NaPoMo, Day 7



This morning I woke up to the smell of forest fire. The Pine Barrens were on fire again, and something called a temperature inversion meant that you could smell the fire all the way up to New York City. The air was hazy and smelled like summer camp. 

The fire is under control now – local news is reporting 100% containment. 

Day 7

Rachel’s Poem at the PFFA: Mere-Exposure Effect
Someone Else’s Awesome Poem: Tawni Vee Waters, “From Isis to Osiris On the Day She Found His Head”

NaPoMo, Days 4 & 5


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Today is April 5. Today is the day Kurt Cobain died. Today is also the day Layne Staley died. 

I came of age in the 90s – I learned about sadness, about anger, about love and greed and jealousy and compassion in the decade where political correctness was a trend, where the slacker generation was trying to figure out what to do with the frustration and discouragement they felt. Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden opened up music for me in a new way, and I will be forever grateful for that. 

But Alice In Chains spoke to me in a way the others didn’t. 

I was standing in my friend Anna’s living room when the news of Layne Staley’s death broke – I remember it scrolling across the screen and I was just heartbroken. I don’t often feel connected to celebrities – their lives are so unlike mine, and I recognize that they are not actually people I know, just people whose faces I see in the news. 12 years later, though, I am still devastated. Perhaps it’s simply because of the loneliness of Staley’s life at the end. But in listening to the AIC catalog, I realize now how incredibly anxious he was about life. And death. 

Oh Layne Staley we love you get up. 

Day 4: 

Rachel’s Poem at the PFFA: I Am What I Am: A Natural Disaster
Someone Else’s Awesome Poem: Frank O’Hara’s “Poem [Lana Turner Has Collapsed!]“

Day 5: 

Rachel’s Poem at the PFFA: In the Box
Someone Else’s Awesome Poem: Frank O’Hara’s “The Day Lady Died”

ready to strike



I returned home Friday from the week-long Krav Maga training course. It was intense and difficult, and I won’t find out if I passed until sometime later this week. I am proud of myself, though, for completing the program – pass or fail, I finished the week without quitting and I gave it everything I had in me. I learned a lot from the course about teaching, about Krav, and about myself.

During the week, I received a publication acceptance – Clipper Ship Hauling Songs, a new online journal, took three of my poems, including “How You Learn to Fight.” I wrote this poem about 2 years ago, shortly after beginning my Krav training. I wanted to capture the change I felt, the strength and the sense of diminishing vulnerability. It felt so fitting to receive this acceptance in the midst of my Krav training.

You can read the new poems here.

so that one may walk in peace


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In three weeks, I’ll be departing for a week-long intensive training course in Krav Maga. The goal of the course is to be certified to instruct classes. If I am successful, I will be permitted to teach Level 1 (yellow belt) classes at the school where I train. 

My contract is signed. My hotel is booked. I have a handful of krav t shirts and plenty of gear (gloves, pads, mouth guards, etc.). I have spent the past several weeks preparing for the teaching portion of the course by attending a special class intended to reinforce our teaching skills. I will go to this class a few more times, in addition to the physical training I’m doing. 

All that’s really left to do is to go there. 

I have an idea of what to expect there. The week will be, essentially, 40+ hours of physical workouts, culminating in a 4(ish)-hour test on all the level 1 techniques, and a 2(ish)-hour test on my ability to teach those techniques. It will likely be one of the most difficult things I ever do in my life, both physically and mentally challenging.

I am excited.

I am terrified.

I know what I need to work on. 

I am confident that I can do this.


getting away, coming back


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This weekend was the 21st annual Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway, hosted by Murphy Writing Seminars. As always, it was an incredibly fruitful weekend, during which I immersed myself in the work of four other poets as we helped each other de- and then reconstruct full length collections of poetry. It was a wonderful experience. 

On Sunday evening, Stephen Dunn and Tony Hoagland gave a poetry reading. I could ramble on about how amazing the reading was, but I won’t – if you have seen Tony or Stephen read, then you know that they are brilliant, top-tier poets, among the most talented and relevant living American poets. 

I will, however, say that Tony read a new poem that moved me in a huge way. It’s titled “The Roman Empire,” and in introducing it, he explained that it addresses a moment between a man and a woman – not a romantic moment, but rather the moment when a woman passes a man on an otherwise deserted street. She is nervous or anxious, and he can sense that his presence is the reason for this. The poem addresses this awareness by the man. 

The poem was lovely and necessary. I have spent so long being aware of (and focused on) the part of the narrative that acknowledges the woman’s fear and anxiety. So much of our cultural conversation is centered on the idea that women must take precautions, women must alter their behavior, women must be aware, always. My krav instructor even commented on this once – during a drill in which he acted as an attacker roaming the room, he noted that I always knew where he was. “Why is that,” he said, “Women always know exactly where people are.” 

But in being so focused on the female side of this dynamic, I entirely failed to consider the other side – the male perspective. It seems so simple, such a basic concept. And I’m sure one could argue that we shouldn’t worry too much about it, that living in the culture we do, where all types of violence are so prevalent, makes it excusable that I would lose sight of the other side of this dynamic. 

But this was a moment for me – a life changing moment. It’s so rare that we have them, and know that we are having them in the moment. But I felt that last night when Tony was reading. I was near tears, and I just felt like there was a window opening in my chest and all of this anxiety just fell out of me. 

i am working right now toward becoming a Krav Maga instructor. The plan at the moment is to go in March for a week-long immersion course, where i will essentially do nothing but train. If I am successful, I will come out at the end of the week as a certified instructor, able to teach classes. As part of the preparation process, I had to write a short purpose statement, explaining my motivation for training and for completing the certification. Among other things, I said this: 

 It is really important for me to directly acknowledge that Krav is a specific kind of mental challenge for me – it forces me to be vulnerable in ways that make me pretty uncomfortable, but I believe that I’m emotionally and mentally stronger for it now. I want to continue to push myself in that way because it represents for me a kind of healing that I don’t think I could have found in another discipline. 

I forgot, though, that poetry can be healing too. This weekend was a good reminder, and I will carry this poem with me as I move toward the Krav training. 


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