"Lotus Opening" by L. Folk

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

From the Window, November

From the window, November looks too much like grief to me; this is why I recoil from it, at first. From the window, the stark, slender trees, the gray--I think of my father's cancer diagnosis and untimely death. No, I don't think of these things; these are not thoughts. These are the antitheses of thoughts, thoughts suppressed but moldering somewhere inside me. There are other antithetical thoughts: who is next? Me? My husband? One of the kids? November is the mark of our vulnerability. It reminds us of the pending treachery of life and we shiver accordingly.

But when I cross the threshold and go out into November, walk among the fallen oak leaves tinged with lace-like frost, touch my hand to the slender, stark trees, peer up at the timeless meditating firs and down into the cold, clear water of the river, I want to submerge myself. I am aware of a melancholic beauty--the Persephone of the Underworld, prayerful and accepting of her fate. This stage, this necessary reflection is, too, a part of existence.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Pool One Night in October (from Upon Waking)

Everyone was in the pool that night, my father and I, his football buddies--men I had never known or seen before, figments of men. My father, showing off, took the babysitter in his arms. She leaned back and her breasts popped out from under her bikini top. She slipped from his arms, embarrassed (she was such an innocent thing), submerged herself as the men roared. It was dark and chilly, an evening when the dew settled early; we had no right to be in that pool.

I unpeeled the layers of water to find her, despite my being intimidated by her beauty and youth. She was shivering from cold and anxiety, and her lips were turning purple. We hoisted ourselves up out of the pool, walked across the dark, dank grass. Suddenly I felt nauseous. I stopped, pulled parts of bodies from my mouth, arms, legs, feet. I looked down and they were strewn about the grass.

Then, the actor showed up. I worried about my breath, whether he would notice; he was once my lover. Surrounded by his entourage, he moved passed me toward the pool. I waited for him to turn back, to acknowledge me, to acknowledge, perhaps, the young beauty next to me, but he didn't. He was swept away with the crowd.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Question of Herons With an Answer by Mary Oliver

There must be some point when herons know they can't make the trip south.

I started wondering this sometime in October as I walked the woods along the river and saw the regulars--geese, mallards, gulls, sans the tall delicate birds that approach the river with semblances of curiosity and grace. During the summer I would see the white ones perched in the large oaks along the river's embankment; from the road they looked like draped handkerchiefs, pure white, newly laundered.

Today I found my answer in Mary Oliver's poem "Herons in Winter in the Frozen Marsh." It's funny how poems can answer questions churning in my mind; it's almost as if I'm being directed. This is what the old herons do: they wait. They wait as the cold whittles their bones and starvation loosens their flesh. At some point their "wings crank open/ revealing the old blue light" and they let go, "first one then the other ... into the ditches and upheavals." They become the water, the marsh, the bending grass.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Ship (from Upon Waking)

She got herself aboard a sailing ship to travel the Atlantic. The captain was a ruffian of sorts, large and outspoken, who barked orders at the sailors. It was rumored that once, in a fit of anger, he turned the boat over; it rolled in the Atlantic like a dog in the grass. He did it to punish to crew, and some of them nearly died from hypothermia.

They traveled north, through a rocky channel where fish got stuck in the high cliffs after the tide went out. She remarked to the captain, there, a flounder, there, a grouper, a marlin. Ay, they'd be tasty, the captain said and ordered one of the sailors to pluck the bigger ones for frying. Later that day, she found a flounder on her plate, whole, it's two eyes staring blindly up at her.

At some point, she felt the thrill of a storm, the ship hurling itself through the waves, the spray of the surf. She had said it to herself, "I have never felt so alive." When the storm retreated, they sailed into port. It could have been a port in Norway or Iceland; she did not know exactly. In fact no one but the captain knew the name of the port. The buildings were centuries old and conveyed an air of elegance and antiquity. It was early when they arrived and only the dogs were out. These stray dogs of the sea port had remarkably fine fur and were carrying a bag of sweet cake. They started to tussel over it, but not too aggressively, almost comically. She and the captain perused the otherwise empty cobblestone streets and canals and he took her elbow, guiding her; afterwards, they went back to the ship for breakfast.

Someone knocked at the door of her cabin before she went to table. It was a jeweler with a briefcase of metalwork--rings, shards and plates of copper. He asked her to pick out a gift for the captain. She wondered what good he had done. Why was everyone always appeasing him, this tyrant? She made her choice, a sheet of finely hammered bronze in the shape of the centuries-old buildings. The jeweler went on his way.

Adaptive Creativity and "Camel Toe" a short short from Upon Waking

Lately I've been writing these short short vignettes (Woolf called them "sketches) from my dreams. The "Longing" post is an example of one of these; I plan on compiling them all under the title Upon Waking, because they are written when the dream is fresh, after I have just opened my eyes. Surprisingly these pieces come out nearly whole. This genre is new to me, and I didn't think I had the type of brain to write them. I'm more equipped mentally for the long haul and weaving long yarns of prose. But I've learned that my creativity is adaptive; as a mother and a professor, I don't have the luxury of delving into long pieces. In fact, sadly, I have hardly any time to write at all. But I can manage 10 or 15 minutes upon waking, before the kids barge into our room wanting bweakfast. And I feel somewhat creatively satiated, knowing that I at least tried to get something down, and reassured that my mind can still dwell in a creative space, albeit a brusque one.

Here's a very short piece called "Camel Toe."

Camel Toe

She is a Vegas dancer in a corporate cafeteria dressed like an angel. Her chest is crisscrossed in diamonds and her bodysuit is nylon nude. She regards a man on his knees--Rob Lowe--who is in a comic role, begging some upright gentleman to take pity on him. If there is a laugh track, it's subtle or perhaps understood. The angel takes the arm of the upright gentleman and the two walk away; her wings nearly take out the Exit sign over the doorway while people go about their business, unfazed. There is more laughter. I turn to a second observer who could be my husband. "You can see her camel toe," I say. "Is that allowed?"