Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I’m repining in the quiet of another winter day. And no, this isn’t going to be poetry, and yes, repine is an old word. Get over it. How else can I say I’m tired of winter and I want to be out in the trees, the pines preferably? I am repining, damnit. Don’t try and stop me. Lent is brand new and already old. I was reminded this morning that cardinals have bi-color feathers, red on the outside, gray close to their bodies. You don’t really notice that sort of thing unless the cardinal feathers you sweep off the front porch get stuck to your jeans and you carry them inside to remind you later that owning several cats is not necessarily a good thing. There is another male cardinal hanging out in the snowball bush by the bird feeder. What possesses me to put out a bird feeder anyway? Am I an idiot? What is the female cardinal who had her eye on that male cardinal going to do now that his feathers are scattered all over the lawn? Will she take up with the other guy or what? See, I am definitely repining. I never see cats in the pines or bird feeders or anything sinister like that. When something kills something in the pines it has the decency to eat it, none of this laying feathers and bodies on the porch sort of thing.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Here is a snapshot
A version of myself at 16 or 17
Hitching a ride from St. Louis to Chicago
Truckers driving a big rig
North American Van Lines
Leaving my boyfriend’s place
My car broken down
Car and driver all transported
This was in the years before the taming
It’s only a snapshot
Who knows what really remains

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Tapping the Trees

When the lake is roiling, you draw me into the fields
Amish men and their horses
Pulling carts of spent hay

You have seen me lacing my boots in the mornings
Leaning into the forest
Listening to the breeze

You fill my arms with taming;
Metal tappers, new buckets, hoses,
A tall clean bin.

You say the weather will break
The sap will rise
We will tap the trees.

Friday, February 23, 2007

In The Land of the Living

The woman orders a pizza with black and green olives and chills the beer.

Suppose, Too

(Okay, maybe this is called revision, but perhaps re-vision would be better. Or some other sort of vision that I can't quite put my finger on. Morning always brings something new. I come back to revisit a moment and I'm pulled somewhere else...)

This time is called dying.
The ice groans, shifts
The lake waits to be reborn.

The wind rises in California
A cloud forms.


Your friends are folded up in the closet
Summer linens grown too thin
At dinner parties they tell the same stories
You’ve heard fifteen times before

How brave poor baby Danny was
The time they took him shopping
Never complaining
All the time his little toe
Bent backwards in his shoe

The winter sunlight submerges your kitchen
In drenching amber hues.
Note the long icicles dripping
The rows of golden cornstalks
Peeking through fields of snow

Thursday, February 22, 2007


(Some poems live closer to the place I want to go. This one is getting closer, but still not it. It's reassuring, though, finding these cousins. Thanks, Talia, for loaning the book. Thanks, David, for arranging the pile.)

Some friends and I took a path to the woods
where the hawk flew low and left his shadow
unfolding from the muscle of my hand.
In an hour's time I stumbled on stones
and went through the green mantle of the woods.
My boots were fern-covered when I walked
without the weight of my pack across a bridge.
I found my friends sleeping by a pattern of water.
When I went and shook them they disappeared
forever into the figuring currents.

Christine Garren Afterworld

Monday, February 19, 2007


Suppose this time is called dying
And you are waiting to be reborn.
Do you wonder, perhaps, who is
Coming with you, what it will look like
Standing on the other shore

Your friends are folded up in the closet
Summer linens grown too thin
At dinner parties they tell
The same stories you’ve heard
Fifteen times before

How brave poor baby Danny was
The time they took him shopping
Never complaining
All the time his little toe
Bent backwards in his shoe

Pay no attention to the
Gesturing behind the curtain
It is possible you are dreaming
It is an illusion in your dying
There is no one really there

The winter sunlight submerges
Your kitchen in amber hues
Note the long icicles
The rows of golden cornstalks
Peeking through fields of snow

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Leaving the City

(Jennifer, your cemetery poem. Talia, you're right. Sometimes you just have to let them go, as in, it still doesn't say what it wants to, but life goes on.)

Hand to me again the evening
We dove into the woods

The cliff hanging like
God’s billboard

Silence dripping
Inside the cathedral of pines

Grey wolves patrolling the alleys
Black bears ravaging red berries

You pulled me out of the dead city
Into creeping myrtle sidewalks

The sinking yellow sunset illuminated
A twinkling purple bloom

A labyrinth of nameless streets wandered
Unmarked potholed tombs

The lone street sign a cross
Of metal fence posts

Jos. Schick, 1894, citrus bouquet reeking
A yellow lemon, a green lime

The forest city melted behind us
These woods will someday be mine

Friday, February 16, 2007

Following Me

It doesn’t pay to write things like “poetry class is getting easier.” No. I have been keeping my appointments with the muse. In fact, she follows me around taunting me. We’re not on good terms. I was ready to hand in my poem on Monday, but it seemed like maybe it could be revised, a little, not too much. So, I keep the Word file with the poem open in the background while I’m working on other things, like the work that actually pays my bills. I now have about five versions of the poem hanging around in the background and not half as much “real” work done as I should. The poem seems to be taking on a life of its own. This morning it told me that I’m not really saying what it wants to say. Jeez. Does this poem know I have a five-page paper due? That my dryer door is being held on by duct tape that melts every time the dryer heats up and really should be replaced, if I would just take the time to order the parts? There should have been an announcement at the beginning of poetry class, “Poems are like children…” Then I would have known enough to run away.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Day After Valentine's Day

With the amazing Rebecca Waring-Crane (right) at the Valentine's tea.
A Valentine’s Day miracle, even the big kids got a day off school. And you thought miracles were so passé. No, no. Do not discount miracles. Of course, miracles are not always what you expect or want them to be. I think even the Stones said something like, you can’t always get what you want… And so on. Perhaps I’m sounding a little preachy today. It comes out. Sorry. The hidden pastor still lives in me, no matter how often I ask her to leave. Occasionally she looks like the girl with the soup pot, but other times she’s just a pain in the ass telling people what to do. Anyway, I hope you loved a few people to the best of your ability on Valentine’s Day. That was still preachy, wasn’t it? I’m trying. I really am. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem that way.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Life is always swirling around, making patterns in the snow and the sand. I am 13 years older than my father. I have been married as many years as I have been single. I’m not afraid of the dark anymore, mostly. But still, every day there are new patterns. Four friends have new puppies. They are young, these puppy lovers. I have a sign on my refrigerator that says “NO NEW ANIMALS.” It seems to be working. It’s been there two years and only two new animals have arrived. Some of the puppy lovers are getting married, some even having babies. These are not the new patterns. I’ve seen these babies and puppies before. They are beautiful. They make you tear your hair out. Friends with puppies and babies, go for it. Have fun. I’m looking past that vision now. My new patterns are trying to figure out how to live when you’re 13 years older than your father, how to love well and not be consumed, where to walk when you’re no longer afraid of the dark.

Friday, February 09, 2007


I swing madly back and forth between two fantasies. The first involves living alone in a cabin in the woods. The second has something to do with owning a restaurant, making killer soup, and listening to people talk all day. In the end I’ll probably end up staying home, not making soup, not listening to stories, not enjoying the woods, just vacuuming dog hair out of the carpet all day. I’m very optimistic about my fantasies. In case it wasn’t apparent, I’ve been cleaning house today.

The English club sponsored a showing of The Libertine last night at IUSB (Johnny Depp, John Malkovich), all about John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester. And you thought the English were boring. No, no, just misunderstood. Or perhaps the interesting ones all died of syphilis a couple of centuries ago. Interesting people seem to have high mortality rates. I wonder what the next film will be.

If you’re working on the poetry exercise, I hope it is going good for you. Unfortunately, the beginning phrase has me blocked. Oranges and Dramanine remind me of drinking screwdrivers, eating Doritos, and puking all over my husband’s apartment, not the one on Ironwood Road, the other one, the one with the cerulean blue carpet. Yes, the words spark memories, but certainly there are more poetic things. If the exercise uncovers them for you, let me know. There’s one more exercise on the sheet I’ll post in a week or so, after the last one has settled.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Exercising Again

Okay. I've fallen awake again. A good night's sleep brings so many things. So here's David's poetry exercise, which I still haven't gotten around to:

Write a poem 12 lines long, 6 to 10 syllables per line.

Use the following phrase and words somewhere in the poem:

Dramamine, oranges, and flat coke in a plastic cup.

Ironwood Road

Allow yourself 12 minutes to complete this exercise.

Neil and David have versions on their blogs that you can check out. Neil's version is called Might As Well Jump. You'll have to scroll down a ways on both of the blogs to find them. The first phrase just reminds me of puking and I'm having trouble getting past that. But starving and random have possibilities. Have fun.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Tip of My Tongue

Poetry class is getting easier. There’s more laughing, even when necrophilia enters the scene (thanks Neil.) Don’t you wish you were there? Seriously, though, there are patterns emerging. I think that I might be starting to hear the rhythms that at times have seemed so elusive. Who knows? All I know is I feel better, as though I might not be Helen Keller navigating this world. I keep seeing Gluck climbing down from the tree and realizing the things I want to say are on the tip of my tongue, which of course is a fairly dangerous place to be. I knew this semester would get interesting. I'll try and post another of David's word grids tomorrow, if you'd like to join the poetry fun. I'd do it now, but it's past my bedtime.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Bitching About the Cold

So, the gist of the story is we're all cold. The snowball fight was cancelled, called on account of single digits. School was cancelled, for the young and the old, but the able-bodied and middle aged still go about their business, do their chores. I'm huddled quietly typing in a room at IUSB. There were plenty of parking spaces to be found. No one likes this cold. Tonight I'll put plenty of wood on the fire, keep the world spinning around. The Finlander has traveled out onto the tundra for a couple days. So be it. He'll be fine...

Friday, February 02, 2007

Falling Awake

I’ve been falling awake lately. Maybe it’s winter. Maybe it’s middle age. I don’t know. I just wake up suddenly and completely and there I am. No gradual awakening. I’m there. It feels odd, but what can you do?

The comments I got back on the erotic poetry assignment were amusing. My erotic nature is obviously hidden. A third of the class thought I was writing on death. This would explain a lot of things.

The snowball fight of 2007 is descending upon us. Troops have been called home from college and the far reaches of our own county to do battle tonight. Right on schedule, the toilet on the cold side of the house has frozen up. We’re talking to it nicely, pouring hot water down its drain, asking it to wake up, soon.