PAINTING THE RAIN

I left my assortment of pens and markers in the rain again. Now everything I write and touch is softer, more fluid, more beautiful, less defined.

The things I painstakingly named of late have already become something else—defying porous borders: the wrought iron fences, brick and stone ones in the garden, the chain-linked fence the dog dug himself out under during the fireworks.

No, the things and objects and ideas in arrangement set to wind and bird music—will not still as I try to paint them this morning—fill all the gaping holes that stretched and grew in the night with ink, fastidious name-defying colors I mixed before my coffee, before both feet landed back in this world.

I could cry in my coffee, but what would that do? Merely dilute it with water and salt from which we crystallized.

When I am better and my body aches less excruciatingly, when I am better at everything—a better painter, a better cellist, a better citizen, a better daughter, a better gardener, a better friend, a better human—I shall pilgrimage to the sea

and sing of all my wanderings—free the instruments of my destruction in the dustbin nearest the dunes and their sharpest blades of silver-green, silver-blue, blue-green.

If you happen to see me there in the earliest morning hours of magical sunlight, be very very quiet. I have become quite skittish like the dog as if I, too, have been left out in the rain too long.

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DREAM FRACTALS

The dream fractals were particularly vivid in early hours of morning–once daylight crawled up through the open blinds. A scattering of crickets and birds exercised their instruments in the backdrop of the conscious world, while she dove repeatedly, without freewill, into waves of indigo, navy, black—then back, thankfully, into aqua and tourmaline—the childhood colors from the Victorian house her dear father gutted and her sweet mother decorated. The colors in which she felt most at home and happy.

There the sun’s hands crawled through the sea with their large pattern of glitter–warming her from the indigo, navy, and black. How did those sea creatures live in those depths, she wondered, those depths inside of her all these years. The deck of cards that amassed when she wasn’t looking, much larger, and more high cards she was learning how to play, strategically, calmly.

Perhaps it was the medication to settle out her body’s soldiers–or calm her knowledge that there were factions that wanted out–wanted their freedom. No longer wanted to serve a problematic mission.

It was best most mornings to leave the kaleidoscoping dream fractals–micro scenes that did not line up with the rational mind—and read a book–enter someone else’s brain and emotions, while waiting for the coffee and her daytime world to percolate–offer catharsis up in the most infinitesimal, degenerating hands. But she had promised herself to let go and forget all that.

No, those hands were applauding her, she mused. Yes, she was reclaiming and becoming herself–this hour–and the gods somewhere from their ethereal mountain who were handing her both high and low cards–they applauded, too. She could hear them in the last crickets of night.

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E C H O E S [July]

A:  What day is it? It’s so confusing that day of smelling fire, miserable parents rushing with their children to see the magical cascades of broken inch-worm green, peony fuchsia, red, white, and blue—tiny fires cascading down—like the Christmas ornaments my mother made but in motion, a GIF, not a still image. The frightened very young children covering their small ears, wanting to go home to the safety of their stuffed animals and their fathers—who would act accordingly should there be an intruder in the house, a frantic bat in the living room.

Z:  It is today. The page of the calendar, an invention to make it all manageable—give us a beginning, middle, and end.

A:  Is this the beginning, middle, or end?

Z:  All three. A sacred number. Like seven. The seven hawks. Four representing earth elements and the body. Three for the soul.

A:  All three at the same time?

Z:  Yes.

A:  I can’t find my new watch—the one I just bought to replace the one I lost at the pulmonary wing of the hospital. The one all the kind people tried to find for me in the lobby and my path into the testing room.

Z:  It is better for you not to have one. None of the bullet points on your daily TO-DO LIST will expire. Well, maybe one or two eventually.

A:  Why does everything have to hurt so much?

Z:  Your neck, your hands, the nerve pain in your legs?

A:  Yes. I move so differently now. Have to give up all those pairs of shoes. The things I can no longer carry in my hands.

Z:  Hurting teaches us.

A:  [silent]

Z:  Your plants, trees [pointing up to the sky], your flowers that remind you of Ciocia Helen—they all lean and grow toward the sunlight.

A:  I have learned so much lately.

Z:  I know.

A:  The planes are landing again over the field—those miracles of metal, steel, human designs of mammoth birds.

That makes me happy again.

Z:  How you deserve to be.

A:  Yes, Being. The House.

Z:  Yes, singing. The Cottage.

A:  Would you like some peach black iced tea that I brewed just yesterday—in my poetry garden with me? Can you sit a moment in the shade?

Z:  Yes, that would make me very happy.

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ESURIENCE

I was ravenous. Insatiably so. So I ate the House again. The cedar shakes, warped shutters. Then the window and screens—spitting out the glass.

The doors gave me indigestion, but I soldiered on. Eating the sandpaper roof shingles. Smiling with bits of chimney bricks in my cracked teeth—when the neighbors sauntered in.

I devoured the living room next. The white sofa was especially delicious. I would no longer have to  brush it clean with Woolite this weekend.

Then I attacked the kitchen. Greedily consumed the Fiesta ware that does not chip. Its saffron orange, peacock blue, eggshell white, and aubergine–of particular note.

I ate the master bedroom next. The antique poster frame bequeathed to me. All the Van Goghs, a Pollock, Rothko. The staring Mona Lisa. So there.

I sat in the rubble almost satiated—patting my burgeoning stomach. There was more work to do.

I ate the trees. And started weeping—not just for myself but for the plump robins, catbird, yellow finch, woodpecker, and sparrows. I devoured the maples first, then the apple tree, roses of Sharon, the white butterfly bushes, the spent lilacs (blueberry and French pink).

Hawks alighted to the next door neighbor’s tallest pines and witnessed the crunching of the patio furniture that had become rusted underneath three feet of winter snow. Half-heartedly, I ate the dog’s fence while he and the cat watched.

I spared the menagerie of mellifluous birds–their sanctuaries of wooden feeders, their new terracotta bath, their weathered houses.

Tomorrow, I shall wake very early from troubling dream patterns that cascade—sharp sea glass I impatiently stole from the shores of night wandering—and had strung on a necklace to keep the ghosts of the property at bay.

Yes, tomorrow I shall remove the odd necklace and bury it in the woods far from me.

I shall make a pilgrimage to the priest, remove my shoes, and tell him everything. Of the sorrow tangled in my sea hair, my desire, at times, for unification.

When I return, I shall rewrite other possible endings that will begin again.

I am confused by all this.

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CATHARSIS

I hit the reset button
because my thoughts were taking too much time

And the yellow primrose and fuchsia sweet pea were stunning this year.
How the primrose folded in their yellow pages into an obeisant origami
when the sun closed its eyes, and the fuchsia flutter stumbled
up my bedroom window, tracking leaves. Tiny miracles against various wars.

I had said too much from a broken motherboard
and threw away my memories when the keyboards were switched.
Keys were broken and lost. Important keys to the secrets of the universe.

Letters that needed nimble hands. So much elegant music
missing scores. Initials carved into birch trees—boasting indelible love.

And the flash drive—it could no longer hold me.
But I had lost that too in the shuffle of falling dominos and thin cards.
I had been winning, but the wind sliced my vanity into more than two.

Perhaps you know how this all feels. Or perhaps you rubberneck
at the train crash and tsk tsk, it was going way too fast
and the woman with all of her children piled into the careless SUV
should not have been in a hurry to fix her hair.

Yes, things come as surprises. Offering up the most infinitesimal
glitters of sun-crash and shattered star. At night, the crickets vie
with green-lit fireflies for noble attention. Before the catbird
signals the rest that it is time.

Yes, I slept finally in the downy clouds of my ancestors beating
through by dilapidated heart and chromosomes. Yes, I survived
many kaleidoscopic dream fractals and other nonsense.

I slept finally for days. And woke up alive.

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DISTRACTION[S]

  1. Finish planting the variegated sage, Russian and blue kales, and leaf lettuces of chartreuse, butter crunch, and red-green Matisse cut-out, small oak hands. If too tired, at least free the snarled roots from black-plastic squares.
  2. Junk drawer number one. Dump contents. Separate coins from paperclips from pens. Look for stray buttons, the bottle opener.
  3. Call your mother. Hope to hear your deceased father’s recorded voice.
  4. Coax the dog, apprehensive of storm, outside by announcing “CAR”—and walk him briskly in the steady, light rain–to the field. Crane the neck back slowly to confirm hypothesized dearth of star.
  5. Peel and chop the fresh ginger from the inner-city market. Don’t think about the altercation. Boil. Drink from the French bowl-mug, blue hands wrapped around it and warmed—in the largest chair of the House—knowing the hot broth tastes a million times better than the boiled slime of flax seed your father had to drink for his stomach all those years ago. HE never complained.
  6. Sock puppet number seven. Choose large black buttons from the bequeathed tin. Sew them on the stranded fleece lavender sock–a bit crooked. The children will like that.
  7. Soak in baking soda in the bath for the reoccurring rash. Then add lavender oil. Then slip under, hold your breath, hair free seaweed. Yes, pretend the sea. Pretend everything.
  8. Find the worn cardboard box of photographs in your study—fifty years heaped into random piles. Look once more for the new album.  The one you bought after the one you tore apart for the oleaginous, retro photograph paper.  Make a note to find the hinges.
  9. Junk drawer number two. Separate the take-out menus from tape measures, tools. Candles from playing cards. Return the stray nails back to the flipped over plastic divider. Look for the pipe cleaners. Remember you need to buy some bright-colored ones for new sock puppets.
  10. Don’t call your mother. Imagine what she would retort.
  11. Read a few more short sections from where you left off in Italo Calvino’s INVISIBLE CITIES—or the next handful of pages in THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN. Try to make it to the end of the second person before sleep takes you.
  12. Sock puppet number eight. Fashion round eye glasses from the largest buttons you can uncover from the antique tin with a woman in yellow reading on its lid, the one your mother knew you would like. Cut hair from the tan yarn from your mother’s mother whom you couldn’t tell you didn’t, at that time, knit. Attach glasses and long yarn-hair on the solo light pink, cabled sock–with school glue purchased yesterday to fasten the two broken clay pots. Congratulate on the great job you did gluing the square terra cotta one that cracked in half under the snow. Cut yourself some slack for not bringing it into the garage (there was no room, remind yourself) or the cellar as it gets heavier by the month. Yes, a nice job with the level-two plan of new KRAZY GLUE and filler of potting soil. It’s now pink and white like the favorite, old brick house in the Historical District. And how fitting—it looks Italian with its weathering and patina sheen.
  13. Read a little Rilke, play a few Bach Suites, read a little Rumi, play a bit of Chopin—the Noturne pieces, read a bit of Tagore, play a bit of Satie until it has become too sad, read a bit of Virginia Woolf. THE WAVES or TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. Flip a coin. Let fate decide Everything.

 

 

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DIRECTION[S] – 2

Don’t touch pigeon feathers either. Like the feathers you wanted for bookmarks from the over-sized pigeons on Hayden Avenue that lurked atop the fourth-floor Victorian peaks. The ones that fascinated you despite the three-inch nails your father implemented, sticking straight up, to send them away–that didn’t deter. The gray and blue dusty birds you watched for hours—there in your pre-school childhood–where you hide.

Don’t look for long silver hair to excommunicate from the village of brown, red and blonde long hair—finally sun-kissed. Well, maybe five to ten strands per day, so you have that sense of accomplishment of doing something– and in this case, uprooting old age and death. You know the strands will resurface in the same spot like tenacious silver-green weeds in the garden. That sea grass that cost so much money you purchased to line the patio crab-bisque color pavers– but jumps underground through the cracks and sends shoots also through your embarrassment of lawn. Keep resisting the neighborhood pressure to use chemicals and don’t look across the street at the neighbor’s emerald sea of golf-quality, expensive variety that chokes out the dandelions, clover, violets, buttercups, and more.

Carry the sea from Saturday, from last year, five summers ago, twenty, thirty, forty-five–from kindergarten (even though sea glass sliced your left pinky toe—but your father carried you on his shoulders that whole week (so your stitches wouldn’t get wet) to and from the blanket on the sand where he sat with you). Yes, carry the sea, the shoreline, the energy of the little-legged wind plovers, the washed up dead spider crabs that you reassembled like a bizarre puzzle that will have pieces missing–bleached corners of worn away clam and oyster shells, mermaid purses, razor shells that look like fragile, long angel wings or the still-hinged blue wings of mussels that have shed their home. Remember what he wrote in the sand for you, the one who loves you so perfectly—before high tide took everything.

Forgive yourself. For shunning the cubicle, the annual six figures that don’t ca-ching in your bank account. For sensing the sadness behind your  father’s suits and ties that he wore for thirty-eight years. For jettisoning his actuarial plans for you. Yes, forgive yourself. For the children you don’t have. For your impatience with your elderly mother. Your cultural fatigue, chronic spiritual malaise, social ennui. The unfinished book that grew and grew larger than your shadow. You swam two thirds to the island, he said. Why would you turn back? All of it, forget.

Differentiate the dead from the living. Gardening, dreaming, and such. Keep hearing, however– the voice, accent, tone and words of your deceased father, all the lost bits of wisdom, metaphors—his drop-everything-else happiness when he heard you on the other end of the phone. Listen to his voice in the future– from so far away– where you miss the necessary ablation. The wound you try not to pick. That the dog licks as he is drawn to the chronic avalanche inside.

Don’t go to the store for cigarettes in your water-logged, black velvet slippers with the faux jewels that make you happy. The neighbors are whispering behind their curtains. Don’t metaphorically slap the others in the face, nor you—the hardest of all.

Don’t imagine yourself crippled, riddled with cities of lost tissue, lost immunity, thinning bones, swelling kidneys and heart. Nor should you imagine being wheeled out to finally see the sea again. Being carried when you want to walk in lost solitude. That the car and you will blow up when you pump gas. That the vehicle following too close behind you will send you through the windshield. That the fall will render you useless. Radical acceptance–of only some of it, you are told. Accept the entropy, the dilapidating House, and the tiredness that brings the rest in nesting Chinese Boxes of lost imaginings.

Let the sudden fireflies of this June find you at night when you are stalking the ghosts in the house at the cellar windows—their tiny, phosphorescent, blinking green lights. Go, go, you must–through all the traffic lights you have created.

Don’t forget to water the plants from your deceased aunt—the anemones that have spread so nicely around the lamppost, the tiger lilies that shrink their petals back at night, the gray-silver-blue ornamental  grass that reseeds itself in a circle around the trunk left from the fifty-year-plus crab apple tree your father paid to cut down–the peach tree an unknown resident bird of your woods has delivered.

Remember how your mother’s father loved to wander in the over-sized yard of the house on Hayden Avenue (since he and your grandmother never owned a house), tending to the tomatoes with his wizened, shaking hands—his old black studebaker parked for two weeks every summer in the long driveway the entire family had to shovel–to the garage and its chicken coops, club house, and loft for drying harvest.

You must keep focus on what will really matter. That one Book you are writing. Don’t be bitter—hide, delete, erase too much. You must love  the sequence[s] themselves, Rilkean lists of unanswerable questions. The rooms  perpetually opening where you are.

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DIRECTION[S]

Don’t touch owl feathers because owls are dirty and you may end up with more diseases—and you have more than your share already.

Similarly, do not touch the dead squirrel in front of the house, What you first thought was a fluffy kitten because it wasn’t flattened at all.

Don’t tell the old man across the street of the fresh death. Hope that when you are out at the store, someone other than the old man removes the intact carcass.

Try to talk more slowly. People are afraid—that the glass chariot you have shifted to fifth gear on all cylinders will crash into the sun—and the shards will hurt them—before the glass melts back into sand.

Don’t lose sight of the horizon when you spin like a dancer you are too old to become.

But you must do something—move beneath the sky in time that closes in on you.

Don’t lose your temper as it will boomerang back to you, finding you alone under the arches of forest trees where you trace with your finger thin ribbons of light and river.

Stay calm when your shadow takes over you when you are walking the dog.

Do your best not to talk back to your elderly mother. Remind yourself how lucky you are she is still here and in her house, pulling out the weeds down the hill even though you tell her to wait for you.

Remember how she stroked your hair while you slept in the car and woke still in childhood.

Continue to communicate with the ghosts in the cellar. They have missed you of late.

Refrain from testing people if you no longer want them to disappoint you. Instead, test yourself but grade with a sliding scale when you leave a wake of small failures. Cut yourself some slack as you do for any other.

Do not expose your Achilles heel to any potential enemies.

Break apart the amalgamation of objects in the house, their papers, the dust, your worry—without throwing too much away. Recycle your beliefs in kindness.

Stop collecting useless souvenirs along with your grievances—those pillows and sad stuffed animals on your bed where you burrow.

Don’t underestimate the power of love—the small packages in the mail. The folded up letters written still in cursive, sewn with silver thread.

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E C H O E S 2

A: Who is in Charge of this Awkward Dance

of Broken Particular(s)? Admittedly, I am

Not Skilled at Following Leads, Reading

Directions. I Bore Easily, the Mind Wan-

ders with the Lost Violin off the Page

the Musical Score set on Fire. Absence

Distracts. Not Skilled at Waiting for What

Really? What do you have to Say for your-

self @this Juncture of Jumpy Birds?

 

 

Z: [No Answer].

 

 

A: Emptiness Echoes. I Throw flesh-color Rocks

At the Abyss. Too Tired too Stymied

to Know How Else to Fill Hours that Gather Dread.

What Matter – what Matters Here?

Silence Echoes.

 

A:  Such Bitter Cold, the Cage of Bones Rattling at the Fire where I have Destroyed all Letters but Yours: Z. Somewhere you Hold me in Blank Sleep, for my Dreams have Nowhere to Settle. Empty Sheets (my bed my paper), Sheets of Ice too Thin to Hold, the Fish underneath watching us. You, the Keeper of my Dark Fractions, Broken Poetry & Music that Hurts sometimes, You Keep me this Bitter Winter, but I am Afraid of what We Have Become.

 

Z:   What We Have Become. The Last Word.

Working working sleeping dreaming leaving

Dreaming sleeping working working leaving

Not sleeping not working breathing brushing

The horses, the horsehair brushes, the hair from

Your tired stone eyes. Tracing pushing out

their Worry Lines with calloused fingers love.

The ducks have Flown from my Hands love.

Didn’t They Find You?

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E C H O E S

A:   I Don’t Understand What you are Trying to Prove.

Z:   That I have – Nothing – to Prove.

 

A:   This Path is a Shadow.

Z:   Yes, This I know.

 

A:   Do not Follow the Other(s). Let x Come.

Z:   Yes, Right Angles, Perpendicular, Vertical Angels. We

are to be Adored.

 

A:   I am Waiting for the Path of X to my Frozen Window.

The Equipage Shadows Startle Me.

 

Z:   Yes, for it is Winter & your Bones are Colder

than Cold. I know This & many Other

Subjective Facts about You.

 

Z:    You Spill the Air. Your nerves aswim that sage sea,

They Spill You / Everything.

 

A:   Until I am Nothing. The canvas consciousness

A map to tomorrow next month next year

Confused as to where what I have become

Nothing again. My love.

 

Z:   Those pills for sleep, I am Sorry to Say

Made you different. Sometimes You Are

More Here. Others Further Away.

Your odd Marble eyes Liquid then Stone.

I only Recognize Fractions.

 

A:   They made me itch, sweat, fatten, lie

About Happiness. Yes, I am Fractional,

Darling. My Mobius equation will Sing

Atonal Cacophony. I am Bleeding

Like You. Like Everyone Else. Take my Cello

& fix the wingfray of my Nerves. Stay with Me

Without Dream. I know. It is not Fair of me

to Ask.

 

 

A:   I am Watching You as a Boy hiding in your fort

under the dining room table at your grandparents

Watching Everything.  Yes, it is a type of Time

Travel.  You, my Boy of Twilight Swans. Even

Then.

 

Z:    I cannot Speak. My Words are Stuck

In a Gold Painting where a Beautiful Woman

Weeps Golden Tears.

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