“I hurt | therefore I exist” ~ Claribel Alegría, from “I am Mirror”

Poet Claribel Alegría (by Simon Hurst)

“Every time I name them
my dead are resurrected.” ~ Claribel Alegría, “Every time I name them” (Trans. Carolyn Forché)

Tuesday afternoon, foggy and cloudy, 61 degrees.

Today’s Two for Tuesday features Nicaraguan/Salvadoran poet, essayist, and journalist Claribel Alegría (May 12, 1924-January 25, 2018). Born Clara Isabel Alegría Vides in Nicaragua to physician father Daniel Alegría, her father opposed the U.S. occupation of Nicaragua in 1924; the family was subsequently forced into exile in her mother’s home country of El Salvador while Claribel was still an infant. Her obituary in The Washington Post refers to her as “a leading poet of suffering and anguish.” She was best known in the U.S. for the bilingual edition of her volume of poetry, Flores del volcán/Flowers from the Volcano (1982), which was translated by the poet Carolyn Forché.

A 1953 portrait

Algería’s work combined the personal with the political by sometimes focusing on the violence that plagued both Nicaragua and El Salvador for decades. Poet Daisy Zamora said of Algería that she had “unfailingly spoken up for justice and liberty . . . becoming a voice for the voiceless and the dispossessed.” In 2006 Algería received the Neustadt International Prize for Literature for which he had been nominated by Zamora. In her acceptance remarks upon receiving the prize Algería stated the following:

The poet celebrates humankind, the universe, and the creator of the universe. It is impossible for one to remain indifferent to the turbulence that our planet and its inhabitants suffer through: war, hunger, earthquakes, misery, racism, violence, xenophobia, deforestation, AIDS, and childhood affliction, among others. In the region from which I come, Central America, we love poetry, and at times we use it to denounce what is happening around us. There are many fine testimonial poems. The poet, especially where I’m from, cannot and should not remain in an ivory tower.

You can read more about her life and substantial oeuvre here or in her New York Times obituary here. Poet Carolyn Forché interviewed Alegria in 1984, and a PDF can be found here.

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite science fiction writers, Frank Herbert (October 8, 1920-February 11, 1986), creator of the Dune series.


Rain

As the falling rain
trickles among the stones
memories come bubbling out.
It’s as if the rain
had pierced my temples.
Streaming
streaming chaotically
come memories:
the reedy voice
of the servant
telling me tales
of ghosts.
They sat beside me
the ghosts
and the bed creaked
that purple-dark afternoon
when I learned you were leaving forever,
a gleaming pebble
from constant rubbing
becomes a comet.
Rain is falling
falling
and memories keep flooding by
they show me a senseless
world
a voracious
world—abyss
ambush
whirlwind
spur
but I keep loving it
because I do
because of my five senses
because of my amazement
because every morning,
because forever, I have loved it
without knowing why.

[This is a night of shadows]

This is a night of shadows
of sword-memories
solitude overwhelms me.
No one awaits my arrival
with a kiss
or a rum
and a thousand questions.
Solitude echoes within me.
My heart wishes
to burst with rage
but it sprouts wings.

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Quick update . . .


Monday evening, drizzle and cooler, 69 degrees.

We were gone all afternoon, so of course, the dogs had a field day. Their latest trick is unfurling rolls of toilet paper and TP’ing the house. It’s adorable . . . not at all.

Had an MRI on my neck today. Wasn’t as bad as some that I’ve had in the past in that it didn’t take as long, and the machine had a wider opening so I didn’t feel as if I couldn’t breathe. The biggest surprise was that they wanted a $40 payment before they would do the test. Supposedly someone told me this, but neither Corey nor I remembered that, which is a sure sign that it didn’t happen as I always try to tell him in advance so that at least he’ll remember. This has happened before here, but never used to happen in Norfolk.

Weird. Even weirder? They gave me a 10 percent discount for paying on the day of the test, but I couldn’t get the test done unless I paid on the day on which it was scheduled. Now figure that one out

Still having major sleep issues. Maybe now that cooler weather seems to be here finally I’ll be able to sleep better at night. Who knows. Dreams have been wicked intense and detailed. Continuing issues with my prescription coverage, being told different things by different people working for the same place. That’s always fun, fun, fun.

Anyway, just wanted to do a quick note to try to get back into more regular posting once again.

Today is the birthday of an incredible poet, Amiri Baraka (October 7, 1934-January 9, 2014). You can read about him at the Poetry Foundation site. I’m including a beautiful poem that I used to feature in my American Literature classes. I liked to begin the discussion by asking the class about the implications of the poem’s title . . .

More later. Peace.


Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note

for Kellie Jones, born 16 May 1959

Lately, I’ve become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelopes me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus…

Things have come to that.

And now, each night I count the stars,
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.

Nobody sings anymore.

And then last night, I tiptoed up
To my daughter’s room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there…
Only she on her knees, peeking into

Her own clasped hands.

~ Amiri Baraka


Music by Booker T & the MG’s, “Green Onions”

“Western medicine looks at the body from a mechanistic perspective, whereas healers highlight everyone has a spirit that intimately links to the body and emotions.” ~ Dr. Francesca Panzironi, CEO of ANTAC, an organization of Aboriginal healers

Indigenous Australians see the land as a “mother” and very much alive (Credit: Bonita Grima)

“And even if there’s no magic fix for mental illness, it seems indigenous Australians have much to teach us about developing greater awareness and reciprocity with our planet for our physical and emotional survival – if we only take the time to listen.” ~ Bonita Grima, from “A 60,000=year=old cure for depression”

Thursday afternoon, sunny and too warm, 90 degrees.

The other day I read an article about Australia’s traditional Aboriginal healers and their approach to treating illnesses of the mind and body. The article, entitled “A 60,000-year-old cure for depression” was published on the BBC Travel Site.

Because of my long journey with mental and physical ailments, I’ve long had an interest in alternative medicines—and would love to know more about the various uses of herbs and plants. As I’ve mentioned, I take various vitamins and supplements like eggshell membrane and cinnamon for things like my IBS, blood sugar, and arthritis, and while Western medicine tends to scoff at the effectiveness of supplements, I have seen improvements in some things. For example, my blood sugar levels are back to normal, and my thyroid levels are closer to normal as well.

Is it a placebo effect? Who knows, but I’ll take what I can get if it means that I can take fewer prescription medicines. I think that part of what I like is that I feel as if I have more control over my health. Anyway, much of what I know, and that is limited at best—comes from reading about Native American healers, but the title of this article caught my attention.

As the article points out, the indigenous Aboriginal people of Australia have the oldest living culture on earth. However, their numbers have substantially dwindled, in large part because of the influx of Europeans, who brought all of the negative effects of colonizatioin, such diseases, violence, and forced separation of Aboriginal families and removal from traditional lands. But as the article states, one of the traditions that has remained in spite of outside factors is the role of traditional healing:

For around 60,000 years, their intricate understanding of ecology ensured survival, and their physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well-being was achieved by maintaining healthy, balanced relationships with all living and non-living things.

At the heart of their communities were traditional healers. They have been respected and entrusted with the well-being of Aboriginal communities for as long as the culture has been alive.

For the mubarrn, or elders, the most important step in healing is a connection to the land, which is directly tied to listening. The term dadirri, which means an “inner deep listening and quiet still awareness:

For indigenous Australians, this spiritual listening practice provides a way to observe and act according to the natural seasons and cycles in a way the modern world seems to have forgotten.

The article quotes Dr Francesca Panzironi, a human rights academic from Rome. Panzironi is the  CEO of Australia’s first organization of Aboriginal traditional healers,  Anangu Ngangkari Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation (ANTAC). “For indigenous people, it’s about reconnecting to culture and accessing healing techniques that are different from Western medicine,” Panzironi said. Ngangkari are the healers of Australia’s central desert areas.

Now that I live here on the ridge, I find myself observing and learning each time I venture onto the land. Corey and I joke with one another about preparing for the zombie apocalypse, but truthfully, I want a greenhouse so that I can raise herbs so that eventually, I can learn how to make things like soap and my own tinctures, especially for treating the animals when they have small wounds or inflammations. For now, I settle for ordering things like an ointment made from Manuka honey, which is native to New Zealand and has been shown to have several healing benefits.

I’m featuring this article for those of you who may share my interest in learning what the land can provide for us. I’m including a link to a similar article about the Ngangkari healers, which can be found here, as well as an article here about some of the medicinal plants used.

Just a quick aside: I’ve been trying for almost a week to write this post, but my brain is overloaded with a bunch of stuff, so I cannot focus on one thing well enough to write about it. I hope that the above is linear enough to follow.

More later. Peace.


Aboriginal Healing Music (uncertain as to performers) composed by Giordano Trivellato and Giuliano Sacchetto

“Autumn that year painted the countryside in vivid shades of scarlet, saffron and russet, and the days were clear and crisp under harvest skies.” ~ Sharon Kay Penman, from Time and Chance

Autumn Enveloped, Spring Grove Cemetery &; Arboretum, Cincinnati by David Ohmer

“The heart of Autumn must have broken here,
And poured its treasure out upon the leaves.” ~ Charlotte Fiske Bates, from “Woodbines in October”

Saturday afternoon, partly cloudy, hotter and humid, 85 degrees.

Any day now we’re going to get a break in the weather and have nice fall temperatures. Any day now.

Corey is working on the fence again. Somehow, the goats and horses have all found ways to escape from the pasture, which I know is frustrating the hell out of Corey. At the moment, Beric and Daisy are in the back pasture, and the rest of the goats and the two horses are in the large pasture, or at least they’re supposed to be. At the moment, they’re on the front porch.

Autumn Reflection Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum, Cincinnati by David Ohmer (FCC)

Early this morning, after letting all of the dogs out, Freddy returned smelling of skunk. Fortunately he seems to be the only one who was sprayed directly, but boy did he get the full treatment. It was hellacious. I sprayed him with one of those dog calming sprays that I keep on hand, but that was only a temporary measure until we were out of bed. Corey gave him a bath, and that seems to have taken care of the eau de skunk.

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” ~ George Eliot, from a
Letter to Miss Lewis, October 1, 1841

Anyway, I had something in particular in mind for today’s post, and it’s an offshoot of my griping about the hot temps, but in a good way, if that makes any sense at all . . .

Climate experts (weather.com) say that 2019’s warmer than usual September means that leaves will change color across the U.S. about a week later than usual. I was unable to download the interactive map showing nationwide fall foliage peak dates, but I did manage to capture two dates showing peak time in our area, which is supposed to be somewhere between October 26 and November 2. Corey’s mom likes to try to catch peak foliage, so I’m hoping that this tool will be of value to her.

2019 Fall Foliage Map & Nationwide Peak Leaf Forecast (10-26-2019)
2019 Fall Foliage Map & Nationwide Peak Leaf Forecast (11-02-2019)

Apparently, each year since 2013, smokymountains.com publishes this interactive map for those looking for peak leaf viewing around the country. Wes Melton, a data scientist and CTO with smokymountains.com, told Travel + Leisure:

“The predictive fall leaf map helps potential travelers, photographers and leaf peepers determine the precise future date that the leaves will peak in each area of the continental United States . . . We believe this interactive tool will enable travelers to take more meaningful fall vacations, capture beautiful fall photos and enjoy the natural beauty of autumn.

Although the scientific concept of how leaves change colors is fairly simple, predicting the precise moment the event will occur is extremely challenging . . . The major factors impacting peak fall are sunlight, precipitation, soil moisture and temperature. Although we cannot control Mother Nature and ensure 100 [percent] accuracy, our data sources are top-tier and each year we refine our algorithmic model achieving higher accuracy over time.”

Moving the slider at the bottom of the actual interactive map (found here), will display the best opportunities for when and where leaves will be near peak, at peak, and past peak in the coming weeks.

“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.” ~ John Burroughs, naturalist

There’s nothing quite like a hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains in autumn. It’s something that I first began doing right after Caitlin died, and I’ve tried to do so as often as possible over the years since, in particular along Skyline Drive, the historic 105-mile National Scenic Byway, which traverses Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. There are nearly 70 scenic overlooks along this north-south route. I have stayed several times at Skyland Lodge, which is located at the top of the drive. Go here to see available lodging in and around Shenandoah; I would recommend the cabins for a more rustic experience.

A view of Skyline Drive in late fall (NPS image)

Another beautiful route for viewing fall foliage in the mountains is the Blue Ridge Parkway, which traverses 469 miles through 29 Virginia and North Carolina counties and spans the southern and central Appalachians. The Parkway links Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Lodging here is varied and includes B&Bs, lodges, cabins, and hotels, among others; we stayed at Peaks of Otter Lodge the year I was pregnant with Brett.

Bittersweet memories . . .

By the way, since I always get this confused, I thought that I’d offer a clarification: The Blue Ridge Mountains (Eastern US) are part of the Appalachians (eastern counterpart to the Rocky Mountains), which are a system of mountains forming a barrier to east/west travel and extending 2,000 miles from Newfoundland to central Alabama. The Great Smoky Mountains (SE US) are a subrange of the Appalachians and a part of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range. Shenandoah National Park is in the Shenandoah Valley, which stretches 200 miles across the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. The Allegheny Mountains are part of the Appalachians.

  • Mountain range: series of mountains
  • Mountain system: group of mountain ranges
  • Subrange: seen as parent-child relationship (Appalachians parent to Blue Ridge child)

Got it? Me neither. More later. Peace.


Music by September’s Birds,”Honey, You Don’t Know”


Autumn

All day I have watched the purple vine leaves
Fall into the water.
And now in the moonlight they still fall,
But each leaf is fringed with silver.

~ Amy Lowell

 

” . . . never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion; against injustice, lying and greed. If you . . . will do this, not as a class or classes, but as individuals, men and women, you will change the earth.” ~ William Faulkner, from a commencement speech (1952)

From the play The Cocktail Party

Thursday thoughts . . .

When everything around me begins to fall apart, I often find comfort in the words of others. Bukowski’s poem below seems especially relevant at the moment:

Aside: I’m really impressed by the YouTuber who makes these poem companion videos.


Happy Birthday to T. S. Eliot (September 26, 1888-January 4, 1965), poet, literary critic, essayist, and publisher (“The Waste Land”)

Belated Happy Birthday to WILLIAM FAULKNER (September 25, 1897-July 6, 1962), Nobel Prize Laureate and author whose work I always have to read at least twice to really understand (The sound and the fury).

Wordless Wednesdays . . .

Just try to resist the baby goat cuteness . . . I’m going to have to learn how to make goat pajamas if any are born in the winter . . .

Two for Tuesday: Chana Bloch


“Chana Bloch’s poems whisper swiftly what has been in us since we began. They are telling, quick revelations of the creatures we are, creatures we may not ignore and must not distort.” ~ Richard Hugo

I decided to do today’s post about poet, translator and scholar Chana Bloch (March 15, 1940 (my mom’s birthday)-May 19, 2017),  after coming upon one of her poems in a post that I wrote several years ago (March 23, 2013). Rereading this poem made me want to know more about Bloch, so I went on one of my online scavenging hunts.

In reading about Bloch I came upon a PDF entitled Patient Poets: Illness from Inside Out, by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre; published in 2017 by UC Berkeley as part of its Perspectives in Medical Humanities series, the publication deals with poetry written by patients in the face of illness. If you have the time, I recommend perusing this work as it is replete with works with which you may be unfamiliar, and at only 170 pages, it’s a fast read.

I always appreciate that serendipitous aspect of life that allows me to stumble upon poems akin to those that I tend to write: those that deal with illness, loss, and death. I was completely unfamiliar with McEntyre and this publication, and I found it when trying to track down the source of the titular quote about Bloch, so I spent an hour on a rabbit trail that proved to be very rewarding.

The following passage, which appears in the chapter entitled “Outrageous Intimacies,” describes a process I have undertaken more times than I can count: that of turning to composing in the immediate aftermath of hearing bad news, regardless of locale or access to writing materials. From the text:

We see a similar reflection on the enforced intimacies of diagnosis and surgery in a series of eight poems by Chana Bloch, collectively entitled “In the Land of the Body,” that chronicle her diagnosis and treatment for ovarian cancer (Bloch, 68). The poems, by a poet and writer whose diagnosis interrupted a thriving teaching career, were composed in the course of treatment, the first scribbled in the car immediately after learning she would have to have surgery. That was her moment of resolve to survive and write about it; that resolve, she said later in an interview, “would be like a thread I could hold on to.” She continued to write her way through the experience, jotting notes during clinical visits, collecting unfamiliar words, pressing the doctor for explanations she later translated into her own idiom.

To read more about Bloch, The Poetry Society of America features an Interview that Diane Bilyak conducted with Bloch, which can be found here; the Los Angeles Review of Books printed a nice feature in 2015, or you can take a look at her NYT obituary here.

Happy Birthday to F. Scott Fitzgerald (September 24, 1896-December 21, 1940)

Note: While I had the bones of this post done on Tuesday, it still needed some flesh, hence, the back posting . . .


Chiaroscuro

Before the light was divided from darkness,
what was it like, that chaos?
a brilliant shadow? an absence
lit from within?
This is not a question. I’m tired of living
in the land of answers.

At school I’d wave my flag of five fingers,
pleased to produce
just what the teacher ordered.
I needed to get it right.

I knew a man whose first love
was numbers, how sane they are.
Feelings! he blurted, startling himself and me.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t have them.

My feelings know more than I do,
and what do they know?
He left me laughing and crying at the same time.

And what did he know without his feelings?
Four currencies, three fine wines,
two fountain pens, one blue, one black,
the capital of every poor country in the world.

**********

Watching

for my father

You and I used to talk about
Lear and his girls
(I read it in school,

you saw it on the Yiddish stage
where the audience yelled:
Don’t believe them,

they’re rotten) —
that Jewish father and his
suburban daughters.

Now I’m here with the rest,
smelling the silences,
watching you

disappear.
What will it look like?
Lost on the bed

without shoes, without lungs,
you won’t talk
except to the wall: I’m dying,

and to the nurse: Be
careful, I
may live.

What does a daughter say
to the bones
that won’t answer —

Thank you to the nice man?
Daddy?
The last time

we went to the Bronx Zoo,
the elephants were smelly as ever,
all those warm Sundays,

the monkeys as lewd.
But they put the penguins
behind curved glass

with a radiant sky
painted on the far wall.
And all those birds

lined up with their backs to us
watching the wrong
horizon.