Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Gems from "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" by Joan Didion

“It all comes back. Perhaps it is difficult to see the value in having one's self back in that kind of mood, but I do see it; I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were. I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be; one of them, a seventeen-year-old, presents little threat, although it would be of some interest to me to know again what it feels like to sit on a river levee drinking vodka-and-orange-juice and listening to Les Paul and Mary Ford and their echoes sing "How High the Moon" on the car radio. (You see I still have the scenes, but I no longer perceive myself among those present, no longer could ever improvise the dialogue.) The other one, a twenty-three-year-old, bothers me more. She was always a good deal of trouble, and I suspect she will reappear when I least want to see her, skirts too long, shy to the point of aggravation, always the injured party, full of recriminations and little hurts and stories I do not want to hear again, at once saddening me and angering me with her vulnerability and ignorance, an apparition all the more insistent for being so long banished.
It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me, nor mine you.”

“Of course we would all like to "believe" in something, like to assuage our private guilts in public causes, like to lose our tiresome selves; like, perhaps, to transform the white flag of defeat at home into the brave white banner of battle away from home. And of course it is all right to do that; that is how, immemorially, thing have gotten done. But I think it is all right only so long as we do not delude ourselves about what we are doing, and why. It is all right only so long as we remember that all the ad hoc committees, all the picket lines, all the brave signatures in The New York Times, all the tools of agitprop straight across the spectrum, do not confer upon anyone any ipso facto virtue. It is all right only so long as we recognize that the end may or may not be expedient, may or may not be a good idea, but in any case has nothing to do with "morality." Because when we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something or need something, not that it is a pragmatic necessity for us to have it, but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen, and then is when the thin whine of hysteria is heard in the land, and then is when we are in bad trouble. And I suspect we are already there.”

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

(inspired by the Kavanaugh hearings and other true co-occurring life events)

that season began as any other
with dancing
on the hilltop overlooking the black river
jumping hedges, hedging bets
talking about love and death and sharing music in between

that season I dreamed nothing
or only of wild things running free in fingers
a leopard I let loose from its cage that tore my body clean in half on the same patio I sipped lemon seltzer
never trust a free will
in love or otherwise
even tamed circus lions will bite your head off
after licking your face with affection
after jumping through hoops of fire
into your arms only

that season ended in testimony
white daisies shaking in the breeze and clouds ovaling out into smoke rings
someone else’s God blew into the sky
like the Caterpillar, interrogating Alice
'Keep your temper,' said the Caterpillar
'Is that all?' said Alice, swallowing down her anger as well as she could.
how do you kill something?
fill it with love
fill it with something that looks like love
let it spill its guts
let it lend its soul
call it a tie
call it a lie
bare your teeth
stand for nothing
and leave 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Belladonna

You may come to a place where nothing grows
Where all you can see for miles is desert terrain
Cracked edges of earth, splitting at its own themes
The dust is palpable, in your throat and in your eyes
Black skies and bruised clouds stretch on endlessly 
But in the corner there is a yellow cactus flower
Electric, alive, alone

It sways in the windless moment
Grows despite constant carnage

 Like sweet wine born from the bitterest grapes
its bouquet opens in the broken glass,
flavor ripening with every sip
It grows like those at the bottom of the ocean
without light, without oxygen, without sound
it glows

Like nightshades, solanaceae, the flowering plants
that bloom under the moon: potatoes, paprika, peppers
and pomodori 
The only edibles from a list of poison
filled with alkaloids and lectins and night air
They tell me not to eat them
quod me nutrit, me destruit 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

God in Parentheses

Every morning I pass the bank display window on 17th street and
staring at my own wind-blown reflection I always think I see someone staring back
and (every time) I realize it’s just a tall, wooden lighthouse painted red and white,
used for marketing or decoration or who knows what.
Maybe that is what we are to one another:
decorative wooden lighthouses in display windows, guiding one another
through black waters, and misty mornings, and sidewalks filled with strangers moving in differing directions and discordant speeds.
Further down the man selling falafel and fried eggs from his food truck hands
people their change through the steel window and I stare at the Tropicana orange juice bottles on shaved ice pebbles.
(I don’t know why this matters
But somehow it does)
They smile as they walk away, clutching breakfast sandwiches in brown paper bags
Inside they are wrapped in foil
The way my dad used to do for my brother on Sunday mornings
He left the sandwich in the warm toaster oven
To stay heated until my brother woke up
(I don’t why this matters
But somehow it does)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Aplomb

There is not much to say about plums
that William Carlos Williams did not already cover
but I can say that they (and blackberries too) have a sweet
so startling deep that it hits you between your eyeballs
tingling in your brain and back jawbone.
The flavor emerges slowly, like blood clusters in a bruise
or the way it falls in water like backwards smoke.
Is it too biblical to associate fruit with death?
And sex? 
But Adam ate it too. The serpent spoke to them both.
What is forbidden always has flesh.
What is allowed always has breath.
What has teeth always fights back.
She ate it because he cared to ask.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

Opposites

When a union of opposites makes a ceremonious entrance
I stand at the doorway, flinching
I have asked a million times for a map of this place
Where is the crevice wheremy voice will echo? When I whisper in between the beams?
Staring at gilded gold cherubs and overflowed toilets in the basement, crusted in sediment
The children singing in the choir
His blue eyes crying in between weak chains of laughter
He just buried his best friend, his mom makes a dry joke
Pulling back the heavy maroon velvet curtain, peering into the penance box
Dust shifts and I feel a thousand people crying. Their guilt as palpable as the cool, oily holy water I dip my finger into
scratching the bottom of the stone basin at the exit. I feel it like a sigh on my neck.
Do I belong here?
Looking up, crosses, pain, paint stains and light filtering through the diamond slices of windows
I do
I do?
This is my favorite part: the pews. The hard wood against my back and sits bones. You have to sit a certain way.
You have to remember we will all be pinned to a tree someday.
Outside, the sun is hazy behind clouds though you have to squint to see the green gingko tree leaves turning yellow at the edges. “There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground,” Rumi said
There are a hundred, thousand ways for your ego to die. Look up, look up. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Looking Out, Looking In

“The moon was an orange!” the little girl said –
“like someone took a bite out of it while flying in the sky.”
Without glasses everything was grey and bright, low light
gleaming off of skyscrapers above us. Shadows falling in strange places.
With glasses, a marigold circle in and out of black clouds.
This is what we came to see. To watch one another look up at stars
mid-day
and wonder why we are all here. Carrying cereal boxes and cell phones
saying things like, “wow” and “did you see it?” and “we should get back to work.”
As if.
As if the work was never out here, with one another, gazing at each other,
gazing at the stars, knowing it was all the same.