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!”
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.
Ten years ago I wanted to pierce my nose
but I joined a firm instead.
My partners thought it wild,
clashing with the cobalt blue seriousness
of our office walls and wisdom.
So I waited til I left the firm to pierce my nose.
My daughters had theirs pierced by then.
Yet I caved to pressure in the last minute:
it will jeopardize your reputation, and
the outcome of your case
may be prejudiced, prejudged, predetermined
by another’s preconceived notions
about piercings and morals and drugs,
noise like that, which I know is just bull shit.
But I chickened out, and now my nose
has grown long with age, and the piercing
would not look right wedged between wrinkled
doubt and oily regrets oozing from gaping pores.
I’ve made a mess of this decision.
Has it been ten years since I wanted to pierce my nose?
August 2, 2016
I used to have so much fight in me, so much conviction, indignation, righteousness and determination. I was ambition. I was striving.
Now I’m heart-fatigued, deadened by weather, watches and people, so I can’t be bothered with so much of what bothered me. My ambitions are quieter, steadier now. And while before everything turned to anger–contradiction, injustice, oppression–now those conditions are met with a profound sadness that shatters my steady, moves my once immovable tears from the dammed up reservoir of hurt, pain, disappointment, fear, shock and panic to come, future furies and frustrations.
For example, I know someone who takes advantage of my inability to say no, sometimes. She plays me, and I know it and accept it. I allow her to do that–use me for her own gains and pleasures. I can only surmise I permit her to take advantage; otherwise, I would simply make her stop.
That slight, that injustice, that unfairness, how she treats me, would have enraged me in younger days. I would have ached to avenge my pride, my dignity, scraping my imagination with retorts, come-backs, equalizing actions and humiliating reconciliation.
But today, I observe her making me uncomfortable, forcing me to vocalize the dirty rotten truth between us. And I watch myself watching her watching me. Awaiting the courage and the words, I witness her machinations, manipulations and movements, and mull the situation over, slightly anxious, confident the solution will find me.
Working my way through the day 15 and 10 minutes at a time, I set the timer. It’s one of those days when sleep filled me, made me hopeful upon awakening, even after a pee trip and return to sleep, rare in itself (the going back to sleep part). An excited brain with a deadline is like a toad on crack. Reigning it in hard today.
I also drank a bit last night–a Stone on draft at happy hour. P and I went to dinner before the concert. His Christmas 2015 present finally arrived in a college stadium 80 miles from home–Twenty One Pilots, his favorite band these days. Or one of them. Having tapped into his on again off again creative piano playing and composing mojo lately, he was particularly ready to enjoy the show. And he did, dancing the night away.
I, on the other hand (not as familiar with the band), was glad to have had the beer and mushroom flatbread before the show, washed down with a cool glass of water out on that breezy terrace to the immaculate, tinged-with-class-and-hipness restaurant. A compromised restaurant between haute cuisine and bistro fare, I was satiated. The cool beer and water helped when the stadium filled with hopping, singing, dancing, screaming and hugging mostly-younger-than-I fans turned stifling.
Two young women standing/swaying in front of me in the row ahead turned to me like they would to an older adult, like their mom’s or grandma’s friend, and mouthed the question with slightly furrowed brows, “Do you have water?” My slow shaking head side to side, the response, they sadly looked away. I was holding up well for two reasons: beer and water chaser before the show, and sitting down while the crowd stood. It’s called conservation, like the camel-hood I procured decades ago.
That’s right security dude checking us for contraband at the stadium entrance, who asked me sarcastically, which song was my favorite of this 20-something band, I’m old–and savvy. And, while you were busy busting my chops, I was smiling and smuggling by.
Image: Twenty one Pilots/mtv
inhabitant and the inhabitant’s 62-year marriage distracting mate.
My dementia-ravaged mother’s caretaker naturally came along.
She and I lifted my mother’s stiff resisting 95-pound taut body high
into the van, me pulling from the seat above, she pushing from
the cement driveway below, the two of us nearly thankful she has
wasted to such an accommodating weight, making the task feasible.
On her wedding day, she was 95 pounds, so my father repeats to
anyone who will listen, including the new neurologist who observes,
examines my mother while my father offers his opinions in a blared
recital of facts: “She was an English Major and wrote a thesis on, on…
Saul Bellow. It’s in Long Beach in the school somewhere. She was a
good wife. The best you could ask for. But you never know how much
you have in a person until she’s gone.” And so goes his secular litany.
Struggling not to once again remind him that she hears and is alive
and beat down the growing irritation, I explain that she fractured
her shoulder somehow while in a nursing home and so protects it.
The doctor nods, hmmm’s and continues manipulating my mother’s
rigid limbs, tries to uncurl her fingers long-ago cemented into C’s.
She murmurs her observations in one word confirmed diagnoses:
“Spasticity…atrophy…tremors…neuropathy…” as she plies tissue.
My father answers, “Her left arm doesn’t work at all,” when the
neurologist inquires about body movement, and I snap, “Not true.”
I shush him a few times as his need grows to run the show, talk to
someone who will hear what he repeats like a skipping vinyl record,
evoke sympathy from new flesh (the same old audience tires),
release nervousness or some other cause of his inaccurate,
inappropriate and irrelevant comments–and I immediately soften.
He needs so much too, but then he has always stolen more from her.
The pink and blue light sabers clash in stinging zaps inside my body.
She is a White Walker sans the unstoppable malice, with bones
for a face and fallen flesh failing to disguise human skeleton, I muse.
In the car trip to the office, she sneezed, and I marveled at her voice,
the familiar sound of her reflex, which flooded me with spinning
memory flinches of every moment I had ever heard it, pouring
gooey thick amniotic washing into the bones of my sense of time
and destination, the immediate and outward, unknown, unseen.
In Arabic death ritual, relatives painstakingly and lovingly wash the
corpse to send it onward in its journey while leaving blessings behind.
But the miasma of missing Mom living right before my eyes, mouth,
nose, ears and skin, who I touch and purr to and who sometimes
gaping-mouthed, wild eyed, crazy-toothed, lopsided smiles at me with
oh-my-God-of-the-moment recognition, cherished, ecstatic familiarity
and connection for us both, confuses us, me, who churns with the incongruity
and daze of seeing him well enough to complain, repeat the same jokes and other
grating, mindless habits he has long held, and just as long refused to change–
and yet see him as short-term too, gone in a cardiac flash or in interminable dribs
and drabs of life-leaking, irrefutable, genuine horror for him, me, everyone but
the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, technicians and equipment and drug
manufacturers who gain from decay, his, theirs and ours, the dying.
At home, I hear the wheelchair wheels squeak by as my 20-year old
10-months now concussed daughter, chair-splayed, giggles at the electronic
buzzes emitted from her palm’s worship, the small God of life she knows,
my mother never knew, its advent arriving too late, my father acknowledges
then glances away from, its mystery blinding, and I know far too well, prey to
its opiates, but not enough to forego profit and sneer nor succumb to its disease.
Shall we call this nature and proceed with a sun-spreading daylight’s delivery?
Like any other morning, I wake up to muffled door rattles or slams,
And the crystal plea of a squeezed bladder–release, sweet release.
The blinds drawn and the clock radio dead for a few years now, I reach
For my phone to check the time: the usual 6:38 a.m. flashes retinally.
Taking inventory, I listen for a high schooler soon to fly out the door,
Perhaps her older sister stirring in poor sleep or kicking the disruptive
Cat out the door to purr in someone else’s ears, perturbations unleashed
For those battling anxiety and depression: IBS, TBI, PMS and US politics.
Challenging gravity’s rest, I aright myself and further assess the day’s
Bone placement as they all align, sink and press in allotted pegs, dips
And slots, and all measure properly without incident or undue notice.
My body has not joined in some stealth overnight rebellion for unpaid
Dues or sins of my youth just yet, and I take my first steps into morning.
Upright, leaning into space opening up to the bathroom door a mere six
Steps from my launch, I begin to feel it: the heaviness, not in step or
Weight, but an anchor-dragging shadow that resists verticality from
Scalp to balls of the feet, slowing the advancing doorway to a shuffle.
I know I’m already late, but the excursion’s effort, to pee and back,
Begs my re-bedding just for a hair’s breadth of a moment, I bargain.
Soon, the phone or entry door will vibrate with his questioning call or
Needy knuckles, reminding me that it’s time for his intravenous push
And his diabetes blood check and his arm wrap for his shower and his
Pill box re-filling as it is Monday: the array of multi-colored, go-gemlets
Shaped like candy paper dots or pez ovals popped out of a clown mouth.
The anchor widens and grows tentacles, linking chain to arms and chest,
Pulling down shoulders and the corners of eyes and lips no breath can re-
Vive, no gratitude check can lighten and release like an emptied bladder.
I glance out the now-opened blinds at the orange clusters in threes and
Fours, heavy with juice, hanging impossibly high at the thinnest branches
At the top, mightily fighting, irresistibly drawn downward while floating
The resistance between soaring, maintaining and falling: mass, space and
Time–all illusion, as is this overwhelming dread and angst that will dry,
Crumble and dust, blown into an afternoon breeze that kicks up after June
Grey dewy mornings drip, clear and stiffen to bolster tender leaves against
The love, need, hate, and anger over their circling heads tethered to a sun,
The same star that guides ships, unanchored, daylight drifting or swiftly
coursing waters tumultuous and calm to destinations charted yet unknown.
Another rudder-less morning steering me blindly, I have survived the first
Passage and make my way to the door, enjoying the last five, quiet seconds
Before the physical proof meets the prescient mood, while nothing is wrong.
It wasn’t easy telling her how I felt used and taken for granted,
all the while fighting self-judgment for sounding needy and guilting.
Do I tell her how I feel, even though there’s nothing she can do about it,
especially knowing that she will feel she has to do something about it?
Do I just silently accept our condition–she not relating to me, not
wanting to be with me, me wanting to be with her but not knowing how
to reach her, make her happy, engaged and connected?
She needs my money, advice and time.
She needs my permission, approval and signature.
I pay for whatever she wants and requires.
I take her where she must go, pace the sidelines and cheer her on,
encourage her, give her feedback and teach her how to live now and beyond us.
We make each other laugh and share sharp wit and sardonic smiles.
She seems appreciative for us, for all we are and do.
No one writes a more heartfelt loving, grateful text.
I don’t doubt her love, she not mine either, I hope.
She’s neither unhappy nor oppressed, just disinterested.
Tied in obligation knots, we–without violence, anger or volume–co-exist,
each with our silent confusion, angst and helplessness, resentment perhaps.
If she could only speak her mind.
Is it bullying to speak mine, a unilateral outpouring inevitably producing reactive
toxic anxiety or worse yet, guilt?
If she would shout, complain and demand, I would know what to do.
But quiet responsibility-assuming aimed at relieving me burden, one fewer needy time-taker,
a sign she’s stepping independently aloof into burgeoning adulthood, leaves me flustered.
No one wins, even when we’re not vying for an upper hand or competing in a contest.
As our relationship gestates, becomes what it will be for years to come, then changes
again, waiting, speaking and abstaining are the hardest parts.
A Gemini morning, humid, Eastern heat-spilled impatience and placenta to the floor,
Happy birthday to you
A baby double minded, twice as sure of his kingship poured from his womb-like throne
Happy birthday to you
Onto polished bamboo floor, flat-rolled expanse from bedroom to corridor then veranda.
Happy birthday dear Gemini
Whose royalty slips past a princely generation, crown-less, buried beneath rice paddies?
Happy birthday to you
A squandering son, spendthrift and sensual, carried epicure’s pleasure palace to the abyss,
How old are you now?
Never the same, depleted, arrested at shore along middle class havens harboring mediocre
How old are you now?
Table wear and linen unrefined, delicacies grown bloated, mutational and cloying starchy
How old are you now, dear Gemini.
Sweet-salty in heavy-handed cookery, fraudulent design and mockery, a chef’s despair.
How old are you now?
Proud May’s retreat, your promises half-fulfilled pool like soaking wet wool slogging
For he’s a jolly good fellow
Footfall’s dawn soft pacing to a slipper shuffle, grey questioning the doubtful days.
For he’s a jolly good fellow
A heyday haunting lingers along fleshy palms, midriffs and necks, a puffy sight.
For he’s a jolly good fellow
Back-look now, mid-life, sandwiched between regret and hope–a dual mind–
That nobody can deny
Celebration calls a prince-of-the-day to candle-caked song once more.
Credit: Gemini on Pinterest
My immediate response kicks in: “You’re not dying.”
The main thing is to speak in monotone reassurance.
“You’re not dying,” I repeat. “I’m not ready for you to go.”
And we have nothing more to say the rest of the way.
Our third or fourth trip to disease harbor, we pray.
The edge we negotiate each day exhausts us both,
He teetering to the right and me pulling him back left.
We battle each under the armor of our own skin, an
Aged man and his aging daughter jousting the gods.