Tag Archives: Montpelier

Slammed

I attended last night’s poetry slam at Kellogg Hubbard Library and read a couple of poems. Although I could have done a better job (i.e. I gave a horrible reading), I’m glad I went. I met some new people, heard some cool poems, and received some nice encouragement, like that from slam meister Geoff Hewitt who also recommended a book of poems by Aram Saroyan he thought I would enjoy (from Black Sparrow Press, incidentally, which published much of Charles Bukowski‘s works, all of which I have read and have been influenced by).

But mostly I’m glad I went because I did horribly. I hate “failing,” but I hate “not progressing” more and the two are unavoidably linked. My goal isn’t to “not fail,” but to “fail better.”

So now in the aftermath (or afterglow) I’m thinking of how I can improve such failing. I’m thinking I maybe should have read the sonnet I’d written instead of the beat-inspired poem about abortion. Or maybe just read the latter better.

I’m thinking Warren (WMRW Radio Annual Call-in & Live Poetry Slam!) is too far for me to travel tonight since I have to do my eking grocery clerk gig until 6:30 pm, but I might be able to do the call-in thing, where I would have another wonderful opportunity to fail.

I’m thinking the second poem I read was better received, despite my flawed performance.

And I’m thinking I’ll share that second poem below:

NORTH BY SOUTHWEST

1.
Ah, Christ, when did the road
to Purdue University become so paved? Did I miss
a memo, a leaflet, a constitutional amendment
that would have given me better directions? Or maybe,
I just cannot read so well, the coffee
and tear-stained map unfolding into social hieroglyphics
foreign to me.
Eighteen years old and already lost at sea,
I watch
in my hindsight mirror as my best friend
takes a bite of an apple
I can’t taste. Don’t want to taste, actually, the snake in me
having an altogether different purpose as my desires surface,
but still, I clutch the wheel like I’m in control and don’t feel
anything inside me. I see
the sign saying 465 Exit Straight Ahead.
Like
an arrow going the wrong narrow way, I think,
but take it, anyway. I always do. Sometimes
you have to go a little South, after all, in order to fly North,
and in 1987 leaving Anderson is no exception.
The bypass
wraps around Indianapolis like intestinal machinery
and craps us out onto I-65.

2.
Weren’t there horses before machines? Wild
hopes running, roaming free? Full of fever
I reach
over to touch my best friend’s knee, but instead catch
myself and turn
the radio also on. So many stations, but all I get
is static. My friend hand’s me a cassette,
saying, “Why don’t you play
this?” I
oblige
and the greedy tape deck takes it. How great
it is to be inserting something somewhere! Rush
ushers Tom Sawyer in. I look in the backseat for Finn,
but all I see is a backpack containing my paint
by number SAT scores
promising the future is yours,
if I do what I am told.
But I grow old, I grow old,
whether or not my trousers are rolled
and I want the goddam brass ring
Oh, I don’t mean bling
You can have that sort of thing
I mean the luxury to be me
To have that kind of clarity.
But instead I have a welcome packet and a half-filled casket as dumb
and dumber academic junk remind me I was sunk
before I had a chance to swim. Over
to my right, a Deer Crossing sign warns me to watch out. How
odd. For the headlights are always on me,
and I think that I must be
the only one frozen.

3.
Still
You can make good time going nowhere.
Like ice, high school wore thin.
It had been a motionless affair.
Yet locked in place I fell through,
with a poker face pocked with rue.
And oh, it was so irrelevant.
All hail holy Thomas Covenant. I was, I am, a bloodguard beyond repair
with little worth protecting, the predetermined physics
of my body only outwardly observing the laws
of organic chemistry prevalent in the halls.
But the need to heed the societal call
to be a cookie cutter
made Engineering seem full of bitter
sweet butter.
But I wonder,
as I take us off the highway,
to gas up at a red and yellow Shell station
offering a free car wash, what
the real catch is. My friend
comes out of the washroom as, my tank all filled up,
I pull the nozzle out, careful not to let it drip,
and slip it back into the slot where it belongs, where it’s supposed to go,
the right hole being so very important you know.
“Do you have to go?” he asks.
Things left unsaid I shake my head
and get back behind the safety of the wheel,
thinking,
Where in the world does someone like me
have to go?

Council Catastrophe

Okay, so I blew it.

I’m trying to get involved in local government. So I applied to be an alternate for the Development Review Board and towards that end attended last night’s council meeting so council members could meet me in person along with the other applicants.

It had already been a long day. I finished my “day job” of checking 17 academic papers, did laundry, and cooked dinner. I showered, shaved, and put on my nicest set of clothes that really aren’t that nice anymore but so it goes.

I sweltered inside the council chambers, feeling overdressed in my jacket but unsure if I wanted to remove it since I was sweating enough to be designated a floodplain.

A couple of agenda items were completed and then the council members had each (there were only three) of us stand up and say a little about ourselves. Then they left the room for an “executive session” and came back five minutes later to announce their pick of the two that were needed.

I of course wasn’t one of the two. If it were otherwise, I might have started this post with “I did it”. But as it stands, “I blew it” pretty much sums it up.

Now, granted, the other two had more government experience than me. However, I think what really hurt me is that I did not present myself very well. I mean the kind of not very well where I wouldn’t have picked me either, as painful as that is to admit.

Not being used to a microphone, I started off not talking into it. And when I finally did talk into it, I talked way too fast, rambled, and didn’t make eye contact. Part of it was nervousness and overcompensating for my natural introverted tendency. Also, my eyes tend to go all elsewhere when I’m gathering my thoughts, which I was trying to do for all the good it did me.

I was a right train wreck that went on for a brief, yet agonizingly long piece of time. After the derailment, Council Member Alan Weiss asked me what I thought the purpose of the Development Review Board was.

Here’s where the ability to gather one’s thoughts would have come in particularly handy. And they did gather, but unfortunately they clumped together like wet leaves in a compost heap. When I spoke, words sputtered out of my mouth with the grace of a cat coughing up a hairball.

I knew the point I wanted to make but… well, so it goes.

I was more than a little crushed. Not just because of not getting selected, but because I know I am better than how I presented myself; that I have a lot more to offer than what my village idiot performance revealed.

I did stay for the entire council meeting and found it wholly interesting despite my intermittent self-loathing interruptions of internal dialogue: stupid, worthless, failure, and the quintessential, all-encompassing never succeed at anything.

I worked hard at conquering those internal demons so I could gain from the meeting and not lose the forest for all my rotted trees.

I enjoyed hearing about the affairs of the city and noted the issues each member brought forth. Mr. Guerlain discussed concerns of his constituents about actual crimes versus what gets reported in the police log in The Times Argus. Mrs. Walsh fielded questions about a proposal to use Solar Panels to provide Montpelier with electricity.

There were many other issues that were discussed, including parking on State street, arts funding, and a proposal under consideration by the Development Review Board to build a new housing complex on a lot in a historic district, which would first require approval for demolishing the existing condemned property.

What I found most interesting, though, was Mr. Weiss, who had asked me the question during my botched presentation attempt. He in fact asked pointed questions throughout the meeting; the kind of questions that reminded me of my scholar husband.

Not in substance, as his concerns were different, but in the phrasing.

For example, one such concern of his started with “In Section 5.5. it says…”  where he went on to point out the possible implications of that ambiguous wording and questioning what exactly it would mean in real world application if they took up the proposal it referenced.

My husband’s well-informed opinions are always grounded in thorough reading and research done well before uttering first words on the matter under discussion. You’re unlikely to slip anything by him. He will tear any loose wording and faulty arguments apart. I reckon it’s the same with Mr. Weiss.

It’s the next day and I’m trying to think of how to go forward after embarrassing myself so completely. My mind is still reeling with the lingering yet ever useless “should have’s” that have been resonating since last night.

But the bottom line is “I didn’t” and I do still want to get involved.

So I need to get over my self-pitying self and move forward. I’m not sure what the best way is to do so, but I at least know the right question to ask, as it’s the only question that really ever matters:

What now?

Becoming a Vermonter

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so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

Okay, so I need to get in the habit of regular blogging. I mean that’s what you are supposed to do, right? No one just works on stories and poems any more. You need to ensure your social platform is regularly infused with new content to stay visible.

Often what happens, though, is my brain is so regularly infused with new content, and the subsequent new new content that comes from that then old new content getting processed a half-dozen different ways, is many things that might at the moment be cool (I think) to blog about end up getting buried instead.

But at this moment — and that’s all we ever really have — I feel like it might be cool to talk a little bit about our new place and new city and maybe even throw in a why or two, even though why questions by their very nature can be dangerous in the hands of the philosophically careless and any purported answers to them should be handled with kid gloves if handled at all.

But such thinking is for later posts — unless that thinking gets buried and stays buried — and at this moment I’m thinking of Gary and me both having places to work in our new place. The picture at the beginning is my particular work area and shows the table where I did my current paying work today of checking papers submitted to Public Library of Science, ensuring metadata is accurate and that the manuscripts are formatted correctly and so on.

And yes, there is an empty box there at the back and also a swath of brown paper on the floor near the front. What can I say? Our cats love boxes, especially from Amazon. As for the brown paper, it is the special kind of packing paper that you sometimes get in those empty boxes when they aren’t empty yet.

Amber, our young female cat, goes nuts over the crinkly, crackly claw-friendly stuff. She plays with it in all sorts of self-entertaining ways. She covers herself with it, dives into it, and hides things under it. She nestles it, shreds it, and in general has a right good time rearranging it like it is all the cat’s meow this side of feline origami.

So we keep it and an empty box or two at the expense of looking a little trashy.

As you probably can guess from that, my space is shared space.

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But there is enough room that it isn’t too bad, as Amber frequently finds other places to be.

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As far as that goes, and it goes pretty far, our oldest cat hangs out in the shared space, too, loving the couch. But he also finds other parts of the apartment to his liking.

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As far as outside our apartment, the best way to describe it is green. Mountains and green with small towns separated by miles and miles of this incredibly beautiful mountainous green. So beautiful I’m thinking at this moment that it maybe should be a post in itself, along with talking about what all is within walking distance of us now that we are living in the smallest capital in the nation.

So I’ll just jump forward to a blog-entry-ending why. Although there are many why‘s, as there always is, one of the most significant why‘s is answered by something we didn’t think we would see in our lifetime.

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With section three of DOMA struck down and the visit to the Justice of the peace that we took soon after moving here, our well over 17 years of marriage is now a marriage that is not only legally recognized by Vermont and 12 other living-in-the-twenty-first-century states, but Federally recognized as well.

The importance of this ruling is huge.

Huge enough that it totally changes the why question. It is no longer just a Why should we move to Vermont? Instead, with Indiana being as legislatively hateful as it was, is, and continues to strive to be, it is Why on earth would we stay?