“Time does not bring relief; you all have lied…” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay, from “[Time Does Not Bring Relief]”

Daphne Allen Night Covers the World with her Hair c1914-16

“Night Covers the World with Her Hair (c1914-16, watercolor)
by Daphne Allen

                   

“In the uncertain hour before the morning
Near the ending of interminable night” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “Little Gidding”

In the first part of the dream, the surgeon cuts out a small piece of my mother’s heart, about the size of a quarter. He hands it to me and tells me to pump it whenever she dies, and it will bring her back to life. I take the small piece of flesh and examine it, see the striations, wonder how I am supposed to do this. I awaken to the phone ringing.

Somehow, I go back to sleep, and the dream continues: My mother has come back to life, even though she died, even though she has been cremated (but in the dream she has been buried next to my father), she is back, and she knows that this is just a temporary pardon. For some reason, I go to a city official’s office. I don’t think it’s for a job interview, but it might be. He likes me. Not like that, but in a professional admiring way, says that he might be able to find a position for me in his government. I leave and go to a room where employees can rest. An old friend from high school is there, and she is still playing games with my head. We see a pile of shoes that someone has delivered as give-aways. I see a pair of sandals that I would like to get for Alexis, but I am not interested in the pumps with spiked heels as I no longer need to wear heels to work, but then I think that I might get this job. Someone comes to get me, tells me that the boss is waiting for me. I find out that there is a huge meeting of all the employees, and I’m late. I get a phone call at the last minute, and I find out that Corey is at work with a female co-worker, has no intention of taking care of my mother because he’s decided to stay with this woman, and I realize that my mother is at home alone, and I know that she is going to die soon. I have to decide between making the telephone call or going to the meeting. I take my phone into the meeting. My friend from high school is supposed to help me with the presentation, but she keeps messing me up on purpose to make me look stupid. I walk out, finally get my mother on the phone. She has walked down the block. I ask her why she has left the house as she knows that she is dying. She tells me she cannot sleep, and cannot stay in the house forever. I find her on the neighbor’s lawn. She is not dead yet. I put my hand in my pocket looking for the part of her heart that the surgeon has given me, but I cannot find it. I realize that no one is going to help me.

I am awakened once again by the telephone ringing…………………

Music by Andy Shauf, “Comfortable with the Silence”

                    

Go Ahead; Goodbye; Good Luck;
and Watch Out

You get to Gilead, let me know. That balm,
supposed to be so good for human hurts
—all wounds, holes, hollows, hungriness—
you tell me if it’s there, and how it works.

Till the time comes, I’ll look for further ways
with the old lack, the void, push it along
ahead of me in the only way we have
to carry this luggage of ours of hungriness
like an empty bag. You look, though. Let me know.

~ William Bronk

“The loveliest things in life are but shadows; they come and go, and change and fade away . . .” ~ Charles Dickens, from Martin Chuzzlewit

Kayama Matazo A Thousand Cranes 1970 color on silk, pair of six-folded screens

“A Thousand Cranes” (1970, color on silk, pair of six folded screens) by Kayama Matazo

                   

“I heard the steady sound of rain
and the soft lapping of water, and did not know
whether it was grief or joy or something other
that surged against my heart
and held me listening there so long and late.” ~ Peter Everwine, from “Rain”

Monday afternoon. Sunny and cold, 37 degrees.

Well, it’s been another long stretch between posts. As you can probably understand (or perhaps not), I haven’t had the wherewithal to write. I sit down here at my computer, and then I do one of three things: look online for books or makeup or whatever; take care of more of my mother’s affairs; play spider solitaire.

Kayama Matazo Moon 1983

“Moon” (1983) by Kayama Matazo

This morning when I awoke, I seriously thought of just staying in bed, never leaving, but my back hurt, and I needed to stretch, and besides, coffee . . .

My emotions go up and down and up and down, they swoop and swirl like the starlings’ murmurings, but without the natural beauty. I would like to be a bird, to float on the air, to move like that, to concentrate only on the concerns of eating, moving, and surviving, which, I suppose, is what life is, after all.

Sometimes, I sit in the bath at night with nothing but the candlelight, and I cry, sometimes softly, sometimes loudly, but I try to reserve the loud crying for times during which I am alone as I know that it gets to Brett and Corey. Sometimes, though, I just sit there, forget where I am or what I’m doing. I will tell you something truthfully: I did not anticipate how very much my mother’s death would affect me. I only have one message on my voice mail from her, and it’s the one in which she apologizes for forgetting my birthday. Do not ask how many times I have tortured myself listening to it.

“When things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It’s because a little piece gets lost—the two remaining ends couldn’t fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed.” ~ David Levithan, from Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Yesterday I went to one of those jewelry parties at my cousin’s house. It was nice to be invited, but I felt clumsy in my skin. All of these women, having easy conversations, laughing, smiling, sharing stories. I sat next to my aunt, and when she wasn’t there, I buried myself in catalogs, pretending to peruse the items.

I do not do socialization with strangers well.

Kayama Matazo Waves in Spring and Autumn 1966

“Waves in Spring and Autumn” (1966) by Kayama Matazo

I forced myself to stay for two hours, getting up, looking, nibbling, and when I thought I had been polite, I ordered the jewelry that I could not afford, thanked my hostess, and left.

Don’t get me wrong, I was so excited to receive the invitation. I sent my RSVP back immediately, and I tried to convince Alexis to go with me (she didn’t). I don’t know what I expected of myself, but I was unprepared for how unprepared I was. As you know, I do not leave the house much unless circumstances force me to, or someone in my family needs something. Perhaps I have forgotten how to socialize. People who knew me years ago would be astonished at the change. When I was much younger, I always had a circle about me; I could be lively, engaging even.

But now . . . I just don’t know, and the not knowing makes me want to hide even more.

“And I still don’t know if I’m a falcon,
a storm, or an unfinished song.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Ich lebe mein Leben in waschsenden Ringen (I live my life in widening circles)”

I have to admit, my unintentional leave of absence from this blog and from tumblr has helped in some ways. I do not remember the last time I went through my tumblr dashboard. I miss some parts of it—finding new artists, new quotes, new poems—but I am relieved from the sense of obligation that I imposed upon myself, that if I missed a few days, I would not stop until I had caught up, going back for days to see what I had missed.

Kayama Matazo Moon 1978 color on paper

“Moon” (1978, color on paper) by Kayama Matazo

As far as being here, though, that was something else. I just didn’t know what to say, and so I said . . .

nothing . . .

An old family friend called me on my mother’s birthday, but I wasn’t answering the phone that day. She left a lovely message, told me she was thinking about me, about my mom, that she loved me. I haven’t returned the call, probably won’t. Not because I don’t appreciate the words, but more that I just don’t think that I have words of my own.

The plan was to have a family dinner on Sunday the 16th, celebrate Eamonn’s birthday, and distribute some of mom’s ashes at both cemeteries (dad’s and Caitlin’s). The plan fell apart. Eamonn was too hungover. We had pizza with Lex, Mike, and Brett, and then on Monday, I made homemade spaghetti for Eamonn per his request. And then the weather got nasty again, and we decided just to postpone the ashes.

They are still in the trunk of my car. And I know that it might seem that that’s a horrible place for them, but I find it comforting, somehow. It’s my mother’s car, and she’s still in it.

Too weird?

“Write with blood, and you will find that blood is spirit.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from Thus Spoke Zarathustra

This week I have doctors’ appointments, and I need to finish wrangling with more of my mother’s affairs, the federal government and GEICO—both of which make me nauseous just to think about. Last week I set up a new insurance policy on her house, and this past weekend Brett spent the weekend in the house. We moved Earl Grey the cat to Alexis’s house, and he seems to have adapted well, so now the house is quiet when we walk in.

Kayama Matazo Flowers 1978 color on paper

“Flowers” (1978, color on paper) by Kayama Matazo

My mother’s house was never quiet. She could not abide silence, which is why at any given time of the night or day you would find the television blaring. But now? Nothing. That is another strange part.

I don’t know. Telephone calls, messages, policies, whatever. Today, I just cannot do it. I just cannot muster what it takes to head once more into the fray, yet I cannot help but feel guilty that I am not taking care of these things. My mother was such a stickler for paying everyone on time, early, never ever late, but I’ve run out of money. I’ve paid everything except for a couple of small things, but it’s the doing that is getting to me. The actual act of doing something.

Pardon me, please. I seem to be saying a whole lot of nothing.

“but I have the kind of patience
born of indifference and hate.

Maybe the river and I share this.” ~ Michael McGriff, from “Catfish”

The other morning when Tillie had awakened me around 4 a.m. to go out, I stood at the door and listened to the birds’ morning songs. I heard a new sound that I have never heard before. I stood there for a while and listened, and then I thought that I should probably record the sound so that I could find out what it was. I finally found my phone, went to the door, and the sound stopped.

Kayama Matazo Going to see cherry blossoms at night 1982

“Going to See Cherry Blossoms at Night” (1982) by Kayama Matazo

I don’t remember what it was, or why I was so enchanted by it. I had thought that it might be a bat, but I listened to some bat sounds online, and that doesn’t seem to be it. I know that we get bats in this area, but I’ve never seen one.

Anyway, I had forgotten how much I love the predawn bird song, something I used to love to listen to when my insomnia was in high gear. There is something beautiful about that hour, when the sounds of cars and trucks are almost non existent, the noise of people is tempered, and only the birds and night creatures hold sway.

The house is dark and still. Everyone else is deep in sleep. Just the dogs, me, and the birds. For that brief spell, it is almost perfect.

The only thing missing is the sound of water.

More later. Peace.

All images by Japanese artist Kayama Matazo (1927-2004)

Music by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera, “Say Something”

                   

The Piano Chord Most Adjacent to the Inexpressible

The piano chord most adjacent to the inexpressible is the
one that dissolves into flocks of flying birds

The tree as it moves through the breeze most
adjacent to conducting the sonorous
filaments of the air stands as tall as a
doorman to an entranceway to the eternal mysteries

The desert most adjacent to spiritual enlightenment is the
one whose dunes yesterday don’t resemble its
dunes today and whose dunes today
have slopes and dips totally ocean-like and unlike any of its
dunes tomorrow

The rain is finally falling after a month of drought
little earth-lips opening to drink in each drop
and the song each water-drinking element sings
resembles the chorus of an ancient opera sung among
cataclysmic rocks above tumultuous seas

There are no people in this poem
they are either asleep or haven’t been born yet
but the sound in the landscape most adjacent to the
deep heartfelt human voice
is the night-cricket seeming to long for a mate wherever
it may happen to hear its lament repeated
incessantly but melodiously through the dark

So like us
in catastrophe or anti-catastrophe
calling out to space from our centrifugal loneliness
with a voice most adjacent to the
silent nuzzling feeler to feeler of ants meeting from
opposite directions
and lights beaming from north and south and brightly
blending somewhere over the
Arctic in a purple and scarlet shivering aurora borealis
whose ripples are most adjacent to the
music of the spheres hanging down into the
visible from the invisible heavens whose
radiant flowing draperies curving through the folding air
they are

~ Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

“they swing over buildings, / dipping and rising; / they float like one stippled star / that opens, / becomes for a moment fragmented, / then closes again; / and you watch / and you try / but you simply can’t imagine / how they do it” ~ Mary Oliver, from “Starlings in Winter”

Kayama Matazo Frozen Forest 1960

“Frozen Forest” (1960)
by Kayama Matazo

                   

“Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it” ~ Mary Oliver, from “Starlings in Winter”

The murmuring of starlings is foremost in my mind. Their beautiful blackness, the harmony of their dips and sways. To have that ability, to move like that. Untethered. Wheeling to and fro. Sky and air, and nothing in between. Someday, I will see this. Someday.

Julio Barello Swoop Installation 1007 mri film and steel

“Swoop” Installation (1007 mri film and steel)
by Julio Barello

And as it’s going

And as it’s going often at love’s breaking,
The ghost of first days came again to us,
The silver willow through window then stretched in,
The silver beauty of her gentle branches.
The bird began to sing the song of light and pleasure
To us, who fears to lift looks from the earth,
Who are so lofty, bitter and intense,
About days when we were saved together.

~ Anna Akhmatova

                   

Gertrude Hermes, Starlings 1965, woodcut on wove

“Starlings” (1965, woodcut on wove)
by Gertrude Hermes

Against Starlings

1
Their song is almost painful the way it
penetrates the air—above the haze and
level of the fields a thin line drawn. A
wire. Where the birdcall goes to ground. But I’d
stand anyway under the oaks lining
the road and whistle, tireless with chances,
tossing, by the handful, the crushed stone.
All of them answered, none of them came down.
By evening there’d be hundreds filling the
trees past hearing, black along the branches.
They’d go off with the guns like buckshot, black,
filling the sky, falling. I held my ears.
The holes in the air closed quickly, then healed.
Birds were bloodless, like smoke, wind in a fleld—

2
But not to be confused with the cowbird,
its brown head, its conical sparrow’s bill,
nor with the red-wing, which is obvious,
even showy, blood or birthmark, nor with
the boat-tailed grackle—though at dusk, when they
gathered from the north, they were all blackbirds.
They were what the night brought, and the blown leaves,
and the cloud come down in the rain. The ease
of it, the way summer could be ending.
When I found one one morning it was the
color of oil in a pool of water,
bronze, blue-green, still shining. The parts that were
missing were throwaway, breast and belly
and the small ink and eye-ring of the eye—

3
Not to be compared with the last native
wild pigeon, trap shot high in Pike County,
Ohio, the fourth day of spring, nineteen
hundred—thirty years after the harvest
of millions fllled the buffalo trains east.
They were, by report, “the most numerous
bird ever to exist on earth,” what the
Narragansett called Wuskowhan, the blue
dove, the wanderer, whose flight is silent.
Not to be compared with the smaller, wild
mourning dove, which haunted the afternoon,
which you heard all day till dark. They
were the sound in my sleep those long naps home,
the last train calling down the line in time—

4
Sometimes, at the far end of a pasture,
the burdock and buckwheat thick as the grass
along the hedgework, you could still find nests,
some fallen, some you had to climb to. They
were a kind of evidence, a kind of
science, sticks, straw, and brilliant bits of glass.
My mother had a hat like that, feathered
flawed—she’d bought it used. It was intricate
and jewelled, the feathers scuffed like a jay’s,
and so stiff you could’ve carried water.
The millinery species is over.
Those nests had nothing in them. Still, sometimes
I’d wait until the autumn light was gone,
the sky half eggshell, half a starling’s wing—

5
Not to be compared with the fluted voice,
the five phrases in different pitches
of the thrush, the one Whitman heard, and Keats.
Stumus vulgaris vulgaris—not to
be confused with the soft talk and music.
the voice that calls the spirit from the wood.
Those that stayed the winter sat the chimney
to keep warm, and cried down the snow to fly
against the cold. They were impossible.
They’d be dead before spring, or disappear
into the white air.—Not to be confused
with the black leaves whirling up the windward
side of the house, caught in the chimney smoke,
the higher the more invisible—

6
Black.
I saw them cover the sky over a
building once, and storm an alley. They were
a gathering, whole. Yet on the window
sill, individual, stealing the grain
I put there, they’d almost look at me through
the glass. Something magical, practical.
They’d even graze the ground for what had dropped.
I wished for one to come into the house,
and left the window open just enough.
None ever did. That was another year.
What is to be feared is emptiness and
nothing to fill it. I threw a stone or
I didn’t throw a stone is one language—
the vowel is a small leaf on the tongue.

~ Stanley Plumly

                     

Music by Agnes Obel, “Falling, Catching”