Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Meditation 109

29 December 2020

There are two oranges in the Buddha’s lap this morning. The hoarder’s yard is framed by Buddha and six pink flamingos, legs nearly lost amid flowers and plastic buckets. In Charlottesville, two men walked past a shop with pink flamingos in the window, each carrying a pink flamingo unrelated to the others. The movie (1972) was part of a “Trash Trilogy,” I read, but then my internet falters so I can’t retrieve the plot. My husband’s name was Waters, until he changed it. By the waters of Leman the poet wept. One student hated him on principle, because he was a gatekeeper. We are stakeholders in the new dispensation, one that veers in and out of cliché, like so much, bearing the promise of something new but entangled in a net sack like an octopus. Use for bait, the fisherman says. Use for bait, my son says. Did the octopus look forward to seeing the philosopher as much as he did her? Do they wonder at our lack of suction, the way we stick to things in our heads, but let them go from our hands? How do we define ourselves without attachment? “I cannot believe I’m living in this time,” a neighbor tells me. They are all around us, and they are kind. The women who suffered violence supported him because they wanted to be safe, and he promised a lock (and a stock and a barrel). The woman who interviewed them had to stop because she broke her vow of non-judgment. There was nothing to say to the nurse who cared for a refugee but voted for Trump. Ethics writ small. When you pull the image closer to yourself, it blurs, losing the pixels that defined it. Unpinch it with your fingers, let it travel away from you like a peg on a google map. For an instant you see nothing, but your body assumes its vertigo like a lighthouse where two men prepare to kill each other for loneliness. I ask him to turn the TV off when I see the rerun image of a man dying beneath another man’s boot. Reality snuff shows keep us all in line, through the extremity of our feeling, which is never kind. “What’s it matter to you?” 

Monday, December 28, 2020

Lilith meets her Doppelgang


Image may contain: one or more people, dog and outdoor

Radhika and I spotted a dog in a truck up the hill that looked a lot like Lilith, so we angled closer. Behind the truck bed stood a gray haired and mustached man in an orange vest, mask pulled down under his chin, greeted me with, "St. Louis Cardinals! No!" Turns out he meant that in a good way. His dad worked for a licorice company 15 minutes from the Stadium, so he practically grew up there. Gibson and Brock were also his first favorites. Then Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds: they should have won four WS, he opined, but Tony LaRussa, "that dumb retard," got in the way. I mentioned Matheny (not in a good way) and he said, "way to destroy a great team", so I piled on with Mozeliak, to which he responded, "dumb Polack." I must have reacted, because he completed the sentence with, "I'm as Polish as they come so I can say that." On our way down the hill, Radhika got a lesson from her mother on white ethnic insults. "I didn't know that!" she said.
But back to the dogs. Their dog gave birth to three dogs in their bedroom at 3 a.m. (he seems to have slept through part of it). She had three puppies that were dachsund and terrier mixes, and then the dog that looked like Lilith. They figured it out! The neighbor's dog was part Corgie, and must have double-mated with their dog. Rob--for that was his name--pointed to the back seat, where another dog was lying down. 14 years old. Jack Russell? I asked. I dunno, he said, maybe some Dalmatian.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Meditation 108

26 December 2020

It’s the pronouns that terrify. Lodged between the pronoun that signifies a known quantity and the pronoun that’s merely arbitrary, one pronoun took a gap year. Having planned to travel the continent, this she or he stays home, inhabiting the deep grammar of pandemic. Her poem enacted the loss of letters, until it became the page it was (not) printed on. He lost so many friends that he ate a large plate of mini-muffins bought at Costco. Binge grieving takes in more than it can swallow. Birds bring us happiness, but they also sing now. I listened to them on-line, but couldn’t pull song apart from song; the birds blended, leaving odes in short supply. "Bird thou never wert" gives the metaphor shell game away. Buy the plastic shroud for the Fit, place it over the electronics behind the mirror, then push the button to adjust what appears closer there. Car parts, tree branches, broken windows, and the echo of an artificial voice counting down. We don’t call this terror, but “a not accidental explosion.” We meant to vacate our monkey minds, but instead find the Melting Pot shattered, its staff out of work. Terror is imagination made literal. “It was like a movie,” the man said, his windows blown out. And sometimes Hollywood is like real life. Back to the shroud: it either bears witness to the oils on Christ’s skin or to grief’s gray hoodie. On the day of Premier League, it’s a bonnet, mask lifted to forehead and skull, leaving transmission possible through the breath. We can breathe, but a foot’s on the neck, all the same. "They know not what they do" can be said of many students, whose logic struts like baby goats in pajamas. Not knowing offers reason to refrain from judgment. In the dying days of this administration, more black men are executed, more white men pardoned for their crimes. He governs by fiat. The blue car wears pink eyelashes over its headlights. What they signify isn’t clear, but we’re grateful that they’re there. Banality is not evil, though it sometimes plays it on TV.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Meditation 107

24 December 2020

Make stark distinctions only, the better to knock one down like an egg from a wall, or a wall in a strong wind. If reparations come in the guise of prizes, then what to do with runners-up? In England, they’re called ladders, the runs on stockings. Our stocking suffers from a hole in its large toe, the one that stands in for five of them. Five makes a team in some sports, so long as they’re tall. All numbers are magical. He tells me he won’t take the vaccine, because no one knows the side-effects yet; his mother won’t until she’s assured no aborted babies were used to make it. It should be his choice, he says, and besides, things are pretty good here. If he lived on the mainland, he might. Fundamentalist ethics are as relative as any. We guard our relatives least, because at least we’ll be loving them to death. Thank you, she writes of her uncle's beautiful dying. I saw a green canvas cover attached to a metal frame around a vacant hole in the cemetery. Seven in one year. Family comes to sit in folding chairs at graves neatly marked by tiny picket fences. One man said the Lord brought us a beautiful day. The brightest light in months, mountains a jagged line across the azur sky, framed by Lilith’s ears. More talk here of paving the green spaces. They get torn up in the rainy season, that of mud wasps and scars. Asphalt's more permanent, scab without a wound bursting at each turn of the cart. 300,000 in, he golfs. Pardon is what pardon does. “It was disgusting, and I’m from New Jersey,” the ex-governor says of the president’s son-in-law’s father. All within the law. The cemetery worker asked me if I’d read the Constitution, and I said yes. We shake our heads about the fresh grave up the hill. Dharma blossoms turning. When I said I’d taken photos of her purple flower in a pot full of water and algae, she said, “but it wasn’t fully out yet.”

Monday, December 21, 2020

Meditation 106


21 December 2020

To be afraid of air. To air it out. To take the old words with the new, to voice them where voice stands in for self, not identity which comes from the outside, burrows into skin, lays eggs, and leaves again. The kids evicted a mud wasp from outside their rooms. Hadn’t paid their rent in months, and the feds will only give them $600 to tide them over in their tent cities. Behind the chain link fence beside the Pali off-ramp, tents lean against the steep hill down to the freeway. At least the way is free, because nothing else is. You find those two paths in the woods and they're blocked by toll booths with mechanical arms that block you from entering the wood. When Yogi Berra gave directions to his house, he said you’d get to a fork in a road and you’d take it. Wisdom so often divorced from sense it should be a warning that thought ends at the atmosphere’s limit. You go up in a small tub attached to a rocket and become a Guardian of the universe, while still packaging your voice for public consumption. Capitalism’s strange bedfellows lie on fancy mattresses; if you like an angle, you get one. If you sleep on your side, the mattress form-fits to your folds. Invent another need; work in needability studies. I read Marcus Aurelius at night, watch Marcus Rashford in the morning. The wisdom that feeds is sometimes food. Her students objected to the sex in ancient Greek plays. Our students are counseled not to do the reading if it gets in way of purity. It’s a kind of stripping away that doesn't reduce us to spirit, but takes away the flesh. Acceptance is a mode of reduction; the "to be" verb is all we need, even if it sounds weak. To love what one must leave ‘ere long. Leave the longing to others, accept weather patterns as they line up like planes coming into LaGuardia. There’s a train into the city; I paid a profligate amount for my ticket to enter its nest. The broken-hearted man went to a mattress store each day and lay down, over and over again, seeking comfort on flat surfaces.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Lilith and the Lost Election

On our way out of the cemetery, I stopped at the guard shack to exchange words with the Pacific Islander guy who works there. He's always been friendly, even after I yelled at him and his white co-worker when they told me hospitals order ventilators to make money. He'd teased me about the election in early November. So I leaned toward the plexiglass shield between us and said, "President Biden."
--Oh it's not over, he laughed. Just wait until Jan. 20th! Everything's going to be crazy. It's the legislature . . . have you read the Constitution? The media picked the winner.
--What do you mean? I asked, as tourists drove up to pay their $3 car admission. Your sources are suspect! [I turn to the local tourist and say, "he thinks Trump won the election"]
--By a landslide!
As Lilith and I start walking, he says, How could BIDEN get more votes than OBAMA?
--Because Trump was such a disaster.
And so another ended another sane and reasonable conversation in the time of covid.


Monday, December 7, 2020

Meditation 105


7 December 2020

Don’t admire me for having survived the Unnameable Event. Listen to the tremor in my voice, but know it as symptom of the Other Thing I’m not telling you. Hear out my secrets, those I keep to myself, and watch my affect as performance. A young man tells you nothing, though he shares a house with you. You worry that he might rehearse a two-years-ago spiral, while feeling that you need to let your lenses down. The softness of bad vision is sometimes preferable to the clarity of hindsight. Don’t ask questions, because they inspire more not-answers. She saw the sunrise from grandma’s, though she doesn’t say what it means to her. My letters were sheer projection into the landscape of London, circa 1980, though I felt that I felt them, so why didn't she? To give care to one who had withheld it is like scouting a route you’ve already stepped on, while wanting to bushwhack the rest. The road is the habit, and that’s a bad pun, as my mother said, in her bun. If the Unnameable Event is communal, do you share it, or cock your head and say “da kine”? He’d lost nine members of his family in the blue building located between the place his father was killed and the restaurant where we ate in Battambong. Admiration’s too simple a word for my response to him on that day. Though I wonder what’s wrong with finding the sacred in a man who laughs so easily from the mouth-door of an unimagined morgue? If memory is habit, then be a slob, hoard so many hurts you can’t ever find the one that hurts the most. Don’t like hierarchies? Go for the social history of pain, the wounds that afflict the least among us, not celebrities, though god knows they hurt, too, on either side of fame’s mirror. The Unnameable Event, once spoken of, can be released like mouse in a field. Our affect, upon release, raises us like the balloon in which a neighbor’s inflatable Santa rises at nightfall. Hot air makes him generous. Our speech shall make us admirable, though that is Not the Word.

--in response to "a philosopher and a professor" in the NYT, 11/30/20

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Meditation 104


6 December 2020

If I am one self on Facebook and another on Instagram, then who am I on Twitter? And am I to myself who I am to my audience? On Proust’s twitter I read the problem of happiness can be solved only by desiring less. Marcel and Marcus Aurelius walk into a bar, but neither is inclined to be in a joke, so they sit quietly and take it. Wisdom literature is as redundant as a London taxi driver in the pandemic; even sentence structures come up against the sign for repeat, two dots denoting a wall, at least for now. A boundary is always abstract, yet lives inside our bodies. Is it we who mend the wall, or the wall that mends us? Is mending what's at stake? Ask most obvious questions only. The answers will astonish you. Someone has put up a large painting of the holy family on their fence; what I notice are the fat fingers around the body of an adult baby. It’s so awkward as to command faith, or at least drive skepticism in that direction. Joseph has his other arm around Mary. Was she cheating on God? My daughter uses the word “immaculate” in the English soccer sense, denoting a perfect pass. “Let it Be” came in a dream; Macca's a great rememberer. I dreamed that all the lots in Volcano were cleared of hapu`u and ohia, even the invasive ginger that punctuates green with red. Make transitions using colors, or the metaphor of a forest. Then ask to go back like a filmstrip in reverse, tree after tree re-membering itself. They communicate, you know, suffer tree nostalgia, share recipes for sap, warn others of drought conditions, lend a root. Socialists, you know, these tall and silent types. Uncanny as Kwan Yin, who's seated just beyond a vinyl fence up the street. Does the renter take up the owner's faith, knowing it bounded by a lease?