Today is the birthday of American poet Sara Teasdale (August 8, 1884- January 29, 1933)
Today is the birthday of American poet Sara Teasdale (August 8, 1884- January 29, 1933)
Thursday afternoon, sunny and beautiful, 72 degrees.
I’ve decided to do another one of those surveys that I had in my drafts folder. Don’t really know why, but it just seemed like a thing to do. So here goes . . .
Meet anyone, who would it be? This is hard to narrow to one. The people I would most like to meet are prolific authors such as Margaret Atwood or Stephen King or J. K. Rowling so that I could talk to the about character development. I would like to meet the Dalai Lama and the Pope, not because I’m religious but because I think that the conversations would be incredible. I would also like to meet Peter Jackson, just because . . .
Bring anyone dead back to life, who would it be? This one is very, very hard. Personally, I would bring back family members like my parents, if only to be kinder and more involved with them. I would bring back Caitlin, of course, but only if she could be healthy. And I would bring back Sylvia Plath and William Shakespeare, because, again, I would love to have conversations with them.
Be anyone for a day, who would it be? I would like to be president for a day, or maybe a week, because so much in this country needs to be fixed.
Get anything for free for the rest of your life what would it be? This one is easy: books, books, and books. And after books, makeup, just for fun. And third would be shoes/boots, even though I never leave the house.
Change one thing about your living situation what would it be? I would fix our financial situation; I’m not talking about being rich or winning the lottery, but just being comfortable enough not to be worrying about finances all of the time. The stress from this situation can be paralyzing. The other thing I would want to change is the distance from my kids.
Have any superpower what would it be? Not invisibility. Not flying. Not super strength. I would rather have the ability to time travel. Can you just imagine the things that you could see and do? Or I would like to be a true medium, if there is such a thing.
Have one living person back in your life that is not a relative, who would it be? Mari. I miss having her in my life on a daily basis. Also, Kathleen and Rebecca.
Change one thing about the world what would it be? I would fix global warming, because so many things are related to this: food production, fresh water, viability in certain parts of the world. In my mind, this is the most pressing problem facing humanity.
Repair one relationship, which would you choose? My relationship with my youngest son. I would give anything to be able to know how to fix this as it is a constant, deep source of personal pain.
Have your dream house, what would it look like? I would have a log house with wooden beams and lots of big windows, a large kitchen, at least two bathrooms, one of which would have a claw-footed soaking tub, four bedrooms, one big enough for a king-sized bed, a room just for my books, a wrap-around porch, a greenhouse, a writing shed, and an in-ground pool with an attached hot tub.
Change one thing about your physical appearance what would it be? I would probably change my arms, which sounds weird, but I’ve always wanted to have Linda Hamilton arms from the second Terminator movie. I think that toned arms are very sexy, but even when I was working out all of the time, I couldn’t get my arms to look the way that I wanted them to look.
Change one of your personality traits which would you choose? I think that I’d get rid of either my self-doubt or my tendency to obsess over things that cannot be changed. But I should probably change my body dysmorphia. See, that obsessive stuff again . . .
Refine or perfect one thing that you think you are good at, what would you choose? I would like to be a more productive writer, as in actually doing something with my writing. I think that I have genuine talent as a writer, but I am not productive in the true sense.
Forget one event in your life which would you choose? I would love so much not to remember a few things in my life. You might think that I would like to forget holding Caitlin as she died, but I never want to forget that or forget her short life. In contrast, I wish that I could forget the one time in my life in which something happened because I had too much to drink. That memory still comes back to haunt me, and to this day I do not like to overindulge because of that loss of control.
Erase an event from history (make it so it never happened) which would you choose? Nazi Germany and all of the other historical genocides, like Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia, Darfur, Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and many, many more. Killing people simply because they are others has been such a blight on humanity, but it keeps happening.
Meet one notorious person from history, who would it be? This one is hard. I’m fascinated by psychopaths, but from a distance. Would I really want to spend a few hours with Bundy or Manson? Honestly, I don’t know.
Live in any country/city, where would you choose? Ireland. It’s always been Ireland, and I have come to realize that this will never happen, and that still breaks my heart a little.
Change one law in your country, which would you change? Hard to pick just one: I would make the anti-stalking laws better defined and easier to enforce; I would make marriage equality a law of the land; I would make the Equal Rights Amendment part of the Constitution, but most of all, I would protect a woman’s right to choose nationally, eliminating all of those draconian state laws. If you know anyone who has died from an illegal abortion, this will always be a hot button issue.
Have any job in the world, which would you choose? I have always wanted to work for a publishing company; I mean, I’ve wanted to do this since I was a teenager. I got a publishing degree and then never got a job to go with it. Why? I can only blame myself.
Have anything appear in your pocket right now, what would it be? Again, hard to pick just one, and small enough to fit in a pocket is particularly hard: my Uncle’s ring that we lost years ago; a gold walnut that my mother had that I wasn’t able to find after she died; a Thai princess ring that my dad gave me, which I lost when I was young; a star sapphire that fell out of a different ring that my dad gave me—I guess it’s mostly sentimental pieces of family jewelry.
Meet any individual who exists in film or print, who would it be? Yoda, from Star Wars, or Aragorn, from the Lord of the Rings book, or Tyrion from HBO’s Game of Thrones. Again, just think of the conversations that you could have, and even though Tyrion was created in Martin’s books, I love Peter Dinklage’s portrayal.
Change one thing from your childhood, what would it be? I always wanted siblings, but I suppose that wasn’t really up to me. If not siblings, then I would have liked to be bi-lingual. Why did I never learn Tagalog?
Get rid of one thing in society, what would it be? Social media. It’s destroying actual social interaction. It’s too easy to be cruel when you live virtually. It’s too easy to forget how to deal with people in real life if you never move away from your screens.
Have a different career, what would you choose? Medicine or law, both of which I seriously considered. Or, marine biology. It never occurred to me when I was young and choosing a field that I could train in a career other than English because you can write no matter what career you have. I know that now. Hindsight.
Eat only one kind of food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Dessert: pies, Tiramisu, cheesecake, pudding, but only if it didn’t affect my blood sugar. A close second would be fresh fruit.
That’s all folks.
More later. Peace.
Thursday afternoon, sunny and beautiful, 74 degrees.
I thought that today’s post should be a Throwback Thursday, as in, do one of those get to know me surveys. I’ve taken one that I found somewhere years ago and made a few changes. Let me know if you like any questions/answers in particular. I’d love to know some of your responses to any of these questions if you feel like sharing.
That’s all folks!
More later. Peace.
Music by Boygenius, “Souvenir”
Friday evening, sunny, and 58 degrees.
No walk today. Became obsessed with trying to find something I’d seen before online but couldn’t remember the exact name or where I first saw it. So . . . many hours later, it was already 5 p.m.
Dorothy and Golden Girls forever:
So, who’s been spying on me?
I’m not ashamed to admit that I really miss “Rugrats.” I think that I liked it more than my sons did:
And this is why I no longer allow myself to enter a T.J. Maxx:
Thursday afternoon. Overcast again and rainy, 46 degrees.
I haven’t been walking on the property in weeks. It’s a mosh pit out there in the driveway. And each day that I wake up and look out the window and see nothing but clouds, my heart becomes heavy. It does rain a lot here, definitely more than in Norfolk. But it’s the clouds. They just seem to cover the ridge and cloak all of the beauty.
Between that and trying to house train the puppy—unsuccessfully at the moment, I might add—I’m feeling a bit lost in the fog. Yes, I finally took my puppy from Dallas because it was the only way that I could get her as he is so attached to his dogs, but he had promised me one, and I had taken a shine to the runt. Her name is Maddie, for Madeleine L’Engle, and she’s black with hound ears. She won’t be nearly as big as Tillie or Bailey, both of whom act as if she’s an alien, and the cats are definitely not taken with her.
Don’t ask me why a puppy now, other than it seemed like a good idea at the time, and she’s adorable. It doesn’t take any kind of Freudian to tell me that I substitute the animals for my kids, so whatever . . .
So it’s December 20, five days until Christmas. Corey and I are having a very small Christmas this year, which is fine. It’s not about the presents for me, ever. It’s about the pageantry: the tree, the wrappings, the centerpieces, the dishes—just the way that I can make the house look. One year Corey’s mom finally got to see our house decorated, and she commented that everywhere she looked, she saw something. That’s what I strive for when I decorate—creating an experience.
So I’m going to suck it up today and put up the tree. I know that it will be a lot of work to make it look the way that I want it to look, and no, I can’t just put on a few ornaments, so there’s no point in suggesting that approach, but thank you anyway. I know that once it’s up, I’ll feel better. So maybe I won’t have the snowmen and the Santas, and all of the rest, but at least there will be a tree.
I need that, and the only way that I’m going to get that is if I do it. So, ‘nuf said.
The other major thing that I need to accomplish is to write some people and send cards. I still cannot find my Christmas card box with addresses and all of the rest, but I’m hoping that Corey can find it for me. If nothing else, I’ll just send the letters. It’s important, and I really want to communicate with my sister-in-law in Germany. She has gone out of her way to write to both of us, and as usual, I have been lax in replying, so that’s a must do, maybe later today or tomorrow.
It’s the words, you see. I just don’t have the words to say how life is, how we’re doing. I need to lie, to say that things are good, that I’m fine, that we’re both doing well. Making pleasant conversation used to not be so hard for me. I suppose I’m making too much out of it, that it will be fine once I start, which is how things usually are, or at least I hope so.
Being a self-imposed recluse can become problematic when moving beyond the safety of my environs enters into the equation. The irony, of course, is that writing this blog is taking me out of my safety zone, but now that I’m back into it, it seems to be working, at least most of the time. Granted, some days are harder than others, but my goal is to try to write at least a little each day, to get back into the practice of using words, so that I can try to get myself going and maybe, just maybe, begin to polish my manuscript.
Who knows? Certainly not I.
I had a very disturbing dream last night, featuring someone from my past, a gay man with whom I used to be very close. I had met him at the museum, and we developed a very fast friendship, for lack of a better word. We used to do all kinds of things together. I know that he filled the gap that I had in my first marriage as far as doing things with my spouse.
By the time this person came on the scene, my spouse and I had developed a separate set of friends and weren’t doing much of anything together. I don’t blame him. That’s just what happens when neither of you work on your marriage. Of course, there were many other factors at play that I just would rather not go into. It’s still a tender wound all of these years later, although, not quite as tender.
Anyway, in this dream, this person had photographs of me at a lake that I just couldn’t remember visiting. I was very bothered that he had proof that I’d been somewhere that I could not recall. It was disconcerting. The dream happened at my parent’s house, and in the end, both of my parents made an appearance; overall, one of those dreams that leaves you gasping when you awaken because they are so disturbing. Well, at least, that’s how I awaken from them.
So, I have plans for today, and perhaps putting them out there isn’t the best thing, especially if I have to come back tomorrow and say, “never mind.” But it’s raining, and I’m really trying to accomplish a goal that I’ve set for myself. It might seem silly, that my goal is to put up a tree and to write letters. Maybe normal people can do all of that in the span of a few hours in the morning with their first cup of coffee. And once, I would have done all of that and more by December 5.
My friend Kathleen used to give me a hard time for being so type A over Christmas. I used to vow to have my shopping done and my cards in the mail by the beginning of December. My tree was up and the house decorated by December 15 at the latest. That was another time. Another life. One in which I had boundless energy and a very different outlook on life. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t miss that version of me. Well, at least the more positive aspects of that person. Some aspects I’d just as soon convey to the ash heap of time
That ash heap is very, very tall, and I am reminded of it whenever that stupid commercial comes on that shows a woman climbing a mountain of cigarettes. I understand the symbology, but it’s disgusting, nevertheless (this, of course, from someone who used to smoke occasionally). My ash heap is composed of old letters, bad poems, broken hearts, scents I can no longer recall, and many, many, many regrets.
In some ways, it reminds me of the funeral pyres in India, except that once the body burns, onlookers are left with a sense of freedom and peace that the departed has gone on to a new life. My ash heap has a slow burn, and absolutely nothing is resolved, so maybe not so much like the cleansing cremation fires of the Hindus. Maybe more like the supposed Viking funerals that happen in movies: a slow-moving vessel floating out to sea, the flaming arrows shot and hitting home, and no one really knows if the person makes it to Valhalla or just disappears into the flowing waters.
Sorry. Morbid? Then you’ll love the Lorca poem below . . .
More later. Peace.
Music by Fever Ray, “If I Had a Heart” (still miss Ragnar)
Gacela of Dark Death
I want to sleep the sleep of apples,
far from the tumult of cemeteries.
I want to sleep the sleep of that child
who longed to cut out his heart at sea.
I don’t wish to hear that the dead lose no blood;
that the shattered mouth still begs for water.
don’t wish to know of torments granted by grass,
nor of the moon with the serpent’s mouth
that goes to work before dawn.
I want to sleep for a while,
a while, a minute, a century;
as long as all know I am not dead;
that in my lips is a golden manger;
that I’m the slight friend of the West Wind;
that I’m the immense shadow of tears.
Cover me, at dawn, with a veil
since she’ll hurl at me fistfuls of ants;
and wet my shoes with harsh water,
so her scorpion’s sting will slide by.
For I want to sleep the sleep of apples
learn a lament that will cleanse me of earth;
for I want to live with that hidden child
who longed to cut out his heart at sea.
~ Federico García Lorca
Tuesday night, clear and mild 66 degrees.
I had big plans to follow the returns throughout the afternoon and into the evening. My body, however, had different plans. Spent most of the afternoon in bed, and fell asleep around 8:30.Woke up briefly and thought that I’d just post this little update quickly.
I really hope that I’m not coming down with something because Corey’s parents will be here this weekend, and we still have so much to do just to make the house look somewhat presentable. Just my luck.
Anyway, we voted this morning at the local polling place—a lot different from Norfolk. Everyone spoke to us and asked us questions about where we live, where we used to live. Everyone knew exactly where our house was. It was weird and nice at the same time. We’ve met some really nice people, and no one looked at me too oddly because of my olive skin and funny last name.
So that’s it for now. I’m attempting to post at least something each day until I can find my writing groove again.
More later. Peace.
In honor of the midterms and the incredible division among us, an oldie but goodie, Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”
Tax day. Taxes have been slaying me, which hasn’t helped with the whole issue of life in general. I had planned to stop backposting these Knopf Poem-A-Day entries, but this particular one by Tracy K. Smith is too, too beautiful to forego, and I need a permanent record of sorts somewhere, at least until I can buy the book.
The poet Tracy K. Smith (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her 2011 collection Life on Mars) tells a rich coming-of-age story in her new memoir and first book of prose, Ordinary Light. The youngest of five children, raised in suburban California by Alabama-born, African-American parents, Smith in this book looks back at herself as a growing girl: at her dawning understanding of her parents’ youth, so different from her own, during the Civil Rights movement; at her mother’s devout Christianity, which allows her to accept her cancer diagnosis as part of God’s plan; at the pain of losing her mother too early; at her first moments of independence at Harvard and her desire to become a writer. In this passage, we meet Smith in the college library, where she makes a connection between her mother’s faith and language, and her development as a poet.
From Ordinary Light:
My mother’s language was always the language of the soul. But it grew clearer, more telegraphic, once the cancer began to accelerate her sense that she was on her way elsewhere. So much of the time, living with such knowledge, her mind must have been tuned to the idea of what awaited her: I go to prepare a place for you. If it were not so, I would have told you. In some strange way, the return to the soul state might simply be the answer to the prayer that sits behind every prayer: Deliver me. Is there another dialect of the soul, a way it speaks in those who don’t possess the vocabulary of belief? A way it stirs and surges as if to say Here I am, something we don’t hear but that we feel and, feeling, know.
I liked to sit in the leather armchairs facing the tall windows in Lamont Library. The windows looked out onto Mass Ave. at the intersection of Quincy Street, and when I’d glance up from my page, I’d see people I knew and people I didn’t know moving back and forth along the axes of their lives. The reading room silence would obliterate all the outside traffic noises, and the daylight would baptize the pedestrians, it seemed to me, in a kind of transparent splendor, as if for the few moments they appeared in frame, they were resplendent in the inviolable promise we were all of us born into. It didn’t matter if they were in a rush or a daze, if they coughed into their fists or if smoke streamed from their mouths. Each wore, for an instant if not more, a mantle of eminent belonging, as if the moment that held them was not a mistake, as if they were not lost or alone or under a heap of insurmountable dread. Here I am, something in them seemed to be saying to the pavement, the fallen leaves, to no one in particular.
I was taking a poetry workshop, my third so far at Harvard. In it, I had discovered that sitting down with an idea and letting it unfold in words and sounds offered me not just pleasure but an indescribable comfort. I wanted to write the kind of poetry that people read and remembered, that they lived by — the kinds of lines that I carried with me from moment to moment on a given day without even having chosen to. Back out of all this now too much for us, said Robert Frost, and when I heard his words in my ears, they gave weight and purpose to my footsteps, to the breath going in and out of my lungs; they gave me terms with which to consider bits and pieces of the things I otherwise didn’t know how to acknowledge. Frost’s voice telling me to retreat (at least that’s part of what I heard in that line, hovering in space on its own, apart from the rest of the poem or even the rest of its sentence) emboldened me to admit that, yes, I was overwhelmed. My mother’s cancer overwhelmed me. Her death, waiting out there in the distance, overwhelmed me. So did the loneliness I still sometimes felt, even amid the chatter and bustle of friends and classes.
Perhaps without realizing it, I, like my mother long before she belonged to me, had been seeking something. I was searching. Not for any one thing in particular, and not as a result of a single glaring lack, but seeking — searching — nonetheless.
Poetry met my particular sense of need. Writing a poem, I sometimes felt like I was building a house from scratch, raising the walls, hanging the doors, laying out the rooms. It felt at times like backbreaking work. Other times, it seemed that what I was trying to evoke or encounter in a poem was already alive somewhere and that my job was merely to listen. The language of each of the poetry workshops I’d taken was built upon the assumption that there really was something else at play. My teachers talked about our poems as if they were sentient beings with plans and wishes of their own, wishes it was up to us to carry into language. “Your poem seems to be leading you in one direction, but you insist upon going in another.” Or, “Try and cut out all this noise so you can hear what the poem is trying to tell you.” It sounded quite nearly mystical, like we were playing at divination, but it also rang true. Wasn’t it strange that a poem, written in my vocabulary and as a result of my own thoughts or observations, could, when it was finished, manage to show me something I hadn’t already known? Sometimes, when I tried very hard to listen to what the poem I was writing was trying to tell me, I felt the way I imagined godly people felt when they were trying to discern God’s will. “Write this,” the poem would sometimes consent to say, and I’d revel in a joy to rival the saints’ that Poetry — this mysterious presence I talked about and professed belief in — might truly be real.
Often, that spring, I found myself sitting in a reading room window with a book I ought to have been reading for class, but I also always had a black sketchbook into which I’d begun writing lines of my own. Sometimes, I wrote the same stanza over and over until something was unlocked and I could move forward. Once or twice, I’d stopped mid-poem, altogether stumped, and started a letter to myself in which I’d describe whatever it was I was having trouble getting into language: What does it mean to slog through the weight of the everyday, to wake to anxiety, to spend the day straining to hear what they must be saying now that you’re out of earshot, to have to put on the boots, though you’re tired, always tired, and just keep going? Sometimes all of the watching and listening and waiting finally gave way to a poem:
The Ordinary Life
To rise early, reconsider, rise again later
to papers and the news. To smoke a few if time
permits and, second-guessing the weather,
dress. Another day of what we bring to it-
matters unfinished from days before,
regret over matters we’ve finished poorly.
Just once you’d like to start out early,
free from memory and lighter for it.
Like Adam, on that first day: alone
but cheerful, no fear of the maker,
anything his for the naming; nothing
to shrink from, nothing to shirk,
no lot to carry that wasn’t by choice.
And at night, no voice to keep him awake,
no hurry to rise, no hurry not to.