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7 years lying awake at night

One month ago I was housesitting in a cabin in southern Oregon. I’d never been there before – the edge of a town of 4,000 called Coquille. Deer would eat grass around the fruit trees. There were no curtains on the windows. I was confused at first by the rain and the quiet and the green. Steve built the cabin in the mid 70’s and lives about a quarter mile away in another cabin he built with his friends. He drives a Prius and has a medical condition that makes his voice thin. His teeth have fallen out so he’s gotta pay about 10 grand to get them fixed. He said he didn’t care about being a “pretty corpse” so much, but while he’s alive he still has his vanity. I visited the ocean almost every day. I never recognized it. Thanks to Meg, one night I watched Beauty is Embarrassing – a film about Wayne White, an artist who grew up in my hometown. Hixson, Tennessee.

I want to pump the gas and think only about what it means to pay $1.79 for each gallon right now. That is plenty. I don’t need to wake up in the night with panic attacks trying to figure out the definition of “service” for contingent faculty. Somehow I still live in a bubble. The Keystone Pipeline just passed the Senate but, according to one analyst, it’s a symbolic project anyway. She said the best situation for Obama would be to veto it and then still for the thing to be built. Sometimes things are just gross and they don’t go away when you refuse to look at them. I couldn’t work this many jobs if I weren’t on Celexa. Poetry is still a factory if we measure by production. I’m doing my taxes by avoiding my paystubs. A receipt from June 2014 says gas was $3.73.

One breathes in 20,000 times a day. Our bodies are, ostensibly, solid. Malleable but relatively fixed. Yesterday at the Village Inn, B described watching a VHS tape of acting auditions on repeat. We both grew up in the south. Received forms. The average human spends 38,000 hours eating. We were sharing one of those. Our server had a single diamond stud earring. We sleep for 26 years. In the same article, I read we spend 5 years online. 115 days laughing. 11 years at work. How do we do the same things and still get such different results? B described the satisfaction of 7 different takes of 7 different women running through the exact same scene.

I joined the gym in Coquille. I listened to Yo Yo Ma while I ate enormous salads for dinner. I didn’t check email or Facebook. Coos Bay is right next to Coquille but I only went there twice in 3 weeks.

My dad is a respiratory therapist. He grew up shit-poor and was the first in his family to get an Associate’s degree. He’s run over 20 marathons. One of his heroes is Steve Prefontaine. I only sort of knew that. He was a runner who died young in a car accident. He grew up in Coos Bay where there’s a museum about him and a gift shop at an insurance office in the side room. If you go there and ask about Pre, people will talk to you like you’re old friends. You can buy pieces of the track from his high school. He died in 1975. His sister just made a calendar with excerpts from his diary.

When my dad found out I was staying in Coquille he kind of freaked out. He had planned a trip to trace Pre’s life just before September 11, 2001 but you know, then everything changed. Language isn’t figurative in my dad’s world. And he only has to work 3 days a week. Several years ago, J said: I don’t know how to change my life without leaving my relationship. She wasn’t unhappy in her relationship. My connection with my dad has always been tenuous but he’s more present in the body I’ve chosen to grow up in. In God: A Biography, Jack Miles says: From the moment of conception, when 23 chromosomes from a male and 23 from a female become the first cell of a human, we are defined by our inner division. I don’t know if academia can ever be Avant-garde. By which I mean compassionate. My hands are his. We have the same verbal tics. When Morgan died 3 years ago, it was my dad who understood what it meant to just breathe.

~ TC Tolbert, Assistant Director

PS. Please do support two important fundraising campaigns! EDGE needs your help to support incredible visiting writers Ocean Vuong and LaTasha Nevada Diggs. And please join us for a reception celebrating the beautiful artwork of Valyntina Grenier, who is holding a "Winners Choice" raffle of the artwork she is displaying at Cafe Passe from now through February 28th. Proceeds from this raffle go to support Casa Libre. Thank you, Valyntina!

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5/2 From Farm to Poem: a 3-course locally-sourced dinner at 5 Points Market & Restaurant to benefit Casa Libre w/ live music played by Samantha Bounkeua and Kate Haverly, and poetry performances by Stephanie Balzer and Sommer Browning
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4/13-5/18 Penning the Nasty (the tender, the sweet): An Exploration into Writing Sexuality
a writing workshop w/ Kati Standefer

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4/26 Ancestral Landscapes: Writing Physical Memory
a writing workshop w/ Khadijah Queen
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5/1-5/3 Poetry in the Grocery List a poetry workshop w/ Stephanie Balzer & Sommer Browning
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5/30 The Nuts and Bolts of Freelancing Workshop
a writing workshop w/ Heather Severson and Wynne Brown
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3/25 Edge Reading
w/Xander Felton, Ben Rutherfurd, & Matthew Schmidt
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3/31 Trickhouse Live
w/Ryka Aoki & Tanya Rich
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4/5 Lamplight Reading Series
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4/25 Courting Risk
a reading series curated by Khadijah Queen
with Khadijah Queen, Bill Wetzel, Kristen Nelson, Shelly Taylor, Amy Lukau, TC Tolbert and Susan Southard
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4/3 ¡WIP! UA MFA Reading Series
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4/28 Trickhouse Live
w/Aisha Sloan, Beth Alvarado, & Lisa O'Neill
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4/22 Edge Reading w/Teré Fowler-Chapman, Estella Gonzalez, & Margaret Regan
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5/2 Poetry in the Grocery List a reading w/ Stephanie Balzer & Sommer Browning
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Trickhouse Live: An Integrative Arts and Performance Series
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