Tuesday, September 29, 2015

30 Years

For ten years, I drank. A lot. Enough to destroy my tolerance to it, enough to start seeing stuff that wasn't there, enough to turn me into someone I couldn't stand, enough to want to die. 

But part of me didn't want that. At my lowest ebb, and after trying everything I could think of to stop, and failing, I prayed for God to override the overwhelming compulsion to drink, to just get me through to the morning without drinking, because I could not do it myself. 

I stayed sober that night, and as of today, I have been sober for 30 years continuously. If you think miracles don't really happen, I'm standing here to tell you that they do, and I am grateful every day.

 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cycle

A snake fell from a cloud
and was eaten by a bird
who then hid in the bush.

I found the bones of a snake
hidden in the bush
and took them home to make a necklace.

I wore the necklace to make you love me
to make you kiss me
which gave me the gift of flight.

Night wrapped around my necklace
which fell from my throat
whole again, escaping,

Mocking me with my own stolen voice
from the bush.
______

I was inspired by Sina Nkosi's fantastic poem "The Snake." Written for Kerry's challenge at Real Toads. 

The Kraken

"It pulled me back, it is a monster" --from "A Bright World, Darkened" by Charne Williams

The Kraken in your coffee
doesn't wait for the end of your cool story,
bro.

The Hydra in your headphones
sends nine notes across the three bones
of your ear,
dear.

Please fill out this questionnaire:

1. Do ordinary objects seem to rear up? Posture? Speak?

2. How long has this been happening? Just today? All week?

3. Do you get the feeling you're in a movie? Playing a part?

4. Does the role involve broken dialogue/ bones/ heart?

Sit down.
Please.
Quit making that noise,
Stop hugging your knees.

Tell me about your earliest memory.
Does it have anything to do with me?
Do you see things that aren't there? Any idea why?
It's all right to make something up. It's all right to lie.

Good luck with the Kraken.
Who knows where it might be hiding!
Good luck, you poor loonbat.
Good luck with your writing.
_______

Find Charne Williams complete poem HERE. This poem written for Kerry's challenge at Real Toads.

 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Love Proofs

"Love is stupid
can't deal with this, bring back Cupid
because in love the same things keep on happening
it's like talking to someone who isn't listening" --"Love Is Stupid" by Zama Nkabinde

"Oh, the lab! The lab!" he cried, exasperated.
"How you love it! Why can't you love me more?"

She answered with questions of her own.
"Why don't you have antlers?
Or orange eyes?"

She ducked neatly when he threw his glass at her,
and refused to fall for the old gambit of a man's tears.

She had tried, you know. 
With the white mice, and then with human subjects,
during wartime, when anything goes.

Findings: crazy can be induced, love cannot.
However, if love occurs independently, crazy follows without effort.

She knows she is supposed to love her husband,
but in fact,
she loves the head bellman at the Ashby-Bancroft Hotel downtown.

At a conference, there he was, 
effortlessly sparking the Tesla coil of her heart.

She will naturally have to give up science now,
obtain a divorce,
and take up something useless and mildly embarrassing--

but thrilling--
like poetry, or
checking into the Ashby-Bancroft out of her right mind,
relying entirely on the anecdotal,
and deaf to contrary data.
________

Find Zama Nkabinde's complete poem HERE. This poem written for Kerry's challenge at Real Toads.



 



Saturday, September 19, 2015

Stunt Double

She calls sometimes--that's how I know she's in on it.
Her voice is nightblue and crushed strawberries;
when she calls me "baby", my true and sure gets a shiver up it.

Her stunt double makes coffee, takes the car,
fucks me, says we have to talk.
I know it isn't her.
I know the bloom from the stalk.

Stunt Double feels the cold in my kiss;
cries real tears from the plastic bottle in her head.
Stunt Double spreads her arms, says, "How'd we ever get like this?"
Like I know her. Like let's pretend.


I wait for the ringtone, a drop of honey from the bee that's gone;
nightblue and strawberries, helpless at her softest command--
there it is--I answer--a sinner for Gilead's balm,
when the Stunt Double comes in from the next room--


your phone held in her palm.
______

for Karin's "A Whole Lot Of It Is In Your Head" challenge at Real Toads.

Brain injury can cause a person to think that everyone in their life has been replaced with "doubles" who look just like their loved ones, but aren't. It's caused by damage to the link between visual processing and emotional response. If someone calls them on the phone, they recognize them, because it bypasses the damaged part of the brain. On the other hand, one can be in perfect health and know that the other person has checked out of the relationship.

 

Emmylou, At Last

The camera had been drinking, not me!
I've heard those rumors. You know the ones. That I have some kind of fangirl obsession with the singer Emmylou Harris. I don't know who started them, but let me just say right here and now...the rumors are absolutely true!

I was in a record store in Royal Oak, Michigan, where I lived at the time (1975), and they had a wall of record albums displayed. Two of the LPs were by some chick called Emmylou Harris: "Pieces Of The Sky" and "Elite Hotel." The first had a sort of soft-focus image of an ethereal-looking pretty gal, and the second had an image of a gal wearing high boots and sitting on the steps of a hotel, looking like she had attitude to spare. Guess which one I left the store with? Once I heard "Sin City", "Wheels", and all the other great songs on it, I was hooked.

But my favorite of her early albums was the next one, "Luxury Liner." Those songs are like the soundtrack to my young life. I checked the songwriting credits on my two Emmylou albums, and saw that some guy called Rodney Crowell had written several of my favorites. Who's Rodney Crowell?

Time went by. A lot of time! My "Wrecking Ball" cd got a lot of play when I was getting divorced. The next one, "Red Dirt Girl", might be my favorite of them all. All that to say, Emmylou's music has been a constant in my life since I was twenty. "Tulsa Queen" can still make me cry. "Amarillo" still makes me crank up the volume. "Big Black Dog" makes me smile.

A couple of years ago, my dear friend Sherry Marr sent me "Pieces Of The Sky" on LP. I had never bought it, over all those years. I love it, and so, naturally, I went out and found about five more Emmylou albums on vinyl, to go with my cd's (and now mp3's). 

But now, a confession: I had never seen my idol perform live! Enter another friend, Lynn. When she found out that Emmylou and Rodney Crowell were going to be playing Royal Oak, she let me know, and said, "You've got to go!"  (A lot of people tell me I've got to go, but Lynn meant it nicely!) So I did. Last night!

When the band walked out on stage, people clapped and all, but when Emmylou came out, you could just feel the great affection her fans have for her. In all honesty, the band seemed a little off during the first couple of numbers, but then they hit their stride. They played "Pancho & Lefty", "Ooh Las Vegas" and "Boulder To Birmingham", which pretty much brought the house down. Then they played "Luxury Liner." I don't recall the guitarist's name, but man can he play! I do remember Rodney Crowell saying that the guitarist is Australian, and that he describes his homeland by saying "the stars are so bright you can hear them." 


Emmylou talked about how Rodney Crowell sent her a parcel of cassette demos. I loved hearing her talk about stuff. I'd love hearing her read the phone book, probably. Anyway, they played "The Traveling Kind", and a song I had never heard, which made me cry, called "When We Were Beautiful", which I'll include a video of at the end of this post. (It isn't from last night, but the band line-up is the same.)

Emmylou wore red shoes, tight faded jeans with the cuffs rolled up the way she does, a white top, and a loose brown jacket. She looked great. And of course, that hair.

They wound up with "Ain't Livin' Long Like This", a great song I associate with Waylon Jennings, but it's written by Rodney Crowell. They also played an old Ray Price number called "Invitation To The Blues" and a song off "Pieces of The Sky" called "Bluebird Wine" that really made people tap their feet.


So. It's true. Emmylou is awesome, amazing, perfect, etcetera etcetera! At the very end of the show, a handler brought her dog out on stage, and she talked a little about adopting shelter animals and spaying and neutering. Then they were gone, but...not quite! On the way out of town, we passed their tour bus parked at the curb, and who should come striding out the back door of the theater but Rodney Crowell! Bye, Rodney!

Here is that video:



Friday, September 18, 2015

Eddie and Sylvia

Eddie is fucked up again.
He is supposed to be mucking out the stalls, 
but there is a problem, the same problem as always--

The elephant shit looks like an old man's giant brown head,
the straw in it the hair, the shovel so handy!
He bashes at it with all his might, then runs for his wagon, and his pen.

Later, he is sorry.
Sylvia has him sitting in a trough, naked, red-eyed,
and she is tenderly washing away the last specks of dung from his face.
"You are a genius, Eddie," she says softly.
She wrings out the cloth, folds it neatly and lays it over the trough's edge.
"It's a brilliant story."

Eddie stays sober for a week.
Looking at the elephant shit, he sees Mount Olympus;
the straw in it is wings! Wings of the Immortals!
Thinking of his late mother, and of the women in whom he finds her kindness,
he throws down his shovel and runs for his wagon and his pen.

"Fuckin' ay, Eddie!" the crew boss roars, gesturing vaguely with his cigar.
"Can't you just shovel shit like I pay ya t'do?"
He can't.
He burns with shame and promises to do better,
but all the while he resents this cretin, this imbecile and his petty concerns!

Soon, Eddie is fucked up again.
Sylvia comes around to the animal trailers to try to soothe him.
Last time, she found him asleep in the tiger's cage;
she lifted his head from the cat's rough tongue and placed it upon her bosom.
This time, she finds him staring at elephant shit, his shovel forgotten.

"What is it, Eddie?" she asks, her voice betraying her worry.
"The birds!" he points, agitated and trembling.
Sure enough, crows are feasting on the droppings. 
He is still thinking about the Immortals. "Pallas! A bust of Pallas!" he cries.
"Eddie? Are you sure you're all right?"

But he is gone, off to his wagon and his pen.
This time, the crew boss will fire him, 
and the hopelessness of it all, the futility of Eddie's brilliance and her love,
sinks into her bones like sickness. 
"I'll be in the kitchen," she calls after his back, but she knows

by the time he comes looking for her she'll be gone.
_____ 

for Ella's very cool challenge at Real Toads. Combine a favorite poet with a circus setting.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Big Book Of Russian Haiku

The Big Book Of Russian Haiku is missing from its shelf
in the Chrysanthemum Room of the Glorious Proletariats' Library.

Five librarians,
each of them an opium dream of precisely measured sensuality,
and all of them wearing dark-framed eyeglasses and 
spit-shined riding boots,

Persuade me to wait exactly seven minutes while they submit
my request to the appropriate bureaus.
There is a carp pond
and a jar of startlingly blue ink pens.

If they can locate The Big Book Of Russian Haiku for me,
I can hold it like a discus,
and break the jaw of my old professor with it;
he betrayed the revolution
by watching baseball and taking up Buddhism. 

My time in the Chrysanthemum Room is nearly done,
and I can hear ten unstoppable leather boots approaching down the hall.
They tell me the book is gone
lost to the Russian winter,
and besides, what use anyway, to have it?

Then they invite me to share their samovar,
samizdat, 
and sable fur they favor
for reading Pushkin by candlelight with library patrons
taken--one at a time--into their confidence.
________ 

For copyright reasons, I can't include the image that inspired me, but you can view it HERE.

 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Nun Clock

In the abbey,
over the arch
with the hooded fleur-de-lis at its apex,
is the Nun Clock.

The black arms,
the white tips which circle the numbers,
turn time French,
and the cat--whose favorite is quatre,
speaks the mother tongue both rough and sweet.

La chatte is at the heart of everything I care about,
and she is the darling of the abbey,
unconcerned and calm
as the Nun Clock chimes these poems--
Ma soeur, je t'aime, je t'aime toujours...
________

For Mama Zen. Words Count. 80 words on the button.

 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Bird

I took a bird from your hair when I was kissing you
--or, perhaps, I placed it there.
You see, I become as forgetful as surf, as unreliable as air.

That night, I carried my stolen bird inside my sweatshirt,
the one you lifted off my arms,
to sample the warm melt of me, a lighted wick within a wax-filled jar.

That night, the bird sang, causing the moon to rise.
How can you send me away, alone,
when the sun is none the wiser and my heart, like my bird's,

beats so rapid--poor brief thing!-- and so strong?
_____

Book Review: "O, Time..."

"O, time..." by Victoria Roshe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Victoria Roshe writes poems about ordinary day to day things, but with a touch of the mystical or the divine in each one. She isn't fond of titles, apparently, as there are none in this book, thereby making it difficult to talk about specific poems. They don't even have numbers. I'll do my best with quotes and opening lines, while discussing them.

She writes about writing quite remarkably. I loved the poem which begins, "My Goodness, don't allow me to debase" on page 19, which is about writing in the real world, with and despite critics and ugliness, and yet still ending up one step from Goodness "and a hundred steps from them." I also loved "To the devil the devil the devil--" on page 23, with its disdain for acclaim, publication, and other tangible rewards of writing, in favor of simply believing in her gift and offering it all up to God. Written in prose, as I've done, doesn't do it justice; you have to read her verse!

Her favorite subject is being a mother, with many poems about her children. In being able to provide "A ball? A cookie? Binky? And a pear?/ I have it all. And I am nearly God."

She also writes about the mail, doves, and a black cat, imbuing them all with a certain everyday holiness that she is especially gifted at expressing. The poems are translated from Russian by Andrey Kneller and both Russian and English texts are included. Recommended.



View all my reviews

Monday, September 7, 2015

Book Review: "Name All The Animals"

Name All the Animals: A MemoirName All the Animals: A Memoir by Alison Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This reads so much like a novel that I had to keep reminding myself, at first, that it is a memoir. Alison is the youngest of two children in a very Catholic family. When she is fifteen and her brother is eighteen, he dies in a road accident. From that point on, at her Catholic high school and even at home, Alison becomes The Girl Whose Brother Died, even to herself. In fact, she begins slowly starving herself, hoping to simply fade away and join him.

Sad stuff, and I have to admit that it was hard for me to get through the first half of the book. It isn't bad, it just didn't ever make me want to go back to it once I set it down. Then Alison meets transfer student Terry, and over time she discovers that she is in love with her. Their connection, conducted on the sly, under the noses of Alison's rather oblivious parents, and the nuns at school, is the life of this memoir to me. I'm a sucker for first (lesbian) love stories, and this one was engrossing on its own while also reminding me of others I've read. Terry and Alison are so natural, so sweet with each other, and it is the one thing that brings light and joy into Alison's life, that--even though it obviously couldn't last, in such a fishbowl--I loved immersing myself in it. The details, the sly remarks from Alison's classmate, her mother's crazy over-reaction, and the discipline from the nuns, is deftly portrayed and inevitable.

The nuns are a memorable and unexpectedly colorful group! Not only is Alison the Girl Whose Brother Died, but she is a straight arrow (in a manner of speaking) who makes them all want to blame the girlfriend Terry for it all, and Terry lets them. Even though this takes place in the 1980s, it's still disheartening to see Alison feel like she's bad and wrong simply for loving another girl.

Alison takes a long circuitous path from emptiness to redemption, but in the end, this often sad story about grief finds solid ground and one feels that Alison will be fine. Even though the first half was rather slow, I still count this as a favorite of mine.



View all my reviews

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Encounter With Fans

The Jello-brained former football star
forgets which wife to hit,
and wonders why
grown men cry
at sight of him.

"You were my hero!" they say
as he goggles at them
before losing control of his bladder
again.

A perfect physical specimen, 
he was bought at auction by an owner
whispering, "Smile!"

Remembering, 
he does.
______

for flash 55

The Smugness of Sirens

The smugness of sirens
is both heavy and intangible.

Easy in their enormous house,
they sing and sailors fall.

What do they want with me, a woman,
surely a sister of sorts?

The mother of mermaids
is the moon, and though all her tears have settled on them,

She still commands.
They have everything except authority.

The sirens smile
and beckon me down to join them--

It is a casual cruelty when they invite, saying,
"Please sing with us, sister,

Sing like anything, the way you've always longed to;
it won't kill you."

(It is the instinct to breathe again, after,
that will.)
______

For (Non--)Fireblossom Friday with Hedgewitch, at Real Toads.

Image: Moonrise, Beaumarais by Clarice Beckett.

 
 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Magpie

I was born in this tree,
and the sun and stars circle 'round it
endlessly.

When I marry, I shall be wearing
a berry train braided by bridesmaids
tirelessly.

To me has been given
this tree, these fruits, this scorn for you,
intruder who dares

approach my bower.
God has given you all the empty air
below--stay there.
_______