The Picture of Success

Month: April, 2012

Notes on San Diego

“Alright, I’m open. I’m like a fucking lotus.”
-Hot Linda

I miss home, but for reasons I didn’t expect. I have found that I’m just a touch too aggressive for the sunny temperament of this city. The first night I was here, Hanna and I went to a jazz bar. The place was dead, empty except for a crew of sixty year old men, visiting because of the Experimental Biology Convention. We ordered a drink, and were immediately accosted by a man drunk off Scotch. I have no problem defending myself against this kind of behavior. But before I could say a thing, the bartender had hurried over and told the man to leave. Here’s the interesting thing: he didn’t say, “Leave them alone. Get out of here.” Instead, he responded with, “Hey buddy, this is my girlfriend. Can you leave them alone, please?” It was weirdly apologetic. Why not just tell him he’s being inappropriate? Why do I have to be your girlfriend to be respected? Strange. I have a whole new appreciation for the progressive inclination of Bellingham; at home, if someone was hassling me, they’d stop, or be asked to leave. No excuses. This is, of course, only if I hadn’t already handled it myself.

This dynamic has made me uncomfortable, overly sensitive of my own personal vernacular. I have found out that I a.) swear like a sailor, b.) use the words vagina, uterus, and fallopian tube way more than the average person, and c.) have an incredibly short fuse for jokes that are shocking because they’re either racist, sexist, or homophobic. It’s made me wonder about the line, how far someone should be able to go before I speak up. Years under the thumb of certain oppressive fundamentalist Christian notions have made me quick to act; I’m not going to feel bad about calling anyone out. But do you do it every time? Has feminism become my new religion? Am I the overzealous church kid who can’t take a joke? I tend to err on the side of consistency. I want the people around me to expect a conscious response to whatever they’re saying, offensive or not. I want to be known as someone who listens. It’s a conversation that needs to happen, finding a way to address these issues as they arise in casual interactions. I would love feedback.

All of this said, you would laugh your ass off to see me here. Sometimes so awkward. To be fair, most everyone has been completely kind. Hanna’s family is fantastic and nothing if not welcoming and warm. For those individuals who weren’t, well, I think I adequately conveyed my opinion of their actions. Which is to say, I might have indicated that they could perform certain acts on my person. Involving certain body parts that I might not actually possess. Until said act came to fruition.
See, I can clean up my language!

(Later, some poems.)

Two Poets Walk into a Bar

My Sunday morning is consisting of three Advil and two Claritin. My room is in a similar state of disrepair. My friend Ben, upon seeing it last night, asked me, “Have you just given up then?” No! I’ve just been busy. Busy writing my POEM COMEBACK!!! That’s right. I’ve got tons of poems today. Anna Wolff and I participated in an Improv Comedy show last night, called Scratch Pad. While they might be a little shorter and rather unpolished, I wrote the most poems. So many.  And they are all going up here. You’re welcome.

POEMS!

30/30

Day 15

Understand,
Denny’s is the only place
you are allowed to go
late at night
when you’re an adolescent

They used to have
a smoking section
You could sit there,
in someone else’s
den of iniquity
pretend it was yours

Day 16

The thing about writing
is that the wine gets
everywhere.
You tell your mom
I’m working on a short story!
What you mean to say is,
I’ve been drinking since two.

Day 17

Oh, I am telling you,
He showed up here
driving some kind of car
Ordering drinks like he
owned the place
A man with a purpose
He didn’t drink anything impressive
Fancy, with his hair done up
Never asked me my name,
but kept calling me
baby, sweetheart, darling
I didn’t serve him for two hours
He waited
Didn’t say a word to me
Not one word.

Day 18

The man that I love
drew a picture of me
the way he wanted me to look.
So I looked at the picture
and asked him,
Really?
What’s wrong with you?
I spent the last twenty five years
working on this set up.
I’m not going to backtrack
on all this progress.

Day 19

The guy who sold me the jet
didn’t ask me any questions
about my skill set.
Just handed it off,
like I was licensed and ready
and I was

Been dreaming of the open sky
since I was old enough to know
I was earthbound
I parked it behind my parents’ house,
took it with me to work sometimes
practiced take offs on my lunch breaks.

Day 20

The Southern Baptists sent me
a singing telegram
I thought it was to cheer me up
Instead, they focused on my
impending condemnation
and all the original sin
I haven’t been able to shake
I would have been more upset,
but they had such lovely harmonies

Day 21

When I was twelve years old
I saw the start of a tornado
Fixated on it, frozen
on our friend’s porch
It rolled on past us
hadn’t touched down yet
Then it turned
like a model on the catwalk
My parents hollered at me
willing me to move
I wanted to see
how it’d all play out

The Thrill Of Acquisition

Things are taking off around here.

Last weekend, my friends and I had Friendcation 2012. We spent three glorious days in Long Beach, eating bread, but also cheese. Plus wine. So much wine. It was cold and I didn’t care. I was finally somewhere else. Braving the hot tub in the rain, I told my friend Ben about my summer plans. We talked about traveling, and I talked about working a lot more at the bar. I’m going to get a lot of shifts in May, I said.

We talked a bit about fear. I realized that nearly all of my anxiety can be boiled down to one sentence:
I don’t like anything I can’t prepare for.
Death, you can imagine, is quite the challenge to me. Showing up, unannounced, rearranging the furniture. I’d love it if we could have a sit down chat; I would express my desires and make my needs known. Death, in turn, would offer me a clear picture of how it’s all going to go down. There. Doesn’t that sound well planned? Clean?
A plan protects you. Guards you against regret. How can you worry about the future, if you’ve got it all mapped out on your calendar? I’ve never not done anything I wanted to. I live, safely.

A few days ago, I received a letter from Holden Village. They’ve awarded me a Creative Resource Residency for the month of May. Half the time, I will be the poet in residence, finally working on a project I’ve kept on the back burner. The other half, I’ll be volunteering in the kitchen. I will be without internet or phone access. This wasn’t my plan. I gave up on this internship weeks ago, neatly organizing my every upcoming move. Now, I am about to enter the wilderness, and I was only given two weeks notice. I’m a little afraid. I am also fairly certain this is the best thing that could happen to a tightly wound woman like myself. What will I be like when I get back?

This blog will have to go on a momentary hiatus during my residency. I promise to be writing it all down though, and when I come home, there will be stories. With new characters. New conflicts. New anxieties. And we’re going to figure out to negotiate death. Please stay with me, won’t you?

30/30

Day 13

Untitled

the water will come up to meet you
you can count on that.
Still,
you watch your friends
take off without you,
confident in the shore.
They tell you to run into the dark,
instead of clutching the wine you’ve chosen
to be your new life-long friend.
You won’t leave me,
you shudder,
so certain of what you can’t see
They come back, shouting
excited for your eyes to adjust
The only way to see
is to pull your gaze across,
pacing the night sky,
avoiding the light.

30/30

Day 14

Put them both in an elevator.
He chooses the seventh floor,
her the sixth.
They nearly rush into each others’ arms
around floor three
But they hesitate,
unwilling to undo so much progress

She’s eating pretzels
Each bite shuddering its sound
a cacophony in this waiting room
He pulls his phone out of his pocket,
checks it. Puts it back.
Gets it out. Checks it again.
Sighs lightly, as to seem
remarkably popular and
generally well liked.

What would happen
if they were to be stuck?
The elevator hovering
just below the fifth floor
Does their conversation
focus on rescue, an effort
to minimize this disruption
Or, do their fingers each reach
for the emergency call button
Hands accidentally brushing
Contact for the first time in months
There are some people
we can’t help but forgive

Not today, though.
Doors come open at floor six
she nods, smooths her skirt
Hopes he’s watching as she leaves
He checks his phone again
decides that salmon,
after all,
would be the better choice for dinner.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Hey, there, sun? Can you come back please, and keep me from getting all hella nostalgic? Come on. It’s not 2007 anymore. I am no longer licensed to mope.

30/30

Day 11

Untitled

February 2006

I was wearing a blue dress
you were in the corner, black pea coat
Outside
I demanded your cigar
drank something out of your flask
We got together on February 15
promising each other,
that if didn’t work out
we would pledge ourselves
to fighting crime

July 2007

I saw you everywhere
one night
eating at an all hours restaurant
after last call
you pushed through the door
drunk
pointed one finger at me and
announced, to all visiting patrons,
Jessica Lohafer!
I am in love with you!

I have never,
not then, and not now,
ever doubted you.

July 2011

At your apartment,
Monique and I made small talk
with your older brother
We went to see the fireworks
come out over the water
Got way too drunk.
Held hands
played air hockey

One block away from my house,
you kissed me
I had hung out with you for a week
willing this to happen
After it all, I avoided that corner.
Still do.

Opposite Sleeping Schedules

A couple more poems, and now we’re all caught up. Currently, I am waiting to watch a French film called “Moon Child”, at the Pickford Film Center. It’s really exciting to be watching good cinema again; hopefully, tomorrow’s poem will be about whatever I watch tonight.

The poem I wrote for Day 9 is another attempt at a form I’ve been enjoying, let’s call it a dialogue poem. I really like writing down what people are saying to me, especially now that most of the time they’re drunk. You learn a lot.

Exciting poem news for Thursday! I am taking writing prompts for day 12. Throw me an idea in the comments, and I’ll write about it. Well, I’ll write about the one that I a.) like the most and b.) is the most challenging. What this really is, is a call for help. Because God help me if I can think of anything else to write about. Surprisingly, my own life isn’t the most fascinating subject in the world. I know, I was shocked too.

30/30

Day 9

Middle Aged Men Talking at Bartender

What’s your name girl? I think
you look like a Jennifer. Or a Stefanie.
No, it’s Brittany. You can’t be older than
22, are you even old enough to pour that
beer? Sweetheart, tell me your name.
We’ve been waiting for our drinks
for at least a minute now, do you
know who we are? I used to go to
this bar before you were old enough
to drink. Did you wear that to get
attention? Listen, I had to work
all day long. You wouldn’t know what
that’s like. Just showing off and making
quick rebuttals. Why haven’t you found
a husband? You won’t have an ass like
that forever, don’t fool yourself. Give me
a beer, damn it.
I know you can hear me.
I know you can hear me.

Learning to Dance

A step to the side
with your mouth shut
No matter what
don’t protest
In most ways,
it has already won
Curve in, let
your shoulders speak
to your submission
A careless thing
it keeps its
eyes on you, waiting
hoping for your fight
Keep tally at your side
only so many days
left, an oppression
that can’t sustain itself.

The Mutual Admiration Society

Oh my, how the last few days have flown by. I am a few poems behind on this 30/30, so here are the missing poems. Also, Happy Easter! Let’s kick things off with a haiku!

30/30

Day 6

Slut Shaming

Five minutes at my OB/GYN
more guilt
Then six years of church camp

30/30

Day 7

*This next poem is based off an awesome writing prompt from Rachel McKibbens. Definitely check out her site; it’s fantastic. The link is: http://rachelmckibbens.blogspot.com/2012/04/writing-exercise-60.html

Conversations with God in the Kitchen of a Bar

Will I continue on forever?
Death.
Will I find the right love?
You’ll keep finding your ex-boyfriends.
If I do, will it be enough?
Enough is baby bear’s bed. A golden street. The witch’s oven.
Am I going to have children?
You’ll have enough. Music. Huey Lewis. The Essential Big Bands. The Rolling Stones. Everyone yelling down the stairs to each other.
Will I get a terrible disease?
Time. This is a terrible disease.
Will tragedy find me suddenly, soon?
Tragedy is celebrity. Megan Fox. Her entire body.
Can I become comfortable in happiness?
Sand and sticks. Helium. Wet paper. Glue.

30/30

Day 8

Afternoon Shift

She counts the green beans
pickled in their jar
Pretends they’re jelly beans
or marbles
A prize to be won

She does not want to be discovered
is certain that confidence allows for
weakness
The disease crawling up her body
and forgiving her callous heart

She works hard at resistance.
If there are 100 biodegradable spoons
in this box,
reason would say 100 in another
These matters won’t just resolve
themselves. An inventory to
keep.

For every empty bottle of wine,
there’s one more to marry.
the radius is that distance
from the center point of its base
to its gentle edge
Curving in with its suggestions
not bothering anybody
not making a sound.

Invite Only Misogyny

News can be fascinating.

Recently, there has been pressure on the Augusta National Golf Club – the club that brings us the Masters – to finally allow women within their membership. This was such exciting news. Until, I looked at my calendar and realized it was 2012, for Christ’s sake. How is this “women in the club” not already a thing? I was suddenly struck with a lot of feelings. Naturally, I wrote a poem.

30/30

Day 5

Untitled

It’s clear you’ve been struggling
with so much to consider
An accountant’s mind,
beaming success at smaller numbers
A neat ledger
The height of the grass
the condition of your clubs

With each step
your audience holds praise
breath stopped cold in their mouths
Their admiring silence
your companion on the green

At home,
your daughter worries the results
of her annual exam. Her
pregnancy test. The availability of
her birth control. Whether or not
she will be forced to excuse the
violence of her peers as deserved.

She does not desire your sport
realizes young she will spend
too much of her life
competing with its privilege

Young men and then
older men, too
Already dismissive of
her presence
acting as only another inconvenience
to this otherwise clear,
beautiful
day for a game.

Astrophysics for Beginners

I just went prom dress shopping with my little sister. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1.) Her and I have totally different styles
2.) The dresses really haven’t changed in the last seven years
3.) The mall is a horrible place
4.) I love my sister

All good lessons. I can’t believe she’s old enough to go to prom. Her senior prom. I need to keep breathing deeply, or I’m going to freak out. Or cry. Maybe both, the night is young. At any rate, to continue with the theme, here is poem 4, of 30/30. This one is for Elisabeth.

30/30

Day 4

Senior Prom

Midnight blue, ruffles
your eyes greet this dress with the same disdain
I normally reserve for politicians promising to
protect the sanctity of marriage,
you aren’t buying it.

You try it on anyway
an attempt to appease your older sister
No surprise
you still hate it
Shrug it to the floor and ask
if I could for once consider your ribcage.

I am not good at this.
Think of you as much smaller
Us in the living room
Me, desperate to care for you
but clumsy,
singing the only song I knew
over and over again
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
even in the springtime

You put up with me then too
shrugged and kept listening
Sure,
you didn’t have the power of speech yet
But you stayed with me

I can not offer you much
Will always talk mostly about my own life
reveal intimate details that make you
wildly uncomfortable
You will consider astrophysics
I will write about my feelings
The same songs,
over and over again
Please
stay with me.

A Marble Precedent

I went to the Seattle Art Museum today. I am consistently amazed at the amount of art available to me, that I never take advantage of. I decided it was time for a quick field trip. At the SAM, I wandered into a room featuring sculptures from the 2nd Century BC. This poem is about one of those sculptures. Bringing us to DAY 3! Staying strong! Also, if any of you out there are participating in 30/30, please send me links to your work. I’d love to see what you’re coming up with.

30/30

Day 3

Aphrodite Torso, 2nd Century BC

Even without your head
my stomach pulls in
Tight but not tight enough
Restraint
the museum attendant who allows me
to walk towards the next piece
quietly
Instead of pulling off dress and boots
quickly comparing marble to skin
A frantic hope, it wonders
whether my body would have fit
then more than now

Horoscopes for the Socially Ambitious

I am quickly discovering that I shouldn’t have so much time off. Working in a bar has completely thrown off my schedule, and I feel useless. I’d like to say I spent the day working on my full length manuscript; instead, I finished season 6 of How I Met Your Mother. Champion status over here. Regardless, I did manage to write a poem. It may or may not be about skinning my knee in a club last weekend, and being a baby about getting it disinfected. Anyways, I’m still on track. This is for one of my favorite ladies; let’s call it a housewarming gift.

30/30

Day 2

Capricorn

They hold her down
right leg straining
against the hydrogen peroxide
A burst of profanity
No, oh no, please God,
let it be someone else.

She keeps her hands steady
certain like her heart
A tuned violin, prompting
its use with good looks
She tells her to stay still
Not to push into so many changes
not when things have been as busy
as they always are

Just give it a minute, baby,
it will be over before you know it.

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