“It feels like I’m talking to his shadow suspended on dust.” ~ Will Graham, from “Hannnibal” (“Potage” episode, written by David Fury, Chris Brancato and Bryan Fuller)

Portrait of Margaret Atwood shot at the Time Inc. Photo Studios in New York, March 18 2017.
Ruven Afanador for TIME

Will Graham: I feel like I’ve dragged you into my world.
Hannibal Lecter: I got here on my own. But I appreciate the company. ~ “Hannibal” (“Fromage” episode, written by Jennifer Schuur and Bryan Fuller)

Tuesday afternoon, sunny and cold 28 degrees.

Yes, it’s a Two for Tuesday post, but for some reason, I woke up thinking about the television  show “Hannibal,” which was so wonderfully written and acted. I really miss it, and not just because of Mads Mikkelsen, thus, the quotes from the show.

I not only woke up with Hannibal running through my mind, but this was accompanied by a massive migraine, which is only slightly receding at the moment. Waking up with a migraine is a horrible way to begin the day; it colors everything else I do for the duration.

The useless neurologist that I saw last week is supposed to be looking into getting me Aimovig, that new medication that’s supposed to help prevent migraines. If I can get that affordably, that time spent in her office won’t be entirely wasted. I’m still waiting to hear from her office, but as the phone is currently not working for some reason, I have no news yet.

Anyway, that’s how the day is going, so not a whole lot of anything else. Today’s post features two section from a much longer poem by Margaret Atwood, “Five Poems for Grandmothers.” The complete poem can be found in Atwood’s 1978 book, Two Headed Poems, or in her Selected Poems II: Poems Selected and New 1976-1986.

I hope you like this as much as I do.

More later. Peace.


Five Poems for Grandmothers

i

In the house on the cliff
by the ocean, there is still a shell
bigger and lighter than your head, though now
you can hardly lift it.

It was once filled with whispers;
it was once a horn
you could blow like a shaman
conjuring the year,
and your children would come running.

You’ve forgotten you did that,
you’ve forgotten the names of the children
who in any case no longer run,
and the ocean has retreated,
leaving a difficult beach of gray stones
you are afraid to walk on.

The shell is now a cave
which opens for you alone.
It is filled with whispers
which escape into the room,
even though you turn it mouth down.

This is your house, this is the picture
of your misty husband, these are your children, webbed
and doubled. This is the shell,
which is hard, which is still there,
solid under the hand, which mourns, which offers
itself, a narrow journey
along its hallways of cold pearl
down the cliff into the sea.

ii

It is not the things themselves
that are lost, but their use and handling.

The ladder first, the beach;
the storm windows, the carpets;

The dishes, washed daily
for so many years the pattern
has faded; the floor, the stairs, your own
arms and feet whose work
you thought defined you;

The hairbrush, the oil stove
with its many failures,
the apple tree and the barrels
in the cellar for the apples,
the flesh of apples; the judging
of the flesh, the recipes
in tiny brownish writing
with the names of those who passed them
from hand to hand: Gladys,
Lorna, Winnie, Jean.

If you could only have them back
or remember who they were.

~ Margaret Atwood


Music by Down Like Silver, “Wolves”

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“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in handcuffs as he is escorted to courthouse by an officer to attend a hearing on charges of probation violation following his arrest for assisting a student sit-in demonstration. (Photo by Donald Uhrbrock/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.” ~ from a speech at the Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, 1966

From “After the Theatre”

“What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?” ~ Ellen Bass, from “If You Knew”

Monday afternoon, partly cloudy, 56 degrees.

Well, Maddy is better, but I’m not certain that she’s out of the woods. She had a good day yesterday, but last night she was really sick again. Today, she’s acting better, and she managed to eat some breakfast. All we can do at this point is continue to watch her closely and hope.

Illustration to Chekhov’s A Dreary Story, by Tatyana Shishmaryova (1953)

Tink seems fine these days, playing and running around with her tail up, so at least there’s that. All of the other animals seem to be okay. The big surprise is that last night Corey came home with chickens. Apparently, Dallas bought a bunch of chickens from someone who he knows, and he decided that we should have some.

We do have a chicken coop, and we had plans for chickens in the spring, but the coop is still kind of torn up so Corey needs to work on that right away. For whatever reason, we just keep having animals dropped on us. I’m not sure how I feel about it all, partially good, partially bad. It just seems like a lot all at once, but as with everything else, we’ll find a way to deal.

At least we’ve had some sun the last few days, and the weather is milder. I had hoped that I had more to say, but I’ve been sitting here for over two hours and I just cannot find the words; I’ll leave you with an apt selection from Anton Chekhov’s novella, A Boring Story: From the Notebook of an Old Man (also translated as A Dreary Story):

I write poorly. That bit of my brain which presides over the faculty of authorship refuses to work. My memory has grown weak; there is a lack of sequence in my ideas, and when I put them on paper it always seems to me that I have lost the instinct for their organic connection; my construction is monotonous; my language is poor and timid. Often I write what I do not mean; I have forgotten the beginning when I am writing the end. Often I forget ordinary words, and I always have to waste a great deal of energy in avoiding superfluous phrases and unnecessary parentheses in my letters, both unmistakable proofs of a decline in mental activity. And it is noteworthy that the simpler the letter the more painful the effort to write it .

. . . As regards my present manner of life, I must give a foremost place to the insomnia from which I have suffered of late. If I were asked what constituted the chief and fundamental feature of my existence now, I should answer, Insomnia.

More later. Peace.

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.” ~ Groucho Marx

Mark Twain

“Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.” ~ Will Rogers

Thursday afternoon. Mostly cloudy and cold, 38 degrees.

The snow from recent days made me remember something funny in politics, and there just hasn’t been much humor in politics for the past few years. Plus I’ve been so intense the last few days that I thought that you, dear reader, and I could use a break, hence, Throwback Thursday. Enjoy.


On Sunday, February 15, 2015, Jeff Jackson, a young Democratic NC State senator, was the only senator in the general assembly because of snow. Obviously a man with a sense of humor, Jackson passed sweeping legislation while he had the run of the floor. If only . . .


Music by Midnight Oil, “Beds are Burning” (late 80’s protest song by former Australian band)


Of History and Hope

We have memorized America,
how it was born and who we have been and where.
In ceremonies and silence we say the words,
telling the stories, singing the old songs.
We like the places they take us. Mostly we do.
The great and all the anonymous dead are there.
We know the sound of all the sounds we brought.
The rich taste of it is on our tongues.
But where are we going to be, and why, and who?
The disenfranchised dead want to know.
We mean to be the people we meant to be,
to keep on going where we meant to go.

But how do we fashion the future? Who can say how
except in the minds of those who will call it Now?
The children. The children. And how does our garden grow?
With waving hands—oh, rarely in a row—
and flowering faces. And brambles, that we can no longer allow.

Who were many people coming together
cannot become one people falling apart.
Who dreamed for every child an even chance
cannot let luck alone turn doorknobs or not.
Whose law was never so much of the hand as the head
cannot let chaos make its way to the heart.
Who have seen learning struggle from teacher to child
cannot let ignorance spread itself like rot.
We know what we have done and what we have said,
and how we have grown, degree by slow degree,
believing ourselves toward all we have tried to become—
just and compassionate, equal, able, and free.

All this in the hands of children, eyes already set
on a land we never can visit—it isn’t there yet—
but looking through their eyes, we can see
what our long gift to them may come to be.
If we can truly remember, they will not forget.

~ Miller Williams (1930-2015), President Clinton’s Inaugural Poet, 1997

“Fine words from a sailor’s son | Who’s always running away | I don’t want your sympathy” ~ Angus and Julia Stone, from “Choking”

Quotation-Billy-Collins-skin-Meetville-Quotes-119178


Two for Tuesday: Billy Collins

Tuesday evening. Sunny, 63 degrees.

I wish that I could say that the days have gotten better, but they have not. I wish that I could say that I have finally found the answers, but I have not. I wish that I could say that forgiveness was easy, but it is not.

Quotation-Billy-Collins-moon-Meetville-Quotes-67159

                   

Field Guide

No one I ask knows the name of the flower
we pulled the car to the side of the road to pick
and that I point to dangling purple from my lapel.

I am passing through the needle of spring
in North Carolina, as ignorant of the flowers of the south
as the woman at the barbecue stand who laughs
and the man who gives me a look as he pumps the gas

and everyone else I ask on the way to the airport
to return to where this purple madness is not seen
blazing against the sober pines and rioting along the
roadside.

On the plane, the stewardess is afraid she cannot answer
my question, now insistent with the fear that I will leave
the province of this flower without its sound in my ear.

Then, as if he were giving me the time of day, a passenger
looks up from his magazine and says wisteria.

                   

Quotation-Billy-Collins-day-time-Meetville-Quotes-117061

Water Table

It is on dry sunny days like this one that I find myself
thinking about the enormous body of water
that lies under this house,
cool, unseen reservoir,
silent except for the sounds of dripping
and the incalculable shifting
of all the heavy darkness that it holds.

This is the water that our well was dug to sip
and lift to where we live,
water drawn up and falling on our bare shoulders,
water filling the inlets of our mouths,
water in a pot on the stove.

The house is nothing now but a blueprint of pipes,
a network of faucets, nozzles, and spigots,
and even outdoors where light pierces the air
and clouds fly over the canopies of trees,
my thoughts flow underground
trying to imagine the cavernous scene.

Surely it is no pool with a colored ball
floating on the blue surface.
No grotto where a king would have
his guests rowed around in swan-shaped boats.
Between the dark lakes where the dark rivers flow
there is no ferry waiting on the shore of rock
and no man holding a long oar,
ready to take your last coin.
This is the real earth and the real water it contains.

But some nights, I must tell you,
I go down there after everyone has fallen asleep.
I swim back and forth in the echoing blackness.
I sing a love song as well as I can,
lost for a while in the home of the rain.

                   

Music by Angus and Julia Stone, “Choking”

Lyrics:

Choking on these words
You can leave now
Oh haven’t you heard
You can leave now

We stand there like statues from different cities
Both warriors of the same war
Both victors of our territories
Why do I feel so small?
Oh you’ve got it all figured out
What will be will be

Fine work from a sailor’s hand
Who’s always running away
In between all your complex ideas
Found out how love should be
When you get the time to feel anything
Anything real for me
Oh you’ve got it all figured out
What will be will be

Fine words from a sailor’s son
Who’s always running away
I don’t want your sympathy
Don’t quote me another phrase
I understand all your philosophies
But it hurts me just the same

Choking on these words
You can leave now
Oh haven’t you heard
You can leave now

“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “The Waste Land: I. The Burial of the Dead”

Abandoned Mansion, Beirut by craigfinlay fcc
Abandoned Mansion, Beirut by craigfinlay (FCC)

“APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “The Waste Land: I. The Burial of the Dead”

Sunday evening, the 19th of April. Cool.

Seems I spend more time lately apologizing for not being here than actually being here. I have posts sitting in my draft box for the first week of April, never going from draft to publish. Too much involved, too much thinking necessary to finesse and push all of the right buttons.

My health? Not the best. In addition to the usual pain, I may or may not have a torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder, the pain of which has prevented much in the way of my discourse on this computer. Then there were the nights of chills and sweat, awaking freezing in soaking wet clothes. Changing my shirt four times in as many hours.

It has not been pretty.

Not that I have not thought of all of the words I could say here, all of the words backlogged and stuck in my craw, all of the words that have been unable to move past this . . . this what? This fugue state? This state of being completely at odds with the world, with everyone, with myself? What does one call being completely lost in so many ways, but just too tired to even begin to mull over the ways in which to extract the self from a general sense of malaise?

So what do I have for you today, my far away companions in the ether? Not much, other than a feeble attempt to raise my head for a few moments and let you know that I am still here.

“Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations.
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “The Waste Land: I. The Burial of the Dead”

So here, as I am, I offer you this compendium, three words that at times can mean everything, nothing and something . . .

  • It won’t hurt
  • I’m so sorry
  • You should stop
  • What is happening
  • Don’t worry so
  • Calm down now
  • Take a breath
  • It wasn’t me
  • I didn’t know
  • I don’t know
  • I couldn’t know
  • I should’ve known
  • Please tell me
  • Don’t tell lies
  • I’m really sorry
  • No you’re not
  • I don’t remember
  • It doesn’t matter
  • It all matters
  • It’s all good
  • Nothing is good
  • You should go
  • Let go now
  • Is he okay
  • Is she okay
  • Are they okay
  • Are we okay
  • Nothing is okay
  • Speak to me
  • Talk to me
  • Don’t say anything
  • You’ve said enough
  • Believe the lie

“My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.
What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
I never know what you are thinking. Think.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from The Wast Land: II. A Game of Chess

Yes, April is cruel indeed, but then, so are the other months and days of the year. In cruelty, I somehow always go back to Eliot, whose words seem to have been written by a ghost of me, so close to home are they.

I apologize if this post seems lost somewhere far beyond the pale, as it were. But my life, my lines, my words are in fragments alone. I cannot connect all of the varying lines and make a whole. I have neither the strength nor the wherewithal. Forgive the seeming self-pity; it is more of a muted self-examination, one conducted with exigence in the hopes of finding something “not loud nor long” to hold dear.

As old Tom said, “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”

“Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.
Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.
Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from The Wast Land: II. A Game of Chess

                    

For the complete text of “The Waste Land,” click here.

Leah in NC, are you out there?

                     

Music by William Fitzsimmons, “After Afterall”

“I began my life as I shall no doubt end it: amidst books.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from The Words: The Autobiography of Jean-Paul Sartre

Reading Bingo Card
Reading Bingo Card
Challenge: Post your results in the comments section, if you like.

How Well Do You Know The Opening Lines Of Famous Books?

Saturday evening. Partly cloudy and warmer, 50 degrees.

Yesterday for a while it felt like this migraine was finally going away completely . . . then I woke up this morning, and . . . you guessed it . . . headache BACK!

Another short one just to let you know that I’m still alive. I found this quiz on BuzzFeed, and I’m hoping the book lovers out there will enjoy it as much as I did. Try to ignore the misspelling of Anna Karenina and the fact that they have put the book titles in quotations instead of italics.

Here is a sample:

  • Emma, by Jane Austen
  • David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens
  • Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Let me know how you did in the comments section.

                   

I am also including a bit from an essay by Dylan Thomas, called “Notes on the Art of Poetry.” Over the years, extracts from this essay have been melded into a poem of sorts, but I like it better in its original prose form (click here to read in its entirety). Thomas wrote the essay in 1951 in response to a query from a college student hoping to learn more about craft. Here is my selection:

. . . What I like to do is treat words as a craftsman does his wood or stone or what-have-you, to hew, carve, mould, coil, polish and plane them into patterns, sequences, sculptures, fugues of sound expressing some lyrical impulse, some spiritual doubt or conviction, some dimly-realised truth I must try to reach and realise.) . . . I read indiscriminately, and with my eyes hanging out. I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on in the world between the covers of books, such sand-storms and ice-blasts of words, such slashing of humbug, and humbug too, such staggering peace, such enormous laughter, such and so many blinding bright lights breaking across the just-awaking wits and splashing all over the pages in a million bits and pieces all of which were words, words, words, and each of which was alive forever in its own delight and glory and oddity of light.

. . . All that matters about poetry is the enjoyment of it, however tragic it may be. All that matters is the eternal movement behind it, the vast undercurrent of human grief, folly, pretension, exaltation, or ignorance, however unlofty the intention of the poem.

. . . You’re back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps in the works of the poem so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash, or thunder in.

More later. Peace.

                    

Music by Tom Odell, “Long Way Down”