Category Archives: Searching

Time to Get Weird

Having spent a fair bit of my life trying to fit
in spaces not designed for me, I’m now,
at 52,proclaiming fuck that shit—
I’ll squeeze in if I want or I will go
all rogue and say no thank you when the nurse
says “can we get your weight?” I swear I felt
like fucking Che Guevara. Own my mess
is one of my mottos. What I haven’t dealt
with yet I’ll either tackle or accept.
And if my tackling’s super slow, that’s also fine.
I now proclaim my life a modest success
chock-full of laughs. I’d rather be funny than right.
Ars longa, vita brevis, tempis fugit.
It’s time to write it all down before I forget.

_____
Happy Birthday to me!

We’ll see how well I hold to this resolution, but I am trying to accept my slow tackling. Acceptance–that’s the word from now until the end of the year. I picked a word for the year in January, momentum. Still a good word. Still aiming for that. But acceptance now, too.

Part of the fun of birthdays in this social-media-age is the flood of messages on Facebook. I’m trying (not always possible, thanks Facebook) to say thanks to all of them, and take a moment as I do to really be thankful for that person’s presence in my life. Some of them are very much from my past, so I try to think about that time for a moment.

This poem has Latin, which I won’t apologize for–people who don’t know it can Google, right?

And profanity–also won’t apologize for that, either.

It’s kind of a listing of mottos–the Latin ones, own my mess, my life a modest success, I’d rather be funny that right. It’s a middle-age indulgence, I think, the choosing and listing of mottos.

I thought of “I’d rather be funny than right” while I was driving and almost had to pull over because it made me laugh pretty hard. It’s just true.

My Mom often finds pink and yellow birthday paper for me because although neither one is my favorite color, the two of them together are my favorite color combination.
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The Insufficiency of Peripheral Grief

The wreck happened just up the road from me,
right when my brother and his girlfriend got to town.
Here’s the update you never want to see:
“The motorcyclist later died.” I didn’t know
I knew him until today. My mother kept
the obituary for me because she saw he swam
where I swim. I know his daughter from years past,
but hadn’t seen her grief on Facebook yet.
What can I say about a man I barely knew?
He was the perfect swimming lane neighbor.
Not too chatty, not a swamper, not a splasher,
not a drifter, nothing to distract me from the blue,
blue water I love. I guess he loved it too.
What good can writing a sonnet at this point do?

______
The man’s name was Michael O’Leary–I didn’t realize I knew him until I saw his picture, and even then I had to imagine him without the glasses (because he didn’t wear them in the pool). His daughter was my student a long time ago. She’s pretty great & I’m very sad for her & her family. 67 is just way too young.

____________

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I Can’t Stop Saying Hoagy

“I’m a bit disappointed in myself. I know I could have accomplished a hell of a lot more… I could write anything any time I wanted to. But I let other things get in the way…. I’ve been floating around in the breeze.” Hoagy Carmichael

I’ve realized I don’t know much about Hoagy
except how happy his music and his name make me.
I’m not even sure I knew that “Heart and Soul”
was really a song beyond plunking it out
on any random piano. I first heard “Hong Kong Blues”
from a George Harrison album. Weird but true.
Hoagy sings the whole song in “To Have and Have Not”
which my sweet little town showed on the big screen last week.
He called his onscreen self a “hound-dog-faced
old musical philosopher noodling on the honky-tonk.”
When someone who did so much still wants to say
it wasn’t enough? It was enough. Even just that scene
when Cricket asks, “Hey Slim, are you still happy?”
That smile, that wiggly dance, that smile expanding.

_____

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This is Hoagy Carmichael’s house in Bloomington, Indiana.

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.

_____

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.

______
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)