“January dry, hard, glittering, cold, and the wicked beauty of the scraped blue skies” ~ Sylvia Plath, from The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath.

kees-scherer-winter-in-amsterdam-1950
Kees Scherer, “Winter in Amsterdam” (1950)

“Here I am with all my flaws
seeking form and shelter.” ~ Sally van Doren, from “The Kindness of Strangers”

Wednesday evening, cold, 15 degrees.

We are just below the huge polar vortex that is causing record-breaking cold temperatures across the north. It’s expected to drop to 9 degrees tonight; we’re lucky, though, because the weather service is predicting double-digit negative wind chills in several states, but thankfully, not here.

kees scherer boten-in-de-sneeuw-amsterdam-1952.
Kees Scherer, “Boten in de sneeuw, Amsterdam” (1952)

Okay . . . so I’ve covered the weather . . . now what?

I do apologize if you’ve only recently begun to follow me; it’s not always like this. There has been a dearth of posts of late, and I honestly don’t have much of an explanation other than this brick wall that is placed firmly somewhere firmly within that part of the brain responsible for generating creative thought. (Scientists are still a bit vague and unable to agree on exactly which part that is, exactly).

Anyway, I always have such big plans for writing, usually early in the morning when I’m letting the dogs out for the second or third time of the night, but then I wake up completely, roll through my tumblr as I drink my coffee, become distracted by the dirt and detritus that is ever-present on my floor lately, and then any creative impulses that I may have harbored earlier, dissipate. I told Corey today that if I don’t stop gathering quotes and images for drafts, I’ll soon have 200 rough drafts and no real posts.

I blame tumblr. I mean, I have to blame someone or something, so why not mud and tumblr?

“The amount of quiet I need does not exist in the world, from which it follows that no one ought to need so much quiet.” ~ Franz Kafka, from Letters to Ottla and the Family

I have found several new poets in the past few weeks, as well as a new Flickr creative commons site and a few new artists to explore. These things are all good, and generally do a lot to stimulate my muse, just not so much in recent weeks.

The truly miserable aspect is that February is almost upon us (I have no idea as to how that happened), and it’s always a wreck of a month for me, not quite a November of a wreck, but a wreck, nevertheless. It was always a bad month for my Dad, too. If he wasn’t at sea during the winter months, he would always begin to get really stir crazy in February, as if he needed to rush it away to move head long into spring.

I miss my dad, and my mom, and my other mother . . . I miss my kids . . . I even miss Norfolk . . . kind of . . . maybe just the fast food convenience and access to doctors. Whatever. Ignore me.

I think that I’m done for today. Let me leave you with two quotes, this first about writing:

We write what we know and what we do not know. But what do we write it on? On any available surface: on a computer screen, on legal pads, on the walls of prisons, on our lovers’ skin, on our own DNA. The available surface accommodates us, and our context; it becomes us, and our context .

The available surface is our instrument, and also our soul.

~  T. R. Hummer, from Available Surfaces: Essays on Poesis (from “Introduction and Apologia”)

I write on everything, post-it notes, envelopes, calendars, my phone, my laptop, even my hand, so I really appreciate Hummer’s passage.

And then this quote from Sherod Santos on art:

“Symbol, metaphor, allegory: to bring together and disclose. In the material world, we have things which appear to us, but we also have another kind of thing, a thing-in-itself, a thing which doesn’t appear to us but is, all the same, not nothing: air, death, God, love, as in ‘I gave you my love, and you took it.’ Those things we perceive only when they’re unconcealed by something else: when the air is unconcealed by the rustle of leaves, death by the corpse in the casket, God in religious fervor, love in human longing and attachment. And all those realities may be unconcealed by a work of art.
~ from “Seven Seconds in the Life of the Honeyed Muse or, What is Art?”

More later. Peace.


Music by Haevn, “Fortitude”

 


Mi Musa Triste (My Sad Muse)

Murmuring preludes. On this resplendent night
Her pearled voice quiets a fountain.
The breezes hang their celestial fifes
In the foliage. The gray heads
Of the owls keep watch.
Flowers open themselves, as if surprised.
Ivory swans extend their necks
In the pallid lakes.
Selene watches from the blue. Fronds
Tremble…and everything! Even the silence, quiets.

She wanders with her sad mouth
And the grand mystery of amber eyes,
Across the night, toward forgetfulness
Like a star, fugitive and white.
Like a dethroned exotic queen
With comely gestures and rare utterings.

Her undereyes are violated horizons
And her irises–two stars of amber–
Open wet and weary and sad
Like ulcers of light that weep.

She is a grief which thrives and does not hope,
She is a gray aurora rising
From the shadowy bed of night,
Exhausted, without splendor, without anxiousness.
And her songs are like dolorous fairies
Jeweled in teardrops…

The strings of lyres
Are the souls’ fibers.–

The blood of bitter vineyards, noble vineyards,
In goblets of regal beauty, rises
To her marble hands, to lips carved
Like the blazon of a great lineage.

Strange Princes of Fantasy! They
Have seen her languid head, once erect,
And heard her laugh, for her eyes
Tremble with the flower of aristocracies!

And her soul clean as fire, like a star,
Burns in those pupils of amber.
But with a mere glance, scarcely an intimacy,
Perhaps the echo of a profane voice,
This white and pristine soul shrinks
Like a luminous flower, folding herself up!

~ Delmira Agustini

 

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“So I sought | The sleep which would not come, and night was fraught | With old emotions weeping silently.” ~ Amy Lowell, from “Crepuscule du Matin”


Two for Tuesday: Jorge Luis Borges

Tuesday afternoon, cold and snow off and on, 26 degrees.

I’m still suffering from writer’s block. The words just aren’t coming. The good news, though, is that I’ve collected a bunch of quotes and images for future posts, that is, if I can ever write them.

Anyway, today’s selection includes two poems by author and poet Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986). The Poetry Foundation has a really good bio here.

I hope you are doing well out there in the ether. Everyone here, human and beast, is doing fine. It’s supposed to be beastly cold for a few days, and then a nice warm up for about a week. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it actually comes to pass.

More later. Peace.


Two English Poems

I

The useless dawn finds me in a deserted street-
corner; I have outlived the night.
Nights are proud waves; darkblue topheavy waves
laden with all the hues of deep spoil, laden with
things unlikely and desirable.
Nights have a habit of mysterious gifts and refusals,
of things half given away, half withheld,
of joys with a dark hemisphere. Nights act
that way, I tell you.
The surge, that night, left me the customary shreds
and odd ends: some hated friends to chat
with, music for dreams, and the smoking of
bitter ashes. The things my hungry heart
has no use for.
The big wave brought you.
Words, any words, your laughter; and you so lazily
and incessantly beautiful. We talked and you
have forgotten the words.
The shattering dawn finds me in a deserted street
of my city.
Your profile turned away, the sounds that go to
make your name, the lilt of your laughter:
these are the illustrious toys you have left me.
I turn them over in the dawn, I lose them, I find
them; I tell them to the few stray dogs and
to the few stray stars of the dawn.
Your dark rich life . . .
I must get at you, somehow; I put away those
illustrious toys you have left me, I want your
hidden look, your real smile—that lonely,
mocking smile your cool mirror knows.

II

What can I hold you with?
I offer you lean streets, desperate sunsets, the
moon of the jagged suburbs.
I offer you the bitterness of a man who has looked
long and long at the lonely moon.
I offer you my ancestors, my dead men, the ghosts
that living men have honoured in bronze:
my father’s father killed in the frontier of
Buenos Aires, two bullets through his lungs,
bearded and dead, wrapped by his soldiers in
the hide of a cow; my mother’s grandfather
—just twentyfour—heading a charge of
three hundred men in Peru, now ghosts on
vanished horses.
I offer you whatever insight my books may hold,
whatever manliness or humour my life.
I offer you the loyalty of a man who has never
been loyal.
I offer you that kernel of myself that I have saved,
somehow—the central heart that deals not
in words, traffics not with dreams, and is
untouched by time, by joy, by adversities.
I offer you the memory of a yellow rose seen at
sunset, years before you were born.
I offer you explanations of yourself, theories about
yourself, authentic and surprising news of
yourself.
I can give you my loneliness, my darkness, the
hunger of my heart; I am trying to bribe you
with uncertainty, with danger, with defeat.


Music by Iron & Wine, “Bird Stealing Bread”

“Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash and I’m delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever” ~ Terry Gilliam, from The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (movie)

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Friday afternoon, brilliantly sunny and cold, 33 degrees.

I actually feel like writing today, so I’ll work on tomorrow’s post since I already had today’s post ready to go. Quite an assorted collection.

Enjoy.


From funnymemes:

From memescomedy:

Hilarious:

From anxietyproblem:

Tillie used to do this with dog cookie boxes:

Love this from John Atkinson:

From ultrafacts:

Sooo tempting:

“It doesn’t matter who my father was, it matters who I remember he was.” ~ Anne Sexton, from a journal entry, 1972

Life was never like Andy of Mayberry

Two for Tuesday: Poems about Fathers

Tuesday afternoon, sunny and warmer, 43 degrees.

The two poems that I’ve chosen for today are both about communicating with fathers. The first, by W. S. Merwin, I used to teach in my literature classes. I always loved this poem because of its deliberate lack of punctuation, which leaves it open to be read in different ways. For example, if Merwin had punctuated the first few lines as follows—My friend says, “I was not a good son, you understand?” I say, “yes, I understand”—then it could be read that the friend is commenting on his own relationship with his father. However, if you read it with the word that omitted, as most people do in speech, then it would be as follows: My friend says [that] I was not a good son—an accusation against the speaker.

My students used to enjoy playing around with this particular poem; I always felt that it was a perfect example of how poetry can be open-ended, meaning dependent upon what we as individuals bring to the text. Either way, though, the poem is about regret.

The second selection is from a longer poem from I poet who I only found recently. The speaker in this one is female, but as soon as I read it, I was reminded of the Merwin poem, which I had to hunt for because I couldn’t remember the title. In this poem as well I sense a great deal of regret for things unspoken on both sides. This one really reminded me of my father, just as the Merwin one used to remind me of the relationship that I had with my father while he was still alive.

Regret can kill you.

More later. Peace.

Note: I didn’t realize until after posting that I had already used this Merwin poem in a previous post, but as I love it so much, I decided not to change it; I just hope that I didn’t make the same comments . . .


Yesterday

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father’s hand the last time
he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don’t want you to feel that you
have to
just because I’m here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don’t want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

~ W. S. Merwin


“father. you always call to say nothing in particular. you
ask what i’m doing or where i am and when the silence
stretches like a lifetime between us i scramble to find
questions to keep the conversation going. what i long to say most is.
i understand this world broke you. it has been so hard on your feet.
i don’t blame you for not knowing how to remain soft with me. sometimes i stay up thinking
of all the places you are hurting which you’ll never care to mention. i come from the same aching blood. from the same bone so desperate for attention i collapse in on myself. i am your daughter. i know the small talk is the only way you know how to tell me you love me. cause it is the only way i know how to tell you.”

~ Rupi Kaur, from “The Hurting,” in Milk and Honey


Music by Gert Taberner, “Fallen”

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in handcuffs as he is escorted to courthouse by an officer to attend a hearing on charges of probation violation following his arrest for assisting a student sit-in demonstration. (Photo by Donald Uhrbrock/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.” ~ from a speech at the Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, 1966

“But I write badly. The part of my brain in charge of writing ability refuses to work.” ~ Anton Chekhov, “A Boring Story”

Writer Carson McCullers, by Leonard McCombe

“My memory has weakened, my thoughts lack consistency, and each time I set them down on paper it seems to me that I’ve lost the intuition of their organic connection . . . And, remarkably, the simpler the writing, the more excruciating is the strain.” ~ Anton Chekhov, from “A Boring Story”

Sunday evening, ice and snow, and very cold, 17 degrees.

Well, sleep eluded me again last night until after 3 a.m., which, relatively speaking, is not bad for me. There have been times when I’ve been in the midst of an insomnia bout, I’ve watched the sun rise and still couldn’t close my eyes. And yet again, I awoke with a migraine. Nevertheless, I’m going to make a true effort to write today. No promises that I’ll have anything interesting to say.

Eudora Welty Autographing a Book in 1984, by Terry James

Last night the wind whipped around the house with a sound resembling a freight train. I worried about the horses as they still don’t have a shelter. Corey assures me that as long as they have enough hay that they will be able to produce sufficient body heat. They still manage to get out of the pasture each night, and the ringleader, Napoleon, leads them to the front porch.

He’s a beautiful horse, but he’s already spoiled. When he hears me at the front door calling the dogs, he lumbers over and waits for me to give him treats, and often when I do, he comes all of the way to the door after I go inside as if he wants to come inside. Yesterday, both he and the mare Sassy stood at the side window looking in at us as if to let us know, in case we had forgotten, that they were out there.

I no longer wonder if it’s possible to spoil a horse.

“One morning you wash your face,
look into the mirror,
find the water has eroded your features,
worn them smooth as a rock in a brook.” ~ Daniela Gioseffi, from “Some Slippery Afternoon”

So my current problem with words? Probably a myriad of reasons. I still haven’t gotten my other mood stabilizing medication because there’s presumably a shortage, at least that’s what the pharmacy says, and of course, the ongoing lack of my pain maintenance medications doesn’t help things. Added to that the current state of my back is horrendous—it hasn’t hurt this much in years.

Dorothy Parker at Work at Her Typewriter in 1941

I know. I know. Nothing new, but between the ongoing winter depression and the recurrent pain, it’s hard to string thoughts together coherently. The physical always affects the mental, and vice versa.

And so I sit down at my little workspace (because my desk still isn’t set up), and I open YouTube and start playing news stories or true crime stories to run in the background, and then I open up a new screen for a draft, and I stare . . . that, or I work on putting quotes together for future drafts, or I spend some time on tumblr looking for more quotes or images for future posts, and then . . . after wasting more time, I go back to the draft screen, and nothing.

“. . . I hope to learn from you how things really are, why it is that around me things sink away like fallen snow, whereas for other people even a little liqueur glass stands on the table steady as a statue.” ~ Franz Kafka, from “Description of a Struggle”

The house still isn’t completely organized or painted, mostly because Corey has so much to do with all of the outside things that need to be handled, that or he ends up unwillingly wasting entire days with Dallas who always proposes projects and then never gets around to them.

Vita Sackville-West in Her Tower Study at Sissinghurst in 1939

The truth of the matter is that Dallas has a drinking problem, one that seems to be getting worse. I don’t like to be around drunks. I’ve had too much experience with drinking problems, and it really gets to me. I mean Dallas has a good heart and good intentions, but as Corey says, Dallas just cannot stay on task; his mind flits from one thing to another, and as a result, little gets done.

I don’t regret that Dallas entered our lives; the relationship is definitely beneficial on both sides: he’s a lonely man who doesn’t appear to have much of a relationship with either of his children, and I have to wonder if that is because of his drinking. But I do feel sorry for him, and I do really try to be patient with him unless he shows up three sheets to the wind. I know that Corey, too, gets frustrated, but there’s little he can do besides try to keep Dallas focused. Still, the ongoing state of the inside of the house is really starting to get to me; I wish so much that I could do some of this stuff myself.

If wishes were fishes . . .

“The place of language is the place between me
and the world of presences I have lost” ~ Marie Ponsot, from “Imagining Starry”
Writer Clarice Lispector at Home in Rio de Janeiro, ca. 1973

I’m trying very hard, even it doesn’t seem like it, trying not to let things get to me, trying not to think about how my children are far away and out of touch, trying not to think about how there’s always so much to do, trying not to worry too much about Dallas and things that are out of my hands, trying to enjoy once again the act of writing these words . . .

. . . trying hard to be present in my life, which is so much harder than it might seem . . .

. . . trying hard to be thankful for what is here and not devastated by what is not . . .

. . . but no matter how hard I try, I just seem to find myself treading water, and I despise this more than I can say.

“I just can’t live an ordinary life, I can’t pass the time. I can’t organise myself, I don’t have ordinary motives anymore. I can’t even manage my body, when I go to bed I don’t know where to put my arms.“ ~ Iris Murdoch, The Green Knight

And I wonder if I have ever truly been present in my life, wholly present. I have this memory of my first husband asking me early in our relationship why I always worried about the future, always worried about what might or might not happen. I had no answer then, and I have no answer now.

Writer Zora Neale Hurston in 1955

I wonder if part of it is being an only child who always felt that I needed to be the mediator for my parents’ disjointed relationship. If I always worried so much about what might happen between them that I just got in the habit of always worrying about what might happen and never figured out how to just be present in today.

Or perhaps this inability comes from being a teenager and always wondering why I never felt as if I belonged. I had friends, a lot of friends. But still, there was always this feeling that these friendships were tenuous, dependent on my acting a certain way, a way that was acceptable, whatever that meant, and so I fretted and worried. No one ever made me feel this way. It was purely internal, and it went back years: In London I didn’t feel as if I fit in because of my American accent and Filipino last name; In Norfolk, I didn’t feel as if I fit in because of my British accent and Filipino last name.

I cannot tell you how frustrating it is. How can a person even begin to hope to be normal (whatever that is), hope to make her way through the days in any kind of pseudo normal fashion when everything is a question and the answers never seem to be available?

Anyway, more later. Peace.


Music by Coldplay, “O (Fly On),” extended version


With a Changing Key

With a changing key
you unlock the house where
the snow of what’s silenced drifts.
Just like the blood that bursts from
your eye or mouth or ear,
so your key changes.

Changing your key changes the word
that may drift with the flakes.
Just like the wind that rebuffs you,
packed round your word is the snow.

~ Paul Celan (Trans. Nikolai Popov and Heather McHugh)