zirconium: photo of fabric elephant-shaped tissue holder in Thai massage parlor waiting room (elephant at Smile Thai)
I was in Philadelphia last week, partly for business and largely to learn some baroque dance-steps. During a break between installations and combinations, I went to Chinatown. I happened to reach Ocean Harbor right as two staff members were placing a table at the top of the stairs leading to the dining room, and watched throughout dim sum as food and drink and scent were brought out and offered to the ancestors/deities, with a manager periodically tending to the altar. And then, as my tea turned cool and bitter and as I eventually boxed up the remains of my meal, the dishes were gradually carried away and the incense sticks sputtered out, and finally the table stripped and put back with the others in the dining room.

Photos... )

Ocean Harbor

And more photos... )

Throughout the meal, my thoughts kept going back to "Ah úm," the wife of my father's oldest brother (shown in this entry). I remember her chuckling with my other relatives as they watched me copy her movements and gestures during a similar afternoon ritual.

That aunt has been gone for nearly forty years. My honorary mama moves away this weekend, to a facility up north. As we lingered over one last round of Scotch tonight, she spoke of how much she'd learned from her mother-in-law, who'd survived typhoid fever and endured significant tragedy (including a sibling's death from the fever, and early widowhood) whilst retaining grace and gratitude for small, everyday pleasures. And about how the final autumn of her own husband's life had been one of Nashville's most beautiful, such that they'd sat outside many evenings, simply enjoying the weather and each other's company.

Our conversations have turned frequently to the process of paring down. Two nights ago, she said, I kept many of your cards from over the years, but now I cannot take them... I replied, I never expected you to. She gave me the sweater I am wearing; it has holes now, and will almost certainly be beyond repair by the time I am done with it. I left her apartment Thursday night with two pots and a head stuffed with instructions on orchid care and hellebore cultivation. The ice cubes and rhizomes share the same mental acreage as a host of inarticulate thoughts about devotion and despair (that aunt? she hanged herself), and resilience and respite and resistance, and of the many cards and letters to write, and of how most of those will disappear, and yet the writing demands to be done. I think of Ralegh's "Lie," and Chaucer's "Ballade of Good Counsel," and the finale scene of Frings's dramatization of Look Homeward, Angel, and the final paragraph of "No Place for You, My Love," and of honorary mama shouting "Eudora Welty, get off the dining room table!" at her old fluffy cat, and of the old Phi Beta Kappa key that she put on a new chain this week, and a different PBK enticing me away from sewing costumes to go hear Welty speak in Mandel Hall, and of Welty herself rearranging sentences on her bedroom wall with scissors and pins. Of her house and Sandburg's and other things preserved, like musical instruments, circling back in turn to a conversation just last week, in a van trundling over the Delaware River, with a woman reminiscing about the violin she played in grade school. Of Joe's violin, which became Brianna's violin for a while, and is now another girl's violin. Of instruments an appraiser condemned as firewood, and the piano I didn't keep when it was time to sell my mother's house, and the piano I do have, which was a gift from a teacher's father to her daughter. The circles are not unbroken, but this world is somehow my home, even though I'm more aware than ever that I too am just so fleetingly passing through.
zirconium: me @Niki de St Phalle's Firebird (firebird)
That is, the essie nail polish mistakenly shipped to me as part of a gift from my gal Roo, who, knowing me, had actually picked Indulge My Whim.

Most of my collection is from R, come to think of it. Which I'm now going to inventory, because hey, among other things, maybe it'll goose a muse into starting something rich and strange. Or at least strange. ;)

Color Club - Alter Ego
Color Club - Masquerade
Color Club - More Amour
Color Club - Secret Agent
Color Club - Ulterior Motive
Duri - Fairytale Prague
Duri - Keep Your Options Open
Rescue Beauty Lounge - Combien?
Rescue Beauty Lounge - Gondoliere
Rescue Beauty Lounge - The Mosses Mar
Rescue Beauty Lounge - Purple Haze
Sally Hansen - Blue Streak
Wet and Wild - Red Red

Maybe I'll even paint mes ongles tonight. First, though, marmalade prep...
zirconium: photo of squeezy Buddha on cell phone, next to a coffee mug (buddha and cocoa)
Toward the end of last month, a close friend ordered me to sleep more in 2017. Which I agreed would be a good idea, so I am hitting the hay in a few minutes instead of seeding kumquats for marmalade. But I have sterilized some lids and put the pint jars in the dishwasher, so "guessing game jam" may be on the horizon.Read more... )

The kumquats, Meyer lemons, and grapefruits (plus an orange) are from the New Orleans backyard grove my big sis shares with her ex. I made sorbet last night with some of the lemons (using a Mark Bittman recipe as a base, with the advice of several blogs on making ice cream sans machine), and spiked a pitcher of water with slices of lemon and ginger.

making sorbet without a machine

Today's attempt at dinner was passable, even though the BYM later commented that the salad "smelled like feet." Really, the preparation of everything is experimental. I'm going to sleep on that. :)
zirconium: photo of Greek style coffee, Larnaca, October 2011 (coffee in Cyprus)
Hullo-ullo-ullo! We are starting out slow, 2017 and I, with cleaning and cooking and tugging at weeds between light spatter-downs of rain. It is a good way to get going -- the pedal will have to hit the metal soon enough. Today's subject line alludes to an article in the Holiday 2016 issue of Edible Asheville, about Carolina Ground, where grain is milled.


[Tara Jensen's] baking practice is influenced by her desire to keep a relaxed attitude, even when the fire is hot and her soul is weary. "What makes a baker exceptional is the ability to recover from mistakes without going off the rails," Jensen says.


The BYM peered into the oven as I was cleaning or prepping something else.

He: Whacha makin'?
Me: Cornbread.
He: Oooh... but, tell me this isn't some superstition thing.
Me: No. Although it does contain black-eyed peas.
He: DAMMIT.
Me: ... because I don't have to use as much milk.

I was actually thinking of a spoonbread recipe I'd looked at earlier when I said that; the bean variation of Bittman's cornbread recipe involves 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, and no white flour -- not a significant savings in the milk department, variation-wise. But my main goal was to try something new that would go with the beef burgundy from the freezer. I also made lemon-garlic kale salad, albeit with pecans and gorgonzola instead of almonds and parmesan.

It is true that I picked up the can of black-eyed peas yesterday at the store, because hey, there it was on the endcap, and then I put kale and kielbasa into the basket as well, thinking the three would make a good combination for lunch. But what I actually craved this morning was I grew up calling "mee whun" -- a simpler version of this rice noodle recipe. The version I prepared today contained just bean threads, cabbage, carrots, garlic, and pork.

bean thread package

first lunch of 2017

Other stirrings: one rejection reached me yesterday; I sent two submissions to editors today.

Closing the day with the good kind of hot water: a mug of Li Shan Pear Mountain tea and a hot bath. I'm pondering what to replace tired tulips with, in the shade beds in my front yard, but the truth is also that I might be best off tending to just the soil itself for a long while. I had the old gonna-fail-two-classes-because-I-didn't-go-to-them nightmare this morning -- my subconscious hasn't developed any subtlety over the years. Basics first, you imbecile. Right. Got it. On with the hoe.
zirconium: of blue bicycle in front of Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston (blue bicycle rear)
Thank you all!

Flint water fund receipt


Heading off-blog for the rest of the year. See you in 2017, loves.

daybreak
zirconium: Photo of cat snoozing on motorcycle on a sunny day in Jersualem's Old City. (cat on moto)
Today's mailman asked about the dog, having not seen her for a while. He said she was one of the few who didn't bark at him. I might be snuffling as I type. Read more... )
Finally: I started this entry some hours ago. Night has fallen, so let there be light.

first night
zirconium: of blue bicycle in front of Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston (blue bicycle)
My big sister will be matching my St. Stephen's Day donation. That means your purchase of a $5 book (or posting/tweeting about this poem) will send $4 to the Flint Water Fund. More details in the previous entry, and heartfelt thanks to everyone who's participated so far!
zirconium: the word "SANGUINE" engraved in stone (sanguine)
My offer: buy my book for yourself or someone else you're fond enough of to spend 5 USD on (at Amazon or elsewhere), send me some indication of the purchase (order #, screencap, whatever...) by 12:01 a.m. CST on December 26, and I will donate $2 per copy to The Flint Water Fund.

Alternatively: mention my poem "Look at that, you son of a bitch" on one of your social media platforms by 12:01 a.m. CST on December 26, and I will likewise donate $2 per mention.

ETA: My big sister is going to match my donation!

What's the cap? $200.

Why the offer? A sudden urge to goose up my royalty/readership figures.

Why $2? Because "useful, oddly very crisp," and categorically queer (for certain iterations of "categorically" and "queer") could well be used to describe me.

Why December 26? It's the Feast of Stephen. The first Christmas carol I ever learned to play on the piano was "Good King Wenceslas," which is but one of the reasons it's deeply embedded in my blood and bones -- if there's a carol I can sing in my sleep, it's that one. And as my friend M'ris might could tell you, there are a multitude of ways to sing and hear about the snow so deep and crisp and even. (And about what we know to tell, for that matter. Hence the subject line.)
zirconium: photo of ranunculus bloom on my laptop (ranunculus on keyboard)
["Under the oak leaves" - a line from "Au clair de la fontaine" (By the clear fountain)]

The senior minister at my church is on sabbatical, and Rabbi Rami Shapiro is visiting monthly as a guest preacher. On September 11, he brought with him a shruti, which he played as the congregation learned a new round:

I am a fountain

Longtime readers/friends may recall that I do have a thing about fountains... though this past month my scant spare time has been more on lake and river. My Labor Day getaway plans having fallen through twice, I decided to get on a paddleboard four out of my five days off, and last Friday I watched the full moon from my lantern-lit plank on the Cumberland.

Elsewhere and elsewhen: Paying work. Housework. Homework. Paperwork. Footwork. Speaking of--
Dancing: hip-hop, flamenco, Afro-Cuban (orishas), English country.
Friends: Visiting from France and elsewhere. Running for office.. Organizing campferences. Selling taco + lesbian farmer buttons (coupon code here, btw). Preparing for High Holy Days. Coding. Cajoling. Caretaking. I could go on ... in short, inspiring me.
Harvesting: peppers.
Deadheading: zinnias.

Recently published:

  • At unFold: "Spacing for Sky," with typography by J. S. Graustein


  • At Folded Word: "O Margaret, Here We Are Again"


  • At 7x20, a weekful of polished micro-poems: 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5


  • There is more to say and write, much of it off-blog, but a guest arrives tomorrow, so for now it's back to cleaning. Onward!
    zirconium: of blue bicycle in front of Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston (blue bicycle)
    The subject line's from "Brooklyn Blurs," a song by/in The Paper Raincoat. I heard Alex Wong perform it with Megan Slankard in a house concert back in March, and he mentioned at an Angelhouse Family Dinner that he would probably play it during his Basement gig last Saturday.

    I'd hoped to go to that show, but Other Things Happened. I'd hope to see tonight's ASL-interpreted performance of the Scottish play, but Other Things Had To Get Done. I have a suspiciously sore throat that I'm hoping won't get in the way of Things I Gotta Get To and Through within the next week. Mann traoch, Gott lauch.

    There is a metal screwcap perched on my handbag. I am perplexed - none of the bottles in the cabinets or on the counters appear to be missing their stoppers or lids, nor is there an open bottle of wine - but not enough to feel like I have to figure it out before I head to bed. Though it's all too likely that my brain will seize on some aspect of this to turn into a tanka or triolet a couple of hours from now, and that will get me out of bed to type out the words before they evaporate.

    IMG_1091

    This week's Tarotscope urged me to embrace change. ... I broke in my new pair of swim goggles this week. I tried buti yoga last week. I'm looking at dance classes around town -- it's going to be a full day if I try to attend the Muslim hip hop doubleheader that's scheduled for the same Saturday as the Early Autumn Day of English country dancing, but it looks doable and is therefore tempting.

    I am contemplating iron-on vines, to cover a stain on a gooseneck rocking chair I acquired last week at the Habitat ReStore for $25. My current tomato cutting + pepper cullings look sunburnt in their beakers and jars, so I'm thinking of throwing out the lot. I am thankful that I had limes on hand this morning, as I was again careless about gloving up before dealing with Prairie Fire seeds and ended up giving myself an invisible moustache of a burn. The zinnias are thriving:

    IMG_1105

    ripples

    Aug. 14th, 2016 09:24 pm
    zirconium: Photo of 1860 cast of Lincoln's hand (Lincoln hand)
    I mentioned Rahsaan Barber in my previous entry. The ads for his concert had caught my eye in large part because he played in First UU Nashville's 2015 performance of Darrell Grant's Ruby Bridges Suite; I sang in the choir.

    A snapshot from the dress rehearsal:
    Rahsaan Barber

    A recording of "Hold My Hand," from the suite: https://soundcloud.com/tn_choirboy/hold-my-hand-sunday-june-14

    That Sunday, the orders of service included postcards of Norman Rockwell's The Problem We All Live With. I'd collected a few left behind in the pews and sent them to friends.

    I had forgotten that I'd received a copy of that postcard myself back in 2009, when my late friend Marilyn purchased it at the Detroit Institute of Arts and sent it to me:

    postcard from Marilyn

    Now I wonder what spoke to her -- why that card, that day, out of the many others in the racks? These conversations we can no longer have -- they don't quite form a regret, not with the many conversations yet to be entered into with the near and the here. The questions that cannot be answered -- this learning to live with them is not new, but the texture and the thicket-ness of them shifts with the living and rereading and rethinking.
    zirconium: photo of Greek style coffee, Larnaca, October 2011 (coffee in Cyprus)
    It took time to harvest the Christmas (aka Prairie Fire) peppers, some of which were hidden behind and below many leaves:

    pepper at the heart of a bush

    Read more... )
    zirconium: photo of bell tower seen on a walk to the Acropolis (athens bell tower)
    [The subject line is from an Emily Dickinson poem.]

    I walked to a neighborhood store earlier tonight for caraway seeds, which I will blend with some recently harvested hot peppers and other spices for harissa. I was drenched with sweat by the time I got home, but also delighted with the aliveness of my street: bands playing, lovers walking, flowers nodding, kids playing ball, friends queueing up for pizza... A new apartment complex has a painting of an octopus in its lobby. Spiky white and purple flowers fill out the front border of one of the houses on the route; a holly hedge separates a comparatively conventional lawn from the deliberate wilderness next door. Next weekend there will be around 60,000 people in this patch of Nashville for the Tomato Art Festival. I shall certainly rejoice in the money they are adding to the local economy and likely hide from them all.

    During tonight's walk, I thought about the Pharmacy and I Dream of Weenie -- places I had visited with a high school friend and his wife, a librarian who passed away last week -- and of Sweet 16th, whose breakfast sandwiches they also enjoyed. Tomorrow another friend will go into surgery for cancer.

    Another friend is a student minister, and preached with passion this morning on the complexity of people, including Paul Gauguin, whose painting Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? provided the lyrics of a hymn that separated the sections of her sermon. There was a medical episode in the congregation midway through the sermon, and she acknowledged it with poise and grace as well. For the musical affirmation and offertory, Kathleen M. Basi's "Bud Break" and "Far from Home" flute-piano duets were performed.

    I didn't actually get around to making the harissa tonight. There was supper to prepare (steak and salad), and also a sort-of tagine to get started (chicken thighs that had been marinating in a pepper-wine-garlic brine for a while, to which I added some of the spices listed here, a bag of frozen artichoke hearts (because the cauliflower I thought was in the fridge was not), and a yellow tomato. There were also various bits in the fridge to pour into houseplants (iced tea dregs) or thermos (kickass butternut squash soup I made late last week).

    Been chucking some clothes and papers as well. (Goodbye, awesome but worn-out purple dress from Reims ...) I came across a letter I wrote back in 1993, soon after the BYM and I started dating. This sentence leapt out: "He wants a dog someday, and I am near-phobic." Some things do change, it would seem.

    Miss Dawg

    I likewise sacked out when I got home from church. Hurrah for Sunday summer afternoons!
    zirconium: mirliton = grinning squash from NOLA (mirliton)
    The BYM: [heading-out wave and hug]

    Me: Don't hurt yourself and come back to me.

    The BYM: [raises eyebrows]

    Me: Don't hurt yourself, comma, and come back to me.

    The BYM: [smirks] Punctuation matters.

    processing

    Aug. 1st, 2016 09:31 pm
    zirconium: photo of pumpkin on wire chair (pumpkin on chair)
    It is Ewe Day according to the Jacobin calendar (h/t [personal profile] okrablossom), and Lammastide in other circles. There has indeed been some harvesting and preserving among my relatives and friends. The aunt I visited on Saturday gave me a bag full of figs and blueberries from her yard. It turns out fresh figs are highly perishable, so I spent a good chunk of yesterday evening rinsing and slicing and pureeing the lot, with 1.5 cups going into two loaves of fig-lemon bread (improvising off of the recipe for pear-pecan bread in Joy of Cooking. I saved a few of the least smooshy ones (which were still plenty ripe) for breakfast:

    a fig from my aunt Cherry

    I also combined the too-tired-for-salad cherry tomatoes with the last stub of red onion and a pepper and some water, for a cold soup I carried to the library courtyard for lunch.

    A friend spent part of her weekend pickling summer squash and okra:

    pickled okra and summer squash

    This same friend gave me a quart of homemade fire cider earlier this year. I sipped some tonight over ice while formatting some submissions. Hello, August.
    zirconium: photo of Greek style coffee, Larnaca, October 2011 (coffee in Cyprus)
    This week, y'all. (In)substantial pomp and circumstance on larger stages notwithstanding (the BYM: "Dude, you have got to watch Bill Clinton with the balloons. I want balloons!" Hee), there were deadlines and revelations galore.

    Read more... )

    peppers
    this morning's harvest, which I'll be taking to a cousin and an aunt
    zirconium: doll with bike @High Point Doll Museum (doll with bike)
    The subject line is from a letter Elizabeth Bishop wrote to Robert Lowell on November 1, 1974. As is this:


    (For a poet, I am sometimes amazingly practical--as John M. Brinnin remarked the other day, when, after a night's consideration, I turned down taking over the late Anne Sexton's job at B.U.--Once a week; 4 or 6 people; but I figured out how little I'd actually earn, what with more taxes, remembered how tired I get with the two classes I have; and then began wondering how I'd ever get along with the students that had been attracted to Anne, and decided I wouldn't . . .) Then I attended a memorial service fro her in the BU chapel--it was well-meant, but rather awful--and after hearing a few of her students reminisce, I knew I'd been absolutely right--especially as to the last reason. It is very sad--and deplorable pieces are appearing everywhere, about her.


    On a more cheerful note, the Frist Center is holding its member and media previews for Women, Art, and Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise today, and the exhibition opens to the general public tomorrow. The "people I want to read yet more about when time permits" list includes Harriet Coulter Joor and several other women featured in the show. It'll be in Nashville through the start of November.
    zirconium: photo of ranunculus bloom on my laptop (ranunculus on keyboard)
    The subject line's from Marianne Moore's Baseball and Writing. The two quotes below are from Elizabeth Bishop to Lowell. July 10, 1967:


    Well -- the Village will rejuvenate me, no doubt. I never appear without earrings down to my bosom, skirts almost up to it, and a guitar over my shoulder. I am afraid I am going to start writing FREE VERSE next . . .


    July 27, 1967:


    Just as I came in now Bob G called inviting me to lunch next week to meet R Straus (whom I've met, but no one, including me, remembers the meeting at all) and the famous Miss Sontag . . . This is almost too much for one day, particularly as I have to be bright and energetic for idnner with Anny that same night. I thought in the SUMMER in N.Y. one could avoid this kind of thing, but apparently not. I do think that was marvellous -- Marianne demanding a "house call" and almost unable to speak at 12 noon, yesterday, and then refusing all help and going to a baseball game. I don't think I can bear to tell on her . . . I always thought she'd die one day on the Brooklyn Express; now I think she'll die in the bleachers.

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