Octopus' Garden

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Thirty-one degrees below zero with wind chill early yesterday morning. Step outside: Flash-frozen like winter produce. Freeze-rayed into dry ice by a nefarious villain wielding exceedingly bad dialogue. Frostbite. Burnt to the quick. Freezer burn.

So cold I can barely breathe.

At the afternoon faculty meeting, a Power Point presentation on travel reimbursement. The faculty member sitting next to me, a published colleague, late fifties, doodles on his meeting agenda. When I discreetly glance over at his page, I see he's written: Borrr-ing . . . After the Power Point slides, a summary pop quiz: What do you need to do when you have more than one person staying in your hotel room?

After a moment of nonplussed silence, the room erupts in breathless, giddy laughter.

Just a few weeks before, my Jeep spinning out on the ice late at night like a silly red toy top, something unraveling, quick flick of unwound string, my surprised breath escaping my body in extravagant clouds and wisps. Since then, I've been a little bit unsure about whether or not I'm still being spun, whether or not these hidden mists and vapors of my breath have actually been returned to me, or have wandered off to chase their own illicit dragons, haunt their own obsessions.

Catch my breath. It's lost.

A statistician explains how to interpret our student evaluations: Aggregate, Disaggregate, Raw Frequencies. There's noise in the response, he tells us. (How could there not be? Static. Hum. Subtext. The noise is the part I listen to most closely. Back to Thelonious again, all breath and hum and moan beneath the tracks.)

Turn around. Look for that smile to make everything thaw just a tiny bit around the edges.

Held breath.
posted by Artichoke Heart at 11:29 PM | link | 2 comments

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


6:30 a.m. much too early a start today after another sleepless night: iPod buds like tiny clamshells sealing shut my ears as I slowly unfurled myself into the cold black deep where the fish were all peculiar in their own right, and blind, and quietly minded their own affairs.

Music an electric light through my veins. (I phosphoresce like a struck match.)

Cats' eyes blinking an indifferent green blaze, unexpected headlights like a BBC deepwater scientist hollowing out the alley, alarm clock rolling over another red minute.

Sometimes, on days like this, I turn on the bedside lamp before the alarm even goes off, and sitting outside the circumference of that hot yellow halo, I cry on the side in the dark for awhile. I do this in secret. I do it as an indulgence, a luxury. I do it to steam myself open again, like a sealed letter, the same way I take a long hot bath.

I read and work too long over coffee, and then there's an absurd flurry of towels and clothes and shoes flung about the room. Illegible and anxious. They make no sense.

But outside, I was surprised by snow . . . cold white spritz of it effervescing against my too-flushed cheeks, glittering my hair, bringing me back.

Tonight, I will sit inside a warm, softly-neoned room and listen to jazz . . . the street and snow and everything outside the window backdropping the musicians a blurry charcoaled penumbra, saxophone an incoherent rush of heat and metal and sound, and really, at the end of the day, this is more than enough, and what could be better than that?
posted by Artichoke Heart at 6:38 PM | link | 2 comments

Thursday, January 18, 2007



I'm irrevocably and neurotically bashful about my feet. Whenever I confess this to people, they always assume that I must have some sort of troubling foot oddity going on, but no, my feet are pretty much just feet. Except that I happen to be excruciatingly private about them. Once in a blue moon I'll wear shoes/sandals with my toes exposed, but whenever this happens, I always come home at the end of the day feeling slightly rattled and unnerved. Once my friend S. completely shocked me when we were co-teaching a class by taking off a shoe (and a sock!) to show the entire class her crooked toe. I can't believe you just did that, I had to say to her after the class was over. Quite frankly, I would just as soon take my fucking shirt off.

Statistically speaking, it is highly unlikely that you have seen, or ever will see, my bare naked feet. I'm just saying.


So, case in point, I'm blushing a little bit after having discussed my bashful feet, but apparently I think it's okay to blog about today's mammogram. Here's the thing, though. The mammographer garnished me with these pretty little Band-Aids (Pink! And purple! With flowers!) that are studded in the middle with what look like silver dragees (i.e., those tiny silver balls for decorating cakes and cupcakes). It's apparently an X-marks-the-spot kind of thingy for the films. I can't explain why, but I find these dragee-studded floral pasty Band-Aids exceedingly amusing.

Here's a secret: In point of fact, I find them so amusing that I'm. Still. Wearing. Mine.


It should perhaps be noted that the true miracle of cell phone technology is that two (frankly somewhat overeducated) women equipped with Motorola Razrs can (even from opposite sides of the country) ask each other for advice on what to wear.


Tonight I ate a salad comprised of shredded broccoli (with a bit of shredded purple cabbage and carrots), tossed with slivers of thin-sliced, oven-roasted deli turkey, generously garnished with sweet crunchy slices of Asian pear, and drizzled with a sesame ginger dressing. Can I just say that it was dee-fucking-licious?!?! (Tmesis strikes again. Yay for tmesis!)

Can I also add that I am now officially obsessed with Asian pears? And every possible variety of winter squash? (And I would be obsessed with kale, too, except that I don't really know how to prepare it and the only reason I know that I'm intrinsically capable of kale obsession is because E. makes this delicious kale dish. However, unless she shows me how, I don't think a Full-On Balls-to-the-Wall Kale Obsession can be officially launched.)

I'm not obsessed with cantaloupe, though. (Even though I love the word cantaloupe.) Definitely not cantaloupe! (Unless it's an anti-obsession.) Cantaloupe freak me the fuck out.


Sometimes when I have one of those days where I manage to fucktard up every single last fucking goddamn thing, I come home and sing Beck's "I'm a Loser, Baby, So Why Don't You Kill Me" to the cats. Sometimes I even do the twist while I sing, for good measure. They stare at me quizzically and tilt their little cat heads from side to side. I'm never exactly sure why, but therapeutically speaking, this always seems to make me feel immeasurably better.

(I'm not saying today was a bad day. Because it wasn't. It was a perfectly good day. I just wanted to pass this golden nugget along as a public service of sorts . . . a stop gap, say, before racking up hundreds of dollars dialing the Psychic Hotline, or feeling compelled to join the Church of Scientology, or abashedly skulking about in the self help aisle of Barnes & Noble in a slightly creepy manner all the while pretending to be lost and really looking for something else. I can't make any claims that this particular technique has universal efficacy or even any efficacy for someone other than myself . . . but perhaps you might like to give it a try?)
posted by Artichoke Heart at 12:01 AM | link | 5 comments

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Come check out the Asian-American Issue of MiPoesias, edited by Nick Carbo!!
posted by Artichoke Heart at 11:01 AM | link | 3 comments

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Now, constant craving for sun-colored foods: brilliant gold pulp of winter squash and sweet potatoes, the scalding bright yolk of egg-drop soup, slippery sweet mangoes, or even the thinly-sliced, ear-shaped whorls of orange pepper.

Weird bioluminescence. Transfusion of heat, and yellow flicker, and light.

Tonight the wind has blossomed up out of the dark like something feral grown much-too-large too fast. It shimmies the window panes loose and insinuates itself in through the cracks. It trades fours with the furnace and hurls itself up against the walls. It won't let me be.

I draw a hot bath after midnight, play Miles Davis' Kind of Blue way too loud.

(Did you know Kind of Blue was laid down in just one take?)

I am pissing off the downstairs neighbors yet again.

(That ether and vapor of Bill Evans' piano intro to "So What?")

I can't help it, though.

(How did I not know that tiny, pale yellow flame was there?)

I was surprised because I didn't know. Really, I had no idea.

(The truth: It's not even that I mind the wind so much, although once I loved someone who said it made her crazy. And angry. But me . . . secretly, I like the unease of it, the disrupted complacencies. Secretly, I like to listen to that wildness in the dark.)

Yesterday, C. said to me, "I feel like a blown fuse," and it made us both laugh.
posted by Artichoke Heart at 2:58 AM | link | 3 comments

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Today the sky almost too blue for its own good, and I walked and walked and walked until the wind untangled the smoke from my hair and everything was cold and bright and dizzying Morpho-wing blue.

Starred plates of melting, frost-studded ice broke off one by one, and slowly pinwheeled down the river, where soft shadows of carp nudged and nosed each other below the green surface of the water like a rumor of fins, tails, curving bodies.

Later in the day, wind tumbleweeds across the plains and builds up momentum -- the sound a breathy, compellingly unnerving, relentless billow.

In the dusk, secure in the warmth of my apartment, I fill the clawfoot tub with steaming water, Chamomile and Neroli bath salts.

Thelonious (did you know his middle name was Sphere?) plays "Crepuscule for Nellie" in the next room. Languid, diffident notes, like the slow drip of water. (Blue notes. Blue Note label.)

Everything unfurling, pinwheeling, melting in the fragrant steam, the chill of the white porcelain a delicious contrast to the almost-too-hot water. Breath of wind making the wind chimes on the balcony ring in an aleatoric counterpoint riff to the piano.

Nothing else but the now of this moment, already melting and pinwheeling away into another now that I want to make sure not to miss.
posted by Artichoke Heart at 11:42 PM | link | 2 comments

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


In case you had a secret, burning desire to know this, my Peculiar Aristocratic Title (originally spotted over at Dr. Medusa's) happens to be:

Imperial Majesty Artichoke Heart the Strange of Divine Intervention

I have to confess that I'm so ridiculously smitten with my Peculiar Aristocratic Title that I may, in fact, have to actually restrain myself from referring to myself as Professor Imperial Majesty Artichoke Heart the Strange of Divine Intervention on all my spring syllabi.

Do you have a Peculiar Aristocratic Title you were heretofore unaware of? Or are you just peculiar?

Either way, a very Happy New Year to everyone out there in the blogosphere! I wish you all health and happiness! Cheers!
posted by Artichoke Heart at 1:50 AM | link | 6 comments