Southern Eclair

With Photos by E. Clair and Kristen L. Smith

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You asked me what your challenges were. You know mine, because you’ve seen them. You’ve seen me cry in the past, and you don’t forget that, nor let me forget, because it is a worry. You know your brother’s, because we live with them everyday. His intention on his own way, his prying apart of the rules. We don’t know your father’s challenges, because he is an anomaly who faces everything with inner assurance and peace.

And that is why I don’t have an answer for you. You are like your father. You have an inner peace. You have an inner grace. You have an inner calm. You have a soft empathy, an easy kindness, a white glow around you. My love, you are blessed. My perfect girl, I learn from you. Your six years have shown me what goodness looks like.

Tonight, as you were presented in front of the Board of Education as the Student of the Month at your school, with your sweet face that is a miniature replica of mine, with your shy eyes, my sweetheart, I know your challenges are nothing you can’t face. You have none. Nor do I.

Filed under my daughter children life challenges strength

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How come the students who proclaim the loudest in class that they want to be famous writers are always the ones who turn in the least amount of writing during the semester? Disney lied to you, because wishes don’t make dreams come true. Bitch, if you want to be a writer, sit your ass down and write.

Filed under students writers writing being a professor

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It rained buckets all day. Tea-drinking rain. Melancholy rain. I graded papers. No thesis, no clear argument, no thesis. No idea yet that an opinion is something good to have. No idea that billions of people have had them before, so you should check a few out before forming one. The rain drops from the gutter to the full rain barrel below. Splash drip splash splash drip. If we are taught that our thoughts are passive, to accept our seeming fates, we have to then be taught to fight. A thesis is your fight. If it’s boring, you’re doing it wrong. This rain will grow moss on the front patio and it will creep up the foundation like a beautiful disease. The point is not to fulfill a boring assignment, but to learn how to change the world one thought at a time, love.

In the evening, I was at the Seder Supper. Jesus gathering for the Passover meal, told his friends to remember him by sharing. They drank wine and thought on the bitterness of history. The rain bounced off the parking lot like on springs. Eat the bitter herbs dipped in salt water. They promised to meet again. The open drainage in town forms fake rivers after the rain. It reminds me of the open sewers in Love in the Time of Cholera. Olive told me she started crying today in church when we recited the Palm Sunday service: “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

If you have no thesis, you have no reason to write. You were not put here on earth to say nothing. The rain is gone now, only left in the sounds of the wet car wheels. Whoosh, passing me by in my little house.

Filed under Palm Sunday Passover Seder being a professor thesis writing grading Christianity

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So many poets focus on past relationships. I read a poem today about a narrator finding and losing herself in the negative crevices. The collarbone and the curve of the neck. Another about the intimacy of remembering drool on the pillow. When they write, they live in what was. They go to the ones now associated with longing and to the relationships without good resolutions. “How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! / The world forgetting, by the world forgot. / Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! / Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.” Alexander Pope wrote this in a poem describing Eloisa speaking of her beloved Abelard, wishing she could just forget, just wipe her mind spotless of him to ease the pain. I think poets try to do this, to wipe away through writing what haunts the brain like a specter that sits in the corners of places it has no business being.

Poets sometimes do this with anger, like Melissa Balmain in this poem from her book Walking in on People:

Open Book

Time was, your hands were on me night and day.
(The thrill along my spine!) Of course I flipped
for you, from A to Z and back to A,
not once suspecting our romantic script
was doomed (and how), you fickle, shallow fool.
You’ve traded everything you shared with me—
defining moments, leisurely, old school—
for quickies with your laptop, your PC,
your iPad, iPhone, iDon’t-Give-a-Damn:
amid their breathless litany of news,
blogs, tweets, directions, recipes and spam,
they will, at any moment that you choose,
look up a word (or dozens!) in a flash.
Well, here’s a definition I find merry:
Comeuppance (noun): when all your gadgets crash,
and you crawl back to me—your dictionary.

We oscillate the pains from our pasts, wishing we can reconcile what we wanted it to be with what it became, or wishing to punish those who hurt us by not loving us as we needed. But we can’t have spotless minds: though the memories haunt us, they also form our art. As poets, we are able to have the say we were likely never given in the present of a relationship. In words we can finally record the only perspective that really matters to any of us: our own.

Filed under poetry poets poems love relationships

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What if we are not like the river, but we are like the tree? The river rushes by, sweeping up the mud, rubbing the rocks unrecognizable, fighting the fish, carrying and killing life, a force to deal with and change your life because of. The tree, though, it just stands there looking on. It sheds to feel the cold more clearly, to help us see through it, and in the hot summer it dresses warmly, shading us below. You notice the river because it forces you to. You only notice the tree when you stop and think. If the beautiful river floats on by, pushing past and beyond, what business is it of the tree’s?

If people forget me standing there, if people don’t remember me or what I did, it is still my life. My value is not in their remembering. My soft changing colors, my sculptural winter clothes, my spring celadon: my value is in the shade I give just the same.

Filed under nature trees rivers metaphor

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The bad news is that a skate to the shin is gonna hurt. The good news is that not only was I voted most improved skater, but the most badass girl on the team suggested me as a jammer.

For those of you not in the know, a jammer is the one who breaks through the packs, is the fastest, and scores the points. So this requires celebrating with a fine pilsner. Because I’m a classy lady. And I can skate.

Filed under roller derby

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Moss had pre-k graduation pictures the other day and flipped out because he didn’t want to wear a “dress” for the picture. His teacher finally broke down and said she would buy him a Happy Meal if he just wore the gown for a minute. Moss flipped out some more: “No! My mom and dad will smell chicken nuggets on me and they’ll know what happened! Call my mom. Call her and ask if it’s okay.” So guess who gets a call while in a meeting with the Vice President of Academic Affairs? “Is Moss allowed to have a Happy Meal so he’ll wear a dress?”

That kid beats all. A dress. We’ll smell chicken nuggets on him. For real. We tried explaining to him that Daddy wears that fancy dress three times a year for work. He just looked at David like, “Mmm hmm. You a fool.”


Filed under boys children of professors he's a funny little guy what's with his strict gender roles? for serious Man and Boy

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I got a lot of feedback about my list of badass, aw-fuck-you songs.  Here are some more—just for the women—to pump you up. 

Pink in “There You Go" reminds us that when a man is bad to you, it says far more about the awful person he is than it does about you personally: "And I was right when I thought I’d be much better off without you. / Had to get myself from around you. / Cause my life was all about you."

As a Cleveland girl, I have a natural fondness for The Pretenders.  “Precious" is one of my favorites because Chrissie Hynde is a master of sarcasm: "East 55th and Euclid Avenue was real precious. / Hotel Sterling coming into view, how precious. / It’s a pity that you bruised my hip ‘cause I’m precious. / You shouldn’t let your manners slip, you’re too precious." 

Ida Maria’s “Bad Karma" helps do away with the feeling of wanting to punish a man who’s done you wrong, because "You better believe in karma. / Baby, it’s gonna sting. / The wheel of life’s gonna do you in / so I don’t really have to do a thing."

Gin Wigmore doesn’t give a shit what you think in “Black Sheep”: “I’m a bad woman to keep. / Make me mad; I’m not here to please. / Paint me in a corner but my color comes back. / Once you go black, you never go back.”
Lily Allen’s characteristically sunny sound hides the big “screw you” she’s giving her ex in “Smile”: “I was so lost back then. / But with a little help from my friends / I found a light in the tunnel at the end. / Now you’re calling me up on the phone / so you can have a little whine and a moan. / And it’s only because you’re feeling alone.”
I’ve long admired Gwen Stefani because she tells it straight, like in “Ex-Girlfriend”: “You say you’re gonna burn before you mellow. / I will be the one to burn you. / Why’d you have to go and pick me? / When you knew that we were different, completely. / I kinda always knew I’d end up your ex-girlfriend.”
See, ladies, don’t forget how you’re made. Don’t forget what you deserve, which is a whole lot better than what you got in the past. Put on your “Crown.” Own yourself. Fuck those little boys. Fuck ‘em.

Filed under music badass women women rockers break-up music look at those killer wheels roller derby

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One of my students alerted me to a “Love Language Quiz” available online (find it here.)  While we, of course, shouldn’t rely on Internet quizzes to dictate our love lives, I thought this one was fairly well done in giving a portrayal of what a person values and needs in a relationship.

For example, according to the quiz I need a lot of words of affirmation and support.  I need to be told I’m valued, in addition to being shown it.  Tell me I’m pretty and smart, mister.  Over and over.  And then give me a present.  Because I’m speeeecial.

Filed under love love languages relationships online quizzes How Can I Get Through to You?