Author Archive

Dirge Without Music

Friday, September 18th, 2020

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.  CrownedWith lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned. Lovers and thinkers, […]


you say it’s your birthday

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

The opening lines of the song spring day are something that translates loosely to I miss you / and in saying it I miss you more which is so simple… and yet. I don’t remember ever saying “I miss you” out loud to the memory of you, Mom, until today when sat at my desk […]


Eavan Boland died today. There are so many poems, of course. But I am picking up Object Lessons, her memoir and rumination on being a poet, on being a woman, that feels especially suited to this moment when everything has shrunken and sharpened into the immediate and daily: At the age of seventeen I left […]


monet’s waterlilies

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

Today as the news from Selma and Saigon poisons the air like fallout, I come again to see the serene, great picture that I love. Here space and time exist in light the eye like the eye of faith believes. The seen, the known dissolve in iridescence, become illusive flesh of light that was not, […]


let the river roll along

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

Daddy was a mover and a gold creek miner, never had a dollar or a hard luck song. Mama ran off and he’s never gonna find her, went down the river, she’s a long time gone. Daddy taught me everything he thought we needed in the world just to get along. Brew a little feelgood, […]


The Latin complicare means to fold. I love the tactility inherent in folding: it requires some pressure, some movement, some shaping. I love that this tactility assumes a degree of control while still allowing for chance and surprise. Folds might be knife-edged and precise, or loose and haphazard. Folding might be a deliberate and premeditated […]


pilgrim souls

Saturday, December 9th, 2017

how many loved your moments of glad grace. is a particular alliteration that is one of my favorites in all the literature I’ve ever read. Glad grace. Grace is a concept central to Christianity, of course, but I probably-quite-consciously avoid faith-tinged definitions in both my reading and use of grace as a concept. I prefer […]


w/r/t

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

But the real mystery and magic lies in those quasi-mystical moments, portraits of extreme focus and total relinquishment. We might feel more comfortable calling this “meditation,” but I believe the right word is in fact prayer. […] unmoored, without its usual object, God, but it is still focused, self-forgetful, and moving in an outward direction toward the […]


sources

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

XV It’s an old-fashioned, an outrageous thing To believe one has a “destiny” a thought often peculiar to those who possess privilege – but there is something else: the faith of those despised and endangered that they are not merely the sum of damages done to them: have kept beyond violence the knowledge arranged in […]


…but I’m definitely cursing. I don’t know how to begin. To begin anything. What’s the way forward? For a few more too-brief hours the Commander-in-Chief is a brilliant, qualified, thoughtful, ethical, moral man. And then. The firehose that’s been spraying us with shit for the last nine weeks is probably certainly about to ratchet up to […]


I voted for her because she’s the most qualified. Because representation is essential. Because I have little nephews I hope grow up believing that girls are badasses with whom they need to reckon. Because I want the fact that Hillary has shown up and done the work day in and day out for a lifetime […]



for all you are worth.

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won’t do harm – yes, choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are […]


…the road has always led West.

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Yesterday Linus and I went down the winding Skyline, dodging cyclists every hundred yards, testing my manual driving prowess, zipping between dim forest canopy and brilliant ridgetop. The road itself didn’t feel much different than the last time I drove it in the fall, which is one of the strangest things about this place: a total lack of […]


I ate the day / Deliberately

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

“I don’t know if it’s a function of age or temperament, but I’m no longer seeking those major exclamatory notes of pleasure. I want a life that has pleasure contained within it.”                                               […]


uniquely portable magic*

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

The Milwaukee airport is home to one of the best used book stores I’ve ever been in–all the more endearing for being smack in the middle of the terminal where you’d least expect to find fine collections of 1940s pulp, political theory, and full sets of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. It was one of […]


tigerish waters

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

If we could get the hang of it entirely It would take too long; All we know is the splash of words in passing And falling twigs of song, And when we try to eavesdrop on the great Presences it is rarely That by a stroke of luck we can appropriate Even a phrase entirely. […]


pennies for pinecones

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

I’ve lived in ten different places in the eleven years since I graduated from college. Ten different places I’ve called ‘home’ for varying lengths of time, ten different neighborhoods, ten different homes that have all looked like variations on a theme because I am a champion nester, ten different zip codes to remember and addresses […]


Other Voices, Other Rooms

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

I was referred to as one of the “ladies” during a meeting at work last week. Better than “gals,” better than “girls,” I guess, but still obnoxious. And the more I sit here thinking about it, the more sentences I type and delete while I dig into why this word choice irritated me so much, […]


long enough.

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

…‘Your obligation Is not discharged by any common rite. What you must do must be done on your own So get back in harness. The main thing is to write For the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust That imagines its haven like your hands at night Dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a […]


There’s a snoozy, snoring puppy curled up like a donut next to me on the couch. It’s too warm for a fire, otherwise I’d have one in the fireplace that anchors this beautiful, open space. Moths are beating their wings at the windows, and in the morning their bodies will litter the floor and doorways. Tonight these […]


canaanland is just in sight.

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The fact that my time in Boston is finite is beginning to sink in. I’m wondering if this is the last time I see A, drive down B, roll my eyes at C. I’m beginning to say my goodbyes. And one of these happened this weekend, when I took a last trip north to a […]


reminded, again.

Monday, August 19th, 2013

In the midst of uncertainty and many kinds of fear, threatened by loss, change, and the welling of pain within and without for which one can offer no comfort, readers know that there are, here and there, a few safe places, as real as paper and as bracing as ink, to grant us roof and […]


I loved this one Archibald MacLeish poem in high school, “Speech to Those Who Say Comrade.” It’s from 1936, when MacLeish was writing about the depression and war and communism and just beginning to look harder at modernism and there’s a lot more to say about him but not here and not by me… I’ll […]


variations on a theme

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

…But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about […]


lights I might have lit

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

These days my usual steady intake of media-of-all-kinds has slowed dramatically. I’m forgetting to check in with my lit blogs, I’ve ignored the Times for days at a time, facebook isn’t tempting me with its time-suck ways, and I don’t even think I have library books checked out at the moment*.  I’m making more, I’m reading […]


the facebook final

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

(with thanks to my BC cohort. one of the reasons I loved grad school was the chance to write things like the what’s below. I followed it up with insightful and beautifully academic commentary, I swear.) I’ll just say things in Agamben. Then not even Google can help you. why does no one outside BC […]


Old Yeller

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Dear Beloved Yellow Backpack, I can’t believe this terrible phone-photo is the only one I took of you, but I can’t seem to find another version anywhere. So, Beloved Yellow Backpack, this is how I guess I will remember you. Good thing I’ll always have my memories. And what memories they are. I bought you […]


It’s Marathon Monday! I don’t know that I’d like this day so much if I hadn’t first experienced it at Wellesley. So, in honor of patriotism and the Bostonians who get up at dawn to reenact the battle of Lexington and the thousands and thousand of folks running today, I’m cheating and posting a piece […]


Abject failure to keep up with this small corner of the internetz. I had visions of tracking my first year of grad school, sharing the delights and stresses therein and, well, I’ve managed to regurgitate only one post forgotten from july. Perhaps a different tack is in order. this week: *Mary Karr’s Lit. My first […]


if God looks like us…what’s the point?

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

The Booksmith will be the death of me, or at least of my groaning bookshelves. Most recent reads: Penelope Lively’s Family Album and Jane Gardam’s God on the Rocks. Both excellent, both deal very differently with coming of age in a specific kind of family. In Lively’s book, it’s the English-countryside-Edwardian-manor-house family. Six kids, vast […]


There are things I won’t miss: being on my feet all day, inhaling grounds while grinding bar coffee, my wardrobe of weirdly-stained t-shirts, working major holidays. Thankfully, these are outnumbered by any one of a hundred things I love about what I’ve been doing for the last six years. I’ve been fortunate to live in […]


Free and unlimited wi-fi is not a right

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

…if you are a customer in a coffee shop. It is a perk, and in my best interest to provide since there is clearly demand, but you are not owed the internet as part of your coffee drinking experience. Free, unlimited internet access? THAT’S WHAT THE LIBRARY’S FOR. Other pieces of valuable information that will […]


Alberto Manguel is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers thanks especially to The Library at Night and his most recent book, A Reader on Reading. Writing about reading is not unusual. Many scholars write about the importance of canonical literature, as if to convince modern readers that there IS value in their old high school reading […]


Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it–don’t cheat with it. Thanks, Hemingway.


I’ve made a few trips to New York over the last two months, seeing the city for the first time through fantastic meals, lots of walking, incredible food, successfully navigation of a tiny portion of the subway system, hitting of a few of the Times-designated best coffee spots, eating some more, and a single museum […]


relief shell stitch, hemp and crochet…

Monday, February 15th, 2010

…and the privilege of access to a talented photographer and good lamplight (click to embiggen).


…a sacred reference point, no matter how abstract. The above was quoted to me as a definition of home: summing the idea up better than any of my more recent mental gymnastics have.* See, I went back to Denver last week, to the place that was home to me for the first 18 years of […]


My favorite Smothers Brothers song has always been Hiawatha. Who went to hunt a bun-nee rab-bit to make a pair of MITtens from bun-nee-rabbitsfur. So he hunted over wood, he hunted over dell, he hunted all about where the bunny rabbits dwell-ell–ell-el-ellllll…. I digress. The Smothers Brothers have nothing to do with anything, excepting my […]


while reading you grow sober, lucid, kind.

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

I was flipping through an old moleskine yesterday and came across something I wrote during a trip back to pdx: …the desire to hold and the desire to enjoy are mutually destructive. …I possess this now, therefore I am happy. I cannot possess this forever, and therefore I am sad. (from fowles’ the french lieutenant’s […]


Decide what to be and go be it.

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

Yessssss…correctly identified Lady Wishfort and petals on a wet black bough. I keep remembering questions I agonized over–not because I didn’t know the answer, but because there were two answers for which my gut made a case–and looking them up. So far so good. Though may yesterday be the last time I ever fill in […]


In 1989, German documentary filmmaker Philip Groening wrote to the monks at the famed Carthusian monastery, the Grande Chartreuse, and asked if they would be willing to be the subjects of his next film. They told him they were not quite ready, but that they’d get back to him. Sixteen years later, they did. Their […]


I fail to understand the appeal of pumpkin as a flavor. Pumpkin as a vegetable, great. As a pie filling, better. As a flavor though? People really want their coffee to taste like squash? Except it’s not squash, it’s a nice spicy warmth followed by the most disgusting palate-busting, slimy-saccharine-overload possible. I apologize to you, […]


a predominance of courage over timidity

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

I have things to write, I really do. I’ve been reading, a lot, really good things, and thing about which I have Deep Thoughts. However, other things have also intruded, not the least of which is the upcoming cape trip and influx of many from out of town which will be the highlight of the […]


Or, in my case, all the books on my shelves I have not yet read. Instead, I’m reading in Field Work tonight, Seamus Heaney’s 1979 collection of poems. So many lines I love. Such attention to the senses, to the unglamorous realities of daily life, death, the cruelty of the natural world; nonetheless so beautiful. […]


Hedgehog moment.

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

…the conceit that what we can know of reality is an imagination made of language–all this finds its material manifestation in that self-portrait we call a library. And our love for it, and our lust to see more of it, and our pride in its accomplishments as we wander through shelves full of books that […]


Please do not steal your waiter’s pen.

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

I spent the first real sunny day we’ve had all summer sitting on a park bench with Pheobe Damrosch’s Service Included, which, in addition to being a perfect park-bench kind of read, is a sort of love letter to the service industry, and the often-unappreciated dedication of a successful service professional. In 2006, Damrosch was […]


speaking of oolong…

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

There are a very few places I regularly order tea, mostly because I’m a jerk and am extremely picky about both the quality and preparation of what I choose to drink and there aren’t many places that do it right. Hazard of the job, no, having constant access to really stellar teas? MEM Tea Imports […]


Blue Tea

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

In an effort to destash and make some room for new teas, I’ve been doing some spring cleaning. This weekend I came across a delicious sample I’d forgotten about… A few months ago, putting away the coffee order, I found a small, vaguely-labelled bag tucked into one of the boxes: Marissa, light fragrance TKY. Uh, […]


Long live Buffy.

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

My Obi-Wan, or, Tennyson

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Tonight is an In Memoriam night. Among my favorites… … Behold, ye speak an idle thing:                                                                               […]


Lately: My Cousin Rachel, Daphne duMaurier. Love her. Did not so much love the neuroses of her narrator, and dammit, Rachel was not that  interesting. How to Read and Why, Harold Bloom. Fust loves him and Asher hates him–I’m not sure where I stand. I am a little frightened by Bloom’s brain and the sheer […]


For Gretchen

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

When I was twelve, Gretchen started teaching me the classic repertoire–solos from Giselle, Coppelia, Les Sylphides, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty–that every dancer learns. Michel Fokine’s The Dying Swan, to Saint-Saen’s Le Cygne from The Carnival of the Animals, is one of the most famous of the repertoire, and the only solo Gretchen refused to let […]


It’s like the literature gods have my number and are determined to stuff my brain with wonder until it explodes. So many recent books written Just For Me. Today at the Coop (supposedly looking for a math workbook, and while I was at it the Perec that may or may not be out of print, […]


To set the darkness echoing.

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Young Adult fiction–which, naturally, I try to stay on top of, what?–has shifted toward some pretty edgy, dramatic stuff in the last couple of years. It’s a fascinating genre, and I think an important one since some of my most vivid memories are the things I read as an adolescent–when I read constantly, impressionably, and […]


Golden sunsets and shit like that.

Monday, May 18th, 2009

So  Dorothy Parker over there is saying that wild, cruel and reckless waves are the way to live. Over here, Paloma pauses for the simplicity of Satie on the piano wafting through an open window. Waves, well, I’m finding those okay, and I’ve never had trouble enjoying simple pleasures. But What Does It All Mean […]


Perhaps it was being in Portland, not thinking of work or inhaling coffee for the first time in months, the smell of Powell’s, the warm rain or some other mystic combination of good vibes, but I was primed to devour a good book and Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog fit the bill. I […]


…the last bit of silver cloud, doled out carefully over the last year. An old-growth Chinese white, mature buds plucked on the verge of opening, all covered with silvery down… Steeped in a clear gaiwan. 190ish degrees, three minutes. If my camera battery weren’t (perpetually) dead, I’d snap the buds, bobbing vertically in the cup, the […]


I like to think that if I had been alive in New York circa 1920-30 Dorothy Parker and I would have been a great friends. In reality, she’d have scared the crap out of me with her cleverness and very sharp tongue. In her poetry in particular, beneath some stellar wordplay, lurks irritation, rage,  frustration, […]


The Things I’d Carry

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

I’ve lived nearly half my life without my mother. In a lot of ways she’s a memory that’s faded over time, but as she’s faded, I’ve found significance in the small things I have left of her. I’ve certainly got stories–eating hot cereal every morning from the crockpot, plotting city park gardens and identifying all […]


(I’ve intended to write about The Elegance of the Hedgehog for days now, but as it is one of the best things I’ve read in a long while I’m nervous about doing it justice. Perhaps when I’m finished with my third read-through I’ll have some better-formulated thoughts…) …’Til then,  to take a break from small […]


…the courses most alive.

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

In thinking about where to even begin to begin the first steps of a new journey, I’m taking some comfort in knowing that what is new and strange to me has been glaringly obvious for years to those who know me best. Case in point: the letter excerpted below, written to me upon my graduation […]