Total Word Count: 5,213
My Journey as a Language Technician: A Prologue
He told us to make it strange. I began to move the muscles in my brain strangely. Not just sometimes, everywhere. I wrote once, and it came easily. The memo was not yet conspicuous, even to the fingers that had danced so decisively gracefully on Angie’s keyboard. I like to believe everything here belongs to her, Angie. I sometimes have to correct my flawed logic. Nothing belongs to her, or to anyone. Except for everything. Everything is the only thing that belongs to anyone.
So the digits danced and produced. It was a mass production, at first. “Quantity over quality” in effect. A future educator’s worst nightmare.
Destination still TBD. ETA: June 9, 2009 2:50 PM CST.
A thought on thoughts, from experience: I once thought that if you have a thought, and the next thought that follows thinks, “I should write that thought down, for future thinking,” follow the last thought first.
They always used to say: Write what you know. I try. I have tried. Still trying.
They always used to say: There is no try. Do or do not. I did not, but I tried.
Now there’s something I should have written down.
I figured I’d just write about myself. That’s not really that hard. Just think about your own stuff and then write it, just stroke up the X factor and solve for X later. It didn’t really work out the way I wanted, but I learned some things during this cross-country relay. It certainly wasn’t a 4x100m.
The X factor ended up being me. I wrote about me, while including a lot of the X factor, being myself. That’s a lot of me for 5,000 brutal words. I thought maybe there were some things that I wrote which seemed devastatingly personal. In the end I chose to embed them, almost in code. I don’t think any code breakers are going to be rummaging through my senior year of college poetry blog, so just take them at face value and you decide what meaning transpires.
A lot of what is translated from my mind to my fingers to the page to your eyes to your mind is probably going to get lost somewhere in the game of it all. Maybe I hadn’t clearly read my mind, maybe my fingers slipped and pounded out the wrong word, maybe Microsoft decided I didn’t mean ‘scended’, and changed it to something else without human consent. Or maybe you’ll foul it up. Maybe your eyes will read “washed“ instead of “wasted“ or your mind will receive “fluidly” instead of “fluently.” It doesn’t really matter though. It’s your meaning that matters, not mine. I’m the scriptor, not the authority. I’m not going to put you in the back of a squad car for misinterpreting my meaning. And that is the beauty in it.
So I just started to see poetry in everything. A conversation I overheard was poetry, once. A snide, under the breath utterance was often so the case. I started to listen to the things people were really saying and translate them into what maybe they were really thinking and then rearrange those thoughts into my own language and allowed them to be excreted through the tips of my fingers. My fingers are the dictators of this whole mess, that’s to be kept at hand at all times.
The other day I was talking with some folks about how much stuff Ben Franklin accomplished in his lifetime. First we started with the things he had actually done: electricity, bifocals, Poor Richard’s Almanac. Then we just started making things up and seeing if we could get the others to believe our claims: “I heard Ben Franklin invented the gunpowder used in the Revolutionary War.” Then we really started to think about it. What if he had? What if Benjamin “Inventor of the Free World” Franklin really had invented everything that was around back then that we still use today? That would be overwhelmingly ridiculous.
I definitely have A.D.H.D. My mom keeps telling me to go to the doc and get a script for it, but I don’t want to, Mom. I kind of like it, it’s kind of inspiring sometimes. I can think of the most random unrelated thing in the middle of any conversation. Sometimes that’s what’s called creativity, Mom. Maybe you’re the one that needs to go to the doc and get tested.
My head is kind of like a game of table tennis. Except instead of the standard one small white ping-pong ball, there’s about a baker’s dozen. There are also four basketballs, six tennis balls and one of those things they use in that crazy Harry Potter wizard game (it appeared only after I had read the books, I thought it might be kind of nice to add a little fiction to my reality). So there’s 24 balls up there on my ping-pong table. And no paddles to control their path or speed. The Harry Potter one doesn’t even bounce, it just flies around like one of those june bugs (I saw one on the last day of May. I thought, ‘he’s probably going to get the worm’). Those balls themselves have a mind of their own, which probably have a couple dozen balls on their own ping pong tables. It’s like one of those Chinese dolls that stack and stack and stack.
A Domesticated Goose Chase
Begin. To begin. Where to begin? Begin with one word. First word, begin. Strange word, begin. As though there was nothing before. As though begin is the beginning of existence. The Alpha. The alphabet. Letters words lines sentences paragraphs pages books shelves floors buildings streets. Streets of language. Of poetry. One street connects another. Not directly. Off-ramps on-ramps. No signs. No sign.
Begin. To begin. Why to begin? Begin only to end. Last word, end. Strange word, end. As though there will be nothing after. As though the end will be the end of existence. The Omega. Cul-de-sac. Dead end. No outlet. Turn around? No U-turn. Continue? No pavement. Pave. Outside the box. Outside the lines. Outside the bun. Teacher laughs, crazy girl.
Not directly, he said. Not with precise style, he said. Thoughts. Fluency of thoughts. Speak write move sing play what you think feel discover. Not directly, fluently. With fluency comes clearness comes opaqueness come directness. But not directly. Create. Go directly to creation. Not triviality or pettiness. Create, he said.
Create. Speak write move sing play. What you know. Write what you know, they said. I know me. Who truly knows me? I. Theoretical, of course. Who truly knows I? Your I, not mine. But mine, too. Not I.
Write what you know, they said. I write what I know. I know not: poetry. Write it. Write about it. What about it? What about I? Include I. Poetry and I, transcendent and new. He said. Poetry and I now transcendent and new with a word count and due date. Dead line. Outside the lines. Outside the box. Write what you know, think outside the box. Not directly. Fluently. Create.
What I know, what I am. What am I? Girl. Woman. On the verge. Poet.
Future. Think of the future, they said. Consequences. Think before you speak. Don’t think before you speak, just speak. Write. Not thinking, writing. Fluently creating. Consciously streaming stream of conscience. To create poetry. Poetry about poetry. Poetry with poetry. Learning by creating and creating by learning. Through learning. What is poetry?
This. This is poetry. Not only this. That those these. All poetry. Poetic and poetics. Structured. No, not structured. Yet always structured. Poetry rejects structure, now. And yet structure remains. Poetry is always already structured. Letters words lines. To talk. To talk about poetry. Cannot talk without structure. Without sounds words utterances.
Trying. I am trying. Yesterday I thought, I know what to write. Today it escapes me. Talk about poetry. Structured. Try again.
Try everything. Everything. Everything. Poetry is everything. Poets touch everything. Universality. It touches the universe universally.
Now I remember.
Five years old. Little. Pretty little. Pretty little girl. Brown hair. Like Mom’s. Mom’s brown hair.
Mom brushes her pretty little girl’s brown hair. Smart little girl under that pretty little girl’s brown hair. Smart for five-year-old girl. Smart.
Mom brushes pretty brown hair. How do you remember, she asks.
Girl answers. Pencil. Pencil in my head. With a notebook. A little notebook. Like detectives carry in their briefcase. Pencil in my head writes on detective notebook in my head. And I remember.
Now I remember.
Twenty-one years old. Little. Always little. Pretty little. Pretty little girl. Woman. On the verge. Brown hair. Like Mom’s. Pencil in my head and little notebook. Not to remember, to forget. Once it is written, it is forgotten. Close the book. Open it, and remember.
It writes. Always writing. Always already written. In little girl’s head. It writes. Not directly. Fluently creating. Poetry and not. Everything is poetry. This. This is poetry. This is what is being written.
Entering the world. Thoughts in little girls head, now entering the world. Not smoothly. Not fluently. Not yet. First try. First putting forth. First push. Breathe.
Word count. Count the words. Every word counts. Deadline, we know. Deadline. Write about poetry. Open that notebook, remember. What did it write? What did it want to remember? What did I want to remember? Forget and remember. Open it. Write now.
Writing. Words. Words floating . Words floating around in my head like stars in the dark night sky. Pick one out, pin it down. A shooting star. Shooting onto the page. Feeling the words flow from my head to my fingers like electricity through a closed circuit. How to know which word to pick? There are so many. They’re all in my head, in your head. His head her head their heads. Pick one out, pin it down. Pin it to the paper. It will stick.
My pencil pins them. Why can’t I? Every word counts but I have no words I want to pin. There are so many, I can’t choose. There aren’t enough still. Too many words and still not enough.
That is what poetry is. Finding the word. Finding the right word. Is there ever a wrong word? Who decides?
Too many words and not enough words. Not enough to be fluent. Not for me.
Write a poem. A poem about poetry. Mom asks, how do you remember? The pencil. Let the pencil pin the words. Are they even in English?
Words are only symbols. A chair is not really a chair, a c-h-a-i-r. And who decides what is or isn’t a c-h-a-i-r. Or a d-e-s-k. Who decides?
Mom asks, a poem about poetry? Like a coffee table book about coffee tables. Teacher laughs, crazy girl.
Does this even make sense? Does it even have to? Do these thoughts connect… to each other, to others, to the world? To me? Who decides?
Take the bus then walk, she says. What? Bus then walk. I will take you somewhere, then walk with me. Stop with me, he said. You can’t know how big something is by going right into it. So tell me show me teach me. Stop and look with me. I’ll meet you there. Take a bus then walk. Teach me.
Make it strange. Strange weird complicated profound. Not true. Strange is strange but complicated is not profound. Many things are complicated but not profound. Calculus is complicated, but not profound. Calculus is complicated, useful, has it’s worth. But what does it teach me about the world? About life?
What about math is poetry. Poetry is everything, so how is poetry math? Math is symbols, words in their own right. Characters with a combined meaning. “At” isn’t “Ate” and 28 isn’t 286. And solving. Needing to be solved. Break down, decode, familiarize. Solve. Solving equations and solving poetry. But the difference? No formulas. But not all math has formulas. Still theories, formulas to be had. Still questions. Still unsolved puzzles, heuristic in nature.
Poetry can be solved, but no right answer. That’s the difference. Maybe poetry is math, but poetry is no right answers. More than one answer. No answer at all. Everyone is right because there is no answer.
The pencil is writing now. It is creating, not directly. Fluently. Word count, counting words, counted words, words yet to be counted but still count all the same.
A poem about poetry, like a coffee table book about coffee tables.
Begin. To begin. To begin, again. This seems a beginning. As though nothing existed before it. But a good beginning? Who decides? If I don’t know, the pencil doesn’t know, do you know? What do you know? Write what you know, they say. What do you know? I know not: poetry. Write about it anyway, ars poetica -- the beginning.
I hear your music. You think I don’t. It is screaming in your ears so loudly that you lose track of all other senses. You don’t see feel taste smell that I am staring at you. But I am. Staring at you. Not through, at. I hear your music. You listen to music that I would hear in a chapel. Organs. Choirs. Babies crying in the back and mothers softly shushing.
Correspondence. Organ music during correspondence. Not my choice. I hear your music. Your choice. Why choose organ music? Organs. An integral part of being. The music of our organs. Percussion of the heart. Writing a love letter: the correspondence of organ music.
Grumbling stomach, full of hunger. That is music, sure. And now, now it is poetic.
Choose a word, any word. Put it on repeat and record results.
Hypothesis: Continual repetition of a single commonplace word or utterance will deconstruct the commonplace meaning of said word or utterance and creativity shall flourish to the point of enstrangement.
Word: Fork. Strange word to begin with. Let’s give it a whirl.
The harshness of k. I’d never noticed the harshness of k. Do all letters have these personalities? Probably. The f, sassy. The o, inflexible. The r, gentle and scared, next to that k. This represents fork. The k most noticeable, with its four harsh tongs ready to pounce, to prey, to puncture. The others fit, too. You try.
The sound of a grape.
Scending an infinitive ladder, never to fall.
Jumping jacks for jumping jills.
Don’t search for the meaning.
Spruce things mean.
Cart primps ton.
Hell sun don.
Still scending the ladder.
Cough drops sell books milk notebook.
A coffee table book about coffee tables.
These thoughts aren’t connecting. Need for rum in my diet. Connect the thoughts. Connect yourself.
I’m writing. She’s writing. He’s talking. Language is confining us. His, not English. Hers, not spoken. Language the same. She writes, erases, rewrites. A mistake? There are no mistakes in language! Yak bullet. Not a mistake. It’s who decides that makes the mistake.
I rewind. I remember, again. Five years old. Pencil in head. Some poetry written. Not mine. Already everyone’s. I remember.
“I am writing these poems
From inside a lion,
And it's rather dark in here.
So please excuse the handwriting
Which may not be too clear.
But this afternoon by the lion's cage
I'm afraid I got too near.
And I'm writing these lines
From inside a lion,
And it's rather dark in here.”
Shel Silverstein, girl’s favorite poet. Poetry at five, a mystery. The attraction, the rhymes, the lions, the humor. Girl laughs.
Shel Silverstein, woman’s favorite poet. Poetry at twenty-one, a mystery. The attraction, the deeper meaning, the symbolism, the tropography. Woman laughs, metaphorically.
I skip class to write poetry. Never would have crossed my mind before. Just skip class and write. Okay, write what? Poetry. Why, she asks. Why not?
String theory. Perhaps in another universe I am in EAF228. In this one, I am not. I am writing poetry. Poetry about how I am not in a class that I should be in. If I am thinking about it, writing about it, technically I feel like I am there. Let me email George and tell him to erase my absence from his attendance sheet.
Correspondence. Let’s not forget the organ music. Now faded. Still playing somewhere, but I cannot hear it. I cannot hear any music. Or can I? I hear sounds, scratches, slams. Music? If everything is poetry, is everything music? Is poetry music and music poetry? Lyrical.
I skip class. Think denotatively, creatively. Seemingly opposites but descend. Skip class. That sounds enjoyable even literally. Skip class. Like gym class in kindergarten. Holding hands, sashaying carelessly around an enormous echoing space. That was the girl.
Skip class now, woman. Enjoyable, still. Yet anxiety-filled. Never relaxation in skipping class. I think I’ll nap. No nap to be had. Let’s call up some friends. No friends with spare time, they’ve all not skipped. Let’s go somewhere great. Somewhere great? This is Bloomington. I head to Angie’s to write poetry.
It’s often strange to me this place a library. How is it that in my apartment, my quiet distant lonesome apartment, I find so many ways to distract my mind. Yet, in this noisy typing busy bustling place, I find peace of mind. I concentrate I connect. It’s conducive.
So many people, such a small space, not a word exchanged. She sneezes. Everyone too scared to speak bless you, although we all say it silently to ourselves. And yet no distraction.
It’s the space. The knowing of the shared insight into what this space provides. Think of a different space. The quad. Eye contact and smiles welcome. The Pub II, many words, glances, laughs. But not Milner. It’s almost eerie from an outside perspective. Don’t make eye contact, that’s staring! No talking, that’s rude. Stare straight ahead. Mind your own business. Look busy, at least. Punch those keys, sound busy. Wrinkle your brow. Scratch your head. Rest your chin on your fist, Thinker. Turn the pages, erase a word, backspace backspace forward again. Check Facebook, the only connection.
Maybe everything is. Just need a new perspective. A new terminological screen. A new network of interpretation. Here I go again, with that rhetoric bullshit. The study that reshaped my lexicon, not my thought. Not my perspective. Still, I am biased.
This space. Biased, too.
The reminder on my foot
On my wrist
And upside down
Looking down – feeling up
Feeling down – looking up
My foot and my wrist
What would happen if they touched?
A jolt of electricity or
An overwhelming calm
Looking down, growing up
Looking up, the struggle
Not yet over, pushed to the burner
But always compelling
It’s funny how they hide
Not how – when
Smooth salient irony
Why do they hide – then
Which will hide now?
A crying of faith, first
Looking down, faith first
A crying for help, then
Into the mirror, faith forgotten
And wondering why
A cry for help, to myself
Meandering soulless Faith
My beautiful scar, undetected
Why do I think of this now?
The pain long subsided
I wonder who that was
Was it just me?
Not the same, the other
Corrective eyewear is of no need to the hindsight.
The speckled reflection
Under the radar
My life like a poem
The reflection fading
Fading as it fools you
I’d like now to climb a tree
Many new faces, wandering
Still on their leash
Ready to run
Wide-eyed and wowza
A sneak peek to the future, but glossed in its favor
Come now, they’re gone
So much to see
Avoiding the truth
Not hiding, not lying
Avoiding merely avoiding
I remember, too
How they avoided
Did not deceive, mislead, lie
But what is that now – nothing
Wait ‘til you see what’s in here
One of the glossed!
Are you still a real live human being?
I like your picture
The new place is nice
Her bank account at least
Thank you very much
I shook it up and down
I forgot I owned it until yesterday
The thought of the pool makes it very tempting
We’ll decide when we have a life
Probably some easy carders
No, no. I’m going to stay.
I guess that counts you out
Why are you frustrated?
Thought you ought to know.
I’m putting in a request
And to think I wasted my time
Hangers are all triangular, so I ignore them.
Spouting and dip
Stop – midair
Has this progressed?
I ignore it.
Your sister said something funny today.
But they said I needed help.
Did you call?
I answered --
Wishes a couple
Bring your dancers
Come young love
Divide services appropriately
Flexible hair, rigid
Breakfast enjoys being nice
Boxes haven’t seen you
That is a fitting name
I’ve expected more
I request to be your friend
I have searched for days
For the answers
Not questions my own
Knowledge in a bottle
Tossed haphazardly to the wind
The sea catches it in its fist
The bottle shatters, stunned
A container betrayed
And thus contained drown
Who holds it now?
A policeman falls in love with a woman
A business meeting
She woke softly
Squinting into the sun
Surprised at her surroundings
The girl in the painting
Not so different from I
Blended together by some
Sort of technique
Each color, purposeful
Reinvent yourself, retouch
Don’t play color-by-number, what a ridiculous idea.
Again looking up
Looking down the reminder
Reflect and advance
Allowing to an extent
And would they
Saved for another day
Another horrible day
In the wings
Emily Dickinson -- a Cento
The sacred stealth of Boy and Girl (1553)
One and One -- are One (769)
Though I within suppose (1555)
I shall not count the journey one (1664)
That never felt the Sun (1660)
The largest Fire ever known (1114)
I tried to think of a lonelier Thing (532)
Which having sown with care (116)
Would pierce me with a fashion (348)
When Certain it must die (468)
We chiefly wonder then (1024)
How short we have to fear (1399)
The grass does not appear afraid (1400)
Would pay each Atom that I am (1231)
I should not dare to be so sad (1197)
A little note -- when you awake (487)
No Message, but a Sigh (804)
I held a Jewel in my fingers (245)
Upon me -- like a Claw (612)
My Hand, with trembling care (609)
When swift it slipped its limit (567)
Have not each one of us the right (1596)
To this revolting bliss (1749)
Somehow myself survived the Night (1194)
For when the Frosts begin (1025)
I knew that I had gained (1022)
But just a single smile (223)
Till mine too heavy grew (217)
Tonight she lies (1702)
And untouched by Noon (216)
You left me Boundaries of Pain (644)
Had all my Life but been Mistake (646)
The Sailor doubting turns (851)
When a Lover is a Beggar (1314)
Which is the best -- the Moon or the Crescent? (1315)
Not a hesitation (1317)
Generic as a Quarry (1316)
And with ironic caw (1659)
To hear the living Clock (1703)
And dream the Days away (333)
A short relief to have the wind (1703)
He shall seek in vain (746)
Sank this Beggar from the Sky (760)
He lived where Dreams were born (371)
Staring -- bewildered -- at the mocking sky (319)
The former love -- distincter grows (610)
With narrow probing, Eyes (561)
Then Loneliness looks so (590)
Dips -- evades -- teases -- deploys (319)
The Gem was gone (245)
A Prison gets to be a friend (652)
The Heart has many Doors (1567)
But History and I (1583)
Today in Memory lain (1209)
Here is laid away (1217)
The Infinite a sudden Guest (1309)
Such are the inlets of the mind (1421)
How mighty to the insecure (1499)
When we have ceased to care (1706)
Her pretty speech -- like drunken men (208)
How fitter they will be for Want (801)
So preconcerted with itself (290)
There is Another -- (977)
It fitted them, came in (1039)
Another Hour to me (1111)
This limitless Hyperbole (1482)
Satisfaction is the agent (1036)
These Strangers, in a foreign World (1096)
With but a single Star (589)
His figure intimate (1128)
Her breast is fit for pearls (84)
It might be Famine all around (791)
Since a Rack couldn't coax a syllable now (793)
While I delay to guess (1187)
It made us all ashamed (1272)
The desolation only missed (1495)
Until they look around (1497)
So long -- so short (1556)
Those looked that lived that Day (1593)
That for an instant (1660)
The lowliest career (1626)
A face devoid of love or grace (1711)
He is just as high (1538)
The Music in the Violin (1576)
Was nearer than the Sky (1581)
He went by sleep that drowsy route (1662)
Sweet is the swamp with its secrets (1740)
The morns are meeker than they were (12)
You and I the secret (22)
Should reach so small a goal (146)
My story as a moral (23)
This faith that watched for star in vain (145)
With Hammer, and with Blaze (365)
More Life went out when he went (422)
To put a Current back (556)
Best Things dwell out of Sight (998)
To Squirrels, and to Me (1073)
A Lorine Niedecker Cento
Carnegie Hall, the great musicbox
He has issued also complaints in vast design
He bowed to everyone he met
Too good to forsake
May you have lumps in your mashed potatoes
From lower to upper terrace
Saw her face
I was job certified
Let's practice your dance
Last lines being sentimental, reaction
On the part of the Milky Way
I'll wait, he said
But he was not for me
What cause have you
And it's not laughing
Recombinations of yellows
Wash and say good night
The chemist creates
At pond bottom
They sank the sea
You can keep me warm
He who'd bowed his head
He bowed to everyone he met
It uses us, we use it
The world has no notice
Only an occasional stray student
Edge ice crack duck
He kept us afloat
But who will veer
reproduced by seed
These trailer houses
Dark road home
Patched and worn and many more
Beyond my life
She grew where every spring
Follow winter break-up
and I am old.
And the sun and moon and stars
Where I now walk I carry
Don't fall in love
on New Year's Day
The good sea weather
rocking his chair
of shore and shade
all who live here
All in vain it would sometimes seem
A thimble in her purse
faint, not enough to eat
For sun and moon and radio
My coat threadbare
so many winters
quivering toward light
taxes, no work
what was it he ate
give me this
what's that? -- belly!
Let's play a game
without any opening
thin coat, without knowing why
till grandfather traded it
I spent my money
see thru the laughter
fashions mornings after
one month going into another
so many winters
Insubordinate Coordination, thus.
A friend of my sister’s once travelled to a large city to take photographs of hobos. I thought it was a strange thing to do. Then again, I thought, maybe not. I doubt whether hobos are often (or ever) asked to be in others’ photographs unless they are being used for some kind of “End Hunger” pamphlet or modern art inspirational piece. I saw the pictures of what she had done. I think I still don’t really understand why she did it. I liked the photographs, though. They were unashamedly unfamiliar, but somehow I felt like maybe I had seen some of the people in them before. People ask to be in pictures with those they don’t know all the time: “Yo, Ashton Kutcher, look over here!” I’ll bet you dollars to donuts those hobos felt like that goddamn Ashton Kutcher for a day, so who gives a shit if she took their pictures.
She once took pictures of her friends’ houses, without her friends having known. She just drove by in her car and snapped a photo. I thought this was strange, too, but maybe not once I reconsidered. I figure, lots of people take pictures of lots of buildings. The Sears Tower, Wrigley Field, Adler Planetarium. They don’t need permission for those pictures. They’re often proud: “Let us show you our photos from our wonderful trip to the big city!” So who cares if she took pictures of her friends’ houses or hobos. I don’t give a shit. She isn’t a famous photographer or really even a photographer at all. She just felt like taking pictures of shit that people take pictures of all the fucking time. Who gives a shit.
She sometimes speaks in just abbrevs. I hate when other people give a shit about that kinda shit. “Just say the whole word” her mom was like. I told her, I kind of like abbrevs. Everyone else abbrevs all their stupid shit: NASCAR is one long fucking abbreviation. Nobody cares that they call it that instead of The National Associate for Stock Car Auto Racing. So I don’t give a shit if you say JK instead of just kidding or OMG instead of oh my God. If you do decide to give a shit, then I hope you slip and fall accidently off the countenance of God’s beautiful green earth.
I’m not JK. Just let people do their own fucking thing. I don’t bother your shit, so don’t bother mine. If your son wants to be a goddamn school janitor or union plumber or hobo photographer or mall security guard, then smile knowing he at least has a goddamn dream. That’s a lot more than some people have got: a dream and some parents who think it’s a good one. If you want to give him more than you had, start with that.
Just smile and nod and go the way you intended,
regardless of whether or not I say
you should go
should only go half
way or so.
all their goddamn
“Baby, be your own person.”