Monday, May 30, 2016

Bits and Pieces

Snippets

I woke this morning thinking of some old snippets from conversations-- an odd assortment of one- liners that went back and back to childhood. I often can't interrogate dreams, especially those that inhabit that region between sleep and wakefulness.

Nina, a friend who lived across the street from our apartment building, loved to color. We often ,on hot summer days when breezes got caught between brick apartment buildings and concrete sidewalks, sat wherever we found a shaded spot and colored. She believed in outlining everything in black before coloring the person or object. I thought that looked nice, but was unwilling to lose the point of my black crayon.

One day, after finishing our pieces, we asked each other, "How do you like my picture?" and then the other person said, " If you like mine I'll like yours." This simple interchange pleased us both. But the day we both colored a monarch butterfly on a leaf the world tilted. I said, " If you like mine I'll like yours." Then I added, "I like yours."

Nina said, "You colored out of the lines on the butterfly." I was too young to explain about creativity and the need to break rules and conventions so I said, "Well I don't like yours either."

Other bits and pieces of conversations popped into my mind. Did I really say to Zipporah Mildred, "You stink." She did have terrible body odor which permiated  the entire locker room and I had selected the short straw. "Find a way, " the girls in my row of lockers said, " to suggest she use underarm deodorant. "

I practiced in front of the bathroom mirror and then lost all my words when confronting Zipporah.

" Could we speak, " I said.
And when she stood in front of me with a head of red think hair and a gym suit that she stuffed in her locker week after week, I forgot  my well rehearsed, polite, sanitized speech and just blurted out, " you stink".

Once you open up this subject the lines tumble out .

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Parsha Bechukotai

               "...the sound of a driven leaf
                      shall put them to flight..."
                            Leviticus 26:36

and if any are left after
the land is destroyed
and men wrestled with men,
turned a callous heart
to God's word, if any are left
after we ignored our part
in the covenant, walked after
self- constructed idols, we shall
look behind us and think we
hear footfalls, yet it is only
fear that walks and the ghost
of our broken promises




Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Quest

A friend posted a video of a roller coaster ride billed as the highest, fastest, and I'm certain prayer inducing ride. I worked with someone who loved to find hair raising roller coaster rides.

I can imagine traveling to each state and finding the best they have to offer and-- just like a dedicated  birder--keeping a life record. It's akin to bagging mountains.

Should everyone have a list of items that they are seeking? A scavenger hunt. A friend collected salsa recipes even though she rarely cooked. It's the quest.

Perhaps that's an item for a bucket list-- engage in a quest. Now I need to decide on what quest. Once I attempted to find and read all the books on The Haycraft-Queen Definitive Library of Detective,Crime, and Mystery Fiction "A Reader's List of Detective Story Cornerstones". The list begins in 1748 and ends in 1948. From Voltaire to Faulkner.

I, along with a friend, spent hours in used book stores digging through boxes of books. She was also following the same quest. This made for some unsettling moments when we both reached for the same book.

When I moved to the Boston area I bequeathed my collection to Andy who ran a used book store. His books were either on sway backed shelves or in piles on the floor. He gave me a button for my button collection-- which I dismantled and gave away when I pricked myself with a rusty pin. At that point I decided  that collecting old buttons might be a dangerous endeavor.

In recent years I've found that I'm listing toward an eclectic mindset. Yet, there's something about a dedicated pursuit.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Welcome to Summer

When my thermometer flirts with ninety
When the pavement looks wavy
When towns announce water bans
When brown grass edges out green
When ice cream cones melt
faster than you can keep up
When meteorologists speak of records
When you watch the leaves for a breeze
and you sit in the shade
When you remember to keep up
with filling ice cube trays,
welcome to summer

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Notes on a Hot Day

Shopping for clothes tires me out. I don't enjoy trying on clothes, but view it as a necessity. And if I find something I like-- why not buy three the same-- different colors.

Roaming around a garden center and nursery with their wide variety of plants and little stickers with tongue twisting names is difficult. All the other people, the ones pushing carts laden with plants, know zones and growth patterns.  How do I know what grows where? I've always been a hosta person-- simple names and a hardy disposition. Once I went with a gardening friend to a place that only sold hostas. I liked it there. You could get this hosta or that hosta.

I do like ground covers. Once I planted a ground cover too close to its mate and even after replanting pieces of it in a variety of empty places it began to take over. It climbed, it burrowed, it was malevolent.

When it gets hot I need to remind myself that I yearn for heat in February.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Backstory

You think you know someone
but until you know the backstory
it's a flimsy portrait
Everyone carries hard times,
fissures, a past that intrudes,
a brokenness that may hang back
It isn't as if someone carries their past
around, it's just in a back pocket
 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rainy Day

the dank day washes out color
and turns everything inside out,
smudges contour lines
and limps toward evening

Monday, May 23, 2016

Time To Read

Again I am worried-- worried about the direction of our country. Are we falling prey to following a man who whips up bigotry and expends words on demeaning other people? What makes people dress up the bigot in the Emperor's New Clothes?

And why are so many people willing to trash equality? I am looking for reasons.

These are uneasy times. The enemy is us. When will we wake up. It is time to reread
Pastor Niemöller's quotation:

       First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

We can read it as first they came for the immigrants, then the Muslims...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Worth a Standing Ovation

I heard the songbird
but never spotted any movement
so I settled for a red wing blackbird
balanced on a reed and watched
him preen for his audience of one

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Parsha Behar

           You shall make for yourselves no idols and
           erect no carved images or pillars...to worship
           at them; for I am the Lord your God
                         Leviticus 26:1

And what about the idols made
out of words or those that stroke
our vanity? What about the idols
we fashion out of ambition, fat
wallets, and titles? Lord, we keep
whittling new idols to adore.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Personal is Political

Too many of our elected representatives believe that everyone doesn't deserve the same rights. Discrimination is fine if you fit into the "other" category.

Years ago the lesbian community supported a number of small press journals, several newspapers, a record company, and independent publishers. Books and poems were written, songs composed, art created -- celebrating women.

We yearned for equality. We wanted to be able to be who we were without fear of losing a job. We wanted health insurance for ourselves and our partners. We wanted the same economic status before the government. When marriage became a legal right we attained a number of those wants. And now we watch those who desire the dismantling of our gains. We watch those who want to legislate discrimination.

I miss the plethora of lesbian poetry, womyn's music, and the knowledge that the personal was political.

Calendar

The woman who swallowed time
gorged on the past, savored
yesterday and marked off days

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Conservative Judges

I am frightened of extremes,
frightened of losing hard earned
gains, frightened for those who
want a piece of the pie, wary
of those who see themselves
clothed in righteousness
I don't want to walk backwards

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

They Drank Tea in Glass Cups

the roots go deep, back beyond
my mother's foot pedal sewing
machine, beyond the crochet squares
my grandmother made into tablecloths,
back to a tailor in Poland who sewed
pieces of cloth into suits, back
to where the skein of thread rolls
out and the beginning is lost
somewhere in a shtetl in Poland--
my grandmother began another
skein when she saved string
in the bag with her crocheted squares

Monday, May 16, 2016

A History Lesson

First they came with their oversized machines, then they parked those behemoths on the street. In the morning we heard groaning and straining as the machines lifted up heavy toothed shovels.

By the time I raised the shade the asphalt eating wide toothed machines were tearing into the street and spitting out rectangles of black. Another machine inching along on heavy treads followed behind and dug down, deep enough for six or seven coffins.

They were digging up old sewer pipes and laying down new pipes.

Hours later more trucks came and buried the pipes with dirt, gravel, and whatever shards or pieces of history might be of interest to an archeologist. The men in yellow hard hats paid scant attention to the scraps of the past.

Where are the people with their sifters?

We are lost.



Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Path

some days your back's
humped with the hardness
and some days the sun
shines right through
and you know God has
got you wrapped up
in that old quilt,
other days it seems as if
God is busy doing whatever
needs tending and pruning --
it's a long road, meanders
a bit, takes awhile to get up
mountains and burrs attach
to your clothing, and anemones
preen and beg you to look
and the hollers seem so low
but then God takes you by
the hand to help you climb
to the next rise, to see that
road that you thought you lost
is right there ready for walking
and you set out again

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Connection

I wish I discovered Judith Kitchen years ago. When I finally started to read her prose she was dying. As soon as I began to read her short pieces I knew that her sentences had a way of grabbing hold of a reader and holding on. No word-- extraneous. Prose akin to poetry. Prose that danced with images --drawing pictures in the air.

Listen to how she writes about the difference between a road and a street. The roads she referred to were rural and the streets belonged to small towns.

" How did a street differ from a road? Well, the road moved on, wound through contours of landscape. The street plowed through, straight as a needle, marching itself into town."

Now I'm reading her small book called The Circus Train. She wrote it when she knew she was dying and possibly had a mere few months left. It's constructed of short vignettes of memories. Small reflections. Pocket size pieces of living.

When she describes the snow it's as if I am experiencing snow for the first time.

I am mesmerized with her images and her gifts. Near the end of her book she asks, " Who will there be to say whether I became the person I wanted to be? " But she doesn't end with those words.

She, always cognizant of pronouns, recognizes that soon she will " lose the distinctions of pronoun."

I read the book slowly because each small piece is a gem and a gift and often asks me to look at how I use words and images and feelings.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Spring Cold

My voice disappeared
and I'm left with a rasp
I write messages on a
white board and erase
words with the heel
of my right hand
This silence is comfortable
but my mind is littered
with nouns and verbs.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Odd Thoughts


I passed a local elementary school and thought that when the sixth grade students enter college half of my friends will have gray hair, white hair, or dyed hair. The other half enjoy a great genetic make up for hair color.

The insults of getting older: chin hair, hardened nails, weight in the least wanted places. Add to that list the people who routinely hold doors for you.

I'm reading four books at the same time. At the moment the characters in the mystery refuse to confront the theology in the spirit filled memoir. I respect characters who know boundaries.

 I am about to take my first sip of a hot water honey/ cinnamon  tea brew. The recipe comes from a site that lists remedies for those times that your voice refuses to act appropriately. Even whispering comes out as a hoarse croak. Incidentally it doesn't taste horrific-- just sweet.

A man in the hardware store was looking for a sprinkler for his eighty foot by forty foot vegetable garden. It made me tired to think of harvesting zucchini after zucchini.

How long will it take for this medicinal brew to work? Or will it work? It is soothing if nothing else. My magical thinking means that I'll wake up tomorrow, try out my voice and delight in the clarity of my Bronx accent.

Sometimes I wonder why that accent hangs around my shoulders. Yet, do I want a middle American accent, the broadcaster's accent? Don't I want to own that Bronx background? After all I was forged by the geography and people in my neighborhood.

The shoemaker who could hold nails in his mouth and spit them out one by one as he repaired the sole of your shoe.
The butcher who kept sawdust on the floor of his store.
The man in the Chinese laundry who handed out receipts written in Chinese script.

Minnie, who owned the small grocery, gave me a wood Philadelphia cream cheese box.
The pharmacist sold tubes for your television.
The candy store's egg creams and long pretzels were divine.

My mother told me not to stare at the woman with numbers tattooed on her upper arm.

Today tattoos are ubiquitous-- choice.

An update: the miracle has not happened -- yet.











.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Copies

count the threads ,the woof and waft,
this tapestry recalls the old patterns,
the way colors define shapes to create
a sequence in period dress

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A New Ethics

Enough. Our political rhetoric is embarrassing. Politicians revert to name calling and quasi lies or even outright lies. And people believe lies. Is it that we don't question or are we so used to fabrications that we don't even care if something is true as long as it fits our agenda?

We're not alone. All over the globe people willingly believe lies because those lies are the structure for their belief system.

Prominent newspapers quote C.K.Chesterton: "lunacy dancing in high places."

Monday, May 09, 2016

Pipes

Three large construction vehicles parked in front of our house led us to conjecturing about their purpose. Today a man buffed the exterior of the vehicles and cleaned their windows and when asked said, " They'll be doing some sewer work." He didn't know any details.

DPW said, " Sewer pipes are old and need to be replaced."
" Will we need to turn off the water?"
"No, if all goes well."

What does that mean? No floods or pipes overflowing.
So many things one can worry about--things you never thought about until someone's response allows for possibilities of things going amok. Or you can rest easy and pray.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Parsha Emor

... you shall leave them for the poor and the alien
     Leviticus 23:22



Till your fields
Plant your crops
and be blessed with
rain and sun
Sow each row
for your table
Remember those with empty bowls
Leave the edges, leave the
gleanings for those without--
for those who eat at open tables
for those who take home brown
bags of groceries, for those who
hold signs asking for help,
for those in shelters, for those
whose cupboards are bare
And if don't own a field,
never planted a crop,
live in the city
you're not excused
The Lord commanded this--

Saturday, May 07, 2016

A Human Pattern

spring,
squeamish,
anxious
to arrive with a swift flourish
throws some buds our way,
opens a few petals
and then retreats to a chill,
to dank days,
to an ambivalence
born out of
the fear of standing firm

Friday, May 06, 2016

To Contain More

To be gadol
to hold spaciousness,
to contain differences,
to absorb contradictions,
 to expand and celebrate
what can be offered,
to dance like Miriam
with the largeness of life