What We Say, Or Don’t

I spent most of yesterday afternoon in my kitchen. We were having people over for dinner last night, and so I dug out my tita’s recipe for spaghetti and meatballs and got to work. Making meatballs from scratch is fun, in its way, if you don’t mind meat. (I’ll probably share the recipe for those at some point. I don’t think my grandmother would have minded.)

And then I baked scones, because more friends are coming over this afternoon for tea. (I should probably share that recipe with you, too. Soon.)

Anyway, at some point between putting the meatballs in the refrigerator and taking out the ingredients for the scones, I realized I didn’t have any heavy whipping cream (necessary for scones), or fresh basil (for the other people eating spaghetti — I don’t eat it because I’m allergic, which means I often forget to buy it). So off to the market I went. Since I had so few items, I popped into the express checkout line.

There were several people behind me and I wanted everything to go quickly so as not to hold up the line. I also wanted to get home to make the scones and have them out of the oven before I had to pick up my daughter from school. (She’s attending an art school for these last few weeks of the summer.)

Since the woman in line behind me had already loaded a bunch of items onto the conveyor belt and was practically standing on the hem of my skirt, I knew she was probably in a hurry, too. So when my purchase came to $4.35, I whipped out my debit card to make things go faster. As I turned away with my bag of groceries in hand, I heard her remark to the man checking us out, “Well, I’ve never seen anyone use a debit card for under $5.00 before!” as if that were something worth commenting on. He agreed. I didn’t turn around but just kept walking. And while I know something like that shouldn’t bug me, it kind of did.

It’s not like I live in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business, and yet on a routine basis we encounter people who feel the need to remark on everything that isn’t, in fact, their business. I chose not to say anything, but there were several things I could have retorted, such as:

  • “It would take too long to break a hundred, and I didn’t want to hold up the line.”
  • “I haven’t been to an ATM machine yet this week.”
  • “If I use a debit card, there will be a record of my having been here, in case something untoward happens to me before I get home.”
  • “I’m hoarding all my cash for when the revolution comes.”
  • “Nice tank top. I didn’t think people still bedazzled their clothes, but hey, you do you.”

Gah. Most of that stuff wouldn’t have been true, even though it might have been snappy enough to be entertaining.

I’ve been trying to stay off social media a little bit, since every time I get on there I find at least a few posts in my news feed from people whom I respect and like but who have to post every thought as if they were the first ones to think of it, or as if the angry, incendiary things they’re popping off in the depths of their own emotional maelstroms might not actually spark some negative consequences. It’s exhausting.

And honestly, I get it. It’s easy to be frustrated and angry right now. It’s also exciting to have new thoughts (new to oneself, at least). Maybe this is the only way they can stand to interact with the world. And I also fully realize how ironic even this post is, because I’m essentially doing the same thing. But gah. I’m trying to find a happy medium, and it eludes me. This means I end up not posting much, because my serious writing time is going to my new book of poems (which I cannot wait to tell you more about — very soon) and my new novel (which is coming along, albeit slowly at the moment). Le sigh. If you have advice about how to handle this whole social media thing in this moment in our cultural history, I’m interested.

So here’s another question for you: what is the most ridiculous thing a stranger has ever commented to or at or toward you, and what response do you wish you had given? I’m creating a safe space here for you to vent for a moment. Feel free to make us laugh, because laughter is the best medicine.

To tide you over while you think about what you want to get off your chest and purge from your system, please enjoy this gorgeous self-portrait my Orange Belt Fairy Princess Badass made this week (after two classes).

 

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Poem-A-Day: Mike Alexander

This seems like a reasonable follow-up to yesterday’s post about responding poetically, ekphrastically even, to another person’s social media presence.

Mike Alexander composed this marvelous poem and posted it on Le Book of Face recently and has graciously allowed me to share it here too. You might notice it is a sonnet; this is something he does particularly well. I remember back in 1999 he had published a chapbook called January Y2K Blues, which was a collection of fourteeners on that theme — one for each day of the month, in fact. In addition to its being well written, the book design itself was really just gorgeous.

***

ON FIRST LOOKING INTO ZUCKERBERG’S FACEBOOK

A FRIEND told me in chat that I could see
his new vacation photographs – I think
I clicked without a moment’s thought the link
he sent me – O how clueless could I be –
At once, a slew of questions came to me.
I gave the answers, so I’d be in sync
with this new media, this Facebook, Inc.,
surrendering all rights to privacy.
I never saw my friend’s exotic pics;
instead I saw a thousand invitations
from friends I never knew I had, a mix
of selling points & social obligations,
cat videos, hateful ranting, politics…
I gaped like Aztecs at the first Caucasians.

***

Alexander now runs POETRY FIX, a bi-monthly reading (most months) on Tuesday nights at FIX Coffeebar in Houston.

Poem-A-Day: Something You Write In Response to a Friend’s Social Media Post

Okay, time for something slightly different today. We’re going to allow ourselves to be derivative for a moment — but in a good way.

Have you ever composed a poem in the style of someone else’s? Or have you ever composed a poem in response to someone else’s social media post? Have you ever done both of those at the same time because it was funny?

I have.

A while back, my friend Brian posted on Le Book of Face that he shouldn’t be allowed to buy pears anymore because they just rot in his fridge.

Even though they weren’t plums (it was February), obviously, what is that post of his going to make me think of? William Carlos Williams. OF COURSE. What else?

So I commented with the following, which made me laugh even if no one else did.

***

Poem for Brian

This is just to say
I have wasted the pears
that you bought
and which you probably hoped
I would find delicious.

Forgive me.
They were so ripe,
so bulbous and charming,
and I let them rot.
I don’t deserve them.

I should eat nothing but
lima beans and kale for a week.

***

Clearly this poem is Not High Art. It’s not even really art at all. But it was quick and amusing (to a small audience) and helped my sleepy morning brain make connections that did matter.

I think sometimes we can use poetry in this way. Too often I see students feel intimidated by poetry, as if it doesn’t count if it isn’t brilliant. And poetry has become something of a niche market in our culture, at least as compared to some others. I don’t want poetry to be that way, though. The more esoteric it gets, the less it matters. In an effort to counteract that, I think everyone should try to write a poem for no particularly inspired reason now and then.

And if people do it enough, I really believe that eventually, genuinely good poetry will start coming out of them.

So right now I’m offering you a challenge. Go find a friend’s social media post, and then write a quick poem in response. Then post it here in the comments. You don’t even have to include the post which made you think of it. In fact, maybe that’s better. Don’t think too hard about it, and don’t be afraid to be derivative. (Just let us know whom you’re riffing off of when you post.)

Please proceed.