“Bodies have their own light which they consume to live: they burn, they are not lit from outside.” ~ Egon Schiele

Fire in the Sky (NOAA Corps Collection)

                   

“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.” ~ Vincent van Gogh

Sailboats at Sunset (Pixdaus)Sailboats at Sunset (Pixdaus)

Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy, hot and very humid. 

The house is quiet. The dogs are all hiding in cool spots, so it’s just Brett and me. Corey had a medical transport today, which means a road trip to Dulles Airport and back, long day, but good hours for him.

Some welcome news for a change: After my, shall we say, less-than-friendly letter to the president of the Ford dealership, we have resolution at last. The dealer is going to honor the buy-back and try to recoup the money from Ford Motor Company, which will pull us out of the dispute. I mailed the letter on Monday and received a call from a vice president on Tuesday. We’re set to turn in the rental and pick up the check this coming Tuesday, so after seven months, resolution in two days.

Isn’t it amazing what carefully chosen words can do? My friend Mari once suggested that I go into business writing letters of complaint for people.

Another avenue unexplored . . .

No rental means we go back to one vehicle temporarily, but with the check from the dealer, we can finally get Corey’s truck fixed (transmission, transfer case, etc.). I know that he’ll be glad to have his truck working again; the only drawback is what it will cost to fill the truck with gas versus what we’ve been paying to fill these little economy-class cars from the rental company. Big difference there.

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” ~ Frederick Douglass

Sailboat at Sunset (Pixdaus)

Well, I had my lumbar puncture on Thursday, which brought on an instantaneous migraine and laid me low all day Friday and partially yesterday. Hence, no post. I did try to write last night, but my wrists and hands were still tingling. Don’t ask me why . . .

The procedure itself is uncomfortable, mostly because of the position in which I had to place my body. The only thing that I felt at the puncture site was some pressure. So glad that LPs have come a long way from the frightful spinal taps of the past. I cannot imagine having the puncture done without numbing medicine first. However, because the doctor had to go through scar tissue from my operation, it took a few tries before she was in, which produced a bonus sensation: a shooting pain from my back all the way down my right leg.

Nothing is ever easy or straightforward when it comes to my body and doctors.

It would be nice if she actually gets some kind of results from the tests, if only because it will help to explain some of the constant headaches. They are such a part of my life now that I only notice when I don’t have a headache.

“There is a place where time stands still . . . illuminated by only the most feeble red light, for light is diminished to almost nothing at the center of time, its vibrations slowed to echoes in vast canyons, its intensity reduced to the faint glow of fireflies.” ~ Alan Lightman

Sunset at Samurai Beach, NSW, Australia (Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been thinking about people again, in the general sense. Remember I had mentioned people who are cheerful, who smile easily and how I am not one of those kinds of people? Well, what about those individuals in whom you can sense a burning, an internal fire?

These are the people who will not be bound by the shackles of an ordinary life. I’m not talking about the Donald Trumps of the world; those are the people who climb upon the backs of others to get what they want (no idea what made me think of Trump, who I truly despise). I’m talking about people like Beethoven, van Gogh, Emily Dickinson—the ones in whom the passion inside was so great that they just had to find a way to release it.

Beethoven composed, created great beauty that he could not hear. When his hearing began to fail, he did not stop composing; rather, he composed more fervently. The music that he heard inside was such a primal force that the composer put his ear to the floor to feel the vibrations. I don’t know that I believe that Beethoven was writing for the world. Instead, I think that he was writing to set himself free. Unless he made the notes real, they would haunt him.

Vincent van Gogh was mad and brilliant, and that combination brought forth yellow stars that are instantly recognizable throughout the world. The artist had so much to say, even if no one around him wanted to hear the words. Imagine what it must have felt like for van Gogh, alone with only his mind, never quite knowing what was real, and then transferring those emotions into vivid swirls in hues brilliant to behold. Imagine the force that drove van Gogh to paint himself over and over—his attempt to make himself real? Solid?

The reclusive Emily Dickinson alone, fragile, writing page after page of verse that the world would know nothing of until after her death. Dickinson dared to stray from the conventions of her time—no titles, extensive use of dashes, odd capitalization, short lines with internal rhyme— and wrote instead what her heart spoke to her. I wonder if she had any inkling of how much her writing would change the landscape of poetry.

“Never let go of that fiery sadness called desire.” ~ Patti Smith

Caribbean Sunset by photon y (FCC)

I suppose what I am pondering is how each of these creative individuals possessed a spark that urged them onward, regardless of circumstances. Each burned within, consumed with passion and desire. Each garnered more attention after death than during life. Did each die thinking him or herself a failure?

How we judge ourselves is very telling indeed.

Burning desire. Creative passion. clichés? Perhaps, but that fire does exist, and it does not exist in everyone. This I know for certain. But is this internal fire a partner to madness, the madness that comes from wanting something so much that everything else is left by the wayside? What else but mad desire would have driven Michelangelo to lie on his back for four years to paint the Sistine Chapel?

To be clear, I know the difference between mad desire and psychotic desire: The first gives the world Michelangelo’s frescoes; the second gives the world Hitler’s death camps. Creative madness eats at the soul of the individual who harbors it; it does not harbor a desire to destroy those who look on. That is not to say that the person who gives rise to such passion does not take prisoners along the way. Just consider the siblings and spouses left behind to pick up the pieces. Ted Hughes was still trying to come to terms with Sylvia Plath in his last published work, in spite of his own poetic genius.

Perhaps what I am really contemplating is whether or not that spark still resides somewhere in my soul. Do I still possess the same passion for words that I once felt, or worse, did I never really feel it? No, I should not dissemble: I have felt it all my life—the it that separates those of us who are different, not of the mainstream. And I know the price that we pay, know how many will subsume the desire in order to fit in, to be like everyone else.

It’s like walking a tightrope backwards: a constant balancing act without any clear idea of where it’s all going. It’s as if we are constantly moving into the sunset, blinded by the fire in the sky, but unwilling to give up the quest beyond the horizon because to attain it, the elusive it, would mean peace at last, at least, that’s what we convince ourselves. As Henry James once said, “We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”

Music by Right the Stars, “You Know the Way to Go”

                   

Flame

the breath               the trees               the bridge
the road                  the rain                the sheen
the breath              the line                  the skin
the vineyard          the fences             the leg
the water               the breath             the shift
the hair                  the wheels            the shoulder
the breath              the lane                the streak
the lining               the hour                the reasons
the name                the distance          the breath
the scent                the dogs                the blear
the lungs                the breath             the glove
the signal               the turn                  the need
the steps                the lights               the door
the mouth             the tongue             the eyes
the burn                the burned            the burning

~ C. D. Wright

“People melt, break beneath the fire of an intolerable pain in which they, at the same time, are also regenerated.” ~ Albert Camus, Notebooks: 1951-1959

Tree Tunnel, Aberglasney, Wales by Kev Bailey

                   

“Overhead the geese are a line,
a moving scar. Wavering
like a strand of pollen on the surface of a pond.
Like them, we carry each year in our bodies.
Our blood is time.” ~ Anne Michaels, from “Miner’s Pond”

Wednesday evening. Hazy, hot, and humid.

Llanrwst Bridge, Conwy River, Wales

More bad news. How much bad news can any individual withstand before beginning to shut down? Wondering about that.

The contract that Corey’s employer was so certain was going to come through, the one that would have put him in a supervisory position, the one that would have guaranteed him at least 40 to 48 hours a week, that contract? Not happening. So far this week, Corey has worked 12 hours. Obviously, we cannot survive on so few hours, especially with no promise of more to come.

And Transatlantic, that shipping company to which Corey applied months ago and then forgot about because he hadn’t heard from them, that one? They called today to offer him an AB position on the boat beginning in June. Sounds great, right? Wrong. Corey had to let his MMD and his AB certification expire in April because the renewal cost more than we had, and we had planned to use some of the tax return money to pay for that. No papers, no job.

Things just keep getting better and better.

Did I mention that I have a Sisyphus watch? The second-hand is a stick figure of Sisyphus pushing the boulder around the face of the watch. When I bought it for $5 last year, I felt that it sort of represented my life—a constant uphill battle to gain ground. It was a bit humorous at the time. Now, not so much. I wonder if they make a Prometheus watch, you know, the Titan who was chained to a rock in the Caucasus mountains only to have his liver pecked out by a great eagle each day and then have his liver grow back each night.

Obviously my Edith Hamilton Mythology was well read . . .

“This is how my sorrow became visible:
its dust,
piling up for years in my heart,
 finally reached my eyes . . .” ~ Faiz Ahmed Faiz, from “Bangladesh II”

Coastline, Wales

There are other factors at work, here, of course, and I cannot talk about them. And the not talking about it is causing me great internal strife. I can only say that the anger that I did not feel initially has finally risen to the surface, and it is roiling, like a great sea. I have no desire to feel this way. I do not want to own this anger. I want to pretend that it does not exist, be a bigger person. I want to subsume these feelings, to repress them until they disappear, and I wonder if that is possible with a disposition such as mine.

I want . . . such a loaded phrase, one that I use frequently without any real meaning behind it, as in “I want that desk,” or “I want to go on a cruise,” things that I want in passing but know will not happen. But what do I really want? I want not to feel this way. I want not to feel as if I am forever climbing a mountain only to slide back down to the base without ever making any meaningful forward motion.

I want to be happy, I mean really and truly happy, which is quite a statement for me as I know that I do not have a happy soul. I have a deep soul, a thoughtful soul, a searching soul, but a happy, content soul? Can I truly say that I have ever possessed that at any time in my life? No, not if I am to be completely truthful. I mean, I have been happy, and I have felt true happiness at various moments in my life, but I am not that person who walks around with a smile on my face, not the person who walks into a room and makes it brighter just by being there.

I have known people like that. I have envied people like that, but I don’t know that I have ever wanted to be that person. Truth be told—and apparently it is a time for brutal honesty—people who are perpetually cheerful get on my nerves. It’s as if they just put on that freaking happy face and put away any bad thoughts. Bad thoughts, don’t think those, according to the philosophy of my mom. In her words, I dwell too much. Really? Had no idea.

I need . . . almost as loaded as I want. If you were to ask me what I need at this precise moment in my life, I don’t know that I would have an answer for you. So much is unsettled, and so much seems to be out of my control. How does need even fit into that equation?

“Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “The Four Quartets”

Green Bridge, Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales

Christopher McCandless fancied himself a modern-day Thoreau. He renamed himself Alexander Supertramp and went into the wilds of Alaska, only to die of starvation in an abandoned school bus that he had called home. But in those months in which he was in the wild, how alive did he feel? How much of himself did he truly explore? What did he experience during his period of forced solitude, in his determined journey away from society.

I do not desire to go into the wilds of Alaska, but I have always thought that at some point in later life, I would live alone. Don’t ask me why I have harbored this belief as I could not possibly answer you. In my mind’s eye, I live in a small cottage by the sea, close enough to smell the salt air. I have my dogs and my books and my cups of tea. And little else.

But in the here and now, I do not have the cottage or the sea. I only have this deep abiding feeling that there has to be more to life than this. That the dreams that I have night after night about my unsuccessful forays back into the workforce are not just some type of Promethean mind-game, my mind’s way of torturing myself, only to awake to the same thing. My liver has regrown, but I know that the great eagle is coming to attack me again.

We have been on hold for nearly three and a half years. That we have survived is, I realize, something that I should acknowledge as something of a feat in and of itself. But surviving is not living. Surviving is existing.

“We may enjoy our room in the tower, with the painted walls and the commodious bookcases, but down in the garden there is a man digging who buried his father this morning, and it is he and his like who live the real life and speak the real language.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader

Welsh Coastline by SusanAstray (FCC)

Yes, yes. I remind myself that so many more have it so much worse. I try to maintain perspective, but honestly, perspective is not what I want right now. It is hard to wallow with perspective. It is hard to let the heart hurt with perspective. Perspective would tell me to be thankful for what I have because it all could be taken away so easily, in the blink of an eye. Perspective reminds me of the tumultuous weather patterns of the past year and the devastation left in the wake of storms.

But at this moment, right now, perspective is akin to saying that life is a bowl of cherries. In other words, not.

Am I stronger for having endured the last three and a half years? Probably, but I already had to undergo the trials to find my stockpile of inner strength. I did not think that I would have to keep being tested. Is it karma? Joss? Fate? All the same thing, really.

If it’s karma, then what in the hell am I paying for? I am not perfect, never claimed to be, but then too, I am not evil. I do not take pleasure in the harming of others, nor do I take pleasure in the bad fortune of others. So what am I paying for? I am reminded of that movie with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, Se7en, in which the killer is making people atone for their sins, going through the seven deadly sins one by one and meting out appropriate punishment (appropriate in his mind). What is my deadly sin? If anything pride, hubris. The killer in the movie attacked a supermodel for her vanity/pride, and if I recall correctly, he made her decide between death and disfigurement.

Anyone who reads me regularly knows that my pride is not vanity, but rather pride over my brain. Is working your whole life to develop your intellect a deadly sin? Who the hell knows. I just know that I would have rather been reborn as a cockroach than to have to atone for something I cannot identify.

Yes, regrets (as the song says), I’ve had a few, maybe more than a few, but not for most of the big things. So what is it, the great big elephant-in-the-room it that I cannot identify? The it in my life that I have done to cause fate to rain down on me with a vengeful wrath? I have no answers. None.

Enough already. The migraine has arrived and some nerve somewhere in my body is pinched causing my right hand to pulsate.

More later. Peace.

                   

Music by Miranda Lee Richards, “Life Boat”

                   

The Archaeology of Childhood 1: House

If the house in a dream
Is how I imagine myself:
room after room
of furniture no one could use;
stairs leading upwards
to nothing; an empty hall
filling with snow
where a door has been left ajar;
then whatever I make
of the one  room high in the roof
where something alive and frantic
is hopelessly  trapped,
whatever I make
of the sweetness it leaves behind
on waking, what I know
and cannot tell
is awkward and dark in my hands
while I stop to remember
the snare of a heart;
the approximate weight of possession.

~ John Burnside

“Everything is as it is means this: We undergo all kinds of difficult and painful practices. We travel to all kinds of places and discover that we didn’t have to do a thing, that things are as they are. Everything is as it is after we’ve broken our bones trying everything.” ~ Ichitaro

Follow the Wisteria Line, by Marisa DL at pbase.com

                   

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” ~ Louise Erdrich

Vines on Yellow by Greg Hefner (FCC)

Tuesday afternoon. Hazy, hot, and humid. Thunderstorms predicted.

I slept fitfully last night. At first I couldn’t fall asleep (I’ve been out of my Seroquel for about a week), and then when I finally fell asleep, I woke up every few minutes scratching myself. I had broken out into some kind of rash/hives thingy. I tried everything: lotion, Benadryl, hydrocortisone cream, baby powder . . . Finally, around 8 a.m. I got up and took a shower. Thankfully, I still had a bit of Aveeno calming body scrub. After the shower, I felt marginally better, but I was still itching.

Four Benadryl later . . . I finally fell asleep for two consecutive hours around 11:30. Needless to say, I am wiped out and still a bit itchy, especially on my back (of course).

The only thing that I can think of that may have caused all of the itching is the fish stew that Corey made for dinner last night. It had clam juice in it. I have never had a reaction to shellfish before, and I love steamed and fried clams, but maybe the concentrated clam juice was just too much. I haven’t eaten anything else out of the ordinary, am not using new detergent or body wash, so that only leaves the stew, which is too bad as it was quite tasty.

So I thought that I would try to write a bit before going back to bed. Corey has gone to TCC campus to fill out more paperwork for a Pell Grant for summer classes. We’re keeping our collective fingers crossed that he can get some funds for summer. We’ve already done the FAFSA for the 2011-2012 academic year.

“Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.” ~ Anna Quindlen, from A Short Guide to a Happy Life

Cottage with Vines in Grimaud, France, by mhodl (FCC)

I spent most of yesterday catching up on my paperwork. I needed to fill out an IRS form claiming “Injured Spouse” status to see if we can get back some of the money that the IRS took from our refund. Apparently, if the debt for which the money was taken is not a joint debt, the other person can claim this status and appeal the seizure of funds. We’ll see what happens. It would be nice to get some of that refund money back so that we can buy a new back door. Of course, we have to wait eight to twelve weeks . . .

I also wrote a very long letter to the owner/president of the local Ford dealership that has been giving us the run around on the Windstar buy-back. I thought that I would try one more avenue before contacting the local media station that has a special consumer help department. No business wants to end up featured on that spot.

Then there was all of the tuition assistance/special circumstances paperwork for the males in the family: Corey, Eamonn, and Brett. I had to fill out forms and complete worksheets to show that we qualify for more grant money if it is available. Of course, all kinds of attachments were required, and I had to do some hunting to get everything together. Being able to apply for special circumstances because I am on total disability is one of the few positive things about being disabled.

I rescheduled a doctor’s appointment that I missed last Monday and finally made an appointment to have my breasts smashed with my requisite mammogram. This Thursday, I have an appointment with the neurologist to get a lumbar puncture. I am really not looking forward to this, but she feels that it’s a necessary test to determine if I have a fungus which might be causing headaches.

I also had to process a return to Avon. The whole Avon thing is not really working out, so I’ll probably give it up soon. The only people who are ordering are me and me and me. But other than that, I must say that I felt a real sense of accomplishment by last night, which is sad really, as I would have been able to do all of those things in an hour at one point in my life.

“I could feel the day offering itself to me,
and I wanted nothing more  than
to be in the moment—but which moment?
Not that one, or that one, or that one.” ~ Billy Collins

Wisteria on Arbor

Corey and I watched a truly terrible movie last night: The Tomb. The preview looked promising, and the movie was from Australia, so I thought that it might be a good scary movie for us. Turns out, not so much. By the end of it, I was yelling at the television, which is never a good sign. You know when the characters are just so blatantly stupid, when they simply cannot get a clue? Yep. That kind of plot.

In other news . . . Corey’s garden is growing like gangbusters. We’re going to have huge sunflowers again this year, and with luck, the tomatoes and other vegetables will hang in for a good harvest. Of course, it’s getting hotter than blazes here, and even though it looks like it might rain, it usually does not.

The living room is quite stuffy as the big air conditioning unit died at the end of last year, and we have yet to replace it. The bedrooms stay fairly comfortable, though. I find that I am very much like the dogs: I either want to be in the pool (which is not yet ready for people, only Tillie), or in the cool dark of the bedrooms. Shakes, in particular, hates the heat as it exacerbates his canine dermatitis.

Oh well . . .

“Remember yourself, from the days when you were younger and rougher and wilder, more scrawl than straight line. Remember all of yourself, the flaws and faults as well as the many strengths.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Hampton Court Palace Gardens, Richmond Upon Thames, England

I have a bit of a confession: I am leaving the house less and less. Now that Brett’s school year is over, I really don’t have any reason to go out, other than doctors’ appointments. I know that being this housebound is not healthy for me, but truthfully, it doesn’t really bother me. What does bother me if going out in public in my current state, which is my highest weight ever.

For someone who doesn’t eat that much (and I really don’t), I just cannot seem to lose weight. A typical day usually includes two cups of coffee (half decaf/half caff), one glass of Pepsi (decaf), a bottle of diet green tea, a cup of herbal tea after dinner, a fiber bar or a sandwich thin (100 calories) with peanut butter, no jelly, dinner, and maybe some gummi bears or a couple of Riesen, and an orange if we have any. I use Splenda in place of sugar almost exclusively.

Does that seem like a lot? It doesn’t to me, but my metabolism is so warped that I just don’t seem to burn calories. I know—I’m not getting any exercise, but it’s that whole vicious circle thing in that I would feel better if I exercised, but I don’t feel well enough to exercise.

Being overweight preys on my mind far too much, but I simply cannot help it. I have such a warped body image, and I stand in front of the mirror and notice only flaws: flabby arms, a big belly, my double chins. I am dreading going to Chad’s wedding as I don’t want anyone to see me like this. Corey’s mom once told me that from the way I talk, I make it seem that I am huge. I’m not huge comparatively, and I know that, but I am huge for me.

Therein lies the rub.

So I stay at home and depress myself. Perhaps I’ll go cut my hair. That always seems to distract me. Thunderstorm is here, so I should probably stop so that the computer doesn’t get fried.

More later. Peace.

Music by A Fine Frenzy, “Whisper”

                   

To This May

They know so much more now about
the heart we are told but the world
still seems to come one at a time
one day one year one season and here
it is spring once more with its birds
nesting in the holes in the walls
its morning finding the first time
its light pretending not to move
always beginning as it goes

~ W. S. Merwin

                   

All quotes taken from Whiskey River

Still here . . .

Found this on my tumblr dash today and tracked it back to spoonbot. Wish I knew the author as this is the kind of thing I would have probably created to give my students at ODU back in the day . . .

Q: With the rapture coming, should I bother working on my final paper?
A: Yes. The odds are you will not be judged worthy of ascent to heaven, in which case your grades will still be a basis of judgment for rewards in this earthly sphere.

Q: What if my instructor is raptured?
A: None of our instructors bear much chance of being judged worthy. However, on the off chance your instructor is chosen, an army of unemployed secular Marxists is waiting to take his/her place.

Q: If my mother/father/grandfather/grandmother/favorite aunt/etc. is chosen, will I be excused from the final so that I may mourn his/her loss?
A: No. They have not died, but been granted eternal life, thus this does not count as a case of a death in the family.

Q: If my instructor is not raptured, is he really fit to judge me?
A: Yes, seeing as you were not raptured, you are still subject to the earthly judgment of the unsaved. If/when you are redeemed, a change of grade form will be automatically processed by heavenly authorities if they decide your grade was unfairly given by one of the damned.

Q: If my computer crashes and my printer breaks and there is no email on account of the rapture, will I be able to get an extension on the paper?
A: Everyone in tech and IT departments is of Satan’s party, so the internet, your computer, and your printer should continue to work the way they always have: sporadically.

Q: How will the rapture affect your curving, particularly if raptured students are exempt from final tests/papers?
A: Final grades are not curved, but students who are taken up in the rapture will be given incompletes, just in case.

“ . . . I am with fire between my teeth and still nothing but my blank page.” ~ Monique Wittig

André Kertész, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Desk at Bernard Lamotte’s Home, ca 1960

“I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday evening. Overcast, feels like rain.

Flannery O'Connor's Desk and Typewriter at Andalusia, GA

I have wanted to write a post for days now, but just haven’t had it in me. I feel completely enervated—weak and listless. It took everything I had to go to the concert on Wednesday, which really sucks. I hate feeling as if I have to steel myself to go somewhere or to do something.

The house is quiet. Corey is at work, and Brett has gone to see his friends Gordon and Tailor. Tillie is hanging out on the couch, looking out the window, and the two Jack Russells are probably on the bed being lazy. Good day for it. Today I’ve consumed Nilla wafers and Pepsi (caffeine free). Just one of those days.

Well, supposedly the world is going to end tomorrow . . . again. The guy who is predicting this also predicted the end of the world sometime in the 90’s, but says that he got his math wrong. Yep. I’m surely going to trust my future to someone who cannot do math properly. Excuse me for being flippant, but if the world is going to end, does that mean that I don’t have to worry about bills any more?

End of the world, you can stockpile books, or you can stockpile canned green beans. I know what I’m hoarding. I can’t eat the books, but I’ll never be bored. Besides, canned vegetables have no nutritional value and taste like tin.

“No one forces you to write. The writer enters the labyrinth voluntarily . . . ” ~ Roberto Bolaño

André Kertész The Way a Poem of Ady’s began on a Café Table in Paris, 1928

So many things to not write about. So many words tumbling around inside me, none floating to the surface. As a child eating alphabet soup, I used to make letters sink by pushing them down with my spoon. That’s how I would rid myself of the excess letters that did not fit the pattern I was trying to make. If only life were still so easily manipulated. Perhaps if I keep writing, something will float to the surface.

Then there were the boxes of animal crackers. Why were they called crackers when they were in fact cookies? Did you ever wonder how they decided which animals to use? Camels? Now there’s an animal you see everyday. Monkeys? If you took the empty box once you had finished biting the heads off the animals, supposedly you could make a circus cage (back in the days when they acknowledged using cages). I never made the cage as I had enough of a moral dilemma in eating the animals. Truly.

I was a complicated child.

Writing, always writing, even before I knew words, I wrote. I would take scraps of paper and write notes to our neighbors in the large apartment building in London. Then I would slip the pieces of paper beneath their doors and wait for them to reply. They never did. Some of the neighbors thought that someone in the building was a bit mental until my mother explained that I was the source of the mysterious notes.

My first poem in first grade. So proud of it. I read it out loud for one of my mother’s friends, who suggested that I jazz it up by adding some more words. I was highly affronted and told her so. Even then I could not abide criticism.

Words. So many words. So much paper. So much that I felt that I needed a satchel to carry them all in. I lost a tooth and convinced my father that instead of a shilling, he should give me 10 shillings so that I could buy the leather book satchel in Mr. Higgins’ store that I had been coveting for months but which my mother would not agree to buy for me. He did, and I ran to the store and bought it. I filled the tan leather briefcase with paper, pencils, and Barbie dolls. I carried the satchel to Flora Gardens school even though the school supplied all of our necessities.

It was the start of my history as a bag lady. In love with words and bags to hold the pens, pencils, and notebooks.

“The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.” ~ Jules Renard

Virginia Woolf's Writing Desk

I think that satchel is still somewhere in my mother’s attic. Wouldn’t that be grand? Wouldn’t it be grand if I opened it and found something that I had written a lifetime ago? Conversely, wouldn’t it be sad if I opened it and found nothing? Perhaps I shan’t look for it after all.

Carl Sandburg once wrote that the past “is a bucket of ashes.” If I remember correctly, that’s one of the first quotes that I collected. The rest of the quote is something about living for the present, ya da ya da ya da, nothing nearly as eloquent as the bucket of ashes. But consider, if we truly relegated our pasts to the ash pile, if we burned the memories, charred the moments, what would we have to build upon?

Everyone needs a foundation upon which to build. That’s what the past is. That’s what my little leather satchel is: all of the words that my young mind possessed at that time and how I committed them to paper in my early attempts to make things last.

This is not to say that I have not thrown moments of my past upon the pyre, that I have wished them to be gone forever, that I have poured enough kerosene to ignite the pages, only to find that my mouth tasted of ashes, but the past was still there, could not be unwritten no matter how hard I tried.

Fire destroys. Fire cleanses. I think that I fear death by fire more than any other kind.

“Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy.” ~ Marshall McLuhan

Do not look for coherence in this post. There is none.

Jane Austen's Writing Table

T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” (1922) is heavy upon my mind tonight. Yes, I do think like this sometimes, like the Penelope chapter in James Joyce’s Ulysses—Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, words tumbling out without internal punctuation, stream-of-consciousness, free association and complete nonsense.

Yes, I remember my Eliot, but not by heart, except for the Shakespeherian Rag that Susan (long gone from my life) and I used to recite on our way to Blacksburg. Four hundred thirty-four lines of poetry, prose, prophecy, reflection, repudiation, the parsing of life itself. Just a few, here:

  • “I will show you fear in a handful of dust” (30) — If only fear could be reduced to dust and blown into the wind. I carry my fear with me.
  • “I knew nothing/Looking into the heart of light, the silence” (40-41) — We seek out light, thinking that it will bring truth, but in reality, light is silent, just as dark is silent. The layers in between light and dark harbor the truth.
  • “Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,/Unguent, powered, or liquid” (87-88) — The sense of smell is deeply connected to memory. I inhale essence of spring lilacs and am transported to the side of a mountain, to the cup of fresh lilacs my first husband brought me to atone for his deception. It was a salve, an unguent for my soul.
  • “My nerves are bad to-night. Yes bad. Stay with me./Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.” (111-112) — My nerves are bad tonight, every night, all of the time, some of the time, sometimes. I get so tired of speaking of it.
  • “‘Do/You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember/’Nothing?'” (121-123) — My mother-in-law remembers nothing most of the time, some things, some of the time. I ask Alexis if she sees anything. . .
  • “O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—/It’s so elegant/So intelligent” (128-130) — Can be sung to many different tunes.
  • “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME” “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME” “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME”(141, 152, 165, etc.) — Said in pubs and bars worldwide, but do they ever specify just exactly what it is time for? Time to go? Time to pack up your troubles and smile, smile, smile as we march off to war? Time to make time? Time for change? No more time?
  • “By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept . . .” (182) — From “The Fire Sermon,” not Psalm 137, weeping will not be enough to quench the fires of my soul.
  • “Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.” (432) — Three Da’s: give, be compassionate, be self-controlled. No explanation needed.

Enough already.

Shantih. Shantih. Shantih. (Children of Men, bearded Jasper (Michael Caine) and his strawberry cough.)

More later. Peace.

Music by Damien Rice, “9 Crimes”

                   

From “Miner’s Pond

1

A caver under stalactites,
the moon searches the stars.

In the low field, pools turn to stone.
Starlight scratches the pond,
penetrates in white threads;
in a quick breath, it fogs into ice.
A lava of fish murmurs the tightening film.

The crow is darkness’s calculation;
all absence in that black moment’s ragged span.

.

Above Miner’s Pond, geese break out of the sky’s
pale shell. They speak non-stop, amazed
they’ve returned from the stars,
hundreds of miles to describe.

It’s not that they’re wild, but
their will is the same as desire.
The sky peels back under their blade.

Like a train trestle, something in us rattles.
All November, under their passing.

.

Necks stiff as compass needles,
skeletons filled with air;
osmosis of emptiness, the space in them
equals space.

Their flight is a stria, a certainty;
sexual, one prolonged
reflex.

Cold lacquering speed, feathers oiled by wind,
surface of complete transfluency.
The sky rides with tremors in the night’s milky grain.

.

Windows freeze over like shallow ponds,
hexagonally blooming.
The last syrup of light boils out from under the lid
of clouds; sky the colour of tarnish.
Like paperweights, cows hold down the horizon.

Even in a place you know intimately,
each night’s darkness is different.

They aren’t calling down to us.
We’re nothing to them, unfortunates
in our heaviness.
We watch at the edge of words.

At Miner’s Pond we use the past
to pull ourselves forward; rowing.

~ Anne Michaels

“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul” ~ Plato

Eicca, Perttu, and Paavo of Apocaplyptica

“Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

For our anniversary, Corey surprised me with tickets to the Apocalyptica show at the Norva on Wednesday night. We first discovered this Finnish group several years ago, and I had told Corey that if they ever came here, I wanted to see them.

Surprise for me . . .

Brett and his girlfriend Emilie went with us to the show; it was Brett’s first concert. It was a wonderful show. The Norva is not a big venue, so I didn’t have that whole crowd anxiety thing going, and Corey and I managed to grab two stools to sit on. The two warm-up bands were not bad. The first one was head-banging (my favorite . . .), but I didn’t mind them too much. The second band, 710, is a group of local boys, and they were pretty good as well. I love to hear an electric guitar played well.

But the headliner was the whipped cream on the sundae for me. I love these guys—their music is awesome, and they are so wonderful to look at, I must admit. But the things they can do with a cello . . . absolutely amazing. I’m including two videos: The first one I’ve posted before, and it’s older, but my favorite, “Nothing Else Matters,” and the second one is “Hall of the Mountain King,’ by Edvard Grieg, which they played as their final encore. Even if you don’t like them, you should watch the second one just to see how fast Perttu flies on his 19th century instrument. It is perfection in action.

I wish that I had thought to bring my camera so that I could have recorded. Corey got a few pics with his phone, but the sound is awful. A few people have posted YouTube vids of a few songs (search Apocalyptica at the Norva on YouTube if you are interested).

Enjoy. More later. Peace.

                   
(Background: Apocalyptica is a cello rock band from Helsinki, Finland. The band, which was originally a Metallica tribute band, is composed of classically trained cellists Eicca Toppinen, who founded Apolyptica in 1993, Paavo Lötjönen, and Perttu Kivilaakso. All three are graduates of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Drummer Mikko Sirén joined the band full time in 2005.)