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



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

births

Today, my daughter turned 20. I know it's ridiculous, but I'm always a bit melancholy on my daughter's birthday. My excuse this year and last year is/was that she is/was away from home at college. But we celebrated while she was here for Thanksgiving break, and I've been in contact with her steadily since last night.

I don't mind my daughter's getting older. I don't even mind the reminder that her getting older means I'm really getting older. I love who she is becoming, adore who she was, can't wait to meet the new Girl who will come home for Christmas break in two weeks.

When I examine the "why" of the melancholy, its source, I know it has to do with my mother, more specifically with my mother's death, with her absence from my life.

Here's a tangent, though, related to birth. A dear poet friend had her twins this morning. They were full term at 38 weeks, and I have no idea how her tiny body housed these giant boys because they are GIANT. Everyone is healthy and happy, and she and her husband, she said, spent all morning staring at them and holding them.

I was "stalking" this friend online throughout the night because I knew she had schedule a C-section for this morning, but I thought she might go into labor before the surgery hit. She did not.

All night I dreamed about her babies, about her, about her house filling up with people, mostly, of course, people I know since she is a friend in another state and I know her through school and not as a neighbor. In the dream, her boys were bigger than newborns, and I joked that they must have gained some "traction" and knowledge during that extra time they had to be cradled in my friend's body. During the dream, they escaped their bassinets and learned to walk and started to sing.

And all the adults multiplied, the house grew more and more crowded. Some of the women cooked and baked. Two old friends of mine who are about 15 years my senior were with me in the kitchen, ordering me about, telling me I wasn't peeling the carrots properly, that I needed to wash the roasting pan twice.

My mother stood next to me. Small and smiling, shaking her head at these women. She took the carrots from one of my friends' hands and shook off the water then started peeling them backwards, pulling the blade of the paring knife toward her the way I remember she peeled potatoes.

Silly.

It occurs to me as I'm typing this (directly into the window so I can't not post it later) that my friend's sons met my mother in my dream. My mother died a year before my daughter was born, so my daughter only got to meet my mother's headstone. But these tiny boys (who are actually GIANT babies) in my dream had a glimpse.

Not that my mother was ever particularly small or quiet. But the essence of my mother was there, peeling carrots and smiling.