“I am lost; I am looking for you ……….who can help me walk this thin line between the breathing …………………………………..and the dead. You are the curled serpent in the pottery of nightmares. You are the dreaming animal who paces back and forth in my head.” ~ Joy Harjo, from “We Must Call a Meeting”
Thursday afternoon, sunny and not quite as cold, 41 degrees.
Hello. Long time no write. I don’t want to include what I’m about to write with the CNN videos that I posted earlier as the two entries are completely unrelated, and I had wanted to attempt to update you as to the reasons why I’ve been absent from this forum.
So very much has been going on in the last few weeks, so everything has just kind of gotten away from me, so much so that before I knew it, writing my posts became a thing of the recent past. I’ve decided that I’ll try to update you on the basics of what’s been happening, and then perhaps that will lead to a breaking down of the dam that is holding everything back, and I’ll be able to write once more.
First, I was having major computer problems again, with weird scripts and extremely slow processing, and then just like last time, the problems seemed to self-heal, which I don’t understand, but hey, I’ll definitely just say a quick thanks to the universe and move on. Second, I’ve had major writer’s block; actually, it’s more like a major brain block brought about by a major depressive episode—I can’t focus, can’t sleep, and can’t find any kind of motivation to accomplish even the smallest thing.
Oh, and then there’s the wonderful news that Corey’s truck has well and truly died—probably the transmission again—leaving us without our primary farm transportation (a bale of hay won’t fit in the back of the Murano) and little hope of remedying this any time soon. As much as Corey loves his truck, it’s turned into a huge money pit. Add to this that our very old dryer keeps dying. And then, too, there is the other ongoing issue that I’ve been debating over whether or I should even mention and which has seriously exacerbated the insomnia and severe stress that I’m feeling: puppies.
I know. That’s normally a word that should generate instant delight, except that we have way too many. Three of our female dogs (Maddy, Tink, and Sarah) went into heat within weeks of one another. We had hoped to have those girls who hadn’t been fixed yet spayed at one of the community health fairs (the one that included veterinary services), but the spots filled up faster than we could grab one, so we were trying to find a place that we could afford to take all three.
Look. We are both firm believers in being responsible pet owners, and you have no idea over how very pained I am about all of this. I used to give Dallas so much grief for allowing his dogs to become impregnated all of the time, and now I have to eat my words. I won’t even get into how many puppies are currently living in our house, but it’s a lot, and it’s contributing to my insomnia, what with worrying, fretting and dealing with more guilt than I usually have (over being irresponsible, regardless of intentions).
Thankfully there is an organization in the area called Brother Wolf, which helps to place dogs and cats in no-kill shelters and with foster families until they can be placed in permanent homes. I’ll be contacting them soon to see about help with placing all of the pups. Even I, as much as I love animals in general, have no desire to keep all of these babies. But for the immediate future, my days and my nights are filled to overflowing with more stressors than what is normally the backdrop of my days.
My friend Kathleen and I used to have a saying for when nothing seemed to be going right: “I’m fat and ugly and my mother dresses me funny.” Yep. That.
Christmas is six days away: No decorations up yet. No packages wrapped. House is dirty. HO HO HO………………………………….
Music by London Grammar, “Bittersweet Symphony” (great cover of classic Verve song)
A sharp wind
pries at the doorjamp, riddles
the wet sash. What we don’t say
Was it last week?
We sat at the fireplace, the four of us,
reading Huck Finn. I did the Duke,
you the Dauphin, the kids
tossed pillows in the air.
We owned that life.
There’s a future loose in my body and I
am its servant:
carrying wood, featching water.
You spread a hand on my stomach
to the feel the dark
The hand listens hard.
And the children are practicing
pain: one finger, quick!
Through the candle flame.
Caitlin died 31 years ago on Monday, November 7 at 2:42 pm. I still remember the exact time. I still remember how sound suddenly came back and assaulted my senses after not being able to hear anything except for my heart and the beep of monitor to which she was still connected. I still remember walking to the car and running into two of her doctors in the hallway, Petra and Jaime.
Weird the details that your mind stores away, only to bring to the forefront without warning.
I heard this song in an episode of Bosch, which I’ve been binging. Bittersweet serendipity.
“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.
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 Timesobituary 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.
As the falling rain
trickles among the stones
memories come bubbling out.
It’s as if the rain
had pierced my temples.
the reedy voice
of the servant
telling me tales
They sat beside me
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
and memories keep flooding by
they show me a senseless
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
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.
“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations
Thursday, late afternoon, cloudy and humid, thunderstorms on the horizon, 85 degrees.
So . . . Thursday thoughts . . .
I’ve been pondering regret, all kinds of regret, and I decided that instead of just mulling over all of this in my head that I would try to get some of these thoughts down here. I have no idea as to just how successful I’ll be in doing this, as lately, each time I begin to type, all of the myriad of ideas racing through my head suddenly disappear, and I am left with nothing, no words, no well-constructed lines of thought and logic.
So perhaps rather than trying to write well-constructed sentences, I’ll just type the thoughts as they come, much like my dream post of a few days ago. So here goes, in no particular order or priority:
I regret that I was not more patient with my mother, that I was not more forthcoming with her, but it always seemed so hard, seemed as if she just wouldn’t understand, and honestly, I don’t know if she would have wanted to hear what I had to say. My mother was not one for warm and fuzzy, not one for hugs, not one for saying “I love you,” and I never really found out why. I had my theories, but no real confirmation.
I regret that I do not have regular contact with my dad’s last living sibling, my Uncle Ely in Florida. He’s old and sick, and I doubt that I’ll see him again while he still lives. It’s the last tie on that side.
I regret not going back to the hospital in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning to be with my dad; instead, I fell asleep, and he died alone.
“The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet
I really wish that we had painted this whole house before we moved in, but we had no electricity, and we were dealing with closing up things in Norfolk while simultaneously trying to set up things here. But I wonder if we’ll ever have this house straightened out.
I wish that I had been more proactive in taking care of the house on Benjamin. I hated that house for several reasons, but still, it was my home, and my children were raised there.
I really, really regret not applying to a low-residence MFA program when it would have made more sense. An MFA is considered a terminal degree, which means that having one allows you to apply to tenure track positions at colleges and universities. I’ve found one that I’d still love to attend, but that costs money. There is no money
I regret that I was never better with finances. I’ve reached an age that I was totally unprepared for, and my financial situation is no better than it was 20 years ago. How does that happen?
“I had buried too much too deeply inside me. And here I am, instead of there.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Then there are these:
I regret the break up of my first marriage, not because of the relationship, but because of what it did to my kids. I don’t know if Eamonn will ever forgive me for it, even though his father fell in love with another person less than two months after leaving.
I really regret letting certain friendships fall by the wayside when spouse #1 and I split, especially my very long friendship with Pat and the one I had with Becky from the museum. They were two incredible women. For a weird reason, there was a rift between spouse #1 and I, and our relationship with our closest friends, Pat and Winn, a rift I’ll never fully understand, and now I’ll never be able to see or talk to Pat again; I did not even know that she had died until almost a year later.
I regret feeling too tired to drive out to see Alan after work that afternoon. His sister said that he waited for me. He died soon after.
I regret that I did not see Dallas one more time before he died. I don’t know that it would have been a good visit, but once someone dies, you always think of things that you wish you had said. It’s still weird for me, his death. There has been no service, no closure, just texts, messages, and rumors. I don’t know how to handle that.
“Droll thing life is—that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself—that comes too late—a crop of inextinguishable regrets.” ~ Joseph Conrad, from Heart of Darkness
I wish that I was in touch with more of my mom’s family. That everything with her family in Great Bridge ended so abruptly still pains me deeply. That I don’t know the status of her sister in Winston Salem shames me.
I am so embarrassed that I have not paid to have the dates put on my mom’s grave marker. It was something that I was going to get around to doing, but then never did. I just don’t understand how things like that happen, or rather, how I let things like that happen.
Sometimes I still regret not moving to New York and actually trying to make it in the theater. I know that I probably don’t have the guts to do such a thing, yet I also know that I do. Does that make sense?
I regret trying to teach Heart of Darkness to a bunch of freshmen at Tech.
“I am grateful for all those dark years, even though in retrospect they seem like a long, bitter prayer that was answered finally.” ~ Marilynne Robinson, from Gilead
And finally, a few more:
I regret accruing student debt for Brett that still looms out there, haunting me and him. College should not break people financially.
I regret everything bad that happened with Mari, still.
I regret the how the last two years played out.
I regret never having another child.
Ultimately, I regret far too many things to list here, far too many thing to try to enumerate in any kind of cogent way. People I have wronged. Relationships better left unpursued. Arguments. Words spoken and unspoken. Decisions made and those put off and then forgotten. Stupid things like something I left undone at Dillard’s, or a night that would have been better never happening, the wrong outfit at a wedding . . .
Who can live with such things and not go crazy? Is it any wonder that I never feel adequate or whole? Any wonder that my entire sense of self is controlled by guilt? Such self-loathing. Such would-have, should-have recriminations. Such bullshit obsessing. I cannot emphasize enough how much I hate being like this.
Music by Angus Powell, “Monsters”
Wind in a Box
I want to always sleep beneath a bright red blanket
of leaves. I want to never wear a coat of ice.
I want to learn to walk without blinking.
I want to outlive the turtle and the turtle’s father,
the stone. I want a mouth full of permissions
and a pink glistening bud. If the wildflower and ant hill
can return after sleeping each season, I want to walk
out of this house wearing nothing but wind.
I want to greet you, I want to wait for the bus with you
weighing less than a chill. I want to fight off the bolts
of gray lighting the alcoves and winding paths
of your hair. I want to fight off the damp nudgings
of snow. I want to fight off the wind.
I want to be the wind and I want to fight off the wind
with its sagging banner of isolation, its swinging
screen doors, its gilded boxes, and neatly folded pamphlets
of noise. I want to fight off the dull straight lines
of two by fours and endings, your disapprovals,
your doubts and regulations, your carbon copies.
If the locust can abandon its suit,
I want a brand new name. I want the pepper’s fury
and the salt’s tenderness. I want the virtue
of the evening rain, but not its gossip.
I want the moon’s intuition, but not its questions.
I want the malice of nothing on earth. I want to enter
every room in a strange electrified city
and find you there. I want your lips around the bell of flesh
at the bottom of my ear. I want to be the mirror,
but not the nightstand. I do not want to be the light switch.
I do not want to be the yellow photograph
or book of poems. When I leave this body, Woman,
I want to be pure flame. I want to be your song.
Wednesday morning, cloudy, not as hot today, 79 degrees.
In my dream last night, Brett was on my mom’s front porch, and Dom was at the edge of the yard. They were there to tell me that they were going to have a baby. My mother was upset. I was happy. Brett came inside, and we talked. That’s all that I remember.
“Who will remember you but the body that birthed you. Who will remember you but the clouds that swallowed you. Who will remember you but the moon you threw sticks at. Who will remember you but your double buried under the apple.” ~ Marion McCready, from “Ballad of the Clyde’s Water”
Monday afternoon, warm and humid with showers, 80 degrees.
I’m not really sure how far I’ll be able to get with this post. Between everything that’s happened and dealing with the aftermath, the best way to describe it would be pure chaos with a lot of drama and pain.
Let me back up.
Corey went over to see Dallas on Friday last, but couldn’t find him anywhere. It was around 4 in the afternoon. You can usually tell if Dallas is home or not depending upon where his various vehicles are parked and where all of the dogs are hanging out. Corey didn’t see the tractor, and the Geo was there, so he assumed that Dallas was somewhere on his tractor. When Corey returned on Saturday around 2 p.m., everything was exactly the same, so he began to get worried.
When he looked around, he saw Dallas’s tractor sitting upside down at the bottom of the hill on the side of the property; it’s a fairly steep decline. Corey’s first thought was that Dallas had been taken to the hospital, but something made him go down the hill. He found Dallas laying about 20 feet from the tractor, and he was dead.
Corey ran to the neighbor’s house, which abuts the property, and someone called 911. From that point on, it’s been pure chaos as news spread very quickly, as it tends to do around here. Unfortunately, the human vultures have been hovering near the property, ready to claim anything that isn’t bolted down. It’s truly repulsive.
“HUMAN SONG: Perhaps it is the case that you never get over things. You decide you will no longer engage with them. You answer with silence until you are reminded once again of the wound and requested to be human.” ~ Ken Chen, from “You May Visit the Cosmos but You May Not Speak of It (or on the Tackiness of Elegy).”
Corey came home late Saturday afternoon to tell me the news. Obviously, he was very shaken as his immediate thought was that if he had looked around more on Friday, he might have been able to find Dallas. I tried to assure him that it would have been virtually impossible for someone Dallas’s age to survive such an accident. The general consensus is that Dallas probably crawled from the tractor, but didn’t get very far. One of his puppies was by his side when he was found. It’s likely that Dallas swerved to avoid one of the dogs, and that’s how he fell.
We went back to the property to find a wrecker crew trying to bring up the tractor, so we went next door to see the neighbors, Brian and Robin. It’s funny. They’ve been in an ongoing feud with Dallas for months now over various things, but you’d never surmise it from their comments.
People are strange. People around her are an entirely different breed of strange.
Animal control had been called, and they scooped up all of the smaller puppies, which still left about 12 dogs. Corey and I brought home four puppies, one of which is a girl from the same litter as Freddy, and the neighbors were able to find about five of the dogs, but not all of the dogs had been found. It was a stopgap measure, at best.
“In the mind there is a thin alley called death and I move through it as through water.” ~ Anne Sexton, from “For The Year Of The Insane”
Tuesday morning, cloudy and cooler, 71 degrees.
The autopsy showed that Dallas had a heart attack but no broken bones; he had been dead 24 to 36 hours before Corey found him on Saturday. The reality is that Dallas would have absolutely hated it if he had been found after the accident but then had been incapacitated in some way, and he would have loathed dying in a hospital. We have to console ourselves as best we can, and I like to think that he died as he would have wanted: outside, under the open sky on a summer day, near his animals and on his property.
We have no idea what his blood alcohol level was, but Corey had found half a bottle of brandy near the trailer, so he may or may not have been drunk. But I’ve seen Dallas drive that tractor drunk many times, so I still think that he may have swerved to avoid a dog as all of them ran loose all over the property.
Now there are all kinds of people showing up, talking about how they were friends with Dallas, how they had known him for years. I was telling Corey yesterday that a lot of these people reminded me of the goblins in Harry Potter: the goblins believed that if they made something, that it belonged to them in perpetuity, that anyone who bought an item from them only owned it through their life and couldn’t pass it on to descendants, that it should be returned to the goblin who made it. We’re hearing a lot of things like “I sold him those horses, so I’d like them back,” or “I gave him that dog, so he’s mine.” It’s weird and very repugnant, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter.
“See, there are degrees of loss–
speeds at which pain travels through the body.” ~ Caitlin Roach, from “Gardening, a Mother Gives a Daughter a Lesson on Mass Loss”
Months ago, I had made a promise to Dallas that if anything ever happened to him, I would be sure to take care of his animals. I had meant it at the time; I still meant it, but the reality of it was overwhelming. We’re talking at least a dozen horses, a couple of foals, about eight cows, a bull, three donkeys, about six pigeons, several fully grown dogs and lots of puppies from two different litters.
Our house has been pretty chaotic the last few days. At one point, we had 11 dogs in the house, far too many. Yesterday, we spent two hours trying to find the Dickenson County animal control so that we could drop off three of the puppies. When we were looking around the property on Sunday, we found another puppy all alone and hiding in the barn. Robin had wanted to try to keep on of the puppies that we had, a beautiful boy named Charlie, so we took him to her house first.
Neither Corey nor I were thrilled about going to the shelter as it’s not a no-kill shelter, and it used to have the highest kill rate in the state. Fortunately, we found out that an organization called Brother Wolf helps the shelter in placing animals, and we were told that the puppies go quickly. Once we finally found the shelter, the guy there told us that they had rounded up the last of the dogs on the property that morning, but fortunately, most of the first group had already been placed in homes or with the other organizations, so that made it easier to leave the three puppies there.
We decided to keep Freddy’s sister as she is very sweet and calm, and then we decided to find a dog that Dallas called Boy as he’s fully grown and might be hard to place. He, too, is very sweet and relatively calm around all of the dogs except for Freddy, so we’ll have to see how that goes. Once the rambunctious puppies were gone, things got much calmer in the house; I know that our dogs were pretty stressed from all of the animals and noise. The humans were extremely stressed, too.
“Sometimes there is no darker place than our own thoughts; the moonless midnight of the mind.” ~ Dean Koontz, from Fear Nothing: A Novel
Ultimately, there’s a lot of guilt to go around. I had just told Corey on Thursday that I wanted nothing else to do with Dallas, that I was tired of all of his bullshit and heartbroken over Napoleon. And I had really meant it. I had resolved that I wouldn’t go to his house again. The only consolation I have is that I never had any bad words with Dallas even though I had wanted to do so. The truth of the matter is that Corey and I, but especially Corey, did a lot for Dallas and put up with a lot. We were often tired of trying, but there was always the sense that he had no one else but us. He was estranged from his son and daughter for reasons that are unclear, but we never once saw them at his house.
Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I just want my horse back, and a few old things that I know that no one else would want, like an old chair that was in his basement, and the saddle the he promised me. I did say that if no one else wanted it, I would really like to have a silver and garnet ring that he wore all of the time; it would be a nice keepsake. Apparently, his kids don’t want any keepsakes from him; I’m saddened by how fractured his relationships were, and it scares me that my own relationships with my kids won’t be repaired.
Ultimately, I think that we’re both still in shock. Corey is having a harder time than I am as Dallas’s death is more immediate for him. I think this will all hit me more at the funeral, at least, I’m hoping there’s a funeral. Dallas wanted to be cremated, but we have no idea if his son or daughter will even want a funeral. It’s best now if we just keep our distance from the immediate drama and ultimately hope we can get Napoleon back home soon. I’ll update if anything major changes.
More later. Peace.
P.S. Wrote but couldn’t post until this evening. Had to go out and then had a helluva time downloading images for the post.
Music by Saint Claire, “Haunted”
The red sun rises
and shines the same on all of us.
We play like children under the sun.
One day, our ashes will scatter—
…………………………………….it doesn’t matter when.
Now the sun finds our innermost hearts,
…………………………………….fills us with oblivion
intense as the forest, winter and sea.