April 5, 2015 § Leave a comment
Last night I dreamed I was starring in a superhero movie directed by my old flame. I was sitting at a production conference wondering how much weight I’d have to lose by the time shooting started, while the director of photography worried how to film me jumping across rooftops. Other concerns involved email hyperlinks that didn’t work and my whole family lost in an anonymous Paris hotel. From that I woke to Easter Morning, the cats having miraculously provided chocolate eggs from Li-Lac and day-old almond croissants. The afternoon ahead of me will be spent mostly cleaning, with a few walks to break the horror, and an evaluation of the many-times revised first chapters of a novel from a writer I am very fond of, but whose cries for help always involve the fact that he has no time to write, being a parent and full time employee. What can an editor do about this?
My Easter Sundays as a child were made magical by my mother’s love of beauty and abundance: the baskets were gorgeous, with pastel ribbons, a Steiff rabbit, solid chocolate bunnies, various kinds of candy eggs and little toys hidden in the fake but brilliantly green grass. It is something I remember whenever the cat sleeps on my feet: that sudden weight in the darkness, the lesson taught over and over that gifts come in secret yet without fail, that the chaos of dreams is balanced by sunlit and abiding motherly love.
My mother has always found immense joy in domestic creativity, and though she would have had a different life if she’d been born later or in a different place or to a working mother, she knows, as I do now, that the rewards of public life are strident and harsh, harsh as white sugar, cocaine, straight gin—rocketing you to a venomous pleasure not sustainable to those happiest in bedrooms, kitchens, gardens, darkness, the enclosure of baskets and arms.
We both feel sad, sometimes, not to have leveraged our talent and brains to more glittering lives. There’s no doubt we have what it takes, except for our personalities. But most of the world is private, even in public. Most of your most vivid experiences take place in dreams. I’ve met vampires, ghosts, dinosaurs, aliens, angels, gods and talking animals inside my skull. I’ve had innumerable careers, adventures, love affairs and children there. I’ve flown, died, killed, transformed, breathed underwater. I’ve written books more magnificent than anything you have ever read—books that are also cities and cakes, that exist platonically forever, immune to the posturings of culture.
Every night, she comes back from the dead, the Margaret none of you know, the Margaret my mother created in the dark, her daughter that is also herself (if you were wondering where the idea for that particular mystery came from, look at the nearest pregnant woman). If real death were truly like sleep, I wouldn’t mind it at all. But I think in fact is more like sugar, cocaine and straight gin.
The authentic! Shadows of it
sweep past in dreams, one could say imprecisely,
evoking the almost-silent
ripping apart of giant
sheets of cellophane. No.
It thrusts up close. Exactly in dreams
it has you off-guard, you
recognize it before you have time.
For a second before waking
the alarm bell is a red conical hat, it
The authentic! I said
rising from the toilet seat.
The radiator in rhythmic knockings
spoke of the rising steam.
The authentic, I said
breaking the handle of my hairbrush as I
brushed my hair in
rhythmic strokes: That’s it,
that’s joy, it’s always
a recognition, the known
appearing fully itself, and
more itself than one knew.
The new day rises
as heat rises,
knocking in the pipes
with rhythms it seizes for its own
to speak of its invention—
the real, the new-laid
egg whose speckled shell
the poet fondles and must break
if he will be nourished.
A shadow painted where
yes, a shadow must fall.
The cow’s breath
not forgotten in the mist, in the
verisimilitude draws up
heat in us, zest
to follow through,
transformations of day
in its turning, in its becoming.
Stir the holy grains, set
the bowls on the table and
call the child to eat.
While we eat we think,
as we think an undercurrent
of dream runs through us
faster than thought
Call the child to eat,
send him off, his mouth
tasting of toothpaste, to go down
into the ground, into a roaring train
and to school.
His cheeks are pink
his black eyes hold his dreams, he has left
forgetting his glasses.
Follow down the stairs at a clatter
to give them to him and save
his clear sight.
comes in at the street door.
The authentic! It rolls
just out of reach, beyond
running feet and
stretching fingers, down
the green slope and into
the black waves of the sea.
Speak to me, little horse, beloved,
how to follow the iron ball,
how to follow through to the country
beneath the waves
to the place where I must kill you and you step out
of your bones and flystrewn meat
tall, smiling, renewed,
formed in your own likeness.
Marvelous Truth, confront us
at every turn,
in every guise, iron ball,
egg, dark horse, shadow,
of breath on the air,
in our crowded hearts
our steaming bathrooms, kitchens full of
things to be done, the
Thrust close your smile
that we know you, terrible joy.
April 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
The cat is having a midlife crisis. He is almost fifty, in human years, and he’s getting that bitter, is this all there is, what about me, huh? This is my only fucking life attitude I remember from before I embraced the annihilation of all my dreams and shot desire through the heart.
He’s in the bad place and he wants us there with him. So it’s meow, meow, meow from 10 pm until one of us wakes up the next morning. Meow while Charles, Mouchette and I watch Nurse Jackie, Cat TV (birds) and the beginnings of movies Charles is interested in that I respond to nastily: “I don’t want to watch a movie about old men. Not even with Al Pacino.”
My husband takes no offense. We have the tolerance/forgiveness thing down pat. You might say we find our flaws the best joke of all.
He wants to go out in the hall. He wants more food. He wants to be picked up and baby-talked to.
MEOW, he says, meaning FUCK YOU.
FITZROY, I AM TAKING YOU TO THE SHELTER TOMORROW. OR LEAVING YOU IN THE PARK WITH A $20 BILL TIED AROUND YOUR NECK.
He wants me to go in the hall with him and I give in. He trots at my heels, his claws making little clicks as he lifts them off the carpet. He sniffs under every other door. He’s looking for a way out, and I tell him that’s the feline/human condition. Then I soften.
“Honey, we should buy a country house in Connecticut for the cats.”
“Not for that little bastard.”
“But Mouchette. Look at her! She wants birds.”
“She has birds right here.”
“She wants real birds.”
“No, she digs it, look at her.”
She’s on top of the TV, trying to find out where the birds on the screen are coming from. She walks over the manual switch and turns off the set.
“Postmodern hunting,” I say.
Fitzroy meows in rage that we’re talking about Mouchette.
He meows at four a.m. He meows until I get out of bed. He purrs when I hold him in my arms, and rub my face on his face. He has no idea that love can die, that women have breaking points, that life is the nightmare of a psychopathic god. He reminds me of me and I have to stop for a minute, recall that he is not in fact my child, that the 24-hour labor I remember so vividly, the doctor horrified at the furry monstrous kitten that came out clawing is only the sort of symptom writers get when they don’t write.
To A Cat
Cat! who has pass’d thy grand climacteric,
How many mice and rats hast in thy days
Destroy’d? How many tit-bits stolen? Gaze
With those bright languid segments green, and
Those velvet ears – but prythee do not stick
Thy latent talons in me – and tell me all thy frays,
Of fish and mice, and rats and tender chick;
Nay, look not down, nor lick thy dainty wrists, –
For all the wheezy asthma – and for all
Thy tail’s tip is nick’d off – and though the fists
Of many a maid have given thee many a maul,
Still is thy fur as when the lists
In youth thou enter’dst on glass-bottled wall.