Monday, April 6, 2009

Wax Around The Cheese

Almost midnight Sunday night - to my surprise I'm
still alive. In fact, I feel quite chipper as I
nibble on cheese and crackers and sip some sort of
exotic brew - half tea and half lemonade and all
to the good, say I. These little round cheeses in their wax
certainly do delight in every way - not only the taste when
you finally get to it but the whole unwrapping process with its red
crackles and crinkles. Red is the key, red and
the whole Nantucket mystique. There's no way all this
tea and lemonade can come from that
tiny island; maybe maybe they drink a lot of it there, or
maybe it's as snobbishly superior to all other cool drinks as Nantucket is to
all other places one can visit. Personally I prefer the channel islands
off the coast of southern California - but Nantucket - oh, you know,
all those whalers, all those widows and their rooftop walks. Martha's
Vineyard with its blueberries is a really great place to be too, at
least for part of the year. There's a great merry-go-round in town with a
brass ring and there are community sings every week in a big barn. Com-
munity sings are the best, with the words up on a screen and a "follow the
bouncing ball" over the words to keep everyone together. And all this
with a little whole-wheat cracker and a tiny Edam cheese; I popped a
hole in the mesh around the cheese with a pen. Once I met a guy,
though, who though he'd met everyone there is to meet had never been on
Martha's Vineyard and, learning that I had been to summer-camp there,
and knowing that his girlfriend had lived there, thought this would be
a bond between us, not realizing that the campers were the bane of the
residents's existence. I had nothing against her of course but I sure
got the scornful nod of dismissal. Never mind, I thought, I was the
Best All-Round Camper then and I can be a good camper now, & I'll bet I
can swim better than she can, too. And memories of hot
blueberry-picking afternoons, hearing the bell-like sound of each
berry dropping into the pail, until the bottom was covered; eat a
berry, drop a berry in the pail, eat a berry, drop a berry. And back
at camp, singing the "Indian Love Song" while turning the freezer
handle for hours to make ice-cream to put on the pie. Although I know,
of course, that it was wonderful, I don't even remember eating the pie.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Little Night Music

I don't know whether to see this as willful idiocy or just
midnight hunger: I took out a box of Safeway whole-wheat
crackers and some of those little round Baby Bel cheeses I'm so fond of,
played with the charming unwrapping process until cheese and
cracker lay bare. The midnight hungers do hit hard some nights but
tonight I have already been feeling nauseated not only by the
paucity of interesting news but also by having combined some
foods at dinner that ought not be combined and are still working out the
space allocation down there where they all landed. All the while thinking of a
plan for kindly slaughter that I read about in a magazine put out by
autistic people. You treat the animals well, walk them up a ramp
single file. At the head of the line you draw aside one animal at a
time onto a separate track where it meets the guillotine all unaware.

After a half-hour or so of this, I decide that I am, after all, a
vegetarian, and need not trouble my mind with these matters. My
stomach has decided trying to settle down is a lost cause. As for the
rest of me, oh, good, here comes the nurse with a bunch of

Thursday, March 26, 2009

(untitled) "I wanna know what it's like to die ..."

I wanna know what it's like to die.
Will I see Skye? Will I really
fly? Will I never be able to taste tiramisu again
and are there pleasures after death greater than taste? Soon I'll find out,
of course, but I'd like to know about it while I'm still
alive. This little pain in the middle of my chest
annoys me; is it trying to tell me not to worry? Well, really,
worried I'm not; I'm inquisitive. No
answers in sight, I believe, so I think I'll lie down and
close my mind to all that, think about
Leonard Cohen.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

(untitled) "No, I can't have a ..."

No, I can't have a
breathing treatment; I just had one
not 20 minutes ago, don't I
remember? Of course I don't
remember; why
would I ask for one now if I
remembered? I wonder what harm there would be,
though, if I had too many
treatments. Too much breathing - can that be
bad? I guess it can though it's hard to see
just how. Too bad there's nowhere to store a little
extra breathing to use later on when I'm short. In the
meanwhile the cake crumbs are all gone so there goes
that entertainment. Guess I'll just have to sit here and
try to remember breathing until it comes
back to me. Meanwhile these
new glasses pinch my
nose. Always something, isn't there? I'll be glad
when it's time for breakfast and I can say
no oatmeal thanks, no
corn flakes either; what about a strip of
well-done bacon and some
hot buttered toast?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Moonless Room

Here in this room with the
curtains closed for many a moon, there
might as well not be a moon, for all I
can see, though no doubt there is one all right
going round and round (as I am too) up there with the
asteroids and debris - how much debris? I wish I
could see. I say goodnight to it anyway, imagining it
would miss me if I didn't, as I would certainly miss it if
it were gone. So many moons have gone by that I will soon be
87 - imagine! When my grandfather died at 80 we
thought he was really, really old (although a couple of years before
he made my mother angry by requiring us to visit a relative in
Taunton just because she was over 90. He wanted us kids to meet her,
but my mom did not think kids should be meeting old people just because
they were old - in fact, I don't think she thought we should be meeting
old people anyway, though my grandfather was already over 80 and
seemed old to us. Oh, Grandpa! Imagine - he took me to see Shakespeare
and also Gilbert and Sullivan when Mom wouldn't & wouldn't
even go herself; she thought these things frivolous. I remember her
arguing with a friend about Steinbeck ("I've lived "Grapes of Wrath - I
don't need to dwell on it") and Noel Coward ("He's very smart I'm sure
but what does he have to say? Nothing.") Mom liked to read The
Reader's Digest though she sometimes had to have her friend Coby
explain it to her. She frequently said that she felt sorry for me
because I was smart. Meanwhile I didn't feel that smart, though I did
feel she could be smarter if she wanted to be; once she said (though
she herself wore pants at home) "Women don't wear men's clothing," and
when I said "George Sands did" her retort was "Yes, but you're not
George Sands." This was how I learned that I could just ignore her, an
odd lesson but useful a few years later when she and her friend Scottie
were shocked to learn that I wanted to take German, not Spanish, as my
language requirement. Spanish they thought very useful in business;
German useless for anything and perhaps dangerous. Oh the craziness of
yesteryear and how odd that I had to take it seriously. And craziest
of all, Fraulein Schnieders, the German teacher, actually turned out to
be a real German spy! Just the same I learned some good German from
her and had some good arguments with her about Goethe (I didn't like
him - still don't). After the war I ended up, to my astonishment ("Who
cares how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?") in the
philosophy department with Suzanne Langer's "New Key," and have been
happy ever since to call myself a philosopher. And soon it will be my
birthday and I still don't know what phase the moon is in right now.
I'd like to have my grandfather's grandfather clock, tall as the room
and showing every day just where the moon was, in case the clouds
obscured it when looking through the window. Of course, though,
Grandpa had to get the key and wind it up every week or it wouldn't
show anything aright; how exciting it was to see the weights go up to
the top again, the pendulum swinging away. And you could tell it was a
pleasure to Grandpa to have us as audience for his magic act.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

(untitled): "Where did it come from, that..."

Where did it come from, that
odd mix of doubt and certainty, that
more-American-than-thou feeling? On a hill
far away there's probably an old
rugged cross and there's a brand-new
red barberry bush too and I think some
goldenrod - which does not cause
hay fever - ragweed does - but which
used to get blamed for it, being so
bright and obvious. Walking down it in the mists of morning, seven
or eight years old headed toward wisdom and passing the
mountain of compost from the wealthy neighbor's garden,
walking down the footpath, meeting Bobby Hutchison's
bicycle path at the bottom, off past Andy's house to horse-chestnut
trees and Eddie the crossing-guard cop and school, I knew
the names of everything and everyone and said them over
to myself or to my
pretty little sister beside me.

(untitled): "Calamites ..."

abound but this is one of them - to wake wondering
what's for breakfast only to learn that it's about half-past one in the
morning. Now is when I long for that garlic spread from
Colorado and some Safeway crackers, but no
such luck; the garlic spread has yet to
arrive. In my next life
I will grow garlic - grow it, harvest it, twist it into braids,
roast it, toast it, hang it all over the doors and windows, swim
night and day in its smell, and above all spread it (roasted) on
Safeway whole wheat crackers and pig out. Right now
I'll dream it, I think. It's the middle of the night. I'll
dream it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

(untitled): "Gilbert's gone"

Gilbert's gone, and I miss him,
the way I would miss a rib if you pulled it out,
the way I can't catch my breath and have to
put the cannula up to my nose. Gilbert's just gone, they
say to see his mother back home in the Philippines,
but probably we will never
see him again and there is no way
I can ever apologize to him for all the
mistakes I made or thank him for how he
helped me. These are hard lines; I may have to
turn into a different person, a kinder one, just to keep from
falling into the hole he left in my chest.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Roasted (cinquain)

garlic spread on
whole wheat crackers: You can't
beat it. Good thing too; dinner was


I want to write about how it feels to know you're soon to die,
but I don't know if it feels any different than not to know. I'm
scared of
dying in a coughing fit or other undignified posture; I'd like to die
like Bob,
just quietly saying "I love you" now and then and then,
stopping. But I will die like myself, however that will be, and it
won't be
with all you guys standing around my bed singing to me, either.
Meanwhile it's
fun to remember Bob and his friend whose name I've now forgotten,
"It's Fun to be Dead" with such gusto. I hope it will be

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Room With View

no sky, just
the tarmac, sheds, a
low wall, and the bank,
the green bank where before the
weather got cold I used to see deer. Pale
sunshine comes and goes; brief
showers stir the puddles. I remember trying to
climb a hill like that and getting a hand up from a
woman dressed not like me in slacks and sneakers but in
a dress and heels. earrings, long necklace; she grasped
my hand and I was up like a pillow. I thanked, she
nodded and was on her way, leaving me stunned and
Will all the rest of my life be lived
vicariously through windows? If I owned a
nursing home I would organize walks - canes for all and red umbrellas,
sturdy companions, stops at Bagel Nosh or Starbuck's. And I would have
gang of grandsons and granddaughters swirling around, getting underfoot,
scaring the help and making us laugh but never knocking us down. Then
windows would divert us with memory, not wist. Okay, there it is,
the view: tarmac, two sheds, a low wall, the
green hill. One shed has a
wise-ass face, the other sits there, square. with no
personality. A thrush runs up the gable side
after winged food, another pecks around in the
puddles. The square shed reminds of buildings in parks that
hold toilets. Yes, walks with canes and also
singing; I don't know why it's so hard to convince these people
that we need to sing. Every time a few of us are together
just waiting around, someone will start singing and
there we all ago, Clementine, Coming Round the Mountain, we
just keep going until someone comes along with
some "activity." But now I sit alone looking across at my
postcard-covered bulletin board - three pictures of Kali there. I
invoke her daily but so far without effect. Couldn't we have an
earthquake? Sick as I am I'm well enough to help
carry sicker ones. Then at last I'd have
something to do.


Friday, February 13, 2009

The Old German

What the hell was the name of it? The
German something. He said he always went there after class for
beer so I did too and there he was, Mr. "I'm not responsible."
Perhaps he wasn't. I always believed he took pride in how his
presence affected women; on the other hand I know
he didn't put on an act. In those days I had no idea how
a couple of glasses of beer would change my character, so
I entered a world then I knew nothing about. Could it have been
The Old German? Yes, I think that was it, The Old German. I wonder
if it's still there. And The Blue Front, where I went for poetry and my
husband went for nudist magazines, or sent me for them, astonishing me
finally by his rage when I mentioned this errand in front of
friends. His interest in nudity was
supposed to be a secret? This guy who hit on
every single woman (and some married ones)
he ever encountered? But then, other people's
secrets have always been mysteries to me; I'm not sure
I myself ever had one. Trying to remember my last
secret; nope, I'm a blabbermouth, don't
have secrets of my own and don't
keep other people's. Except I don't think I ever told anyone
how happy I was when one day I drove by that house he
built with his own hands and saw it had burned
to the ground. "You!"
he would say. "You
are the only
there ever has been or
ever will be." I must say I'm glad
he was the only him there ever has been; I don't think anyone
could stand him twice.

Tough (Cinquain)

Ribs hurt.
Back itches. I
can't get my breath. Feet stay
cold no matter how man-
y socks.

February in California

I want to go outside and sit sheltered and hear the
sound of the rain - the nearly silent rain that explains,
if I only knew its language, why
I have to lie here now with sore ribs and
listen, barred from walking out and getting wet. Time,
I suppose it would say. Some explanation. Time for me, though,
to get Stephen Hawking from the library and go through his
history once more, slowly. In large print, of course (because
of time?). Meanwhile I'll sleep with the sore ribs up; will
that make both sides sore by morning? I've lived through
worse & I'll survive this - just give me time.

Rain 2000 Miles and 80 Years Away

Lines from "A
Visit From Saint Nicholas" keep
running through my head, and won't
run out, or straighten out either. It's the hurricane
that's wild; the leaves
just fly. Outside my window
there are no leaves, only
steady rain, not wild either, quite tame rain and I
want to hear it but it's soundless in the night. These times I can
so fast slip back 70 years and lie in a brass bed in my
grandfather's house listening, knowing
just which trees were slippery now and which ones
I could if I went out in the night easily
climb. Once I climbed the front maple tree in the
middle of a hurricane, infuriating
my mother. What a ride. How little those years taught me
that has been of any use - but how present they still are. I
can walk up Pelham Road right now beside my
grandfather, pop open a milkweed pod and
watch the tiny parachutes adorn the afternoon. I can
slit a dandelion stem with my tongue and taste the
bitter milk as I curl it to stick in my hair. I can
paste a maple key on my nose. Chickoree, goldenrod,
asters, now and then some coreopsis in among the
rye grass. I want to think them useless memories but
joy is not useless. Then find a horse-chestnut, bore a hole in it with
Girl Scout Knife, tie the end of the string through the hole and
see how far it will go when you twirl it and let go
of the string. Far. Sometimes you lose it. Then you get out your
peach seed to whittle some more with the knife, making
a tiny basket to wear around your neck on a lanyard you
made at camp, or just
on a string. I am hungry now for the
meat of the poisonous peach seed. Bitter almonds,
before dinner. Oh, and another
seed that is good is the seed of a ripe pear. Here I am
over 80 and too sick right now to eat anything; maybe
it's the want of pear seeds that's
making me sick. But the memory - that's
making me well again.