“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.

~

“Never are voices so beautiful as on a winter’s evening, when dusk almost hides the body, and they seem to issue from nothingness with a note of intimacy seldom heard by day.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from Night and Day

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Bajka zimowa 1904

“Bajka zimowa (Winter Fairytale)” (1904)
by Ferdynand Ruszczyc


“Go down to the place in you where fire and silence dwell—the place of power . . .” ~ Anne Powell, from Going Deeper

Saturday late afternoon. Sunny and cold, 34 degrees.

Hello. Once again, a bit of a break between posts. I can only say that for some reason, my cough has returned, and for the past two days, I have been little more than a blob. It could be the drastically falling temperatures, or it could be anything. I hate so much to be sick while Corey is home because it seems like such a waste of our measured time together. Having said that, there is little than I can do when my body rebels.

Ferdynand Ruszczyc  Młyn w zimie  1902

“Młyn w zimie (Mill in Winter)” (1902, oil on canvas)
by Ferdynand Ruszczyc

The Botox injections that I was supposed to get earlier in the week did not happen, and I cannot say that I am surprised. Yet another glitch on the provider’s end, and now to complicate matters, since it is the new year, my old insurance with my former employer is going away, and Corey’s insurance is now my primary, at least until my Medicare kicks in in conjunction with my SS disability.

It’s all just to much folderol. The nurse at my pain management practice has been working tirelessly since October to get my Botox approved, and now she has to start all over with a new insurance. I feel terrible about putting her through this, but I am also less than happy with my former insurance as I paid for that Botox already, and they are not sending it.

Of course, the ensuing migraine was predictable . . .

“Words or wax, no end
to our self-shaping, our forlorn
awareness at the end of which
is only more awareness.
Was ever truth so malleable?
Arid, inadhesive bits of matter.” ~ C. K. Williams, from “Lost Wax”

So it is January 10, ten days into the new year, and I already find myself in that time loop in which I seem to exist most of the time. Ever since my mother’s death last January, all of 2014 was a blur, and I never quite knew what day it was, let alone what month. And then finishing the year with a truly brutal bout of bronchitis left me floundering so much that I now find myself in the second week of January, and I have yet to write 2015 on anything.

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Pejzaż ze stogami Ok 1897 oil on canvas

“Pejzaż ze stogami Ok (Landscape with Stacks)” (1897, oil on canvas)
by Ferdynand Ruszczyc

I did get many, many trigger point injections in lieu of the Botox, and I was left with lumps in weird places where the muscles had seized. The best thing for it, though, is a hot bath, which, in my view, is one of the best things for just about anything that ails one.

So each night, I force my body into a bath as hot as I can bear, and then I soak until the water begins to cool. It’s that whole affinity for water that Aquarians have. It has always been there. I have pleasant memories of soaking in the tub in my mother’s house while my friend Sarah sat and talked to me. It never struck me as a strange way to have a conversation.

Have no idea where that memory came from.

“I can remember looking at the stars in the summertime, for instance, and feeling a tremendous sorrow from simply knowing that they are not permanent; the stars can blow up, can crumple, go away. And somehow that idea of the end of things, the changeability of things entered my mind, and my psyche, and my imagination at a very early stage. It was connected with a kind of universal sorrow that I perceived in nature everywhere, and in human nature everywhere.” ~ Anna Kamienska, from “In That Great River,” trans. Clare Cavanagh

Last night I dreamed of the department store and doing massive markdowns, the bane of any manager’s existence in retail, and one of the other managers with whom I had a shaky relationship at best kept showing up in the dream, making the whole sequence yet another painful reminder of another close chapter in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to reopen that particular chapter of my life as the entire thing was a pure accident in the first place.

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Most zimą most winter 1901 oil on canvas

“Most zimą (Most Winter) (1901, oil on canvas)
by Ferdynand RUszczyc

Alexis was out of school with a very bad case of mono and a secondary virus, and once she went back to school, I decided to pick up an interim job until I could find something in my field. So I applied at the new big mall downtown, and landed a retail job, something I never wanted. Anyway, I ended up overstaying my time there, and the entire situation became riddled with bad memories, with the sole good thing to arise from that period being finding Corey.

Looking at it philosophically, I suppose that was the whole reason I was there as had I never accepted the position, we would never have crossed paths, and that, in my estimation, would have been tragic.

“Nights have a habit of mysterious gifts and refusals,
of things half given away, half withheld,
of joys with a dark hemisphere. Nights act
that way, I tell you.” ~ Jorge Luis Borges, from “Two English Poems”

So we have spent our fourteenth Christmas together. The first one we spent in Ohio, and boy was that a scary proposition—meeting his family, in particular, his father, who I was quite certain would not like me at all. I remember just about every aspect of that visit, but what stands out in my memory the most, and you’ll pardon me if this sounds strange, is New Year’s Eve, which Corey and I spent in his brother’s hot tub.

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Krzyż w śniegu 1902

“Krzyż w śniegu (The Cross in the Snow)” (1902, oil on canvas)
by Ferdynand Ruszczyc

The air was cold, and the water was hot, and it was a lovely night, and ever since, I have yearned to have a hot tub that we could sit in and look at the night sky together. Perhaps one day if we do finally make it to the mountains and build our house. I can hope . . .

Anyway, our years together have ebbed and flowed as with any relationship, yet I still adore the man I married, still have a strong desire to have him all to myself when he is home for his three weeks, and I suppose that’s a good thing, albeit selfish, yet my feelings have only strengthened through the years, and sometimes I have to stop and remind myself of just how much time has actually passed.

I’m not exactly certain how I ended up on this tangent. Perhaps it’s that whole memory time loop thing I was trying to describe in the first section.

“With the silky hands of longing you tame distance as you make borrowed stars the roof of your sky . . . .” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from “In the Presence of Absence,” trans. Sinan Antoon

So anyway, I’m hoping that since I feel better today that I am not relapsing. Would that I could get back to some kind of rhythm with this blog and with my tumblr and not least of which, with writing poems again.

I haven’t had any words come to me in several weeks, and that is quite disheartening as I was so beginning to enjoy the creative spurts that have eluded me for years. With any luck, once I have kicked this illness-generated ennui, I might be able to make a foray into 2015 with a little more creativity.

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Młyn zimą 1897

“Młyn zimą (Mill in Winter) (1897, oil on canvas)
by FerdynandRuszczyc

Wishing and hoping . . . wasn’t that a song?

So Corey leave on Monday, a day earlier than usual because he came home a day early because of Christmas. I’ll have to try to get back into some kind of routine in helping out with Olivia and helping out with ferrying Em to campus and just generally muddling through the next 21 days. It’s not as if there aren’t hundreds of little things that need to be taken care of around here, not the last of which are taxes . . . insert audible groan here. Not even going to expound on that for now.

But chances are good that instead of taking care of things, I’ll spend at least half of my time immersed in more books and more binge-watching of the backlog on the cable DVR. And you know what? I don’t feel guilty about that because it’s what keeps me somewhat sane.

Here’s hoping your year has begun with more productivity than mine.

More later. Peace.

All images are by Polish painter and printmaker Ferdynand Ruszczyc (1870–1936), because, well, snow. It should snow . . .

Music by Mecca Kalani, “Feel Me”

                   

Snowshoe to Otter Creek

love lasts by not lasting
~ Jack Gilbert

I’m mapping this new year’s vanishings:
lover, yellow house, the knowledge of surfaces.
This is not a story of return.
There are times I wish I could erase
the mind’s lucidity, the difficulty of Sundays,
my fervor to be touched
by a woman two Februarys gone. What brings the body
back, grieved and cloven, tromping these woods
with nothing to confide in? New snow reassumes
the circleting trees, the bridge above the creek
where I stand like a stranger to my life.
There is no single moment of loss, there is
an amassing. The disbeliever sleeps at an angle
in the bed. The orchard is a graveyard.
Is this the real end? Someone shoveling her way out
with cold intention? Someone naming her missing?

~ Stacie Cassarino

 

Here is my 2014 WordPress year in review:

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Things you notice when you’re sick . . .

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! - christmas-movies Screencap

  1. Swallowing grapes is not so easy.
  2. Making a cup of tea takes a long time when you throw away the tea bag and keep the foil packet.
  3. Knocking said cup of tea over immediately after sitting it down becomes a job for tomorrow.
  4. The dogs decide they need to go outside one an hour, probably just being good care-givers and making sure you can still move.
  5. You (I) can, but very, very slowly.
  6. Chocolate at 2 in the morning doesn’t taste nearly as good as it usually does.
  7. Mucinex liquid was invented by the same descendants of Marquis de Sade who invented the original Nyquil.
  8. If you are able to swallow it, Mucinex feels warm all the way down your esophagus.
  9. This is reassuring as I was pretty certain I had coughed up my esophagus on Friday night.
  10. Cold and flu medications always stop working in the middle of the night.
  11. Alka-Seltzer cold and flu medication needs to be dissolved in hot water and then chased by bourbon.
  12. Just kidding . . . not really . . .
  13. It would have been honey and bourbon and lemon instead of the medicine, but I only had the bourbon.
  14. I switched from second to first person somewhere along the way.
  15. Whatever.
  16. The Christmas cards I started on so eagerly and full of self-satisfaction over a week ago laid on my dining room table until I unearthed them this afternoon.
  17. I unearthed them this afternoon because I felt better and decided to clean.
  18. I always do this.
  19. It always hurts afterwards.
  20. A lot.
  21. It all began because I smelled something, and I wasn’t really sure if it was (pardon the total truth here) my dog’s bad gas, my feet, or the bedroom in general, having been a sick room for three days.
  22. So I needed to change the sheets.
  23. Which meant that I needed to do laundry.
  24. Which took four trips from the hamper to the garage.
  25. I do not have a large house.
  26. It’s a ranch, and the only stairs are in the garage.
  27. I still almost tripped on the stairs.
  28. I remembered to wash the bath mat that I used to sop up the tea I spilled yesterday.
  29. Or was it the day before?
  30. So I finished the Christmas cards and put them out for the mail only to notice that the UPS guy had delivered the shipment of dog food.
  31. It’s a heavy box, and I had used my daily quota of energy on useless things like cleaning and bathing.
  32. So the dog food is still on the porch getting rained on.
  33. I could so not care about the dog food.
  34. I did use my time in bed wisely: I started watching season one of “Orphan Black” on Amazon Prime (connected to my television, woo hoo) on Saturday.
  35. I think it was Saturday.
  36. I finished Sunday morning, and then I debated about whether or not to purchase season two on Prime.
  37. I debated for two minutes, and then cashed in a few dollar credits for skipping fast shipping on books and started season 2.
  38. I am now humbled to realize that I cannot buy season 3 because it isn’t a thing yet.
  39. I don’t know what to watch next, and it’s hard to read when you’re coughing.
  40. I haven’t sat at this computer in over a week.
  41. I know this because my e-mail notification says something about plus 700 new emails.
  42. Yahoo lies.
  43. There are probably 5 real emails, and the rest are people still trying to get me to order for Christmas.
  44. Probably better that I haven’t been on the computer.
  45. God I need a laptop.
  46. Or even, sigh, a tablet.
  47. Tablets are evil.
  48. I haven’t looked at myself in a mirror in days, she said, apropos of nothing.
  49. It’s amazing how many dishes one person can make in three days.
  50. Maybe the dirty dishes made me start to clean because I had run out of tea mugs.
  51. Not really.
  52. There are at least 20 more in the cabinet, but I don’t like any of those when I’m sick.
  53. Coffee tastes really bad when you’re sick.
  54. Tea tastes better with honey and lemon, but . . . well, see 13.
  55. I realized that I was walking around the house with rubber gloves on after I did the dishes.
  56. So I did the floors.
  57. Kidding.
  58. Not really.
  59. So, yeah. That’s been my life for more days than I care to admit.
  60. Corey gets home on Christmas Eve.
  61. Let’s hope I can summon up some energy to drive to the airport.
  62. I’m not sure what day or date it is.
  63. At least the house will be mostly clean because I have once again retreated to my bed (with the clean sheets) and am now rewatching certain episodes of “Orphan Black.”
  64. I can’t believe I had so many things to say.
  65. Tired now. Bye.

“All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.” ~ Cormac McCarthy, from The Road

Alfred Agache Ênigme, 1888

“Ênigme” (1888)
by Alfred Agache

 


“It is the tenderness that breaks our hearts. The loveliness that leaves us stranded on the shore, watching the boats sail away. It is the sweetness that makes us want to reach out and touch the soft skin of another person. And it is the grace that comes to us, undeserving though we may be.” ~ Robert Goolrick, from The End of the World as We Know It: Scenes from a Life

Wednesday night, late. Cold and mostly clear, 41 degrees.

Fernand Khnopff Woman of Mystery 1909

“Woman of Mystery” (1909)
by Fernand Khnopff

Sometimes words come to me. I don’t know from where, and I don’t always know what they mean. It is more than a bit disconcerting. It’s not like writing a poem, or a story. It is something altogether different, and I don’t quite know how to explain it.

So when the following words came to me, I inscribed them in the front of the book that I was reading because even though they were so clear and so strong when they hit my mind, I knew that I would forget them if I didn’t write them down.

I need one caveat: My concept of grace has changed tremendously throughout the years. What grace means to me and what it meant to me? That is completely personal.

Anyway, here they are. Make of them what you will:

It is with grace that I come here,
Grace that I bring thee,
Grace sevenfold.

More later. Peace.

Music by Róisín O, “Hold On”

                   

Everything That Acts Is Actual

From the tawny light
from the rainy nights
from the imagination finding
itself and more than itself
alone and more than alone
at the bottom of the well where the moon lives,
can you pull me

into December? a lowland
of space, perception of space
towering of shadows of clouds blown upon
clouds over
new ground, new made
under heavy December footsteps? the only
way to live?

The flawed moon
acts on the truth, and makes
an autumn of tentative
silences.
You lived, but somewhere else,
your presence touched others, ring upon ring,
and changed. Did you think
I would not change?

The black moon
turns away, its work done. A tenderness,
unspoken autumn.
We are faithful
only to the imagination. What the
imagination
seizes
as beauty must be truth. What holds you
to what you see of me is
that grasp alone.

~ Denise Levertov

“They say when she fell from Heaven she wore a crown of jagged stars that slit the skies throat. They say she loved them all, in the secret corners of their shallow sleep. Strangers, at the last. They say a lot of things. They’re all lies. Everything is already written.” ~ Gabriel De Leon, from Party at the World’s End

Herbert James Draper The Lamia 1909

“The Lamia” (1909, oil on canvas)
by Herbert James Draper


“It’s none of my business but you must have done something very special
to make a man remember you so” ~ Michelene Wandor, from “Eve to Lilith”

Thursday night. Partly cloudy and cold, 47 degrees.

I’ve been reading a lot lately, two books yesterday after Olivia left. I just couldn’t sleep. But I’ve also been pondering some mythology, specifically that surrounding Sybil and Lilith. Don’t ask me why those in particular because I have no idea. Anyway, a poem began to come to me during the night, and thankfully, I was able to recall at least the subject of it, which is better than what happened the other night when I thought of the start of a poem but could remember nothing upon waking.

Lilith by John Collier 1892

“Lilith” (1892, oil on canvas)
by John Collier

Interesting aside: In a dream a few nights ago, my mother came to me and said that she was glad that I was writing again. The bitter irony is that my mother never read anything that I have written, with the exception of a few poems written as a child. She never expressed any interest, and I suppose I never felt I could share. So the dream was bittersweet.

Moving right along . . . following is my take on Lilith, based in part on the common stories, including this particular passage:

Much to their surprise they found the cellar furnishing in perfect condition: none seemed to have aged at all. They were worthy of a place in a palace, and especially valuable was a mirror with an ornate gold frame, which in itself was worth far more than they had paid for the house.

The wife brought the mirror and all of the fine furnishings in the cellar to her own home and proudly displayed it. She hung the mirror in the room of their daughter, who was a dark-haired coquette. The girl glanced at herself in the mirror all the time, and in this way she was drawn into Lilith’s web/

For that mirror had hung in the the den of demons, and a daughter of Lilith had made her home there. And when the mirror was taken from the haunted house, the demoness came with it. For every mirror is a gateway to the Other World and leads directly to Lilith’s cave. That is the cave Lilith went to when she abandoned Adam and the Garden of Eden for all time, the cave where she sported with her demon lovers. From these unions multitudes of demons were born, who flocked from that cave and infiltrated the world. And when they want to return, they simply enter the nearest mirror. That is why it is said that Lilith makes her home in every mirror.

From “Lilith’s Cave,” as found in Lilith’s Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural, edited by Howard Schwartz

                   

Unintended Consequences

You do know, don’t you, that she never replaced you?
I mean, how could she? For all of the places where
you are dark and death, she is light
and life, the mother of all things,
and totally and completely
predictable. No one has ever said as much about you,
you spurner of god and angels alike,
and while I pretended to want the second one,
the helpmate, what I really wanted
was just one more good fight with you.
and when I heard them call you the mother of all demons,
I will admit it made me smile—inwardly, of course,
now that I’m on probation, kicked out of paradise
because of fruit, if you can believe it. I mean,
the utter smallness of it all. Had it been you?
You would have never risen to the bait,
too smart by half, with those eyes that see everything,
every little fissure in my composure,
all of the pitfalls of living in a place
that has nothing but grace.

I will say it, to you alone: It gets old.
I thought about colluding with the antelopes,
hiding among the herds,
a possible way to escape the sameness,
but they had heard about what was going down
from the lemur, that rat-faced bastard, so they hemmed:
Adam, we like you and your wife, but
we want to keep this gig for a while, you know,
avoid that whole being hunted thing. It’s all good,
right?
What a bunch of posers.
Do they actually think that they are fooling me?
But, truthfully, what could I say? It was good,
too good, too boringly, stultifyingly good.
And then we were evicted, no let’s
work on this
, no thirty day warning,
and she just kept saying, I’m Sorry,
I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I never
would have taken that apple if I’d known
,
and you know me, Mr. Male Pride,
I wouldn’t budge, couldn’t forgive.
I just wanted to scream at her,
Leave me alone for a while, would you?
Go talk to the serpent over there,
the one who gifted you knowledge.
Not much use now, eh? Miss Knowledge?

Yes, I know. You have said it before,
told me that I cannot, will not
admit fault, remember only what
I choose to place into history’s books—her mistake
her problem, my feelings, my wounds . . .
me, me, me.
I, I, I.

Sorry. You probably don’t want to hear about her
any more than she can stand to hear about you.
She cried for days after I commented
on how good you looked in the Draper portrait
you sat for. Striking and sensual, I said.
That screech owl, she said. The irony
is not lost on me. Neither is the fact
that she abhors mirrors, cloaks them
in black, as if that will alter
anything at all. Hardly.
Lately, though I have been thinking
that perhaps you were right,
you know, about changing places once in a while,
positions? Trying a few new things?
It may have been a pleasant interlude
from the predictable, the god-awful banality
of everyday life—the same thing,
day after day, not that I’ll ever know now.

By the way, I heard about what they did to you,
trying to make you return, to get you to behave.
Honestly, though? I knew better.
You? Obeying anyone? Never happen, I said.
Tried to remind them
that you were made of such serious dust,
but Sammengelof wouldn’t hear it,
a bloody sycophant when it comes to the boss.
But I never believed they would succeed.
And then when he returned without you,
he tried to pretty the lie,
mumbled something about
Lamia laying down and finding rest.
But his two companions, Senoi and Sansenoi?
You could tell by the looks on their faces
that Sam had gotten it all wrong.
You were never going to give up what you had,
go back to being a housewife,
and I must admit, I’m beginning
to understand that better now
given the recent changes in my circumstances.

Anyway, I just wanted to drop a line,
see how things are at the Red Sea, see
if you managed to make it work
with Samael (you and
the angelic Sams, a bit wicked, that).
I know. I lost the right to inquire
long ago when I ratted you out. You
never could abide a blabberer,
But hey, distance and time? Perspective?
Ironic, huh? But I think I finally appreciate
what you tried to tell me.
Maybe one day you could, you know,
write or text, or even call? Of course,
I don’t know that I would get the message.
We’re still on the move, told the neighbors
we were downsizing, looking for something
with a little less upkeep, and besides,
she is even more clingy now that everyone
can see her for what she is.
It’s so damned tiresome, but
I am the one who asked for her . . .
C’est la vie, as they say. At least I’m not
still walking around with a face
on the back of my head. Damned awkward that was.

Take care. Don’t forget
to watch out for the amulets.

Wishing you were here,
A.

L. Liwag
December 4, 2014

                   

Music by The Civil Wars, “Pressing Flowers”

“I am overflowing with words I do not have.” ~ Adam Falkner, from “When it Matters”

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer Les Cygnes 1930

“Les Cygnes” (1930)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer


“Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you’ll burn.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Helen of Troy does Countertop Dancing”

Saturday evening. Partly cloudy and 50 degrees.

So today I wrote another poem. It started out as a thought, and then it just grew and grew. I’m not sure, but I think it may have gotten away from me at some point. This creative spark, wherever it comes from, leaves me more than a bit mystified. I mean, the lines, the phrases—they come, and they seem to make an odd kind of sense, and I find myself playing with new themes, internal rhymes I’ve never tried before. And after each new piece, I feel more than a bit spent.

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer Scene in Venice oil on canvas

“Scene in Venice” (oil on canvas)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

But all is good with the writing muse, even as unaccustomed to it as I am, or have been. Really, really good. I mean, today’s poem and one other recent one are not such personal pieces. Most of my previous poems are very personal, about me, about my life, about my loves and losses. But I find that lately I’m able to think on a larger scale, take on more general themes about the human condition. I’m not claiming that I’m achieving any kind of success in doing so, but it’s a different kind of approach, like trying on new clothes that I never would have worn before.

Too esoteric? Sorry . . .

I would truly appreciate any feedback that anyone cares to give me. It’s hard to write in a vacuum. Honest, constructive criticism is a very necessary part of the writing process, and since I am not in any kind of situation in which to garner that criticism, I turn to you, my readers, whoever you are out there in the ether.

“But though the lights
one by one extinguish
as you explore deeper,
that final light — the sun —
grows stronger,
despite the coming winter,
the darkening seas.” ~ John Kinsella, from “Tenebrae”

Speaking of readers, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that I’ve picked up a few more subscribers in the past few weeks: Thanks for subscribing to my little blog. I hope you enjoy the journey. I do have my regulars, like Leah in NC, and Izaak Mak from I Want Ice Water, and then I have people who have been with me for several years: Titirangi Storyteller (who is so busy being creative in New Zealand), ViewPacific (check him out). If you would like for me to mention your blog, just drop me a line. I have no problem with sending some props out into the universe.

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer pastel on paperGondolas à Venise, sous un clair de lune

“Gondolas à Venise, sous un clair de lune” (pastel on paper)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

One other thing: I’m terribly curious as to how some of you arrived here on this site. WordPress doesn’t allow Google Analytics, and I’m not nearly savvy enough to figure out such things on my own, but I’m curious, truly. Was it an accident? Were you searching on a word? a name? a song? a work of art?

If you would be kind enough to let me know, then I can try to pay more attention to such avenues. I mean, I’m still on blogsurfer, but I think that it’s mostly a dormant community. I’d love to find another blogging community to join, just not something that gives you super inflated stats, like Alpha Inventions, or whatever name it’s going by these days. Suggestions would be appreciated.

Anyway . . .

“It is
the way of things and it never stops, never calls a halt—
this knocking and dismantling, this uprooting, cutting out
and digging down” ~ Eamon Grennan, from “Steady Now”
Lucien Levy-Dhurmer Le Silence 1895 pastel

“Le Silence” (1895, pastel)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

So I am absolutely gaga about this particular Lévy-Dhurmer image. I know little to nothing about this artist’s history or what he was trying to achieve with his art in general, but “Le Silence” is one of those pieces that I find particularly haunting. According to the Musée d’Orsay site, the artist kept this painting his entire life, so it must have been pretty important to him.

I’ve been waiting for the right post to feature the image, and I think that this post is it: juxtaposing the symbolic silence, the cloaked woman who will not speak, against my poem about speaking—somehow it seems to fit; at least I think so.

This poem came about after I saw the line from The Crucible on my tumblr dash, and I began to fixate on the idea of speaking sins. (If you’ve never read Miller’s play, here is a link to an online version in its entirety.)

So following is my latest effort. It’s different for me, not just thematically, but also as it is structured. I ended up using repetitive rhythm quite by accident, and then the references to other works just kind of evolved naturally. I really didn’t think too much; I just did . . .

Speaking My Sins

“I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another. I have no tongue for it.”  ~ Arthur Miller, The Crucible

I remember when smells of sex and sin
rolled from my shoulders and puddled
‘round my feet, how I
delighted in the act, the doing, the making
and taking of sin, such a smooth, ironed out plane of being,
my afternoon explorations—virginal
in their corruption
as I lay ensconced
in the arms of my newest lover,
safe from the mundane existence
my mother laid before me,
a vapor trail of bottled Joy
enveloping every word she spoke, but
oh how I, oh, how I, oh
how I saw myself
far beyond the reaches
of PTA meetings and casserole recipes
and all of the trappings
offered up so blithely within
the pages of women’s magazines.
Oh no, not I, I sighed,
even as I eschewed the words that spewed
from my mother’s Revlon
fire and ice red lips, circa 1950s
Oh no, I, no I know, I

know what you think there,
in the safety of your white-washed
life of dinner on the table by five
and a nice side of green beans and
slivered almonds, you see, you cannot see
how I see you there, cannot unsee
the fuzzy lines of deception and desire
I wield like a non-stick spatula
gently turning the unsullied egg,
yolk intact, like your reputation.
What say you now, oh mother dear, oh
harbinger of rules and commandments com-
mending to me the care and feeding
of cherubim and nephilim alike?
Oh no, you know, no

matter how many times you wag
your finger in my face, for
some reason, the lesson never sticks
but you smile and smile and so I
too smile my way into villainy
one time, no two, perhaps
more? the number has been for-
gotten, obliterated from any records
recording my vices and desires
It’s so much better this way,
after all, aren’t we all just
carbon copies of our mothers’
motherings, smothering
our yearnings with learning
the right ways to right-
eous actions, act like
a lady, for god’s sake you little
tarted up upstart. Now, now

now don’t you fret none,
nothing to do but sweep up the bits
of egg shell on the kitchen lino-
leum, hey, um, howdy,
did you do it? No? I know,
no more gallivanting about
like the cheap hussy you are,
hows about you come inside,
get that load off, let me
shake the rain-
drops from your jacket,
sit here, won’t you, snif-
ter of brandy for your chill,
what say you now, now
that you have so completely
washed away my sins like
the long-lost Breck shampoo-filled
Saturday nights when everything
was so clearly defined and
ruled by advice column ladies
with shellacked hair and

Max Factor pan-stik complexions?
Just a little tete-a-tete, no need
to get testy, after all,
weren’t we just talking about
setting to rights all of the wrongs
you carry with you—cummings said
he carried your heart with him
wherever, so I will too.
Okay, oh? KKK, wait,
no, that’s the wrong one, Gracie,
gracious, goodnight, goodnight, good-
night, I reek still, sweet princ-
ciple of humanity, kind,
human cup of charity—
it begins at home, after all.
What? say you, you say? What
do you say, once more, even though
I have never understood the sake
of old time, no, no, know-
ing me the way you do do
you doubt my commitment,
my cunning com-

mingling of lies and truth?
Commendable really how we
commit so many sins in
the name of veritas yet in-
variably too many truths
spoil more than the broth, you see
seeing as reality’s all connected
really, I can no more real-
istically atone for my sins
than Faust could foist off
his one-way ticket to
ride the conflagration
ferris wheel, wheels up,
hurry up, it’s time to
bring out the dead-
ened spirits of our sweet,
sweet youth, birds
and flocking and feathers
and foibles, mea culpa,
mea maxima culpa.
Peccavi, peccavi, peccavi,
regrets, none, but
sine qua non.

L. Liwag
November 22, 2014

                    

Today’s images are again by French artist Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer—a selection of his blue works.

Music by Mary Gauthier, “Walk through the Fire”