Here’s a poem I really like. It’s by Brenda Shaughness.
I Have a Time Machine
But unfortunately it can only travel into the future
at a rate of one second per second,
which seems slow to the physicists and to the grant
committees and even to me.
But I manage to get there, time after time, to the next
moment and to the next.
Thing is, I can’t turn it off. I keep zipping ahead—
well, not zipping—And if I try
to get out of this time machine, open the latch,
I’ll fall into space, unconscious,
then desiccated! And I’m pretty sure I’m afraid of that.
So I stay inside.
There’s a window, though. It shows the past.
It’s like a television or fish tank
but it’s never live, it’s always over. The fish swim
in backward circles.
Sometimes it’s like a rearview mirror, another chance
to see what I’m leaving behind,
and sometimes like blackout, all that time
Myself age eight, whole head burnt with embarrassment
at having lost a library book.
Myself lurking in a candled corner expecting
to be found charming.
Me holding a rose though I want to put it down
so I can smoke.
Me exploding at my mother who explodes at me
because the explosion
of some dark star all the way back struck hard
at mother’s mother’s mother.
I turn away from the window, anticipating a blow.
I thought I’d find myself
an old woman by now, travelling so light in time.
But I haven’t gotten far at all.
Strange not to be able to pick up the pace as I’d like;
the past is so horribly fast.
Pretty great no? It’s funny how some poems feel like they were written just for us, as if the author knew exactly where we’d find it and what it would do to us, hitting us in the gut in a coffee shop! Or heart. Our insides somewhere. I love this part of poetry. How fast it is. How in just a minute or two you can cosmically connect with a total stranger, dead or alive, and feel more seen or heard than you have by actual people. That’s powerful stuff!
I’ve recently been reading Anne Sexton–her history and her poems–and both are intense and curious and heartbreaking, but deeply resonant and I’m eager to read more. I plan to order someones cheap, used copy off of Amazon, and hopefully I’ll find parts that are underlined or circled with little notes in the margin. This is one of my favorite perks of reading (used) tangible books as opposed to electronic, kindle types; the human mark on the pages. They’re like little visceral clues of other life, but exceptionally personal. More confidential than say, finding someones grocery list, although there are treasures to find in that too. Maybe I am just an alien from another planet seeking signs of life and getting way too caught up in casual life leftovers. But somehow I feel less alone when I see a persons scribbles to the side of a page. Their unique handwriting next to that flat text against the page– It heightens the effects of the words. It brings the whole thing to life. It always makes me think that someone else sat alone somewhere, reading these same words and they were compelled enough to write themselves. Maybe it was there way of writing back, hoping someone somewhere along the way would read what they wrote and feel something. I don’t know, but there’s just something…nice, about that. Anyway, I think I will start with The Awful Rowing Towards God. Or maybe Live or Die and go from there. Did you know that Anne Sexton had two sisters, and one was named Elizabeth Jane, and the other one was named Blanche Dingley? BLANCHE DINGLEY?! I wonder if Elizabeth Jane gave Dingley shit about that.
Since my genuine exposure to the “old times” has been either black and white photos or black and white film, these color photographs that have emerged of life in the 30’s and 40’s have found their way into every corner of the intweb and are a real gem. Every time I look at them I feel like I am glimpsing a reality that I’ve never truly felt connected with. The olden days have been described to me by my grandparents and in magazine articles and I’ve laughed at the way actors speak in old movies and their gay, wordy advertisements– but for some reason it’s just always seemed like a story. It never quite felt personal. I know it was real, because my grandpa used to tell me war stories and I’ve sat through history class since 3rd grade, never truly appreciating that there really was life before me. So it’s funny to me that something as simple as color could bring something so distant to life for me, but these really do that. It’s like looking at thousands of paintings of Jesus and then being handed a headshot.
Basically, the disconnect between then and now was broken, and I dove right in. The prints were taken on Kodachrome by the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information throughout the 30’s and 40’s respectively. They were then released by the Library of Congress in 2006 for an exhibition called Bound For Glory; America in Color. I don’t know why the element of color has upped the real factor to such a high degree, but I never get tired of looking at them. I have to remind myself constantly that they aren’t actors and they aren’t in costume.
For as long ago as the “old days” have always felt to me, something about these color prints remind me it really wasn’t that long ago. Can you imagine showing the people in these photos an iphone? Or trying to explain the premise of Facebook? (Kind of makes me feel disdain for the times we’re living in) So much has changed and yet inside, I don’t feel we’re as far apart as we think. Then again when I looked at Facebook a few minutes ago, I may have changed my mind.
I think a lot about the “records” we’re leaving behind for the generations who will come after us. Looking for clues as to what life was like in our day, for the strands of humanity that tie us all together no matter how many years have passed. Will there be Facebook 100 years? How will our grandchildren study us? It hit me a few days ago that this blog is somewhat of a record itself- a sick girls life and her dog and yada yada. It then occurred to me that if I die tomorrow..the blog would live on. It has its own shelf life now. Unless I leave someone in charge to disassemble it once I’ve gone on. But I think I’m fine with it living without me. It’s turned into a community of sorts and that’s something I hope will live…forever? But my Facebook page– Maybe somebody should kill that.
So it was cloudy and California’s version of cold today and since it was one of those days that a normal person might go to a gallery..I brought the gallery to me and started looking at art online and some of this stuff was just too good not to share. It made me wish I was an artist. But the only art I’ve made lately is this drawing of Mario Lopez from December.
Maybe I should stick to writing. Or sharing actual artists work in this case. Here’s what really stuck with me today.
So this conceptual artist Rachel Perry Welty uses everyday items in sequence or on repeat per se to construe American “middle class minertia” as she puts it. In her show “Lost in My Life” she uses the byproducts of her domestic life to make for some unusual and beautiful prints. I couldn’t get over the stunning visuals and patterns brought on by tiny objects I see all the time.
I love how she never shows her face and how the small pieces become part of her apparel. Awesome stuff! You can read more about her and her exhibition here or here. For me the most inspiring part to hear was that she didn’t even enter the world of art until she was 36, and her work and ideas emerged out of lack of materials and time as she was a full-time working mother when she began. Word.
OK and then there’s this:
How effing cool is this? Artist Doris Salcedo filled a gap between two buildings in Central Istanbul with roughly 1,550 chairs and her intent was to create a “topography of war” embedded in everyday life. Whatever you deduce from it, you can’t deny that visually it’s just spectacular and the simplicity of materials with such a complex and poignant result is surprising, not to mention its impressive scale.
OK last and not least I discovered a poem today that I found so incredibly enjoyable that I realized poetry can be fun and good modern poetry does exist. My friend Giselle, a ceramic artist, hates poetry mostly and I understand why, and a lot of the time I hate it too. (It doesn’t stop me from writing it or reading others) But this poem today, well it just really stuck with me and reminded me how much fun an often sad art form can be. It’s a little lengthy so click here to read it. It’s called Tap Waterand is written by Mathew Yaeger. Job well done dude! A few favorite lines are:
What good is it
polishing to a shine the pile of dimes on which your life
has turned. You feel blessed or you feel regrets.
When a woman has entered your life and then
left it you are changed and while you may change
forward into something resembling what you once were
you most certainly do not change back.
So, I guess that’s enough art for our cloudy cold Tuesday. Monty is bored. I’ll see you next time.
The sound a rotary phone makes
When you hang up the receiver.
The smell of tires
And how you know before you walk in
the door of the auto shop
that the computer will be old,
and the colors will be red and black.
The sound of ice in a glass
And a something liquid gold
pouring slowly in.
When Monty’s Tail Wags While He’s Sleeping.
Riding in a cab
In New York City,
The urban slideshow
through a square cracked window
slows down the fast city.
and the driver mumbling
in a quiet language an American girl
will never need to know.
The way Gwyneth Paltrow smokes cigarettes in The Talented Mr. Ripley.
The second of stillness
When you drive under a bridge in the rain.
New showering products.
A woman tying a man’s tie.
The crinkling of a newspaper
When a man eats his breakfast
With one leg crossed over the other.
Being a woman
Wearing a dress
and the clicking of heels
on the old wooden floor
toward whoever spent the time waiting.
A fresh piece of chalk
on school chalkboards.
And the slowness and fragility
of that 90 year old librarian
Who stamps the due date in my book
with her veiny tissue hands.
That feeling you get
When you kiss someone new.
Like everything is different
Though everything’s the same.
I love getting late birthday presents in the mail. Wait, I love getting mail period. For one thing, I think the art of letter writing is becoming extinct, so it’s always pretty special to get something written in one of a kind hand-writing, written just for you. Dear Mary… Anyway, late birthday presents are like those blooper scenes they show during the credits of a movie you liked. Just when you thought it was over–bam! My brother Nick and his wife Estee sent me two new shirts and a skirt and a necklace with a hand-written card, the best! And my sister brought me shopping at Nordstrom. Her and Keegan have kind of adopted me as their 28-year-old child. Keegan even sent me to my room yesterday. I also unpacked my suitcase at their house two weeks ago, the first time I’ve really not lived out of my suitcase since February. All my siblings are like extra parents, each pitching in to help in their own ways and I am really thankful for that. It’s easy for me to forget that my situation could be a lot worse. They have all encouraged me to visit them, and that is a real gift. Anyway, I love shopping and I love new clothes, but it has turned into such a silly thing for me to love, mostly because I never wear normal clothes anymore. I never really go anywhere and I hardly see people besides Monty and my family. My uniform has evolved into leggings and t-shirts–every guys fantasy.
Last week and all weekend was a sick week. Like a sick day, but you know, times 7. I once wrote that I was the mayor of Migraine City, but I am upgrading myself this week to Governor because my head is super angry about something and apparently wants the world to know. Here’s your shot head, let it all out! Every day I keep telling myself I will get dressed in my new clothes and I will go somewhere and I’ll do my hair and makeup and look like someone who has her shit together. But, that has yet to happen. “Tomorrow” I tell myself. Then the song from Annie starts playing in my mind and I bet my bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun, and I will go out in it! Since I’m in Cali, there is always sun, but when you have a migraine, it feels like if you were to go outside under that bright sun you’d start melting like the witch from the Wizard of Oz. Anyway, the migraine cycle continues, but why am I talking about migraine cycles? I’m even boring myself.
When I’m in the throes of a sick week, I can start to get down. And also start to go stir crazy. So there are a few things I do and a few things I don’t do. Maybe most importantly, I do not watch TV during the day. There is just something undeniably sad about daytime television, and sunlight coming in through the blinds..maybe reflecting off the TV screen? Yuck. The only time I don’t find a sunlights’ reflection on a TV screen depressing is on the weekends when we’re watching football. Exceptions to every rule.
First, I keep a book on hand and I read. I swear it’s like I’ve discovered the joy of reading only last year..at age 27. Pretty ridiculous since I discovered the joy of writing at around age 9. I feel like I’m catching up on all the years that I began books and never finished them. I always associated reading a book with homework, something I had to do. It never felt like I had a choice in the matter. As soon as book reports became part of my schooling in 6th grade, it became my goal to see how little of the book I could read and how high a grade on the report I could get. Unfortunately, I work really well under pressure–so the night before it was due I’d skim through the book, find the important parts, and write a flowery report. I almost always received A’s on them. I was actually proud of myself for being able to complete the work this way! What an idiot. Anyway, now that I have really experienced what getting lost in a book is like, I feel like I have years of catching up to do. So that’s partly what I’m doing. Especially because it’s not sad at all to read while sunlight is coming through the window. In fact it’s the most fun to go outside and read. Monty and I had been going to the park daily, but I crashed mid-week and we haven’t been back yet. Anyway, right now I’m reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. A true story about a woman who lost her way and decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by herself, with no experience. Truthfully, it’s a little difficult to read because she is in a lot of physical and emotional pain so far, and I like reading to carry me away from real life, so in that light it’s not been as fun to read as Gone Girl but I’m just about 1/3 in, so I’ll see how the next 50 pages go.
The second thing I do is create something. It can be anything from a four line poem to a line drawing. The goal is not to create a masterpiece work of art. The goal is to let your soul do some talking. Sometimes what you make will be crappy and sometimes you’ll surprise yourself. But the thing is, now no matter how sick or worthless I felt today or the fact that I never got dressed in real clothes, at least when someone asks me what I did today I can say “I wrote a poem,” or “I drew a picture of a stupid cat.” So now today was not a complete waste. Here are some simple rhyming poems.
*I am tired
But do not sleep
I am sad
But do not weep
I close my eyes
And count to 10
If I still feel it
I’ll do it again
Until the clouds part
And the dark clears
I’ll think of my loves
And not of my fears.
*In the corners of my mind
In the absence of a dime
I think about home
In a house that isn’t mine.
*At night I roam
through consciousness alone
Would I have chosen this
If I would have known!
*At least at the end of day
Where I never got dressed
I can say I wrote a poem
And that’s something I guess.
Normally I hate rhyming poems, and I don’t necessarily love these. But, they’re what came out. So I let them. Because that’s what my soul had to say today, and it doesn’t really matter whether it’s good or bad. It’s the fear of making something good or bad that is dangerous. Once I let that fear go, I kind of free myself. The worst that can happen is you write a shitty poem or you draw a shitty picture. Certainly there are worse things! Either way, you’ve got something to look back on or laugh at or talk about, and you weren’t completely at the mercy of illness.
I drew the above drawing a few days ago. It turned out to be one of my favorites…drawn on a sick day where I never got dressed. It started with a very simple shape; a leaf. Then I repeated the pattern and this is what turned up. I had no idea what I was sitting down to draw that day, but it’s another example of letting your soul speak. Or stillness speak. I just know that when I designate time to letting things come through me, I am usually surprised. I end up creating something I never could have thought of myself. It’s strange, the way sometimes your dreams can be insanely more creative or smarter than you are in real life. I guess it’s the subconscious at work. This one is titled “I Don’t Normally Look Like This” and is for sale for $10.
Anyway, that’s been the last 7 days. Fingers crossed that tomorrow is migraine free and filled with more energy and I get to wear some happy clothes and run errands like humans do. If not, well then…it’s back to the drawing board.
When I wake up
Everything is just how I left it
In between tossing and sheets
sweating and dream world,
the killers wore off
And it’s as though nothing has changed
I still feel everything.
Because the hour is inappropriate
To start a day now,
I re-dose and wait
And this is admittedly exciting for me
That’s what they call
The thrill of relief.
When the killers go to work
I will struggle but win eventually
I’ll go back to dreaming
Where everything is the same.
I heard once
That you don’t feel pain in your dreams
Which makes me wonder
Where I’ve been going every night.
Last night I dreamt of money
And big powerful bankers.
I counted my money repeatedly
And my fingers throbbed
Until I dropped it all
watched it scatter
When I awoke I couldn’t recall the amount
Something had changed
But my fingers ached the same.
When I awake a final time
It will be inappropriately late
To start a day
Everything that once was numbed
Will have seeped back in,
alive and noisy.
The jury is out
On the purpose of pain
But each night it comes
Then the killers kill it
And I return to dream world
Until it comes again.
When I awake,
Everything the same.
Once again, I’ve been up all night unable to fall asleep. Restlessness, achy legs and a moving mind have kept me up. But you know what the best remedy for insomnia is? Waking up! So I’ve been up reading poetry by Rumi and writing a little most the night. Here’s one.
A Still Heart
I have a friend
who closed shop on love.
When asking her what led her here
She placed one hand on her heart
And the stronger hand on her head.
“My memories,” she said. “My protection.”
She couldn’t forget
All the hurt
That broke her
So she made up her mind
Climbed in a benign box.
I grabbed her hand
The one on her head
and looked into her
with my third eye.
I have seen what love can do
It had killed me a few times, too.
But what she considers protection
In other light was a prison.
Hadn’t she heard?
The heart will continue to break
Until it breaks open.
All her memories
can do for her now
Is make her heart stand still.
And living things–
they die this way–
We are meant to move.
Night is my other best friend. The darkness allows you to be alone, eat alone, and there are no silly questions about it. You’re allowed to sit in a room with no tv and no music and no electricity and nobody asks why. I like to lay with Monty at the end of my bed and think of everything that is alive. I start with me and move across the room, the street, the neighborhood, city, state, and then I move up. Out. I pan out and watch it all from above, see where I fit. Spot the breathing electricity out of windows. I do this for hours at night. I try not to get blindsided by some faulty thought that I am alone. Because that isn’t true. When I look through the lens properly, it’s clear that all the little beams of light coming through all the little windows connect us. And in dissillusioned visions that imply you’re alone, you find in kind silence, you’re not. That little list you’ve made of everything separating you- turn it upside down. Make a funny doodle of it. It’s a delusion gaining momentum. To position yourself away from the world and claim you’re alone is uncreative; as if this is your only life! You’re not. It isn’t. And all the energy you’re expending effects every little window you think you aren’t connected to. It dims the lights.
If you’re alone, then why do you feel sad when you see a stranger cry? Because you’ve held her pain before. Why do you feel bad for the prisoner, the killer? Because you’re capable of hate, too. And you gave money to him on the street, when you know just what he’ll buy with it. But he showed his gold teeth to you and you smiled back and didn’t let anybody see–You’ve been desperate, too. And you felt loss when you killed an ant and sad when you watched an elephant. You’ve been looked over before. If there’s only you, why do you smile when you see a dad playing with his kid and a grandma teaching someone to cook and a dog making someone laugh and old people holding hands? Because you’ve felt unconditional love, too. How even the thought of lemon makes your mouth water, you know just what that kind of love tastes like. Why when you’re all alone in bed does your mind flood with all the people of the world, the ones you’ll never see, and the open parts, the good parts that haven’t happened yet, and a deep warmth rises in you, that though your body is weak your spirit is strong and for a moment it will occur to you just how big a dent you can make. Because you are not alone. Just as when the lights turn off, there is blackness and in the newness you think everything’s disappeared–Adjust. The chair is still there, where it always was. Now you see it when you look with right eyes. You couldn’t be the only one here. You’re important, but not that important. You’re not everything. But you contain the energy and carry the weight of everything that ever was.
You embody every war won and every battle lost. Every kid that died and everyone that survived. Your fingers touched the cotton of every cotton quilt and your arms grew heavy from the labor all day long. You’re jaded from all the gold in the world not being enough and blind from an excess of things that left you empty. Your tears are made of theirs. Your laugh makes the same sound. Your heart is made of all the holes of infedelity and the solidity that binds it is made of loyalty and kept promises. That’s why every heart is capable of breaking but can also be reassembled. Just as it can hurt, it can heal. Ask a child to love you and she’ll know what to do. That’s why when you cry, I cry too. And that’s why when you die, I’ll die too. When we see each other there, after having all this fun, we’ll laugh at the bad parts, rejoice at the good parts, and once again we’ll smile together.
Tell me again, how you think you’re alone? These aren’t bad things, friend, these are treasures we share.
Today has been a nice day all around besides only sleeping a couple hours last night. I have an incredibly hard A&P LAB final tomorrow, a test that we should have been studying for over the last two weeks, and I’ve devoted maybe an hour to. It’s very hard to focus on that class right now. I feel I’ve been spoken to, and it’s leading me down a road that does not require Anatomy and Physiology.
I spent the last few hours importing some new poetry I wrote while in NYC in the Spring. I took out my books, but I couldn’t stop thinking of some of these poems, so I put them down.
I feel more connected to the world than I ever have before. It both scares me and excites me. But in the back of my mind, in the spot that often is the only thing telling you the truth, I feel that this is going to be a good thing…whatever this turns out to be. In the meantime, I can’t stop thinking of these lines by e.e. cummings. I wrote them in my notebook in the spring.
“May I Be I is the only prayer-
Not may I be great or good or beautiful or strong.”