How do we not know how to do this yet?
May 17th, 2012 by Dr Karma

Today, I had a driveway moments–a driveway moment is when you’re listening to NPR and you end up hanging out in the driveway because you can’t get out of the car until the current story’s over.

I was listening to this:

It’s about the number of our service-people who have been murdered by our Afghan friends–their Afghan police and military forces–this year.

Part of the reason I was struck is because it occurred to me that we just don’t know how to do this yet.

I mean, we’ve been at war for millions of years. Millions of years.

Yet we do not know how to cope with or conduct war. We do not know how to re-integrate our soldiers into society successfully. We do not know how to stem the tide of spousal abuse and suicide that follows their returns home. We do not know how to tell them to violate one of the commandments in one situation, but to follow the others at seemingly arbitrary times. We are only starting to understand what even happens with head injuries, even though we’ve been hitting each other over the head for millions of years.

We said for years that women couldn’t be in combat because our male soldiers would find it too difficult to not do everything–including jeopardizing missions–to protect them. But the reality is that our women find the most danger from their comrades–they are raped at an amazing rate, by the very men whom we think will sacrifice to protect them from the enemy.

Many years ago, I wrote a poem from Lady Macbeth’s point of view. I was interested in why we blame for her Macbeth’s actions, when he contemplates murder before he ever writes to her about the prophecy. Undergraduates around the world write about how Lady Macbeth pushes him to commit horrible crimes–crimes against his king, his kin, his guest.

I have never seen an essay arguing that perhaps war — perhaps his joy in ripping men from nave to neck — had anything to do with the psychopath he becomes.

The only half-way comforting thought in my ruminations today (half-way because it’s not actually a cheering thought) was that there are several things we don’t know how to do yet.

We don’t know how to love, successfully, do we? How to love without jealousy. How to trust. How to practice monogamy when we’re not built for it.

We’ve had even more practice with love than with war, and yet we fail. A lot.

Other things we don’t know–how to parent, how to educate, how to balance religion with not being a bigot . . .


Lady Macbeth:  Where is She Now?

I’m always met with questions.
Did I really fall?
What was in that letter?
Aside from being none of your business,
It doesn’t really matter.
I’m always already judged—
“She wears the pants in that family.”
Well, it would have been more comfortable,
But around here it’s more accurate to note
Who was wearing the skirts.
It is Scotland, after all.

I am likened to those hags.
I change in your titles
From a dearest partner
To instrument of darkness.
You’re always painting me
Black or white.
And here I am—red all over.

I get in trouble for my images,
Because I say milk and gall and dash.
It’s beside the point,
But you try having your nipples
Cracked and chapped
By some colicky brat
And you try not to think of it.
In any case, I didn’t do it.
I merely said, hypothetically,
That I would.

Is that really worse than what he did?
Unseaming people from navel to chops.
Please—war is no excuse
When all the world is war.
Don’t be so naïve.
Is it because I’m a woman
That you’re offended?
Well, there’s an implicit war there, too.
And don’t think my body
Hasn’t played the battlefield.

I didn’t always talk this way.
But the hero
Kept coming home
And wanting to retell his exploits
To relive his victories
In our sacred marital bed.
It got so he couldn’t get excited
Any other way.
And so I steeled myself for him
Trained myself to taunt

     To take it

     To cry out

     As he cut me


Why do you think
I’m so unphased by





So when I asked those that
Tend on mortal thoughts
To tend on mine
It was no big deal.
I’ve been plundered before.

Hereafter, when you ponder me
Hell is murky
And so is vision
With or without that candle.

on my way to class
May 14th, 2012 by Dr Karma

On my way to class

to teach people how to write

with style

to unlearn bad habits

where I try to make everything

a story

& then I see the blood

smudged all over one hand

from where I’ve unconsciously

picked at my thumb

I didn’t feel anything

but I can’t teach

visibly bloody

so I lick the wound like an animal

test to see if it wells again

walk into class


the blood under my fingernail

will darken all morning.

Review of “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”
May 10th, 2012 by Dr Karma

Jenny Lawson, the author of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, is a saint.

Okay, not really. I mean, not literally. Mostly because she’s not Catholic and not dead and doesn’t have the required number of confirmed miracles (again, because she’s not dead).

But if someone had to be my intercessor with the almighty, I would want it to be her.

I can imagine her argument in my favor now.

Him: There’s no way she’s getting in here. She’s violated too many of my rules.

Jenny: Like what?

Him: Well, she had a child out of wedlock.

Jenny: Technically, so did you, unless the Bible is leaving out a whole wedding scene. And sure, Alexander may not be a zombie whose worshippers commit cannibalism, but he did give her a kiss on the forehead the other night — unprompted! — for making meatloaf. He’s a teenage boy–they’re not supposed to be nice to their mothers! And did I mention that he builds his own instruments? I mean, have you seen his all-metal viola? She can’t be all that bad.

Why am I so convinced that this is how the discussion would go? Well, I’ve been reading Lawson’s work for a while now, so I’m used to her having conversations like this actual one with her husband when she bought a taxidermied baby alligator:

Victor: “Didn’t you once tell me that more than one dead animal in the house borders on serial-killer territory?

“‘Yes, but this one is wearing a hat,’ I explained drily. He couldn’t argue with that kind of logic. No one could.”

My friend Vanessa first introduced me to Ms. Lawson’s blog ( via an entry in which Lawson gets back at her husband for forbidding her to buy more towels. It’s a wonderful lesson:

I became a fan of Beyonce  the chicken and Jenny Lawson all at once. Don’t understand that sentence? Go back and read the blog I linked to!

How awesome is Lawson? Well, have you ever gotten Wil Wheaton to take a picture of himself collating paper to send to people who send you stupid requests? Have you, when trying and failing to get Nathan Fillion’s attention, ever had Simon Pegg comfort you with a twit pic of himself holding string? I bet not. But Lawson has:

Lawson’s blog is wonderful. Her book is similarly amazing. I usually don’t laugh out loud when I read, but I laughed. Out. Loud. Several times.

How could I not when she recounts a discussion with her OBGYN about how she would tear and need to be stitched up? Lawson asked if the scar could be in the shape of a lightening-bolt (a la Harry Potter) so that “whenever I have menstrual cramps I could just pretend that Voldemort was close.”

Even though I just finished the book, I already want to read it again. It has been a source of joy, of recognition (she’s not the only one to attend Armadillo rodeos), and a reward for getting my grading quota done each day. It is also “intellectually challenging and chronologically surreal. Like if Memento was a book. About dead dogs and vaginas and puppets made of squirrel corpses.”

She gave me that quote to use in my review. It’s in the book, so I didn’t even have to bother her to get it.

I’m telling you–the woman is a fucking saint.

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