Friday, January 28, 2011

The Lady Made Me Shoot Her

The lady made me shoot her
said the tearful defendant.
She stalked me on My Space
tormented me with sexy texts
and forced herself upon me
in the park although I said no.
When she claimed she was pregnant
and threatened to tell my fiancé
she forced me to shoot her to shut her up.

This is a Friday Flash 55 tale, and it isn’t fiction; it’s my small town’s version of “Fatal Attraction,” such a gooey story that it makes front-page news every day with the trial in progress. The femme fatale lived, and she’s on trial as much as the poor fellow is. I think he’s guilty of pathetic stupidity just for having a My Space page at the age of 27.

Other Flash 55s are linked up at the G-Man’s place today.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Hope Nobody Saw Me

My favorite January job is pruning the 13 rose bushes in the front landscape of my house. Most of them are wicked little shits, excuse my French, so it’s challenging to work among them without getting torn up. This year I used long-handled loppers. Ha! Nary a thorn ripped my flesh.

What I love about pruning roses is the process of considering where to make the cuts. I have to work with the architecture of each rose and the network of branches it created in its growing season. However the shrub grew, I discipline it back into a vase shape, open in the center like a cupped hand. I get rid of stems I don’t like and cut the rest at a particular place to force growth outward, away from the center. It’s an art form for me, working with the rose to create something pleasing.

I did the roses in batches this past week, a few at a time, because I was paranoid about making my ridiculously unhappy spine even unhappier. Maybe the event I’m going to describe for you (in a minute) happened because of that, because I felt at the mercy of a thing not of my choosing,

NanU, the Science Girl, drives the Eejit’s Poetry Bus around the world this week, and her prompt threw me for a loop: She said, write about something you like that other people don’t like. Or you’re afraid they don’t like it. Or you think they think you’re strange for liking it.

Ultimately, I wrote about something I did one afternoon, after the roses. I chortled as I did it, like a little maniac, and I did hope that no one saw what I was doing. It will be interesting to see what other Bus riders do with that prompt. We’re all linked here.

Free the leaves and they will bless you

in the dead of winter’s landscape
the brown thatch
of the lilac bush
sleeps beneath its brother the sycamore
the pair of them
stripped to the bone
frozen in the act of grabbing the sky

trapped in the cage of the lilac bush
sycamore leaves
curl fisted hands
thwarted in their pilgrimage from tree
to ground, from
steeple to grave
denied the sanctuary of soil

one moment on one ordinary day
you pass by them
going somewhere
as blindly as you have passed before
intent on some
forgettable chore
when you hear it and then you hear it

in the silence you recognize the sound
~the resignation
of anguish~
and it calls to you as a comrade would
you stop to look
you see the leaves
furled and wretched in the lilac’s web

instinctively you free one brown leaf
and watch it
settle into place
among its clan, then possessed by some
strange jubilance
you shake the shrub
hard, free all the leaves, laughing like God

Friday, January 21, 2011

I’m at War!

You haven’t heard from me this week because I am embroiled in a ferocious battle. The war I wage is against an innocuous foe. Who would have thought that PAPER could be so vicious? The army is endless! It multiplies! One skirmish is won, and five more await. Here is the horror, in 55 bloody words.

Oh so many bills to pay!
The pile of poems to rewrite!
Insurance snafus to be set aright!

Crap from the tax assessor!
From the attorney, more spews from the sewer!
The hospital kidnapped my mother ~ that's a mountain of manure!

Oh bookkeeping failures!
The annual taxes await!
Assaults by paper do not abate!

This is a Friday Flash 55. Go see the G-man for more fun and games. And thanks to the Monkey Man for his load of manure.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Don’t Haul Me to the Dump Yet

The Totalfeckineejit's world-famous Poetry Bus trundles around the continents today as if the Master himself had the controls. Why, yes indeedie, he does!

He, Master of the World's Greatest Blog, Master of the World's Darkest Verse, has set forth a challenge most odd. "Git down wit' yore bad self and tell us who ya be." (I'm paraphrasing)

So if you don't like sentimental hogwash, hie thee over to the Eejit's blog where several brilliant anti-arty-farty types can be tracked down.

Don’t Haul Me to the Dump Yet

I am a breath in a garbage can
by the lid
hovering over the debris half-filling the can
half-filling the can! Optimism floats
in the molecules of breath, my elemental life
in a paper sack
from a fast-food joint, twisted closed
and disposed of here
hovering over the debris half-filling the can.
Here is the map of my scars
wadded up but still it charts
the web of
highways, crosswise roadways that led me
to this half-full garbage can.
Here desiccated flowers prove
my journey passed through gardens
and thus not all was lost
but much
nor is it garbage, the debris
half-filling the can.
Girdles have retired here, napping
with tie-dyed shirts and platform shoes
dried red teardrops on Waterford crystal
the first night alone in my first house
Here Thoreau still beats his drum
Neruda murmurs love songs in coffee-
I breathe. I float.
I gain
more filling.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Serenity Took a Hike

The Enchanted Oak’s household has had a week of fun and games, yessireebob. The roles of clandestine medical investigator, procrastinating freelance journalist, pissed-off computer user, and perplexed pain sufferer all neatly dove-tailed into an MRI machine on Monday and a giant-sized pity pot the rest of the week.

This is my backbone.

I hurt all over. Couldn’t move my head from side to side, couldn’t walk without electric shocks, couldn’t even type, thanks to swollen hands that buzzed as if they had been asleep for years. I was not at all serene about any of it.

So what does a good sober person do? Don’t ask me, because I didn’t do it. Instead, I went to bed. Stopped eating, drinking, moving, attempting to make my copy deadline. Turned off the phone. Cancelled all appointments except the one appointment I didn’t want to keep, the one with my doctor to “discuss the results of the MRI”…oh, what an ominous sound! I just knew I had a fast-moving malignant spinal tumor from hell and would be dead in weeks if not days. I told you I was sick!

Ah, but I was spared. My spine is just degenerating. Things could be worse. But I went back to bed anyway because it pissed me off. Then a couple of friends came over yesterday, caught me with my bed-head hair and my p.j.s., and told me to shape up. I said thanks and kicked them out. Then I got dressed and went to an AA meeting.

This morning I woke up pain-free. How do you like them apples? I likes them just fine. So I decided to write a 55-word poem about the ordeal and the redemption of friends, just because the G-Man hosts his Flash Friday 55 today.

The doctor said my problem had no cure;
Its consequences and its pain I must endure ~
Pain pervasive, electric, downright hideous
Making harmless motions most insidious,
Thanks to a backbone suddenly perfidious:

When isolation was my intention,
My friends performed an intervention.
Their deep concern caught my attention
And sparked my outlook’s swift ascension.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tired of Fighting

I’m glad somebody has written an instruction manual explaining when to accept a situation and when to change it. I didn’t get Life’s Little Instruction Book when I was born, and what I know I’ve had to earn through trial and error. Much of what I’ve had to let go has scratch marks from my fingernails trying to keep hold of it.

So I was happy to be asked to review a book called “The Wisdom to Know the Difference: When to make a change—and when to let go” because I seriously need some tips. Life has been dicey for the past nine months and it looks to continue in that vein. There’s nothing remarkable about my “issues” except they’re new to me: Health problems, family worries, financial concerns, death and loss. I want to change them. Mainly I want them to stop hurting.

“The Wisdom to Know the Difference,” written by a Quaker spiritual teacher, Eileen Flanagan, is a guide to using the “serenity prayer” to change or accept the circumstances in one’s life. These days I’m saying the prayer with renewed vigor. I’ve said it thousands of times in AA meetings and I grew numb to it. Now I mean it with all my heart:

“God, grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, the COURAGE to change the things I can, and the WISDOM to know the difference.”

I used to think the prayer was about ACCEPTING all the bad stuff inflicted on my world by outside forces. My AA training emphasizes acceptance: “Acceptance is the solution to all my problems today.” I have always choked on that, because as someone once told me, my “justice” meter is very sensitive. I’m a child of the anti-racism, anti-war, feminist era, and I fight back when people or institutions perpetrate injustice. Refusing to be intimidated, refusing to accept wrongdoing, applying effort to make change happen ~ this attitude has created major changes in my lifetime.

“The courage to change” is a strength, isn’t it? How will I discern “things I cannot change” unless I try to change them, and fail…a number of times? I feel as if I’ve fought for things all my life ~ overcoming my upbringing, success in college, good jobs, incompatible men, major depression, recovery from addiction, trying to be a good mother, a good daughter, a good wife. But last week I heard myself say, “I’m tired of fighting.”

I realize suddenly that it’s SERENITY I’m asking for first of all; peace of mind has to come before I can even think about accepting a situation or being courageous enough to work for change. For me, peace of mind is composed mainly of trust, the belief that all is fundamentally well. In talking with my hospice grief counselor and reading “The Wisdom to Know the Difference,” the spiritual journey starts with examining my ability to trust God’s ability to take care of things.

Some people read the instructions when they get a new product and some people don’t. I like instructions. So I appreciate the organization used by author Eileen Flanagan in “The Wisdom to Know the Difference”: seven steps in seven chapters, each one opening a gateway to the next. Eileen uses a logical process to describe a spiritual one, with lots of concrete examples from the lives of people she interviewed. She gets high marks from me for offering plenty of practical actions along the way ~ spiritual wisdom is wonderful, but I want to know what to DO in everyday life.

This is a book that needs to be studied. It asks searching questions. It aims to help to you transform your life in important, long-lasting ways. Take a look at the nature of her seven “lessons”: Recognize your conditioning, get to know who God made you to be, listen for divine guidance, change your attitude, accept yourself and others as you all are, let go of what you think things should be, take part in a community of people. There’s a lot to be done in the way of self-evaluation.

Eileen’s premise is that the serenity prayer asks the God I trust to give me: 1) peace in the face of things I can’t influence, because I have faith that God has a loving plan much larger than I can comprehend; 2) courage to act when I ought to act, because many times change for the better is needed; and 3) the inner clarity to discern which of those two God wants me to do. Making changes is equally important as recognizing when to let go and let God. Letting go is not the same as giving up.

“The Wisdom to Know the Difference” tells me that the serenity prayer isn’t about standing around accepting there’s nothing I can do to change things unless God assigns me some mission. Acceptance doesn’t mean doing nothing. There’s always something I can do, and often that involves the hard work of honest self-examination, recognizing what I’m afraid of, releasing my grip on expectations, and changing my attitude.

My review is part of a cyber book tour, and if you’re interested, you can see with other reviewers think here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Why Is There Air?

Curious phrases that pop into my mind first thing in the morning: Why is there air?

That one came out of the deep dark past. Way back in my prehistory, Bill Cosby put out a comedy record (remember those?) that we kids thought was hysterical. In one of the bits, Cosby says his kids come up with impossible questions. Why is there air? they ask him. He doesn’t know, and in frustration he says, “There’s air to blow up basketballs!!”

I realize this morning that I’ve been harboring a few impossible questions myself. They’ve been buzzing just below the radar so I’m not aware of them but they’ve been influencing my attitude.

I walk around in serious pain all the time now. This past week I learned parts of my spine are falling apart. Meanwhile, I’ve been very busy combing through my mom’s medical records and sending stuff off to my friendly law professor. That has forced me to deal with health-care facilities and the Privacy Act. And every time I use the keyboard on my computer, the cursor jumps around maniacally so I waste tons of time correcting its random acts of violence, not to mention the hours searching the web for solutions.

This morning, as I look out window at the foggy landscape and hear the question “Why is there air?” in my head, I realize something important: In the shadows of my conscious mind, I’m asking impossible questions of the universe.

Why did my mother get Alzheimer’s? Why did that doctor treat her so abominably in the emergency room that night? Why are my computer’s cursor and mouse misbehaving? Why do I have to deal suddenly with disintegrating disks and vertebrae in my neck?

These questions are causing resentment, or they arise from resentment, I don’t know which. Resentment is literally sickening. It makes life uncomfortable, makes my attitude bad, interferes with my relationships, and prevents me from living in gratitude.

Hm. I need to go have an attitude adjustment. Read, pray, get my Higher Power involved in my thoughts. I have a busy day ahead of me and it would be good if I were thankful for the ability to live and be.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Beginning with Flames

The sky that greeted me this morning, this first day of a new year, was beautiful. I ran outside in 35 degrees in my pajamas with my camera so I could show you the show. How could I not feel the grandeur of life with a sky like this?

I had all kinds of things to say when I came back to my desk hours ago. But I got waylaid by a poem that wanted to be written, and then by a question for my wonderful law professor, who has arisen from the mire of bureaucratic indifference to take on the cause of a hospital’s violation of my demented mother’s civil rights.

One of the tragedies of Mom’s last few months was her “kidnapping” by a hospital 30 miles from home, which held her captive, in restraints, and under guard for five days without notifying her family. One night before the long Memorial Day weekend, she was sent to an ER by her Alzheimer’s care home for a checkup after a fall from bed tore a little skin on her forearm. She didn’t want to go, but no one listened because she had dementia and couldn’t speak well and it was the home’s protocol. The ER physician ignored her Advance Directive and all of her attempts to refuse treatment, calling this tiny woman “extremely combative,” “severely demented,” “extremely agitated,” with “strong, purposeful movements” that indicated “she wanted to be left alone.”

So he knocked her out with a sedative. He made a mistake in reading her medication chart from the care home, and he wrongly thought she was receiving the sedative all the time. His boo-boo put Mom in a coma and practically made her heart stop. The hospital admitted her without calling anyone on her emergency contact list or looking at her Advance Directive (which said in several ways, don’t do this shit to me!).

For the next five days, this woman who couldn’t put three words together, unable to ask for help, tried to express herself by attempting to pull out the IV and catheter, so they tied her hands up. Then she tried to leave the bed with her hands in restraints, so they put a guard in her room. Finally, all she could do was spit out the pills they put in her mouth.

I found out what had happened to Mom the day before my usual weekly visit to her home. The treating physician, a nice guy, wanted to do an invasive test, so he just looked at the cover sheet on her file, picked up the phone and called us. She cried when she saw us. When the doctor finally read her Advance Directive, he declared her terminal and called in hospice.

I’ve spent six months researching the law and consulting lawyers. The lesson is this: If you have dementia and find yourself in a hospital, you don’t have civil rights. You can have all kinds of legal documents to protect yourself from whatever those medical strangers want to do to you, but there is no law in the entire country or in any state that says you, the impaired human being, have the fundamental civil rights to self-determination, legal representation, or refusal of treatment. Those rights are spelled out and granted to every class of citizen in the United States, except the incapacitated adult in a medical hospital. There are suggestions in statutes that hospitals “respect” you and notify your next of kin, but every day, across the U.S., handicapped people are treated like my mother was.

Thank God, I’ve connected with a law professor who sees this situation at work, and who has helped draft laws in California to protect the rights of patients in nursing homes, mental hospitals, and prisons. What happened to my mother, he says, can set a precedent in this country and make a difference in the lives of other people. Just because he likes being a champion for others, he’s sitting in Florida during his university break, studying my mom’s case, all the records I can send him, and all the pertinent court decisions. Hallelujah! Thank you, Mort!

Now that I’ve told you more than you want to know about that, here’s the poem that begged to be written before sunrise today. God’s blessings on your new year.

The Fence of Words

I have become an observer of pain, she said
stirring cream into a mug of Italian roasted coffee
until it is the warm color of a graham cracker

She looks nothing like a lover of Marquis de Sade
in her Mickey Mouse sweatshirt and ruffled blond hair, yet
I have become an observer of pain, she said

then freezes in the kitchen with a grimace, eyes screwed
shut, the coffee spoon a conductor’s baton
Fire, she said, white lightning, nuclear fission

from tailbone to buttocks to the front of the thighs
the atoms split! Still as stone she peers into the cave
within, a seer in a white sweatshirt holding a spoon

I have become an observer of pain, she said
I describe its incarnations, I voice them for you
our brothers and sisters, so we may know the beast

that assaults us, corral it with a fence of words
contain it, name it, explain it, tame it maybe
Be it a heart or a bone, once known, we can bear it.

Albert Einstein Quotes