chocolate is a verb

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Monthly Archives: August 2012


Happy Birthday, Pat

PatThere is history between us. There are stories and photographs tracking the years. There is the seldom-shared geography of our lives that seems to make no difference. There is the bracelet I wear that used to be yours.
But most profoundly, there is empathy and witnessing: the presence — emotional, spiritual, physical — at the long river’s-edge of our growth.
And there is love.
Happy Birthday.

night rain…

smoke treeAn inflated raft of sound lifted me from sleep, floated me to the shore of my dreams then back again to the wide sea of oblivion. In the morning, no trace of sand or sea-spray, just the ebb of lingering damp, receding tidepools of rain-curled leaves, mercury moisture’s glitter and splash.

Please visit The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts to see compression wordage 3 of 6, posted today.

from over…

August 27*

scarlet sweet peas

late summer
such a tease
her rain-dappled
green skirts
breeze blown
round scarlet

*August is Poetry Postcard month, which means, for me, that each day starts with a postcard-length poem that is written on an actual postcard and mailed to one of the 31 people on the August Poetry Postcard list. In return, the mailbox yields up a month’s worth of poems and postcards. By the end of August, I’ve written 31 first drafts. This is today’s, which will be mailed to a poet at a school in South Korea.


when you don’t have ribbon…

gift wrapWhat to do on a Saturday morning when you don’t have ribbon and you need to gift-wrap a case of something. Find an old map and a couple pieces of recycled wrapping paper and fold them into fans. Then find a postcard, cut it into slices and glue the slices together at one end to make another fan. Then fiddle with the fans and tape and maybe a needle and thread and some yarn til everything lies down or stands up or at least looks okay. Then add two poems and voilà!

what I forget to do…

hinokiThis morning I am surprised to discover that in the throes of many other distractions and temptations and satisfactions I have set aside the morning practice of light, this noticing and noting.

This is a loss. In this process of speaking to myself I put my toes into the day’s first icy water of words.

These views from my window aren’t new; this is a round, a chorus, an annual refrain of light: bright pewter, green, the still-furled knots of hibiscus-like rose-of-sharon peeking pink from behind the bulging spruce, squirrels and jays squalling in the trees, the still-lemony-green tracings of new growth on the hinoki.

The hidden sun teases out a glint of spider silk just before I step through it, into the frigid sea.


this evening in Seattle…

Queen Anne Books reading and party for Drash
Please join us on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, at 6:30pm at Queen Anne Books, 1811 Queen Anne Ave North, for a reading and party with contributors to Drash Literary Review. Readers: Lyssa Tall Anolik, Irene Bloom, J.I. Kleinberg, Erika Michael, Hannah Nguyen, Nancy Penrose, Martin Perlman and Alison Carb Sussman. See you there!
Queen Anne Books photo by Chris Blakeley
The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts has now posted the second of six wordages by J.I. Kleinberg.


the hippo…

headline memories…

Elsie before she was my grandmotherThe news crackles with stories of fire, pushes on memories that are still tender after all these decades: the Bel Air fire.

Here’s what I remember: A line of flame contoured the ridge top, which was perhaps a mile and a half away. I looked out the kitchen window again and again, sat on the front step watching the smoke billow up from the north and west. The sun was a red ball in the sky. My father met with the neighbors and established an overnight watch.

The next day, there were whispers among my junior high classmates. Parents arrived, anxious, milled in the hall, grabbed their kids and drove away without explanation.

School closed early and we were all sent home. On the carpool ride, the car was filled with a kind of muffled confusion. I got home at the same time as my father, who had left work early. My mother wasn’t there; she had taken her mother, my beloved (and only) grandmother, Elsie, to the hospital for gall bladder surgery.

The house was in disarray, things missing. We had been robbed. No, not robbed, we finally realized — what thief would take the hamster, the little bronzed ducks I had made from clay as a child? Dorothy, frantic about her mother, about the fire, had rifled the house for the irreplaceable — my father’s birth certificate, a favorite painting, little Sam in his wire cage — put everything in her car and driven off without leaving a note.

We were lucky. The fire never got much closer. But friends weren’t, their homes consumed while they were in school, at work, in Mexico. Coming home to singed ground, chimneys stark as gravestones, their lives changed instantly, profoundly.

Elsie never came out of the hospital. The confusion and impossibility of her death are forever entwined with the chaos and grief surrounding the fire, and, in the unsteady echo and ooze of memory, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, almost exactly two years later.


deciphering Dorothy…

Hartford Avenue SchoolI love this photograph, carefully annotated in my mother’s script. It’s graduation day for Miss Rosenthal’s class at Hartford Avenue School, the names defining the generation: Mildred, Willard, Lenore, Gertrude, Rudy. (There’s also a Lolita, decades before Nabokov.)

The wind is blowing. Walter’s tie writhes free. Gordon presses one hand against his side, the other across his middle, to hold his jacket in place. Margaret Jones reaches up to pull hair out of her mouth. Everyone but Billy Owen is excited about the day, the photo, the milestone. Billy stands alone, scowling, at the left, instead of on the right, with the other boys. What was his story?

Years later, looking at the names on this picture, did Dorothy remember these people as friends? Did she laugh at Billy Owen or recall him with a pang of longing or regret? Did the memories of teasing fade? Did the ache of exclusion from the cliques diminish into nostalgia? Or were her classmates specimens, butterflies pinned with resentment to the map of her past?…

If it were…

found poem © j.i. kleinberg ~ if it were
found poem © j.i. kleinberg
many more here
…and speaking of succulent limelight, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts has released the first of six weekly j.i.k. wordages here and a statement about compression here. Thanks, Matter Press!


what we make…

DAK drawing rock-potato-chickenThe sketchbook is old, the once-yellow cover torn loose from the spiral, page edges furred. My mother’s name is written on the cover, her surname that of her first husband. Sometime in the 1940s she made these pencil drawings, probably in a class, exploring perspective, light and shadow.

Most of the drawings are recognizable, precise: an onion, a book of matches, a lipstick, a trashcan. But this one is a mystery. Not quite a potato, not quite a rock, sometimes it looks like a raw chicken lying on the hard platter of its shadow.

The local library, along with its catalogued holdings, houses a row of bins in the basement where visitors can leave, or claim, magazines. I frequent the bins in search of images for collage and the quirky combinations of words that turn into found poetry. I carry away piles of magazines and later return them with small rectangles excised from their pages.

I recently picked up several 5-year-old copies of a large-format photography magazine. The photos are crisp and well-composed, each capturing a moment’s vision; a few are very fine photographs. As I browsed through them, I saw an absolute parallel with poetry, with music: we set out with our tools — camera, vocabulary, notes — and from the infinite possibilities we attempt to capture something unique. Tell of sunset, chickadee, voyage, grief, in a way not quite envisioned by anyone else.

Occasionally we succeed. We find the narrow window, the slash of light that turns our vision into something recognizable, something that resonates. More often, we fill the air with dust, scratchings, rock-potato-chicken.

this evening in Seattle…

right by…