just feel this sinking

sadness that you aren’t called upon to create the world–not in sentences

but what if you are and you’re just not doing it

what if the repetitions of those hard industrial riffs are working against you in the background

why would you stop at just a few lines

you’ll see all sorts of issues if you close your eyes

Once So LOL

Back in college, after work, sitting in a car with a few friends, riffing. A comedic act I didn’t know I had in me. Jumped from topic to image to setting to rant. The laughs I got. After that, at friends’ houses, I found my voice again. I became known for it–a sort of brilliance, a sharp spontaneity that cut right through. I was studying then; I was young, I slung coffee for a living. Interacted with all sorts. A busy cafe in a college town with a mixed customer base, not all students but mostly, and their professors.

When I first moved there I’d felt terribly ill at ease, a low-class slacker, but in time found that people appreciated my edge, my “dry humor” that would surge in these small gatherings.

Nowadays my social circle is my family and one set of neighbors that only our younger kid spends time with; she and their daughter run across the yard between our houses and it’s convenient especially on weekends and “inclement weather days.”

Within this narrow life I can’t be sure my wit, if brought back out, would scathe any less, but it is dormant. I’m a little weary of the positive professor persona I’ve cultivated in lectures, discussions, grading commentsIt’s a workaday personality. It’s not exactly customer service, but it’s not exactly not either.

As a cafe supervisor I had just enough authority–over the few people working with me on my shift. When the power transferred over to the next shift supervisor, I cracked wits as an unencumbered barista again.

Maybe there’s a parralel here with grading and discussing: the modes of bossing & bookkeeping on the one hand, and chatting & drink-slinging on the other.

Just a 20-something, I had, for instance, to remind homeless people they couldn’t solicit here, tell them they gotta leave, or if it was getting dicey, call the non-emergency police who might be in the house already. (We rarely charged cops for drinks, just pastries; they were good company, and useful.) Maybe this is akin to being the one who has to fail and report students for plagiarism, a more direct act of cold hard truth than just entering a zero for missing work.

When I lecture, though, occasionally will humor creep in. It is tough to know my audience when they can only type in response. LOL and haha are passable cues that almost replace body language and audible laughter if I imagine myself as really in tune with my audience. It’s not about being a comedian–but it kind of is.

Episode 3 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel got me onto this track tonight. Her hilarious butchy manager in the black cap raves that she is spontaneous, reckless, fucking hilarious. This manager (the voice of Family Guy’s wife) is the truly funny one, but she makes a good point about the comedian’s privilege and prowess: embracing the danger, jumping across topics to make wild connections that your listeners actually get–a rare treat that I can’t much indulge in as a virtual professor of first-year writing students.

Suppose I get that high while blogging?

Go There.

Realized this morning that the old university library is my happy place, where I need to go when my thoughts surround and attack.

In the lower level, espresso and a couple of mini muffins, then over to the islands of computer terminals, type away on that paper. The next day, the third floor: read the heavy stuff in holy silence.

The heat is not up too high. It’s a good weather day, I’ll stay awake.

Outside—you see those trees, those changes being made. Soak in their colors and think. Studied in Ypsilanti, hundreds of miles away.

A Sort of Space

I have no clue what I am doing. I cannot focus. Or I am afraid to focus. I fucked up my night’s sleep by assuming I could go to bed early.  I’m in love with my desk-setting ritual, I have forgotten entirely how to write. Only if it brings me pleasure: yes, this feels right. Tomorrow may feel another way, the best place and pen. Accept that change. A writer works in different voices and from different places with different objectives. A writer is one who does, in fact, take the time to write.

Every time I look at this place in its published state, I am asking too many questions, looking too literally for my own face, certain that others will see it too. But there is no such face. Peer into that mug in the trees–there. Just another sip.

Ruin It

The imagining’s been ripe, though I don’t know about the style in which I’ve been catching it. (Doesn’t matter for now.) Laying the groundwork like I’m always saying you need to do, students: Just get down to it, make it pretty later.

  • What’s that? Yes! I have been writing, for the past three days, fiction.
  • A story I’ve been trying to tell for decades, in a valley. Just some ordinary illusory figures doing their thing, trading spaces until I figure out just what that thing is.
  • The key, for me, is to not figure out the thing. Just let it happen. Give it all the words it needs. Back off–but show up every day so that it can, in fact, happen.
  • (In the meantime spill no details to anyone who asks or seems like they might care if I bring it up unsolicited.) It’s all so fucking jinxable.

Full Stop

Certain items will expire at the crack of dawn

So remember to step confidently–no peeking–right up

To the end

The regret will interest others, if allowed.

They too have been crushed by vague shapes.

Family discord.

So it helps

To hold your breath–think of the first night the air hung thick on the walls.

You were invited in, yet not free to pass.

Instead, occupied disappointment

Warm and foreign.

Catching it again today, don’t drink too deeply.

Your cheeks will burn

and your day, will–drag.

Sturm und drang

One too many urges

Sidling up in public spaces

Pretty slavery. But again, they know.

I know.

Theories crackling

Relentless pursuit, pure abstraction

The knife is painless

In your side.

Wisdom Teeth, All Four

Lick my cavernous cavity

Dinner’s trapdoor

Damn was my brain racing

And then this taste

Accepted sleep’s cancelation request

On social media I had written what again?

Excavate. Your toothbrush is no good here

It’s called a gum stimulator

Long handled gentle rubber hook

Just happened to have it on hand.

Oh, on the subject of literacy in America

I was typically brash, one might say bitter

Certainly vulgar

It was advice I set out to offer.

Know your inefficacy. This problem, it’s bigger than you.

But for now, back to draft

Wait for a pseudonym to pick it up

(It was unremarkable; you’ve heard it already.)

None for You!

It’s setting in again: No free speech for me.

Some days, all I do is copy & paste rubrics and delete my passages within their Comments sections that don’t speak to the submission at hand. They’re arranged for streamlined deleting; what remains tells the student just enough of what she did right and what he did wrong. Up to 30 discussions per class, 3 classes. Let us not mention assignments, journals, or lectures. Those’ll be graded some other day which will take away from my participation in the discussions, or my revisions of my lecture slides, a weekly activity I just can’t shake, no matter how long I’m at this.

So at the end of a typical day in the evaluative trenches I have fuckall to say–I don’t feel it’s allowed of this Comp professor, bitching. Because I’ve been so nice yet unforgiving all day long, if I’m really upset I’ll complain to my wife in the same manner she complains to me: Not always explaining the context, just going off. Her job has her traveling lots, and my job has me luxuriating in my rage at home. Hence the blog.

We’re not going into the demands of emails and meetings, not today. You know they’re in the background, leering about new methods and resources, apologizing for missed deadlines and pleading for second chances.

The grading timetable alone is sinister enough–to go beyond that right now in this post would induce a professional-developmental, interpersonal panic that would not abate until I went back down to the office and laid my very soul onto the keyboard to be pummelled bright & early tomorrow morning. For that’s when I’ll remember, without a filter, how at the very moment I felt like writing for myself tonight, I instead caught up on my damn email. And then I’ll post a discussion and get back to grading, another meaningful self-interaction avoided.

So let’s get back to it. Far from being set up for substantive feedback, the grading schedule at my university (and, I am sure, most every other university and high school and middle school across the land) is positively fucking hostile to it–unless you want to work 7 days a week for durations I’d rather not calculate.

Want a weekend? Then do no more than copy and paste your rubrics into the essays tomorrow, don’t write any new comments more than a few words long. Ctrl V like a boss: all those comments you’ve accumulated, organized, and named over the years, they’re locked and loaded–now fire ’em off and assign numbers. Upload the feedback files and scream into the void.

It’s a nightmare. You want to help these students write more effectively, but if you take the luxury of stopping to think about what they’re writing, you sacrifice your weekend and any of your own writing that might’ve been asking politely to be let out. If you have kids, kiss your literary ambitions goodnight first. For they, goddamnit, take priority.

Shake It Up, Death

  • I’m trying to gain some control over the nightmares around here, so I’m leaving on the blank screen of the living room TV; maybe it will shut off on its own, maybe it won’t
  • Generally speaking, I hate having kids around when I shop and when I cook
  • One time, the littlest marched straight up out of her sleep to the sleeping TV and put her hand upon it. Then with my direction she got her twisted ass back in bed without complaint
  • If you see Nile in concert without knowing their material beyond Annihilation of the Wicked, you will likely suffer crushing disappointment: So many songs when played live bleed into one speeding snarling mass. But if you know that album and at some point put on Nile’s top tracks on Google Play (maybe it’s a random mix, actually?) you’ll see how many ideas they fed (in)directly into that one album; you will forgive them
  • Properly prepped, the experience described above will turn superlative if you also have at your disposal the college-days memory of Annihilation playing on earbuds from an iPod (Touch) during that glorious epoch before the iPhone cannibalized all the little devices leading up to it
  • Primarly this memory lives in the basement cafe of your college’s library. Don’t have access? No problem! Let me get you straight over
  • Shitty espresso, the only kind you can be sure is doing its job the best it can–not too well, since you are chronically sleep deprived. Had a kid just before launching college, had already been working at a real cafe–so much superior than this
  • So in case you missed it, the formula is: Whatever it was whenever shit seemed real: details, please