Despite it all…

…I know I’m lucky. I’m lucky that I was born to a great mother, that I loved her and told her so all the time. That I was able to be there for her and that she let me care for her was a real blessing. A critical illness has a way of burning away all the inessentials. The pain I’m in now is because I love her so much — my grief is the best tribute I can offer.

I’m lucky that I have so many sweet and thoughtful friends who thought of me and how difficult Sunday would be for me, and reached out with comfort. I know there will be many such hard days ahead, but I confess I didn’t handle this one very well.

And I’m lucky I have these boys, and their patient father, all of whom look stricken every time I go out “for poetry,” but let me go nonetheless. The poetry is returning — a new poem last week, another brewing — but nothing could happen if they didn’t give me a little space to maneuver.

And I like to think they’re discovering the exhilaration of creating for themselves…

Let it snow! (Baby, it’s cold outside…)

Finally, the day after Christmas, we’re having our first real honest-to-goodness snow storm! There’s nowhere we have to be, plenty of milk, cream, cocoa, tea, and coffee (covering the holy trinity of hot beverages) on hand, and thus we can hunker down and enjoy the view.

With me and the boys down with colds, visiting my mum and her chemo-depressed immune system for Christmas was out of the question. So we had a quieter sort of holiday. Which is the sort of holiday our economic reality is happiest with anyway. Though not the kind of quiet that means silent — my stepsons brought fireworks. Rather a lot, actually. Because nothing says Christmas like explosives.

I’ve packed a bunch of reading into this mini-break — I tend not to use the computer much on weekends if I (and my Duotrope addiction) can help it — while the boys have been deeply attentive to creating art and play-doh wall stucco. Where it used to be I couldn’t read more than one book at a time, I seem to have a compulsion these days to hoard a disparate pile of library books along with my usual supply of literary journals:

I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (an interesting follow-up to my reading of The Emperor of All Maladies — the writing’s less elegant, the science less difficult, but the story of the Lacks is utterly heart-rending), the new issue of Poetry Northwest, an urban fantasy novel whose title I won’t mention because I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it but which held my attention, and I’m 440 pages into The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which I really love and I’m trying not to rush through. Without re-reading something from my shelves (which is not out of the question by any means) I’m currently without a volume of prose on poetry, having returned Mentor & Muse to the library — any suggestions, anything new out there I may not have heard about or read already?

Between reading jags I’ve baked blueberry muffins, picked up various wood blocks and legos, and joined my sons with their crayons. Vincent was drawing an elaborate series of small rectangles, something that resembled a spread-out brick wall, and then below them at the bottom of the page, he drew a single small rectangle off by itself, and announced, “This is the lonely one.”

“And why is he lonely?” I asked.

“Because his parents are gone,” Vincent replied mournfully.

“Where are his parents?”

“I think they went to the bank.” He looked up. “And then they went to a poetry reading.”

I told Lance how delighted I am that our not-yet 5 yr old’s world includes the idea of a poetry reading.

He raised an eyebrow. “Oh? And how about the fact that he equates poetry readings with loneliness and abandonment?”

Criminy.

Summer drives

I spent a long weekend at my mum’s with the boys, where they played with their cousins and created an aura of general pandemonium. Driving home last night the two and a half hours was actually wonderful: the day had been beautiful, weather-wise, breezy and dry, and as we drove down the highway towards the setting sun, Aidan slept a carefree sleep and Vincent sang along to this song. Over and over. Which is how he likes it. Whilst wearing his blue goggles against the solar glare. (Try listening to him say the word “goggles” sometime and not have a good day remembering. Just try.)

Rainy Day Bliss

Vincent van Gauthier

Aidan discovering blue looks better than it tastes.

Ask and you shall receive — only one rainy day, and it flew by, but what a lovely day it was. I didn’t actually accomplish any writing — too much else backed up at the station — but I sent out a clutch of new submissions on the heels of a rejection and two acceptances, which always leaves me feeling virtuous and happy. Sending out submissions, I mean. Some writers don’t enjoy that part of the process, but it’s exciting to me, all the possibilities. It’s the waiting that crazes, the interminable silence.

Now it’s 75º and Aidan is attempting to put on every single piece of outerwear he can get his hands on. He’s quite independent that way. And hot.

Children are all about imaginary time…

…as in, any time not spent with them is strictly imaginary and illusory, or, in fact, altogether nonexistent.

These warm sunny days, while energizing & welcome, make the perennial juggling of daily life an even harder challenge. When it’s cold, wet, and dark, it’s nice to stay indoors, easier to interest the boys in pseudo-crafty projects (I say “pseudo” because I am not even a little crafty. But the boys are too young to have made that determination for themselves, and are happy to be allowed to make big messes in the service of “art.”), baking — dough-kneading was a big success this winter — and thus easier for me to simultaneously work on my various projects.

Now, though, they want to be out out out. They zip around the apartment like mice hopped up on crack until a collision with some stationary object ignites a firestorm of tears. Hysteria, sniffle, repeat.

Or, Vincent says he does not want to be out, and proceeds to systematically destroy his room in a fit of stir-craziness.  This is not hyperbole. I, who am shameless when it comes to poor-housekeeping, would be mortified to show a snapshot of the current state of Vincent’s room, accomplished in five minutes this morning.

If we had a yard with a fence this would not be an issue, but as it stands, when we go out, I have to abandon any hopes of multi-tasking and spend all my time keeping the boys from clubbing each other with rocks or dashing into traffic.

(“Vincent, when you sit on Aidan’s head/push Aidan down/ poke Aidan in the eye/ stab Aidan with a pin Hey! Where’d you get that pin? Give that here right now!, it hurts him. That’s bad. Why would you do that?”

“Well, Mommy,” he replies, hands out as he explains in his most thoughtful, reasoned manner, “bad things always seem like a good idea to me.” Oy.)

Not that I haven’t written at all since the fair weather began, but I spend more time muttering lines to myself in an effort to remember them when I’m again near writing implements than I do actually writing. It’s frustrating — we’d had a nice workable rhythm to our winter days. Makes me long for nothing so much as a string of cold rainy days…

Dispatches from the Sickhouse

After a remarkably healthy winter our luck ran out: last week Vincent came down with the flu — and believe me when I tell you that this skinny skinny boy really should not do without food for any length of time — and then, as I suppose was inevitable, on Saturday night, Aidan woke up crying:  as soon as I picked him up the generous boy shared the entire contents of his stomach with me.

All of which is to  say that I will continue to be behind and neglectful of my reading & writing on the interwebs for the time being.

Quick list (which is all I have time for): Not-Necessarily-New Books I’m looking forward to reading:

  • Just when I thought I’d reached the end of my Lowell/Bishop jag, I discovered Helen Vendler’s newly released book of essays from Princeton University Press, Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens, Plath, Lowell, Bishop, Merrill.
  • Pulleys & Locomotion, by Rachel Galvin (Black Lawrence Press).
  • Black Leapt In, by Chris Forhan (Barrow Street Press).
  • Tulips, Water, Ash, by Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet (Northeastern University Press). I’ve been wanting to read this since I read Emma Bolden‘s terrific review in the fall 2009 issue of Poets’ Quarterly. This collection was the 2009 Morse Poetry Prize winner. I tend to really like the winners of this prize: Chris Forhan’s The Actual Moon, The Actual Stars, the 2003 winner, is one of my favorite books. I was disappointed when I heard they’d suspended the contest.
  • Garnet Lanterns, by Sally Rosen Kindred (2005 Winner Anabiosis Press Chapbook Contest). I love the cover of this. Don’t hate me because I’m shallow. I’ve read her poems in various places, so I’m sure I’m going to love the poems, too.
  • Flood Year, by Sara Tracey (Dancing Girl Press).
  • The Traffic in Women, by Kristina Marie Darling (Dancing Girl Press).
  • A Classic Game of Murder, by Katie Cappella (Dancing Girl Press).
  • How to Study Birds, by Sarah Gardner (Dancing Girl Press). Yes, someone took advantage of DGP’s awesome winter sale. Great stuff! And great covers here, too.

Draft of the Week, #6.

As the blog nears its two-year mark, it seemed to me to need a small makeover — you might not have even noticed.  I chose a design that offers a similar color scheme, fonts, and I kept my header photo of the Potholes (tho’ maybe I’ll begin updating the Potholes picture as the seasons change), but everything seems cleaner, more crisp.  The most notable changes are the addition of an “Upcoming Readings” page, and the location of my blogroll, featured links, etc.: in a neat 3 columns at the bottom of the page.  Maybe the clutter didn’t bother you, but I’m feeling much better about things.  And this was something I could do in between jags of wiping runny noses and doses of hot tea.

As if a cold weren’t enough, Aidan is also teething.  I remember Vincent sprouting teeth like it was no big deal — growing pains have always been his particular bane.  Not so for Aidan.  Day by day it becomes more and more evident that having one child offers me nothing by way of a road map for the second.

It’s later than I meant, but under these conditions I’m happy to have written this poem at all.  The draft will come down in a day or two. Hope the rest of you are enjoying your holiday, either sickness-free or on the mend!

Oh, and I forgot to say: the idea for this poem came from a “mini-mini-challenge” over at ReadWritePoem;  my thanks to them!

{poof!}

Wood Smoke & S’mores…& Frog Legs.

My brother took our nephew camping not too far from Shelburne Falls this weekend, to a campground where we spent most of the summers of our childhood, so we went to visit them on Saturday.

Vincent went out on a canoe, splashed around in the lake, toasted marshmallows for s’mores (which he then spit out, deciding he prefers the ingredients individually, leaving me to eat the remaining s’mores alone, alas), watched fireworks, and ran his little legs off.

The boy was literally unspeakably exhausted by the end of the night: when he tried to tell me something as we were driving away, his words came out garbled.  He was asleep before we turned onto the road.

The day was a wind-swept sunny gift.

I reconnected with one of my oldest friends (and Vincent made a new friend in her sweet-hearted daughter).  We had lost touch when our lives flowed down separate streams.  Well, my life flowed.  Hers was always more akin to whitewater rafting.  But now, a confluence, an even keel.  Our re-meeting was perfectly timed.

Lance finagled a few stories from her about our youth — old friends seem to be an endless repository of memories you’ve forgotten, or wished to forget — and it reminded him of his own boyhood summers.  S’mores did not figure.

His family stayed in a cabin off the coast of New Hampshire, or Maine, [Note: in a cabin on an island in a lake in Maine.  “Off the coast? There aren’t any frogs in the ocean, Sweetie.”  Details, details.] and his father hunted frogs with a bb gun.  But the frogs sank.  Ever resourceful, his father then began to shoot the frogs with darts devised of bicycle spokes on a wire, which he pulled in.

Then he sat at the end of the dock and cut the legs from his bucketful of frogs for that night’s dinner.

Little Lance wouldn’t go near them.

He didn’t want to go near that dock, scene of the carnage, ever again either.

I guess it depends on where you stand in life whether you find this story horrifying or hilarious.  It reminds me of “The Triplets of Belleville”, whose plot also features bicycles and frogs.  In a word, hilarious.

Action-Packed Post!

We’ve been plagued by squirrels dancing in our ceilings for several seasons now.  Back in April it seemed as if we had finally confounded them when Lance pruned the tree that gave them clear access.  But after a few weeks they figured out that they could climb right up the back staircase that leads straight up to the 3rd floor and onto the roof.  And then, as if to punish our efforts, they colonized the ceiling in even larger numbers.  Louder, larger numbers.

It’s not just that they’re loud.  It’s the nature of the noise.  Like a thousand fingernails scraping against a blackboard.

At last, our landlord has found someone to deal with the issue.  He’s assembled his crew and erected scaffolding all around the building.  Vincent loves all the activity, and calls the scaffolding “The Clocktower”, which I love, and talks about climbing up the tall ladders, which I don’t.

I know I have overprotective tendencies when it comes to Vincent, but I think they’re called for:  last week he got outside by tearing through the screen door.  It’s no wonder his birth is the guiding force behind Hunger All Inside.

Meanwhile, Aidan is 6 months old today, babbling a blue streak.  His eczema is under control, though not gone entirely.  His face and scalp especially require daily treatments.  But we can at last see and feel his beautiful baby face clear.

*

I first learned of The Dzanc Creative Writing Sessions through Karen Weyant’s blog.  I haven’t yet taken advantage of this truly affordable service, but I plan to this summer.  They have fantastic writers on their roster, and even I can find some way to pay $30 for two hours of mentoring. And what’s more, that teeny tuition goes toward another great program:

The program is being offered at an extremely low rate — many of the instructing authors volunteering their time to Dzanc do similar work as freelancers and charge much greater rates than are being offered here through the DCWS. Other workshops and writing programs charge a lump sum of several hundred dollars up front. Not only does the DCWS allow you to control and target your expenses, but 100% of the money brought in by Dzanc by our DCWS goes to supporting the writing programs we run for students grades 4-12. These additional programs — currently being run nationally by Dzanc — are offered free of charge to students who would not otherwise be able to afford and experience these sort of writing programs.

I’d like to sign up immediately, but my computer mishap has knocked my budget for a very large loop.  (No, it’s not back yet, but I’m crossing my fingers for today.)  But I’m really excited about it, and can see myself signing up on a semi-regular basis in the future.  I don’t have a writing group, and this is a great way to get varied feedback.  If you haven’t already, you should absolutely check it out!

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My husband accuses me of burying the important news at the bottom of my posts.  I don’t think so.  But I’m now working for Tupelo Press.  I’m only mentioning this because Tupelo Press is one of my favorite small presses, and I’ve often talked about them or their books on the blog in the past, and I will continue to do so, and for the same reasons: because I love them.  As my friends Ann and Michael, who work for Random House, say over at their blog, Books on the Nightstand, this blog is my own personal blog, and in no way affiliated with Tupelo Press.  Just so you know.