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Books for Breakfast

musings and misreadings in third world suburbia


From Carolyn Forche
 ‎"It is a small country.There is nothing one man will not do to another."

Books for Breakfast
Today's Menu

Gilead, by Marilyn Robinson
The Art of Syntax, by Ellen Voigt

More books from Chingbee Cruz's private library.

Bear Song, by Kay Ryan
 If I were a bear
with a bear sort of belly

that made it hard
to get up after sitting

and if I had paws
with pads on the ends

and a kind of a tab
where a tail might begin

and a button eye
on each side of my nose

I’d button the flap
of the forest closed.

And when you came
with your wolf and your stick

to the place that once was
the place to get in

you’d simply be
at the edge of the town

and your wolf wouldn’t know
a bear was around.

This is one of my favorite poems. You can listen to the author read the poem here.

1. You know you're growing older when (admit it)  you begin sympathizing with all those who have devoted their lives to upholding the status quo. And when, in spite of yourself, you begin thinking that your much-older boss possibly understands you more than you think.

2. Provided that people are relatively similar in inclination and background, it is understandable for one to expect that they will experience certain angst and learn particular lessons at similar times in their respective lives. And so a mistake one often makes is that one assumes that people of a certain level of intelligence all have a similar capability to understand certain things & situations the way one does. That a particular kind of sophistication of language, style, and taste assures one that all who share the foregoing belong to a single country, or fellowship. But the reality is that, in spite of our common humanity--goodness, yes--the reality we apprehend does not always come in a similarly understood version, or form. The concerns of one's age colors perception and interpretation. Our view is always limited, what is obvious to us, or will be to them, hopefully, in hindsight (the long view) is not always readily apparent in the short term.

3. Hindsight is powerful: This insight itself is something given only after many years of living through certain experiences, responsibilities, demands--mainly, the experience of having not less than one life depend completely on you; or being left with nothing of your own, having been given no choice but to give all else away. Or those times when one needs to make decisions without having the luxury of questioning and questioning and questioning one's motivations and intentions and the ethics of it all.  Or living through extreme poverty and destitution, hunger and chronic sicknesses for which there is no cure, only management. One looks back never realizing what needed to be hurdled, had been hurdled, and that one had already won a prize for which one did not know s/he was yearning/striving for. 

4. I had once promised myself that when I grew old/er, I would never, ever preach to the young. Being young comes with its own terrible aches and pains. But I guess one can still lament that which, from one's current standpoint, constitutes youthful folly: being simultaneously too quick in one's judgment of others, and too unsure of oneself; all rejection, too little acceptance. The propensity to seem, rather than be--and not out of kindness, or the need for social facilitation. To seek shallow moments of social connection, instead of struggle through real relationships with imperfect, complicated people who don't fit into your chosen narrative framework. To be a certain kind of young also means to be tempted not to live beyond the confines of one's skull. To think that all there is, is thought. To judge the world according to one's current categories of thought, without trying to understand the world as it is, and let it be, or even change your current thought categories. To be guilty for who one is, or wishes to be. To lie to oneself about what is true  about the self--or, the many contradictory selves. To be unable to look at the self/selves without flinching. As though there was only one self, one way, one thing to be. As though the most important thing in the world is the self (that it is the only thing you can come closest to controlling absolutely in this world/be sure of being responsible for,  does not make it the most important thing in one's life.) To desire the approval and acceptance and validation of this self above all other things. (This is all applicable to the nation, by the way.)

5. Which is not to say I have the advantage of the ultimate long-view here. Not at all; there are lessons I am learning that are different from yours. Your suffering is not my suffering, and whatever you will become as you become the age you never expected to be, will be informed by that suffering, and also the many joys you hopefully will be graced with.

6. And at that wonder-ful age, I hope the world (the real one, not the one in your head)  will forgive, and treat you honestly, kindly.

The Meaning of Nothing, by Suzanne Wise
 No particular thing, event, action
     As in, nothing was done
     to save the body, to recover
     the body, to stop the body.

     As in, nothing has occurred
     to make the body
     change its mind.

A thing of no account or value

     As in, the body cares nothing
     for the mind's private problems.
     As in, the body is nothing
     without its private parts.

No part, quantity or degree.
     As in, the mind showed nothing
     but dumb love for the body's knowledge.
     As in, the body used nothing
     of its knowledge to protect itself.

To treat lightly.

     As in, the mind makes nothing
     of hardships endured for the sake
     of the body's helplessness. As in,
     the mind thinks nothing of beating
     the body into submission.

To fail in understanding.

     As in, the mind can make nothing
     of the body's childish joy, and vice versa.

The opposite of something.

     As in, the world was created 
     from nothing. As in, the mind
     told the body to open up
     its mouth and say something,
     and there was nothing.

(from The Kingdom of the Subjunctive)

Books for Breakfast
 The Kingdom of the Subjunctive, Poems by Suzanne Wise
The Orchard, Poems by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Subjunctive is more of my kind of thing. Poetry that excites me. And, which I feel, will reveal secrets that I want revealed. :D

The Orchard is beautiful, though I can hardly see myself writing something like that. But it useful, perhaps for fiction. I love, love, love the images that don't go overboard despite the lush description, and prose. Indeed, much to study, and take away, from this one too.

Both books, and a ton of others, from raiding Chingbee Cruz's private library. I will treasure these books forever. <3


Yesterday we had a send-off for Chingbee, who's off to do her Ph.D. somewhere in far-off America. Grateful thanks to Tabby (organizer and the best cake I've ever tasted, yes, it's true), Imelda (decoration and pancit), Pido (Jollibee chicken meal), Joey (cookies), Glenn (croissants), Kitty (pizza), Reg and Meg (for the time and effort just to get to us!!! And, for emcee-ing!).


Yes, above all, be grateful. Sometimes what you find wanting in others is that which you need to be yourself.


Tabby sent in a beautiful piece on how the X-files gets her through the day. Main point is: The [unknowable] truth isn't out there; it's inside every island of a human. No one really knows us, or can connect with the darkness in each other's heart. And so we hurt each other, simply because we exist. And yet, do we let this inevitability stop us from forgiving, compromising with what is less than perfection, accepting the unknowable and painful self/other because that's all there is that's left for us to do, short of killing ourselves/each other? Or do we, at the end of the day, in spite of the difficulties posed by a spoiled cat, forget the drama and play wrestle it before settling down in front of the TV to chill? 


Then again, this is Tabby, who is wise, and learning to be kind and forgiving. Thank you for Tabby. :) And Reg too. :)


Imelda sent another piece on [serial] love. Somebody pointed out in jest that in my case, the equivalent is serial careers. Given that a summary of my last decade reads like a resume, I think this is likely to be true. And yes, I think Imelda and I just might be looking for the same thing. :) Thank you, Imelda.

Thank you, Wannabees. Thank you, Chingbee.


 I sure will miss Chingbee. <3

 St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us who stand naked in the square, and standing thus, there, remember you.

Use. Lie. Betray. Consumption. Intuit. Ex[tr]act. Trust. Cut. Loyalty. Loose. Grateful [opposite]. Refuse [trash]. Penance. Pain. Words. Stones. Taste [organ]. Message [none].  Worlds. Destroy. Wash. Gentleness. Courtesy. Imagine. Courtesan [imagined].  Sides. Left. Ignorance. Assume. Shade [into]. Nothing. [Un]Shared. Save. Wrong.  Turn. Assume.  Island [LOST]. Isolette. Isolate. Too. Reverse. Reversal. Ice. Crypt. Late. Intent. Un/said. [Un]Forgive. Attempt. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.

This is what I do to relax
Thus far, this:

Hukayin ang mga tipak na bato

at kilalanin

ang hugis ng mga buhay

na di natin pinili, mga bagay

na ayaw nating maging.
Kakambal ng katwiran at buhay na wasto,
hindi lamang sila mga anino
nitong pantas na nagbubulay-bulay tungkol sa Ben Ezra,
at niyang aleng naglulubog ng kulubot na palad
sa asap ng inalay na kamanyang.


Can you guess what I'm doing, and what the original is?