Thursday, December 31, 2009


from my past week, but mostly taken today

Hudson Amtrak Station, 2:35 p.m., 25 December 2009

"dwarf" cedar deodoras today, planted spring 1990 (shrubs, then)

burro, hen, wrapped stone, and grey stone

staged recreation of scrap found under tree a few days ago

the building (the middle one) where my husband and I lived from 1990 to 2005, on the parlor floor. This week I stayed in our friends' apartment, on the top floor. There is a lovely garden space in back, where the cedar deodoras are.

Au revoir

My last morning in Brooklyn. Returning home today. It's snowing out. The library is cozy and warm. I will be glad not to have to pay $4.50 for two cups of coffee every morning. I was buying it afternoons before at Sweet Melissa, then reheating it in the morning so I wouldn't have to roll out of bed into my clothes and out into the bitter cold just to find overpriced java, which is what happened on my first morning here Saturday, until I worked out the better plan.

I am so much on my own that sometimes I feel as though I'm under house arrest, solitary. Only I wonder, what did I do? What crime did I commit?

I don't mean to sound so melancholy. I'm okay, really. Dreading the drive home in the snow, the inevitable white-knuckled moments on the Taconic.

Must go back to the apartment now and pack, tidy up.

No, I am feeling melancholy after all. Why is that? I suppose it's because I'm in a gap between things this morning, about to leave Brooklyn, not yet back home.

Full of longing, missing terribly. Perfume still on my wrist - after my shower.

Will try to post tonight. Happy New Year's eve.

Zip Drive

I wish I had a gift
to write something perfectly bland
ninety percent of its meaning
hidden, except to you.
Yesterday's breakfast, leftover panini,
with egg transformed to croque madame.
I admired an Ionic column
at the Met
and a still life - mostly peaches.
Bergdorf a bust
I gave to the urge to go to Saks
and was glad I did.
This morning snow falling on cedars
settles on your soft brown beard
and perfume still lingers on my wrist.
Drive ever northward vanished enveloping road
Volumes in initials.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Evening post

Back at the Carroll Gardens library. It's dark out, I'm not feeling very inspired, I've had a glass of rose at the apartment to try to get myself going.

Since I am here the corner where I sit (virtually empty tonight, at this hour - library closes at 8 tonight) is perfumed with sweet musky scent. I raise my wrist and inhale.

Was at the Met today, I've never seen it so crowded. Check-in, as at an airport, took the better part of an hour. The Velasquez exhibit turned out not to be a major retrospective, but rather a curatorial mini-essay of sorts surrounding the recent restoration and re-valuation of one of the paintings, perhaps a self-portrait, in the Met's collection. Spent a couple of hours wandering the Met's galleries, and perhaps one of my favorite moments was lingering in the ancient Greek galleries on the south end of the main floor, where I admired an Ionic column.

Walked down Fifth afterward, paused at a bench abutting the park, and scribbled a note that read, "timeless winter light of a silver gelatin print." It was just that kind of light this afternoon.

Stopped at Bergdorf, at 58th, in a quest for another spritz of perfume, but I didn't see any perfume counters on the main floor, just extremely expensive jewelry and handbags, and a clientele that looked, in their subdued winter finery, as though they had been upholstered at the Frick, all very coded "old money" weight and tones.

I had intended to head west to check out what might be on sale at the Williams-Sonoma at the Time-Warner center, but realized that I simply must have another encounter with the intoxicating scent, it wasn't optional anymore. So I stayed on Fifth and despite the crowds (I think I'm getting used to them after the last few days in tourist-mad Manhattan, or at least am getting better at negotiating them) headed for Saks again. In my eagerness to imbibe the scent, inhabit it, I spritzed myself twice which may have been too much. Still, I noticed that my hit from Sunday afternoon lasted into the evening, into the night, until my shower the next morning, and even then I think a trace lingered (absorbed through my wrists, coursing through me?).

And that's all I have, really, for tonight. It's all about all sorts of delirious and intoxicating thoughts and lovely fragrances and romantic reveries and wonderings of - well, all sorts of wonderings.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009


At the Carroll Gardens library, typing away in the children's section. The room is packed with toddlers and their parents or caregivers, very sweet. I feel sated and content after a lovely snack at Sweet Melissa's, a cafe on Court Street. I sat a little table scribbling, enjoying the bustle, the jazz on the stereo, and the stream of delectable dishes in my prix fixe meal: butternut squash soup; a ham, camembert and green-apple panini (a diagonal half reserved for tomorrow's breakfast); mesclun salad, delicious coffee, and a savory muffin, cheddar with sundried tomato, for dessert. Such a lovely atmosphere, yellow walls, a painted tin ceiling, stained glass lamps and milk-glass sconces, plain wood floors, tiny tables crammed together against a wall. About the size of p.m. wine bar, only no wine, just drinks like gingerbread latte and peppermint hot chocolate. Stylish, yes - but doesn't pretend to be French! (You would have blended right in.)

My day didn't go as I'd planned. I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge again and noticed that the cables not only meet above the arches, but criss-cross all the way up, which heartened me. I stopped at the New Amsterdam branch library to blog, and discovered a message from a former colleague - a five-minute walk away to her office. So she and I had lunch and caught up, and I must say I do not miss city planning one little bit and could not care less if a Lucille Roberts in a C4 district has been an illegal (adult-entertainment, non-retail) use since it illegally established itself in a retail district 16 years ago. Such nonsense. It simply doesn't matter AT ALL. I was happy to see my friend but even happier to serenely waltz out of there with airier things on my mind.

Such as what to do since it was getting too late to go see the Velasquez exhibit at the Met, my original plan, shelved til tomorrow. In the end I couldn't think of anything brilliant and compelling so I walked back over the Bridge (one would think I would be pencil-slim what with all the brisk walks I take all over the place, city & country).

The children are getting tired, there's yelling now, and screeching, and shushing, and looking around for jackets, and now some fretful crying and wood xylophone playing. No more screaming, I told you if you scream we have to go. Nooooooooo....

I need to buy a book of Emily Dickinson's poetry. I've been reading my neighbors'. To me she's all about thwarted, unrequited love, at least many of the poems I've landed on. Also in the last few days I borrowed off the neighbors' bookshelf a volume of essays by Adrienne Rich, which includes an essay on Dickinson. Her reductionist-feminist take doesn't ring true to me (don't have it in front of me, so sorry to be vague). Reading Emily Dickinson I sense a great deal of pain, a deliberate and sensible withdrawing from a conventional world that can't possibly understand her and can only hurt her, while at the same time she feels so passionately, deeply, and acutely that (absent sex, which I've read that she was quite sexual) the only possible mode of expressing herself in any adequate, fulfilling, authentic way is through her poetry, her art. Her poetry was necessary to her, the only way to be in the world, to reconcile her self in the inhospitable earthly realm. She's working out what it means to be queer, even if she wasn't homosexual.

Must logoff now, before the computer shuts down for the evening automatically.

Love, love, love.

Don't Let This Happen To You!

#449, by Emily Dickinson, 1862.

I died for Beauty - but was scarce
Adjusted in the Tomb
When One who died for Truth, was lain
In an adjoining Room -

He questioned softly, "Why I failed"?
"For Beauty", I replied -
"And I - for Truth - Themself are One -
We Bretheren, are", He said -

And so, as Kinsmen, met a Night -
We talked between the Rooms -
Until the Moss had reached our lips -
And covered up - our names.


The grave's a fine and lovely place
But none I think do there embrace.


I have no intention of renouncing Love for Art.
Vitruvian Woman, I wish to be. And he's my ideal man.
Let Art & Science be friends - and lovers again!


Was at the library this morning, my mind too full of jumbled thoughts of Marvell, Dickinson, and petty Fate. (I don't believe it's Fate who's the culprit - it's the Puritans.)

Heading up Clinton I thought, what will I do, what will I do? And just then I saw on the frozen ground beneath a Norway maple, a green cardboard scrap, in script.

Faith, it read.

Have a little faith. I have to keep reminding myself.

And sometimes I need reminding.

On Warren Street early that Sunday morning there on the sidewalk was a tiny paper Christmas bulb, and a step away, an even tinier snowflake. I stooped to pick them up. There was a pretty cellophane candy wrapper too, but it was Sunday, so I left it there. Postage for your card, and glue in the first drawer I pulled.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Wrapped stone

From notes written yesterday evening.

The friends at whose apartment I'm staying have a knack for finding lovely stones. Left on a stack of circular rattan placemats on the table (on which also sits a vase with dried lavender and a pair of tiny ceramic animals - Mexican? - a burro, and a hen) is a an oblong piece of flat granite, hardly bigger than a postage stamp. Its markings are as if painted on. I examine the stone, finger and revolve it in my left hand as I write with my right. On either side thin white threads show against dark grey, not parallel lines at all, but crosses, X'es like minimalist bows, encircling the stone like fancy, minimalist raffia gift wrap at Takashimaya, if that shop (on Fifth) exists anymore.

I consider the painful metaphysical conclusion of the Marvell:
Therefore the love which us doth bind
But Fate so enviously debars,
Is the conjunction of the mind,
And opposition of the stars.

Here is a conjunction on a stone, not parallel lines forever separated that can come together only in a planisphere or globe. The continuous white lines on the slim flat stone cross over, wrap, and cross again on the reverse, binding it together.

Steel cables come together at the summit of arches on the Brooklyn Bridge, I noticed yesterday as I walked across.

There is a second stone too, a quarter or third of the size of the first, a light grey Jordan almond, perfectly plain.

The Definition of Love

In connection with listening to John Ashbery reading from his newest volume of poetry, Planisphere, I have been considering this poem, by Andrew Marvell, which he mentioned. Here it is.

by Andrew Marvell

MY Love is of a birth as rare
As 'tis, for object, strange and high ;
It was begotten by Despair,
Upon Impossibility.

Magnanimous Despair alone
Could show me so divine a thing,
Where feeble hope could ne'er have flown,
But vainly flapped its tinsel wing.

And yet I quickly might arrive
Where my extended soul is fixed ;
But Fate does iron wedges drive,
And always crowds itself betwixt.

For Fate with jealous eye does see
Two perfect loves, nor lets them close ;
Their union would her ruin be,
And her tyrannic power depose.

And therefore her decrees of steel
Us as the distant poles have placed,
(Though Love's whole world on us doth wheel),
Not by themselves to be embraced,

Unless the giddy heaven fall,
And earth some new convulsion tear.
And, us to join, the world should all
Be cramp'd into a planisphere.

As lines, so love's oblique, may well
Themselves in every angle greet :
But ours, so truly parallel,
Though infinite, can never meet.

Therefore the love which us doth bind,
But Fate so enviously debars,
Is the conjunction of the mind,
And opposition of the stars.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Arnolfini cedars

On impulse this morning as I passed by I stepped into Saks Fifth Avenue, searched for the right perfume counter, and tried on Miss Dior. Hours later it's still lingering on my wrist. I can't say it filled me with a flood of Proustian associations but it did make me feel a little emotional. Exited Saks into teeming crowds. So much for romantic reverie. Lost patience with a cheesily overdressed, overmadeup couple that decided to stop right in the middle of the crowded sidewalk, oblivious to all others. Multitudes are there to glimpse the Rockefeller Center tree. What a good idea to stop right in the middle of hundreds and hundreds of people, I said. The guy sneerily yelled at me of course. Oh man. The city.

It was nice to try the perfume though. I haven't worn a fragrance in so long, it's almost a curiosity for me to try it. This fragrance is a little (or maybe a lot, now) young for me. And yet I'm enjoying it, it reminds me of talc. It's sweet. It goes with the pink tops I'm wearing today. With fierce brown denim, that is.

Such a beautiful day in the city today, like spring. Am killing time now at the Mid-Manhattan Library before heading to MOMA with my 3:30 ticket for the Tim Burton show. I am curious about someone who has such ceaseless generative energy. His needle is always placed on a record on a turntable, turning, turning, playing, creating. Hmmm, that metaphor isn't working, and yet I think about my own creative energy, all those walks around and around the conservation area, my blogging, my writing - I find that the more I write the more I want to write. Just keep going, circling, placing pen to paper.

Last night I stood in the kitchen and watched the two cedar deodoras we planted some 20 years ago dance in the high wind. These so-called "dwarf" cedars have now cleared the brownstone rooflines. They were so animated in the windy night. Their wide, sturdy lower branches intertwine all the way up, but at the top they're new and narrow. Individual longer branches are like arms, appearing to tirelessly, determinedly reach out for the other, a ceaseless dance, aided by the wind, to come together, to touch, to grab hold. I think that their desire to join must help to spur their lateral growth. The trees reminded me very much of the Arnolfini portrait, a mated pair, deeply in love and holding hands. I know they will succeed, take hold of one another as they have with lower branches, but I do wonder - how tall in the end will these trees, which are native to the Himalayas, get?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Day's Journey

At the corner library, with 29 minutes left til logout. So, to quote Jane Austen, "which of my important nothings should I tell you about first?" I walked all over today, from Carroll Gardens, across the Brooklyn Bridge, threading my way uptown, through Chinatown, Soho, and the Village to the Pierpont Morgan Museum on 36th St. There was an exhibit of Jane Austen manuscripts there. I would have enjoyed it better but the curators saw fit to play a loud video of currently fashionable novelists extolling over Austen. I simply couldn't concentrate to try to read Austen's miniscule script, which I would have loved to do. At one point I heard one of the voiceovers, a female, say wow, wow, oh wow (or some such breathless gushing) that I thought, I have to check this out, I wonder if it's Susan Orlean. No, it wasn't, but at that point I would have enjoyed seeing her gamine face wryly tell of her idiosyncratic bibliophilic filing system. "I keep Jane Austen with my histories of the Napoleonic Wars, just to keep Carlos Fuentes happy, because he didn't think Austen was engaged enough with the politics of her day. And a copy of The Rules of course. Boy, I sure wish I'd written Emma."

From Jane I headed for Janeism, continuing my Panoramic Day's Journey Round the Metropolis, an Amusing and Instructive Game of puddlejumping, giving clueless tourists directions (and a pat on a shoulder to one who just looked like he needed courage!), and lunching on carrot sticks & cheddar on the fly. I went to the Rubin Museum of Tibetan? Himalayan? Spiritual? - not sure - art. There I saw pages of Carl Jung's Red Book, which he had written and illustrated (it's like an illuminated manuscript) with images of his own personal cosmology. It led me to wonder if I have one, or what it might be. His images didn't resonate so much with me, but then again that was just an hour ago. These things have a way of needing to sink in.

There was also an exhibit of Janeist art, including lovely images like elaborate, colorful board games of pilgrimages to holy places, holy cities I guess. They were very reminiscent of the image I saw at the Austen exhibit (Panoramic Day's Journey), a board-game like map that spiraled from the center like a Chutes & Ladders, with each square depicting an early 19th century must-see spot in London.

Parallel universes or no, it's amazing how quickly I've slid into the Brooklyn mode as though I never left. The librarian greets me as though I was here just the other day, when it's been months (he's unusually friendly and pleasant - maybe especially for a librarian). I enjoyed the brisk urban walk.

At the Rubin I was finally able to monetize blogging! People in front of me said they were artists so the clerk gave them a discount. Emboldened, I said that I was an unemployed poetic blogger. She considered me. Well I guess you're an artist then!, and cheerfully gave me a discount. Just ask!

Must sign off now - warning messages on.

Love, love, love.

P.S. Plus I saw Alan Alda while riding the glass elevator down at the Pierpont.
Not exactly "Witnessed on Warren"...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Runaway Glorias

Getting myself together to take Amtrak down to the city this afternoon. Have listened to the PetShopBoys Xmas song several times this morning, dancing to it while putting away laundry and packing my bag. That song makes me happy.

I enjoyed the service last night, though I wouldn't say that it was ecumenical in any way, except from a missionary point of view. It was all quite straight-up Episcopal, which I'm not, though it was interesting to participate in the service, to consider the words as I read them, and to reflect on their ramifications in the earthly sphere. I have a problem with the word "righteousness," for example. A great deal of mischief stems from that over-certain and uncompromising word.

I enjoyed the carol singing, though as an alto I have a problem with the standard keys that hymns and carols are played in, geared for tenors and tremulous sopranos and awkward for most others. I loved the organist - he rocked. I think it was on Angels We Have Heard on High, the whole melismatic Glooooooooooooooooria part - the organist ripped and chugged and sped up and lurched then slowed then sped up again and crazily crashed all through it, the placid and obedient chorus valiantly keeping pace. The organist did the bangup slightly differently in each of the repeated choruses, one exuberant musical near-train wreck after another (I say 'near' because the organist always managed to recover the runaway train and meet back up with the chorus which had already arrived at the station). So Hudson! I think it was wackily intentional, and it was very funny, very creative & spontaneous I thought. Bravo, organist! for taking liberties. I too, took liberties, and sometimes tried to sing harmony, or flourishes that I'm accustomed to from my King's College Choir Christmas albums. Well, isn't that a point of Christmas - that we of various voices should try to make a joyful noise and to harmonize?

I'm spending the coming week in my former upstairs neighbors' apartment, looking after their cat and otherwise catching up on cultural offerings in the city. I will post when I can from the little branch library around the corner, on the days that it's open.

I hate to sign off. Only connect.

No, no righteousness. Love! Love!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Squawks and hawks

Feeling a little tired and achey but am determined to attend the Festal Christmas Eve service in Hudson tonight. I've never been to a midnight mass (this one's at 11) and it just feels right to go. I would like to be in company. There is to be a choral sing at 10:30. I hope it means that all can join in, if they wish. I like to sing, maybe especially hymns and carols. I enjoy trying to harmonize. I used to think that I was a better singer than I am but was humbled many years ago when at the friendly invitation of a coworker, I tried out for a well-established choral group in an Upper East Side church. At the first rehearsal the loaded stands of practiced, pitch-perfect voices burst out of the gates into galloping oratorio. I tried to keep up and was dismayed to discover that I couldn't hear myself sing. I had no idea what notes I might be hitting, and feared that they might be no more than random squawks. The other choristers clearly didn't have this problem, or the angst that accompanied it. They sallied forth, blandly and efficiently turning page after page, on-the-mark and oblivious. I was duly impressed with them, and took up swimming.

Today at the conservation area a hawk - a harrier hawk? - flew very near, ahead of me on the path along the woods. I am sure it was lingering, hanging out, allowing me to admire it. Also, maybe we were both appreciating the sunset this Christmas Eve, so rosy as to suggest a dawn in the western hills. Wouldn't that be nice!

Notes from Guillermo del Toro's The Orphanage

That's what Jung means when he says
It's in the subconscious that the living
coexist with the dead.
The Germans have another name for 'the herald of death':

A being that appears in one's own image.
A double.
To glance at him,
or at any of the others I've shown you,
means, without the slightest doubt,
a passport to the other world.

... strange things are happening...

This wasn't a children's room in the orphanage, right?
No, the bedroom was back there.
Then we should start here.
I want an old object from this house
Something related to its history and, if possible,
Some clothing from the past.
We're not alone.

You're talking about ghosts.
And what is a ghost, Carlos?
There's something here, and we all saw it.

When something terrible happens, sometimes it leaves a trace
a wound that acts as a knot between two time lines.
It's like an echo repeated over and over, waiting to be heard.
Like a scar (oh I'm sorry) - like a scar or a pinch, that begs for
a caress to relieve it.
Laura, we who are close to death
we are more receptive to these messages.

What should I do?
My dear, you are a good mother
Your pain gives you strength, it will guide you.
But only you know how far you are willing to go.
You hear but do not listen.
Seeing is not believing
It's the other way around.
Believe: and you will see.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Face value

Journal notes from yesterday."At face value this Saturday's Stair auction offers intriguing possibilities for discovery." Painting by Robert Loughlin, Man in Water, Lot #359 from catalogued December 5th auction.

The image reminds me of M [my younger brother] - the way this image did.

I'm thinking of the guy who was there that night at Stair Galleries, sitting at a table talking to L. I was just hanging out while Gingerbread Boy waited for food, lay on the ground intriguing a toddler boy, then ate lasagne and then tiramisu. I hung sort of awkwardly, or not - wanting a drink - but wanting to be careful not to drink too much. I poured a tiny bit of red (because no white was open, I think) but I wasn't in the mood so then I think I did actually open a white. And had a bit in the same glass, mixed with the red - rosé now - with ice.

So I noticed the guy, talking to L. Straight off he reminded me of A., my cousin M's husband. Good looking in precisely that way. I can't say that his looks are "my type" but they are undeniably handsome, healthy, strong, in a Slavic way that I at least recognize. (So many Slavic faces that night - at Savoia, for example, a young woman with long blonde hair & alabster skin - an anioł [angel].)

And what of the elderly man, as I walked with Gingerbread Boy up Warren? At the intersection of Third Street, I think it was [maybe Fourth?], an elderly man came up close to me, as though looking at me through a fishbowl - he peered at me for a second very intently - his expression seemed to say - aha, huh! who would have thought you, well then, now I've seen - and he toddled off, to the north up 3rd St., carrying a suitcase.

I felt as though I was at the crossroads of life & death and - the image of an old man with a suitcase - isn't it, if not a cliché, then a recognized metaphor for the "passage"? I was a bit shaken after this encounter - it changed my rather fragile changeable mood. Gingerbread Boy was cavorting but I, alone in my own mind & experience & perceptions, felt that I had just seen my own father. I thought - my God, T's died tonight, or recently, and he's come to check me out. I wanted to tell someone - F, I suppose - but it was impossible at that careening, careering moment (or anytime afterward), in the icy mist & the crowds & the journeying up & down, & the crowds.

Watched Guillermo del Toro's The Orphanage - from the library, the only DVD in the 2 bookcases that spoke to me. Geraldine Chaplin (what a "fantôme") plays a medium - who's dying - she tells the woman protagonist that when you're dying, between the two worlds, you (one) are more sensitive to the vibrations (I should re-see that particular scene).

Am I dead, or dying? I don't think so. That whole experience of feeling that people in the parading crowd were projecting another meaning on me entirely - as - I can't even bring myself to write it down - it's too presumptuous - aha! I can bear to write down, think of Winifred!

Look up Winifred - what is that myth, story? Plus I still have a gallery postcard image, don't I? Ahoy!


Alas, no, discarded months ago in a wanton act of useless housekeeping, as is my wont. As is the NYRB issue containing an article on Gerard Manley Hopkins that I suddenly wish to reread.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

First Day of Spring

From a letter from Belle to J dated 8 July 2008:
"I remember there were wonderful conversations at the dinner table. I remember your father exclaiming, on a cold winter's evening, table lit by candlelight, that he was so happy that tonight was the solstice, the happiest day of the year for him because it meant spring was coming. He said it with such unexpected exuberance that we all laughed."
"Glow in the dark plastic angel, it's the first day of spring..."-Nerissa Nields, March 23, 2003
I've been listening to the Nields album This Town is Wrong these days, popping it in the player when I go for a drive. I've owned the CD for several years, since around the time it first came out, but never got into it, probably because I was so enamored of Love & China that I resisted being distracted from it. Or maybe I just wasn't ready for the songs. But I am now. The album is speaking to me, it's uncanny. Nerissa Nields wrote it as a soundtrack of sorts to a book she wrote, but to me it intertwines with a coherent narrative of my own, relating to J and me.

"Glow in the Dark Plastic Angel," by Nerissa & Katryna Nields

Last Saturday, a cold overcast day, as I followed 9J north this song in particular, which I was hearing for maybe the second or third time, aroused in me a sudden, overpowering sense of déjà vu. Unbidden - I hadn't been reaching - came a memory, or maybe a vision, fully formed. I'm not sure if I am recalling something that actually happened, or if my imagination has invented a compelling simulacrum.

Anyway, I am left with the sense - can't shake it - that way back when, 1975 or early '76, I gave you a present of a little plastic angel. We were in your room. I don't know what the occasion was. Your birthday? Christmas? Winter solstice? The first day of spring? No occasion whatever? I don't know.

Where would I have obtained this red or white plastic object that fit neatly in one's palm? (I don't recall if it glowed in the dark or not. Maybe. But in my mind's eye I'm looking at it in daylight.) Caldor's, on Broad Street at the time? I don't think so. It takes me a couple of days to remember about the head shop on Hope Street in Springdale, near the movie theatre. At the time I didn't really understand what "head shop" meant (such an unsifted innocent was I, pathetic) but I liked the shop because it had lots of beads and batiky things and incense and an alluring, timeless air. I'm wondering if the proprietor, a young woman in bohemian dress behind the counter, might have suggested the angel to me and that I impulsively agreed - why not? - and bought it.

Because such an object - and further, to fetishize it - is not really my style. And so I remember you and I being in your room, your ascetic room where all your studying had been done, and nowadays (college done) other pursuits when safe, and me giving you the angel with a shrug and a laugh, saying, I don't know that I believe in them, but here you are, just in case, it can't hurt. You took it from my hands with puzzled bemusement, a smile and I hope a kiss, and placed it on your desk. And then - who knows what?*

I wonder if this really happened. I feel that it did.

"You came by when everything was broken
Bringing me this token of your love
You laughed and said, "It's only superstition
but I'm making it my mission to relieve you of
This tired broken world.
There's just no way to fight it
Sit down, and be quiet, I won't go
Here's an angel for your desk
It's only a reminder
I'm leaving her behind so you will always know I'm here."

Nerissa Nields

"You came by... in clothes that do not fit you anymore
You sat down in the corner of my bedroom..."
- Nerissa Nields
From a letter from J to Belle, 8 July 2008:
"Do you remember that the first bra I saw you wearing was still a teenage training bra--it was completely inadequate for your full breasts..."


Postscript. Thinking about all of this loosens another fragment of memory. Searching my computerized documents (skirt, panties, nothing else, room, dropped) doesn't yield what I'm after, not in month upon month (July-Dec.) of our 2008 emailed correspondence. Finally, I haul the decrepit cardboard box out from the closet one more time. It's falling apart at the seams, won't hold up much longer. Near the top, in the manila envelope that contains what remains of your old correspondence (5-1/2 letters & a postcard penned at an airport), I find what I was looking for, one more letter, your next to last, dated 15 July 2008, your even print setting forth a memory of me beneath the window on the east side of your room, dressed in a dark blue skirt ...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Was it good for you, too?

"In New York I eagerly accepted the soft job fate offered me - it consisted mainly of thinking up and editing perfume ads." -- Lolita, Ch. 9.
Humbert Humbert's second job in New York, maybe? Here's the back cover message from the 1965 sound effects album, A Cook's Tour of High Fidelity.

"WELL! Cook Laboratories has always taken pride in its position as industry leader in producing the highest fidelity music and sounds. It also takes credit for its leading role in uncovering a new kind of mental illness, variously called hi-fi addiction, audiophilia, phono-fetishism, etc., etc. For it is Cook's widely imitated recordings that have crystallized the psychopathology that might otherwise have been allowed to fester in silence, only later to burst into destructive flower before anyone was aware of its existence.

The symptoms have been described: the aggressive use of excessive volume, resembling some people's fast driving as a power symbol; the obsessive pursuit of perfection that results in repeated replacement of audio components; the morbid rituals of cleaning records and preparing playback equipment before every performance; the pre-occupation with gigantic sounds, particularly with that overt phallic emblem the railroad train; the audio eroticism implicit in twiddling pre-amplifier knobs. The list is endless. One authority has discovered that a large proportion of sufferers from this disease is unmarried or childless. He theorizes that in producing and delivering fully-formed sounds, these unfortunates are seeking the satisfaction of reproduction without the biological bother. Such "sterility routines" as handling records with velvet gloves serve as evidence.

At least one case is on record of a patient who buys his records one by one, pouncing on his choice of the moment while in a trancelike state of ecstasy and making certain of its purity by examining the factory-sealed plastic envelope. When he reaches the privacy of his home, he slowly strips off the plastic wrap, carefully lowers the the record onto the turntable until the spindle penetrates the center hole, then sinks back exhausted while the record gives the single performance of its life.

Experts agree that in most cases there is nothing intrinsically harmful in listening to realistic sound on records, even at volume levels approaching the pain-point; indeed many find therapeutic value in this pasttime. In their language, it 'externalizes the aggressions.'

They will permit you the aberration of owning this record without feelings of guilt. It might even be good for you."

"Blessed be the Lord, she had noticed nothing!", Lolita, Ch. 13.

"A propos: I have often wondered what became of those nymphets later?" - Lolita, Ch. 6
Word. - Lolita (grown).


Fresh from Cook Labs at 101 Second Street, Stamford, Conn. (an address which in the wake of a decades-long tsunami of urban renewal I daresay no longer exists) - nothing like an image of primary source (check out the PDF of the album's liner notes).

Should I be creeped out that I grew up in Stamford?

Letter of a Mad Housewife

From a letter to a friend, 19 December 2009.
Dear J, I slept pretty well last night, spending the night in the spare room for the first time in a long time. I woke up with a greater sense of clarity and maybe even peace.

I think I got caught up in a performance art piece… ultimately what I woke up with was that it hardly matters what happened, who's behind it, if it's even real or not. What the whole experience gave me was a dream, a hope, a vision of what I would wish my life to be like. Rather than feel troubled by it (which I had been) I would like to see it now as a gift.

The whole Winter Walk was a performance art piece. F got drafted (supposedly) to dress up as a Gingerbread Boy. He went all up & down Warren Street that freezing, drizzly night, waving his arms and shouting, "Don't Eat Me, Don't Eat Me." He pretended to run away from the children and the children chased him. He would tell them, "No, don't eat me, you don't like gingerbread - you like ice cream!! ice cream!! (... apparently the story of Gingerbread Boy has a dark side - that he's afraid of getting eaten! Very interesting. Great metaphor.)

It seemed as though every child in town wanted to come up and hug him, have their picture taken with him, etc., etc. Children big & small - from little kids to older teenagers (adults too). It was quite astounding & moving to see how much love could be generated and expressed. There was an especially magical, poignant suspended moment where Gingerbread Boy hung around a parked police car with the lights flashing neon and surreal in the night. Children lined up to touch him. Really, it was all quite Christlike, was what I felt.

Anyway, so that was a lovely image of children & outpourings of love that I witnessed and experienced that night. And that was followed by very pleasant conversation with lovely people at a lovely, atmospheric bar.

… to have such a lovely, social evening - it was lovely - and I felt so accepted, no one was asking me tedious questions such as what do I do, etc., etc. No one was judging me. I felt warmly & readily accepted, simply because I was with F, and his & my connection is the incredible "community tennis" or pingpong on his website. Because we've concocted some pretty amazing rallies on there.

To continue - and then the night I spent at his house, and in the morning making coffee and walking about the downstairs rooms just looking. Everything was staged, it was a show. It didn't really feel like I had just crashed at someone's lived-in place. I was within a vision.

The vision spoke of a rich life fully lived. Companionship, walks in the countryside, picnics, books, music, work, public service, travel, good food, good drink, beautiful surroundings, art, peace, quiet, luxury, conviviality, concrete screws, gardening, poetry, scholarship, marriage, union, devotion, leadership, joy, magic, transformation, buoyancy, groundedness.

That's what was so powerful about the whole experience. That vision … I see it now, and it's what I want. I've stepped behind the magic lantern that casts shadows on a wall - and seen the light!

The morning in the kitchen the light came in the window from the east - beautiful warm golden light - it fell on a wall or the fridge & I lifted my hand and made shadow puppets - the image of a rabbit with my hand talking to the shadowed silhouette of me - and I laughed!...

….thanks for holding my hand, as it were, the last several days. It made a real difference to me, and got me to this moment, now.

(googled images proust hand puppet shadow)

Best Winter Walk Ever!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009


Everything that's been happening to me lately has the feel of a real familiar scented project.

Each treasure I examined spoke to me
And the whole was overwhelming even more than the parts.
But mightn't many a woman - or even a man -
be delighted by just the same?

Measuring the coastline of the line of trees
A bird lights in the lightning struck oak.
Yesterday crows twittered on the wires.
A wild DaVinci landscape
Lombardy pines, rooks, rocks, woods and caves
Waterfalls and rapids - mountained grounds.
Fractal fern,
a Christmas tree,
a second tree,
a spire,
Aligned, aspired,
and aligned.

problem set with plums

Freezing this morning. Somewhere in the county a food writer whose memoir about her mother I'm now reading had oats for breakfast with brown sugar and cream. I had mine with stewed plums, from Eger Brothers, frozen late summer in anticipation of just such a morning. I have always loved her writing and relate to her story. I too feel pretty when I'm loved! By you, or - nowadays, maybe - by me.

"You'll see," she said, "once you find out who you are you will find your beauty. You have to grow into your face. But I promise you this: you will."
Wrestling with whether or not I'm a narcissist, that is, reading things all too personally as relating directly to me. What evidence do I have? I would say that it might have been the clean token dishes left in witty abandon in the sink, which I washed by hand and placed on the other side of the equation.

What made me think it was J? So many things in that kingdom by the sea, and the streetful of galleries abounding with images of our story. But it's hard to prove, if someone else had been reading our mail.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New State of Grace

In the sky I see the heights you lifted me
In the trees I still can see your face
There's enough to give if they only let us live
Til we find a new state of grace.

- Kate & Nerissa Nields,
Love and China: "New State of Grace"

A new generation of architect-craftsmen was inspired by the social and moral commitment of William Morris (and Ruskin) and the radical ideas of theorists like Edward Carpenter to create rural communities where the decorative arts and traditional crafts could be studied, revived and practiced.