Friday, March 28, 2008

Sacred Footing


Propylaia portal!

Pass unto this ground

of sacred marble temples

and columns, that surround.

Remove thy leather sandals -

leave foreign lands behind.

Remove the blinding sunlight

from the eye within thy mind.

Speak not, yet, do listen . . .

for 'tis through the olive tree

the voice of wise Athena

unweaves the mystery.

Atop this limestone fortress

each pillar bears a name,

Stone faces turn to flesh, once more . . .

no thing remains the same.

Citizen eternal!

the aged roots of thee

thrive under the protection . . .

of this Acropoli.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Her chin was pressed so closely against her foot, that there was hardly room to open her mouth.

Lindy's Adventures in Wonderland . . .

"Down, down, down. There was nothing else to do . . . "

On gratitude for important things overlooked:

"`Curiouser and curiouser!' cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); 'now I'm opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!' (for when she looked down at her feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off).

`Oh, my poor little feet, I wonder who will put on your shoes and stockings for you now, dears? I'm sure I shan't be able! I shall be a great deal too far off to trouble myself about you: you must manage the best way you can; --but I must be kind to them,' thought Alice, 'or perhaps they won't walk the way I want to go!'"
On the law of an object in motion:

"`Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'

`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.

`I don't much care where--' said Alice.

`Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.

`--so long as I get somewhere,' Alice added as an explanation.

`Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.'"

On my presence and participation:

"Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question. `What sort of people live about here?'

`In that direction,' the Cat said, waving its right paw round, `lives a Hatter: and in that direction,' waving the other paw, `lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad.'

`But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.

`Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'

`How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.

`You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'"

On the guilt of self-pity and the self-pity of guilt and the guilt of self-pity:

"`You ought to be ashamed of yourself,' said Alice, `a great girl like you,' ( she might well say this), `to go on crying in this way! Stop this moment, I tell you!' But she went on all the same, shedding gallons of tears, until there was a large pool all round her, about four inches deep and reaching half down the hall . . .

. . . and in another moment, splash! she was up to her chin in salt water.

However, she soon made out that she was in the pool of tears which she had wept when she was nine feet high. `I wish I hadn't cried so much!' said Alice, as she swam about, trying to find her way out. `I shall be punished for it now, I suppose, by being drowned in my own tears!'"

On what things really are when I let go of what I want them to be:

"While the Duchess sang the second verse of the song, she kept tossing the baby violently up and down, and the poor little thing howled so, that Alice could hardly hear the words:--

`Here! you may nurse it a bit, if you like!' the Duchess said to Alice, flinging the baby at her as she spoke. . .

. . . `If I don't take this child away with me,' thought Alice, `they're sure to kill it in a day or two: wouldn't it be murder to leave it behind?' She said the last words out loud, and the little thing grunted in reply (it had left off sneezing by this time). `Don't grunt,' said Alice; `that's not at all a proper way of expressing yourself.'

The baby grunted again, and Alice looked very anxiously into its face to see what was the matter with it. There could be no doubt that it had a very turn-up nose, much more like a snout than a real nose; also its eyes were getting extremely small for a baby: altogether Alice did not like the look of the thing at all. `But perhaps it was only sobbing,' she thought, and looked into its eyes again, to see if there were any tears.

No, there were no tears. `If you're going to turn into a pig, my dear,' said Alice, seriously, `I'll have nothing more to do with you. Mind now!' The poor little thing sobbed again (or grunted, it was impossible to say which), and they went on for some while in silence.

Alice was just beginning to think to herself, `Now, what am I to do with this creature, when I get it home?" when it grunted again, so violently, that she looked down into its face with some alarm. This time there could be no mistake about it: it was neither more nor less than a pig, and she felt that it would be quite absurd for her to carry it any further.

So she set the little creature down, and felt quite relieved to see it trot away quietly into the wood. `If it had grown up,' she said to herself, `it would have made a dreadfully ugly child: but it makes rather a handsome pig, I think.' And she began thinking over other children she knew, who might do very well as pigs . . . "

On me - the part of the Caterpillar is also played by me:

"`Who are you?' said the Caterpillar.

`I--I hardly know, Sir, just at present--at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then".

`What do you mean by that?' said the Caterpillar sternly. `Explain yourself!'

`I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir' said Alice, `because I'm not myself, you see.'

`I don't see,' said the Caterpillar.

...Alice thought she might as well wait, as she had nothing else to do, and perhaps after all it might tell her something worth hearing. For some minutes it puffed away without speaking, but at last it unfolded its arms, took the hookah out of its mouth again, and said:

`So you think you're changed, do you?'

`I'm afraid I am, sir,' said Alice; `I can't remember things as I used--and I don't keep the same size for ten minutes together!'"

On knowing nothing:

"The Hatter opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he said was, `Why is a raven like a writing-desk?'

`Come, we shall have some fun now!' thought Alice. `I'm glad they've begun asking riddles.--I believe I can guess that,' she added aloud.

`Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?' said the March Hare.

`Exactly so,' said Alice.

`Then you should say what you mean,' the March Hare went on.

`I do,' Alice hastily replied; `at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know.'

`Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter. `You might just as well say that "I see what I eat" is the same thing as "I eat what I see"!'

`You might just as well say,' added the March Hare, `that "I like what I get" is the same thing as "I get what I like"!'

`You might just as well say,' added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, `that "I breathe when I sleep" is the same thing as "I sleep when I breathe"!'

`It is the same thing with you,' said the Hatter, and here the conversation dropped, and the party sat silent for a minute, while Alice thought over all she could remember about ravens and writing-desks, which wasn't much."

On the arrogance of boredom . . . the disrespect of Time:

"Alice sighed wearily. `I think you might do something better with the time,' she said, `than waste it in asking riddles that have no answers.'

`If you knew Time as well as I do,' said the Hatter, `you wouldn't talk about wasting it. It's him.'

`I don't know what you mean,' said Alice.

`Of course you don't!' the Hatter said, tossing his head contemptuously. `I dare say you never even spoke to Time!'

`Perhaps not,' Alice cautiously replied: `but I know I have to beat time when I learn music.'

`Ah! that accounts for it,' said the Hatter. `He won't stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he'd do almost anything you liked with the clock. For instance, suppose it were nine o'clock in the morning, just time to begin lessons: you'd only have to whisper a hint to Time, and round goes the clock in a twinkling! Half-past one, time for dinner!'"

On my fear of going hungry:

`Crawling at your feet,' said the Gnat (Alice drew her feet back in some alarm), `you may observe a Bread-and-Butterfly. Its wings are thin slices of Bread-and-butter, its body is a crust, and its head is a lump of sugar.'

`And what does it live on?'

`Weak tea with cream in it.'

A new difficulty came into Alice's head. `Supposing it couldn't find any?' she suggested.

`Then it would die, of course.'

`But that must happen very often,' Alice remarked thoughtfully.

`It always happens.'"

On seeing the truth that falls the illusion:

`Sentence first--verdict afterwards.'

`Stuff and nonsense!' said Alice loudly. `The idea of having the sentence first!'

`Hold your tongue!' said the Queen, turning purple.

`I won't!' said Alice.

`Off with her head!' the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

`Who cares for you?' said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) `You're nothing but a pack of cards!'

At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her: she gave a little scream, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to beat them off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face.

`Wake up, Alice dear!'

`Why, what a long sleep you've had!'

On waking into a new reality:

"`Now, Kitty, let's consider who it was that dreamed it all. This is a serious question, my dear, and you should not go on licking your paw like that--as if Dinah hadn't washed you this morning! You see, Kitty, it must have been either me or the Red King. He was part of my dream, of course--but then I was part of his dream, too! Was it the Red King, Kitty? You were his wife, my dear, so you ought to know--Oh, Kitty, do help to settle it! I'm sure your paw can wait!' But the provoking kitten only began on the other paw, and pretended it hadn't heard the question."

"In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream --
Lingering in the golden gleam --
Life, what is it but a dream?"

The above excerpts are from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass as they parallel my own adventures in this lifetime . . .

With lightheartedness and joy and in all seriousness - it is from here I begin.
All Original Illustrations by: John Tenniel
Alice and the tumbling cards and Alice holding the baby pig by: Arthur Rackham

Dear sister Singleton . . . to Alice . . . to Wonderland . . . to us!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Looking Down at Up's Reflection

We all met at El Charro’s Restaurant tonight for my mom’s annual would be ‘birthday’ dinner, were she still alive and eating. We had reservations for twenty at six-thirty. But first, let me back track, everyone met at Saturday’s Palm Sunday / Vatican appointed Saint Patrick’s Day mass where my mom’s name was to be mentioned in the memorial part of the service. Everyone but me, that is; I went straight to the bar at El Charro’s, at 5:30, and waited for everyone else to arrive after the mass. My mom was not a church-goer. She was the most spiritual, non-judgmental, loving, witty being I have ever known. But, she was not a cemetery visitor, a wreath layer, a church-goer, a mourner type. She was alive. She had experienced too much pain, sorrow and sadness in her life to waste anymore living hours revisiting those ghosts. She would have been sitting at that bar – and she was - with me having a green beer. So I, her dependable teenage rebel child who heard her devilishly inviting whispers in my ear and I sheepishly complied, skipped the church part (even though I am probably the most religious, dogmatic, ritualistic person I know) and went straight to the bar, her framed photo in my purse, and asked for whatever Saint Patrick’s Day drink the bartender had to offer. My mom was there with me. I had no doubt.

There was a guy next to me. I say ‘guy’ because he was probably in his late twenties. He was a man. And, he was a guy . . . the guy next to me at the bar. I told him I skipped out on church. He told me he skipped out on work. Cheers. I was waiting for my ‘party.’ He was waiting for his carry-out. We both watched the high school basketball game on the bar television. It really didn’t surprise me that one of the teams playing was Detroit Pershing High: my mom and dad’s alma mater. And, it really didn’t surprise me that the guy worked for a company that took over the old building that once housed the company my dad worked for, right down the street. I passed it on the way in, looked for the water tower I remembered as a child and had flash backs of driving my dad to work in the station wagon so I could use the car for the day. This is my home town. It’s not like I never come here, but it felt so far away and foreign to me today. There were a few more ‘coincidences’ that matter only to me. I knew my mom was with me. I knew I did right by listening to my heart and not giving in into the familial pressures - as invisible as they are; as real as they seem - nor the figments of fragmented guilt over my own civil disobedience.

I had two drinks before my family arrived.

I was trying hard, with all the strength I could gather, to have a good day; but I wasn’t. I was trying to keep my smile steady while my eyes welled up and I curled my toes into the floor hoping the pain of doing so would stop my overwhelming need to burst into tears.

“What’s wrong?”

“Is something bothering you?”

“You seem upset?”

Questions were coming in. I had no answers; only lies.

“Nothing. I’m fine”

I figured I could play the game too. I could pretend. I could ‘put my happy face on’ and get through the night. I gave it a shot, for the sake of the kids and my dad. But for the rest of them, well . . .

“What’s wrong?” With me? Me, the one who wanted to bow out if they were to start singing “Happy Birthday” to the lighted candle shaped like a little birthday cake that my aunt, my mom’s only living relative, brought. My discomfort annoyed them. My reaction insulted them. We didn’t sing. Thank God. My mom is dead! Dead. If I celebrate anything it will be the day she got to leave this craziness. Even the church celebrates the saints on the day they left this world for the better world.

What’s wrong with me? Hmmmmmmm? I don't have to think long on that one: I am without a job. I have been unemployed for longer than I choose to acknowledge. Despite putting resumes out every day, I have not found work. I am broke. I have liquidated all of my assets. I have canceled all of my policies. I’ve been without medical care and dental care for a year. I have no house. I have no food. Well, not much food. I have no money. I have no job. I have no peanut butter. I have no mother. I have no husband. I have no jelly. I have nobody. I am, for the most part, alone. I am alone (but not lonely) and moneyless (but not penniless) and foodless (but not starving) and houseless (but not homeless) . . . and for today, on this day, I am sad . . . but not suicidal. I am standing at the edge of the cliff looking down at up's reflection. I am not good enough to be a willing and able participant in this world; and I am not bad enough to be seen in my robes spun of desperation, fear and humility. Speaking of humility: it is a great thing, an honorable state - but when the robes come off and all that is visible is a scary looking ribcage holding the heart captive; that's when humility feels more like shame. And that is what I felt when being asked what is wrong with me and I clutched my robe tighter than ever before.

I am also in the midst of a powerful process; I am transitioning into the next phase of my womanhood – of my life – and I am doing it alone. Solo. Solo no one can hear me . . . an inside joke of my mom’s. I have no female elders left to hold my hand and guide my through this process – this long, dark tunnel of mystery. This winding, rolling, uphill path. This upheaval of pocketed and locketed emotions. This unraveling of memories – reel by reel. This exhuming of skeletal pain until only the marrow is holding me up.

“What is wrong with me?” ME?

I had another drink, a Jack and Coke; my mother’s drink. I didn’t eat. My stomach was knotted. I felt my mother. She was with me. And unfortunately, her pain was with me. But I’m not as good at covering it up as she was in her Jackie Kennedy fashion. I felt her pain. I felt my pain – and then I felt the pain of not wanting to charge a five dollar cheese enchilada.

“Lindy, you’re not eating?”

“Do you want some of mine; I can’t eat all of this?”

“Here’s part of a chicken burrito if you want it.”

Could I sink any smaller in my chair? Could I Alice my way into Wonderland oblivion?

I don’t know how I did it. I didn’t plan my escape at all. But, somehow, I found myself in my car and I was turning the key and I was backing out of the parking spot and I was approaching the exit of the lot and I was on the main road. I was gone. And I knew I’d have hell to pay for leaving without the formal goodbyes. And I knew no hell could be worse then my staying in the condition I was in. I knew some things, after all. I wasn’t that crazy.

I exited I-94 at Cadieux. There was some garbage strewn along the road. I turned right onto Harper and a couple of people ran across the street in front of me. I quickly slowed down so as not to hit them. That was real to me. This street is real to me. That litter is real to me. Those people running across the street in traffic was real to me.

I’m almost home. This is Detroit. I’m safe now.

Monday, March 10, 2008

My Dear Concubine

Touch me on the chance my concubine will dance - like the tiny ballerina twirls round and round and round treasures of golden chains and diamond reins in my girlhood box of charms.

Touch me - hands close and familiar - for my muscles shiver and my skin quivers as my bones recall the ancient tales of chivalrous suitors in shining armor with razored edges.

Touch me with the shrill of your sword and call forth her rebellion - fighting and crying, yet dying to obey her lord, his every wish . . . do this so that I, face to her face, can impale her and all her misguidedness.

My breath, my death, my fear, my shrine,

My dear concubine . . .

'tis late my turn,

your urn awaits.

Beautiful music to fly with

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Journal Entry - Hunger

Today I am fighting the fear . . . crying over my hunger . . . I am starving here. I have lost everything. I have become a nothing. I am lying on the ocean bottom and the world is sailing by above me; right over me. They don’t see me. They don’t look down. They don’t know where I am and they do not ask. No one asks. I am alone. I am alone. I am completely alone in myself. And I am trying with every ounce of energy I can gather . . . with every seed of faith I can find . . . with every bit of hope still left within me . . . I am trying to rise up . . . to understand that my invisibility may be what saves me – saves me from the sharks. My separation may be what saves me – saves me from the numbers’ fate. And when I am saved will I be bitter towards them in their ignorance?

Will my arrogance also rise with me and claw at the humility that has robed me and kept me naked at the same time?

I was once a part of something . . . and now I am apart from everything.

I was once one of them . . . and now I am none of them.

I was once happily of this world and now I find myself left behind and stranded on this world waiting for the familiar to forget my name. Is that what is happening? Am I being forgotten, as I have wished?

Or, have I pulled my hood down over my face? Could it be that I am responsible for my own disappearance? Is it my eyes that cannot see them?

Was that the sound of a coin dropping to the bottom of a can? My God, what have I done? Have I done it again? Have I gone to the extreme?

Why can’t I simply read the words in the lines? Why do I insist that the message lies between? What if, all these years, there is nothing between the lines but space? Have I only been fooling myself?

I am here because I am. I did not veer right or left as the road offered. I went straight into the crackled clay dessert, sure of myself that I was headed for the Emerald City.

I am here because I chose this route or non-route - as it appears now to be a detour.

I am here because something in me won’t let go . . . won’t let go . . . won’t really let go of the pain.

I am here because I won’t let in . . . won’t let in . . . won’t really let in the love.

All I can do is accept where I am and what I alone have done to myself.

All I can do is ask God for the grace to be transformed from a nothing into nothingness and pray that my house of mirrors will pack up and close its doors forever - not just for the off season.

(Will the bearded lady and the world’s smallest man miss my exhibit? Will I miss them? What will I be when not brightly displayed between them?)

All I have left is the hope that God’s light does shine brightest through nothingness.

I know it does. I know it will. When is the question. When?

Echoes of Hunger

I am alone

I am alone

I am alone

In myself

Won’t let go

Won’t let go

Won’t let go

The pain

Can’t let in

Can’t let in

Can’t let in

The love

Am I invisible

Am I invisible

Am I invisible

To all but myself

Am I forgotten

Am I forgotten

Am I forgotten

To all but myself

To myself

I cry

To myself

I weep

To myself

I curl up and tuck away

My stomach

My heart

My body

All ache

You give me your coins

I want your hand

I want your hand

I want your hand

To help me up