“It’s only in the autumn where I can take breaths that make me want to take more breaths . . . But I will always enjoy the grey solemn solitude of this season that grows darker and colder, day by day.” ~ Henry Rollins, from Solipsist

Gustav Klimt The Birch Wood 1903 oil on canvas
“The Birch Wood” (1903, oil on canvas)
by Gustav Klimt

“a dream of creatures
with autumn coloured faces
their bodies vent to earth
falling under the spell
of the spinning world” ~ Anja Huwe, from “Autumn”

Sunday afternoon. Cloudy and cooler, 58 degrees.

Last night I had a Harry Potter dream, sort of. I was going back to school, but I wasn’t on any of the rolls because I had failed two classes the semester before. I was hoping to fake my way through. Then suddenly, spells and wand work were required, and I was performing abysmally, unable to remember even basic spells, and Hermione was actually one of my main nemeses from high school, and she was aligned with someone else, and I was left to my own devices, trying to remember things besides accio and stuff, and I had boils on my chest, and I created an itching powder (directly related, I’m sure, to the fact that yesterday I had to take two baths (am and pm) and soak in colloidal oatmeal for nervous itching) and smeared it across everyone’s lockers so that everyone was affected, and then I realized too late that I had also affected allies, and I had that recurring dream part in which one of my classes was never finished because the professor just stopped teaching four weeks before the end and called it a day, and we were wondering if we were responsible for what wasn’t covered, and I realized, too, that I had none of my special grid notebooks for class, nor any of my preferred pens, and I awoke with, you guessed it, a headache . . .

TomThomson-Moonlight-and-Birches-1916-17
“Moonlight and Birches” (1916-17)
by Tom Thomson

And yesterday I had this moment in which I paused to consider whether or not I had truly read To Kill a Mockingbird, or if it was one of those titles that I had read so much about that I imagined actually reading the book.

This is what happens when I have to spend too much time on the phone arguing with people over basic things like health insurance coverage. My mind reverts to a pseudo-fugue state in an attempt to shut down, not deal with too much.

“This October like November,
That August like a hundred thousand hours,
And that September,
A hundred thousand dragging sunlit days,
And half October like a thousand years . . .” ~ Ford Madox Ford, from “In October 1914 [Antwerp]”

I wrote another poem earlier today. I don’t know where these poems are coming from, only that they are coming. I don’t claim to be a prolific or particularly wonderful poet, though at one time in my life that was all that I ever wanted to be: a published poet, a name associated with poetry, a person known for her words as poems.

Antonín Slavíček - Birch Wood 1897 oil on canvas
“Birch Wood” (1897, oil on canvas)
Antonín Slavíček

As with many things in my life, I did not do what I needed to do to make this happen. I did not believe in myself enough, something I am well aware I have done throughout most of the days of my life. Believing takes effort. Doing takes effort. Effort takes effort.

Do you ever wonder what your life would have been like if you had followed your very first dream, the dream of your life that first spoke to you, the dream that made you sit up and recognize that you were in fact a person, with dreams and desires, and yes, possibilities? My first dream was to be a poet, and truthfully, I remember the exact moment I said to myself that this was what I wanted to be when I grew up: I was in the first grade in London, and I had just won my first poetry contest for a rather short and sweet poem about the seasons.

And then I ran into that English teacher in the seventh grade who took one look at what I had written and told me that it was not a poem because it did not go da-duh, da-duh, da-duh, and I believed him even though I knew better. And then I had that American literature professor as an undergraduate who told me that the only female poet of worth was Emily Dickinson, and I did not believe him because I had read other women, but I let him silence me.

“Mute Autumn odors. The
starflower, unbroken, passed
between home and chasm through
your memory.
A strange lostness was
palpably present, almost
you would
have lived.” ~ Paul Celan, from “Die Niemandsrose,” (No one’s rose), trans. Michael Hamburger

The dreams of lives I thought I might have:

  • Journalist for a large city paper (this I did not pursue because of love, not that he did not want me to but because I forgot to care)
  • Photojournalist traveling the world (never even tried)
  • State politician (at the time, this seemed like a great goal to have, and then, not)
  • Editor for a large corporation (I came close, but then I decided that my daughter needed her grandparents, and so I moved)
  • English professor at a liberal arts college (Where is the MFA or the PhD that would have allowed me to try for this?)
  • Published author of criminal mysteries (I have no excuses)
A Golovin Birches 1908-10
“Birches” (1908-10)
by Antonin Golovin

And then these, lesser things, that I have imagined I could do if I just took the time:

  • Sew a large quilt, one that could be handed down generation after generation
  • Have a large rose garden, filled with many varieties and scents
  • Learn to bake a wedding cake
  • Make my own soaps and salves and scrubs

My life of what-ifs is one long list of should and might, and my biggest hindrance has only ever been myself.

“oh it is the autumn light
that brings everything back in one hand
the light again of beginnings
the amber appearing as amber” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “September Plowing”

Isaac Levitan Autumn period Birches 1899 oil on cardboard
“Autumn. Birches” (1899, oil on cardboard)
by Isaac Levitan

I offer no excuses, no explanations. I am far too tired to make the effort.

And yet the poems, the sequences of words keep coming, too fast to be finessed well, a tumble of words and thoughts, and I am unused to this creative wellspring, not having seen its likes in years, decades, and I wonder why, why now, why when I gave up on the poems years ago.

Anyway, I wrote another poem today, and once again, I’m sharing, even though it is a first draft, even though it is rough, because the need to put this out here is stronger than my need to hide, so here is today’s:


 

In the bedroom

smells of my husband’s homemade soup
drift down the hall from the kitchen
he is cooking this for me,
his personal salve for my wounds
his quiet prayer for my wellness
in a few hours I will blow steam across the surface of the deep bowl
across the sunken bodies of the fulsome vegetables
let the liquid slip across my tongue
taste him in the broth:

hot enough to scorch my soul,
strong enough to feed my heart
thick enough to bind my rent spirit
copious enough to recall my father’s love
bitter enough to remind me of death
with just a dusting of grace

L. Liwag (November 9, 2014)

                   

Music by Lewis Watson, “Stay”

                   

Afterwards

Suddenly
everything feels afterwards,
stoic and inevitable,
my eyes ringed with the grease of rumor and complicity,
my hands eager to hold any agreeable infatuation
that might otherwise slip away.
Suddenly
it’s evening and the lights up and
down the street appear hopeful,
even magnanimous,
swollen as they are with ancient grievances
and souring schemes. The sky,
however,
appears unwelcoming,
and aloof, eager to surrender
its indifference to our suffering.
Speaking of suffering,
the houses—our sober, recalcitrant houses—
are swollen with dreams that have grown opaque with age,
hoarding as they do truths
untranslatable into auspicious beliefs.
Meanwhile,
our loneliness,
upon which so many laws are based,
continues to consume everything.
Suddenly,
regardless of what the gods say,
the present remains uninhabitable,
the past unforgiving of the harm it’s seen,
while
the future remains translucent
and unambiguous
in its desire to elude us.

~ Philip Schultz

“Sometimes we can’t find the thing that will make us happy, because we can’t let go of the thing that was supposed to.” ~ Robert Brault

                   

Sunday Afternoon Saudade

Here. Have some spring blossoms, scents of apple, peach, lilac, and plum. Listen to some music. Read a poem.

Music by Natalie Walker, “Waking Dream”

Elegy

What to do with this knowledge
that our living is not guaranteed?

Perhaps one day you touch the young branch
of something beautiful. & it grows & grows
despite your birthdays & the death certificate,
& it one day shades the heads of something beautiful
or makes itself useful to the nest. Walk out
of your house, then, believing in this.
Nothing else matters.

All above us is the touching
of strangers & parrots,
some of them human,
some of them not human.

Listen to me. I am telling you
a true thing. This is the only kingdom.
The kingdom of touching;
the touches of the disappearing, things.

~ Aracelis Girmay

“We’re each of us alone, to be sure. What can you do but hold your hand out in the dark.” ~ Ursula Le Guin, from The Unreal and the Real, Selected Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin Volume 2: Outer Space, Inner Lands

                     

Today when I begin writing I’m aware: something that I don’t understand drives this engine.” ~ Donald Hall, from The Paris Review, The Art of Poetry No. 43

Wednesday afternoon, windy and cold, 47 degrees.

Two days ago it was in the mid 70’s, now this. My body is so confused, and everything hurts, right down to the cells.

I’ve spent the last two days trying to do taxes, the operative word being trying. Even with the online program, I realized two very important things: First, I did last year’s taxes wrong, and second, the people who write the tax codes went to the La Sade school of pain.

Evald Kallstenius Fir in Moonlight c1930 oil on canvas
“Fir in Moonlight” (c1930, oil on canvas)
by Evald Kallstenius

In between doing taxes, I have allowed myself to go on an art hunt for image of the moon, and I have come across some lovely new ones, so many that I will perhaps have to divide them among two posts.

Ah, me. So much to do still, and so very little of the wherewithal to do it. Yes, I am hovering somewhere near the bottom of the lowest lows, for far too many reasons to elucidate, so I decided that I will do a random thoughts post, mostly because I haven’t done one in a while, and also, I have a lot of random thoughts jostling for space in my brain, and if I don’t put them down, either my brain will explode, or it will reset itself, and I will have nothing but a reformatted hard drive of a brain, which, if you don’t know, means I will be completely empty.

“If I am not central to the world, then it fails
to make any difference whatever I feel.
The universe is large: to be eccentric is to be
nothing. It is not worth speaking of.” ~ William Bronk, from “Of the All With Which We Coexist”

To begin . . . what do I love?

  • Storms. Yesterday when the rain rolled in, and I heard the wind whipping the wind chimes, I found the sound to be completely soothing, so much so that I paused in my tax-induced catatonia, and took a shower, and then later, I took another shower once it was dark.

    Eugène Jansson Riddarfjarden in Stockholm c1898
    “Riddarfjarden in Stockholm” (c1898)
    by Eugène Fredrik Jansson
  • Bathing in the dark. I have always loved to do this, and with our glass block window in the bathroom, I have nothing but moonlight as my backdrop. It calms me in a strange way. Freudians would surely say that it is a desire to return to the womb, or some such blather.
  • Fog. Living near the ocean and the bay, we get wonderful fog, but not nearly enough. I know that fog is supposed to be one of those things in nature that can have an adverse effect on moods, but not for me. I love fog, the denser, the better.
  • Lightning. Not the same as storms. Storms can have no lightning, but when they do, it intensifies my desire to just sit, listen, and watch. Odd that I am calmest during nature’s furies.

“It isn’t given to us to know those rare moments when people are wide open and the lightest touch can wither or heal. A moment too late and we can never reach them any more in this world. They will not be cured by our most efficacious drugs or slain with our sharpest swords.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, from “The Freshest Boy”

What do I hate?

  • Sanctioned bigotry. You know, the kind at work in organizations such as police forces and religions, the kind that perpetuates the whole concept of us and them.

    Charles Guilloux Acqua-di-fiori
    “Acqua-di-fiori” (nd)
    by Charles Guilloux
  • Condescension. When a man talks to me as if I don’t know the difference between a spark plug and a radiator. Really? Still?
  • First impressions. These are almost never accurate, and what I hate most is that I do this all of the time. I make snap judgments even though I know better.
  • Weak handshakes. See condescension. I don’t need my metacarpal to be crushed, but don’t give me a limp fish.
  • Greed. When is enough too much?
  • Emptiness. I can be alone without being lonely, but what slays me every time is when I feel empty, hollow.

“We move so easily from light to shade
and always in pursuit of something else:”— John Burnside, from “Vi Knonos”

Color my world:

  • Purple, in all of its hues. Reminds me of fields of lavender, something I have yet to see in real life, and one of the reasons I so wish to go to Provence.

    Maurice Prendergast The Ocean Palace c1895
    “The Ocean Palace” (c1895)
    by Maurice Prendergast
  • Blue. I find that I am inexorably drawn to a work of art that is predominantly blue, everything from van Gogh to Rothko. Again, psychoanalysts would have no problem equating this fascination with my state of mind, but it goes beyond that: consider how many variations of blue exist, not just in art, but in nature.
  • Yellow. I used to abhor this color, mostly because somewhere in the recesses of my mind someone had once called my skin yellow, and I allowed that ignorance to affect me. Now, though, I find it to be one of my favorite colors in a work of art. I couldn’t tell you why, exactly; it’s just one of those things.
  • Black/white. Not color and all colors. It’s the extremes of both that draw me in. Truly, have you ever noticed how many ways black can be depicted in a work of art? My fondness for white tops—sweaters, blouses, t-shirts—is completely ill-advised, what with the dog hair and my tendency to spill, but I probably have more white tops than any other color. Again, what would Freud say, that old misogynist . . .

“Rhythm is just this oscilloscope of the soul. We come from a place that has always been inside us. Our words migrate helplessly. The world reflects only itself. Which is why we have to create our own memories . . . Why do we think our metaphors will save us? The world is only itself. Time is just our way of imagining it.” ~ Richard Jackson, from “About This Poem”

Things that bother me too much:

  • Bad grammar. I’m not perfect, and I really hate it when I mess up because I have no excuse, but I need to bear in mind that not everyone has English degrees.

    Oscar Hullgren Moonlight nd
    “Moonlight” (nd)
    by Oscar Hullgren
  • Bad driving. At least go the speed limit, for god’s sake. Yes, I’m always in a hurry, and I’m an aggressive rather than defensive driver, but I’m careful, and I’m safe, and some days I feel as if I’m driving an invisible car.
  • Lack of compassion. Some of the things that I read on my tumblr dash really get to me, like the young people who cut themselves because they are hurting so much, or the girl who was spit at because she was overweight. Who are these people who really feel that they are so much better than everyone else?
  • The NRA. Look, they have a right to exist. I don’t question that. They also have a right to protest or to gather or to speak out. Again, not a problem. What I have a huge problem with is their power with Congress. How many more mass shootings, or random killings of targeted groups are we going to have before anything changes? Will anything change? I fear that it won’t.
  • Congress. At one point in my life, I seriously considered going into politics, running for state senate. I’m so glad that I didn’t. Politicians in this country are the scum of the earth, as far as I’m concerned (see three and four above).

“Things happen all the time, things happen every minute
that have nothing to do with us.” ~ Richard Siken, from A Primer For Small Weird Loves

What I’m feeling lately:

  • I never truly realized just how hard it would be when my mother died. I think that I believed because our relationship was so hard, that it wouldn’t bother me, but it bothers me, every second of every minute of every day.
Edvard Munch Moonlight
“Moonlight”
by Edvard Munch
  • What bothers me the most is how much I feel I failed her.
  • I grieve too keenly, too intensely, for far too long. This, I know, yet I am completely unable to do anything about it. I still have dreams about my father that I awaken from completely shaken.
  • I have wasted my life. I never got my PhD, even though I always, always wanted one, always told myself that I would do it someday, and now someday is here, and I have done nothing, and it’s too late.
  • Time is passing much too quickly. It’s the bottom end of April, and still, here I sit, paralyzed by my own fear and loathing. How did I get to this point?
  • I am far too old to have another child, and in this, I have failed Corey. When we first got together, I had absolutely no fears that I would be able to get pregnant again, and then there was that tumor on my ovary, and then all hopes of that were dashed, and this vital young man was stuck with an older woman who could not give him the one thing he would give anything to have: his own child. Do not think that this does not creep into my mind at least once a day, that it does not hover around the periphery of every cross word between us, that I do not fear that one day, it will all be too much for him.

“I should like this sky, this quiet water, to think themselves within me, that it might be I whom they express in flesh and bone, and I remain at a distance. But it is also by this distance that the sky and the water exist before me.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir, from “The Ethics of Ambiguity”

What I am not good at:

Winslow Homer Easter Point Light 1880
“Easter Point Light” (1880)
by Winslow Homer
  • Living in the moment
  • Letting go
  • Moving on
  • Forgiving myself
  • Figuring out who my friends are, if any
  • Keeping up with my obligations
  • Following through
  • Stepping aside at the right time
  • Staying neutral
  • Not reacting
  • Not overreacting
  • Handling stress

“I am not good. I am not virtuous. I am not sympathetic. I am not generous. I am merely and above all a creature of intense passionate feeling. I feel—everything. It is my genius. It burns me like fire.” ~ Mary MacLane, from I Await the Devil’s Coming

Etcetera:

Emil Nolde Moonlit Night 1914
“Moonlit Night” (1914)
by Emil Nolde

Look, I know that I’m not a bad person, but I’m not the best person that I could be. I give when I can, but not enough. I do some things, but not others. I don’t go far enough with my writing. I love my family too fiercely, so that sometimes it’s smothering. I treat my dogs like children. I berate myself constantly for not following through, with my publishing degree, with postgraduate work, with writing workshops, with writing projects. But I stop just short of moving on. I harbor deep resentment, and I hold grudges, if only in my mind. I awaken from these nightmares, and I wonder how I got here, how I can go on, how I can do the right thing, whatever that is. I judge the actions of others when I have far too many foibles of my own.

Isaac Levitan Fog over Water c1895 oil on canvas
“Fog over Water” (c1895, oil on canvas)
by Isaac Levitan

I should be happy with what I have, my spouse, my kids, my granddaughter, but I cannot still this unrest in my heart, this feeling that I am not doing something that I need to do, that I am not going to the place that I need to be, but do not ask me what or where or when. If I had any answers, do you think I would do this day in and day out? The only thing that I know for certain is that I know less and less with each passing hour, and it leaves me feeling left behind. I am fallow and hollow, and my soul is the color of coffee dregs. And no matter how much I try to brighten my face or paint my nails, there is a hardness beneath, and yet that hardness is but a veneer, and below that is quicksilver, a mercurial being that is willful in one moment and utterly fragile in the next.

Enough. The floodgates must be closed. I knew that this wasn’t a good idea.

More later. Peace.

Music by Janel Drewis, “In the Pines (Where Did You Sleep Last Night)”

                   

The Other Day

1

The other day my wristwatch
came apart – not the time
but the band, not the beginning
but the end. The sun did not
shine, but it had not shown
itself for a handful of days.
Night came on early, but it is
that part of the year, at least
here, where night does that.
One friend says
“you can take my word
for the sun,”
misunderstood this as:
some sentences are like
sun and the moon,
some moon or sun,
some night only but
near night or far
night – consolation
in either case.

2

Wish friend had said
“take my friendship
for the sun”

Am missing the sun – but the
orbit or a human closeness
over time begins to resemble
the misshapen stand of a watchband,

or the case of moonlight
held only in the hands of
illusion / accompaniment –
the moon is moving a few
feet (or is it inches)
away from the earth every
year – whether “it” collided
with us (thus forming)

is beside the point. The
moon moves away like
our lives from ourselves.

~ Michael Burkard

 

“You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame. How could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes?” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Isaac Levitan Lakeshore
“Lakeshore” (nd, unknown medium)
by Isaac Levitan

                   

Two for Tuesday: The poet and the words

“There is no curtain for the heart
In a room full of poets. Each face maps
Its suffering, its lust with lines
As subtle as mountain ranges.” ~ Kate Horowitz, section 1 of “6pm Reading, St. Anthony Hall”

                   

The Ascension of Words

Thus, like the skin
of a shorn ewe, the day rises.It is difficult to skin the self from a stone.
It is difficult to skin memory from a Greek.

But why should we talk about these!
After all,
light too has a skin,
light too can be skinned…
So
light too is guilty of being.

A gust of fresh air
comes with the millennium.
We are beautiful;
why should we not be beautiful?

We eat one another
only from hunger,
from adoration,
from structure,
from love.
It doesn’t matter.
We are what we are,
that is, beautiful.

I carry my ever still blood
in my heart.
I carry my ever salt tear
in my eye.

I carry the angel in the middle of heaven.

~ Nichita Stanescu

                   

Picture 041
“Flying Geese Against the Aurora” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Sir Peter Markham Scott

                   

How to Live

Poets show us how to live ~ Matthew Arnold

They show us more often
than not how to die
at the same time and in more ways
of doing both, of taking the first
out of the heart of the other
and spreading it around
and making it up, making it over
in legendary examples
in the sand after falling
into the bad company
of themselves, too early
and too late, and too soon
they forget how to live
through it and still be able
to follow in strange tracks
on paper. Their embarrassing lives
make schoolteachers labor
hard to explain why
they dared to take so much
that was harmful into their mouths
and swallow it, to neglect
(not trying to recollect)
their debts to others , to forget
to do what they were meant to
before giving away
or ignoring their last chances
with a half-conscious flourish
with one hand waving or still holding
someone’s hand while the other
keeps scribbling something
or other, keeps on trying
with the equivalent of a feather
to put everything down.

~ David Wagoner

                    

Music by Green River Ordinance, “Uncertainly Certain”