“you can return to the scenes of a love, of a crime, of happiness, and of a fatal decision; the places are what remain, are what you can possess, are what is immortal. They become the tangible landscape of memory, the places that made you, and in some way you too become them. They are what you can possess and in the end what possesses you.” ~ Rebecca Solnit, from A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Emil Nolde Two Red Fish

“Two Red Fish” (nd)
by Emil Nolde


Two for Tuesday: Fate

Tuesday, early evening. Sunny, 50’s.

I’ve managed to pick up several new followers in the past few weeks, which made me comment to Corey that perhaps I should just leave this site alone and let it gather followers on its own . . . Anyway, welcome to all of the new people. I’m so glad that you’ve decided to visit. I hope I can find interesting things to offer you.

Well, I actually slept last night, real sleep, for the first time in five nights. Between the akathisia, the restless legs, and the switch-up on my meds, I’ve been a wreck.

I actually had some energy, so of course, I buzzed through the house cleaning everything I could before exhaustion took over. I just hate it when I sit in the rocking chair and see a layer of dust. Anyway, cleaner house, but still so much more to do, but as usual, I did too much my first day out of bed, so we’ll see how well I’m moving tomorrow. Pain sucks, can I just say?

Hope your Tuesday is going well.

More later. Peace.

Music by Other Lives, “Dust Bowl III”

                   

Emil Nolde Naked Woman and Red Flowers aka Semi-Nude 1938-1945

“Naked Woman and Red Flowers (semi-nude)(1938-45)
by Emil Nolde

Each Sound

Beginnings are brutal, like this accident
of stars colliding, mute explosions
of colorful gases, the mist and dust
that would become our bodies
hurling through black holes, rising,
muck ridden, from pits of tar and clay.
Back then it was easy to have teeth,
claw our way into the trees–it was
accepted, the monkeys loved us, sat
on their red asses clapping and laughing.
We’ve forgotten the luxury of dumbness,
how once we crouched naked on an outcrop
of rock, the moon huge and untouched
above us, speechless. Now we talk
about everything, incessantly,
our moans and grunts turned on a spit
into warm vowels and elegant consonants.
We say plethora, demitasse, ozone and love.
We think we know what each sound means.
There are times when something so joyous
or so horrible happens our only response
is an intake of breath, and then
we’re back at the truth of it,
that ball of life expanding
and exploding on impact, our heads,
our chests, filled with that first
unspeakable light.

~ Dorianne Laux

                   

Emil Nolde Saint in the Desert 1911

“Saint in the Desert” (1911)
by Emil NOlde

 

Pandora

September.
Second-year medical student.
An early patient interview
at the Massachusetts General Hospital
Routine hernia repair planned, not done.
Abdomen opened and closed.
Filled with disease, cancer.

The patient is fifty-six,
a workingman, Irish
I sit with him, notice
the St. Christopher medal
around his neck.
Can’t hurt, can it? he laughs.
I have become his friend.

I bring him a coloring book picture
that shows this thing, this unfamiliar
organ that melted beneath our hands
at dissection:
Pancreas.

Leaving his room, crying,
avoiding classmates,
I take the back stairs.
I find myself locked,
coatless in the courtyard outside.

~ Kelley Jean White

“Get used to the bear behind you.” ~ Werner Herzog, from 24 pieces of life advice

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait of Giulia Leonardi 1910

“Portrait of Guilia Leonardi” (1910)
by Ferdinand Hodler*


“I fear I will be ripped open and found unsightly.” ~ Anne Sexton, from A Self Portrait In Letters

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and chilly, 51 degrees.

Well, long time, no write, hmm?

Let’s see. Where were we? When last I posted, I was in the midst of a never ending migraine, one that wouldn’t abate with shots, meds, what have you. Finally, I went on an aggressive two-week regimen with upped doses of my pain meds, and it seemed to break, at least for a while. Good news on that front, yes, but don’t worry. Things continued to be interesting.

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait of Berthe Jacques 1894 oil on canvas

“Portrait of Berthe Jacques” (1894, oil on canvas)

It seems I’ve developed akathisia from my seroquel, one of the meds I was on for sleep and anxiety. What is akathisia, you might ask? Well, it’s this wonderful condition in which you cannot stop your body from moving: tapping feet, rocking from side to side, and all kinds of variations. Mine appeared as an ability to keep my feet from moving while lying in bed at night, but I didn’t really think anything of it. I have no idea when it started, exactly, but it’s been going on for a while.

So at my last check-in with my prescribing psychiatrist, she noticed that I was fidgety. She asked me how long I had been that way. Who knows, I said. I’m quite anxious at the moment with everything that’s going on in my life. Could be that, I said. She gave me a look, suggested we switch up meds, try an extended release seroquel. Great.

Well that particular medicine landed me in bed, unable to wake up for more than a few hours. Not so good. I mentioned the fidgeting to my neurologist at that checkup. He gave me that look. Said, look I don’t want to worry you, but I want you to look up extra-pyramidal syndrome and akathisia.

So I did.

Crap.

“As for myself, I am splintered by great waves. I am coloured glass from a church window long since shattered. I find pieces of myself everywhere, and I cut myself handling them.” ~ Jeanette Winterson, from Lighthousekeeping

So ny prescribing psych and I agreed to stop the seroquel completely. Only problem is that at night, I cannot get comfortable. My feet won’t stop, and my legs feel terrible, and everything sucks. Yes, yes. RLS, or restless leg syndrome, which I supposedly do have, but which can be mistaken for akathisia, or vice versa. Add to that that our mattress is worn and it makes my back hurt, and on and on and on . . . ad infinitum. So it’s back to the doctor(s) to try to tweak the meds.

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait study to Look into the Infinity 1916 oil on canvas

“Portrait study to ‘Look into the Infinity'” (1916, oil on canvas)

Look. Enough already. I am so fricking tired of not feeling good that I’m ready to bang my head against a wall, except for that whole headache thing. I need some energy. I need to feel like myself. And I especially need to be able to sit down at this computer and do stuff instead of looking at it across the bedroom as if it were some time bomb getting ready to go off.

I literally have not sat in this chair and plied these keys in weeks. I’ve even taken to glancing at my e-mail on my phone, of all things. Oh the joys of having a smart phone. I look up medical terms like akathisia. I look up the weather. I look up whatever, anything to avoid coming back here.

Don’t ask me why being here, on this computer, on this forum is paralyzing me, but it is. I suppose its my unspoken pact with myself that I will continue to keep this blog going, that I will make it a place in which people who love quotes and art and minutiae will enjoy visiting, and because I have not done that for months now, I feel like such a failure—once again

“It’s never the changes we want that change everything.” ~ Junot Diaz, from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Ferdinand Hodler Empfindung 1901 tempera on canvas

“Empfindung” (1901, tempera on canvas)

Things are precarious at the moment. One son is completely heartbroken over a relationship that he ended and has decided that former girlfriend is now the love of his life. Ah to be 23 . . . not. Another son has been off his meds and is trying to cope, but I don’t think it’s working. And my daughter? Geez, I can’t begin to figure out what is going on in her mind, what possesses her to continue to do the stupid things that she does. I just want to grab her and shake her and say, “What the hell are you doing with your life?”

Then the whole oil/shipping thing has us over a barrel (no pun intended). We never thought we’d be facing down a repeat of those black years of 2008-2010, but it appears we are. Is it horrible that I want gas prices to go back up? Ah yes, it’s wonderful to be able to fill the tank for under $40, but given a choice, I’d rather spend more at the tank and have jobs come back in the industry.

And out of respect for Corey’s wishes I haven’t written about the situation before, but his family knows now, and the kids know, so what does it matter that I’m throwing it all out there again?

“I would like. I would like anything at all, but fast. I would like to get out of here. I would like to be rid of all this. I would like to start all over again. I would like to leave all this. Not to leave through an exit. I would like a multiple leaving, a whole spread of them. An endless leaving, an ideal leaving so that once I’ve left I begin leaving again right away.” ~ Henri Michaux, from “With Mescaline,” trans. David Ball

So is it any wonder that I have retreated from everything?

I haven’t been on my tumblr in a month. My inbox is completely overflowing. Mail lies unopened on the table by the front door. Furniture goes unpolished. Dust has gathered in corners, forming tumbleweeds. And I walk through the house seeing, but unable to act.

Ferdinand Hodler The Truth 1903

“The Truth” (1903)

When Olivia is here, it is a brief respite, a welcome distraction, but it also exhausts me. I leave the house to go to doctors’ appointments and for little else. Corey and I pass one another silently. He keeps to the dining room, looking out the back door, and I stay in here, a self-imposed prisoner to my bed. We don’t seem to be able to help one another.

What kind of life is this?

The only good thing is that I have been devouring books, that is up until this past week, when I suddenly found it impossible to concentrate on the words before me. Before that, I went through almost a dozen books, but books can only sustain for so long before the brain begins to shut down. And beneath all of this runs the undercurrent of my mother.

“The present is already too much for me. I can’t cope with the future as well.” ~ Salman Rushdie, from Shalimar the Clown

You see, I still haven’t made it to the cemetery to put on the silk flowers I bought ages ago. I still haven’t paid to have the dates put on her gravestone, and now I don’t have the money to do so. And so I have failed her once again.

Ferdinand Hodler The Dream 1897 watercolor on cardboard

“The Dream” (1897, watercolor on cardboard)

Will I ever arrive at a day on which I do not think of my mother and close my eyes in shame and regret for all of the ways in which I failed to make a difference in her life? Do you know the number of times in my life that I can remember my mother telling me she was proud of me? One. The number of times in my life I can remember her telling me she loved me? A handful.

How could this woman who so many found helpful and friendly have had such a completely different demeanor when it came to her only daughter, her only child? I will never have the answer to that question. Not ever, and so I continue to be haunted in the backdrop of each day by what a complete and utter failure our relationship was, how we failed one another, how I never quite measured up.

And you know what? That really and truly sucks.

More later (I truly hope to keep this promise). Peace.

*All images are by Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1817), one of the leading symbolist painters of the late 19th century. I love his paintings of women.

Music by Beth Orton, “Mystery”

                    

The Sensual World

I call to you across a monstrous river or chasm
to caution you, to prepare you.

Earth will seduce you, slowly, imperceptibly,
subtly, not to say with connivance.

I was not prepared: I stood in my grandmother’s kitchen,
holding out my glass. Stewed plums, stewed apricots–

the juice poured off into the glass of ice.
And the water added, patiently, in small increments,

the various cousins discriminating, tasting
with each addition–

aroma of summer fruit, intensity of concentration:
the colored liquid turning gradually lighter, more radiant,

more light passing through it.
Delight, then solace. My grandmother waiting,

to see if more was wanted. Solace, then deep immersion.
I loved nothing more: deep privacy of the sensual life,

the self disappearing into it or inseparable from it,
somehow suspended, floating, its needs

fully exposed, awakened, fully alive–
Deep immersion, and with it

mysterious safety. Far away, the fruit glowing it its glass bowls.
Outside the kitchen, the sun setting.

I was not prepared: sunset, end of summer. Demonstrations
of time as a continuum, as something coming to an end,

not a suspension: the senses wouldn’t protect me.
I caution you as I was never cautioned:

you will never let go, you will never be satiated.
You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.

Your body will age, you will continue to need.
You will want the earth, then more of the earth–

Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond.
It is encompassing, it will not minister.

Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you,
it will not keep you alive.

~

Sunday afternoon . . .

How my books look . . .
found on bookshelf porn

 versus

How I’d like my reading room to look . . .


There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away” ~ Emily Dickinson, from 1286

Ugh. Just ugh. Complete lack of energy and numb headache make for a very blah day. I did complete my book bingo, though. At first I was going for the first things that popped into my head, but then that got really hard as nothing was popping into my head; I’d remember a plot, but not the title . . . remember a title, but not the author. Goodreads to the rescue again.

Not sure why resolution is off or why some words appear to be in bold. Let me know if it’s unreadable. Enjoy.

reading bingo

More later. Peace.

                   

Music by Patrick Watson, “Turn into the Noise”

                   

Ode to the Book

When I close a book
I open life.
I hear
faltering cries
among harbours.
Copper ignots
slide down sand-pits
to Tocopilla.
Night time.
Among the islands
our ocean
throbs with fish,
touches the feet, the thighs,
the chalk ribs
of my country.
The whole of night
clings to its shores, by dawn
it wakes up singing
as if it had excited a guitar.

The ocean’s surge is calling.
The wind
calls me
and Rodriguez calls,
and Jose Antonio–
I got a telegram
from the “Mine” Union
and the one I love
(whose name I won’t let out)
expects me in Bucalemu.

No book has been able
to wrap me in paper,
to fill me up
with typography,
with heavenly imprints
or was ever able
to bind my eyes,
I come out of books to people orchards
with the hoarse family of my song,
to work the burning metals
or to eat smoked beef
by mountain firesides.
I love adventurous
books,
books of forest or snow,
depth or sky
but hate
the spider book
in which thought
has laid poisonous wires
to trap the juvenile
and circling fly.
Book, let me go.
I won’t go clothed
in volumes,
I don’t come out
of collected works,
my poems
have not eaten poems–
they devour
exciting happenings,
feed on rough weather,
and dig their food
out of earth and men.
I’m on my way
with dust in my shoes
free of mythology:
send books back to their shelves,
I’m going down into the streets.
I learned about life
from life itself,
love I learned in a single kiss
and could teach no one anything
except that I have lived
with something in common among men,
when fighting with them,
when saying all their say in my song.

~ Pablo Neruda

 

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

marshawn-lynch-nfl-super-bowl-xlix-seattle-seahawks-press-conference1-850x560

Marshawn Lynch at NFL Super Bowl Press Conference


Friday afternoon. Drizzle and cold, 47 degrees.

Corey arrived home safely yesterday. No word on when he will be called back. I never thought I would wish for oil prices to skyrocket . . .

Bad night last night—too wired to sleep, and the dogs were feeding off that anxiety by announcing a need to go out pretty much once an hour. In between, I was seized with a vicious migraine, and then the ensuing body-itching from the pain medication. Today I plan to do a whole lot of nothing after spending two days cleaning a house that wasn’t really dirty, which didn’t stop me from taking the bottom of the vacuum apart to pull strings from the roller (love that my Dyson doesn’t have any belts). That’s just how I get once I go into overdrive.

Ah, the sweet, sweet joys of my life . . .

More later. Peace.

This week’s headline:

“I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” ~ Marshawn Lynch’s Super Bowl Press Conference

As Jon Stewart pointed out, Lynch was threatened with a ridiculous $500k fine if he didn’t show and a possible other fine for wearing the wrong hat, yet the NFL does little to nothing when it comes to the serious infractions, you know, like domestic violence:

“How is it that this guy is facing international drug cartel penalty money, but the owners and commissioner of the league have no obligation to address stadium financing shenanigans or concussions or domestic violence policies?” ~ Jon Stewart, “The Daily Show” (29 January 2015)

Shakespeare’s tragedies by body count:

Diagramming my life:

Dr. James Barry was a woman:

James Miranda Stuart Barry was a military surgeon in the British Army. After graduation from the University of Edinburgh Medical School, Barry served in India and Cape Town, South Africa. By the end of his career, he had risen to the rank of Inspector General in charge of military hospitals. Although Barry lived his adult life as a man, he was born a female and was named Margaret Ann Bulkley. In his travels he not only improved conditions for wounded soldiers, but also the conditions of the native inhabitants. Among his accomplishments was the first caesarean section in Africa by a British surgeon in which both the mother and child survived the operation.

Well, how could I not include this?

See this? This is not how my dogs would help:

They would either sit on the extended part of the tape measure or take the whole thing and run away . . .

Too perfect . . .

And oh how I wish so many times that I would have been able to say and do something like this:

See—I freaking told you . . .

Things that can happen at Wal-Mart:

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” ~ Daphne du Maurier, from Rebecca

My dreams have been filled with people and stories of late. Last night I had one of the best: I was in England, and I was at Stamford Court, where I lived as a child, and my mother was there, in the porter’s cupboard, talking, and I was roaming around, trying to figure out what had changed and what was the same, and I ran into a man who worked there and realized that he was the adult version of my best friend’s brother—from a Filipino family who also lived in the Court on the fourth floor. Brett was with me, and I was showing him things, and I turned to this guy, cannot remember name now, and said, we used to play there, pretending to be on Gilligan’s Island, and he said, “Yes we did, and I always wondered why my sister put up with you because you were so bossy.” And I replied, “I wasn’t bossy. I knew what I wanted,” and he smiled at that. As we were walking back towards the main entrance, two other men came up in monks’ cloaks, and he said that they were his partners in a drag show, and I found that delightful, and I said to Brett that we had to come back to England for a long weekend so that I could show Corey where I had lived and all of the places that I had gone as a child, and my mother wasn’t there any more, and neither was the porter, and there was a large swimming pool in the middle of where the parking lot had been, and I told someone that that was where my father had parked his white convertible when we lived there. It was a good dream, filled with happy memories, and I realize that I really should have gone back to England with my mother for a visit. It would have made her so happy, but at the same time, I know that so much has changed there that she may have hated it. Who knows.

                   

Music by Armon Jay, “Edge of the Dark”

“For we live with those retrievals from childhood that coalesce and echo throughout our lives, the way shattered pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope reappear in new forms and are songlike in their refrains and rhymes, making up a single monologue. We live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories, whatever story we tell.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from Divisadero


“We all have an old knot in the heart we wish to loosen and untie.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from The Cat’s Table

Saturday afternoon. Rainy and cold, 41 degrees.

Female diseases and piles

Cure those female weaknesses

Well, I survived my birthday. Brett and Em and I went thrifting, and we found some great buys. Our favorite thrift store is Good Mojo’s; their prices are really great, and they have happy hours. I can always find something good in their book section, and I actually found a few volumes of poetry. The best part is that you can buy a bag of books for five bucks—as many as you can fit in the bag. So in addition to the poetry, I got some plant books for Brett, a pictorial book on New Zealand, a book for Olivia, and some others. Talk about cheap thrills.

Anyway, it was enough to keep my mind off the fact that it was my birthday, and I was alone, and all of that.

I did have a nice surprise on my birthday, though. Leah in NC sent me a care package with some delicious chocolate and a book I’ve had on my to read list, so that was just lovely. I immediately tore into one of the chocolate bars. Delish.

“Some events take a lifetime to reveal their damage and influence.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from The Cat’s Table

Corey will be home a week early, which is nice but not good. His company is continuing furloughs, and we aren’t really sure if this early week means he won’t be going back in three weeks. First they took him off his regular boat, and then they put him on another boat, and then they said he would be on this new boat until the 4th or the 11th, and then they sent everyone on this new boat home, supposedly to reboot their cycle from 28/14 to 21/21.

Female Pills

Never suffer from the painful diseases of advanced life . . .

It’s all very disconcerting, and neither of us can handle even the idea that he might be out of work again. It’s just too much to fathom. I mean, he had just over a year with this new job, good company, good salary and benefits, and then all of a sudden, everything changes. It’s not just his company; the number three company in the industry may be selling.

It’s the suddenness of everything. We had plans, big plans for this year, and now? Who the hell knows. Even the trip to Ohio is up in the air. I’m trying to keep my worrying to myself for the time being. Corey is so very, very stressed that I can’t see adding to that in any way. I guess it’s a matter of waiting and hoping.

“I’ve met many who remain haunted by the persistent ghost of an earlier place.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from The Cat’s Table

Good tidings?

Good tidings?

So I’ve been spending a lot of time recently getting the house back in order. We finally have what was the junk room cleaned out. Before he left Corey set up the single bed for Olivia, and I had ordered one of those safety rails. I remember the one that my mother had for Alexis—it was so flimsy in comparison to the newer ones, which go under the mattress the full width of the box spring. There is no way that Olivia can fall out. So far she seems to be liking her transition from the portable crib to the bed, and she’s very happy to have a room that is her own.

Now I need to get the room that was Brett’s cleaned out and set up as a guest room. I have requested that the kids come over and go through the stuff that they’ve left here. Who knows when or if that will happen, but if not, I’ll start cleaning things out myself, and woe to anyone who complains.

I have drawers and shelves full of stuff that is theirs, and they have plenty of storage in my mom’s house, so I plan to do a serious decluttering, which will make Corey very happy.

“Yet where had it come from? And was it a pleasure or a sadness, this life inside me? It was as if with its existence I was lacking something essential, like water.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from The Cat’s Table

Yesterday I bought some silk tulips for my parents’ graves. I remembered that when my Dad was doing his European run, he brought home a bunch of tulip bulbs from Holland. Both of my parents loved tulips. The plan is for me to make two arrangements before next Saturday, which is the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death.

body brace

Darn that female weakness

Don’t think that I’m not aware that this looming anniversary is also wreaking havoc on my state of mind. Couple that with my birthday, and it’s no wonder that I am feeling very, very unsettled. And too, I am going on day three of this particular migraine.

The irony is that just a few days ago I was actually thinking to myself that it was so nice how my migraines weren’t quite as intense as they used to be. I told myself that my new drug regimen must be having some kind of effect as the migraines weren’t as painful and weren’t lasting as long . . . well, this one put the lie to that theory. A couple of days ago I started to feel tight, and then yesterday early I awoke with a really bad one. I took some medicine and woke up a few hours later with just as much pain.

Today, the pain is radiating down my nose—not the inside of my nose, not my sinuses, but a line straight down my nose. Very, very strange.

“Writing this, I do not want it to end until I can understand it better, in a way that would calm me even now, all these years later.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from The Cat’s Table

Anyway, I’m trying to stay busy, trying not to think too much—that whole concept of busy work. It reminds me of the whole Victorian attitude towards women being idle, how they were supposed to spend hours on their needlework, a truly feminine pastime. Women who concentrated on plying their needles would not spend time foolishly gallivanting (my mother’s word) about:

Female Weakness chicago_tribute_-_7_dec_1902

“It’s your kidneys!”

Sewing was, in many ways, the ultimate sign of femininity. It was sedentary and passive, and it was traditionally done by women only for the care and maintenance of the family and home. In the literature of the period the needle itself often stood for women’s “natural” place in the home, and carried powerful associations of domestic bliss and maternal devotion. ~ Beth Harris, from “Slaves of the Needle”

Can you imagine spending hour after hour on needlepoint? Not denigrating needlepoint, just denigrating it as one of the only acceptable pastimes for a woman. I mean, consider the whole idea of hysteria (look up the etymology of the word—only a female can truly be hysterical) and how women who thought too much could harm themselves, even move their internal organs out of whack. French physician Pierre Briquet claimed that a quarter of all women suffered from hysteria.

Really? One quarter? I won’t even get into that era’s treatment of female conditions as that is a topic worthy of its own post (hint: The Victorians loved their vibrators, but hated sex. Click here for an article on the history).

Rambling . . . Where was I? Oh yes, busy work . . . But I digress . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by One Two, “Bitter and Sick”

                   

Dream Song 14

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no
Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.
~  John Berryman
Frantisek Kupka The First Step 1909

“The First Step” (1909, oil on canvas)
by Frantisek Kupka

                   

“. . . I would sit down, still dizzy from the day’s sun, my head full of the white churches and chalky walls, dry fields and shaggy olive trees. I would drink a sweetish syrup, gazing at the curve of the hills in front of me. They sloped gently down to the sea. The evening would grow green. On the largest of the hills, the last breeze turned the sails of a windmill. And, by a natural miracle, everyone lowered his voice. Soon there was nothing but the sky and musical words rising toward it, as if heard from a great distance. There was something fleeting and melancholy in the brief moment of dusk, perceptible not only to one man but also to a whole people. As for me, I longed to love as people long to cry. I felt that every hour I slept now would be an hour stolen from life … that is to say from those hours of undefined desire. I was tense and motionless, as I had been during those vibrant hours at the cabaret in Palma and at the cloister in San Francisco, powerless against this immense desire to hold the world between my hands.” ~ Albert Camus, from “Love of Life”


 

My birthday is soon. I cannot begin to tell you how much I am not looking forward to this. You would think that it would be the opposite, that I as get older, I would welcome each birthday as an accomplishment, as a mark that I am still here, and yes, I am glad that I am still here. That is not the issue. The issue is the birthday itself. You see, I have never like having a birthday; this goes back to my early 20s. There was just something so depressing about the whole thing—yet another reminder that I have not set out to do in life what I thought I would do. I have done much. I have borne four children, lost one. I have loved and lost and loved again. I have attained degrees, yet not the one that I most desire. I have published, yet not the book that I know is hidden somewhere within me. I have received awards, met some wonderful people, discussed poetry and writing with some authors I truly admire, forged friendships that have made me a better person. I have much to be thankful for and much on which I can reflect and say, with some pride, “Yes, I have done this.” So you must wonder why I am still so dissolute, still so unfulfilled. I truly don’t know. I look at my life and think of all that has yet to be done, and wonder if I will in fact ever do it. I look at my life and see so many failures, so many shortcomings, so many regrets. Yes, I can temper all of that with successes, and achievements, and milestones. I think that it is just my temperament that I will never be truly satisfied with what I have done in life. I exist on a wafer-thin plateau of hope and regret, always, always wishing that somehow I were more, that somehow I had done more, said more, written more. You must think me vain and selfish. Perhaps I am, but I don’t really think so. It is human nature to what we we don’t have. I’m not talking about people, or even things. I’m talking about . . . markers. Notches on my walking stick. I so very much do not want to be this way, yet I am. I have been so many places throughout the world, sampled cuisines, seen vistas. I have read a bounty of works, and written more words than I have record of. And yet . . . who among us can say that she or he has done everything we set out to do? Few, very few. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot still dream, does it? No, I’ll never have Dr. in front of my name, or PhD after it. More’s the pity. I have no one to blame but myself, and that is true for most things. And yet . . .

                   

Music by Jake Owen, “We All Want what We Ain’t Got”

                   

Nights on Planet Earth

Heaven was originally precisely that: the starry sky, dating back to the earliest Egyptian texts, which include magic spells that enable the soul to be sewn in the body of the great mother, Nut, literally “night,” like the seed of a plant, which is also a jewel and a star. The Greek Elysian fields derive from the same celestial topography: the Egyptian “Field of Rushes,” the eastern stars at dawn where the soul goes to be purified. That there is another, mirror world, a world of light, and that this world is simply the sky—and a step further, the breath of the sky, the weather, the very air—is a formative belief of great antiquity that has continued to the present day with the godhead becoming brightness itself: dios/theos (Greek); deus/divine/diana (Latin); devas (Sanskrit); daha (Arabic); day (English).
—Susan Brind Morrow, Wolves and Honey

1
Gravel paths on hillsides amid moon-drawn vineyards,
click of pearls upon a polished nightstand
soft as rainwater, self-minded stars, oboe music
distant as the grinding of icebergs against the hull
of the self and the soul in the darkness
chanting to the ecstatic chance of existence.
Deep is the water and long is the moonlight
inscribing addresses in quicksilver ink,
building the staircase a lover forever pauses upon.
Deep is the darkness and long is the night,
solid the water and liquid the light. How strange
that they arrive at all, nights on planet earth.
2
Sometimes, not often but repeatedly, the past invades my dreams in the form of a familiar neighborhood I can no longer locate,
a warren of streets lined with dark cafés and unforgettable bars, a place where I can sing by heart every song on every jukebox,
a city that feels the way the skin of an octopus looks pulse-changing from color to color, laminar and fluid and electric,
a city of shadow-draped churches, of busses on dim avenues, or riverlights, or canyonlands, but always a city, and wonderful, and lost.
Sometimes it resembles Amsterdam, students from the ballet school like fanciful gazelles shooting pool in pink tights and soft, shapeless sweaters,
or Madrid at 4AM, arguing the 18th Brumaire with angry Marxists, or Manhattan when the snowfall crowns every trash-can king of its Bowery stoop,
or Chicago, or Dublin, or some ideal city of the imagination, as in a movie you can neither remember entirely nor completely forget,
barracuda-faced men drinking sake like yakuza in a Harukami novel, women sipping champagne or arrack, the rattle of beaded curtains in the back,
the necklaces of Christmas lights reflected in raindrops on windows, the taste of peanuts and their shells crushed to powder underfoot,
always real, always elusive, always a city, and wonderful, and lost. All night I wander alone, searching in vain for the irretrievable.
3
In the night I will drink from a cup of ashes and yellow paint.
In the night I will gossip with the clouds and grow strong.
In the night I will cross rooftops to watch the sea tremble in a dream.
In the night I will assemble my army of golden carpenter ants.
In the night I will walk the towpath among satellites and cosmic dust.
In the night I will cry to the roots of potted plants in empty offices.
In the night I will gather the feathers of pigeons in a honey jar.
In the night I will become an infant before your flag.
~ Campbell McGrath