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please excuse my dear aunt sally

be am is are was were been has have had do does did can could shall should will would may might and must

today my professor was telling us about our inability to memorize images as opposed to everything else. it’s not remarkable, he said, when an actor knows every scene of hamlet by heart or when a guitarist can play a song soon after hearing it. but you couldn’t look at a painting or a photograph long enough to remember every detail: every figure or brush stroke or blade of grass. even if you made the image yourself, you still won’t remember.

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tis but thy name that is my enemy. thou art thyself, though not a montague. what’s montague? it is not hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man. oh, be some other name! what’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. so romeo would, were he not romeo called, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title. romeo, doff thy name, and for that name, which is no part of thee, take all myself.

first outside inside last

while he talked i was thinking about all the things i’ve memorized over the years, in grade school and plays and sunday school and songs sung in choir. some of it’s okay and some of it’s stupid, but it’s all there for good, like scratches on cheap plastic sunglasses. there are so many things i filter through these little etched phrases i’ve collected, these slices of memory where i can hear myself singing or reciting the lines or mouthing the formula as i took the test.

z y x w v u t s r q p o n m l k j i h g f e d c b a

vamos hablar del verbo
cocinar cocinar cocinar
significa: to cook
yo: cocino, tu: cocinas el: cocina, y usted tambien nosotros: cocinamos
ch ch ch ch ch
ellos: cocinan, y ustedes tambien

my very eager mother just served us nine pizzas

x equals negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4ac all over 2a (to the tune of “pop goes the weasel”)

what i can’t remember, though, is what my english teacher looked like as i recited lines from romeo and juliet, or my reading teacher’s handwriting as she wrote the be verbs on the board. i can’t remember my costume from the play or the shape of the logo sewn into my choir polo shirt.  the flowers on those impossibly horrible dresses my algebra teacher wore are pretty blurry.

this is a test. a what? a test. a what? a test. oh, a test.

genesis exodus leviticus numbers deuteronomy joshua judges ruth first and second samuel first and second kings first and second chronicles ezra nehemiah esth

that guy had a lot of time on his hands

in abstract expressionism class we’ve been talking about jackson pollock.  my professor is something of a pollock fanatic, and the other day he told a story about the summer he spent doing research at the pollock-krasner house.  on his first night at the house, after the staff had left for the day, he took his bags upstairs to one of the bedrooms and begin to unpack.  opening a dresser drawer to put some of his things in, he looked inside and found a few of lee krasner’s personal effects.  there were prescription bottles, an eyeglass case, some other things.  he quickly closed the drawer and sat down on the bed, realizing that this was their bedroom, their dresser, their mattress.  this was where they’d slept.

we’ve talked about both jackson pollock and lee krasner in our class, and what i’ve been most interested in is not pollock himself or his art.  not the gallons of paint he used or the things he applied it with or the dried-up redyellowblackgreen on the floor of his studio.  not his drinking, not his temperament his affair his death in a car accident.

no, i’m interested in her.  i’m interested in who she was underneath mrs. jackson pollock, underneath the woman who was in some ways willing to put aside parts of herself for someone else.  i’m interested in what it was like to be married to a man more successful than you at your own life’s work.  most specifically, i’m interested in how she might have felt after he died, as she was managing his estate.  i picture her going back to the house where they lived, walking up the stairs and sitting down on that bed to sift through his personal things, deciding what to keep and what to give away.  i picture her in the studio, looking at his paintings, making piles of work to sell work not to sell.  i imagine she must have thought about the car accident, about his mistress in the seat next to him.  was she sad?  wistful?  angry?  relieved?

but no matter how hard i try, i can’t come up with a way to write that.  i think a lot about her lately, about what she must have been like and how she dealt with things, but i can’t seem to get inside her head.  tis a project i fear may be bigger than my ability.

my dad told me once about some show he saw when he was a kid, about a guy who put one coat of paint on a two-by-four every day for fifteen years. after all that, my dad said, the paint was only two inches thick.  did he use different colors? i asked.  i don’t know, he said.  i guess he would just finish one can of paint and open up another one.

fucking tourists

my first assignment in short story writing class was to write one scene in three completely different ways. the sequence of events had to be the same in each one: a character pulls the stop cord on the bus, gets up, steps off onto the sidewalk, and sees an old woman walking her dog.

How beautiful this place is! she thought, as the bus neared her stop. How much the way I imagined it! Look at this little red bus full of Londoners on their way to work or school or tea! She pulled the yellow cord near the window to tell the bus driver to stop. Sheíd been dreaming of coming to London since she was a little girl, and now here she was! Collecting her purse, backpack, camera, and shopping bags from the seat next to her, she made her way to the front of the bus with the other passengers, stopping just outside the bus to take in the sights: Big Ben piercing the crisp blue sky, the Thames rippling in the sunlight. Even the little old woman walking her dog along the river seemed to fit perfectly in merry old England. He was already slowing down for the next bus stop, but the blonde girl a few rows back pulled the cord anyway. Pushing the lever to open the passenger door, he watched in the rearview mirror as she collected her things from the seat next to her. These girls are all the same, he thought to himself as he watched her thin short skirt ride up on her thigh as she stood to exit. Always tarted up as though everyoneís watching them. Still, as she stepped off the bus and stopped to watch an old woman walking her dog, he got a nice look at her ass. Fucking tourists, he thought as he watched her pull the yellow stop cord. Theyíre never going to realize that theyíre not the only people here. He was tired and hungry and ready to go home, and he didnít appreciate the fact that she had used the last available seat for her mountain of useless purchases, forcing him to stand in the aisle next to some smelly old geezer. As he walked behind her toward the exit, he decided that London could go to hell for all he cared, with its disgusting river and dirty old pseudo-landmarks and hordes of ignorant visitors. It figures, he thought, as she stopped directly in front of him to watch some old woman walking her dog, sheíd block the way and keep us all from getting off the bus.