Sunday, August 31, 2008

Illusions

How this day goes on, and there seems
no end to its giving: how the slivers
in the tall grass cut my arms as I carry them
to the trash bin, leaving marks that will fade
into skin, into nothing the eye will observe
in a few days, how the dog, released from
her encampment, has tromped through
the green perennials until I am sure
they are afraid to push themselves back
up again, how the blood has warmed in my cold
body until I think there is nothing cold anywhere
on this earth, except perhaps the longings,
leaning ever to the right in the brisk wind,
how days are when death is near, or sickness
overcomes and every minute feels the hours
bought and sold, the immune system deciphering
codes of healing and grace, how it feels there will be
no better even when the broth has soothed and the fever
breaks, and I wonder why it is that the day
only seems short when there is happiness,
or a sense of accomplishment, as if longevity
could be measured in such terms, some strange
barometer hanging on a wall in an empty room,
its colored water fading, its purpose losing
more each day, failing as all things do at some
point, to deliver happy or distressing news,
and those foolish enough to rely on things
like barometers or hours become untethered,
like a kite let loose from a child's hands, tears
flowing from her eyes, her father
telling her it's just the nature of kites to fly
on, to leave, to find themselves at home
in the blue, not too terribly unlike the blue
of your eyes, he says, as he looks into your eyes,
the grayish-blue wisdom of his own calling it a day.

Time Keeps on Slipping

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A very long dry spell

Everywhere around me, things are dying. It's so dry.

Dead leaves are falling from the trees, my garden phlox
looks terrible, and it's so hot I don't feel like going outside
to do anything.

But I am pushing myself. Walking at least 2 miles a day.
Problem with me is I never stick with a plan I put in place
to make me stronger.

I give up just when it looks quite probable that I am actually
going to make it.


There's always been an actual sense of dread when I near my
goal. We'll see how long I can keep this up.

So, through this long dry spell, in which words won't come, or if
they do, they don't say much to anyone and they don't say much
to me or much of what is inside, too weary to be cajoled or humored
into coming out.

So, I've been walking, reading, watching lots of old movies, cooking,
some cleaning, visiting with my grandchild and some friends.

Watched this one last night: Do your duty.

And the night before, one of those nights when I wanted to open
my window and scream I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take
this anymore, I watched Network.

And: An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral.

And today, this one.

***************************************

Went to the Farmer's Market this morning. Think I'll go eat
some cantalope and watermelon.

Friday, August 29, 2008

What is the meaning of a flower?

"If you really want to help this world,
what you will have to teach is how to live in it."

Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth--The Message
of Myth, Part I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W7jK5Pmzik

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Once in a Lifetime

I love this song--obviously--I post it often enough. It makes me sad and makes me feel good at the same time--same as it ever was...

Yesterday

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father's hand the last time
he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don't want you to feel that you
have to
just because I'm here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don't want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

W.S. Merwin

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Night Song

In the kitchen, kale wilts
in the sauté pan, the garlic
weaving its magic into every

fiber. The crook-necked squash,
bathed in tamari and sesame seed
oil, lightly sizzles, and I think

is it only in the South that such
delicacies smell so inviting, their
richness so welcome? No matter

anyway. Heat lightning strobes
the night. Crickets stridulate,
wing meeting wing to fill the air

with song, their time soon
to be gone for a season. I want
to sit on the porch and smoke

late into the night, so late
I forget that I should be in bed,
my body a vessel of needs.

I want to forget that I need
to remember my body and its
needs, the longing with no end,

the perfunctory way I chop
the kale and garlic, the squash
and onions, the indifference

in which I greet them on the plate,
these fellow inhabitants of the planet
whose only purpose is to feed me.

Monty Python - Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Sunday morning (coming down alright)

Woke from a troubling dream. Was back in my
old office only it was three times larger
than it was when I lost my job. I sat at my
computer and acted like I was still part of everything
knowing full well I had no business in that office
and on that computer. A former coworker came in
and I told her how much worse I was, how each day
I grew more and more despondent, how I would
only be in there for a short while. She closed the door
and called the woman who fired me. Then a girl came
in with a large bag containing 3 neon green poster
boards. She said the boss sent them for me. I told
her I didn't work there any longer, but she said "they"
were on their way and handed me the bag.

I knew then that someone was coming to get me--
the police, the boss, a committee, doctors. I kept
trying to find a way out, but the building was a maze
and I could not find a door. I opened a window
and climbed out into a school yard. It was pouring
down rain. I was trying to figure out how to get back in
and get my purse and my child. But I couldn't get out
of the fenced-in grassy yard outside of the building.

So I just stood there in the rain and started to cry
and tremble. And I woke up, heart palpitating.

That was 5:30 this morning. I finally went back to sleep
after my old boy, Dante, climbed into bed and curled up
next to me. I put my arm across him and fell back asleep.

The last three days have been extremely difficult. I want
to write things down in my journal, but I can do nothing more
than open it, pick the pen up, wonder where to start with
how I feel, decide it's best not to write about how I feel,
and then I close it. So this is the best I can do for me now.

Just write here. Just give myself enough to feel some release.

If not for my children, I am not sure how I would be doing.
Oldest son invited me over for dinner on Friday night. Being
with my grandson is so healing. Yesterday, the two of them
came over here to visit, and my youngest son and I played
Scrabble and then went to the photography studio to have
his senior pictures taken.

Last night a friend brought over a movie--Zeitgeist. I have some
research I'd like to do regarding some of the info in the film.
I thought it was most interesting.

I finally got up at 10 this morning. I rolled over, looked at the
clock, said Oh sh**--poor Molly! I don't know how she didn't
have an accident, but she was fine.

Cooked brunch--sautéed chopped green pepper and onion
in a little olive oil. Chopped some kale and added it.
Sprinkled that with kosher salt and pepper. Mixed
4 eggs, some hot sauce, a little milk, and some salt
and pepper in a bowl and poured that over everything.
Then I added chopped ham and shredded provolone
and sharp cheddar cheese to the whole shebang, slapped
a lid on it, and let the omelet slowly cook (which makes
it nice and puffy--the way I like omelets). While it was cooking,
I cut up some watermelon and cantelope and mixed those together.

My son and I shared the omelet. It was all tasty. Of course,
I had to have my glass of milk and one piece of Ghiradelli
dark chocolate, too.

I'm gonna be alright. I am. I am.

TORI AMOS - GOD

Friday, August 22, 2008

R.E.M. - Low

Friday's Jeremiad: Trying to stay focused

...on the positive, but the Herculean effort
it takes to make myself believe things will
get better only serves to vitiate my spirit even more
each day. Still no job though god knows
I've been doing my share of looking, interviewing,
sending out resumes, etc. I am more than
discouraged--I am despondent and disconsolate.

Losing money every day which we invested
in stocks and bonds for our retirement and for
our youngest son's college doesn't help matters.

As of last statement, we had lost nearly all of
the earnings from our investments and are
just about to go below our initial investment.

I know CDs don't earn much, but at least they
don't cost you anything. I just cringe every time
I open a statement about our IRAs or mutual
funds or Wes's 529 plan. I thought I was doing
the right thing--the smart thing. And it really did make
sense to do that, then. I believed it was prudent
and necessary to take that money out of a savings
account that was not earning us much and let the money
make money, but like so many decisions I've made
in the last few years, I am beginning to question that one as well.

Although I had good advice about how to invest, the fact
remains that the economy sucks. And the fact remains
that I am old-school and want to go get the damn money
out today and bury it in a Ball jar in the back yard.

My husband didn't want me to invest--too risky
he said--and for a while I thought I had dispelled his
fears as I would show him the statements and the steady,
though not enormous, gains our funds were making.

The investments were doing rather well.
Now, I can't see that we'll have much in there
when that retirement day arrives, and I don't know
what to do. Pull the money out, pay penalities and taxes,
put it in CDs that are safe, but where will that leave us?

And here I am, jobless, after spending years of my life
working and going to school and raising my family.
Jobless. Apparently I wasn't quite as valuable as
I thought I was or would be. Jobless. Having to pay
health insurance every month with no money coming
in. Jobless. While all the others I had worked with
through the years are still working, still contributing
to society--teachers, social workers, psychologists, poets,
midwives, MDs, RNs, sonographers, anesthetists, toxicologists,
academic advisors--all of them still working. Many of
them who, like me, also worked, went to school, and
raised families, but who, unlike me, successfully completed
not only undergrad, but grad school and beyond.

What in the hell happened to me? I was staying afloat
for so many years, lifted aloft at times by sheer tenacity,
and at other times by plain old stubborness. I was going to prove
to myself that I had it in me to set goals and see them through.


I was going to prove to myself that I was not a failure.


But two years ago, I came crashing to earth, a doomed
zeppelin, a massive hole torn in her side. Crash and burn, baby.

Crash and burn.

Can't see the forest for the trees. Hell, can't even see
the friggin trees.

I literally feel sick to my stomach every morning, lying
there in bed after my son leaves for school, trying to think
of a reason to get up and keep going. And though I usually
get up and keep going, I'm not going anywhere except
further down the proverbial toilet.

I feel like I'm in a canoe in the middle of the Atlantic--no
oars, no wind, no compass, little to eat or drink, the sun
unbearable and unwelcome, hope to see land again
diminishing with each passing second.

God I hate feeling like this. God what a pathetic ramble
this is today.

If just one positive thing happened--just one--perhaps
this disconsolate melange of me would rally, would start
to believe there is hope.

But for now, only the thought of getting back in bed
and pulling the covers over my head sounds appealing.

And it is to bed I shall go now.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The White Horse
Paul Gaugin, 1898
The Louvre, Paris


My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer

1

When the moon appears
and a few wind-stricken barns stand out
in the low-domed hills
and shine with a light
that is veiled and dust-filled
and that floats upon the fields,
my mother, with her hair in a bun,
her face in shadow, and the smoke
from her cigarette coiling close
to the faint yellow sheen of her dress,
stands near the house
and watches the seepage of late light
down through the sedges,
the last gray islands of cloud
taken from view, and the wind
ruffling the moon's ash-colored coat
on the black bay.


2

Soon the house, with its shades drawn closed, will send
small carpets of lampglow
into the haze and the bay
will begin its loud heaving
and the pines, frayed finials
climbing the hill, will seem to graze
the dim cinders of heaven.
And my mother will stare into the starlanes,
the endless tunnels of nothing,
and as she gazes,
under the hour's spell,
she will think how we yield each night
to the soundless storms of decay
that tear at the folding flesh,
and she will not know
why she is here
or what she is prisoner of
if not the conditions of love that brought her to this.


3

My mother will go indoors
and the fields, the bare stones
will drift in peace, small creatures --
the mouse and the swift -- will sleep
at opposite ends of the house.
Only the cricket will be up,
repeating its one shrill note
to the rotten boards of the porch,
to the rusted screens, to the air, to the rimless dark,
to the sea that keeps to itself.
Why should my mother awake?
The earth is not yet a garden
about to be turned. The stars
are not yet bells that ring
at night for the lost.
It is much too late.

Mark Strand

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

So long and thanks for all the fish

Can't get this song out of my head today...I think that means it's time to reread some Douglas Adams!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Bounty

Haven't read any Hesse lately, but thinking about
Steppenwolf. I'm also thinking about some poems
I read in The Magician's Feastletters today. Wakoski
opens the book with this quote:

In Confucian philosophy, unlike Western thought, discussion
of food held a high place in intellectual exchange as an integral
part of living. Confucian scholars, it is said, found politics
too dirty and religion too esoteric.

Elaine Kris, "Yin and Yang Today,"
Petits Propos Culinaires 7


From there, I am thinking about dinner tonight. What
a luxury and gift it is to think about what I am going
to have for dinner--what I am going to feed my family
and anyone else who may show up.

The neighbors' romas and jalapenos are overflowing,
so they brought me a bowl full of them.

What shall I do?

Hmmmmm......this.

Angel Hair Pasta with Crab and Jalapenos.

Salt and pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced (or, better
yet, freshly grated--you get more flavor from the garlic
if it's finely chopped or grated)
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced (I leave some seed
because I like things hot)
1/4 cup dry white wine (I am going to use a Sauvignon Blanc)
1 pound Dungeness crabmeat (which I can't get here, so I am
using that crab stuff you have to buy when you can't get the
real thing, but it tastes good)
1 pound angel hair pasta


Bring the water to a boil for your pasta. Heat the olive oil over
medium heat in a large saute pan. Add garlic and saute until
lightly browned (I add shallots to this, so I do those first and then
add the garlic). Cook 2-3 minutes. Add jalapenos and wine (I
also add a little chicken stock) and bring to a boil. Add crabmeat
and remove from heat. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste.

Cook pasta and drain. Add the pasta to the crab mixture and
heat through. Cook until most of the liquid is cooked down.

Now, if you want rich, you can add cream to this dish, but
you'd have to do it when after the shallots and garlic are
ready. Just make a roux and add some heavy cream. You
can do it later, and it works, but I like to make the roux
first.

Put in a serving bowl or plate and add chopped fresh basil or
flat leaf Italian parsley to the top.

I am going to slice the romas, scoop out the insides, put them
on a baking dish and drizzle some olive oil over them. Then
I am going to add some salt and pepper.

I am going to chop some fresh basil and oregano (from my herb
garden!) and add it to some ricotta cheese. I am then going
to fill each roma with the mixture and sprinkle some Italian
bread crumbs on the top and bake it all for about 30 minutes
(I think) at 350.

Will be a pretty plate with good food. Might also do some wilted
kale cooked in olive oil and garlic--I love kale!

Food is good.

Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. Have not seen that in a long time.

Winging it here.
Grief

When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla
you must count yourself lucky.
You must offer her what’s left
of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish
you must put aside,
and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed,
her eyes moving from the clock
to the television and back again.
I am not afraid. She has been here before
and now I can recognize her gait
as she approaches the house.
Some nights, when I know she’s coming,
I unlock the door, lie down on my back,
and count her steps
from the street to the porch.
Tonight she brings a pencil and a ream of paper,
tells me to write down
everyone I have ever known,
and we separate them between the living and the dead
so she can pick each name at random.
I play her favorite Willie Nelson album
because she misses Texas
but I don’t ask why.
She hums a little,
the way my brother does when he gardens.
We sit for an hour
while she tells me how unreasonable I’ve been,
crying in the checkout line,
refusing to eat, refusing to shower,
all the smoking and all the drinking.
Eventually she puts one of her heavy
purple arms around me, leans
her head against mine,
and all of a sudden things are feeling romantic.
So I tell her,
things are feeling romantic.
She pulls another name, this time
from the dead,
and turns to me in that way that parents do
so you feel embarrassed or ashamed of something.
Romantic? she says,
reading the name out loud, slowly,
so I am aware of each syllable, each vowel
wrapping around the bones like new muscle,
the sound of that person’s body
and how reckless it is,
how careless that his name is in one pile and not the other.

Matthew Dickman

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Leonard Cohen - Joan of Arc

Nighthawks
Edward Hopper, 1942
Oil on canvas, 30 x 60"
The Art Institute of Chicago


Saturday, August 16, 2008

In a Green, Fringed Fling

"Every year a given tree creates absolutely
from scratch ninety-nine percent of its living parts.
Water lifting up tree trunks can climb one hundred
and fifty feet an hour; in full summer a tree can,
and does, heave a ton of water every day. A big elm
in a single season might make as many as six million
leaves, wholly intricate, without budging an inch; I
couldn't make one. A tree stands there, accumulating
deadwood, mute and rigid as an obelisk, but secretly
it seethes; it splits, sucks, and stretches; it heaves
up tons and hurls them out in a green, fringed fling.
No person taps this free power; the dynamo in the tulip
tree pumps out ever more tulip tree, and it runs on rain
and air.

John Cowper Powys said, "We have no reason for denying
to the world of plants a certain slow, dim, vague, large,
leisurely semiconsciousness." He may not be right, but
I like his adjectives. The patch of bluets in the grass may
not be long on brains, but it might be, in a very small way,
awake. The trees especially seem to bespeak a generosity
of spirit. I suspect that the real moral thinkers end up,
wherever they may start, in botany. We know nothing
for certain, but we seem to see that the world turns upon
growing, grows toward growing, and growing green and clean."

Annie Dillard
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bob Dylan - Positively 4th Street

Let's see is this one gets there...

Henri Rousseau
The Dream
1910, Oil on Canvas, 6' 8 1/2" x 9' 9 1/2"
The Museum of Modern Art


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reading Rilke (again) and oh so grateful for his words

Last night, I read this passage to my sweetest A.

She is so looking for answers right now and so struggling
to remember specifics, but she is also much better
and much more herself.

And Rilke came to mind as she was speaking, so I read
her this from Letters To A Young Poet:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and
try to love the questions themselves...Do not now seek
the answers which cannot be given you because you
would not be able to live them and the point is to live
everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will
then gradually, without noticing it, live along some
distant day into the answer.

I promised her I would mail her a copy of the book, along
with another book I would like her to have: Life's Companion:
Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest. The author quotes
Rilke often, as well as others whose words have so moved
me in my life--Dante, D.H. Lawrence (makes me want to go
dig out his short stories and reread The Odor of Chrysanthemums),
Whitman, Anne Frank, Frank O'Hara, Joseph Campbell, Kafka,
and Carl Jung, to name a few.

It would behoove me to brush the dust off my old dog-eared copy
and start journeying again. I think it's part of the human
experience--a part we tend to ignore for various reasons.

********************************

I am grateful I got some decent sleep last night. It makes all the
difference.

**************************************

What I am thinking about today:

You have to go past the imagined image of [the sacred]. Such an
image of one's god becomes a final obstruction, one's ultimate
barrier. You hold on to your own ideology, your own little
manner of thinking, and when a larger experience of God
approaches, an experience greater than you are prepared
to receive, you take flight from it by clinging to the image
in your mind. This is known as preserving your faith...

I don't have faith; I have experience. I have experience
of the wonder of life.

Joseph Campbell
The Power of Myth
Paul Klee
The Goldfish
Oil and watercolor on paper, mounted on cardboard
19 1/8 x 27 in.
Kunsthalle, Hamburg


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I can see a lot of life in you


For my dearest A:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0eSQArSrKE


and one for M, who feels that two can be as bad as one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aBYzqJ0L28&feature=related

*************************

Too much happening to get my bearings straight. Been on the road--
not for pleasure this time.

Wait and see. That's alll that can be done.

Wait and see.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Things That Save Us...

each day, particularly at times like this:
one of my dearest in danger, other loved
ones the recipients of more bad news, but the blue
blouse hangs there still and the garbage
was picked up this morning, and Wes went
to school, and I drank coffee and ate some
almonds. All of that, this Monday morning,
temperatures in the low 60s, brilliant blue
sky with wispy clouds, the air feeling like fall,
my feet pounding the pavement.

Yes, we just keep moving on, even after
words that shock and sting and numb us:
overdose, bad trip, inoperable, radiation,
chemo, excision, reconstruction, rehab--

we keep walking the dog, feeding and providing
water for the cats and dog, changing the litter
box, washing the clothes, cooking, eating, washing,
reading, sleeping, waiting for the phone to ring,
picking the phone up and calling when it doesn't
ring.

The beautiful and intoxicatingly good triple layered
pound cake I made Saturday night--whipped cream
cheese and whipping cream on each layer, followed
by a layer of raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries
which had been soaked for an hour in a cup of sugar
and one cup of Grand Marnier. The top finished out
with most of the berries. Almost too lovely to want
to cut.

The tortellini soup filled with foods to keep us healthy--
to keep us strong--for we must stay strong. Diced
sweet potato, diced onion, diced celery, grated fresh
garlic all sauteed in olive oil. Vegetable and chicken
stock, garbanzo beans, basil and thyme from the herb
garden, shredded chicken, kosher salt and pepper,
spinach and cheese tortellini, some fresh scallions
to top off each bowl, hot crusty ciabatta bread with a
homemade dipping oil. Some asparagus bundles
wrapped with prosciutto and oven roasted. Yes.

Yes, we must cook and eat and have some berries
with Grand Marnier, and wait for the phone to ring.

And this is all I can make of it right now, this the best
my mind could do yesterday:



The Blue Blouse

It's been hanging there for days, slow
dancing with the breeze, its turquoise
and certitude comforting in this time

where everything I know is in upheaval:
someone I love in the hospital choking
down charcoal to empty the stomach

of its ruinous contents, someone else
I love struggling with the outcome
of conclusive proof, and yet another

one I love uncertain about which path
would lead to healing--invasive measures
or acceptance. Exhaustion clouds

my mind; a floater determined to sit
upon my eye clouding my vision makes
me restless and unwilling to spend

time writing the words of life unfolding.
This late afternoon, I rely on the blouse
and the weeds overtaking my garden

to keep me level, to take me inside, where
all things are real, even those most beautiful
and those so ugly one would like to forget

the power inherent inside, the inability
to ignore or appreciate one extreme
or the other, the way the body takes

control as the mind weaves her web.