Please read the rest here.
Please read the rest here.
September 12, 2016
The deserted parking lot on a Monday night at 7:50 p.m., one lone woman standing in an empty store, peering out the window into the low-lit night, it looks like the opening scene of a horror movie. Time freezes as the camera zeroes in on the woman’s catatonic face, drugged with the silent motionless night. The light peering from the cracked-open door leading to the store back room casts menace into the scene.
Will the spell be broken?
The painted prancing orange Corgi silhouette on the dog training parlor next door leaps to no one, nowhere. Odd. No clear launching or landing points for the dog–seems implausible. I’m not sure I’d take my dog there with that emblematic greeting: teach your dog to leap from nowhere to nowhere. Eerie and unsafe.
Like paying someone to write lame stories—pumping her creativity, not the store coffers. What should I do? Take to the boulevard with one of those huge arrows to twirl, dancing customers into the store or causing accidents by the distraction?
Who would mind the store?
Perhaps the old man picking through the trash in front of the store could keep an eye on the place while I wrestle up business. Ah, but he’s destroyed the horror movie ambiance with his fruitless search. But no, not picking through the trash (that’s reserved for the 50-something bedraggled woman in the wheelchair right around 9 p.m.), he’s throwing out trash and heading in!
“Did you see it?!!”
“What? See what?! (Yes! Some action heading my way).
“The rain. It’s raining. I even had to use my wipers to swipe it away once.”
“I’m sorry, so, so sorry!”
She apologized like this several times over the two-hour class that had begun at 7:20 a.m. that Tuesday in 2001. Her words flew automatically, frantically from her mouth—apologizing. But she might as well have wrung her hands or put her face in her hands, saying she didn’t understand—like the rest of us.
We were stunned. I made them write about it. Some could just lay their heads atop their papers on those small college desk/table units. I was teaching a comp class in the then Home Ec building on campus. It has since changed to Writer’s Row.
The kid from Texas was the first to read. I still imagine him with a cowboy hat on his head, but that could not be true, just too stereotypical. His writing was full of anger and blame. He didn’t say he hated Muslims, but he knew someone had to pay. Something had to be done about who got into the country and how. Fear.
Someone else read. And then she said it again. The young twenty-ish Syrian woman with the hijab, pretty face, stand-out from the first day of class a couple weeks before because of her dark coverings, often full body black and flowing.
She was in tears. She faced the class with pleading in her eyes, distorting her cringed face, tight and angled with panic. Pain. Fear. No, they won’t understand. Saudi Arabians the news plastered over the burning tower images.
Before I left for school that morning, so early that I sleep-walked into the spare room where from 5 to 8 my husband watched the market, I first saw but did not register. Seeing me enter his lair, he pointed to the burning towers on the t.v. and said, “Look at this.” I looked. I then turned to the shower while thinking that it was too early for disaster movies and wasn’t he supposed to be working, anyhow?
When I came back into the room, showered and dressed, he said, “No, look at this. The second tower just blew.” And I looked. My mouth fell open involuntarily though my brain barely comprehended. How could it have happened? Why? How? I had to go teach.
By the third time she said it, I spoke firmly but with a slight chuckle, “Unless you had something to do with it, you don’t have to apologize. Though I understand why you want to.” She quieted.
It wasn’t long afterward, maybe three days after the united great good will of the U.S. turned to the business of blame and retribution. The airstrikes were already in the making. And there at the college, a political science teacher was disciplined, maybe even resigned, after pointing in the direction of a Middle Eastern looking group of students in the 200-seat forum during his lecture about something other than the events of the previous days and boomed, “You, you did it.”
September 8, 2016
I’ve always had a rocky relationship with my knees. Maybe it was my mother who first brought notice to the knee knocking. She once remarked that she had fleshy knees. I have the same knees. The surrounding knee flesh on the inner leg side puffs noticeably, like a mutant swollen skin tag.
Luckily, my era saw the maxi and midi skirts, either ankle length or below the knee length skirts and dresses. I recently emptied a closet full of midi skirts I wore professionally with a smart suit jacket, the uniform I wore to my law office. Like the law practice itself, those styles belong to a bygone era.
Now the mini and maxi remain, the latter my preference of course. The knees.
I recently wore a mini-ish dress, a sleeveless, painted, loosely-body-conforming sunset dress I bought in Hawaii a dozen or so years ago. I took a long look at my knees peering out from just under the hem of the midnight blue portion of the dress (sunset waters), and still did not like my fleshy knees, especially now that they’re accompanied by crepe-y skin sliding down to meet them. Aging ain’t pretty.
But it could be. While I know I’m perpetuating the cultural lore of youth beauty worship by disliking my knees, hiding them most of my life, I still wore the dress–with only a little trepidation. The beauty of aging lies in Helen Mirren style fuck-its. The gorgeous feeling of not giving a shit. But maybe that trite image–the rebel 50-something–is culturally produced too.
I’d like to take my fat knee to the crotch of cultural dictates, the media and marketing agencies. This fifty-something raises her age-spotted middle finger and says, “Fuck you!”
Right on. My gut reacted that way to these adorned, bordered words on my morning Facebook scroll. At second blush, however, this sounded grumpy. It’s the “leave me alone” part. A command that demands aloneness inevitably appears angry, sad, just a bad decision. I mean, who besides me would want to be alone? Well, many more might be better off if they were. They might not only be okay with it, but crave it after a while.
The world is always too much with us whether we live in the bush on the African plains or in New York city’s heart. We toil. We care. We think about how, what or if we feel from the moment our eyes open upon awakening to their closing in sleep.
We think of doing. We do. Our minds embalm themselves in constant “voice,” mostly noise. Our sensations form perceptions and the senses are always on, no matter how much we try to shut them down, tune them out or mute them with volume reducers (drugs, alcohol, love, food…).
We are lost in a thrumming hum of sensate being. How can we ever be alone? There is no alone, no solitude, except for sleep or death, and those only by outside appearance. Who knows who or what accompanies us in either? Our minds are constantly populated with people, thoughts, memories and plans with, about or in avoidance of those we carry.
We are never alone.
No wonder we’re tired.
So the demand to be alone is necessary. It seems nearly impossible to accomplish without intolerably long, hard dedication to removing thoughts–all of them–in practiced meditation.
And those–people or thoughts–with bad intentions whether direct or indirect, conscious or unconscious, it’s all too much. Each of us is on overload merely in the pace of one moment to the next–the bombardment of living with others, even among nature only. Nature is not benevolent. It too harbors malignancies, intended or not.
But those who move bent on destruction (think of the fearful-angry vibrations they emit and hit us with like sonar) overburden us beyond our sitting, resting, active capacities and raise our hackles, elevating our hormones with alarm bells. We, poised in self-preservation, fight or flight, consume and are consumed by nothing but the bad intent, defense in crush or aggression, certainly guardedness. Where does that lead?
Not to equanimity, nor to conditions amenable to hearing the silence, being with solitude, clearing the mind. We become filled with the chatter-ful greed, jealousy, deceit, mischief or envy of another. We endure gossip, lies and other violence. Our skin tingles and tightens with breath, tremor and howl.
We may suffer with our lives momentarily or forever.
It is not an unreasonable request–to hold out a stiff, unbending arm that impedes the onslaught of another–whether that takes the form of someone bumping into us, screaming hate or fear at our eyes, or onrushing our bodies to steal or otherwise injure.
We can act. We can will it, say it: “Leave. Don’t come near. Let me remove you from my mind. I can do it with or without your consent.”
In the end, it–all of it–is in our heads. Nothing. Everything.
So, usher in aloneness. Yes. I’m willing.
A Room of my Own, a ten minute write I published here was published today on the site that inspired me to begin the daily habit of ten minutes to drain-write. I’m finding the creative sprints have opened possibilities, even whistle beckoning to begin or finish those bigger projects.
Read the piece here. Hope you enjoy… Again.
The music never stops outside and inside my head. Sometimes the melody pounds in time with a pumping, thumping drum beat of a heart. Sometimes the violins screech and thrust me deep in a Psycho movie scene, stabbed over and over again with high pitched wails and screams, decibels higher than eardrum capacity.
But it’s just the neighbor toddlers yowling and the dog yapping. And that spinal column creep of approaching slippered steps of an interruption about to happen. My neck tenses awaiting the final knuckle knock knock, a rapid five or six in a row.
And all the while, the pings and bings of phones, IPads and computers tick away at flesh, flying skin chips scattered everywhere. My attention shattered in shard millenia. That’s what it’s like to write at home. Life music blasting me and my mind all day.
But my mind has steeled itself impenetrable against so much more than noise before this. My constitution has weathered barn storms and hurricanes far greater, like three, grueling, sleepless days of exams preceded by years and years of mind-numbing tedious study. And then untold hours, thousands upon thousands, invested in a slow-bleeding, fast burning career life-suckingly anchored, financially and personally, that eventually landed me inside the court house walls.
Dismantling a person brick by brick, thorn by thorn, thought by thought, nerve by nerve, takes a long time. I got away with a quick turn, only 56 years building and breaking. Some take a life time. And it’s not over for me—or anyone. We turn like the worms we are.
No lives matter, not in the sense that we think they do. They merely breathe and do and be—just like everything else. The rock and me, we stream steady, hold our ground and pass unnoticed by most. Human fate, being just another assembly of matter and particles. I don’t understand why it feels so different to be human than to be a rock.
It’s five in the morning; I should be alone,
the only one up in this house,
as I finish what I started twenty-four hours ago,
this poetry marathon, a sleepless creative
hell of my own making, only because I have
to work in two hours and then fry myself on
a soccer field after that–ah but sleep.
She’s just around the turned corner of the morning.
But who do I hear creaking the floorboards above me?
It’s she who sometimes doesn’t sleep at night.
The insomnia came after the concussion, that kick
in the head just over one year ago.
I saw her asleep at eight, while I was on poem fourteen.
I’m not surprised to hear her stomp, stomp, pull open
a drawer, stomp, stomp, and plop into her squeaky bed.
I had forgotten how quiet the night was in my room
when she was away at college up north, playing soccer.
But at this hour, this sacred sleep hour when no one
arises or goes to bed, I lay in my bed, IPad propped on
my naked belly, the screen’s light, casting a shadow on
the ceiling while the fan blows white noise about me,
and struggle through the last “poem” of this marathon,
the final, number twenty-four, for which I am thankful.
Post script: This was the last poem of a grueling 24 hours, and as the hours plodded on, my poetry became more prose blips or journal entries than poetry, aside from the form.
So, is this really poetry? What makes a poem? Inquiring minds need to know.
A room in this old house, holds history–
mine, yours ours and theirs.
This room is where I sleep nights;
it’s where I awaken each day to
slatted light from vertical blinds
that open to a window laden with
orange tree leaves and ripened
fruit, the color of the sun setting
on the Pacific not more than a mile
from this very room in this home.
Its cornflower blue walls contain
my thoughts and prayers, my
ujjayi breath, sometime despair.
This oaken floor steadies my
bare feet, wears my yoga mat,
including the cat on top who
skrick scratches her claws in it.
But it wasn’t always my cave;
it belonged to others before me.
Two nieces slept here, the last
who chose the wall colors, and
the one before who now sleeps
in my parents’ home, while they
sleep in mine now, in their room,
which used to be the play room
for loud television shows and toys
and kool aid colored couches for
friends to jump on and destroy.
And before that, it was the bedroom
my husband designed and had built
by a friend who charged too much and
stole his baby grand piano on pretext.
And before it was our bedroom, where
our children were conceived and I
labored in our big blue sunken jacuzzi
tub beneath the bay window and lime
stone tiles surrounding the midnight blue,
it was an office converted from a garage,
where his business began selling hardware,
which eventually turned to software and an
office elsewhere, which he sold to find
more fulfilling work, which he still seeks.
But when my parents moved in, we moved
the bed, desk, dresser, night table and lamps
into my room, the room I share with no one
except the dog, a few cats and the constant
turnstile traffic of inquirers and visitors living
in and outside the house, my room, the hub,
with its Picasso print of woman-dove face in
black and white, who resembles my oldest
daughter even though I bought that print
twenty years before her birth, and now that
she’s twenty herself, she tattooed that face
on her left arm, just like it appears on my
bedroom wall, above the hand painted
poster that asks, “Is there no way out of the
mind?”, purchased and overpriced by a
friend of my daughter’s who painted and
sold it to me after she returned from rehab.
And the Van Gogh with the gilt frame, huge
hanging above my bed, well that was a gift
from my nephew when he was only 23, and
he knew I loved art and so wrapped this big
old Starry Night print and gave it to me, so
that’s why it’s there framed above my head,
garish and cliché but sentimentally stationed.
Because my room holds pictures of my girls,
and a fan that cools me summers and a
heater that warms me winters, and dozens
of ceramic boxes and knick knacks and the
remains of my jewelry box, what wasn’t
stolen by someone who knew the dog
well enough not to get bitten as an intruder.
This room holds hours of frustration, and
ideas, poems and graded essays, years of
reading and writing, drawing, coloring and
crocheting, fretting and forgetting, crying
and laughing, the entire history of a house,
its inhabitants, furnishings, we call home.