We Witness (for the Poetry Patroness)


Insurmountable: to palm someone’s blinding grief in your hands 

to show her–the griever– 

the terrifying, sublimity in bottomless agony. 

You can’t help her picture that pure, petrified stance on the bridge 

mid-way between his suffering and her own, textured so distinctly, 

galaxies apart in their partnered struggle,

his fraught with the tortured, focused fight against pain, and hers, 

witness, empath, limb, mother, wife, married to his suffering. 

Her body pours static breath into his mad-gnashing vortex.

 
Where does one end and the other begin? 

At the point of internal harrowing, razing cells that scream 

in hysterical, frenzied death and reproduction, 

death and reproduction, 

with no end in sight, for these crazed, cracked-out enucleate disks don’t quit, 

bear no mind but to destroy in their very giving–as if human.

 
I’ll show you the petals of the wide-blooming, morning rose, 

heady as your bejeweled wedding day,

the dewy, pale, opalescent-translucence of redolent, velvety dalliance, 

stained rust-dry at the edges–

a picture of blossoming, ordered DNA

perfectly-formed, fragile as your first-born’s, infant fingernail– 

carrying its own prescient death at the borders.

 
She’s beautiful, 

not as a symbol, not as obedient structure, 

but as herself, fragrant joy bleeding. 

I’ll cup her in my gardening hands to grow a path between us–

sorely aggrieved and floundering shadow, 

clumsily consoling your fear and mine, 

both corraling an other’s-brother’s-father’s-husband’s-son’s fluxing end. 

Could you crawl outside a minute to see?

Gemini 

 

 
Gemini’s bloom, neither starry aster nor royal poinsettia

seasons too late for the rose of summer skies.

One dies brightly, late fall’s supernova, while another paints icy lips ruby.

Your velvet blush pairs story-eyed girls with breathless boys re-enacting everlasting joy;

unrevealed how your Bristly Roseslug Cladius difformis and red spider mite underside,

 laced and aching,   

cache closes the thin divine like children threading hearts to paper clips in kinder class.

Honored sister, pour your swooning sorrow into my hands and let your brave face die.

No man, beast or garden silk delivered so much to so many for so long. 

Release the weight of your beatific crown, heavy with curved care, and sink.

Another June will call your name in vein-flow some day soon.

 
credit: flikr.com

Love is a Left Handed Lie

  
More curious than the man who desires this life-possessing material, the complete mind-body of another along with other chattel he claims, is the woman who falls for him. A woman who mind-swoons when he says, “I would have devoured you…built ice cream banana splits inside you and made you watch me eat it out of you.” Who is she who yearns to be possessed? She tiptoes the schism of fantasy and reality. How much of fantasy is a defrayal of reality, an inversion of sorts, whereby the ego is both inflated and deflated, while lived existence saunters its hips in between. The fuel of not only the libido but of imagination, creativity and desire resides in that longing and play, to offset the anguish of mortality and suffering small and large in any given thought, moment or action. 

Nietzsche may have written rightly about suffering as the only link to worth, to creativity and substantiation, but no one likes it any more so knowing it is both means and ends, the value to living. To cede to possession is to return cocooned to the womb, protected, oblivious and cushioned in amniotic pre-knowing. The yearning is primal, like the urge to retract blooming petals of the reaching morning roses sun blushed and vital, so as to erase having opened to the world–ever. 

Ghosting

 

 
I learned this term today in an elephant journal article.  It means “ending a romantic relationship, by cutting off all contact and ignoring the former partner’s attempts to reach out.”

Like the writer who defined the term, I am in the dark about new trends, words and expressions quite often despite having two teenage daughters. I often think how far behind the times I will fall when my contact with them is not daily–in my house. They keep me fresh and as close to hip and trendy as I will ever be (which is not very close), often with exasperated faces, slumped shoulders to punctuate the sheer agony of educating an older person.

However, rudeness is not confined to youth. I agree that ghosting is rude, excluding abusive relationships, of course. Treating people as if they are disposable plastic bags, discarded (probably on the ground) after use without a thought to future ramifications (pollution-physical and emotional) to other beings both human and animal is more than unkind, more than cruel. It is brutal. 

The kindest gift is knowledge with all of its up and downsides. I may be rejected, feel bad about being rejected or even about myself, if someone dumps me face to face or in an email or text, but ice that rejection with someone’s cowardice or cruelty to keep me ignorant in the face of such dumping, well that is too much. 

First, I not only wind up feeling rejected but ashamed on top of that. Once I discover the ghosting, I am bound to feel doubly embarrassed that I did not know the person I cared about was such a coward, such an unethical person. That is the part that would throw me into despair. How could I not know I was dealing with an asshole? 

That realization–that I am stupid, unobservant and/or naive–kills me more than someone rejecting me for being me. I do not need validation from someone else, though it certainly feels wonderful to be appreciated. But I DO need to know who I am dealing with–for my own safety. For how do I make wiser decisions in the future if I have a defective bullshit detector?

The battle is always between the bravery and freedom to trust against cautiousness, the wisdom to discern others’ intentions and needs, and whether those fit my own. The difficulty, of course, is in achieving clarity, sorting through what’s mine and what’s someone else’s. They get conflated and confused sometimes. Is it me who wants exclusivity or am I capitulating to some unspoken or spoken desire of the person I HOPE to build a relationship with in time? It gets complicated picking through the nuances.

Knowledge is the best armor. Knowing the self and observing others is a lifelong study. I hardly ever get it right. The attempt is all I or anyone ever has, but the trick is to develop an intuition or listen to the one inborn, weak as it is, mixed in with recollection of tendencies and traits that are recognizably lethal.

I believe ghosters are detectable to those paying attention. 

Barring the sociopaths, those who would do others harm smell differently, and I mean that more in a metaphoric than a literal sense. Tight listening to instincts, like wearing infrared goggles, reveal the dark hidden. If only we use the gear at our disposal: eyes, ears, heart and mind, take note of the signs, the hints, looks and words–not in suspicion but in curiosity, like an archeological exploration, seeing what the landscape bears underneath, hopeful of gems of discovery but mindful that the earth may be barren or even collapsable and dangerous.

Perhaps ghosting is more a phenomenom of youth with its inexperience, fewer notes on lived case studies. Or it should be. But even young people have inherent tools to sniff out fear, falsehood and feelings. If only they respect themselves and their abilities, without trepidation over likely mistakes. 

Buddha proclaimed it way before I did. Suffering, though inevitable, is minimized in the mindful.
 

credit: futuresequence.com

Singing Joni

Joni Mitchell sings, ” I am a lonely painter. I live in a box of paints.” And when she does, I am stilled. But it is not the last sentence so much as the first, and not the last word so much as the word before–lonely–that moved me dozens of hearings. She moans the word, extended ‘O” evocative of Munch’s howl, though far more subtle, deeper and soulful. The anguish is not Munch’s, overlaid with fear, so much as the rooted, internal groan, petulant sugar, that she bemoans.

I sing that line out of nowhere driving in my car or listening to a conversation drifting in and out, particularly imbalanced ones where I witness more than counsel or contribute.

At first the metaphor of living in a box of paints brushed up against the literary lover in me. I imagined her a genie in a bottle, except a box of paints, transporting me back home–in my imagination–just visiting others’ worlds when I choose or must. But I know it’s the howl of the loooooooo that draws me to the line, to sing it. And not the lonely of loneliness. We are all lonely, though more like unsatisfied, unfocused and disassociated too often. A spiritual loneliness more than a lost or severed connection with others often characterized by missing someone or something. I do not consider that lack as lonely. It’s bigger yet smaller than one human or animal or other being, one activity.

No, the oooo in the looooo is both a ‘no’ and an ‘oh,’ like a sort of toggling between braking and accelerating a car or a dance, patterns of release and restraint.

Joni wants to paint but she sells songs instead. She is an artist, vast and particular. Many artists tear at the thrust of creation thwarted to pay the bills. We yearn to paint.

It is not so much a complaint–I can find a modicum of pleasure and certainly gratitude in anything I do, given that I allow myself to do so–as much as it is a longing, a desire ever felt, within centimeters of impossibly outstretched fingertips, a taste, a scent, a faint melody or flash of recognition come and gone. The hollow left behind–of not reaching–the come and gone, is the oooo. Both full and empty space, both present and absent. An ache. But one informed by the mind’s consent. I hurt because I worked out, something good for me. It will get better.

A promise. We live on promises. Some say that is wasting time, wasting away. Waiting is my least favorite thing to do. Impatience is my pratfall. But there is the impatience at not getting what I want–an open lane for some fucking space, room to race onward!–and there is impatience with something larger, more profound. Not attaining because…Perhaps that is the larger impatience. The because. What follows elicits the moan, sigh and gut grief.

Today “I am a lonely painter” with many mutterings to utter before the day is through, puppeteering a teacher, word-pump, and merchant. And as I dive into a replenishing yet jolting plunge into gratitude, I will channel Joni, fighting for all that is ordinary and plentiful right now–air, thought and motion.

 

Just Until…

  
Just until I am 10, then I will almost be a teenager and can do more things, and not be treated like a baby.

Just until I am 16 and can drive, then I will be free…to work, earn money, and buy my own clothes.

Just until I am 18, when I can get the hell out, be on my own.

Just until I am 21 and can drink–legally. 

Just until I am 28 and will finally graduate from bull shit schooling, start a life.

Just until I am 35 and can finally give in to the urge to procreate.

Just until I am 40, when I can stop having kids.

Just until I am 45, when the kids are in school and I can work more, go back to school.

Just until I am 48 and get my PhD finished, I can teach locally.

Just until I am 50, I will give myself permission to have a mid-life crisis, go away, learn to surf, dye my hair.

Just until I am 55, when I can make a plan, hold on long enough to finish growing up my kids, get them through college, just another 5 years or so, until I am 60 when I can begin to wait out my term, be on my own watch, do my own thing.

I wait. As we all do. We abide biding time as if time could be had. We are had by time and its illusion. Desire is the expression of suffering we live to fill space with all things but ourselves. There really is no time–just inhale and exhale.

 
credit: edge.neocha.com

The Gift of Writing in the Mindful Word

  
My first piece published as a contributing writer for this wonderful journal, The Mindful Word, came out today. Please enjoy this esssay about writing and teaching students old and young about the craft I attribute as salve for what ails us in the human condition of illusory separateness.
Peace, 

the Gaze

On Writing as Suffering

  
Joyce Carol Oates claims, “The effort of memorable art is to evoke in the reader or spectator emotions appropriate to that effort.” And the effort is worth it. When our writing moves others, we affect, share and connect, thus confirming our oneness or perhaps experiencing that oneness as an ancient forgotten memory.

To reach out is to remember. The writer in all of us struggles to be understood through the code of language, a tricky bridge that requires constant constructing, honing, and refining to support the weight of ideas and experiences by which we convey ourselves to others. 

Writing is recursive, ever moving us backward and forward in thought and word–and in time.

Circling, it is an ever circling around the precise words to capture a specific piece of us we so desperately want to convey without misconstruction–that piece of the self we share using only the meager writing tools at our disposal. We search for words. Will this one mean exactly the same for my reader?
 
And the process of building sentences that flow into paragraphs, paragraphs into essays, is tedious. It takes patience. We must persist. Like herding wild horses, we must gather our unruly thoughts breaking wild in a hundred directions per second and corral them into the pen of ordered, confined blocks of coherent patterns. 

We must be painters and logicians both, fighting spirits within us.

credit: wikimedia