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SHJ Issue 5
Spring 2012

A Late Summer Diary

Carol Smallwood

Day 1

Wanting off the merry-go-round, I trudge the library stairs to the 4th floor to capture the subterranean. It was summer so not many were around to interrupt the basking of books, the labels neatly marching shelf after shelf—a glorious movable feast.

The bookshelves have signs to guide, buttons to move the phalanx, every third shelf with a light like a helmet. I breathe deeply the cool air to capture the illusive scent when banished and homesick for it, wishing to be part of it like the incense of childhood Mass.

There was a moth on the carpet. I slipped it in a container carried in my purse for such rescues. There were no windows that opened so how did it get there? When driving in, I’d lined my tires so I’d run over a possum killed on the road to be sure it was killed and wondered again why wings of smashed birds move as if trying to fly.

When I put the moth on some Queen Ann’s Lace at home it didn’t move. I carried it to my plants, sprinkled it with water; at least the moth was now on soil—I wouldn’t look tomorrow and believe it’d flown away as there were still some summer days ahead.

Day 2

The label from some shirt is still on the sidewalk as I walk to the library. There is a breeze for which I am grateful.

The 3rd floor reading room seemed waiting; the scent wasn’t that of books, though, and the lack of high shelving like the 4th floor made the air flow more, a coolness almost too cool. A couple by the window, young, the guy’s head in headscarf, a cough from someone unseen.

The Times Literary Supplement had Sanskrit books on the back cover. To know there were such sets was reassuring even though it prompted how little I knew about life that old; to review such a world must be a rare privilege and yet 3,000 years is the width of an eyelash.

To see the earth as an ever-expanding universe turns everything irrelevant so it is best to believe the earth is the center of the universe. Women are closer to the way things are but with this reality comes a greater need for illusions.

Day 3

Websites are jotted down surreptitiously as if fearing disapproval from peering books stuffed in my purse.

Last night a DVD on the Tower of London showed a ceremony of locking doors performed ever since a king entered unchallenged on his return to England. The ceremony is observed even on Christmas and continued during the Blitz: it is reassuring to think that since the 1300’s the ceremony is performed every night at the same time and place.

Hope Kitty doesn’t have another fur ball because it’s hard leaving her at the vet’s. My first decision after hearing I had cancer was putting her to sleep before I went. She changed then too, lost a lot of her bravado and started sitting by the house at dusk just staring west as if she knew.

Heard from a Holocaust survivor. On one hand I envy her because her loss is clear, her pain a known cause. The Holocaust, like child and marital abuse, are still being denied. She could be a relative and I’d never know because none of mine would admit anything.

I go to the post office to join the throng, the business people opening the larger boxes carrying cell phones swooping in and out with little ceremony.

Another Day

Am writing while eating at Wendy’s. One must eat every day but libraries should be kept in awe, special places of last resort—I’ve learned that it is wise, necessary, to keep what you value most at bay to dole out.

Scheduled fall class, switching an unknown lady professor for a male one. He is good and didn’t want to chance the unknown and it’s nice to see a male, a thinking male, 3 times a week. So much for supporting my own sex. The class is fantasy and science fiction which I’ve avoided, bent on truth finding—wisdom does not come with age and yet a part of me won’t admit it.

I’m the only one here feasting at Wendy’s except for the employees who extend good-humored smiles to a regular. Kitty didn’t stay out long this morning because it was too windy. I brush her often every day till she scratches.

That front part of my house under the picture window is a problem—gravel when I moved but when weeds came I hadn’t the desire to destroy them. I put in more stones and weeds still came. I took the stones out and put Snow on the Mountain to take over. Weeds still came. The lawn man sprayed to no avail and I won’t call him back because wild lilies have come to join Queen Anne’s lace.

September 2

It is the day before Labor Day. Time to drink my coffee instead of taking it home like spoils of war—not many around—students have gone home for the long weekend. The coffee is very good after a night of trying to sleep.

My writing is jagged because of the grains of sugar on the table—the end of the coffee is the best because sugar settles there.

Good to feel the pen when so much time is on computer keys: a pen somehow makes one feel more in control, like breadcrumbs for Hansel and Gretel.

Hospital floors come to mind with dots one follows gratefully because all the halls and doors look the same. Those polished floors, square tiles, beige, some set diagonal for style. Wish I could find that quote about style being shaped by limitation—best not to remember the whole file wiped out trying to change one quote.

Another hot flash from post-chemo pills. I wonder what hall my uterus traveled for disposal and imagine a long line of red circus dots. The surgeon in scrubs had been nibbling fruitcake when I was wheeled in the day before Christmas. The next day my tray had a evergreen sprig tied in red which I threw across the room—the aide called it a hormone thing.

My breasts were removed at another hospital but the floors were still beige and the white sheets also spotted with red.

We should dwell in the moment but only children can. And in diaries one does not have to apologize.

Labor Day

When did Labor Day begin? In these days of globalization, what would the founder(s) think? It is a different playing field and I am lucky to be independent now after being raised when women were primarily housewives. My daughter will rejoin the work force when her youngest starts school and I told her to get a Superwoman cape but she had no idea what I meant and just rolled her eyes with a skeptical smile.


End Bug Issue 5

Carol Smallwood

Is the co-editor (with Molly Peacock, foreword) of Women on Poetry: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing by Successful Women Poets (McFarland, 2012).

Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity and Other Realms (Anaphora Literary Press, 2011) was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Women Writing on Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing, (Key Publishing House, 2012) is her most recent book [reviewed in this issue by Lisa Fraser]. Her sixth for the American Library Association, Bringing Arts into the Library, is forthcoming.

Some magazine credits include: The Writer’s Chronicle, English Journal, and Michigan Feminist Studies. Smallwood has been active in various humane societies and founded her first one in the 1970’s.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury