31 July 2005

fox squirrel

One morning I was out riding in the dark and I saw three animals on the cart path ahead of me. I slid off my bicycle and rushed to see them, but the darkness and their swift tree climbing frustrated any closer view. I thought they must be small raccoons. Yesterday I saw the same animal perched on the back of a bench in a yard. Long tail. Black mask of a face. Far too small to be a raccoon, but not a fox or a beaver. Marmot? Wrong state. A few minutes later I met a man who introduced me to the idea of a fox squirrel. This is a beautiful animal.

30 July 2005

Muriel Rukeyser

I’ve been reading Muriel Rukeyser’s The Life of Poetry, originally published in 1949. Some of it I connected to strongly. Other sections seemed dated, or maybe I was being a bad reader. I'm left feeling I should read it all again. Here are some bits I copied down.

A poem invites you to feel. . . . it invites you to respond . . . a poem invites a total response . . . the way is through emotion

in great poetry you feel a source speaking to another source

[Rukeyser quoting Melville] “the man who . . . declares himself a sovereign nature (in himself) . . . may perish; but so long as he exists he insists on treating with all powers upon an equal basis. If any of those other Powers choose to withhold certain secrets, let them; that does not impair my sovereignty in myself; that does not make me tributary. And perhaps, after all, there is no secret.”

The history of a symbol . . . will show the history of human passion for a relationship—in this instance between growth and form.

the rule of perfection or death does not hold in organic life

“I find this poem obscure” tells us about the audience, nothing about the poem

Is the challenger prepared to receive the poem? This is the value of finding a teacher and peers who will listen for the poem—listen for and to the poem.

not being prepared to receive the poem is another way of disowning imaginative experience

Originality is important before the accord is reached; it is the most vivid of the means in a poem, and the daring of the image allows the reader to put off his emotional burden of association with the single words, allows him to come fresh to memory and to discovery. But when the whole poem has taken its effect—even its first effect—then the originality is absorbed into a sense of order, and order then becomes the important factor.

We know that the poetic strategy, if one may call it that, consists in leading the memory of an unknown witness, by means of rhythm and meaning and image and coursing sound and always-unfinished symbol, until in a blaze of discovery and love, the poem is taken.

I think there is choice possible at any moment to us, as long as we live. But there is no sacrifice. There is a choice, and the rest falls away. Second choice does not exist. Beware of those who talk about sacrifice.

I’m moving now to her collected poems.

28 July 2005

a different hobby

I made my first sourdough starter by capturing Big Island of Hawaii wild yeast back around 1997, and I kept that ferment alive until May of this year when I poured it down the drain in preparation for moving to the mainland. This weekend I mixed nine parts flour with seven parts water and set the batter partially covered on the kitchen counter to capture North Carolina yeast from the air. I fed it morning and evening with more flour, more water, and when the container became too full, I poured most of the batter off and fed the remainder. By Tuesday morning the mixture had turned to a thin slurry topped by a layer of “liquor”—Gold Rush miners drank the liquor for its naturally brewed alcohol content. The mixture didn’t smell wonderful, so I poured off the liquor and added more flour and water. By Wednesday night, I began to feel discouraged. I could see weak bubbling, nothing I’d call lift, and a new layer of yellow liquor. I left the liquor this time and changed the feed proportion: equal amounts of flour and water. Lo and behold, this morning I had a full doubling, a live and kicking sourdough. I transferred eight ounces to a container for next time, fed the rest with pure flour, and two hours later saw a triple rise. The first batch of bread is in its second rising. Two hours from now, I’ll be tasting.

26 July 2005

Susan Griffin

John D'Agata edited an anthology called The Next American Essay that contains an essay called "Red Shoes" by Susan Griffin. You may remember me enthusing about it a couple years ago. Browsing the shelves of the Southern Pines Public Library, I ran across a book by Griffin. Far be it from me to try to categorize it. What Her Body Thought: A Journey into the Shadows is the title.

Griffin discusses her illness: CFIDS, aka chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome. She also recounts the history of one Alphonsine Plessis, aka Marie Duplessis, aka La dame aux camelias in the novel by Dumas fils, Violetta in La Traviata by Verdi, Greta Garbo in Camille. Griffin talks of her illness in the context of twentieth century attitudes toward psychosomatic, sexual, and otherwise suspicious illnesses. She talks about her illness in the context of society's illness, as she sees it. She intersperses prose segments with prose poem segments. She is as bold as they come.

The book is not perfect by any means. I was, nonetheless, captivated. I highly recommend it, particularly if by any means you feel you are trying to tell your story.

A few quotations from the text:

My story is immersed in the body. And it is also right that I should be in this city [Paris]. The story I will tell alongside my own was set here. . . . the body of the city has entered me.

I am still afraid . . . move toward rather than away from a terrain of suffering . . . Something else, still molten, remains to be discovered

just underneath this shame there must be a very old sadness

The sense of an earlier innocence and of betrayal redeems the shame.

shame in my eyes . . . felt by children whose needs are not met, as if to want or to need is an embarrassment that cannot be controlled

she climbed into the bed and, taking my head on her lap, began to stroke my back, up and down my spine, where the pain was worst. . . . with her touch I could bear it [the pain]

a state of self-love

a new awareness of an exhausting anxiety I carry with me, as if without continual vigilance I will not survive

in the nineteenth century . . . Pope Leo XII forbade the use of condoms because they might prevent sexual contagion and thus interfere with God’s efforts to punish sinners by “striking them in the member” that sinned . . . Mother Teresa . . . did instruct her staff to withhold pain medication from men dying of AIDS so that through suffering they might repent.

As I try to imagine the sale [of Alphonsine child to an old man, sex for money], a kind of effacement occurs. The truth of bodily desire and response, so close to the core of my self, become an object of trade, a commodity in my father’s hands. My life no longer the value but instead commanding value. The fondling, kisses, penetration of the man who bought me setting me steadily at a distance from the authority of my own being. [my emphasis] Later, I would have to think I chose this fate.

Is this why I experience the suggestion that my mind has made my body sick with a dense, almost viscous shame? . . . sex is somehow central to the prejudice.

Conscious memory causes illness . . . not denial but vigilance that made me ill.

I have become accustomed to living as if perpetually on the edge of loss. [CP: makes me think of Elizabeth Bishop]

my mother would draw away as we embraced . . . When one is left alone, vulnerable, weak, filled with trepidation and pain, a process of reasonoing begins. Neglect creates a physical sense of being bad that will be seared into the memory of flesh. And from this memory the body asks a question: Why? The answer, of course, is inevitable. The sense I had in my body was of a fundamental wrongness, an essential, unalterable part of the crystalline structure of my being, inseparable from any illness I had, a vortex condemning me to pain and rejection, suffering the cause of suffering.

For any character to be true to life and in any way compelling, the author must capture not only the wound but resistance to the wound.

without care you will perish

the feeling I carried from my childhood that I was the errant one, the one who failed, the one who was wrong to desire [my emphasis]

24 July 2005

days of wine and roses

Thanks to Jilly Dybka for this: New Yorker on 8 DVDs.

What is most heartwarming is that the old New Yorker will be available, the magazine I grew up on, the greats. I can throw away the last decade.

a personal life

[from Dark Fields of the Republic by Adrienne Rich]

In Those Years

In those years, people will say, we lost track
of the meaning of we, of you
we found ourselves
reduced to I
and the whole thing became
silly, ironic, terrible:
we were trying to live a personal life
and, yes, that was the only life
we could bear witness to

But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged
into our personal weather
They were headed somewhere else but their beaks and pinions drove
along the shore, through the rags of fog
where we stood, saying I

23 July 2005

an idea of being a great Poet

[From Keats’s letters in 1817]

I have been in such a state of Mind as to read over my Lines and hate them. I am one that ‘gathers Samphire, dreadful trade’—the Cliff of Poesy towers above me . . . I read and write about eight hours a day. There is an old saying ‘well begun is half done’—‘t is a bad one. I would use instead, ‘Not begun at all till have done;’ so according to that I have not begun my Poem [Endymion] and consequently (a priori) can say nothing about it. Thank God! I do begin arduously where I leave off, notwithstanding occasional depressions; and I hope for the support of a High Power while I climb this little eminence and especially in my Years of more momentous Labour. I remember your saying that you had notions of a good Genius presiding over you. I have of late had the same thought, for things which I do half at Random are afterwards confirmed by my judgment in a dozen features of Propriety. Is it too daring to fancy Shakspeare this Presider? . . . I am glad you say every man of great views is at times tormented as I am. . . .

This Morning I received a letter from George by which it appears that Money Troubles are to follow us up for some time to come—perhaps for always—these vexations are a great hindrance to one—they are not like Envy and detraction stimulants to further exertion as being immediately relative and reflected on at the same time with the prime object—but rather like a nettle leaf or two in your bed. So now I revoke my Promise of finishing my Poem by the Autumn which I should have done had I gone on as I have done—but I can not write while my spirit is fevered in a contrary direction and I am now sure of having plenty of it this Summer. At this moment I am in no enviable Situation—I feel that I am not in a Mood to write any to-day; and it appears that the loss of it is the beginning of all sorts of irregularities. I am extremely glad that a time must come when everything will leave not a wrack behind. You tell me never to despair—I wish it was as easy for me to observe the saying—truth is I have a horrid Morbidity of Temperament which has shown itself at intervals—it is I have no doubht the greatest Enemy and stumbling-block I have to fear—I may even say that it is likely to be the cause of my disappointment. However every ill has its share of good—this very bane would at any time enable me to look with an obstinate eye on the Devil Himself—aye to be as proud of being the lowest of the human race as Alfred could be in being of the highest. I feel confident I should have been a rebel angel had the opportunity been mine. . . .

There is no greater Sin after the seven deadly than to flatter oneself into an idea of being a great Poet.

Whitmanesque Rich

[From the last section of the title poem in An Atlas of the Difficult World by Adrienne Rich]


I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour.       I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains’ enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet.       I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running up the
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age.       I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your hand
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
       between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else left to
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.


20 July 2005

G. C. Waldrep

from Goldbeater’s Skin:

Hornpipe for Saints

From the pink lythrum a double buzz,
one from the bees in their engrossed collectivity
and the other its twin, or image in my brain
pressing out from that center; sympathetic,
desiring that nectar, and in an identical way
devoid of nuance or volition. The acquired taste
is salty, then bitter, and the cry is
simplify, simplify though with each dispossession
words crowd more thickly to their source.
Another difference: we are not
bounded in our passions, acts of aggression
not lethally finite—the greater likeness
therefore is the wasp, that other maker
who stings and stings again even as he plies
his own crisp watermark, indwelling
yet aloft, as we are not, excepting
those clumsy mechanical improvisations
or else the night’s dreaming, that purest ambition,
We have cheated death again. Then spasm,
the body’s strict account laid open
to gravity’s garnish, roused at last into the same light.
Sour ghost of sweetness on the tongue.

15 July 2005

The Wallace Stevens Journal

Recently I purchased a CD that contains 25 years worth of The Wallace Stevens Journal, and I liked it so much, I subscribed to the journal and received their July special offer: the two-volume Special Conference Issue that records an April, 2004 conference called Celebrating Wallace Stevens: The Poet of Poets in Connecticut. Essays by many many people including Doty, Vendler, Longenbach, McClatchy, Voigt, Susan Howe.

Here is a scrap from the Mark Doty essay titled "A Postcard Concerning the Nature of the Imagination":

In 1919, Wallace Stevens mailed a postcard from Florida to Harriet Monroe, inscribed with a working draft of one of the most beautiful sentences of modernism. Here it is:

As the immense dew of Florida
Brings forth
The big-finned palm
And green vine angering for life,

As the immense dew of Florida
Brings forth hymn and hymn
From the beholder,
Beholding all these green sides
And gold sides of green sides,

And blessed mornings,
Meet for the eye of the young alligator,
And lightning colors
So, in me, come flinging
Fruit, forms, flowers, flakes and fountains.

By the time the poem appeared in Harmonium in 1923, Stevens had changed one line, the final one . . . Here is how the last two lines appear in the poem's final version:

So, in me, come flinging
Forms, flames, and the flakes of flames.

Notice first what has fallen away; no more fruit, flowers, and fountains. What emerges from the speaker—not come forth, mind you, but come flinging—is inorganic. We remain in the same alliterative track, in the chain of f’s but the terms now are those of the forge and the furnace: forms, flames, flakes of flames. How far the poem has traveled, in the arc of its extended sentence, from lush organic life to the hammering labor of a foundry that might be the very one we meet in Yeats, where Grecian goldsmiths did their work "Of hammered gold and gold enameling," making their gilded, artificial singing bird. Later, Stevens may find reality and imagination at odds, but here they are beautifully reconciled, wedded within the elegantly wrought container of a single sentence, a construction with the heft of metal. The extraordinary arc of this sentence is from the natural world right out of nature, though this movement is impelled by nature itself; it is the world's resonant beauty that creates, triggers, or at least inflames the imagination, which has no choice but to make in response, to fling out forms.

I recommend The Wallace Stevens Journal.

14 July 2005

Finnegan's Wake for the masses

the amazing Geof Huth does it again

Every day you can enjoy Geof's work here.

Ron Silliman and Crag Hill interview Geof Huth here.

Carol Peters

how to explain death to children

because the fearful dog wandered the fields all day and hadn’t been
and due to the fearful dog biting the owner who tried to catch him
the owner asked the neighbor to shoot the dog

the neighbor agreed but brought up the possibility of evidence
blood and brains all over the side of the house
still he consented but instead he borrowed a cage from the humane

for days the owner starved the dog to lure him into taking the bait
and because the humane society put down the biting unneutered
         fearful dog
the dog ended up dead

how to tell the children
who thought the dog was being sent away to find a newer and better
(what home could be better?) (wouldn’t he miss them badly?)

they asked their parents whether someone might have already
         adopted their dog
and wouldn’t the dog be even more afraid in a new house with new
and if no one had chosen the dog yet could they have him back

when the parents asked the neighbor to tell the children the dog died
the neighbor agreed to go to the humane society to try and adopt the
but he found no dog that answered and told the children that

13 July 2005


Our stuff's here. Far as we know, nothing broke and nothing's missing. Knock on wood. Yes, the smaller shipment from the Big Island is still in limbo, but it'll show up.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting in an upholstered chair reading poems by Oni Buchanan. A new life begins, and this Oni poem seems so much the perfect poem of arrival:

The Only Yak in Batesville, Virginia

At first I spent hours gazing at the black and white horse
in the farthest pasture. He was so far away,
so tiny between the fence slats, and even then I knew
all he cared about was his mane and that his tail
was properly braided. He never so much as galloped
in my direction. Even the flies that edged
his beautiful eyes never flew into my wool
or landed on my nose. The love affair

was over before it began. I started to dream
of a dry cistern in the middle of the forest
and dry leaves where the other yaks could play
until leaves stuck out of their hair and they looked
like shrubs. In my dream they lived
in the cistern and each morning looked out
with periscopes before scrambling up the concrete walls
to search in the forest for sprouting trees.

In winter I realized that for the other yaks
it was fall all year round, and that it had to be fall,
because otherwise they couldn't roll in the leaves
to look like shrubs, and there had to be a cistern,
because otherwise they couldn't huddle in the pitch black,
and I knew then that I had forgotten
what a yak looks like, though I am a yak,
and I knew then that I had been away for a long time.

more of Adrienne Rich

[from An Atlas of the Difficult World]


He thought there would be a limit and that it would stop him.
                            He depended on that:
the cuts would be made by someone else, the direction
come from somewhere else, arrows flashing on the freeway.
that he’d end somewhere gazing
straight into It was what he imagined and nothing beyond.
That he’d end facing as limit a thing without limits and so he
and burned and hacked and bled himself toward that (if I
this story at all). What he found: FOR SALE: DO NOT
OCCUPANT on some cliffs; some ill-marked, ill-kept roads
ending in warnings about shellfish in Vietnamese, Spanish and
But the spray was any color he could have dreamed
—gold, ash, azure, smoke, moonstone—
and from time to time the ocean swirled up through the eye of a
                            rock and taught him
limits. Throwing itself backward, singing and sucking, no
                            teacher, only its violent
self, the Pacific, dialectical waters rearing
their wild calm constructs, momentary, ancient.

So why do I like that? The idea of youth, of going all out for everything possible, of believing that a natural limit could and would be found, that there the seeker would be forced to stop and rest, take stock of limit and infinite. The limit the seeker found—FOR SALE: DO NOT DISTURB / OCCUPANT—in a far place and seemingly not much of a limit at all, not something he need even observe, not in the face of the ocean spray, which showed him limits in its dialectical hurling.

The question the line break raises between DISTURB and OCCUPANT: Who is the occupant? The person who puts up the sign or the person present on the cliffs? After what the seeker did—burned and hacked and bled himself—in order to arrive not only at a limit but also at what he dreamed, now to arrive and find spray, any color he could have dreamed, and an ocean to teach him those limits. And then, the seeker sees that (life and) the ocean is no teacher, only its violent / self, a self like the seeker’s self, dialectical waters rearing. The momentary, ancient makes me think of Jeffers’s rock and hawk.

11 July 2005

leaving space for the reader

I'm a long-form writer, no matter what I try, but my long explications often don't convey meaning. Part of my challenge is to write for a reader beyond myself. In Louise Gluck's Proofs & Theories, an essay called "Disruption, Hesitation, Silence" gives me ideas about how to let readers into my work:

I do not think that more information always makes a richer poem. I am attracted to ellipsis, to the unsaid, to suggestion, to eloquent, deliberate silence. The unsaid, for me, exerts great power: often I wish an entire poem could be made in this vocabulary. It is analogous to the unseen; for example, to the power of ruins, to works of art either damaged or incomplete. Such works inevitably allude to larger contexts; they haunt because they are not whole, though wholeness is implied: another time, a world in which they were whole, or were to have been whole, is implied. . . . what is wanted, in art, is to harness the power of the unfinshed. All earthly experience is partial. Not simply because it is subjective, but because that which we do not know, of the universe, of mortality, is so much more vast than that which we do know. What is unfinished or has been destroyed participates in these mysteries. The problem is to make a whole that does not forfeit this power.

The argument for completion, for thoroughness, for exhaustive detail, is that it makes an art more potent because more exact—a closer recreation of the real. But the cult of exhaustive detail, of data, needs scrutiny. News stories are detailed. But they don’t seem, at least to me, at all real. Their thoroughness is a reprimand to imagination; and yet they don’t say this is what it was to be here.

Speaking of Rilke's poem "Archaic Torso of Apollo," Gluck says:

What wholeness gives up is the dynamic: the mind need not rush in to fill a void. And Rilke loved his voids. In the broken thing, moreover, human agency is oddly implied: breakage, whatever its cause, is the dark complement to the act of making; the one implies the other. The thing that is broken has particular authority over the act of change.

Rachel Zucker

[from The Last Clear Narrative]


The ferrous soil through the low-tide hemline.
Blue out further, under the sky. I would

   follow, but the world cares nothing
     for my wanting. Changes nothing.

                                     (Flowers open and close their faces.)

One wants to see the woman but remembers mainly the
                                                                    pinched-in waist,

         There and not there.                             . . . ambient . . .

When removed, the body seamless, of-a-piece.
I must be still to feel her—

D. A Powell told me about Rachel Zucker, I bought both of her books, read them and am now reading them again. The final poem in The Last Clear Narrative is, by one measure, a narrative poem about giving birth. In all terms, it is remarkable. Read the poem, titled "HERE HAPPY IS NO PART OF LOVE," at How 2 New Writing.

09 July 2005

Adrienne Rich

[from The Dream of a Common Language]

Cartographies of Silence

A conversation begins
with a lie. And each

speaker of the so-called common language feels
the ice-floe split, the drift apart

as if powerless, as if up against
a force of nature

A poem can begin
with a lie. And be torn up.

A conversation has other laws
recharges itself with its own

false energy. Cannot be torn
up. Infiltrates our blood. Repeats itself.

Inscribes with its unreturning stylus
the isolation it denies.

The classical music station
playing hour upon hour in the apartment

the picking up and picking up
and again picking up the telephone

The syllables uttering
the old script over and over

The loneliness of the liar
living the formal network of the lie

twisting the dials to drown the terror
beneath the unsaid word

The technology of silence
The rituals, etiquette

the blurring of terms
silence not absence

of words or music or even
raw sounds

Silence can be a plan
rigorously executed

the blueprint to a life

It is a presence
it has a history         a form

Do not confuse it
with any kind of absence

How calm, how inoffensive these words
begin to seem to me

though begun in grief and anger
Can I break through this film of the abstract

without wounding myself or you
there is enough pain here

This is why the classical or the jazz music station plays?
to give a ground of meaning to our pain?

The silence that strips bare:
In Dreyer’s Passion of Joan

Falconetti’s face, hair shorn, a great geography
mutely surveyed by the camera

If there were a poetry where this could happen
not as blank spaces or as words

stretched like a skin over meanings
but as silence falls at the end

of a night through which two people
have talked till dawn

The scream
of an illegitimate voice

It has ceased to hear itself, therefore
it asks itself

How do I exist?

This was the silence I wanted to break in you
I had questions but you would not answer

I had answers but you could not use them
This is useless to you and perhaps to others

It was an old theme even for me:
Language cannot do everything—

chalk it on the walls where the dead poets
lie in their mausoleums

If at the will of the poet the poem
could turn into a thing

a granite flank laid bare, a lifted head
alight with dew

If it could simply look you in the face
with naked eyeballs, not letting you turn

till you, and I who long to make this thing,
were finally clarified together in its stare

No. Let me have this dust,
these pale clouds dourly lingering, these words

moving with ferocious accuracy
like the blind child’s fingers

or the newborn infant’s mouth
violent with hunger

No one can give me, I have long ago
taken this method

whether of bran pouring from the loose-woven sack
or of the bunsen-flame turned low and blue

If from time to time I envy
the pure annunciations to the eye

the visio beatifica
if from time to time I long to turn

like the Eleusinian hierophant
holding up a simple ear of grain

for return to the concrete and everlasting world
what in fact I keep choosing

are these words, these whispers, conversations
from which time after time the truth breaks moist and green.


wildlife in Pinehurst

So far I have seen these:

Eastern bluebird
ducks (white, Muscovy, mallard, scoter)
Canadian geese
blue heron (chased by crows)
rufous-sided towhee
birds I can't identify
green-lipped frogs
yellow-bellied juvenile frogs
white-bellied pollywogs
brown rabbits
dead possum
red deer
the tumultuous wake of a grass carp
something with a silver fin
big snake, presumed to be cottonmouth
small snake

06 July 2005

Abigail Thomas

Please stop whatever you're doing and read this by Abby Thomas now, and then go buy and read all of her books.

04 July 2005


Bev, and other poet-physicists out there, you might love this:

Sally Keith talks about Marianne Moore and the theory of everything.

Debugging the new house

I set my laptop at the end of the vanity counter and step into the jacuzzi bathtub. I’ve never owned or wanted one. At least it’s small, oval, nicely placed in an alcove under a skylight. As the water rises above the jets, I am tempted again to try it out. I wonder if the water should cover all the jets before I turn them on, but I can’t see why it should matter, I press the button. Not a lot of noise. That has been my great fear: taking a bath in a windtunnel.

The jet to my right, still above water, is running strong. The left jet, underwater, is dribbling. I turn to examine the two jets behind me: they’re spurting feebly. The jets at my feet are also underwhelming. Then I notice the water has filled with debris—dead bugs and dark swirling things. I hop out. Yesterday it occurred to me that this tub in this house built nine years ago but rarely inhabited might not have seen much use. We moved into a very clean house, but I did find small spiderwebs around the tub drain.

Towel wrapped around me, I turn the cold water back on. The faucet arches high and has the interior diameter of a garden hose: perfect for filling a tub. As I lean down to dry my legs, water explodes over my head—the jets that had been at my back, still above water, have broken loose their obstructions. Confused, I turn off the faucet. No, that didn't fix it. Ducking under the spray, I push the button that controls the jets.

Water is streaming down the glass block window, the plaster walls. My clothes—on the floor because we have no chairs; no, on the floor because I always step out of my clothes and leave them where they fall—are soaked. The water missed the laptop, left only a few drops on keys and screen.

Mike arrives, grins immediately at my soaking wet hair. He is used to me.

“I thought you were going to try the tub when you weren’t in it.”

“I wasn’t in it. You should have seen the water arc. It hit halfway up the wall.”

He’s looking into the tub. “I don’t think you’re supposed to turn on the jets until they are all underwater.”

“I wondered about that, but they were clogged anyway.”

We have no mop, no rags, but after a while Mike remembers the big sponge he bought to wash the cars. I wipe walls and windows with a washcloth. I drop my clothes into the washing machine. The laptop is nearly dry, which is why I get to tell the story.