Tuesday, July 31, 2018

THE ANSWER SEWN INSIDE US



Isn't dovetail a lovely word? Such nice connotations, even that of a dove's tail. The first printed use of dovetail was in 1573, a year that also brought us one of my favorites, huzzah, as well as lappet, prink, mathematics, and seedcake among others. 

I managed to get up a bit earlier today and a better person would be dressed in dirty gardening clothes and out there toiling and tilling before the heat lands on us again. But no, I sit here on the bed in the full blast of a decent fan, working on my arcana. Arcana would make an interesting name for a child or a pet.

Soundtrack this morning is the Beatles again, which is a bit unusual as I rarely chose to listen to them. A Day in the Life. It must be the opening line, "I read the news today, oh boy." I tried to look at the news, which was pretty much like throwing an anchor in the sea of my soul and plummeting myself down to the bottom. Drowning sounds good.

I am not so much depressed as oppressed.



a archaic suppress
b to crush or burden by abuse of power or authority  
  • The country has long been oppressed by a ruthless dictator.
 
  • oppressed minorities


2to burden spiritually or mentally weigh heavily upon  
  • oppressed by a sense of failure
  • oppress by intolerable guilt

(I realize I have said this before.) I can't really read the news anymore. I duly open to The New York Times and The Washington Post, but then am overwhelmed by the smorgasbord of rabbit holes of despair to jump into.  In my minds's eye, I fall asleep with the bloody heads of dead lions stuffed into the overhead compartments of jets while Orange Wankmaggot look alikes drink airline martinis, blood dripping on their heads. I can see strip mining with El Capitan above, a neon Trump Hotel crumbling in front of it. 

I am sure you have your own pictures.

And what I sincerely do not understand is how caring, compassionate, justice and fairness advocates could fail to react in a similarly overwhelmed and despairing way. I know people who can't pay attention for fear of suicidal ideation, which is legit, but how can all of this be denied or ignored. And really, I would that someone could calmly and without jingoistic bile, explain to me how you can NOT care? In the souls and deepest spiritual thoughts of those who can ignore what is going on, what do they believe in? How do they FEEl about seeing children traumatized, for life, by being summarily and violently separated from their parents, even if the parents have some legal issues?

Saying "wankmaggot" to myself is a bit cheering, though.

The current political reality has sent me back to examining Watergate. I am not sure how useful this is or if it allays my oppression, but it is fascinating and does provide insight as to how we got where we are. Not that I think Trump will be impeached, but the process is interesting, Not to mention the hubris, depravity, and utter lawlessness of Nixon and his crew. John Dean was clearly an ambitious putz.



Fifty years ago, America was in agony. Its unity at home, and its standing abroad, were deteriorating. Today, the country again faces a profound political crisis, and the summer of 1968 is instructive. One party controls the White House and both chambers of Congress, as was the case then, when Lyndon Johnson was President. But this crisis differs in a fundamental way: fifty years ago, the President’s party had the will to respond. On April 4th, Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot dead in Memphis, and riots erupted in a hundred cities. The next day, Johnson wrote to House Speaker John W. McCormack, a Massachusetts Democrat, imploring Congress to pass the Fair Housing Act, saying, “When the Nation so urgently needs the healing balm of unity, a brutal wound on our conscience forces upon us all this question: What more can I do to achieve brotherhood and equality among all Americans?” The act passed, over a Southern filibuster, on April 10th, the day after King’s funeral.

But Democrats did not shy from using their checks and balances against Johnson. The Tet Offensive, launched in January of that year, undermined the Administration’s claim that it was winning the war in Vietnam. Senator J. William Fulbright, of Arkansas, had previously concluded that escalation was folly, and had privately tried to change Johnson’s mind. When that failed, he invoked the Senate’s constitutional responsibility to advise and consent, and, in 1966, convened a series of unprecedented public hearings on the handling of the war. By the following year, most Americans disapproved of it, and Senator Eugene McCarthy, of Minnesota, entered the race against a sitting President of his own party, arguing that duty called on him to challenge policies of “questionable legality and questionable constitutionality.” 

— Evan Osnos, The G.O.P. Stands By as Trump Upends American Security, The New Yorker, July 30, 2018 (Here's a link to the whole damn article.)

That was then. This is now.

I wonder what drugs David Remnick gives the his stellar staff writers to have them so consistently and rapidly publish articles that are so fucking trenchant and precise. Or is this the kind of intelligence we should just have generally?

So, I didn't get out to the garden this morning, but I wrote and that is something constructive.  I've got arugula growing wild(ly). Some of it just ended up in the weed pile. I pulled a bunch yesterday and got it into the refrigerator so that I can give it (in kiss-ass fashion) to my yoga teachers tonight. 




And lest you despair for me too much, I am still swimming, still doing yoga, not drinking often nor eating too outrageously.

THE TEST WE SET OURSELF

An honest work generates its own power; a dishonest work
tries to rob power from the cataracts of the given.
— Annie Dillard

If we could be less human,
if we could stand out of the range
of the cataracts of the given,
and not find our pockets swollen
with change we haven't—but must have—
stolen, who wouldn't?
It isn't a gift; we are beholden
to the sources we crib—
or someone's rib hidden in our breast;
the answer sewn inside us
that invalidates the test we set ourself
against the boneless angel at our right
and at our left the elf.

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


Monday, July 30, 2018

DURESS ITSELF MAY BE A PRAYER

The word fluvial appeals to me today. Of or pertaining to a river. I can’t see that it has particular relevance to my life, unless I want to awkwardly wade into the poetic, philosophical. If I were a better person, which we have fairly definitively established that I am not …having written that clause I cannot remember the “then” part of that thought. And so it goes ...

Waking up to heat and new flea bites. Ah, wall-to-wall carpeting. After I get Janet to the senior center, perhaps I will find the diatomaceous earth and spread it around. 

It's kind of funny that Try A Little Tenderness is one of my favorite songs, as I am severely challenged to do that with my mother. Why aren't there any good rock and roll songs or former Broadway ballads to rhapsodize about the universal experience of dealing with aging parents and really the living loss of a loved one?

In another aside — although can rambling legitimately have asides? — I have terrible lower back pain today. With all the yoga I have been doing and my general back flexibility, this seems unlikely. Oh well,  swimming starts in an hour and perhaps that will help. (July 12.)



Several days later.

Back still hurts, however, I am going to try a yoga class subtitled, Healthy Back. I think I twisted and stretched at the same time a bit too often last week. This may well be my last class of the week.

We cannot paint a beloved face without passionately distorting it—and who speaks willingly of the things that belong to real love? But we can catch and hold—with words or with the brush—the crimson flush of dying leaves, the green of a meteor against the blue night, a movement of dawn, a catastrophe. Pictures which of themselves have no sense or depth, but which we invest with meaning or sharp foreboding—they bear for ever the stamp of a particular year, mark the end of a run of bad luck, or the culmination of a spell of prosperity. For that reason no one of  us can ever swear tat he has painted, contemplated, described in vain.

— Colette, My Apprenticeship,1936

Now July 30.

I'm Only Sleeping popped up on my shuffle the other day and it is in a pretty constant loop in my head. And that's an okay thing

I just can't with the news this morning.Generally, I make a cup of coffee and sit back down on the bed to peruse the The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and Lit Hub Daily. I do the easy crossword puzzle in the NYT.

Not so today. Every article in the NYT seems to be about something horrible. Hey Brock Turner wasn't actually trying to penetrate that unconscious woman, he was just trying to use her unconscious body to get off. I mean, are unwanted fingers in a vagina penetration? Evidently not. Poor guy. Six whole months in jail for sexual assault. What have we come to?

Well, that is a question we ask ourselves on an almost constant basis. For many of us, it is a mantra, in that it stops, and in this case, dulls our minds while zapping our spirits to almost nothing.

When I realized that I was a failure and that I had to give up my dream/reality of living independently, leave my Park Slope apartment, and that I was pretty much done, I tried to climb under my bed (which was very close to the floor) and hide, float in a small space. (I have likely mentioned this before.)

I feel like that almost every day now.

I have so neglected the garden that it is now quite a task to get it somewhere near control. I might not even both had I not picked up some bargain plants that I want to get in the dirt before the simply dehydrate in this heat. My backyard tomato plants need fertilizing badly. I am going to post this, just to feel a bit of productivity, take my second cup of java outside, and see if I can make a dent in the greenery before it is too hot to live.

I MARVELLED AT HOW GENERALLY I WAS AIDED

            — The Autobiography of Charles Darwin

I marvel at how generally
I am aided, how frequently
the availability of helpis demonstrated. I've had
unbridgeable distances collapse
and opposite objects coalesce
enough to think that duress itself
may be a prayer. Perhaps not chance,
but need, selects; and desperation
works upon giraffes until their necks
can reach the necessary branch.
If so, help alters; makes seven vertebrae
go farther in the living generation;
help coming to us, not from the fathers,
not to the children.

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

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