Friday, April 04, 2014

Never So Intensely

A rather weighty proposition, asked to read at our daugther's wedding.  Something old, something new? I found plenty of inspirational readings, but felt like, with some pressure, could devise my own.  I set out to incorporate "love,"God", and "New Orleans", without just using the phrase, "Oh, God, I love New Orleans." 

It seemed only a question of a few years before the older people would step aside and let the world be run by those who saw things as they were, and it all seems rosy and romantic to us who were young then, because we will never feel quite so intensely about our surroundings any more. – F. Scott Fitzgerald, Echoes of the Jazz Age, posted on Cheryl Manley's tumblr site.

Within a marriage
each partner will never feel
so intensely about their surrounds,
as when strangers to the new.

For what is novel -
reinvented rhythms,
secrecies to solve  -
binds them together,
discovering, as they plunge,
with curiosity, perplexity, and love.

They are falling in – to their city,
and one another to form
a crossing, connection, compromise.

Look at the bend in the Mississippi,
how the river reserves its stores,
‘til at that juncture
where the water arcs,
shoots ships from its channel
before currents commit
and yield to sea.

So it is, two partners bear in to each other -
raise their own roof,
to crown their confines.
lean in as live oaks,
yet reach like new leaves,
craft the keystone
to carry their quarrels and joy.

Let that marriage be like St Louis Cathedral,
her vaulted arches across the façade
open to the strains of Have Mercy,
or Te Deum, To Thee O God.
Her many bowed windows,
like open eyes,
dance madly upon the square.

Let marriage be the art
of crescent-like cast iron
bending over balconies,
curved entrées into covert courtyards,

Let each Victorian portico admired
become a paean to the arch, to marriage
a reminder to fall -
in to each other, in to fervor.

Fall in,
then fall in again.

@Copyright Three Arch Press, 2014.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

With or Without Caffeine

I am almost tiptoeing down Mom’s hallway this morning, the silence overwhelming.  Is everyone napping?  In their rooms?  In activities, though the room looked empty upon first inspection.

I come upon Mom, seated in her regular vinyl chair, in the far corner of the TV room.  Six other women are present in the room, some snoozing, others watching The Andy Griffiths show, one whistling along.

“There she is,” my mother greets me. This is her standard phrase when she first notices me coming towards her.

“Well, hi Mom, how are you?”

She repeats after me a lot.  “How are you?” then quickly segues to her, “well its right there.”  She points to the vacant magazine rack, no running commentary, she simply wants me to know it exists, and that she has questions about why it sits empty.

We nuzzle for hugs, and she tugs at my fleece.  “Hey, I like that.”  I tell her she has the exact same fleece, only in pink, and she questions me, “Where?”

“In your room?”

“Where is that?”

Her room is right around the corner from where we are located, but I let this drop.

She is giggling now, at the sight of me. Her eyes, which I expect to be sleepy, are wide open, I can almost see inside her mind. If only.

“Hey, let me see that,” she reaches over to take hold of my short coffee cup, filled with a vanilla latte.  Normally, I would have ordered decaf at this point in the morning, but I was feeling risky and went with a regular.

She sips on the coffee, licks her lips, while we discuss the rain. “Look at you, you have water on you.”

“Its pouring, outside.” I emphasize pouring, for the remaining audience.  Many heads shake.  “Oh no,” one whispers while D., who is typically nonresponsive, perks up and mumbles in our direction. What I don’t know, but I am surprised by the mere fact she is attempting to speak.

Dominiki strolls by. She loves Mom.  She sits with us for a few moments, while Mom keeps asking, “Hey, what’s this,” referring to Dominiki’s tattoo on her arm.

Suddenly, Mom is giggling.  Then, out and out laughing.

“Mom, you have the giggles today.”

“Oh, I do?  Well, I guess I do.”  She bursts out in laughter some more.

On a dismal morning such as today, I would have expected her to be fast asleep, a little Sinatra or Glenn Miller turned up in her room.

Instead, she is moving constantly, like a character in an arcade game. I cannot keep track of her.  She proceeds to sit in the chair in the kitchen, the only chair.  I call it the Chairman of the Board chair. She can oversee the food preparation, the medication dispensation, the parade of residents marching up and down the hall to meals or activities, the entrance to the Tub and Shower Rooms, and the dining area.

She lords over the kitchen as a famed chef might, but from a seated position.

I hop on over to follow her, asking her to get up, because there is nowhere for me to sit.

“Do you want to walk?”

“No,” she responds plainly. The nurse, caregiver and other residents laugh.  I laugh.  Mom out and out falls out of her seat she is laughing so mightily.

When she is finished with the giggles, she does however stand up.  I guide her down the hallway, as she reads out the names on the doorways.  “E. Swiss helm,” she stumbles, attempting to pronounce the last name.  “Now what is that?”

First, I try to articulate the name. “Its Swisshelm, like you know the head of the Swiss.”

She looks at me like I am that one who has lost her mind.

“What is that?”  and she yanks on my arm until I can properly explain the last name.

One more shot at humor. “Its an elm. Like a tree.  Only its Swiss.”  This explanation she believes and then starts to laugh, this time holding her stomach.

She still hasn’t stopped chuckling, as we stroll down the hall, and towards Coffee Hour.  She enters the room, and makes her entrance grand, by reading whatever is written in the board, “Participating in Meaningful Programming Moments at Arden Courts.”  I have heard this before, about a thousand times.  I am going to suggest an LED sign in its place, so the wording can be modified daily. I am always making suggestions for improvement, given the time I spend with Mom at Arden, and the lack of diversions while there.

The table of residents stop to listen to Mom read, then immediately continues with their parallel conversations, unimpressed.

Mom reaches for my arm again, “C’mon, let’s go down here.”

We make our way to the far end of the room, where she can observe the Black-eyed Susan garden that has yet to sprout.  I pray they planted other flowers in there too this season, just to mix up my view, not necessarily hers.

She turns from the rain riddled window.  The male residents in the room, all four of them, are positioned at this end.  She motions towards E., a decidedly younger male with round eye glasses and curly hair. “Hey, look at that one.”

“That one, Mom, what are you talking about?”

She has never spoken of an interest in any men, other than B.’s grandson who often appears in suit and tie, carrying a bag of Burger King French fries. And he she notices, mainly because she wants some of his fries.

“You know, that one.”

Not only is Mom showing interest in a male, but she is continuing with a line of thought, despite distractions all around.


Mom nudges me with her elbow, and raises her almost nonexistent eyebrows, “Yeah.”

We chuckle together, and a roomful of eyes cast their sights upon us, hurt to be left out of a joke they wouldn’t understand.

I situate Mom in chair near that end then tell her I have to leave. She no longer laughs, curses at me instead.  I walk out with my head held high, despite the reprimand just received.

Amazing moments still transpire in Mom’s life, with or without caffeine. Amidst the backdrop of an ordinary routine, I sometimes miss these singular moments.  But they are there, however fleeting. 


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

White Space

I liked it better
when the “feel better” bags
on airlines
were made from paper
and not plastic
as I root for an object
to become the target of my pen.
Me, writer, no paper.
Often I resort to this,
backside of the drycleaning slip,
margins of the trailing grocery store receipt.
But I am trying to capture
a fleeting thought
one that will not wait
and so
the Tag Heuer wristwatch ad wins.
Only such an expense
could afford white open expanse
to promote a black onyx face
and leather strap.

But here is what I want to say
as I sit in proximity
to an Asian woman.
I can see into her ears.
Yes, she is that close.
Yes, she cleaned them this morn.
The side of her face is dotted with
age spots I am trying to rid of myself.
Earlier she was reading
symbols that ran up and down
on a page. I am trying to see
if the corners of her eyes
slant up or down.

I am looking over her arms
when she retrieves her boarding pass
to read her name
but she is sly this way.
I do not see a name.
If I did, I cannot recall.
Is it, a short name is Chinese,
long is from Japan?
I don’t know why
I am desperate to know.
She too is writing - in a journal.
She is more organized. I am Italian,
I go in fits and starts. But I ask,
reflecting on her race,
if as the Atheist claims,
we did not all come from one race
then how is it,
she closes her eyes
bundles beneath a blanket.
I close mine, cuddled in my scarf,
and we both fall sweetly in slumber.

How could be not alike?

Inspired by the woman sitting next to me, and the Creationism vs Bill Nye debate


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Upon Contemplation of 48

The nickel moon is half in half out this morning. Half in this world, half in the other. An appropriate moon for the day I turn 48.  The bitter cold smacks me in the face as I let the dog out. He roams and barks at the wind. I too am barking at its grip on this part of the earth. But I am a January girl.  Rumor has it, and the almanac confirms, that on my birthday, a record amount of snow fell for that season.  It is still listed in the top 50 since 1950.  I cannot claim anything having to do with that statistic, other than it was the day I arrived.

I take note this morning, in the shower, of my body. Wash my hair, now longer, with care, and not the harsh scrub my mother used, over the stationary tub, when I was little, Johnson’s No More Tears streaming down my face. Oh, I hated water, hated baths, hated having my hair washed.  Did I mention I am a January girl, an Aquarius no less?

I brush, tweeze and floss the crevices of my body. I am learning to move slow.  No. Not slow down. But move slow. To my own rhythms.  It is a lesson long in coming, in my history as a runner, running into my mother’s arms, she asking why I am running so fast. What was I running away from? What was I running towards?  Running, as I fell over hurdles, at a track meet in seventh grade, the asphalt I can still detect, as the suds roll over my bumps this morning, embedded in my knee as a footnote to my glory days, and a reminder there will always be something in my path that I will trip on. But I will rise and finish.

As I reach down into my cabinets below, I am stopped mid-air.  It was only yesterday morning that I awoke inbetween, a place where women don’t often find themselves, but perhaps once or twice in their life.  Puzzlement over the stage of life their body is in.  No longer twenty, yes.  Not yet 50, yes.  But the middle. Where, when a period over two weeks late is evaluated, perseverated upon, sweat over, and the sweat is evaluated, perseverated upon, and sweat over.  Am I? Or am I not?  Am I pregnant, or is this really mid-life.

And in those twenty-four hours, I am like a new student on the target range, aiming all over the place. I can shoot effectively. I just don’t know where I want my arrows to land. Blame on the doctors who performed my husband’s vasectomy many years ago.  Frustration at my own body’s silence.  Anger at my first husband, Devin, for leaving me with only biological child.  Sadness that Mark and I did not create together. We opted for a dog, and the wisdom that came from - when in doubt, go with the dog.  Uncertainty, that on the eve of Roe v. Wade, what would be my stance should I be pregnant.  More confusion, at my age, delivering a child, no matter its health. Blessedness of the three young women and one young man who make up the posse I call “my kids.”  Relief that I would no longer have “count days” or endure the extra three cycles my body “gifts” me each year.  Gratitude I would not endure more post-period anemic, depressive episodes.  Wondering what room, “in the new house” would be sufficient for a nursery, deciding it would be my office, more fury that would signal the end of my writing career for a spell.

In the inbetween, the time in which I open my eyes to the reality of the day and the time in which I put feet to the floor, grounded in what lies ahead, these thoughts bounce around like ping pongs in the lottery machine, wondering which number will be pulled.  Will I win the lottery?  Define “win.” Define “lottery.”

But as I approached the bathroom, a warmth trickles through the insides of my belly, a belly taut only days earlier, when I practiced yoga, skied down a few black diamonds, ran on the treadmill, a belly which now shook with each step I took.  Minutes later, confirmation that I had not yet achieved middle age, nor would I conceive.  It would have been miraculous, either way.  For some odd reason, I entertain mixed emotions over both outcomes.

I stand inbetween, at the crossroads of motherhood and empty nest.  Between pages written in the past, and the white, empty pages of my horizon.  Half-cocked writer, full-blown author. Love for family. Want for “self.” 

I look back into the mirror, the pregnancy test now out of mind.  I caress my arms and legs with lotion to soothe my current aches. I run over scars still healing from surgery of the shoulder.  Hips that don’t lie from only one birth, as another scar across the pubic bone reveals the other half of that birth.  A tailbone once cracked from a bumpy bike ride on campus.  The knee, again.  The one age spot on my face I am trying to rectify.  The hands that will never be my mother’s.  The feet, oh my sturdy feet, they are my father’s.

I turn to attend to my hair.  The dog scampers in. He thinks it beauty parlor day, but I tell him I will go first this time. The hair that has grown longer, has also revealed the cowlicks of my younger days.  The pain of trying to achieve the Dorothy Hamill look. To be more like those whose hair I coveted – the Robin Eichenlaubs, Julie Pines, or Julie Drugas of this world.  I cannot train my hair to go where it was not meant to go.  My body neither.

So, I sit in this inbetween. As I writer, I am unabashedly in favor of these words becoming a noun, no longer a preposition or a phrase that governs another noun.  I want it instead to govern my life. I want to live in that gray area, because the adage, “When I grow old, I will wear purple,” never applied to me. I have been wearing purple since I was sixteen. 

I see inbetween as the world created when I am spinning around, and the whirl which is visible is that inbetween and if I step in that path, follow the energy, I can stay in this world inbetween.