Come take a walk over to my other blogspot for today’s post about “the eyes have it.”
Come take a walk over to my other blogspot for today’s post about “the eyes have it.”
An edge borders time on which thrush plagues a fallen wren,
Small fright fringed in imperceptive tremulous fever.
No one intuits the thin cry.
Where’s the door?
She coughs up her last lap.
They’ll come now. Now that it’s almost done.
Funny, you can outsource love but not death.
No more false starts.
This one’s true.
Like most days this week, I start out of a disrupted sleep, having lain way past a decent hour. I awaken late morning French time most days and go to bed early evening California time. My iPad tells French time and my laptop refuses to leave California. I work late into the French night completing blog posts for my employer on Miami time. Time spins nauseatingly.
Yesterday, after awakening around 11:30 French time and playing musical transformer and usb chords (Who has the Samsung/iPhone charger??!!), I swallowed a bite of pain au chocolat and quick coffee to motor off to Carcassonne, the Medieval fortress and castle, which also sports a lovely restaurant rated by a tire company (yes, I know it’s a coincidence that restaurant raters and tires have the same name).
After eating a sumptuous lunch of creative concoctions like foie gras coated in sweet wine emulsion merengue on a pop sickle stick (wtf, right?), and drinking too many Kir Royals and local white wine, we walked through the castle entry via a narrow cobble stone street filled with souvenir shops.
And when my oldest daughter ran into one shop walled with medieval swords and daggers, I knew it wouldn’t be long before her father was paying for two Game of Thrones John Snow swords. I warned them that drunken purchases never look good in the morning, to no avail.
But the day was lovely, the castle impressive and our spirits high. Captive momentarily to another time, another dimension really (Can you believe this was all built manually over decades?), I quietly absorbed every loose stone in the dirt path, every brilliantly green blade of grass, every cotton cloud in the sky, and every skip, hop and climb of my scampering daughters up and down castle walls and walkways.
The drive home along pine and canal-lined country lanes that often slowed us into narrow cobble stone alley towns squeezed between sugar cube cafes and cursive patisseries, in the quiet cold darkness just after dusk was peaceful. Four phones, two iPhones and two Samsungs, ran out of juice (and GPS), so we had to feel our way home, through every roundabout.
Home: Medieval dust still lingering on our clothes, in our breath, we each retired to our places, the girls to their room with stolen chargers to resurrect their connections to Snapchat, Twitter and California life time, me to my laptop and work, and mother and son to the telly to watch lame French game shows.
And the next day: do it all over again in a new town, new castle or cathedral, casting our lines into a timeless sea of changing faces, feasts and facades, our feet in neither and both worlds, floating, lost and leisurely.
What a thing to do, this getting away to change the scenery. Being on a family trip to France and Spain has brought not only refreshment to a pretty stale when it wasn’t toxic year, even years (I’ve had some years), but also a much needed perspective check. Seeing new lands, even if they’re the old ones, helps shift awareness into the absorbing/observing mode and backed out of the constant spewing mode.
The women I travel with, my daughters, are entwined in memory and making memories. My mother in law’s home is filled with childhood memories, flashbacks and glimpses: one was six and the other three the last time we visited. It was summer then. But this time they’ve brought themselves to their mamie’s house: inquisitive, cynical, wry and wondering. They’re excited but skeptical about this new outlook they were promised in this more socially conscious historically and gustatorily fermented with history country. It’s all about food, everywhere, every day.
They want to believe this land holds lure, romance–and it does–but they’re wise enough to know, despite the language barrier, that their 82 year old grandmother can sound as narrow-minded, silly, prejudiced, stereotypical and judgmental as any American. It’s both a national and a family thing. Their mamie is…well, their mamie. She is all of France and all of her. They love and hate to see themselves in her.
And yet, the strangeness and familiarity of it all gives them, us, the comfort and discomfort to sit back and play compare and contrast, and practice some serious appreciation. They have options to be part of the world, not just their world.
Oh, and internet access is sketch at best. The better to see their sometimes scowling, sometimes intent, oftentimes laughing faces.
The French. So cool, so unconcerned, yet not really affected. They just do their thing.
We traveled heavy, 8 huge pieces of luggage on wheels yet wholly unwieldy. And lugging that shit through the train stations, all in a line, cramming the already small corridors even smaller. But confused as we were, a passerby gave as an unsolicited direction or tip, all while zipping along, pace unthwarted by our unsightly clogging of the turnstiles and escalators.
It’s a rapid-fire city, yet I don’t feel the anxiety or aggression I find in my suburban hometown. My country is ravaged with anger and hopelessness. I’m glad to be away to de-steam and gain perspective.
Food. That’s all there is to say. Even the ordinary corner brasserie offers the finest. I had cod in a buerre-blanc sauce with sautéed spinach after fresh oysters with mignonette sauce, so fresh and gorgeously good, rounded off nicely with pear Creme brûlée. The pinot was soft and lovely, and the espresso brilliant not bitter. Pure coffee.
I dream of French espresso at night in my beach town US home. Small pleasures.
After a bustling, crowded brasserie scene, we ventured on Rue San Michel, passed the Pantheon where Napoleon lies buried spying on his beloved city, the one he masterminded. It’s the Latin Quarter, full of students on their last days before holiday. The night is crisp, probably low 50’s but still and clear. The old gibbous moon casts a striated glow across the tip of Norte Dame’s buttressed topmost spiral. Our lady peers above the city telegraphing disapproval of burgeoning modernity–and us tourists–clear across town to the tomb. I feel her.
And the 16th century church featuring Bach every Saturday stood eerily sandwiched between stone and masonry, dwelling and commerce. On a brisk night, throat to boot warmed by French Pinot, Paris welcomed us aimless wanderers soaking in the hate sanctuary.
The south threads vineyard to the right to oyster farms to the left as we travel the country road tracking miles of cordoned sea, rhythmic cages to the tide. Down the road thirty to forty minutes from the airport, we stopped at a petit village paper napkin restaurant serving fresh oysters, mussels, cod, clams and conch. Plateau de fruits de mer. Fruits of the sea, so fresh. Farmed local oysters keep the region’s salt locked deep inside the shells. Paris oysters frown upon their peasantry, I’m sure.
We’ll stay in a Spanish red tile roof and white stucco house facing acres of vineyards, dry now in winter. They belong to the nephew now, my children’s great aunt having cuddled up next to her husband’s burial plot. When the children were 3 and 6, we spent a few weeks in summer here when the swimming pool was a chicken coop next to the German Shepherds’ pen. And a pig too. My oldest wondered at a brown pig. Aren’t all pigs pink?
We had fresh laid eggs, brown and imperfect, but full gamey flavor, and we rode bikes and horses along the canals. We opened the loch for one huge sloop half moon house boat of fine resin pine shellacked to shine. An American woman piloted it and invited us on board for a slow-going mile or so. We folded up the stroller and boarded. She was supposed to be spending six months with her husband navigating these canals throughout France after his retirement. But he died instead. The 17th century Canals du Midi persist without him.
The winter before that summer in 2001, we spent a Christmas reunion here, the three brothers together again after twenty years. Three families, the grandchildren from 3 to 21 years old. And mamie cooked a feast as is her wont: oysters and lobster and foie gras and lamb, gratin, frommage, chocolats, table wine unending from the local vineyard, local muscat for the foie gras, and rich, aromatic coffee and creme brule to finish. We laughed and ate.
I see the pictures around the house from that winter. Everyone smiles broadly into the camera, even the brother who disappeared directly after that event, never to be heard from again. He does that. Just disconnects from the family he loves but mostly hates. No one can explain it so I can understand. My smile, as ever, is only half formed.
And now, looking over the land, lush green as ever, only now it’s punctuated with commerce and industry where only horses and cows peppered the open fields. Now there’s a supermarket walking distance where only a ten minute bike ride away tiny corner market serviced this small stretch of street just inside the borders of Salelles d’aude. It’s rural–but not as isolated.
Inside the house, I smile at the pastel green stools lining the green, blue and white tile counter where I once fed my little one in bib and baby seat gripped to the tile to float that nearly 20 pound near toddler at our first Christmas visit. Her mamie planted a Christmas tree, a sapling then. It towers above us stately now, twenty years later.
And six yeas after her first visit, she and her three year old sister, perched perilously atop those high stools, snacked on la vache qui rit cheese and yoplait yogurt. The house looks the same as it did then, only more cluttered. Because its owner has finally slowed. I thought it would never happen, this whirlwind of endless hyperactive cooking, cleaning and chattering. She’s been dying since I know her, 37 years now, except when I see her. She could outrun me in a foot race, I always imagined. But she’s 82 now, and moves slower, like a 68 year old.
I’m older too. The travel is no less painful since I don’t sleep on planes, upright and cabined tightly. But now I feel the aftermath of the struggle in my back and neck, having desperately tried to drift at angles suspended in air. I ache. But somehow I’m less grouchy than those other times. Perhaps it’s the growing up, my kids, now adults, and me, seasoned with too much obligation and not enough appreciation. My kids have taken up the grouch mantle. My mother in law blames me for their grouchiness when they’re tired. No one’s good enough for her son. As it should be.
A humble meal of vegetable soup, brown grainy, country bread, ratatouille, lamb cutlet (for the carnivores) and frommage paired with a young Saint Emilion filled us to sleeping, even after our late hours long naps. Hopefully jet lag lags a little less tomorrow. The chef and her son watch Miss France beauty pageant while the children suck up the wireless they’ve been missing for far too long, at least a day.
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.
My father’s heart fell victim to heredity…
Here you will find the rest of poem 9 of the poetry marathon.
Heart of Hearts
Posted on August 14, 2016 12:02am EST by pgerber
My father’s heart fell victim to heredity four years ago.
The surgeon placed a stent in his aortic valve to brace
the walls and keep the blood flowing.
I imagine the stent shaped like a bridge to strings,
like the one that bolsters the cello
in the corner of my room collecting dust.
But even before that, he couldn’t pass the physical
to join the Korean War–his heart murmured
something the doctors did not like.
My father’s father died of a heart attack, or
maybe complications of diabetes that betrayed his heart.
He was a musician and a piano tuner,
who sometimes imposed a cello lesson on me,
firmly pressing my fingers to the finger board
nearly 45 years ago on that corner resting cello.
All of his 8 sons played musical instruments.
The 21 year old I work with at the sweet shop,
whose name may be Rob or Mike or John,
is someone I would say has a heart of gold,
but for his laziness, though still an amiable sort.
He has a pair of friends, twin brothers, who
come to pick him up from work and take him home.
One told me that Rob-Mike-John had five heart attacks
when he was only a sophomore in high school.
His doctor said he was lucky to be alive.
My mother’s heart is strong, always has been.
Her mind and body are ravaged by demented
disease, forgetting to allow her to live, but her
heart beats resoundingly under her ribs, her doctor says.
And though the cuffs don’t hurt her any more,
too little flesh on her arms, her blood pressure rocks.
Sans word, thought or flesh, she is pure pulsing heart now.
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.
I don’t know why I bite. I practice keeping my distance, detaching from all the crap around me, only to self-sabotage in weaker moments. Quixotic behavior, fighting windmills, I collapse, fall into the delusion that cyberspace is real, people on Facebook are real. They are not. They are as solitary as I am, poking at keys to create effect. There are no people in cyberspace, just ones and zeros. I know this, and yet…
Going out to dinner with my housemates, dad and partner, that is real. Though the restaurant was too noisy to facilitate conversation, we know what we want to say–and the food is always good there at our corner joint called, “The Corner.” Upon seating, the waiter, who knows us by name, delivered a cellophane wrapped wine glass we left there a month before. They knew it was ours, and the bartender brought it to our table upon seeing us. Even though we have never sat at the bar, the guy recognized us for our frequent patronage.
That’s real life–in the flesh.
To feel the pulse of America and predict the outcome of this upcoming election, I need to get out of cyberspace, off my computer, and walk among real breathing human beings, who can look me in the eye and tell me who they are and what they want. Only posers–personas–hide on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and all the other social media sites created for production, the creation of false spaces, rooms, and people who perform pieces of their lives, oh so convincingly.
Image: around the corner
“If a man going down into a river, swollen and… Read the full article on The Mindful Word here.