skin as feathers. A slight slip and we’d have wings instead of fingers. One small dot of DNA, a jump would be no more than a place to take off. Think of it Paul, no more falling or failing. Well you had to put failing in there because your judgmental. Liz would call that your critical voice, the red wire. We have a lots of red wires, don’t we Paul? See if you were a mother, you’d know children are the green wire even if they are a lot of work. Even if they’re the reason you don’t write in pencil or have a black leather notebooks with rubber bands. Children are the reason, you have rocks, leaves in your pocket. And to be honest, the space between hands and wings are enormous. Think of the chickens, I mean it’s a huge genetic mistake to be a bird and have to rely on your feet. Honestly, the chicken has not faired well. No, they’re not too many birds in the manuscript, now that’s just absurd. Children are definitely the green wire. I’m going back now Paul. I going back to the book before the green wires come home and start sparking all over the place, besides the whole chicken analogy scared the shit out of me! Am I chicken? Really Paul, I’d appreciate it if you'd stand somewhere else in the room. I’ve only today to get this done. I have deadlines. Do you understand? Go stand by the mirror in the hall. Look at your self. It reminds me of water. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Get out of my head Louise....

I’m now at an all time personal low for dream stress, last night I dreamt Louise Gluck was sitting across from me eating soup. I was on the other side of the wooden table with my manuscript going over every line. She didn’t talk the whole time and just kept staring at me, eating her soup. This dream went on ALL night. I kept waking up saying get out of my head Louise and at about 3 am I said it so loudly I almost woke up the girls. Do you any idea how embarrassing it is to have the screaming one does in their sleep be about syntax? All I know is, I will never watch someone eat soup the same way again. Lord now I need a nap.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Princess and Curdie

Today I want to be the princess, have a long ball of string, tucked in the pocket of my blue cape so when the goblins come, take me down the twisted corridors into the dark world, there will be a red river for you to follow. Today I want to be the goblin princess who crawls on her knees in her white night dress, who has blond curls, pink cheeks. The girl who the fairy queen loves, dips into the magic pond of light. I want to be clear and translucent. And I do NOT want you to be the boy who gets lost on the way, who is brave but not enough. Nor do I want you to be the dark tunnel, the stale air in my lungs or the string which breaks. Today I want you to be the one sliver of sun, the rocks I remove. Today I need you to be the place where I find myself outside of the cave. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 06, 2005

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I think I’m done with pirate jokes but I’m not sure.

Last night I watched a movie with my children which said every time
someone thinks of you a leaf falls.

Today I laid on the picnic table, underneath the maple watching the wind, thinking I must be completely falling out of someone’s head which is more true than not.

Yesterday I read the manuscript and realized all my secrets are in there. Every last one of them, and if someone really reads the book, I mean really READS the book they will know everything. And somehow they will know nothing. Possession it nine tenths of the law. Do I actually own this?

Today I gave the manuscript to someone and I said: forget everything you know about me, everything you’ve ever read. I wanted to say: pretend you are Louise Gluck, you loved Stanley Kunitz at 17, you wrapped a scarf around your head at 24, you wrote beautifully. You never picked a woman to win anything. Now pretend.

Good thing: My friend read one page and said, now here's a perfect line.
Bad thing: The credit goes to Paul Celan.

I, for the first time have a therapist who treats me as an artist. I was a practicing art therapist for a long time before I went into teaching. A good therapist is hard to fine. She says, writers block is mainly buying into the belief that you have nothing good to say.

I spent last week in session talking about the manuscript. One would think, with all the past relationship turmoil, I could think to bring up something else but I guess I’m sick ;) She said, I think too much…well there’s a fricken revelation. I think too much about what the book needs to be, I go through all the possibilities in my mind without ever letting it take on its own life form. Not all the time, mind you but probably most of time, I need to control the outcome.

When you tell someone all your secrets you give the power to reject you, to think of you, yes but also to push you out of their head. I don’t know how to stop thinking. I know someone who claims I do not move but I am so busy dear, running up every path in my head. I am too tired to make connection with my feet.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

For Richard

what's a pirate's favorite kind of cookie?
ships ahoy

what do you call a pirate that skips class?
captain hooky!

And My personal favorite

A pirate walks into a bar and the bartender says, "Hey, I haven't seen you in a while. What happened, you look terrible!"
"What do you mean?" the pirate replies, "I'm fine."
The bartender says, "But what about that wooden leg? You didn't have that before."
"Well," says the pirate, "We were in a battle at sea and a cannon ball hit my leg but the surgeon fixed me up, and I'm fine, really."
"Yeah," says the bartender, "But what about that hook? Last time I saw you, you had both hands."
"Well," says the pirate, "We were in another battle and we boarded the enemy ship. I was in a sword fight and my hand was cut off but the surgeon fixed me up with this hook, and I feel great, really."
"Oh," says the bartender, "What about that eye patch? Last time you were in here you had both eyes."
"Well," says the pirate, "One day when we were at sea, some birds were flying over the ship. I looked up, and one of them shat in my eye."
"So?" replied the bartender, "what happened? You couldn't have lost an eye just from some bird shit!"
"Well," says the pirate, "I really wasn't used to the hook yet."

those damn boots

I thought at 38, everything odd that was going to happen to me in the pick up area, had already happened but I was wrong. Last night I went dancing, mainly b/c I figured out I’m going to be 40 in a few years, and people in this culture don’t dance after 40 unless they are at a wedding or mentally insane in the street.

In Haiti we dance all the time, everyone dances, it doesn’t even involve a disco ball and bad music. So last night we went dancing at the retro bar, and it was true that most people looked about 12 but I have wonderful friends, who are beautiful gay boys, who can dance and keep the riff raff away from me---except of course when I want the riff raff.

So anyway I go to pee, and I was just debating in my head the possibilities of catching a disease, thinking of the two doctors I know, Peter and C.D. and wondering, why don’t they ever post bar bathroom safety on their blogs???? When the person next to me starts to complain about the door not shutting and I (being way too witty after two cosmos) say, “well why do think I picked this bathroom?” We begin talking (I know boys don’t do this but sometimes girls do.) Anyway all of a sudden this chick’s head comes under the stall,
peaks up at me and ASKS ME OUT.

Needless to say this really throws me off, mainly because a) diseases are still in my head and b) at any given age, having someone face down by your ankles while you are trying to pee is disconcerting. I'd like to lie here, say I said something intelligent, like do you really WANT this to be the first place we meet? But I was thrown off, mumbled and prayed to god the head would suck itself back to the other side. I blame it all on the boots. I am only wearing them to church from now on.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


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I had ten, 4 and 5 year old boys in my Architecture and Building class today which means of course when you teach them about design they WRESTLE. When you read them a book they WRESTLE. And when you do anything that does not involve direct eye contact they try to hit each other on the head.

I am a teacher who knows when she is out numbered, also how much sugar a forty pound body can really hold the week of Halloween. So the class built me a hook, the class made me an eye patch and for an hour in the field behind the art school, I dragged one foot behind the other. I cried “If I catch you I’m going to eat you.”

At the end, E. who reads almost as well as I do, who told me today he wants to grow up and be a target said, “icka chi raya” and I said, “WHAT?” He then head rammed me and yelled, “ICKA CHI my language that means I love you.”

"Oh" I said, "in my language that means, do you want juice?" Then the boys and I had juice while riding home on a ship.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Did you ever dive into water your not sure of, press yourself to go deeper, scrape your belly on the bottom then rise? Not thinking, just rising. Then that one second when you reach the surface; break through it like glass. Breathe, then breathe again, float on your back with your face in the sun. Realize you are alive. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

God Bless the boy who I.D. me at the bar. Obviously boots and a big hat make you look substantially younger.

The girls both weighed in with pillowcases filled with 15 pounds each of candy!!!! A personal record for both.

I’m listening to a new collection (for me) of Bob Marley and having Octopus & Cucumber salad for breakfast plus I’m alone with 30 pounds of candy;)
Nice to see Kelli Russell Agodon and Timmy Liu in Crab Orchard Review: Ten Years After Documenting a Decade which I am reading straight through. A small miracle because I am finding it hard for most journals to hold my attention that long—I could barely get into Mary Karr’s article on religion and poetry. I know there has to be something in there but I am not finding it.

In the mail yesterday: Crab Orchard and An Anthology of Contemporary Russian Women Poets (I’m in heaven.) At the moment I am reading Anna Swir’s Talking to My Body. Thank you Miss Laurel K. Dodge for pointing me in her direction; she is simply amazing.

Which of course leads to the question of the day, is there an advantage to having English NOT be your native language as a poet? Does it allow you a deeper ability to stretch words? One of the things I try hard to do when teaching drawing and painting is to teach my students to loose themselves in an object. Stand there and look until the jar is no longer a jar. I’m famous for taking a painting and making my students stand on their heads….now tell me what you see?

I understand the basic principle in art, if one looses the object it has the ability to take on other form. But do I understand this in word? If all cars are called rutabagas, how does this change the function of a car? And if you speak several languages you already know in one tongue a word can mean this, another that.