only blue drops dripping here
Ritual bath for aching souls
trying to understand their own calligraphy–
wet ink on bones.
only blue drops dripping here
Ritual bath for aching souls
trying to understand their own calligraphy–
wet ink on bones.
It is said that today, this evening is when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, those who have passed may walk among us.
Today I think about the recent talk I had with my son in the waxing hours of night. We talked long about my Dad–his grandfather–who we both love and miss. He had questions and worries and pain and I answered best I could, and those answers said aloud reaffirmed my beliefs. It all felt right. Perhaps he went back to sleep, but I stayed awake then slept in the middle of the day, my heart ringing with memory.
This morning I close my eyes and remember Halloween of the past, when me and my brother were kids. Mom got us our costumes at the store, but I do not remember which one. The cellophane came unglued from the cardboard boxes they were packed in by the time we got home. I am 100% sure I tried mine on and played with it before Halloween and got yelled at. We lived in a large development, apartments galore, and you would think we would come home king and queen of Halloween candy, but no. You would be wrong. Mom told us every year we could pick one. ONE. apartment house outside our own to trick or treat and that would be it for the day. Oh? Did you not know that we only trick or treated during the day? Yep. Too dangerous at night we were told. So we donned our paper-thin costumes, slipped on our masks, and knocked on our first door. It was exciting! Neighbors answered and tucked candy into our plastic pumpkins, a ritual that was wonderful outside the usual nod as we passed each other on the stairs, and I got to peep inside where they lived! One year I was Lady Liberty, another Cinderella, and my brother was a Firefighter and Chewbacca, if memory serves. Most neighbors gave us a good haul, and some slipped us pennies instead of candy. Our marauding ended at the kitchen table where Mom let all the air out of our tires: She picked through every piece of candy and threw out just about half of it because she said it didn’t look right. In those days there was fear of razors in candy apples and LSD on paper candy, so anything that looked open she tossed, no negotiating, THAT was the real horror! We clanked the pennies into our matching glass piggy banks which have gone I don’t know where… I used to eat candy corns color by color, first the tip, then the orange, then the base, one small bite at a time, because I’m really not sure why. And once we used to have a contest to see who could make their candy last the longest, and I think we both hit the “Thanksgiving” target.
One thing we don’t remember is Dad being with us. It was always Mom shuffling behind us down echoey dark hallways with us. I’m pretty sure it’s because Dad was working, or he was sleeping because his shift was in the middle of the night.
Dad moved us from the city filled with apartment complexes where Halloween candy and pennies and neighbors and friends were abundant to a field in the middle of nowhere, darker than hell and nobody around. Trick or treating became dead to us because there was no way Mom and Dad was going to pile us into the car and take us into “town” where the rest of the kids were trick or treating. Halloween died when we moved upstate.
When I became a Mom we used to keep a bowl of chocolate treats for kids who might come to visit us on a route that is used for fast-moving traffic. One kid came. Probably the best part of Halloween was Mike making elaborate costumes for the kid–he was Halloween king of the cul-de-sac! Okay, maybe the giant tarantula the guys stuck up on the roof was pretty cool, too. Cool but icky as it bobbed in the breeze. But that’s Halloween, eh?
Last year I had a bowl of candy ready but no one comes to this apartment complex. Nobody came so I gave it all to the realty office across the way. This year I have nothing to offer but hope and protection for anyone who comes by.
My how the times change.
Four Five Six
Ten. Ten. Ten.
I’ll bet you’ve had sixteen kisses planted on your face when you were in the middle of something by a little kid who loves you, rapid pace, out of the blue, the moment when your child’s cup overflows and they must kiss and love the joy is so much and you might have been annoyed for breaking into your busyness, but sixteen pecks on your face. Pixels cannot hold that moment but a heart can.
The number means something different to me today. It means less because I am not his mother, I am not from his community. I don’t know what she knows. But still, I think about him today, and yesterday.
I don’t know what 16 bullet holes looks like in my son’s flesh, or even my own. I could draw little dots on my body to see how it looks but that’s dots and this is flesh that will write junk today and junk tomorrow. I just need someone to know that I won’t forget. That her son matters. Justice matters. And I don’t want to play this numbers game anymore.
My eyes open in my dark room. Moon white through window blind slats illuminates the garnet underleaves of the prayer plant. Breathing the last dream I had.
A small girl wears great, wide, long sails of black velvet. Asian flower blooms edged in gold float on her capes that she wears on her tiny shoulders. She is to be my daughter soon. Everywhere we walk there is wind, no, strong breezes, the kind to fly kites in that won’t be pulled out of your hands. She spends all her time trimming and gathering her “sails” so her capes will flow out beautifully, so the flowers can all be seen and be pretty.
We are in a small room, antique, ornate, silent. The room is crammed with mirrored shelves with cups and plates on display, cups and plates edged in Asian flower blooms and gold. The room is difficult to walk in, there is little room to move about without bumping into a display, and there is a woman in here now. She is the girl’s cruel mother, and she won’t give her to me.
advice, birds and bees, Catholic, Catholic school, crime, dad, diary, Ford, humiliation, Kavanaugh, listen, make-out, man, mother, period, punished, rape, sea change, sex, sex-ed, teach, teach your son, truth, white male privilege, woman, women's issues
Mom handed me a small hardcover book one day. I can’t remember what year it was, or what room I was in. I think I was in apartment 3F. She asked me to read these pages, which I did, and she said ask me any questions, which I didn’t, and the whole thing was done. That’s how I learned about how men get on top of women and they gently rub against one another and some things are exchanged and a baby grows in the woman. I remember, after reading, feeling kind of weird. Like, the book being presented to me came out of nowhere. I recall feeling like, “Okay….” but not much more.
Probably when Mom presented me with this book when I was in the 5th grade, still in Catholic school, and I can still remember having the best make-outs with someone whose name I shall not say. Wow. Maybe Mom knew I was growing and having feelings and probably making out with somebody and thought the birds and the bees talk was appropriate. I had no idea what to do with his incredible kissing, I had no idea that it can sometimes lead to sex which leads to babies. I had no idea that I was valued and important. All I knew in those 5th grade days was that I had to go to school, that I was picked on for having ugly shoes, socks, and haircut, that I was punished, humiliated in the halls for failing math, and yeah, we had some good times with our friends playing in the courtyard in the back.
Mom sat me at the table one day. It was daylight and we were 60 miles north of the place we used to live, far from the old bullies, but other battles were raging. I don’t recall how the conversation began but she told me that if I ever got in a situation, I shouldn’t scream “rape” because no one would help. She said I should scream “fire” because everyone would react. She said if I got in a situation I should say I have some kind of disease and not to do this so you don’t get that disease too, or I have my period. I don’t remember what year it was or what lead up to that. I guess she figured since I was dating she assumed that heavy petting would be involved which of course leads to sex. She also told me if I come home pregnant she would break both my legs. So. My sexual education wasn’t great. It left me to my own devices, and I made a lot of mistakes. I will never forget the humiliation of my parents reading my diary from when I was in college that detailed beautiful lovemaking with my boyfriend at the time.
Questions. Statements. Humiliation. Does this sound familiar to you, woman and man? Did your parents leave you to your own devices to figure out the sex thing? Who taught you who to say no or yes about sex? About pubic hair and periods and condoms and consent?
At 1:30EST there will be a vote in the Senate to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court Judge. I’ve followed everything the Trump administration does and his nomination is no exception. Judge Brett did not impress me because he did not say he would uphold Roe v Wade. He’s been demure about his Bush years. Dr. Ford’s testimony didn’t help much, either.
What this brings to these morning thoughts are more questions than answers. Is this the sea change we needed to help women stop staying silent and speak out against their assaulters and abusers? Are more men willing to listen and believe a women when she says she was assaulted? Will more women come forward and report their rapes and abuse and their testimony be taken seriously? Will families take this moment and use it as an example to teach their boys not to grope and seek gratification and laugh at a person who can’t say no? Will families take this moment, no matter how embarrassing, to tell their boys don’t force, grope, assault, abuse women, and tell their girls you are loved and you matter and I believe you? Will we tell our girls you don’t have to kiss that boy or put your hands in his pants or let him do what he wants because it affirms you. Is this the moment where we tell our children that it’s natural to be attracted and to want, but forcing ourselves on each other is inexcusable? Will this be a sea change? I don’t know. Dr. Ford was assaulted. Judge Kavenaugh says it wasn’t him. Their testimonies were emotional and believable. This is a teaching moment for all of us and we should take advantage of it. Teach our daughters their worth, that they won’t be abandoned if they have sex or, worse, raped. Teach them, your face to his face and her face, not in some book the facts of the human body, natural attraction, but to reject force, and to support our girls if peer pressure led them to sexual acts they weren’t ready for and regret, and reinforce our boys the difference between want–attraction–and force, assault.
Support your children with facts. Support your children with the law. Support your children with love. If you only give them a teaspoon of each, they’ll wind up in a dark hallway giving handjobs because it affirmed them or on their backs because privilege says this is not a crime.
My mom didn’t know how to do this and I’m betting neither did hers. Generations told their daughters to be ladylike and polite. Poised. Accepting. Is this the moment when we can stop a generational fault and teach our sons that it’s not okay to grope, assault, and abuse women, to respect them as equals, and our girls that they are more than help-meets, that we are curious, intellectual, scholarly, strong, brave, and that we matter?
I wake up at 0400, I don’t know why.
My Hoya plant climbs and changes direction all day, pushing out leaves that start out maroon then turn green, looking for something cling to, I guess, but I don’t know how. They don’t care why.
Somebody’s gorgeous, imperfect black Mercedes 350 D sits in the parking lot, and I don’t know who it belongs to. Should I do penance for coveting?
I had a dream and you were in it and I was awful to you. Should I apologize?
My son shivers under a pile of covers every few weeks and nobody knows how to fix him. When will we find the answer?
Who will tend our nerves and muscle, spine and hips, and tell them stand down, the money has come, go and get well, healthcare has come?
What does an unaching body feel like?
Where does music come from?
Why are those finger-sized fishes jumping out of the bay into the air?
Where did my pouch of flash drives go?
What will my next best writing look like, and who will tell me “Yes, we want this.”
Are you the one tapping on my window at night when it rains, sounding like somebody is dropping berries onto my windowsill from the roof in the middle of the night?
Who’s going to put all this stuff away, and wash laundry, and take the garbage out, and pay bills, and wash the car?
Does anyone else hate the fact that Greenie’s is gone and wonder what will replace that beach bar that the mayor said yeah that was nice but it’s time to move on?
How many children are still without their parents at the border and will they ever see them again?
Peace in our time?
Are aliens shunning us?
Who made the first fishing net?
I dunno. It’s all just Universe painting, I guess. Meanwhile….who can think with all this going on…
I want to stop dreaming about that place where I used to work. I don’t want to remember that place, their faces, and the stress I brought home.
I want to look inside every apartment here and see where their cats and dogs live, what books do they keep, what furniture they’ve arranged in this small space where they live in between here and shipping out.
I want a week of rain, overcast, gray, dripping. I want a week of rain all the time. Nobody else wants this.
I want pepperoni pizza, but it has to look and taste like the kind we had in Flushing, small pepperonis, cupping the grease, crammed atop the cheese, a flavor and texture found nowhere else. My brother knows what this means.
I want the job I applied for so I can see many faces and rise to the challenge of helping with a smile and you go away feeling like nobody else mattered but you.
I want to write about the National Memorial For Peace & Justice in a way that has nothing to do with me, but I can’t figure out a way. Yet.
I want to find my pouch of flash drives and SanDisks that I lost somewhere so I can recover memories, my crappy writing, my happiness, my sanity, my everything, but I know that’s not to be.
I want my friend back, and my Dad back, but only if they’re not angry anymore.
I want to write about those ladies and their kids playing in the ocean who clearly had other ideas about staying dry, but I haven’t figured out the right words yet.
My windows are open tonight, a/c off and fan still. The air is cool, finally. This writing thing is coming back to me, finally. The plan is to heat up a sweet potato and broccoli and some rice, NYPD Blue in the background. The plan is to stay wide open to everything that comes to me, and to approach my bed tired, a prayer, and deep breathing, hoping to be empty so sleep will be full and lengthy.
I have a thing about people who are all about “I want I want I want.” I get aggravated by their “me me me.” But then, everybody wants. It’s not wrong to feel a need and a want. My wants and your wants may never meet, but I want to know and understand. That’s where give comes along and lights a candle and puts “give” into motion.
If you are prepared to stand in the knock you over ocean, naked, then you are prepared for “I want, but let me give you what you need.”
Give someone what they need, and enjoy the wants you receive when it comes.
I begin this morning that could feel like I’m sifting through a house fire, blackened, burned, sopping wet, heartbroken, but I am determined to hold my head up and say this is a new day, one I begin with raw skin and foal’s legs, and I will make something good of it.
I begin this morning clinging to a philosophy, one that says my favorite glass that sits on the shelf is already broken.
I begin this morning clinging to the serenity prayer that tells me to accept the things I cannot change.
I begin this morning better than I left yesterday. I was overwhelmed. I tore my house apart looking for something I’d lost. I cried. I still cry. I slept, unable to face the everything that came down on me because it’s clearly gone. One small loss drew in a lifetime of loss, like some magnet that attracts black matter, black star, black planet, a life implodes, and yet I still get to choose how to face this minute, and the next and the next. I saw all your faces, I relived all your hearts and every mistake I ever made that hurt you and hurt me. I slept and I survived.
Things happen all around me and I didn’t always notice. I’ve been trying to get better at observing and writing to understand. When I was a kid we would visit our grandparents in the Garden State of New Jersey, land of the farms and high tension lines. I used to collect cicada shells in those late summer days, carefully plucking their delicate bodies clamped to a tree and putting their husks in a coffee can. Quite a pile. They had a unique smell almost akin to ancient books in a back room library but with a whiff of life that is begone. Until recently, cicada always meant “summer sound, dormant, collect husks for fun.” Once we brought a cicada home, kept it in an aquarium and watched as it broke through its old body and became wetly new, expanding, growing, alive, astonishing colors! We put it on a pine outside when we knew it was time. It never made a sound, and I never saw it fly away, yet what a gift we received that day. Here, there are cicada who made their home in the pine tree across from my door. They react to birds invading their branches, the cicada fly away (actually flying! away!) and come back when the bird is gone. The needles even shake when their heavy, black bodies depart! And when they are comfortable, they sound like my dad’s radial arm saw, calling calling calling all summer day until dark.
I never knew cicada could be so proactive. Their large, black bodies are busy in ways I never saw before. Meanwhile, I have to decide what is more important this morning: Life ever changing, words and images I lost yet I have the time and the place and the ability to write about everything, with everything I’ve got right now. Cicada know it’s all on the table and it’s now or never. They give it their all. And I don’t want to be a dried husk stuck to a pine tree with no story to tell.
Do cicada grieve? Do slow-motion butterflies who pass by the pines care? I don’t know. All I know is that the finches will be back next year to make several noisy baby broods, gulls will patrol the shore for unfortunate fry, and the moon will be bright in my winter window.
No rain in sight. I keep wishing for some more rain. We had a little a few days ago. It comes down heavy and passes quickly. Man, I’m wishing for a long week of overcast rain. I’m the only fool who thinks that way, I mean, who the heck wants a week of rain in the summer at the beach? Killjoy, they would call me. Meh, that’s all right. I want rain. And a very small part of me wants a thunderstorm because the light and the boom and the southern driven rain helps me feel alive.
The Saffron Queen loved watching the tube, especially creepy, twisted horror series. She loved a good horror flick. She said there was nothing like a scary movie to make the pulse race, a jump-scare to make you feel alive. I never did go with her to the scary movies she wanted to see. In fact, she never did go, either with her spouse or on her own. I loaned her one of my few scary movies that she never watched, in favor of streaming what was already on TV. I had hoped we could watch it together, but she showed no interest.
I lean on the balcony rail and study the grass the landlord is desperately trying to regrow ever since he tore up the original grass two years ago. It’s never come back to life no matter how the groundsman seeds and waters and fertilizes. The robins are fine with it because they find worms aplenty. I watch the sprinkler that sends water so far and so high that if a tenant came out their door at just the right time they would be more than sprinkled and more than unhappy at being doused, but boy they sure would feel alive. I look down the patio and see that all the plants have been dug up and tossed aside in favor of a cement statue area the landlord wanted. I wonder if he will replant the yucca and black eyed susans that the birds loved to balance on?
It hasn’t rained and it probably won’t rain to suit me today or tomorrow or the next. The question is, why do I need to stand outside in a downpour to feel alive? What’s wrong with being alive is enough, why ain’t that good enough? Yeah… I’ll get back to you on that.
Speak softly if you must speak at night.
Sparrows might be preparing to take flight
Finches nestling in for the night
Crickets and katydids are creaking vigorously
Not for you and not for me, so hush and let them be.
Speak softly if you must speak at night.
The breeze is changing direction.
Rain is coming but you would hardly know it.
Worms will rise and robins will strike in purple dawn
before the sun gets in the way
Speak softly if you must speak at night.
You might hear the lamp post lights humming
your very own heartbeat
your lover’s breathing
you can almost hear a fireflies’ wings beating
if only you would speak softly in the night.
Or maybe… do not speak at all.
*dedicated to the neighbors across the street who haven’t a clue what all is going on in the night because they’re too busy saying terrible things to each other they believe is righteous and apropos.