The path curves, the water flows

A very hard rain last night. My phone squawked an alarm. “Flash floods! Flash floods!” I slipped on some sandals and set out in the downpour to clear the storm drain.

It was dark. A large pool glinted with street light just beyond our driveway.

The rain had collected in the street’s low point, stretching about a half block on either side of the blocked drain. When I squatted down on the curb to begin removing the leaves, I was shocked to see that even on the curb, I was standing in four inches of water — four inches of water above the curb!

I grabbed fistfuls of wet leaves and flung them over my shoulder. Again and again. Over and over. Soon there was a sucking sound and not long after, a tiny eddy that quickly turned into a bigger eddy.

Shazam! The entire pool disappeared right before my eyes in about three minutes.

It was the most satisfying thing I’ve done in a long time.

Quick simple action for the greater good. Immediate positive result. Doesn’t get much better than that.

On our walk this morning, you could see where water had channeled down the hill.

The leaves plastered on the road and sidewalk formed a decorative backdrop to what has become an unstoppable train of thought these days: about the power of lying.

And meanwhile, the Virginia creeper which was green a handful of days ago, blazes vermillion.

Have a great Sunday! Thank Christ there will be no debate and no dreadful charity dinner to watch. Perhaps I should even thank our newly installed Comcast card for fucking up repeatedly and crashing during attempts to catch up on CNN coverage of the campaign.  Telling me something?

For now? Project Runway, if for no other reason than to hear Tim Gunn say, “Make it work.”

Erasure Poems

1). Start with a source document. Mine is a letter written in 1740 by Eliza Lucas Pinckney to her father.

2). Black out some words (or select some) or both.

3). Type up and read, edit if desired.

4). Repeat. Enjoy the variations.

I followed two rules: 1) all words in the Erasure Poem must be in the order that they appear in the source document and 2) all words must remain in their original form (i.e. the same tense or person). I made an exception to rule two and updated archaic spellings.

This technique, very popular in altered book circles, is one I’ve used for collage, but never for poetry. Relative to the historic fiction I’m writing (Eliza is one of the main characters), I was curious what might be revealed — anything new or useful about Eliza or her circumstances?

All of this was inspired by a poetry reading a few weeks back at Sam Durant‘s “The Meeting House” in Concord, Mass. (an Arts and the Landscape event sponsored by Trustees of Reservations). Four poets read. One of them was 2015 National Book Award winner for Poetry, Robin Coste Lewis (pictured above), who offered an erasure piece. It was intensely moving (you can hear her read three of her poems, here).

Letter from Eliza
to her Father, 1740

Honorable Sir,

Words to express the situation
beyond expression

the fearful immediate

as I must own some
such as honor, perhaps profit too.

Put in with my just cause
the love you avoid
by unjust means.

The assurance that this life
depends on Dear Sir,

Injurious to imagine

I deserve
this time.

You always persevere
Honorable Sir.

Your Daughter


Letter from Eliza
to her Father, 1740

To Colonel,

I want words
from you.

The situation terrifies us.
Immediate danger.
I must own

You are sensible.

Might some advantages arise
such as honor, profit too,
mere trifles
in the balance?

A just cause in preference
to every other means.
Courage enough
to will the thought
unworthy of you.

To pretend to Heroism
should conceal fears

and affections.

Always prayer.

Your most obedient


Letter from Eliza
to her Father, 1740

To Sir,

I want words under you, us
Beyond and increased

Some place to differ

There, when put in the balance

A just cause

You avoid the assurance
that this welfare
injurious, I deserve.

To pretend
Heroism, I conceal
perpetual apprehensions.

I am always the prayer.

Your Eliza


Letter from Eliza
to her Father, 1740

I am sensible and
I esteem the fight
as well as the love

Advantages arise

These mere trifles
honored a just cause
as well as every means
to retract anything more
than I deserve.

Mama and the Almighty
The constant prayer

Your obedient Eliza

Potato rice soup

By the time we turn the clocks back and it’s dark at 3:45, I will be semi-hibernating. This soup is perfect preparation.

This recipe is courtesy of Lidia Bastianach (of PBS fame). Quick, simple and really tasty!
img_6929A lot happening here, but most lies beyond the pale of my blogging. Writing progresses. Care giving goes on (and on).

The campaign continues to occupy and discourage and disorient. Fear whispers over my shoulder. The vitriol. The hate. The incitement to violence. Where will it all go, come November 9?

After the release of the pussy-grabbing tape, I had one of my Male Intruder dreams — a distress that belongs squarely in that orange-haired lunatic’s lap (oh gross. never mind). I used to have some variation of this dream frequently — sometimes as much as two or three times a week.

(The dream:  He has a rifle. He’s in my house. He wants to kill me and he would have but I wake).

But to be clear, it is Trump’s allegiance to delusion and his pervasive, unstoppable lying that terrify me the most. It’s unbelievable how he makes shit up. It’s equally unbelievable how his followers just eat it all up. What has happened here? Is there any going back?

Thank goodness beauty can’t hear him. Thank goodness fall offers her gifts without regard to politics. One spectacular day follows another.

Textiles at The Elms

The Elms — one of the many Gilded Age mansions that line the coast of Newport, RI. These gigantic, opulent structures were used for eight to ten weeks a year as summer homes. We did the 1/2 hour tour, which means we didn’t learn all that much about the family. But a couple of tidbits were garnered: the owner’s sister was an avid bridge player and if she couldn’t get a table of equals together, she’d recruit the butler to play. He had to stand for the entire game.

At dinner, not only was one not allowed to show appreciation for the food being served — (no ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ at the lifting of the metal domes), one wasn’t even supposed to watch to see what was there!

I never would have survived.

Newport, RI day one

Textures to die for on Long Wharf. The bluest of skies. 

A late afternoon walk on a rocky spit prompted a short memoir piece about having tough feet as a kid (we went barefoot all summer long). I plan to type and share. 

Branches like muscles. 

We toured the Hunter House (from Newport’s Golden Age) and The Elms (from the Gilded Age). Quite a contrast. Tomorrow I’ll post some pictures — though not many of the former because photography wasn’t allowed inside. 

Metal like lace. 

Fortunately for you, the smells of the wharf are not transmitted. Wow. Was it ripe! Didn’t stop us from enjoying fresh oysters for dinner. 

Tangled but not defeated

How often does life dish up a tangled mess that you know at the outset is solvable?

I wish I had taken a “before picture” because you would be truly impressed. The owner of this necklace gave it to me in a dense snarled mass small enough to fit in a snack bag. She assumed that I’d be cutting the knots and restringing.

The task really woke me up to something.  It wasn’t easy. It took patience. It took repeated efforts interspersed with no-effort (just like doing The New York Times crossword puzzle). It took good light, two pairs of glasses, and a tool (the fowl pin). 

But because I knew that all knots can be undone, not once did I cave to those stalling and defeating narratives, “I can’t do it” or “it can’t be done”. 

Now onward and upward (that would be to the writing room)!

Screen and page catch up

Image result for rachel mcadams and colin farrellTrue Detective, Season Two, received mixed reviews, but I found it pretty compelling. The plot gets dense, meaning I had to refer to the internet now and then, but I didn’t mind (thank god for the “Pause” button!). The characters are really great, with good back stories, and there’s plenty of corruption and suspense to go around, which I like.

And, I cannot stop raving about the show’s spectacular opener.

[Leonard Coen sings “Never mind” to a haunting array of double/triple images featuring the faces of the main characters and aerials of California].
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I’ve never seen Vince Vaughn in a role that I liked until now. Even though by the last couple of episodes the lack of inflection in his voice made me a little nuts, he was amazing. He plays a complicated and sympathetic Mafioso-type who is clever but not quite clever enough. There’s an erotic scene between Farrell and McAdams that starts when they are in hiding in a cheap hotel room. The way they DON’T look at each other is every bit as charged as how they DO look at each other. It was miles from that up-against-the-wall-standing-fuck so often dished up on film when two characters have held off acting on their mutual attraction.
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I can’t talk about Taylor Kitsch without totally embarrassing myself. Suffice it to say, I ate up “Friday Night Lights” a couple of summers ago. Image result

Finished the novel by Ben H. Winters called “Underground Airlines”. It was the kind of dystopian novel that describes a landscape that could be fifteen minutes from now (my favorite kind — think: Octavia Butler, “Parable of the Sower”).  The central conceit is that four states have maintained the institution of human bondage. The main character is a PB (‘person bonded’) who is ‘freed’ in order to capture runaways.

The scenes in Indiana of a black man negotiating white neighborhoods or encountering policemen read like today’s newspaper. The tracking chip inserted in the base of the protagonist’s skull could be tomorrow. It was a real page turner, with plenty of corruption and twists of plot, so I wasn’t surprised to see that the author has won both mystery and sci-fi writing prizes.

Like the evening news, the book forces a look at how the effects of slavery linger.

I heard the author, who is white, interviewed and could relate to the doubts engendered by inventing African American characters. The book was well-received, but nothing like the the more recently published “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead. I heard Teri Gross interview Whitehead last week and look forward to reading the book soon. I felt a smidge of pain on Winters’ behalf when his novel was not mentioned in Teri’s list of recent books dealing with slavery.

Now, I’m reading J.D.Vance’s, Hillbilly Elegy. I’ll post some notes about it later.

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