THE HUMAN CONDITION - NON-JUDGMENTAL GLIMPSES

 

 

When my mother died, I felt like someone had crashed into my nursery and busted out all the protective ribs of my crib, and I lay there, not knowing which way to roll that would keep me from the inevitable drop to the floor.

 

If you can, even briefly, find words to express the deep complexity of your human spirit, to identify something inside you exactly as it is, in bright colors or in dull tones, by shouting or whispering, you are a poet. And I want to hear it, to read it.

 

There might be no better way to get to really know yourself than to be lost in the woods with a friend and a dog and one cheeseburger.

 

My mother always said, "Water the flowers," not only within the floral abundance of Spring and summer, but also in the fade of fall and in the winter when cold wind found the crack in my coat and I felt the grip of the sub zero. I thought it was kind of goofy, but my mother was always a woman of few words and little explanation, so I let it go. It was years later that I realized the rhetoric of it, the scope, the reach, the need, and tried to practice it.... So, I hope to water some flowers in need today with my watering can full of smiles, and maybe even a good deed, and I hope you do too.

 

Sometimes, sure, I wake up grouchy...but not today. Today I wake like a child running with an armload of toys, my limbs in sync, no strikes or slowdowns, everything (though always a little clumsy) in intended rhythm, in a container that carries me without complaint.

 

Another delightful winter morning without the coldsnap, without visible breath going out ahead, without the drawn-tight coat, the scarf, the chinbone seeking collarbone. I'm smiling at the loose- frame feel of comfort and because none of the many possibilities of personal calamity and sadness during the night happened. Look, here it is-- wholehearted, alive, courageous, another beautiful day!

 

Don't we all sometimes feel like a cracked egg, like something is seeping out, and we aren't able to hold it all together? Isn't every single one of us vulnerable to unexpected defeat in our inmost emotional self? Doesn't our childhood sometimes seem like the only real thing about us, so much so that our mind keeps going back to it, to the beginning of our humanity, our individuality, before too much experience tampered with us? Don't we sometimes long for that fresh beginning like that of a new house too new to have trees to block straightforward view, and those delightful times when being wrong had not yet developed terminal aspect, and most times came with the comforting feeling that, though wrong, we were on to something?

 

Remembering (what should have been) a special moment: THE FIRST KISS. I strummed up a harp-string voice, stroked sweet words from my throat. Sound cracked a bit with nervousness. He unraveled my hair across my shoulders and said something. I didn't hear it. He leaned toward me. We shared the moon in a freeze of time. It was a glaring eye between us as our faces closed in on each other. Our lips touched. I stepped a little back and slipped off the sidewalk, and my nose scraped across his teeth... So much for a perfect experience! Fantasy and reality are plaids and stripes. They seldom match, but they do decorate memory with a delightful sense of humor.

 

I suffer from Schoogeness! It began in late childhood, after suffering an emotional owie that I won't get into. It left me wanting to peel off the glitter of things, to trim off the fat, to get down to the meat, the honest, the genuine. I got rid of Christmess, and got back to a "stable" Christmas. Maybe I do it with a thin layer of resentment (that going too far thing), and insult the sentimentality of the season, but I believe it might be a common flaw of those who don't like hoopla in general, and sometimes do not like themselves. Still, there's a little child inside of me who will tire of smothering in a pile of Humbug, and by Christmas morning will joyfully come around.

 

A beautiful day with family. Dusk underway. A dimming sky, some gray, some blue but not exactly either. A drive home, southward, cows on one side, on the other slender trees posing like fashion models on the stage, and the sun stuck on the horizon like a dropped lollipop. Back to work again tomorrow, but no worries.... Good people there as well.

 

Someone's missing from the Holiday table! We worked well together, honored our Mastercards, and tried to improve our souls. We played music all day, but mostly it was laughter. There was sadness, sure, but not much by comparison, and now you are transformed. I still see your intense eyes and careful smile, see you walking in your lovely instrument of being. I hear your voice, but not so much words as quality, and I know that you are fine... And that I must, if I am to stay in step with the world and its expectations, be fine as well.


For every person there is a door ahead, slightly open, revealing light beyond... Dare we approach it? Will it be too difficult? Will the future change? Will someone ask you to give a speech? Heaven knows, not many of us are someone most folks would listen to. Most people speak to air their views and not to have them changed. Maybe lack of boldness is an issue here. If so, start slow, but know the world has a special need of you. How about... just give the door a little shove... and then a little peek. And a smile wouldn't hurt.

 

Another day (and thank you for it) of climbing uphill from a fog of sleep, wishing I had something important to say, looking for a profound statement, a simple truth, as if while spooning through alphabet soup trying to make sense of it. But every day is not a peach of thought. Some days, alas, are prunes, and more suitable for reception to the fluidity of others.

 

Here we are, my dog and I, a couple of uncollared mutts, copping a squat in a splash of sunlight on the floor and avoiding contact with three kept cats. Old Duke sighs, a questioning refrain about the growing cat count, and I sigh back. There will be shared attention later, but for the moment, we do our best to ignore them, and just stretch out in the sun, groan, smile at each other, and enjoy the homeglow.

 

Saturday is just about a goner, the light part of it anyway. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I wonder if there will be a chandelier of stars above tonight, a great sparkling of light that once was, and maybe still is.... how would I know? A black cat (no shortage here) walks up to me like an old friend and tugs my pant leg. He cries as if in hungry agony, but I fed him just an hour ago. Some things just like to holler, bitch, and bawl or have practiced so long it unknowingly turned into a habit. Knowing that about some contacts in your life takes the greater part of helplessness from it, and makes it a little easier (or maybe not) to answer the door when a whine comes knocking.

 

When I die, burn me and sprinkle me on cornstalks, or disguise me into some mouse trail. If a squirrel has also died, bury him with me...we are two creatures who have tried to climb higher than life usually allows. Then please, please forget me. I'll be ok. You know I always run for home.

 

My sister is an excellent cook.... like my mother was.....precise, specific, by the book....and, though she won't admit it....everything turns out delicious. In contrast, I'm a grab-and-goo kind of girl, with a record of fifty kinds of tasteless goulash and one chicken-glory that, even so, looked like a glob.(Hating cooking doesn't help.) My sister is modest, and though I greatly admire humility, I do wish she knew the palate-pleasing result of her culinary efforts, because, like I said, everything is exquisite, tastes like a really healthy ego. (P.S. Yum! I'm invited there for Christmas.)

 

Another day is almost done, already pulling its blanket up to its western chin. A car growls by with it's radio booming, young people no doubt. A couple tom cats are starting their indignities in the brush as the dark slides in to insinuate that there are no boundaries in the world, or assuring the mischievous the coast is clear. A light pops on down the street from where I live, nice folks. A couple sit dead center in a picture window, eating popcorn like puppets on a sofa, grinning at each other. I had a good day, spent part of it with my daughter and we laughed alot. Yes, a good day. I hope yours was good too. Be well and safe and happy, all my fellow earth travelers! Let there be no danger in your darkness, no pain in your repose!

 

Probably.........If my dad had not put a crawdad in my tiny hand, I would have grown up leery or afraid of everything unknown. If he had not said, "So get up, You 're ok. That will stop bleeding in a little while," I would have never recognized suffering beyond my own. If my mom had not read me Bible stories, I would have lived without sufficient compassion to make a sacrifice. If I didn't have a sister, I would not have learned to communicate and share. If a special man had not focused on my thoughts, I could have been a vapid, butt wagger all my life. And if I never had a daughter who taught as much as learned, I would have never known unmitigated joy.

 

Were my parents perfect? Heavens no! And thank God for that! Or I would have had to carry that awful burden of thinking I had to be.

 

The day that I become perfect is the day I will expect everyone else to be.

 

If you can make no allowances for others, the margin of forgiveness narrows for yourself.

 

I woke up this morning looking for a reason to be angry....so I looked at some of my old pictures....and then I looked in the mirror.

 

Consider this..... Just maybe...a man enters a formal debate to find an audience of only women, and clumsily says something like, "There are only women here. Where are the men?" Could it be that he has no ill intent, means no sour judgment against women, but merely would have appreciated a verbal exchange enriched by the comments of both genders?

 

Sometimes the mouth moves before the mind is ready. Often, people who have no malice misspeak, are misunderstood or misinterpreted. Wouldn't it be grand if people, when faced with the possibility of affront, could withhold damaging reaction and first ask in as kind a voice as possible, "Excuse me, but could you explain more clearly what you mean by that comment?"

 
So many beautiful young people are gone without obvious, apparent, or sufficient reason, born with good looks, academic, athletic, cultural ability-- respected, loved, and the first to entertain us, to make us laugh. Silently, they suffer from some invisible affliction that puts life behind a closed door, unable to get their full attention, and making death more interesting to them. Why? Will we ever know why?
 
In this world, no matter how loudly we speak, no matter how far we reach, no matter what places we visit, our impact is limited. It is a small light that each of us carries, that, when focused to build, contributes to what might light the path of another. No need to shout credits to the universe, but believe where there is sincerity in intent, integrity in action, a flake, a speck of credit is due. And let that be comfort enough.
 
Visiting the cemetery during the holidays seems natural....so here I am. Here lay the husks of what was life, remains without memory, no longer a container for earthly pleasures, no longer a vehicle of true and false effort. There is family here, some friends. All have blazed away on splendid light. We will know each other again, then as before, since tightly bound by our friendship, our love. I know there are only bones here, but I am compelled to tread lightly, careful not to disrespect the dead by walking on their graves.
 
Life accomplishments: I raised a child, stubbed a toe, and most times make it to the bathroom as I move toward where the universe is tucked into the horizon.
 
There is sorrow in a fall garden...as in a nursing home, (though good care is frequently provided in both) --- the gray stillness, bowed heads, wilted stocks, the sadness of having no reason to stay, but yet being unable to go.
 
Let your holiday-and-everyday table be a bouquet of sustenance, not only an offering of food, but a magnet of emotions, where you can speak freely, smile, even belch loudly around a table filled with crumbs.
 
I've said it before and I'll say it again--I love the night. I stand very still. Screen nothing out. Mute nothing. I am a woman temporarily freed from the cramping cage of normal responsibility, focused on the music of the universe. I am so much gone I should send flowers to myself, and yet, not gone at all, just different--- fine tuning my senses instead of standing straight and holding in my stomach. Night air smells different from that of day, like the breath of a tired old teacher with creaking joints trying to calmly explain what's what, and I am an alert, big-eared child in a front row seat, not merely ready, but internally fidgeting to learn.
 
The marketplace lies. It leads us around like circus ponies in bright circles to alter our perspective. It teaches us to breathe incense and admire nonsense, insists life and energy on crystals, convinces us that money can open windows, if not doors, that books can inspire us, change us, make us whole, insists that body parts should be bigger here, and smaller there, and that our Visa cards have soul and nearly unlimited forgiveness. All of this conveys understanding of a full 5-year parts-and-labor guarantee of happiness..........Horse turds!! Give me a pair of floppy shoes, a devoted dog, good family and friends, Christian spirit, and a bushel basket full of chocolate.
 
Sometimes things are okay, and sometimes not, especially during the Holiday Season........ "Breathe, breathe, breathe with me," I beg into unrelenting cold and silence whenever I catch a fragrance, hear the familiar sound of footsteps or a vehicle approaching, or hold memories in a piece of cloth worn by a lost loved one. I damn the optical impossibility of ever seeing you here again, and again I weep. I realize that loss is the price of having loved. "Hold on, hold on," I tell myself. "This again will pass."
 
A Good Argument: Hands tighten. Voices shake. Hearts pump. Each, resiliently firm, challenges something thought wrong. But we did it right, coherently. It's over now. Nobody won. Nobody lost. With a little leftover electricity of adrenaline and fading images of senseless struggle, blood silence and merciful forgetting begins. We are still friends.
 
I try to live a healthy life though my exercise is merely the normal movement of a routine day. I try to eat foods that are good for me, but not those that I absolutely do not like. I never wanted to die young, and I have accomplished that with room to spare, but nor do I want to lay mindless in a narrow white bed in a nursing home, gazing past a bouquet of wilting flowers, and waiting for something that I don't even know is death.
 
Wouldn't it be grand if there was a place so simple that it would welcome all human beings, all plant life, all birds-- a place that would offer (if guarantee is an impossibility) meditation, inner alignment, company, escape, and ultimate peace!
 
I didn't want to want those things that would ultimately hurt me, but like most human beings, I have from time to time been deficient in my scrutiny, weak in my resolve, unschooled in my own emotions, and made choices too quickly, as if ultimate happiness must be expressly grasped like a commmodity in insufficient supply to go around.
 
I hope that tomorrow will be warmer, and that I will be warmer from within. I hope that there will be no storms around or inside me. Tune in tomorrow, and tune ME in, to each our best behavior!
 
If quiet ever has its way, the world will glow. If satisfaction wins, petty wishes will fall away. If misspent regret, irritation, hate, envy and resentment are swept away like dirt, the heart will be sanitized for deliverance of true justice.
 
Hopefully, the flowers will go on blooming. The birds will keep on singing. Nature will keep sidling up to us for notice and appreciation though we too often march out-of- step in a parade of self-concern, social decay and personal delusion.

 

The cold wind is singing the blues again, pushing up and down the street against those who have the misfortune to have to work outside, and whose special skills turn into major provisions for the rest of us.

 

Sometimes I like to sit in the dark, surrounded by the four walls of my familiar space. It is a half-hearted effort to be free from the troubles of the world and yet to try to understand the needs of the many, or maybe -- at least the one who lives next door.

 

It’s difficult to think soft things, dream of appetizing tastes, or snuggle into soft blankets when everyday, somewhere… people are being lined up for an executioner.

 

I tried to fold a minute and put it into an envelope so it wouldn’t get away. But it was in there with a # 2 lead pencil and a crayon, simple things, sure, but creators of their own history, so when I pulled the minute out, it was scribbled on, and wouldn’t straighten. Maybe I should have just tried to use it wisely in the first place.

 

I only went to one class reunion, the fifth, and stayed five minutes. The person I was back then is gone, and has no reminiscence wadded like a soiled hankie in a pocket. I tried to go “back,“ truly did---- but simply put, “back wouldn’t have me.”

 

Who would have thought my fantasy would return me to mundane memory of doing laundry, listening to 70’s music, my braids pinned up, my face fat, poking out of a flowered head-scarf…. And you crunching on popcorn, creeping up behind me to pierce my neck with your five o’clock shadow?

 

Conversation is often a universal convolution, an attempt to codify understanding, vocal elements without absolute subject, from which each of us takes what we will in meaning.

 

Some of us must be related to the cactus, the nettle, so often abrasive, prone to barbed-wire grammar and reaction.

 

I watch the wind, but, of course, I can not see it, only what it carries, where it's been....causing... the wandy movement of branches, the skirtlet lift of grasses, a humming movement laced through with pattern, with the hushed message from the other side, "I'm watching."

 

Oh, to be an artist, recipient of vision...those who can look at life as at the back of opponents' playing cards and intuient the next move.

 

Has anyone you admired for always rushing to the scene to help with fallen limbs, who helped you start your car, deeply disappointed you when he proudly admitted that in the middle of the night he clubbed to death and buried the neighbor's cat?

 

There are times you don't lose people all at once. You lose them in pieces over a long span of time, so that when they are finally gone, it doesn't hurt at all. You just fell out of love, and it doesn't even matter.

 

I sit here trying to come up with something wise or poignant while I eat a banana or a sandwich, some kind of food with flaps, and with a pen distract a fly from its chosen landing. I want something pure and pleasant, worthy, worth remembering, but all I come up with is the rush of air wrapped around baloney-- a lot like bologna--  a poor man's belch...

 

Don't get me wrong.  I like a man with a head on his shoulders, but I would really...kinda rather that he had a neck.

 

I have a pretty clear conscience, but then I'm old so my memory is not real good.

 

I don't lke to think that I'm lazy.  I'd rather think that I try to get the jump on things...so sometimes I rest before I get tired.

 

I did some exercise today.  Oh, all right...  I slipped on some spilled water, but my arms really did some windmilling while I fought to stay up, so I'm gonna count that.

 

Sometimes you feel like you just have to get away...  I'm not much of a traveler, so I got on the computer.  I don't know how many times I punched the 'escape' key, maybe a hundred....but I'm still here.

 

It's great having a dog, but I might have the possession part backwards.  Old Duke might just have himself a person.  I don't remember any time that he ever took me for a walk, or picked up my poop.

 

 

 

 

 

What am I going to do if I'm ever all alone, if no one needs me?.....  An old man sits shivering in a cardboard box on a non-busy street in a big, unfriendly city.  Maybe he lost his family in a tragic accident, or maybe by illness, neglect or misunderstanding.  Perhaps it was his job that disappointed him, drained him physically, mentally, gave him nothing of equal value in return for his best effort....  Maybe he served his Country, Vietnam perhaps, and he saw first hand man's inhumanity to man, felt it, lived it on a field where life was cheap.  He could have lost a good friend there, an old friend or a new friend, in a pile of mangled flesh.  It could be self-loathing for the lives he had to take.  It could be the love of his life disappointed him, abandoned him, taking with her his hopes for a family life, a normal future.  Perhaps he likes the street, chooses it over the intensity of organized days, a small space where he can, though hungry, though cold, breathe in simple comfort..   I don't know what took this man there.  I only know that many things could have.... and then I wonder what I would do if I was all alone, if no one needed me

 

One time, as a child I was traveling late at night (sleeping mostly) in the backseat of the car as my dad drove toward some distant spot. It might not have been that far, but it seemed so. I don’t recall why we were going there, but “peaches” jumps into my mind as I think of the event, and so I’ll just say we were going to buy a bushel of peaches for my mother to can….. Anyway, my dad prompted me prior to arrival at destination on just how I should act. He said, “Don’t you dare laugh or make fun of the little girl that lives there. She’s a water head.” - (an unkind description even for the times). I prepared myself to be shocked. Curious was more my actual response, and maybe a little wind knocked out of me. I tried not to react at all, but I am sure my eyes were huge. Aside from being misshapen, her face was beautiful. Her eyes were the purest blue, and the voice came out of her like the tinkling of a thousand tiny bells….. Before the visit was over, I was quite fond of her…. She passed away shortly after that, but I never forgot her. And today, when I see someone who does not fit the normal of appearance, when there is the opportunity to be amused or to make fun, I hear the thousand tiny bells of her voice…..and I make a friend, hoping I, too, will be accepted just as I am.

 

I remember a little old lady, bunned and bowlegged, from my childhood.  Her name was Ethel Schwartz.  She lived down the alley where I usually walked. I saw her one day, carrying a crocheted bag full of groceries and it was kind of heavy for her, so I offered to carry it for her...  From that day forward, I watched for her and helped her with her little bag.  Each time, she invited me inside and gave me a tour of her wall-hung photographs and gave me cookies.  There were a lot of little stories that I don't remember (To be honest, I was thinking about the cookies), but somewhere in each story the word "consequently" popped up...  I never saw it, but they say that sometimes Ethel crawled outside an upstairs window onto her roof and prayed.  Certain members of the community began to worry about that.  It wasn't long before she was put into the local nursing home....  I tried to visit her there, but they said, "Later.  She needs an adjustment period."  She died before she adjusted....  I think of her sometimes still -- and in my mind I hear a church song, a little off key, from the open window of a modest house blurred by rain lines, and I see her dancing inside and realize that happiness needs not be bothered by the weather.  My heart, that of a child again, leans in to see all the "consequently" pictures, to pay all shadows a visit, and a pain moves through me like that of an empty stomach-- a grief for all people, and all things lost.

 

There was once a broken-down garage that sat next to a broken-down house that nobody wanted.  I was a snoopy kid with a little too much time on my hands, and I entered that broken-down garage and poked around.  I found a bible tucked in behind some broken boards.  It was old and beautiful, with pictures scrolled down the center margin.  I wanted it, but I left it there.  Days later, haunted by it, I went back and I stole it, but as I sat in my room, flipping through the beautiful pages, I began to feel really guilty, so I took it back and put it exactly where I found it....  A week or so later, they burned down the house and they burned down the garage, I suspect with that beautiful bible in it.  I think that was the only time in my life that I wish it would have been easier for me to be a thief.

 

Did you ever catch a big grasshopper, and as you pressed your finger to its side-working jaw and squeezed its body, say, "Spit tobacco, or I'll kill you!"  And did it release its black juices, but also bite you, and it hurt so you killed it?  And did you ever think, even for a moment, that the bite was provoked so maybe in certain related circumstances (though in this case it was only a grasshopper) your retalitative action might be wrong?  Or did you just smash, inspect the colors of destruction, shove matter out of mind with the no-thought of your heel, and go on?

 

So long ago, a little painted turtle, weak, with softened shell, in last resport to live, climbed onto our porch, into my life.  I tried so hard to save it.  It tried so hard to live.  The odds were poor.  It died.  But our effort was no less nobile because we failed.

 

ONE OF LIFE'S LESSONS:  There's a young girl walking down a country road late at night.  There's rustling to the left of her, in the bushes.  There's a cry of a night bird above and then going north.  The gravel on the road is loose, fresh, deep, crunchy.  Her hair is a little messy, her lipstick smeared, her skirt a little askew.  She smiles to herself because a car has sped away, spitting gravel.  She hums as she walks toward home, not the first time, not even the first time tonight.  The girl is sixteen.  (Ok, she's me, but that is not important here.)  What is important is what will probably never be clearly defined, even years later-- knowing exactly why she is here, why she deals with family drama so bizzarely, why there is some sort of victory in that strange theatrics of being driven to some country spot, the kiss-and-shove-away exchange that has become routine and as dangerous as playing with a loaded gun.  She doesn't realize the possibilities, doesn't know about dead bodies, broken spirits along other country roads.  Not yet.  She's youth-stupid, a long way from the light of understanding-- over confident, totally unafraid of anything, so smiling, as she walks alone down another midnight country road.  Is there any hope for her?  Of course, there is.  "Turnaround" is available to all of us.

 

When I was six, my dad intentionally lost me in the cornfield during coon hunts.  It amused him.  It was dark, so I looked to the light of the moon.  It was quiet, so I calmed myself and thought.  It was structured, rows and rows leading toward eventual exit.  In my small-child way, I strategized...  And he was always there, holding a darkened flashlight, or guiding me with its beam, so, so proud of me, and full of hugs and kisses, when I found my way out.

 

FIRST IMPRESSION: Many people say to trust your first impression.  Forward in my mind is one first impression I had that could not have been more wrong.....  He was an out-of-town (from Iowa) customer at the bar I owned.  He came in and ordered a shot of tequila and a Coors on a ten-minute cycle.  I thought, "Here comes trouble!"..... He was not a Rock-Hudson or George-Clooney kind of handsome.  He had a Bronson-kinda look (something in the eyes), a good-company face for a companion when walking down a dark alley.....After a while, he shut himself off the booze and just shot pool.  He was friendly and a great customer for several months.  There was a time he stepped forward when I had a bad situation in the bar, and I won't get into the particulars of it, but he proved just how great a friend he was, not just his action during the incident, but what he did on my personal behalf afterward, that had unpleasant and costly repercussions for him.  I didn't find out about the latter until much later, and by then I couldn't make it right with him.  He was already in the wind....  So today a salute goes out to Gary Gillan --- never to be forgotten, wherever you might be.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, true and gentle friend.

 

I think back on school consolidation when I was beginning the fifth grade.  Our smaller group was mixed into the masses.  The school rooms were bigger.  The noise was louder.  So many faces.  I remember standing at the edge of that strange noisy space, feeling lost, feeling sad, so alone....  It wasn't long before a little blonde-haired girl approached me.  She stuck out her hand filled with linty, sticky yellow candy and asked, "Will you be my friend?"  I knew at that moment that everything was going to be okay.....  I see her in my mind sometimes in certain situations of discomfort.  Again, she crosses the room to me, or on a brave day, I am the one who (from remembering her) hones in on someone in discomfort and makes the cross.....  Her name was Maureen.  A boy came between us, and then a man, and our friendship did not survive the blows.  She's gone now, has been for a couple decades.  I like to think of her, all blonde hair and angelic features, handing sticky, linty yellow candy out to frightened newcomers on the highter plane.....  Miss you, girl!

 

I wore one black shoe and one brown shoe to work today.  Nobody noticed.  I was really hoping to be the reason somebody had a good laugh.  I knew I should have picked one pink one.

 

I don't always say the right thing instead of what might hurt.  I'm not always honest, dependable, fair, etcetera.  But I now understand the impact and the damage of doing otherwise, so I guess I'm a little bit better at the struggle.

 

 

Doesn't everyone know a tomboy pulled between her daddy and a little boy in her class? There she sits nearly lost in a weed patch, and cleaning a fishing pole with a Valentine, in the numbered days when her daddy will still win.

Do you ever feel like a spade in a silverware drawer?  Like you took too big a bite out of the day and just couldn't get it down? Maybe you ran into the man who was the little boy who long ago showed you his privates behind the shed, or the big-bosomed high school friend famous for her headlight striptease in the days when you habitually crossed your arms over not-much-of-anything. Lots of things can make the day not feel right.  When that happens, I dumpster it.... Good night.

 

 

Alzheimer's- -- There is a man playing in the dirt, a gray-haired man with hands stained by time and drained by effort. He has a toy car and he "vroo-oo-om"s it, his laughter a crackling echo from his youth. His noble life, accomplishments, sacrifices made to support and raise a family are distorted,  Even his wife, his children are mostly gone -- all of life blowing like old newspapers in his mind.  Perhaps tomorrow he will remember. Or maybe tomorrow his tangled thought will spill out in anger, or tears. Time has sucked him up like spilled water in a sponge and wrung him out a child today, tomorrow maybe hateful, or a confused stranger?  He is sentenced by whatever intent to live this horror (sometimes knowing it, sometimes not) of being thrown mentally back and forth while those who love him must each day renew their strength to bear in full awareness his inevitable disappearance. May medical science advance and strength be given to all those who suffer!

 Where there is need for stimulants, I choose these accoutrements of comfort :  floppy bedroom shoes, a big pillow, a bigger piece of pie.

When alone, as indifferent to solitude as a weather-beaten fisherman, I belch, pick my teeth, and am satisfied with life's catch.

Sometimes you don' t want to be held in the bondage of good grammar or good taste.  Sometimes you want to cough out words like hairballs, a bunch of spacious crap about prune-colored topics, and judgment be damned!

Four a.m. is a coyote howling. Many times in my youth, I went a couple days without sleep. I didn't even think about the bed....until my mind abandoned me.  I lost the keys I held in my hand.  I forgot my own phone number, maybe even my name.  I think I labeled myself, wrote it in my palm once..and then I fell down in a deep pool of immediate sleep....  These days, I need a nap to get me through the day.

 

 

THE CASHIER: She stands there, a lovely woman, her slender fingers tumbling change into my palm, always patient with those of us who tend to look aside, falter as if we slipped a disc, change our mind or cobble purchases--in general, are a pain.  And yet she stands, ever generous with correct change and an accommodating smile

 

 

EXCERPT FROM A SPINSTER'S DIARY: Bravo to the women who turn plain gray rocks into lovely flower gardens! Bravo to the girls who make clothes and combine ingredients that pull men to steaming dishes on the table!  I've done a bit of that, but seldom joyfully.  Something in me remains impassable and strange to domesticity, causes me to always choose a seat next to an open window with a street view, and firms me in all effort to keep a potential prince a toad.

 

REMEMBERING A GERMAN GRANDFATHER:  He was a stranger trapped between the parallel lines of an equal sign, always separated from me by mathematics-- his forte, my weakness.   Whenever he pushed, I pushed back. All he ever gave, and all I ever accepted was "numerical" genetics that went straight through me to the next generation...

 

I look outside this morning and  I decide I do not want to go there, though at some point in the day,  I must.  I see him. You know the one!  In all weather, through these flurries, in this cold, that lone runner with his  endorphine rush and his shin splints... pushing, pumping,  kicking daily for however-many miles to nowhere accept what he hopes will be his better health.  Amazing, amazing...I hope he doesn't fall.

 

Have you ever, by chance, come upon someone that you thought you might like to know, and you listened to that person and they listened to you, and in the process you discovered not only more about them but more about yourself?  Did your inner void diminish?  Did you then discover the warmth and strength of a friendly hand? Did you recognize the trust and total honesty?  Did you ask for nothing? Did they ask for nothing, and did you both receive a lifetime of memories? Such is a friendship to be valued.

 

 

Youth risks life in reckless deeds, challenges fate, satisfies the need of peers in foolhardy stunts, and sometimes shatters.  Be careful, all you young adventurers.  Life is far more fragile than you realize.  Don't lose it in some dangerous act of non-thought.  Stay to see what's knocking, knocking, knocking for you in the great ahead.

 

AND THEN THERE WAS WAR....

VIET NAM INTERROGATION

 A grasshopper skips over a carcass
     of weed and a space where a cat,
           rotten sprawls.
Dirt rises through death no matter what
      its cause,
And a woman thinks of her husband.
He lies on the couch
      in a shell that's his weight.
He wards off the memories
      by cleaning his plate
           and swells around the horror
Of Nam chopper rides where
     questions, translations, answers
           with either way sides
Resulted in 200-foot deaths.
She touches him with a spark.
The carpet bites like his eyes
     until he knows that it's her.
He squeezes her hand and dismisses her
      to eat peanuts and watch old Lucy  shows. 

She sneaks across town to a man who
      knows

it all,
And she accepts without bar
     an experience apart
     from
          her husband,
               and apart from this man too,
And finds no equal for her love,
     even in remembering
            and coming brother-close
To the man whose name she sobs.


SMALL TOWN BUTCHER

Meat stinks.
Old meat stinks worse,
All brown with blood,
Sticky, gray cast with age. 
At our family store we pitch it to the alley strays
That claim it according to rights
I don't understand. 
So once a week (at least)
I think about Viet Nam,
All brown with blood,
Sticky,  gray cast with rot,
Bloated with the white movement of maggots
Through innocent faces
Because authority trained young minds to horrible obedience
And called it duty! 
And it was wrong,
For me anyway,
And I grumble, and blame the  wrong side of the bed!
Forget it!  It's all over now.
Forgotten. 
Smile for the lady in curlers.
Give the kid a weiner.
Help with choices from meat trimmed for appetite,
Behind glass,
Even, regular cuts
Discriminated by rows,
Nice fresh, bright red.
That 's all we sell here in our family store.
We throw the bad meat to the dogs.

 

TO MEET HIS FRIENDS

Milo, heads of rust,
torches snuffed on leaves and crust
where ground is newly frozen.

The road is wide, and long and black.
Beyond, a buck deer lifts its rack
And I miss it,
And an old cemetery where I would
read the stones,
But those are just some strangers' bones.
And we scurry
Over road humps with gravel slides
and runnels through the countryside
Toward a farmhouse I've never seen
Where old friends in friendship lean
to one another,
And they like him.  By association,
they'll like me too...
On we go over bridge of steel.
He's nearly a madman at the wheel,
And all my scenery pulls out of shape and I'm afraid--
Not so much to die here as not to see
such bold beauty in pre-eternity.
I lost once, now know.  Now I would go slow.
While others gulp, I sip.
His pleasure is in destination.
Mine first is in the trip
And I love him.

Milo, heads of rust,
torches snuffed on leaves and crust
where ground is newly frozen.

 


SINCE JOHNNY DIED

A man with a fist-face

takes a dog for a ride.

From a café, two donuts they share.

The new master tells memories

and hollowly smiles

as the Doberman vacantly stares.

A puffy-eyed woman bakes thick apple pies.

She hears, “"Mother, come here,”"

through the wall.

She rushes. She stands. She raises her hand.

She weakens. She saddens. She falls

beneath a smile in gold frame

on the wall. Johnny’s gone.

Yet she scours a shower where

dry wash clothes hang,

launders shirts worn only by wire,

and bakes apple pies and frequently cries,

While a dog and her husband share donuts

and ride.

 

ON A STONE HORSE

It should have been fun,

The carnival ride.

Music enhanced painted

horses that tried

Beneath the small kicking feet

of a child. She cried.

 

SLATE AND DRIFTWOOD

Slate is maternal - steadfast.

Driftwood, paternal, on the go.

I was born with roots to duty

and an eye for distance:

Like my mother - home,

And my father, I really don’t know.

 

THE BRAILLE NATURE OF THINGS

I would love to sleep in the meadow

under the blush of a harvest moon,

Make my bed on sweet clover,

with my head on a wadded sweater,

face up so the wind can touch all

my features and know me

as certainly as a blind man

reads Braille.

 

ANOTHER IN THE GUTTER

In the rain-swelled gutter,

a beer can flounders,

flashes.

Lacking weight and substance,

but taking liquid in,

it spins above the bowels

of the city before

inevitably going down..

 

REFLECTION

I catch a glimpse of my father

in my own brown eyes,

hear his laughter,

temper, teasing,

see his struggle for self-discovery

and self-destruction,

and know too well,

if I cease a moment

to brace myself,

I could follow.

 

SILENCE

Bear with me.
There'll be silence
Instead of the constant
complaints and anger.
I'm not angry now,
just silent until
I find something
to fill the wide
unused space.


INDIVIDUAL

I am the same,
and different,
and owe no explanation,
Nor will give it on demand;
Neither judge,
Criticize,
Nor offer suggestion,
But will endeavor against waste
And be all that I can be
Without intent to injure
Or sham,
Nor will I labor toward your favor
Beyond my own comfort of integrity.