a slowly turning circle / another / another by Laura Kochman

Fortune and her Wheel, Medieval illustration.


Today is the first occurrence of April 27 on a Wednesday since 2011, when sirens cut off my Wednesday afternoon poetry workshop and I ran to the library, where I huddled in the hallway while an EF4 tornado ground a diagonal wound into my town. It's a strange symmetry: five years, another Wednesday. Five is the kind of solid number you can depend on. I often count in fives. It's a way in which we can control time, by counting it.


The tornado changed a lot of things for a lot of people, and one of the things it changed for me was my sense of time. It made me realize that time is not so easily divisible (that nothing, actually, is so easily divisible). In a 2008 art history class on South American shamanic art, one of the cultures we studied had a calendar for which the repetition of the days was literal. Each Wednesday was the same Wednesday. Any meaning that was imbued on one Wednesday would be present the next Wednesday. Every week a slowly turning circle.


I started writing an essay about the tornado and repetition and Doctor Who in 2012, and I am still working on it. Still trying to figure out what I mean.


I have always thought of the calendar year as a circle, like a clock, with January 1 at the top, quadrants of the seasons. Each year kisses its own tail at the top. The academic calendar is the upper half of the circle, and in the academic calendar these months are their own kind of year. I know where the momentum will carry us, forward, swinging, but I don't live there anymore.


In the last months of 2010, I wrote a paper on The Consolation of Philosophy, on the way in which allegorical texts free us from linear time, on the recurrence of circles and circular movement, on the book itself as a circle, half in text and half beyond the boundaries of text. I didn't know that I was setting myself up. Half here and half there. Half beyond the storm and half huddled in the hallway. What would console me?


There's something comforting in the return, every year, of April 27. That we all remember together. That we create the safety that we did not have. That collective grief might swing us forward for another year, that a tornado is a turning circle, that I might be again in my old body, that the wound might be undone, that we might capture it more clearly.

april is the weirdest month by Laura Kochman

April is the weirdest month. I'm convinced that Philadelphia is constantly windy because it is a pathway between two rivers. My grandmother has forgotten my name, but remembers my brother-in-law. "Brother-in-law" is still a strange phrase to form. My hair blows in all directions. Another protein bar. In the mornings, I feed my cat twice before I feed myself. Following B around in books, I am learning and despairing. Another protein bar. Confession: at my desk I remove my shoes. There was a break in the rhythm of the procession of oxygen through my body this afternoon when I discovered that the office softball team is called the Tornados. An exclamatory email in the corner of my screen, my actual heart. A blessed protein bar. I made a joke about myself and regretted it. Timing targets. If I were the wind, I too would whip along the arterial streets.

by Laura Kochman

Since I've been busy lately, here's a little publications catch-up:  

Review of Rob Schlegel's January Machine for BWR (live today! it lives!)

Poem "Sand Map" in the latest Ghost Proposal

Poems "Possibilities of Fingers" and "The Offering Itself" in the latest MiPoesias


Now to roll ahead into figuring out the rest of my foreseeable future. No big deal. I dreamed last night about a crashing plane, but surely that meant nothing. I dreamed the night before about meeting James Franco, which was awful, and probably an equivalent experience to actually meeting James Franco, so I hope that also doesn't come to pass.

by Laura Kochman

I keep getting invited to attend AWP off-site readings, and friends are discussing travel plans and the recent no-public-access-to-the-book-fair revelation, and I'm a little sad because I can't go to AWP this year. I love wandering around the book fair, being in among the physical objects of writing. I love guessing who's who at the hotel bar. I love sitting at the BWR table and talking up the journal. I even love sitting at the BWR table and getting personally queried about submissions. And I was so looking forward to eating sushi for every meal. I have a bookmarks folder just for Seattle Sushi Restaurants.

by Laura Kochman

This pretty thing came in the mail. The cover image is pretty disastrous, which suits me and my dreams just fine. One of the letters to the Woman in the Woods is in here, and in an unexpected plot twist, so is a prose poem that isn't a part of a book-length project. Okay, fine, it's part of a short sequence of prose poems. But it's not part of a book or a chapbook. And that's cool. IMG_1889



by Laura Kochman

Last night I had the same dream twice. First, I was an observer, watching survivors wander around a post-apocalyptic landscape. Then the dream repeated, but this time I was part of the group, drifting through broken buildings and asking ourselves what do we do next, how can time move forward, what happened here. It was like the reverse of watching the news lately. Last night I sat by my airport terminal waiting to board, and because I was in the very sparkling new section of the airport, there were about 7 TVs in my line of sight and every one of them was broadcasting from Oklahoma. It was hard to sit there and watch, and hard to look away. The strange thing about tornado damage is that no matter where it is or what got destroyed, it always looks familiar.

by Laura Kochman

I found out that the realty company that bought my old cul-de-sac tore down another duplex today. Before the person who lived there moved out.

Because his lease, you know, wasn't up.

When he wasn't home they went in and removed his belongings, and then bulldozed it. I'm so in shock I am sputtering. Homes-destruction-privacy-safety-interiority-blah-those-things-I-won't-shut-up-about, WHAT THE FUCK. Setting aside all my deep philosophical feelings about renting and homelessness, there is something seriously wrong with the housing situation in Tuscaloosa. The rental laws are holdovers from much earlier in the last century, designed to take advantage of people who don't have enough money to advocate for themselves. A fair, honest landlord is a valuable thing. A landlord who won't knock down your house while you're still living in it is not too much to ask.

[Photo courtesy of a friend--ironically, that beige house on the left is where I'm moving soon]

by Laura Kochman

Today was a really nice day. I set aside grading to do something fun, following last night's MFA prom (really--there was a dance floor and a photo backdrop). Today was also the two year anniversary of the tornado here in Tuscaloosa, and I am lucky to have the privilege of a nice day, I think. So many things were destroyed, but two years later, there can still be nice days. A lot of the people at the prom last night will leave soon, which is so strange, because I am a perpetual little sister who wants someone older around, someone who knows what's what. The eBook that we all made together is still out there on the Internet, all of us huddled around a buffet potluck dinner. After the storm, they were the ones that organized us all, but somehow, soon I will be one of the oldest siblings (you know, in a metaphorical way). I will be an organizer. There's something both incredibly empowering and terrifying about this.  

by Laura Kochman

It's been so long since my last blog post that when I started typing the address of this blog into Chrome, it didn't do that thing where it fills in the site address. It just sort of looked at me blankly, like What? I don't...get it. The boyfriend has pointed out to me that it is incredibly ironic that I was so excited about getting Internet, being able to blog whenever I wanted, and then never did again. Well! This will show him. I'll start blogging again. It is literally a new year, a new semester. I'm currently fighting the urge to write about how school is going, because school and teaching are things that I apparently give my time to instead of writing. This is a lesson I am learning. My Paul Thek project is still a thing I want to pursue (maybe a thesis?), but right now I am just trying to write. Recently, a whole bunch of my work has been published, and there are still a couple more journals where more work will appear soon, and this year my first chapbook will be published with my dream chapbook press, and yet I am having the hardest time just writing. A while back I went through a phase like this and I was told it was a sign of change, of an evolution in my writing, and eventually I got through it because obviously I have written since then, but it is never fun to be inside of this space. So I resolve to write, whatever it is that I write (including this blog).

Since we last spoke my old apartment has been torn down, turned to rubble and then wiped away and then the ground underneath dug into, the shadow of a foundation for a condo appearing. It's weird. I lived there for two years, and the space in which I did so many things no longer exists. I could stand around in the vague sense of where my bedroom was, maybe estimate my coordinates, but without the enclosure I don't know, really. I went in there right before it got torn down, because the door was open and it was dark and there was a coffee table inside that I thought about taking. We shone a flashlight around, because everything was torn out, all the potentially valuable pipes--although I can't imagine that any of those pipes hold any value--and it was really just the walls and the shitty tiles that used to break under my feet when I stepped too hard. It looked abandoned, because it was.

My grandmother's beach house is also gone now, and that is a stranger sort of hole. After Hurricane Sandy, I got pictures of the street covered in sand, my familiar landscape made strange, almost moony. It wasn't damaged as badly as other places along the shore, but the water got inside, and it wasn't worth fixing, especially because it was going to be sold anyway. So now it's sold, and, we assume, torn down to make room for somebody's dream beach house. Feeling sad about the destruction of a vacation home is a luxury, I know, but there is more than one way to have a home. The closet where I hid in my cousin's nightgown is gone, and so is the dining room where I ate my grandma's terrible macaroni. The sunroom where I laid on the couch all day and cried about Animal Cops Houston. The bedroom with the beds always full of sand. The wood-paneled staircase that felt like it led to another dimension, and the pock-marked concrete backyard where I scraped the sand off my feet and sprayed my body down with hard water.

You can find these spaces in these poems in these spaces: The Journal, Sixth Finch, Spittoon, CutBank. The cat is currently making a tiny home in a box I left out for him, the container from an unexpected and completely wonderful gift. I left it turned over on its side, with the wrapping paper crinkled out the edges invitingly, like I used to leave out new shells for my hermit crabs, hopeful. He has finally decided that the box is worth his time, and keeps turning around and shifting the paper and scratching to make the most deliberate holes and poking his little head out his new front door.


by Laura Kochman

Bad things come in threes, so of course the pinnacle of my day was when the tree behind my house got struck by lightning. We're in the outer bands of Isaac right now, sort of light rain off and on, not so bad, until today. The afternoon got stormy suddenly, right while I was reading about storms, and then there was a giant crack and my house shook and my head felt funny. The police knocked on the door and told me they thought the house had been hit and someone had reported smoke in the backyard. I grabbed the cat (who I will immediately be ordering a carrier for) and stood on the porch with my neighbor (and her beta fish, dog, and tiny kitten in a bag). The cat struggled. It was pretty awful.

We're going to have to tell the landlord to cut the tree down tomorrow, when they're not closed for Labor Day.

What a day.