constellations #1: a big fake million-dollar bill

Greetings! Thanks for agreeing to meet me inside the personal space of your email inbox. I'm writing to you from the small Massachusetts town I grew up in, which is where I've been for the past couple weeks. One highlight has been meeting the two goats my sister recently adopted who are, incredibly, named Sonny and Cher, and so now I will introduce them to you:

For the very first installment of this newsletter, I take you to a list in the notes app of my iPhone where I collect collectable words and phrases. Often they’re things people say out loud to me in the context of normal everyday conversation that feel, divorced from their context, charmingly poetic. I like the idea of keeping an ear out for the poetry of everyday life, but I'm not that good at it; the existence of this list is a healthy reminder.

One of the phrases I wrote down in that list is "a constellation of substantial things," which a coworker said in a hurried and tossed-off way last year. (It was a consolation, I think, about a project we were working on — like, "Sure, maybe we can't do those things, but the project will include this thing and that thing, and well, you know ... a constellation of substantial things.") I liked it because it felt full of both wonder and practicality; I liked it enough that I wrote it down in my little list, just below a phrase from an Andrea Long Chu interview ("solidarity can be arousing"), and eventually turned it into a song lyric, which maybe was the reason I started the list in the first place. Anyway, that’s also where I got the name of this newsletter, I guess.

So without further ado, except to say that these phrases belong to you now, and if you should write a song or a poem with any of them please send it to me:

selections from the list I keep on my iPhone of nice words and phrases I've come across that I might want to do something with:

  • weird petty luxury

  • glutton for evisceration

  • conspiracy of smiles

  • nowhere near stoned on the anywhere

  • speculative botanist

  • high-wired

  • confessional baby

  • a blindfolded passenger in the Lord's Buick

  • expensive puberty

  • monopolizing the vacuum

  • maybe fast is the wrong dimension

  • defunct carnival

  • spark bird

  • cyclical impediments

Thanks for reading this, especially if you are a friend, and also especially if you are a stranger. I'll leave you with a (very short) list of songs I've been listening to lately:

  •  "Sally II" by Hop Along. (But if you haven't heard the first part, "Sally," please start there.) In April I bought a quilt from a friend of mine and it arrived this week. Before she started making the quilt, my friend asked for direction on it and I brought up our shared love of Hop Along's music; she said she was thinking about the lyric "a big fake million-dollar bill" while she worked on it.

  • "Cherry Blossom" by Pom Pom Squad

  • "Hard Times" by Gillian Welch (There was a brief debate at work last week about which song is Gillian’s best — this was a strong contender.)

  • "Maker" by Anjimile

  • "Walk On The Walls" by Adelyn Rose

I hope you find some unexpected poetry in your life this week. Until next time,


Special thanks to: Mina & Ben & Matt for their additions to the words and phrases list; KSB for the quilt; Lars for the Adelyn Rose song.