Dearly Beloved


I’m leaving you soon, a matter of hours,

And before I do, I want you to know that I don’t leave without trepidation.

I’m not one to walk out.
 

Stand and face–even when the blackest eyes pierce my throat–

That’s been my method, fearless.

No doubt I’m getting older, less reliant on speed and jaw.
 

Yet, my resolve stands taller, wider, less compromised 

By shaky passion and toppling ardor.

I know what’s right for me and mine.
 

Perhaps the children have made it so, the will,

The mighty outrage and outpour of righteous indignation,

It’s no mere whim or fashion.
 

I have roots, here in this land, on the soil of my mother.

But they grow wherever my feet touch down, 

When blossom and wither beach.
 

My return, though certain, may not be.

I once traveled far, jungled inside, canopied under

The emergent layer that cocooned and cut me, culled flight.
 

And I never returned, even as surely as my sandals scraped sand,

The water’s edge of me, the tidal flow of drifting ear deep in water,

Listening to Gods and men groan secrets unheard.
 

I left then, returned, leaving my image behind me, left to howlers,

Lemurs, quetzals and Monteverde capuchin, who held my breath

In their seams, and still do.
 

I never came back, and now it’s winter, the summer of then passed,

To retrieve the lost faces, shed skin, the chameleon dreamed,

I’ll need to travel far from you, leave your bigotry and bile.
 

And when my body drifts inside again, your walls, your fever,

Only vespers’ dusk and smokey dawn, crust of the ague, remains

That travel torn, release us from hate’s grip, my form and fold united.
 

I will be new, and you will too, when I slip once more inside your border,

Hear the errant’s disbelieving, horrified roar, the be-trodden masses.

I’ll be ready then, to stand erect, balanced, both arms ready.
 

I hope to say farewell to closed palms, only to be welcomed

In a week or lifetime or two, to open gates, walkways to settle-in wicker

Chairs to my rest, porch to our swings, quieted storms’ memory.
 

I want you, my beloved, healed and hallowed, churched Christly,

Only the love, only the forgiveness, only the compassion, only the humble,

To fight, to triumph’s return, you, my lover, once more mi patria–free.

 

Finally Finals: Ten for Today (and Tomorrow)


Click, click, tap, tap, ping…the room is a jitter with typing and timers. It’s final exam day, the last day of the semester, school year and year, almost. It is all three for me. Tomorrow I jet off to another land until next year.

 
The tension in the room agitates me, always does, hearing the sighs and coughs, seeing the head scratches and screen light bounce off the wide pupils of mad typists-thinkers. They’re exhausted. And so am I. I’ve stayed up late and gotten up early to finish grading their term papers, the culminating work in this writing course.
 
I hope I’ve taught them something. I always wish that–some affect I might have.
 
But some of them, I will have barely touched the shell of their minds. There’s a young man in my class who stares at me and smiles the entire class. He attends almost every class and looks engrossed in my lectures, detours, tangents and lessons. He watches attentively as I scribble dry erase marker slashes and dashes and dots on the white board. His eyes absorb the light of the projected screen filled with words and pictures.
 
But his work is crazy, of a parallel existence. He’s a photographer. He loves art.

He’ll smile and tell me that he’s got this essay down. But then he’ll hand in some garbled, riffing, hip-hopping, slap-dash jive bullshit about…frankly, I don’t know what. I read, trying to find the thread of his pieced together logic, the color of his world, or sliver of his memory filtering through disjointed fragments slithering between whole sentences and never-ending, like a river meandering down the shallow incline along a stony road, sun-blazed along red rocks, not a ripple, trickled to a narrow rivulet…and dry. Done.
 
I won’t reach him in time. It’s not his semester to catch on. That’s okay. I know it. I think he does too. He wrote a few final papers, two of them incomprehensible, but the third one…it’s practically logical, relevant and convincing.
 
I whisper during the final exam to him with a stone cold face: “You pulled it off.” He smiles. Of course, he does. It’s a breakthrough, but too little too late.
 
And on the way out, he says, ” See you next semester.” Yeah, he knows. I hope to see his smiling face in January, the new year, new semester and new beginning.

 
Image: touch-tap: pixabay

Judge not: Ten for Today


“I love your cute, little ass,” he always says, and every time he does, I guffaw, snort or giggle just a little. Not a tee hee, coy, embarrassed or flattered giggle either. It’s more disbelieving and cynical than that–way more.
 
Both parents at one time or another measured asses in the family. “Poor Pam. She has no ass,” I’ve heard my father say on more than one occasion. “Not like her sisters.” Nope, I’d silently always confirm the criticism because I’ve heard my mother respond to his remark with, “She has my ass, and I got my mother’s flat ass.”
 
I used to joke to people (still do) that I come from a long line of flat asses. I’d see body type illustrations, animated or real life, of the body labels “pear shape” or “spoon” in Cosmo or some other rag. Spoon, definitely spoon. Spoon has a long torso and convex posture–with a flat ass. Yep, spoon.
 
In my youth and young adulthood (the time when they could get away with that kind of crap), people would comment on my height. “Oh, she’s tall,” they’d say to my mom. “Yes, she takes after her 6’4″ father.” And the first time I met my mother in law at her suburban flat in Garches, just outside Paris, the first words she spoke upon seeing me were, “Elle est grande!” (She’s tall). France is short.
 
I’m 5’8″. I look up to meet the eyes of my 5’11” daughter. She’s tall, relative to other American women. I’m tall relative to the French. And all of this parceling of parts into categories to somehow order ourselves, well, I discouraged it raising my own children.
 
I explained to them how labeling others by body shape, color or size objectified people (in terms they could understand, of course). The brainwashing took, and now they berate my father, who habitually points to people’s fat, skinny, ugly, hairy, bow-legged, shapely, old, young, black, white, “oriental” (and more) selves.
 
More than PC, the de-labeling gives people a chance. It’s lazy and disinterested to sum people up by their parts. You can make snap judgments if you know their “type.” “Oh, she’s insecure and doesn’t date because she’s taller than most guys her age,” I’ve heard tell of my own daughter. And I still carry scars from those who–a la Trump–rated my body parts, a profiling which I swallowed as fact.
 
I know better now. The force-fed, culturally-created body ideals against which others (and I) measured myself bullshitted me for too long. My ass may be flat, cute, small, just right to onlookers. Bottom line (yep, I did that), I couldn’t s(h)it without it. Judge that.
 

Credit: spoon-silverware: pixabay

Gifting: Ten for Today

A day of gift giving, my family gathered to celebrate the holidays early. As usual, I was the master distributor of the 75-odd gifts (or more) to the anticipating gift-ees. The small children lent a hand.
 
My two adult children (or near) stared into their phones but were grateful and gracious, for the most part. They liked what I surprised them with this year–Totoro themed shirts and tiny ceramic hedgehog planters from the gift store at the Japanese market–the small gifts as appetizers to the main dish, the blue and white wrapped cash wad.
 
Some years I’m not as successful. I’m not good at giving or receiving gifts. I mean, I’m thankful in just the right degree, I’m sure, when given presents. But gifts trigger slight anxiety in me, a discomfort with the offering. 


First, I don’t want for anything, and especially material things. Second, the offeror anticipates my response. All givers want to know they chose well, or already know they haven’t but hope to be surprised, or just want to get past the whole ordeal.
 
It’s excruciating the subtle yet deeply cutting undertones, nuances and inflections inherent in gift exchanges. Always lurking behind the handing over is “Will he/she like it?” And the risk is “No, he/she has that overly thankful, forced corners way up smile with nothing behind the eyes.” Nope. Rejection.
 
Honestly, the best gifts I’ve ever received, I can’t even remember. My husband gifted me lovely, thoughtful treasures through the years, from fashion wear to Shiraz to diamonds, but my most treasured gifts were bestowed upon me un-offered.
 
I inherited a good sense of humor, and so many people happenstance’d into my days with a laugh and an irony for smirks. My mother’s logophilia seeped into my bones too, and I can’t measure that reward, that unearned prize.
 
I have long legs and patience, capacious passion and anger, boundless love and delicate touch, all ignited at the thrust of that last push and first inhale–at birth. My DNA, what a gift! And those who’ve spent their time with me, enjoyed my story, shit on me, broke my heart, and prayed for me, all presents: bow-less, ribbon-less and priceless clay-of-me potters.
 
I remember those gifts by name.

  

Getting Shit Done: Ten for Today


I used to be addicted to productivity. My life worth was measured against what I accomplished during the day. And it wasn’t that I checked off a great big to-do list every night to inventory, but I did have a huge list of to-do’s. I wasn’t tallying my doings; I was just doing. 

My life was about doing this and that, getting things done: work, school, parenting, family, community, and even strangers absorbed my time. I went from morning til night getting shit done. Empowering energy drove me through brick walls to get to the other side.

But now, I don’t get as much done. I don’t have as much energy, though no less drive. I am determined but larger forces than my willpower overtake me most days. I don’t like to cook any more, me, who ground meat and vegetables to make my own baby food, who cooked and served 9 course meals to friends every New Years and Christmas Eve and other non-holiday days, and who still cooks Thanksgiving dinner for 30 each year. But the daily supper, I’ve lost my will to do so.

It started when the kids’ school and sports schedules became impossible. I was driving one down south 30 miles twice a week and the other 25 miles north another 2 days a week. No one was home at the same time, so we did a lot of ready-mades from TJ’s and grab and go food. I only cooked on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. And then, as the kids got older and preferred eating out or with friends and soccer practices got later, I just gave it up altogether. I can live on hummus and pita chips. They could all fend for themselves.

I don’t cook, and I don’t clean as much any more either. I have limited energy reserves, and with a house with all adults, mostly, I keep my work space, bedroom and kitchen clean only. The rest I farm out to hired help and 15 minute team clean ups once a week, prompted by my yelling. 

So now, my productivity includes three, four or five paying jobs–still–but not the non-paid house upkeep, cleaning, cooking, shopping and dozens of other administrative and domestic chores. I’ve downsized. 

So today’s burst of getting shit done struck me nostalgic. I wrote (paid) for five hours, attended a virtual meeting, shopped for whatever I couldn’t cover through Amazon for holiday gifts, food shopped, prepared my contribution for tomorrow’s pot luck dinner, exercised the Husky pup and cleaned the kitchen and my room. That’s a lot for me. Felt like old times.

 
Image: busy bees: pixabay

My head’s in headstand: Ten for today

I’m not quite obsessed but surely determined to do headstand. The accomplishment of this pose drives me each yoga session for the last year or so, the time I started believing I might be strong enough. The end of 2015?
 
I practice at home almost exclusively. Every once in a while, I’ll do a class a week at my local Yoga Shakti to infuse my practice with new ideas. The go-to poses and routines I rely on daily were stolen from my original yoga teacher, back in 2009, and an influential two-disk box set from Shiva Rhea. The mix and match poses to build your own feature along with set routines for beginners through advanced helped me tons.
 
I’m 56. Slowly, gravity has taught me what I can and cannot do. The lessons through the decades have stuck. I respect gravity–and my body. Now, I am not ready to call in the cane or “stick to gardening” as one chiropractor recommended. But I don’t crave handstands, cartwheels and flips like I used to even up through my 30s. I’ve enjoyed a right side up world.
 
So why the craving to turn the world on my head? I’ve thought about it often, in fact, each time I joy in the 4 or 5 seconds I can get both feet up in the air, my arms negotiating weight, blood, balance and universe. Why the joy? Simple accomplishment? Why does it make my day, almost?
 
I recall my rough pregnancy with my second child. Not real rough. I was grouchy. My first birth was bliss down the trail of new firsts every minute. I waddled the treadmill up to the 36 hours of labor and delivery, practically. But the second pregnancy three years later felt sluggish, loose and irritable. I felt gravity and hormone ravaged. I had heartburn.
 
While the mood helped me collect outstanding receivables from my law practice clients, it was not suitable for handling the rest of life, namely, a three year old, work and husband. So, I somehow instinctively ended up in a Yoga studio signing up for prenatal Yoga classes. It worked.
 
A class a week helped relieve growing pressure all over my body. I gained more weight with the second pregnancy, only 4 more pounds but felt like more, so my body needed relief from gravity. The class revolved around safe inversions using straps, blocks and other helpful props. The inversions brought a little bliss back in my body, even as I slightly feared the instability of my blobby, lopsided figure.
 
Perhaps, the memory of those classes prompted this new fascination with the promise of headstand, a powerful inversion–one I can feel just attempting it. My body reacts vigorously, the need to breathe through it indisputable. Though I doubt it’s the promise of bliss I seek. It’s something more and less.
 
Perhaps the world is too much with me these days with horrifying unraveling everywhere I turn: chaos and fear. Crazy elections and surprise referenda results merely symptoms of the underlying dissolution in flux, the resolution way on the horizon. Emergence.
 
But politics are always local and personal. Emerging order from chaotic transitions of my own predate or coincide with the world’s. My life vision, career and family have changed, transitioned to the next phase–whatever that may turn out to be–and so, the world feels turned upside down. It isn’t, but the disorienting loss of a 30 year career, future of marriage and children, and parents who promised to always be there–well, it feels like what I imagined as a child digging a hole to China might feel like coming out the other side, eventually.
 
So perhaps mastering uprightness on my head, naturally evolved from long-procured balance and strength–a lifetime’s worth–is the only way for a new vision and path to emerge clearly. Do I have to see that vision, that path for me to have it, be on it? No. But I figure I’ll know that by the time I’m able to breathe steadily, calmly, on my head for longer than 5 seconds.

 

Credit: headstand: Pixabay

YOGA OVER 50: The journey is in never arriving

over-50-yogini

According to the Yoga Alliance’s 2016 report on yoga in America, “36.7 million Americans or 15% of US adults practice yoga in the US.”

Of course, yoga is great for you. It promotes well-being through strength, flexibility, breathing and meditation. But is yoga good for everyone?

According to William Broad, author of The Science of Yoga, “The soothing practice … can lower blood pressure, spice up sex—and kill you.” He claims…(read the rest here)

Measured Quaff: Ten for the other day


So it may seem that I drink a lot since I write in bars, but I actually don’t. I drink A beer and order some food, all nicely paced with my productivity. For instance, tonight, after writing copy for the male stripper websites, I wrote a little more for pay–my wellness gig–while I enjoyed the first few sips of my local Seal Beach Citrus IPA. As the glass’s golden elixir diminished, I moved on to other less demanding writing, like fixing up a few blog posts or articles I’m in mid-write. And when the glass reached below half full, about twenty minutes into my stay, I ordered food, and scanned my usual news outlets to look for digestible “news” bites.

Today, at half glass, I switched to the Chronicle of Higher Education and read a lively response to what should be taught in English composition courses and why. It was a rebuttal to some cynical writer’s estimation of college students’ abilities to write a correct sentence let alone a cogent argument. I didn’t read the article to which the writer responds, but I’ve read enough of them to know in my nearly two decades of teaching comp what that might have been. The comments here are among the very few places that I actually read and learn something–good comments.

At one third left, I ordered braised Brussels sprouts with red pepper and read Flipboard’s writer’s section. I perused some headlines but found nothing to land on. Trying to stay absorbed in my screen, an intrusion entered too close to my bar stool. I’ve seen him here before. He’s a regular. But so am I, I guess. I just don’t think of myself as one.

This guy always feels like he’s looking for a conversation. He ordered the meatball special. He scrawled on his phone plenty, but when he picked up his phone and made a call, he was out of my sphere of interest–even for compassion/boredom chat. He knows the young bartender well. The bartender doesn’t know my name or my beer preference, so I think I’m safe to say I’m not a regular. Whew.

At 1/8th of the glass, I started writing this ten minute write. And now, my attention span is thinning, so I figure I can hammer words on a screen rather than focus on content of someone else’s polished work or try and polish one of my own.

As the buzzer sounds, ten minutes are up, I swig the last of the glass, fork the last of the greasy, dripping sprouts and call out to the young man sporting an indecisive beard, “Check, please!”

Fuck You, Fifty Shades

I blame her.

E.L James of 50 Shades of Grey.

She did it, unwittingly of course.

She was just trying to turn a buck

With a bit of earnest fiction, I’m sure.

But she unleashed it.

The American subconscious.

Seething all this time, culminating

In this climactic rape scene, 

The public just wanting it, 

Conditioned to accept it as love

Rape, breaking down, power loss

Submission to might–in the name

Of love, the father, and that not-so-

Holy ghost misogyny we all love

To hate and hate to love.

In the name of the grandest

Circle jerk, Americans,

Perpetrators and victims, watch

Stroking themselves as they 

Witness, their own interests die

And with them, their lives.

And so be it. 

Get off while you can.

The party’s started.

When the gang rape 

Really gets going, full thrust

They’ll be no stopping it.

Witness and weep.

Or get out.

Fuck off.

 

Credit: Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies

The 2016 Poetry Marathon Anthology


Now available on Amazon. My poem’s on page 80.

My second year taking part in this beast, a hell of my own making but a great creative distillery, I managed to squeeze out one worthy poem at least. I’m grateful for the Jans’ generosity in hosting this annual event and in compiling this anthology of selected poems from the event. 

Peace (and purchase :)). The proceeds go to the next year’s marathon.

Gaze