Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Shedding Skin

Any street in Los Angeles, CA

The numbing regularity of tent cities and my half sandwich (pastrami and coleslaw with Russian dressing on rye) wrapped in white paper, a grim and stupid offering that shreds the heart.

A Korean woman in a black bra and waist-high underpants scrubbed every inch (literal) of my body the other day. Face down, she said and shoved a folded-up towel under my cheek. Turn on side, she said and lay a steadying hand on my naked hip. I opened my eyes, ran my finger over the tiny gray balls and shreds on the table. She didn't say it but I knew it. Skin. My skin. Dead skin. I was a baby lying there, tended. My skin is olive and free of wrinkles, speckled with moles (I hate that word) yet soft, smooth, a place where a heart can slip out of its hiding and rest. I open doors and windows. I risk everything.

In the universe there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in-between there are doors. William Blake said that. He also said Love seeketh not itself to please, nor for itself hath any care, but for another gives its ease, and builds a Heaven in Hell's despair. 

I read past my bedtime, closing doors and windows, deep into Trollope, the tedium of it, then silence, the heart's slow beat, sleep.


  1. How can we, the generic, pretend we are the people we once may have been when any are homeless and hungry? Not the hallmark of greatness. Whatever it takes to keep us, the specific, present and available is perhaps the first assignment. Knowing the difference between this and that is the first step, a door. I take heart from how much you care and how beautifully you communicate what is almost too deep to know. xo

  2. Thank you for sharing your world and heart so beautifully, Elizabeth. Always.

  3. We are seeing tent cities here as well. It is disconcerting and brings up many hard questions with no easy answers. It makes my head and my heart hurt.

  4. How you see! How you see the world and put it into words, you are so gifted, Elizabeth.
    It is a beautiful place and a very, very hard place that we live in. I can not imagine, really get into those shoes and feel what it's like to live "out there".
    Even though I did it just one night. I wanted to see what it could be like. One night in my comfortable car, with no place to pee and no heat and not a soul to talk to or comfort me. What I learned - is that every single adult in this country should sleep in their car for one night, to feel the fear, and be immensely grateful that it is not the pavement that you are laying on. Your whole world will change, your understanding and your compassion will be other than what it has been.
    There's no brag here, I just felt I owed it to them, so that I could feel what they felt like when I just walked past them. So that I could wake up to the truth.
    Like you say, we need love and more love.

  5. Los Angeles, a world. You, mysterious traveler and interpreter to me, wandering in the simple unjointed woods on another coast. I marvel at the gray balls and skin. And everything else.

  6. We often feel less guilty when we share a sandwich. And yet we remain warm in our homes, cozy while it all burns around us.

    1. I never feel less guilty. I don't really feel guilt. I always feel inadequate.

    2. I have always believed guilt to be counterproductive. But I do get the inadequate part of it. It is one of the words that could sum up my life. I wish you didn't feel that way but I am glad that we can share it together and know that others walk the same path.



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