Monday, June 18, 2018

When Home is the Mouth of a Shark

Artist: Eleazar Velazquez

Mary Moon at Bless Our Hearts has written a magnificent post about the current POSPOTUS' administration's draconian policy of separating children from their parents at our borders. She included this poem by Warsan Shire, a British poet born to Somali parents in Kenya, East Africa. Such is the power of poetry that I've included it in my own and hope that everyone will read it and pass it along. I know that many of you reading my blog deplore my politics, my language, my view of this country. I hope you read it, too, and think deeply about it and about your own complicity in supporting the man you've voted into office and what he's done to this country.


no one leaves home unless

home is the mouth of a shark.

you only run for the border
when you see the whole city
running as well.

your neighbours running faster
than you, the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind
the old tin factory is
holding a gun bigger than his body,
you only leave home
when home won't let you stay.

no one would leave home unless home
chased you, fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.

it's not something you ever thought about
doing, and so when you did -
you carried the anthem under your breath,
waiting until the airport toilet
to tear up the passport and swallow,
each mouthful of paper making it clear that
you would not be going back.

you have to understand,
no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.

who would choose to spend days
and nights in the stomach of a truck
unless the miles travelled
meant something more than journey.

no one would choose to crawl under fences,
be beaten until your shadow leaves you,
raped, then drowned, forced to the bottom of
the boat because you are darker, be sold,
starved, shot at the border like a sick animal,
be pitied, lose your name, lose your family,
make a refugee camp a home for a year or two or ten,
stripped and searched, find prison everywhere
and if you survive and you are greeted on the other side
with go home blacks, refugees
dirty immigrants, asylum seekers
sucking our country dry of milk,
dark, with their hands out
smell strange, savage -
look what they've done to their own countries,
what will they do to ours?

the dirty looks in the street
softer than a limb torn off,
the indignity of everyday life
more tender than fourteen men who
look like your father, between
your legs, insults easier to swallow
than rubble, than your child's body
in pieces - for now, forget about pride
your survival is more important.

i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home tells you to
leave what you could not behind,
even if it was human.

no one leaves home until home
is a damp voice in your ear saying
leave, run now, i don't know what
i've become.

Warsan Shire

I agree with Mary when she writes, 
wish that every ignorant, racist asshole who claims that "illegal immigrants" who try to enter our country to suck the tit of the Big American Eagle Good Life Without Earning It deserve whatever happens to them up to and including having their babies snatched from them (that'll teach 'em!) could be forced to read this poem over and over until they get a molecule of understanding and empathy. If that's even possible which I doubt. 

We the people need to stop this right now. If we don't, I imagine that we, too, the privileged of this country, will be leaving our own home -- that damp voice in our ear saying leave, run now, we don't know what Amerikkka has become.


Saturday, June 16, 2018


Last night we had to unexpectedly put our beloved goofy dog Valentine to sleep. The night before last, I was up most of the night with her, but she wasn't in pain -- just acting weird and restless. Early Friday morning, I had to take Henry to get his wisdom teeth removed, and when we got home in the afternoon, Valentine was still acting weird, and her stomach was distended. I took her to the vet in the early evening and learned that her stomach had twisted or turned or distended, that surgery might be the only option with little guarantee that she'd make it through. It was so shocking and fast. I called Oliver, and he came over to the vet's office to be with her. She was really Oliver's dog. He was barely three years old when we got her.

We are so very sad.

We got Valentine as a puppy when she was six months old. She was fourteen in April and lived a long, extremely healthy life. She might have been the happiest, goofiest dog in the universe. We called her a love whore. Everyone who met her would say, "Valentine really loves me!" We didn't have the heart to tell them that she really loved everyone. She loved the Oliver the most, though.

Not much more to say than that. Or this:

Thursday, June 14, 2018


So, tomorrow (Friday) marks the end of the second week of Sophie's recovery from her wisdom teeth extraction, and it appears that she's turned the corner. My poor baby girl suffered so much for so many days, but she's rallied and is eating again, has stopped having so many seizures (sometimes more than six, seven a day), can walk a few steps, has great eye contact and has even smiled. Knock three times. 

I am relieved. I am so very grateful.

I'm also a wreck, the proverbial ashes after the Phoenix has risen. I've probably made that cliched analogy 5,432,897 times in the last twenty or so years, but it's the damn truth. I am wasted. Sleep-deprived. Out of my gourd stressed. One of the highlights of the fortnight (how often do you hear the word fortnight these days?) was the early morning that I staggered into her room to check on her and came upon a scene straight out of a horror movie. There were ANTS marching along her windowsill and across her bed and onto her face and into her ears and mouth and nose and braids. I'm not kidding you, Reader. Hundreds of ants. She was asleep and stayed asleep (I imagine she was not just asleep but post-ictal after having a silent seizure that I wasn't aware of), even as I frantically brushed the ants off of her, stripped her, lifted her up and lay her on the floor, ants crawling all over me, then, as I ran to the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of Windex with vinegar and started spraying down the windowsill and the bed and then stripping the bed and rolling everything up and bringing it to the washer and then running to the hall closet, grabbing the vacuum cleaner, climbing onto the bed and vacuuming everything. Sophie slept on the floor the entire time. It was about 5:30 am, and while I thought about waking The Brothers, I decided not to -- they'd probably only stopped playing a few hours before that dreadful game that every kid is playing, and let's just say that there are some things, some entirely insane moments of this caregiver life, that I want to spare them from remembering. When I was done vacuuming, I picked up Sophie from the floor (yes, I picked her up in a kind of squat that you see those Olympians do with barbells) and carried her to my bed. Then she started to have a seizure, and I effectively dissociated in a similar fashion in my mind as I'm doing here on the screen.

I can't remember if it was that night/early morning or another one that I called my friend Sandra in New York and wailed, but she helped me as did you and you and you (you know who you are). This community is everything. Thank you.

So, what else?

I can't go without mentioning the absolute shitshow happening at the border of our country. Would that we've reached a turning point today when the AG actually quoted from the Bible to justify the practice of separating children from their parents and That Sanders Woman reiterated the Bible to justify the fuckery. I'm not quoting any more Bible verses here except to repeat what my son Henry yelled when he heard about it. You could probably pick out any Bible verse and twist it enough to say that Jeff Sessions is a POS. Amen, son.

It should now be the turning point where we take to the streets and storm the WalMart where those boys are housed, help them out and throw the POSPOTUS and his Mafioso into it with all their supporters and enablers to live in to the end of their days.

And where are the GIRLS?

Honestly, Reader, can you even make up a story more Amerikkkan than illegal brown children being housed in a former Walmart -- a shitty megaMcstore, an altar to money and exploitation that has destroyed communities, sells mostly processed food and crap to the suckers who shop there because it's cheap and whose owners are revered for their wealth? That the Powers That Be are claiming God has ordained this -- well -- my god.

Call your representatives and demand that this stops NOW. 

Click here for other things you can do NOW.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Symbolic Figure of the Course of Human History

William Blake,
The Symbolic Figure of the Course of Human History
described by Virgil,
 illustration for The Divine Comedy
by Dante Alighieri (Inferno XIV, 94-119) 1824–27, 

Inferno XIV, 94-119. Dante and Virgil, in the third ring of the seventh circle, come across a blood-red stream. Dante explains that the rivers of Hell are formed by tears falling from the giant old man encased in the mountain of Ida on the island of Crete, the centre of the known world. For Dante this figure embodied the course of human history. His head is of gold, his arms and breast of silver, his lower abdomen brass, and below that he is of iron save that his right foot is of clay; this denotes the decay of the world from the Golden Age before the Fall to Dante's own time, the clay foot representing the degenerate church. Blake endows the figure with a crown, an orb and a sceptre to show that in his view the decay of the world was the result of political oppression - kingship and tyranny.

Why is our Dear Leader being celebrated for the unprecedented meeting with North Korean Dear Leader when the North Korean has been designated a war criminal by the International Bar Association War Crimes Committee, along with the UN? According to that report from several years ago, Kim Jong-un has committed all but one of the 11 crimes against humanity:

  1. Murder
  2. Extermination
  3. Enslavement
  4. Forcible Transfer
  5. Imprisonment
  6. Torture
  7. Sexual Violence
  8. Persecution
  9. Enforced Disappearances
  10. Other Inhuman Acts
Among the abuses reported are these: "starving prisoners are regularly executed when caught scavenging for food; abortions being performed by injecting motor oil into the wombs of pregnant women, according to a former North Korean army nurse; and firing squad executions of prisoners who attempt to escape."

This article in The New York Times from today, June 11th, reports in excruciating detail the crimes against humanity.

Yet, we must watch the POSPOTUS smile and joke with the photographers about making him "look thin" and "perfect" as they line up behind chairs of an impeccably set table. We must listen to his supporters crow in ignorance at his depravity. We must look at headlines of this unprecedented meeting.

What is happening? I have been wrapped up in myself, in my family, pushing these things to the back or down, down, down. I practice tonglen. I breathe in suffering and breathe out love.

What is happening?

We cannot normalize this. We have to resist.

Is it wrong to hope for lightning, for some act of a god to render justice?


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Morning Three-Line Movie Review*

I, like millions of other children who grew up in the late sixties and seventies, loved Mr. Rogers with a quiet intensity, and while I've always attributed that love to how calm the show was, how devoid of the frenzy of the other children's shows (I was a rather serious child who disliked cartoons and all that yelling and banging), after watching Morgan Neville's beautiful documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? I'm thinking it was more because I knew on some deep level that Mr. Rogers loved me. The documentary spends little time on Rogers' life and more on how he drew from his experience in child development and a deep spirituality (he was an ordained Presbyterian minister) to shape an inimitable show that celebrated and honored true human emotions without judgement. I teared up several times in the movie, particularly during the parts that demonstrated his love and attention toward children with disabilities and those of other races, and I left the movie wishing that he were still alive to shore us up in these terrible American times.

*I used to write a Saturday Three-Line Movie Review and decided tonight to revive it on Sunday mornings, particularly if I've seen a movie (I don't go nearly as often as I used to). You can read other Three-Line Reviews here:

More 3-Line Movie Reviews

Learning to Drive
Love and Mercy
Not a Three Line Movie Review
While We're Young

Force Majeur 
Gone Girl
Saint Vincent

Get on Up
Begin Again
The Immigrant

Cesar Chavez

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Labor Day 

Friday, June 8, 2018


I had a massage last night in a weird little Thai parlor in Koreatown. The place is on the second floor of an ugly strip mall, right above the Very Very Rice Cake Studio and just past a pool hall. The pool hall is always open and reeks of smoke. The lights are bright, even in the middle of the afternoon, and the place is filled with Korean men. I like to watch them when I walk by, watch them chalking their cue sticks, watch them line up the balls on the green velvet. I played pool sometimes back in college, back when you could bend over the table and be certain someone was looking at you, at your ass, in that way. 

These days, just to get through them, I fantasize about running away, being another person. A
famous designer, Kate Spade, my age, died by suicide this week. She hung herself on her bedroom
doorknob. I thought about this off and on, all day yesterday. Then this morning I woke to read that beloved Anthony Bourdain had hung himself, too. I met him once in New York when I worked on the line of a famous restaurant. Life as a line cook in New York City in the early nineties was exactly how he described it. Today I don't know what to think, but I know how to feel, and I feel sad. Utterly sad. The whys and the hows and the rest of it. All the stuff about connection and love and staying kind. 

I don’t ever fantasize about killing myself, but I do wish I could disappear. Walk away, start over, be free. I’m aware that this is ridiculous, that if I were to end up somewhere in, let’s say, New Zealand, I’d rue what I’d done. I’m not trying to minimize Kate Spade's despair. Or Anthony Bourdain's. It’d be obscene to say that I relate. 

Outside the massage parlor is a little plastic stool. On top is a paper plate that has an orange, a cookie and a small glass of water with a flower in it. I thought maybe someone had left their snack there, but Carl said that it was an offering. Cool, I thought, and I automatically felt more peaceful. We walked in, got settled into the blue lounge chairs, put our feet into the plastic buckets of warm water that two women placed in front of us. I took off my glasses and closed my eyes. Despite the strip mall, the place is peaceful. The massage therapists are all Asian, both male and female, but they range in age. One time I was pummeled by an ancient crone who seemed to know all my secret places. There’s a place on my arm, the part that sags, that I know is soft because my Italian grandmother's was as well, that place where I ran my hand as a child just to feel it sway, and when the Thai masseuse touches mine, I can feel my throat back up with tears.

It was a grueling week with Sophie. She had wisdom teeth surgery last Friday which
triggered an unbelievable number of seizures. She can’t talk or express herself or tell me if she’s
in pain, but she can seize. One night she had more than seven of them, in a row, and it’s one of
my secrets that while most people would have taken her to the hospital or at least called the
neurologist, I toughed it out. It’s a secret because it sounds crazy, maybe even irresponsible.
Caretakers of children with seizure disorders have these kinds of secrets. Sometimes we count
only on ourselves.

There’s something about massage, like acupuncture, that gets me going. I have a routine when I
go – what I’m going to think and whom I’ll think about, in a certain order. If I were writing an
essay, I’d title it Dreaming About Sex During Acupuncture. My mind just goes there. The doctor has no idea that after she finishes putting all the needles in, asks me whether I want music and puts it on, walks away and shuts the door behind her, I’ll lie very still on the table and start thinking about my past. I lie very still because when I move, the needles hurt. Actually, the needles don’t hurt, but whatever they’re doing hurts. Actually, it doesn’t hurt as much as it feels uncomfortable. I'd edit the whole paragraph to just that last sentence, but somehow the progression is necessary. I try not to move once the needles are in because I feel like I'm impeding the flow.

That's what's so hard about all of it. Seeking help. Being still. Feeling. Not impeding the flow.

to be continued


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Rules for Caregiving Post "Wisdom"* Teeth Surgery

  1. Wake to the sound of a seizure at 5 am, a guttural moan and rattling, and run/hobble to patient's bedroom to assess situation
  2. Administer large dose of CBD and CBDa via new protocol
  3. Think who lives like this? while making sure patient is comfortable. Question pertains both to patient and caregiver
  4. Turn on light (essential rule for those who struggle with psychosis in early morning hours)
  5. Drop essential oil Frankincense into palms of hands, cup patient's nose for several seconds, caregiver's nose and then massage patient's feet
  6. Recite secular prayers and pretend to administer Reiki
  7. Note that second seizure does not happen, a small improvement from previous days
  8. Change diaper and notice that hydration might be necessary
  9. Worry and wonder 
  10. Contemplate whether hydration might be necessary in hospital as patient slept most of previous day, having been drugged into oblivion because of too many seizures
  11. Think who lives like this? as pertaining to patient. Curse wisdom teeth, so ridiculously named.
  12. Text friend from East Coast who emphasizes importance of hydration.
  13. Contemplate which hospital to take patient to for hydration, drawing upon 23 years of experience in caregiving
  14. Contemplate waking College Boy or Brother to drive patient and caregiver to hospital
  15. Contemplate the various pros and cons of hospital admittance
  16. Read text from friend: Take her in
  17. Continue contemplation of big city hospitals, private insurance and who takes MediCal as secondary
  18. Curse the American health care system to ward off financial fears
  19. Retrieve large syringe used to administer pharmaceuticals, bottle of cold Pedialyte from fridge and towel
  20. Sit at patient's bedside and carefully syringe 5 ml of liquid into patient's mouth until 8 oz is down the hatch.
  21. Help patient to cough up mucous with newly purchased $369 portable home suction machine
  22. Think who lives like this? pertaining to both patient and caregiver throughout home hydration
  23.  Lie next to patient and gradually realize that patient is not seizing like she had in previous days, has drunk an appropriate amount of electrolyte-balanced liquid and is resting peacefully
  24. Rest peacefully next to patient while College Boy and Brother sleep unaware of caregiver and patient drama on other side of wall
  25. Rise from patient's bed at 7:00 am, make coffee for caregiver and oatmeal for patient to hopefully eat later. Sip coffee and contemplate the universe
  26. Bring patient 8:00 medication and coax another 8 oz of liquid into patient's mouth. 
  27. Note, again, that no seizures have occurred
  28. Think who lives like this? while planning a trip down to Santa Ana to visit a dispensary that has a good stock of CBDa. It's called Fiddlers Greens.

This has been a Public Service Announcement.

* The "wisdom" teeth are so-called because one is presumably wiser when they appear in late childhood, early adulthood. I call bullshit.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Poems for Difficult Times

It's rare that I'll respond to a marketing plea from a public relations firm with anything other than sarcasm, but I recently received a request to review Roger Housden's ten poems for difficult times, so given my love of poetry, I jumped at it, received a free copy and here we are.

In his Ten Poems series, Housden chooses ten poems and then discusses each one. I've got copies of several of his other volumes, but given how difficult all of our lives are right now, this volume has special significance. Housden says, "Poems like the ones in this book shake me awake. They pass on their attentiveness, their insight, their love of this broken world to me, the reader." He adds, "We ourselves can wake up to the world and to ourselves in a new way by reading poems such as these -- especially when we read them aloud, and shape the sounds on our lips and the rhythms on our breath -- making us more fully human." In an interview with the publicist, he stated that it was Trump's election that propelled him to add to his series, that his despondency over the election and a walk in the forest (he's British and uses beautiful language) inspired the title and then the collection.

I couldn't agree more with Housden and found his selections wonderful. Familiar with Maggie Smith, Ellen Bass, Marie Howe, William Stafford, W.S. Merwin, Jack Gilbert and Wendell Berry, I found something new to love in the poems he chose of theirs and was introduced to Jan Richardson, Nazim Hikmet and Conrad Aiken. Housden's commentary is great, as well, and includes interesting insights about the poetry and the writers.

In short, I highly recommend this slim volume. Right now, I can't bear to look at any more news of Terrible America, but I'm carrying the little book around today as I take care of a still-struggling Sophie.

Here's a poem by Ellen Bass that speaks to me:


to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.


An interview with Mr. Housden:

ten poems for difficult times by Roger Housden, published by New World Library

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Chronicles of Caregiving: Wisdom Teeth Surgery 2

So, here's what happened on Friday. Sophie had her upper two wisdom teeth removed by her beloved dentist, a little more than two years after she had removed the lower ones. The great great grandson of Albert Einstein was the anesthesiologist, but I have to tell you that knowing such genes are taking care of your child doesn't mitigate the strain or make the PTSDish any less. Both dentist and doctor were amazing, though, and when I drove Sophie home I felt confident that her mouth would recover. It looks like her mouth is recovering, but she is having so many seizures that she's wiped out, and I -- well, I -- well, it isn't about me, is it? I've had some dark nights of the soul of late, and I keep going back to breathing and realizing that it's only a moment that one has to get through in the end, and then the next. Moments don't pile up like years if you let them go. Besides, there are comrades who sit in the darkness with you, by other bedsides, in hospitals and homes, who've done it over and over for moments and moments and years and more years.

It's weird how my inner sense of absurdity kicks in just when the universe is at its most implacable and cruel. Hallelujah.

Dr. Klein and Dr. Einstein have been checking in regularly via text, phone and email -- this is the kind of care you get when you don't have dental insurance and go to a private dentist and are subsidized by generous and loving relatives. That I'm grateful is an understatement, and if I could close my eyes and make it happen for every kid with special healthcare needs, I would.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

White Sheets

Sophalette Silhouette
May 2018
Los Angeles

to Allison, Heather, Christy and Bonni

This morning I lay on my back in my bed barely woke, my son rummaging around the bathroom on his way to work out and then the sound of Sophie seizing from her room and his bark Sophie's having a seizure! even as he walks out the door (the quotidian) and my sigh and hobbled walk (I'm working out, still) down the hall at no great speed because I've done this before and again and again. That I was lying on my back thinking about seizures and Sophie and what to do next and how very tired and sick unto is irrelevant, redundant, mundane and tedious. I settled my girl and climbed back into bed with my thoughts, my incessant thoughts, what to do, how to do, a kind of solipsistic world except that it's not me my mind but, literally, Sophie, her mind. Or brain. Or not -- the solipsism, that is. Then the world broke through. I had conversations right then and there, as we do in the world's mind, that vast space that some call unconnected but we know better, conversations with a friend in Maine and a friend in Colorado, both of whom struggle with their sons' seizures, both of whom know everything there is to know about cannabis in addition to seizures, both of whom fiddle and adjust, grow and learn as they go, as we go. The world broke through the way it does (the universe is abundant) in the form of these women and another who spoke to me from Greece, and another from San Diego who was the last person I spoke with the night before and who figures in my dreams. In the moment of the morning, flat on my back in the bed, post-ictal, I willed myself toward signs, out of the pull of darkness and toward light and lightness, acknowledged in my mind the miracle of these connections, our wisdom, these women. I made my bed. I lie down in it. We lie on our backs in these beds, this bed, next to one another, I feel them there, white sheets, these women, and we are connected and everything is ok. It's going to be okay.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Peonies and Patriotism

There's a blowsiness to peonies that no one remarks upon -- something disheveled about their beauty, their response to the sun. The tightness of the closed flower belies fecundity and generosity.

Another Memorial Day weekend is here -- and the nation's sport, one in which heads are bashed into oblivion even as people insist on their entertainment, is now dictating that its players either salute the flag or stay in the tunnel. Obeisance to the massuh. O say can you see. Patriotism. The lie. Belies.

Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


The Bird Photographer brought that tiny carved hummingbird back from Costa Rica recently and gave it to me, so I hung it above my bed. Honestly? My favorite thing to do is lie on my back on my bed and while away the minutes, do absolutely nothing but stare at the ceiling and watch the late afternoon light play across the walls, and now the hummingbird who drifts a bit, rotates round. That and reading.

I've been exercising these days. I've been going to a dance class called Kardio Krunk. Don't laugh. Or, rather, laugh all you want. The class is taught by this beautiful man who is also working with me one on one as a personal trainer once a week. I bought myself five sessions with all that money I got back from the POSPOTUS' tax reform. I had my first full blown anxiety attack when I went for my initial assessment. I'd love to regale you with the details, but suffice it to say that at one point I was curled into the fetal position on the floor of the beautiful man's studio with an ice pack under my chin. It wasn't the assessment that did it to me -- I swear I'm not that pathetic and out of shape. It was this weird feeling that literally overtook me. One moment I was lifting weights up over my head and the next my entire shitty life was passing through me, and I mean shitty. I had in a sort of simultaneous rush just about every superficial thought you can imagine -- from how fat and ugly and out of shape I was, how insurmountable the goal of losing weight and being fit to how unfair it was to be a caregiver of a child with disabilities for more than two decades and still not have shapely arms.  There was some divorce in there, too, and the state of my stomach, and seizures, of course, and just all of it. Cue: laughter. The Kardio Krunk guy was very patient and very calm as I went through this, and while I didn't voice anything but moans and I swear to god I've never had an anxiety attack before!, I actually cried, and he assured me that he'd seen it plenty of times before. I found this hard to believe, given that it's Los Angeles, but he was nice to say so. He believed my sudden swoon to be a surge of adrenaline and endorphins, coupled with an anxiety attack. Aside from the few moments on the floor when I didn't care if I died or not, given how bad I felt, I was more curious than embarrassed to be so betrayed by both my body and mind. They honestly worked together that afternoon in spectacular concert which is actually pretty cool if you think about it.

Since then, I've been back to see him a couple of times, and I'm doing better. I've taken two Kardio Krunk classes where I attempt to keep up with the class doing intricate dance moves, including twerking, as very very loud hip hop music plays, all while avoiding looking at myself in the giant mirror that runs the length of the studio. If I so much as glance up at myself, I lose my count or the step or the beat or the twerk and want to just lie down on the floor and give it all up to the lord.

When I get home, I lie on my back on my bed and stare at the ceiling, my mind drifting with the tiny wooden hummingbird floating above me. My face is red and my legs are quivery. I can hardly unbend my arms, but I don't feel miserable. I feel exhilarated, like I'm already fit and light, like my life is endless and there's still time.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Mercy Now

Mark Bradford's "150 Portrait Tone"
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
I do not pray except for mercy. I may sit on the side of Sophie's bed in the early hours of the morning, pulled there by a groan and thrashing legs and arms, and I'll curse in my mind even as I stroke her tiny face my grimace an extension of hers and I will ask for mercy. Mercy. I do not pray except for mercy. There is such a thing, isn't there? Not the prayer but the mercy. Today another ten children were gunned down by another child. Mercy. My own son rages at the world says hopeless but his strong body intelligence the way he moves belies the cynicism. Be merciful, I think. This morning two small yellow-breasted birds splashed in the fountain just outside my bedroom door. Yet, the earth is betrayed, buckling, relentless. I sip coffee. Sophie slept. Even so, I have a past, you know, where or is it when I did terrible things. I have a past, you know, when I was terribly hurt. I am sorry. Yes. I am, too. What, I think, might have happened if I hadn't done that? Yet still, mercy. I have held Sophie in my arms, a pieta without prayer.  The line of those who have hurt her, even indirectly. We must show mercy. What might have happened had Sophie been given cannabis medicine in those early days? Would I have crouched in the shower and wept, lay my forehead on the tile in thanksgiving for mercy? I have not prayed except for mercy. Those children dead, this earth, that person, that love betrayed and having been betrayed, my son, my son, my daughter. Mercy. There is such a thing, isn't there? Not the prayer but the mercy.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Carried by Great Winds

There I am with what I called 2/3rds of the circus that I run. The work of my heart. Mother's Day came and went. The College Boy is home for the summer. The Brothers are back at it. Sophie had a rough weekend but is better today. I'm going through loads of paperwork and hustling for freelance jobs. I'm baking cakes. I'm answering calls and emails and appeals for help regarding medical cannabis. I'm working on an exciting caregiver project that I'll tell ya'll about soon. I'm reading novels and excited to start watching the Patrick Melrose mini-series. I read those brutal and beautiful books years ago and so look forward to seeing Benedict Cumberbatch playing the lead.

Here's a poem that my friend Noan sent me the day before Mother's Day. It's by Alison Luterman, and I think it's perfect:

Invisible Work

Because no one could ever praise me enough,
because I don't mean these poems only
but the unseen
unbelievable effort it takes to live
the life that goes on between them,
I think all the time about invisible work.
About the young mother on Welfare
I interviewed years ago,
who said, "It's hard.
You bring him to the park,
run rings around yourself keeping him safe,
cut hot dogs into bite-sized pieces fro dinner,
and there's no one
to say what a good job you're doing,
how you were patient and loving
for the thousandth time even though you had a headache."
And I, who am used to feeling sorry for myself
because I am lonely,
when all the while,
as the Chippewa poem says, I am being carried
by great winds across the sky,
thought of the invisible work that stitches up the world day and night,
the slow, unglamorous work of healing,
the way worms in the garden
tunnel ceaselessly so the earth can breathe
and bees ransack this world into being,
while owls and poets stalk shadows,
our loneliest labors under the moon.

There are mothers
for everything, and the sea
is a mother too,
whispering and whispering to us
long after we have stopped listening.
I stopped and let myself lean
a moment, against the blue
shoulder of the air. The work
of my heart
is the work of the world's heart.
There is no other art. 

Allison Luterman

A long time ago one of my relatives, from whom I am now estranged, wrote a caustic comment on this blog, imploring me to get my head out of my ass and quit reciting poetry. Something like that. It stung then because there was a bit of truth in my head being up my ass. I felt a bit of the old shame and embarrassment at being bookish, having my head in the clouds, being book smart as opposed to street smart, pretentious instead of easy-going. 

Whatevs, as they say. The thing about being more than half a century old combined with living in the Trump era, is that you can shed all that shame and run for the hills with your poetry, bringing anyone willing along with you.

What else? I went to see an incredible interpretive theater thing called the theater is a blank page by Ann Hamilton and Siti Company at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus this past Saturday. I might as well have been raptured up right there, as it was a wild interactive theater performance of Virginia Woolf's novel To the Lighthouse, hands-down probably my favorite novel ever.* I don't even know how to describe the experience that my friend Tanya, Chris and I had attending this show, but it was restorative and mesmerizing, and we all left feeling -- again -- like we'd been raptured into a writer/reader/lover of words heaven. Check it out if it comes to your town. Here's a video that I found on the internets of part of the performance in another city:

Also, if you're not one of the more than 115 MILLION people who've already watched Childish Gambino's incredible performance piece This is America, you should. I've said it before, but in these messed-up, clusterfuckery times, art and corporeal politics can save us.

* My Top Ten Favorite Novels

  1. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  2. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  3. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
  4. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  5. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
  6. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  7. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
  8. Love in the Name of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  9. Machine Dreams by Jayne Ann Phillips
  10. Possession by A.S. Byatt
Who am I kidding? I didn't even list the children's books that should rank up there. It's virtually impossible for me to narrow down my favorite novels to ten, but those are the ones that come immediately to mind. What are yours, Reader?


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