Welcome To My Bed

The Bibliography of Loss

I haven't written here in eight months. For everything, there is a reason and season, if not a proper rhyme. My father died in July. Simple as that tiny sentence; bigger than anything I can (or will) ever write here or anywhere else.

Following this, I threw myself into many things. I worked two jobs, spent endless driving hours bouncing between Providence and Boston. It felt best to move more than was comfortable. In stillness, people approach you. Hang at the fringe of a party and someone will ask how you're doing. It's rude not to answer. They're only concerned, and rightfully so. The conversations that accompany losing a parent are unlike any others. Such an experience becomes public no matter what you do or say surrounding it. Everyone finds out. Sympathy becomes oppressive. Pity, pervasive. The faces of friends are suddenly gutted of kindness, deeply hollow, wanting only to drink in as much of your sadness as possible. They can't help it; tasting your loss could make their own future losses somehow easier. You are a walking premonition. A how-not-to guide for grieving.

My best friends have always been books. Like many children, imagining was the greatest escape. It continued to be into the final stretch of my father's battle with innumerable chronic illnesses. I read The Autograph Man; the first scene, I reread three times and cried on the commuter train. Big, wet sobs in front of strangers too horrified to ask. And then I read White Teeth and decided that along with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, I had the start of a syllabus for a lit class on the immigrant humor-histories of diaspora. To finish out my comprehensive tour of Zadie Smith, I sat a long weekend with her essay collection Changing My Mind, which had me bawling even more than the novels. Her piece about off-color humor and its place in her family life hit particularly close to home.

I started The Brothers Karamazov and in the middle of it, the end. I haven't been able to push forward more than a hundred pages since. (I blame most of this on having come to the first person interjection of the elder Zosima's call to faith, which should probably just be dramatically staged in my living room with funny accents and stick-on mustaches to expedite the process so that I can say I've made it through.) Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World broke my heart by presenting itself as the first book post-death that I would've bought for my father. Our phone calls where we talked about recent reads are the thing I miss the most. He was an expert on the hierarchies of Herbert's Dune, favored speculative fiction above most things. I feel closest to him now when I find something madcap and unapologetic. I also have my greatest troubles with the future, because he can't bodily be in it. I cry about weddings of complete strangers. The thing I am most proud of is that the first piece of writing anyone's paid me for publishing came out 2 days before he went. That I got to see him smile at our triumph.

He made me a storyteller and storylover. Which made this next one a particularly difficult time, given the elusive presence of the brilliant storyteller dead dad. I picked up Infinite Jest at the end of the summer as a challenge to myself. I hadn't been writing. I hadn't been able to read more than a few pages of poems a week, where my appetite usually went through two or three hundred times as much in the same time. Before. Such an ugly word to think of when talking about a person's life. Foster Wallace wrote the guilt of remembering a better before and the guilt of searching for a better after, and the numbness required to run from both, and the ways we are all bred to expect some escape, and a lot of nonsense about puppet shows and trash and radio engineers and Canada that wasn't even close to nonsense because it kept me from thinking of the hospice and the ashes and the eulogy I wrote mostly about a seagull feather (weeping nearly enough to short out my computer). The power of words lies in their ability to imagine ourselves different. Reading asks us to go somewhere unfamiliar, to trust that the unknown can be good again. I can think of no other conversation I wish someone had started with me in person.

I am (un)fortunate enough to know a handful of people who have done this dance. The I-wish-wouldn't-say-you're-sorry-for-my-loss dance. The please-shut-up-about-it-and-take-me-to-a-stupid-movie dance. All of us are heavy readers. I can think of no other effective coping mechanism. If someone asks about "how I'm doing" in that eyebrows raised kind of way, I tell them what I'm reading. Most seem deeply thwarted by this, but I much prefer sharing something truly useful to harping on a wound that is unlikely the scab over, perhaps ever. Luckily, there are enough titles on my must-read list to keep me distracted for at least six lifetimes.

I guess what I'm saying is I needed a long, deep breath, voices unreasonable and irreverent to talk me out of taking loss so seriously. I come from the future. The thoughts here are hard-nosed, but happy.

Small happies.

You can read a poem of mine here, published on the thirteenth. I recommend leafing through the whole sixth issue of Phantom Kangaroo and getting thoroughly spooked tonight before bed.



This song makes me happy, especially when it comes on at a dance night.



This show is my new favorite.

And now I'm going to work, and then to New Jersey. See you across state lines, post floating tattoo appointment and Long Island Gaga concert.

"The poets are coming."

The way things unravel never ceases to amaze me, but the way things come together is even more astonishing. I got a rejection letter today and was not devastated. My skin has gotten so thick about writing--four years ago, not even a handful of people had even seen my poems. I just talked my sister's ear off about Blind Huber and themed manuscripts (I'm working on two). I have yet to even complain about a 30/30 poem; I just wake up at 8 AM every day and write one.

Which reminds me--it's National Poetry Month. All of my friends are posting their work and tagging me in notes on the good book. Well, not all of them. The brave ones. The disciplined ones. The crazy ones. (Those words tend to be interchangeable when it comes to the people I love.) And then there's this thing happening in one of my adopted cities this summer that drawing closer every day. You should be as excited about it as we are. The National Poetry Slam is coming to Boston! I've known about this for awhile, but shit just got real the other day. April Ranger put together a great show of music and comedy that led up to a slam grudge match between Boston and New York City. Melissa gave me this postcard:

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...in which the NPS logo is both the moon AND the poetry Bat Signal. She's also curating a tumblr for the event, which is currently chock-full of performance poem videos worth watching.

To top all this word-love off, I have a show tomorrow night in Portland, ME with Sam and Mckendy. I haven't shared a stage with them in months. I anticipate sheningans of a tall order. Or, at least we'll perform some poems and yell "Get it in!" and "Only off jumps!" at one another for a good chunk of the evening. If you're going to be in the area, come give and receive hugs. I am very good at those.

In closing, this song makes me really really really happy.

Happy Scandal Day!

...otherwise known as "Singles Awareness Day (SAD)" or "St. Valentine's Day." I much prefer scandal to either of those depressing reasons to consume. I plan on spending zero dollars, listening to "Exile in Guyville" on repeat, and loving with the same intensity that I do every other day of the year.

But in honor of the extra emphasis everyone else is placing on love, here is a Wordle of the words this blog loves.

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And here, David Bowie leads a cultish mid-nineties arts colony of shaved head industrial types who rather enjoy mannequins.



And here, Rihanna ball-gags her detractors and wraps herself in plastic.



And here, Nicki Minaj does the fairy tale thing and is still a BAMF.



And finally, Max Bemis warbles about phone sex and religious guilt.



Watch an endless chain of John Cusack films! Take advantage of candy sales! High five Alanis Morissette! Wonder aloud who the Arcade Fire is!

However you choose to celebrate, be sure to blow a raspberry at those around you acting like it's the end of the relationship if this day isn't the most magical they've ever had.

(And in case you didn't know, the Ribcage Kids are performing at AS 220 in Providence tomorrow night. Doors at 8:45. Come be my anti-Valentine!)

Pomp (& circumstance).

I can't sleep. I haven't had to say that aloud in a long time.

So I started thinking about my hair again. It's been an obsession lately (and always). I've dyed it twice in the past two weeks, once lighter, once darker. I am satisfied with the color now, but the length is driving me nuts. Having an inch and a half of hair is difficult. With my styling options close to zero, it seems my collection of hats is growing exponentially. Not because I want to cover my hair by any means, but because I just want something interesting to be happening on my head. Oh, how I rue the day that I shaved off my mohawk! Well, not really. I've quite enjoyed this crop. But I am ready for some different extreme. These two ladies and their fabulous coifs have been spinning through my head as of late:

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Now, Rihanna is someone that can essentially do no wrong by me. Argue her talent all you want; I'm not going to tell you what opinion to have as far as pop music goes. But for the past few years, basically ever since she cut it short, her hair has been fierce as a tiger let lose on Las Vegas. If I could have even half the pompadour she's rocking at the right of that pair of pictures, I would be beyond pleased with myself.

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If you have not heard of Janelle Monae, you have been living under a boulder of epic un-coolness. This woman can sing and dance like I have not seen in years, not to mention carry a sci-fi story of Frank Herbert-proportions on her shoulders rocking wing-tips and the freshest white shirts. I love me some Gaga, but I have half a mind to smack the entertainment industry hard in the mouth for being so moony-eyed over that New York love child of Madonna and Marilyn Manson when Janelle is leaps and bounds beyond. If we wanted to have a no-holds-barred battle between high-concept pop divas, I know Monae would win, hands down. That being said, her hair, while defying all gravity, has absolutely captured my heart.

I suppose what all of this means is that I'm currently sitting at my kitchen table in the dark, meditating on ways to make my hair grow faster. After dinner tonight, I had a brief modeling session where I showed my roommate Jericha this fantastic vintage dress I picked up mid-July. In talking about how to style it, I went off on a tangent about the plans for my future hair. She told me I was only allowed to dress pin-up if my hair got larger than life. I am inclined to agree. There is nothing that makes me happier than the idea of winged eyeliner, sky-high pumps, and even higher hair.

Except maybe this last picture:

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In other, perhaps more important, news, the website for my winter tour is up and running. I have been smiling too much and doing impromptu happy dances in the crosswalk on my way to work because of it. It was designed by the badd-ass and talented William James, a man I admire for many reasons, the least of which is that his typewriter collection rivals his pearl snap shirt collection. RESPECT!

If you're in the New York area this weekend, you should come out to the inaugural tour date, my show at Sarah Lawrence's Teahaus, sponsored by their Spoken Word Collective. I will have limited edition books and lots of words and hugs and dance magic to share. Word on the street is there's going to be an epic after-party, as it's their first feature of the semester. I am honored, and absolutely beyond excited to rock New York hard. Details here. I'd love to see your smiling face in the audience!

Last, and perhaps most importantly, today is my sister's twenty-fifth birthday. Well, more like yesterday at this advanced stage of morning. I am sending her a unicorn for good luck in the coming year, her silver anniversary of living. What a wonderful lady!

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Here we are at the Flying Rhino last fall, our favorite restaurant in Worcester. I can't wait resume our tradition of monthly dinners, this time with wine.

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Did I mention it's now nine days until my 21st birthday?! SHA-ZAMMM.

Ok. I really need to go to bed now...

I propose a toast...

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...to us. Wherever we meet, whenever we meet, even if we have not met yet, even if we never will, have a drink with me. Here's to the ways we've connected this year. This has been my first taking this modest blog seriously; what started out as a public diary-type endeavor has evolved into an exciting place for me to work out ideas and keep a record of the things that I love and celebrate. I'm so proud and thankful I'm able to share these thoughts with you.

So I'm raising what one of the chefs at my summer job would call my "fish dog head beer" to you, my reader. Cheers! I hope you are just as warm and wonderful, mischievous and fun-loving as I imagine you. And I also hope you're ready for my more of my ranting and raving in 2010, because there is little chance I am going to shut up anytime soon.