Thursday, August 26, 2010

Prayers During Purgatory

I prayed for the first time in months today. I pushed back hair and pressed my forehead to steepled fingers, stretching myself diagonally across the landscape of a bed, elbows out like wings. I prayed to my grandmother, whose stroke was no surprise, whose stroke separated everything we'll remember of her from a memorable frame. Her body is still here, someplace in New Jersey, sunk into starched hospital sheets and stiff pastel blankets, but Rosie herself is elsewhere. They use the word "unresponsive." There's minute peace in knowing it was coming.

The family's reports come in over cell speakers along with texts that state--assure?--I don't need to come home. I bounce between online train schedules and old Google maps of Monmouth County, the place where Rosie raised four generations of my family.   

They say she opened her eyes once but everything is glass; we look through, not into, her now. My aunt believes the liquid gaze means Rosie is still here, but my mother--the nurse, who works with death, whose life is acting both as its assistant and its adversary--has seen that look before, knows what it all means, understands how even heartbeats can be purgatory. She speaks the language of departing and is acting as our translator. The Rosetta Stone to Rose says that she is gone. 

If she had died I could pass a message up to God, ask the universe to tell her that I love her and regret not coming home more, make some unseen force sing my goodbyes like a telegraph, but her body is still breathing and I don't know where a mind goes so I pray to her directly, palming an invisible microphone, broadcasting to an audience of one.

Tonight's program skips the weather, throws out the traffic, leaves out time and temp, starts with affirmations and then rambles into "sorry," evolving into a monologue that pleads for her to hear me. Unrelated thoughts interrupt like static: "Grandma Rose it's me and I don't know if you hear me (**ksssshkthe iron: on or off?ksssshk**). I don't know where you are but I want you to come visit. I want to say goodbye even though I know we did, the day with the Earl Grey and the tin of shortbread cookies, the day you tried (**ksssshkhe should have texted backksssshk**) to give me more money for shoes before cutting out that article about Madonna's H&M (**ksssshkwhere's the dog?kssssshk**) discount fashion. I never pray anymore (**kssssshkwhat's this lump?kssssshk**) and know that you would hate that, but my faith's misplaced and we need to talk so Rosie please come find me." The reception on this station is some humming kind of mess.

I keep snapping rubber bands inside in selfish flagellation, as if punishment for not dialing more is something that's productive. I wrote to her last month, two letters in two weeks; it took so little effort there should have been two dozen. They say she read them out loud to everyone who visited, a little fact that pulls two strings into a knot, tying ego and shame into one dangling loose end.

In the last letter I told her she's the reason I'm a writer, joked about the money I'd have saved if I'd studied it in college, lamented how much better I'd be if I'd studied it at all...or just done things the way she told me I should over lunch when I was 12. They say she read that part specifically over and over: "The moral is, Rosie, you should listen to your grandma." 

I never wrote how my next big piece is in a New York weekly, one she could hold between her hands and tell friends to buy at newsstands. She never really understood the whole news on the Internet thing--she would have been so proud to see something in old school print.

I'm so tired this is blurry. The figures curl together. But tonight I do not sleep. I keep praying direct to Rosie, thinking she'll tune in for some part of my broadcast, check-one-twoing the mic with one hand while tracing maps of Monmouth County with the other.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different: A Poetic Prose Versus Hoes Offshoot

This blog is having an identity crisis. It can't make up its mind about whether it wants to be a narrative of adventures linked to a gimmick, a place for general musings, a public posting place for notes scrawled on napkins or a phlebotomist. Some days, it attempts to be all four. 

Tonight (read: this morning), inspired by the previous post's guest blog and Prose vs. Hoes/longform vs. poetry exhibition between the soon-to-be famous writer Hannah Miet and myself, I'm abandoning my general distain for my own poetry and tossing some up here. Because self-abuse is kind of sexy come 3:20AM. 

So here, for no apparent reason and with no relation to this blog other than the fact it was written to someone I've posted about in this space, is a poem I pulled from the vaults. 


I'm sorry I don't save words for you. I try to,
each morning, plug up and reserve something.
Mostly by day's end the best drain out.
The first of the day are barely worth speaking.
I croak them to baristas and doormen,
to women whose purses take up entire train seats;
sometimes, I practice on bosses.
Then "love" goes to my father, and "why" flies to my mother,
and expletives dart to tourists who halt mid-step
on the sidewalk. Loosed by noon,
phrases marked yours slide by. That joke.
That compliment. That piece of honesty.
They slip into the ears of others and I don't stop them.
Sometimes I pull a few to the side,
apples at the weigh station, perfect pearls for stringing,
but God, they age so quickly.
I wish they weren't so limp when handed over.
And of course the best ones--
the things I mean, things you need, the way I mean to say them--
struggle to survive in open air.
Written down on paper they seem trite. Which is best,
since I'd feather you in Post-It notes otherwise.
So read them in my face. Study the way I slip a finger in your palm
and trace avenues there.
Listen how I ask for nothing.
Let an egg, broken in a pan and poached in oil for you, speak.

Happy Sunday morning. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hannah Miet Guest Blogs, or, Hoes Before Prose

It's a Hitch List first: A GUEST BLOG. (**Ooohs and Ahhhhs.**) Hannah Miet, of My Soul is a Butterfly, is below. I am on Hannah's blog, slinging prose.

Explanation: I am a literary nymphomaniac, untreatable and unashamed. My toes curl in paper shops. My bookshelves are promiscuity on display. I shirk social responsibilities to sequester in and read. Sometimes a passage goes by that plunges two fingers into my brain, making me squirm with jealous delight while releasing audible moans of approval. I will read almost anything. (Except artistic statements which use the word "dystopian" in the opening...sorry, just can't.)  

Poetry is no exception. In fact it's more inception, some seed planted in my subconscious years ago which has since grown into a verbose piece of virulent foliage, one that needs to be watered regularly or it will whither and turn grey. Not just any verse will do...I need a powerful image. Word combinations which speak monologues. Narratives that lead me to a gingerbread house where the edible doorknob's laced with dopamine and cyanide. Shit that isn't ABAB rhyme scheme.

I've been lucky enough to meet with some poets and writers whose work is so good it simultaneously thrills me and makes me feel I should return to that Hooters in New Jersey and give up this attempt at writing altogether. Hannah Miet, of My Soul Is a Butterfly, is one of those people. Hannah creates vibrant verbal mandalas with the crumbing sand of memories, then does us the solid of preserving them on the internet rather than destroying them as monks do. She's also a fucking badass. 

So a recent exchange about guest blogging for one another put us at a crossroads. The Hitch List is mostly prose, an archive of occasionally vapid and debauched experiences punctuated with general relationship musings and the occasional nervous breakdown. Hannah's blog shanks you in the ribs with a screwdriver, then hands you a poem to read during recovery. Guest blogging for one another would mean attempting to work in the other's medium, which terrified...uh, both of us.

So, instead: She's built a narrative poem tailor made for a space more familiar with paragraph-long sentences and strip club jokes. I've passed on a piece of fictional prose to her space in return and hope it doesn't collapse on its self. The piece she wrote it fantastic and I'm happy to have it here.

But, less ramble, more read. Hannah Miet's words:

Whiskey and Waldorf Salad, by Hannah Miet 

My mother met my father through a personal ad
in The Village Voice.
It said, “I like jazz and Indian food.
I would like to start a family.”

They were both in their 40s and my mother says
they instantly became best friends.
My father says that it was love at first sight
without all the bullshit “romance.”

3 months before the wedding they fornicated on an island
off the coast of the former Yugoslavia.
My mother made the announcement of my birth
at the reception in a Chinese Restaurant in the West 70s
that is now a wine bar. She was wearing a blue dress and looked thin
but not skinny, 
mostly, she looked happy.

My mother called me yesterday while I was forking
through a puddle of vegetables in mayonnaise
surrounded by two grapes and two walnuts.
I told her that the Waldorf isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
though it’s good for people watching
and you have to people watch very carefully
when you’re scanning the crowds of suits and tourists
for your date, who never shows, most likely due to work
or marital strife
or something equally

I tell her that if I had a personal
in the Voice, it would only say
“Please use correct grammar in text messages”
because that’s all I knew about wanting
or being wanted
and my mother said that I’ve always been too picky about the wrong things
and not picky enough about the right things and that my problem is that
I’m uninterested
in the calm after the storm.

I wanted to remind her that she ran away to France for six years
and lived on a hippie commune in San Francisco where clothes were forbidden 
and communicated through letters across borders, sealed with kisses and written
in full sentences with correct punctuation, no ebonics or emoticons, or lols
but my mouth was full of Waldorf salad and my date was calling on the other line
with a proper plea for mercy so I held my tongue and washed it down with the burn
that never hurts.

I won't say what I love about this piece because people should chew things uninfluenced, but yeah, she is very good. So good, in fact, she's got a book coming out. Miet's met the Kickstarter base goal needed to get one of her debut projects off the ground and into book form, and I encourage all to pass even a $1 to the cause. The book may be funded already...but just a few extra dollars could be the difference between something nice and something so fucking epic you have to hike it across Middle Earth and drop it in the fires of Mordor just to destroy it, that's how badass it is. THE FIRES OF FUCKING MORDOR PEOPLE.

Book burning was taken particularly seriously at Mordor State University.

See? That's SERIOUS. So please. Support Hannah by going to her blog and reading EVERYTHING, then click here:

Many thanks to Hannah for sharing her world in this humble blog.