The Book Life

Evidence of Abandonment

April 3, 2011
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It feels like you left me.
It does feel, remarkably, like abandonment.
Abandonment, however, I am reminded,
can be tricky to prove. So can feelings.

The initial issue, obviously, is the standard of review:
objective or subjective? Will we be inviting the reasonable man
into our degenerate history? Or can my feelings count?

Your first line of defense, I’m willing to bet more than I have,
will be that you were never with with me in the first place:
You can’t abandon a place you’ve never been.
I’ll counter with evidence of all those times you walked out of bars with me,
all those mornings of not getting out of bed.
I’ll call the cashier at the vaguely organic grocery
to testify to your morning cigarette purchases, me at your side,
probably rolling my eyes. Also the kid working at the ice cream stand,
we went there more than once, and it’s likely he’ll remember
a twenty-ounce milkshake ordered at ten in the morning.
And my friends will agree: you were with me.
I expect your witnesses to to point to your many disclaimers.
The many times you made yourself clear:
“I don’t do relationships.”
There first will be an argument about that statement’s
inherent ambiguity, and whether it means anything at all;
I know a thing or two about interpretation.
There’s also a question of whether the introduction of the disclaimers
is estopped by your obvious behavior to the contrary
(on which I relied, to my definite detriment).
Which meant more: words or actions? An almost classic dilemma.

And the evidence of my feelings.
This is primarily a matter of courage.
Journal entries admitted as exhibits for all to see.
It will require admitting that I allowed myself
to be abandoned, and that I still care.
I also expect that many will call me an idiot for ending up here.
After all, there were disclaimers.
I don’t need to invite that kind of ridicule.

But I need you to acknowledge the abandonment-
without reference to those “disclaimers.”
I clearly didn’t believe them;
I’m not sure you did either. At least not always.
I feel abandoned. Just admit it,
and I can stop trying to prove it,
can stop saving these terrible hurt feelings
for some kind of future



April 3, 2011
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I’ve had mantras before. I’ve written poems about them.
Although admittedly the translation didn’t take
and the whole thing turned into an epigraph.
But that’s a little bit of the point, I think, to a mantra.
It should be shorter than a poem.
The other bit of the point is to say that I can do this,
the mantra thing. It’s familiar to me.
It’s supposed to be a tool.
In the past it’s just been words I love,
phrases on repeat like the chorus at the end of a pop song.
An ideal embodiment.
Something solid to grasp when feelings crash fast.
An incantation to make them come.
Something to make them easier to carry.

What you are asking of me, here, is new.
How I imagine it would feel to pray the rosary
if I were a more sincere Catholic. Calming. One word
for each breath. I’ve always connected with symmetry.
Searched for it. But I am not a sincere Catholic,
and I’m concerned here about my ability to remain
sincere. But this seems easier to return to. Seems to ask less
of me. Seems, oddly, like a scythe, clearing the brush from my mind.
Before, the mantras appeared in the midst of my flailing,
more a tool of steadying. Reaching for the nearest word,
taking what I found there.

Today’s mantra was granted to me. Gift-like,
but me, free to decline. The breathing, alone,
has been a gift from the start, even the strangest of exercises.
But even at its best depths, it seemed shallow.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it was the words that finally filled the exhale.

It was bound to happen, the poem about yoga. I hope it’s not too… yoga. You know what I mean. Because I really like the breathing, and I find the mantras unusual. But they seem to do nice things for me. I just don’t want to interrogate that too much – I’d rather enjoy it.

Definition of Specific Crimes

April 1, 2011
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Specific crimes are offenses against existence.
Begin with an image. Slightly transparent people,
waveringly thin. Heavy seaman’s rope draped over shoulders,
knotted at waists, wound around wrists.
All connected, net-like. So very easy to set fire.
Specific in the initial act, arson burns us easily and equally,
traveling the rope like a subway. Another: garden shears
and sharp cuts. Each separation a weakening of our pull.
Also: a very strong wind, arising without time granted
to attach ourselves more firmly to the ground or to the furniture.
Again, the harm equal; once one of us takes flight, those ropes
take us all sky high, and we fall with equal speed.

I would criminalize, with this document, also the severing that you
undertook, despite your fumbling attempt at reattachment.
Retied, the rope continues fraying while I’m forced to watch it daily,
a bulky knot, untutored in your haste.

An individual act. Specific. But the impact here,
unequal. Born unduly by yours truly. That knot you left is heavy,
ugly and unwanted. You put things back together poorly.
One could ascertain you didn’t try very hard. Read no books
on tying knots and have never been a seaman.

I will choose the punishment
for each specific crime.

Keep in mind the net. The seaman.
Each departure and act of arson offends existence.
I am the rule maker. This will be my model code.

I’ve always wanted to merge my worlds and write a series of poems based on the “Specific Crimes” section of the Model Penal Code. I imagine this poem as the opening.

We sailed away on a winter’s day with fate as malleable as clay.

April 1, 2011
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April 1st is here again. National Poetry Month, and with it, NaPoWriMo. Such a nice and overwhelming reason to remember that I am a poet as well as a law student, and that I should be writing more than I currently am. So I try to write a poem a day, which for me usually is even more difficult than making time in life for exercise, even though it shouldn’t be. But writing, like many things, is the most rewarding and the most evasive joy. It is hard to track down, hard to locate amidst the explosion of my journal, even harder when there has been less exploding than arranging into compartments and corners. Which is where I currently find myself. But April brings spring and everything begins to open up again, myself included. So it is that time, my friends. A poem a day, keeping doctors of all kinds away.

Posted in NaPoWriMo, Poetry

There was another world below – this was the problem.

November 16, 2010
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Upon finishing the first “real” novel I’ve read since the summer, I am delighted.

Here’s why.

“As the ship sliced open the black sea east of Nova Scotia, the horizontal faintly pitched, bow to stern, as if despite its great steel competence the ship were uneasy and could solve the problem of a liquid hill only by cutting through it quickly; as if its stability depended on such a glossing over of flotation’s terrors. There was another world below – this was the problem. Another world below that had volume but no form. By day the sea was blue surface and whitecaps, a realistic navigational challenge, and the problem could be overlooked. By night, though, the mind went forth and dove down through the yielding – the violently lovely – nothingness on which the heavy steel ship traveled, and in every moving well you saw a travesty of grids, you saw how truly and forever lost a man would be six fathoms under. Dry land lacked this z-axis. Dry land was like being awake. Even in chartless desert you could drop to your knees and pound land with your fist and land didn’t give. Of course the ocean, too, had a skin of wakefulness. But every point on this skin was a point where you could sink and by sinking disappear.

I read this page of The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen) on the same day that I read more about water and what it can stand for, while working a paper for one of my classes, a seminar on law and emotion. I’m writing about narrative theory in the law, and the title of the second book was Lying Down Together: Law, Metaphor, and Theology (Milner S. Ball). There, the author takes the following phrase as a metaphor for the law: “The work here is watching water, containing it some.”

That sentence is why I want to be a lawyer. Water being a stand in for the chaos of living. The metaphor offered as an alternative or a supplement to the image of law as a bulwark, protecting us from the anarchic dangers of chaos. It’s one that sticks with me, one that, when I read it (on a couch on the patio of a Starbucks in the sunshine of a seventy-degree November day in Indiana) made my eyes well up in gratitude for finding something true, something to resonate within me. Something to bounce around inside of my emotional being and not hurt, but create joy. A rare occasion, so far this school year.

Coincidence always makes me feel oddly whole. Like while I wasn’t paying attention, or while I was busy citechecking or reading cases or writing a moot court brief (in a phrase: being a 2L), life was off to the side, kindly arranging itself for me into a warm cocoon of welcome for my anticipated return.

Thus welcomed, I become gracious. Filled with gratitude. Often, these past two weeks, the eyes have welled. (Of course, I’ve always been a crier.) At the end of a yoga practice. At a good working Saturday ending before 8 p.m., followed by good food and good friends. At the small joy of lighting candles. At the marvel of life’s tiny coincidences laying themselves out, seemingly all for me.

Finishing a novel is part of the return, and even though I found The Corrections to be desperately sad and at times quite irritating, it’s a relief to find that I can still read a 568 page novel just because I want to, and that I can still be moved to tears by its last pages.

Hello, world.

It’s good to be (mostly) back.

Sometimes I Need a Poetry Morning

October 13, 2010
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Walking to school this morning, I listened to “Boy with a Coin” by Iron & Wine, which is a song that I was temporarily obsessed with all summer. It reminded me of the city. It reminded me of the other half of my life. It was 55 degrees out, although October has been stubborn about fall this year. As I walked down 6th and crossed Grant, I had a wonderful moment of aloofness. I was temporarily
my own life. It made certain things less painful, other things less stressful. Took the edge off.

It was fleeting, naturally. But now I’m in the law library, reading poetry, so maybe it wasn’t all that fleeting after all.

There are other parts of me. I just want to tell everyone that, sometimes. And when they are awake, they lend perspective, make me introspective, make me weird, but make me more specifically myself. (Make me possibly unclear.)

I’m emotional, and I don’t hide that, and I won’t apologize for it. I know it makes me a difficult person sometimes. Makes me seemingly fragmentary, fragmented, roller coaster-esque.

Here’s what I’m reading, because there’s nowhere else to put it.

“What Constitutes a Proper Planet” (by Ashley Capps)

I decided to drive to the beach, where I sat in the sand and dug a large hole.
There was a tiny translucent crab with eyes like my mother
and such a specific inner life I tossed it fast back into the tide.
The sop I scooped out made a kind of wall which slid in on itself if my pace slackened.
I had to dig quicker. I dug frantic. Kids appeared with plastic shovels-
I wanted to ask them not to collapse it, but they hung back, a cautious tribe.
Till at last, one poked me with a stick and asked why I was doing that.
And I said, to keep the ocean out. And then they all joined in.

Everyone’s your friend in New York City

May 29, 2010
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Summer in the city. At last. I’m already writing more, feeling more, doing more. Only good can come of this.

I hope to have a hilarious reading summer. I’m almost caught up on The New Yorker (they tend to pile up toward the end of the semester), and once I am, it’s up and onward! I have my New York Public Library card, and yesterday I discovered the science section, and came away with The Canon by Natalie Angier and Sky in a Bottle, by Peter Pessic, which is about why the sky is blue. It’s a new genre for me, but I’m excited.

Also queued: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, poetry by Louis Gluck, the complete letters between Rilke and Andreas-Salome, some other random poetry, the continual New Yorkers, and some trashy young adult post-Twilight vampire novels.

Oh, and, the Pensions entry in New York Jurisprudence 2d, to prepare for my summer internship.

Should be a good summer.


April 30, 2010
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I am tired of backwards. I want up,
or sideways, or something. People behind me
are smoking and speaking Italian.
Let’s be friends. Let’s go back to Italy.
See? Backwards. I’ve already been to Italy,
not that I can’t go again, but still –
there are so many places I haven’t been.

I learned the other day that “metaphor”
comes from the Greek for “to travel”
and “to carry.” I liked that it was both,
because when you travel, you’re always
carrying something. Even if you don’t bring luggage,
you carry yourself.

I found myself while traveling,
and this is what I’m talking about,
about tired of backwards. I traveled
to learn to move forward.
And while I was out there, traveling,
not in Italy, but out there, there was this moment
I could never quite fit into a poem.
A moment where I knew I had caught it –
the person I was in that moment.

I’ve spent so much time reliving that moment,
telling the story but just never writing it down,
that I feel like I’ve already written this.
So maybe if I actually write it,
I can stop reliving it,
and try to actually re-find it.

The moment itself was the poem.
This is nothing more than record:

once, everything aligned.

[PROMPT: Intuition. Free write on an a-ha moment in your life, then poem it.]


April 30, 2010
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Maybe if I frame it right
Allow appropriate space around the edges
Refocus on something less distant
Coming home without you will be better than
Harmless – will be hopeful.


Maybe motionlessness will
Allow insight
Refocus energy on exactly how to
Home whole.


Midnight has never been my hour.
As much as I love its
Romance; dawn is much more my time.
Close by the window, watching
How the sun just never stays down.


Maybe March will
Allow me to open another year
Renewed, and with feeling,
Calling all former years
Harmless and ended.

[PROMPT: Acrostic day! Thank goodness, too, because I’m running on empty. Though I wrote a bunch, based on “March,” my birth month, because it was short.]


April 30, 2010
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Shamelessly Self-Involved Poem that I Can’t Help but Write

I went and bought a coffee
I didn’t even want
so that I could talk to someone,
and have something to work with
for the “first thing someone says to you”
writing prompt today. How sad is this lack
of communication? It is finals time.
Finals are lonely, because other people
are distracting, and finals need focus.
So I orchestrate a conversation
that I know will begin with
“Can I get a drink started for you?”
and end with my “thank you.”

“Not easier, just faster,” he says, of my drink choice,
after I try to take the drink
belonging to the buy behind me.
Mine is not ready yet; I am overeager
and feel almost unable to function out here,
with the world, after so many hours alone,
studying in my apartment. So I smile at him.

He has an accent from somewhere.
I want to be friends with him,
with both of the baristas behind the counter.
They are cute, and I bet they aren’t in law school.

[PROMPT: Write a poem based around the first thing someone says to you today.]

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