Thursday, October 22, 2015

5-minute poem

Sometimes it's fun to write something in 5 minutes and then show it to people.

I woke up to a rainbow yesterday--this morning, a pair of dolphins.
 
A pelican, ridiculous, beady-eyed, a nuisance I should chase from the bowsprit,

But watching--it dwarfs the crouching cat, the curved tip of its beak scratches precisely, happy to find nits--I can’t.

A school of fish leap, vanish, too small to leave a mark on the water.

What to make of all this? Does it add up to anything besides itself?

Does it matter at all that I am here, watching?

I drink coffee, leave for work.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What I did this summer

(I meant to finish and post this awhile ago, but forgot, and I just found it again and thought what the hell)

Lying in the darkened room in my dad and Wendy’s house in Portland--they have blackout drapes now, which I would have loved as a teenager--I can’t help but think about myself.
     Tallulah and I were visiting for a week. She was seven in July, an age I somewhat remember. When I was that age, we were living over on 53rd Street. It has become a mythic time, which probably would have been an ordinary life, had my sister and I not gotten suddenly, drastically uprooted. At age 11 and 9 people don’t usually have much control over their lives.
     This summer we went back to the house for the first time, Tallulah, my dad and me. It was not so much a place as a primal scene. We parked in the neighbors’ driveway. (Our old neighbors, the Longshores--it seemed possible that they would appear, though they’d been gone even longer than us.)
     The new owner comes out, jovial--“Wish I could say it was for sale!” We assure him we’re not in the market. Tell the story, in brief. He offers to show us around. He already knows some of the story. Apparently my mom turned up at his doorstep twenty-five years ago. He remembers her. He remembers her talking about how she kicked her husband out, made him live in the room in the garage. (It looks like the flowering cherry tree that bent over the driveway, dropping its impossibly fluffy blossoms like a soft carpet, is gone.)
     “I’m the husband,” my dad says.
     The man guffaws heartily. He shows us into the room in the garage, crammed with things all around the edges.
     “My wife’s dying.” He says this matter of factly. “When she’s gone, I’m going to change all this.”
     I know it’s a cliche, but everything’s so much smaller.
     Soon, we meet the wife--a slumped figure across the room (suddenly the distances seem big again), squinting, possibly deaf. Dying of heart failure.
     At the last minute, as we’re leaving, the man rushes back into the house and comes back a jar of pears--pears from the yard, canned by his wife.
     “I gave your mom some of these too, when she came—and she cried,” he said.
     I left the pears on the kitchen counter in Portland, ambivalent. Maybe eating them would tie me to that place forever. Did I want that, anymore? Or maybe they would give me back some of the time that the self I left behind, would never know, had lived.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Life in photos

Incoherent as it has been, including Kmart trips (Tallulah likes to try on masks and pick out skimpy underwear for me)...I find myself shopping for cookware, always choosing things for someone I am not quite, but maybe could be, or once was...


And trying to get dressed for work without a mirror. 
Spa day, birthday fantasy, shared with good friend Auriana.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cuba--Havana to Guantánamo and back

The door of the bank. Enormous doors everywhere.
Out the window of the casa particular.
Many of my pictures turned out bad or weird or from an odd angle because I kept taking them without looking to see what I was photographing. Things seemed to stay clearer in my mind that way. Photographing from up high seemed less invasive, too. 
In the Museo de la Revolución.
The "Hall of Mirrors" in the Museo, which used to be the "president's palace."
The museum of Guantánamo province. 
They really do have a bunch of those old American cars, just like you see in pictures.  They are apparently referred to as "almendrones," or big almonds.
Train cars made in Iran.
Giant machete statue in Santiago.
Back in Havana.
A house in Vedado. My friend and fellow researcher Don talked about how some of the people who lived in these grand houses thought the revolution would be just a flash in the pan. They left with a suitcase and never came back. Their houses are still full of china and furniture, right where they left them. Poor people were settled in them by the revolutionary government, and they lived, and still live, alongside those things. 
On the Malecón, in a 1953 convertible.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I have guilt about not having blogged in awhile, and yet I forget about it entirely. Part of that is the fact that it has been hard to get on the internet, in the slipstream of summer, on the run from UVI, and yet up until recently continually in the gaping eye of the university, anchored in Brewer’s Bay in full sight of the new student dorms and the administration building. Now we are in Culebra, which always feels like an odd and desperate place, but at least I am able to think again.
The complicated pleasures of life aboard. Technology is part of this. The frustrations of not being able to “connect,” but temporary freedom from endless pings, exigencies of connection, makes my physical reality so much more immediate.
     Guilt over not seeing Tallulah, and not being able to pay attention to her when I do see her, have been radically lessened by lack of internet and the decision to take her out of school. With extra time on my hands, I decide to immediately begin homeschooling. We explore, informed by the utopian vision of anarchy. Things find their own shape once we stop imposing a generalized order. We scan poetry, do science experiments involving copious amounts of food coloring, discover an aged Alexander Calder animating a strange mechanical circus he has created under a miniature big top, once Adam gets unlimited data on his new phone. Yes, we cluster around the internet again as a flickering campfire, but of course it, like everything, hangs on a thin thread, and will doubtless soon fall temporary victim to the vagaries of unforeseen circumstances. And we’ll feel frustrated, and yet breathe a sigh of relief.
Tai chi at Electric Beach

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The semester is over. The summer lurches to life, not that it's not always summer here, in this land without seasons. I am bushwhacking my way through a week of professional obligations and otherwise slouching on the giant exercise ball I use for a chair and staring deeply into the cycloptic eye of my computer. My novel takes shape at its usual pace. Another month, I'm giving myself, to finish it. 

We don't really plan the same way we did years ago (well, speaking for myself), not cloaking our fantasies in as much flesh as we used to. I think we use another logic now, having accustomed ourselves to improvisation, knowing that something is always on the horizon.
The view when I get home from work.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Latest random photos

Double rainbow where we live! And

self-portrait as a cat. Last Sunday Tallulah and I went to "Afternoon on the Green," a UVI event that I perceived as an unwanted work experience, and she perceived as an opportunity for epic fun involving meat, a bouncy castle, and face painting. I belatedly realized that I need to look at things more from her perspective. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring Break Sail to Culebra

Getting ready for Adam's cousin Kate's wedding. My photo choices have become increasingly random--I have no photos of the actual wedding.
Another case in point: gratuitous cat in a box
Tallulah and Olivia--I bought them ice cream after school and they approached it like a new art form, then had races across the deck of the library. It was good to be back--felt sorta like home would feel. I have to guess at that feeling, but there's nothing wrong with that. Then we had to go. No llores, Olivia sang out the window of the car as they drove away. And we went back to Callisto.
Rough weather so we broke up the trip back with a stop in Culebrita, where we hiked to the lighthouse.
Callisto swaying in the swell out there.
And I'm looking across at St. Thomas, on the other side of those whitecaps, fading out in a light mist. Is that home?
Inside the falling-apart, structurally unsound lighthouse itself.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tallulah and the rescued mannequin
My new job is so consuming, sometimes just trying to get people to care (I find myself assigning students to get high and create art and then bring it to class for extra credit) that I've had little to none of the brain space I used to enjoy for doing my own unscripted thing. When I'm not performing the sleek authority figure or outré hip professor I'm writing (again) my novel--and the sentences flow so differently, so satisfyingly, and so slowly that I can tell my subconscious is locked in the arms of this creature of my making and remaking.

Now miraculously not asleep before 9:30, I'm thinking aloud about what the blog might become. Land-based for an unspecified period, I don't have the evolving stream of stimuli, everything ready for a new (to me) theory. Or just a photo that crystallizes, for us as much as anybody, that life is good.

But the other day, walking, I came across an odd structure, an abandoned open-air bar/dance hall, empty beer bottles in the corners, vines growing up through the cracks in the tile, like I sometimes stumbled across beachfront in the Dominican Republic, and realized that I still have a passion for cast-off things, failures, places where rejection and reinvention cross paths. 

I don't have any ideas for how to frame this, or explore it, just the intention to keep my eye out for what happens to people's used crap and the relationships that adhere to it. (The only thrift store on the island benefits the Humane Society--like thrift stores everywhere, it draws immigrants, here Haitians and Dominicans counting up their purchases in French and Spanish, trying to bargain, not trusting the cashiers, harried white volunteers speaking in their stateside accents who care so much about the luxury of pets. One calls out "Gracias" to a crowd of Haitian women after a belabored transaction, provoking an eruption of laughter. I find a hat from Madagascar, a child-sized pink Hawaiian muu-muu; Tallulah delights in the languid cats who roam the place, wallowing in the simple fact of being alive.)