“Get used to the bear behind you.” ~ Werner Herzog, from 24 pieces of life advice

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait of Giulia Leonardi 1910

“Portrait of Guilia Leonardi” (1910)
by Ferdinand Hodler*


“I fear I will be ripped open and found unsightly.” ~ Anne Sexton, from A Self Portrait In Letters

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and chilly, 51 degrees.

Well, long time, no write, hmm?

Let’s see. Where were we? When last I posted, I was in the midst of a never ending migraine, one that wouldn’t abate with shots, meds, what have you. Finally, I went on an aggressive two-week regimen with upped doses of my pain meds, and it seemed to break, at least for a while. Good news on that front, yes, but don’t worry. Things continued to be interesting.

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait of Berthe Jacques 1894 oil on canvas

“Portrait of Berthe Jacques” (1894, oil on canvas)

It seems I’ve developed akathisia from my seroquel, one of the meds I was on for sleep and anxiety. What is akathisia, you might ask? Well, it’s this wonderful condition in which you cannot stop your body from moving: tapping feet, rocking from side to side, and all kinds of variations. Mine appeared as an ability to keep my feet from moving while lying in bed at night, but I didn’t really think anything of it. I have no idea when it started, exactly, but it’s been going on for a while.

So at my last check-in with my prescribing psychiatrist, she noticed that I was fidgety. She asked me how long I had been that way. Who knows, I said. I’m quite anxious at the moment with everything that’s going on in my life. Could be that, I said. She gave me a look, suggested we switch up meds, try an extended release seroquel. Great.

Well that particular medicine landed me in bed, unable to wake up for more than a few hours. Not so good. I mentioned the fidgeting to my neurologist at that checkup. He gave me that look. Said, look I don’t want to worry you, but I want you to look up extra-pyramidal syndrome and akathisia.

So I did.

Crap.

“As for myself, I am splintered by great waves. I am coloured glass from a church window long since shattered. I find pieces of myself everywhere, and I cut myself handling them.” ~ Jeanette Winterson, from Lighthousekeeping

So ny prescribing psych and I agreed to stop the seroquel completely. Only problem is that at night, I cannot get comfortable. My feet won’t stop, and my legs feel terrible, and everything sucks. Yes, yes. RLS, or restless leg syndrome, which I supposedly do have, but which can be mistaken for akathisia, or vice versa. Add to that that our mattress is worn and it makes my back hurt, and on and on and on . . . ad infinitum. So it’s back to the doctor(s) to try to tweak the meds.

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait study to Look into the Infinity 1916 oil on canvas

“Portrait study to ‘Look into the Infinity'” (1916, oil on canvas)

Look. Enough already. I am so fricking tired of not feeling good that I’m ready to bang my head against a wall, except for that whole headache thing. I need some energy. I need to feel like myself. And I especially need to be able to sit down at this computer and do stuff instead of looking at it across the bedroom as if it were some time bomb getting ready to go off.

I literally have not sat in this chair and plied these keys in weeks. I’ve even taken to glancing at my e-mail on my phone, of all things. Oh the joys of having a smart phone. I look up medical terms like akathisia. I look up the weather. I look up whatever, anything to avoid coming back here.

Don’t ask me why being here, on this computer, on this forum is paralyzing me, but it is. I suppose its my unspoken pact with myself that I will continue to keep this blog going, that I will make it a place in which people who love quotes and art and minutiae will enjoy visiting, and because I have not done that for months now, I feel like such a failure—once again

“It’s never the changes we want that change everything.” ~ Junot Diaz, from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Ferdinand Hodler Empfindung 1901 tempera on canvas

“Empfindung” (1901, tempera on canvas)

Things are precarious at the moment. One son is completely heartbroken over a relationship that he ended and has decided that former girlfriend is now the love of his life. Ah to be 23 . . . not. Another son has been off his meds and is trying to cope, but I don’t think it’s working. And my daughter? Geez, I can’t begin to figure out what is going on in her mind, what possesses her to continue to do the stupid things that she does. I just want to grab her and shake her and say, “What the hell are you doing with your life?”

Then the whole oil/shipping thing has us over a barrel (no pun intended). We never thought we’d be facing down a repeat of those black years of 2008-2010, but it appears we are. Is it horrible that I want gas prices to go back up? Ah yes, it’s wonderful to be able to fill the tank for under $40, but given a choice, I’d rather spend more at the tank and have jobs come back in the industry.

And out of respect for Corey’s wishes I haven’t written about the situation before, but his family knows now, and the kids know, so what does it matter that I’m throwing it all out there again?

“I would like. I would like anything at all, but fast. I would like to get out of here. I would like to be rid of all this. I would like to start all over again. I would like to leave all this. Not to leave through an exit. I would like a multiple leaving, a whole spread of them. An endless leaving, an ideal leaving so that once I’ve left I begin leaving again right away.” ~ Henri Michaux, from “With Mescaline,” trans. David Ball

So is it any wonder that I have retreated from everything?

I haven’t been on my tumblr in a month. My inbox is completely overflowing. Mail lies unopened on the table by the front door. Furniture goes unpolished. Dust has gathered in corners, forming tumbleweeds. And I walk through the house seeing, but unable to act.

Ferdinand Hodler The Truth 1903

“The Truth” (1903)

When Olivia is here, it is a brief respite, a welcome distraction, but it also exhausts me. I leave the house to go to doctors’ appointments and for little else. Corey and I pass one another silently. He keeps to the dining room, looking out the back door, and I stay in here, a self-imposed prisoner to my bed. We don’t seem to be able to help one another.

What kind of life is this?

The only good thing is that I have been devouring books, that is up until this past week, when I suddenly found it impossible to concentrate on the words before me. Before that, I went through almost a dozen books, but books can only sustain for so long before the brain begins to shut down. And beneath all of this runs the undercurrent of my mother.

“The present is already too much for me. I can’t cope with the future as well.” ~ Salman Rushdie, from Shalimar the Clown

You see, I still haven’t made it to the cemetery to put on the silk flowers I bought ages ago. I still haven’t paid to have the dates put on her gravestone, and now I don’t have the money to do so. And so I have failed her once again.

Ferdinand Hodler The Dream 1897 watercolor on cardboard

“The Dream” (1897, watercolor on cardboard)

Will I ever arrive at a day on which I do not think of my mother and close my eyes in shame and regret for all of the ways in which I failed to make a difference in her life? Do you know the number of times in my life that I can remember my mother telling me she was proud of me? One. The number of times in my life I can remember her telling me she loved me? A handful.

How could this woman who so many found helpful and friendly have had such a completely different demeanor when it came to her only daughter, her only child? I will never have the answer to that question. Not ever, and so I continue to be haunted in the backdrop of each day by what a complete and utter failure our relationship was, how we failed one another, how I never quite measured up.

And you know what? That really and truly sucks.

More later (I truly hope to keep this promise). Peace.

*All images are by Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1817), one of the leading symbolist painters of the late 19th century. I love his paintings of women.

Music by Beth Orton, “Mystery”

                    

The Sensual World

I call to you across a monstrous river or chasm
to caution you, to prepare you.

Earth will seduce you, slowly, imperceptibly,
subtly, not to say with connivance.

I was not prepared: I stood in my grandmother’s kitchen,
holding out my glass. Stewed plums, stewed apricots–

the juice poured off into the glass of ice.
And the water added, patiently, in small increments,

the various cousins discriminating, tasting
with each addition–

aroma of summer fruit, intensity of concentration:
the colored liquid turning gradually lighter, more radiant,

more light passing through it.
Delight, then solace. My grandmother waiting,

to see if more was wanted. Solace, then deep immersion.
I loved nothing more: deep privacy of the sensual life,

the self disappearing into it or inseparable from it,
somehow suspended, floating, its needs

fully exposed, awakened, fully alive–
Deep immersion, and with it

mysterious safety. Far away, the fruit glowing it its glass bowls.
Outside the kitchen, the sun setting.

I was not prepared: sunset, end of summer. Demonstrations
of time as a continuum, as something coming to an end,

not a suspension: the senses wouldn’t protect me.
I caution you as I was never cautioned:

you will never let go, you will never be satiated.
You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.

Your body will age, you will continue to need.
You will want the earth, then more of the earth–

Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond.
It is encompassing, it will not minister.

Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you,
it will not keep you alive.

~

Frantisek Kupka The First Step 1909

“The First Step” (1909, oil on canvas)
by Frantisek Kupka

                   

“. . . I would sit down, still dizzy from the day’s sun, my head full of the white churches and chalky walls, dry fields and shaggy olive trees. I would drink a sweetish syrup, gazing at the curve of the hills in front of me. They sloped gently down to the sea. The evening would grow green. On the largest of the hills, the last breeze turned the sails of a windmill. And, by a natural miracle, everyone lowered his voice. Soon there was nothing but the sky and musical words rising toward it, as if heard from a great distance. There was something fleeting and melancholy in the brief moment of dusk, perceptible not only to one man but also to a whole people. As for me, I longed to love as people long to cry. I felt that every hour I slept now would be an hour stolen from life … that is to say from those hours of undefined desire. I was tense and motionless, as I had been during those vibrant hours at the cabaret in Palma and at the cloister in San Francisco, powerless against this immense desire to hold the world between my hands.” ~ Albert Camus, from “Love of Life”


 

My birthday is soon. I cannot begin to tell you how much I am not looking forward to this. You would think that it would be the opposite, that I as get older, I would welcome each birthday as an accomplishment, as a mark that I am still here, and yes, I am glad that I am still here. That is not the issue. The issue is the birthday itself. You see, I have never like having a birthday; this goes back to my early 20s. There was just something so depressing about the whole thing—yet another reminder that I have not set out to do in life what I thought I would do. I have done much. I have borne four children, lost one. I have loved and lost and loved again. I have attained degrees, yet not the one that I most desire. I have published, yet not the book that I know is hidden somewhere within me. I have received awards, met some wonderful people, discussed poetry and writing with some authors I truly admire, forged friendships that have made me a better person. I have much to be thankful for and much on which I can reflect and say, with some pride, “Yes, I have done this.” So you must wonder why I am still so dissolute, still so unfulfilled. I truly don’t know. I look at my life and think of all that has yet to be done, and wonder if I will in fact ever do it. I look at my life and see so many failures, so many shortcomings, so many regrets. Yes, I can temper all of that with successes, and achievements, and milestones. I think that it is just my temperament that I will never be truly satisfied with what I have done in life. I exist on a wafer-thin plateau of hope and regret, always, always wishing that somehow I were more, that somehow I had done more, said more, written more. You must think me vain and selfish. Perhaps I am, but I don’t really think so. It is human nature to what we we don’t have. I’m not talking about people, or even things. I’m talking about . . . markers. Notches on my walking stick. I so very much do not want to be this way, yet I am. I have been so many places throughout the world, sampled cuisines, seen vistas. I have read a bounty of works, and written more words than I have record of. And yet . . . who among us can say that she or he has done everything we set out to do? Few, very few. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot still dream, does it? No, I’ll never have Dr. in front of my name, or PhD after it. More’s the pity. I have no one to blame but myself, and that is true for most things. And yet . . .

                   

Music by Jake Owen, “We All Want what We Ain’t Got”

                   

Nights on Planet Earth

Heaven was originally precisely that: the starry sky, dating back to the earliest Egyptian texts, which include magic spells that enable the soul to be sewn in the body of the great mother, Nut, literally “night,” like the seed of a plant, which is also a jewel and a star. The Greek Elysian fields derive from the same celestial topography: the Egyptian “Field of Rushes,” the eastern stars at dawn where the soul goes to be purified. That there is another, mirror world, a world of light, and that this world is simply the sky—and a step further, the breath of the sky, the weather, the very air—is a formative belief of great antiquity that has continued to the present day with the godhead becoming brightness itself: dios/theos (Greek); deus/divine/diana (Latin); devas (Sanskrit); daha (Arabic); day (English).
—Susan Brind Morrow, Wolves and Honey

1
Gravel paths on hillsides amid moon-drawn vineyards,
click of pearls upon a polished nightstand
soft as rainwater, self-minded stars, oboe music
distant as the grinding of icebergs against the hull
of the self and the soul in the darkness
chanting to the ecstatic chance of existence.
Deep is the water and long is the moonlight
inscribing addresses in quicksilver ink,
building the staircase a lover forever pauses upon.
Deep is the darkness and long is the night,
solid the water and liquid the light. How strange
that they arrive at all, nights on planet earth.
2
Sometimes, not often but repeatedly, the past invades my dreams in the form of a familiar neighborhood I can no longer locate,
a warren of streets lined with dark cafés and unforgettable bars, a place where I can sing by heart every song on every jukebox,
a city that feels the way the skin of an octopus looks pulse-changing from color to color, laminar and fluid and electric,
a city of shadow-draped churches, of busses on dim avenues, or riverlights, or canyonlands, but always a city, and wonderful, and lost.
Sometimes it resembles Amsterdam, students from the ballet school like fanciful gazelles shooting pool in pink tights and soft, shapeless sweaters,
or Madrid at 4AM, arguing the 18th Brumaire with angry Marxists, or Manhattan when the snowfall crowns every trash-can king of its Bowery stoop,
or Chicago, or Dublin, or some ideal city of the imagination, as in a movie you can neither remember entirely nor completely forget,
barracuda-faced men drinking sake like yakuza in a Harukami novel, women sipping champagne or arrack, the rattle of beaded curtains in the back,
the necklaces of Christmas lights reflected in raindrops on windows, the taste of peanuts and their shells crushed to powder underfoot,
always real, always elusive, always a city, and wonderful, and lost. All night I wander alone, searching in vain for the irretrievable.
3
In the night I will drink from a cup of ashes and yellow paint.
In the night I will gossip with the clouds and grow strong.
In the night I will cross rooftops to watch the sea tremble in a dream.
In the night I will assemble my army of golden carpenter ants.
In the night I will walk the towpath among satellites and cosmic dust.
In the night I will cry to the roots of potted plants in empty offices.
In the night I will gather the feathers of pigeons in a honey jar.
In the night I will become an infant before your flag.
~ Campbell McGrath

“This has become my picture of my future self: wandering the house in the darkness, in my white nightdress, howling for what I can’t quite remember I’ve lost.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “The Bad News”

Zinaïda Serebriakova Poultry Yard 1910

“Poultry Yard” (1910)
by Zinaïda Serebriakova


“I want to be lifted up
By some great white bird unknown […]
And soar for a thousand miles and be carefully hidden
Modest and golden as one last corn grain,
Stored with the secrets of the wheat” ~ James Wright, from “The Minneapolis Poem”

Thursday afternoon. Partly cloudy and cold, 39 degrees.

Edvard Munch Winter in Kragerø 1916 oil on canvas

“Winter in Kragerø” (1916, oil on canvas)
by Edvard Munch

Another bad night. I forgot to apply a new pain patch before bed, and as a result, the ache in my legs awoke me every few hours, which only fueled the dogs to keep pestering me to go out, even when I knew that they really didn’t need to.

I had a very weird dream in which Corey’s sister was balancing our checkbook, and we lived in a different big house that had a sunken tub, and all I wanted to do was escape and soak in the tub, but people kept asking me to do things, and then someone wanted to know why I was having the drapes in my mother’s house altered, and how it only cost $40, and I just didn’t have answers.

And last night as I was watching something, can’t remember what, I realized that my head hurt, and I wonder when I passed over from being acutely aware of my headaches to the point at which their omnipresence has become status quo, so much so that I don’t quite feel them? How does that happen? I mean, I know that the body adjusts its threshold for pain, but this? To actually have to tell myself, “hey, your head really hurts . . . perhaps you should take some medicine for that”?

It just blows my mind.

“There is something maddeningly attractive about the untranslatable, about a word that goes silent in transit.” ~ Anne Carson, from “Variations on the Right to Remain Silent”

At some point during one of my awake periods, I had a fragment of a poem appear, and I rolled over thinking that surely I would remember it, but then I realized that I would never remember it, so I jotted it down in pencil on the first thing I could find, which was the wrapper for my pain patch, and now I have to find it. I have another fragment somewhere, but for the life of me I can’t remember if I stuck it in the middle of one of my countless drafts here, or if I actually opened Word and put it there.

Boris Anisfield Stony Point, New York 1925 oil on canvas

“Stony Point, New York” (1925, oil on canvas)
by Boris Anisfield

So obviously, forcing myself to write down what I told myself I would remember was a good thing . . .

I had Olivia on Monday and Tuesday of this week, which is always a treat, but since Corey left Monday afternoon, I did not sleep much at all that night. That’s how it always is on the first night after he leaves again. I have to try to remember (that word, again) not to schedule anything for the day after he leaves because I am physically and emotionally useless.

After all of this time of him shipping out, you would think that I would be used to it, but not so much. I mean, I have adjusted much better to the period when he is gone and being her by myself with just the dogs, and only once in a while does it cause me to fall into a tailspin, but the actual physical separation as represented so starkly in our half empty bed? That gets to me every single time.

“I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane
I was the smudge of ashen fluff—and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov, from “Pale Fire”

Yesterday I took care of some Christmas returns and exchanges. Brett and Em went with me, so it made it a bit easier. We actually got a tremendous amount done, and we were all done in afterwards.

Vincent van Gogh The Old Station at Eindhoven 1885

“The Old Station at Eindhoven” (1885, oil on canvas)
by Vincent van Gogh

I had bought myself some dinner at Costco, but only ended up eating a slice of bread. Before you think me too spartan, I have to confess that every time I get up in the middle of the night into the morning, I eat something, whether it’s a piece of chocolate or an Oreo. It’s an abominable habit, one that I would really like to break. The only time I haven’t done this in recent memory was when I had bronchitis, and everything tasted foul.

Anyway, another leftover from the bronchitis is my unabating hankering for Typhoo tea with lemon and honey. I go through phases with my tea, and most of the time I take it like workman’s tea—strong with cream and sweetener, but the honey/lemon combination helps so much with chest congestion. That, or it’s completely in my mind, which has been known to happen.

“My heart always timidly hides itself behind my mind. I set out to bring down stars from the sky, then, for fear of ridicule, I stop and pick little flowers of eloquence.” ~ Edmond Rostand, from Cyrano de Bergerac

Let’s see . . . what else is going on in my fun-filled adventurous life?

I’m gradually getting the house back in order after Christmas. Right before Corey left he finally set up the single bed for Olivia, and we began to sift through the boxes and piles that have accumulated in that corner bedroom. There is just so much. It’s never a good idea to let one room in your house become a junk room because it just gets away from you too easily. I can vouch for that.

“Winter Sketch” (1912, oil on paperboard)
by J. E. H. McDonald

He was also able to set up but not finesse the house backup system I bought us for Christmas. This thing has 4 terabytes of memory. Remember when 2G was a big deal? Hell, I remember being happy with megabytes. My how far we’ve come in such a short time.

I have at least two tubs worth of books that I need to sort through and pack, and my reason for not doing so before is silly: I want to record them on Goodreads. It’s not the number of books that I’ve read, but the fact that Goodreads gives me a free repository of the titles in my personal library. Years ago, before PCs, I had a handwritten list of my books, in particular, my poetry books, and it came in very handy after the one place I worked caught on fire. So there’s that.

But there is also a mess of strange cords, loose tools, two bags of shredding to be done . . .

“But in those days what did I know of the pleasures of loss,
Of the edge of the abyss coming close with its hisses
And storms, a great watery animal breaking itself on the rocks,

Sending up stars of salt, loud clouds of spume.” ~ Mark Strand, from “Dark Harbor”

Well, the end of January is creeping up on me, and I have to admit that I am terribly afraid. My mom has been on my mind so much lately, and she haunts my dreams almost every night. And as much as I wish it would snow, I think that having a snowstorm at the end of January would just about do me in because one of my acutest memories of last year was walking to the hospital in the snow.

Pekka Halonen Lumisia Mannyntaimia Snowy Pine Seedlings 1899

“Lumisia Mannytaimia (Snowy Pine Seedlings)” (1899, tempera on canvas)
by Pekka Halonen

Anyway, I’m trying to keep my mind occupied, but who knows . . .

I still haven’t done anything with the now dead poinsettias that I had bought for the cemeteries, and they serve as a constant reminder of what a failure I am at honoring my mother and father. I know. You probably think that I’m exaggerating, trying to get sympathy. But truly, no.

I have never hidden my long-standing love/hate relationship with guilt, but this is something more. I well and truly feel as if I have dishonored and failed my parents by not going to the cemetery at Christmas, by not even visiting Caitlin at Christmas. And yes, I had bronchitis, but still, the feeling looms large, and it pierces my heart, and I just don’t know what else to say, so perhaps I should stop now.

More winter pictures. More later. Peace.

Music by David Beats Goliath, “Maisie & Neville

                   

Death and the Moon

(for Catherine Marcangeli)

The moon is nearer than where death took you
at the end of the old year. Cold as cash
in the sky’s dark pocket, its hard old face
is gold as a mask tonight. I break the ice
over the fish in my frozen pond, look up
as the ghosts of my wordless breath reach
for the stars. If I stood on the tip of my toes
and stretched, I could touch the edge of the moon.

I stooped at the lip of your open grave
to gather a fistful of earth, hard rain,
tough confetti, and tossed it down. It stuttered
like morse on the wood over your eyes, your tongue,
your soundless ears. Then as I slept my living sleep
the ground gulped you, swallowed you whole,
and though I was there when you died,
in the red cave of your widow’s unbearable cry.

and measured the space between last words
and silence, I cannot say where you are. Unreachable
by prayer, even if poems are prayers. Unseeable
in the air, even if souls are stars. I turn
to the house, its windows tender with light, the moon,
surely, only as far again as the roof. The goldfish
are tongues in the water’s mouth. The black night
is huge, mute, and you are further forever than that.

~ Carol Ann Duffy

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

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Bajka zimowa 1904

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


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

Saturday late afternoon. Sunny and cold, 34 degrees.

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

Ferdynand Ruszczyc  Młyn w zimie  1902

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

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

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

Of course, the ensuing migraine was predictable . . .

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

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

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Pejzaż ze stogami Ok 1897 oil on canvas

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

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

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

Have no idea where that memory came from.

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

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

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Most zimą most winter 1901 oil on canvas

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

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

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

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

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

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Krzyż w śniegu 1902

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Młyn zimą 1897

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

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

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

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

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

More later. Peace.

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

Music by Mecca Kalani, “Feel Me”

                   

Snowshoe to Otter Creek

love lasts by not lasting
~ Jack Gilbert

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

~ Stacie Cassarino

 

“But inside us there is a word we cannot pronounce and that is who we are.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena


“Perhaps our deepest love is already inscribed within us, so its object doesn’t create a new word but instead allows us to read the one written.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Monday afternoon. Sunny and temperate, 52 degrees.

Well hello. Long time, no write . . .

I have to admit that this latest round of bronchitis left me quite pitiful for much longer than I would have anticipated. In between, I’d have a good day or two, and then the coughing would come back stronger than ever, and I would spend most of the night alternating between hacking up my lungs and giving myself nebulizer treatments.

George Ault January Full Moon 1941 oil on canvas

“January Full Moon” (1941, oil on canvas)
by George Ault

Lovely.

It seems that the worst has finally passed, and last night was probably the first night during which I did not awaken with a coughing fit. Needless to say, I didn’t much feel like sitting here at the keyboard and trying to come up with something witty to say, especially since my wit seemed to vanish sometime around Christmas day. Let’s just say that it’s been a strange holiday season, for a myriad of reasons.

Anyway, I thought I’d make the time today to try to get something down here, even if it’s not much of anything. I just hate that I’m five days into 2015, and I haven’t written or posted anything, not even pictures of the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

“But no life is a line, and hers was an uneven orbit around a dark star, a moth circling a dead bulb, searching for the light it once held.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

I did manage to read a few books since my last missive: Help for the Haunted, by John Searles; Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro, and Deep Water, by Patricia Highsmith, all Christmas presents from Corey. I had added all three to my Amazon wishlist at some point.

Charles Sheeler Bucks County Barn 1923 tempera and crayon on paper

“Bucks County Barn” (1923, tempera and crayon on paper)
by Charles Sheeler

I liked all three, the Ishiguro the most, and the Highsmith the least. I’m not sure if it’s just me, or a phase I’m in, but I’ve been disappointed in the endings of several of the last few books I’ve read. For example, in a book that I read a couple of weeks ago, The Tenderness of Wolves, by Stef Penney, the ending was too abrupt. James Joyce was famous for his open-ended stories, especially in Dubliners. The stories were meant to be a slice of life, and after the ending, it was implied that life continued, and I suppose, since that’s what I expected of Joyce, the open-ended nature didn’t bother me so much. But in Penney’s book, I still had questions.

It’s hard to explain, really, only that I didn’t feel satisfied after turning the last page, and this feeling of dissatisfaction has happened more this past year. Perhaps I am reading with a more critical eye? Who knows. Anyway, reading is pretty much the only thing I’ve accomplished while I’ve been sick, that and binge-watching movies and “Downton Abbey.”

“We twist our souls around each other’s miseries.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Charles Demuth Old Houses 1917

“Old Houses” (1917)
by Charles Demuth

Alexis, Mike, and Olivia got back from Mississippi last week, so this weekend we had our family Christmas dinner with all Filipino food, and then after, they opened their presents. Olivia really liked her drawing easel, so that was a good pick. I know that it will just seem like bragging, but she is scary smart. I mean, she’s two and a half, barely, and she knows her ABCs, numbers to 20, and shapes. She speaks in polysyllabic words, and she’s starting to recognize words when we read.

She’s also very intuitive, and can sense when something is wrong, which is why I’m so worried about her at the moment. Things at her house are quite tense because my daughter is acting up again, and it just slays me that I cannot protect Olivia from this. It’s the elephant in the room that we have all been creeping around so carefully, but things are going to have to be confronted eventually.

I cannot be too detailed because I must respect their privacy. I can only say that far too often, people assume that young children do not pick up on things when it is quite obvious that they do.

Ah, me . . .

“As someone whose days were defined by the ten thousand ways a human can hurt, she needed, now and then, to remember that the nervous system didn’t exist exclusively to feel pain.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Moving right along . . .

Because I was so sick, I never made it to the cemeteries before Christmas to take the poinsettias I had bought for all three graves. The guilt over this is weighing heavily on me, so much so that one time when I opened the sliding door to let the dogs out, and I saw the box of flowers on the steps, I yelled, “I am not a bad daughter, mom.”

Charles Sheeler Winter Window 1941

“Winter Window” (1941)
by Charles Sheeler

I’m not sure how much not having my mom around for the holidays has affected my kids, but it has really taken its toll on me. There is just so much guilt—guilt over being relieved that she wasn’t sitting at the table criticizing me throughout Thanksgiving dinner, guilt over not having to fret over my Christmas presents not being right. And then there is the immense sadness for which I was unprepared—sadness that she wasn’t sitting there at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner complaining, sadness over her not being around to see Olivia at Christmas.

Let’s face it: my feelings about my mother remain highly conflicted, and I doubt that that will ever change. But I could just hear her voice bitching at me because I hadn’t taken the time to put flowers on their graves, because I don’t visit the cemetery enough. And truthfully, I don’t visit enough, but how much is enough?

I know that all of this is self-imposed; still, it does not lessen it in any way.

“How often is immense sadness mistaken for courage?” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

You see, that same day that I yelled at my mother’s ghost, I had picked up David Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which is a pseudo-memoir dealing with the loss of both of his parents within a year. It’s a hard book, mostly because Eggers has continual asides in the form of long notes and explanations, and I can relate to it because it is very similar to my own writing style. I had only made it through the introduction when I decided that I still wasn’t ready to go further, mostly because I knew that delving any further into it would only provoke more strong feelings about my mother.

George Ault Daylight at Russel's Corner 1944 oil on canvas

“Daylight at Russell’s Corners” (1944, oil on canvas)
by George Ault

Did that make any sense?

So I found myself yelling at my mother that I wasn’t a bad daughter, and then I immediately retreated to my bed, in much the same way I did as a teenager when I felt overwhelmed. And all of this is probably boring you to tears if you’ve managed to stay with me thus far, but I can only say that I had a feeling that I didn’t have much of any import to say when I began this post, and only guilt over not posting forced me to carry on because guilt is once and forever my driving emotion.

Enough. Perhaps I’ll be able to come up with a new direction soon. With any luck, that is.

More later. Peace.

……forgot to hit post this afternoon……….

All quotes are from the Anthony Marra work, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, which is on my to-read list.

Images are by Precisionist painters Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, and George Ault. I love all of the barn variations. For more on these artists, click here.

Music by Lord Huron, “Ghost on the Shore”

                   

You Were

I am the one standing in the rain,
invisible beside you. I am the one in the dirt
which is now turning to mud around my feet.
I am the one weighed down by each of our partings
and the one lifted up by each meeting,
reachings that could not be completed, that
nevertheless held up the force of their hunger.

And, yes, you were always a seeking, an unknown,
a mystery to me. And not less that I to myself—
beginner that I have become all over again
on the paths and mountain slopes of this journey.
I watch my mind watch each moment in its passage,
it fades into, blends, with what came before.

Nothing remains as it was in the mind
after the path has been seen and walked upon,
there is always the next thing arriving
as if from behind, catching up with one’s sight,
surrounding. And all the while the snows of memory
are falling, covering the roads of the present.

The past overflows this moment without meaning to,
just as your face is more real in my remembering
than this present one sitting next to me,
just as each of us hurt the other without
intending it. And after a time we thought
experience might bring us to calm, and we see

we are standing in the river of passing,
each waiting for the warmth of the other’s face,
unable to understand why they are not with us,
startled by their absence, traveler and traveler
distant as two dots unconnected in a yellow field.

~ William Kistler

“Memory swells our reflections.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from ” Mural”

Hovsep Pushman Reflections 2, oil on board 1920s

“Reflections 2″ (1920s, oil on board)
by Hovsep Pushman


 “I am convinced that memory has a gravitational force. It is constantly attracting us. Those who have a memory are able live in the fragile present moment. Those who have none don’t live anywhere.” ~ Patricio Guzmán, from Nostalgia for the Light

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and not so cold, 50 degrees.

So late last night I wrote another poem. I’ve had the first line in my head for about a week, mulling it over, and then it came to me. It’s about my mom, so I really can’t tell if it’s any good. But I like the title . . .

Anyway, I’m hoping to put up the tree today, but I’m at the mercy of my sons, so I’m not counting on it. You see, Corey took all of the Christmas stuff—decorations, wrapping paper, tree—and put it in my mom’s garage, which is huge. I need all of it to come back over here. Alexis still has Corey’s truck, although I found out that Mike’s been driving it, which doesn’t make sense because it costs a fortune to fill up, but the Lex saga continues unabated, and I don’t want to talk about that right now.

Hovsep Pushman The Violets of Yesterday

“The Violets of Yesterday” (1920s-30s, oil)
by Hovsep Pushman

But because I don’t have the truck, I need Eamonn’s SUV. Unfortunately, on Friday, one of Eamonn’s closest friends died. I don’t know the circumstances yet, but I’m really hoping it wasn’t a suicide. So Eamonn is pretty devastated, and I don’t want to push him to bring over everything, even though he said earlier that he would help.

Brett and Em are coming over to do the outside lights, and they are bringing some stuff with them, but he can’t fit a lot into that old Honda, so I have no idea what I’m going to have here and what’s going to still be in the garage, and so once again, everything is much more complicated than it should be, and stressing over it and everything else is not helping me to get in the holiday spirit, as it were.

“Longing is not memory, but rather what is selected from memory’s museum. Longing is selective, like an adept gardener. It is the replaying of a memory after its blemishes have been removed.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish

So perhaps I shall turn the rest of this into a random thoughts post . . . yes . . . why not?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Harmony in Silver and Green” (nd, oil on panel, detail)
by Hovsep Pushman

  • I have read that a movie is on the horizon called Big Eyes, or something like that; it is based on those pictures of children with huge eyes, popular in the 60s, I think.
  • I have never understood the attraction of those images, but I remember that one of the grocery stores that my mom frequented gave away reproductions.
  • That was when you could actually get encyclopedias and such for coupons earned on purchases. (Remember green stamps? I do, vaguely) . . .
  • Apparently the artist (Keane) who became famous for painting those images did not actually paint them. His wife did.
  • Another woman shafted by the system.
  • Those pictures always freaked me out as a kid.
  • The irony is that today, most cartoons and comics (especially Asian anime) feature characters with over-sized eyes.
  • I still find that kind of characterization creepy.

“Memory belongs to the imagination.” ~ Alain Robbe-Grillet, from The Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction, No. 91″

So since this post is kind of about memory, here are a few more random ones:

Hovsep Pushman Statue, Vase and Bowl color lithograph

“Still Life: Vase and Bowl” (nd, oil)
by Hovsep Pushman

  • The first bit of verse that I memorized: “Where the bee sucks, there suck I: /In a cowslip’s bell I lie;”
  • It was by Shakespeare; I was seven or eight.
  • The first book of poetry that I ever owned: A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • I think that it was given to me right before we moved to the Philippines after my father retired from the Navy.
  • I once thought about memorizing “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Just to see if I could.
  • I was 11.
  • I remember the first line of a truly dreadful poem that I wrote in the 9th grade: “I, am nothing, without you”
  • I thought that putting the commas in would give me pauses.

“Nothing is left of that time beyond memories, only a faint remembering.” ~ Cesare Pavese

Hovsep Pushman Reflections oil on panel

“Reflections” (nd, oil on panel)
by Hovsep Pushman

Do you want to know something ironic? I think my memories of my early life are more easily accessible than my memories of the last ten years.

  • My mother once put me up to engaging my father in conversation in a very proper British accent while Dad was talking to someone else.
  • I did it. I remember I began with, “Father, dear. Mummy has . . .”
  • That’s all I remember of that, but can you imagine how strange that man must have thought I was, how strange our family was?
  • I once spent about four weeks speaking in nothing but a Cockney accent
  • It became so much of a habit that I actually answered the phone by saying, “‘Ello, luv.”
  • I really should have been on the stage.
  • Speaking of which, I gave serious thought to moving to New York right after high school graduation, but I’m pretty sure my mother talked me out of it.
  • As someone who loved to pretend and act, how did I end up with three kids who are all afraid to be on a stage?

“I was going to be a memory when I grew up.” ~ Alejandro Zambra, from Ways of Going Home

Let’s bring this full circle:

Hovsep Pushman Silence Oil on canvas

“Silence” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Hovsep Pushman

  • When I was about 8 or 9, my mother told me that I could marry the Prince of Wales.
  • Where did my mother get her airs from?
  • She never got over leaving London and coming back to the states.
  • I wish she had gone back to London for a visit, yet I’m glad that she didn’t because the London of today is nothing like the London of my childhood.
  • I just had a flash of a wild memory: My dad shipped his convertible to London when he was transferred there. We used to go on country drives on Sunday, you know, family, friends, picnics . . . I had seen in some movie how this glamorous woman sat up on the back seat of the convertible and let the wind blow through her hair. You guessed it, while no one was paying any attention to me, I got up on the back seat (on the part that housed the folded soft top) and sat there for a good part of the drive until my mother turned around and saw me.
  • I still wonder if my dad saw me in the rear view mirror and didn’t do anything because he thought it was funny.
  • No seat belts for us.
  • I guess I got my airs from my mother and movies.

My new poem is below. I’ve also included a particularly beautiful poem by Philip Shultz, not because I’m comparing mine to his, but because I love how it ties in to the idea of memory.

More later. Peace.

All images are by Armenian artist Hovsep Pushman (1877-1966).

Music by Memoryhouse, “Old Haunts (Aurora Remix)”

                   

Shopping at Wal-Mart the Week before Christmas

It all began with the Almond Rocha, you see,
the richly colored pink and gold tin
I took from the shelf without thinking,
one of my mother’s favorites, even though
each time I gifted her this sweet,
I was sure to hear a weary sigh
followed by the words,
I have diabetes, you know,
even as she dug into the can
for one of the gold, foil-wrapped
butter crunch toffees, as if somehow
the knowledge of her condition
had slipped my mind
sometime since the last time
she had reminded me
of the circumstance she herself
ignored so judiciously,
but every Christmas
I would give her a large tin
because it was the only present
I was sure she wouldn’t hate, the only one
that wouldn’t have to go back to the store
for one reason or another,
and I’ll let you in
on another little secret—
I didn’t find a single empty tin
when I spent those long winter days
erasing her from the home
in which she had spent almost
a half century, not one
nestled among the endless packs
of charity greeting cards
with their insipid messages,
not a single one
hidden among the baskets
filled with long-dried bingo markers
in red and green and blue,
not even one left neglected
in the old bar, where funnily enough,
I found an almost empty bottle of tequila
and a very dusty liqueur bottle
shaped like a monk.
So I replaced the new tin on the shelf,
among all the other holidays confections,
left my half-filled cart
of soaps, nail polish,
and lemons, and promptly
walked out into the night
before the memory of her voice
could catch me.

L. Liwag
December 14, 2014

                   

Talking to Ourselves

A woman in my doctor’s office last week
couldn’t stop talking about Niagara Falls,
the difference between dog and deer ticks,
how her oldest boy, killed in Iraq, would lie
with her at night in the summer grass, singing
Puccini. Her eyes looked at me but saw only
the saffron swirls of the quivering heavens.

Yesterday, Mr. Miller, our tidy neighbor,
stopped under our lopsided maple to explain
how his wife of sixty years died last month
of Alzheimer’s. I stood there, listening to
his longing reach across the darkness with
each bruised breath of his eloquent singing.

This morning my five-year-old asked himself
why he’d come into the kitchen. I understood
he was thinking out loud, personifying himself,
but the intimacy of his small voice was surprising.

When my father’s vending business was failing,
he’d talk to himself while driving, his lips
silently moving, his black eyes deliquescent.
He didn’t care that I was there, listening,
what he was saying was too important.

“Too important,” I hear myself saying
in the kitchen, putting the dishes away,
and my wife looks up from her reading
and asks, “What’s that you said?”

~ Philip Schultz

“I’m not quite the last.” ~ Marcus Sedgwick, from Midwinter Blood

Carl Larsson Midvinterblot 1915 oil on canvas

“Midvinerblot” (1915, oil on canvas)
by Carl Larsson, in situ at the National Museum in Stockholm


“Indeed. People think the name of this island means ‘blessed,’ and so it does, but ‘blessed’ does not mean what people thin kit does. In the old tongue it was bletsian and before that blotsian, and before that, just blod. It means sacrifice.” ~ Marcus Sedgwick, from Midwinter Blood

Saturday, late afternoon. Partly cloudy and not so cold, 51 degrees.

I just read the most amazing book: Midwinterblood (2013) by Marcus Sedgwick. The painting above, which was created for the central staircase hall of the Stockholm’s National Museum, figures prominently in the story, or rather, stories, seven to be exact.

It’s a fast but intricate read, tracing the tale of Eric and Merle through hundreds of years, and seven iterations. I was fascinated by the deft mixing of mystery, fantasy and history that links the seven stories, beginning in the future, and traveling back before time on record.

Apparently, it’s a book for teens, but I find that classification a bit useless. What defines a book? That’s a whole other post. But what aggravates me about that category for this book is that while the stories would appeal to teens, it takes a bit of life to understand and appreciate that love through seven different lives does not have to be passion-filled love between lovers in order to be important. I’m not sure if I’m making much sense, perhaps because I literally just put the book down and walked over to my desk to write this.

Alex Brown of tor.com wrote a wonderful review, which you can find here. And here is a short YouTube promo for the book that I found intriguing:

More later. Peace.

Music by Delerium (featuring Azure Ray), “Keyless Door”

                   

When I awoke this morning, I was mulling over the last line to Robert Browning‘s “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. Which brought to mind (a non sequitur, I know) bits of the following, which I had to search for before finding the actual poem, and then hours later I realized that I had gone of on some tangent and had completely forgotten (once again) to publish the post . . . anyway:

Longing

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.

Come, as thou cam’st a thousand times,
A messenger from radiant climes,
And smile on thy new world, and be
As kind to others as to me!

Or, as thou never cam’st in sooth,
Come now, and let me dream it truth,
And part my hair, and kiss my brow,
And say, My love why sufferest thou?

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.

~ Matthew Arnold