Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No Advice

I made the mistake (or was it?) of telling him he was as easy to read as a simple old dog. Warm bed, warm bath, good food, a good scratch of the pate every night. He said, True enough. You realize what that makes you? What? I said. A complicated old bitch, he said fondly. Closer to the left ear. Ahh, that's it.

Public poet or private poet? Oh--private! Private all the way.

Nothing new to say, no one new to say it to, only the same old, same old, repeating it all over again. This must be what death feels like.

I have no idea how to phrase things to make you understand them the way I mean them. If I say them as they occur to me in my real voice, I see that I'm hurting you. When you say things in your real voice, you would hurt me too--if I were the protist with an eyespot that you seem to be.

He can't be happy here, can't leave here. Suffering from an intelligence deficit. Not his. The inability of this place to hold the conversation partners he needs. So he's bored and finally contemptuous of his fellows.

All my aphorisms try to tell you about me, not how to be more like me. I have no advice and what works for me probably wouldn't satisfy you anyway. I like oatmeal, for example, so cholesterol-busting is an easy job for me. Maybe not for you.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rocky Promontories

You're always sleeping with the guy he wished he'd been for the girlfriend before you. You try to please him as he is in reality and you fail because what he thinks he wants is quite separate. What he's decided to become after the most recent blows.

You want me to want to when you want to. But when I want to, I'd just better understand that you can't be bothered.

I can not solve the problem of your life. I can set out the equation in simplified terms.

He tells his colleagues at work how wise he thinks I am and one of them says, Dude, she's not in the room. You don't have to say that here. He reports this to me. We laugh.

I can explain his behavior to you; what I can't do is make him be the person you want him to be, the one who loves you more than his own life. Not in my power.

For about a month there, I had the naturally occurring cleavage of Anna Magnani. It was nice. Then I got more heavily pregnant and the cleavage was trumped by belly. Again. Back to normal.

We have to treat each other like humans, because what is the alternative? Treating each other like animals? Like furniture? Like rocky promontories we can have no impact upon so we may as well kick at their bases as hard as we can?

Friday, March 25, 2011


I quote Don Paterson at length: "Sleeping with your own muse is an unpardonable breach of literary protocol. But to sleep with a friend's, and tell him about it, is to do him the greatest favor as an artist. I would think."
This aphorism is an origami crane made from the revelatory page of a psychological thriller. Everything you need is there. Except the superstructure of realia to convince the reader of the plot actually occurring in a specific time and place. I love that excision. Millions do not.

I am a cultural abstainer. I am outside every culture I visit, even the one I was born in. But I feel at home everywhere.

If men do not like my brain, I do not have sufficiently alluring physical attributes to make them look twice. At twenty, this felt criminally unfair. At my present age, it's finally begun to seem like money in the bank.

Everything I write is both true and unbelievable, has happened and sounds implausible.

Visited my son's high school and relived that niche horror: being saddled at fifteen with the thighs of forty-two.

I chatter on about my introversion. I brood about how no one listens to me. Who came up with this fiction that our character is fixed?

Saturday, March 12, 2011


She could not believe they believed this stuff.

When you feel your way along through life, there's so much you don't see coming.

It's not your job to understand me. It's not my job to understand you. It's your job to understand yourself and explain it to me.

I remember my infant outrage at age four when a man at our church told his little girl, "Wink at the nice girl, Sarah," and she blinked at me. "Good job," he said. I was appalled that he let his own daughter remain in ignorance for even one moment longer about the distinction between those two words.

Does the world need even one more aphorism? he said. I don't need Lydia Davis, she said, but I'm still glad she's there.

Each aphorism pops fully formed into my mind; then it gets tossed surreptitiously into the trench outside myself (which is where all of you are) and then, like a hand grenade, it either explodes immediately, or goes rolling along the duck boards barely noticed. Huh, will you look at that? I never know which it's going to do either.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

May as Well Out With It

She encouraged me to do crossword puzzles. Keeps the mind active and exercised, she said, wards off Alzheimer's. Sorry, I thought, I'm too busy wondering how and why she believed I required that exercise. I was halfway to furious when I remembered that all advice tendered to others is meant for some younger version of the self. Herself.

The writer in me is perfectly aware of how in the interstices between these aphorisms conclusions will be drawn about the writer, her relationship to her husband (she's married? Who'd marry her? Good question.) her mother, her so-called friends you the reader are oh-so-happy not to have to count yourself among. But I have found to my infinite regret that it matters very little what I say. Those conclusions are erroneously drawn anyway. So I may as well out with it.

I was born in a Catholic family. For some people that fact alone explains their whole history. It does not explain mine.

The exploder of truisms does a job most people don't want done and the few who do don't need someone else to do it for them. So applications are never accepted.

Her husband said: Aphorism and euphemism don't mix.

This is my brain on language. Drug of choice: English.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

She Couldn't

She couldn't decide: was her persona too bracing a presence to put up with for very long--two quick slaps of Aqua Velva could be good on occasion, but a lifetime supply as either bathwater or beverage would be too, too much of something that was definitely optional--or maybe she was just a bitch? So she went back and forth. It was them. No, it was her, all her, always had been. Then she'd drop it for a while and just go on.

She couldn't believe that people actually believed in a coherent narrative arc to their own lives, one in which if they only knew which strand, which subplot was going to turn out to be the main one, they could finally put their efforts to most use. Which woman was the right woman, which job was the right job, which house was the best set for the movie of their life, which car sent the exact message they wanted to send to other people about who they were on the inside. Gas mileage and moral seriousness of the Prius, or creamy leather seats and the opportunity to offer passengers a warmed bucket seat in the Lexus? Time is ticking down, people. Decide already. These movies rarely go over two hours.

It's not that she disagreed. That word, the word she had used, did have some negative connotations. She wasn't disputing that. But taken globally, taking who she was and who he was to her and the whole frankness of the situation and the length of their relationship and there were probably many more possible mitigators, how could he think she meant to wound him with that word? She who barely bothered to speak to other people seriously, was handing him cut diamonds and he was complaining that they had pointy bits.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No Night

There is no night. Whatever the sun abandons one day, it rediscovers the next. Even when no one is looking at you, you still exist. This can be a horror, a tragedy even, or it can be the necessary bedrock of the decision to create meaning in our lives, for our lives.

All that time I spend searching for the correct word, the correct phrase--obliterated by the fiery glance from its recipient.

I thought it was unconditional love. I found out that it wasn't when the conditions changed.

I have been socialized to perform my persona for women, but I don't enjoy it. I'd rather talk to men, but I have no confidence that I can say anything they'd like to hear.

For a woman to look a man straight in the eye is halfway to agreeing to have sex with him. Or it isn't.

If you read for what happened, read the newspaper. If you'd prefer to know why, read novels.

I have all my life preferred not to tell people what happened to me, because I knew their reaction would follow a certain vector that would change my experience into black tragedy. But that was not how it felt to me.