“This has become my picture of my future self: wandering the house in the darkness, in my white nightdress, howling for what I can’t quite remember I’ve lost.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “The Bad News”

Zinaïda Serebriakova Poultry Yard 1910
“Poultry Yard” (1910)
by Zinaïda Serebriakova

“I want to be lifted up
By some great white bird unknown […]
And soar for a thousand miles and be carefully hidden
Modest and golden as one last corn grain,
Stored with the secrets of the wheat” ~ James Wright, from “The Minneapolis Poem”

Thursday afternoon. Partly cloudy and cold, 39 degrees.

Edvard Munch Winter in Kragerø 1916 oil on canvas
“Winter in Kragerø” (1916, oil on canvas)
by Edvard Munch

Another bad night. I forgot to apply a new pain patch before bed, and as a result, the ache in my legs awoke me every few hours, which only fueled the dogs to keep pestering me to go out, even when I knew that they really didn’t need to.

I had a very weird dream in which Corey’s sister was balancing our checkbook, and we lived in a different big house that had a sunken tub, and all I wanted to do was escape and soak in the tub, but people kept asking me to do things, and then someone wanted to know why I was having the drapes in my mother’s house altered, and how it only cost $40, and I just didn’t have answers.

And last night as I was watching something, can’t remember what, I realized that my head hurt, and I wonder when I passed over from being acutely aware of my headaches to the point at which their omnipresence has become status quo, so much so that I don’t quite feel them? How does that happen? I mean, I know that the body adjusts its threshold for pain, but this? To actually have to tell myself, “hey, your head really hurts . . . perhaps you should take some medicine for that”?

It just blows my mind.

“There is something maddeningly attractive about the untranslatable, about a word that goes silent in transit.” ~ Anne Carson, from “Variations on the Right to Remain Silent”

At some point during one of my awake periods, I had a fragment of a poem appear, and I rolled over thinking that surely I would remember it, but then I realized that I would never remember it, so I jotted it down in pencil on the first thing I could find, which was the wrapper for my pain patch, and now I have to find it. I have another fragment somewhere, but for the life of me I can’t remember if I stuck it in the middle of one of my countless drafts here, or if I actually opened Word and put it there.

Boris Anisfield Stony Point, New York 1925 oil on canvas
“Stony Point, New York” (1925, oil on canvas)
by Boris Anisfield

So obviously, forcing myself to write down what I told myself I would remember was a good thing . . .

I had Olivia on Monday and Tuesday of this week, which is always a treat, but since Corey left Monday afternoon, I did not sleep much at all that night. That’s how it always is on the first night after he leaves again. I have to try to remember (that word, again) not to schedule anything for the day after he leaves because I am physically and emotionally useless.

After all of this time of him shipping out, you would think that I would be used to it, but not so much. I mean, I have adjusted much better to the period when he is gone and being her by myself with just the dogs, and only once in a while does it cause me to fall into a tailspin, but the actual physical separation as represented so starkly in our half empty bed? That gets to me every single time.

“I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane
I was the smudge of ashen fluff—and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov, from “Pale Fire”

Yesterday I took care of some Christmas returns and exchanges. Brett and Em went with me, so it made it a bit easier. We actually got a tremendous amount done, and we were all done in afterwards.

Vincent van Gogh The Old Station at Eindhoven 1885
“The Old Station at Eindhoven” (1885, oil on canvas)
by Vincent van Gogh

I had bought myself some dinner at Costco, but only ended up eating a slice of bread. Before you think me too spartan, I have to confess that every time I get up in the middle of the night into the morning, I eat something, whether it’s a piece of chocolate or an Oreo. It’s an abominable habit, one that I would really like to break. The only time I haven’t done this in recent memory was when I had bronchitis, and everything tasted foul.

Anyway, another leftover from the bronchitis is my unabating hankering for Typhoo tea with lemon and honey. I go through phases with my tea, and most of the time I take it like workman’s tea—strong with cream and sweetener, but the honey/lemon combination helps so much with chest congestion. That, or it’s completely in my mind, which has been known to happen.

“My heart always timidly hides itself behind my mind. I set out to bring down stars from the sky, then, for fear of ridicule, I stop and pick little flowers of eloquence.” ~ Edmond Rostand, from Cyrano de Bergerac

Let’s see . . . what else is going on in my fun-filled adventurous life?

I’m gradually getting the house back in order after Christmas. Right before Corey left he finally set up the single bed for Olivia, and we began to sift through the boxes and piles that have accumulated in that corner bedroom. There is just so much. It’s never a good idea to let one room in your house become a junk room because it just gets away from you too easily. I can vouch for that.

“Winter Sketch” (1912, oil on paperboard)
by J. E. H. McDonald

He was also able to set up but not finesse the house backup system I bought us for Christmas. This thing has 4 terabytes of memory. Remember when 2G was a big deal? Hell, I remember being happy with megabytes. My how far we’ve come in such a short time.

I have at least two tubs worth of books that I need to sort through and pack, and my reason for not doing so before is silly: I want to record them on Goodreads. It’s not the number of books that I’ve read, but the fact that Goodreads gives me a free repository of the titles in my personal library. Years ago, before PCs, I had a handwritten list of my books, in particular, my poetry books, and it came in very handy after the one place I worked caught on fire. So there’s that.

But there is also a mess of strange cords, loose tools, two bags of shredding to be done . . .

“But in those days what did I know of the pleasures of loss,
Of the edge of the abyss coming close with its hisses
And storms, a great watery animal breaking itself on the rocks,

Sending up stars of salt, loud clouds of spume.” ~ Mark Strand, from “Dark Harbor”

Well, the end of January is creeping up on me, and I have to admit that I am terribly afraid. My mom has been on my mind so much lately, and she haunts my dreams almost every night. And as much as I wish it would snow, I think that having a snowstorm at the end of January would just about do me in because one of my acutest memories of last year was walking to the hospital in the snow.

Pekka Halonen Lumisia Mannyntaimia Snowy Pine Seedlings 1899
“Lumisia Mannytaimia (Snowy Pine Seedlings)” (1899, tempera on canvas)
by Pekka Halonen

Anyway, I’m trying to keep my mind occupied, but who knows . . .

I still haven’t done anything with the now dead poinsettias that I had bought for the cemeteries, and they serve as a constant reminder of what a failure I am at honoring my mother and father. I know. You probably think that I’m exaggerating, trying to get sympathy. But truly, no.

I have never hidden my long-standing love/hate relationship with guilt, but this is something more. I well and truly feel as if I have dishonored and failed my parents by not going to the cemetery at Christmas, by not even visiting Caitlin at Christmas. And yes, I had bronchitis, but still, the feeling looms large, and it pierces my heart, and I just don’t know what else to say, so perhaps I should stop now.

More winter pictures. More later. Peace.

Music by David Beats Goliath, “Maisie & Neville

                   

Death and the Moon

(for Catherine Marcangeli)

The moon is nearer than where death took you
at the end of the old year. Cold as cash
in the sky’s dark pocket, its hard old face
is gold as a mask tonight. I break the ice
over the fish in my frozen pond, look up
as the ghosts of my wordless breath reach
for the stars. If I stood on the tip of my toes
and stretched, I could touch the edge of the moon.

I stooped at the lip of your open grave
to gather a fistful of earth, hard rain,
tough confetti, and tossed it down. It stuttered
like morse on the wood over your eyes, your tongue,
your soundless ears. Then as I slept my living sleep
the ground gulped you, swallowed you whole,
and though I was there when you died,
in the red cave of your widow’s unbearable cry.

and measured the space between last words
and silence, I cannot say where you are. Unreachable
by prayer, even if poems are prayers. Unseeable
in the air, even if souls are stars. I turn
to the house, its windows tender with light, the moon,
surely, only as far again as the roof. The goldfish
are tongues in the water’s mouth. The black night
is huge, mute, and you are further forever than that.

~ Carol Ann Duffy

“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