A Room: Poem 23

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.

Five Years Ago–Happy Revolutions


Facebook reminds me that I have a memory from five years ago, a picture of my then 12 year old daughter in braids and new-budding body and me, lean and less harried (the intervening five years ran roughshod over my face and spirit), walking a 4th of July 5k that is an annual staple of my town, that and the parade that follows. A rare photo in that my younger daughter awoke early to participate in this event with me. She has seen me run all of her life, even gone with me via stroller or bicycle. Running and soccer predominated over our home all of her life.

Except my daughter, a soccer player since a toddler following in her older sister’s footsteps, literally, has never enjoyed running. In fact, her particular style of soccer reveals a constant strategy to minimize sprints and chases. She outsmarts rather than outruns. So, this particular photo reveals the rare and typical: the two of us in an early morning race–walking. 

I remember this day vividly. She and I raced to the race, having awakened late. By the time we reached the starting line, the race had begun and we raced along in the throngs of sneakered early-morning celebrators. We ran our race before it began, a well-known mistake for one who had run dozens of prior races, short and long. Pacing. We had not paced ourselves, so the photo captures us walking at the three-quarters mark, me with serious intent and recovery written on my expression and she with discovery and rescue broadcast on hers. We were enjoying the moment of breath and notice, me ever deep inside myself and she with wonder of the street lined masses outside.

The friend who took the picture much to my surprise traveled in a group tour with me to the Costa Rican Carribbean rain forest jungle on a yoga retreat. We became waterfall hiking companions as well as yoga classmates on the trip and afterward at the health club we both attended. I did not know he had taken the picture until he posted it on my wall. That memory and all it blankets coupled with a coffee quiet morning foreshadows a lovely 4th. 

Happy, peaceful revolutions to you all.

The Two of Us

  

There is a photograph of you and me, our heads are contorted from sleeping upright in the back of a car, your face clearly lost to sleep, my long neck extended bent as far back as humanly possible without losing the head–only my head is actually cut off. My face stops at the chin; only the widely exposed distorted neck, almost serpentinely composed, and your sleeping face suggests that I have surrendered to what I could no longer fight.

Your haircut reflects the 80s, mullets being the fashion, which you sported briefly. I had one too, though straight hair does more justice to outline the do than my curly hair. We were young, maybe our mid-twenties and traveling, exhausted with too much caffeine and too little sleep. Our clothing suggests spring time or fall, light half sleeved unjacketed shirts and jeans. 

I cannot place the specific occasion of our sleeping in the back of a car or who took the picture. Our sister in law gave it to us this past holiday season and laughed, saying she had meant to give this picture to us for years, each time she came across it in her belongings. And this year was the year, though I don’t know why. The randomness of things stuns me slightly.

You and I share so much history, large and small, remembered and forgotten, largely the latter, and not for lack of significance so much as sheer length of time, the innumerable moments we have lived together. We grew ourselves from teenagers til these current waning years of our youth, of our lives. 

And we have suffered and joyed in measure to most, all of life’s gifts and trials. We have fared well you and I, though you would look askance on that affirmation. And then I would remind you about the synaptic net you form in your brain with such negativity. 

Thus it is with us, we who co-exist inhaling the dust of our pasts every day, lugging it inside us like weightless trunks of paperless snapshots and report cards and love letters we never kept or even wrote except in the air, in the doing and being of us, so that when life folds up neatly to square off a life lived, we’ll have nothing left to us but shared time, the illusion of being.

Lord knows, I cannot imagine having shared illusions with anyone else.