Thursday, August 31, 2006

Poetry Thursday - poetry on the go

The two new poems I've written for Poetry Thursday are the first new poems I've written in a decade probably. Perhaps longer. (My third posting was of a poem I wrote about 15 years ago.) The last time I devoted considerable energy to poetry was the summer I lived in Oakland, California, when I wrote a poem every morning while drinking coffee on the weather beaten front porch of a carriage house some friends and I had sublet for the summer. After moving to Washington, D.C, I enrolled in a poetry workshop, and then somehow I drifted away from the form. I think I discovered that I had genuine potential but that fulfilling it would take work and it would take risk. I think I realized that there would be many rejection letters before the acceptance letters began and I think I backed away from the challenge.

When I stopped writing poetry I also slowly stopped reading poetry. I can't remember the last time I bought a volume of poetry, and until I found Poetry Thursday the only poems I read were those published in The Sun, which I read cover to cover and back again. So this week's idea to carry carry poetry with us in our pockets or pocketbooks and to read it in quiet moments as a way to bring poetry into our daily lives was perfect for me. I wrote out one of the oldest couplets in the English language:

Oh western wind when wilt thou blow
The small rain down can rain
Christ that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again!
- Anonymous

The phrase "small rain" has touched me since I first came across this couplet almost two decades ago. This couplet is everything I love about poetry - how so much can be conveyed with so little, if the little is well chosen. Small rain. Two perfect words that say more than entire pages. The small rain down can rain. I can feel the wet on my skin just reading those words. So short and yet it reveals an entire life - I imagine a sailor stalled at sea waiting for the winds that will take him back to his love. I can see his love waiting for him at the window. Either one of them could be saying those words, perhaps they both speak to the wind oh when wilt thou blow?

A small wind is stirring here in my office, carrying pages of poetry that scatter around me like autumn leaves. I gather them to me gratefully and welcome them back.

To see what other people have been carrying around with them, go here.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I think I did something un-Swiss today

I took Small Boy out to IKEA today to get him a table and chair (that's not the un-Swiss part, the un-Swiss part comes all the way at the end). It was raining, and traffic on the Autobahn was heavy, and then we got stuck in a Stau (traffic jam), so it took us a while to even get out to the store. And then we got a little lost in the store because they're building and everything has been moved around and we couldn't find the Kindermöbel. So everything took longer than expected and though I remembered to bring his Rrrr Rrrr (bear), two trucks and his water bottle I managed to forget anything in the solid food department. By the time we were done, it was clear that Small Boy was pretty hungry. So after I paid for our stuff I quickly popped into the Swedish Store to buy him some crackers or biscuits or something. While we were waiting on line to pay - watch out, here comes the un-Swissness - I opened the package and gave him a biscuit. This apparantly gave the little boy behind us ideas, which his mother put an end to in no uncertain terms. She must have said Gar nid üspacke, gar nid* five times, three of which were certainly for my benefit, as Small Boy munched his little biscuit. Gar nid.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. I'm American bringing all my bad habbits to your tidy land, so sue me. It's not like I'm not going to pay for it, I'm standing right in line for the cashier. Yeesh. Interestingly, R., who could out-Swiss Willem Tell, has no problem opening food or drink in the store if he thinks Small Boy is hungry or thirsty. So maybe it wasn't a Swiss thing so much as it was a that woman was being snitty thing. Or maybe the Swiss really don't open packages in the store and R has been tainted by his time in the US. I don't know, but I sure upset that woman with my wild ways.

But Small Boy was sated, and her kid was hungry. So there.

* Absolutely do not open that. Absolutely not.


Monday, August 28, 2006

The double meaning baptismal verse

Small Boy was baptised yesterday into the Swiss Protestant (Reformed) Church. It was a small affair, kept low key. R's brother is the Götte (godfather) and my friend RK is the Gotte (godmother). The baptism itself was performed by R's counsin who is a pastor in the church. When she baptised Small Boy, he pointed at the water and said "Wa-wa! Wa-wa!" (He also announced "all done!" every time the musician stopped playing - and during the middle of the sermon that he felt had gone on too long - and once pointed out the window at a cat and said "Meow" and generally was, um, animated. This, I imagine, is why most people baptize their babies as infants during what my friend P refers to as the "potted plant stage.")

It is traditional for the parents to select a "Taufspruch" - a baptismal verse that will be Small Boy's "special verse," a verse chosen because it speaks to us about him. We selected the 139th Psalm verses 13 and 14.

Du hast meine Organe geschaffen, hast mich im Mutterleib werden lassen. Ich danke dir, dass ich so herrlich geschafen bin. So wunderbar, staunenswert sind deine Werke. (Psalm 139,13-14)

For the English translation we took the Revised Standard version for the 13th verse and the King James for the 14th, so we ended up with:

You formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvellous are thy works.

Is that not a great verse for an IVF baby? To those in the know, it gives a secret nod to the wonder of the science that allowed us to join sperm and egg while also making it clear that like every other child, Small Boy too is part of the magic of everything that happens between conception and birth. Dr. L and Herr G may have brought sperm and egg together in a petri dish, but the mystery of what happened after that is as old as time and it is a wonder. To be part of that wonder, to be counted among god's works, is Small Boy's inheritance, his birthright as a child of the universe and with this verse we claim that right for him. He is not a science experiment, not a freak or contrary to god's plan for us because we couldn't do it without help, not a child that "should not have been." He is a wonder, an ever changing wonder that makes my heart stop. He is as touched by god as any other child.

And how marvellous are thy works!

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Who let the authors out?

The streets of Bern have been taken over by authors!

They're in the Gasschens

they're on the fountains

they're in front of the Münster

and on the Münsterplatform overlooking the Aare.

They're reading literature in the streets of the city.

It's Literaturfest Bern.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Poetry Thursday - Time

This came to me as I was walking down the street with Small Boy in the stroller on the way to play group. Naturally it was the one time in one hundred I left the house without a notebook, because I figured I was just walking to play group and then afterwards we have to come right home for lunch and a nap. I knew the poem would never hold through the play group, so I called home and left it on my answering machine to transcribe later. Good thing it was a short one! Or maybe the circumstances made it short. I once read (in Writing Down the Bones, perhaps?) that William Carlos Williams wrote many of his poems on prescription pads and thus they are short - form following function, as it were. Maybe that is the case here. At any rate, here is a poem about stealing minutes that came to me, interestingly enough, in a stolen minute of walking down the street on the way to a child's play group.


I steal minutes like a magpie
Bright and shiny hoarded against the future
Like new pennies in a child’s pocket they beg to be spent
But what is worth this treasure?

I spend them not, I line my nest.
Silly magpie.


You can find more Poetry Thursday here.


Small Boy Books/Bücher

I've entered most of Small Boy's library into LibraryThing. I haven't entered a few books that are in hiding until the Long Airplane Trip or any of the books that he has over at the Grandparents' house. Interesting fact: 31 of the 47 Small Boy books I've entered are in German or Dialket and only 16 are in English. The three books-in-hiding are in German, as are all the books over at the Farm, so his library is pretty unbalanced at the moment, not that it matters much. I'm not thrilled with the English-language children's book selection here, and they're extremely expensive; and I don't like ordering blind from Amazon if I don't have a chance to see the illustrations, so I've been waiting for the upcoming trip to the States to buy a load of books for the Boy and then ship them home book rate. So for the time being his library is German-dominant. His favorite book, however, is in English: Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type, which he requests by name: "Deh Duh Mmmmmm." When he wants Giggle, Giggle, Quack he asks for "Udduh Mmmmmm" (or Other Mooo, meaning the other book with cows in it).

Or, he's making a joke. Udduh mmmmmm. Udder, moo. Get it?

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Career counseling I could have used twenty years ago

Hey, a quiz that's actually accurate! Not that I was an English major, just that I should have been. With the wisdom of hindsight, of course I should have been an English major. I still wonder how I ever wound up in political science; it never was the right fit. What was I thinking? That was a serious wrong-turn on the road not taken, a story for another time. For now let's just say I should (have) be(en) an English major (and let's not wonder about where that 100% in theater came from, because that's just seriously wrong.)

You scored as English. You should be an English major! Your passion lies in writing and expressing yourself creatively, and you hate it when you are inhibited from doing so. Pursue that interest of yours!





























What is your Perfect Major?
created with


Monday, August 21, 2006

FET update, now regret-free

For those of you keeping track, I had originally planned on undergoing an embryo transfer right about now. And then, just days before I was supposed to start taking my Progynova, I changed my mind. It suddenly occured to me that in four weeks I would be pregnant, and my first reaction to that thought was mild panic and the realization that I'll be exhausted forever. And I realized I wasn't ready to do it. Not just yet.

And did I just say confidently "I would be pregnant?" How odd. You see, in matters reproductive I generally downplay the optimism and throw in a dash of doomsday in an attempt to throw the universe off my trail. I can't help but think that it does not do to be filled with hubris in matters reproductive. We all know what happens to people with a good case of hubris, right? But I'll be honest just this once. Because of my alarmingly lucky IVF track record - we're batting 1.000, after all - I can't help but think in my secret heart that in spite of success rates hovering around 20% (ever notice how they put the FET success rates, which are not exactly encouraging, way down the page?) our single embryo FET will, of course, be successful.

That would be hubris. Which I try to avoid. At least in public. But there it is. What I secretly really think. Keep on moving, universe, nothing to see here. Keep moving.

Sunday I hosted a baby shower for a friend. A baby shower attended by the baby, by the way, who decided last week to make an early and unexpected - and healthy - arrival. And I expected to have some sort of infant envy, especially since there was tiny baby N in my house just a day before I should have been transfering an embryo which we had suddenly decided to keep on ice. And I didn't. I didn't have infant envy, I didn't think "I want one of those," and I didn't even once think "maybe I'll never have one of those again." And maybe I'll never have one of those again, though - look away, universe! - honestly I think when we choose to go forward with an FET we'll be lucky. Why I think that I have no idea, and it's just a giant invitation to be put in my place, isn't it, saying something like that? But baby N spent hours in my house, mostly asleep, and I didn't feel any of those doubtful second-thoughty things I thought maybe I would feel. I take these as signs that I made the right choice, or at least not the wrong one.

And knowing that feels really good.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Poetry Thursday - Writer's Choice

I choose memory.

I must have written this when I was 23. My typed copy of this poem is foolishly undated, but the night-time drive to the north came in 1992, inspired by watching The Last of the Mohicans togehter and having a full tank of gas; I probably wrote this, then, for her birthday of the following year. The twenty-ninth of July the title refers to is the one year anniversary of my father’s death and the day L's grandfather died. I see a dozen alterations I want to make but I am letting it stand as I wrote it then, unvarnished.

L and I have not spoken in almost seven years now, and the reasons all seem so very foolish.

A Poem for a Birthday

To L, about California, Time, and the Twenty-Ninth of July
From the Other One Who Was There

Inarticulate years roll behind me.
The eloquence of their being
makes up for the lack of saying.
When we speak our words dance like long partnered lovers.
When I would speak of you
music and motion stop.
No words, only images.
California sky,
front porch dusted with the scent of conversation,
night-time drive to the north.
Trans-Atlantic letters pass in flight,
answer each other in advance.
We are like that.
Separate for years,
we return to discover we are growing the same.
It is the Midwestern soil in our veins.

Old phrases echo:
On discovering I am a woman, I write to you of my remarkable find.
On reaching the fence, I look for your dancing feet.
New words come hard.
Too weak to carry the weight of the years they bend and break,
splinter at our feet in mock tribute.
Inadequate, they are all I have.
I shape them like clay,
years of fire burn them into ashes.
I build them like sand castles,
years of waves slip them off the shore.
I carve them like wood,
years of weather wear them into nothing.
Words cannot stand up to the lightning storms of July.
While I write you poems,
the lightning strikes twice and writes the truth
and we are bound better than blood.
My words are blinded in the glare,
I stumble in their inadequacy knowing they are all I have.

A single day surpassing all those words,
transcending even all those years.

Words are such poor stitching.
Time sews us up like quilt work.


For what others are choosing this Thursday, go here.


Saturday, August 12, 2006


The Swiss drink a lot of coffee, and the Swiss drink good coffee. No Swiss home is coplete without a coffee machine. Not a coffee pot, not a coffee maker, a coffee machine. An espresso machine. Cafe quality coffee at the touch of a button. This is my coffee machine. She's a beaut, no?

This is how I get through the mornings. With one touch the beans are freshly ground, rrrrrrrr, tamped down, click-bang click-bang, hot water is pressed through the grinds, whirrrr, and the used grounds dumped, puh, into the dredge drawer. (It's one of the wonders of the world, my coffee machine, but it's not quiet.) We have three settings: one button will produce a proper espresso hot and strong; one button will pour out my perfect cup - the bean strength of an espresso but with more water so that it is larger and a bit milder; and the third button makes a large coffee - it's too weak and we never use it and I wonder now why we have it programmed. A good cup of coffee should have a light foam on top the color of wet sand and when served in a restaurant or cafe should always come with a bite-sized Sussigkeit, a sweet little something, usually a chocolate but sometimes a tiny cookie. Restaurants do not serve drip coffee, thus no "bottomless cup" but on the other hand each cup is perfectly fresh. While we were visiting Chicagoland over Thanksgiving my sister-in-law asked me if I'd experienced the "waitress leaning right over the baby's head with a coffee pot" yet and I said "K, it's Switzerland. They don't do coffee pots, remember?" My brother, who had falled madly in love with my coffee machine when they visited us, said "oh you're killing me."

I have come to rely on the fact that even the diciest-looking railway bar will have an espresso machine where I can get a proper coffee, small and strong with a light coat of foam on top and a Sussigkeitli on the side. And everybody drinks a nice cup of coffee after lunch. It's one of the many ways I find the Swiss have woven small pleasures into their day. Coffee may be a stimulant, and used as such, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't taste good and be properly presented. Some restaurants train the staff just so - the treat has its position on the saucer as does the creamer, and the spoon rests at a certain angle. Oh I know that sounds so very "Swiss," but it's also a pleasure to take such a small everyday thing as a cup of coffee so seriously, to present it with such care as if it matters rather than just slopping it out into the cup. Because it does matter. It's a small moment of paying attention, of granting import to our rituals of eating and drinking. Sure it may sound so Swiss to be so precise, but we could all stand to pay a little more attention to our coffee cups now and then, couldn't we?


Friday, August 11, 2006

Hockey season!

No, not my little reproductive analogy, I mean actual hockey season. My favorite player is back in town (I saw him at Starbuck's) so training must have begun. Yay. Now if only we can score some tickets this year.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Murphy's law or something like that

Awhile ago I wrote that we had a schedule for the FET and that we would try something at my next regularly scheduled period, and I made that crack about being more regular than the moon, remember? So doesn't it just figure that I'm late? I mean really. Doesn't that just figure.

Which is actually fine, because, well, because. Because I'm exhausted, my body is exhausted - I got my first shot for the IVF on April 1, 2004, and since that time have been either shooting myself up with hormones, pregnant, or nursing. We weaned one week ago. And honestly? Suddenly I'm really not sure I want to turn up pregnant four weeks from now. I'm really not sure. I'm exhausted. Bone tired. I think my body needs a bit of a break, and I think I'm going to delay my own FET cycle. Who delays their own cycle? Who does that?

I think me. I think I do that.

I think this is okay. I think this is the right thing to do.

I think I think too much.

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Monday, August 07, 2006


According to a recent study, approximately 50,000 Swiss are addicted to the internet. I read about it on-line.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Velcro love

When my son was born, the first thing I noticed was how very present he was. It surprised me, frankly, to see him so awake and so alert, so intent on fixing his gaze on me. I had only seen fake newborns on TV, and on TV they are always wrapped in a blanket and their hands and faces are always scrunched up and they always seem to be squinting through half-closed eyes. My son’s face was smooth and open and his deep blue eyes were wide to the world, and the world was me. He was wide awake and he stared long into my face as if to memorize every detail, as if to put a face to the muffled voice he’d been hearing all those months through Thai-food-flavored amniotic seas. His eyes stayed on my face: this is the face, he seemed to think, that will shepherd me through life; I’d better remember what she looks like. He looked at me for what seemed a very long time and then must have approved of what he saw, for he rooted around and began to nurse. That gaze, though, took me by surprise. I hadn’t expected him to be so very present so very fast. It was conscious, that gaze, it was full of discernment and wonder. It said, So you’re the one.

Sometimes, in the morning after he wakes and we take him into our bed for a little while, I catch that look in his eyes still. He spoons up against me, his little rump tucked into my belly, my nose brushing his hair, his hand reaching up and back to hold my neck, sucking his thumb; then he cranes his neck and looks around at me and his eyes search my face. It is a gaze direct and frank and simple, as simple as childhood. Not even R has ever looked at me with such astonished wonder. So you’re the one.

He is attached to me in the extreme; we are two strips of velco. Sometimes I long for space; when it’s hot and I’m sweaty and he crawls onto my body and lies on my chest and sucks his thumb sometimes it makes me itch and I have to breathe deeply and slowly to find the physical patience to let him stay. Sometimes I know with bittersweet certainty that this time is coming to an end; when we go to the park and he runs laughing away from me, putting more distance between us than he or I have ever known. He runs away laughing, stopping now to look quickly over his shoulder, is she still there? before carrying on. He always circles back to me, a little planet in my gravitational pull, he is attached to me in the extreme, but his orbit grows ever so slightly larger with each pass he takes. I foolishly allow myself to think too far out into the future, he is leaving for college already, he’s broken orbit and found his own path. I have to pull myself back to these days to the here and now, to these days when I am the sun in his universe and he is the sun in mine.

To these days when our eyes meet in the morning and we think, So you’re the one.

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A bridesmaid becomes a bride

Good things are happening out there.