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Thursday, March 30th, 2006

(give me your wampum)

Subject:Seamus Heaney
Time:10:35 pm.
This reminded me of one of my earlier entries about my father and I, digging for quahogs. ---


by Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

(give me your wampum)

Subject:blood pressure
Time:4:35 pm.
This afternoon in lab we investigated cardiovascular physiology. We took one another's blood pressures, set up electrocardiograms, and performed a few experiments to test cardiac output and resistance. As my lab partners giggled and fumbled with the EKG leads they were sticking to our victim's ankles and arms, I considered that this was just a parody of the more serious procedures being performed on my grandmother, who had a heart attack this morning. (She's okay now.)

But I didn't know exactly how to characterize the experience. The word "parody" seems somehow inappropriate, since it would need, I think, to be an intentional mimicry for it to be parodic. It's also not pastiche. Our goofy imitation of the real act of examining someone's cardiac output could also not be called a simulacrum. Perhaps there is no word for it. I wonder what it would feel like to be in medical or nursing school, constantly operating on or utilizing dummies and corpses. A constant imitation of the real.

But as we three gals surrounded our male patient and laughed at his skyrocketing blood pressure, I couldn't help feeling a certain sense of shame. Not just because I was enjoying myself while my grandmother was in pain 30 miles away. But because the way I enjoyed myself was through a particular muddling and trivialization of her own experience. Is there a word for that?

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

(5 thoughts |give me your wampum)

Time:5:34 pm.
Richard Rorty's "The Decline of Redemptive Truth and the Rise of a Literary Culture" (full-text). More about that later. I think I'm going to write my thesis on some aspect of reader-reponse criticism, Wolfgang Iser, etc. I need to choose my primary authors/texts now. I'm considering someone contemporary (Zadie Smith, Rushdie), along with a major 19th or 20th century writer like Henry James, Faulkner, or Joyce. But part of me also wants to look into Vikram Seth, Nathanael West, or Carson McCullers.

In other news, I might get the internship at Yale University Press, but now I'm not sure I want to live in New Haven in the summer.

In even other news, my soda (and now my limonade) has been suspiciously fizzing way too much lately. I should really stop consuming carbonated beverages, because I think they're killing my brain, not to mention my bod. Sucralose ("Splenda") has been linked to thymus shrinkage in rats, for example, leading to immunotoxicity. And everyone has heard of the potential neurodegenerative and carcinogenic dangers of aspartame consumption. It's too bad that the studies used to assess the dangers of these sweeteners are so often overseen by companies like Searle, whose CEO between '77 and '81, incidentally, was Donald Rumsfeld.

Regarding soda, I was mildly shocked to learn that the word soda referred to its sodium content. Duh. This is coming from the girl who had to look up the word "smuggler," the other day. But I think that's unfair, considering that "Smuggler's Notch," given that it's a vacation spot, always reminded me of "Snuggler's Notch," so I thought that smuggling in this context meant something like snuggling.

(give me your wampum)

Time:1:27 am.
It makes sense that, despite his age, Robert Creeley found the internet so useful. Now, I'm not trying to justify this lj, but I think I also maybe am. I acquired a typewritten book of Creeley's interviews (1961-1971), Contexts of Poetry, for a few dollars from my favorite bookseller several months ago. It was basically, I think, printed by himself or his close friends. He writes:

"I believe in handing everything over. If I find anything of use, I try to get it as quickly as possible to whomever I consider might use it. Pass it on. Recently, at a college reading again, a student said to me, and I can understand what was meant, 'When you hear something you really want to say, don't you in that sense, not want to say it? Because if you say it, then it's gone and you don't have it anymore.' Well, in any of these issues I've lived or believed that by such communication I find a life, and perhaps it will be, in no specious sense, of use to others. So if I've had influence, I hope it's been of that kind."

When I heard of his passing I was in Prague. He had recently returned my final paper and some comments via email. I saw a beautiful framed photograph of him, relaxed on a city bench and wearing his sandals, on the wall of the Globe bookshop. I took a photograph of the photograph. It was one of my favorite images from Prague, and, curiously, it reminded me the most of home. If anything, his influence was of that kind.

Monday, March 13th, 2006

(give me your wampum)

Time:11:35 pm.
I don't want to work any longer.

When I was a girl I waited all day for low tide to come. My dad and I would swim out to a long sand bar hidden by a few feet of warm salt water. We stopped there and plunged our fingers deep into the muddy sea floor, feeling for quahogs and other clams. I tried not to flinch when I felt crabs. Sometimes I dug up deep purple mussels and inspected them closely. We spent hours there, anchoring our hands to the sand, the sun hitting our backs. We crawled, half-bent, along the surface of the sand bar, ourselves become creatures of the sea. It was quiet work. Sifting and sorting. Some shells were too small to keep; we threw those back to grow. We'd get them next summer. When I was too tired to collect any more I swam to the shore and laid my body out to dry on the rocks. At night in the shower my body would be raw from the barnacles and pink from the sun.

When I work now it is a different kind of work. I sort words and concepts instead of things, and I do it alone. Our work has scattered us both. We have tried in vain to find other partners with whom to share our efforts. Now he spends whole mornings alone in the water. His body is breaking down. I think of my family when I am reading Benjamin and Hegel. I think of how our work has come to define us. I don't want to think that there is one type of work for which I am suited, or one for any of them. I don't even see anymore how our work differs, except that it is done in different spaces. Isn't it all the same? When I say: X is a greater or lesser novel. X is more politically potent than Y. This is the same as dropping endless quahogs through the sieve. The gestures are always the same. Raking, responding. I don't know how we ended up so far apart from one another. My days are shorter here and sometimes I skip the showers altogether.

Sunday, March 12th, 2006

(give me your wampum)

Time:12:21 pm.
My notebook is falling apart. The binding is split. Is that reason enough to start a livejournal?

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