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hey ninteen: august pieces

Poem: Mailboxes in Late Winter by Jeffrey Harrison

It’s a motley lot. A few still stand
at attention like sentries at the ends
of their driveways, but more lean
askance as if they’d just received a blow
to the head, and in fact they’ve received
many, all winter, from jets of wet snow
shooting off the curved, tapered blade
of the plow. Some look wobbly, cocked
at oddball angles or slumping forlornly
on precariously listing posts. One box
bows steeply forward, as if in disgrace, its door 
lolling sideways, unhinged. Others are dented, 
battered, streaked with rust, bandaged in duct tape,
crisscrossed with clothesline or bungee cords.
A few lie abashed in remnants of the very snow 
that knocked them from their perches.
Another is wedged in the crook of a tree
like a birdhouse, its post shattered nearby.
I almost feel sorry for them, worn out
by the long winter, off-kilter, not knowing
what hit them, trying to hold themselves
together, as they wait for news from spring.

Thought: Every Love Story

“Every love story ultimately ends in some type of loss. Worst case scenario: they betray your trust, have a secret affair, contract an incurable sexually transmitted disease, infect you, and your marriage crumbles apart in a fiery blaze of agony. Best case scenario: you spend many happy decades together and then eventually you watch your sweetheart wither and die. Either way, loss. Either way, grief. Either way, some flavor of heartbreak. Every romantic relationship has an expiration date. It’s not "will it end?" but "how?" and "when?" Just like they say in the musical Hadestown: "It's a sad song. But we sing it anyway." Why do we keep singing? Why do we keep loving and loving, knowing that pain is inevitable? Because, despite everything, I guess, I think...it's still worth it. (At least, that's what my mom tells me. And she's very wise.)” - from Alexandra Franzen’s newsletter.

Song: The Breeze by Bill Callahan




hey nineteen: july pieces

Poem: Among Women by Marie Ponsot

What women wander?
Not many. All. A few.
Most would, now & then,
& no wonder.
Some, and I’m one,
Wander sitting still.
My small grandmother
Bought from every peddler
Less for the ribbons and lace
Than for their scent
Of sleep where you will,
Walk out when you want, choose
Your bread and your company.
She warned me, “Have nothing to lose.”
She looked fragile but had
High blood, runner’s ankles,
Could endure, endure.
She loved her rooted garden, her
Grand children, her once
Wild once young man.
Women wander
As best they can.

Thought: Austin Kleon on Bach

“His music is so amazingly beautiful, but Bach didn’t grow up in some idyllic setting. Conductor John Eliot Gardiner, who’s written a biography of Bach, says that previous Bach biographies have painted rosy portraits of the composer, not allowing that a mere human could create such heavenly works. But his research has turned up evidence that Bach grew up in a “thuggish world.” (Don’t we all?) Bach was able to do what all great artists do: take their pain and despair and channel it into works of such beauty and truth that they turn us away from our own despair and towards the light. Artists like Bach do us the greatest service of any true artist: they give us encouragement to keep living, to keep going.”

Song: Running up that Hill by Kate Bush covered by Meg Myers

hey nineteen: june pieces

Poem: If I Should Have A Daughter by Sarah Kay

If I should have a daughter, instead of Mom, she's gonna call me Point B,
because that way she knows that no matter what happens,
at least she can always find her way to me.
And I'm going to paint solar systems on the backs of her hands,
so she has to learn the entire universe before she can say,
"Oh, I know that like the back of my hand."
And she's going to learn that this life will hit you hard in the face,
wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach.
But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.
There is hurt here that cannot be fixed by Band-Aids or poetry.
So the first time she realizes that Wonder Woman isn't coming,
I'll make sure she knows she doesn't have to wear the cape all by herself.
Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers,
your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I've tried.
"And, baby," I'll tell her, "don't keep your nose up in the air like that.
I know that trick; I've done it a million times.
You're just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to a burning house,
so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him.
Or else find the boy who lit the fire in the first place,
to see if you can change him."
But I know she will anyway, so instead I'll always keep an extra supply of chocolate and rain boots nearby,
because there is no heartbreak that chocolate can't fix.
Okay, there's a few heartbreaks that chocolate can't fix.
But that's what the rain boots are for.
Because rain will wash away everything, if you let it.
I want her to look at the world through the underside of a glass-bottom boat, to look through a microscope at the galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind, because that's the way my mom taught me.
That there'll be days like this.
♫ There'll be days like this, my momma said. ♫
When you open your hands to catch and wind up with only blisters and bruises;
when you step out of the phone booth and try to fly and the very people you want to save are the ones standing on your cape;
when your boots will fill with rain,
and you'll be up to your knees in disappointment.
And those are the very days you have all the more reason to say thank you.
Because there's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it's sent away.
You will put the wind in winsome, lose some.
You will put the star in starting over, and over.
And no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute, be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.
And yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting, I am pretty damn naive.
But I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar.
It can crumble so easily,
but don't be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.
"Baby," I'll tell her, "remember, your momma is a worrier, and your poppa is a warrior, and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more."
Remember that good things come in threes and so do bad things.
And always apologize when you've done something wrong.
But don't you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining.
Your voice is small, but don't ever stop singing.
And when they finally hand you heartache,
when they slip war and hatred under your door and offer you handouts on street-corners of cynicism and defeat,
you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.

Thought: You Feel Like Shit

Barely a thought, more of a helpful reminder when you’re feeling a bit crap (or a lot crap). The “self-care game” you feel like shit can help. Play here. Save it in your bookmarks.

Song: Everyday by Buddy Holly


hey nineteen: may pieces

Poem: I’m a Depressed Poem by David Ignatow

You are reading me now and thanks. I know I feel a bit better and if you will stay with me a little longer, perhaps take me home with you and introduce me to your friends, I could be delighted and change my tone. I lie in a desk drawer, hardly ever getting out to see the light and be held. It makes me feel so futile for having given birth to myself in anticipation. I miss a social life. I know I made myself for that. It was the start of me. I'm grateful that you let me talk as much as this. You probably understand, from experience; gone through something like it yourself which may be why you hold me this long. I've made you thoughtful and sad and now there are two of us. I think it's fun.

Thought: Capellanus on Marriage

The first rule from The Art of Courtly Love, written around 1180 by Andreas Capellanus: Marriage is no real excuse for not loving.

Song: Cloudy by Simon and Garfunkel

hey nineteen: march pieces

Poem: Summing Up by Claribel Alegria

In the sixty-three years
I have lived
some instants are electric:
the happiness of my feet
jumping puddles
six hours in Machu Picchu
the buzzing of the telephone
while awaiting my mother’s death
the ten minutes it took
to lose my virginity
the hoarse voice
announcing the assassination
of Archbishop Romero
fifteen minutes in Delft
the first wail of my daughter
I don’t know how many years yearning
for the liberation of my people
certain immortal deaths
the eyes of that starving child
your eyes bathing me in love
one forget-me-not afternoon
the desire to mold myself
into a verse
a cry
a fleck of foam.

                  — translated from the Spanish
        by the author and Darwin T. Flakoll

Thought: Morgan Harper Nichols on when strength doesn’t look like strength

“A year ago, you didn’t know you could be this strong. You didn’t know that all along, courage was rising up within you. Back then, it just seemed like you were trying to make it through. It just felt like you were trying to survive when all of the odds were stacked against you. You didn’t realize that every late night you fought through and every early morning you woke up to was a beautiful light-woven reminder that you were far from finished yet. It did not feel like it then, but the seeds you were sowing were being watered. What seemed like it was only rain was actually the nourishment you needed to grow into the next stage.”

Song: The Snow It Melts The Soonest by Anne Briggs


hey nineteen: february pieces

Poem: February by Margaret Atwood

Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

Thought: Grace Paley on learning to grow old from her father

“My father had decided to teach me how to grow old. I said O.K. My children didn’t think it was such a great idea. If I knew how, they thought, I might do so too easily. No, no, I said, it’s for later, years from now. And besides, if I get it right it might be helpful to you kids in time to come.

They said, Really?

My father wanted to begin as soon as possible.

[…]

Please sit down, he said. Be patient. The main thing is this — when you get up in the morning you must take your heart in your two hands. You must do this every morning.

That’s a metaphor, right?

Metaphor? No, no, you can do this. In the morning, do a few little exercises for the joints, not too much. Then put your hands like a cup over and under the heart. Under the breast. He said tactfully. It’s probably easier for a man. Then talk softly, don’t yell. Under your ribs, push a little. When you wake up, you must do this massage. I mean pat, stroke a little, don’t be ashamed. Very likely no one will be watching. Then you must talk to your heart.

Talk? What?

Say anything, but be respectful. Say — maybe say, Heart, little heart, beat softly but never forget your job, the blood. You can whisper also, Remember, remember.”

Song: Heartbeat Chili by Allo Darlin’


hey nineteen: january pieces

Poem: Sunday by January Gill O’Neil

You are the start of the week
or the end of it, and according
to The Beatles you creep in
like a nun. You're the second
full day the kids have been
away with their father, the second
full day of an empty house.
Sunday, I've missed you. I've been
sitting in the backyard with a glass
of Pinot waiting for your arrival.
Did you know the first Sweet 100s
are turning red in the garden,
but the lettuce has grown
too bitter to eat. I am looking
up at the bluest sky I have ever seen,
cerulean blue, a heaven sky
no one would believe I was under.
You are my witness. No day
is promised. You are absolution.
You are my unwritten to-do list,
my dishes in the sink, my brownie
breakfast, my braless day.

Thought: David Whyte on naming love

“Naming love too early is a beautiful but harrowing human difficulty. Most of our heartbreak comes from attempting to name who or what we love and the way we love, too early in the vulnerable journey of discovery.

We can never know in the beginning, in giving ourselves to a person, to a work, to a marriage or to a cause, exactly what kind of love we are involved with. When we demand a certain specific kind of reciprocation before the revelation has flowered completely we find ourselves disappointed and bereaved and in that grief may miss the particular form of love that is actually possible but that did not meet our initial and too specific expectations. Feeling bereft we take our identity as one who is disappointed in love, our almost proud disappointment preventing us from seeing the lack of reciprocation from the person or the situation as simply a difficult invitation into a deeper and as yet unrecognizable form of affection.”

Song: This Will Be Our Year by The Zombies

how to be perfect

Everything is perfect, dear friend.
                                                  —KEROUAC

Get some sleep.
Don't give advice.
Take care of your teeth and gums.
Don't be afraid of anything beyond your control. Don't be afraid, for instance, that the building will collapse as you sleep, or that someone you love will suddenly drop dead.
Eat an orange every morning.
Be friendly. It will help make you happy.
Raise your pulse rate to 120 beats per minute for 20 straight minutes our or five times a week doing anything you enjoy.
Hope for everything. Expect nothing.
Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room before you save the world. Then save the world.
Know that the desire to be perfect is probably the veiled expression of another desire—to be loved, perhaps, or not to die.
Make eye contact with a tree.
Be skeptical about all opinions, but try to see some value in each of them.
Dress in a way that pleases both you and those around you.
Do not speak quickly.
Learn something every day. (Dzien dobre!)
Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.
Don't stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don't forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm's length and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass ball collection.
Be loyal.
Wear comfortable shoes.
Design your activities so that they show a pleasing balance and variety.
Be kind to old people, even when they are obnoxious. When you become old, be kind to young people. Do not throw your cane at them when they call you Grandpa. They are your grandchildren!
Live with an animal.
Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.
If you need help, ask for it.
Cultivate good posture until it becomes natural.
If someone murders your child, get a shotgun and blow his head off.
Plan your day so you never have to rush.
Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if you have paid them, even if they do favors you don't want.
Do not waste money you could be giving to those who need it.
Expect society to be defective. Then weep when you find that it is far more defective than you imagined.
When you borrow something, return it in an even better condition.
As much as possible, use wooden objects instead of plastic or metal ones.
Look at that bird over there.
After dinner, wash the dishes.
Calm down.
Visit foreign countries, except those whose inhabitants have expressed a desire to kill you.
Don't expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want to.
Meditate on the spiritual. Then go a little further, if you feel like it.
What is out (in) there?
Sing, every once in a while.
Be on time, but if you are late do not give a detailed and lengthy excuse.
Don't be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.
Don't think that progress exists. It doesn't.
Walk upstairs.
Do not practice cannibalism.
Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don't do anything to make it impossible.
Take your phone off the hook at least twice a week.
Keep your windows clean.
Extirpate all traces of personal ambitiousness.
Don't use the word extirpate too often.
Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not possible, go to another one.
If you feel tired, rest.
Grow something.
Do not wander through train stations muttering, "We're all going to die!"
Count among your true friends people of various stations of life.
Appreciate simple pleasures, such as the pleasure of chewing, the pleasure of warm water running down your back, the pleasure of a cool breeze, the pleasure of falling asleep.
Do not exclaim, "Isn't technology wonderful!"
Learn how to stretch your muscles. Stretch them every day.
Don't be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel even older. Which is depressing.
Do one thing at a time.
If you burn your finger, put it in cold water immediately. If you bang your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for twenty minutes. You will be surprised by the curative powers of coldness and gravity.
Learn how to whistle at earsplitting volume.
Be calm in a crisis. The more critical the situation, the calmer you should be.
Enjoy sex, but don't become obsessed with it. Except for brief periods in your adolescence, youth, middle age, and old age.
Contemplate everything's opposite.
If you're struck with the fear that you've swum out too far in the ocean, turn around and go back to the lifeboat.
Keep your childish self alive.
Answer letters promptly. Use attractive stamps, like the one with a tornado on it.
Cry every once in a while, but only when alone. Then appreciate how much better you feel. Don't be embarrassed about feeling better.
Do not inhale smoke.
Take a deep breath.
Do not smart off to a policeman.
Do not step off the curb until you can walk all the way across the street. From the curb you can study the pedestrians who are trapped in the middle of the crazed and roaring traffic.
Be good.
Walk down different streets.
Backwards.
Remember beauty, which exists, and truth, which does not. Notice that the idea of truth is just as powerful as the idea of beauty.
Stay out of jail.
In later life, become a mystic.
Use Colgate toothpaste in the new Tartar Control formula.
Visit friends and acquaintances in the hospital. When you feel it is time to leave, do so.
Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.
Do not go crazy a lot. It's a waste of time.
Read and reread great books.
Dig a hole with a shovel.
In winter, before you go to bed, humidify your bedroom.
Know that the only perfect things are a 300 game in bowling and a 27-batter, 27-out game in baseball.
Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to drink, say, "Water, please."
Ask "Where is the loo?" but not "Where can I urinate?"
Be kind to physical objects.
Beginning at age forty, get a complete "physical" every few years from a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with.
Don't read the newspaper more than once a year.
Learn how to say "hello," "thank you," and "chopsticks" in Mandarin.
Belch and fart, but quietly.
Be especially cordial to foreigners.
See shadow puppet plays and imagine that you are one of the characters. Or all of them.
Take out the trash.
Love life.
Use exact change.
When there's shooting in the street, don't go near the window.

playing the field | words from the week (x)

Jim Jarmusch’s Rule #5 in MovieMaker Magazine:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”

Marianne Power on a moment of kindness for Conversations On Love:

“A few Christmases ago I was in the middle of a period of depression and on my way back from a trip to Ireland where my best friend had been looking after me. I landed back in London Kings Cross to a city in the middle of its office party. Everyone was excited and delighted and I felt like I was falling off the edge of the world. I got in a taxi home and when the driver asked me how I was, instead of pretending I was fine, I found myself saying: 'I feel like I'm losing my mind.' For the next hour he listened to me as I poured out a matted jumble of thoughts and feelings. He listened like he understood every word I said. He told me about his own breakdown. He told me that I would come back together again but I had to go easy on myself. 'Watch Paddington,' he said. 'And have a cry whenever you need to. I used to cry all the time, even in the cab, I'd cry behind dark glasses.' That advice has always stayed in my head: 'Watch Paddington and cry when you need to.' I don't even know his name but he was my Christmas angel.”

On the end of the year, from Laura Olin’s newsletter:

“A thought that came to me while watching a bunch of impressive speakers at a conference this fall, feeling sad I hadn't accomplished as much this year as they had: "Maybe surviving this year was enough." It was a rough year for a lot of people, and if that was true for you too, I invite you to give yourself a break about not doing all you may have hoped at the beginning of the year. If you're still here, you've come out ahead in the biggest way that matters. Here's to survival+ next year.”