Category Archives: Sarah Arvio


Is it “everyday” or “every day”? There’s room for both, in this world.

Like so:

“Miracles happen every day.”

“It was an everyday miracle when ‘Peppers’, the lovable duckling, took his first flight across Farmer Blackthorn’s pond!”


In any case, today’s miracle is that I’m posting a blog entry, after this many days of absence: 98. Squeak!

A partial list of other miracles which happen every day:

-Cakes also happen every day




Two weeks ago, I was traveling down to Indianapolis, midday, on the Megabus. I looked out the window as the day began to fade away, the shadows to lengthen, the dusk-light to dance, et cetera. The sun emerged from behind the clouds. For some reason, I was able to look directly at it without discomfort for a few moments. [No: I have not received new, bionic eyeballs via mail order.] [Which…hold on, I’m Googling “bionic eyeballs”. Hey, we’ve got bionic eyeballs now! Neat! Also: Aaaaaaaaaaaa!]

The sun is Every Day, and also Everyday. I don’t lend it much thought. But for some reason, at that particular moment, the hard fact of THE SUN was borne in upon me like a–well, a solar flare, is what. It’s so big that we can see it with the naked eye, it makes sugar maples grow, it warms my face in the summer, and it’s 93 MILLION MILES AWAY. WHAT IS THAT. WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT.


Recently, NASA was able to capture its first 360 degree image of the sun, via two probes it sent out in 2006. This is apparently a very big deal. For instance, we will no longer be taken by surprise if a “farside active region” decides to launch a “billion-ton cloud of plasma” at us! Yaaaaaay!

Here is the image from the probes:

Here is a NASA artist’s rendering:


I love astronomical artists’ renderings


Here on Earth’s surface, in Chicago, it’s been snowy. Last Tuesday night, Jessica and I watched the snow careen by in the front window like cannonfire.  I grew up in the Midwest; I have seen snow and ice before. I have never seen anything like this.  Our street is like the surface of the moon.

It snowed again yesterday, and then–again–this afternoon, flakes with the density of sawdust, which I brushed off my coat at intervals to keep it from piling up. When I walked down the street after work I couldn’t see three blocks away; instead, there was a wall of white, which only cleared as I approached it and walked through.

I passed these bushes on Logan Boulevard:

“There’s nowhere for it to go,” said a woman I work with, of the new snow. There are still piles as high my waist in plenty of places, impassable street corners, buried cars. I don’t know what the lesson is, when there’s nowhere else for the snow to go.

Everything happens at once.


This poem is a bruiser, but it’s so good, everyone; I’ve gotta.

EVERYONE: You’ve gotta?
ME: Uh-huh.



I hate my heart What is this wild and bad
renunciation I hate my heart Why
does it hurt me even now after so

much raking over after so much ruck
It’s hard to call my heart it speaking of
part of me that is almost all of me

because what is there that is not my heart
Tucked beneath my breathing lungs it beats
it breathes it is my thoughts what thought do I

have that isn’t folded inside my heart
Is there such a thought a heartless thought I
don’t have one When I walk I carry what

My heart on the stick of my body Or
my courage in the sticking place O screw
don’t I have the courage of my good heart

Is this my scarecrow longing for his heart
I’m scared of my heart the old rags and bones
the rage a rage for order pale Ramon

Even though I’ve raked my heart it rages
Beshrew me I know my heart is good Shrew
little sparrow will you come to my hand

O screw I eat crow I crow my heart out
Am I the shrew to it or it to me
To no one but my heart or it to me

Sarah Arvio

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Filed under Math and Science: General, My Roommate, Poetry, Sarah Arvio

Bits and Scrumbles

In Milwaukee this weekend, for my friend Katie’s wedding [her beautiful, perfect-tastic, dance-rific wedding. Lo, the dancing! There was some toe-tapping, and I don’t mean maybe].

On Friday afternoon, a group of us are seated in the lobby of the Pfister Hotel, eating lunch and drinking drinks, feeling like real ladies and gentlemen.

Long story short, Robert Duvall walks in.

No: I don’t know, either.


Descending back to earth after three days of the perfect wedding, and bright fall trees, and love, and also small, delicious, pesto-based sandwiches is difficult, even under the most benevolent of circumstances; for instance, if I had been traveling to the Carribean directly after the wedding, I might still have heaved a stony sigh at the hardness of my lot in life. “The Carribean,” I might have said, “what’s so great about the Carribean? Wait, how many degrees is it in Aruba? Well.”

Small things, however, can save you.  As I walked to work this morning, 7:25ish, I approached a cross-section of sidewalk that was bounded on all sides by tape and signage and et cetera. I slowed my steps as I approached. A grizzled workman, standing nearby, caught my eye.

GRIZZLED WORKMAN: It’s all right, miss.
ME: Okay.
GRIZZLED WORKMAN: [Moving his hands towards the ground, with the gesture of a man soothing a spirited horse.] Three days dry.

Hell yeah.


Did you know that Aruba is part of the Netherlands? Isn’t that weird? I think that’s awfully weird.  I didn’t know that.

It must be said, however, that what I don’t know on a given day could span the Andromeda Galaxy.

That’s about right!


It was seventy-something degrees in Chicago today. It was pleasant, but ultimately, days like this knock me off my rocker, come autumn. I’d gotten used to the slow fall of the temperature, the birdsong slipping away. I was starting to settle in. I don’t like to be reminded of the long haul waiting before spring comes again. Sometimes, you don’t want to remember what was.


On a lighter note, this peppermint tea is delicious.

PEPPERMINT TEA: Aren’t I just?


I was trammeled, I thought, by tragedy,
oh what, something long ago, some travail
of my soul or my body, or of both.

The “little tragedies of daily life”
tremoring through me–tremor wasn’t a verb,
tra-la-la wasn’t either, or trial,

though they trailed through my life, didn’t they,
a tracery of tears, a track of woes.
Woes, woes, ten little fingers and toes,

decades of them, this deed, that distortion,
a tort against the treasured harmony.
A twist or a twirl, a tic, a tic-tac-toe,

thrumming on the synapses, drumming out
a threnody of threats and tears, a thought-
torture, love, love, a tiny tortured heart.

My heart, my own little tap-tapping heart,
my tapped-out heart, their testament to me,
a test of wills, or a test of my will,

my willingness, my wish to weather on.
Oh waves, waves, all the ripples and rhythms,
the rituals of walking and reaching,

the verbiage, the verb-thoughts, try this, try that;
the rites of therapy and talking trash,
the tapestry of tears, the truth-trapeze.

But did I want the truth? Try me, I said.
This is, this was, this should never have been;
reason, thought-treason and some truisms.

Sarah Arvio

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Filed under Beginning Brand New Things, Poetry, Sarah Arvio


Hey, gang. I’ve been run clean off my feet for a few weeks, so I can’t write for very long; but not writing at all, for the 17th time in a row, seemed like a poor call to me. “This is a poor call,” I said to myself, and also “Stop being a weiner.”

Today I compared the noise my brain’s been making, of late, to the sound a box of paper clips makes when shaken:

[As low as $6.79 a pack when you buy five or more]


Chief among the foot-running-off-of was the ten-minute play festival I just finished up on Sunday night. This is my third summer of writing a play for this particular festival; however, I did not perform in my other plays, and that is another kettle of sea turtles or whatever. Writers can show up to a few rehearsals, stick their oar in hither and yon–“What are you doing? Don’t do that”–and then sashay into opening night whistling Dixie!

PLAYWRIGHT: Just say my lines, you lot!
[Adjusts clasp on ruby necklace]*

Performing is a different matter altogether; it is a haul, if a beloved haul, and I had forgot. On Saturday night, onstage and seated beneath a low table, for our second show of the evening, my neck bent double, and all of this because I had chosen to write a character who was a talking psychic vase, and more–that I had volunteered to play this role myself; let us simply say that the whole matter ceased to resemble a “lark” and began to resemble a “fork in the eye”.

The rest of the time, though, it was SUPER fun!

*These are jokes


I had tremendous bunches of things I wanted to jabber about–whole lists–but that is for next week. For this week, I say good night.

Did you know that the color of a valuable ruby is called “pigeon blood-red”? What is THAT? I don’t understand ANYTHING.

PIGEONS EVERYWHERE: You and me both, sister.



I said this: would you give me back my hope
if I suffered hard enough, if I tried.
That hip-swinging hallelujah of hope,

that hip-hip-hooray we were talking about,
raying outward from the hip or the heart,
holistic, holy–those were all high things–

hyper-radical and hyper-real,
that gospel of helix and radiance.
Hail me, hail me, here I am alive,

falling from the lips of the lioness,
lambent and loved, gamboling like a lamb,
having gambled all my griefs and lost them.

Game of the gods, gamine of the cards,
inhaler of hashish and helium.
Here was the hub of the halo again,

the hub or nub of the halo or heart,
and the trope of turning to say hello;
we always said it “helio-hello”.

Hello to the little girl and lambkin,
garrulous, hilarious, all grown up,
nibbling on nothing and feeling okay,

and sweetly holding hands with the harpist,
turning toward the sun, turning toward the sound
–my warp of the world, my harp of the heart–

sounding like myself, as I always sound,
snappy and stylish and too sonorous,
a little savage and a little sweet.

Sarah Arvio


Filed under Poetry, Sarah Arvio

It’s A Happy New Year

Here we are, in the future!

I certainly hope that someone comes along to design something more comfortable for us, here in the future.


After sundry discussions in divers places, the motto for 2010 has been decided upon. [“Twenty ten” or “two thousand and ten”? You must draw your own conclusions.]

As a refresher, here’s the list of previous themes. For a full explanation of these themes, please go to this post from last year, January 5, 2009 :

Crazyfest 2004
Amazingfest 2005
Bring It On Something-Something Fest 2006
Dad, I Don’t Wanna Be A Lawyer, I Just Wanna Dance Fest 2007
Maybe A Human Rights Lawyer Fest 2008
Slayerfest 1998 Fest 2009
[it’s a Buffy reference, people: Buffy.]

This year’s theme is:

Too Bad, So Sad, Tell Your Dad Fest 2010

‘Cause you know what? Let’s just unsheath our metaphorical machetes and cut through all those emotional hold-backers, those kudzu vines of the heart. They are not needed, here in the future.

Also, we should all form good new habits, like dusting the living room end table more often, because gross.


Other new things we could do, here in the future:

Become better human beings
Become a dab hand at cooking a creamy risotto
Whittle wooden baby bears
Don’t get your cookies so frosted when Jim Caldwell puts his third string in for the last two games of the Colts season


Because let me tell you, folks: COOKIES were FROSTED over that one, amongst my familial clan. Frosted LIBERALLY, with the ICING OF OUTRAGE.


Hahahahaha! “Icing of Outrage”.

“Glacé of Wrath”!

Don’t stop me now!


Here is something. We received a catalogue, at my work, which contained summaries of plays–one-acts, musicals, a little something for the kids–for various personages to order, for their use. This is all well and good and in the service of Art, but I pitched it into the recycling bin quicker than you could say “Sally sold shoelaces in the Acapulco sunshine”. Then I thought: YOU FOOL, IT IS LIKE YOU JUST PITCHED A BAG OF RUBIES, so I pulled it back out and persued the pages.

I wasn’t sorry! Boy!

The following is all true, in its entirety:

SAMPLE ONE, TITLE: Hillbilly Hankerin’
FIRST THREE SENTENCES OF PLOT SUMMARY: “‘I should’a had puppies!” moans Pa Herford about his five daughters. Up in the hills, it seems all the girls want to get hitched. These girls have a bad case of “The Hankerin'”, as Pa calls it.”

SAMPLE TWO, TITLE: The Knights of the Rad Table
FIRST TWO SENTENCES OF PLOT SUMMARY: “Gwen’s spending her Saturday reading a book and Artie’s riding around on a skateboard. Just typical American teenagers…until Merlin wakes up from a 1500-year old snooze to whisk them away to the days of chivalry!”

And last, but certainly–ah, God help me, certainly–not least:

SAMPLE THREE, TITLE: Othello: A Tragic Comedy in Way Too Many Acts
FIRST THREE SENTENCES: “You may love Shakespeare’s tragedies, but you’ve never seen one like this! You’ll laugh heartily at this tragedy-turned-comedy, even with the egotistical and manipulating Iago (bom, bom, bom!) directing the blindly trusting Othello and his friends into destruction.Unlike the original play, nobody dies; they just kick the bucket…literally!”



This is why people quit the stage, and take up the book learning. You mark my words.


On New Year’s Eve–as you know–there was a blue moon. A blue moon occurs when there are 2 (two) full moons within one month.



Two! It’s a very special space treat, to be sure.

I’d like very much to believe that this blue moon is a portent of good for 2010. I certainly don’t believe that it’s a portent of ill. If the blue moon signified something terrible, they wouldn’t CALL it the blue moon. They’d call it “terrible moon” or “oh no moon” or the “yikes stripes moon”.

SCIENTIST TYPE: Alack-a-day, it is the yikes stripes moon!
POPULACE: Aaaaiiii, I must descend into my steel-encased bunker!




I saw some shadows moving on the wall
and heard a shuffle, as of wings or thoughts.
I rolled back the sheets and looked at the day,

a raw, blown day, white papers in the street.
Sheets were flapping in the sky of my mind,
I smelled the wet sheets, I tasted a day

in sheets hanging in the damp of a day.
White pages flapping: my life had been so new
when I didn’t yet know how old it was.

I couldn’t see the vistas on those sheets,
the dreamscapes sleeping deeply in those sheets;
I hadn’t yet seen my shadow vita

or learned which host would trick me or treat me,
which of my hosts would give me something sweet,
some good counsel and a soft place to sleep,

or what was the name of my ghostwriter.
Who ghosted my life, whose dream I would ghost,
who wrote my name and date across these sheets,

and which sheets would be the wings of my thoughts,
and which would hold the words of my angels.
A host, and did I know I’d have a host;

no, a line of sheets is never a bed,
a gaggle of hosts is never a love,
a host is never as good as a home,

a ghost as good as a dog or a god.
But I had my heart, always had my heart
for god and a home as much as it hurt.

Sarah Arvio


Filed under Beginning Brand New Things, Poetry, Sarah Arvio


Short blog this week. Short-ishy, I think.


On Monday, the Large Hadron Collider became “the world’s highest energy particle accelerator, having accelerated its twin beams of protons to an energy of 1.18 TeV”, which beat the former record of .98 TeV, held by the U.S.A-based Fermi Lab’s collider. 

A TeV is a teraelectron volt. “Teraelectron” is a million million electron volts, or “lots”, or “ever so many”.

So they took their proton beams, and whatall, and they sent them ’round their underground tunnel:

And it made a thing like this [this is pulled directly from the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN’s, website]:



Whatever it is, it’s good!

They will smash the proton beams into each other, and re-create the Big Bang. Then they’ll tell us all about it.


I added the Fermi Lab to my blogroll. It was time. It’s always all “CERN” this and “Large Hadron Collider” that and “glamorous international team of physicists” blah blah blah! I don’t know about you, but I’m an American.*

Go to their website, and give some love to a particle accelerator facility in your own backyard!**

*There are Americans on the CERN team
**If your backyard is Batavia, Illinois


I know what you’re thinking. “When is she going to stop writing about the Large Hadron Collider?” you’re thinking. “My eyes haven’t been this glazed over since I pitched face-first into that platter of doughnut holes.” [I’M SORRY]

I promise–it’ll taper off. But the LHC has been off for a year, peeps, and so–for the time being–look for breathless particle acceleration reports from yours truly!

Gee, I feel like a cub reporter.


On Monday morning, I sat next to an older woman on the train. She had long, iron-grey hair and a large black coat.  She was reading something I couldn’t see.

At some point, I looked over, and I realized that she was reading letters. They were written on pink legal paper.

Then I realized that they were love letters.

At the top of each page, which I couldn’t help but see, was written one word, in salutation: “Dearest.”  

She would take a letter out of her bag. She would read it, front and back, though perhaps she only skimmed, touched down on the important parts; the odds are good that she’d read them a hundred times.

When she finished each one, she folded it, and then she ripped it into pieces. The pieces went into her bag.

 Then she would pull out the next letter, read it, and rip it apart. Again and again and again.

I only caught three things from looking over at the letters:

1. The word “love”.
2. The sentence “I can’t translate.”
3. The sentence “I took a walk.”

The letters could have been from anyone, of course. But I decided that they must be love letters, because she ripped them apart. She was ensuring that she would never read them again. This is a thing that people do.





It was just sort of amazing, is all.


Wednesday is my 30th birthday! So there’s that.

I think being 30 will be nice. I hear it is, leastaways.

ME: Hello, 30!
30: Hello!

Well, time to make hot chocolate!


The last thing I ever wanted was to
write again about grief did you think I
would your grief this time not mine oh good

grief enough is enough in my life that is
enough was enough I had all those
grievances all those griefs all engraved

into the wood of my soul but would you
believe it the wood healed I grew up and
grew out and would you believe it I found

your old woody heart sprouting I thought
good new growth good new luxuriant green
leaves leaves on their woody stalks and I said

I’ll stake my life on this old stick I’ll stick
and we talked into the morning and night
and laughed green leaves and sometimes a flower

oh bower of good new love I would have it
I would bow to the new and the green
and wouldn’t you know it you were a stick

yes I know a good stick so often and then
a stick in my ribs in my heart your old
dark wood your old dark gnarled stalk

sprouting havoc and now I have grief again
and now I’ve stood for what I never should
green leaves of morning dark leaves of night

Sarah Arvio

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Sea Change

Sunday afternoon, Lake Michigan. Sitting on some rocks with Kimbo and Laura.

There is a family a few feet away. Three little ones, two boys, one girl. Their mothers in tow. Suddenly:


Her mother rapidly begins to remove the t-shirt the little girl has over her bathing suit; the little girl’s head becomes briefly entangled.

US: Man, what gives?

The mother looks at the t-shirt.


The mother looks at us, because at this point, we are openly staring; we are all but poised to flee to the lady lifeguard who keeps walking past us, doggedly surveying the water for drownings and et cetera, to beg her for sweet mercy.

MOTHER: There is a bug–

[Here she gestures with her hands, making a circle shape with her fingers the size of a buttermilk pancake]


US: Aaaaaaaaaaiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

[She has a slight accent, which makes her sound worldly-wise as she says this, like: I stormed the embassy in ’92 and the government had placed an embargo on shoe imports and on my feet I wore the leaves of a banana tree and a length of twine and in my heart I wore My People]

She walks down to the edge of the water and starts hurling the shirt into it, over and over.

MOTHER: Bug–you–water–sdfusdkihsb–

I kid you not: We see whatEVER was in that shirt landing on the sand. Yards away, we see it. A bug? You’d better hope, and I’d better hope, that it was a bug, because if it wasn’t, that means that someone has successfully bio-engineered a creature which is a cross between a stag beetle, a Gatling gun, and a bald eagle, and they put it in Lake Michigan, and it’s only a matter of time before you turn on the tap to fill the kettle with water to make your cup of Darjeeling-Oolong- what-have-you and GACK.

When the mother comes back, the shirt is a wet, ragged version of its former self.

ME: [joking, but not really.] Was it a crustacean?
MOTHER: [excitedly] Yes, perhaps a crustacean!

[She widens her eyes, bares her teeth, and curls her hands into claws to imitate what it was that she saw in the t-shirt.]

US: [reflexively recoil]

Shortly thereafter, they packed up their goods, and–with well-wishes all around–they departed.

I think we all knew that we had experienced something very special.


Bought chocolate pudding cups this weekend. Sure did.


So here’s something I haven’t really done, so much, in this blog-o’-mine. Katie sent me an e-mail, talking about what she called her

Top Five Desert Island Books

I’ve been having a few exchanges on this subject, lately; not necessarily about books of the Desert Island variety, but your general Hey! It’s Summer And Apparently That Means Book Lists For Beach Reading, For People Who Go To The Beach And Read Books Also Simultaneously Too.

I basically know what my favorite books are. My top five-ish, even.

So then I was like, “Well, why not share them?”

I mean?

I mean, when O Magazine and the New York Times both tell me what I, as a woman, should be reading this summer, what I should be pulling out of my artfully distressed straw tote, and I dutifully read the linked excerpt, NYT, and it reads like a pink-heeled lobotomy*–well, you know, uprise! I’ll make my own listy!

*Please note: Sometimes a pink-heeled lobotomy is exactly what you need

1. Bleak House–Charles Dickens








So, so, sososososososo good and many-colored and peopled with amazing peoples and funny and sad and triumphant and weird. A man spontaneously combusts. Also, smallpox! Also: Love.

2. Middlemarch–George Eliotmiddlemarch
















George Eliot may have the pseudonym of a man, but she’s all lady. She writes with sonar radar accuracy about the psychological viewpoint of women from any old era–then-era, now-era, you name it. I’m always all, “I HEAR that, Dorothea Brooke” or “Can I get a WITNESS, Maggie Tulliver” or “You keep on LOVING him, Dinah Morris”. My only problem with George Eliot is that she writes The Perfect Woman and then unerringly pairs her with a man comically unworthy of her amazing-ness.  It’s exactly like Charles Dickens, but in reverse. What’s the good word on this tendency? Can we get some equality up in here? [Sorry about saying “up in here” just then.] Anywho, “Middlemarch” wraps itself around your heart valves in a hurry. Class commentary and forbidden love. So fine.

3. The God of Small Things–Arundhati Roy 















This book heart-cracked me. It is covered in magical adjective vines. Please read it. It is too precious to say more.

4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn–Mark to the Twain











Do I  really need to explain why this is one of my all time favorites? Also, I wanna be a river boat captain, circa This Book.  It is a true and cherished dream. But that would involve a time machine, and time machines are tooooo tempting!

5. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek–Annie Dillard













I quoted this book to everyone I knew for six months. They hated me. “Please stop talking to me about the reproductive system of a bumblebee”, they would say, but I would not, because they needed to know. This book melted me down in a straight-up steel forge. When I start thinking about things like the circulatory systems of maple trees, I understand that, ultimately, I have this book to blame. It is beautiful and nature and God and praying mantises.

You have your honorable mentions, too, when you make your little lists; like Waiting for the Barbarians and Winter’s Tale, which have writing, both, to burst the heart, and millions of others too numerous to mention, like Claire Messud is a really good writer,  and then David Copperfield is soooo lovely and…

The Fountainhead.

Oh, shut up.


Hey, did you-all see that Farrah Fawcett and Ayn Rand were buddies, after a certain fashion, and that Ayn Rand wanted Farrah Fawcett to PLAY DAGNY TAGGART in a potential TV movie of “Atlas Shrugged ? Do you know how totally super weird that is? I’m getting the weirds just thinking about this.

Dagny Taggart should probably be played by Angelina Jolie, push comes to shove.

You’re never gonna hear me say that again.

Well, maybe.



It wasn’t the life I would have wanted,
had I known what sort of life I did want,
as if anyone ever knew; though I

did know. Everyone had her shadow life,
her should-have life, the life she should have had,
all those thoughts sharp-sharking into her soul,

all those doodles on the skin of the day.
The shame, that this had been and this had not,
could-should, kowtowing to the life of should,

the shock, let’s say, of seeing it had passed,
the chagrin, let’s say, the savage chagrin
that this was what it was, et cetera,

who did I think I was, et cetera,
the queen of Sheba in her shantytown,
or Shirley in her temple (such a doll)

or Scheherezade waking to the day–
not Sylvia, not the sylvan huntress.
The whole shebang was a shambles, hello,

shanghaiing my wishes, shout it out, shout,
those stories of what was and never was,
love, voyage, give me succor–sugar–suck–

hushing the heart and shushing the senses.
Hello, day, shake the sheets out, wake the day.
(As I said this, I was choking up.)

The challenge of cheerfulness–hello, charm–
charade and charm, chameleon, cameo.
I saw the dawn and fell into a hush.

Sarah Arvio 


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Filed under Annie Dillard, Charles Dickens, Poetry, Sarah Arvio