And funnily enough, with all the tornado memories in the air, the clouds destabilized and we’ve had more tornadoes. We were lucky in Tuscaloosa not to have any major damage last night, but B and I spent at least an hour huddled on the bathroom floor while the sirens went off and I could hear something, maybe imagined, that sounded like a vehicle that travels by track. When the weatherman first said the words “strong tornado” I felt ill. B and I have officially decided to move to Philadelphia post-MFA and while there are many things I’ll miss, this won’t be one of them. We both expressed the strangeness of this kind of bookending of our time here–storms in and storms out–but neither of us could really find a narrative to make it worth something. The time between has been the perfect opposite of destructive.
After a discussion about totemic writing words, I realized that I have a little bit of shame about writing so often about bodies. Bodies are totally on-trend in poetry, and it makes me feel like a follower. But I don’t want to deny what I find so interesting about bodies—not necessarily their possibilities for the grotesque, but their existence in time and space. How permanent and how never-there. How personality and thought and memory can be temporally and spatially located.
There’s a lot of “three years ago today” going around on my social media today, because it is once again the anniversary of the tornado. Three years ago today I knew the space around me and felt it when it wasn’t there and then no longer, replaced by a new one. Though I can still feel what isn’t there. Three years ago today I learned that if everybody else could hold a chainsaw, if they could be the hale bodies of the town, I could be the voice on the phone and in the spreadsheets. Around that time I began to need daily allergy medication, because the body is surprisingly porous. The wind went in and the wind went out.
when you read a thing and it is
a thing you think you
could read forever / spinning
around its drain
at the pressure’s edge
I’d quote here, but the work itself is unpublished. Not for long, I think. Instead I wrote you a poem.
Since I’ve been busy lately, here’s a little publications catch-up:
Review of Rob Schlegel’s January Machine for BWR (live today! it lives!)
Now to roll ahead into figuring out the rest of my foreseeable future. No big deal. I dreamed last night about a crashing plane, but surely that meant nothing. I dreamed the night before about meeting James Franco, which was awful, and probably an equivalent experience to actually meeting James Franco, so I hope that also doesn’t come to pass.
Passover is my favorite holiday, so I was home this weekend, eating all the things I can’t find in Alabama and sleeping in my old bedroom. We went to an old folks’ Seder at my grandma’s assisted living center, where my 95-year-old grandmother read the Four Questions by heart (because she couldn’t read the 14-point font), and if was funny and sweet and sad. There are so many years behind the wall of complaints and sticky stories and refusals to speak about certain subjects. The night before, we had sat around laughing with close to twenty family members, wearing plague masks and stumbling to remember where we were in the Haggadah. I think in both cases it was the ceremony that propelled us, a performance of memory and identity, each of us the youngest kid at the table asking in a high voice the questions we already knew the answers to.
I am officially a Master of Fine Arts.
I defended my thesis yesterday, and in a strange twist of fate I wished that the defense was longer. I’m very conscious of the fact that I’ll be leaving Alabama soon, and that carefully considered conversations about my poetry will not be happening on a regular basis. But now that I’m a Master, I can just command people on the street to talk poetry to me, right? Right. It was so nice to hear all the nice things the committee had to say, about flatness and intimacy and the constructed body and pronouns! and all the other parts of my thesis that I fretted over. My advisor even admitted that although we had disagreed over my pronoun usage, I convinced him in the end that it was right for the project. I feel like the book came out the way I wanted it to, which is maybe the highest compliment I can stand to give myself. I’m proud of it.
My MFA friends will all be defending their work soon, so I plan on observing their defenses. I’d like to hold on to this community as long as I can, and also, their work is so great—imagine a mashup of Ovid and Peter Pan and black bears and poured-concrete mountains and Monumental Women and spaghetti westerns and Beanie Babies and the baddest of bad sisters and hulking ships and delicately shaving someone else’s legs. I feel lucky to have been around such crazy good writers for so long.