November 13, 2009

          I Believe the Crows

    I sit here every afternoon to watch the sun go down and the moon come up, near to each other -- both low above the horizon.
    I do not ask the obvious question: How could that be? The sun and the moon, so near connected? I do not say, That can't be, it's impossible! because I know an infinity of late afternoons where I have sat and watched this same scene -- as if it were a painting! -- and I believe the crows.
    I believe the crows. Their mothers and fathers, and their mothers and fathers, on back in time before there were paintings, have seen the same thing I do now, and have eaten the seeds of wheat, and have talked about it all as they do now.
    Look! Admire! Plenty! Caw! Caw!
This painting by Vincent Van Gogh was completed shortly before he committed suicide.

          My Own Castle

    Although the sky is indigo, like the textiles from de Nimes, and although my horse is watered and well fed, I am not sure I want to pause here to stare at the darkened towers of that castle on the steep smooth mountain (made of stiff coagulated custard), nor do I want to hallooo to its loneliness. I dare not stop to gaze and wonder:
    Why is there a black cloud over that castle, with its many empty windows
and crenelations like filed teeth?
    I dare not take the time to look back at my own castle -- to admire the way it smiles at me in its good humor and waves its flag.
    Why does my own castle have a light and down-soft cloud above it? Are there two gods of the air blowing? One, his foul black breath, so thick it sinks rather than floats, and the other, laughing as she blows, so her sweet airy breath rises like the good smell of baking bread.
    Are there two gods?
  I dare not slow down again because now I see the wooden fences that try to keep the dark castle-men safe from land or sea invasion, and I see they have but five warriors left. And are they warriors? or are they widows, left behind?
    No-one waits to hear me, but what I have to say is "I am your neighbor. I'm just passing by."

October 22, 2009

      Lined with Black Lace

SWEATER•Black cashmere lined with lace, w/blk snap-on mink collar, or embroidery strip. Size S $125.
    1. Okay, which is it? the snap-on mink collar or the embroidery strip? that's all I want to know right now. Let's see; the mink = animal screaming in pain as it is skinned alive. I know I'd rather have the embroidery strip.
    2. But what is embroidered on the strip? I hope it's naked men, frontal and backall. I like both.
    3. Is the lace scratchy? Am I going to be sitting at the concert scratching in time to Chris Mann's Scratch Scratch - A History of Grammar ? Or will I be distracted (almost an anagram of scratched) while I'm learning to scratch??
    4. Sometimes it's illuminating to read want ads. What do they want? What do I want? Where would I put it? How many new musical techniques do I want to know about? What is it about hip hop?
    5. Rabbits. I dreamed about a rabbit last night. I was helping a man who couldn't walk because his legs were too limp, and he really wanted to go somewhere down the highway, and I got him a rabbit also. I'm a very helpful person.
    6. Whaddyuh think? Am I really a BLACK Cashmere sweater type? Do they ever make cashmere out of denim? rayon? kudzu?

October 9, 2009

        Her Life List

    She was nearing the end of her Life List. She'd only started it a few months before, when she realized that many of the things she'd always wanted to do she had already done. (One thing -- "learn English grammar more perfectly" -- she realized that she would never do. For example, she probably should have written the second sentence [see above] "... she realized that many of the things she'd always wanted to do she had done already" or maybe it was "... she realized that many of the things she'd always wanted to do she already had done". But all she could hear was her mother's querulous voice saying blah blah blah already blah blah. It was too late for all that, already.)
    She had jumped on a trampoline; she had played a bass guitar; she had peed in the desert; she had had wild pigs brush against her as they ran through a forest; she had kissed a skeleton; she had climbed a sycamore tree 30 feet in the air and gotten back down by herself. With her cat. She had gone up in the basket of a cherry picker and surveyed her own street this way and that and peeked over the cornice of her own house, without ever looking directly at the ground or her own feet. She had jumped in quarry water that was too deep for her and thrashed back to shore, alive.
    She had pasted on a mustache, worn men's shoes and jacket, and passed for a man at a bar. (Someone, she thought maybe it was another man, had flirted with her.)
    She had written letters to the New York Times, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, The Washington Post, and The New Yorker, and eventually one of her letters had appeared in each.
    She had crossed "Jump out of an airplane" off her Life List, realizing that that was more honestly what she wanted. She had stood at the foot of a ladder, at the top of which a Mexican man leaned against a fourth floor windowsill while he painted the minions and pinions, or was that mullions and millions, or pillions, or muntans? Ah yes, muntins! She had stood there, looking up, and seeing the curvature of the ladder, so tall it was mimicking the curvature of the earth she thought, and had decided against adding that to her life list.
    She had written a novel and she had it. Printed out. Somewhere.
    She had fallen in love once more, driven a tractor, picked up a spider and let it jump off her hand onto her shirt before it climbed into her hair.
    She had bid on, and won, the opportunity to walk slowly into a (large) cage with a (very old) tiger and stay for five minutes. $510 went to the Zoo. For free she had held a baby orangutan. (That had been near the top of her Life List. Oh, the sheer physical joy of that, the trust in those round beautiful brown eyes, the tickle of those darling fingers!)
    She had posed nude for a drawing class at the senior center, and afterward had chased a mugger and hit him with her umbrella. (If she hadn't had an umbrella, she would have hit him with her fist, but thank god she had an umbrella.) And not only that, she had stood on him until the police came.
    She had slept one night -- a sort of fund-raising pajama party -- at a homeless shelter; and been locked up one night in jail, for refusing to disperse with the rest of a crowd.
    She had called up the man who had broken her heart 40 years before and said, calmly, "I never liked you either." There!
    And now she faced the last two items. The last one was simply, "Die." The second to last was "Drive 120 miles per hour without endangering anyone else. Fly perhaps?" The time had come. She had kept her mother's old Ford Galaxy in a garage, taking it out every week for 30 years to blow out the ... well, now she couldn't remember what she was blowing out; something to do with tubes or pipes. Sort of like a colon cleanse for cars. This was a car from 1971, and it was long and lean and still a shiny dark green. It would look like a flying leaf, a glistening magnolia leaf, as it sped along, with her at the wheel, dressed in a cream-colored magnolia-petal satin dress with a nice hat on her head.
    She went to sleep that night, the night before she planned to fly the Ford. She dreamed that she drove to the grocery store, and saw her neighbor there picking out another dog. She went inside, and it was an antique show, and another friend bought a green enameled brooch in the shape of the pi symbol: (π). Then a truck came up behind her and the driver complained that there were puppies running under her car, and so she threw a piece of paper out the cracked window. She could see tire tracks in the muddy hill next to her. The grass was ruined, ground into the ground. And then she pressed her foot to the metal, or was that pedal to the metal?, and in other words she floored the Ford, and took off at what surely was 120 mph.
    Her mother might have liked this! It was a glorious sensation. The Ford Galaxy flew straight off the top of a high building, passing through cumulus clouds and cirrus clouds (accumulations and seriousness) and slowly it began to descend.
    She could still steer! It was amazing! She wasn't frightened! Slowly the Ford descended toward a narrow one-way street downtown. She could see that there were cars moving along the street, and she could see the gaps between cars in the left lane and cars in the right lane, and places where cars were parked. She guided the Ford down, and it landed with a slight bump right between two cars, and she kept on driving, and then she woke up. At least she thought she woke up. Now she wasn't at all sure.

August 28, 2009

        Rib Cage

    Every time I drove to my friend’s house I saw the dead deer in the road.
    First she lay as a shapely but stricken form, her orangey fur stretched over high ribs, her small black hooves lying like tossed dice on the asphalt, her head resting on pebbles and the chuff of roadways.
    Each time I drove there, with my own tender feelings toward my friend herded, gathered for protection inside my ribcage, where they must stay invisible as if dead, I saw the deer – crumpling day by day, car by car, driver by oblivious driver, into the roadway, crushed so that even bloat couldn’t raise her up again.
    She is almost disintegrated now.
    Dust to dust? Sinews and muscles to ground meat; bones to chalky splinters, hooves to powdered keratin, doe eyes to pulp, mites to motes, and finally, after enough hot days' pulverizing, dust to dust.

July 28, 2009

      PSI (Pronounced Sigh)

    This sandy beach is one of many along the course of the river winding through the park. The beaches travel like vacationers in search of perfect refuge, and change size with every storm clot of debris.
    This month her favorite beach goes halfway across the river. Water washes out the banks and the shallow rush takes small stones, sand, sunken leaves on watersogged caravans along the bottom.
    She always brings her dogs. They pull sticks from the muck. They chase each other; climbing the bank on one side, then leaping back in to swim.
    She walks bent over, looking down. She feels the blood rush in her head. She gleans broken glass and crushed cans from sand and water. She has a knack, perhaps a talent, for seeing the particular shade of brown glass from the shoulder of a beer bottle, or for spotting a fragment of a plate amongst the small rocks. She puts fancy bits of china, glass with parts of embossed words, a china doll arm, a bullet, in her pocket.
    It is quiet; she mutters “Goddam people, broken glass, so much... .” She feels terrible today. Everything breaks.
    When you have a broken bumper on your pickup truck, first you notice that pedestrians look scoldingly at you. Something is your fault. Then, when a Schumann piano etude on the radio comes to an end, you hear metal scraping on pavement. It is yours. You stop.
    A large piece of rusted iron has fallen from the grasp of the chrome bumper. It has been dragging on the street.
    She wrenches it off, and when she drives away the truck seems lighter, quieter. She has left the piece of iron alongside the road, giving it to a fiefdom of castoff bolts and bottlecaps, shreds of tires, tangled bungies, and bits of forlorn glass.
    Today she has driven the truck to the park. As she wades in the river she finds a sparkplug, a tire that is being buried by mud, as if some troll under the river is pulling it to his part of the world.
    When you have a broken heart in your chest, especially if you are old, you first notice that this may be, probably will be, the last broken heart of your life. You don’t hear noises, you hear hearts beating and sobs. You hear breaking glass, and the clatter of washed plates that will never again hold meals for two. You aren’t quieter, lighter; you are heavy.
    She lets her tears pour as she bends to pick up trash. She observes herself from the shore. She wants to look broken. She wants to look strong. She wants to look lonely. She wants him to be looking.
    She realizes that she hasn’t heard the dogs in a while – the while she has been cursing herself and the “goddam people” who let broken glass fall into rivers to be mistaken by minnows for food, so it rips their guts. She feels terrible today. Everything is broken.
    She straightens to whistle for the dogs. They do not come. She is one of the goddam irresponsible people. She hears a train whistle, a high-pitched bark, an owl. Have the dogs been crushed to bits of bone and fur by the train? Will she leave the park alone, carrying a bag of smashed cans, plastic string, and a pocketful of wordparts: “oun...” “mad...” “refill...” “..ola” “...psi”? She cries some more. Then, without a sound louder than the river itself, the dogs return and wait for her to take them home.

June 30, 2009

      Two on the Highway

    A few years ago, I was coming north on 95, and then 395. On a curve, while going 50 miles an hour, I saw something I'll never forget, and I'll never forgive myself for not doing something. There was a mallard duck, a female, crouched near the concrete wall on the left. I'm sure she was injured or stunned and unable to fly away. I was afraid to stop, but I don't forgive myself for giving in to fear. If I always did that, would I ever do anything I should?
    A week later, driving again on 395, I made myself look for the duck's body, but I couldn't see it. No brown lump, no smashed bill and water-splashing feet, no downy breast pressed to the asphalt, no small bright eyes which I swear looked at me as I drove by the first time. Perhaps, I sometimes say to myself, perhaps she recovered when it got later, and the traffic subsided. But how realistic is that?
    Yesterday I was driving south on 83, and I saw a straw snap-brim fedora, waiting by the concrete wall. It was settled there, on the debris which accumulates on the edges of highways, and immediately I thought of the duck. Blown off course, both of them, and I did imagine the man's head, bare and over-sunned without the hat. And again, I imagined the mallard's ducklings, waiting for her to fly back.

May 18, 2009

    The Analemma of Living

    I hesitate. What is the truth?
Every day, I blaze a new starseen, sunshadowed path on earth -- a journey without Presbyterian plan that
  scribbles a figure eight.
    An analemma of my wandering might
        resemble that of the sun's,
    which written (though not etched) in the sky every hour
        will describe infinity.
It's noon by watch and town clock,
    but the sun won't say that:
It's . . . earlier . . . or later.
    The sun stays where it is, scorched and burning. It is we who move --
    We heretics who do not have to burn, at least not for truth about the earth and the sun.
This analemmic path -- caused by the earth's tilted axis and her elliptical orbit around the sun -- makes me think I should try harder
    to be where I ought,
      to act as I should,
        to weave truth into truth, love into love,
and simpleness with complexity.

You might say this is my own Equation of Time.

May 9, 2009

    Magnetism of Water

  When I saw Spaulding Gray in NY, Jackie Onassis and her date were sitting two rows ahead. It was somewhat unnerving to be watching Gray, but seeing Onassis at the same time...he was so intense, and she was so famous. Because of where she sat, I saw that her hair was like a helmet in the back, a steep pyramid that forbade assault on the summit.
  Meanwhile, everything Spaulding Gray said opened him to us. He had no protection except his desk.
  I felt awful when he died by jumping off the ferry. Many times I'd ridden that ferry too, up in the front where the water is pushed away by the ferry so forcefully and noisily that it looks like pale green whipped cream. [Just add eggs and beat slowly.]
  I think how easy it would be to just jump in. How hard it would be not to.
  That's water for you. Swimming to Cambodia? or to Staten Island? or back home?

May 3, 2009

      Soffits and Gables

What underlies the truth we see?
    Soffited eaves and gable overhangs.
In bed, before I go to sleep, I look around for
    the tools to scrape the rot and
      rout the nesting carpenter bees.

Soffited eaves and gable overhangs--
      so long before constructed to protect
        the soft underbelly of my being.
But why should I keep protecting what
    has changed a thousand times or more, since first I built the gable that is my roof
        and my decoration?

So, soffitted eaves and gable overhangs,
    are you ready for reconstruction and repair?
Shall I paint you with lipstick and shadows?
Shall I bare you to the air and look for sunshine?
I don't need to call a handyman
    to fix my soffits and
    paint my eaves and gables,
I will do it myself because,
    after all this time, I may be able.

April 23, 2009

        Stars on Soul

His trews were strewn with gold A+ GOOD JOB stars and sprinkled on the firmament floor while he danced. She danced too, with abandon and perspiration, and glued a star on her sole. They walked four blocks, and her star did not stop lighting her hobble, and she found it when she unglittered herself for bed.

April 5, 2009

Sundial in Leakin - Time in a Place

    Time turns on itself, a moebius highway twisting into new territory, no brakes work here.
    You might as well walk out of the desert blindfolded, as with your eyes open, because given a big enough desert you will walk in circles.
    One compass struts its stiff veteran's legs across maps and charts, measuring distances.
    Another compass wavers, then points with his blued sword to magnetic north. But maybe it isn't the same as True North; maybe it's a compass tired of its journey?
    The old North Poles are buried under glazed seeps of arctic ice. Graves of trolls are there too, in the ancient cemetery.
    The next magnetic north wanders like a warrier looking for his lost spear, looking for his new encampment. His descendants wait under the ice.
  The "Time & Place" sundial sculpture (August 2008-May 2009) above, with Nature's fallen tree behind it, is by artist/activist Douglas Retzler (seated). I took it April 5, 2009. Go to sundial, then click on photowerks, then choose a set of sundial pictures.

January 18, 2009

    On the Verge of Falls

        Each step is the first.
  My father taught me how to walk for miles looking at the ground and sametime at birds overhead, faint sickle moon, cat on a porchswing, cumulus, insectegg, cirrus, silver brooch. So in walking down Falls, I see it all except what is around the next bend in the road, what is under the bramblethicket, who is behind the steelclang door. But I can hear the tunes stuffed in oil barrels. I can hear whispers. A person could spend a whole life . . . lookwalking.
  I lay one foot, then the other, on the verge of Falls Road. See there? Bugsquash; struggling leavesofgrass; dandelion whiskers; a rosehip blown from a gaygarden a block away; antifreeze puddle in a greenmelted gemmy dribble; splats of crow lime; a rats’ hide softened with forty-weight motoroil; a pigeon skin with pink legs stuck out like fancy chopsticks (I cross myself); a cobbler’s nail freed from a millworker’s boot in eighteen ninety-seven, ninety-eight.
    Ninety-nine, 100, 101, 102 … a thousand and one
  Sparklemica flecks; crusted lockwasher; twisted padlock key; the wincing collarbone from a med-student’s skeleton; the corner of a 50% cotton Confederate flag, sagged and suspicious up there on a high stone porch; a cicada shell hatched lonesome midway in the seventeen-year cycle; coal dust whupped up from a rehabbed cellar; a pinky-gray formstone chip; bentspoke of a bikewheel; three reflectors from pedalbacks (wanna bet how many there are on the verge of Falls?). Bottlecaps – crush-rusty boutonniéres from drunken bachelors bound to be groomed by brides?
      Each step is a different step.
  Scrapes of turd and flights of beetlewing. A bite of button with silkthread -- botticelli blue. A young girl’s tearstained friendship bracelet, fallen off near a hard-dirt shortcut home. Bits of broken glass: beer brown, Bromo blue, sunned lavender with greenlips of Coke bottles. Spangles of colored glass – yellow, red, blue and black – from a kaleidoscope that helped the curious child with A.D.H.D to get through a day…or was it for his rope-end mother? Dangle of red dog leash – a frayed handgrip and nothing more. What dog was it was killed? And, Daddy, is that her blood?
        Every step was a lifetime.
  Extruded from its mangled tube, dark oily lipstick smeared like rawliver onto stones. So, just whose kisses were promised and stolen? Is that a broken heart I hear? No, it’s just an orphan earring -- a piece of cheap redplastic; nothing more. Did that blue and white china shard come from the plate that held Grampa En’s last meatball dinner? And is that the nevertarnish lid of a nickel-silver rouge compact, like the one pale Gran carried everywhere for blushing youngcheeks, back in the day?
          Walk with me?
  That’s a flyer for the VFW dance in Timonium: Valentine’s Day, with a polkaband and a hot buffet – tendollars, tenderly, ten years ago, gone for good and godbless. A shiny blackpearl of glassy slag -- spit from a cokefired train – rolled for 80 years, mile by mile down Falls from the North Central track. And (for just a second) a shadowblink of light through a shutter up the hill – signaling secrets like a boyscout’s mirror.
        What was lost?
          Who fell?
          Who wept?
        What was the reward?
         Who won?
            Who laughed?
  That yellowbrass key – see there how the hole wore out so it fell off the keyring? So who was it couldn’t get in their house? Whose phonecall was missed? Left brown kid glove, wrinklefingers frozen in a curl – grasping what?
        Is each step the last?
  Is that twig from a branch from a limb from a tree with a sparrow’s nest? That jaywhoppered woredown rubberheel mightacomeoff of Stanley’s workboot – the one it took him a year to break in and now it’s broke off. Damn! And a bluestripe denimhide workglove, pimpled with drywall cement, flattened in mid-handshake. Stanley’s glove? Or his friend’s … that guy, LeShawn’s?
  Wetsoaked dried soakedsoddenwad driedagain grey foldedfelt of newspaper – the letters strained into each other, stories mingled updown goodbad easydangerous shockingheartyfine with a chance of… What news is too old? What notice has not been noticed? Found your watch. Describe. -- Found your dog, green collar, describe dog. Lost. Sentimentalvalueonly brown kid glove, given me by my mother, my lover, my doctor. Still got the right one. But please, I’m on the verge of a, of a... A sooty brokedown mufflerpipe with coathanger twisted around it and a peeling of plastic chrome snagged from the bumper where it hung. Who roared into hell?
        What was lost? A thought.
        What was found? A line.
        Each step is the first step..
        Every step is a lifetime.

January 2008 for friends Christine Sajecki & Joe Young and their show Deep Falls at Antreasian Gallery

January 17, 2009

      Grace and the Kitchen God

  Yesterday my friend Grace Young (Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, Breath of the Wok) spoke on public radio about the Kitchen God who lives behind the stove in every Chinese American and Chinese kitchen. The night before Chinese New Year, on toward midnight, you start eating things like stir-fried lettuce, so that you eat right into the New Year. Meanwhile, my own Kitchen God is sitting back there, his legs up over the gas line, picking lint off his robe, counting dust bunnies, humming to himself, and waiting for the banquet which the thoughtful household leaves for him. He knows every bad thing you've done for a year, and he's ready to tell whomever will listen.
  In my house, right now, behind my stove, he's cussing me out because there's a leak in a pipe right above the stove, and lots of cold water has dripped down, and the puddle I didn't catch in time has made his robe sopping wet, and ruined his little stash of stir fry and dried shrimp that he keeps for emergencies. In my house, the Kitchen God wears a thick green terrycloth robe with big pockets, and has his own vacuum cleaner because I am not a very good housekeeper. Last year a small rat visited him back there, and he was not smiling. (Although I think they shared a lamb and rice kibble from the dog bowl, and possibly that lima bean I lost back in March of '08.)
  This year, I plan on leaving him really nice snacks and a small glass of beer for a week or so because maybe if he feels full he won't tell the others -- the Garage God, the Bedroom God, the Closet God, the Backyard God, etc. I just couldn't handle it if everything started falling apart.
  To see more on Grace and her KG: WokitchenWisdom