05/5/11

Excuse me, weather. I was told melting sun.

I can’t seem to keep a lid on anything. I don’t mean metaphorically, not like I can’t keep secrets, I mean on things like toothpaste and pill bottles. It’s the screwing I take issue with. It takes so long, and for what? Screwing a cap is as dumb as making a bed.

I concede, spillage sometimes occurs. Since I got a perscription I have never not accidentally knocked over my bottle of ambien, sending all the tiny little pills into the big box I keep my shoes in, but it’s a good thing. When I forget to fill the script, I can always find one errant pill buried in the carpet somewhere.

Further, men keep telling me something really bad is going to happen to my car as a result of my lost gas cap, but oh really? Like what, smarty pants? Not only is there a little door, there’s a metal sheeth keeping the gas inside, like an eyelid. Put a cap on your eyelids, men. Also, who ever fills their car more than halfway? No one I know. I only know writers. Anyway, I’m sure I’m wrong. I’m sorry. I’ll try to change.

Feeling blue, what else is new. A poet. I know it. The end of school, you know. My future is uncertain. I teach my last class tomorrow and then I’m out of a job. In retaliation I’ve decided to make a medical emergency out of my premenstrual symptoms. Sweatpants. Beer. Maybe I’ll eat a whole pizza later. I don’t know; I’m not a psychic.

My contributor’s issue of HOW Journal came in the mail today. My story is called “No Hands.” It’s about a tall girl who moves from Reseda, California to Medicine Hat, Alberta for an Internet boyfriend who turns out to be prohibitively fat. She meets a man with no hands, gets into other adventures, and comes to learn real values. I always knew the story was good structurally but I never really liked it. I didn’t like my protagonist. I thought she was rude and ungrateful, but now I feel like I’ve been too hard on her. I’d like to cautiously say that it’s a good story, and you should consider buying the journal. Do you know what HOW Journal stands for? Helping Orphans Worldwide, that’s what. Honestly, I’m not sure why you hate orphans. An excerpt:

God did that make me angry. How dare he mention my height? As though I were the freak. There were other concerns. Men are sick people. They have weird fetishes. There was this one guy—you wouldn’t believe what happened. I should have known when he called before our date and instructed me on what to wear: heels, a skirt. I feel like a man in a dress. Women are small. That’s why rappers call them shortys. I am something else. But he was handsome and I agreed. He invited me to lie down on his bed. He asked me to shut my eyes, that he had a surprise for me. Then he pulled out a tangle of ropes and tried to tie me to the bed. I saw a red camera light blinking on the bookshelf across the room. His breath was excited and shallow. The clincher: a worn copy of Gulliver’s Travels on the nightstand. I never told Orca how tall I was, and this allowed me to trust him. I did not trust Dylan.

This blog post is the first real thing I’ve written since my thesis reading. I would try to write and it was like my fingers got tangled together and I quit for fear of tripping. I still feel that way but I’m making myself do it anyway. Future, why you so scary?

Thanks for reading, friends. I mean it. We’ll be in touch.

 

04/15/11

April 15th.

Dear Diary,

Haven’t written you in weeks. Can’t sleep. Afraid of the sun.

Sure I’m probably busy with the end of the semester and editing my thesis and teaching my class, but not really. I’m afraid to write because the stakes are high and I’m paralyzed. Graduating from college blows. I hated it when I was an undergrad and I hate it as an MFA candidate. I’m going to miss my friends and I don’t know how I’ll make a living or where I’ll live. These are both problems and opportunities. I try to be brave; I think it’s a pivotal but overlooked virtue, and it’s not that I fear change. Often its exhilarating, but things can get worse and remember advice like, “don’t rock the boat” and “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it?” In Montana, boat rocks you!

Not to mention the writing. I want it to be good, but the truth is that takes work; it means rewriting pages that I’ve fallen in love with again and again, and spending a lot of time with the material, and have you met my latest characters? They are not fun to be around. Sometimes I’ll look at what I’ve written and all the things that I’ve put us through (the character and me) and I’m creeped out by the person who wrote this shit, and I can’t believe I’ve made this terrible life choice of being a writer, and then I remember that it’s not a choice, and it never was, and it’s back to the grindstone.

I cross a footbridge over the river on my morning commute to campus. It’s not uncommon to see a person stop walking, drop their bags and stare out over the railing. In the winter the river looks different every time. You might see big chunks of ice floating and the next day they’re gone. The water gets deep in the spring. Even deep water is interesting to look at. Or there’s the sky, or the mountains. Pretty with or without snow, and no one is embarrassed about marveling at beauty, and no one passing them wonders what they’re looking at or why.

April 15th feels important, eh? Deadlines for everything. Dead ends. Embrace. It will all be over soon.

03/25/11

thesis shmesis

school is hard and stressful. I’m trying to think of a title for my thesis and I just keep thinking up old trustys that already exist. it’s weird how I have no imagination. here is the product of my recent brainstorm. the brainstorm was filled with lightning and electricity. tell me know which ones you like best in the comments, and you could be a winner.


A River Runs Through It

Winter in the Blood

Tales From the Crypt

A Tale of Two Cities

Other Terrors Lurk (gospel website)

Lolita By Vladimir Nabokov (alice bolin)

Stop me if you’ve Heard This One

Only the Lonely

Lord of the Rings

The Newer Testament

Life is Painful

How to Win Friends and Influence People

A Contemplation of the Separated Evidence (thesis title generator)

Welcome to the Jungle

Welcome to the Jungle Book

After the Flood

My Thesis

Out After Dark

On the Slip

Instructions on How to Love

A Murder of Crows

Things that are Dead

Except on Fire

The End of the Affair

The Worst

Bury Me With It

Doom Revisited

The Davinci Code

Another One Bites the Dust

I’m Not Gay but My Boyfriend Is

What Not to Wear

Off the Rails

Forgetting Jacob Johnson

Armageddon Days are Here Again

A Loud Alarm

Several Exits

Addicted to Love in All the Wrong Places

She had it Coming

Oh No and Other Poems

The Dog in the Hat in the Nighttime

Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place

It's Not What you Think

 

03/1/11

the first day of the rest of your month.

Dear Diary,

The alarm went off at 8:30 or something. I read act IV of Hamlet on my kindle next to a crabby, sleepy bear. I think his stomach hurt; I don’t know. It snowed all yesterday and this morning and then got a little warmer. Slush. Everybody hates the weather. We (the great collective we) seem to remember things going differently last year, a less shitty February. We are not yet consoled by the arrival of March but maybe we’re getting there?

Got myself caught up on the Charlie Sheen thing. Subsequently adopted “I’m tired of pretending I’m not special” as life mantra.

Read an article Alice sent me about how to define a vague relationship or something like that.

Went to Shakespeare class, where once again I failed to have anything valid or interesting to contribute.

I ate a breakfast burrito from the campus cafeteria with the coeds. It was so good. I love breakfast burritos.

Wrote 639 new words for an old story. Concluded it wasn’t enough and I would never amount to anything.

Read an article on why young men suck at everything but getting laid and 6 reasons why humans should be terrified of crows.

Read Kate’s story and the first two chapters of Ted’s novel. I walked around campus holding up Ted’s manuscript in front of my face like some super nerd. Realized what I was doing halfway to the bus but elected not to stop myself.

By 5pm today I had already tweeted 13 times. What on earth about, you might be wondering.

Passed two bums on the footbridge smoking weed and having a blast like they owned the place. I gave one of them a dollar and the other 50 cents and they said without prompting, “it’s cool, man, we share everything.”

Went to the grocery store. Came out at exactly 5:15 across the street from the 5:15 bus stop. A different homeless guy stopped me and started prattling on about could I give him my address and his wife was over there and a broken carburetor, but I was anxious about missing the bus and I literally said to him, “Shut up. I’m going to miss the bus. Here’s a dollar.” Turned out there was no need to be so terse, but pardon me.

The bus was 5 minutes late, just like it always is, and I rode it home without incident. People chitchatted about being sick of the weather. Someone pointed out that it was only March 1st, after all, and the snow was not atypical. This person was not well received.

Came home with the intention of exercising but ate a sandwich instead.

I Read Missoula’s Missed Connections page on craigslist for about an hour and then wrote 180 words of a poem inspired by one of the ads titled, “you have an orange coat.” Decided I will make my students do something similar tomorrow, except not a poem because nobody likes poems. Also, these kids signed up for a fiction class.

Around 7pm I wanted to put on my pajamas and go to bed. I started feeling drained and useless and I wondered what I’d been doing all day. Felt that the beginning of the month was paramount and I wanted to ask something extraordinary of myself.

I mustered up the energy to write this blog post. Had the idea it would be a good goal to write a blog post every day for the month of March but thought better of making any promises. We’ll see how it goes. What do you care? You don’t care.

I switched to the present tense. Or did I?

You’re up to date and I’m writing in real time, which is lame and dumb. Sorreeee!

02/19/11

for the fun of it.

the bad food you eat when you’re poor
a cough that won’t go away
the kind of hopes
that get pinned on a lottery.
-David Lerner, his poem Satan After Hours

Woke up with this poem in my head, which is either an improvement or not from the thing that has woken me up the last few mornings (Destiny’s Child: Bills, Bills Bills) depending on how you look at life and art and aesthetics.  You’d think I was obsessed with money the way it keeps coming up, but I’m not. It’s more like a reoccurring dream that doesn’t mean anything, for example, that time I kept dreaming about Oysters and then a woman in a restaurant walked by with a plate of Oysters and I made everybody stop talking so I could blurt out, “Holy shit, I’m psychic!”

I don’t have anything to say today; I just want to talk. Lately it seems like I only ever update with an agenda. I’ve got my eyes on too many prizes. Got the publishing bug and every time my fingers hit the keyboard it’s “where can I send this?”

Stop being such a hollywood douchebag, Molly. Shut up and write for the fun of it.

I love college and Montana and my vagabond lifestyle, but I’ve got a little Senioritis. I feel impatient with the workshopping process and I keep doing really badly on quizzes in my undergraduate Shakespeare class. I hope I bounce back. Not to be wildly controversial or anything, but Hamlet is a really good play. In May I graduate and the world becomes a cruel, uncertain place again. When I think about it I feel a panic in my chest like something awful, like one of those sacred hearts that shoots out spikes of light that stab me. So let’s talk about something else.

Here’s that story I told you about on Thumbnail. I love the font. Seriously, I find the presentation amazingly beautiful, and I like this piece. I don’t know where it came from; a brief moment of honesty. I’d like to find it again sometime.

Taking a non fiction class – I don’t know what the fuck to write about. Memoir is not something I ever want to read ever so why would I ever write it? This blog is a memoir. Your mom is probably a memoir, not sure. My life has been insanely interesting and filled with adventures, that’s true, but does it really amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world? It might. So far I’ve written around 2,000 words about that time when I was 21 and two rambunctious boys lived at my house and we just hung out and played video games and smoked weed all the time, but with a secret purpose, maybe. So far the story lacks shape or purpose. I don’t know what to do about it.

What else? I dreamt my space heater set my student’s stories on fire. My coffee is cold. I’m sick of winter. Money.

09/1/10

the rain…

looks fake today, like you could turn it off with a switch if only you could find it, but you can’t. You can’t find it.

Got a story published here at burnt bridges press. I was really excited and told everybody, but now I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that I’m excited. Still, look.

School started this week. The class I teach is filled with women, which just means it will take me longer to learn their names. (I’m sexist like racist. 18 year old girls all look alike to me.)

Mostly I am exhausted and thrilled re: everything and seek others that feel similarly. Cursory look outside reveals somebody found that switch after all. The end.

04/13/10

The Joy of Williams.

I didn’t read a lot of female writers before I came to Montana. I think it’s because I believed that women didn’t know how to do much besides cry and make babies. I would like to soften my position. Mary Gaitskill, Mary Robison, and Joy Williams are three writers I have come to appreciate. Besides a penchant for the name Mary (one of my all time favorite names, ordinary as it may be. It is often my pseudonym. I am named after my Aunt Mary. etc.) and being white, these women share the gift of nuanced, informed prose. They know things about humans. In this sense they are like mystics. I think writers are sort of magical. I have created many unpleasant things through my own writing, for example. Once, I turned a man I knew into a coke addicted maniac. I turned myself into a data entry person. I may have turned one of my old bosses gay. I digress, big time. I just wanted to share with you this Joy Williams impersonation. Mother, I hope you don’t read this, and if you do, I hope you don’t take it personally. I love you. I wouldn’t change anything. What has and hasn’t happened made me who I am today, and I’m grateful.

Look Out!

Every year my mother and I went to the city to see the Detroit fireworks. Afterwards we would eat at a restaurant in Greektown where men made of rock wore nothing but leaves in front of their privates. The year before I circled around one of these statues and put my hand under the leaf. A table in the balcony above me cheered when I did it, and I got embarrassed and cried, but my mother hugged me and said that nobody thought I was gross. She was always on my side. She told me that everyone thought I was cute and funny and loved me, and I believed her, but suspiciously.

That was a full year ago and this year I knew a lot more. My mother had a boyfriend that summer named Lou that I didn’t like. I hated when Lou came with us places because he always got to sit in the front seat. Mom couldn’t hear anything I said in back and kind of seemed like she didn’t want to. I sang along loudly with the music and kicked the back of Lou’s seat.

My mother clutched my hand tightly when she led me through the crowd. I liked all the black faces and I felt like they liked me too because we were different from each other and that was very interesting. My mother was a drinker. Every year she brought a thermos full of Vodka. We laid a blanket on the grass in front of the river and we stared at exploding lights and the smoky shadows they left behind. Years later, in that same spot, the fireworks would remind someone of Vietnam and he would shoot three strangers, but nothing bad happened that year.

Before the Greek restaurant and after the fireworks mom and Lou got drunk and yelled at each other a lot on the sidewalk while I stared into an alley. At the time I thought anybody who set foot in an alley got raped, and I thought getting raped meant a strange man beat you up and then took a razorblade and ripped holes in your clothes. I’m through, you crazy bitch, Lou said. He walked off in the other direction and my mom started crying. She took my hand and led me around the city, wheezing and stumbling. It took us a really long time to find the car, and I was mad because I didn’t want to find it, I wanted to go to the restaurant where they set the cheese on fire and the waiters scream, “Opa!” which means, “Look out!”

My mom rested her head on the steering wheel. Fuck you, she said. Fuck you. Fuck you. It was embarrassing, her talking to someone who wasn’t there. I didn’t answer. I think the silence upset her even more, the no one answering. No, she said. Fuck him. Not you, honey. Fuck him. She put the key in the ignition. I had the thought that it might have been safer for an eight year old to drive the car home than for my mother to.

* * * * * *

Lou was through with her that night, but not overall. Like twenty years after that, my boyfriend and I had an apartment in Detroit, in that same neighborhood even. We filled old water bottles full of whiskey and walked down to the river to watch the fireworks. When we drank too much and screamed at each other on the street, at least we knew where we were, and we could walk home. Fuck you, I would say to him. Fuck you. Not fuck her. I said this right to my boyfriend’s face. In this way, my mother and I are different.

03/10/10

Hemingway hates women. I think they’re okay…

Am I on a roll, or what? That’s not a real question. This week we discussed Hemingway and this is my Hemingway impersonation. I was trying to convey his conflicted feelings about women and sex, but even with these mock-ups I feel you can’t help but essentially remain yourself. Hemingway writes from a personal place, it seems to me, and he’s held accountable for the beliefs of his characters as if they came from him personally. This piece similarly comes from a personal place, in me. I think I’m creeping everyone out. This may be a phase. It may be I’m at that phase in my MFA career where I think that everybody hates me and thinks I’m a terrible writer. Oh well.

When he broke up with D, just three weeks ago, his friend’s advised him to fuck a lot of women. “Not just a few women,” they said. “A lot of women.” It was the typical advice that men tend to give other men in times like these, but when he actually stopped to think about it, what the reality of that entailed, it made him a little queasy. Just the notion of confronting so many foreign bodies like that. His own body was disgusting enough. Pale and hairy, moist crevices, and the exhausting effort it can sometimes take to get to that stage with women… still, how many had there been since he and D broke up, three or four? He hadn’t had to do anything to get this one. She’d scolded him for his bad behavior and in the same breath invited him back to her apartment. It was disgustingly easy, and her apartment was disgusting.

She was sort of beautiful but incredibly crass. She was uncomfortable in her body and had a weird gait. You could tell that she didn’t think she was beautiful at all. Her apartment was gross and she sort of thought she was gross too. It was the morning after. He wished he hadn’t spouted a lot of bullshit about being a vegetarian and treating his body like a temple because now he was dying for a cigarette. They were sitting up on her bed and staring at elaborate cut outs of birds she’d pasted to the walls. She must have done them months ago when she cared something about the way the place looked. Now they were sort of tattered and hanging off carelessly. There was a mallard and a female duck swimming together. The female duck swam ahead but the mallard was in the foreground.

“What do you suppose that says about men and women?” He heard himself ask her, although he hadn’t the foggiest idea why.

“They’re just fucking ducks,” she said. She actually sounded bored or irritated. “It’s not a treatise on male, female relations. The point is that they’re cut out so carefully. It’s an art, cutting them out of the background with such precision. That’s the point. It’s not about how much you hate your mother.”

Later they were on her front porch and he was incredibly irritated. He looked at her shyly. In the harsh light of morning they both looked ugly to him. She hugged him.

“God, even the way you hug is gross,” he said.

“That’s not true,” she said. She sounded bored with him. “Kiss me on the cheek.”

And he did.

03/9/10

Just more words.

Note: This is a knockoff, homage, imitation of The Isaac Babel story, First Love. It’s from a class I take in college where we read hotshot writers, talk about them, and try to write like them. Isaac Babel kind of had it rough. Comparatively I can’t really say the same. If I had to choose I would say the worst thing that happened to Isaac Babel was getting shot by Stalin’s army.

Last Love

When I was 28 years old I responded to an ad on craigslist regarding an apartment with an extra room for rent. The place belonged to a handsome couple named Swen and Amy. Their last names were both Smith, weirdly, because they were not married. Upon first meeting them I locked eyes with Swen and felt an immediate, suffocating desire that seemed painfully reciprocated. Amy was insufferable, ogrish, and I’d have liked it if by some miracle she had dropped dead on the spot. Instead, with full faculties, she eyed me up and down while candidly expressing her discomfort with the situation. There had been some confusion. My name is Chris and all the preliminary correspondences had been done over email. They’d assumed I was male.

Still staring into Swen’s handsome blue eyes, I did what I often do in these delicate situations, which is to say the exact opposite of what I am really feeling. “The truth is, I’m a lesbian.”

And so we lived together for some months in this unfortunate arrangement. Swen and I brushed hands at the coffee maker, stole glances during commercial breaks, and generally felt the heavy weight of misery hanging down on us. All the while I took care to stifle any overt signs of heterosexuality (moments of shrillness, romantic comedies) and accentuated the homosexual (flannel). On the loneliest of nights, through thin walls, I could hear them making love, signified mostly by Amy’s harsh commands, a voice ravaged by too much smoking and vinegar. She insisted loudly where to stick things and at what speed and duration. It caused me great agony, but what’s the use of talking about it? Our unhappiness persisted.

A mob of hired murderers ransacked our shared apartment and murdered Swen and the kittens. For 14 years of my life I had dreamed with my whole soul about kittens. Eventually, through a series of convoluted circumstances, Amy permitted me to bring home two of them, and then this unpleasantness. I found Amy there on that sad morning cradling Swen’s remains, his entrails spilling out like long strands of sausage links. When she saw me walk in, the truth of my subterfuge suddenly came to light. In revenge, she lunged toward me with a handful of red kitten sludge and smashed the mess into my temples.

“Now we should probably clean up,” Amy said. “We should clean up, Chris. Our hands and faces are covered in fur, and the fur is bloody.”

11/10/09

There’s really only one thing to talk about.

Things MFA graduate students are good at:

  1. Writing perfectly crafted text messages to one another, a symphony of mystery, intrigue, flirtation mixed with aloof detachment dosed out in perfect proportion to the situation.  We are all lyrical wizards, and it’s frightening sometimes, they way we misuse our power.  What I’m trying to say is that Kristen G*****n is a witch.
  2. Any variety of parlor games that require extensive lying and trickery.  Balderdash.  My Dad is… (either A- a successful magician.  B- a real estate agent turned puppeteer in these hard financial times.)
  3. Selecting songs from jukeboxes that don’t just sound good, but also really speak to the time and situation.
  4. Crossing out every adverb I ever audaciously put in a story, helpfully.

So, Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month.  The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  That’s about 1700 words a day.  I’m behind schedule but thats what the end of the month is for – tireless cramming.  Here’s my first paragraph.

Chapter 1: The Guest Poet Spoke of Birch Trees…

The guest poet spoke of birch trees, something about the white bark being like his mothers ghost, only less interesting.  He stopped (for effect, they thought) clutched his chest, gasped at the air like the tree itself was lodged in his throat, and finally, the whole lot of him cascaded to the ground.  The podium tipped forward and an older woman in the front row caught it gracefully as it fell into her lap.    This caused the chord to come unplugged and during the surge, the oomph that punctuated this awful poets collapse, the woman silently righted the podium again.

Incidentally, the poet is dead.  Later some other characters will conspire to kill a dog.  A girl locks herself up in her room and does drugs continually for days and days.  Magic is attempted and failed.  In all seriousness, writing a novel in one month is a meditative and beautiful process and I recommend it to everyone.  It’s not too late to start now, but almost.  Visit Nanowrimo and be my friend. (user name: Mollykills)