There’s a Woman (Ten for Today)


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.

National Tolkien Reading Day

  
Guess I missed it yesterday, the day devoted to reading Tolkien. And while I would not have read any Tolkien, I would have paid honor in some way as he is one of my most influential writers. Not so much for style or even content as timing.

My earliest reading memory is tied to him. In sixth grade, the reading light went on. Somehow it struck me that with a dictionary and determination, I could read just about anything. I had proven it by trudging my way through The Hobbit, an assigned reading by my ambitious sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Allgrove. Though I begrudged that woman many things while sitting long days in her class, reading Edgar Allen Poe stories to us was not one of them–nor assigning us Tolkien.

She was ambitious for us 11 year olds, and I took up the challenge. Reading The Hobbit was painstakingly difficult but I had a profound sense of accomplishment and enlightenment after finishing the book. Not so much for the story, which reached me in mere wispy shadows at the corners of my imagination, thin strands of plot but thick with magical atmosphere and mystery. More so that I had cracked some code or found the secret password and entered the club. I could read hard books.

After that I ventured into many books, too many to count. I am a reader. I attribute that love to Tolkien who lured me with mystery. My attempt to do the same for my own children did not work as well. I found an amazing illustrated text of The Hobbit for kids, drawings that plucked the fright out of the spider scene or the eerie from Gollum. But it bored and frightened my kids. They were not six graders yet. Maybe premature. They did not even see the movie when it came out. I surely did.

Tolkien totally enveloped my world when I was fifteen, the year I read the trilogy. The Lord of the Rings not only captivated my imagination, but yanked at the seams of longing and teenage angst. The darkness of that book was my own darkness, deep and well traveled. The torture of that darkness produced by the most majestically fabulous language spoke everything to me: horror and beauty. 

I lived in Middle Earth, at the edge of Mordor, in the realm of invisibility that was becoming more and more addictive. The landscape was my own insecurities and sorrow as I traveled through the tunnel from sad teenager to savvy teenager. By the time the ring was tossed into the abyss, I had come out of my own cave to see that the world was brighter than I imagined. I lost some of my perpetual glum, which I wore like the makeup other girls wore to make them–in their minds–more socially acceptable and attractive.

I learned to speak Elvish. My best friend and I spent one Halloween in a cemetary drinking Schmidts beer (a little over a buck a six pack back then) and smoking hash scaring the shit out of each other with visions of Mordor. I lived this world not only while I read the books but in the long aftermath of its lingering imaginative aroma. I hated finishing the books, my long, long absorption in the world coming to an abrupt end.

My love for The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien stayed with me like a first love. The untainted visions and preserved excitement of total disappearance into another world were sacred to me, so much so that when the movies came out, I refused to see them. I did not want my own mental creations of the characters to be displaced by someone else’s casting. I wanted nothing to do with that.

Until I entered graduate school for the second time at the age of 43. I went back to school to get a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of California at Riverside on a fellowship. One professor in the program took a special interest in me and invited me to a small group of three students to do an independent studies course in flash fiction under her tutelage. After I agreed, the course turned out to be a delving into the holocaust and feminism, two subjects I wanted to avoid.

Interestingly, the course reading list included The Lord of the Rings. When I saw that title, I became both excited and anguished. Did I want to spoil the specially preserved place of that book that I read purely for pelasure and out of curiosity by dissecting it until the juices were totally bled out of the words?

The same books from 1975, yellowed with decades of shelf time, came to my aid in 2003. It was like a time warp. I read the books as if for the first time and enjoyed them without critical interference, which was my wont 28 years later with a couple of literature degrees under my belt and several teaching years. As is often the case with acquired analytical expertise, the innocence of a subject under analysis is lost when the invisible lines of creation are exposed.

But that did not happen with The Lord of the Rings. And even after taking some wild bent roller coaster ride of a term paper outlining the underlying sexual tension of the menage a trois between hobbits and gollum-like creatures (Oy, don’t ask), I had fun reading the book even while destroying its innocence with interpretive analysis. It was the easiest paper to write, and I had the most fun writing it, unparalleled to any before or after.

But I still refused to see the movies for months afterward–until I did. I had the director’s cut of all three of them. I sat down in pj’s for the weekend and dove in. And yes, my initial impressions and imagined beings have been displaced but the movies were faithful and enchanting. I admired Jackson’s devotion to the spirit of the text. I was once again immersed in the world with its strange and wonderful journey, mine once again. 

Tolkien has taken me far, stretched me through the years. I am forever indebted to him and his creations far more than I can express in my own plebian words. And though I am not a dedicated fan of fantasy adventure novels (though I have read a fair amount of them), I attribute Tolkien to both my love of reading and my disinterest in most fantasy adventure stories. I had trouble getting through all of the Harry Potter books. In every fantasy story I have read since, I recognize some “borrowing” from Tolkien. 

He was the master after all. He set the prototype. Everything after cannot be but some poor imitation, switch-up or clear avoidance of everything he imagined. The greats do that: pull us along and then intimidate the hell out of us. Thanks J.R.R. I am always reading you, regardless of book in hand or not. Cheers!

My Mistress Keep

 
 
My mistress loves me because I am not hers to keep.

I’m sure this is true.

She told me so herself.

She said, “I get the best of you. The rest your wife gets.”

I cannot deny it.

That I love our secret love,

safe like the internet.

Everyone hides in the safety of their slippers and screen

to enact who they believe they are 

and do their best selves because no one really checks,

no one wants to call bullshit,

end the game so

just go with the make believe.

For us too when we are together, 

 we two for a few,

a cherished time between us to live high just a while.

I mean, who does not want to be loved like crazy?

To meet up in the imagination’s room and lie for a while.

I am not hers,

and she is not mine, 

but I can be sure she keeps me

close in her dreams,

so that upon awakening in warmth and quiet

soft pillows under her head

and silken comfort between her thighs

she feels me beneath the sheets as good as there

from so much practiced production

the fantasy we inhabit

every time we meet.

Oh yes, but she is mine.
 

credit: wikiart.org

Imagine Lennon’s Song in Context

 
 
Pleasant read in Elephant Journal yesterday about the meaning of this iconic song that may surprise few but helps to remind us of something important in yet another age of crusades.

Like Heaven and Hell, countries exist only in our minds, yet we kill or die for them. Religion too is made up (imagined) by us—yet another institution that serves only to divide humans and prevent them from living life in peace. Neither are possessions real, except as a shared idea of ownership projected onto things, in turn producing yet more suffering as greed begets hunger.


When enough of us finally awaken to the fact that all of these things—religion, country, possessions—are nothing more than ideas in our minds, a world of unity, a brotherhood of man, with all the people sharing all the world, becomes possible. This may look like a dream, yet what is our current social reality but a collective delusion—a “reality” that only exists because enough people believe it? When enough “dreamers” actually see through the dream, a critical mass (what today we would call a “tipping point”) is reached “and the world live be as one.”

A simple Buddhist message to live within the reality we have, hard as it may be for many, this song also confirms the power of the imagination, whether for the highest of all achievements (Lennon’s song) or the most terrible (killing in the name of the deity of your choice). Imagine understanding and accepting the terrible beauty and destruction we create–as us. Simple and direct, less being more, the song is masterfully reiterating an ancient theme. 

Peace.

Happy International Talk Like a Pirate’s Day!

Female_pirate_Anne_Bonny (1)

When I was girl, aye, many a moon ago,

a landlubber me, me mateys too

sailed the ocean in books from the bilge,

the library basement racks, and ventured far,

anchored only by words like hook of the captain

luring us in like Moby, wee urchins to the salty seas,

uprising smartly when it was time to go.

But we’d come another day for a skull’s whistle.

“For a tale awaits on the shores of shelves,”

the spectacle’d lass in pumps and plum lips said.

“Pirate the world in an open palm, my beauties,

Steal the wind with a spell set on shivering leaves.”

Ahoy and avast! And we did, alit below the stars

of blackened ceilings open endlessly beyond

and long before days peering into Davey’s Locker..

If I Could Savor…

  

If I could savor all the bits and pieces of love I have shared

–with or without someone else–
and store them in a capacious safe place 
such as a warehouse, 
a bank vault 
and my heart, 
all in one, 
to draw upon on days like these after a night of angst and tremor, 
there would never be a moment of worry, 
of terror or dread, 
no steam of regret or anger, 
for all would be washed away in the oceanic amour reservoir. 
I have loved so much so often, 
it is a wonder there is any room for other invaders to besiege my mood, 
disrupt my sleep or daytime dreaming, 
none to spare for jealousy and greed, 
envy and hate. 
Love has filled all the cracks, 
poured off in excess to inundate the floor of my soul, 
completely submerged in pooled good will and heart offerings that bind. 
Or so it would seem on sheer mathematical principles alone. 
So many loves, so many times.

Is there any fiercer love in so fragile a bundle than the adoring eyes of an infant 
following and studying her mother’s face? 
No matter the need, 
there is brimming love un poisoned by desire 
and machinations of how to get that in my pocket, 
in my bedroom, 
or in my bank account.
No matter the illusion, 
the source is there in wide open hazy eyes 
studying the mystery of the powerful impulse 
to forego sustenance in order to drive nearer the object of an overwrought mind 
and wretched will to be in the presence of the beloved. 
The road is endless until a fluid destiny culminates. 

I asked a friend, 
and me, 
on occasion: 
How could there ever be a lonely-cold day of wondering where she’s gone, 
who she loves now, 
when she gave up so much of her herself, 
her ambition and freedom, 
the dream job and impassioned call to the city’s illuminating sights, 
to be with you those many years? 
Did you not collect those trillions of minutes and safe-keep them in your house, 
hidden in the darkest corner of your room, 
the moments of her bottom lip brushing yours in tender, 
have-spilled surrender to the night, 
your heat enveloping her breath, 
deepening her sleep to the pallor of death’s neighborhood? 
Where did you send those beats’ resounding 
if not through that mighty pump thrusting it off 
to venture through the veins of your mind’s nettings? 
Draw them now; 
paint the joy of that brush of your mother’s thin fingers through your hair, 
your grandfather’s whistling from the smokey yard, 
giant barbecue tongs in hand, 
your toddler’s honey sticky fat thumbs on your cheeks, 
your lover’s call in the late night longing, 
your sister’s tearful embrace, 
the memories of moving childhood laughter pinched in her arm’s muscular grip, 
and the first step in the door of the home and hearth 
you have craved for trillions of minutes endured away.  

Love is strong. 
I have heard of her lifting a car to save her baby 
and her loss heavier than the bloated body at the bottom of the lake. 
It does not dissipate for the air cannot carry such weight. 
The heart cannot contain it all, 
and the mind cannot grasp it. 
Love must reside in the thick rubbery green of the rubber plant 
hanging above my porch, 
or in the orange of the sky at dusk, 
or in the olive and pink sheen of my daughter’s freshly showered skin, 
or the ancient brown of the spots on my mother’s cheeks 
or the muffled sound of my father’s cough from the other room, 
or the musk of the classroom still lingering even after long summer months  
or the squeeze of my hand just before I approach the podium for my closing argument, 
or the earth of an emerging bordeaux on my tongue, 
and the thought of growing old with the world.

Killer Thoughts

It’s been around for a while, but I just saw this delightful Ryan Woodward animation “The Thought of You,” which has made its rounds on Facebook, Vimeo and Youtube ad nauseum. And my fresh look adds yet another interpretation among the hundreds of others mostly fawning observations and applauding. The difference in interpretive tone–positive or negative–is probably affected by the accompanying song. In one version, Nick Lovell’s “Cradle in my Arms” is the backdrop, which is slow, severe and mournful, whereas the other version is accompanied by the Weepies’ “The World Spins Madly On,” a much more upbeat though just as disillusioned song.
 
In the short animation, I see thought, airy nothing, on display. I see the “lost in the world” lyric, with two ideas dancing around each other, illusive in the acting out: he grabs her but she evades him, slips from him but then there she is again, and they dance and she caresses him but he ducks away, also slippery.  
 
And the lyric, “woke up wishing I was dead…the night is here the day is gone,” floats into my consciousness as the scene changes to dream sequence, a longing, where she is an angel, the feathers falling as she flies from him. Is he about to kill her off? When they finally spin together as they and “the world spins madly on,” she suddenly becomes real to him, her clear yearning to touch him, there standing in all of her need–real–and he lets her go.  She is real, depicted with shading and fullness, depth, and he is still an idea. He lets the real go. Dreams and fantasies are far more interesting, full of potential.
 

Nick Lovell’s “Cradle in my Arms”

I don’t mind
Where I wake this morning
I will only be misjudged

 

You are here
But your mind is elsewhere
You have battled for so long

 

Just call me when you feel like coming home
Call me when you feel like coming home

 

Have I changed?
Or do my eyes just see things
So much differently now?

 

Lay the blame
Only if you have to
But it’s you who brought you here

 

The animation suggests thought as the figures are mere sketches until the woman acquires shading, a touch of reality, when she is more concretely identifiable as herself and not the projections of the male configuration’s imagination: as angel as the feathers that fall suggest or even a dancer. When she stands there just herself in want of him, not playing chase, at the end, he leaves her. He loses interest or runs in fear or both.

 

I want to peel off my skin and roll myself in salt when I see this where others–Youtube and Vimeo commenters–look to the beauty of the dance and feel warmth and loveliness. The projection of my own thoughts on someone else, making that person an extension of my own desire and will is a life-long habit and a doom to so many relationships.Too often have I wished another to fill the expectations of my imagination, which is powerfully creative and unrealistic as if totally unleashed from senses.

 

The result: not actually seeing or finding the person standing before me because I have never been there–present–in the first place to notice. Wrapped up in my mind’s eye, not my physical eye that sees not envisions, causes blindness–and eventual loss.
 
When she is an idea–a thought–it is easier to hurt her. Experiencing another as flesh and blood makes it more difficult to hurt that human being, compassionately and empathically sensed as one senses him or her own self. 
 
That is how genocides or near genocides have been possible in the past–making whole populations an idea, a problem needing a solution, the Jews of pre-War World II Germany as only one example. No human being but the most unfeeling, the sociopathic, could be convinced that the economic solution for a failed economy and the woes attending such is to kill another singular, seething human fleshly being standing right before one’s eyes. No, that person would have to become an idea–the economic drain, the problem, caused by immigration, greed, religious destiny, or some other idea.

 

For me, fantasy has always been greater than reality and my heart is a painter. Those who show up to be my canvas often cry out, insist on themselves as I sketch and color them brighter, fuller bloom. 
 
The Weepies’ “World Spins Madly On”
 
Woke up and wished that I was dead
With an aching in my head
I lay motionless in bed
I thought of you and where you’d gone
and let the world spin madly on

Everything that I said I’d do
Like make the world brand new
And take the time for you
I just got lost and slept right through the dawn
And the world spins madly on

I let the day go by
I always say goodbye
I watch the stars from my window sill
The whole world is moving and I’m standing still

Woke up and wished that I was dead
With an aching in my head
I lay motionless in bed
The night is here and the day is gone
And the world spins madly on

I thought of you and where you’d gone
And the world spins madly on.

 
“And the world spins madly on…” The world of the imagination is a mad spin, crazy making in its delusional world making.

 

How many of us do this–imagine what we want rather than experience what we have?