zirconium: photo of squeezy Buddha on cell phone, next to a coffee mug (buddha and cocoa)
Tonight's subject line comes from the first line of a letter Elizabeth Bishop wrote to Robert Lowell on April 1, 1958. It was actually a sunny day here, but I liked seeing the phrase just now, as well as the pleasure of peeking at a letter written sixty years ago (replete with frustration about a worker stealing apples and singing awful songs, a snotty jab at my beloved Ciardi, and kinder talk of work and mental health, along with paragraphs on babies, birds, books, and cities).

It would have been nice to go singing, shopping, or simply walking/biking around in the sunshine, but my body was tired, my brain fried, and my kitchen filthy, so I put on a nightgown when I rolled out of bed and have spent the day moving slowly between chores and diversions. I wrote a postcard poem and postcards to voters:


I abandoned my plan of trying a new recipe with the chicken thighs in the fridge; instead, I tossed them into a pot with bay leaves (from my big sister), carrots (that had been in the fridge for weeks), a yam (that had been on the counter for weeks), the dregs of a jar of pasta sauce, and garlic (from Penzeys) and let it all stew for a while. Tomorrow I may add lima beans and an onion, but I may also just let it sit some more, as there will also be two services to sing in and tax paperwork to tend to. Plus I'd like to paint my nails and retouch my hair and sleep for about a week more before heading back to the office. Wishes, horses, la la la.

The timing is not right for me to sign up for The Iteration Project Partner Program, but it sure sounds cool.
zirconium: my hands, sewing a chemo cap liner (care caps hands)
A local radio station has been playing an ad with Mavis Staples the past couple of weeks. Which in turn reminds me of the Ysaye Barnwell workshop I participated in a couple of Junes ago, which included improvising verses to "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round."


From Bill Penzey's latest e-blast:

One of the things I admire most about conservatives is their sincerity in their belief that they take responsibility for their actions. As Lincoln said, we can all be fooled some of the time; there is no shame in that. The trick is to not fall into the crowd that can be fooled all the time. What matters is what you do next; you can dig your heels in and become what you've stood up against your whole life. Or you can simply make amends and move on.


zirconium: US and POW-MIA flags above Andrew Johnson National Cemetery (US/POW flags)
The subject line is from P!nk's "What About Us":


September 17 is Constitution Day in the United States.

  • My friend Katy boosted the signal on the "We the People" jewelry by Slow Factory (proceeds to the ACLU, hoop earrings become available this Monday): https://slowfactory.com/

  • A certain medal pin collector tried to drag Kaep for not mentoring guys in the hood. That sound you hear is New York and Tampa clapping back:

  • I've given the NYT pieces of my mind at least twice this year, and link to them probably less than 1/8 of what I used to, because [profane rant redacted here], but the wedding section remains a guilty pleasure, in part to glimpse how other connections are made:

    "Melissa you’re going to like this guy," she recalled Amanda Lynch, a former Harvard roommate, telling her. "He has the preamble to the Constitution tattooed on his back."

  • At the New York Public Library (which will star in a documentary that comes to my town next month), there are people meeting monthly to write out the Constitution by hand. [NYT]

  • Andrew Johnson

  • Tennessee's Andrew Johnson was a very, very, very flawed man, but when I first learned about him (in my US Presidents coloring book), what the one-page biography stressed was his profound love of the Constitution, and how he was buried with a copy of it under his head.

  • political cartoon
    zirconium: photo of flask with feathers in and around it (flask with feathers)
    The subject line is a chant from Chicago's March for Science. This photo is from this morning's march in Nashville:

    March for Science Nashville

    It was taken by a woman whose mother had knitted the hats; she was there with her grandson, who worked toward getting a selfie with the dog as we chatted:

    boy at March for Science Nashville

    I've posted a cross-section of photos to my Twitter account (@zirconium). I'll add some more later, but I actually do have a grant application deadline to meet.
    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.

    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!


    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: US and POW-MIA flags above Andrew Johnson National Cemetery (US/POW flags)
    At church this morning, div school student Sara Green read some passages from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam" speech, delivered in 1967. Two excerpts:

    Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.

    Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement, and pray that our inner being may be sensitive to its guidance. For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

    The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy...

    This is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
    zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)
    From paris day 1

    Latin Quarter flat, October 2011. Note how the stove, shower, and toilet are adjacent to one another. The price was right for one day and night, though -- I set my stuff down, checked messages, napped, and later headed across the city to Kehilat Gesher to celebrate Simchat Torah.

    more pictures and notes under the cut )

    As I waited for various trains, I saw a series of posters campaigning against violence: "School violence, extortion, assault, harassment ... too many young people are victims of violence in their schools, in public transport, in their neighborhood."

    From paris day 1
    zirconium: sunflower core against the sky (sunflower sentinel)
    Today's subject line is from Jane Hirshfield's Hope and Love. It is one of the pieces I am currently rehearsing for this Sunday's services. The other one is a lively setting of Emily Dickinson's "Hope Is the Thing with Feathers":

    I've also been looking at various hymns set to "Charleston" (albeit wayyy slower than the midi at Hymnary). We sang the version that begins "There's a wideness in your mercy" (words by Frederick William Faber) at church not too long ago:

    There's a wideness in your mercy like the wideness of the sea;
    there's a kindness in your justice which is more than liberty.

    But we make your love too narrow by false limits of our own,
    and we magnify your strictness with a zeal you will not own.

    For the love of God is broader than the measures of our minds
    and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
    zirconium: my hands, sewing a chemo cap liner (care caps hands)
    "Did you just send that woman to a church to get help with an abortion?"

    "Yes. Yes, I did."

    - Darcy Baxter, a Unitarian chaplain, writes about trying to find options for a woman living 500 miles from the nearest abortion provider

    In the March 2013 issue of Vogue, Katherine Bernard writes about Saundra Pelletier and WomanCareGlobal, which is taking a "Robin Hood approach" to making contraception available in developing countries. "We make a profit in markets like Ghana and Kenya." A striking detail: "$1,000 can buy 100 women in the developing world one year's worth of contraceptives."
    zirconium: my hands, sewing a chemo cap liner (care caps hands)
    My new icon (chez Dreamwidth) comes to you via a photo in the latest Vanderbilt University Medical Center Reporter of the sew-ins from earlier this month. (I'm third from the left; I like that my hands are what's visible.)

    The November 2012 issue of Vogue arrived in my mailbox a day or two ago, and I'm really enjoying it so far. It starts with ten pages of Tiffany ads, showcasing some spectacular arrangements and gowns. The "letters from readers" section include four letters about Bel Kaufman that are a welcome tonic to fears of aging:

    To read of her life and undiminished enthusiasm for books, theater, and people at 101 humbles me in light of my waning interests at a mere 70 years of age. When I was 23, I wanted to be like Bel Kaufman, and now, 47 years later, there are miles to go before I sleep and that goal is still before me. - Rocky S. Thomas

    While many [of my med school interns] say, "Oh my goodness, you're turning 30. Yikes!," Kaufman's story puts things into perspective--this woman is 101 and talking about editing her works for e-books! - Sofia Mohammad

    There were also two letters about the excerpt from Paris: a Love Story, which I finished recording for the Talking Library earlier this week...

    Nashville Talking Library

    ...and four letters in praise of Pamela Paul's article on the trouble and condescension women run into when they want to obtain a tubal ligation. I skipped reading the original -- it's not as if I lack for material to enrage me these days, especially on the topic of people being arses when they encounter others who don't share so-called traditional values -- but I have to admit I had a moment of "my tribe!" in reading these letters -- three of the writers likewise knew in their 20s that they did not want to become parents, and encountered doctors unsympathetic to their efforts to avoid pregnancy:

    In 1973, as a recently married young woman, I visited my family physician to seek information about tubal ligation. He responded that he would recommend a good psychiatrist for me. - Elizabeth Soladay

    Also in this issue: an ad for the Oscar de la Renta exhibit in Little Rock, featuring Penelope Cruz in a phenomenal red gown, an excerpt from Richard Russo's new memoir (about growing up in New York with a single mother), and Lisa Cohen on her friendship with Sybille Bedford. When they met, Lisa was in her 30s, Sybille was 86, and Lisa was researching Madge Garland, whom Sybille had disliked because Madge had made clear she cared only about "people who were successful. I was an aspiring writer; she made one feel it." Lisa continues:

    I was in my 30s, with no book to my name. But she did not make one feel it. Instead, exacting as she was, she made it clear that good friends were what she lived for, along with excellent writing, food, and wine. . . . She considered herself, not just her book, a work in progress.
    zirconium: photo of flask with feathers in and around it (flask with feathers)
    The last time I sewed anything of consequence with a machine was during my third year of college, for a musical. So it had been a while.

    Mary Philips is a damn good teacher, the Janome machines are nice, and the handling a lot of pretty fabric for a good cause was the perfect way to get past a rather wretched Wednesday.

    Although there were many good things about yesterday as well, including the Crackacino cupcake (coffee and chocolate, with a pudding center) at Sweet 16th:

    Crackacino cupcake
    zirconium: Photo of cat snoozing on motorcycle on a sunny day in Jersualem's Old City. (cat on moto)
    Yesterday, the Velveteen Rabbi posted a Yom Kippur sermon, In The Belly of the Whale, that's richly seeded with stories, including this one...

    My teacher Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi tells a Sufi story about a great teacher whose disciples wanted to learn his mystical wisdom. Okay, said the teacher; here is a dove; go someplace where no one can see you, and kill it, and when you come back, I will teach you what you want to know.

    Of his 12 students, eleven came back with dead birds, and he sent them away. One returned with the living dove. "I couldn't find a place," said the student, "where no One could see me."

    ...and question-observations that are at once not easy and un-easy (myself shying away from the mirror as I choose a quote):

    How much of our lives do we spend fleeing from what matters? From the awareness of our mortality? From the acts of lovingkindness we know we should be doing? From the brokenness of the world, the awful stories on the news, murder and rape and injustice? Even from our loved ones, when we choose checking email again on our smartphones rather than putting away the electronics and connecting with our parents, our children, ourselves?

    This is not new. The internet offers new and fascinating ways of fleeing, but this inclination is as old as humanity.

    Also yesterday: 7x20 published my micropoem "Yom Kippur."

    Also: on Tuesday, Moment published a review of my book (quoting from my Kol Nidre poem, among others).

    One more thing on whales: Moby Dick Big Read -- as in, Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry, Neil Tennant, and others podcasting That Big Book. Whee!
    zirconium: Unitarian Universalist chalice with pink triangle as base (rainbow chalice)
    The annual national convention of the Unitarian Universalist Association was this past weekend.

    The business included choosing the denomination's Study/Action issue for 2012-2016. To give you some context, the one for 2008-2012 was Ethical Eating, the one in progress is Immigration as a Moral Issue. These are not the only issues UUs are studying or acting on, of course, but the issues selected for Study/Action receive additional attention and resources -- ministers are encouraged to preach about them, educators are encouraged to offer classes and lead discussions, study guides are created, and so on.

    The news from Phoenix is that Reproductive Justice will be the next Study/Action issue. The proposal submitted by the sponsoring congregations is here.

    ...I happened to spend a sizable chunk of yesterday evening copyediting a study of so-called pro-life judicial activism. And my state legislature continues to embarrass the saner people in Tennessee with its relentless cultivation of ignorance. And the reports from Michigan and elsewhere have me feeling more angry and more weary. So I'm taking comfort in this news of my denomination renewing and expanding its efforts to support "the right of all women to have children, not to have children, and to raise their children in safe and healthy environments."

    http://www.uua.org/reproductive/action/index.shtml (includes click-to-send-letters links)
    https://www.uua.org/reproductive/action/200096.shtml (congregational resources, multiple levels + ages)
    zirconium: photo of pumpkin on wire chair (pumpkin on chair)

    She herself was delighted with her large family and would have been glad to have had a few more. But she had seen enough of life and the tragedy of poverty-stricken mothers worn out by childbearing and overwhelmed by too many children not to be outraged on their behalf.

    ...In her old age, she became something of an old-fashioned fanatic, traveling to the Philippines, India, and Israel, visiting clinics, and exchanging "lore." As a spry old lady of eighty-four, shod in blue sneakers and leaning on a cane, she went with my sister Linda, at that time head of an adoption agency in Washington, D.C., to an International Conference of Social Work in Rome. They stopped in London, then flew on to Istanbul, Tel Aviv, and Athens, but not until they reached Belgrade did my sister, much to her horror, discover as my mother's battered old suitcase fell open that it was stuffed with contraceptives of all sorts and sizes. As my sister rather bemusedly remarked to my mother, "Why, Mother, you never taught me to travel that way!"

    ...Abortion clinics seemed to be the chief answer to the birth control problem in Yugoslavia. My mother insisted on visiting various examples of the clinics, leading my long-suffering sister through malodorous back alleys and up fetid back stairs into these sordid establishments where she spread the word and apparently the contraceptives, for my sister remarked that when they reached Rome, my mother's suitcase was empty.

    - Marian Cannon Schlesinger, Snatched from Oblivion: A Cambridge Memoir (Little, Brown, 1979)


    zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)

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