Primitive


 

By Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds

 

I have heard about the civilized,
the marriages run on talk, elegant and
honest, rational. But you and I are
savages. You come in with a bag,
hold it out to me in silence.
I know Moo Shu Pork when I smell it
and understand the message: I have
pleased you greatly last night. We sit
quietly, side by side, to eat
the long pancakes dangling and spilling,
fragrant sauce dripping out,
and glance at each other askance, wordless,
the corners of our eyes clear as spear points
laid along the sill to show
a friend sits with a friend here.

Come With Me, I Said, And No One Knew (VII)


Pablo Neruda

Come with me, I said, and no one knew
where, or how my pain throbbed,
no carnations or barcaroles for me,
only a wound that love had opened.

I said it again: Come with me, as if I were dying,
and no one saw the moon that bled in my mouth
or the blood that rose into the silence.
O Love, now we can forget the star that has such thorns!

That is why when I heard your voice repeat
Come with me, it was as if you had let loose
the grief, the love, the fury of a cork-trapped wine

the geysers flooding from deep in its vault:
in my mouth I felt the taste of fire again,
of blood and carnations, of rock and scald.

Folding Power


Pillars of Creation: interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula, some 6,500-7,000 light years from Earth where stars are born
“Pillars of Creation”: Hubble photo of interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula, some 6,500-7,000 light years from Earth where stars are born

I asked for the superpower of “Folding” for my birthday.
It cuts out the middle man:
Gimme a calendar with tricky bits, I said.
I’d fold weeks, months, years, centuries together,
jump to any time, past or future.

The first would be hanging with
the first human band to walk out of Africa .
I’d wait in the shade of a date palm, by the Nile,
bounce rocks off crocodiles, watch the south trail.
I’d cook hot dogs and hamburgers,
and have beer chilling on ice.
History’s first tailgate.
I would show them an iPhone, photos, movies.
Order something from Amazon—
Wouldn’t that be a good trick!…
Maybe a slinky, some bows and arrows and knives.
A chemistry set. Aspirin. Cargo pants,
broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
Trail mix. Snickers.
It’s in our interest that they survive the trip.
I’d tell them to be kind to one another,
Let them think I was the Great Spirit, then disappear.

Continue reading “Folding Power”

Shirt


Carl Sandburg, 1878-1967

I remember once I ran after you and tagged the fluttering
shirt of you in the wind.
Once many days ago I drank a glassful of something and
the picture of you shivered and slid on top of the stuff.
And again it was nobody else but you I heard in the
singing voice of a careless humming woman.
One night when I sat with chums telling stories at a
bonfire flickering red embers, in a language its own
talking to a spread of white stars:
It was you that slunk laughing
in the clumsy staggering shadows.
Broken answers of remembrance let me know you are
alive with a peering phantom face behind a doorway
somewhere in the city’s push and fury.
Or under a pack of moss and leaves waiting in silence
under a twist of oaken arms ready as ever to run<
away again when I tag the fluttering shirt of you.

Walking Alone in Late Winter


How long the winter has lasted—like a Mahler
symphony, or an hour in the dentist’s chair.
In the fields the grasses are matted
and gray, making me think of June, when hay
and vetch burgeon in the heat, and warm rain
swells the globed buds of the peony.
Ice on the pond breaks into huge planes. One
sticks like a barge gone awry at the neck
of the bridge….The reeds
Continue reading “Walking Alone in Late Winter”

Helen and the Swan*


Photo by Richard Calmes
Photo by Richard Calme

The night of the full moon
calls her to the water,
this daughter of Leda and Zeus.
She feels it in her neck and belly,
and in the prickles on her back
where the wings hide
under her skin.

Long ago, her mother
sheltered a swan fleeing an eagle.
It was that lecherous old liar, Zeus,
In disguise and guile.
He devised a ruse to
Force himself on her.

Continue reading “Helen and the Swan*”

What It Is Not


dance_portrait_photography_alexander_yakovlev_09

Let’s talk “Poetry” for a moment…

I’ve been reading some of yours…

So many lost lusts,
So many ‘why doesn’t he love me’s’
So many sacrifices of dignity,
Conflations of attraction and connection,
So many confusions of sex and love
So many dear diary’s, soulful sobs, self-pity,
So many anguished tears on so many pillows.
So many tearful gazes over the waters,
Like so many before, like your great-great-grandparents,
As though tears alone justify, define poetry.
As though that’s enough.

So many odes to aimlessness,
So much self-indulgence,
So much teenager-like angst,
So many assumptions that
The most common feelings in the
History of the planet… the galaxy, maybe…
Are at all insightful, fresh, helpful.

I’m sorry for your pain.
I am. It’s real.
But you’ll also have more. Lots more.
And you will survive.
Because you’re tougher than you know.
Welcome it. Use it.
Grow from it.

My right leg hurts. Nothing new there.
I need coffee, soulful kisses, and more…so much more….
I’m getting old and that pisses me off.
I’ve loved deeply and lost, have known death,
You will do both, maybe already have.
I’ve held my babies, watched them grow,
I’ve seen mothers lose theirs.
We win and we lose, sometimes more loss than gain.
I’ve been around the track more than once, but in the end
It, writing, boils down to answering this question:
So what?
That’s the question I put to us all.
So fucking what? Everyone has a sad story.
Answer “so what” and make me care. That’s the job. That’s what I want.
That’s the reason for poetry.

I want more than the lazy, the easy;

more than the ordinary,
more than common oatmeal,
(With or without raisins and sprinkles).

I want to know how those oats grew, and where,
What they felt when they were harvested,
I want to know if they screamed, or just magically
Floated into your bowl, mere reflections of your sadness.
I want to see why I should care about your oatmeal.

It isn’t all about you, you see, but about all of us,
And I’d like to know whether you can see beyond–
I want you to show what’s beyond the
Rustling of your jimmies, beyond being sexy,
Beyond, beyond, beyond.

Jesus H.! I want you to stop settling for less.
Less than you can do. Less than you will do.
I want you to get knocked down,

get up, and get to work
Over and over and over.
To show what it meant. Show me the answer: So what?

There’s no time to waste, you know,
Less than you think; no one knows the future.
Youth is wasted on the young,
Which I know now, and pass it along.

Maybe you’ll listen, but if you’re like I was,
You won’t get it and will go on
Thinking the world is here just for you,
Thinking that mere deep feeling is enough.

I have a newsflash from the other side, y’all:
It’s not enough. Not by a country mile.
(And stop rolling your eyes).

I want to feel you turning lead into gold,
I want you to show me– not tell me about– a growing soul,
I want to taste, to see, to feel what you do,
I want you to hunger for something always out of reach
I want you to tap the universal, to move us forward,
I want us all to connect the dots, do the hard work of humanity.

For our own precious humanity,

do the hard work.
do the heavy lifting.
I want you to read the best, then emulate them.
Then be better than them.

Sweat the details, then shine a new light.
Do hard and holy things.

Hard and holy things.
That’s what we signed up for, you know.
Not the ordinary. Fuck the ordinary.

But most of all, right now,
I want coffee.
And depth.
And more.
So much more.

 

 

Hitting the High Notes


the_odeon_of_herodes_atticus

I write younger than I am, but my voice

cracks on the high notes now.

I don’t know how much longer I can fake it.

I wish I had a daughter, who would sit and

listen, and forgive me in the

way only daughters can.

Instead, I sit with my laptop

facing a bank of windows with a

view of a mountain,

snow flurries in the sun.
I encounter many me’s
in various stages of becoming.

It’s as though I enter
a Greek amphitheater
in ancient Corinth,
my many selves sit on the old
blocks of stone, twitching.
I point to one and say
“OK, come on down.
Today’s your turn to whine about your life.”

We all lean in, ready to pounce,
evaluating the honesty, the growth,
knowing that one of us
will be judged next
and found wanting.

The First


The leap into the unknown
It was in the fall of seventh grade.
A bunch of us piled into a friend’s car.
I remember lots of laughing, goofing around.
Nearly new teenagers filled with the thrill of being alive.
A girl with jet-black hair I’d known since first grade squeezed in
Next to me and the entire length of her thigh
pressed into mine by the crush of bodies in the back seat.
I fell in love for the first time.
Just like that.

We never dated, and it wasn’t long before my
family moved overseas and our paths never crossed again. .

Continue reading “The First”

Perfect Love


and-now-that-you-dont-have-to-be-perfect-steinbeck

“First—if you are in love—that’s a good thing—that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you. Second—There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you—of kindness and consideration and respect—not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had. …And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”

— John Steinbeck, in a letter to his son

Men Improve With The Years


wbyeats

by: W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

I AM worn out with dreams;
A weather-worn, marble triton
Among the streams;
And all day long I look
Upon this lady’s beauty
As though I had found in a book
A pictured beauty,
Pleased to have filled the eyes
Or the discerning ears,
Delighted to be but wise,
For men improve with the years;
And yet, and yet,
Is this my dream, or the truth?
O would that we had met
When I had my burning youth!
But I grow old among dreams,
A weather-worn, marble triton
Among the streams.

Maybe It Is Time


aurora-canero_-sculptures-13
Sculpture by Aurora Canero

Maybe it is time to forgive God
For the hundreds of women
who have rejected me over the years,
Starting in third grade,
(theoretically, of course, 
whether they knew it or not.
And for the one or two who 
didn’t, but should have).

I’ve reached the point in life
too late where I
Would actually be of some
use to them,

Could gently walk forward with them without harm,
And be remembered, I trust, with generosity and a little fondness.
But I have reached the age
of their fathers,
And so, instead, have become,
regrettably, invisible.

And over there on the coasts, maybe it’s time to give hip irony the
last rites and heave-ho,
And just admit that it is as
empty and useless as
Yet another beer or Viagra
marketing campaign.

Continue reading “Maybe It Is Time”

Spillwords: “What It Is Not”


It’s a rant. A rant about poetry. But I guess it hit a nerve. @Spillwords made it a featured post this morning…AND put a trigger warning on it. 🙂 That made me smile. But be warned: it might bruise your peaches.

I think you can handle it, though.  (Photo: Pat Mansell)

http://spillwords.com/what-it-is-not/

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-8-27-47-am

 

Let’s talk “Poetry” for a moment, if you don’t mind.
Some things have been bugging me. I’ve been reading…

So many lost lusts,
So many ‘why doesn’t he love me’s’
So many sacrifices of dignity,
Continue reading “Spillwords: “What It Is Not””

A Ghostling, in Training


Republished for Halloween. 

Ghost

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy….

I didn’t think it would be like this.
I could have been convinced, mind you,
But I was skeptical, in a benign way.
Unmoved except by facts, I said.
“Show me a ghost; I can’t take your word for it.
Continue reading “A Ghostling, in Training”

I Stopped To Listen


 

feature-e1431163430985
Leonhard Cohen

I stopped to listen, but he did not come. I begain again with a sense of loss. As this sense deepened I heard him again. I stopped stopping and I stopped starting, and I allowed myself to be crushed by ignorance. This was a strategy, and didn’t work at all. Much time, years were wasted in such a minor mode. I bargain now. I offer buttons for his love. I beg for mercy. Slowly he yields. Haltingly he moves toward his throne. Reluctantly the angels grant to one another permission to sing. In a transition so delicate it cannot be marked, the court is established on beams of golden symmetry, and once again I am a singer in the lower choirs, born fifty years ago to raise my voice this high, and no higher.

–Leonard Cohen
Poem 1 (“I stopped to listen, but he did not come …”) from “Book of Mercy”

Everybody Knows


Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

Continue reading “Everybody Knows”

A Street


I used to be your favorite drunk
Good for one more laugh
Then we both ran out of luck
Luck was all we ever had
You put on a uniform
To fight the Civil War
You looked so good I didn’t care
What side you’re fighting for

It wasn’t all that easy
When you up and walked away
But I’ll save that little story
For another rainy day
I know the burden’s heavy
As you wheel it through the night
Some people say it’s empty
But that don’t mean it’s light

You left me with the dishes
And a baby in the bath
You’re tight with the militias
You wear their camouflage
You always said we’re equal
So let me march with you
Just an extra in the sequel
To the old red white and blue

Baby don’t ignore me
We were smokers we were friends
Forget that tired story
Of betrayal and revenge
I see the Ghost of Culture
With numbers on his wrist
Salute some new conclusion
Which all of us have missed

I cried for you this morning
And I’ll cry for you again
But I’m not in charge of sorrow
So please don’t ask me when
There may be wine and roses
And magnums of champagne
But we’ll never no we’ll never
Ever be that drunk again

The party’s over
But I’ve landed on my feet
I’ll be standing on this corner
Where there used to be a street

–Leonard Cohen

A Dab of Bly (Robert, That Is)


5424911
Robert Bly, American Poet

“I know men who are healthier at fifty than they’ve ever been before, because a lot of their fear is gone.”

____________________________

“Tonight the first fall rain washes away my sly distance.
I have decided to blame no one for my life.
This water falls like a great privacy.
Letters sink into the desk,
The desk sinks away, leaving an intelligence
Slowly learning to talk of its own suffering.
The muttering of thunder is a gift
That reverberates in the roof of the mouth.
Another gift is a child’s face in a dark room
I see as I check the house during the storm.
My life is a blessing, a triumph, a car racing through the rain.

Continue reading “A Dab of Bly (Robert, That Is)”

What If?


Dancer on Dock

What if we weren’t the responsible ones, for a change?

What if we weren’t the ones who let someone else screw up and

Kept on doing the right things?

What if we … could just run away for a while—just for a while—

To some anonymous, peaceful place where email was banned, the phone

Didn’t ring, the air was warm and we were all alone for an afternoon?

Where my heart didn’t ache,

Where there weren’t the old problems and worries,

Where we could be carefree children again, with no grownup cares?

Continue reading “What If?”

Spillwords: “The Dead Need Light”


The-Dead-Need-Light-spillwords-1366x723

On Spillwords.com. (@Spill_words) If you visit, please leave a vote. It’s moving up in the rankings!.
http://spillwords.com/the-dead-need-light/

Original post: http://wp.me/p2Dfus-1eT

@hemmingplay

 

 

The dead need light,
As much as the living need music.

They crave the kind of light
That brings babies’ faces to mind again, and
Spring blooms, and waves dancing on a beach they once knew.

Eternity is a long, long time,
The darkness is all.
But still… they remember

The way the stars sweep across
the sky on a clear night,
the way a bumblebee looks as it
lumbers around, amazingly.

They need the lights of Paris,
twinkling with promise
drawing a halo of innocence around
young lovers by the river.

The dead crave to see, again,
your two eyes, open, soft and
moist with tears, catching the light
of a streetlight in
breathtaking flecks of gold and green.

The dead remember, with a hopeless ache, the way
moonlight played on the lover’s
hip as you slept, a fleeting memory of touch
burned forever in light,
of no more than a hand lightly stroking
just to make sure you were real.

Something Primal


huge.28.142574

Dusk in August under a crescent moon.

People in the neighborhood walk their dogs,

Hurrying, because they have work tomorrow.

But the air has that special kind of softness that

Makes people stir inside, think alarming thoughts.

Her house in the woods is empty tonight.
No kids, no neighbors, no husband, no plans.

So, after the dishes are put away, and a few emails read,
She looks out and sees the moon over the dark woods.

She steps out of her clothes and onto the deck,
Opens her arms and lets the pale light electrify her skin,

Feels a movement in her womb, just as in ancient times,
And she makes of herself an offering, in freedom—

An exhausted suburban wife with laundry to do—
To something primal that she had thought was dead.

Standing In The Stream


MilkyWay_Java_justin Ng

Hemmingplay

I am my own worst enemy,

And my only companion.

Running images behind my eyes

Like a manic, runaway film reel.

Nothing complete, nothing but bits and confounding distractions,

Nothing but hints, rushing by, hurried and then gone,

A fucked up flurry of emotions,

Stabbing me with images, sadness, beauty and pain,

Courage and struggle and triumph.

“What is that”? “Who is she”? “What can it all mean?”

Constant frustration, knowing that I cannot

Capture a fraction of it all, standing in the gush of a stream

As salmon leap and surge all around in an orgy of

Need and creation.

And the clock keeps ticking.

The surprised wonder at some unknown beauty or distant galaxy, exploding,

Twisted sandstone canyons, galaxies found in

A young woman’s eyes.

One minute depressed, the next filled with unqualified love, desire, longing, certainty.

Then doubt.

If I were to be able to just list this passing parade,

You might turn away, embarrassed or repulsed.

You might hear an echo of your own madnesses and flittering fantasy parade,

Drawn to it, curious to know that you aren’t the only one.

But am I?

The Empty Spaces


brassring

The dry times they predicted are here,

The clouds are scarce and carry no water.

In drought out West, the red cliffs turn black in the moonlight

the way blood does when cooling under reflected light.

You won’t understand, of course, but I’m empty today.

empty of the thing I need,

empty …  and likely to stay that way.

‘I have heard, but not believed, the spirits o’ the dead walk again.’

Just when enough time has passed, or should have,

a memory will wake the misery spirit to scour around my ribs

in sticky places where the emptiness still hides

like black blood in the cool, blue light of the moon.

Not Naked on the Bed 


surreal-self-portraits-blended-with-landscape-photos-by-antonio-mora
surreal-self-portraits-blended-with-landscape-photos-by-antonio-mora

by Timothy Young

Your beauty, nude
not naked on the bed,
is far more a gift
than I ever expected.
I watch languor recline
1n your wise grey eyes
while slate hummingbirds
carved as earrings
dangle from golden hooks.
I quiver in your breath
and the ceiling fan halts
in that instant.
We look at one another
with both eyes open and close.
An intimate wind,
the cause of auroras,
moves north and south,
east and west,
then we swim
into one another.

“Not Naked on the Bed” by Timothy Young from Building in Deeper Water. © The Thousands Press, 2003.  (buy now)

Secrecy and Freedom


#amwriting
c180d01388aa254aa1a74c65d27db4e4And so we must ask ourselves:
What is freedom?
Do we decide when to wake?
When to sleep?

Do not authorities order our
Waking
Sleeping?
Or our partners do?
Our parents?
“You have to get up early!”
“Why do you stay up so late?”

Order belongs to the day,
Unordered things, the night.
Nakedness emerges in the night…
Bodies come together, touch, in the night.
What is put aside during the day
And only implied at dinner, or the theater
Finally takes place in the secrecy of the dark.

We trade freedom for order in the hours of light.
We reclaim our freedom in secret, in the night.

Raison D’être

The Dead Need Light


Inspiration
woman-in-fog-2

The dead need light,
(If they need anything at all, that is…)
As much as the living need music.

They crave the kind of light
That brings babies’ faces to mind again, and
Spring blooms, and waves dancing on a beach they once knew.

Eternity is a long, long time.
But still… they remember

The way the stars swept across
the sky on a clear night,
the way a bumblebee looks as it
lumbers around, amazingly.

They need the lights of Paris,
twinkling with promise
drawing a halo of innocence around
young lovers by the river.

The dead crave to see, again,
those two eyes, open,
moist with tears, catching the light
of a streetlight in
breathtaking flecks of gold and green.

They remember, with a hopeless ache, the way
moonlight played on a lover’s
hip as she slept, a fleeting memory
burned forever in light,
a hand lightly stroking
just to make sure she was real.

Venice Moments


Venice  by Evgeny Lushpin
Venice
by Evgeny Lushpin

Sometimes a picture will ping a part of me,  and capture a feeling I didn’t know I had. As I get older, I realize that most of what passed for desire or ambition or striving earlier in life has left little trace. Maybe it was necessary to go through it all, to raise a family, to satisfy whatever seemed to be the urgency of the day, but I can’t remember most of it now. It just seems not to matter. I do remember feeling that it did, once, but some mysterious process of living has worn it all away. It’s like reading a story about a battle in the Boer War. I know it all happened, but I don’t recognize the people and cannot touch their lives any longer.

Thank God.

Now, what seems most important is to find spots like this, in the gathering night with people who matter, and focus on the moment. To listen to the waters bubbling past, savor the way candles glow in the windows, and watch how the flickering light plays over the face of loved ones, leaned in to taste the food, leaned back to sip the wine and laughing. Those moments have an immortality that means more with each passing, precious day. Why did I not see this before?

 

On Giving It All


img_1308_stylized

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.

– Louise Erdrich, from The Painted Drum.

 

 

We’ve Done What Was Asked


sailboat

 

Jib sweeps the horizon, wake’s a long bubbling flow,
Storms uncounted I’ve weathered, bleak terrors I’ve known.
My passage, I see, leaves no trace at all.
What good is’t to linger, then the words: “Let it go.”

The ship sluices onward, destination unknown,
Taut cables weave ’round me, they sing, snap and moan,
Mast bends, prow plunges, new gusts arrive,
The water’s hiss climbs, the sea knows her own.

Through the darkness she takes me, my eyes crusted blind,
Brine’s coated me, it seems, for three times out of mind.
I pray for the sight of rare stars thru mist,
And dream fitfully of old friends left behind.

Each dawn brings the thought, despite what is past,
We’ll find calm water and fair shore at long last.
Still, my body is one with the ship ‘neath my hand,
Both battered and worn, we’ve done what was asked.

©Hemmingplay 2015

 

Voyage

Desire’s Illusions


IMG_1723

Chase we, all,
Things that glitter and shimmer,
Things that slither up against us,
Like a lovely someone in a short skirt on a street corner,
Smelling of perfume and friendly virtue.

Yet even when our desires are met
We are unfulfilled, more hollowed than before.
Phantoms dissolve, mocking
Such foolish mortals as we.

Such an old, old story.

Two roads diverge in a yellow wood,
And by taking the one most traveled by,
Can we ever
Retrace our steps, and take that other path.
The truer one,
The one that could make all the difference?

Abandoned Farmhouse


Life, no matter how sweet, is still  temporary
Life, no matter how sweet, is still temporary

Sharing words by others….

by Ted Kooser
He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;

a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.

A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall
papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves
covered with oilcloth, and they had a child,
says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.

Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves
and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.

It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.
Something went wrong, says the empty house
in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields
say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.

And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard
like branches after a storm-a rubber cow,
a rusty tractor with a broken plow,
a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.

“Abandoned Farmhouse” by Ted Kooser from Flying at Night. © University of Pittsburgh 1985
(buy now)

Oh, For a Muse of Fire


Time to get to work.

Doing the inspiration-kick-myself-in-the-ass thing this morning again. 

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend

The brightest heaven of invention,

A kingdom for a stage, princes to act

And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!

Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,

Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,

Leash’d in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire

Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,

The flat unraised spirits that have dared

On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth

So great an object: can this cockpit hold

The vasty fields of France? or may we cram

Within this wooden O the very casques

That did affright the air at Agincourt?

O, pardon! since a crooked figure may

Attest in little place a million;

And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,

On your imaginary forces work.

Suppose within the girdle of these walls

Are now confined two mighty monarchies,

Whose high upreared and abutting fronts

The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:

Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;

Into a thousand parts divide on man,

And make imaginary puissance;

Think when we talk of horses, that you see them

Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;

For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,

Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times,

Turning the accomplishment of many years

Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,

Admit me Chorus to this history;

Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,

Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

The Land, The Land… Always The Land


A place to learn how to be lost, and how to be found.
A place to learn how to be lost, and how to be found.

I remember the summers of tall corn, and Princess,
Running, face slapped and cut by green leaves while she
Dashed in and out of the alien-looking bases of the stalks
laughing, daring me to follow.

I remember feeling the darkness close in, alone in the tall corn, stalks closing over me, afraid.
Closing out the sun, closing off a sense of direction,

Saved
By a laughing dog who found me, asked-why-I-was-standing-still…
Running away, free among the stalks
Until I followed, redeemed, pulled into the unknown, laughing, too.
Summer days among the tall corn, lost, found, redeemed,
Long rows curving into mystery, terror, fear and salvation,

A friend who never left me, always came back, refused to let me shrink from the unknown,
A dog who kept me anchored in the now, in experience, in friendship.

Jesus.
A dog and a boy. A dog is a savior for a young boy, too frightened to know where to turn.
The land, the island wilderness, the endless rows of corn eight feet tall,
Twisting, curving, full of weedy vines, rocks and in a burst of fur and dust,
a laughing dog who
Never let me lose myself, always called me back, mocked my adolescent timidity,
Made me follow, explore and, eventually, to laugh with her.

The land, the land…. way more than just a summer’s day
In the tall corn with Princess. My puny fears, yes, but my foundation.
A link to a thousand ancestors. In my insignificance, still stronger by connections.
The land…. a family memory, stretching into antiquity,
The land… a sense of place, of time, of belonging, of self.
The land.. passed along now, my connection cut, but not quite.
The land… a sense of place ended, but not quite.
The land… a place to put my face into, my fingers digging deep, holding onto… but not any more.
The land…. a place that birthed me, shaped me with a laughing dog, long ago,
The land… a place that infused me, called to me, supported me, made me, set me free.

The land, the land… always the Land.

Toward That Far Shore


change

The past month has been one shaky step after another across a river full of undertow and old, unhealed wounds. But each step has led me away from the comfortable, known, safe, stupid and dull, toward the unknown, risky and exciting; toward the resurrection of a sense of mystery, of the smell of a new place at dawn, of winds out of the north with hints of Spring or Canada, and the distant call of wild things hunting in the night.

I know that doesn’t tell you the facts. Not the external ones, anyway. But, it’s all I’ll say for now. I suspect, though, that these are the most important things.

But every moment means taking a step into growth, or a step back into safety. I’m learning that all over again. And you know what? It feels good. Scary good.

La Lune, La Lune


anigif_enhanced-9757-1420559103-7 Above the night she sails austere,
Chill face hides peaks forlorn;
Alone she rises from the edge,
Alone she lights the sky.

Beneath her rolls a world asleep,
Or lonely loves’ distress;
Or skein of geese, for Southland bound,
Wing blackly ‘cross her track.

Three hundred million years from now,
When you and I have gone,
And insects rule what once was ours,
Will they remember us?

Will they build moonships to La Lune,
And scramble ‘cross her skin?
Will they find bootprints we left there,
And wonder how we fell?

©Hemmingplay 2015

 

Old Roses


This is terrific. A small image that opens a door onto something big.

Life, no matter how sweet, is still  temporary
Life, no matter how sweet, is still temporary

by Donald Hall

White roses, tiny and old, flare among thorns
by the barn door.

For a hundred years
under the June elm, under the gaze
of seven generations,
they lived briefly
like this, in the month of roses,
by the fields
stout with corn, or with clover and timothy
making thick hay,
grown over, now,
with milkweed, sumac, paintbrush.
Old
roses survive
winter drifts, the melt in April, August
parch,
and men and women
who sniffed roses in spring and called them pretty
as we call them now,
walking beside the barn
on a day that perishes.

“Old Roses” by Donald Hall, from White Apples and the Taste of Stone. © Houghton Mifflin, 2006. (buy now)

 

Take the Shot


playdoh

You few, you happy few who spent time in the purgatory of a newspaper news desk writing headlines on deadline will see this and feel a pang of joy and jealousy. “Lucky bastard,” you may mutter.

For a desk editor, this is the equivalent of the hanging fastball over the middle of the plate. This is better than Babe Ruth pointing to the center field wall with his bat, challenging the pitcher to bring the heat.  This is better than Yukon Pete hitting a gold nugget the size of a Volkswagon Beetle with his pick.

One of these can make your month—or more. And your colleagues will clip it out and put it up on the office bulletin board and you can bask in the acclaim for a while—almost long enough to make up for the lousy hours, illiterate junior flip reporters, starvation wages and insane managing editors.

But while it lasts….. ahhhhh…

Gearing Up… Again… It’s Always About That


Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer

The work must be done. It must be done and all the tricks to avoid starting eventually have to be unmasked and ignored.

The beginning of the new year is as good a time as any to make promises to myself. Most of my promises are bullshit, and I know that about me. But I can’t let my self-deceptions keep me immobilized. So, the work must be done.

The feeling I have brings up an image of a cat, muscles twitching and bunching, feet feeling for purchase, something to push off of. You know the look of coiling springs when a cat is about to launch itself at something? That’s how this feels. We all have our own rituals. One of mine is to read good writing, sometimes for days, and letting the ideas and the words wrap themselves around something inside and get it excited.

So it is when the work must be done. I find words like these and use them to pull me back to the chair, fight the resistance with action, ignore my own whining, and pounce.

Hello again, “Running Girl”. Let’s go do interesting things to each other, shall we?

Over the years, I’ve found one rule. It is the only one I give on those occasions when I talk about writing. A simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.

NORMAN MAILER

Be Careful What You Wish For


life

I posted this in June, during recovery. I apologize for the repeat, but this is one of two things I’m adding today in honor of the New Year. I don’t usually wish a Happy New Year, since nothing really is predictable. But I do hope that we all get some wishes answered, and pray you all wish well.

When I was younger, I desperately wanted to see my future, to know what was to be. In my arrogance, I thought I knew everything, and as it turns out, I know next to nothing.  Less than nothing sometimes. My ignorance grows with age.

Now, looking back at what things litter the path of my personal journey, the triumphs and the broken bodies, I’m thankful that I didn’t know what was to come. Even the good things, but most certainly the bad. It would have been too much. It would have destroyed me, and, I suspect, it would destroy most of us.

I don’t know much, but think this much is true. We’re here to get through it somehow, and to learn what we can, but only one day at a time. Or, sometimes, just one hour at a time. That, and it’s important to learn how to be kind.

More knowing would fill us with grief and fear and tear us apart. We just aren’t strong enough to handle it.

Let the young believe that they know everything, though. We need their optimism and energy. Life will teach them too. It always does. But we should not wish to see the future. We should wish to live each day to the hilt, we should hope we have the courage to face what comes, and the future will take care of itself.

From a scene in “The Passenger”, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and starring Jack Nicholson as reporter named Locke:

Locke repeatedly asks the girl, as she looks out the window, “what can you see? what can you see now?”
And he tells her this story:
“I knew a man who was blind. When he was nearly 40 years old he had an operation and regained his sight….At first he was elated, really high—faces, colors, landscapes. But then everything began to change. The world was much poorer than he had imagined. No one had ever told him how much dirt there was, how much ugliness. He noticed ugliness everywhere. When he was blind, he used to cross the street alone with a stick. After he regained his sight, he became afraid, he began to live in darkness, he never left his room.
After three years he killed himself.”

A Cool Way to Go


To the Threshold of Silence, by Karezoid Michal Karcz
“To the threshold of silence” by karezoid michal karcz

Imagine the fun,
If, on my last journey (which I trust is far in the future),
I could order up my final ride…
Whether with wheels or wings, with keel or hoof,
With steel on steel rail, or teleport onboard the
Starship Enterprise…

Or drive off in a British racing green ’63 Shelby Cobra (with the small-block Ford V-8) ….

or even, or EVEN…

By God! An antigrav surfboard with a built-in wet bar and
wi-fi all the way into the great beyond…. 

But there’d be nothing grander than
A long, slow ascent up the face of one of
Nature’s most awesome sights,

A slow goodbye to soak in the immensity,
And a grand review from above the curvature of the
Earth. One last time.

Rising higher and higher, getting colder and colder, gasping for breath, seeing further and further, until it finally all made sense…
pinned by the stabbing light of eternity, up…
up there, not far now…

© Hemmingplay 2014

I Think Constantly of Those Who Were Truly Great


russians-climb-pyramids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Michael Blumenthal

and, to be perfectly honest, it bums me out.
So many great ones! —libidinal heroes,
idealists, warrior-chieftains, revolutionaries,
fabulists of all sorts, even the great Irish pig farmers
and Armenian raisin growers —and who,
I ask myself, am I by comparison? Calmed
by Valium, urged on by Viagra, uplifted
by Prozac, I go about my daily rounds,
a quotidian member of the quotidian hierarchy,
a Perseus with neither a war nor a best friend,
and sink to the depths of despair
on the broken wings of my own mundanity.

If only some god had given me greatness,
I surely would have made something of it—
perhaps a loftier, more humble poem than this,
or some übermenschliche gesture that would reveal
my superiority to the ordinary beings and things
of this world. But here I am now, one of
the earth’s mere Sancho Panzas, leading
those heroic others through the world on their
magnificent horses, merely turning the page, dreaming
my own small deeds into their magnificent arms.

“I Think Constantly of Those Who Were Truly Great” by Michael Blumenthal, from No Hurry: Poems 2000-2012. © Etruscan Press, 2012. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

One Foot in Front of the Other


 

dreamin'It happens. The dry spells drift in around my ankles like sand, and before I know it, I can’t seem to move my feet.

Oh, well. It happens. It will pass. In the meantime, I read your posts and silently urge you on. Don’t worry about me. I’m resting, that’s all. Getting down to basics. It happens. It will pass. I’ll catch up later.

And in the meantime, I read….

The Hill

by Mark Strand

I have come this far on my own legs,
missing the bus, missing taxis,
climbing always. One foot in front of the other,
that is the way I do it.

It does not bother me, the way the hill goes on.
Grass beside the road, a tree rattling
its black leaves. So what?
The longer I walk, the farther I am from everything.

One foot in front of the other. The hours pass.
One foot in front of the other. The years pass.
The colors of arrival fade.
That is the way I do it.

“The Hill” by Mark Strand, from Collected Poems. © Knopf, 2014. (buy now)

Waves


wildflower_sunset

Stories of loss, regrets, anger and pain,
Humanity sloshing through gray days, numb to what might be,
Stuck in what was. Second thoughts always.
Years.

Disappointments. Loneliness.

Dreams gone first sour, then withering.

But then hope reappears,
Wiser, cautious, tentative,
But hope nonetheless.
The past lingers like the smell of dead mouse in the walls,
Gradually fading, but sickening. Hidden, but everywhere.
But hope says…maybe….
Maybe it can end.
It’s not rational. But it just may be true.

Open the windows and doors,
Feel the sun on your face,
Embrace the pain and fear,
Hold it close and forgive all your mistakes.
Forgive all. That is your only escape.

Winter is but a season,
All things change.
Even this.

Everything is temporary.

Connect the Dots Later


steve jobs quotes

I usually spend some prep time reading– books, poems, other bloggers, quotes — before writing. The quote at the bottom is one that hit me today as I was looking for something to help a young friend find the courage to plunge ahead, not knowing how things will turn out. We just move forward, into the mist that is the future, and if we’re lucky, we learn to embrace the unknown with love.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

—Steve Jobs

 

To Be Fully Awake, I Must First Surrender to Sleep


cathedralCove_New Zealand_Yan Zhang
The Cave of My Unknowing Self


If you want cheerful, you might want to move past this one. I’m not feeling morbid, just in the mood to sink into some things that will lead to other things. I’m like the person who hasn’t had enough sleep for days, but had to keep moving and now am a little crazy.

We’ve all known those sleepless dark hours, where “I have counted my own fears, like carved beads on the string of the night.”  (This line is from a fabulous person and writer and Southerner who blows me away every time with lines like that. Her talent makes me insanely jealous, but then is so good that I just have to step back and applaud. )

I’m just getting started on this, a cleansing ritual of sorts. I need to make sure that I remember that looking in the mirror and seeing what’s really there is the only useful starting point.

To be, or not to be, that is the question—

Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer

The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,

Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep—

No more; and by a sleep, to say we end

The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks

That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,

To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes Calamity of so long life:

For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,

The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,

The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,

The insolence of Office, and the Spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his Quietus make

With a bare Bodkin? Who would these Fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn

No Traveler returns, Puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have,

Than fly to others that we know not of.

In the Tombs, In the Dust, In the Cool Tombs


WHEN Abraham Lincoln was shoveled into the tombs, he forgot the copperheads and the assassin … in the dust, in the cool tombs.

And Ulysses Grant lost all thought of con men and Wall Street, cash and collateral turned ashes … in the dust, in the cool tombs.

Pocahontas’ body, lovely as a poplar, sweet as a red haw in November or a pawpaw in May, did she wonder? does she remember?… in the dust, in the cool tombs?

Take any streetful of people buying clothes and groceries, cheering a hero or throwing confetti and blowing tin horns … tell me if the lovers are losers … tell me if any get more than the lovers … in the dust … in the cool tombs.

–Carl Sandburg

20140801-181204-65524685.jpg

Finish What You Start



finish

I’m dealing with three things at once. I’m feeling a little guilty about it, too.

One is that we’re getting ready for a party tomorrow. Superficially, it’s to celebrate a wedding anniversary and a retirement (her’s, not mine yet, dammit) and an excuse to go to the wine store. But really, it’s just a big ol’ wet kiss to the fact that we’re both still alive. It always comes down to that for all of us in the end, you know.

But the advice to finish what you start applies to the writing work. I am working on the book. I haven’t been talking about it, because i found out that if I was talking, I wasn’t writing. But I haven’t done much yesterday and won’t today.

Yesterday was due to the third thing, which is the aftermath of that annoying little blood clot in a tiny part of my brain that is still making itself felt. Yesterday was a day it was making itself felt, and I wasn’t able to get out of the chair much. Today I feel great. It seems to go like that. So today is party prep, tomorrow is the party, and then “Running Girl” is going to feel my hands all over her again.

Hmmm. Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn’t wait.  🙂

 

 

Ch. 4, part 2: Rose.. A Little About Rose


tardis_rose
Rose Tyler (Dr. Who)

But who, intact,
would Venus [de Milo] be?
Some standard-issue
ingénue. Give me
a woman who’s lived
a little, who’s wrapped
her arms around the ages
and come up lacking: that’s
the stone that can move me.
—“Truth in Advertising,” Andrea Cohen

Ted’s doorbell, which sounded like Big Ben, rang at 9 p.m. precisely two days, seven hours and 23 minutes after he left the old Mill’s bar floating on the updrafts of new love.

He had music playing and had cleaned things up as much as one can in a house that’s full of carpenter’s tools and stepladders, the smell of fresh paint and polish.

Rose stood outside on the porch with her hair down on her shoulders, and breathtaking in a low-cut but still modest black dress that ended just above the knees, a silver necklace and playful eyes. She fairly glistened under the light.

To say that she was well put together would be like saying Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” was just an OK little sketch.

And never in the history of little black dresses had there been such a little black dress.

His heart fluttered a bit and then flopped over. His mouth went dry. She was overloading his nervous system. He liked it.

Her hair glowed in the light of late evening and the porch lamp. She must have done some fairy magic with makeup, because all he saw were her eyes and lips, a hint of swelling bosom…and felt something break loose in his chest.  Everything about her looked understated and expensive, and he forgot his own name.

Rose looked a little worried at first that he wasn’t saying anything. It had taken a lot of work to look like this, after all. But then she looked more closely and saw the wordless appreciation in his face and then blushed at what she saw behind it, and felt a thrill run through her at what that look did to her. She laughed, held up the bottle of wine she had in her right hand, and waggled it at him.

“Are you going to invite me in, or do I have to find another guy to share this with?”

That shook the spell off, and opened the door wide.
“Hi, Rose. I’m sorry. You … . You’re so gorgeous, I forgot how to speak there for a minute. Please…. Come on in.” She smiled up at him warmly and stepped across the threshold, presenting the wine bottle.

Their fingers brushed lightly as he took the bottle.

“You look beautiful, too,” she said, a little shyly, almost too softly to hear. “What say we get started on that wine?”

He took the wine and led her back to the kitchen, opened it and filled two glasses. Then, even though they both knew they were delaying the inevitable, he played tour guide to his pride and joy renovation/rescue project, all three floors. It took the better part of 40 minutes. Back in the kitchen, he refilled their glasses, pulled a tray of cheeses and olives and meats and crackers from the refrigerator, and tried to tuck another bottle of wine under his arm. She held up a hand, took the wine from him, picked up the open one and a cork screw with her other hand and he grabbed the food tray and led her up the winding staircase to the tower room with its 360-degree view of town and treetops, where he’d earlier put some candles.

The summer sun was just touching the top of the mountain to the west, filling the room with a golden glow. They had had a spell of clear, dry air settling down from Canada over the valley, with sunny days and cool nights, so the windows were open and a slight breeze moved through.

He sat on one of the couches as she took her time inspecting this last space, sipping wine without saying much. She took in the view of town below, of the mountains to the west and north, and the tree tops of the old neighborhood stretching to the east toward the gigantic old limestone open mine a couple of miles out in the forests that surrounded them. It was just getting dark enough that the glow of the university town 10 miles away over a ridge to the south could be seen blotting out the first stars. The street lights and the yellow glow of the lights below in the downtown looked more inviting. He took in her presence, smiling at how lovely she was, how she moved so effortlessly. She’d chosen the dress well, too, and he watched her body move under it, enjoying the swish and sway of the fabric falling from shoulder, and breast and hip, but stopping at two of the finest pair of legs he’d seen in a long time, bare, with no stockings.

After she paused back at the beginning, looking pensively toward the glow of the western sky, he cleared his throat.

“What’s your story, Rose Tyler?” he finally asked, breaking the silence. She turned at the question, eyes dark and serious. He indicated the tray of food and offered to refill her glass. He stammered… “You know a lot about me — God knows I’ve been doing nothing but talking about myself all evening — but now it’s your turn.”

She didn’t answer right away, but took another sip of wine and held it to her lips for a few seconds, looking at him over the rim of the glass with unfathomable eyes. She moved to the seat opposite, but close enough that he could have touched her knee if he had just leaned forward a bit.

She held the stem of the wine glass with both hands in her lap with knees together and ankles crossed.

“Let’s eat first. I’m starving, and much more wine on an empty stomach and I don’t know what I’ll do,” she said. “But then you’ll get the whole sad story.”

Later, after the food and after they shared some more of their personal stories, they sat in silence for a while, sipping wine, neither knowing exactly what to say.

He put his wine glass down and leaned forward. Might as well be blunt, Ted thought.

“I’ve been thinking about you almost non-stop since the other day at lunch,” he said. “Truth be told, I’ve been thinking about you a lot even before that. And I want to kiss you,” he said. “Almost more than anything I can think of right now.”

She put her glass down on the side table and looked at him with a frank invitation in her eyes. “If you hadn’t said that pretty soon, I was going to,” she said, her voice a little husky. “And then I want to see more of that bedroom.”

Somehow– he later couldn’t remember moving– he was next to her and the room was lit only by a candle by the time they  broke away. The sun’s glow was gone from the sky and the moon was rising, but it seemed as though no time had passed for the two of them.

They were both breathing hard. She put her head against his chest and ran her hand up and down, then back inside where buttons had been opened before. Her touch seemed infused with fire.

“Oh, my,” she said, voice husky and hushed. “Oh, my.”

He kissed the top of her head and stood, then moved around blowing out each candle. The moon was rising, filling the room with blue light, enough for them to see now. He took her hand and drew her up from the couch to him, kissed her once, touching her tongue with his. Without another word, he led her down the stairs.

The next week was a rushing memory. Rose left at mid-morning the next day and went to the restaurant. Ted met with a decorator and a plumber and some other tradespeople finishing up the upper rooms, and felt like he had a grin plastered on his face the whole time.

When he was alone he found himself whistling, something he hadn’t done for years. He also realized he wasn’t very good at whistling, but didn’t care.

Rose came back that night and brought some samplings from the restaurant, and also had a snack of cheeses at the big table in the kitchen. They washed it down with some German beer, and talked again for an hour about their lives and their losses.

She grew quiet after a while, and he could tell she wanted to say something. He waited.

“I like you, Ted,” she said. “I really do. Last night was unbelievable. But I need to be clear about something.”

“Um, Ok,” he said, wondering what was coming, fearing the worst.

“We’re both grownups,” she started again. “We know what we like, and what we don’t, and neither of us has time for games any more. That’s for kids. I’ve got issues. You’ve got issues. But I do love the way you use your hands,” she said.

“I know, I know,” he said, waving modestly. “My hands should be insured. I’m gong to call Lloyds tomorrow,” he said. “You certainly were vocal on that point last night.”

“Very funny,” she said, dipping a finger in her beer and flicking it at him. “But I’m not looking for anything permanent here. It might happen. I like being with you. We’re two people who need each other right now, who can make each other laugh. But it’s too soon for either of us to get too serious. I’m too scared about something bad happening again. The divorce was brutal. But I should warn you, I could very easily fall for you, and if that happens, it will be very hard for you to get away.”

“But let’s try to keep it loose for the time being, OK?”

As she said this, she reached over and took his hand and squeezed it.

“I get it,” he said, choosing to make light of it for now. He was feeling much the same. “You just want me for my body. And… “ he gestured at the shirt with a few cracker crumbs and the remnants of a spare tire under it…”I can’t really blame you. This is… well, it’s just irresistible.”

“Let’s just say that with the lights out, I can forget the cracker crumbs,” she said, rising and patting his stomach.

She led him toward the bedroom, although they didn’t make it all the way up the stairs on the first try.

The next hours were memorable. They dozed and then found each other again and again. At the last, she held him with arms and thighs, whispered urgently in his ear, made herself the safe habor into which the storms of his buried selves burst and were forgiven. At the final moment all of the grief and pain and doubt and anger stored inside from all those hard years of loss and disappointment left him.

Afterward, she lay quietly, fingers moving languidly over his skin, a feeling of deep contentment filling her.

They lay side by side, not speaking in the dimness of the giant old room. He let himself drift and wondered at what was gone from the day before— a darkness in his gut that he had felt so long that it seemed normal. He had a brief sensation of sliding down a warm slope. In an instant, he was deep asleep for the first time in months.

She pulled the sheet up over them and settled in under his chin, her head on his chest and one leg and arm thrown possessively over him. He stirred and murmmered something unintelligible and put his arm around her shoulder and then was still again, breathing deeply. With a strand of hair across her face and enigmatic smile at the corners of her mouth, she closed her eyes and followed him into oblivion.

  1. “Mohana Das”

  2. “Captured”

  3. “Dream Girl”

  4. “Attack in the Family Room”

  5. “Fingers”

  6. A Little About Rose

  7. The Next Morning

  8. “What will be, Shall Be”

  9. “To the Death”

We


A sharing, a cry of loneliness,

A feeling—not an understanding.

A wail, a sob, a whine,

A silence, humming along the wires,

Disguised by the noise.

A grimace in a mirror,

A mask, a character maintained,

Not quite false: manufactured, designed.

Solitary, but not quite alone.

© Hemmingplay 2014

We All Can’t Have It All, Can We?


brassring
© Janet Boyd aka Bee Spit 2000 – 2012

No.

We can’t have it all.
Lord knows, I’ve tried.
I almost did, once or twice.

Then…. pffffft. Gone.
At the last minute I hesitated,
Seeing a desert beyond.

I don’t know what “all” means any more,
But I’m beginning to see through the
Haze of my own ambitions and needs.

I know women in their 30s and beyond,
Trying to “have it all,”
Dancing like marionettes strung out on speed,
Desperate to beguile and seduce everyone—and I mean everyone
As though they’ll never age, that sex is all they have;
Being the perfect mother, career going full-tilt, the
Magical, mysterious, all-purpose Earth Mother Vagina with spangles.

Sad.
They’re killing themselves.
I hate to break it to them,
But there’s that moment when you
Kick down the door where All is stored,
And there’s nothing there.

In my case, All was sitting there, smirking at me.
It was a Thursday, in April,
The world sparkled with Spring.
The stars lined up just right,
It was just within reach.
But ….. but then it was gone,
Like a dream that shattered in the early morning light.

Some seem to have it all for a while,
But the real story tells more.
Even billionaires get sunburn.
And fight with their kids.
Guard the hoard with lawyers,
Feel sorry for themselves and
Blame the poor,
And come down with gout;
Hate taxes and capital gains,
Fret over which vacation home to use,
Which is it this time?
Aspen or Maine?
That just pisses me off.
And I mutter something about
A rich man Passing through the eye of a needle.

“I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor,
And rich is better,” Molly Brown said once.

Then she rode the Titanic, spent hours in a lifeboat,
Watched others go under, glad she survived,
But lived forever with the cries of the drowning,
lived in a big house, never belonging.

She ended alone, finally resigned
To having all the world could give,
Yet wryly seeing some things
Were forever out of reach.
And the good ladies of Denver
Snubbed and cut her the rest of her life.
And she learned to laugh,
With a hard-won wisdom.

So it comes down to these, I think:
If I have it all, what’s left for you?
And if you have it all, well, that just wouldn’t do.
True?

This morning a robin hopped in the yard, cocked her head,
Listened for worms. The daffodils are turning
The land a yellow shade of optimistic; the days lengthen and grow warmer.
A cat dozes in the window next door,
A rabbit breaks cover when the dog gets too near;
The cold spring gushes out of the deep earth and rushes through town,
Heedless of us, headed to the sea, not looking back.
The sea licks the land as it has for a billion years,
Tasting all of our dreams.

So what does it mean, to have it all?

Time


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The New Song

by W. S. Merwin

For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine
going back to and finding it
as I had found it the first time
but by this time I do not know
what I thought when I thought back then

there is no time yet it grows less
there is the sound of rain at night
arriving unknown in the leaves
once without before or after
then I hear the thrush waking
at daybreak singing the new song

“The New Song” by W.S. Merwin, from The Moon Before Morning. © Copper Canyon Press, 2014.

50 years ago today….


A Nine Pound Hammer....or a woman like you, either one of these will do

Beatles5

“There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed,
Some forever, not for better,
Some have gone and some remain.”

50 years ago today, the Beatles held the #1-#5 ranked singles in the country, something that no one has ever done before, or since.

Recorded and released in 1965, In My Life” is one of my top 3 favorite Beatles song, the Beatles at their best.

Great lyrics, sappy but realistic and a song that changes meanings as we grow older…yet always remains the same.

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I’ll Buy You A Beer


Hello sweet Miss,
That empty chair there…
Mind if I join you?
Maybe buy you a beer?

Now, before you say no…
I’ve haven’t a plan,
Besides soaking my troubles
‘Til they don’t seem so bad,
But it’s sadder just drinking
Without company.
Let’s hoist a few pints,
Get stupid and free.

Oh, I see…
You’re not talking,
You’re here to forget?
A man’s in the picture,
I’d be willing to bet.

I sure know the feeling,
The guts turned to goo,
So if it’s silence you need,
Well, I need that, too.

But your sad, sad beauty
It touches my soul.
There’s a smile to be found there,
Let’s make that our goal

Seems both of us crave
Something stronger than beer.
Maybe vodka? Or whiskey?
“Hey Barkeep! Two drinks over here.”

But look into my eyes–
It burns in your’s, too–
That we’re here in the City
And it hasn’t been kind.
We’ve come up against it,
Bruised in body and mind.

So only if you agree,
I’ve got no big plan–
Not looking for love,
Or to stand in for your man.
We’ll just share a drink–
In silence; we must.

Let’s keep out the cold,
And let the pain pass,
Good company, simple,
Just a lad and a lass.

©Hemmingplay 2014, revised 3/21/14

Running Girl: “Fingers” (excerpt)


  1. “Mohana Das”

  2. “Captured”

  3. “Dream Girl”

  4. “Attack in the Family Room”

  5. “Fingers”

_______________________
Fingers

Her name was Rose Tyler, like the 10th Dr. Who’s  traveling companion.

This Rose was from New Jersey, though, and was part owner of a bar and restaurant in the old mill. She moved to Mossy Creek from a working-class neighborhood after a bad marriage ended. She’d worked as a translator at the UN. No one could learn more than that. Several had tried.

She had the air of someone who had been let down too many times. While she was friendly and exchanged sometimes vulgar banter with regulars, her eyes were always a little watchful and wary behind the smile.

Ted read her that life had not been one that lent itself to easy fantasies. More than one half-drunk male customer had learned some choice New Jersey words, too, if he laid a hand on her.

He met her the first day he was in town, listened to her conversation and quickly placed her origins and attitude. He kept his distance at first, but found that he ended up there a few nights a week after working on the house. He didn’t share much of himself, either, and resisted enough of the ways the locals had of prying without being rude. He and Rose had both been let down too many times, and each had learned to value their privacy. They circled one another, closer and closer, without words.

After a week of almost daily visits and neutral pleasantries, though, he hurried to lunch more than he used to, and she looked up and smiled when he came in, a little more than was really required. That made him happy.

On a sleepy late April afternoon, he was later than usual, held up by an argument with a painter about an estimate that had ballooned out of control. By the time he got to the Mill, he was hungry and grumpy.

The parking lot was empty, as was the bar. Rose had her back to the door and was cleaning glasses, listening to music on a stereo and obviously lost in some private thoughts. Ted recognized the song she had on, one of his favorites, “Suite Judy Blue Eyes,” by Crosby, Stills and Nash. The lyrics at the beginning were wafting around the dark corners of the old room:

It’s getting to the point
Where I’m no fun anymore
I am sorry
Sometimes it hurts so badly
I must cry out loud
I am lonely
I am yours, you are mine
You are what you are
You make it hard….

She was somewhere in her early 40s, but was fit and curvy, and her partner in the business was the chef. Ted discovered eventually, and to his delight, that Ronald already was involved with Elliot. Elliot lived in Pittsburgh where he was a TV producer, and commuted on weekends.

Rose wore a simple black skirt that flattered her hips and legs, and a starched white blouse. Her sandy-blond hair was tied up in a bun and held with a carved wooden pin, but some hair escaped confinement in a borderline wild way that he thought was charming. As she turned to put the wine glasses into the overhead rack, she turned slightly and her breasts strained against the fabric in a way that he approved of completely. He noticed she wore a plain gold chain necklace with a small cross that rested in some cleavage that was showing. He noticed that more this day because the second button was undone more than usual. He smiled to himself. Not that he hadn’t noticed her before, but that day he realized that his interest in her was something that needed to be admitted. He realized that he had stopped just inside the bar’s door and was staring, just as she caught him out of the corner of her eye, saw how he was looking at her and slowly lowered her arm smiled.

At that moment, the song slid into the next to the last stanza —

What have you got to lose?
Chestnut brown canary
Ruby throated sparrow
Sing the song, don’t be long
Thrill me to the marrow
Voices of the angels, ring around the moonlight
Asking me, said she so free
How can you catch the sparrow?
Lacy, lilting, leery, losing love, lamenting
Change my life, make it right
Be my lady

They both laughed at the same time. And then did what two people do at times like that: they pretended the moment hadn’t happened.

“Hey there,” she said, a little too brightly, “I was wondering if you were going to be in today. The usual? ”
Ted tried to move, but only managed to bump into one of the chairs at a table near the door, nearly knocking it over. He fumbled it back upright, feeling as clumsy as a teenager at his first prom. Rose seemed amused.
“Um, yes. Let’s start with an Ayinger. And could you ask Ronald to whip up a corned beef platter?”
“Of course,” she said, slight color tinging her cheeks, fumbling a bit herself as she put the order through on the computer to the kitchen and filled a frosted glass with the Bavarian wheat beer.

She slid the beer across the counter and leaned in against the inside edge with both hands.
He caught a whiff of her perfume and noticed a strand of hair dangling by one ear. It suddenly got a little harder to breathe.

“How’s the work on the house going? Still fighting with Harold about the painting bill?”
Nothing was secret in this town, especially if you were a barber or bartender.

“Harold’s been sniffing paint fumes too long,” Ted said with a wry smile, gratefully sipping the ice-cold liquid and wiping the foam from his lip with the napkin she’d put by the glass. “But I think we’ve finally got it settled. That’s what I was just finishing up. He says he’ll be done with the upstairs bedrooms in a couple of days, and that’s about all there is to do. He’d better be, too. The decorators are coming Monday to hang curtains, put the carpets down and make it all pretty and such.”

“I’ve been waiting to get an invitation to see the place, and I’m tired of waiting,” Rose said. “When can I come over and see if I approve?”

He was very aware of her proximity, and his hands felt like he was wearing boxing gloves. Picking that sandwich up was going to be a problem.

“Harold just had his deadline moved up. Give me two days. How does Thursday night sound, around 7 for a dinner? I’ve learned to be a pretty good chef since living alone.”

“I’d love that. But it’ll have to be a little later, after nine. Ronald closes up Thursdays for me anyway. Would that work? I’ll bring the wine. We just got a very nice Sirrah in from California, and I’ve been wanting to try it out.”

They talked for a bit about a wine and cheese tasting in the restaurant later in the week, and about the house. The feeling between then had subtly shifted, and both were aware of it and felt comfortable, and excited, although neither said it out loud.

Other customers came in and they broke off the conversation while she took their orders. He ate his sandwich. The dim, aged stone and wood atmosphere of the bar was comforting. It had been absorbing such moments for nearly 200 years.
Another old song was playing, a quiet instrumental he couldn’t quite place. He was tired, but found he was thinking about Thursday night with anticipation. He leaned on the bar and watched the bubbles rise in the liquid in his glass, bits of foam clinging to the sides. He took another sip.

He felt Rose’s presence return from the other side of the bar, which was in a “U” shape around a central wooden support beam and cash register. His awareness of her was of a rustling sound of cotton, a sensation of heat and a fragrance both subtle and disturbing. Rose was looking at him with an expression he hadn’t seen in a while. A nice one, one that hit him right in the male part of his brain. She was resting her hands on the bar, and moved one hand with a bar towel in a slow, back and forth motion. The surface was already spotless.

Her fingers drew his eyes for some reason. Part of his brain registered mild surprise at that. His heart beat a tune he hadn’t heard in a while. There were many things about Rose that he liked looking at, but what he looked at just then were her fingers. He was a connoisseur of such things.

It’s just like you can never mistake a girl’s knees for a woman’s. Young girls might have perfect skin and no signs of wear and tear, but experience in life is underrated when it comes to beauty. For one thing, there’s the confidence. That’s a real plus. That and no giggling.

And their knees aren’t as nice as a woman’s. These things matter to a man after a while, if he’s paying attention.

Rose’s fingers….  were not pudgy, young-girl fingers, but …womanly. The kind that comes after living a little. The kind that know what to touch, when to touch, and how long to touch; when to grab and hold on, and when to let go. Long and slender, with well-trimmed nails with a clear coating. Languid, graceful, with the beginnings of a few wrinkles. Hands that had seen hard work, but would just as naturally cradle a baby or slide beer across a bar.

Details matter.

All of this flashed through his fatigue and beer-mellowed mind in less than two seconds. Her fingers absolutely mesmerized him.

God, the raunchy truth of it was that he loved women and women’s bodies. The whole and the parts. They fascinated him. And it had been a long time since he’d thought much about that. Too long.

He reached out without thinking about it and took her hands up in his, and held them.

“You have lovely hands,” he said.

Wow, he thought. How original.

She appreciated the impulse, if not the dumb delivery. She laughed and flushed. That was a good sign, wasn’t it?
She stammered a little and managed an “oh, they’re so dry”. But she didn’t pull away. After a second’s hesitation, she rubbed her fingertips on the palm of his hand and moved her hands inside his, and then clasped his hands with an intensity that surprised him and stole any words he might have uttered.

“I’m feeling warm,” she said with a nervous laugh, and looked a little unsure. But in a flash, her body was still and her large, dark brown eyes looked right into his with a serious, but twinkly look. He had the giddy feeling that he was falling into them.

“I wonder why?,” she said.

“I’m feeling pretty warm myself.”

He actually blushed, probably for the first time since he bumped into Linda Vogel’s new boobs in the sixth grade. But he wasn’t in the sixth grade any longer, he knew what he wanted to do and, what’s more, that Rose wanted the same thing. The realization sent an electric shock clear down to his toes. She smiled a little at the corners of her mouth and tilted her head to the side a little, watching him.

Without quite realizing he was doing it, he found his fingertip gliding over the fine hair of her forearm, on the way to other things. He didn’t care who else was in the bar, even though they were alone. The feeling of her was electric to his fingers and he was aware of every detail. She leaned closer, her eyes closing a little.

Then the phone rang. Her eyes opened slowly, regretfully and she gave a little shrug that said ‘what are you going to do?’.

No more for now.

But soon. Soon.

They smiled at each other knowingly as she answered the phone, which was right behind the bar next to the cash register. He softly kissed the back of her free hand, which he still held, gathered his things and stood to go. Her throat flushed and her eyes darkened and softened. She stopped listening to whoever was on the phone.

At the door, he paused, half-turned and looked back, and pantomimed that he would call. She nodded and her smile lit up her face. Her eyes lingered on him, shining, but a little troubled, too. Then they cleared. Her lips mouthed the word “Yes.”

Outside, he felt like a schoolboy again, lighter than air. The sun was a little brighter and the birds were singing. He could feel the stock market rise, except it wasn’t the stock market.

Ah, life, he thought, giddy as a 17-year-old after his first kiss. What a grand thing it is.

On a beach somewhere


On a beach somewhere

A flash of thigh, a sigh,
Sidelong glances, mysterious smile,
Hints of pleasure,
Worry underneath.
Share glimpses of your heat:

Is this revelation of desire?
Or wrinkles in the mirror,
Dame Mortality slithering near,
Beside you, mocking?

The old tricks don’t work as they did,
Do they? A cold stab of fear.
I’ve felt it too. We all do.

Let me see your secret selves
The parts you don’t like
And the parts you do.
I can already see them, but
It doesn’t matter to me. But you
Need to quit pretending
They matter to you.

Then let’s take it from there, shall we?
We’ll sit on a beach and watch the sunrise,
Dig our toes in the sand,
Sing our sad songs one last time,
Let the gulls and crabs scavenge them.
So the healing can come in
With the tide.

©Hemmingplay 2014

To Be or not


Diving into a difficult part of Running Girl this morning, and as I sometimes do, I get warmed up by reading better writers. This is one of those, and it fits the tone of today’s chapter. Hamlet is musing about why we put up with all of life’s pains and disappointments, if not simply for the fear of what we’ll face on the other side of life, in that great “undiscovered country” from which no one ever returns.

Hamlet’s Soliloquy

To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep—
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,
The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,
The insolence of Office, and the Spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his Quietus make
With a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Traveler returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,
And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Orisons
Be all my sins remembered

Again?


Note: This was written a while ago, in the depths. Since this one, last June there was a fourth (3 were breast cancers). Like all the other times, she came through it OK. 

Three cancers, different each time.
Chemo, radiation.
I watched you climb the stairs, two steps,
Then a pause, a rest, then on up like that.
Your stubborn courage gave me courage.
If you could do it, so could I.

We were so innocent, once, you and I,
Young and Beautiful. But since then
Death has taken a seat at the table,
Waiting to be fed.
We learned to ignore him, mock him,
But he doesn’t care. He gets us all in the end.
Hard lesson: accept that, but never surrender.

Can I keep going,
Keep plugging along, keep a happy thought?
I am so tired.
It just wears a person down, and I’m not even the sick one.
My burden is hidden to everyone but me.

At times like this, I just want someone to turn back the clock
And let me be a child again, scampering off to play
And jump in rain puddles until I’m called into supper.

I’ll just have a glass of wine and write a few words.
It’s all I have, all I can do.
There’s always tomorrow.

We just have to make it through the nights. The nights…