Straw Flowers

Straw Flowers
"Straw Flowers" by L. Folk

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Bearable Lightness of Being

March 24, 2011

I don't know whether I'm hiding or God is hiding. Even my dreams are no longer vivid.
I sit on the mat, swollen. The gray outside, the white crystals that have appeared during the night, have embedded themselves in my water-filled cells. I'm letting them. I tell myself to feel something, to not just sit there, but I'm depleted. The ego wants some striking images, some blooming, Plath-like similes. What? I'm pushing now and I don't even know if the baby exists. Here in the middle of these artificial chemical proceedings, I can't call God's name and mean it. So I picked up Pema Chodrin's book because I didn't know what else to do:

Being able to lighten up is the key to feeling at home with your body, mind, and emotions, to feeling worthy to live on this planet. For example, you can hear the slogan “Always maintain only a joyful mind” and start beating yourself over the head for never being joyful. That kind of witness is a bit heavy. This earnestness, this seriousness about everything in our lives- including practice- this goal-oriented, we're going-to-do-it-or-else attitude, is the world's greatest killjoy. There's no sense of appreciation because we're so solemn about everything. In contrast, a joyful mind is very ordinary and relaxed. So lighten up. Don't make such a big deal.

I've recently started reading The Bell Jar again for inspiration and what I've realized about the writing is how fresh it is, how honest. Plath was a pusher like me, she had a lot of self loathing. But in this book, she lets all that go; she's just her human self. You get a sense that the book is being written as you read it, it's so fresh.
So what do I do, I go back and read my own writing. I look for the stiff, jilted sentences, the contrivances. And I just let them be. Maybe I will have insight later on and change them. Maybe I won't.

Pema Chodrin says this about that locked up feeling of push:

When your aspiration is to lighten up, you begin to have a sense of humor. Your serious state of mind keeps getting popped (when you do). In addition to a sense of humor, a basic support for a joyful mind is curiosity, paying attention, taking an interest in the world around you... We are so locked into this sense of burden-Big Deal Joy and Big Deal Unhappiness- that it's sometimes helpful just to change the pattern. Anything out of the ordinary will help. You can go to the window and look at the sky, you can splash cold water on your face, you can sing in the shower, you can go jogging- anything that's against your usual pattern. That's how things start to lighten up.

It doesn't take much; just a small change. Yesterday I changed my yoga routine, input alternate asanas. My mind said, “What's this?” and there was an opening, a lightness. I was curious about that opening, what could exist there.

March 25, 2011

Yesterday I went to my acupuncture appointment and lay on the table with needles in my scalp and belly and feet. I felt so relaxed, I fell asleep. This has never happened to me before, this falling asleep in a public place. Ok, it happened once in Boston, down by the docks, listening to the lapping water against the rocks; I was comfortable in my own skin. Anyway, it happened again and I felt like time tricked me. Sometimes it's a good thing when you feel like time has tricked you. Then I went home and tried to recreate that...trance, I fell asleep and dreamt about shopping for turtlenecks with holes in them and being back at high school and not able to find my classes. The bells ring and I'm late; I don't know where I'm going, when I have math class, if I have an art class. Old classmates from different schools haunt me, open lockers, put away their gym clothes. I wear sunglasses; I think, maybe, I am a boy. I feel sick to my stomach. I try to be cool. When I wake up, I'm sweating. I felt like I just had a workout. This is supposed to be rest? So how long is this going to last, this restless, searching, wondering...Probably until the pregnancy test.

March 26, 2011

Oocytes

They show us a portrait
of four mystic cells.
In a sterile room,
I am the showcase,
the Diva in blue.

But we're all blue
with blue pants and
blue shirts and blue
shower caps-
antiseptic, joyless creatures.

You sit there harboring regrets
as a man's hands shake
between my thighs.
I squirm and bite, taste
sharp, metallic edges.

I count pressures
in hidden places.

A boy-faced man mutters
fine, fine...
I grab your hand,
the only skin on skin
in the room.

I am lukewarm water and wood,
a taut wire of entrails
between skyscrapers.
I am a reservoir
swallowing trees,
a deluge on a forgotten town.

Then, we see them.
Pixels on the screen.
A flash of ethereal white.

Science bursts.
Perfect, someone says.
Perfect.
March 27, 2011

This morning, lounging in bed, I picked up a Globe magazine on my night table from a few weeks ago and casually flipped through it. I found this article in Perspectives: “Why Lent Must Rise Again.” I was intrigued so I read it. Then I became inflamed. Here is my response:

Dear Mr. MacDonald,

I want to first thank you for your eloquent, intuitive, thought-provoking article “Why Lent Must Rise Again.” After I read it I went through various emotions, guilt, first, frustration, sympathy, but then a deeper part of me kicked into gear. Let me note here firstly, how I too admire the Muslims for their respect of Ramadan; I wholly agree with your definition of self denial and sacrifice used to cultivate humility and compassion. And yes, I applaud you for putting into print how “corporate merchandisers...spend more and more year-round to quench unquenchable desires.” You ask “How did Christianity's most serious season become a joke in this supposedly religious country?” and answer “We let desire become our master, and desire has no use for sacrifice.” This, however, is the short answer.
After I read your article, I took my dog for a long walk, as I do every Sunday morning, and contemplated why we, as Americans have let desire become our master; why we do not take lent seriously. The long answer is that we American Christians do not take Christianity seriously and there's a strong argument why.
It begins with our founding fathers, specifically Franklin and Jefferson who sided with the thinkers of the enlightenment and opted for reason, meritocracy, and the separation of church and state. They knew, as we have all come to know, that Nature has laws that govern the universe. By reason, we understand these laws. We Americans have our roots in reason, invention and science. We value education, as you intimated in your last paragraph. We have come through slavery and the subjugation of woman. We, as educated people cannot deny (well, some of us cannot deny) the evidence of natural selection and evolution. We have witnessed the hypocrisy by way of sex scandals in both the Catholic and Protestant churches.
I am no different than other Americans who have had my share of church shopping. I have been raised a Catholic, have left the church, went back, left again. I have attended Nazarene and born again Christian services, as well as Episcopalian masses. I have been to monasteries, Jewish temples, and meditation centers. I have had every intention of reading the Bible from cover to cover in hopes of communing with its words but could not make it through Genesis and who was what son of whom. I know the stand up, sit down, kneel routine of the Catholic church like the back of my hand and the liturgical stories have become as worn as an old shoe. Indeed there are impassioned and gifted ministers who give new life to these old, old stories but these are few and far between. What I am saying to you, what I am saying to anyone who will listen, is where is Christianity for the thinking man and woman? Many Americans are befuddled. Without a strong sense of spiritual self, the corporate merchandisers step in and exploit the vulnerable. We take on new gods.
What we need is a Christian spiritual enlightenment directed toward the thinking Christians. The first step to organizing a spiritual enlightenment is defining where the central text, the Bible stands. It is still considered blasphemous in many Christian religions to say the Bible is anything but the word of God. And yet there are many of us who have trouble believing God fashioned woman from a rib, warming to its overtly patriarchal tone and its condonations of slavery, its preoccupation with sin and torture, among other outdated aberrations. Why are we continuously avoiding these issues? Why has there not been a thoughtful revision of this text?
I think we can agree there are no Christian prophets walking this earth. There are preachers, but no prophets. They are in the past, as well, for reasons that go beyond the scope of this letter. We have no one to guide us but ourselves. This is why we must look inward. This is why the tenets of Buddhism and meditation are entirely applicable. Fasting and lenten practice fall in line with these tenets. However in order “to grow in character and compassion by walking in their ancestor's footprints,” Christians must see Christianity in a new light. We must start incorporating who we are and what we know into our Christianity, now. Buddhism tenets alone will not do for the thinking Christian; Christ is what makes us Christian: his birth, his life, his resurrection. Let us notice how nature mimics his life, how the stars shine brightest during the darkest night of the year, how spring gloriously calls his name with every apple blossom. Why must creationism and evolution be two different isms? Why must we relate to God in a mythical story and not the miracle of cells and DNA code? Where else in the Universe have we known these things to be true? We can speculate all we want, but as of now the answer is nowhere. Why can we not begin with these ideas? If we include Buddhism practices in our new spiritual enlightenment, let us also include transcendentalism.
I am not alone when I choose the ambiguous “Spiritual” category for my religion, when prompted. I get more out of reading John Polkinghorne, Rilke's The Book of Hours, and the Christian mystics than I do listening to the liturgy in a church. As of now, I sit alone on my mat in meditation and can only speak God's name. That's as far as I've gotten with my own spiritual enlightenment. I am starting at the very beginning. The problem now is community.
I wonder if there are others out there doing the same thing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Oocytes, Artists and an Act of Contradiction


March 17, 2011

God is in the cells and not the stories. Must we insist on some old dude with a lightning bolt for striking us down? And why must evolutionism and creationism be separate isms? Having observed nature's divine beauty, it would make sense to say the artistry works by way of the science. Nature is the great spirit, the tapestry of souls manifested in cells, God's fullest expression. Emerson rallies for this theory with “The visible creation is the terminus or the circumference of the invisible world.”
And we can do no better by emulating; “A work of art is an abstract or epitome of the world. It is the result or expression of nature, in miniature,” Emerson writes in Nature. Artists once stood at the hub of society in the form of Leonardo da Vinci and Michaelangelo; today they have been erroneously displaced in our society, scraping together change as waiters and waitresses; this is a profound wrong. Our society does not honor and reward creative prowess in small circles. Sure we have bombastic films like Avatar and the like, but in smaller circles, there is no time nor money for the creative process. We need to stop thinking widgets and start thinking invention and ingenuity. And here's a pet peeve of mine: why do I go into public places and see prints of Monet on the wall when I could see work from a local artist? We fill stadiums for football games and the North Shore Music Theatre in on its last breath. Where did this inequity begin? When was it that art starting taking the back seat? Artists are poor because society believes they have no need for their embellishments. If art was important (and people finally got it into their thick skulls it should not be marginalized because it is the language of spirit) it would be hanging in the supermarkets and malls and post offices and not just the cafes; it would hang in fucking gas stations, elevating the energy to all of these banal places. Where is the vision to our society?



March 19, 2011

Face

Not mine. Other people's.
I see them in the glass.
My grandmother in the crook of the nose
and the cheek that cascades sharply.
She is young here, buxom,
smiling confidently in a lavender bathing suit
on the beach.
The crows feet that fork at the eyes,
my father, laughing at the television.
The one yellowed tooth, his too.
My mother is in the peak of the eyebrows,
and the lips, cushioned, where I spout words.
My grandfather sleeps between the lines
across my forehead
in his tan recliner with his toes
toward the sky.

My face was once mine,
smooth like the rim of a lake
in hazy morning light,
but the eyes-
the eyes.
Time has softened them too.

March 20, 2011

Last night I had a dream I was with my mother, brother and sister and we went to a church in a northern town. We were late, as usual, and sat up in a balcony. The priest was talking at the altar and soon we were all fast asleep. The priest came up to us after mass and lifted my brother in his supine position and shook and dropped him. We woke up. Then, I am frying eggs in the rectory. Someone gave me a pan and I cracked open the egg and fried it in butter. Afterward, I cleaned the dishes in the sink because I felt guilty for falling asleep during mass.
Truth is, I can't help but fall in love with the story of Christ. I can't help but love Christ himself, fisher of men, kind eyes, solidified love. I read the words of Matthew to see if it was Magdalene who went to the tomb and witnessed the burial clothes left behind. These words bloomed in my heart like lilies, like crocuses and daffodils beneath the leaves.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well...I contradict myself
I am large...I contain multitudes
-WW

March 22, 2011

Today we woke up at 5:30 in the morning to go for the egg retrieval. I was groggy, dizzy, but I thrust myself forward to get this done. I am the blind mole nudging its way through this. We get there and I disrobe, put on the johnny, wait in a room with wires and blips and screens. The music was some pop station and it grated on my nerves. The nurse had the same name as my sister; she was compassionate which made all the difference in the world. They gave me the IV, walked me over to the operating room, placed my feet in the stirrups, and gave me oxygen and I went out. I woke up in pain, groaning and crying. Every hospital room reminds me of my father, of his death. There is always a small part of me weeping inside it.
We went home. I went to bed and did not sleep, but drifted in a dull haze. I took pain pills. I thought of the seventeen oocytes they took from me. I was hopeful in the afternoon and full of despair at night.

March 23, 2011
We wake up late at 8:30. Everything is sore. My brain is tricked into thinking I am already pregnant. Today I will be home, waiting for the fertilization results. I am being pulled into this now, no longer aloof; I want a child. I dreamt of holding my friend's children, of trying to make the baby laugh. I keep hearing the stats in my head: 1 in 3. Will I be the 1 or the 2? I sit on the mat and try to forget all this. I picture a pool of still water: this is my mind. Every last thing disturbs it. I try to eliminate the drops, the ripples, the weeds, the coagulations of dirt. Just still, just clear, just peace. But this is not what you do, you don't eliminate anything. You just wait until the water settles.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Abandonment of Charms and Chalices


March 12, 2011

My ego is inflamed, my mind is inflamed, my stomach is inflamed. I can't separate myself from my words. I writhe with the dream of the yellow toy car. It was my car; I drove it on the road, even though it was about one eighth the size of other cars. There was a key in the ignition that I turned to make it go. I can't remember the details of the first dream; only a snow covered roof and almost falling off of it. It was the high roof of a captain's house in Salem and my childhood friend Laura Veraha was with me. We were trying to accomplish something, God knows what, and I became so absorbed in what I was doing I forgot I was some one hundred feet off the ground. I wavered over the edge and then through myself back onto the roof. I scrambled, wondering how I got myself up here in the first place.
In the second dream I wanted to drive the toy car on the highway. My husband Richard was with me and he wanted to rollerskate on the highway. We approached the onramp and noticed a cop who looked like John from CHiPs, wore the same sunglasses and beige uniform. We snuck past him and onto the highway, but we were tentative, looking in every direction to see if he had followed us. He had, only this time he wasn't on a motorcycle, he was in a wheelchair. He reprimanded us from a low height. I looked down at him and told him I knew very well the force of the cars on a highway and how they could kill you; I had inspected highway bridges and witnessed first hand the treachery of speeding cars. The CHiPs cop in the wheelchair thanked me for saying that. He disappeared then with Richard who came back with the tickets he issued us, one for fifty dollars and another for eighty dollars. Richard was so angry, he tore up the tickets and threw them down the sewer. His hair was long and blond in the dream; he looked like a criminal and I was especially attracted to him then. Then, I ran down the highway, nude, crouched down slightly to hide my private parts. I hugged myself to cover my breasts. As I ran, I imagined what my ass looked like as I was running, if, perhaps, it jiggled too much. I came to an off ramp and took it under the highway where there was a comedian who played the guitar with his toes. I settled myself around the crowd to watch him play; I had clothes on my body again. I made note of how his toes manipulated the strings; he was laughing as he played. The crowd and I then got on a bus that drove us down Route 101 A, Amherst Street in New Hampshire where I used to live as a kid. I told the driver I needed to get to Greenwood Drive, and then I remembered this was not right; this was the street we used to live on in New Jersey. I told her no, Watersedge, I needed to get to Watersedge to go home to my house. And then it occurred to me someone else was living in it. I had nowhere to go.
I cannot separate myself from these words, nor my inflamed ego. I sit on the mat.
OmGodOmGodOmGodOmGodOmGodOmGodOmGodOmGodOmGodOmGod.

March 13, 2011

I ask God if God's name will push through the dirt. I sit in vespers, thinking of the Japanese with their broken bodies and broken hearts and broken buildings and broken lives. I hold them in my hands. They are afraid to go to bed, afraid to wake up. We eat steak and potatoes for dinner and they wonder where their house is. We hear the news, look at the images of water, the rebar sticking out of concrete, the mud, the flotsam and jetsam. God never promised us a rose garden. Really. There is no record of any such thing.
I sit on the mat and writhe and meditate. I breathe and picture the waterfall outside Jefferson Township where there is a sign that says, “Leaving Jefferson Township, Come Again.” There is the convenience store where my father went to get jugs of milk, the high diving board at Morskioko and the face of a black and white rat terrier. There are former houses and former lovers. At 41, my life is crowded with dead images. A space opens in my heart, like a clearing in the forest where light touches down and warms the grass. We call this grace. We pray for the clearing in our own lives.
My grandmother's mirror is always in the back of my mind. It was old and whatever substance that caused it to be a mirror was losing its strength. When you looked into it, the glass seemed to be misty and you were a ghost, fading.

Mechtild of Madgeburg writes this in The Flowering of the Godhead:
A Song of the Soul:
Lord, You shine into my soul
like the sun glows on gold,
and when I rest in You,
what rich joy I have.
In fact, You clothe Yourself, God,
with my soul.
You are her most intimate piece of clothing against the skin.

Hadewijch in Poems in Stanzas writes this:

The birds that winter oppressed are singing today,
joyful now.
That's us!
We thank Love that before too long we-
proud hearts who've felt great pain-
will be joyful, too.
Our confidence in Love assures us this is true.
Love's power is so great
she'll reward us in ways
we can't begin to imagine.

We are all fading ghosts until we bathe ourselves in love.

March 14, 2011

Crush in a Dream

You are a crush, a gravity
a symbol other than love.
As I breathe here aside
my husband
I feel your semi-bearded face
pressed endearingly
against my cheek.
Inside my abdomen
are small uprisings
but these are not for you,
only your youth,
folly and free
for days I've wasted,
life unexplored.

March 15, 2011

My sister tells me how courageous I am for doing the fertility treatments. I tell her I am anything but courageous; it's cowardice that's pushing me forward. I am afraid of the rest of life and its impending meaninglessness; of my own mortality. Having a child would fill the void. This is the short answer to my cowardice. The long answer has something to do with faith and the suspicion of a deeper connection to life, to resurrecting family, to beginning again with not the role of daughter or sister, but mother. Everyone around me tells me I should have that role; I would be a good mother. They don't know the Edna Pontellier side to me; the one who recoils from childbirth, diapers, and the ball and chain of dependency.
Yesterday, as I sat reading Thoreau and feeling that kinship with an author through space and time, I thought not having a child would be tolerable. My mortality shrunk a little. I could delve into my work, search out the Transcendentalists and write a book, devote my life to this writhing, writing thing, only switch genres and focus on non-fiction for awhile. What would Thoreau and Emerson and Fuller say about our age? How would they cope? What does modern day transcendentalism look like? My spirit leapt, yes. This has everything to do with my new life. Catholicism and its charms and trances is of the old life. It was the deaths, my father's and aunt's, that pulled the rest of the roots; living its traditions seems to be pretentious and inorganic now. I'm bored to death in the mass for the masses, trying to make sense of the homily and how I can fit it into my life. But the key no longer fits the lock. In the days of old, when we sat at the long table in my grandmother's dining room under the portentous tapestry of the Last Supper my grandmother won at a church raffle, Catholicism worked in my life. It was the hub around which our lives spun. We made the proper motions, prayed our prayers, sang our songs, kissed each other peace, sang our songs again, received God in our mouths, and went home to discuss the proceedings of the mass over dinner, pontificating on the eccentricities of the priests. Now the elders are dead or estranged. I am at the helm. But the vessel of Catholicism has holes in it and the water is flowing in. I can't pretend those holes aren't there.
(Should I have a child, however, this situation needs to be reevaluated. Children need the structure of religion as a foundation for their character. Or do they? Discuss amongst yourselves.)
Thoreau's soliloquy on ice crystals on Walden pond affected me. He says, “Ice has its grain as well as wood,” and “Many of the phenomena of Winter are suggestive of an inexpressible tenderness and fragile delicacy.” I too have looked closely at the majesty of ice crystals. I have walked along Walden pond in the spring and heard the tinkling of these crystals like bells. I had never heard this before, and I stopped and listened and had my husband listen. “Shh, listen, what IS that?” It was the current and the wind over the melting crystals; the lake had taken on an ethereal sound. I too have looked closely at nature's motif's of leaf veins. I have seen them in the tributaries of water at the ocean, have observed a maple leaf and its similar tributaries. I have thought of the shape of atoms and particle motion and the shape of planets and planetary motion. Nature establishes harmony in its motifs. This harmony is not worked with charms and chalices and myths and crosses; its the real evidence of nature. And it brings me peace.

March 16, 2011

My imagination has brought me to all sorts of places, wondrous and terrifying. Does my imagination bring me to God as well? The story of Jesus is a romance. All my ex-boyfriends resembled Jesus, long hair, beards, etc. Is the story of Christ, the glory of the Resurrection non-fiction or fiction? The sage in me says all fiction is just a collage of non-fiction, what does it matter; do you need the play by play exactly how it happened? But I say I don't want to dream up the glory of God like I dream up a character. I want to recognize it. I know the forces of my internal life. I know what I am capable of. I remember how intense my break ups were because I embellished the characters of lovers. I simply cannot deny the need for external evidence. The religious call on their faith in the unseen and Christ lectures us on doubting Thomas. But the star design in a tulip cup or the face on a crab shell or the empyreal read of the cardinal or the monk-like meditation of the firs is the true manifestation of spirit. Why do we need stories to help us see spirit when it is all around us? It's no coincidence that the story of the Resurrection happens in spring because it is spring.
Thoreau says, “I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do.” He says, “Nature is as well adapted to our weakness as to our strength. The incessant anxiety and strain of some is a well nigh incurable form of disease.”
Nature doesn't fret or worry, it just is. Before my dog Ralphie died, I watched him closely to see if he knew he was dying, to see if he exhibited any anxiety or agitation. He was tired, sure, but he exhibited none of these things. He was more anxious and agitated when he went to the vet. The day he collapsed with a tumor on his heart, he got right back up again to continue his day. He was not curled in a corner shaking. When he came to me in the kitchen and sat in front of me and nudged my hand, I interpreted this as, “Well, this is just what happens.” One might argue that he didn't really know what was happening to him. Animals don't pontificate, so they don't have anxiety. They deal in urges; stimuli and response. Well I'm not particularly sure about this, I'm not a dog psychoanalyst, but I'm pretty sure he knew he was dying, just by that one moment we had together in the kitchen.
Once Ralphie found a fisher cat in the woods. The animal was trying to dig itself in the earth. I pulled Ralphie away from the thing in fear that he would get bit. The next day I went out and saw that it was dead. It was trying to dig itself into the earth to die. It wasn't screaming and trembling; it was going to its death like it was going to take a sip of water.
Ralphie started dying two days later when I was on my way to take him to a heart specialist. We got there and he was nearly passed out in the back of my truck. When they carried him out, he looked like a big drunk puppy. I was destroyed and he was drunk. They asked me if I wanted to revive him, pressed me for an answer, he's going to go you need to tell us what to do, you need to tell us now- but I had no information. My heart said let him go and my mind needed more information from the doctor. I told them to revive him. The next time I saw him, he was hooked up to large plastic tubes. I was numb. It was not a profound moment; I couldn't wait to get out of there, away from those tubes. Later when I went back to sit with the body one more time, I didn't want to leave. I sobbed and stroked his cold, soft fur. I was more comfortable with the corpse.
When my father died I was proud of him for doing it so well. I did not want him to die alone in the hospital hooked up to fucking tubes. My sister and I administered the morphine and he lie in the living room in a drug induced haze. There was no terror or anxiety, even when he had all of his faculties. The night he died, his spirit mourned us. He never said goodbye to us; there was no tender moment when he told me he would always be with me, etc. He just slipped casually into an alternative universe where people, places, and things were not what he thought they were. His mind was malfunctioning as a computer malfunctions, spitting out nonsense when it has a virus. When it went into sleep mode, the soul took over. The heart spoke. You could hear the moaning everywhere in the house and could not go anywhere to escape it. My mother went up to her room and closed the door. My sister and I sat on the couch in the living room where his bed was and waited for his spirit to go. Finally, after hours of incessant moaning, he was gone. I was relieved. We were all relieved. I went to cover him with the sheet because his face was contorted like Munch's The Scream. The soul had slipped out the mouth and left the door open.
This experience was ineffable. I can only say I was a child then and my father was dead. The world felt too big and we were alone, bitterly alone, without him.
But the next day the sun was so radiant and the sky so brilliantly blue and the winds so caressingly soft, I could think of nothing else but the Resurrection. The trees were vermillion and gold and the grass still green. Outside lady bugs covered the house; I had never seen such a thing, thousands of lady bugs all over the siding and windows. Lady bugs have always been a good omen, a symbol of protection; they eat the bugs that destroy plants. I felt as Magdelene did when she found the shroud. He lives. He lives.
Anxiety over death is nothing but self abuse. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we let fear and the mind pummel us when we need most the heart's compassion? Why do we not take advice from Nature herself? Thoreau says, “The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.” This is what we most learn to do.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Era of Needles


March 8, 2011

God is a temperamental gravity. That was the line that came up for me today. I looked up temperamental in the dictionary to see if I had the word right and it was circled. Temperamental as in sensitive, irratic; nothing consistent. Perhaps it is not God who is temperamental but my avenue to ...God.
Here is a dream: I plant tomatoes and zuccini in the house. The house has no floors, is just a wooden shell with sky lights. No sooner do I plant the tomatoes and zuccini, they are growing wildly. In a matter of seconds, they reach the ceiling and burst through the skylights. Outside, you can see the tomatoes, weighing heavily on the vine. The zuccini are like logs. I tell my friend Mark I will not pick them yet, it's too soon. I will wait for them to grow even bigger. I go to a nursery to buy something for the tomatoes and zuccini, I know not what. My sister is with me; she examines black gates to contain her rabbits. (My sister doesn't have rabbits). When I get home, the man from the nursery, Earl Proulx, the bald guy who writes home renovation articles for Yankee magazine tells me to take in the plants; the temperature is going to drop to twenty degrees. How could that be? I ask. Today it was near eighty, the sunlight made the vacant room glow gold. I tell him the plants are growing through the roof. He doesn't believe me. I say come and see for yourself, and bring a camera. He says he will do that. I go out somewhere, and maybe, in some nonlinear way, I am back at the nursery. I leave out the back door and Earl has my tomatoes in his hands. He has some minions with him, their arms filled with my giant stalks, my lush fruit. He said he's going to sell them in the store. I'm angry, but not too angry. What could I do? He sold me the fertilizer. So I go back to the house and my neighbor, an imaginary Asian woman is telling me my plants aren't right. The guy down the street has two million tomatoes and they are all perfectly red. I look at my tomatoes again, some of them are starting to wrinkle, take on brown spots. One of the plants has escaped its pot and the roots are dangling in mid air. They are starting to die.
One may relate the dream to my anxiety over my fertility endeavors. Sure, that's obvious. But I think the plants are metaphors for my writing. Sometimes when I produce something, I think it's good, it's lush, but going into the world, taints it. The rejection letters, the critiques. The fruit starts to rot.

March 9, 2011

I tell God to speak to me with compassion. Surround me with humility. This morning I received the Omega Institute's catalogue in the mail. I am tempted to immediately put it into the recycling, remembering the time I went to Kripalu and wanted to leave after the first hour. As much as I strive for some of the same things as these people, I do them differently. Their path is strange to me, almost laughable. Why would someone want to be called Wah!? Or Shamrock? I've sat through their workshops and found them vacuous. I do however, like the setting of the Berkshires and the Hudson River Valley. Just spare me the egos. So I sit at the kitchen table amusing myself with their dazzling images of poetic poses and slim bodies and wackos. There was a workshop on shapeshifting and how to touch your partner in karmic, tender ways. How invasive, I thought. I look through half the catalogue and then tossed it into the recycling.
I only like one view from my house. It is northeast, toward the pines and the woods. Looking in this direction I see the grass, a bird bath, a maple tree and the pines that lead down to the river. These are soothing images. Everything else, the cars parked on the road, the vinyl houses, the trash cans, the asphalt, I can do without.
I sit down on the mat and ask for God to speak with compassion. Josie comes and licks my palm. I wait for images. None come. That's not particularly true, I thought of the mountains surrounding Montpelier. Would I need to go there? Where do I go, I ask God, to be surrounded by humility? To hear you speak with compassion? I've only got one pleasing perspective here. I spend my time trying to protect myself from the less compassionate images, the ego-driven. Just log in to your email and you'll see what I mean. Or check out at the supermarket. Or watch a television show. Or go get your mail. We are bombarded with external images, poisonous, ego-driven drivel from every direction. What would Emerson say about this? He would curl up in a ball and cry. Our society is intent on making our imaginations go defunct. I remember the seventies, when I used to listen to a song and my mind would fill with pictures of the singer, of the song lyrics, of dreamy things a ten year old brain could wonder about. Now, you don't have to go far for someone to do it for you. And what is the mind body response to all these enforced, poisonous images? Anxiety.
Emerson said, “The moment our discourse rises above the groundline of familiar facts, and is inflamed with passion or exalted by thought, it clothes itself in images.” This is where the poet lives,in a world of his own images. But we all have a poet in us. It's just harder these days to find her.

March 10, 2011
The sun has rung up again, cheerful.
The paint on the house next door
is no less white
than it was a year ago.
We call this a good thing.
Time moves the word
and the mind is a cup
forever filled.
Why don't we just call
a spade a spade?
The Baptists color their God
inside the lines,
but my God stretches boundless
and flat
like spilled milk
across the kitchen floor.

March 11, 2011

The Era of Needles

It is the era of needles.
I lie on the table staring at the
swaying origami birds
thinking about a mother whose
life is broken.
She tells me her son
is terminally ill with a disease
I cannot pronounce.
Here in the paint
of the plum colored walls
her face is weary,
her frail frame buckles under
the weight of her thoughts.

There are some fifty vials
in a box on my dining room table.
There are two needles to use:
one for mixing the powders,
the other for pricking my abdomen.
I try to make nice with my body,
while I lie in silence,
imagine the white light, the qi,
the chakras, the whatevers
that silently surround me
on the acupuncture table.

Another woman follows me
out the door.
She is an older mother with
thatched gray hair and a young son
who draws elephants for
the receptionist.
I've seen her before.
She comments on the peculiar blush 
in the sky
wonders if, perhaps, everything
is alright.
She stops herself in her tracks, wait,
she tells me.
Wait.
Do you think it has something
to do with the earthquake and the tsunami?

But I resonate with the calm melon color.

It's probably just clearing up,
I tell her.
We both get in our cars,
make our way around the building
and look west
at the haze of pure light
under the yoke of gray.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Emerson's Eyeball, Snake Eyes and the Art of Writhing


March 3, 2011
Emerson talked about being one giant eyeball. When he walked in the woods, surrounded by the subtleties of the natural world, he became all perception and no ego. No pitied self, no wounded flesh from the biting flies. Now that the earth is rounding into spring, my giant eyeball senses the light changing. I want more. I want to shrug off the yoke of winter; I want to shrug a lot of things. How wonderful it must have been to live during that time, when there were no cars, when the silence and the subtleties were easy to absorb. We are so interrupted now. But one must persevere, sit down, reach for freedom. Becoming a giant eyeball happens only in moments. I sit, I try, I vibrate with the beginning of the day. This is how I've been waking up lately, slightly vibrating. There is a restless energy within me. It may be spring, it may be my reaction to impending things. I still sit on the mat and call God's name. There is an opening, but no internal images to guide me. I tell myself I am not trying hard enough. Then I say, wait a minute, it's not about trying, is it? It's just about sitting. There should be no trying here, no lurching, no gimme gimme. But I still do it.
I hear the gutter outside vibrating with the wind. I hear it all day long, almost like a buzz. Maybe I will go and buy myself some soft chimes.

March 4, 2011

Today I meditated and a snake eye rolled in. I saw it clearly, the thin, striking pupil, the space of the almond around it. I knew it meant something other than evil. Yes, there's Eve and Eden and the serpent, but I have since learned to see things differently than Catholic dogma. Eve abided by the snake, bit that apple to gain knowledge. As Joan says, We can't blame the poor girl for wanting to educate herself. So if you look up snakes, you will find that they symbolize feminine intuition or wisdom. (You know, seriously, what's up with the Christian religion and all this evil snake stuff and Original Sin shit...It's so fucking obvious Eve was a harness for womankind. Jealous much over the fact we can give birth? And what about Mary Magdelene? Yeah, she was the apostle Jesus loved and should have been the rock of his church, but short minded assholes framed her too). Sorry, sorry, compassion. Breathe. Compassion. So back to the snake eye. I breathe, my eyes are closed under the ficus tree. Another image comes up, of Dibacco's garage, the glass of the window to the waiting room. I hate that waiting room with its plastic chairs and old Good Housekeeping magazines from December 2005 and inside of carburetor small. But sometimes I have to sit there.
I wait for images like a dog waits for her dinner. Another one rises, or rather flashes, of Gandalf the Gray lying on his back in the middle of white. Breath bursts inside him and he is alive again. Is this what is going on, I'm waiting to be alive again? Alive how? Engaged in my life instead of my imagination? Oh goddamnit I'm such a naval gazer, why don't I start thinking about other people for a change. But the breath, the way the body responded, like a shock wave, a jolt of life. It's March and still cold. The ground is dead. We all need that jolt right about now.
And then the word, another flash: satori. I had forgotten what it meant and had to look it up. I once wrote it in calligraphy in a notebook and pasted dried flowers around it. Satori, or understanding. Isn't understanding like a jolt of breath? We move through our days half dead. Go through the motions. The Buddhists tell us to practice mindfulness, or consciousness of our actions. I forget to do this. Don't just go through the motions, be alive in the motions.

March 5, 2011

Welcome Morning from Anne Sexton's The Awful Rowing Toward God

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn't shared, I've heard
dies young.

March 6, 2011

While the rest of us live in a world of banalities, the poet lives in a world of flourishing images and urges. They have no demarcation lines, no restrictions. Our society is ruled by lines; you cross this line, you're this, you cross that line, you're that. There are consequences. And rightly so; we can't live among chaos; there needs to be rules and establishment, a level of comfort. But some people, some poets are too wild for rules. They blip up from the underworld long enough to seem charming, but this is all. You can't correct them with electric shocks. You'll kill their spirit with drugs. Anne Sexton was a poet, an artist. She had no lines. Her wildness and urges were fully expressed; she saw no wrong in masturbating in front of her child. When I found this out, I was significantly disturbed. I thought perhaps I should choose to study Sylvia Plath as a model for one of the characters in Woman in the Shape of a Cross. Plath is dense and esoteric; her blocks of verses hit me like cement. But my spirit sniffs something out in the language of Sexton's verses. It's a welling, an overflowing of yes. Of, oh yes. I can read God's name between her lines.
Perhaps we must lose our lines to be with God, as Sexton did. She was boundless, as God is boundless. There is something not-so-neatly packaged about God. Religion tries to do this, wrap up God in a nice little white box and give God to you. The demi -gods, the bookmakers, the rule keepers, expect you to prostrate yourself in a public place in front of relics. This is pretentious bullshit. I think God can be in a spider's egg and a tea cup. In the hair that clogs the drain.
I must say I am a little bit apprehensive about doing my delving into Sexton's life. Her biography arrived on Friday and although I was excited, I also wondered whether studying a “bad mother” would have any effect on my trying to conceive or propel me into a depression. But this is anxious thinking, full of lies.

March 7, 2011

From “The Wall” by Anne Sexton

We live beneath the ground
and if Christ should come in the form of a plow
and dig a furrow and pushus up into the day
we earthworms would be blinded by the sudden light
and writhe in our distress.
As I write this sentence I too writhe.

Funny thing, I read a friend's email to me the other day and she complimented me on my writing, but instead of the word writing, she wrote writhing. And I chuckled to myself, yes, that's about right. Today I read Anne Sexton's poem and she says we are all earthworms; she too writhes.
Today I thought of a first line to a poem and my heart sparked. It was good. I turned up my street into the driveway and became occupied with our trashcan. It was in the middle of the road and I was afraid it would be crushed by an oncoming car (we have already lost two). I rescued the can and lost the poem.
I too writhe.
My mother and I went to a modern dance recital in Cambridge several years ago. The audience sat in bleechers close to the dancefloor; we could reach out and touch the dancers. I don't remember much about the show, only one part, where a woman was on the floor writhing. Her body twitched, vibrated, her hands spastically rumbled over her body, trying to push at something. It hit me then, how perfectly she expressed my feelings with respect to anxiety, how I writhe under fear, twitch, slap, mentally scratch at myself and fight like hell to not be afraid. I had become very good at hiding my writhing. At some point, however, you want to truly be free and not fake free. That's when I started to accept my body for what it was and explore my alternatives.
“Take off your flesh,” Sexton says in the poem, “Unpick the lock of your bones. In other words, take off the wall that separates you from God.”
I struggle to write these lines now. Writing is writhing too. As is meditating.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Baby in a box and other inanities

February 28, 2011
Early Night
The concert hall built
at the cusp of the sea
has a window to view
white capped waves.
Upon entering, no one
took our coats.
Walking amidst the overdressed,
the rouge caked skin
shimmering slacks and camphor tweed
I wobbled, thrust forth
my glass, pronounced and pretended.
Outside, God's rosy breath, dissolved.
Hours pass and we part ways.
I rush out trembling,
Rockport strikes my cheek
like a granite edge.
There, above me, a camaraderie of stars,
my own breath dissolves in black as
Dread pools in the holes of my bones.
Walking the street home,
I am nothing but godless.

March 1, 2011
Approaching the Delicate
We enter with gratitude and awe
take the untraveled path and walk
on finely tuned crystals.
Life here is stripped bare, but dressed
in virgin white.
The slender ones bow,
others curtsy, taking up the hem of
their shot silk gown when we pass.
Our breath is labored, we slow
as soldiers cross their rapiers
above us.
We are interlopers here, but welcome,
so long as we breathe with silence.

March 2, 2011
I got the box on Saturday filled with drugs and needles. It sits on the dining room table. There may be a baby in this box, I tell myself. But I still find it daunting.
Today I have to drink some barium chloride so they can illuminate my stomach. Maybe they can find the crow I accidentally swallowed. I feel him squawking down there when there's nothing to bury him. Aside from this little test, the day is spacious. I sat on the mat today and called God's name. I felt my mind groan. I told it to find God in the spaces, or at least learn to breathe there.   

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The last February Days

 
February 21, 2011

All the ways I've learned to pray have become stale. Those words don't get me to God. Not the Our Father, nor the Hail Mary. When I feel troubled and I ask for things, like taking away the cup of suffering, I feel ignored. The only thing that seems to work is meditating on the word, God. The mantra of the word seems to clear the space, part the minutia of arrows.
Today there was the image of the willow tree in the backyard of my apartment in Watertown. There, after a particularly painful breakup, I was left with a life that didn't suit me. I got on my path of loneliness. So sitting today, I thought of the long, winding path of loneliness, how I traveled in blindly, filled with self pity, filled with confusion, filled with illusion and magical thinking. (Ah magical thinking, you caused me a great deal of distress. Part imagination, part romanticism, part desire, magical thinking is the primary component of the path of loneliness, because it is a token of illusion) Pema Chodrin says, “That we take ourselves so seriously, that we are so absurdly important in our own minds, is a problem.” Oh yes, very serious. When you're steeped in magical thinking and the keen awareness that all around you is NOT magical, you have a problem.
Here is my life, stark naked standing before me. Rise up, I say, and walk.

February 22, 2011

I went for a walk still filled with a dream. I put on the necessary elements, scarf, hat, gloves, extra socks and I took my dog and we walked the hills. The sun had spring light and the ravens still ruled. Above them gulls circled. There weren't many cars. Snow bank ice crystals, still high. Garbage out for pick up, my dog, preoccupied with every last can. I pull, stamp my feet, get 'er moving. We climb one hill; there are SUVs running, warming up for their drivers.
We climb a second hill, the third, make it toward the home stretch. I swing my arms back and forth, think about the dream, the black girl and the greyhound and the Greek church outside our dorm. I was at UNH and the campus had wedding cake-like buildings. There was a crowd gathered in the middle of campus where they were putting on a Shakespearean play. There was a mongoloid child beating up his mother, I took his hand and gently said, “stop”. He listened. The black girl, the greyhound and I moved on toward our dorm which turned out to not be a dorm at all but an apartment. There were men inside, mafioso, the black girl knew them, wanted to hang out with them. They chuckled about private jokes, wore black in striped suits. I told my roommate the Black girl I wanted to go home, I was taking Dolly the greyhound with me. I asked her if she was coming. She said she wanted to wait awhile. I told her that she didn't have to come; I didn't want her to come, I wanted to go home alone. I wanted to get away from those bad men who knew how to kill. Somewhere, maybe not in the apartment, there was a black and white rabbit on a table. His rabbit ears were long, and his eye wandered. So I wake up, after interrupted sleep, restless, ridiculous sleep and I try to meditate and all I think is no way. I'm filled with the symbols in the dream, I'm filled with the absurdity of the dream, I'm filled with dissatisfaction for my life.
The snow is pure white now, gleaming. My face is burned with the cold.

February 23, 2011

I sit down on the mat, weary. What's the difference between this and the bed? You think there, you think here, you think everywhere. Ego pushes for greatness in thinking, greatness that will get you recognized, that will make you money because right now you're making diddly squat and it bothers you. You there, the industrious Capricorn; you're bothered. But ego is giving me an ulcer. The difference between the mat and the bed is I can somehow find compassion on the mat. It takes me awhile, but eventually it comes and I feel better. I think it has to do with intention. My intention for the mat is strictly compassion; my intention for the bed is sleep, which lately I'm fighting for, due to medical reasons. The mat is my safe zone. I can arrange for that there.
Also, ego, you're fired. I'm more content writing only for myself than writing for the blog. No one is reading the blog, and, I feel too self conscious about it. I don't want to have to impress people and feel stress. So no more blog. Pema Chodrin says, “You're the only one who knows when you're using things to protect yourself (or raise yourself) and keep your ego together (and happy) and when you're opening and letting things fall apart, letting the world come as it is- working with it rather than struggling against it.” I'm going to let the blog thing fall apart.

February 24, 2011

My heart is heavy with grief and there's nothing I can do about it. There's nothing you can do when the old life visits you in your dreams and the people you love fill a house with warmth. I felt their bodies close by, heard the softness in their voices. Of course it was my grandmother's house, the bilevel on Cheshire Street that's now gone, sold to another family. But it's still available to me at night. Now it's filled with ghosts and every time I'm there I wonder if I'm dead or alive. Last night I was looking for secrets to mental health in coffee grains. My great uncle Rudy was there, the psychoanalyst and we were reading the quality of people's mental states in a pot of coffee. I was the one responsible for making the coffee. I filled the vessel with grains, placed it in the pot, cooked it in water and then spread them out onto pieces of filter paper for scrutiny. There was a formula to go with the grains: 2R = R/100,000. I told my uncle Fred, another psychoanalyst, the formula did not make sense. Also, we had no way of knowing what the numbers meant, because there was no range of mental illness given, i.e. what number indicated what state of mental illness. He agreed. By this time Uncle Rudy was drunk and losing interest in the procedure. We had only made it through about four people and with the whole house full, we had many more to go. Then the party ended and it was the next day. My grandmother asked us when we were leaving. My sister, mother and I would leave right away, our stuff was packed in pink fluffy suitcases in the guest room. My brother wanted to wait another day. I thought of him traveling the bridges alone, the Throgs Neck, the George Washington, big colossuses of steel over torrent water. I woke up broken hearted. This how I wake up when I dream of my grandmother's house. The grief is lodged in my throat and heart like a splint. I can't, I say on the mat. I can't feel compassion. Not today. My heart is buried in dirt and sand. My loved ones are dead and my esophagus is filled with coffee grains. The old life is dead, dead, dead.
A vision comes then, a close up of my esophagus filled with black dirt. A thin green stem moves upward and sprouts leaves.

February 25, 2011

For the novel:

Here
in the world of partial faces
and figments
one must tell oneself
are blue or indigo,
the workings of Algebra
do not apply
nor do falling apples
or the apogees and perigees
of ellipses.
Here
where snakes are seraphim
and time, an afterthought
steel bridges dissolve like salt
in the fog
as
the sun speaks at three fingers
above the horizon
before it melts thrice
in a pool of shade.
Here
we do not eat
or drink,
subsist by memory of taste
and impulse alone-
we wait for slow moving
vessels, their masts
tethered with the faces
of orchids, their cargo,
captive vagrant spirits and lovers
who descend weary and wary,
perplexed by phantom limbs
and eyes and ears.
I
allow the newly initiated
their wanderings
their discovery of hollow places
upon entering their names
in papyrus ledgers.
Here
they call me queen
but I am more the interloper
the partially abducted,
staid, until the grain above is gilded
and forthright
by my mother's hand.
I heed when She rises
from mournful slumber
in a gown sewn from silken flax
and milkweed, strolling
orchards swollen with scent,
the ecstasy of her faith
poised on her lips
as a kiss.

February 26, 2011

Mother, I hear your feet

above me
step softly amongst the straw
your bruised heart, a forgotten fruit
past ripe for plucking
your eyes have worn your cheek raw.
I have slipped again
through the cleft
due west of the cresting waves
where ships carry
a cargo of souls
who bemoan the stone
of their graves.

Mother, the blood of these seeds
still stains my lips
and the taste is bitter, like sin
But I have learned to shine
my own light,
the Blessed feminine.