Practical Magic for Ugly Children

I was raised by my maternal grandparents from ages 2 to 7, and then from 11 to adulthood.  My grandmother’s mother, Gertrude, did not like children. She had had six of them. And now had to put up with her offspring’s offspring’s offspring. It was more of a have-to with me. My grandparents lived close to them and took them to doctor appointments. Gertrude got to visit with me more than she would have liked.

Chet and Gert.JPG

Chet and Gertrude

When I was six, I lost my top right front tooth as normal kids do. However, the tooth that took its place, came in twisted like a corkscrew. Gertrude bestowed the pet name of “Snagglepuss” on me.

Snagglepuss

She was the only one who called me that, but she did it as often as possible. I had the tooth pulled and actually had an extra tooth bud that came in straight. I smiled at her broadly every chance I got, hoping for release from the vile nickname.

Alas, Gertrude was 4’6”.  I was already nearly as tall as she was. And in retrospect, it must have seemed threatening to have a child your own size constantly grin at you like a homicidal monkey.

monkey

As I got a little older, I began to talk more with my great-grandpa, Chet. He was quiet. Never said more than was necessary. I know more of what was said about him that I knew him.  From my grandmother’s stories (his daughter), I knew he had a bad temper. I knew he kicked the shins of people who were rude at dinner with hobnailed boots. I knew he was part “Indun”, or Native American and knew some magic. I knew he was a cutthroat Pinochle player.

Lump

Grandpa Green and me (in my lump state).

It was a beautiful thought for an ugly kid. I came from magical people. Somewhere under this pasty nearsighted, greasy-haired lump, there was a continuation of a magical bloodline. Not a passing on of a cheap card trick or sleight of hand, not some $8 Bill Bixby linked rings nonsense, but real magic. Something that I could like about myself that no one could really see.

bixbybill50magictricks

The summer I was 11, sent back from my feral days in Ohio, I went barefoot every chance I got. My grandparents were supremely overprotective and forced me to wear shoes. With the damp and the heat and the wet socks and closed shoes, I ended up with plantar warts all over my right foot. I hid it at first, embarrassed and scared. But it spread and the toes began to look webbed. The pain of taking a step and desperate willingness to cut my toes off just to stop the infernal itching made me stay in my room.

They found out. My grandfather caught me without my socks. They took me to the doctor. Then to a dermatologist.  Dr. Dickinson prescribed a smelly, burning lotion that smelled bad and burned worse. Then Dr. Dickinson spoke about burning them off or freezing them off.  I’m sure he was a respected doctor, but to me he was a bald barbarian heaping fear and discomfort on an itchy foot wart volcano.

doc evil

And he never spoke to me or looked at me. In fact he was examining my foot and reached up with his gloved hand and separated my hair. He looked at my grandmother and said “I can give you some topical lotion for this oily dandruff.”  He then scheduled an appointment with them for a month later to either have my foot burnt or frozen.

I spent the next week crying. The idea that the oily, dandruffy, lumpy girl was now also going to be the limping, half-footed, clumsy girl too was crushing me. The burning and itching had not subsided. My foot seemed alien. Did I even care about it being burnt or frozen? Was it part of me still?

Enter magic. During a Pinochle game, the situation of my foot had come up in conversation. And my great-grandfather, supreme car shark and “Indun” had a trick up his sleeve.

He told me to take off my shoes and walk to the back of the yard with him. He told me to follow directions.  And he told everyone else that it was none of their business.  So I did.

When we got to the lot line, we sat down on the grass.  He took my foot and held it and looked at it. He took a large, dry navy bean out of his shirt pocket.  He considered it. I didn’t know that old people carried dry beans in their pockets. So I also considered it.

bean

He looked up and the sky and then at my foot. He rubbed the dry navy bean over the warts, humming a bit. I watched him, thinking that I was never going to eat navy beans again. Thinking that this was too simple to be magic and too weird to be anything else.

When he was done, we stood up.  He handed me the bean.

“Throw this over your shoulder and don’t look back to see where it falls.”

So I did.

The pain was gone.

Within three days, my foot was clear.  And magic was real to me.

I have never had a wart since. I have never eaten a navy bean in my life.

My great-grandfather, the magic “Indun” died at 93. In the years between, I was his friend and lucky Pinochle partner. He came to Thanksgiving a couple times. Gertrude passed before him and he married a lady 30 years younger than him about 6 months before he died. They traveled a lot. She took him to see the world beyond the Midwest. I was happy for him.

Chet and Ruby.JPG

Chet dancing at 93 with his new wife Ruby.

A tiny bit of belief, the smallest bit of magic can heal anyone. Everyone has a spark of divine within them, even old people, even ugly children. Don’t let it be lost to the mediocrity of every day. Allow it to be part of you, fight to keep it. Use it to do good.

Poetry: The Kiss as a Portal

Lancelot and Guinever – Florence Harison
“There’s a perfect kiss somewhere out in the dark, but a kiss ain’t enough.”
-Richard Butler, Psychadelic Furs, “Heartbreak Beat“, 1987
We don’t give credit the kisses they deserve anymore.  Somehow as we have evolved, kisses have been devalued of their magic. The common gesture, now in it’s meaningless variants, are an assumption – a throwaway.  We smooch or peck. We have even invented the “air-kiss” which carries no affection, just recognition.
Now there are different kisses with different purposes. But I am specifically speaking here of the romantically charged connection between partners. What moves us to engage beyond eye contact and embrace?  Are we like the wolves, signifying acceptance of the other pack members, by a kiss?  Are we simply following our intuitive drive to connect in the very place that words and speech and expression find their first primal outlet? Does it still carry the weight of a complicit fairy tale or is it simply the precursor to more familiar activities?
I’m not a romantic per se, but I do like the idea of a kiss being important, carrying an agreement with it.  It means something.  It means that you are willing to offer yourself -just as you are. To bring to this gesture all that is in your heart and mind.  Somehow the alchemy of the offered kiss transmutes everything into acceptance. Acceptance of the kiss receiver just as they are. Acceptance of yourself as worthy and deserving of such love.
Before I knew a great deal about Daz, I knew I had to kiss him. It didn’t really happen until the third time we spent time together. But I knew instinctively that it needed to happen.  And before I actually kissed him, before I even met him, I dreamed about it.
And I wanted to write about the pure weight of it. The deal I was striking. The genius of connection. The small spark of sweet lightning. It was a portal – a gateway to possibility of great adventure.
Please enjoy the poem below:
Last night, in the sojourn of starless sky and liquid hope
I dreamed of a kiss
My bare feet driven across velvet, verdant blades
Woven with wild violet and bergamot toward this hanging jewel
This pendant holy gem of joy and desiring
Suspended ripe just at
the corner of your mouth
Where dark angels and
easy laughter and silent words congregate
Last night, in the journey of unreal hours and libertine night
I dreamed of a kiss
My bare heart transgressing upon
wavering, wanton thoughts
Wild to possess and
devour this small, perfect particle of the soul
This gift hiding where
you curse and bless
and call dreams into being
Aching for discovery just at the corner of your mouth
Where hard wisdom and soft danger and loose words sleep
Last night, in crossing empty room and stricken shadow
I awoke from that dream
My bare mind riddling unyielding darkness, searching visions
Wishing to awaken both terror and beauty, both wound and salt,
Both disease and cure, both flame and its quenching
All that is ever created, living, dying, bleeding, singing and breathing
Where old histories and new languages and native tongue collide
rodin
Rodin, The Kiss

Poetry: Scarecrow – Hearing your own voice in anger, taking it back.

Healthy couples argue.  Anger is normal.  Sometimes you have to raise your voice.
Sure. But have you ever heard yourself when words fly out like ugly, winged monkeys? When you just can’t NOT finish the rant and it keeps going and you’re getting to your point, but there are crucial details and now NO ONE is listening?
And you know, the longer and louder you go on, the more ugly, winged monkey crap you will have you clean off your floor and furniture?
UGH!  Anyway, as justifiable as this is sometimes, I immediately feel sorry.  Not because I expressed myself or made my point. I feel sorry because I did not handle myself like an adult and instead became a verbal volcano, hurting the people I love.
The French word for sorry is “désolée” – literally desolate.  And after I feel sorry, I feel alone. Empty. And I am not sure where to sit. Or what activity in which to engage to make things better. The people in my life are precious to me. I love them and I am loved.
I’m not Vesuvius or Pompeii or Krakatoa. I’m not going to make cinder and ash from this little blaze that warms us and keeps us close.
I believe in all the good there is in him. I believe he tries his best everyday. And he reminds me to do the same. So I’ll stick with this. And him.
So here is my poem:
Scarecrow
In quick, ugly moments when
we occupy the same space
and sheer physics denies our
solitude, I morph into an ancient, dark crow.
My cackle jarring the blue, raw nerve of you,
My endless prattling caw about nothing of consequence
Grating to your sweet ear
My uncertain love song unwelcome.
Flutter of my weak wing scorching to your fine skin
My bright shiny eyes beholding you like a treasure
Magpies would surely steal away
I want so much to be the happy bluebird, the Gothic raven,
The garish flamingo, the mythic phoenix or
even the clumsy albatross.
But I am just an old crow who loves the flannel
pattern of your shirt moved by the wind.
The softest breeze carries wakefulness in
Your limbs and mystifies me. I know how soft
and warm straw can be.
How pieces of you have
been carried away and need reclaiming.
I understand the metal skeleton under it all
Hardened and yet soulful, the glint of wisdom
And truth you hide under the ragged hat.
I want so much to be the exception, the one blackbird
You allow close to the open radiance of your fertile dreams.
Even if I need to wear a disguise.
I want sometimes to be the match, the incendiary kiss of flame
That sets you alight, blazing like angry copper.
But I know if you ever burned, I would only fly
to your crumbling shoulder
And set my withering wing against your heart.

What The World Needs Now

So I had this song tickling the back of my brain..

In lieu of a complicated, wordy blog this week, I will simply present this video. It was made in 2 days. The artwork is my son’s – the awesome Connor McManis. He illustrated my story about Cougar: Fur Family. The voice is mine – such as it is. I’m literally sitting in the hot car with windows rolled up, singing into my iphone, downing herbal tea and ignoring my ear infection. Daz, my lovely artist boyfriend and skilled video editor, put it together for me. The words belong to the immortal Burt Bachrach – who is a master at finding perfect little niches in the human heart and celebrating them in song.

The world is full and busy and ugly sometimes.  I needed to do something quiet. And honest. And decidedly raw and from the heart. So from all of us here in our little house full of love and music and art, we send love. For everyone.

 

Imperial Ham: The Wondrous Alchemy of Childhood in a Semi-Rural Township

In the summer of ’79, I came to live with my grandparents. The Greens owned 1/3rd of an acre in the small Limestone Township in Illinois. They had bought a tiny house with three rooms in the mid-1940’s. Over the years, my grandfather, the oldest of 12 children from a rural Kentucky family, added a large kitchen, am indoor bathroom and a back bedroom. The houses in the neighborhood were mostly larger with two stories and nearly all of them had large families. My mother was one of the few little girls on the block and held her own with the gang of boys who ran and played and shot arrows and bb guns.

IMG_2888

My mom with the neighborhood kids, second from left.

Every house also had a backyard vegetable garden. While the neighbors to the immediate right had corn and beans, my grandparents had a brilliant, strong nightshade patch. Bell peppers, okra, eggplant and some of the largest and sweetest beefsteak tomatoes on the Earth.  That summer we also added cucumbers. My grandfather could grow anything he put in the ground.

He worked at it, he watered and weeded and whistled parts of songs.

gpafarm

Grandpa Alvie Green with my uncle and my mom.

And in late June, we would walk back to the further edge of the yard, across the swath of thick, Kentucky bluegrass. We’d pick one of the 3 to 4 pound scarlet gem tomatoes, rinse it with the garden hose and bite right in. There was a magic in the ritual of it, to the true reward of working with nature, There was a bliss and comfort to it.  A heaven that did not come from some store. It came from the dirt where you grew up. It came from the plot of land chosen by a WWII veteran who decided to migrate from his home in Kentucky and make a life for his wife and children. That tomato was a manifestation of love and home and family.IMG_2887

We’d make glorious sandwiches of Wonder Bread, Miracle Whip and thick tomato slices. We’d make pepper relish. My grandmother would marinate the cucumbers with onions in vinegar, salt and sugar. When I was sunburnt or started to break out, she would pulverize a cucumber and put the juice on my skin. We would trade our extras with neighbors. There was an unspoken connection and wealth in the ability to share.

That summer, my grandmother asked my grandfather for a meat grinder. And he bought it for her. It was huge. It was supermarket-deli huge. It had a lot of sharp, shiny parts which I was told not to touch. It was loud. I immediately hated it.  She bought it for one thing: Imperial ham.

Not to grind beef or make sausage. We raised no animals except the baby squirrels that my grandfather trained to come and take walnuts from his shirt pockets. They were friends, not food. Imperial ham.  What is Imperial ham?  Well…

It’s baloney. And mayonnaise. And onion. And sweet pickles. And it’s somehow suddenly a royal delicacy. Apparently, if you put baloney through a meat grinder and add these things in the proper amounts, a certain kind of alchemy occurs in which it is now both Imperial and Ham. There is nothing like it. It smells weird and it tastes like summer and it’s amazing on white bread. And especially magical topped with a tomato slice.  And a side of marinated cucumbers. We would put it all on white paper plates, sit outside in the big swing together, watching neighbors and squirrels.

IMG_2884

I remember it clear and precious, because we have had nothing like it for so long. Everyone I shared that with has died. My grandfather in 1997, grandmother in 2001 and my mother in 2010. I am heartened because I am seeing a renewal in the importance of local family gardening. Small farms that have grown to bring their organic bounty to market.  People who can grow anything and what they produce is beautiful and healthy, fresh and practical food to share, tokens and totems of home and family and love.

I dream of having the right and proper place to do the same one day.

 

Poetry: Mermaids

The first mermaid legend came from Assyria. Sea goddess Atargatis was made half-human for accidentally killing her human lover. Sirens, undines, malevolent waves and crests, selkies stories are ancient. As old as lamia or Lilith or were-creatures. Each story built on themes of sex and and death and the desire to possess abilities and beauty without consequence.
A-ningyo
A-Ningyo
Why? There are enough earthbound mythic monstrosities roaming the haunted forests and windy moors. Witches and bogeymen aplenty lurking in caves and closets. Fear of our demise through the supernatural has been around since our common grunting ancestors heard something in the dark that was not familiar.  And then there is the sea. It’s no coincidence that historically, biblically and geographically that Mesopotamia (the cradle of civilization) is nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates. Water is life. But even greater, water is bacteria!
Fiji-Mermaid
The Fiji Mermaid
On January 30, 2017, Sam Russell published this article:
It’s a mind-blowing read. It’s the prequel to Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Eschewing the primate loop, abandoning the man with one less rib in a pefect garden. It postulates that the stuff that makes us the creature we are today, was basically a primordial kombucha batch from 540 million years ago. And we were NOT attractive in the least.
saccorhytus
A Saccorhytus. Our ancestors?
So what is it we fear with mermaids?
Drowning?  Losing our life by the pressure and glory of taking in all that salt, all that bacteria, all that magick to become fish food. To give our corporeal selves over to desire, drift in the siren song until our breath is not enough to sustain us. To attach ourselves in a haze to beauty until it murders us. To willingly love a creature whose world we cannot inhabit.
mermainchurch
Mermaid carved in a bench Zennor Church, Cornwall UK.
Or is it simply to give in to the call of what we once were?  To reconnect with ancestors in a way far deeper than anything that can be mapped through genealogy. What do we lose in ourselves when we blindly believe a theory?  What do we regain in ourselves when we allow a story to take root in us?
Are you a dreamer or an independent thinker?  Are you driven by love or fear?
egypt
Egyptian cave drawings depicting merfolk.
If mermaids are us, then they are that part of us that stubbornly refused to leave the ancient waters. They are the part of us that builds unseen, ornate kingdoms where only the imagination can visit without dying. They are the part of us that wants revenge on ourselves for buying into the idea that life is so much better on land.  Mermaids want to prove that they were right all along to stay in the briny, prehistoric depths where technology, money, fashion, celebrity and all modern human trappings mean nothing.
Remember what you where before you became what you are? Mermaids do. That is what their siren songs are about.  There is a beauty beyond all this earthly treasure, there is an authenticity to your being for which evolution provides no escape.
In my poem below, the mermaids have surrounded a drowning man. He is no more to them than a toy, an air-filled thing that has come untethered, an amusement.
Mermaids
You spring from the green
sea, a bloated
baby half-airborne, pink
fat nude bald sentient,
wheezing like some beached orca. Earth bleached salt
and scales from
your body.
You vanish; only your
sunburntscalp, salmon pink breaks the milky
surface.
Hairs on your back
prickle, clinging beads of ocean water.
Your hand, stripped of
its webbing clamors to your
sky-god. He does
nothing
to save
you.
You evolved from
dark ooze
without Him.
You bob against the waves like
some grotesque purple
ragdoll.
Your skin colored with madness.
You receive our briny kiss.
Lungs fail. Machines stop with hollow,
empty roaring like the inside
of a spiral shell.
We mermaids embrace you.
We wrap you in seaweed, pickle you in
brine, place green bronze coins
over your pale
dead eyes, and breathe into
your gaping futile
mouth;
It’s an old joke, still
it makes
us laugh.

Poetry: The Wolf Girl-Room Enough

So as my mother would tell the story, I was three. I was fascinated with “Little Red Riding Hood.”  I had the 45 RPM single narrated by Paul Patterson.  The cover showed the little blonde girl (and I was a little blonde girl) traipsing through the black trees with a dark purple sky.  And in the foreground, lying in wait, a black wolf with shifty red eyes.   He was meant to be sinister. I was meant to fear him. But I did not.
In my short time on this planet, much of it immersed in a fairy world of my own imagnation, I had already discovered that things are not always as they seem. I decided that wolves are friends. Dogs are friends. Forest creatures are friends.  I also decided NOT to be the little blonde girl.  I  wanted instead to be the wolf.  The wolf is easily the smartest character in the story.
When I was three, I traveled on all fours into the neighbor’s yard. I took off all my clothes and underwear. I proceeded to do what a wolf would do and pooped square in the middle of my neighbor’s front lawn. My mother charged across the street, red-faced and absolutely shocked.
“Holly Anne! What are you doing?!”
“I’m a wolf. Wolves poop outside, Mom.” I said logically.
She could not argue. She DID inform me that I was NOT a wolf. I needed to put my clothes on and go wash up.  She sent me home and knocked on the neighbor’s door to both explain and apologize.  I also had a visit to my pediatrician who assured her there was nothing wrong with me except a giant imagination.
Even now though, forty-five years later into this life, I love the story. I love the wolf. He shows up in my dreams – never as a threat – but as a guide, as a totem of family. Wolves care for their own.
12821572_10209412361048967_3313570549609828487_n
My first collage, posted above was in an art show last year.  It’s a 3′ x 2′ collage with natural objects, fabric and clay. The wolf is VERY furry.  I put a sign next to it in the gallery that said, “PLEASE TOUCH THE WOLF. DO NOT BE AFRAID.”  Because we are told in any art gallery to look and not touch.  But he is very soft and velvety and he is accepting a lovely friendship rose from our little blonde girl.
People – especially children – DID touch the wolf.  I sat at a little table and watched them.  I wanted to foster understanding instead of fear. Connection instead of separation.
The collage found a permanent home in the Lit. On Fire Bookstore. I am happy so many people see it.
So I decided to retell the story in the poem posted below. I hope you like it. If I have to be the little blonde girl, I would rather be one who trusts her heart.  I hope you enjoy this.
Room Enough…
I was so used to looking for wolves along the path,
I began to see everything as a wolf
Every shape or shadow shifting in the night,
Every light fair breeze rustling the bedcurtain,
Every man who might just be out to gather wood
And warm himself…
But that particular day, the daisies were grown tall and bright
And whispered that they would keep their chartreuse
Cyclops eyes peeled for any sign of lupine misadventure.
So I wandered among them, picking rabbit candy clover
And forging ships from billowy clouds and hummed
Little rhymes I knew as a child and
cast the net of my heart
Wide about the world
.
But daisies are liars or at the very least have short attention spans,
And wolves must be very fast because asudden, your fur brushed my arm.
I thought somehow I should be more scared, but my heart was open
And my mouth was still forming little rhymes.
I didn’t run and I did not scream. I did look you in the face for real.
For the endless second it took for your bottomless amber eye
To blink.
The door to my heart hung open, and all my fear of you and your legend
Became dust.
So I put out my hand and you put out your paw.
The better to love you with.
And I was sure in my bones that there was room enough
At Grandmother’s house for both of us.

Pre-Writing: The Three Sisters of the Sky

Decades ago, I crossed paths with three sisters. Each unique and full of courage and the kind of beauty that springs from deep connection and authenticity. One of them became my son’s godmother. And athough we do not see her often, I chose wisely.  They remind me that every woman is part of a web and yet we spin our own stories. We all move through tides of loss and glory and joy. I am grateful for my freinds, my siSTARS.

I began work last week on a children’s book. In all the conflict of late between science and religion, I choose mythos. Mythos is the perfect dance between the two. Mythos finds that place within us that connects us to our own story and our own explanations for things.  In this case, it is as easy as night and day.

Daz (the perfect artist for this) has been giving the following description:

The Three Sisters of the Sky.

Celeste, Selene and Soleil

Celeste, the vigilant the keeper of the balance of night and day.  She keeps the peace between her two sisters Selene – the moon and Soleil – the sun.

Celeste is the oldest of the sisters.  She dresses in multicolor stars and black cloaks, misty grey veils, colors of twilight and dawn.  She is about beginnings and endings.  She wakes her sisters and pulls back the veil of stars between dark and light. The morning glory and jackrabbits are her friends. Fireflies are her messengers. Night is coming. All will be well.  Dawn is coming. Today will be glorious.

Soleil is the middle sister, she dresses is reds, oranges, yellows, blazing colors and gold. She visits the farmers to grow crops, she shines she shimmers. She waves to animals who bask. She warms. She strides across the bright fields. Sunflowers always turn their faces toward her. Coyote, Songbirds and deer are her familiars.

The youngest sister is Selene – she dresses is blues and indigos and silver. She visits the children to bring dreams.  She glows and gleams and her hair is silver-blue beams. She follows travelers to brighten their path. She cools and comforts.  She strolls silent through shadowed lands. The moonflower and jasmine bloom to greet her. Her friends are bats and foxes.

Poetry: Found Art, Trifle & Tart

Is is still okay to say “Boyfriend” when you are both dancing on the precipice of 50? So what do I call him?  Life partner?  My old man? Significant other? There are MANY significant people in my life. The gorgeous Italian “inamorato“? I usually call him the best human being I ever met.  Anyway, this man is an artist,  And I, in my complementary role, am a visual learner and arranger of things.

Sometimes my love and arranging shows up in the food I make. Last night, I made one of his favorite desserts, Trifle – lemon pound cake with lemon custard, whipped cream, strawberries and raspberries. No cooking, just arranging. . You could soak the pound cake in liqueur in you like. The concept is to make a deep well of summery joyfulness.  It doesn’t matter if you just buy the pound cake, the artistry is in the assembly.

Dinner?  Pesto and goat cheese tart with heirloom tomatoes. Bake it for 8 minutes at 425 degrees. If you want it crispier, broil for 1 minute after that.  It’s a par-baked pizza crust, 2 tbsp. basil pesto, 4 oz. cream cheese, 1/2 cup goat cheese, top with mozzarella and arrange your cherry toms.  The heat does something magical to the goat cheese.  It’s tangy, soft and sweet all at the same time, a perfect match for the acidity of the tomatoes. Tear up some fresh basil leaves to nestle between the cream cheese and mozzarella layers.

tart

When our mutual friend introduced us back in October 2013, I don’t know if was I felt was love. He was too familiar. Not in any of his actions or words, but in the way my entire inner workings reacted to him just being. I had hit a spot in life when I did not believe in romantic love. When I was very sure dying alone would be just fine and dandy. I’d make sure it was dandy, because I would leave thorough instructions on my memorial service. I was THAT bored. I was THAT stuck. I was THAT set on memorializing myself as a loner.

Whatever I felt – passion, revulsion, the immediate need to protect my heart and my solitary way of life – it was powerful. After the most perfect day-long date in the world, in which he painted and I made shepherd’s pie and we talked and kissed randomly, I actually said. “Let’s pretend we never met.”

We did not speak for a few weeks. Then in late November, on a Thanksgiving day when I was completely alone and bereft of plans and people, I asked him to dinner. And he said yes.  During those two dark weeks, I wrote “Found Art”.  It’s not specifically about love. It’s about a specific moment in our lives when invisible lightning hits us. All our glib platitudes from Rumi and “Keep Calm” posters fail us. All the Silly Love Songs become dire warnings with the forceful insistence that you ARE going to feel this.  Stupid me clinging with a deathgrip to the notion that I am a self-contained work robot. So here is the poem.

Found Art
I had seen it before somewhere in a dream
A fleeting mix of ideas and color and imagination
Too true to be believed
I may have walked past it a hundred times
Images captured by the mind’s eye moving in outer circles
Barely concentric to my life
I was afraid to look at it
Because it might just tell the story of my childhood
Or list reasons for my darkness
It was an abstract
The vein and bone and brain of a human being
So magnified and precise that the pixilated cells
Seemed to move
I was afrai
d to look at it
And when I did I could not look away
I stared until the cones of my eyes ached
And my brain bled and black words dripped heavy from my pen
And the noise all around stopped because it whispered my name
Like a familiar
Like a river
Like a lo
ver
Like a devil
Like a desert
Like the West wind
Like a lover
Like home
Transfixed, I watched it move
I reached out and could not help running my hands
Over the curve, over fibonnaci spirals
Over sinew and skin and scar
And sweetness and painless light
It was a living map
A breathing mirror of all I fear
And worse, all I hope
Split in the exact center
Between the brain hemispheres
Deep down to the heart
In a Fissure of dark and tranquil and quiet
That knew my name and called to me quite clearly
I could
not close my eyes or fill my lungs
Although my mouth hung open
Waiting in awe for that kiss
Waiting for the wet, secret dark
To enfold me and invade me and
Fill me up with beautiful words
But it knew my name and was already adept
At shredding my fear and
hope
And ripping expectation to oblivion
I moved away slowly
Unwrapping myself from pleasure incarnate
Unsticking skin from skin
Untwining myself from this masterpiece
And I am still shaken, still swept up
Still aching
Still aware that it knows my name
Still needing a baptismal to wash away
The burning swirl of fingerprint and tongue

 

Poetry: The Decade of Impossible Love Between Frederic Chopin & George Sand

Celebrity couplings and breakups are fame fodder in the modern world. But in the early 1800’s it was not so common. Chopin the composer and Sand (writer Amantin Lucille Dupin who found it easier to publish under the male name George) shared nearly ten years of passion, creativity and connection.  The story goes that she would lie naked under his piano, smoking cigars and scribbling away while he composed his nocturnes.

It ended badly between them, spurring her to write Lucrezia Florioni in which the villain is a dead ringer for Chopin. He would die two years later at the age of 39, still a prolific composer. In fact, his last posthumous publication was “Devil’s Trill” in 2001.

The couple were painted by their mutual friend, artist Eugène Delacroix. It hung in Delacroix’s studio until his death. His estate curator split the portrait in half in the belief that two paintings would sell better than one.

And so they are now forever separated. Sand’s half hangs in the Ordruppgaard Museum in Copenhagen.  Chopin’s half is in the Louvre.

 

I wanted to bring them back together. To imagine the heady frangrance of her cigar smoke, the uncertain touch of piano keys, the sweetness. So I wrote this:

Poor Fred

It is too much sometimes in the nocturne,
Too personal. She
Lies beneath his piano in her own
World. Making her own
Wanton heroes and villains. Unaware,
Untouchable and
Unbearably close. So he sits above
Her banging on his
Instrument. He lets his hand find their own deft caress.
Body rigid, his
Heart beats secrets into the stricken keys.
White keys are pearl planes
Of her body, her skeleton, the curve
Of her neck when she
Dozes, arc of her hip when she dances.
Black keys are the blaze
Of her eyes, the dark of her lashes. Her
Fathomless, boundless
Imagination where he cannot quite
Follow, the endless
Sorrow he can never quite possess her.
Major chords are tight
Clear resonant words. Her lovely words drive
Him, her willing arms.
Encircling
him, her laughter and sly wit.
Minor chords are deep
Violent, frustrated echoes, swallowed by
Her written page, her
Beautiful naked peach shell body just
Out of his reach. Her mind and
Spirit utterly lost in the world of
Her own dark scribbling.
7th chords are maybes…
9th chords are what-ifs…
The Nocturne is now–tonight–here–with her.
Inches apart with
The world between them. The same music and love
Will survive them both…
When Lucrezia Florioni is
Written and he has
Become her villain. When hisPreludes
have become interludes,
And he has abandoned her. When they fade
To shadow and dust.
For ev’ry lover in divine passion,
Suspended between
Desire and art, between true love and its
Pale written ghost, on
The sheerest edge of desolation, in
His dying heartbreak
Transgression of shattering her perfect
Reverie to Live
The romance she writes,
To break her dream and take her beyond pages,
Beyond her story,
To his aching bed and into history.