Tuesday, May 18, 2010

[Baking and politicking]

While the bread dough inflates,
we sit on the couch, and you say
The writing is on the wall.

What do you see written? I ask.
You answer: Collapse.

We speak of wires tapped,
homes invaded, citizens dragged
off to concentration camps,

The smell of yeast drifts
to our nostrils. We lick our lips--
lips from which

words of war, rebellion, disaster

How swiftly present scent
replaces future-sense,
so that all that can matter
is bread, butter, laughter.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Blue poured down from the sky and spilled into the water, and the water spilled onto the shore. It flowed up the sand, easily, and glided back down, like a comforting hand on a familiar back, sliding up and down. The sand, having been lapped so many times, took on the water's rhythm. The sand's surface mirrored the water's, only with much slower waves. My bare feet pressed into the mud-ripples. I almost regretted disrupting their calm march, but the soft sand felt so good on the soles of my feet. My stillborn regret vanished like the seawater soaking into the sand.

And the waves licked the shore again, and again. The water rose around our legs, and we sloshed through the tide as the sun turned the sea to silver and fire. The water kissed the sand and ran away, and crept back for another embrace--and eased away again--and slid forward again, and then back--and then forward, again, again. We splashed on: shoes in his left hand, sandals in my right; my dress dancing with the wind, his rolled-up jeans fearing the water that swirled around us. The waves and shore kept parting and rejoining. Meanwhile, our hands flowed together, our movements mirrored each other, like the sand-patterns shaped to the sea's caress while the sea's flow reflects the sand.

Friday, May 14, 2010

[Syntax overdose?]

Syntax trees sprout out of these sentences. Phrases grow toward the sun, with their roots in the words at the bottom. With every paragraph we utter, we plant forests of grammar-trees.

The syntacticians wander through the woods, wondering at the strange plants they find. Which surprising branches split and split again? Which twigs can we break off and take home? We will keep them in our pockets as charms against the beasts that might wander these dark woods.

The forest floor is strewn with the dried leaves of theories that once hung from these trees. Old transformational schemes crackle underfoot. Roaming about, we forget that under the ground there are real words, buried out of reach. The trees come to life: they are structure and shape, not dull diagrams. Growing far beyond the words they sprang from, the trees stretch skyward, and they branch and branch again. They explode out of the confines of minimalist theories, and into the blue space above. Their limbs reach for the light, like yearning arms. Twigs open outward, fingers ready to receive the sun.

As spring comes, who knows what flowers might blossom from these dry woods? And what mysterious fruit might follow? From these trees of words and ideas, understanding will someday grow.

Sympathizing with Eliza Doolittle

This is an absorbing season, a time for soaking, not spewing. Words pour into me from journal articles, books, magazines. The letters fly off of posters in my classrooms, in the long haunted hallways, and land like freckles on my face. Gradually they accumulate. The words and letters seep into my skin and fill me up.

And words and feelings flow through me during every moment with you--some of them yours, some mine. The line that cuts between you and me is not as sharp as it was once. The edges aren't clean now, but rounded, softened. I can run my fingers along the border, and I do, because sometimes I can't see it there. I need touch to confirm the existence of that boundary. Secure in where I am, I play my fingertips along the edges. . .

I am filling up with ideas and thoughts, sentences, phrases, strings of words, graphs and charts and diagrams, songs, conversations. They stack up, every-which-way. As the piles get higher, they begin to waver. I am afraid to brush by them.

("Words, words, words, I'm so sick of words. I get words all day through, first from him, now from you," sings Eliza in my head.)

So I must sort them all out, use them up. How much will I need to write to set my life to rights? I've got to be right side up. I've got to extract individual moments and sentences, and arrange them sensibly. I need a very large table in a quiet room, without wind to ruffle everything and blow the slips of memory here and there. I need a calm expanse of time with no currents to sweep me away. I'll sit down and put everything in its place. When the pattern emerges, I'll breathe a sigh of relief, seeing the whole. Then the papers won't matter any more. I'll throw open the windows and run out the door, and let the wind carry the words away.