Friday, December 8, 2023

8 December 2023


There are entire wars I cannot bear to witness.

From the ledge, I attend to what falls in front of me. He pushed himself as he fell backwards, half-remembering there was sand past the rocks.

From the living room I witness a broken city, broken people, bodies borne down rubble streets.

From there I see light cast itself on tile, my black and white cat half-purple in the morning sun, grooming his black and his white fur.

From my chair, I have seen the so-called news come and go, around and back. When you come back to forward, let your arms fall slowly to the sides. If you go into a city with your arms, you may come out wanting to wash your trigger finger with acid.

From my perch, I hear weed whackers and mowers and carts and pidgin-inflected voices cut into strips beside the bird songs.

She said she had not trimmed the tree, because it had already been cut.

“Why didn’t you just say so?” refers not to periodic sentences but to single words. My every conversation a translation of over 40 years of language use.

There is the bumbling toward, not something to say but how to avoid saying it, yearning for spots of time that frolic in the meadows of a distant England, when memory seemed more benevolent.

I entered the room where I studied teaching English as a foreign language. It was that in South London. (I never called “oven” a “cookah.”) Everyone from their desk in a circle stared at me, late from the train. I was my children’s age. “He was very insecure,” one instructor said the of man who’d been shot; he knew a man who worked for him. We went to the caf to talk about guns in America, underneath signs addressed to “our custies.” A barge on the Thames blared "Imagine." (Was that before or after?)

From my chair I cannot see pure memory, pure light, pure poetry.

Machine drone, rattle of chains, pieces of a voice, bird chittering, back to droning. Drone has graduated from dull sound to hoverer, to photographer or to Kiki’s Bomb Delivery Service. One sheep’s baby was stillborn (or is it still born?), the other had twins. The sheep with twins gave one to her grieving companion.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

7 December 2023

I cannot say who I am, or perhaps I refuse to say I am or am not my-self, suspecting that it can’t matter or has little to do with matter. Material isn’t matter, though it might. The shelling of Gaza matters, is matter’s destruction. We live in concrete houses; they destroy our concrete images. Be concrete, my teacher told me. Do not bomb me or otherwise crack my shell. There’s a CV inside, like a treasure chest to long lost gold. Someone put the map inside, so you’ll have to wait until I “pass” to read it. To pass is to die, with a helping of reincarnation, because we pass on. Somewhere. Anywhere airfares are cheap. No bird can compete with the almighty weed whacker. What sounds like laundry is a bread machine, the mechanical knead. To pass is not to be killed. 100 men on a beach. The caption says they were killed, but they are still alive in the photograph, shirtless, cloths wound around their eyes, kneeling. Please let me evade the idea of what came next, if it did, because photographs lie. We’re told that all the time, then use ours as proof something happened. I was there, and so was the shadow of my dog’s ear on her back. She sat near the cat, whose shadow spread like a puddle in from the screen door. Witness is a form of attention that asks more of us than insight. The seeing in, like a peeping tom on death’s stage. Or the cactus that astonishes us by surviving our neglect. Peer around the spines like pages in a book, thrust into the shelf to be blind to hands that reach out to touch its back. “I knew she was Irish!” I said this morning, as I stretched head down, listening for the NGO’s talking head. Dark humor breeding empathy in a dark time. The way she massaged her vowels, rage working its way through lilt and diphthong, what she said about dying in Gaza. These images, they promise, will be disturbing, though they’re placed immediately on the scales of emotional justice. How could they say this but not that, that but not another this. Vista of this. In her latest post, she commands us to be kind to another person. I like kindness, but not ordained. When I asked for a haiku, she said she didn’t like to be told to do anything. The young man whose father was in the military refused to write a sonnet, for the rules. Rules are rules, I gather, whether to march or to make rhyme. The rules for a love poem oblige us to love in a certain way, and at a certain pace. You walk across a field, in taut formation, while I watch from the bleachers. Rehearsal is form exhausted by its meter. Do not ask me to draw a quarter now, when we no longer use change. You must change your life. Look at that beautiful flower, my demented mother said, again and again. Her order made it so, but it wasn’t the flower I attended to.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Lilith meets a new baby


Lilith and I went for a late afternoon hobble around the parking lot yesterday. (The hobble was all mine.) I turned to see a man walking quickly toward me, holding a baby. It was P, fellow Cardinals fan, with whom I exchange calls across the lot, like "we got pitching!" "We need one more!" I hadn't yet met the baby, Miles (like the pitcher, Mikolas? I asked; it had crossed his mind, he said). The baby, who had ginger fur on his head, was sound asleep. There was another Miles, I remembered, who fought off attackers in a hotel room. Little guy, played for the Cards a while back. P's wife, J, approached on the other side, walking slowly with their toddler, Maxwell. We crossed over to say hello. Toddler kissed Lilith on the nose. When I looked up at P and J and their two M's, I was struck by the happiness in their faces, then realized how long it's been since I saw such radiance. A balm in difficult times.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

A review of _Meditations_ by Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno

 I asked if he'd received a copy of my recent book, and he sent me a full-on review. I have no idea where some of these sentences came from . . .

Thursday, November 2, 2023

What I found while not walking Lilith (bursitis)

A very kind review of our walks:


Note: my husband isn't native Hawaiian.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Lilith and the hoarder


The Hoarder keeps the patch between curb and sidewalk neat as a pin. Some days, he sits on the ground trimming the already short grass. His mailbox is freshly painted. He props trees up with posts and cord. Behind the iron fence, chaos. In the garage, chaos: old pants hanging from a line (like a Charles Addams cartoon), heaps of wood, metal, tools, no room for car. A large Buddha sits in the yard, sometimes an orange in his lap. Close by, a stone toad of similar size grins toward the street through the significant underbrush. 
For years, I thought the Hoarder lived in the large moldering house by himself. Today, as Lilith and I walked by, we heard a woman's voice falling through louvers on the second floor. "You get four doors!" she yelled. "Three doors don't open. The front door stuck. I call the locksmith." Lilith and I lingered; I turned to take a photograph of an old plastic jug hanging from a tree; much of the plastic had worn away. The white haired man's face showed through a gap; he was coming out of his garage. "Good morning," I said. "Good morning," he responded.