“It was as if some space had opened up, a little rift, between words and whatever they were supposed to be doing. I stumbled in that space, I fell.” ~ Steven Millhauser, Dangerous Laughter

Shakes Sailing Across the Water

                   

“The heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking
it is necessary to go through
dark and deeper dark
and not to turn” ~ Stanley Kunitz, “The Testing Tree”

Friday afternoon. Cloudy and humid, 80’s.

This post is very depressing. You may want to just skip it.

My dog Shakes is dying. He’s the fat, gay mama’s boy, the bigger Jack Russell, and he’s 12. He has congestive heart failure. That wheezy cough that I thought was allergies, wasn’t.

Christmas 2010: Shakes after the Packages

In the past 24 hours, he has collapsed twice, once, his heart seemed to stop. As I’m typing this, he’s at his usual spot, on the floor next to my chair. He’s been on medication for two days, but frankly, he seems worse.

I know that this happens. I know that if you have pets, the chances that they are going to die before you do are great. I know that loss is part of the process in deliberately choosing to open your heart to something. I know all of these things. Ask me if it makes a damned bit of difference.

In my lifetime, I have lost three dogs of my own, not including the deaths of those dogs who lived with my parents. Ascot was a rescue from the pound in Christiansburg, the first few months after I married my ex. She had hip dysplasia, but we adopted her anyway, knowing that she wouldn’t have a long life, but she would have a good one. Then I lost my first lab, Mokie, to old age and illness. And my second lab, Murphy, died of heart failure, and it happened on the one weekend that Corey and I decided to go to the Outer Banks with friends, so she died without me.

I won’t let that happen to Shakes.

“Until we have seen someone’s darkness, we don’t really know who they are. Until we have forgiven someone’s darkness, we don’t really know what love is.” ~ Marianne Williamson

The two boy Jack Russells came to us from my mother, who bought them from the woman who used to live behind her. I had always wanted a Jack Russell, that is, until I found out that they are truly terror terriers. Never mind. She brought them over and announced that they were birthday presents for the boys.

Shakes Sleeping like a Human

So we welcomed William Shakespeare (Shakes), and Alfred, Lord Tennyson (Alfie) into the fold. Murphy was still alive at the time, and the boy puppies put a new spring into her step. We soon found that the boys were escape artists, managing to find any hole in the fence, regardless of size. The neighbors became aware of the two white dogs who lived on the corner, and sometimes returned them before we even knew that they had escaped.

Shakes has always been my dog, following me from room to room, sleeping by my side. Alfie, not so much. In fact, Alfie is probably a wee bit psychotic, going into prolonged growls for no apparent reason. Canine rage, it’s called. The vet prescribed meds, but said that Benadryl was just as effective. So Alfie gets his dose of Benadryl in a blob of peanut butter. Everyone is happier.

So my canine boys are old now, and I’m facing yet another loss. And as we all know, I don’t do loss well, and, well, this is coming at a time in which my defenses are already weakened, and my spirits are mighty low.

“We scribble our little sentences.
Some of them sound okay and some of them sound not so okay.
A grain and an inch, a grain and an inch and a half.

Sad word wands, desperate alphabet.” ~ Charles Wright, from “When You’re Lost in Juarez, in the Rain, and It’s Eastertime Too”

Let’s add a really fine topper to this whole situation, shall we? Corey is leaving tonight. It’s been great that he’s been home, but the time spent running around trying to take care of things has made it so that we’ve hardly had any time with each other, and now he’s gone for at least another five weeks or so.

Shakes and Tillie Vying for the Ladder

And so, and this is very selfish, I know, Shakes in all probability will die while Corey is away.

I dealt with Tillie’s massive seizures without him, and lots of extraneous bullshit without him, and no, this isn’t his fault, and I’m not even close to suggesting that. It’s time and circumstance, both of which seem to be in collusion to bring about that perfect storm (a phrase which used to have real meaning before the media seized upon it and used it ad infinitum), the circumstances in which I will surely approach that point at which just one more thing, even pebble-sized, when added to the precarious perch upon which I find myself, will send me crashing.

Did you follow that?

“Thus I spoke, more and more softly; for I was afraid of my own thoughts and the thoughts behind my thoughts.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”

I know that I’ve mentioned the circumstances of my parents’ marriage more than once. Short version, my father spent most of their marriage (we’re talking decades and decades) at sea. They essentially lived separate lives until he retired, and when they were together, they fought and fought and fought.

Shakes Pulling Back the Curtains for a Peep Outside

It was never the kind of marriage to which I aspired. I mean, I’m not that kind of crazy. But now I find myself in the kind of marriage in which one of us is gone for weeks and weeks, out of touch by telephone, and yes, it’s great that there is e-mail, but it’s not the same. It’s just not the same.

Yes, he’s working. Yes, he’s making good money. Yes, we’re able to pay our bills. No, we’re not going to lose our house. No, our utilities are not going to be shut off. No, I’m not going to lose my health insurance.

The adult part of my brain, small that it is, understands all of this. But I have always been ruled by my heart, not my brain, and my heart aches. It simply cannot bear the weight of all of these things, piling on in quick succession. And, I have to say this because it’s true, I hate that, hate hate hate that about myself. Why can I not be better about all of this? Why can I not weigh the pros and cons rationally? Why can I not handle the stress with more aplomb and less angst?

I have no answers. Face it. If I had any answers, I wouldn’t be asking these stupid questions.

“All will go
And one day
We will hold
Only the shadows.” ~ Carl Sandburg, from “Losses”

Shakes Under Cover

So, full circle. Shakes is lying on the floor, head on front paws, breathing relatively well. The image seared into my retinas of his tongue hanging out of his mouth is still fresh, and it’s right there next to the horrid memory of Tillie’s face pulled back in pain and her eyes beseeching me. And all the while, I am of little more use than a lamp post.

We humans seek out animal kinship. We buy, find, rescue dogs, cats, birds, snakes, mice, lizards, even rats. We give these creatures names, and we bestow upon them human characteristics. We talk to them, play with them, feed them, and spoil them. That is, if we are decent humans deserving of animal companionship. I won’t even delve into those beastly humans who inflict great cruelty upon animals because, after all, they’re just fill-in-the-blank, and no, I have not nor will I ever forgive Michael Vick no matter how well he plays football.

I have spoiled Shakes. And in the past few days, I am deliberately spoiling him more, letting him go for car rides, giving him extra treats. I cannot control the fact that he is dying, but I can make his remaining time here as filled with love as is possible. I can say his name lovingly, rub behind his ears gently, and hold him when he has an attack.

And then I can go in the bathroom, turn on the water, and weep.

More later. Peace.

Music by Antony and the Johnsons, “Cut the World”

                   

The Wound

The shock comes slowly
as an afterthought.

First you hear the words
and they are like all other words,

ordinary, breathing out of lips,
moving toward you in a straight line.

Later they shatter
and rearrange themselves. They spell

something else hidden in the muscles
of the face, something the throat wanted to say.

Decoded, the message etches itself in acid
so every syllable becomes a sore.

The shock blooms into a carbuncle.
The body bends to accommodate it.

A special scarf has to be worn to conceal it.
It is now the size of a head.

The next time you look,
it has grown two eyes and a mouth.

It is difficult to know which to use.
Now you are seeing everything twice.

After a while it becomes an old friend.
It reminds you every day of how it came to be.

~ Ruth Stone

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“ . . . I am with fire between my teeth and still nothing but my blank page.” ~ Monique Wittig

André Kertész, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Desk at Bernard Lamotte’s Home, ca 1960

“I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday evening. Overcast, feels like rain.

Flannery O'Connor's Desk and Typewriter at Andalusia, GA

I have wanted to write a post for days now, but just haven’t had it in me. I feel completely enervated—weak and listless. It took everything I had to go to the concert on Wednesday, which really sucks. I hate feeling as if I have to steel myself to go somewhere or to do something.

The house is quiet. Corey is at work, and Brett has gone to see his friends Gordon and Tailor. Tillie is hanging out on the couch, looking out the window, and the two Jack Russells are probably on the bed being lazy. Good day for it. Today I’ve consumed Nilla wafers and Pepsi (caffeine free). Just one of those days.

Well, supposedly the world is going to end tomorrow . . . again. The guy who is predicting this also predicted the end of the world sometime in the 90’s, but says that he got his math wrong. Yep. I’m surely going to trust my future to someone who cannot do math properly. Excuse me for being flippant, but if the world is going to end, does that mean that I don’t have to worry about bills any more?

End of the world, you can stockpile books, or you can stockpile canned green beans. I know what I’m hoarding. I can’t eat the books, but I’ll never be bored. Besides, canned vegetables have no nutritional value and taste like tin.

“No one forces you to write. The writer enters the labyrinth voluntarily . . . ” ~ Roberto Bolaño

André Kertész The Way a Poem of Ady’s began on a Café Table in Paris, 1928

So many things to not write about. So many words tumbling around inside me, none floating to the surface. As a child eating alphabet soup, I used to make letters sink by pushing them down with my spoon. That’s how I would rid myself of the excess letters that did not fit the pattern I was trying to make. If only life were still so easily manipulated. Perhaps if I keep writing, something will float to the surface.

Then there were the boxes of animal crackers. Why were they called crackers when they were in fact cookies? Did you ever wonder how they decided which animals to use? Camels? Now there’s an animal you see everyday. Monkeys? If you took the empty box once you had finished biting the heads off the animals, supposedly you could make a circus cage (back in the days when they acknowledged using cages). I never made the cage as I had enough of a moral dilemma in eating the animals. Truly.

I was a complicated child.

Writing, always writing, even before I knew words, I wrote. I would take scraps of paper and write notes to our neighbors in the large apartment building in London. Then I would slip the pieces of paper beneath their doors and wait for them to reply. They never did. Some of the neighbors thought that someone in the building was a bit mental until my mother explained that I was the source of the mysterious notes.

My first poem in first grade. So proud of it. I read it out loud for one of my mother’s friends, who suggested that I jazz it up by adding some more words. I was highly affronted and told her so. Even then I could not abide criticism.

Words. So many words. So much paper. So much that I felt that I needed a satchel to carry them all in. I lost a tooth and convinced my father that instead of a shilling, he should give me 10 shillings so that I could buy the leather book satchel in Mr. Higgins’ store that I had been coveting for months but which my mother would not agree to buy for me. He did, and I ran to the store and bought it. I filled the tan leather briefcase with paper, pencils, and Barbie dolls. I carried the satchel to Flora Gardens school even though the school supplied all of our necessities.

It was the start of my history as a bag lady. In love with words and bags to hold the pens, pencils, and notebooks.

“The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.” ~ Jules Renard

Virginia Woolf's Writing Desk

I think that satchel is still somewhere in my mother’s attic. Wouldn’t that be grand? Wouldn’t it be grand if I opened it and found something that I had written a lifetime ago? Conversely, wouldn’t it be sad if I opened it and found nothing? Perhaps I shan’t look for it after all.

Carl Sandburg once wrote that the past “is a bucket of ashes.” If I remember correctly, that’s one of the first quotes that I collected. The rest of the quote is something about living for the present, ya da ya da ya da, nothing nearly as eloquent as the bucket of ashes. But consider, if we truly relegated our pasts to the ash pile, if we burned the memories, charred the moments, what would we have to build upon?

Everyone needs a foundation upon which to build. That’s what the past is. That’s what my little leather satchel is: all of the words that my young mind possessed at that time and how I committed them to paper in my early attempts to make things last.

This is not to say that I have not thrown moments of my past upon the pyre, that I have wished them to be gone forever, that I have poured enough kerosene to ignite the pages, only to find that my mouth tasted of ashes, but the past was still there, could not be unwritten no matter how hard I tried.

Fire destroys. Fire cleanses. I think that I fear death by fire more than any other kind.

“Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy.” ~ Marshall McLuhan

Do not look for coherence in this post. There is none.

Jane Austen's Writing Table

T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” (1922) is heavy upon my mind tonight. Yes, I do think like this sometimes, like the Penelope chapter in James Joyce’s Ulysses—Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, words tumbling out without internal punctuation, stream-of-consciousness, free association and complete nonsense.

Yes, I remember my Eliot, but not by heart, except for the Shakespeherian Rag that Susan (long gone from my life) and I used to recite on our way to Blacksburg. Four hundred thirty-four lines of poetry, prose, prophecy, reflection, repudiation, the parsing of life itself. Just a few, here:

  • “I will show you fear in a handful of dust” (30) — If only fear could be reduced to dust and blown into the wind. I carry my fear with me.
  • “I knew nothing/Looking into the heart of light, the silence” (40-41) — We seek out light, thinking that it will bring truth, but in reality, light is silent, just as dark is silent. The layers in between light and dark harbor the truth.
  • “Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,/Unguent, powered, or liquid” (87-88) — The sense of smell is deeply connected to memory. I inhale essence of spring lilacs and am transported to the side of a mountain, to the cup of fresh lilacs my first husband brought me to atone for his deception. It was a salve, an unguent for my soul.
  • “My nerves are bad to-night. Yes bad. Stay with me./Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.” (111-112) — My nerves are bad tonight, every night, all of the time, some of the time, sometimes. I get so tired of speaking of it.
  • “‘Do/You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember/’Nothing?'” (121-123) — My mother-in-law remembers nothing most of the time, some things, some of the time. I ask Alexis if she sees anything. . .
  • “O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—/It’s so elegant/So intelligent” (128-130) — Can be sung to many different tunes.
  • “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME” “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME” “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME”(141, 152, 165, etc.) — Said in pubs and bars worldwide, but do they ever specify just exactly what it is time for? Time to go? Time to pack up your troubles and smile, smile, smile as we march off to war? Time to make time? Time for change? No more time?
  • “By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept . . .” (182) — From “The Fire Sermon,” not Psalm 137, weeping will not be enough to quench the fires of my soul.
  • “Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.” (432) — Three Da’s: give, be compassionate, be self-controlled. No explanation needed.

Enough already.

Shantih. Shantih. Shantih. (Children of Men, bearded Jasper (Michael Caine) and his strawberry cough.)

More later. Peace.

Music by Damien Rice, “9 Crimes”

                   

From “Miner’s Pond

1

A caver under stalactites,
the moon searches the stars.

In the low field, pools turn to stone.
Starlight scratches the pond,
penetrates in white threads;
in a quick breath, it fogs into ice.
A lava of fish murmurs the tightening film.

The crow is darkness’s calculation;
all absence in that black moment’s ragged span.

.

Above Miner’s Pond, geese break out of the sky’s
pale shell. They speak non-stop, amazed
they’ve returned from the stars,
hundreds of miles to describe.

It’s not that they’re wild, but
their will is the same as desire.
The sky peels back under their blade.

Like a train trestle, something in us rattles.
All November, under their passing.

.

Necks stiff as compass needles,
skeletons filled with air;
osmosis of emptiness, the space in them
equals space.

Their flight is a stria, a certainty;
sexual, one prolonged
reflex.

Cold lacquering speed, feathers oiled by wind,
surface of complete transfluency.
The sky rides with tremors in the night’s milky grain.

.

Windows freeze over like shallow ponds,
hexagonally blooming.
The last syrup of light boils out from under the lid
of clouds; sky the colour of tarnish.
Like paperweights, cows hold down the horizon.

Even in a place you know intimately,
each night’s darkness is different.

They aren’t calling down to us.
We’re nothing to them, unfortunates
in our heaviness.
We watch at the edge of words.

At Miner’s Pond we use the past
to pull ourselves forward; rowing.

~ Anne Michaels

And the Sun Shines Again

fog-at-the-beach-by-marge-levine-pastel

I love this pastel by Marge Levine entitled “Fog on the Beach”

“The art of art, the glory of expression, and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.” ~ Walt Whitman

“The fog comes in on little cat feet . . .” ~ Carl Sandburg

Finally, after eight long, muddy days, the sun came out today. At first, the area was covered with a very thick blanket of dense fog, but by noon, it had burned off, and the sun came out, and the temperatures rose. May I just add a hallelujah here?

Tillie the lab was so happy that it stopped raining that she convinced Brett to take her to the park for a walk and some running action. They’ve both missed their park time. As have I. When Tillie doesn’t get a workout during the day, she wants to play all night, which includes trying to help me type when I’m on the computer. You may not know this, but Labradors like to type with their noses, which are quite big.

I had to have my blood work done this morning before my checkup next week. I’m hoping that all of my levels are much better this time, especially the triglycerides, which were through the roof three months ago. My doctor is in Hampton, which means that I have to drive through the Hampton Roads Tunnel to get there. It was a very cool trip on the way to the doctor as the fog had not burned off yet, and the Bay was covered in this white layer.

fog-over-westminster-bridge-and-parliament
London Fog Over Westminster Bridge With Parliament in the Background

I love to see fog on the water. It is a very ethereal sight. At the same time, I hate to see fog on the water when I know that Corey is on a boat because fog is so dangerous for people who work on the water.

I remember when I was small and we lived in London, there used to be fog so thick that it was virtually impenetrable. Pea soup fog it was called. My mother and I were out once when a very heavy fog descended on the city. As a child, I thought that it was a great adventure, but my mother still talks about how frightening the whole experience was—not being able to see anyone until they were right upon you.

I suppose that even at a young age I had a flair for the dramatic, which is why I loved the fog so much. I conjured up the possibilities of all kinds of strange things happening in the fog: people snatching children, wild dogs, and who knows what else. Need I mention that I had a very vivid imagination, which probably did not help my mother’s state of mind at the time.

I do have to admit, though, that I have never quite understood Sandburg’s quote about fog being like little “cat feet.” What is that about? Fog descends. It cloaks. It obfuscates. Cats pounce or slink or retire to another room when an obnoxious person is around. Besides, I have known very few cats who love water, and fog loves water. Okay, so I’ll stop on Sandburg now.

On the Lighter Side . . . Perhaps . . .

42-19062324
You want me to take what?

As I mentioned earlier, ever since I started taking my new migraine medicine I have been having the wildest, most vivid dreams. So today I thought that I would go on the web to see what some of the common side effects are for this particular medicine. I’m not talking about the list of “possible side effects” printed by the pharmaceutical company and included with the medicine. I’m talking about a blog on which people who are taking this medicine report their side effects. Not to my surprise, the list is long and a bit distressing:

  • Vivid dreams; nightmares (so this is not an offshoot of my vivid imagination?)
  • Night sweats (really don’t find this one even remotely attractive but am told that this will happen to me sooner or later . . . great)
  • Short-term memory loss (already have that one from the last medicine)
  • Memory lapses, as in drifting off while people are speaking to you (I thought that was natural for me)
  • Loss of hair (another reason I stopped taking the last medicine)
  • Weight gain (audible gasp and horrors)
  • Weight loss (much better)
  • Excessive clumsiness (now this is too much; I already trip on air when walking through the house)
  • Diminished libido (not in favor of this one)
  • Migraines (excuse me????? I thought that this was why I was taking this medicine)
  • Nausea (or as  my children used to say: naudeous, as in “I’m feeling naudeous”)
  • Acne (now that’s always attractive: acne in a grown woman)
  • Back acne (could that be why there is a diminished libido?)
  • Sensitivity to alcohol (good thing I only drink about four times a year)
  • Temperature sensitivity (puleez, tell me something new)

So in essence, the big ones that are possible are the same big ones for which I stopped taking the last medicine. The other possibilities seem so delightful that I can hardly contain myself. Right now, I’m on the lowest dose with a plan to increase the dose in increments. Almost everyone on the site mentioned that the worst side effects started kicking in at about 100 mg. This gives me something to look forward to, and if nothing else, I’ll have new topics for my blogs.

The Great Lighter Debacle

Every time I buy a double pack of those long disposable lighters—you know, the ones used to light grills or candles—they disappear. The culprit is my son, Eamonn. He takes them and leaves them in the Trooper, a once non-smoking zone. So the other night when the power went out, and I was searching for a lighter to illuminate the various candles around the house (he also steals those and puts them in his room), I could not find a single long lighter.

disposable-candle-lighter
Disposable Lighter: A Valuable Commodity in My House

After some swearing and hunting for matches in the dark, I managed to light the candles that were in shallow jars or dishes, but I was mightily vexed—resulting in my decision to purchase at least four of these buggers and hide them around the house. The problem was that with my short-term memory loss (see section above), I kept forgetting to ask Corey to pick some up when he went to the store.

I finally remembered a few days ago when Corey was going to that horrible bastion of low low prices and killer of small businesses, Wal Mart. But Corey came home without the lighters. He said that they were just too expensive there and that he was sure that he could find them cheaper somewhere else. Fine by me.

So when he went to Target to get special dog cookies (the ones with eucalyptus that help with the dogs’ sewer breath), Corey picked up two packs there. He walks in the bedroom with one and says, “Can you light this thing?” I look at him as if he has grown a third eye and grab the thing out of his hand, only to realize three short seconds later that whoever designed this damned lighter has not only made it child-proof but adult-proof as well. First, you are supposed to move the child-proof lever to the side (of course there is no picture, and nothing is labeled on the lighter). Then, while holding that lever to the side, you are supposed to push in the button to ignite the lighter. Except this maneuver does not work. At all. No flame. No blue butane hue. Nothing. Nada.

Two grown adults and one gifted youth could not make these lighters work. I kid you not. We put them back in the package, and Corey took them back to Target today. The woman at the customer service center asked if there was anything wrong with them. Corey told her that there was nothing wrong besides the fact that some idiot had made them impossible to light. (I think that she may have thought that he was exaggerating; just wait until someone at the store tries to light one).

The end result was that we had to further our search for a long lighter that didn’t cost an arm and a leg and, if the planets were aligned correctly, would light on demand. Fortunately, Corey found some.

We now have them hidden in various parts of the house. Meanwhile, I bought Eamonn a new candle for his room and a small disposable lighter. We’ll see how long it takes him to find the good lighters.

On that note, more later. Peace.