"Lotus Opening" by L. Folk

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Elevated Amongst the Bones of Ancestors

November 19, 2011

At 8 AM, God winks his wide bright eye at me, as if I am doing something right. At 9, a walk up the hill with my dog amongst the gilded and pale; Autumn has spread and folded her russet wings. We walk the same route looking for new relics, a glistening stone, a hawk's feather. At 11, I think of hunger, my dead mouth. I envision their illuminated, capsulized forms writhing and practicing being bodies. I dress my outside self, weigh the day. It weighs forty pounds, but is lifting.
I perform, walk the tight rope with firm hips, discriminate between foods. A bubble rises and pops at the back of my throat echoing their needs. My body is their body.
At 5, the sky looms like breath and I lie supine like a queen, amused by the trees, some in evening gowns of shot silk, others in naked tree flesh. It is an ephemeral dance of sensuality and regality in this waning November light. At 7, God's great eye closes. Later, the dreams of strangers will find the crook of the Earth. Their souls will fill the sky with amorphous shapes, bodies filled with glistening light radiating forth from a million facets in the shapes of gilded flowers and eggs.

November 27, 2011

This past Thanksgiving we took the long trip to Pennsylvania to visit my in-laws. It was a much needed respite from my harried life (although Wednesday's traffic wasn't fun and made us doubly harried). On Friday, after we had a spent a day gorging ourselves, we went out on a little scavenger hunt to find the graves of Richard's ancestors. It was a nice day, relatively warm to be meandering among the idyllic farmland and hills. We found the grands, the greats, the great greats, the great great greats, and the grand daddy of them all: Lorentz Klein, great great great great grandfather to my husband who came over on the ship, the Phoenix with his father Philip and made a home by the banks of the little Lehigh. Lorentz and the rest of Richard's patriarchal side were German immigrants; their tombstones were etched in German with ornate letters we could only surmise by the numbers associated with them. Lorentz had a flag and was easy to find because he was in the militia during the Revolutionary War ( a private, I believe). We also found one of his sons, Christoph, who was rumored to shoot himself cleaning his gun. The Klein family home was just downstream of the little Lehigh river, down the street from the graveyard. It was a fine house, built of flat river stone up on a hill. Anyway, I wrote a poem about the experience and made note of how these pilgrims buried in the earth had a link to my own children buried inside me. The poem is unfinished, but it still makes this point.

Above the valley where the little Lehigh flows
The Klein house, built of gray river stone
tops a green knoll and has its eyes on the river.
Years ago, when the sons of the settlers lived,
they figured amongst that small river life,
dug for crayfish among the fertile banks
or doused cloth like the heads of infants,
the lazy draped trees with their soft trusses
at their backs, the brambles at the banks
with tart berries swallowed whole by lovers,
with its wine-like juice on their tongues.

Imagine now, flour in the creases of the palms
of the eldest girl, the moist rise of bread
inside the hearthstone with her thoughts
baked inside, a woman's rising stitch
that extends the life of cloth, a man's groaning
bones in the fields, the sinew of his muscle
toiling with earth, coaxing it, coaxing it.

Imagine also a boy's hands, tugging
at the hollow knobs of udders, the toll
of the bell in the fields of the beasts'
return, the formidable toll of a higher bell
on Sundays where a log cabin chapel
houses their pious heads bowed
in the direction of the pews as the river
flows high or low, a constant murmuring
under joined voices, a source of water
for their daily ablutions, for beginnings
and ends.

We ramble among their graves, elevated
among the bones that once knew motion
that once knew the same code of blood
now pulsing through the nascent forms
inside my womb, that code of what
you will be, diggers by a different river
lovers with wine-like juice on your tongues.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Subtle Branding, In Memory of My Great Grandmother

Subtle Branding

Summer's wealth manifests itself
in the last of the leaves as my beating heart
pushes blood to their hungry bellies.
The aurora behind my eyes darkens.
The cave straight down the middle of me
echoes their grunts.

My husband chops wood
out in the yard as my father used to do.
Sometimes I confuse the two.
Dad, I want to call down to the cellar,
Dad? Dad?

Now here is Philomena
a floral house dress hiding her girth,
walking the path behind the woodpile.
I have known the inside of her home,
the smell of camphor and gas,
the rumble of her cauldron of sauce,
the braised letters of the old language
flavoring her telling of tales.

Gathered around her, her aging children
with stories of their own
with slender goblets in their hands,
salami rolled between their tongues.
They sailed the world, gambled, sang
and sinned
Told one another:
Don't tell Mama. Don't tell Mama.

Behind the woodpile, I led Philomena.
I was the great granddaughter,
the American, who wanted to show
the old mother my world.

Philomena, with her stockings rolled
down to her ankles, her soft leather shoes
molded to her bunions, was afraid.
Of what I knew not. Wild dogs?
Gypsies? These were of the old country.
But conquering one new world
was enough for her.

In the silence of the light,
I turned her around. She held firmly
to my arm and we both mute, carefully,
one soft molded shoe and sprite sneaker
after another
made our way back home.

It is evening and slender limbs
trace their names between the planets.
My husband has stacked the wood.
My children nap down in that cave
among the stories scratched into the wall.
The light of the fire blazes,
a subtle and gentle branding of each letter
into the backs of their skulls.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Birth Mother, Warrior (on the day we remember all warriors)

November 11, 2011

Yesterday one of my students, I'll call her “C”, cornered me at the end of class, as she does nearly every class, to tell me her tales of woe. Usually I want to run away. Yesterday, I stayed and listened as C told me the last time she was beat up. She had gone to pick up her son from his father's house, had rang the doorbell and the father's sister answered the door, casually talking on her cell phone, or “making it seem like she was talking on her cell phone,” as C said. She put the cell phone down, asked C how she was and then “bam” punched her right in the face. Before C knew it, she was on the ground being kicked and punched by the sister. The father of her son stood near by, egging his sister on, “Get 'er, get 'er.” C caught sight of her son in the corner watching his mother get beat up and screamed, “Not in front of my son! Not in front of my son!”
“I don't want my son to know that violence,” she told me, “but I'm doing a miserable job of keeping it from him.”
I have to say here that C is quite a character. Yesterday she came to class in a white t-shirt; you could see the pink bra underneath that matched the pink hat on her head. She is pretty, has long hair, a model face and body. She desperately wants to pass my class as she desperately wants to escape the violence in her life and the mistakes she's made. She used to fight all the time and she knew how to be ready for it: tie the hair back so it can't be pulled; don't wear long dangling earrings so they can't be ripped from your ear lobes. But now she said, she has softened with the birth of her son. She's no longer out to get people, to thrash out at them, kicking, punching and screaming to survive. She put a restraining order on the boy's father (who had also beat her up) in hopes of keeping his violent, drug trafficking lifestyle away from her son and then lifted it because he pleaded and cried. And now this, caught off guard and attacked by his pit bull sister.
While I felt compassion for C, I couldn't help but want her to find that warrior spirit of hers, get off the ground and beat the shit out of the sister. I wasn't clear on how the fight ended up; there were some threatening words and she eventually scrambled away with her son. Whatever. I guess my point is, the warrior spirit in me recognized, was awakened by, the warrior spirit in her.
Years ago a friend took a picture of me at the beginning of a trail in the woods. I was wearing a down vest that was too small for me and carrying a long stick that resembled a staff. The tight vest looked more like a corset and reminded me of the armored corset the goddess Athena is often shown wearing. I always hated that picture because by fleshy thighs were quite elephant-like and unbecoming in gray sweat pants. But I think back to that picture now and see why my friend had complimented me on it: I may have not looked pretty, but I looked confident.
Now in the throes of pregnancy, still feeling nauseous and exhausted- wasted really- nearly all the time, I need to find that warrior spirit to face my physical and mental challenges. When you're pregnant at 41, when you're pregnant at any age nowadays, the onslaught of tests and worst case what-if scenarios are enough to bring you to your knees never mind the physical discomforts. My mother tells my sister and I when we worry, to pray, pray, pray, but praying feels too much like begging and I'm not particularly clear to whom I am prostrating myself. As I said in another posting, God isn't Santa Claus.
It feels more right to meditate on the god inside me, particularly the warrior-goddess, the one with the courage, the strength, the faith, yes, and the cunning. Maybe it is not a violent strength, maybe it is a more a self-possessed, confident strength, founded on compassion for oneself and one's children; the warrior guided by awareness and compelled to make the right decisions at all costs. I wish that strength for C as well.