Stillness Still

What shall I do when my skin pickles and my mind dries splintered?

I won’t stare into dirty window panes.

What shall I do when my eyeballs glitch shudder open-shut, right to left?

I won’t run, slaughter, spin out, or crash in stupor-ful grim.

Where shall I go when cars slam openings cabin space so tight it pierces skin?

To nowhere regret drives home.

How shall I survive the sandwiched time of somatic stares and twitching sleep–

unparalleled movement unceasingly on?

By leaving love notes in your lunch box and writing letters home.

Why do we contrive without power un-surrendering ourselves to the perpetual?

We won’t let the wheel go, let the world spin a’wheel.

Which is in? Which is out? 

What matters?

When will the uncleaved door bend, ope-crack and whistle in the sizzling windy train of space, 

belly breathe hoary air eons long, trellised and clinging to cilial body, shivering sensoranticipatorily?

When still–

Yet still–

Stillness is.

 

Pixabay: waterstillnesswoodnets

Sunday Morning, Pink and Black: Ten for Today


Awake. Dark room, light shivering between slatted tears in sleep’s cloth curtain, no,

It’s not cold. 

Frozen eyes, shuttered left, off kilter for Sunday morning’s churchyard calm, dazed and scarcely hunted.
 
It feels encrusted shut, my eye, right, no left–at the shake of a quiet mind’s head. 

I’m not sick.

It’s just…just…not like a Sunday. 

Swollen, itchy, red…no, I feel pink but not like a wisp of ultra violet setting rays into the dusk.

Like pulled cotton candy, taut, sticky, stretched to disappearing.

I have pink eye.

It’s red and puffy, and the itch that can’t be scratched for the contagion that she brings.

I’m catching.

Do I call in, call up, call out this small disease, this lodged discomfort, virulent invader?

I look it up.

Warning signs, good sense and no regrets; I confess to all I anticipate in a day’s walk-about, 

a Sunday.

“I…I have pink eye. No, I think my hands touching my eye, touching you.” Can I see you without touching you?
 
Will your money be repulsed, sweet-toothed craving not crusty but cultured,

the dissonance like shimmied NO, a gulp, grimace and gag.

I should stay.

But I go, and I lie without guilt, smile without repercussion, moan without regret and leave, sailing

like the marine layer over our beach city, puffy, cloudy, windy and cool-breezy could care less.

I’ve planted seeds now.

The growing season well nigh past still yields a muddy crop, sunken, aphid-riddled, shriveled dawn.

I took camera digitally clicked snapshots.

Thick waist sloped into fleshy hips, fortresses to meaty buttock questions to the sheets.

Am I asleep? 

Or am I just pretending you loved me kindly, tenderly with your chestnut grin and molten eyes,
 
clear, clean and molasses.
 
No, not pink. Ink. Like night, pintip pupil black.

Bars and Beyond: Ten for Today


Noisy bars bring them out, words, flyby’s, glances, guffaws and shouts,

The teeming television barrage: run, skate, tackle, hit, fly, and fall.

It’s all that motion that sickens me, I think, causes me to open the wrong door, 

Trying to get out, the populous din of greasy chomps and cheer, too much.

And my left eye, the throbbing reminded me that nights like these…

 

Well, running into your past hurts, like the face plant into the wall it is.

The years, the years, the years swimming in your clogged ears,

Suck out the details, the exact dates, times, names and numbers.

Never any good at any of them, I just kept doing what needed doing–as I do.

And tonight’s no different with all that begged to be said and felt, all along

 

With your voice inside my head, telling me not to go, and asking who’s there

With that menace, that hint of cabined, caged control ripping at your will

Your mind round with edges like that pool, your legs wrapped around me

By the waist, by the mouth, by the threads unraveling between our fingers,

That darned holes in our visions, sepia snapshots on silk screen partitions.  

Day is Done: Ten for Today

Death is a symbol. People stand in for other people, incarnation after incarnation.
 
My father comes in my room late one night earlier this week. “Al died.” His face is pale; he collapses to sitting on my bed, head bowed as he cries into his hands. Only he raises harrowed eyes to warn me, popping out through fear’s door where the pain gripped his voice,
 
“Be prepared. I’m next. And mom. I haven’t been feeling too good. I didn’t tell you but…”
 
And he sinks back into despair.
I try to hug him but his body and mine are too long-limbed, his back too rounded, mine too straight, and we clash. I never fasten my arms firmly to his shoulders. Maybe he resisted. The torment had him.
 
At the funeral, he told jokes, said inappropriate things that suggested the man he knew nearly all his life–his only sister’s husband–was not the best friend he appeared to be. There were hurt feelings, slights in the last ten years. And he learned early to protect his sister.
 
“I’m here for my sister.”
 
We drove five hours there in morning traffic after dropping our younger off at the airport to begin her college visit. Her flight left at 6 a.m. for Boston, Newark first. We had to get her there by 4:30, and then took to the road, sailing in to the Veterans Cemetery by 9:30 and thirty minutes to spare. This honored last rite in exchange for a leg he left in Korea.
 
And I cried. For the man, for his children and wife, for my father and mother, for my daughters, all the endings and beginnings swirling inside the belled mouth of a trumpet, steady-sweet, singing taps to signal day is done. As if we didn’t know it with our guts sunk into the intoning rabbi’s throaty prayers.
 

Being writerly me: Ten for Today

October 10, 2016
 
This week I am the writer. Most weeks I’m more the teacher than the writer, and a bit of a dabbler in word pretties on the side. And every day I’m the mom.
 
But this week, I am working like a writer: writing, procrastinating, struggling, and mostly feeling insecure. I’ve been badgered by contract bosses breathing down my neck. “Is there a draft yet?” “Take your time (I gave you a week and it’s about 3 days in), but let me know when you have a draft.” And then, “How about now? Now? What about now?” Fuck, I’m trying to work!
 
So yesterday I sent my draft–twice. Once by message on the writing platform and once by invitation to Google docs. Nothing. Hurry up and wait.
 
But it didn’t take long before I got not one but five requests to view the doc. How big is this organization? I guess I never ask the important questions when I interview. They ask me if I can write, and I say I can. End of story.
 
What you want me to write, I can write it. For two days, I have been writing about robots and other godsends in upcoming AI applications. Health care will continue to automate for decades, delegating jobs to bots–therapy chat bots, vitals chat bots, and take two aspirins and call me in the morning chat bots. Amazing.
 
And then there’s IBM’s super duper Watson, kicking ass on Jeopardy when he’s not diagnosing disease and prescribing medicine. Watson will find the cure for cancer. Makes the post human age moniker I go by more real each passing year.
 
Today was rah rah cheerleading day for how wonderful corporations want their worker bees to beam good health and cheer–and not just for monetary reasons. That one was a hard sell–especially adding a little soft wit and snarkiness to make it less dull.
 
Tomorrow I’m the editor.

 
pixabay: dog writer

Why work when there’s soccer on? Ten for Yesterday 

October 7th
 
It’s supposed to be feel-good Friday. How do I feel? Not as good as a Friday. Perhaps there’s too much pressure to respond to the collective psyche of the week day or weekend start day. That kind of pressure–conformity–always bums me more than just a little.
 
Measuring the days is a waste of time, though I’m programmed (self) to do just that. Yesterday was a productive day. We’ll call it productive Thursday, or throwback Thursday to a time when I was productive every day. Yesterday, I paid bills, cooked a meal, landed a couple of contracts, wrote a couple of blog posts, wrote a short essay for the blog, posted my social media blurbs for dollars, and enjoyed an entertaining evening and night.
 
I had more completed tasks than today. This morning, I completed a writing assignment due by noon with time to spare, so rewarded myself. I played with the puppy, started research on my next project, took a break to lie a bit, thought about writing some more, ate lunch, tried to walk the puppy (not successfully), and wrote a little more. Then I napped, and awoke to the cat staring at me. So I started writing this.
 
When the kids came after school, I watched Cameroon and Germany play for the Women’s Final something or other in soccer. My 8 year old great nephew watches soccer with me while his little sister downloads apps to my phone, ones with many animated pink girls, animals and purses. They are supposed to be my daughter’s charges, but somehow the powers of procrastination and the loose hand of the babysitter drive me to play.
 
So soccer on a Friday isn’t bad. It’s just that I didn’t get very far into researching that article I’m supposed to write. But I did make inroads into breaking my procrastination habit–one of the top items on my to do list for today. I thought about procrastination most of the day.

 

pixabay/soccer-competition-game-women

Coffee College: Ten for Yesterday

October 5, 2016

For a change, I am spending my gap time between the two classes I teach on Wednesdays, in a cafe. Usually I flop on the adjunct faculty room couch to grade essays or research for some writing project I’m working on.
 
But today the weather hints fall, a pinch of bite in the temperate weather that makes an overly air conditioned room inside an old brick building edgy-cool. It’s a cold-settling-in-the-bones sort of day, and not just from the weather.
 
I awoke too many times last night, went to bed too late with a question on my mind after a day that went awry. I like my days to hang straight, not all crooked and dangling. Yesterday wobbled and pitched. I thought today was about recovery.
 
And to a degree, it is. The job I thought I lost yesterday is won today. I suspect I undersold myself again. I have no perspective. I simply press ahead, demanding fees and contracts, due compensation. I just keep writing. Somehow I believe I will write myself into something good.
 
Maybe that’s why I craved a cafe today. Writers write in cafes, don’t they? Or is that just hackneyed ones? I write in bars. Same thing. Today’s cafe writing is meant merely to bear the weather, watch the caffeinated crowd rather than the distilled, lilting and tipsy crowd (which I prefer).
 
Coffee intellect collects in the corners of cafes–in game board challenges and earphone mufflers, round table-ettes with stiff aluminum chairs and their hard comforts. I am cool. I sip espresso and write stupid observant shit about the gathered students in Star Wars shirts and floral, short dresses absorbing smoke from the lone cigarette dangling between two fingers of the Vietnamese girl in lipstick and roses.
 
No one else smokes. No one else of the 10 or so, have dressed for a party. They–all but the girl in short dress, leggings and hijab–have dressed like college students, the jeans and tees uniform.
 
And me, the teacher behind the window watch the outside patio group, denim-clad, capped, gum-chewing students of varying interest and attention spans. And as they shoot a glance at me behind my glass shelter, silently speaking aloud, do they wonder a whit about me?

Fight or Flight: Guest Post by Liz at Infidelity Counseling Network

By Liz for ICN

10/4/16

 

 

Fight or Flight

 

 

Six years and one week ago, I overheard my husband on his cell phone. He was speaking to a woman. It was Tuesday.

 

I could feel and hear the blood pulsing through my neck. It was the sound of intense fear.

 

I thought to myself, this is it, I was right, that nagging thought for a while that there was someone else was true, I was not crazy.

 

When he had hung up, I went into his office, asking angrily who that was. He had some crazy answer, and I knew in that moment that despite how smart he was, at this, I was smarter than him. I knew I would find out, and SOON. I maintained my outward cool while inside was a total fight or flight response. I decided to gather information before a flight.

 

The next morning while he was showering for work, I quietly turned on his cell phone to check the call history. It had been cleared.

 

As soon as I’d gotten the kids off to school, I found some old cell phone records with a number that kept reappearing – a partial story. It took me four hours that morning that morning to register our phone bill online, download the call history, google some of the repeating numbers, and identify the owner of the most frequently-called number. So I called it, and she said I had the wrong number. At lunchtime I called again and got her voicemail. Bingo. Her full name was on the outgoing message. Now I had the information I needed…but I still did not know if I was ready for a “fight” or for my flight.

 

I wanted then and there to throw him out, but we had kids, I did not want to divorce their father. We were a family. So there was to be no flight. At least not yet.

 

I waited till Saturday. That very morning, his affair partner had left him a cell phone message and I had listened to it. She was trying to be calm while things were tense, but she loved him and would wait until they could be together. I told him then that I knew about her, and he confessed, saying it was just a few times, it did not mean anything to him. But I had proof of months of calls and her declaration of love. I asked where they had sex; he gave me hotel names. I insisted he end it immediately, and even suggested how he could do it so as to keep her husband protected. I thought myself a better person for my compassion.

 

We went to couples counseling, and I kept saying I believed there were many women for many years, and he denied it all. I insisted on full transparency. It never came. Now there was no fight…he simply would not talk about it.

 

By now, poring over cell records and hotel bills, I was getting to be a first class Private Investigator which was making me crazy. I had been in fight-or- flight mode for over 5 weeks, anxious and barely eating or sleeping. I was paying with my mental health.

 

After a while, I began to feel I had lived a lie. Every family event and holiday over the past 6-7 years was marred by the knowledge that he’d called various women on all those dates. Nothing felt sacred anymore. The betrayal I felt was boundless. Every special moment was spoiled. I saw myself as damaged, duped, betrayed, angry, and resentful.

 

I focused on his choices, and all the times he could have chosen another path but did not. I focused self-righteously on all the good I had done for others when our own marriage was disappointing.

 

This constant feeling of fight-or-flight made me lose my compassion and objectivity. I become a person who tried to survive day by day. I was unaccustomed to being this self-centered, angry, suspicious, jealous, snooping, distrustful person, and I did not like this new me. I knew I had to find a way to the other side, to thrive again.

 

For two years I was a wreck, later telling people that I’d had a nervous breakdown. At his request, I told no one other than paid professionals. I isolated myself socially, did only what I had to do, and avoided people and places that would trigger what I deemed my PTSD. Since I knew many of his affair partners, and had to drive by many of the hotels in my daily rounds of work and kids, it was hard to avoid it all. I made myself crazier by compulsive snooping, and it never helped me a bit, never made me feel safer, never made the situation better, and just perpetuated a cycle of craziness for me.

 

Above all, I wanted to talk to other women who had been through this, but found none. If I had to do it all over again, I would have told a select few people because not having the support was so tough for me. Later, we separated, and I told a lot of people. They all judged him harshly. And I learned that once you give someone your story, you can never un-tell them…so be careful about whom you chose to hold your intimate history. I should have told only people whom I was sure would be there for me and not judgehim. Everyone has an opinion about she/he would do in this situation, but until I had been there, I realized there is no black and white answer…only lots and lots of gray.

 

Six years and one week later, I am stronger and wiser. Perhaps I am not the same trusting person, but the new me is one I finally like and which took years to accomplish. I felt so bad about myself for so long; if I’d been kinder to myself, if I’d been able to release myself from that intense fight-or-flight mode, my recovery might have been faster. But I accept now that I did what I felt I had to do. Now I am a good, kind, compassionate, and wiser person. I wish I could add “trusting” to that list, but that is still a work in progress.

 

 

By Liz

Volunteer at Infidelity Counseling Network

Get support to heal from infidelity – http://infidelitycounselingnetwork.org/counselor.html

Donate to help keep our services free for all women – http://infidelitycounselingnetwork.org/donate.html

 

 

 

 

Mulligan Stew: Ten for Today


Someone kicked me in the head. No, it just feels that way. Like a rubber soled tennis shoe attached to a leg cocked back in ready mode, ready to slam into my head on the ‘go’ of Ready, Set, Go! The phantom bump on the base of my skull aches. 

It’s just pressure. The day’s failure oppresses me and manifests itself in an overblown-balloon-ready-to-pop tension. That’s me. Ready to pop. And it’s not popping time. Not for 4 more hours on this miserable shift.

To boot, the lady who pulled down the lever on a broken machine marked “out of service” complained about the dripped water on her food and wants to start her frozen yogurt creation over. Whatever. Sign of the times. Stupid.

I’m stupid. I spent all day writing for two new clients, two good blog pieces, solid stuff, just to blow the deadline on one by a minute and the instructions on the other. I actually wrote the wrong thing, on the wrong topic. How could I have misread the directions, completely ignoring the point of the whole blog site?! I could not even argue the post was remotely related, though I did offer to fix it. 

But first impressions are lasting, and I made a shitty one. Twice. Two jobs lost in one afternoon. Impressive–Not. Hours of work for no pay. My fault. And the drum in my head keeps beating it: Twice. Work. Zero. Pay. Zero. Work. Twice. No. Pay.

Sometimes the climb out of hell hits loose, slippery, rocky mountainside. I slipped and fell, though I probably won’t make the same mistake again. I hope. Back to the grind.

“No, see the sign? It says it’s out of service, so you hit stale water, not yogurt. Yeah, I guess you should have read the sign. No, it’s all right. Start over.” I smile weakly. She takes her do-over in sheepish confusion. I’ll take mine tomorrow.

Fall of Us


That familiar hum inside and out. 

The thrumming TV static-snow blustering my brain 

like when I slid down a steep mountain backward on my ass, 

the board strapped to my boots kicking up torrents of snow 

coating my eyes and nose as I plummeted blindly 

facing only where I came from. 

That happened then for this very day–teleported.

Today’s that cold-faced day.

 

The snap-to-it chill smacks mightily, 

your face-skin taut with expectation, 

braced to ward off the front, 

the sting of knowing you could trip, 

lose your step and your knees buckle, 

your bones splinter and your ankle crack. 

Something tragically foretold unbeknownst to you, 

the usual chaos lurking out there along your life’s line. 

To feel that approaching crisis is to live.

 

But only on days like these, 

wedged between enough and not enough 

and itch and scratched. 

Our clothes are fresh but our visions stale, our breath coffee rotten. 

These days smell like winter kill. 

But it’s only the dying fall when crockpot lamb-stew and mulch 

pepper muddy moods built for cutting, 

crying into dust and hanging amulets.

 

Her neck exposes naked-ruddy latticed vines, 

burnt and creased in spider legs enfolded, 

smothered and feathered like aortic-bony leaves, 

en-sleeving jugular flush–

as if the world pumped incessantly 

in syncopated gurgles, 

muffled to the dull roaring hum.