Thursday, May 21, 2009

phlox flux

Tired and Ready for a Bed of Phlox

Lilacs, busted from the branch,
their twiggy stems beaten
with a wooden meat mallet
(because heaven knows, if it doesn’t kill you,
a beating just might make you stronger)
as they rest now three rooms away from here,
filling the entire house with their thick scent,
their, hello, I’ve survived to decorate your house,
whether you like it or not, here to stay in your face;
however, down the hall, around too many sharp corners,
I’m night-scheming for the moment the wild phlox bloom,
out of sight for winter months, carrying zero scent on arrival,
they bud and peak each moonlight night prior to their ultimate
color explosion of white, pink and lavender as far
and as wide as a crow can fly a country block,
to which my only wish this darkening evening,
is to find the freedom, on daylight, to roll in phlox flux,
releasing their petals and the hard lump in my throat
which I fear tonight is the bulk of too many long-held tears.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In the Thick of Things

I wrote the piece below this exact time last year, and it's that time of year again, what can I say:

spring meditation

mourning doves
and morning glories
from the bottom up
feeding, reseeding
fight for flight
the bird twice shy,
the flower,
determined to climb
and I?

the moody
brooding woo --

fades as
wings whistle,
by the tincture,
one brave flower
with mood renewed
finds eye.

Thick, I say! The trees are bursting, the flowers are thirsting. To take a deep breath right now is to take a whole chunk out of the sky, a pollen-filled jigsaw puzzle piece of spring that you breathe into your lungs, right into the thick of your own things, and you become a part of all thick things.

Bees, ladybugs and flies are flitting and hitting the screens. When I go to get my mid-morning coffee at the drive-through, the woman who serves me every day, nearly 365 days of the year, has to wave away hornets and butterflies to hand me my java. It’s like a Disney flick with birds zippity-do’ing around in the background.

Yes, I believe we are in the thick of spring.

And this next piece, stems from a conversation I had yesterday about Anne Sexton. I had sent her biography to a friend a long while back, and he’s weeding his way through it now. I warned him to watch out for her death, since if you are reading her biography, you have to deal with that ultimate end.

I read her bio in the thick, thick, humid month of July 2003, and although I was ready for her death, I was not as ready as I thought. Experiencing it through the pages of her biography, I was angry at best, and wondered over why such a talent would take to the garage with a towel ready to stuff it all into the exhaust pipe. However, I can also say, some six years later I feel differently about it now, which was something this friend and I discussed as he works his own way through her bio.

The following is the poem I wrote that heavy-laden July of 2003, upon reading about her death, as if I was viscerally experiencing it for the first time, and like I said, anger flew up into my throat.

I tried to work it out in a poem which reflected the loss, but also the gain which remains in the words she left behind. When I look at the poem now, I see it as a poor attempt at trying to hang onto that little bit of joy, since hers was a big death … and not a “little death” which is a pet name for suicides and orgasms … and some poets call their own poems “acts of suicide” without any real blood, which makes this poem, I guess … an attempt at, I’m not sure what?!?!?!

dear, dear a.s.

the air was thick
moisture-laden corn silk
the dead of night
having come alive
seething like snakes
jaundiced fingers
strangling life.

a soul unraveled
attempting to erase
from hearts and minds
your words live
as you intended
making this yet again
a failed suicide attempt.

I say Live, Live because of the sun, the dream, the excitable gift ... from Sexton's ending poem for her book Live or Die.

Surely the words will continue, for that's what's left that's true
… Anne Sexton (the brat!)

And now, as if this blog is not long enough! Oh, but it isn’t until it includes, as a finale, two poems by Sexton … the first her words on Sylvia’s death, and words about death in general:

Sylvia's Death
for Sylvia Plath

O Sylvia, Sylvia,
with a dead box of stones and spoons,

with two children, two meteors
wandering loose in a tiny playroom,

with your mouth into the sheet,
into the roof beam, into the dumb prayer,

(Sylvia, Sylvia
where did you go
after you wrote me
from Devonshire
about raising potatoes
and keeping bees?)
what did you stand by,
just how did you lie down into?

Thief --
how did you crawl into,

crawl down alone
into the death I wanted so badly and for so long,

the death we said we both outgrew,
the one we wore on our skinny breasts,

the one we talked of so often each time
we downed three extra dry martinis in Boston,

the death that talked of analysts and cures,
the death that talked like brides with plots,

the death we drank to,
the motives and the quiet deed?

(In Boston
the dying
ride in cabs,
yes death again,
that ride home
with our boy.)

O Sylvia, I remember the sleepy drummer
who beat on our eyes with an old story,

how we wanted to let him come
like a sadist or a New York fairy

to do his job,
a necessity, a window in a wall or a crib,

and since that time he waited
under our heart, our cupboard,

and I see now that we store him up
year after year, old suicides

and I know at the news of your death
a terrible taste for it, like salt,

(And me,
me too.
And now, Sylvia,
you again
with death again,
that ride home
with our boy.)

And I say only
with my arms stretched out into that stone place,

what is your death
but an old belonging,

a mole that fell out
of one of your poems?

(O friend,
while the moon's bad,
and the king's gone,
and the queen's at her wit's end
the bar fly ought to sing!)

O tiny mother,
you too!

O funny duchess!
O blonde thing!

February 17, 1963

Wanting to Die

Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the most unnamable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention
the furniture you have placed under the sun.

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.

In this way, heavy and thoughtful,
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.
Suicides have already betrayed the body.

Still-born, they don't always die,
but dazzled, they can't forget a drug so sweet
that even children would look on and smile.

To thrust all that life under your tongue! --
that, all by itself, becomes a passion.
Death's a sad bone; bruised, you'd say,

and yet she waits for me, year and year,
to so delicately undo an old would,
to empty my breath from its bad prison.

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
raging at the fruit, a pumped-up moon,
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

leaving the page of a book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the look, whatever it was, an infection.

February 3, 1964

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hot Rod Hearts ...

Folks, if I didn't play with words all day, I'd go crazy. Some might point out that because I play with words all day, I am crazy. Dunno, the jury is still out on that one.

But here's some fun stuff. The other night doing some work for an acute care hospital, every single one of the consults I did had heart concerns, to which you are saying, how bloody interesting for you Anne. Not!

Oh, but it is, I'll show you. I pulled a few of the words from each of the reports, on each heart that was being consulted upon:

There appeared to be a small mass or vegetation seen on the mitral valve, specifically on the anterior leaflet ... Um so, doesn’t this totally make you picture a heart with vines growing all around it, like one of those houses covered with ivy, that no one is caring for, and gradually they cover the whole house including the windows.

Because there are cardiac windows, you know. They sound kind of hopeful, don’t they "You have limited opportunity with me, but my cardiac window won’t be open forever you know!" Or, I guess they can sound kind of desperate.

She has calcified mitral apparatus. Okay, so tell me that doesn’t sound like a heart that has turned to stone, with no turning back. At least with vines growing over the windows, you have a chance, but solid stone?!!?!?

Sick sinus syndrome … sounds like the heart has cried out too loud, too many times, and now has a stuffy nose.

Trapped left lateral ventricle. I hate when that happens. It sounds like you are stuck in an affair, held down by your left ventricle, and you just can’t get out.

Cardiac silhouette, hearts dancing in the night, how sweet, shadows of intrigue.

Wandering atrial pacemaker .. is that when your pacemaker, gets sick of your heart and starts “seeing other people?!?!?!”

Flailed anterior leaflet of the mitral valve. Okay, so clearly a heart that’s been beat to death! Unfortunate.

Permanent pacemaker. I think that’s what your heart feels it has had installed when you finally meet your soul mate. That is, of course, if vines haven’t completely covered your cardiac windows and that no one has flailed your heart into a million pieces.

Pacemaker interrogation. That’s when the heart police come by and check out your heart pacing history to see if you been aflutter at any point in the recent past. And/or it’s probably like a talk show where they put your heart to a lie detector test in order to see just who it’s been beating for!

Irregular, regular rhythm … on a heart lie detector test, maybe not so good. But, if you are falling in love, all the better.

Irregularly irregular rhythm … you are either totally in love, and/or totally screwed!

Remote “cabbage,” but what the doctor is really saying is remote CABG (coronary artery bypass grafting), but it always makes it sound as if the patient has had cabbage for dinner at some point.

All I know is the heart when you dissect it makes for a pretty messy salad.

And so, yeah, upper case in point, if I didn't experience an atrial thrill and flutter working with words all day I'd go nuts! Or am nuts, tough call.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Collaboration Station

Great Expectations

Failing miserably
at taking shape
achieving depth,
haphazardly thrown
seedlings tangled
in a flight for life
obliterate my garden.

Staring down
the tangled mess,
a branching network,
no clear path exists,
beyond dirty glass,
as my thoughts retreat
inward onto themselves.

Deep inside,
dust resides soundly,
outlining forgotten dreams,
long since Havisham’d.
buried deep within
this entire time
I stared without.

Where to turn
next or at all,
burns the question,
in this dimly lit room,
snuffed candle stubs,
burnt at both ends,
no middle room.

My toes curl
against the chilled
marble hearthstones,
facing an ashen grate,
long past sunset,
and in my hand,
the final match.


The man within
has died again,
trying to retrieve
the child inside;
now where
can he run,
where will he hide
his own corpse?

He kicked down
every last wall,
splintered poles,
bent the hinge
and tore the hasp
and is free now;
but at what cost
does a ghost travel?

****The words are mine, can't deny them. The photos, however, are recent shots by Gary Scott Gebert, who should keep a camera with him at all times. I think you will agree. The former is "as is," and the latter shot I tweaked a wee bit to fit the words. ****