Friday, June 26, 2009


I finally took a break from stressing out about the world of grave events (sometimes reading the newspaper has adverse effects on me!) in the open-sewer of this rough and rotten town Ballincollig and I went to Cork yesterday with L and met up with some truly wonderful friends. We drank leisurely shandies in the unusual warmth and sunlight with Irish people, a Canadian, and even a fellow American from LA in for a visit! They fed us, liquored us up, and gave us some desperately needed craic (craic= Irish for good times, not drugs). Due to being wicked poor, we haven't been out in ages. It was so nice to have a break.

It's a strange feeling, living in someone else's house while they aren't there. It's been so long since L and I have had our own place I forgot what it was like to own one's own spoons and chairs. We've been living out of a suitcase for well over a year. In some ways I think it's good though-- we've discovered how much people care about us because of their amazing generosity by letting us stay in their home and slipping us some $ and food every now and then, and we've also come to really appreciate what it means to have work, a solid income, duvet covers, etc., so when we have those things I think it will feel beautiful. I already feel good without them. When I'm not looking for work or writing, I spend a lot of time outside just looking at the house-owners' garden. A flying ant leaving a chemical trail toward breadcrumbs for its fellows, a rose that burnishes a vibrant carmine that I've only seen in the jungle along the Napali Coast, a bird cracks a snail shell open on a rock wall and feasts. There is overwhelming life in Ireland-- nature here is far gentler than anywhere else I've ever been.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dreams of the Middle East

I couldn't sleep last night because I stayed up late watching Al Jazeera to find out more about Iran. It's really terrifying... protesters are being beaten in the streets by police men, people are being arrested just for appearing in videos taken of peaceful rallies, and a woman, Neda Agha Soltan, was shot dead by Basij militia when she stepped out of her car during traffic caused by a protest to get a breath of fresh air. Check out the video here. People have appropriated the 27 year old's beautiful visage as the symbol for the horror inflicted upon innocent civilians.

People in Iran suddenly have no internet access, and police are breaking up groups of people in the street larger than two. All night I tossed and turned, dreaming of the desert and people screaming. I just can't stop thinking about it. I was so distracted that I fell down a whole flight of stairs when I finally gave up the struggle and got up. There are a few things we can do-- write to the Iranian government and tell them they can't get away with this, that other countries are watching them. Write to or go to the Iranian embassies near you and ask why this is happening.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Culture Excuse

Perhaps this is a touchy subject but it's something that I feel strongly about: human rights v.s. culture. This has been on my mind particularly against the backdrop of the recent election in Tehran. Iran's new leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to have been erroneously elected, erroneously in the sense that most of the population appears to have voted for Mir Hussein Moussavi, the candidate with kinder policies with respect to women's equality, peace, and freedom. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the other hand is a nuclear weapon toting religious extremist and whackjob extraordinaire. No women's rights under his regime.

Women's rights in the Middle East and Africa are notoriously abominable. But, the excuse for inaction is always, "that's just their culture." Well excuse me, but fuck culture. Women stormed the streets of Tehran after their votes were apparently tossed out, streets that they are not allowed in by law, to protest the loss of their most liberal candidate, the candidate that may have allowed them to be in the company of men they are not related to, to uncover their heads if they wished, and to lead normal lives. That is not culture-- if it were culture they would not be rioting against it. That's oppression. Just like female-genital-mutilation is torture, and stoning a 13 year old girl to death in Africa for "the crime" of being gang-raped is nothing less than barbarism.

Call me ignorant or culturally insensitive, but I'd rather be labeled that way than have no moral center. Wake up, this is not culture. It's abuse.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Something's Rotten in Belfast

And it appears to be both youthful and old. Lately I've been hearing of so much trouble in the North, just as things seemed to be quieting down. First, those British soldiers were murdered a few months ago, and between then and now reports of attacks and religion-based murders were spattering the pages. This past week, 20 Romanians including a 5 day old baby girl were forced to seek refuge in a church because of racist threats and attacks on their home. So many frightened people were already hiding in safe houses that these people were left with pews and a floor for sanctuary. It turned out to be a group of teenagers harassing them! They were so traumatized that they want to return to their less-prosperous lives in Romania, despite the neighborhood's efforts to convince them to stay. And today an open-top tourist bus was stoned by a group of violent youngsters! Luckily no one was hurt as the bus wound its way past the famous Republican and Loyalist murals.

I'm afraid that the recession and general tension in the Republic of Ireland is also inciting some violence and racism-- "foreigners" are blamed for much of it, which, let me tell you is an uncomfortable thing when you're an expat.

Northern Ireland, though always more dangerous, seems especially active now. While Protestant/Catholic and Loyalist/Republican relations in the North are a notoriously old and violent issue, these other attacks are relatively new. I wonder if the strain of the economy is doing the same in the North? Or is it something much darker? Either way, it's sad to see an area that has already so much pain and blood in its soil experience even more.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

By Boat, Chantarelle's Notebook

My poem, "By Boat," was just accepted for issue 17 of Chantarelle's Notebook. Thanks editors! You can check it out in August.



I was reading The New Yorker this morning and noticed an article on Equatorial Guinea. Apparently, it's the only country in the world resistant to recession at the moment due to the fact that it's a giant oil pit. It's the only former Spanish colony in Africa, and an absolutely tiny, martial-law, country with less than a million people. The reason the article stuck out to me so much is because a few weeks ago I was reading the Forbes "most dangerous countries" list (Somalia #1) and practically all of them were former colonies-- and the number 1 most "oh my god I'll never go there!" country was a former British colony. Well, we all know how those turn out. A country is raped for its resources, people are pitted against each other and exploited by the foreign power, then the power takes off and the country is left in social, governmental, and environmental ruin. If it weren't for the pot of dinosaur soup under E.G., they would be in crisis too.

But all is not well in Paradise. The country was taken control of by Teodoro Obiang Nguema thirty years ago in a coup, and apparently is constantly under threat of more seizures, including a past one by a British Eton-graduate named Simon Man, now in prison. The country is also rife with human rights infringements and the like... so it's not such an unusual former colony after all.

It's amazing how history repeats itself. Pakistan and India, Somalia and Rwanda... countries destroyed by the fat man's want for more.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hors de Prix

Last night I saw a film called Hors de Prix, or in English it would be called Priceless. It was basically a slightly better than average French chick flick. Perhaps because it was in French it seemed better than usual, but I really enjoyed it, possibly because it was one of those films that manages to make high-class prostitution look amusing and a decent albeit bizarre way to earn a living. I honestly think that Audrey Tautou is the new Audrey Hepburn. Just as dazzling, graceful, and endearing. The film was an awful lot like Breakfast at Tiffany's too.

Our street is full of trees with dark red leaves. There is little to do and I'm not sure where we're going next. Scotland is a new possibility. I think if it were warmer outside I wouldn't be so restless. Everything seems to have a terrible price lately-- food, compromises, entertainment. There is a Swap Shop in town where the barter system is the way forward. In the current depression Ireland has embraced Socialism, which is fine with me. Better than the way Britain has embraced Fascism.


As the bulbs burn out
one by one in the broken
chandelier, the cloth
wallet curls its lips,
our socks gather holes
like new lovers embracing
and unraveling, and I feel
guilty eating between meals.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

praying on red rugs

This is one of my favourite poems ever. It's by Adonis, translated from Arabic by Khaled Mattawa, and it appeared in the New Yorker a few years ago. Absolutely enchanting.

Celebrating Childhood

Even the wind wishes
to become a cart
pulled by butterflies.

I remember madness:
leaning for the first time
on the mind’s pillow,
I was talking to my body.

My body was an idea
I wrote in red.

Red was the sun’s most beautiful throne
and all the other colors
prayed on red rugs.

Night is another candle.

In every branch an arm,
a message carried in space,
echoed by the body of the wind.

The sun insists on dressing itself in fog
when it meets me:
am I being scolded by the light?

Oh, my past days,
they used to walk in their sleep
and I used to lean on them.

Love and dreams are two parentheses.
Between them I place my body
and discover the world.

Many times
I saw the air fly with two grass feet
and the road dance with feet made of air.

My wishes are flowers
staining my body.

I was wounded early,
and early I learned
that wounds made me.

I still follow the child
who walks inside me.

Now he stands at a stairway made of light
searching for a corner to rest in,
and to read the face of night.

If the moon were a house,
my feet would refuse to touch its doorstep.
They are taken by dust
carrying me to the air of seasons.

I walk,
one hand in the air,
the other in dreams.

A star is also
a pebble in the fields of space.

He alone
who is joined to the horizon
can build new roads.

What shall I say to the body I abandoned
in the rubble of the house
in which I was born?
No one can narrate my childhood
except those stars that flicker above it
and leave footprints
on the evening’s path.

My childhood is still
being born in the cupped palms of a light
whose name I do not know
and who names me.

Out of that river he made a mirror
and asked it about his sorrow.
He made rain out of his grief
and imitated the clouds.

Your childhood was a village.
You will never cross its boundaries
no matter how far you go.
His days are lakes,
his memories floating bodies.

You who are descending
from the mountains of the past,
how can you climb them again,
and why?

Time is a door
I cannot open.
My magic is worn,
my chants asleep.

I was born in a village,
small and secretive like a womb.
I never left it.
I love the ocean, not the shores.

Big Toe Review, "Mutiny"

One of my flash pieces, "Mutiny," came out today in Big Toe Review. Read it here, if you like! More of my work should be trickling through that particular journal in the next few months. It's a groovy publication, definitely worth reading.

Today I luxuriated in the backyard sunlight, then in bed. We were contemplating a walk but it's raining now. Big surprise. Actually the big surprise was rushing to answer the door in my bikini and getting the ESB man a little too excited. I thought it was Len back from his piano lesson. Whoops....

Monday, June 15, 2009

First Book

Yaay! I finished The White Caravan for real this time and sent it to Autumn House Press this morning. I first wrote TWC as my honors thesis, but I've been writing loads of new stuff since and I finally created the book that I actually wanted to write. I cut a lot of old stuff out, put a lot of new stuff in, and now I have 53 pages worth of poetry. Now it's just a matter of a publisher liking it.

In a lot of ways I'm appreciating this amazingly long stint of unemployment and abject poverty. If I weren't unemployed, or if I had enough money to go to grad school, maybe I wouldn't have had the free time to write my first book during my first year out of college. The economy works in mysterious ways....

Plus, the volunteer agency got back to me and I have my first day of training down a dodgy alley beside my favourite pub on Wednesday. Talk about luck! I'm so excited.

Going around Cork by myself is something I haven't done since my UCC days (see Free Stylin') and I have a few rules to keep myself in check now:

1. Ireland apparently cannot handle any glimpse of my clevage or thighs. Dress modestly, no matter how difficult it is or how unaccommodating my wardrobe might be.

2. No going down dodgy alley ways with strangers unless it's for my volunteer training.

3. No interacting with hairdressing students, or possibly students of any kind (just to be on the safe side.)

4. Always wear enormous sunglasses.

5. Remember which way the cars are coming. The opposite of America.

6. Only buy hot port at The Corner House.

All very important rules. It shocks me though, the first one. I forget the way predominantly Catholic countries can be. No offense to Catholicism, but skin is not dealt with so well in places like Ireland, Italy, etc. I'd say especially Ireland. I forget this constantly. And then I get really dirty things screamed at me out of windows for wearing something that in the States would get a "Nice dress, beautiful," at best. Normally I'm a great traveller and can blend in everywhere, but it's hard when you've actually moved to a new place and have to change things in a more permanent way. When in Cork....

Friday, June 12, 2009


Yesterday I was gardening in the yard of the house we are taking care of, and I noticed I let the spiral & sphere topiary garden go to seed. So out came the blunt, rusted garden shears and I was cutting away, trying desperately not to destroy the unnatural shapes they were teased into in the first place. As I was hacking I got to thinking who says things have to be this way? I was feeling guilty slashing away at the plant's progress, ruling that it had to grow this way and not that. People get that sort of training all the time and it is maddening-- the impossibilty of standards are always begin thrown at us through commercials and publications. Isn't airbrushing a photo of a bikini-clad woman in a magazine the same thing? No, your thighs can't touch. I don't care if it's unnatural. And the more I snipped the more I began thinking about the ways I "snip" myself. Shaving my bikini line, hiding my split ends with copious amounts of sesame oil, even spending a few hours baking topless in the back garden's sunlight. None of these things are good for me-- they don't improve my health. Shaving gives me cuts and upset follicles, the ends of my hair are dead anyway, and tanning is just a step toward skin cancer. I mean, I'm dark enough naturally, and who really gives a damn how copper my skin can be?

The first time I went to Paris I was 17 and shocked to see the very strict grooming that nature received. The trees in the Jardin des Tuileries are chiseled into leafy boxes so the air is filled with these symmetrical building blocks stuck on the end of a long trunk. Conversely, the metro signs are wrought from tendrils of iron curling around art nouveau letters like grape vines. Art mimicking nature and nature mimicking art. Bizarre, I thought. But now I see it as a straight-forward admittance of human nature: to dominate nature completely, even the nature of the self.

I'm not sure this is healthy all the time. Actually, I feel comfortable saying that most of the time it's not healthy at all. The topiary is finished, but I am still thinking.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Free Stylin'

Today I went on an adventure. One of the things that happens when you're married to your soulmate is that you become inseparable. But after a whole year of being unemployed and together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I began to wonder if I could still be independent. I am independent in thought and practice: I do what I like and L and I pursue our own interests and are our own people. That's healthy. But we practically never go anywhere without each other, which is lovely & romantic bliss, but maybe not so normal? Like, I haven't walked down a street alone in ages. Until today.

We had to take a bus into Cork city to sort out some paperwork. When we got to the Social Welfare Office, the dole ques were epic, as usual and as frequently photographed in the local paper. My back was aching from who-knows-what and standing in line outside in the chilly, pissy excuse for a summer's day was just not exciting. So I said, "Chickadee-face [L], I'm going on a walk!" And off I went.

The day seemed fine and the city was quiet because practically the whole city is unemployed and was standing in line with L. I walked happily down Washington St. and noticed the Hindu goddesses in the Indian food restaurant had little bras on over their normally bare breasts. Next, I swung onto Grand Parade where I was almost hit by a car on that tricky corner, as per usual. Then I made it onto the Champs-Élysées of Cork, St. Patrick's St. There I was met my a tiny woman in 80's garb asking me to please be her hair model for her hairdressing class. A free hairstyle before breakfast, oh boy! And she looked like she needed help. I mean, she was asking people in the street before 10 AM. So I good naturedly said, "Oui."

She said it would take less than an hour. Ok. So I followed her down an alley way and into an unmarked building and off we went! A couple of students and their subjects were milling around inside, and while my hair was being lathered up and rinsed (oh, I love that part), we made small talk. I think my hair made her nervous because I haven't had a haircut in 10 months. Soon I was in the chair and she was inserting enormous roller-brushes in my waist-long mop with the desert-air blasts from her blow-torch hairdryer. Except the brushes were too small for my hair's length and they all got stuck. I should really say they all got tangled except for the last brush at the back of my head which really, really got stuck. 3 hairdressers and 30 minutes of pulling, ripping, and stabbing my hair with a long needle finally wrested the rogue brush disporting among my heavily hairsprayed tresses. Agony is the word. I'm tough. I can deal with a lot of pain. But after 20 minutes I was asking them to give up and shave my head. 10 minutes later than I thought I could have lasted, I was finally free.

The best part, you ask? Well, I was free, and L was nowhere to be found. Our wires crossed when I used my last euro coin to tell him I would meet him and the S.W.O., but when I got there, he was nowhere and they were closed. He was looking for me on Patrick's St., but I was convinced he was abducted by donkey-ninjas. After a few hours of frantically racing around Cork I finally resorted to begging strangers for change so I could try to ring the phone we've been sharing and locate him. Stuck in a city in a foreign country with no phone, no money, no house key, no way home, and no husband. Panic. Finally, around 1 pm he got my voicemail and we were reunited, and I was ready for a sedative.

I'll just be independent in other, less autonomous, ways tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mystery Box Contest

There is this groovy contest held by Poemeleon that requires you to write a poem about a box for the prize of publication and said box. If you would be so kind, check out the site and vote for my poem, "A Woman of Several Boxes" at Poemeleon: The Blog. And if you feel so inspired, write one yourself! I enjoyed the challenge....

Dreams and the stuff of dreaming

This morning I woke up too early after a dream about elephants painted with daisies. Then there was a carnivorous mouse who was inclined to gnaw my leg off, and then a mouse meditating with a tiny elephant in the palm of his hand, also meditating, with a lotus lei. Then the dream opened into a glen with a circle of quacking ducks gathered around a glowing wonder. I thought, excellent, I'll have more of this! and I promptly went back to sleep. Next I had horrific nightmares and I woke up screaming. Moral of story: Greed should not be left in the misdirected hands of the subconscious. Only art and love can be trusted.

The day is gloomy with cold rain and many grey houses with dirty-dark roofs. We went to the only real Italian restaurant in town, Bacco, but even candle light seemed uninspired. I could hardly eat-- I feel full to the brim with something. Plus now that we're flirting with poverty it seems stressful to go out to eat, even if it is only once in a great while. The music in the dining room sounded like something that would play in a speak easy-- it seemed to have been taken directly from the 1920's and layered over the present rather than occurring at the same time. My great grandfather ran a speak easy when he lost his job at the shoe factory. He was an Italian immigrant making the most out of a bad situation. I don't imagine it was a grand establishment though. He sold eggs as well on the side.

This town is a picture of the recession. A whole quarter of it is empty: shops, apartments, would-be-pubs and cafes, all empty. It's like a ghost town, except in a European suburb, which is an odd thing in itself. The library is in an otherwise abandoned building. There is still no inkling of a job for either of us, so I'm going to do what I should have done ages ago and volunteer somewhere. It wouldn't be a bad idea to talk to some new people either. It's not much of adventure if I spend most of my time going on solitary nature walks or reading and writing for hours alone. It's only because there isn't much to do here, so it's easy to get sucked into isolation.

Although, I did do something which is not social or productive, but unusual for me nonetheless: watching TV. Channel 2 plays Sabrina the Teenage Witch reruns and it cracks me up. I remember watching it when I was 10 or so and loving it, and looking back it's so amazingly cheesy that I love watching it just as much when I'm 22, just in a slightly different way. Plus, I think it's my small way of reconnecting with the States without dropping my "r"s and going to roadside diners. Speaking of which, I really miss roadside Americana. Although roadside Hibernia is starting to amuse me in similar ways: traffic stops for herds of sheep, or because two passing bus drivers want to know "How's Mary doing? Did you see her last Friday at the pub?," and signs like "This is the birthplace of the Wild Colonial Boy" or "Caitlin the Red Headed Seal, next right."

Travel is fun.

Monday, June 8, 2009

In the Rhododendron

Yesterday I drank too much orange juice upon waking and went to Cobh with my husband, L, to visit his mom, B. Whenever we go to that strange island certain events transpire and I seem to absorb the old Pagan belief that places that are betwixt and between have a veil too easy to slip through to the other world. Places of two elements, like islands, bogs, springs, caves, very high mountains, etc. Anyway, I ended up in a forest just outside of B's fields that had been ruthlessly slashed to put in a telephone mast. The odd thing is that Ireland's forest protection agency sold the protected several hundred year old forest to the telephone company... fishy business. The company obviously destroyed far more of the forest than they needed because the trees look as though they they were cleared more or less at random. They never replanted the extra trees that were killed, so instead there is now a dense undergrowth of gorse, briers, and oddly enough many blooming rhododendrons. L and his mother went up ahead when suddenly I didn't feel like fighting my way through thorns and garbage to see more destruction. I decided to crawl under a nearby rhododendron and wait for them to return. Many leaves and petals had fallen on the rust-coloured earth: green and purple. They were so bright they seemed to shock my retinas, and I had to look away after many startling minutes. An arm reached out toward me that turned out to be a branch, and obligingly, I took it and began a slow tango. Dip, twirl, spin, this tree could do it all and very well considering it is a tree. When L and B returned, I promptly stopped dancing. L had two rhododendron stamens on the back of his t-shirt. It's difficult to explain to people that the tree wanted to dance while caught in the act, though much easier in writing, so I avoided it all together. I realized at that moment though that it is absolutely impossible to forget certain things. If someone experiences something lucidly enough, that memory is burned into a part of the brain. The mere act of recognizing something as salient means that you are aware of it, and if you can recall awareness it is impossible not to recall the event. Or so it seems. So now I'm recognizing awareness as often as I can, but it is exhausting to be so aware.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Let us go then, you and I


I'm new to this. I suppose I will tell a bit about myself. I'm a poet and a traveler living in Ireland at the moment, but I come from New Hampshire, USA. I started publishing this year, and so far my work has appeared in Cargoes (the journal of my alma mater, Hollins University) and Amaze, and is forthcoming in Ribbons, Frogpond, Big Toe Review, and The 13th Warrior. I decided to have a blog adventure-- I feel like I'm missing out on a lot of interesting people's thoughts by avoiding this kind of e-banter, and I hate to miss out. Also, I think my life naturally unfolds like a mescaline explosion, and it will be fun to write it down. Anyway, welcome to my blog, readers. It will be strange.