when i reached for the moon and fell out of the crib i was moved to lower ground. when i fell out of the tree and broke my ankle i said who likes tree climbing anyway. when i wrote a poem and you said it moved you i thought i could write forever. then forever became a mighty long time and somewhere i decided it was maybe better not to reach. or to climb or to write. because what if with falling or breaking or resting i could no longer move you? and what if not doing means not being? and what if the climber leaps?
i cannot say why it should be okay to have faith drawn out on a limb hanging mid air as if some sort of reconciling could warrant what's broken. there is no word nor sign nor even prayer that might at once undo the ruddy ache of having and losing and finally losing heart. what is terrible then is that we love. and our loving, like balloons in a hurricane, is torn from us - even as we covet the softest sweetness inside - where only his aliveness has touched you - where only he has been for you. i imagine though that he finds you - even now, through crooked slumber and honest despair - where if your eyes were closed you both could see and even if you did not touch you both could feel - there where your loving has allowed a living and a leaving - and both as honest as a thousand migrant winds - back and forth forever undoing and confirming what we think we know about life about death about love.
people are dying - and also there is cancer like a maniac bully breaking our hearts. i wanted to feel something - one time for itself - without another something to hold it up against or toward. but what's so is the tragic beauty of everything we love - dissolving in front of us as we become.
we have always liked to organize things differently. you file beautiful next to exquisite and lush and tradition - your systems become tasteful displays of abundance - while i like to purge and name the spaciousness something pretty. you bring the color while i remove the things that filter it. you have big soft hands and a warm heart and room to hold every little thing that is sacred close. my hands are dry from all the scrubbing and i try my best not to hold on to things. still, i will leave your home every time with my arms full of certain special gifts i could not have lived without. a poem clipped from an old magazine - an ancient alligator suitcase - the rusted locks and tired lining proof that you can stop time. and i would. stop time. i wonder how many times i have taken the fake poinsettias down - tripping over my own feet and the heavy curtains that line the closet - the ladder leaning against the wall like an old friend i have used twice a year forever. the string of christmas lights in a round hat box that i will not test this year breaks me. but i do not cry. only some of them would have lighted. and i would have wrestled them around the tree like i do every year, finding out a little too late that one string needs to be replaced, again. you would point out the holes where the light is not enough. where it is dark. we will fill the tree with color again - every year with your box of color - we will fill the tree to overflowing - all the sparkling glass balls and crystal boxes, the shiny bundles of red berries and intricate ornamentation - the precious hold-it-in-your-hand beauty - the loveliness of things made meaningful by your keeping. this time you say go ahead and give the poinsettias away and we act like it is no big deal. someday when we have grown weary of the attic i will ask you for the ladder. this is how she taught me i will say to make beauty worth giving away and memories worth keeping. i will have tiny clippings of poems and articles cut - things you saved and stored and finally delivered as if it were no trouble at all that you cared enough to save it. this year we'll get the tree early and maybe spill red wine on the sofa or not use coasters. we will have known better and that will be what counts. that because of you we will have known better.
i wanted to bring you flowers - lift the scent of jasmine out of the air or carry the wind with me - to where you were hiding, under the sleep-strained sheets and the empty bottles - to before pills and drink and men could destroy you. but you won't answer the phone or the door or the possibility of things being different - because, you say, there is no hope - inside these dark hours - these endless moments of grief - this constant feeling of loss. i say i have been there - have run full bore into the darkness myself - trying to get there before it could come get me. how i have buried myself also - under the impenetrable longing and the shame - and the elusive promise of forgetting. you still think i couldn't possibly understand, that no one can possibly understand. but we do. So many of us truly do. i once held the hand of a beautiful woman while she pushed a baby out of her body into the world. Two years later, I held that baby while we buried her beautiful mother into the earth. She'd been found dead - kicked to death in a crack house just outside of town. She was one of us - someone with dreams and fears and love and concern - a lifetime of new beginnings and loss. And it started with just one little pill. When i call you - which i will do - again and again and again until you answer, because i recognize that you are ill and not just a pain in the ass - i will say come outside and smell the wind, watch the morning unfurl with me - she how it just opens up quietly into the darkness instead of against it - until all signs of night are simply gone. and look how we are standing here alone - just you and me - and also a million other people inside their houses and their cars under their bridges and in alleys and parks. All of us watching the light open up - wondering how we will do it. what we will choose - while there is still a choice to be made.
i used to think there was so much beauty in the tragic - or such tragedy to be found in beauty - and now i realize everything, really, is just a stepping stone either towards or away from divine compassion. Off highway 5 at Livermore today, a lady held a sign on the overpass "I bet you can't hit me with a quarter." I gave her twenty dollars and pleaded please don't let anyone hit you with a quarter. she spilled a broken tooth smile and crossed herself and i could see in her eyes exactly who she was when she was eight. my husband asked don't i ever worry people will just use my alms for drugs? no, i told him, i only care that for a second they have hope - that they feel worthy of something. i have heard a lot of addicts speak about a "moment of clarity" - and never did the story take place while meditating in some cave somewhere. That twenty dollars may not have changed her life but she changed mine.
tonight i am listening to a cello concerto on a vintage garage sale turntable i scored for twenty bucks. last night - a law and order re-run. tomorrow - maybe cake. it's easier not to be perfect. people think if you are happy all the time there must be some lack of depth - as if only misery or worry or grief could be measured against the truth. i think happy is an unmeditated reprieve. a joy for something not forgot. a joy for escaping the narrows. i see how we wear our hearts on our faces. "mine is broken" or "love me" or "yes." and then how we do all these other things to pretend they are saying something else.
there was a time when all i could think of was how to be more in love with you. then all that loving made others things to love - so many in fact, that all i could think of was how to be more of myself somehow. now i am just thinking about how to be enough - and kind. and also how it is possible to want something so bad, with everything that you are, and not get it. and still know that somehow it is enough to just be enough and kind.
it's hard to feel lucky when yesterday's shadow cast its hook into morning and not even sleep could break the silence. i died a thousand deaths even before the graham cracker and chocolate coma took me. there is never enough sweet to fill the hole of your leaving. i believe in rainbows and unicorns and the impossible likelihood that there will be a day very soon upon which we will again fall in love.
sometimes it's the absence of weather and not the storms that feels so troubling in love. as if a torrential downpour or heatwave or drought could better convince me i'm alive when really it was the big of your hand on the small of my back that made the sky fall. i have tried to pull daggers from the soft cavern of my words but dropped them against the echoing i am you.
then the sun came out
like it was nobody’s business after all –
and we were meant to go on about our lives
as if the heart hadn’t been cracked open.
i called out to you –
a subtle gesture really –
just with my eyes
as if they indeed could speak volumes.
you were making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,
unshaven and beautiful,
flannel pant legs haphazardly caught up in your rain boots.
“winter can wait” you replied,
never saying a word.
rain falls slightly sideways like a dog with a little inbreeding might walk toward shelter. i try to remember what it was like before melancholy - or whether always the slightly sideways rain falling was enough even for a child to fell the deep sorrow of such beauty.
I have an ache the size of something terribly important – but am exhausted by the business of so much minutiae that I’m not even sure for what I ache, nor where the longing itself is located – would I fill it with one more trifle.
There is a pen and so many drawers emptied of words. A stifled urgency. A haunt.
i am always trying to outshine the sun. not because i want to be bigger or better or even brighter, but because it is ridiculous and impossible. i like playing with everything i’ve got at something, and not trying to win. i like to just be my brightest, not the brightest. that goes for smarts too.
at work i am hoping that what is important will seep through the superficial ordinariness of a day, and people will understand that when i came to meet them, i brought my heart. it may not be as tidy as all my paperwork or how i arrange their requests just so – but it will be there, raw and open and full of an enormous wanting, for them to win. i will want you to win.
in the evening when the bones of my feet remind me they have tread far enough, and i am wondering, again, how the night sky stole away with my day, my sun, before i was finished – before i could do every single thing – and also show how i love you, i will worry. but i will remember that you want me to win also and that you know for me to win, my heart needs to be right there with you, in your hands – even as my tired feet elsewhere rest. because of this, i know you will always find me.
I have been looking for a cure for as long as I can remember. First, it was for food when I was hungry and for something to drink when I had thirst. Once I realized I could get my needs met, by asking to be fed, for a glass of water, a blanket – it was as if finding something out there to fix what was needed in here
became the blueprint for my next decided action. I quickly began to look towards friendship when I was lonely, an excuse when I was mad, a party when happy, a lover when amorous, a bed when fatigued. Soon it was coffee when tired, aspirin when sore, hat when frizzy, diet when fat, and absolutely anything when bored. So that every feeling should be resolved or counter balanced. An antigen found. A remedy procured. But what if. What if I did not so rashly fill my hunger, sate my thirst, friend my loneliness, blanket my chill? What if tired were allowed to be sleepy, and chubby, plump, and frizzy, fro? What if lonely were lone, and mad just that? Would all just simply BE?
happy. amorous. tired. inert. hungry. lonely. bored. alive.
May We Be.
I always wanted to steal time – to sneak into the fissures and crevices of it’s passage before NOW was gone, and put a halt to it. As if somehow I could manage a suspension. An idling. A breath forever caught in the inhalation. Spaciousness without borders. No tick-tock-ing of the forever omnipresent but elusive clock. A still-life.
The hurry of childhood saddens me. How I raced at it with nothing but eagerness and zeal. How my own children can be so swept up in the promise of aging that tomorrow seems like more of a gift waiting to be granted than today appears to be a miracle. How we plan. How we dream.
Today, a 10 year old said to me, “Me? I’m a lonely sorrow”.
He wasn’t sad when he said it, merely alive and spontaneous and unguarded. The words did summersaults off his tongue and bounced around in the car until they fell like lead balloons into this mother’s lap. She stole the line.
I like to think that we are not broken. That our wounds are the glue that keep us adhered to life. And maybe this is where Time stands still. When we listen. When we allow meaning to fly
still . . .
Anything but writing. And I mean anything. Shoot, I ‘ll crawl under the sub-floor of someone else’s house to look for potential leaks, even though there is no indication of one, before I will sit down and get my work done. This, in the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, is called “resistance.” I have all flavors. It started when I was 9 and I realized I was a writer. I wrote a poem in class and that was that. I was a writer. That it was a relatively deep poem for a nine year old may or may not be true. But of greater significance is that, upon completing it, I knew – and I mean KNEW – that I had just discovered something – a part of myself – that was as important as air and water. I had found my voice. What followed this “realization” was a series of distractions. I was to be the first female President of the United States. Next, a doctor. An attorney. A teacher. A writer again (heavily medicated with alcohol and consequentially, unable to do anything with the writing that I actually did), a bar-tender, a waitress (these last two only AFTER receiving a BA in English Literature and a MFA in Poetics), a sales rep., and finally, a Realtor. A gal who sells a lot of houses and writes just a little bit of poetry. The book suggests that if we were all taking up our callings, and doing what we know in our hearts we were put on this planet to do – that one genius about us that is ours only – there’d be no more war, starvation, poverty, addiction, mental health problems, etc. Sounds good to me. I, of course, want to chain smoke cigarettes while I am writing and since that feels like a recipe for an early death – I don’t. Also, I don’t write. This is the resistance Pressfield is talking about. I wonder what all the people I love are not doing. And all the just so-so friends – what is it that they are not doing that they were born to do? And how, when we really like someone, finding out this gold morsel of what is under all their doing-ness and the busy-busy and the roles – how they are even more like-able; how suddenly they are fascinating. I am going to put it out there. I am going to ask. What are you NOT doing that is your true calling, your forever dream, your heart’s desire? See what shakes loose. Maybe it will give me something to write about. And, if not me, then maybe you.
My friend Nat told me the other night “the thing about your writing is that you say things that I think everyone wants to say but doesn’t”. Aside from this being a huge compliment as I have worried that my blogging is merely self-indulgent, I felt compelled to say “Then…F- you!” Not to Nat, of course, but to every other person I ever wanted to say “F- you” to, but didn’t. And now, since I sort of feel like she gave me permission to say a few things that maybe other people wanted to say, I think F- you is very apropos. So there, I said it. Now, I take it back. I am even sorry.
That she also mentioned, in passing, a person whom had actually used the phrase “he has the dementia” simply made me happy. Not because someone has dementia – that is sad – but because someone called it “the dementia”. In doing so, he gave a secret squirrel insight more into himself perhaps than the person of subject. I imagine he has an old closet full of neatly folded doilies and handkerchiefs from 1939, and a trunk full of someone else’s old photos. I imagine he opens the closet only on the first Sunday of the month, at precisely 7:12 PM. He wears vintage white gloves that have never been washed but still appear pressed. He is lonely.
Hearts are broken all the time. Some breaks are more like surface cracks that hurt in the instant but seem to regenerate and even close after a modest kindness from time. Others occur more like tremendous re-enactments of the Grand Canyon – an act so ineffable and deep cutting that neither time nor any forthcoming kindness could propose to offer solace. These are the ones that stop time. The swollen heart syndrome that destroys a day a month a year a life…in an instant…that seems to last forever. They are the great global tragedies, the abuses done to the innocent, the day someone tells you they no longer love you. “F- you” doesn’t do it here, words fall apart in your throat, muteness only speaks to the surface. If I had a color for every bottomless moan and wounded yelp that cannot be uttered, I’d paint a crimson umber blood orange sky that wrapped the entire universe in forgiveness. I’d sing so sweetly, so quietly, so right.
People want to be acknowledged where it hurts but not dragged into the mire. I am supposed to say something funny that wipes all the badness away. “The dementia” helps with this. My own, and yours too. If I told you that my seven year old flipped me off the other day, you’d think I have some good fer nuthin’ punk ass kid with a bad attitude and a whole helluva lot of trouble headed his way. These are not the facts. My son is funny and sweet and kind. He makes me laugh everyday, from the bottom of the barrel of my gut. He is precious and he cares about the hearts of others. And, he gave me the middle finger. The funny thing was, he didn’t mean to . But it happened, at just the perfect time while he was saying just the perfect thing. Quite by chance, it was the middle finger that pointed at me, while he made some playful delivery and we both laughed until we cried. So inappropriate, so awesome. If, in the same breath, I mention that he also called a “mean kid at school” a “ball sack” you might think differently of him again. But I tell you, he is an angel. An angel who has a way with words way beyond his age.
Being married is a whole lot like a carnival. Caramel apples, merry-go-rounds, and the House of Horror. A crazy tooth-less Carni super-imposed by a lovely plump lady in a polka-dotted dress. Sun shining “this is the best day of my life” while a midget is stealing your wallet.
I want Sunday to start with a little “s”, as if that way, I could trick the following day into not noticing it’s turn in line. When did I begin to worry about tomorrow? When did I buy into Monday being a poor broker of time, the bastard child of an incomplete two-night stand, some sort of uptight nanny? I digress. Remembering to center around the self, rather than run headlong into the tragedy of self-centeredness, I find myself ever talking a big game and slipping behind smoke and mirrors with an “I know I’m gonna get caught” grin and a craving for a cookie. Or 12.
Sometimes I think it would be better to think before I speak, but mostly I am either exhaling the impetus in my chest or putting it on lockdown, ears burning – metaphorical fuming galore. Once in a while, there is a memory….of not being willing to suffer….a calmness, that reminds me no thing matters but this, now, and breathing.
I’m either pulling a Ghandi or stirring up sh*t. Balanced between the two is the little me that’s at last unaware of my size. I betray her though, in writing….desperate to give longing a voice…melancholy a microphone…….desire a dance partner.
Three hours into Sunday – sunday – sun day….here in Santa Monica in a canopy of fog…thinking about church and GOoD, how capitalization ruins everything, space.
If I’ve told one person about the insatiable whole of being, i’ve told a thousand. Trans-versing back and forth between Me and me and I and i and obviously, not yet having had a moment free.
Then there is you. YOU. How the silence between us is enough. How your quiet soothes me.
I never wanted to be in love. I wanted to be filled.
Who would’ve thought it was the emptying that mattered?