"What Was I Doing. . .?"30 Years Ago20 Years Ago10 Years Ago5 Years Ago -
I am 46 years old. The December before, T & and I buy a house together. I sell my house in Boulder and find another for us that has northern light for T's painting studio -- it is hard to find such a light in Boulder where north windows are not smart thermodynamics. I find a 2-story box of a house in a neighborhood with excellent schools (art-math-music) with a finished basement and two fireplaces: one, gas, in the living-room which for years I am afraid to light, and another wood burning one in the basement: perfect for Y2K so "when the grid goes down" we're set -- plenty southwest sun. I wake up EARLY in this house. "I'm turning into my grandmother," I think. And the thought pleases me. This time in December, six years ago, I am handing T a cashiers check for $90,000 made out to him, and for an instant, I think: "This may be the biggest mistake of my life." I have sold my first house, the one with the 40 foot blue spruce the cats love, garden (established cumfrey!), and kitchen with the wall painted "mastodon blood red" for the appetite. I HATE TO MOVE but I do. Bryce from Wings Press calls periodically. We have other business, anthology permissions, Daughters of the Quinto Sol (or whatever the conference was called before "Latina Letters") and I am sure he asks, again, for a book. I have resurrected MANGO Publications and have decided to publish my own limited edition of DRIVE, and I have already published a limited run of BOOK III: PLAY the summer before; the summer before I decide to decide and choose T as my last move never after. I am laying out "How Far's the War" and plan to job the printing and specially made box out to a professional, but want to do as much of it myself as I can, and all of the design. Bryce asks: "WHY?" And it gongs in my head for the next 3 years in a way that paralyzes me. But I have enough to do with unpacking. T uses the money to pay off his old mortgage & sells his house. I joke that the closing is our wedding day. We decide to keep me out of it as T's credit rating is spotless and mine is, well, as only a semiotician who distrusts the symbol in general could be. I get pregnant right away. We're delighted and I spend the first 3 months of 2000 reading baby books, eating well and calculating the development of neurons. In March I miss direct involvement in a search for a cw position for the first time as I have a miscarriage. I get monitored every day for 2 weeks prior. Towards the end, when it seems inevitable, I go to Planned Parenthood for the testing. The older nurse who draws my blood is the only one who thinks to say: "I'm sorry." I am so grateful to her. I have already been to emergency. I am to return when I "expel the remains" but I use a potent herb instead. I am confident I know what I am doing, and know that this is the only way I can assure pregnancy in the future. I know, too, that I could hemorrhage and die. I miss my mother and my grandmother terribly. The cramps begin late at night. I wake up T and take the tincture; it tastes appropriately bitter. I go in the bathroom, mine in the bedroom, and scream into a towel. My son has school in the morning; I don't want to have to wake him for a scary ride to emergency. He doesn't know about the baby. I call the doctor, mine is on vacation. It is horrible and painful. I feel ever brave for it. I go back to bed at dawn. It takes me a while to recover. Meanwhile, my body goes through all the stages and changes for full-term pregnancy anyway. I can't stay awake for my child's reading every night. I wake often, around 2 am, to find I have fallen asleep in his bed. Every night since he was born I have read to him. I dream into the book and we erupt into peals of laughter later remembering. I am reading a Magic School Bus Book where they go to a coral reef contaminated by a chain and a metal treasure chest. I am reading the part about sharks and dreaming of lampreys and nurse sharks while I read. I get it mixed up with another book in the series, about traveling through the human body and phagocytes, and who knows. I don't know what I read and he says something, and I point to the picture of the shark and say, "This is what we have in our bodies." "WHAT!!!?" He screams. I laugh. And realize I've been hallucinating my own book. That summer he has a swimming accident in daycare while I am teaching summer school. My son has been submerged and has an extreme fear of water. Two weeks later he is attacked by the neighbor's Rottweiller. She brings him over with a torn cheek. We have a tearful (me) time in emergency, hours when I realize he would have been better off with my prompt herbal attention. They bring in a plastic surgeon. He gives my son a horse tranquilizer, some kind of weird psychotropic not normally used on humans, ketamine, I think. I ask the surgeon about it. He writes the name down on a slip of paper I hold out to him, and gives me a "look lady, I can just walk out right now" kind of attitude about it. So I let him. He clips a long clump of flesh from my son's extraordinarily good-looking cheek. Then he takes the stitches out too soon. The two traumas have affected my son. It merges with my "illness" and my time in bed, and he becomes very morbid. He has a great fear of sharks. He's afraid they will somehow end up in his bath. He asks me a lot if I'm going to die. We talk a lot about "El Mundo" and that we are the earth. I find a box of seeds five years expired. They had belonged to T's former partner who had died getting hit on her bicycle by a drunk driver. She was an acquaintance of mine from the Peace Center, I had considered her a newly made friend at the time of her death. Now her old seeds. She was a master gardner. Me, I'd just follow my grandmother around in California and do whatever she'd say: "Just throw it in the ground. Water it. It likes to grow." I spend the summer outside in our new backyard which is bare. I read her gardening books. Her notebooks and labels. And cry. I plant the seeds after the books all say they will never grow, thinking of my expired seed, and the baby T & I will never have. T sends me to Isla for my birthday. I spend it there, alone. That summer, before the trip, I am sitting in the yard, crying over the seedlings that have all germinated, and I remember "chaya"
. I remember that chaya may have saved our baby from miscarriage as it had saved my son 6 years before. I spend a long journey of botanical research. It is as if the plant is speaking to me. It takes me several years later to realize that this time five years ago, I am very depressed.1 Year Ago -
I am the BIG 5-0. I spend a sweet holiday with T at home. And, year. I miss California. I have missed applying to several good positions there, positions I have been invited to apply for. I want to stay in Colorado. With T. We were married, that July 30, Blue Moon. We got our own license and certificate and hiked up Green Mountain, sat facing Boulder and our house and signed the form; I imagine the trees officiate as "they have memories longer than ours." That fall I am "sick as a dog" and have been, intermittently for years. I can't stop throwing up and go to the emergency room periodically that year for fluids and tests. That fall break, I am 89 pounds. I look deathly ill. People turn away when I see them staring at me. I am barely strong enough to go to the store. Bryce is publishing DRIVE and for the first time in decades, the press is turned down for an NEA grant. I think I know why. I have an "unpublishable" poem in DRIVE. I figure this gives me more time to work on the books. It is very difficult trying to *finish* one book much less five simultaneously. I write over 50 poems, not counting revisions and screenplay. I decide to use the Eliot quotes. I find the perfect cover, a painting by a painter who had had a profound influence on me 35 years ago when I was still a teen. "The Bus" by Irving Norman. I don't mind the delay in publication. I get another poor review due to my illness and delayed publication date. I don't get another raise and am placed on probation. I decide I need to take a medical leave upon the advice of my Chair. I never know when I will be sick and when I will be well. And when I am sick I can do nothing but retch every 10 minutes day and night for days on end until emergency room we do depart for, and I figure that does not make for good pedagogy. I miss California. I send my father & family a basket, and my regrets that I won't be able to come for the holidays. I miss tamales and tamaladas. I miss throwing big dinner parties for friends. I cook a lot, recipes from Bon Appetit and old favorites. I make tamales. My son has the "best Christmas ever." So do I. T is happy. So am I.Yesterday: Take One -
I had my reading yesterday, first time I had read for the program in 15 years. I can't help but read from the new novel. It's all I hear. Besides, I know I'll be reading soon from the new book, DRIVE, and I make a little joke about it being 25 years in the writing and I am already sick of it. I have a new manuscript of poetry that I have just printed up. I bring that to the reading, too. I am mesmerized by Marcia Douglas's new book, Notes From A Writer's Book of Cures and Spells. She reads exquisitely. I read the Ancestors poem with the Chumash rattle. Then launch into the novel. What the heck. I wanted to debut the book with the performance pieces, with musicians, but I would have had to pay them. Not that I would have minded, if I could have afforded it this month, but it's snowing and bitterly cold. I don't expect anyone to show up. But they do. I've been asked to present a reading next spring for Ethnic Studies. I will debut the book then. I end my reading with the new Neruda poem, "Sleeping Around." I like that we are all so different from each other. I have always believed the university's motto: "Excellence in Diversity." I'm not about limiting the conditions of possibility.Yesterday: Take Two -
Yesterday it was too cold for anything. I spent the day actually organizing my bookmarks. I actually marked and organized "lifelines" -- dates for submitting poems. I am almost tongue-in-cheek submitting this year, not because I am not serious about this new work, but that I feel a little put upon as an artist to be forced to succumb to the system of gathering "Brownie Points" by scatter-shooting individual poems out to little mags and journals -- and *losing my first rights to my own poems* -- when I get no credit for having poems included in the Nortons or other texts and anthologies from major presses. My poetic thrust (yeah, I'll write that, y que?) has always been THE BOOK. I get invites to submit to mags almost weekly. There's only so many hours in a day, and my priority has always been students. And so I submit to student mags. I have lots of new poems in this new manuscript that have *not* been on the blog, and which I'm really excited about. I like them. (Editors: Want any?)Yesterday: Take Three -
Yesterday we went to go hear Otis Taylor & Charlie Musselwhite. Yowza, Do old blues guys ever get old? I take my position in the front of the stage and start dancing at the first note. This is my favoritest thing to do in the world: Dance to Charlie Musselwhite. Or, dance to any blues. Or, dance. "Blues? You dance to that? I thought that was just music you cry to into your beer," an old love of my life once told me. I LOVE dancing to blues. I LOVE dancing to Charlie Musselwhite. I love Otis Taylor, too, so two in one, and Motet and Papa (something), too, all great. I gotta do this more often. Gets my yayas out. Two different people stop me and tell me I am an "awesome dancer." T sits this one out. ("I was dancing in my seat.") And I get The Look from several. A good night.Yesterday: Take Four -
Yesterday I washed dishes. I cooked something then went to do a reading for a benefit to buy land for women's indigenous ceremonies. It was at the Perk & Pub in Denver. Ellen Klaver, who I rode up with, played and sang some original songs. She has the most amazing voice. Look for her CDs. Another woman who reads regularly at Cafe Cultura, where I'd like to go, if I drove as it's hard to get there from Boulder at night, otherwise. I think they are doing incredible work there. Check out their MySpace website here
-- I did and opened up my own MySpace
. The reading went well; it feels odd to read from the new book, especially with all the last minute changes, I forget where poems are -- there's so many to choose from. So many styles and strategies. Rocky Rodriguez has organized it. She's been an influence and a role model to me for over 30 years. I give her a book and sign it to that effect. It feels good to be there. Ellen dances in the indigenous women's danzante group. The drummer is really good. It cuts right through me, straight to the DNA. I have always wanted to join a danzante group. It feels like home. I need to get out more.Yesterday: Take Five -
Yesterday I did what I do every Sunday: get up, check email, read my blogs (that is, your blogs), come down, hug T, and settle in to read the paper with T and listen to Cancion Mexicana. Then, it's Chicano music all day long -- no matter what kind of music it is. I listen to Pocho Joe and later, Latin music. Then, Reggae. I cook a frittata that's more like a Spanish tortilla. I invite my old friend, and now, Nanny, N for dinner. He was with us for Thanksgiving and I have a turkey pot pie in the freezer. I make a corn chowder/ mushroom soup blend. He make yummy sounds all through the meal. I'm writing a script for a sit-com pilot in my head: "N the Nanny" about a genius hippy drop-out guy from NY in Boulder who finds himself a nanny for an old friend. N knows everyone. When the Dylan special aired, N says, "I sold my truck to Joan Baez. They were living in. . .". It would make a great sit-com. Very unique. We're quiet and bummed out. Right before N came T got a call from his sister. His 86 year old mother has just fallen and broken her hip. She is in the hospital in Pueblo because Trinidad doesn't have one. We should be going down soon.
I'm off to deliver my son's cello to him at school. Thanks for the memories. I'm devouring all of your accounts. And if you haven't, now, do you.