Friday, February 15, 2019

MISSING OUR STAR

Internally, inwardly, I am bouncing all over the place, if that can be done with a heaping dose of lugubrious sorrow and existential questions.

The passings I have mentioned, some of them have come to fruition (am I mixing my metaphors there? I kind of like death having fruit …).

Ger got on the Mystery Train yesterday. His children and their spouses, grandchildren and their partners celebrated in appropriate Irish/Italian fashion (Ger was a member of the 101stMountain Divisionin WW2 and always had Italy in his heart) with laughing, crying, and Negronis. M and I exchanged some texts. I asked him how he was doing today.

"Oh, you know, sad, occasional outbursts of crying, occasional slight feelings of exhilaration. Worried about Mom. Minor regrets, like why didn't I bring some of our favorite music up there 5 years ago? He had pretty much stopped listening. But as I thought about it say a year ago, I thought maybe it's just habit. Stupid television habit. It was always on, and loud. So I had no space to think or breathe up there. Upon arriving I always wanted to turn around and leave. I should have been more assertive with turning the stupid thing off. Or at least muting it and playing some good music. Oh well. Maybe next time. I am very glad that we had that listening on Sunday. That will stay with me forever."

I sure get that. Getting Janet to resist the gravitational pull of the rocking chair and the boob tube is a daily struggle. 

Ger had been a serious jazzbo, his favorite being, I believe, Woody Herman and His Thundering Herd. On Sunday, M found a version of their favorite, Lionel Hampton at Newport 1961 doing Flying Home. How remarkably apt.

Another friend's "aunt" died, Betty Ballantine. Another undersung female hero of the publishing world. All of you in my direct cohort benefited from her life and work. Here is her LA Times obit. The New York Times has yet to publish one.

And then on FB, and I would have never found out otherwise, the announcement that my friend Mary had died after years of fighting brain cancer. 

Mary and I were both returning students, so a bit older than most at UC. I don't recall why she had to take Portuguese, but suffice it to say that we both sucked mightily at the language. Most of the other students spoke Spanish and they were far ahead of us ... I mean far ... So we banded together to study, as we would not embarrass one another. I think we met every morning at the Student Union for coffee, Portuguese torture, and general gossip. 

Mary and I became dear friends. She lived in an amazing group home in one of those giant Berkeley houses off of Ashby and College, not too far from the Claremont Hotel and the seriously swanky parts of the Oakland/Berkeley Hills. I lived further down the hill, right on the Oakland/Berkeley border. The group house had dinners and other events to which I was invited often enough to be a satellite of that gang. 

We rather staid in and out of one another's lives until she moved to Portland and I was in Los Angeles. Her wedding to Randy, outdoors in a beautiful park near a river was one of the best ones I have ever attended. Besides all the dancing we did, a highlight was her sisters dancing an Irish jig to African music. (Mary came from a large, Irish San Francisco family. And yes, her father was a cop.)



Mary had a personality that was different than anyone else in my life. (Well, except for maybe my other Irish friends, the Maguires.) She was wry and mischevious in an inclusive way, waiting and inviting you to be "in on it." There was an aura of pleasure, of being pleased, of being a little bit goofy while being hella-smart. And ever-ready to be amused or to poke fun at, although I can't remember a single instance of mean-spiritedness.

Mary was a bright light, and although I hadn't seen her in decades, I never stopped enjoying and loving her, even if from a distance.

A RITUAL TO READ TO ONE ANOTHER

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

— William Stafford


Thursday, February 14, 2019

THE MOST RANDOM EATER

Can we all take a moment to pause In Praise and Celebration of well-buttered toast? We do agree about this, right? When I worked for Graham Nash, we started many a work session with buttered toast. I used to bring down loaves of pain au levain from Acme Bakery in Berkeley (on San Pablo, next to Alice Waters' Cafe Fanny). I think I shipped six loaves from time to time. And between the three of us, Graham, R, and I, a loaf was mostly gone in no time.
(And then I remember this line from Tennessee Jed ... "Rich man step on my poor head/when you get back you better butter my bread" ... Levon does a good version.)

This morning, sitting here finishing that toast, listening to the rain, contemplating what might be the best use of my time. The call of the long winter’s nap is strong. And there are ever-so-many pages of The Power Broker to read. Good news about Amazon pulling out of Queens, no? Now, if NY could get rid of the parasite foreign apartment owners who don't even live here, (oh wait ... I don't live there anymore) perhaps things might shift in a more livable direction. 

All of us Kermit Place Readers (my book group in Brooklyn) agree that The Power Broker is amazing reading, and all of us also agree it is difficult to read rapidly because it is so dense and fascinating. I found this to be worthy of continued contemplation as we observe the American democracy fail.

"Unlike European cities, which also mushroomed in the Industrial Age, but which had been built atop previous centuries' strong administrative foundations, America's had sprung into gianthood relatively overnight, often organized around nothing but the factory or the mill, and had no such tested governmental framework. What framework they did have was undermined by blatant corruption, their governments controlled by private interests and political bosses who, with their Christmas baskets and everything the baskets symbolized, marshaled hundreds of thousands of ignorant voters into vast, seemingly impregnable political machines. 'With very few exceptions,' asserted historian Andrew D. White, 'the city governments of the United States are the worst in Christendom—the most expensive, the most inefficient, the most corrupt."

I had not really considered the phylogeny and ontogeny of civic government in this country and it does bear thinking about. We all got fed that lovely picture of justice and righteousness in grammar school history propaganda and, for most of us, our mental and intellectual maps and timelines never wavered, we never stepped back to question and examine from other perspectives.

Interestingly, Caro goes on to discuss the rise of Progressivism in urban centers of America. Do I hear an echo of the current popularity of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? I sure as hell hope so. And if any of this interests you, I would also direct you to find Oliver Stone's series The Untold History of the United States which you can stream on Netflix. I have only watched two or three episodes as each time I start over, I get more out of what I have already seen. And when you get the episode, maybe as early as episode three, which looks at how Henry Wallace (a populist/progressive) was edged out by the patsy Harry Truman, I just have to stop. Talk about your alternate history.

Oh, and while we are on this topic, check out this article/podcast from The New Yorker about Eugene V. Debs. My grandparents were serious Communists/Socialists and even named their eldest son using Debs as his middle name.

I hope this eddy was not too boring. It couldn't be much more boring that hearing me repeat sleeplessness, eldercare, loneliness, or my progress in yoga (I have actually had both feet on the ground in downward dog).

Oh, and for those of you who might wonder what happened to Elena Ferrante, I did finish The Neapolitan Quartet. I am awaiting the arrival of Durrell's Justine as I am still all hot and bothered to re-read The Alexandria Quartet (in between Caro, of course).

"She had learned that it hurt to look for reasons, and she waited for the unhappiness to become at first a general discontent, then a kind of melancholy, and finally the normal labor of every day..."
—Elena Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

AT LEAST

I want to get up early one morning,
before sunrise. Before the birds, even.
I want to throw cold water on my face
and be at my work table
when the sky lightens and smoke
begins to rise from the chimneys
of the other houses.
I want to see the waves break
on this rocky beach, not just hear them
break as I did all night in my sleep.
I want to see again the ships
that pass through the Strait from every
seafaring country in the world—
old, dirty freighters just barely moving along,
and the swift new cargo vessels
painted every color under the sun
that cut the waters as they pass.
I want to keep an eye out for them.
And for the little boat that plies
the water between the ships
and the pilot station near the lighthouse.
I want to see them take a man off the ship
and put another up on board.
I want to spend the day watching this happen
and reach my own conclusions.
I hate to seem greedy—I have so much
to be thankful for already.
But I want to get up early one morning, at least.
And go to my place with some coffee and wait.
Just wait, to see what's going to happen.

— Raymond Carver, All of Us: The Collected Poems, New York, Viking, 2000



HOW A THOUGHT THINKS

A thought is dumb,
without eyes, ears,
opposable thumb,
or a tongue.
A thought lives
underground, not
wholly mole-ish
but with some
of the same disinterests.
The amazing thing
is that it isn't helpless.
Of all creatures
it is the most
random eater.
Caring only for travel
it eats whatever
roots, ants, or gravel
it meets. It occupies
no more space
than moles. We know it
only by some holes
and the way
apparently healthy notions
topple in the garden.

— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, New York, Grove Press, 2000

Speaking of eating, had a terrific cousins' dinner on Saturday. Boeuf bourguignon ... I made a French silk and satin chocolate pie (you missed it, Dan) with a almond vanilla cookie crust and whipped cream. There is one piece left.






And here is our new dog cousin, Layla.


THE SCAFFOLDS DROP

So, sitting here on a very very early barely Valentine’s rainy night. It’s 12:47 a.m. and I should be going to bed. But I am not. I am thinking about the blog I just posted, the Anne Sexton poem, the sadness of close friends. About my mom’s fragility and increasing spaciness and disorientation. We did two yoga classes this week and that ought to be some sort of occasion to be grateful. I suppose that factors in to my overall feelings, but you know you can count on me to not be too positive.

I didn't even write a few weeks back about the parent of another close friend passing. In some ways, I was even more involved in that passage. K was here from Albany. I was fortunate enough to be available to be some sort of fail-safe/down comforter when the hospital, and the family, and the waiting were too oppressive. K was very very close to her father and he was a still a central, daily part of her life.

We were meeting for dinner after several extra hard days for her, moving him home from the hospital, the family decision he was part of to go into hospice. Knowing that this would be the last time she would be called to fly across the country to be at his side. K had been up, next to her father most of the previous night as he had called out for her.  She said he was dancing with the dragon.

As I pulled up, K was on her phone talking to her brother who had recently shown up to relieve her. R, her brother, had said that her father had just stopped breathing. The call was a little confusing as K had been gone from the room for all of two minutes. Exhausted, really not able to do anything else, she decided we needed to go eat.

By the time we were seated at the (swank) restaurant, he had passed. K was in various layers of sorrow, relief, confusion, exhaustion, and damn hungry. How do you respond to a cheery waitress who, upon seating you, chirps "And how are you this evening?" Hmm ... not really fair to be honest, glib, or sarcastic (rather our three favorite modes most of the time). I can't even recall how K responded at that moment, but she and I probably looked at one another and laughed (we do that a lot anyway). Eventually, we told the waitress in as kind a fashion as we could. 

We didn't drink a lot, although we did have some Manhattans in his honor. The drink was great, the food was good, the music was enough to kill us. I suppose the evening could not have been but odd. Some kind of strange aura around us as we both processed this inevitability and life. The music was really bad.

So, even before Ger took a down turn, there was this loss to kick off the year. And in the past weeks, two or three parents had strokes. I almost took Janet to the hospital last week for high blood pressure. Her doctor told her that she had to exercise and watch her eating or she would be having dialysis three times a week. That seemed to motivate her a bit.

Now, I have explained a bit better, I can try for that sleep thing. I slept ten hours last night. Janet slept 14. That does not afford either of us a productive day.


The Props assist the House
Until the House is built
And then the Props withdraw
And adequate, erect,
The House support itself
And cease to recollect
The Auger and the Carpenter—
Just such a retrospect
Hath the perfected Life—
A past of Plank and Nail
And slowness—then the Scaffolds drop
Affirming it a Soul.

— Emily Dickinson

PUT ON YOUR CARPET SLIPPERS

In my pre-kick-to-the-gumption-engine (copyright MOZ) haze, waiting for that dense aroma of caffeine salvation to filter down the hall, a New York Times article headline caught my vaguely poetically-tuned eye, In the Pale of Winter… the rest of the article is far more prosaic, but humourous … Trump’s Tan Remains A State Secret. However, in the pale of winter continues to reverberate. 

This definition of pale was the first that came to my mind, as in beyond the pale … 

archaic PALISADEPALING
2a: one of the stakes of a palisade
3a: a space or field having bounds ENCLOSURE The cattle were led into the pale.
b: a territory or district within certain bounds or under a particular jurisdiction British culture survived even within the Roman pale.
4: an area or the limits within which one is privileged or protected (as from censure) conduct that was beyond the pale
5: a perpendicular stripe on a heraldic shield

I did figure it out. Still, it does make for a resonant opening line to a poem or a story.

Clearly, or muddledly, I am walking into pale walls here. The rain is back, although gentler somehow. The coffee and cream tastes delicious, but beyond a momentary jolt the awareness is not exactly flowing in. Meandered over to versions of Meet Me in the Morning

Well, that's it for that tender time when juxtapositions and fresh connections are butterfly flits. A bit of Black Crowes and Freddie King blues will take that right out of you. I need to make breakfast and my bed before I shuffle off to Long Beach for yoga.

Vera Paris gets under the covers sometimes.


Six days ago.

2/8/19

What if I started out the day thinking "life is good" ... that was even a challenge to type. At least the sun is shining. At least the coffee with real cream is delicious. At least I am warm. At least I am rested.

That's about all I have going for me.

This week was not as productive as I might have wanted, but that is ever my song. Janet turned 92 on Tuesday. As Tuesday is the regular day for Senior Yoga, we switched what passed for celebration to Wednesday. Tuesday was still busy for me with getting Janet on the road, going back for class, coming back to make her cake, going to my regular Tuesday night class, and then coming back at 10:00 to make Marcella Hazan minestrone and the cocoa-orange mascarpone frosting for the cake. I was up until 2:00 am working. Wednesday was a doctor's appointment for Janet, early, then a rush home to ice the cake, then rush to an interminable lunch. I collapsed with napping and The Sopranos after that.

One gets older without really realizing one no longer has all the capacity to work like crazy and stay up late. I have yet to learn to recalibrate how long it takes me to do things.

On the other hand, I took a (for me) new approach to cooking and tried to assemble and prepare my ingredients BEFORE I started cooking or baking. I know this is likely common sense to most of you, but not my general practice. So maybe you can learn some new things.




Yet again, another seven days has passed since my last post. Oh goodness.

I should likely cut my losses, post this.

COURAGE

It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien
and you drank their acid
and concealed it.

Later,
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
cover your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love, simple as shaving soap.

Later,
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

Later,
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love
and you will bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.

— Anne Sexton, The Awful Rowing Toward God, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1975

It is awfully tough out there these days. As if the, and I use this term loosely, government of this county isn't depressing enough, there is the dark weather so many of us face, with varying degrees of actual cold (no complaining here). And I don't believe I have ever had so many close friends with so much serious illness and death so near to them.

The father of one of my closest friends is very near the end. I have known this man since I was 18. He has been in my life as a maker of cocktails as well as a recurring story for a very long time. I know all three of his children, his grandchildren (well, at least one of them quite well), his daughter-in-law is my sistra-of-the-heart. I have known the things this man did to shape my dear friend. So, although I am far away from the slowly beating heart of his end, I wait, in my heart, with those loved ones who wait so nearby. Ger would for sure wear carpet slippers.

Friday, February 1, 2019

GRAZING ALL DAY, ALONE

Vera Paris' tufted ears.


It certainly seems like some kind of miracle, but I would rather it be a change in habit.

After another bickering match about Janet’s chronic lateness and recalcitrance, I set her alarm so that she had adequate time to space out, drink coffee, make toast, shower, and then STILL be on time to get to her day without me having to chastise and exhort her to get organized. Today, it all worked. 

I am still tucked up in bed, thinking. We are in for another bout of colder and wetter weather this week. This weekend was gloriously, mellowly sunny.

1/28/19

I somehow lost the beginning of this post, but I think it had something to do with waking up early. That didn't happen today after going to bed at 2.

Mom is walking around singing/humming the Habanera from Carmen. Although I exhorted her to skip the shower, she has probably forgotten. I don't think I set her alarm so she didn't get up and get moving. 

ex·hort

Dictionary result for exhort

Origin
late Middle English: from Old French exhorter or Latin exhortari, from ex- ‘thoroughly’ + hortari‘encourage’.

Exhort is an unused gem of a word. Very much underutilized. I wonder if exhort's lack of sonority disinclines its popularity.

Oh dang. it is now pouring outside and I have a feather bed out in the backyard, first getting aired out, now getting soaked. (Pulled in in, and it is only damp.)

Oona Minnie Pearl Moonlight, the cat who could not, would not, stay clean.


With the rain and the Southern California rarity of thunder and lightning, it is tempting to stay in my feathered bed, in the soft lamplight, and indulge in more reading and snoozing, oblivious to the reality of pressures. I have to remind myself that there is pleasure and satisfaction in making progress toward my greater good. In a pinch, I could iron and watch tv which is some kind of compromise.

Okay, tomorrow now. (That sounds like a Disneyland slogan.)

Do you ever wake from sleep rather beached and exhausted. Not to mention that morning crusting inhibiting your eyes from opening in the first place. Not to mention that you have to float back to reality from that cocoon of comfortable delusion. Morning or waking up dozing is so different from the not-really-able-to-fall-asleep dozing as to not be the same thing at all.  Varieties of dozing. (Wrote doxing first and not 100% sure what that even is. Ah-ha!)

There's a Beatles song in my head this morning but I cannot share as I can't really hear the lyrics and the ones can recall, aren't specific enough to yield to searching. ... Found it, It's Only Love. There have been lots of good cds at the thrift stores lately, one of which is the Help soundtrack. (If you click the link, stay tuned to the next song which is Ticket to Ride.) I almost have enough distance from the Beatles to start really hearing and enjoying them in a deeper way. "It's only love and that is all ..."

Big sigh.

A break from Kay Ryan.

ANIMALS

Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it's no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn't need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn't want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days.

[1950]

— Frank O'Hara, The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara, New York, Knopf, 1971.

This one is a lovely spring or summer poem, but the last line is so great I could not wait.

A BLESSING

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begun munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And a light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is as delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

— James Wright, Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose, Wesleyan University Press, 1990

"...if I stepped out of my body I would break
into blossom..."

Now, those are words, that is an image, that you can slow dance to. 

Idris Aretha Zora Baldwin.


Friday, January 25, 2019

PERHAPS MANY SOMETHINGS

Real cream. That’s right you read it. 100% full fat cream. In my coffee. Every morning now. Bite me. (I’m creamy.) I mention this because it tastes soooo good. And immediately adds some endorphins to counteract the cortisol of reality. It gives me a fighting chance for a better day.

I finished reading my 8thbook of the year. It’s not a competition against anyone but myself and the mountains and boxes of books around. I keep waiting for the magic mindset that teaches me to let go and downsize my library. And, of course, I staid up too late to finish said book, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. Now, only one more Ferrante to read (in the Neapolitan quartet) and I will be liberated from this obsession. 

But I will go to bed earlier? I woke up after 10am. I don't like sleeping so late. I have a hard time getting into a productive mode when I wake that late, but I don't really sleep well until morning. Going to yoga for a 7:30 class that gets out at 9 does not help me to a deep sleep at a reasonable hour. 

The "quartet" nature of these Ferrante's put me in mind of the only other "quartet" I can remember reading, which was the Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. I read them in my mid-20s, and my love interest of the time read them along with me. I did really love them but perhaps it is time to re-read? 

"This is not because Mr. Durrell has hit upon a felicitous method. It is because he is a genuine poet who seems to have survived morally and literally the disasters that have typically shattered his post-Joycean, post-Proustian generation. He is a "waste-land" intellectual who has come through. Once a disciple of Henry Miller, he has not only surpassed his gifted master, he has been able to cope with the disintegration that was his legacy to indicate a really new movement in literature. It is especially significant that he reports truthfully the sordidness of his material and makes something strong, healthy, wise, sad, amusing and beautiful of it. He has the eloquence of the twice-born."

— Gerald Sykes, It Happened in Alexandria, NY Times, 8/25/57

I like that "waste-land intellectual." (Of course, I haven't read The Waste Land. I need to find the audiobook.) I was emailing with one of my book group friends about books. ES is a fan of re-reading books. I have read a few (all of Jane Austen, Middlemarch, Swann's Way, Gone with the Wind, Dracula, Frankenstein, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Moby Dick, Jane Eyre, Gaudy Night come to mind) twice if not many times. I think Justine has to go back on that list.

Janet needs to be driven over to a lunch for one of her senior friends. I rather want to give Diane a gift as she is really nice to Janet and good at communicating with me. Then again, I don't buy or give things to the others who are also nice and I would not want to cause resentments. 

Wow. Just went to order a copy of Justine from the Los Angeles County Public Library system. There isn't a copy extant in the entire system. How fucked up is that? There is one copy of Mountolive (book three, I believe). That is just a wow. And disheartening.

Later, after another wasted day ...

I had to drop off my mom right next to one of my favorite thrift stores, so how could I avoid taking a peek? I didn't buy much, but it is a good time to be looking for used cds as that is one of the things folks are de-accessioning. 

Since I returned home after a library run, I had a pointless argument about Bernie Sanders on FB. I do not plan to vote for another older white man, particularly one who yells at me. It's time for a new breed, even if they are assholes and/or make mistakes. I like a lot of Bernie's ideas, but I don't want him as President. 

"And no one knew better than I did what it meant to make your own head masculine so that it would be accepted by the culture of men; I had done it, I was doing it."

— Elena Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

I always have trouble explaining this concept. When a professor first pointed out the idea of dominant hegemony, I was furious and angry. He was pointing out the what was then the first Star Wars movie was nothing more than reinforcing those myths. By the end of the semester, I could see it. By the next year, I was about to get thrown out of the one class I needed to graduate when I pointed out what a piece of shit the film The Breakfast Club was (is). That professor required it as viewing as a fresh piece of film-making. I destroyed his point in a lecture and was almost expelled from class for disagreeing with him. By the end of that semester, he agreed with me. So thanks Robin Wood.

"Maybe there's something mistaken in this desire men have to instruct us: I was young at the time, and I didn't realize that in his wish to transform me was proof that he didn't like me as I was, he wanted me to be different, or, rather, he didn't just want a woman, he wanted the woman he imagined he himself would be if he were a woman. ... I was an opportunity for him to expand into the feminine, to take possession of it. I constituted proof that he knew how to be not only a man in the right way but also a woman."

— Elena Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

LACQUER ARTIST

There is a nacreous gleam
in certain areas of the mind
where something must have been
at some time—
perhaps many somethings, 
judging by the pearlescence;
maybe the same weightless pleasures
or the same elusive lessons
repeated and repeated
with the patience
of the lacquer artist seated
at his task—eighty
coats per Japanese box.


FULL MEASURE

You will get your full measure.
But, as when asking fairies for favors,
there is a trick; it comes in a block.
And of course one block is not
like another. Some respond to water,
giving everything wet a little flavor.
Some succumb to heat, like butter.
Others give to steady pressure.
Others shatter at a tap. But
some resist; nothing in nature softens up
their bulk and no personal attack works.
People whose gift will not break
live by it all their lives; it shadows
every empty act they undertake.


— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, New York, Grove Press, 2010

I may have posted that last one before.






Thursday, January 24, 2019

SHE ISN'T INSISTENT

You have certainly heard it before: I staid up too late reading, didn’t sleep well, and then

in too late. It’s after noon, and I am only now finishing my second cup of coffee and looking at the news sites. 

I didn’t read much of the current news this morning. I am interested in the Covington KY school boy story, but I doubt I can get anything resembling the truth, so I will leave it alone for now. Perusing the New York Times obits, the Overlooked No More entries were fascinating, leading, as such meanderings so often do, to me placing more books on my To Read List (currently with about 2,000 entries). 

Here are the folks who caught my attention. 

Annemarie Schwarzenbach


It sure feels like this. 

So, Janet and I made the chicken soup, which came out quite well, although she hasn't had any yet. She swears she will never cook anything again. I am not so sure of her resolution. It takes me awhile to remember that I actually like cooking and not just the idea of it. Janet hummed while she chopped which either means she was soothing herself or grooving on it. 

So, yeah. I was up late reading the third book in Ferrante's Neapolitan quartet (Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay) and listening, not at the same time, to the Marie Colvin biography.

Sitting here in a one lamp lit room, I could hear the (not) dulcet tones of cat bathing. I looked around without being able to see a source a couple of times. No cats on bed or dresser. Oh, there she is on the high shelf where the tv is. Oh that Scotch.


Okay, time to drag myself to yoga. And hopefully get some sleep tonight. I need to get up before 10:00.

On to the next day.

Writing from an unmade bed. And yes, Scotch is contributing to the unmade-ness, however, I had an opportunity while she was eating. 

I feel accomplished, although I should push myself to more tasks, in that I finally reorganized my mother's sock drawers. She constantly complains she has no socks because she has forgotten when she kept them. I just put them where she now looks, while trying to corral the many odd socks into pairs. I also made appointments for her blood tests and for a steroid shot. That all felt like a lot.

The weather is just nippy enough to discourage moving around and to encourage climbing into napping. I am almost finished with the Marie Colvin bio (which is due today, at any rate). However, I shall find some slippers, make the bed, and try to find my damn registration in the morass. I can listen whilst I sort.

Now on to Thursday. Still plugging away at this.

I might have mentioned in the last few months that I am trying to reroute my quick and reactive nature to things and become a bit more focussed on taking the time to complete things. I think my experience as a producer taught me to pile on steps and make progress wherever it could be shoehorned in or addressed. This made lead to progress on many fronts, but absolutely adds to being frenetic and never getting the satisfaction of completing anything, really completing it past "good enough for now." Which only keeps the to do list ... and when I going to carve out time for that ... ever growing. Just like my reading list which already has more entries than I will ever be able to read in my  life.

I have tried to keep the phrase, "take the time" in the forefront of my pea brain so that I slow down and do things more thoroughly. 

I think the stress, always the stress, is that my mother is old and fading and where will I go and what will I do with all this stuff. That's my bedrock all the time. 

And rather than encouraging me to just do it ... never my strong suit, having been bred to indolence and denial ... I just want to sleep and read and space out. That's my instinct. Motivation for much of anything has been crushed in the many horrible realities and generally feelings of uselessness, hopelessness, and, in some ways, end times. 

And and and again ... I needs must stop this musing to get Janet over to her blood test in about ten minutes. 

HER POLITENESS

It's her politeness
one loathes: how she
isn't insistent, how
she won't impose, how
nothing's so urgent
it won't wait. Like
a meek guest you tolerate
she goes her way—the muse
you'd have leap at your throat,
you'd spring to obey.


CONNECTIONS


Connections lie in wait
something that in
the ordinary line of offenses
makes offense more great.
They entrap, they solicit
under false pretenses,
they premeditate.
They tie one of 
your shoelaces
to one of a stranger,
they tie strings to purses
and snatch as
you lean down, eager
for a little something gratis.


— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, New York, Grove Press, 2010