Loser

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Loser

 

 

 

 

I wish it were possible to be like Rembrandt.

In my genius
casual as a shawl thrown across my back
I could make
for you
a sketch.

In a few words, just a few, I could tell you, reader,

that I have lost.

When does loss turn one into a loser? Is it a set timeline, something evolutionary, even biological? Is it a design? Once the design has reached some predetermined point along the scale, it’s over. The transformation, or the disintegration, is total.

Oh.
When I was a girl, with my long braids and big angry eyes, looking out for the next betrayal, I fell in love with travel and Fred Astaire and Valentino red. Someday, I knew, I would be living in a small cottage by the sea. There would be music and books and all life would lie before me, something ephemeral but true, an essence mysterious but, for me alone, forever reliable.

I would always be an arrow. Quick, sure, sudden.
Waves, wind at night,
sunsets of aggressive loveliness.

Never lonely.

When I was a girl I was always traveling. France, first and always. Italy, North Africa, West Africa, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanke, Mongolia, Patagonia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Equador, Honduras, Mexico, begin again, take a small dart, point it at a beautiful antique map, go there.

Never. Stop.

Oh.
When I was a girl….
Life was elsewhere.
Planes overhead, silk skirts and slender ankles.
Sex at dawn.
A day was a month was a year –
the greatest gift granted to the young:
the meaninglessness
of Time.

How old were you
when you realized
that poetry was far
failure near
and there is no poetry
in the failures
of the middle years.

I have failed my children.
I have failed my ex-husband-

who hates me with such vengeance we both, now, agree
my death
would be a boon.

I have failed at the bank.
I have failed on the zafu.
Failed. Failed. Failed.
Whatever potential I possessed, I fucked it
up and over.
The more the potential,
the more the fuckup.

Consider:
“Failure” has its root in the Old French.
It means
non-occurrence.

Have you ever been truly, truly hated?

Have you ever been truly, truly hated by a lover a husband a wife
who used to fuck you,

who held a glass of Pieper Heidsieck –
cold and elegant as a corsetted woman in its thin flute –

while you, dressed in hand sewn silk chiffon,
fabric draped in the back to the lowest hollow (Straight spine
giving way to vistas of undulating haunch and hip),

drunkenly gaze at this now-murderous stranger –
while he spoke
to you
and everyone in the candle-lit room
of Love erotic and Eternity spelled out in decades?
Have you?
He said
“I love you, I love your face. I love this:
upon waking every morning it will be your face I first see.”
My face.
His rising sun.
Navigation.
This way, this way, this way, I am your East.

I think I could hand him my dead body
as a belated wedding gift.

But it would not be enough.

Oh
So here I sit
in the middle years
the ugly years
the years
that speak loudly
these are the years of crude announcement:
“this is what you have done
this is what you will never do”

I used to be on the side of Nietzsche. I used to understand that human beings are weak incarnations of what they could be, that godliness is far from us, that our manifestation is of weakness, ugliness, grasping selfishness.
Failler. non. evenement.

We are not gods.
No vision. No interpretion.
We cannot live in the present,
only wish
to slay the gap.

No Buddha
No Artemis
No Christ
No Aphrodite
No Apollo.

All love is arrogance.
All lovelessness a violation.

I am out of mind.
Muttering griefs to small children,
weeping on the heart of a man
who sees nothing but weakened snares in my shoulders.
He shakes them loose.

“You cannot escape you”
he says
“but I can.”

Oh.
When I was small.
And the world was big.
The future spread before me like a quilt.

See her, sitting in her room, so unhappy, the horror of a lonely childhood hanging like a canopy.
Small fingers, with those untended nails,
set out long golden needles
strips of silk and old cotton, threads of many colors,
stitching the future –
outline the escape –

delicate origami
wishes,
future on the forever-horizon,
created
by the stitches
of a child.

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Double

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Double

Close
your
eyes.

fallen

wings
drifting
settling
to a veined blackness.

Respite
in the center –
hear voices rise
and release,
free from their creators
neither intent
nor context

therefore
without division

and so
form
and its outline
dissipate

split-cloud

print
on the page
before sleep.

When you were lovers
those first nights

division

was the enemy
fought
with limbs tongue loins
this urge and urge and urge

toward union
toward the invisible
center

that is
the heart’s completion
final stop

before
the break
and bleed –

 

 

 

Hunter

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Hunter

Forgotten snare
burrowed in beds of sweet moss,
hungry mouth hidden
by damp soil that rusts the jaw;
forest deep, forever needle-green.
Red-tailed raptors surf a frozen wind
and blue-jays are stunned to silence
by a gentle unrelenting snow.

The rot arrives with surprising speed ~
so fragile the limb, the mind so inured to it ~
this lovely left arch, the one that would step first
out and away from him
is necrotic, green and violet, touch of red, like
a honeymoon sunset, cocktails over the caldera –
The toothy trap chews through stubborn bits
poison poison poison
stills the slender feet
the fleet mind
“Where is my world?
Where is the train.. it is time to board, our worn leather bags
have gone missing.
Who holds the small torn bear
for my daughter?
Where is the music that drifts through the harbor,  breath of intermezzo,
form to form, sky to sea? Where in the world
is my world?”

Murderer.
poison
poison
poison
flushes the veins like vines
reaching sunward in the shadowed forest
brain drunk with memory and then its absence.
In the spring the hunter remembers this trap,
so efficient
it is empty.

The 6th Floor is the Children’s Floor

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The 6th Floor is the Children’s Floor

“We don’t like labels,” the unusually kind doctor said.

And I thought, but language itself is a label. How does one dig underneath that? (Love is the correct answer, though this, too, is a word, and not a very helpful one.)

“But we need labels so we can get into the ballpark of what these symptoms are, and how we can treat them. Oh, and how we can force the school to acknowledge his particular needs.”

Ballpark. How I loathe that metaphor. It reminds me… of heat, of spaces made unnecessarily loud and large. It makes me feel lonely. It makes me miss Paris. Everything makes me miss Paris. Truthfully, though, if one is “in the ballpark,” one isn’t even close to comprehension, right? Shouldn’t it be “tennis court,”  or something slightly more contained? But Americans don’t understand contained, and we certainly don’t understand our children, hence the necessity for reworking our alphabet into a series of increasingly concerning and strange acronyms.

It is an exercise in both anguish and comedy to observe the life of one’s most beloved become a series of sorted and resorted letter games, Scrabble with stricter rules and no winner. His situation reminds me of Buddhist goddesses like Marichi who wear the mundamala around their necks: 52 severed heads, each head standing for a letter of the Sanskrit alphabet.

Perhaps he is in this hospital partly because he has a mother who thinks these thoughts. I’m sure of it, actually. Because without being able to blame myself, place myself at the center of the tragedy, I couldn’t fix it. I would lose control of the narrative, and that, above all else, is what I cannot accept about my son’s suffering. I will fix him. Or this doctor will, the one who takes astonishing amounts of time with me but continues to use this metaphor I do not understand.

Language is sacred. What stands behind language, the biological need for it, the artistry of it, the simple core of it, is beautiful, necessary, ultimately the greatest mystery we have as human incarnations. But even language, these letters and the words they form, the sound it makes, gets in the way. In the way of what I of course cannot name (infinite regress, yes?). We might say an essence, something too sacred to be spoken.

We might say this is prema, or divine love.

I do know that language stands in our way.
I do know that language is the only way.

These are some of my thoughts as I listen to the terrifying letters being strung together, my new personal mala. Vaguely I envision what sort of heads might be strung upon my mundamala. Certainly whoever decided schools should be for tests, not children. DeVos…Certainly… ahh, I am becoming vengeful, but not out of compassion. I must refocus.

My son is this.
My son is that.
My son is brilliant.
My son cannot function.
My son is my son.
My son is my…
My son is

And is is enough.

hollow point

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hollow point
~~ 
for Bowe Bergdahl
                                            and for my son

This field is neither yellow nor burnt-brown
neither receptacle nor offering,
a slope of soil, ungenerous, unsown.
Sleep, where three tree roots dig and thirst and cling.

No matter. The dawn’s deep chill will shake
your bones awake. Your dreams, perhaps this dream,
are paintings of all you’ve never had; that ache
of absence rises, weaves into your bloodstream.

I listened to a man describe the dark
he lived there many years, so many years
that darkness now is like a watermark
upon his limbs, loneliness grinds the gears.

A few are born to it, don’t you agree?
All alien mind and false mimickry.
Killer, hero, poet whose lost the key –
Lives of secrets they themselves cannot see.

how do i know when he knows that i know he knows

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How
do i know
when he knows
that i know
he knows
the nucleus
is clouded
with some substance
that is neither
will
nor wish
not design or plan
and beneficence
lives and dies
– like every thing –
in less than a moment
nectar on the tongue
gone before its own arrival
flash
of self joining self
his own inheritence

Etoile

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Etoile

November 2, 2018
“only
those who love illusion
and know it will go far:
otherwise we spend our
lives in a confusion
of what we say and do with
who we really are.”
  ~~ Auden, Many Happy Returns

To my youngest,
You turn 5 on this day, a day I look to with dread and mourning, you with wise anticipation. “I am big now,” you say.
Huge. But you have been, since your zygot days.

You are cursed with beauty, wit, and unfair symmetry. Your eyes, strange beauty, are on the balance almost too wide, and your mouth, with its speech unending
and baby-wolf teeth, transfixes your little friends with its eccentric range

of judgment and joy.

Your secret blessing, which you must have as must all fairies princesses
and goddesses in the truest tales, is an anger and impatience
carried through from some distant life lived long ago. My caresses
now too often set aside as you demand obeisance

and toys.

You were named for dancers, man of stardust, celestial sight, infinite sky.
At night the winds increase, dogs sit out and piteously cry –
but sleep takes you, wraps you in a jealous grip; you cast a spell
over all comfort; Life lusts for you, this child who from Star to Earth fell

and was sung to form.

May Love embrace you. May you embrace Love.
May life tire you to worn wisdom.
But not for hundreds of moons.
We are made, each to each, of stardust.
But you swallowed the dust,
You are only
Star.

Practice is the Practice

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Practice is the Practice
All hearts oscillate in the same swing, within the ocean of nectar, singing one song.”
~~ Anandamurti
– “Please practice. All the time.”
~~ Richard Freeman

I have been a student of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga for almost twenty years. My practice has not been steady, which is something of a requisite for Ashtanga, and my devotion has ebbed and flowed along with my tendency toward intellectual skepticism and the common householder responsibilities of mother, wife, daughter, and Western life in general.

Practice is a seed. And in many of us devoted to this strange, often utterly misunderstood art, the seed is hearty and lives untended, waiting for our attentive return. Like all living things though, the bija, or seed of awakening, flowers best with disciplined, appropriate cultivation. If we hold too tightly, particularly to asana, the result is suffering, repeated patterns of attachment, or raga. Relax the grip altogether and we find stubborn habits, old pains and unconscious actions rising through the cracks; soon enough there are more reasons not to practice than face starting over again.

And yet yoga is a contradiction. One of its most ancient meanings is trick or trickster. As soon as one thinks “I have it. I’m a practitioner. My asana practice is two hours a day, I never miss pranayama, the water in my neti pot is the purest, and I fast once a week” – no sooner does one establish a dedicated, daily practice then the stories begin once again. The ego never stops its churning creation. So we practice. We become attached to our lithe flexibility, our pujas, the sense of belonging, especially for Ashtangis and Iyengar devotees, members of a rather exclusive club. We don’t practice. We become attached to the pleasure of laziness, even the odd pleasure of guilt and procrastination. The moment the mind identifies with practicing/not-practicing, it does not matter if one is in a 20 minute sirsasana or having the third beer of the night: insight ceases.

Ego craves solidity. Ego craves containment. Practice is the opposite: it is fluid, necessarily without a definitive end. Even writing these words, “practice is,” I am already outside of practice. I am attempting to identify the unidentifiable. It is a little bit… like love.

The ego, or asmita, cannot help but identify with the pleasures, pain, attainment and goals of practice. Out of the 8 limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga this is why asana is both so instructive and so outsized in the Western comprehension of yogic discipline. As a teacher or practitioner, how many times have you heard someone say in response to a discussion of yoga “I’m not good at yoga?” This statement is nonsensical, it is like someone saying “I’m not good at thinking,” but indicates how profoundly we depend on the physical presentation of the body to represent an art that is in reality deeply ephemeral, cerebral, and illusive.

As I age, the seed ages. My ego cringes at the fact that I do not have a 6 day a week practice. Sometimes I think I will walk away from practice, as if that is even an option at this point. My eyes have opened, ever so slightly, to the net of consciousness that joins one and all beings; I can no more leave that awareness than I can leave the love I possess for my children.

I love asana, like everyone who practices. Backbends make me high, forward bends remind me that, somewhere in this frame, there is earth and soil and gravity. Inversions quite literally change the brain, its chemistry, its hormonal balance. But I need less. I watch people half my age as they hunger for the next pose, the next arm balance, as they wrestle half to death with the incredible difficulty of “floating” a vinyasa. It is beautiful to watch: the sweat, the focus, the simple loveliness of youth. And my ego sometimes chimes in: “I can still do that.” Or, “why can’t I do that?”

But the reality is that my body is getting older, and my mind is becoming increasingly sensitive and refined. I just don’t need a four hour practice of yang intensity. I certainly need four hour practices, and will need, as Mr. Iyengar advised, more backbending the higher in years I go. Now, however, as I inch my way toward my late 40’s, I experience practice as a quiet, firm presence, like a small candle that burns continuously through wind, sun, and night.

Late Arrival

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Late Arrival

It is said, both in terms statistical and general, that once one experiences a breakdown the likelihood of the demon’s return goes up rather remarkably; after two one can almost count on keeping the hearth warm for the cold dead wind that ruins the heart, rips the mind in two.

I think often of Auden’s line, “and the crack in the teacup opens/a lane to the land of the dead.” In madness the crack turns into a canyon. The canyon floods with the detritus of the mind as it destroys itself, like a virus gone crazed with fever. Occasionally one can watch the destruction as one might a film, or a televised hurricane 1500 miles away.

Stand with me on the canyon’s edge: there streams by a long built plan for teaching Yoga, there lies under it the friends and fellows I had longed to know. Next to it, caught in a merciless eddy, is the vision of Love and Family that supported the frail frame. It is in pieces now, chunks and shards that pierce the skin straight through. I am made of paper. I am made of air.

I am water with no container.

It is pathetic to beg the ex-husband at the exile’s gate. On gashed knees, weeping, eyes dilated and swollen from desert dust. In the image created by a fractured mind, the children are about to die, they are dying, they will die, and the mother is already gone. Receive this body, Husband. Receive the children, restore them to Unity and Grace.

Suicide is selfish. Of course it is. The mother’s body must move, must attend the classes, must locate the checkbook, must exercise the facial muscles to smile at the teacher. The mother’s body must eat enough to keep the bones from showing through, must drive the car, must make the doctors appointments, must tend the tears on the perfect round faces. The mother’s voice must be tender. The mother’s mind must be wise. The mother’s heart must be an alchemist tutored by Dionysus: she must present the dead heart as a fleshy, open, pulsing thing. At least until the innocent shut their eyes at night. Only then might she climb the canyon walls, and watch a fool’s life drift and drown, let the dead heart release its poison and stench.

First child, after the dead identical twin boys. First living child, late winter birth. Instantly, spring was upon me, and the wisdom of the infant spoke to me during the quiet afternoons. I would lay him down on the large soft bed, skylights overhead, attic window hiding us like birds in a high branch. He spoke in pictures, images that imprinted themselves on the chambers of the heart, and coursed through the body.

Land. Land green and soft. Water. Salted air, quiet nights. Porches filled with creaking floorboards and contented animals. Eyes wide at dawn, greeting the child, the dark hills: we are lovers and we love also the tended animals, the children, the flowers that grow wild around the border of the house. Our bodies move with force, with purpose, and we shape our lives as the ocean shapes the shore. Sensuous lines, unpredictable,  natural. We create a protective web of Love, Beauty, fearless Waking.

Never did I let it go, the obsession with land and sky and water. Even when the husband could hardly look at the wife without feeling a grip at the base of his long throat, even when work in the dirty downtown city became a balm and respite from the obtrusive woman prattling without end. He saw me as an amorphous monster, even as I dreamed of horses and deer at twilight.

I think perhaps I am insane all the time, and when the Depression comes, arrives like the corpse of an animal, heavy and still, it is only then that the weight forces open my eyes to see. Crazy woman. Unbalanced creature.

There will never be the green spring and the blue with no horizon. It is for the poets and the beautiful to live such a life. And so I have a visitor in my home. She has been gone awhile. I think she has much to tell me before she takes her leave. In the silence and solitude of my life, I think she never will.

As fast as I can, I must stitch together a mask. It is made of thin hides and raw cut jewels. Onyx for the eyes, hair of liquid quartz. It must fit to perfection, as a Duchess’s kid glove at her lover’s masked ball. The stitches are invisible, they are made from mother’s milk. Every morning the mask must shape the face no longer there, the face that in the night sat in terror, a solitude indescribable. I love my children. The love will make the mask fit, no matter the barbs underneath.

Invitation to Exit

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Invitation to Exit
a lovehate note for Dr. Ford

Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter
~~ Christine Blasey Ford

Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.”
~~ 
Anne Sexton

There have been probably millions of words written about Brett Kavanaugh, and I don’t flatter myself I have much to add.

My writing is read by very few people. Not even my family reads it anymore. Yet somehow, knowing I have language, some kind of document, of my own observations, sadness, love, joy, personal regret, cultural anger: it makes me feel more alive, and more connected to the roiling stream of human existence.

There are mothers searching for dead babies at this very moment in Sulawesi. They don’t know about Brett Kavanaugh, or the people, mainly women, who feel some kind of end has been reached in our Great Experiment. Suffering is everywhere. Birth is everywhere; Change, as the Buddha cannot remind us enough, is the only constant.

When the man currently living in the White House was “elected,” I thought we had reached a nadir, and would quickly correct our nightmarish, almost comical, mistake.

It was only the beginning. And his beginning, this little, stupid, mentally unstable carnival barker, will leave an impossibly long impression on this country that might well mark its demise. He is remaking the courts from the bottom up in his own image, filling vacancies Barack was unable to fill because of the thoroughly racist, undemocratic obstructionism of Republicans, of the quasi-fascist Mitch McConnell, and he is going to fill those vacancies with minds so far to the right we may as well be on a tilt-a-whirl that speeds only in one direction. What was fringe, what was Pat Buchanan, is now the celebrated norm among unimaginable numbers of white, often college educated men and women.

Shame to them. Shame on this country.

I thought I had no love for this country. For a long time, my entire life to be honest. I should have moved to France when I was 17; that I didn’t was a result of a rape that made me paranoid, fearful, and incapacitated for years. The memory still does, particularly when I hear the so-called President of the United States happily mock a brave, dignified woman who had the temerity – the fucking balls – to confront a system already rigged against her. Listening to him bring her down, the crowd laughing its approval: how similar that must have sounded to Dr. Ford to the laughter of Brett as he covered her mouth and prepared to have his way with her body.

Kavanaugh joins Clarence, who is publicly silent, poisonous, and unimaginative in his “originalist” views of the Constitution. Such a viewpoint is really just an excuse for profound intellectual laziness, a sentimental attachment to a past that never existed, and a convenient cudgel to keep traditionally marginalized humans in their place. Now the two Yale men can have drinks and chat about their college days, the ones Kavanaugh can remember anyway, which apparently aren’t many.

I try not to hate him but I do. I hate him as I hate my own rapist. And I battle the same feelings about donald trump, who is a dangerous, petty, profoundly mentally ill, narcissistic black hole of corruption and greed. He is a shell of rage, and it is my work, the work of all people who loathe him, to not become a mirror to him. Or to Kavanaugh, who revealed a temperament so fraught with anger, paranoid rantings, self-pity, and arrogance I cannot see how his mind has room for any input other than his own. Kavanaugh brags about having four women clerks. I am convinced he sussed them out for bullying purposes and bragging rights.

Kavanaugh is a travesty. He will possibly bring down Roe. His previous rulings have shown him to be about as far to the right as rush limbaugh. He seems to think regulations are a mere inconvenience to the great gods of commerce. What else can one say about a man who looks at Kenneth Starr as his shining beacon, his mentor? Apparently the Clintons still weigh on his mind. They should: he was part of a huge mess that should never have happened in the first place. Why this country insists on having no collective memory after 18 months is beyond me; perhaps we might evolve a bit if we held the evils of the past as something from which to learn, not promote, as we have this vengeful, drunken man.

Kavanaugh might make this country so dangerous for women I will be forced to leave: I have two daughters. And a son I will not allow to adopt even a shadow of the white-boy me-firstness so celebrated by the powers that be.

These “men” – trump, his minions, Kavanaugh. Not only are they terrifying and disgusting in what they represent for women, for the so recently empowered, now endangered LGBT community, for brown people, for black people, for common sense environmental regulation (god the list is apparently endless) – they are a mortal threat to our boys as well. What parent wants to see a child grow up to be an angry, narcissistic and selfish power monger? I have never believed politicians should be personal role models, but these men are infusing and altering our entire culture; the racists, the homophobes, the anti-choicers are crawling out of the shadows like starved prisoners who have been waiting to be released.

So I teach my son about honesty, equality. I am stern. I use foul language when I need to, sometimes just because I’m so fucking scared of what is happening around us. I teach my daughters about their bodies, that there is no such thing as shame, that they own their bodies, and no one has the right to touch them, even look at them, in a manner that creates discomfort. I teach them to use force. Verbal force. Physical if necessary. We practice. No “baby” voice. But they are babies. It breaks my heart.

I am boxing.  A lot. I want to adopt guard dogs. I am… so scared.

And yet. And yet… in the middle of the Catastrophe, something has been born, deep inside me:
a tenderness. A new tenderness. I feel a love for my fellow countrypeople I have never known before. trump supporters – that is a struggle. I don’t understand them. I want to, but I don’t think I can. I still try. Even racism is born from Fear. A wounded heart. It is a wounded heart that carries a loaded gun though, and that is hard to hold.

I still would rather leave. But I am more involved, more loving to my neighbors, far more aware of the inequality around me, and far more willing, wanting, and needing to leave my little white-woman-yogi-ballet-arts bubble and see what the Hell is actually happening in the world.

The non-president is having, in untold numbers of citizens, mainly the ones he loathes (women, people with various pigmentation), an unanticipated effect, of which he is probably unaware: his rage creates love. I will not be him. I will see him. I will see the people around him. And I will admit to my own hatred, my own shadows.

But ultimately his absurdity, his indescribable foolishness, will awaken many to dignity, wisdom, and walking the long road to acceptance and love.

And that is my fuck-you valentine to trump, Inc.

May you find peace, quietude, and healing Dr. Ford.