Tuesday, December 23, 2008

There is a Hole in Internet Explorer Today

This is something I wrote last week at work, inspired by an email my boss sent around about the "IE7 security hole." This also came from the sudden death of my cat, who had fully recovered from his paralysis yet passed quickly and in that sense gracefully at home. (Note: I have replaced the original poem that was below with the revision as of July '10.)

There is a Hole in Internet Explorer Today

and you can’t see outer space through it,
the dark energy and dark matter that fight
inside our lives. I walk past the teardrop-shaped
colored lights on North Tioga Street             

in front of a dentist’s office, identical
to the ones my grandfather used to drape
over the snowy azalea bushes out front
that flamed pink and purple every summer

of childhood. He has been gone
15 years, which is a long time in cat
years, and I find myself in the middle
of something I can’t explain, about how love

loses itself though it never means to.
The acupuncturist yesterday stuck needles in
my elbows, and I wondered when I’d stop
being a pincushion—apparently not

yet—and I tried not to cry into
the face cradle, because I’ve never even made
successful graffiti,
like the stuff in the stalls at the DeWitt Mall

(someone announcing her marriage
in marker, someone else writing classy).
So when grapefruit-sized hail falls,
when you remember the Stations of the Cross

painted on the walls inside your childhood
church, when you cry to Our Lady
of Catheters, of Credit Card Debt,
I think you should stop for a minute

and admire something.


Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm the kind of girl who

Walks into a wall and gives herself a black eye
Shows up to work at 1 pm or later
Once made the mistake of trying to cook and eat actual beets
Spends her days talking on the phone RE antacids, prescriptions, cat heart ultrasounds
Hates how driving everywhere takes 10 minutes
Hates Thanksgiving and Christmas and does not want to be asked, How was your holiday?
Wakes up in the middle of the night composing letters to people who made her mad the day before
Gets migraines on the 4th of every month
Wants more than anything to spend a day, or more than an hour, alone
Can't stand it when people romanticize shit
Is hemorrhaging money
Likes animals better than people in most cases
After years of not wanting to spend all day writing a poem, wants to spend all day writing a poem
Thinks writing poetry is the hardest and most worthwhile thing on earth, and wants to branch out so that not all of the poems are just about herself
Cannot make small talk
Doesn't have a tattoo
Has Mary of Guadalupe shrine in apartment
Is paralyzed and flummoxed by ordinary activities such as going to a carwash, which can take years to work up to unless boyfriend does it for her
Isn't good at gift-giving
Hates when an email begins, "Ladies..."
Will never do situps to tighten post-baby tummy (maybe boyfriend will do them for her)
Has long psychological conversations with her boss sometimes leading to spontaneous, healing tears
Never wants to travel anywhere again
Is an unskilled laborer
Does not have compartmentalized brain; instead, everything is all bleeding into each other in there, with the ex-husband in the acupuncture compartment, the lizards of Las Cruces, NM bouncing around with the taste of an excellent pinot noir, etc.
Loves to say etc. and use ellipses and dashes
Is full of hatred, anger, profanity that is randomly discharged at slow motorists, loved ones
Thinks her cat's face is the furry orange face of God
Misses her grandparents every day and can't wait to dedicate her first book to them (optimistic)
Buys shoes every 4 years and can't pick them out by herself; the idea of desiring to have a huge shoe closet is baffling
Comes from engineers and shoemakers
Loves cheese
Went to a Catholic junior high where lunch was eaten and social alliances forged in the rectory basement
Had a friend named Pinky who broke her heart
Has never been in style
Feels strangely satisfied having given herself a black eye and watching it turn purple pink black yellow
Believes there are no coincidences
Usually doesn't have time to shower
Has a sexual imagination shaped by Catholic school
Has left 2 Buddha statues on her desk at work that were put there at least 3 years ago by the person in the job before her
Is a late bloomer
Is horribly nostalgic for her early 20s in the late 90s, when everyone wore plaid shirts RE Nirvana, and she wore a flowered skirt and combat-like boots to work, and the world felt more beautiful, tragic, innocent and hopeful
Hates how life tends to flatten people out so that they become less interesting
Remembers phrases planted in her head by grade school social studies teachers, music teachers, textbooks, commercials
Does not remember last weekend

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mama Juice

For about the past year I have been part of a local mom's group (you pay dues, there is a yearly banquet with a "theme"...the whole thing). I am not much of a joiner but I had an idea that I needed to meet other moms who would understand what I was going through as a mom-person. Also, at the time I joined I had just read the wonderful book Mommies Who Drink by Brett Paesel and had a vision of women coming together in a bar once a week, talking raunchily about everything in life over a shot or Zinfandel or several. I thought knowing other moms would help me to feel less alone as a woman transforming from a regular person into a mom (it doesn't just happen when you pee on the stick or change your first diaper...); or that at least it would help make me feel like less of a fuck-up and less of a shut-in, excluded from everything I used to do in my pre-child life. Intead, almost every time I have attended an event, with or without my daughter Sara, I have felt horribly out of place like I am visiting a suburban neighborhood in the 50's or 60's as the Scarlet Letter woman or something (you know, with a big "A" or a sign reading "I don't breastfeed" branded on my forehead).

The problem with moms coming together is that you check yourself against the other people to see if you're normal and are doing things right. So if you happen to be in a group where the other people all do it a certain way that is different from you, you're going to feel defensive and like you have to put down their way of life. This is how I have felt, and I'm not necessarily proud of it. However, it is not a crime that they all have husbands and regular babysitter/nanny/au pairs and are stay-at-home (must be nice to have the option) and breastfeed for at least a year and co-sleep. These are just choices that are made as one goes along as a parent, and are based on many complex factors. What IS a crime is...the group members wanting to change the once-monthly Moms' Night Out to a Moms' Morning In. As is so often true in my life, it is here, regarding the convivial consumption of alcohol in an actual restaurant or bar outside one's house, that I draw the line and place myself firmly on the alcohol side and NOT on the brunch / board games / potluck side.

Yes, our little group had a quaint and, by me, beloved tradition of having 1 night per month when moms are invited to meet up at a local restaurant, bar or otherwise slightly hip, atmospheric place and grab a drink or dessert together. It was bad enough that these "nights out" started at 8 and were history by 10pm. Bad enough that some moms drank seltzer, not alcohol, and others couldn't stop talking about the cute habits of their child the entiiiire time. But at least there was a gesture toward the idea of mothers still having an adult life, doing things they had done before becoming parents, and walking a little on the dark side. Staying out until 9 pm! Having a glass of wine or...2! Letting someone else put your kid to bed! Maybe the conversation might stray toward sex or crazy things we did in college! (It never did.) Alas this dark side proved too much for the group and the Moms' Night Out, after several months of pathetic / nonexistent attendance, is now going to be held only every other month, to be alternated with a Moms' Night In of board games at someone's home. One person suggested that the Night Out be jettisoned altogether and replaced with a Moms' Morning In brunch, also at someone's house (not actually out at a restaurant; that courts the dark side of feckless, money-spending self-involvement, not to mention that you are then fraternizing among the enemy--i.e., people who don't yet have kids and thus, still appear in public and seem to be enjoying themselves, not tensely managing their screaming toddler).

I know I am not just a parent-hating freak who happens to be a parent because I know other moms, through different social channels, who feel the same way I do and are also wonderful, devoted parents. The most nurturing mom I know, who happens to be my child's daycare provider, refers to wine as "Mama juice." She gets it--how we need time to ourselves and pockets of our lives that are not owned by our child and our fierce protection of our child, fear for our child's future, and dismay at our post-child body and identity as a Mommy. I go to a bi-weekly dinner at a single girl friend's house, at which there is usually at least one other mom in attendance, and they all get it too and we have amazing, truly joyful nights of great food, free-flowing wine, fires down by Cayuga Lake, reading poems out loud, dancing, laughing hard, joint-smoking (occasionally). Sometimes someone brings her child and that is welcome, too but the child is never really the center of attention, they are just part of what the adults are doing in this harmonious, organic way. This happens to be my idea of good parenting--that you don't give up all your pre-baby interests and become severely domesticated, that you are a role-model to your child that a woman can have a life and interests of her own, that even if you spend 90% of your free time being with your child and on domestic duties, something is left over for just you and that something is NOT apologetic for wanting a night out or loving "Mama juice" and the fact that you still have your own desires, thoughts, and feelings that would not be appropriate to share with your child (until the age when she can have a glass of wine too...) or in a playdate situation.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What are we here for?

This is what I'm wondering right now. You can't just exist; you have to have money and credit cards and a car, etc. and the bondage to all of these things. I spend my days sitting at a desk at one job or another, or running errands that need to be done (depositing money in the bank, mailing bills, going through junk mail, cleaning...). Is this what my childhood was preparing me for? Is it what riding my bike through the sweet blue evenings of childhood summer was leading to? And dressing up for dance recitals, posing for pictures in satiny skirts and bright pink lipstick, receiving shiny trophies at the recital every June (which didn't mean anything, because everyone got one just for making it through another year of dance...). By the time I get home from work I don't have energy for anyting, let alone hanging out with my poor toddler...I just want her to be quiet and removed somewhere while Mommy collapses on the couch with a book of poetry or a magazine or a burrito and a beer. And that isn't living either, it's RECOVERING. It seems only if you have money, a lot of money, can you actually have life--filling your days and moments with things you want to do and choose to do, living on your own rhythms. Imagine waking up, puttering over to a cafe and sitting there reading and writing for hours, then having a glass of wine over a leisurely gourmet lunch, then taking a long walk...but maybe on some level all these things, too are just things to fill time--the time of existing, which none of us can bear without filling it with something. But that is going way beyond where I wanted to go in this thought. I just wonder, what exactly is the point if all your moments are spent just paying for something you deserve in the first place--to exist, to take up space on the earth among all the other earth-inhabitants, and to feel what is meaningful about that existence, to look for meaning. I guess we're all competing for resources but the resources aren't actually scarce, it's the system that makes them that way. Like, it's not as if I have to spend my days making spears so that a wild boar doesn't kill me on the open plains. But spending my days making money is THE SAME THING.

People say to find a job you love. I think that's bullshit. Who loves their job? How quickly can love turn to hate when you have to do something over and over or else there will be dire consequences? I am burnt out and tired and I resent having to devote my best energy (all the daylight hours) to administrative tasks, to busy-work, to driving around and around through traffic to do other tasks. I feel a constant anxiety that whatever I choose to do with the rare free moment isn't good enough, because there is so little unoccupied, unspoken-for time. I'm even starting to nurture fantasies about taking this summer off from work entirely and making some kind of big change to my work life after that, since a recent inheritance gives me a financial cushion (but then, any use of such money feels frivolous). It probably is true that I need to make more money so there is less sense of living-on-the-financial-edge grind, and find tasks that feel less compromising, and that things would feel better after that. But I still think we all deserve, for no reason at all (not because of our status or amount of money, etc.), to have the time to exist and search for ourselves and have wild pointless sexual encounters that never go anywhere, and write poetry about it, and eat too much dessert, and visit a beautiful place and stay in hostels and just breathe, and let the garbage bags accumulate around the side of the house and throw the recycling out the window for deer to graze on! and spend four hours choosing a shade of lipstick or an outfit, and look through old photo albums and cry, and tell someone to fuck off and not feel bad about it, and not say "I'm sorry" when someone is blocking the aisle at the grocery store, and light a lot of scented candles, and make a sculpture out of pine needles and spaghetti that represents a lost moment of our adolescense.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I work for a Buddhist publisher and this image was sent around the office today. Due to some sickness, my head feels like it is stuffed with old socks at the moment, but I felt I need to post this because to me it says so much. Even before I saw this image, I thought of Barack and the DL as having similarities as leaders because both seem focused on the happiness and wellbeing of other people (which is what I love about the democratic party in general, at least in terms of its basic ideology). I fell in love with Obama 4 years ago when he gave the speech about red / blue states--"We are not red states and blue states, we are one United States of America. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't want the government poking around inside our libraries in the red states..." (paraphrasing)
I hope that what seems at the moment like a severely divided country will unite in some ways (whatever ways are possible) with hope for the future--personal and social.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Real Age nazis

With an inkling that I should not go there, I just took the "Real Age" test created by Dr. Oz. Woah, was my ego severely deflated...I started with my calendar age--"33.3"--and found that my "real" age is "38.5." I'd better tell my boyfriend he's now dating a woman 10.2 years older than him. I'd better get a life insurance policy. I'd better floss more and find out my blah blah cholesterol levels, oh and probably not be so divorced (since it creates too much stress), according to advice given with the results.

Let me admit, I believed that this was one contest--the age contest--I could compete in (unlike most other ones). People constantly tell me I look young (maybe they're all lying, even the apparently shocked woman at the liquor store counter, and the cute 40-year-old who told me just the other day I could pass for 17 and that the lines on my face could only be seen "with a microscope"!!...I think she was flirting). I haven't eaten red meat, ANY, in 10 years. I eat veggies practically every day, sometimes in large amounts. I eat whole grains and fiber. My BMI is not in any danger zone...I'm sitting here in pre-pregnancy skinny pants as we speak. True, my loose, deflated post-baby belly is burping out over the waistband, but what can you do? (Situps?) I make an excruciating effort to eat desserts very rarely. I never have anything but skim milk. Etc. OK, I really belly-flop in the exercise department, but it will be a few years before this is obvious to everyone else and I have to run on a treadmill like a frantic gerbil just to keep looking the way I look now.

If you think about it, it is brilliant that our culture has done it again--come up with yet another way to make women feel ugly, inadequate, and unknowledgeable. Dr. Oz stresses that beauty is on the inside. So now I don't only have to worry about not looking like a slob on the OUTSIDE, I have to be gently reminded that I'm an ugly old hag on the INSIDE. And it's not bad enough that I'm actually 33.3 years old; I have to worry about how my body is invisibly collapsing in on itself, even all this time that I have stayed away from bad bad red meat, so that I will probably be 70 by the time I'm 40.

Of course, Dr. Oz makes valid points. Doing cardio is probably never a bad thing. Eating fruit is not the worst thing you could do, and flossing so that the dental hygienist doesn't have to spend an hour excavating down to where your sad rotting teeth actually are. I probably shouldn't drink the amount of wine I do every night (which I didn't even admit to on the test...and I was still scolded, in the results, for not practicing "moderation" in drinking). But I resent the idea that someone else out there knows exactly what I should be doing with my time and life (with all the flossing, fresh fruits, exercises of different types, etc., wouldn't that pretty much fill up your schedule?) and if I don't do it that way, I am made to feel like a bad and ignorant, not to mention ugly and old, person. I think this is a new strain of Puritanism. I think it is all harsh fluorescent lighting and a naked weigh-in in front of your classmates, with no nuance, depth, or sense of humor. So fine, I will begin my year of being 38.5, woefully ignorant about my pulse rate and cholesterol levels, neglectful of any kind of regular workout, and NOT (hell no) practicing moderation in drinking.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Living forward

I am thinking, on this 35th wedding anniversary of my parents (who divorced 28 years ago...), and 3-year anniversary of when Jon and I first met, about living in the present--whatever that means.

In my recent past (which I now need to let go of...), I chose a man to marry, a beautiful person who was nice to me, and then spent our whole marriage still in love with a person from my past, or just with my past as a single tortured early-20's fuck-up in coffee shops and book stores, making $5 an hour, being scolded for not bringing the soup up from the walk-in cooler or for slumping on a stool daydreaming. What was so great about that? What was I really wishing for everytime I didn't (and don't) want to be "here"? I think rapture--like when you are dancing and have had a few drinks and forget your life and kind of rebel against your current life in that moment. I am good at rebelling against my current life. If degrees were awarded in this subject, I would have a 7-figure job in the field right now.

This weekend a tiny door opened for me in the feeling of "what I have now is good." Sara and I were at DeWitt Park, a beautiful park in the section of Ithaca with the oldest buildings, and she was shimmying all over the grass on her knees. I was sitting on one of her soft pink blankets watching her and feeling the good warmth of the sun and seeing the delicate spire of a church and the two maroon, shiny fallen leaves my daughter held in each hand ecstatically as she hobbled forward on her muddy knees. I saw the slender, mini gold leaves that had fallen all over like snow and I held them over her head and let them flutter down, which amused her to no end. I watched how happy she was just holding leaves and being in the sunshine, dirt, and grass. And I felt, maybe my life is OK and is where it's supposed to be. But it wasn't so much a thrilling revelation as just a small, fragile feeling that just started to kind of poke at me, like hey--pay attention to this--one day you will live here in this feeling, it will be your address.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I am thinking about kinds of speech, and what they mean. I spend my days writing polite strategic emails and acceptance and rejection letters to people I will never see in person. This has not come easy to me, and after years of doing it, I still agonize over each communication. It is an interesting form because you have to completely disguise yourself. You learn to use words like "warmly" (actually, I am not usually daring enough to use that one) and sentences like "please let me know if I may be of further help" (which, after a few years, has now become the more brazenly casual "please let me know if you need anything else"). I wish all those people whose manuscripts I have had to reject as managing editor of a sociology journal knew how often I have been rejected in the poetry world, and with the same stingingly distant language--"I am writing regretfully to let you know that the judges for the ____ Prize have not selected you as the winner," "This does not meet our needs at this time." I wonder how I have ended up here in careful/discreet language land, spending my days on a computer. Why didn't I become a stripper or something more visceral?

Which brings me to my next dilemma: when people ask "how are you doing," I always feel like I say too much. I know I should just say "fine" and leave it at that, or think of some cute surface answer (a Tibetan coworker always quips, "I'm still alive")...but as much as I try to do that, something bursts out of me and then, depending on my audience, there is either a glossy, brittle silence until a more humorous topic is introduced (this happened today); or there is a genuine response that still may feel uncomfortable to me, like the person either feels sorry for me or is wishing I'd said something else. I feel like I am a stripper, verbally and I have had this problem all my life...starting at age 5 when I imparted sex-ed knowledge to everyone in kindergarten, everyone at swim lessons, etc. and told my grandparents that my mom was knocked up. At this point I feel like I may be defiling my private life by saying too much, or too many contradictory things, about it. I want language to be an agent of truth. I want people to tell me how the hell they are really doing (though not go on at length about goiters or nasal discharge or something, sure, no one wants to hear that for too long) and I want genuine connections to happen, but I feel like everything is such a social game. I keep deciding I should go on a kind of word-diet where I only say "safe" things that I will not later regret revealing or feel weird about, but much like real diets, they never work. Is something wrong with me, or is it the whole setup? Is there a culture I would be more at home in? Maybe my fellow Italians, when in Italy or certain neighborhoods in Jersey, are all inappropriately, wildly expressive to their coworkers too. Maybe there are places in Alaska where no one speaks for months (if so, I wish Sarah Palin would go there, NOW). None of this is helped by my head being full of snot right now (but I won't go on and describe it at length), so it is hard to think at all, let alone to monitor anything. Maybe one day we will all have self-censorship machines that will help us to always get the job and sex we are verbally angling for...

I don't necessarily think the problem is me (always), exactly, though I probably need to guard and respect myself more, in many ways, in this life where things can be misinterpreted. I also suspect many people hide what is really going on with them, and how they feel, until one day their life changes or breaks apart in a way that is unavoidably visible...and maybe these people think my life is fucked up because I talk honestly and confusedly about it, when really, it is quite normal.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Flowers for Gretel

Sometimes miracles come out of ordinary things. Not the kind of miracle where you have surprisingly good luck, and everything goes great and is the best it could be; but the kind that is steeped in bad luck, failure, sadness, and yet emerges from that.

My old cat, Gretel, who I have had for 4 years--through a marriage, divorce, and a cross-country move, etc.--had a stroke 2 months ago that left him completely paralyzed. I think only anyone who has a pet and no children, or is just a crazy animal lover like me, could understand what it was like for me to watch this happen. It was very quick. Around dinnertime, he began staggering around the dining room, and at first it looked like just one leg was affected, like he was trying to shake something out. By the next morning, he couldn't move at all, was like a boneless bag of jello when I tried to lift or pick him up, and was crying in confusion and frustration and covered in pee and crap (which I was not yet expert at minimizing / cleaning off). The first Dr. he saw (the emergency vet hospital) was completely worthless. She had no idea what was going on and told me it was probably a brain or spinal tumor and there was no hope; and that I should let them keep him overnight (for major $) and take all kinds of tests that would probably not help him. Then she tried to hand me an initial estimated bill for several thousand dollars. I said no, and took him home instead, where neither of us slept...but he was alive the next morning, and I could take him to his regular vet (oh and by the way, he has a girl name because I just found out 6 months ago he is a guy. Sorry, Gretel. And his liver is somehow in his lung cavity--don't know how or when that happened--and he's blind...). Said regular vet quickly diagnosed that he'd had a stroke, which is not as major as a tumor. Long story but mainly, she just listened to his heart and heard an irregular heartbeat, which I guess fancy emergency vet had somehow not picked up on. But instead of advising a lot of surgery and tests, she recommended some aspirin, other pills, and to take him home and wait.

Well, it is over 2 months later and I have done everything (feed, launder several soiled towels a day, pill, squirt medication into his mouth, etc.) for this cat ever since, often in a state of profound depression. When I first brought him home, he could not move anything at all, not even lift his head, and just laid there on one side or the other (I had to flip him). But he seemed tranquil, after the initial shock, was still interested in food, and purred when I pet him. This, for me, was enough to merit keeping him alive. (Why do many people think humans deserve recuperation time after major trauma, but animals do not?) I was told that cats can recover from stroke, sometimes better than people, and he might be back to normal in a few weeks. This is not what happened, though, and in a few weeks, my vet was cautioning me that the very little progress he had made (like, being able to lift his head a little) might not go any further, and I should now think about, you know. Especially since at this point, he wasn't even able to poo on his own (try not to think about what that entails). However, I still felt very clear in my heart that keeping him going was the right thing, and that there was no other option for me. He trusted me and I could not bundle him into the car, take him somewhere, and allow a needle to be stuck into him like that while he was purring and hungry.

I wish it was now the end of the story and I could say, and now he's back to normal! That's not really the case. But after some acupuncture (yup--I live in a hippy town) and physical therapy sessions, he has recently begun trying to walk again, taking a few steps a day. So I called his vet today to report this, since we don't have to go in as often...and they immediately sent him flowers (which he can't see, but I did let him smell them), which are sitting on my dining room table on top of a clear glass bowl filled with a few pretty red stones, water, and a little plastic goldfish, with a note congratulating Gretel on taking his first steps. The flower delivery person told me this was their first order for a cat. May there be many more.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I'm so depressed

I'm so depressed about the election that I don't know how to get through the day.

Basically, I am worried about how my life--because that's all I can really speak for, my little sliver of reality--will be directly affected if McCain and his completely wing-nut, unqualified running-mate (clearly chosen in a cynical, sensationalizing attempt to get certain voter demographics to the polls) happen to win in November. Here are some ways I can think of:

My daughter and her classmates will not learn sex-ed in high school, as I did. (And by the way, though this is embarrassing to admit, this knowledge did not make me go out and have teen sex, I was a band geek! So maybe if conservatives don't want teens to be sexually active, they should encourage them all to join marching band--but not color guard, they were definitely doing it...)

As a young woman she won't have any access to contraceptives because people will be in power who believe that using a contraceptive is the same as abortion.

My boyfriend will be sent back to Iraq, or to one of the other places McCain will go to war with, and my daughter and I will be left alone for 12-18 months (for one tour? several tours?) or forever.

Nothing will be done to reduce our dependence on oil, safeguard against environmental calamity, and preserve endangered wildlife. People will be tooling around in helicopters shooting at deer.

I wish I did not get so upset about politics. It's just people spouting different viewpoints, and it doesn't mean that everything they envision will come to pass. But it feels to me like the country is going to hell, we continue to be in a war that the majority of Americans do not support, and that people still don't want change, they want the Bush Regime in a new (even more ignorant and dangerous, bouffant-hairstyled) package.

But to get back to the serious points here: it will devastatingly impact me if we elect another war-hungry president and I lose my partner to war, either temporarily or permanently (by the way, has anyone seen the very moving, elegant HBO documentary, "Alive Day," that was made about returning Iraq vets who have lost arms, legs, etc.?). It will devastatingly impact me, not to mention everyone else (doesn't this country support Roe V. Wade by some kind of majority, still...?) if women's reproductive freedoms (including access to contraceptives, for Pete's sake) are eliminated. So much seems at stake. How can my own father be on the fence about who to vote for? He's a brilliant, educated person, but he is genuinely unsure, suspicious of both candidates, considering casting a vote for McCain even when McCain's inflexible policies may deprive his granddaughter of her father. I don't understand how there can be any ambiguity, for anyone who is thoughtful, sensitive, and has been paying any attention at all for the past 8 years. And yet, McCain is up in the polls.

Here is a youtube video for anyone unclear about McCain's intentions and how seriously we should take them:


Friday, September 5, 2008

Me, myself, and Amtrak

So I went to a wedding in Colorado and, predictably, cancelled my plane ticket at the last minute due to intolerable 3 A.M. anxiety about going down in a fiery inferno ("I fell into a burning ring of fire, I went down, down down..."). Which means...I took the train, and was gone for much longer. This was the first time I had been away from my 14-month-old for more than 2 days, and it was totally amazing. In fact, I think that when a child (any child) turns 1 year old, the government should issue a week-long vacation to the mother. This would be sound policy. Would probably prevent a lot of domestic murder issues as well. And I think the mother needs to go alone because a mother is never alone, ever.

The people who take trains are an interesting bunch. Some are neurotic, like me, but most just want to enjoy life at a slower pace (much slower, in some cases--i.e. if you have to wait 4 hours to let a freight train pass in remotest Utah). Dining cars feature "community seating," so as a party of one, I was always seated with a person or people I had never met and would never see again...which is kind of poetic. A group of 3 guys and I had a wonderful meal swaying high up on the second-floor of a dining car as it rushed over the flat green fields of Iowa at sunset. Or Nebraska (does it matter?). Two of the guys, a couple I think, were from Hawaii and talked about luaus at which whole pigs were roasted, which I tried hard not to think about. The third guy was an engineer from England who'd been working in California. The 4 of us stayed so long at our table in rapt conversation that we were eventually kicked out to make way for the next wave of diners. Then, there was an older woman I ate lunch with on my last train-day. I was enjoying talking her ears off (somehow the conversation had wandered to the Amish lifestyle, which I was discoursing passionately about, though I know nothing about it) when she announced quietly that she was going to retire to her seat and eat the brownies her aunt in Erie, PA baked for her. The night before, pulling out of Chicago, my sleeper-car attendant passed along an exclusive invitation (issued to only travellers in our car) to go to the cafe car for a little late-night wine and cheese event, at which an older architect, also from England, and I stared shyly at each other over our plastic cups of wine until I went back to my huge handicap-accessible room, enjoying the private bathroom/shower (to shower, you close the bathroom door and turn on the showerhead, spraying the whole room) and relatively large fold-out bed. The most beautiful scenery I experienced was due to missing one of my trains home, so instead of going to Pittsburgh/Philadelphia, I went into NYC via Albany and the Hudson Valley. For over a hundred miles, our train followed the Hudson which was visible from my big window and sometimes so close that it seemed we were floating over it, and so wide in places that it looked more like a sea, shiny with sunlight and little waves.

At the wedding I had a wonderful time, too and did not get drunk (unusual). Our Inn in middle-of-nowhere Colorado was certifiably haunted, apparently (like, paranormal investigators have captured "orbs" on film, etc.), so I had a lot of fun taking different groups of people in our party up to view the scary-ass second- and third-floor hallways. The second floor one was extremely dim, lit by a few widely-spaced chandeliers that gave out a sparse spray of light, and when you first came up the stairs there was a creepy painting of a young boy playing a lute or something, and the way his head was tilted it looked like he had been hung, but was enjoying it. On the top floor--the one that was actually supposed to be haunted by a murderous stable-guy and two children--an air-conditioning vent rattled loudly, the vents loose and gaping open and shuddering, and the lighting was unnaturally bright. Somehow this was all very entertaining after a few glasses of wine. The wedding ceremony was beautiful and emotional and made me realize I do want to get married again, though it was also terrifying because I was a bridesmaid and had to stand up there in 4-inch heels, with the first row of guests within a foot of my right boob, and I also had agreed to read a poem ("To Dorothy" by Marvin Bell) which I think I did terribly at. But luckily the bride and groom were focused on other things and hopefully will still let me appear in other weddings they may have together in the future.

I guess the moral of the story is that I really advocate taking a trip alone sometime. For me, it gave me a chance to catch up with myself and experience a range of feelings, both scary and joyful--just to see everything that is inside of me (psychically) at the moment. I found a lot of grief still there from my grandmother's death this summer and even the end of my marriage 3 years ago. It's funny how it never goes away and all the different ways it can come up. I also realized how every moment is an opportunity to just experience something new. It doesn't have to be attached to a past, my past, or to anything else--it is just an opportunity, either way. Like, waiting for 4 hours in a train station on a bench under big fluorescent lighting, and looking around (at the mostly elderly people) and realizing that I am the same as everyone else who is waiting, a body that needs to be shipped from point A to point B and is helpless to get there without modern machinery, as if there is no story or individuality attached to any of us, just a common experience.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Haunt

Last night Jon and I went on a little late-night without-child expedition to a club we used to go to regularly when we first met 3 years ago, to drink and make out and be joyfully oblivious to things like the rest of life, work the next day, etc.. I must report that the doorman, God bless him, thought I was under 21 for a second or two (as I was running out to the car to get my wallet, he remarked to Jon, "when she comes back, will she be old enough?"). But we were (I was) too old for the place when we went years ago; now, it is just a sick, sad travesty.

Example: watery drinks in plastic cups mostly full of ice. They couldn't make my signature drink, the chocolate martini, because they didn't have any of the ingredients. Example: whenever a song I liked came on, and I went out to the dance floor (alone--thanks, Jon), I was always pretty much the only one dancing, since everyone else was up to 15 years younger and had never heard the songs. When songs I didn't know were played--always aggressive, sultry rap that sounded like it was created for the sole purpose of hooking up to--that's when the few people in the place trickled onto the floor to collide into each other. There was a black and white photo on the wall of The Haunt in its earlier incarnation in another, smaller building downtown, which was packed pretty much every night with swaying bodies in its golden days of, like, 1994-1998. I remember going there for 80's night on Saturdays and hardly being able to dance because of the crush of limbs all around me...but that was the fun. Now, even at midnight, the place is a ghost town and everyone who is there looks kind of ghetto (there have been a couple of stabbing / gun issues in the past few years), not to mention that the women are either wearing light-up shoes or flowing tackily out of their skintight tops and jeans.

One truly funny moment: a large guy humping a chair on stage, and then somehow diving across the chair so that his wiggling legs and butt were facing the audience. (I think he was doing the breaststroke.)

Today I just feel kind of gross (though, luckily, not hungover because lately I am incapable of doing that anymore, now that there is a baby and a disabled cat waiting for me at home). And aware that a chapter of life has closed and that the wild freedom of 30 has progressed to the responsible domesticity of the mid-30's. Or maybe it's more that The Haunt has just gone sharply downhill, like it is now a gross distortion of my memories of it. It's funny that the same place or person can keep existing yet change so much, filling with and emptying of the meanings that I put on them. And then there is Jon's take on things, spoken last night at our table with stools overlooking the dance floor, with a shitty-tasting Long Island Iced Tea and Redbull and vodka in front of us: "The past is gone. Why hang onto it?"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Only unstable entities stay alive

This is what I jotted down on a post-it at work yesterday in a moment of dark-chocolate-inspired lucidity and I'm trying to think out what it means. That relationships can't be perfect; there has to be some wobble or uncertainty. I am not sure marriage would ever work for me again becaues it tries to turn an inherently unstable, mysterious, living thing, a relationship, into a fixed institution, a marriage. So may my relationship remain unstable in that sense, uncertain because I'd get bored otherwise. Maybe not all people are like this; some don't enjoy drama. My ex-husband constantly told me he didn't miss the uncertainty and heartache of pining over people, he hated it (though it sure wrung some poems out of him). I found it inspiring--until I experienced it again, after our breakup. I get the impulse to make something permanent but I think that has to happen in art, not in life. Art is the grief that things in life can't be permanent. Poems, too have to be unstable entities. If you've "wrapped up" a poem, either as a writer or reader, it has stopped living. There has to be another dimension we don't see; something hinted at that is richer for not being known, for not being pulled fully into the light of explanation. With my own poems that work, after some period of time, I do feel like I know a lot about them, but often there is one little thing I don't know, and that is where my consciousness can bloom every time I read the poem. Like, what did I mean by, "the black flame holds us in, the blue flame pets us like goats?" No f-ing idea, but that is a spot in the poem where I can feel something for a second. Of course, if a whole poem were made of statements like that, it wouldn't be very good...it's having more understandable stuff around them that makes occasions of irrationality valuable. So, relationsips, poems, politics...wouldn't politics be better if people didn't think they should have some unchanging "national consciousness," like Germans should be blond and strong (in the past), Americans are go-getters and individualistic and spreading democracy...! There should be something built into the political mechanism that allows for the admission of mistakes, at least, but everyone has to pretend they are always right and they always know exactly what they are doing and the consequences. But this isn't my area. I'm just a little poet-in-training with a little rinky-dink spotlight of concern, of things that I know. I don't know much.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Saturday night

Things I should be doing instead of being on the Internet:

Taking a walk outside in the cloudy/sunny sunset
Exercising my paralyzed cat's limbs
Vacuuming the entire house
Playing with my daughter
Reading poetry
Writing poetry
Eating Annie Chun's microwavable noodles

Things I wish I was doing with my life:
Getting a PhD in Creative Writing

I am heading to a bonfire tonight in Brooktondale. Wondering if a see-through shirt is the right attire. Just kidding, but not really, but it's not my fault because that's how they are designing clothes now, so that you need to wear a "cami" or something underneath--to buy another shirt to wear under your shirt. Very annoying.

I feel like I am stoppered up with unlived desires and the avoidance of things which I must do and never do. Like, 2 years ago the DMV sent me the title to my car. It had a mistake on it, which I was supposed to notify them about. Or: I have gotten my teeth cleaned about once a year and each time, have failed to send in the forms so that my insurance co. reimburses me. This then makes me avoid getting them cleaned a second time (and you are supposed to do it twice a year to avoid a scathing lecture from the hygienist), since that will be $100 more I am shelling out and never getting back. So when all my teeth fall out, I will have reaped what I have sown. Also, I am terrible at correspondance. Sending me a gift through the mail is the worst thing a person could do, because I will never, ever send a gift /card back and yet, the thought that I should do so will sit there in my brain occupying space, never leaving, like a stain that gets bigger and bigger with all the people who send cards or gifts over the years (for some reason, that makes me think of a Tony Hoagland poem in which he compares the memory of a past love to a stain on the bedsheets of his mind).

I can't use my energy efficiently because if I could, I would do what I should do and also what I want to do. Instead, I really do neither most of the time. I guess I am counting on having a long life span over which to spread my efforts.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Time warp

I joined Facebook the other day, which suddenly put me in touch with people I hadn't seen or spoken to since high school or college (or shortly after college, which also seems like way long ago). Since then, I have been getting a vivid feeling of different times in my life existing simultaneously. Like, it is still 1989, my family and I just moved to Middlesex, New Jersey, where every strip mall and restaurant is new to me so I am kind of off-balance, and my mom and I are doing some boring shopping at Karin's Kurtains. I'm sulking because I hate being dragged through stores looking at curtains or bath towels and because, well, I'm 14. It's the summer before high school. Now somehow I am in my mid-thirties and some moments I can't remember anything that came between being 14 and now; it's like the 14-year-old inside me is given a preview of her life later, which is this life I am living, with a sense of "Oh, so that's how it turned out." And if somewhere I am still 14 then there are still all these other possibilities for what could have happened...except I know those possibilities are gone and I'm not going to get any younger from here on out.

At a certain point a switch happens where the future becomes less a source of joy and hope than--just the next thing, possibly a source of dread or worry (middle age, death) and the past becomes something to wallow in. There is no limit to the ways in which I can make myself feel bad for not being 17 or 24 anymore, for wasting whatever presented itself to me then; and the ways I can fear what is ahead (since in our culture, women seem to become invisible somewhere around their mid-40's unless they can afford to inject bacteria into their faces, etc. to keep themselves looking 5-10 years younger, except they don't really look younger, they just look--stretched. Like they are trying. That's what I think, and sign me up for the bacteria injection).

And yet inbetween high school and now, a lot happened and I felt all of it; it wasn't like going into suspended animation or having a dream and waking up. But increasingly it feels that way...and what is real, anyway? The dreams I brush off when I wake up every morning, don't they constitute just as much of my consciousness as whatever story I seem to be living or have lived? I don't know but sometimes I feel there is such a scary vulnerability to aging because you have to do it, to go through time, whether you want to or not and you are on a ride that you can't get off except by death.

And I guess I can't help but feel disappointed in my life now when I look at it after looking through my high school or college year books. Because I feel less fresh and attractive, that is the superficial part, and because never again will there be that sense that there was then that the story wasn't written and that everything was ahead. So no matter how miserable the young are, they know that there is a huge future waiting to be written on, so there is always a way out of whatever unhappiness.

But I don't want this to disintegrate into whining about not being "young." It is more a sense of awe that things really do end and pass. I remember sometime during the high school years, over a summer, taking a tennis clinic or class and practicing at an indoor court. For some reason I was miserable. It was a big echoey ugly building we were in with dividers separating one tennis court from the next; and maybe I wasn't doing well at my game or I didn't like the other people at the camp; I don't even know anymore. There was just an intense feeling of misery, time dragging on, of this-will-never-end, and then a sudden liberating knowledge that seemed to lift me up out of that building, that self and whole time of life, and say, No, this will end and something else will be true, you won't be 16 forever.

Friday, August 8, 2008

My strange life

The other day, Jon's friend who used to be in jail (or prison, I get them confused) stopped by to mow our large front and back lawns. We didn't ask him to; Jon's other friend who used to be in jail (and still is, on weekends) set it up, as he works in landscaping. This saves us (Jon) from having to use the hand-mower left by our landlord and spend hours of life doing something I have always thought is pointless, i.e. lawn maintenance. After the friend zoomed away in his protective goggles on his riding mower, Jon said something about how this is why it is not bad to have friends who are in, or have been in, prison and that some people wouldn't think that they could still be nice guys.

This made me think about my strange life. Young men toughened by prison life perform unsolicited acts of kindness on our yard. Deer are constantly browsing the crabapple tree visible from our living room (yesterday, one stood up on its hind legs to get an apple--I didn't realize they could do that). I am with a man 5 years younger who has been to war. I am suddenly, it feels, plopped down in the middle of a life that includes a one-year-old little girl and lots of loud, brightly-colored toys all over the floor, including a giant caterpillar that teaches about shapes and colors. I have lived to be the age of Jesus when He was crucified (so apparently, if I can just survive the next few months, I will be having a better year than He did).

Running into Jon's friend on his mower, there was just some feeling about the improbability of everything and how I have often felt pulled along by the sea of life without having my own direction, just letting things happen. I didn't ask for a big front and back lawn, but now I have them and they are "mine," at least for the year lease. I didn't ask to be born. (Or, according to some new age theories, maybe I did.) There is a generosity underlying everything that provides for us. It giveth and it will taketh away.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ex-friend's wedding

The other day, my boss told me about the wedding of a former roommate, which he attended this past weekend (my birthday weekend). She and I, and her sister, lived together around 10 years ago, and haven't spoken since. The reasons are murky, even in retrospect, meaning, before I blame her for them, I should probably own up to the fact that I am a relationship moron. Or so it feels, lately. I feel like every relationship I have ever been in, friendship and otherwise, I have fucked up. So, am I sad that we are so distant now that I wasn't invited to her wedding in the same town I live in, or am I pissed that her life is apparently going so well and I keep hearing about it (including that she has bought a beautiful house on a beautiful piece of property)? Is it even possible to be really happy for other people's successes without thinking of the holes in one's own life?

I am unable, lately, to look at the pictures from my own wedding 5 years ago which are in a big Kodak envelope in a desk drawer. Part of it is because there are a few vivid, wonderful close-ups of my grandmother who just died, and she is wearing the white sequined outfit she wore at her funeral. The pictures are a kind of wound and a strange thing to keep after the divorce, but I can't imagine throwing them away. I can't say it was a very happy day, either: torrential rain (the roads were actually flooded), 50 degree temperatures in early June, trucks slamming past the tent where we were saying our vows (because Chris had wanted an outdoor wedding--so we ended up with an outdoor tent). Also I had a terrible, terrible hairstyle inflicted on me by some salon my mom and I went to that morning (they seemed to think we had African-American hair, and put my mom's hair in cornrows which she painstakingly had to rip out in the car as they looked ludicrous). And Chris fell down the wet stairs hard on his back while bringing the speakers to our stereo back out to the car. I imagine, and have always imagined, that other weddings are so much better than mine was, as other marriages are better, and now ex-roommate's wedding is one that I add to that list.

I thought I wanted to say more, but I don't. Let her go on to live her happy or complicated life. Let her be happy--what do I lose if she is? We hurt each other, and life has gone on.

Here is a Navajo poem that was read at Chris' and my wedding (though this is not the same version, but is the closest I can find):

Beauty is before me and Beauty behind me. Above me and below me hovers the beautiful. I am surrounded by beauty, I am immersed in beauty. In my youth I am aware of beauty, and, in old age, I shall walk quietly the beautiful trail. In beauty, it is begun, In beauty, it is ended.