Monday, April 29, 2019

Spring Unpleasant

Spring Unpleasant
Twitching eyelid & clogged up nose--
aching teeth and very cold toes.
Lie down with no relief; sit upright
with aching teeth. Drink more water
& eat some soup; give up the fight
to get some sleep. Read some natter
in a book, curse the virus who loves
your look, who thrives in regions dark
and vast, who loves the world "sinus"
and plans to last (long time!), who shoves
your plans with no regard, who cares
not if you leave your house nor visit your
yard. Woe is me is the old refrain.
I remember it well, its power, its reign
in the hours between sleep and pain.
This night I offer myself to the powers
that be, ask they be gentle, request
that they free
me
from all of this mess
and let me accept that only hours--perhaps
days--will make me more useful in so many ways.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Painted Swing (revised again)

The Painted Swing
The cold takes my breath,
but I concede, give myself
to the strength of worn slats,
grooves made by the many
throughout the years, embrace
the feeling which rages between
hormones and liquor.
The hard cold is a relief--
embraceable and real.
I push
some buttons and she answers,
her voice like an echo, emptied
of body, sound only reverberating
across the scientific explainable
wonders of the day. I tell her about
entering the room where my father
died, phone propped on shoulders
drooping more each year. No need
to explain, I continue: I had to do it,
Mom. It's my job. I had to go into
the room where Dad took his last
breath, pay attention to the words
of another in that bed where his life
ended, become a vehicle, a lifeline,
the mourning daughter an aside.
I can't remember why I felt
compelled to tell her. Maybe
because I wanted her to know
she wasn't the only one suffering,
this conversation taking place
many years after my father's
death. Maybe because
everything has always
been about her, about her
needs, her losses. Maybe
because sometimes life is about me,
about my hurt, about my joy,
about my simple act of courage,
maybe because she has never
acknowledged anything about me.
And I feel I can't write this poem
because I am thinking it is a poem
and only a poem. I know that is a lie
I tell myself to keep the myth
howling like a lone wolf seeking
its kin. Mine is a life. It has blue veins
and broken capillaries. It has grey
eyes--my father's eyes--it has the requisite
components of misery and joy: aches,
longings, swollen eyes, unanswered
questions. It is many lifes.
It is about life.
And, it is about me, someone
who entered that room as part
of her job, who has to do hard things
every day that she never thinks
about (if she thinks about me at
all), and I had to let it be what
it was for me--the end, the beginning
of the end, the place where time
does not exist, my mother frozen
in her chair, my brother unable
to speak. I had to be there to listen
to the one who wanted to die, tried
to die, failed in the attempt, was grateful
I was there. I had to live again the whole
and real, bring that room to life, help
one struggling to live and let go one
who died. Same bed. A new day.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

All Over Creation (revised)

All Over Creation And Back
Some nights, a walk seems to be
creation in the making, the Biblical
seven days squeezed into an hour,
the wandering tired Me, two days gone
in suicide assessment and training,
learning what I know intuitively but not
always practicing. It's hard work we do,
front line, but not nearly as hard as the work
those we meet are doing. Such hard hard
work to want to be alive. To want to stay alive.
To believe there is a reason. At the first turn
of the block, Molly and I see three people
and a large dog coming our way. I believe
dogs know dogs, but people don't always
let dogs know dogs, and, of all breeds,
it's a Rottweiler, a breed I have been frightened
of for far too long. His name was Jay. He and Molly
exchanged their smell time and that was that.
My fears exaggerated and vanquished meant
nothing to the adrenal glands, which had been
in hyperdrive from the time I spied him, from
the time I first learned fear so many years ago.
Molly & I kept on until we reached the video
rental place so I could drop off Hugo. Then,
we crossed the street to the Red Door church
where a statue of Mary embraces the weary
walkers as they pass by and shows the same
affection for the energetic joggers, drenched
in the clean sweat only the healthy know. Molly
rolled over and over again in front of Mary, her legs
shaking confession to the bright evening stars.
Mary didn't do anything except embrace us.
We walked until we came to the street I used
to live on. As we approached, I saw the telephone
pole and remembered. I was on the phone
with my Granny, and I said, Did you hear that,
Granny? It sounds like my house is falling in.
Let me call you back. Out front, a car had crashed
into the telephone pole, an older man
was behind the wheel, his head bleeding,
his wife asking what had happened.
They were ok. Just shook up. Probably
not as much as me. And then I thought
about my dream last night. My oldest
son running into a cave to catch a baseball,
me screaming it's dark in there. Do you hear
me? Are you ok? Son? Son? And, he came
out, ball in his glove, in his khaki shorts
and white t shirt and I woke up this morning
missing my children and those days.
And, that's that. That was tonight.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Painted Swing (Revised)

The Painted Swing
The cold takes my breath,
but I concede, give myself
to the strength of worn slats,
grooves made by the many
throughout the years.
I embrace the feeling.
Between hormones and liquor,
the hard cold is a relief
embraceable and real.
I say, into the phone propped
on shoulders drooping more
each year, "I had to do it,
Mom. It's my job."
I had to go into the room
where my father took his last
breath, pay attention to the words
of another in that bed where his life ended,
become a vehicle, a lifeline,
the mourning daughter
an aside.
I can't remember why I felt
compelled to tell her. Maybe
because I wanted her to know
she wasn't the only one suffering,
this conversation taking place
many years after my father's
death. Maybe because
everything has always
been about her, about her needs,
about her losses. Maybe
because sometimes life is about me,
about my hurt, about my joy,
about my simple act of courage,
maybe because she has never
acknowledged anything about me.
And I can't write this poem
because I am thinking
it is a poem and only a poem.
But it is not. I know that is a lie
I tell myself to keep the myth
howling like a lone wolf seeking
its kin. Mine is a life. It has blue veins
and broken capillaries. It has grey
eyes--my father's eyes--it has the requisite
components of misery and joy: aches,
longings, swollen eyes, unanswered
questions. It is many lifes. It is about life.
And, it is about me, someone who doesn't
know me well enough to know how
to explain this moment about me.

Vignette, Summer Night 2011 (Revised)

Vignette, Summer Night, 2011
In the quiet of summer,
streetlights hum their night tune:
a train clacks on the tracks;
No traffic passes.
Her voice rises, reverberates
against the solid
brick of the boarded-up
concrete company, reaches
a crescendo as her little Angel
decides she doesn't want
to take a poo
at that moment.
Angel, goddammit, do it!
Do it now or I'm gonna whip
yer ass! Do it. Ya hear me!
And Angel perhaps obliged,
her human's voice loud even
when quiet, now soothing Angel
with a, "Baby, you so good.
Ya love yer Mama,
don't ya, girl?
Ahhh, yes."
Finish with a cough:
a streetlight sputters out,
a car makes the curve
smooth as a knife
through warm butter,
Angel fades into black,
obscured moon peers
through the remnants
of late afternoon storm clouds,
pebbles crunch underfoot.
The desire to escape
from this Mayberry madness
overcomes the viewer
who wants to run like hell
and never look back.

After Reading Pastan's Notes To My Mother (Revised from 2006)

After Reading Pastan's Notes to My Mother
I
You've never sent me one
letter, though you never forget
to drop a thank-you card
in the mail (always handwritten
on the back of a picture-you-took-
turned-postcard). Though I know
the shape of your headstone
and where you have chosen to lie
(your casket stacked atop Dad's
in the Veteran's Cemetery), I can't say
I'll visit and leave you messages there;
I don't visit and give you messages here,
though I rehearse the lines daily, visualize
your reactions, cross myself and choose
not to visit. So, it is as if you already don't exist,
and I am talking to a stone, though I know
the stone would be kinder and warmer.
II
I'd like to think I wrote you letters
from camp, that I was the better
steward, the dogged champion of lost
and conflicting causes, but I can't remember
if--the one summer I went to camp,
fourteen and ready to exert my wing-
spreading detachment--my slender
fingers held a pen to the paper
and confessed, so I'll tell
you now, Mother, what happened
that summer: I fell in love
with the tanned, blonde lifeguard
and felt the rush of a long
tongue in my mouth, sought atonement
for my sins, let my sobbing self
be soothed in the arms of the Christian
kids, got high with them for the first time
in my life, in the amphitheatre after the crowd
had dispersed, refrains of We Are One
In The Spirit reverberating from the maple
leaves. I realized in that evening's
quickly settling fog, that maybe home--
and the idea of missing it-- might just be
some grand scheme from a very
clever creator.
III
Your hair was always perfectly
swept up into a French twist
or an elegant chignon, your uniforms
stiffly starched in the obedient fashion
required of you, so bright white it hurt
my eyes to look at them. You never let
one of us kids forget how bad women
had it out "there," how cruel men were,
how backbitingly vicious other women
could be, how much you detested the
drudgery of spending one's entire life
cleaning up after others. Perhaps today,
my muteness can be explained by my
insistence not to repeat the pattern,
though I do find find myself complaining
often--me, who has always cut my own hair,
who only ever imagined how lovely I may
have felt had I been less caught in the web
your anger spun round me, had I been free
to feel my soft hair gently pulled up off
the nape of my once delicate neck,
breeze-kissed and ripe with longing.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Grimm Reality

Grimm Reality
Once upon a time there was a girl.
She wore hiphuggers and halters.
The boys whistled at her from their cars
and drove slowly down the streets
as she walked on. Her beauty became
the thorn in the proverbial paw.
I am confusing characters now. and mix-
ing metaphors. The mouse, not the boys,
aided the mighty king of beasts (a male)
by removing the proverbial thorn (unbeauty).
There was no mention of a lioness, and had
there been, she probably didn't wear halter
tops. But I am digresssssssssssing, I fear.
I was thinking about girls and youth and our
mother's gardens which harbor secrets
and are largely bereft of leggy young women
catcalling boys helpful mice and wounded
lions. Those characters were dreams.
Back to the garden. The garden I found
in my mother's closet. Adam and Eve
leaves to cover the beauty. Leaves to cover.
Leaves that fall every year and cover
beauty. Leaves that are beautiful. Leaves
whose leaving signifies death's coming.
But I digress again. My mother's closet.
My father's death. My inability to stay
rational long enough to think things through.
Through is just a word. Through is not
always through, though. It may be a passage.
It may be a destination.
It may be simply and all alone
a word. Simple simplicity. Double duplicity.
I am not through. I am somewhere in between
through and though. R dropped and justly
so. I am though. And wanting to be drunk.
And the keys
don't care and my fingers can still play
and tonight there are meteor showers
I planned to watch and may still, though
I may be out there to lose the spirits,
my face intently leaning toward the ground.
Through it all, however, I think I shall
still be asking, though, why I am and why am I.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

When Love Leaves The Light (revision of The Picture I Did Not Take)

When Love Leaves The Light
I wanted to take a picture of them,
two white heads so close to one another,
his long, pale neck--slender as a swan's--
turned toward hers, toward the light; she
there in the chair next to his bed, softly
speaking his name, her speckled hand
on his bruised and swollen arm, these two
the most delicate, yet strongest of the late
summer blossoms, leaning toward one
another, toward the light, nearing dawn,
her eyelids closing like the moonflower
in the morning sun; death enveloping them
like the morning fog. I had planned to bring
my camera to the hospital that morning, back
to the large corner room where his sons
and wife kept vigil, his breathing labored,
the hiss of the oxygen the only sound
for minutes at a time, but life had other
plans, and death entered the room
as I waited for the southbound to clear
the tracks, brought with it rays of sun
and all of the illuminated tiny particles
of matter shone around them, and filled
the space as death bid adieu with his treasure,
and left the living to the details of living, mercy
and grief bobbing along in his bountiful wake.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Wax Museum

Memories of the Wax Museum, 1984

The woman, reaching her hand to a man
whose head was bleeding, invoked the fear
which was difficult to assuage. The plank

we walked to get to the next exhibit grew
in dimension as flames encircled the faces
of young and old. It's not real, I said, as tears

welled like the coming tide. We crossed into
Varykino and the ice castle, a lovely woman
and handsome man standing inside the dome

 of entrapment, the subservience which comes
with the death of all they ever knew, a society
in shambles, Tsars displaced with a deadlier

mission gone wrong. This I could not explain
to my three year old daughter, who would, years
later, champion those without hope, wrecked lives

living in basements and penthouses, oppressed
by governments and friends and communities
which bend and are broken in the slightest

change in the wind, the most seemingly trite
utterances. The child encompassed in fear--
as she looked at the etched faces in the wax

museum many years ago--knows the mind's
persuasion to stay a victim or to overcome,
and has seen far beyond the reproductions,

has given her hand to those whose wounds
cannot be easily seen, has refused to let fear
be her dictate, who lives the questions.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Mr Ashberry, revised

Yes, Mr Ashbery, Asters Bloom One Way or the Other
However, they don't always bloom in this yard,
no matter the time I take, the perfect blend of manure
and fertilizer, the dead-heading and the watering.
Interestingly enough, they tend to do better untended.
Which amuses me somewhat but frustrates me more.
Am I not needed? Are these hands--daring to go ungloved
into the black earth, exposing themselves to shards
of old clay, brick, and glass--not enough? I am not squeamish
and don't mind touching the underbelly nor the topside
of an earthworm, but it's the forgetting them there in the hot
sun that gets to me. I--slaving for hours to perfect my aster
garden--only think of them when it's time to put the shovel
and hoe away for the day and I discover what I think is an old
rubber band there next to my beaten-up New Balance. Being
the child I still am with the need to touch things that sometimes
hurt me, I lift a shriveled body up to eye-level and think of the loss,
eyes darting back down to the cool soft ground to search for more
casualties. Mr. Ashbery, I think I just realized why the asters thrive
without worm-killer me--me who can't even let a worm go honorably
to its death. Kindness has its place and sympathy cannot always hold
its hand in understanding even as it holds the fragments of loss.

Bathed In Light (revised and needs pruning)

Bathed In Light
I clean Molly's gunky eye
out, hours now since I finished
my wrapping duties, and take a break
on the screened-in porch, moon full
above me, clear and white, and I think
about the silver dollar my great uncle
gave me the last time I saw him
at the old folks home, before he set
the room on fire, smoking his Camels,
O2 pulled off his face long enough to savor
one of his old habits, habits being these tricky
things that die hard. He was 88 when he passed,
not from lung cancer or a myocardial
infarction or even a stroke, just from the bad
luck of a stubborn pneumonia and his own
breaking heart, the love of his life gone
ten years since. My mind returns to eyes,
to this morning and the eyes looking
back at me from the mirror, looking
back at the me who keeps showing up
for the whole disaster, marveling at how
much they resemble my father's, how cloudy
and distant they present themselves at times,
how the lightning blood-streaked swollen
mess they are can also exude an Aurora Borealis
wonder, flashing their blue-green one moment,
and their tired grey the next, how extraordinary
they are, and were, even this morning, night
after night of no sleep or restless sleep at best.
But there's something this night in the fullness
and blinding white of a winter moon which arrests
my eye thoughts, brings to mind the amazement
(you see it takes little to amaze me)
of making my fingers work wonders with red
and green and ribbons and bows, that eases
the uneasiness such careful introspection elicits,
allows forgiveness and comforting enlightenment
that comes with knowing the soul-cleansing
goodness that prevails when cleaning out the eyes
of a gunky-eyed dog, the wrapping of gifts,
the anticipation of children and grandchildren
arriving in the light of a new day, the hope
that they find under the tree something more
than a gift, something that tells them Mom
knows them better than they'd ever thought.
All of this is followed by the unexpected relaxing
of the shoulders, the sense that gravity no longer
exists as my tired self rises from the porch
and glides to the bedroom, eases the body into
bed and wraps it up in the ebony and white comforter,
gives itself over to the serendipitous moment the
body responds when it knows it has done all it can.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

My thanks to Nick Cave for this assessment of one of Elvis's last performances

"In the final minutes of the film, we see Elvis, on stage in Las Vegas, sing the famous so-called ‘Laughing Version’ of Are You Lonesome Tonight? The camera begins with a long shot and does a slow zoom in on Elvis’s face. Elvis is stoned and overweight and by the time he performs the disastrous central monologue, we can see the pure anguish of his performance, the drugged and mortified eyes, the terrible aloneness, the horror of the moment - his vast soul crucified on the cross of his own body as he blunders through the words. It is one of the most traumatic pieces of footage I have ever seen."