If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Friday night. Clear and cool, 41 degrees.

Woke up with a migraine that left me puny for almost the whole day . . . Le sigh . . .

This week’s headline:

“You’re maudlin and full of self-pity. You’re magnificent!” ~ Joseph L. Mankiewicz, from All About Eve

The philosophy of Calvin and Hobbes:

Calvin: They say the world is a stage. But obviously the play is unrehearsed and everybody is ad-libbing his lines.

Hobbes: Maybe that’s why it’s hard to tell if we’re living in a tragedy or a farce.

Calvin: We need more special effects and dance numbers.

Finally, I have found the perfect graphic to illustrate my complicated relationship with math beyond algebra:

So Ellen does Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln Commercial, and it’s soooo much better:

And speaking of women making it better, you must read the Amazon comments for this product:

And continuing with the education themes . . . this teacher does it for the win:

I can’t believe I ate the whole thing . . .

A possum broke into an Australian bakery and ate so many pastries it couldn’t move. This is how they found him.

Things that make you go hmm . . . Yes, these were real ads (click here to see more):

Speaking of the past . . . things Olivia’s generation will never know:

incredibly long download times for one song . . .

Saving homework on one of these and then losing it . . .

Twitter turns Time magazine’s proposed ban on word feminist into Princess Bride tirade:

Dogs can be such dweebs:

Music by who else? Pink Floyd, “Another Brick in the Wall”

Two for Tuesday: Remembering


“Anything, anything would be better than this agony of mind, this creeping pain that gnaws and fumbles and caresses one and never hurts quite enough.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from No Exit And Three Other Plays

Tuesday evening. Partly cloudy and cold, 36 degrees.

Yes. It’s 38 degrees outside, and yesterday, it was 73, and my body is rebelling as it only knows how: I hurt all over, from my head to my feet. Last night I fell asleep while Corey and I were watching something on our very long dvr queue, and then I suddenly awoke at 2 a.m. and was unable to find asleep again until sometimes after 5.

"Moon Vase" (detail, c1885, earthenware with glaze)

“Moon Vase” (detail, c1885, earthenware with glaze)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

I ran out of one of the meds that I take at bedtime day before yesterday, but I wasn’t too worried as I didn’t think that missing one or two nights would be that big of a deal. Apparently, my body thought otherwise. I had always believed that RLS (restless leg syndrome) was something made up by pharmaceutical companies to sell one more drug. However, try telling that to your brain when your legs jitter uncontrollably, and when they are not jittering, they are aching.

I had mentioned this to my pain doctor last year, and he said that it was classic symptoms of RLS and that my meds should take care of it. Well, they did, and then, apparently, the one I was without happened to be the one that did the most (does any of that make sense?).

“Then suddenly you’re left all alone
with your body that can’t love you
and your will that can’t save you.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “To the younger brother”

So anyway, spent hours online today trying to find the right part for our shower, something to alleviate the hammering that happens whenever the water is turned to hot. Apparently hammering is the correct term, something I found out after putting lots of different words into the search box to try to pinpoint exactly what was happening. Corey had thought that it was knocking pipes, but not so.

Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer Eve 1896 Pastel and gouache with gold

“Eve” (1896, pastel and gouache with gold)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

We should have known that buying a knockoff brand for the shower faucet would come back to bite us in the butt, and it did. So, replacing parts after only a year—such a pain. Add to that the fact that we have to replace parts in my mother’s old shower as Brett says that it leaks like crazy. I’m fairly certain that the faucets in that particular bathroom are original equipment, if you can believe that.

And we are on the downside of November, a few days from a week until Thanksgiving, and holy crap. Where has this year gone. I mean this one, in particular, has completely bypassed weeks at a time, until now I only have one more page left on my calendar, and I find myself completely unprepared for next year.

So what else is new?

More later. Peace.

Today’s images are by French artist Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, whose works include paintings, drawings, ceramics, furniture and interior design. I was especially taken with his burnt orange and gold works, brilliant in his paintings and in his ceramics.


Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer La Bourrasque  The Gust of Wind pastel on paper 1897

“La Bourrasque” (1897, pastel on paper)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

The Ruins of Timoleague Abbey

I am gut sad.

I am flirting
with the green waves,
wandering the sand,
feeding reflection
into the seaweed foam.

That Shaker’s moon
is up.
Crested by corn-colored stars
and traced by those witchy scribblers
who read the bone-smoke.

No wind at all —
no flutter
for foxglove or elm.

There is a church door.

In the time
when the people
of  my hut lived,

there was eating and thinking
dished out to the poor
and the soul-sick in this place.

I am in my remembering.

By the frame of  the door
is a crooked black bench.

It is oily with history
of the rumps of sages,
and the foot-sore
who lingered in the storm.

I am bent with weeping.
This blue dream
chucks the salt
from me.

I remember
the walls god-bright
with the king’s theology,

the slow chorus
of  the low bell,
the full hymn
of  the byre and field.

Pathetic hut.
Rain-cracked and wind-straddled.
Your walls bare-nubbed
by chill flagons
of ocean spit.

The saints are scattered.
The high gable
is an ivy tangle.
The stink of fox
is the only swinging incense.

There is no stew
for this arriving prodigal,
no candled bed.

My kin
lie under the ground
of this place.

My shape
is sloughed with grief.
No more red tree
between my thighs.
My eyes are milk.
Rage my pony.

My face has earnt
the grim mask.
My heart a husky gore.

But my hand. My hand
reaches through this sour air
and touches
the splendid darkness
of my deliverer.

~ Seán Ó Coileáin, trans. Tony Hoagland and Martin Shaw

                   

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer La Bourrasque Gust of Wind oil on canvas1896

“La Bourrasque” (1896, oil on canvas)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

In the Park

This is the life I wanted, and could never see.
For almost twenty years I thought that it was enough:
That real happiness was either unreal, or lost, or endless,
And that remembrance was as close to it as I could ever come.
And I believed that deep in the past, buried in my heart
Beyond the depth of sight, there was a kingdom of peace.
And so I never imagined that when peace would finally come
It would be on a summer evening, a few blocks away from home
In a small suburban park, with some children playing aimlessly
In an endless light, and a lake shining in the distance.

Eventually, sometime around the middle of your life,
There’s a moment when the first imagination begins to wane.
The future that had always seemed so limitless dissolves,
And the dreams that used to seem so real float up and fade.
The years accumulate; but they start to take on a mild,
Human tone beyond imagination, like the sound the heart makes
Pouring into the past its hymns of adoration and regret.
And then gradually the moments quicken into life,
Vibrant with possibility, sovereign, dense, serene;
And then the park is empty and the years are still.

I think the saddest memory is of a kind of light,
A kind of twilight, that seemed to permeate the air
For a few years after I’d grown up and gone away from home.
It was limitless and free. And of course I was going to change,
But freedom means that only aspects ever really change,
And that as the past recedes and the future floats away
You turn into what you are. And so I stayed basically the same
As what I’d always been, while the blond light in the trees
Became part of my memory, and my voice took on the accents
Of a mind infatuated with the rhetoric of farewell.

And now that disembodied grief has gone away.
It was a flickering, literary kind of sadness,
The suspension of a life between two other lives
Of continual remembrance, between two worlds
In which there’s too much solitude, too much disdain.
But the sadness that I felt was real sadness,
And this elation now a real tremor as the deepening
Shadows lengthen upon the lake. This calm is real,
But how much of the real past can it absorb?
How far into the future can this peace extend?

I love the way the light falls over the suburbs
Late on these summer evenings, as the buried minds
Stir in their graves, the hearts swell in the warm earth
And the soul settles from the air into its human home.
This is where the prodigal began, and now his day is ending
In a great dream of contentment, where all night long
The children sleep within tomorrow’s peaceful arms
And the past is still, and suddenly we turn around and smile
At the memory of a vast, inchoate dream of happiness,
Now that we know that none of it is ever going to be.

Don’t you remember how free the future seemed
When it was all imagination? It was a beautiful park
Where the sky was a page of water, and when we looked up,
There were our own faces, shimmering in the clear air.
And I know that this life is the only real form of happiness,
But sometimes in its midst I can hear the dense, stifled sob
Of the unreal one we might have known, and when that ends
And my eyes are filled with tears, time seems to have stopped
And we are alone in the park where it is almost twenty years ago
And the future is still an immense, open dream.

~ John Koethe

                   

Music by Jude Christodal, “Madonna”

“see how weak I am, a mere breath on the air, a gaze observing you, a formless thought that thinks you.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from No Exit and Three Other Plays, trans. S. Gilbert

Victor Hugo Ma destinée 1867 ink and brown ink wash

“Ma destinée” (1867, ink and brown ink wash)
by Victor Hugo


Listen. .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall. ~ Adelaide Crapsey, “November Night”

Monday night. Windy and scattered showers, 74 degrees.

Victor Hugo The key is here, the gate elsewhere 1871 Pen, brown-ink wash, black ink, graphite, black crayon, charcoal, reserves and fingerprints or dabbings with highlights of white gouache on vellum paper

“The hey is here, the gate elsewhere” (1871, pen, brown-ink wash, black ink, graphite, black crayon, charcoal, reserves and fingerprints with highlights of white gouache on vellum paper)
by Victor Hugo

Did not have Olivia today. Instead, I took Alexis and Olivia to Lex’s doctor’s appointment in Virginia Beach. It was a brief but nice visit. Olivia is such a chatterbug, and she doesn’t miss anything. I’ve taught her two new things: the word terrible, and the sound that crows make “caw.” She has also discovered the deliciousness of soft pretzels, thanks to me.

I do what I can . . .

Anyway, I took them home and then came home and collapsed. Not really sure what’s going on, maybe my sugar levels, but I was quite dizzy. The same thing happened when I was out with Brett the other day; I actually had to find a place to sit down before I fell on my face. I’m not even going to bother to call my PCP. I mean, what’s the point? I’m dizzy . . . I’m not dizzy. Whatever.

But as a result, no productivity today—no post, no poem lurking somewhere in the recesses of my brain. Just this wonderful passage by Ray Bradbury and these ink drawings by Victor Hugo, both of which I’ve been holding,  waiting for an opportune moment, like now for instance. By the way, the periods in the Crapsey short poem above are in the original as posted.

More later. Peace.

                   

Victor Hugo Vianden Through a Spider's Web pencil, Indian ink, sepia on paper

“Vianden through a Spider’s Web” (nd, pencil, Indian ink, and sepia on paper)
by Victor Hugo

For some, autumn comes early, stays late through life where October follows September and November touches October and then instead of December and Christ’s birth, there is no Bethlehem Star, no rejoicing, but September comes again and old October and so on down the years, with no winter, spring, or revivifying summer. For these beings, fall is the ever normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No: the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks from their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth. In gusts they beetle-scurry, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and surely cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles—breaks. Such are the autumn people. Beware of them. ~ Ray Bradbury, from Something Wicked This Way Comes

                   

Music by Ray LaMontagne, “Jolene”

“I’ve been rereading your story. I think it’s about me in a way that might not be flattering, but that’s okay. We dream and dream of being seen as we really are and then finally someone looks at us and sees us truly and we fail to measure up.” ~ Richard Siken

                   

“Eventually something you love is going to be taken away. And then you will fall to the floor crying. And then, however much later, it is finally happening to you: you’re falling to the floor crying thinking, ‘I am falling to the floor crying,’ but there’s an element of the ridiculous to it — you knew it would happen and, even worse, while you’re on the floor crying you look at the place where the wall meets the floor and you realize you didn’t paint it very well.” ~ Richard Siken

Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy and a bit warmer, 52 degrees.

I love the above quote by Richard Siken because I an relate to it so completely—the absurd nature of grief, the contradictory ways in which your mind works when it is hurting most. You feel the pain in your chest, the symbolic breaking of your heart, and yet you notice the dust on the television screen. You weep, nay, you keen, and even as you are doing so, you wonder where the cobweb in the corner of the living room came from.

If we know ourselves, truly know ourselves, then we can anticipate the way in which we will react in certain situations. What is really interesting is the mind of a psychopath—they do not feel regular emotions, so they learn to act emotions, as in, “Oh, I should be sad, so I will put on a sad face,” and they do, but sometimes their sad face isn’t quite right because there is the hint of a smile on the corner of one side of their mouth, and that is when so-called normal people notice the mask slip.

What do I mean by all of this? Who the hell knows. Only that I have found myself reacting as I knew I would react to something major, something life-changing, and even as I did so, I split off and wondered if I was getting mud on my hem.

We are such strange beings . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Nils Lofgren, “Why Me”

                   

Snow and Dirty Rain

Close your eyes. A lover is standing too close
to focus on. Leave me blurry and fall toward me
with your entire body. Lie under the covers, pretending
to sleep, while I’m in the other room. Imagine
my legs crossed, my hair combed, the shine of my boots
in the slatted light. I’m thinking My plant, his chair,
the ashtray that we bought together.
I’m thinking This is where
we live.
When we were little we made houses out of
cardboard boxes. We can do anything. It’s not because
our hearts are large, they’re not, it’s what we
struggle with. The attempt to say Come over. Bring
your friends. It’s a potluck, I’m making pork chops, I’m making
those long noodles you love so much.
My dragonfly,
my black-eyed fire, the knives in the kitchen are singing
for blood, but we are the crossroads, my little outlaw,
and this is the map of my heart, the landscape
after cruelty which is, of course, a garden, which is
a tenderness, which is a room, a lover saying Hold me
tight, it’s getting cold.
We have not touched the stars,
nor are we forgiven, which brings us back
to the hero’s shoulders and the gentleness that comes,
not from the absence of violence, but despite
the abundance of it. The lawn drowned, the sky on fire,
the gold light falling backward through the glass
of every room. I’ll give you my heart to make a place
for it to happen, evidence of a love that transcends hunger.
Is that too much to expect? That I would name the stars
for you? That I would take you there? The splash
of my tongue melting you like a sugar cube? We’ve read
the back of the book, we know what’s going to happen.
The fields burned, the land destroyed, the lovers left
broken in the brown dirt. And then’s it’s gone.
Makes you sad. All your friends are gone. Goodbye
Goodbye. No more tears. I would like to meet you all
in Heaven. But there’s a litany of dreams that happens
somewhere in the middle. Moonlight spilling
on the bathroom floor. A page of the book where we
transcend the story of our lives, past the taco stands
and record stores. Moonlight making crosses
on your body, and me putting my mouth on every one.
We have been very brave, we have wanted to know
the worst, wanted the curtain to be lifted from our eyes.
This dream going on with all of us in it. Penciling in
the bighearted slob. Penciling in his outstretched arms.
Our father who art in Heaven. Our father who art buried
in the yard.
Someone is digging your grave right now.
Someone is drawing a bath to wash you clean, he said,
so think of the wind, so happy, so warm. It’s a fairy tale,
the story underneath the story, sliding down the polished
halls, lightning here and gone. We make these
ridiculous idols so we can to what’s behind them,
but what happens after we get up the ladder?
Do we simply stare at what’s horrible and forgive it?
Here is the river, and here is the box, and here are
the monsters we put in the box to test our strength
against. Here is the cake, and here is the fork, and here’s
the desire to put it inside us, and then the question
behind every question: What happens next?
The way you slam your body into mine reminds me
I’m alive, but monsters are always hungry, darling,
and they’re only a few steps behind you, finding
the flaw, the poor weld, the place where we weren’t
stitched up quite right, the place they could almost
slip right into through if the skin wasn’t trying to
keep them out, to keep them here, on the other side
of the theater where the curtain keeps rising.
I crawled out the window and ran into the woods.
I had to make up all the words myself. The way
they taste, the way they sound in the air. I passed
through the narrow gate, stumbled in, stumbled
around for a while, and stumbled back out. I made
this place for you. A place for to love me.
If this isn’t a kingdom then I don’t know what is.
So how would you catalog it? Dawn in the fields?
Snow and dirty rain? Light brought in in buckets?
I was trying to describe the kingdom, but the letters
kept smudging as I wrote them: the hunter’s heart,
the hunter’s mouth, the trees and the trees and the
space between the trees, swimming in gold. The words
frozen. The creatures frozen. The plum sauce
leaking out of the bag. Explaining will get us nowhere.
I was away, I don’t know where, lying on the floor,
pretending I was dead. I wanted to hurt you
but the victory is that I could not stomach it. We have
swallowed him up,
they said. It’s beautiful. It really is.
I had a dream about you. We were in the gold room
where everyone finally gets what they want.
You said Tell me about your books, your visions made
of flesh and light
and I said This is the Moon. This is
the Sun. Let me name the stars for you. Let me take you
there. The splash of my tongue melting you like a sugar
cube…
We were in the gold room where everyone
finally gets what they want, so I said What do you
want, sweetheart?
and you said Kiss me. Here I am
leaving you clues. I am singing now while Rome
burns. We are all just trying to be holy. My applejack,
my silent night, just mash your lips against me.
We are all going forward. None of us are going back.

~ Richard Siken

 

 

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Friday evening. Partly cloudy and cold, 49 degrees.

Corey just left to take Olivia home. Yesterday when I told her that she was going home, she said, “No.” She wanted to stay with us; truthfully, she probably wanted to stay with Corey, who seems to be her most favorite person, and don’t think that he doesn’t love that! Anyway, now I am better able to see both sides—parent (dismay) and grandparent (humorous pride)—of the situation as Alexis always wanted to stay with her Oma and Papa. And the sun rose and fell on Alexis as far as my dad was concerned . . .

History truly repeats itself.

This week’s headline:

“That’s a gang sign? All this time I’ve been the lead-in for a notorious gang member  [Stephen Colbert]. . . which means, unfortunately, it’s time once again to update our ‘List of innocent things that black people do that look suspicious . . . don’t wear a hoodie, don’t carry skittles . . . and now, don’t point.’” ~ Jon Stewart, “The Daily Show” (November 12, 2014)

I still love Tobey Ziegler (“The West Wing”):

I hate everyone

Me, every single time I get behind the wheel of my car . . .

Oh, how I can relate to this . . .

This is what happens in my head every time I’m near one:

Photo: The pain! The agony!

Literally . . .

Moral of the story? Hire a koala as your hitman. Wait. No. What?

Hmm . . .

Um, perhaps texting is not for you?

23 Reasons Why Parents Shouldn't Be Allowed To Text 12 - https://www.facebook.com/diplyofficial

Me, responding to my kids’ texts when I just can’t take it any more:

Photo: It actually does take more effort to spell incorrectly these days via text.

I love Key & Peele:

We, as humans, have the imaginations and capabilities to do ingenious things like this, so why don’t we do this more?

Commas—they really do make a difference:

Photo: What a difference a comma makes!

Again, Toby remains my hero:

Really?

“It was November—the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines.” ~ L.M. Montgomery

Eero Järnefelt Autumn Landscape with a River 1895 tempera on grey paper

“Autumn Landscape with a River” (1895, tempera on grey paper)
by Eero Järnefelt


“There is no better time than the autumn to begin forgetting the things that trouble us, allowing them to fall away like dried leaves.” ~ Paulo Coelho, from Adultery

Thursday evening. Overcast and cold, 49 degrees.

Yesterday it was sunny and 74 degrees and Olivia and I sat in the backyard and watched birds and planes. Corey comes home and suddenly it is freezing outside. But he is home, safe and sound.

Eero Järnefelt Lakeshore with Reeds 1905 oil on canvas

“Lakeshore with Reeds” (1905, oil on canvas)
by Eero Järnefelt

I sat down at this computer to look up some information on a pharmaceutical company and to do something else. In between looking and typing, I have forgotten what the second thing was that I needed to do. It has left my brain completely, as if culled out like the whites from the yolk. You have no idea how completely enervating this is.

Anyway, been a busy day: kept Olivia over night so that I could surprise Corey at the airport; finished cleaning this morning; ran a few quick errands before nap time, and then I had to get Olivia up early from her nap so that we could be at the airport in time. Corey was very surprised and pleased. The house looks and more importantly, smells clean.

I’m in the middle of a really good book: A Simple Act of Violence, by R. J. Ellory; it’s a criminal investigation with a really intriguing political back story about the CIA and drug-funded wars, and there is nothing simple about it. It’s the first book by Ellory that I have read, and I’m wondering how his other books are. Has anyone out there read his work?

So since this is just a brief note, I thought I’d share this quiz you: “What’s your reading personality?”

Eero Järnefelt View from Koli 1923

“View from Koli” (1923)
Eero Järnefelt

Me? I’m an aesthete, of course:

By the way, I meant to say something a few posts ago: I’ve surpassed 1750 posts. Not bad for a little side project meant to distract me.

More later. Peace.

Images are by Finnish artist Eero Järnefelt (1863-1937)

Music by The Fire and the Sea, “Torn”

                   

Eero Järnefelt Autumn Landscape of Lake Pielisjärvi 1899 oil on canvas

“Autumn Landscape of Lake Pielisjärvi” (1899, oil on canvas)
by Eero Järnefelt

 

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go,
to let it go.

~ Mary Oliver

“It’s only in the autumn where I can take breaths that make me want to take more breaths . . . But I will always enjoy the grey solemn solitude of this season that grows darker and colder, day by day.” ~ Henry Rollins, from Solipsist

Gustav Klimt The Birch Wood 1903 oil on canvas

“The Birch Wood” (1903, oil on canvas)
by Gustav Klimt


“a dream of creatures
with autumn coloured faces
their bodies vent to earth
falling under the spell
of the spinning world” ~ Anja Huwe, from “Autumn”

Sunday afternoon. Cloudy and cooler, 58 degrees.

Last night I had a Harry Potter dream, sort of. I was going back to school, but I wasn’t on any of the rolls because I had failed two classes the semester before. I was hoping to fake my way through. Then suddenly, spells and wand work were required, and I was performing abysmally, unable to remember even basic spells, and Hermione was actually one of my main nemeses from high school, and she was aligned with someone else, and I was left to my own devices, trying to remember things besides accio and stuff, and I had boils on my chest, and I created an itching powder (directly related, I’m sure, to the fact that yesterday I had to take two baths (am and pm) and soak in colloidal oatmeal for nervous itching) and smeared it across everyone’s lockers so that everyone was affected, and then I realized too late that I had also affected allies, and I had that recurring dream part in which one of my classes was never finished because the professor just stopped teaching four weeks before the end and called it a day, and we were wondering if we were responsible for what wasn’t covered, and I realized, too, that I had none of my special grid notebooks for class, nor any of my preferred pens, and I awoke with, you guessed it, a headache . . .

TomThomson-Moonlight-and-Birches-1916-17

“Moonlight and Birches” (1916-17)
by Tom Thomson

And yesterday I had this moment in which I paused to consider whether or not I had truly read To Kill a Mockingbird, or if it was one of those titles that I had read so much about that I imagined actually reading the book.

This is what happens when I have to spend too much time on the phone arguing with people over basic things like health insurance coverage. My mind reverts to a pseudo-fugue state in an attempt to shut down, not deal with too much.

“This October like November,
That August like a hundred thousand hours,
And that September,
A hundred thousand dragging sunlit days,
And half October like a thousand years . . .” ~ Ford Madox Ford, from “In October 1914 [Antwerp]”

I wrote another poem earlier today. I don’t know where these poems are coming from, only that they are coming. I don’t claim to be a prolific or particularly wonderful poet, though at one time in my life that was all that I ever wanted to be: a published poet, a name associated with poetry, a person known for her words as poems.

Antonín Slavíček - Birch Wood 1897 oil on canvas

“Birch Wood” (1897, oil on canvas)
Antonín Slavíček

As with many things in my life, I did not do what I needed to do to make this happen. I did not believe in myself enough, something I am well aware I have done throughout most of the days of my life. Believing takes effort. Doing takes effort. Effort takes effort.

Do you ever wonder what your life would have been like if you had followed your very first dream, the dream of your life that first spoke to you, the dream that made you sit up and recognize that you were in fact a person, with dreams and desires, and yes, possibilities? My first dream was to be a poet, and truthfully, I remember the exact moment I said to myself that this was what I wanted to be when I grew up: I was in the first grade in London, and I had just won my first poetry contest for a rather short and sweet poem about the seasons.

And then I ran into that English teacher in the seventh grade who took one look at what I had written and told me that it was not a poem because it did not go da-duh, da-duh, da-duh, and I believed him even though I knew better. And then I had that American literature professor as an undergraduate who told me that the only female poet of worth was Emily Dickinson, and I did not believe him because I had read other women, but I let him silence me.

“Mute Autumn odors. The
starflower, unbroken, passed
between home and chasm through
your memory.
A strange lostness was
palpably present, almost
you would
have lived.” ~ Paul Celan, from “Die Niemandsrose,” (No one’s rose), trans. Michael Hamburger

The dreams of lives I thought I might have:

  • Journalist for a large city paper (this I did not pursue because of love, not that he did not want me to but because I forgot to care)
  • Photojournalist traveling the world (never even tried)
  • State politician (at the time, this seemed like a great goal to have, and then, not)
  • Editor for a large corporation (I came close, but then I decided that my daughter needed her grandparents, and so I moved)
  • English professor at a liberal arts college (Where is the MFA or the PhD that would have allowed me to try for this?)
  • Published author of criminal mysteries (I have no excuses)
A Golovin Birches 1908-10

“Birches” (1908-10)
by Antonin Golovin

And then these, lesser things, that I have imagined I could do if I just took the time:

  • Sew a large quilt, one that could be handed down generation after generation
  • Have a large rose garden, filled with many varieties and scents
  • Learn to bake a wedding cake
  • Make my own soaps and salves and scrubs

My life of what-ifs is one long list of should and might, and my biggest hindrance has only ever been myself.

“oh it is the autumn light
that brings everything back in one hand
the light again of beginnings
the amber appearing as amber” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “September Plowing”

Isaac Levitan Autumn period Birches 1899 oil on cardboard

“Autumn. Birches” (1899, oil on cardboard)
by Isaac Levitan

I offer no excuses, no explanations. I am far too tired to make the effort.

And yet the poems, the sequences of words keep coming, too fast to be finessed well, a tumble of words and thoughts, and I am unused to this creative wellspring, not having seen its likes in years, decades, and I wonder why, why now, why when I gave up on the poems years ago.

Anyway, I wrote another poem today, and once again, I’m sharing, even though it is a first draft, even though it is rough, because the need to put this out here is stronger than my need to hide, so here is today’s:


 

In the bedroom

smells of my husband’s homemade soup
drift down the hall from the kitchen
he is cooking this for me,
his personal salve for my wounds
his quiet prayer for my wellness
in a few hours I will blow steam across the surface of the deep bowl
across the sunken bodies of the fulsome vegetables
let the liquid slip across my tongue
taste him in the broth:

hot enough to scorch my soul,
strong enough to feed my heart
thick enough to bind my rent spirit
copious enough to recall my father’s love
bitter enough to remind me of death
with just a dusting of grace

L. Liwag (November 9, 2014)

                   

Music by Lewis Watson, “Stay”

                   

Afterwards

Suddenly
everything feels afterwards,
stoic and inevitable,
my eyes ringed with the grease of rumor and complicity,
my hands eager to hold any agreeable infatuation
that might otherwise slip away.
Suddenly
it’s evening and the lights up and
down the street appear hopeful,
even magnanimous,
swollen as they are with ancient grievances
and souring schemes. The sky,
however,
appears unwelcoming,
and aloof, eager to surrender
its indifference to our suffering.
Speaking of suffering,
the houses—our sober, recalcitrant houses—
are swollen with dreams that have grown opaque with age,
hoarding as they do truths
untranslatable into auspicious beliefs.
Meanwhile,
our loneliness,
upon which so many laws are based,
continues to consume everything.
Suddenly,
regardless of what the gods say,
the present remains uninhabitable,
the past unforgiving of the harm it’s seen,
while
the future remains translucent
and unambiguous
in its desire to elude us.

~ Philip Schultz