Friday, November 17, 2017

PRESENT'S NOT THAT



I need to interrupt this post with what? A special bulletin? 

I've been working on this post both theoretically and actually for a couple of days. I haven't quite made it to the keyboard to write all that I am thinking and feeling. I am so uncomfortable in the world, I feel as if I am on some kind of prickling ice fire. Just morally and spiritually itchy and miserable. I know a lot of it is the sound of long unleashed misery and injustice cacophoning around the country. And the constant pressure of our desperate failure to run this country in a reasonable manner. I wonder if this is what it felt like in Germany after Kristallnacht. Or maybe a regular day during the black plague. I fucking do not know. I only know I am in deep and abject panic, pain, and anxiety. Did I fail to mention deséspoir?

Back to the post I was working on.

As is often the case.
As is often the case.
As is often the case.



I just picked a random sentence from a random earlier post. As is often the case, I am kind of tired. I went swimming today for the third time since I arrived back from New York. I am working my way back to my regular routine, but not all the way there yet. And today I feel it. 

One would not think it would be so challenging to get in two swims a week, given that I don't even have a regular job, but it still takes planning unless I could get up and do it before sanity and light set in. I don't anticipate that. I am not sure I could trust myself to make it to an evening swim at this time of year. It is hard enough with the grayish light and cooler temperature.

One of my friends says he has a to-do list three pages long. I am not even organized enough to write a list. But I did make more appointments for Janet (oh joy! Teeth cleaning! Pneumonia shot! Physical therapy!) as well as starting the bid process to get the jacaranda tree trimmed. 

I think I have hit my three accomplishments a day. I stopped by the store after the pool, my hair turbaned in a towel and a dress thrown over my wet swimsuit, to get the necessary vegetables to go along with the chicken I need to roast. The bird has been washed and is moving toward room temperature. If I get that done and the kitchen floor washed it will have been a stellar day.

The cats are warming up to me. Butterscotch is nearby almost all the time. Emmylou greets me by jumping into the car when I open it to get out. She hung out with me during my post-swim bath as well. Oona almost jumped into the tub with me. Mostly she ran in and out of the bathroom playing with Zora Idris. 

The autumnal sun is so wan. How did the quality of light change so very quickly? It's a dirty dishwater yellow grey without much interest in illuminating anything.

So, a reading/nap break is in order now.

The day after next.

There were a lot of small birds, I almost mistook them for hummingbirds but they did alight, marauding in one of my (very hot) pepper bushes. I could see the red roses peeking over the fence from the neighbor's yard as well.

I was trying to upgrade something on my laptop this morning, which sent me to some morning Melville.

Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air. Methinks my body is but the lees of my better being. In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me.
— Herman Melville, Moby Dick

 I am not making very quick progress here. I get distracted by all the other delectable book morsels around me.I found a copy of Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest at a thrift store yesterday and had to buy it. It was one of my very most favorite books. What's not to love a book with these as the opening sentences:

I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte. He also called his shirt a shoit.

I mean seriously. That is music you can dance to. You cannot go wrong there. As I peruse this again for the umpteenth time, I find it even more interesting, now that I know more about the violence in the mines. My grandfather was indicted for murder at a mine in Arizona. He was a union organizer. Someone was killed in the melee and they tried to pin it on him.



Post outburst continuance.

One of my friends said that he spontaneously retched when he saw the photo of Al Franken. I am in the midst of this internal turmoil of things that have happened to me, ways I might have been party to harassment, memories of the Clarence Thomas hearings, it goes on and on. 

I have to figure out ways to be kind to myself, to take a little care of myself. I do feel ill. Disoriented. And, you know, hopeless. I feel nothing could give me solace or relief. Anhedonic. 

I know this time of year, what with the onslaught of forced fun holidays upon us. December, to me, looks like a lot more doctor's appointments. Maybe some swimming and graphic novel writing in there.

DARKNESS

I caught the darkness
Drinking from your cup
I caught the darkness
Drinking from your cup
I said: Is this contagious?
You said: Just drink it up

I got no future
I know my days are few
The present's not that pleasant
Just a lot of things to do
I thought the past would last me
But the darkness got that too


I should have seen it coming
It was right behind your eyes
You were young and it was summer
I just had to take a dive
Winning you was easy
But darkness was the prize

I don't smoke no cigarette
I don't drink no alcohol
I ain't had much loving yet
But that's always been your call
Hey I don't miss it baby
I got no taste for anything at all


I used to love the rainbow
I used to love the view
I loved the early morning
I'd pretend that it was new
But I caught the darkness baby
And I got it worse than you


I caught the darkness
Drinking from your cup
I caught the darkness
Drinking from your cup
I said: Is this contagious?
You said: Just drink it up


— Leonard Cohen







But all the things that God would have us do are hard for us to do—remember that—and hence, he oftener commands us than endeavors to persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves: and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of God consists.

— Herman Melville, Moby Dick








Sunday, November 12, 2017

FLAKED, WAFERED

This is merely to say hello. As if a hello were mere. One can forget that a recognition and kind greeting can be more than a small thing. A flicker of consciousness? A nod at being?

The Kermit Place Readers are on to Moby Dick. Again, I had some reluctance to take on such a long work for the second time. But with the rewarding memories of a re-read of Middlemarch still fresh, I press on. With that, I was rewarded with this at the outset.

"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong and moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball."

And that is in the first paragraph, baby. You thought "Call me Ishmael." was grand.

The next day. 

Janet and I seem to be having pyjama days. I can hear the umpteenth episode of Fixer Upper playing down the hall. It is soothing. 

I watched the ending of Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge, which I recommend. I still have some old copies outside that I should perhaps try to sell instead of letting them rot. When I was at UCSC, I found that they had bound copies of the magazine. I wasted some good studying time looking through them. If only I had known there was such a thing as American studies, I do believe my life would have taken a different turn.

So, I will go back to my reading. I am almost finished with this Please Look After Mom, a huge bestseller in Korea. Kind of a sentimental tear-jerker, yet not without merit and insight.

A house is such a strange thing. Everything else gets more worn when people handle it, and sometimes you can feel a person's poison if you get too close to him, but that's not what happens to a house. Even a good house falls apart quickly when nobody stops by. A house is alive only when there are people living in it, brushing against it, staying in it.

— Kyung-Sook Shin

Between hearing Fixer-Upper and thinking about the moving sale my friends are having at a beloved second home in Woodstock, I suppose this is particularly resonant. Knowing that I will never spatchcock or roast another chicken, huddle outside near the fire pit, laugh ourselves silly, or crack 
wise through a mutual terrible hangover at that house saddens me.

I knew—one day I wouldn't remember anything. And before that happened, I wanted to take care of everything I'd ever used. I didn't want to leave anything behind. All the bottom cupboards are empty, too. I broke every that was breakable and buried it.

— Kyung-Sook Shin

Well, it's 4:30 and I am still sitting here in an unmade bed in my pyjamas. Butterscotch is still sleeping in her favorite corner. The piles of undone things and unfinished tasks are before me. Do I watch more tv? Read Moby Dick? Roast a chicken? Or fold the laundry? I will not get to all of these tasks. Shall I blame the lethargy on the cool, grey day? Now, that I think of it, I am just grateful I don't have a hangover from drinking wine with the cousins last night.








































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 in 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.



COMPOSITION
Language is a diluted aspect of matter.
— Joseph Brodsky

No. Not diluted.
Flaked; wafered;
but not watered.
Language is matter
leafing like a book
with the good taste
of rust and exposure
the way ironwork
petals near the coast.
But so many more
colors than rust:
or, argent, others—
a vast heraldic shield
of beautiful readable
fragments revealed
as Earth delaminates:
how the metals scatter,
how matter turns
animate.

— Kay Ryan, The Best of It, New York, Grove Press, 2010

Friday, November 10, 2017

LIVING THE LIFE THAT WAS MINE

Don't these look like a gaggle of geese?

A better morning ear worm, For No One:
 
Your day breaks, your mind aches
You find that all her words 
of kindness linger on ...

Not exactly Oh Happy Day but certainly better than some others I have come up with.

This early-and-sober-to-bed-early-to-rise thing is pretty good. Oona comes in to bang on the window around 5 or so, yet I manage to sleep until about six. It is still overcast, which immediately sets the excuse generator to high so that I can wriggle out of swimming in three hours. Hopefully, I will be a bit more chipper and productive than I was yesterday.

Eldercare is so damn hard. Just sifting through one's own emotions and staying responsive rather than reactive is a moment to moment challenge throughout some parts of the day.

The next day.

Perhaps I should retitle this blog, In Pursuit of Sleep, as that is one of my main threads of complaints and musings. For the record, it did not go so well last night. I didn't take any medication at all and I just never really hit the sweet spot. But hey, after some errands and getting a haircut for Janet, I can take a nap. In the meantime, there is laundry and final stages of unpacking to be accomplished.

Yesterday was Anne Sexton's birthday. A while ago, many years really, I was obsessed with her. I read her (amazing) letters. I don't have much of her work here with me, but I found this one in a collection and it seems damn apt.

THREE GREEN WINDOWS

Half awake in my Sunday nap,
I see three green windows
in three different lights—
one west, one south, one east.
I have forgotten that old friends are dying
I have forgotten that I grow middle-aged.
At each window such rustlings!
The trees persist, yeasty and sensuous,
as thick as saints.
I see three wet gargoyles covered with birds,
Their skins shine in the sun like leather.

I'm on my bed as light as a sponge,
Soon it will be summer.
She is my mother.
She will tell me a story and keep me asleep
against her plump and fruity skin.
I see leaves—
leaves that are washed and innocent,
leaves that never knew a cellar,
born in their own green blood
like the hands of mermaids.

I do not think of the rusty wagon on the walk.
I pay no attention to the red squirrels
that leap like machines beside the house.
I do not remember the real trunks of the trees
that stand beneath the window
as bulky as artichokes.
I turn like a giant,
secretly watching, secretly knowing,
secretly naming each elegant sea.

I have misplaced
the Van Allen belt,
the sewers and the drainage,
the urban renewal and the suburban centers.
I have forgotten the names of the literary critics.
I know what I was,
living the life that was mine.
I am young and half asleep.
It is a time of water, a time of trees.

— Anne Sexton, The New Yorker, June 6, 1964


Thursday, November 9, 2017

THE DAY, THE SWALE


Not so happy anniversary.









Now, I suppose, the lush and sweet good sleep is at an end. I did not have a good night after some very good indeed nights. I felt a little creaky, what with uncomfortable knees and such.

Janet, on the other hand, is back to using her walker. During the three weeks that I was in New York, her knees and her right hip have been terribly painful. She said she just got up from the rocking chair and felt as if her legs would not support her.

This is not a mood elevator.

A bit later.

Her geriatrician prescribed some Tramadol for her pain. Given that it is a controlled substance, I gave her half of a dose. We think the drug is contributing to her spaciness and weakness. Her doctor does not believe in medical marijuana, but that is where I am going to try next. 

Old age is rather scary, folks, and that train is headed straight for your station.

I am in that weightless (I should be so lucky) state of anxiety now. My usual purchase would be despair but I kick away from there. There is also the anniversary of waking up to the Orange Shitgibbon in power. I so well remember that painful morning, full of dismay, disorientation, and désespoir (no, not quite the same as despair). The next few days felt murky and distant, as if I were in a place both muffled and pained. 

Well well well ... no hip replacement for La Mama, but physical therapy will be added to the schedule. Sigh. I think I need to take a nap and calm myself. Fortunately, I have the new Philip Pullman, La Belle Sauvage, to escape into.

Hours of self-soothing later... pleased that I am feeling sleepy again. I need to hit that 10:00 pm window or I go into insomnia. Sleep is likely a better refuge than alcohol or food or bad tv (confession: watching This Is Us. Don't disdain me. I am not paying much attention.)

MORNING

Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,

then night with his notorious perfumes.
his many-pointed stars?

This is the best—
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso—

maybe a splash of water on the face,
a palmful of vitamins—
but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso,

dictionary and atlas open on the rug,
the typewriter waiting for the key of the head,
a cello on the radio,

and, if necessary, the windows—
trees fifty, a hundred years old
out there,
heavy clouds on the way
and the lawn steaming like a horse
in the early morning.

— Billy Collins, Picnic, Lightning, Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

ALL THE TIME HIDDEN




































Caveat or note bene: I do not generally espouse this sort of sentiment, however, I am so feeling this today, what with more idiocy, pusillanimity, and general non-action, I need a bit of positivity and focus.

 It will come as a surprise to precisely none of you who know me well to hear a confession that I spend almost as much time looking at books to read and reading reviews as I do actually reading any books. To that end, I found a book entitled 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Now, if that isn't a challenge, I have not ever had one. There are lots of books I have already read (have not counted them up), many I disagreed with vehemently (sorry, folks, but I don't think Catcher in The Rye is ALL THAT), and many that I had never even heard of. So here I go again, off into the literary netherworld. For any of the literati amongst you (and I know you are legion here), it's a fun book to peruse.

Another morning up early after another night early to bed. I suppose there is no excuse for not getting back to swimming today. My knee is reminding me that I need to get back to it. Le sigh. Always more shopping to do.

The next day.

The early-to-bed-early-to-rise rhythm continues. I even get up feeling a bit more energetic and positive, but by now, just about noon, the sunniness has drooped back into dread and emotional sludge. Politics and gun control, that's what's getting me down at the moment. And feeling overwhelmed with the house and Mom and all.

We got to her geriatrician this morning, even relatively on time, although that took a fair amount of finagling -  (Americanism from the 1920s, perhaps combining an alteration of fainaigue (to renege) with the suffix +‎ -le (frequentative);[1] compare haggle.) - maybe not le mot juste there. In general, her health is pretty good and her doctor thinks she is an okay candidate for a second hip replacement. Oh boy! More fun for me.

I had a nightmare that we needed a new roof.

I know part of my malaise is due to an overcast day. I need to go back to the small and incremental here, to see if I can regain some productivity.


Today is the first anniversary of Leonard Cohen's death. Lit Hub posted these two poems. 

Too Old
I am too old
to learn the names
of the new killers
This one here
looks tired and attractive
devoted, professorial
He looks a lot like me
when I was teaching
a radical form of Buddhism
to the hopelessly insane
In the name of the old
high magic
he commands
families to be burned alive
and children mutilated
He probably knows
a song or two that I wrote
All of them
all the bloody hand bathers
and the chewers of entrails
and the scalp peelers
they all danced
to the music of the Beatles
they worshipped Bob Dylan
Dear friends
there are very few of us left
silenced
trembling all the time hidden among the blood –
stunned fanatics
as we witness to each other
the old atrocity
the old obsolete atrocity
that has driven out
the heart’s warm appetite
and humbled evolution
and made a puke of prayer



BODY OF LONELINESS
She entered my foot with her foot
and she entered my waist with her snow.
She entered my heart saying,
“Yes, that’s right.”
And so the Body of Loneliness
was covered from without,
and from within
the Body of Loneliness was embraced.
Now every time I try to draw a breath
she whispers to my breathlessness,
“Yes, my love, that’s right, that’s right.”
Book of Longing, New York, Ecco Press, 2017



Sunday, November 5, 2017

BENEATH THE WAVES OF

Begonias in Rhinebeck.


And so we find ourselves in November. 
And it is early at that, for me.
I suppose I am still adjusting to the time.

Emmylou sits at the window to the backyard, longing to be outside. As it is the crepuscular moment, when coyotes roam, I will not let her out despite her insistence. I can hear the jangle of Oona's bird bell as she wrassles with Idris down the hall. The cats are ready for action.
Belvedere Castle, Central Park in the mist.


Several hours later. 

I think reading the paper in the morning is a bad idea, as I find myself back in that place of despair. 'Tis difficult to squarely place the blame on any one thing. Much of it comes back to the Orange Shitgibbon or the Man Who Might/Would Be Dictator. Or a Congress so shameful and avaricious that I am nearly weeping in frustrated anger, ... I guess like Orange Shitgibbon is too because he cannot directly intervene (yet) in the judicial and law enforcement processes.

Gosh, a day or two later?

It is all a bit of a blur to me. It is most useful to note to myself that getting up at 4:00 after little sleep, does not set me on a good path once I am back at ground zero. On the positive side, I have been going to bed and getting up early, which is a habit I have been hoping to improve upon. On the less positive side, I am ever so much of a zombie. And then the monkey wrench of the time change throws off the delicate balance.

I encourage myself that it need not all resolve at this very moment and to just do the best I can.

There was a lot of settling in and laundry to do. My mother had enough t-shirts and blouses so that a laundry was not essential. As a result of decimating the t-shirt drawer, we found the several-months-missing cell phone belonging to Mom so she is back in that business. 

I only managed to get the suitcase put away today, amongst final laundry folding (for this time), first steps at redeeming garden, and some other household cleaning chores. This week holds doctor's appointments for Mom, whose complaints about arthritic pain have increased since I left. 



I am not sure why, but I am trying to not be undone by this latest killing spree in Texas. After the Las Vegas killings, I was fairly worthless for a week in my grief and frustration. I was a mere mile from the latest New York terrorist attack and had been on the very spot a mere five days before. Not defending that at all, but why the fuck does that make major news and hand wringing, whereas ANOTHER WHITE GUY GOES APESHIT KILLING PEOPLE and there is a collective fucking shrug. I  put my my Tibetan prayer flags as a reminder of today.


I need to stay calm as, I had observed to a friend, I am skirting the blues and I don't want to go full pantsing.

So the darkness falls. It is 5:15 and only a faint lights the horizon. 

After a spell of not writing, I am kind of like that cat or dog who circles to find its place again. I am never sure where to write or just what this particular voice might be. All in all, I had a terrific trip with plenty of delights, surprises, and emotional turns. I thank all of you whom I saw for the enormous love, affection, hospitality, and generosity. I feel somewhat renewed and patient.

While on the streets of Brooklyn, I found a copy of Billy Collins' Picnic, Lightning and thought I might find some inspiration there while I was still in New York. I did not, of course. But when I opened the book today, for the first time, this poem had been bookmarked.

JOURNAL

Ledger of the head's transactions,
log of the body's voyage,
it rides all day in a raincoat pocket,
ready to admit any droplet of thought,
nut of a maxim,
narrowest squint of an observation.

It goes with me
to a gallery where I open it to record
a note on red and the birthplace of Corot,
into the tube of an airplane
so I can take down the high dictation of clouds,
or on a hike in the woods where a young hawk
might suddenly fly between its covers.

And when my heart is beating
too rapidly in the dark,
I will go downstairs in a robe,
open it up to a blank page,
and try to settle on the blue lines
whatever it is that seems to be the matter.

Net I tow beneath the waves of the day,
giant ball of string or foil,
it holds whatever I uncap my pen to save:
a snippet to Cattulus,
a passage from Camus,
a tiny eulogy for the evening anodyne of gin,
a note on what the kingfisher looks like when he swims.

And there is room in the margins
for the pencil to go lazy and daydreams
in circles and figure eights,
or produce some illustrations,
like Leonardo in his famous codex—
room for a flying machine,
the action of a funnel,
a nest of pulleys
and a device that is turned by water,

room for me to draw
a few of my own contraptions,
inventions so original and visionary
that not even I—genius of the new age—
have the slightest idea what they are for.

Picnic, Lightning, Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

CLOSE THE BULLETS

All this awfulness just takes the life force out of me. Another white dude loses his shit and kills a bunch of people for no — not that there is ever one — apparent reason.

Just a quick addition before I get back to regularly scheduled tasks, even at 11:00.

I had a shit day. I know this is not a rarity among feeling humanity. I kept thinking that I should be able to function on the schedule I have set up for myself to get tasks accomplished to get out of town. But I could not. That fugue state I mentioned in yesterday's post? Well, I had a "lite" version of it. I kind of knew what needed to be done and where I was, but I sure-as-hell had a hard time getting any part of it done. I still haven't folded the towels, but I may just get that in before I fall asleep.

I wrote recently a bit about my personal World Trade Center attack experiences. But on December14,  2012, just a couple of weeks after I lived through Hurricane Sandy, I got to be close to another shooting disaster. Louise and I were driving from Brewster up to Connecticut to work on Monsterwood with Jason. We noticed, on the drive through Connecticut, that a lot of official looking vehicles were streaming in the other direction. As we were working through the drive, we did not pay particular attention, nor did we turn on the radio. But there was a vibe.

When we arrived in Ledyard, happy to see our co-conspirator, we learned the truth of that strange flotilla earlier in the day. We learned that some fucknut had murdered a bunch of children and their protectors. Although I might have remained standing, some inner part of me collapsed onto the floor. My heart and psyche left the premises. I was not entirely focussed on the business at hand.

Oh wait. My heart and soul were broken. Shattered. Demolished. Shredded. Dismembered. I did not sleep that night. And when I drove back to Brewster late the next day, my peregrinations took me through SANDY HOOK, it being a mere 20 miles away. Jay, my host, is a newspaperman in Connecticut. I cannot remember him being home for a day or two. I cannot remember much of anything. I was pierced, shocked, and laid too low.

And since then there have been many many other mass killings. Wait! Not by white men, surely not. Not by cops afraid. Not by white guys walking into black churches. Not by white guys walking into movie theaters. I must be mistaken. Surely morality, sanity, and humanity would work on ways to curtail this behavior.

My gentle readers of this blog are in no way deserving of any jeremiads. However, if one has not been pretty damn close to some of these events, they might not have the same visceral reaction. One has to wonder how close the bullets need be fired.

N.B. I have had some wine.

Monday, October 2, 2017

WHERE WOULD YOU BE RIGHT NOW?


So many days have felt like the most awful morning for all of us, November 9, 2016. I still remember waking up, feeling as if my brain and spirit were violently barfing, while my innards dragged behind me. And I was still in bed.

This may shock you, but the trauma of the World Trade Center collapses was far less than the putsch of the Trump and the Triumph of the Kochs. I was within three miles of the towers. I heard the planes overhead. I heard the flotillas of ambulances racing down Seventh Avenue. But the day after Trump was elected was worse.

We depressives can get into something like a fugue state, a dissociative disorder, where we barely know what's going on. I have really only experienced this once that I can clearly remember. The past year has felt like a mild, mental-wool-covered year.

It's so bad today that Janet has turned off the tv and gone to sit in the garden even though it is a cool and overcast morning. I wonder what she still understands as her short term memory is completely gone. She watches endless repeats of Rachel Maddow, Bryan Williams, Shark Tank, and HGTV shows. That's what she can follow, I think. But this is getting to her, all this disaster. And the big disaster.

Is anyone working on a new vocabulary of despair, insults, and dystopia? Shitgibbon is my go-to if I can remember it. All the air and vitriol has gone out of every word of dismay, astonishment, outrage, and slander at my disposal.

And then in my head, all I can hear is a somewhat regrettable song by The Doobie Brothers, Long Train Runnin' ...

Down around the corner, half a mile from here
See them long trains run, and you watch them disappear
Without love, where would you be now
Without lo-o-o-ove
You know I saw miss Lucy down along the tracks
She lost her home and her family and she won't be coming back
Without love, where would you be right now
Without lo-o-o-ove
The song doesn't really quite make it intellectually or lyrically, but that chorus works.

We are so fucked.




Coda.

I wasn't going to include a poem, but I randomly opened to this.

STAR BLOCK

There is no such thing
as star block.
We do not think of
locking out the light
of other galaxies.
It is light
so rinsed of impurities
(heat, for instance)
that it excites
no antibodies in us.
Yet people are
curiously soluble
in starlight.
Bathed in its
absence of insistence
their substance
loosens willingly,
their bright
designs dissole.
Not proximity
but distance
burns us with love.

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

FEEL IT ACCUMULATE

Has it ever happened to any of you that while reading a biography or a memoir that you became so entranced and beguiled by the protagonist that when that person met the demise you knew was coming all along that you kind of went into shock and mourning, even when that person had died so many years before? (Now that is a Proustian sentence there.) There was a book about Will Rogers (can't quite remember the name) that quite devastated me at the end. I tried to write it in my mind as a novel, so as to soften the blow of loss. Did not quite work. And now I am feeling a bit of sadness for Randolph Bourne. Worth a scan of his bio. A heroic fellow to be sure.

Now on Sunday.

The light and temperature have significantly softened and lowered. We already have blankets (as well as cats) on our beds. I am in countdown to New York mode, making lists in my head and trying to set dates while there.

Last night was the semi-regular cousins dinner. Since returning to California, I have reconnected with my cousins and first cousins once removed. As we all like to eat, drink, and chat, we try to get together, taking turns cooking with the challenge of making something that we personally have not made before. This time, it was Shelly's turn. She made an outstanding Persian meal with some amazing apple-rose-puff pastry at the end.





At least a week later ...

I am not sure where this week went. But up there are some snaps of our dinner.

The week has been a challenging one. I try to stay optimistic-ish however this has been the all-around "heaviest" year I can recall. I suppose a good aspect is that I am not devastatingly depressed, although there have certainly been moments. Somehow, I have managed to access, more often than not, that tiny crack of light and wrench it open to get a bit of other perspective. Other times, a bit of a nap helps.

This might come as a disappointment to some of you, but I have adopted two practices that somewhat fall within the "bliss ninny" range. Besides the looking at the crack of light, I try to accomplish three tasks a day. I know that sounds lame but when despair and indecision team up, it is hard to figure out where to start or stop. Those three things might be get up, swim, write the blog. In general, this rule of three has led to accomplish more than that. Baby steps, kids.

The other: when I am skidding on the slope toward the edge, I try to take a moment to remember 3 (that number is working for me) things that are not bad, possibly, in fact, good. Like 1) Mom still alive and knows who I am; 2) good cats; 3) people like my blog writing. Whatever.

So, I will save my meditations on the darkness and difficulty and just find a poem for good night.

THE OTHER SHOE

Oh if it were
only the other
shoe hanging
in space before
joining its mate.
If the undropped
didn't congregate
with the undropped.
But nothing can
stop the midair
collusion of the
unpaired above us
acquiring density
and weight. We
feel it accumulate.

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




Friday, September 22, 2017

MAKING SELF-ABSORPTION SEEM HEROIC

Butterscotch woke me up underneath the covers.
I thought we were down one cat, Oona, star of yesterday's post. (The cat above is Butterscotch.) She generally comes when I call but neither did she respond last night or this morning. She has been so reliable that I was sure she was gone. When it started sprinkling this morning, she appeared on the breezeway roof which is netting. There is a hole that she sticks her head through and there was that head along with some of her signature crying.

Still very stormy looking, although I can see a patch of blue. Idris/Ry/Wynonie/Elvis is messing up things on my desk. Janet is late for going to the Senior Center again.


They gots no respect for the laptop.

Much later.

'Twas not a good and productive day. Besides the usual rounds of aging parent absence of meaning, I've another friend whose despair knocks me out. Not that I don't get that despair. But the hopelessness and general inability to reach someone in that kind of defensible state is very painful, as are the challenges it presents to those near and dear to them.

I tried to nap with no success. I tried listening to two different audio books with only minimal success. The day went by. I am still here. And I am going to bed. I am not even going to try to clean up this html.

THE SIN OF PRIDE

turns out not be a sin at all, but in the guise
Of self-esteem a virtue; while poetry, an original
Sin of pride for making self-absorption seem heroic,
Apologizes again and shuts the door. O Small
Room of Myself, where everything and nothing fits,
I wish the night would last forever as the song assures,
Though it never does. I make my way not knowing
Where it leads or how it ends—in shocks of recognition,
In oblivion deferred, too little or too late, consumed
By fears of the forgotten and of the truly great. Morning
Brings a newspaper and a ordinary day, the prospect
Of a popular novel, though it's hard to read. I write to live
And read to pass the time, yet in the end they're equal,
And instead of someone else's name the name I hear is mine—
Which is unsurprising, since all our stories sound alike,
With nothing to reveal or hide. How thin our books
Of revelations, the essential poems of everyone
Mysterious on the outside, but with nothing to conceal—
Like the stories of experience I go on telling myself
And sometimes even think are true, true at least to a feeling
I can't define, though I know what I know: of a mind
Relentlessly faithful to itself and more or less real.

— John Koethe, 1945. Published on Poem-of-the-Day on 9/20/17.

Thanks to SMS for his 3:15 am missal.