“I hoard books. They are people who do not leave.” ~ Anne Sexton, from a letter to unnamed Benedictine monk
Monday afternoon, partly cloudy, 59 degrees.
Corey is on his way home from Ohio after taking his mother back after her visit. I’m still having major problems in trying to write, technical issues coupled with brain focusing issues. Sorry . . .
Birthdays of Note . . .
With all of the computer problems and other stuff, I’ve fallen woefully behind in my authors’ birthday notices, so I thought that I’d post a few here for now:
November 6 (this was a bad day for me):
Michael Cunningham (1952), author of The Hours, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. Also, a great movie (2002) with Meryl Streep, Julianna More, and Nicole Kidman, who won a best actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf.
Anne Sexton (November 9, 1928-October 4, 1974), one of my favorite poets. More information here on The Poetry Foundation, and an interesting article entitled “The Poet and the Monk: An Anne Sexton Love Story,” found here on Lit Hub.
Nail Gaiman (1960), English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, nonfiction, audio theater, and films. He has a very cool website here.
Music by Mazzy Star, “Into Dust” (featured previously in a 2012 post)
The Ambition Bird
So it has come to this —
insomnia at 3:15 A.M.,
the clock tolling its engine
like a frog following
a sundial yet having an electric
seizure at the quarter hour.
The business of words keeps me awake.
I am drinking cocoa,
the warm brown mama.
I would like a simple life
yet all night I am laying
poems away in a long box.
It is my immortality box,
my lay-away plan,
All night dark wings
flopping in my heart.
Each an ambition bird.
The bird wants to be dropped
from a high place like Tallahatchie Bridge.
He wants to light a kitchen match
and immolate himself.
He wants to fly into the hand of Michelangelo
and come out painted on a ceiling.
He wants to pierce the hornet’s nest
and come out with a long godhead.
He wants to take bread and wine
and bring forth a man happily floating in the Caribbean.
He wants to be pressed out like a key
so he can unlock the Magi.
He wants to take leave among strangers
passing out bits of his heart like hors d’oeuvres.
He wants to die changing his clothes
and bolt for the sun like a diamond.
He wants, I want.
Dear God, wouldn’t it be
good enough just to drink cocoa?
I must get a new bird
and a new immortality box.
There is folly enough inside this one.
I had an appointment with the pain management doctor in Abingdon today for a cervical block, two shots of a steroid and Marcaine right into my head. This is supposed to help with my migraines, so we’ll just have to see. I did finally receive a letter in the mail that I’ve been approved for Aimovig, which is a preventative for migraines. Perhaps between the two things, I’ll get some relief.
Anyway, no real post today. Just wiped out from everything. Had to go to bed this afternoon for a few hours.
Tuesday morning, cloudy with approaching storms, 82 degrees.
I have an appointment in Abingdon today with the Neurologist. It couldn’t have come at a better time considering I had one of the worse episodes I’ve had in a very long time and am still feeling the effects. Here’s hoping that it goes better than the last one in which she spent most of the time telling me what she could not do for me.
Here. Have some Tennessee Whiskey. I wouldn’t mind having some myself.
“I was returning to my musty court and madness but my kind of madness.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “Would You Suggest Writing as a Career?”
Monday afternoon, rainy and much cooler, 72 degrees.
It’s a Charles Bukowski kind of day; by that I mean that it’s ordinary, but depressing in its ordinariness. I’m of two minds about Bukowski: I like some of his poetry, but his short stories sometimes get on my nerves because they are so filled with misogyny. I was just perusing the 1983 collection Tales of Ordinary Madness (originally published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1972). Bukowski had a seeming antipathy towards women that I have a hard time getting past. Yet at the same time, he wrote some lines that were real pearls. For example, take the closing line of one of his short stories, “A .45 to Pay the Rent”:
then the beautiful child was asleep and the moon was full.
It’s such a peaceful line, closing a story with such violent undertones.
The truth is, though, that Bukowski was a true curmudgeon: he just didn’t get along with most people, and he found ordinary life hard, taxing. So he drank and smoked and did drugs, none of which I really do; nevertheless, I sometimes feel a real affinity for the man, the writer, and the intense creative force that compelled him.
“‘Would you suggest writing as a career?’ one of the young students asked me. ‘Are you trying to be funny?’ I asked him. ‘No, no, I’m serious. Would you advise writing as a career?’ ‘Writing chooses you, you don’t choose it.’” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “Would You Suggest Writing as a Career?”
I was reminded of the collection when I was prowling the ether looking for quotes that fit my mood for today. I may have over 100 draft posts filled with quotes and poems and songs, but none of them seemed to fit today’s mood. Then I found the quote for this section, which I have always loved, which led me to search for an online copy of the short stories. I found one here as a PDF, if you are so inclined. I actually found a site that has nothing but quotes from the collection. You can find it here if you’re interested.
Anyway, the drastic switch in temperatures and dropping barometric pressure has caused a combination sinus/migraine, which probably accounts for my weird mood. No real surprise there. Intense pressure and pain do not make for a pleasant afternoon under any circumstances, as I am sure you can agree.
One good thing on the horizon, though: Corey was able to borrow a small horse trailer that works with a standard hitch. We should be able to bring Napoleon home today or tomorrow, depending on weather. I am so relieved.
“I like to prowl ordinary places and taste the people— from a distance.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from”59 Cents a Pound”
This section quote comes from a poem contained in the book (epub here) Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit. I mean, how can you not love something with that title? It’s as if Bukowski was at times two different people. The crass woman-hater in the short stories, and the astute observer of humanity and life in the poems. I mean, he wrote poems about the souls of dead animals and dreaming of injured cats; there’s a remembered section from some poem, “It’s so easy to be a poet | and so hard to be | a man.”
Truthfully, though I have never read a biography on him, so I probably should do so before attempting to analyze the man in any kind of cogent way.
There was actually a point here. The title of the collection reminds me so much of my friend Gail Kelly from the medical school. She came to me one afternoon so excited because she had found the Tom Waits’ song called “The Piano Has Been Drinking.” It was a classic Gail moment. She was a wild woman, and like so many of my friends, I lost touch with her, and that’s really a shame because we had a real connection.
But back to me and my headache.
It hurts. My eyes are throbbing and I’m typing without really focusing on the screen, not just because of the head but also because the pair of glasses that I use during the day is an old pair of prescription sunglasses, and I lost a nose piece the other day. I haven’t pursued getting a new pair of glasses because of the whole cataract thing. I’m hoping to have an eye exam in August, and perhaps then I can get a referral to an eye surgeon; although, I would really prefer to have the operation done in Norfolk, but who even knows if I can swing that.
Allow me to apologize. I know that this post has been all over the place. Like I said in the beginning: a Bukowski kind of day.
That’s about all for now. More later. Peace.
Music by Tom Waits, “The Piano has been Drinking,” what else? I picked one with the lyrics. For Gail.
59 cents a pound
I like to prowl ordinary places
and taste the people—
from a distance.
I don’t want them too near
because that’s when attrition
but in supermarkets
I can look at their bodies
and their faces
and their clothing—
watch the way they walk
or what they are doing.
I’m like an x-ray machine
I like them like that:
I imagine the best things
I imagine them brave and crazy
I imagine them beautiful.
I like to prowl ordinary places.
I feel sorry for us all or glad for us
caught alive together
and awkward in that way.
there’s nothing better than the joke
the seriousness of us
the dullness of us
buying stockings and carrots and gum
buying birth control
and toilet paper.
we should build a great bonfire
we should congratulate ourselves on our
we stand in long lines
we walk about
I like to prowl ordinary places
the people explain themselves to me
and I to them
a woman at 3:35 p.m.
weighing purple grapes on a scale
looking at that scale very
she is dressed in a simple green dress
with a pattern of white flowers
she takes the grapes
puts them carefully into a white paper
that’s lightning enough
the generals and the doctors may kill us
but we have
“There is a beauty in the world, though it’s harsher than we expect it to be.” ~ Michael Cunningham, from The Hours
Thursday afternoon, mostly cloudy and warm, 76 degrees.
Dallas showed up a few hours ago with the horse trailer again. At least Corey was home this time. Dallas is determined to take my horse Napoleon over to his place to stud some mares that are in heat. He also wants to take Sassy to try to impregnate her. The last time he showed up to do this, I almost hit him over the head with a heavy object. The man is infuriating when he’s been drinking.
He’s out there ordering Corey around, doing the same thing that he did to me, telling Corey to be very quiet, even as he yells. Dallas is oblivious to the irony. Neither horse is cooperating, which I find oddly amusing, but I know that Corey must be frustrated.
Apparently, though, they’ve finally gotten Napoleon into the trailer but have given up on Sassy, who isn’t having anything to do with Dallas and his trailer; with any luck, Dallas will be departing soon. The banging and yelling have made the dogs and me nervous. I actually had plans to take the dogs for a walk, but I was definitely not going out there while all of that chaos was going on, only to be called into the fray, regardless of my plans
Neither my nerves nor my patience could have taken it. With any luck, I still might be able to get a walk in. We’ll just have to see, I suppose, but of course, I’m writing now, so it’s doubtful that I’ll actually make it outside. (I really need to manage my time better, or perhaps, it’s my mind. Who knows . . .)
“Still, there are times i am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.” ~ Jhumpa Lahiri, from “The Third and Final Continent”
Just a week ago Corey and I were talking about how everything in Norfolk would already be in bloom, but everything around here was still bare, and then suddenly, we woke up, and there was green grass, and blossoms on some trees, and bulbs coming up everywhere. It’s finally spring on the ridge.
One of the reasons that I had wanted to get a walk in was to explore just what was in bloom in the various nooks and crannies everywhere. Perhaps next year I’ll have been able to get various bulbs in the ground and more bushes planted that I want: peonies, day lilies, tulips, mock orange, wisteria, Carolina jasmine, wisteria, maybe even a couple of flowering crabapple and blossoming cherry trees. That would be nice. I miss the huge blooms on my peony plants, and I had fully intended to dig them up to transplant, but as with most things involved in the move, it just didn’t happen. In fact, we’re still realizing exactly how much we’re missing from our belongings that didn’t make it here. Odd.
So I hear the tractor pulling out and Dallas yelling over the engine, as if anyone could even figure out what he’s talking about now. Sorry. I know that I should be kinder, should be nicer, should be less judgmental.
I’m not. Sorry. Not really.
“. . . the ones who dance As though they’re burying Memory—one last time— Beneath them.” ~ Tracy K. Smith, from “Duende”
And by the way, it appears that Maddy is going into heat sooner than anticipated. I told Corey that we need to buy some diapers to put on her because I definitely to not want her impregnated; I remember that my mother used to keep this diaper thing that she would put on the Yorkies when they went into heat. My life just keeps getting more and more interesting. So now the hunt it on for affordable spaying. Anyone have any ideas?
Unfortunately, I realized that Maddy’s condition means that her sisters from the litter, those currently still residing with Dallas, must be going into heat as well, and he is completely irresponsible about such things; witness the two recent litters of puppies he now has in residence. I would really like to steal some of his females and have them spayed and then return them. He’d never notice.
If wishes were fishes . . .
Sleep sucked last night, and I kept having dreams that were filled with strange images and food. I even woke up and wrote down the details of one particular dream because it unnerved me so much. So I dreamed about chicken and dumplings, BBQ, the old townhouse in Alexandria, my former sister-in-law, and my ex. Needless to say it was all jumbled and disturbing, and I awoke feeling like I’d run a marathon, that is if I’d ever run a marathon, or could run a marathon, or would run a marathon (I’ve seen how people look at the finish line; no thank you).
Note: I began this post yesterday afternoon, and then got distracted as usual, that and the whole Dallas interruption; but I’ve decided to finish it today because . . . things . . . why not?
“But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?” ~ Anthony Doerr, from All the Light We Cannot See
Friday afternoon, rain and cooler, 64 degrees.
So, another bad night. Migraine today. Storms outside and inside, I guess. I’m supposed to call some rep about getting the new migraine medication Aimovig with assistance, but the key words here are supposed to and call—easier said than done. I never ever ever thought that I’d miss having a working phone. Is it possible to get a phone to make outgoing calls only, as in no one can call in and bother you? You get to call on your time, when it’s convenient for you?
Someone should invent that . . .
So I’m committed to finishing this post. Just as I’ve committed myself to doing the taxes this weekend . . . yep, have to do that. I’ve also made a pact with Corey that I’m going to get back to my piano. I’ve cleaned and dusted it, and I’ve been doing scales and exercises to get my fingers back into shape. I’ve made a promise to myself that I’ll practice 30 minutes a day until I get back into shape, and then an hour a day to get back to Chopin and Beethoven.
I think that it’s a good plan. Now it’s a matter of staying focused.
Now that the weather is warmer, I have so many goals: piano playing, writing, house organizing, furniture refinishing. I can do this, I tell myself, even as internally I begin to panic. I know. It makes no sense. I’ve set the goals. I’ve made the to do list. No one else has done this for me. No one is making me do any of this . . . but it’s that old battle of feeling that I’m not meeting expectations.
Whose? Don’t ask me. I truly don’t know.
“We spend our life trying to bring together in the same instant a ray of sunshine and a free bench.” ~ Samuel Beckett, from Texts for Nothing
I’ve been exploring YouTube again, looking for new artists, renditions with which I am unfamiliar. I like YouTube, but hate the ads that pop up at the most inopportune times. I mean, I realize that those ads are the method by which people on that channel makes a lot of their income, but still, I wish that it was more like the original days of the channel, when you could listen for hours without an ad. Of course, if I were willing to pay for premium, I would have to deal with ads.
Not going to be doing that any time soon, even if I did have the money. I mean, it’s the principle . . . at least, that’s what I tell myself . . . Ah, the inequities of life, such small problems that dart into our lives like pesky mosquitoes. At least I have a computer on which I can view the channel. I have electricity, water, a roof over my head. I need to remind myself of these things when I’m feeling pitiful about my current plight.
We may not have a fully-stocked larder, but we aren’t starving. We don’t have to live in a cage, or a processing room filled with desperate people. We don’t have to pick through garbage piles looking for the odd thing that might be turned into coin in order to purchase a meal for our children. This world is so full of want and need, and when I think about it, it just about destroys my soul.
I probably should stop now before I go on a full-blown rant about the haves and the have-nots and how very and truly warped our society is, right down to its very bones.
More later. Peace.
*All images are by photographer Shirley Baker, who is well known for her stark images of working-class people living in the inner-city neighborhoods of Salford and Manchester, UK. Taken between 1961 and 1981, Baker frequently focused her lens on the children in these neighborhoods. For a good biography go here. unfortunately I was not always able to find an accurate caption citing exact date and location.
Music by The Sweeplings, “Carry Me Home”
Necessities (two sections)
1. A map of the world. Not the one in the atlas,
but the one in our heads, the one we keep coloring in.
With the blue thread of the river by which we grew up.
The green smear of the woods we first made love in.
The yellow city we thought was our future.
The red highways not traveled, the green ones
with their missed exits, the black side roads
which took us where we had not meant to go.
The high peaks, recorded by relatives,
though we prefer certain unmarked elevations,
the private alps no one knows we have climbed.
The careful boundaries we draw and erase.
And always, around the edges,
the opaque wash of blue, concealing
the dropoff they have stepped into before us,
singly mapless not looking back.
Even now, the old things first things,
which taught us language. Things of day and of night.
Irrational lightning, fickle clouds, the incorruptible moon.
Fire as revolution, grass as the heir
to all revolutions. Snow
as the alphabet of the dead, subtle, undeciphered.
The river as what we wish it to be.
Trees in their humanness, animals in their otherness.
Summits. Chasms. Clearings.
And stars, which gave us the word distance,
so we could name our deepest sadness.
Not two poems today, but prose by the prolific German-language poets. Rilke was born in Prague in what was at that time called the Austro-Hungarian empire. His earlier work evokes a sense of romanticism, but after two life-changing trips to Russia, Rilke’s work evolved into what would become his predominant approach to writing: [these trips provided hims with] “poetic material and inspiration essential to his developing philosophy of existential materialism and art as religion” (Poetry Foundation).
Throughout his life, Rilke interacted with key artists of the period, including Tolstoy, Pasternak, and Rodin, for whom Rilke worked as secretary (1905-06). Although best known for his German language work, Rilke’s ouevre included 400 poems written in French. Additionally, he was a prodigious letter writer, especially to the significant women in his life, and many of his letters reflect the poet’s continual search for meaning through art and his desire to determine poet’s overarching role in society.
In 1912, Rilke began writing Duino Elegies, so called because Rilke began the collection while visiting Duino Castle on the Italian Adriatic coast. The collection, considered to be his magnum opus, took him ten years to write. Rilke, who suffered from health problems his entire life, including stifling depression, died of leukemia in 1926.
Go here or here for more information on the poet and his work. The selections below are from Rilke’s only novel, which was considered to be semi-autobiographical, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910).
All the lost fears are here again.
The fear that a small woolen thread sticking out of the hem of my blanket may be hard, hard and sharp as a steel needle; the fear that this little button on my night-shirt may be bigger than my head, bigger and heavier; the fear that the breadcrumpbwhich just dropped off my bed may turn into glass, and shatter when it hits the floor, and the sickening worry that when it does, everything will be broken, for ever; the fear that the ragged edge of a letter which was torn open may be something forbidden, which no one out to see, something indescribably precious, for which no place in the room is safe enough; the fear that if I fell asleep I might swallow the piece of coal lying in front of the stove; the fear that some number may begin to grow in my brain until there is no more room for it inside me; the fear that I may be lying on granite, on gray granite; the fear that I may start screaming, and people will come running to y door ad finally force it open, the fear that I might betray myself and tell everything I drea, and the fear that I might not be able to say anything because everything is unsayable,—and the other fears . . . the fears.
From “For the Sake of a Single Poem”
. . . Ah poems amount to so little when you write then too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn’t pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else—); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet, restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas to nights of travel that rushed along high overhead and went flying with all the stars,—and it is still not enough to be able to think of all that. You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves—only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.