“All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can’t be touched.” ~ Octavio Paz, from “Going and Coming”
As one listens to the rain
Listen to me as one listens to the rain,
not attentive, not distracted,
light footsteps, thin drizzle,
water that is air, air that is time,
the day is still leaving,
the night has yet to arrive,
figurations of mist
at the turn of the corner,
figurations of time
at the bend in this pause,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
without listening, hear what I say
with eyes open inward, asleep
with all five senses awake,
it’s raining, light footsteps, a murmur of syllables,
air and water, words with no weight:
what we are and are,
the days and years, this moment,
weightless time and heavy sorrow,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
wet asphalt is shining,
steam rises and walks away,
night unfolds and looks at me,
you are you and your body of steam,
you and your face of night,
you and your hair, unhurried lightning,
you cross the street and enter my forehead,
footsteps of water across my eyes,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
the asphalt’s shining, you cross the street,
it is the mist, wandering in the night,
it is the night, asleep in your bed,
it is the surge of waves in your breath,
your fingers of water dampen my forehead,
your fingers of flame burn my eyes,
your fingers of air open eyelids of time,
a spring of visions and resurrections,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
the years go by, the moments return,
do you hear the footsteps in the next room?
not here, not there: you hear them
in another time that is now,
listen to the footsteps of time,
inventor of places with no weight, nowhere,
listen to the rain running over the terrace,
the night is now more night in the grove,
lightning has nestled among the leaves,
a restless garden adrift—go in,
your shadow covers this page.
~ Octavio Paz (trans. Eliot Weinberger)
Music by Keith Urban, what else, “Raining on Sunday”
“Someone spoke to me last night, told me the truth. Just a few words, but I recognized it. I knew I should make myself get up, write it down, but it was late, and I was exhausted from working all day in the garden, moving rocks.” ~ Dorianne Laux, from “Dust”
Friday, earl afternoon. Sunny, hot, and humid, low 90’s. Hoping for thunderstorms later.
Well, Corey is scheduled to arrive in Brooklyn today, but I haven’t heard from him in a few days, so I’m not sure if they are still on schedule. I’ve had so much nervous energy that I’ve been cleaning myself into a frenzy. Of course, the result is that by evening, I am walking like the crooked man in the limerick. Don’t know why that popped into my head, but it seems very appropriate.
Yesterday, my goal was to clean my desk, which, because of the lack of computer, tends to become the repository of all things tossable: magazines, mail, clothes, whatever. I went through all of the paperwork, made myself a nice big pile of things needing to be done (can’t wait, truly), and wiped everything off.
Then I decided that I still needed to do more, so I tackled the fridge. I pulled out the two vegetable drawers, and scrubbed inside and attempted to clean all of the bunk that tends to settle beneath these drawers. Somehow, not really sure how, a mass of what appeared to be caramel was pooled in the bottom. When I couldn’t melt it with chemicals, I finally had to take a spatula and try to scrape it out. I got most of it, but there was one spot that refused to budge.
All of this deep cleaning takes me back to my OCD cleaning days, which makes me realize that I’m back there. This is both a good and bad thing. It’s nice to have a very clean house, but I pay for it with such pain I cannot even describe.
“There is never a later, but for most of my life I have believed in later.” ~ Donald Hall
Last week when Brett and Em and I were out running around, I stopped in Sally’s Beauty supply to purchase yet another nail hardener. The woman at the register assured me that the one that I bought was a good one as they (the employees) had all been given samples, and she said that it worked on her. Right . . .
Anyway, after purchasing this nail hardener, I have spent the last week doing the kinds of things that absolutely destroy one’s nails. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I had remembered to wear the gloves that Corey bought me for just such occasions, but I always forget, which means that when I cleaned the double ovens, I didn’t wear gloves.
The nail hardener may work, but I won’t be able to find out until my nails come back. Granted this is not terribly important in the huge scheme of things, but it’s kind of lame to have a nail polish addiction and not have enough nails to polish. I’ve never had naturally long nails like my friend Sarah, but I really don’t want to go back to acrylic nails. I’m over that phase. It costs money that I would rather spend elsewhere, and besides, I’m not working any more.
Oh yeah, that.
“In a dream everything is pregnant with a dreadful and unfinished meaning, nothing is indifferent, everything reaches us more deeply, more intimately than the most heated passion of the day. This is the lesson: an artist cannot be restricted to day, he has to reach the night life of humanity and seek its myths and symbols.” ~Witold Gombrowicz, excerpt from Diary
This past week has been filled with strange and wonderful dreams. A few nights ago I dreamed that I was on this journey, and somehow, I ended up in Middle Earth, but it wasn’t anything like Tolkien’s Middle Earth. I was with a group of people, and I think we were on a tour. We went into this room, and it had been retrofitted to look like the 1950’s: the same kind of yellow Formica everywhere. There was a coffee percolator that I was particularly enamored with, but after I poured myself some coffee, it disappeared. We were told that we couldn’t eat the food and that we had to go back to our own world. I didn’t want to leave and begged to stay.
Last night—and this one is really weird—I was driving down a main road in our neighborhood, and a man dressed in a Spider Man costume was lying in the road. I swerved to avoid him, and then I stopped the car. I was driving my old Isuzu, Izzie. I ran to the man just as another car stopped. I asked them to call 911, and I got a blanket out of the car to cover him even though it was hot. He was alive, but very shaken. Someone had hit him and left, and I kept asking him if he was on a bicycle.
Then a few night ago—and this one is very, very weird—I dreamt that I was in a dark bar, and there was this man of whom I knew I needed to be wary. I knew this man, except he didn’t look like anyone I knew. I knew that he was a sexual deviant. Then I was fleeing from him, and I ended up going through these rooms, and behind the doors I could hear people having sex, and I came around a corner, and he was there just smiling at me. I told him that I was going to call the police, but he didn’t seem to care. I walked over to the bar manager, but it turned out she was a, em, Madam, and she told me that I knew what I needed to do and that I never should have come into that bar.
“There are days that haven’t arrived yet, that are being made like bread . . .” ~ Pablo Neruda, from “We Are Waiting,” (trans. William O’Daly)
I’ve been buying a few plants here and there, nothing like the massive plantings I used to do every spring. Although, I would probably have better luck with so many plants now with all of the shade in the front yard. Yesterday, I bought two more from Wal-Mart, and I have to say that the pickings were very slim. Their garden section looked like there had been a collective wilt in response to the oppressively hot, humid air. The ones I brought home I soaked and left over night. I’ll move them into pots today.
I had thought about going to the chair yoga class this afternoon. Still haven’t made up my mind. I have this incredible desire to do sit-ups, which makes no sense at all. I used to have one of those rolled bars that helped to take the stress of the back when doing sit-ups. I’m not sure if Corey threw it out or if it’s somewhere in the mass of things in the garage, but I sure would love to have it now.
I’m not really sure where this desire to work out is coming from, but I really should go with it while I can, don’t you think? Well, can may not be the best word, but perhaps want? I mean, I want to work out, but I don’t know if I can, or maybe I can work out if I want it enough, or perhaps, I won’t workout if I can’t, but I will if I can . . .
“Water: no matter how much, there is still not enough. Come rain, come thunder, come deluged dams washed away, Our thirst is unquenchable. A cloud in the water’s a siren. We become two shades, deliquescent, drowning in song.” ~ Marin Sorescu, from “Fountains in the Sea”
So I just spent about 20 minutes looking for an ab roller online. Seems I can pick one up via Wal-Mart and have it delivered to the store without having to pay shipping. My love/hate affair with Wal-Mart continues . . .
Speaking of online ordering, I ordered the replacement hose for the pool. Perhaps (maybe, please maybe) it will arrive today, and eldest son can get the pool working. I mean, on days like today and yesterday, slipping into the pool would be heavenly, and it would also help to keep the dogs occupied, another bonus.
You know, I was thinking about that comment I received on an old post, how outlandish it was. I’ve decided to try to keep politics out of my blog as much as possible this election season. I know that I won’t always be able to do so because sometimes it’s impossible to ignore all of the stupidity, but during the last presidential election I allowed myself to get so worked up over the rampant racism. I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you that such things do not still bother me, because of course, they do. Rather, I’m going to try to remove myself as much as possible from the fray. My blood pressure will thank me.
At least that’s my position for now. Talk to me when it gets closer to November.
More later. Peace.
Music by Benjamin Francis Leftwich, “Box of Stones”
*All images are by Lithuanian painter and composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, whose works were considered to be representative of the fin de siècle (end of the century, end of an era) epoch. Fin de siècle is a French term that usually refers to the end of the 19th century in Europe.
The wind blows
through the doors of my heart.
It scatters my sheet music
that climbs like waves from the piano, free of the keys.
Now the notes stripped, black butterflies,
flattened against the screens.
The wind through my heart
blows all my candles out.
In my heart and its rooms is dark and windy.
From the mantle smashes birds’ nests, teacups
full of stars as the wind winds round,
a mist of sorts that rises and bends and blows
or is blown through the rooms of my heart
that shatters the windows,
rakes the bedsheets as though someone
had just made love. And my dresses
they are lifted like brides come to rest
on the bedstead, crucifixes,
dresses tangled in trees in the rooms
of my heart. To save them
I’ve thrown flowers to fields,
so that someone would pick them up
and know where they came from.
Come the bees now clinging to flowered curtains.
Off with the clothesline pinning anything, my mother’s trousseau.
It is not for me to say what is this wind
or how it came to blow through the rooms of my heart.
Wing after wing, through the rooms of the dead
the wind does not blow. Nor the basement, no wheezing,
no wind choking the cobwebs in our hair.
It is cool here, quiet, a quilt spread on soil.
But we will never lie down again.
“Ah, the sun will catch me, in my disturbing transparency. What am I but an awareness of the dark, forever?” ~ Edmond Jabès, The Book of Questions I, (trans. Rosmarie Waldrop)
Monday early evening, low 70’s, a bit humid.
Once again WordPress thwarted me. I had all of my quotes, hit save, got an error message, and the post frame was gone. I spend a lot of time in choosing my quotes and images, sometimes more time than the actual writing. I see all three parts as integral and important to the message that I want to convey. To say that I was highly perturbed is a vast understatement.
It really does no good to tell an inanimate object to do biologically impossible things . . . but it makes me feel better. Actually Eamonn’s computer was well nigh impossible to deal with earlier, so I stopped, did a few chores, and took Brett to campus. He only has two more classes after this session, and his next session (Pre Calculus II) begins next Wednesday, so no break for him. I remember all to well how exhausting summer sessions can be—both to take and to teach.
Anyway, now I’m on his computer, and it feels akin to magic, just how fast this computer reacts. I guess I am so used to working on the dying POS that I forget that most functioning computers do not take several minutes to perform an action. Seconds rather than minutes, what a concept.
“I will wait and you can follow alone and between us the night has come and gone” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “To Lili’s Walk”
In the past 24 hours, Corey and I have had an argument via e-mail. How utterly stupid. I freely admit that it was my fault. I read one of his e-mails while I was exhausted, had a migraine and was near to tears. Hence, I took offense when none was there. I feel terrible. The last thing he needs to be dealing with is my moodiness across an ocean. I have tried very hard not to let him know how down I am as I do not want him to concentrate on anything but his job while he is on the ship. I have succeeded in that goal until yesterday.
I feel so bad about the whole thing, and an apology e-mail is kind of lame, don’t you think? I suppose that it’s better than nothing, but it just doesn’t really encompass all of the emotions. Hence the Doctor Who apology gifs for yesterday. Seemed appropriate, even if no one else knew what the hell was going on with it.
Anyway, the ship is supposed to hit Brooklyn around June 22, and a Coast Guard inspection is scheduled for June 25. I’m not sure if he’s staying on for the inspection or beyond; that is entirely up to the company. He needs to come home and have a break, though. Everyone misses him, especially Tillie.
“I keep remembering—I keep remembering. My heart has no pity on me.” ~ Henri Barbusse
Last night I watched the finale to “The Killing” on AMC. It was a really good show, but I was disappointed in the ending. It seemed kind of rushed and anticlimactic. I stopped in reading “The Executioner’s Song” long enough to watch that and a show on Discovery ID. Then felt tired so I turned off the television. My sleeping time has crept back towards 2 a.m., and I don’t want to get into that habit again.
Unfortunately, while awaiting sleep, memories of Caitlin suddenly popped into my head, seemingly out of nowhere. I am resolved to the fate that I will never be rid of these memories and the accompanying emotions, but I wasn’t prepared last night. I actually had to take a Xanax to calm myself down. My doctor prescribed them to me for my anxiety attacks, which, luckily, abated just as soon as she prescribed the Xanax, so I have probably only taken three pills since getting the prescription. Believe it or not, I really try to be conservative with my medication. I have no desire to be hooked on anything.
Anyway, I was finally able to get to sleep somewhere after 3, but it was uncomfortable, and I awoke more times than I can remember. Chalk up another bad night, but hey, what’s one more in the infinite trail of bad nights?
“I’ll always be the one who wasn’t born for that; I’ll always be the one who had qualities; I’ll always be the one who waited for a door to open in a wall without doors” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from “The Tobacco Shop” (trans. Richard Zenith)
I debated shortening the quote above by removing the second line, but then I thought that it was too true, and Pessoa doesn’t say good qualities, just qualities, and I think that that’s deliberate on his part.
In the past week or so, I’ve gotten more paper work from the Social Security administration, and a couple of voice mails from my long-term disability provider. Bear with me. This is connected.
Social Security wants me to fill out yet another description of my daily life. The disability provider wants to touch base to see if there is any change in my status. Really? Seriously? Do you really want to know how I feel?
I feel like taking a really thick Sharpie and writing all over the questionnaire:
I’ve completed this thing at least four times. Leave me alone.
But I can’t because it’s a bureaucracy, and they don’t remember what they do from one day to the next.
So instead, I feel like completing the questions in a more ethereal tone. For example, tell us about how you spend your day . . . My answer could be more of a description of my quality of life: Well, I spend a great deal of my day contemplating my existence, its worth or worthlessness, depending upon where I am on the continuum of my mental state. I consider my successes as compared to my failures, and I realize that the scale tips depending upon who is looking at it. I often spend a few minutes each day just staring at the sky and my dogs in amazement that such things exist, and then, more often than not, I have sleep filled with tormenting dreams. The next day I get up and do it all over again.
What do you think? Would they accept that?
“We do compose a soul for ourselves, I think, an inner biography that has this grace of selection—the poem of ourself, if you like.” ~ Les Murray, The Art of Poetry No. 89 (The Paris Review)
If you like to read about poets or like interviews with writers, click on the Paris Review link above. Yet again, tumblr has introduced me to another poet with whom I was unfamiliar—Les Murray, who is from Australia. It’s a good interview.
If I ordered every poetry book that I have put on my wish list, every new poet I have discovered through the poetry lovers at tumblr, I think that I would increase my poetry collection by about 50 percent, and that’s saying something.
My friend over at Titirangi Storyteller and I were discussing Charles Bukowski. I adore him, especially his attitude towards life, yet like so many of the writers of the 20th century, he had a major drinking problem. So many of the writers that I adore had some kind of drinking or drug problem, or even better, some kind of mental illness: Bukowski, Sexton, Carver, Plath, Fitzgerald, McCullers.
What does that say about me? Do I even need to ask? But interestingly enough, I have a real distaste for people who imbibe too much. I don’t like being around drunks, and I know that comes directly from my ex. So why am I perversely attracted to the writings of those who drank themselves to death?
I do not have an answer to that question.
“I dream of perfect concentration; if I found it I’d surely stop breathing.” ~ Adam Zagajewski, from “The Room I Work In”
I’m considering calling my psychiatrist who prescribes my medications for my disorders, but I’m afraid that she’ll want to add another medication, and damn, I just don’t want that. I’m hoping that this pervasive cloud of despair will dissipate once Corey comes home. At the same time, I do not want to be one of those women who depends upon the man in her life for happiness.
Don’t misunderstand. I love how Corey makes me happy, but I also want my inner joy to come from . . . well . . . inner. You know? I never want him to have the burden of thinking that he must provide me with peace of mind. I know that one of the reasons that I feel that way is because both of my parents (surprisingly) drilled into me that I should be self-sufficient, never depend on a man for support.
I know that they were talking about financial support, but over the years I expanded that. Having been married to an individual who was emotionally bereft, I needed to be self-sufficient emotionally. It was not always possible, and it is still not always possible. Yet I still feel that way. I want Corey to be my partner, my lover, my friend, but not my emotional crutch.
I’m going to have to think over whether or not to call the doctor because this black mood does not seem to be lessening, or it lessens but then rears its ugly head even more pervasively than its previous incarnation.
Things to ponder.
More later. Peace.
*All images are taken from the creative commons section of 500px.com. Clicking on the image should take you to the page on which it appears.
Music by Thurston Moore, “Benediction”
The Room I Work In
— To Derek Walcott
The room I work in is as foursquare
as half a pair of dice.
It holds a wooden table
with a stubborn peasant’s profile,
a sluggish armchair, and a teapot’s
pouting Hapsburg lip.
From the window I see a few skinny trees,
wispy clouds, and toddlers,
always happy and loud.
Sometimes a windshield glints in the distance
or, higher up, an airplane’s silver husk.
Clearly others aren’t wasting time
while I work, seeking adventures
on earth or in the air.
The room I work in is a camera obscura.
And what is my work—
flipping pages, patient meditation,
passivities not pleasing
to that judge with the greedy gaze.
I write as slowly as if I’ll live two hundred years.
I seek images that don’t exist,
and if they do they’re crumpled and concealed
like summer clothes in winter,
when frost stings the mouth.
I dream of perfect concentration; if I found it
I’d surely stop breathing.
Maybe after all, I hear the first snow hissing,
the frail melody of daylight,
and the city’s gloomy rumble.
I drink from a small spring,
my thirst exceeds the ocean.
Feeling quite low, sensing an impending fall. Thoughts are running all over the place, so instead of linear, I shall merely convey mixed musings for a Sunday afternoon:
I have come to realize that I shall die with my heart placed firmly upon my sleeve, bruised and battered for all the world to see.
Given a choice between wide, sweeping stairs and narrow ones, I will choose wide ones. Between straight and curved? Curved.
I am deeply moved by images depicting a man and woman kissing.
Show me two pictures of skies, one blue and one with a coming storm, and I will gravitate immediately towards the impending storm.
Sometimes black and white speaks so much louder than color; hence, my fascinations with zebras. I think that they are truly beautiful animals. I love everything about the way that they look, but I know nothing about them.
Probably because I have been terribly nearsighted most of my life, sound affects me more than sight. Music can bring me to tears faster than an image.
Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Mozart. How did they do it? Did they imagine they were hearing the universe?
I have an immediate gut reaction to images of large cliffs and water. It’s as if my psyche senses a kinship to such places.
Sunrise or sunset? Sunset, always sunset.
Sunlight or moonlight. Moonlight. Night skies. Infinity. Corey says that he has never seen such night skies as those from the middle of the ocean.
“What do we know about the postulates, the basic rules of remaining faithful to life? We write afternoon instead of early evening, Geneva instead of Prague; one omits to betray an uncertainty . . . So there is nothing for it but to accept the fragmentation and the superficiality and the emptiness, and with each journey to restrict oneself as precisely as possible to what can be written, faithfully, about reality.” ~ Daniel Robberechts, Arriving in Avignon
I hate days like these, days in which I can feel my heart beating and every sound seems to permeate my senses. I hate it because in this state, it’s not an appreciation but an intrusion.
I know that I’m not alone, but that knowing does nothing to reduce the sense of aloneness.
Not loneliness, aloneness. Not solitude, which is a second skin, but more an alienation, but from what?
What keeps me from actively pursuing the path that I have wanted for as long as I can remember? Fear.
I hate fear, hate being afraid, hate my trepidation.
I do not abide cowards, so why do I tolerate it in myself?
Honor. Bushido. Big talk. Why does it seem so important?
I have no idea as to why I filled yesterday’s post with tulips.
“There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.” ~Ludwig Wittgenstein
Today’s poem is quite long, and I thought about just using a part, but it didn’t feel right to do so.
I move through life attributing human characteristics to everything: fish, dogs, frogs. I do not find this odd.
I was probably a canine in another life. I do not find this odd either.
Things I thought about pursuing: oceanography, medicine, law. I only regret not pursuing oceanography.
I still remember the lead paragraph to a story that I wrote for a newspaper article a lifetime ago.
My last religious epiphany: Maundy Thursday, years ago, sitting in an empty church, reciting the Apostle’s Creed over and over again.
I have no explanation for what happened that day.
It has never happened again.
Real mystery begins and ends in the stars.
“There are things we know by heart, and things we don’t.” ~ Andrea Gibson, from “Birthday”
Images I cannot erase from my mind:
Caitlin lying on a hospital bed, so small, surrounded by white. White noise the backdrop to all my days.
A naked child running from napalm.
A homeless man holding his dog, the sadness more palpable in the dog’s eyes than the man’s.
My father sitting in the back of a car, sideburns.
Hundreds of pigeons in Trafalgar Square, completely unafraid of the people.
The flapping sails on my friend’s catamaran, the smell of the bay.
A child with a small ball on an elastic string, the ball moving back and forth as the child walks down the dirt road beneath the relentless Philippine sun.
The child is me.
Lying in a hammock on a summer afternoon. Alexis asleep on my chest. The sunlight dappled through the leaves of the oak tree. One perfect afternoon.
“But dreams come through stone walls, light up dark rooms, or darken light ones, and their persons make their exits and their entrances as they please, and laugh at locksmiths.” ~Joseph Sheridan, Le Fanu
My family converses in onomatopoeia: jibby-jabby, thingy . . . it all makes sense to us.
I continue to dream of the large attic room filled with antiques over which I have been given charge. The woman who owns them is a museum board member.
Each time I dream of this room, I am trying to steal something from it, but I never succeed.
I dream of a tall man with blond hair, a lawyer. I do not know this man.
I dreamt of little people flinging themselves off a building.
In my dream, I do not recognize my eyes; then I realize that I am wearing false eyelashes. I don’t know how they got there.
I seldom seem afraid in my dreams.
Last night I dreamed of my mother and father together: They were dressed to go out for the evening. Then my father said that he was going by himself. My mother got out of the car resigned.
I think that I’m just looking for a place to land.
“Now I know a language so beautiful and lethal My mouth bleeds when I speak it.” ~ Gwendolyn MacEwen, from “But”
tears, idle tears
do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall be a pair of ragged claws
tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
the waves beat back
water of life
such stuff as dreams are made of
the sorrows of her changing face
green rooms like lit glass
the heart is an organ of fire
“The mind was dreaming. The world was its dream.” ~ Jorge Luis Borges, from “The Circular Ruins”
Lines from poems I have yet to write:
Can it be that I am alive still
Who will write my epitaph, the lines of my life
Such a fulgent lie
When night’s darkness comes too slowly
We are all fools and beggars
In motley, I shall slay no dragons
Proust was wrong
In that moment between sleep and wake
I cannot, I said.
Music by Gareth Dunlop, ‘Trick of the Moonlight”
At 12 years old I started bleeding with the moon
and beating up boys who dreamed of becoming astronauts.
I fought with my knuckles white as stars,
and left bruises the shape of Salem.
There are things we know by heart,
and things we don’t.
At 13 my friend Jen tried to teach me how to blow rings of smoke.
I’d watch the nicotine rising from her lips like halos,
but I could never make dying beautiful.
The sky didn’t fill with colors the night I convinced myself
veins are kite strings you can only cut free.
I suppose I love this life,
in spite of my clenched fist.
I open my palm and my lifelines look like branches from an Aspen tree,
and there are songbirds perched on the tips of my fingers,
and I wonder if Beethoven held his breath
the first time his fingers touched the keys
the same way a soldier holds his breath
the first time his finger clicks the trigger.
We all have different reasons for forgetting to breathe.
But my lungs remember
the day my mother took my hand and placed it on her belly
and told me the symphony beneath was my baby sister’s heartbeat.
And I knew life would tremble
like the first tear on a prison guard’s hardened cheek,
like a prayer on a dying man’s lips,
like a vet holding a full bottle of whiskey like an empty gun in a war zone… just take mejust take me
Sometimes the scales themselves weigh far too much,
the heaviness of forever balancing blue sky with red blood.
We were all born on days when too many people died in terrible ways,
but you still have to call it a birthday.
You still have to fall for the prettiest girl on the playground at recess
and hope she knows you can hit a baseball
further than any boy in the whole third grade
and I’ve been running for home
through the windpipe of a man who sings
while his hands playing washboard with a spoon
on a street corner in New Orleans
where every boarded up window is still painted with the words
We’re Coming Back
like a promise to the ocean
that we will always keep moving towards the music,
the way Basquiat slept in a cardboard box to be closer to the rain.
Beauty, catch me on your tongue.
Thunder, clap us open.
The pupils in our eyes were not born to hide beneath their desks.
Tonight lay us down to rest in the Arizona desert,
then wake us washing the feet of pregnant women
who climbed across the border with their bellies aimed towards the sun.
I know a thousand things louder than a soldier’s gun.
I know the heartbeat of his mother.
Don’t cover your ears, Love.
Don’t cover your ears, Life.
There is a boy writing poems in Central Park
and as he writes he moves
and his bones become the bars of Mandela’s jail cell stretching apart,
and there are men playing chess in the December cold
who can’t tell if the breath rising from the board
is their opponents or their own,
and there’s a woman on the stairwell of the subway
swearing she can hear Niagara Falls from her rooftop in Brooklyn,
and I’m remembering how Niagara Falls is a city overrun
with strip malls and traffic and vendors
and one incredibly brave river that makes it all worth it.
Ya’ll, I know this world is far from perfect.
I am not the type to mistake a streetlight for the moon.
I know our wounds are deep as the Atlantic.
But every ocean has a shoreline
and every shoreline has a tide
that is constantly returning
to wake the songbirds in our hands,
to wake the music in our bones,
to place one fearless kiss on the mouth of that brave river
that has to run through the center of our hearts
to find its way home.
I was in that room again, but it wasn’t the same. The baby in the crib was mine, but she wasn’t, it wasn’t her. The power went out, and the nurses and technicians were all giving the patients oxygen manually, squeezing that large ball, forcing air into that mask, but it wasn’t enough. The doctor who came in was outmatched but wouldn’t admit it. I pulled back her nightgown and a dark red spot was growing on her chest under the skin, and I thought, that’s not right, that’s not what happened. House came into the room. I had sent for him. He was real, not the character on the television show. He limped over to the crib and looked down at her and then looked at me, and then I knew. There was a lot of noise, monitors, the whoosh click of the machines. I had given her Tylenol when I put her down for her nap. Teething, I thought; that’s why she’s been so grouchy. Why didn’t I remember about the teething? The children’s Tylenol will work, but is children’s Tylenol and Infant Tylenol the same? No, I remember, it’s not, so which one? Only Tylenol doesn’t have much effect when there’s something growing in your brain. I didn’t know. How could I know? She fell asleep on her side almost as soon as I put her down, she had been in the high chair, and I gave her a Ritz cracker, only she didn’t want it, and Cheerios were chocolate chip flavored, and I thought that wasn’t a very good snack for a baby, so I pulled up the side of the crib, and then we were in the room, the hospital room, and it was happening all over. House couldn’t help her, and he couldn’t help the young boy who was seeing symbols, the one that the mean nurse had tried to turn away, but a different nurse admitted him. The mean nurse said that he had been to the ER three times with this same problem, and he couldn’t come back any more, but the boy was bleeding from his nose, and his father was frantic, so the nice nurse wheeled the boy into a room and called for House because the boy was seeing symbols in the air. This was all in the dream, and it was happening simultaneously, not linearly. And a woman who came into the room, the room that I was in, with House said that she needed to get back to her job, and I stopped her and said no. If you leave, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. She looked at me and said that I was going to try to make her feel guilty the way that House did, and House remarked that she didn’t know what guilt was. And I said to her, she was Kirsty Alley for some reason, I said, “If you leave, she’ll die, and you won’t be here, and you’ll have to live with that guilt forever, you won’t have been here when she took her last breath, you won’t remember any of this,” so she stayed in the room. So there was me and House and Kirsty Alley and the first doctor, who still didn’t know what to do. And there was the baby in the crib, and she was dying, in the same way that she dies every single time that I go into that room, and the nurses outside the room were moving very quickly because the electricity had come back on, and patients everywhere needed help, but in the room, in that room that is hell and every awful, terrible place that has ever existed, in that room, it was the five of us, and one of us was dying. And the whoosh-click kept going and going, and the only good part was that I woke up before she died this time, and when I did, I felt pain all over my body, but especially my head, and I remembered the teething, and wondered why I didn’t think of the teething when she first started to get fussy, and then I remembered that all of the Infant Tylenol in the world can’t help with that kind of pain.
Tomorrow would have been Caitlin’s 24th birthday.
This song was playing in the background of my dream: Butthole Surfers, “Whatever (I Had a Dream Last Night)”