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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do i know
when he knows
that i know
he knows
the nucleus
is clouded
with some substance
that is neither
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
of self joining self
his own inheritence



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November 2, 2018
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

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.

Old Fool


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Old Fool

I fell in love with a boxer.

He teaches me to hit, spar, follow through on kicks that act as whips to one’s opponent. Through him I find a sunken groundedness one cannot locate – I cannot locate – through dance, asana, meditation. He is teaching me that I love violence, that its art lies in its loose but lethal precision, and that control is the highest art of all.

He doesn’t know that I had already found this with the man who left me, the father of these children who now sleep with me, nightmares overcoming their brave little faces either before or during sleep. Hurt me, I’ll eat from your hand like a starved faun.

I told him. He’s too intuitive, he didn’t need to be told. So now I train with the boxer, and he knows. He knows I’m vulnerable more to his beauty than his fists. I’m terrified not of losing a tooth but that I won’t work enough, he’ll lose interest. Interest he doesn’t have to begin with: I have invented the perfect Punishment.

The boxer is a child. He is young, brilliant but uneducated. His beauty has caught me, I watch him from the shoreline: youth, movement, marriage, potential, money, family all downstream. His skin shines with an illumination unique to the quick and the strong. He is mainly animal. I was raised to view my life from the second, third, infinite angles of the mind. I have disciplined myself to believe one cannot live anything called a “life” without intelligence, analysis, perception, competition, and the melancholy understanding that everything is finite.  Life is granted, like an award, after certain prerequisites have been achieved. He was raised to simply live: life is what happens while the body is in motion, that the body itself is wisdom, and has primordial needs that are met through action alone. I miss sex, intensely, when I am near him.

It is fascinating to watch an existence unfold after much of mine has flowed on and away. I say nothing. I don’t tell him how much I could teach him over a few long days in a small room. Or that the hard shell surrounding his girlfriend will eventually encase him, too, like a butterfly in amber.

I know nothing.
I have this beauty, this openness to my body, I move like a snake in wet grass. This face, these limbs: they are in the great, short lived stage of an exquisite Twilight. Never more receptive, never more charged. My mind is awake even in dream. Nerves with no casing. I am headed toward the sideline. But not yet, not quite yet… I am insatiable now, now that I know what has passed, what’s to come. Wisdom is a cutting cruelty.
But no.
I’m an old fool,
silly with watching.

Story for the Other Girl


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Story for the Other Girl

It is a Monday in autumn. I am earlier than usual. I walk with purpose anyway, breathing into the gentle new chill of late September, bodily odors of stained concrete, fresh trash, last night’s party mixing with falling leaves and the distant breeze of the East River. I love these smells now, their various offenses, surprising pleasures, predictable sadness. I am going Northward on Ave B. I’ll get there faster than the subway would take me. I have finally learned how to walk instead of wander. I used to be frightened I would miss things, moving with speed. But I observe more at this quickened pace; I think my eyes have widened to take in my landscape, to rebuff, absorb, see, reject, all at once and all the time.

It is interesting that one of the most complimentary phrases we use to describe a face is “wide-eyed.” Predators are narrow, eyes close, they can afford to ignore the world. Prey must be all-seeing, like a wounded Buddha. We seem to prefer women and infants like this, watchful. Receptive. Aware of what might be coming.

Three days a week I work for an attorney. She specializes in probate, and used to work for one of the great old firms on Liberty. She is brilliant, unusually round for a New Yorker, and wears Tiffany bangles on her wrist that sometimes chime while she types. Blue chips and white shoes: I think she finally figured out there wasn’t much room for red lips and double strollers, so in a moment of delusional optimism she leased a small office with floor to ceiling windows not far from Washington Square. She is harried and an organized mess, usually one step ahead of her schedule unless she is four steps behind. Then her panic fills the room, drifting to the corners of the ceiling, seeping into the floorboards, until there is no air, only the missed deadline, the furious client, the sick babysitter, the bill the client won’t pay. Until knowing her I never knew that fear is capable of turning to substance.

I rescue her. She adores me; she doesn’t understand that she doesn’t really need me, I’ve only made her think she does because I really need the work. I watch her fear take shape. It is only a landscape; I make it dissipate with a tone and one, two, ten phone calls, like a painter adding brushwork to canvas.  And she takes too much Xanax anyway.

I’m good at saving things: when I was a child I used to occupy myself by scooping up finches who stupidly flew into plate glass windows. Carefully I prepared shoe boxes with sticks, water, tufts of cotton. I had an unusual patience. For hours I sat with the birds, watching the slow resurrection. Unless the breastbone had been shattered, they usually came to, flew off into the twilight. I would watch them leave, my feet tucked into my dirty nightgown. My life divided into hopeless contradiction: my primary worth was service. And through service I gave Life. Thus I regarded myself as both receptacle and the force that fills it. These thoughts would occupy me from the earliest age, and so while my friends applied to colleges and had sex and worked and made other friends I took acid by myself and thought these thoughts. It took me awhile to catch up. I think I still am, although to what, I am not sure.

The attorney has two girls, twins. They sometimes sit and do homework in her office. They look so much like her I have trouble imagining another element was involved in their mysterious split-match creation. They are identical. To each other and, it seems, to her. When I met them they had just turned six, and because it was summer they had tanned shoulders and pale thighs, and their dark hair was full and lightened by long, bright and damp days. That summer they came to her office almost every day, dressed in flower printed sundresses and dragging along dolls that I am sure cost a day’s pay. Sometimes their father brought them, but usually it was another woman. Nanny, mother, mother-in-law, friend.

It is the world in a cave. It is the world by a river. A goddess helps women bear children. Bury them too. She hunts for them. She saves animals and girls. Sacrifices them. This is our conclave, here in New York. Work, women, men who are too busy to see what happens by the river.

Recently the girls turned eight, and they are not as easy in their bodies anymore; they are aware of themselves now, and it strikes me as a tragedy, even though it be a universal one. They visit less. Ballet, music, friends, French. Busy girls in a busy place. I wonder if they ever dream of lakes or animals. Or the moon. On the rare days they visit I’ll ignore my work and play with them instead, a habit that seems to further endear me to the attorney. She loves her girls, but I suspect she wonders if Love is an essence that moves in only one direction, outward, and that when I’m there she can close the tap, save her reserve for later. I was taught that Love is infinite, self-generating, that Love creates Love. I believed that for a long time, until my divorce four years ago, and I was emptied. Nothing has replaced me.

After the girls leave a silence comes over the office. Their absence is bigger than their presence. I think this is what it might be like to be a mother. What was your life becomes an eternal oblation to an ancient ritual; at the center is the monolith of every birth that has come before, will come after, and when you turn from it you find the image has imprinted itself upon you like a tattoo.

When I was married I did not have children. At one point I was pregnant. He welcomed the seedling but it never took root, and a heavy bleeding took the tiny beginning away in a rushing short lived flood. I retreated after that, and spent a long time holding my groin, my lower stomach, as if trying to put something into place, as one might rearrange a room. But I missed him. I missed his touch, our bar down the street, my soft silk dresses and the way he would look at me when I wore something red, thin stockings underneath. I missed the union, and I had never broken a promise before. When I came back his relief was palpable but quiet. For months and months the rush of love stood in stunning contrast to our slow life.

We lived in a town two miles inland from the grey sea. The beach was usually quiet. Too cold to swim, too windy for picnics and evening fires. It’s why we chose it: life would not be overrun there, the storms would see to that. We trained ourselves to embrace the wind, and the sharp rain, and every day we would run the dogs, watch them go a little too far out to sea to catch salt-weathered sticks. During the day he wrote and then did marketing for a company two thousand miles away. I worked early at the only cafe in town, and would come home shaking and hollowed from too much gossip and coffee.

I do not know why I loved him. He did not need rescuing, and his alien self-possession acted as both buffer and invitation. Everything was soft with him, and he accepted me as an animal might. I wasn’t there. And then I was. He was tall and had an odd kind of beauty that would fade to mere character with time. People found us a strange but fitting couple, and my physical perfection, his childhood friends would tell me, came as little surprise. He had always been with beauty, took it as a right. I did not know if I should have been proud or terrified.

What I loved most was the devouring. We lived as slowly as a rain-swollen river. We had managed the impossible: to control time itself, to smooth the edges, its precipice of fear and nervous anticipation. At night, after the bar, after the silk dress had dampened around my thighs, after his insistent tugging and tearing at my stockings under the table, I would fold myself into him, watch the sludge water give way to crazed eddies of movement, sensation. Fucking him was always a falling-in, and the falling itself gave way to dimensions to which I believe, still, only he possesses the key.

Our life, as all lives do, became a lattice work of pattern, close repitition. Silence, steadiness, the air usually heavy with storm. I ran the dogs, I danced, I read, worked a little, and grew close to the woman who owned the vintage store where I bought the dresses he loved. Our house was small and empty, and only books took up more space than the dogs. My body became hard, calves muscled from running on damp sand, skin pale from weeks without sun. Sometimes, watching the black sleek-wet dogs paddle in the waves, I saw myself as an old woman, walking along the same beach, coming home to the same man, white haired, spine curved from writing at the same desk.

For our third anniversary we left the dogs with my friend, got on a plane, and landed just as the sun was setting in Milan. It was the end of March, and the square by the Duomo was chilled and empty. Two days later we took a short train to Venice, where we sat for hours in the gardens at the Guggenheim villa, and got lost, over and over, through arched canals and close passageways. One midnight we hurried among the shadows and watched the water, swirled ink, my fingers blue-cold and sticky from marzipan shaped to irresistible fruit.

On our second evening, while watching the lion-griffen turn red, yellow, and then fade with the evening sun my husband surprised me with a small disc of white gold, three diamonds set in the middle, like the beginning of a constellation. The jewels in St. Marco are endless, and almost corrupt in their glittering, absurd beauty. These were the stores one simply looked into, as one peers into a Faberge egg: someone else’s life. He placed the delicate chain around my neck, an unusual smile of triumph on his lips. I still don’t know where he came upon the money.

At night we made love, his long fingers over my mouth to keep me quiet. The walls were thin. But I knew, too, that part of his pleasure was a sort of owning. His pride in his wife was casual, but fundamental too.

When I was 15 my father told me a funny story. He was a teenager, going to see a film with his friends. Still a virgin, introverted, in love with women, he and his friends silly with hormones. A man walked out of the theater, a stunning woman wearing a short sweater that showed her round, impossible breasts clung to his arm. “Look at the way he’s wearing her,” scoffed my father’s witty friend. 

On the sixth morning in Venice we fought. It was our first, and sudden as a spring squall. It stunned us both, the cruelty of our mouths, machete down the middle. Young, stubborn, stupid. Or perhaps just curious: what does it mean, I thought, to smash a Love so big it has begun to feel like another presence in the room? What remains, as it spreads across the floor, knife shards, liquid glass? I left after a silent breakfast, boarding a bus for Croatia. I turned off my phone, expecting it to ring with incessant worried irritation.

When I turned it on again, a dozen hours later, sitting on a bench by the open sunbright sea in Dubrovnik, there was one message: “Come home.”

I stayed six months. I lived off credit cards, eating little, staying in hostels for which I was too old. I read, and walked. I went to Turkey, and spent a late spring month on the island of Alibey. An old woman let a room to me for almost nothing. She fed me, a worried and bossy look to her eye. Grandchildren drifted around her ankles like cats. After four months I took a lover, but he was a forgotten shadow, without embodiment even as he pressed his chest to mine. One night, a little high, I phoned him. It was morning at home. He was already working. The dogs didn’t run as well without me, he said. I’m here, he said.

We divorced the next year. Even if I could list the reasons I don’t think I would. Loss needs its mystery, otherwise all we become are lonely excavators of our own lives. We are still friends. Lovers when we see each other. I went where solitary types, the sort  who like to live frenetically and silently fix things fit in best.

The attorney knows nothing of this. I got my job with her the way everyone gets things in New York: luck + perseverance. She said no twice. The third time I emailed she was having a crisis with her girls. I went to her office, called her clients, found her a new nanny. I rescued her. That’s what I do. Rescue things.

Tonight I’m meeting friends at Yakiniku. We’ll talk and get drunk, gossip about clothes and books, ignore the men around us. I know I’ll walk home alone, fast, with headphones on, eyes open, body soft from booze on the inside, stiff with the tension of the street on the outside. In the great city a woman must become an exo-skeleton. I’ll have to tell him that, the next time I phone. He’ll laugh, and tell me about a poem he’s working on.

When I get home – I am thinking this as I call an angry client whose father just died – I will take a bath. I’ll trace the cracks in the grouting, open the window wide, and count the extinguishing lights of my neighbors as they retire for the evening, falling into the next day, one by one by one.



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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.