“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

“For it is all or nothing in this life, for there is no other.” ~ Larry Levis, from “At the Grave of My Guardian Angel: St. Louis Cemetery, New Orleans”

“Hamstead through a Window” (1937)
by Walker Evans

                    

“Oh live oak, thoughtless beauty in a century of pulpy memoirs,
Spreading into the early morning sunlight
As if it could never be otherwise, as if it were all a pure proclamation of leaves & a final quiet—”

~ Larry Levis, from “At the Grave of My Guardian Angel: St. Louis Cemetery, New Orleans”

Apparently my blog is six years old today. Happy anniversary . . . I think . . .

Elegy with a Thimbleful of Water in the Cage

It’s a list of what I cannot touch:

Some dandelions & black eyed susans growing back, like innocence
Itself, with its thoughtless style,

Over an abandoned labor camp south of Piedra;

And the oldest trees, in that part of Paris with a name I forget,
Propped up with sticks to keep their limbs from cracking,

And beneath such quiet, a woman with a cane,

And knowing, if I came back, I could not find them again;

And a cat I remember who slept on the burnished mahogany
In the scooped out beveled place on the counter below

The iron grillwork, the way you had to pass your letter over him
As he slept through those warm afternoons

In New Hampshire, the gray fur stirring a little as he inhaled;

The small rural post office growing smaller, then lost, tucked
Into the shoreline of the lake when I looked back;

Country music from a lone radio in an orchard there.
The first frost already on the ground.

~

And those who slipped out of their names, as if called
Out of them, as if they had been waiting

To be called:

Stavros lecturing from his bequeathed chair at the Cafe Midi,
In the old Tower Theatre District, his unending solo

Above the traffic on Olive, asking if we knew what happened
To the Sibyl at Cumae after Ovid had told her story,

After Petronius had swept the grains of sand from it, how,

Granted eternal life, she had forgotten to ask for youth, & so,
As she kept aging, as her body shrank within itself

And the centuries passed, she finally

Became so tiny they had to put her into a jar, at which point
Petronious lost track of her, lost interest in her,

And at which point she began to suffocate

In the jar, suffocate without being able to die, until, finally,
A Phoenician sailor slipped the gray piece of pottery—

Its hue like an overcast sky & revealing even less—

Into his pocket, & sold it on the docks at Piraeus to a shop owner
Who, hearing her gasp, placed her in a bird cage

On a side street just off Onmonios Square, not to possess her,

But to protect her from pedestrians, & the boys of Athens rattled
The bars of the cage with sticks as they ran past yelling,

“Sibyl, Sibyl, what do you want?”—each generation having to
Listen more closely than the one before it to hear

The faintest whispered rasp from the small bitter seed
Of her tongue as she answered them with the same

Remark passing through time, “I want to die!” As time passed & she
Gradually grew invisible, the boys had to press

Their ears against the cage to hear her,

And then one day the voice became too faint, no one could hear it,
And after that they stopped telling

The story. And then it wasn’t a story, it was only an empty cage
That hung outside a shop among the increasing

Noise of traffic, &, from the Square itself, blaring from loudspeakers,
The shattered glass & bread of political speeches

That went on half the night, & the intermittent music of strip shows
In summer when the doors of the bars were left open,

And then, Stavros said, the sun shone straight through the cage.

You could see there was nothing inside it, he said, unless you noticed
How one of the little perches swung back & forth, almost

Imperceptibly there, though the street was hot, windless; or unless
You thought you saw a trace of something flicker across

The small mirror above the thimbleful of water, which of course
Shouldn’t have been there, which should have evaporated

Like the voice that went on whispering ceaselessly its dry rage

Without listeners. He said that even if anyone heard it,
They could not have recognized the dialect

As anything human.

He would lie awake, the only boy in Athens who

Still heard it repeating its wish to die, & he was not surprised
He said, when the streets, the bars & strip shows,

Began to fill with German officers, or when the loudspeakers
And the small platform in the Square were, one day,

Shattered into a thousand pieces.

As the years passed, as even the sunlight began to seem
As if it was listening to him outside the windows

Of the Midi, he began to lose interest in stories, & to speak
Only in abstractions, to speak only of theories,

Never of things.

Then he began to come in less frequently, & when he did,
He no longer spoke at all. And so,

Along the boulevards in winter the bare limbs of the trees
One passed in the city became again

Only the bare limbs of trees, no girl stepped into them
To tell us of their stillness. We would hear

Rumors of Stavros following the gypsy pentacostalists into
Their tents, accounts of him speaking in tongues;

Glossalalia, he once said, which was all speech, & none.

In a way, it didn’t matter anymore. Something in time was fading—
And though girls still came to the cafe to flirt or argue politics

Or buy drugs from the two ancient boys expressionless as lizards
Now as they bent above a chessboard—

By summer the city parks had grown dangerous.

No one went there anymore to drink wine, dance, & listen
To metal amplified until it seemed, as it had

Seemed once, the bitter, cleansing angel released at last from what
Fettered it inside us. And maybe there

Wasn’t any angel after all. The times had changed. It became
Difficult to tell for sure. And anyway,

There was a law against it now, a law against gathering at night
In the parks was actually all that the law

Said was forbidden for us to do, but it came to the same thing.
It meant you were no longer permitted to know,

Or to decide for yourself,

Whether there was an angel inside you, or whether there wasn’t.

~

Poverty is what happens at the end of any story, including this one,
When there are too many stories.

When you can believe in all of them, & so believe in none;
When one condition is as good as any other.

The swirl of wood grain in the desk, is it the face of an angel, or
The photograph of a girl, the only widow in her high school,

After she has decided to turn herself

Into a tree? (It was a rainy afternoon, & her van skidded at sixty;
For a split second the trunk of an oak had never seemed

So solemn as it did then, widening before her.)

Or is it Misfortune itself, or the little grimace the woman
Makes with her mouth above the cane,

There, then not there, then there again?

Or is the place where all the comparisons, the little comforts
Like the cane she’s leaning on, give way beneath us?

~

What do you do when nothing calls you anymore?
When you turn & there is only the light filling the empty window?

When the angel fasting inside you has grown so thin it flies
Out of you a last time without your

Knowing it, & the water dries up in its thimble, & the one swing
In the cage comes to rest after its almost imperceptible,

Almost endless, swaying?

~

I’m going to stare at the whorled grain of wood in this desk
I’m bent over until it’s infinite,

I’m going to make it talk, I’m going to make it

Confess everything.

I was about to ask you if you were cold, if you wanted a sweater, Because . . .
well, as Stavros would say

Before he began one of those

Stories that seemed endless, the sun pressing against
The windows of the cafe & glinting off the stalled traffic

Just beyond them, this could take a while;


I pass the letter I wrote to you over the sleeping cat & beyond

the iron grillwork, into the irretrievable.

~ Larry Levis

                   

Music by Agnes Obel, “Fuel to Fire”