Apres Le deluge

November 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Monday Night

The city is very quiet. The occasional siren, young people partying in the hall. I miss our old neighbors, how the 12th floor used to have a college dorm feeling. It was a period that seemed to go on forever—the parties, John with the bird on his shoulder, Annie leaving me dinner outside my door if I felt unsocial. Now most people have moved away and John’s dead—murdered.

I tried to go to sleep when the power went, but just lay there worrying about 6,000 things. I miss my nights in the country with a full moon and the stream rushing and a house I knew so intimately I could walk through it at night without lights and know where I was by smell…pine planks, upholstery, cooking smells, cold glass. The insects for company—you have to spend weeks alone in the country before you realize that, in the summer, insects are truly with us, their lives thick and everywhere. Birth, mating, death.

Once, alone in the country years ago, I was flirting on the Internet while the insects were all around, noisy, coming through the mesh of the window screens and under the doors, and I realized as I exchanged absurd, hormone-fueled conversations with strangers how alike we were, me and the bugs—life narrow-focused to the beam of desire, vastly ignorant.


After going up and down 12 flight several times yesterday, and twice today, my legs are screaming. The animals say: try the cat’s life. Shit in a box, eat canned food, never go out, read, watch TV, talk on the phone or surf online. What are you complaining about, puny human?

Nothing. I can read, even at night, thanks to the ipad. I have hundreds of real books but the ipad has a lit screen and I can read for hours in the dark. And so far my laptop battery has lasted. I should get it charged today. Or rather, I should send the husband out and uptown to charge the devices. (The stairs don’t bother him. At 70, he’s amazingly fit.) But so far, he hasn’t wanted to go. He likes it here in the dead zone. He says it’s quiet and he doesn’t have to worry about me telling him to put whatever he’s been eating back in the fridge.


Staying with a friend above the darkness. Able to access the political world again, as well as all the news accounts about Sandy. Such horrific damage—children killed, homes destroyed. I’ll have power at home tomorrow (they say), but other places won’t have it for a week or more. Everyone is worried about how it will affect the election. If Sandy tips the election to Romney through the agency of chaos, I submit that we consider naming next year’s hurricane Willard.

I’m afraid this is just the beginning. We need a president who gets that. It won’t take too many years before those who consider themselves rugged, independent Americans-—the sort who don’t need government—will find out that all their guns are useless unless they’ve stockpiled a garage full of ammunition and are willing to shoot and eat their neighbors.

But Men Love Darkness Rather Than Light

The world’s light shines, shine as it will,
The world will love its darkness still.
I doubt though when the world’s in hell,
It will not love its darkness half so well.

Richard Crashaw

Sandy to City: Drop Dead

October 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Your Intrepid Blogger

Turned on the TV to the always enjoyable experience of hearing Mayor Bloomberg summarizing his remarks in Spanish. He sounds like the bored smart kid proving to the teacher that he knows this shit cold and could care less.

I missed the press conference because we went out for a last walk before the storm hits. It was windy and rainy, the rain increasing over 20 minutes until we returned. Lots of people were out, runners and dogs. Now they’re saying winds may reach 100mph. A guy in the elevator wants to go over to the river. Good luck, guy.

I just heard 70 trees down across NYC already…construction site in Williamsburg collapsing…Apparently Bloomberg said, “Spend the afternoon indoors reading a good book.” TV weatherman says eat pasta, watch TV. Choices, choices.

Just heard this on Twitter. Asked what he was most afraid of about the storm, Bloomberg said, “New Yorkers…they never do what they told.” Gov. Christie just tells people they’re stupid and selfish and won’t be rescued.

The cats aren’t afraid yet.

UPDATE: 3:40 pm They’re getting a little nervous….

An Octave Above Thunder

… reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience.

–T. S. Eliot,
“What the Thunder Said”


She began as we huddled, six of us,
in the cellar, raising her voice above
those towering syllables…

Never mind she cried when storm candles
flickered, glass shattered upstairs.
Reciting as if on horseback,
she whipped the meter,

trampling rhyme, reining in the reins
of the air with her left hand as she
stood, the washing machine behind her
stunned on its haunches, not spinning.

She spun the lines around each other,
her gaze fixed. I knew she’d silenced
a cacophony of distractions in her head,
to summon what she owned, rote-bright:

Of man’s first disobedience,
and the fruit…
of the flower in a crannied wall
and one clear call…

for the child who’d risen before school assemblies:
eerie Dakota rumble that rolled yet never brought
rain breaking over the podium. Her voice rose,
an octave above thunder:

When I consider how my light is spent–
I thought of her light, poured willy-nilly.
in this dark world and wide: half-blind, blind,
a widening distraction Getting and spending
we lay waste our powers…Different poem, a trick!

Her eyes singled me out as the wind slowed.
Then, reflective, I’d rather be / a Pagan
sucked in a creed outworn / than a dullard
with nothing by heart.

It was midsummer, Minnesota. In the sky,
the Blind Poet blew sideways, his cape spilling
rain. They also serve! she sang, hailing

as I stopped hearing her. I did not want to
stand and wait. I loathed nothing so much
as the forbearance now in her voice,
insisting that Beauty was at hand,

but not credible. I considered
how we twisted into ourselves to live.
When the storm stopped, I sat still,

Here were the words of the Blind Poet–
crumpled like wash for the line, to be
dried, pressed flat. Upstairs, someone called
my name. What sense would it ever

make to them, the unread world, the getters and spenders,
if they could not hear what I heard,
not feel what I felt
nothing ruined poetry, a voice revived it,

Carol Muske

Does Anybody Know Where the Flashlight Is?

October 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

So here she comes, The Storm Queen, ready to wreak havoc and yank us brutally closer to the day when insurance companies decide to fold their tents, leave chaos behind, and switch their money into a calm, safe field like book publishing. How about insuring books? Take out a policy to protect you against bad reviews, no reviews, your editor dropping dead or the publicity person on the payroll of your secret enemy.

I took a walk around the park, observing the autumn leaves before they were ripped away (the fallen ones already skittering), the cool, gray agitated air, the lines in the grocery stores. I bought bottled Stumptown coffee, an array of chocolate bars, almond butter for Charles, apples and unripe bananas, and came home to fritter my life away on the Internet.

Fritter. The staid cousin of Twitter and skitter. No relations to Mittens.

Wouldn’t an apple fritter be good right now? I was planning to bake an apple cake before the power goes out, but it’s seeming less and less likely that that will happen. Cod Ed has announced it may preemptively cut power in lower Manhatttan. That’s south of where I am, but always, my best beloveds, the darkness cometh.

The Storm

Against the stone breakwater,
Only an ominous lapping,
While the wind whines overhead,
Coming down from the mountain,
Whistling between the arbors, the winding terraces;
A thin whine of wires, a rattling and flapping of leaves,
And the small street-lamp swinging and slamming against
the lamp pole.

Where have the people gone?
There is one light on the mountain.

Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell,
The waves not yet high, but even,
Coming closer and closer upon each other;
A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea,
Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot,
The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending,
Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness.

A time to go home!–
And a child’s dirty shift billows upward out of an alley,
A cat runs from the wind as we do,
Between the whitening trees, up Santa Lucia,
Where the heavy door unlocks,
And our breath comes more easy,–
Then a crack of thunder, and the black rain runs over us, over
The flat-roofed houses, coming down in gusts, beating
The walls, the slatted windows, driving
The last watcher indoors, moving the cardplayers closer
To their cards, their anisette.

We creep to our bed, and its straw mattress.
We wait; we listen.
The storm lulls off, then redoubles,
Bending the trees half-way down to the ground,
Shaking loose the last wizened oranges in the orchard,
Flattening the limber carnations.

A spider eases himself down from a swaying light-bulb,
Running over the coverlet, down under the iron bedstead.
The bulb goes on and off, weakly.
Water roars into the cistern.

We lie closer on the gritty pillow,
Breathing heavily, hoping–
For the great last leap of the wave over the breakwater,
The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell,
The sudden shudder as the jutting sea-cliff collapses,
And the hurricane drives the dead straw into the living pine-tree.

Theodore Roethke

Sandy baby

October 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

Getting ready for the big one, what Philip Bump of Grist.org dubbed the Snor’eastercane. Sandy. I think she should be at least Sandra, if not Cassandra, warning us of what life will be like most of the time in the near future (try getting anyone in power to talk about that). I’m almost ready to vote for Jill Stein. There’s a big climate change demonstration planned for tomorrow, right before the transit system is shut down; maybe we’ll go. Probably not. We aren’t ready for the storm yet.There’s still laundry from Charles’ illness, food to buy. And I never wake up before noon. That’s why I can write blog entries at 3 am.

Charles told me 2 days ago that we had lots of flashlights—which I took to mean he’d brought some from Florida—but in fact we only have one crappy one and by the time I realized that, there were no more to be had, except six-packs of mini-lights: what you’d buy for a school-kids’ camping trip if you don’t expect trouble and want them to have souvenirs.

But one old, cheap flashlight, with extra batteries and candles, will do unless there really is a power loss for a week, which is hard to believe in NYC, center of the universe, but if you can’t believe that…well, you’ll be in for a shock as the Northeast USA takes the brunt of nasty weather over the next—what–hundred years? Thousand years? I haven’t researched the arctic-ice-melting-gulf-stream-big-storm connection as far as to get a sense of duration, only to know that I’m living in the sweet spot of the upcoming trainwreck. Though not quite the sweet spot of the Maldives or Bangladesh.

There’s a lot I want to think and write about how we all are viewing this; by all I mean those who believe in climate change and that it’s happening now and will get increasingly worse. There’s the science, which is full of uncertainties about timing, tipping points, mitigation, etc, and then there’s temperament—those apocalyptically minded and those who can’t help focusing on the positive. Having been both–I find it hard not to be both, since cold reason and depression pull me in one direction, and love and the wish for the world as it has beautifully been pull me in the other—I believe it’s impossible to find one scientist who isn’t being pulled in several emotional directions at once. The uncertainly is real and deep (we barely know our planet and its systems) but so is the human incapacity to cope. We’ll never really know what’s coming until it hits, and maybe not even then.

This is far beyond denial or the question of whether it’s better to give people hope or scare the pants off them. It’s about how we perceive the world and how we can’t help but perceive it in multiple ways simultaneously. If you’re me, that makes you confused and full of insecurity, assuming you’re cooking the books, even if they aren’t your books; others take sides and shut out the noise from their other half.

All I have to offer, if I take this investigation seriously, is a history of prolonged suspension in psychological indeterminacy. A way with words. An interest in science, a love of nature, a lack of young beings I am personally responsible for (other than the felines, who’ll be dead before the worst of it).

In order to do this well, I do have to step out into the world more. Ugh. I don’t fit. Never did, more so now. Type faster, Juris would say. Write better, I tell myself.

On that note, I read my poetry Wednesday at The Cornelia Street Café’s Perfect Sense series, curated by Alyssa Heyman. The reading was a one-year anniversary celebration for Red Glass Books, the chapbook series created by my dear friend and publisher, Janet Kaplan. The other readers were E.J. Antonio, Brian Clements, Patricia Spears Jones, Edwin Torres, & Janet Kaplan read the world of Kate Greenstreet. All terrific. It was a remarkable evening and not just because I felt like a real participant for the first time. Everyone was good; everyone was listened to.

I’ve always been phobic about public speaking. A sad tale: lots of lost opportunities, many weeks of sobbing before some inescapable event, reliving a panic I didn’t understand. But I’ve finally gotten over that. I attribute this largely to age but also to Janet. Having someone who understands exactly what that fear is like, has overcome it herself, and is actively and always rooting for me made a big difference.

My mother said today, when I was telling her about the pleasure of reading, and the compliments I received, “You’re an actor, I’ve always known that.” I was greatly surprised. I’ve always known it too—though I would say performer rather than actor—but as long as I was too scared to perform, there was no point talking about it. And it’s still iffy, because experiencing the rush and then the letdown afterward was difficult…I felt thrust back into the void…and all the familiar feelings, it’s too late, it’s too late, which have been plaguing me over the last year slammed me hard yesterday.

But it’s not just about the pleasure of being on stage. I also had the satisfaction of communicating my work better than the page alone can. My poems about the breakup with Philip are angry/painful, but also funny. My friends and family saw the anger and pain; my sister remarked, after reading my chapbook, “I’d like to grind him to a fine powder.” She’s got a way with words too, doesn’t she? I keep thinking about that image; my very capable sister carrying out that rather gruesome task, which I have no doubt she could do if necessary.

But the humor was what I was most interested in. It’s always darkest just before the joke, in my experience. And strangers laughed and wanted more! Anger’s great, they said. Go for it! Do I have more? Oh, yeah. The sad sweet stuff I’ll save for some lyricist to put to music.

But enough about me. I just discovered this poet. She’s fucking brilliant.

Poetry Anonymous

You are mistaken if the language furthers your sense of devotion.
You are a fallen person now.
They care more about their language than for you (you, the real person you).

Line after line, a private, unmediated act done to you with a confusing abandon,
its flailing in its substance however deceptive this might be.

It will point out your own directionlessness,
you will be harmed.

You cannot mediate it with caress.

Do you think because they understand what meaning looks like,
they have more meaning than others?
They are the protectors of a sense of feeling, mere protectors— earnest?
No. They are protectors of the flawed, filling zones of bereft.
The aftermath of pleasure. A contested zone for all.

What about the lawyer who loves the law?
Aren’t they the same, a poet with a larger book—
the way they protect and subject language
to a sense-making?

A kind of cognitive patternization.

Ultimately, both undertake the hijack of language,
they won’t love you the way
you are; it’s in this inability to love—
unless you embody the poem—
you embody the law and its turn of phrase.

Unless you see the poet clearly: loving utterance,
an unadulterated utterance—seized and insular.

You must entice with otherness.
You must catch the poem as a muse does.
You must muse and muse and muse.

All the thralldom of poetic encounters that stand in for sexual ones,
all the ways we terrorize with sense-making,

allowing it to stand in for intimacy.

For it to stand in and suggest that all other kinds of feelings
and declarations must yield to it.

It will move you if you ask for permission
to exist within its confines,
and you move the poet toward you and you hold the poet’s head,
wrapping your arms around them
strapped in your wordless hold, but soon words do come
and in the trailing off of speech, you will be permanently lost.

Prageeta Sharma

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