It’s A Twister, Texarkana! Part III

After a long night of nothing followed by a morning of nothing, it was time to climb out of the bathtub, open the curtains, and start packing for home. The morning was sunny but chilly. Not that it mattered. My morning was to be spent answering emails and then heading to Shreveport. When I’d landed, I picked up a map of close-by things to see, so I figured I’d see some things before checking in.

Shreveport was pretty deserted on an early weekend morning. I wonder if it’s ever not deserted because it seemed more like a ghost town than a sleepy town. What made it more alive was the public art, which was really what I was there to see. I also became mesmerized by the passing trains. Once again, it was as if I’ve never seen a train before, never been on a train, and don’t have a train so close to my house that I can hear it sometimes pass by.

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This is art on art.

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This is me getting my fingers in the way of the art.

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I usually blur out license plates, but that would defeat the purpose here.

The art didn’t take all that long to see, so I headed to the airport. You know how they tell you to get to the airport two hours early? Yeah, that’s helpful if you go to an airport that has more than like 5 gates. Shreveport’s airport has like a one-lane road in and out that is wide open. I practically had a personal TSA agent going through security because I was the only person going through security. There were three gates where I was waiting, but really, it was only one gate. Only one door to the airplane with three different waiting areas for the one door.

Across the waiting area sat a group of men clearly going somewhere for a round of golf that day and most likely heading home later that day by plane. I waited a pretty long time since I was there so early, but that meant more reading time. Then I landed in ATL and read some more while avoiding all the people in the waiting area who thought putting bare feet on seats was an okay thing to do.

 

Then I flew home on a rather large plane where I realized I’d prefer an aisle seat rather than a window seat next time. You know, like next time I go to Texarkana and there’s no tornado and I actually get to read and talk to people about poetry. Some day, Texarkana, some day.

It’s A Twister, Texarkana! Part II

Morning broke with gray skies. I’d heard rumblings of rain on the way, so I headed out early to eat and take in the rest of what I wanted to see. I tried to go to a local diner that was supposedly open but was completely closed. I figured I’d take a tour of the town and come back and they’d be open. Nope. But my tour was fun.

I found the Joplin mural. Very jazzy. I found another  mural. Very history-y. I found old timey buildings and a train. Very very.

Then, starving, I went to Cracker Barrel. The only drawback of going to Cracker Barrel is that I’ve had  a few dollars left on a Cracker Barrel gift card for years and I don’t have it with me. I’m clearly never going to be able to use it. Hangry (I’d been yelling at the roads and the GPS and the fact that the diner wasn’t open), I inhaled my food, which was from a healthy section of the menu, which I didn’t know about and didn’t see right away and then I felt very happy with myself for finding it and not eating a pile of biscuits that I’d later regret.

When I got back to the hotel, I went to the business center to print out a few extra poems that I’d forgotten to print. I also did a lot of my normal get points for free stuff routine. Then I came to my room and began planning my workshop and reading.

Then a little before 1, I got a call from the front desk. Someone from the college was here to give me my check. Oh, okay, I’d be right down.

He greeted me with, Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Well, that’s never a good start.

You know how when we get snow on Long Island, the weather people roll up their sleeves and scare the crap out of everyone and everything gets canceled and then we get a passing shower? So, like, I’d been hearing weather forecasts of thunderstorms that would bring about hail. Then hailstorms that would bring about golf ball sized hail. Then the possibility of a tornado or two. There’s a lake effect wind warning. There’s a severe storm warning. The entire weather map bleeds red. BUT I was like, oh it’s just some rain.

Nope, the college closed at 1 PM. The guy was apologetic. He got a call from someone back at campus asking if he’d brought books they bought for me to sign. No, he didn’t. I was going to offer to drive up to the campus to sign them, but campus was closing in less than five minutes. He took my cell number and gave me his card. Then he said he wasn’t sure if the professor who’d originally contacted me would want to do something otherwise, like gather a group on his own, but that was probably unlikely. I said I was wondering if the weather reports were anything to worry about, especially because it was warm and the sun had come out every now and then, but he said that they were thinking about liability. I said I wouldn’t want anyone driving and in danger. He said it could hail for five minutes and they’d be like, Why did we cancel!?!?, but then again, it could be worse than that. It’s so unpredictable.

Let’s take a moment to recap: Months ago, Texas A&M at Texarkana found little poetic me through some two year college list of presenters and invited me to read on campus. We set up a reading for April 13, 2018. Fast forward to April 12, 2018, I took two planes and a rental car to get here. And now instead of a workshop and reading with students and the community, I’m in my hotel room, having just eaten a very large salad, sipping on a very large unsweetened ice tea, watching the weather channel for tips on how to avoid becoming Dorothy.

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Right now is about the time I’d be leaving for campus. It’s less than 15 minutes away. But I’m not going anywhere.

I did change into my poetry professor outfit so it wouldn’t go to waste. I might parade around the hotel in a bit, reading from my book to anyone who’ll listen. But first, I’m asking the front desk exactly what to do if sirens go off. I’m on the 2nd floor and I can hide in the bathtub, but since I’m not much of an expert, I’m going to get a second opinion.

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I asked the front desk. Apparently, this happens all the time in Nebraska said the guy from Nebraska. I was like, I’m from New York where it doesn’t. I learned that they would set off the fire alarm if they got word that something was on the way. Then, they would get into their back hallway while I would close my curtains and then climb into my bathtub with some reading material. They told me not to stand near the window and try to take pictures. I said the bathtub seemed like a better idea.

Then it drizzled a little. I heard some thunder. Then nothing actually happened. As the guy from Nebraska predicted, we didn’t even get hail. There were tornadoes, but they were happening in what seemed to be north and east from where I was. Now I’m not great with directions, but usually I can see on a map up down side or side. On the maps on the tv, though, I couldn’t really tell. They had black backgrounds, white lines, and then swoops of green and red. I think these are tornado maps. Or Texarkana maps. Or special maps made to confuse me.

The tv showed skits of the do’s and dont’s’ of taking shelter. Then at least one of the weather guys kept using the acronym PDS. This stands for Particularly Dangerous Situation. Which is apparently a technical term for tornado forecasting. There were reports of storms touching down as reported through storm chasers. So like that movie with Helen Hunt is real. People go outside and follow the storms.

I stayed inside even though there was no storm. I gave a Facebook Live reading.

I would totally embed the video here, but WordPress doesn’t allow embedding with iframe html code. I sound like I know what I’m talking about. I don’t. I also don’t know how this text is highlighted. So there. Anyway, you can click above or click here to see the video.

Then I got into my jammies, had some baked Lays for dinner, and then wrote and watched tv into the wee hours.

It’s A Twister, Texarkana! Part I

Many months ago, an email arrived in my inbox from TAMUT. That’s Texas A&M University in Texarkana. In Texas. I clarify that because there’s also a Texarkana, Arkansas. Right across the border. Across that border is a post office, the only building in the U.S. that sits in two states. Already, just getting this email, I was in heaven. Because, you know, this kitsch is my jam.

They have a program called PLACE and its theme was Science and Technology, and the email was from the English department. Everything here describes the essence of my being. They invited me down there to read. I was like, Yes please.

On an early morning in April, I got into a van and got dropped off at JFK.

A lot of airport adventuring occurred. By adventuring, I mean waiting on lines. Bag drop line. Security line where I took off my shoes and then the TSA guy told me I could take them back but they were already in the bin. Also, the guy on the other side of the bin line was telling me how the bins needed to be stacked even though I was the only one stacking them, so I told him that and he said, oh no it’s okay. I think he felt bad because I used my “I’m a little girl” voice that I hate using but I really was the only person stacking them and I didn’t need to be lectured. Then there was the long slow walk to the farthest gate. I ate a bagel and then it was time to board. Boarding line. Line in the plane down the aisle. Sitting in the seat waiting. Waiting for take off.

The flight was great because I read a lot of the very large book I borrowed from the library (The Sleepwalker’s Guide To Dancing by Mira Jacob–read it–it’s uh. may. ZING.). I failed to check the page count when I requested it to be sent from another library, so when I saw that it was almost 500 pages, I wanted to return it to read at a later date but felt bad about the energy used to get it sent to me. Carrying it around isn’t a fun time — it reminds me of that summer I read 1Q84 and took it on the train with me to hang out with S and then wound up carrying it around like — well, what’s that cliché about an albatross? You know that one? It was like that. This time it worked better because even though I had to carry it in my backpack and then after switching into my shoulder bag, a lot of the time I was able to sit with it.

I wound up carrying it around a lot when I got to ATL for my layover. ATL is a long airport. I could have taken its train between terminals, but I opted for walking since I’d be sitting to eat and then sitting on the flight and then sitting in a car. Between the book and a writing book and my folder of fun and my tablet, it was pretty heavy. Once I found the terminal, I circled it a few times, looking for a salad. Found one. Ate it. Walked back to my gate which again was the farthest gate, and sat and read. I like ATL’s airport because of its urgent messages about how not to spread germs. I like your style, ATL.

The flight was quick but I don’t know exactly how long because there was a time change where I gained an hour. I found my bag easily and then found the rental car place easily and they barely looked at my license before handing over the keys. I like Shreveport. Very easy.

The drive to Texarkana brought about all kinds of feelings. Terror at the 75 MPH speed limit. More terror at the idea of passing trucks at the 75 MPH speed limit. That awwww so cute! feeling upon seeing cows lolling about in the fields on the side of the road. As if I’ve never seen a cow. As if at home I can’t drive an hour and see a cow. Still, I exclaimed Aww Cows Awww! Excitement came about when I passed the Welcome To Arkansas sign followed by melancholy at not being able to take a photo of it. I realized later on that I’d probably see more of them since I’d be on the boarder of the state for the duration of my stay. Then I felt pure bliss as the waves of color blossomed on either side of the road for stretches at a time. Dark red flowers first. Then some white. More red. Then purple. Then yellow. If I knew flower names, I’d tell you what they were, but we’ll all have to settle for color.

Finally, I pulled into the hotel lot after driving in a very large and confusing circle–which I should have expected since the road it’s on is called Loop. Just as quickly as I checked in, I changed because it was 80+ degrees, and ventured out to do the one thing I wanted to do more than anything.

I headed to the State Line Post Office so I could stand in two states at once. Really, you can do that all along State Line Avenue, but if you don’t want to stand in the middle of traffic, standing at the post office is the way to go. They have signs and everything. One side Texas. One side Arkansas. Also, the post office is the only building in the U. S. to stand across a state border. So I was in heaven. The wind almost blew me away, but still, heaven.

Also heavenly: Mexican food. I pulled into Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and feasted to my heart’s content. My body did not have an adverse reaction, which is surprising since I usually eat along the lines of Whole 30. Soft chicken tacos, black beans, refried beans, and a huge chicken enchilada slathered in enchilada stuff is not exactly Whole 30 approved. What it is is delicious. Heaven keeps expanding, y’all.

 

“Opposition Night” Is Nominated For A Rhysling Award !

So thankful and excited to learn that “Opposition Night” is nominated for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association’s Rhysling Award in the Long Poem Category. This poem appears in Liberating The Astronauts (Aqueduct Press 2017). Here it is in case you’re interested in reading (or voting!).

Opposition Night

I.
You need a supersonic parachute for landing
and even then, it’s still tricky, a terrifying
seven minutes.
You need these simple interplanetary
wads of sticks inspired by
those egg drop experiments in high school
physics. They’ll cushion the impact.

When you awake to see the new horizon,
you’ll need your rations followed by
freeze dried ice cream for dessert.
Then you can begin the mining project.
Resource extraction, that kind of thing.
Once you’re there, life is easy.

II.
A six month road trip to the red planet
and farther: Jupiter, Saturn, alongside
the asteroid belt—possible only in a
sleep state.
No roadside pit stops at hole-in-the-wall
diners, no waitresses in white sneakers
named Luanne.
No off-road shoulder dust kicking up
and settling down on a hood and
through a window ajar.
Only the pod, fitting six, tentatively
called Copernicus, hurling itself
through as humans hibernate
like bears. Only you’re not a bear.
And you’re not on Earth.

III.
Photovoltaic power is all the rage!
Asteroid ablation! Comet ablation!
Every kind of ablation you could desire!
A plume of heat and laser light and
Kapow! Kablooey! Kaboom!

IV.
Even with a strong core
I can’t roller skate.
Melanie mocks me
when her voice comes over
the 70s station.
The starting isn’t a problem.
It’s the stopping that poses
concern.

I need a magnetoshell,
like the ones the engineers
are tweaking for the spacecrafts—
a force field generator that uses
magnetized plasma that would
slow me down upon approach
to anything that I might want
to not crash into.
A building.
A sidewalk.
A tree.

V.
A disappeared notice.
Appearance oddities.
A paraded centipoise.
Panacea diode stripe.
A paradise deception.
Paranoic seeded pit.
Sanitaria decode pep.
Eradicated aeon pips.
Arcade opiates pined.

VI.
To harness all energy
green gold silver
liana lariat lasso
telegraphed from arm to
quasi star non moon

A trap door unhatched
impossible to repair

Catch solar
Clasp wind

Stay aloft as long
until
the asteroid becomes the ship.

VII.
Icy moon
after
icy moon
ocean
under the surface.

If sound could travel
the ice would moan
shifting and old and heavy.

VIII.
Pluto non planet — photographed only in echoes

IX.
Decades spent tooling around
crashing and breaking down

all that debris floats in
angular momentum
its own orbit self-paced.

The dust sits there
a still cloud.

X.
We missed Mars.
It approached Earth over
the weekend, coming
thisclose
as the sun spun to the Earth’s
other side. When the sun set,
the red planet rose, neighboring
the almost full moon, shining
almost as bright as Jupiter.

In its brightness, its redness lessened—
gradient shades of warmth, I suppose.

I was inside, away from windows,
preoccupied with mundane matters
that matter only every day—
what time the sun will come back up
when the hedges will be trimmed
what kind of planet I’ll leave behind
when I leave.

Retropost: Yoga-ing, Trivia-ing, and One Amazing Sunset (Nov2017)

Fact: You do not have to do yoga to teach yoga. My hips won’t really ever be the same after the labral tears introduced themselves, and my knee is still forever a little wonky. Still, I’m almost back to normal. The activity that makes all the aches act up the most is yoga. Good thing I got my certification, right? Actually, right, because while teaching yoga, I don’t have to practice all the way through, and I certainly don’t have to push to the edge. So teaching yoga worked out. I taught a community donation class on Saturdays for the month, and the proceeds went to the Wounded Warrior Project. It felt so good teaching again.

In addition to getting back to yoga, I also got back to the reading circuit. I read at the end of the month in Northport. Fact: Driving to Northport from the south shore on a Friday night is equivalent to driving to California from the East Coast. I might be exaggerating, but only a tad.

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On the most exciting note of all, tv trivia at Sip This saw my usual one team split into two teams because we had more than four people. So we split guys versus girls. And, yes, that’s right, the girls won. Because in addition to putting together the team, we knew stuff. Like, a lot of stuff! Three cheers for the gals!
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At some point, I saw this, and it is everything.

Retropost: Brooklyn, Gulliver, and Bull Riding (Sept2017)

I slacked on blogging for the past few months even though I had some fine adventures. So here’s the first of a few retrospectives on the events that unfolded.

I read for the Brownstone Poets series in Brooklyn where I wore heels and walked on cobblestones and did not break anything. With the boys in tow, it made for a sweet afternoon of poetry and diner food and everyone knows I love both.

September also brought about my birthday. Big plans! Plans that did not happen because I went for a massage from which I got a dent in my head that lasted a few hours, got diner food (see? I like it), and then was sick for the next four days, not from the food but like a nose head watery eye cough kind of thing. Only four days–that’s not that bad–but it killed my birthday weekend.

The most fun in September was one day packed with seeing Gulliver’s Gate and then witnessing bull riding in person.

Gulliver’s Gate is all things wee. Since I am wee, I fit right in. The layout is massive and some of it is interactive. They give you a key and you can make some of the little statues move–like Don Qixote chasing a windmill– or you can step into a waterfall. You can also touch things that you aren’t supposed to touch without getting thrown out, but only if you’re slick. There are also some Easter eggs like at Stonehenge, there’s the Dr. Who booth (I know that’s not what it’s called but that’s what it looks like).

On Channel 15 as a kid, I watched bull riding. I don’t know how this happened. So when PBR came to town, we went. It was very patriotic, and we got free stuff, and there was fire.

In the miscellaneous category, I rode a whale.

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I Don’t Know Why I Thought The MoMA Wouldn’t Be Crowded

The Friday before Easter, I was like, Hey, let me hop on a train and go into the city to see art because I feel like ending my Spring Break on a leisurely relaxing jaunt. I was even able to drive my car to the station and park instead of walking there like I did on my last (sweaty) museum adventure. I got in enough walking through the museum, though it was more like being pushed along with throngs of people than actual walking.

The Travel Zoo discount pass I had instructed me to go to the counter for entry. Easy enough. I walked into the MoMA. I had thought that there would be a lonely counter waiting for me to walk up to it for entry. I don’t know why my mind creates such ideas.

First off, there are many counters. Secondly, there are also many lines. Thirdly, there were many, many, many people. Wall to wall people. People everywhere.  I found a line for special ticketing and showed my printout and a woman told me to go ahead and get on that line, which was shorter than the others, which made me happy.

I’m pretty good with crowds. I’m used to being jostled because people don’t look down. On this line, however, I was clearly on it, standing there, taking up existence in space. The woman behind me did not seem to care about that. There was some bumping. A bit of elbowing. Some more hovering. I kept standing and breathing and telling myself I was not being annoyed. Then she hit me in the head with her museum map. This annoyed me. I turned around and looked at her. She looked at me. I turned back around, satisfied that this eye contact would solve the issue.

The map hit my head again. I turned around again and gave her my “quit it” face, which is a pretty powerful face if you ask any of my students or strangers who have annoyed me like this before. It didn’t seem to phase her. So naturally, I did the very adult thing of putting my hand on my hip and jutting out my elbow to create space, and also so that when she bumped me again, she’d get a pointy jolt. She continued to bump and hit me in the head.

This is the point when I thought to myself, I am about to get into the first fist fight of my life. And I don’t think I was joking to myself. I was literally thinking about how she was taller than I was and how I wouldn’t cause much damage. I also thought about how people don’t get into fights in museums. Then I thought that I could be arrested if I got into a fight, which is when I really stopped thinking about punching her. Yes, that’s the reason I didn’t get into a fist fight at the MoMA. And then I was called to the counter and allowed entry. She’s so lucky.

I went to the top and worked my way down, meaning I did what everyone else did, and it was crazytown. I knew I was done looking at a piece of art when the people around me were also done because we all moved together, being pushed and pushing each other from room to room. This was a different kind of pushing from the waiting-in-line pushing. This was more like a flow of artistic mesmerization.

The non-permanent exhibitions were Nan Goldin: The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. That exhibit came with a warning before walking in that not everything there was suitable for all ages. The first thing I saw was a photo of a penis, so, agreed. Unless you’re European. This one does not have a visible unit.

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The Hug, New York City, 1980 — this reminded me of a Vettriano painting.

Nearby was Teiji Furuhashi’s Lovers: a dark room with a motion-sensor projector in the middle that projected silhouettes of naked men wandering from and to nowhere.

In non-nakedness, there was How Should We Live?, an exhibition that felt like a fancy showroom in IKEA. This is not an insult.

Dust Gathering was another, though I didn’t really know what it was about other than there was a helicopter floating from the ceiling.

I spent most of my time moving through rooms and rooms and rooms of permanent exhibits, or what I think were permanent but I’m not sure.  I just kept moving through rooms.

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Paul Chan: The Body Of Oh Marys — because anything with writing on it draws my attention

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Barnett Newman: Vir Heroicus Sublimis — because I think it’s pretty neat that someone can paint the same color across a canvas that size evenly

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This isn’t the artwork, but I loved it. It’s a shadow of Aleksandr Rodchenko’s Spatial Construction #12.

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Shirana Shahbazi: Composition 40-2011

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Giorgio de Chirico’s The Serenity of the Scholar — because I’m a scholar, right?

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I don’t know what this was. I was amusing myself because of the reflection.

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This is Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. I’ve always loved this painting for obvious reasons until I actually read what it was about–this lady has polio and is movement impaired. It’s less whimsy, more tragic.

At one turn, there was a huge mob, bigger than the other normal mobbing from room to room. Then I realized why.

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This is Starry Night.

Oh, I also got admonished by a security guard who asked me to step back from a Dali painting. Heh heh. Where was he when I almost decked that woman on line?

I stood in the sun for a while when I got back down to the ground floor.

Then I decided that the museum itself was art.

I headed home just in time to miss the non-running-train catastrophe at Penn Station, which meant I got to have a leisurely train ride home with a seat all to myself.

A Panel, Some Readings, & A Presentation For NPM 17

Every day is poetry day for a poet, but April is National Poetry Month for everyone, so I’ve been going out into the world for poetic reasons. The Oceanside Public Library asked me to be on a panel for How To Put Your Poetry Collection Together. It morphed into a discussion about publishing poetry collections rather than organizing poems, but we hit upon a lot of different important points.

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My face says, “I’m sleepy” but my hands say, “I’m holding this pen.” Which I later broke.

A really neat thing was that one of my former students was there, asking questions, being intrigued. He came up to me afterwards while someone else was talking to me (and asking to buy my book! and I hadn’t even been hocking them!), so I was like, Don’t go anywhere I know you, and he was like, Oh you remember. I remembered him but not his name, and that’s okay because he was my student more than a few years ago, so many names have passed my desk (and failed, ha!. okay, not funny, but true) since then. We chatted about poetry and then he told the guy who bought my book that he liked my class because I made them do different things that they wouldn’t normally do. Aww, sweet!

The next night, I was off to Long Island City for a reading at The Local for Boundless Tales. Yeah, that’s right. This old lady went out two nights in a row. Eddie and I drove in early, got a parking space right across the street from the venue — that never happens ever– and then walked in larger concentric circles until finding an Italian restaurant and agreeing to split a personal pizza which was one of the best personal pizzas we’d ever had. A server came to clear our plates, and then he took the remaining slices of our pizza, and we never saw them again. We didn’t say we wanted them, but he also didn’t ask if we wanted them. He simply asked if we were finished, and since we were, we said yes. Lesson Learned.

We walked back more directly to The Local which we found easily. The inside is kind of funky. Silhouettes on the walls. Pennies on the floor. There weren’t chairs. Rather, there were these large rolling cushion things to sit on. It was a great place for poetry.

The host kindly asked if I would like to change the order of readers since I was set to read first and my brother hadn’t arrived yet. We changed it up since it was just a handful of us there anyway and very informal. These are my favorite kinds of readings. No pressure. A few folks. There were also people coming in and out, standing to listen for a while and then leaving and then coming back. There was a bar, and the place is a hostel, so lots of people were around.

My brother arrived in time for my reading. He’d taken the 7 train and then walked. I swear, he can get anywhere via any subway. Meanwhile, Eddie and I walk in circles to find things that are two blocks away. Anyway, the reading ran the gamut of fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry about all sorts of things. When it was my turn

I did my usual dog and pony show with astronaut ice cream and space stickers. At the end, the host was like, The giveaway is a fun idea. I was like, yeah, I’ve learned that at any age, people love stickers. It’s a fact, y’all.

The next week, I read as part of the faculty sabbatical reading at work for our Lit, Live! series. My poetry workshop class was there, a captive audience, but I think they enjoyed it. The next day, I discussed my sabbatical of writing poetry for the Women’s Faculty Association, sandwiched between a talk about chemistry that flew over my head and a talk about total well-being given by a chiropractor. In my experience, chiropractors are the most intense motivated people alive, and this presentation proved it. When I went to Faculty Development Day the next day, someone who had attended the WFA presentations told me she enjoyed my talk. Aw, shucks. I thought my talk went not so great because I’d forgotten to click on stuff during the presentation. Apparently, my bubbly personality makes for a strong presentation no matter what’s happening as proven by the guy at the presentation who told me I was not only informative but entertaining. I refrained from handing out stickers and astro ice cream at that presentation (though I did hand them out at the sabbatical reading, and one of my colleagues said that the prizes are unexpected, which makes for an interesting twist at a reading).

I do have to be careful. I feel like I’m walking a fine line between kitschy and sideshow. Like, if I ever show up to a reading in an actual space suit, do not let me read until I change. Then again, with these two on my team, we could take a show on the road.

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