Upcoming Readings | April 11 & April 15

Anam Cara Storytellinganam_cara-april2015-BW
Irish American Heritage Center
Saturday, April 11

Since September 2014, I have spent most of my Thursday evenings at the memoir writing workshop at the Irish American Heritage Center. The workshops are lead by Oakton Community College Professor of English Virginia Gibbons and curated by the ever-commited and talented, Theresa Choske.

Anam Cara means soul friend. In these workshops, we bring what we can. We are informal, opening the second floor library doors each week to the working writer, the struggling writer, the young writer, the dreaming writer, the in-love writer, the grieving writer, the elder writer, the tired writer–any writer–to come to the table with a pen and paper and with what words, or lack of them, we are capable of carrying that day.

Anam Cara Storytelling is a celebration of the writing we have been capable of carrying for the past year. I will be reading about ghosts, as usual. Others will be reading about ghosts, too. I hope you’ll join us.


CHIRP Radio Presents: First Time, First Lie
Wednesday, April 15th

In 2012, I performed at CHIRP Radio‘s “First Time, First Digs” live lit event. I told a story about my first apartment in Massachusetts. I paired it with the Tom Waits’ song, “Hold On.” It was a magnificent experience and I am grateful to have the opportunity to read again at “First Time, First Lie” at Martyrs’ on April 15. I won’t tell you what my first lie is, but I can assure you it will open an inverted world of wonder, faith, curiosity, satire, church, and restitution. Please, do come.


In Which I Burn Down the Hideout

On a cold Chicago evening, in June, after a winter lasting longer than eight months, what warmth is sought through fire. The low dance of flame insulated by the description orange. It burns through circuits, rises beyond anxieties that disfigure the momentum of some dream. The ghost of an element that sears holes straight through the chest, destroying the casing of whatever we imagined protected our hearts from imaginary undoings.

In an attempt to sweep away the ashes of my imaginary undoings, I will compete in favor of the literary construct BURN at Write Club: Literature as Blood Sport on Tuesday, June 17th at the Hideout Inn in Chicago.

Show starts at 7:00 PM. $10 cover. If I win, a portion of the proceeds benefit the Chicago Women’s Health Center.

With Calcifer by my side, fire demon of folklore: May all your bacon burn.

See you there!


Azul in Summertime

Photo courtesy: summer57

The color of my grandparents’ house. Azul or blue in summertime. The back of the house painted a few different shades each summer because my grandfather would climb the paint ladder each day to maintain structure. One hand unable to move, frozen from a stroke years earlier. But he painted anyway. The yard full of blueberries and gardens and greens and freshly hung laundry in the sunshine. This is the New England I smell when I return. The deep black soil stretching into roots of earth only defined by this land.

That land contrasted by the land I cultivated eight years in the Midwest. The golden smell of the prairie, grasses soft brown and soil sand, the minerals less glimmering, but warm. I live an intentional artist community. Three years prior I healed from the loss of my mother in the Solarium. I chose no clothes and stepped into a community of no one I knew and my naked body painted an apple tree. Roots growing down around my hips, the trunk my tummy, and my breasts two large beautiful red apples. My heart broken and open in the August sun.

Communication and navigation create structure to understand my ally-ship, directly addressing and connecting a deep hurt I can only see from afar, or up close if I ask. Given breath, space, held. There are few New England blues in the Solarium, lots of reds and yellows, the color of Arizona clay or the deep embers of the earth’s star.

I’ve never understood
round things, why would leaving come back
to itself? 
Bob Hicok

In the heat of the Chicago summer, the reason for return more forward than the icy New England winter. Medgar Evers returns to Florida exactly 50-years later in Trayvon Martin’s gated community in a false post-race period and every fight cast from the embers awakens a history and when I am shocked on an airline on a Sunday afternoon, my heart aching, racing, curious, hopeful, naive, wistful, helpful, fully aware that when I move faster in time, time steps back. 

Through the doors of the unknown over and over I ask questions that are difficult to leap off my tongue, break silences starving for understanding, starving for energy to speak and light the way with every new revolution. How silent we can be, how our orbits are not navigational, how we bind in spite of our fears. How we hold onto our history like a light we hope it will be, dawning every horror in our makeshift bed lamp of country. When I arise each morning, I seek blue water that will fully diffuse this fury, hoping it will not rise faster after dampening each time.

Each time, grateful, it does.

Coyotes in the Paper City

An emblem of navigation. It is snowing so much. The flakes are big, large, marble sized sometimes. As if tall trees that we cannot see shake their branches at the sky, loosening the wet from weighing them down.

Two years ago today my mother passed. I don’t remember if it was snowing that day. It happens to snow a lot when my sister and I visit her grave. I have never tested this in July, but I like to think it is true.

I wonder, each year, if this is a personal day. A day of notification and memory. A day to make clear where I stand in the universe, where my boundaries lie. (The answer is yes, and sometimes.) I am so protective of things out east, my home. So proud of my working class upbringing when I am anywhere else. When I am here, it is shadowed by what is coined the Tofu Curtain. The tofu curtain is the Holyoke Mountain Range that separates the Pioneer Valley from the Springfield Metro area of Western Massachusetts, a place so filled with privilege it forgets itself.

I miss the urban hustle of Carl Sandburg’s city. The latino kids speaking Spanish on the train with the diamond earring bling, the Russian family who then boards, the Polish accents behind me, the black kids riding the red line from Uptown to the South Side and back again. Last week, riding the T through Boston, I told my friend Jen that subway trains make me feel human.

The day before St. Patrick’s Day, I watched my sister run a six mile race through the Paper City, or Holyoke, during what is the second largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the country. I had never actually been to Holyoke. Within minutes of arriving downtown, we were solicited drugs on the street corner. It didn’t feel threatening, but a way of life. The buildings are boarded up in the Paper City. Not some. Not a handful. Most. All. Old factories on rivers. Buildings that once operated as apartment complexes. Auto shops. Paper mills. Everything. Yet, each year, 7,000 people sign up for this annual race. People pay $25.00 to run through Holyoke, past the drug dealers, abandoned houses, and shuttered mills. But I don’t think Holyoke sees a penny of that money.

I felt more at ease on the streets of Holyoke than I sometimes do on the other side of that curtain. Here, in Northampton, the coyotes howl on Saturday nights and you can hear their cries for miles. I am afraid to step outside. I won’t walk home through the woods without my headlamp and pocket knife. I am afraid of encountering bears. Three months ago I left Chicago for New England, a place I then called Mars. It still feels like Mars up here.

Chicago is approximately 30 miles north, south and west, urban sprawl in all directions but east, but I bet Lake Michigan stretches that far. You can’t see the other side. Which is Michigan if you look straight across: “The Upper Peninsula is a spare state / in case Michigan goes flat.” Detroit is now state run.

Maybe by summer Mars will feel like home again. Maybe I have to continue running up the hills of the Paper City to prove to myself there is a view from there. And that the view from the wrong side of the mountain is the view that I am looking for.

My mother didn’t bore me into a state of luxury, but she taught me how to fight and what to fight for. I hope I get snarled up in the coyotes. I hope I howl with them all night long. I hope they help me tear through the wooden panels of the abandoned buildings. I hope they reach out their claws, hold the hand of the dying on the other side and say,

We are making paper again. We are planting you trees

For a future you.

I’m never sure of making plans for the New Year. Of saying, “I’m going to take you by the reigns and destroy you.” But maybe it’s because I think every day is a day for new beginnings. New awakenings. A much harder practice. I’m not saying I’m very good at it.

I am feeling reflective this morning, mounds of clothes and piles of things to contain, to box, to take or leave. I should be packing now, not writing, but things will get done. The point from here to there is so much clearer when you are not in between, searching, compiling, organizing, dismantling, arranging. I’ll land in Northampton, Massachusetts in seven days with an air mattress and two suitcases full of clothes. I am shipping my bedding a week in advance so it will be there when I arrive.

I look forward to an empty room. I imagine a bed, a yoga mat, and a zafu. My belongings housed in a storage unit in Chicago for the time being, an indication of the split my mind seems to taking. One foot in and one foot back. Not ideal, I know, but one way.

I adopt a word each year in lieu of making resolutions. Resolutions are lists in journals that are good ideas. The memory of writing them is often there, but the contents missing.

For the New Year, I will hibernate. I will tuck myself up into a little den and I will meditate and I will read and I will write and I will process. And I will take care of myself. Radical self care.

Before I leave Chicago, I will read poetry at the Hopleaf on New Year’s Day.

For a future you, from a past me

With love from Mars.

From Mars, Post Chicago Blues

The biggest hearts break in December. I am sitting in a poet’s house on the Northwest side of Chicago with two beautiful dogs as my companions. I am dog-sitting and have the quiet of books and the coldest days of winter by my side. The first days of winter by my side. It is sunny and not quite snowy and I am in my pajamas and drinking too much coffee again. Black.

I have been in a lot of pain since November. A roaring monster intestinal reproductive knot to the lower right side of my pelvic bone/abdomen/hip/muscle (undefined). The pulsing has subsided thanks to acupuncture, rest, and hot tubs, but I don’t trust it to bicycle or run. I don’t trust it to the care of others or the wreckage it’s caused.

As I approach the saddest months of the year, I cannot exercise and I move to Massachusetts in two weeks. The anticipation of the most joyous hearts upon my arrival. Maybe that’s why I am moving back. That dark underbelly of my history and the goodness of shadowy ferns tucked deep within damp soil and rolling hills of grit and a younger girl’s wanderlust.

It occurs to me there will be birch trees again.

Poetry and journaling have replaced endorphins as I simplify my life. It’s a funny thing, writing. This afternoon I can’t imagine the poetic because I’m stuck somewhere in the middle of a place, a transience that’s difficult to map. Maybe I will become sassier again. Maybe I will stick up for myself more. Maybe I will find a love that flows freely in both directions. Maybe I will hibernate. 

Maybe I will find the calm of the Connecticut under the Northampton footbridge. The summer things that are not Chicago summer things. Trips to New York City. Trips to Maine. Trips to my mother’s grave I am never quite comfortable with. I still have not found a way in such close proximity.

But I will find a way.

There is a poem by Matthew Rohrer called “From Mars.” It is published in his collection Destroyer and Preserver. It is terribly sad but it is terribly true. We do think of each other.


On January 30th I will see Kishi Bashi in concert in the same place I saw the books many years ago. With friends I have known for even more years ago.

Be good to them always.

North Hermitage Avenue – Chicago

Nikki McClure 2012 Calendar

I am not in the streets but I have been in the streets. IMF. World Bank. Philly. Boston. DC. Please watch the live feed. I will be reading poetry tonight at Beauty Bar Chicago in West Town. I will be reading “Like You” by Roque Dalton. 

Via The Guardian, this is what Chicago looks like

By Roque Dalton
(Translated by Jack Hirschman)

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-blue
landscape of January days.

And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.
I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone. 

COMO TU (1975)
Por Roque Dalton 

Yo como tú 
amo el amor, 
la vida, 
el dulce encanto de las cosas 
el paisaje celeste de los días de enero. 

También mi sangre bulle 
y río por los ojos 
que han conocido el brote de las lágrimas. 
Creo que el mundo es bello, 
que la poesía es como el pan, 
de todos. 

Y que mis venas no terminan en mí, 
sino en la sangre unánime 
de los que luchan por la vida, 
el amor, 
las cosas, 
el paisaje y el pan, 
la poesía de todos.