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

                   

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

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

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

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

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

We are such strange beings . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Nils Lofgren, “Why Me”

                   

Snow and Dirty Rain

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

~ Richard Siken

 

 

“Sometimes I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.” ~ Evelyn Waugh, from Brideshead Revisited

Lin Fengmian Autumn Twilight in a Forest
“Autumn Twilight in a Forest” (1960, ink and colour on paper mounted on paper board)
by Lin Fengmian

“we all stare out the window into the dark where the stars continue
to survive like syllables of an extinct but beautiful language.” ~ Philip Schultz, from “Personal History”

Late Thursday afternoon. Sunny and a bit too warm, 75 degrees.

Last night on my way back from Lex’s house I saw the moon as it was just on the horizon, and it was huge and orange, and if I had the right kind of camera, I probably would have stopped right there in the middle of the road for a picture . . . Of course, I missed the eclipse . . .

My dream: Corey and I are in London, and I’m showing him where I used to live. He is unimpressed. Someone has told him that buying property in the UK is different from buying property in the US, so he’s uninterested in any of the places that I am showing him. We are standing on the edge of a rocky precipice, and another couple is next to us. I say that I can climb down and over to get to the other side. The woman next to us scoffs audibly, so I climb over the side, only to realize that it is slippery shale rock. The man with the woman climbs over after I do. Corey is just standing there. As we are climbing we find out that the man is a millionaire. The four of us are making are way crablike along the rim of this mountainside, and with each step, rocks slide loose, but none of us seem afraid. Suddenly, a man in a uniform comes at us from the opposite side to tell us that we cannot climb there because it is dangerous. We all look at each other and begin to laugh. The tension is cut by the absurdity of what the man is telling us as we are clearly almost to the other side.

Vincent van Gogh Willows at Sunset
“Willows at Sunset” (1888, oil on board)
by Vincent van Gogh

We stand on this narrow shelf and discuss what we should do. Having decided that we’ve made our point, we turn to go back to where we began. The millionaire man goes first. His girlfriend is still snide with me as she believes I am trying to steal her boyfriend. Once we get back and climb over the wall to land on the sidewalk I ask her if she has any children. She begins to show me pictures. This is all that it takes to reassure her. Corey and I leave them, but while I am a few steps ahead of Corey I run into my ex and ask him what he is doing in London. He says he is there for work. Corey and I keep walking as the day turns into night. We go into a park and find people sleeping on benches and hilltops. We keep walking and find an open arena where U2 are performing. I tell Corey that real estate outside of the city is not nearly as expensive. I mention Scotland, Wales. He proposes Australia. I tell him I had wanted Australia years ago but no longer. Oh, and there was cake, really delicious cake that I was eating with my fingers . . .

I wake up to the phone ringing . . .

“days decrease,
And autumn grows, autumn in everything” ~ Robert Browning, from “XXV. Andrea del Sarto”

Gustaf Ankarcrona September sun, Leksand 1908
“September Sun, Leksand” (1908)
by Gustaf Ankarcrona

Perhaps if I post things related to Autumn, the air will shift, and the scent of loam will begin to dominate the evenings, and the sky will begin to seem crystalline without the haze of heat. Perhaps.

Here. Have some Longfellow from his work The Blank Book of a Country Schoolmaster (1834-35):

VXII

Emily Carr Autumn in France 1911
“Autumn in France” (1911, oil on board)
by Emily Carr

Magnificent is the Autumn of our fatherland ! By what a subtle alchemy the green leaves are transmuted into gold, as if molten by the fiery blaze of the hot sun ! A magic covering spreads over the whole forest, and brightens into more gorgeous hues. The tree-tops seem bathed with the gold and crimson of an Italian sunset. Here and there a shade of green, here and there a tinge of purple, and a stain of scarlet so deep and rich, that the most cunning artifice of man is pale beside it. A thousand delicate shades melt into each other. They blend fantastically into one deep mass. They spread over the forest like a tapestry woven with a
thousand hues.

Magnificent Autumn ! He comes not like a pilgrim, clad in russet weeds. He comes not like a hermit, clad in gray. But he comes like a warrior, with the stain of blood upon his brazen mail. His crimson scarf is rent. His scarlet banner drips with gore. His step is like a flail upon the threshing floor.

The scene changes.

It is the Indian Summer. The rising sun blazes through the misty air like a conflagration. A yellowish, smoky haze fills the atmosphere ; and

—a filmy mist,
Lies like a silver lining on the sky.

Paul Gauguin By the Stream, Autumn 1885 oil on canvas
“By the Stream, Autumn” (1885, oil on canvas)
by Paul Gauguin

The wind is soft and low. It wafts to us the odor of forest leaves, that hang wilted on the dripping branches, or drop into the stream. Their gorgeous tints are gone, as if the autumnal rains had washed them out. Orange, yellow, and scarlet, all are changed to one melancholy russet hue. The birds, too, have taken wing, and have left their roofless dwellings. Not the whistle of a robin, not the twitter of an eavesdropping swallow, not the carol of one sweet, familiar voice ! All gone. Only the dismal cawing of a crow, as he sits and curses, that the harvest is over, or the chit-chat of an idle squirrel, the noisy denizen of a hollow tree, the mendicant friar of a large parish, the absolute monarch of a dozen acorns !

Another change.

The wind sweeps through the forest with a sound like the blast of a trumpet. The dry leaves whirl in eddies through the air. A fret-work of hoar-frost covers the plain. The stagnant water in the pools and ditches is frozen into fantastic figures. Nature ceases from her labors, and prepares for the great change. In the low-hanging clouds, the sharp air, like a busy shuttle, weaves her shroud of snow. There is a melancholy and continual roar in the tops of the tall pines, like the roar of a cataract It is the funeral anthem of the dying year.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

                   

Music by J. R. Richards, “Precious Stone”

                   

Music Maybe

Too many elegies elevating sadness
to a kind of sad religion:

one wants in the end just once to befriend
one’s own loneliness,

to make of the ache of inwardness—

something,
music maybe,

or even just believing in it,
and summer,

and the long room alone
where the child

chances on a bee
banging against the glass

like an attack of happiness.

~ Christian Wiman

“from what we cannot hold the stars are made” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “Youth”

Joan Snyder Women Make Lists
“Women Make Lists” (nd)
by Joan Snyder

                   

Two for Tuesday: Thinking about getting older

Paul Gauguin two-women-flowered-hair-1902 oil on canvas
“Two Women (Flowered Hair)” (1920, oil on canvas)
by Paul Gauguin

Grandmother

old crow of a woman in bonnet, sifting through the dump
salvaging those parts of the world
neither useless nor useful

she would be hours in the sweatlodge
come out naked and brilliant in the sun
steam rising off her body in winter
like slow explosion of horses

she braided my sister’s hair with hands that smelled of deep
roots buried in the earth
she told me old stories

how time never mattered
when she died
they gave me her clock

~ Sherman Alexie

                   

Augustus John Washing Day 1915
“Washing Day” (1915)
by August John

The good old days at home sweet home

On Monday my mother washed.
It was the way of the world,
all those lines of sheets flapping
in the narrow yards of the neighborhood,
the pulleys stretching out second
and third floor windows.

Down in the dank steamy basement,
wash tubs vast and grey, the wringer
sliding between the washer
and each tub. At least every
year she or I caught
a hand in it.

Tuesday my mother ironed.
One iron was the mangle.
She sat at it feeding in towels,
sheets, pillow cases.
The hand ironing began
with my father’s underwear.

She ironed his shorts.
She ironed his socks.
She ironed his undershirts.
Then came the shirts,
a half hour to each, the starch
boiling on the stove.

I forgot bluing. I forgot
the props that held up the line
clattering down. I forgot
chasing the pigeons that shat
on her billowing housedresses.
I forgot clothespins in the teeth.

Tuesday my mother ironed my
father’s underwear. Wednesday
she mended, darned socks on
a wooden egg. Shined shoes.
Thursday she scrubbed floors.
Put down newspapers to keep

them clean. Friday she
vacuumed, dusted, polished,
scraped, waxed, pummeled.
How did you become a feminist
interviewers always ask,
as if to say, when did this

rare virus attack your brain?
It could have been Sunday
when she washed the windows,
Thursday when she burned
the trash, bought groceries
hauling the heavy bags home.

It could have been any day
she did again and again what
time and dust obliterated
at once until stroke broke
her open. I think it was Tuesday
when she ironed my father’s shorts.

~ Marge Piercy

*****

Rest in Peace Gerald D. Fickel (October 6, 1916 – September 14, 2013)

                   

Music by First Aid Kit, “Ghost Town”