Thursday, May 10, 2012

And three years later,

I have a book deal for an essay collection with Sarabande Books.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

NonfictioNow Conference!

If you are anywhere near Iowa City and you write, or like to think about writing, you need to come to this.
You may sleep on my couch.
I will make you pancakes in the morning.
We will be beautiful together.

NonfictioNow! Conference

November 4th-6th 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

here's the thing: most mornings i go outside with a candle and coffee and books and sit in the dark until the squirrels wake up and start flying and the rabbits hop out from under that bush along the garage that they sleep in and the sun rises and turns my little candle into a joke again. and every morning it strikes me as strange that all this happens without a fattened calf burning up on the altar or a pretty young virgin being tossed into a volcano.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I am a literalist more than I would like, and so, when you say, hares are soft meat, I think of our honeymoon out west, and of that restaurant, that floating restaurant we went to on the ship in Vancouver, or was it Victoria? And of how there was a buffet with frog’s legs and shark and rabbit – which isn’t hare, I know, but the closest I’ve ever come to knowing soft hare’s meat, though I don’t think I ate it. I think you were the only one who ate it, and I probably stuck with the chicken, or maybe, no, I tried a little piece of thigh off your plate because I usually feel compelled to at least try something once. It was dark and tender, like a small taste of wild opening in my mouth. It was not a taste I enjoyed, but it was an expensive restaurant and we were poor, of course we were poor; we were so young – you too young even to be eligible for the insurance of the rental car that we used for the wedding. The white Crown Victoria. Like the city we were headed for with money stuffed in our pockets from our parents. (What were they thinking letting us go off like that so young? Not that we would have let them stop us.) Driving out from the prairies with our shiny rings to wake the next morning inside a heavy fog over the lake and blue mountains, and fat flakes of snow falling down to smother the summer green. We couldn’t see a thing, and we had paid so much money for the view, almost as much for one night there as half our new couch in our new apartment with the good light and the blooming lilac in the backyard, and the neighbour who chain-smoked and filled our place with the smell. Snow in June. We didn’t know what it meant. Not that it mattered. We only closed the door after waking and burrowed back into the rumpled sheets. Like rabbits. Or hares. So young. Soft meat. Quivering.

Hello? Wanna be Friends?

I've been in Greece. And Turkey. And the Canadian Rockies.
I've been spoiled rotten. Pictures here.
More on that sometime, but this is to say I'm still alive and writing. Sort of. Trying to. Miss you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Home Coming

We travel by names. Choose by the pull of them. One summer we follow a map to Peachland just to eat up the sound of it. Twelve hours of driving to arrive at night to an over-packed campground, fire bans, R.Vs parked along the gravel road with unrolled turf and potted plants. I pitch our tent in the crowded dark - the semi dark of patio lights strung like stars between awning poles, electric constellations. Later, we walk the path from site to site to see what we can see, see, see: a lone purple plum drooping over a fence, tiptoe height, beside the sandy volleyball court. All she wants that summer is to pick fruit from a tree to eat, and so I lift her to it. The plum as sweet as a plum should be.

Tonight, we are sleeping in St. Cloud. I found it floating on the map between where we've been and where we will end. Patron saint of weather, or shade, or rain? City of what? In St. Cloud there is a woman who works the desk at the hotel lobby with sharp, pointed brown teeth. When I tell her the washroom is in need of a cleaning, not because I am angry or disappointed or looking for my money’s worth, but because I assume she, or someone, would like to know, she tells me she can’t very well clean the washroom and work front desk and the breakfast table at the same time. “No, I say. You certainly can’t.”

No one seems to know why the name St. Cloud. “But that’s a good question.” I would also like to ask if growing up here makes it easier to believe in God, or, at least, believe in a world where clouds are holy, and if the clouds than the rain that falls from them too, then the ground it blesses, the food it sprouts, the bodies that eat from it, the feet that walk on the soaked and holy mud?

We swim in the pool in the early morning before we leave because this summer all she wants is to swim. The chlorine is so strong our eyes sting from it, and though I shower when I am done I smell St. Cloud on my arms all day long as I drive away from it. Exit north, my directions read. Turn. Merge. I check the map for names to pull us along. Check every twenty minutes that I’m headed right because I am so easily lost, distracted from the point by sweetness. That dot on the map above me with the name I have never asked any questions of.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


I dream of a book and I wake to the memory of it; small, square, accordion folded; thick white pages; a Jacob’s ladder of pages, climbing and falling away from each other. I collapse it together with my fingers and tuck it into my shoe, so that now we both walk with a limp like sockets wrenched by a wrestling angel.

Why talk of dreams in an age without prophets? (But have I told you the one where I wake inside a dream and rush to you in a late panic? That you only touch my shoulder and take me inside, smiling, through your door, past the old woman in the rocker on the porch, into a waiting newness? How I know, even inside the dream, that despite appearances it’s me forgiving you?)

a.) The skinny cows ate the fat cows because they were hungry.
b.) The many sheaves of grain bowed to the single sheaf because grains have hierarchies.
The meanings are obvious and scientific.

The prophet Wikipedia on dreams:

1. They are ever-present excitations of long term memory

2. They have the function to erase (a) sensory impressions which were not fully worked up and (b) ideas which were not fully developed during the day

3. Dreams are a memory reinforcing itself.

All those times I could fly. I want to remember flying.

I dreamt of the book and woke to a fierce rain breaking the new spring flowers, climbed from my bed onto the porch to watch the streets flood. The shower
a.) finicky faucet, now hard, now soft
b.) a curtain lowering and blowing itself before me.
On the last pouring rush I took off my coat and walked from under the roof, shoeless over the flowing ditches and stood bare armed, bare legged in the empty road. Rain babbling in its mother tongue, untranslated through clothing. Why talk of rain in an age without forecasts? (But what does this really mean? The way it will still fall on barren ground - oiled roads that only wick it away and send it elsewhere.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How the World Just Grew Wider

What I didn't know this time yesterday and what I know now, is that I have a Matisse shaped hole in my heart that I have been filling this thirty-four years with scraps of popcorn and ribbon and quotes that I like. But yesterday, I stood and stood in front of this picture and cried, tried to catch my breath, while people came and went, came and went beside me (who can say why one thing digs deep into one person and not another?). And I felt I was dying the way poetry makes me feel I'm dying, the way writing makes me feel I'm dying, the way God right up to my face makes me feel I am dying, reduces me to a moaned prayer of paralysed ecstasy. My skin, my heart, my eyes, my stomach, my bones all liquid, so ready to fall away, fall to the floor and leave standing that spinning centre that only wants to inhale. To exhale some sort of hallelujah.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Eating in the Ghetto on a Hundred Dollar Plate

The short version is that I messed up.

The longer version is that through a confusing and nail bitting and nerve wracking serious of stupid events, India ended up with no health insurance in a country that, well, charges lots and lots for a visit to the emergency. $1600.00 later, and this single-momma-grad-student-living-on-a-fellowship has been bumped from person to person to person in government/social services trying to figure out how to pay for that sucker - the bill, not the daughter, or me, though I am a bit of a sucker. Today, a very nice man named Scott told me that the best he could do for me was to let my bill go to collections and maybe I could work some payment option out with them. Poor Scott. His voice got all shaky and nervous and I heard him put on a fake tough-guy suit to get through it. If he wouldn't have sounded so darn nervous I might have let mean Angela out, just because I was feeling a little freaky by then, but, I didn't. But holy smokes: COLLECTIONS? Isn't that one step away from debtors jail where India will have to bring me meals of bread and water and work in a factory making rugs because her little hands are perfect for those tiny embroidered flowers that all the clean rich ladies like?

Damn it. I need to learn how to make money writing. Imagine that. (And while you're imagining that, ask me how much money I got for that children's book I published. Yeah. You know. The one that won that award and sold out. Just ask.)

(*I should add that India is fine now. In case you're the worrying kind.)

In other news: I think I like writing again. It was touch and go there for awhile. I think I might, might like it still. Ask me again next week.


This Friday by 5:00, you will be able to pick up your phone, dial 319-354-0214 and reach ME ME ME! And India. The "No Phone" experiment of 2009/2010 is done. It was a flop. It is darn near impossible to function without a phone and you would not believe the rigmarole you have to go through filling out forms without a phone.

Boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, I am full of heart. And dinner. And the desire.

Good night.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

So, So Yes.

“I’m hopelessly, futilely drawn toward representations of the real, knowing full well how invented such representations are. I’m bored by out-and-out fabrication, by myself and others; bored by invented plots and invented characters. I want to explore my own damn, doomed character. I want to cut to the absolute bone. Everything else seems like so much gimmickry."

- David Shields

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Semester Has Begun

Sometimes, even with their famous kindness here, it feels a little like they have stripped us naked and thrown us out into the blizzard with a pair of tap shoes, saying, "Dazzle us. We know you can." I sat down to class yesterday, next to the other student who has the same fellowship as me, and he said, "They told me they expect more. More from us. There are expectations," and the anxiety billowed off him like storm clouds on a mountaintop. "Fuck that," I said, and we laughed, because how else can you respond to such expectations and live? This is all I've got. I'm giving you all I've got. But I walked home from class talking to myself and swearing into my scarf and the wind all the way back after a teacher's biting comments to me.

Some days, I feel like all my interactions here are with people needing propping. We all need to see that kind face and those scrunched eyebrows looking back at us and saying, "I know, I know, IknowIknowIknowIknow." There is so much fear of failure. We're writers. Of course there is.

"I feel like a seventeen-year-old asking this," says a man in class, "but is it even possible to write and be happy?" The room is silent because we are all afraid of the answer, and later I lie on the hardwood floor of my office crying, because no one tells you how to jump into those dark pools and not drown, they only tell you to dive deep and bring up treasure.

"Fuck it," being my favourite phrase of late. Fuck it. Fuck it. I think Jesus understands.
I will not can not should not shall not play that game. Fuck it. And my mouth tastes like happiness as I say it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I spend hours on my blue and white checkered couch everyday, supposedly reading, but mostly looking out my window perfecting my ability to be distracted. Right now, I am supposed to be reading this, but it's snowing down tiny flakes and I've got a mug of coffee, the furnace is up as high as I like, there are a few hours until class starts, and I miss this place. I miss you.

Have I told you this? The way when I was a kid I would sit in church on Sundays and take the prayer cards on the rack of the pew in front of me and I would write out prayers and drop them in the collection plate, sending them out like little magical letters headed straight for God, until my dad, who was a deacon for awhile, back when there were deacons, was asked by the prayer group to ask me what was up with all my prayers, and I had a vision of reality - of all those church adults sitting in a circle and reading my prayers and wondering what to do with them.

Last week in church, like every week, the preacher held up the cheap paper duo tang that holds the "Prayers of the People" and he prayed them out, one by one, whatever anyone had written. And when he got to the prayer that asked God to help the teenagers who are smoking to stop from smoking, his voice didn't waver at all, or cringe and turn self-conscious at the oddity of it - at the way I couldn't help but immediately hear an old grandma berating her grandson for his long hair, bad skin and SMOKING! I liked the preacher all the better for his steady voice through it and his faith in its receiver, though I squirmed in my hard pew and wondered what the visitors must think.

I've been talking and thinking and wondering here about my writing and my praying and my living. "Every poem is a prayer," was said to me, and I thought yes, but to whom? And what is a poem, never mind what is a prayer.

I write to you in my head all day long. And sometimes your name is the name of ones that I love, or of a best friend that I miss, or my family, or a teacher, but what I like, what I've always liked and only lately understood is that you are my placeholder for God. The way I write to dear you, safe you, good you, and you gather up the longing, the missing - because it is all a round longing for the fullness I can't yet hold - and in your receiving you send it like the prayer cards were meant to, like the preacher on Sunday, like so many letters freed and flying through space, into waiting hands that meant to hold them all along.
I miss you.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


you know you are a momma when you take off your shirt and nestled in your cleavage is a fishy cracker.


So I'm researching St. Valentine and I find this:

"Saints are not supposed to rest in peace; they're expected to keep busy: to perform miracles, to intercede. Being in jail or dead is no excuse for non-performance of the supernatural. One legend says, while awaiting his execution, Valentinus restored the sight of his jailer's blind daughter. Another legend says, on the eve of his death, he penned a farewell note to the jailer's daughter, signing it, 'From your Valentine.'"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Curious Adventures

I want to write and tell you all about how we missed our plane ride home yesterday, how I tried really hard not to cry in front of the gum snapping girl at the airline counter who rolled her eyes at me, how another kind woman got us a different flight home, how we were met at the airport with so many wide flung arms and hard hugs, how I almost cried when I saw my momma looking so thin in her black coat, how when we got to her house at 1:00 in the morning we sat on her bed and poured over the flavour map of chocolates and ate three in a row, one right after the other, and then drank tea on the couch until we were sleepy and warm. But mostly, more than anything, I want to tell you how my family is safe. How we will be together for Christmas, how my little brother and sisters are staying, how this time joy beat out grief, and how all I want to do is stuff all my family into one room together and just look and look and look at them all. And look.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


If you pray, at all, I need you to stop and pray for my momma and my little brother and sisters - the three foster kids. Please. Please? It's not an over statement to say that their entire lives are about to be determined for good, or for very very bad today, in the next few hours, and my family is on the verge of collapsing and we really need your love. Stranger or not. We need you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What It Became

The Ecstasy Of

Beside me on the left appeared an angel in bodily form . . . He was not tall but short, and very beautiful; and his face was so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest ranks of angels, who seem to be all on fire.
-St. Teresa of Avila

She wakes to the floating moan. At three in the morning she had been lying in bed, between the red sheets, beneath the white quilt, limbs and hair floating loose inside the watery black night, a book asleep on the pillow beside her. She hears the moan, wakes blind in the dark and waits for the shifting tilt of the real to return. She has been pack muling desire for so long now that for a moment, until it returns, she thinks the sound may have slipped from her own mouth to wake her. What had she been dreaming.

In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God.
St. Teresa of Avila

She holds her breath. The air moans again above her, soft but unboundaried, and travels through the dust that is trapped in that secret space between floors, between the neighbour’s suite above and her ceiling below, over eighty-year-old plaster and nails and joists still smelling of sawdust, and out into her room spilling spirit.

The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans.
St. Teresa of Avila

He’s all doe-eyed, the boy who lives above her. And when they talk about the things that neighbours talk about – like parking spaces and garbage pick ups, he stumbles on his words and looks anywhere but her face. Because she makes him nervous, she smiles more, though it’s lost on him; he’s not looking at her. And he licks his lips again.

The sounds from his suite funnel down the stairs and pool in her bedroom all day long, rising up at night over the edges of her sleep and waking her, have been waking her now, for weeks. She could mark off on the wall the journey to this rising moan like waterlines on a riverbank: here, when the girl first came to his place; here, with a small group of friends when she laughed so loudly and left so late; here, the first time alone; here, tonight, at three in the morning, and the climbing, unclothed little sound carving out a sacred hollow in the air and flowing down into her hall, her room, against her neck and in her hair. The moan and moan and the moan.

She could prophesize its future, thinks she understands these things, but for now she is only trapped below it. Were it his voice instead of the girl’s she would have snapped on the lights laughing, banged the pots and pans. Or had the girl cried like a banshee, knocked books off bedside tables, broken lamps, cracked bed frames that liquid moan would not drown her like it does, leave her with a mouth full of river bottom and fish nibbling at her ribs.

The sounds bodies only know before.

This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it -- even a considerable share.
St. Teresa of Avila

Once before, she had lived in an another apartment with paper-thin walls. Once, when she was wide-eyed, laughing in surprise at all the sweetness there. And though the neighbour always banged when the T.V was too loud, he was silent then as she laughed her way through every room, from bedroom to kitchen to couch. Now, in her bed, in the blind dark, she wants to gather up that gentle moan and hold it safe. All its concentrated sweating, hurtling toward morning and post-ecstasy light.

The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one can not possibly wish it to cease, nor is one's soul content with anything but God.
St. Teresa of Avila

She has had visions. In the bedding aisle of a crowded store she has seen the folding back of her thick white quilt to cinnamon coloured sheets like the peeling of a fruit to a soft warm centre. Like a burst pod to a rich and pulpy heart. She had wanted cinnamon, but they only came in red. No angel aflame, or golden spear; no point of fire. Only red.

Modern ecstasy being what it is her vision comes as common as bed sheets, as romantic as animal love and sex in the barnyard, but it is, she thinks, all the same. All hunger and ache, all sweet secrets guzzled and bodies laid bare, to a turning, and the waking up.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Things That Delight

Marilynne Robinson tied the bow on my dress this Sunday.

India gave her first ever reading of a poem and two jokes that she wrote to a packed house on Friday. It was pure awesomeness.

Nick Flynn is coming to class next semester and I am dying, dying of happiness.

One of India's babysitters just published a piece in the The York Times.

I was just accepted to go to Corfu for two weeks this summer to write. Ha!

I'm taking a class on St. Augustin next semester.

We're going home in nine days!