Friday, February 27, 2015

What I remember may not be true

Leonard Nimoy was born the same year my father was born, but a couple of months sooner. Nineteen thirty-one. Neither of them made it to 84.

Maybe it's ridiculous for me to mourn someone I never knew in person, but it's more than the person I mourn; it's what he represents. 

Maybe it's ridiculous that I feel like part of my childhood died when what's really happened is that a memory hit me, fresh and bright, of a time in the mid- to late-1960s, my three siblings and I piled up on pillows or old sofas, I can't quite see, in the basement rec room at 2206 Forest Glen Road. We watched a black and white television at the end of the room, my view of it like looking down a tunnel because I was going myopic, squabbling, all of us; I whined, I'm sure because that's still one of my main character traits.

We were 6, 8, almost 14 and 15. Everything we saw on that tiny screen was magical, even the papier mâché boulders Captain Kirk could lift and throw, though maybe he never did that, maybe they just wobbled.

For me, from what I remember, Spock was like the straight, strong spine of the crew, never frantic or upset (unless he was rutting), rarely violent. His voice soothed, and I wanted his tilted, flying eyebrows, though not his ears.

I had a minor crush on him, so logical, though at 8, I probably didn't really understand logic. He seemed so sturdy, so at home wherever the Enterprise took him, and I suppose, though I'm probably making this up as I go, I wished I could be as at home wherever our Army life took us. Always part aliens, especially me.

I also had minor crushes on Sulu and Uhura (I thought she was so beautiful, and I wanted to kiss her when Kirk did).

Leonard Nimoy was more than Spock, of course; he was more than all the characters he played from Star Trek the show to all the films to Mission Impossible, Fringe. I didn't know until today that he wrote poetry, that he was a photographer. We are all more than one thing or another.

He leaves enough behind that it will be hard to forget him, unless I reach a point in my aging where I forget even myself. I'm grateful for the jolt of memory, for returning to the rec room, to my siblings all together in one place doing and loving something in common.

I imagine that room had an orange carpet, though I know the orange carpet came later, after we left Maryland and moved to El Paso. But it all blends together, the houses, the carpets, the television shows, my siblings, Spock.

there, there










Friday, February 20, 2015

Snow doom

When I try to enter the store through the “entrance only” automatic doors, a horde of exiting customers nearly tramples me going the wrong way out as I go the right way in.

I pick a shopping cart with a wobbly wheel, not on purpose, but because it is close and doesn’t have a leftover sanitizing paper in the bowl of it.

Fresh lettuce, fresh mushrooms, fresh tiny tomatoes. I attempt to grab a couple of gala apples, but too many people urge me away from produce.

Each turn in the store is like peering around the corner of a death star; I expect a collision with someone angry and far bigger than I.

I am not angry or even desperate for supplies, though my wheat bread has gone stale and parts of my leaf lettuce molder in the refrigerator. Still, it seems a good idea to stock up on a few things before the damned snow, the malevolent snow, the symptom of Mother Nature’s angry, alcoholic bender (tequila again, just like last year, but this year, she eats the worm at the bottom of each bottle), arrives again overnight. Another 3 to 5 inches. Or is it 5 to 8? Somewhere I read maybe up to 15 inches, and resigned dread fills my bones. A Texan stranded in cold, white Ohio.

I grab Picante sauce to go with the avocado I hope is still good, a bag of low-fat chips, a cheap bottle of wine I should have consumed before I braved the store when I had lunch with friends to celebrate Laura’s birthday.

I can’t get to the roasted red peppers or olives because of the couple caravanning with two carts packed with enough food to get them through till June.

I lose patience in the yogurt section. I know yogurt is good for the gut, but my gut will have to wait until the big thaw.

The shoppers all seem either in too much of a hurry or disinclined to move at all. They park their carts crossways in the aisles as if they're reality TV stars with cameras trailing them and don’t need to deal with the rest of us.

Because I’m not fond of crowds, even though I grow fatter and fatter, I feel small and old and anxious to the point where I nearly crash into a smiling, bearded man who has the right of way (is there such a thing in a Walmart?).

“Whoa. You’re in a hurry!” he says, and waves me by.

“Thank you! And yes, I’m so sorry. I just have to get out here.”

In the express lane, it takes the 106-year-old man in front of me three days to count out his cash and to tuck his change into his wallet. I think he’s trying to stall death. 

The cashier glances at my face, and I see such kindness in her cheeks. I smile and shrug. I’m near the end, no longer in a hurry.

After she checks me out, and I snag my receipt, I call over my shoulder, “Good luck! Good luck!” 

“Oh, thank you!” she says.

I try to go the right way out, but a horde of new shoppers nearly tramples me as they pour the wrong way in.


“Lordy, lordy, lordy,” I say, aloud, my wobbly wheel flicking slush.   


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Parentheticals: an excessively long entry (with a long title) about the books currently seducing me

Today in an email to my friend Alison, I got off topic (we were talking about travel and leaving home) and gave her my current and to be read reading list, though I can’t think why except that we’re building a new friendship and seem to share things that matter to each of us in the moment. Our budding friendship is a labor of love.

I set my list of books inside parentheses and within the parentheses had further parentheses, as if I were going deeper and deeper into why I needed to be reading what I'm reading now, what I will read next and what I will read again (there are all sorts of cold weather noises assaulting my poor, messy house. I will not startle).

I’ll take the list of books out of the parentheses for this bit of writing, but I will let myself climb inside those safe curves when I have more to say, when I want to indulge in excessive self-disclosure, when I need to pause to drink water or pet the cat.

(What a ridiculous set up. As an editor, I would advise myself to cut this lead in. But tonight I’m the writer, not the editor.)

I’m 64 pages from the end of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings and I can hardly stand that I'm almost finished, so I’ve slowed down, taken a break to write this and reflect on things (the continued dissection of my role in the world/community/life). This book is one of deep love, friendship, courage, rage, disappointment, slavery (of the body and mind), obligation, faith, overcoming. I love the main characters and the ones they love so much I start to cry each time they find themselves cornered and discouraged and in pain (physical and mental). It’s gorgeous. I can’t remember reading Kidd’s first book, The Secret Life of Bees, but I did read The Mermaid Chair and hated the main character with a deep, contemptuous heat. I think it’s because of what I was experiencing in my life at the time I read that book. Jessie did not represent me; she represented someone … else, and I couldn't forgive her. But my dear friend Cat recommended Wings to me, and I trust her and her taste. So grateful.

Next in novels (perhaps I’ll start it tonight after I finish Wings but still can’t sleep) will be Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. I’m also in the middle of reading her book of essays, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. I find that I read nonfiction and poetry while I’m reading other things. It doesn’t confuse me. I guess this is sort of like literary multi-tasking or something. I started to read Bel Canto many, many years ago, but must have gotten stuck in a project or something and had to put it down. I loaned it to a friend who did have time to read it and never saw it again (can’t remember who now, but s/he is welcome to it). My current copy is a library book. It’s such a strange premise, and I remember the characters being those that might fit into a novel of magical realism. I’m excited to start it again, though I don’t want Wings to end.

What should go after The Invention of Wings is a book my brilliant librarian-poet-musician (plus other stuff) friend Scott recommended to me during a sort of “Facebook call-in show.” He invited his friends to give him a situation (some people chose a fictional scenario; others, like me, chose a personal situation), and he would recommend the ideal book. For me in my current mood of desperate winter blues, self-flagellation and the embarrassment of excessive self-disclosure, he recommended Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Friend (I've read several of Moore's books and find them intelligently funny and irreverent). I tell myself I should read Lamb before Bel Canto because I’m experiencing the wretched blues now and may not be next week.

(I lie to myself all the time. These blues will take a couple of months still to conquer (car on the road outside my house. Sign of life, tires on cold pavement a warm sound, though the temperature will drop to -8 tonight, so cold my dreams might freeze. (beware, here cometh a long tangent) This early morning, in dream, I found myself at a combination wedding-funeral at the Greek Orthodox Church where my uncle’s family held his funeral late in December).)

Since Bel Canto is a library book, I’ll devour it next, then I’ll read Lamb.

After Lamb will come Paula Hawkins' Girl on a Train, a novel that fell off the shelf into my hands at Walmart of all places unless I can’t wait to read Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind, a favorite book of my dear friend Laura (happy birthday).

Concurrently, I’m reading a book on the beat poets, doing a rereading of Larry Levis’s poetry collection Winter Stars, and slowly reading Steve Harvey’s devastating and lovely memoir about his mother, The Book of Knowledge and Wonder. Steve teaches creative nonfiction at Ashland University where I fudged my way through an MFA in poetry in 2013 (geez. here comes the self-deprecation again. I could come up with a drinking game related to this bad habit, but everyone I know would be drunk constantly).

Thus endeth my dull listing of things I must read or bust except I’m also reading a client’s manuscript, bits and pieces of things friends share with me and my own bilge (have some wine).

I am writing, too, scraps of poetry, lines of dialogue, dreams (there is a church theme going on in my dreams lately), dreadful journal entries that are less dreadful than I claim (take half a drink)….

Winter “work”? I don’t know. All this read is comforting. The authors and their characters become part of me, and I start to view the world (when I actually leave my house – take a sip) through their eyes, real and fictional.


I don’t know how to get out of this post. I’ve always been bad at endings (chug a beer), but this is ridiculously long (shot of tequila), so I’ll end it here.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

non

How to articulate it.
Why to articulate it.
What is it?
When did it arrive?
Will it leave soon? Please?
Is it fierce or just mean?
Can any good come of it?
Does it see the moon?
Can it hear the heat blowing through the house?
Is it desperate?
Does it see me?
Or does it just feed?
Will it sleep on my chest again tonight?
Or burrow into my hair to make a nest?
Why did I open the door to it?

Squatter.

Monday, February 9, 2015

half-cocked

Today I decided to make a pasta sauce, marinara with mushrooms. I thought I had all the ingredients: onion, garlic, fresh mushrooms, tomato paste and sauce, whole canned and crushed tomatoes, my special spices, a little "airport bottle" of cabernet.

I chopped up the onion and started to heat the olive oil, went to the basement pantry to find my cans of tomatoes, the ones I remember hauling in from my car on a cold, cold day not long ago.

Nowhere. They are no. where. I have some sauce and paste, but the big cans of tomatoes must have stayed on the grocery store shelves.

I forget myself.

*

I have forgotten myself. I used to be one way and now I'm another, and when I look at my reflection in the mirror or my cat's eyes or a friend's face, I don't know who I am, though I feel as if I turned into an ugly creature who can't quite surface all the way and can't quite stay under, a caricature of my old self.

*

The husband of a dear writer friend of mine posted a video of my friend and her daughters singing lustily at the dinner table. The joy and energy shimmered me out of my funk for a few seconds but also shot me back into memory of dinnertimes in my childhood. Dinners for my family were rarely about the food. Or about joy. I was not allowed to sing at the dinner table. I joke and say it must have been my voice, but I have a decent singing voice. Rules. Deadlines. Vinegar. Chipped beef on toast.

*

I was not planning to leave the house today except to take the garbage out to the alley for tomorrow's pick up, but I have a chopped onion waiting to go into a sauce, and already my mouth craves cooked tomatoes, so I'll shower and dress and go to the store for big cans, though now the sauce won't be done until nearly 9 p.m.

I simmer things for a long time.

I simmer for a long time.

*

Today, I did not
and I didn't that, either,
nor did I.

Inertia? Apathy? Depression? Loneliness?

If I had done one of the "not dones," maybe I would feel less like I'm drowning.

*

I love and I'm loved.

There. I'll end on that thought.

Monday, December 8, 2014

a book in a day plus some other reading

I have been oddly blue (I think it has to do with the despair that evoked my previous post and just the stupid season. bearing down on a bad anniversary), so I decided to read my way to "less blue." I checked books out of the library earlier in the week. Mark Strand's A Blizzard of Calm because he's gone but I can still sleep with him (I've probably mentioned, I sleep with books).

My bookmark is randomly stuck in the middle of this collection, page p. 22 of the hardback. The poem is "A Suite of Appearances," II, and the first lines are:

"No wonder—since things come into view and then drop from sight—
We clear a space for ourselves, a stillness where nothing
Is blurred: a common palm, an oasis in which to rest, to sit....."

I feel tired lately from not living up to promises I made to myself, so this shreds me a bit. Also, because he died, I am so, so sad. We lost a lot of writers this year. Dammit.

I also started to read Rabih Alameddine's An Unnecessary Woman, which I plucked off the new fiction shelves in the library, ecstatic that no one had taken it from me.

I adored the first 15 or so pages, maybe the first 20, possibly even 30. But I am shallow and couldn't continue. The protagonist, Aaliya, is smart, funny, older (please do NOT call her elderly. That word is pissing me off lately), loves literature, has survived lots of stuff. But I didn't like her. Her voice is so, so strong, and the author is amazing. The prose is wonderful. But, man, I just ... couldn't. I didn't care.

So I set the "long-listed for the National Book Award" novel aside and plunged into Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now, a young adult novel that continues the pseudo-dystopian themes that seem to appeal to me lately. Except that this novel, like Station Eleven, isn't like the other dystopian novels that I could barely tolerate. It's a novel completely about love. Love and hunger. And, of course, the stupidity of war (and how when adults are involved, children get totally screwed). I started it yesterday evening, set it aside to do other things, then read it this late afternoon and evening, finishing it off like it was my favorite kind of pizza.

Except that it's deeper than pizza.

I have to think about the ending a bit because it bugged me, but I think that's because at heart, I'm a complete "happily ever after" girl who pretends to like dark edges. It ended the way it needed to end. The character development was just on the mark. Daisy transforms from disillusioned, lonely cynic to girl-woman who loves more deeply than almost any character I've ever encountered.

It's awesome, and I'm not at all sorry that I avoided Facebook and texts and the news and other shit to read with my cat draped across my legs, purring, because that's what my cat does when he feels me investing myself emotionally in anything from books to my Girl to Eric Garner to poetry....

Magic cat.

Tomorrow, I have to emerge from my reader's cave to attend to important business (meaning, of course, money is involved), but I'm going to return the book I couldn't finish and the one I devoured, and I'll pluck something else luscious from the shelves.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

A non-confrontational wimp decides she has to speak

Dear Ones,

A free write in a moment of despair:

let the whining begin.
let the winding begin.
Begin the world by winding up the toy clown who terrifies all the children who don't yet exist.
Let our peace keepers murder our duskiest children to keep the soot off the roofs of our mouths.

My darlings, don't you know that his windpipe breaks as easily as yours?

And now, not only is he dead, but he won't get justice.
Because cops  are responsible when they kill black men, black teens, black boys who haven't yet had a chance to go to high school, black men who wander Walmart toy aisles talking on cell phones and don't hear cops’ orders to drop the toy gun.

Kill the color? Kill the color black?

you might as well kill the moonless night.
you might as well kill the Mediterranean at night.
you might as well kill my favorite sautéing spoon, the pupils of our eyes, tar, brownies, coffee, charcoal, black ink, newsprint, mulch and fertilizer, the center of sunflowers, pepper, nutmeg and allspice, poppy seeds, your television when its power is off, the black keys on the piano, the black frame around your mother's picture or your grandparents' wedding portrait, the black smudge on your cat's back, the tires on your car, that one lamp stand, your favorite Sharpie, the binder containing your unfinished novel, the Friday after Thanksgiving, ledgers that show a profit, the pirate's eye patch and maybe his hat and while you're at it, kill the pirate since his soul is probably as black as that black man you choked and those boys you shot.

Hell, kill the guns because they are black.
Please, kill all the guns.

Love,
ej