2018 Books: June

Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson

The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman et al. (graphic novel)

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (2011 edition)

Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman et al. (graphic novel)

 

Less reading this month than I expected, but I’m in the midst of some wonderful books heading into July. Also, Neil Gaiman, whew. The man writes stuff with equal parts profundity and profanity. I wish more authors understood the nature of idolatry and sacrifice as well as he does.

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lost.

to be shocked to tears by a glimpse;

the clear shade of light and

the dark blurring of shadow not

the paint-by-numbers of human hands

and soak it in as if this place of near-hue could possibly flood all the gray corners of dead space

to know the trueness of a scent;

the realness of color and

the piquancy of reality not

the bitter tang of chemical mockery

and gasp for it as if you can only breathe one more time and this last taste is what you choose

to hold a piece of former things;

the tracery of forgotten touch and

the ownership of your own fingerprints not

the betrayal of misplaced memories

and clutch it again and find that your hands are not small enough for this to feel the same

to chase down lanes of new life;

the cresting hill of new memories and

the worn grooves of your own footprints not

the treacherous cobblestones of old lifetimes

and look for known lands through the refracted haze of dust and ghosts

to hear the strains of yesterday’s loves;

the wistful line of once begotten and

the thumping echo of heart songs not

the muffled clatter of foreign feet

and lean towards the light-spun notes that can neither be held nor heard again

to reach for another’s touch;

the honest smiles of welcome and

the generous hearts of selfessless not

the choking grip of needy arms

and find new callouses and listless hands and familiar lines composing a stranger’s face

to be placeless.

Unfinished

Who is this God with whom I wrestle?

Who is this God with whom I fight?

***

Who is this God who was when there was not?

Who is this God who breathed life into dust and formed kinship from bones?

Who is this God who walked with His creation in the garden?

Who is this God who clothed those who hid from His face?

Who is this God who heard the cry of wrongful death?

Who is this God who passed through fire and covenant blood?

Who is this God who promised faithfulness to the faithless?

Who is this God who called forth and sent out and was with to the galaxy of generations?

***
Who is this God with whom I wrestle?

Who is this God with whom I plead?

***

Who is this God who heralded himself with trumpets and a chorus of angels?

Who is this God who announced himself with a baby’s cry?

Who is this God who clothed his glory in human skin?

Who is this God who spoke to the outcast and lifted the face of the least of these?

Who is this God who wore the nakedness of emperors and the scorn of sinners?

Who is this God who stretched out his arms before the world?

Who is this God who could not be contained by tombs and rags?

Who is this God who goes to prepare a home for me?

***
Who is this God with whom I wrestle?

Who is this God with whom I strive?

***
Who is this God who draws near to me?

Who is this God who draws me near to him?

Who is this God who said to Jacob: “Let me go”?

Who is this God who will never leave?

Who is this God who plagues with blood and darkness?

Who is this God who restores the years of the locusts?

Who is this God who grants weeping in the night?

Who is this God who sings the lullabies of heaven?

Who is this God who teaches His children to walk?

Who is this God who allows them to stumble yet again?

Who is this God who collects these precious tears?

Who is this God who will wipe them away?

***
Who is this God with whom I wrestle?

Who is this God to whom I cry?

***
Who are you, God?

***

Who are you, God, who walk before and behind and hold all the earth even as it is under your feet?

Who are you, God, who hold back the floodgates of destruction yet send the rain on the just and the unjust?

Who are you, God, who listens to us cry and weeps with us over this world that is not as it should be?

Who are you, God, who heals the sick, gives rest to the weary, and carries the lambs who cannot walk?

Who are you, God, who does not heal me?

***

Who is this God with whom I wrestle?

Who is this God for whom I yearn?

***
Who are you, God, that I should grapple with you and grip your promises with bloodstained hands?

Who are you, God, that these hands should be cleansed by the lifeblood of the Lamb?

Who are you, God, that you rename us and place us in new families of grace upon grace?

Who are you, God, that you should make yourself known in human skin and holy presence?

Who are you, God, that you give yourself again in bread and wine for those who hunger and thirst?

Who are you, God, that you should listen and long for and leave the ninety-nine to answer the pleading of the one who is lost?

Who are you, God, that you delight to be asked?

***

Who is this God with whom I wrestle?

Who is this God in whom I live?

***

“I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the LORD.” Hosea 2:20

2018 Books: May

Here we go for this month…listed in the order read, as always.

The Graveyard Book, Vol. 2 by Neil Gaiman et al. (graphic novelization by P. Craig Russell)

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

A shorter list this month, but I blame the hazards of graduating, moving, travelling in Europe, and starting a new job. So instead I read pt. 2 of one of my favorite Neil Gaiman books, a book of semi-autobiographical Vietnam War stories, and a YA trilogy with gorgeous writing that I’m still not sure how I feel about. And in between were three other books that don’t belong on this list because I’m not done with them yet. See ya soon, June.

cardboard lives

I made him when I was a child

bits and pieces of paper and string

the misshapen trunk of a dryer hose

a cardboard box with a knee-shaped dent and a torn flap

tape and glue and silver threads of imagination

with googly eyes set to rattle around

always askew

I called him Mr. Robot.

*

I played with him when I was a child

concocting mud and gravel pies

stirred in with the pine needles and juniper berries

gold and blue and storm-grey gravel

he gave me a crooked sharpie smile

and an eye tumbled into the gritty stew

I scolded and fished it out and taped it back on his bucket head

still awry

I told him to eat his soup.

*

I talked to him when I was a child

sitting on the prickly ground of fir and elm

touching the bristly edge of glossy leaves

I gave him mittens for the hands he didn’t have

so he could touch it too

and could know why I liked it

and we found the place where the wind blew best

shushing a gentle storm around the pines

but never quite threading through the needles to us

in the eye of the hurricane

I told him everything.

*

I made him keep a secret

and his coiled neck crumpled and his head titled sideways

of course he could keep a secret

we were quieter than the hushing wind

and we decided we would run away someday

away from the scrubby yellow grass that pricked our feet

away from frowning trees that encroached the house

and away from the loud places

where we lived

I swore him to secrecy.

*

I asked him never to tell

his crooked eye drooped

and he reminded me he didn’t have feet

so he would always be with me

but I hadn’t asked him not to leave

just to keep my secrets

I knew people who left because of their unsaid lives

he said secrets shared were like little threads

keeping us able to grow up together

but people are most honest with their bodies

in the end

I thought maybe he was right.

*

I shook his hand in promise

and the mitten dropped from my fingers

clinging to dust-brown pine needles and old leaves

instead of to me

and the wind shifted and the bucket clanged

empty and cold when he looked away from me

the cardboard grew limp with fingerprints

and he was left under the porch because

we couldn’t have bugs in the house

or silently seeing eyes

I set him outside.

*

I didn’t recognize him

tipped over in the dirt

with one eye askance and a smeared mud mouth

the silver neck was crumpled

and there were no mittens

the neighbor’s dog had a new chew toy

and Mr. Robot went away with my secrets

or I left.

In Absentia

coins for currency

(euro or zloty?)

grocery store translations

(bezglutenowe)

kilometres and °c

(military hours)

rain jackets and backpacks

(gray on gray)

locked and gated wc

(check for tissues)

curtainless shower tubs

(less spray this time)

light switches outside rooms

(occupancy)

crackers and Tesco and day up

(still looking)

windows that tilt

(handles and magic)

duvet covers

(sleep under colored dreams)

kinder eggs

(loved and left)

traffic circles

(slow or fast or straight through)

flora and fauna

(new names for old beauty)

stick shift and motorcycles

(always someday)

little cars and scuffed bumpers

(Citroën Renault Peugeot Škoda Dacia)

signs and symbols

(true in any language)

embassy flags

(look look breathe)

life in a suitcase

(what else?)

living room couches

(hotel sheets and hostel berths)

sweeter sleep than elsewhere

(even the airport floor)

bungled words and baffled English

(laughter in failure)

choosing to be here

(hunger and ache)

wishing to stay

(why?)

things that feel like home

(surrogates in absentia)

2018 Books: April

April

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

The Midnight Line by Lee Child

To Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance**

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman et al. (graphic novel)

Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers

The Graveyard Book, Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman et al. (graphic novelization by P. Craig Russell)

**cheating with this one. It’s a memoir, so not fictional, but it was a weighty non-school read that I felt accomplished–and pleased–to finish.

P.S. This is one of the first book lists that I have wanted to write a review for nearly every book. Maybe because I devoured the books so voraciously, maybe because they were both the removal from reality and the placement in reality that a good book should be, and because they were just darn good writing. Also because one or two needed a content warning sticker.