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

 

 

“Time has frozen. It sits on me, choking me.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from Memory for Forgetfulness

Balthus Window, Cour de Rohan 1951 oil on canvas

“Window, Cour de Rohan” (1951, oil on canvas)
by Balthus


“She was looking at the window. The words sounded as if they were floating like flowers on water out there, cut off from them all, as if no one had said them, but they had come into existence of themselves. She did not know what they meant, but, like music, the words seemed to be spoken by her own voice, outside herself, saying quite easily and naturally what had been in her mind while she said different things.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from To The Lighthouse

Saturday evening. Partly cloudy and cold, 41 degrees.

Pablo Picasso View of Riera de Sant Joan from the Window 1900 oil on wood

“View of Riera de Sant Joan from the Window” (1900, oil on wood)
by Pablo Picasso

I have spent most of the day on the computer, dabbling, as it were, and in between, another poem, another few lines. I am more grateful for this wellspring than I let on, too afraid of the day on which no words come, too afraid that that day will be the beginning of many more days, the beginning of years before more poems come again, if they come at all.

So I pretend on here that it’s really no big deal that I am again writing poems, downplay their appearance as mere happenstance. But you, dear reader, see through it all. Don’t you?

All the Silences I’ve Been Inclined To

“Story inclines to moment.
Moment inclines to silence.” ~ Source unknown

Within the steady beat of the metronome
lies the fiction of appearances:
real time is never so evenly spaced.
It moves slowly, like a rush hour freeway,
or skips entire days in a leap,
leaving Tuesday afternoon
only to move headlong into Friday night

Four-four time is a falsehood,
a myth about common time
based on countable seconds,
but I have yet to come upon
a single late afternoon
without struggling for air
somewhere around 2 pm.

And though I might contemplate
the silences of the minutes
between midnight and dawn,
I don’t think I’ll ever really understand
how so much nothingness
can claim us abruptly
like New Year’s eve fireworks
ablaze too soon.

L. Liwag
November 15, 2014

                   

Music by Rosi Golan, “Everything is Brilliant”

“Write what should not be forgotten.” ~ Isabel Allende


“Our lives, so settled, so specific, are built on happenstance.” ~ Anna Quindlen, from Every Last One

Monday afternoon. Wispy clouds and lovely, 64 degrees.

I don’t know if it’s apparent, but I’m making an effort to write as much as possible lately, here and elsewhere. Part of the reason for my being so prolific is that my computer truly is on its last legs. I often get black screen in the middle of trying to do something, that or everything freezes as the fan makes this very loud sound. Perhaps the fear of this loss is also what is driving the poems that keep coming. I’m not complaining about the result, just the impetus driving it.

"Möwenschwarm an der Ostee" (1914, oil on masonite)

“Möwenschwarm an der Ostee” (1914, oil on masonite)

Brett has priced building a CPU for me with lots of memory and speed, to allow me to continue in my habits of having five to ten tabs open at any given time—mail, a couple of Word Press tabs, at least one tumblr tab, and then usually one or two art-related tabs, YouTube, and my MP3 converter. Yes, I know, I have probably hastened my computer’s demise, but I want and need a workhorse, even though the work is only for me.

So anyway, Santa, if you’re listening? A new ‘puter for Christmas would be nice . . .

“where is that voice from nowhere to remind us
that the holy ground we walk on, purified by native blood has rooted trees
whose fallen leaves now colour code a sacred list of demands?

who among us can give translation of autumn’s hues to morning news?” ~ Saul Williams, from “Bloodletting”

I don’t remember last night’s dreams, oddly enough. I can’t recall a single second. How strange . . . I watched “Walking Dead” last night, so maybe I dreamed of zombies . . . whatever . . .

Karl Hagemeister Wildpark bei Geltow 1933

“Wildpark be Beltow” (1933)

I have Olivia today and Wednesday, and Corey flies home Wednesday evening. He will be home for Thanksgiving, and so we must plan the family dinner, and it will be my first without either of my parents, and would that I could just lie in bed all day, beneath a tumble of blankets, and immerse myself in a book. I really have no idea how I will do it, or if I will actually be able. I only know that I must try, even though I really do not want to.

Life goes on for everyone else, regardless of what I am feeling or how much pain I am in. That is just the way of the world. And so I will probably make my mother’s recipe for cranberry relish, and drink wine as I prepare everything, and just wait for the time after dinner when I can become silent once again.

“Moments like this act as magical interludes, placing our hearts at the edge of our souls: fleetingly, yet intensely, a fragment of eternity has come to enrich time. Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn—and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continues to throb.” ~ Muriel Barbery, from The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Karl Hagemeister Verschneites Gehölz am Ufer des Schwielowsees 1905 pastel on canvas

“Verschneites Gehölz am Ufer des Schwielowsees” (1905, pastel on canvas)

Here is what I have written so far today:

Olivia at Two

Did I ever
walk through the days as she does,
completely unfettered,
keen to commune with whatever comes,
barred by none of life’s lessons—
actions and consequences
absent from her tableau,
and without them,
no hesitation or trepidation
about how fate
can amass repercussions
without regard.
So I will grip fear for her,
tight in my fist, always aware
of destiny’s cruel dead reckoning.

Is it innocence or inexperience
that lets her grab the wet mass
of mud and grass,
examine the detached cricket’s legs
deposited on the porch,
by some nocturnal scavenger?
And what of her fierce pride
in sharing the rusty screw
she has somehow removed
from the old back door?
How curious I am
to see if I can relearn
this remarkable state
of permanent grace,
to see as she sees,
to feel without hindrance
before we teach her
to stay within the lines,
and put away her childish things
because life demands it of us all.

L. Liwag
November 10, 2014

Oh well. Hope your week is starting out on a mellow note . . .

All images are by German artist Karl Hagemeister (1848-1933). I really like his trees.

Music by Anadel, “Remember Me”

                   

What We Need

The Emperor,
his bullies
and henchmen
terrorize the world
every day,

which is why
every day

we need

a little poem
of kindness,

a small song
of peace

a brief moment
of joy.

~ David Budbill

“Can I never escape this interminable mourning for myself?” ~ Susan Sontag, from Reborn: Journals & Notebooks

Valentine Cameron Prinsep Il Barbagianni aka The Owl 1863 oil on canvas

“Il Barbagianni (The Owl)” (1863, oil on canvas)
by Valentine Cameron Prinsep


 

“. . . it is best to leave some things unsaid, or else I shall get confused again. Within this irreparable little crack decay has set in – ah, I think I shall yet be able to express it all—the dreams, the coalescence, the disintegration—All my best words are deserters and do not answer the trumpet call, and the remainder are cripples.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov, from Invitation to a Beheading

Saturday afternoon. Partly cloudy and cooler, 56 degrees.

This dream went on and on: My staff has turned against me and is spreading slanderous rumors. They are unaware that I am in the process of transitioning to a different department to a new position. I have a meeting with the deputy head, during which we are interrupted constantly by members of my staff who want to make themselves heard. I find the whole thing both sad and amusing. At some point, the deputy remembers that he needs to find a physicist, and I remember someone who has been overlooked. There is a meeting with legal. One of the staff members is someone with whom I was friends in high school. I have not seen her in years and years, so why is she in my dream spreading lies about me? Another staff member is the boss’s daughter, but she is not trustworthy. At some point, Laurence Fishburne appears in character as Morpheus. There is a large-fanged tiger that is ripping the faces off people. There is an escape pod from a shuttle. The dogs awaken me mid-dream, and I am completely discombobulated . . .

“But the heart has its own memory and I have forgotten nothing . . .” ~ Albert Camus, from The Fall

So I wrote a poem, or a sequence of poems. As with all of my poems, I am reluctant to share, but my need to voice overcomes my need to hide. The words were burning my fingers, a hard scrabble to release them. I have written them as a sequence, but I am unsure if they belong together, yet when I reread, I cannot imagine them individually.

I am hovering above Nietzsche’s abyss, as it were. Be kind . . .

Notes from November 7

I.
The Bitter Taste of Love

Be with me now great warrior
whose strength depends solely
on the favours of a woman. ~ Leonard Cohen, “The Next One”

He smells like leftover whiskey
and salt, sweet with a hint of fire
and tears and I would lay bare
every inch of my soul
to be near him once more,
would offer up my heart
to a ravenous raven
ignoring the deep fissures left
by its hooked beak,
all—all of it,
again and again,
if only to taste
the barest hint,
the memory of salt’s coarse grains
that he leaves on my lips
after he is done with me

II.
Baying at the moon

And when they tell you
that it’s done,
finished,
you will leave by the door from which
you entered,
step away from their insistent pandering
And when you have at last found
a silent hall,
you will unfurl a howl
like the savage animal within you,
the one that bites and rends and
leaves nothing for no one
After, much later,
you will walk back through the door,
untroubled, as if their sobering words
never touched you

III.
Calendar Girl

One-inch square on the page,
red-encircled,
within it, a single name
Year after year you turn the pages
knowing this number awaits you
as another year nears its end,
poised like a beast
who has caught the scent of fear,
and smirking through jagged teeth,
anticipates the moment of the kill.
And though you try to contain it,
make it but a caesura,
the space around it widens
like a crack in the walkway
rent by incessant pounding rain.
Would that you could rub it out of existence
this infernal remembrance,
but it lingers like the blood on Lady Macbeth’s hands,
thick and viscous—
impermeable to desire
or prayer.

IV.
Dogs of War

…and my need for closeness outweighs my sense of self-preservation. ~ Virginia Woolf

“well, what do you think it means,” she asks, just a hint of a smile on her lips
and you know, know,
this woman has seen inside you, senses your lies before they leave your tongue,
is not fooled by the ways you try to steady your breathing
in your failed attempts to appear calm,
and anyway,
what harm could it do now
to let the lie leave your lips,
utter the three words
you have come to associate with your truth,
for how can you know, really, what any of this means
the wicked ways of the world,
how you have been left stranded
in a café somewhere on the east side of town
with just enough coins for a cup of their burned coffee,
but no money for the sweet roll you so desperately crave,
the sweetness that is so lacking in your veins,
and so you look down and give life to the lie
because it is all you have left
“i don’t know”

V.
The Weight of all Things

ad pondus omnium

You find yourself thinking of the man who is gone,
the one who stood in the room next to you,
the one who left for truer love,
and you wonder how he has greeted the day,
but you must never ask,
never let on that he is anything more than memory.
After all, the sliver of your soul that he erased
has been remade by another,
one who does not leave you gasping
on the cold white tiles
of your bathroom floor,
multi-colored pills spilled around you
like perverse tic tacs, ready to freshen
your final breaths.
So you do not call, and instead
let your fingers slide across the letters,
spelling out three words so banal
they make you blink in shame:
how are you
when what you want to ask
is if he remembers the sterility of the room,
the constant hum of the white noise,
if the memory still slips into his consciousness,
if his pain is as present as yours
if he ever thinks about death, about dying
about her.
You let your fingers hover but a second
before you obliterate the words,
go back to pretending
his existence, like the past,
was merely a handful of ashes.

                   

Music by Mree, “You Are” (featuring Jared Foldy)

 

“Life might be brief and transient, scrawled in the sand. But death was written in a much harder alphabet.” ~ Stephen Booth, from Dancing with the Virgins


No matter how careful you are, there’s going to be the sense you missed something, the collapsed feeling under your skin that you didn’t experience it all. There’s that fallen heart feeling that you rushed right through the moments where you should’ve been paying attention.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, from Invisible Monsters

Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and 83 degrees, yes, 83 degrees . . . whatever . . .

It’s supposed to be “Two for Tuesday,” but I’m pushing Tuesday to Wednesday because I was up until almost 6 a.m., thinking about words, words that I wanted to say, but I kept myself away from the keyboard because I knew that once I began, it might be days before I stopped. Days, hours, it matters not.

Odilon Redon Closed Eyes 1890 oil on canvas

“Closed Eyes” (1890, oil on canvas)
by Odilon Redon

This is what kept me awake: My mother was the one who realized that something was wrong with Caitlin. Not me. She did. She took one look at her and said, “What’s wrong with her eyes?” She said they were bulging. I didn’t really see it, didn’t want to see it, shrugged it off as my mother being overprotective of her granddaughters in the same way that she was overprotective of me.

She was right.

That phone call I received at my very first faculty meeting? That one? It was because my mother had put Caitlin in the car and had taken her to the pediatrician’s office and made them look at her eyes. You see, after the ER doctor had said that she had a virus, I had taken Caitlin to the pediatrician and said that my mother thought her eyes looked funny. The one doctor, the one I never really liked, poo pooed the comment.

My mother was right. I was wrong. The ER resident was wrong. The pediatrician was wrong. It took my mother taking Caitlin to see the other pediatrician in the practice, the gentle one who listened to every word you said—it took that for someone to finally pay attention and send Caitlin to the Children’s Hospital, the hospital that found the brain tumor.

My mother was right.

How children think of death is how the shadows
gather between trees: a hiding place
for everything the grown-ups cannot name.
” ~ John Burnside, from “The Hunt in the Forest”

Odilon Redon Ophelia

“Ophelia V” (c1905)
by Odilon Redon

Look, you’re probably wondering why I’m going over this yet again, but all I can say in way of explanation is one word: fall. Autumn is my best and worst of times. I love every natural aspect of the  season, yet the way in which my emotional well-being goes into free fall more often than not leaves me tortured. Nietzsche said it best when he said that autumn was “more the season of the soul than the season of nature.”

Example: Yesterday, after getting my fasting labs done in the early morning, and then having my six-month checkup with my PCP, all I could think about were curly fries. Weird, I know. So I had to maneuver the hell that is a major thoroughfare that it still under construction to get to the nearest Arby’s. My timing was lousy as the nearby grade school was getting out at the same time. Parents in their cars lined both sides of the streets. No one would let me turn into the narrow street. The resultant snafu left me in tears.

Yes, tears, as in crying in the car, which, if you’ve ever been in the car with me, is completely uncharaceristic. Crying over curly fries, crying over curly fries that I couldn’t eat once I had ordered them. Then yesterday evening as I was trying to force myself to post something, I came across the story about a journalist who was beheaded by ISIS, and again, I cried.

Bed. Yes, bed would make it better. But bed, not so much. No sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about my mother and Caitlin’s eyes, which leads me to this moment.

“. . . how come sorrow is as heavy, lumpen and impenetrably black as an anvil?” ~ Agnès Desarthe, from Chez Moi

November will rear its ugly head in just a few days, and with it I have to confront once again the losses of my daughter, my father, my friend, and yes, even my dog. Isn’t it time to let go, past time, you ask?

Odilon Redon The Yellow Cape 1895 pastel on paper

“The Yellow Cape” (1895, pastel on paper)
by Odilon Redon

Beh. Of course it is. But that’s for normal people, people who do not obsess and obsess and obsess over perceived failings. Example: I did not clean the portal lines that had been inserted into Caitlin’s chest the day that I had taken her in for a follow-up MRI. Why do I remember this? Who knows, but I remember vividly doing a haphazard job of inserting the flushing material in the waiting room at CHKD before they took her into the MRI suite because I wanted to make sure that I had done this one thing for my daughter that I was tasked to do on a daily basis.

Did that failure to use a one-inch square of alcohol on a gauze pad lead to infection? Who knows? Possibly? Probably? Probably not?

The point is that I REMEMBER. I cannot forget. Just as I cannot forget that I did not go back to the hospital that night before my father died even though I had promised his unconscious body that I would come back and spend the night at the hospital. Exhaustion and relief at being away from the white noise of the ICU gave me a false sense of relief, and so I went to bed, and he died in the middle of the night alone.

“How long it takes me to climb into grief!
Fifty years old, and still held in the dark,
in the unfinished, the hopeful, what longs for solution.” ~ Robert Bly, from “A Ramage for the Star Man, Mourning”

Enough, you say. Stop this madness, you say. No, not nearly . . .

When I left my mother’s room that Thursday afternoon, I secretly congratulated myself on making such a speedy getaway, leaving my mother to talk the ear off the social worker. I had work to do. I needed to get her house ready for her to come home. There was snow to be removed. And so I had a brief visit, long enough for her to bitch at me, and then I left, and then she died the next morning, sometime, they are guessing around 9, alone.

Odilon Redon Closed Eyes c1894 oil on canvas

“Closed Eyes” (c1894, oil on canvas)
by Odilon Redon

And did I mention that that best friend I lovingly wrote about years ago in my Vale et Memini series, the one who had a brain tumor and survived? Her? Did I mention that she died and I didn’t find out until a few years later, that I never even went to the funeral because I didn’t know that there was a funeral, and the other night it suddenly came to me that hell, I was her eldest daughter’s godmother, a sacred honor that I had completely washed from my memory.

And that other anamchara friend, the one who I always thought I’d be bonded to in perpetuity? I haven’t corresponded with her in years, other than an obligatory Christmas card. Yes, I am a careless friend, the kind of person who withdraws so completely that the only interactions I still have with friends occur in the midst of troubled sleep.

And then there is the nagging curse I imposed upon myself when Corey and I first got together: I had been so certain that he wouldn’t have to be burdened with me for years and years because I never wanted him to see me get old, and so I had this feeling, this sense, that I would die when I was 56. And you hear of people who have feelings that they will die young, in their teens, who do, and people who have a feeling that they will not live to be old, and they do not, and so what have I done to myself.

“Endlessness runs in you like leaves on the tree of night.” ~ Anne Carson, from “TV Men: The Sleeper”

Listen, if you recently subscribed to this blog because you found it amusing and slightly entertaining, or if you enjoyed the art or the poetry or the music, if that was your reason? Well I’m sorry. Because this post is really what this blog is about. This endless cacophony of doubt, and blame, and grief, and sorrow, and pain.

That other person, the one who offers up stuff from Takei’s tumblr or other such sites? She’s a phony. She is neither glib nor witty. She masks all of the pain behind little ditties about animals and absurd abuses of the English language because to do otherwise would be peering far too keenly in Nietzsche’s abyss, and we all know what happens when you do that.

Odilon Redon GIrl with Chrysanthemums c1905 pastel on paper

“Girl with Chrysanthemums” (c1905, pastel on paper)
by Odilon Redon

The only good thing about this post is that I did not get out of bed at 4 a.m. to begin it. Had I done so, I am completely certain that the maudlin factor would have been  even worse, if you can imagine that.

I always, always know when the words are going to come fast and furious, when there is no stemming of the onslaught. It has always been this way, since I was but a child, hiding in my room, trying not to let my mother see that yet another book had reduced me to tears and heartache because her solution, of course, was to think happy thoughts, and for a soul such as mine, one might as well say something along the line of “you could be happy if you just tried.”

Oh, but if you only knew the truth of my esse, my life force, that tortured, tormented, and torrid do not begin to encompass the four corners of my heart.

More later. Peace.

All images by French artist Odilon Redon (1840-1916). I am intrigued by how many of the subjects in his paintings have closed eyes or eyes narrowly opened, to which I can relate: going through life with eyes closed, surrounded by beauty . . .

Music by Will Hoge, “When I Get My Wings”

                    

Consider the Space Between Stars 

Consider the white space
between words on a page, not just
the margins around them.

Or the space between thoughts:
instants when the mind is inventing
exactly what it thinks

and the mouth waits
to be filled with language.
Consider the space

between lovers after a quarrel,
the white sheet a cold metaphor
between them.

Now picture the brief space
before death enters, hat in hand:
vanishing years, filled with light.

~ Linda Pastan