December Miscellany

Recently, I picked up a nickel for a man who dropped it, walked it over to him in the store. He looked at me surprised. Both of us chuckling at the small gesture, made big by its very smallness.

I eat a salad at that café and think about how the familiar faces I have known—but not the faces I have known known, just the ones in my life there, in the bakery, at the store, the ones I see every six months or so—have aged. And how some of them still have not. Right now, I can see across the street, in front of the Peet’s, three of the same men, still stand, still scope the crowd, still. People can become a constancy in the environment.

I cannot decide if this is a sad thought or a happy one.

After the nickel incident, I ran after a woman who left her sunglasses on a bench, after she and her man finished their ice cream.

A friend recently considered the state of her (and our) life, saying something like, “Is this it? Now I live near a bunch of knick-knack shops but am gentrifying part of a city and doing a mixed job at a foundation?” (This is a poor paraphrase.) Sometimes I think about where I may be headed– academia, writing, etc– what Huey Newton probably called being an armchair philosopher. But who were we to think we could make a difference? Who are we to think we cannot? What is the size of something called “a difference?”

The idea of working through constant failure becomes an increasingly important one.

My parents keep saying, “Work on yourself. Work on yourself first.” Is there an order?

I briefly imagine myself at 50, 60. I am kind. I am generous, the trait I admire most especially if they survive in academics. But also I do not care. The kind of “don’t care” that strong, older women achieve, so people think they are losing it, but really, they know so much and they see you. They know you think they are losing it, and they do not care because they have work to do.

I wonder how much I will cry in bed then.

I want to remember I am good and—though the previous statement can stand on its own—I want to remember I am good at what I do.

Lying in bed, I recall moments of success in my work, silly little things that suggest I have done good in the places I have been. I spent most of this past semester believing my class wasn’t going great because of—really—just one student’s hard exterior. But in reality, this group of students performed the most consistently and creatively out of possibly all my classes I’ve taught in this setting. Their final portfolios and last notes and emails to me reinforce this idea and the effect of my work. But it’s so easy to forget when you are sensitive, and you want to get better and know you can get better. But don’t forget. Don’t ignore the ones saying stay, keeping doing what you are doing.

Don’t let imagined things be the reason for your choices.

Who will remember my forgotten glasses? My dropped coin? Who will pick up after me? Run after me?

Sometimes what you avoid comes back, dragging you into truth’s tide. The question remains what good will you do there and how.

There are signs that things are working. More and more, I feel I am heading in the right direction. I want to work on believing this.

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What I Read- 2019 edition

  1. Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  2. Sleeping with the Dictionary by Harryette Mullen
  3. Imaginary Vessels by Paisley Rekdal
  4. D/domina Unblued by Ruth Ellen Kocher
  5. Dance Dance Revolution by Cathy Park Hong
  6. Ban en Banlieu by Bhanu Kapil
  7. Schizophrene by Bhanu Kapil
  8. Petals of Blood by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (mostly)
  9. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
  10. Unaccompanied by Javier Zamora
  11. No Dictionary of A Living Tongue Duriel E. Harris
  12. The Tradition by Jericho Brown
  13. Viability by Sarah Vap (finally finished this cover to cover)
  14. The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks edited by Elizabeth Alexander
  15. Solar Storms by Linda Hogan
  16. There There by Tommy Orange
  17. Heavy by Kiese Laymon
  18. The Black Maria by Aracelis Girmay
  19. Selected Poems by Frederico Garcia Lorca
  20. Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed
  21. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (graphic novel!)
  22. Deaf Republic by Iyla Kaminsky
  23. Swing at Your Own Risk by Metta Sáma
  24. While They Sleep (Under the Bed is Another Country) by Raquel Salas Rivera
  25. “i”: new and collected poems by Toi Derricotte
  26. Tahrir Square by Matthew Shenoda
  27. Be Recorder by Carmen Giménez Smith
  28. Objects of Attention by Aichlee Bushnell (chapbook)
  29. Tropic of Orange by Karen Yamamoto
  30. On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (FYI- more potentially triggering than anyone has mentioned to me.)
  31. House A by Jennifer S. Cheng
  32. Up To Speed by Rae Armantrout
  33. In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
  34. Exhalation: Stores by Ted Chiang (science fiction. what!)

34 books in 2019. Not bad. Most of them are poetry collections. I should also add I was privileged enough to read friends mai doan and Keith S. Wilson’s poetry collections before they arrived in print. Both of which came out this year! (36 books then?) But this is also yet another year I haven’t finished The Undercommons.

Next year, I am curious about Monique Truong’s new novel (surprisingly unavailable in many bookstores) and Monica Sok’s poetry collection, forthcoming in 2020. Folks I’m curious about and am often on the cusp of reading: Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty. Feel free to recommend a novel or story where I should start with them. I need to get to The Performance of Becoming Human by Daniel Borzutzky. I want to read more of Evie Shockley’s work, both her criticism on Black American innovative poetry and her poetry. What have you read this year? What should I make sure I read next?

Because of all the reasons as well as this was the year Toni Morrison became an ancestor, I read this interview in the last week of the Gregorian calendar. Unending gratitude for her work and presence. May all you writers write with so much purpose and beauty.

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