Monday, May 30, 2011
The Undiscovered Country
When it came to the end
she would not eat any longer
refusing to take part
in the feast that makes us whole
In the vastness of her being
the broken pieces
like a thought or a rowboat
And the bitterness and love
that bound her to the earth
unsettled from her bones
She became smaller still
While outside the window
the moon rose through bare branches
in the blue ravenous light
Originally appeared in Pontoon.
I am continually enchanted with the ways that poetry quietly slips into our everyday lives and has the ability to make a profound impact on an otherwise ordinary day. I chose this poem for exactly that reason:
Some years ago, I was part-owner in a small bakery/cafe; and on a quiet drizzly winter afternoon, one of our regular customers came in for lunch a little past the rush, the place momentarily deserted. He had brought his elderly mother in for a sandwich -- said he wanted to show her his favorite quirky lunch place.
We had on the counter a small collection of Floating Bridge Press poetry books for sale, and he picked up a copy of the anthology Pontoon. Amid the low hum (and luring scents) of the convection ovens (chocolate chip walnut cookies? Oatmeal raisin? Strawberry white chocolate scones?) he opened the slim volume and read aloud to his mother the poem I've posted above.
Nothing paused in the day -- cars roared past in four lanes on Airport Way, jets from Boeing Field barely skimmed the building tops; there was the clank and clang of pots being scrubbed and set to dry. But I could still hear him read -- every word -- and I could see his mother, in her diminished eighty+ self, absorb all of it.
This was one of those moments where the universe stops, takes a breath, and allows poetry to enter the soul.
A moment when poetry blesses us, and sends us on our way.
This week I have the good fortune to be editor of the masthead Tuesday Poem blog, and have posted an additional poem of Kathryn's, along with a video of her reading it. Please do visit!
Sunday, May 29, 2011
sent me this:
A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter
part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in
a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or
reinterpret the first part. Check out the following for
I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that
way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his
level and beat you with experience.
I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather.
Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than
standing in a garage makes you a car.
The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on
If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not
putting it in a fruit salad.
The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse
always gets the cheese.
A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where
a train stops. On my desk, I have a workstation.
Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity,
they can train people to stand on the very edge of a pool
and throw them fish.
I thought I wanted a career, but it turns out I just wanted
Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says,
"In an emergency, notify:" I always put, "DOCTOR."
I didn't say it was your fault; I said I was blaming you.
Why does someone believe you when you say there are four
billion stars, but always check when you say the paint is
Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down
the street with a bald head and a beer gut and still think
they are sexy.
A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
You do not need a parachute to skydive. You definitely need
a parachute to skydive twice.
The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some
darned good ideas!
Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it
Hospitality: Making your guests feel like they're at home,
even if you wish they were.
I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be
devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed
touches my foot.
There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone
down so they can't get away.
I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.
When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire
Department usually uses water.
You're never too old to learn something stupid.
To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call
whatever you hit the target.
Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others
have no imagination whatsoever.
A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are
after it as when you are in it.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Not my hands but green across you now.
Green tons hold you down, and ten bass curve
teasing in your hair. Summer slime
will pile deep on your breast. Four months of ice
will keep you firm. I hope each spring
to find you tangled in those pads
pulled not quite loose by the spillway pour,
stars in dead reflection off your teeth.
Lie there lily still. The spillway’s closed.
Two feet down most lakes are common gray.
This lake is dark from the black blue Mission range
climbing sky like music dying Indians once wailed.
On ocean beaches, mystery fish
are offered to the moon. Your jaws go blue.
Your hands start waving every wind.
Wave to the ocean where we crushed a mile of foam.
We still love there in thundering foam
and love. Whales fall in love with gulls
and tide reclaims the Dolly skeletons
gone with a blast of aching horns to China.
Landlocked in Montana here
the end is limited by light, the final note
will trail off at the farthest point we see,
already faded, lover, where you bloat.
All girls should be nicer. Arrows rain
above us in the Indian wind. My future
should be full of windy gems, my past
will stop this roaring in my dreams.
Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. But the arrows sing:
no way to float her up. The dead sink
from dead weight. The Mission range
turns this water black late afternoons.
One boy slapped the other. Hard.
The slapped boy talked until his dignity
dissolved, screamed a single ‘stop’
and went down sobbing in the company pond.
I swam for him all night. My only suit
got wet and factory hands went home.
No one cared the coward disappeared.
Morning then: cold music I had never heard.
Loners like work best on second shift.
No one liked our product and the factory closed.
Off south, the bison multiply so fast
a slaughter’s mandatory every spring
and every spring the creeks get fat
and Kicking Horse fills up. My hope is vague.
The far blur of your bones in May
may be nourished by the snow.
The spillway’s open and you spill out
into weather, lover down the bright canal
and mother, irrigating crops
dead Indians forgot to plant.
I’m sailing west with arrows to dissolving foam
where waves strand naked Dollys.
Their eyes are white as oriental mountains
and their tongues are teasing oil from whales.
In 1980, I had the good fortune to take a week-long seminar with Richard Hugo in Seattle. Hugo, then an English Professor at the University of Montana, was a born and raised in Seattle. He was one of the first contemporary poets I read -- in high school -- and remains today one of my favorites. He was a big man -- think football player size -- yet the tenderness with which he wrote and taught was breathtaking. One young woman in the class repeatedly brought self-disparaging poems to share. After several days of this, Hugo, in front of everyone, very gently told her that she needn't do this to herself. He essentially gave her a poet's version of a pep talk, with the utmost respect and selfless love. I think every one of us was moved and astonished.
He died in 1982 of leukemia, at the age of fifty-eight. Read more here.
(I don't know where the classroom scene in the beginning of this short film takes place, but U. of Montana is the logical answer.)
Sunday, May 22, 2011
And in the jungle there were treasures:
Saturday, May 21, 2011
A peasant woman, recently cast off by her husband, was the tender of a small plot of land in the shadow of a magnificent castle. Struggling to till the soil, plant the seeds and tend to the crops in her husband's absence, she sought assistance from the king to help retain her modest means of living. This powerful king, possessor of all the wealth in the land, assigned her to counsel with his advisers.
On the morning of the meeting, in the hallways of the luxurious towers where many other peasants had gathered to attend similar meetings, she was met by great troops of the king's men, every one of them chipper and cheerful, all dressed in rich garments of red and gold. Her humble attire blended with that of every other peasant: a slight rumple here, a wrinkle there, the colors drab and blue.
Her name was taken, she was assigned a number: 1-1015. Now, absent of identity except for this number, she was escorted to a room partitioned with curtains, where an adviser spoke to an assembled group in the simplest of terms: "do this, do that. Believe everything you hear today. And wait for your number to be called."
All around her were the faces of death, of fleeting remnants of hope. Every age of adult was present - some elderly, many in their prime, some just past the bloom of youth. Some with skin as pale as moonlight, others with skin dark as the depths of a cave. There were whispers, voices in languages she did not comprehend; there was nervous foot-tapping and the fidgeting of many fingers.
Finally she heard "1-1015", and was escorted by yet another king's man -- equally chirpy and chipper, and, from the looks of it, well-fed. She wondered if these people had all been dosed with a potion at the start of the day -- their enthusiasm in the face of so much despair seemed impossible for anyone but the drugged.
They entered a massive auditorium -- thick with plush ruby carpets and draperies -- where row upon row of table was set with a crude stump on one side for each peasant-plaintiff. They wove their way between aisles, where she finally met the custodian of her affairs: a slight woman seated on luxurious cushions, garbed entirely in black leather, with a narrow face and hair which fell from its center part like tiny silver swords suspended from a steel line. She did not smile. Had she not partaken of the potion?
For hours they sat, discussing numbers and accounting and accountability and ability. There was maneuvering and repositioning, there was consultation with superiors and communications dispatched from afar. And there was no solution, no recasting of numbers in order to offer assistance. There was only the stance of profit from the viewpoint of the king. The adviser took out her scale, set weights on either side, and let the peasant see that, unless the king could reap abundantly from her toils, no relief would be offered. It was not that the margin was too slim, but that it didn't exist at all.
"But wait!" the peasant woman shouted.
"I've labored long and hard, hours before the spark of dawn, long past the sun's departure, through frigid winters and searing summers. I've kneeled before the taxman, signed every requisite scroll, fed my family and raised my sons to be healthy, capable men. Does this not count for anything?"
The adviser peered at the peasant with slag-heap eyes: "Our meeting is ended."
Again, a costumed king's man rose up to escort the peasant woman out.
"Now we shall go to the exit-room."
The woman, upon hearing that, envisioned a guillotine wedged into a doorway through which one must pass -- or leave one's head -- upon leaving. But the king, in a rare moment of compassion, had decided to be merciful, and the peasant woman made her exit in safety, her heart heavy, her soul burdened with loss.
(To be continued.)
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Circling the wagons, sharpshooters poised and at the ready. (Don't mess with this fierce and fragile woman.)
This was in response to attacks seemingly from all fronts: my cat was bleeding out, my house was (is) at risk, my kids were pissed because I was moving back into my house -- the entire swirl of my planet was so out of control -- it felt as if the only response was to back myself into a corner and arm myself. (A metaphor.) (I don't do guns.) (I'm a pacifist.) I went all Calamity Jane for a moment. (Calamity T.) Leave me the f-ck alone. When feeling vulnerable -- especially as a woman -- protect yourself on all fronts. No dark alleys, nothing exposed. Keep the keys protruding between your knuckles. (I remember learning this in a Women's Empowerment Class in the 1970's.)
Unfortunately, this has been grossly misinterpreted, which makes me very sad.
As my friend Joe said, "Don't shoot the piano player."
No intention of doing that.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Gathering a shite-load of paperwork to present to the Banking Royalty in an attempt to keep my house. Giant Scary Stuff. On top of all the other Giant Scary Stuff.
A few years ago, I almost lost this house in a lawsuit -- a very ugly thing, in which I was held responsible for something I had no part in except in the legal definition of what marriage is. It was the worst of bad things: death, injury, loss of my business, teenage children spiraling to the depths.
Too many lawyers, too much advice. The bottom line: yes they WILL try to take a widow's home from her. Never tell anyone this can't happen, because it can. After numerous settlement attempts, the plaintiff finally settled for less than my original offer. My bill, after all the accounting was completed? Nearly $200k. And then the plaintiff died of a heart attack shortly thereafter.
Karma gets you.
So now it's new circumstances, a different-shaped chopping block, not to mention I've been around a few blocks of my own in the past few years.
Don't mess with me.
Don't mess with my kids.
DO NOT mess with my home.
And that about sums it up.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Fascinating, these two versions of the same poem, one obviously recorded before the revised version was published.
Things which are useful & handy:
1. A bed.
5. An iron. Yes, I still iron stuff. Miraculously, there still exists here an ironing board. It's lonely, though.
6. A broom with a handle attached and bristles. At Lowes: "Giant Corn Broom"!
7. TP roller. (Okay, not exactly necessary, but it prevents escaping rolls from unrolling all the way across the floor to the tub.)
8. Towel rack.
9. Hook for bathroom door.
10. Laundry basket.
11. Rug for cold tile bathroom floor.
12. An old-fashioned push-mower.
14. Etc., etc.
15. Etc., etc., etc.
Other things which are useful & handy but will have to wait:
1. Lamps. (I really like light.)
2. Living room furniture. What currently exists would really blend well with the decor of the City Dump. And should soon go there. Yikes.
3. Computer -- this one is limping along. Keeping fingers crossed.
I've resurrected an old receiver which I think will hook up to some ancient speakers which I think are all compatible with a DVD player which is, I believe, of the 21st century. My heart be still.
I've repaired the 35-year-old Cuisinart. I've become handy again with a hammer and fixed some falling-apart bookcases. Now I'm gathering courage to wield the Sawz-All to go to work on the remnants of an apple tree which had to come down, sadly. Nelson gave me a Sawz-All lesson last night, showed me the proper way to hold it, the stance I should assume, when to back off, how to lean-into. Gads. Drill, baby, drill.
And Nelson, who just returned from a long-weekend backpacking/fishing/wild-turkey-hunting trip, reminded me that if I lived in a tent somewhere I would need far fewer things than those in my list above. Of course, he is completely right. But no.
(And no wild turkeys, and his fishing pole broke, and the rain started in earnest so he and his buddy returned turkeyless, troutless, happy as ever.)
My sons are the glimmering gems among the detritus of this living.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Saturday, May 14, 2011
and filled it back in.
Then I wrestled with bindweed and Himalayan blackberries, buttercups and lemon balm -- all clearly in control of the landscape. It's no longer a garden, but I'm wielding my machete and I intend to show it just who's in charge.
It used to be a lovely hidden garden. One year I inventoried the different types of flowers in bloom at one time and the count was in the 80's. That was a former life. A last-century life. Not one of us still inhabits it.
More culling in the kitchen, more combining of oils and vinegars, of unsweetened cocoa and unbleached flour, of rice both white and brown. Every project I undertake is woven into several other tasks simultaneously. So this afternoon it was drawer/closet/cupboard/another-cupboard/more-drawers: emptied, scrubbed, arranged & rearranged.
So often we are past the pull-date, every one of us.
Let's all recycle, now, every last cell in our sack of skin.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Tomorrow Reilly and I will take turns digging the hole beneath the Chehalis apple tree, dislodging a few yellow tulips, some sweet woodruff.
Of course, there have been many deaths, both human and animal, for all of us. This one, though, is walloping me. Marley had belonged to my dearest of friends Carol, who passed away a year ago May 7th....a group of about twenty of us marked the occasion with a special dinner at Carol's favorite restaurant.
I've had Marley for almost three years now, but prior to that, she lived down the street, and often came in the cat door to dine with my three cats (sister to one). The story goes on in more detail, but this is all I can write about now. Suffice to say, she embodied constant gentleness in my life, a part of Carol I was able to carry with me beyond her death.
This is the poem I shall read tomorrow when we've replaced the unsettled earth:
The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.
I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:
Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.
Under the apple tree, I think, with its shower of May blossoms.
I could toss my wedding rings in too, a bright glint of surprise
beside bones for some future excavator.
It could be a lucky day for a stranger .
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
But what woke me up was this stunner of a dream:
There was something afloat in the air beside me, smaller than a hummingbird,
slightly larger than a Western Damselfly,
and glowing, but neither bird nor insect. Although it was clear that it was genderless, it exhibited a decidedly feminine anima (yes, that might be redundant). I was dumbstruck with fascination, clearly agog, enthralled with its other-worldliness and the abundance of benevolence emanating from its presence.
It spoke: "I used to be human."
I said "I want to know everything about you...."
It hesitated, lingered, said "I'm going to change again soon."
Early to bed.
Sleep deprivation is the cruelest of states.
Monday, May 9, 2011
I am intimate with the knock on the door at 2am by police officers, those bearers of ill news; and now I know the surprise of coming home from work to a dramatically altered reality, in which one has no voice, no choice. As in the unexpected death of a loved one, the axe has wielded its blow, the trunk of the tree which seemed would grow and last far beyond what anyone could ever imagine is now forever sundered, and it's not at all a clean cut but with rips and shreds of still-alive bark, the blood-work, the guts of the tree spilling and spilling.
It's a messy universe.
Now, though, there is not so much (I think, but may be wrong here) the extended grief of the larger community. When M. died, it seemed that a greater share of my grief was borne from the reflection of my own in that of my children, his parents and siblings, my siblings and their spouses, his friends and the large community that loved him, and vice versa. The physical weight of it seemed a living thing, visceral. The only way I could endure the grief in others was to attempt take carry it all myself. (Not recommended.)
This is not the case now. This is an entirely new and foreign social order. Battles lines have been established, defended. There are those who walk both sides, which, though troubling for all my sense of righteousness, illustrates on their behalf a willingness to want to see both sides of the story.
But for me, now, there exists only this staggering sadness, and sorrow for the relationship I loved/love. I don't dismiss the polarity of feelings that rampage through my nightmares, the love/hate, the anger/joy, the confusion, and this teetering on the edge of every day. I am -- as always -- primed for a moment of teary laughter (which occurs more often than not), and also leery of lingering melancholy.
Yet within this past month I've gone from the absolute terror of walking alone down the street to today's confident striding to-and-from the mile-long walk to work.
What is the path?
A bucket-load of cash to any of you who can answer that.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Could you identify ground cardamom, unmarked, with only your sense of smell? How about ground coriander? We argued about oregano: apparently one was Mexican oregano, which smells markedly more potent than what I would call traditional oregano. Five versions of chili powder, four incarnations of curry, each with its own particular tang. The beautiful star anise, the rolled-cigar-rusty cinnamon sticks, the perfect symmetry of tiny black mustard seeds.
And then there was even more mystery: Grains of Paradise. Identifiable seed pods: keep? Toss? I made the rule that if we couldn't identify it, it had to go. Toss toss toss. I believe that between my son and me we have enough spices to last at least until the next century, albeit most by that time will have long surrendered their zing.
Spice categorization is good therapy, I think. There's the visual component of varying shades of mostly brown/beige/red-brown, and there's the olfactory component which induces any number of sneezes, and when nothing else succeeds in identification, there's the tongue-test. Three of the four senses ain't bad, as these things go. And now all has been condensed, combined, relabeled, rebagged, cleaned-up and shined. It's full steam ahead in SpiceLand.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Friday, May 6, 2011
This day did not border on insanity: it was insanity. Attempted at work to get the last lingering April orders out for UPS so we could clear the deck for the quickly piling-up May orders. This meant an afternoon of aerobic box-building, hefting, up and down stairs, and again, repeat. Paint, fire-on, cool, polish, box, box again, and once more. And at the end, there was some slow-down (computer? printer?) so only three cartons ended up with shipping labels. Sigh. There is always Monday.
Immediately after work, Melinda and I headed off to my play-house temporary apartment to pack all my temporary play-house stuff (I can't believe we filled two cars...where did all this come from??), the we cleaned the place from corner to corner, replaced the bed linens, carted off all the used sheets and towels to be washed and returned next week, then drove the kit-and-caboodle over to the B. Street house, unloaded, up stairs, and up more stairs. Melinda stopped at the store and picked up some deli goodies along with a cut-flower bouquet. Lovely!
R. and I heaved the bed components up from the basement, laughing ourselves silly trying to figure the angles around several tight stairway corners. (Much improvement over last night when I melted down and vented directly at him. ) I sent him off to the hardware store for a few nuts and bolts, and now I'm fully assembled, fully spent, fully ensconced back at the house I first moved into 24 years ago, a rental then, just weeks after fleeing a burning apartment with, well, R. in my arms.
(Always with the drama.)
Cat is back at the vet. Some really weird shit. Dithering over whether to do surgery, whether my checkbook can support such a procedure. Decided to give it until Monday.
Early this morning two of my sisters jetted off to another continent, to enjoy -- I imagine -- the amended version of the trip that I suggested, planned, dreamed about, and ultimately canceled. I would've appreciated a phone call from either, a fare-thee-well, etc., an acknowledgment. Maybe it's just all too much. But I carried a heavy sadness with me all day, weighted and on the edge of breaking down, and worked up a frenzy in the shipping department instead on almost no food and an intense caffeine-induced mania.
Maybe by Monday the fist inside my chest will have relaxed a bit, maybe the swim-and-twirl in my head will ease.
(I'm asking nicely.)
And remember to be kind, even when it's too fucking difficult.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Everything is slow this year: flowers, love, resolution.
Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of my dear friend Carol's death: a group of us shall mark the occasion with dinner at her favorite restaurant. My kitty -- who belonged to Carol, and possesses the same gentleness and sweetness -- is back at the vet. It's icky stuff. I'm hoping. Here's a link to the piece I read at Carol's memorial.
It goes on.
Monday, May 2, 2011
I'm tired of talking about this here, I'm tired of this being the focus of every day, I am tired I am tired I am tired of not sleeping and the ongoing panic and the anger and loss and betrayal and and and and and and and and
Some moments rise up and smack me in the face, and I pretend it's all okay because it's been a month now -- shouldn't I be getting over this already? -- a month since that D word got under my skin, but, parasite that it is, continues to burrow deeper every day.
And I don't get a choice in this.
In the State of Washington, if a spouse wants a divorce, that spouse gets a divorce. Done and done.
The path from A to Z varies from couple to couple, but the end result is dissolution.
This is losing.
Bad behavior on the part of either spouse: no matter.
Not an issue.
No one cares.
No big deal.
This ain't ethics.
Meanwhile, the glass shards and the briars and splinters and thorns I'm certain that I've swallowed grow more diamond-sharp with each intake of breath.
Wave upon wave, gust after gust, this tempest rages.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
But the many layers of accumulated grime are receding, at slow pace, but nonetheless they are starting to wash down the drain. I brought out the Big Chemicals and the stiff brushes, and every square inch of everything is getting scrubbed. Tomorrow the carpet cleaners come, so this afternoon my son and I carted the flotsam and jetsam from carpeted rooms to the bedroom recently (today, in fact) vacated by my paying renter. My house/my home is beginning to come into view.