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Les Semaines

02.05.19

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

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Week Between

A week between weeks. Full of work grief. Not too bad, but grief nonetheless, which always seems to happen when there's a short week. All because I took Monday off after our Rockaway trip--I needed a day to myself, though I'm not too sure what I did with it, besides just try to get my head around the idea that I'd finished my novel. And so when I look back on the week it seems to have disappeared into smoke with few events that seem worth recounting. Student reviews at work. Lots of email about that and other matters. I finally stopped taking antibiotics for the cat bites on my hand, though they still look like I've got hand-measles, and they're little scar-lumps. The one on my left thumb still has a patch of numbness around it.

Thursday night we went over to Tamar's where she and her friend Terry made us so much wonderful sushi that I was stuffed with it. I'd never quit had that experience with sushi before. Lots of hamachi, my favourite, and unagi, my next favourite. But I didn't have enough pickled ginger to suit me. I should have made a point of getting more of it, but I'd already been so greedy. It was delicious, and there was enough left over that we all had unagi rolls for the next day. This was in exchange for me throwing tarot for Terry, who is about to move to Chicago.

Throwing tarot is weird for me, because I have such a terrible memory, I've never even tried to learn what the cards mean, and each time I have to look up the meanings. It makes the reading slow. But it always seems strangely apt. Not exactly predictive, but I don't think these things work like that--more that they are tools to help you look at things, opening your mind to seeing things you might not have seen otherwise. Anyway, I like doing it. Any maybe one day I'll start remembering what the cards mean without shuffling through the book to look them all up.

I've probably never mentioned here that my mother does Jim's and my astrological charts every month, too. Like tarot, I believe it's a tool to help us look at things a little differently, with slightly different awareness (or simply more awareness) than we might otherwise.

Also had high tea at a local tea shop in honour of a co-worker who is about to become a grandmother for the first time. That was fun--just us and some students I never knew well because they were in a program not eligible for the ones I work with, though they're very interesting women. Then stopped off at our friend Zac's, just to check in for a few minutes.

So this was the week between the Rockaway Beach weekend and the Vancouver to hear Veda Hille twice weekend. Busy busy busy.

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

Listening

Listening to a lot of things. The new Two Loons for Tea album that isn't available anywhere yet. But it's really wonderful. There is a two-track single available from cdbaby.com to give you a taste of just how amazingly good it is. Also, surprisingly good is Sarah Slean's new album, which I really thought I wouldn't like because I don't like the cabaret-like vocal style she's using now, but I do like this because of the literate songwriting, especially. I don't really like the new Michelle Shocked double album, though, alas. It's just not a style of music that I particularly like, though I do like one track quite a lot.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

I had trouble putting Nicola Griffith's novel, Stay, down, which actually created a sleep deficit, as I didn't have much reading time this week, so I read late into the night until I was simply too tired to keep my eyes open any more. This is the story of a woman (featured in The Blue Place, which I haven't read yet, but will) who is a former police officer. After the death of her lover she has retired into the North Carolina woods to rebuilt her grandfather's cabin and to try to hide from her pain. When a friend comes to beg her to find his missing fiancé, Aud is dragged, against her will, into dealing with people again. A really wonderful read for the incredible characterization and Griffith's ability to make a setting come alive. This wowed me for those two things, especially. I couldn't get enough of it.

Hiromi Goto's Chorus of Mushrooms is about three generations of a Japanese family that has immigrated to a small town in Alberta, where they raise mushrooms. It focuses on the daughter who has been raised entirely as a Canadian but who realizes that something is missing from her life, and on her grandmother, who feels her exile sharply. The two manage to communicate through stories they transmit to each other and somehow understand, though the granddaughter knows no Japanese. This is an intriguing story of all kinds of relationships and ways of coming to know yourself. I really enjoyed it.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

I still can't quite believe that I have finished the first draft of the novel. But I read over what I wrote last weekend, and I have. It's done. At last. Unbelievably. Done. So I spent this week thinking of the shape the revision is going to take. It will be different from the direct chapter by chapter of the shape it's in now, at least a little. I'm getting it in my head now what shape it will take.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

May 1983

1323. Short
May 2, 1983

An exhausting day, with many gifts from my parents. Running errands,and a day when a few things were accomplished. A pretty day, but cold and a few drops of rain. Jim's out now and the cats out but somewhere else. Both gone, I'm here alone conscious of it.

1324. Lake Forest, May Day, 1919
May 3, 1983

My grandmother is a bird
on the university lawn--
flowers on her skirt, between
her breasts. The folds of her shawl falling wing-like white feathers drifting from her hands arms.
May first, sixty-four years ago.
she's barefoot, posing, the same
feet I bathed the stitches
on from the third operation,
the waist-long hair I helped
comb and twist into
a bun. June on May Day,
waiting to dance across
the Lake Forest Lawn.
Her older sister has already
run away eloped with the actor,
her brother married the wretched
woman named Grace, her mother
remarried to the man who.
Her young half-sister,
already the thirteen
she would never age from, called simply slow
and special. Already growing no older.
My mother is not even
She has nine years to marry
to take the pin to her husband's
french safe to produce my mother
and here she is, barefoot, posing. [1]

1325. Enter a cloud
May 10, 1983

Enter the Body rain
Gently disintegrate me
Said nothing at all
              W.S. Graham

Is there still time to save
myself from becoming that
old woman outside, walking
hunched in the rain?

Walking Hunched in the Rain

Whenever it's grey she's out
there with her small sodden bag
of sodden groceries, eyes
to the sidewalk, grey eyes that seems that I can recognize see from here. grey as clouds from here.
It's enough to know she's
out there turning the rain
on and off, like a tap
with her steady
gaze, settled about gie inches ahead
of her scuffed brown shoes,
rain-soaked from all the puddles
she never walks around through.
Occasionally she'll shake her bag
at a stray cat and immediately
it starts to rain. I keep waiting
for the storm day when she shakes
her bag at my window, when what
I hope know as me enters her body
glancing once wildly left and right
before settling into the steady
pace of her shoes in the rain. [2]

1326. Descending Figure
May 16, 1983

Reading Glück [3] again, and needing to accomplish something on the page, understanding both her and myself. The descending figure of the god interfering with us all. Whose need is it to do something, to be something and to create? We are, all of us, descending. Pretentious, aren't I? ...but what are we without pretence? Who are we when we aren't what we create?

Maudlin's Saint Day is everyday
another one and where are we now?
We've made our own strange decisions,
found one more man we called
the right man. Now what? [4]

1327. Getting Out
May 16, 1983

Getting out of another immature idea, trying to set it free of me. Release it. Oh hiss, Who are we when? Who and when?

1328. Fingertips
May 16, 1983

picking the raisins out of the bathwater
was like picking up my own shrivelled
fingers, shrunken and swollen with water.

What do you sing, old man,
what do you sing? I heard
the wind hitting the sails. [4]

1329. Sooke River Story
May 16, 1983

Just past this river's yearly high tide
somewhere west of June,
near the most westward shore
that sketches the island's shape,
we lie on granite shaped by
the river's age. Sleep beads
your skin like sweat, the breath
water sprays to cool your skin. You taste like sweat salt and sun
brewed for hours of light.
when
I dive in again your hand
chases off the rain I send
as though it were an annoying
insect. The water carries me
downstream. I know it's not far
to the ocean. and I imagine
letting myself be swept far out
into the Pacific where I'd drift
for years while you lay there
upriver, sleeping, years of leaves
rotting around you, your body burnt
and frozen, washed yearly in April
but never moving. Instead at a curve the river
leaves me beached; I stand
slapping the gravel off my skin arms
and thighs, then crack through the salal
upriver along the banks. When I find you,
you are still asleep, a dream
buzzing around your head, your voice
rises in annoyance at some question
it asked. Yes, I'll stay. This is written in no legends.
You taste like salt and sun
brewed for hours of light. [5]


NOTES

1. Wow--this poem changed utterly to become "My Grandmother's Photograph" in Spells for Clear Vision.

2. This poem hung around for a few years, but never went anywhere.

3. Louise Glück, the poet.

4. Blegga and more blegga.

5. This was mostly cut, though rewritten some, to become the poem as it appears in Blood Memory.

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