Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why I write...

This stream-of-consciousness business was an assignment for a writing workshop I'm taking - note the crabby, pointed anger toward the instructor in the last few lines:

Why I Write...

I write to bring the ugly parts out and make them pretty, literary.
I write so people will read it and find me fascinating.
I write so I can read and see things differently.
I write because adjectives were made for my enjoyment.
I write because not all experiences are collective and someone needs to know and feel surprised.
I write because most experiences are collective and someone alone needs to know and feel surprised.
I write because I am angry and an introvert.
I write because I don't speak so much and would like not to explode.
I write because I can always take it back.
I write because sometimes the words are shameful and delicious.
I write because the words lose their shame.
I write to cry.
I write so I don't have to cry.
I write so that people understand my state, my family, my dog, my understanding.
I write like the man on the corner asks for change.
I write so I don't drink too much.
I write because everyone's stopped telling it straight.
I write because I'm scared.
I write because I like feeling my hand on the paper.
I write because my knuckles hurt and tell me to stop, but I don't.
I write because it makes my stomach hurt.
I write because it's the closest I can come to being possessed without selling anything precious.
I write to make my mind go blank.
I write to look for words to represent feelings that have no words.
I write to vomit.
I write because no one will know otherwise.
I write because everything around goes blank.
I write to be frightened by where the words are tumbling from.
I write because this instructor is making me.
I write because, if I stop, everyone will look at me and think I shouldn't be here.
I write because I already paid for parking.
I write because sometimes my heart beats too fast.
I write because sometimes I feel worthless.
I write because sometimes I feel full of worth.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I've only suffered from it a handful of times in my life. I'm more of a "stressed? sleep it off" sort of person.'s what happened one of those times:

Her shadow was her way of saying sorry,
atonement for the waking of a thousand damned car alarms.
It languished in the arid moth air of streetlights
and porchsteps and lonely spaces
where sleep-wrecked people came out to pray,
grasping at their half-dried hair, feeling torrid summer
sticking in their eyelashes.

In the bare city street, she wandered
alone, closed-mouthed and watching
for whatever might come out from the silence, whether it be sleep-matted,
craven, perverse, it didn’t matter.
All that mattered was the night that continued to hum,
the cicadas incessant and unfamiliar, the lamps that blacked out the stars,
the top edge of foot and toe caught in sidewalk grates.

As she wandered, her eyelids fell in a pantomime of sleep,
and she heard coyote howls from home, interrupted
by the prickling of her skin, the rush of the freeway,
the low loud angry murmur of the city’s insides, beating
itself forward with the cadence
of a drum gone mad, the spirits raging
in older cities under the pavement.

The streets grew narrower, darker, more understanding.
She walked red-eyed and alone, the starless sky sheltering
the humid air striking her palms
like so many minnows in a child’s river hand.
Her eyes opened, and the salt and mud of the sea hit
the thin wet flesh and formed itself wide and creeping and strong
against her homesick espresso mind.
~ Natalie Vestin
(refrain from stealing, and be blessed with good karma)

Minnesota January

Inappropriate for September, you say? Just you wait...

Minnesota January
In the northern places,
humans become faint, their skins a breaking point
between nerve and surface.

Numb fingers hide from a dense dark forest of wild,
where cold pushes gently enough to shatter the panes
and creep alone into stark winter light.

Trees abide until they bend under the crush
of ice storms that whipped the air
into a week of razored frenzies.

Wood and dirt and low torn shingles shiver where humans
companion out the months of sun and earth standing
at tilted arm’s length.

As cold and gray press on, as roads gather their asphalt pebbles
and hurl them into craters, slow lives push through
frozen dizzy nitrogen, and ache deep in their winter bowels.

The sun’s red line burrows, streams across the field’s ending point.
Warmer mammals find burial in deep earth crushing and dry,
dens of oily fur and aged carcass, bone nestling against the young, wet nose.

The grasses and weeds that got stuck in the dog’s mouth as he galloped
through fern-stoked meadows, trampled wet and vine-snagged, are bent,
beaten with the worlds inside a thousand snowflakes.

On the first sunny morning when ice glints blinding on the trees
and the smell of water fills air and breath, the tractor loses a wheel,
and the driveway, gullied sore, winding, and rough, is left unplowed.

The tractor sits for days near the road collecting woodsmoke,
icicle, gray haze, the quick work of gloved and bloodless fingers,
and the sharp edge of a passing snowplow.

Days low and muted drip into dreaded
overnight gusts through the old siding, and the clear black sky
vaults early, bright and heavy.

Only the dogs rush in the house starry and excited, coats sparkling
wet and eyes dancing with chill, telling tales of deep boreal silences
and coyote eyes like Christmas tree lights in the dark.
~Natalie Vestin
(refrain from stealing, and be blessed with good karma)

Bad Blogger

I, sue me. It's been busy around here with fellowship applications, work, and too much sun to stay inside on the computer.

On the advice of a friend, I'll be posting more of my poetry and other works on here, at least until I start up another blog or Web site devoted exclusively to that purpose.

Stay they come!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The most dangerous seat on the bus

The other night, after meeting a friend for dinner, I took the bus home. I usually take the bus home from work, but it's the nice bus, the rush-hour bus filled with weary professionals and hipster students returning home after a day of office work or comparative literature studies. Dinner went late, so I took the bus that takes forever to get home. The bus that stops at nearly every single corner between Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The bus filled with loud cell phone conversations, blaring hip hop, and the occasional teenage fight before curfew kicks in. This bus makes me feel scared for absolutely no logical reason. Nothing bad has ever happened to me on this bus, but I'm the only quiet white girl in sight. Logic has a long way to go before it can fight the movies, the way we're taught to fear people who aren't quite like us, and the mysterious reasons why we make such effective zenophobic sponges.

In the July issue of The Sun, there's a great interview with Tim Wise, an author and activist who's fought to challenge white privilege and describe the racial situation in American to its bare, honest bones. He describes how girls are subconciously taught to fear black men, how denying white privilege and racism are tantamount to saying that someone else's experience has been false, and how fear cuts across all racial (and other) boundaries. He describes the fear that comes from challenging oppression, the fear of being considered an instigator, the fear of being considered a criminal based on one's skin color.

As I mentioned, this bus stops at every single bus stop known to man. As more and more people get on, folks are crowded in the back and standing in the aisle, and I'm the only person without a seat partner. As I start to look around, I'm wondering if I'm sitting next to the most dangerous seat in the bus - the seat next to the young white girl in the dress and heels.

I've written a lot about fear in the past, mainly because I'm a big fan of looking at it long enough until one of us blinks. Usually my fears only hurt me - they make me less open with other people, they make me focus on things that aren't terribly important. If my individual fears and our collective fears as a society when it comes to race - talking about it, turning it on its head, looking at it from every conceivable angle, and listening, paying attention always - are hurting other people, then that's a problem. I hope I can learn to be the one who blinks in that instance. And smile. And listen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Praise the bread


Just a quick note tonight to share a poem that I find beautiful. It's titled "Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100" by the poet Martin Espada. The poem is a memorial for the 43 employees who were working at the Windows on the World restaurant and lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.