Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jury Duty / Jury Selection

Just spent five days watching a jury get selected for a criminal case. I was among the last seven left in the courtroom when my name was called, so I got to listen to well over 120 people respond to hypothetical questions about the case and sitting on a jury. It was like an exercise in ethics, combined with a very serious job interview, and I left with immense respect for most of the people who participated, as well as for the jury selection process. It’s a huge responsibility--my sense of that deepened immensely by actually watching the process unfold.

I was excused for cause, because of a very strong opinion I had which was related to some of the evidence deemed admissible in the case. I left the process wishing that more people who expressed their opinions might be considered--at least a little more seriously--for a jury of one's peers. I think I would have made a good juror. But I also did wonder whether I was the right juror for THIS case, and I wondered that aloud--and I respect that right that all parties involved have to attempt to choose a group that is fair and impartial. I probably wasn’t right for the job, and I think the process determined that fairly.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Not-quite-waking from a dream you prefer
the horn section is overpowering the string
and one of the trumpets keeps out of key.
Dread as if everyone has walked on
to their own lives, and left you behind.
the way your cat, pacing at your ankles,
soothes you, suddenly makes you retch, too.
All this forward-looking, new beginnings,
punctuation of earthly orbits, too much attention
to the yawn of the fruit bowl and how to placate it,
the way your lover wants you but you
can’t find the horizon, the dizziness borne
of diving from heights has imprisoned your libido
and on a day like New Year’s, that always
surprises you.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Okay, I haven't hand-picked the lint and cat fur off my office chair yet, but I am discovering more methods to procrastinate than I was previously aware of. If you haven't checked out the recent article about procrastination in the New Yorker, take a peek. It makes me wonder what I actually think I'm avoiding when I let my brain wander all over the place.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Welcome to November

In November I'm accompanying those people out there participating in National Novel-Writing Month but I'm implementing my own Poetry-Writing Month. Really as a tool to put poetry-writing into an even more increased pace and rhythm...and taking advantage of the group mentality of the month-marathon. My own "daily requirement" instead of being comprised by word count is to generate one new poem each day and to work on one revision. It's not clear to me yet what I really mean by one new poem, since they are not poems when they first come out, but I sometimes think I know what material is the beginning of a poem, and what is just the work to get there. Perhaps that is one thing I'll learn from this exercise.

I copied this poem yesterday into my notebook because I am being enamored by Kay Ryan and am sure I can learn from her compact lyric wisdom.

by Kay Ryan

A blue stain
creeps across
the deep pile
of the evergreens.
From inside the
forest it seems
like an interior
matter, something
wholly to do
with trees, a color
passed from one
to another, a
to which they
submit unflinchingly
like soldiers or
brave people
getting older.
Then the sun
comes back and
it’s totally over.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On getting the line right

"A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught."

From 'Adam's Curse', Yeats.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Small Thoughts About Giant Gifts, On Your Birthday

Dear Jamie:

Today is your fortieth birthday. I miss you, and I ache to be able to celebrate you in the spectacular fashion you would have deserved. But I have been struck this week by how much faith I have in your love for me and your other loved ones. What I mean is that somehow the knowledge of how much you loved us buoys me, and that feels like some great fortune. And I wonder about the future: what will happen to this sensation of feeling your love around me, so easy to reach right now? Is there some way to hold onto it, since you're gone, and that becomes more and more true each day? I know nothing about how to answer those questions.

But it's your birthday today, and I feel truly lucky to know that you loved me the way you did. So my birthday gift to you is to try not to waste an ounce of it: to love myself as deeply and as loyally as you loved me, and to try and share those qualities of love with the people in my life. My gift, too, is to keep on nurturing the creative spirit in me which you helped kindle and spark for almost 20 years. And finally, to do the best I can to bring out these giant gifts of living in my own loved ones. Happy Birthday, Jamie. And thank you.



Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On Teaching, Daily Life, Keeping On

After being away from normal routine this weekend—on a "writing retreat" that was silent, too—I am noticing that normal routine in some way feels easier than before the weekend. I don't know if that has to do with just getting distance from the way the everyday mundane things have a way of weighing me down, or if it's because my partner is gone and I still have all this space at home for another kind of 'retreat', or if there's something not quite as nameable that comes from even a little respite. On the other hand, it's just kind of horrifying how quickly the noise and business and distractions fill in space when I let it, and that's what happens—some of these so-called chores are just distraction, hubbub, and empty activity.

My students this fall have humbled me; most of the 20 people in the Kresge Core class that I'm teaching have arrived at UC against unbelievable odds—a handful are the first in their families to go to college, some are spending their weekends back home caring for family farms or disabled siblings, others only learned English when they were 8, 9, 10, and still feel sort of stuck between two universes. Today one young woman had been present and engaged during the whole class, asked me a good, clear question when we were finished at the end of class, gathered her things, and by the time I was out the door a few minutes later, she was on her phone on her balcony, crying almost uncontrollably to the person on the other end. I remember how it was to be that age. I remember and I don't always want to, although I still feel that I was lucky because of the friends -- some long lost, some still in my life -- I met at UCSC that helped me make sense of a world that had suddenly and radically gotten much, much bigger. Some days when I am not totally hoofing through a lesson or racing to catch up with my own assignments for my students, I know I strive to be that person to some of them.


I found this little list poem this weekend which I wrote in June.

Things I Have Put My Faith In

Barack Obama
The genuine good of my colleagues
My sister's ability to take it one day at a time
(My sister's faith)
Friends' shoulders and embraces even when I feel I have nothing to offer in return
My cat's nine lives.
My lover's longevity (and his faithfulness)
His faith in me.
The soil around my home and its health, in the face of acute disease.
The green thumb I got from grandfathers I didn't know.
Four distinct seasons
(which need):
People in the U.S. committing to sacrifice for others, or the seasons are history
My friends' commitments to bring creativity into this world.
My lover's hands, even when he's gone.