Sunday, August 31, 2014

Daucus carota, my favorite trash flower

I don't believe in weeds.


I remember the squinting face of some asshole not quite drunk enough to not notice me as he recommended that I take the Queen Anne's Lace bloom from behind my ear. I kept my eyes on him. What could he possibly be talking about? How ugly was this going to get?

A series of words I can't quite remember relayed to me that he thought my flower was poisonous.  I think I laughed, or maybe waved him away, or maybe busted some botanical knowledge, but I know I did not remove that flower from its perch. I definitely took another sip of my drink.


Did you know that all the little flowers that make up the Queen Anne's Lace bloom are the softest thing? Find the biggest, flattest flower you can, check for bees and run it across your cheek. Now your forehead. Now your lips. You'll see.


I am a child, alone and lonely, wandering through the abandoned tennis courts near my house, or the woods behind the high school football field, or the spaces near my grandparents' house in Trafford. I am looking for things to know. I am looking for secret treasures. I am looking for a world of my own. I find a little black dot in the center of the flower, a little black dot in the center of every big one. I pull up a few and see a little carrot. A little dot, a little carrot, holy shit.

And it is all mine.


My Brooklyn is a bad place to find lace. It grows where other things don't, along with thistle and morning glory. It hangs out near fences and broken glass, underpasses and hidden places. It is a roadside gift; other people try to make it trashy but it just resists with all that airy whiteness. Or, perhaps, it is trashy and that just means something bigger (better) in the summer than it usually does.


For more scientific words on Queen Anne's Lace, check out the Brooklyn Botanical Garden's weed of the month post.

Photo from Minnesota Seasons

Friday, August 29, 2014

Legs Get Led Astray by Chloe Caldwell

I waited a long time for this book. It was hyped on a few sites I read, blurbed by heroes and published by a great publisher, Future Tense Books.

Most of these essays are about sex and Caldwell's sexuality. I was very excited to read some charged up personal reflections on fucking from a lady. Maybe I've heard these kinds of stories too often, too recently, or maybe I am just too easily bored by glowing depictions of terrible-sounding guys, but this collection did not do a single thing for me.

In the second essay, "The Legendary Luke," Caldwell describes her future home, the setting for much of this writing: "New York City was a fictional place that spring day while we sat alone in our little living room in the woods." The ease of Caldwell's friendships, apartments, lovers, and drug-taking is like a mirror world, a fantasy without any seductive elements. I live here and that skews things, for sure, but all I could think when reading about apartments and roommates and lovers was how flat it all seemed. There are juicy sentences and observations, sure, but not enough reflection on those relationships, objects or moments to make it worth the time to read sentences like: "My lover called me today from a field in Tennessee where he was smoking a cigar and drinking a bottle of absinthe, his typewriter and bicycle in tow." She transcribes notes from lovers and instead of feeling that thrill of secrets not meant to be shared, they read like stories friends of friends tell about high school, peppered with names you never quite catch and later realize don't matter, that are supposed to reflect something about their character. But you don't know them, you have no personal stake in the story, so you don't care. Or, maybe a litany of "Look, I was loved in a cute way!," but, really, who hasn't been, especially by children and disappointing men?

One of the elements of Caldwell's writing that repulsed me was this touch of an "Ain't I a stinker?" attitude regarding sexual conversation and exploits. In an essay on masturbating various places: "Masturbated while writing this piece in the Seattle Library bathroom against the wall. Took me less than forty-five seconds." The essay "The Penis Game"--about a conversation with her three-year-old cousin, Henri, where he is a bit obsessed with both the reality of his own penis and the possibilities of hers--is a banal babysitting story capped with a dirty chat that echoes Chloe and Henri's conversation. From "Yes to Carrots":
I was a guest on your toilet. You are smart; you went to Harvard he tells me, and you probably assumed and maybe even now know that I used that toilet, too. That I slept in your bed. Put your lotion on my hands. 

That I sucked your boyfriend's cock religiously.  

No, really I believed in it.
This teen-tone undercuts any power of Caldwell's explicitness.

Many instances in the essays overlap and that makes reading in one sitting a bit of a slog. Cutting some (or combining others) might have helped. Read aloud, I imagine some of the shorter pieces could have a hypnotic effect, but felt gimmicky on paper.

Mostly Legs Get Led Astray just made me miss my brother. Her brother is mentioned in almost every essay set in New York:"Older brothers are always doing something more interesting than you (backpacking through Mexico, hitchhiking around Finland, moving to New York City) and they are ruthless about letting you know it." But he is just there, effortlessly, and I can't believe it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Long reads for a short trip to the woods, a short trip to the sea.

The Mother Courage press book in the middle is super weird scifi, but not in the way you'd expect. The Gilbert is pleasurable but not as greenly enveloping as I'd hoped for. I always love KJF and I hope this book doesn't tear me apart.

Who are your companions these days?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

eleven years

I didn't mark the anniversary of my brother's death this year because I was busy. I was busy navigating, I was busy looking out the window, I was busy talking to gross dads until they saw my armpit hair, I was busy marveling at the effortless beauty and love of a two year-old, I was busy staying warm, I was busy busy busy in all the ways one has to be to forget.

Not that I forgot, of course.

Brother, I think of you every day. You are the missing piece of my heart, you are the echo-only voice I listen for when questioning or proclaiming, you are the ghost with the most.

What is this wilderness? In everything I work on, I am trying to find you. I am looking for myself without you. Breadcrumbs, string, blood, kisses—all the markers are lost, but like a faithful dog, I am nose to the ground in the deep brush, working for you.