Category Archives: muse

Close to my body

In which Carrie appreciates her body …


All of these naked bodies, remarked myself

in the dressing room of a spa, glistening with oil

or to be oiled and roiled with emotions suppressed.

You deposit your clothing and your big bucket purse to the safety locker

and move to rooms of your resolve.


Some of you are certain this is your right.

Others take persuading; Is it my body?  Can I afford this symbol of self-affection?

Confusion infused at the hard place in your neck: am I?

Today you give yourself up to one who needs nothing from you.


Enter the hero of the hour: Massage Therapist.

I love you.

Your identity becomes mine and this becomes care.

I lay prone on the heated table with my face in a hole watching your human feet go by.

At first I don’t trust and try to map your movements.

I note the amount of oil you use, the grace with which you pull the cover from my back.

I advise myself: stop.

Just exist on a planet in kind feeling room.

Detach from the attachment to trust.

Demand not control but embrace the giving up,

agreed upon, this safety place,

between you and those of the professional.

She needs nothing from you

Except to tell her if the pressure is too much.









Zadie Smith, Lifevest

In which Carrie goes back to college . . . . 

This itch.  Once at the height of my intellectual stamina.  The time when the person starved of morality sees the world through literature, and begins, anew, on a quest for purpose.

Zadie Smith will save me.

Memories of dead philosophy professors, still living and some actually deceased.  Byron, vanilla-flavored pipe at the lips.  Simple-minded me telling you I will take a trip to Bhutan where they believe in Gross National Happiness.  You said, Professor, with a keen moral philosopher’s mind, are you sure it follows from the social structures availible?  Me, in my naivete, thinking surely this other culture has it figured out, why wouldn’t I believe this catchy abandonment of Gross National Product.

Fast forward to the decision of a profession.  The requisite undergrad initiation into literature proper.  E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End.  Followed by On Beauty.  Modern British Authors or something number 400 level course for English majors. An inspired body reaction stemming from a mind well-used in the recognition that symmetry is possible and two books side by side will yield the same message: social injustice.  Amazing to behold, one in each hand.

One may as well begin with letters and emails sent between characters . . .” start Forster and Smith, signaling the conflict which invariably arise from relations with others.  Zadie says I will tell a modern day version of a brilliant commentary on upper class warfare on the less fortunate.  Forster, one in a setting favoring the genteel persons who are obliged to pretend concern for the state of the world.

“He [Leonard Bast] was not in the abyss, but he could see it, and at times people whom he knew had dropped in, and counted no more.  He knew that he was poor, and would have died sooner than confess any inferiority to the rich … But he was inferior to most rich people, there is not the least doubt of it.  He was not as courteous as the average rich man, nor as intelligent, nor as healthy, nor as lovable.  His mind and his body had been alike underfed, because he was poor …” (Chapter 6, HE)

Bast is on his way home from a concert where the classes mixed, and where he almost lost his precious umbrella to Helen, a stranger-to-him, of the upper classes.  He then goes home to his stuffy flat,  umbrella retrieved, which he shares with a desperate woman who won’t understand his dreams, and cracks open his copy of Ruskin’s Stones of Venice.  He reads it slowly and with the performance of one separate from those who take Literature and Art for granted, struggling to understand it and integrate it somehow into his relations with people he wishes to rise above.


Smith, post-Modern British author, writes a similar scene centering on a middle to upper class, mixed race family.  They too have been to a concert, a free one featuring Mozart’s Requiem.  A mix-up occurs between the proprietership of similar discmans (not umbrellas): one belonging to Zora, the daughter in love with those in her father’s collegiate cohort yet able to mix with those in the hood, and a Leonard Bast look-a-like (except, in Beauty, a six foot something black man) named Carl.  Carl wishes to improve his mind through free concerts and lectures and poetry performances, and thereby his standing in the world of Art and Literature.

“‘You at college or . . .?’

“‘Nah . . . I’m not an educated brother, although . . . ‘ He had a theatrical, old-fashioned way of speaking which involved his long, pretty fingers turning in circles in the air.  His whole manner reminded Levi of his grandfather on his mother’s side and his tendency to speechify, as Kiki called it.  ‘I guess you could say I hit my own books in my own way.‘”  (Chapter 7, OB)

Like in 2007 when I first studied the British Moderns, I felt a sympathy for these characters, the poor wishing to improve themselves.  These who valued something which they were excluded from by birth, yet craving it for its intrinsic nourishment commanded by the elite. I, too, felt this craving to shed the skin of a confused past where I never learned to properly write or appreciate beauty in the way of scholars, and gain it through higher learning.

And so I return.  To the past of my betterment and the post-modern exploration of the same material. I now read these two novels in tandem – an exciting rejuvenation of a self slightly successful – and study the possibility of developing my own Art and Beauty.




Ghost Vision

In which Carrie was startled and nostalgic …


Ghost Vision

The light

Or the memory of light

Or her brain reaching

Outward toward

The light

Entered a subjective field of vision

Populated with



Players of Poker

Time and spatial curves

Even things of light and joy:

flowers, children, summits of mountains, books

Which once made the seeing

blind eye

Grasp at the infinite


The Universe holds no color.


I Reckon

In which Carrie reflects on the matter ….


Explosion of earthly


I wonder why

I am born a reckoner

And would I be

without our

Milky Way.


Orion points me true

I see you in the

spattered galaxy.


From Sisters

I stop and think

Of ways I might

have been


Less beautifully.



Love and Grit

In which Carrie thinks of two “Bobby McGees”  . . .


A jarring purr-call of crows in the forest, which, to other avians must seem like a lion’s roar.  I ignore my labor and self-doubt with the distraction of interesting looking forest debris and idle chatter about things I would have a much easier time discussion were I sitting with my hiking companion over a cup of coffee.  It is eight in the morning and we put one foot in front of the other up a gentle incline which nature will turn into steep, loose cinders later on in the hike toward the end.  This is my first, my second, my third, my fourth attempt up the mountain.  They all blend into each other.  I have known this country.  My memory assures me it was I, Carrie Anne Ebner, who travelled there.


I also once tried the Portland Marathon.  I remember this September (or was it October) morning, after a night of watching two strange black-and-white movies (Pi was one of them) and not really feeling like sleeping, as the sun was rising by the second and I was smiling (at least internally) at the little downhill bit near the Naito Parkway.  An older woman passed me and I followed her skinny frame and the sign clipped to her shirt which said, “This is my 18th marathon.  How about you.”  I remember lime green something, and her moving farther along ahead of me.  It didn’t matter that she passed me or that this was my first official marathon, or that she was, like, 80.  I was happy to be there.  I wore a cut-off shirt with a giant sunflower printed on the front.


I have just read, and re-read a quote found in the book Running Away: “When a bad thought floats into your head you have to say, Thank you for coming, thank you for visiting, now go away.”  The runner Bobby McGee said it.  It is probably a well-worn sentiment used by coaches of many varieties to motivate their charges.  It has succeeded in both advising me right now while also invoking the Janis Joplin song which will probably be in my head for most of the day.


The trail is getting steeper, but I know there is relief coming, this being my multiple time here, the Three Sisters Wilderness.  Soon it will flatten into a plain and to the right of my companion and me will be Moraine Lake, and Broken Top, void of snow this August, farther off.  We’ll stop for a snack and some water up by those damn-tough looking trees.  They are probably five hundred years old or something.  How would I know, but that I suppose someone told me that they grow slowly, but enduringly, in this hostile habitat.


The other marathon was a lot more successful, though unconventional.  I might have worn that same sunflower shirt part of the time.  I remember waking up on my twenty-first birthday with something like a smile.  I had been thinking of running my own version of 26.2 miles for a week or two, and took two days off of work at Black Butte Stables to allow for the run and a day of recovery.


I jogged my first 5-mile loop in sweatpants.  I came home and ate and drank water, changed my clothing into something cooler–it was August– and went for a different loop.  Ten miles in a row was the longest set I had put in ever. My “training” consisted of ten-hour work days with horses and an occasional hike.  My ambition was fueled not by knowledge that my body was ready for this but that I loved something about the idea.  I wanted to at least try.


I went for another jog, had a longer break and completed the last 10 or so with a couple of friends of mine who seemed to admire me for this strange enterprise.  For some reason I didn’t consider it a big deal, not like getting an advanced degree or having a baby or buying a home.  I sipped a few gulps of merlot where they took me for a birthday dinner and complained of soreness.  I had run five and a half hours in one day which, by my loose estimate on my average mile time (13 minutes), was, indeed, a marathon.   I am the tortoise.


I miss running.  The book I read made me crave it.  I missed running and hiking long trails when I was studying philosophy and linguistics at Portland State.  I underwent a different genre of endurance–one where my thought and creativity and scholarship was remarked upon to the point of feeling not very good about myself–almost the entire time I was there.  I would read biographies about mountain climbers–the real ones who faced actual death every moment of their Himalayan treks–and would fit some homework in here and there.  Probably those stories kept me on track to graduate.


It was hard to thank the bad thoughts which floated into my head and firmly, but gently, invite them to leave.  I took therapeutic walks with my German shepherd while writing my papers in my head.  The verdancy of Tryon Creek State Park enriched me in my darkest moments in which I composed nothing resembling philosophical argument but passionate explorations of deep philosophies–useful ones.  Life-affirming ones. I would look upon the cyclical habitat with awe.  I came to know Wolf spider webs in the fall and explosive buds littering the trail in the spring.  Very different from where I grew up.


The summit of the mountain wasn’t really the end.  Nor the second or third one. Maybe that is what helped me think, It’s not a big deal.  Sure, nobody can take away those accomplishments one accrues in a lifetime, but there is still the downhill trek.  And the next unremarkable day unremembered now.  I faced other ambitions later which took longer and required the participation of more than one or two people in order to make me win or lose, more or less.


I finish and finish again and try something else and remember who I was in my sunflower shirt with nothing, really, to lose.


April 23rd – Poem in Your Pocket Day

In which Carrie shares her poem in her pocket for this most notable holiday from the ordinary . . . 

I’m a little fascinated with language for its own sake.  Georges Perec, a French author with many instances of the vowel “e” in his name, endeavors to write La Disparition (French), a novel which omits the vowel in its entirety.

A Void Cover


The translator of my copy, Gilbert Adair, had an even harder task for the English version, A Void.  In this English version, syntax is convoluted, characters are always looking for something missing, and several of our poets–Milton, Poe, Shakespeare–are reproduced, without retaining that popular vowel in any of the semantic forms.  One such is a rendition of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy.

LIVING, OR NOT LIVING by William Shakspar


Living or Not Living Page 101 A Void


Living or Not Living Page 102


It is of personal preference that I recommend “Po’s” poem BLACK BIRD, which would take too much space here.


In which Carrie remembers something nearly forgotten . . .

Now it is used to store trash cans which aren’t really cans and several boxes of my books are in the stall named “Annie,” for she was the last resident.  She came along after I had gotten past my horse ownership phase, but my mother took up the torch.  I had three that I called mine.


As an adolescent I was introduced to horses by getting one and getting bucked off him a few times to instill the fear properly.  That horse (He Who Shall Not Be Named) was sold three months later.  I got Scotch Lad, or “Scotch,” soon after.  He might have really been my first love, as girls who get to own horses can understand.  We even don’t think their shit stinks, which helps.  It has a oaty-hayey clean smell to it and is usually around tack and other good smells, like the horse himself.


What I was just memoryin’ (to borrow David Mitchell’s coinage for “remembering”) came back to me like a twelve-thousand pound hug.  A salve for loneliness and feeling lost and driftless in an ocean between continents.  Is it why we have memories like these, and why something in me plucked at that stray daffodil among a field of cheatgrass?  The warm tones in the barnlight and the horse fur kept me in some cloak of okay then and now.


I believe I must have felt lonely a lot as a kid. Not unlikely, not uncommon.  But some have more usual routes to manage that and more friends and family to share the burden.  I had those but was too afraid to ask sometimes.  I had the horse too which is better in some ways than people.


I would ride in the daytime, but not everyday.  It was work and effort to saddle up.  Plus, I was afraid sometimes.  I wasn’t one of those girls who was all free spirited and fearless.  I had to work myself up to getting on.  But one thing was an easy release of my self.  My way of losing who I was in that state called by some “flow.”  I didn’t really know about it until now until I remembered going out to the barn in the evenings.


The trail from my parents house to the barn is still slightly carved, and gets some rare foot traffic.  I remember it being thick with snow sometimes.  I would go out in the middle of the night in my jacket and nobody looking.  I would walk and call to him.


He came for the little extras, carrots or a handful of hay or oats, and sometimes I’d just leave it at that.  I’d stand there, arm across the barn wall, in the beautiful barn colors of leathery saddles and cloudy saddle pads and firm bridles and earthy hay bales and those standard bark chips on the floor.  I’d watch him rolling the food in his jaw, or sometimes go in there and put my ear to it and hear him demolishing the carrot.  I think I thought in those more serene moments, watching.  Smelling.  Thinking about my troubles or pleasures.  Troubles become pleasures like that.


Other times I would put him in the cross ties.  His face looking out the rolling barn door usually closed in winter.  It was well lit in there.  I could have used it as a reading room but I don’t think I ever did.  Hay is kind of uncomfortable to sit on.  It comes through the cloth and there are spiders and stuff.


Sometimes I would have so much energy.  Some nights practically burning with it pent up by the square chairs at school or the suffocation of other people.  I’d let it out through brushes and hoofpicks and other weapons of mane and fur maintenance.  Scotch’d just go with it.  The hind feet were a little ticklish at the hocks.  He’d pull a little in resistance but I wasn’t really too afraid of being kicked.  He was a really trustworthy animal.  An all-around good guy.


I’d talk to him.  He’d smell my breath when I breathed into his nostrils. He’d let me fondle his ears, and I still retain the old habit of scratching the insides of ears belonging to other horses to check for fly egg deposits or lice or whatever gross thing it is inside horses ears, mostly in the warmer months.  This, I just realized, represents something I know.  This is knowledge I have in the form of an action.  I’d never really thought it before.  And now I write it.


This helps to think about.  The image of a saddle when I type “saddle” but more than just an image.  It is like a whole miracle that happens only within me.  Same with hoofpick and handful of hay and Scotch’s copper penny fur, thick and dull on this remembered winter night, shiny when it becomes summer inside my imagination at another time I call on horses to help.