cell phone self-portrait

cell phone self-portrait
things are looking up

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


What's all this blipping about? It's a music site. I wanted to share an Irish version of Silent Night, performed by Enya, but it didn't work, and you've ended up with the Bee Gees singing "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" Maybe it was meant to be, for somebody. My mama loved this song, anyway.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

New Poem for Christmas 09

Martha Stewart Says This is the Year for Homemade Ornaments

So, five days before Christmas, our cat, Belle,
in her carpet tower
Cleans herself, occasionally pauses to stare
At the crackling flames in the fireplace
That the chimney sweep has said we “almost use
Too much.” We ignore that advice, my husband and I,
know our stockings
Are hung with care and the bright sun promises
Yet another day of doing whatever we want, since
He is unemployed and I am on vacation, and we
Will buy more firewood with our savings. Kitchen
Timer lies unused, I make homemade ornaments
From decorative paper, old magazines, the wine catalog,
Even Rorschach images we made with my daughter,
from small tubes of oil paints I found lying around,
on notebook paper unprepared as canvas. We see the psycho clown,
Witch’s hat, woman with barbells, pirouetting couple,
Note how well they fit with origami animals stored long away
In a box but brought out to shine on this our Christmas present,
Christmas past, Christmas future.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Spin the Wheel

What do I want to do with my life?
I want to bring happiness to others.
I want to create memorable art (but I don't know what kind of art --- will it be photography? collage? poetry? a collection of essays?
I want to appreciate the gifts that others bring into my life on a daily basis --- to be able to recognize and name those gifts and then to express my gratitude in a clear, concrete, and vivid way.
I want to be lean and mean --- strong physically, full of energy but able to relax when I want to.
I want to go to law school.
I want to make amends for hurts and repay debts.
I guess I need to get to work on this list.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Notetaking: Top 5 Tips

Notetaking: Top 5 Tips

I just discovered this blog post today; it is very useful for college students.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Letters to My Daughter

Of all the things to have on my mind today, at the end of the semester, when I probably should be grading something, I'm surprised that it is this: my daughter is going to college, and I want to be sure to write regular letters. I'm wondering what I could find to write about on a regular basis that might be interesting. I can send poetry, of course --- the good stuff --- James Weldon Johnson, "The Creation: a Negro Sermon"

And God stepped out on space,
and He looked around and said,
"I'm lonely, ---
I'll make me world."

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp."

I could write about the excellence of that imagery --- the completeness of it, the depth. I could remind her of the time we went to Congaree National Park and saw the magical cypress swamp forest. It was like Lord of the Rings, I said, and it was, with all the cypress knees that looked like gnomes. That will make me think of the Congaree Indians, and the fact that I don't know much about them, which will make me want to look them up in a good book --- and then I guess I can write something about that. In fact, I want to look it up now. So here's a related website:


One provocative thing I've already learned about the Congaree:

"In 1693 the Cherokee complained that the Shawnee, Catawba, and Congaree took prisoners from among them and sold them as slaves in Charleston."

Okay, got to take a break and will think and write more about this later.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Fire Escape

What a great July 4th --- family and friends, good food, laughter, fireworks, and great music.

"Love makes the price good enough to want to pay --- don't make the hurt go away ---- fire escape ---- all that I can do is ache ---- you've gone away."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Third Shift Blues

Third Shift Blues (poem I wrote this morning)

She was smoking a Black and Mild at 4:30 a.m. at Waffle House
When I spotted her and thought she was absolutely perfect
For a photo, black and white --- coffee skin, tattoo above breast, resigned.
Standing to go, she raised her arms, the shirt slid up, and I saw
That her jeans were unfastened and unzipped for comfort;
She fastened them to complete the dining experience,
coming full circle like a smoke ring leaving the full lips
Like a prayer to the god of crispy bacon and coffee, straight up.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Mothers provide soft beds for us, with clean sheets,
fluffy pillows, and piles of blankets. When we fall
asleep somewhere else, they cover us with afghans
(afrikans, my stepmother pronounces it).
If it is winter, or there is a chill from a nearby window,
they choose heavier weight, that warm brown chenille piece
their mother-in-law gave them for Christmas; if April, it
is the middle weight one, hand-stitched, with birdhouses.
They are pleased to see that the family cat has covered our feet.
Braver, more confident ones will steal a kiss; timid ones,
fearing to wake us, will resist. Either way, the kissing is

Sometimes they cover us with lies, if necessary,
and with opportunities, better education, Van Gogh, music
(I hear the cottonwoods whispering above, Tammy, Tammy, Tammy's in Love)
with umbrellas, hairspray, Easter dresses.
They cover us with Bibles, whole pages, from memory. Crosses
around our necks, prayers over us all the day long and night too.
Scarves (Amanda Wingfield, Tom, take your muffler.
Will you, oh, will you
? Laura, you went out, every day,
in that thin coat, courtin pnemonia? Why, Laura, Why?

Mothers cover us with praise and worry, with furious and relieved tears.
Remember the worst day of my life, when I couldn't find you
and you were playing with Summer at the graveyard, and then you came back
and I couldn't stop shaking and crying?

When we lie uncovered, go about exposed, vulnerable,
well, they must have been busy or unaware of our potential suffering
because the hall closet is bursting with blankets of various sizes
just waiting to cover us, and our mothers' hands reach for them of their
own accord as they pass (isn't there someone who needs to be covered at this
very moment, let me do it?

They cover us as surely as the night does, and as the promise of morning.
I get drowsy just thinking about it, and now that my mother is gone,
I have to cover myself with her blankets. It works, but not quite as well.
I can't get comfortable, thoughts slip in or out of the spaces not tucked in.
Mama, can you bring another blanket? It's a two-dog night, you used to say.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Interesting Music for Sunday Contemplation


Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Mother's Ring

I just discovered this sad but beautiful poem and wanted to post it here for reflection. I have some of my mother's rings: her engagement ring to my father, which I have worn since I was 16 -- though I haven't been wearing it as much since her death (think I'll put it back on tomorrow) --- and her high school class ring, which speaks to me of her accomplishments and how smart she was and how she wanted to be a teacher but never did do it.

The poet is Lyn Lifsin, whose work I am teaching tomorrow in Eng 102.


Once too tight
now it swivels on
her bony finger.
Only her knuckles
bulge. I can't
do it, my mother
says, a shriveled
bird in the stark
hospital bed. When
I saw the dead bird
in Morristown I
felt it was a sign.
In two weeks my
mother's mouth
is so dry it curls
as if full of wild
feathers. The ring
glitters, spits
out a yellow light,
not anywhere near
as pure as the
myth of its per-
fection my mother
spun of it like
whatever else
pleased her,
like me

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

Practing Podcast

Trying out podcasting today. Don't know what I'm doing. I just recorded Steve Straight's poem "Punctuation" as a practice session. I guess it's okay. Let's see if I can get it to actually play.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Causal Arguments

Today I'm teaching a class about causal arguments ... creating a chain that shows how one thing caused another, which caused another, etc. Just now I was on Twitter, and someone wrote that he was on a bus. It made me think of Trisha Yearwood's "Bus to St. Cloud" (see below), which made me think of my friend David, who once dedicated the song to me ... and now I'm thinking I can use this song as a fun way to illustrate the causal chain.


On a bus to St. Cloud, Minnesota
I thought I saw you there
With the snow falling down around you
Like a silent prayer
And once on a street in New York City
With the jazz and the sin in the air
And once on a cold L.A. freeway
Going nowhere
And it's strange, but it's true
I was sure it was you
Just a face in the crowd
On a bus to St. Cloud

In a church in downtown New Orleans
I got down on my knees and prayed
And I wept in the arms of Jesus
For the choice you made
We were just gettin' to the good part
Just gettin' past the mystery
Oh, and it's just like you, it's just like you
To disagree
And it's strange but it's true
You just slipped out of view
Like a face in the crowd
On a bus to St. Cloud
And you chase me like a shadow
And you haunt me like a ghost
And I hate you some, and I love you some
But I miss you most...

On a bus to St. Cloud, Minnesota
I thought I saw you there
With the snow falling down around you
Like a silent prayer

The speaker's habit of seeing the old lover's face in a variety of places can be considered an example of immediate/remote causes. This is a concept that implies that every causal chain links backward indefinitely into the past. It appears that what triggers the reaction (the "seeing" or imagining of that old familiar face) is associated with something spiritual ("snow falling like a prayer, jazz and sin in the air, in a church in New Orleans, I got down on my knees and prayed, wept in the arms of Jesus for the choice you made) --- and there it is, the choice that the lover made. That, apparently, is the remote cause that still brings immediate reaction. By the way, if we are to break this down, is there evidence that the speaker is, in fact, addressing an old lover? Or could this be a friend or child or someone else?

We can also see in these circumstances an example of the fallacy of oversimplified cause: in other words, if we assume it was the lover's choice to leave that caused the failure of this relationship --- when in fact, there may have been a number of other precipitating/contributing factors (had it already failed before the lover left? did the failure, in fact, cause the leaving?) Was there preoccupation with their respective careers, disagreement about priorities, in-law problems, and so forth?)

Was there a constraint involved here? In other words, was there something in the way of the lover leaving that was suddenly removed? The presence of a constraint may keep a certain effect from occurring. For example, in a marriage, the presence of children in the home might be a constraint against divorce; as soon as the children graduate from high school or leave home, the marriage may dissolve.

Was there a necessary/sufficient cause? A necessary cause is one that has to be present for a given effect to occur. Did the lover suddenly leave because he finally saved up the bus fare? Lost his job? Got the courage? Found another lover?

All of these aspects of causal arguments can and should be considered if one is creating a causal argument that can stand up to examination.

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Day and the Inauguration Tomorrow

I am so happy that our new president will be inaugurated tomorrow. I am very hopeful, and it is ideal that this ceremony follows the Martin Luther King holiday so closely. I've had a full and rewarding day watching CNN --- all the festivities and the anticipation.