Friday

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Friday

A little while ago the man to whom I devoted almost the entirety of my adult life phoned me. He was taking a leisurely hike with an old friend he had met and bedded during his student days. I suspect she was in town partly because of his newly single status, but I know little of the ways of others.

We don’t get along. I fell in love with a man; I also fell in love with an idea, a hope, an illusion, a mirror, an escape route… the very word “falling” – well, how can one expect precision from a trip and a stumble? So. I fell in love with a man. He fell in lust with a body, and held out high hopes the body with this troubled but alluring brain might be changeable enough to become a wife. This was his love. I cannot be angry: it was a lie to himself as much as it was to me.

To return to the phone call. It was a one sided conversation, as so many are: he spoke, I listened. The unique element of this call however was that the husband’s words were not directed toward me. They were about me, and spoken to this woman, who was happily echoing his cruel dissection of my character.

In the vernacular we wretchedly name such a communication a “hip-dial.” I prefer to think of it more mysteriously than that, as if Freud and a pissed off Aphrodite had a bottle of wine, and came up with a plan. I know another woman, who used to be my closest friend, who discovered her fiance was gay through exactly such a phone call. She married him anyway, but that is another, probably more interesting, story.

The day Husband called was hot. My two older children were playing with the happy mindless Joy that only the combination of heat and water can evoke. I sat in the shade, staring at the sun creating diamonds in the water, perfect crystal drops flowing off my daughter’s even more perfect limbs. She is named for Apollo and the dolphin and royalty: in the water she becomes all three and it is a sacred gift to see her in such power and innocence. I am all ether; she is all water. Her sister is the sun. Her father… would it be a crime to wish his name Acteon?

I digress. Listening to the disembodied voice, watching the exquisite scene, feeling the cool shade on the hot, hot day… my mind, like an over-taxed bone, fractured from the contradiction. I was fascinated. Who is not fascinated by his or her own self? I was mortified, humiliated, and because I thrive on humiliation, of course eager to hear more, hear everything. He could not be cruel enough: the cruelty is proof of my suspicion, held since birth, that I don’t belong to Love. We’re on the outs, I think we broke up during a past life.

His voice was a contained fury. Words like “claustrophobic,” “shrill,” “horrible” drifted by, just as my gorgeous neighbor, the one who looks exactly like Anita Ekberg, wandered over to give me a hug, invite me to a barbeque. I looked at her astonishing beauty, with her equally beautiful little girl and husband, as I watched my marriage, the remaining ideas I had of it, catch fire like an old piece of newspaper, drift up in flames, light and buoyant, and disappear beyond a fence I could not see. “I at least have a job,” I heard the voice say, as my black haired son dove into the water, searching for a sunken penny.

I did not go to Anita’s barbeque. Eventually I hung up the phone. It was the most reluctant end to a call I think I’ve ever known: finally, the ring of Gyges everyone wishes for and then regrets. I did not regret my ring. Instead, the brief revelations were a relief, an affirmation.

I have lived in this body a good many years now. My hands are veined bone, wrists like a starved hawk. All talon, no prey. My mind has filled and emptied itself like the tide – we are just water and mineral after all, and for all our attachment to the corporeal there isn’t much to it, is there?

Perhaps this is why we are so moved by watching children in water. Joy, Light, the purest love of Now one can witness. Rivulets like run-off from a secret mountain glimmer on wet skin, newly awakened muscle. Laughter drifts through the air, a kite in a dream. These are the moments of an embodied numinous vision. Then it fades, like a once loved voice on the other end of an old telephone line, moving further, further, further away. And then gone.

 

 

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Motet

One of the loveliest, more complex poems I’ve read in a long time. Thank you thank you for sharing your abundant gifts and vision.

Gospel Isosceles

Photography by Amaya Engleking

Green kelp sweeping
Fingers of the supernal hand
Brother keeping
Corialis stir of shoreland
Sea leak seeping
We become sun on salt and sand

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The Baby

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They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.
                                   ~~ Philip Larkin

 

She started school today.

Gold sparkle shoes.
A lavender shirt, bell sleeves, skirt of delicate flowers over leggings of a dark pink, motif of tigers at the ankle. Enormous Hello Kitty backpack over her slender, already elegant-goodbye shoulders.

“I do not want to go to school,”
she said.
I said
“you will have SO much fun”
lying about both the fun
and my enthusiasm.
I could not get to my car fast enough,
the tears hot like river-lava, unstoppable ~
as though someone had died.
I thought… perhaps have died.

 

 

 

 

When the child grew in my body I lost my fucking  mind. I did not sleep for 7 months. I went to 6 emergency rooms for suicidal impulse, was an in-patient for a few days of living Hell.

I took drugs that did not work.
I did not gain enough weight.
I was told she “might lose IQ points” because of the drugs/medication but that I of course needed to take them anyway.
No one measured my thyroid, which turned out to be so hyper it is a miracle she made it. People with those numbers don’t sleep. They buzz and humm and go and go and go.
But no. I was insane.
And I was indeed.
insane.
She was born, fierce force, hungry all the time. Perfect. Perfect beauty, perfect nurser, every hour eating and eating from the breast. She could not take enough life into her body.

She hasn’t changed. She is the same at almost 5 as she was at birth: life life more life. She speaks like an 8 year old, has the vocabulary any parent of a 10 year old would be happy with; she dissects moods like a scientist and has a Goddess-cruel streak that runs the family like a toddler-matriarchy. She is the mascot, the feared one, the adored one. She pronounces and announces; she uses the word “sarcastic” often and correctly.
She looks exactly like me, and has sophisticated opinions about my mascara, my manicures, my heels. She is a dictatorial femme and I absolutely worship her.

The baby.
The baby of the family, the harbinger of my divorce, the perfect being born to chaos, born to a father already living in loathing of the mother.

My child.
Je suis tres desole.

May your brilliance and strange strength carry you to horizons infinite, adventure without end, curiosity with no fear. May your life be the embodiment of Love, and Happiness. Remember to not ruin people with your wit and beauty. Go easy,
Baby.
Je t’aime. Toujours.

 

Exit, Song

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Exit, Song

No one sang it like her.

When she spoke to the river, that river had to speak back
what choice did it have?

The Rev. Al Green, Billie, Ella, Stevie, Dinah.
Aretha.
In a country that elected a racist and a fascist,
puppet of Putin, these names are the mysterious
unifiers. Count out the pathetic group so recently
disbanded, beautifully outnumbered, at the White House,
count out the (supposed) president himself,
and who among us does not love these strange geniuses as family?

Aretha’s voice is recall, pain, heartbreak, faith in a God so gorgeous
any atheist turns pious in its presence. Sex, too, of course: the memory
of it, the euphoric falling
and the flatline miserable heart
break of departure.
We all have, I suspect, experiences that would not be the same in memory
without her. For me, it was riding for weeks on a motorbike through the Cyclades with my first Great Love.
More recently, her caress and comprehension while bent over in griefpain when my
(ex)husband walked out the door. Never will I listen to I Wonder” the same way –

I am not a patriot. My spirit is in France, my body will follow.
But it is this country, its root-twisted history of kidnap
torture, forced labor, economy built on the casting-out
and the caging of countless thousands, intermixed
with a God both real and convenient
and that odd characteristic
other countries look at with both contempt and envy:
Optimism.

Her voice was the embodiment of our history:
the history of her people and a preternatural
refusal to hate the deep shadows that brought
this country up from its infancy.

I love Billie because she is broken and still perfect.
But Aretha.
She is Grand like Ella, all lung and rasp like Dinah;
she is the party on Saturday night
and the church filled with family the next morning.
Unlike The Rev. Green, she presents no tension between the two:
she held the whole.

And weren’t we lucky to hold it with her?

Lust in 7 Questions

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Lust in 7 Questions

1.

In what manner is the thirst for the river of his mouth, the pleasure of his salted fingertips, of the same origin as the endless grief to which this body was born?

2.

How does this lower lip blossom, these shining lashes lengthen, skin grow soft and damp while stricken eyes darken at the first moment of his presence?

3.

Why does he not see?

4.

What are ethics, precepts, preconceptions, compared to one long midnight in a room high above a sleeping city, dawn a coy witness to wilted sheets, silk ties hanging like confetti from the bedpost, thighs bruised from a wanting that cannot be granted?

5.

How does one remain embodied knowing touch will never come?

6.

Sometimes when a woman reaches an apex, which is both an expansion and a receiving, the arches and the palms will coil and cramp, like a bird caged too long. And what are my feet, to him?

7.

I heard his voice before I saw him. And now it is all I hear. Does the hunger rise from his dark and ancient beauty, my shining Roman coin, or from his indifference to my own?

Remnant

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Remnant

last night, late
in the large room
that one day soon will
be let to another

lay three sleeping children
One was half propped on narrow
velvet pillows
thick curls twisted and damp
at the root of a long neck
so thin.
spindle-spine.

another
was covered in a pink cape
ancient exhausted bear,
his stuffing long hollowed,
resting on lips
that might have
been whispering secrets
with which no human
can be trusted –

the third
had limbs askew
two small legs
curled and still,
hips on a mattress
arms open
as a welcoming saint
on the floor.

I was limping
on a swollen knee.

we are casualties.
even our sleep
contains a violence –
bodies caught
brought down

like a wandering plane
in wartime
like the bones
of Pompeii

are they children
anymore?
Or are they living,
like their injured
mother,
with Memory,

curse of consciousness,
toy soldiers in a battle not theirs:
it used to be
it used to be –

Lover

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Lover

Across my inner thigh,
the left one, high along
the tightrope of tattered
lace and the pale ridgeline

that leads this wanderer
from vertical curled hip
to hollowed pool below:
Fingertips brush, press, and root

through plexus of treasure.
When I was a young girl
I rode an expensive
Selle Francais on expensive

English saddles. I loved
the proper sit and post;
best of all the country
canter, to see withers

damp, the steady heavy
muscles transform to liquid
ripples, shivers of nerve
and heat. Cruel girlish gaze:

Capture is a wonder
both wicked and desired.
The sweet hand’s guiding drape
leaves in its wake a scroll

lavish, long, thin: imprint
of a quill, black ink scrapes
knee to toe, back again.
Each touch a stain of pleasure –

Completion (Blue)

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 Completion (Blue)

The only Innocence
is stasis.
Do not mistake
this
for neutral stillness,
but rather
a presence
of one strength exhausted,
collapsed against another.
Neither a Holding
nor a Supporting,
limbs pressed together,
Aspen leaf in wax paper:
Dependent
but not
Intertwined.

The garden is made beautiful
primarily from what it is not.
Begonia, Vinca, Sword Fern;
black soil shining soft, giving way
in effulgent expectation,
Spring without end.
Grass lays flat to the Serpent,
the calloused arched foot –
All eyes of the sacred glade
turn past and above
damp fronds, the dripping heart
of lily and rose,
to a blue that drifts,
floats, deepens,
never settling to a single shade.

Blues shape the green garden
as the emerging sketch,
unnoticed and unremarked,
define a home –
the lives, births, deaths
within its walls.
It is always
the in-between –
shifting hues
of azure, navy tinged
with black, pale saltwater
almost white at the shoreline –
that bring the shocking flood.

For a long time, years and years,
there were two bodies
side to side
fingertips touching even in solitary
dives of deepest sleep.
Bodies milkwhite in a blue room.

The garden is repetition.
Sexless fronds unfold,
part feather part web,
again, again, and again.
The self-generating roots,
bees above in ecstasy of hunger,
stamen, nectar,
anxious flight.
Long bodies of insects, lime green,
elegant, thin,
who consume their lovers
when sated.
All repetition
is desire.

Another word for repetition
is pattern.
Fingertip to fingertip
lovers wake at twilight –
pattern preordained
or like the shaded fern self-generated –
in the design of desire,
in the small stitches,
one can see
tiny knots,
a delineation
that shapes
separates.
Eventually one arrives
to the borderland
beyond which
the vivid pattern
gives way,
and returns
to the cruelest innocence.

The rooted garden.
The shifting blue above.

buried no shovel (sketch)

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buried no shovel
(sketch)

Dear reader,

There is a woman.

She is a mother. Housewife.
She has never paid taxes. She was handed cash and tense instructions,
flawless unscratched mirror to her rich white sisters of 1955.
Her own grandmother had more understanding of money than she does,
even though she, too, was handed cash, once a week, along with a kiss on her vodka scented cheek.

“Why do we have money, Mommy?”
said this woman’s 8 year old daughter 3 days ago.

 

 

Thus began a conversation about parallel universes, the general meaning of the exchange
of
“Goods.”
And Value.

 

When the mother the housewife
reached a certain age, had one too many breakdowns,
demanded one too many payouts beyond the value
of whatever Goods she had on hand,
Truth rose finally from her somnolent bed.
Truth can be so lazy, so sleepy sometimes,

a little like a housewife who starts the Sancerre at 4 instead of 5
and takes a little extra yellow pill for the anxiety.

But when She wakes up she is so fucking hungry,
you would not believe the savagery of her hunger
unless you, also, have lived through years and years of sleeping
with your secret assassin, your captor,
and finally wake
the bed stripped and empty,
with the fine boned jaw of the Honest Goddess keening over you,
demanding all manner of change one cannot possibly enact
as quickly as She requires.

So the housewife moved around, traveled, took care of her children.
Her tax man, would you believe it, is becoming her shrink,
which saves her I cannot tell you how much money.

She will have to give up manicures.
And her Vision of one day being a human being.
Sometimes she wonders if the first might be more difficult.

She is still beautiful
but she is so haughty
and unhappy and tired of silly men
who wear hats indoors and do not read
and end sentences with all forms of dangling…..

Mostly these days she does math.
She fucking sucks at math. A gift she gave to her daughter.
The one who asked about money.

 

A family of philosophers
chess players
dancers
boxers
yogis
useless intellectuals
poets readers writers gypsies travelers
fashion-addicts political debaters ~~

Inheritors
of depression
addiction
restlessness
incest (stopped with her, went way way back, like the blue in her blood)

Hamlets
and Ophelias
rage
laziness
which
then reveals itself
as
Truth.

Her math, this lithe woman with the foul mouth
and feathered-soul,
keeps showing her
this equation:

0 0 0 = 0 no matter what
Broke.
Stay in this city,
the hated city
a pretend city
hot dry dusty bro-filled,
stay here
and she can afford
a tiny flat in a car-drenched suburb.
Perhaps.
She hates cars.
And suburbs.
And bros and dry air.
She is green like a peacock.
The city an encrusted brown concrete slab.

Or
she can gather
the goslings
and move to the East, which is closer to Paris anyway,
and buy a couple of wooded acres
near the water
near great schools
and the Great City.

For a song, as they say.
She loves the poetry of that phrase:
a whole new life
for a song.

Indeed her math is wretched (profligate, kind, but cannot add), however even she understands that all equations in this particular test
=
her own imprisonment.
She understands, as the Buddha has taught
as the strung diamonds
of Patanjali
have taught,
that she is responsible for
the construction of this confinement.
He is a Happy Jailor
but she gave him the job.
She has lost the keys, always always
she is muttering
“Where the fuck are my keys?”

She’s not a housewife anymore.
But she still has to
bring him
the goods.

City Child

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City Child

– “It’s an abstract world.
You’re an abstract man.”
~~ The Ramones

– “I am a city child. I live at the Plaza”
~~ Kay Thompson
Eloise is my favorite children’s book not only because of its flawless wit and masterful timing, but because Eloise the child reflects a truth not usually spoken of in the context of childhood:
She is lonely.
Eloise is intelligent enough to live as a small adult, and vulnerable enough to have endless faith her restless adventuring mother will always send for her, though of course she never does. The adults in her life are either absurdly stupid or hired substitutes; they are either affectionate but unreliable alcoholics or they’re frustrated outcasts. She relates most to the latter.

Eloise knows loss. Eloise knows bravery. And hilarity, even in solitude. Eloise is bright enough to outwit her tutor and compulsive enough to draw pictures on hotel walls.

My son is Eloise’s twin.
                      
Recently he took his first trip to New York City. Each of my children are to have a trip of their choosing upon the transition to double digits: an age that feels to me equal parts a turning from (childhood) and toward (independence).  My son chose, I’m sure through no maternal influence, to explore Manhattan.
Or, more accurately, to obsessively play chess in Greenwich Village at the Chess Forum and with the eccentric, often brilliant street players in Washington Square Park.
It was disconcerting to see my young, chronically disorganized first child adapt with such alacrity to the chaotic speed of the city. Within a day he blended to the environment like camouflage, absorbing new smells, accents, energy, and crowds as if he’d known them since the pram.  His temperament is perfectly suited to the urban movement of a busy metropolis: he holds no judgment against anything but stupidity, he speaks quickly and thinks at triple the time of his speech; he is utterly strange and indifferent to those who find him that way. What he appreciates is skill, quality, and competition, and it doesn’t matter if the source of those qualities come from a banker on the Upper East or a drug dealer who talks to squirrels.
Actually, he prefers the man with the squirrels: less pretense, more action.

From the earliest age my first born had preternatural focus. Before he could speak he took apart and put together puzzles of 50, 100, 150 pieces. Deeming the pictures unnecessary, he began to complete the puzzles on their white side, forcing us to maneuver around him for hours in our small dark kitchen. My neck developed a permanent ache from bending over to occasionally help and watch the pictures take form. Eventually a few people told me this was “not normal,” a comment that left me confused, defensive, and cold. He is my son, I would think, that’s all. Not a comparative number on a measuring stick, and not a label to make those of us addicted to cubbies and categories feel at ease. Gifted. Asberger’s. ADHD. Twice gifted (a particularly asinine designation). ODD. OCD. ADD and fuck off please.

Many years later I was to learn the usefulness of labels: they are guides, but only if utilized as such. When one begins and ends with naming, the name, like all form, comes up empty, and creates nothing but its own cage.

Like any mostly functioning mother I am absurdly proud of my children, to the point of being obnoxiously myopic in my opinions of their gifts and beauty. Fortunately I hold these thoughts close to the heart; I know how common my beliefs in the Extraordinary are in the closed maternal world.

My son, though, does exhibit a gift about which I feel open admiration: he possesses a truly adult humility in the context of study. He is as ego-less as he is competitive, and the source of this capacity is a mystery to me. It does not come from me, and it certainly does not flow from his father. He will learn from anyone, in any environment, if there is something of value to be learnt.
The players at Washington Square Park sensed this, and were he to be a true City Child I think he would quickly become as regular to that landscape as the brown skinned nannies, restive junkies, book-heavy students, thin plane trees and great old elms.
My son is a secret. The landscape of his mind he keeps hidden; I am the only one who catches more than a glimpse, and that is simply because of my persistence. He often reminds me of my father – brilliant, angry, depressed – and sometimes of me – melancholic, not quite of this Earth. Mainly, he is just himself, a trickster both toddler and wise old man. I sense he loves the city because he knows he can disappear there, and live among the millions who are also visible and rarely seen.