My Novel, the Poem Version

The following is my novel, reduced to 500 words and given line breaks. Thanks, Autosummarize, for this literary masterpiece. (P.S. I had no idea I used this many exclamation points. I think it got every single one.) Enjoy….

No Lake Ever Loved Us (the poem)

Etta! Etta. If you had only had children, said Matilda. Really Etta, said Matilda. Well! Our little houses. Harvey with his long, thin hands.

Well if you must know, Harvey is Caucasian. Father, Harvey is a professor…. Especially if my father is against it.

Ah well, never mind. Never mind, Etta. Take Harvey’s love for America. Harvey stood behind my chair. Caucasians, said Harvey. Etta. Harvey’s kind. Harvey was the only Hindu. Thirsty, said Harvey. Harvey blushed. Harvey was craning his neck. To Harvey?

Mother says if you could come…. Mother says if you could come.

Matilda! Matilda cried.

Old! Well.

Etta – Etta Chakrabarti. My father. Father! If it isn’t Henry! Harvey and I – I paused. Matilda? Well! Matilda? Not a word from Harvey.

Love. Etta Chakrabarti. Harvey wasn’t coming home. Harvey.

If sex works, that is. Well if it ain’t Etta herself. Men will be men, she was saying.             Etta! Etta – said Harvey, looking pained.

Harvey laughed. Harvey was in California. Well!

Harvey – I mean, Arabinda. Matilda!

Colman’s eyes. What if you fell in?

Love? Well! Harvey’s eyebrows flickered. The man’s eyebrows jumped.             Bloody hell yourself, Harvey. Harvey began backing away.

Etta. I had loved Harvey. It was Harvey. Harvey, what a surprise.

Why it’s Harvey! Right, right. Harvey smiled a weary smile. Etta. Etta.

If I loved you? I asked Harvey. Hello, Etta, said Harvey.

Harvey put his hand on my knee. Harvey held open the door.

Right! Harvey winced at the sound.

I won’t sign, Harvey. Harvey. Harvey folded his hands on the tablecloth.             Mother! Mother! I’m – excuse me, Harvey. Harvey did not follow.

Harvey is so cultured. Etta! Etta.

Hello Harvey. California, Mose said to Harvey. Harvey smiled, squinting his eyes. Harvey smiled, a real one this time. Ah yes, said Harvey.

Ah, said Harvey, shaking his head as if to sober himself. Harvey laughed. Harvey watched without a word. Harvey – my voice was hoarse. Harvey I want you.

Etta, my Etta. Harvey, I said. Etta? Why Harvey! See if he smiled.

No Harvey on the street. My father. Oh, Matilda.

Matilda sniffled. Your poor father. Father –

Harvey lost his citizenship. Matilda prickled.

Harvey! Harvey shrugged. Walking.

Harvey shrugged. Never mind.

Etta – Let me go, Harvey.

When my arms tired, Harvey carried Maurice and when Maurice squirmed, Harvey let him walk, Harvey’s finger in Maurice’s firm little fist. Come now, Etta, Harvey said uncomfortably.

Harvey froze. Fish? hooted the man. Etta. Hurry, Harvey!

Whatever for? asked Harvey. Hush, said Harvey. Are you all right, Harvey?

Harvey was right – Maurice was fine.

Harvey? Harvey was gone.

Harvey! Ah, Etta. Yes, yes, said Harvey, shaking his hand.

Look, Harvey, I turned to him. In Ravenna? asked Harvey.

Harvey watched me with his deep water eyes. Harvey had ahold of my hand.

Harvey held my hand. Matilda –

Harvey, good grief! Harvey was not talking.

If you wish. I’m not divorcing Harvey.

To leave Harvey? Mother is.

Father! Be serious, man! Like mother?

Etta!

Enough, October!

It’s been quite a month. It began with Nate and me getting desperately mad at each other for a week. Then our house got broken into while we were all at work and my computer and flute and a bunch of other stuff got stolen, including Nate’s awesome gold bolo tie that his grandma made him. Then Nate’s back went out. Then Squinchy gave me a black eye because he heard “jump!” when I said “duck under!” and he jumped over the tire I was hoping he’d crawl through and collided with my face. Then our housemate got sick. Then I got sick. Now Nate is sick. Also, our chickens got worms, and they aren’t laying because they are also molting. I’d like to blame it all on Mercury Retrograde, but that ended a while ago, and anyways, that just may not be fair.

In any case, enough, stars! Enough, October! It’s November now, Mercury is direct, I deep-cleaned my house, and the renter’s insurance sounds like they’ll do us right. So here’s to a new month.

flute_necklace

Important Insurance Documents Showing Stolen Flute and Locket. By the way, burglar, were you seven? If not, why did you want my locket?

Dublin Conundrum

So now I’m in Dublin, slowly heading home. Here’s my newcomer’s observations: Dublin is a city of contradictions. I’ve seen a nun in Birkenstocks, a man driving a horse and buggy while talking on a cell phone, a lady who had to move to England to divorce her pub-loving husband but many pairs of men holding hands, a bedraggled 1940’s boy scout canteen from North Bend Washington being sold for twenty euro in a flea market, the word “authentic” on everything that isn’t. 

Dublin looks as if its fashion-consultants were all alternative high schoolers in Seattle in the ’90’s. Lots of black lipstick, hair dyed the color of cherry lollypops, short dresses and frumpy sweaters, everything a little loud and a little awkward, like it’s a statement as much as an expression of natural grace.

I went to hear some traditional music in a pub outside the tourist district a couple of nights ago, and while the bar was a dead ringer for Conor Byrnes, this was no Seattle Old Time Jam. This was a bar full of people (lots of guys — lots of dudes) who were belting out the choruses of everything from “Wild Mountain Thyme” to “I’m Just a Teenage Dirtbag, Baby.” Not sure how that one made the trad cut. I drank my obligatory Guinness; the Irish drank Bulmer’s Cider. A girl with cherry pop hair and cherry pop lipstick drank a cherry pop colored drink. A guy spilled his beer in my hair and then headlocked me and kissed the top of my head to say sorry. I met a bunch of very sweet guys from Donnybrook. One of them insisted on walking me home, though he was smaller, younger, and drunker than I was. I hope he got home alright — he had much farther to go. When I showered in the morning, my hair gave of the artichoke smell of beer.

So that’s Dublin, or a flash of it. No pictures, because I’m in a hurry. 

The Bad British Biscuit Project

I’ve been doing a serious cultural investigation into the biscuit aisle of the grocery stores. I want to try as many kinds of bad British biscuits as I can. I think it’s because they a) are kind of wonderful in their badness, and b) they just aren’t as gross as cheap American cookies. They have real food ingredients (well, like white flour, sugar and safflower oil) instead of being solid GMO soy oil, cottonseed oil, corn syrup, sugar beets.

I’ve tried Hobnobs, Jaffa Cakes, Cafe Noirs, and lots of different digestives with and without chocolate. Luckily, the wonderful women I’ve been staying with have been very graciously assisting me eat all the bad biscuits. Also, I’ve been walking a lot, and as the Jaffa Cake wrapper reminds us, snacks are ok as part of a balanced life that includes vegetable eating and exercise. They even put a soccer ball on the box.

As I’ve been walking, I’ve been doing another serious cultural project: constructing the following photo essay about the Country Gates of Devon. I think this is probably The Friendly Moth’s post that is most likely to go viral. Enjoy!

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America, Land of Robot Willies

Last night the neighbors invited me to a campfire in the garden.

“America is awesome!” the ten-year-old neighbor boy told me. And why was that? “Because there’s guns and money.” 

No Guns? No Money? Must not be America. (It's actually the back garden here in Devon.)

No Guns? No Money? Must not be America. (It’s actually the back garden here in Devon.)

Did everyone just walk around with a big gun cha-ching? Did all the grannies have tasers in their handbags? He and his friends wanted to know. I attempted to expand the boys’ knowledge of America by showing them how to make s’mores, using British marshmallows (no corn syrup! real gelatin! half-sized!), Cadbury’s chocolate, and digestive biscuits. 

“But why are guns so awesome?” pressed an adult.

“Guns and money — that’s everything you need.”

“What about love and food?” I asked.

“It’s kind of the same thing,” said one of the adults, and a lightbulb clicked on for those boys. 

“Guns are like robot willies!” 

Then they wanted to stick a sparkler into a can of petrol.

“Do you believe in God?” one of them asked me, before they ran off to watch Planet of the Apes.

Cat Flaps

Have you wondered why I haven’t shown up on your doorstep lately? Well it’s because I showed up on the lovely Helen A.’s doorstep and she lives in England, which is pretty far away from all of you. So yeah, I’m in England. I’m in Southwestern England in fact, staying in a cottage on a 13th century estate. There are gardens and cows and wheat fields and ancient oaks and lanes of blackberries and a steam train that whistles and a river that moves so slowly it appears to change direction and lots of men with chin-length hair like they wore in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and pubs and rain and doves that sound like the quail of California. 

Also — you will laugh, but it’s been kind of crazy — EVERYONE HAS BRITISH ACCENTS. The old men, the jogging ladies with the little dogs, the hippies, the guy playing a stone marimba on the street — even the kids have British accents. So the bratty little boy in the cafe doesn’t say “Nu unh, I don’t wanna hold Dad’s hand,” he says (please read in your best terrible attempt at a British accent) “No! I’m not holding Daddy’s hand. I’m holding your hand, you!” I tell you, it’s kind of a perpetual shock.

The best Britishism I’ve learned so far? The word “cat flap.” It sounds like it could mean all kinds of interesting things, but it’s actually just a cat door. Don’t worry, by the time I’m home, I’m sure I’ll have learned loads more.

Here are some views through the windows of the house where I am:DSCN3457
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The Beard of Poetry

(This post also appears on my Frog Hollow School blog about teaching writing.)

Last week my friend Joshua Gottlieb-Miller came to my Friday class as a visiting poet. It was pretty exciting. The kids had great questions for him. Some highlights:

“Are you a famous poet like Robert Frost?”

“I am zero percent famous.”

Joshua Gottlieb-Miller

“Are you a famous poet like Charles Darwin?”

“I may be a more famous poet than Charles Darwin.”

“Do you write poems about nature, or reality?”

“Both. Sometimes I start a poem with nature, and then it needs some reality so I put in a telephone or something. You know?”

(Rapt stares and nods.)

They were amazed to find out that poets can work at Trader Joe’s (Josh says he is one of two staff poets at his branch), and that you can write poetry about recycling (Josh has an entire manuscript of recycling-related poems). Mostly, however, they were fascinated by Josh’s beard. And it is true, he has an impressive one.

When Josh was leaving, one of the girls called out, “You’ll always be famous to us! What was your name again?” Classic.

After Josh left, they wrote him a collaborative poem, each student adding a line as we went around the circle. They managed to put Josh, basketball, beards, garbage, pink fluffy unicorns, squash, and luna moths in one poem. Pretty coherently. And they wrote it in the shape of a beard and called it “The Beard of Poetry.”

This week, they waxed on for a long time about how much they liked his teeth. They also decided they want to memorize one of his poems. Random poet-face objectification aside, I think introducing Frog Hollow to a living poet was a success.