Start of School

It’s different now.  It used to be that when our chlorine laden bathing suits dried one last time on the back lawn chairs, we tucked our  sunglasses away in our drawers in favor of the gloves.   As we rolled up our slip and slide, The final chapter of summer was obvious.    Summer’s sun dipped down in the sky a wee bit earlier each night,  colder air kicked up the smell of once green leaves.   The pavement smelled of the first rain.   That’s  when a little excitement brewed.    It was time for new shoes and new pencils.    It was almost the day to check  who claims who, what teacher wants you.  That’s when you knew you had to do it.  You went to the backpack and retrieved the crumpled math dittos and that smooshed sandwhich that resembled anything but peanut butter.

When the school put the teacher listings outside the classrooms people surface.      Forgotten friends a little taller packed the playground once again a school of slithering fish, shouldering the way to the front of the window-Did we at least get the fun teacher?    Oh well there’s always gym.

There are the years that are just bummer years, down the shoot years, teacher illness perpetual sub, the guy that should have retired and hates kids now.       Looking back at my kids school career I can clearly see, the power that kindergarten teachers truly have in deciding your kids fate.  There are two paths down the shoot or up the ladder.  Why I have yet to open a school for boys perplexes me.

Another year another trip to Target.   A fresh pack of crayolas is like new hope.   New school means new.  New arrangements of the same.  New excitement for the ordinary;  for new pencils and new shoes.  school means cheese sticks and pudding cups,  and cramming your feet into stiff shiny shoes ending up with banddaids on your heels.     It was time to sharpen a stack of pencils to mentally prepare for math class, hoping the smell of fresh wood would trigger a new happiness for fractions and integers     You always felt sheepish about the abundance of erasers you had in your pencil pouch and secretly wondered did that have any bearing on where you were smart or not?       If you saw a teacher from your school shopping at the store it was like seeing princess Kate of England.    If you saw your friends dad for the first time,  it rivaled that equally christmas-like feeling of newness and anticipation, all the fresh worlds you were creating, the budding friendships starting school was like meeting a your new puppy and finding out some days were unpleasant.

By first grade your mom was onto them.    She was asking more questions.  She learned something.    They have them pegged from the first seat on the carpet at story time to the last nose picking they do in the lunch line.    I’m convinced she told your dad, their path, the entire 12 years is dictated by the decision of who they were appointed at first grade.    Will they be stamped like chocolates on a conveyor belt X down the shoot, their fates predetermined,  seconds farmed off to discount stores,  or will the be filtered upwards to the fine chocolates,   sent up the up the ladder always getting the best teachers? Continue reading

Spin

Scientists say it’s turning in circles; Spinning,

quarterly it asks

“do you notice me?”

I pitter-patter, snowflakes, droplets of water,

I disappear and blaze warmth.

“Surely you feel that?”

Today the cloud wrings free

the heaviness of it’s heart,

stand still a moment;

Pause, stay still.     Longer even.

The revolution heals.

Mehdi

A man rescues four women from the Ferry depot entering Morocco at Tangiers.   Four young American women weary from heat and travel and unknowns.   Wanting for comforts, cold water an anonymous moment without attention on them.  It’s been suggested by a fellow traveler in a Hostel in Spain that we take a quick jaunt across the Strait of Gibraltar.   Women are weak when an attractive young man tells them to do something.    His name is Mehdi, he picks us up like were three year old’s that have spent 8 hours at Disneyland, but this is not Disneyland and Mehdi is not our Father.

a snippet of the YA Novel

I couldn’t understand why she pushed so hard.  One would think you didn’t want your children to fly the coop too early.   Wasn’t 17 still a kid?   I recall seeing baby birds fall out of the eaves, toppled from their nests, their thin skin practically see- through, laying helplessly in the grass a bony sharp fleshy colored wing trapped underneath it’s weightless body.  “don’t touch” replayed in my head but how could I not?   I hoped I wasn’t see-through still. How did she even know I was ready?

I cry because……

 

One thing I know for sure, I’m a crier. Wait- don’t back away, let me explain. It’s in my DNA! I cry at weddings, I cry at the boldness it takes to partake in them. I cry at the thought of being center stage, eyes doubtful or hopeful to a real risk of disappointing those witness to it, dressed like Valets’-dressed like dreamers. I cry for the mere poetry that is about to play out this summer, a time of abundant weddings; I cry for marriage, the old fashioned institution dating back to the time of hunters and gathers “the division of labor.” I cry while I read poetry which patterns marriage, sometimes metered and sometimes haiku. I cry at the thought of how beautifully raw and vulnerable humans are. I cry when I must trust others, I cry at how freely I don’t trust others. I cry when I think of birthday parties where no one came. I cry when my child has accrued yet one more year. I cry when I try to explain; tears hot on my cheeks making me feel clown- desperately smiling the tears away. I cry with exasperation at my mothers excuses. I cry at how she was so influential in how I ended up this way. It was her heartbreak that planted a crying seed. She’ll tell you herself. She sobbed and wallowed and shuddered and gulped. Yes real sorrow for 9 months, with me in the womb. It was brewing up until the day he left her-2 snotty nosed wailing kids, a pair of diapers and an empty bank account that he’d cleaned out. Then the dam burst. So and like my mother taught me I blame. When I cry because I am misunderstood my husband says I point to my heart. I cry when the wind blows and I cry when It doesn’t. I cry when my story falls on dull ears and I cry for how invisible it can feel to be human. I cry inside when I walk with my friend around Green lake whose son died one day while she was out for a walk. I cry for all she has to hold in and for the tears my teenage son never cried at all. I cry for all mothers and all motherless children. I cry for the part of me that secretly wants to drop everything and run, disappear to Antarctica to start a new life devoid of tears. I cried the other day when Grace Love sang Leonard Coehn’s Song ” Hallelujah” at the KEXP coffee shop. I cried because I LOVE THAT SONG. I cried at the first note, when I felt that pang-i cried some more? That that is my favorite Ballad? I cry for knowing I too am intuitive. ….I too-an artist, and I cry for not becoming what I wanted to be. I even cry that she did! I cry when I think of the man in my twenties that I loved like I love summer. I loved him so much I gave the ring back. I cry just thinking through each character in my book, how iconic they each are, channeling a facet of my every tear, with glimmers of both sorrow, joy and reconciliation. Yes don’t back away- come towards me, you’ll see, they are just tears. After all, I’m a crier, a poet who cannot find the words, but the tears speak volumes.

 

 

 

 

 

Life shapes us that’s for damn sure. We are little beacons down here on rugged terrain waiting to strike a pose, be discovered, or simply learn how to effectively reflect that chance gleam of moonlight into inspiration. There are days we are too distracted to even feel the sun’s rays, oblivious to the warmth, unavailable for the affirmation from the solar system, yes the solar system wants to speak to you. You really should listen. I mean in the Milky Way even even gas is a good thing.
It’s energy we seek from this life, and it’s totally dependent on positioning, mindset, timing, receptivity. We can’t always catch that pop fly, sometimes we miscalculate, there’s a muscle spasm, a stray hair in your eyes, sometimes for no good reason we end up dropping a crucial ball. But it’s really a choice whether you bounce back, switch to your generator, or an alternative fuel, salad oil, grief, love, music, maybe it so terrifying it moves you to change or accept as blatantly as gene alternation changes a lab rat. Focus on what you have, there’s still cheese?
Down here some are surrounded by evergreens, sweeping long armed cedars, some are wide open, fully exposed like a powdered infants fresh from the bath, with no cover other than perhaps the scent of cactus flowers or sage bush, protected by only human touch and Johnson and Johnson’s. Sometimes you even need advice, I mean don’t disregard the silent offerings of a lizard in scorching heat, answers often come from those you least expect it from. It’s a choice really, sometimes when we take a blow, we just prefer to lay wriggling observing how miraculously long it takes anyone to notice you’re missing. What matters in this life is a solid realization of self, the earlier the better. Why do you even care if they notice you? After all salt exists without pepper? Do you hear all the good of self when all is quiet? Do you know all that makes you tick do you know if you prefer a loud tick, a fast tick, a double timed tick, do you honor that the tick is coming from underneath your favorite t-shirt the one so soft and thread bare, it too gets excited to be chosen from the drawer of much nicer options. Even in such a underwhelming and inexpensive costume that is a faded maroon t-shirt from ten years ago, you are still a uniquely rare and fabulous marvel? Are you enough as is or do you always require embellishment? Simplify and listen, it’s a choice how you navigate the terrain down here on earth

I will Listen

“If they don’t hear you, say it again.

If they don’t hear you, again, a third time.”

They didn’t hear me.

What language do you they speak?

It must linger in the nether zones;

Where stars hover adjacent to the sun,

Or heaven even, kitty corner within sight.

I feel hot breath from my mouth,

I hear a deep resonance from my chest,

My low voice is perhaps like the pluck of base,

And they only hear banjo picking voices?

It’s getting serious, I’m concerned.

“I said I’m bleeding heavily”

“drink more water” they told me.

That feels wrong?

I’m not a worrier, my mother is.

In contrast I never worry,

If they don’t hear you

You need to hear you,

You may need to be transfused

By days end.

You cannot make them hear you,

But you aren’t alone when you hear you,

I do trust this language that only I speak

I hear me,

I will listen.

 

Joey

 

“And I don’t have to be that person”

I heard you say

Perhaps reaching;

Hopes to get through the day.

I believed your words,

And now you’re dead

Your pain resonates,

Still, and all you said.

 

The musings of God weren’t enough to prevail,

To pull the battle from the soldier,

Would take a hurricane force gale.

They set you “free”

Or so they said,

Did they even care

In a year you’d be dead?

I picture you in Iraq

Crouched, readied; dust and dirt

Pointing a gun another

How could that not hurt?

 

 

The Author, the Liar and the Badminton Champ

 

 

It was sunny when she finally finished that book she was writing.   The one that danced under her skin like nerves on a first date.   The one she dreamed of writing while scratching out rhyming poems with her stubby pencil the words neatly centered in the middle of colored 3 by 5 index cards when she was 5 years old.

The book came to her at the urging of God, a Catholic intervention perhaps?  It was CCD at 6 am on a Thursday where she learned that her knowledge of the bible was next to nothing and not all donuts  were equal.   It was there she made the stifling realization  that Mathew, Mark, Luke or John would be awesome characters in a black comedy or a cult film….. and that they mustn’t have had scissors back then cause Jesus desperately needed a haircut.    The one story she knew was the fish and the loaves of bread and the other that priest told without speaking any words, that wine drinking in the morning is encouraged so long as you pretend its blood.  Yeah this was alright, this could be plot worthy?

Life went on, years went on, wine drinking went on, not a whole lot of writing went on unless it was on the back of a coaster at the bar.   The book had occupied her mind like the flutter of a shuttlecock, dictated by the winds.    It was to be published by age 40 and at this time of writing she was 46…….and a half.

The book, the one she is writing, is the tale of 4 friends and parallels the story of her struggle, a work of fiction, “no, God NO, not a memoir!”  she surmises that a memoir is simply an extension of the thick narcissism which runs high in her  Sicilian DNA, like gambling and a thirst for wine.  What she is writing is a work of fiction.

The story is beautiful, the same way there is beauty in a  heavy weight champion’s bounce,  and beauty in a man tending to a man, quick work of a team doctor’s dab, beauty in the lack of concern as he butterflies that gushing split brow,  beauty in that there is a sport that encourages a knockout,  and highlights it on CNN.

The book she, okay I am writing came from a nugget that was both spiritual and devastating.   It came like a vision through stained glass, shining only on me.   I knew I’d write it at age 21.  I sat in the pew next to only family and  listened just after they played that god awful song “The Wind Beneath my Wings,”   the pain in Bette’s voice mirrored ours,  made our hearts porous and the song somehow sounded less offensive.    We sat in our suits and skirts with the eyes as big as toddlers, staring at the priest fixed and ready for the next song and hand motions to go with it?     It was my brothers funeral he was 29.  He said it twice maybe three times, “his life was taken from him”    but the only words I left hearing were “ We will see him again” said the priest.  I left inspecting every face of every person I passed by for the next week straight.  Cause I believed him.

It took a while to trade playfulness for recklessness.     It often got caught up, that story in me……tossed back and forth, back and forth, over the net, in the net, suspended, lifeless; trapped.    No one views a shuttlecock with much value, I needn’t explain why, the name says it all.

The more the busyness of life and college and marriage and babies, took root, the more I couldn’t get to that story.  And the more I couldn’t get to that story, the more I needed to.   I needed to write, to feel it, to tell it from my own lips with the care of a parent at bedtime followed by a forehead kiss.     I needed to tell it to the child in myself, the one who still believed in love and fairy tales and Santa Clause, the one who believed in the worth of children who were never told bedtime stories.   I wanted it still but it was inaccessible like a Chinese delicacy.   I wanted to taste it but I also knew after I did, I could never taste it again.

Her story; my story, was her only friend, like the drunk and the bottle.   She wanted it like that.   Most writers subconsciously channel pain to make for richer writing.  But this way,  At least she could decide for herself when to write the chapter of disappointment.         “I’m writing a book,” she would tell people- just to hear the words.  Soon they stopped listening.   Was it a truth or lie, whatever it was, it was as anxiety producing as a muffled scream.  It was as ridiculous as holding in a sneeze.

It was the longest badminton game in history.  It ended up in the Guinness book of World Records.   It was described as the game that divided doubt from belief, dreams from wounds, love from hate.     She could still recall the day she had to stand on the sidelines and decide first where to stake the net,  she practiced  her swing for years, pictured the perfect volley, down to the smell of faint BO and sunscreen, roasted peanuts and beer.    The stadium was filled with people; Brad Pitt and Channing Tatum, Jon Hamm, Joyce Carol Oates and Alice Munro.   She could swear she saw Lucia Berlin, her ghost anyway.  They were watching, they were really watching!    With another sip of water, she swallowed hard and looked around, there was only silence  then the chirp of a single bird, there she was in her back yard alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother


Rouged cheeks, legs crossed

Composed;

Green and glistening; like a salad

Perfectly tossed.

Pinkies skyward, florally citrus abides,

I can still smell the cigarette on her- I know that she hides.

Leaning in…excitement grows;

“I’m pregnant mom, do you like the name Rose?”

“I thought marriage, maybe- weddings are nice?”

I can see her coping face;

Yep- here come fairy tale mice……

A storybook mouse, his jet engine revs,

Or is that the scooping air of tea being sipped?

“If you’re going to sew- honey-don’t just sew what is ripped!”

I carefully stretch my words, my whiniest voice “you were my good child?”

I mock her…..then hollow Silence.

“I am VERY glad you’re you.”

“I almost forgot,” she says “I’ve a secret too.”

“I did it…-I CAN’T show you, I got a tattoo!”

Smiles abound “Today I’ll be the mom,” or tomorrow “she quipped”

….Yes it’s cheesy and forced, a Hallmark Too doo,

But it is fun, Mother’s Day, “we’re proper ladies, acting;” lips pursed

“Okay Jane”

“Okay Sue”

“ if Dad doesn’t like it, well whoop dee doo!”

“Poise with grace like a mom- when you tell him-let’s not kid, he’s lucky he stayed,”

Like a synchronized swimmer, we’re all on display?

“Keep smiling, keep nodding, “keep birthing?    “ew….?

embossed metal tongs like a stork

deliver a cube of sugar to my tea,

Plunk, a poetic splash, like a mother, she puts one in my cup too

“Remember dear, FORGIVENESS is motherhood glue.”