Covert Covid

  Covert Covid

I spent so much time as a child hiding and waiting that I am

really good at doing this thing that we have to do right now.

So we hide and we wait but we’re not really sure how long we have to do this.

So I know that’s why I am getting itchy skin and restless legs syndrome.

And I find most other people really hard to take.

A policeman on the street corner near to me

yells at an old lady. Construction workers spit in your path. Mask wearers versus non-mask wearers have set battle lines and there is going to be a fight this Saturday at 2:04 PM on the corner of Harrison and Santa Rosa. A duel.  Sharp tongues used as weapons and nobody has a second. Or a third or even the first. A first.

 Someone asked me what it was like the first time I knew I was in love. I told them it was so long ago I couldn’t remember.

I guess it might honestly be right now with my puppy who jumps on my head in the early morning but does it so gently it feels like butterflies on my eyes. The first time she did it I was astonished.

 I force myself to leave the house. Yesterday I went to the dentist and it was terribly exciting. I have a canker sore. She asked me if I was stressed. Then we both couldn’t stop laughing.

 On NPR two scientists announced that the general population was drinking too much. For some reason I have always hated the obvious.

The biggest thrill is going to the supermarket. Now I’m eating things like tuna melt and macaroni and cheese balls. Before too long I’ll be a chubby old lady. I don’t really care. Yesterday my cousin said he didn’t really care either.

I’ve always loved that particular cousin. It’s hot now and it might be hot for a while.

 I can’t hold my breath underwater anymore as I  feel like I’m drowning even if I’m not in the pool.             

The Best Memory

The best Fall I remember happened outside of Paris due

north near Chambord in November maybe October

when the Beaujolais Nouveau was released along with

me…I walked out

the door of the inn we stayed in

while you drank with our host.

I wandered following troughs of wet leaves marking

the crusades and the dark fall  all yellow

smelling of dank and my life as an

obedient pathfinder Joan of Arc

wanting you to worry I was lost

yet  knowing you never would.

Hours later I reluctantly returned just as I used

to at 8 and still no one noticed.

I think we made love that night

as we usually did but the bed was small, you

said, as you moved across the parquet floor

to the adjacent one

and closer to your children across the

Atlantic and I imagined

us leaving in the morning croissants uncurled

and me dressed in black because you said it was

best and before I knew it we were back in

California and you were married again

yet I was still outside of Paris in November

in 1996 longing for something I had felt

for a brief moment but never again.

What I mean

Autonomy

like monotony

but without the pendulum

marking time.

This time

Is monotonous

but for the autonomous

It’s fine

For a time.

What I’m Really Saying about life in California

I’m beginning to see

I need no one after a time.

I’m preparing for the lifeboat,

the buoy,

the evacuation of the planet,

no packing, everyone is coming.

I’m leaving everything

behind.

It’s meaningless.

People come and go.

I’m trying to be brave.

Now I realize people want to hear hope from me as I’m old.

So I hand them some perfectly ripe

tomatoes from my garden,

tell them how to chop the basil

add the olive oil,

mix with hands.

Serve at room temperature

perhaps outside with the sun

fighting to make its way through the smoke just for one last time.

It’s good to eat with others

as things digest more easily.

Someone Asked me

Someone Asked me How I Start a Poem

Someone asked me how I start a poem

And I said it had to do with scent,

I remember, summer 1957,

being underwater and chlorine and the vivid

look of other swimming beings.

Play “Tea Party”

“Why?”

I never understood “Tea Party”

or the scent of afternoon grass

in Connecticut

in June.

Lying there, listening to

airplanes floating, hawks looking

for sex, prey,

safety.

We lay there

among the blades, clipped,

eyes gliding across summer blue

skies reading cloud clusters like

braille translating childhood.

No language for bewilderment.

Listening

I would highly recommend learning the art

of invisibility at a young age.

It’s useful to sit still

breathing but not moving your ribs.

Taking notes..

It’s in the details one

learns the ropes and

listening to neighbors in hotel

rooms is lesson number four.

To cries, whispers, the click

of locks,

learning what stops listening

like ear plugs or music or white

noise. Stop.

Other people will always disappoint

you.

Stop taking notes

on life.

Summer 1955

Summer 1955

Nothing is moving today.

Neither the trees nor the grass

not the top parts of the ocean

nor the blacks birds over the path.

The heat falls onto us mid morning and

children

lose interest in torturing the dog.

I think I hear

the Good Humor man’s truck,

an echoing television from an open window,

the hiss hiss of the sprinkler whipping

around its three pronged medusa heads,

over the damp, soft grass.

Inside, a white eyelet nightgown’s

rustle, moving metal treasures in my

Grandmother’s drawers while she napped

with her eyes open.

My Mother’s Hair

My Mother’s Hair

My mother’s hair always escaped

from under her red kerchief or the

hairspray

lacquered on  for control and the hair

often went

dancing in a night club in Manhattan

even when she was in labor with

one of us. You can’t control wildness.

My mother lay, legs askew, baby

coming, never having  to push as Dr. Leroy

removed us with forceps while her hair was

dancing at the Stork Club and her waist, so

thin

turning sideways she could have been

an exclamation point or a bent spoon.

Her hair, curled in the heat and the moist

music, was happy as rhythm was the

clef of curl and the smoke, the smoke,

smoothed her out and persuaded her

life could be El Morocco and the possibility

of finding Mr.Rich.

Even after she found him she

worried he wouldn’t stay. He told her to

make

her hair softer. It was always

touch and go but he made the rules.

Older, her hair curled around nurses

who loved her sweetness while her children

longed to hear her truth.

You see, life was a silken tendril and a

Frigidaire,

TV dinners and flowered dresses with waists

cinched by men who knew how to lead.

Scissors hadn’t been invented and music

could anesthetize freedom. Hair could go

anywhere.

Vol de Nuit

              Vol de Nuit

“This is your captain speaking” I hear as I look around my seat and curiously push the dimly lit buttons with the diagrams on them of what I may want to do for the next 10 hours.

 I love the deep voice of the captain especially when he’s British: so reassuring and yet sexy as if any minute he’s going to offer me a cocktail and anything else I might want.

“Ladies and gentlemen” he says “our flight will go over Newfoundland tonight. We expect no delay in our landing at London Heathrow and  it is our hope that you will enjoy your flight asleep or awake.Thank you for flying with us.”

 I am longing to hear that captain’s voice again.

 I want to be in the capsule of transportation.

I want a lady with make up on and coiffed hair to offer me a blanket and a billet-doux.

I long to be taken across the Atlantic, flying high through the clouds while someone else is in charge.

 Maybe I’ll fly to Charles de Gaulle and exit through one of the tube escalators up and escalator down into the customs area where I will be met by a chauffeur who will take me to a five-star Hotel in Paris where I will acquire several new outfits and a chauffeur.

At night when I can’t sleep I think of all those opportunities. My daughter kept saying to me, “Mom!Go live in France for a while. They’ll  understand you there.”

I know it’s too late and that’s OK but I still love to imagine the sound of that voice “Good evening ladies and gentlemen!Welcome to flight 27 from San Francisco to wherever your heart desires.”

I  am wearing my travel clothes so I will look perfectly chic when we land.

I’ve been wearing them for five months.

I’ll never stop dreaming just as I’ve never stopped  breathing so if I never stop breathing I can’t guarantee I won’t in-jest something that could easily kill me.

So that’s why I’m happy I’m a good imaginer.

I always travel light and rarely breathe.

Wasp Homelife

WASP- Homelife

I hate Italian families.

When you see them in a group they’re always laughing and eating,

kissing and hugging and touching each other as if they really mean

it and they don’t mind being close.

Don’t they know that they’re not supposed to behave like that?

In the best of WASP families you never touch anything but a cheek

with another cheek.

You have children but they leave the house

young.

To a WASP there can be no answer as

nothing is written down.

It turns out your family will never resemble an Italian family. 

Never.

Wasps require large houses because everyone needs a greater than normal

amount of space in which to sequester themselves from their

childhood memories.

So if they can afford it they move into mansions and most of the

rooms are left empty.

Certainly on holidays there is one long table but it’s like

Covid before Covid.

I’m trying to learn how to be Italian.

I’m a genetic aberration.

I used to have a friend in the mafia who definitely was Italian.

He used to take me to dinner at the Italian club and during the meal

the table would shimmer and shake according to who was shooting what

weapon at the gun range on the floor below.

Having dinner with Vincent made me feel weirdly protected but

also somewhat

apprehensive . Like having indigestion before you even thought

about eating. I asked him to adopt me but that wasn’t what he had

in mind.

I found out a year ago that Vincent had died. I hate that.

People that you keep thinking of for years

and years and then suddenly you hear that you shouldn’t

have been thinking about them because

they were dead.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we bury the upper crust!”

Motto from a WASP funeral company

Lust

I feel lust when It  should be dust

I feel lust when I should feel like dust,

too much testosterone according to my

Geriatrician. I can’t help myself.

Fireman make my mouth water.

 I put on rubber gloves,

a mask, a lab coat, and go to Brice’s house for

a drink last Friday

(we’ve been slow dancing electronically).

Like all women I want to talk

before sex and be a little drunk and be

kissed with intention to

paralyze but only for seven minutes or I get

Jittery.

 I just decide I am ready to tell him because

now I am bored with this dance after 50 years,

too many partners to remember identifying marks

or howls.

Listen, I say, here’s what I want.

I look at him in his old Patagonia, ripped at the hem and spotted,

hair half brown half gray stuffed under a Patriots cap,

face unshaven, nylon turtleneck blued into gray, open mouth

revealing years of ground out rage and he’s thinking,

What the hell now? So I

say I want to have dinner with someone every night.

I want a body in the bed next to me that doesn’t move or make

sounds.

 I want someone to have my back.

I want you to figure out what we are going to do about dinner.

I want the smell of soap and skin and silk and the feel of hips and maybe

a gun in the house,

 a stick shift car and a big dog, Trivial Pursuit 80’s version,

I want you to figure out what I want and then give it to me when I want it not when you do and I want

chocolate pie.

And then he says I don’t want to have dinner every night.

Memorial Day

In honor of Memorial Day I choose the Good Humor: a treat on a wooden stick, vanilla ice cream covered in thin dark chocolate, covered in white shiny paper that was hermetically sealed over it. Teeth were the utensil most often used to open it up!

The good humor arrived in the truck driven by the Good Humor man. The truck had a refrigerator on the back which could be accessed from both sides by opening a door with a stainless steel handle. Sometimes, when I was last in line, I would stand on the stone wall so I could see deep inside the truck. There were pale cardboard boxes in there piled to the brim of the truck like shoe boxes or small coffins but unmarked.

The arrival of the good humor man was akin to the arrival of Santa Claus. In our house there were no treats so ice cream on a stick was a major event.
I don’t know why I seemed to be the only sibling that was able to buy two Good Humors, but I can only assume it was because I have always been a saver.

The good humor man came between three and four on Sunday afternoons but only in the summer months and announced his arrival with a clanging of a sweet sounding bell which reverberated through the neighborhood and into the ears of kids longing for ice cream. The good humor man did not always have a good humor and often seemed slightly frightening to us kids.

We would save our allowances until we could afford to buy at least two so that we could put the one that we didn’t eat right away into the big refrigerator in the back of our garage with our name on it.

From the time I was a little kid my favorite toy was a tiny red cash register that could accept nickels, dimes and quarters and wouldn’t open until you had saved $10. I loved that piggy bank. As a matter fact I think I would still be using it if I knew where it was. It was incredibly gratifying to put in that last coin and see the cash drawer spring open and make the noise “Cha Ching !”

Gratifying, but also somehow sad and disappointing. You had achieved your goal now what would you do with it? Probably most kids wouldn’t really even think like this but I wasn’t looking for happiness, I was looking for safety.

In the 50s families were flush with falsehood: Betty Crocker, Aunt Jemima, Birdseye, Henry Ford, Bass Weejuns and Chryslers. There was a long line of things that people wanted to acquire in order to feel that they didn’t need to eat too many good humors.

Women wore lipstick called “Cherries in the Snow” bought in the Five and Dime and men wore suits and took the train to work and smoked. Everybody smoked. They smoked in the car around the children. They smoked in their office. They smoked in their bathrooms with the windows open. And they smoked late at night while they gazed at the moon and wondered why they were feeling so empty.

You can’t go to war and kill people and then come back home and be happy. It doesn’t matter what people say about defending your country, once you’ve dropped a bomb on a village or shot a man in the chest as he’s coming at you , you can’t ever forget what it felt like. You have those moments when you remember what you did and even though you had to do it it never really sits right with you.

People think soldiers do it out of loyalty to their country and maybe that’s why they do it in the beginning. I don’t think you can stop thinking about war just because the war may be over. In the 1950s the war was over and people were celebrating by buying things and having children.

We were winners. We had won. Everyone knows that once you win a prize you don’t care about the prize after a while. It becomes meaningless and you even forget where or what it was but you keep buying.

On this memorial day I would like to remember the young boys and girls who started out with innocence in their hearts and grew up and went to war believing they were doing the right thing. I would like to remember what they lost by doing this. Some came home with seriously damaged bodies and some came home with seriously damaged minds. Some were addicted to drugs and some became homeless living on the streets with nowhere to go and no one to be with.

Once the war was over and they were sent home there was no follow up or real responsibility on the part of this country to take care of people. None of the vehicles set up to do this really took care of the problem.

It’s been said before. War is not necessary.

Now we are in the midst of a pandemic yet each country takes care of it in their own way. The news reports the number of cases worldwide and how many people have died in each country every day. It’s as if we are watching a horse race and placing bets. Each country owns a different horse and hopes their horse will win. The price will be monumental. Still we don’t work together.

I read the other day that people spend more money on lottery tickets than they do on taking themselves out for dinner, to the movies, beach, a play, an amusement park. It made me really sad to read this. Instead of enjoying life each day, people spend money on the tiny possibility they will win money and believe that winning money will make them overjoyed to be alive. Winning money will take away the pain.

So I’m coming to the end here. On this memorial day I would like to focus on our children and our grandchildren and think about how we can make their lives happy and make them see and feel and understand what it is that happiness is.

I don’t think it’s buying things, and I don’t think it’s going to war and killing people, I don’t think it’s winning a lottery ticket, I don’t think it’s buying a car,I don’t think it’s winning and I don’t think it’s losing.

I think it is having the ability to accomplish a small task for yourself and then be proud.

I think it’s setting a reasonable goal and accomplishing it. I think it is being a kind and loving person and a generous one. I think it is valuing the qualities that make a good citizen in the world: compassion, generosity, and the practice of non-violence.

I am an optimist. I think we have a chance to recognize this now when we’re on the brink of global extinction.Everyone feels like they’re not safe. Everyone feels disconnected. I just keep thinking about the movie, “ET”. If we could all just reach out our fingers and touch someone else and make them feel safe then maybe we would feel safe too. I don’t really think there’s another solution.

The last human left on earth

Survival instructions when you are the last human left

First thing:
crumble twigs on bare floor before waking and walking.
Freeze some flowers the night before then
turn a rose inside out and label the petals
in order to remember what they said.
Historian.
If you find a coyote in your house ask
what she needs from outside and tell the
hairless goat to stay in the closet for a while.
There might be a vulture on your roof so
watch it when you go out.
(Nothing by mouth
not even cacti)
If Georgia O’Keefe steps through a window
don’t act surprised or needy just have a
conversation about stillness or sex or tools.
Any will
prove useful.
The world will be pale but don’t be enticed to
touch the green as then it, too, will die.
It is your job to keep noting:
Rock
Water
Warmth
Cold
Alive
Dead
Just sit. Not wait.

Is it too late to be Nancy Drew?

Is it too late to be Nancy Drew now that it’s hard for me to get up in the morning and one knee hurts so badly but it does stop about seven minutes later? Is it too late to be Nancy Drew now that I forget things and my hair has turned gray and sometimes I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize myself? Is it too late to be Cherry Ames, Dude Ranch Nurse , solving mysteries that no one else could solve because she was smart and beautiful and accomplished. (Remember Cherry was not a doctor but the nurse at the ranch).

I want to be that woman who gets dressed in a three-piece suit with spiky heels and stalks across the courtroom floor and wins the case against the giant corporation making millions of dollars for her firm and saving millions of employees their jobs. Is it too late for that? I don’t know why I didn’t think that I could do that but my parents never read one report card and only looked at the beauty in my face and the lilt in my voice and the trail of suitors following me.

I had a longing deep inside of me like a drill bit that never stopped whirling and now I see the women getting in cars going to work with a confident twitch of their hips and I want to be them. I want to be successful and get a big paycheck and have a room full of men hang on my every word. I want to be brilliant and knowledgeable and respected and powerful and I want to have done it all myself with my big beautiful brain and I don’t want anyone to get in my way and I don’t want someone to marry me and make it happen. I will want this until the day I die.

A Sign

A Sign

My Daughter has been dead for nearly three years and I haven’t heard a word from her until yesterday, that is. You may think that sounds weird, but I was a big believer in communication with the dead.
Before she died, I believed there were all sorts of ghosts, spirits and parents out there who could and did communicate a lot! For the life of me I couldn’t get my Mom out of my head but now I like to hear her. Right after Tina died, I felt her near me, and I felt how worried she was to leave me. She could not get into her orbit and it was up to me to pray for her and to let her go which I did.
Dragon flies were plentiful around the bench she had last sat on in my garden and they stayed for days in the summer sun, something they never do. Reluctantly. They were Tina’s symbol.
She died a painful and terrible death and had quite a few minutes to struggle, to have changed her mind, to face the fact that it was too late, and to realize she would never see anyone here on earth again. I think she died because she didn’t see a way to happiness like many others who choose suicide. I think she had no idea what it would be like.
So, then I lost her and though the silence seemed right in the beginning, after a while it seemed wrong and bitter and empty and very unfair. It was a loud silence as if she had gone so far away that there was no trail to finding her and worse, she had lost the trail back to me.
I would chidingly talk to her photo when passing it in the hallway saying good morning and good night and ask why she was not in touch. I would try very hard to understand what her eyes were telling me. I would think about our time together when she was a child and what she was like and what we did together.
I came to know some of her friends better than I ever had when they were young. I reconnected with a babysitter who had been with us one summer. My way of healing was to keep listening to stories about my daughter and to keep on searching for understanding as to why she had ended out where she did.
I read through all her emails to me over the years both angry and loving. I looked at her artwork. I opened her trunk of childhood and removed dresses, coats, shoes and hats, holding each one in my hands, often pressing it to my face and always asking for a sign that she knew I was waiting to hear from her. That she knew I missed her.
I started to go to church but found many lacking. The expression on the faces of ministers often made me wonder what their diet was composed of. I never felt at home there and hated being greeted by strangers wanting to hug you.
Finally, I went to the church next door where Father Mike, my friend, was the priest. In the cavernous space filled sparsely with young and old, I found some serenity and I remembered how praying had helped me not be afraid of the dark as a kid. I began to pray. At first, it only took a minute before I went to sleep but as time went on there were so many people needing help.
You won’t understand this unless you have lost someone you love very much. Its just what people in mourning do.
Then one day everything changed. I was in the living room looking intently at a photograph of Tina and wishing once again I felt in touch with her. I said it out loud several times. I think I was beginning to cry.

Then my cell phone rang. It was my two-year-old granddaughter Rosemary, wanting to FaceTime with me. Rosemary was born one month after Tina died and my daughter and I think a part of Tina is in her. Rosemary wanted to talk about unicorns. Unicorns were Tina’s spirit animal.

I know I am in touch now and I got my sign

Star In A Sci-Fi Film

I’m a Star in My Own Sci-Fi Film

“Each morning I wake Up

Before I put on my makeup

I say a little prayer for all of us”

I wonder if Diane Keaton is cleaning her own toilet? I know that’s a superficial question but what the heck? What are all the famous and rich people doing without their housekeepers? Today I found that if you use a Q-Tip you can really get stuff that’s been there for God knows how long. I’m a pretty good cleaner having used this obsession for many years to avoid stress and anxiety. Nothing like a good cleaning to make you feel in order.

 It’s not really working.

I walk the deserted streets of my town hoping to have a socially distanced conversation with someone, anyone. I think it still hasn’t gotten through to me that this might be it for the rest of my life. If someone doesn’t come up with a cure for this virus, we will all live like surreal movie stars, alone and unbelieving.

Am I lonely? Weirdly enough I am not. I’ve been practicing for loneliness all my life. Others who have partners seem very concerned about me and call or text often. I’m so grateful for this. I feel like ET is reaching out all the time. I love Facetime and today my granddaughter took me into the bathroom this morning because she “wanted some privacy with Grandma Lulu”

I told her a story about how Harry and Stan (my dogs) went out today to get burgers and fries. Apparently’ she didn’t know what fries were as her Mom is the most amazing Mom and makes everything organic for her. She loves garlic and eats it for lunch in cloves.

What helps is having the focus be on today. If I allow myself to go into fear, I think I’m a star in my own disaster film. I’m the last person alive on the earth and I can’t leave my house. I look upon the UPS guy with deep suspicion and refuse to accept the package and ask him to leave it on the ground.

My Dad worried about a nuclear disaster and we had a bomb shelter in my basement. There was a handgun on the wall right next to the heavily barred door. He said it was for the neighbors who would try to get in and be safe. I knew then I would never go into the shelter with my family, but I had to find a way to be outside with everyone else preparing to die. I don’t blame my Dad as he loved his family and protecting us was his goal. I just didn’t want to be the last person standing.

I could see clearly it wouldn’t be fun to be the last family alive on earth or at least in Greenwich, Connecticut.

I have a schedule because I love schedules. It makes me feel safe to have one. I am meditating longer and walking longer. I’ve found a new walking friend but It’s hard as we must walk Indian file so as not to be too close. Luckily neither of us has a hearing problem yet.

I think I will put two lawn chairs six feet apart in my driveway and set up a Peanuts sign saying “advice” and entice other walkers to stop and sit a spell. My sister once said if I stepped into an elevator in the Empire State building by the time, I reached the top I would have 50 new friends. I am compulsively friendly believing everyone really wants to communicate. In truth, it’s because I suffer from abandonment.

I have volunteered with a local church as well as a neighborhood group to call and check on people and the good thing is that most of the group I call are also calling people. The worst thing is calling and getting a machine saying the message taking part is full. I don’t know what to do or who to call. And its worse when you go to the house and no one answers the door. Where have they gone?

We all had a choice a few weeks ago to leave the area with our animals and drive to Wyoming or God knows where. Most of us stayed knowing instinctively that if this quarantine were going to be for months it would be better to be at home. Some believe it will be over by summer but I’m certain it will be Christmas at the earliest.

If you take it day by day, the days become softer and more pleasant. It seems natural to take a nap or lie down on the sofa after folding the laundry. I find myself being captured by the site of my blooming Camelia tree several times a day through different windows in my house.

My best advice: start some type of creative project whether it’s a book, poem, picture, painting or collage. You will be amazed at how the time flies once you get absorbed in it.

I have no real advice only the thought that if this is my own sci-fi film, I’m making the ending a happy one and so should you.

This time its different. We all care about each other. Its harder to live like this for some than others. We are all hurting but those of us who are approaching the end of the runway are really hurting. We know how how little time we have left anyway to spend with our grandchildren before they are no longer children. It’s all speeding up but also slowing down.

Save Our Global Community: Stay Home

The Virus

Remember the children’s game “gotcha last”? In our family we played it for hours. It actually drove our mother crazy but we couldn’t help ourselves. The game would stop for hours and then there would be a little subtle finger touch during the dinner hour that one of us would feel all too late and know we had been tagged and we were it.

Now it’s become a reality. Chances are, if someone is infected with the virus and comes within 6 feet of someone else, and then they happen to sneeze, another person will catch it. If we go to the gym and we use hand sanitizer but happen to miss one tiny spot and wipe our noses without thinking, boom, we have it.

This isn’t an exaggeration. No one in America likes to be told what to do. Everyone I know in my group of friends has claustrophobia.Everyone I know has abandonment tendencies and hates to be alone. Everyone I know thinks the idea of being told to stay home and in their house and to avoid social interaction is akin to being incarcerated.

Well, guess what? If we don’t stay home and we don’t keep our families at home we are jeopardizing our freedom to live. Yes, we are jeopardizing our right to stay alive. Yes, we are jeopardizing the right of all of our neighbors to stay alive and be safe and healthy.

It’s really time to realize that this is no joke. We need to take care of our country. We need to look after our elderly population and make sure everyone is taken care of. Staying home is not such a bad thing and it’s what we all should be doing right now.

I  walk around my house and see how lucky I am because my house is filled with books many of which I have never read. Now I can read them.Now I can go in my garden and sit and reflect on a single camellia or the tenacity  of an ant.

 I am so grateful for the texts from my family which happen almost daily and the phone calls from my friends. They warm my heart and make me feel less alone than I’ve felt in years. Now is the time for us to reach out through our wonderful technology and communicate with our children and our grandchildren and our friends and our family and tell them we love them. Finally, technology is a good thing.

Now is not the time to go out to restaurants and cafés and parties and risk catching the virus and then spreading it to other people who may not be strong enough to survive it.

Now is the time to respect our medical personnel who risk so much to take care of us. Now is the time to guard our families by realizing that  staying at home is actually a wonderful thing to be doing.

Consider our future and the future of our world and the safety of our population and make a decision to do your part in preventing the spread of this virus. Stay home. Read a book. Eat lightly. Take a walk. Pet your dog. Play a game with your kids. Delight in the sunrise and meditate longer. Take a bath. Practice deep breathing. Look at your scrapbooks. Get in touch with everyone you love and tell them you love them.

Do the best you can to stay safe and healthy and carry the world in your hands as if it’s a precious breath you would like to share with everyone around you. Just think, if everyone did this we would be safe.

Musical Chairs

Musical chairs

I feel like we’re playing musical chairs in the world.
I am not good at that game.

Where can we go?

What can we do?

Where is it safe?

When I was a kid people used to scream

at me because I would never leave my chair.

If I did it was to slither

over to the next chair
before the music even thought about stopping.

In my house there are many chairs.
There are many photos.
I like to stop

and sit on the chair that looks directly into the photo
of my family surrounding me.

That’s all I see
That’s all I pray for.

Happy Birthday Edna St Vincent Millay!

When you, that at this moment are to me
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

When you, that at this moment are to me
Dearer than words on paper, shall depart,
And be no more the warder of my heart,
Whereof again myself shall hold the key;
And be no more—what now you seem to be—
The sun, from which all excellences start
In a round nimbus, nor a broken dart
Of moonlight, even, splintered on the sea;
I shall remember only of this hour—
And weep somewhat, as now you see me weep—
The pathos of your love, that, like a flower,
Fearful of death yet amorous of sleep,
Droops for a moment and beholds, dismayed,
The wind whereon its petals shall be laid.

Obsession

You know what it’s like when you meet someone and you can’t breathe and you feel like someone’s given you a date drug but you know that’s not possible and you keep wanting to stare at the person and you are so self-conscious you can hardly talk? Remember that? Pretty much, most people remember that if they are lucky.

And then what happens is that memory, that electric memory, just goes away and we’re left with whatever decision we made about that person along the way. We could’ve married them, we could’ve dated them, we could’ve just thought about them, it doesn’t really matter. That feeling that you get when you’re attracted to someone is so dangerous because it can cloud rational thinking for your entire life.

I remember having that feeling. I remember meeting someone and thinking that it was the most surprising meeting I’ve ever had in my whole life.

Looking back, I remember after our first dinner we were waiting for our respective cars and it was a cold night and somehow without thinking I leaned back into him and he said something like “ is this OK?”

I didn’t respond to that because we both knew that it was.

We spent a year together off and on because our children were young and sometimes we had to be alone with them and not with each other. We tried to plan our weeks so that we each had our kids at the same time and we wouldn’t be lonely. I remember thinking I wasn’t lonely because I had my kids and I had him and I was fully convinced that he loved me more than anyone had ever loved me before.

Once, when we were on our way to a restaurant in San Francisco and walking past an alley, he grabbed me, pulled me into the dark of the alley, and kissed me in a way that I’ve never been kissed before, to quote a song.

We went to Paris together, we went to Lake Tahoe together, we went to New York together where he asked me to marry him.

We had been dating at that time for maybe eight months and I had not even been divorced a year. Neither had he. We were sitting in a hotel room on the upper east side and he said there’s something I want to ask you. He was pacing at the time which I’ve never seen him do. He said, “stand up”and so I did and he said “the only way I can solve this dilemma is if you marry me”.

I said what dilemma? And then he told me that his ex wife was trying to get back into his life and he felt guilty because after all he was an Irish Catholic and there were two children to consider and if we were married she would stop doing that.

I looked at him.

He said to me you don’t have to say anything I can tell how you feel. You look like a deer caught in headlights.

To be honest, I was panicked. This was the first I had ever heard of this and we’ve been together almost 9 months at this point. I was scared shitless but I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe that this was really happening because I was so convinced what we had together was so strong it would never be broken apart.

I said to him I can’t marry you because I’ve just gotten divorced and it would mean so much upheaval for my children. I think it would be too hard. Let’s just keep on having a great time and after a while I know it’s gonna work out. You can’t go back to your wife. You were miserable!

He said oh just forget about it let’s go out to dinner and things were never the same between us.

We got back to California. There was Christmas to get through and suddenly he just stopped calling. At first I didn’t recognize it for what it was. Honest to God it never occurred to me that this great passion would have an ending. This camaraderie, this intellectual compatibility, this deep understanding of each other: it never occurred to me that this was going to go away. I didn’t believe this could ever happen or even think about it. Nothing could take this away for me as it was the first and last time I’ve ever felt like this.

I called, I wrote, we had dinner, but he never had the guts to sit down and look me in the eye and say “this is breaking my heart but I have to go back to my wife and my family even though it’s you that I love”.

He left phone calls unreturned. Once in a while we would have dinner but he would never come home to my house. I heard through friends that he had moved back in with his wife. It was the most unbelievable thing to me that I had ever heard. I had spent months hearing from him how that would never happen and how she had lied and cheated and he would never go back. I believed him. Just as I believe the clock on my iPhone now.

I thought we would be together forever because it was so good.

I behaved badly for a few more years. I was so embarrassed about my behavior but I couldn’t help it. I would call him and write to him and try to see what he was doing. I couldn’t get him out of my mind.

Years have gone by since things between us ended. To be honest, I don’t really think about him much anymore.We did meet one night in a bar and had too much wine together. Unfortunately it broke my heart all over again and there’s nothing that hurts more than having to put something together a second time.There are so many more pieces.

Last fall I went with a friend to a funeral out in Marin and I chose my seat on the side of the tent very carefully because I did not want to see or be near him. I knew he would be there. A nice young man came and sat next to me and I said to him he looked familiar. As the service was beginning he said I am married to blank blank who is the daughter of this man. For a moment I thought I have to get up and move and run out of here but I decided that at this time in my life I would stay put.

I watched my friend give his tribute to his old friend who had died. It was clear to me that he had noticed me. It had probably been close to 15 years since we’d seen each other. I can’t comment on how he looked because I knew I still loved him and he could be 500 pounds and purple and I still would.

He had the power to make my heart turn in my chest and to make me feel tremendously sad which is a feeling that I have had all too often in my life. It’s almost like if you’re going to sleep and you know you need another blanket so you take the same one from the end of the bed and put it over you but it doesn’t warm you it only makes you immobilized for time.

I’ll probably never see him again. We will never be together. The future I saw so clearly in 1995 will never exist. I don’t know whether it’s better or worse to have felt this kind of love for someone else and to have felt this kind of passion or if life would have been easier never knowing the feeling? People talk about sustainable farming. I wonder if sustainable passion exists?

I only know that with this man I felt like a woman first and It didn’t matter that he was alcoholic, completely sexist, rude, sometimes mean, in the long run I can’t explain it. We had a chemistry that was different and magic and it never changed over the time we were together.

If he came and knocked on my door tomorrow I’d pack my bag and leave with him. There’d be no turning back, there would be no questioning. He’s the first and last guy that I trusted enough to consider traveling with through life and letting him drive.

But then again I’ve made a lot of bad decisions about men.

Sante Fe

I am in Santa Fe visiting a 90-year-old friend. I feel like it’s important to come and visit her every year because you never know when you’re going to lose her. Of course, that’s true about life in general. You never know when you’re going to lose anything. They say being resilient is a very good quality to have in life as those of us who are resilient seem better equipped to deal with what life throws at us.

I never thought I was resilient, as a matter of fact, I sort of thought that I was a wimpy whiner. I seem so scared of so many things. Of course I had this well hidden but there were those who knew about these irrational fears. I made a list of things that scared me when I was in my 40s because I was just done with it. The first thing I did was number one on my list and that was learn to shoot a gun. My teacher said I was a “born shooter” whatever that means but I loved my gun. To be honest I still do. The other night I had a young boy here with his mom and he asked me if I had a gun and I said yes of course I did and so we went upstairs and got my shotgun keys and brought it down and then his mother and I tried to remember how to put it together. It was really hysterical how complicated it seemed but we didn’t give in and let the boy do it.

Here in Santa Fe I went for a walk the other night before dinner because I had been on an airplane all day and I wanted to stretch my legs. The center of town has a lovely Square which is lit up with Christmas lights year-round and surrounded by interesting and often touristy shops. I love to walk around when all the shops are closed and look in the windows and just imagine which things I would buy if I were going to buy anything.

As I was rounding the corner of a jewelry store a white Volkswagen bug pulled up beside me and a young woman stuck her head out the window and said ” hey you !I saw you steal that!”

I have to tell you this frightened me.I thought oh my god who is this person and why is she saying this and screaming this at me? I said, “I beg your pardon?” her screaming got louder and louder and she said “I’m going to call the police right now and they’re going to arrest you because you’re a thief.”

You know, there are many of you will read the story and think how ridiculous that she was upset by it. Most guys would just laugh at her. But here I was alone on the Square in the dark next to a car full of young strong women who were clearly enraged at me and on drugs and repeating nonsense. It was deeply upsetting.

For the rest of my time in Santa Fe I discreetly asked around about increases in crime and anger and problems with tourists being harassed and unfortunately found that this happens all too often. Apparently the police drive around the Square every five minutes. I must’ve missed their minute.

I really love Santa Fe because it’s beautiful and to anyone who is at all creative you can’t help but be moved by the colors of the Adobe houses, the sky, the painted signs in blues and pinks and the presence of wonderful museums and galleries that inspire you.

From the first time I visited here however, I felt a darkness but I couldn’t get out of until I left the town. There are many people here living in extreme poverty and many of them are Indians and many of them owned this land centuries ago.I don’t blame them for being angry.

I think things like what happened to me in Santa Fe are going to start to happening all over this country. In fact, they already have. Every time I get on an airplane I am saddened to see the rudeness particularly among young men who push and shove right by you to grab the last space in the overhead bin. I remember the days where gentleman would help you put your bag in the bin and then say “after you “if your seat was by the window.

In my youth the worst thing I saw was Jimmy Mellon stealing my Halloween candy and he only took the Red Vines, Sure, I was lucky, I lived in a very safe spot. I don’t know how we’re going to turn this around. I have a feeling the anger is too deep. I was reading Elizabeth Warren’s article in Rolling Stone in the airplane on the way here and she spoke about how minimum-wage 20 years ago could actually support a family and allow them to have a house and food on the table and a cozy life. Now the average cost of food for a family of four monthly is approximately $900. The average minimum wage is $12 an hour.

I am teaching math to my fourth graders using this as an example . I am hoping that it won’t make them sad to think that they’ll never be able to make enough money to have a decent life. I’m hoping it will inspire them to look for new elected officials and new ways to behave and to work hard in their lives. I want them to learn the practical skills of survival but I also want them to maintain a hopeful attitude that they can change things in the world. We can’t let it continue on the way that it’s heading. I am on the end of my runway but these kids are just beginning.

I don’t want to be frightened in Santa Fe anymore or anywhere But I don’t know what the answer is.

Travels with Trulia

Trulia is my travel agent of emotional escapes and several times a week I am a voyeur into other people’s lives. There are several settings to consider before I go on my trip: price, location, amount of bedrooms and bathrooms, acreage, and one that I always take seriously which is fireplaces. Once I have made my selection, I begin my voyage. I prefer houses that range in price from 10 to 20 million with at least seven bedrooms because then I have a lot to manage. It’s important to have staff rooms as well. Yesterday I transported myself into a mansion in Pebble Beach, California. The rooms were large and had heavily ornate little metal crosses on the walls and enormous arrangements of dried flowers in dark, muted colors like vampire rooms.There was a dining room with a stand in the corner for reading the Bible and at least three kitchens spread throughout the house. My very favorite room, however, gave me the inspiration that I had been looking for. The master bedroom. There was an enormous bed with a headboard covered in powder and silk and a duvet also covered in the same silk spread over the feet. The nightstands consisted of pieces of glass balance upon carved gold wood made to look like unicorns who are slightly crazed. There, above the fireplace, was a portrait of the mistress of the house and when I saw the portrait I knew I had found my true self. She was blonde with babe hair that hung to her waist and was thick and wavy.She wore a black knit dress, unbuttoned, and a black lace bra under that. The black dress clung to her curves and she was leaning forward with both hands holding onto a couch breasts pressed forward as if to say I’ve got you in the palm of my hand. She was a dame. She was a slut. She was in control. There was no question that this was her House. Oh! How I wanted to be her! Powerful! Sexy! Men falling at her feet! She probably had a gun underneath that black dress. She never suffered from loneliness or despair or depression or anxiety. No way Jose. She just lived in this giant house and swished around the hallways in her black dress and bossed people, Particularly men. It was really hard to leave that Trulia house.I figured if I stayed long enough staring at those photos I would end out being just like her.Fearless and powerful and as a woman who had never been victimized.

In the Desert You Can’t Remember Your Pain

 

In the December desert near the crepuscular 

hour many people experience subtle, ocular

change. Sometimes these changes are

permanent. Saguaros (Te 

quiero) can begin to move

and appear to challenge with their arms

the delicate prickly pear while the Feather

cactus plays, “catch a falling Star“. It is, however,

the Christmas cactus that interests me: 

blooming blood red pink like a baby‘s lips exactly at the

time they say we had a virgin birth.

Who will tell it to bloom now that we have lost faith:

a world divided, no party lines, no Avon lady, no 

agreement  not to kill each other?

 

 

 

The Neighbor

The Neighbor

Each morning the dogs walk her down Chestnut Street.

Past Taylor’s house, empty lot, red mower for sale($95.00) ,

Mrs. Alonzo’s dead flower bed, and she’s got makeup on and

clothes that are good because it’s time to wear the good clothes.

There’s Bob with the two white poodles prancing and Bob prancing

because he can when he’s out of the house.

She always stops at the empty lot, stares at the two abandoned rattan

chairs and wants to slip into one, take a breath from dancing all night,

sip the last of her champagne.

She still hears music.

Remembering Isadora Duncan

I asked for a womb with

a view.

Just a small picture window

to see what was coming.

Even then I wanted

to be prepared.

I think about routes before

I take them,

Conversations

before I have them

and life before I

live it.

Even the garden

Is not spared from prediction

As all I do is prune and refuse

to replant.

They think I dance for myself

But all I do is planned.

Adoption

                                                                  Adoption

I remember when I was young and beautiful but at the time

I thought I was fat and boring. Maybe my mirrors were bad or

my astigmatism was uncorrected.

Now I think I am bewildered about what I did in my life

and why I stayed where I stayed.

I have written to the British royal family and asked them to consider

adopting me. I think I would be a good addition as I know how to dress

and have beautiful table manners and I really feel comfortable with a strict schedule.

I would know instinctively how to back out of a room, and how to occupy

myself during the daytime hours.

I would certainly never embarrass anyone and I like the idea of knowing

what was going to happen for the next 7000 days.

I love dogs so I would fit right in.

I look good in riding clothes even though I am 70 but the horse

always knows I am afraid  of him.

I don’t think it’s a lot to ask of the royal family because they need help

and so do I. It’s a very equitable solution for all. I don’t need a title

though  I would like a crown. I like the idea of living in a house

with many other people who have no idea how many people are actually living

In the house. It’s the idea of all those bodies there that brings comfort

and the prescribed nature of life which is soothing.

The Introvert

                                               Introvert

I can’t tell people

I like how it is now:

“Da Viwus”

as Rosemary calls it,

the restlessness gone.

 No days of yoga,

 no decisions,

few people, puppy

watching

the main activity.

I only want to see children

swim in the pool making

light of alligators and yellow cheese slices

made of plastic and air. The in breath

and the out breath like hand bellows

in my belly, welcoming and productive.

“What if it is like this forever?”

There will always be children.

I must keep this secret.

Along with the other

introverts of the world.

Praying

WORD FOR THE DAY

Praying. It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few small stones; just pay attention, then patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest but the doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak.

MARY OLIVERVISIT GRATEFULNESS.ORG