Wednesday, September 29, 2010


This is the second time I've written a long, long, irreplaceable entry on Tuesday Poem instead of in my blog. Here is the attempt at replacement....

Perhaps he had phoned or just turned up at the door, a black artist, a musician, who wanted to talk except that I hardly knew any of the jazz groups he was talking about and couldn't remember the names of those I knew (except Archie Shepp, lithe and summery, darker than the dream fellow, New York, all those years ago, but I didn't mention him) and so he got bored of talking to an audience who didn't understand his references and besides he really wanted to go to bed with me, but I had no interest in that so I followed him, a long walk in the city, that led to his place, a house where he must have been squatting, no electricity, but an upholstered chair in the living room, windows all around, and his friend who seemed crazy, a young, large white man, and then lots of other guys, who were drugged or crazy and all white, like everyone was using the place as a crash pad so I asked to leave and as we went up the driveway, a man, white, was walking two black dogs, rather large, like English setters, but the wrong color and we knew something was wrong with him, a dangerous look in his perhaps blue eyes, so I went ahead and took shelter up stairs and on a front porch with three older men, perhaps even old, who had to be homeless, all that flesh and baggy clothes, not any interest in protecting me, but I hid between them until a small, brown dog that had been unleashed rushed at me and I grabbed the scruff of his neck and he dangled and snarled and at one point got his teeth into my wrist, but he unlatched and I held him away from me and then, somehow, I was in a room and a woman was walking in the door, looking for the dog her friend, an old lady, had lost, a dog that looked just like the dog I was holding, almost in her face, so I had to quickly make up a name for it, pretending I'd had him/it a long time, my dog, and then I was outside and holding another dog, too, also small and snarling and lighter brown, also by the nap of the neck, wondering if and where I could throw them so that I could get away and then throwing the newer menace onto very lush green grass in a park, sure that he'd come back to attack me, but instead he ran after a small, fluffy, beige dog dragging the leash, and now I had only the first dog to toss away, in a strange area that seemed almost like gray lava, hillocky and dippy with what I hoped was a muddy pond that would mire him down so I could run away as fast as I could which I did as soon as I hurled him, but I am slow, I told the musician who was much faster at escaping, I am too slow and worried that I'm not fast enough since the stone is pitted and difficult to climb, but I do and find stairs leading up to what might be a church with a side door that opens from the top down so that it lies flat at my feet, revealing two other doors that are open so I enter this huge room, high ceilings that I'm sure belongs to a monk who writes at the somber, wide table with a quill pen on it and a set of folded papers that have, I think, drawings on them which I look at briefly as I try to find paper so that I can leave a note, briefly considering whether I should write a prayer, but I don't believe so that's impossible, besides there's no scrap paper only a bed which appears like a gray wool low rectangular tent that I peer into and find a matte, double bed size, half of which is a dog bed, but now lights go on in the other room and I walk to the door and peer in while the artist, musician, crouches by the door behind me, and see three women who must have come back from shopping because they are putting bags on the wood counter in this crowded kitchen. Two are older with gray and yellow and white hair and the other is taller and a bit younger, also with white and yellow hair, short and wispy as was theirs, and I ask for help and they explain that they are artists, but I'm not sure what type because only the younger, taller one says that she is a sculptor because she is so pathetic. I follow them back into the large, dark wood paneled room and watch as one spills miniature replicas of food on a round table and suggests that they have a pretend tea party but I tell them that I've just seen an exhibit or a store front display of curious replicas of everyday homey objects and am trying to tell them about how they might make them -- clay -- when the younger, tall woman repeats that she is a sculptor and is pathetic and the others tsk, tsk, her for a self deprecating remark, as they had done when she said this before, and the alarm clock rings because it is 5:30 and I'm supposed to take Tulip to the groomer by 7.

I am relieved to be away, but exhausted.
It's only after I've written this dream in the Tuesday Poem that I am curious about what would have happened and certain that it explains how I've been feeling for the last three weeks -- speeded up, worried, whirling.

Except that all that work was wasted
and Tulip's groomer had called in sick so she has an appointment tomorrow, but it's for 10 o'clock.


This is the second time I've written a long, long, irreplaceable entry on Tuesday Poem instead of in my blog. Here is the attempt at replacement....

Perhaps he had phoned or just turned up at the door, a black artist, a musician, who wanted to talk except that I hardly knew any of the jazz bands he was talking about and couldn't remember the names of who I knew (I remembered Archie Shepp, lithe,

Friday, September 17, 2010

Being Well Means

Being well means working all day at the computer until the ink in the archival printer runs out and then driving out to buy more (they had yellow, cyan, red, but no blue) and then on to M's opening at 5:30 in what I assumed was Arsenal Mall in Watertown without remembering that I could have borrowed the GPS or looking the address up in Google (I hate maps), thinking I remembered how to get there, getting lost and then stopping at IHOP to ask the directions, rain, rain on and off, and then finding Home Depot, etc., driving around the Mall, never finding the gallery, heading back, rain, rain on and off, and stopping at McDonalds (Oh, weakness) for a chicken snack and a dollar sundae (poisonous additives).

Bad for me, but good for Monica, she's already left Suffolk and must be in Kentucky by now, starting yet another chapter in her life. I only saw her ten or fifteen times and I'm sorry about that.

Now I'm able to take Bogie for a walk with Karl and Rosie.

Many thanks for the comments on the poem about Lee Miller. I was visiting my friend Sally who was then a scholar at the Getty and saw the Lee Miller show. Needless-to-say, I was transfixed by the inappropriateness of this image, positioned near photographs that she'd taken during the war and off the camps.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tuesday Poem, Lee Miller, Hitler's Personal Residence, 1945, by Melissa Shook

Lee Miller, Hitler's Personal Residence, 1945,
Photograph by David Scherman

Taking into account a childhood in Poughkeepsie,
high fashion modeling,
the throat Man Ray savored, his jealousy,
her Egyptian husband, sun-warmed breasts
and luncheons with the surrealists,

Picture this vivacious artist, collaborator, inspiration,
portrait photographer, war correspondent

Slipping off her shirt in the bedroom where Hitler once
stood naked,

Folding it onto the woven rush seat of the stocky chair
where he sat or draped his robe,

Lowering her flesh toward the porcelain surface he had
lain against,

Lifting and bending her arm to touch a washcloth
to her chin, echoing the gesture,

On the sculpted nude female on his dresser, perhaps
having turned it toward the camera,

For this portrait taken on the day, the very day,
she's photographed the liberation of Dachau.

A poem from "Magritte's Rider," a chapbook published by

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Because I didn't go out to see Monica on the backside this morning, I printed the May images about the Chelsea Community Garden. Visiting Monica would have meant walking from the car, maybe raking the shedrow, walking back to the car, stopping at Starbucks in Target for an Arnold Palmer. Staying here meant thinking about how few images I could use for May -- it not being a too exciting month for growing -- and sizing and printing them.

It's difficult to make choices. Last year I could have done it all. I love seeing Monica and haven't been there for about two weeks and soon she'll be the traveling circus. The backside changes location from Suffolk Downs to another backside of a different racetrack.

I know that a lot of people are motivated/galvanated (galvanized, really, but why not galvanated) by doing things at the last moment. I'm not even sure when this little, local show will be, but on Monday I'm going to the Chelsea Community Access something-or-other to talk about doing a slide show for community cable with the photographs I've taken in the garden since May. I'm not in love with the images, but they're useful...and it's quite wonderful being able to be part of such a happening. All those tomatoes! And the squash that grew from the seeds that Parker sent from L.A.

This morning I tried to pick out just a few photographs that would show the most about the bare state of the garden allotments and the work that was going on. And I hoped that they'd be fairly decent images. The good thing is that when I took Bogie to the groomer (not the face, please, not the face, just the body. Tulip now has a spider money head on top of a large caterpillar body. I can't have two dogs looking like that) I bought a package of frames at Michaels and got a discount coupon, 50% off, usable this week. So I can buy the fames and this whole extra project will cost less than $100. That's good.

I think that doing useful images is about the same as teaching. Which is not the same as doing ones own work, but all part of the package.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Must Be Well

I must be well because yesterday I found myself in the car, my mind speeding, on the way to deliver tomatoes from the garden to a friend in Paneras and then on to the Computer Loft in Allston, hoping that my problem of why the Epson archival printer wasn't working would be solved. What had happened in all this endless attempt to end up close to the same point I'd been when the G-4 crapped out after 10 years of valient service. I was manic, too speedy by half, with a feeling I haven't had in ages -- being wired for sound. I almost turned around because the speed of thought and worry seemed dangerous.

But I got to the Computer Loft, saw Alex (who was putting on his backpack to leave the shop, oh, and alas) who had been on vacation in the Bahamas for the Labor Day week...I had to sit and wait, hoping that he'd find time for me, and, not to waste time and to finish something I hadn't had time to do, I took out the two sheets of e-mails that M. had sent me earlier in the week.

The best, very best, most perfect, were two quotes from Beckett --

1. Now we must chose, said Mercier
Between what? said Camier
Ruin and collapse, said Mercier
Could we not somehow combine them? said Camier


2. Moran has been told that his boss, one Youdi, has
remarked that life is a thing of beauty and joy
forever. Moran puzzled, tentatively asks his infor-
mant, "Do you think he meant human life?"

I can't tell you how much reading these helped. I'm not an out-loud smiler, but I smiled. Comforted.

Alex did find time for me, checked to see whether the driver had been loaded. It had. Probably the problem was something I'd done. I could, he said, if I had trouble, contact them by web and they would take over my computer and see what was happening. "You can even watch while they move around inside it." How is this possible?

It was. My printer didn't work. I contacted Service via the web, some pleasant fellow moved around inside my computer and put the name of the Epson someplace (it had already appeared to be there, but it wasn't) and the damn thing works now and I can get ahead with printing a show for the Chelsea City Cafe about the Chelsea Community Garden. An I-took-it-on-crazily-and-expensively-and-voluntarily-fool-that-I-always-am-project.

When I lived with L. I taped drawing paper to a wall of his grand front stairway and traced the shadows of the leaves as they moved across it. I made countless drawings like that and truly learned that the earth does revolve around the sun. I'd intended them as a wall for an installation of one of the clay pieces that's now stored in the attic in the endless boxes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Version of Every Day and Dogs

I had to stop myself from calling L .last night to ask if I could take her class on drawing or printmaking. I just longed to do something else, something new..................

But I am doing something new -- a video of JS telling very complex, often painful stories, that are eventually redemptive. And I've taken endless digital photographs of him at AuBonPain...maybe 500 photographs, none of which he will like. On Monday I tried to take some that I think he will suit his needs (the subject usually has completely a completely different idea of what he should/does look like than the photographer...some photographers never try to please the subject...others do commercial work and spent their own time trying to make the client this case, I am beholden to him for his stories and must make the effort to give him a few images that would be important to him).

This photograph was taken when he was talking and he certainly won't like it...I love the setting, though I was using the point-and-shoot, rather than the new Canon, G11, and so most of these images were soft, out of focus. That was a disappointment, but again these images are all a crapshoot. He talks and I snap, not looking at the image I'm taking because then I'd break eye contact. I want them as an overlay, too use as images over the video so that it's not just a talking-head, or so that it's a talking head with other photo taking heads over it. In class yesterday someone mentioned that he uses the digital camera set on black and white. What a good idea. I can just change the images in Photoshop, though that's not quite the same thing, not the same intent. I'll play a bit with whether they look better in color old and preferred friend, black and white. I can't imagine ever liking color much.

Though I'm aware that he won't like the many, quick shots I've taken, I do like them...he has beautiful skin, very blue eyes and I love the expressiveness of his face as he talks. I think a few wrinkles by his eyes add an important quality. And in some of the photographs he looks like a young kid, that burst of energy.

I'm very rarely impressed by photographs, though I really do like the ideas behind them. What I like about teaching is
watching students as they try to work out a concept, a thought, an emotion through a series of photographs. Some times sequences really can convey a cohesive mood or thought, as images a young man from Nepal took last semester. They were about a journey - death - to an afterlife. Some of them were painfully expressive by themselves. Others served a purpose and since the intention was clear, they were useful.

I do like words, stories with photographs. I would find it hard to write in the blog without images, but that doesn't mean I care that much about them individually. But I've always loved the taking of photographs and I just love photographing Greta who is a most delicious puppy, now 4 months that a pleassant young couple adopted. I'm not often drawn to dogs, except to photograph (though I found another great dog in this park near Starbucks, FattieMattie), but I find Greta remarkable to look at and to touch. It's as if her coloring is melting.

We'd gone for a walk in the park near Targets where Cindy appeared. She's owned by a fourteen-year-old whose father drives every morning from where he lives in Sommerville, I think, to Everett so that he can walk the dog. His daughter is at that age where she just doesn't taake her out enough and besides he really loves the dog who is fortunately a smaller version of an Eskimo dog. At one point he put her up in the crotch of a tree so that she'd pose for me. Perhaps I should have used one of those photographs, but I prefer not knowing what I'm doing with the point-and-shoot, holding it at dog level and being surprised by the shots I might get. That seems like a pleasant game that I enjoy playing.

Happy is well designed for co-dependency on my daughter, her eyes plead, she nuzzles closely, she waits patiently. As she did this morning when Krissy went into Target for a few items, came out having been charged too much for one and went in again to get her money back. This is not the sort of narrative that I was talking about in class yesterday. I meant something far more imaginative and curious, something interesting, ideally done in black and white. But it amused me to take the photographs and the one thing about digital is that it's remarkably easy to deal with.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesday Poem, "Story-teller Vine, Rega," Melissa Shook

Story-teller Vine, Rega

Woven twine stretches back-and-forth inside a small case
in the Museum's African section.
From it hang thin rawhide strings on which are tied:
worn, frayed bits of cloth; dried

grass bound by grass; a miniature bow laced with string;
three dried berrries on a tiny branch;
a few twigs; a paper wrapper; a tiny branch
coverd with thorns;

a piece of crumpled paper (writing bled dry); the bone
of a small animal; a block of wood
and notched stick;
and an advertisement printd on red.

Underneath, the label says "only the instructor can read"
the meaning of these objects to teach
the children of the tribe.

From my twine string hang
the puckered pink scar into my uterus; red plaid baby
shoes; a cluster of keys worthy of
a prison guard; the toy camera carved from wood;

a sunflower with an impossibly large brown center
populated by tiny black bugs;
red swimming goggles; a family album, images
fluttered to the ground; and a sack of co-mingled ashes.

Stories only I remember.

This was published in a chapbook that's available at

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Finally Back

When Sally was here and we walked the dogs near Starbucks, she took this picture of me at one of my favorite places -- under the Orange Line tracks where there's always different graffiti. I look like a happy five-year-old, but a good looking, healthy one, for which I thank her very much!

So, here I am, back, almost turned back into a normally functioning person. Not quite, but almost. Recently in the Times, there was an article on "Keeping Old Bodies Strong," in which Andew Pollack said,

"In addition, geriatric specialists, in particular, are now trying to establish the age-related loss of muscles as a medical condition under the name of sarcopenia, from the Greek for loss of flesh. Simply put, sarcopeenia is to muscle what osteoporosis is to bone."

It's a very interesting article, more scientific and medically driven than what Jane Brody might have written about the need to exercise often, with stress on the aerobic along with weight bearing exercises that build muscle. It was a timely piece to read because, though I don't imagine my colon is entirely calm yet, I'm most aware that I'm physically much weaker than I was last summer when I could water buckets on the track. When I go out there now, and help Monica spread shavings in a stall and then rake the shedrow, I definitely feel it....and usually lie down afterwards. It's a matter of building up, not with the ferocity with which I tackled walking once I'd been warned about the drop off of energy after finishing the last bit of prednisone. But, never-the-less building up.

It's hard for me to accep the slow process of it all. I'm so type A, alas. But maybe I learned that lesson by the punishment my body inflicted after I walked too much, too soon, too up hill, after lying down for two months. The point of all this is to absorb an idea that's very hard for me -- exercise has to be part of daily life as does stretching. I just didn't get this early on, having decided that daily life was about thinking and perhaps doing a bit of something creative, taking pictures maybe. I ignored physical exercise as easily as I did doing the dishes, making the bed and vacuuming.

To my suprise, and to do a favor for a friend, I will be teaching one class this fall....I said yes instantly because I've been dreaming about how to get my job back. Now I don't have to dream that anymore and can go on trying to figure out where to buy the child Krissy clothes in my dreams...At night I worry terribly about that and when I wake up, I can't remember where I bought them when she was a real child.... I know my mother shopped in Macy's and Lord & Taylors, classy department stores that I could never afford. Where on earth did I shop? My dream self would certainly like to solve that problem.

The job offer came in nicely just after a downpour of expenses. One was the loss of my G-4, ten years old, just in its prime, I thought, but evidentally equivalent to an unhealthy geriatric state. Because my programs -- Finalcut Pro and Photoshop -- are old, and I have many, many files that depend on them, I am now using my laptop as the main computer and have bought a refurbished MacPro which I will eventually get up the courage to use. My goal was to finish printing eight months of daily 2008-2009 self-portraits before having to upgrade to a new Photoshop program. I doubted how much flexibility my learning curve has at this moment and preferred to put off finding out for a while.

And then there are the teeth, four of them, the most expensive of which will be $5,000 for a post implant, blah and blah. How is that possible?

It rained and the roof leaked. It's much harder to put that off than it is the teeth ... so on the three hottest days last week, three men worked on replacing it and finished before the hurricane. (Now I know how to pronounce that in Spanish.) A bit more has to be done, but it's slightly cooler.

A few weeks ago, Smith and Krissy drove me to Portland to visit Jeannie and another high school friend, Helen. Jeannie and her husband, Kilt, have a Schnauzer named Zeus. I was obsessed with getting a photograph of him because his face has such interesting coloring and texture. It looks like a mask. I didn't suceed, though I almost drove him nuts. Obviously seeing Jeannie and Hellen was far more important than the dog, but I was, never-the-less, fascinated by him.

To my astonishment, K. & C. also picked me up. On the way back, we stopped at Salisbury Beach, a tatty old place on the ocean which I've always liked. We shared a butterscotch soft ice cream sundae which was like heaven I thought. (My stomach thought not.) And I dragged them into one of the amusement/game spots where I could take lots of oddment photos.

Though I'm back at blogging, nothing is the same. My spot doesn't looke the same, my familiar blogs don't appear neatly on the side so that I can read them first. There's no listing for bold or italics and no yellow warning when I've mispelled a word. Oh, that's a big loss!

I'm hoping, after this initial plunge, that I'll find everyone who I lost and feel confident about blogging. My best wishes!