“That’s how it is sometimes when we plunge into the depths of our lives. No one can accompany us, not even those who would give up their hearts for our happiness.” ~ Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Sister of My Heart

Emil Nolde, “Das Gehoft Seebüll” (c1940, watercoloron Japan Paper)*

“That is how always, you lost:
never as one who possesses, but like someone dying
who bending into the moist breeze of an evening in March,
loses the springtime, alas, in the throats of the birds.
Far too much you belong to grief.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Original Version of the Tenth Elegy” (Trans. Stephen Mitchell)

Thursday afternoon, overcast with drizzle, 43 degrees.

Hello. Very long time no write. I’ve missed you. Last night, in the wee hours, I tried to remember the last time that I had actually written a real post, you know, one with quotes, music, images. I couldn’t recall, couldn’t even remember the month.

Emil Nolde, “Williows in the Snow” (1908, watercolor)

I suppose that it all began with the computer problems, which proved to be such an impediment to the flow of writing, and then the huge passel of puppies that entered our lives before Christmas, and then the goat births, one after another. The next thing that I knew, it was 2020, and I was completely lost beneath a veritable mountain of what can only be termed as ca ca, to be polite. I mean, I woke up on my birthday with Corey holding my favorite puppy and the news that we might be facing Parvo or some other devastating illness. Since that morning, we have been aggressively nursing and isolating first one and then another puppy.

We lost two, two of my favorites actually. It was devastating, but I did not allow myself to break down at the time because, frankly, we did not have time for grief. There was just too much to face. Thankfully, it’s been over a week since the last one showed any signs of illness, but we must continue to care for all of them for at least another week until any rescue group will even consider taking them, mostly because of the possibility of Parvo. I suppose that if I were in their shoes that I would be just as reticent.

In between, Corey’s truck died completely, the transmission, and my car isn’t operable because the tires are bad, and it isn’t legal (registration and inspection), and wouldn’t you know, that state cop that harasses Corey stopped and cited him a few weeks ago. We had put off taking care of my vehicle until this year, but now………it’s this year.

“I guess that’s what people don’t understand, can’t understand, about grief. You can’t assign it. It’s just assigned.” ~ Dalton Day, from “Beware of Falling Deer”

You see, we had really hoped that 2020 would be a better year in many ways, but especially as regards the animals. In 2019, we lost my horse Petra, who Dallas took back, ostensibly to nurse, but then we never saw her again, and when he died, Petra was nowhere to be found; Annie, the colt that Sassy gave birth to on our anniversary, died after only a few days. We also lost our first two goats, Max and Ruby (who I had named after two of Olivia’s favorite book and television characters), as well as the death of a days-old kid born in December. Corey had named him Gizmo, and he was so precious. This time when the kids were born, Corey was unwilling to name them for the first week, not wanting to invest even that small, personal touch before we could be somewhat certain of their survival.

Emil Nolde, “Wet Day” (1918, oil on canvas)

I don’t know why we seem to have female goats and horses who lack any kind of mothering sensibilities, but Gizmo’s mother had birthed him, cleaned him, and then left him in the field. We were uncertain as to exactly how old he was when Corey found him. We think the lack of colostrum from nursing in those first hours doomed him before he could become strong.

Then in quick succession in mid January, Bobby, Blue, and Penny all gave birth, and none of them seemed interested in caring for their kids beyond cleaning them immediately after birth, and one failed to do even that; unfortunately, one of the female babies didn’t make it, so we were left with five males and one male, but we were on high alert for their births, which made a difference in their survival. If you’ve never had to clean a newborn animal, then you can’t even imagine how stressful that can be, trying to be careful but thorough simultaneously. Anyway, that’s six goats that we had to bottle feed on top of three litters of puppies, all in our very small house.

The night that we lost the first puppy, Patches, I held him in my arms as he whimpered in pain and then finally took his last breath. The following night, Corey held Brinn as he died. Yes, they were puppies, dogs, not human, but sentient beings nonetheless, ones that breathed and felt and suffered. If you are not an animal lover in the same vein that we are, perhaps you might not understand the pain that we have felt these last days and weeks. Let me just tell you that if your soul is already one that is tender as regards the foibles and failures of the universe, then personal losses can seem breathtakingly overwhelming. And all of these have; add to that the guilt over the lack of vehicle or funds to seek veterinary care.

My penchant for swimming in a sea of guilt even in the best of times has been increased exponentially of late.

“We inhale the moon,
suck in the clouds, try to satiate the desert
of our bodies that are always fumbling
at loss. Like Brother stars are such distant
luminous spheres.” ~ Casandra López, from “Midnight Memorial”

Over the last few weeks I’ve spoken with three different rescue groups in an attempt to get the puppies placed. The first group was a big disappointment; ultimately, they wanted $500. One group was out of Pennsylvania and one out of West Virginia. The most promising one is the one out of West Virginia, but now we are on hold because of the possibility of Parvo. If you didn’t already know, Parvo isn’t the automatic death sentence for dogs that it used to be, but it is still quite serious; it’s also very easy to transmit. The rescue people want to be certain that if the puppies were indeed infected with Parvo, that there isn’t a possibility that they can infect any other dogs in their care.

It’s understandable, but disappointing nevertheless. When I spoke to the coordinator today, she asked for my thoughts. I was honest: I told her that we are pretty much desperate to place these puppies. The house smells worse than a kennel; I told Corey that if I came to the door of a house that looked like ours in its current state, I wouldn’t go inside. I was not exaggerating.

Emil Nolde, “Rain over a Marsh” (c1938, watercolor on rice paper)

Fortunately, four of the goat babies are gone. Corey set up a trade with a guy that he knows who also breeds goats. In exchange for the kids, we’ll get a grown Kiko Boer nanny goat who has already been bred. We just can’t pick her up until we have some kind of transportation. At least with four of the goats gone, it’s a bit quieter in the house. We’ve kept the one female and the one male who has completely different coloring from any of the ones we currently have.

This same guy put Corey in touch with someone he knows who is selling a truck. It sounds like a good deal, not bad shape, but we have to wait until tomorrow to see if it’s still available as the seller had promised some other guy that he had dibs. Nothing is ever frigging easy.

You know how some people seem to move through life charmed? Everything seems to go their way, and things fall easily into their laps. Hardships are infrequent and/or minor. That’s not us. I’m always reminded of that old “Hee Haw” song, “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me,” that has the applicable line—”If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”

Yep. Totally.

“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.” ~ Benjamin Alire Sáenz, from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

So is it any wonder that I have absented myself from here? I’m actually surprised that I’ve been able to string together this many words cogently. Each time in the last weeks that I’ve sat down to try to write something, I find myself instead listening to YouTube videos and playing Spider Solitaire because that requires nothing of my brain. Neither thing requires my engagement or my investment.

Emil Nolde, “Winter Landscape” (c1907, watercolor)

The impeachment and sham of a trial helped to keep me distracted for many weeks, and there was even a tiny kernel of hope that something, anything might happen to slow the ever-eroding state of our democracy. I will admit to being completely shocked that that small kernel came in the form of Mitt Romney, but it was far too little far too late, and so outside of this bubble in which I live, things continue to deteriorate, but I cannot even raise a modicum of my usual righteous indignation at that country’s state of affairs. I have to choose my battles at this point, and those battles are decidedly the ongoing ones on the personal home front.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are more days than not in which I truly wonder if we made the right decision in coming here with so little capital. But unless you are wealthy or lucky, when is it ever the right time to undertake a major life upheaval? We got all of this acreage for a song, but the available capital all went into the down payment. There was none leftover for repairs or renovations. And too, I miss Norfolk. I miss going to the movies. I miss going to our favorite sushi restaurant. I miss jumping in my car and going anywhere I wanted and knowing that I didn’t have to travel more than 15 or 20 minutes at the most to have access to . . . well, anything.

The city offers convenience. The country offers quiet. Does such a place exist in which both are relatively available? Who knows. Certainly not I.

“Time itself does not ‘console,’ as people say superficially; at best it assigns things to their proper place and creates an order.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from a letter to Countess Margot Sizzo-Noris-Crouy, January 6, 1923
Emil Nolde, “Inundation” (nd, watercolor on paper)

I do not kid myself that if I ever returned to Norfolk that my life would improve. My relationship with my children remains fractured, and I don’t know how or if I can ever fix that. I miss my granddaughter so much that it is an actual physical ache at times, but she is states away, living with her father and his family, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again, this after being a daily part of her life since birth. I don’t even know what books she is reading, which I realized when I tried to find some books to send her for Christmas. All I know is that she is healthy and doing very well in school.

That’s not enough. Just as it’s not enough that I know that Alexis is working and has a new person in her life. I know nothing about either of my sons’ lives, only what my daughter tells me. How does this happen? My eldest son texted me for my birthday, but again, I heard nothing from my youngest. I used to think that the worst thing about my birthday was when my mother forgot. I was so wrong.

I’ve been more wrong than right about so many things in the last few years; it’s hard to discern when the shift actually began. I liked the woman that I used to be: powerful, strong, confident, so certain of so many things. This half person is a stranger to me, a stranger that I would prefer not to know at all.

I apologize for the length, but apparently I had much to say. More later, with any luck. Peace.

*I’m bringing back one of my favorite artists, the German Expressionist Emil Nolde; In the past I have posted many of his seascapes, so today I thought I’d do a few landscapes instead. Until recently, I really was unaware of his Nazi past. If you are interested in learning more, ARTnews has a really good article here.

Music by Alison Luff, “She Used to be Mine” (Sara Bareilles cover)


Clown in the Moon

My tears are like the quiet drift
Of petals from some magic rose;
And all my grief flows from the rift
Of unremembered skies and snows.

I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.

~ Dylan Thomas

“We need people who are strong gun advocates to say, ‘No more.'” ~ Laura Dugan, associate chair at U. of Maryland’s Dept. of Criminology and Criminal Justice

“NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch tried to criticize diversity by showing an image of characters from the children’s series Thomas & Friends wearing KKK hoods. Loesch shared the image to mock the show’s addition of a female train from Africa.”

“Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. I’m not saying you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold . . .” ~ Dana Loesch, NRA Spokeswoman from speech at 2018 CPAC

Monday afternoon, cloudy and very humid, 86 degrees.

So I decided that I should try to finish my companion post on the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, and NRATV (here is link to Saturday’s post). Honestly, I feel that writing about it is one of the best things that I can do in response to the most recent gun violence massacres. I don’t know how effective my forum actually is as regards getting some kind of message out there, but if I don’t try, then I shouldn’t complain. I mean, I’m pretty much removed from access to marches until I have a working vehicle, but I have to at least try to participate however I can.

I realize that Mitch McConnell, in not forcing Congress back into session, is probably hoping things will die down before Congress resumes, that the recent violence will not be so fresh in people’s minds, which means that calls for reform can be glossed over with more important things, like continuing to benefit from an influx of Russian cash into his home state of Kentucky. But I’m hoping that the American people will not be lulled back into complacency so easily this time, that the three mass killings in less than two weeks will continue to be a raw wound that gnaws at us so that the momentum for reform doesn’t stall.

And so I will continue to write and to post.

“If it’s crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our school to protect our children, then call me crazy.” ~ Wayne LaPierre, NRA EVP/CEO
NRA EVP/CEO with Russian agent Maria Butina (I didn’t even get into how the Republicans have blocked the SEC probe into Russian money filtered through the NRA. For more info, click on the picture, which is linked to the Newsweek article.)

I have to say that I, for one, am incredibly glad that there were no weapons in schools when I was teaching middle school. Having been personally involved in three (yes, three) altercations, I can only imagine what would have happened if one of those kids had been able to grab someone’s gun. It actually gives me chills to contemplate it.

Most of the outrageous things that Wayne LaPierre predicts never come to fruition, like when he declared that there was a “massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term.” Or when LaPierre stated that in a 1995 fundraising letter that a ban on semi-automatic weapons would give “jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us.”

I’ll give him this: The man loves his rhetoric.

But we don’t need any more rhetoric. We may not even need an assault-weapons ban as it’s so easy for manufacturers to work around it as they did in the 90’s. But could we at least discuss seriously universal background checks and restrictions on large capacity magazines? Poll after poll show that the majority of Americans are behind these reforms. I mean, come on—when you hunt, do you need a magazine that holds 30 rounds? There won’t be much of that quail left if you unload your magazine into it.

Just saying.

Some of the weapons found inside Las Vegas shooters room Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept/AP

I also think that places like Wal-Mart and others should have limits on how much ammunition can be purchased at one time. Now before all of you survivalists out there scream at me (not that I think there are actually any in my audience), I know that you stockpile ammo for the zombie apocalypse. I also know that you buy your supplies gradually over time. It’s the people intent on doing harm who go in and buy 1,000 rounds, like the Las Vegas shooter in 2017. He purchased 720 rounds from just one dealer. It needs to be harder to get so much ammunition because right now, there are no limits, and the NRA fights any time a state tries to impose such limits.

Admittedly, the irony is that the Las Vegas shooter passed his background check for his weapons, which included 23 guns, including a handgun in his hotel room and 19 firearms at his home in Mesquite, Nevada. But he didn’t have to pass any kind of check for the ammunition that he had, which allowed him to commit the largest mass shooting in the country’s history.

Anyway, enough of my stream of consciousness on all of this. I had wanted to feature info on the NRA’s now defunct TV station, which was yet another vehicle by which millions of dollars of the organization’s money were spent, but the last post was so darned long that I had to break things up—and they’re both still too long . . .

“They [mainstream media] are the rat-bastards of the earth. They are the boil on the backside of American politics.” ~ DANA LOESCH, political commentator/NRA’s national spokesperson, on NRATV

During the NRA’s 2019 annual meeting Oliver North was forced out as president amid reports of infighting and budget deficits and accusations of financial improprieties, including money the organization spent on NRATV, which aired a particularly embarrassing segment in September of the previous year (see image above). In addition to his role as NRA president, North was hired by Ackerman-McQueen in a seven-figure contract to produce content for NRATV.

No More North or Cox . . .

In June, the group’s chief lobbyist and head of political operations, Chris Cox, was suspended and then later resigned following allegations that he and North attempted to extort LaPierre. In legal filings, the NRA contends that North conspired with Ackerman and McQueen, Cox, and board member Dan Boren “to unseat the NRA’s executive leadership and give Ackerman lucrative, de facto control over its largest client.” The NRA contends that North called LaPierre’s assistant in April and allegedly threatened that Ackerman McQueen would reveal information about the CEO and the organization’s finances that would “cause maximum reputational harm,” according to the NRA complaint.

The following timeline of the fight between NRA and its advertising agency comes from Media Matters:

  • September 7, 2018: Loesch showed Thomas & Friends characters with KKK hoods on during her NRATV show.
  • March 11, 2019: The New York Times reported that several board members “questioned the value” of NRATV following Loesch’s segment.
  • April 12, 2019: The NRA files a lawsuit against its ad agency and producer of NRATV,  Ackerman McQueen.
  • April 17, 2019:  A Trace article written in partnership with The New Yorker exposed more than a decade of financial problems at the NRA, including that the group “has run annual deficits of as much as forty million dollars” and currently spends less than 10% of its budget on firearms education, safety, or training.
  • April 24, 2019: NRA updates its civil lawsuit complaint against Ackerman McQueen, saying Oliver North “double-dipped by drawing a salary” from the group and the ad agency.
  • April 26, 2019: Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre accuses North of trying to extort him.
  • April 27, 2019: North is forced out on the third day of the annual meeting.
  • April 27, 2019: NRA suspends its top lawyer. Following North’s departure, Steve Hart, a longtime lawyer for the NRA board of directors, was reportedly suspended.
  • April 27, 2019: New York attorney general opens an investigation into NRA’s tax-exempt status.
  • April 29, 2019: NRA elected Carolyn Meadows to succeed North as  its newest president; Meadows is on the board of an organization that maintains the largest Confederate monument in America.
  • May 2, 2019: Questions arise about LaPierre’s travel expenses.
  • May 6, 2019: Meadows claimed Rep. Lucy McBath won her House race because she is a “minority female.”
  • May 15, 2019: Leaked documents show “lavish” spending for LaPierre despite poor conditions for NRA staff.
  • May 22, 2019: NRA files a second lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen requesting $40 million in damages.
  • May 23, 2019: Ackerman McQueen files countersuit against NRA asking for up to $100 million in damages
  • May 29, 2019: Ackerman McQueen submits a notice to terminate its contract with the NRA, leaving NRATV’s future in question.
  • June 2, 2019: The NRA admits “the concept” of NRATV “remains under review.”
  • June 3, 2019: Ackerman McQueen claims the NRA is preventing them from cooperating with Senate Finance Committee subpoena.
  • June 6: The NRA subpoenaed North and two other board members.
  • June 7: NRATV host Grant Stinchfield said, “If you think I’m too blunt, our words are too strong, quit your whining, get serious about this fight or move over and let someone else fight for you.”
  • June 9: Post reports that the NRA “bought nearly $3.1 million in ammunition and other supplies” from Crow Shooting Supply, run by former board member and president Peter Brownell.
  • June 10: Daily Beast reports that NRA told North to pick a side.
  • June 19: Ackerman McQueen warns NRATV could be shut down within days because NRA owes the ad agency nearly $1.7 million for promotional work.
  • June 20: NRA suspends its second-in-command after an alleged failed coup attempt against its chief executive. In a lawsuit filed on June 19, the NRA alleged that text messages and emails show top lobbyist Chris Cox and another board member discussing their efforts to oust NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.
  • June 25: NRA pulls the plug on NRATV.

Wordless Wednesdays . . .

Wednesday afternoon, cloudy and cooler, 79 degrees.

Sometimes, word are simply not enough.


Music by 2Cellos, “Now We Are Free”

62, 22, 9, 4, 32

 

“He described feeling an aversion to other people. Not a murderous rage, but a cold, dismissive hate. He hated others, he explained, the way some people hate broccoli.” ~ a reference to Aurora, Colorado gunman james holmes in a Washington Post ARTICLE (March 15, 2018)

Tuesday afternoon, cloudy, 79 degrees

Today’s Two for Tuesday does not feature poetry. Unfortunately, it features two mass shootings in two days: El Paso, Texas (22 dead, 26 injured) and Dayton, Ohio (9 dead, 27 injured in 32 seconds). Less than a week ago, 4 people were killed and 12 injured in Gilroy, California. Nowhere else in the world do events such as these happen with this frequency.  Yes, there are other mass shootings in other countries, but nothing like what happens here in the USA.

Tampa Bay Times front page

Yesterday, the Dumpster Fire in Chief actually used a medium besides Twitter to address the nation in a stilted speech in which he condemned the very racism and white nationalism that he continually stokes, in which he got the massacre locales wrong (Toledo for Dayton, and Houston for El Paso), and in which he tried to pin the blame on video games and mental illness. Consider, video games flourish all over the world. People suffer from mental health issues all over the world. But these things do not happen with this frequency anywhere except here.

Researchers do suggest that certain factors can be predictors as to whether or not someone can become a mass shooter: “a strong sense of resentment, desire for infamy, copycat study of other shooters, past domestic violence, narcissism and access to firearms.” However, according to criminologist Adam Lankford, a country’s rate of gun ownership is a far better predictor of public mass shootings than indicators of mental illness; Lankford, a University of Alabama associate professor, published a 2016 analysis of data from 171 countries in the journal Violence and Victims.

Additionally, the attempt to link violent video games to mass shooters only perpetuates a falsehood. Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University, states that there is no statistical link between playing violent video games and shooting people. A 2004 report by the Secret Service and the Education Department determined that only 12 percent of perpetrators in more than three dozen school shootings showed an interest in violent video games.

Time magazine created a chart showing the number of mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982; below is the section for 2019 alone (totals do not include the shooters), indicating that 62 people have been killed by mass shooting so far this year. We still have four months left in 2019, people. The statistics are grim:

Mass Shootings in 2019 (Time Magazine)
“We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people.” ~ President Barack Obama (August 5, 2019)

In 2007, after the shootings at Virginia Tech, I thought that there might actually be some leveling of the gun laws in this country. Then, in 2012, I believed that surely after the Newtown shooting of school children that we would come together as a nation and actually do something. Then in 2017, when one man killed 59 people and injured 527 in Las Vegas, I thought to myself, “surely now something will happen.”

I can be incredibly naive at times.

But something feels different this time. At least, I like to hope/think so. Consider—news organizations and pundits are actually calling these heinous events what they are: DOMESTIC TERRORISM. So many of us like to sit on our sofas within the safety of our homes and decry the terrorism that may be visited upon us by Al Qaida or some other group of Muslims or Mexicans or whoever we happen to most fear and loathe in our ignorance. But we need not look to the other to find the real threat, the true enemy. We need not worry about those who worship differently, or those whose skin isn’t Caucasian, or those whose accents aren’t ‘merican.

The enemy is within. It is us. The enemy frequents 4Chan or 8Chan or whatever other forum happens to be exploding with venom shared by the disaffected or outlying or just plain evil individuals who post their screeds in the ether. And as one commentator pointed out, these are not manifestos; labeling them as such gives these rants too much credit.

These terrorists are incubated and bred right here at home. They haven’t invaded, to use the dumpster’s term for anyone who has immigrated or who seeks sanctuary. The killers come from a few states over, or a nearby city or town, or even next door. The people responsible for slaughtering scores of Americans in recent years are more often than not white males who feel that the world just isn’t fair, who may or may not have been bullied, who contend that a brown man or black woman has stolen the job meant for them, who believe the Kool-Ade that this administration spews from the sacred pulpit of Twitter or proclaims vociferously at red-hatted events. And some simply want to be famous, or infamous, as the case may be.

“America’s is not a uniquely cruel culture, but it is a culture awash in guns. While bullies exist everywhere, the United States has one of the highest gun-ownership rates in the world. That’s what makes social rejection in this country so uniquely deadly.” ~ from “Why Many Mass Shooters Are ‘Loners’” (The Atlantic, August 5, 2019)

To label these hate-filled people as being crazy or mentally ill does a great disservice to those who actually suffer from mental illness and do not go on killing rampages. I would also contend that blaming mental illness alone for their actions gives them yet another excuse that they don’t deserve. True, some may have suffered from untreated conditions such as depression or schizophrenia, but the Dumpster’s “focus on ‘mentally ill monsters’ oversimplifies the role of mental illness in public mass shootings and downplays the ease with which Americans can get firearms” (ABC News).

No one forced any of these individuals to acquire a gun or several guns; no one filled their arms with multiple rounds of ammunition. That being said, they were not created in vacuums. They were indoctrinated into a world of hate via online chats and inculcated via televised screeds, and for some, their mental illness may have led them to be more easily swayed. Some, but not all. We must not downplay the role of hatred in all of this.

The enemy is us, and we are him. This enemy wants us to be afraid of the other. I would prefer to be angry, not at the other, but at the system that nurtures the environment responsible for gestating such people. I would contend that righteous indignation is the best response to such ignorance. I would aver that abiding intolerance should be directed at those elected to represent and protect us, the ones who refuse to do what is needed and right, the ones who so fear a gun lobby that they remain silent, offering only the standard thoughts and prayers, as if those thoughts and prayers could actually shield us.

I’m tired of hoping that things will change. I’m past the point of being shocked at the numbers. The numbers don’t lie; they leave the lies to the selectively impotent politicians, the ones who decry loudly that the concept of healthcare for all will destroy our national way of life, but remain mute in the face of the actual death knell to a free society: unabated killing after killing after killing.

We should all be mortified that our school children are now routinely taught what to do in the case of an active shooter. We should be weary that yet another candlelight vigil for families and survivors brings no actionable change. We should be embarrassed that the rest of the world views us as little more than savage heathens who strap on our guns before going to church or out to dinner and who love our guns more than we love our citizenry. How much longer must we be strong and resilient in the aftermath of gun violence? When will we finally get off our knees and do something more concrete after offering feeble thoughts and prayers that do nothing to assuage the violence. We should do all of this and more, but I fear that we will not, at least not in my lifetime, and I fear that we shall all continue to slow dance in this quicksand.


“You might be looking for reasons but there are no reasons.” ~ Nina LaCour, from Hold Still

Emil Nolde, Landschaft, Nordfriesland, 1920 (I have always found that the art of Nolde completely encompasses what I’m feeling, regardless of the emotion)

“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.

Simply nothing.

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

More:

  • 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.

Enough already.


Music by Angus Powell, “Monsters”


Wind in a Box

—after Lorca

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.

~ Terrance Hayes (found on Poetry Foundation)

“A nothingness that compounded nothing into being” ~ Wangechi Mutu and Juliane Okot Bitek, from The Rwanda Genocide, twenty years later: 100 Days of photographs + poems

Rwanda Genocide Aftermath by Larry Towell (Magnum Photos)

Two for Tuesday: The Rwanda Genocide, Twenty Years Later

Tuesday morning, sunny, cooler, 64 degrees.

I had this post planned for last week, but then life intervened. I came upon a link on tumblr that led me to this incredible site, and I knew that I had to write a post about it.

100 Days by Wangechi Mutu

A little back story: In 1994, a world away, I found myself horrified by ongoing reporting of the Rwanda genocide because no one anywhere in the world truly intervened in the madness. The images that I saw made me seriously contemplate what genocide means and how some genocides seem to matter more than others based on exactly where in the world they occurred and what peoples were involved, and I have just never understood that.

Over 800,000 people were slaughtered during the 100 days of this ethnic cleansing. If you are unfamiliar with the history of the Rwanda genocide, this article provides a good explanation of what happened and how the rest of the world reacted. When it was all over, we heard that pat phrase “never again” once again. Never. Again. Empty words. Small comfort, hollow placation. We even have a month for it:

You hear this solemn pledge a lot every April, since the month commemorates not only Holocaust Remembrance Day but the official anniversaries of both the Armenian and Rwandan genocides. Leaders at every level seem to love hearing themselves declare “Never Again.” But those who mean it have no power and those with power never mean it. The record speaks for itself.

I won’t apologize for the politics of this post. I’m tired. I’m tired physically and emotionally. I’m tired of myself. I’m tired of things, and I’m so tired of the state of this country and of the world at large and all of hollow promises and untruths that continue to fall from the lips of politicians and world leaders.

As to the following poems I chose for this post, I think that the best way to describe the 100 days project is to use Juliane Okot Bitek’s words

On April 6th, 2014, Wangechi Mutu posted a picture on social media via Facebook and Instagram. It was the photograph of a woman whose somber pose was that of an exhausted spirit. She titled the picture #100Days #Kwibuka20 – and immediately, I knew what I had to do. The photograph provided me an “in” to the conversation that I’ve wanted to be a part of for more than twenty years. I wanted to think about what it means to be a witness, however obliquely, and how to create solidarity with people who have some idea about the experiences of people I know and love. I decided to write and post “100 Days,” a poem for every day from April 6th forward, inspired by Wangechi Mutu’s work . . .

I wrote to Wangechi and suggested that I compose a poetic response to her photos, and she agreed. I have been posting a poem a day, thinking about what it means to engage with such knowledge today, twenty years after. What do commemorations and declarations do for people who are still deeply haunted and scarred by those events that we think of as History? What is it to be in a world that witnessed yet did nothing about your suffering? How do we hold just enough bitterness to keep us focused on what needs our attention? Above all, what does it mean for us to witness the suffering of others? It is so easy to stay hypnotized by the swirl of information that comes at us from the internet, in print and, of course, on television. How much out there does not reflect the reality of our day to day hauntedness?

It was hard to choose just two images and two poems, and if you are at all interested, I suggest you follow the links.

There will be more later. Peace. Please.


Day 78 by Wangechi Mutu

Day 92

We wish for absolution, for a clearing,
for a forgetting, a filling of the heart
& a joyousness once more

We wish for children of innocence
we wish for an instantiation of things
a rationality that resonates with our emotions

We wish for the silence of the moon
the quieting of ghosts
& a peace to rest in

Day 96

What is the essence of beauty?
Why do mists swirl and rise but never completely disappear?
Why should iron gleam through soil?
Why should our dances be graceful, our cloths bright
Our memories long, our language rich and layered?
Why should beauty render us speechless?
What is it to come from a land that swallows its own people?”

~ Wangechi Mutu and Juliane Okot Bitek, from “The Rwanda Genocide, twenty years later: 100 Days of photographs + poems”


Music by Svrcina, “Who are you?”

 

“But we live on a broken mirror, and fresh cracks appear in its surface every day.” ~ Salman Rushdie, from The Ground Beneath Her Feet

Abandoned Barn in Upstate New York by Lisa (FCC_

“Because the world is so full of death and horror, I try again and again to console my heart and pick the flowers that grow in the midst of hell.” ~ Hermann Hesse, from Narcissus and Goldmund

Sunday afternoon, sunny, warm, 78 degrees.

Another mass shooting, this one so close to my old home, so close to my children. The world is so full of madness, and nowhere as much as in this country at this time. I won’t go on about the need for better gun laws. That is only a part of the problem. The bigger part, perhaps, is that people are essentially cruel and entitled: My life isn’t going as I want, so I will punish those I blame. I will pick up a weapon, and I will show them. I will show them how much stronger and better I am than they believe.

Abandoned Barn in DeKalb, Illinois by Earl Shumaker (FCC)

Strength from a gun . . . Right.

In a society so full of misplaced entitlement, one in which people buy their entrance into things—jobs, colleges, elections–it is no small wonder that violence is the method by which we conduct our lives. Violence in word. Violence in deed. The violence we bear in our hearts towards anyone deemed not as good as ourselves.

I am so sick of turning on the television to see more breaking news screaming in red letters at the bottom of the screen. I am so sick of everything. I am tired of wondering if a name that I recognize from my past will be among the list of the slaughtered. I am weary of wondering if those I love are safe. I am long past rending my heart because I can no longer protect my children through word or deed.

It’s all too much.

“Girl, all of sorrow
is this single drop
Of your blood.” ~ Juan Ramón Jiménez, from “Song” (Trans. H. R. Hays)

Truthfully, I don’t know if I have what it takes to make it here. I don’t know if I have the constitution to live on a farm, to see death up close. I just don’t know how to do it.

Yesterday I was unable to save Max from my own dogs, whose nips turned into bites. I walked outside to look for the dogs, only to see them circling Max at the bottom of the pasture. I was alone, of course, and thoughts raced through my head on how best to stop them. You see, the dogs, the pups mostly, have made a game of chasing the goats, but Ruby turns and butts them when she is tired. Max, unfortunately, does not do this. We have always thought that Max a little slow, slow but very sweet.

Abandoned Barn by Isha Mehling (FCC)

Normally, it’s Ruby who is chased, but a few times I have caught the pups chasing Max. Yesterday was different, though. They weren’t dogs playing a game. They were predators with prey, and my heart sank at the very idea. When they didn’t stop when I yelled at them, I thought that I could fire a gun at a tree, and the noise would startle them into inaction. But I couldn’t get the damned gun to fire. Then I got in my car and drove to the bottom of the pasture.

I found Max at the edge of the water, blood coming from his throat, and my heart sank even as I sank into the mud at the edge of the water. I still don’t know how I lifted him and climbed back up the incline, but somehow I got him to the car and put him in the back seat; he was still alive, but barely. I made the instant decision to drive to Dallas’s house to see if I could get help for Max, even though my head knew that it was a futile move. I tried to call Dallas because I knew that Corey was with him, but of course there was no answer, nor was there gas in the car.

I drove anyway, and Corey called as I made my way around what seemed like thousands of curves in the long road. By the time I made it to Dallas’s driveway and stopped the car, Max was dead. I turned around and drove home.

“We are not made whole by pain, no matter what they say. We are broken by it, taught to peel back cushion between us and the world because we have no choice but to rebuild it, again, and, again: ~ Jesse Rice-Evans, from “Argonaut”

Corey arrived home just a few minutes after I did, and between sobs, I explained what had happened. The pajamas that I was still wearing were covered in blood and goat hair, and the situation had caused my body to go into a full-blown asthma attack, none of which I had noticed until I stopped the car and finally made my way inside.

As Corey buried Max where the dogs couldn’t find him, I stood in the shower and sobbed some more, trying to wrap my head around the fact that my dogs had acted ferally, that they now had a taste for blood.

Abandoned in Columbia County, NY by Paul Comstock (FCC)

In trying to reconstruct everything in my mind, I couldn’t quite remember who did what, except that I had a very clear memory of Bailey still trying to attack Max even as I struggled to lift his body from the water. I remember hitting her forcefully to make her stop. The other dogs had already backed off as I am certain that they could feel the fury emanating from my body in forceful waves. But not Bailey. Not my dog, the one I found at the shelter and cradled in my lap as a pup.

Look. I know that dogs come from wolves. I know that certain breeds of dogs have more violence bred into their bloodlines, but I have always believed that it is the owners who determine just how vicious their dogs behave through how much or how little love and attention and training they bestow upon their animals. Am I completely wrong in this belief?

“this is the map of my heart, the landscape
after cruelty which is, of course, a garden, which is
a tenderness, which is a room, a lover saying Hold me
tight, it’s getting cold.
We have not touched the stars,

nor are we forgiven” ~ Richard Siken, from “Snow and Dirty Rain”

And now things are fraught. Corey would very much like to give Maddy back to Dallas, take Tink to a shelter, and put down Bailey as he fears there will be a repeat with the other goats, especially the kids to come.

Abandoned Barn in Virginia by Forsaken Fotos (FCC)

I cannot fathom such a thing, and that he has seriously contemplated this breaks my heart all over again. I must now deal with reconciling myself that I could not save Max, and now my spouse no longer wants some of the dogs. I contend that the dogs can be broken of this habit of chasing, but he is so full of rage over what happened that he will not hear it.

I know that he will do nothing to do the dogs if don’t agree, and I don’t, but the very idea that he harbors such feelings is tearing at my soul. Bailey is 7; she has only known us. Tink is very much my dog. To give Maddy back to Dallas would ensure that she would not be fed or cared for properly.

Can I retrain them? Can Corey forgive them? Can I forgive myself? The dogs are all cowed at the moment as they sense a change. Of course they do; how could they not?

“I want the truth of things. But there’s nowhere to find it.” ~ William Golding, from The Pyramid  

I have no answers, none at all. Friday night left me reeling after the news about the shooting, and then yesterday afternoon broke me. This morning, my breathing is still hard and phlegmy, and my soul is fractured. So I am back at my original question to myself: Do I have the constitution to live this kind of life?

In your mind’s eye, achieving your dream seems so filled with possibilities. That I’ve always wanted to own land in the mountains, and then to get that land—it has been as if the fates finally aligned after so many years of hardship and loss. But the reality is that there are things you never consider, things that you will encounter that never neared the idyll that filled your dreams.

Abandoned Barn in Rib Mountain, Vermont by William Garrett (FCC)

I had wanted a few goats for milk, and then Corey decided that he wanted to raise goats for an income. It seemed like a fairly straightforward move. It never occurred to me that there would be an issue with the dogs; after all, all of the dogs had been around cats and horses, and there had never been any problems. How could I foresee what would happen? Why did I not?

And now the atmosphere is filled with anger and regret and loss and pain, and I question how Corey could even contemplate such actions. It is not within me to be cruel to any creature, even when angry, and my dogs have always been part of my family. I am hoping against hope that his is just a reaction to what happened, even though he claims that it is not, that what he says is said from anger and grief and not what he truly feels.

Everything has changed, and I am wholly uncertain as to if it can be changed back.


Music by Gregory Alan Isakov, “If I Go, I’m Going”


Which One

I eye the driver of the Chevrolet
pulsing beside me at a traffic light

the chrome-haired woman in the checkout line
chatting up the acned clerk

the clot of kids smoking on the sly
in the Mile-Hi Pizza parking lot

the meter reader, the roofer at work
next door, a senior citizen

stabbing the sidewalk with his three-pronged cane:
which one of you discarded in a bag

—sealed with duct tape—in the middle of the road
three puppies four or five weeks old,

who flung two kittens from a moving car
at midnight into a snowbank where

the person trailing you observed the leg
& tail of the calico one that lived,

and if not you, someone flossing her teeth
or watering his lawn across the street.

I look for you wherever I go.

~ Maxine Kumin (found on Poetry Foundation)