Yesterday was my mother's birthday. She would have been - let's see - she would have been 64. This upcoming spring it will be 10 years she has been gone. At some point it becomes more difficult to keep count. Although I always know she was almost exactly 30 years older than me, just like my paternal grandmother was almost exactly 60 years older than me. And they're gone now. As well as my father's identical twin, my favorite uncle, a more recent soreness. It seems that almost everyone is gone now. It feels sometimes, in late fall especially, that I have become way too acquainted with loss.
Yesterday to commemorate I biked out to the community market, and bought a slice of (vegan) apple pie which they put on a tiny paper plate for me, that I heated up for too long in the communal microwave, and I ate that outside with a cup of coffee, even applying darker lipstick in the bathroom before so I could see the traces of lipstick on the cup, like hers, and I thought of my mother. That is how I memorialize her, by eating a slice of apple pie. My rail-thin mother who inhaled anything sweet, wouldn't eat real food most of the time, but nothing she liked better than a diner, a bowl of soup, a piece of pie out of the case.
About the lipstick: the memories of stealing into my mother's bathroom, and it was stealing, it was an inner sanctum, the bedroom, and opening up the mirrored doors and inhaling the smell of her Clinique loose powder, running my finger along the curve of her coral lipstick. I used to think writing about these experiences were cliche, these girl-experiences, but I am realizing we have been taught to be embarassed about these rituals between daughter and mother, or between sisters, these sense-memories of girlhood. They are not cliche. They are communally felt.
Yesterday I thought again about The Book of Mutter, where I attempt to somehow exorcise the trauma of my mother, my childhood, and the idea of the American orphan. In some ways it is my favorite book, but it remains, still, mostly private, except for the chunk published online. Perhaps it will never be published in book form. Or I could make, I don't know, an art project out of it, too bad I'm really piss-poor at actually making anything.
At the Mutter Museum they had a small exhibit of books bound in human skin. The collection they had were made by two doctors in Vermont (?) who used the skin of patients who donated their bodies for their research, as a form of memoriam. Although John tells me that this was also an occurrence in France, after criminals gave their confession before execution, their confessions would often be bound in their skin. He told me that he thought the criminals volunteered their skin for this use, as a form of purging. Maybe I'm getting this all wrong. Maybe Book of Mutter should be bound in human skin. A strange thought from a strict vegetarian. But perhaps it's already bound in human skin - this book of the body. The Mutter Museum already is in the book - I use an image of two fetal skeleton Siamese twins from the collection as an important repetition.
I am beginning to worry about my career, for lack of a better word, as a writer. This is coming now at the end of this fall tour trying to thrust Green Girl out into the world, at times succeeding, at other times failing. Also because as I'm ending rewriting the essay book I'm really hit in a dull way with the fact that I am totally unemployed, and I have no classes offered to me for the spring, and I have to find some ways to support us, to support myself. In some ways this worry that has evolved into a constant nag, a fearfulness in the night that might be perceived as laughable, as I got my copy of Bookforum yesterday, and my name was on the front cover as a book reviewed, almost like I was someone, was a known, right next to Ben Marcus, lower right hand bottom (Ben Marcus muttering to himself: Who?) But there are still such moments of amateur-abjection lately, like when John and I went into McNally Jackson, a bookstore downtown in New York, and since I've never actually seen any of my books in a New York bookstore, and I love this bookstore, me asking the person at the front desk whether I could leave a free copy of Green Girl for the fiction buyer, to consider to stock my book, me mumbling, it's been reviewed in some places, and the person behind the counter treating me like I'm self-published, not that there's anything wrong with being self-published, and John becoming lawyer-partner, and saying, "She has a large review in Bookforum this month" and then the person saying something like, Well, if the buyer wanted to buy the book, they would have, or something, and my face all enflamed, I mumbled a thanks and left. I'm beginning to realize perhaps I will always be outside - of the institutions. Like with Book of Mutter - I tried so so intensely to get that book published, even placing as a finalist in a big contest, but to no avail. I cannot even get someone in a position of power to really speak to me of the book. But this isn't about the book. I mean, I've come to terms with the fact that it might never get published. Perhaps it was more important, I mean, that it was written.
Now I must work on Heroines - I said it was done and I lied. I read Part Two and I thought - this is terrible. I can do better. I must do better. So I must do better. I am trying. Sometimes I feel entirely inept as a writer. Maybe that's part of the process of writing. Like everyone, the ineptness, and then pushing, laboring to communicate. Or do others feel quicksilver on their fingers like on their tongues? Do the words, the rhythms, come easier? Perhaps that's what it feels like to be a poet. I don't know. I'm not a poet.