Monday, December 29, 2003

Barcelona, Spain. Well, 1am and we are off to Salsa dance the night away. London wasn´t bad either. Note to self, move to Europe.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

The novel begins in a railway station, a locomotive huffs, steam from a piston covers the opening of the chapter, a cloud of smoke hides part of the first paragraph.

(from Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler)
I love the holidays.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

On the south wall she had completed an enormous canvas. She had mounted about four dozen of the smallest sweaters in an astonishing collage. Each arm was placed at a different angle, some open, some closed, and the total effect was of a crowd of children who had danced wildly beyond the sun's governance, shedding their clothes like unnecessary shadows... She'd woven around these in fine, fine script all sorts of words...

when I stepped back I could not see the words any more, so skilfully[sic] had she camouflaged them in the textures of its background.

(from Kim Echlin's Elephant Winter, emphasis mine)

Saturday, December 13, 2003

*ooo~erh^: (22 Hz.) A support song, encouraging another (or oneself) in any difficult task. When one of our elephants was very young she slipped down the muddy banks of the pond and into the freezing water in early spring. Three females immediately started to help rescue her, tugging and pushing and finally placing large stones under her front feet to help her get some traction. As they grunted, they rumbled this song, each of them urging the others on.
(from Kim Echlin's Elephant Winter)

Friday, December 12, 2003

Favorite Eliot moment?
The lamp hummed:
'Regard the moon,
La lune ne garde aucune rancune,
She winks a feeble eye,
She smiles into corners.
She smooths the hair of the grass.
The moon has lost her memory.
(from T.S. Eliot's "Rhapsody on a Windy Night")

Thursday, December 11, 2003

If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you,
As far as Cho-fu-Sa.
(from Ezra Pound's "The River-Merchant's Wife: a Letter")
(translated from Li Po, the Chinese poet (701-62). see also: other translations)

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

"One could do worse than be a swinger of birches."

(from Robert Frost's "Birches")

Monday, December 08, 2003

I have forgotten English
in order to talk to pelicans
(from Al Purdy's "Moonspell")
....the Cambridge ladies do not care,above
Cambridge if sometimes in its box of
sky lavender and cornerless, the
moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy
(from E. E. Cummings' "the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls")

Sunday, December 07, 2003

i think i'm waiting for something,
but it doesn't come.

the soft light reflects my
doubled image on the window,
i can feel the cold outside.

the quiet waits.
the clock's tick skips
inside my head, darkness
touches my arm, i fight
the tug of drowsiness...

i suppose i might never find out what it is.
i guess i hope it's not important.

maybe if i sleep, i'll dream of it.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

She was never self-centered in her mythologies. She would turn any compliment away.
-- The trouble with ideology, Alice, is that it hates the private. You must make it human.
-- These are my favorite lines. I'll whisper them. "I have taught you that the sky in all its zones is mortal... Let me now re-emphasize the extreme looseness of the structure of all objects."

In the darkness he can see just the faint aura of her hair.

-- Say it again.
(from Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion)

Friday, December 05, 2003

The "No Trespassing" sign is old, rusted, and optional. I guess from an outside gaze my brother and I would look an odd running pair, but we don't slow down as we cross the pavement into the rail-yard, the grip on my runners chewing at the packed dirt. Kevin's strides are confident and relaxed; of course, he's a natural runner. Sometimes I have to stretch to keep up, but if I lose the rhythm I can match the back of his green toque like the click of a metronome. As the rust and weeds grow Kevin seems only to push more powerfully through the slumping buildings. I side-spit runner's phlegm and try to pretend I'm circling the oval back home, instead of passing through the industrial section of a slowly thinning city.

To be honest, it was a little odd spending time with Kevin again. I used to always wonder if he noticed me or if I only existed in some isolated part of his imagination, the part that had to deal with family. When I was seven we'd jump off fence-rails into the deep snow... until he'd hear some inner signal and our game would change. He'd start hunting for icicles, or digging holes in the snow. We'd dig in the sand at the beach too, looking for diamonds. He was always the first to sit in the hole we made, smiling crookedly as ground water seeped in and the walls crumbled. I suppose most things were like that. Kevin got most of the firsts in the family, and by the time I'd get to this grade or that sport, it was, "Oh! You're Kevin's sister!" I didn't mind all the time... sometimes, playing cards with Dad, Kevin would be Too-Old-For-That. Then the popcorn and the cards and the Go Fish would come out while Kevin kept himself busy with homework or a book. I used to miss those evenings around the table: everyone in the same room, passing the time together.

The lane ends, and to our right the tracks widen and split into a traffic jam of crossing rails. They look abandoned, though there are rail cars standing on some of the lines. Huge piles of scrap metal on our left remind me of a junkyard, grass growing proud around the edges. A way-station tower, Plexiglas observation window placed solidly in its white, painted sides, stands watch over the confusion. Suddenly, it hits me that we really are trespassing, like hoodlums. A new-looking F-150 pickup is parked at the base of the tower. It makes me a little nervous, but Kevin doesn't seem to notice. The rail cars are simply resting, jumbled markings on their sides different than the ones I'm used to, as if we've stumbled into a foreign country.

I wasn't sure it had crossed Kevin's mind that I might be nervous or even scared to fly halfway across Canada to visit him. The only time I'd flown was the one time we'd visited our relatives in Edmonton. I was quite small, and all I can remember is trying to make myself yawn to stop my ears from aching. Family trips were usually made by car: parents up front, children stowed safely in the back, all of us clutching our carefully rationed handful of Pringles. Despite the travel, growing up in small-town rural Canada meant that we were mostly homebodies, reading of far-off places like Vancouver, Montreal, and Halifax in Eric Wilson novels. Then Kevin got a job working with some of my cousins and moved East.

The road takes us through the yard and out the other side. No more than 50 feet from where the road bends to the left, I look back and the truck is nearly upon us.

"Holy--Kevin! There's a truck! We shoul-" But to my disbelief he grunts a sort of laugh and breaks into a sprint, bursting for the turn up ahead. I strain to keep up, pictures of angry guards and shotguns flashing in my head. The truck honks twice as we reach the bend, but we're already cutting down the grassy slope towards the tracks. Kevin scrambles between two cars, and I only catch him as he reaches the main track. He doesn't slow down, despite sections where the gap between crosspieces is deep, and it's all I can do to not sprain an ankle. We reach an overpass, and Kevin leaps onto the ledge beside the half-railing, speeding up even more. I do likewise, legs burning. Cars fly beneath us, and with no pedestrian barrier, the bridge seems to roll beneath me despite being made of solid concrete. I lift my arms for balance, wonder for one brief, terrified moment what our silhouettes must look like, and then we're across. Pumping hard, we pass the edge of the city; the littered slope of the tracks becomes grassy gullies on either side. My lungs ache with the exertion. After what seems an eternity, Kevin reins in and slows to a walk, a tiny grin still playing on his face.

I mean, forget flying, the new Kevin was scary. The Kevin I knew had never been to the United States, let alone New York City. The same Kevin who took the farm truck out to patch holes in our uncle's fence, the truck with bull horns bolted to the hood, had jumped in a car with friends and driven to Florida for no other reason but to swim in the Gulf of Mexico. He never talked about these things, but slowly the stories that surrounded him would leak out, like the time he broke down at a toll-station just outside Chicago and was using the pay-phone in a nearby McDonalds when the on-site truck came and towed his car away. I felt like I hardly knew him; the things he'd done made him sound so foreign, almost dangerous.

First thing I do when I catch my breath is hit him. Not hard, just a shove in the chest, like when he'd shoved our younger brother, who'd stumbled and hit his head on the piano bench. Kevin stumbles too, but keeps his feet. Kevin had put a pillow over Tim's face so Mom wouldn't hear him cry.

"What are you doing?" I ask him, my voice rising a little hysterically, "Geez! We could have gotten shot or something."

"Hey, relax," he says, grin widening slightly, "no big deal." I look back, pausing, trying my best to get my bearings in this strange place. Behind us the tracks are empty, curving up with the distance into the horizon. The sun is low and burns the twin lines with a yellow glow that makes me shade my eyes. There's a train coming, and I take a deep breath, pouring oxygen as deep as I can into my legs.

"Hey, come on" Kevin says, and, like fugitives, we scramble down into the gully, lying there with our backs breathing heavily against the damp earth. The train reaches us and loud vibrations take over everything. Idiot grin still curving his face, Kevin reaches into his pocket and pulls out a slightly crushed granola bar. A thousand tons of metal clicks by, and Kevin hands me half a broken granola bar. As the train roars, I look at him again, and suddenly his grin is that of a kid sharing his tree fort, high up and alone in the middle of the night. Slowly I take a bite, and together we feel the train go by, trying to hold onto our selves as experience carries us.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Well, shucks.