Thursday, May 24, 2018

Poetry Thursday, actually Quote Thursday - still working on this virtue

Difficult times have helped me 
to understand better than before, 
how infinitely rich and beautiful 
life is in every way, and 
that so many things that 
one goes worrying about 
are of no importance whatsoever.

~Isak Dinesen

I get to spend time with my nephew this weekend. It is bittersweet. I cannot be with him and not think of his mother. This trip we will be celebrating the milestone of finishing middle school. These milestone events are the hardest. Though we do our best to be substitute moms while still being aunts, as sisters our hearts break into a million pieces that she is not here to witness her baby's accomplishments.

Last year we watched her daughter graduate from college. I had my mom bring the small heart filled with my sister's ashes to the ceremony. We each took turns holding on to it during the ceremony. I cannot put into words the pain associated with just acknowledging that she is not here, that there are so many important events in the lives of her babies (and ours) that she did not get to witness.

So, this quote is especially timely today. There is no amount of worry that will bring her back or change the fact that she did not get to be here for this. It is beyond important to understand the richness and beauty of life. And the difficult time and the pain just has to be borne.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Poetry Thursday ... actually quote Thursday

Where you are understood, 
     you are at home. 
         nourishes belonging. 
When you really 
         feel understood, 
you feel free to
     release yourself into 
     the trust and shelter of
     the other person's soul. 

― John O'Donohue
    Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Monday, May 14, 2018

Black and orange like me, part 1 (brainstorming)

The other day I was walking to an event on Princeton campus.

It was an event I had been looking forward to attending. Still, that familiar dread was spreading across my body, radiating out from my heart.

Still, I put one foot in front of the other along my way.

In my mind's eye, I began to see a scene from Out of Africa. It is near the end of the movie. Karen is sitting in her living room on a suitcase. Around her all the possessions she has not sold are in various states of packing. It is a huge room, and she seems small in it. She has the phonograph that Denys gave her, and it is playing something. She is eating dinner or drinking tea. Denys enters the room, and we swoon, hoping he will save her even though he isn't that kind of guy. Instead, she saves herself (again). She asks him if he wants to help her play a game. When she thinks she can't go on, she does one more thing (to make it worse we almost hear her say). And so she asks Denys to dance. She puts on a record, and they dance, first in the room and then outside onto the lawn with whatever was not sold.

I am not getting the words right.

But it is that sentiment ... I can't go through one more trauma/emotion/setback, and then I take a breath, and I do.

So, here I was breathing and getting ready to plunge into a room full of rah rah alumni. Black and orange would be sported by all in some fashion (except me... only black and white and a rust jacket I never put on, that was as close to orange and black I could go).

Being on campus is like walking through a graveyard for me.  Unlike my love for visiting cemeteries, walking a graveyard is not a pleasurable sensation. I think of it more like a place where the bones are exposed, not of neat rows of ornate or simple or tender remembrances of beloved people.

The graveyard is like a junkyard of discarded wrecks, you never know what horrifying sight will be around the corner, jolting you back to some memory of trauma. Even if they are not your memories, they sting. The crumpled car, like the one the mothers put out before prom, meant to remind teens that some decisions have irreversible consequence. Worst of all, the trauma may be contained within sweet memories that turned out to be rotten at their core.

Even though I am the only one who appears to catch glimpses of these wrecks or exposed skeletons, my sense is that they demand to be seen.

I hear whispers from every corner, reminding me of my time there, but I suspect that there are other whispers, too, that clamor for attention. "If she can hear the whispers of her own trauma, perhaps she can hear mine, too," they seem to wonder. The pain is palpable, and it can be overwhelming.

Some days I have the strength to listen to the whispers, to let them transport me back to that day or days, to envelope me in the memory whether sweet or sour. Other days, I skirt the university, purposely walk through a newer area (less chance for there to be a memory lingering there) or go out of my way not to touch campus at all, even if it means an extra mile.

Some days, even though I know I will tempt the ghosts, I walk on to campus to something that has been given a chance at new life, like West College now called Morrison Hall. I touch the plaque, take photos of it, try to fit a new memory into that space. Try to give myself some safe spaces to mark my way across campus in future.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Poetry Thursday - double

I had the privilege of hearing these two poets read last week... I think it was last week, the days run together ... in any case, great stuff.


~Christopher Soto
                  for Dad

I’m writing you
            10 years later
     & 2,000 miles
                     Away from
     Our silence
My mouth a cave
                That had collapsed
         I’m writing
 While you
You wear the
                  Hospital gown &
          count failures
Such as the body’s
Inability to rise
           I see your fingers
Fumbling in the
       Pillbox     as if
           Earthquakes are in
Your hands
             I think it’s time
For us to  abandon
Our cruelties
          For us to speak
So     s    o    f    t
We’re barely

 ~Natalie Diaz
My whole life I have obeyed it—
            its every hunting. I move beneath it
            as a jaguar moves, in the dark-
                          liquid blading of shoulder.
The opened-gold field and glide of the hand,
            light-fruited, and scythe-lit.
I have come to this god-made place—
           Teotlachco, the ball court—
           because the light called: lightwards!
                        and dwells here, Lamp-land.   
           We touch the ball of light
           to one another—split bodies stroked bright—
                                    Light reshapes my lover’s elbow,
           a brass whistle.
I put my mouth there—mercy-luxed, and come, we both,
           to light. It streams me.
           A rush of scorpions—
                        fast-light. A lash of breath—
           Light horizons her hip—springs an ocelot
           cut of chalcedony and magnetite.
                       Hip, limestone and cliffed,
slopes like light into her thigh—light-box, skin-bound.
           Wind shakes the calabash,
           disrupts the light to ripple—light-struck,
                       then scatter.
This is the war I was born toward, her skin,
           its lake-glint. I desire—I thirst—
           to be filled—light-well.
The light throbs everything, and songs
           against her body, girdling the knee bone.
           Our bodies—light-harnessed, light-thrashed.
                       The bruising: bilirubin bloom,
A work of all good yokes—blood-light—
           to make us think the pain is ours
           to keep, light-trapped, lanterned.
                       I asked for it. I own it—
I am light now, or on the side of light—
           light-head, light-trophied.
           Light-wracked and light-gone.

           Still, the sweet maize—an eruption
           of light, or its feast,
                       from the stalk
                                    of my lover’s throat.
And I, light-eater, light-loving.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Not so small victories

homage to my hips
By Lucille Clifton
these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,  
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

Lucille Clifton, “homage to my hips” from Good Woman. Copyright © 1987 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.
Source: Good Woman (BOA Editions Ltd., 1987)
Borrowed from Poetry Foundation

Today I mark 12 weeks of re-learning to eat healthy (and love the body I am in at any weight).

My not so small victory is that I have lost 20 lbs.

I am trying to change my relationship with food ... not just that I want to eat healthier foods. I want to use food as nourishment. I want to taste my food. I want the meals that I eat to feel satisfying.

I realized not so long ago (in relationship to my time on earth), maybe ten years ago, that I was an emotional eater. I realized it while I was on a meditation retreat. Going deep into myself caused me great anxiety, and I discovered that I tried to take refuge in food. Shoveling is what I called it.

What I didn't understand at the time was that coping with anxiety was not the only time I was compelled to shovel food.  [Subsequently I shoveled when sad, angry, grieving.]

I also did not connect shoveling with feeling deeply unsatisfied. I didn't note how I could not taste the food as I shoveled.

I thought the not tasting and not feeling satisfied had to do with how fast I eat.

I don't know if I will ever master mindful eating, especially as it pertains to slowing down the eating process.

But I can now say that after eating not just healthy but really good tasting food for the last 12 weeks (mostly thanks to my amazing housemates), I notice when I feel unsatisfied and when I don't taste the food.

It has nothing to do with what I am eating and everything to do with my emotional state.

I am getting much better at noticing my emotions; and my discomfort at having to deal with so many emotions.  Noticing the food I eat, tasting the flavor, feeling satisfied and nourished, is one way that I have accomplished this.

I am still working on how to more effectively feel my emotions. That is to say, how to allow my emotions to move through me without trying to stifle them by numbing.

I am learning to notice the desire to be satisfied and how food does not bring the salve my coping mechanism had led me to believe it would.

This not so insignificant victory of shedding unnecessary weight is a leap forward on loving myself, feeding my body and soul, and treating myself in the ways that will keep me on this road to self love.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Liars lie

Liars lie
It's what they do
And when they are caught
They lie some more

Liars lie
It's what they do
The webs more intricate
The lies more perverse

Liar lie
And they blame
And they duck
And they weave

What do we call the people who believe them?

Poetry Thursday

All of Us
 ~Erika L. Sánchez

Every day I am born like this—
No chingues. Nothing happens
for the first time. Not the neon
sign that says vacant, not the men
nor the jackals who resemble them.
I take my bones inscribed by those
who came before, and learn
to court myself under a violence
of stars. I prefer to become demon,
what their eyes cannot. Half of me
is beautiful, half of me is a promise
filled with the quietest places.
Every day I pray like a dog
in the mirror and relish the crux
of my hurt. We know Lilith ate
the bones of her enemies. We know
a bitch learns to love her own ghost.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Poetry Thursday for the cruelest month

A Gate
 ~Donna Masini

I have oared and grieved,
grieved and oared,
treading a religion
of fear. A frayed nerve.
A train wreck tied to the train
of an old idea.
Now, Lord, reeling in violent
times, I drag these tidal
griefs to this gate.
I am tired. Deliver
me, whatever you are.
Help me, you who are never
near, hold what I love
and grieve, reveal this green
evening, myself, rain,
drone, evil, greed,
as temporary. Granted
then gone. Let me rail,
revolt, edge out, glove
to the grate. I am done
waiting like some invalid
begging in the nave.
Help me divine
myself, beside me no Virgil
urging me to shift gear,
change lane, sing my dirge
for the rent, torn world, and love
your silence without veering
into rage.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

April again

[April 18]
First there were días nefastos. And those were hard enough. 

Excruciating if I am going to be honest. 

I would do any thing to numb myself, food, drink, binge tv, sleep if I could manage it. And if I could get through those days without crawling up into a ball on the floor then I could make it through the month. 

But then April struck again and again, with a vengeance unimaginable if you haven't suffered loss after loss. 

It really is like trying to keep your head above water as the waves crash around you and the riptide tries to pull you out into the ocean of grief. 

The valiant thing would be to face the grief. But the truth is I don't always feel I have the strength. 

I was taught to not cry. I was taught to be the toughie as my dad calls me. 

For better or worse I also carry in my DNA the tendency to hold things in. And to explode when I cannot stand completely still or can no longer keep the lid on. 

Picture the bottle of soda exploding. A bottle because it is clear And you can see the eruption coming. 

In the past five years I have sometimes practiced not exploding. Noticing and holding back even as I could feel the emotions course through my body: back pain, stomach aches, stiff neck and painful jaw.

No matter how hard to try to hold back the tide, it comes. 

Explosions inside your body are painful. And dangerous. 

[April 19]
The first tears are the hardest. They cut. Hot, painful, angry tears.

If I get one out, the anguish of getting it out leaves me exhausted.

I fight the urge to get through that first tear like a baby fighting sleep: irrational, angry, self-destructive.

A friend had asked me, maybe more than once, what I had planned to do. She asked what support did I need. I was confused.

It is not that I had forgotten. It was that I was trying so hard to forget. Work had obliged piling insane amounts of tasks in front of me. I greedily volunteered to do more work! What a team player.

But then I was just hiding. 

And feeling grumpy.

Something stupid happened at work. I left super late. I was upset as I walked to my car (oops to the parking lot where I usually park but hadn't parked).

Everything felt stacked against me. Hot tears in my eyes for no apparent reason.

Then I remembered. It was five years since I had talked with my sister. 

And the memories came flooding back, but not like memories, like the most vivid deja vu you have every experienced.

I remembered the pit in my stomach when my brother called to tell me that my sister was in the hospital. I had just sat down at my favorite cafe to work. Work was not easily achieved at this point only seven months in from my brother's death. Quiet time to work usually set me down the grief spiral. But I had been determined to work, to be productive, to concentrate long enough on something to make progress.

I breathed deeply and tried to talk myself off of the ledge.

I called my sister's phone, and she picked up. She gave me the briefest version of what was going on ... the doctors did not know what it was. She sounded tired. She sounded scared. But like the dutiful older sister, she pivoted the conversation. I told her about my committee giving me a hard time about setting up meetings so that I could move forward with my exams. [I had already had to postpone them after my brother died. Seriously, though, what was I thinking, I couldn't focus for an hour, how was I going to make it through seven days of writing their three damned papers?]

She told me how sorry she was that they were making it so hard for me.

She comforted me.

That is exactly who she was ... not wanting to talk about her own grief over our brother or her fear about this mysterious illness. [Now we all wonder if this wasn't her body exploding because she did not talk about the grief.]

Tears streamed down my face as the memories flooded ... not the hot tears that fight their way out of my eyes. These were the faucets tears, they stream right down my face, no strangled breath, no heaving chest, no visible emotion, just the tears channeling rivers down my face, splashing onto my glasses and creating wet spots on my shirt.

If my tears could work this way on the regular, maybe ...

[April 24]
For the next several days, I said aloud I was grieving to quite a few people.

Yes, I do want an award for that. It is hard.

Maybe it is especially hard for me to ask for help.

Maybe I just needed to say aloud that I was grieving so I could encourage myself to continue to walk through that door.

It did not get easier to relive the horror of those days five years ago. There is no closure to be had.

But it did get somewhat easier to release some of the grief through tears... usually at 4 am which is weird and tiring.  I spent the entire week exhausted. I hid from people over the weekend.

I want to acknowledge that beyond being really hard, I was able to notice pleasant.

I take them as signs from the universe encouraging me to be grateful that I am breathing in and out regardless of how much pain I feel.

There was the gray fox waiting for me to pass by on the road home.

Of course, the dog and cat greeting me everyday with their comfort, sometimes portrayed as their need for attention.

There were all the pink trees and flowers blooming because spring has finally sprung.

There were countless check in texts and messages reminding me that I am loved.

And there were these signs, chalked strategically outside my home ... I know they were not meant for me, but they sure felt like they were speaking to me on that day. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Poetry Thursday

A Moment
 ~Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

The clouds had made a crimson crown
  About the mountains high.
The stormy sun was going down
  In a stormy sky.

Why did you let your eyes so rest on me,
  And hold your breath between?
In all the ages this can never be
  As if it had not been.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Poetry Thursday, Rumi

Rise up nimbly 
and go 
on your strange journey 
to the ocean of meanings.... 
and don’t look away 
from the sun 
as you go, 
in whose light 
you’re sometimes crescent, 
sometimes full. 

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Poetry Thursday

Why Whales Are Back in New York City
 ~Rajiv Mohabir

After a century, humpbacks migrate
again to Queens. They left
due to sewage and white froth

banking the shores from polychlorinated-
biphenyl-dumping into the Hudson
and winnowing menhaden schools.

But now grace, dark bodies of song
return. Go to the seaside—

Hold your breath. Submerge.
A black fluke silhouetted
against the Manhattan skyline.

Now ICE beats doors
down on Liberty Avenue
to deport. I sit alone on orange

A train seats, mouth sparkling
from Singh’s, no matter how
white supremacy gathers

at the sidewalks, flows down
the streets, we still beat our drums
wild. Watch their false-god statues

prostrate to black and brown hands.
They won’t keep us out
though they send us back.

Our songs will pierce the dark
fathoms. Behold the miracle:

what was once lost
now leaps before you.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Poetry Thursday, Still Women's History Month

Landscape with Written Statement
 ~Lynn Melnick

You wrap my ribs in gauze—
an experiment with the word tenderly

after your hands left my throat too bruised to speak.

While winter sun squints at the ghost flower
dying in its shabby terra cotta

far from home

men tell me to be honest about my role in the incident:

Okay, yes
I should have stayed inside

while you railed from the sidewalk

but my confused heart got into the car.

What happened is
I once spent too much time in the desert

so pogonip seems glamorous hung stuck in the trees
like when blood dries on skin

and I want to wear it

out for an evening,
pat my hands over its kinky path down my face

because: f*** you,

you didn’t find me here.
I brought you here.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Rallying for Their Lives

[sometimes I put something in the draft folder and forget...]
I attended the March for Our Lives rally in Princeton this weekend.

Here are some of the pictures from the crowd.

I was late. After rising too early for a weekend, I had to go visit the vampires in anticipation of my yearly physical. I walked to and from the lab, racking up 3 miles before 9:30am. I was so tired, once home, I crawled back into bed to rest.

I was late. But I arrived in time to hear the last of the students giving their statements and rallying calls.

I wish I had heard them all.

They are our future ... and if these students represent the best of their generation, I am impressed.

I am hopeful.

I am grateful.

We need hope in our future right now, we need it more than anything else.
[after the rally, folks dropped their signs in front of the Panera, site of a shooting just the week before. The restaurant was closed "for remodeling" at the time. The signs were all gone the next morning, but I think this was an awesome impromptu message.]

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Poetry Thursday, courtesy of a friend

We delight in the beauty
of the butterfly
but rarely admit the changes 
it has gone through 
to achieve that beauty.
~Maya Angelou

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Poetry Thursday, Women's History Month

 ~Sara Teasdale

Life has loveliness to sell,
   All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
   Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder in a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
   Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
   Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
   Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
   Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstacy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Poetry Thursday, Rumi returns

I want to sing 
like the birds sing, 
not worrying about 
who hears or 
what they think.


Friday, March 02, 2018

Not Poetry Thursday, Still Black History Month

 ~Rickey Laurentiis

I could string him back up the tree, if you’d like.
     Return his skin’s meaning to an easy distance, coal dust, blaze
And Willie Brown him. You
     Love how the blood muddies the original,
The way it makes a stage of my speechifying, this leeching
     Capital from his dying,
Like an activist. I know

I’m not supposed to sing

Of his ringing
     Penetrability, some hole I open impose
On the form—but all I see is bullets, bullets discerning him,
     As years ago it was rope.
I could pull it tighter, finger each bullet deeper,
     If you’d like, an inch rougher,
Far enough to where becomes that second heat, erotic.

I could use the erotic,

If you’d like,
     So ungarish, baring not too frank
A mood, subtle so you need it.— Funny
     How some dark will move illicit if you close your eyes,
The way, say, my black
     Pleasure is named too explicit for a page, but this menace
I put in it is not.

I could yank and knot

The rope, if you’d like, him like a strange fragment
     In them trees,
And the word “again” spelled out about his neck
     Would be the rope’s predicate till let wild, patterned and
Fierce his moan.
     It is a tragedy. No. It is a sonnet, how I know
Already how he ends,

But I could make him

Her, if you’d like, regender them till merely
     Canvas for your “empathy,”
Soup for my mouth. Still, if I could but just get
     This blunt,
Burnt lynched body up
     From on
Out the pocket behind my eye

All trees could be themselves again, all sound.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Poetry Thursday

~Seamus Heaney, 1939 - 2013

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

For a while, I collected Nobel Laureates in literature ... ok, not collected the actual people or even their books, but their public appearances. It is something for which I will be forever indebted to Princeton. Mr. Heaney is one of them. Magical. And this poem is gorgeous.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


AKA Will you keep in touch?

She said, "Will you keep in touch?"

This was after She had already asked if I would come visit her, had offered me a car, and acted like She could get me an intro to someone who is already my colleague.

I was telling someone else about my birthday trip to Nashville and the deer herd when She chirped, "When is your birthday?" both inserting herself, unwelcome, into the conversation and demonstrating how little She remembered about me. I looked at her quizzically and answered, "February 2nd."

"Oh, you are an Aquarian like me?" She said, big smile (I should say big fake smile).

I can't remember my exact reply, but I insinuated that She should know that. If we were friends once, She would know that. The only reason to try to rekindle a relationship is if we were friends once.

"My memory is so bad," She cooed, and did the head tilt to reinforce how cute She is. Barf emoji.

Why does anyone think that claiming to have a bad memory is somehow a get out of jail free card?

I don't have a bad memory.

I remember with visual precision.  Maybe it is just my curse.

I remember in such a way that a song comes on, it will evoke the emotions as well as the actions I etched in my memory about a situation.

I remember words, deeds, promises, and missteps (theirs and mine).

Who, however, wouldn't remember the woman who slept with everyone's boyfriends, especially the boyfriends of women She claimed to feel really close to?

There is more, but there is no need for more than that.

When I reminded a mutual friend just who She was, that friend said, "It was twenty five years ago," (true) and "She was nice to me, to us, this weekend."

She, had, in fact, rescued mutual friend's husband from the side of the road with a flat tire, and bought said husband a new tire for the car.

She throws money and attention.

I looked from mutual friend to her husband and said, "Be careful. That's how She does it."

I continued, "She ingratiates herself. Then goes for the partner."

Mutual friend's husband said, "I did get a vibe." I couldn't tell if he was kidding, and neither could his wife, so she said, "Really?" He only nodded in assent; I guess he wasn't kidding.

Even though She was with her husband at the time; it is no matter.  She also dropped into at least one conversation that he was husband number four.  Like everyone else, expendable, replaceable, just holding space until the next one came along, etc.

She asked, "Will you keep in touch?" [Note She had never given me any contact info and I had not offered any either.]

I looked at her, again hoping She could read my mind so I wouldn't have to curse aloud at her. She did her head droop which I understood to mean please. "Sure," I answered with my most tentative voice.

She could have the winning numbers to the lottery and I wouldn't take them from her.