all the books i didn't read in ireland

hi, how are you doing? yeah, me too. the grocery store across the street from my apartment is falling apart in an exponentially allegorical way: the yam bin splitting and disgorging its contents onto the shabby linoleum, the ceiling blooming open in petals of paint and plaster, pipes drooling water into expanding pools below, the cashiers sad-eyed and listless in their crumbling demesne. it’s just brooklyn but it feels like my heart. i went away for two weeks, first to DC for AWP—oh AWP! but this year was more fun than i expected, i didn’t have to manage any poets, or wake them up in the morning after they drank too much vodka the night before, or remind them not to lose the cash-box; i saw a lot of people i love, and showed off lyric’s chapbook (did you order one yet? why not?), and the only person i had to wake up in the morning after she drank too much whiskey was myself—and then to england for a little while, for a conference about eve k.s., and then to dublin with j., just for fun.

everyone was so nice in dublin! which i was not expecting, not right now; i was prepared to be apologetic and embarrassed, hi sorry we’re a nation of horrors murdering our citizens bulldozing the indigenous people desperately trying to preserve clean drinking water on their own fucking land and tearing apart the fucking world! but people just wanted to tell us about the times they had been to new york, and smile indulgently while we took silly tourist pictures, and advise us on what sorts of whiskies to drink, and show us how to pay for the bus, and laugh gently at me when i couldn’t finish my coddle, which is a sort of soup with a lot of bacon and sausages and potatoes in it, and which was the first meal to defeat me in many a moon, probably because before the coddle i had also eaten half a loaf of soda bread and about a pound of very sharp and delicious cheddar cheese and several pieces of corned beef and a quantity of potato salad with mustard in it, and an egg.

i dragged poor j. all over dublin, to the oscar wilde statue (he looks drunk! oscar i mean, not j.) and to evensong at st. pat’s, which is a trick i learned from hal if you want to see a famous cathedral for free and hear some nice choral music as well, and to the natural history museum (i was having fun until i got to the taxidermied elephants and polar bears and orangutans and wolves, and then i got horribly sad and had to leave; the victorians were fucking monsters, they shot everything, not that we’re not fucking monsters now, but you know what i mean), and to the national gallery and the communist bookstore and the chester beatty library and about sixteen different pubs people recommended and also the national print museum. i got overexcited at the print museum and towed j. around to all the presses explaining how they work and what people used them for and the difference between monotype and linotype and handset type and wood type and alloys and casting and photoemulsion processes for platemaking and how to ink the presses and what sorts of ink to use and did you know they used to use kerosene to clean presses, very unhealthy! some places still do but i don’t recommend it, and then the fellow working at the museum came over and told me in a patronizing manner not to put my fingers near the mechanized platen press as i was in imminent danger of losing them, and i was like “well you’d probably have to plug the press in first, don’t you think?”

and then the fellow took j. about and told him all the exact same things i had just said, and which i am quite certain he overheard, and ignored me completely, and said a number of things that were completely incorrect besides, and i was so incoherent with rage i had to go upstairs to the special exhibition and talk to myself quietly for some time. i will put up with a lot of condescension from men who know a lot more than i do about something i am interested in (with the possible exception of automotive and bicycle repair, as a number of male ex-partners, ex-friends, and former co-workers would be quick to point out) but the experience of being condescended to by a man who knows a great deal less than me about something i am fairly good at is so intolerable that even now, after literal decades of having this happen, it will occasionally render me absolutely incandescent with fury. if there are any experiences shared by all female-bodied and more or less female-identified people, i imagine that is perhaps foremost among them, i don’t need to go solnit on you, but having the experience articulated is no palliative for being forced to endure it. anyway i got a small revenge by disparaging the fellow’s brayer placement on his inking plate, in my own most contemptuous and patronizing affect (which is, if i do say so myself, pretty formidable); this barb proved effective, as he ran after me several moments later to explain that he couldn’t possibly clean it after every use as he showed children how to ink type with it whenever they came into the museum, and i replied in an even deadlier manner that i hadn’t told him to clean it i had told him not to leave it sitting roller-side down in the ink, which is one of the first things you learn if the person teaching you is any good (thank you, rebecca gilbert, strictest and most best of printing instructors; i still live in terror of leaving the rollers down on the press even for a moment).

none of which has anything to do with books! because i didn’t read any. i bought about fifteen books at AWP and haven’t read any of them yet, i brought five books to ireland with me, none of which i read, and i bought about ten more there, which i didn’t read either. i felt the whole time as though i was carrying about a dull clanging instrument instead of a brain. i didn’t think about things and i didn’t want to. i walked around and cried in the natural history museum and went to howth and climbed about on the headland and ate a cioppino and six oysters and every time i started to have a thought i went to a pub instead. i don’t know if i am ready to start being a person again—the risks seem rather higher than the rewards, these days!—but quitting isn’t really an option, so.

i did read some excellent books before i left and i have been working on—by “working on” i mean “periodically thinking ‘oh, i should work on’”—an essay about survival stories, because survival stories seem more concrete than ever these days; i have been trying to schedule the times i am allowed to look at the news, because otherwise i just throw up, which doesn’t do anybody a bit of good. i am giving up whiskey for a while; in my experience, it is inadvisable to transition coping mechanisms into daily practice. i definitely keep meaning to do yoga. i hope you are okay, or mostly okay; you don’t need me to tell you about what’s going on in the world, or that it’s hard. the way forward is with a broken heart; i'm tattooing that on my fucking face. keep loving, keep fighting, i'll go back to talking about books soon i promise.

xoxo sarah