Parked in the fields 
All night 
So many years ago, 
We saw 
A lake beside us 
When the moon rose. 
I remember 

Leaving that ancient car 
Together. I remember 
Standing in the white grass 
Beside it. We groped 
Our way together 
Downhill in the bright 
Incredible light 

Beginning to wonder 
Whether it could be lake 
Or fog 
We saw, our heads 
Ringing under the stars we walked 
To where it would have wet our feet 
Had it been water 


How strange: her voice, which I knew so well, and which is said to be the very texture of memory (“the dear inflection…”), I no longer hear. Like a localized deafness…

In the sentence “She’s not longer suffering,” to what, to whom does “she” refer? What does that present tense mean? 


I love it

when women eat sweet ribbon, sweet

rabbit, sweet meat, when women

are the scene

of several utopias

when the body melts back into shadow

beginning with the feet


XVI: Geryon’s End

The red world And corresponding red breezes

Went on Geryon did not


Moon gone. Sky shut. Night had delved deep. Somewhere (he thought) beneath
the strip of sleeping pavement
the enormous solid globe is spinning on its way— pistons thumping, lava pouring
from shelf to shelf,
evidence and time lignifying into their traces. At what point does one say of a man
that he has become unreal?
He hugged his overcoat closer and tried to assemble in his mind Heidegger’s
argument about the use of moods.
We would think ourselves continuous with the world if we did not have moods (98).

He had dreamed of thorns. A forest of huge blackish-brown thorn trees
where creatures that looked
like young dinosaurs (yet they were strangely lovely) went crashing
through underbrush and tore
their hides which fell behind them in long red strips. He would call
the photography “Human Valentines. (131)

Outside a bitten moon rode fast over a tableland of snow. Staring at the vast black
and silver nonworld moving
and not moving incomprehensibly past this dangling fragment of humans
he felt its indifference roar over
his brain box. An idea glazed along the edge of the box and whipped back
down into the canal behind his wings
and it was gone… (80-81).

Once Geryon had gone
wit his fourth-grade class to view a pair of beluga whales newly captured
from the upper rapids of the Churchhill River.
Afterwards at nights he would lie on his bed with his eyes open thinking of
the whales afloat
in the moonless tank where their tails touched the wall— as alive as he was
on their side
of the terrible slopes of time… (90).

A healthy volcano is an exercise in the uses of pressure.

Geryon sat on his bed in the hotel room pondering the cracks and fissures
of his inner life. It may happen
that the exit of the volcanic bent is blocked by a plug of rock, forcing
molten matter sideways along
lateral fissures called fire lips by volvanologists. Yet Geryon did not want
to become one of those people
who think of nothing but their stores of pain. He bent over the book on his kneees.
Philosophical Problems.
“I will never know how you see red and you will never know how I see it.
But this separation of consciousness
is recognized only after a failure of communication, and our first movement is
to believe in an undivded being between us…”
As he read Geryon could feel something like tons of black magma boiling up
from the deeper regions of him.
He moved his eyes back to the beginning of the page and started again.
“To deny the existence of red
is to deny the existence of mystery. The soul which does so will one day go mad.”
A church bell rang across the page
and the house of six P.M. flowed through the hotel like a wave. Lamps snapped on
and white bedspreads sprang forward,
water rushed in the walls, the elevator crashed like a mastodon within its hollow cage.
I am not the one who is crazy here,
said Geryon closing the book. (105).


Not to be known always by my wounds,
I buried melancholy’s larvae

And cleaved the air behind you.
Myself I gathered

Like the middle dusk
To the black tulips of your nipples.

For seven days we shut the door,
We scoured the room with birds’ blood.

And for a little while,
In the hollow where your throat rose

From between your splendid clavicles,
Our only rival was music,

The piano of bonewhiteness.
Nor did the light subside,

But deepeningly contracted.
The rawness of the looking.

The quiver.


Last night, I had one of my few recurring dreams… no, not the one about water and tsunamis (thought some internet genius insists that this has something to do with emotional instability…), but the one about a small plane I once took with my family from Tanga to Pemba, Pemba to Zanzibar. In the dream, I am a grown woman with my head in my mothers lap, crying and insisting that the plane will crash. My sister and Tom are in the seat in front. My mother is yelling at the pilot who is occupied with a tall European woman sitting co-pilot, as she snaps shots of him carelessly navigating us through the sky.

There are two people behind us. I don’t turn around. I know we don’t know them, but I sense they are there and that one of them, at least, is a young woman. And then I hear this voice….

and it’s Robert Pinsky….

and he’s asking me why I have not updated my blog… 

Sooooo the Pinsky part is a new addition to my ongoing dream anxieties. But he does have an excellent plane voice, I will say. And it’s getting me to write what I have being thinking about in Lisbon… in no particular order.

1. Went to Cascais and met Luis D’Sousa, a wonderful Portuguese writer and dear friend of the late poet, Alberto de Lacerda. Luis kept us for hours in hysterics, holding our attention with stories about Eliot and Auden, Lorca and Proust. He had some incredible art by the Portuguese artist, Paula Rego, and books owned by such celebrated writers that my hands shook to hold them. “You better take these back,” I would say to him, and he would smile, re-shelve them gingerly, and then come to me with some other treasure. He likes Whitman. And photography. And talking about his life as a BBC liaison in Washington for years. Weeks later, I met Luis and his familyagain at a party at the US Embassy. More stories and laughter. Here is an art piece by Paulo Rego, an artist who has also been commissioned to do these haunting wine labels:


2. We scootered up the coast to Cabo da Roca, the western-most point in continental Europe. It looked like big sur, but Icouldn’t see any dolphins or whales (California has spoilt me). Nevertheless, it was beautiful, and I sat for a long time on the wooden barrier with my shoes off, kicking my legs towards Boston. Scootering with Camille:


3. Carpe Diem is a phenomenal art space and residency here in Lisbon with an unfortunately un-ironic, somewhat ridiculous name. Don’t hold it against them. They did something heroic here in Lisbon. They took one of the city’s beautiful abandoned estate houses (belle epoch era, I believe) and converted it into an art installation space where the pieces are built into the rooms. They hosted everything from video and sound installations to painting and basement sculptures, and finally, an awesome garden party with fresh lemonade and peacocks… that’s right. Peacocks chilling in the yard. 

Some photos of the installations and space:


4. Madrid. I went there for 48 hours. I spent a whole day in the Prado. The queen of Spain was there. I did not see her…. but I could feel her (not really, but someone did tell me she was about that day). What can I say about Madrid? I saw a Gaudi building, ate cured meat, strolled a rose garden, stood before a Don Quixote fountain, and took a gondola ride and then realized, too late, that it was stupid to take a gondola ride as I am clearly terrified of heights. Very clearly… hence my bad dreams about planes. 

Photos of bizarre confrontational ads in Madrid, gondolas, Gaudi, and the Prado:


5. I travelled up to France for a few days, visited my sister, an artist, in the south of France. I met my niece, Indigo. They live in Asprières, a small village in the Midi-Pyrénées region of southern France. It is essentially made up of four streets: Rue du Midi, Rue du Centre, Rue du Rouergue, and Rue Belle Vue. There is a small market, a restaurant, a church, and a bed and breakfast inn/pub, but most of the socialization occurs in the narrow paths in the village overlooking fields of sheep, horses, and cows. Asprières is surrounded by meadows, woodland, wild poppies and cornflowers, and is home to over 400 species of butterflies. My sister and I have decided we are going to start a small art collective there, once she can install a kiln. She is going to teach ceramics and drawing. I am going to teach poetry. Summer 2013. 

I was very moved by my time in the town… and my sister and I, in an attempt to put the baby to sleep, would walk the village late at night with the baby in her stroller. Under a low moon, we caught up. I asked her what she painted when she was pregnant, curious if it had changed anything about her artistic sensibility. And we had such a nice chance to talk about our developing crafts… and occasionally, of course, to make sure Indigo was tucked in well with her Peppa Pig stuffed animal, dozing off to the sounds of the French countryside. I pretty sure all she dreams of are horses and bunnies. 

Also… children’s shows look like the afterlife. They are terrifying. Don’t ever watch them, Judith.

Some photos of Asprières and the surrounding area, the River Lot:


6. The Disquiet Writing Festival has started and it’s 2 weeks long. It deserves it’s own post, so I will write again when it’s closer to finishing. Until then,

poems and dissertation,

poems and dissertation,

poems and dissertations….


The Most Emily of All

When you dream wood I dream water.
When you dream boards, or cupboard,
I dream a lake of rain, a race sprung
From the sea. If you call out ‘house’ to me
And I answer ‘library’, you answer me
By the very terms of your asking,
As a sentence clings tighter
Because it makes no sense.

Your light hat with the dark band
Keeps turning up; you pull it right
Down over your head and run the fingers
Of your right hand up and down
In a groove on the door panel. A finger
Going like this into my closed hand
Feels how my line of life turns back
Upon itself, in the kind of twilight
Before the moon is seen.

A verse from a poem by Lermentov
Continually goes round
In my head. A full ten days
Has elapsed since I started my
‘You can go or stay’ letter, increasingly
Without lips like the moon that night,
A repercussive mouth made for nothing,
And used for nothing.
Just let me moisten your dreamwork
With the lower half of the letter,
Till my clove-brown eyes beget a taller blue.

-Medbh McGuckian









The best part of my day is food shopping. I like food. I used to cook all the time in France and in California, but hardly at all in Boston (I blame Allston). Anyways, I am committed to cooking here using Portuguese staple ingredients and for this week, mostly vegetarian. This means a variety of beans, peas, vegetables, fruit, and honey.

First, the Mercado da Ribeira, is one of the best markets in the city. It’s in this gorgeous glass and steel structure. I took these photos around closing time so most of it’s all packed up, but you get the idea.



They also have an excellent assortment of fresh cut flowers. I brought some home to replace the plastic flowers that were currently “adorning” my apartment.


My first night I made peppers stuffed with white beans, onions, garlic, and red chillies. The next night I made a ratatouille using eggplants, heirloom tomatoes, garlic, chick peas, arugula, squash, and some cheese.


By the mid-week, I decided that I needed to tackle some of this giant Portuguese cabbage I had heard so much about.



I made a traditional Portuguese soup called caldo verde, a peasant dish that originated in the province of Minho. Potatoes, cabbage, garlic, onions, lemon, and some herbs. It doesn’t look like much, but it was delicious and filling.

Caldo Verde:


Then, the Juliana soup, a popular vegetable soup in Portugal. More cabbage, onins,  potatoes, turnips, carrots, mint, cilantro, olive oil.


Last night, I broke my vegetarian streak. My cousin and his friends took me to this restaurant called Zapata in Santa Catarina. Mostly everyone at the table ordered octopus and breaded porridge.

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