Les Semaines


what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout


Pain Makes Me Cranky

You know how some people get all noble when they're in pain? How they go pale and smile wanly and bravely, and carry on despite it all? Well, that's not me.

For some reason, I know not why, my back has been killing me this week. It hasn't bothered me like this for several years. It was so bad that I even phoned the doctor, and if you know me and how much it takes for me to (1) actually make a phone call, and (2) actually phone a doctor, you know that I was in pain. So now I have muscle relaxants and after a couple of hours of moving around I feel somewhat okay. But when I first get up in the morning there is a lot of swearing and moaning and groaning. And before I got the drugs, well, there was a lot of crankiness. Crankiness and whining both. At home. At work. In front of people. Alone at my computer (both home and work). Not too many whiny email messages--in fact, I don't think there were any, because if I didn't have to sit at my computer for any length of time I was happy not to.

It made me think of how cranky my mother's mother often was and I thought it was just what she was like, but I know better now. I know she was in pain, and pain makes you short-tempered. It makes little things annoying. It makes waiting agonizing, especially in lines. It makes doing little things difficult. I've actually been moving around probably more than usual because if I stay in any one position for too long I pay for it, but when I keep doing things it adds to the pain. For example, my back wasn't too bad before I started all the cookie rolling and baking (though I don't think it caused it or anything).

The bad thing is that I thought I had done a pretty good job of strengthening my back over the last few years. I guess not good enough.

I'm probably wrong, but it started getting back when I wore a pair of shoes that have tiny, tiny heels. Nothing anyone else would notice, but I could feel it. None of my other shoes do, so I wonder if that's what set me off.

But I still made the cookies, and have done a ton of dishes (how can two people and two cats make so many dishes?) and have been scrubbing away at the worst stove grill. I've been writing Christmas cards and shopping.The thing is how aware I am now of everything I do, paying attention to how my body moves, stretching muscles slowly. I've tried to do everything I would normally do, except a little more slowly. Except have Zach on my lap--he's a little heavier now and it hurts. But Sophia has climbed up onto my lap twice this weekend! She hardly ever does that!

I haven't been answering email but there's nothing new in that. Maybe because when I'm writing Christmas cards I'm unlikely to complain about anything as temporary (I hope) as a painful back, while over email I can't help it. Like I am here, grousing about it here. Whining is so annoying. Especially my own.

From last week's list, done:

  • baking:
    • 1 more batch of cashew shortbread (I've made one batch but it mostly goes to one person as a present)
    • 1 batch of poppyseed cookies
From last week's list, still to finish, though I have made dents in almost all of them:
  • tidy my study so my parents and then Christina can sleep in there without avalanche danger
  • find a place for the boxes of files somewhere in the basement (now I can't do this myself, going to have to let Jim carry them)
  • finish shopping ( have at least done some of this), wrapping (none), mailing (got to wait for some things to arrive so several people are getting New Year's presents)
  • get one of those lovely small rosemary trees to be our holiday tree (I tried this but thought they were too expensive, so Jim went to Costco and got one that we're going to give as a gift instead. Hmmm. Am I still going to get one? Probably not.)
  • clean the ever-annoying mark-collecting grills on the stove (I've started this--the worst one is soaking right now)
  • polish the silver (Mom's coming! The silver must be polished!)
  • send the holiday cards & write beautiful, expressive, touching letters to all our friends (we're about 3/4 done this, however, the letters are just sketchy notes in the real world, though in the world of my dreams they're still beautiful, expressive, and touching)
  • bring up the box of holiday decs from downstairs and dec the halls (undone)
  • baking: 2 batches of welsh cakes, our Christmas morning specialty (undone)
  • meal planning for when our house is full so we don't have to go to the crowded grocery stores every day (undone)
  • dog-proof the part of the house the dogs will be in (undone)
  • clean the house, of course (undone)
  • organize and beautify everything, including my mind (undone)
Doesn't look so good yet, does it?

In other news, Jim's brother is doing much better. He's off the ventilator and has started to eat and talk. His bones haven't healed enough for him to start rehabilitation, so he will be leaving the shock/trauma unit and have to be in an intermediate care place for a while before moving to a rehabilitation center. But he is so clearly on the mend now.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


Gabriel Yacoub. Still.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Adèle Geras' Troy is an odd book. As I was reading it, I really quite enjoyed it. I didn't find myself reading it well past bedtime or anything, but I was happy to pick it up again. It retells the story of the fall of Troy, focusing on a series of A loves B but B loves C but C loves D relationships beyond those recalled in Homer. One sister is a weaver, a servant of Helen, while another is a servant of Hector's wife and looks after his son. The gods keep appearing and telling people what's going to happen, but only a few of them remember what the gods tell them, or even remember seeings the gods at all. The memories fade the instant the god's attention is off the mortal. Which gets a little annoying after enough repetitions. Only afterward, thinking about the novel, did I wonder what it was really trying to do.

last week's reading § next week's reading


I've been writing holiday notes. I know that doesn't count.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

February 1981

1206. Handling Poems                            February 2, 1981

I've been handling poems tonight: arranging them, working on them, reading them, sorting them. They are a rather miserable lot--small, and most of them weak. I don't know how I'm going to wrestle a book out of them. Some are only pieces, or bones crying for flesh. And there are so many other writers out there, cranking out sad and frighteningly strong poems, circulating them, magazines hooking them. Almost all my good poems have been hooked and now the cupboard is relatively bare. I'm trying to restock now, and get my pitiful weaklings pruned and fertilized--what a confusing mass of images gather no vision of any order. I have been handling too many poems to know how to sort my images or thoughts. Tangled in metaphor.

1207. This far place                            February 2, 1981

You are writing from this far place
pouring ink from one hand
scotch from the other

the messages you send
are beyond reply
and no one answers

by day you wander
through the barking crowds
barter for your dinner

the days run over you
like wild dogs--such a tangle of warm limbs
scrambling and gone

already it is night and you're in solitude
trees that are the hard voices of strangers
knock against your window. [1]

1208. Tonight I                            February 3, 1981

...am tired and only filling a poem, well, I hope. The cat has slept himself out, and now in the quiet of night I will sleep myself in. Soon I must rejoin the day world and live again but for now I am in this half-time, writing, dreaming and aching for sleep.

1209. Correspondence                            February 4, 1981

This is the letter I will
write when you've gone.
I will tell you how the seasons
change without you, how
the leaves burn off the trees,
how the branches hunger
all winter, how they shake
in the wind till the famine
is over, how then the new
leaves burst with light. You
will write and tell me
how nothing is different.
My silence will tell you
nothing is the same. [2]

1210. Sketch                            February 5, 1981

Tonight only notes for a poem, as I have done only the sketchiest of exercise routines and have eaten apple strudel:
It escapes me:
it is the connection
between two moments
of repeating time, something
other than déjà vu, a kind
of echo of something seen
to something felt, each a
continuous time.


The hawk on the wheel-
edge turning farther from shore
taunted by a fair of gulls,
becoming bird then speck
and bird again, fainter,
and driving home through
the frost fog--through suburbs
then bursting through the trees
the shoreline and road
curving together, then the
ocean lost and shadowing the road again.
The ocean curves
as if a high tide it would
remove the road, and farther on
the fog swallows it.

It is coming together and gone,
these moments of loss and gain
of the time coming back
and back again. [3]


1. This poem appears with some minor revisions in Seven Robins.

2. This poem appears in Seven Robins with the "you" and "I" switched, and with a different ending:

how nothing is different, how
this is the place
and you the man
I have neither left nor found.

3. This poem appears as "Echoes" in Seven Robins a little trimmed and re-shaped.

last week's Phonosnout § next week's Phonosnout

Last Week § Les Semaines index § Next Week

Email comments, questions, and complaints to neile@sff.net § Neile's main page

2894 people have wandered through this week with me