“I’ve been rereading your story. I think it’s about me in a way that might not be flattering, but that’s okay. We dream and dream of being seen as we really are and then finally someone looks at us and sees us truly and we fail to measure up.” ~ Richard Siken

                   

“Eventually something you love is going to be taken away. And then you will fall to the floor crying. And then, however much later, it is finally happening to you: you’re falling to the floor crying thinking, ‘I am falling to the floor crying,’ but there’s an element of the ridiculous to it — you knew it would happen and, even worse, while you’re on the floor crying you look at the place where the wall meets the floor and you realize you didn’t paint it very well.” ~ Richard Siken

Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy and a bit warmer, 52 degrees.

I love the above quote by Richard Siken because I an relate to it so completely—the absurd nature of grief, the contradictory ways in which your mind works when it is hurting most. You feel the pain in your chest, the symbolic breaking of your heart, and yet you notice the dust on the television screen. You weep, nay, you keen, and even as you are doing so, you wonder where the cobweb in the corner of the living room came from.

If we know ourselves, truly know ourselves, then we can anticipate the way in which we will react in certain situations. What is really interesting is the mind of a psychopath—they do not feel regular emotions, so they learn to act emotions, as in, “Oh, I should be sad, so I will put on a sad face,” and they do, but sometimes their sad face isn’t quite right because there is the hint of a smile on the corner of one side of their mouth, and that is when so-called normal people notice the mask slip.

What do I mean by all of this? Who the hell knows. Only that I have found myself reacting as I knew I would react to something major, something life-changing, and even as I did so, I split off and wondered if I was getting mud on my hem.

We are such strange beings . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Nils Lofgren, “Why Me”

                   

Snow and Dirty Rain

Close your eyes. A lover is standing too close
to focus on. Leave me blurry and fall toward me
with your entire body. Lie under the covers, pretending
to sleep, while I’m in the other room. Imagine
my legs crossed, my hair combed, the shine of my boots
in the slatted light. I’m thinking My plant, his chair,
the ashtray that we bought together.
I’m thinking This is where
we live.
When we were little we made houses out of
cardboard boxes. We can do anything. It’s not because
our hearts are large, they’re not, it’s what we
struggle with. The attempt to say Come over. Bring
your friends. It’s a potluck, I’m making pork chops, I’m making
those long noodles you love so much.
My dragonfly,
my black-eyed fire, the knives in the kitchen are singing
for blood, but we are the crossroads, my little outlaw,
and this is the map of my heart, the landscape
after cruelty which is, of course, a garden, which is
a tenderness, which is a room, a lover saying Hold me
tight, it’s getting cold.
We have not touched the stars,
nor are we forgiven, which brings us back
to the hero’s shoulders and the gentleness that comes,
not from the absence of violence, but despite
the abundance of it. The lawn drowned, the sky on fire,
the gold light falling backward through the glass
of every room. I’ll give you my heart to make a place
for it to happen, evidence of a love that transcends hunger.
Is that too much to expect? That I would name the stars
for you? That I would take you there? The splash
of my tongue melting you like a sugar cube? We’ve read
the back of the book, we know what’s going to happen.
The fields burned, the land destroyed, the lovers left
broken in the brown dirt. And then’s it’s gone.
Makes you sad. All your friends are gone. Goodbye
Goodbye. No more tears. I would like to meet you all
in Heaven. But there’s a litany of dreams that happens
somewhere in the middle. Moonlight spilling
on the bathroom floor. A page of the book where we
transcend the story of our lives, past the taco stands
and record stores. Moonlight making crosses
on your body, and me putting my mouth on every one.
We have been very brave, we have wanted to know
the worst, wanted the curtain to be lifted from our eyes.
This dream going on with all of us in it. Penciling in
the bighearted slob. Penciling in his outstretched arms.
Our father who art in Heaven. Our father who art buried
in the yard.
Someone is digging your grave right now.
Someone is drawing a bath to wash you clean, he said,
so think of the wind, so happy, so warm. It’s a fairy tale,
the story underneath the story, sliding down the polished
halls, lightning here and gone. We make these
ridiculous idols so we can to what’s behind them,
but what happens after we get up the ladder?
Do we simply stare at what’s horrible and forgive it?
Here is the river, and here is the box, and here are
the monsters we put in the box to test our strength
against. Here is the cake, and here is the fork, and here’s
the desire to put it inside us, and then the question
behind every question: What happens next?
The way you slam your body into mine reminds me
I’m alive, but monsters are always hungry, darling,
and they’re only a few steps behind you, finding
the flaw, the poor weld, the place where we weren’t
stitched up quite right, the place they could almost
slip right into through if the skin wasn’t trying to
keep them out, to keep them here, on the other side
of the theater where the curtain keeps rising.
I crawled out the window and ran into the woods.
I had to make up all the words myself. The way
they taste, the way they sound in the air. I passed
through the narrow gate, stumbled in, stumbled
around for a while, and stumbled back out. I made
this place for you. A place for to love me.
If this isn’t a kingdom then I don’t know what is.
So how would you catalog it? Dawn in the fields?
Snow and dirty rain? Light brought in in buckets?
I was trying to describe the kingdom, but the letters
kept smudging as I wrote them: the hunter’s heart,
the hunter’s mouth, the trees and the trees and the
space between the trees, swimming in gold. The words
frozen. The creatures frozen. The plum sauce
leaking out of the bag. Explaining will get us nowhere.
I was away, I don’t know where, lying on the floor,
pretending I was dead. I wanted to hurt you
but the victory is that I could not stomach it. We have
swallowed him up,
they said. It’s beautiful. It really is.
I had a dream about you. We were in the gold room
where everyone finally gets what they want.
You said Tell me about your books, your visions made
of flesh and light
and I said This is the Moon. This is
the Sun. Let me name the stars for you. Let me take you
there. The splash of my tongue melting you like a sugar
cube…
We were in the gold room where everyone
finally gets what they want, so I said What do you
want, sweetheart?
and you said Kiss me. Here I am
leaving you clues. I am singing now while Rome
burns. We are all just trying to be holy. My applejack,
my silent night, just mash your lips against me.
We are all going forward. None of us are going back.

~ Richard Siken

 

 

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“There was a time when my only passions were poverty and rain. Now I feel the purity of limits and my passion would not exist were I to know its name.” ~ Antonio Gamoneda, from “Still”

 

Helen Frankenthaler Overture 1922 acrylic on canvas
“Overture” (1922, acrylic on canvas)
by Helen Frankenthaler

Two for Tuesday:  Remembered Stories

Edward Hopper Corn Hill c1930
“Corn Hill” (c1930)
by Edward Hopper

 

In Tennessee I Found a Firefly

Flashing in the grass; the mouth of a spider clung
to the dark of it: the legs of the spider
held the tucked wings close,
held the abdomen still in the midst of calling
with thrusts of phosphorescent light—
When I am tired of being human, I try to remember
the two stuck together like burrs. I try to place them
central in my mind where everything else must
surround them, must see the burr and the barb of them.
There is courtship, and there is hunger. I suppose
there are grips from which even angels cannot fly.
Even imagined ones. Luciferin, luciferase.
When I am tired of only touching,
I have my mouth to try to tell you
what, in your arms, is not erased.

~ Mary Szybist

                   

Fairfield Porter House with Three Chimneys 1972 oil on canvas
“House with Three Chimneys” (1972, oil on canvas)
by Fairfield Porter

Fictional Characters

Do they ever want to escape?
Climb out of the white pages
and enter our world?

Holden Caulfield slipping in the movie theater
to catch the two o’clock
Anna Karenina sitting in a diner,
reading the paper as the waitress
serves up a cheeseburger.

Even Hector, on break from the Iliad,
takes a stroll through the park,
admires the tulips.

Maybe they grew tired
of the author’s mind,
all its twists and turns.

Or were finally weary
of stumbling around Pamplona,
a bottle in each fist,
eating lotuses on the banks of the Nile.

For others, it was just too hot
in the small California town
where they’d been written into
a lifetime of plowing fields.

Whatever the reason,
here they are, roaming the city streets
rain falling on their phantasmal shoulders.

Wouldn’t you, if you could?
Step out of your own story,
to lean against a doorway
of the Five & Dime, sipping your coffee,

your life, somewhere far behind you,
all its heat and toil nothing but a tale
resting in the hands of a stranger,
the sidewalk ahead wet and glistening.

~ Danusha Laméris

                    

Music by Jenny & Tyler, “Through Your Eyes”

 

“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer . . . and everything collapses. ” ~ Colette

Henri Martin FLowering Garden in Spring oil on canvas 1920
“Flowering Garden in Spring” (1920, oil on canvas)
by Henri Martin

                   

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” ~ Iris Murdoch

The Bradford pears and Tulip trees are in full bloom, and I am reminded of the year I made mother’s day cards from photos I had taken of the trees in bloom—I was very pleased with how they had turned out, but my mother looked at hers and said, “What’s this?” Lex later told me that Mom had complained that I was too cheap to buy a card; Lex tried to explain to her that I had shot the photograph, worked with it on Photoshop, and had the print made. I had thought the gesture special. Oh well.

Anyway, I have to admit that when I was clearing out the thousands of cards in my mother’s drawers, I came across almost every card I had given her in the past decade and sometimes beyond, and the flimsy free homemade card I had made her was there.

Here. Have some flowers of spring:


Music by Mussorgsky,  “Pictures at an Exhibition” (Promenade), performed by The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra

“No one ever asks if you had a good winter.” ~ Douglas Haynes, from “Corn Moon”

Fairfield Porter Late Afternoon Snow 1972
“Late Afternoon Snow” (1972, oil on paper on panel)
by Fairfield Porter

                   

Two for Tuesday: Douglas Haynes

When I chose these poems about the poet’s mother, my mom wasn’t in the hospital. Weird coincidence? Twisted turn of fate?

Tom Thomson In Algonquin Park 1914 oil on canvas
“In Algonquin Park” (1914, oil on canvas)
by Tom Thomson

Last Word

She ate a piece of tuna and a piece of salmon, raw on my fingers
passing her blue, faintly-upturned lips. The chef spent half an hour
of her final day arraying the fish in tiny bites and festooning them
with saw-toothed plastic. I ate what she couldn’t the day after she died,

when her last everythings became decoration: the book Swimming to Antarctica
she always wanted on her bed but never finished; her smile in the picture
donning her pink wig; the bendable, red straw she sipped coffee through
before slipping unconscious. When the rasp and moan of her death rattle

hushed, I was reading about ceviche in a magazine I’d bought too late
for her to read. I reached her bed just in time to see her eyes roll
and fix a dilated void, to hear her shallow, penultimate breaths
more like preparation for stillness than actual gasps of air.

The wood frog chorus went on outside for no other reason than to persist.
If someone you love is dying, decide whether you believe in ghosts.
Without the map of belief, train whistles in the night that I used to hear
beside her became bearers of someone I couldn’t touch.  Wind rushing

through a window screen sounded like a whisper. Do you say hello
to the dead? Or just start with what you wish you had said, since
the liminal space between words and a world without them
won’t survive your sleepless night in the room beside her body?

The next morning arrived like houselights after a tragedy’s curtain falls,
like the crowd’s transformation that isn’t fulfillment in the face
of someone else’s misfortune, but gratitude that the heroine believed
stubbornly in redemption. Her last word was water.

                   

Walter Elmer Schofield Winter Stream c1925 oil on canvas
“Winter Stream” (c1925, oil on canvas)
by Walter Elmer Schofield

Natural Medicine

The doctor tells her to lift her johnny way up over her head,
puts a cold stethoscope on her back, and says Breathe deeply. Again.

I stop breathing. I imagine her lungs burbling like a pot of boiling water.
The doctor says Let’s take a look. She and I don’t look.

Looks good he says, which means that though one breast is a rift
of scars, the other seems fine. But you’re not out of the woods yet,

which means death lurks like a toothy beast behind every tree
but the forest ends just beyond the horizon, means that the doctor

doesn’t want to say that no medicine from a rainforest fern
or social-climbing bacterium can rubber-stamp her saved.

He says Here’s what we’ll do because he gets paid to do something
despite knowing the body’s mysteries haven’t faded as fast

as the family farm, as the rainforest, as the path outward closing
behind her with no moon or stars lighting the way and where—

if she lies down to sleep—nature won’t wake her in the morning.

                   

Music by The Cure, “To Wish Impossible Things”