In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"


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Stench Of Discontent


The noise keeps me awake, 

And the static on the TV 

I don’t know how to turn on 

Let alone turn off.

 
The vibrations trip me up,

Topple me as I walk and think,

Make my knuckles swell,

Ache to type the arthritic words.

 
There’s more too, like the faces,

Eyes wrung in red rashes,

Stench like piss and rum from

Dirty denim and leaky shoes.

 
Don’t sit in my breathing space;

You’re money’s no good here.

Turn up the air and open the door.

Nod off your head twisted neck, go.
 

And I cringe and shake in despair,

Fight off the crusts of anger flung

Face off in my corner here, where?

The door, the door, where’s the door?


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Angst: Poem 8


We’re leaving the Great Park.
It’s a scorcher out there.
Her team just lost six to one.
She’s quiet on the tortuous zag from the fields.
I don’t think she feels responsible.
At 17, she’s philosophical, albeit a touch cynical and weary.
She carries her angst in her pocket.
“What is nihilism?” she asks the road ahead after a while.
“Lately, I’ve been thinking about how minuscule
we are, especially in light of the cosmos and
the improbable non-existence of other life, somewhere.”
I haven’t hydrated enough.
My head hurts slightly.
“Well, it’s sort of like nothing matters,
an extreme sort of skepticism,” I immediately regret saying.
Her eyes widen and the depths of velvet brown
endlessly recede, raw terror swallowed–stored in a gap.
“But it’s not just the life’s a bitch then you die philosophy.
There’s something freeing about understanding our
insignificance in the larger scheme of things and our utter
significance at the local level, where we live.
It doesn’t have to be about uselessness.
The randomness and chaos of our births and deaths–
some take comfort in the just-is-ness of it.”
She still stares out at the road ahead of us, but I hear
her thinking it over, this great question of being and nothing,
all tied in knots to her senior year of high school,
turning 18, the possibility, potential, and unknown…
she who has always tightroped the anxiety fine line.
At 65 mph, those last 5 minutes take us no closer to home.


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Acrophobia–poem 14


When FDR declared the nation had only fear to fear,

he never had a gun to his head,

Ballistaphobia

never had a cobra hood opened at his bare legs

Ophidiaphobia

or strolled past the body of a jumper from a Manhattan 32 story high rise,

Necrophobia

the thump of the fall nearly lifting my feet off the ground.
 
But it wasn’t then that acrophobia hit.

No, it was the carefree days of carnivals and Ferris wheels,

free from regulations and safety straps, not even for seats

that turned upside down with the slow-turning wheel.

I was five and my car mates were nine and ten, measurably

larger, taller than I so that the metal bar kept them in as

the wheel spun us upside down and then right side up,

me clutching with all my strength to keep myself inside.
 
Thanatophobia. I had never heard the word in my five years,

but I lived my way through it many times since, perched on a ledge
 
peering down thirty floors into a postage stamp courtyard,
 
pondering the weighty sum of a life’s body at its impact against the immovable.


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Cultural Creation: Misogyny in the House (Ten for Today)


August 5, 2016
Anxiety plucked at my sleep last night, spun me round inside my blanket, eventually tossed off like that rest awarded the dead after a life lived well. The mind wheel turned over the many ways I should be more direct, genuine and truthful in asking, no demanding what I want and need–never an easy thing for someone who feels undeserving most days. And I don’t know why I should feel that way.
 
It may have to do with this: a girl grows up in a loving household with loving parents who have told her the stories of her past and of her family’s past. She is told that she is the only child who was planned. Her parents were trying for a boy after two girls. But she turned out to be a girl. So, despite her wish for no more than three children, her mother is persuaded to try once more for that boy for her husband. The fourth was the charm. And then there was the major accident 7 years after him, another girl.
 
The girl is loved and encouraged to succeed from a mother who had her own ambitions but stayed home to raise children. Eventually this mother got her GED, a driver’s license, a job, an AA in secretarial science, a BA in English Literature and a Masters Degree in English Literature all in a matter of 20 years beginning from the time the girl was 15.
 
She saw her mother cook, clean and care for her household, children and husband who worked too many hours to be more than a shadow in the house. He slept days and worked nights. The girl saw this mother wait hand and foot on the man who had a strange kind of love of insults and denigration. He called it love, and she called it something the girl would understand when she grew up.
 
Last night’s anxious rumination stems from this story. Rehearsing dialogues, letters and monologues aimed at asking for what I want–without guilt and remorse–takes all night. The conditioning that created the condition–disbelief in deserving–takes a lifetime.


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Distance Dis-invited


Observing the world through the wrong end of the telescope 

again jitters me anxious. 

Everything appears near and far 

all at once, and yet, 

the horror bursts under my skin–like inverted leeches 

and the loud clown faces stretched wide 

like reflections in a round, polished door knob, 

gold, red, bleeding before my mind. 

Their insane grins rattle the dendrite bones .

 
The shouting matches pervasive from Twitter to the barroom 

to the soccer field to my inner universe, debating 

whether to sit or lie, kick or run, vote or march, rail or listen…

all at the same mad, ear-splitting volume, nerve-splintering. 

And yet, the glass distorts the all of everything–

the faces, voices, coughing, snarling and sweat–

keeps them remote though their breath cooks my calm, 

no matter whether in ear shot or scope range, 

targeting me and mine.

 
I witness the movie screen from miles away, 

despite the price of dislocation—death, 

a deadness like numb itchiness in sleeping limbs. 

It’s no good at all is all I’m trying to say. 

Nothing good can come from so far away, distance 

that does not create peace, 

does not create… 

Distance invited, procured and deliberate,

not fortresses defended.


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The Best of the Best (Ten today)


July 30, 2016
 

We are in Carlsbad, parked in a cool-shady spot near the beach, car lounging before the next game. The slogan of this soccer tournament boasts that only the best of the best walk through the gates to compete on their well-groomed fields. My daughter and her teammates deserve to be here…on some days. When they want to–her included—they are unstoppable. When they don’t, they’re not. 17 year olds are like that, I guess. They can taste freedom to make their own mistakes just at the other end of the table.
 
This daughter, like her older sister, I know so well and don’t know at all. Her cynical, critical eye is inherited. Her sensed, inarticulable experience of the world is inherited. Her logic, forethought, anxiety and perfectionism are inherited too. She’s more outer driven, while I’m more inner. I want to live up to my own standards. She needs a watcher, a fan and a stern stick behind her.
 
But I respect her. She knows what she wants, I trust, and will have to figure out from where her limitations come should she decide to exceed and conquer them. I give her words and a model. And while my older daughter allowed me to help her, push her to push herself, this one never has–not in the same way. They’re a study in people hood. How humans fulfill their cellular and cultural destinies–endlessly fascinating, the best of the best.


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For No Apparent Reason

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.