“Writing down your thoughts is both necessary and harmful. It leads to eccentricity, narcissism, preserves what should be let go. On the other hand, these notes intensify the inner life, which, left unexpressed, slips through your fingers.” ~ Anna Kamienska, from In That Great River: A Notebook*
Thoughts, no structure.
The name Anna sounds like a song, backwards or forwards. A woman named Anna will always know who she is. It would be hard to lose yourself with such a name.
“Lolita,” “Lo-lee-ta,” “Lo. Lee. Ta.” The three syllable siren song that drove Humbert Humbert mad. A graduate Renaissance teacher said I should un-hyphenate my name and use only Lolita Liwag, change the long e sound in Liwag to a short i with the emphasis on the second syllable instead of the first (lo-lee’-ta le-wog’), second syllables emphasized so that the name rolled off the tongue. Re-name myself, born again as the writer I am not, the woman who might love words better, treat with them, make a separate peace, finally.
Lolita. I hated this name so much when I was young that I created an alternative name. a character for myself—Yvonne Wingate, the name of a wealthy woman, this woman I envisioned—
a woman with a swimming pool in her backyard, a woman who wore large sunglasses and drank champagne.
Lo-li-ta could not do these things, only in Nabokov’s novel.
My name, unused, slips through my fingers like the unwritten thoughts of poems.
To speak in a whisper.
To whisper—like the sea.” ~ Anna Kamienska
Do you look out over the sea at night? Do you see the moon and stars reflected on the water. Do you smell the salt air. Does it feel like home? Are you looking at the same patch of sky that my father saw. In that moment, can you feel what he felt?
Do the sirens whisper your name as they whispered his?
Tell me: Does the siren song in the middle of the night sound like the wind or the stars or fallen angels?
“Why do I need these landscapes? The image of the sea draws me out of myself, forces all my attention to the surface so that I can cast my thought into the depths once again.” ~ Anna Kamienska
I remember the sensation of standing at the edge of the ocean and gripping the wet sand with my toes. I see myself running barefoot along the shore, gull wings flapping in my wake, sand crabs scurrying away from my feet.
Memory: Digging into the sand with my toes and feeling something wiggling on my foot, some kind of sea slug, a broad smile across my face, the face of a child who still knows happiness.
Another: Indian Summer, a long weekend on the shore, a purple sunset, sitting lotus-position on the sand until the sky turned black, my fact wet with tears.
A full moon reflecting on the mirror-like surface of calm water—like a dark pane of glass. If I looked into it, I could fall through. Almost stopping the car, the need to fall into the depths overpowering.
At one time I had thought to name my first book White Moon on Dark Water.
“Circles of solitude exist, just like circles of dreams and waking, just like the circles of hell.” ~ Anna Kamienska
I love that time of night when I alone am awake,
the darkest part of night when anything seems possible,
before the sky begins to lighten.
The darkness like a cloak, heavy and impermeable.
When the darkness fades,
the light comes, the cloak disappears—
dawn is not kind to me.
My dreams are populated with the dead who look no older—
the baby, the father, the uncle, the mother, the friend (the dead not dead)
—those who left know me best.
“In fact, though, writing is the backbreaking work of hacking a footpath, as in a coal mine; in total darkness, beneath the earth. In poetry there are moments of illumination. A streak of light falls in the dark corridor, then the darkness slams shut overhead once more.
In prose the darknesses are even thicker, the black clods even harder.” ~ Anna Kamienska
In seeking the right words, the write words, I stammer, stumble, and retreat. Forward is too hard. Forward is greyness, the great expanse I have set between my words and my succor—peace at last, the goal that eludes me.
The expanse is both desert and forest, simultaneously flat and endless and filled with dark woods unfriendly to my journey. I do not take the step, fearful of the brambles, the parched earth, the impenetrable column—
first trees, then men with bayonets
calling for blood, my blood
I have trespassed where I do not belong—
A blurred dream. A nightmare
“You left me a bequest: the earth, birds, trees. But I don’t know what to do with them.” ~ Anna Kamienska
A scarred wooden shelf lined with jars of wild honey made of thistle, eucalyptus, wild thyme. Below, baskets of mountain apples. The air is heavy with a natural elixir.
Did Saint Francis love the bees, love their miracle of liquid gold?
We walk beneath the trees in the gloaming, the path takes us up, to the sky, almost, close enough. I smell loam, a mountain stream. A deer pauses before crashing away from us. We are the enemy here.
What shall I do with these armfuls of autumn days?
“In recording these thoughts I also have a sense of assimilated time, its duration within me. Even if I don’t return to these poor notes—within me they are the assimilated material of time. In this sense they are my real life, more real than whatever might occur in daylight.” ~ Anna Kamienska
This record of my thoughts brings me no comfort.
Time is still fractured.
Paris—a loft, candles, stale bread, hard cheese, wine, cigarette smoke heavy in the air. Beyond the atelier, Eliot’s mermaids’ song drifts on the night wind. Fitzgerald keeps me company. Zelda is gone, dying alone in an asylum. Hemingway has passed out on the floor. The empty whiskey bottle rolls across the uneven floor. Sylvia Plath wants to clean the oven. Vincent sits in the wooden chair, sighs, bereft that the blue is all gone. Carson McCullers died on the deck of the steamer before I could tell her I knew, knew as much as I could. (All of those people in her books, alone, sad, sick with guilt and pain.)
Broken bottles are embedded in the wall below for Forché’s colonel. If I look out the window, I can see Gatsby’s flashing light across the water. Yes, the waves still beat back. Beneath the fire, rust.
The sorrows of my changing face, Yeats named them.
The heart is an organ of fire, Almaszy said.
*All header quotes are taken from Anna Kamienska’s In That Great River: A Notebook, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanaugh
Music by Sia, “Lullaby (song from Hereafter)”
Sometimes I think all the best poems
have been written already,
and no one has time to read them,
so why try to write more?
At other times though,
I remember how one flower
in a meadow already full of flowers
somehow adds to the general fireworks effect
as you get to the top of a hill
in Colorado, say, in high summer
and just look down at all that brimming color.
I also try to convince myself
that the smallest note of the smallest
instrument in the band,
the triangle for instance,
is important to the conductor
who stands there, pointing his finger
in the direction of the percussions,
demanding that one silvery ping.
And I decide not to stop trying,
at least not for a while, though in truth
I’d rather just sit here reading
how someone else has been acquainted
with the night already, and perfectly.
~ Linda Pastan
Ceiling fans, light fixtures, drapes . . . Have to say I didn’t have nearly as much fun as Lucy and Ethel used to. And my sinuses and lungs are now filled with winter dust and all that accompanies it. Yuck.
Don’t ask me why I do these things. It always seems like a good idea at the time . . .
Real post later, maybe.
Music by Pink Floyd, “Comfortably Numb”
Just watched this on Izaak Mak’s I Want Ice Water, and had to post it here:
It’s going to be a loooong general election.
“April 7. The heavens opened for the sunset to-night . . . I sat behind the window, pricked with rain, and looked until that hard thing in my breast melted and broke into the smallest fountain, murmuring as aforetime, and I drank the sky and the whisper.” ~ Journal of Katherine Mansfield, 1914
Wednesday, late afternoon. Sunny and mild, low 70’s.
I keep saying that I will be able to be more focused, more attuned to my writing and reading once my computer gets fixed, and I had planned to do that with this paycheck, but somehow, I spent my spending money on Alexis and maternity clothes, and then, of course, there was the food that we needed in the house, and the power bill . . . no computer repairs this time, so I am stuck on Eamonn’s computer, otherwise known as the snail that wouldn’t.
I have given up trying to update my tumblr daily as just getting through 20 pages of posts takes hours, which really dampens the pleasure of the experience and turns it into a chore: Just five more pages, no three more, damn, whatever . . .
So I got this blog up-to-date, filling in the past three days, but in so doing, I realized that I m pretty darned depressed. I mean, I’m excited about the baby, but—and I cannot say this to Alexis—I am so sad that Corey and I were never able to have our own baby. I see that as one of the great ways in which I have failed him and our relationship, not that he would ever say so. But I feel this loss so keenly at times, no, not a loss, but a lack, a hole, something. I know that my state-of-mind is not helped by the knowledge that one of Alexis’s friends has had her fourth child as a single mother, four children, four different fathers, maybe three.
She’s not a bad person, and I’m not judging. Rather, I’m envious. Do I think this young woman is acting responsibly? No. Her family knows it, and she knows it, and she was thinking of giving the child up for adoption, but when it came down to it, she couldn’t.
I guess what I’m saying is that it’s so hard to not be able to do something only to turn around and hear of someone who can do that something without even trying. I sound like a child, don’t I?
“I know the slow combinations of the night, & the glow
Of fireflies, deepening the shadows of all I do not know. ~ David St. John, from “I Know”
I know that my mood is not helped by Corey’s absence, that I am feeling sad and lonely and way too sorry for myself. Let’s all think happy thoughts, shall we?
At least the rain has stopped and the temperatures are a bit warmer. I moved my boots to the back of the closet and got out my slide-ons just in time for the temperatures to drop 40 degrees at night. My timing has always been stellar with such things.
Today is a lazy day. Brett has no classes as his exams start tomorrow, and I have nowhere that I have to be, having begun the week with my doctor’s appointment. I forgot to have my lab work done last week in preparation for the appointment. Totally slipped my mind, so I need to take care of that sometime soon. Fasting lab work, which is always fun. And when I stepped on the scales in the doctor’s office, I had only lost two pounds, two pounds even though my clothes say seven pounds, at least.
At least my doctor didn’t lecture me about not seeing a pulmonologist. I told her that my asthma was better, and that was it. Good enough. No new doctor and no new meds. Perhaps she was just happy to hear that I’ve given up sugar and soda and that I’m making real attempts to get more physical activity in my daily regimen.
“Words do not express thoughts very well. They always become a little different immediately after they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish.” ~ Hermann Hesse
Unfortunately, I cannot say that the headaches have gotten any better. At the moment, I have the lights off and no music playing. The only soundtrack I have is Shakes snoring at my feet. I’m writing blind again, no glasses, unable to see the screen. All that I see is this blur as I type the words. No matter.
Last night I dreamed that I was at a high school reunion, and I saw one of the guys I had had a crush on. In the dream, he looked the same. Isn’t it odd how people do not age in our dreams? Anyway, other people in the dream included my ex, who was bragging that he had had sex with a hooker (?), and another of my guy friends who I saw only from behind. The hooker statement was wild and completely out of character for my ex. Such a strange dream.
Another part of the dream had a famous soprano singing an aria at the reunion dinner, another completely unlikely event. People were talking during her performance, and I could see that she was getting angry. Then my dinner disappeared. It was crabcakes and asparagus, both of which I love, but neither of which have I had in an indecent amount of time.
I don’t remember how the dream ended.
“but writing down the words
alters what I want to remember
that which had no words
was a living breathing image
but tomorrow when I’m gone
only the words are left
signs evoking something
that no eye sees any more” ~ Remco Campert, from “Memo”
I just remembered one of the prose poems that I wrote years ago, and what bothers me is that I have no idea if a copy of this poem exists anywhere. I remember what the poem was about—I wrote it when my ex and I were having major problems—and I remember the title: “One more damned drink for the road,” but I don’t know where to find this poem. There is a slim chance that it was on the hard drive of my broken computer, which is good as I do have a copy of everything from the hard drive.
Perhaps I’ll be able to find it after all.
I’ve had lines from poems running through my head almost continually for the past few weeks—my poems, other people’s poems, which means that I should really be acting on these creative spurts, but of course, I have not. It’s as if my mind and my body are at war. My brain is saying, write this, write this, and my body is throwing up roadblocks in the form of migraines and muscle spasms. If I had lived in another era, I would quell my ailments with morphine or strong drink, and I would write until I passed out. That, or I would be locked up in an asylum.
But the words are here, almost all of the time. I look at a photograph, and a line comes to me. I’m standing at the sink washing dishes, and a phrase emerges. But it’s no use. I can’t get past this omnipresent pain. Even now, as I type these mundane words on the keyboard, words that take no imagination whatsoever, my head is tightening, and I’m rushing to complete this before the pain actually does make it impossible to keep my eyes open.
“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.” ~ Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
If you’re still reading this, then I thank you. Truly. I mean, how entertaining could it be to read day after day that I have a migraine?
What was it Russell Crowe as Maximus yelled at the Coliseum in Gladiator? “Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?”
This blog is no Gladiator, and I am no Russell Crowe, but I hope that sometimes my words are worth your time, that sometimes I am able to arrange my words in such a way as to allow you to hear my voice. It’s all that I could ask. Obrigada.
And now, a few hours of ancient Rome might be just the ticket.
More later. Peace.
Music by Otis Redding, “Pain in My Heart” (heard this on “Awake” the other night, blast from the past)]
There is the sudden silence of the crowd
above a player not moving on the field,
and the silence of the orchid.
The silence of the falling vase
before it strikes the ﬂoor,
the silence of the belt when it is not striking the child.
The stillness of the cup and the water in it,
the silence of the moon
and the quiet of the day far from the roar of the sun.
The silence when I hold you to my chest,
the silence of the window above us,
and the silence when you rise and turn away.
And there is the silence of this morning
which I have broken with my pen,
a silence that had piled up all night
like snow falling in the darkness of the house—
the silence before I wrote a word
and the poorer silence now.
~ Billy Collins, in Poetry (April 2005)
I haven’t come across a prose poem in a while that really grabbed me . . .
[I believe there is a song that is stranger than wind . . .]
from the telling, toss, toss. In the room I move in, a wrecked boy listened
to each sky’s erasing, for it was shrill winter, for it was blast and blur.
For it was farther from the native birds and the gray heath heather and
the uncaressable thighs of the one who shook in violet. Those who fly
farthest must always burn the nest. But the mind in its implacable spec-
trum dims to brown. Must you die on your back like a cheap engine, rust
and wrack? In the crevicing days, there are no words for prizing, be-
tween the lidless moon and the silver hands of the fountain. But if it is
space you must fail in, teach it din.
For those of you who may not be familiar with this poetic form, the prose poem is written like prose, without the poetic line breaks, but it still contains many of the same poetic devices, such as figures of speech, alliteration, assonance, repetition, and rhyme. The length of a prose poem varies a great deal, and the subject matter is not limited in any way, with topics including love, nature, war, etc.
According to poets.org, the form “is most often traced to nineteenth-century French symbolists writers. The advent of the form in the work of Aloysius Bertrand and Charles Baudelaire marked a significant departure from the strict separation between the genres of prose and poetry at the time.”
I have written a couple of prose poems, and it’s hard to say what causes a poem to fit into this category. I can only tell you that I knew innately that what I was writing was a prose poem.
My favorite prose poem is “The story of a day in the life of a woman trying,” which I would have put here, but my copy of it is packed away in a box somewhere.
More later. Peace.