Sunday, November 30, 2008

I get this far:

Cold mornings long ago when the marsh grass
had turned brown and cattails were waving in
the northwest wind. The pungent smell then
was from muck stirred up by hip boots while
we were getting in position for the sun to come
up and the duck season to open. *

and then that's all I can read
because I can no longer read about
Phaedrus, I can only think about a boy,
barely twenty, who knew the smell

of muck stirred up by waders, who sat
in the blind with five others, most of them
in their twenties, all except his uncle, who had taken
him hunting every year since he could remember.

A boy, who for some unknown reason, stood
up just as the boy behind him raised his rifle
to shoot the perfect duck, only the shot went
right through the young boy's head.

I remember the story as it was told,
how the young boy didn't die immediately,
how the uncle cradled him in his arms,
how another boy screamed one long continuous

scream which became a piercing howl,
how the one whose bullet missed the mark
could not move nor speak, how another ran
to get a blanket for the one cradled in the uncle's

arms, how the final one sprinted to the truck.
I was told how the boy--his wavy black hair
now filled with his own warm blood--how his eyes
looked straight up into that brilliant blue morning,

how he never said a word (unless you consider
smiling a word, which is what he did--smile--
I was told), how his mouth became the only
one no longer spewing its white warmth

into the cool autumn air, all of this before
the sprinter ever got back with the truck,
the ducks and geese flying above, oblivious
to the scene unfolding beneath them, flying

around free and grateful up there, their beloved
pond a refuge for at least one more day.

*Passage from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Robert Pirsig


Daughter and her boyfriend just left. They didn't
get here until Friday, so that was our big Thanksgiving
Day celebration. We had a lot of fun.

I was on call last night, so no vino or margarita for me,
but we got slap-happy silly playing Mexican Train
dominoes, which we alternatively called Canadian
train dominoes, NAFTA train dominoes, Why Not
Let's Incorporate Central America dominoes, etc.,
Bill Clinton's Big Blunder dominoes, etc.

So, I'm beat, but it was all good. I just plan to spend
most of the day reading. I AM NOT cooking tonight.
I do plan to go and see my grandson. I so missed him
this Thaksgiving. He and his mommy and daddy went
to Orlando to visit with his other grandparents and family.

Back to my book. I'll see how long I can make it this
time without some other story from somewhere
popping into my head. This is like the fifth time
I've read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,
and I always discover something I missed the first
time through.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tuesday Night with Mr. Death

First, I want to thank you for our telepathic
meeting Tuesday night, me sprawled
on the bed too tired to get up and make
the changes necessary for departure.
I am most humbly grateful for your understanding.

I meant it (and you got it) when I said my hair
had not been brushed for three days
and the mortician's assistant would probably
do one of two things (although the options
are numerous): have to cut the mats out--
after all, who in the hell would notice? I mean
who lifts a dead head off the casket pillow
to see whether the hair is perfectly coiffed?
Or option two: take the time to brush it all out
and speak badly of the dearly departed (me)
because I'm being such a pain in the ass
to prepare for the finale.

Of course, then there was the discussion
about my hairy legs. Remember me telling
you that I rarely have to shave them anyway,
the hair is so light, but how after menopause,
these straggly long black hairs like to make
themselves at home on my kneecaps
(better than on my chin, I know).

I would need some time to run a hot bubble
bath, dig a razor out of the premenopausal archival
drawer, and rid my kneecaps of those silky black
follicular grandstanders. Just simply needed
time, you see. And you did.

But thank you most of all for seeing
the big picture--that dreadful pair of wholly
granny drawers I was wearing over my distended
belly. I so hoped that if no other plea
sounded plausible, you'd be convinced
by the appalling slap in the face
to my dignity, and you were. And you
let me off easy with a wicked whack
of your scythe handle on my upturned palm,
and a stern warning about how, by god, I best
be ready the next time you come calling.
Inside the body

I’ve grown accustomed to typing out my thoughts and find it difficult to pick up my journal and start writing. I once loved the sound of the pencil on paper. The different sounds depending on the type of paper. Now, it just takes too much effort.

I’ve been saying that for a long while.

It’s two days after Thanksgiving. I’m wiped out. Although I didn’t cook Thanksgiving Day (small gathering here—Grandma and Grandpa Gene brought the food prepared by a local grocery), I did start baking that night, and I cooked yesterday. Everything was delicious. Everyone talked quite a bit and seemed to be enjoying themselves. I was quite animated myself until the vino wore off and the three slivers of pie—pecan, buttermilk, and key lime—sent me into a downward spiral which I never fully recovered from.

I feel sad on the holidays. It tends to permeate everything. I feel ambivalent for the most part—the sadness tempered with the joy my children bring and the excitement of having them here.

But I really didn’t sit down to write about the holiday this morning. I was thinking about something Tim O’Brien said in The Things They Carried. He says: “Inside the body, or beyond the body, there is something absolute and unchanging. The human life is all one thing, like a blade tracing loops on ice: a little kid, a twenty-three-year-old infantry sergeant, a middle-aged writer knowing guilt and sorrow.”

He was remembering a girl he knew—his first date—who was 9 years old when she died of a brain tumor. He says, “As a writer now, I want to save Linda’s life. Not her body—her life.”

And then this: “But in a story, I can steal her soul. I can revive, at least briefly, that which is absolute and unchanging. In a story, miracles can happen. Linda can smile and sit up. She can reach out, touch my wrist, and say, ‘Timmy, stop crying.’”

I think about the way words carry us. How they carry us to and from our pain, our losses, our joys. How they can carry us back and forth to work. How they can carry us through the long nights when sleep won’t come. How they do carry us to the source and back again. How in a story or poem, the words, which come from us and through us, can revive the absolute—the unchangeables of our lives.

I have my own stories I want to tell, but I fear telling them. Some of them are best left to the absolute and the unchangeable. Reviving some of them may do more harm than good. But it’s a risk I’ll have to take at some point. I just need a window that looks out to the garden. And a desk. And a few quiet moments each day. I have been afraid to give those things to myself, and I am growing tired of fear—a many-headed Ladon who never sleeps—and its continuous effort to prevent me from taking the journey I must.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I should brush my teeth

I actually didn't do that last night.

Nor this morning after coffee and leftover pizza.
Yep, leftover pizza.

No omelet or frittata today. No fancy fixins.
Too pooped.

Was in bed most of yesterday trying to recoup
from the on call the night before.

Trying to adjust to being on-call at fifty is hard--
rock candy hard...hard freeze hard...hard as the
dried earth in August, the soil 7 weeks without rain,


I concede to being too old to want to adjust to being
on call. I concede to the body's request that I seek
other career opportunities.

I feel chained, like Brueghel's monkeys. Me and my
conscience up there, seated in front of a window,
the vast world beyond not open to us. We pick up
the meager scraps tossed out at us. Grateful to be

Grateful to not be fed to the wolves. Grateful to sit
there chained together, our purpose to amuse others.

One of us looks at the people. One of us looks at the
ground. Neither of us can bring ourselves to look
out the window...look to the vast beyond, which cannot be ours.


Thought of this song night before last when I was
driving home:

I am going to search for some Neil Young tickets.

Then I am going to brush my teeth. Wash my face. Brush
the tangles outta my long hair. Take a shower or soak
in the tub.

Try to act like I care.

Two Monkeys by Brueghel

I keep dreaming of my graduation exam:
in a window sit two chained monkeys,
beyond the window floats the sky,
and the sea splashes.

I am taking an exam on the history of mankind:
I stammer and flounder.

One monkey, eyes fixed upon me, listens ironically,
the other seems to be dozing--
and when silence follows a question,
he prompts me
with a soft jingling of the chain.

Wislawa Szymborska
(trans. from the Polish by Magnus Kryski)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Driving Home, 2:30 a.m.

This is the beauty of on call, I decide,
as I turn east before I head north:
what must be the moon looks like the sun,

confused and unsure of when it's supposed
to be showing itself. Too large for a moon,
I say, as I look at the chin, glowing burnt

orange, a black funeral veil concealing
most of the visage. The city is hushed
and unhurried, most of the houses darkened

now, the neon lights of industry glowing
though no one lurks the halls or frequents
the bathrooms. It is enough to sustain me

on my drive home. I don't need coffee.
I need to know the man in room 27,
lying there in the bright lights of trauma,

is going to get help, is going to come back home
to those he loves and those who love him,
is going to be the man he was before all the death

and loss, before the changes that define him now,
before he felt himself slipping into a place
he cannot name, a place he does not want to be,

a place he hopes he can leave. My hope lies
in the silence, in the 19 degrees of cold, in the slightest
bit of light this frigid night offers, spreading out

in the blackness, willing itself to be seen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday morning

Just having a cup of coffee and poking around here.
I have 30 minues before I am supposed to be at work,
and I am still sitting here in my sweats, my hair wet,
no makeup on, etc. But the clinic is only a few miles
from here, and I've been putting is some late nights,
so I'm not gonna get too bent if I'm a little late.

Crisis has its own agenda. Supposed to leave at 5, but if
a call comes in at 4:50 for an assessment, then I have to
stay until that assessment is complete. If that assessment
warrants calling in a clinician for hospitalization, then I
have to wait for them. If they agree with my assessment,
then I have to put a plan in place for hospitalization.
If it's voluntary, it takes time, but it takes much longer
if it's an involuntary hospitalization. That's just the nature
of things.


I woke from the most wonderful dream I have had in a very
long time. I read somewhere recently that only bores
tell their dreams. Not sure I buy that, as I have read other
people's dreams on their blogs, or I've listened to other people
discuss their dreams, and I don't find them boring. I don't quite
get the significance of them at times, but I don't find them boring.

That being said, mine really was boring!

My first love was in it. We were the age we are now, but we
were acting like 16 and 20 year olds. I remember him smiling
at me, his arms open, and me jumping into his arms, wrapping
my legs around his waist, his cerulean eyes looking
into mine with a reverence and love. We smiled at each other,
he kissed me and said You'll always be my honey-haired, long-
legged, brown-skinned baby. Cheesy, I know, but I woke
feeling the way ya feel when love is so new and so all-consuming.
The way you feel when you know it's never going to end.

Then in the next sequence, a woman I've had some issues with
in the past, appeared. We made our amends. The dream was long
and involved with an Alice in Wonderland sort of quality to it.
But we are friends now. I feel it. What has passed is in the past.
I feel this tremendous burden lifted.


8:10 and counting. Guess I best go get ready for another day in crisis!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

John Prine - Sam Stone - 1989

John 20 years ago...the years and cancer have taken their toll on John, but he sang this last night. He sounded so strong--voice clear--the whole Palace hushed.

Angel from Montgomery by John Prine and Bonnie Raitt

Just got home from Louisville...saw John Prine (sans Bonnie Raitt). He was glad I got to see him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


is Veteran's Day. My father is a (or I guess I should
say "was" a 30 year Navy vet), but I didn't think about
it much until a few minutes ago when I turned on the tv
and the History channel was showing a film about Guam.

Dad was there. Dad was so many places I know he wished
he'd never been.

Mom told me yesterday that his picture would be in the paper
today. She sent in information for a spread the paper does
every year for Veteran's Day. She asked me to make copies
for my siblings, and I told her I would. I saw the spread this
morning but closed the paper immediately when I saw Dad.

And I had not thought of the day or Dad since.

Yesterday, I was driving to another town about 40 miles
from here for training. I was southbound. I was about 2 miles
into my drive when I had to get out of the passing lane
and back into the far right because a huge animal (a deer,
I assume) was splattered in the passing lane. It must have
just been hit before I got there because steam was still
rising from its warm body in the 30 degree morning air.

I got about 20 more miles down the road and an ambulance,
northbound, was heading toward home. I thought about my
dad and about his last trip on this planet. He was brought home
from Louisville in an ambulance. He was facing the rear, so things
were very confusing to him. He was confused enough.

I don't understand why someone else didn't understand the
need to cover the window or have the patient faced in the
direction he or she would normally face in a vehicle.

It was all so troubling for him. I spent most of the rest
of the day thinking about what he told me when he
arrived here in town.

I guess I thought I would be better by now. And I guess
I am, but I wonder if I'll ever really be better. If I'll ever
not think about those last days of his life. If I'll ever just let
myself remember the good days.

I can't get there. I can't see them. I can't feel them.

Lucinda Williams - World Without Tears (live)

Listened to this today on my way to another training. I want to go see her again soon!

Home for lunch

and feeling funky, which is quite the norm these
days. Either my head hurts or my back or my knee
or I feel nauseated or I feel dizzy or I feel fatigued
or I feel strange. Every damn day. What's up with
that? I just want to feel good. As in pain free for a day.
Worry free.

Been in a training all morning. CPR/AED/First Aid.
Was in training all day yesterday as well. IDD.
No more MR (Mentally retarded). Intellectual
and developmental disabilities. Was an interesting

Had my first on-all weekend. Was interesting, and I don't
mean that in a necessarily positive way. 30 bucks an hour
may sound like some decent compensation, but there are
so many factors involved. We get paid a set fee for being
on call and then a set amount for each assessment we do,
so the pay will vary on how long you are involved in the whole
shebang. It just worked out to be about 30 an hour this
weekend, but it won't always be that amount. Could be a lot less,
and could be a lot more. Holidays are definitely a time you
can make some money on-call.

Just looked at Wes's check stub and I see that he has only
had 2 bucks per month federal money withdrawn. Don't know
how that happened, but I hate like hell that the poor kid
is probably going to have to pay taxes on his 5K he made
this year. Need to see if we can get something done now,
even though it's late in the game.

I am such a worrier. I feel I should have noticed that long
ago, but I haven't been paying attention. I'm in such a fog
most of the time. Damn 50.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Polyphemus, for Laurel

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Truth Be Told

I'm tired of lying, she said, a tissue
held close to her overflowing nostrils,
blonde hair pulled up into a ponytail,

looking like the eight year old girl
she was once, when her mother fled
the scene in bathrobe and bare feet,

when her father pulled out the gardening
shears in the utility room, his face somber
and set. It does no good, you see, she says,

to keep telling yourself there is no blame,
there is no sense in fighting what's passed,
there is no reason to keep pulling another

tissue from the box. She knows mom and dad
are a done deal, that alcohol and loneliness
befriend those who can't allow room

for closeness, those whose lives depend
on the burn down the throat, the needle
in the arm, the grey smoke filling living

and dining rooms, kitchens and hallways,
mind and lungs. Her apologies are a litany
of the inexcusable. At one point, she looks

out the window at the pouring rain, the leaves
bending beneath the weight of water and wind,
her mouth upturned in a half-smile, and she

says something about how much she's missed
her garden and her children, how she's never
been away but never been there either, how

maybe the rain will settle the dust and ragweed,
how she won't know how to explain the tears.
Patrick, cont.

And the war goes on. And pain goes on. And the loss continues.
For all of us in many ways. For Patrick and his family in ways
I pray I never have to know.

Brueghel's Harvesters

Though they stoop and sweat
outside a stingy circle
that the pear tree affords ...

though the mustardy sheaves
of their morning's labor
lie stiff in their ranks as battle-

tallied dead . . . and though
the tree itself, coiling
ungracefully heavenward, past

a blue steeple, splits
their world with its axis,
here is Eden after all

which the artist makes
us contemplate
by planting in the foreground

that husky, unkempt reaper
with his legs splayed wide,
forcing our gaze crotchward,

to the solid drowse
of his codpiece so casually
unlaced, while another,

nearby, holding summer-
ripe fruit firmly to his lips,
stares out at us, and eats.

Robert Foerster
What a ride it's been

...this month and half of work. I have learned
a great deal already with much left to know,
and I am enjoying the work (sounds sadistical--
enjoying crisis). It would be a great thing to lose
my job (if I lost it because no one was ever in
crisis) but I have a feeling there ain't gonna be no
utopias. On the positive side of crisis intervention
is seeing someone you assessed(who was in great need
of help) three to four weeks later, and finding them
to be remarkably better. Doesn't always happen that
way though.

Once again, though, I feel I don't belong. That has been
the story of my life. Each place I've worked--though I've
been more than adept at each position and been well-suited
for each, a loneliness permeates everything. I'm feeling it
already. Though the coworkers are open and funny and
welcoming and smart, there is still not one person who
knows what the hell I'm talking about when I mention
Mary Oliver or Billy Collins or Flannery O'Connor or
Tim O'Brien. The musical selections one girl plays on her
i pod are either rap or Elton John or something that she
and one of the other girls get up and do some orchestrated
dance thing to (yes, as in electric slide and other dances
I can't remember the names of) and they're laughing and
having a great time and it's fun to see people having fun
but it's also a bit annoying.

I'm such a stick in the mud!


I don't if my entry is going to make it to post this time or not,
but I am using Mozilla and having not one problem getting to
anything, so maybe it's Explorer.

To sum up this past week: my daughter threw a surprise
50th birthday party for me last Saturday. I haven't recovered
yet!. It was great fun. About 30-40 folks here. She's amazing.
Can't believe she found all these people, but I am most happy
that she did. Everyone had a great time. The nest day, we cooked
a big breakfast and she went back home. And the rest of the
week has been a blur. On my actual B'day, I watched election
results and was thrilled with the outcome. Was not an Obama
supporter initially (Clinton), but I am hopeful that this country
will get headed in the right direction now.

No opportunity to take a walk. I'm dead by the the time I get
home in the afternoons. I am going to try to take Molly today.

The house is coming along. Waiting for my shutters to get here.
Had to special order them (big windows) and waiting for some
painting to get done. I am pleased with it thus far.

I just had the most wonderful muffin! I stopped at Starbucks
when I was in Hoptown yesterday (we don't have one here)
and got a bag of their Thanksgiving blend coffee. When I went
to the counter to pay, I spotted the muffins--cream cheese
filled pumpkin muffins with roasted pumpkin seeds. Yummmy!
I'll be in Hoptown all day Mon and Tues for training. Definitely
going to have to stop and get a few more. They only make them
this time of year.

I am so exhausted. I am just going to pace myself today and rest.
Tomorrow is my first on-call day. 8 a.m.-8 a.m. Monday. I hope
I don't get bombarded!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Andromeda Strain (1971) TRAILER

This is the first Michael Crichton I read. Sorry to read of his death. Can't post to my blog directly (once again), but I'm hanging in here.