Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Okay, I guess I'm ready for Planet AWP.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

But what are you going to wear?

I don't know. Who cares?
It's not the clothes that matter.

Oh. Really?

Of course. Just go as you are.

Okay. Maybe you're right.

(pic by Jimmy)

No, really, it's going to be fun!


Yeah. They'll be lots of people.

Define lots.


What if I'm not one of them?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

AWP and Best American Poetry Blog

Oh, I am nervous about AWP! On the sad side, Sydney Lea will not be able to make it. He will be missed! On the bright side, David Lehman will be joining our panel on translation titled Speaking in Tongues on Friday at 3:00. And speaking of David Lehman, Best American Poetry has a blog now.


Friday, January 25, 2008

1000 vacas

My daughter, S., phoned to tell me about the dance this weekend
in Ostuma. All the youth in her canton are going. Fatima,
her high school friend, has a new dress. Her co-worker
from the Peace Corps has a Salvadorian boyfriend
who decided to set S. up on a date.
But I prefer to go solo, my daughter explained.
On no, this man assured her, don't worry. This guy is rich.
He owns 1,000 cows.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A strange day today.

My friend's cancer surgery went well, and it turned out to be a much better scenario than anticipated. Amazing grace. How rare it is! I couldn't stop crying.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

National Republican Congressional Committee Survey

Every now and then we get surveys from the NRCC. They always put me in a bad mood. How did I get on their list?

Or does everyone get these? Or am I somehow among the chosen?

The questions creep me right out. Here are a few.

1. Do you support the House Democrats "slow-bleed" strategy to "choke off" funding for our troops in Iraq, leading to their withdrawal and a perception of American defeat?

2. Do voters in Ohio's 6th District agree with Nancy Palosi Democrat Majority's decision to impose massive tax hikes on the American people?

3. Do you support the Democrats' efforts to give federal government bureaucrats complete control of your health care costs and choices?

4. Do you agree that winning back a Republican Majority in the House of Representatives is essential to stopping the Nancy Pelosi Democrats from raising taxes, destroying our economy, and endangering our homeland?

Will you support our campaign with a generous financial contribution today?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Thanks everyone for telling me I'm on Verse Daily today.
I hate to admit it, but I immediately cringe.
Whenever I see my work in print, I know how to fix it.
Or so I think . . .
Look, there's an extra "and" in there, and why didn't I change . . .

Okay, enough. I need to stop listening to myself . . .
Or I'll turn into this guy in the pic. by my son, Jim.

Monday, January 21, 2008


I guess this is another "story of stuff," a variation on the one in the post below. Where my daughter lives, there was no garbage collection. (She's just this last week managed to arrange to have it collected once a month.) So the stuff never goes anywhere. Or it didn't. In this photo she's just starting a recycling program. In a matter of weeks, the kids in her canton gathered 16,000 bottles. (They counted because it was a competition.)

I was thinking about this because it's Monday, the day I get to take out the trash. I hate to admit it, but I love throwing things away. There's something so therapeutic about getting rid of stuff. I like to think it just evaporates from my curb.

Sometimes I wish there were parts of my life I could put in there, too, bad memories, mean and sad moments, slips of the tongue, an entire summer of rain, a college romance (maybe that's the wrong word for it), terrible decisions. I guess that's why Catholics go to confession. And many to therapists. Me, I would rather talk to a large black bag, something I could close up with a tight knot and have trucked far, far away . . .

The Story of Stuff

This is the tale of stuff. It's a bit too long, and well,
maybe a little annoying somehow . . . but still
a good explanation of what happens to all the stuff we buy.


After watching it, I needed some comic relief:


And on the subject of stuff, and environmentalism in general, Ohio isn't doing so well. Voinovich opposes climate legistlation, and Brown is cautious . . .

Career Pants

I'm so nervous. I really want that job.
I need to go shopping.

You need to?


What for?

Pants. I want career pants.

What are you wearing?

No one will hire me in these pants.

You think it's the pants?

I dunno. I think it might be. But maybe it's the hair.

You can't buy career hair.

Exactly the point.
That's why I want the pants.

But what if you get the job.
You'll never take off the pants?

Don't be stupid. Of course . . .
they're just sort of like a metaphor.

A metaphor for pants?

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Suzanne making dinner. I love these. And no, there's no armadillo meat in this.

Guinea Pig Soup

That's so sad, I told Suzanne. How could anyone eat an armadillo?
She agreed. Then she reminded me that one of the specialties
in Ecuador is guinea pigs. They served guinea pig soup
when the bishop visited the orphans when she was working there.

And in college, one of the girls was from Ecuador. Once,
when invited to a nice dinner, she was supposed to bring
a dish. So this girl went to the pet store and purchased
guinea pigs. Her host was quite offended when she arrived
with her offering . . .

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Suzanne posted this photo of a boy holding a baby armadillo . . .
She added that they probably ate it that night.

Speaking in Tongues, a panel on translation

I often imagine I'm the only one who freaks about AWP. Ah well.
I am looking forward to hearing what the writers on my panel
have to say. Sydney Lea, Diane Thiel, Karen Kovacik, Steven
Reese . . . They'll all be reading from their translations
at 3:00 on Friday.
I hope Karen reads "Waiting for the Blondes"
from her Polish collection. Sydney will read some
of the Plume poems by Henri Michaux. Steven translated
the most amazing Cuban poet, Roberto Manzano,
who came to this country years ago for a visit
and has never been allowed to return.
And Diane and her husband will talk and read
from work by the Greek novelist, Alexis Stamatis . . .

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bodkin or AWP?

Scientists are really weird. I was reading about Isaac Newton,
for example. How once he inserted a bodkin into his eye socket,
just to see what would happen. Another time he stared at the sun.

Now, okay, that's pretty strange. I was thinking
how poets don't do stuff like that.

But then I thought about AWP . . .
Suddenly a bodkin didn't sound so bad.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Are you okay?

Define okay.

So you're not okay.

Did I say that?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Estoy aqui

In El Salvador,
sometimes when you ask how are you,
the answer is simply:

A conversation among women

I hate it when men write those poems about breasts.

You mean like Will's? This week? The one dedicated to
you know who you are?

I don't know. It's the whole deal: I like big ones
and little ones.
And that word, pert.
Or was it perky?
What if I wrote about men like that.

Maybe you should give it a try.

Yeah. With all my experience.
I've only slept with 3.2 men.


Oh yeah. Lots of .2s. I've had way too many .2s.
Pert is not the word there. Or perky.

Are you going to explain that?

What? You think I should write a poem about it?
Maybe dedicate it:
This is for .2s. You know who you are . . .

That might offend some folks.

Oh. And I would never want to do that.

Singles Night

You don't want to talk about it?

No, not really. It was in a church.
You know, one of those basement events.

The singles met in a church basement?


But you didn't meet anyone you liked?
Were there any men there?

And sort of.

They were sort of there?
Or you sort of liked them.

Sort of.

Okay. What did you do?

Ate. Everyone else ate.
I lost my appetite.


Yeah, jello.
Jello salad.

Oh. I see.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Strange thing

My neighbor tells me his yard is sinking.
Some days he wakes up and the lawn is down a few inches.
Other days it's down a few feet.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Last week someone DARED to ask me to contribute recipe
to a recipe collection.

I stayed up late debating
which I should contribute . . .
my recipe for Tomato Aspic,
Salad under the Sea,
(green jello, things within)
or Spam Florentine?

I'm leaning towards the last.

Yep, Spam Florentine. It is so simple!
Anyone can make it!
In just 30 minutes, too!
All it requires, like all good recipes,
is a can of Campbell's soup
(one of the yummy, creamy ones:
mushroom, chicken, celery)
1 can Spam Luncheon meat, cubed,
1/4 cup milk,
1 package frozen spinach,
nuked on high until it melts
into a pool of slime.
Mix ingredients.
Cover with shredded cheddar cheese.
Bake at 375 for 15 minutes
and serve with Miracle Whip.

If this is an appetizer,
serve it in parfait glasses,
topped with dollops of Miracle Whip.
For a festive look, sprinke
the top with little Spamenitos.

And remember, always serve from the left,
and take away dishes from the right!

% ?

Okay, so . . .
I'm chewing this horrible tasting gum right now.
Orbit. Spearmint. But! The package promises
that this gum will whiten my teeth
and remove 40% of the stains.
Soon I will only have 60% of my teeth stained!
I keep chewing and thinking about this. Tell me.
How do they determine what % of my stains will vanish?
Or rather . . . remain?
Will 40% of my teeth be whiter than the rest
if I just chew on, say, my right side?
I keep picturing this. 4 out of 10 teeth white,
6 out of 10 stained . . .

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pollution and politics

Lately I've been hooked on politics,
watching the different candidates . . .
I go thru these spells where I think if only . . .
then . . .

Of course, the then never happens.

I have had so many bad experiences with politicians
and so much hope for so many of them . . . at all levels.
From the local on up. You'd think I'd learn.

For example, on the local level,
I remember ages ago, once upon a time,
when my kids were little, maybe 6 and 8 years old,
we met the mayor of Shaker Heights.
Pat Mearns. She was nice, and she chatted with me
and my kids. Jim had known her daughter in law school,
and had even attended her daughter's wedding,
and this was back in the days when he was a lawyer
at a huge firm in Cleveland. So for some reason,
I (mistakenly) felt almost connected to the mayor.
She was, after all, nice, young, Democratic, accessible,
and she always acted as if she knew me.

A year later, the creek behind our house became polluted.
Maybe it always was. But there was a drought that year,
and with it came an aroma of shit in our creek, so strong
it could knock you out. I didn't like opening the windows.
I didn't let the kids play back there.

I had the city come out and investigate many times.
They flushed the creek every time, which meant they flooded it
to wash out the offending odor.
Of course, the scent returned in a day or two.

I called the city, the sewer district (NEORSD), the Ohio EPA . . .
No one did a thing, although the NEORSD did finally test the water
and concluded that the fecal count was extremely high.
(They didn't want to release the results to me and refused for months . . . )

So Suzanne decided to write the mayor. After all, S remembered
she'd met the mayor. And the mayor had said to her:
if you ever have any questions about our city,
just ask me. Mayors take care of cities.
Suzanne loved to write letters. And she loved the idea
of a person who takes care of cities.
The mayor had made quite an impression on her.

So she wrote the mayor: Dear Mayor,
You met me at the pool. I was wearing a pink swim suit. Remember?
You said to write if I had a question. I wanted to tell you
our creek is dirty. It has poop in it. It killed my frogs.
It smells like a toilet no one flushes.
Can you fix it?

A week later the mayor wrote back.
Dear Suzanne,
Your creek is not in my city. It's in Beachwood.

The letter was addressed to our home
which did have a Shaker Heights address . . .

It is true that our creek ran through Shaker and Beachwood.

It took about three years before the EPA was ready to act.
About ten years later, the problem was fixed.
We had long since moved.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

France best, US worst in preventable death ranking


I find these reports so alarming. I guess everyone saw Sicko. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

But when I was in the hills of El Salvador, I remember seeing a number of pregnant women. Where do they deliver their babies? I asked. How do they get prenatal care?

They have midwives, Suzanne said. No doctors. She had spent a few days translating for doctors (who came in from the US to volunteer for a week) and said many of the women hadn't seen a doctor in their entire lives. There were so many women lined up with an entire life history of medical questions for her to ask-- and then translate back the answers. By the end of the day the doctors were angry and tired and wanted to know why there weren't better facilities. As if somehow it was too much for them: the heat, the lack of running water, the needs of these women . . .

I asked a doctor in Cleveland how these women did it. What risks they ran. He speculated that they probably have a high infant mortality rate. That some of the moms died in childbirth.

I was stunned when I heard Michael Moore say in his film that the US has a higher infant mortality rate than El Salvador.

To give or not to give

Last weekend I was with some friends who were discussing money. To be more precise, they were trying to decide which organizations to donate money to this year. None of these particular friends have much money, but they like to give.

I'm always curious what makes people give money to what, when, and why. Some of the comments surprised me.

You could give to literary orgs, I suggested because it was such a literary crowd. None of the writers in the room seemed particularly interested. Not sure why.

You could give to The Rescue Mission, another woman suggested. But they're so evangelical, yet another objected.

What about Grist? I was asked. I do love Grist, and I was tempted to give to Grist last winter when Umbra was held hostage for so long. But then Grist started bragging about how Barbara Boxer had just donated. Suddenly I lost all interest. When an organization gets so big, it can attract the name-brand crowd, who needs us?

What about politicians? Everyone groaned.

The discussion went on and on. I decided after a while that giving has no good logic but is more of a personal recipe no one wants to reveal.

I had the sense that it was like those polls in New Hampshire. Folks might say they want one candidate, but when they're in that booth, they vote differently.

I was really happy to hear more good things about the local organizations: SMARTS, Second Harvest Food Bank, The Mahoning River Consortium . . .

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Post-vacation Blues

I have the post vacation blues. Bad. I miss my kids way too much every time they leave. And each time they come home, I feel older and sadder. Alas. Such is this phase of life.

Tomorrow Jim goes back to Berkeley. Suzanne is already in El Salvador, tending to a sick guest who made the mistake of rinsing his mouth with the water.

I will travel to see both kids in the spring-summer months. When I visit Suzanne, I will bring a suitcase full of Prell and a bow and arrow to help me cope with those mega-cockroaches.

I always thought one plus of living in Poland, Ohio, was that it would encourage my kids to grow strong wings.

They wouldn't be like those kids who want to stay home forever so mom and dad can take care of them.

I'm still happy for the wings.

But I never anticipated the degree of my own sadness. Sigh.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Yard Pants and Brand Names

I am always impressed by people's interest in clothing brands. How many people care about labels. What's with those ugly purses and bags that cost so much money? And those lady's dress shoes you can't even walk in . . .

Ah well. Who am I to understand? I was raised in hand-me-downs and clothing items from the Sears catalog. Most of my clothes were brown or navy blue to hide stains. For years my mother refused even to buy us bathing suits. She thought they were over-priced. So she would dress her girls in giant, colorful underpants, which she called yard pants. (I'm still not sure if there is or was such a thing as yard pants. Did any one else out there wear yard pants? If so, will you leave me a comment? Please?)

Yard pants, according to my mother, are not underpants. They just look like them. On hot days she'd dress us in these yard pants and take us the local pool. I'd have to explain to my friends that I wasn't wearing underwear. Oh no. Not me. I was wearing a unique outfit that only my mother knew about. Some of my girl friends worried that my nipples were showing, so I would pull those pants all the way up over my nipples. Yes, those yard pants were unique. When I dove in the water, the bottoms would fill with water and bloom behind me.

Of course, I expect folks to be more fashion-conscious than my mother. Or me. Or anyone else who became accustomed to wearing yard pants in public as a girl. But there are places and times where I assume people will be more aware of brand names and the like.

I all but expected Suzanne's friends at Princeton to be brand savvy. Though some were not at all, and others took it to a new level. One day, for example, S was wearing a black T-shirt. No marking on it, no label. I mean a plain black shirt. Her friend turned to her and said, nice T-shirt. J Crew, last year's model.

But I didn't expect the same thing to occur in El Salvador, esp. in the hills of El Salvador in a community where people carry water and wood on their heads. But some of those folks know as much about brands as Princeton students. A teenage girl, for example, the daughter of a pineapple farmer, pointed out that my running shoes were Asics. Very expensive ones too. But she could tell that my shirts were just cheapo t-shirts. I just run in them, I explained. And what do you do with your shoes? she asked.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Other Allergies

Marzipan, Jane Austen movies, Mitt Romney, fake sugar, Nancy Kerrigan, aphorisms, auto-flush toilets that flush before or when you sit on them, Olivia Newton John singing Just Call Me Angel of the Morning, maraschino cherries, Mr. Rogers, floats, parades, state fairs, Richard Gere, 4:00 in the afternoon, fine print, cough syrup, nylons, rhinestones, doctor's offices, tissue paper gowns, the word:share as when someone says I just want to share a little secret with you, like the time this woman in a public restroom shared with me that she used hemorrhoid cream on her face to get rid of those fine lines . . . It works like a charm.

Let's see now. I think I'm just getting warmed up.