Winter of Discontent

#zotterdog

#zotterdog

It snowed on Easter.

Woo.

I cracked the door open just enough to let the dog slip through. She was out like a shot and off into the woods, nose down, following the fresh tracks of a rabbit.

My first thought was, Run, Easter Bunny!

My second thought, Up yours, Winter! Read More

We Who Are The Quick

We lose people, we who are the quick.

Or maybe it’s more accurate to say they leave us. We hold tight to them, for all we are worth, but in the end, if they see the crack in the door and clear path to get to that sliver of sky beyond, they go.

Our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, friends, lovers, enemies, they go.

“Go” is a helpful euphemism, isn’t it? Let’s agree to say go for now, because we can’t bring ourselves to utter that other final verb that defines how a life that walked beside us can end.

Read More

Why We Don’t Have to be Sad When Humanity Dies

 

snowy-owl-landing-quebec

On Snowy Owls

On Snowy Owls

there is no bag limit,

according

to the State of Alaska

Dept. of Fish and Game

Official Hunters Rule Book.

Take as many

as you need.

Read More

The Lion Fighters

I dreamt of lions last night. They moved around the edge of my subconscious, yellow backs parting tall grass. I could hear their chuffy cat breaths and the cracking of dry stalks under their paws. I never really saw them out in the open, but I knew they were there. Large entities of dun color and measured sound circling my field of dreamground.

Lock eyes with her and see what you're made of then.

Lock eyes with her and see what you’re made of then.

I wasn’t afraid of the lions. (They’re not spiders or bears, after all.) Maybe it’s because I’m a Leo. Or maybe it’s because of Meryl Streep.

Remember Out of Africa? I barely do. I saw that movie the year it came out (1985). Was it really 30 years ago? While most of this movie is gone to oblivion for me, there is one scene in particular that has stayed me with through everything: a woman fighting a lion to protect what is hers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBFxCK913PM

Read More

The White Birds

The White Birds

–after Thomas McGrath

 
They return in moments,

the white birds

to your body to once more

become your body

Read More

You are not the Beloved

BIBLE STORY

You are no longer the child

following your father’s proud back following the word made command

made to bring you to climb the high mountain beyond the fields of tall crops

where childhood’s bees droned their patriot hymns and gathered and gathered

their golden wealth. You are not the Beloved

Read More

Goodbye, Angel

Philip Levine died yesterday. He was 87, a former US Poet Laureate and one of my favorite poets.

I’m not going to use this post to give you biographical and bibliographical information about Levine. You can google that easy enough. He’s worth the search. He is a true American voice. One of our Greats. A giant-killer who never looked away from the hard labor and factory work that have made us who we are.

I am not Jewish, nor did I grow up in Detroit, yet his poems always speak to me, speak for me. His poems are legion. Below is my favorite.  Now I’ll get out of the way and let his words tell the rest.

American Poet Philip Levine, 1928-2015

American Poet Philip Levine, 1928-2015

The Old Testament

My twin brother swears that at age thirteen

I’d take on anyone who called me kike

no matter how old or how big he was.

I only wish I’d been that tiny kid

who fought back through his tears, swearing

he would not go quietly. I go quietly

packing bark chips and loam into the rose beds,

while in his memory I remain the constant child

daring him to wrest Detroit from lean gentiles

in LaSalle convertibles and golf clothes

who step slowly into the world we have tainted,

and have their revenge. I remember none of this.

He insists, he names the drug store where I poured

a milkshake over the head of an Episcopalian

with quick fists as tight as croquet balls.

He remembers his license plate, his thin lips,

the exact angle at which this seventeen year old dropped

his shoulder to throw the last punch. He’s making

it up. Wasn’t I always terrified?

“Of course,” he tells me, “that’s the miracle,

you were even more scared than me, so scared

you went insane, you became a whirlwind,

an avenging angel.”

I remember planting

my first Victory Garden behind the house, hauling

dark loam in borrowed wagon, and putting in

carrots, corn that never grew, radishes that did.

I remember saving for weeks to buy a tea rose,

a little stick packed in dirt and burlap,

my mother’s favorite. I remember the white bud

of my first peony that one morning burst

beside the mock orange that cost me 69 cents.

(Fifty years later the orange is still there,

the only thing left beside a cage for watch dogs,

empty now, in what had become my tiny yard.)

I remember putting myself to sleep dreaming

of the tomatoes coming into fullness, the pansies

laughing in the spring winds, the magical wisteria

climbing along the garage, and dreaming of Hitler,

of firing a single shot from a foot away, one

that would tear his face into a caricature of mine,

tear stained, bloodies, begging for a moment’s peace.

–Phillip Levine, from The Simple Truth

Copyright 1995, Alfred A. Knopf, New York

Copyright 1995, Alfred A. Knopf, New York

For further reading today:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/16/arts/philip-levine-former-us-poet-laureate-who-won-pulitzer-dies-at-87.html

For All the Strange Monsters

Perfect weather for strange monsters.

Pink weather for strange monsters.

I’ve just returned from a tangent.

It started like this: mired into a world of my own creation on the page, moving characters around to suit my purpose, giving them something to say, or striking them mute as I see fit, it occurred to me that I could throw a catastrophe at them on the next page. Ha! My beloved characters have no idea what’s coming! They are going to buckle under the devastation. Oh, the ecstasy of destroying someone on the page!

And that’s when the strange sail appears at the horizon. Something I once knew coming back to me across the ocean of memory, a familiar phrase rising from behind the curvature of my own mind. Someone somewhere once referred to my kind as “strange monsters.”

Strange monsters. The moniker floats there at the edge of my planet, a brilliant distraction. Strange monsters, not an insult surely, but an honest affirmation. Where had the phrase come from? Who said it? Go chase it!

So I drop everything for the next hour to ransack my bookshelves and flip through every old anthology I suspect may hold the lexicon of strange monsters.

For all the strange monsters who no longer have the need or habit of explaining themselves to anybody.

Turns out strange monsters are from My Sister, O My Sister, a poem by May Sarton. I remember reading this almost 20 years ago and it knocked me out then. So I thought I would share it now, along with a recording of Sarton herself reading it aloud.

So here it is, for all the other strange monsters out there who’ve spent the past few days swimming around in the deep sea of self expression where households turn to filth and societal expectations have no hold. For all the other strange monsters who, when they look up from the flowing current of their handwritten scrawl see an on-shore world looking back at them with that uncomprehending stare.

For all the strange monsters who no longer have the need or habit of explaining themselves to anybody.

Enjoy!

My Sisters, O My Sisters

Nous qui voulions poser, image ineffaçable
Comme un delta divin nortre main sur le sable*
-Anna de Noailles

Dorothy Wordsworth, dying, did not want to read,
“I am too busy with my own feelings,” she said.

And all women who have wanted to break out
Of the prison of consciousness to sing or shout

Are strange monsters who renounce the treasure
Of their silence for a curious devouring pleasure.

Dickinson, Rossetti, Sappho—they all know it,
Something is lost, strained, unforgiven in the poet.

She abdicates from life or like George Sand
Suffers from the mortality in an immortal hand,

Loves too much, spends a whole life to discover
She was born a good grandmother, not a good lover.

Too powerful for men: Madame de Stael. Too sensitive:
Madame de Sevigne who burdened where she meant to give.

Delicate as that burden was and so supremely lovely,
It was too heavy for her daughter, much too heavy.

Only when she built inward in a fearful isolation
Did any one succeed or learn to fuse emotion

With thought. Only when she renounced did Emily
Begin in the fierce lonely light to learn to be.

Only in the extremity of spirit and the flesh
And in renouncing passion did Sappho come to bless.

Only in the farewells or in old age does sanity
Shine through the crimson stains of their mortality.

And now we who are writing women and strange monsters
Still search our hearts to find the difficult answers,

Still hope that we may learn to lay our hands
More gently and more subtly on the burning sands.

To be through what we make more simply human,
To come to the deep place where poet becomes a woman,

Where nothing has to be renounced or given over
In the pure light that shines out from the lover,

In the pure light that brings forth fruit and flower
And that great sanity, that sun, the feminine power.

—May Sarton

*We who wanted to leave an ineffaceable image/Like a divine delta, our hand on the sand.—Anna-Elisabeth, comtesse de Noailles (1876-1933) French poet and novelist.

How We Live Now

Tonight I can finally see the moon is a yellow boat

capsizing in deep blue

fear is worse when you do not see

the face of those you fear

 

What is the worst thing?

What is beyond the worst thing?

Yesterday my country bombed Syria.

 

Let the sky turn orange

the air tastes of metal

and this is how we live now?

apart from each other

separated by a few feet or a hemisphere

or the wrong name of God.

 

I would like to say to someone

this should not happen. I would like to hold

anyone in my arms right now.

I would like to knock on my neighbor’s door

ask her to come outside with me

I can’t bear it by myself

watching the moon

with all of its passengers

go down

 

-Arlitia Jones 9/25

50 lbs or less

The perfect traveling outfit is comfortable and says don't mess with me or I will eat your face.

The perfect traveling outfit is comfortable and says don’t mess with me or I will eat your face.

 

Packed

 

-for JW

 

Toothbrush. Pajamas. Chargers

for phone and computer. Check.

Check. Check and check. Ah! Hairbrush!

How helpful of the airlines to declare

our essentials weighed 50lbs or less–

so now I can decide that it’s these cowboy boots,

and these cowboy boots but not those cowboy boots,

my knitting project, only three books on the history of photography–

this suitcase has roller wheels and expanding pockets–nail polish

tucked inside my socks, three pairs

of jeans, 4 black t-shirts because they go

with everything. My curling iron,

my straightening iron, my travel iron,

a pair of running shoes, which means

running clothes and running socks which means

my water bottle which means

I have to drink it all before security–what am I forgetting?

my contacts and solution, face cream–my god

how did the bathroom become this sargasso of flammable liquids and gels?

Can I even get this zipped? –Alarm clock crammed inside your sneaker

and you are done.

Packed.

All that’s left is the drive to the airport, those last moments when

you ride through your city of origin in a kind of relief,

if you’ve forgotten something,

it’s too late to do anything about it–here it is, the moment you let go

of everything behind you and put your heart forward,

confident in the knowledge

no matter what you’re facing

you have eight pairs of underwear

you can wash and beat on a rock ‘til the end of days.

 

–Arlitia Jones

Dec. 2, 2013

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