Ex Libris

I'm reading a terrific book: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman. Warning: Do not read this book if you do not love to read. Furthermore, do not read this book if you only partially like reading. Only read this beautiful book if you are passionate about reading. Because Fadiman is, and she needs only the support of full fledged readers to enter her domain. In this book you will learn proper bookmark techniques. You will also learn about how sexy reading about food can be, as well as the definition of such delicious words as: grimoire, adytum, and my personal favorite, very delectable word - opopanax, ( a reddish-looking plant formerly used as an emmenagogue and antispasmodic). Wouldn't you like to play with a balloon shaped just like an opopanax? I would. She also teaches you a lot about how your future spouse should be - at least to those who wish to live a romantically booky life. You are only truly married when you can share each other's books. You also need someone who will buy you 19 pounds of dusty books for your birthday, and who will inscribe in his very own novel, "To my beloved wife...This is your book, too, as my life, too is also yours." You will read about how romantic it is to be surrounded by Gore-tex, cuddling with your husband (romantically christened George), as John Wesley Powell's diary lay before you by lantern light, watching the Granite Rapids roll by. There are many things each of you need to learn about books. They are - not just things to be read and put down. They are our history, our present, our very future, and the mark we leave as human beings. They in fact - determine our existence, and validate our consciousness. So before you sprawl a book face-down, or dog-ear, or heaven forbid tear out its pages; take a minute. Breathe. Respect.



There has been some debate. Never mind how long or how intense. It is about two of my favorite composers; Johann Brahms and Clara Schumann. I have taught Master-classes about them, I have studied their music, and have attempted to play their notes with the passion they composed with. The debate has been going on since they died, and I am sure long before that. No matter Brahms hot temper - he loved Clara. He could never offend her. His beautiful Romance was undoubtedly written for her. Out of respect for them, I must post this poem. Lisel Mueller wrote it, and I cannot say it any better. In other words: Stop debating. Let their music speak for them. It tells us everything we need to know. (As if it were our business in the first place.)

"The modern biographers worry
"how far it went," their tender friendship.
They wonder just what it means
when he writes he thinks of her constantly,
his guardian angel, beloved friend.
The modern biographers ask
their rude, irrelevant question
of our age, as if the event
of two bodies meshing together
establishes the degree of love,
forgetting how softly Eros walked
in the nineteenth century, how a hand
held overlong or a gaze anchored
in someone's eyes could unseat a heart,
and nuances of address not known
in our egalitarian language
could make the redolent air
tremble and shimmer with heat
of possibility. Each time I hear
the Intermezzi, sad
and lavish in their tenderness,
I imagine the two of them
sitting in a garden
among late-blooming roses
and dark cascades of leaves,
letting the landscape speak for them,
leaving us nothing to overhear."


O.C.D = Our Courtly Desires

There is this disorder I have. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Mine is not extreme, although some may worry it is. It does, however, pervade my life. I would like it to stop. To stop. To stop. Some things need to be repeated three times. Random things, there are no rules. They just do. My alarm must be set to the four. I cannot wake up at 7:15. It must be 7:14. Not 9:45, but 9:44. Always. Always. Always. My blinds must be checked one- two- three times before climbing into bed, and stepping on cracks is taboo. Leaves are pulled off of their branches and torn in 19 pieces. It used to be 12, then 15, then 17, but now it is 19. That might have to do with the date of my birth. I worry for when I turn 44. That is a lot of broken leave pieces to scatter as my breadcrumb trail. (I've done this ever since I heard the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel.) Cupboards must remain shut at all times. Doors must be locked. Teeth must be brushed 14 times each. Hello, hello, hello before I answer the phone without a hello but a hey - or a what's up? Smiles must be faked, pulses must be checked, and on and on and on. And so forth and so on and on and on.


Read On

I have this thing I do. I call it reading. Some of my audience (whoever it may be) may be thinking, "Oh, I do that too." But I have to differ with you a little bit there. I read. And my reading is a little bit different than maybe some of you read. When I read, I read. It's not like I pick up a book and say, "Oh, I'll read until the little hand gets to the six," while I look up after every page or so to see if the little hand is there yet. I read with abandon. Because when I read, I can forget. Who cares about my miserably sad life right now, when Rochester and his little bird are falling in love despite his blindness? Who cares if my tears are running down my face when Florentino and Fermina Daza finally find each other after a terribly long and boring life. (and book). Adah and Caleb are meant to be. And Rachel can be rich in South Africa. And Lily gets to find all eight of her mothers. And Carl Ray finds out who his father is, and Beth Ann shuts up and Anna can die in a freak car accident and ruin an otherwise lovely novel. And it's okay. Because when I read, I am not alive. At least not my problems. And that's the way I prefer it. So go ahead and read - read as you always do, as you always have: one page at a time, while that little stick tick-tick-ticks, and you dog ear, or heaven forbid, sprawl your book down to pick it up later. I cannot do that. Because when I read, I read.


Wise Words

"You know how when you were a little kid and you believed in fairy tales, that fantasy of what your life would be, white dress, prince charming who would carry you away to a castle on a hill. You would lie in bed at night and close your eyes and you had complete and utter faith. Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Prince Charming, they were so close you could taste them, but eventually you grow up, one day you open your eyes and the fairy tale disappears. Most people turn to the things and people they can trust. But the thing is its hard to let go of that fairy tale entirely cause almost everyone has that smallest bit of hope, of faith, that one day they will open their eyes and it will come true."
- Meredith Gray


For Bryan

"She was a girl
no one ever chose
for teams or clubs,
dances or dates,

so she chose the instrument
no one else wanted:
the tuba. Big as herself,
heavy as her heart

its golden tubes
and coils encircled her
like a lover’s embrace.
Its body pressed on hers.

Into its mouthpiece she blew
life, its deep-throated
oompahs, oompahs sounding,
almost, like mating cries."

This poem made me laugh so hard, in a very lame, poetry loving dorky way. And who doesn't deserve to laugh like that at least once?


Fire and Hope

The way the Greeks put it, Zeus put Prometheus and Epimetheus in charge of creating life on earth. Epimetheus made animals, and gave out special bonuses like wings and swiftness and strength. By the time Prometheus made man, all of the awesome bonuses were taken, so he just made them walk upright and gave them fire.
However, Zeus was angry when he saw that man had fire on earth, and took it away. But then Prometheus looked down on earth and saw his beautiful creation cold and eating raw meat, so he lit a torch from the sun and gave fire back to man. To punish Prometheus, Zeus chained him to a rock where an eagle fed on his liver. Then to punish man, Zeus created the first woman - Pandora - (but if you ask me it was actually a blessing not a curse) and gave her a box she was forbidden to open.
Among women's many good traits, Zeus also made them curious, so of course one day Pandora opened the box. Out of the box poured plagues and sickness and death and misery. However, she quickly shut the box before hope escaped. It is the only weapon we have, according to the Greeks, left to fight the others.

Hope is a pretty powerful thing. Believe me when I say, it's sometimes the only weapon we have left. But if used properly... it's enough.



"It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak."

- Mary Oliver



I heard these lyrics for the first time a week ago in my English 150H class. Immediately I assumed the song was about a relationship. Reading deeper, I came to realize that it was actually a song from Judas Iscariot's point of view. "You" is Jesus Christ. It was hard to believe U2 could create such a meaningful song, but it taught me a lot about betrayal. Christ was betrayed, by one of his closest friends - his disciple. And we are all betrayed by our own disciples. Our own closest friends. And each time it happens, each of us reach out for Christ - the only one who can save any of us. And he is the one who delivers us. Every time.

Havent seen you in quite a while
I was down the hold, just passing time
Last time we met was a low-lit room
We were as close together as bride and groom
We ate the food, we drank the wine
Everybody having a good time
Except you
You were talking about the end of the world

I took the money, I spiked your drink
You miss too much these days if you stop to think
You led me on with those innocent eyes
And you know I love the element of surprise
In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You, you were acting like it was the end of the world

In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
In waves of regret, waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You, you said youd wait until the end of the world.


On Overcoming

"The cure for anything is salt water-- sweat, tears or the sea"
-Isak Dinesen

My Dad

This poem completely sums up my experience in leaving for college. My Dad sat me down, and we both cried. We both told each other we loved each other, as he recounted his memories of my youth, that seemed every day to pass faster and faster until it was gone. Gone like my diapers, and my Barbies, and my braces. Here, perhaps less poetically than my Dad, Gerald Stern describes his own goodbye. Mine was more poetic, only because it was mine.

"I wanted to know what it was like before we
had voices and before we had bare fingers and before we
had minds to move us through our actions
and tears to help us over our feelings,
so I drove my daughter through the snow to meet her friend
and filled her car with suitcases and hugged her
as an animal would, pressing my forehead against her,
walking in circles, moaning, touching her cheek,
and turned my head after them as an animal would,
watching her helplessly as they drove over the ruts,
her smiling face and her small hand just visible
over the giant pillows and coat hangers
as they made their turn into the empty highway."

Little Women

"We're all going to grow up someday Meg, we might as well know what we want."
- Amy


"For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone."
=Audrey Hepburn


Love in the Time of Cholera

I recently read Love in Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marouez. Although I did not especially enjoy the book, I found some insights into love. Hildebranda, Fermina Daza's cousin tells Fermina regarding Florentino, "He is ugly and sad, but he is all love." Maybe she's right.


Did you know, my favorite character in Little Women isn't even Jo? It's Beth. And I claim I love strawberries when really I would choose a tomato over one any day. I am more afraid of birds than spiders, and when I talk to myself when I'm alone, it's always in a British accent. I don't think I'll ever get old, at least I never plan on it and my greatest fear is never being able to write the multitude of books in my head. Did you know that sometimes I have communist thoughts? Because I do. I never want to own a cat, and my favorite color is green like the grass on a well-watered soccer field. I despise poor grammar and all I want for Christmas this year is my own air-popper popcorn machine but I'm too embarrassed to ask for it. I'm sick of learning about the constitution because I feel like that's all I've done in college. I want to live in the country someday with rambling fields and once - just once - spent a day from dawn until dusk reading Cold Mountain again, and using my sleeve to blow my nose when Inman dies. Someday I think I'll run out of blood because I don't think I have enough. In my head I am still eleven years old. I still feel the urge to build forts sometimes. I sing the Star Spangled Banner in the shower. Go fish.