Archive for March, 2009

OUR Country ‘tis of Thee

March 12, 2009

OK, now, I hesitated as to whether or not to record this moment in my lil blogerino, as I know it might come off as peacock-esque, but Hell, this is an important issue and for students of mine who are now reading this (Hello, my little chickens!), I am hoping you find a lesson in here…or at least that you smile picturing your feisty prof in this scene!

Yay!! I may be only 5’7” but right now I am feelin’ 7 feet tall!! This afternoon I was at city hall and the line seemed fricken interminable. I was passing the time making faces at an adorable little girl in pigtails who was darting in and around her father’s legs when suddenly I heard a woman behind me in line unleashing a tirade of insults.

I turned to see an old white woman lighting into a petite latina lady, all curled in on herself, eyes averted. The white woman wagged a furious finger in the latina’s face, berating her. “It’s your fault,” she snapped, “you and all those people like you,” she gestured around the room. “You need to stay in your own country! All of you, walking across the border, taking all of our jobs! Go back where you belong!”

“Stop it,” I said, index finger at attention, “Stop. How dare you speak to her like that. She has every right to be in this country. Leave her alone.”

“Oh!” cried the old bat, delighted to get a rise out of someone, “And who are you to tell me what I can and cannot do?”

“We are a nation of immigrants,” I said, “Lay off her, leave her alone. You got it?” I smiled.

“Oh! and look at her! She smiles at me now?!” she spat.

“Yeah, I do,” I nodded, “And do you know why? Because your yelling doesn’t affect me.” And then, for the second time in a week, I correctly spotted an accent. “Madame,” I met her eyes squarely, “vous aussi, vous êtes immigrante.” I continued in French, “You have also found a home in this country. Now, leave her alone.”

Her eyes grew wide, then clenched tight with indignation, “How dare you!” she scowled.

“Laisse faire,” I said, “Drop it.”

The sweet little Hispanic lady smiled at me, then mouthed a timid, “Thank you.”

“Bienvenido a los Estados Unidos,” I smiled back. I raised an eyebrow at the old French meanie, and she moved to another line. 

*This* poet’s poets

March 7, 2009

More amazing news! My favorite living poet is coming to the Los Angeles Festival of Books this year!

Kim Addonizio is at once tough and tender, dangerous and delicious, gentle and generous and good. Above all things, good.

I’ve met her twice before. The first time was at a poetry reading in LA. I was actually feeling sick that night and didn’t think I was up to going—I’m so blessed to have been raised by such a sweet pop that I always pick sweet dudes—when my ex came to take me and I said I wasn’t sure if I felt well enough to go he took me anyway coz he knew I’d regret missing the opportunity. ‘Still dig that dude — thx, K 🙂

‘Saw her again, a year later, and she remembered me—she even knew my name! Lovely! I think, or, at least, I have always attributed it to being a “poet thing,” the way we just remember. The way moments just gel. And how we have such a need to record these moments.

There is a saying in Latin: Ars longa, vita brevis— Art is long, life is short.

The desire to be a writer, or any kind of artist, stems precisely from an innate understanding of the precious, ephemeral nature of life—which necessarily leads to a desire to be somehow immortal—to have one’s influence extend beyond one’s years. The primary message of any work that even struggles toward “art” is this:

I was HERE. I EXPERIENCED this. THIS I know. BE HERE, too. KNOW. FEEL.

Here is one of my fave poems from Kim Addonizio:

For Desire

Give me the strongest cheese, the one that stinks best;
and I want the good wine, the swirl in crystal
surrendering the bruised scent of blackberries,
or cherries, the rich spurt in the back
of the throat, the holding it there before swallowing.
Give me the lover who yanks open the door
of his house and presses me to the wall
in the dim hallway, and keeps me there until I’m drenched
and shaking, whose kisses arrive by the boatload
and begin their delicious diaspora
through the cities and small towns of my body.
To hell with the saints, with martyrs
of my childhood meant to instruct me
in the power of endurance and faith,
to hell with the next world and its pallid angels
swooning and sighing like Victorian girls.
I want this world. I want to walk into
the ocean and feel it trying to drag me along
like I’m nothing but a broken bit of scratched glass,
and I want to resist it. I want to go
staggering and flailing my way
through the bars and back rooms,
through the gleaming hotels and weedy
lots of abandoned sunflowers and the parks
where dogs are let off their leashes
in spite of the signs, where they sniff each
other and roll together in the grass, I want to
lie down somewhere and suffer for love until
it nearly kills me, and then I want to get up again
and put on that little black dress and wait
for you, yes you, to come over here
and get down on your knees and tell me
just how fucking good I look.

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!! and I know I started this entry calling Kim my fave “living poet”—Here is a poem from the poet who makes my soul fall still, and then, just…quake.

Pablo Neruda’s Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines.


QUELLE COINCIDENCE!

March 2, 2009

Lovely, lovely day again!

Late Saturday morning I went to the Farmers Market. Love, love, love farmers markets, and this one is particularly adorable. In addition to the requisite baskets brimming with brightly colored fresh fruits and vegetables, and buckets of fragrant flowers, there are also musicians: a small blind man plays Spanish guitar, a Caribbean man strikes bell-like tones on a steel drum, a Raffiesque Rastafarian holds court for children, and a twangedy-voiced mountain man plucks an even twangier banjo. There is also—this *is* Los Angeles—a taquería. And I had a hankerin’ for a chile relleno!

When I went to the stand, however, they only had chile rellenos *inside* burritos! And even this Irish chick from New York knows that this is, shall we say, un poco loco?

I said I would think about it, then turned and saw a woman eating what I thought was said chile relleno burrito. “Is that the chile relleno burrito?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” she cooed, “and it is so, so delicious,” she rolled her eyes in delight. Hearing an accent, I asked where she was from. “Pasadena,” she smiled.

“Mais non!” I laughed.

“Vous parlez français?!” she exclaimed.

And, oh! I was just wishing the other night when I was giving my friend Megan her French lesson that I had more opportunities to speak French! I miss it so! So we continued, en français—woo hoo! “Where did you learn French?” she asked. “New York,” I said. “My husband is in New York right now!” she smiled, “I love New York!” “No place like it,” I agreed.

“How do you like Los Angeles,” I asked. “It’s okay,” she took another bite of burrito, “and you?” “I don’t,” I admitted, “I’m moving—to Austin.” “My husband is from Austin!”

“Mais non, c’est pas vrai—quelle coincidence!” I couldn’t believe it. “So your French is beautiful,” she said, “just from learning in school in New York?” “Ah, non,” I said, “I lived in France—in Lyon.” “*I’m* from Lyon!” she cried. We were both aghast, giggling.

“Impossible!” I said, “Okay, I’m gonna push this. I didn’t really live exactly in Lyon, itself. I lived outside—in Dardilly.”

“I GREW UP IN DARDILLY!”

We went to the same high school.

“Wow, this is amazing!” I shook my head, “Oh, and by the way, I’m Amanda.” “Isabelle,” she said, taking my hand. I laughed—suddenly none of this was surprising me anymore! “The girl I lived with in France was named Isabelle.”

“Wow.” So amazing. “Oh, by the way,” she said, “I ordered one chile relleno burrito and he accidentally gave me two. This one must be for you!  Here,” she held it out to me.

We smiled, we hugged. And just as she had said at the outset, it was so, so delicious.

chile