Longue Durée of Goodbyes

April 16 2017

To those of you who celebrate Easter, happy Easter! Today is the end of my Lenten practice of writing something creative–usually a poem–each day. I discovered that I was capable (and enjoyed) most of it. Saturdays/weekends were the most fraught days, since often I was getting home too late to have much headspace for words. This insight–that I most enjoy playing with language in the mornings–is not terribly novel for me. More worth noting was that I could still, on most evenings, enjoy the writing practice. So my allergy to writing in the evenings turns out to be mostly a habit, not a fact.

I am finding myself asking now, here, at the end of Lent, what it means to celebrate Easter within a secular framework. Throughout Lent I thought about and worked on sacrifice and commitment as practices of meditation or reflection. But Easter shouldn’t be, I think, a leave-taking of all of that. To the degree that Easter and spring arrive hand-in-hand, I feel like Easter should be, for me, about honoring my practices, my failures, my attempts and moving forward into renewal.

Longue Durée of Goodbyes

On the plane we sit waiting for takeoff.

He’ll be leaving soon, all on his own. This trip
is one domino in what will be a short chain
of dominos, one toppling the other
until the last one tumbles
and he leaves.

Parenting is the longue durée of goodbyes.

I can remember, through blurry photographs,
a time when he never left my side when he slept
on my chest when he curled into my ribs
when he ran to me after missing me
for five minutes.

Year by year I know less about him,
his smile like the Cheshire cat’s.
I ask him questions exactly like those
that my parents asked me. He answers
exactly as I did, mocking my need
to know and building his brick wall.

When he offers me tidbits of information,
these glimpses of the man-in-the-making,
I try to be restrained. Don’t scare him with my
need to know, my motherly voraciousness, my
expectation that he still be five with no boundaries
that keep me out; I tell myself don’t say a word. Listen.

There are windows in his brick wall, the way
he teaches me his cultural vocabulary or smiles
when we joke around and the way we sing
together on the street and he forgets to be embarrassed
as his bass and my soprano call and respond and soar.

On the plane, I extend my hand for the in-flight magazine.
I intend to sudoku until we take off. He keeps
the magazine, turns to the crossword puzzle, takes my pencil,
and starts to solve it. He asks me about a clue. I lean in
and we fill in the blanks together.

Day 44 – no poem, just thoughts

April 13 2017

I’m staying with a friend in Jackson Heights while I attend a conference in NYC. My friend’s neighborhood is overstimulating me in all the awesome ways: overhearing conversations in lots of languages; all sorts of ethnic and racial diversity; fruit on display that I’ve never seen before; taxis zipping into small spaces; horns honking; people talking on the street in small and large groups; people selling stuff on the street.

Of course, now, at the end of the day, I’m exhausted. This prose will just have to count as my writing of the day. I’ll try to process the sights sounds smells touches excitement more for tomorrow.

 

Portraits of silence

IMG_0649.JPG
[Close up in the arb. Lichen?]

April 11 2017

Portraits of silence

I.

Be quiet. Sit still.
Don’t make a fuss.
Keep your hands to yourself.
Follow along.

II.

Quiet now. Sit still.
Breathe deeply in
and out and feel the breath
rush through your limbs.

III.

Listen hard, quiet your eyes,
Withhold judgement,
extend faith. Offer your hands
in communion.

IV.

Simmer and steam,
put the lid on the pot and hold
on to your soul. Haul in the flags and fury
and wait another day.

V.

Raise your eyebrows. Wait out
the bubble and noise of crowds.
Don’t make a fuss; hold your hands high
and speak on it.

Found poetry

April 10 2017

It’s my brother’s birthday AND Sibling Appreciation day! What a wacky convergence! Seems like a great day for found (maybe slightly massaged) poetry. Today’s comes from a culling of the Carletonian Weekly security blotter of April 7 2017.

No Fire

Burnt toast caused the fire
alarm. No fire.

Burnt food caused the fire alarm
to go off in a hall
way. No fire.

Bacon burnt well leads to alarm:
no fire, no bacon.

Alarm!
No fire, no burnt food.

Just curiosity about the button
on the fire
detector.

Now we know. All alarm,
no fire.

two poem Sunday

IMG_0664.JPG[You know. Fungus. On a tree. Looking like drab butterfly wings. In the arb. April 9 2017]

April 9 2017
Late night yesterday, so two poems today. More and more I can’t even go through/think through the litany of political events. I’m trying really hard not to turn away fully, just to take a slight break and anchor myself in the people, practices, and ideas that matter to me.

A Chorus of Frogs

Early spring swamps sing
a frogs’ chorus;
on the path I see no sign
of them. Their calls
echo like the claims of a siren.

sometimes the body falls apart
in such quiet ways: a minor muscle
strain or a slight pain
behind the eye
socket.

sometimes the body explodes and de-
composes in an instant: the cracked
bone or the skin torn
apart by a
knife.

and sometimes the body has its own
design to fail you: murmurs of heart
or mind that you never minded never heard
until the moment when
you fall
apart.

Breaking Down

April 6 2017*

Today has been full of good stuff–I gave a talk that landed well; I got to go honor my 5th grade mentee for the amazing work she did on her research project; I had a chance to dig into big topics with thoughtful students.

But the bookending of the day has been … hard. This morning I read one of those brief, harrowing reports of the chemical attack in Syria:

Abdel Hameed is in very bad shape,” his cousin Alaa said. He’s being treated for exposure to the toxin. “But he’s especially broken down over his massive loss.”

Then, coming home this evening, I learned that the U.S. (Trump, without Congressional approval or oversight) decided to bomb Syria.

Breaking Down

Toxins invade my body; my skin crawls
and shreds in the wake of the incursion.

Blood splinters, liver fails, nerves fray:
my body breaks down but nothing

compares to the emptying
of my hands

the way they will never hold
my children again.

 

*I’ve missed a few days. I have good excuses for them… and it still bothers me.