“un-memories”

 

In my latest book, The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory, I ponder the nature of memory–what we remember, what we forget, how our identities are built by and shaped by memories.  While I can’t recreate any single memory into a perfect film of the past, I can stare at the open sky of existence, trace the collective particles, and sculpt them into meaningful shapes.

A review of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory is just out from New Pages. Here’s an excerpt. Please click the link below to read more.

“. . . memories and un-memories push against each other throughout the text, the tension between them driving the narrative and forming some of the book’s most vital and memorable moments.”

New Pages

Nawrocki Broadside 2 (2)

The Sky’s Version of Truth
So what about the laziness
of light, taking its sweet old time
getting to the eye. The sky
having no reason to be false
teaches memory, a peek
of what old people must have seen:
Cassiopeia learning to dance, Orion
earning his bow, Taurus deciding
to charge. A navigator’s dream.
What the eye catches is an old light.

What we rely on most is thriftiness.
Whatever speed it takes,
the open road is just dotted lines
a tree’s last goodbye to summer,
just lament. It’s a different kind
of blindness—seeing too much
seeing with the heart, light alone
or a blade of grass.
Loving the blindness, the eye sees a pattern:
the round dome of sky,
the traffic of night, ad infinitum.
Connect the dots the sky is saying.

I see a banjo, the spokes of a wheel,
the claw of a crow catching me. Maybe
a duck-billed platypus playing the trumpet.
I can almost hear a star’s last sigh.
Perhaps legacy is spelled out
the way memory returns to you
so many years later: you remember
the leaves, the rain, the sound
of a breath stopping three rooms away.

This poem appears in Nomad’s End, published by Finishing Line Press, 2010. Order your signed and personalized copy here.

Once . . . always

Pre-orders of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory have shipped! To celebrate, here’s a snippet, teaser, foreshadow. The memoir chronicles the summer of 1992 when I slept in a “profound coma.” Leading up to that illness, I kept a journal–mostly ramblings of a first-year college student, a few loose drafts of poems, many musings on boredom and loneliness. Process work.

But looking back, there are passages that spoke with soothsaying eerieness. For example:

09 March: I found boredom to be sleepless
under a rock of drug induced comatose crustaceans.
This, I’m sure is also the place where the
meaning of life finds nutrients but alas, once
comatose always comatose . . . When I have
children I’m having them in my brain.

Isthmus 1993

The journal entry is from March. In June, everything would shut down and become a blur. Read more . . . .

The Comets Tail Cover-Retail

 

Broadsides

Minus the town square and the tavern, (or rather in honor of virtual squares and literary ephemera) here is The Comet’s Tail’s first offering.

Nawrocki Broadside 2 (2)

Homebound Publications and Little Bound Books will release the Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory and ship pre-orders on Tuesday, April 10th.

Please support independent publishers like Homebound Publications and writers who want to share the tiny particles of our lives. Join the conversation.

We’re up to day 24 of this month’s 30/30 Project. Donate to my campaign. I need just $5 to reach $500.

Forthcoming

As the year winds down, I’m looking forward next year’s release of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory. This will be one of two essays released by Little Bound Books, a division of Homebound Publications.

Comets Tail Cover Final

Kirkus calls it “a complex and compelling memoir.” Read the full review here.

As an enticement (Homebound is taking pre-orders), here is “In My Sleeplessness, I Hear an Opera” which is featured in Four Blue Eggs.

In My Sleeplessness, I Hear an Opera

In the beginning, I hear the darkness.
I’m crowded by the soprano’s knowledge
of body rhythms. I see E flat cry.
And then the light bulbs begin to sprout, one
by one, by the side of the stage where all
the presidents line up in order.
I know them by their thunderous tenors
because when eyelids magnetize, I do not
sleep. After that, I pretend I that I lie
in a coffin, my arms folded like white
linen in a closet oddly fitted
to the size of my body. I smell cedar.
But all this time I have been wondering
If my eyelashes have learned how to sing.

 

 

 

 

First Editions

To celebrating the release of the second edition of Reconnaissance, enjoy this poem about first editions. Click the title to order your own first edition at a special discounted price.

The Thief

I apprenticed well. For a sixth grade project,
Mrs. Montecalvo taught me the worth
of a good forgery when she assigned
the footnoted history of a painter
and encouraged an attempt at imitation.

Seeing Monet’s Westminster Bridge reprinted
in Reader’s Digest, I modeled my own
with schoolgirl brushes and an aptitude
for blending. I typed his biography
on a blue Remington, stenciled a title page,
punched symmetrical holes and glued
the masterpiece into a pocketed folder.
I never got the stink of acrylic off my fingers.

 

bridge 1 3 001

After Monet: Westminster Bridge, Acrylic on paper, circa 1985 

 

Audacity and small victories: these
are gateways for any scavenger.
Once one is secure in the false flat
of a sloped horizon, transformations
are easy: an open book, so to speak.

I pocketed the Collected Poems
of ee cummings wholesale, tore
the bar code from the last page
and slipped its frayed spine between
loose-leaf sheets of unlined
but perforated notebooks. Long after,
the card catalog entry went away too.

Like other trophies, I just stored it,
held it in a box of pressed flowers
and half memorized poems, among
generous piles of pens and paint brushes,
newspaper clippings and dirty love letters
scribbled on the backs of postcards.
For these corruptions I’ve paid only
in callouses and broken pencil tips.
Despite my best calligraphy,
slippery pens have crossed out
entire lines carefully typeset in Linotype
or Century Schoolbook, my marks bleeding
through pages now unreadable.

In the gray area between homage
and sacrilege, I thieve too much:
red wheelbarrows pile full of leaves and dirt
and burnable logs pressed into the pulp
of scrap paper or woven into stretchable
canvases. Little I see in nature
that is my own. I stole van Gogh’s sadness
and painted it on my shoulder.
Like Olympia, I learned how to stare.

Next time, let me mimic the syntax of bridges
and throw sand over wet, stolen ink.
Let me trust in surveillance. Once the thief
learns to discern original from run of the mill
everything is a first edition; everything
is one of a kind.

 

 

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From Four Blue Eggs, published by Homebound Publications. Celebrate 5 years independent publishing, order your copy today, and give it to your mom.

On My Mother’s Seventy-third Birthday

The hike is pleasant; the trail markers
are new, ferns and mountain laurel bloom
along the path. A soft whispering breeze
says something about remembrances
and a flimsy gasp escapes from my lungs.
Wishing for its own voice, a trickle of water
inches down a slope of jagged rocks as if
wanting just to touch something, however cool.
In a clearing, I see across the rounded tops of trees
into the valley and into the complex
gathering of green—the heart of June,
new and curious. Yet, everything seems
to be empty. Despite the emeralds
all I spy are gaps; rifts appear where leaves
and bark separate, the gulf between earth
and sky is full of ever-present grey stones.
More than a half-life has passed
since we wondered whether the hair
she was losing would grow back black
or peppered with white ash, but I cannot
remember what we decided. Memory
in its detachment, is as insufficient
as a summer waterfall.

 

Finding Your Inner Alice

In honor of the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s publication of Alice in Wonderland, the Hamden Public Library has sponsored a number of events this month, including a two-part writing workshop: Finding Your Inner Alice. I am happy to be participating with the 15 other writers in the workshop. Last week we brainstormed and discussed our personal connections to Alice and Carroll’s work.

By the end our our discussion, the group realized that many of us had negative impressions of Alice and her adventures in Wonderland. From my initial thoughts last week, I put together this “second draft.”

“Shut up like a telescope”

Finding My Inner Alice, Rough Draft, prose memory.

I come to Alice from a tree branch, from a separate limb. Maybe I’m the Cheshire Cat, watching myself watch her. I have no immediately accessible memory of time or place. No matter. I see from my pocket watch that I’ve arrived too late. She’s already gone down, and only by looking back—or looking through—or catching my reflection in my own looking glass—does she manifest.

My mother read to us often, and I recall, impressionistically, other books: their muted green covers, gold edged pages and pen-and-ink drawings. This is how I can render Toad and Rat and Badger in my mind from Wind in the Willows. I can still touch those pages.

Though I can’t pinpoint how I came to know her, it’s not hard to picture Alice, her blue dress and white pinafore painted like so many others in the Technicolor of Disney. But whether her image is a piece from a specific moment or a combination of moments, I don’t know for sure.

1book4

But it seems that my memory of Alice begins on page 8. I imagine that I’ve seen this drawing before, and that the first time I saw it I felt something. The image of long-necked Alice, stretched like silly putty and uncomfortably large, frightens me even now. It conjures in my mind a sense memory, something tactile, as if I can feel the vertebrae in my own neck separate. But unlike the thrill of seeing each inch of your life penciled on a hallway wall as you grow and age, I see Alice’s elastic neck as strangulation, instead of release. The key I need is out of reach.

Instead of watching my feet disappear underneath me, I watch a body in torment, and just for good measure the Queen of Hearts has come along to say with all the echo of childhood discomfort: “Off with her head!” The rabbit hole is dark, and the looking glass reflects a fat little girl who can’t stand to be seen.

Alice’s neck is most vivid because it speaks to my nine year old self and the torture that my own body inflicted on me. Betrayed by the little cakes and drinks of “cherry-tart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffee and hot buttered toast;” betrayed by birthdays and elongating limbs, adolescence simply became “curiouser and curiouser,” and I became sadder and sadder. Even now, Alice’s long neck frightens me out of my skin.