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Reading List 2 of 2017

February 14, 2017

Covers the period from 2.1.2017 through 2.13.17

I saw 2 movies on my laptop; 1 on Netflix. 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 25.



  1. Appalachian Elegy by bell hooks
  2. Arrivals by David Mason
  3. Before the War: Poems as They Happened by Lawson Fusao Inada
  4. A Bird in the Bush by David Mason Heminway [1961]
  5. The Bird’s Wing: Poems of young Marylanders, edited by Carol Faulkner Peck [1977]
  6. Considerations of Earth and Sky by Temple Cone
  7. Count the Waves by Sandra Beasley
  8. How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water by Marilyn Singer
  9. Incorrect Merciful Impulses by Camille Rankine
  10. New & Selected Poems by Ron Rash
  11. Persistence: Poems of Warren, Maryland by Ann Eichler Kolakowski
  12. Waltzing on Water: Poetry by Women, edited by Norma Fox Mazer and Marjorie Lewis



  1. Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S. by H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman
  2. Biting the Wax Tadpole by Elizabeth Little
  3. Performing the Word: African-American Poetry as Vernacular Culture by Fahamisha Patricia Brown
  4. The Social Art: Language and Its Uses by Ronald K. Macaulay
  5. Word Play: What Happens When People Talk by Peter Farb [1981]
  6. Words on the Move by John McWhorter



  1. Eyewitness ~ Pond & River, dir. Leanne Pooley
  2. The Fargo Project by Jackie Brookner
  3. Finding Dory, dir. Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane
  4. Jackie Brookner 9-29-15 by Lenore Malen


Information Design & Illustration:

  1. Color for Painters: A Guide to Traditions and Practice by Al Gury
  2. Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec


First Nations:

  1. The Creator’s Game: A Story of Baaga’adowe / Lacrosse by Art Coulson [[Anishinaabe]]
  2. Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Beth Leatherdale
  3. Harper’s Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry, edited by Duane Niatum
  4. Winged Words: American Indian Writers Speak by Laura Coltelli



  1. [SFF] The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord
  2. Face to Face: Women Writers on Faith, Mysticism, and Awakening, edited by Linda Hogan and Brenda Peterson
  3. Island of Bones: Essays by Joy Castro
  4. Un-American: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WW2 by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams



Reading List 1 of 2017

January 30, 2017

Covers the period from 1.1.2017 through 1.30.17

I/we own 10 of these items. I saw 3 movies in the cinema; 1 on my phone. Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 9 of the books and movies; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 30.


In these white and troubled times*, Poetry is giving me life.


Poetry collections:

  1. Atlantis: Selected Poems 1953–1982 by Slavko Mihalić
  2. The Big Book of Exit Strategies by Jamaal May
  3. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo
  4. Contents of a Minute: Last Poems by Josephine Jacobsen
  5. Counting Descent by Clint Smith
  6. Dismantling the Silence by Charles Simic
  7. Fire Before the Hands by Michael S. Glaser
  8. Inherited Estate: A Song Cycle by Carol Bindel
  9. Love is the Pain of Feverish Flowers by Kwon Cheonhak
  10. Movement in Black: The Collected Poetry of Pat Parker, 1961–1979
  11. News from the Glacier: Selected Poems 1960–1980 by John Meade Haines
  12. One Thousand Things Worth Knowing by Paul Muldoon
  13. Parallax and Selected Poems by Sinéad Morrissey
  14. The Really Short Poems of A. R. Ammons
  15. Rise in the Fall by Ana Božićević
  16. The Sobbing School by Joshua Bennett
  17. Sobra by Marina Rivera
  18. The Speed of Darkness by Muriel Rukeyser
  19. Turning into Dwelling by Christopher Gilbert
  20. Unthinkable: Selected Poems 1976–2004 by Irene McKinney
  21. The Uppity Blind Girl by Kathi Wolfe
  22. Waterlily Fire: Poems 1935–1962 by Muriel Rukeyser
  23. The WUG Test by Jennifer Kronovet


Other writings by poets, about poets:

  1. A Fly in the Soup by Charles Simic
  2. A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society 1997–2008 by Adrienne Rich
  3. Mayakovsky and His Poetry, compiled by Herbert Marshall [1945]
  4. Patchen — The Last Interview by Gene Detro
  5. The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poets, edited by Rita Dove
  6. The Poets of Prague: Czech Poetry between the Wars by Alfred French
  7. Soul Talk, Song Language [Interviews] by Joy Harjo and Tanaya Winder
  8. Words are My Matter by Ursula K. Le Guin
  9. Voices of Women: 3 Critics on 3 Poets on 3 Heroines, ed. Cynthia Navaretta



  1. The Blues Brothers, dir. John Landis
  2. Brooklyn, dir. John Crowley
  3. Carol, dir. Todd Haynes
  4. Concussion, dir. Peter Landesman
  5. Dr. Strangelove, dir. Stanley Kubrick
  6. Hidden Figures, dir. Theodore Melfi
  7. Moana, dir. Ron Clements, Don Hall, et al.
  8. Moonlight, dir. Barry Jenkins
  9. Pride and Prejudice, dir. Joe Wright
  10. Sense and Sensibility, dir. Ang Lee
  11. The Summer of Sangailė, dir. Alanté Kavaïté [[Lithuanian]]
  12. Tangled, dir. Nathan Greno and Byron Howard
  13. [Documentary] Vera Klement: Blunt Edge, dir. Wonjung Bae



  1. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
  2. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  3. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  4. Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie



  1. Crash Course: Essays from Where Writing and Life Collide by Robin Black


Stories made into films:

  1. Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges {read 3/8 of its 672 pages}
  2. A Place for Us: West Side Story and New York by Julia L. Foulkes



*Credit for phrasing what I’m feeling in this manner goes to Huda Hassan.

Observations 2w

January 14, 2017

Another week of studio time, but since this year I’m focusing on “noticing”, changing the title (from “small changes”) seemed apt.


Studio: 8 hours, over 3 days

This week, it was difficult to get out of my head; I kept being distracted by things elsewhere. That’s part of why I rolled the time over onto consecutive days.

  1. Realized having the (wind-downed) tree branches of various sizes, tree types, and configurations scattered around my studio means I can… examine their shapes much closer than I ever have before. I can consider the curves of the lines, how sub-stems are related to each other, ponder why any branch was formed the way it was. My whole life under and around trees, (and drawing them!) and yet, somehow, I never really looked at branches before.            This is giving me a distinct way of now looking at Drabhu (friend-maple tree outside our apartment).
  2. {Small potted plant I bought on Thursday, intending it for my writing nook, I brought into the studio to introduce to the other plants, and realized… it should in my studio too. It’s now perched on a far corner of my work table. Where I can easily visually compare its vertical leaf blades to the tree branches beyond it in various directions.}
  3. Before watering new plant, realized it would need a tray underneath. I’m all about bricolage, so what do I have at hand? But it can’t clash with the muted, greeny colors at that corner. Found the ideal thing! A small rectangular lipped “tray” I made in my ceramics classes years ago, in a deep rich forest green, exactly fits, and suits the colors.
  4. Decided, since I’m yielding so much benefit from the lines and curves of the tree branches, although I do want more potted plants, I will avoid any with the usual shapes of leaves I really enjoy: fluttering, “ferny”, round/curvy. While I’m in a mode of long, graceful lines, let’s make the most of it.
  5. Examining a wooden cylinder on the windowsill, wrapped with various colors of yarn, wondered why I’d used one particular color that I don’t even like. Realized the color had been bleached by the sun. Removed those threads. Also another color, similarly bleached. So far I like the negative space thus created.
  6. Plum yarn => mauve-ish, now affixing a tree branch to the legs of my work table. Teal yarn => aqua now twined around an upright wooden item, newly topped with a dried flower, and back on sill.
  7. Rearranged all elements on the windowsill (again). Black pottery “summer owl” now nearer the other animal figurines, as well as turned towards Drabhu.
  8. Fiber ATC made by @artcollisions (framed), now on windowsill as well; fiber ATC made by Cathy Kleeman (unframed) near door in bookshelf with lilac glass jar festooned with purple ribbon. To which tableau I added another impromptu “sketch” on paper, this one created by playing with colored pencils.
  9. Photos.
  10. In an old journal, I’d rediscovered 2 proto poems I wrote 11.1.15. Decided to rework them, by brainstorming, for each noun or verb, 3 “associations”. Since I generally avoid creative writing in my studio (that’s why I have a writing nook, in another room), didn’t rewrite anything just then, but… to my table, added an empty marmalade jar, for lines of those proto poems, as well as the “associations”.
  11. One of the “associations” was the name of a place in the former Yugoslavia, but I couldn’t recall how to spell it. I pulled out the reference book I used for my 1988 trip to Yugoslavia, but the index didn’t have the name either. Reflected that this particular name, perhaps above all others, invokes my mother (because we visited Yugoslavia together in 1988, just the two of us) so strongly that… maybe I’m not ready to include that place in a poem. But maybe I am. In any case, I positioned the book behind my table where I can see it easily so I can revisit the idea if I wish.
  12. Rearranged rocks on work table.
  13. Really looked at 2 dried leaves on my table: the smooth curves of a yellow (now mottled brown too) cottonwood leaf from New Mexico; and the crumpled hyperbolic curves of a dark red sweetgum leaf. I’m thinking “sculpturally” with natural forms. I couldn’t possibly improve upon them, but could I echo them in my own work, in a way that honors them? {I don’t yet see how, but I’ll keep considering…}
  14. Walked up close to wall poster of satellite image of the entire Chesapeake Bay region. Looked for the Potomac River, but what I found was (I believe) the James, in Virginia. I need to learn my local geography much better!
  15. Compared (big) Chesapeake Bay with (much smaller) drawing of the Great Lakes, on closet door. Thought about being a “Great Lakes person”, who’s become an “estuary person”.
  16. Thought about First Nations’ languages in the Great Lakes, as well as in the Chesapeake region. I brought my interest in Anishinaabe {Great Lakes} with me to Maryland, but Wikipedia says the Susquehannock language that should be spoken in my local area went extinct, with its peoples, circa 1700. (I had thought the Lenape might be here-ish, but they were actually NE of here, barely farther south than Delaware Bay.)

In the book on sociolinguistics I stayed up all night last night to read, the author says that languages do not live or die, so cannot become extinct. He says they don’t exist unless the people who speak them do. I don’t think that’s true. Well, not exactly. Ish.

I have all these nebulous feelings, but I don’t understand anything. (Hence, reading, research.)

My nonhuman community, or the land I’m living on, or some other way of thinking of such things, … wants things from me that I don’t know how to address. I’ve been struggling with how to address words + images “related to Chesapeake Bay”… since we moved here, 8+ years ago. Now, apparently, I need to add languages, somehow.

Dream: 1.10.17

January 10, 2017

I’m in Chicago, late at night. I’ve gotten out of the car my parents are driving; they’re going to find a parking spot, and join me shortly. We’re all going to take a long trip on Amtrak, way out west. (Probably New Mexico, but possibly California)

I should wait for them, but I’m too excited. I exit the parking lot and find a train on the tracks. I catch the tail end of a conductor saying which stops this train will be making: “…St. Louis, Oklahoma City, …” I’m sure it must be our train, my parents should be here any minute so I should wait, but… A conductor grabs me by the arm and pulls me in. Well, but there’s still time for my parents to get here, isn’t there?

Except they don’t show up, and they don’t show up, and then the train pulls out. I’m conscious of my phone in my back pocket, vibrating with frequent texts. I should check it and text them back, but what would I say? I leave it be.

The train is extremely crowded near the door: standing room only, in fact. Even though beyond us, there is a section with several rows (of red plush seats) that is totally empty. No one sits though, so I figure I shouldn’t either. I push my way out of the crowd by the door and head back to other cars to find a seat/some seats — when my parents find me, I/we’ll be all set.

As I continue through train cars [which don’t look like any train I’ve ever been on], people are doing weird things, in the aisles and everywhere. It hardly looks like I’m on a train at all, which may be how/why I step off the train, into more crowds of people doing weird things, not realizing, and it only becomes clear when the train leaves, but I’m in this unfamiliar place, late at night.

I go looking for people I can ask directions back to the train and train station of, but everyone I see is too busy, or doesn’t seem friendly.

At some later point, I’ve asked a bunch of people and gotten conflicting answers, no one is interested in helping me much, I’m desperately tired, I’m sad and scared and crying, as I stumble through the dark looking for trains.

In the dream, I think to myself “I don’t know what’s happening or how (if) I can “fix” it, I’m lost, I’m alone, I don’t know what to do, and yet… this is practice, and I’m increasing my experience with and stamina for, surviving disasters. I’m doing ok, all things considered.”



Writing it out, I realize that, at the end, I never thought to myself “this is going to be fine”, which there was certainly no evidence for. The comfort I drew, instead, was knowing I could depend on my own resourcefulness. That even if circumstances stayed disastrous, I would figure stuff out, and gain knowledge.


Often in dreams of this nature, I’m preoccupied with my luggage, but in this dream, I didn’t have any. I was wearing a man’s heavy overcoat, in wool, and I periodically checked that my train ticket remained in the jacket’s inner pocket, but I had nothing like a purse or bag with me (not even my camera bag).

Incongruities abounded, but they didn’t disorient me.

It wasn’t until I was off the train, and wandering around places I never would’ve gotten to otherwise, that I felt worried and somewhat afraid. And yet even those feelings are… not uncommon in my life, and their presence doesn’t, indeed hasn’t, precluded me figuring something out.


“Figuring x out” has appeared twice in this post; I think it’s a significant concept that I’ve sort of glided over. My highest value is Learning. Usually, experientially, but supplemented by reading.

The initial journey was going to be out west, a region I have some familiarity with, and I was going to have 2 older, more experienced companions. I was fairly clear on what I was getting myself into, which is why I felt confident going first, and even boarding the train without waiting for the others to arrive.

But the real journey began when I got off the train, and didn’t know where I was, how I could return to any train, or where else I could go.

I was tired and overwhelmed, but I didn’t panic. I didn’t despair.

That’s a huge leap of progress. I really have been developing stamina at dealing with setbacks and obstacles.

And the real journey is… where I’m at, not where I planned to go.


This is especially interesting because in 2017, I’d resolved to “stop trying”: stop auditioning to be worthy of people’s regard (a longterm issue), but also, stop trying to achieve… anything really. In 2017, I am going to… be… a person who lives their life. As it unfolds, without me engineering things (or trying to).

This prospect is actually extremely scary. If I stop working at proving that I deserve to exist, doesn’t that destroy the world? After all, I wasn’t “good enough” for my parents, my family of origin, my teachers, my classmates, people I worked with, anybody really. A large part of the ambitions I’ve always had have arisen from “trying to prove them (all) wrong! They’ll see they misjudged me!” Well, no, you know, they won’t. They don’t care. They’ve never been paying attention to what I’ve done, or not done; accomplished, or failed at. And even if they had, that approach is a pretty shitty way to define my own life.

What do I actually want? Well, I want to learn stuff. I want to always be learning.

And… I can do that anywhere. No matter what elaborate plans I’ve had, I have managed to learn stuff wherever I go, or don’t go.

Also, my ‘plans’… have never turned out the way I expected/hoped. It could be that I need to… develop better skills at forecasting! (“prove myself”) But that’s not it, is it? I need to stop planning.

I need to stop anticipating what story I’ll be able to tell whenever this episode ends. Story bones need new shapes. They have to grow themselves, and I will gain from observing them, and learning how to describe them. Find models/explanations/storylines they’re animating. I can’t do that if I’m sure that something I’ve planned is better.

Plans are out, noticing is in.

Dream fragments

January 8, 2017


All I recall is a bunch of leaves from different plants (no pots, just the leaves), filling up about a 2 foot sphere, against a background of white walls. The only type of plant I recognized was Oxalis; there was something I couldn’t identify that had curly tendrils.

A marigold that had budded, when I looked the next day was in flower: solid bright orange. (Which was puzzling as I was pretty sure the flowers were supposed to be variegated yellow and brick red.)



A male relative of Spouse’s, that I’d hit it off with on previous visit out West (where he lived), contacted Spouse to say that his mother, “Mildred Pierce”, had died at age 102. Gave funeral arrangements.

I remarked to Spouse that I knew “Mildred Pierce” was a movie with Bette Davis, but I’d never seen it.

Spouse and I discussed attending the funeral, despite the geographical distance. Spouse didn’t have any particular interest, since he hadn’t known MP or her scion. I said that I’d attended funerals in my youth out of curiosity (where I hadn’t known the person myself, but my father did), and they were uncomfortable because my emotions mismatched everyone else’s emotions. That it felt an extra degree of prickly because it was unseemly for me not to feel the grief everyone else felt. So we decided not to go.

A conversation with my FIL.

I was in a back bedroom of my in-law’s house, with my MIL. She was speaking from a far corner of the room, in front of empty built-in bookshelves. I was on a bed by the door, and wanted to stand up, but my back hurt too much. I said something to my MIL, who laughed, and did not move to help me. So I dropped to the floor, crawled over to the door, and tried to straighten my back from that vantage.            Later, my MIL talked about how “this is the only house we will ever have”, which seemed to be a contrast with the male relative out West. With his mother/aunt’s death, he was going to inherit her extensive properties.

Some weird behavior when I flushed the toilet made me think the pipes might be frozen.




{It was Joan Crawford in the movie “Mildred Pierce”, not Bette Davis.}

Even in the dream, I wasn’t clear on how the male relative was connected to “Mildred Pierce”: son, nephew, grand-nephew, cousin?

The “out West” part seems significant, but it wasn’t New Mexico or even Arizona. It might have been Texas.

The house that belonged to my in-laws in the dream had the same layout as my Uncle Ed’s house. All the walls were newly white.



Last week, while grocery shopping, was the first time I saw indoor plants and thought, “I want a big plant in a pot”; later at home, looked around to see where I might put a potted plant.

I have a marigold plant right now, but it’s just one shoot, with 2 small leaves. The one I grew from seeds last year never did flower. (But the leaves were really pretty, and I took lots of photos.)

Lots of white walls, and empty shelves, seems significant. A marker of things being in flux.

With as cold as it’s been (20 F for the past few days, unseasonal), my muscles do stay even tenser than usual, so my movements are less fluid than when it’s warmer. I’ve never been unable to get out of bed before though.

It’s strange enough to have a dream my FIL appears in, but both my MIL and FIL is unprecedented. I don’t know what to make of it.

Nor am I close to any of Spouse’s other relatives (despite multiple efforts on my part). The part of the dream with the male relative and his inheritance feels significant somehow, but I can’t figure out why.

Orange is a powerful color for me lately.


Sometimes when I get too much sleep, my dreams right before waking are a confused jumble of elements that don’t hang together. That might be what these were.

Small changes 1w

January 5, 2017

Sitting with the discomfort of having no plans. Refusing to make any. Waiting to perceive something needful in the moment.


Studio: 5 hours

  1. Sorted through bag of pennies Spouse gave me. Ordinary pennies went into my penny jar. Nonpenny coins … put into small orange bowl on writing desk. Coins from 1964 or earlier … put into Turkish flowers cup.
  2. On small bookcase by door, all shelves below first changed, rearranged. Now rainbow basket of ribbons on bottom shelf; greens glass shell on second; lilac glass jar froths iridescent purple ribbon on third; fourth contains opaque white glass jar with silver lid, clear blue paperweight with etched Chinese ideogram, dark silver heavy metal ring. On top of bookcase, grooved elliptical unglazed clay jar with blue-green/violet rim (by that Lithuanian-American ceramics artist ~ Jeselskis?), along with 2 dried pink cactus flowers.
  3. Pot with 6 cacti (with pink flowers) moved from my work table to right side of windowsill. Swapped places with bluegreen glass bottle and mellow-moss green mug with paintbrushes. (Didn’t want cacti to absorb sunlight that needs to reach potted plants on bookshelf further into room. Did want to preserve reflections from the glass bottle onto the wood, near the translucent rock. Good for “light” photos.)
  4. Dragon taper-holder now on tall white bookshelf, near globe.
  5. Small glass jar containing Grampa’s crayons, pencil stubs, chalk, emptied. Put with other glass bottles on floor. Crayons, chalk put into indigo square box with daisy on lid; pencil stubs put into mug holding pencils, pens.
  6. Pile on work table of books, papers, shifted to left side, clearing a space to work.
  7. Taped bank notices to closet door — I’ll still see them, but they’re unobtrusive. And they’re no longer taking up space on work table.
  8. Coloring pages partially filled in, from 2013… cut out the shapes. Dated them on back. Taped them to closet door, under birthday cards.
  9. Decided Van Gogh mug doesn’t go with the colors of the room. Put it in kitchen cabinet (after washing). Moved around which pencils, pens, go into which containers.
  10. Textured blue glass jar now on nightstand in bedroom, holding white-out, eyeglasses cleaner and cloth. Maybe now they’ll stop getting knocked to the floor!
  11. Emptied paper berry basket of its oil pastel sticks. Photos. Inserted pink chalk in middle. That displaced brain coral, half-orb of rock, which are now on work table surface where Van Gogh mug had been.
  12. While dusting oil pastel sticks, created impromptu sketch [warm colors]. Dated the back, propped it up on fourth shelf of bookshelf near door.
  13. Emptied yarn basket, looking for brown fibers. Didn’t find any, but did rediscover 2 interesting skeins: hazel-green-brown, like my long ago forest dream; and the very first skein I ever bought! Circa 1997, had no thought then of being a fiber artist, it was just so pretty to both eyes and fingers… (muted but silky shades of light green, brown, red). Put all skeins back in: blue-green and yellow-green on bottom, multicolored, yellow, yellow-orange, orange, red-orange and pink. On top, the 2 greenish skeins. Put 2 long branches back in, along with long metal piece with holes that I took out of mug on windowsill.
  14. Tree branches moved around.
  15. Brought bag of colored pencils into studio to see if they’d all fit in one mug. They won’t. Rediscovered a second set of colored pencils. Decided I need to sort through, determine which ones “go together” and which don’t. Put that off for another day.

Time spent thinking about various things, much of them tangible, but some were philosophical/metaphysical.

I definitely need to do something with Chesapeake Bay this year.



  1. Affixed 2 bamboo sticks to serve as “curtain rod”, under mosaic table (newly in bedroom). Hung pale green fabric over rod to obscure my backpack, and TBR magazine pile, under table.
  2. Moved orange art piece, small bowl with stones, milky glass jar, to top of mosaic table, from second nightstand. (Which is now cleared, except for smooth black rock, formerly of my bedside nightstand.)
  3. Eventually found yardage in forest green. Cut in half, then quarters. Laundered. Then wrapped each section around one (forest green metal) bedpost (of unattached headboard, leaning against wall opposite bed), so we no longer need those unsightly paper towels doing the same thing.
  4. Found yardage in light brown, with mottled pattern, that I draped over box between 2 wooden chests. Put stuff back on it. Much more restful to look at.
  5. (I’d dreamed about a little tree in the bedroom.) Thought about putting the tree, once I find it, on the newly-cleared extra nightstand. What if I got a bonsai? Spouse had expressed interest in bonsais a few years ago. Maybe he should have a say in the little tree. Last night, talked to him about it. He’s amenable to at least looking at bonsais. (Neither of us have any idea if they’re easy to care for.)


Writing about these kinds of things every week seems a lot like… maintenance. I avoid maintenance.

But in a way, keeping track of (at least) some of it, functions as notes to future versions of me. And I know from past experience, whenever I read a blog post that functions as such a note, I wish it were longer, I wish there were more of it.

Maybe that’s because… when other people recall me as being different than now, they wish I’d stayed that older way. (Or they’re now pretending I did stay that way.)

But when I read these notes from me to me, they’re chronicles of change. That’s the whole point.

If I weren’t constantly changing, I don’t know what I’d write about.


Last night I dreamed I was in one of Ann Leckie’s worlds. Valskaay, maybe, although I just finished rereading Ancillary Justice, the first one, where you haven’t been to Valskaay yet. It’s just come up because of its songs.

Three days ago, when I first reread [the Orsian song] “My heart is a fish”, I welled up with tears. That song has, has always had, such power for me.

Even though I use metaphors a lot, even though human beings generally think in/with metaphors, sometimes I have trouble with metaphors. I often don’t know what they mean, I just sort of … feel… them. That might be part of why I’m a poet: I feel things, but explaining them (if that were even possible; it often isn’t)… misses the point.


One of the things I grok the most deeply about Breq… she never knows why people around her behave the way they do. She’s constantly surprised by Seivarden’s actions; when Seivarden explains, Breq is even more confused.

Every time I consider how I could possibly write fiction, I confront the same conundrum: why do (neurotypical) human people… do anything? I don’t know. I’ve never known.

Maybe it’s just being autistic, but, I don’t think Cause and Effect works the way neurotypical people assume it does. For one thing, variables having an effect on a cause? Well, the shorthand I use is “42,000 variables”. Way too many for human beings to even be aware of, never mind be tracking. Neurotypical people aren’t intaking nearly as much data points as we are, so obviously those data points aren’t contributing to their ideas of Why Things Occur (the Way They Do).

I don’t know… anything. I have ideas, always changing. I experiment, constantly. I’m always (re) evaluating what seemed plausible before.

When/if new data comes in that seems to falsify everything I thought I understood, I consider it. Experiment with updating my models and metaphors. Leave my mind open to re-assessing what seems to be happening. No matter how much I loved a label, I can let it go. I have.

(It’s almost like I’m a (life) scientist. Except that life scientists (ironically) routinely kill, maim, traumatize, nonhumans in the process of answering their own questions. I don’t. If committing harm appears to be the only way to answer my question, I ask a different question. Gradually my whole philosophy–praxis shifts.)


Last night I read Joy Harjo’s poem collection, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. There are so many things about the First Nations’ philosophies–praxes that I admire, but the deeply communitarian bent, alas, is not one of them. Up until a few weeks ago, I had assumed that, since I/my position was clearly wrong, I would need to undergo a seismic shift to “fix” it. Currently, I’m perceiving things… differently. I’m not wrong, so much as… I’m operating from a distinct worldview: not the generic USAmerican “individualistic” one neither. I have my own worldview, and it’s not communitarian nor individualistic. I don’t know what to call it. (A label seems the least interesting thing about it, frankly.)


My worldview shares some qualities with how I perceive Breq’s worldview. Although Breq… attracts people to her in a way I do not. So her actions have broader (human-social) consequences than I feel I can assume my own do.

And yet.


Last night, I was inscribing new poems into My Favorite Poems, Volume 2 {1 by A. R. Ammons; 3 by Joy Harjo; 1 by Sinéad Morrissey}, when I had a sudden, odd fancy: what if the niece (whose poem opens Volume 2) were to inherit these volumes from me? What could she learn about me, from what I’ve written about the poets, and/or their translators? What is visible of my values by which poems I’ve loved?

It’s a much more intimate picture than even reading my blogs would be.

I record the date I first read the poem, if known, so it’s also a diary of sorts. Sometimes I’ve penciled in notes about rhyme schemes. I’ve separated some with swirling tendrils of color (usually reflecting my mood or wyxzi).

Occasionally I include notes from related things: if the anthology included illustrations, perhaps the illustrator’s name and biographical data. Sometimes bilingual lists of words of interest.

{Last night, I reread Juan Ramón Jiménez’s “La Verdecilla”. As I felt its English translation in the anthology didn’t do justice to the beauty and power of the original, I made this poem the only one in either volume that appears solely in its originating language, Spanish in this case.}

{I skimmed the title of Douglas Kearney’s “Tallahatchie Lullaby, Baby”. Such power in his repeating sounds, rhymes, expressing the mounting horror of the subject, the death of Emmet Till.}

{I skipped over Etheridge Knight’s “The Idea of Ancestry” because it always breaks my heart.}

{I laughed, as I always do, rereading Kaylin Haught’s “God Says Yes to Me”.}

{Then I reread Lucille Clifton’s “anna speaks of the childhood of mary her daughter”. And sobbed.}


Poets I’ve met, mostly on Twitter, have poems in MFP. Some are friends, or might become friends; some are ex-friends. 2 are married to each other.

One poem is unpublished; no one but the poet, and me, even knows it exists.

There’s poems by political prisoners from many places, many times.

Lots of poems in translation.

Poems with animal protagonists; plants, much less often. An occasional fungus or bacterium. Surrealism. Mythological elements. Magical realism.


What’s important to discern about me? Maybe my philosophies–praxes matter solely to me, but perhaps what may persist is those thoughts of others I clustered together.

Maybe someday, some poet I’ll never meet will include one of my poems in their own volume of favorites.

Dream: 1.3.2017

January 3, 2017

I guess I’m in high school, although I feel older (19, 20-ish). I’m walking around an immense academic building, with my brother D and a woman friend of his. We’re discussing 2 things: (1) in a folder, I’m carrying around a (paper) standardized-test-thingy that serves as an application for Stanford. I’ve missed the cutoff for the 2016 test, but I can just take the 2017 test. (2) I was supposed to be working on a paper all year, that’s due on Friday [today is Wednesday], and I haven’t started it yet. (It won’t be graded, but I have to turn something in.)

The paper I’ve supposed to have been working on all year is supposed to concern who I am as a person, and what I want (to accomplish).

I like the idea of the paper, but I don’t want to write it. I don’t even want to think about it, and indeed, I haven’t thought about it.

What I’m excited about is the Stanford test. That seems full of possibilities in a way that writing about myself does not.



[2 false starts, 400 words deleted]

This month’s experiment is turning out to be unexpectedly primal.

Knowing myself is its own authority. And that authority is salient in a way that ‘Stanford’ can never be.


Certainties are boring, while possibilities excite me.

Why does dream-me think of ‘who I am’ as being a certainty, while being judged by other human beings is somehow a tantalizing suite of possibilities? Isn’t my lived experience almost-exactly the opposite?

Pernicious. Persistent. Wrong.

I haven’t heard from Mrs. Nocerino [introject I inherited from my mother] in… years, I think… and yet, this is her style. Every assessment I make of my own worth, I first find other people to weigh in on, and then I interpret the data in the most unflattering, unprepossessing manner possible. And then I resign myself to having rediscovered that yes, I am a disgusting failure, at everything that counts. But I still have to ‘soldier on’, even in the midst of (utter) despair… otherwise, I’m a quitter, the (self-evidently) worst thing a person can be.

There’s a lot going on here.

If I stop deferring to outside authority figures, this whole Gordian knot dissolves.

But then I would need to devise my own standards. CRUX.

‘Standards’ isn’t even the type of concept that appeals to me much. It’s too rigid. It’s too persistent. It doesn’t take context into account enough.


What do I value?

  • Learning, growth
  • Creativity
  • Change
  • Surprise / Serendipity
  • Friendship & affiliation

4 of these 5 contain Change. Friendship & affiliation, in my own experience for sure, mostly do not contain Change. They resist change.

So I leave people behind. Jobs, hobbies, places. Bits of identity. I’ve walked away from it all.

That gets me called a quitter. As if “consistency” and “predictability” should be one’s highest ideals.

The world changes. All the time. How can we not change with it?


What do I, personally, even know about Stanford? Nothing. So why does it persist in my unconscious as some sort of gold standard?

I probably won’t replace it, quite. A ‘gold standard’ is persistent and consistent.


Chesapeake Bay.

I want to write.

Poetry. Painting. Creating sculptural things.

Paper. Balancing.



I want to be a fish.