Good Day, Sunshine

April 15, 2013 § 3 Comments

mountain-goats-arent-goats-1

I’ve been more or less depressed my whole life, but I’ve never before experienced coming out of a severe depression. The last time I was this ill, I was a child, and my depression lifted slowly. The September of 9th grade was the turning point—but 9th grade was the turning point in so many other ways, and my brain was growing like a mad weed.

This time, the ascent from hell has no competition for my attention. All the things I’ve read and never experienced now make sense: the world becoming three-dimensional again, colors returning, parts of my self I thought gone forever piping up with opinions as I read, think, stare into space, assess the aching body, the day’s demands, and other unthrilling material.

Knowing how the brain works, I’m sure this phase of buoyant memory and sudden identification with happy people will pass and I’ll be the same old curmudgeon-capable-of-joy I’ve always been. But not the desperate, suicidal person. Not her anymore. Goodbye, goodbye.

Thanks to Charles, Fitzroy, Mouchette, spring, my mother, all my friends and Facebook buddies. Thanks to deadlines, which always take precedence. Thanks to my vanity and thriftiness, which paired up to say: You can’t kill this body; it’s still pretty and it works. Thanks to the necessary cupcakes, which I can now do without. Thanks to poetry and coffee and sunlight and snow. Thanks to God, who exists or doesn’t, with or without horns, sexuality or powers; who floats above/beneath/inside us holding the love and praise of a billion people and the secret prayers of The Order of Goats, who have a small rocky monastery in the Scottish Highlands.

**

It was hard for me to decide to post this. Depression is what nags me to write, to adorn it with sentences that perform crowd-pleasing acrobatics; happiness and contentment don’t care. More, I fear that to admit I feel fine is to set up expectations I can’t fulfill. The loss still hurts (and always will), so the possibility that I will again put on my raccoon makeup and go slumming in despair is not to be sneezed at.

Don’t you love English idioms? That one just popped into my head. In terms of meaning it’s perfectly adequate, but it’s silly. And where did it come from? Was there ever a time when the sight or thought of something unwanted or unlikely made people sneeze? I suppose it was a euphemism for something more vulgar, and now we keep using it out of habit.

This blog is my habit and I shall wear it with pleasure.

I want to write.
I want to frolic.
I want to eat at Rouge Tomate, a midtown restaurant I heard about from a book on the horrors of processed food. Rouge Tomate is a favorite of one of the talented food scientists who makes soybean oil taste like oranges and truffles, and gets her ideas from chefs who create flavor the old fashioned way. The book is called Pandora’s Lunchbox and it’s by Melanie Warner.

Time to get to work.

Balance

I watched the arctic landscape from above
and thought of nothing, lovely nothing.
I observed white canopies of clouds, vast
expanses where no wolf tracks could be found.

I thought about you and about the emptiness
that can promise one thing only: plenitude—
and that a certain sort of snowy wasteland
bursts from a surfeit of happiness.

As we drew closer to our landing,
the vulnerable earth emerged among the clouds,
comic gardens forgotten by their owners,
pale grass plagued by winter and the wind.

I put my book down and for an instant felt
a perfect balance between waking and dreams.
But when the plane touched concrete, then
assiduously circled the airport’s labryinth,

I once again knew nothing. The darkness
of daily wanderings resumed, the day’s sweet darkness,
the darkness of the voice that counts and measures,
remembers and forgets.

Adam Zagajewski
translated by Clare Cavanagh

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Monsters, Inc

March 26, 2013 § 2 Comments

Startled

Startled

I’ve been having a lot of chocolate cravings lately, hardly unusual. What’s irritating is that once I eat the chocolate, the really fabulous brownie from Pain Quotidian, I don’t feel any different. I expect a surge of energy and hope, compassion for the universe of trees, turtles, moss, leopards, snakes and worthwhile humans—and curiosity about the stars, those indifferent hotheads—and reverence for the ancient Mayans. Is this asking too much? I don’t think so.

Charles was in N.H. this week with the too-adorable grandchildren, who now live in a 4,000 square-foot house while their father celebrates financial success by investing in craft beer; I stayed home to work and bask (or rot) in solitude. I enjoyed my birthday phone calls, cards and Facebook messages: thanks to all of you who remembered. Last Saturday, Lisa served me duck and chocolate cake and champagne and gave me a beautiful leather shoulder bag. Our friendship has survived a lot of challenges, which I’m kind of proud of. We both treasure loyalty, even if she has a secret suspicion that one day I’ll feed her to alligators. I won’t.

Then—oh, there are never words to describe this—a depression came in the window and settled over my head and neck and proceeded to poke at me like harpies with shining needles knitting my intestines, while cackling over crude human jokes (like Polish jokes, but worse). It’s so humiliating. I cry and flail about and blow my nose and yell at the cats. I make endless budgets,
daydream about sweepstakes and lotteries, and time passes like ice melting. Like the Arctic ice melting which hardly anyone realizes is going to change our lives hugely very soon. I’m in denial too, it’s just that my denial is fed by learning all the parameters of disaster. I’m allowed to deny hope and feel the saner for it.

After the ice melt (the metaphorical one), there’s the climb back up. I can identify various “problems,” or triggers, none of which by itself is insurmountable, but which combined can seem so…but what can I do? The Little Engine That Could did and spewed carbon everywhere. No, that makes no sense. Contextually daft. Stick to the basics.

The difference between now and 20 years ago (besides the doleful specifics of want and want), is that my brain hates me because I haven’t used it properly. There’s a troll in the very back of the beyond who hoped to be king of…something…and now isn’t, so he floods the front rooms with evil chemicals. What can a first-generation SSRI do against such a being? He eats his own teeth and fashions new ones out of my backbone. My backbone replenishes itself with wads of pale words, sticky with garlic sauce, from commercial dumpsters.

According to something I read, which I am not going to confess to reading, middle-aged audiences are not interested in fantasy. They’re more interested in real life drama: how I made my first billion or why the kids have gone mute. But I like harpies, trolls and other monsters. They remind me of me. I don’t see them as frightening or grandly powerful, like angels. Monsters are just threats and slobber. Company.

Writing fiction (about people!) used to keep me company. Sitting down at my typewriter in the morning I felt the very antithesis of lonely. Creating characters and making them talk was a quietly ecstatic event: like a dream of flying, like a summer party after a few drinks, like a walk in new, deep woods, the path winding. Now I bring my coffee and laptop to bed, check email, surf, read the papers, chase job listings & clinical trials paying money, a million other things…and hours pass and I need a walk and then lunch and tea and now chocolate and here I am not really writing again.

Y’all see this as writing, I know. Thank you.

Sometimes I read blog entries by other writers talking about the pleasures of middle age—the honed struggle and deep satisfaction of writing, the sweet/sad of parenthood, the lessening of anxiety. The kids are smart, the husband kind, the drinks cold. The gentle fifties are a golden, gauzy letting go of terror, and I think: Yeah, that’s great, but you call that a life? This is a life, battling on the knife-edge, the cliff edge, the doom edge, still seeing my creative potential as a magical snow-globe village almost too far out of reach.

You understand, I only entertain this odd perspective about twice a year, so I’m not questioning it.

I know exactly what it’s like to be a young writer testing her talent and getting praise for it. I know what it’s like to be older and think, “He/she isn’t nearly as good as I could be if I wrote as well as I’m capable of.…” It’s a delicate balance here, the cliché of regret not yet firmed, shivering like chilling jello. I’m not caught in it …I don’t think….

*****

Seeing Charles after an absence makes me feel young again. He comes in with love pouring off his face—the phrase “wreathed in smiles” makes more sense when the face is older—and this is so familiar; I remember many reunions when he looked just like this from the 90’s 80’s, 70’s. I’m also involved in a top-secret 6-week clinical trial that’s youthening* my skin. The doctor said he thought I looked a lot better than two weeks ago. Charles said, “Your skin looks younger but it doesn’t look like your skin anymore. It’s like there’s a fake, smoother skin on top of your skin.”

He’ll never leave me for a younger woman.

* I coined this word; you’re welcome to it.

This is an excerpt from The Glass Essay by Anne Carson. Read the whole poem here. For my email readers, the url is http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/178364
It’s very long and completely amazing

The Glass Essay

Mornings when I meditated
I was presented with a nude glimpse of my lone soul,
not the complex mysteries of love and hate.

But the Nudes are still as clear in my mind
as pieces of laundry that froze on the clothesline overnight.
There were in all thirteen of them.

Nude #2. Woman caught in a cage of thorns.
Big glistening brown thorns with black stains on them
where she twists this way and that way

unable to stand upright.
Nude #3. Woman with a single great thorn implanted in her forehead.
She grips it in both hands

endeavouring to wrench it out.
Nude #4. Woman on a blasted landscape
backlit in red like Hieronymus Bosch.

Covering her head and upper body is a hellish contraption
like the top half of a crab.
With arms crossed as if pulling off a sweater

she works hard at dislodging the crab.
It was about this time
I began telling Dr. Haw

about the Nudes. She said,
When you see these horrible images why do you stay with them?
Why keep watching? Why not

go away? I was amazed.
Go away where? I said.
This still seems to me a good question.

But by now the day is wide open and a strange young April light
is filling the moor with gold milk.
I have reached the middle

where the ground goes down into a depression and fills with swampy water.
It is frozen.
A solid black pane of moor life caught in its own night attitudes.

Certain wild gold arrangements of weed are visible deep in the black.
Four naked alder trunks rise straight up from it
and sway in the blue air. Each trunk

where it enters the ice radiates a map of silver pressures—
thousands of hair-thin cracks catching the white of the light
like a jailed face

catching grins through the bars.
Emily Brontë has a poem about a woman in jail who says

A messenger of Hope, comes every night to me
And offers, for short life, eternal Liberty.

I wonder what kind of Liberty this is.
Her critics and commentators say she means death
or a visionary experience that prefigures death.

They understand her prison
as the limitations placed on a clergyman’s daughter
by nineteenth-century life in a remote parish on a cold moor

in the north of England.
They grow impatient with the extreme terms in which she figures prison life.
“In so much of Brontë’s work

the self-dramatising and posturing of these poems teeters
on the brink of a potentially bathetic melodrama,”
says one. Another

refers to “the cardboard sublime” of her caught world.
I stopped telling my psychotherapist about the Nudes
when I realized I had no way to answer her question,

Why keep watching?
Some people watch, that’s all I can say.
There is nowhere else to go,

no ledge to climb up to.
Perhaps I can explain this to her if I wait for the right moment,
as with a very difficult sister.

“On that mind time and experience alone could work:
to the influence of other intellects it was not amenable,”
wrote Charlotte of Emily.

I wonder what kind of conversation these two had
over breakfast at the parsonage.
“My sister Emily

was not a person of demonstrative character,” Charlotte emphasizes,
“nor one on the recesses of whose mind and feelings,
even those nearest and dearest to her could,

with impunity, intrude unlicensed. . . .” Recesses were many.
One autumn day in 1845 Charlotte
“accidentally lighted on a MS. volume of verse in my sister Emily’s
handwriting.”

It was a small (4 x 6) notebook
with a dark red cover marked 6d.
and contained 44 poems in Emily’s minute hand.

Charlotte had known Emily wrote verse
but felt “more than surprise” at its quality.
“Not at all like the poetry women generally write.”

Further surprise awaited Charlotte when she read Emily’s novel,
not least for its foul language.
She gently probes this recess

in her Editor’s Preface to Wuthering Heights.
“A large class of readers, likewise, will suffer greatly
from the introduction into the pages of this work

of words printed with all their letters,
which it has become the custom to represent by the initial and final letter
only—a blank
line filling the interval.”

Well, there are different definitions of Liberty.
Love is freedom, Law was fond of saying.
I took this to be more a wish than a thought

and changed the subject.
But blank lines do not say nothing.
As Charlotte puts it,

“The practice of hinting by single letters those expletives
with which profane and violent persons are wont to garnish their discourse,
strikes me as a proceeding which,

however well meant, is weak and futile.
I cannot tell what good it does—what feeling it spares—
what horror it conceals.”

I turn my steps and begin walking back over the moor
towards home and breakfast. It is a two-way traffic,

the language of the unsaid. My favourite pages
of The Collected Works Of Emily Brontë
are the notes at the back

recording small adjustments made by Charlotte
to the text of Emily’s verse,
which Charlotte edited for publication after Emily’s death.
“Prison for strongest [in Emily’s hand] altered to lordly by Charlotte.”

For the Vampires and the Brokenhearted

February 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

Fitzroy2
and, as always, for Fitzroy, who is my mirror


Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength; loving someone deeply gives you courage.
Lao Tzu

Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.

James Baldwin

Very tired, unable to sleep, I read an article in The Times about “reluctant caregivers”—people caring for difficult parents-in-law or parents who had always been cold and disapproving. It astonishes me how dutiful so many people are, what high standards they have for virtue.

I have never been nor will be that good. I can be kind to those I love, when I’m not too unhappy. If I am unhappy, I try to keep away, although that is also difficult for people. What I write about can be painful. My new friend Robin said yesterday that she was surprised at how much she was enjoying reading this blog, although it could be described as “a downer.” I told her she was exactly whom I wanted to write for and entertain—someone who doesn’t know me well enough to feel worried or sad, or irritated at my self-absorption.

I dreamed I was a vampire the other night, and I had the cutest little fangs, very pert and feminine. The best part was that although my fangs were small and I was facing eight male thugs ready for rape and murder, just flaunting them made the men scatter.

I love my dreams. They make so much more sense than my waking life.

I am trying, as so many times before, to focus on what and whom I love (writing; you, friend, stranger) to fight the impulse to isolation at its root; the hopeless attempt to convince myself that I don’t care about those who hurt me, I don’t care about whether my books are read, I don’t care if the world ends in fire and deluge…

I understand why my therapists gave up on me; I keep trying to do the same thing. But not yet. I don’t want to curdle into little grayish clumps of misery like what came off the pork chops when I cooked them too slowly. Love is fierce. You can’t stick it in the closet. If you can’t do the swoony sex thing you have to do something else. If you can’t do friendship, you still have to do something. If you can’t write you can always talk to yourself. Your strength may be gone but you’re left with courage.

I feel more like an immovable object than courageous, but I’d like to live up to Lao Tzu. “If you don’t change direction, you may end up where you’re heading.” And the worst is if you’re not heading anywhere.

Okay, here’s your poem

After Reading Lao Tzu

The one who speaks does not know.
The one who knows does not speak,

wrote the old master, which perhaps describes
the situation. Meaning we were all sad.

Meaning that when you were seized by desire,
it was nothing more than flesh, bared above the collarbone

she poured the long night of herself
into empty coffee cans and cornfields

and brushed by air. Meaning: It’s chemical. So
that when the moon rears its parched head,

her eyes a mask on her face, the livestock snorting and pacing,
her absent husband…she died young

when you feel a finger grazing your neck,
it’s only wind created by the movement of

her daughter crying and lighting
fires under the bed

your own body. Downdraft. Live
stock. Because sadness is multiplied

don’t worry, she told me,
you can’t inherit this

by sadness. A cradle of no compare.
Loose conspiracy of mind and body,

dough swelling over the edge of the bowl,
the yeasty smell of it, a disease that is

a blanket over the window
a pillow over the face

known and not spoken and
also the other one,

who speaks and does not know
what to say.

-Amy Newlove Schroeder

And Darkness

February 6, 2013 § 2 Comments

goya

I decided the other day I would only write about upbeat things. And then yesterday, after too-vivid dreams, I woke up feeling worse than I have in months. Same old same old—pain that goes back to childhood but psychotically powered by not-so-recent events, the endless mountain of grief and over-sensitivity, rejection, abandonment, shame.

I can’t write about it because I’m overwhelmed with the voices of those close to me who have told me how ugly, scary and unwelcome these feelings are. I can’t make them pretty. I don’t want to. I’m too angry. But I refuse to give up.

Suicidal ideation (I love that bit of jargon; it’s like a piece of poison Easter candy) has lost its charm. Imagine that. I’ll fucking live in torture if I have to.

But enough of that. Fitzroy is on his back and looking like the sexy cat-god he is; Charles is out hearing music (I can’t leave the apartment), and I’m here in my messy, well-lighted place. I have books and more. I made jewelry today. I made dinner. I have to keep swimming for that shore, the one where creation and helping others is my goal & heart, and the rest is somehow not allowed to kill me. Because I’ll be dead anyway, so why not suffer and let it be enough?

I remember reading a book by Aldous Huxley in my 20’s—I can’t remember the name but it was about a saint being tortured. The torturer (Spanish Inqusition) demanded the prisoner renounce his religion or his leg bones would be splintered. I was wondering how one could possibly hold on to something as abstract as God under conditions of such agony when I suddenly understood that in extremis whatever you have—in his case, faith—has to be clung to because otherwise the personality will disintegrate. It’s taken me this long to get to the point where I feel like my life is nearly empty in regard to selfish pleasures. I don’t mean I’m in an objectively horrible position—far from it— but for me, at this moment, there’s nothing: no desire, no indulgence that works anymore. No escape.

An hour ago, 2 hours ago, this morning, yesterday, I wanted to die and kill someone else (pretty much in that order) but I can’t, I won’t. I’ve always felt contempt people who give in to rage and so there’s no path there, and self-pity’s no good. I suppose this entry has its share of both, but I’m tempering it to your delicate ears, all of you whom I hate—

No, I don’t hate. I’m just so tired of being unhappy; it’s so wasteful.

But I can’t think of it like that. Who privileges happiness?

Happiness ran off like a swift fox, dived in its burrow and left the stumbling cloddish hunter on the horse making slow passage in the February woods, thin branches whipping across her face, the horizon that slate gray where the lowest sky seems to congeal over the frozen snow, the glint of sunset on that icy crest so pure and uncaring.

Oh, the New Hampshire of my youth, the cold, white winters and empty fields, long drives on slick roads, thickets of stars! Always a boy in mind. A boy I saw through a kaleidoscope, fragmented, jagged and crazy-colored; yet when I heard evidence that he saw me in the same broken-up manner, I was righteously angry and terrified of nonexistence. But the air was sweet. I had hope like an abundance of clean laundry.

Now I’m down to one shrunken sock I’ve never seen before. Okay, then.

Carrion Comfort

NOT, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.
Cheer whom though? the hero whose heaven-handling flung me, fóot tród
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

2012-the dregs

December 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

fitz.bow

I got lots of receptacles for Christmas: water glasses, wine glasses and mugs. The mugs were from my mother’s house—she’s accumulated too many, I’ve broken too many—and it’s very nice to have these familiar objects, all holding bits of her history or soul. Many were gifts from the causes she supports: “Saving American’s Mustangs,” “Fund for Animals, “Their Courage Endures—American Veterans for the disabled.” In turn I gave her jewelry I made and a bound book of this years blog entries (her request). She said, “Only the good ones.” It’s nice to know someone so well that you can pretty much tell what that means.

I also got honey, chocolate and pears, Cava, truffle-scented polenta, scones, jam and lemon cake. The Paleolithic diet will have to wait. This is the week of hearing from old friends, expected and unexpected, of get-togethers before and after New Year’s. I love/hate this time of year.

I’m not sure what we’ll be doing Monday night, except that it won’t cost any money. Most likely what we did on Christmas: cook, drink something bubbly, listen to itunes, and take video of Fitzroy rolling in catnip. I’ve never liked New Year’s Eve. I think I’ve had maybe 3 good ones in my life, none recent.

Most of the time I don’t miss fancy restaurant meals, and I’ve replaced theater and music with poetry readings. While I feel less the indulged, sexy sophisticate, that’s made up for by the deep resonance of home cooking: childhood, my mother’s house, my early married days. This may not be the apartment or city to best experience this, but it’s what I’ve got, and in between my late-night financial panic, and frequent homicidal fury (recently upgraded from suicidal fury), I’m grateful that I have a home and at least some work; that Charles loves poetry readings and my cooking; that Mouchette now sleeps on top of me like a velvet-covered 10 pound weight, whenever she gets the chance; that most people forgive me my character flaws.

And always, night and day, the sound of Charles’ guitar from the other room. Sometimes it brings me pleasure, sometimes distress that he’s not working, sometimes envy that he’s working creatively, mostly the steadying reminder that I’m responsible for his happiness.

I’ve never been happy for any length of time, and not for lack of trying. Right now, it’s beyond my reach. I don’t care any more: I’d settle for being functional, non-depressed. Ah, the good old days of being only “normally” depressed! But if he can be happy because of me, that’s something.

Not enough, but something.


Fragments for the End of the Year

On average, odd years have been the best for me.

I’m at a point where everyone I meet looks like a version
of someone I already know.

Without fail, fall makes me nostalgic for things I’ve never experienced.

The sky is molting. I don’t know
if this is global warming or if the atmosphere is reconfiguring
itself to accommodate all the new bright suffering.

I am struck by an overwhelming need to go to Iceland.

Despite all awful variables, we are still full of ideas
as possible as unsexed fruit.

I was terribly sorry to be the one to explain to the first graders
the connection between the sunset and pollution.

On Venus you and I are not even a year old.

Then there were two skies.
The one we fly through and the one
we bury ourselves in.

I appreciate my wide beveled spatula which fulfills
the moment I realized I would grow up and own such things.

I am glad I do not yet want sexy bathroom accessories.
Such things.

In the story we were together every time.

On his wedding day, the stone in his chest
not fully melted but enough.

Sometimes I feel like there are birds flying out of me.

Jennifer K. Sweeney

What I Want For Christmas

December 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

dominion

I made an apple-pear pie, tossing the fruit with brandy and sour cherry jam as well as a little brown sugar and spices. It was as good as it sounds, and Charles suggested I could make a living baking pies and selling them on the street, and I said I wish I had a big apartment so I could have a Christmas party, and he said he wanted to eat all the pie himself.

I’m trying to get Christmassy but this is not the year for it. Medical bills have taken all the money we don’t have and that’s just for the animals. I’m feeling just the slightest bit psychopathic, little flickers around the edges, a kind of psychopath-halo effect.

Charles thinks me an angel because I cook dinner most nights and bake pies. “It was more impressive when I was 17,” I tell him. “By now, culinary competence is the least you could expect.”

“Frankly, I don’t expect anything.” The renegade wife is either punished ever after or appreciated all the more. If it had been the first, I would have killed one of us by now. As it is, things are good.

Well, maybe not. I woke up very early yesterday morning to take Mouchette to the vet for dental work. My usual bedtime is 3:30 am, and when dragged from the depths of slumber at 7, I experienced, for 15 minutes or so, what it’s like to be not depressed. It’s nothing like the way I feel when I up the Zoloft dosage, which replaces pain with white noise and a vaguely post-mortem indifference. No, this was the old me: the inner landscape colorful, various, rich with ideas, spread out in all directions, cities, villages, forest…I used to live there. God, I miss it.

But I’m glad it still exists, even if I can’t get to it. My buried self. What a weird life.

Mouchette needed thirteen teeth removed—we were expecting two or three. Peridontal disease. The staggering bill was the least of it. The doctor discovered a mass on the very back of her tongue and biopsied it while she was under.

I can’t think about it now. I have to believe she’ll be okay. She’s long and slinky and beautiful, velvet and snow: black/white nose, fuzzy chin, white whiskers. Her eyes brim with feeling. She sleeps on my chest in the afternoon, heavy and radiant as a warming iron. My Mouchette, my Mousie, my girl.

If she’s okay, that’s all the Christmas we need.

Last week, at KGB, Mark Doty mentioned Alan Dugan: “Whom I don’t think people read enough anymore.” I couldn’t remember if I’d ever read him, so I looked him up. Here’s a poem.

Drunken Memories Of Anne Sexton

The first and last time I met
my ex-lover Anne Sexton was at
a protest poetry reading against
some anti-constitutional war in Asia
when some academic son of a bitch,
to test her reputation as a drunk,
gave her a beer glass full of wine
after our reading. She drank
it all down while staring me
full in the face and then said
“I don’t care what you think,
you know,” as if I was
her ex-what, husband, lover,
what? And just as I
was just about to say I
loved her, I was, what,
was, interrupted by my beautiful enemy
Galway Kinnell, who said to her
“Just as I was told, your eyes,
you have one blue, one green”
and there they were, the two
beautiful poets, staring at
each others’ beautiful eyes
as I drank the lees of her wine.

Alan Dugan

The Dirty Animals

September 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

Last night, in the aftermath of emotional storms, I was getting ready for bed when Lola, Charles’ cat, tried to join us in the bedroom. Mouchette, perched on the dresser by the door, shooed her away with that full-bore, dry-ice hiss that always impresses me. I comforted Mouchette then went to talk to Lola, letting her know that she’s welcome in my home even if she can’t join us in bed. All that did was entice her back to the bedroom where Mouchette ramped up her hiss and growl, delivering it with a ferocity and at a volume I’ve never heard from her before.

We were all stunned with the menace emerging from that feathery little throat. Charles wanted to record it. Fitzroy wanted to go out in the hall.

The bedroom is her sanctuary; my bed her safe place to sleep upside down or on my back, while I work or while I sleep; to sit on my chest when I’m crying, her little owl face watching, demanding that I remember the world outside myself, the tumbling world with its fever-tide of beings. In Argentina, wild cats saved a one-year-old homeless boy from dying of exposure. They covered him with their bodies all night.

Mouchette keeps my antidepressants warm, nesting on the bag I keep them in as if they will someday hatch into tiny golden buddhas. No, she doesn’t think that. It just seems like a good idea to me.

My mother says, referring to my previous blog entry, that my life is not a ruin.
“I don’t think you understand how many people love you.”
“I do,” I said.
“No, I don’t think so.”

I don’t think she gets that the essence of depression is that I know but don’t care. And yet, of course I care. But the caring is way back in the closet, behind years of old coats and broken hangers, Christmas wrap, crutches and weights, my skinny clothes and my witch shoes. If I attempt to wade in, my cache of dirty books falls on my head.

Yes, there’s a book muttering inside me, with dirty bits. Sex and tears, ridiculous antics and even more ridiculous emotions. But! A book! I get to be the decider! I can remember kisses or I can flay people—feed them feet first to demons—have them pulled from bed by an iron hook that shoulders in through their bedroom window, then carries them over miles and flings them into the sea, the deep, cold sea with its toothy children.

A memoir of adult love—will I be swamped in erotic feeling, beaten all night?

I would like to be beaten all night. I understand why people desire to be murdered by their lovers. Agreed, this is an uncommon desire. And I wouldn’t really care for it…anyway, the man I’m thinking of, he likes to stay in his comfort zone; he’d botch it.

Curtains

Putting up new curtains,
other windows intrude.
As though it is that first winter in Cambridge
when you and I had just moved in.
Now cold borscht alone in a bare kitchen.

What does it mean if I say this years later?

Listen, last night
I am on a crying jag
with my landlord, Mr. Tempesta.
I sneaked in two cats.
He screams, “No pets! No pets!”
I become my Aunt Virginia,
proud but weak in the head.
I remember Anna Magnani.
I throw a few books. I shout.
He wipes his eyes and opens his hands.
OK OK keep the dirty animals
but no nails in the walls.
We cry together.
I am so nervous, he says.

I want to dig you up and say, look,
it’s like the time, remember,
when I ran into our living room naked
to get rid of that fire inspector.

See what you miss by being dead?

Ruth Stone

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