Reverie, Jan 2018

The wistfulness of lying awake & seeing the world enliven around you.  The lightening of the violet-blue sky into the foggy slate of a rainy winter morning.

The trembling branches heavy with water & shaking off a spatter of drops with a shiver of wind.  The dark branches cracking the sky behind the double lattice of window screen & window pane.

The tinny warm noise of the radio near you that seems to mirror the weak familiar street lamps fading in the dawn.  A pop song you’d laugh at in the bright day suddenly hopeful & vulnerable, like those fluorescent lights that have held back the shadows all night.  A passing car muttering to itself as it leaves for errands work travel.

Looking down & into the world at the height of two stories and feeling everything is so fragile so fragile & in this moment you’re safe & your heart is open & the world is finally catching up to you, the one up since 2am waiting for some strange permission to be up & about like a normal person.  You feel the static of your thoughts fill with the morning & you say to yourself remember this remember.

Your mind tries to obey & shows you other mornings like this, mornings you hadn’t even tried to keep for the future.  Christmas mornings when the light on the ceiling reflected off of the blue-white of the snow outside; dark fall mornings in your grandmother’s house as she made coffee in a kitchen that seemed in another world & you contemplated dressing in the dark; hazy amber mornings where you stared at the mysteries of the townhouse parking lot & forgot what you did to yourself hours ago with a bottle of vodka & a pocketknife.  No no, you gently protest against the images, remember this morning outside the windows.

& as you try to redirect, as you try to make room in your heart for a shining puddle, a dark window breathing pale curtains, the pleasurable luxury of this bed & this moment to yourself, you forget to hold onto the waking world & drift into sleep.


Message In a Bottle: Nov. 21, 2016

Dear Reader,

It’s been nearly a month since my last post so I’m sitting here now, trying to figure out what to say.  There have been a variety of reasons for not writing: the emotional American election, scrambling to finish up my Dante reading, my seasonal struggle to motivate myself, reading reading reading as a way to escape & also to find answers.  I’m trying to break the habit of sleeping in but setting my alarm early to get up & write.  I end up turning it off when it rings & crawling back into bed, trying to fall back asleep to the argument, ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow–I’ll be better tomorrow.’  And so giving myself a pass to not write at all today.  But, the page & the muse are always waiting, no matter how much I put it off, so here we are.

I’ve probably written before about how books are my shield & my barrier.  And in these last few weeks, I’d thought about just posting reading lists just as a way to communicate ‘here I am, this is my survival kit.’  But people don’t read books the same way that one does–not in a better or worse way necessarily, just different.  So the books I choose to pull close for comfort will not mean the same thing to you, as much as I’d like them too.  And with the high emotions running through my immediate family & community, I wonder if recommending something will even offend someone.  And that’s a hard thing to consider, for someone who works in a library.  It’s a hard thing to consider even as someone who’s read books that warn of the fading relevancy of text & writing.

Ok, maybe not follow that thought down it’s difficult track–at least not for the moment.  If this was a true message in a bottle, I would write you a story, something fantastical to come across & savor for the rest of the day so why don’t I try that.

I wake up dizzy in the mornings–sort of the reverse of that feeling you have sometimes when you’re falling asleep, like you’re falling off your bed but when you jerk yourself awake you’re flat on your back.  I’m bewildered in the morning, floating on the sunlight & the flannel sheets, trying to figure out where I am.  He is still asleep next to me, the details of his face sharp in the sun pooling on the pillow–fine eyelashes against his cheekbone, the faint freckles at his temple, the pulse in his jaw.  Risking upending myself completely, I roll onto my stomach to look out the window past the cat’s impatient tail as it keeps watch underneath the curtain.  Where I should see the house next door, all I see are trees & a bright horizon.  Our room sails over the tree tops, swaying gently & confidently to avoid larger limbs, toward a young, custard yellow sunrise.  Before there is time to panic, time to worry how this happened & how we can escape, all I can think is, “Well, at least that explains the dizziness.”


The Corn Mother

As interpreted by me for the Daily Post’s topic Grain

Igraine–it originally appeared like an awkward, unwieldy name to this reader & it took me quite some time to puzzle out how to actually pronounce it.  The extra nouns clashing against my young untrained eyes.  A name that stands out from Arthurian legend that seemed to have so many other lovely female names to reveal, like Guinevere or Morgan or Nimüe or, my very favorite, Lynette.  And yet, despite the matronly air to her name, Igraine is a character who does not quietly allow herself to be relegated to ‘mother of the King.’  She gives birth to two equally important children of legend by two different men–a wrinkle that future texts struggled with as they wished to emphasize Arthur’s gallant practice of Christianity & noble birth.

Igraine–the grain–the rebellious spring daughter of the fields that invites order (‘sew on the grain, cut with the grain of meat, pet the fur with the grain’) or inspires challenge (‘go against the grain’).  I, ever the uncertain girl, usually ends up on the other side of that dynamic, on the cross-tendency side, mainly because I don’t pay attention, too wrapped up in my own perspective to see properly.  And so, the dress comes out with an odd stretch, the roast looks like it’s already been chewed and the cat is hissing at me in the corner.  The worst sin growing up was being “a space cadet” & “having no common sense.”  I sinned frequently & eventually stopped asking for forgiveness.

And so, I still find my thoughts caught up on that name–Igraine–the name meant to invoke a Goddess and the strange history that leads from something wilder and difficult to a bright shining moment of dreams nearly true and exuberant hope.  Does her name remind me to look past the façade of accomplishment?  Or do I trouble myself with doubts that the story of my life as I’ve told it to myself has overlooked something?


Off the Shelf: The Raven’s Bride

The Raven's Bride: A NovelThe Raven’s Bride: A Novel by Lenore Hart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I came across this book unexpectedly while shelving & checked it out when I realized my reading list of Poe fiction was short on female perspectives. I am pleased to say that Bride is a competently written work of historical fiction that explores Virginia Clemm & Edgar Allan Poe’s domestic life from their first encounter up to and after her death at 24.

First, I’ll list a few things that I think Hart got right. Her handling of Virginia’s & Edgar’s marriage when she was 13 grows first from Poe’s desire to gather the scraps of his family around him & Virginia’s childish ideas about what marriage entails into a relationship between two dreamers. Hart’s pairing of Virginia’s ignorance about adult life & her domestic dreams suit Poe’s literary ambitions & his very real shortcomings. The couple’s struggle between the extremes of poverty & abundance are well-defined as well as some of the ugly emotional realities of the codependency between the lovers. The anxious & tiresome pattern of keeping vigilance over a husband’s bad habits have poignant consequences.

But the story does have its flaws as well. Virginia’s tone is a little too measured throughout the story. This can be partially forgiven since she is narrating her life as a ghost & has no emotional attachment to anything anymore. But add a few of her impromptu actions & Virginia comes off as Pollyannaish at times. Two specific moments come to mind: her judgement of the bar crowd she performs for & her perception of the poor Irish homes in the notoriously bad Five Points neighborhood. In the first instance, Virginia decides that the rough crowd she’s playing for isn’t so bad without actually interacting with anyone or witnessing anything to inspire this realization. In the second instance, she simply happens to be passing by the neighborhood & remarks on how charming the houses seem without any recognition of the surrounding area or how similar she is in circumstance to these people. These naturally good thoughts just seem to occur to her. I can appreciate Hart wanting her protagonist to appear tolerant & kind-hearted, but this would have worked better if she had actually experienced something.

As I mentioned, I did enjoy the portrayal of Virginia as a dreamer & having her own intense interior life, but there are certain moments that could have used some oomph. Virginia is supposed to spend a year resting under the influence of morphine in the hopes that her initial symptoms of TB will be mitigated. But this section passes within a few pages & the glimpses of Virginia’s own darkness just tantalizes readers with what could have been. Overall, I think Hart’s characterization mixes a good ratio of immaturity, romanticism, & artistic sensibility that develops through the story. I just wanted a little bit more heart from her.

A decent addition to my Poelandia reading list & could work as a companion to Nevermore as an introduction into this sub-genre.

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Dreaming of Richmond

As an adolescent, Richmond was some sort of great fantasy to me.  It had been home to one of my favorite writers, Edgar Allan Poe, & I was obsessed with plenty of gloomy Southern Gothic daydreams.  These reveries included ingredients like Old World decadence, the particularly American flavor of Romanticism & the seed of fatalism in every attempt of self-betterment–all things that I had read about or grown up with in a family full of wistful Southern matriarchs.  Like all fantasies of my youth, the dream of our capital city was what I wanted mixed with what I knew–only more so.

Continue reading “Dreaming of Richmond”