“Memory swells our reflections.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from ” Mural”

Hovsep Pushman Reflections 2, oil on board 1920s

“Reflections 2″ (1920s, oil on board)
by Hovsep Pushman


 “I am convinced that memory has a gravitational force. It is constantly attracting us. Those who have a memory are able live in the fragile present moment. Those who have none don’t live anywhere.” ~ Patricio Guzmán, from Nostalgia for the Light

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and not so cold, 50 degrees.

So late last night I wrote another poem. I’ve had the first line in my head for about a week, mulling it over, and then it came to me. It’s about my mom, so I really can’t tell if it’s any good. But I like the title . . .

Anyway, I’m hoping to put up the tree today, but I’m at the mercy of my sons, so I’m not counting on it. You see, Corey took all of the Christmas stuff—decorations, wrapping paper, tree—and put it in my mom’s garage, which is huge. I need all of it to come back over here. Alexis still has Corey’s truck, although I found out that Mike’s been driving it, which doesn’t make sense because it costs a fortune to fill up, but the Lex saga continues unabated, and I don’t want to talk about that right now.

Hovsep Pushman The Violets of Yesterday

“The Violets of Yesterday” (1920s-30s, oil)
by Hovsep Pushman

But because I don’t have the truck, I need Eamonn’s SUV. Unfortunately, on Friday, one of Eamonn’s closest friends died. I don’t know the circumstances yet, but I’m really hoping it wasn’t a suicide. So Eamonn is pretty devastated, and I don’t want to push him to bring over everything, even though he said earlier that he would help.

Brett and Em are coming over to do the outside lights, and they are bringing some stuff with them, but he can’t fit a lot into that old Honda, so I have no idea what I’m going to have here and what’s going to still be in the garage, and so once again, everything is much more complicated than it should be, and stressing over it and everything else is not helping me to get in the holiday spirit, as it were.

“Longing is not memory, but rather what is selected from memory’s museum. Longing is selective, like an adept gardener. It is the replaying of a memory after its blemishes have been removed.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish

So perhaps I shall turn the rest of this into a random thoughts post . . . yes . . . why not?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Harmony in Silver and Green” (nd, oil on panel, detail)
by Hovsep Pushman

  • I have read that a movie is on the horizon called Big Eyes, or something like that; it is based on those pictures of children with huge eyes, popular in the 60s, I think.
  • I have never understood the attraction of those images, but I remember that one of the grocery stores that my mom frequented gave away reproductions.
  • That was when you could actually get encyclopedias and such for coupons earned on purchases. (Remember green stamps? I do, vaguely) . . .
  • Apparently the artist (Keane) who became famous for painting those images did not actually paint them. His wife did.
  • Another woman shafted by the system.
  • Those pictures always freaked me out as a kid.
  • The irony is that today, most cartoons and comics (especially Asian anime) feature characters with over-sized eyes.
  • I still find that kind of characterization creepy.

“Memory belongs to the imagination.” ~ Alain Robbe-Grillet, from The Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction, No. 91″

So since this post is kind of about memory, here are a few more random ones:

Hovsep Pushman Statue, Vase and Bowl color lithograph

“Still Life: Vase and Bowl” (nd, oil)
by Hovsep Pushman

  • The first bit of verse that I memorized: “Where the bee sucks, there suck I: /In a cowslip’s bell I lie;”
  • It was by Shakespeare; I was seven or eight.
  • The first book of poetry that I ever owned: A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • I think that it was given to me right before we moved to the Philippines after my father retired from the Navy.
  • I once thought about memorizing “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Just to see if I could.
  • I was 11.
  • I remember the first line of a truly dreadful poem that I wrote in the 9th grade: “I, am nothing, without you”
  • I thought that putting the commas in would give me pauses.

“Nothing is left of that time beyond memories, only a faint remembering.” ~ Cesare Pavese

Hovsep Pushman Reflections oil on panel

“Reflections” (nd, oil on panel)
by Hovsep Pushman

Do you want to know something ironic? I think my memories of my early life are more easily accessible than my memories of the last ten years.

  • My mother once put me up to engaging my father in conversation in a very proper British accent while Dad was talking to someone else.
  • I did it. I remember I began with, “Father, dear. Mummy has . . .”
  • That’s all I remember of that, but can you imagine how strange that man must have thought I was, how strange our family was?
  • I once spent about four weeks speaking in nothing but a Cockney accent
  • It became so much of a habit that I actually answered the phone by saying, “‘Ello, luv.”
  • I really should have been on the stage.
  • Speaking of which, I gave serious thought to moving to New York right after high school graduation, but I’m pretty sure my mother talked me out of it.
  • As someone who loved to pretend and act, how did I end up with three kids who are all afraid to be on a stage?

“I was going to be a memory when I grew up.” ~ Alejandro Zambra, from Ways of Going Home

Let’s bring this full circle:

Hovsep Pushman Silence Oil on canvas

“Silence” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Hovsep Pushman

  • When I was about 8 or 9, my mother told me that I could marry the Prince of Wales.
  • Where did my mother get her airs from?
  • She never got over leaving London and coming back to the states.
  • I wish she had gone back to London for a visit, yet I’m glad that she didn’t because the London of today is nothing like the London of my childhood.
  • I just had a flash of a wild memory: My dad shipped his convertible to London when he was transferred there. We used to go on country drives on Sunday, you know, family, friends, picnics . . . I had seen in some movie how this glamorous woman sat up on the back seat of the convertible and let the wind blow through her hair. You guessed it, while no one was paying any attention to me, I got up on the back seat (on the part that housed the folded soft top) and sat there for a good part of the drive until my mother turned around and saw me.
  • I still wonder if my dad saw me in the rear view mirror and didn’t do anything because he thought it was funny.
  • No seat belts for us.
  • I guess I got my airs from my mother and movies.

My new poem is below. I’ve also included a particularly beautiful poem by Philip Shultz, not because I’m comparing mine to his, but because I love how it ties in to the idea of memory.

More later. Peace.

All images are by Armenian artist Hovsep Pushman (1877-1966).

Music by Memoryhouse, “Old Haunts (Aurora Remix)”

                   

Shopping at Wal-Mart the Week before Christmas

It all began with the Almond Rocha, you see,
the richly colored pink and gold tin
I took from the shelf without thinking,
one of my mother’s favorites, even though
each time I gifted her this sweet,
I was sure to hear a weary sigh
followed by the words,
I have diabetes, you know,
even as she dug into the can
for one of the gold, foil-wrapped
butter crunch toffees, as if somehow
the knowledge of her condition
had slipped my mind
sometime since the last time
she had reminded me
of the circumstance she herself
ignored so judiciously,
but every Christmas
I would give her a large tin
because it was the only present
I was sure she wouldn’t hate, the only one
that wouldn’t have to go back to the store
for one reason or another,
and I’ll let you in
on another little secret—
I didn’t find a single empty tin
when I spent those long winter days
erasing her from the home
in which she had spent almost
a half century, not one
nestled among the endless packs
of charity greeting cards
with their insipid messages,
not a single one
hidden among the baskets
filled with long-dried bingo markers
in red and green and blue,
not even one left neglected
in the old bar, where funnily enough,
I found an almost empty bottle of tequila
and a very dusty liqueur bottle
shaped like a monk.
So I replaced the new tin on the shelf,
among all the other holidays confections,
left my half-filled cart
of soaps, nail polish,
and lemons, and promptly
walked out into the night
before the memory of her voice
could catch me.

L. Liwag
December 14, 2014

                   

Talking to Ourselves

A woman in my doctor’s office last week
couldn’t stop talking about Niagara Falls,
the difference between dog and deer ticks,
how her oldest boy, killed in Iraq, would lie
with her at night in the summer grass, singing
Puccini. Her eyes looked at me but saw only
the saffron swirls of the quivering heavens.

Yesterday, Mr. Miller, our tidy neighbor,
stopped under our lopsided maple to explain
how his wife of sixty years died last month
of Alzheimer’s. I stood there, listening to
his longing reach across the darkness with
each bruised breath of his eloquent singing.

This morning my five-year-old asked himself
why he’d come into the kitchen. I understood
he was thinking out loud, personifying himself,
but the intimacy of his small voice was surprising.

When my father’s vending business was failing,
he’d talk to himself while driving, his lips
silently moving, his black eyes deliquescent.
He didn’t care that I was there, listening,
what he was saying was too important.

“Too important,” I hear myself saying
in the kitchen, putting the dishes away,
and my wife looks up from her reading
and asks, “What’s that you said?”

~ Philip Schultz

“I’m not quite the last.” ~ Marcus Sedgwick, from Midwinter Blood

Carl Larsson Midvinterblot 1915 oil on canvas

“Midvinerblot” (1915, oil on canvas)
by Carl Larsson, in situ at the National Museum in Stockholm


“Indeed. People think the name of this island means ‘blessed,’ and so it does, but ‘blessed’ does not mean what people thin kit does. In the old tongue it was bletsian and before that blotsian, and before that, just blod. It means sacrifice.” ~ Marcus Sedgwick, from Midwinter Blood

Saturday, late afternoon. Partly cloudy and not so cold, 51 degrees.

I just read the most amazing book: Midwinterblood (2013) by Marcus Sedgwick. The painting above, which was created for the central staircase hall of the Stockholm’s National Museum, figures prominently in the story, or rather, stories, seven to be exact.

It’s a fast but intricate read, tracing the tale of Eric and Merle through hundreds of years, and seven iterations. I was fascinated by the deft mixing of mystery, fantasy and history that links the seven stories, beginning in the future, and traveling back before time on record.

Apparently, it’s a book for teens, but I find that classification a bit useless. What defines a book? That’s a whole other post. But what aggravates me about that category for this book is that while the stories would appeal to teens, it takes a bit of life to understand and appreciate that love through seven different lives does not have to be passion-filled love between lovers in order to be important. I’m not sure if I’m making much sense, perhaps because I literally just put the book down and walked over to my desk to write this.

Alex Brown of tor.com wrote a wonderful review, which you can find here. And here is a short YouTube promo for the book that I found intriguing:

More later. Peace.

Music by Delerium (featuring Azure Ray), “Keyless Door”

                   

When I awoke this morning, I was mulling over the last line to Robert Browning‘s “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. Which brought to mind (a non sequitur, I know) bits of the following, which I had to search for before finding the actual poem, and then hours later I realized that I had gone of on some tangent and had completely forgotten (once again) to publish the post . . . anyway:

Longing

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.

Come, as thou cam’st a thousand times,
A messenger from radiant climes,
And smile on thy new world, and be
As kind to others as to me!

Or, as thou never cam’st in sooth,
Come now, and let me dream it truth,
And part my hair, and kiss my brow,
And say, My love why sufferest thou?

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.

~ Matthew Arnold

“All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.” ~ Cormac McCarthy, from The Road

Alfred Agache Ênigme, 1888

“Ênigme” (1888)
by Alfred Agache

 


“It is the tenderness that breaks our hearts. The loveliness that leaves us stranded on the shore, watching the boats sail away. It is the sweetness that makes us want to reach out and touch the soft skin of another person. And it is the grace that comes to us, undeserving though we may be.” ~ Robert Goolrick, from The End of the World as We Know It: Scenes from a Life

Wednesday night, late. Cold and mostly clear, 41 degrees.

Fernand Khnopff Woman of Mystery 1909

“Woman of Mystery” (1909)
by Fernand Khnopff

Sometimes words come to me. I don’t know from where, and I don’t always know what they mean. It is more than a bit disconcerting. It’s not like writing a poem, or a story. It is something altogether different, and I don’t quite know how to explain it.

So when the following words came to me, I inscribed them in the front of the book that I was reading because even though they were so clear and so strong when they hit my mind, I knew that I would forget them if I didn’t write them down.

I need one caveat: My concept of grace has changed tremendously throughout the years. What grace means to me and what it meant to me? That is completely personal.

Anyway, here they are. Make of them what you will:

It is with grace that I come here,
Grace that I bring thee,
Grace sevenfold.

More later. Peace.

Music by Róisín O, “Hold On”

                   

Everything That Acts Is Actual

From the tawny light
from the rainy nights
from the imagination finding
itself and more than itself
alone and more than alone
at the bottom of the well where the moon lives,
can you pull me

into December? a lowland
of space, perception of space
towering of shadows of clouds blown upon
clouds over
new ground, new made
under heavy December footsteps? the only
way to live?

The flawed moon
acts on the truth, and makes
an autumn of tentative
silences.
You lived, but somewhere else,
your presence touched others, ring upon ring,
and changed. Did you think
I would not change?

The black moon
turns away, its work done. A tenderness,
unspoken autumn.
We are faithful
only to the imagination. What the
imagination
seizes
as beauty must be truth. What holds you
to what you see of me is
that grasp alone.

~ Denise Levertov

Sunday afternoon . . .

“Christmas is our time to be aware of what we lack, of who’s not home.” ~ John Irving, from A Prayer for Owen Meany

Sunday night. Less windy and colder, 47 degrees.

Okay, so it’s not exactly afternoon. I got distracted by the sound of my computer crashing over and over . . .

Anyway, I had set aside the following clips to share with you in my attempt to put myself squarely in a somewhat festive mood for the season. After all, I’m only going to be doing all of the lead up to Christmas mostly by myself as Corey won’t be getting home until Christmas eve. So I’ve told myself that I’m going to start this week, try to do a little each day, but the reality is with having Olivia, I never know how my days will turn out.

And truthfully, while I associate my father with Thanksgiving, I associate my mother with Christmas, and this is the first one without her, and I’m trying, really, really trying not to think too much.

So in the spirit of trying . . .

I will admit that I’m one of those people who cries at Christmas Commercials. My favorite was always the Miller “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” sleigh ride. I used to weep buckets. I’ve never been able to find a decent video of it, but I keep hoping. John Lewis (UK) commercials are always wonderful, and this year’s just slays me (it warrants repeating). And then there are the Coke commercials. Remember “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”?

The Stella Artois company did something truly amazing with their commercials this year. Here are two from their “Give Beautifully” series:

More later. Peace.

                   

An Old Man Performs Alchemy on His Doorstep at Christmastime

Cream of Tartar, commonly used to lift meringue and
angel food cake, is actually made from crystallized fine wine.

After they stopped singing for him,
the carolers became transparent in the dark,
and he stepped into their emptiness to say
he lost his wife last week, please
sing again. Their voices filled with gold.
Last week, his fedora nodded hello to me
on the sidewalk, and the fragile breath
of kindness that passed between us
made something sweet of a morning
that had frightened me for no earthly reason.
Surely, you know this by another name:
the mysteries we intake, exhale, could be
sitting on our shelves, left on the bus seat
beside us. Don’t wash your hands.
You fingered them at the supermarket,
gave them to the cashier; intoxicated tonight,
she’ll sing in the streets. Think of the old man.
Who knew he kept the secret of levitation,
transference, and lightness filling a winter night?
— an effortless, crystalline powder
That could almost seem transfigured from loss.

~ Anna George Meek

“The day exhausts me, irritates me. It is brutal, noisy. I struggle to get out of bed, I dress wearily and, against my inclination, I go out. I find each step, each movement, each gesture, each word, each thought as tiring as if I were lifting a crushing weight.” ~ Guy de Maupassant, from “Nightmare”

Emil Nolde Reading 1908 watercolor in black, washed india ink on fine laid paper

“Reading” (1908, watercolor in black, washed india ink on fine laid paper)
by Emil Nolde


“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” ~ Richard Siken, from “Snow and Dirty Rain”

Wednesday evening. Rainy and cold, 46 degrees.

In this dream, I am back at the department store, but by accident. I began on some kind of motorized scooter, and I was traveling through town, but turned down a road that I knew might be dangerous. At the end of the road, I saw four figures who looked very menacing, so I turned around, but the scooter sputtered and died. I rolled it to the bar where my father worked, only it wasn’t my father, it was someone else, but he was my father, and I told him that I really needed this scooter to be fixed so that I could get to where I needed to be, which was another town, apparently. I could hear music from the band playing on the upper floor, and my father said that he would fix the scooter.

Fred Williams untitled c1958 gouache on paper on board

Untitled (c1958, gouache on paper on board)
by Fred Williams

While I was waiting, I wandered through an underground mall, only to realize that if I went all the way through the mall, I would end up where I needed to be, which was across town at the store. I got to the store, but I was still dressed casually, and there was a store inspection, and I couldn’t be seen by the general manager until I changed clothes. I ducked into a bathroom, that was more like a spa, and I asked one of the other manager to grab me some clothes and shoes to put on, and I said that I would pay for them later. I just couldn’t be caught dressed as I was. There was a hound dog asleep in the stall next to me, and the general manager came in to inspect the spa, and I pretended to be taking a shower. He wanted to know who the dog belonged to, but we all pretended that we didn’t know, even though we knew it belonged to one of the other managers.

As I was rushing to get dressed, and I grabbed some make up samples that were on a counter in the spa. I began to put on foundation, but it went on much thicker than I expected, and I had way too much on my face, and I couldn’t get it off even though I kept wiping and trying to blend. My father came in and said that the scooter had been fixed, but he wanted to know why I looked so funny. I told him about the makeup, and a lawyer who was with him suggested that I try to blend it better. I gave her the dirtiest look I could imagine even though I thought that I probably looked like a clown, and then I went to find my students because suddenly it was a teaching dream.

It turns out I hadn’t been assigned a classroom, so I was trying to teach the small writing class in front of the elevators in the store. I hadn’t graded their papers, and one of the students insisted that he had turned in the paper to the office, but I couldn’t find the office. I looked down, and I was wearing a cocktail dress with blue tights and silver pumps. I knew that none of it matched. I suddenly realized that I didn’t have a copy of the schedule, so I didn’t know when I was supposed to work next. Dan (a real person from my past), gave me a hard time for never getting anything right.

blowing from the east
west south north . . .
autumn gale ~ Issa

I think part of the dream may have arisen from reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children yesterday. Great book, full of mystical creatures and fantastical people. I need to order the sequel.

Anyway, last night was hellacious outside and inside. The winds were so fierce that the wind chimes in the front yard sounded like someone was beating them, and this morning, the floor of the garage near the back door had standing water from the wind and rain. Inside, I was unable to get to sleep after I finished reading until sometime around 3:30 or 4, partly because of the  trigger point injections I got yesterday from my head to my buttocks and every point in between, and I was completely unable to get out of bed until well into the afternoon because I slept so poorly.

Victor Hugo Torquemada ink wash on paper

“Torquemada” (nd, ink wash on paper)
by Victor Hugo

Part of the problem today stemmed from being sore, and just thinking about  trying to get all of the preparations done for tomorrow kind of left me overwhelmed and unable to get much of anything done. The house still needs to be vacuumed, and the dining room table is covered with all sorts of domestic detritus, the kind that accumulates whenever Corey is home because the table is a convenient place on which to lay anything and everything.

Put all of this together, and you have one pitiful soul, completely unprepared for tomorrow’s festivities, as it were. At least the menu has taken shape: the two turkeys a la Mike and Corey; oyster stuffing, compliments of Eamonn; deviled eggs and cake, compliments of Lex and Mike; sweet potato casserole and banana cream pie, compliments of Brett and Em; and sausage stuffing, greens with smoked pork, whipped potatoes with heavy cream, kale crisps with sea salt, steamed green beans (maybe), yeast rolls (not homemade), and gravy, compliments of me. Oh, and we picked up a sample box of cheesecake squares to go with the other desserts.

So there you have it. Too much food, more than enough for the eight of us, and that we can do such a thing after years of want does not go unnoticed by any of us.

I hope your plans for Thanksgiving offer you some measure of peace and plenty.

More later. Peace.

Music by Jamestown Revival, “Heavy Heart”

                   

November Rain

How separate we are
under our black umbrellas—dark
planets in our own small orbits,

hiding from this wet assault
of weather as if water
would violate the skin,

as if these raised silk canopies
could protect us
from whatever is coming next—

December with its white
enamel surfaces; the numbing
silences of winter.

From above we must look
like a family of bats—
ribbed wings spread

against the rain,
swooping towards any
makeshift shelter.

~ Linda Pastan

 

“I am overflowing with words I do not have.” ~ Adam Falkner, from “When it Matters”

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer Les Cygnes 1930

“Les Cygnes” (1930)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer


“Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you’ll burn.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Helen of Troy does Countertop Dancing”

Saturday evening. Partly cloudy and 50 degrees.

So today I wrote another poem. It started out as a thought, and then it just grew and grew. I’m not sure, but I think it may have gotten away from me at some point. This creative spark, wherever it comes from, leaves me more than a bit mystified. I mean, the lines, the phrases—they come, and they seem to make an odd kind of sense, and I find myself playing with new themes, internal rhymes I’ve never tried before. And after each new piece, I feel more than a bit spent.

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer Scene in Venice oil on canvas

“Scene in Venice” (oil on canvas)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

But all is good with the writing muse, even as unaccustomed to it as I am, or have been. Really, really good. I mean, today’s poem and one other recent one are not such personal pieces. Most of my previous poems are very personal, about me, about my life, about my loves and losses. But I find that lately I’m able to think on a larger scale, take on more general themes about the human condition. I’m not claiming that I’m achieving any kind of success in doing so, but it’s a different kind of approach, like trying on new clothes that I never would have worn before.

Too esoteric? Sorry . . .

I would truly appreciate any feedback that anyone cares to give me. It’s hard to write in a vacuum. Honest, constructive criticism is a very necessary part of the writing process, and since I am not in any kind of situation in which to garner that criticism, I turn to you, my readers, whoever you are out there in the ether.

“But though the lights
one by one extinguish
as you explore deeper,
that final light — the sun —
grows stronger,
despite the coming winter,
the darkening seas.” ~ John Kinsella, from “Tenebrae”

Speaking of readers, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that I’ve picked up a few more subscribers in the past few weeks: Thanks for subscribing to my little blog. I hope you enjoy the journey. I do have my regulars, like Leah in NC, and Izaak Mak from I Want Ice Water, and then I have people who have been with me for several years: Titirangi Storyteller (who is so busy being creative in New Zealand), ViewPacific (check him out). If you would like for me to mention your blog, just drop me a line. I have no problem with sending some props out into the universe.

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer pastel on paperGondolas à Venise, sous un clair de lune

“Gondolas à Venise, sous un clair de lune” (pastel on paper)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

One other thing: I’m terribly curious as to how some of you arrived here on this site. WordPress doesn’t allow Google Analytics, and I’m not nearly savvy enough to figure out such things on my own, but I’m curious, truly. Was it an accident? Were you searching on a word? a name? a song? a work of art?

If you would be kind enough to let me know, then I can try to pay more attention to such avenues. I mean, I’m still on blogsurfer, but I think that it’s mostly a dormant community. I’d love to find another blogging community to join, just not something that gives you super inflated stats, like Alpha Inventions, or whatever name it’s going by these days. Suggestions would be appreciated.

Anyway . . .

“It is
the way of things and it never stops, never calls a halt—
this knocking and dismantling, this uprooting, cutting out
and digging down” ~ Eamon Grennan, from “Steady Now”
Lucien Levy-Dhurmer Le Silence 1895 pastel

“Le Silence” (1895, pastel)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

So I am absolutely gaga about this particular Lévy-Dhurmer image. I know little to nothing about this artist’s history or what he was trying to achieve with his art in general, but “Le Silence” is one of those pieces that I find particularly haunting. According to the Musée d’Orsay site, the artist kept this painting his entire life, so it must have been pretty important to him.

I’ve been waiting for the right post to feature the image, and I think that this post is it: juxtaposing the symbolic silence, the cloaked woman who will not speak, against my poem about speaking—somehow it seems to fit; at least I think so.

This poem came about after I saw the line from The Crucible on my tumblr dash, and I began to fixate on the idea of speaking sins. (If you’ve never read Miller’s play, here is a link to an online version in its entirety.)

So following is my latest effort. It’s different for me, not just thematically, but also as it is structured. I ended up using repetitive rhythm quite by accident, and then the references to other works just kind of evolved naturally. I really didn’t think too much; I just did . . .

Speaking My Sins

“I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another. I have no tongue for it.”  ~ Arthur Miller, The Crucible

I remember when smells of sex and sin
rolled from my shoulders and puddled
‘round my feet, how I
delighted in the act, the doing, the making
and taking of sin, such a smooth, ironed out plane of being,
my afternoon explorations—virginal
in their corruption
as I lay ensconced
in the arms of my newest lover,
safe from the mundane existence
my mother laid before me,
a vapor trail of bottled Joy
enveloping every word she spoke, but
oh how I, oh, how I, oh
how I saw myself
far beyond the reaches
of PTA meetings and casserole recipes
and all of the trappings
offered up so blithely within
the pages of women’s magazines.
Oh no, not I, I sighed,
even as I eschewed the words that spewed
from my mother’s Revlon
fire and ice red lips, circa 1950s
Oh no, I, no I know, I

know what you think there,
in the safety of your white-washed
life of dinner on the table by five
and a nice side of green beans and
slivered almonds, you see, you cannot see
how I see you there, cannot unsee
the fuzzy lines of deception and desire
I wield like a non-stick spatula
gently turning the unsullied egg,
yolk intact, like your reputation.
What say you now, oh mother dear, oh
harbinger of rules and commandments com-
mending to me the care and feeding
of cherubim and nephilim alike?
Oh no, you know, no

matter how many times you wag
your finger in my face, for
some reason, the lesson never sticks
but you smile and smile and so I
too smile my way into villainy
one time, no two, perhaps
more? the number has been for-
gotten, obliterated from any records
recording my vices and desires
It’s so much better this way,
after all, aren’t we all just
carbon copies of our mothers’
motherings, smothering
our yearnings with learning
the right ways to right-
eous actions, act like
a lady, for god’s sake you little
tarted up upstart. Now, now

now don’t you fret none,
nothing to do but sweep up the bits
of egg shell on the kitchen lino-
leum, hey, um, howdy,
did you do it? No? I know,
no more gallivanting about
like the cheap hussy you are,
hows about you come inside,
get that load off, let me
shake the rain-
drops from your jacket,
sit here, won’t you, snif-
ter of brandy for your chill,
what say you now, now
that you have so completely
washed away my sins like
the long-lost Breck shampoo-filled
Saturday nights when everything
was so clearly defined and
ruled by advice column ladies
with shellacked hair and

Max Factor pan-stik complexions?
Just a little tete-a-tete, no need
to get testy, after all,
weren’t we just talking about
setting to rights all of the wrongs
you carry with you—cummings said
he carried your heart with him
wherever, so I will too.
Okay, oh? KKK, wait,
no, that’s the wrong one, Gracie,
gracious, goodnight, goodnight, good-
night, I reek still, sweet princ-
ciple of humanity, kind,
human cup of charity—
it begins at home, after all.
What? say you, you say? What
do you say, once more, even though
I have never understood the sake
of old time, no, no, know-
ing me the way you do do
you doubt my commitment,
my cunning com-

mingling of lies and truth?
Commendable really how we
commit so many sins in
the name of veritas yet in-
variably too many truths
spoil more than the broth, you see
seeing as reality’s all connected
really, I can no more real-
istically atone for my sins
than Faust could foist off
his one-way ticket to
ride the conflagration
ferris wheel, wheels up,
hurry up, it’s time to
bring out the dead-
ened spirits of our sweet,
sweet youth, birds
and flocking and feathers
and foibles, mea culpa,
mea maxima culpa.
Peccavi, peccavi, peccavi,
regrets, none, but
sine qua non.

L. Liwag
November 22, 2014

                    

Today’s images are again by French artist Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer—a selection of his blue works.

Music by Mary Gauthier, “Walk through the Fire”

“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