9.18.2018

long damp hedgehog love

make big fat sounds
list the two or more places
where you'd like to be
at once and more than once
where questioning every question
hasn't killed all questions
(at least not yet)
and all is long damp hedgehog love
on a perennial sunny tourist morning
then go there ASAP
and send me a postcard
that postcard will be this poem
wish you were there already
wish I was here

[Anselm Hollo {1934-2013}, 'make big fat sounds' from Guests of Space]

9.16.2018

I never met you afterward nor seemingly knew you before. Our lives were interfolded, wrapped like a present

     1.
This distance
between pane of glass,
eye's sight—
the far waving green edge

of trees, sun's
reflection, light
yellow—and sky there too
light blue.

     2.
I will sit here
till breeze, ambient,
enfolds me and I
lift away. I will

sit here as sun
warms my hands, my
body eases and sounds
grow soft and intimate

in my ears. I will sit
here and back of the house
behind me will at last
disappear. I will sit here

     3.
Harry's gone out for pizza.
Mabel's home all alone.
Mother just left for Ibiza.
Give the old man a bone?

Remember when Barkis was willing?
When onions grew on the lawn?
When airplanes cost just a shilling?
Where have the good times gone?

     4.
If one looks back
or thinks to look
in that uselessly opaque direction,
little enough's ever there.

What is it one stares into,
thinks still to recover
as it all fades out—
mind's vagary?

I call to you brutally.
I remember the day we met
I remember how you sat, impatient
to get out.

Back is no direction...
Tout passe?
Life is the river
we've carried with us.

     5.
Sun's shadows aslant
across opening expansive
various green fields down

from door
here ajar on box tower's
third floor—

look out on
wonder.
This morning.

     6.
I never met you afterward
nor seemingly knew you before.
Our lives were interfolded,
wrapped like a present.

The odors, the tastes, the surfaces
of our bodies were the map—
the mind a distraction,
trying to keep up.

I could not compare you to anything.
You were not like rhubarb
or clean sheets—or, dear as it might be,
sudden rain in the street.

All those years ago, on the beach in Dover,
with that time so ominous,
and the couple so human,
pledging their faith to one another,

now again such a time seems here—
not to fear
death or what's been given—
to yield one's own despair.

     7.
Like sitting in backseat,
can't see what street
we're on or what the
one driving sees

or where we're going.
Waiting for what's to happen,
can't quite hear the conversation,
the big people, sitting up front.

     8.
Death, be not proud...
Days be not done.
Air be not gone.
Head be not cowed.

Bird be not dead.
Thoughts be not fled.
Come back instead,
Heart's hopeful wedding.

Face faint in mirror.
Why does it stay there?
What's become
Of person who was here?

     9.
Wet
       water
warm
       fire.

Rough
       wood
cold
       stone.

Hot
       coals
shining
       star.

Physical hill still my will.
Mind's ambience alters all.

     10.
As I rode out one morning
just at break of day
a pain came upon me
unexpectedly—

As I thought one day
not to think anymore,
I thought again,
caught and could not stop—

Were I the horse I rode,
were I the bridge I crossed,
were I a tree
unable to move,

the lake would have
no reflections,
the sweet, soft air
no sounds.

So I hear, I see,
tells still the echoing story
of all that lives in the forest,
all that surrounds me.

[Robert Creeley {1926-2005}, 'Pictures' from If I Were Writing This]

9.15.2018

only one question worth asking: "Is it true?”

  1. What do you miss about being a kid? sleeping outside in the summertime. Long nights under dark skies with a million bright stars. Cool enough to feel cozy in a sleeping bag. No scary bugs.
  2. If someone gave you enough money to start a business – no strings attached – what kind of business would you want to start and why? a bookstore. Quirky stock. Some bestsellers, but mostly the weird stuff, hand-picked. Some foodie things, gifts, socks, journals, that sort of idea. 
  3. Tell me about a relationship issue you’re having, and ask me for advice on how to fix it. it's hard enough when the person you love can't feel the same way that you do, but it's much harder when they can't accept what you've got to give. There's no advice to be had--and I wouldn't want it anyway.
  4. If you could go back in time, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to your younger self? buy the dress
  5. What’s something you want to do in the next year that you’ve never done before? take a spontaneous vacation
  6. Tell me three things that happened in the last week that you’re thankful for. 1. dinner and a good, long talk with a friend on Monday; 2. a great appointment with one of my doctors on Wednesday (with a follow-up today), which may have some dramatic results (and made me feel a whole lot better about myself); and 3. lunch today with an old, dear friend. We don't have too much time to talk these days, but when we do, it's great for the soul.
  7. What’s your favorite memory we’ve shared together? Gimme as many details as possible. [These questions were written for couples (friends, romantic partners, etc.) to answer together, in order to learn more about themselves and each other. I'm doing the sort of getting-to-know-myself version.]  I bought my house three years ago today. It's a huge commitment (much more than I would have realized) but absolutely worth it.
  8. What makes you happy? being alone. It is my natural state.
  9. Who or what has changed your life? I am a part of all that I have met
  10. How do you best connect with others? good question. I wonder sometimes if I can connect at all anymore. 
  11. Are you a giver, a taker, or a matcher? Are there areas in your life where you act like one type, and other areas where you act like another?
    [Here’s the Giver/Taker Test]
    I'm about halfway up the Giver side

  12. What are the five most important things on your bucket list? I hate that phrase SO MUCH. Still, there's always something in the hopper, vague ideas or half-cooked plans. 1. Travel. Get away. Spontaneous, planned, long, short, formal.... 2. Some projects on the to-do list at the house: painting, light fixtures, a new floor, etc. 3. Change the way I look in a couple of specific ways. Details to come. 4. Actively seek a different job. Sigh. Another new job. 5. Buy a dark green blouse that fits well.
  13. What matters most to you? conscience
  14. What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever gotten? "Don't get attached to the plan." Great advice, almost impossible to follow.
  15. What’s your ideal weekend? lots of sleep, reading, tea, and a little conversation
  16. If you could take a year-long paid sabbatical, what would you do? oh my God, what a lovely idea. First, I would look for a new job. And then I would follow the rules of an ideal weekend. 
  17. Who do you trust? only me--and even then, only some of the time
  18. What are five things you’re thankful for right now? air conditioning, PJ pants, medical advancements + insurance, conscience, and logic 
  19. If a genie granted you three wishes right now, what would you wish for? a fast-forward button, a TON of money (in large increments), and a perfect (healthy) body
  20. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done and would you do it again? flew 967 miles to spend the weekend with someone I'd met on FB. It was thoroughly insane. Would I do it again, knowing what I know now, how it all played out? Uhm, no.
  21. What’s your favorite family tradition? watching classic movies with my parents after big meals on the holidays
  22. If you could enter a time machine, what time period would you go to? my late teens and early 20s--I'd figure out what the hell I was doing back then
  23. What’s your favorite quote? it changes by the day. Today's is by Patti Smith: "I understood that in this small space of time we had mutually surrendered our loneliness and replaced it with trust."
  24. What do you value most in a friendship? the truth
  25. Tell me your life story in four minutes, with as many deets as possible. fun, rowdy childhood. Lots of education - and more, and more. Relationships, good and bad. Probably too many regrets. A handful of jobs. Three places to live (and within that, about 40 different ones). Three broken bones, two major surgeries, and a perpetually broken heart.
  26. What’s something I’ve done for you that you’re grateful for? good sleep, friends who follow through, and fuzzy socks
  27. What do you want your legacy to be? I don't think that way. If I "leave a legacy" it will be tangible, not emotional.
  28. Let’s alternate sharing three positive characteristics of each other. a hard one, eh, since I'm doing this solo? Three positive characteristics of the person to whom I referred in question #3: he's brilliant, hilarious, and insightful
  29. What are your biggest goals for this year? How will you work to achieve them? take action on a couple of health issues, dedicate some work and money to home improvements that have been on the to-do list for a long time, and refocus the attention I've been putting in the wrong places (i.e. on the wrong people, those who can't or won't make me a priority) on something/someone feeding my soul
  30. Where was your favorite place to go as a child and why did you love it there? there is a small park about a half hour from the house where I grew up. It has picnic areas, a small stream, and some pretty steep, wooded rock hills for climbing. There is some gym equipment, too, but that was definitely not the most fun thing to do. We often went there for family gatherings, and I have lots of memories of playing (and falling) in the creek with my siblings and cousins, climbing the hills, and playing an awesome, dangerous variation of a few sports that was called "uncle-ball."
  31. Tell me about a challenge you’ve been having at work or school, and ask me for advice on what to do about it. my job is a little weird. I have a lot of responsibility, going in a bunch of different directions (internal and external customers, short- and long-term projects, focused entirely within my department and benefiting the organization generally), but it is regularly reinforced to me that I am not high on the organizational chart and ought not get ahead of myself in thinking that I belong there. It's hard not to react to the increasing pressure and demands with "you're not paying me enough" or "that's your job." There's a lot to be said for making myself useful, valuable, and eventually "indispensable." (Which, of course, no one really is.) But it's a fine line between being esteemed and being taken advantage of, and I think we're right around it.  
  32. What was the first thing you bought with your own money? I've been making my own money, more or less, since I was 17 years old, which is 2/3 of my life ago. What's the first thing I bought with it? God knows! What stands out in my mind is a pair of diamond earrings, gifted to my best guy friend in high school. I don't know that he realized what that gift meant to me, to give, but it was a pretty big deal in any case.  
  33. What are you curious about? the Panama canal, the coast of Maine, and Nevada
  34. What are your top three strengths? Which strengths do you look for in a friend or partner?
    [Take the VIA Strengths Test]
    Creativity, Love of Learning, and Honesty--

    Of that list of attributes, the most important three that I would seek in a partner are Honesty (you don't need to tell me everything, but don't fucking lie to me--and if you don't know the difference between those things, then we don't have anything to talk about), Perspective (being able to kick back a little and look at things without having to be personally involved right away), and Curiosity (interest for interest's sake, in a wide variety of topics, just for the fun of exploring).
  35. Name four things we have in common. again, this is impossible to answer about a theoretical person, so I'll answer regarding the person in #3, above. We're both stubborn, arrogant, frustrated, and sad. And smart, history nerds, fans of bacon and sneaky love songs, and filled with regrets. 
  36. What are your favorite three topics to talk about? books, movies and food
  37. What’s your earliest memory? falling on the playground at school. I think I got a concussion, because I can remember the taste of the pain in my head and the fear that came with having the breath knocked out of me. I think I'd slipped off the monkey bars or a swing and fallen on my back.
  38. How do you express gratitude towards others? Give me an example. a handwritten card or some other direct, clear way. I've lost some people that I care about very much, and that experience has reinforced the need to say what you can to the people who matter right away.
  39. What are the top three ways to express your love in friendships and in relationships?
    (Here’s the Love Languages Quiz)
    Quality time, Physical touch, and Words of affirmation--by far. 
  40. In what situations do you feel most comfortable sharing your perspective? I generally do? I am not overly intimidated by people who are in positions of power or who are thought to be "important." It's more a question of whether I will bother sharing my perspective than whether I feel comfortable. If I'm surrounded by people whose opinions don't matter to me, or who I know are set in their ways or obnoxious, I'm not going to waste my breath. 
  41. Who’s someone you really admire? is it safe to admire anyone anymore? As soon as you do, you'll find out that they're as flawed as the rest of us, and the mere gesture of admiration will set one up as a target. Best keep one's admiration to oneself, or at least personal.
  42. How do you like to be comforted when you’re upset? it depends on the reason for the upset. Right now, an honest apology and an attempt to undo some built-up hurt would go a long way. Sometimes it's a hug, other times it's shutting off the phone for a while and making an extra effort to be present when we're together. Lots of the time it's just making the motion, the check-in. "Is everything OK?" I have one friend who is the absolute best at this, and thank God for him.
  43. What would you do on your “perfect” day? sleep late, wake up gradually and not because of anything happening. Eat breakfast while reading. Shower, get dressed, and ease into the day. Nothing on the agenda. Light rain, sporadically mixed with very heavy downpours. Naps, books, tea. Soup for lunch. Text messages. Dinner plans. Nonspecific evening plans. 
  44. In 10 years, how would you like to describe your life? mortgage paid off, job I don't hate, dramatically simplified social life. Household projects completed. Lots of sleep and less heartache.
  45. If you had $100,000 to give away to any cause, which cause would you choose and why? besides paying off my house? Probably a public library, because they ALWAYS need money, and that amount would be enormously useful without being a burden. The new book possibilities...oh my. 
  46. Where are the top three places you want to travel to some day, and why? Toronto in summertime, northern California in wintertime, and Vegas anytime. Because I've never been to any of them, and each has a reason to draw me. 
  47. If you could have any job you wanted, that would it be? writing. It's not going to happen, but I would love it. Or maybe editing a poetry anthology. 
  48. Tell me about a day you had that you’ll never forget. nope. The day that I will never forget lives in my heart alone, and that secret can never be told.
  49. If there were 26 hours in a day, what would you do more of? sleep or read, or write
  50. Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it yet? there are plenty of money-based things that I would like to do that I can't pull the trigger on, for good reason. Money isn't the most important thing, but it is important and to deny that is short-sighted and foolish. That being said, what would I like to do? Have the grass tilled up, and have the lawn turned into a prairie. I hate mowing (or paying someone else to mow) and I love the idea of driving the neighbors crazy with a yard full of perennial weedy crap. Even if it was just part of the yard (the perimeter? The back? The side closest to the hillbilly asshole?) I'd love it. My bunnies would be thrilled, too. I'd also like to get a daith piercing for migraine relief--though of course results are mixed on the actual scientific efficacy. (See here and here, for example.) Also, I think I might get a fish.
  51. What moments or events during your childhood shaped who you are now? my maternal grandmother's death. It was really tough on my (extended) family, and I dreamed about it a lot for years. Also, for three summers during elementary school, I attended a summer program for students with good test scores. Not sure what the overall point was, but it was a bunch of smart kids from all the elementary schools in the area, nerding out together and bonding over esoteric subjects. Some of the friends that I made there are still in my orbit, and a lot of what I learned is still cooking around in my mind somewhere. It also made me identify--in a way that regular school and certainly my home life never did--as a member of a different group, one that was destined to go to college and beyond. Finally, I saw my first fist-fight during fifth grade. Something about a pencil, I guess? A popular, funny kid pushed a chunky, awkward kid. The awkward kid swung at him, connected, and the hit spun him into the brick wall. Mr. Popular was knocked unconscious. It freaked me the hell out. Since then, violence has always had that same effect on me.
  52. What do you think about most? everything. I'm an introvert, very much inside my own head, and I work over absolutely everything like a dog with a bone. However, the two most recurring subjects are Mr. #3 (see above), and money, about which I frequently worry.  
[As indicated above, this set of questions is intended for two people to take together, to learn more about each other and to get closer through the answers. I found it here. The title quotation is by Marty Rubin.]

9.07.2018

he promises a secret heat

My hero bares his nerves along my wrist
That rules from wrist to shoulder,
Unpacks the head that, like a sleepy ghost,
Leans on my mortal ruler,
The proud spine spurning turn and twist.

And these poor nerves so wired to the skull
Ache on the lovelorn paper
I hug to love with my unruly scrawl
That utters all love hunger
And tells the page the empty ill.

My hero bares my side and sees his heart
Tread, like a naked Venus,
The beach of flesh, and wind her bloodred plait;
Stripping my loin of promise,
He promises a secret heat.

He holds the wire from the box of nerves
Praising the mortal error
Of birth and death, the two sad knaves of thieves,
And the hunger’s emperor;
He pulls the chain, the cistern moves.

[Dylan Thomas {1914-1953}, 'My Hero Bares His Nerves' from Collected Poems]

9.06.2018

able to stay alive through years of drought, not withering but with the strength to splurge

Saguaro I’d say if I had to
compare you with a plant:
you are that tall and straight and apt to
stand apart in silhouette.

And prickly! I’ve seen your cactus
spines in action as a string
of words almost tactile
in the way they sting.

To brave them is to find a home
in you, my own deep wish,
as the woodpecker carves a room
in saguaro flesh.

And you have known how to store up love
in memory’s net
and been able to stay alive
through years of drought,

not withering but with the strength
to splurge and draw
on those reserves of succulence
you use to flower now.

[Suzanne Noguere, 'Botanical Sketch of You' from Whirling Around the Sun]

9.04.2018

I suppose one day

Soon the snow that's falling now
at midnight this first day of spring
will melt eventually and go.
The snow, the leaves—well, everything—
brings disappearance with it.

I suppose one day I'll go to bed
and not think of how your hips
and arms
and eyes are set.
They say that it will happen soon.
I wait.
It hasn't happened yet.

[Susan Minot {1956- }, 'Upper West Side Blizzard' from Poems 4 A.M.]

9.03.2018

was there ever a trap to match the trap of love?

I've never loved someone for so long without telling them so. It's as if I've always been more concerned about getting the credit for it than about actually doing it, the right way, the way that's right for the person I love. Granted, there's some irrational fear--the "what if something happens before I tell him, and he never knows?" syndrome.

First, I know it's not true; he knows that I love him because it's not just words that need to be said, but a thing that I do, every day, a dozen ways or a hundred. And a lot of things that I do not do. And the way that I do so many more. It's not the what, but the way....

And second, blurting out to someone that you love them because you're afraid they'll die or you'll die
before you can choke the words out? That's not love, but fear and manipulation and drama.

So. I love him. And I think about it a lot, but I don't say it. Yet. Someday, maybe. Probably. It'll likely come out, drunk or angry or lust-fueled, and no less honest for the circumstances. But it's probably all right that the phrase, too easily spoken before, hasn't come yet.

[the title quotation is by Stephen King, from The Gunslinger]