Sunday, June 26, 2011

Music Opinions, 2 cents' worth

Music is the most powerful form of art. It beats out painting and poetry and all the rest of the arts, in my opinion. Sometimes I base my opinions on study and research but with music, my opinion rests entirely on my emotions because that’s how music communicates with me. The sound of it bypasses my intellect and goes straight to the beating heart. That’s why I rate music as the highest art form. Minds are such dicey things.

I don’t deny an intellectual awareness of a given piece of music can enhance your experience of it. I’m thinking here about Leonard Cohen and some of Bob Dylan’s work. But my brain is not required to lift a finger as music evokes those powerful emotions ~ sadness, joy, spiritual uplift, melancholy, peace, whatever. The succession of notes creates an emotional response.

Sometimes I’ve wished that I could compose music instead of poetry. The composer doesn’t have to worry if the words he used to paint a scene strike the right chord or not. The poet has to contend with the fact that every word and statement will be filtered by unknown readers, and she is powerless over those filters. Poetry is heavily dependent on the conscious awareness and mental processes of each individual reader. Take the simple word “mother,” for example, in a sentence like “the mother stood at the sink / contemplating her hands.” I might mean it to be a meditation of the labor of motherhood, but your history with a sharp-tongued, very vain mother, for example, will arouse a completely different miasma of feelings.

Anyway, this week’s Poetry Jam is musical and directed by Brian of Waystation One. He asks that we write a poem inspired by a song or using a line from a song. I offer a piece that was inspired by Sarah Brightman’s “Il mio cuore va.” I didn’t know what the words meant when I wrote the poem since I don’t speak Italian and I didn’t know the English translation of this love song from the Titanic (“My Heart Will Go On”) until I Goggled them this afternoon. Her voice, then, was an instrument like an oboe or a cello creating an emotional reaction to the idea of long-term love.

Look at It This Way

this is you
this is her
twin threads twining in space
up and up andupandup
sinuous as snakes
the dance of the double helix
making life grow high

this is you
this is her
round notes soaring
high and round as the moon
in a purple sky
full of light a bird in flight
a waltz of wind and feather
mounting waves of air

this is you
this is her
a swelling-rising-rearing-
crashing wave
shatters on the sand
and the sand soothes
calms and suckles
a soft sighing washing smooth
the rough edges and the fury

this is you
this is her
strong arms gripping
across the precipice of loneliness
strong limbs bowing with the wind
strong lines moored in heavy seas
above all holding fast
in the face of all storms

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Invasion of Disgusting Bugs!

Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
~ Victor Hugo
So there I was, getting ready to go to sleep in peace after my first, full day of being “up and at ‘em” since getting sick. I thought, “Just a quick glance at the basil pots, see if I’ve missed any snails.” So out to the patio I shuffled in my slippers, flashlight in hand.

A strange sheen on the leaves of the potted plants underneath the crepe myrtle tree greeted me. Hm. I reached out and rubbed a finger on a leaf, an act that met with sticky resistance. Oh, dear. I got a bad feeling about this. I aimed the flashlight up into the crepe myrtle, and OMG! An infestation of something insectoid, adults and eggs all over the underside of leaves, dripping with bug juice.

There went my desire for sleep. I wish to don my black leather killing gear and launch an all-out assault on the crepe myrtle. If those bugs travel to my dahlias, it’s over. But reality chimed in: It’s late and you’re tired, Chrissie-poo. You don’t know what they are or what treatment will destroy them. And no, you may not grab the axe and chop down the tree.

So there I am, hitting Google, sleuthing with anxiety. So there God is, awake as promised by Victor Hugo. God is a gardener, did you know? The original gardener. My sorrow ranks among the small ones, so I ask him please keep an eye on things. I’m going to have to let this go until tomorrow. I will wade into the insect army single-handed at dawn, Backyard Ramba with both barrels firing!

About the photo: Not copyrighted, not taken by me, not even the insect that infests my tree, but something similar is afoot.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Epiphany in a Parking Lot

It didn’t even occur to me that I was sick the past few days, as I slept a great deal and spent the waking periods in physical discomfort. Preceding all of this were a couple of unusual events: first, I cleaned house like mad in a late spring-cleaning frenzy, and second, I had two incidents of intense nausea. The latter I attributed to low blood sugar and the former I blamed for the ensuing physical discomfort, although what house-cleaning has to do with gastrointestinal distress, I don’t have a clue.

Then Wednesday evening, a friend mentioned her husband had been laid low by some sort of contagious bug. A friend of his had suffered from it earlier and apparently passed it on. I asked what the symptoms were and learned they were precisely what I was experiencing.

I guess I’ve been sick. But I seem to have slept as much as my body can take for now, so I tackled a poem that I’ve been wanting to post here, about an epiphany I had in a parking lot recently. With a little whack, whack, it has become a tale told in 55 words, as required by the Friday Flash 55 club hosted by the world-renowned G-Man, Mr. Knowitall Himself. Hie thee over there to see how succinctly people can tell stories.

The sign on the van
with its giant capital M on MEAT
like a shark’s yawning mouth

made me remember how badly
you wanted to devour me
on our first date

and there at the Mobil gas station
I realized I escaped
in the nick of time
oh so long ago

About the photo: Just an odd sculpture I saw on my trek to Northern California last month.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Day My Mother Said Goodbye to Me

I found something wonderful in my document file today. I wrote it a year ago, after discovering my mother had been trapped in a hospital for five days without the notification of her family. When I found her there, I showed the treating physician her Advance Directive, and he promptly ordered hospice care for her (she had developed pneumonia while at the hospital) and released her back to her care home. This is what I wrote on the afternoon of her release:

Out of these five long years spent by you in the relentless grip of Alzheimer’s Disease, when mostly what I’ve known of you is summed up in “disintegration,” I want to remember how you glowed today as we made plans for your dying. Your small, dwindled self lay curled on your bed and barely rumpled the spread, but your face was beautiful, in its ancient joy to see me. You stared up at me in blue-eyed brightness, as you listened, heard, and answered in your right brain, not your wrong one. You smiled and smiled at me, and at the staff that attends your death, and over and over you said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

I asked you how you felt, and you said, beaming, “It’s wonderful!” It was wonderful to have you back among the living for those few hours, after we had signed the orders to let you die. You laughed about eating ice cream for lunch, and you held my hand.

At one point you looked up at me, as I leaned over you saying something to you, and you reached up both hands and laid them softly on my face, cupping it in your hands. We smiled at each other. Were you saying goodbye, Mom? I understood your message of love, and gratitude maybe, or maybe just a cherishing of me. It made my spirit soar. I will remember this, Mom.

After Alzheimer’s destroyed you,
you had one glowing day, clear as sunshine,
when your blue eyes twinkled at me.
Your face was beautiful in its ancient joy.
You reached up and cupped my face
in your hands, smiling and studying me.
It’s wonderful you said, and I knew
what you meant.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Don’t Tell the Children

The summer solstice is a cruel irony. I spent an hour with my aged Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (copyright 1987) after writing that sentence. I love words to the point of obsession sometimes.

Solstice is from the Latin “solstitium,” meaning “sun + to come to a stop.” The summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, the day when the sun stops its day-lengthening climb in the sky, falls officially on June 21. I looked up “irony” as well. The meaning I was after was listed as definition 3 a (1): incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.

The 13-line explanation of “irony” is the longest definition of an “i” word in 16 columns of words between “inversion” (14 lines long, a reversal of position) and the final word, “izzard” (a noun, probably from Middle French, meaning the letter z). I discovered a good new word in there: irrefragable (of Latin origin), meaning “impossible to refute or to break, as in arguments or rules.”

I’m joining the Poetry Jam today, which is why the emphasis is on summer. With the solstice, summer begins, but from this point onward, the hours of daylight begin to recede. For some reason, I feel a tad cheated by that. You’ll find more summery attitudes here.

Children do not know
cruel irony underlies
the summer solstice
like the grass
beneath the sprinkler
through which they run
screaming with joy
in the hot June sun.
Summer’s freedom
has begun, stretching
out as far as they can see
in its eternal
In truth
the solstice
marks the end
of growing light.
From this apex
summer days begin
their inexorable march
to autumn and its equinox
a clandestine waning
of the sun.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Suicide’s Collateral Damage

When I was in a psychiatric treatment facility for major depression five years ago, I was appalled by a terror tactic used by one of the docs. He had asked me, “Do you love your children?” and I had said of course I do but they had nothing to do with my depression. He then informed me that the offspring of parents who commit suicide are statistically more likely to commit suicide themselves, and he asked me sternly, “Do you want that legacy for your children?”

Hell, no, I told him. He told me to think about the statistics next time I was suicidal. “If you don’t wish suicide on your children, don’t wish it on yourself either,” he said.

I thought he had a pretty unusual approach to dealing with my depression. He didn’t do a thing to help the depression itself, but that was the last time I gave any serious thought to offing myself. So his method of suicide prevention was 100 percent effective.

Two years ago, a friend of mine killed himself. He was a brilliant guy, and he had kids. On Saturday his teenage daughter killed herself, using her father’s method, after her boyfriend broke up with her. I just saw her death notice in the paper.

Just now I did a search on the “statistics” referred to by that doctor. I found them in a Johns Hopkins study of 300,000 Swedish kids, published in 2010. Those who had lost a parent to suicide were THREE TIMES more likely to commit suicide than offspring of living parents.

If just one depressed parent reads this and, like me, forsakes the idea of suicide as a solution for a living problem, then maybe my friend’s daughter’s death will save another child’s life someday.

I wrote two poems when my friend died two years ago. One of them, titled “Collateral Damage,” addressed his suicide’s impact on his family and it is too horrible to read now. Here’s the other poem.

How Much More Loving Did You Need?

We met in the park
two hundred people
maybe more
who loved you

The sun blazed
in the blue sky
Big white clouds
drifted by
It was March
cold in the shadows

One of your family
read Kaddish
You never told me
you were Jewish
You never told me
many things

I waited to read
my eulogy for you
It would have
made you laugh
Then I saw
that park bench
where you
made me laugh

I know you would
have stopped it
if only you had seen
four hundred eyes
loving you

I know I would
have saved you
on that bench
if only I had known
you needed saving
from that black
hole your heart
dropped into
while I laughed

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cat Humor

I am simply blown away by how many little flying bugs are out tonight. When I came home from dinner with friends at twilight, a plague of no-see-ums was waiting at my house to assault me on the short walk to the front door. Their little bodies had weight, too, striking my face like tiny kamikazes.

Even my cat Kate was wondering the hell was flying around as she took her ease on the couch in my sunroom. Outside was abuzz.

Inside was abuzz.

What the heck was that?

I am grateful as all get-out that someone invented screens for windows. Otherwise, I would have to flee. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pick My Cherries, Please

This is not what my cherries look like, but it's the photo prompt I picked for this week’s Poetry Jam session.

Prayer to My Cherry Tree

Cherry, cherry, quite contrary,
why do you in my garden grow
apace with a snail made merry
on Quaaludes with boulders in tow?

It seems your ripening has stalled
as the days till summer have flown.
I’ve stood so long my head’s gone bald
and several deep wrinkles have grown.

I feel as if I were drowning
deep in my salivary glands.
I sure wish you would quit clowning
and put some cherries in my hands.

The cherries in my tree make me salivate.

Prayer works. These are the cherries plucked by my hot little hands.
Thank you, tree.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

After You Left

After You Left

My dog whines for you
After you have driven away
In a fit of rage
I hit him on the head with a book
And insanely yell
I walk away with the sound
Of the collision
Roaring in my ears
I shoot the dog a look
Feeling mean
He ducks his head
His brown eyes go dark with something
I don’t want to know
But I do


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Inner Weather

Around here in June, they say if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes. I thought about that today, not because of the outdoor weather, although it’s been reliably irregular, but because of what it’s like to be a human being.

My inner weather is whimsical, affected by the least little breeze stirred up by outside circumstances. One of the things that attracts me about Alcoholics Anonymous is its promise that I can lead a life of serenity in spite of what happens around me and to me, if I stay focused on gratitude and helping others.

Live in an attitude of gratitude, they told me as a newcomer. You don’t just have a drinking problem; you have a THINKING problem. Your head is not your friend even though it’s attached to your neck. Address the problem of the mind, and you’ll straighten out, physically and mentally.

All of that, I’ve found in my experience to be true. But it does take work. Ten minutes after an uplifting AA meeting, I can be a sad sack all over again because a foul breeze blew in from outside. Someone looks at me wrong, my shoelace breaks, I have to do something that I don’t enjoy.
This week a woman said she fell into a bad place in her head and it made her start isolating at home, where nothing got any better, surprise, surprise. A man said he got a bill that was higher than he expected, and he was bummed out about it big time.

It takes so little to make our emotional weather go south on us. I have a lot of aches and pains this week, I’m fatigued by a new medication, gosh, life is hard. Next thing I know, I’m oblivious to all the grace in my life.

I’m working with a new sponsor, who has assigned me the task of maintaining a written gratitude list that I add to daily. I’m not batting 1000 in that area. But it has made me conscious of my inner weather. Today, I’m grateful for food in my refrigerator, for the way cats’ eyes change in the light, for living in a home that has flowers blooming in the yard. A foul breeze may in the next instant blow that gratitude all to hell, but hey, I can start all over again!

Each day brings its own bucket of challenges. I’m grateful for the 12-Step program tools that keep us going when life happens. I couldn’t do life alone. Without my AA fellowship, I’d be stuck in my head like a shoe in a dryer. I haven’t had a shoe in the dryer in a long time. Thanks, God.

The photos in this post are snapshots of northern California taken on my trip to visit my niece. Thank you, God, for landscapes.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Diamond-Seeking Cat Updated

The fickle sun popped out of the clouds for minute, so here's a look at the ice. Thank you, Pouncer.
This is Pouncer. He’s a diamond-seeking cat. I would show you all the diamonds I found last weekend at my niece’s wonderful house except that it’s raining here, in my neck of the woods, so the light’s not good for a photo. But I’ll show you the cat at work.
Receives instructions from his mistress.
There are diamonds over here.
I saw some over there last week.
Follow me. More diamonds this way.
Wait. I’m lost.
Oh. There you are.
Here’s a nice little gem.
Mistress directs skip loader to load the goods.

Enough of this. It’s time for a poem. Dana of The Bug’s Eye View calls for water, for swimming or something like it, for this week’s Poetry Jam session. I worked on something I started two years ago on the last day of a vacation at Club Med in Cancun. I like thinking about the Caribbean, so I offer this:

Moon Over Cancun

A silver road on black water
leads from our balcony to the white ball of moon
hovering over ghostly cruise ships that plow
to and fro on the horizon.

La luna de miel
said our guide in Tulum when I asked
What is the Spanish for honeymoon?
He gave me the literal moon of honey
and I savor it tonight
as the laughter of others
dialogues with palm trees
rattling their fronds in the warm breeze.
Northward the city is a necklace of lights
that launches diamonds into the sky
with the roar of jet engines
followed by the wink of stars.

You are el sol, the guide said to you,
and to me, You are la luna
two separate, who make One complete.
He cradled his hands on his chest
and sighed for us. We have been married so long
I had forgotten that.

Now I remember. We have spent days
in turquoise water
and our skin is still hot
with the equatorial sun.
We have been together so long we don’t care
if we touch. Longevity has freed us
from the lies we once told as lovers
to inflate our value—You’re the first…
the only one…Before you I never

We have spent days on the white sand
passing shells between our toes
and we have not told
one lie.

Today I set free the seashells
collected in these days on the beach,
released them to the waves grasping at the shore.
See them scurrying back to the sea, you said.
I remember now
in the light of the moon of honey,
the truth about you,
why I married you eons ago.
If I told you that I walked on water
you would say yes my big beautiful girl you

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Geysers, Glasses, Gray Skies

There's a geyser in this photo. It looks like a small cloud-like tornado in the mountains in the upper left quadrant. This is the view my niece and her family are treated to at their home in northern California. They have diamonds on the ground (see previous post below) and geysers in the mountains, and it's all very beautiful. I wanted to stay with them longer, but responsibilities called at home.

While I was lounging on their deck, I remembered something I heard last week, and I wrote a poem about it. The poem just happened to be 55 words long and qualify as a Friday Flash 55. If you want to tell a story in exactly 55 words, post it and go tell the host with the most, the G-Man.

Confession of a Self-Aware Man

I own my own darkness
he said
I don’t blame it on you
It isn’t your fault
I see the glass is half-empty
though spring water
gurgles around me

In the blue mountains
with the green valley
spread out below
it is the gray sky I see
pushing me down
into the darkness
underlying everything

Albert Einstein Quotes