In Bhanu Kapil’s Incubation: A Space for Monsters, Kapil writes “are you half-dead after a complicated journey?” This phrase like a mantra while running, doing laundry, whatever, often behind my eyeballs. The rhythm of it, but also the language sparse and direct, like a fairytale, they way they only give a few specific details and leave the rest to the imagination that so naturally goes to the dark enchanted forests of the mind. The monster: a thing, a place, unseen, an absence, an other, a growth, a feeling, inside, beside, right here, in the bright sun.
Kim Hyesoon’s Princess Abandoned, translated by Don Mee Choi, makes clear that myths are real in the same way that imagination happens in the reality of the mind. Existence is grotesque in both practical and magical ways. I love her insistence on the mashup. Also, nothing was more beautiful to me as a child than the name “Cassandra,” so it delights me to think of new Princess names. Current fave: “Princess Ram Hands.”
I grossly got caught up reading the comments of memorials for the 26 children and teachers who died in the Sandy Hook School shooting. I’m interested in the ways we mythologize what we are incapable of dealing with. We say a child was “fearless,” “a light,” “a constant source of laughter and joy” and we are memorializing what we want to remember. It’s easy with children, of course. No one is going to say that obituary should mention how he had problems sharing. A little older, and complicated by racism, we see Michael Brown and the way he is remembered as a “good kid” who “didn’t deserve to die” (ascribing morality to someone doesn’t allow us to decide whether or not they ‘deserved’ something). When that shoplifting connection was made, it was just enough to allow people to question Brown’s morality, thereby allowing (white) people not to see him as wholly undeserving of being fatally shot by the police whose job it is to protect him. I am really uncomfortable with the word/concept “deserve.”
Merriam-Webster’s definition of “deserve” is vapid. It’s a word with insidious connotations of sexism, racism, classism, that aren’t addressed in the dictionary. Do we have a dictionary for euphemisms and their relatives? This for me is, in part: why poetry. There is a comments section, and it is a waste of time.
My 4 year-old is just beginning to play with the idea of magic powers, so we sometimes freestyle on what kind of magic shield or overruling power would be sufficient if you are on the receiving end of some dark magic flung (typical exchange: “ice!” / “ice coat!” “blood!”/ “blood shield!”) while flinging our arms at each other. Magic guns is a wormhole you need some time to explore. I don’t really know how to find the truly special place where I ended up, but I filled a couple pages with types of firearms with magical properties, as well as types of magic that “casters” can do (for example, spraying ice out of one’s fingertips). Consider this sentence from Wikipedia, and try not to slip into said wormhole: “In many fantasy settings, magic and technology are seen as distinct, separate entities, if not unmixable/incompatible, while spellguns serve as an unusual melange of both.”
This chronological list of school shootings in the US is pretty interesting. I suspect it’s very incomplete as we move into the 21st century. Another earworm I frequently find myself repeating while doing mundane tasks or walking comes out of an anecdote I found here: “he had a tame sparrow of which he was very fond.” I am focusing on an odd detail; it must seem flippant.
I read JM Ledgard’s book Submergence not long ago, and it is a gorgeous, stripped-down, ambulatory book that everyone should read. The book plumbs the Hadal deep of the ocean, jihad, the precariousness of species survival and the complexity of a world rife with borders and beliefs and weapons and oil. And love. You can read Ledgard’s research notes here. I found the idea that there are life forms gestating in the deepest crevices of the ocean floor, just waiting for conditions to be right, for an opportunity to flourish (like our species has had), oddly calming. It’s here. It’s already happening.
From a Washington Post article on the UC Santa Barbara shootings: “Janet Napolitano, the University of California president and former secretary of homeland security, called the shooting an ‘unfathomable tragedy’ and encouraged the crowd to remember and celebrate the unique qualities of each of the students who were killed. ‘All died much too young,’ Napolitano said. ‘It’s important that we don’t let the arithmetic of this tragedy define them. Their individuality should not be obscured.’”
“I don’t give a shit that you feel sorry for me,” said Richard Martinez.
When I was in fourth grade we kept two rats as class pets. We talked about “current events” every day. The rats would sit on your shoulder and sometimes lick you. It felt kind of good when their feet would tense on your neck skin. I keep thinking about this naming of the pet rats, the specific, mild-to-definite enemy of the State names for these rats that we loved. I wish I knew more about how we settled on these names.
Ellen Welcker has recent poems collected in Mouth That Tastes of Gasoline (alice blue, 2014), a previous chapbook, The Urban Lightwing Professionals (H_NGMAN B__KS, 2011), and a book called The Botanical Garden (astrophil press, 2010). She lives in Spokane, WA, where she curates a living room poetry series.