Sunday, January 13, 2019

Who is Winter Fooling?

Who got up at six and why did they get up at six
When winter was slumbering and sleeting?
Who is winter covering on the waking side of dawning?

I never owned an instrument; this house was silent
When I fell asleep last summer--last evening, rather,
Far beyond this slushy keening.
Who is winter fooling, this side of the seasons?

Who came to the house last night to open just one window,
Who left a cold like silver notes up and down the foyer?
Who sang the starlight ashes into this tray of morning?

Why has my voice, gone yesterday, returned
Along an old coil of phone line,
Still calling me to warn me?
Who is winter fooling this side of the seasons?

Sharing this morning with Poets United and, possibly, with The Sunday Muse. The photo inspiration is definitely from The Muse; however, there is, may be, could possibly lead to a short story rather than a poem...there's usually a winter's ghost story hovering around my head and this warm, too-warm season has produced a lack of lurking weather, ergo, not yet a good story. But this fits in so well with an idea that occurred to me may I should cut back on the coffee before l start drafting and just get it done. :) Have a lovely week! 

-- Chrissa

Friday, January 11, 2019

Inspired By Friday

Still working out how I want to blog more often this year. I like the idea of  "Inspired By" because our WordCrafters sponsor, Carrie, has a gift for finding prompts and it's fun to see how a single image or idea refracts through the group. This particular prompt was about creating something new in honor of the new year...which I didn't, in the end, do. There is something about beginnings that sometimes comes with blankness and the poem that would have summed that up is as follows:


This is the poem that did arrive.

A Ragged, Strange Hospitality

Why don’t I ask you to leave?
This bright evening around us…
You're a limned shadow, across
This branching scar.
You stare at it, then away
Sunward, into blindness.
Too polite to ask with more
Than a glance and an “ouch.”
And that smile—go ahead, sit.

Odin hung, they say, for wisdom
His body like a bucket beneath a branch
On the tree of all worlds.
He gave an eye for his birds.
I think of sap, while the sugared coffee
Drains down my throat.
I was balancing on the wire fence
Railing the Starbucks from the highway
Wondering what I giving…
Who would take it.

Grackle laughs and lands on my shoulder
Offers me a trade, gouges Yggdrasil into my bicep
And forearm. Somewhere to sit, higher...
Some bird flew into my hair
And freaked. I had to share my bagel
To calm it down. He wanted
To write us both into an old myth
Of hospitality. 
Would you like a bite?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Beautiful and Stupid TBR Tuesday

It's that resolution time of year, or, for me, that time when you start pulling out the bullet journals and writing projects and project notebooks and trying to read ALL THE BOOKS AT ONCE WHILE WRITING ALL THE STORIES. Usually this lasts until February or the first busy weekend. Or, like last year, the first time you put your project notebook Right Here Where I Will Surely Remember It. LOL.

Last year, I really enjoyed participating in the Sunday poetry whirl of Poets United and The Sunday Muse and I'd like to continue with Sunday poetry this year. However, I'd like to add a few days with related themes...such as TBR Tuesday (today's entry) and, perhaps a day for discussing writing projects or planning (maybe more to keep me working on these than otherwise). TBR Tuesdays will be a brief mention of some of the books I'm reading. Comments and questions are always welcome and reading suggestions are appreciated. One of the "projects" I'm working on this year is trying to keep my library "on hold" selection full to support my local library. And,of course, to keep myself in good books.

The books this week include one from the library (Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente) and one from my existing TBR shelf (Notes on the Death of Culture, by Mario Vargas Llosa). These are oddly sympathetic books to read together, both short books that take aim at our foibles and assumptions of sentience and language that draw you deep into the language. Both of these proved provocative, Space Opera because from the first I wanted to remonstrate: "Not Douglas Adams. Don't do that." I had to get out of my way with this but I kept reading. Notes on the Death of Culture reads a bit like an extended troll essay in which supposedly good things (freedom and self-determination) become hideous flaws that lead to crap art and an inability to appreciate music.

There are interesting arguments in NotDoC...but they are undermined somewhat by essays in which the author's inability (for the first time!!!) to find a book he would like to read in a bookstore become symbolic of cultural decay. It seems (in the essay) as if he went to an endcap, read the titles, and left. I don't know why these particular books would have been symbolic of anything and he doesn't bother to explain. They just don't appeal and that's it. The challenge is that when he engages with the idea of the spectacle and the way in which culture becomes a catch-all term that seems to mean something positive and worth preserving but elides any actual meaning under a wider and wider definition (anything produced or consumed or believed or & active yogurt cultures!!), his argument is quickly lost to another bout of trolling (Damien Hirst is a con artist!) (sex has lost the art of eroticism!) and peters out. I start to take notes, start to think about counterarguments...and then we're on to the next section and culture proves as elusive an object of critique as it was to define.

Space Opera perks along in short and punchy chapters that overwhelm and then infiltrate my brain.  At times, the aliens are difficult to picture and sometimes are just blobs of color in my brain...I'd really like to see this as a miniseries (please, please, please NOT the SyFy channel) and possibly more anime than live action. There's a fluidity and rapidity that would fit well with visual representation and amazing voice acting. The central conceit...a universal singing competition in place of total war...makes for interesting worldbuilding. I'm enjoying the flip between art and aggression in terms of specialization (and the jokes about proliferating hits are awesome), especially the not-so-different implications.

Only...well...Valente wrote an entire book on fridging as a why is Mira dead? Why?!?  This irritates me because Mira both haunts the book and feels like the obligatory not-everyone-survives-the-business cautionary tale. And love would have saved her life? Like a song could save the entire planet? Ugh. (maybe this is completely unfair...I'm not 100% through with the book...sooo she could have something planned for this that I don't yet see)

And yet, I'm really enjoying both books. I'm stoked to have gotten Space Opera from the library and to be able to read it, as books should be read, in hardcover, with easily accessible (not tightly glued) pages, curled in a beanbag, daydreaming of crazing alien concerts and hoping that everything turns out okay (and finding, surprisingly, that I'm more on the side of Oort than Decibel lately. How tastes change as one gets really, really too old to read these kinds of books). NotDoC is a great book to read in between other things, an inspiration for margin notes and second thoughts and thoughts on whether "culture" really needs to be split into a cluster of words. Also, I can't stop thinking about a song consisting of four and a half minutes of a pianist staring at the instrument. I think it's brilliant--whatever the composer intended, encountering silence immediately throws you into your brain, along with all the music that came before and the present experience you are having...the other humans sharing the concert space, your choices up to this point...who is really naked in this experience? Has the composer sold you a bill of goods or provided, in a delimited amount of time, a counter-theme to consider? For me, I come down on the side of counter-theme and continued engagement in the totality of the event despite the lack of aural accompaniment from the performer.

LOL...this was not brief. But I'm glad to have gotten it down. :)

-- Chrissa

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Fox and Butterfly

Wake yourself.
We are giving you the day--golden...
Or silver, new against your skin.

Immediately it takes flight--feel it,
Velvet fog, against your collarbone.

It's your day to protect.
There are leaping teeth, lurking.
But we have given you the day.

We have given you the day.

Happy 2019! Welcome back if you're revisiting after the holidays. Hope you've had a peaceful break and that the new year has begun well. :)  Sharing this brief piece with The Sunday Muse and with Poets United.

-- Chrissa

Saturday, January 5, 2019

January 2019 TBR

It is the fifth day of January, 2019 and I am thumbing through my stack of library books, already exhausted at the idea of yet more of my holds becoming available and adding to the stack on the table. I've already finished the first of these:  No One Can Pronounce My Name and I'd like to settle in to appreciate how much I enjoyed this book, the twists and turns of friendship, the negotiation of Anglicized names and how easy it is to elide someone's name and just not see them...the background, the typical example, the assumed.

And then I pick up All the President's Men and it's 1972 and I am not yet one year mother isn't pregnant yet with my younger brother and the Watergate Building is a grand building full of Republican money and not yet half a byword for scandal and corruption. What strikes me in these initial descriptions is that the building was supposed to be beautiful and yet, for all the images I've seen of it, it's always lurked in my brain as another dirty, off-white stack of tiny windows and cramped offices...I imagine shag carpet and humming lights and nice desks stark amidst cheap office furniture and filing cabinets. There is no fall in my mind for the building--it was born graceless for a dirty business. Now, though, I'm curious about what it really looked like.

I remember the buildings my nephew toured us through at A&M, the grand rotunda where rings are ordered and received, storied campus buildings and the library that smelled like libraries are supposed to smell, not like our neighborhood library that rarely smelled of the books it contained. The buildings that, with faded photos and slightly darker stories, could seem dingier than they are in person, lighter than the way they feel on a summer afternoon, full of shade and places to escape the razor-sharp Texas sun.

This month's TBR is going to depend a little on what comes in from the library--so far it includes Space OperaThe Bear and the Nightingale, Who is Mary Sue, and Creative Quest. I'm curious how many of these books are going to be as instantly, weirdly evocative as ATPM and which are going to be non-starters. Hopefully, each one will be slightly different and engrossing as only a good book can be. I'm trying to work my way through the 2019 Pop Sugar Reading challenge just to shake up my reading. I felt like few of the books I read in 2018 were as surprising as some of this year's books have been. I'd also like to finish up books that have been sitting around, either half finished or not yet begun. Books like The Perfect Meal and All the Windward Stars. I love Elizabeth Bear's writing, but I need to spend time with it, not power through it like non-fiction. The Perfect Meal was perfectly charming until the section about consuming animals from a French zoo in the middle of a war. Cruelty never feels like a seasoning, more like a spoilage.

One of the challenges I'd like to meet for this year's reading is a book set in my home town (either Lake Jackson or Port Arthur), if I can find one.

Hope everyone's reading year is off to a great start!

-- Chrissa

Sunday, December 30, 2018

When 2019 Arrives

Resolutions are the arrow to the land across the water
This year drains from the grass, the river swells to the edge
Of the sandy cliff until you feel the float of the ground itself
Sundered from the stable upland across the drowned sky.

Resolve to go before the hollow places
Bored into the foundation by evaporated friendships
Empty and fill again with the run-off years,
Cracking the clay and shearing movement.

Resolute as the sun saluting the day:
I have been proud to light your specificities
I have been proud to feed your breathing
Do not melt upon the waters. Go.


I've been watching end-of-the-year videos on BookTube for the past several days and thinking about how the books of 2018 have passed through my life, the way this year the news in general has felt like a weekly disaster vlog and just, in general, letting myself miss people and places I've cared about. 2018, for me, has been a host of minor instabilities strung on a spine of retrenchment--minor fender benders, losing for a second time a library home-away-from-home, having the weather interrupt plans...minor stuff but adding up to the feeling that things are careening a little closer than comfortable. We're out more (looking at Christmas lights, etc.) and so is the rest of the city and so you see more wreckage and emergency lights as well as holiday lights.

When the image above was chosen for The Sunday Muse, my first reaction was "Yeah, no, I'm more burrow-into-the-clay than set-sail-into-the-evening." But...retrenching didn't really lead to any breakthroughs. Sitting at home with my writing didn't lead to writing. The house is not substantially better organized. I'm Sara in that scene in Labyrinth with everything on my back but unable to leave anything behind

So the first reaction isn't the poem. 

Hoping you and yours have a remarkable 2019 and that the journey leads you to a good vantage point for 2020 and onward. Thanks for being part of this blog and thanks to those at Poets United and The Sunday Muse for the inspiration--the breath--for this blog.

Best wishes,

Yep, photobombed my own photo. We went out on my birthday to look at lights in Prestonwood, a wonderful neighborhood for light viewing if you're to the north of Houston. Very grateful to all those families, who work to give this gift, despite clogged streets, every year. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2018


A single song upon which the year turns between rosin and bird
Sharing our holidays, our sun and snow and sugar, on a pivot
Of rhythm--our forest lives among our voices, feeds us,
Gives us our throat, grows tall enough to sieve the high sun,
Weaving the light with unleaved fingers,
Draping warmth around our shoulders.

Wishing everyone a merry, happy, joyful holiday season, a happy Christmas, a merry New Year, and the joy of hope.

-- Chrissa