Monday, February 28, 2005

I leaf through the book, but struggle because Neruda is a man, writing love poems to his woman. Can I change some word to make it work? Sitting beside him with the book opened, I apologize, explaining the disconnect... preparing to read... hoping he'll bridge the gap. Instead he takes the book gently from my hands, reads back the words to me. He cannot know how this undoes me. Then scans the pages, finds another, and reads again. There is no tomorrow and no yesterday, only his voice, my heartbeat, and the mystery of us.

And now you're mine. Rest with your dream in my dream.
Love and pain and work should all sleep, now.
The night turns on its invisible wheels,
and you are pure beside me as sleeping amber.

No one else, Love, will sleep in my dreams. You will go,
we will go together, over the waters of time.
No one else will travel through the shadows with me,
only you, evergreen, ever sun, ever moon.

Your hands have already opened their delicate fists
and let their soft drifting signs drop away;
your eyes closed like two gray wings, and I move after,

following the folding water you carry, that carries
me away. The night, the world, the wind spin out their destiny.
Without you, I am your dream, only that, and that is all.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

I beg him to explain how he can take what his mind knows, and use it to govern what his heart should do. It seems like the two are connected for him - a steering column guiding the wheels. But maybe I should have asked why my heart never makes conscious choices of its own.

I lose myself when my heart opens to you. You take my place inside myself. Maybe I’d rather be your experience than mine. Even for a moment. I'd accuse you of kidnapping me, but I voluntarily turn myself over.

“It isn’t a question of how much you think you have to lose” he says. “It’s whether your heart believes it can heal from a loss.”

My head clearly sees the loss and the coming wreck of emotion to follow. My heart refuses to worry about the loss. Refuses to use rationality or acknowledge practical limitations. My heart lacks the discipline of the mind.

I am caught in a tractor beam and even as I flail around looking for shields to put up, I have to admit my heart prefers something, anything, to nothing. Indeed this is a choice, but not the obvious one.

So I draw arbritrary boundaries and say "not this, not that." We both know it is my job to protect myself. Possibly I am incapable of anything but making you blameless. I don't know that I can protect my heart from what it seems to do unbidden.

Is love ever a choice?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

How They Are Missed

His colors paint her memories bright
What can a mother hang onto
When a son dies at 23?
At this ancient pueblo
She sells his brushstrokes with life
Reopening the loss and celebrating his talent each day.
It is not that he died that makes the art precious,
But that he lived. He lived and saw the world
As a palette of glorious color, rich detail to share.

Roadside crosses are everywhere in this Land of the Rising Sun-
Proof that the sun sets too soon for so many.
Here there are five together,
A giant plywood angel trumpets their departure
Later, another decorated for Halloween, colorful and festive
Now, in this steep and treacherous place,
Only a plain white cross and the pile of stones that anchor it tightly
As if to make up for the car that didn't.

We hang on so tightly to those we have lost.

I want to tend these memories too,
Stop and fix the plastic flower garlands
That have fallen askew
Remove the wreath of now-dead roses
Tidy up the offerings and add my own “Lechaim!”
To honor their worth in someone’s life.
Supplement this proof that death does not rob us of everything
For life to matter, death can’t be an eraser
We are so much more than chalk on the blackboard.

San Cristobal, home of the grave of D.H. Lawrence
Phoenix riding astride a white monument
Housing a tomb, and a guest book full of impressions
Accolades, detractions, a story of a visit by a bear,
Indifference to anything
Other than a bright spring day on a pretty mountainside.
In perpetuity the place Frieda chose will be maintained
To refresh our memory.

Celebrating the Day of the Dead
We call out our respects like a group toast
After each name: Por la vida!
If the lost ones are not close in place
They are surely close in heart
These altars of spirit we build
Evidence of life’s endurance.

I bring home a spun sugar skull
Place it gently in front of her picture
The tiny pastel flowers of frosting
Mocking the hollow emptiness of mortality
I know Mom would smile at the marks
Where her grandchildren couldn’t resist tasting
The sweetness that coats death’s vestiges.
I will bring home a painting by Flower Basket’s son
Call out to each of the crosses I pass,
Por la vida!
Someone remembers.
Por la vida.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

As I drove out leaving work, a male pheasant took off and flew over my car and over the wetlands towards the parking lot, his long banded tail drooping behind. I took Joey out for a long walk as soon as I got home. I felt so happy. The plum trees along Columbia have blossomed and now smell amazing. The daffodils are beginning to pop open, looking like the yolks of a hard boiled egg with the sheaf over the bloom, then such a bright runny yellow yolk where they've broken open. There are banks of crocuses in people's yards in saffron yellows, purples, and whites. The sky was fuschia colored in the west, and against the silvery blue in the east, the huge full moon rose. In the moon's reflection in the pond, a circle of white geese nearly mirrored the white sphere in the sky. I met an older man and his dog Stormy, and he joked that since the moon was full he needed to hurry home and ask his wife for favors. I wished him luck. I felt lucky. A young woman jogged past us and told Joey he was a very beautiful dog. I wasn't scared when it darkened, and I returned on the path along the creek in the dusk. I wasn't lonely. I stopped and listened to the call of the pair of widgens, a pretty whistling sort of call so different from the mallard's quacks and honks. As Joey and I turned off the path onto Columbia again, a man hopped out of his car and retrieved his dry cleaning from the passenger side, waved at us and went inside. There were two more yellow ribbons up around trees further down the block, and I wondered if they were supporting their neighbors, or also experiencing a deployment. The man who had retrieved his dry cleaning got to take down his yellow ribbon just before Christmas. Joey was happy too. He had found several patches of duck and goose poop to gobble up before I could yank him away. He got to play his wild dog game, where he runs up and grabs the fabric part of the extension leash, then bounds away leaping and jumping and pulling out the line until it stops, then running in circles, dropping the fabric from his mouth, letting it retract and running up to grab it again. He would have liked to jump on the little girl learning to ride her bike but we didn't allow that. It was a nice walk tonight. I wonder why I can be so happy about such normal things. I am happy that I am.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

"I lay there and thought how life was like a Litmus Lozenge, how the sweet and the sad were all mixed up together and how hard it was to separate them out." India Opal, "Because of Winn-Dixie"

"You can run from love
And if it's really love it will find you
Catch you by the heel
But you can't be numb for love
The only pain is to feel nothing at all
How can I hurt when I'm holding you?"
U2 "A Man and a Woman"

"There ain't no way you can hold on to something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it."
Gloria Dump, "Because of Winn-Dixie"

"Your head can't rule your heart
A feeling's so much stronger
Than a thought
Your eyes are wide
And though your soul
It can't be bought
Your mind can wander"
U2, "Vertigo"

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I replay it all again
Tenderly slip each word into my mouth,
Taste every nuance, relish each possibility
Until finally swallowed, it melds back in with the disarmament of your voice
The glint in your eyes, the way your frame leans back over the car door
To see if I'm serious or laughing
When I ask if you'd want to stay the night.
I don't know if I'm asking, and still I think you said yes.
I was hoping you'd say yes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Moria (no link, sorry) asked several posts ago how I chose New Orleans as a travel destination.

I have to say it was sort of an accident. It basically came down to being one of the few warmer places I could find a decent airfare to during Spring Break. I waited a bit too long to make plans, and by then most of the cheap flights to places in closer proximity (like Phoenix or San Diego) had sold out. But there are some other factors related to my kids school work... my daughter is on her second year of French language study and my son is on the 4th grade lesson plan about the Louisiana Purchase plus he's learning to play the trumpet and interested in jazz, so I'm thinking that the visit will make some of their studies a bit more "real" and interesting as a result. I think generally people are sort of amazed I'm taking two young kids there, as New Orleans has such a reputation for grown up sorts of entertainment and revelry, but it has many historical and multicultural attractions. But we won't be going to Bourbon Street at night! Frankly, my kids have never been somewhere where there was any significant population of African Americans, and I'm looking forward to sharing and celebrating some of that history with them. Some things we have on our "to do" list include taking a voodoo history walk and possibly a tarot reading, taking a jazz music/paddleboat ride on the Mississippi, going to the aquarium, looking around Jackson Square, doing some birding/nature watching in a swamp area nearby, visiting a plantation, walking/shopping in the French Quarter and at the French Market, eating beignets... in other words, we'll be busy!

You'll notice I've updated my reading list, with the arrival of my vacation reading!
I picked up "Literary New Orleans" and "A Confederacy of Dunces" to keep me occupied before bed the next few weeks, and on the longish airplane ride on the way there. We leave in a little less than a month!

Do you have any must see or favorite places we should visit?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Stalled Furnace

I would have been cold sitting there
But for the warmth of your knee
Pressed innocently? against mine
Beneath the table where everything
That happened up top
Was appropriate, proper.
(Unless you count my imagination
Stripping away the encumbrances
Between my mouth and the hinted heat of your bare skin.)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A Latvian contemporary composer speaks to his music in context to the survival of the human species....
"When I think about contemporary life, it's impossible not to realize that we are balanced on the edge of time's end. It's frighteningly close. but is there any point in composing a piece that only mirrors our being one step away from extinction? To my mind, every honest composer searches for a way out of the crises of his time--towards affirmation, towards faith...if I can find this way out, this reason for hope, the outline of a perspective, then I offer it as my model. I go through pessimism finally to confirm at the end that I say 'Yes' until my last breath to the beauty of the world."
--Peteris Vasks

Monday, February 07, 2005

“My friend doesn’t work there anymore. You remember my friend who's from Ethiopia too? He quit his job. $80,000 and he just quit.” I ask why his friend left my company, was it the stress? Did he have a better offer? And Taye replies “He didn’t like his manager.”

Taye has checked out my groceries at Safeway for more than 20 years. We became friends when the original store was across the street from its present location. He’s seen my groceries go from the kinds of groceries people buy when they are newlywed and on a tight budget, to the kind of groceries people buy when they have a new baby on the way, to our current rather haphazard collection of healthy and junk, chosen with more concern for taste than cost. He scans the feminine protection products without blinking an eye, teases me about how hard I’m having to work to get the large items out from the shelf under the cart so he can scan them, asks me if the kids are too old to grocery shop now. Asparagus, oatmeal, muffin mix, TP rolls by on the belt.

Some years ago when he decided he wasn't using his professional skills, Taye quit his job and moved to Fresno. I don’t quite know what he was doing there, but we were crushed to find he was gone and convinced the Safeway manager to forward on a card and a picture of the kids telling him we missed him. About a year and a half later, he was back at a different Safeway, then finally back again at our neighborhood store. My kids have always hugged Taye when we shopped. Taye adores them, my god he’s seen them more often than my own parents have. But they don’t go with me as often anymore, especially since the divorce, and he is obviously sad when I arrive at the counter without them. Today he reminds me of how we sent him the picture in Fresno, how much they have grown since then. I wonder if he realizes that the feminine protection products are for my daughter now. I laugh with him about her looking 15 and we both pause, realizing time is slipping away from us. On a recent shopping trip he sent me home with a blue stuffed dog for the kids, to let them know he was thinking of them. I thanked him and gave him the hug that the younger kids could have been relied on for weekly in the past. Taye is a bachelor, I would guess he’s in his mid 50’s now, and I have to wonder how many hugs he gets. Some days if I have a lot of groceries, he tells me a little about his past in Ethiopia, about the Israeli airlift of Jews from Ethiopia, about the persecution which he fled. He is thoughtful and well spoken, and at one time ran a career center at the local college, but my attempts to find him a job at my company stalled and there was a year or so when it was a bit awkward, him asking if we were hiring again, me explaining about the layoffs, but feeling guilty there wasn’t more I could do to help him get out of Safeway. I know he likes his job well enough, but I also know how much more he could do, wishes he could do.

Taye continues his explanation about his friend’s decision. “I guess lots of people quit because they don’t like their manager. He gave up his salary of $80,000 because of it.” I ask, “So Taye, do you like your manager?” Immediately I realize this is not the most tactful question to ask in front of the bagger, and no matter how noisy the area is, maybe his manager could overhear. I quickly withdraw the question, but he chuckles and answers anyhow.
“Sure I think my manager is good. I don’t always agree with him. But when I don’t, I just keep my mouth shut and do my work.”

Friday, February 04, 2005

An ex-Football Fan's Lament

I've a lingering crush on Jerry Rice

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Because Chris reminded me this evening of how large a house our hearts can build on such a tiny foundation...

"...Love is finished again. When a tall building
is torn down and the debris cleared away, you stand there
on the square empty lot, saying: What a small
space that building stood on
with all its many floors and people."

-excerpt from "Love is Finished Again" by Yehuda Amichai, translated by Chana Bloch

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

It was a brand new half-gallon of Tillamook Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream. I did the shopping for the household, and it was obvious that since Jim had arrived we were consuming, or should I say, he and Tim were consuming something greater than a pint a day, and we were almost out again. I was probably eating my share every couple of days, I was still breastfeeding then, but of course I have selectively forgotten anything about that. It was the Tim and Jim show, every night, they'd act coy, then the bowls would come out while I was getting the baby settled, maybe they'd have just a little they'd agree, as if maybe there was some question involved, and seconds later they'd both be scarfing down three scoops worth each, the same sheepish grin reflected on each of their faces when I walked into the kitchen.

Tim was staying with us while his wife was finishing up her job in Denver and he had needed to relocate to Portland and start his job before her. Jim, Tim's good buddy from Denver, was out for a visit - I wish I remember the whys 'cause I think there was a reason, but at this moment I don't. I just remember their easy banter, sitting on the redwood picnic table out back, joking and teasing each other the way brothers sometimes do, and the odd feeling of being a new mother, a host, and suddenly not Tim's closest friend anymore, and realizing why I couldn't be. But included - I don't want to make you think I felt left out, or even jealous. When they got going on some mimicked Saturday Night Live skit, or bad pun, or silly story all you could do was laugh along.

Or play tricks on them. This was nothing new to Tim by now, he'd been acquainted with my buggy sense of humor for years, but even so, I doubt he could imagine I'd be so diabolical. He was used to it showing up in something innocuous, like a drawer or an envelope or a shoe. Tossed around for fun. I had something worse in mind.

I carefully scooped out a shallow spoonful, placed our friendly 3 inch critter in the hollow, replaced the scoop of ice cream, patted it all down and smoothed out the top, and replaced the lid on the carton. The chocolate peanut butter flavor, their favorite, was great camouflage for it. There are gobs and patties of peanut butter that have a pretty solid texture mixed throughout, so that digging in a spoon, you wouldn't think a bit of resistance was unusual. You'd just dig to the side of it, to be sure you got the whole clump of peanut butter, which would have been fine, until the hairy legs dangled off the edge of the spoon. When this scenario came to fruition, Jim hollered and dropped the spoon and the bowl, hopping backwards. Tim understood immediately the artificial nature of the beast, but Jim thought he had a real, intact frozen bug and isn't that what we all fear most? All those stories about the bugs that get into our food during processing brought to life in that second in our kitchen. Even when it was uncovered and rinsed off, he couldn't eat the ice cream that night.

At that point they declared war on us. My favorite volley was when they concealed my beetle buddy in a sealed box of Corn Chex. Or should I say resealed? Breakfast is a new and interesting experience with a 3-inch cockroach tumbling out of a brand new box of cereal into your bowl at 7AM. (There was a summer in college when I boarded in a frat house and that sort of thing happened for real, but that's another story. Might have something to do with the particular critter I choose to play my tricks with now.) The great thing about a giant rubber cockroach is that, not unlike its real cousins, it can slip into just about anyplace unnoticed. Something about the shape I guess.

So Miguel, while you were voted most likely to marry a cockroach, I would probably earn most likely to parry with one. He's in the drawer by the fridge (unless you are so unlucky as to find him in your dessert.) Only serious marriage proposals from suitable boys will be responded to.

Buy your own here

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