Wednesday, July 11, 2018

THAT DIFFERENCE TO VISIT




This is one of those nights where I know I am not going to sleep well, if at all, and not going to wake up anywhere near rosy and enthusiastic. I sit here with two fans and an air conditioner blowing toward me, Butterscotch half-mooned on the bed corner because I was bugging her. The bed is strewn with (excellent) books, the tv is on but not tuned to anything but a screen saver, there's half a glass of going-flat Diet Coke on the bedside table. I just took my meds.

I am not sure if it was the late afternoon yoga class, the beer I had at Taco Tuesday dinner at Taco Surf, or just the stress of dealing with someone who has lost much capacity and cannot even remember that. Janet treats me like a servant. When I mention this to her, she acts surprised. 

It was hard enough growing up as the female anomaly in what would have been a pretty happy boys' town without me. I remarked to my niece because it occurred to me while swimming laps that my father would have been a better parent, the family would have been happier and more prosperous if my younger brother, Carl, and I had not been born. 

Wally doted on my older brothers, taught them to shoot and to drive, took them to work and on other excursions. He took me, too, sometimes, but he was clearly more bonded with them. He got tired of the family. He couldn't control it once we were older and he seemed to be just tired of it. He relinquished much of the day-to-day and pretty much all of the emotional wrangling to Janet. It wasn't her forte either. She just wanted her cats and her yoga.

The trait or bad habit I inherited from both of them was dismissiveness. For a long time, I thought it was passed father to sons. But then I saw it in myself. And what a shitty thing it is. Of course, I dismiss myself almost as much as I dismiss everything else. And then I realized Janet does it too.

Is it some sort of defense mechanism? A decision in a series of decisions to not deal? Not to hear, not to listen, not to heed, not to respect. Not to consider. Well, I am here to tell you that it gets worse when you get older. 

I know my mother is old and losing it, but she has also lost her awareness of other humans. SHE NEVER DOES ANYTHING KIND FOR ME. I mean, she might make enough of her coffee for me to share, but that is about it. (I drink espresso, not drip.) She doesn't think nor offer to do anything else. I exist to serve her. I guess I am some sort of slave as I don't get paid but room and board, and I can't leave.

I dislike who I am these days. Not all of that is due to this situation, this care-taking. Being so isolated rather strips you down in an unpleasant light. You get to see the imagined you you thought you were ... as I quoted in the last post ...

You had so many ways of deciding which way to live your life. It made his head spin to think of them. It hurt his heart to think that he decided on the wrong way.

A thing seemed important until there was something more important.
— Carys Davies, West

oooh yeah, that wrong way is a damn doozy.

I do not want to be a graceless, mean, impatient, dismissive, angry caregiver. Yet, I do not know nor see a way to be patient, gracious, loving, and kind. I cannot see a path. I cannot break my reactions down into steps. I can't make progress with that end of goodness in sight. 

And I know I will be devastated when Janet is gone. I will regret not kissing her goodnight every night. I will regret my anger and swearing and frustration and dismissiveness. More remorse up ahead.

The fleas are terrible, although the cats have all had their flea meds this month. The hot weather is good for those fuckers. They like me too and every trip to the garden or across the lawn results in those bites and the cycle of itching, scratching, bleeding, infection, soreness. The ladies at the pedicure place tsk at my scarred legs. Perhaps I can get the flea abaters in again. 

And then there is all of our despair about the fall and failure of the American dream or even some of the American reality. The Craven Capitalists have won and we are strictly in Auden country. Come on, say it with me:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity ....

Yep.

There was a substitute teacher in the Sunday Restorative Yoga class. I knew she would have patience for Janet, who is a bit slow on the uptake and can't always hear well. After several rounds of going/not going, I had given up due partly to the heat. At the last minute, she decided she wanted to come, thought it would be good for her. The class was terrific. The teacher paid extra attention to her and was most kind. At the end, Janet sat on the floor and wept. She had not been in this kind of "yoga space" for so long.

Janet sleeping in a chair.






































Janet talks about Ariel every single day, several times a day. Her sorrow and her missing Ariel is so sad. There is no comfort I can give. I know Janet is mourning herself and her life, but when I try to get her to think or talk more deeply, she won't (or can't) do it.

Ariel was the kindest being of any species I have ever met or known. She was never an asshole to anyone. She was loving, appreciative, and had an extremely calming presence. She was Janet's familiar and there will not be anyone or anything to replace her.



LOSSES

Most losses add something—
a new socket or silence,
a gap in a personal
archipelago of islands.

We have that difference
to vist—itself
a going-on of sorts.

But there are other losses
so far beyond report
that they leave holes
in holes only

like the ends of the
long and lonely lives
of castaways
thought dead but not.

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

IF YEARNING ENCIRCLES US

Apropos of nothing.

The undertoad continues to be strong. Is it the undertoad who (that?) is making me so sleepy, so nearly unconscious? I woke up this morning, or kind of, only to drink a cup of coffee and then to fall back asleep. The undertow emanates from bathysphere depths and I am currently camped down in that area. Apropos of nothing.

Getting exercise this week is going to be a challenge. Both pools are closed tomorrow. That strikes me as inappropriate given that it is a city, civic resource. Summertime and the swimming should be easy on the 4th of July. But no. 

This is today's soundtrack: Like A Rolling Stone.

Now it is Sunday. And still it is hot, although not as hot as Friday. It's almost time to go to yoga. I was going to get Janet to go as there is a substitute teacher I think she would like, but I realized how hot it gets in the studio. That's probably not a good place for her in this weather.

Meanwhile, I've been in a bit more of a reading mood. I have about five things I am rotating through: Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion, West, Mrs. Osmond, Fox, and I am still snorkeling through the last few pages of The Portrait of A Lady. All of them are yummy and excellent. I must be in a reading mood as great sentences appear: These are now happily frozen for future use.

He began to feel that he might have broken his life on this journey, that he should have stayed at home with the small and the familiar instead of being out here with the large and the unknown.
— Carys Davies, West

He felt the old bitterness, which he had tried so hard to swallow, rise again in his throat, and he knew there are disappointments that last as long as life.
— Henry James. The Portrait of A Lady

You could say that he is angry about the past, but ambitious for the future. Impossible to say which will turn out to be the stronger, or if the two things are simply bound together in him and inseparable; the essence of who he is.

Perhaps the truest thing  you can say is that everything he does, he hopes it will be for the best.
— Carys Davies, West

You had so many ways of deciding which way to live your life. It made his head spin to think of them. It hurt his heart to think that he decided on the wrong way.

A thing seemed important until there was something more important.
— Carys Davies, West

Another day and a train of thought lost. I will begin anew.

These are now happily frozen for future use.


Tablets IV

1

I wanted to write an epic about suffering,
but when I found a tendril
of her hair among the ruins
of her mud house,
I found my epic there.


2

I didn’t sleep last night.
As if the night
were hiding in the morning coffee.


3

Her life is a game of snakes and ladders
sent relentlessly back to square one,
but whose life isn’t? She takes a breath
and throws the dice again.


4

The city glitters below
the airplane window, not because
of the bones and skulls scattered
under the sun, but the view
through the frosted breather hole.


5

She died, and time changed
for those she loved most,
but her watch kept ticking.


6

A god carried the burdens
until the weight persuaded him
to transfer them to man
the new suffering god.


7

The map of Iraq looks like a mitten,
and so does the map of Michigan
a match I made by chance.


8

If you can’t save people,
at least don’t hate them.


9

Her bubbling annoys me
can’t understand a word she says.
So what if I toss her from the aquarium?
So what if I spill her new world
with this nasty immigrant fish!


10

The city’s innumerable lights
turning on and off remind us
we are born to arrive,
as we are born to leave.


11

The handkerchiefs are theirs,
but the tears are ours.


12

Women running barefoot.
Behind them, stars falling from the sky.


13

So strange,
in my dream of us,
you were also a dream.


14

He said to me: You are in my eyes.
Now when he sleeps,
his eyelids cover me.


15

Gilgamesh stopped wishing
for immortality,
for only in death could he be certain
of seeing his friend Enkidu again.


16

Some say love means
putting all your eggs
in one basket.
If they all break,
can the basket remain intact?


17

The homeless are not afraid
to miss something.
What passes through their eyes
is how the clouds pass over the rushing cars,
the way pigeons miss some of the seeds
on the road and move away.
Yet only they know
what it means to have a home
and to return to it.


18

The wind and rain
don’t discriminate
in buffeting us.
We are equal
in the eyes of the storm.


19

When I was broken into fragments,
you puzzled me
back together
piece by piece.
I no longer fear
being broken
in any moment.


20

Freezing in the mountains
without blankets or food,
and all they heard was
no news is good news.


21

Their stories didn’t kill me
but I would die if I didn’t
tell them to you.


22

Before killing them
they collected their personal effects.
Their cell phones are all ringing
in the box.


23

We are not upset when
the grass dies. We know
it will come back
in a season or two.
The dead don’t come back
but they appear every time
in the greenness of the grass.


24

If yearning encircles us,
what does it portend?
That a circle has no beginning
and no end?

— Dunya Mikhail, Poetry Magazine, July/August 2018

Monday, July 2, 2018

NO IDEA WHAT WILL MAKE YOU FULL

Except for the background obsession with Fleetwood Mac that has been going on for a month or two, I cannot understand why I have Spare Me A Little going through my head (and currently my laptop speaker). I think it is the music more than the lyrics. There's melancholy hope in the song and that pretty much suits my mood. Plus, these lyrics, though referring to love, ring true to my sensitivity and sadness about the state of the world, from here on the home front, to the world, which I am convinced is sidling up to another huge war.

Now I know that I feel much more
Oh in every single way
And it's not the same as before
It gets stronger everyday

It's a drag being too empathetic and emotional. I guess I should put that on my list of character traits that need to be reformed. 

Okay, a big sigh here. I need to straighten up the house some as we are expecting Cousin Dan tomorrow. When you pretty much live by yourself but not, it is hard to see any positive or forward motion in your life. All you see is the dishes, the dust, the cat bowls, the unopened mail. More towels to be laundered. The ironing. The projects you have not made any headway on.

Writing does make me feel a bit better, more centered, even more alive. I suppose it is just being more connected to myself and not just reacting to all the negative stimuli in my life. For some reason, this makes me tearful. The reading and writing are some of my very favorite parts of me, where I feel best. 


These poems showed up in my FB feed today and I thought they were good ones. These are from Maggie Nelson who was a MacArthur genius winner in 2016.


SOMETHING BRIGHT, THEN HOLES

I used to do this, the self I was
used to do this

the selves I no longer am
nor understand.

Something bright, then holes
is how a girl, newly-sighted, once

described a hand. I reread
your letters, and remember

correctly: you wanted to eat
through me. Then fall asleep

with your tongue against
an organ, quiet enough

to hear it kick. Learn everything
there is to know

about loving someone
then walk away, coolly

I’m not ashamed
Love is large and monstrous

Never again will I be so blind, so ungenerous
O bright snatches of flesh, blue

and pink, then four dark furrows, four
funnels, leading into an infinite ditch

The heart, too, is porous;
I lost the water you poured into it


From THE CANAL DIARIES

Green
Screams from an Italian family up the street
That stupid kid hitting rock after rock with his metal bat.
I’d be a shitty boyfriend, you said, as if
making a promise. I said, It’s not the content
I’m in love with, it’s the form. And that
was tenderness. All last year

I planned to write a book about
the color blue. Now I’m suddenly surrounded

by green, green gagging me
pleasurably, green holding onto my hips

from behind, digging into
the cleft, the cleft

that can be made. You have no idea
what kind of light you’ll let in

when you drop the bowl, no idea
what will make you full


“WHAT IS IT?”
A sad dusk here, the water 
swollen with debris.

The blue wrapper of an Almond Joy; 
the hourglass of a Maxi.

Some of the garbage sinks, inexplicably 
but most of it just floats by

A bag of Lay’s, another Maxi. 
Today the man in black wears

glasses; I wonder how much 
one has to drink to achieve

that nose. Yet I get the feeling 
he doesn’t drink anymore.

He greets a filthy dog brought
by a skinny hippie. The dog’s teeth

are blood-stained, his hair 
falling out in clumps. He doesn’t
 
really know what he wants, the hippie says 
as his dog sniffs the water.

Join the club, says the man in black.
The hippie tells us his dog

has terrible luck. A week ago 
it fell into a silo; yesterday

it got electrocuted while peeing 
on a pole. We don’t really know

how to respond. The sky is amazing 
tonight, full of blurry swans.

Why should I keep writing you? I ask.
Because there’s a purity in it. And so

there is. When the hippie finally leaves, 
the man in black whispers to me:

It walks like a parrot, is scrawny, 
fishes, and has dark legs. What is it?


How the hell should I know? 
I’m living a lie.






Sunday, July 1, 2018

WHAT WORK THIS TAKES, YOU THINK

Another tough day. Mom has fairly eschewed her philosophy/religion (Church of Religious Science), but she likes to go to post-cult lunch with her friends. Neither of us are much in the self-starting mode on Sunday morning, so unless she is feeling exceedingly chipper, it is a bit of a push to get her there. For me, it is just a slug of coffee and whatever I can throw on to drive her over. Although this morning, coming to any functionality was fighting up from the bathymetric deep. I wasn't sure I was going to ever make it to walk-around consciousness.

I'm out of sleeping meds, so that doesn't help. I took some over the counter pill, but I still woke up often. Vera and Butterscotch taking turns for pets and fighting did not help. And in my restless and distressed state, I fight the covers as with a mad sex intensity. No audio book nor podcast can bore me to a deep sleep. Perhaps I could try the British history one again. No reason not to resist the Roman occupation, right?

Mom is desperately sad about losing Ariel. This is no real surprise, but at this point, I worry about anything that affects her being. The other kitties are just not familiars, not to me nor her. They are perfectly fine, but there is generally only room for one familiar per person. Cooder was my familiar. Emmylou is too independent to care that much. And the others aren't that kind of kitty. Oona and Idris are young enough that they could grow into those roles, but I am not holding too much hope.

Hell, I don't have much hope for anything right now. The depression and anxiety have me nearly shaking in some cases, comatose in others. I vote for comatose if I have a choice. At least lying down to watch tv or read is a defensible safety measure at those times. 

I have been able to push on in small measure, thinking that almost any progress is something. I managed to get over to Staples for more bankers' boxes and staples so that I could pack up the extraneous books and cds for now. They are not housed in the best place for access or enjoyment. I am not sure what to do about that. I am listening to lots of music lately, Alicia de Larrocha playing Albeniz at the moment thanks to MW.

At least there is a breeze today. It is hot on the patio. It will be hot back here as the afternoon wears on. I think I will try for a nap or something. 

At any rate, Mom often complains of being unsure in the world and doesn't want to walk around. She says she feels tentative. She wanted to go back to bed and skip lunch, but I felt that one day in jammies was enough. Even when I dropped her off at the church, she flagged me down to see if I would take her home. I waited until I saw that she was safely inside and then a beat before I drove away.

Of course, she came home and was much more sanguine and philosophical. 

I know she is mourning herself as well as Ariel. And Carl and Verne and my father. There is a lot to mourn, even when you aren't all the way to 91.5. I think some of my nauseated malaise and panic is due to her imminent passing and, of course, my wasted life that has left me with very few options for luxe, calme et volupté somewhere in my future. I think many of us are suffering from intense trauma.

I have taken down my Diet Coke consumption and it is weird. Trying to drink plain old cold sparkling water.

A few weeks back, I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting the poet, George Yatchisin (and the most charming Chryss Yost). He happened to post a couple of his poems on his Facebook page and I think they are damn knockouts. I hope this is okay, George. Stolen from http://levurelitteraire.com/george-yatchisin/

A Reading

“We find the body difficult to speak.”
–Jack Spicer

My best poem would have no words
but now I am writing.
Vacant at the mike she eyed over
the crowd, letting love lap in—
what a room of listeners can do for you.
While her work was like
truth in its kimono at dawn, colors in full light,
I could only latch on to one word,
as she twice misspoke “epitaph” for “epigraph,”.
as if such gist, a hard-felt coming or going,
deserved merely a name.
There are numerous words one must weigh out like change,
that jingle on the tongue’s pocket
the way love tumbles
about us so much. My friend,
who had loved her alone but not for long,
he had to watch her words, the right and wrong,
leave lips his had touched. But no more for that.
Instead, he had to watch her with another,
watch hands at backs like fingers
at a typewriter, the alphabet
broken to keep favored keys from crashing,
and the first words coming slow.
That may be why we’re so eager to get in bed
with others, to hear one truth in silence,
to settle into that clatter of nothing.
That may be how she didn’t misspeak,
sensing words are for endings, epitaphs
when nothing else is left to say.



Auto Safety

Words, yes, them again. They’re always between
1.         And there’s no real need to mention love.
It waits on street-corners with four-way stops.
No one will give love a ride—they know.
It’s funny how strangers always want to
be friends, just to change their names, just to see
the four-speed transmission of your smile find
a new gear that’s then theirs. It’s all they want.
Until they want more—loose change, a brown button,
something like love. And unknown, it’s hiding
in the back seat, holding the lighter in.
Everyone’s in an unrecalled Pinto
when fate strikes for what must be the last time,
surely, until something else happens.



More Than Anyone Cares to Hear about Cashews

So I followed the link
to the “list of culinary nuts” but
it wasn’t as bitchy fun as I’d hoped.

It did lead to the mystery
of the cashew, which dangles
from its fruit like an appendix,
something waiting to be removed.
Poor pseudo-fruit, the actual cashew apple,
in Central American called the marañón,
shaped more like a pear, anyway,
its nut protrudes from it
like a tilde off an “n.”

The locals brew that easy bruising fruit
into a spirit, sweet, but not so much
you don’t want more.

Of course we’re in it for the nuts.
In consumerland they come clean,
shorn of the shell that’s kin to sumac
and rich with noxious oils that sicken
at as much as a touch. So for you,
others will roast them, outdoors,
hoping for their cents an hour
to avoid the acrid smoke.

What work this takes you think and
devour another, salt on your tongue
like Portuguese tan and fat,
roasting on a beach in Goa.