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
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 always escaped
from under her red kerchief or the
lacquered on for control and the hair
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
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
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
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
Our Front Hall
Our front hall had a very tall grandfather clock at the foot of the stairs keeping watch over the household. No one could wind it but my father and the clock defined the nights in regular chimes reaching everyone’s ears in everyone’s bedroom.There was a front hall table made of lustrous mahogany where mail and packages were placed daily.The legs of the table looked like a young girl with four legs curtseying all at once. I know because I spent a lot of time under there waiting for God knows what. My favorite part however In this wonderful area of our house was the front hall closet which no one could put anything in except for my father. It was his personal closet for his overcoat and his hats and his umbrellas and his galoshes. I don’t remember hearing we weren’t supposed to go in the closet so I went in the closet quite a bit. There was a shelf the hats were on that had a thumbtacked piece of decorative ribbon that was ruched: something I had never seen before. I took some delight in pulling a piece of it off and seeing what it felt like. My father had four or five coats in there and most of the coats were some range of the color gray. There were cashmere coats, and wool coats, and cotton coats, and canvas coats. The coats had a big life and seemed to go out a lot. Sometimes alone, and sometimes in pairs the coats went out in the world: across oceans and in airplanes, office buildings, and houses not ours, down inside boats, outside on sidewalks. They always came back home slightly different than when they had left. I knew this because when I went in the closet I would stand up inside each coat starting with my head going into the bottom because they were buttoned up, you see, and I would shimmy myself up to usually just the lowest button because my father was very tall and I was still short. I would stand there and breathe in the outside world imagining where he had been and who he had seen and the smell of old Spice would anesthetize me against the real world. In the closet I created whatever I wanted sometimes for hours. No one ever looked for me. I stood so still inside a coat I became a part of its life.
There’s something so pleasing about the feel
of a fiddlehead fern on a tongue,
so satisfyingly round and with a squelchy sound
when bitten open and savored,
one can imagine dancing a jig,
or chasing a pig,
maybe laughing a lot
if eating while hot
and the cares of the world are forgot!
Letting Go When There’s No Rope Left
I have a friend who is trying to get divorced. This has been going on for two years. The marriage was a good length, (ten years), and a good part of it was not unhappy but the divorce has turned into a nightmare of hatred, accusations, bitterness, anger, paranoia and deep despair on the part of both parties.
There were no children involved, several properties purchased together, and a long stream of expenses for their life paid for by my friend who gave his partner free rein to do what she wanted in terms of the household accounts. By the time he realized most of his money was gone it was too late for reason or recompense: his life had become unbearable as daily verbal abuse had escalated to the point of physical pain. There was no surviving the atmosphere in the house, no love left between the two marital participants, and so my friend left.
His partner filed for divorce immediately and thus began the long history of demands for money, property, shares in imagined earnings, financial reports, tax returns, and appearances in court, depositions and more depositions. Interestingly enough, at this point in time my friend’s net worth had diminished to one tenth that of his wife’s yet she continued to threaten, hire new lawyers, fire old accountants, make new lists about what she wanted, hide possessions from my friend, and make her life’s goal destroying her husband.
Now I ask myself “Why?” If I were in the same position would I behave in the same way? Of course not. I am a reasonable person who likes to work things out and find reasonable solutions to problems. I like to have situations that are emotionally complicated solved as smoothly and expediently as possible as drawing them out only serves to upset one’s health and make oneself look like a fool in the community. People that continually fight over nothing and act in irrational ways are usually ostracized by others and find them alone and unloved in their lives. Who would actively make a choice to live like this?
Why am I writing about this today? I think it’s a really good lesson to all of us about how to destroy your life and your Karma. Holding anger, retribution and bitterness inside yourself is a good mechanism to destroy your own life. I think it does more damage than smoking. Imagine inhaling all that rage each day with every breath and then imagine not being able to release it. Imagine getting into arguments with everyone that surrounds you and then not having any real friends left. Imagine acting in a way that is dangerous to you and to others. Then take a breath and wonder why.
I think people get so caught up in their battles they forget why they began them in the first place. Much like all the needless wars we have been involved with we often can’t remember why we started to hate each other. We forget our compassion towards others and towards ourselves. We exist on our own fear and we can’t even see how it is destroying our lives. We lose all reason and all awareness of our own behavior and become fearful individuals who are living solitary lives as it becomes too risky to trust anyone else.
How many stories out there are like that of my friend? How many people hold on to old stuff as its familiar: pain is familiar. It may not be pleasant but sometimes fear makes us choose the familiar rather than the new as the new cannot be predicted.
I am no angel. Believe me I know that and I am aware of my own failings just as others are. I am writing this to make sense of the situation to me as well as to you as it seems so insane. The only thing I do know to be absolutely true is that operating from a fear based self will ultimately ruin your life and leave you with no friends or family to support you. In the end as they say we die alone but I hope when I die there are people who love me all around who can send me on my way to a new plane with love and joy. After all, there is really nothing else worthwhile in life but love.
My mother, who was wise when she wanted to be, used to say,” you can either have a good day or a bad day!”
I definitely have the qualities of a hypochondriac!