Saturday, December 28, 2013

Xmas with Parents, not Children (a long post)

How was it, you ask?  How was your Christmas?

First, let me say that I am writing from Vancouver's airport, waiting for a 7 am flight that has been delayed to 8 am: another travel day off to a stellar start.  This while the nervous sweat in my armpits is still drying out after the drive here, chauffeured swervingly by my father (still heavily bandaged after the surgery that amputated two fingers on his right hand, seemingly blind in the dark, and afflicted, like so many of the 80+ set, by the conviction that 40 kmh is close enough to the posted speed limit of 100kmh).

My Christmas was so bad, so bad, I am going to transcribe here the terrible poetry I wrote about it.  I will lose the 3 readers I have, and I will be sad about that.  But that's how bad it was.  So bad my judgement is even worse than usual.  So bad that even though I know I am not Michael Ondaatje, I imagine the lines below through the filter of his excellent writing and delude myself (well, not quite), about their passability.

In case it's not clear: being away from my children over Christmas was devastating, damaging, punishing.  In the cold neon light of the airport I can joke a little, but this may take some time to recover from.  This is an experience which is indeed like an injury and all the more confusing because 1) it is so terribly painful and 2) it results directly from decisions I made, and is thus self-inflicted.

I want the depth of grief to add up to something, to mean something, to be convertible into some good outcome.  (It's also tempting to try to do deals with the gods "if I never have to feel this bad again I will be the best mother, I will be the best person, I will perform endless acts of charity.")

Here're the two poems.  It's unlikely I will regularly post poetry, so it may be safe to come back to momosyllabic in a week or so. (Bonus for those who scroll to the bottom of this post: a picture of my three fingered father.)

Christmas in Vancouver

The lights on the ski slope at Grouse Mountain hang in dark distance
like a spangled fishing net thrown up from the coast into the mountain's pines.
My heels slip in cold earth.  I walk along King George Highway.
Dripping air.

But the hearth fire I've carried here in my chest
is out of control
two young blond heads I cannot sniff
too far to kiss them
too long from them.

I walk as one burning,
becoming fossil dark
in orange flame
and smoke tears.

something will be left
some frame
some architecture desolate of flesh?

(And I miss you too, love--
hard as shock--
the worst realized here
in having
neither you nor my children near me)

Come, time--
over this raze--

Stumble on to an uncertain future.


And then there's one more, just as mediocre (even more melodrama!)

December 26

So low I'm under

I see it all from below
people            past

I lean back into

everything above,

the people I love

walk past over me.


And now: take a look at my father!  7 weeks out from surgery.  Only three fingers on his dominant hand, and still a goofball.  Go Pappa.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What the astrologer said

The assemblage of random allusions below is what happens when you try to glean something from reading everybody's horoscope for the week (thank-you Rob Brezsny for the wide/ wild range of psychology, poetry and art).

"Life is best organized as a series of daring ventures from a secure base," wrote psychologist John Bowlby.


Pussycat Interstellar Naked Hotrod Mofo Ladybug Lustblaster! | Derrick Brown

pussycat interstellar naked etc etc.

how silly i get.
how lost and silly i get
unravelling my fingers
to where your arms connect.

i come to your body as a tourist.
endless rolls of black and wine film in my fingertips
documenting the places that change your breathing
when touched with the patience of glaciers retreating drip by drip.
it reverses your breath back into the places
that trigger subtle curls in your purple painted toes.

the breaths are not worth hundreds of sparrows
they are worth all the gray air sparrows die and wander in

there are things about you i collect and sell to no one.
i journal them in a book you gave me with the inscription,

'don't leave your ribcage in the icicle air. something will break.'

i wrote about the courage my hand would need
aiming down the worn comfort of your hair,
hang-gliding across the summer slits of your winter dress,
searching the perfection in your rock-and-roll breasts,
stealing the heat off the drug of your stomach.

let me die a White Fang death
trembling on the snow and linen of your shoulder blades.

i want to buy you a black car
in 66 shades of black
to match the wandering walls of your heart
filled with the mysteries of space and murder in space.

let me spend my days on the shores of abalone cove island
collecting bottles that wash ashore
and burning the messages inside
to fill them with new messages like
"send more coconuts" or
"send more coconuts and wild boar repellant. i'm re-reading lord of the flies." or
"wow, I'm actually on an island. please send my five favorite albums.
i've already built a Victrola out of sand and eel poo-poo.
It's the MacGuyver in me. this volleyball won't shut up."

i will float the armada of messages towards the atlantic
and wonder if a pale girl in new york spends time at the shore.

i will wonder if she can see the stars i carved our initials into
when I got sick and weightless.

lay in bryant park and look hard into the air.
your last initial isn't up there
for it is worthless to me
since i had dreamed of changing it.

this is the love of mercenaries.
i'd kill an army of sleeping cubans for the rum desires
in the clutch of your tongue.

touche to your lips!
touche to your way!
touche to your ass!

you are an electric chair disguised as a la-z-boy recliner
and i find comfort in you.

my clear bones take shape in the mouth of glassblower with asthma
for there is no perfection in me
but maybe clarity.

crush me with the satisfaction of your black misted, unclocked breath.
i always come back to the secrets and wonder of your breath.
It is something for sparrows to wander in.

it's not that i wait for you
it's that
my arms are doors i cannot close.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I should be grading

But instead I am planning the parade.  What parade, you ask.

Well, remember the Apartment I live in when I'm not at the kids'  House?
Right.  Well.  It has a cupboard, with a weird flap . . . in which I have argued there is a tunnel leading to the Cat Goddess.
The Cat Goddess sends the kids treats on the nights I am here, and I deliver them the next day when I pick the kids up from school.

For Xtide/ the Solstice, there will be a parade to and from the Cat Goddess that I will film/ photograph for the kids.

There will be some serious trompe d'oeil going on, if my artistic skills bear muster.

I am planning.

It is much more fun than grading.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Comportment Dilemmas

Option A:
(just used this one)
Insist everything is Fine, despite food on sleeve, hair in disarray (on grounds that if one is able to pretend everything is fine, it's probably close enough to get by on).

Option B:
Cry, or yell publicly, or fall asleep with mouth open while drooling, or faint dramatically (to see if sympathy can be garnered from some quarter and/or, more interestingly, to see what will happen if I openly manifest an inability to look after myself?  Possibly nothing much).

Option C:
(for later)
Responsibly, silently, alertly, professionally, uncryingly grade essays in office with view onto a grey stone wall and wonder if the sun will come up tomorrow as Annie so plangently promises in her lyrics.

Option W:
(now) Go for a walk, dammit.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ways to make your back hurt

1) Indulge the 40 pound child who is afraid of the ice (Winton) and carry him to school. (Wednesday)

2) Indulge the 40 pound child (Winton) who wants to be held and snuggled . . . but then, when you reach to pick him up, jumps to land in your arms as you are hunched over in a most back-unfriendly posture. (Thursday)

3) Carry that still cowardly 40 pound child to school another morning. (Friday)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sleeping Son

It's been a long while since Winton came to sleep with me.  I've always loved having Winton sleep in my bed.  He's a snuggly boy.  Soft and huggy. Affectionate.  He's getting older; I am often not at the House overnight: the end is nigh for this pleasure.  Perhaps the end is already past.  The boy is, after all, very nearly five. (Five!  But they still snuggle until at least twenty-five, right?  I'm going to want to snuggle with that child when he's forty, paunchy and balding.  He's going to have to deal with it.)

Anyway, last night I was at the House overnight, and Winton arrived at the side of my (small, single) bed hopping with agitation about a nightmare involving being scratched by our affectionately feral cat Pepita (possibly that had actually just happened and wasn't a nightmare at all-- Pepita does like to curl up with her boy, kinda aggressively).

Into bed the boy hopped, as if it were a year ago (when such nocturnal visits to my bed were pretty typical).  In the dark I could see him smile, the apples of his cheeks plump with pleasure.  For about ten minutes we were both very happy.  Then we both tried to fall asleep, and there were too many elbows/knees/feet in the bed and sleep was uneasy at best and that cat of his followed him and tried to sleep perching on my head so as to be close to him.

He's big now, that boy.  He's also strong.  While asleep, he repeatedly checked that I was still in bed with him (sweet), which he did by slapping the pillow, and/or my face, with his palm flat and hard (not so sweet).

At 6AM we had a conversation:
Me: "It was nice to snuggle with you, Winton.  Did you get any sleep?"
Winton: "A little bit, but not a lot."
Me: "Maybe you sleep better in your own bed."
Winton: [Nodding, while shifting position to better nudge Pepita off the bed with his hip]

Monday, December 9, 2013


I am fortunate to know folks who are creative.  I know someone (American) who writes as an Albanian in translation.  I know a couple of short story writers.  I know a poet.  I know people who can bake, and cook. I know people who can pick up instruments and make music good enough to sing with or dance to.

These people make stuff out of thin air; they turn ideas into things you can read, or see or hold or eat or hum.

Magicians, the lot of them.

Snow day today: kids home slightly sick, and cranky.  The snow is actually muddy mush, unsuitable for sledding or snowballs.

My creative friends, I am channelling each one of you for help.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Burning up on re-entry

I spent two days of the Thanksgiving weekend camping.
(Camping!  Near a beach!  On November 29 and December 1!)

 There were wild ponies, there was woodsmoke, there was coffee made on a camp stove, there was even a long long stretch of sandy beach against which blue-tinged water crashed.  It was pretty idyllic.

There were, however, no children.  And missing them was like having a frantic and toothy rodent living inside my gut for those two days. 

On rearrival at the House, having missed the children so badly, I was assaulted by Clara's need to have me knit for her on tiny needles with delicate yarn. (My fingers were still sausagey from the cold and twig gathering, so this was a significant challenge).  Winton ignored me.  And I felt teary-eyed.

Inside was too hot, and re-entry was too emotionally scorching as well.

Transitions to and from the House where my children live are terribly hard.

Is it best to handle these transitions the way people with dogs handle introductions between their canines (outside somewhere, where everyone is on neutral territory)?  Having played outside somewhere maybe then all residents can move indoors with greater ease?