October 2014

Mairead Case

features

How to Burn Potatoes at High Altitude

I write a readerís diary because reading is writing too. I donít like talking all the time. This September I didnít talk -- write -- very much at all but I read a lot, in the same pell-mell omnivorous way I listened to music as a teenager. It was a gift and a relief, feeling that way again. It was like I stopped believing in magic then revved back up.

It is important, to me, that a readerís diary not just be about whatís new, or books, because readerís diaries are about marking time but also, magical thinking. They are about believing that stories can help you figure out your great life. Help me figure out mine.

This September was the first month I lived in Denver for real. I read Dylan Thomasís Under Milk Wood aloud to myself when I couldnít sleep. I read charts for high-altitude baking and burned the potatoes anyway. I read Kara Jesellaís wedding posts on her Tumblr and wrote her to say I love you. I re-read the final essay in Vivian Gornickís The End of the Novel of Love because I know itís important to me but donít know why yet. I re-read Tina Brown Celonaís Snip! Snip! because it is great. I read Mathias Svalinaís new book Wastoid and Lise Haller Baggesenís first book Mothernism and Cedar Sigoís old book Selected Writings, which is on the shelf at Counterpath but sold out from other places. I re-read my favorite poem in Sommer Browningís Backup Singers, which is about driving through lightning. I read new friendsí old books and if I loved them I said so, which is important.

I read the lightrail map over and over and over and only missed my stop once so far. I read that peanut butter and green chile sandwiches taste good, and so do raspberry jam and cheese and olives, and discovered that was true. I read the Right to Life flyer someone gave me on the bus, and then I didnít know what to do with my face. I read about Jon Burge leaving prison and wanted to burn something, but I didnít. I read Jenny Zhangís Hags, and old Eaves of Ass, and recipes for how to cook turnips, because they were cheap at the Saturday market and the purple was pretty. I read what is withheld for taxes. I read a receipt from Walgreens that said if I didnít have health care my medicine would cost three hundred dollars every time. I took the medicine.

I read the new NO÷ and the new Volta and late-night wormholed in the Temporary Services booklet archive. I read poems by Bill Berkson and Marie Ponsot and a short talk by Matthew Goulish and I taped them to the wall. I read letters from my friends, both what they said and how their handwriting looks right now. I read what to do if your cat stops eating. I read about prisons in Colorado. I†read†about Amendment 67. I read about mugwort, skullcap, and vetvier. I read about the Ace of Cups. I read about Sam Greenlee. I read the rules at my gym, which have an extra ĎSí in them. Every morning I read tarot. I read Oblique Strategies when I got stuck. I read ice cream and beer menus. I read about weatherproofing, and a sign on a wall that says 199$, as a date not dollars. I read Richard Hugo poems I already knew by heart. I read the same citation page in the Chicago Manual of Style three days in a row, because students asked.

I read about clouds, and the storm that ate its own tail on Saturn in 2011. I read about Anne Boyerís hair falling out and the South Texas Family Residential Center, and both times I cried. I read Jean Philippe-Toussaintís Making Love and had nightmares about the bottle of acid. I read friendsí syllabus proposals and poetry manuscripts and resumes and sexy essays. I read about cochlea and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. I read affect theory. I read The Economist on the bus, and at the drugstore, the names of expensive nail polishes. I read poems about death because my friend asked for some to read in the woods. I read MuppetWiki and what to do with garlic salt.

I read that if you are nervous you can pinch your wrist on the side, underneath the thumb. I felt tough. I read about an acupuncture clinic half a mile away, and I went and they stuck needles in my feet, my elbows, my ankles, and the top of my head, then I fell asleep under a brown blanket listening to Kraftwerk, and when I woke up I felt gold in my chest again and ready to read novels again too.

Mairead Case (@maireadcase) is a writer in Denver. Her book See You in the Morning comes out from featherproof in October 2015.