Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Dixie, our snarling Jack Russell has just rolled Archie, our prancing Italian greyhound in a patch of dust. His once off-white fur is speckled with patches of grey-tan filth. After I shout “Easy!” in an effort to protect him from her occasionally overzealous play, both dogs speed across the tall grass, veering down the slightly sloped yard into the open, spotted with morning sun, before circling back to the patio, where I am sipping weaker than normal coffee, trying to organize my day in my head.

Inside, the dishwasher is running—hot water and dish soap splashing away the crumbs of our recent lives. My wife, having woken me early because the car was low on gas, has already begun a day staving off clients who fail to read directions.

I catch myself yawning, again. Trying to take in as much air as my body will allow. No reason for such weariness.

Dixie howls a taunt at Archie. They prance about the yard again, Archie trailing Dixie by several lengths in a race he'll never come close to winning.


In the middle of last week, we drove four hours to the Eastern edge of Ohio, where my nephew, at the age of 10, was confirmed into the Catholic Church. Michelle was his sponsor. And although I should know better, as the bishop anointed the boy with oil, I could not help but hope for some visible, marked change. I could not help but long for the form of the ritual to enact upon him and the 60 other children who partook in this rite of passage.

Perhaps, when the Bishop placed his hand upon the boy's forehead, something more than mere formalities spoke to him. Perhaps something ineffable in him changed. But, he was still a 10-year-old boy, and at the reception that followed, he made that fact clear.


On Thursday, after my nephew and his siblings had long since departed for school, my wife, her sister, and I left the dogs in the care of my father-in-law, and ventured back to Pittsburgh. We began the day with coffee at an old haunt on Craig Street and ventured through several of the small shops while I waited for an appointment with Jim Daniels, a professor at Carnegie Mellon who helped with my senior thesis nearly ten years ago. It was good to be back.

After dropping me off between Schenley Park and the edge of campus, Michelle and her sister continued their tour of Pittsburgh with a jaunt to Shadyside, another series of small shops, and yet more coffee at another old haunt. Whereas I walked back into the halls where I'd studied for my undergraduate degree and explored the new facilities my alma mater has for Creative Writing.


Perhaps unwisely, my wife and I drove back home that night, making it to the Western Hills of Cincinnati around 1 AM the next day. Since then, I've not been sleeping well. My legs have been aching as if I had the flu. The peculiar buildup of lactic acid has finally subsided. The world is returning to normalcy after a long and lazy weekend. More chores. More writing. A single cloud in a pale blue sky.


While I was eating lunch with Jim last week, the conversation sprawled across topics, pausing now and then to linger on an anecdote, a snippet of work, or reflection. At one point, the conversation veered into discussions of very long poems, and he mentioned his continued interest in simultaneous narratives as a technique he'd used to compensate for a lack of metaphor in his poetry.

To me, this raises an interesting question: what, precisely, do you think of when you think of poetry? Do you think of a poet as someone who gushes similes and metaphors the way a teenage boy might gush about his girlfriend? Or do you think of someone attuned to craft, chiseling away with every technique she can muster—all to find the precise few words that make a poem? Did Basho ever use a metaphor?


This morning, after pumping gas, I drove my wife on her morning ritual to the nearest Starbucks. I think, though she normally uses that drive as quiet time to herself, my wife enjoyed having me along as her day began. As we approached our destination, the sun, bright orange, floated just above the horizon. I tried to point to it, hovering between two fast-food restaurants, but by the time my wife looked, a building had already obscured it from view, as happens every day, at sunrise.

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