"Lotus Opening" by L. Folk

Friday, September 30, 2011

Somebody's Daughter, the Forgotten Entry

This was written a few weeks ago, but I wanted to make sure I got it in for September.

September 3, 2011

Pregnancy has taken over. My body his a mind of its own. Sensation, thought, upside down. Everything in the yard is pale and I find it bothersome. I find most things bothersome. And yet this vat of pregnancy hormones has made it difficult to be motivated and do something about all this, the yard, the dog hair, the dirty bathrooms. I covet my failures and blip above the surface every now and again to see how life goes. The successes are small. Even this pregnancy, a major success, has somehow become small. Why is this? Because it is all so abstract. The baby (or babies, dear God) are cells now, the cumulated size of a pea. If you're going to love something, you've got to love that pea, which is somewhat of a leap. (You could love the idea, but that too, is a reach.) So what I notice is the immediate, the heavy, drugged vat of pregnancy keeping me from living life they way I want to. It's selfish. It's short-sighted.
So I look for answers, skim the pages of prose by the Buddhist monk Pema Chodrin:

Whatever arises, no matter how bad it feels, can be used to extend our kinship to others who suffer the same kind of aggression or craving- who, just like us, get hooked by hope and fear. This is how we come to appreciate that everyone's in the same boat. We all desperately need more insight into what leads to happiness and what leads to pain...
It's easy to continue, even after years of practice, to harden into a position of anger and indignation...In the moment we choose to abide with the energy instead of acting it out or repressing it, we are training in equanimity, in thinking bigger than right and wrong. This is how all the four limitless qualities- love, compassion, joy, and equanimity- evolve from limited to limitless: we practice catching our mind hardening into fixed views and do our best to soften. Through softening, the barriers come down.

I watched Dateline's Somebody's Daughter (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/#VpFlash) last night, a story regarding the remains of eleven women found in the West Mesa desert outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. These were fallen women, “crack whores”, who left their families to sell their bodies on the streets of Albuquerque for drug money. I was first struck by the title because I had used the term “somebody's daughter” myself in a scene in one of my novels where the protagonist, a respectable woman of the nineteenth century meets one not so respectable:

The harlot rose, clicked her fan shut and pushed a stool underneath me, “You should take a load off your feet, those boots can’t be comfortable to toes all smashed inside like that,” she said.
Her gesture, while appearing to be kind, was indeed terrifying; I had no intentions of spending my evening here. I finished my water and was ready to dismiss myself when the barkeep came 'round from his bar and sat close to the girl, fixing his eyes on me. I had noticed at his belt, the polished barrel of a revolver. He grunted to clear his throat, as if to say something. I rose to my feet in haste and gathered myself, having received what I needed and ready to rid myself of them. “Sure you don't want to stay 'while? I'm certain we kin find a room fur you here, and Molly kin shew you round the place,” the barkeep said. He spied one more look at me, his eye roving around my dress and turned to the harlot, touching her chin ever so delicately and lovingly, “You need a woman friend these days Molly?” He was a man approximately father's age, the hair about his arms thick, speckled with gray, his bald head gleaming with perspiration. He raised a thin, bony finger and gently ran it down her bare shoulder.
The words left my lips before I could catch them, “If I may declare sir, this young woman is someone’s daughter.”
He continued to pet her and said, “This here’s Molly Miller and she ain't got no one to call 'er daughter. 'Sides me o' course.”
The story of one of the women, a Michelle Valdez, was a videography taped by her father and was very effective in portraying the transformation of a girl with “a future as bright as the New Mexico sun” to a drug-hazed prostitute arrested on the streets of Albuquerque. You see the girl Michelle dressed in Halloween costumes, blowing out candles, opening presents, excited about life. Then, an immediate transformation with the onslaught of the teenage years; Michelle is more reticent and withdrawn. You see Michelle, pregnant at the age of 13, holding her baby and your heart breaks because the despondency in this girl's face is too much to bear. At 41 I feel the limitations on my life already in my fifth week; I have only a glimpse of what it must be like to have the rest of your childhood erased.
Michelle's child was eventually taken away from her and raised by her grandmother and you see Valdez's videos of his granddaughter opening her birthday gifts without her mother around. Sure that's heartbreaking too. But it doesn't make me feel animosity toward Michelle. I feel animosity toward life and how incredibly unfair it can be; I could easily spiral down into indignation. It's right there; it's accessible. But instead of doing that and falling victim to emotion, I can name it and step away from it. I can also recognize the compassion in the situation, Dan Valdez's love for his daughter, Ida Lopez's determination to find the “sinister force snatching women off the streets”.
Bravo for Ida Lopez, a detective who kept track of the missing woman, who asked questions, who brought it all to the light because she believed prostitutes had souls too. Somebody different would have just tsk tsked and filed away the reports because these women weren't “valued” by society. And that's the thing that infuriates me the most. If you go online and type in crack whore, you will see all sorts of derogatory jokes, videos, and whatnot. Here's one that's especially noteworthy: http://efukt.com/1642_Crackwhores_Gone_Wild.html. It's not the drug dealer or the killer who is the lowest of the low; it's the crack whore. Society seems to have the least sympathy for them. What's the psychology behind this? I can't help but think it's patriarchal in nature, this primordial male exploitation of the “weaker sex” at its most pitiful. And I don't mean pitiful as in pitied, no; I mean pitiful as in worthless. It would take another woman to find justice for these forgotten women, a woman whose mind wouldn't harden by society's fixed views.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tear Down This Wall, Mr. Gorbachev

September 29, 2011

I sit on my mat and pull out my hair, make a little nest I can gather together and throw away. My husband is at the bathroom sink doing his male toilette. Josie lies like a slug on the chaise and sighs. I read, but am inspired by nothing. I am disheartened by the long day of nausea ahead, the gray skies, the predictable hours.
“Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev.” These are the words in my mind. 
  What wall?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Unhinged, then Hinged.

September 28, 2011

“The urge toward form is the urge toward God” Charles Wright says in his poem, “Scar Tissue”. I'm not sure I see that as true. God lies behind form, is formless. God is more like Mecca, a direction. We can angle ourselves toward or away. Away, and life can well as high as the morning sky and pummel you to the sand where you bob up, dazed, frantically searching for all of your lost items. I am learning, ever so slowly, to orient myself toward God. Only then, do I feel the ground beneath my feet.
So this morning I got out of bed and rolled out the mat and looked up at the light coming in through the window. I tilted slightly to the north; it was a symbolic gesture. I thought about hearts, opened hearts, awakened hearts, beating hearts. I said, “God”. I read some poetry. I tried to stare into the intergalactic space of my mind. Stars rushed at me. I became frustrated. I said, this is enough, and rose to go eat a muffin. As I rolled my mat, I thought of my father's faith in science. My father had a very logical mind, was an engineer for most of his life. I used to find scraps of his papers with his firmly pressed letters and numbers; his attempts, failures, successes to look for answers to his math problems. When he got sick with cancer, he treated the doctors like gods. Sure he went to church like a good Catholic (I still remember him singing the Holy Holy in a soft baritone voice to himself) but his true faith lie in science, and later, specifically, medicine. He spoke of those doctors with such...reverence. And I used to wonder why. So they're intelligent, so they have saved people, but they're men, just as you are a man, and men only go so far. My father did everything they told him to; he was the perfect patient. They told him to have radiation, he had radiation. They told him to have brain surgery, he had brain surgery. They told him to do chemo, he did chemo, and he did it with a smile on his face, believing in the doctors' command of life. He wanted so desperately to live. I'm not sure where my father's spirituality was back then. I'm sure he had his personal prayers and a private relationship with God, but I didn't get a glimpse of it. I saw a man desperate and at the hand of doctors and then ultimately furious his body wouldn't go the way they commanded it.
Now I go headfirst into my own dilemma and I am wary of doctors, their onslaught of statistics, their professional, stoic dispositions. I have yet to meet one doctor I consider to be whole, to be of scientific mind, yes, but spiritually inclined, or maybe not spiritually inclined, that's too dangerous for this society, maybe just truly compassionate. When I leave their offices, I am unhinged. Jelly. Fearful. I'll do anything they tell me to, just like my father. I start to convince myself I can handle watching the needle puncture that beating heart and silence it. Hell, I never wanted three babies and sure as hell not all at once. I'm no mother-woman (credit Kate Chopin, The Awakening). And then a little voice says, how do you know what you are? The tide of opposite thinking always washes back in. I hinge myself back together. What if they're wrong, I start to think. What if I can do this?
What disgusts me most about these fertility doctors is their complete disrespect for life. They pump us up with zygotes according to some chart and feel no qualms about going in and “reducing”. There are some doctors who spend day in and day out “reducing”. And I want to say, Well do you have to be so fucking cavalier about it? Shouldn't there at least be a moment of silence?
There must be a middle road, one where you walk with an open mind and an open heart. Only then will I find the answer.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Baby A, Baby B, and Baby C

September 27, 2011

Three Blind Moles Attach

Three blind moles attach
to my uterus, their luminescent
heads subtly bob, their bodies
curl and tuck. My silent world
closes on their soft round skulls.
Help. This is the word
choked out, then swallowed. Help.
The sedum, ubiquitous in September,
is pink with nausea, the crab apple tree
has forgotten its fruit, the sky,
wrapped in Lazarus's shrouds, holds
out both arms to Mother Earth
who thrusts open her legs. I retract
from their lovemaking. Slumber is
as thick as weeds.

The small pat, the unleavened bread,
beats in each blind mole,
a tap tap tap telegraph to souls
whose wings darken rooftops
and valleys. I lay this body down
toss out statistics and pitch the head
of Science on a stick.

I must be still. The oracular,
the subtle clink and hush
of reflection, the ruddy-colored bird
with a sideways eye, the stinted bud
with a slice of stitched lip, is among us.

Where is that place of truth and trust, where perception isn't amped up with worry and worst case scenarios? Once again, I feel as if life is happening to me and not with me. I carry the weight of this decision like a ten pound watermelon. It starts to spoil and I smell eggs. Rotten eggs. And then I am depressed. Hopeless. My mind deems no solution. I collapse like a supernova into a black hole. How can I not do that? Where is the door to new thinking? Writing poetry helps because I can express the depths of me and not have them fester. That's step one. But the higher power thing has me conflicted. Catholic guilt and old Catholic mores say I am being tested, or worse, punished. I didn't put my faith in God in this situation, I put it in science and now I must deal with the ramifications. But the Buddha in me says otherwise. There are no mistakes, just life. Make this decision first out of compassion and make it with the awakened heart.
But it's the heart that bothers me the most. Their tiny beating hearts. If they were a conglomeration of cells and only this, I would have no problem having the doctors remove one. But they are no longer just cells; they have that heart and that heart, I believe harkens the soul. I am one for hearts; I can't help it.
The risks of having triplets are numerous. Babies born at two pounds, NICU for weeks, gestational diabetes, not too mention how I will progress to the size of a cement truck. I never wanted three babies, ever. The doctors are anxiously waiting for me to say the word, reduce, and my worries will be instantly lessened. But there is that already beating heart and its holy momentum. Who am I to stand in its way?