I'm glad I voted and I'm glad smart friends educated me about the judges in advance. I'm glad my ballot receipt has 4 languages on it. I'm glad my polling place is the fire station around the corner. I'm glad I got to vote right next to three shiny, red trucks as I am a fan of such things. I'm glad that while I was voting there was an announcement about a fire in the neighborhood and that it didn't sound urgent. I'm glad I saw four firefighters take off their shoes and put on their firefighting outfits replete with exciting suspenders and put on their long boots and get onto the center truck and speed off into the late afternoon.The truck was gone in less than 20 seconds. I really feel like I got a two-for -one. The only thing missing was a Dalmatian.
TRAIN RIDE FROM CHICAGO TO LA
Really, really self? Really you are going to a describe a sunset, review a sunset and then profusely thank it? Your plan then is, essentially, to gush about the extravagant majesty of a particular sunset in writing and then post what you have written on Facebook? I have to say, this is not your best idea.You should probably exercise some restraint. Take a picture; just take a picture with your phone. Write a caption. Write, "Beautiful sunset seen from train near Gallup, New Mexico." Tomorrow you can delete it and that will be that. No? Alright then: So, we are riding in a moving solarium. We are plants of a sort and this has been a day of accelerated photosynthesis. What I mean to say is that there has been a kind of rare nourishment we've received from spending some moments in Amtrak's observational chamber. Also, there is a thin, rocky, wet creek running parallel to the track we are on and so that makes two lines. Lines and the spatial relationships of lines to other lines are a huge deal. I bring this up because we are vertical and the sunset is horizontal and we are driving toward the sunset which is a collection of lines too because well, how could we not be? Why would we go elsewhere? We would not do that. And I have to say this sunset is more peach than orange and flows in sentences of color, but there are places with neon peach seizures. And these I imagine must be a kind of intentional punctuation. Mind you, if these fits were isolated and not in such close proximity to the peach and to the violet too, to the silver and to the charcoal edges, they could be misconstrued by some as vermillion. This would be a mistake. Colors must be taken in context. This sunset is a paragraph This sunset is a paragraph shaped like a broom and it sweeps the day away and it records each motion. The colors are like footprints but without feet.I'm certain that's how it works because I've read the whole paragraph in slow motion. I savored the reading. In a way, a sunset like this one makes any other kind of light embarrassing, seem derivative and feel limp; just drooping cords, dumb, gaudy blinking things. And when you consider that this sweep-writing is an every evening thing? I'm telling you, I've searched the sky and there are no laurels in it whatsoever to rest upon.This sunset is a mentor who makes everyone want to live forever just to try again, while at the same time not care about death or any kind of ending at all, because see the mountains here form a bowl and watching this set of light spread out and eventually fall into the bowl is actually rather exquisite. Really, this set in her entirety is really a fuck yes argument for opening up
anything that might be shut down in you and for letting it go where it must.
There are some good names here. What if my name was Strong or Messenger instead of Barrie? Pregnant women should walk through cemeteries to get name ideas. I'm glad I'm not pregnant. Bertha is a very popular name here at Graceland. I find that a little amusing for obvious reasons but I probably would find it even more so if the name Bertha were spelled Birtha instead. Mench is a good last name. A mensch is a nice person, but what if your name were Mench and you were an asshole? Your very existence would be an oxymoron, kind of like all these Bertha's buried here. The Hooper's are buried here. I thought of Mr. Hooper from Sesame Street. I saw a contemporary version of Lear once with my friend Laura where a ritual about Mr. Hooper from Sesame street was enacted by adults in pajamas with stuffed animals. It was so sad and strange. There are a lot of small reproductions of the Washington monument here. What is that about? Maybe heaven? A cemetery is like an empty village. What if grave stones were more like large books and there were pages behind the cover stones? Amelia Bliss is someone I'm sure I would have liked to have known, but she died before I was born. Wouldn't it be strange if twins always died together within minutes of each other? I'm glad they don't. "Stella, beloved by all" only lived ten years but everyone, everyone loved her so much. I just tried to write the name Yaggy, but autocorrect changed it to taffy. Here' a nice set of names in a family group: Arthur, Meta, Edwin, Virtue, and Lydia. Also, further down, Maxine, Gloria, Dorothy, Elaine, and Vivian. One headstone said, "The fruit of the spirit is love." Must be from a psalm. What if the fruit of the spirit was a watermelon or a kiwi? I think the fruit of my spirit is a love plum. That feels right. What's with all these padlocked, concrete, tiny houses? People should not put the bodies of their beloved inside those. That is not a good idea.
I have the most wonderful men in my court and I am so lucky. The court is crowded with them and it is like a party, but a good party, a party that even a party-hater would want to be at for at least a few moments. And if the net upon this court rips from the anyone pressing against it, these men will repair and reinforce the net with special supplies. They will drive to several stores for these supplies and make calculations like they are on some sort of treasure hunt- mission impossible mission and I will let them do all this even if I could have done it myself because it is a gift to receive. These men see me and love me and take me seriously and care about my brain and my soul and my happiness. I could call any of them at 4am. They are straight and gay and one of them even used to be a woman a few years back. They are young and old and they are my heroes. It's 2014. Enough with the male-bashing already. Give men something to do and you will be amazed how they come through. The initial grumble or pause is just the overture. (Some men are a little creaky like that tin-man.) Just wait. The symphony will begin soon enough. Say nothing. Smile. Eventually they will puff-up, saunter around and instantly grow taller just so they can grab you a cloud from the sky because you mentioned that you wanted one for your specialty cloud collection.
I am thrilled about giraffes. There were so many today in the Masai Mara including one that was only a few days old. They walked in an astonishingly elegant, single file line and did so, so quietly we could hear their knees gently cracking. They appear so serene and inspire a library feeling. I think it is because they can reach the highest shelves in the library that is this whole world. How wonderful to see them eat a five-course meal of tree tops and see them gracefully bring their legs apart to drink the water in the river and when they run, oh it something to behold in this lifetime. Unforgettable. Imagine trees running with a sunset all through them. Add something pretty...Add enormous eyes. Add a tail that plays the air like one of those jazz brushes for drums. Add a pattern all over. Add something like an outdoor recital. Their necks are incredible banisters. I could watch them forever.
Talking to Mary Oliver
Sometimes, especially lately, now that summer is officially over, I find myself talking to Mary Oliver specifically about the last lines of her well-known poem, "The Summer Day" which read, "What will you do with your one wild and precious life?" " And yes, this talking I'm doing with Mary Oliver is inside my mind, but no matter. (Reality is often a trivial thing and quite unnecessary, so much of the time.) So usually, when I'm talking to Mary, I'm telling her not what I WILL do with my one wild and precious life, but what I WILL NOT do with it. I say, "I'll tell you what Mary, I will NOT do the laundry right now, and I will NOT worry at all about what so and so thinks of me, and I will NOT even attempt to figure everything out about everything, even though I probably wish I could do that- I won't be. No, no." Sometimes while I'm talking, Mary will flash a picture of a river, or a snake, or a tadpole at me and I think it is her way of saying, "Great ideas of what not to do with your one wild and precious life Barrie and by the way, Aren't rivers, snakes, and tadpoles amazing?" "Yes, they are." I say. "Quite." ( Mary, by the way, is a huge fan of nature. She is nature's main poetic groupie. Nature is her favorite band and it just never stops playing for her, not ever.) The other day I said, "Mary, you know what I will NOT be doing with my one wild and precious life today?" "What?" Mary asked. I said, "I will not be subscribing to any dichotomies at all, none whatsoever. I'm done with dichotomies completely." "Well, why would you ever subscribe to Dichotomies?" she said. "Really," she went on,"Dichotomies is an absolutely horrendous magazine."
The bad news is that the checkout person at the library was disgusted with us and our eight dollar and eighty-cent overdue library book fine. Really, she acted like we were the most irresponsible criminals she'd ever encountered. She shook her head at us and almost didn't let us check out the new books we very much wanted to check out. The good news is that she did let us check out the books and the tree identification book was full of actual leaves between the leaves of almost every page. So, thank you, you who leaves leaves between leaves, whomever you happen to be. And to the checkout person, you should perhaps be less grumpy in a place with thousands upon thousands of books and I'm sorry you are not.
Love letter #10 to No One in Particular
Hi, it’s me.
So my newish friend told me yesterday that I have serious intimacy issues.
Really? I asked, “Serious, not just garden-variety? “
“Yes, “she said, “Your intimacy issues are some of the worst I’ve ever come across.”
“Whoa,” I said,” that’s a lot to think about.”
Then she said, “Truthfully, I’m actually a little surprised that this is news to you, because if it really is, that suggests a lack of intimacy even with yourself.”
“Oh my God, “ I said, “Shit!”
“Look, she said, “I’m practically an expert on this, a lay expert mind you, but an expert nonetheless and the good news is I can help you, that is, if you’re interested in getting better. “
“What an offer,” I said. “This is better than winning the lottery.”
“See,” she said, “That sarcasm is part of the problem. “
“So, I said, “Assuming what you’re saying is true, what should I do?”
She paused for a moment and then brought up the love letters, the ones I’ve been writing to you! I’d no idea she’d read them because she’d never mentioned them before.
The thing is,” she said, “They’re very well… general. Intimacy is about specificity. I mean really, “No one in particular? “ That’s pretty much nobody. You’re so obviously terrified of any kind of real closeness. “ Also,” she went on, “You try to too hard to sound smart and to make your language sound beautiful. It’s like you want to impress everyone. It oozes a kind of neediness and desperation. Don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s well…creepy.”
“This isn’t a very fun conversation,” I said.
“The crux of it is, is that you’re a control freak. Being a control freak is an intimacy killer because it creates a power imbalance between you and the other person. It’s manipulative and reeks of insecurity, which you mistake over and over again for authentic vulnerability. One is not the other.
“Oh my God, “ I said. “I feel so humiliated. How embarrassing. I’m an insecure, control-freak, intimacy- murderess.”
“True,” she said, and I’d venture to guess that I’m not the only one who thinks so. “But you know on the other hand, the letters are somewhat relevant, in a way- and there are whispers in there, in some of them, of something true. ”
“Thank goodness, “ I said. “Which ones? I’ll keep those and delete the rest.”
“Oh no, “ she said, “That’s a terrible idea.”
“Should I delete them all?”
“Your chronic need for approval is truly pathological. Look at you. You’d do anything for a quick fix wouldn’t you?
“Pretty much,” I admitted.
“What I’d suggest,” she said, is that you reveal something personal and true about yourself, something small that you aren’t particularly thrilled about. You can do that in your next letter. Don’t gush though. I have noticed that you are a gusher and when you gush it is as if you are puking from your heart. So don’t do that, at all. Be casual and seductive, revealing just a bit at a time. Be easy with it, like a light breeze. Create space. Don’t jump in and in and in. Intimacy is about pretty spaces with variations in size and design. It is about closeness and distance. It can be intense, but there is always grace and ease. Also, be gracious. You need to thank the reader for her tolerance and patience.”
“So what you’re saying is that I’m too much?”
“Exactly, “ she said. “You learn quickly.”
“Anything else?” I asked.
“Of course,” she said, “But I wouldn’t want to overwhelm you. I’ll save it for another time.”
“Thanks,” I said.
So anyway, I’ve been kind of freaked out about all that she said and I’ve been turning all of it over with the spatula of my mind like a hamburger. I think she’s a little bit of a know-it-all and I also think some of what she said is true, so that’s where I am with it.
So, what I’ll tell you now is that I have never been able to manage double-sided tape. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great invention, but I’m just not adept at operating it. Every time I’ve tried to use it, I end up with these sticky globs that I must flick off my fingers like gigantic, translucent booger sculptures. Also, the packaging of double-sided tape looks so much like the regular kind of Scotch tape that I end up buying it by accident and just re-frustrate myself thinking each time that it will be different. There is no intentional metaphor with all this. I’m just trying to work on my intimacy issues in the way that was suggested to me by my friend.
Also, I took a walk in the park yesterday, which I often think of as reading the self-help book of the world. And I would so very much like to help myself. Looking at the chorus of naked elms on Montrose, I thought about how no one talks much about the armpits of trees even though the armpits are so very numerous. The armpits of trees do not sweat of course, but I am fairly certain that I would not mind a YouTube video or even a photo of someone climbing a ladder and putting deodorant on the armpits of trees. I thought Tom’s of Maine would be a suitable brand if this were to actually happen. I think Tom’s makes a Tea-Tree variety or maybe it’s Eucalyptus…
What else? Oh, there are some fields in the park and I’d like to give them to you as parting gifts. (This may be my last letter. I might be moving on to a new project. ) The fields are very large and clear the mind and I think you’d enjoy them. I thought about how I could give them to you and realized that the only way to do so is just to tell you that I want to and where they are. So I want to and they are in Welles Park on the north side of Chicago. They do not belong to me, but please have them in whatever way you’d like to or can have them. Included, are two baseball diamonds, which after a rain, when the sun is setting, sparkle, as all diamonds should.
Finally, I looked up at some clouds and decided to name them, just because. The names of the clouds are: Alexandria, Beatrice, Hortense, Cliff, Owen, Puffy and Barack. They may or may not still be there due to the nature of clouds but if they are and you go there, tell them, I said, “”Hi.”
Oh, and to you I say thank you, love, peace, yours, sincerely, XO, OX, all that.
LOVE LETTER TO NO ONE IN PARTICULAR #9
I've made the most wonderful discovery! It is this: You are not swine. Oh, how great! Would you like to know why? Well, if you were swine, I could not allow myself to cast any pearls before you because that was my old project and I am done with it completely. You have no idea how many pearls I have lost because of this casting before swine mistake and although I have been able to continually replenish my supply of pearls (at least to some extent) you should know that doing so, has come at great cost, because to generate them is quite involved and I am not some kind of super-oyster.
See, I have, in times past, fantasized, much to my own detriment, that the pearls themselves posses a transformative power with the capacity to turn swine into things other than swine (apples, for example) which was, of course, (and I'm rather ashamed to admit it) an unfortunate act of hubris on my part.
At this point, I have come to see that most swine do not even know they are swine and being swine, do not even have their own numbers. I do however, have their numbers and the truth is, the numbers of swine are really quite shaky, so unlike say- "7" or "22." The scary thing is that the shaky is contagious and the casting of the pearls is the way in which the shaky is contracted. See, I myself have had some solid numbers here and there, but when I've engaged in pearls before swine casting, my numbers become shaky too! Once, I even, shouted, “Hey Swine, just so you know, I’ve got your numbers!” At this, the swine simply snorted and lolled about quite drunkenly and seemed to offer nothing but phlegmy chuckles. They hardly cared. Much to my disdain, I even noticed some of my pearls lodged in the nostrils of their snouts! “We have no use for you,” they appeared to be saying, “Whatever.” And I felt strongly, that if they could speak, nothing good would come from their mouths. They’d probably suggest that I just go home and juggle machetes or drink cups of lye. So yes, loss of pearls and shaky numbers are what I believe the saying is really getting at. This also explains why casting agents are not people to balk at. I’m sure good ones would have better casting ideas about whom or what to cast one’s pearls before. Seriously.
So, anyhow, since you are not swine and this is a love letter, I can finally tell you what I’ve been wanting to since the beginning and that is, that I would gladly take a dozen or so summers, or as many as necessary to explore with you the undeniable and mystifying beauty of the word, "clump."
Together, we could examine each letter of the word- the c, the l, the u, the m, and the p. And also, the combinations of the side-by-side letters- the cl, the lu, the um, and the mp. We would go through the sounds of each combination and then move on to the groupings of three; the clu, and the lum, and the ump. I'd tell you that for me, much of the magic has to do with the cl, which is culled from the word cull itself and can only be discovered by way of phonetics. “Indeed,” you’d say. And to sound this all out, out loud- is quite something. And to sound out with another is to begin to form new variants of meaning and to increase dynamic possibilities considerably and even begin to approach the seeds of symphonic.
I’d tell you that I’d recently googled, "slow to open flowers" and “reluctant buds,” because that’s what I was dealing with in a vase on my table. On one site, a landscaper referred to clumps over and over: "With the slow openers, just plant the clumps. You might need to move the clumps. Don't break apart the clumps. Handle the clumps tenderly." He went on and on. I had no idea what clumps he was referring to, but they sounded like such deeply, interesting clumps. I pictured something like a small ball of dirt and rocks with little root assemblies here and there. You’d perhaps suggest that the clumps might also have bird-feathers embedded within them or syrupy centers or a coating of pollen-dust or threads of silk. “I believe,” you’d say, “that a clump like that might feel a bit chilly- temperature-wise if we were to hold one." I’d agree. We’d go on and the more we’d talk about, investigate, and repeat the word “clump,” it would begin to sound like we were speaking a new language. We’d decide, perhaps to name our new language. We’d name it "Mmmp." It would, of course, be a romance language.
“Get back to cull," you'd say. “What else did you mean about that? There must be more there.” “Right,” I'd say, there is: “So, I believe cl is culled from culled and therefore has "le" as part of it, even though it is not visible. And, le always carries a feeling of an embrace, a hugging if you will, to the remaining part of the word. Consider cuddle, ladle, sadle, muddle, paddle, and candle. Would you ever want anything at all to do with cudd, lad, sad, mudd, padd, or cand?” “Oh my, of course not,” you’d say, “I’d want all those with the le attached and I’d especially like them all together in a clump.” “Me too,” I’d say. “And maybe,” I’d suggest, “along with our le clump and the one with the pollen and syrup, there could be another clump that is also an aphrodisiac.” “Oh my,” you’d swoon. “I think I very much like this idea of an aphrodisiacal clump-like object.”
We’d go on, traveling along a necklace of feeling into whatever clumps came up and with whatever came up with clump itself. At some point, the “m” would slide back for us and reveal the “up” in clump and with it a clue about all earthly beginnings. The necklace would have pleasurable digressions in the form of numerous, looping strands. I think it is possible that both of us would eventually agree that clump, although relative to both lump and cluster, is the best word of the three. And happily, we’d discover that through our consideration of lump and cluster, luster would appear quite unexpectedly and automatically birth the notion of yet another clump; a clump with great luster. And spending time with all these sumptuous clumps would be something new to do, out of all the things there are to choose in human-doing; something other than pretending swine are not swine, something a far-off ways away from a terrible recklessness with pearls.
Thank you so much for the exquisite valentine. The valves on it are my favorite part. Oh, and that you sutured them on too! Who knew you were such a good suture-er, of valves? It took me almost all day to realize that by blowing into the valves, I could make music. I played every love song I could think of, and then every other song I could think of, and then, I just carried the valentine outside and let the wind blow through it and that was the best song of all: Think bagpipes meets chimes meets whistling. And wow, I wasn’t even sure you knew I existed. How did you get my address? I guess, as they say, love found a way. I’m a little embarrassed though that I don’t have something equally as extraordinary for you. I tried to cut you a heart out of construction paper, but it came out lopsided and so I did that folding trick and managed to finally make a decent heart, but I then I remembered that thing Rilke said about the place where the fold is being a lie and even when I smoothed out the fold, I didn’t feel right about it. I mean, I don’t want to give you a hidden lie, or any lie at all. I tried not to think of origami because suddenly origami seemed like the biggest pack of lies imaginable. So many folds! I ended up abandoning the construction-paper project altogether and just consoled myself with some stroking of the valves. So, I don’t know. I’m sorry I don’t have a valentine for you. Though, I just realized, that what I do have, is some valen-time. As you can see, I am spending my valen-time on you, so I hope that means something. Valen-time must mean something. Is valen-time, love time? I think it might be. Also, there was a big sign in the window of the supermarket today advertising "Honeybelle Oranges," so I will buy you some of those tomorrow, because I have a hunch they'll be so sweet and ripe.