“The only lies for which we are truly punished are those we tell ourselves.” ~ V.S. Naipaul, from In a Free State

Clyfford Still, “1957-D No 1,” (1957, oil on canvas)

“I seriously consider the possibility of giving up . . . am I capable of what I dream? If I am not capable of it, what good is it to dream?” ~ Albert Camus, from Notebooks: 1951-1959

Monday (2/11) afternoon, overcast, warmer temperatures, 50 degrees.

I slept well last night; it was a nice change. I’ve been falling asleep before 11 and then waking initially between 7 and 8. I listen to the dogs play for a while as they try to make me get out of bed, and then I feed everyone. This morning, though, I actually fell back asleep while listening to a podcast.

Clyfford Still, “Jamais” (1944, oil on canvas))

I’m enjoying podcasts lately. I realize that I’m late to the game, as usual, but my initial interest was spurred by Rachel Maddow’s podcast on Spiro Agnew. I know a lot about Nixon, but knew virtually nothing about Agnew besides the fact that my 7th grade history teacher had a Spiro Agnew watch, a la Mickey Mouse. So I listened to all of the “Bag Man” podcast, and I was hooked. If you don’t know anything about Agnew, I recommend this particular podcast because even though it was decades ago, the circumstances are all too similar to the current state of the country.

So my latest podcast is “Serial,” which is about the case of Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee. I saw a promo on HBO for a series about it that’s coming in March, so I wanted some background. It’s an intriguing case, with many people believing that Syed was unjustly convicted. I’m also interested because it has nothing to do with politics, which I am currently in overload on; it’s all just too ridiculous and does nothing for my blood pressure; so a break is definitely needed.

“I’ve been told quite
a lot of things. They hover — some more unbidden than
others — in that part of the mind where mistakes and torn
wishes echo as in a room that’s been newly cathedraled,
so that the echo surprises, though lately it’s less the echo
itself that can still most surprise me about memory —” ~ Carl Phillips, from “Wild is the Wind”

I’m trying to apply the approach that I used yesterday, which was to sit down and just start writing, before tumblr, before messing with my over 100 pre-prepared drafts, before anything. I’m hoping to find my groove again, as it were.

Clyfford Still, “PH-385 ( No 1),” (1949, oil on canvas)

So now it’s Thursday (2/14), and mostly overcast and colder, 39 degrees . . .

Admittedly, I left this post for almost three days ago. I got up to do a few things, and then never came back, and then I forgot where I was. I have such good intentions but such bad habits . . .

I won’t even begin to apologize because truthfully the person I really need to apologize to is myself; not writing here hurts only me. Not writing at all affects me: I feel such disappoint in myself for not keeping my promises to myself, and then all of those feelings about being inadequate come flooding back. It’s such a freaking vicious circle, one that I’ve been caught in since I was a child.

“I should do three things every day, but instead I sit, paralyzed in front of my computer, beating myself up for not doing three things every day like I promised myself I would. I’ve determined this is more time-consuming and stressful than actually doing the three goddamn things a day, and, therefore, I’m entitled to my fury.” ~ Jessica Knoll

The following Monday afternoon (2/18), blue skies for a change but cold, 39 degrees.

Yes, I know. It’s ridiculous that I’m only finishing this post one week later. I have no excuses or explanations; actually, I have a ton, but the only one that matters is that I find myself paralyzed. For weeks now, I sit down at this keyboard in my tiny little workspace in the corner of the living room, and I play Spider Solitaire. I tell myself that it’s a warmup, for my fingers, for my brain.

Clyfford Still, untitled (1945, oil on canvas)

Then, when that doesn’t work, I turn on a podcast (already finished “Serial” and moved on to more), usually about some unsolved crime or particularly weird murder. Again, it’s to get my juices flowing . . . Then about five hours later, I realize that I have not a) eaten b) bathed c) paid any attention to the horses d) gone for a walk (right, not in this cold and mud), and then finally e) written one frigging word.

So as a result, I continue to play Spider Solitaire and click on podcasts. Listen, it’s so bad that most nights lately, I don’t even watch Ari on The Beat (MSNBC), but I do try to fit in Rachel Maddow at 9, only because I’m probably eating a late dinner and getting ready to go to bed, at which time, I will continue to play Spider Solitaire and listen to another episode on my phone as Corey begins to snore softly.

I’m completely disgusted and disappointed in myself at this point. I had such big plans for returning to this blog with so many things to share. But then the self-doubt kicks in, and I think to myself that nothing I have to say could possible interest anyone, and who am I fooling anyway, and I still haven’t gotten my book published, pick one—the one with poems and photographs (which actually does exist in draft form), or the memoir about surviving grief (which exists only in my head), or the mystery (which exists only in snatches written down in various places that I can no longer find).

“Today, mid-February where the wind is full of snow
that will not fall, brown leaves
curled against the blanched grass,
I suspect there are no gardens in you
You suspect I am brimming with vast shadows,
the way the mud and sky are brimming with snow.” ~ Joanna Klink, from “The Wonder of Birds”

Truthfully, I have been doing one other thing to try to jump start my brain: I’ve been looking at things that writers have written about their writing process or writing in general. It helps, and it hurts. Helps because I can see plainly that everyone has periods in which the words simply will not come, but hurts because these people have such good ideas about how to conquer that wall, and I do not . . .

Clyfford Still, untitled (formerly self-portrait) (1945, oil on canvas)

Anyway, I wanted to share just a couple of quotes here: In an 2004 interview with Poets & Writers, poet Adam Zagajewski said the following about the relationship of beauty to being a writer:

I become deaf to beauty for a week or two or three. This coming and going of the inner life—because this is what it is—is a curse and a blessing. I don’t need to explain why it’s a curse. A blessing because it brings about a movement, an energy which, when it peaks, creates a poem. Or a moment of happiness.

And later in the interview, he says,

Remember that the act of writing is a tiny part of a bigger something . . .

They [autobiographical essays] tell you: Look how miserable I was and how well am I doing now. I’m not saying this. For me, not the healing is important, but memory and thinking. And poetry.

Poet and editor Dalton Day said in a 2014 interview with banangolit:

Write because you want to communicate with yourself. Write because you want to communicate with someone else. Write because life is weird and tragic and amazing. Write because talking is difficult. Write because it polishes the heart. Write because you can. Write because you can’t. Write because there is a blackbird outside of my window right now and oh my god isn’t that the best start to the day? Write because you’re trying to figure yourself out. Write because you might not ever figure yourself out. Write because there still aren’t enough love poems in the world.

“I snake toward myself only to discover I have disturbed no one’s nest but my own . . . Darling,  I work by the hourglass. I write songs so that someday you may sing.” ~ Hala Alyan, from “Upstate II”

One other thing that I’ve been doing in the midst of this great nothingness is looking at online literary journals to which I might/could submit my work. This is an exercise in which I participate at least once a year. Having said that, I should now clarify that I have only submitted my work a few times. That’s a few times in many years. In other words, an exercise in futility . . .

Clyfford Still, “PH-950” (1950, oil on canvas)

A poet who once taught in the same English department once told me that I need an assistant to send out my work. She was serious. She also received a grant from the NEA, so she could afford an assistant to send out her work. Those of us who are penniless cannot afford such luxuries, so we have to rely on our own steam, as it were.

I have no steam.

I am steamless.

I am without steam.

There is no steam anywhere in proximity to my brain.

No steam, vis-a-vis, productive time that does not exist in my life.

Yep. Meh.

More later. I hope. Peace.

All images are by first generation abstract expressionist Clyfford Still. I felt that this post deserved abstract images. To read more about him, go here.

Music by Dakota, “Bare Hands”

 


Poem for Nobody

an apprehension for reality, the death of the flower,
the collapse of hope, the crush of
wasted years, the nightmare faces,
the mad armies attacking for no reason at all
and/or
old shoes abandoned in old corners like half-forgotten
voices that once said love but did not mean
love.

see the face in the mirror? the mirror in the
wall? the wall in the house? the house in the
street?

now always the wrong voice on the telephone
and/or
the hungry mouse with beautiful eyes which now lives in
your brain.

the angry, the empty, the lonely, the
tricked.

we are all
museums of fear.

there are
as many killers as flies as
we dream of giant
sea turtles with strange words carved into
their hard backs
and no place for the knife to go in.

Cain was Able,
ask him.
give us this day our daily dread.

the only solace left to us is to hide
alone in the middle of night in some deserted
place.

with each morning less than zero,
humanity is a hammer to the brain,
our lives a bouquet of blood, you can watch
this fool still with his harmonica
playing elegiac tunes while
slouching toward Nirvana
without
expectation or
grace.

~ Charles Bukowski

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“It is a lonely idea, a lonely condition, so terrifying to think of that we usually don’t. And so we talk to each other, write and wire each other, call each other short and long distance across land and sea, clasp hands with each other at meeting and at parting, fight each other and even destroy each other because of this always somewhat thwarted effort to break through walls to each other.” ~ Tennessee Williams, from “Person-To-Person”

Henri Edmond Cross The Iles d’Or  The Iles d’Hyeres, Var 1892
“The Iles d’Or (The Iles d’Hyeres, Var)” (1892, oil on canvas)
by Henri Edmond Cross

 

“After all, you know there are days
when even thirst runs dry
and prayer’s lips harden.” ~ Adam Zagajewski, from “Tierra del Fuego,”

Wednesday afternoon. Sunny, hot and humid, 94 degrees.

Last night I had this very intricate dream in which I was retelling a family history story to a friend, something that my mother had told me. I was using letters, news clippings, and photographs that were in an old trunk. I kept getting facts wrong and forgetting key players. I was very frustrated because I hadn’t written down what my mother had told me, and now it was too late to ask her.

Henri Edmond Cross Les Iles d'or 1892 oil on canvas
“Les Iles d’or” (1892, oil on canvas)
by Henri Edmond Cross

It had something to do with a great great grandparent owning an old hotel in Norfolk. There was a criminal involved, and a distant relation that no one knew about. It was actually a pretty good story. Wish I could remember more.

Anyway, it’s hot as blazes, too hot to go outside because my head is exploding. I had a wonderful conversation with my legal representative, the one who is going to be at the Social Security hearing with me in August. This is my second go round on the hearing route. That I am underwhelmed at the prospect is an overstatement. This whole thing taxes me mentally and physically, but hey, some person with a list can sit there and say what jobs I can do, and I can’t say a thing, can’t make the argument that not a single employer out there is going to want to hire someone who cannot give 100 percent, someone who is guaranteed to have to call out of work frequently because of pain issues . . .

whatever . . .

I have sat here for four hours, going back and forth between this supposed post and my e-mail, my tumblr, and comparative shopping on different sites for water weights. The fact is I just cannot turn this into a post, no matter how hard I try. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s that I have too much to say, but so much of it involves other people, and I just don’t feel that I can talk about some of these things here even though I really, really need to talk about a lot of these things.

Suffice it to say that my head is rumbling at about a point 5 on the Richter scale, even after giving myself one of those painful shots. The glare from the screen is making me squint, which isn’t helping my head. And I am no further along in making words flow than I was when I started, so . . .

whatever . . .

Music by Banks, “Waiting Game”

                    

Who Needs Us?

The quiet, the bitter, the bereaved,
the going forth of us, the coming home,
the drag and pull of us, the tome and teem
and tensile greed of us, the opening
and closing of us, our eyes, in sleep,
our crematorium dreams?

The brush of us one against another,
the crumple on the couch of us,
the spring in our step, the sequestered dance
in front of the cracked mirrors of us,
our savage suffering, our wobbly ladders
of despair, the drenched seaweed-green
of our tipped wineglass hearts, our wheels
and guitars, white spider bites blooming
on our many-colored skins, the din
of our nerves, our pearl onion toes
and orangey fingers, our effigies
and empty bellies, our plazas
of ache and despair, our dusky faces
round as dinner plates, our bald pates,
our doubt, our clout, our bold mistakes?

Who needs the footprints of us,
the glimpse of us in a corridor of stars,
who sees the globes of our breath
before us in winter, the angels
we make in the stiff snow,
the hack and ice of us, the glide
and gleam and busted puzzle of us,
the myth and math of us,
the blue bruise and excuse of us,
who will know the magnified
magnificence of us, could there be
too many of us, the clutch and strum
and feral singing of us, the hush of us,
who will hear the whisker of silence
we will leave in our wake?

~ Dorianne Laux

“I’ve spent so much time in my head and in my heart that I forgot to live in my body.” ~ Tara Hardy, from “Bone Marrow”

Anne Redpath Border Landscape
“Border Landscape” (c1930s, oil on panel)
by Anne Redpath

                   

“If you go on valuing recognition and praise of others, you’re asking to be ruined. The only value in expression is its inherent value. The object is the object, and will continue well after you’re dead. Even when the world burns up and even the object no longer appears, you were who you were, you made what you made, you valued what you valued, and nothing else.” ~ Blake Butler, from Sky Saw

Saturday, late afternoon. Cloudy and cold, 44 degrees.

So it’s a full 30 degrees colder than yesterday. Yesterday fall. Today winter. And so my sinuses rebel loudly.

Not sure if I’ll finish this post today as so much is going on, but I thought that I could at least start. With any luck the internet will hold a few more days, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not the case.

Károly Patkó, Trees 1924
“Trees” (1924, mixed media on paper)
by Károly Patkó

We have Olivia today; Lex and Mike are going out tonight, and Corey leaves tomorrow afternoon, so the timing is good. It’s very weird that’s he’s leaving tomorrow. I think that we are all still heavily in denial. I mean, he hasn’t even packed yet. Last night he put up the Christmas tree for me so that I don’t have to struggle with that on my own. I’ll probably decorate it tomorrow or the next day. Olivia likes the lights.

Yesterday Brett spent all day switching bedrooms. He has wanted to move into Eamonn’s old room for some time, and since Corey and Eamonn cleaned out all of the tools and bathroom reno stuff, it seemed like an opportune time. Unfortunately, he didn’t paint before he moved in, and the room definitely needs to be painted. The walls are covered in Sharpie where all of Eamonn’s friends and girlfriends past have signed. I really don’t know how that tradition began, but there was already quite a bit up there before I really noticed it. Anyway, the walls are probably going to need a primer to cover up the Sharpie.

Of course. Nothing is ever easy in this house.

“The river’s auscultations keep pace
with my lungs. Blame the ear for its attention. Blame
the body for not wanting to let go, but once a thing moves
it can’t help it. There is only instinct, that living ‘yes.’” ~ Oliver de la Paz, from “Insomnia as Transfiguration”

So a new word: auscultations, which means the act of listening, or to listen to the body’s sounds made by internal organs. Cool word. Amazed that someone worked it into a poem.

Carel Weight, R A Snow, Putney
“Snow, Putney” (oil on board)
by Carel Weight, RA

I used to know how pneumonia sounded through a stethoscope. That’s the kind of knowledge that lay people shouldn’t have. I also used to know how to spot pneumonia on an x-ray. Again, not something you should know. I wonder if there is a term for knowledge forced on you by circumstance, knowledge that you would rather not have but have anyway. Probably. There’s a word for everything. If anyone knows, let me know.

So where was I? Oh yes, Corey’s leaving.

He flies out at 2:30 tomorrow. The most recent communique from the company said that they were going to try to put him on vessel a, but they weren’t 100 percent certain, but it sounds like he is going right from training to a ship. I do know that at some point he is supposed to get helicopter training, as in how to embark and disembark safely from a helicopter. Tell me that doesn’t just scare the bejeezus out of me . . .

“Ask her what she craved, and she’d get a little frantic about things like books, the woods, music. Plants and the seasons. Also freedom. Not being bought and sold by some idiot employer, not having the moments of her days valued in fractions of a dollar by somebody other than herself.” ~ Charles Frazier, from Nightwoods

Normally before he leaves we try to go out to dinner, but not this time. We’ve run out of both time and money. I guess all of those good meals in New Orleans will have to suffice. I get hungry just thinking about those crabcakes.

Leon Spilliaert Branches 1912
“Branches (Boomtakken)” (1912)
by Léon Spilliaert

New Orleans was a great trip, for so many reasons. I definitely want to go back and spend more time. I didn’t take that many photographs, and I would love to visit the old cemeteries.

On the crabcake night, before we went to dinner, a guy came up to us and said that he could give us directions to anywhere (we obviously looked a bit lost). I told him that we were looking for a locals restaurant that had good food and wasn’t too pricey. He took us to a diner.

His heart was in the right place, and we rewarded him for his trouble. But about two hours later we ran into him again, and he started to do his spiel, but I reminded him that we had already donated to the cause. I don’t mind helping out people when I can, and yes, he may have used the money for booze, but you know? I don’t care. We had enough money to have a wonderful dinner; five dollars was not going to matter one way or another.

“Clear moments are so short.
There is much more darkness. More
ocean than terra firma. More
shadow than form.” ~ Adam Zagajewski, “Moment,” trans. Renata Gorczynski

Sunday evening. Rainy and cold.

As I predicted, I was unable to finish this post. Corey left this afternoon. Everything was last-minute panic mode.

Giovanni Giacometti Albero aka Tree 1920 watercolor on paper
“Albero (Tree)” (1920, watercolor on paper)
by Giovanni Giacometti

Did he have his papers? His passport? Yes.

Everything? No, forgot to pack work boots.

Everything? No, forgot to pack a belt.

Got to the airport. Momentary panic. Where are my papers?

In my hand . . .

Poor boy. He was so nervous. I can’t say that I blame him. This is a very, very big step. He’s going to work for the #2 company in the entire industry. I’d say that’s a big deal. Add to that the stress of having absolutely no idea of when he will be home, whether or not they are sending him directly to a ship, or more training, or home. It’s a lot to process. We were both nervous.

“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” ~ Cheryl Strayed, from Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Piet Mondrian Village Church 1898
“Village Church” (1898, charcoal, gouache, pastel, pencil, and watercolor on paper)
Piet Mondrian

So I’m going to finish this and then watch some television until I feel sleepy. I’m not going to bet on when that will happen, though, as I always have a horrible time getting to sleep the first night after Corey leaves.

So many things are going on in so many different areas of our lives. I must admit that I’m feeling all over the place. I feel bad that I haven’t even checked in with Corey’s family since his dad had his operation. I’m just getting my news on everything secondhand.

Add to all of this that I think my mother must be mad at me because she hasn’t called me since the whole care thing was finally settled. Perhaps she sensed my displeasure at everything. I don’t hide my displeasure very well, which I know will probably surprise you tremendously . . .

Anyway, I’ve kind of run out of steam, so I’ll close for now. I hope you enjoy the tree images. I love them.

More later. Peace.

Music by Ben Howard, “Oats in the Water”

                   

Last Meeting

The day begins with a fog
that will not unroll. The weather
is falling everywhere, everywhere
we sit the grass bleeds to the touch.

What we have not yet said will not get said.
When you unzip your dress
a thousand insects run for cover,
the goldenrod breaks into a slow swoon.

Your touch is like the touch
of the wasp undulating in its nest,
your tongue the quick lash
of a mirror breaking on the wrist.

Everything else can wait, but will not.

~ Ira Sadoff

“That’s what the ocean is. Those waves are peaks. The stars are lights in houses and on streets. The earth reflects the sky and the sky meets the earth and, every now and then, if we’re lucky, we have a chance to see how small we are.” ~ Ally Condie, from Reached

Andre Derain - 1905 - The Seine at Chatou
“The Seine at Chatou” (1905, oil on canvas)
by André Derain

                   

“Once in a while it vanishes—in the sense that I become deaf to beauty for a week or two or three. This coming and going of the inner life—because this is what it is—is a curse and a blessing. I don’t need to explain why it’s a curse. A blessing because it brings about a movement, an energy which, when it peaks, creates a poem. Or a moment of happiness.” ~ Adam Zagajewski, from 2004 interview with Poets & Writers

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy and still relatively cool, 77 degrees.

Andre Derain Effect of Sun on the Water, London 190 oil on canvas
“Effect of Sunlight on Water, London” (1906, oil on canvas)
by André Derain

As I was standing in the middle of the backyard at 6 a.m., several things occurred to me at once:

  • I only went to bed two hours ago
  • It’s very, very bright out here
  • Something, or a lot of somethings are biting my ankles
  • I really like the fact that the captain on “Grimm” speaks French
  • My French is dated as I still use the formal vous as opposed to the familiar tu
  • My brain is working at warp speed
  • Does this mean that I should forego sleep most of the time so that I can be ultra alert at odd hours?

Perhaps this lull in which I have been mired is finally receding, or perhaps the puppy’s internal alarm clock is going to be the death of me.

“Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error. It is these mingled opposites which people our life, which make it pungent, intoxicating.” ~ Louis Aragon, from Paris Peasant

Yesterday, quite by accident, I came upon a singer/songwriter I absolutely love—Jimmy LaFave. Years ago, I heard the song “Never is a Moment” on a local radio station. I called the station to find out who the singer was, and the DJ identified LaFave. Of course, that was before YouTube and easy internet searches that allow you to plug in a few words from the lyrics, and presto! Song.

Andre Derain Big Ben 1906
“Big Ben” (1906, oil on canvas)
by André Derain

Anyway, I was never able to find a copy of the song . . . until yesterday, when I found it without looking for it. Serendipity. Anyway, as soon as the first few bars played, I was taken back to that day when I first heard it, and I have to say, it still moves me. And then after a little digging I came across another version of the song by Italian singer Zucchero Fornaciari, and I found that I love that version too. Good stuff.

So here’s to discoveries we weren’t looking for. Here’s to memories we had forgotten. Here’s to unpolished gems finding their way to the top of the pile. Here’s to my being way too excited over a song.

“All of us are trapped in our skins and drowning in gravity. Physics is unforgiving. Nature is predatory. We do not walk through a passive landscape.” ~ Richard Siken, in an interview with Legacy Russell

So here are some other random thoughts:

  • Last night I dreamed that I was again being bullied, this time by some women with whom my ex used to work at the medical school
Andre Derain Red Sails 1906
“Red Sails” (1906, oil on canvas)
by André Derain
  • In real life, they were a biting bunch of harpies, so why are they haunting my dreams
  • In real life, I was never the victim of bullying, a little name-calling,
  • I think I actually had these dreams this morning after I was finally able to go to sleep
  • That burst of energy to which I referred in section one? Gone, completely gone
  • I would kill for some Oreos
  • The crack in the bathroom floor tile has expanded. Not good, she remarked, apropos of nothing . . .
  • I always, always misspell apropos the first time that I type it

“That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it.” ~ Joan Didion, from Slouching Towards Bethlehem

I have eaten all of my Chimes Ginger Chews. Considering I had over a pound of them, that’s a lot of Chimes Ginger Chews. Hmm . . . can I make an entire post out of my love for Chimes Ginger Chews? Probably. It it something worth doing? Definitely not.

Other things . . .

  • I notice things like the expanding crack in the bathroom floor in the middle of the night

    Andre Derain - Waterloo Bridge, 1906
    “Waterloo Bridge” (1906, oil on canvas)
    by André Derain
  • In so doing, I engage my mind in things about which I need to worry, thereby making peaceful sleep improbable
  • Hence, I dream of bullies
  • Instead of Oreos, I just ate two of my red bean Mochis, at 80 calories each, I suppose that’s not too awfully caloric, definitely less than a sleeve of O-r-e-os.
  • I happened to look at my reflection as I was walking past the bathroom mirror, and I noticed that my hair is as long as it was in high school, but not by choice
  • I’ve been debating whether to suck it up and try to go back to my former hairdresser or to take a chance on someone new
  • I’ve been debating this for well over a year, which is why my hair is way too long and unmanageable
  • By the time I make a decision, my hair may have reached my bum

“She did not wish to remember; it troubled her when people tried to disturb her loneliness; she wished to be alone. She wished for nothing else in the world.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Voyage Out

So in the wee hours of the morning I took a hot shower in an attempt to calm my body and perhaps wash away whatever was making me itch. It worked for a while, but I just realized that I’m scratching again. I don’t know if this is a nervous tic, a response to medication, or merely fatigue, but it’s annoying. I mean, I’m a picker (not of the nose), but of scabs and wounds. I do not allow my body to heal completely before I start to worry a wound, which is why the bottom of my left foot has yet to heal.

Andre-Derain-Charing-Cross-Bridge 1906
“Charing Cross Bridge” (1906, oil on canvas)
by André Derain

After the doctor excised the corn core, he said that the surrounding hardened tissue should resolve itself, and perhaps it would have if I had left it alone, but I didn’t, and I mention this only because as I was walking back from the kitchen, I hit my foot on something, and now I am blinking back involuntary tears of pain.

In the 90’s when I agreed to be a test patient for a subcutaneous birth control system called Norplant, I would find myself playing with the tiny silicon capsules that lay beneath my skin. I don’t believe they still offer this form of birth control because so many women were affected adversely, but it was a slow-release medication, and the intent was that you wouldn’t have to think about birth control for the entire time Norplant was in your body.

I had all kinds of horrible side effects and had to have the system removed, but while it was there, it presented me with a unique toy: something that felt like toothpicks beneath my skin.

Why do I tell you this? I have no idea. I only know that my foot is throbbing, and my back is itching just beyond my reach, and I have finally reached the absolute nadir of my adrenaline.

More later. Peace.

To appease my heightened senses, I have chosen images by French Fauvist André Derain (1880-1954).

Music by Jimmy LaFave, “Never is a Moment”

and Zucchero Fornaciari, “Never is a Moment”

                   

R S Thomas The Untamed

“If I am not better, at least I am different.” ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau

                   

“The sound of winter is the hum of wind through bare trees and the creaking of those wise branches, so like these brittle mortal bones save in their innocence. On frigid mornings I hear my humanity coming in from the cold.” ~ Christopher Troise, from See Troise Write

Friday afternoon. Rainy and unseasonably warm, 57 degrees.

There is no snow here. No cold. No flakes falling and collecting, amassing into unknown structures, waiting to be unburied with the sun’s warmth. I know that I should be happy that we don’t have a lot of cold and snow here as neither are good for my bones or my back, but I long for snow, wet flakes on my face, the chance to photograph the vast whiteness, the trees cloaked in inches of froth, the dog carefully stepping so as not to sink.

Snow would be nice, would be lovely and white and banking. Instead, we have rain and mud puddles and lethargy, so I will write about nothing and nothingness and nothings.

Random thoughts:

  • Post-rock is an actual category in music, but I find the term to be grossly uninventive. Is not everything after the Stones, the Who, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin post-rock?
  • I have deliberately not learned how to make GIFs as I know that I would spend a disproportionate amount of time playing.
  • Who are these people who can watch a show and do screen captures while watching and post them immediately?
  • Am I being left behind technologically?
  • For someone who lives in the past so much, someone who loves ancient ways, I love technology.
  • I am using quotes in this post by two people I found on tumblr.
  • We have raccoons living in our attic, and Corey thinks they are cute, she said, apropos of nothing.

“Time takes life away
and gives us memory, gold with flame,
black with embers.” ~ Adam Zagajewski, from “Shell”

Odd memories out of nowhere:

  • Two scents I used to wear along with my power suits (neither of which exist in the original formulation any more): Lauren and Dioressence. Everyone else wore the first, so I switched to the second, and people either loved it or hated it.
  • Power suits with shoulder pads and pumps. What were we thinking?
  • I miss dressing for work, the whole thing—hair, makeup, jewelry, but I don’t miss pantyhose at all.
  • Does anyone still wear pantyhose?
  • I remember years ago when I worked at the newspaper there was a woman who wrote about fashion, and she always complained that the women in this area were so unimaginative because they only wore suntan-colored pantyhose. Funny the things you remember.
  • Another odd memory from the newsroom days: There was this reporter who had a terrible crush, bordering on stalkworthy on a male reporter who I happened to be dating casually. She would come into the newsroom and stand and stare at his empty chair. Sometimes she would stare at me. Very, very creepy.
  • During that same period in my life I kept a journal called “Dear God.” In a word, embarrassing.

“I go through phases. Somedays I feel like the person I’m supposed to be, and then somedays, I turn into no one at all. There is both me and my silhouette. I hope that on the days you find me and all I am are darkened lines, you still are willing to be near me.” ~ Mary Kate Teske

List of minutiae:

  • I wonder if I still believe in angels.
  • If I wonder, that is probably indicative of a negative, isn’t it?
  • Whenever I dream of my friend Mari, I awaken with a hard spot in my chest, as if the dream has carved a scoop of flesh from me and left a hollow impression.
  • I always feel strangely accomplished once I have calendars throughout the house, but I have to wonder about this obsession with time. Does recording it slow it?
  • I discovered Adam Zagajewski quite by accident when I unearthed a book of his poems in the ratty old bookstore that used to occupy the corner of the local shopping center. The store is long gone, which is sad as they had the most amazing undiscovered poetry section living on the bottom two shelves in the far left corner. I think that’s where I found my first Rilke book.
  • Oh how I long for the day when all of my books of poetry can reside on shelves again and not in storage tubs.
  • I am still thinking about the concept of holding sadness in my spine.

“I love the dark hours of my being
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Ich liebe meines Wesens Dunkelstunden” from Book of Hours (trans. Anita Barrow and Joanna Macy)

Did you know?

  • Brett has synaesthesia. He once told me that a cologne that I like smelled too green.
  • Apparently, synaesthesia is fairly common in newborns, which makes sense when you think about it. Newborns have so many capabilities, but they cannot tell us, so they get no positive reinforcement, which helps to explain why these capabilities might fade.
  • I remember an episode of “Criminal Minds” (of course, I do) in which the killer saw people’s names in color, and if the name was red, the killer knew that the person was bad.
  • Having a killer with synaesthesia would be a pretty cool plot device, don’t you think?
  • My preoccupation with killers has nothing to do with my childhood, which was the epitome of normal, except for the travel.
  • I really wish that I had come of age in a time in which it was quite possible, normal even, for women to become criminal profilers.
  • Did I ever mention that I once applied to the FBI? It was for a marketing position, and I really didn’t want it. Who wants to say that they do marketing for the FBI. Not at all cool.

“People often ask me questions that I cannot very well answer in words, and it makes me sad to think they are unable to hear the voice of my silence.” ~ Inayat Khan

And then there is this:

  • I’ve been so poor that I combed the house for change to buy gas for the car.
  • I once claimed that I was sick at work so that I could leave and go for a drive. I got in the car and drove for two hours.
  • While I was an undergraduate, I routinely ate Nacho Cheese Doritos and hot pepper rings for dinner.
  • When I was sixteen, I picked out the names of the six children that I was going to have with the boy who was the love of my life. Nothing about that was correct—the boy, the names, or the number of children.
  • When my contemporaries were listening to Jethro Tull and Deep Purple, I was listening to Broadway soundtracks and singing to myself in my bedroom.
  • I think that people find it easy to lie to me.
  • I do not miss the 80’s like some people do.
  • I fear that I’ve already had the life-defining moment, and I didn’t realize it.

More later. Peace.
*All snow GIFs taken from a tumblr post; sorry, don’t have better source than that.

Music by The Smiths, “Asleep”

                   

Strange Little Prophets

When is the smell of a blackberry tree
a harbinger of  violent movement
rather than simply the recollection of
a childhood Sunday dress hem-dipped
in mud, handprinted with juice and seeds?
Hard to say. A mind, when playing tricks
is at its most sincere — at home raking
through the body’s history, repeating
the strange and nostalgic. The taste of
dirty copper, the imagined cockroach
in the corner, the sluggish slow of  the clock
— doctors call these strange little prophets
warning signs of a seizure, synaptic misfires
looming like a song discordant, until the body
— an unplucked string — is finally strummed.

~ Barbara Perez

“Men must live and create. Live to the point of tears.” ~ Albert Camus

Hadrian’s Wall (from northumbria-byways.com)

                   

“I have walked much to the sea, not knowing what I seek.” ~ Loren Eiseley, “The Inner Galaxy,” from The Unexpected Universe

Friday early evening. Partly cloudy and mild, low 60’s.

Hadrian's Wall, Northumbria, by Diego's sideburns (FCC)

Still not feeling great. I suppose that I’ll have to go back to the doctor next week. I keep putting it off in the hopes that this blasted cough will finally subside, but instead, it seems to be getting worse again. So tired of coughing and coughing.

It looks as if Corey is on track to leave sometime soon after the New Year. I have very mixed feelings about all of this, as I’ve said, but in the past few days, the reality has really begun to settle into the forefront of my consciousness, and I’m not liking the reality. There’s nothing to be done, of course. This is the way that it has to be, at least for the next three months.

He’s both excited and apprehensive—I’m not sure which feeling is dominant, probably a vacillation between the two.

His current boss gave him a stellar recommendation, saying that he was the hardest worker that he had and that he wished that he had a whole crew of Coreys. High praise indeed.

Anyway, he’s gotten out his big suitcase, and has begun the search for his flannel lined work pants and such. So there’s no more denying that it’s happening, no matter how much I try to move it to the background.

“You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.” ~ Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Last night I had a very strange dream in which I was going to some kind of holiday party with my friend Jammi, who lives in Texas. I had this really beautiful outfit and access to antique jewelry and accessories, but the outfit was quite tiresome to put on as it had closures in odd places and a long scarf, and each time I went out of the room, Jammi would change into another dress. It was most strange. And then the person who was lending me the jewelry said, “Don’t forget the choice of weapons.” Someone opened a cabinet, and there were things like small daggers and such, and they gave me a ring that had an antidote in case someone drugged my drink.

Hadrian's Wall by Stuandsam (FCC)

How very strange.

In the middle of all of this, my mother reminded me that I owed her $86 (where did this number come from?), and she wanted payment before I left the house. To pay her I gave her a necklace that still bore the original price tag ($80), and a pair of earrings. She seemed satisfied. The necklace was turquoise and very unattractive . . .

There was a lot more to the dream, but those are the weirdest parts. There was another dream that involved some of our German relatives, a glass of half-finished milk, and mixed nuts. Make of that what you will.

“God, give us a long winter
and quiet music, and patient mouths,
and a little pride—before
our age ends.
Give us astonishment
and a flame, high, bright.” ~ Adam Zagajewski, from “A Flame”

I have a feeling that I’ve used this particular Zagajewski quote before, but that’s okay. It’s beautiful enough to be worth repeating.

I’m not entirely certain what it is about winter that I love. I mean, perhaps it’s the idea of winter that appeals to me. I love snow, the emptiness of a snowy path that has yet to bear footprints, human or otherwise. I love the starkness of the trees. But since I have never lived in a really cold region, one that is frigid and icy and has unmelted snow for extended periods, I’m not certain that I would like it so much if it were my reality.

Hadrian's Wall (bbc.co.uk gallery)

Does that make sense?

I mean, I love azure seas, so clear that what lies beneath is visible. I love white sand. But I don’t think that I’d like to live in very hot weather all year long. The heat would probably be much better for my bone pain, but I really don’t like to be hot. I like heat if I’m in the water. Then I can bear it. But I can remember being in heat that was so unbearable that it was hard to breathe. Perhaps it’s a memory from when I was in the Philippines. I don’t know.

Corey has no desire to live in a very cold climate, and I understand that because he spent a big chunk of time on a Coast Guard ice breaker in the Great Lakes—definitely cold, but I think that I do want to live in such a climate, that I do harbor this desire, and I will probably not be able to rid myself of this longing until I have experienced it. Just as I say that I would love to live in Ireland, but people tell me that it’s rainy more often than not . . . again, I don’t know. I only know what my dreams and desires are made of, what seems to me to be the perfect environs.

I know that when I was in my 20’s, and a friend of mine moved across country to live in Washington state, I was appalled. I mean, who would leave living by the ocean to live in a place that is misty and rainy? But now? Now the idea of living in Oregon or Washington state does not seem in the least farfetched.

“I carry from my mother’s womb
A fanatic heart.” ~ William Butler Yeats, from “Remorse For Intemperate Speech

Last night/this morning around 4 a.m. I caught the end of Tom and Viv on one of the movie channels. It’s a movie about T. S. Eliot and his long-suffering wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot. The marriage was not a happy one, and for the last decade of her life, Viv was committed to Northumberland House mental hospital. The movie stars Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson, and I’ve wanted to see it forever, but never think about it, so of course, it’s not scheduled to repeat anytime soon.

Hadrian's Wall at Sycamore Gap (featured in 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) by stevemonty (FCC)

The problem with finding out too much about the personal lives of writers that I love is that it’s hard to think of them in the same way after learning too much. I mean, Eliot was really horrible to Viv, but I love Eliot’s poems, as witnessed by my frequent use of quotes from his work, and I believe that he’s probably one of the first true poetic influences on my writing style, or rather, poetic style. Eliot uses a lot of internal rhyme with his vowel sounds, and is partial to alliteration, as am I.

And then of course, there’s my love affair with Yeats. After seeing a picture of him years ago, it only cemented my love for his work.

Don’t call me shallow. I loved his words before his face. In fact, Yeats penned my all-time favorite lines from a poem (from “When You Are Old”):

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

When I first read those lines in college, I longed to find someone who would love the pilgrim soul in me and the sorrows of my changing face . . . Years later, I did.

“What is the water in a lake? A blank page. The ripples are its wrinkles. And every one is a wound.” ~ Edmond Jabès, The Book of Questions II, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop

Anyway, not really sure what took me off on that poetic tangent, probably indicative of the way that my mind if flitting from subject to subject without  any long pauses for any one thing in particular to take hold.

Hadrian's Wall: Housestead Fort Looking East (smithsonian.com)

Today’s post features images of Hadrian’s Wall. As a passing fancy, I thought that I would see how many different perspectives I could find of this ancient edifice.

For those of you who may not know, Hadrian’s Wall was built between 122 and 128 AD and remains one of the finest example of ancient Roman architecture in Britain. Built of stone and sod by Roman troops under the orders of Emperor Hadrian, the wall was approximately 15-feet high and 8 to 10-feet wide, and it extends approximately 73 miles (80 Roman miles) across open country. Forts were built at seven-mile intervals, and milecastles, or guard posts, were built at one-mile intervals. Two turrets were placed between pair of milecastles. A ditch fronted the wall, and in the three locations in which the wall crossed rivers, bridges were built.

Hadrian’s Wall was built to help keep the Picts of the north (Scotland) out. It stretches from the North Sea to the Irish Sea (from the Tyne to the Solway). The wall remained the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire until the Romans abandoned Britain in the early 5th century (around 410 AD).

Hadrian's Wall from illuminatinghadrianswall.com

The Wall is now a World Heritage Site. You may have seen it featured in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (above), and a representation of the wall with garrisons in King Arthur, starring Clive Owen.

For your edification. As I said, I’m all over the place today.

More later. Peace.

Music by Sia, “I’m In Here”

                   

Fork with Two Tines Pushed Together

It’s fast and cool as running water, the way we forget

the names of friends with whom we talked and talked

the long drives up and down the coast.

I say I love and I love and I love. However, the window

will not close. However, the hawk searches

for its nest after a storm. However, the discarded

nail longs to hide its nakedness inside the tire.

Somewhere in Cleveland or Tempe, a pillow

still smells like M_____’s hair.

In a bus station, a child is staring

at L____’s rabbit tattoo. I’ve bartered everything

to keep from doing my soul’s paperwork.

Here is a partial list of artifacts:

mirror, belt, half-finished 1040 form (married, filing jointly), mateless walkie-talkie, two blonde eyelashes, set of acrylic paints with all the red and yellow used up, buck knife, dog collar, camping tent (sleeps two), slivers of cut-up credit cards, ashtray in the shape of a naked woman, pen with teeth marks, bottom half of two-piece bathing suit, pill bottles containing unfinished courses of antibiotics, bank statements with the account number blacked out, maps of London, maps of Dubuque, sweatshirts with the mascots of colleges I didn’t attend, flash cards for Spanish verbs (querer, perder, olvidar), Canadian pocket change, fork with two tines pushed together.

Forgetfulness means to be full

of forgetting, like a glass

overflowing with cool water, though I’d always

thought of it as the empty pocket

where the hand finds

nothing: no keys, no ticket, no change.

One night, riding the train home from the city,

will I see a familiar face across from me? How many times

will I ask Is it you? before I realize

it’s my own reflection in the window?

~ Nick Lantz

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” ~ Charles Dickens

                    

“They are trying to make me into a fixed star. I am an irregular planet.” ~ Martin Luther, c. 1530

Early Saturday evening. Sun and clouds. Scattered showers.

National Poetry Month (2002)

I haven’t done a regular post for days. The usual factors at work: health, bills, anxiety . . .

Corey finished his first week at his new job. He really seems to like being back on a boat, doing the things that he likes to do. At least it’s not the constant monotony of maritime security, with long stretches in between of nothing upon nothing.

Monday I go back to my gastro doctor to follow-up on three of the tests that they have done so far. They’ve scheduled another one for later in the month. Lovely. Can I just tell you how much I like discussing the inner workings of my intestines?  I have to admit, though, that always lurking in the back of my mind is my dad’s pancreatic cancer, how all of that started with a bunch of stomach-related problems, how they did test after test.

To put my mind at ease, I’ve decided that I’m going to remind my doctor about what happened with dad (same doctor), just to bring it to the forefront of his memory when we are discussing possibilities. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think that I have pancreatic cancer. That’s not it. I just remember all of the tests that he had to endure, driving him back and forth, and watching him suffer and lose more and more weight.

I don’t have that problem, as my mother reminded me the other day when she pulled into the driveway and blew the horn (always such a pleasant way of announcing her arrival). I went out to her car, and she put her window down to talk at me (yes, I mean at); then, she ever-so-pleasantly put her hand out the window and patted my stomach and said, “Why are you so bloated?”

Just thought I’d remind you guys as to why I have such horrible self-image problems.

“Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.” ~ Victor Hugo 

National Poetry Month (2009)

But, just to remind me of why it’s better that my mother honk from the driveway . . . she came inside the other day to bring me a bunny rabbit head decoration for Easter (?). She walked in, looked around, and then, looking me dead in the eye, said, “I don’t think that I’ve ever seen your house look so bad.”

Thanks, mum. You’re the best. Actually, I had been thinking that it’s really been looking fairly good lately. We’re keeping it picked up. Vacuum, polish the furniture, mop the floors, clean the glass on a pretty regular basis. I clean the bathroom at least three times a week. But to her, it looks bad. Why?

Because in the corner of the living room we still have the very large wardrobe that Corey and I purchased over five years ago to put into the bedroom once we move things around. Yes, it is a big piece of furniture, but it doesn’t look bad in the corner, and in spite of her protests, she has seen this particular piece of furniture several times. Yet she insists that she has never seen it, wants to know where it came from, when we got it. I bite my tongue to remind myself that discretion is the better part of valor.

The fight simply isn’t worth it, and she probably won’t step foot into my house for another three years. At least, one can hope.

“There is goodness in blue skies and flowers, but another force—a wild pain and decay—also accompanies everything.” ~ David Lynch

National Poetry Month (2006)

April is Poetry Awareness Month, which makes me aware that I am not nearly as up on my contemporary poets as I used to be. The Academy of American Poets first designated April as such in 1996 in an attempt to increase the awareness and appreciation of poetry in the U.S. Of course, we’re talking about the same country that is cutting arts funding like it’s a budget for unnecessary Snickers bar, has stopped funding the Reading is Fundamental program, and wants to get rid of NPR.

Culture? Beh. Who needs it? (I like the 2009 poster with the T. S. Eliot quote the best)

There was a time when I knew who the up and comers were, when new books were going to hit the stands. Now, I mostly rely on the people I follow on tumblr to find new poets.

Sad, really.

I have learned of several Polish poets of whom I had known nothing previously. I like the idea of Polish poets, mostly because the whole (American) concept of world literature used to be such an oxymoron: World literature might include a few famous South Americans, lots of British and French writers and poets, perhaps a Russian or two. Now, the writings of  people from every little corner of the world are available just from a Google search.

I would love to be sitting in a world literature class now, absorbing the words of people I have never read. I mean, even the old style European literature classes were so narrowly defined. Not so, any more. European actually means European, not just three countries in Europe.

But back to the Polish poets. Take this section from “Going On,” by Bronislaw Maj:

Unattainably beautiful 
for those who like me—slovenly, 
chaotic, from day to day—go on 
dying.

Or “The Moment of Reconciliation,” by Anna Kamienska

Take in your hand the gray wafter of day
for the moment of reconciliation has arrived
Let there be reconciled
apple with knife
tree with fire
day with night
laughter with sobbing
nothingness with body
Let there be reconciled
loneliness with loneliness

Of course, these are in translation, so they probably are not as powerful as in the original Polish, but they are still so full of the kind of angst that I appreciate. I love the pairing of slovenly and chaotic, the poem that can include an apple and sobbing and still be moving.

“It must be those brief moments
when nothing has happened—nor is going to.
Tiny moments, like islands in the ocean
beyond the grey continent of our ordinary days.

There, sometimes, you meet your own heart
like someone you’ve never known.” ~ Hans Borli  

National Poetry Month (2007)

Anyway, so that’s the current state of my life. Exciting, huh? Well, there is the appointment with the neurologist this Thursday—finally. The person who called me from the doctor’s office said, “Be sure to call us at least 24 hours in advance if you need to cancel this appointment, or we’ll have to charge you $100.”

I told her that there was nothing that could make me cancel this appointment. A couple of days ago I had a migraine that was on the right side of my face, including my teeth. It was the weirdest sensation. A migraine in your teeth? Whoever heard of such a thing?

Corey is working today; he picked up a 14-hour shift doing security. I asked him why in the world he would want to take a security shift on his first weekend after working on a boat? His reply was that we’ve been without regular decent paychecks for so long that he wants to do everything to get ahead.

That’s great, but I don’t want the poor man to work himself to death. He’s already too thin. But truth be told, I think that he remembered that today is opening day at the park and took the shift so that he wouldn’t have to hear the loudspeaker at 8 o’clock this morning.

There is a reason that I am not armed with any kind of weaponry. Not because I am violent or want to hurt anyone, but this morning I would have felt completely justified in shooting the loudspeaker. I hate opening day. People parking everywhere, litter strewn about as if people were raised in a barn, car alarms blaring, and idiots honking their horns at 8 a.m. At least a police car was stationed in front of our house for a time this morning to keep people from parking in the no-parking zone in front of our house, you know, where the fire hydrant is?

Apparently that bright yellow fire hydrant is easy to overlook when you don’t want to carry the cooler a few extra yards to the stands. I know. I know. I’m a bitch. You would be too if you had to endure this for months every year. I mean, when I try to be nice and tell people that it’s a no-parking zone, they just glare at me as if I’m that old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to stay off his yard. When that happens enough times a person can become jaded. Just saying.

More later. Peace.

Music by Crowded House, “Falling Dove”

                    

Couldn’t decide between two poems, so posting both (found on Poetry of the Poles tumblr):

List

I’ve made a list of questions 
to which I no longer expect answers,
since it’s either too early for them, 
or I won’t have time to understand.

The list of questions is long, 
and takes up matters great and small, 
but I don’t want to bore you, 
and will just divulge a few:

What was real
and what scarcely seemed to be 
in this auditorium, 
stellar and substellar, 
requiring tickets both to get in 
and get out;

What about the whole living world, 
which I won’t succeed
in comparing with a different living world; 

What will the papers
write about tomorrow;

When will wars cease, 
and what will take their place;

Whose third finger now wears 
the ring
stolen from me — lost;

Where’s the place of free will, 
which manages to be and not to be 
simultaneously;

What about those dozens of people —
did we really know each other; 

What was M. trying to tell me 
when she could no longer speak;

Why did I take bad things 
for good ones 
and what would it take 
to keep from doing it again?

There are certain questions
I jotted down just before sleep.

On waking
I couldn’t make them out.

Sometimes I suspect 
that this is a genuine code, 
but that question, too, 
will abandon me one day.

~ Wislawa Szymborska (Translated by Clare Cavanagh)

                    

The City Where I Want to Live

The city is quiet at dusk, 
when pale stars waken from their swoon, 
and resounds at noon with the voices 
of ambitious philosophers and merchants 
bearing velvet from the East. 
The flames of conversation burn there, 
but not pyres. 
Old churches, the mossy stones 
of ancient prayer, are both its ballast 
and its rocket ship. 
It is a just city 
where foreigners aren’t punished, 
a city quick to remember 
and slow to forget, 
tolerating poets, forgiving prophets 
for their hopeless lack of humor. 
The city was based 
on Chopin’s preludes, 
taking from them only joy and sorrow. 
Small hills circle it 
in a wide collar; ash trees 
grow there, and the slim poplar, 
chief justice in the state of trees. 
The swift river flowing through the city’s heart 
murmurs cryptic greetings 
day and night 
from the springs, the mountains, and the sky. 

~ Adam Zagajewski (Translated by Clare Cavanagh)