Saturday, October 21, 2017

Experimenting

I made this with an app.  I don't want to learn to speak "app" right now, but I'm going to.  For words, images, and sounds.  Here we go!


It just takes a little longer.  It's so easy with the platforms kids are using today: instagram, snapchat, etc...  I had to save the image by emailing it to myself, then downloading it onto the computer, and then uploading it from "downloads" into this blog post.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

i dare you


I stole this most excellent graphic from my friend Sarah Hope's new blog, in which she dares herself and all the rest of you humans to do things that might make you see/feel/experience life a little differently.  A few weeks ago, she dared us to put our feet in the mud. For some, I know this is crossing a boundary of sorts, but for me, that's just another day in the woods. I didn't think it was that big of a deal, really.

But I decided to do it anyway.  Not knowing where, exactly to find mud in the middle of July, I decided that there must be some down by Cheyenne Creek, a short walk out my back door.

After a bit of searching, I found the perfect creekside rock, set my composition book down, removed my Chaco sandals, and sank my feet into the water. Ooooohhh. Already, I was thanking Sarah in my mind.

At the bottom, about nine inches down, my feet touched not mud, but coarse granite sand, a natural foot massager if ever there was one.  My gratitude for Sarah's dare grew bigger.  It felt so good I decided to take a walk upstream.  I probably ventured only about 30 yards before turning around, but taking steps barefoot in creeks is such a calculated, mindful experience, it felt like an epic journey.  Plus - it was a whole new world in there! There was a hiking path on one side of me, and a road on the other, but under the canopy of the trees and with the rippling sounds of the water, they disappeared. Then I remembered creek hiking at Camp Kilowan every summer!  Then I started singing:  "Kilowan, Kilowan, your maidens have gathered...."! Then I remembered fairy boats! Then I wanted to bring everyone I knew on a creek hike! I still do!  I have no idea how if it would work (the creek's pretty narrow), but if anyone wants to come with me, I dare you.






(Unfortunately, my phone died just as I was taking it out to get some photos.  I was angry for about two seconds, and then figured it was actually kind of a gift.  No one knew where I was, and there was no way for them to reach me.  I found this to be an extremely pleasing circumstance. Anyway, here's a photo of Cheyenne Creek from the internets)










I finally returned to my rock and grabbed my composition book.  Here is what I wrote:

The water 
will almost always flow 
faster than your stride --  
get used to it.

Pine cone canoes 
navigate the rapids
by not navigating. 
submerge
resurface
flounder
snag

Will you will recognize 
in yourself 
the false prophet 
if you stay too long 
in one place?

The key is to connect 
and disconnect 
in a cycle prescribed by 
the cottonwood leaf

Thank you, Sarah.  For the memories, new and old.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

for Gerard Manley Hopkins

Huh.  Here's a poem I found that said "draft".  I remember writing it, but I totally forgot about it.  It's dated 4/1/17.   I wonder how many other drafts I have in here.

It seems somehow important and relevant that I discovered it TODAY, being the fourth of July and all.  I remember I was trying to copy a form (from Gerard Manley Hopkins) and that it involved rhyming, and it was hard, but rewarding.  Anyway, happy whatever, America!


Glory be to God for dappled beings —
    For humans of couple-color;
        For the immigrants' brindled descendants;
Butt-dimpled newborns who cross borders in slings;
    Deserts dotted with dolor;
        Following the Pied Piper of Independence;
Vainglorious attempts at Euclidian geometry;
    Whatever is not-so-evenly divided (smaller);
        Freckled, splotched, mottled, transcendent;
He knows that beauty does not rely on symmetry:
                         Praise Him.


 
     

Monday, July 3, 2017

is david lynch still relevant?

I'm going to attempt to write a few of my truths regarding the new Twin Peaks The Return.  I'm not sure where it will take me.  Trying to write about Twin Peaks feels sort of like entering the Red Room itself.  Anyway, here goes...

Truth #1:  I've only watched through episode 4.

Truth #2:  The first time I watched Blue Velvet I was in college, and so stunned out of my everyday existence that I walked around for days in a daze, wondering if what I thought about the world was even real. I've been a Lynch fan ever since.

Truth #3:  That said, regarding Twin Peaks, I'm only in it for the nostalgia.

Truth #4:  I loved Agent Cooper with a fancrush love.  Now he's gone (well, actually, there are more of him, but none of them are the one I loved), and I haven't fallen in love with any of the characters yet in the new series. This is a huge problem.  At its heart, a show needs a sympathetic character to draw me in.  The sympathy is gone.

Truth #5:  Oh shit, there it is!  Why David Lynch is still relevant.  There is no sympathy in a world that has Bob in it.

Truth #6:  I fell asleep twice during the past four episodes. (It was late, and I was soooo sleeeeppyyyyy......  but still). Well, damn, there it is again. The excessive slowness of the pace only serves to reveal our own shrinking attention spans.

Truth #7:  When Bobby walked into the room, saw Laura's photo on the table, and cried, I cried right along with him. Classic Twin Peaks soap-opera moment, complete with Laura Palmer theme song. Thanks, Dave.

Truth #8:  Twin Peaks The Return makes me laugh. Andy and Lucy's son telling his parents they can do whatever they want now with his childhood bedroom.  Lucy's incomprehension about how cell phones work. Every time Cooper yells, "Helllloooooo" at the slot machine.  Former psychiatrist Dr. Jacoby spray painting shovels gold. My favorite so far, though, is when Lynch, playing FBI Director Gordon Cole, says, "I hate to admit this, but I don't understand this situation at all."

Truth #9:  OMG this moment!















Truth #10:  If you understand this genus of funny, we can be friends.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

stages (a study)

Materials
I have two poems in process right now.  They were seeded in two different forms.  One was on
20 July 2017 and is handwritten in my wide-ruled Composition Book; the second is in Notes on my iphone, auto-dated July 18, 2017,  to which I attached pictures that may never make it here.  The journey is almost too far, even though it's wireless.  The distance is time.

Procedure
I am going to transcribe each of these "seed writings" onto the blog, and, of course, revise as I go.  It can't be helped.  I am curious to discover how two juxtaposed starting positions might create a different experience for me as a writer as I struggle toward publishing.  How did I get from there to here?  Did handwriting or texting have better outcomes?

Hypothesis
Neither the texted Note nor the handwritten Composition will be better or worse than the other when typed up here on my blog. I have no way to prove this hypothesis. Maybe the proof will be, "What do my friends think?"

Background
A first draft (Stage 1) ever only really exists as its seed. You don't get to read those. Nobody does.
This, right here, is Stage 2.
Also, lately, my blog posts have been Stage 3 poems.  They have been labored over and crafted.  I'm very proud of them.  But they lack something.  Voice, maybe?  Context?  I don't know.  Like I haven't wanted to just write for the sake of writing anymore...  There's always too much thinking now.

I like thinking about poems as having Stages, though.  Like cancer.

Please remember that what you are about to read are Stage 2 poems, maybe 2B. They still have lots of growing up to do.  Any kindnesses or critiques you might like to bestow on them will be welcomed!
Also remember that you do not know which is which.  I think they call this a "blind" study, but I honestly really don't know.  Feel free to make guesses.

Procedure, con't

A:

Write each of your poems
as if it were your last—
As if all tattoos were temporary,
which they are, of course,
if you really think about it.
Send each of your words
to the darkest cave chamber, whose
walls have never known sunlight.
Make sure your poems have
napped in hammocks and
slept on Greyhound busses.
Let your phrases pierce our defenses
like terrorists, and be the Ones Who
Know. Read every poem three times—
you can't get it all on the first go.
Don't even try.
Write each of your poems
as if someone will read it
three times.


B:

We remember backwards best
I walked where once we kissed
My body remembers it as resurrection
My imperfect memory sees pathos

Here's the hole into which we almost fell
The lessons are all common sense
And we thought the trees and their shadows
could hide us from the moon.

How foolish, how almost tragic.

Conclusion
?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Caye Caulker, Belize






















In a motorboat skimming across Caribbean
Blue, the shirtless Islander pilots like a pirate.
One-hand on the wheel, he tells today's tourists
Stories of his Great Barrier Reef Boyhood.
Listening with lust, novice young snorkelers
Adjust their unfamiliar equipment, and awkwardly
Await their turn in the turquoise below.

A ceiling fan revolves, whirs, hums, delivers
Tiny breezes across naked bodies, sprawled
Like already forgotten suburbs. From the wall, a lazy
Lizard watches the only movement in the room–
A single thumb stroking a satisfied cheek. Outside,
The regularly-scheduled afternoon thunderstorm
Tells the stirring lovers in Neverland: Go back to sleep.


















Escaping through make-believe walls, the sound
Of reggae rhythms, melodies.  At sunset, lured
By unbroken beats, sandaled feet wander from boats
And beds toward the bar. Reefer floats on the sea air.
Barefoot and nearly bare-bodied, American girls sway
With Rasta boys on floors of sand. Sometimes,
They stay, and raise beautiful blue-in-the-moonlight babies.

But most times, they manage to barely not miss the boat,
the bus, the plane, and end up in a gray airport, inadequately
dressed, asleep on a cold seat, waiting for a ride home.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

not tonight

The lights have gone out in Caloocan City.
You'll need to tell them.       Tomorrow
Would be a good day.  You need to say, "There is no God
In Caloocan City, not tonight."

While we slept, God got torn apart—
Not north by south or state by state, or even zip code
By zip code.  No,    God got torn apart neighborhood
By neighborhood, house by house, apartment

By apartment.  But really, it was life
By life, sifted out by the parties they attended
To.      You could ask them to remember the radio–
How it tried so hard to find the middle,

But no one had the mindset.
So they said they didn't have the money.
They said, "The churches will save the slums–
Go back to bed."      But

The lights have gone out in Caloocan City.
You need to tell them.      Tomorrow
Would be a good day.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Vespers for the Voiceless

If I were to commission a stained-glass window for my Church,
It would be a single Nightingale upon a beech branch in springtime.
Her tongueless trills would be the Hymns we would sing at sundown—
No noticeable pattern, only an algorithm inherited from the Ancients.

Our Priestess wears her sandy plumage as a sacred vestment,
Her legitimate lineage endows her with the power to Pardon.
Her mutilated blessings would help us to forgive our Tereusian Trespassers,
And dare her Congregation to turn laments into Praise.






Sunday, March 19, 2017

WITHIN ME BURNS A FLAME

Sap's Rising;
it has been tapped, captured,
heated to pouring perfection.
     WITHIN
ME BURNS A FLAME

Seeds're Sprouting,
warmed by layers of grief
and the sun's return.
     WITHIN
ME BURNS A FLAME

Sun's Setting
on so many sacred
landscapes.  They need rain.
     WITHIN
ME BURNS A FLAME

A magpie is nesting.
Drawing upon his ancestors'
DNA, he builds.
He is not sure why.
     WITHIN
ME BURNS A FLAME

Spring's coming —
tomorrow, I think.  The Planet
is ready.  A few things still
need to die.
     WITHIN
ME BURNS A FLAME

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

who made it possible for you to march?

Who made it possible for you to march?
Tell me, can you tell me–

who filled the salt & pepper shakers
your waiter will twist?
Tell me, can you tell me–

How much of a tip
you left for the immigrant
who made your bed?
Did you think about her as you drifted
off to sleep, worrying about whether
or not the others
would care if you snored? Or was it only
when it came time
to dole out the few crumpled dollars
you discovered in the pockets
of that coat you hadn't worn in ages?

Tell me you will read them more poetry.
Tell me, can you tell me–

Who made it possible for you to march?
Was it the husband or wife who picked up the kids?
The partner who prepared dinner?
The friend who covered a shift?
The teenager you trust enough leave home alone?
Tell me, can you tell me–

what you have inherited from your ancestors?
Tell me, can you tell me–

Who made it possible for you to march?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Ghost Ship Blues

I've never been there, yet I know this place.  It has had incarnations across the Earth, and in all eras. The one I knew was in Portland, Oregon in the early 90's. I was in my early 20's.

I don't remember its name, or even if it had a name.  There are things I do remember, but I don't think I can put them in any particular order.  (Besides, the order of things, once you can read Heptapod.. hmmm... I find myself thinking about the dialogue that might have happened around the table during the making of Arrival...was there an Agenda Item 2b:  Hepta vs. Septa,  or was it just a discussion that began organically, where someone had an idea and the other person said, "Yeah, and..." my money's on the latter...  all the good jobs in the future belong to the creative class anyway... as I get older, I find I have less and less tolerance for meetings with agendas, real or hidden... whatever, my point is that somehow or other they decided to use Greek instead of Latin...and oh yeah, I forgot it was a book first, so the decision was actually probably the original author's, so never mind).

As I was saying:  the order of things, once you can read Heptapod, is less important, and your linear thoughts may well start talking in circles, just like that parenthetical non-sentence above.

The List of Things I Remember in No Particular Order

1.  The Mezzanine that came alive at night
2.  The beyond-handsome Mexican poet
3.  The openness of the kitchen -  every pot, pan, dish, glass on makeshift shelving
4.  The vintage sofa with warm crocheted afghan
5.  The slight chill.  Hence: afghan
6.  The smell of tobacco and herb
7.  The random communal drum kit
8.  The long hair and knit sweaters and trench coats
9.  The gloves with the fingers cut off, on whose hands I longed to have hold me
10.  The sketchy neighborhood (that would become gentrified in ten years)
11.  The openness of everything
12.  The awkwardness of everything

Awkward because I wanted to belong, fully, completely; there was a heady mix of nostalgia for the past and promise for the future that led to art, and which I understood at a cellular level.  But I Didn't. Quite. Belong.  Not Totally.  I was a first-year teacher, trying to adult for the first time, head still full of revolutionary educational ideas, but also full of an MAT degree, lessons to plan, meetings to attend, and students to be responsible for.

I loved it though.  I loved the company and the conversation most of all.

There are so many moments in your hazy young 20's you forget.  But you never forget dumpster diving with the artist boy/man crush (and that one time you found and hauled out your favorite teak desk that is now in your 16-year-old's room), then returning to his cluttered/clean apartment in the warehouse, and smoking cigarettes, and having a 26-year-old Mexican poet drop in to read to you from his journal.

I was never quite sure if it was safer to take the stairs or the elevator.  They were both adventures.

I don't mean to idealize this life, either.  Some of it was filled with drugs, some with despair. But I would venture to say that it wasn't much different than your average home at the time, just less hidden. And it was alive.  Of that, there is no doubt.  I'm also certain that people will start looking for someone to blame, and that the owner of the building is going to have to "own" his part of the tragedy.

Anyway, that's just a whole lotta words to simply say, no matter what the circumstances:
I mourn the loss of the Ghost Ship, its people, its heritage, and its future.



Monday, February 29, 2016

Strawberry Fields Forever

I am sitting on the bench that overlooks the Strawberry Fields meadow. I say the bench, because there is only one, and I'm fairly certain the city didn't put it there.


It looks pretty bleak now on this 29th day of February.  The dry grasses are resting parallel to the ground, and the scrub oaks are gray.  But the sky is blue and the breeze is light and new life is waiting patiently below the surface.



The city, however, does not appear to be waiting patiently. Everything is happening way too fast.  Final City Council vote may be in April, they say.  April?!  Why, in April around here we have only yet just begun to see new buds, flowers, and grasses!  How can our city council vote to give away something they've most likely never seen up close in midsummer?! This decision will be HISTORIC, will affect the citizens of this city for centuries, and must be carefully and thoroughly dissected.  That takes time.

Do you know this land?  I do.  I know how sound travels in the canyon, and how I can presently hear a lone hammer working on a deck on the other side, and the chimes from Will Rogers above. Imagine the noises of a wedding pavilion/picnic area and horse stable, echoing in the Canyon.  The Broadmoor is trying to sell us on the idea of public access on the 180 acres they are not using, but I'm here to tell you: there will be horses on trails throughout that 189 acres, and that 8.5 acres that is only accessible by Broadmoor guests will include the loveliest meadow, the one where people can just meander up the hill and find, accidentally.



Last summer, I did just that. While exploring the area for the first time, I came of the woods into the meadow unexpectedly.  Upon seeing the tall grass undulating in the breeze and the mountains surrounding me, I instinctively opened my arms and did a couple of 360's.

In summer, the area of South Cheyenne Canyon around the Starsmore Discovery Center  is a cool haven from the heat of the city for many. I understand that Barr Trail and the Incline are also used by many, but they are athletes and outdoor enthusiasts, not families and toddlers.  It is still a scant few of our population who are able to or desire to do the incline, yet almost everyone is able to access Strawberry Fields.  To have this meadow off limits to everyone who can't pay is immoral.

I am especially angry at how this deal seems to be a "divide and conquer" strategy, pitting the trails people against the open space people.  We should all be on the same side.  That's why it's called TOSC:  Trails and Open Space Coalition, but it seems the almighty "T" is taking precedence.

Two men arrived down in the meadow while I was sitting on the bench.  I wondered whether they were city men, business men, or Sierra Club men.  Turns out, they were sort of all three, and were still undecided. They were there, hiking the land, even the steep terrain that I've never done, to check it out. They noted its appeal, and observed that not many people seemed to use it.  They wanted to see for themselves what the fuss was all about. I applauded them for their curiosity.



That's what I think we all need, a hike in the woods and some curiosity.




And now, a chill wind has come up, reminding me to put my down vest back on. A hawk soars.  The sun has traveled farther to the west, yet still warms the left side of my face, and I have to squint a little to write. My greatest hope is that this proposed land swap will turn out to be a good thing, simply because it has put Strawberry Fields on the public's radar.  Curiosity can lead to other possible solutions. Like purchasing parcels the city wants with TOPS money. No master city parks plan should ever include trading away a parcel it already owns, even if that parcel is largely unknown. Perhaps, since one of the major complaints is that it is not well taken care of,  part of a new master plan could be for Parks and Rec. to improve the trail markings and maintenance of Strawberry Fields. That's their job.  And ours.  There is no reason that the public couldn't raise thousands of dollars to help the city with maintenance.

This swap proposal is the product of a private corporation's greed, and the public's failure of imagination.
(no wonder the Broadmoor wants this land- just look at that gorgeous view of the hotel from up here)



Finally, an invitation.   Mayor and City Council: come walk Strawberry Fields with me.  Name the date, I'll meet you in the South Cheyenne Canyon Parking Lot.  Bring your layers and hiking boots;  it's still winter and the snow/ice patches are slippery. Or perhaps you'd prefer to wait until May, when you can wear a t-shirt and tennis shoes, and I can show you my land, our land - green and growing. You might even be inspired to do your own Julie Andrews impression.










Saturday, February 6, 2016

invitation from a dried thistle

prickly stem–
a minor repellent
that would never stop
the most determined,
like parental threats


dried and delicate–
but not yet ready
to be dead,
like the paper-thin shell
of what used to be
your mother-in-law,
who still has enough barbs
remaining to hurt you
in many small ways


the rattling of seeds in the pod–
keep time to the breath of
fluid-filled lungs


you are invited to play a game–
she loves me
she loves me not.
but where will it end
if the answer is both?


and now you only want to write
about your bread and coffee
and about how it crunches and chews
but mostly how it fills
the places only gluten and caffeine
and love can fill.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Where Were You?

I spent my morning at Mountain Fold Books with Dave Reynolds, creative writing teacher at the Fountain Valley School.  We debated line breaks. He talked about the allure of azure and other Latinates, while encouraging us to stick to the direct and honest Anglo-Saxon for imagery.  Then we read a poem called Where I Was by Dan Brown (not that Dan Brown), in which the author recalls where he was the day Kennedy was shot.  After that came a poem written by one of his high school students, which was modeled after Where I Was.  Her poem was, appropriately titled:  Where I Was, only it told the story of where she was on 9-11.  Then we wrote poems about where we were, on some significant date in history.  There is something about being given a form, a structure, and fitting your story into it, that is not cheating, but rather it is liberating within a constraint.  I think we have forgotten what it means to learn by imitation of the masters.  Anyway, here is mine.  It is titled, of course:

Where I Was

I was sitting in the front row of all
Places.  My eighth grade algebra class
Was solving for x in silence: the
Way Mr. Gunther liked it.   We feared his
Citizenship grade.  Every
Time you talked, he made a red x by
Your name in his always-open
grade-book. 5 x’s equalled 1 grade
deduction, 10 x’s equalled 2, and so on
in predictable function form.


The equation I don’t remember much
About:  your basic exercise
In keeping everything
Balanced.  How whatever you
Do to one side, you have to do
To the other. Algebra is nothing
If not just. The memorable thing
Was that the PA came on.  How our
Secretary began, “Attention, students”-


But not the announcement I expected.  Not
How the after-school dance was
Canceled. Not lunch menu changes.  Not
that the volleyball players
were to be dismissed after 5th period -
None of that. What the words amounted to
Wasn’t the worst thing: not
"President Reagan has been shot."
But rather that I had cheered.  Half the
Class erupted into applause.


Mr. Gunther, for the first and
Only time that year, closed his
Gradebook, stepped out from behind
His desk, and talked to us-angrily but with 
Conviction-about something other
Than solving equations in two variables.
That day,  I learned that compassion
Should always come before
Politics, and that citizenship means more
Than keeping silent and avoiding red x’s.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"The Kahlil Gibran Quote Written on Burlap that Hung in the Play Room" or "Things My Mother Taught Me"

dirty linen should be washed in public
scrubbing should be an impromptu ballet
stray strands should be measured singly
perfections should be dismantled 

symmetrically
like X's 

or diamonds.

counting should be tedious
the sum of the same
little sisters should be invited
shows should go on
hangings should be hung
words in perfect print should 

burn black, melt

like lemon drops into chromosomes, and
carry us off to college.

daily life should be a seesaw
temples should be teeter totters and when
religion plays Monopoly,
The Prophet should always win.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Exquisite Meadowgrass Corpse

Written by nine people between the ages of 11 and 55, in blue and black ink on one side of a ripped out page of a composition book, while sitting in lawn chairs under the yellow and white striped tent, being entertained by the Chimney Choir, which wasn't a choir at all.

Transcribed here by me in nine different colors.  Remember, in an Exquisite Corpse, the writer can only see, and therefore respond to, the line right before his/hers, as the paper is repeatedly folded over as it passes from person to person.

NB:  All spelling, line breaks, punctuation, and capitalization have been retained from the original.

"Am I really going to desicrate
this grave forever? Of course
I am."

I smiled as I lifted the shovel and
lowered it sharply on the grave

The body of the innocent fell
sharply into the freshly dug grave

Innocence was murdered.  Without a care.

In one shake of a storm

A lonely crow burst through the clouds

Exploding into feathers and
dust, black as the darkest night

that flew into the air

Like a bird dropping on a
windshield.

Monday, May 5, 2014

sorry, not today

dear deadwood,
     it was a nice attempt at a bridge.
thank you for trying.

dear god,
     you'll want the blue eyeshadow, right?
and cochineal lips?  i can't wait to help you with your makeup.

dear devil,
     i might take up running with you in
garden of the gods someday.


dear deer,
     fleeing on four legs like you would be faster.
and quieter.

dear underworld,
      the fences have fallen.
guarded by sad monsters with patient eyes, you beckon.

dear cloud dragons,
     i'd like to lift my eyes to your breath.
but prickly micky mouse pears threaten
my chacoed toes.

dear dyc,
      i will resist the urge to pick you.
we won't bleed.
our hearts beat too cleverly.













Friday, December 13, 2013

Ten Books

Ten Books.  Thanks, Marie Newell Walden.  I think.

I have to admit that this scares me.  But I'm glad she tagged me, because that means she cares about what I think.  I think.

According to the most recent FB sharing-thingy, you're supposed to:  "list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don't take more than a few minutes and don't think too hard--they don't have to be "right" or "great" works, just ones that have touched you."

I know they don't have to be "right" or "great" works, and that part doesn't bother me so much.(although I do retain a slight envy for some of my friends from seriously-literate homes)

The real problem is that I can't even seem to wrap my head around where to start.  It's that "Don't take more than a few minutes and don't think too hard" part that is troubling me. Because summoning those book titles.......  I know that if I do this right, it will take me back to a chair or a season or a heartbreak or an epiphany.  Good books, the really good ones, are like that.

There really is only one place to start:  6th grade.

1.  A Wrinkle in Time, Madeliene L'Engle:  the first time I realized that there was somewhere more than this world and somewhen more than this time.  See, I can't stop using the word "time!  What the hell IS time anyway?!  Mind=blown.  My absent father's Ethan Allen black leather chair.  Spring Break. Age 12.

2.  The Grey King, Susan Cooper:  Responsible for the fact that I still always spell "grey" the English way.  Lessons Learned:  Honourable Good Wins.  Setting Matters.  Fate.

3.  Flowers in the Attic, V.C. Andrews:   Seriously, if you were in high school in the early 80's, and DON'T include this book, I'll call you a liar.  Evil is Real.  Horrible things Happen.  Is it ok to enjoy this book so much?
And shit, that author has the SAME LAST NAME AS ME!

4.  The Chosen, Chaim Potok:   Easily one of the first real grown-up literature books I read ON MY OWN.  A book I chose (from a selected list of books, however).  Haha!  You see now the power of choosing!  Understanding the idea that within one religion, there are many.

5.  Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte:  Lying on my tiny single bed at the University of Lancaster, age 22.  The moors of northern England were my backyard.  It was early spring.  I was in love with everything.  I was the only one I knew who hadn't read it.  The language carried me away.  I had no idea that a novel could be all this.

6.  The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger:  This kid's life makes absolutely no sense to me, and yet I understand exactly how he feels.  How is that even possible?

7.  Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte:  These characters' lives make absolutely no sense to me, and yet I understand exactly how they feel. Another one of the books I "chose" to read from Ms. Six's list (AP English, Senior Year)  Sometimes wish I hadn't read this one on my own, but had had some guidance.  It truly is, as Dante proclaimed, a "fiend of a book — an incredible monster."   Heeeeaaattthhhhhcliffffff!!!!!!!

8.  The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien:  I didn't read The Hobbit until I was in my early 40's and had two school-age boys.  I was blown away.  I couldn't figure out how in the world I had come through my childhood without this.  I cursed my family.  I cursed my teachers.
I could read it a hundred times.  I want to read it again.  My husband and boys are watching part II of the movie at this very moment. I have no desire ever to see it.  Part I was the sorriest excuse for a movie made from a book EVER.

9.  Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins:  Philosophy can be funny.  Everything is connected.
“The rich are the most discriminated-against minority in the world. Openly or covertly, everybody hates the rich because, openly or covertly, everybody envies the rich. Me, I love the rich. Somebody has to love them. Sure, a lot o’ rich people are assholes, but believe me, a lot o’ poor people are assholes, too, and an asshole with money can at least pay for his own drinks.” 
My husband does not like Tom Robbins.  Sometimes I wonder how I can be married to him!

10.  Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov:  Duh.

These books found their way to me through people, mainly teachers and friends, and sometimes, yes, even family.

Not a single one of them was formally "taught", however.

Please share with me one of your ten in the comments, if you feel the desire.  I would love to learn more about the readerly you....


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Yeah, Phid died.  But I was doing just fine.  Really.  John's sister had arrived, and we were talking about all the stuff that needed talking about:  Where's the will?   How to tell Bill?  Whom to call?  When to have the wake?  All was well.

Until it was time to set the table.


John's in the
living room, with the lights on, strumming
Here Comes the Sun
into the stale air
pushing out the darkness with
"Little Darlin', it seems like years since it's been here..."

everything's so alive
and yellow and light and empty

i enter the dining room with
five white plates
because there are five of us

but suddenly I don't know
where we're all going to sit
because she sat there
and there later, after the wheelchair
and there's no place for us
for all of us
because there's five of us, and only five chairs,
and if i place a plate for all of us
that means there's no place
for her

and i sink to my knees
holding the white plates that i can't
place

she took up so much space, for so long, and now she's gone,
and i don't know how to fill her place
at the table









Thursday, September 20, 2012

bread and wine

My mother-in-law is dying. I know I've said that before. But this time, it's for real.

Here's what it's like, right now...

For twenty minutes every day, you stab little watermelon chunks with a fork, swirl them in the juice at the bottom of the bowl, and wait for her to open her mouth, the sign that she is ready for the next piece. The rest of your day is go, go, go, but during this time, you stop. You are present. You stare at the lines in her face, the colors of the blankets, the shape of her body under the covers. You try to memorize it all: every color, every curve, every sound.

How ignorant I was then! How could I possibly have thought that artichokes and strawberries somehow constituted some sort of "Last Supper"?! People who are dying don't eat artichokes and strawberries! People who are dying eat...watermelon.

 People who are dying say things like, "a loaf of bread and a jug of wine", and expect you to know what they're talking about. Last Supper, indeed! The only thing your small mind can conjure up is Jesus, until she gives you another clue. You have to ask for it three times, until you finally make out her whisper: "The Rubaiyat...... Omar Khayyam".

And then you mention that you wished you had your computer, because you'd look it up. The dying person knows what he/she wants, and tells you to look it up on your phone. She may be 86 years old, but she knows that you can find anything you want on a phone!

 Thank goodness the caregiver has a smart phone, even if you don't.

 And so you begin to read (I highly suggest you read this aloud.  Just do it.  Please):

 Wake! For the Sun, who scatter'd into flight 
 The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
 Drives Night along with them from Heav'n, and strikes
The Sultan's Turret with a Shaft of Light. 

You scroll down to see that there are "CI" verses. So you go to the middle, somewhere at random, and read aloud some more, filling the room with rhythm and rhyme:

 And we, that now make merry in the Room 
 They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom 
 Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth 
 Descend--ourselves to make a Couch--for whom? 

 Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend, 
 Before we too into the Dust descend; 
 Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie 
 Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and--sans End! 

You succeed in barely not choking up and crying. And then, in the scrolling, you see it. And of course you read it. Aloud.

 A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, 
 A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou 
 Beside me singing in the Wilderness-- Oh, 
Wilderness were Paradise enow! 

We're getting close, friends. This person is gone.