Christine

  
Christine drifted away somehow. Our friendship was brief, maybe just 8th grade–and not all of it. But I remember regarding her with pleasure, feeling the oily warmth in deeply inhaling a thick smokey waft of spicy jasmine incense while listening to something folky on the stereo, putting me in that dreamy edge of sleep and fantasy. Christine distilled the essence of lavender and lovely. 

I was tentative with her, wanting to be her friend too much, not for my loneliness so much as the urge to be near her, in her presence. The incandescent beauty marked by imperfection and perfection in angles; perfect white squares for teeth and the violet of her eyes were like the sheen of sweat on the lean definition, muscles of a lover’s back, sleek liquid–inviting. She made me feel pelvic warmth without sexuality. 

My induction in sexual knowledge was yet to come though the advancement toward it was steaming with chance, sensation, hint, samplings, and, by the end of my days as Christine’s friend, shrapnel. Remnants of longing stayed with me, accumulating in my chest, and by 14, I was full blossom cloistered in my own dreams and sadness. 

I wrote, read, sang and listened to music. Those were the black and gray years, darkened rooms, smoke, incense and fusion rock, endless albums of continuous synthesized pianos and riffing guitars and basses over long trilled scales across the length of the taut strings of the instrumentals and strands that united a heavily rocked out adolescent of the 70s. I felt. The teeming moody years hammocked me.

Love is a Left Handed Lie

  
More curious than the man who desires this life-possessing material, the complete mind-body of another along with other chattel he claims, is the woman who falls for him. A woman who mind-swoons when he says, “I would have devoured you…built ice cream banana splits inside you and made you watch me eat it out of you.” Who is she who yearns to be possessed? She tiptoes the schism of fantasy and reality. How much of fantasy is a defrayal of reality, an inversion of sorts, whereby the ego is both inflated and deflated, while lived existence saunters its hips in between. The fuel of not only the libido but of imagination, creativity and desire resides in that longing and play, to offset the anguish of mortality and suffering small and large in any given thought, moment or action. 

Nietzsche may have written rightly about suffering as the only link to worth, to creativity and substantiation, but no one likes it any more so knowing it is both means and ends, the value to living. To cede to possession is to return cocooned to the womb, protected, oblivious and cushioned in amniotic pre-knowing. The yearning is primal, like the urge to retract blooming petals of the reaching morning roses sun blushed and vital, so as to erase having opened to the world–ever. 

The elementary years

  
I recall the Stet box in fourth grade. Mr. Duhamel, who tortured Danny Stetner, the behavior problem in class, exiled him to a space at the back of the class behind the rest of us who sat at our desks dully and learned. He was sent there so often, Mr. Duhamel called that space of random books and classroom storage, the Stet box, til one spring day, Danny Stetner got up during class, hopped over the barrier to his box and jumped out of the ground level open windows and ran home–I presume. 

Mr. Duhamel left sometime during that year and we had Mr. Ebert who had a red face with a severe acne condition. His face got redder and his voice cracked when he raised it each time the students ran roughshod over him, which was daily. 

I only now wonder whether Mr. Duhamel was too much of a child abuser even for back then when corporal punishment was not outlawed yet and kids could still get a boxed ear or a blackboard eraser thrown at them in class. A far cry from the classroom of today where trigger issues and micro aggressions have entered the vocabulary of students and educators alike on college campuses, cramping the style and free speech of educators with censored words and ideas. Don’t teach about rape crimes in a criminal law class–craziness like that. 

One week 

  
He keeps referring back to school days

And clinging to his child

Fidgeting and bullied

His crazy wisdom holding onto something wild

He asked me to be patient

Well I failed

“Grow up!” I cried

And as the smoke was clearing he said

“Give me one good reason why”

(“Strange Boy” excerpt–Joni Mitchell. Happy Birthday, JM!!)

 

Day 7

I was never an outcast. If I was, I never noticed. However, something mysterious was apparently amiss in the first grade to warrant seeing the school psychologist a few times. I vaguely remember. Dr. Richardson, a thin, blonde professional-looking woman in a suit, something notable for the year 1966 to even me at my meager six years or so. She was kind, thin with narrow, burnt red lips. She made me feel comfortable as much as possible given that I was ultimately aware that I joined the good doctor for some reason I neither understood nor cared for. What was wrong?

 I only knew that I sat at a desk stationed near the teacher, Mrs. Moynahan, and suffered from the angst of not knowing what to do at times, lost inside myself. Not knowing the way, the code, the proper steps or a place to start always sliced deeply, caused undue distress. Missing information meant I had no control over my environment and fulfilling others’ expectations of me. 

I recall the first day of kindergarten not wanting my mother to leave me, and she having to wait outside the classroom while I was inside knowing she was out there, or thinking she was, and even considering the possibility that she was not actually outside the door but making me believe she was. That latter idea, the fact that I could not know whether she was out there was more distressing, keeping me on the edge of tears more so than the abandonment itself. Abandonment fears were not in my mental vocabulary. Being deceived piqued my radar more than a fear of being left, which rarely occurred to me.

On the first day, kindergarten felt like fear and restrained tears, despite the sweet, slow-moving, wide-girthed, dark-skinned Mrs. Dudley, who cajoled song from us five-year olds, cheery angled songs that induced amnesia, like the distractions any adult relies on to detour a child’s unwanted emotional expression. Do you know the muffin man? 

I knew being left with questions. But that was all I recall–that and my trips to the psychologist in first grade, moving up two classes in the school smarts hierarchy in fourth grade, being teased by Mr. Muller in fifth grade for having the same name as someone in a newspaper clipping who married someone with the same name as a boy in the class, Robert Pitt. I was mortified. I remember having Denise Eccleston back in class with me then after missing her in fourth grade, the year of my upgrade. She was my best pal in third grade; we loved silliness and laughter. She was my one good friend in fifth. I only needed one–one at a time. 

Pico’s Postulation

  

And I wondered if that old Italian philosopher Pico was right about humankind’s dignity and creative nature, the will of the gods, that if a man chooses to wallow with the pigs or dance with the divine, so he might do either according to how his nature blossoms from his choices. I wondered about pregnant possibilities and free will, humans as chameleons, shapers of their own destiny and fulfillers of their potential as they absorb what is around them, choosing to be like bats and hang upside down in a cave or cravenly ritualize baby killing or kiss the feet of the holy one. How free is the will of a beaten child, however, or a man gone mad from the war?

 
credit: wikipedia

 

   

    

Buzz

  

Twirling silence spun in whirring generators

refrigeration unit hums and frozen hours,

pumps and siphons, pins and drums all agog

thrumming fullness into empty space. 

The music paused, would-be customers pass,

glancing, penetrating a vitrine store front,

peering into promise of some other time.

I witness the throng of pulsing gravity, 

cocooned in chewy, thick combinatory air–

warmed, tossed, settled, clinging to steel.

A noisy silence bathes my skin, electric

charged, solitary, trapped and buzz coated.

Time is irreverant, caring little for the sacred–

breath, love, chance, and tones inaudibly clear.

Day 4

  
What I knew about me back then, at our separation, was that I was good with kids, a nurturer, and had ambitions.  Driven, determined, stubborn and tenacious, I was good at school. From my mother I learned that I needed to have the last word. I knew that I was an avid reader and got lost in books and fantasy, that I conquered books even as they slayed me. Dictionary in hand, I painfuly trudged through The Hobbit in sixth grade, just like the burglar himself wearily and anxiously trudged through Middle Earth. That same year, Edgar Allen Poe taught me that I loved stories and had a vivid imagination, thanks to my haughty pompous pet-procuring teacher who read the class Poe stories each day for a week.

I knew I loved words and writing and was a good speller. I knew that I had an eye for boys at a young age; a sixth grade kissing birthday party spinning the bottle and playing post office taught me so.  Stealing my first kiss on the soft lips of John Hoffner, a boy I mysteriously found attractively full lipped and soft cheeked, I was inducted into the secret rites of the heart as harp, strings, tones and eternal whisperings from the beginning of time. Who could articulate why some boy looked good in 6th grade? The world of boys and kissing was enrapturing.

I knew that I had a fighter feminist spirit. While I did not march or take up any banners, I grew up with an entitlement to equality branded on my will, an adopted militancy that girls should not be mere slaves to men the way my mother was to my father. At 12, I asked in earnest self-righteous anger, why my mother put up with his abuse: nasty, virulent words and waiting on him hand and foot. Her bemused response that I would understand when I was older did not assuage the anger.

I knew that I was loyal and believed in monogamy then. I also knew that I did not believe I owned “feminine,” me who spent high school in coveralls and construction boots, choosing my clothes as protest and comfort. I have been often labeled earthy, and I was with a man who adored chic.

When we met, I was carrying 15 pounds too many even for my 5 feet and 8 inches, which allowed me more leeway than my shorter sisters. However, most of that weight was lost by the time we separated, the result of over a decade of conscientious health and fitness. I gave up smoking and started working out, dancing in college, then aerobicizing when that came into vogue in the early 80s, after which I took up running, tennis and eventually soccer. I was active and hard bodied at the time of our separation–lean, firm and tall.

So when I first sat in a therapist’s chair and declared I had problems with my femininity–something I dreamed or believed at the time, not even knowing what that meant but suspecting it had some critical role in JM’s lack of desire for me—and the therapist, an older guy probably in his late 50’s (I was 28), said, “No you don’t. Just look at you. You’re wearing a skirt and a nice blouse…” I didn’t really hear the rest because I became incensed. How dare he tell me what I was or was not! I left and never returned.

23 Days: an excerpt

  
He and I would kiss on the couch after smoking weed and drinking wine. I drank my first bottle of Margeaux with him, straight out of the bottle. It was 75 bucks back in 1979, steep for my minimum wage budget, and purchased from a corner liquor store that sold it at room temperature on a circular rack with other bottles lesser known. It obviously had not been properly preserved in the coolness of a cave or even a refrigerator. 

However, one sip for even one uninitiated to Dionysus’ treats at the time, I thought the description “liquid pearls” fit. That was my immediate impression and it was divine, almost as luscious as kissing those wine-soaked lips, fleshy, soft, sweet, and conversational. He knew the art of kissing, that it is a conversation not a monologue or a preview to the stabbing penetration to come. He caressed and rested softness on mine, kissed my lips as well as my tongue, no hard sucking or mindless tongue windshield wiping my poor JM switched on whenever we kissed. 

Exactly Ten Raindrops Fell Today

  

Delaying the inevitable chore,

distasteful, disagreeably utile,

cracking open a creative divide,

writing mercenary words to eat.

Powerful procrastination widens

my eyes smoldering laser-see

the clouds churning charged,

ready to release and pour rain.

The storyline unfolds just then:

He had a girlfriend at the time.

Saigon had fallen two years prior.

So, his coming trailed calamity.

She walked the color of caress,

peaked fem-enigmatic effusion,

lithe boned and delicate fleshly.

Her name, a chilly winter song,

juxtaposing a bronzed-fire will,

she led him to the sun wingless.

And I watched behind a column

I constructed far too narrowly

to hide the heavy haunting me,

the girth of stony mind sleights.

I, velveted brown-eyed insecure, 

peered around an Ionic pillar thin,

to gaze on a gazer, distant-drawn

drinking her gauzy gray-blue sea.

His eyes pierced her silken skin

hollowed her safe harbor’s vapor.

And there he knelt, nose in the air

sensing the suck of the sea’s loss

ebbing tides of futile passage…

and so it begins, drops descending,

disrupting imagery as I trace them,

all ten of them mustered in distress

great blustery burst of all but naught.

Like sitting by the window waiting

for inspiration and steely wit to spin

commercial cogs of nil to the world.

Boxed Orchids

  

Gone from view, vacant stares through empty glass

where boxed orchids now hold your station

by the rise of not enough occasion 

and too many glances past.

I once held your gaze through the reflected glare,

the sun obscuring encircled simmering eyes

unrelenting in the search, seeking surmise 

somehow, and now your portrait still

replaced ironically in nature’s pride

perched on sills

peering inside 

out where you refused to shine.