Sunday, January 30, 2011

...I finished Mary Karr's poetry collection and essay, "The Sinner's Welcome." (That's the book jacket up top and a photo of Mary, presumably in her office--note the very cool stack of books holding up her shelf.) Previously, I had not read anything else not Mary. Her book, "The Liar's Club" is credited with setting off the memoir boom. Her poetry is pretty sharp. "Sinner's Welcome" is a lot about her becoming at Catholic at around age 40, but the pieces are raw and definitely not choirboy stuff (think Anne Lamott with a pair of brass knuckles and half a dozen drained shot glasses.) I like lyrical poetry, but poems that are not hopelessly obscure (pretty words that only mean something to the author and acid trippers.) don't really linger beyond a reading. Mary's poems sting. You'd have to read the whole thing, but here are some of my favorite bits and scraps:
--"The heart is a mirror also..."
--" ninth grade, he sat running pencil lead beneath his nails. If radiance shone from those mudhole eyes, I missed it."
--"They'd caged me in a metal desk--the dull word writ to show K's sound. But K meant "kick" and "kill" when a boy I'd kissed drew me as a whiskered troll in art."
--"Gathering up my mother's clothes for the poor, I find the coathanger that almost aborted me."
--"But if you're in a frame of mind gloomy enough to refuse prayer, despite its having worked bona fide miracles for you before, nothing satisfies like a dark poem."

...I still have not seen, "Blue Valentine" starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. With AWP looming in a couple of days, it's looking less likely that I will get to a theater before the film is gone, so please go see it for me and then tell me how wonderful it is and why I am such a dope for not having made watchinging the movie a bigger priority.

...I have a new short piece, "Big Oak" up at Hulltown 360 and also here under "Words In Print." Hulltown is a great journal, however, I'm unable to clip my story out as a link, so I thought I'd just print it here fore you:

Big Oak

I am busy holding myself together. In the mirror I am pulleys and strings and wrong answers. My sister claims I am thinner than her, a broom handle. She says she can make bows out of my skin. She tosses candy wrappers at me and chuckles. Mother watches from the kitchen, blurry-eyed and bored, drawing hard on a cigarette, as if self-emulating.
Our house is a bear trap that I hate. The walls smell like sins and sewers and burnt offerings, so I go out to the backyard. I make sure no one’s watching. I hide behind the big oak, use my hands to dig, fingertips going raw in seconds. I shouldn’t have buried it so deep, but it’s hard to be trustworthy with the world. The planet feels heavy and sluggish, a jug of gasoline, sloshing forward so obese.
I dust dirt off the metal box and open it. Unwrap the cloth and take out the photograph. We were three. My twin looked like me, maybe a little smarter with his lip cricked. I feel guilty that I can’t remember him. We would have shared meals together, TV time, sang. We might have played tag round this tree. Dad said we were playing Hide and Seek and that he didn’t see Jesse tucked behind the rear wheel. I might have been the only one who believed him. Still, he shouldn’t have killed himself. Losing both of them has dried up all my sweet spots.
I hear the new man’s truck pulling up, coughing like a dragon, stereo thumping full blast. No matter what she says, no matter how many times she hits me, I’ll never call him Dad.
I put back the box, bury it, stand up and watch the sun dart through the leaves of the big oak as if it’s a playground and the spackles of light are alive.

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