“If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world.” ~ Sir Francis Bacon, from Essays

“There are those fortunate hours when the world consents to be made into a poem.” ~ Mark Doty

You know that video I posted a while ago about the Russian dash cams capturing the really bad driving and fake accidents? Well, this one is the exact opposite, and I found myself sitting here with a stupid grin on my face. That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, my very next thought was wondering if this kind of thing still happens here.

Anyway, enjoy.

And here’s some incredibly beautifully rendered music by Anderson and Roe: “Vivaldi: A Rain of Tears”

“These hands — the hands that care, the hands that mold; the hands that touch the lips, the lips that speak the words — the words that tell us we are whole.” ~ Douglas Coupland, Life After God

Lord Howe Island Photos
View from Mount Gower, Lord Howe Island, NSW, Australia
Source: tripadvisor.com

                   

“You remember too much,
my mother said to me recently

Why hold onto all that? And I said,
Where can I put it down?” ~ Anne Carson, from “The Glass Essay

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy, low 80’s, showers expected.

Yesterday I had to buy a new lawn mower. Ours finally died, and with Corey gone it was up to me to purchase a new one. I went to Sears and picked up a Craftsman with a Briggs and Stratton engine. I applied my little knowledge about mowers and mower engines, and rolled it around the floor to get a feel for it, and then dropped $231 plus tax (sale price). That means that within the last week I have spent $600 on unexpected, emergency purchases.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Ned’s Beach, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Do I even need to say how painful this was and is? That’s money that could have gone to catch up my health insurance payments. Money that could have gone towards ordering my much-needed glasses. Money that could have gone towards anything but plumbing and a mower.

Corey is really hard on mowers, and he goes through one every three years or so. This is kind of a foreign concept to me as the mower that I had before Corey )that’s how I categorize everything: before Corey and since Corey) was about 10 years old. I also had a lawn tractor that my dad bought me after my ex left. When I mowed the yard, and yes, I did indeed, I cleaned the mower after each use and put it back in the shed. I would really like for this mower to be stored in the shed, but that means that I need to go out there and make room in the shed, which resembles our garage: massive piles of who-knows-what seemingly placed by a tornado-force wind. I know this to be true because I just took a peek in there.

Disheartening, but hey, I have a new job, right? Right…………………..

“Hear how the mouth,
so full
of longing for the world,
changes its shape?”  ~ Mark Doty, from “Difference

So while mower shopping, I took Brett to purchase some new clothes for school (with his money). He managed to spend $100 and got some new pants, a vest, and several t-shirts. I tried to explain to him that he got a lot for his money, but Brett is, well, thrifty. I understand why, and I suppose it’s good that someone in this family is so inclined as I’m always out there spending money on frivolous things like, say, a lawn mower, and food, and utility bills.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Balls Pyramid, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Sorry, a bit on the testy side today.

We stopped by Alexis’s apartment on the way home. She was having one of those days: Olivia is not taking to her new swing. I could not have survived without a baby swing. All of my kids loved it, especially Alexis, who would become calm as soon as the swing began to move, but with those old swings, you had to wind them to make them work, and just as she’d fall asleep, the swing would stop. I would wind it, which would wake her, and the whole process began again. Now, they plug in or use batteries and are so quiet. I really hope Olivia adjusts to hers as the swing is the one item that allowed me to actually begin to eat meals again like an adult, you know, sitting down with utensils, instead of standing and on the run.

While I was there I did her dishes, made formula, and gave Olivia a bath. Just these little things really help Lex, and it doesn’t take me any time at all. Of course, by the time I got home after the stress of shopping and spending money, I was beyond tired.

“If I expect as little as possible, I won’t be hurt.” ~ Susan Sontag in As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980

Later that same day . . .

I took an extended break to do a few things: clean Capt. Jack’s fish bowl, clean Eamonn’s fish bowl, play ball with Tillie and Shakes, and bathe the dogs (well, Alfie was a half bath as he had one of his psychotic episodes, and I really didn’t feel like dealing with it). I’m really, really hoping that someone puts the lawn mower together today or tomorrow morning. Just as I’m hoping a different someone will clean out some space in the shed.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Sunset on Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

And I’m really, really hoping that neither of those someone’s are me, but I’m not holding my breath.

Wow. That was really passive/aggressive, wasn’t it? Oh well.

I love my sons, but they don’t take initiative, at least not at home. It reminds me of their father, which is unfortunate. He was great at helping his friends at a minute’s notice, but not so much around here, which is why I took it upon myself to learn some basics about doing things around the house. Not only did I mow the yard, but I used to edge and trim, wash my car, change my oil, and trim the bushes. I know how to change a fixture, do some basic plumbing, and clean gutters.

My mantra? It doesn’t take a penis to use a power tool.

Knowing is only half of it, unfortunately. Being able to do it is the other half, and that’s where I’m stymied. Corey, however, is super handy around the house, which is why things break when he’s away. Which principle is that? Finagle’s Law of Dynamic Negatives (a corollary to Murphy’s Law): Anything that can go wrong will—at the worst possible moment. Yep, that’s how I live my life.

Oh, and by the way, resistentialism also applies (spiteful behavior manifested by inanimate objects): On the way to pick up Eamonn, the Rodeo’s “Check Engine Light” came on again. Is it not enough that I just spent $1200 on everything from brakes, to tires, to shocks, to oxygen sensors on that damned vehicle? Apparently not.

“there’s no chance
at all:
we are all trapped
by a singular
fate.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “Alone with Everybody

Just a bit of a continuation on the last section: I went into the garage to check the laundry, and the washer is leaking. This is probably a direct result of my prior bragging about my plumbing skills; ergo, Sod’s Law, second law, actually: Sooner or later, the worst possible set of circumstances is bound to occur. (For a complete list of all eponymous laws and adages, click here.

Anyway, today’s pictures relate to one of my obsessions: Lord Howe Island, in New South Wales, Australia. Apparently, this little bit of paradise is relatively untouched by the very things that tend to ruin island paradises: too much development, too much commercialism, and too may tourists. I want to go there some day, preferably sooner rather than later. I used to want to go to Hawaii, but time seems to have ruined the last state in the union: overdeveloped, overpriced, overcrowded.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Sea Turtle, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Speaking of places, I was reading an article on The Daily Beast about the smartest cities in the country, and quell surprise?! Norfolk, VA ranks as #35 out of 55 listed. Norfolk’s 2009 ranking was 41st. Out of a metropolitan population of 1,675,792, 17 percent have bachelor’s degrees, and 10 percent have graduate degrees, as compared to #1, which is . . . Boston, MA with 24 and 18 percent, respectively.

According to the article, scores were compiled based on adults with degrees, as well as data collected from Lumos Labs, which was used to analyze cities in five cognitive areas: “memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention, and problem solving. The median Lumos Labs score, presented as an estimated IQ score, was worth 50 percent of our final, weighted ranking.” Norfolk’s IQ score was 88.33, as compared to Boston’s score of 176.68.

Who would have ever thought it? I’m just full of irrelevant trivia today.

“I remember the first time I realized the world we are born into is not the one we leave.” ~ Mary Ruefle, from “I Remember, I Remember, On the handsome roofers, attentive cows, and sudden tears of youth

And finally . . .

I want to send my love to Corey’s family in Ohio. Recent events have hit everyone hard, and I’m thinking of all of you. Corey’s Uncle Tom passed away this past week, and I know that my f-in-law John has been hit hard. Big hugs to Alana. Also, my m-in-law Joyce is having back surgery at the end of the month, so I’m wishing her well and hoping that she has good results.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Blinky Beach, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

I think that I’ll stop here for now with a few more glorious shots of Lord Howe Island, and the really intriguing Balls Pyramid, which was discovered in 1788. The former Pacific shield volcano juts out 1,843 feet, making it the world’s tallest sea stack. The first successful climb to the summit was made in 1965. Climbing has since been banned without permission from the minister of state.

                   

Lord Howe Island Photos
Side View of Balls Pyramid, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com
Lord Howe Island Photos
Aerial View of Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Music by David J. Roch, “Skin and Bones”


                   

Why We Must Struggle

If we have not struggled
as hard as we can
at our strongest
how will we sense
the shape of our losses
or know what sustains
us longest or name
what change costs us,
saying how strange
it is that one sector
of the self can step in
for another in trouble,
how loss activates
a latent double, how
we can feed
as upon nectar
upon need?

~ Kay Ryan

“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver, from Animal Dreams

Gulfoss Waterfall, Reykjavik, Iceland by m'sieur rico* (FCC)

                   

“—O remember
In your narrowing dark hours
That more things move
Than blood in the heart.” ~ Louise Bogan, from “Night”

Wednesday evening. Cloudy and much cooler, low 60’s.

Not sure how far I’ll get with this particular post. I’ve been fighting this headache for days, and today seems to be the worst yet. I thought I’d try to write in between waves of pain. Pictures are of Iceland, which is actually very green, so why is Greenland so not green?

Reykjavik, Iceland by m'sieur rico (FCC)

I have laundry going (Alexis’s), and I’ve already taken Tillie outside for her daily playtime. Brett is at school, and Eamonn is on his way out of the house. I’m supposed to be finding a link to a diaper bag for Alexis, but just not in the mood to look at diaper bags. Maybe tomorrow. I finally did the FAFSAs for Brett and Corey. I had completely forgotten about doing those, which is a shame because the earlier they are completed, the better the chance for grant money. It’s my fault, but what can you do?

I also noticed that I made a mistake on our federal tax returns when I was looking at them to complete the FAFSAs. Great. Just what we need, undue attention from the IRS; although, I have the past ten years of tax returns and receipts all sorted neatly into expanding folders in the top of the living room closet. I’m not saying this to be smug; rather, they are there solely because to get rid of five years worth requires an indecent amount of shredding, and again, I don’t want to do it.

We haven’t heard anything back from the IRS, and I have no idea how long this will take as we had to submit by mail this year instead of online—too many supplemental forms or something like that. And I just realized that we need to submit our state taxes by the end of this month. We owe a little over $100, so I’m waiting until the last possible minute on those.

“Sometimes the drawers of the earth close;
Sometimes our stories keep on and on. So listen—” ~ David St. John, from “Elegy”

I’m working on Brett’s computer today, but I’m counting the days until I can take my CPU in to have the new hard drive installed. Oh happy day . . . simply agog with anticipation.

Waterfall, Reykjavik, Iceland by m'sieur rico (FCC)

Agog is a good word, sounds like what it is. I love words like that.

I have no idea as to where in the Atlantic Corey is at the moment, but maybe he’s made it into somewhat warmer climes. Well, I suppose that anything is better than northern Europe as far as being warmer.

I hope that if you get a chance, you’ll click on the First Books link that I provided in the post a few days ago. They are a great organization, and their goal is to provide books for children who otherwise would have no books in their house, which, unfortunately, is so much of the population. As for me, I cannot wait to start reading books to the coming addition to our family. It’s never too early to begin reading.

As for First Books, I really like what they are doing, and I’m trying to support them however I can.

“Maybe the only thing each of us can see is our own shadow.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, from Diary

Last night I woke up facing the opposite direction in my bed, as in my head was at the footboard, and my feet were at the headboard. I’m fairly certain that I moved around in an attempt to gain more room. It’s odd how a queen-sized bed still isn’t enough for one human and three dogs, two of which are Jack Russells. How does that happen?

Iceland by m'sieur rico (FCC)

Then I woke up with a really bad migraine, but didn’t feel well enough to make it to the kitchen to fill a bag with crushed ice. That just sucks, you know? I really like how it was on the Star Trek shows—a little portal that you just speak to, and voila—whatever you desired, Earl Grey tea with lemon (Capt. Picard), a bag of ice for my head . . . why isn’t the 21st century like all the movies said it would be? You know, flying cars, personalized robots, all of the technological accoutrements?

Actually, I should hush my mouth as I’m always the one complaining about how we rely too much on technology. Okay, so I’m a selective technophile—I like it and want it when it can help to make me feel better. I don’t know what made me think of those little portals, let alone remember that Captain Jean-Luc Picard liked Earl Grey tea.

“It’s too late
to be unwritten,
and I’m much too scrawled
to ever be erased.” ~ Mark Doty, from “My Tattoo”

Brett has signed up for a poetry workshop in the fall, and I have to admit that I am more than a little envious of him. Wouldn’t it be grand (in my world) to be in a poetry workshop, feeding off that collective energy, the kind of energy that you can only find in a workshop. It’s impossible to find that kind of energy anywhere else. It doesn’t matter how varied the talent level is in a writing workshop as long as the person conducting it knows what he or she is doing. Being around like-minded people who are in the process of creating is a guaranteed way to creative inspiration.

Gulfoss, Reykjavik, Iceland by m'sieur rico (FCC)

Brett has had a great introduction to creative writing workshop this semester, and I’m really impressed with the caliber of assignments that his professor has given them.

Mari and I always said that we were going to go away to a workshop, but we never did. It’s an idea that I haven’t let go of, though. I still want to go to a five-day (seven days? ten?) retreat somewhere, work on my craft, get feedback from peers and professionals. I also haven’t given up on the idea of the Warren Wilson low-residency MFA. It’s one of the most acclaimed MFAs in the country, and its faculty has included Raymond Carver, Louise Glück, Stephen Dobyns, Marie Howe, and Gregory Orr, to name only a few.

I know, I know. I need another degree like I need another physical disorder, but you have to understand: I have wanted to get that WW MFA for over 20 years. My ex had said that I should go for it, but when I looked into it seriously, I got the usual spiel about not being able to afford it, and ya da ya da ya da. It’s not a cheap degree, but the people who run it are phenomenal, and they always have a staff that is noteworthy.

More pipe dreams, I suppose.

“Words say simultaneously too much and too little. This is why they are perfect for communication, most people’s lives operating in the uncomfortable balance between too much and too little. Nothing more precise.” ~ B.K. Loren, from “Word Hoard” in Parabola, v.28, no.3, August 2003

I looked for the Loren essay (quote above) online as it seemed like it would be quite interesting, but I couldn’t find it unless I order a back issues of Parabola, which I’m not opposed to doing, but getting the essay for free is far more appealing. But I think that anything that’s titled “Word Hoard” would probably be a good read.

Reyjavik, Iceland by m'sieur rico (FCC)

But getting back to the idea of school, more school for me, my loans will be discharged as of October of this year due to my disability. It’s the one good thing to come of being disabled, having my school loans forgiven.

Frankly, I’m all for forgiveness of school loans. I don’t believe that people should have to decide between rent and paying back their school loans. I’m not saying that people should default on loans; rather I’m saying that there are definite situations in which individuals who have taken out school loans find themselves in positions in which they are unable to repay those loans upon completion of their educations.

How does one repay a school loan if one doesn’t have a job? Another Sisyphean challenge.

Oh don’t even get me started on the whole idea of political hot buttons (school loans being one of them). I’m quite sick of politics at the moment, quite sick of all of the crap from the right about women’s health and women in the workplace. A rich woman who stay home to take care of her children is doing the hardest job in the world, but a poor one who stays home to take care of her children is living off the system, is abusing the welfare system. Geez. Not going to go there, refuse to go there, well, perhaps a post at a later date.

“Literature, the most seductive, the most deceiving, the most dangerous of professions.” ~ John Morley

Let’s see, in other aspects of my mundane life . . .

I watched the first part of Titanic (yet another one) on ABC the other night. Didn’t bother watching the second part. I watched because of some of the people who were featured in it, like Linus Roache, but even he couldn’t save the overblown script. Titanic has been written about by so many people in so many ways. There have been movies, documentaries, conspiracy-theory driven stories. The whole gamut.

Vík í Mýrdal, Iceland Reykjavik Iceland by m'sieur rico (FCC)
I could live on this green patch of land...

I watched “Real Housewives of Orange County” last night, and I have to tell you, I am really sick of those women. A group of them went glamping, which is supposedly camping for the pampered without the camping stuff, like tents, sleeping bags, etc. They ordered their food and found out that they would have to cook it themselves over a fire pit, and you would have thought that someone had told them that they had to give back their fake boobs and hair extensions. Pul-eez. Definitely over the whole Real Housewives franchise.

I also watched “Fashion Star” last night, and thought that I had found a bathing suit that I really liked. It looked good on the runway, but when I looked at it later online, not so much. That show isn’t “Project Runway,” but it will do until the real thing comes back on. So sue me, I like fashion even though it’s not really a part of my real world.

Wow. I’m even boring myself with this blathering about nothing. Time to stop.

More later. Peace.

*All images of Iceland taken from m’sieur rico’s photostream on Flickr.

Music by Royal Wood, “In the Garden”

                   

Come Trembling

In the country where believers eat the bodies
of the gods, we meet a priest who pulls a rope
of thorns through his tongue to make his mind

pure enough for a vision. He dances to music
we can’t hear and waits to come trembling
into knowledge. We don’t recognize ourselves

in his radiance, but we do in his suffering.
He passes through pain and into healing
without seeing the holy rendered visible.

He tells us the oracle died when she refused
to divine the future, but we find her tangled
in her own hair wearing a garland of burrs,

manacled to the bed. We ask for a better world
to die in, but she says, Submit to your freedom.
We tie new knots in her hair and swim

into the belly of a shark to retrieve the book
of signs. Rumors say the secret of life is sewn
into a dead man’s coat, but when we unearth him,

all we find in his sleeves are his fractured arms.
We want to believe, to split open the myth
and lie in it, return to original dark and be changed,

but the bones won’t yield to us, pages are missing
from the book, the gods remain so quiet
we hear water speaking between the stones.

~ Traci Brimhall

“I put out my hand and the dark falls through it.” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “Before That”

A winter coated Aukštaitijos National Park, Lithuania

                    

“I like the dark part of the night, after midnight and before four-thirty, when it’s hollow, when ceilings are harder and farther away. Then I can breathe, and can think while others are sleeping, in a way can stop time, can have it so–this has always been my dream–so that while everyone else is frozen, I can work busily about them, doing whatever it is that needs to be done, like the elves who make the shoes while children sleep.” ~ Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Monday, later afternoon. Much warmer, 50’s.

A bad weekend as far as sleeping goes. I realize the insomnia is probably stress-related, the anticipation of what’s coming, but geez it’s a pain.

Stripeikiai Honeymaking Museum, Lithuania

Saturday night Corey convinced me to watch 28 Days Later, a zombie movie. Normally, I don’t like zombie movies, but what he failed to mention was that this particular movie was more of a drama, so I actually liked it, enough to say, “let’s watch the sequel,” 28 Weeks Later, which we did, which meant that by 5:30 in the morning, I was wide awake, and watching special features.

Consequently, I awoke with a headache yesterday afternoon, and the headache progressed into a migraine. Lovely.

Last night wasn’t much better, even though we weren’t watching any movies. What was particularly bad was that I actually fell asleep around 11:30, but then I woke up an hour later and couldn’t get back to sleep . . . so 4 a.m. and another headache today. We were awakened by Eamonn coming into our room to show us the flowers that he had bought for his girlfriend for Valentine’s Day and his demand that I do something with them for him. Great.

How did it get to be Valentine’s Day is really the question that I need to ask . . .

“For me, one of the most important knowings I have now . . . it’s literally beyond words. It comes from a place of silence. There’s no way in words to capture what it is. And so the challenge of writing is how do you capture what has no words. Because in the expression, you lose it.” ~ Dr. James Orbinski, Triage: Dr.James Orbinski’s Humanitarian Dilemma

So Corey is not leaving today, obviously. His plans have changed—no, really? Quelle surprise . . .

Apparently, the shipping company is having some problems with the Coast Guard inspection, hence the delay. Corey spoke with his contact today, and there is nothing definite yet. This is both good and bad news: good because we get a few more days together, bad because we were already in the mindset that he was going, good because we can get a few more things done around here, bad because Corey had himself taken off the schedule for his other job . . .

Trakai Castle, Lithuania

In other words, nothing new in the lovely existence that is our world, the world of topsy turvey.

But towards the goal of taking care of things, last night Corey bathed all three dogs. Then the real fun began: we needed to cut the boy dogs’ nails. This involves putting on a muzzle as neither of them are well-behaved when getting their nails cut. We did Shakes first as he is the worst, and somehow he managed to get out of his muzzle and bite Corey’s hand. The whole ordeal was a fiasco from start to finish. The only thing that we have to show for it is clean dogs with trimmed nails and a sore hand for Corey.

I did my first aid thing and applied lots of antibiotic ointment, sterile gauze and tape. This outcome is precisely why we wait so long to cut their nails.

I remember that I had the same problem with my old dog Ascot; the vet gave me a tranquilizer to give her before I cut her nails the next time. I gave her the tranquilizer, and she appeared to be sufficiently stoned, but then when I cut the first nail, she came to life and bit me. Had to get a tetanus shot that time. I know that the dogs must sense apprehension in me, which heightens their own apprehension, but I just can’t help it. Perhaps I should have taken the tranquilizer.

“What did you think,
that joy was some slight thing?” ~ Mark Doty, from “Visitation

So over the weekend the temperature dropped, and we had snow flurries, but by the morning, the snow was gone. The wind kicked up significantly, which made the sliding door rattle and shake. One of the things on our to-do list in the house is to replace the insulation, which I know is shoddy. I had to stop watching “Holmes on Holmes” because the list of new products that I want to try in the house when we proceed with the renovation has gotten ridiculous, but I love that spray on insulation that he uses. Very cool.

Jesuit Church, Kaunas, Lithuania

Yes, I can even get excited over insulation. Sad, I know, and yet more proof that I do not leave this house nearly enough.

All of this reinforced for me that I do not like the cold unless it is accompanied by snow. Bitter cold is nasty, and such weather always brings to mind those movies in which men appear with frost in their moustaches, and everyone’s breath comes out like exhalations of smoke. And while that is all very romantic in the movies, it is not nearly so in real life.

Add to this that the cold has quite deleterious effects on my body—stiff hands, aching back and neck. Joy, joy, joy. (Oh, unintentional play on the quote . . .)

“First, he says, you have to go out into the world. This is not a simple matter of going outside one’s door. No, that is simply going out. That’s what one does when one is on the way to the store to buy a loaf of bread, some cheese, and a bottle of wine. When one goes out into the world, one is shedding preconceptions of past paths and ideas of past paths, and trying to move freely through an unsubstantiated and new geography. ” ~ Jesse Ball, The Way Through Doors

Speaking of getting out, Corey did a little research on Lithuania and discovered these two disconcerting facts: The country has the highest suicide rate in the world, and the highest homicide rate in Europe. Those are not good statistics no matter how you look at it.

Hill of Crosses Near Siauliai, Lithuania, by percivalsmithers (FCC)

I told him that he should not leave the boat while he is there. Of course, most of Europe views the U.S. as one large old West expanse in which everyone owns a gun, and simply walking around leaves one at risk for attack. We fear that which we do not know.

But what do I know, anyway? To prove myself wrong, I decided to search for images of Lithuania, which I have included in today’s post (of course I put the snowy one on top). What I discovered was some lovely Medieval architecture, beautiful churches, and this place called the Hill of Crosses, which is located in northern Lithuania near Šiauliai, the fourth largest city in the country.

According to one site, “There are tens of thousands of crosses planted on a hillside in Lithuania in Kryžiu Kalnas. No one knows for sure why the custom started, but the crosses began appearing in the 14th century . . . The city of Siauliai was founded in 1236 and controlled by Teutonic Knights during the 14th century. The tradition of placing crosses seems to date from this period and may have risen as a symbol of Lithuanian defiance toward foreign invaders. Since the medieval period, the Hill of Crosses has represented the peaceful resistance of Lithuanian Catholicism to oppression.”

“The pact between page and voice is different from the compact of voice and body. The voice opens the body . . . The page wants proof, but bonds. The body cannot keep the voice. It spills.” ~ Rosmarie Waldrop, from Reluctant Gravities

So I’ll close with this little section on the Grammy Awards. I don’t usually watch awards shows as I find them very boring, but I tuned in last night for two reasons, we don’t have cable at the moment, so I couldn’t watch my regular channels, and also, I wanted to see Adele’s live performance (post-surgery). I never made it that far into the show.

Russian Orthodox Church, Lithuania, by AntoniO BovinO (FCC)

I mean, I loved hearing the Jason Aldean/Kelly Clarkson duet, and I thought that I would like Sir Paul’s performance, but instead, I found it rather sad: his voice has lost something in recent years.

But what did it for me, what made me turn off the show was the whole Chris Brown thing. As with most things, I haven’t forgotten that Chris Brown beat the crap out of his then-girlfriend, Rihanna. However, it seems that the industry has forgotten this little aspect of his personality. Perhaps he’s cured in their eyes . . . not. He not only performed (on the same stage that Rihanna later performed on), but he won a Grammy.

P’shaw.

I don’t expect celebrities to be perfect, nor do I idolize them. I do, however, know that many, many impressionable young minds look up to people in the music industry. So what does this turn of events say? That it’s okay to very publicly abuse your significant other as long as you have anger-management treatment, and then everyone can just go ahead with their lives as if nothing happened? And in fact, we’ll reward you three years later because you are just that good?

Puleez. I mean, really. Apparently, I’m not the only one who felt this way, angered by seeing Brown strut like a peacock across the stage, as this article in the Chicago Tribune attests:

In an op-ed, Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post said that while people deserve second chances, “That doesn’t mean they deserve a chance to strut around the Grammy stage a few years after being convicted of felony assault.”

Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic tweeted: “I don’t look for the Grammys for moral clarity, but, really? Do the words ‘felony assault’ mean anything at all?”

Enough said.

More later. Peace.

One more image:

Senamiestus, Vilnius, Lithuania, by Sarunas Burdulis (FCC)

Music by Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson, “Don’t You Want to Stay” (seems appropriate)

                   

From Moral Proverbs and Folk Songs

1.
The deepest words
of the wise men teach us
the same as the whistle of the wind
when it  blows
or the sound of the water when it is
flowing.

2.
Mankind  owns four things
that are no good at sea:
rudder, anchor, oars,
and the fear of going down.

3.
Beyond living and dreaming
there is something more important:
waking up.

4.
Pay attention now:
a heart that’s all by itself
is not a heart.

~ Antonio Machado (trans. Robert Bly)

Mark Doty’s Incomparable “Sweet Machine” of Wordsmithing

Mark Doty Book Covers

Doty Wins 2008 National Book Award

Renowned poet Mark Doty recently won the National Book Award for poetry for his book Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems. Fire to Fireis a collection of Doty’s work from seven books of poetry spanning over 20 years. Doty’s poems are full of images about the human experience, fierce declarations about love, life and loss, and rich sensuality. His themes have included AIDS, death, and homelessness. Doty has won numerous awards for his poetry and his non-fiction, and his titles include Atlantis, My Alexandria, Sweet Machine, Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir, Dog Years, to name but a few.

Below is one of my favorite Doty poems from Atlantis. “Faith” is the first part of a series of six poems written about the eventual loss of his partner Wally as a result of AIDS. The series, entitled “Atlantis,” the same as the name of the book, is an incredible psychological and emotional glimpse into the intimate experience of caring for and eventually losing someone you love.

1. Faith
 

 

 

 

“I’ve been having these
awful dreams, each a little different,
though the core’s the same-

we’re walking in a field,
Wally and Arden and I, a stretch of grass
with a highway running beside it,

or a path in the woods that opens
onto a road. Everything’s fine,
then the dog sprints ahead of us,

exicted; we’re calling but
he’s racing down a scent and doesn’t hear us,
and that’s when he goes

onto the highway. I don’t want to describe it.
Sometimes it’s brutal and over,
and others he’s struck and takes off

so we don’t know where he is
or how bad. This wakes me
every night, and I stay awake;

I’m afraid if I sleep I’ll go back
into the dream. It’s been six months,
almost exactly, since the doctor wrote

not even a real word
but an acronym, a vacant
four-letter cipher

that draws meanings into itself,
reconstitutes the world.
We tried to say it was just

a word; we tried to admit
it had power and thus to nullify it
by means of our acknowledgement.

I know the current wisdom:
bright hope, the power of wishing you’re well.
He’s just so tired, though nothing

shows in any tests, Nothing,
the doctor says, detectable:
the doctor doesn’t hear what I do,

that trickling, steadily rising nothing
that makes him sleep all say,
vanish into fever’s tranced afternoons,

and I swear sometimes
when I put my head to his chest
I can hear the virus humming

like a refrigerator.
Which is what makes me think
you can take your positive attitude

and go straight to hell.
We don’t have a future,
we have a dog.
Who is he?

Soul without speech,
sheer, tireless faith,
he is that -which-goes-forward,

black muzzle, black paws
scouting what’s ahead;
he is where we’ll be hit first,

he’s the part of us
that’s going to get it.
I’m hardly awake on our mourning walk

-always just me and Arden now-
and sometimes I am still
in the thrall if the dream,

which is why, when he took a step onto Commercial
before I’d looked both ways,
I screamed his mane and grabbed his collar.

And there I was on my knees,
both arms around his neck
and nothing coming,

and when I looked into that bewildered face
I realized I didn’t know what it was
I was shouting at,

I didn’t know who I was trying to protect.” (1995)

 

Congratulations Mark, on a much-deserved award. Your poetry continues to inspire those of us in the trenches. I can still remember exactly where I was the first time that I read “Faith” and how much it moved me then. It still moves me in the same way today. To me, that is the sign of a poem’s true test of time, and the endurance of a poet’s ability to see words, to take words and cast them upon the page and make them his in a way that bypasses the mundane, the expected. The dog licking your partner’s face, the visit to the shelter for another dog, the need for something living in the last days of dying, these are all images that I still remember years later because they were curiously poignant in the very act of being ordinary.

Thank you for continuing to share your words. Peace.