I posted this on my nutsandflowers.org page. I haven’t worked out yet how this and that will overlap. But some of these feel true, so I’m going to put it here too.
This is the product of a few days of writing time. It was the last Occasional Paper I did for my students graduating in 2016, and it came out more poemy than papery. If I was trying to write a poem, I’d still be stuck about 3 lines in.
I haven’t written much poetry since I was an angsty adolescent (or 20 something). Except for that one poem about a suicide. Maybe I’ll revisit that one one of these days.
(Hashtag appropriated from a social media post by a Class of 2012 235er)
(235 is my classroom)
The end of years is always hard for me
Hard because endings are not my thing
And because we are approaching
The end of this joyfully intoxicating congregation
The spirit of exploration
Swashed around in inspiration
Taken in and down with honey and august.
We landed here together 350 days ago
nervous, or excited (depending on the lighting)
with a whole lot of time and a realm of possibility
laid out ahead of us.
Now, all but behind us,
An inhale, and an exhale,
and it’s time to move ahead again.
Because though we worked a lot,
there is always more to know.
Always more to figure out.
Always more to sketch into to the drawing of our lives.
And in a time when it seems like there is so much
that doesn’t make sense,
when our screens scream hate and vitriol,
when discord seems the soundtrack of the times,
when teaching people how to guard against victimization
takes precedence over crafting the compassion
and empathy that cultivate kindness,
When courses are charted by fear,
we inhale and exhale,
and we love.
Continuing on yesterday’s topic – writing about a moment when you recognized the magnitude or reality of a loss.
Today is the third anniversary of my mother’s death. Death? Passing? Passing sounds nicer, doesn’t it. Makes the passing sound easy. Death is a hard word. Dead. My mother passed. It was the end of her living that was hard. Her death was easy.
My brother and I sat on either side of the hospital bed we had set up in her dining room. We were all watching tv – something mindless. Real Housewives, or maybe The Price is Right – she loved The Price is Right. I was holding her hand, which was cold. But it was always cold.
I was telling her silently that it was ok. We were ok. And we knew she was tired. She could go.
And she heard. She listened. She left us.
I sat for a minute looking for breath, but there was none. There was none. I stared at my brother, willing him to look over at me, and he did, and I nodded toward her lifelessness, and he said, “Oh.”
Three years ago today.
And I have just watched Hillary Clinton give a speech in which she accepted the mantle of first woman presidential candidate from a major party. First. And I wanted to call my mom and share that historical moment with her. We never really talked politics much. When I was younger and we did, it would usually end with her not really asking me “Where the hell did you come from?” and telling me “knowingly” that as I got older, I would get more conservative. She was wrong. She actually joined me in the light as she got older.
My mother had to quit teaching in 1965 because she was pregnant. I want to share this with her. I’m sure she knows.
All day today I kept thinking, “I have to call my dad and see how he’s doing.” This anniversary makes him sad.” Then I remembered he was probably with her right then, having coffee. That two sad anniversaries without her were enough for him.
Tonight I am quietly celebrating this moment in history, and the moments of our history that may seem small in comparison, but somehow contain everything.
Today’s #Write30 topic comes from Crafting the Personal Essay. The prompt focuses on loss – not exactly the loss itself, or the moment where you get the news, but the moment when you realize the impact.
It seemed like my father had had pneumonia forever. I’m sure he was sick when I was down in Florida for my brother’s IBEW Local Ironman Challenge Golf Outing. It was hot that day, but even so, he couldn’t walk from the golf cart to the tee, nevermind swing a club without needing a 15 minute rest and a tank full of oxygen. That was early June. He and Kevin arrived in NJ the day before father’s day. The next day he was in the hospital. And he basically stayed there for a month.
He probably had an ice-cube size section of working lung left, and it seemed to be melting fast.
I probably shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was when Kevin’s voice said “Hello” in an uncharacteristic somber monotone. And then, “Your dad died.” (His dad too. That was just the way he always said it. As I write that now, I’m glad he didn’t let go of that mannerism.)
The rest of the conversation was the cliched blurr. I said what, he repeated it. He had to go, and I made a plan to get down there as quickly as I could.
I was off the phone but still hearing a voice. It wasn’t the tv. It wasn’t the computer. For a second, I actually thought it may have been the voice of god – or some anthropomorphized force in the universe.
Then I realized it was my father.
It really was. I am sure of it.
“Now you can write what you want.”
Looks like the ocean is going uphill toward the horizon
Like I sit at the peak
And it slopes down toward the break
Then goes back uphill again
Even though it can’t
What seems and what is
Don’t always match
This is from a Evernote note from June 2012. I don’t remember the day, or thinking that about the ocean. But it’s an idea that I always want to explore in more depth. The differwnce between appearance and realuty. Something I have often found myself writing about myself.
It’s the idea of that passage in the Scarlet Letter about Dimmesdale seeming more holy as his conscience is inflamed with guilt.
It’s the thing that happens this time of year when I celebrate school successes, and panic that I have used up my quota.
It’s the happy face covering depression. And the accolades covering a drinking problem.
Is it always a good masquing a bad? Is the appearance always better than the reality? Can’t be.
I’m going to have to explore it more when I am not violating my avowed bed time.
Whatever it is…
The ocean always gets it.
I knew when I put my pajamas on at 8:30 on Friday that I was probably going to fall asleep before writing or revisiting anything. And I was right. But I don’t want to skip the project I started that day, which was revisiting some of the notes I have in my phone.
I came across a series of notes from 2012 titled only by date. At the time I was living in Ortley Beach. It was pre-Sandy. A time of active seeking (as I hope all times are, but they are not). I don’t think I intended to write them in poetic form, but they came out that way.
Maybe that’s the best form for seeking.
I have put a few together here, with very loose stitches and a few little patches.
BEACHWALK NOTES – MAY 2012
Sometimes I think if I could go out far enough
And look back
Like maybe from the deck of that fishing boat out there
I could see enough
To make sense of things
I know that’s not really true,
But looking out to the horizon it seems for a minute
like it could be
And sanity would be a really good excuse
To buy a boat.
This is from a few more torn out pages from an old journal. I think it was part dream, part real. I was tying my sneaker on the Lavallette boardwalk one sort of misty morning before taking a walk, and I saw a guy that felt deeply familiar, but I didn’t know him. I don’t think I actually talked to him.
The part about the kid in the field is dream material, I think. But as I replay it and flesh out the scribbled sentences, it feels like memory. Dream memory I suppose.
I see you everywhere.
I don’t think I know you.
I see you everywhere – arms spread as if indicating – everywhere – really.
Nervously, but not really scared, knowing he’s unfamiliar, she’s tying her shoe.
Well, I do walk here every day. Maybe that’s where you’ve seen me.
It was like an echo, but inside her. His words reverberated in her ears, hear heart. Then she knew what he meant.
I saw you on the field that day. When you walked across and stood out in the middle in the same posture he took up now. Continue reading
Today I wrote some about magic, earlier and mostly in my head. But What I want to do now is clear out this pile of pages I have torn out of years old journals and thought worth saving.
This is fiction. Mostly.
A bench on the boardwalk.
The day is really cold and steely gray. The sky looks like brushed stainless steel – and the only difference between the sky and the water was the direction of the brush strokes.
She’s sitting on a cold, hard, slightly damp bench retying a shoelace that her walk had caused to wriggle free from its knot. Her head is down – the unseasonably cold wind-induced dance of her short brown curls incongruent with the brooding gray that fills her vision.
It was about 6:00, September. Not quite dark, yet in NJ that time of day where, if you were to wake up from a nap, you wouldn’t know if it was early evening or early morning.
The bench is near a phone booth. You hardly ever see pay phones any more. She tries to remember the last time she used a payphone. 1987 maybe.
He is really tall. 6’2, maybe 6’4. Solid. And he has a prodigious afro – maybe 8 or 10 inches extended from his head. He’s wearing really faded jeans with a hole on the left knee – 4″ across, not bought that way but faded and threadbare because they formed the bottom half of his uniform — those and maybe another pair or two — regardless of temperature or what the day had in store.
He seems to be without significant relationships in his life – but that is only by outward appearance. He compartmentalizes. He takes something from everyone he observes, making all of his relationships significant in some way. And he knows it. He is capable of stepping back and seeing things with a wider perspective. Continue reading
One of my earliest memories – maybe the earliest, once you sift out the things that I think are memories but are really second-hand knockoffs of pictures and movies of my elfin childself that I have seen and taken ownership of – is of me writing.
My brothers and I were frequently taken on Sunday drives when we were little. I think that we were either on househunts (my Mom was always looking to move), or spending some inexpensive family time together in the car. I hated it because I was afflicted by what I now know is carsickness.
At some point, I discovered that if I sat not on the seat but in the little carved out footspace in front of the seat, I didn’t feel as nauseated as the scenery taunted me on it’s way by the window.
On one of these outings when I was maybe 5 or so (I could fit comfortably in that footwell, so I was pretty small) for a fleeting few moments, maybe an hour, I saw in myself a poet.
My grandmother always had these little white 3×5 notepads around, and any time we left her house we left with a few. Sitting there in my little cubby, I asked my mom for some paper, and she gave me one of those pads. Nausea be damned – my little heart celebrated. And that celebration came out in the form of a poem. And then another. And another.
Prodigy that I was (not) I huddled there in the footwell, seat as my desk, scribbling off something about a pretty bird, freed it from the glue holding the pad together, and scrambled to my feet to show my mother.
(Thankfully, I grew up in the 70’s because if I were born a generation later, in the age of seatbelts and safety seats, my writing bug would have been squashed in the larva stage.) Continue reading