interviews with zinesters – katherine raz

Note – I am slowly going through and cleaning up my folders on our hard drive. I just came across a bunch of old interviews I did with people while I was a journalism student at Columbia College Chicago. I think this interview is from an article I was working on for a magazine writing class. I am not sure. I only vaguely remember working on this project. You can tell from my repeated questions that I had some thesis that I was trying to cover, but I can’t remember what it was specifically. I think they are from 1999. At that time, I was a dumb kid, so I probably didn’t appreciate the time that these people took to answer the questions. But I do now. Thank you very much to Andrew Scott, Dan Sinker, Matt Cordell, Karl Erickson, Gretchen Larsen, Julie Halpern and Katherine Raz. If you are one of the interviewees and want your interview taken down, please let me know. I am putting them here for posterity and nerdy archival reasons.

Katherine Raz – Apple Scruff and Retail Whore

What was the name of yr zine? What was its purpose? What was it about? How long did it last? Were you the only person working on it? Where was it based out of?

It was called Apple Scruff, and it was mostly about people who were overly-obsessed with celebrities. In the zine world I think there are a lot of people who have unhealthy crushes on famous people, so that’s what Apple Scruff celebrated – the sick celebrity obsession. It lasted for about a year, my senior year in high school. Based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. While I had contributors, I was the only one doing lay-out, photocopying, mailing, etc.

Why did you start making yr zine? What were yr goals and did you meet any of them?

I started doing it after I’d been reading zines for about a year. I just wanted to do it myself. You can’t make a profit so that certainly wasn’t a goal. I was written up in Factsheet Five, and they liked it, so I guess that was pretty cool. Otherwise, just a broad base of subscribers and enough people to send sad letters when I said I wasn’t doing it anymore. It just gave me a lot of personal satisfaction to get my own stuff out. It was like therapy.

How large did your zine get? How widely read?

At its peak I think Apple Scruff had about 50 on the mailing list. Read as far and wide as New Zealand. People at my high school read it, too. Once it was written up in FS5 I had a lot of people writing in for single copies which were one dollar.

Do you still read zines? Do you feel like there’s a zine community in Chicago? is it strong or weak? Would you improve it?

Yes I still read zines. There are some particular ones I pick up whenever I go to Reckless or the Clubhouse. I think – yes, to a certain extent Chicago has a good zine community. There are a few organizations that actually are trying to collect zines for posterity here. One in particular is the Chicago Great Lakes Underground Press Collection (headed by Kathryn DeGraff). It’s a part of Depaul that is trying to collect zines from the Great Lakes area. You can go visit it whenever they’re open – I think they’re part of the library up there. Quimbys is a great place to pick up zines. So there’s no lack of support for zinesters. I think the improvements should come from the authors themselves. There needs to be more zines – and the people who write their own should continue to do so with more regularity. Because it’s getting kind of scarce out there since the downfall of FS5 two years ago. I think there needs to be more communication between zine writers – more of a community.

Were you happy with how yr zine turned out?

Yes, I was very happy. I didn’t expect it to get the strange cult following it did. After all, I was only 17 when I started it.

Why did you stop making yr zine? or did you? Were you fed up with it? Tired of it? Bored of it?

I stopped making it because I started to get really big into music, not celebrity crushes. I felt like I was reaching for things to write about. Like the guy who does Rock’n’Roll High School zine here in Chicago – he was an atheist and wrote about punk/hardcore. Then he “found Jesus” and had to change his zine. People’s tastes change. It takes all your passion and all your free time and a lot of your spending cash to do a zine and get it out there. If you’re no longer willing to dedicate all that time to it, it doesn’t work anymore. Also, because I moved to Chicago I couldn’t make copies for free at my job anymore. I didn’t have space in the apartment for layout, etc.

What zines did you read or do you read? What zines inspired you to do yr own zine? Or was there an event or something else that inspired you to do the zine?

I read anything I can get my hands on. I love to go to Quimbys and just sit there reading for an hour or so. I’m sure they hate me because I never buy anything. Same with Reckless. Right now I’m big into the local Chicago zines, music zines, and the zines about zines (Zine Guide is a great one). A few titles everyone should check out: Puberty Strike, Cometbus, Scaredy Kat Stalker (now defunct), and there was this one called 1544 West Grace that was all about this apartment buidling in Chicago.

Was yr zine a personal zine? Did you consider it a personal zine? Or something else?

It was personal, but all zines are. It dealt with a subject. It wasn’t about me, per se, but then it was my zine, so of course it was about me or whatever I wanted to talk about.

Did you have any horror story experiences making yr zine? What were they? Will you ever do any other zines? Or are you done forever?

My zine was about celebrity obsession but there was an article I did about someone who I was obsessed with in high school (an upper classman who had graduated). The article basically detailed all the stupid stalking techniques I had developed in order to see him more often, collect artifacts from his friends (pop cans, homework, etc.) and “drop in” on his classes, etc. It was basically done tongue-in-cheek, but later on I found out he moved to Chicago and went to Columbia College. Then I saw him at a party and he was like, Yeah, I read your zine… HORROR! Zines are so personal that doing them is very self-divulging. People who you don’t know can learn a lot about you and you just have to be willing to put yourself out there.

I will probably be involved in the zine community – I support it, I read zines, I still write for other people’s. But it’s something that I have put on the back-burner because, as you know, Columbia takes up a lot of time. I’m a real journalism student now, so I have to focus on getting my clips out to a more broad audience. I’m not done forever. Who knows, maybe I’ll do one from the nursing home when I retire.

What was yr step by step process from brainstorming to final product and distribution? Did you have any rituals for yr process? Like did you start by writing in a notebook or computer or did you just improvise straight to the zine page? How did you print yr zine? Xerox? Offset? How did you pay for the cost?

I took 10-20 sheets of blank computer paper and folded them in half. Then I cut and pasted computer-generated articles (and typewriter generated as well) onto the blank sheets. I used the copy machine at my dad’s office for free. The layout was a long process. The room at home where I did it was a disaster area (paper shreds, clippings, gluestick, stapler, address books, other zines). Rituals: CD player! Lots of music (probably how I started listening to music so much) – at the end of every zine I had a section called Audio Survival which said which CDs I’d been listening to while preparing that issue.

I came up with ideas for articles and wrote most of the articles during Pre-Calculus, American History, and Psychology class in my senior year of high school. Also at my job, which was at the periodicals desk at a library. When I had free time, I just wrote about whatever came to mind.

The cost of postage was covered by the one dollar people sent me to send it to them. Inmates got it for free, so a lot of prisoners read it. It actually was pretty cool because prisoners become very obsessed with celebrities. There’s not much else to do. But I never went into debt because of it.

What makes a zine good to you? What elements make a zine good to you?

Zines are good when they’re personal. When they have rants and raves, and they touch on the ever-human trials and tribulations that real life involves. Good writing is of upmost importance. You have to have a good, conversational writing style. Organization, while some zines are cut-and-paste and hard to read, the ones that have some sort of organizational flow to them are usually the most interesting. Diversity. Have a number of different writers and opinions.

interviews with zinesters – julie halpern

Note – I am slowly going through and cleaning up my folders on our hard drive. I just came across a bunch of old interviews I did with people while I was a journalism student at Columbia College Chicago. I think this interview is from an article I was working on for a magazine writing class. I am not sure. I only vaguely remember working on this project. You can tell from my repeated questions that I had some thesis that I was trying to cover, but I can’t remember what it was specifically. I think they are from 1999. At that time, I was a dumb kid, so I probably didn’t appreciate the time that these people took to answer the questions. But I do now. Thank you very much to Andrew Scott, Dan Sinker, Matt Cordell, Karl Erickson, Gretchen Larsen, Julie Halpern and Katherine Raz. If you are one of the interviewees and want your interview taken down, please let me know. I am putting them here for posterity and nerdy archival reasons.

Julie Halpern – Cul-De-Sac

Why did you start doing a zine? What made you decide that you wanted to put a zine together and all that? What were your goals? What was your mission?

Liz went to college in Oregon, and I went to Madison. She sent me a copy of The Scaredy Cat Stalker and I thought it was hilarious. When she moved back to Chicago, we talked about how we should do something creative. We’ve known each other since we were five, and we always did lots of kooky, creative shit together. Since we were both done with school, we wanted something to do that was still somewhat intellectually stimulating for us. At the time, I was dating a guy who wrote a really crappy zine, and when we broke up, I thought it would be the perfect way to one up the dude. Not like he ever saw it, or anything. I felt very proud to have created something, though.

How small did you start? Print run, circulation, sales. And how far have you come? Is circulation and size and cost important to you?

We are pretty much just as puny in circulation as when we started. We make 200 copies each issue and more once they run out. The Zine Guide seems to increase our mail and orders, especially since they put a picture of one of our covers. Liz and I both have contacted people and stores in other cities, so the zine gets sold in other places besides Chicago. We have some in a store in Australia, and we’ve already gotten a few letters. People actually recognize the zine’s name sometimes, which is like mini-stardom. The cost is pretty important to me and Liz, since we have no money. Office Depot used to be really cheap, but they doubled the prices. Still, we do some shifty dealing here and there. And the infrequency of our printing makes it easier to save up.

How long does it take you to put an issue together? Is it fun? A chore? What distracts you from doing the zine?

The actual issue doesn’t take so long, especially at this point. We know what to get together and how to do layout and clip art, so it’s getting less painful. We start by thinking of a theme, and then we give each other assignments and brainstorm. We set a due date for the rough drafts, we read them, we make final drafts, then do the layout. But it takes us fucking forever in between issues these days because we’re busy. Distractions include school, work, boys… I’m getting my masters and working full time; Liz is in school full time and student teaching.

Do you think of Cul-De-Sac as a personal zine? Something else? An outlet?

Yes. It’s a personal zine, but it’s not like I wouldn’t just tell those stories on an everyday basis. I’m a pretty open person, but I’ve gotten to the point where I know I can’t be as open as I once was. People don’t deserve to know every bit about me. It’s weird. Matt [Cordell, of The Plan] and I are dating, and the way we hooked up was through him reading my zine. So he knows all these things about me, like sexual things and stuff, before I know dick about him. But in a way, that’s good, because he already knows I have some of these issues. We haven’t really talked about anything in the zines. It’s almost like the zine us are different from the real us. I never really thought of that before.

You live in the suburbs, right? Is that a hindrance? A help? Does it inspire you? Do you hate it? Do you identify with it? Why don’t you live in the city?

Actually, we both live in the city. That address came when I was living with my folks for 3 months after I got back from living in Australia. I had more time on my hands, so I opened it. Plus, Chicago mail sucks ass.

Do you feel like there’s a sense of community among Chicago’s zinesters? Do you feel like you’re a part of it? If there’s a community, is it strong or weak and how would you improve it?

No. The thing is, you can’t tell if someone writes a zine just by looking at them. Plus, being an indie venue, I’m sure a meeting between zinesters would be like going to a show where everybody tries to out-cool each other by how different they are. It would be fun if we tried to do a zine fest again, but that one a few years ago was shit cause no one came. Too cool, I suppose.

Are you happy with Cul-De-Sac? Would you improve it? How? Where do you see yourselves and Cul-De-Sac in five years?

I’m very happy with Cul-De-Sac. We get so much nice mail, it’s hard not to feel good. I wouldn’t improve it cause I don’t like to improve things. In five years, I’ll be a librarian. Liz, who knows? We’ll probably be doing the zine still. What the fuck else are we going to do?

Can you take us step by step through yr zine making process from start to finish?

Big question. Here goes: The easiest thing for us to get started is thinking of a theme. That way there’s some sort of focus. Otherwise, we have trouble thinking of what would make sense. Also, it brings that issue together. Then we give each other assignments. We talk to each other about things that go with the theme. Since we grew up together, we can remind each other of things that have happened.

Then we choose a date where the rough drafts are due. We meet with typed drafts and exchange. We edit and make suggestions. Then we set a date for the final drafts. On that date, we come and exchange finals to make sure it’s all good. Then we go through these clip art books we buy and get from the library. We pick the clip art and mark them. The next time we meet, we photocopy all the clip art and place them correctly. We don’t use any computer programs for this. We are so good at it by now, it doesn’t take that long. Plus, we don’t have the resources, such as scanners and Photoshop.

The next day we take the finished product to Office Depot. We choose a color for the cover, have the office dudes make a copy and check it. They fuck up and we check it again. This happens several times. Then they start printing, and as they go, we take chunks and staple them. It takes a few hours.

Distribution: we take bunches to Quimby’s, Reckless, Earwax, etc. Then we mail them to various zines that we trade with. Then we find zines that review, and we send them there.

Do you have any horror story type experiences making your zine?

Once, Office Depot’s machine broke, but they gave us a bunch of free copies. No, I don’t really have any horror stories.

interviews with zinesters – matt cordell

Note – I am slowly going through and cleaning up my folders on our hard drive. I just came across a bunch of old interviews I did with people while I was a journalism student at Columbia College Chicago. I think this interview is from an article I was working on for a magazine writing class. I am not sure. I only vaguely remember working on this project. You can tell from my repeated questions that I had some thesis that I was trying to cover, but I can’t remember what it was specifically. I think they are from 1999. At that time, I was a dumb kid, so I probably didn’t appreciate the time that these people took to answer the questions. But I do now. Thank you very much to Andrew Scott, Dan Sinker, Matt Cordell, Karl Erickson, Gretchen Larsen, Julie Halpern and Katherine Raz. If you are one of the interviewees and want your interview taken down, please let me know. I am putting them here for posterity and nerdy archival reasons.

Matt Cordell – The Plan

What’s your zine making process? Do you start in a notebook and then move to the zine, do you write directly into the zine, what? How do you print? Do you xerox, do you actually print? Do you scam? Do you have connections or do you have to pay, like me? Do you have any advice on any of this?

I was writing everything, hand-writing everything, in a legal pad and on notebook paper and on backs of old photocopies and other scraps of paper, then editing all of it, over and over. Then when I was finally done, I would jump onto one of my old typewriters and start typing away. I typed on the pages, actual size (1/2 of a letter size sheet of paper), made some paste ups and on to the copies. Now I’m typing it on the computer. It’s easier for me that way, with all my editing time. I think I’ll still end up using my typewriter for final type. I have a formula for printing the zine. I pay for half of the ones I print, and the rest I, uh, acquire through other means. It’s all photocopied. I don’t have the money or the quantities to have it offset.

Once you start a zine, how do you keep the momentum going? How do you finish the issue? How do you keep making more issues? Any advice?

With me, it’s hard cause my zine isn’t my number one priority. Primarily I’m working on paintings. But I love to write, so I’m finding time to do both. The zine will be much less available than my paintings, but I’d like to think I’ll keep it going. I always have these ideas of things I want to put in it. The main thing, for me, is getting the stories down when I’m thinking of them, or soon after, or I’ll just forget. It’s hard to get started on doing anything like that, but once I’m started it rolls.

What makes a good zine to you? What are the elements that you look for in a zine?

I just like good stories.

Could you take us step by step into the process of making your zine, from beginning to end? Like, say you were giving a workshop or class on how to do your own zine or something for a bunch of people who have never done a zine.

Okay. I’m presently fucked up on an over-the-counter drug named Drixoral. And that’s not in a cool way, like, I didn’t buy it to get fucked up, it just sort of happened that way – by default – since nature picked this (2000) for the first year she’ll fuck me down with a springtime allergy problem. I don’t understand it. Maybe it means I’m getting old. At any rate, I went out on a limb and bought a box of this so-called Drixoral and it’s got me all the loopy. This person in a desk beside me, she just said David Duchovny. Indeed she did.

My process is very simple, and it goes a little like:

I write the stories. I pick 3 or four or however may make a meaty little magazine and I start jotting them down on pieces of paper or backs of pieces of paper and then edit. Oh the editing. The editing is a thing that I do not like, but it does tell of my problem with not being able to let a thing go. I edit til the cows do come home. Then I make it into a readable piece of thing. I.E., I start typing on some sort of machine. I like to stay away from the computer on most occasions, cause everyday at work I must bond myself to one of those. Computers. I used a typewriter (sans correction tape or ribbon or film) for issue one and it was a bitch. I might not do that anymore, but it does look nice. Then after I get it all typed up and ready to reproduce, I have to make a little mock up (about the size of a wallet sized photograph – that is, when the mock up has been folded) and figure out what page goes on what sheet or back of sheet (you have to do this thing with a saddle-stiched book). Once I get the idea of how it works, I make a master – a paste up. Then I figure out how to do it as cheaply as possible – meaning creative ways to acquire cheap if not free copies.

Soonafter, it’s money, money, money. The zine is on the shelves (oh, I distribute it to the few zine-y shops of Chicago, just before the whopping payback arrives). I take a bath in the paper moneys and bite all the coins to test that they’re real gold.

interviews with zinesters – dan sinker

Note – I am slowly going through and cleaning up my folders on our hard drive. I just came across a bunch of old interviews I did with people while I was a journalism student at Columbia College Chicago. I think this interview is from an article I was working on for a magazine writing class. I am not sure. I only vaguely remember working on this project. You can tell from my repeated questions that I had some thesis that I was trying to cover, but I can’t remember what it was specifically. I think they are from 1999. At that time, I was a dumb kid, so I probably didn’t appreciate the time that these people took to answer the questions. But I do now. Thank you very much to Andrew Scott, Dan Sinker, Matt Cordell, Karl Erickson, Gretchen Larsen, Julie Halpern and Katherine Raz. If you are one of the interviewees and want your interview taken down, please let me know. I am putting them here for posterity and nerdy archival reasons.

Dan Sinker – Punk Planet

Why did you start Punk Planet? What were your goals, did you meet them? And in the beginning did you feel like a Maximum Rocknroll clone or did you always feel different, like you had a different slant or philosophy behind you?

Punk Planet started because there were a bunch of us that didn’t feel like our voices or what we felt was important or interesting was getting covered in the nationally distributed punk zines at the time. This was back in 1994, the scene was undergoing a lot of changes – parts were getting more commercialized, other parts were finally coming into their own – and we didn’t feel like anyone was writing about the stuff that was exciting and new. I think as far as being a “Maximum RocknRoll clone” goes, we definitely looked to MRR for a template and for an idea of what was possible, but we were also looking at that magazine for what we didn’t want to do.

How large is your entire operation now? How many people work for you? How large is your print run? Are you turning a profit? Is there a difference in how you accept people’s submissions and how you hire employees now as opposed to the beginning?

There is only one full-time person here, and that’s me. We have another person who works on the editorial end of things, Joel Schalit, but he does it part time and lives in California. Everyone else is either freelance or volunteer. We have three designers that come in when that time in the production cycle runs around, and we have probably about 10 or so writers that I know I can turn to and they can churn out good stuff. All writers, designers & editors are paid for their work on Punk Planet. The pay ain’t great, but I feel like it’s important. Reviewers aren’t paid in cash, but get to keep the records they get. The only person that is completely volunteer is a guy that comes in and does mailorder once a week. We are currently printing about 9,000 copies of Punk Planet. The magazine turns a profit, albeit barely. As far as how the magazine has changed in the last six years, I’d say it’s become a completely different magazine a few times over.

How do you feel about Chicago? Do you feel like you’re a Chicago music magazine or a music magazine that just happens to be based in Chicago? Would you or do you put an emphasis on Chicago bands?

I love Chicago, but we’re not a Chicago music magazine. We don’t put any special emphasis on Chicago at all. I don’t feel that that’s our role. There are magazines that cover Chicago music very well. For that matter, I’m not even so sure that we’re a music magazine. We cover a culture, of which a part of that is music, but is also art and writing and politics and ideas.

Do you feel like you are part of a zine community here in Chicago? Do you think that there is a zine community in Chicago? Is it strong or weak? How would you improve it or would you?

At varying points over the last six years, I’ve felt like I’ve been a part of a strong Chicago zine community. But right now, I think that community is at a low point. That could be because I’m so busy that I don’t have time to keep up with it anymore, but I think that the zine scene on the whole is at a low point right now.

Are you happy with how Punk Planet has turned out? How would you improve it? What are your new goals for Punk Planet? Where do you see Punk Planet five years from now?

I’m ecstatic about how Punk Planet has turned out. The last year or so, it has finally achieved a level of consistency and quality that I’ve wanted it to have forever. Where do I see PP in five years? I don’t play that game. I work one issue to the next. It’s been successful so far, I don’t want to jinx it by looking too far into the future, because inevitably you can’t meet those kind of goals.

two for

February 20, 2015

Today in the car, my son said, I will not die. Seemingly out of nowhere. I will not die. 

Everyone dies. I said.

No, not me. 

It’s a part of life. Everything dies. When people get very old they die. 

Only plants die. Kids do not die. Only parents and dogs. And cats die. 

Well, this isn’t something you need to worry about right now.

I do not want to die. kids don’t die.

You have a long long time before you need to worry about that. Let’s talk about this another time when you’re older.

Yeah.

Then he went back to singing along to What’s This? from The Nightmare Before Christmas. 

February 26, 2015

In his pajamas he sits at the table. Laptop in front of him. Watching people open toys and stockings and eggs and backpacks while he eats Honey Nut Cheerios and vanilla yogurt. Legs folded underneath. Eyes intent. Diffuse light through thing curtains of dining room. I prepare to shovel snow.

radio loways february 2015

01. Nainanainana – La Merelu
02. Unyileding Conditioning – Fishbone
03. Flutter – John Lurie
04. My Legendary Girlfriend – Pulp
05. Pants Vs. Dress – Lizzo
06. Hotel Suicide  – Erase Errata
07. Unexpected Delight – Flying Lotus
08. Wall – John Cale
09. Salton City – Hot Snakes
10. Mortes – Monarch!
11. Tickly Flanks – µ-ziq
12. Phill 2 – KTL

I got nothing to say  about these. Actually, I probably do. But I ran out of time and now February is almost over and I’d rather not get behind. So, here’s the music. Wait here’s some quick notes. My old roommate and I would watch Fishing with John before going to bed and we’d end up just zoning out on the title menu once it was over and Flutter would be on a loop and it was nighttime perfection. John Cale is so amazing at drones, I wish his entire career was that. I love Hot Snakes’ guitar tone and drum thunder. Now, listen.

reading watching listening

Reading
Dhalgren – Samuel R. Delaney
Rising up from Indian Country: The Battle of Fort Dearborn and the Birth of Chicago – Ann Durkin Keating
The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogues – Angela Davis
Historias de Hadas para Adultos – Daína Chaviano
Kalpa Imperial – Angélica Gorodischer
First Buddhist Women: Poems and Stories of Awakening – Susan Murcott
Ancient, Ancient Kiini Ibura Salaam
Taking the Path of Zen – Robert Aitken
Soccer Vs the State: Tackling Football and Radical Politics – Gabriel Kuhn
The Book of the New Sun and The Urth of the New Sun – Gene Wolfe
Hopeful Monsters – Hiromi Goto

Watching
The complete failure that was the Chicago Fire’s 2014 season.
The thrilling highs and lows and all too soon over 2014 Chicago Red Stars season.
The fucking brilliance of Swansea City.
Battlestar Galactica! Only three episodes left!
Parks and Recreation
My Grandmother’s Ravioli

Listening
Grain – Caroline Park
Sabbracadaver – Monarch
The Golden Echo – Kimbra
5:55 – Charlotte Gainsbourg
Love is Love – Lungfish
Las Bistecs at soundcloud
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Unreleased Aphex Twin Archive at soundcloud
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/users/122922135″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

angela and audre

2/9/15

Dreamt that I was at a lecture that took place in the living room of a house. A small gathering of people. The lecturers were Angela Davis and Audre Lorde. I was frantically trying to write a paper about what they were saying as they were speaking. They sat in chairs in front of the windows. Daytime. Sun filtered through gauze curtains. Warm.

the year in poetry 2012

2012-01-08-15-13-16-8171

1/3/12
Spontaneous morning
it is cold
frozen breath and dusting of snow
noisy guitar improvisations
on the radio
driving my son to school

1/24/12
Buildings and sky blend together
behind snow
beer and wine in my bag
crossing the slippery bridge

5/29/12
An ongoing list of things that I enjoy –

When it’s hot out
walking past the air conditioner and getting chilled
just before getting into bed
chills on my back

My son saying done after eating

6/15/12
Morning sun
blood on my shirt
from my son’s split lip

His lips covered in blood
sucking on his pacifier
and laughing

8/13/12
Yesterday. Sunday

Walking in the park behind our house
up and down the steep hill
down to the bike path and the river
my son quacking at the ducks
smelling flowers
touching trees
fascinated with bees
my partner in a tank top
cool out

8/27/12
He woke up at 6.30 this morning
my hand on his back
stroking his head
messy hair

He ate a peach
whole
without me cutting it first
a mess of juice on his pajamas

Smiling and laughing
when I kiss him on the neck

11/8/12
Reading earthsea
and a strange feeling of having been before
comes over me
when I see the upper corner
of the page creased where I had folded it over
to mark my page
twenty some years ago

I don’t remember the plot
but I know I’ve been here before

Haze in the lamplight
damp crisp air
a chill
leaves burning
smoke from a fire place

11/13/12
Composing poems
and phrases in my head
while I walk home

I never remember them
the next day

Getting used to the cold again
no hat yet
just red cheeks
and hands in pockets

My son smiling when he touches
the first powdering of snow
on the back steps

Cold he says and mock shivers
holding his arms
close to his chest

12/19/12
Cold this morning
my son woke up at four
my throat is scratchy

an old man pees next to
the off ramp at irving park

A young woman bobs her head
and mouths the words
to a song on the train

Coffee is not enough today

the year in poetry 2011

2011-08-06-20-03-13-0721

1/18/11
Geese tracks in the snow
this morning

Snow in the air

Last night
you smiled

When we gave you a bath

2/18/11
Things enjoyed today

My son’s smile and his proto-laugh
sunshine
the smell of burning wood
the pattern of the dress
of the woman who walked in front of me
on the way to the train
tree branches
coffee

3/2/11
Clear night
basketball in the alley
plastic flapping in the wind

3/17/11
My son is four months old today

Sun out, birds and squirrels
slight smell of spring in the wind this morning

Yesterday – sun and warmth
kids in the playground in the park
the girl learning to box under the trees
warm, but no spring in the wind

Last night –

sitting in the wooden rocking chair
watching you change his diaper
you both smile at each other
in the lamp light

Meditation sitting at night

Breathing throughout the day
washing dishes
doing the laundry

3/30/11
Walking into the evening sun
swallowed up by the light
it’s cold
green shoots in the ground

A rusted can under a bush
the house on the corner
with peeling paint on the white window frames
and rotting wood swing behind the fence

In the park
a man and woman kiss
on the tennis court
rackets in hand

Two seagulls surrounded by robins
in the grass
sun through trees

I’m tired

4/20/11
Rain last night
hail and thunder
a lake in the street
holding my son while
looking out the kitchen window

The building by the hospital is being torn down
every day the steam shovel eats a little bit more

Today it’s gone
piles of rubble in the mist

Yesterday morning –
two geese on the sidewalk
blocking my path
large and silent

They take a few steps as I approach
surrounded by seagulls in the grass

4/27/11
Last night
reading on the train
eyes glued to the page
look out the window –
clouds!

This morning
my son talking in bed next to me
trying to sleep
my hand on his chest
his hands grabbing my fingers
he smiles

He slept on me
over the weekend
in my arms
for an hour and a half
we sat on the couch
the sun was out

I couldn’t stop looking at him

7/14/11
My son’s laugh is beautiful
when I blow on his stomach
and he grabs my face

7/14/11
The lilies are closed in the morning
when I get my bike from the garage
sun, sweat, the kids at the park
coffee, lunch, the routine of work
and the lilies are open in the evening
when I return

7/21/11
The old women
drinking hot tea
from tiny cups
as ivy grows
up the bricks
covers windows
in the sweat hot
summer sun

8/1/11
Hot as fuck

Soccer in the park
an oven in the kitchen
all the food we have to make

brutal

8/3/11
After work
the day’s humidity reaches its peak
the cicadas follow suit
building to climax
thunder

8/20/11
My son and my partner
laugh on the floor in the other room
together
as I lower his bed six inches

She sings that she loves you
and you stop crying
while we get you ready for bed
and my heart breaks
with joy

9/1/11
At Lula. 8.30. Night.

He draws in a book
smiling
and then embarrassed
when a story is told
about him skating
and being a man

9/28/11
Blue sky and clouds
touch of metal in the air
blonde hair and blue jeans
he throws up on the sidewalk
twice

He says
remind me never to eat
chicken alfredo

to his friend
as our paths intersect

Geese in the park
a small bumblebee flying
between spent flowers

10/10/11
The sun rising
music on the stereo
my son looking out the window
his back to me
a tiny leaf suspended
from an unseen thread
in the tree outside
it spins in the wind
I’m sitting on the floor
and all of this is part of me