Saturday, April 29, 2006

pssst, seven seat is my daughterWIRA races begin this morning, Lake Natoma, California. Yesterday, in the 80's, same expected today, close competition, not so many deformed ducks as last year, but the Canada geese are as brazen, on the course as oar blades churn.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Anna Akmatova Transliterated, from School Day

On crutches the Boeing employee
saw Bethlehem. Between negotiations
he wept, completely American.
He negotiated crumbling brick paths
thought about matriarchy
and extreme discomfort,
a broken man, alone.

And, a transliteration of a haiku by my favorite haiku master, Kobayashi Issa:

budding bleeding heart
together beneath the firs
collecting tribute

Then, a long drive, and the idea of making poems from pop song doo wahs, ahem:

Do we do pasta?

Scoobydo though not.

Sue needs you Mathah.

Or from nursery rhymes:

Knee high ski guy, oh!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hoovering Up a Bit

as to picking up the Scottish poet, I did not. Not one of those poets with interesting lives, me. At the museum was a stack of poems with a sign saying take one. I did.

Women Poets ROCK, ahem.

I've just been told I'm going to be on a panel in a couple of weeks. Our topic is women & poetry, subtitled Women Poets Rock! (which they/we do.) Driving home today, thinking of Sapphics, I thought:

I thought two lines, each with eleven syllables, and now, five minutes later, they are gone. Rock on.

Something like:

I want to say something that's brilliant and true

but truer and more brilliant and with sensory details that made it occur to me that I am a poet.

Then I thought how cool it would be to rewrite "A Supermarket in California" but for girls, and to do it in Sapphics and use the notes I wrote a few years ago which I thought was a poem because I loved my accuracy, but the notes were a list of things in a grocery store, and everyone I read it to guessed which grocery store, which was Bert's, which is my grocery store and which has orchids in pots in the baking aisle, a sommalier and only organic meats though it is roughly the size of a seven eleven. My poem would begin with meeting Emily Dickinson rather than Walt Whitman, something along the lines of:
I converse with the Belle of Amhearst ...

I really want it to be by the Grape Nuts, but that goes over the eleven syllables and I don't know why I think Grape Nuts are so funny in that line in the first place.

I was also trying out the idea of a directions poem, since I was coming home from the eastside where I grew up to Seattle where I was born and lordy the possibilities for resonance really pulsated there for about five seconds. Here is what I wrote on the back of my two week teaching schedule, just ended:

Through the Portal to the Pacific
North on Rainier,
Mount Rainier in the rear view
cloud over its eyes
past Seattle Medium
to Martin Luther King
Catfish Corner facing the Facts

and then I ran a red light and felt humiliated and lucky not to have hit or been hit by anyone, car or frail human, and that is probably when I lost those two perfect Sapphic lines, which is appropriate penance. I'm not Catholic, but I was teaching at a Catholic school for two weeks and you know who works you know how.

Now I have to fill out a graduate school application's worth of information on my dog who we are leaving with a new in home dog care person for three nights while we watch our daughter and the rest of her team row at WIRA's (something something Rowing Association) near Folsum, not the home of the prison.

Women Poets ROCK. though I want to write wymen poets from a piece by a Scottish poet I picked up at the Perth, Scotland-not-Australia Museum a few years ago. Screw or eschew quotation marks, italics, underlining, they're sort of phallic. But so are dashes, Emily. (you rock secret girl.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Poems from Today's Teaching Gig (mine)

Puyallup Fair

Five fingers held away from the muscular
waterfall of the fountain, its mold blight,
neck folds of the man in lopsided sunglasses,
scones dumped on the floor by the trash cans,
signage and flip flops over trampled lawns,
fat woman slumped over the foot massager,
elephant ears at the concession stand.


The doctrine of childishness was rife
in the free world, pin stripes on the fire.
No more tears stained lopsided faces, slogans
folded into overall pockets, glossy haired
giddy rush to fix the flawed world
with unrelenting silliness replacing decay.
Primitives posing, "More mystery!"
we screamed. "Calligraphy, not perfect
participles!" Capsized, dazzled by dreams.


Elvis, Elvis, Elvis rife at our slime-hung school,
we believed Beatles unstoppable, they thought not,
dazzled by the folded sunset of his eyes, as we
nibbled Fritos, set our 45's to slow-motion.
Elvis decayed, Beatles more gilded than silence.
Orange blighted jello clacking on lunch trays
we bunched like muskrats, imagined white fire
in kissing Paul, capsizing Jane Asher's boat.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


What sort of spelling is this? Garrulous: from Latin, means excessively talkative, especially on trivial matters, which means I'll need to edit the last post, as I did not mean to imply that Peter Matthiessen was overly talkative, and especially not to demean his subject matter, although, had I been in a pissy mood I might have thought both, so perhaps he was garrulous, and it may be that garrulousness is not necessarily a bad thing in a speaker when one wants to spend time in that speaker's company.

I particularly appreciated the lack of the Seattle Arts & Lectures question that marks nearly every reading: what is your writing process? Variations: where and when do you write? What are your writing rituals? Do you write on a yellow pad or compose on computer? I guess that person got stuck in traffic tonight. Peter Matthiessen may have headed that one off at the pass by mentioning a rugged notebook he uses, always journaling on right sides only, left sides left for later notes and add-ins. He also uses a little ring notebook to write things others say that he must copy immediately. He gave the example of boating in the Everglades and encountering a local guy, evidence of bad fishing day (empty beer cans, bait mess). The guy said, "You seen any fish that might like a ride in my boat?" I put that in quotations, but I think it's a bad paraphrase.

I heard today on NPR that there are 60,000 new blogs begun every day. No wonder I have 0 comments on every one of my posts. One rejection letter composer accused my story of being chatty. Bet she gave up on spelling garrulous.

Seeing Peter Matthiessen Tonight

Peter Matthiessen, co-founder of The Paris Review, novelist, naturalist, nonfiction writer and fly fisherman, appeared tonight at Benaroya Hall, as final speaker in Seattle Arts & Lectures' 2005-2006 Lecture Series. He's another of the elders at the head of the queue, vividly lit and about to slip off the edge of this flat earth. In his talk he mentioned another of his generation who's died in the last couple of days. They're all heading out to sit on the ice so the rest of us can make it through the winter pretty danged soon. I'm not saying he sounded dotty or tired, this is just the truth. In fact, he sounded passionate, allowed himself the privilege of meandering in and among his subjects, calling himself "old and garrulous." He's a champion of ANWR, a lover of research and fiction, and he was garrulous, relaxed, and entertaining. The Q&A ended with him riffing on a question about whether or not his zen practice makes him optimistic. He said something about our needing to accept what we humans are - animals capable of anything, both in the positive and violent sense. The last century, he said, was the most violent in the history of human beings. What kind of progress is that? He ended by saying of a representative human, he's a pretty great person, but he'll stick a fork on you in the lifeboat.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


To measure, lay a 12 foot 2x8 so that the eight inch dimension, which is significantly less than eight inches lies face up, a cut off 4x6 under its head and foot. Using your tape measure and a pencil make a mark two inches in from one eight inch edge, then measure nine inches down from the other eight inch edge and, using a straight edge like a level for example, pencil a dark line from mark A to mark B. Your husband, who is wearing the goggles and ear protection, will cut along the line with a radial arm saw while you walk down to the other end to perform the same actions. Repeat thirteen times.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Burn Pile

Littered across the rocks below the dock and newly poured cement piers and beam are empty bags that used to hold the kind of cement you just add water to. Forty-five bags, two days ago 60 pounds each, now collapsed like used party balloons on the rocks with the broken plywood and 2x4’s that Jim and Gary used as forms for the weekend’s cement project. The wind is coming up and thunder crashes; white caps form on the lake behind me. I wad three bags and make a pyramid of bits of driftwood, light the fire with a wooden kitchen match out of the broken kitchen matchbox from the house. I hope, hope, hope that these cardboard matchboxes the size of a 48-pack box of crayons will not be going obsolete anytime soon, I really do love them. The cement bag catches fire and I urge it on with a couple of pine cones and a few more wee bits of driftwood before making a pyramid with three two foot two by fours. Rain, but only a spritzing as I wad more cement bags and put them on top of the two by fours, anchoring the lot with a triangle of plywood about a foot across, then scavenge the rocky beach for more driftwood bits to toss in under the larger wood, wedging wads of cement bag here and there into the cracks between the flames, using a largish driftwood stick to cram bags into the crevices as the wind whips flame towards our dock where I have been standing, then our neighbor’s dock where I fled when the flames threatened and smoke squinted my eyes. I imagine myself agile as I search for more small driftwood, faggots in the parlance of the Campfire Girl I was through sixth grade. The fire has found its footing, eats the two by fours, the plywood, throwing its yellow gold hair this way then that, so that to evade smoky eye burn I fancy footwork my way side to side like a toreador or rodeo clown. Jim brings down a glass of red wine and we take turns holding the glass and poking the fire with a crooked length of driftwood as the sky darkens, partly from storm clouds and partly because it is past 7pm on this April evening. Our dog refuses to clamber down the precipice of sharp rocks to join us in basking here in the fire’s heat just outside its aura of intensity and smoke. Indoors, a chicken roasts in the electric oven with garlic, onion, potatoes, carrots and rutabaga. We will pick our way back from this seasonal beach to the dock and up the stairs into the house to wash up and eat our civilized dinner in our snug beach house while on these rocks our embers will pulse red as primal fears into the night.

Monday, April 10, 2006

In My Journal

Package on the porch of the abandoned house,
filthy tape loosening like disaffected swaddling,
rain puddling under the peach tree,
front yard a pond for salamanders,
marbles scattered over stone like owl's eyes,
its paper lumpy as frog flesh, rucked
and yellowing under the rusty downspout.

At Alki Fish & Chips

Watching Jim feed the seagull
who was minus a foot, leg
no stouter than a straw
I don't want to wear your patience
trying to describe that footless leg
What I want you to see
is Jim's patient joy
offering fry after fry
to that damaged bird.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Promised Self Portrait Collage

Self Portrait

after a poem by Georgia Ella Lyons

Never was caught
peeling varnish off the piano
bench with a straight
her brother got the blame again

I wouldn't like to say
why. She loved Water Music
watching beings
in the levee water
under her microscope

She's thinking about riding
the world's ricketiest
roller coaster - it's
safer than practicing
the piano.

Ask a smooth-trunk
madrona -
maybe it
will tell you
what she wrote on its bark.

-Laura Gamache
March 23, 2006

Self Portrait Collage

Collaged in class with 8th graders using a blown up photo of my National Reader Card I got at the Library of Congress last February. The poem below inspired the collage, which has indistinct actual sewing pins around the collaged part. The photo of lily pads from underwater was from the cover of the Northwest section of the Sunday Seattle Times from a few years ago. I loved the idea of someone actually photographing underwater in Greenlake, which, if you live in Seattle, you know to swarm with outerspace alien green algae not to mention Canada Goose poop. But I digress.

nothing to hold onto

It's the title of my book, and my life's theme, which I may have brought into being by titling the book, or I may, idiot savant that I am, have known in the primitive recesses of my reptile brain the deep truth of all our lives - we ain't here very long folks, whether or not we are facile with punctuation.

White sky over mercury colored lake this morning, the sun a distantly glowing necco wafer in the upper right hand corner of my window. My great dane and I tracked deer along the abandoned county road this morning with the idea of inviting them over for dog treats and frolicking or anyway frolicking. Cruiser is in no way connected with her primitive brain. She has no survival instincts. A few summers ago we saw a cougar and her impulse was to run towards it, possibly with intent to body slam, which she and her best friend, an airedale, now deceased, used as a greeting, along with threatening-sounding growling that made small dog owners suspicious of them at the offleash park. But enough of Henry James. Back to the cougar - I believe it stalked us all the mile and a half back home. My impulse was not to turn my back on it and to hold Cruiser close to me on the leash, the both of us looking very large while backing inconspicuously away from the cougar's perch on a rock outcropping.

Another time, she and I encountered a doe and her two fawns. Cruiser, off leash that morning, raced at them. One fawn tore away from his mother across the asphalt road and Cruiser caught up to it. The fawn collapsed to the gravel as though it was one of those tent pole structures you can take down by pushing in one rib slightly - poof! the thing dropped. As it buckled, it let out a siren-loud bleat, a cry of pain and desolation so vivid and unexpected that both Cruiser and I bolted down the road another couple of miles before turning back to see if the fawn was still alive. It was gone. I had been rehearsing calls to Fish and Wildlife or Wildlife and Game or whoever one calls when one's domestic animal has done away with one of nature's creatures. My story and I believe it was going to be that the fawn had a heart attack; Cruiser never touched it.

I am thinking animal stories this morning in response to the npr interview yesterday with the fellow who wrote a best seller about his bad dog, a golden retreiver. Perhaps there is room in poetry for a best seller about my dog. Perhaps there is room in poetry for a best seller is extremely bad form, and I expect to receive a rebuke or rescinding of my poetic license any moment.