“Life is heavier
than the weight of all things.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “The Neighbor”
Sunday afternoon. Overcast, intermittent showers, mid 60’s.
Feeling quite low, sensing an impending fall. Thoughts are running all over the place, so instead of linear, I shall merely convey mixed musings for a Sunday afternoon:
- I have come to realize that I shall die with my heart placed firmly upon my sleeve, bruised and battered for all the world to see.
- Given a choice between wide, sweeping stairs and narrow ones, I will choose wide ones. Between straight and curved? Curved.
- I am deeply moved by images depicting a man and woman kissing.
- Show me two pictures of skies, one blue and one with a coming storm, and I will gravitate immediately towards the impending storm.
- Sometimes black and white speaks so much louder than color; hence, my fascinations with zebras. I think that they are truly beautiful animals. I love everything about the way that they look, but I know nothing about them.
- Probably because I have been terribly nearsighted most of my life, sound affects me more than sight. Music can bring me to tears faster than an image.
- Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Mozart. How did they do it? Did they imagine they were hearing the universe?
- I have an immediate gut reaction to images of large cliffs and water. It’s as if my psyche senses a kinship to such places.
- Sunrise or sunset? Sunset, always sunset.
- Sunlight or moonlight. Moonlight. Night skies. Infinity. Corey says that he has never seen such night skies as those from the middle of the ocean.
“What do we know about the postulates, the basic rules of remaining faithful to life? We write afternoon instead of early evening, Geneva instead of Prague; one omits to betray an uncertainty . . . So there is nothing for it but to accept the fragmentation and the superficiality and the emptiness, and with each journey to restrict oneself as precisely as possible to what can be written, faithfully, about reality.” ~ Daniel Robberechts, Arriving in Avignon
I hate days like these, days in which I can feel my heart beating and every sound seems to permeate my senses. I hate it because in this state, it’s not an appreciation but an intrusion.
- I know that I’m not alone, but that knowing does nothing to reduce the sense of aloneness.
- Not loneliness, aloneness. Not solitude, which is a second skin, but more an alienation, but from what?
- What keeps me from actively pursuing the path that I have wanted for as long as I can remember? Fear.
- I hate fear, hate being afraid, hate my trepidation.
- I do not abide cowards, so why do I tolerate it in myself?
- Honor. Bushido. Big talk. Why does it seem so important?
- I have no idea as to why I filled yesterday’s post with tulips.
“There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.” ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
Today’s poem is quite long, and I thought about just using a part, but it didn’t feel right to do so.
- I move through life attributing human characteristics to everything: fish, dogs, frogs. I do not find this odd.
- I was probably a canine in another life. I do not find this odd either.
- Things I thought about pursuing: oceanography, medicine, law. I only regret not pursuing oceanography.
- I still remember the lead paragraph to a story that I wrote for a newspaper article a lifetime ago.
- My last religious epiphany: Maundy Thursday, years ago, sitting in an empty church, reciting the Apostle’s Creed over and over again.
- I have no explanation for what happened that day.
- It has never happened again.
- Real mystery begins and ends in the stars.
“There are things we know by heart,
and things we don’t.” ~ Andrea Gibson, from “Birthday”
Images I cannot erase from my mind:
- Caitlin lying on a hospital bed, so small, surrounded by white. White noise the backdrop to all my days.
- A naked child running from napalm.
- A homeless man holding his dog, the sadness more palpable in the dog’s eyes than the man’s.
- My father sitting in the back of a car, sideburns.
- Hundreds of pigeons in Trafalgar Square, completely unafraid of the people.
- The flapping sails on my friend’s catamaran, the smell of the bay.
- A child with a small ball on an elastic string, the ball moving back and forth as the child walks down the dirt road beneath the relentless Philippine sun.
- The child is me.
- Lying in a hammock on a summer afternoon. Alexis asleep on my chest. The sunlight dappled through the leaves of the oak tree. One perfect afternoon.
“But dreams come through stone walls, light up dark rooms, or darken light ones, and their persons make their exits and their entrances as they please, and laugh at locksmiths.” ~ Joseph Sheridan, Le Fanu
My family converses in onomatopoeia: jibby-jabby, thingy . . . it all makes sense to us.
- I continue to dream of the large attic room filled with antiques over which I have been given charge. The woman who owns them is a museum board member.
- Each time I dream of this room, I am trying to steal something from it, but I never succeed.
- I dream of a tall man with blond hair, a lawyer. I do not know this man.
- I dreamt of little people flinging themselves off a building.
- In my dream, I do not recognize my eyes; then I realize that I am wearing false eyelashes. I don’t know how they got there.
- I seldom seem afraid in my dreams.
- Last night I dreamed of my mother and father together: They were dressed to go out for the evening. Then my father said that he was going by himself. My mother got out of the car resigned.
- I think that I’m just looking for a place to land.
“Now I know a language so beautiful and lethal
My mouth bleeds when I speak it.” ~ Gwendolyn MacEwen, from “But”
- tears, idle tears
- do I dare to eat a peach?
- I shall be a pair of ragged claws
- tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
- the waves beat back
- water of life
- such stuff as dreams are made of
- the sorrows of her changing face
- green rooms like lit glass
- the heart is an organ of fire
“The mind was dreaming. The world was its dream.” ~ Jorge Luis Borges, from “The Circular Ruins”
Lines from poems I have yet to write:
- Can it be that I am alive still
- Who will write my epitaph, the lines of my life
- Such a fulgent lie
- When night’s darkness comes too slowly
- We are all fools and beggars
- In motley, I shall slay no dragons
- Proust was wrong
- In that moment between sleep and wake
- I cannot, I said.
Music by Gareth Dunlop, ‘Trick of the Moonlight”
At 12 years old I started bleeding with the moon
and beating up boys who dreamed of becoming astronauts.
I fought with my knuckles white as stars,
and left bruises the shape of Salem.
There are things we know by heart,
and things we don’t.
At 13 my friend Jen tried to teach me how to blow rings of smoke.
I’d watch the nicotine rising from her lips like halos,
but I could never make dying beautiful.
The sky didn’t fill with colors the night I convinced myself
veins are kite strings you can only cut free.
I suppose I love this life,
in spite of my clenched fist.
I open my palm and my lifelines look like branches from an Aspen tree,
and there are songbirds perched on the tips of my fingers,
and I wonder if Beethoven held his breath
the first time his fingers touched the keys
the same way a soldier holds his breath
the first time his finger clicks the trigger.
We all have different reasons for forgetting to breathe.
But my lungs remember
the day my mother took my hand and placed it on her belly
and told me the symphony beneath was my baby sister’s heartbeat.
And I knew life would tremble
like the first tear on a prison guard’s hardened cheek,
like a prayer on a dying man’s lips,
like a vet holding a full bottle of whiskey like an empty gun in a war zone…
just take me just take me
Sometimes the scales themselves weigh far too much,
the heaviness of forever balancing blue sky with red blood.
We were all born on days when too many people died in terrible ways,
but you still have to call it a birthday.
You still have to fall for the prettiest girl on the playground at recess
and hope she knows you can hit a baseball
further than any boy in the whole third grade
and I’ve been running for home
through the windpipe of a man who sings
while his hands playing washboard with a spoon
on a street corner in New Orleans
where every boarded up window is still painted with the words
We’re Coming Back
like a promise to the ocean
that we will always keep moving towards the music,
the way Basquiat slept in a cardboard box to be closer to the rain.
Beauty, catch me on your tongue.
Thunder, clap us open.
The pupils in our eyes were not born to hide beneath their desks.
Tonight lay us down to rest in the Arizona desert,
then wake us washing the feet of pregnant women
who climbed across the border with their bellies aimed towards the sun.
I know a thousand things louder than a soldier’s gun.
I know the heartbeat of his mother.
Don’t cover your ears, Love.
Don’t cover your ears, Life.
There is a boy writing poems in Central Park
and as he writes he moves
and his bones become the bars of Mandela’s jail cell stretching apart,
and there are men playing chess in the December cold
who can’t tell if the breath rising from the board
is their opponents or their own,
and there’s a woman on the stairwell of the subway
swearing she can hear Niagara Falls from her rooftop in Brooklyn,
and I’m remembering how Niagara Falls is a city overrun
with strip malls and traffic and vendors
and one incredibly brave river that makes it all worth it.
Ya’ll, I know this world is far from perfect.
I am not the type to mistake a streetlight for the moon.
I know our wounds are deep as the Atlantic.
But every ocean has a shoreline
and every shoreline has a tide
that is constantly returning
to wake the songbirds in our hands,
to wake the music in our bones,
to place one fearless kiss on the mouth of that brave river
that has to run through the center of our hearts
to find its way home.