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: photo of squeezy Buddha on cell phone, next to a coffee mug (buddha and cocoa)
[Subject line source: Kristin Hersh, "Me and My Charms"]

tree man

We have been sawing and chipping away at things, in some instances literally.

Lunch today was at Otaku Ramen -- hot chicken bun and Tennessee tonkatsu with miso butter. At one point, the conversation veered into "things we wish we could have photographed except we were driving." A colleague recalled spotting a friend's graffiti art on a moving train. This morning, on my way to work, I saw a large upside-down wood cross dangling from a short front crane, with a man walking alongside to (I presume) keep the cross from swinging too much, or perhaps to guide it around curves and corners.
zirconium: photo of squeezy Buddha on cell phone, next to a coffee mug (buddha and cocoa)
FIGO
(FIGO Pasta, West Midtown Atlanta)

The mockingbirds
have been trilling all night

while myrtles groan
like neglected doors.

The moon shines above
the neighbor's roof

among the shreds
of party pink clouds

one more thing
not yet put away

among the snapshots
and sketches
and samples

forming my nest
of songs to be hatched

before the keyholes
kiss encroaching walls

before mortality
mandates a morning
of trowel and mortar --

old clay,
new seals.

unseasonal

Nov. 27th, 2015 03:19 pm
zirconium: sunflower core against the sky (sunflower sentinel)
Black Friday dandelion

November dandelion
smirking at the myrtles--
I ponder pickling

best years

Oct. 20th, 2015 07:32 pm
zirconium: doll with bike @High Point Doll Museum (doll with bike)
Prompt 38 in Upper Rubber Boot's 100 Untimed Books photo challenge is best years.

38 - best years

I'm indulging in irony here, as Niki and Harry's marriage did not last, though Harry would later remember their years together as "fabulous" and Niki would write about becoming close friends with Harry's second wife and sharing many secrets with her. A woman who spent her life with a paintbrush in one hand and a 22-calibre rifle in the other, Niki de Saint Phalle survived abuse and multiple suicide attempts to create compelling works of art.

Harry and Me is a book that zigs and zags from memories of delight to memories of frustration to memories of contentment. There's Niki being so distraught at the death of a parakeet that she slashes "a very good painting"; she says that Harry then became "furious with me and he made me promise to never ever take my grief out on my work like that again." Then, a few pages later, there's a clash of styles in Madrid:


Harry was very careful and meticulous with his proper use of the Spanish language. I on the other hand, wanted only to communicate. I did not care about grammar (or mistakes in general) and my Spanish annoyed him no end. Because of Harry's perpetual correction, which grated my nerves, I stupidly gave up speaking it although I could understand it well enough.


But there was also happiness:


One of Harry's and my great pleasures during our several trips to Spain was to eat in tapas bars instead of regular restaurants. We ate at tapas bars in Cordoba when we went to visit the mosque there, and I think also in Madrid. These tapas bars served a huge variety of spicy, heavy and delicious nibbles to be eaten while sipping the strong red Spanish wine. There were tapa of all kinds: squid tapa, sausage tapa, chicken and olive tapa, and shellfish tapa, etc. Harry and I would sit at the bars for long hours and just point to the things that we wanted to eat.
zirconium: me @Niki de St Phalle's Firebird (firebird)
1. The urge to create a version of the mushroom-and-cheese "nem" (spring roll) at Boris Bistro.

2. Jars of confiture from Maison Christoph Faure.

Maison Christian Faure Maison Christian Faure

3. A program and ticket stubs from this year's Coupe Rogers tournament, where Jeremy Chardy saved about 70,000 match points vs. John Isner, Kei Nishikori scored a tweener lob against David Goffin, Karlovic aced Raonic a bunch of times, and Mikhail Youzhny earned a standing ovation after winning a spectacular point during his loss to Rafael Nadal. We also saw two Djokovic matches, as well as Andy Murray in both singles and doubles.

Andy Murray on Court 5

4. A Rodin exhibition catalogue. So much to revisit and to write about...

5. A list of places for next time -- costume institute, marchés, parcs...

6. A longing to improve my French skillz...

7. as well as my photography and lettering chops, what with being surrounded by so much art inside the hotel as well as on the street and in cathedrals, shops, and galleries...

Plensa Outside LHotel LHotel Down the street

8. and stories to spin, someday, about jazz in the square across from organ practice in the basilica:

Doxas Brothers Trio

9. An ocean-scented facial mask from a hostess at the Chinese restaurant where we'd just consumed spicy jade tofu and sauteed sweet pea greens. I couldn't help wondering if I really looked crazy-haggard, but I suspect she just couldn't resist the possibility of future sales ("If you like it, come back..."). My companion did in fact enjoy the greens so much that we discussed returning to the restaurant again, but that plan got hosed (so to speak) by rain delays at Stade Uniprix the next afternoon.
zirconium: of blue bicycle in front of Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston (blue bicycle)
...Why He Put Off the Bus and Fired a Good Lead Guitar in West Texas

That's the title of a James Whitehead poem reprinted in the Spring 2000 issue of Shenandoah, where I encountered it, and in Leon Stokesbury's The Made Thing: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern Poetry, which is on the shelves of Nashville's public library (811.5408097 M1811) and elsewhere.

Someday I might request permission to do something with it -- and I won't be unhappy if someone with stronger lettering + illustration +/- typesetting chops gets to it first, to get it to more of its people. People who have endured gigs with someone who will not shut up. People stab-inching their way through this year's CMApocalypse. People who might want a persona poem for teaching or performing. "The day I put him off the sun outside..."

In the meantime, it's 1:15 a.m. and I'm finishing a late second supper of tuna + bok choy + mayo + mustard, followed with some handfuls of Spanish peanuts and a glass of Nortico Alvarinho. Music studied, poem drafted, dishes washed, tomato tasted ...

hustling

Feb. 8th, 2015 01:24 pm
zirconium: of blue bicycle in front of Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston (blue bicycle rear)
This afternoon's main project is getting ready for this evening's Heartbreak Happy Hour at the Stone Fox -- I'm one of the performers.

The years I've spent drafting sermons (and numerous other speeches for church) mean that I now have a pretty good sense of how many words = ten minutes of material. Which I found myself grateful for this past week, what with trying to bounce back from the flu while going back to work and staying on schedule on a commission and so on. It was nice to know that ten minutes of material isn't actually that many words and that I could knock it out in a day if I couldn't carve out the time any earlier. (But what actually happened was that I started writing it in my head two minutes after receiving the invitation, and sketched it various lines and points in my Workflowy during the rest of the week before slicing and knotting it all together the past two days.)

Coincidentally, two of the hymns in this morning's church service were ones I selected for a service I led a decade or so ago. One was "When Shall We Learn," which is Carl Flentge Schalk's setting of a poem by Auden:


When shall we learn, what should be clear as day,
we cannot choose what we are free to love?
We are created with and from the world
to suffer with and by it day by day.

For through our lively traffic all the day,
in my own person I am forced to know
how much must be forgotten out of love,
how much must be forgiven, even love.

Or else we make a scarecrow of the day,
loose ends and jumble of our common world;
or else our changing flesh can never know
there must be sorrow if there can be love.


The other is "Creative Love, Our Thanks We Give," a William DeWitt Hyde poem adapted by Beth Ide, and set to "Truth from Above" with harmony by Vaughan Williams:



Creative love, our thanks we give
that this, our world is incomplete . . .

Since what we choose is what we are,
and what we love we yet shall be,
the goal may ever shine afar--
the will to reach it makes us free.


Also at church: an adorable mop of a service dog, who snuggled into its owner's shoulder for a while during the sermon:

service dog

After church, I ran an errand and picked up Chinese carryout. There was an invisible fortune cookie in the bag...

invisible fortune cookie

... and this advice in one of the corporeal cookies:

Business is a lot like playing tennis; if you don't serve well, you lose.





From the speculative writing/publishing realm:

  • Sue Burke and several other very experienced translators want to bring castles in Spain to you -- specifically Castles in Spain, a bilingual anthology they're raising funds for via Indiegogo.


  • If you're a Science Fiction Poetry Association member, you have one week left to nominate your favorite 2014 poems for Rhysling Awards. I have both long and short poems eligible this year [downloadable at http://sfpoetry.com/ra/eligible/PegDuthie2014.rtf] . . .


  • How to Live on Other Planets is available for pre-order. The list of contributors is fierce, y'all.
  • zirconium: Photo of Joyful V (racehorse) in stall (Joyful Victory)
    1. My poem Spelling "For Worse" is up at Goblin Fruit, in both text and audio formats.

    1a. I am keeping right fine company on that TOC. :-)

    2. Merrie Haskell wrote a novel called Castle behind Thorns. It's about to emerge, it has earned a starred review in Publisher's Weekly, and it will be a Junior Literary Guild selection. (Her second published novel has been collecting recommendations and awards, too, including "the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award winner for middle school for its depiction of a person with a disability.")

    3. The Velveteen Rabbi will be reading her poetry in Jerusalem. I am so excited for her!

    4. Making manuscripts reader-friendlier. Go me!

    4a. Having the chops and experience to recognize typos (especially in Spanish) I wouldn't have caught five years ago.

    5. Ripe cantaloupe and canned quail eggs. For when one works flat through dinner and then needs something that doesn't require cooking (i.e., stink up the kitchen) right before bedtime.

    6. The sumo tangerine I picked up at a store last week. It was an indulgence, but it was also a great conversation piece, and I am about to candy the peel.

    7. Having a dog that gleefully hoovers up vegetable scraps. (I am less enamored of her fondness for snacking on potting soil, but that's because it makes her wheeze.)

    8. It is sunny and 55 F here right now. I'll be spending most of the day with spreadsheets, but I think I'll first sneak out for a walk.

    9. Particle Fever! (And yes, I wore my CERN jacket to the showing.)

    resilience

    Nov. 8th, 2013 03:40 am
    zirconium: photo of squeezy Buddha on cell phone, next to a coffee mug (buddha and cocoa)
    No leaf is safe from the Abby

    I've neglected the arugula since the ides of September, except to harvest what I thought each time were the last of the leaves -- tiny, feathery little kicks of fresh, peppery bitterness.

    And yet new leaves keep poking out of the tired, graying pockets of soil.

    The arugula hasn't gone away

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