Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Auras -- head space loom grow distort

My younger daughter is a poet. She's six and said once of a rainy day "The sky is cut." Yesterday morning she was brewing a cold, though none of us knew. She said, "Mama, when I got up, I didn't feel right. Like I grew. Like I was too tall."

By 11 she was glass-eyed and feverish. Advil and rest and lying on the couch in that defiant "I'm not tired" position brought a swift improvement.

I kinda like being feverish. Shouldn't, but do. That blurred edge of perception, the little gifts of prodrome. Or the hours before a hemiplegic migraine takes over. No serious pain with these, but my body splits: one side, usually the left, is normal or feels thin and withered; the other side blorts out as unbordered goo, a BarbaPapa in transformation. Limbs tingle, sleep thins out. Then the storm in the head, which is the nuisance cost for those glittering moments of metamorphosis.

Not sure what I'm taking from them yet.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

At Sea 40.38 N 52.45 W

Certified Extract From a Return of Death, General Register and Record Office of Shipping and Seamen, Tower Hill, London, E1

Name of Ship: Astrakhan

Date of death: 21 / 4 /24

Place of death: At Sea 40.38 N 52.45 W

Name and surname of deceased: James Phillip Jarwick

Sex: Male

Age: 29

Rating or Rank, Profession or Occupation: AB

Nationality, Stating Birthplace: British. North Shields

Last Place of Abode: 13 Mount Pleasant, North Shields

Cause of Death: Brain Fever

My grandmother, Ellen Jarwick, was an infant when her father died and never knew him.

Years ago, way before digital photography, my grandfather took an old portrait of James Sr and toddler James Jr, and another portrait of Nan as a baby with her mother, and got them copied and melded together to look like one portrait. This melded portrait was prominently displayed. I studied it for clues.

Who was James Jarwick?

A sailor who died at sea of brain fever.

A father who never sat next to his daughter.

The man in the portrait.

Far away.

Monday, February 19, 2007


William S. Burroughs started it, then Laurie Anderson picked it up and sang about it. I chant it sometimes: "Language is a virus."

Solid writing infects you. Feverish flashbacks to, say, Melville's Moby-Dick or Kafka's In the Penal Colony can be distressing, especially when they occur oh, at work or behind the wheel.

Basic imagery is even more unpredictable. I found Christopher Lockett's Untitled Newfoundland Zombie Project yesterday, took a gander. It's an in-progress screenplay, a zombie movie set in St. John's, NL. (Hell, why not? We've got Wal-Mart, Montana's Steakhouse and CNN. Zombies are a plausible next step.)

Diss the zombie genre all you like. I got infected. Dreamt about, yep, zombies all night. Tossed and moaned and tried to remember medieval siege techniques, calorie counts on food and just where I'd put my tire iron last. My dreams had baby zombies, and they floated, just like fetuses. Best way to defeat the baby zombies was to spray them in the face with Lysol.

Mother of two here, spraying Lysol at floating baby zombies.

Zombies are money worries for me. The Visa bill staggers up the back yard. The telephone bill strides over my parked car. The electric bill grabs me from behind.

Not sure about the baby zombies yet.

Humbling, to be infected by an image.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Long lost found war love, or, Nan was a war bride

How many Canadians are descended from war brides? How many of us exist because a woman tore herself from home and sailed to the other side of the world?

My maternal grandmother was a war bride from North Shields, near Newcastle, England. She met and married a St. John's boy who'd joined the Royal Navy. She crossed to Halifax on the RMS Scythia, a Cunard ship. Her "diner d'adieu" on March 25, 1946, was petite marmite, poached salmon with sauce hollandaise, roast turkey royale, French beans, braised celery, boiled and browned potatoes, plum pudding and brandy sauce, and ice cream.

This for women who'd been rationed each week to:

lb 3oz meat (offal and sausages not rationed)
4oz bacon
3 pints milk (or l packet of milk powder per month)
2 oz butter
2 oz margarine
2 oz fat or lard
2 oz loose tea
l egg per week (or l packet of egg powder, ‘makes l2 eggs,’ per month)
2 oz jam
3 oz sugar
l oz cheese
3 oz sweets
2 lbs onions (l942-44 only)
l6 oz soap (household soap, beauty soap and soap flakes)

Most of the women on board disembarked in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

More than one had a message waiting for her: "Not wanted."

The Scythia then turned around for St. John's. Nan arrived on March 28th. The streets were full of snow. She had no boots. Strangers offered her oranges. Her husband found her, carried her uphill.

Nan's maiden name was Ellen Jarwick. She kept contact with her brother until he died; when he called, he'd ask for "Our Nell." My mother kept contact with one of her cousins by sporadic letter.

A few years before she died, eaten out by Alzheimer's, she'd pace her living room, listening to random offerings of radio -- she never played the Vera Lynn records after her husband died -- and say she only wanted to go back to England. She died in St. John's.

I searched "Jarwick" on the net one afternoon.

Wouldn't you know. My long-lost cousin, Andy Jarwick, has posted a very detailed Jarwick family tree. It's taken him about ten years to find all the information. One square was blank: Nellie Jarwick.

He'd had no idea a branch of the family existed in Newfoundland.

An unlikely connection. But easy enough to make.

Spark-gap transmission / Michelle Butler Hallett

Spark-gap transmission / Michelle Butler Hallett
in progress