“The past is always carried into the present by small things.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from Divisadero

“The Fire” (1943, oil on canvas) by René Magritte (reminded me of the California wildfires)

“The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “Gerontion”

Thursday evening, cloudy and cold, 41 degrees, warming temperatures.

Well, where do I begin this post? So far, I’ve kept it light, telling you a bit about our move, the mountains, the animals, but I haven’t touched on how we ended up here, which is a long and convoluted story, one that cannot be shared in its entirety because other people deserve their privacy, even if I put everything about myself down here. So let me go back, back to 2017.

Last year began one of the absolute worst times of my life, I mean, ranking right up there with the loss of Caitlin, the loss of my father, the loss of my mother. Emotionally, we began 2017 on what can only be described as a roller coaster in hell, and it only got  much worse. I don’t mean to be cryptic, but I’m not going into specifics; I just wanted to set the mood a bit.

“The False Mirror” (1928, oil on canvas)
by René Magritte

Suffice it to say that by the middle of the year, I had, not by my choice, officially—emotionally and somewhat physically—lost any contact with either of my sons, and contact with my daughter was fraught at best. Perhaps I should backup even more. If I’m going to tell some of this, I need to go back more, back to that time in which, for various reasons, younger son chose not to have much to do with  me, and older son followed suit, more by accident than deliberation, I think.

Eldest son has always been independent, and he has been closer to his dad than to me since about the age of 13 or 14. His dad exited our lives when the boys were only 7 and 6 respectively, but he did his visitation regularly, always paid his support, so I’m not slamming him here, just stating facts. Anyway, eldest son has much in common with his father, some good and some bad, as we all tend to be, so I was not entirely surprised that once eldest moved out for good, I didn’t see or hear from him regularly, not that it didn’t wound me or that I didn’t miss him tremendously, just saying it wasn’t a surprise.

But separation from youngest son? That wounded me to my very core, and it is still a very fresh wound. I really don’t know if it will ever get easier or better.

“Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom.
How do they learn it?
They fall, and falling they’re given wings.” ~ Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

Youngest son is also my youngest child, so he was the one who was with me alone after the other two moved out. We did pretty much everything together, watched movies, exchanged books, went to poetry readings and thrift stores, and I always loved how close we were, but life happens, everyone grows up, and nothing stays the same. If that were all that it were, I could accept it. But that’s not it. For various reasons unrelated to me, he began to withdraw, which is not to say that there aren’t reasons related to me because there are. The problem is that I don’t understand a lot of those reasons. I can, however, pare it down to one particular devastating accusation though: He told me that I was abusive, emotionally abusive.

“Memory” (1948, oil on canvas)
by René Magritte

Okay. Well, then . . .

No. Not okay then. Not okay at all. Yes, there are all kinds of ways to be abusive, and god knows that there is an entire generation approaching life through trigger warnings and needing safe spaces, and no, I don’t really understand that either, but whatever. Look, he’s had social anxiety issues for most of his life, and who am I to criticize, hermit and agoraphobic that I am. But I tried many times to help and to get him help, not wanting him to end up like me; nevertheless, he began to deal with other more serious things as he got older, but I always approached him honestly and with all of the understanding that I had, and I always told him that I would love him no matter what, and I have. But apparently, I must have loved him abusively . . . is that even a thing?

I know that helicopter parenting can create a slew of problems, but I never saw myself as a helicopter parent. I tried hard to help when asked, comfort when needed, and to butt out when it warranted. I never said anything to anyone about having the wrong friends or the wrong boyfriends or girlfriends or significant others. I didn’t snoop, even when I really, really wanted to. And I promised myself that I would never break a promise and that I would always try to be truthful. The brutal truth for parents is that ultimately they must step back and watch their sons and daughters make mistakes, watch them fall, and although it is a painful thing to do, it must be done, but that doing is never easy. So what is it that I did, exactly?

I believed to my soul that I owed my kids all of that—truth, love, understanding, and yes, protection. But I never thought that I coddled them. My kids didn’t have everything that they wanted or asked for; they didn’t wear designer clothes; we had some lean Christmases, and we even lived without cable for years (shudder). But they had a solid roof over their head albeit a smaller one with old furniture, and they never went to bed hungry. They weren’t deprived, but neither were they spoiled rotten.

“Memoory” (1948, oil on canvas)
by René Magritte

I’m not claiming to be blameless. Of course I’ve done things. All parents do, even when they don’t really mean to. I’m certain if you asked any of my offspring if I ever screwed up, that they could come at you with a list, and each of those lists would probably not contain that same things. What? I’m only human, after all. But this, this accusation, this statement, whatever it is? I just don’t understand it, and I really, really really want to understand it because the gulf just keeps widening, and as it does, my heart just keeps breaking.

Years ago, when I used to talk about moving to the mountains, I told youngest that he could come and build his own place wherever we went, and when I would daydream about that move, he was always a part of it. But now? He’s hundred of miles away, and the chances that he will ever move here and build his own place are completely non existent.

“Don’t you get tired of wanting
to live forever?
Don’t you get tired of saying Onward?” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Circe/Mud Poems”

I know that I began this post talking about 2017 and how we actually ended up here in the mountains on 100+ acres, trying to live the dream, but it looks like I’m going to have to come back to that later because this has morphed into a post about parents and children, and loss and heartache and . . . yep, all of that and so much more.

“Secret Life IV” (1928, oil on canvas)
by René Magritte

Suffice it to say that the entire family on all sides went through emotional hell, and there are some wounds that may never heal. Corey and I have only very recently begun to allow ourselves to attempt to move on and get along with our lives, but all of that crap about resolution? Resolution is a gift, and some receive it, and others do not, and a great deal depends upon the individual, so you can rightly assume that I do not feel that resolution has been bestowed upon me.

But as for youngest son, I no longer contact him, and that is as he wishes, not as I wish. Does that mean that I don’t want to every hour of every single fricking day? Need I bother to answer? But again, it’s that thing of trying to respect your child’s wishes because that child is no longer a child, is no longer the unexpected miracle of your life, no longer the boon companion of years previous.

“And if you are not a bird, then beware of coming to rest above an abyss.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from unpublished fragments dating to June-July 1883

Look, it’s November, for me the time of bad anniversaries, and the holidays are upon us, and as usual, it’s the beginning of my annual dive into the depths of my personal abyss, so here I am. And even as I type these word, I wonder to myself will I actually post this? Will I really put this out there? And the answer is . . . I have no idea.

I came back to this forum recently for several different reasons:

The political climate and the state of our democracy made me want to rant, really, really rant.

The new location seemed to afford me a new beginning, so I wanted to talk about that and all that it encompasses.

“Clairvoyance (Self Portrait)(1936, oil on canvas)
by Rene Magritte

But mostly, I missed it. Admittedly, I missed the small group of regular who always had something to say to me. But more than that, I missed me. I missed the me that sat down and just let the words flow like water from an open faucet. I missed the me that not only felt things deeply but who also shared those feelings. And mostly, I suppose, I missed the me that took great care in creating this personal space that was mine alone, mine to do with whatever I deemed worthy or appropros, regardless of who I offended or who I enraged, regardless of who I might alienate.

Honestly, I don’t want to alienate or offend anyone, but I refuse to self censor. Ever. What I will do, from this point on, is be more respectful of other’s privacy. That I will do, but that is my only concession. What is the point of having a personal blog that isn’t personal? Everything else just seems like time wasting, like gathering wool, as it were.

And so in beginning again, in returning to this forum, I feel, no, I need to talk about my own truths. I need to work through what I can with my words. If that is callous or heartless, then I apologize for that, but I won’t change the words, any more than I could change my inner core of being. The truth is that most people who create are patently self-absorbed. I am no different. So to the question of whether I will post this . . .

Hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Ben Abraham, “This is On Me,” featuring Sara Bareilles


Black Maps

Not the attendance of stones,
nor the applauding wind,
shall let you know
you have arrived,

nor the sea that celebrates
only departures,
nor the mountains,
nor the dying cities.

Nothing will tell you
where you are.
Each moment is a place
you’ve never been.

You can walk
believing you cast
a light around you.
But how will you know?

The present is always dark.
Its maps are black,
rising from nothing,
describing,

in their slow ascent
into themselves,
their own voyage,
its emptiness,
the bleak temperate
necessity of its completion.
As they rise into being
they are like breath.

And if they are studied at all
it is only to find,
too late, what you thought
were concerns of yours

do not exist.
Your house is not marked
on any of them,
nor are your friends,

waiting for you to appear,
nor are your enemies,
listing your faults.
Only you are there,

saying hello
to what you will be,
and the black grass
is holding up the black stars.

~ Mark Strand

 

“They’re dangerous as all gifts from the sea are; the sea offers death as well as immortality.” ~ Giuseppe di Lampedusa, from “The Professor and the Siren”

“We spoke of those magic summer nights, looking out over the gulf of Castellammare, when the stars are mirrored in the sleeping sea, and how, lying on your back among the mastic trees, your spirit is lost in the whirling heavens, while the body braces itself, fearing the approach of demons.” ~ Giuseppe di Lampedusa, from “The Professor and the Siren”

Two for Tuesday: Mermaids

Tuesday afternoon. Humid with impending storms, 82 degrees.

A bit of serendipity today: read an essay in The Paris Review by Marina Warner called “The Professor and the Mermaid,” and then came upon a poem by Pablo Neruda that I had never seen before. Love when things like this happen.

Howard Pyle The Mermaid 1910
“The Mermaid” (1910, oil on canvas)
by Howard Pyle

                   

Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks

All those men were there inside,
when she came in totally naked.
They had been drinking: they began to spit.
Newly come from the river, she knew nothing.
She was a mermaid who had lost her way.
The insults flowed down her gleaming flesh.
Obscenities drowned her golden breasts.
Not knowing tears, she did not weep tears.
Not knowing clothes, she did not have clothes.
They blackened her with burnt corks and cigarette stubs,
and rolled around laughing on the tavern floor.
She did not speak because she had no speech.
Her eyes were the colour of distant love,
her twin arms were made of white topaz.
Her lips moved, silent, in a coral light,
and suddenly she went out by that door.
Entering the river she was cleaned,
shining like a white stone in the rain,
and without looking back she swam again
swam towards emptiness, swam towards death.

~ Pablo Neruda

                   

The Little Mermaid by Charles Santore
“The Little Mermaid” (1993, illustration)
by Charles Santore

Mermaid Song

for Aya at fifteen

Damp-haired from the bath, you drape yourself
upside down across the sofa, reading,
one hand idly sunk into a bowl
of crackers, goldfish with smiles stamped on.
I think they are growing gills, swimming
up the sweet air to reach you. Small girl,
my slim miracle, they multiply.
In the black hours when I lie sleepless,
near drowning, dread-heavy, your face
is the bright lure I look for, love’s hook
piercing me, hauling me cleanly up.

~ Kim Addonizio

                   

Music by Jon Allen, featuring Amy Smith, “When the Morning Comes”

“Everyone needs a place. It shouldn’t be inside of someone else.” ~ Richard Siken, from “Detail of the Woods”

Rene Magritte Favorable Omens 1944
“Favorable Omens” (1944)
by René Magritte


Two for Tuesday: Richard Siken

I lost power yesterday during the storm, and didn’t realize until now that this did not post. Sorry.

I wanted to include one of my favorite Siken poems, “Scheherazade,” but I cannot get the spacing to format correctly, so I am using an image of the poem instead. (Sorry about the site comments images in top right.) Enjoy.

Rene Magritte Sheherazade c1950
“Sheherazade” (c1950)
by René Magritte

Scheherazade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   

Rene Magritte Memory 1948 oil on canvas
“Memory” (1948, oil on canvas)
by René Magritte

A Primer For Small Weird Loves

1

The blond boy in the red trunks is holding your head underwater
because he is trying to kill you,
and you deserve it, you do, and you know this,
and you are ready to die in this swimming pool
because you wanted to touch his hands and lips and this means
your life is over anyway.
You’re in the eighth grade. You know these things.
You know how to ride a dirt bike, and you know how to do
long division,
and you know that a boy who likes boys is a dead boy, unless
he keeps his mouth shut, which is what you
didn’t do,
because you are weak and hollow and it doesn’t matter anymore.

2

A dark-haired man in a rented bungalow is licking the whiskey
from the back of your wrist.
He feels nothing,
keeps a knife in his pocket,
peels an apple right in front of you
while you tramp around a mustard-colored room
in your underwear
drinking Dutch beer from a green bottle.
After everything that was going to happen has happened
you ask only for the cab fare home
and realize you should have asked for more
because he couldn’t care less, either way.

3

The man on top of you is teaching you how to hate, sees you
as a piece of real estate,
just another fallow field lying underneath him
like a sacrifice.
He’s turning your back into a table so he doesn’t have to
eat off the floor, so he can get comfortable,
pressing against you until he fits, until he’s made a place for himself
inside you
The clock ticks from five to six. Kissing degenerates into biting.
So you get a kidney punch, a little blood in your urine.
It isn’t over yet, it’s just begun.

4

Says to himself
The boy’s no good. The boy is just no good.
but he takes you in his arms and pushes your flesh around
to see if you could ever be ugly to him.
You, the now familiar whipping boy, but you’re beautiful,
he can feel the dogs licking his heart.
Who gets the whip and who gets the hoops of flame?
He hits you and he hits you and he hits you.
Desire driving his hands right into your body.
Hush, my sweet. These tornadoes are for you.
You wanted to think of yourself as someone who did these kinds of things.
You wanted to be in love
and he happened to get in the way.

5

The green-eyed boy in the powder-blue t-shirt standing
next to you in the supermarket recoils as if hit,
repeatedly, by a lot of men, as if he has a history of it.
This is not your problem.
You have your own body to deal with.
The lamp by the bed is broken.
You are feeling things he’s no longer in touch with.
And everyone is speaking softly,
so as not to wake one another.
The wind knocks the heads of the flowers together.
Steam rises from every cup at every table at once.
Things happen all the time, things happen every minute
that have nothing to do with us.

6

So you say you want a deathbed scene, the knowledge that comes
before knowledge,
and you want it dirty.
And no one can ever figure out what you want,
and you won’t tell them,
and you realize the one person in the world who loves you
isn’t the one you thought it would be,
and you don’t trust him to love you in a way
you would enjoy.
And the boy who loves you the wrong way is filthy.
And the boy who loves you the wrong way keeps weakening.
You thought if you handed over your body
he’d do something interesting.

7

The stranger says there are no more couches and he will have to
sleep in your bed. You try to warn him, you tell him
you will want to get inside him, and ruin him,
but he doesn’t listen.
You do this, you do. You take the things you love
and tear them apart
or you pin them down with your body and pretend they’re yours.
So, you kiss him, and he doesn’t move, he doesn’t
pull away, and you keep on kissing him. And he hasn’t moved,
he’s frozen, and you’ve kissed him, and he’ll never
forgive you, and maybe now he’ll leave you alone

All images are by Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte.

                   

Music by Birdy, “All You Never Say”