If a woman is not Cleopatra, who owns Egypt?

On March 21, 2009, a sweet old hag of a good girl whispered goodbye to su hijo in the East Los Angeles apartment that echoed as hollow as the heartbeat that stopped right when she wanted it to, regardless of whether or not she knew it was what she wanted.

She wrote a poetry chapbook and published in 2002.  Alane Rollings helped her edit it and so was gifted a signed copy – could anyone give a more personal gift?  (Did not J.K. Rowling have the same idea when she turned a book into a piece of a soul?)

Alane was the second wife of writer Richard Stern – not that anyone outside of academics would know who he was since he basked in the shadows of his fellow friends and writers (he said after all, that he didn’t need to write, only that he wanted to do so). But Richard too died and Alane survived him, although she moved out of the house that reminded her of him.

And she left all her books.  Once the writer was gone, the writing never mean anything to her either.

And so it came, that a poetry chapbook by the name of Good Girl was given to Wilson. Wilson owned an antiquarian bookstore in Chesterton, Indiana.  And like a good girl, it sat quietly on the shelf, gathering dust but holding back the sneeze.

Until one very normal August Saturday morning, when I nodded to the accordion player at the European Market and ducked in the bookshop to avoid the piercing glare of the sun AND and the florist who heard me say that buying bouquets of sunflowers were a waste of money.

And finally, such a chapbook finds a home on my own bookshelf, awaiting the day when I can read it to my baby girl.  Because she needs to know that womanhood is ugly and that some people add mascara and blush to the title of “mother” to disguise the pain that comes with it – the heartbreak that I’m sure that same baby girl will inflict upon me before too much time passes.  Because all decent human beings need to know who Lee McCarthy is.

And just to give you a tease, here’s a stanza from a poem called “Conrad’s Mother”:

A woman who lives alone

will go out at nine o’clock at night

to buy ranch dip for the carrots, cappuccino

truffle chocolates for the office, and yoghurt

even though they’ve taken the h out.  

Don’t be married unless you’ll be very married.

Marriage
BY LAWRENCE RAAB
Years later they find themselves talking
about chances, moments when their lives
might have swerved off
for the smallest reason.
What if
I hadn’t phoned, he says, that morning?
What if you’d been out,
as you were when I tried three times
the night before?
Then she tells him a secret.
She’d been there all evening, and she knew
he was the one calling, which was why
she hadn’t answered.
Because she felt—
because she was certain—her life would change
if she picked up the phone, said hello,
said, I was just thinking
of you.
I was afraid,
she tells him. And in the morning
I also knew it was you, but I just
answered the phone
the way anyone
answers a phone when it starts to ring,
not thinking you have a choice.

Poetry is dropping a rose petal in the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.

To relive my poor brain from straining it’s neurons to understand the biochemistry within it’s own biochemistry (so meta), I enrolled in a poetry workshop course that requires us to write enough poetry to create a chapbook.

Not only that, but we have 16 weeks to create a potentially publishable chapbook.

And, that potentially publishable chapbook must contain around 25 poems(!), each representing it’s own color woven into this literary masterpiece that bleeds from the fingers hastily typing “vivid verbs” for the deadlines.

As if I could manage that (on top of my two jobs, other schoolwork, and wedding planning)…

Here’s something that we kinda like and are willing to subject to your ever-reading, ever-critical eyes.  Bon appetit.

Breakfast

Little feet slapped the kitchen tile,
pitter-pattering to the table.
Chairs scooching
across wooden floors
as tiny fingers grabbed tiny plastic forks.

Butter spattered against blueberry flapjacks
as maple syrup pooled on the plates.
Crispy bacon crumbled
as tiny teeth chomped,
washing it down with chilled milk.

“Another round!” my breakfast bar flies
cried, tiny heads peering around the door.
Tiny messes galore as I made a few more
and as my husband gave me a kiss,
I wondered how much I’d miss

breakfast
when they weren’t so
little anymore.

Whenever it rains, you will think of her.

I found a new poet that suits my fancy and who has wooed me with words that both thrill and hurt at the same time, like the satisfaction of ripping off a particularly large scab: Bianca Sparacino.

I found a new book who’s silky soft pages have drawn me in like the purring of a cat as my fingers revel in it’s fur: the Book of Common Prayer.

I found a new spot in Starbucks in the middle of everyone and it’s like getting lost on stage amidst all the other dancers: the little round table against the wall-length window.

It’s raining. I can hear the pitter-patter of the drops punctuate my swallowing as the coffee slowly seeps into my bloodstream with the familiarity of my favorite drug. What a melancholy day.

It’s wonderful.

All of my new things match my melancholy mood. Grey is a neutral and it goes with everything. Sparacino’s words echo the idea that every person is build upon the foundation of their past and sometimes the concrete crumbles just a bit and makes every moment after that a little shaky. Sometimes you have to paint your life masterpiece on a grey canvas. Not that it’s a bad thing — all the colors seem brighter after that. The hardest part is finding a friend who is enough of an artist to understand that the background cannot be changed without changing the painting entirely.

And the Book of Common Prayer? The words slide off the tongue and splash into our soul like rocks thrown into a puddle. The initial emotional impact gets your attention but it’s the subtle intellectual ripples in the aftereffect that actually make the difference. It’s hard to see a poem that describes humans as fallen and frail human beings and not immediately realize the depressing atmosphere. At the same time though, one wouldn’t be able to appreciate the depth of emotion that drips from the Psalms without first recognizing the contrast.

And the corner table in the middle of all the retired people drinking coffee and reading the newspaper? Well the newspapers are grey enough without the grey window shade pulled down next to me. My mocha sits in the shadows of the table, a single drip clinging to the lid as the empty cup mocks me. No matter. I can still watch the raindrops racing each other down the pane, despite the greyscale wash.

It’s wonderfully melancholy. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a day like this. That’s the thing about rain. It doesn’t mean that it’s a bad day, an unproductive day, an un-motivating day.

There’s nothing wrong with the rain. It just doesn’t know how to fall upwards.

1/4 of four quartets = one quartet

Time present and time past
are both perhaps present in time future
and time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
all time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
remaining a perpetual possibility
only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
point to one end, which is always present.
Footfall echo in the memory…
Only through time time is conquered…
Desiccation of the world of sense
evacuation of the world of fancy
inoperancy of the world of spirit…
Or say that the end precedes the beginning
and the end and the beginning were always there
before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now…
Desire itself is movement
not in itself desirable.
Love is itself unmoving
once the cause and end of movement…
ridiculous the waste sad time
stretching before and after…
There is, it seems to us,
as best, only a limited value
in the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
for the pattern is new in every moment
and every moment is a new and shocking
valuation of all we have been…
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing…
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
and what you own is what you do not own
and where you are is where you are not…
Home is where one start from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated…
We had the experience but missed the meaning
and approach to the meaning restores the experience…
Time the destroyer is time the preserver…
Not fare well
but fare forward voyagers…
who are only undefeated
because we have gone on trying..
and all shall be well and
all manner of thing shall be well
when the tongues of flames are in-folded
intro the crowned knot of fire
and the fire and rose are one.

Thus reads my favorite lines taken from The Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot in order as they appear in the poem.

Part 2: People always clap for the wrong things

After much deliberation and thought that spanned several hours, I have made my final decision.

My nomination for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award is Beija-flor Cigano. I always have a special place in my heart for poetry and this is no different. I may speak Spanish and German and not a hint of Portuguese but that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the poems all the more. Poems were meant to be read out loud and sometimes it doesn’t really matter if we know the exact translation of what we are saying. The foreign words slip off my tongue and I find myself drooling over syllables that I have never pronounced before. Basically, I love listening to myself speak nonsense out loud in front of a computer screen while knowing that someone in the world can (hopefully) understand my awful syntax and realize the broken beauty that I spew forth.

The rules are as follows:
1) Post the award on your blog.
2) Thank your nominator (is it too much to ask for a poem?…probably)
3) List 7 facts about yourself
4) Nominate another blog that you think is deserving of such an award
5) Post these rules so the nominated blog and other people know what they are

Congratulations!