Monday, November 23, 2009


this is a fragment of writing i started to write almost a year ago today. it helps me remember that this time of year is always layered with solemn thoughts, fear, and melancholia:
somewhere in the breath between autumn and winter, i learned to fear from the core of my bones. earlier that i wish to remember, but late enough that i do, i began to find myself in open waters without a buoy, and there they were, each thing that i had pushed out of pre-pubescent dreams, finding their way from slumber to wakefulness.
may i one day find solace in the depths of november.

Friday, November 20, 2009


we were always hungry never full trying to nourish and the belly always slender when we traveled taking junk food and remembering the days when we'd queue up beside a fry pan next to arm-chair activists and queer girls who only flirted with girls but really slept with men whose last words were you need to read more books always hungry until we stopped tasting stopped chewing not knowing when to stop or pause or wipe our mouth or say excuse me after a burp or take a sip of water going back up the line for one more plate we were always hungry so that when she couldn't eat so thin and pale and peering through crusted lashes saying i can't oh no i can't not today will you bring me what you've made not this stuff you eat it so it can't go to waste please it will just be thrown away we can't help but pick up the beige tray start to chew the food that never seems to fail to make the whole ward smell more like sick like our appetite can't be turned like we were never fed properly like eating with our mouth will somehow feed her spirit.

and that week she first started to bleed without stopping when the fluid would leak and leak into her cranial cavity when she was diagnosed with meningitis that we distinctly thought was an incurable disease reserved only for unhygenic college kids when she developed bruises just from sitting when her blood would secretly gush just not where it could be seen we stopped bleeding entirely like a stone setting right next to jesus but unnoticed and neglected into silence we stopped bleeding as women bodies do as the moon waxes red as the tide becomes still as the night invites those that must drink blood to have it flow through them the font of life flowing only through a dying body but not through the surviving one when the blood carried revived love spilling out to all around her despite the stoicism and the denial and the queer lover brought home on holiday flowing just because it was impossible to stop all while her daughter's blood ran stiller and stiller perhaps in hopes that if it just stopped altogether it could hide from the feelings of chaos and lividity could stop time in its tracks from moving forward to the inevitable stopping of blood that could not be stopped because really it ran dry too dry to live that months after her blood and the vessel carrying it had been transformed to ash her daughter had to visit a doctor just to have her blood flow once more.

the man who saw her in new york said to us she is connected to god in heaven so she needn't fear and if you want i can do a special healing for her from afar but that will take $3000 and that's very expensive isn't it that we looked at her and told her the news and seriously considered withdrawing the $3000 from our money we were never to touch but $3000 is a bargain if it means her getting up and walking but she looks through bleary eyes in that way that says it's confirmed he's a quack and besides i'm ready to die because i cried through it all these months and i've made sure to tell you the important stuff and i know it will take you long to cry through it yourself because i had to cry through the same thing at age seven but you'll do alright let's practice now so we lie down on her sterile bed and curl up with our head right next to her hand and she comforts us even though she's the sick one stroking our hair and telling us stories through dreams we share as she falls into a bleeding-brain-induced slumber and we fall into a grief-induced one.

we sleep. we walk together, with a purple horizon warm at our backs. her hair is thick and long. she puts her arm through mine. she wears white shoes. i look at her face. she looks at mine. she nods forward and i see a bright reflection of yellow light in her eyes. i look forward. i see no light. she smiles. she's a pixie. she knows more than the rest of us, even though she has always played the part of the family dunce. i understand this at last. she nods.

i wake up.

Monday, November 2, 2009

10/12 freewrite--koi

she told me to look at her pictures, that they actually came out pretty good. they did. i clicked through them and waited for my slow connection. then, it's there. a tight shot of a bright orange koi, peaking through a reflection of the sky.

"remind me to tell you about the mythology when you call," i write in the comments.

every may--less now than before, and always more in the countryside than in the city--childbearing homes will fly flags. tubular ones, shaped like the bright orange wind detectors at airports. the homes erect flag poles lined with three or five flags, each one but the bottom-most printed in the image of a koi.

the myth goes, a highly determined koi swam upstream continuously, underwent much hardship. finally, the koi swam up a gigantic waterfall and upon reaching the top, it turned into a dragon.

that's why koi are so auspicious. they represent pure potential. something so humble as a bottom-feeding, water forager could eventually transform into a mighty and mystical dragon.

it was no accident that she took that picture. she needed that koi.

in many ways, we were meant to be a scholar. high school was filled with music teachers who wanted me to just stop. i took ear-training classes with eight year olds and i couldn't seem to make it through a piano lesson without my piano teacher laughing at me. i know now, without malace, that my piano teacher was not very gifted. the problem was, i am. just not at playing the piano. but even though my piano teacher laughed at me, and i stayed in the elementary school ear-training class, the head of the prep school loved me. she always got me free tickets for concerts, arranged for me to take off-the-books composition training, asked me philosophical questions abaout performance and new music. she always wrote back to me and insisted i call her periodically. she knew my thinking was way ahead of my playing.

first semester of conservatory, i was utterly confused. but my piano-playing had improved immensely. some piano performance majors were trying to get me to audition to join a studio supervised by a faculty member. i remember that fondly--i might have studied with lydia rutstein.

eight years later, in waterloo records, i was staring at lydia's face on the cover of a used LP. i didn't have the heart not to buy it. i have never listened to it.

i sometimes wonder whether i was the last one admitted into my cohort. but it didn't end up mattering. i caught on. i wasn't the best, but i was better than average. i was a good thinker. that made up for my lack in musicality, talent, or whimsy. in hinsight, it was really only one professor who didn't treat me like he thought i could go far. he was a drunk who hated undergrads. and his music was boring.

i left music, for my own good, really. and the thing is, i have perfect pitch now. it's not very fast, and not so flashy. but if you hum a note, i can usually tell what it is. and if i hear a song, i can sing it back, several days later, in the same key and with the same precision as the original. if i went back to ear-training school, i would kill on their exams.

the one thing conservatory taught me was: talent helps, but you can really make up for in in old-fashioned hard work.

it's been a blessing and a curse, this realization. i left music just as i matered it enough to take elite classes but tnot enough to make a career of it. i could have stayed. i'd have a phd in music composition by now and would be collecting occasional checks from ascap for my obscure compositions that would get aired on local npr or college radio stations. gross.

teachers often love me. because i go from just acceptable to pretty damn good in a short amount of time. it's after that where i run into problems.

i was an academic for a bit. my writing was only so-so. and i hated reading. but i showed up and listened and pretty soon, faculty kept trying to convince me to get a phd, telling me i'm writing dissertation-quality work, that academia needed "people like me."

that was nice.

i took a production cllass and the professor told me i had made one of the best pieces of book art she had seen in a long time.

i'm a little more settled now. but still thoroughly confused. i only recently realized that i want to work on theatre that is physical, that treats the text as no more important than the movement or the set or the sound or the lights. and i'm taking a writing class?

did i mention i was once a crappy writer? not crappy--humble, but crappy--why should words even matter?

i don't really know why i'm writing. there are plenty of things that need to get written. but it feels like a distraction. i don't even know what theatre is like, really. the fact is, when i don't write, i become depressed, then nothing else happens well. i kept myself alive at SITI writing morning pages, taking copious notes, blogging about each revelation.

when i was about eight, mom told me a story. i was playing outside and obaachama watched. suddenly, she turned to my mother and said, "be careful of that one, she's smart."

10/5 freewrite--"i miss her so much every day"

second year of college, during the experimental composition module, corey wrote a piece called "closing statement." the score was just: "Improvise music and song using the following text, 'i miss her so much every day.'" a handful of us played it together--green chalkboards as witness, randy's prune-eyes shut in feigned interest.

a year later, at a composition recital, corey took the same piece but set it to five chords he scrawled with crayon--his counter-tenor pushing into the grey stone of fairchild chapel. playing the chords on the decrepit upright, rather than the well-tuned steinway grand, with his back to us singing up rather than forward--stretching out the prosody as far as possible. "i... i... i miss... i miss her..."

that might have been 1998. kim would have been living in chicago at that point. my parents still lived in tokyo. i was dating--probably--becky. or was it 1999? kim would have been in baltimore, my parents would have just moved to groton, and i would have been dating clara-who-had-not-yet-changed-her-name-to-hiroshi.

chicago and baltimore or tokyo and groton. it's hard to tell whether they would have been departures or returns.

when i first performed "closing statement," i thought i knew what it was about. corey probably thought he knew what it was about, too. i was most likely very indulgent. 20/21-year-olds often are. of course, 31/32-year-olds can be, too. i forgot about that piece. probably on purpose, like how you forget the water is cold when you've been swimming in it long enough.

corey wrote another song. he used yvan's words. "your absence has done my hands a favor. i now know every fold and wrinkle of my body." i think that song used toy pianos and accordions.


when i played my thesis for mom, she gasped. it was for full orchestra. a full semester's worth of meetings with the only faculty member who could bare to look at me. she said, "wow. it's real music." i guess she didn't think any of the other recordings i brought home were. that's what four years of conservatory training are meant to do--create real music. i didn't tell her about the mathematical charts i taped to my wall. or the fact that i really had no idea what it would sound like until the day the chamber orchestra played it. the string players hated it--no vibrato and notes sustained over several measures. they don't like counting measures. i hated string players.

mom was always confused about my admission to a conservatory. "i never thought you were very... well... i knew you LIKED music."

i remember standing up from the table and spitting, "but you put it in my head! 'be the first female conductor, you have such careful hands. you're so sensitive.'"

i was the one who took a hobby too far.

kim still has much of my music in her itunes. every time the one recording of me singing plays, she says, "kt's on the radio!" i still blush.

it was one of my first gifts to her. a cd of corey's music with a guest appearance by me. it wasn't even a gift, really. she saw a stack of them and said, "can i have one?" and even though i barely knew her, i couldn't think of a reason why not. she was being so nice and attentive. i told her, "i wrote the song and words for my mom." she looked at her shoes. i'm still glad she has that song.

eight years later, on a stage in saratoga springs, i squinted at the limelights and looked down at julieta sitting on the edge of the thrust. the only words that came from my mouth were:
let me hold your small hand
let me hold stroke your thin hair
let me carry you in my arms
let me see you
julieta's abuela had died a couple weeks before. and most of our conversations were about our filipino american girlfriends. julieta looked up at me dewy-eyed and we fled to the wings as the viewpoints session moved on.

kim and i had been coming off a fight that day. the training was coming to a close. i was reluctant to part with my new friends. but i couldn't wait to come home.

that last thanksgiving, kim came up to groton to visit. mom had pulled me aside and said, "thank you for coming up separately, leaving me time to have with just you." it was a week after my birthday. we were in the living room when mom decided to give me my belated present. it was a men's dress shirt from land's end and a red tie. kim and mom sat close to each other on the couch, both beaming as i modeled my new duds.

kim said, "doesn't she look so pretty?"
and mom replied, "she does. yes, she does."

9/20 freewrite--spring

i had forgotten what spring was like
water flowing from a mouth
somewhere, in the twilight
an eleven-year-old girl-boy
eats ding-dongs for dinner

so the blossoms never bloomed
and the air stayed metal
smelling like
licking the jungle gym
in sub-zero weather

grass the color of
goose shit
not dewy
just vague

once, on a morning meant for flight
just six months after getting my license
i tried to turn a slushy corner
and skid into a ditch

dad got out of the car in front of me
said: don't brake in the snow
guess i'll wait another day to go back
to ohio

someone lent us a cell phone
it was before i had one
before dad used mine so much
to update us from the hospital
before he said:

i think i'll get your mom a cell phone for christmas
and i said: you really think
that's waht she wants? sounds
more like what you want

what would mom do with
a cell phone anyway?
she's always at home
or the hospital
or if she's out, she's with you

the tow-truck came
and so did the cops
nothing damaged
but my northeast ego
exiled in midwest doldrums

is when you live now
i means you're never bored
because you just
don't know any better

every march, the whole city
would sit in a palpable tension
we'd watch the news
and the branches
jealously peeking at
clips from southwesterly climes

often overnight
they would burst in pink and magenta
foaming with colors
so indiscreet, you couldn't
walk the street without at least once
wondering if you, yourself, were a street walker

this was spring

for three years
i actually knew what it was
she had talked about it
all through my childhood
held it with such anticipation

i'll buy you a new doll set
for spring
i'll buy you a kimono
for spring
we'll make sakura mochi
for spring
you'll start new school
in spring

how have we sprung from spring?