MERCURIAL

The silver-mercury train pierces night with fleeting clarity.

Write this down.

Dump the other notebooks you dug up in the woods (after days of torrential rains) this morning when night hadn’t yet given over (so no one would know)–into the sea.

Even the permanent metallic markers (you have so come to love): silver-blue, silver, silver-seafoam green, and silver-lilac—will blur into swirls of color in the salt water (the way blood swirls pink when the shark gets its prey)–before the narrow rule and graph paper pages are pummeled by high, rip, and neap tides.

No one else can understand your pilgrimage here. They all have their own.

Row out past the reefs to witness the schools of sardines shoaling. One direction. Then another. Though it makes you jealous. Their orchestration. That they are not alone.

Set the dead robin fish free. With that prayer you memorized. But now you are nervous and can’t remember the middle section. Improvise. Something meaningful, profound. Or just sing that lullaby your father sang to you (before he said his prayers on his knees by his bed) all those years ago.

The seagulls’ cries will pierce with their hunger. Swooping for the silver flickers in turquoise and aquamarine.

If you scream here or wail like a wild animal, no one will hear.

Try not to think so much. Become that painting in blues, greens, yellows, and whites—sunlight through clear, deep waters.

But your thoughts take off in diverse directions– galloping like the wild horses left on the shore by pirates five hundred years ago. They surge the sea-spray and the waves. Brown and olive seaweed caught in the chaos of their manes and hooves.

Think gather. Sum. Not separate, perforate, riven.

Try not to feel sorry for yourself. Embrace the porcupine of destiny’s whims written on the ancient map.

Laugh during the requisite sobbing.

Tell no one.

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THE MOON TONIGHT

Dusk returns. All the colors have changed. The French vanilla begonia appears a soft peach on the childhood picnic table bench; the first periwinkle flowers of one butterfly bush seem blue; phlox petals have taken on a tinge of lavender to blend with their bright fuchsia earlier when they began to open in waves.

The sea thistle will turn green-blue tomorrow morning, I am sure. Then silver as the July pages of the calendar flow.

All bird song has ceased as well as the frantic search for their fallen one. The hawks did witness and caw at the simple burial out front—their scalloped wings and silhouettes gliding up high.

I am holding on to things with aging hands.

Tonight I will light the paper lantern and lament the loss of most of the crickets this year that have probably, wisely, relocated to Canada.

If I were the moon rising in a mere hour or so, I would close my eyes. Tired, and all. And sleep in the burgeoning layers of cloud pillows.

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E C H O E S – [July 13, 2017]

Z:  Does it hurt very much?

A:  Yes.

 

Z:  How so?

A:  Everything hurts, darling.

 

Z:  You should talk about it. What it feels like. I want to feel it, too. And tell the others what is happening if I need to.

A:  I’d rather not think about it. Say it. Gardening, cleaning, puttering around the House, loving on the animals, writing, painting, playing my broken cello—my hands floating across the piano keys—It all distracts me.  I want to bury it, love. Out in the backyard with all my notebooks that I can’t read. They are too upsetting. But I have left their locations in the safety deposit box. I shall pay for another key to replace the one entrusted to me—that I misplaced, lost—among so many other things that I juggle. So many things, variables, and strange things, different things. I feel bad when a small percentage fall through the cracks. That I am not competent. But it’s a numbers game, no? Something’s gotta give.

 

Z:  So then—yes. It does hurt. I, too, feel its intensity. In the periphery, yet the bowels. Visceral. The underground-abyss. I have descended down to the depths to find you. Retrieve you. Be your Orpheus as I am too late to be your Virgil as I so want to be.

A:  It is difficult to speak of it. I don’t want to tell, admit to myself what is happening. Instead, I photograph and stay with the flowers, the multifarious colors of leaves, plants, herbs, lettuces and kale, Swiss chard, the ever-present, chattering / singing birds. They give to me so much. I must feed them. They visit. Adorn the Poetry Garden. Alight in pairs. Love Birds. The latest—a pair of delicate, yellow finches, I believe. Though it’s hard to forget. It’s hard to focus sometimes, darling. Though I try. My best college try. A noble effort. I long to be noble. But I am salt of the earth like my mother. Cerebral warrior like my father. I still miss him so much. Pray he is helping me. But sad that he sees me this way. Grateful I don’t have to see him seeing me. I still wail like a wild animal at moments that I cannot predict. That pull me under. You should know. Do not tell the others, especially my mother. Lost in her own grief. That lessens and reappears. Inserts itself.

 

Z:  Show me your hands again. Pretend you are holding a tennis ball as the X-ray technician from Italy instructed.

A:  It is difficult to look at them, my love. I try not to. I try not to obsess. Not to remember. Not to overuse them. I type and write by hand sparingly. I garden with tools when I can. They are visibly degenerating. Since the last X-rays six months ago. The kind doctor did not order more. So as not to upset me. There is nothing to do.

The tissues everywhere in my body give out.  The over-zealous soldiers mistake their own—a friendly fire-war. Painful to comprehend, imagine, follow.

 

Z:  You will learn to speak into a tape recorder. No one can predict when. But you shoud try. There is science. Research. Technology. Studies. Medications.

A:  Yes, it is science, yes. But so many unknowns. Holes. The world does not care. How could they? They do not know.

 

Z:  You must tell them.

A:  I am too tired.

All my energy–I conserve for my legacy. As pompous as that sounds. Every day is pure platinum. Every hour that I can identify, remember, rename as such. I am writing promises to myself, to you, to the others. I am Archiving the Future.

 

Z:  Does it hurt very much?

A:  Yes. It is a relief to tell someone. Particularly you. Do not be sad. Part of my unknown DNA. I have accepted. I tell myself. I have accepted. There is nothing to be done to stop the decay.

 

Z:  Perhaps in the future.

A: Yes, perhaps.

 

Z:  You must believe.

A: Yes, I must.

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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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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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