Vermont Notebook





MINT. LOVAGE. MARJORAM. CHIVES. FIRST DAY AT MARBLE HOUSE. WE HAVE ARRIVED AND I AM OVERWHELMED BY FEELINGS OF THE SUBLIME. IN THE WORDS OF THE LATE POET JOHN ASHBERY: “I GET UP AM EXASPERATED AND SINK BACK.”




THE FOLLOWING DAY, EGGS, WITH SOME FRESH SORREL SALAD ON THE SIDE. WE RODE 2.4 MILES TO DORSET. ONE OF THE TIRES NEEDED AIR. THIS WAS FOLLOWED BY LUNCH: SQUASH-KALE FARRO SALAD. THEN AN ESSAY BY MARGUERITE DURAS “ABOUT” FLAUBERT. FOR DINNER: HONEYNUT SQUASH SAGE RISOTTO.


FOR DESSERT: THE FIGURE DRAWING BOOK. YOU TOO CAN LEARN HOW TO DRAW. ANNA AND ELISSA DISCUSS THE MALE MODEL. MARTENTE ASKS, “IS HE WEARING HIS GIRLFRIEND’S UNDERWEAR?” NO, IT’S CALLED A JOCKSTRAP. WHEREAS THE FEMALE NUDE, NOT DEPICTED HERE AT ALL. YOU’LL JUST HAVE TO CONJURE HER IMAGE FOR YOURSELF. THE SHAPE OF HER BANGS. HER EYES. HER PALMS.



BEFORE BED, I CONSIDER THORA BIRCH OPPOSITE STEVE BUSCEMI IN THE MOVIE GHOST WORLD. THE DAY BEFORE—DUTCH PANCAKES. IN THE QUARRY, A WASP.



FALLING IN AND OUT OF ROUTINE. SAGE. THYME. SORREL. SUNG. THE RHYTHM I WAS BEGINNING TO ESTABLISH WHILE ON THE GROUNDS WAS BEGINNING TO SHIFT. NO THANKS TO THE COUPLE I ENCOUNTERED IN DORSET WHO FELT A NEED TO COMPLAIN ABOUT INDIGINOUS PEOPLE’S DAY. “FUCKING LIBERALS,” THE GUY SAID. “FUCK COLUMBUS!” I REPLIED. I DON’T KNOW WHAT TOOK HOLD OF ME. THE WILD GRASSES. THE TREES. IT’S NOT LIKE ME TO TALK OUT OF TURN. MAYBE IT’S THE FACT THAT SOME PEOPLE TAKE UP SO MUCH SPACE, THEY ARE INCAPABLE OF EVER RECOGNIZING HOW MUCH. BUT THAT DAY, I JUST NEEDED TO TAKE UP EVEN MORE.


“UGH, STUPID VERMONTERS. FUCKING LIBERALS,” THE GUY SNEERED. HE WAS IN HIS 60’S, BUT EVEN AS I WRITE THIS, I AM REVISING IT, RE-REMEMBERING IT AS I GO ALONG. WHEREAS HE WAS MOSTLY ANNOYED, I FELT, IN CONTRAST, LIKE A PEST. A SWARM. BOTHERING HIM WITH MY POLITICS. BUT I’M NOT FROM VERMONT, I DECLARED: “I’M FROM NEW YORK, BITCH.” YOU KNOW WHERE I PUT THE EMPHASIS...


IN JOHN ASHBERY’S WORDS: “AMERICA IS A FUN COUNTRY. STILL, THERE ARE ASPECTS OF IT WHICH I WOULD PREFER NOT TO THINK ABOUT.”



THAT NIGHT, IT WAS MY TURN AGAIN TO MAKE DINNER—BLISTERED TURNIPS: A MOOD. THIS MORNING I STILL FEEL ESTRANGED. HOW DID I GET HERE? AM I, WHETHER I LIKE IT OR NOT, RELATED TO THAT MAN. AND WHAT ABOUT HIS WIFE? THEIR KIN? AND WHAT IF I WAS? I IMAGINED THE ONLY THING WE HAD IN COMMON WAS THE DEGREE TO WHICH WE SUFFERED IN ORDER TO STAY YOUNG. THE CHICKEN IS TENDER, I THOUGHT, THOUGH LACKING IN FLAVOR, ESPECIALLY, SALT.




I LIKE THE SENSATION OF SPACE—SILENCE, DUST. 


AT THE HEALTH FOOD STORE I BUY MILK THISTLE, TOOTHPASTE, CANDY, WINE.




TOMORROW A GROUP OF US WILL GO TO ACUPUNCTURE TOGETHER AND MEET MARC. ELLEN ASKS ME IF I MISS ERNIE. THE UNCOMPLICATED ANSWER WOULD HAVE BEEN “YES.” TODAY I AM WATCHING DOUGLAS SIRK’S MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION—AFTER 5 + YEARS TOGETHER, I AM STILL OBSESSED. TIME GETS ELASTIC. “WE ARE NOT THE PEOPLE WE ONCE WERE,” SAYS CELINE IN A FRENCH ACCENT. I HAVE SOME IDEA OF WHO I WAS, BUT I AM VERY CONFUSED ABOUT WHO I AM AND WHERE I FIT IN. THE OLD OPPOSITIONS ARE ALWAYS THERE. DO I LIVE OR DO I WRITE? IN SOME OTHER VERSION OF MY LIFE, I WOULD HAVE VERY MUCH LIKED TO BE WHO I AM BECAUSE WHEN I WAS YOUNG, THE ROOM IN WHICH I WORKED WAS ALSO THE ROOM IN WHICH I SLEPT. 


MAYBE IF I AM AWAKE I SHOULD BE WRITING. THE FOLLOWING IS A LIST OF THINGS I DID INSTEAD: I WALKED INTO THE GARDEN. THEN I WALKED TO THE CONSIGNMENT STORE. EVENTUALLY I CUT INTO A VERY WELL-DONE PIECE OF PORK, PLACED OVER SOME POLENTA, TOPPED WITH SOME LEEK HAIRS AND FRESH HERBS. I BOUGHT MYSELF SOME END-OF-SEASON MAPLE SOFT SERVE. I BOILED MANY KETTLES OF TEA. I COOKED A SWEET POTATO-SAUSAGE HASH, AND LATER, A SAUCE OF BUTTERNUT SQUASH ENJOYED BY ALL. THIS MORNING, I SWEPT THE FLOOR. I SAW THE LEAVES CHANGE COLOR, RAPIDLY, THEN FALL OFF. I LISTENED TO MARENTE TALK ABOUT A DREAM, AND ASKED MYSELF, “DID I NOT DREAM THIS SAME DREAM ONCE?”


IF THIS IS NOT “THE WORK,” THEN I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS. THE PROCESS WAS NOT UNLIKE THAT OF THE PINE NEEDLE FERMENTED FOREST DRINK. IT’S NOT THAT I CHOSE TO DO THOSE THINGS RATHER THAN TO “WORK.” IT’S THAT EATING IS PART OF THE WORK. AND SO IS MISSING. I THINK OF MY CAT, AT HOME, ALONE. AND THE SENSATION OF TRAFFIC SLOWING, EVEN AS WE ARE FINALLY APPROACHING. 


THEN I LOOKED AT PICTURES OF A DINNER TO WHICH I HAD BEEN DISINVITED, BUT MAYBE BECAUSE THE DINNER WAS NOT AS GOOD AS THE ONE THE NIGHT BEFORE (OR THE ONE AFTER), I DIDN’T FEEL SO EXCLUDED. KNOWING YOU WERE MISSED, HOW COULD YOU FEEL LEFT OUT? TARRAGON, POTATO, SORREL, ONION. I KNOW WHAT MARENTE MEANS WHEN SHE SAYS, “ALL I THINK ABOUT ALL DAY IS FOOD.”


HAD I PLANNED THIS A LITTLE BETTER, I WOULD HAVE RESEARCHED DORSET BEFOREHAND, OR EVEN VERMONT, AND DISCOVERED EARLIER ON JOHN ASHBERY AND JOE BRAINARD’S VERMONT NOTEBOOK, PUBLISHED IN 1975 BY BLACK SPARROW PRESS. HOW CAN I PUT WHAT I AM DOING IN CONVERSATION WITH OTHER AMERICAN TRADITIONS WHILE ALSO EXPANDING UPON THOSE TRADITIONS? 61 DEGREES AND CLOUDY. THE TENSION BETWEEN DOING AND WRITING, BEING AND LIVING, ALWAYS REVEALS ITSELF. IT’S LIKE SORREL SOUP TODAY, SORREL SORBET TOMORROW. APART FROM SOME RAW BRAZIL NUTS, I HAVE EVERYTHING I DESIRE. BECAUSE THE ARC OF THIS LINE IS US. MAYBE IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT WE DO WITH WHAT WE DON’T THROW OUT. MAYBE WE ARE INSIDE ONE ANOTHER’S LIVES IN A WAY WE CAN’T CONTROL. CELINE: NO, THE LION’S MANE WAS NOT WHAT WE THOUGHT.




EN ROUTE TO PERU, I RECALL, THE WINE WE DRANK LAST NIGHT WAS ORANGE. WE SOAK THE PEELS IN THE BLOOD OF TODAY. MORE CHAGA, MORE MINT! AT THE TRAFFIC CIRCLE, TIME STOPS. AND WITH MY NECK I DRAW THE ALPHABET. ###







Lara Mimosa Montes is the author of THRESHOLES (Coffee House Press, 2020) and The Somnambulist (Horse Less Press, 2016). She holds a Ph.D. in English from the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her writing has appeared in Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series, BOMB, The Brooklyn Rail, Fence, Futurepoem, The Poetry Project, and elsewhere. In 2018, she was awarded a McKnight Fellowship in Poetry. She currently teaches editing and publishing at the University of Minnesota.