“I believed that I wanted to be a poet, but deep down I just wanted to be a poem.” ~ Jaime Gil de Bieda

Three-Hundred Degree Panorama of Ancient Theatre at Epidarus, Greece
(source: greeksky.gr)*

                   

“She turned her face seaward to gather in an impression of space and solitude, which the vast expanse of water, meeting and melting with the moonlit sky, conveyed to her excited fancy. As she swam she seemed to be reaching out for the unlimited in which to lose herself.” ~ Kate Chopin, from The Awakening

Sunday, early afternoon. Cloudy, low 80’s.

After I posted on Friday I went on a cleaning binge that didn’t stop until yesterday afternoon. I was feeling hyper and antsy, a bit like I was crawling out of my skin, so I did the floors, cleaned all of the air conditioner vents, bizarre stuff like that, and then yesterday I woke up at 10 and stayed up, making this week the first week in a very long time in which I got up early twice (for me) and stayed up.

Full Moon behind a Frankish Castle at Aliveri, Evia Island
(greeksky)

I know that the previous statement might seem more than a bit strange for people who keep regular hours, and I understand that, especially as a woman who used to get by on five hours of sleep a night, a woman who used to rise at 5 a.m. deliberately, but I am no longer that woman, unfortunately.

Anyway, the house is clean, the laundry is done (except for the bundle of dirty clothes that Eamonn came home and deposited this morning), and I’m still antsy, antsy and aching. So much nervous energy. My big chore for today is to clean off my desk and put away my sweaters, as I’m pretty sure that sweater season is gone.

“All my life I told myself I was light and could soar free of things. I was light and could outrun things. I could fly away and keep flying forever.” ~ Kenneth Oppel, from “Airborn”

Yesterday I read two books, another preposterous statement, but true, nonetheless. First I read one of the books that Brett bought me for M’s day, Jon Winokur’s Advice to Writers, which was a really good read, so glad that it was on my wish list. And then in the evening I read Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen, which I have a vague feeling I may have read before, but I’m not quite sure. It was also a good read, fast-paced and not completely predictable.

Full Moon Rises behind Temple of Poseidon at Sounio, Greece
(greeksky)

Advice to Writers is a compilation of quotes from writers on various aspects of writing—characterization, genre, structure—and writing in general. What I liked the most is that the writers from whom he culled the quotes were varied and not necessarily the ones who are familiar to a general audience, in other words, writers not authors—and there is a difference. Just consider the different between, say, Judith Krantz and Dominick Dunne. Even my mother’s has probably heard of Krantz but would be hard-pressed to identify Dunne.

I underlined and starred passages, and then I passed it along to Brett, who is turning into quite an awesome writer. Perhaps he’ll do what I’ve never done and actually do something with his writing (something other than dedicating himself to a blog, which, granted, is my choice).

“This is what the things can teach us: to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness. Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Full Moon Reflection on the Water, Greece
(greeksky)

The other day I did something incredibly stupid: I received a text saying that my name had been drawn for a $1,000 gift card to Best Buy. I enter a few contests here and there, mostly radio  contests or the rare contest associated with something like “The Borgias.” I didn’t remember entering a Best Buy contest, but I thought that perhaps Corey had, so I went to the website listed on the text . . .

. . . bad idea. It was a virus. Brett was incredulous. How could I do something like that?

How? perhaps I had hoped that it was a sign that the tide was turning, that our luck was changing. Perhaps it was a pipe dream. I should have known better. I’ve won two contests in my life, and one was for hockey tickets . . .

So anyway, live and learn. I mean, it wasn’t even a case of caveat emptor as I hadn’t bought anything. Lesson: Don’t respond to a text saying that you’ve won a contest you never entered. Wait. That could be a mantra for life, couldn’t it?

“I missed my stop
looking at heartbreak, the sky
almost criminal.” ~ Yusef Komunyakaa, from “NJ Transit”

I discovered Yusef Komunyakaa quite by accident: There used to be a bookstore in the shopping center down the road. It was one of those glorious book stores, filled with stacks and stacks of books. The reality is that it existed mostly because of the porn section, which was behind a swinging door, but I never care about that. If I was diligent, I could almost always leave there with a book of poetry or a journal of some kind, but it meant lots of bending down and sitting on the dusty floor, searching for treasures.

Thunderstorm During Elipse from Ikaria Island at Pezi, GR
(greeksky)

I found my first Anne Rule book there, The Stranger Beside Me, the book about Ted Bundy that made her famous. But I also found so many books by poets I didn’t know. I’d pull them down, create a stack on the floor, and then flip through the pages, reading samples from each. If I was intrigued, I’d purchase.

The books never cost more than $10, and most were only six or seven dollars, never the cover price. I realize now that my bargains were not necessarily boons for the writers, but I like to think that because of these discounted books, I bought more books later, balancing the scales of commerce.

Anyway, I discovered Komunyakaa there. I pulled down the book mostly because of his last name: What kind of name was that? It sounded poetic in itself. And I flipped through the pages of Dien Cai Dau (1988) and found his poem about The Wall in DC, the Viet Nam veterans’ memorial. The poem blew me away.

In 1994 Komunyakaa was awarded the Pulitzer for poetry, just one of his many awards. I would love to hear this man read; I’ve heard that he is incredible in person.

“And when a poet dies, deep in the night
a lone black bird wakes up in the thicket
and sings for all it’s worth.” ~ Miroslav Holub, from “Interferon” (trans. by Dana Habova and David Young)

Moon Behind Mount Olympus (Mitikas)
(greeksky)

The next book on my reading list is A Poet’s Notebook, another one that I learned of via tumblr. I continue to be amazed by the new things that I find on my tumblr dashboard: new poets, new poems, new artists. Truthfully, before I began my tumblr, I had never read any Polish poetry, and very little Russian poetry, something that I am embarrassed to admit.

The scope of world literature has broadened so much in the past few decades, and that’s really a good thing. When I was an undergraduate, the world literature to which we were exposed may have encompassed a narrow spectrum of Europe (Chekhov), perhaps some South Africa (Gordimer), a little South America (Marquez), but certainly not the wide scope of what is included in such courses today.

That makes me sad, in a way. I mean, I used to insist to the students in my literature classes that we were going to study more than the old dead white guy canon, and I tried to include writers and poets from every place and every race, but even then I was limited. The Internet has made so many more writers accessible, which is just one of the reasons why I am so against any kind of Internet censorship or limitation.

I know that I am buying more books by people I’ve only learned of via the Internet solely because of my exposure through venues such as other blogs and tumblr. I wouldn’t be interested in these people were it not for this information highway (which is a term that I find silly, actually). Anyway, the point is that while I understand that the Interwebs contain a lot of bad things, I believe that the good things far outweigh those negative aspects.

Like all of life, it is impossible to have access to the enlightening, the beautiful, the mystical without also allowing access to the ugly, the frightening and the despicable. But there’s that things called free will rearing its head again. The choice is ours.

More later. Peace.

Music by Wilco, “Black Moon”

*All images are taken from greeksky.gr., an absolutely incredible photography site.

                   

Omens

Her eyelids were painted blue.
When she closed her eyes the sea
rolled in like ten thousand fiery chariots,

leaving behind silence above & below
a thousand years old. He stood beneath
a high arched window, gazing out

at fishing boats beyond the dikes, their nets
unfurled, their offshore gestures
a dance of living in bluish entourage.

He was only the court’s chief jester.
What he said & did made them laugh,
but lately what he sometimes thought he knew

could cost him his polished tongue & royal wig.
He was the masked fool unmasking the emperor.
Forget the revelation. Forget the briny sea.

He had seen the ravishing empress naked
in a forbidden pose. Her blue eye shadow.
Aquamarine shells crusted with wormy mud.

Anyway, if he said half of what was foretold,
the great one would become a weeping boy
slumped beneath the Pillars of Hercules.

~ Yusef Komunyakaa

Advertisements

“Are you interested in catastrophes?” ~ Paul Leppin, Blaugast: A Novel of Decline

Waterfall in Suriname Rain Forest
by Robert Caputo (National Geographic Travel)

                   

“This enormous, murky river with its deep current, this is the familiar river, but familiar from where.” ~ Péter Nádas, from Parallel Stories (trans. Imre Goldstein)

Photos of Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral, Paramaribo
Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral, Paramaribo
Oldest Wooden Church in South America
(source: tripadvisor)

Thursday afternoon. Cloudy, warmer, and very humid.

I got up early to get my fasting lab work done (finally) before Alexis’s ultrasound appointment. Of course there was a backup at the lab, so I left so that I wouldn’t be late for the appointment only to arrive before Alexis and to find out that her appointment was 15 minutes later than she told me. I had forgotten that she does that—writes down her appointments as being 15 minutes before the scheduled time so that she won’t be late.

So anyway . . . went back to the lab after her appointment only to have the lab technician tell me that I needed to register because I wasn’t in the system. Luckily, Alexis noticed that the lab tech had called me by the wrong name. I was still in the system because it hadn’t been that long.

When I got home, Tillie wouldn’t leave me alone until I took her outside to play, which distracted me and made me lose my train of thought, so when I got back to the computer, I looked up songs from the “Revenge” soundtrack, but I’m back now.

My back is killing me, by the way. I could chalk it up to just about anything: the barometric pressure, the rain, the heat . . . whatever.

“So I wait for you like a lonely house
till you will see me again and live in me.
Till then my windows ache.” ~ Pablo Neruda, from “100 Love Sonnets: Cien sonetos de amor”

Corey texted me this afternoon. He’s in Suriname (I was unaware that the country was spelled with an e on the end, but it is, which is odd as certain things from the country do not have an e on the end, like the Surinam Toad, or Surinam Airways).

Paramaribo Open Market by permanently scatterbrained (FCC)

Anyway, he’s just 1 degree above the equator, and it’s hot.  From there they will go to the Ascension Islands, which are in the South Atlantic, between the Horn of South America and Africa. Then from there they go back to Suriname for fuel, and then he’s not sure, maybe back to the U.S. or possibly Columbia, SA, wherever the ship is going into the yard, so about another 31 days or so.

He had shore leave for a few hours, and he wandered around Paramaribo (a former Dutch Colonial town), which is the capital and the largest city in the small country. He said that there were lots of open air markets. I read that shrimp are supposed to be wonderful there. Most of the population lives in the north, and there is a rainforest in the south that covers up to 80 percent of the country.

“There are ways of naming the wound.

There are ways of entering the dream.
The way a painter enters a studio:

To spill.” ~ Tracy K. Smith, from “History”

Friday afternoon. Sunny and humid.

Fort Zeelandia, Paramaribo, Suriname by madmack66 (FCC)

I just couldn’t finish yesterday. For some reason, I was quite weepy, and a song came on my playlist, and I got that feeling, and then I couldn’t write any more. Just as well, probably. Who knows what I would have said.

Very bad night. I dreamt that Tillie ran through plate-glass and was blinded in one eye, and Corey renamed her Joe, and I didn’t understand why, and I walked out of the house and didn’t lock the front door, so I turned around and went back inside, but it was a different house, and before I could lock the door, a man pushed his way inside, and he tried to grab me but I pushed him, so he pushed me back, and I thought to myself, “this is very weird.”

Corey called last night, and we tried to keep the conversation short so that we do not owe our carrier a second mortgage. He sounded tired as he had just come off watch and had to be back on at 4 in the morning. He’s still liking this job very much and is getting along well with his co-workers. That’s a really good thing, especially when you’re confined with people 24/7.

“Wherever I am
I am what is missing.” ~ Mark Strand, from “Keeping Things Whole”

I do want to take a moment to apologize to my followers whose own blogs appear on my blogroll. I have not been a regular visitor of late, but not by choice. This computer in Eamonn’s room is truly on its last leg, and I am very limited in what I can do. Sometimes as I’m writing, the letters appear on the screen one at a time very slowly, much like a typewriter. I had planned to put my CPU in for repairs this paycheck, but then we had that huge hiccup with T-mobile, and well, more of the same.

Suriname Rainforest Village (Wikimedia Commons)

Once I get my computer up and running, I can get back into my regular mode of visiting people and commenting, something that I truly enjoy doing. It seems that I’m always apologizing for something not being the way that it should . . .

Did I mention that eldest son truly believes that I’m lazy? He (who is very, very much like his father) has never accepted that I am on disability. Whenever we’ve had money issues, he’s said things like, “Well why don’t you just go back to work?” And he’s serious. Not matter how many times Corey or I have tried to break down the realities for him, he still thinks that I’m not working because I’m lazy. This is a very bitter pill to swallow, I have to tell you. It always makes me question myself.

His father could never accept any kind of illness or physical impairment, always believing that the individual affected was just faking. Funny, the things that are ingrained in the DNA.

“And so when all the time had leaked,
Without external sound
Each bound the Other’s Crucifix—” ~ Emily Dickinson, from “[13]

So, well, I’m still weepy. I’m taking my medication, but I did miss one day when I ran out, but that’s been days ago. Truth is I would hate to see how bad I’d really be without the meds. And as always, I am reminded of my mother’s mantra: think happy thoughts . . .

Paramaribo, Suriname by permanently scatterbrained (FCC)

At times such as these I really feel for the people who suffered from some kind of mental illness in generations past, how they had to try to hide it, how if it came to light, they were forever marked as being crazy. The Scarlet A, except it would be a Scarlet C (for crazy?). I mean, there was a time when any political candidate who had ever sought mental health counseling would immediately be out of contention for a race, and even now, few in the public arena are willing to admit that they may have had to seek help.

It’s as if mental health is still in that category of the unspoken verboten: sex scandals, counseling, depression, homosexuality. It’s okay if you ran a company or two into the ground, if you caused thousands of people to lose their retirement, but say that you once had to get help for depression? Nope. Not so much.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), in any given 12-month period, 26.2 percent of the adult U.S. population will suffer from some kind of mental disorder, and contrary to popular belief, women do not suffer more than men. That’s one-quarter of our population.

Chew on that for a moment, and think happy thoughts while you do it.

“I see my life go drifting like a river
From change to change; I have been many things —” ~ W. B. Yeats, from “Fergus and the Druid”

I have a vivid memory of being 14 and sitting on the floor of my bedroom just weeping buckets. The family down the road had moved to Tennessee, and the daughters were two of my best friends since we had moved back to the area. I spent all of my time with them. Their moving left me hollow. My mother told me that nothing was really wrong, that I just had my period.

Colonial Houses, Unesco World Heritage, Paramaribo Center
(oursurprisingworld.com)

Right. But you know, I have to say that it’s not really her fault. She’s a product of her generation, one in which such things were not acknowledged, that to admit that someone in the family was frail (euphemism) was cause for shame. Still, at 14 all I knew was that it felt as if my insides were being torn apart.

Another time when I was really in a bad state a neighbor said that I had “growing pains,” that seemingly innocuous phrase that so many adults use to categorize youthful angst. I remember being so pissed. I just wanted to scream at her that she didn’t know what she was talking about, but I didn’t. I remembered my manners and kept my mouth shut.

Those growing pains produced some of the most angst-filled, emotional bad poetry probably ever written, but at least I sought a way to unburden myself. I don’t know how I got off on this tangent, and now that I’m here, I don’t really want to pursue it any more.

“The red balloon outside rose up
to an unsuspected sky, its chains
strained by the certainty that the nearer the inferno
the greater the paradise,
the nearer the prison cell
the greater the freedom.
Cantabit vacuus coran latrone viator.” ~ Miroslav Holub, from “Interferon” (trans. Dana Habova and David Young)

The penniless traveler will sing in the presence of the highwayman . . .

Paramaribo Photos
Houses Along the River, Paramaribo
(source: Trip Advisor)

In spite of my current state of mind, I can still be amazed by the serendipitous nature of life, how I can come across the perfect quote, a new poet, a new poem—something that says exactly what I’m feeling—when I’m not even looking. I had never heard of Holub, never read this poem, but this section of the poem (quote above) is apt for today. I especially like the Latin phrase at the end of the section.

A penniless traveler has nothing to lose, some would say, and on the surface, that is true. But we all have something to lose, even if it’s hidden deep within, so deep that we have forgotten about it. We all have something to lose, even if it is ourselves.

More later. Peace.

Music by Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors (from the very last episode of “House” ever and the song that keeps making me weepy), “Live Forever”

                   

Poems in Braille

1
all your hands are verbs,
now you touch worlds and feel their names—
thru the thing to the name
not the other way thru (in winter
I am Midas, I name gold)

the chair and table and book
extend from your fingers;
all your movements
command these things back to their
places; a fight against familiarity
makes me resume my distance

2
they knew what it meant,
those egyptian scribes who drew
eyes right into their hieroglyphs,
you read them dispassionate until
the eye stumbles upon itself
blinking back from the papyrus

outside, the articulate wind
annotates this; I read carefully
lest I go blind in both eyes, reading with
that other eye the final hieroglyph

3
the shortest distance between 2 points
on a revolving circumference
is a curved line; O let me follow you,
Wencelas

4
with legs and arms I make alphabets
like in those children’s books
where people bend into letters and signs,
yet I do not read the long cabbala of my bones
truthfully; I need only to move to alter the design

5
I name all things in my room
and they rehearse their names,
gather in groups, form tesseracts,
discussing their names among themselves

I will not say the cast is less than the print
I will not say the curve is longer than the line,
I should read all things like braille in this season
with my fingers I should read them
lest I go blind in both eyes reading with
that other eye the final hieroglyph

~ Gwendolyn MacEwen, from  A Breakfeast for Barbarians