Things That Feel Like Two Bricks Scraping Together

Strep throat, when you swallow, but that’s more of a
crash than a scrape. Or a crash then a scrape.
“There’s a wall in my throat! Pull back! Pull back!”
but whatever I just took in through my mouth says
“I’m going! Maybe it won’t be so bad this time”
but it is. It is bad every time.
 
Akin to nails on a chalkboard but not quite that
(and there are whole generations now for whom
that phrase means absolutely nothing),
infelicitous phrasing can sometimes turn my neck
to the side a certain way and those tiny, adorable
bones inside my ear scrape and because they are
right there inside my ear it sounds like bricks.
 
And when my son was still in diapers there were times
when I was changing him and he was being wiggly
or crying or otherwise developmentally appropriate
that I knew the resentment I felt could be overcome
with love but I resisted feeling that love, I fought
to hold onto the pain. There was a tie between
love beyond measure and something beyond annoyance
and they scraped at each other. Hard.

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We used cloth diapers. Over and over and over again.

Brushy Creek Runs Through It

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The beautiful Brushy Creek on the campus of UW-Richland.

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” Norman MacLean A River Runs Through It

“It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free”  Elizabeth Bishop “At the Fishhouses” 

Running water changes everything
and nothing. You can stand on the banks and count
the number of trout you see in Brushy Creek

just like you’ve done for half a century
or more, fishing or just thinking how
running water changes everything.

I like to pause there and pretend every morning
that some of my stress is floating away and down.
The number of trout you see in Brushy Creek

does vary, depending. I confess I’ve never seen
a single one, but that doesn’t make me doubt.
Running water changes everything

about a place. It gives our landscape meaning.
It shows us how to shift some things without
running the risk of harming the trout in Brushy Creek,

without giving up the goal of learning
who we are and what our genius loci’s all about.
Running water changes everything
except the number of trout you see in Brushy Creek.

 

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Post script:  apparently it’s BRUSH CREEK, not BRUSHY CREEK.  I think maybe I knew that at some point.  Or maybe not.  There’s not a sign anywhere, and I am very texty….  And I don’t hear well… But really, no excuse. I’ve been here since 1992.  I really ought to know better.  But I ain’t changing the poem because Brushy Creek scans better than Brush Creek.  Honestly, I think it should be Brushy Creek.  I might keep calling it that and see if it catches on.

I wish I could read poetry for the UW Board of Regents again…

But what would I say this time? Here’s what I said last time, thinking, among other things, of Shelley’s saying that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Emphasis on unacknowledged.

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THE VOICE OF THE LEGISLATOR

To those who currently do more with less,
Consider doing even more with even less.
For those requesting more, remember that
We’re giving less and less to those who ask.
Those golden days of doing less with more
Are gone. Don’t ask o where o where o where.
It’s like your family. All the good vacations
Got took before you could even walk. Unconscious
In your baby haze, you never knew
That Polaroid of everyone at the zoo
Captured the last moment in time and space
All the feelings inside matched the look on each face.
Grow up. You weren’t abused. No matter how bad
Things look, there’s always room to make more bad.

From the minutes of the April 10, 2003 meeting of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents:

Report of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
1. National Poetry Month
In recognition both of National Poetry Month and of the outstanding creative activity in which UW System faculty engage, Senior Vice President Marrett introduced poet Marnie Bullock Dresser, Professor of English at UW-Richland. Professor Dresser read several poems, including one she wrote especially for the Regents entitled “The Voice of the Legislator.”

And then you see the crossing guard dancing

She has the greatest hats, this crossing guard, cheesehead of course,
and jester’s bells, but lately there is no hat capable of covering up
her bare head so you know there’s chemo of some kind happening
which you haven’t mentioned to your kid but of course he’s noticed.

Sometimes each day’s a shithole full of rotted wood and spikes,
rusted iron ones that gouge you on the way down and down
and unfortunately you can’t stop knowing then, there’s always more
bad news and bad decisions and consequences you kind of did
but didn’t quite deserve but then the Pogues are next in the queue
and there isn’t anyone better than Shane MacGowan to illustrate
however much life sucks, however big a mess it is, there is joy
and music in the middle of it, in the goddam muck of the middle of it,

and then you see the crossing guard dancing as she points and signals
and you and your son together feel brought low by her being sick
then lifted up by her dancing and you nearly sob on the way to work
with happiness, with gratitude, for drunk tanks and police choirs
and you say out loud, “my heart” by which you mean your child,
and also the leaves starting to change color, and just your little, little life.

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All Right So This Is How You Meditate

Don’t get too comfortable. You’ll fall asleep
and dreaming doesn’t count. You’d have to wait
and try again another time. Who needs
that kind of failure? Trust me. Spend some time
just following the dots and blobs of color,
those fireworks, on the inside of your eyes.
Just kidding. Don’t do that. It is all or
nothing with this meditation shit.
Give yourself a little mental spank
for every single time that you forget
to think of nothing. You’re breathing wrong. You stink
at this. So many other people don’t.
Think what benefits they get. You won’t.

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Portrait of the inside of my eye. With Sharpies. (Also note: kitchen table now has this black pattern. Grr.)

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MAN EXPLAINS SWIMMING POOL TO ME AND I EXPLAIN THINGS BACK

We’ve had this exact same conversation before.
He stops me at the end of a lap, interrupts
my rhythm, smiles, explains what the black lines are for
on the bottom of the pool. “That’s the guide for laps,”
he says. The first time he told me this
I started to explain my side of things
but he repeated himself, once again pointing
at the bottom of the pool. I demurred to his preference.
But not today. Today I said, “Yes,
I know that, but when they have the lanes set up
so wide like this, there’s room for three across
and I prefer the middle so I don’t drift and bump
and scrape my hands on the lane markers.” I smiled.
He smiled. And said again what the black lines are for
and that since there were only two of us, I could
move over. “Yes, I could,” I said, “but we are
cooperating fine so far. We haven’t bumped yet.”
He literally harrumphed, “Pretty close,” he said.
“Well,” I said, “I only have a lap
or two to go.” And pushed off with a splash.
Never mind that usually there are three
in those wide lanes. And never mind the lane
to our left had one swimmer on one side. So he
could have gone away and left me alone.
We were following different sets of unwritten rules.
He couldn’t know that one of mine is don’t
even think of messing with my time in the pool.
Don’t throw me off. Don’t slow me down. Just don’t.

_____

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My happy place. For the noon swim time, they divide this into three wide lanes instead of six single lanes.

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And then I began another poem about swimming–will work on this more at some point….

In the pool I’m graceful, strong, and sleek, and fast,
at least compared to how I am on land.
I’m pushing all my thoughts out of my head.
In the pool, I’m more a body than a mind.

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It occurs to me what my husband always says when I talk about manspreading, that I’m as guilty of it as anyone. He’s pretty right–that I am pretty confident about claiming my space.

Also, this guy was being relatively polite in his tone, but it occurs to me he didn’t actually say anything like, “Would you mind moving over?” He really didn’t say he wanted me to move over until I said, “Yes, I know that’s what the lines are for. I like being in the middle.”

Do you suppose he’s written a blog about me????????

But I don’t need a magical t-shirt

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I was at a fun concert the other night & one of the musicians was hawking t-shirts and said, “they’ll make you look 15 years younger and 15 pounds thinner.” I thought and then said outloud, “But I don’t care about either of those things.” In that moment it was 100% true.

What an interesting journey I’m on. The Health at Every Size book has certainly helped.