my cousin/mirror self sent me this, maybe to let me know how much better this face of mine would be without any pesky human details. I don’t even know when the original photo is from. All I know is that this cousin love lives across the world from me, and is a total jet-setter and once in a while they are in town for 24 hours and we have lunch and fight over the bill and die laughing about all the worst things. Literally since the day we met we’ve been laughing together every time we are in any kind of proximity, no matter how long it’s been since our last visit. When we were kids we couldn’t have imagined that it would all be this hard. We couldn’t have imagined that it would all be this wonderful either. Today is their birthday. I’m so grateful.

I wrote this paragraph on Christmas Eve this year and posted it on instagram:

I’m ending a little period of silence and solitude and writing and eating sweet potatoes and drinking tea and turned the internet on to find the contract for my new book in my inbox and now I’m going to have a fancy city dinner in lipstick and high heels or maybe jeans and boots but definitely dangly earrings and I’m sad my kids aren’t here of course but also. Fuck. Thirteen year old Seema wanted to be this grown up.

Then I got dressed and went out in the cold (for the record: leggings and boots and sequined jacket) and the whole time I was thinking about thirteen year old Seema. How cool she’d think everything is. My dumb nearly purple car, my sequined jacket, my piles and piles of books. My published writing. My endless pairs of shoes and near mastery of eyeliner. I think I do right by her in most cases. But I also think I could do better. This is what I’m working on this year: running decisions by thirteen year old Seema. I think it’s going to be a hell of a year. This, from the a bit of writing-in-progress:

I remember filling the ugly green bathtub in the bathroom I shared with my sister when I was thirteen, crying with rage and telling myself aloud, under the roar of the faucet, I will never forget what this feels like. It must have been a few weeks before or after I came home from school one afternoon and discovered the first red spots of blood on the tucked in tail of my green and white striped shirt. My body had changed.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio contends that consciousness is made up of a mind which is “a constant flow of mental images” (images here includes all sensory data) and a self, a consciousness which introduces a subjective perspective to the images of the mind. In order to maintain a stable self, an internal map of the body is kept to record continuity. When the map is different from what we recall, the self is unsteadied. I have seen my sons wake in the morning seeming taller than the boys I said goodnight to. While they were unconscious their bodies changed, and they wake disoriented and angry. They stumble from bed howling. They are changing creatures, and the changes are disorienting. I have kept my thirteen-year-old promise and have not forgotten what that cloud of rage feels like.

But honestly, I’ve got nothing to say about 13 that touches this brilliant work by Patricia Smith, “13 Ways of Looking at 13.” 13 stanzas, 13 lines, 13 syllables each. Just try to write one stanza like that.


One Response

  1. James E. Jacobsen says:

    One of your best ones ever, my dear for which I offer my sincere thanks.

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