Saturday, January 31, 2009

from Labour-Saving Hints and Ideas
for the Home:

Rat Paste
-- To destroy rat and mice, melt a
pound of lard and stir into it half an ounce
of phosphorous carefully. When nearly cold,
thicken with flour and spread the paste on
small pieces of brown paper. Lay them near the
rat holes, where they will eat the paste greedily
with fatal results.

Friday, January 30, 2009

I posted this on my Facebook page, and now I'm
posting it here (and I'm dead serious!):
my plan for economic recovery is to legalize marijuana
and then tax the hell out of it. Pass it on!
(No, I didn't say "pass the joint!")

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A California woman today gave birth to octuplets
(with the assistance of 46 medical personnel).
As of yet unnamed, the babies have been labeled
"Baby A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H."
Let's have some fun and name the babies.
Here are my suggestions, using the letters above
as first letters of each name:


Care to add your names to the list?
Our Lady of January

Loves a glass of cheap red wine
at the end of a day, loves a wool shawl
about the shoulders -- Italian paisley --
loves a sugar plum grape tomato Certified Organic
imported from Mexico. Loves some Zydeco.
Loves dinner out, but is willing to cook:
soup, touch-of-grace biscuits,
apple pie 50% Goldens 50% Granny Smith's.
Would love to know who in the hell is Granny Smith.
And why her name is on half of the apples
she peels for pie. Loves eating the pie.
Loves the silence that accompanies good pie
as well as the accompaniment to good pie:
fork-clink, porcelain-clink.

Our Lady of January acknowledges
that is isn't All About Food
but in the Universe of Winter & Perpetual Grey,
it should be all about food.
Our Lady of January states that if one is willing
to buy All Organic then said foods should by law
be calorie-free and not pleasure-free.
In the name of the father, and the son,
and the holy ghost (she regrets the conversion,
in the ecclesiastical vocabulary,
of ghost to spirit),

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Periodically I am overcome by an urge
to wander the aisles of Value Village.
Yesterday afternoon was one of those days,
and I must say that VV doesn't seem to be
in danger from a recessional downturn in sales:
I bumped elbows, carts, shoulders, strollers,
possibly even hips with countless fellow shoppers
as we perused the color-coded long long racks
of clothing. All blue tags half price!!
I never fail to be astonished at the quantities
of stuff on the planet, and at least at VV,
the stuff is getting a second go-around.
My favorite aisles contain kitchen wares:
bins of forks, bins of mixer beaters,
wooden serving bowls shaped like pineapples,
mismatched cups and saucers, florist's vases,
baskets for 99 cents. I saw some exquisite
bone china espresso cups and saucers, hand-painted,
from Japan. Did I need these? Nope. (Although I regret
not buying them.) Did I need anything? Well, no.
Not even the decorative Nebraska plate, not the
Pat O'Brien's hurricane glasses, not the Evergreen
State geoduck mug. Not even! Damn!
I could've made a killing.
Gone are the days of cotton printed tablecloths
and handmade-rickrack-embellished aprons. Nearly
gone are any pre-1970's books -- those that remain
are labeled "vintage" and priced (seemingly randomly)
at $25. There's a new catch-word at VV these days:
Restyle. It's kind of hip sounding, very green.
I like it. If I felt the need, I could
restyle my kitchen. I could restyle my bedroom.
Hell, I could even restyle myself.
With any luck, I could do it for half-price.
There has been a lot of hoo-ha both in the poetry
and non-poetry universe about the merits (and demerits)
of Elizabeth Alexander's inauguration poem.
It's been amusing and fascinating to follow
these conversations/arguments/defenses -- my favorites
are on Reb Livingston's blog and Collin Kelley's blog.
(Be sure to read the comments!)

The following -- which made me laugh out loud --
is from a conversation at The Guardian:

How many poets does it take to change a light bulb?


And one million more to say how much better
they would have done at changing it.

--credited to imikeydread

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Before you can hear the music,
you must be able to hear the silence.
(Awoke middle-of-the-night
with these words on my tongue.)


I could use a few days of silence myself.
This week has been a glittery whirl,
and I'm ready for some quiet time by the fire.

We attended the Seattle Obama Ball Tuesday night
as the South Lake Union Armory Building: rw&b streamers,
soul food and flags galore. People dressed to the nines
and to the ones (that would be us: denim).
Barbecued pork ribs, bbq'd chicken, collard greens,
beans, corn bread, sweet potato pie, iced tea.
The Jay Thomas Big Band, a funk band (my bro-in-law
is a fab guitar player) and an Eritrean dance group
with live accompaniment. Reilly was interviewed by
KOMO-4 news and had his 15-seconds (or was it 10?!)
of fame on the 11:00 news. Nelson was the AV man
and kept a steady stream of Obama images on the big screen.
Hundreds and hundreds of jubilant Seattlites, dancing
Seattlites, filled-to-the-brim satisfied Seattlites.
My last image of the evening was of a family of five
leaving the event: each of the three children held
a fistful of red, white & blue helium balloons, undoubtedly
plucked from the table decorations as the evening wound
down. The balloons bopped and bumped as the children
skipped across the crosswalk -- a buoyant hopefulness,
perhaps? A harbinger of better and brighter things to come?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Poem


Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 19, 2009

In tribute: Martin Luther King

Ain't she a beaut?
My black and white cake for an inauguration party.
It's black and white inside, too!
Damn, what a production to make a cake
like this when one is not a bakery.

Cake #2 (not pictured) is gingerbread
enlivened with Guinness and cardamom,
along with the usual cinnamon, cloves, ginger & nutmeg.

Although my kitchen is not a bakery,
yesterday afternoon it certainly smelled like one.

Crazy busy week -- I'm booked every evening except
Saturday, when I intend to sit home by the fire!
(Hint hint to Citizen K.: fire logs?!)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

In the afternoon's glorious sun, I decided to go explore
Marymoor Park, which is about a mile from my house.
Other than the sports fields and the velodrome, it seemed
relatively deserted, so I parked and took off away from all
the people -- or so I thought. A map showed a trail
skirting the Sammamish Slough, so I headed in that
direction, anticipating a nice stroll beside the flood-swollen
river. As I wound my way past windfallen fir branches
from recent storms and and the winter-abandoned
grounds of Clise Mansion (where the expanse of lawn
in front of the building was pocked with hundreds of
mole hills), I began to see rooftops of cars in the distance.
Ah. Another parking lot. The closer I got, the more people
I could see -- and -- dogs -- hundreds and hundreds of dogs.
A veritable Go Dog Go of breeds and mutts!
A United Nations of Dog. A fur frenzy!
I do like dogs, but I was so unprepared for this canine circus:
dogs running and dogs jumping and dogs chasing and
dogs swimming and dogs sniffing and dogs humping and
dogs fighting and dogs rolling and dogs panting and
a dog in a handbag and a dog in a wagon with a pink blanket
and dogs with bow ties and dogs with ribbons
and dogs that looked like their owners
and people without dogs who looked like dogs
and yelping and barking and splashing and mud,
everywhere mud.
A dog named Barkley, a dog named Gus,
a dog named Tucker, a dog named George.
Holy shit!
From Etiquette, The Blue Book of Social Usage,
Emily Post (Mrs. Price Post), copyright 1945:

The position of the chauffeur differs from that of the
other domestic employees in two respects. The first
is that he has no regular days out. Second, he usually
finds (and pays for) his own board and lodging.
Sometimes a single man eats with the servants
in the kitchen, but this is not usual. Sometimes, too,
there may be a room over the garage that has been
converted from a stable -- in which he and his family
may live.

Just in case you wondered.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday. I avoided, again, getting manuscripts ready
to send out. Made copies, etc., and then just stopped.
Anything else to do? Why, yes!
What is it with me?
Indulgent avoidance.
(Actually, I have a bunch of stuff out in the mail
but could have more.)

A sunset tonight, driving east towards water
and mountains: no fog, no rain, no clouds.
A sharp-intake-of-breath sunset, out of context
in this omnipresent gloom-o-rama.

There were cookie cutters on sale at Sur La Table
for 56¢ and I couldn't resist purchasing M A X.
Even though Max is thirteen and will most likely
think they're particularly uncool.

Friday, January 16, 2009

That great mystery in the sky -- the sun -- made a brief
appearance today, at a very low wattage.
It was an iron-poor-blood sun, an emaciated sun,
an impotent sun, a scant sun.
A sun without ambition.
A non-fat sun.
A salt-free sun.
An out-of-work sun.
A mumbling sun.
A sun who refuses to take its meds.
An introverted sun.
The sun-who-was-a-bear and went back into its cave.


In other news, I had coffee today with my son,
who falls into none of the categories listed above.
(Well, except for the out-of-work part.)


I am amused and a bit appalled at the language
used to describe the cause of the US Airways
jet engine failure -- it was a "bird strike."
Bird strike?!!!
Is that like terrorist strike?
Led by Osama Bird Laden?
Anyway, it's a pretty amazing story
of skill on the pilot's part.
I'm just sorry for the birds.


Listening to Chopin nocturnes
and sipping just a smidgen of red wine.
At my job we have officially renamed
the president-elect and the first-lady-elect:

St. Barack and Our Lady of Obama.

Stay tuned for St. Barack medals
and glow-in-the-dark Our Lady figurines.


On another note, please do check out
this hilarious dictionary.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

(image: Tony Angell)

Along a four-mile stretch of Rainier Avenue today
I counted 26 crows' nests stuck up in the crooks
and branches of the deciduous trees that line
the arterial. Last year's nests: some clearly
wind-ripped, others still securely anchored.
I cannot imagine birthing a brood up above
the ever-present cacophony of urban traffic.
And when the emptied eggs are tipped from the nest,
they fall to no soft mossy bed, no delicate spring
grasses. Chicks fledge into a shriek of steel,
into auto exhaust and crushing rubber.
It's no wonder crows are so street-wise.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 13th Vocabulary

(from the workplace):

hot-and-sour soup
tall 2%
five black horses
Doe Bay
smart & skinny
oh no!
Pride and Prejudice

throw it away
empire waist
sprained ankle
sand blaster
eighteen eggs
Laurence of Arabia
penguin costumes
Pink Panther
Columbia City

Monday, January 12, 2009

I laid on the couch last night
and ate chocolate truffles:
my remedy for January.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Melinda sent me this today, because
I'm such a punctuation junkie. Too funny!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Done with my work week, at least
the work for which I must leave my house.
I got me a bad case of January blahs.
Don't wanna cook.
Don't wanna exercise.
Don't wanna drive.
Just wanna sleep.
And read.
There exist people who insist on framing
my name (T.) in quotation marks. Why is this?
It reeks of preciousness and makes me gag.
My names doesn't come with quotation marks
any more than yours does, okay, "Britney"?
Yours Truly,

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tonight I am revisiting the pear.
After the ho-ho-ho of cranberries
and chocolate, after goose
and turkey and prime rib.
Post peppermint, post shortbread.

Autumn was all butternut and acorn,
roasted pumpkin seeds, every variety
of pear I could find. And apple:
pie, cobbler, crisp, tarte.
Pecans and walnuts.
The homely roots: beet and parsnip.

But what are the fruits of January?
Which vegetables?


Sunday, January 4, 2009

At Whole Foods:

Vegan Cane Sugar.

I have to say that I really hate it
when they put pig in my sugar.
Lutefisk is even worse.
And haggis, well, let's not go there.
Thank the gods that this sugar
contains only organic tofu
and pinto beans.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I didn't leave the house today except to walk
to the mailbox three times. The mailbox is about
thirty feet from my front door. I so rarely do this --
stay at home. It makes me a little nutty; it's altogether
too insular for me. I thrive on people, lots of them,
and a quickly changing landscape. I would fail
as a hermit.
With the New Year comes a desire for a bit of remodeling.
I finally figured out how to enlarge the size of my font,
how to change some colors. The new picture on my header
is a detail from a painting by my son Nelson, which hangs
above my piano.

Snow remains in gritty heaps, but sunlight
makes them sparkle, so all is not ugly.
I'm fascinated by how the snow-piles melt,
creating their own soft sculptures.

More than resolutions when the year turns,
I always remind myself of the innumerable things
for which I give thanks, and so often
these are elemental things:
my children
my husband
my sisters, both actual and honorary
my friends: poets, artists, neighbors, family, workmates
What have I forgotten? Who have I left out?
All of you faithful readers: I extend to you
my gratitude and my affection.

Not one of these things is a given, or taken for granted.
(When my boys were little, they used to say:
"taken for granite."
Be assured that I take none of you for granite!)


Friday, January 2, 2009

Gingerbread Inferno!


and after:

For the second year now, Paul and I have spent part
of New Year's Eve afternoon witnessing one of the
year's truly great spectacles, at an undisclosed
location in West Seattle. (I've learned that this
is what glass artists do with their blow torches
when they're not creating objets.)

The artists begin assembling their
candy cache after Halloween, scouting grocery
outlets and Asian food markets, for the most
unusual candies possible. The actual construction
takes place over a period of weeks. The architecture
contained several non-candy components, my favorite
being sunflowers seeds (used on the roof) which,
according to the packaging, were coated in saccharine,
salt, and MSG. Who wouldn't want to burn these?!
Last year's "house" was a re-creation of Machu Picchu,
and I recall some red vines that withstood long blasts
from the blowtorch with nary a trickle of melting sugar.
(Haven't eaten a red vine since.) The giant jaw breakers
really steal the show as they drip away in colorful layer
upon layer. And the fireworks hidden inside! Sparklers!

For a firsthand look at the extravaganza,
check out the video below. (My apologies for the sideways
camera angle which cuts in halfway through. My fault.
But the footsteps up the center of the screen
make up for it, I think. I'm a poet, not a filmmaker.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

We received this tragic news last night
just about midnight...the woman, Megan Kinsella,
is the former girlfriend of my step-son Bill --

Backcountry Slide Kills 1
Avalanche watch has been in effect


The year ended with another backcountry tragedy Wednesday when a 24-year-old woman was killed and a man was seriously injured after a large piece of ice and snow fell on them on a trail near Crystal Mountain.

Authorities said the couple were near Camp Sheppard, an area filled with trails administered by the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts of America. It is near state Route 410, east of Enumclaw.

About 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, a crew from Puget Sound Energy came across the man after he made his way to the highway, said Detective Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.

The crew went to search for the woman and found her body about two miles from the highway in an area called Snoquera Falls.

The man, 26, was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma.

A search team was working to recover the body of the woman Wednesday night, Troyer said.

Troyer said the man suffered a serious head injury and was semiconscious when he was found.

Authorities were uncertain Wednesday night where the ice and snowpack had fallen or the cause, but said the couple had been ice climbing in the area. KOMO/4 reported the couple were both employed at the Crystal Mountain ski area.

The National Weather Service this week issued an avalanche watch for the Cascade and Olympic mountains for Wednesday and Thursday.

"Nobody should have been in there," Troyer said.

"There have been plenty of avalanche warnings the past few days, so no one should have been anywhere in the backcountry areas. It's dangerous out there."

Wednesday's was the latest in a series of fatal Northwest backcountry incidents recently.