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October 6, 2016

25 years ago yesterday, my sister married G. I liked G. Even though I wasn’t close to my sister, I was glad she found G so she could escape our parents in the time honored way that my mother and her sister had escaped their parents.

The wedding and its weekend themselves were not particularly enjoyable for me, and they weren’t supposed to be. My sister disliked me, but my mother had forced her to have me as her maid of honor, so… unpleasant things were said. (As usual.) I, in turn, was forced to wear a dress my sister had a dressmaker create to be incredibly unflattering in form and color, which I hated.

But she got what she wanted and got away. My-cousin-the-rapist didn’t attend at the last minute for whatever reason. And my sister’s new life began.


I’ve been reading about Pueblo cultures, mostly in New Mexico, but also a band of Tewa living amongst Hopi in Arizona.

Last month, at the Albuquerque Museum, I watched a video on generations of Mattachine dancers in Bernalillo.

Slowly, slowly, I’m starting to get a sense of how a communitarian culture works. Why it works.

Life is hard almost everywhere, but life in a New Mexico pueblo is… more difficult than most. If they didn’t have culture holding them together, what would they have?


I want to understand.

But I keep coming back to: what if something’s horribly wrong about how your parents treat you? What if the only ‘escape’ anyone can think of is to send you to another relative, where things go further awry?

How is being passed among abusers better than a more individualistic culture?

But then, what holds a more individualistic culture together? Because abusers exist there too.


How do cultures adhere?


My (female) cousin K, although living elsewhere, came back to OKC to marry J. K kept trying to get a job transfer back to OKC and eventually succeeded; K and J are settling into their first house.

K works full-time, has a husband and a dog and a new house, has friends, but… her social life seems to revolve around keeping her elderly parents comfortable. Exactly as (I believe) it would be if she lived in a communitarian culture. What does she garner from this arrangement?

She can feel righteous, which the system no doubt wants her to feel.

She can snipe at people like me who don’t help their elderly parents do anything (since I’ve been out of contact with said parents since 2005).

K’s also been telling me, though, how one of her brothers, V, has been… well, terrorizing everyone else in the family. He’s got a hairtrigger temper, and everyone tiptoes around him, hoping they’re not the ones to set it off.

Last time I spoke with her, I heard about an incident where V screamed at J, K’s husband, while she stood there biting her lip. Later, to V, she ‘defended’ J by saying, “he didn’t mean to upset you…”

Whenever I ask K why everyone tolerates this behavior, she says, “well, V has a good heart, and he means well, and he’s probably under a lot of pressure that none of us know about…”

If the house were on fire, and V screamed ‘Get out now!’ to J (or K), that’s one thing. But regularly screaming at people because you’re ‘having a bad day’ or just don’t know how to tolerate discomfort is totally unacceptable to me.

I can’t swear to what I’d do if V screamed at me — I might freeze up — but if V came after Spouse while I was right there, I would defend Spouse like a Mama Bear with her cub. I’ve been verbally defending whoever needed it since I was a kid.


Now that I think about it, I’ve been verbally defending… usually smaller, possibly weaker family members, since I was a kid.

I never found an argument, a line of reasoning, that held up though. Appealing to our common humanity or morality, for instance… made no real sense, and did not work. I was a Chaotic Good… paladin-wannabe, stuck within all these people who had to be Lawful Good, right? I mean, Family, Good Catholics (sending us kids to Catholic school, which was definitely against my will, not that anyone cared), “blood is thicker than water”, “you’ll always have Your Family”, those people.

I didn’t have the emotional energy available to put all the pieces together correctly, and read what the pattern actually was.

I see it more clearly now. But I still don’t see what child-me could have done to change it.  One person — especially one person with no social power, who is widely disliked — cannot change the system. One person can only… escape the system. Which I did.


Apparently V’s grown children refuse to talk to him. I’m sure it’s never occurred to him he might have things to apologize for; I’m equally sure he’s never apologized.

Instead, he found himself a girlfriend the age of his kids, and had a baby with her. I fear for the childhood that kid will have, since he doesn’t have a sibling, nor a mother who stands up to V.

V and my mother have, according to K, bonded over having kids that won’t talk to them.


If I went back, I might be a cause célèbre (very briefly), but then I would quickly return to being a nonentity that no one ever liked very much.

Nothing would have changed in my absence: the bullies would still be the ones lauded, while anyone kind is hushed up.

Why am I supposed to value the ‘community’ over my own survival?

I guess I’m not. I shouldn’t have survived, and then the ‘community’ could say whatever they liked about ‘losers’ like me who couldn’t conform.


G asked my sister for a divorce ~8 years ago; it was finalized 6.5 years ago. Once she was single, she moved out to Texas. She sees the OKC cousins fairly often; our elderly parents drive out to see her too.

When I last talked to her (a year ago), she seemed to be warning me off of coming back, since she’d taken over my role in the family? I’m confused how that would be a promotion: I always understood that I had the lowest position in the entire extended family, and everyone else bonded over “at least we’re better than Mea, what a loser”.

But anyway, it’s true, if I were to come back, I have no idea… how I would relate to anyone. What would there be to talk about, that I would have the slightest interest in?

K keeps encouraging me to come back.

She seems to think something called “solidarity” will just magically appear. Even though it never did before. She seems to assume that I like everyone I’m related to. I don’t. I liked G, my ex-brother-in-law. I think it’s safe to say, almost everyone else is essentially a stranger to me, albeit a stranger I have very little interest in getting to know better. (Trying to repress my natural curiosity seems pointless.)

What could I hope to gain?

Greater acquaintanceship with people who’ve spent their lives bullying everyone around them. Poor listeners. People with little-to-no curiosity about the world. People who are consumed with hierarchy, status, and power. People who regularly… scream… at other people.

You know what? I’m good. Thanks, though, for thinking of me.

Reading List 10b of 2016 ~ mostly New Mexico edition

September 27, 2016

{{ Spouse and I spent a week in northern New Mexico in mid-September. }}

 Covers the period from 8.16.2016 through 9.27.16

I own 8 of these items. Spouse owns 1 item. Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 6 of the books; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 7.


New Mexico:

  1. 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Albuquerque, 2nd edition, by Stephen Ausherman
  2. A Dictionary of New Mexico and Southern Colorado Spanish by Rubén Cobos
  3. Essays in 20th Century New Mexico History, ed. Judith Boyce DeMark
  4. Free Flow: The Gila River in New Mexico by Jan Haley
  5. Remarkable New Mexico Women, 2nd edition, by Beverly West
  6. The Rio Grande [River Guide] by Paul W. Bauer
  7. Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque [Lonely Planet] by Kim Grant


First Nations Peoples of the USAmerican Southwest:

  1. Hano: A Tewa Indian Community in Arizona by Edward Dozier {one section in larger anthology, edited by George and Louise Spindler}
  2. Indian Rock Art of the Southwest by Polly Schaafsma
  3. Tewa World: Space, Time, Being and Becoming in a Pueblo Society by Alfonso Ortiz
  4. Wild Plants and Native Peoples of the Four Corners by William Dunmire and Gail Tierney


Georgia O’Keeffe:

  1. Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life by Roxana Robinson
  2. Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction, ed. Barbara Haskell
  3. Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities, ed. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
  4. Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Houses: Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu by Barbara Buhler Lynes and Agapita Judy Lopez
  5. Georgia O’Keeffe and the Camera: The Art of Identity by Susan Danly
  6. Georgia O’Keeffe: Circling Around Abstraction, ed. Norton Museum of Art



  1. The Comedy of Survival: In Search of an Environmental Ethic by Joseph W. Meeker
  2. The Good Son: JFK Jr. and the Mother He Loved by Christopher Andersen
  3. Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking by Vera John-Steiner
  4. Place Names in Colorado by Frank Dawson
  5. She Speaks to Me: Western Women’s View of the West Through Poetry and Song, ed. Jill Charlotte Stanford


Dream: 9.20.2016

September 20, 2016

I’m at my grandmother’s house, gathering up items I think other people will want to hold onto. This is a process that’s been ongoing, for years, but somehow there continue to be items that other people feel they cannot live without having. (That is, after years, this process should be scavenging crumbs, but it doesn’t seem that way.)

One thing I grab is a family portrait of sorts: my sister gazes adoringly at her now-ex-husband; me and Spouse are embracing; other people make up other couples and groups, outside, amongst trees.

The small black shoulder bag I’m putting things into is similar to Mary Poppins’s carpet bag — it gets heavier, but it doesn’t run out of room.

I race around the top floor, shoving things in.


While in the dream, I recall having a conversation with my friend Lisa B*, in which I lamented the pernicious hold this house has over my family and me, and she suggested I set fire to it next time I was there.

So while I’m on the top floor, at some point, I start a small fire.

Then I descend one floor, and look for other things that cannot be lived without. Gradually, I feel heat radiating from the ceiling; decide it might be a prudent time to descend yet again. I still shouldn’t leave the house yet, though —what if the fire were to go out prematurely?

So I’m racing against time, to preserve enough of the right stuff, but not get suffocated or burned to a crisp myself.


When I get to the third floor down [which, in the real house my grandmother lived in, would be the basement], there are a bunch of people that I don’t know, milling around, panicky. Then a group of firefighters pushes their way through the people. Some go upstairs. Others question people in the crowd, who direct them to me (who is now trying to leave).

They find my answers to their questions suspicious.

I begin concocting “cover stories” in my head: I’ll need to buy a (pink) candle on my way home, that I can say I lit in the attic… for some reason… but wait, then it’ll have to look like it had been lit, so I’ll have to buy matches, and light it somewhere safe, and…

One of the firefighters contrives to touch my hands, and when I look at them later, they’re covered in a fine dust, colored turquoise. I conjecture that this is a way to confirm my fingerprints if I touch anything else, so every time I need to move something, I first cover my hands with cloth.


It’s probably time (past time, really) to leave. I just hope the fire did some damage, even if it got stopped.


Later, I’m somewhere else, and there are… counselors scattered about. I find a nice friendly young woman, whom I question about confidentiality. She assures me whatever I say will be held in confidence “no matter what”.

Now we have to find a secluded place to talk. But people keep asking her questions before we can leave together.

In my head, I’m reviewing what I did, and I truly honestly don’t remember setting the fire. I didn’t have a candle or matches or a lighter — how could I have done it? Is it possible it started… some other way? And it’s just a coincidence I was there, thinking about setting it?

How come Lisa B didn’t mention that I could get in big trouble if arson was suspected? That I could go to jail? That my family wouldn’t receive an insurance settlement either?

Before we find a place to talk, I wake up.


NOTES, Immediate:

My grandmother died in 1998, and approximately a year later, her house passed out of our family forever.

I used to dream about her house a lot, but that’s tapered off over time. I eventually realized that “my grandmother’s house” was a metaphor for… my soul, or my self, my developing self.


In the dream, I wanted, needed, the house itself to, if not stop existing, change its form by becoming less influential in how I spent my time and energy.

Setting the fire (if I did actually do it) was a way to grab control of my own life.


When my mother was growing up, there was a time that her father (whose house this also was — in fact, he built the whole third floor) was… a fire marshal.


The presence of my (high school) friend Lisa B is intriguing because dream-LB is often a trickster figure who brings me to a higher level of awareness. [In waking life, she is an educator.]


NOTES, Meta-:

Being in New Mexico last week… shifted some stuff around. Changed other things.

I prepared as best as I could to go, but… the person who left is not the person who returned. In a good way.


I had never before been in New Mexico and been able to direct where I physically went. With a car, I mean. (I could walk wherever I wished within Ghost Ranch, while I was there 3 years ago. I had not rented a car, so I was dependent upon the shuttle to ferry me from and to the Sunport.)

I am acquainted with at least 4 people who live in New Mexico, but… no one I know well enough to “look up” while we were there.

Our trip was not in any way about human beings that we know.

I wanted to return to one of my favorite places. And I hoped Spouse would enjoy his first visit.

I wanted to reconnect with (my beloved) Sandias. I wanted to greet the Rio Grande. I did both, and more.

{One short week was a crucible for 6 weeks’ worth of intense emotional experiences.}

In some ways… I’m not entirely sure who I am anymore.

In other ways, I’m surer than I’ve ever been, about things I haven’t felt so strongly in 33, 35 years.


I sent postcards that I thought of as being written in a fundamentally “autistic” manner. I did not  censor how I naturally think, nor try to camouflage what I care about.


I’m writing a poem that’s in both Spanish and English. I’m kind of thinking of it in Spanish first, then figuring out what parts should stay in Spanish, and what parts can be written in English (or another language).

I’m diagramming connections, and patterns of spatial dispersion, which may become a visual poem of sorts.

I’m finding my own way.




*I have 2 friends named Lisa B. Trying to obscure how I referred to the first one caused confusion on this blog last year. The Lisa B in this dream is the one I met in high school, lately of Socorro, NM, but now in Texas; it is not my Tejana poet friend living in Iowa.

Reading List 10a of 2016

September 19, 2016

Covers the period from 8.16.2016 through 9.9.16

Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 10 of the books and movies; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 13.



  1. [SFF] The Hidden Letters of Velta B. by Gina Ochsner [[Latvia]]
  2. [DVD] Knitting Lithuanian Socks by Donna Druchunas
  3. The Lithuanians in America, 1651–1975: A Chronology and Fact Book, compiled & edited by Algirdas Budreckis
  4. The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of my Jewish Father’s Nazi Boyhood by Mark Kurzem [[Latvia, Belarus]]
  5. [Film] The Summer of Sangaile, dir. Alanté Kavaïté [[Lithuania]]
  6. [Film] Tangerines, dir. Zaza Urushadze [[Estonia, Georgia]]



  1. Eames: The Architect and the Painter, dir. Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey
  2. Kings of Pastry, dir. Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker
  3. Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037, dir. Ben Niles
  4. Pianomania, dir. Lilian Franck and Robert Cibis


Memoir & Biography:

  1. The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings of James Baldwin, edited by Randall Kenan
  2. The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy
  3. My First Ladies: 25 Years as the White House Chief Floral Designer by Nancy Clarke with Christie Matheson
  4. Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life by Sayed Kashua


Crime Fiction ~ Dublin Murder series:

  1. In the Woods by Tana French
  2. The Likeness by Tana French
  3. Faithful Place by Tana French
  4. The Secret Place by Tana French



  1. Cascade Experiment: Selected Poems by Alice Fulton
  2. Sensual Math by Alice Fulton



  1. Adaptation by Malinda Lo
  2. Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal
  3. Tournament of Losers by Megan Derr


Reading List 9a of 2016 ~ Poetry edition

August 11, 2016

Covers the period from 7.23.2016 through 8.9.16

I own 16 of these items. Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 4 of the books and movies; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 4.



  1. Anything Could Happen by Jana Putrle Srdić, translated by Barbara Jurša [[Slovenian]]
  2. The Bones We Have in Common by Sudasi J. Clement
  3. Centralia by Sarah Gzemski
  4. Dissection by Care Santos, translated by Lawrence Schimel [[Spanish]]
  5. Earth by Cecilia Woloch
  6. Midnight Blue by Vanessa Jiminez Gabb
  7. Night-Sea by Rachel Moritz
  8. One is None by Kätlin Kaldmaa, translated by Miriam McIlfatrick-Ksenofontov [[Estonian]]
  9. Restored Mural for Orlando / Mural Restaurado para Orlando by Roy Guzmán
  10. Rivers I Don’t Live By by Kelly Nelson
  11. Skeleton Keys by Laura Garrison
  12. Spelling the Hours: Poetry Celebrating the Forgotten Others of Science and Technology, edited by Rose Lemberg
  13. The Verbs of Desiring by Renee Ashley


= = =


Written in English:

  1. “After Mecca”: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement by Cheryl Clarke
  2. The Citizen Poets of Boston: A Collection of Forgotten Poems, 1789–1820, edited by Paul Lewis
  3. Green the Witch-Hazel Wood by Emily Hiestand
  4. These Are My Rivers: New & Selected Poems, 1955–1993, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  5. Time of Useful Consciousness by Lawrence Ferlinghetti


Translated into English from Spanish:

  1. 20th Century Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology, edited by Stephen Tapscott [[also includes poems in Portuguese]]
  2. 50 Poems by Juan Ramón Jiménez, translated by J. B. Trend
  3. Against the Current by Tedi López Mills, translated by Wendy Burk
  4. Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral, translated by Doris Dana


Translated into English from various:

  1. Bright Scythe: Poems by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Patty Crane [[Swedish]]
  2. Talking to My Body by Anna Swirszczynska [[Polish]]


Reading List 9b of 2016

August 11, 2016

Covers the period from 7.23.2016 through 8.10.16

I saw 1 movie in the cinema. I own 3 of these items. Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 10 of the books and movies; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 7.



  1. Boy Meets Girl, dir. Eric Schaeffer
  2. Clouds of Sils Maria, dir. Olivier Assayas
  3. Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon, dir. Douglas Tirola
  4. Ghostbusters, dir. Paul Feig
  5. Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, dir. Alex Gibney
  6. Sunshine Superman, dir. Marah Strauch



  1. Ash by Malinda Lo
  2. Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones
  3. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
  4. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  5. Mystic Marriage by Heather Rose Jones
  6. Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire


Memoir & Biography:

  1. Alligator Candy: A Memoir by David Kushner
  2. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  3. Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick


Literary Fiction:

  1. Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín
  2. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín {{surprisingly, none of the charm of the movie}}
  3. Reliance, Illinois by Mary Volmer


Power dynamics & Politics:

  1. Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments by Gina Perry
  2. The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power by Joel Kramer



  • The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions by Anna Ivey


potager portrait

July 27, 2016

July, 2016


From the kitchen, I step onto the balcony through a glass door. Directly ahead, beyond and below, is a circle of pavement. Within the circle, a crape myrtle, flowering hot pink with green leaves; at her feet, spiraea bushes, purplish flowers buzzing with bees, yellow-green leaves. At the edges of the circle, benches, more crape myrtles, and some Euonymus bushes, mostly green leaves, starting to go pink at the center.

Back to our balcony.

To my immediate left, a pile of stuff: an empty windowbox; empty flowerpots; what’s left of a bag of potting soil; sticks I’ve picked up at various times.

Walking widdershins, Spouse’s water shoes.

Where the railing begins, our compost bucket, now containing coffee grounds, leaves from a previous storm, and a green walnut.

Beyond the railing, rooted in the ground, Drabhu, a Norway maple, whose green leaves and pinkish fruits often dance in the breeze with me as I spend time on the balcony late at night.

Windowbox #1 (empty)

Windowbox #2, with dead plant structures from previous years. A bottle cap water feature. Transplanted oxalis and white clover, both of which are doing well.

A piece of multicolored slate.

A large craggy rock (approximately a cubic foot), with bands of black, red, and sparkly stone; 5 years ago, I rescued it from a former field that was being converted into a subdivision.

A small terracotta pot with dried flowers. Two terracotta dishes with rocks as perches, refilled with water every day in summer.

A rectangular ceramic tile I made, stamped with birch leaves, and glazed emerald green.

Turning the corner, a small round glazed-ceramic pot with a feathery marigold plant, grown from last year’s seeds.

A dark teal ceramic bowl containing a reddish rock from New Mexico and a golden rock from Maryland, amidst water, replenished frequently.

Windowbox #3, with a ‘hairy’ clump of narrow leaves (dead) from a previous year. Tall stems with round green leaves nodding in the breeze. (Not from seeds or transplants, so I don’t know what it is.)

Turning again, at the other glass doors, I encounter windowbox #4 in the shade of the cerulean-with-white-floral-patterned lawn chair. The moss from last year that died. Various transplants from this year, including creeping jenny, oxalis, some type of grass, and others.

= = =


1 bat, then 2 bats, last night.

A tiger swallowtail comes almost every day, even though there are no flowers blooming.

Various hymenopterans (bees and wasps). There seems to be a wasp bolthole in part of the metal railing. In late spring, we see bumblebees hovering almost every day — it’s probably too hot for them now.

Something that looks like a large bumblebee (black body), but with wings that are black and transparent. It’s friendly, it often buzzes me hello.

A few days ago, a sparrow-like bird perched on the rocks in the teal bowl, drinking the water.

Some time ago, I discovered a bug that fell backwards into one of the water dishes. I fished it out, set it upright on a rock so its wings could dry out.

On the railings, I occasionally see spiderlines, but so far only tiny spiders scurrying across concrete. (No webs.)

Including last night, I occasionally see lightning bugs below Drabhu’s branches.

On the sidewalk, especially at night: human beings walking dogs, ferrying children. Cats. Once, an opossum.

Often, teeny tiny dark brown toads; medium sized tan toads.

Last summer, from the kitchen window I saw a neighborhood cat up to mischief with a wild critter. I rushed downstairs and staved the cat off, saving what turned out to be a garter snake.

Definitely outside the open-ended area I think of as our garden (in the back of the apartment), but for the last 2 days, we’ve had an imperial moth stationed near our front door: large yellow creature, with brown blotches, and dark speckles. Very pretty.

Our fledged barnswallows (from the eaves, where their parents built their second nest of the year) haven’t visited our garden, but sometimes I hear them chirping, and see them amongst lamps under the skylight windows. They’re difficult to catch on film unless they’re perched.

= = =

These past few years (2014–Present), my garden’s been teaching me patience and stillness and looking closely at whatever I can see or photograph, noticing changes over time. No flowers this year, and yet… I spend more time on the balcony, or looking at the balcony, than any place besides the bedroom (where I am, now, writing). (The bedroom receives very pretty afternoon light, without being too bright or too hot.)

= = =

Back in 2014 when I was seeing P, my former therapist, she had me make a list of both “inner resources” and “outer resources” that I could draw upon. I asked for clarification about what divided them: she said it should be fairly obvious: “Inner is inside of you; outside is outside of you”.

I went ahead and made a third list that I called “liminal resources”, for things like my potager. Technically, to some people, I guess a garden is “outer”, but these plants are my friends, and… part of my household. Similar to my studio (which also contains plants). In fact, I thinkfeel of my studio like I’ve read Navajo weavers thinkfeel about their looms: their weavings depict the state of the weaver’s soul. My studio and my potager are part of my identity — how can that be definitively “outer”?

= = =

Last night, I was reading a book of Tomas Tranströmer’s poems, in which (poet) David Wojahn asserted that TT’s great theme is liminality, that everything he wrote was about borders of one sort or another.

As I sat on the balcony in the wee hours of this morning, I mused on lines in Swedish and lines translated into English. Was Tranströmer’s poetry, for those moments, part of my potager? If not, why not?