Monday, January 24, 2022

Katherine McCord, An Essay/Review of Sonya Huber's SUPREMELY TINY ACTS

Tiny: I know lipstick is controversial. I wear a kind of mauve pink. You can see me coming. And I don’t care. It’s my armor. I’m on the side of controversy. The other side is harm. I get comments on it. When my color was discontinued, I bought ten tubes on eBay. I don’t know what I’ll do when I can’t find it. There are streaks of it on my books, my papers, my walls, my steering wheel, sometimes in wrong places on my face because I half look when I’m sliding it on. What a good feeling. It’s armor, remember? My cuirass. As close to covering my heart as I can get it. 

Tiny: It has to do with my boots. They aren’t leather but cheap ones from Kohls. They were wide at the top and I wanted them snug around my upper calves, so I sent them off and had them tightened. They are so old I’ve had to glue the heels back on with Super Glue and color them with Sharpies, one pair brown and the other black, where the outside is peeling back. I have to color what’s underneath.

Tiny: A long time ago I was on WIC, and now I’m on unemployment. That’s a story I don’t want to go into now because I’m afraid I’ll embellish I’m so mad. It’s kind of like picking up my drugs at the pharmacy this morning. The techs gave me trouble. One bottle contained anti-anxiety meds that basically keep me floating. $90 dollars please. After insurance. What is insurance anyway? Does it really assure you? I don’t understand. I think without insurance the total bottle of pills is $4,000. A friend just lies in bed all the time her hand trailing the floor like it’s a raft going nowhere. Steady, she tells herself trying to sort out her life without the drugs she needs because she can’t afford them. She’s waiting to be cured. Like if the raft sinks and she has to tread water. I think that’s why people steal it. That or just keeping themselves from drowning. She tries healing herself in absolutely every way possible. She scans websites for home remedies. She has a HappyLight that is as strong as they’ll go. She rolls off the raft and swims to the refrigerator and back.

Tiny: This is an essay/book review about Sonya Huber’s latest book, Supremely Tiny Acts (2021). So far, we’ve followed her go over her past showing the “tiny” pieces of her life in profound and almost loving frustration. She gets arrested for demonstrating. Despite it being somewhat minor, the ordeal lasts two days. She sits in cells for long times, she rides in a paddy wagon, some of her fellows have glued their hands to a boat. There are more ordeals and many flags and signs, in that they are impossible for each person to hold in their number of placards. But she does it. It is extremely painful for her being cuffed by a zip tie behind her back. When she arrives, for an unorganized court, after many hours, there is no pronouncement that she and her comrades are free, but they are. She takes the long ride home, entailing trains and busses and her car, to pick up her son, just in time for his driver’s license test. 

Sonja weaves in heartfelt and seeming-to-be secrets, in that they are intimate, among the happenings of the two days: “[W]orst case” scenario is that “people won’t approve of me” she says. For her actions, for her teaching, for her mothering, for her being a partner. But because of the intimacy she offers us, she shows us she is: She tells her partner, who already knows, “this was going to be a tiny opportunity for disaster,” for what she is about to undertake. But also, even much, much tinier, the littlest things: Google calendar. She can’t handle it. Dates get transposed and the debacle goes on. There are those words again, “tiny” and “acts,” that make up a life of being very conscious, very concerned with following the rules of two days, everything, and “wanting to break them at the same time.”  

Tiny: Once I attended a workshop for graduate school the fees for which we are still trying to pay off. I sat unknowingly next to a faculty member, he had placed his notes on the round table. I didn’t know they were his or that it was his smooth white chair next to mine. I didn’t see anything but that he had written, “POWERFUL,” and circled it in several deep rings next to my poem. He was still in the hall talking away to one of his rock stars. Later my poem would be sucked up by or fall into a black hole, perhaps by choice. The workshop begins. My poem wasn’t worth anyone’s time it was so bad, they said. He never spoke a word during the whole time but slid his notes away because he was afraid I could see, as if he was ashamed. Workshop over, I stumbled out as if I was tumbling over a rocky terrain, found a gray empty bathroom, my ship, then an ejection stall, my booth within, and wept as softly as I could, then drew a blade up my cold arm just underneath my coat I always wore because I was perpetually cold. It helped me just enough to release and spin.

Tiny: I cut back the stems on some flowers my mother-in-law sent for Thanksgiving. They were beautiful and the colors of fall. I’m trying to keep them going as long as I can. My mother told me you can by snipping their stems back under running water once they start to turn. Sonja Huber’s book, Supremely Tiny Acts, won’t “turn.” The acts written with strength and clarity will make you want to live within.


Katherine McCord is the author of two books of poetry (Island and Living Room), a lyric essay memoir, (My CIA), a poetry chapbook (Muse Annie), and a literary memoir, Run Scream Unbury Save. My CIA was named a top ten book of 2012 by Review of Art, Literature, Philosophy and Humanities and added to their ongoing list of Great Nonfiction. She teaches Creative Writing, both online and in the traditional classroom, for credit at universities and noncredit for various worthy online venues, to all kinds of student populations. 

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