Set up and of course, forgot to schedule to post . . .
When she comes back, from college, I will see
the skin of her upper arms, cool,
matte, glossy. She will hug me, my old
soupy chest against her breasts,
I will smell her hair! She will sleep in this apartment,
her sleep like an untamed, good object,
like a soul in a body. She came into my life the
second great arrival, after him, fresh
from the other world—which lay, from within him,
within me, Those nights, I fed her to sleep,
week after week, the moon rising,
and setting, and waxing—whirling, over the months,
in a slow blur, around our planet.
Now she doesn’t need love like that, she has
had it. She will walk in glowing, we will talk,
and then, when she’s fast asleep, I’ll exult
to have her in that room again,
behind that door! As a child, I caught
bees, by the wings, and held them, some seconds,
looked into their wild faces,
listened to them sing, then tossed them back
into the air—I remember the moment the
arc of my toss swerved, and they entered
the corrected curve of their departure.
“He is like an old ferry dragged on to the shore, a home in its smashed grandeur, with the giant beams and joists. Like a wooden ocean out of control. A beached heart. A cauldron of cooling melt.” ~ Jack Gilbert, from “Refusing Heaven”
Very early Friday morning. Cloudy and cold. 2:30 a.m.
I had thought that after I wrote the last post I might be able to find sleep. I was wrong. Apparently my attempts to purge my grief did not succeed. Each time I laid back and tried to close my eyes, my mind began that headlong rush into a miasma of thoughts, thoughts that I cannot control, so here I am. I can change the channel on the television, or play another hand of spider solitaire, or walk out to the kitchen. But I know what is wrong, why sleep eludes me: There is no warm snoring body curled into the crook of my knee.
Oh, he was smelly, between the ongoing crud in his ear and his perpetual halitosis, Shakes was a smelly dog. But I knew that smell. That smell followed me from room to room, sat patiently as I washed dishes. Daily spritzing with Febreze helped, but the smell persisted. Now that smell is gone.
You might find this an odd thing to think about, but smell does that to me. After Caitlin died I carried the outfit she had worn to the hospital in a plastic bag. I took that bag everywhere with me, and once in a while, when I felt the need to torment myself, I would unseal the bag and inhale deeply. It took a long time for her smell to fade.
“My brother once showed me a piece of quartz that contained, he said, some trapped water older than all the seas in our world. He held it up to my ear.
‘Listen,’ he said, ‘life and no escape.’” ~ Anne Carson, from Plainwater
Shakes could also be mean. He hated to have his nails cut, and his ear problem never fully resolved because he fought attempts at cleaning and medicating. I bear a few scars from when he bit me. In fact, on my right arm, I have a c-shaped scar that I have seriously contemplated having a crescent moon drawn around. Turning a scar into a badge, if you will.
So he could be mean, and he smelled. But he was also fiercely loyal, very jealous, and quite funny. I know that I’ve posted pictures of him as he lay with his head upon my pillow, or tented beneath the quilt, or sitting by the window.
In these last few months, I tried to take him on car rides when I could, and I didn’t scold him when he stole a piece of French bread. He knew that he was being spoiled, and he probably took advantage of it. Who cares. I just hope that he had a good life, one filled with memories of cookies and treats, doing army crawl across the grass to scratch his belly, playing games of tennis ball and jumping into the pool. I hope he knew how much he was loved, in spite of his grouchy old man demeanor. I hope that I did right by him.
“There are still days you can catch me tape recording eternal silence and playing it backwards for an empty room” ~ Buddy Wakefield, from “Human the Death Dance”
I suppose I am trying to write myself into oblivion. If I type enough words, if I confess enough, if I reveal everything—bad and good and in between—if I do all of these things, perhaps then my soul may find some rest.
Or perhaps I’ll just keep writing and keep feeling and keep scratching off that thin veneer of a scab that is only just forming, worry it in that way that I do, pull on it until the wound that is bared is deeper than it originally began. If you tear at something long enough, it will fray. Mess with it long enough, the fabric will wear, erode, crumble. Perhaps I will do all of these things enough times that when I finally lay back and close my eyes, I will see . . . nothing. And (one can only hope) be blessed with dreamless sleep.
Too bad the waters of Lethe are not accessible in this sphere. Forgetfulness would be a good thing.
“Even in a place you know intimately, each night’s darkness is different.” ~ Anne Michaels, from Miner’s Pond
Friday afternoon. Cloudy and cool, 50’s.
So I eventually found sleep around 4 a.m. Awoke around 7 with another headache. Actually, Tillie woke me at 7, then again at 9:30. At 7 she wanted out, but at 9:30 she wanted to play. I asked Corey to wake me no later than 11 so that I could try to sleep tonight.
The headache is gone for now, but my back muscles are like a basket of walnuts—all crammed up against one another and compressed into a space that is too small to accommodate them. In spite of the pain, I feel a bit better emotionally. I haven’t cried once since waking, and I don’t appear to be leaking incessantly. My chest also seems to have loosened, as in it doesn’t feel so constricted and painful. I suppose I have begun the long process of healing yet again.
But we all know not to expect too much of that. Right?
So my dog Shakes was smelly and temperamental and funny and loyal and fluffy in spots where dogs shouldn’t be fluffy, and his mouth looked like it had been lined with black eyeliner, giving him perpetual lipstick. He would do spite pees in the house, as in if I left him for too long alone, he would mark something, usually the end of my iron bed. He was a Jack Russell without spots and with long legs. For some reason, I remember the sire’s name was Simon, from the litter into which both Shakes and Alfie were born. They were the last two pups left, and the woman sold both of them to my mother for the price of one pup, which is how I came to own two male dogs.
“And he told stories about the stars above, about the earth below. He told them to make the night pass, and also because his heart was all reflections in which the soul of the world moved.” ~ Jean Giono, from The Serpent of Stars
I think that when I’m finished here, I’ll curl up beneath a blanket and read. I’ve abandoned NaNoWriMo mostly because I’m so far behind that I know I cannot catch up, especially as it is past the mid-point of the month. However, I have not abandoned the story. As I mentioned, I like my protagonist, and I like the sketchy plot that I have so far. I just know that I’m not in the frame of mind in which to flesh out characters and plot lines.
I need to spend the weekend cleaning and polishing silver, getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner. I think because we’re going to have so many people that we’re going to cook a turkey and a ham, at least that’s the plan for now. When I first began planning the meal in my head, I had considered trying to bake a special cake. Not going to happen now. Apple and pumpkin pies from Costco—always a good plan.
Look. I’m just holding on at the moment. I’m better, but not there yet. I’ll spend my time this weekend doing mindless chores, and with any luck, I can burn away the pain. I don’t want to be a complete emotional wreck when Corey’s parents get here.
For now, we’ll just see how the days unfold.
More later. Peace.
Music by Benjamin Francis Leftwich, “Sophie”
A Journal of the Year of the Ox (excerpt)
It is as though, sitting out here in the dwarf orchard,
The soul has come to rest at the edge of the body,
A vacancy, a small ache,
the soul had come to rest
After a long passage over the wasteland and damp season.
It is as though a tree had been taken out of the landscape.
It is as though a tree had been taken out
and moved to one side
And the wind blew where the tree had been
As though it had never blown there before,
or that hard.
Nature Impressionistic, Gyömrő, Pest, Hungary, by Halasi Zsolt (FCC)*
“Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot.” ~ Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country
Tuesday afternoon. Overcast and warm, 68 degrees.
A very bad few days, indeed. On Saturday, I was completely unable to get out of bed, probably slept 18 out of 24 hours. Just one of those days when the old body is too weak to deal with the vicissitudes of daily life. Then Sunday Corey and I went to buy the Thanksgiving turkey, and it was probably not the best day for it as I was still recovering, and he was sleep-deprived from his work schedule, and consequently, we had a spat in the middle of Sam’s Club.
By yesterday evening, when I was ready to write, I didn’t have access to the computer, so here I am today, no headache, a bit of back pain, and a strange tingling sensation in my left thumb. No idea as to what that is about.
I did make a point of checking my e-mail today, something that I no longer do daily. E-mail, like paper mail that is not in the form of a personal letter, has become rather boring to me. I could not tell you why this is so other than it is. Anyway, the point is that if you desperately need to get in touch with me, sending an e-mail may cause a delay of about a week or so. Sending a message via comments here tends to get my attention faster.
Apologies for this, but am not going to try to pretend that I will be better at checking my mail as I know myself too well. I might intend to do so, but will probably not.
Anyway, it’s a good thing that I did check the old electronic mail as there was a note from Helma (German s-in-law) that my nephew Phillip has to have emergency surgery for pancreatitis. His father Patrick (my ex’s brother) had a severe case of pancreatitis several years ago and almost died from it. Reading that note that was sent a week ago made me feel like the negligent git that I am.
“She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, from Everything is Illuminated
I’m trying to get the house ready for Thanksgiving. Ask me how much I’ve done . . .
When I finish here, I need to go prepare the cranberry relish so that it has a few days to get that commingling of flavors. Alexis is supposed to be doing the mashed potatoes and deviled eggs, but as she never got around to texting or calling me this weekend, I’m not sure I can depend on that. You see, she was supposed to be my ride to Sam’s Club, her reward being gas in her tank. Her no-show meant that Corey had to fill in, which led to the overall grumpiness and spat, etc.
I despair of her ever coming out of this whatever it is. She knows, as do I, that she needs professional help, but that costs money. She has no money because she has no job; she has no job because of this prolonged downward spiral, so she cannot get professional help. She is her own 99 percent. Not trying to be glib, just realistic.
If I dwell on it for too long, it only adds to my personal miasma of pain, guilt, and otherwise world-weary despair.
So I’ll make cranberry relish. I’ll clear the dining room table. I’ll enlist as much help as I can, and we’ll muddle through the same as always. At least I’ve got a lovely bottle of sparkling blush muscato to accompany the bird and trimmings. It will be one of my occasional forays into imbibing, the last being after the memorial service in September.
“To disguise nothing, to conceal nothing, to write about those things that are closest to our pain, our happiness; to write about our sexual clumsiness, the agonies of Tantalus, the depth of our discouragement—what we glimpse in our dreams—our despair. To write about the foolish agonies of anxiety, the refreshment of our strength when these are ended; to write about our painful search for self, jeopardized by a stranger in the post office, a half-seen face in a train window, to write about the continents and populations of our dreams, about love and death, good and evil, the end of the world.” ~ From The Journals of John Cheever
I found this Cheever passage on tumblr, and it seems so perfect for me, a perfect description of how I write, what I do here. Each time I sit down at these keys, it’s as if I’m sharing my life as it unfolds, as if this act is both abhorrent and necessary, as if penning the words to my own bitter song will cleanse me and thus allow me to feel better. But better how I could not tell you.
Like Tantalus, the fruit always seems to be just beyond my reach, and the water recedes just as I cup my hands to drink. But somehow I keep going.
Images flashing through my head: a young boy, holding someone’s hand and looking back over his right shoulder as he’s being pulled away; a woman wearing huge metal frame sunglasses, face turned to the sun; a red rubber ball bouncing . . .Total disconnect? Where do these things come from? Do they mean anything or are they just the commercials in between the stuff that means something? Are these the strangers who I have encountered without noticing, the ones that my brain has filed away for later without my conscious self knowing?
It’s like the photograph of the Irish countryside that I posted a few days ago (which got quite a nice response from you guys . . . should I just cut out the words and post pretty pictures? Kidding.). I came upon it quite by chance, but boom, it was the perfect representation of what I’ve been trying to describe as the Ireland that I see in my mind’s eye.
Have you noticed that I have a real affinity for Greek mythology? I credit Mrs. Clay for this. I really despised that woman when she taught me 9th grade English, but she knew her stuff. I wonder if they even spend time on mythology in English classes any more, I mean, more than a week or two.
“The little space within the heart is as great as the vast universe. The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun and the moon and the stars. Fire and lightning and winds are there, and all that now is and all that is not.” ~ From the Upanishads
But getting back to the whole idea of what I do here, in this little space of mine—I populate this world of mine with dreams (those I’ve had while sleeping and those I keep close to my heart), with agonies and victories, small and large, and I intersperse occasional bouts of politics, irony, whimsy, and comic relief. But all of it—the mindless rambling, the tortured angst, the attempts at the profound—it all comes from a place I simply cannot define. It’s all there, and I do not control how or when it surfaces.
Last night I dreamed that I went into an old abandoned building. People were living there. It was an old theater, and the people who lived there went into an empty convenience store to use the telephone. I thought about staying there because the people made me feel welcome, but decided that I needed to move on. I had somewhere that I needed to be, even if it meant walking down a dark road, so I put on some old clothes that were in a backpack, and I began to leave, but when I did, some of my dad’s relatives appeared and wanted to know why I wasn’t at home. Then there was something like a flea market in front of the building.
Now I must pause here. I don’t know about you, but my dreams can be sequential, events carry over from other dreams, and I reference previous dreams in later dreams. While I was looking at the items that had been put out for the flea market, I remembered a piano that I had seen in my dream from the night before; the piano was old and black, an upright, but the keys were in bad shape. I thought about the piano in last night’s dream and wished that I had bought it and refinished it.
Then I walked onto a suspension bridge above the flea market, and it was made of rickety wood. Someone had dropped a cigarette, and the bridge had caught fire. I walked quickly among the planks that were still solid until I reached the roof of the abandoned building. Then I climbed down, and there was a line of people waiting to see . . . Alexis, who had designed jewelry in honor of her mother (me) who had been missing. I walked up to the front of the line and hugged her and told her that I was home.
So in one dream, I encompassed my continual search (the walking down a dark road), my affinity for the old (the piano and the abandoned building), my feelings of alienation (the homeless people living in the building), my sadness (the relatives), my dreams for my daughter (obvious), and my fears of not making it to where I want to go (the burning bridge).
“I swear, there is in me no wizardry of words. I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.” ~ Czeslaw Milosz, from “Dedication”
Speaking of writing about the painful search for self, I received another invitation to contribute my blog to Vibrant Nation. Other than one blogger friend with whom I’m in contact, I don’t know much about this site. If anyone has any advice pro or con, I’d love to hear about it.
I just remembered that there was a woman in last night’s dream that had strange eyes, huge, with one eye significantly bigger than the other. She was Asian, and she did not want her daughter to date. Her daughter was 42 and still stuck at home. Make of that what you will.
I suppose I’ve put off my real work for the week for long enough. I’ve walked by the dining room table twice to refill my coffee cup, and it did not magically clear itself. Why can’t I be normal? Does every woman hate Thanksgiving as much as I do? I really hate to admit it, but a small part of me understands what my mother has been saying for years: What’s the point of doing all of this?
Oh, well, that answers my question, doesn’t it? My mother. Of course. It always comes back to my mother. I think that I’ll go chop cranberries and apples and try to put everything else out of my mind for a few days, just get through this.
*All images taken from Halasi Zsolt’s photostream on Flickr under a Creative Commons license.
Music by Trent Dabbs, “Stay by Me”
Evening comes on and the hills thicken;
red and yellow bleaching out of the leaves.
The chill pines grow their shadows.
Below them the water stills itself,
a sunset shivering in it.
One more going down to join the others.
Now the lake expands
and closes in, both.
The blackness that keeps itself
under the surface in daytime
emerges from it like mist
or as mist.
Distance vanishes, the absence
of distance pushes against the eyes.
There is no seeing the lake,
only the outlines of the hills
which are almost identical,
familiar to me as sleep,
shores unfolding upon shores
in their contours of slowed breathing.
It is touch I go by,
the boat like a hand feeling
through shoals and among
dead trees, over the boulders
lifting unseen, layer
on layer of drowned time falling away.