Ten Stories Up


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Ten Stories Up

I have the flu.

This morning I was so sick I could not make it to my children, who now primarily live at their father’s home while I take care of them during the days and evenings. I was so consumed with fever I could not see from the pain behind my eyes, and so have spent a strange solitary day in bed, the restless vision of illness my only companion.

Nothing fits anymore. Not on the widened scale of our shameful puppet in the White House, the numberless and numbing atrocities that drift past our gadgets like so many hallucinatory vignettes; and not on the personal level either: so many people I know are in the middle of illness, transition, pain. Myself included. I cannot remember the last day of respite, or deep sleep, or a simple absence of injury.

I know that somewhere in New York right now, or down the street from this apartment, there is a couple falling in love, or a woman enjoying a fine dinner out by herself, or an old man walking his dog in the snow. These things still happen. And that is a joy, no?

On other days, when my mind is not so muddied, I write about memory, illusion, and the manner in which desire and current circumstance reshape the past, so the past itself becomes something that never really happened. But today, a day of freezing snow, my body chilled and then coated in sweat, covered with five pale-rose comforters and cashmere only to kick it all off, frantic from heat – today I am nostalgic and soft and sad.

I made the aching, horrible decision to not own a home, to not “provide” a home for my children, so that they might stay in one place. Because my X has the temperament and money for a house, and owns one the children love already, I ceded that part of the endless battle to him. I cannot tear my children’s minds down the middle, demanding they sleep here, now over here, simply because their parents are selfish fuck-ups.

So they stay. And I flutter around them, a little like a nanny. And I am homeless, there is no center for me. I wake, I drive to them. I pass the day with the littlest or wait for them to be done at school. I hate my apartment, as beautifully as I’ve designed it – the beauty itself feels hollow, like something staged for someone else’s life. And I hate, utterly loathe, the house they inhabit, because it is his, not mine, and I am some cross between a mama, a housekeeper, a beggar, and an uninvited guest who must from necessity return to the table.

If this were a fairy tale, which I suppose like all life it is, one could say that I used to be the queen, sitting at the head of the table with her first born prince and two beautiful princesses. My fingers were draped in diamonds, and in my vanity and worship of the prince and princesses the king grew angry. Finally his anger brought a curse on our kingdom, and now I have lost my crown, allowed still to own the title “Mother,” but only as a handmaiden, bended knee, praying he does not change his mind.

For a few weeks I lived in terror of banishment. Until I realized that the banishment had occurred already, and that in trying to appease the angry father and tend to the suffering children I had unwittingly turned myself into a strange old witch, begging to be let in.

There is a modern term for this kind of parenting. It is called “nesting.” However, in this understanding, both parents sometimes live in the home. In my situation, I am a permanent visitor, so that, for instance, upon falling ill, I return to a lonely bed ten stories high. There is a bedroom next to mine with three adorable beds.

They have been slept in once.

This afternoon I dreamt that I emptied the apartment. All my clothes, all the absurdly gorgeous, art deco-bohemian furnishings, gone. A couch. A place to practice. A pair of jeans and some books. Why?

In tears, hours later, it came to me:
My children will have no memory of this place. It’s just where Mama goes at night.
No Christmas.
No homework fights.
No movie nights or political diatribes they recall to their own children after I am dead.
No dinner table or heirlooms or a place to rest a tired body on holiday from University.

What will they remember?
The smell of their sheets on a hot summer night. The sounds in the hallway as their father turns out the lights, at exactly 11PM every night.
The kitchen with its gleaming black quartz and brilliant white cupboards (that I designed), and the hideous, comfortable table where they draw and fight and make endless messes.

Do you remember the opening scenes of Terrence Malick’s great masterpiece “The Tree of Life?”  The manner in which the Madonna-like Mrs. O’brien loved and mourned her children? The wind, the whispered phrases of love, grace, faith?
This. This is childhood. It is Origin. And birth. And Divine Love.

It is what I have known as a mother. It is all I’ve known.
The sky against a singing swing. The let-down of milk from heavy breasts. The grief-joy of each passing birthday. Small dresses and huge curls, minds of the infinite New.

Will they know?
Will they know me?




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And what of those times
you woke
and saw the moon
new and sharp
as a sickle
staring at you

and the joyous stars faded
while the white blade
and you
waited for the spinning night
to be stilled
by a heavy sun –



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I do not write anymore.
I do not write.
Lists fill my mind, purse, journal, which used to contain
The lists remain undone,
my hair shows strands
of silver.

I would find this beautiful on anyone
but this body,
the one I must live with, and watch
with the contempt of a house cat
who has lost her perch.

Do not worry, this is not a poem. Or an essay or a study
there is nothing scholarly witty or worthy in these lines
– a journal grants great indulgence. “It’s mine,” 
as my 4 year old might say.

These are the briefest jots of grief
I simply miss the act
of sitting with
and then dispensing with
thoughts along a digital page.

This is why I do not write.
In the last 2 months
I sold my house.
I searched for another
(43 unlocked doors for sale –
no sale)
And found myself with a full account
and an empty end point.

And this is why I do not write.
I have this Ex-Husband. Father to three
little children who grew within me
and now can somehow grow
without me.
The Ex-Husband (how does a person become an X?) prefers the three
small beings to be split down the middle,
two houses two lives two families…
and I am unsure
if this will not make for more than 6 huge problems:
Identity, Security, Consistency, Home(lessness), Displacement, Confusion –
in the age of the refugee
there are more than a few sorts…

And so I asked
begged bullied pleaded
for the little creatures to have 1 house life family. Avec moi.
“You’re dreaming.” He said.

Well… no one could deny or argue with that.

But… who is not dreaming?

My dreams are image and wisdom
pulled together by invisible synaptic string.
The string becomes a hum:
“the children need a home.
the children need a home, singular
Not in the singular, spectacular manner of fantaisie royale
just a simple home. One home. One room. One bed.
You must give this to them, as a womb outside your body.”

I did.
This is why I don’t (can’t) write anymore.
I took an apartment in a neighborhood filled with trees
a block or two from their fairytale school.
It is a flat with windows and a sunrise that
uncurls without impediment
every morning into my high bedroom
a wall of windows open
to the Eastern light.

The apartment is a place to sleep.
Keep my books.
My obscene amount of clothes.
It is a flat to hold my body during rest,
while I tend the children
at their father’s house (their Home)
during the days and evenings.

I have a beautiful flat
I am homeless
I am city-less
No country
or state
with this Ex
with this president
I have a beautiful flat
filled with boxes, neglect

My children have

And lest you think
I am filled with self-pity
or self-sacrifice
I beg the reader to remember:

a woman with three children
has lost her mind
to a complicated math:
three hearts, none
in her possession.
And as long as the three hearts
are beating as they should


it does not matter where her frame resides.

As I write these words
these petite
that reach for a meaning
the writer herself cannot grasp

I am text-fighting.
This is the primary manner
of communication, the chosen
of intimacy
my Ex

Two words
both sacred and necessary
and absent utterly
from gadgetry

Do you ever catch yourself
in the modern mirror?
Your reflection a recreation
and an editing
like a weak and fearful
in the ether
of the digital world?

There is no love.
This, a cocooning comfort
to the man
whose rage used to grip my thighs
(“fucking” he always called it)

Do I hate him?
I do not know
what hate is.
But I do know
what fucking feels like.
A scar.

I told
a psychiatrist
that my soul
is peripatetic
is alien,”
and he stared at me
the way they do

like dancers
they train for an expressiveness –
the grace of wisdom
even if they
stand naked
with stupidity
when the initials are stripped from the name.

This is what I needed to say:
I am cast
There is no family for this life or body or heart
my children live in a home ringed with spiked wire
and all I do is bleed in the crawling
my torso is mud
vertical lines of blood.

I cross him
every day to reach them
he is a man one does not cross.

I am on the run.
ownership is alien
or dangerous
for a mother with no family
a stranger
a stranger
a stranger
one day I might hold them
in peace
and whisper the Gayatri
in their spiraling sleeping ears
hair damp with dreams –
I wide awake as dawn nears.

How to Kill a Category


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How to Kill a Category

“It is time the stone made an effort to flower,
time unrest had a beating heart.
It is time it were time.

It is time.”
   ~~ Paul Celan, Corona

There are hints dropped along the way, as a particularly astute gardener might notice on a high summer afternoon: her plants have in a flashing moment reached the unnameable summit, and she senses a descent through the brilliant crest of leaf or petal, smell of autumn in the root.

When does it arrive, this crossing-over? How can one awaken to the fact of one’s own somnulance, and yet remain anesthetized? It is an act, or a process (and is a process a series of acts, stop-time, or does there exist a secret fluidity one cannot name or see or grasp….) of being patient, doctor, weeping relative, pain specialist, all at one time. And then the roles break apart from the pressure of their own deceptions and fear…. what remains? What remains?

I think of Paul Celan, especially these days, the days of loss so heavy it sinks beneath the net – there is no pulling this grief toward the light. The clown who dances on a prince’s grave, immigrants treated as vermin, flirtations with weapons so stupidly lethal we might be erased like chalk. Despair, despair, despair… language the only respite, which reveals itself, always, as Celan knew so intimately, as failed experiment.

His suicide, after so many years digging through memories unbearable – his mother, who taught him as a child to hold with reverence the language of her murderers, slaughtered at the camps, his father dead from disease – he raised to the light delicate insights, carved from the toughest brutality, that defined and gave shape to what amounted to a New World, the life of After: after the War, after the Camps, after the sight of what modern humans can do to one another. He stood, or crouched, and faced the blood-strewn storm, and gave us a language to surround, occasionally comprehend, an unimaginable context.

And then he turned from it; his suicide, to me, is a denial of language, a denial, finally, of one’s capacity for strength and endurance. He haunts me, as I see the cracks grow in my own psyche and form: my own suffering, the suffering of our brutalized grand Earth, of refugees of women of children, of my own children – when does strength become a facade holding up a long dead corpse, false scaffolding of Self?

And it has always been thus: language is an illusion, it is a mere category of invention, a graceful artifice at best, a lie of hope at worst. We need it. But do we? There are sculptures in India of Shiva wearing a necklace of skulls. Each skull represents a letter from Sanskrit, its connectedness represents finality, an impenetrable death. Perhaps the death is a metaphor, and when one accepts our addiction to language (the search to be other than Other) there exists a passing through to peace, internal strength, and acceptance. Or perhaps the death is literal, and when one realizes the false promise of our needed interconnectedness the soul fades, the body slouches to the highest bridge.

I am in the shadows of knowing-not~knowing. Divorce, the disability of my daughter, the stolen Presidency, all our rage and ignorance that seem to only grow with the years, despite our intellectual sophistication: it is too much, and yet we endure, sometimes even with a winking glimpse of Joy, Ananda, Bliss-state.

I do wonder what Mr. Celan would make of the white supremacist in the White House, what he would make of our astonishingly stupid forms of communication: twitter, Face Book, email, text. None of it human, none of it even language, really.

When I stumbled upon the full force of my ex-husband’s dislike of me, it was through the pathetic medium of text (the irony of the phrase – a text is rarely text), oddly not far from Celan’s home. It was a moment so filled with horror that life became, for a second or a minute or a day, electric with Pain. Perhaps it is this sort of electricity, the sort made of grief and struggle and rage, that spurs an artist on, despite the dullness of depression nipping at his heels. And when the current fades to black… what remains?

And now we are 4


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And now we are 4

Please tell me, winter moon or god or sun-at-dawn,
how am I to possess this
beating heart
exhausted arms
tight breaths –  intake, release,
the pause between –
aging limbs

and bring to fruition
small beings
in the effulgent
and Deserved Joy
of Life Unfolding

while I
am an etching incomplete
no center
no touch
portrait of a Solitude

a more generous god
only during those
last few
precious… slow… breaths.

Tell me,
how shall I be
their marbled wisdom
and warm-ember-hearth

when all I know
is wind?



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This evening my daughter
(her name
a light
for countless worlds)

asked at dusk:
“Why does the moon
follow us?”

– the word
a weightless dry-winged
before it descends
to stamen, petal,

“When things are far, far away
they look as though
they are coming with us.”

marriage –

There are Many Types of Resurrection


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There are Many Types of Resurrection

Thanksgiving Evening.
Alone for the first time in 17 years on the strange holiday. What is Thanksgiving anyway, particularly now, under the false rule of a small idiot whose primary claim to power is simply that he wants it, and has achieved it largely through crude tactics of overt racism?

As a child I made turkeys out of finger tracings, and read stories about benign pilgrims being taught to raise corn by mindlessly beneficent Indians. Thanksgiving, I vaguely understood, was about the first people on this continent – well, the people who counted – figuring out how to feed themselves in their great New Land. It’s a bizarrely Protestant celebration, both suffocating in its formality and messy underneath, and it didn’t take long in my girlhood to see that my archly blue-blooded grandparents were celebrating something slightly more macabre than abundance.

Now I see the holiday, its history and its traditional execution, as more a victory dance than beautiful obeisance to the incalculable riches of this Earth; gone is any reverence for Harvest, which thanks to Monsanto doesn’t exist anymore anyway, and in its place lies that great American disease, obscene gluttony, which extends beyond the dinner table to Black Friday sales of shit no one needs to begin with.

Something tells me, though, that our man-baby in the White House is still cutting out those finger tracings, and counting down the days until his Lady of Education, Betsy DeVos, can issue a decree that writes the presence of original peoples straight out of existence. And then the day can complete its (de)volution to being little more than a command to eat and shop.



Such are the musings of an aging cynical progressive sitting by herself on this particular Thursday evening in late November. Underneath it all, though, is the haunting reality: I miss my children. I miss my (X)husband. I miss having a family. And I am exhausted from this solitude and the grief that threatens daily to metastasize to a full “episode” of Major Depression. I think, actually, I am there…. and those of us who live in this territory also know that one episode is usually more like a series, and that there are many seasons ahead.

I loathe the sentiment of the Holiday, and my loathing, I know, protects my bruised ache for love, for companionship, for some kind of guarantee that I, we, might get out of this thing with someone rooting for us, remembering us; “let me leave,” I think we all mutter to ourselves, “an imprint.”

Buddha said: “Leave no trace,” and instinctively we recognize a truth that begins and ends with these three words. And yet still we stamp our feet in the wet earth, hoping, needing, something to stay behind.

—    —-          ——          —-            —-              ——           ——-         —

I despise potatoes. I despise myself if I eat bread, pie, or cheese. And I don’t eat feathered creatures. But I love my children. I love my (X)husband. And despite my years of being intellectually and emotionally averse to the sentimental trappings of holidays, I feel right now like a half-dressed raw urchin standing in an empty wind-swept field. Nothing but mind for miles, and that sort of vista, at least for me, is enough to launch a free-fall beyond the strata of sentiment and grief, all the way down to mere madness.

I have developed an eccentric method for keeping the keening witch within appeased, at least for a few hours. It is a waste, of time, of energy, of life, and it will pass. For now, though, the technique allows me to live in my mind without losing it.

It’s like cards, only with real estate. Pick a state, any state. Well… I must admit to cheating my hand, and skewing hard toward places of great greenery and tremendous bodies of water. Connecticut is aces.

And then, as if my hand bore the heavy diamond of a newlywed, I slowly, with great intention, search the MLS for small farms, historic homes, bucolic villages. On a bad day I’ll even look at schools.

As the game progresses, it ceases to be just lonely fantasy: it transmutes to prayer, perhaps a chant, that I believe will drift magically to (X)husband’s closed heart. “Look. This home has wide planked darkened oak floors and a pure white kitchen with skylights overhead. Outside are trees and a treehouse already in place, a small barn down the road. The attic begs to be a school room for 3 children and there are a few acres of land to roam.

It’s so big. It’s so big and lovely and filled already with children and childhood memories (the lizard that got out, the owl in the attic, the shrieking joy of forbidden rollerskates on slick floors) and I can build a studio and teach and you can work from home, and really, really it’s so perfect and grand and old that you, my husband, will melt into it and I can truly disappear into practice, our children, our bedroom, my studies, that you will hardly know I am there. Seamless, I will be, like the plank floors that lead in perfect patterning to every room.

You will hardly know I’m there. If you can just look. At this House.”

And so through the children and the land and the home, this shroud of invisible thread, and the melodic chanting of this sacred image, my life is returned to me: family, lover, home. And the shroud transforms to tapestry, vivid with silken color.

It breathes.



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Little girls
know a certain sort
of alone-ness –
empty blue-white
summer sky

a single plane

flying high, high, high

The thin plume
trails behind
widens and opens

like a single wing
lightly feathered
against the domed sky –

It is
the moment
remembered lifetimes later
as the small upward-turned mouth

they do not know
my name –



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One thousand petals
fell to her feet
as she rose
from damp sheets
to a sailor’s rope

or a bough
thorned and heavy
with violet, rose, Arum-lily –
scent of fading lilac
woven to the whiskey-breath

of her lover,
whose eyes
drifted around her
serpent spine
like smoke from a fire pit.

A liquid dawn
drew shadows of
blackened lines along
her cheek, throat,
pale chilled limbs
S-curve down the middle –

He took his thumbnail,
beneath the shoulder blade
of hip
full moon
on each knee.

Crown of dripping blossoms
laid upon her head
she knelt
to a hand at rest
’round her neck:
to king
for a queen.

Upon Arrival


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Upon Arrival

At dawn
the black-based
grey-rose clouds climb
the shoulders of unseen light.

is either the result
the cause
or another name

for Division,
as when energy
reproduces itself
through decay.

Night is like this:
diving into itself, tight ombre
knot of shade to shadow
to soot spilled

over flat meadow.
I have heard those
who rest their hands
upon the dead and dying

say that death comes
most often
just before the dawn,
as if a body strained and
weary from the foreign effort
of its own leave-taking

cannot bear to witness
one more
astonishing resurrection.