Said and read – September 2018

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September has not been as challenging as I feared. I think October and November are likelier to offer challenges to the schedule. Still, my face is buried in journal articles and textbooks, and I’ve failed to complete reading more than ten books this month.

Perhaps what gets me down (to continue the lament from last month) is that I won’t achieve my initial 2018 reading goal. That is, the intent to read 26 books in non-English languages. I started off strong and managed a few rather lengthy books in Norwegian, Icelandic, French, Russian and Swedish. But not quite 26. As each month ticks by, and I stuff my brain with English-language book after English-language book, however technical and specialized they may be, I come to terms with the realization that I am not going to get to 26, even if I reach the almost out-of-reach 365 books overall for the year.

How is it October, with its oppressive greeting of wind and darkness, already?

Dig further into what I was reading, liking, thinking, hating in August, July, June, May, April, March, February and January, if you’re curious.

Thoughts on reading for September:

I only managed two books for “fun”: Wallace Stegner‘s The Big Rock Candy Mountain and Driss Chraïbi‘s Le passé simple – both while milling around airports and sitting on planes, so I don’t think I got as much out of either as I would have liked. That said, I enjoyed Stegner, but not as much as I have enjoyed his other work.

I didn’t read as much or in the same way as I normally do, so I can’t really follow the same format as in previous months. I can’t say whether I recommend or like anything I read because most of it was required reading and necessary for comprehension of specific topics that won’t appeal to a broader “audience” (again, I know there’s no “audience” for this, but still…). So here, instead, is a chronicle of what I am/have been reading.

What I’m reading

*Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual EquityJennifer Weiss-Wolf

*Psychology: The Science Of Mind And Behaviour – Nigel Holt et al

*Understanding Global Development Research. Fieldwork Issues, Experiences and Reflections – Crawford, Kruckenberg, Loubere, Morgan (eds)

*Psychology – Miles Hewstone

*An Introduction to Social Psychology – Hewstone, Stroebe, Jonas

*Historical and Conceptual Issues in Psychology – Brybaert, Rastle

*Modern Psychology: A History – Schultz & Schultz

*An Introduction to Developmental Psychology – Slater, Bremner

…and an innumerable list of academic/professional journal articles in development studies, psychology, identity, feminist theory and so many other topics…

My brain, at least, is full.

late september

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Late September
Charles Simic
The mail truck goes down the coast
Carrying a single letter
At the end of a long pier
The bored seagull lifts a leg now and then
And forgets to put it down
There is a menace in the air
Of tragedies in the making

Last night you thought you heard television
In the house next door
You were sure it was some new
Horror they were reporting
So you went out to find out
Barefoot, wearing just shorts
It was only the sea sounding weary
After so many lifetimes
Of pretending to be rushing off somewhere
And never getting anywhere

This morning, it felt like Sunday
The heavens did their part
By casting no shadow along the boardwalk
Or the row of vacant cottages
Among them a small church
With a dozen gray tombstones huddled close
As if they, too, had the shivers

Photo by Pope Moysuh on Unsplash

sweet time

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Life Takes Its Own Sweet Time
Alice Walker
Life takes
its own
sweet time
to configure
just the wound
to stagger us:
so we may never forget
who runs the show
in these territories.

For years
we may circle
the puncture
soundlessly
running mental fingers
around its edges
as if fearing
a drain
that might suck away
the soul.

A decade might pass
in silence
before we once again
test our timid
voice
to shout inside the wound
& discover
the miracle:
that where pain has lived
so resplendently
for so long
there now resides
an insouciant
exuberance
to match
our
newly revealed
and
irrepressible smile.

Photo by Sean Mungur on Unsplash

froth and lather

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The Chaste Stranger
James Tate
All the sexually active people in Westport
look so clean and certain, I wonder
if they’re dead. Their lives are tennis
without end, the avocado-green Mercedes
waiting calm as you please. Perhaps it is
my brain that is unplugged, and these
shadow-people don’t know how to drink
martinis anymore. They are suddenly and
mysteriously not in the least interested
in fornicating with strangers. Well,
there are a lot of unanswered questions
here, and certainly no dinner invitations
where a fella could probe Buffy‘s inner-
mush, a really complicated adventure,
in a 1930ish train station, outlandish
bouquets, a poisonous insect found
burrowing its way through the walls
of the special restaurant and into one
of her perfect nostrils—she was reading
Meetings with Remarkable Men, needing
succor, dreaming of a village near Bosnia,
when a clattering of carts broke her thoughts—
“Those billy goats and piglets, they are
all so ephemeral …” But now, in Westport
Connecticut, a boy, a young man really,
looking as if he had just come through
a carwash, and dressed for the kind of success
that made her girlfriends froth and lather,
can be overheard speaking to no one
in particular: “That Paris Review crowd,
I couldn’t tell if they were bright
or just overbred.” Whereupon Buffy swings
into action, pinning him to the floor:
“I will unglue your very being from this
planet, if ever …” He could appreciate
her sincerity, not to mention her spiffy togs.
Didymus the Blind has put three dollars
on Total Departure, and I am tired of pumping
my own gas. I’m Lewis your aluminum man,
and we are whirling in a spangled frenzy toward
a riddle and a doom—here’s looking up

your old address.

we don’t mix

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Woman to Man
Ai
Lightning hits the roof,
shoves the knife, darkness,
deep in the walls.
They bleed light all over us
and your face, the fan, folds up,
so I won’t see how afraid
to be with me you are.
We don’t mix, even in bed,
where we keep ending up.
There’s no need to hide it:
you’re snow, I’m coal,
I’ve got the scars to prove it.
But open your mouth,
I’ll give you a taste of black
you won’t forget.
For a while, I’ll let it make you strong,
make your heart lion,
then I’ll take it back.

Photo by Luka Vovk on Unsplash

the ground

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Someplace
Yehuda Amichai
Someplace
The rain is no more, but never
Did I stand at the border,
Where one leg is still
Dry and the other gets wet in the rain

Or in a country where people
Bend no more
If something falls to the ground.

Photo by 兆航 樊 on Unsplash

time-to-go

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After Twelve Days of Rain
Dorianne Laux
I couldn’t name it, the sweet
sadness welling up in me for weeks.
So I cleaned, found myself standing
in a room with a rag in my hand,
the birds calling time-to-go, time-to-go.
And like an old woman near the end
of her life I could hear it, the voice
of a man I never loved who pressed
my breasts to his lips and whispered
“My little doves, my white, white lilies.”
I could almost cry when I remember it.

I don’t remember when I began
to call everyone “sweetie,”
as if they were my daughters,
my darlings, my little birds.
I have always loved too much,
or not enough. Last night
I read a poem about God and almost
believed it–God sipping coffee,
smoking cherry tobacco. I’ve arrived
at a time in my life when I could believe
almost anything.

Today, pumping gas into my old car, I stood
hatless in the rain and the whole world
went silent–cars on the wet street
sliding past without sound, the attendant’s
mouth opening and closing on air
as he walked from pump to pump, his footsteps
erased in the rain–nothing
but the tiny numbers in their square windows
rolling by my shoulder, the unstoppable seconds
gliding by as I stood at the Chevron,
balanced evenly on my two feet, a gas nozzle
gripped in my hand, my hair gathering rain.

And I saw it didn’t matter
who had loved me or who I loved. I was alone.
The black oily asphalt, the slick beauty
of the Iranian attendant, the thickening
clouds–nothing was mine. And I understood
finally, after a semester of philosophy,
a thousand books of poetry, after death
and childbirth and the startled cries of men
who called out my name as they entered me,
I finally believed I was alone, felt it
in my actual, visceral heart, heard it echo
like a thin bell. And the sounds
came back, the slish of tires
and footsteps, all the delicate cargo
they carried saying thank you
and yes. So I paid and climbed into my car
as if nothing had happened–
as if everything mattered–What else could I do?

I drove to the grocery store
and bought wheat bread and milk,
a candy bar wrapped in gold foil,
smiled at the teenaged cashier
with the pimpled face and the plastic
name plate pinned above her small breast,
and knew her secret, her sweet fear,
Little bird. Little darling. She handed me
my change, my brown bag, a torn receipt,
pushed the cash drawer in with her hip
and smiled back.