“I began my life as I shall no doubt end it: amidst books.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from The Words: The Autobiography of Jean-Paul Sartre

Reading Bingo Card

Reading Bingo Card
Challenge: Post your results in the comments section, if you like.

How Well Do You Know The Opening Lines Of Famous Books?

Saturday evening. Partly cloudy and warmer, 50 degrees.

Yesterday for a while it felt like this migraine was finally going away completely . . . then I woke up this morning, and . . . you guessed it . . . headache BACK!

Another short one just to let you know that I’m still alive. I found this quiz on BuzzFeed, and I’m hoping the book lovers out there will enjoy it as much as I did. Try to ignore the misspelling of Anna Karenina and the fact that they have put the book titles in quotations instead of italics.

Here is a sample:

  • Emma, by Jane Austen
  • David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens
  • Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Let me know how you did in the comments section.

                   

I am also including a bit from an essay by Dylan Thomas, called “Notes on the Art of Poetry.” Over the years, extracts from this essay have been melded into a poem of sorts, but I like it better in its original prose form (click here to read in its entirety). Thomas wrote the essay in 1951 in response to a query from a college student hoping to learn more about craft. Here is my selection:

. . . What I like to do is treat words as a craftsman does his wood or stone or what-have-you, to hew, carve, mould, coil, polish and plane them into patterns, sequences, sculptures, fugues of sound expressing some lyrical impulse, some spiritual doubt or conviction, some dimly-realised truth I must try to reach and realise.) . . . I read indiscriminately, and with my eyes hanging out. I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on in the world between the covers of books, such sand-storms and ice-blasts of words, such slashing of humbug, and humbug too, such staggering peace, such enormous laughter, such and so many blinding bright lights breaking across the just-awaking wits and splashing all over the pages in a million bits and pieces all of which were words, words, words, and each of which was alive forever in its own delight and glory and oddity of light.

. . . All that matters about poetry is the enjoyment of it, however tragic it may be. All that matters is the eternal movement behind it, the vast undercurrent of human grief, folly, pretension, exaltation, or ignorance, however unlofty the intention of the poem.

. . . You’re back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps in the works of the poem so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash, or thunder in.

More later. Peace.

                    

Music by Tom Odell, “Long Way Down”

 

 

 

 

“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

“Never are voices so beautiful as on a winter’s evening, when dusk almost hides the body, and they seem to issue from nothingness with a note of intimacy seldom heard by day.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from Night and Day

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Bajka zimowa 1904

“Bajka zimowa (Winter Fairytale)” (1904)
by Ferdynand Ruszczyc


“Go down to the place in you where fire and silence dwell—the place of power . . .” ~ Anne Powell, from Going Deeper

Saturday late afternoon. Sunny and cold, 34 degrees.

Hello. Once again, a bit of a break between posts. I can only say that for some reason, my cough has returned, and for the past two days, I have been little more than a blob. It could be the drastically falling temperatures, or it could be anything. I hate so much to be sick while Corey is home because it seems like such a waste of our measured time together. Having said that, there is little than I can do when my body rebels.

Ferdynand Ruszczyc  Młyn w zimie  1902

“Młyn w zimie (Mill in Winter)” (1902, oil on canvas)
by Ferdynand Ruszczyc

The Botox injections that I was supposed to get earlier in the week did not happen, and I cannot say that I am surprised. Yet another glitch on the provider’s end, and now to complicate matters, since it is the new year, my old insurance with my former employer is going away, and Corey’s insurance is now my primary, at least until my Medicare kicks in in conjunction with my SS disability.

It’s all just to much folderol. The nurse at my pain management practice has been working tirelessly since October to get my Botox approved, and now she has to start all over with a new insurance. I feel terrible about putting her through this, but I am also less than happy with my former insurance as I paid for that Botox already, and they are not sending it.

Of course, the ensuing migraine was predictable . . .

“Words or wax, no end
to our self-shaping, our forlorn
awareness at the end of which
is only more awareness.
Was ever truth so malleable?
Arid, inadhesive bits of matter.” ~ C. K. Williams, from “Lost Wax”

So it is January 10, ten days into the new year, and I already find myself in that time loop in which I seem to exist most of the time. Ever since my mother’s death last January, all of 2014 was a blur, and I never quite knew what day it was, let alone what month. And then finishing the year with a truly brutal bout of bronchitis left me floundering so much that I now find myself in the second week of January, and I have yet to write 2015 on anything.

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Pejzaż ze stogami Ok 1897 oil on canvas

“Pejzaż ze stogami Ok (Landscape with Stacks)” (1897, oil on canvas)
by Ferdynand Ruszczyc

I did get many, many trigger point injections in lieu of the Botox, and I was left with lumps in weird places where the muscles had seized. The best thing for it, though, is a hot bath, which, in my view, is one of the best things for just about anything that ails one.

So each night, I force my body into a bath as hot as I can bear, and then I soak until the water begins to cool. It’s that whole affinity for water that Aquarians have. It has always been there. I have pleasant memories of soaking in the tub in my mother’s house while my friend Sarah sat and talked to me. It never struck me as a strange way to have a conversation.

Have no idea where that memory came from.

“I can remember looking at the stars in the summertime, for instance, and feeling a tremendous sorrow from simply knowing that they are not permanent; the stars can blow up, can crumple, go away. And somehow that idea of the end of things, the changeability of things entered my mind, and my psyche, and my imagination at a very early stage. It was connected with a kind of universal sorrow that I perceived in nature everywhere, and in human nature everywhere.” ~ Anna Kamienska, from “In That Great River,” trans. Clare Cavanagh

Last night I dreamed of the department store and doing massive markdowns, the bane of any manager’s existence in retail, and one of the other managers with whom I had a shaky relationship at best kept showing up in the dream, making the whole sequence yet another painful reminder of another close chapter in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to reopen that particular chapter of my life as the entire thing was a pure accident in the first place.

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Most zimą most winter 1901 oil on canvas

“Most zimą (Most Winter) (1901, oil on canvas)
by Ferdynand RUszczyc

Alexis was out of school with a very bad case of mono and a secondary virus, and once she went back to school, I decided to pick up an interim job until I could find something in my field. So I applied at the new big mall downtown, and landed a retail job, something I never wanted. Anyway, I ended up overstaying my time there, and the entire situation became riddled with bad memories, with the sole good thing to arise from that period being finding Corey.

Looking at it philosophically, I suppose that was the whole reason I was there as had I never accepted the position, we would never have crossed paths, and that, in my estimation, would have been tragic.

“Nights have a habit of mysterious gifts and refusals,
of things half given away, half withheld,
of joys with a dark hemisphere. Nights act
that way, I tell you.” ~ Jorge Luis Borges, from “Two English Poems”

So we have spent our fourteenth Christmas together. The first one we spent in Ohio, and boy was that a scary proposition—meeting his family, in particular, his father, who I was quite certain would not like me at all. I remember just about every aspect of that visit, but what stands out in my memory the most, and you’ll pardon me if this sounds strange, is New Year’s Eve, which Corey and I spent in his brother’s hot tub.

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Krzyż w śniegu 1902

“Krzyż w śniegu (The Cross in the Snow)” (1902, oil on canvas)
by Ferdynand Ruszczyc

The air was cold, and the water was hot, and it was a lovely night, and ever since, I have yearned to have a hot tub that we could sit in and look at the night sky together. Perhaps one day if we do finally make it to the mountains and build our house. I can hope . . .

Anyway, our years together have ebbed and flowed as with any relationship, yet I still adore the man I married, still have a strong desire to have him all to myself when he is home for his three weeks, and I suppose that’s a good thing, albeit selfish, yet my feelings have only strengthened through the years, and sometimes I have to stop and remind myself of just how much time has actually passed.

I’m not exactly certain how I ended up on this tangent. Perhaps it’s that whole memory time loop thing I was trying to describe in the first section.

“With the silky hands of longing you tame distance as you make borrowed stars the roof of your sky . . . .” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from “In the Presence of Absence,” trans. Sinan Antoon

So anyway, I’m hoping that since I feel better today that I am not relapsing. Would that I could get back to some kind of rhythm with this blog and with my tumblr and not least of which, with writing poems again.

I haven’t had any words come to me in several weeks, and that is quite disheartening as I was so beginning to enjoy the creative spurts that have eluded me for years. With any luck, once I have kicked this illness-generated ennui, I might be able to make a foray into 2015 with a little more creativity.

Ferdynand Ruszczyc Młyn zimą 1897

“Młyn zimą (Mill in Winter) (1897, oil on canvas)
by FerdynandRuszczyc

Wishing and hoping . . . wasn’t that a song?

So Corey leave on Monday, a day earlier than usual because he came home a day early because of Christmas. I’ll have to try to get back into some kind of routine in helping out with Olivia and helping out with ferrying Em to campus and just generally muddling through the next 21 days. It’s not as if there aren’t hundreds of little things that need to be taken care of around here, not the last of which are taxes . . . insert audible groan here. Not even going to expound on that for now.

But chances are good that instead of taking care of things, I’ll spend at least half of my time immersed in more books and more binge-watching of the backlog on the cable DVR. And you know what? I don’t feel guilty about that because it’s what keeps me somewhat sane.

Here’s hoping your year has begun with more productivity than mine.

More later. Peace.

All images are by Polish painter and printmaker Ferdynand Ruszczyc (1870–1936), because, well, snow. It should snow . . .

Music by Mecca Kalani, “Feel Me”

                   

Snowshoe to Otter Creek

love lasts by not lasting
~ Jack Gilbert

I’m mapping this new year’s vanishings:
lover, yellow house, the knowledge of surfaces.
This is not a story of return.
There are times I wish I could erase
the mind’s lucidity, the difficulty of Sundays,
my fervor to be touched
by a woman two Februarys gone. What brings the body
back, grieved and cloven, tromping these woods
with nothing to confide in? New snow reassumes
the circleting trees, the bridge above the creek
where I stand like a stranger to my life.
There is no single moment of loss, there is
an amassing. The disbeliever sleeps at an angle
in the bed. The orchard is a graveyard.
Is this the real end? Someone shoveling her way out
with cold intention? Someone naming her missing?

~ Stacie Cassarino

 

“But inside us there is a word we cannot pronounce and that is who we are.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena


“Perhaps our deepest love is already inscribed within us, so its object doesn’t create a new word but instead allows us to read the one written.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Monday afternoon. Sunny and temperate, 52 degrees.

Well hello. Long time, no write . . .

I have to admit that this latest round of bronchitis left me quite pitiful for much longer than I would have anticipated. In between, I’d have a good day or two, and then the coughing would come back stronger than ever, and I would spend most of the night alternating between hacking up my lungs and giving myself nebulizer treatments.

George Ault January Full Moon 1941 oil on canvas

“January Full Moon” (1941, oil on canvas)
by George Ault

Lovely.

It seems that the worst has finally passed, and last night was probably the first night during which I did not awaken with a coughing fit. Needless to say, I didn’t much feel like sitting here at the keyboard and trying to come up with something witty to say, especially since my wit seemed to vanish sometime around Christmas day. Let’s just say that it’s been a strange holiday season, for a myriad of reasons.

Anyway, I thought I’d make the time today to try to get something down here, even if it’s not much of anything. I just hate that I’m five days into 2015, and I haven’t written or posted anything, not even pictures of the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

“But no life is a line, and hers was an uneven orbit around a dark star, a moth circling a dead bulb, searching for the light it once held.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

I did manage to read a few books since my last missive: Help for the Haunted, by John Searles; Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro, and Deep Water, by Patricia Highsmith, all Christmas presents from Corey. I had added all three to my Amazon wishlist at some point.

Charles Sheeler Bucks County Barn 1923 tempera and crayon on paper

“Bucks County Barn” (1923, tempera and crayon on paper)
by Charles Sheeler

I liked all three, the Ishiguro the most, and the Highsmith the least. I’m not sure if it’s just me, or a phase I’m in, but I’ve been disappointed in the endings of several of the last few books I’ve read. For example, in a book that I read a couple of weeks ago, The Tenderness of Wolves, by Stef Penney, the ending was too abrupt. James Joyce was famous for his open-ended stories, especially in Dubliners. The stories were meant to be a slice of life, and after the ending, it was implied that life continued, and I suppose, since that’s what I expected of Joyce, the open-ended nature didn’t bother me so much. But in Penney’s book, I still had questions.

It’s hard to explain, really, only that I didn’t feel satisfied after turning the last page, and this feeling of dissatisfaction has happened more this past year. Perhaps I am reading with a more critical eye? Who knows. Anyway, reading is pretty much the only thing I’ve accomplished while I’ve been sick, that and binge-watching movies and “Downton Abbey.”

“We twist our souls around each other’s miseries.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Charles Demuth Old Houses 1917

“Old Houses” (1917)
by Charles Demuth

Alexis, Mike, and Olivia got back from Mississippi last week, so this weekend we had our family Christmas dinner with all Filipino food, and then after, they opened their presents. Olivia really liked her drawing easel, so that was a good pick. I know that it will just seem like bragging, but she is scary smart. I mean, she’s two and a half, barely, and she knows her ABCs, numbers to 20, and shapes. She speaks in polysyllabic words, and she’s starting to recognize words when we read.

She’s also very intuitive, and can sense when something is wrong, which is why I’m so worried about her at the moment. Things at her house are quite tense because my daughter is acting up again, and it just slays me that I cannot protect Olivia from this. It’s the elephant in the room that we have all been creeping around so carefully, but things are going to have to be confronted eventually.

I cannot be too detailed because I must respect their privacy. I can only say that far too often, people assume that young children do not pick up on things when it is quite obvious that they do.

Ah, me . . .

“As someone whose days were defined by the ten thousand ways a human can hurt, she needed, now and then, to remember that the nervous system didn’t exist exclusively to feel pain.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Moving right along . . .

Because I was so sick, I never made it to the cemeteries before Christmas to take the poinsettias I had bought for all three graves. The guilt over this is weighing heavily on me, so much so that one time when I opened the sliding door to let the dogs out, and I saw the box of flowers on the steps, I yelled, “I am not a bad daughter, mom.”

Charles Sheeler Winter Window 1941

“Winter Window” (1941)
by Charles Sheeler

I’m not sure how much not having my mom around for the holidays has affected my kids, but it has really taken its toll on me. There is just so much guilt—guilt over being relieved that she wasn’t sitting at the table criticizing me throughout Thanksgiving dinner, guilt over not having to fret over my Christmas presents not being right. And then there is the immense sadness for which I was unprepared—sadness that she wasn’t sitting there at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner complaining, sadness over her not being around to see Olivia at Christmas.

Let’s face it: my feelings about my mother remain highly conflicted, and I doubt that that will ever change. But I could just hear her voice bitching at me because I hadn’t taken the time to put flowers on their graves, because I don’t visit the cemetery enough. And truthfully, I don’t visit enough, but how much is enough?

I know that all of this is self-imposed; still, it does not lessen it in any way.

“How often is immense sadness mistaken for courage?” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

You see, that same day that I yelled at my mother’s ghost, I had picked up David Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which is a pseudo-memoir dealing with the loss of both of his parents within a year. It’s a hard book, mostly because Eggers has continual asides in the form of long notes and explanations, and I can relate to it because it is very similar to my own writing style. I had only made it through the introduction when I decided that I still wasn’t ready to go further, mostly because I knew that delving any further into it would only provoke more strong feelings about my mother.

George Ault Daylight at Russel's Corner 1944 oil on canvas

“Daylight at Russell’s Corners” (1944, oil on canvas)
by George Ault

Did that make any sense?

So I found myself yelling at my mother that I wasn’t a bad daughter, and then I immediately retreated to my bed, in much the same way I did as a teenager when I felt overwhelmed. And all of this is probably boring you to tears if you’ve managed to stay with me thus far, but I can only say that I had a feeling that I didn’t have much of any import to say when I began this post, and only guilt over not posting forced me to carry on because guilt is once and forever my driving emotion.

Enough. Perhaps I’ll be able to come up with a new direction soon. With any luck, that is.

More later. Peace.

……forgot to hit post this afternoon……….

All quotes are from the Anthony Marra work, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, which is on my to-read list.

Images are by Precisionist painters Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, and George Ault. I love all of the barn variations. For more on these artists, click here.

Music by Lord Huron, “Ghost on the Shore”

                   

You Were

I am the one standing in the rain,
invisible beside you. I am the one in the dirt
which is now turning to mud around my feet.
I am the one weighed down by each of our partings
and the one lifted up by each meeting,
reachings that could not be completed, that
nevertheless held up the force of their hunger.

And, yes, you were always a seeking, an unknown,
a mystery to me. And not less that I to myself—
beginner that I have become all over again
on the paths and mountain slopes of this journey.
I watch my mind watch each moment in its passage,
it fades into, blends, with what came before.

Nothing remains as it was in the mind
after the path has been seen and walked upon,
there is always the next thing arriving
as if from behind, catching up with one’s sight,
surrounding. And all the while the snows of memory
are falling, covering the roads of the present.

The past overflows this moment without meaning to,
just as your face is more real in my remembering
than this present one sitting next to me,
just as each of us hurt the other without
intending it. And after a time we thought
experience might bring us to calm, and we see

we are standing in the river of passing,
each waiting for the warmth of the other’s face,
unable to understand why they are not with us,
startled by their absence, traveler and traveler
distant as two dots unconnected in a yellow field.

~ William Kistler

Here is my 2014 WordPress year in review:

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

“They say when she fell from Heaven she wore a crown of jagged stars that slit the skies throat. They say she loved them all, in the secret corners of their shallow sleep. Strangers, at the last. They say a lot of things. They’re all lies. Everything is already written.” ~ Gabriel De Leon, from Party at the World’s End

Herbert James Draper The Lamia 1909

“The Lamia” (1909, oil on canvas)
by Herbert James Draper


“It’s none of my business but you must have done something very special
to make a man remember you so” ~ Michelene Wandor, from “Eve to Lilith”

Thursday night. Partly cloudy and cold, 47 degrees.

I’ve been reading a lot lately, two books yesterday after Olivia left. I just couldn’t sleep. But I’ve also been pondering some mythology, specifically that surrounding Sybil and Lilith. Don’t ask me why those in particular because I have no idea. Anyway, a poem began to come to me during the night, and thankfully, I was able to recall at least the subject of it, which is better than what happened the other night when I thought of the start of a poem but could remember nothing upon waking.

Lilith by John Collier 1892

“Lilith” (1892, oil on canvas)
by John Collier

Interesting aside: In a dream a few nights ago, my mother came to me and said that she was glad that I was writing again. The bitter irony is that my mother never read anything that I have written, with the exception of a few poems written as a child. She never expressed any interest, and I suppose I never felt I could share. So the dream was bittersweet.

Moving right along . . . following is my take on Lilith, based in part on the common stories, including this particular passage:

Much to their surprise they found the cellar furnishing in perfect condition: none seemed to have aged at all. They were worthy of a place in a palace, and especially valuable was a mirror with an ornate gold frame, which in itself was worth far more than they had paid for the house.

The wife brought the mirror and all of the fine furnishings in the cellar to her own home and proudly displayed it. She hung the mirror in the room of their daughter, who was a dark-haired coquette. The girl glanced at herself in the mirror all the time, and in this way she was drawn into Lilith’s web/

For that mirror had hung in the the den of demons, and a daughter of Lilith had made her home there. And when the mirror was taken from the haunted house, the demoness came with it. For every mirror is a gateway to the Other World and leads directly to Lilith’s cave. That is the cave Lilith went to when she abandoned Adam and the Garden of Eden for all time, the cave where she sported with her demon lovers. From these unions multitudes of demons were born, who flocked from that cave and infiltrated the world. And when they want to return, they simply enter the nearest mirror. That is why it is said that Lilith makes her home in every mirror.

From “Lilith’s Cave,” as found in Lilith’s Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural, edited by Howard Schwartz

                   

Unintended Consequences

You do know, don’t you, that she never replaced you?
I mean, how could she? For all of the places where
you are dark and death, she is light
and life, the mother of all things,
and totally and completely
predictable. No one has ever said as much about you,
you spurner of god and angels alike,
and while I pretended to want the second one,
the helpmate, what I really wanted
was just one more good fight with you.
and when I heard them call you the mother of all demons,
I will admit it made me smile—inwardly, of course,
now that I’m on probation, kicked out of paradise
because of fruit, if you can believe it. I mean,
the utter smallness of it all. Had it been you?
You would have never risen to the bait,
too smart by half, with those eyes that see everything,
every little fissure in my composure,
all of the pitfalls of living in a place
that has nothing but grace.

I will say it, to you alone: It gets old.
I thought about colluding with the antelopes,
hiding among the herds,
a possible way to escape the sameness,
but they had heard about what was going down
from the lemur, that rat-faced bastard, so they hemmed:
Adam, we like you and your wife, but
we want to keep this gig for a while, you know,
avoid that whole being hunted thing. It’s all good,
right?
What a bunch of posers.
Do they actually think that they are fooling me?
But, truthfully, what could I say? It was good,
too good, too boringly, stultifyingly good.
And then we were evicted, no let’s
work on this
, no thirty day warning,
and she just kept saying, I’m Sorry,
I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I never
would have taken that apple if I’d known
,
and you know me, Mr. Male Pride,
I wouldn’t budge, couldn’t forgive.
I just wanted to scream at her,
Leave me alone for a while, would you?
Go talk to the serpent over there,
the one who gifted you knowledge.
Not much use now, eh? Miss Knowledge?

Yes, I know. You have said it before,
told me that I cannot, will not
admit fault, remember only what
I choose to place into history’s books—her mistake
her problem, my feelings, my wounds . . .
me, me, me.
I, I, I.

Sorry. You probably don’t want to hear about her
any more than she can stand to hear about you.
She cried for days after I commented
on how good you looked in the Draper portrait
you sat for. Striking and sensual, I said.
That screech owl, she said. The irony
is not lost on me. Neither is the fact
that she abhors mirrors, cloaks them
in black, as if that will alter
anything at all. Hardly.
Lately, though I have been thinking
that perhaps you were right,
you know, about changing places once in a while,
positions? Trying a few new things?
It may have been a pleasant interlude
from the predictable, the god-awful banality
of everyday life—the same thing,
day after day, not that I’ll ever know now.

By the way, I heard about what they did to you,
trying to make you return, to get you to behave.
Honestly, though? I knew better.
You? Obeying anyone? Never happen, I said.
Tried to remind them
that you were made of such serious dust,
but Sammengelof wouldn’t hear it,
a bloody sycophant when it comes to the boss.
But I never believed they would succeed.
And then when he returned without you,
he tried to pretty the lie,
mumbled something about
Lamia laying down and finding rest.
But his two companions, Senoi and Sansenoi?
You could tell by the looks on their faces
that Sam had gotten it all wrong.
You were never going to give up what you had,
go back to being a housewife,
and I must admit, I’m beginning
to understand that better now
given the recent changes in my circumstances.

Anyway, I just wanted to drop a line,
see how things are at the Red Sea, see
if you managed to make it work
with Samael (you and
the angelic Sams, a bit wicked, that).
I know. I lost the right to inquire
long ago when I ratted you out. You
never could abide a blabberer,
But hey, distance and time? Perspective?
Ironic, huh? But I think I finally appreciate
what you tried to tell me.
Maybe one day you could, you know,
write or text, or even call? Of course,
I don’t know that I would get the message.
We’re still on the move, told the neighbors
we were downsizing, looking for something
with a little less upkeep, and besides,
she is even more clingy now that everyone
can see her for what she is.
It’s so damned tiresome, but
I am the one who asked for her . . .
C’est la vie, as they say. At least I’m not
still walking around with a face
on the back of my head. Damned awkward that was.

Take care. Don’t forget
to watch out for the amulets.

Wishing you were here,
A.

L. Liwag
December 4, 2014

                   

Music by The Civil Wars, “Pressing Flowers”

“I am overflowing with words I do not have.” ~ Adam Falkner, from “When it Matters”

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer Les Cygnes 1930

“Les Cygnes” (1930)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer


“Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you’ll burn.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Helen of Troy does Countertop Dancing”

Saturday evening. Partly cloudy and 50 degrees.

So today I wrote another poem. It started out as a thought, and then it just grew and grew. I’m not sure, but I think it may have gotten away from me at some point. This creative spark, wherever it comes from, leaves me more than a bit mystified. I mean, the lines, the phrases—they come, and they seem to make an odd kind of sense, and I find myself playing with new themes, internal rhymes I’ve never tried before. And after each new piece, I feel more than a bit spent.

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer Scene in Venice oil on canvas

“Scene in Venice” (oil on canvas)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

But all is good with the writing muse, even as unaccustomed to it as I am, or have been. Really, really good. I mean, today’s poem and one other recent one are not such personal pieces. Most of my previous poems are very personal, about me, about my life, about my loves and losses. But I find that lately I’m able to think on a larger scale, take on more general themes about the human condition. I’m not claiming that I’m achieving any kind of success in doing so, but it’s a different kind of approach, like trying on new clothes that I never would have worn before.

Too esoteric? Sorry . . .

I would truly appreciate any feedback that anyone cares to give me. It’s hard to write in a vacuum. Honest, constructive criticism is a very necessary part of the writing process, and since I am not in any kind of situation in which to garner that criticism, I turn to you, my readers, whoever you are out there in the ether.

“But though the lights
one by one extinguish
as you explore deeper,
that final light — the sun —
grows stronger,
despite the coming winter,
the darkening seas.” ~ John Kinsella, from “Tenebrae”

Speaking of readers, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that I’ve picked up a few more subscribers in the past few weeks: Thanks for subscribing to my little blog. I hope you enjoy the journey. I do have my regulars, like Leah in NC, and Izaak Mak from I Want Ice Water, and then I have people who have been with me for several years: Titirangi Storyteller (who is so busy being creative in New Zealand), ViewPacific (check him out). If you would like for me to mention your blog, just drop me a line. I have no problem with sending some props out into the universe.

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer pastel on paperGondolas à Venise, sous un clair de lune

“Gondolas à Venise, sous un clair de lune” (pastel on paper)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

One other thing: I’m terribly curious as to how some of you arrived here on this site. WordPress doesn’t allow Google Analytics, and I’m not nearly savvy enough to figure out such things on my own, but I’m curious, truly. Was it an accident? Were you searching on a word? a name? a song? a work of art?

If you would be kind enough to let me know, then I can try to pay more attention to such avenues. I mean, I’m still on blogsurfer, but I think that it’s mostly a dormant community. I’d love to find another blogging community to join, just not something that gives you super inflated stats, like Alpha Inventions, or whatever name it’s going by these days. Suggestions would be appreciated.

Anyway . . .

“It is
the way of things and it never stops, never calls a halt—
this knocking and dismantling, this uprooting, cutting out
and digging down” ~ Eamon Grennan, from “Steady Now”
Lucien Levy-Dhurmer Le Silence 1895 pastel

“Le Silence” (1895, pastel)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

So I am absolutely gaga about this particular Lévy-Dhurmer image. I know little to nothing about this artist’s history or what he was trying to achieve with his art in general, but “Le Silence” is one of those pieces that I find particularly haunting. According to the Musée d’Orsay site, the artist kept this painting his entire life, so it must have been pretty important to him.

I’ve been waiting for the right post to feature the image, and I think that this post is it: juxtaposing the symbolic silence, the cloaked woman who will not speak, against my poem about speaking—somehow it seems to fit; at least I think so.

This poem came about after I saw the line from The Crucible on my tumblr dash, and I began to fixate on the idea of speaking sins. (If you’ve never read Miller’s play, here is a link to an online version in its entirety.)

So following is my latest effort. It’s different for me, not just thematically, but also as it is structured. I ended up using repetitive rhythm quite by accident, and then the references to other works just kind of evolved naturally. I really didn’t think too much; I just did . . .

Speaking My Sins

“I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another. I have no tongue for it.”  ~ Arthur Miller, The Crucible

I remember when smells of sex and sin
rolled from my shoulders and puddled
‘round my feet, how I
delighted in the act, the doing, the making
and taking of sin, such a smooth, ironed out plane of being,
my afternoon explorations—virginal
in their corruption
as I lay ensconced
in the arms of my newest lover,
safe from the mundane existence
my mother laid before me,
a vapor trail of bottled Joy
enveloping every word she spoke, but
oh how I, oh, how I, oh
how I saw myself
far beyond the reaches
of PTA meetings and casserole recipes
and all of the trappings
offered up so blithely within
the pages of women’s magazines.
Oh no, not I, I sighed,
even as I eschewed the words that spewed
from my mother’s Revlon
fire and ice red lips, circa 1950s
Oh no, I, no I know, I

know what you think there,
in the safety of your white-washed
life of dinner on the table by five
and a nice side of green beans and
slivered almonds, you see, you cannot see
how I see you there, cannot unsee
the fuzzy lines of deception and desire
I wield like a non-stick spatula
gently turning the unsullied egg,
yolk intact, like your reputation.
What say you now, oh mother dear, oh
harbinger of rules and commandments com-
mending to me the care and feeding
of cherubim and nephilim alike?
Oh no, you know, no

matter how many times you wag
your finger in my face, for
some reason, the lesson never sticks
but you smile and smile and so I
too smile my way into villainy
one time, no two, perhaps
more? the number has been for-
gotten, obliterated from any records
recording my vices and desires
It’s so much better this way,
after all, aren’t we all just
carbon copies of our mothers’
motherings, smothering
our yearnings with learning
the right ways to right-
eous actions, act like
a lady, for god’s sake you little
tarted up upstart. Now, now

now don’t you fret none,
nothing to do but sweep up the bits
of egg shell on the kitchen lino-
leum, hey, um, howdy,
did you do it? No? I know,
no more gallivanting about
like the cheap hussy you are,
hows about you come inside,
get that load off, let me
shake the rain-
drops from your jacket,
sit here, won’t you, snif-
ter of brandy for your chill,
what say you now, now
that you have so completely
washed away my sins like
the long-lost Breck shampoo-filled
Saturday nights when everything
was so clearly defined and
ruled by advice column ladies
with shellacked hair and

Max Factor pan-stik complexions?
Just a little tete-a-tete, no need
to get testy, after all,
weren’t we just talking about
setting to rights all of the wrongs
you carry with you—cummings said
he carried your heart with him
wherever, so I will too.
Okay, oh? KKK, wait,
no, that’s the wrong one, Gracie,
gracious, goodnight, goodnight, good-
night, I reek still, sweet princ-
ciple of humanity, kind,
human cup of charity—
it begins at home, after all.
What? say you, you say? What
do you say, once more, even though
I have never understood the sake
of old time, no, no, know-
ing me the way you do do
you doubt my commitment,
my cunning com-

mingling of lies and truth?
Commendable really how we
commit so many sins in
the name of veritas yet in-
variably too many truths
spoil more than the broth, you see
seeing as reality’s all connected
really, I can no more real-
istically atone for my sins
than Faust could foist off
his one-way ticket to
ride the conflagration
ferris wheel, wheels up,
hurry up, it’s time to
bring out the dead-
ened spirits of our sweet,
sweet youth, birds
and flocking and feathers
and foibles, mea culpa,
mea maxima culpa.
Peccavi, peccavi, peccavi,
regrets, none, but
sine qua non.

L. Liwag
November 22, 2014

                    

Today’s images are again by French artist Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer—a selection of his blue works.

Music by Mary Gauthier, “Walk through the Fire”