“what I heard was my whole self | saying and singing what it knew: I can.” ~ Denise Levertov, from “Variation on a Theme by Rilke”

"Islands Allagash (1990)by Neil Welliver
“Islands Allagash (1990)
by Neil Welliver

                   

Two for Tuesday: Denise Levertov

The Well

At sixteen I believed the moonlight
could change me if it would.
I moved my head
on the pillow, even moved my bed
as the moon slowly
crossed the open lattice.

I wanted beauty, a dangerous
gleam of steel, my body thinner,
my pale face paler.
I moonbathed
diligently, as others sunbathe.
But the moon’s unsmiling stare
kept me awake. Mornings,
I was flushed and cross.

It was on dark nights of deep sleep
that I dreamed the most, sunk in the well,
and woke rested, and if not beautiful,
filled with some other power.

                  
Nicholas Roerich Eclipse 1939
“Eclipse” (1939)
by Nicholas Roerich

                   

Wanting The Moon

Not the moon. A flower
on the other side of the water.

The water sweeps past in flood,
dragging a whole tree by the hair,

a barn, a bridge. The flower
sings on the far bank.

Not a flower, a bird calling
hidden among the darkest trees, music

over the water, making a silence
out of the brown folds of the river’s cloak.

The moon. No, a young man walking
under the trees. There are lanterns

among the leaves.
Tender, wise, merry,

his face is awake with its own light,
I see it across the water as if close up.

A jester. The music rings from his bells,
gravely, a tune of sorrow,

I dance to it on my riverbank.

                   

Music by Mooncake, “Cast the Route”

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“From the stars we come, to the stars we go. Life is but a journey into the unknown.” ~ Walter Moers, The City of Dreaming Books

"Nattens Helgedom (Night Sanctuary)," (oil on canvas)by Otto Hesselbom
“Nattens Helgedom (Night Sanctuary),” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Otto Hesselbom

                   

“The part of this being that is rock,
the part of this body that is a star,
lately I feel them yearning to go back
and be what they are.” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin, from “In the Borderlands

Thursday afternoon. Partly cloudy and mild, 50 degrees.

Yesterday was a crappy day, really, really crappy, and as a result, I was foul, really, really foul. Nine days into the new year, and I’m already having bad days. Sheesh.

Henri-Edmond Cross Landscape with Stars 1905-8
“Landscape with Stars,” (1905-8)
by Henri-Edmond Cross

In spite of its crappiness, I did get things done. I made those telephone calls regarding health claims that haven’t been paid. Both of the people with whom I spoke were very nice and helpful. It wasn’t them. It was just the doing of it that got to me. Does that make sense?

After years and years of always being the one to make the telephone calls, pay the bills, take care of the details with my ex, I have given up some of those responsibilities to Corey—quite willingly. I am not good at doing the finances. I freely admit that to anyone and everyone. And taking care of the details tends to make me very stressed. I don’t know why exactly. It just does. Perhaps because as the telephone is ringing, I am preparing to deal with the customer service representative from hell, so my blood pressure climbs with each successive ring, and then when someone nice answers and offers to help, I’m thrown for a loop.

Also, I think that since Corey has been taking care of so much to do with the details of life, I have allowed my patience in such things to erode. Anyway, yesterday is over. I made a few more short calls today, and my to-do-list is shorter. So enough.

“The winds that awakened the stars
Are blowing through my blood.” ~ W. B. Yeats, from “Maid Quiet”

I think another reason that I was so foul yesterday was because I forgot to take my meds the day before. Not intentionally, just didn’t remember as I was so caught up in getting things done. That happens to me—I become so focused in the midst of my OCD-fueled binges that I don’t pay attention to other things, completely leave them by the wayside.

Nicholas Roerich Royal Monastery 1932 tempera
“Royal Monastery” (1932, tempera on paper)
by Nicholas Roerich

I know. I need to find balance. Easy to say. Hard to do. Balance is always just beyond my reach. Perhaps that’s why I’m always so taken with those images of balancing rocks; they represent something for which I yearn.

Anyway, enough on that. Another thing that I did yesterday—and this is surprising—is that I went through old posts looking for poems that I might submit to a journal that is accepting work. I have to submit three poems at a time. In going through the old posts, though, I found that I have written things that I actually like, even two to three years later, which makes me think more and more that I really need to go through these posts and cull the best (or what I consider to be the best), try to put together some kind of non-fiction manuscript with what I have.

This is where I need your help. If I’ve written a post of which you are particularly fond, or that you think could be readable with some work, I’d love to know about it. You can just put the title in the comments, or if you don’t remember the title but remember what the post was about, a general description would be fine. Of course, if you said something like, “You know, the one about grief,” that might be a bit hard . . .

“And silent answers crept across the stars.” ~ Hart Crane, from “At Melville’s Tomb”

But what do you think? Am I on the right track? A couple of you have suggested something along these lines to me before, but I waffled as I never quite know if I like what I’ve written enough to put it out there (there as in beyond this forum), but I have to admit that I found more than a couple of posts of which I’m not ashamed.

Neil Welliver Night Scene 1981-2
“Night Scene” (1981-2)
by Neil Welliver

Oh, who knows. Certainly not me. But I’m willing to give it a go.

So other than that, I think that I’ve managed to move beyond yesterday’s total crappiness. I’ve gotten out of my pajamas and even put on some cologne and dark circle concealer, as if I might actually be ready to greet the world. Speaking of which, and I am almost embarrassed to admit this, I realized the other day that I have not left the house in weeks. No really, weeks. This is not a good sign. This is a sign that I am regressing.

I think that I need to make it a point to go to Lex’s apartment at least one day a week to help out with Olivia instead of waiting for them to come here. But without Brett being enrolled in school this semester, I’m sort of without a reason to leave the house unless I make one. Truthfully, I don’t want to go back to the days in which I stayed inside for weeks on end. It’s just not healthy.

I have big plans to take Tillie for walks. Perhaps I should work on that.

“It is inner luxury, of golden figures
that breathe like mountains do
and whose skin is made dusky by stars.” ~ Joanne Kyger, from “September”

Obviously, I’m still fixated on the skies, first the Northern Lights, and now stars. The moon and the stars, my life-long love affair. Did you know that the Tunisians have a proverb that goes something like “If the full moon loves you, why worry about the stars?”—but why not both?

Mikalojus Ciurlionis Sparks III 1906 tempera on paper
“Sparks III” (1906, tempera on paper)
by Mikalojus Ciurlionis

I have to tell you that it’s damned hard for me to write a post featuring lots of words about stars and not to use any art by Van Gogh, as I don’t think that anyone before or since has painted such beautiful skies, but I made an effort and came up with some other artists’ paintings.

Speaking of Van Gogh, did you know that there are new claims that the artist did not commit suicide but instead was shot by teenagers? I know that I’m behind on this, but I find it fascinating. Apparently a book was published last year in which authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith claim that Van Gogh was fatally wounded by a friend’s teenage brother. The book is called Van Gogh: The Life, and I would love to read it.

Van Gogh has always fascinated me. He created such incredible beauty out of such immense pain. It’s as if he couldn’t create fast enough to release all of the demons inside.

When I was walking around the museums in NYC years ago, I was finally able to see some of Van Gogh’s works of art at the Met and at the MOMA. My god, they took my breath away. I would love to visit more museums housing the artist’s work.

“She was one of those stars, a bright dot in blackness, without home, without a companion, in eternal cold and silence.” ~ Maxine Hong Kingston, from The Woman Warrior

I spoke too soon. I just lost the last fifth of this post when I went to save. Crap. Crap. Crap.

Moving right along . . .

Wassily Kandinsky Moonlight Night 1907 linocut
“Moonlight Night” (1907, linocut)
by Wassily Kandinsky

I once met Maxine Hong Kingston when she was participating in the ODU Literary Festival years ago. She is such a tiny woman, and her presence was almost dwarfed on the big stage until she began to read. Later, at an after-reading cocktail party, I mustered the courage to talk to her and tell her how much I loved her work.

Just thought I’d throw that out there.

I suppose I’m feeling a bit nostalgic today after going through posts past and thinking about those wonderful afternoons at the museums. One day, I’m going to visit the Louvre and Musée D’Orsay, spend hours upon hours, days upon days, just meandering through the galleries, and I’ll take Corey because I know that he will appreciate the beauty just as much as I would.

One day. Until then, I suppose I’ll just hang out here in my yoga pants, thinking about things to come, things that have been, places to see, and places I have gone. Kind of reminds me of The Beatles’ song, “My Life.”

More later. Peace.

 Music by Aesthesys, “I Am Free, That Is Why I’m Lost”

                   

Every Time

Do you have stars
in your mouth?

she asks
and I laugh,
she’s never tasted
winter like I have,
midnights that linger
for days. Yes,
I tell her. Come see.

Will there be breath?
For a while, I whisper
and blow on her hands,
but you will sing
and the aurora lights
will walk across the ice.

She lets me
put my hands on her.
Will I die? her hair
like snow.
Yes.  I tell her.
Every time.

~ Jude Goodwin

“I am learning to see. I don’t know why it is, but everything enters me more deeply and doesn’t stop where it once used to. I have an interior that I never knew of. Everything passes into it now. I don’t know what happens there.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

“Avond (Evening): The Red Tree” (1908-10, oil on canvas)
by Piet Mondrian

                   

What Makes You?
Poietes is made of flowers, Folk, and determination. With a dash of Holmes.

“Wheatfields Under Thunderclouds” (1890, oil on canvas)
by Vincent Van Gogh

I understand the flowers and determination, but not so sure about Folk. The dash of Holmes I completely get. We all know how well I do at keeping things inside. You know how someone somewhere comes up with some kind of relatively cute/intriguing program that supposedly tells you something about yourself? Well this one is called “What Makes You,” and I got the answer above, which only led me to think a bit more on what actually makes me.

Isak Dinesen once said that “the entire being of a woman is a secret which should be kept.” We all know how well I do at keeping things inside. So here is what I came up with on what makes me, what constitutes my being, those things that I embody and that embody me.

“The cure for anything is salt water—tears, sweat, or the sea.” ~ Isak Dinesen

I must begin with water:

  • The sea. I love everything about the sea, from the crashing waves to the ways in which it can be both completely placid and churning. It can be green, brown, or azure. It is never he same. The water that rolls in and licks your feet is not the same water that comes with the next wave.

    “Sea at Night” (nd)
    by David Burliuk
  • Tears. Although I do not cry nearly as often as I used to, I would be lying if I said that my being is composed of all the tears I’ve shed, decades of tears—hot and fierce, quiet and passive.
  • Rain. The rains come and with them, the cleansing. The harder they fall, the more grime that is washed away. Does anything compare to lying in bed listening to the sound of rain on the roof, unless it’s a tin roof? Or the smell of the air after a hard rain?
  • Snow. When snow blankets an area, the sound of everything changes, becomes muffled. This is as close as we can come to shutting out the noise pollution of everyday life.
  • Ice. Dangerous and deadly, an ice storm creates its own sound. The cracking of limbs ricochets like nature’s bullets. It is a fierce sound that demands respect.
  • A hot bath. Perhaps the one thing that pulls together all of the rest: hot and calm, it can muffle sound. If I need a good cry, I run a bath.

“The stars: what are they? They are chunks of ice reflecting the sun; they are lights afloat on the waters beyond the transparent dome; they are nails nailed to the sky; they are holes in the great curtain between us and the sea of light; they are holes in the hard shell that protects us from the inferno beyond; they are the daughters of the sun; they are the messengers of the gods;” ~ Eliot Weinberger, from “31: The Stars” in An Elemental Thing

The sky:

  • The night sky. I need to live somewhere that allows me to see, really see the stars at night. These lights in the firmament are simultaneously pinholes and massive. They are both cold and hot.

    “Eclipse” (1939)
    by Nicholas Roerich
  • Lightning. Flashes that cut the sky, lightning encompasses a side of me that I try to harness. From afar, it is relatively benign, but up close, it can be forbidding. I am drawn to the chaos of it, the seeming randomness. It cannot be controlled. It will do as it wants.
  • Twilight. The period right before sunset, the gloaming. It happens quickly, and can be missed if you aren’t paying attention. Within these few moments, the light shifts, the air stills, the sound pauses. Perhaps not in reality, but sometimes it seems to be so. It is the hour of magic, the time of possibilities. I like to think that it still resides within me somewhere.

Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start there.” ~ Cheryl Strayed

Words and Images:

  • Books. Every book that I have ever read, one thousand? two thousand? I do not know. They are all here. Every word, every phrase, every sentence. Portals to other worlds, to other realms, to other people.

    “Three Trees in Grey Weather” (1891)
    by Claude Monet
  • Songs. This combination of words and sound, how it can reach in and wrap itself around the heart, and either squeeze or massage.
  • Maps. Torn, yellowed records of ancient places and forgotten discoveries, with words that feel foreign on the tongue.
  • Poetry. How to explain this, this combination of words that can be like a song, or a prayer, or a book, or a letter? This creation that can encompass every single emotion you have ever felt. There is no explanation for the ineffable.
  • Art. The transference of beautiful words into an image, the selection of color and form as acute and deliberate as the choice of a noun or verb.

“I wanna know what you see when you look in the mirror on a day you’re feeling good.
I wanna know what you see in the mirror on a day a day you’re feeling bad.
I wanna know the first person who ever taught you your beauty could ever be reflected on a lousy piece of glass.” ~ Andrea Gibson, from Asking Too Much

The physical:

  • Hands. My father’s hands, the older I get the more of my father I see in them. Hands that have held and caressed and soothed. Hands that have worked and toiled.

    “Ladakh. Golden Clouds over Blue Mountains (1943)
    by Nicholas Roerich
  • Eyes. Who do these eyes belong to? In youth, one eye was slightly lazy, made me self-conscious as only a 13-year-old can be. I had to learn to love my eyes.
  • Skin. The color of olives and mocha, the meat of an overripe banana, and a fresh brown egg. Different hues on different days. It makes me, defines me, and separates me.
  • Hair. Dark as coffee with flashes of red wine in the sun.
  • Heart. The four chambers, the capacity for love and hate, empathy, sympathy, dissonance and resonance.

“Say that I starved, that I was lost and weary;
That I was burned and blinded by the desert sun;
Footsore, thirsty, sick with strange diseases;
Lonely and wet and cold, but that I kept my dream! ~ Everett Ruess, from Everett Ruess

Other things, too hard to categorize:

  • The smell of lavender and lilac, paper whites and rosemary, verbena and gardenia.
  • The sound of bells, ringing bells, church bells, chimes, gongs, fog horns. They are all hollow and full at the same time.

    “The Evening Star” (1891)
    Childe Hassam
  • The colors of blood, sand, whales, and trees. Monet’s sad purples and greens, van Gogh’s lonely blues and yellows, Rothko’s fierce red.
  • The song of a mockingbird, the lament of a mourning dove, the shriek of a red-winged blackbird.
  • The beacon of a lighthouse and the path of a falling star.

More . . .

  • The first chill of an autumn night and the smell of fallen leaves and woodsmoke.
  • The lonely expanse of the desert, the sound of a rolling stream, the smell of mountain air, and the depth of an unexplored cave.

    “Forest” (1906)
    by Mikalojus Ciurlionis
  • The sound of wind in the trees, the leaves rustling just before a storm, like a call coming from the earth itself.
  • The melancholy of Virginia Woolf and the madness of Carson McCullers.
  • The need for truth, whatever the cost, and this has cost me dearly at different times in my life. Yet I will not let go until I have it, all of it.
  • The past, the breath of the first person to ask why, the curiosity of the first person to crest the hill, the soul of the first person who recorded it.
  • The spirit of a dog, the heart of a wolf, the devotion of a dove, and the loyalty of a swan.

Poietes is water and wind, flowers and herbs, words and truth, stars and song. Poietes is heartbreak and love, devotion and silence. Poietes is the hardness of mountains and the softness of shifting sand. Poietes is gold and red and the color of the night sky. Poietes is privacy and solitude, observation and confession. Poietes is all of this simultaneously, and none of this singularly.

More later. Peace.

Music by Benjamin Francis Leftwich, “Pictures”

                   

The Healing Time

Finally on my way to yes
I bump into
all the places
where I said no
to my life
all the untended wounds
the red and purple scars
those hieroglyphs of pain
carved into my skin, my bones,
those coded messages
that send me down
the wrong street
again and again
where I find them
the old wounds
the old misdirections
and I lift them
one by one
close to my heart
and I say holy
holy.

~ Pesha Joyce Gertler