In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"


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Sleep, Lover Lies


You sleep with your mind awake.

I see you twitch and worry as I 

Lie inside your watching, along.

 

Your body tells your story, the 

One about anxious defenses, and

Hilly motoric reflex, fortress wall.

 

A rage induced, childhood fascists,

A jealous brother usurping control,

Lorded over a boyhood’s landscape.

 

And the son who became the man, 

Who took fury to the world, coated

Like enamel, wolfish covetousness.

 

Stuff it all, beers and candy, yearn

To a carefree kid, the promised life

Of firstborn fortune, fiefs forever.

 

Lost, love, in stifled cries un-yelled

Swallow in dragon-ful dreamscapes 

Yawn fire through loins and islands.

 

Bleed worlds inside a wall-safe, keep

Cupped palm close a vampire’d lust.

Despise the rest as marauding cheats.

 

Still I watch, tender-horrified aghast,

Thumb to forefinger circle poked hate

Necessity, wrench-tightens hope-bolt.

 

Awaken yet, chestnut eye transcribes

Silence to story and mawkish, stolen

Laments death, sleep and secrets bare.

 

Sleeping with the enemy, I gaze, boring 

Holes in the skull’s soft, vulnerable hind

Sight, believe too in my own enemy-love.

 

Lovers-valentine-lying: pixabay


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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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cause and effect

 
 
Though once a huge fan, I have become disenchanted with cause and effect. Formerly hailed as counterpart of or precondition to logic, itself some powerful amulet to ward off irrational emotion since the Age of Reason, cause and effect aka reasons or origins, somehow dissolve into explanations and/or excuses, thereby de-motivating change.

For example, my struggles with anger, judgment and mind-chatter, seem endless. Now, I certainly can and have traced the origins of each of those behaviors as inherent or learned. My father flips into uncontrollable, body shaking, nerve-wracked rage on a hair trigger. His primary feature, besides negative, might be dubbed anger. Whereas my mother never was prone to anger–as much. But she was awfully judgmental, and over the border of cautious into the territory of suspicious. She was quick witted, the product of an agile mind, but also quick to judge. She carried pre-conceived notions and prejudices: “That long-haired boy is dirty,” she once complained to me, though I knew intimately well that he showered–with soap and shampoo–daily. 

The mind chatter may be inherited or environmentally induced or unique to me, though I seriously doubt it. Mind chatter is nearly everyone’s 21st century (and much, much longer) problem. But analysing roots to my own traits and those of my husband, children, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins and parents is a favorite pasttime in the post-Freudian/Jung era. My family loves to do it. However, tracing origins does little to eradicate unwanted behaviors and knee-jerk reactions. In fact, the comfort, even downright smug confidence, in the careful analysis of reasons–for me anyhow–thwarts efforts to eliminate unthinking behavior by believing the job half completed.

  
No doubt changing behavior, especially ingrained thinking patterns and involuntary reactions, is enormously difficult for most. It is for me. Most emotional reactions go unrecorded, unthought of. My litany in the driver’s seat on any given day is one such example. An hour of yoga in the morning concentrating on and then achieving a connectedness with the universe, its inhabitants and all that exists flies out the car window a half hour later in the 15 minute, muttering-filled drive to school: “What are you some kind of a moron?” I might ask aloud to the car swerving into my lane ahead of me, without a mite’s notice. The violence of that question, that mindset, goes completely undetected mostly. Maybe not undetected, but completely unrestrained in the uttering. 

And then I judge myself for lack of control, criticizing myself–Miss Yoga–for the irony and absurdity, for its impeding progress to judge and anger less and focus on chatter-free presence more. Now, I might lapse into congratulating myself for a clever analysis of the causes for such “bad” behavior, like lack of sleep, lack of yoga, lack of control, lack of you name it, when that happens. Knowing and admitting my weaknesses is half the battle, right? That is the psychological lore anyhow.

But that comfort in doing half the work–incorrect math–is illusory, justificatory, rationalization. Enormous effort effects change, enables me–or anyone–to cease automatic behaviors acquired before consciousness. First, the mind chatter must quiet, reduced by half at least, so as to hear, see and smell immediate surroundings of the moment. Quieter still, to “listen” to emotional reactions as they occur or watch them arise. And then neutral observation may have a chance once the way is paved–stillness–to regard the workings of the mind and body. If I can watch the anger gather me up in the car (or anywhere I perceive my efforts thwarted or my path blocked), note it and think of it without judgment, I might short-circuit the cyclic occurrence, the connection between driving and anger severed–one street of one drive at a time. Baby steps. 

The requisite discipline overwhelms me just the thought of it, sometimes. I am too tired to separate myself out like that most days. But at least I know I have this problem and how to fix it, right? Wrong. Cause and effect unconsciously, silently and insidiously strikes just like that.


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falalalalalalalala

  
A therapist once asked me why I gave myself appendicitis. I was supposed to move out of my marital home of 9 years that weekend but ended up moving my appendix out of my body instead. It was ready to burst and so was I, especially after such a farfetched question. I quit her after that session and never went back.

Since then, however, her question returns even after 20 or more years. Not exactly the question but the idea that I could induce a physiological crisis in my body in avoidance or in reaction to a psychological catastrophe. Could repression or stress so powerfully indel, cut, trigger or distress the body to rebel in disease? I know what the scientific literature says, but could I have caused appendicitis?

As I sit here with a flu, I believe such unconscious self-destruction possible. I have resisted this Christmas shopping for as long as possible and now that there is only today to shop, I am sick. I cannot remember a holiday season I have felt less jubilant about, and now layering the whole holiday experience is a Rudolph red nose and the vicious taunting of my own conscience. 

The kids will be so disappointed with nothing under the tree. And so, I will trudge through the stores, sharing the sick germs of Christmas spirits past and present. T’is the season to give after all. 


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One week 

  
He keeps referring back to school days

And clinging to his child

Fidgeting and bullied

His crazy wisdom holding onto something wild

He asked me to be patient

Well I failed

“Grow up!” I cried

And as the smoke was clearing he said

“Give me one good reason why”

(“Strange Boy” excerpt–Joni Mitchell. Happy Birthday, JM!!)

 

Day 7

I was never an outcast. If I was, I never noticed. However, something mysterious was apparently amiss in the first grade to warrant seeing the school psychologist a few times. I vaguely remember. Dr. Richardson, a thin, blonde professional-looking woman in a suit, something notable for the year 1966 to even me at my meager six years or so. She was kind, thin with narrow, burnt red lips. She made me feel comfortable as much as possible given that I was ultimately aware that I joined the good doctor for some reason I neither understood nor cared for. What was wrong?

 I only knew that I sat at a desk stationed near the teacher, Mrs. Moynahan, and suffered from the angst of not knowing what to do at times, lost inside myself. Not knowing the way, the code, the proper steps or a place to start always sliced deeply, caused undue distress. Missing information meant I had no control over my environment and fulfilling others’ expectations of me. 

I recall the first day of kindergarten not wanting my mother to leave me, and she having to wait outside the classroom while I was inside knowing she was out there, or thinking she was, and even considering the possibility that she was not actually outside the door but making me believe she was. That latter idea, the fact that I could not know whether she was out there was more distressing, keeping me on the edge of tears more so than the abandonment itself. Abandonment fears were not in my mental vocabulary. Being deceived piqued my radar more than a fear of being left, which rarely occurred to me.

On the first day, kindergarten felt like fear and restrained tears, despite the sweet, slow-moving, wide-girthed, dark-skinned Mrs. Dudley, who cajoled song from us five-year olds, cheery angled songs that induced amnesia, like the distractions any adult relies on to detour a child’s unwanted emotional expression. Do you know the muffin man? 

I knew being left with questions. But that was all I recall–that and my trips to the psychologist in first grade, moving up two classes in the school smarts hierarchy in fourth grade, being teased by Mr. Muller in fifth grade for having the same name as someone in a newspaper clipping who married someone with the same name as a boy in the class, Robert Pitt. I was mortified. I remember having Denise Eccleston back in class with me then after missing her in fourth grade, the year of my upgrade. She was my best pal in third grade; we loved silliness and laughter. She was my one good friend in fifth. I only needed one–one at a time. 


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GHOSTING: Passive-aggressive discourtesy can be a lesson in manifesting the self

ghosting-manifesting-self

A piece I fleshed out from a sketch I posted earlier on this blog, this personal essay on The Mindful Word was published yesterday. I hope you enjoy it.

The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just “get the hint” and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested. Ghosting is…(read more here)


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Are All Writer’s Introverts?

  
I googled that question today after teaching two classes, writing a few blog posts, counseling a student, and editing an article. Facing the prospects of a shift at a retail job to finish off the day’s work schedule, I am on the verge of collapsing into the couch and burying my head deep under the pillows.

People exhaust me. I am clearly an introvert, and I have never taken a test to prove it. I know it. However, whenever I confess to this most trendy of trends…”You know you’re an introvert if…” being an introvert, people are amazed. “But you’re a teacher and seem so social.” Both are true. I am a pleasant person, courteous at least, in the company of others and am certainly a teacher. I love teaching. But neither of those facts make me less of an introvert.

I hate to be the living cliché, but I believe most writers are introverts, living inside of texts, which are quieter and less demanding. People require attention, not only of the mind but of all the senses. They must be heard, seen, sensed, smelled and sometimes…touched. It’s all too much by the end of the day.

While I am among the masses, however, I do not feel sapped of energy. It’s when I hit the quiet of the late afternoon, sitting in the sun’s windowed reflection under the ticking of the clock punctuating my solitude among the table and chairs, tablecloth and armoire of my kitchen/dining area that the absolute exhaustion–a bone weariness of the mind and spirit–overwhelms me.

 

An aphid burrowing into the cells 

homing the pulp of me, crawling 

the synapses ablaze with centipedal

feet by the hundreds across attention

span and heat of the moment glee of

questions answered and asked, again

ticking off to-do’s of the do-nothings

but ply, ply, ply; it’s my trade, my cue,

my plight, but in the end, husked,

devoured, twisted, torn and teeth-

marked, me, hollow, me, cocooned

in respite of the dark, silent sap of

the dead thickening thinned linings

undressed, undermined and stripped

swollen, aching in whispering dawn.

 
credit: laurensapala.com