My mother’s father, Samuel Joseph Cawley, died three days before I was born and was buried in a paupers grave in Van Nys, California, alone and still drunk so the embalmer had it easy. My mother went into labor etherized and alone, and, hearing “ it’s a girl”, sighed into her peignoir and turned her back on it all: the dead first boy, the second, another boy, then two girls and then me. A brood mare. She struck a match for her L&M and flicked the ashes in the nightstand drawer it’s white metal smooth and cold. Loyal to her. She slammed it shut when she heard my grandfather’s voice in the hallway. The most important post birth attendant. Bearer of the name and the cash envelope labeled “Olive”. He always wanted her to be free of his son.Telling my father to be kind to her, grandfather gave her money. He said it was so she could leave but really it was so she would stay.
This year I find the Academy awards to be so moving that I am constantly in tears. As a matter of fact, I can’t believe I have the capacity to cry for so many hours. There’s so many things that people have said that have been so hopeful to me that I can’t believe and feel like there may be a good tomorrow. Thank God. God bless all of them.
My Life as an Aquatic Entertainer.
In another life I was an aquatic entertainer because I needed to practice my breathing. I suffered from anxiety and worried nightly about remembering to breathe. I could barely sleep.Sometimes this fear kept me up for hours. Aquatic entertainers are required to hold their breath for a minutes at a time.That’s “minutes”. I wore a costume of filigree, seaweed, and Jantzen , a rubber plastic cap of petals variegated in color like a new variety of lettuce leafs. I descended into a tank at Hollywood Gardens In Winter Tree, Florida at 10am, 1PM and 5PM. I was the best in show. I sipped more air from the dangling hoses than other girls and was penalized for it. Holding the dangling hose like a lucky strike, taking my sips, men died for me. I was still the best. Then I dried off, removed my costume, and fraternized with the drinkers. All part of the job. I liked the drinkers. Encouraging them to have more was good for them. They felt happy and slapped each other on the back. They always asked me to give them a special wave from the tank so I always told them I had and how could they have missed it? Aquatic dancers have certain health problems which are an accepted part of the job. We tend to grow back fins which are tricky to remove and sometimes can only eat underwater: much cleaner but not as tasty as normal eating.
I liked my job but in the end I had to quit. It was too hard on my hair. I never had time to socialize or get a life. The worst part was constantly smelling of chlorine. The best part of being underwater was not having to talk.
Kissed in a restaurant
I met you in a restaurant outside and I wore a coat the color of dried blood and when I saw you I knew I had already known you. Sometimes when that happens there’s no denying it. I love this restaurant. All the waiters know my name and they think I’m a lovely lady. But that night when I met you and I was so close to your eyes while we were eating I just felt like I was on a roller coaster and I could shoot down that track right down into your soul. I couldn’t help it when you kissed me there even though I knew Megan, the maître d’, could see the whole thing. I don’t think she could see the depth of it all and may be that’s why I let myself be carried away by a pyre of woodchucks laughing as only they do at my willingness to be carried away. You and I were meant to have a dance. I don’t remember being carried away before but I do remember dreaming about it. There’s something magic that happens when you meet a person and everything about you and that person is the same size. And I’m not talking about our bodies because our bodies are really meaningless but I am talking about something I don’t have to talk about. Self! you think to yourself what in the world is going on? It’s like diving into a pool at night and you have no idea how deep the deep end is but you keep your fingers crossed and go for the gold.But in the end you know you can take care of yourself and that’s the most important thing there is. I’m always tempted to really look into abandonment because I think that’s the real issue in life. It’s like Dr. Dolittle in the push me pull you. Everyone wants to feel safe and in control but if everyone wants that then it’s never gonna happen. Somebody has to just dig in their heels and make a statement. That’s it.
I live alone, people think, but in fact my house has so many inhabitants I have to be careful when moving through it. There are many men lurking about in my closets and bedroom all of whom seem angry and hungry. They steal things from me like small bottles of Vodka from airplanes I’ve never been on and buttons. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. The kitchen contains some younger ones with damp, slightly curled hair who cook gravy. I like these younger ones better. I happen to hate gravy unless it’s on turkey which is tasteless without it. Why in the world is turkey so very white? So many things are. I walk slowly through the detritus of my life so as not to stumble over hillocks of bodies and chirping young friends who think I am hopeful so I am. To them. I need young friends. The doors are always unlocked and flowers wander in and out flagrantly fragrancing the hours. The hallways, always making memories, melt into the cracks and settlings of bones and earthquake reinforcement. The flowers are welcoming like the chorus in a Greek play as they understand suffering and wilting. People ask, don’t I want an elevator but why would I? Life goes fast enough as it is. I can wander in an elevated state up and down and sideways into the dining room where the chairs are always filled with brilliance and I can sit with the thoughts of so many nights, so much laughter, the best wine, and no gravy. I always end out in the dining room now but often all the chairs are already filled.
A fox crossed my yard today sweeping my path with his tail
I was watching him so he stopped and did a
“There is nothing more at the neighbors”
He said “ So don’t keep looking out the
This Is Just To Say
BY WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMSI have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold