Friday, May 26, 2006

Sunday Scribblings--First Love

First love.

Why does something inside of me want to play it safe, deny it all? To rhapsodize about how it felt walking down Bergenline Avenue, dizzy with my own power, staring into faces as they hurried by and smiling, wondering if they felt it too. That sense of the universe barely contained beneath the smooth mask of the face. That sense of possibility, sneaking in my brain like a secret, that made me want to giggle behind my hands. That was a first love. Yes.

Or the way I stroked the books I loved, made myself a part of them by creating rough versions of whatever objects captured my imagination in the pages—a ballgown made from a tattered satin bedspread from Colombia, heavy with fringe; wands made from the stick on the featherduster; business cards that proclaimed me a spy, or a CEO; dolls and pets and rough scratched drawings that dragged the magic of the book into my world. I had to be prepared to understudy the characters I loved, if needed. That was a first romance that still slow dances with me, takes me out for red wine.

But I have to be honest. I saw a face when I read the prompt.

It’s strange how different people appear without the red haze of emotion attached to their images. Occasionally, I glance through old photo albums, marking the change in time, look, clothes. Acknowledging the different direction my life has taken, carrying me so far from home. I see him there, in my albums...and I always have to look again, because he looks so ordinary. Not at all like the person who haunted my dreams for so long. Not at all like the person who taught me how to love.

"Taught me how to love"...what a trite phrase! And not at all accurate in this case—I drenched myself in emotions back then, but quietly. I knew that they were somehow outsized, inappropriate. I knew that as a 15, 16, 17 year old girl, I was expected to use dramatic words to try them on for size, not quite understanding what they meant.

But I always knew what they meant. I just didn’t want to get into it.

I was used to presenting two faces (Gemini, after all). There was my mundane face, the extroverted, opinionated student who was fond of making bold pronouncements, who liked to drag everything into everything. I loved to bring seemingly irrelevant facts into a discussion and then find a way to tie them together. I was insufferable as only a precocious teenager can be.

But then there was the secret me, inner, insecure, who loved inchoately and struggled to give birth to something that would feel big enough, real enough, to encompass the almost religious ecstasy I felt when I was alone with my frenzied thinking.

I was pretty good at keeping them apart—knowing without knowing that I needed to play the part of the good teenager, without allowing it to touch that vast reservoir of feeling—my oversoul. So I dated, got involved in many romantic entanglements and loved the drama they brought me. I cried and laughed and thought that I was being honest and that I really knew love.

I wish I could say the object of my first true love was worthy; no, that’s not entirely fair. He was a person, ergo, worthy. But he was young, looking to play and be casual. He wanted to have a pretty girlfriend, hold hands with her in the hallway, kiss her before class. He thought I was odd, but interesting for all that. And to make me more alluring...I was also older.

All of that devotion, that longing, that intense palpating feeling that I’d kept a secret—it overflowed out of me and nearly crushed him. He tried to struggle against me, said it felt as though I was drowning him, eating him. But I couldn’t seem to help myself. The sane part of me was trying to shout, but was muffled through the glass of obsession.

Are the details about him necessary? He was an ordinary boy, cute but not overly so. Sensitive. During our time together, he discovered he had talents, discovered he didn’t need me quite so much anymore. You probably wouldn’t have looked twice. First love? He learned to love himself while seeing himself through my eyes.

We continued our dance for years...drawn to each other even as he was repelled by my relentless gnawing need for him. I wish I were kidding, dramatizing for effect. It would do wonders for my opinion of myself. But I spent those years writhing and raw with longing. He didn’t teach me to love, far from it. In fact, most of the time I hated how I felt, powerless, wrecked.

But some good came from that time—my misery freed me to integrate those two sides of myself. I faced up to my messy, too-intense, dramatic, passionate self. Stopped abusing myself for falling for the wrong guy, for being honestly in love even if it was illogical, or inconvenient, or embarassing. I learned to recognize that my outsized self was a gift; that someday I’d find someone who could swim in me and not drown.

And then I met TEG.

(I think I just broke the #1 rule of writing, what with all of this telling and no showing. This kind of went all over the place. And I loved the prompt so! Oh, well...)

For more falling into first love, go to Sunday Scribblings here.


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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Crying Wolf

So my sister (Punkish Middle Sister-who is no longer punkish, but will always remain so for the purposes of my blog) has a problem. Actually, she has many, but they’re not my stories to tell. But one problem rules them all, and it’s one I share as well. The problem of accomplishment, finishing what we start.

My sister is a very creative person, who can dance, sing, sew, draw and paint. She’s fascinated by fashion and interior design and is drawn to all things crafty.

It’s so easy for her to become seduced by the lure of the New--nothing is more exciting than a blank canvas, a new bolt of fabric lying smooth and untouched, a white empty room. It’s a little bit like falling in love, and she shares her newfound devotion with anyone who will listen--family, friends, church members, the mailman, strangers. This is IT, she’ll claim. The project that will change everything, reverse her sagging fortunes, turn back the clock and restore her life.

It’s wonderful to be around her during this time; the air seems to vibrate pink with her excitement. She’s always possessed the ability to be utterly convincing--to sell any passion. Her eyes glow as she outlines her plans--the gown she’s on the brink of designing, her new dream of unschooling her children in the service of their creativity, the business that will salvage her mortgage and her ego. You can feel yourself getting infected by that sweet mania, nodding Yes, Yes! Fingers itching to make your own notations, start work on your own notions. Wondering whether this will be the time that it actually happens, and that she follows through.

But it never is. She hits her first obstacle, which usually manifests itself as boredom. All that she had previously found fascinating seems to ebb away, leaving her standing in the low tide murky backwash of hard work. Is it the hard work that makes it seem boring, or the boredom that makes it all seem so suddenly difficult? Yes, to both.

And so Mami sighs, "Ay, your sister....she’ll never change. She’ll never focus...she’ll never learn that talking isn’t doing." This is a grave sin in my family, obsessed as they are with the tangible symbols of Success. Thus, the beautiful castle in the air that she sketched out inevitably becomes another failed plan to add to the storehouse of failed plans that gets tallied up against her. She becomes the creative Little Girl who Cried Wolf. And after a while (because people always feel a little foolish and duped when they believe her) they stop listening, nodding absently. Humoring her.

I know she longs to prove them all wrong, but the secret is...she doesn’t believe herself either. Regardless of how enticing the idea looks at the beginning, she knows that nothing will never really change because nothing will ever really get done. The initial excitement will never fuel her through the staid (and longer) middle.

So she drags all of these unused parts of dreams, tangled and half formed, behind her like a shroud. Unable to lay them to rest. Unable to forgive herself.

My sister and I are a lot alike in this.

I too have a trailing garment of glorious plans and hopes that linger, abandoned. In fact, sometimes all I see when I look back is failure--failure to speak up, to risk, to finish what I start, to ask for help. Like my sister, I don’t trust myself anymore and I can’t forgive myself for squandering so much life away.

But unlike my sister, I don’t trumpet every new desire; on the contrary. Until I started this blog, I tried to stop talking about my dreams at all, hoping, I suppose, that I’d be able to stop people from remembering the lit pinwheel of potential I was, and comparing her to the me I am now. Hoping to sidestep the chasm of familial disappointment, even as my sister falls in again and again.

But this feels like a betrayal too. Am I depriving myself of much needed support, excitement, accountability? How can I believe that this time will be any different from the others when I can’t even affirm it to the people I love the most? Even TEG protects himself from me now, insulates himself from my inevitable failure. And he was always my staunchest supporter. I can see the moment that he clicks away from me, reminding himself to remember who he is dealing with. His wife, the Queen of Beginnings, but no Endings. I’m not sure if I know how to believe in myself when he no longer does. Our whole relationship is beginning to feel like yet another of my failures, to be stitched into my hairshirt.

Even writing that, even allowing that thought to exist, hurts more than I can say.

So my question to you is--do you tell your dreams to others? When? And how do you forgive yourself for all of those forsaken goals and trust that you can change, starting now?

My sister and I would really love to know.


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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sunday Scribblings--Three Wishes

Once upon a time and right now, I've always been the kind of person to wish on a star, find a penny, pick it up, and all day long, you’ll have good luck. My eyes are peeled for fairies and wishbones; you never know when one will appear. And who hasn't searched for that magical genie's lamp, covered with the dust of the workaday world?

And yet, I am finding this a hard assignment. My thoughts on wishing are still tender, muddled by years of wanting and not getting. Being unsure about the strength of my desires, and whether I deserved them anyway.

Wishes get a bad rap. No more floating from our minds like a puff of dandelion seed--no, now wishes should come with insurance plans, signed contracts, perhaps a notary public trailing behind. I’m guilty of this too. As a child, I wished for so many things, many of them half forgotten by the time the wish was uttered. I wished because wishing is what princesses did, and fairy tales were my manuals for living. I longed to drench my world in magic--in spells and wands and fairy dust. I knew that I had a better view of the potential of my life with my head in the clouds (and I never managed to quite get it out of there, sorry, Mami) than I ever did thudding on solid ground. I made wishes simply to feel like a character in my stories--one day Aladdin, one day Beauty. What was important was that smiling inward hush right before I made my wish; the anticipation of surprising myself with whatever dream unfurled itself. What mattered was trust in the possibilities of the universe. I was perfectly content to wait for my future to catch up to my wishing--after all, my heroines and heroes often had to wait until they reached a magic age of maturity before they saw their wishes come to fruition.

I think the problem started when that age seemed to come and go. My desires became both more confused and more urgent. I lost that childish ease of knowing precisely what I wanted; that ability to feast through my imagination. The fairy tales started to feel like reproaches, and I could feel myself being expelled from the Queendom of Wishes. And I started to want some guarantees before I plunked down my hard-earned faith again. But wishes don’t work that way. And so I tried to be Adult, to repudiate the passivity of wishing at all. See, that’s just another example of why I can’t ever truly have what I want! Wishing! Bah...wishing is for people without discipline, without’s just watching your life drift away of a cotton candy cloud of ennui. I flung challenges back onto the universe, "Make THIS happen!" It never occurred to me that I was throwing a rather childish tantrum. I thought I was putting childish things behind me; giving myself over to the Important, the Tangible.

But I still wished, of course, in those secret recesses of my heart where I was still nine years old. Now my wishes were tinged with regrets, tinged with hopelessness. Encapsulated in sighs. How could I make a strong, powerful wish when I couldn’t control my own emotions, couldn’t grip my own longings?

First I needed that space to give myself over to dreaming, to wishing. This blog is a wish, a quiet whisper of "this is what I want...this is the way my life should be. This is how I feel. This is what it means to be unashamed." And then my sighs become a breath, and I tell my stories, try to feel my desires, even as I squirm with the effort and the embarrassment of it all. Even as I hear myriad voices tell me that wishing is useless; that if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. That I should spend the time being productive, hard nosed, practical.

But trust is a fragile thing, so is belief, and neither are always practical. For me, wishing is an affirmation of the wild eccentric unpredictability of life. It doesn’t mean I need to drowse my life away without action; instead it helps me focus my intention and action. Wishing is the way I know myself. And so I make my wishes, not like detailed business plans that are meaningful only when granted EXACTLY, but rather like messages in a bottle. I have no idea where they’ll end up, but I have faith that they’ll lead me somewhere unexpected. And that Somewhere Unexpected is exactly what I longed for, after all.

Oh, and my three wishes?

That we all (world leaders included) have the courage to follow right, to do good, even when other choices are easier or quicker or promise an economic benefit in the short term.

A passionate, joyful, artful life full of community, for the people I love, and for myself.

That Madam sleeps through the night soon. I’m tired!


More Sunday Scribbling wishes found here.


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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Poetry Thursday: Dithyramb of a Happy Woman

I just loved the exuberant joy expressed in this poem--it fairly dances on the page! And who doesn't want to be as "impossible as reality?" This reminded me of a Whitman-esque barbaric yawp, in a world where we shush our shouts way too often. So be loud, be thrilled to the fingertips, be the kind of fools commonly referred to as "holy."

I had to look up "dithyramb" and discovered one of its meaning is
"A wildly enthusiastic speech or piece of writing."

And isn't that what we're all doing here? I believe I've discovered our "patron poem!"

Ahem, I'll put my pom poms down now.

Happy Poetry Thursday!

Dithyramb of a Happy Woman
Anna Swir
(translated by Czeslaw Milosz)

Song of excess,
strength, mighty tenderness,
pliant ecstasy.
lovingly dancing.

I quiver as a body in rapture,
I quiver as a wing,
I am an explosion,
I overstep myself,
I am a fountain,
I have its resilience.
a thousand excesses,
song of gushing strength.

There are gifts in me,
flowerings of abundance,
curls of light are sobbing,
a flame is foaming, its lofty ripeness
is ripening.
Oceans of glare,
rosy as the palate
of a big mouth in ecstacy.

I am astonished
up to my nostrils, I snort,
a snorting universe of astonishment
inundates me.
I am gulping excess, I am choking with fullness,
I am impossible as reality.


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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mama Says Om: Ache

Madam's hand minutes after birth

You thought you knew; were a little smug about it, in fact. You’d read all the books--Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child; The Happiest Baby on the Block; Nanny Wisdom; The Baby Whisperer; the oeuvre of Doctor Sears. You prepared yourself meticulously, getting ready for the most important event of your life. You worked feverishly, trying to quell the voice inside that warned of prior failures, disappointments. But no...this was way too important. You could not screw this up. And you wouldn’t. Your pregnancy passed by like a happy parade.

This is what you’d been seeking all along, after all. Motherhood would fill the empty spaces, wallpaper over the cracks of your history. The dreaded boredom that lurked, gray and sodden, on the edges of your life would be banished forever--what could be more fascinating than this majestic unfolding of a whole new life?

Oh, sure, you are still a modern woman, vowing to light a candle at all of your pre-motherhood shrines. Surely you’ll continue to be the same multifaceted woman you are! So you check in with yourself regularly during the weeks leading up to the blessed event; re-read an old manuscript and half-heartedly try to revise it. But you can’t seem to muster up the interest. This secretly pleases you, because you were hoping motherhood would finally rid you of this pesky desire to be a writer, with all of its frustrations and silences. Forget the manuscript, you are the one who is being rewritten.

Labor should have been your first clue that your ideas were off. You expected it to be painful; in fact, that one fact was the only cloud over your nine months of bliss. You’d spent most of that time braced for it. You searched for the perfect metaphor to dissolve your fears (ah, still a writer after all!). Labor would be like a "baptism of fire, brief but searing". No, still too scary. How about "an orgasmic oneness with the universe"? More optimistic, but doubtful. "How bad could it be?" you reasoned. Everyone else seemed to have done it, and most even more than once.

Labor came like a churning ache, a ceaseless stabbing pain, leaving you unable to do more than gasp. No metaphor could have softened this experience. This was just pain, unambiguous and eternal.

Still, you got through it, and you thought that was the end.

Until the silence slithered into your tired ears. No crying?

Those weeks in the NICU were a different labor, protracted, unrelenting. Somehow you had failed--divided your own heart and left the weaker part to her. But she recovered, in her time, and you allowed yourself to breathe again. The ache subsided. All would be smooth from here on out.

Except not.

At first, they are all physical--the pains of recovery, sleep deprivation, and change. You are weary but cheerful, thankful that the black cloud of postpartum depression has seemingly passed you by.

Until that day it started. Your old selves began to ache like phantom limbs, surprised into being by the catch in a singer’s voice on the radio; by a glimpse of a photo of a leaner, sexy you; by a cheerful pre-baby memory shared with your husband (and oh, you don’t want him to know). You are stunned by a desire to write so intense it shakes you from your skin. You watch it fall around you like snow.

You try to shush these voices, feeling incredibly guilty. Your baby could have died! How could you long for the past so strongly? Do you wish her out of existence?

Adjust, they all say, impatient. But you can’t, not quite. Your daughter’s beautiful face is full like the moon; it crowds out your vision. You yourself are quite small.

You hadn’t expected it--to feel so lost. You hadn’t expected to feel so unborn yourself--mushy, the borders between you and your daughter liquid and translucent. You weren’t yourself, not anymore, and you weren’t quite a mother either. And the ache counts off your days like prayer beads.

As you cuddle your small baby like a shield in front of you, you hear them, the voices like a Greek chorus of chaos. They pull you back and forth in time. Only a blessed few in monks’ robes sing of the now--of the lovely ache of walking your growing child in the twilight, knowing that soon she’ll walk herself. Every moment alone, ripe with pleasure pain. The ache of two new lives stretching past their margins.

The ache of knowing you know nothing at all.

Mama Says Om

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Sunday/Monday Scribblings: The books I would write

I don’t know why the ideas don’t come. I’ve set the mood--fragrant steam swirling from my coffee cup, napping Madam, open document, blank with the cursor blinking...blinking...blinking...

"Did you read some of the Scribblings already up?"

I know this voice.

I know I should ignore it, but as always, I rise to the bait.

After all, I know all of my own buttons.

"Yeah, they’re funny and fabulous, as usual." I try to stay positive, not an easy thing when I’m being visited by Resistance, Resi for short. I turn back to the computer screen. Hope Resi just goes away.

"Better than anything you could come up with."

"It’s not a competition."

"Oh, come on! Everything is a competition!" She replied. "How else do you know if you’ve done it right?"

I hunch over the keyboard, trying to block her view of my still-blank screen. "It’s just about having fun." I don’t even sound convincing to myself, let alone to, well, myself-as-Resi.

"It’s only fun if you can do it will, which we all know you can’t...these people who read your stuff, they are just being nice to you, you know." She sighs and moves close to my screen, squinting. "Oh, let me help you--let’s see what you’ve got..."

"How about--"


"Well, OK, what about--"


"OK, then--"



I held my head in frustration.

"You aren’t making it any easier! Thanks to you I can barely write my own name!"

She slid closer to me, took an ingratiating tone.

"Look, I’m just looking out for I don’t want to disappoint anyone. What if they find out the truth? That we have NO IDEA what the hell we’re doing? They’d laugh...they’d point...they’d KNOW. I’m just protecting you!"

"Maybe I just shouldn’t write anything!"

She grinned. "That’s the spirit! After all...nobody cares what you have to say anyway! Who do you think you are, talking about the books you would write...ha! More like the books you wouldn’t write."

I turned away from the computer, feeling bested by her again. As we moved towards the television, I whispered, "What if I could write the kind of books I need? The kind of book that gets dog-eared, read at the breakfast table and under the covers at night? Underlined with exclamation points around the quotes? The kind where you ache from the beauty of it, beauty that is suddenly visible all around you? The kind where you spend a day or a week or a month dressing like the heroine, talking like her, getting behind her eyes so completely that you feel like you've been dropped in a new and shiny and better life?"

Resi grew alarmed, tried harder to pull me towards the sweet narcolepsy of the television. But now I couldn’t seem to stop.

"What if I could write the kind of books that can teach you to be bold, to be big and succulent and sexy in your skin? To writhe in joy like a cat on a sunny sidewalk? To see the eccentric fascination that slants sideways in the world, and even in yourself? The kind of book where someone who never thought much of her mind, or her own thoughts, could see them flash, electric and thrilling, and say, 'Yes, exactly. That is it, exactly.'"

"What if I could write a book that could shout a YES that could drown out even your eternal NO?"

She frowned.

"That wouldn’t be a very good book."

For more of the wonderful Sunday Scribblings that caused my Resistance to visit, go here.


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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Poetry Thursday: My favorite poem

I hesitated a little when I saw this prompt. I love so many poems for so many different reasons. Like Megg's post about the "soundtrack of your life," I find I have a "poemtrack" of my life--depending on the time and the season.

But on further reflection, I realized that there's one poem I love above all others--a poem that continues to speak to whichever "me" is reading it at the time. It always seems to reveal further layered richness with each re-reading...and isn't that what poetry is about?

I love the joy in natural beauty that the Romantics were so known for; I love the melancholy joy that suffuses each line. And above all, I love the clarion call of my favorite lines, reminding me to celebrate the wonders of the life that I've been blessed to live, instead of mourning the fact that those times are past:

Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

So, here is my favorite poem:

Ode, Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth

More poetic goodness here


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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mama Says Om-Juicy (a fictional vignette)

I’m here to speak for the body.

Yeah, I’m surprised about it too. It’s not something I really think about, well, much, anymore...not since my Henry passed away last spring. I look at these new tree buds and I don’t understand why they’re here anymore. My Henry loved spring, so it’s wrong that it should be happening and he’s not here to enjoy it.

But enough about that...I said I came to talk about the body--the body in all of it’s juiciness, its soft places, hard places, and everything in between. You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but...I’m juicy, too. Or, I mean, I used to be. I don’t pay much attention to that now. Or I didn’t, but I do again.

I work in the library--that’s where I met Henry, all of those years ago. I’d see the kids come in, with their piles and piles of paper and books...but that wasn’t what was on their minds. No, they were like little trees, sap rising and pooling all of the time inside of them. I watched them watch each other, and I tried to stay out of it. Not that it was hard. They were in the dance, and I was on the sidelines again, with my too-old body, nothing extra anywhere--practical like an ironing board that slides back into the wall--that was me. It was like working inside the TV, on one of those nature shows.

But I still loved the library. It was quiet, and devoted to books, and, well, quiet.

Henry walked in one day. Of course, I noticed him...tall, distinguished, impatiently flipping through one book and then the next and the next.

Of course, he says he was looking for me. He always said things like that. But it’s true that as soon as he looked up and saw me looking back at him, he stopped looking at the book and started looking right at me. A strange kind of look--the kind I saw the kids giving each other all the time over their notebooks, but not the kind anyone ever directed at me. I always got the intercepted looks...the ones that never met their destination because I was in the way. But it was obvious that I wasn’t in Henry’s way at all. It makes me blush to this day to think that I was the way.

Nothing special happened during our courtship. It just changed my life, that’s all, and everything in it.

Marriage to Henry was like being a Persian kitten...he stroked and nuzzled everywhere, lengthening my shadows by sliding his own inside of them. You’re so juicy, he used to say as he nibbled and kissed. Like a peach, a mango, passionfruit. I tried to tell him how I felt right back, but I was wordless. A whole library of words, but not a one that told him how I really he made me who I always wanted to be. I wish I could tell him he made me feel like an orchid...all rare and unfurled and glistening. I’d like to think he knew that even without my telling him.

But then the day came...the day when the shadows started to overtake him--little things. A pallor. A cough that caught in his chest and exploded. I know the doctors told me what it was, but all I remember was white. And red. The whole world boiled down to those two colors. A buzz, a bad hum like an angry nest of wasps.

And then the day came when I had all the words in the world, but no one to tell them to. The spell he put on me was broken...I was never that heedless orchid, that Persian cat. I was Like knotty pine, like a piece of driftwood all gray on the beach.

I would have lived the rest of my life this way, too...making sure to stay straight and plain and quiet. My time as a tempting morsel (another of my Henry-isms) was over. And what good had any of it done, after all? Just showed me what was out there, only to take it away?

Oh, I was plenty mad at this body. I stopped speaking to it after Henry’s funeral. Just clothed it and kept it clean and dragged it around like an unwelcome sack. It hadn’t done anybody any good. A transplant might work. I tried. It didn’t. Useless, useless me.

I don’t remember how long this lasted, this divorce.

And I don’t remember where I was when the tears started. I think I was at work, and bumped my backside into a book trolley. Like a jukebox, it started humming Henry back to me, and it was like he was right there, touching me. It startled me out of myself, and liquid rushed to my eyes like a summer shower. I could feel this old body of mine quake in thankfulness. Finally.

I was curious, wanted to see if it was one time thing. So I put my hand, gently, on the small of my back. Oh, Henry was there too. His words were sliding all over me, his hardscrabble hands so soft, like furred paws. He was in the hair that rose on the back of my neck. He was in the watery sunlight that leaked through the thick matted library windows. And most of all, he was in the tears that fell and fell and fell endlessly.

I went to his grave the other day. You know something? It’s the one covered in flowers. Did my tears do that too? I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore.

But I’m here to speak for the body, because Henry always did. He always said it was juicy, and I finally agree with him. Juicy with his memory, juicy with our history together. Juicy with my new moist grief...the grief that gives him back to me over every part of my body.

No, my body couldn’t save him. But maybe it didn’t have to. Maybe it was enough that we saved each other every day of our time together.

Maybe that is enough.

Mama Says Om

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Monday, May 08, 2006


My imagination
Wears running shoes.
No gazelle, she;
Sometimes no grace
As she gambols with more gusto than wit

Unafraid of the pratfall, the foolish;
Holy fool, she.
While I grasp
For the neat phrase, the sexy sullen word
She spits a whorl of dust and runs
Away from any certainty
And gets on jags with song lyrics
And croons those two sentences in my ears
Until I make them fit
She says the fitting’s the thing, after all.

She says nothing’s ever wasted
Not even time, if it eats through the rough
Inside and inside

My imagination
She won’t be part and parceled
She knows what she knows
The whole of the whole

I’m embraced by her long shadows
Danced around by outstretched arms
Myself, and myself the other
A passionate photonegative
Spinning, swirling, and falling
Like two strands of gossamer
Endlessly tangled by a child.


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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Sunday Scribblings--My Shoes

I should have known they were up to something, after sitting shoved behind suitcases and choked by loose threads and dust. My shoes aren't shy--if anything, they're puffed up, preening, gushing from the moment they wink at me in the store. I've been the same shoe size for years, so my shoes and I...we've been through a lot of living.

Until recently. My new life doesn't exactly call for a shoe collection, and for the longest time I couldn't even SEE my feet.
Like Cinderella, maybe the shoes are the first place to start. I don't need to be a stepsister--I don't need to chop bits of my feet to fit in them. But maybe I've done it anyway, and maybe that's the trouble.

They've started sneaking out of the closet lately, tripping me up in the oddest places, in the dark. Beseeching.

They're tired of it. So they're speaking out, and this is what they want to say.


What happened to you, girl? A year is a long time to go without the pleasures we can bring.

The swish and swirl of sari fabric, like sea mist on your bare skin, brushing against your bare toes, encased in heels that would make Cinderella stare longingly--shoes that are whimsy and imagination and myth. Romance and chiffon rise around you like incense smoke. Love sings low like the ocean’s moan. Feeling like an exotic adventuress in that foreign land, your skin.

The click on the marble floors that is confidence, echoing that you are someone; you ARE someone as they trail your story down the passageway. You walk with purpose, professional and grasping for the world. Only sensible black work pumps can cause that sway and stroll, that extra step down like an exclamation point. You ARE someone.

What about those beloved Doc Martens--the ones that proclaimed your tough girl dreams, and that made you exactly the person you wanted to be from the ankle down--artist poet rebel girl? Sometimes the words flew straight under you and over you and through you, and you needed your Docs to keep you grounded to the reality of your life--moving you from the wanting to the being.

And your sassy librarian Mary Janes, pulled hurriedly over fishnet stockings, worn with a black lace thrift store dress. Edges creased with the dust of a thousand salsa dances, the faint aroma of dance club beer splashed careless as you move. The backs lowered slightly from being eased down by each tired, tipsy foot, already dreaming of a barefoot rest.

Those go-go boots turn you into an amorous Aphrodite chick, from the moment you smooth the supple leather up your calf, holding it taut as you slide the zipper up, the gentle buzz a promise of excitement, enchantment.
Of midnight movies and the rough feel of brick against your back as you kiss dizzy in the rain, amidst pools of liquid streetlights.

Step into these old shoes again. They still fit, though you might feel blurry, distorted. They still fit, in this place and in that time. Step into us. Breathe the cooler air of inspiration and the fragrance of memory and wear the teetering coolness of strappy sandals that frame your feet like art.

A bunch of size 7 1/2s are longing to live again.


For more Sunday Scribbling fun, go here.


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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Poetry Thursday: You see, I want a lot

I’m holding a grudge against myself. I’m not exactly sure why, but I am deliberately depriving myself of things that bring me pleasure. Part of it is that I am tired of perpetually teetering on the edge of this depression. It’s tiresome and I am over it. If I am going to get good and depressed, I want it to HAPPEN, damn it. Enough with this emotional back and forth. I suppose it’s also because I don’t want to face the fact that none of the things that bring me pleasure work very well lately. Not reading (because the words seem stale and inert on the page). Not writing (because it reminds me that while everyone else is working on meaningful projects, this blog is all I have). Not going out (because there is no place I want to be). Not speaking with friends (because then I have to face the jealousy and anger that are eating me alive). I am so very angry with myself...I am not exactly sure why. That sense that Out There, people are living and laughing and enjoying their bouncing babies, while I sit here, furiously tallying every sour fact of my life.

It’s irrational. It’s going to ruin Madam’s life.

That’s why I write so much about my past, I’ve realized. Because I don’t want to think about the present--it’s so yawning and empty. And it shouldn’t be. Madam is a wonderful baby--crawling and laughing and babbling her nonsense wisely. So I turn the ornaments of my past over and over in my hands, searching for that one moment when it All Went to Hell. Trying to prevent the future I see so clearly, Cassandra-like.

The future in which Madam is just like her mother.

I’m not succeeding.

I want to figure myself out, grow the hell up before Madam is old enough to wonder why Mommy never really seems quite happy. Or worse, when she learns to assume that the low grade misery is the way that life is.

I claw and pull and strain to get out--I post pep talks and poems on this site. Participate in group activities, try to get out of my head by entering into all of yours. I try to get along.

Why isn’t any of it working?

So I stay away, punish myself for the crime of being me. Just wishing that I could unpeel from myself for a while--be released from this gray wet weight. I stay away because I want to be missed.

But I don’t think I will be.

I’m not even sure why I am posting this...why I am writing this. I’m not sure why I am bothering to post a poem for Poetry Thursday. There are so many poems out there already, attached to people who are deeper in their joy and their lives. This poem is the way I want to feel. Because right now, all I feel is bad. And I can't find a deeper message or lesson in that today.

I guess I’m afraid I’ll disappear.

You See I Want a Lot
by Rainer Marie Rilke
(translated by Robert Bly)

You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall
and the shivering blaze of every step up.

So many live on and want nothing,
and are raised to the rank of prince
by the slippery ease of their light judgements

But what you love to see are faces
that do work and feel thirst.

You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.

You have not grown old, and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out its own secret.


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Monday, May 01, 2006

Sunday/Monday Scribblings--Why I live where I live

No, we weren't the Bradys...we just wanted to live like them.
Where I live is a sore subject right now. Come to think of it, it has always been one. I’ve never been entirely satisfied with any place that I’ve lived since I was a little girl. This is yet another inheritance from my parents, who needed to work up a great deal of restless dissatisfaction in order to propel themselves out of the warm family fortress in their walled city. They did this by dreaming of the day they’d walk into their dream and rightful future--the Great American house. You know the one--split level ranch with a two car garage and a basketball hoop. A garden ribboning up the front walk and a lush, grand backyard that always looked effortlessly manicured. And a pool for us kids, of course. This was beyond the realm of their actuality in Colombia (the split level ranch style not being popular in Latin America) but the States were different. Everything was possible here.

My father arrived first and settled himself into one of those immigrant rite of passage apartments--a dingy, dank hole in the wall favored by those who are sending their whole paycheck to another land. He realized quickly, sadly, that the ranch house that dangled so enticingly from the tree branch of their dream was going to be a mite bit harder to find in reality--especially in the urban Latino neighborhood he now called home. So he called a bunch of his friends’ wives and tried his best to lend a "woman’s touch" to the apartment before my mother arrived.

I can only imagine how her face fell, faced with this base, squalid apartment, so different from her hopes. Faced with exposed lightbulbs, the drip-drop of the leaky sink faucet, the skittering roaches. I know (they told me) that my father sacrificed precious lunch money to buy her little luxuries so that she could hold her head high around the other wives when they came to welcome her and nose about--a new rice pot, a wobbly second hand kitchen table, a dilapidated bouquet of flowers in a cracked vase.

I’m sure she wasn’t exactly pleased--she was already regretting their decision to leave everything they knew, their comfort, their families, already cursing herself for being foolhardy and excessively swayed by my father’s brash optimism. But she was young and energetic, and besides, they were still illegal. Surely, the golden gates would swing widely open once they possessed their green cards, no?

Not exactly.

My siblings arrived and we lived in that crowded apartment for another two years, until my parents finally found a house we could afford. It’s strange--that apartment and area still haunt my dreams--vividly. I suppose I had not yet learned to look around me and see only lack.

We took our first steps towards that ultimate house dream by moving into our single family house, four bedrooms, one bath, and an architectural style that can only be described as "Urban Unpretty." Our block was crammed with houses, staggering shoulder to shoulder, up and down the treeless hill ringed by a sausage of parked cars.

My parents continued to watch TV, walk more affluent neighborhoods and sigh, even as they put all of their energy in improving that house well past the point of our affording. I shared my parents admiration for those other houses, better neighborhoods, but in a cheerfully impersonal way, the way I would appreciate a Monet at a museum. Only my house-ugly carpets, false ceilings and all-was home. I lived there until I married.

By the time I had graduated from college, I started to feel stifled by the very place I loved. I saw people lulled into staying there forever, seduced by the comfort of living so close to NYC. I grew desperate to move and made an impassioned plea to TEG while we sat in his car listening to "Born to Run." TEG was the opposite of me--I was looking for a place to transform me, a place to help me create the person I wanted to be. He knew he’d never feel fully at home anywhere outside of his beloved Bombay, so he was open to moving almost anywhere.

And so we started our odyssey, four states in five years. I never found exactly what I wanted because I was afraid TEG would blame me if I grew disenchanted. So I always lived near what I wanted and blamed him instead. I wasn’t dreaming of a ranch house--no, I wanted a cool apartment in a vibrant city, steps from everything I could want. Instead, I lived in a succession of bland, comfortable, generic apartments on the outskirts of great cities.

Until Chicago, that is. I came closest to finding the All I longed for there. But soon, doubt crept in. It was so cold. And we missed hills, and the sun, and the ocean.

So we got pregnant and decided to make good on that long deferred dream--California. I was three months along and moody; it was the dead of winter and "all the leaves were brown and the sky was gray." Again, I was unable to push for what I truly seemed even further away now that I was pregnant. So we opted for yet another practical suburban box.

And yet, living in California with its euphoric sunshine and riotous sheets of color everywhere has been incredibly worth it, despite the foolhardy expense of it all. I hugged my growing belly while I took my daily walk underneath that nurturing sun and gloried that my daughter would grow up in this place I loved best. I felt a kinship with my own parents, who had traveled so far to try and do the same thing.

But just like with my parents, it’s not quite working out that way. California is expensive and TEG’s business needs him elsewhere. So I continue to long for that place where I can rest, a new place that will feel old and like home. TEG says I need to find that place in my head before I can find it outside (and that certainly begs the question, "why do I live where I live in my head?). I’m sure he’s right, as usual. But I still scour the apartment listings, looking for that perfect place in our new Cold City. And no more settling. Because I’d like to have a joyous answer to the question, "why do you live where you live?"

More Sunday Scribblings here.


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