It has travelled on a torn piece of yellow sticky whose glue is no longer effective. It was found tucked under a paper clip in a gathering of similar short sequences that might be suitable to incorporate into some longer poem. It is composed of an invented compound word followed on a separate line by the name of a game . . .


. . . in a retroactive sense the game informs the nature of the touching: it's not an even smooth caress but more like a hop, skip and a jump: the exploratory prelude to a smooth glide over skin (or being swotted away).

I juxtapose here thoughts on "H". It has struck me that the fascination with the letter "H" in the poetry of bp Nichol may be connected to his use of the MacIntosh computer (his machine is now housed at Simon Fraser University) for on that machine in the classic simple text application Command+H triggers the voice synthesis that produces a reading of the text.

and touch
op scotch


And so for day 443

The Art of Dying

Somtow Sucharitkul. Starship & Haiku.

This isn't how it should be! she thought. Each death should be a moment of supreme individuality, a moment before the dew drop joins the ocean

Notwithstanding the odd notion of a dew drop directly wending its way to the ocean without either evaporating and falling as rain or seeping into groundwater and into a stream or river, I am touched by this character bemoaning the machinery of a post-apocalyptic amusement park that carries the masses to cookie-cutter suicides.

Come to think of it, condensation can accumulate on the hull of a vessel so there must be cases where dew joins the ocean. The novel can be read not so much as a condemnation of the dying as a rebuke to the witnesses. To observe truly is to practice a ritual which is not simply to repeat a form. To observe is to be open to the uniqueness of the moment. And yet when faced with quantities of unique moments what is left is the sameness of their passing. And yet again the passing happens in a host of unique ways however minute the uniqueness.

The character's "should be" can evolve into the reader's "necessarily is".

And so for day 442

Courteous memory and friendship

One theme that pervades Anne McCaffrey's Killashandra is the occupational hazard of forgetfulness.

It is directly linked to politeness.

"[...] I can't help it if singers lose their memories . . . and every shred of common courtesy."
"I'll program eternal courtesy to you on my personal tape, Bajorn."
"I'd appreciate it. Only do it now, would you, Killashandra, before you forget?"

And directly to friendship...

Antonia shrugged. "One establishes a friendship by sharing events and opinions. They remember nothing and consequently have nothing to share. And less to talk about."

And thus indirectly are courtesy and friendship linked.

I am reminded of David K. Reynolds's description of Naikan therapy as a practice that "leads to a deep sense of gratitude for the concrete and specific ways in which we are supported by our world" (Flowing Bridges, Quiet Waters: Japanese Psychotherapies, Morita and Naikan). Via Reynolds we come to understand ourselves as creatures of care.

The recognition of this [parental] care provides a template for viewing the specific ongoing care our surroundings (including other humans around us) provide in the present. This recognition, in turn, prompts us to evaluate the actual ways we return these favors and cause trouble to those who provide them. [...] Attempts to begin to repay our debts are beneficial, although we accumulate debts to the world faster than we can ever expect to repay them.

It is a type of accounting that is similar to that traced by the narrative arc in McCaffrey's novel. And if I credit myself for the juxtaposition, I am but vaguely aware of all the various circumstances that contributed to having the two books cross my awareness in a time and place that permit me to remember to make a record of their similarities.

And so for day 441


A prolonged meditation on various psychic states is what marks the short story by Brian Vickers entitled "The Coded Sun Game" and published in Quark 3 edited by Samuel Delany and Marilyn Hacker. The piece reads in part like a cross between Burroughs and Joyce. For example:

0: Zero or Omega / the auto-wrecking lot has auto-wrecked itself — "It's high time" — A neon sky contains his blue jeans and broken teeth, but I laugh: my shirt has unique red symbols painted by the priestess, not the son — He who gets hurt — My walls shake with seismic withdrawal thunder, Ultra-Hysteric Freakuency [...]

What I find intriguing are the changes in pronoun that refocus the reader's distance from the speaker or narrator — one is never quite sure if the first person will hold, indeed, one attempts to ride the channel surfing anticipating the next shift.

And so for day 440

Text Tiles

This poem began as a ghazal and morphed into this

Life Fabrics

the threadbare crotch
the bruized leather
wrench destiny

I have travelled too far
to write epic
even my homo heroes and their heroes
cannot tapestry fill

Not enough
shredded to rag pulp

I have bolts of cloth not yet turned
to tatters by moth boy eyes

I like spelling "bruise" with a "z" — it captures the hurt. I also like how the poem implies there is a long way to go to reach the necessary nakedness to undertake a great undertaking.

And so for day 439

Audible Colour

Fadeout by Joseph Hansen in the Dave Brandstetter mystery series exhibits like the other novels in the series a knack for the characterization of space. The descriptions of setting are remarkable for how they concisely capture activities.

For instance this pet shop is vividly memorable because of a slight crossing of the avian and the botanical

Birds surrounded her in shiny cages. Canaries, parakeets, finches. Noisy flowers.

The turn of phrase would be merely a nice touch in passing if it were not for a subtle reprise about a page later:

They went into the shop again. Hard, bright surfaces under glaring fluorescents. Bouquets of loud plastic flowers. A bubbling green fish tank.

It is almost as if the textual reprise invites the reader to turn down the volume and heighten the colour.

And so for day 438

Time Re-manipulated

Thud! by Terry Pratchett is a humourous romp which swings with verve into aphorisms that strike one as allusions to Proustian themes.

How the sense of smell serves memory:

She prowled onwards in a world of color; smells overlaid one another, drifting and persisting. The nose was also the only organ that can see backwards in time.

And the use of stimulants reminds one of moments in Proust's biography that describe the use of stimulants to improve breathing and resulting in insomnia:

Coffee was only a way of stealing time that should by rights belong to your slightly older self.

It is fun to find these nuggets embedded in an engaging story. Even if they are not labelled as Proustian, they make us pause and admire the finesse with which perception intercepts memory.

And so for day 437


As an afterwards to Alice A. Parker's remarks on translation to the effect that "Translation, like writing, opens up a quantum field of inquiry [...]" I place this passage from Li Tongxuan Entry into the Realm of Reality as translated by Thomas Cleary

Once Sudhana had entered the building, the door then reclosed. Opening means the disappearance of delusion and the appearance of knowledge. Reclosing means that in knowledge there is no inside or outside, no exiting or entering, no delusion or enlightenment. This means wholly returning to the source.

I quote this not to suggest that there exists a mystical guide for doing the work of translation. Rather I cite the passage as an antidote to the common misapprehension that translation is solely the carrying over of a meaning from on situation to another. Translation can be viewed as building another route to a source. It is a way back to an after before or a now.

The building is forever in a state of being built even as it crumbles into ruin. Entering into the building is like tracing a translation: being there on the way to being there.

And so for day 436


Alice A. Parker in the entry on Nicole Brossard in The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage: A Reader's Companion to the Writers and their Works from Antiquity to the Present edited by Claude J. Summers writes

Translation, like writing, opens up a quantum field of inquiry into words, syntax, grammar, and the production of meaning.

I like to think of the translating text and the translated text as the givens in actuality and the translation as that which hovers between them in virtuality. It's a dimension accessible only through comparison, constant comparison, of target and source. To translate is to read bilingually.

It is reading that I associate with opening up a field. Writing for me is a task in the service of materializing a selection. Writing is a kind of closure. For some people writing is a form of reading. To translate, to write, to read. Different modalities of a play with form in the service of what matters? Not surprising when one considers that the opening of a field is connected to the setting of boundaries, a type of n-closure.

And so for day 435


Drinking coffee, I found an interesting rendering for the cuff that supports the cup and protects the hand from the heat. In English it is called an "insulating sleeve". In the French one reads about "cette gaine isolante" which back translated refers to a girdle.

Somehow thinking in French makes the cup wide and in English tall and long. And in which language would I be prone to blow upon the beverage to cool it?

And so for day 434

Transforming Form

Came across a creative writing course outline from the early 90s (Transforming Form: Creative Writing from a Gay & Lesbian Perspectives). I proposed that "Through a series of directed readings and structured exercises, participants will integrate an awareness of anticipated reader(s) into critical responses to their own work and that of their peers."

Weeks three, four and five are oddly telling at this distance in time:

Week 3
Travelogue or Mystery (Class Choice)
What differences count? Here and There. Seeing differently? There and Here.

Week 4
Sexually Explicit Writing
Audre Lorde excerpt from Zami
Robin Metcalfe, "The Shirt" Mandate 1983
Killing the cliche; unleashing fantasy; realism and sexual representation.

Week 5
Marking Passages/Testimonials
An examination of obituaries and tributes selected [...]

I am struck all these years later by the route from mystery and travel through the sexually explicit to mourning and remembrance. Was a time that to express grief was as radical an act as to talk sex.

I smile at the final week:

Week 10
Joanna Russ The Female Man
Samuel Delany Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand

Science fiction; utopias; writing for the open audience

I now imagine that writing for the open might be like setting a trip wire for one person, me. The audience, revisiting old aspirations, familiar territory grown novel once again, is transported, marvelling at what could be done. Setting a trip wire for unknown special effects.

As far as trip wires go, the thinnest is sometimes toughest.

I burnt the syllabus. All that I have left is what is recorded here.

And so for day 433

Time Machine Brain: dancing dendrites

Paul Bouissac in "Three Mini-reviews: Focus on the Brain" quotes from Donald Pfaff Brain Arousal and Information Theory: Neural and Genetic Mechanisms

Brains are foretelling devices and their predictive powers emerge from the various rhythms they perpetually generate. At the same time, brain activity can be tuned to become an ideal observer of the environment, due to an organized system of rhythms.

I like to juxtapose this with the words from Adam Anderson as quoted by Jenny Lass in a piece of scientific journalism "Meditation can change brain function, psychology study says. Findings appear in December issue of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience"

"The prefrontal cortex allows us to mentally time travel. It's an amazing capacity," he [Anderson] explained "but it can have some side effects." The ability to learn from the past and predict the future is useful but it can also cause us to worry about what has already happened or what is yet to come.

Rhythm. Modulation. Meditation. "Training your brain to switch off its default desire to ruminate [...]"

And so for day 432

Tree Destiny (winter haiku)

A rift on a line from Matthew 7:17-20 and pondering the fate of being consigned to the fire

pan dendron agathon
the parable of every good tree ends
in dry crackle of winter

Parable improbable. Haiku for winter thoughts.

And so for day 431


In the "On Water" chapter of Jennifer Bennett's Our Gardens Ourselves: Reflections on an Ancient Art one finds a lovely meandering sentence that reminds one of a slowly trickling stream or of the tranquil disappearance of evaporation trails.

It is hidden in the air, in the soil and in countless puddles that do not look like puddles but take on fascinating, colourful multitude of unpuddlelike shapes — tree shapes, earthworm shapes, gardener shapes, tomato shapes, whatever — that hold the water, in transit, by means of relatively small amounts of substances other than water.

Such an antithesis to a great chain of being to place the human player between earthworm and vegetable. Such wonder that the vast hydraulics are powered by a few well-placed salts.

And so for day 430

The Way of Economy

Anne McCaffrey Crystal Singer embeds an intriguing aphorism in a passage reflecting upon the awakening of the protagonist, Killashandra, to her chosen craft and profession.

That was ever the way of technology: to take the worthless and convert it into wealth.

The sentence is set at the end of a paragraph in a spot and with punctuation to invite meditation. The way of technology is not necessarily an easier way. It is not one without toil. And McCaffrey's text makes this clear because the concluding sentence of the previous paragraph sets the tone

The two facets of singing crystal were linked: the good and bad, the difficult, the ecstatic.

Wicked play with parallelism where good is on an initial reading aligned with difficult and bad with ecstatic. But the alignment is perhaps chiasmic and the valuation is reversed: the bad ecstasy and the good difficulty. In any event the colon helps the reader focus upon the unasked question: how much wealth does it take for the way of technology to convert the worthless?

And so for day 429


Signed "James Downey", the introduction to inno'va-tion: Essays by Leading Canadian Researchers contains an apt description of the ingredients of the research process

While researchers may use highly sophisticated machines, they themselves are subject to the same vagaries of chance experience as the rest of us. Their discoveries are often a unique and unpredictable mix of curiosity, circumstance, skill, and personal reflection.

The celebration of chance is for me akin to the praise of imagination and its highly sophisticated machines. It is the attention to pattern and its manipulations that bring together in my mind the meditation on the work of the researcher with the play of the writer as suggested by Jane Yolen in Touch Magic

Literature, of course, is an unnatural act committed by two consenting individuals — writer and reader. [...] Each — writer and reader — helps create the world. The pattern is the book. A fantasy novel is more than an adventure or a quest. Rather it is a series of image-repeating glasses, a hall of mirrors that brings past and future into focus and calls it the present. [...] The fantasy novel presents a world of poetry, of dream-making and sometimes of dream-breaking.

To imagine the otherwise, to be aware of chance, to observe carefully: simple practices for complex machines be they of fiction or of the laboratory.

And so for day 428

The Ends of Names

Mosquito by Gayl Jones ends with a signature that displays the names of the narrator protagonist: Sojourner Nadine Jane Nzingha Johnson.

The first chapter of The General in His Labyrinth by Gabreil Garcia Marquez translated by Edith Grossman ends with a paragraph that likewise rifts on names:

It was the end. General Simon Jose Antonio de la Santisima Trinidad Bolivar y Palacios was leaving forever.

I find it intriguing that the display of a full set of names is congruent with a sort of signing off.

And so for day 427


Any Vanderbilt's Complete Cookbook has a recipe for "Baked Stuffed Onions" in which the tops of cooked onions are sliced off and the centres scooped out. The scooped-out onions are sauted and spooned over the stuffed onions. This reminds me of soubise.

And so I looked up Soubise in Len Deigthon's Où est le garlic? in which soubise is described as the addition of cooked onions to béchamel. Oddly not what I recalled (a mixture of cooked rice and onions pureed).

I checked Escoffier's Ma Cuisine where it is called "Sauce ou purée soubise". No trace of a bechamel base.

All this cross-checking is assisted by good indices. And it generates an appetite. Time to head for the kitchen.

And so for day 426


Alan Fletcher in The Art of Looking Sideways reproduces Erotic Surrealist Handsigns. One discovers a clever juxtaposition of a chart of the handsigns from the deaf alphabet and associated with each of these letters a word. For example, "U" stands for "urticate", "C" for "cunnilinguate", "D" for "deflower", etc.

Being set in a book of some thousand pages, the reproduction of the found art is itself a bit of a "trouvaille".

And so for day 425

Hankering (summer haiku)

In February, in this part of the world, the light has returned but the warmth remains remote. It is perhaps no wonder that the summer-themed haiku are written during the cold of winter. Gazing out the window upon the skeletal twigs, one leaps over buds and shoots of spring to the fullness of bloom and leaf. One holds in mind the gardener's triumph. Later there will be satisfaction in the progressions; now is the time of the recollection of grand delight.

fence-clematis dots
found in formations
as sky-crisp as flocks

In the muffled muteness of the snow, it is difficult to hold true to the constant mutability. Difficult but not impossible especially with the help of words and images.

And so for day 424

Broken on Purpose

The chapter on "Perfection" in David Weinberger Small Pieces Loosely Joined

No, we don't think we're perfect, but we think it's just a matter of time before progress will protect us from every random misfortune to which our flesh is heir. Where once our imperfection defined who we were as creatures, now it merits a shrug of the shoulders followed by an uplifting thought and a comment to maintain our all-important "self-esteem."

Now we come back to the Web. [...] The Web is broken on purpose.

I like how the theme of the robustness of the organic is introduced and undercut. Shrugging off imperfection is in a sense belittling its being a sign of the power to meet contingencies. Weinberger doesn't explicitly state the comparison of Web and human body. That is its charm, here.

And so for day 423

Delight and Contemplation

Virginia Woolf's biography of Roger Fry of course quotes the painter and critic himself.

"One thing I can say for myself," he wrote. "There are no pangs of jealousy or envy when I see someone else doing good work. It gives me pure delight." There perhaps lay the secret of his influence as a critic.

Earlier, Woolf quotes Fry on his own painting ...

I shall never make anything that will give you or anyone else the gasp of delighted surprise at a revelation but I think I shall tempt people to a quiet contemplative kind of pleasure — the pleasure of recognising that one has spotted just this or that quality which has meaning tho' mostly one passes it by.

This approach is consonant with a critical practice of returning again to the picture (not claiming that one has exhausted all there is to see). It is an intensely scientific and patient approach. Being in touch with the variable. And the constant.

And so for day 422


I have encountered this advice about flatulence avoidance in a number of places. Kim Williams's is a simple and prosaic description of how to treat the cooking of beans. It is culled from the introduction to the recipe for "Savory Four-Bean Salad" found in her Cookbook & Commentary: A Seasonal Celebration of Good Food for Mind & Body.

With either method I drain off that soaking water, add fresh water, cook, covered, for one half hour, then drain again. Then I add fresh water and cook the beans until they are tender. This is the final cooking and the liquid stays with the beans.

Me, I discard the soaking liquid. Cook. Then discard the cooking liquid. And store with fresh water unless I am adding them immediately to a dish. Whatever the sequence of rinsing, a colander is a useful tool for cooking beans.

And so for day 421


From the interview with Monkey Bread, in the Daughters of Nzingha newsletter in the novel Mosquito by Gayl Jones.

Remember that listeners have got imaginations and sometimes their imaginations are richer than anything they can hear. Tell your stories right and the listener tells as much of the story as you do. Fact, the listener might tell the better parts of the story.

That little qualification "sometimes" opens the reader to a world of circumstance. Also if you read carefully you may stumble upon the concept that a single reader may have more than one type of imagination. Some of those imaginations see what is not heard.

And so for day 420

Blue by Gass

To quote from On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry by William Gass is to do an injustice to the text's voluptuousness, the waves of its pages. However to point people to it is a type of reparation.

Words are one-way mirrors, and we can safely breathe, hoot, holler all we like to assure ourselves of our existence, and never once disturb Prudence easing her itch.

And juxtaposing an earlier moment from the movement ...

None of these inclusive responses is purely public, purely private; each of them is cognitive, the sum of whatever we know and are at any moment. We experience the world, balanced on our noses like the ball it is, turn securely through the thunder of our own applause.

And so for day 419


There is an arresting description in Zen-Brain Reflections by James H. Austin that calls to mind over a wide arc of reading about the "Siena Sieve" portrait of Queen Elizabeth I that serves as a frontispiece to Lowell Gallagher's Medusa's Gaze: Casuistry and Conscience in the Renaissance. One mentions a sieve; the other depicts the monarch holding one.

The GABA cap can close and open, acting sometimes as a shield, sometimes as a sieve.

No other connection but the "sieve" as a concept or representation for the workings of the mind. And culinary memories of sifting or of draining, of actually shaking a sieve.

And so for day 418

Psychosomatics and Ancestors

John Brunner Stand on Zanzibar. The novel's fiction. This exchange between characters spills out beyond the confines of the fictional world. Some of it seems to ring true for the actual world.

"[...] An old man — I suppose you'd call him a witch-doctor — taught me muscle-reading in the back streets of Port-au-Prince while I was ambassador to Haiti. I thought for a moment you must have suffered some sort of major injury to that hand, but I can't feel the effects of one. Whose hand was it, then?"

"My three times great-grandfather."

"Back in slavery days?"


"Cut off?"

"Sawn off. Because he hit his boss and knocked him into a creek."

"Elihu nodded. "You must have been very young when you heard about it," he suggested.

"Six, I think."

And the dialogue carries on. And far later in the novel, one character tells another:

In short, we're not expatriates, you and I. We're extemporates exiled from a country that vanished even before we were born, of which our parents made us citizens without intending to.

At this remove outside the fictional world I wonder if there is not a certain element of self-fashioning in the stories we assume. Not every bit of the past sticks. Is there not an element of choice in what is accepted out of time? Extempore?

And so for day 417

Fate of Visions

Marcel Proust in "The Princesse de Guermantes Receives", Third Chapter of The Past Recaptured, translated by Frederick A. Blossom, on the fragility of memories and the affordances offered by nebulous recall

If I still possessed a copy of [...], I would never look at it; I would be too afraid of inserting in it little by little my impressions of today, covering completely those of former years; I would be too afraid of seeing it become so completely a thing of the present that, when I asked it to call forth again the child who spelled out its title in the little room at Combray, not recognizing its voice, he might not respond any longer to its call and might remain forever buried in oblivion.

The narrator had just before this called up an impression of how the mind works: "I know too well how easily the pictures left by the mind can be effaced by the mind." I stress the subjective position of this declaration and its focus on pictures not on moments of what we might call "bundles of experience." The pictures are fragile. They are things of the mind. The mind is ranked against its creations. "For the old ones it substitutes new ones which do not have the same power of resurrection."

This succession of selves and the theme of resurrection is set in the context of a contrast between a copy of a given book and the work itself. And in rereading (and thereby displacing some previous impressions or pictures) we discern almost the inverse of a labour theory of value. Rereading disturbs the work (i.e. the product). Rereading, an act of labour, destroys the talisman quality of the work, indeed destroys the work as product. The work might no longer serve in conjuring the picture of the child that was.

There is an escape from resurrection. There is the call of oblivion. It may call forth something more enduring. A few pages later the lament for the present's encroachment upon the past gives way to a passage that invites the reader to be mindful:

An hour is not merely an hour. It is a vase filled with perfumes, sounds, plans and climates.

And so the narrator moves from contemplating the role of reader to embracing the role of writer.

And so for day 416

Visions of Fate

Stephen Kuusisto in Planet of the Blind muses upon fate and gives it a vibrant texture.

Fate it seems is made of thorns and blossoms and bones. As Corky [the guide dog] flings leaves and growls with satisfaction I contemplate gloom. The future is indifferent to emotion: events unfold with or without our melancholy or optimism. But there must be sufficient reason for optimism, and for the sentiment that we can craft our potential lives.

Sufficient but not necessary. We in this view of fate are cast back upon our resources. This is good and necessarily so.

He writes earlier in the book:

We are, all of us, ecstatic creatures, capable of joyous mercy to the self and to others.

To begin to think of mercy as a sentiment, it certainly helps to describe it as joyous. A very wise place from which to begin to craft our potential.

And so for day 415