Category Archives: Sustainable Chaos

Allure

Before the play I watched her sit, posed, on a rock,
one knee bent up, near her chin. She was covered just so
modestly with what can only be called a frock,
one bright red shoe dangling from a pedicured toe.
Let me say more about her fabulous dress
which I got to observe going down the hill after
the play. Sheer and sleeveless, white, a mess
of summer flowers painted on the skirt.
Everything looked expensive and just exactly right.
I haven’t mentioned yet how old she was.
Seventy-something I’m guessing, which is why
it wasn’t a surprise to see her favoring her knees
as we made our way to the parking lot and why
I can’t get the way I saw her first out of my mind.

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These are my red shoes. Not hers. Still.

 

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I saw her before and after seeing The Unexpected Man at the Touchstone @ American Players Theatre (which is wonderful and which you should go see and which I will write about more if I can think of anything to say other than “perfect”) so of course I couldn’t possibly say anything to this woman about any of this.

The Drawn Line

Excitement at breakfast: a house centipede
dropped from the ceiling (the ceiling fan?)
onto the kitchen table and skittered
(that is their word; almost nothing else
so purely skitters as they) through the clutter
on the table and onto the floor.
My husband rushed in responding
to the hollering and the laughing.
We don’t kill house centipedes at our house.
We gather them up and move them outside.
All of us do that, but this time my husband did
because my son and I were still laughing
and hollering. I kept saying how
I thought it was a mouse. I must have said
“corner of my eye” a dozen times.

The gentle gathering and removing is the mode
for spiders too, for my husband and son. It isn’t mine.
I blithely kill spiders inside. I don’t even apologize.
We all smush ants, every spring
in the seasonal onslaught of ants
which recedes by the middle of June
whether or not we clean obsessively
or put out syrupy poisons, so lately
we do nothing but annihilate them on sight.

And once again I’m fascinated by that line
we draw and where we draw it,
what we kill and what we eat
and what all we’re willing to tolerate.

What makes us say “oh well,”
what makes us say “enough,”
what makes us say nothing at all
because we didn’t see it skittering,
not even from the corner of our eye.

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Here’s a great blog post about house centipedes, which advocates for not killing them. I concur. But I’m less open to any blog about live and let live modes for spiders. Or ants.

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The End of the World Will Be So Pretty

“I can feel St. Elmo’s fire burning in me”

some 80s band

Fallout will make the sunsets stunning
someone told me and I believe it,
just like pollution from St. Louis once
turned the sky above the American Bottoms pink
to contrast nicely with the deep dark green
of the Cahokia Mounds.

Those mound-dwellers had it all
but they don’t have what we have,
so much potential as wasted as
the best chocolate-chip cookie in the world
chewed four times and spit out
by someone with different body issues
than I have, having never wasted a cookie,
never not once in my whole life,
unless you count as waste that whole
eating more calories than you burn thing,
in which case I waste food all the time,
but I don’t count that way and I wish you wouldn’t.
 
If only self-loathing could contour
my shape! If only rumination paid off
in dollars and not cortisol!
If only the strange map of cracking
in the front left panel of my Ford
could show me the way to solvency.

Are all the mustards invasive?
The splash of yellow I see in fields now,
and Dame’s Rockets everywhere—
it’s hard to hate them
with their bright mauvey pink bouncing
in the breeze that is somehow not
strong enough to discourage mosquitoes.

Reconciliation comes before repair,
at least I think it does, and so I try
to love what’s here and who I am
and the massive disasters around me
and trust I will know what to fix when
it’s time to fix and until such time
as fixing is all I care about, I will just let
the fact that I am a large woman make me feel the same way
a bad song from the 80s can make me
happy, just happy, just really happy.

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Thinking About Camille Paglia in the Pool

I think she’d have a serious suit.
I think she’d wear a swim cap, no matter
how short her hair was currently.
I think she’d have a lane preference
and I think she’d express it to anyone
already there. I think she’d get her way.

Would she be a swamper? A splasher? A drifter? No,
I think she’d move through the water cleanly,
like an angry little otter. An opinionated knife.
She might critique my stroke. She might admire my
persistence. She might have a theory about how I float.

What would it be like to care so much
about everything? My husband’s like that.
I am not.

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She’s got a new book coming out, apparently–will probably buy it. Still think about Sexual Personae now and then. This article brought her to mind.

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The answer is, the question is

So when it all comes down,
what it all comes down to, what
the answer is, the question is
how I did, how did I
spend them,
those bits of time,
my moments, my allotment of them,
what did I do with them
where did I leave them
did I wring them dry
did I use them well
then clean and oil them,
put them away to use again–
impossible–not something
I would be likely to do
and not something
anyone can do with a moment

I gorged on some
and let the shiny wrappers pile right up
and this one–this one
I’m holding like an injured dove
but there are more, so many,
so many, they scuttled away
like roaches or I stomped them
like roaches
and anyway they’re gone

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I wrote this poem whilst on retreat at Holy Wisdom Monastery in Middleton, Wisco (a truly special place)

Oh children let me tell you of the 80s

Oh children let me tell you of the 80s when
we learned about gay because so many of
the men we loved got sick, they died, so
now when people try to calm themselves
about political mayhem they sigh and say, “Well,
we survived Reagan, we’ll survive ________.”
We say no, we didn’t, we didn’t all survive,
we didn’t, some pretty ones died,
they got skinny and sick with awful red blotches.
People wouldn’t touch them. Doctors wouldn’t
treat them. People wouldn’t say the word.
Reagan wouldn’t say the word.
I will say the word Reagan wouldn’t say,
AIDS, I’ll say it and I’ll also say
I blame him. I blame him. I blame him.

The ones who didn’t die, we worried they would,
the pretty ones, the ones who did their eyes better
than I ever could, and some of them loved women,
too, but we knew they loved men or
maybe they did or they just didn’t care what we knew
or what we thought we knew and we loved them so much
it turned out we didn’t care either and
they’re part of why we have non-binary rainbows now,
but children they’re dying now, too, too
soon, some of the prettiest ones this year, and
your middle-aged people are crying because
we were young and pretty once and
all the prettiest ones are dying.

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Red wine in a blue glass #sad

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Update 12/26

One of my students last week was saying “Freeze frame!” and other students knew the song, and I said, “Wait–are you talking about the J. Geils band?” Yes, they were, they love it. This was in a class where they were practicing teaching a p.e. unit to elementary students (I volunteered to be a naughty student so they could practice how to handle that). One of the lessons involved teaching us the words & motions to “Y.M.C.A.” I asked one of our staffers (who was also volunteering) if he thought students knew what a big part that song played in gay culture, and he didn’t seem to know it, so I’m guessing students don’t, either.

So the 80s are back, but as far as I can see, in a pretty shallow way. Which is fine, except there are things that are important to know about the 80s, including AIDS. One of the reasons I give away condoms on campus is that I heard on the radio a couple of years that the only demographic group where AIDS cases were going up were college-age people in rural, white areas (my students, in other words). I suppose I could look up the stats to be more precise, but the point is, as with so many things, there’s so much they don’t know.

Some caveats: I remember spending so much time early on when we talked about AIDS saying over and over again “it’s not just a gay disease,” and it wasn’t, and isn’t, but we nearly lost a generation of gay men, so many of them creative and amazing–what would the world be like if we could’ve slowed it sooner?

(I also remember that we said to each other that men wearing so much makeup didn’t mean they were gay–or two earrings, or one earring on the right–and of course it didn’t, but we wondered. I remember spending a lot of time wondering. Just barely post-adolescent, I remember how sad I was to find out some singer I loved was gay because that added one more layer of impossibility he’d ever marry me. I felt the same way when I found out Walt Whitman was gay, because not only was he dead, he wouldn’t have loved me like that, anyway. Because, of course, it was all about me.)

And another thing–I revised the wording here a little. The day after the election there were several tweets saying “But we didn’t all survive Reagan/Bush.” I can’t find one that said “The thing is,” but I woke up this morning worried I’d copied the wording too closely. So I changed it. If I find that specific tweet, I’ll link it.

Bellamy

I was pregnant at your funeral so I know
how long it’s been—twelve years without your voice,
North Carolina humming like a soft-spoken ghost
in the house of your sentences. But you could be hard. Oh
my God—you made us practice our phrasing when we sang
medieval rounds. Around a freaking campfire.
I never knew just how much edge you’d bring.
You could really give the higher-ups what for,
and no one does that at our work, not any more.
Such beauty and talent and genius and grace!
And yet I saw you clip your nails in a meeting once.
(I just sat there praying you wouldn’t do your toes.)
My house is almost, not quite, as big a mess
as yours. I haven’t felt the grief you muddled through.
I haven’t done the brave things I saw you do.
You loved good friends so much and good food too.
We always met at Christmas. I miss you.

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Azaleas–a pretty southern sort of plant.