Recently in Life Category
and so I do not desire
pride of excess or power,
but the contentments made
by men who have had little:
the fisherman's silence
receiving the river's grace,
the gardner's musing on rows.
I lack the peace of simple things.
I am never wholly in place.
I find no peace or grace.
We sell the world to buy fire,
our way lighted by burning men,
and that has bent my mind
and made me think of darkness
and wish for the dumb life of roots.
The dead say little in their letters
they haven't said before.
We find no secrets, and yet
how different every sentence sounds
heard across the years.
My father breaks my heart
simply by being so young and handsome.
He's half my age, with jet-black hair.
Look at him in his navy uniform
grinning beside his dive-bomber.
Come back, Dad! I want to shout.
He says he misses all of us
(though I haven't yet been born).
He writes from places I never knew he saw,
and everyone he mentions now is dead.
There is a large, long photograph
curled like a diploma--a banquet sixty years ago.
My parents sit uncomfortably
among tables of dark-suited strangers.
The mildewed paper reeks of regret.
I wonder what song the band was playing,
just out of frame, as the photographer
arranged your smiles. A waltz? A foxtrot?
Get out there on the floor and dance!
You don't have forever.
What does it cost to send a postcard
to the underworld? I'll buy
a penny stamp from World War II
and mail it downtown at the old post office
just as the courthouse clock strikes twelve.
Surely the ghost of some postal worker
still makes his nightly rounds, his routine
too tedious for him to notice when it ended.
He works so slowly he moves back in time
carrying our dead letters to their lost addresses.
It's silly to get sentimental.
The dead have moved on. So should we.
But isn't it equally simpleminded to miss
the special expertise of the departed
in clarifying our long-term plans?
They never let us forget that the line
between them and us is only temporary.
Get out there and dance! the letters shout
adding, Love always. Can't wait to get home!
And soon we will be.
See you there
- Posted from my iPhone
Cover of Selected Stories
I have said I talk with God in the mornings, as I start my day, and sometimes as I sit with coffee, looking at the birds, and the woods. Of course He has never spoken to me, but that is not something I require. Nor does He need to. I know Him, as I know the part of myself that knows Him, that felt Him watching from the wind and night as I kneeled over the dying boy. Lately I have taken to arguing with Him, as I can't with Father Paul, who, when he hears my monthly confession, has not heard and will not hear anything of failure to do all that one can to save an anonymous life, of injustice to a family in their grief, of deepening their pain at the chance and mystery of death by giving them nothing--no one--to hate. With Father Paul I feel lonely about this, but not with God. When I received the Eucharist while Jennifer's car sat twice-damaged, so redeemed, in the rain, I felt neither loneliness nor shame, but as though He were watching me, even from my tongue, intestines, blood, as I have watched my sons at times in their young lives when I was able to judge but without anger, and so keep silent while they, in the agony of their youth, decided how they must act, or found reasons, after their actions, for what they had done. Their reasons were never as good or as bad as their actions, but they needed to find them, to believe they were living by them, instead of the awful solitude of the heart.
Yes, I say, as You are a Son Whom this morning I will receive; unless You kill me on the way to church, then I trust You will receive me. And as a Son You made Your plea.
Yes, He says, but I would not lift the cup.
True, and I don't want You to lift it from me either. And if one of my sons had come to me that night, I would have phoned the police and told them to meet us with an ambulance at the top of the hill.
Why? Do you love them less?
I tell Him no, it is not that I love them less, but that I could bear the pain of watching and knowing my sons' pain, could bear it with pride as they took the whip and nails. But You never had a daughter and, if You had, You could not have borne her passion.
So, He says, you love her more than you love Me.
I love her more than I love truth.
Then you love in weakness, He says.
As You love me, I say, and I go with an apple or carrot out to the barn.
To all the noises that my garden made,
It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and birds.
A robin with no Christian name ran through
The Robin-Anthem which was all it knew,
And rustling flowers for some third party waited
To say which pairs, if any, should get mated.
Not one of them was capable of lying,
There was not one which knew that it was dying
Or could have with a rhythm or a rhyme
Assumed responsibility for time.
Let them leave language to their lonely betters
Who count some days and long for certain letters;
We, too, make noises when we laugh or weep:
Words are for those with promises to keep.
posted from my iPhone
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total darkness sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
- Posted from my iPhone
At one of Quentin Crisp's question and answer sessions in his one-man show,
a girl in the audience asked 'What is the quickest remedy for a broken heart?'
to which he replied:
'The quickest remedy is that you must learn not to
value love because it is requited.
It makes no difference whether your love is returned.
Your love is of value to you because you give it.
It's as though you gave me a present merely because
you thought I'd give you one in return.
This won't do.
If you have love to give, you give it and you give it where it is needed,
but never, never ask for anything in return.
Once you've got that into your head,
the idea of your heart being broken will disappear.'
No one's fated or doomed to love anyone.
The accidents happen, we're not heroines,
they happen in our lives like car crashes,
books that change us, neighborhoods
we move into and come to love.
Tristan und Isolde is scarcely the story,
women at least should know the difference
between love and death. No poison cup,
no penance. Merely a notion that the tape-recorder
should have caught some ghost of us: that tape-recorder
not merely played but should have listened to us,
and could instruct those after us:
this we were, this is how we tried to love,
and there are the forces they had ranged against us,
and these are the forces we hand ranged within us,
within us and against us, against us and within us.
High school band. Memorial Day.
Country cemetery. Marched all the way.
We stood in formation, took off our caps.
Stood with the nation, we played taps
Year before Kennedy, year before King.
Last year I cared about anything.
But for that moment, we were one.
Notes drifted across the plains.
Swallows signaled oncoming rain.
Station wagons, pickup trucks
Rescued us then turned to rust
We put on new uniforms
Crisp, creased. Tattered, well-worn
Some forget where we come from
Some come to rest
When he was twelve, took my only son
Lost ourselves in the Smithsonian
Then Abraham, above the Mall.
Then raised our hands, touched the wall.
Headstone horizon, eternal flame
Unknown lie with familiar names
Sacrificed daughters and sons
So I could cry
The man I love enters the kitchen
with a groan, he just
woke up, his hair a Rorschach test.
A minty kiss, a hand
on my neck, coffee, two percent milk,
microwave. He collapses
on a chair, stunned with sleep,
yawns, groans again, complains
about his dry sinuses and crusted nose.
I want to tell him how
much he slept, how well,
the cacophony of his snoring
pumping in long wheezes
and throttles--the debacle
of rhythm--hours erratic
with staccato of pants and puffs,
crescendi of gulps, chokes,
pectoral sputters and spits.
But the microwave goes ding!
A short little ding! - sharp
as a guillotine--loud enough to stop
my words from killing the moment.
And during the few seconds
it takes the man I love
to open the microwave, stir,
sip and sit there staring
at his mug, I remember the vows
I made to my pillows, to fate
and God: I'll stop eating licorice,
become a blonde, a lumberjack,
a Catholic, anything,
but bring a man to me:
so I go to him: Sorry, honey,
sorry you had such a rough night,
hold his gray head against my heart
and kiss him, kiss him.
I'm having trouble just being happy lately. Unfortunately when adversity happens we forget ourselves.
It's normal I suppose but it's upsetting and brings a sense of helplessness.
Sometimes it just takes a friend to remind us. My friends do this.
Thank you, Fred.
- Posted from my iPhone
Based on a creative idea from Gedeon Maheux of iconfactory fame, here is my (horribly late) Story Songs post. Please be kind.
I thought it would only be fair to use the songs I thought of right off the bat when Ged first mentioned the idea. However I feel compelled to explain a bit about where they come from. I liked the idea of the blog post first because it sounded fun and would get me motivated to write a little something, but I also liked it because I've always been a fan of songs with a little novelty to them. I think its something that could paint me in an unflattering light just as easily, because (and this is where I felt compelled to explain) I've always been pretty lenient when it comes to music. (I was nervous the intelligentsia would poo poo my taste in music as provincial.) I like most things I come across, I like to think I can enjoy almost anyone's music (having said that, I have to also admit I can't stand Country music, except maybe the stuff my Dad used to listen to, which is now officially "Old Country".) My relative new finding is folk music, which I have never really listened to but have been enjoying in small doses lately. To sum up, anything new and different to listen to is ok by me.
So without further delay, here's a few of my favorite Story Songs.
1. Michelle Shocked "Anchorage" Short Sharp Shocked
Choosing this song, which I first listened to years ago around the time I was at Mass College of Art, was a no brainer. It seemed a pretty obvious choice, since the style of Folk music, and Michelle's style of singing in this album and song in particular is very much pure storytelling. Its not hard to see why her debut was so popular, I really love her voice, and the story is sentimental, like me.
2. Dire Straits "Skateaway" (Rollergirl) Making Movies
I loved the video that they made for this song, it told the story of someone surrounded by so much city but still in her own world, with music, perfectly. I didn't have to live in NYC to appreciate it, (but I did.)
3. Jim Croce "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" (or Bad, Bad Leroy Brown take your pick) Jim Croce's Greatest Hits
Without meaning to, I'm picking music thats older than I am, but I defy you to not sing along to either of these two songs driving in your car somewhere away from the Cape Cod traffic where you can drive fast enough to enjoy the experience. Some of my earliest memories of music have Jim Croce albums in them, as his tragic death in a plane crash was upsetting to hear about for a little kid. Time in a bottle was a killer in retrospect to his death, and years later "New York's Not My Home" was a pretty tough song to listen to in my sad little Manhattan apartment all alone.
4. Chris Smither "No Love Today" (The fruit and vegetable song) Drive You Home Again
I heard Chris singing this song on NPR one night, and the lyrics were so amazing I scribbled down just enough to look it up on the internet when I got home so i could get the album. For it to count in the Songs that tell a Story category you'll want to find a live version where he explains the roots of the "the fruit and vegetable man" who figures prominently in the song. Chris lives in Arlington Ma, and if I had to guess, from what I've pieced together its because after coming to Cambridge for the folk scene he married a Bay Stater. He travels so much, I mean SO much I can't believe his schedule, but I keep waiting for a show here at home so I can see him live. He is why I got turned on to Folk music, he's a perfect addition to this list.
5. They might be Giants "The House At The Top Of The Tree" NO!
I love just about everything these guys have done. My good friend Dion in NYC turned me on to them with the single "The Sun" and I was hooked. I also lived in Brooklyn, (where they lived) and saw them live at shows in the city many times. This song is in this list because its a great little trip to a house at the top of a tree and back down, its sweet and funny and another one you will find yourself singing in that car with the windows down.