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retrospective: old journal

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I am not together yet. I have the feeling I've left myself behind somewhere. Like jetlag. I haven't caught up with myself yet.

Events like: I get up off my chair to pick paper out of the printer, and sit down again. On Sophie, who has slid in there in that second. I yelp, she runs. I chase her and reach for her, pulling a button off my skirt and in the process of picking up the fallen button slam my thumb into a footstool breaking the nail painfully low.

Spent some time with Charlie, one of the British Clarion West students who was still in town for a couple of days. We went out to Golden Gardens Park and watched ducks and walked along the water, then had lunch at a cafe at the mouth of Salmon Bay. We decided to get inside and entertain the cats, which was a good thing as I clearly got too much sun and felt a little dizzy. Later Leslie came over and we made secret decoder rings. I can't tell you want we made or I'd have to kill you.

The next morning I drove Charlie to the airport. Very sad. They're all gone. Now what do I do with myself?

Well, I sleep a lot. I play solitaire. I try to catch up with email. I beat myself up for not writing. I start to clean my house. I polish the silver. I go to a fiction workshop but miss my poetry workshop.

Really, I'm exhausted and sad. Out of fuel and resources.

One night I played all the moody music I could think of, for hours, just to match my emotional state.

You see, I got moved across a continent or two and I have to catch up with myself; I spent my last ten dollars on birth control and beer; I was out in the sun and I got burnt and now I'm tired and dizzy.


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I've been obsessively listening to Daughter Darling's Sweet Shadows. Sweet and dark.

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William Gibson's Pattern Recognition is a story about making sense of hidden or chaotic information. In it Cayce Pollard, who is "allergic" to trademarks, gets caught up in locating the author of a series of film clips that have appeared on the web. A little espionage. A little Tokyo, Russia, London. Thoroughly enjoyable, and I kept having feelings of recognition myself, like when the main character talks about jetlag being the soul trying to catch up with the body. Yes, that's exactly what it feels like.

Pamela Ribon's Why Girls Are Weird was a fun story about a young woman who decides to start an online journal and finds herself more popular than she knows. The only problem is that she starts it off by partially fictionalizing her life and then has to keep track of all the half-truths. A fun novel, made a little more fun by the fact that the author is a prominent online journaler.

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Ha ha ha.

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Retrospective: old journal

October 1990

1615. From Ironweed
October 18, 1990

"...a man confused by the name of his own hands, but who survived to dwell in the city of useless penitence and be grateful for it."
from Reg Saner's "The Ideal Particle & the Great Unconformity" in the latest Georgia Review:
Except for my presence, no sign of Homo Sapiens; and maybe not even then...[rest of long quote omitted for copyright reasons--do look up this lovely essay, though.]

1616. Ms finished
November 18, 1990

Despite all the visitors and editing and complication Airs and Graces--Airs & Graces [1] rather--is finished, put together. In order and all. It's a long ms, but I can't think of another way for it to be: it is what it is. I'm pleased with it now, looking it over. It fell into place nicely, quickly, happily, after all my fears.
     And now, and now I make the final corrections, make copies, and mail them. Write a query letter, do all that. Send it out and wait. The waiting's the worst. And start anew, afresh. Starting from scratch.
     Graces & Airs.

1617. Voices Distilled to Fury
January 27, 1991

It was the night of the War
Sun set over the tilted roofs
of the houses on their way
down the slope to the sea,
set behind grey cloud
grey roofs, grey sky. Not
the colour of battle
but orange. It just
struck me as a very good
thing to be.
The enemies are strangers
we try to describe our lives to. [2]

1618. If a Woman Walked [3]
February 3, 1991

Things running through my head: projects perhaps, dreams idea--anything that might become something. Open & restless. One thing, two or three.
     Songs that make me feel certain but undefinable things--so many obsessions this year--with June Tabor, Sinéad, Scott Merritt, Sarah Mclachlan, Sandy Denny always, Mazzy star, Yacoub, Emma Kirkby, Renbourn Group, now Robin Holcomb. Why? Mazzy Star will always be last summer to me, just as Songs of Leonard Cohen is the house on Seaforth when we first moved to Victoria.

1619. The Skin of our Teeth
February 3, 1991

The sky spits down rain
into the mud of the fields,
even the goats huddle together
for warmth. My daughter's
dirty fingers slip from my hands
and she jumps in a puddle splashing
her dress, thinks I don't see her
behind me. The babe in my arms
stirs and settles as the rain
hits his face cheeks and I smooth the
blankets over to shelter his face. The drops
shaken from my sleeve
disturb him again. We're climbing
down from the headland
where we watched the ships
sail out and away, watched
their father set out west again
the high proud serpent on their prows
singing fanged rough warnings to the wind
in their teeth. My husband sings.
Wisps of his husky voice blew up out
the jagged rocks of the headlands to me, proud,
though he never looked my way
before the other men, of the man-child
in my arms and the one that will soon
stir in my womb. The one who died
from the flux over his last journeying
now forgotten, like the daughter
who coughed blood in the middle
of winter, whose body we had
to wait until thaw to bury.
My husband. Their father. I try
not to think of him now that
he's gone, though my thighs
still sting with his farewell.
I would jump in the sea
to erase this blood. Maybe
I'm losing this child.... I grab
my daughter's hand, pull her
alongside me from her dawdling
play. Try not to think
of the child I may be losing,
the pain that makes walking
uneasy. Try not to think
of the other women my husband
has chafed against, whether those
on the raids I try to think of most least
of all, whether he cuts their
throats before or after--before
or after he's killed her man,
whether before or after he takes
the girl-child too, before or
after he's thrown the babe
from her arms. If it's true that nothing will grow
where anyone has suffered
nothing will grow
where anyone has died
that western land would already be
a barren place, with no riches
to draw my husband there. But
blood makes for fertile soil.
Look, the ravens already gather
along the trees by the shore,
and one follows me home.
My babe opens eyes wide
with hunger, mouth searching
for my breast. I give him
my braid to suck, for with
the new swelling in the womb
my milk has gone dry. He mouths
my hair in disbelief, his sky-blue eyes
so wide his mouth open and crying, squalling
his pink mouth open wide enough
to swallow all the riches
of the world. I deny give him
my empty breast, I have nothing else to offer.
but blood instead. He gums it till
it bleeds, nothing else to offer, like the woman on the western
isle I have nothing to offer a man
but a breastful of blood. My daughter
slips from my hand.
The raven cawing, the rain and cold wind
from the sea on my skin.

News of the raiders
flies around up the coast
of this island. The womanish
priests have already
gathered their skirts
and crucifixes, buried
what they could not
carry and fled farther
inland. We stay with the fields
as they ripen toward harvest,
my father and brothers
work to keep the crows
off the corn and share
lookout on the bluff.
I've had my turn there.
Always fearing each speck
against the sky will be
their serpent-headed prow.
There's not much here
for them--the empty church,
the beasts in their pens
the immature corn, the crows.
They'll take it all, take
or ruin. But when they
come, God trust me, I'll
not hide. They can take
all our treasure,
ransack our home.
I'll hide the baby
then come to fight,
them, cleave a skull
or two with the best
of the men if I can--
and if it comes to the worst
I've one last prize for the raiders
and one raises my skirts
I'll offer one last prize
for the raiders--a
quick thrust of the knife
kept warm against my breasts
like a child. [4]


1. This became Spells for Clear Vision.

2. Still haven't quite abandoned this fragment

3. A Robin Holcomb line.

4. This poem appeared in Blood Memory, and was the first poem I wrote for it--it started the whole idea. This is the poem I talk about in readings, how I was cutting out a dress and the voice just appeared in my head and I wrote it down, though I was finished, went back to cutting out and the voice keep interrupting, I'd write it down, go back to my work then the second voice came. The only time I've ever had a poem like this as a gift and felt like it wasn't quite coming from my own head.... I revised this very little, only tweaking and shaping and fleshing out the end a little.

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