Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Scalded



He'd waited too late--as he usually did. You would think he'd learn. He thought he would learn, had learned, but he didn't tell her about...., hadn't told her, wouldn't, shouldn't...no! Strike that thought. No need to confess anything.

Better get out of bed, make the coffee. No strike that. Coffee at 3:17 am was a bad idea.

Tea. 

He'd make tea, some kind of non-caffeinated tea, just what she would do, what she liked. He stared at the two tea packets he'd wormed out of the back of the silverware drawer. Who keeps tea in a drawer? He did. Pulled them out and laughed. Both packets were wrinkled, really crumpled beyond recognition. One of them Ear....something, maybe Earl Grand? Earth Good? Early Great? The bag was too bent and broken to make out the words, maybe Easy...

"Shit," he said and threw it away.

The other packet clearly said Mint. Actually, it said Min, the last letter obliterated, but the bag was green, and it smelled like mint, and the water was boiling, so he dropped the tea bag in yesterday's coffee cup, poured in the water, sat at the kitchen table, and took a sip. Burned his tongue and probably irreversibly scalded his throat, which gave him another reason to hate tea, but....but, something to tell her, to make her laugh at his chronic ineptitude, his tea story a bit of an apology, a first step back: "Look how inept I am, how vulnerable, just like you...."

No! Drop the "just like you." 

Say, "What would you have done?" 

Or  "What kind of tea should I drink at 3 in the morning?" 

Or he could say "I should have called you," then laugh in that self-deprecating manner he'd been working on.

And she would smile, say, "It's all right" or "I'm glad you didn't call. How thoughtful." 

Or.... maybe he should just whisper, "See how much I need you." 

Or just, "I love you," and all would be healed, made right, back to normal.

It hadn't worked all that well before, but better late than....no he couldn't go there. Just leave it at that--better late.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Windy Talk

        Will the wind ever stop blowing?

What kind of question is that? Of course it will.

But, then it'll start up again, won't it?

Eventually, but not immediately.

So, that's the answer, as in "no, it will never stop blowing."

That depends.

On what?

Well, on what you mean by stopping, as in stopping forever, never to blow again.

Oh! Aha! I see. That is different from pausing, stopping altogether versus pausing for an unspecified time...which could be minutes, or hours, days or...

Weeks.

Months.

A year.

Seconds? No stopping for seconds hardly counts because you would hardly notice.

Well, a sailor would.

A sailor on a boat with sails, you mean.

Well, obviously, but I meant here, in our yard.

What is the difference? Wind is wind.

But a sailor depends on the wind for transportation, movement. Here, it's just an annoyance.

Or a welcome friend on a smoldering day.

Unless it's blowing grit in your eyes.

Oh no, I'm not going there. This conversation is about wind, only wind.

But, who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I.

Hmmm, that sounds familiar. "But when the trees bow down their heads/the wind is passing by."

Exactly! Oh, that is good, really good.

Yes. Christina thought so.

Christina! That Italian woman I saw you with last week. "Just a friend," you claimed.

Christina's a poet. Christina Rosetti.

That explains nothing. I suppose the wind just blew her into your arms.

He laughs.

This conversation is over, she announces and stomps past, no, blows past him, missing his final words.

"The wind is passing by."

Monday, June 10, 2024

In Beauty

It was early. Too early to be up and walking around the house, tiptoeing around the house because it was so early--the sun just rising, sending streams of light through the windows, enough to see that her sister still slept in the other bed, enough to see her parents, two lumps in their bed, one of them snoring, but softly, a wheeze of air in, then a rumble out.


She knew those sounds because she was a night walker. It was that secret, private part of herself that she never mentioned to anyone. Now that it was almost summer, the sun illumined her silent explorations, her soft padding from room to room, checking on the sleepers. Not even the dog stirred, but the cat always followed her, just as silent, the two of them going room to room. All is well. All is well. All is well.


That's all she needed to know, that all was well as the new day began its slow unfolding, its promise of the familiar. Oatmeal for breakfast (even in summer) and her dad's first hug, "Good morning, Princess." and her mother's, "How long have you been up?"


Always the same questions. 


"With the sun," she'd say because it was true. 


"Everything is fine," she said next, because it was true.


"Thank you, Princess." (Her father.)


"I'm so glad." (Her mother.)


And another day began in peace, in joy, in sunlight, in beauty.



(Inspired by Joy Harjo's "Eagle Poem" which ends with


                            We are truly blessed because we

                             Were born, and die within a

                                 True circle of motion,

                         Like eagle rounding out the morning

                             Inside us.

                             We pray that it will be done.

                             In beauty.

                             In beauty.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Paying Attention


Rosemary squatted next to the gutter, watching the debris from the top of the hill make its slow swim downhill, puddle by puddle. It was still raining, not hard, but clearly water was falling from the sky, but so slowly Rosemary could almost see the individual drops hit the stream.

It had rained hard and steady during the night, which explained the sure flow in the gutter, with just enough sprinkle to keep Rosemary's private river moving.

She counted the debris, a word she had just learned from her mother. "Don't muck around in that debris," Mother had said, with that ominous tone that meant the "debris" was bound to be interesting...which it was.

A leaf, a twig, scraps of paper--just what you would expect in a city neighborhood.  Rosemary was patient and enjoyed the muted swirl of shape and color.

She'd tried to dam the steady flow, but that just left her hands dirty (and she had to admit after her mother pointed it out, smelly.) She was now wearing COVID gloves, leftovers from the pandemic, made of some thin-as-skin fabric, so she was free to catch and examine whatever floated by, hoping for a prize, a mystery, an unexpected object with a story, to add to her collection of beetle shells, torn scraps of plastic (primarily bright yellow), once a lid floating face up without taking on water. She loved her parade of detritus, a word new to her, but a word that perfectly described her hunt for the unexpected or unknown. And, it gave her the perfect answer, when some kid, or even a stranger, an adult, asked What are you doing?

"Watching," she always replied.

"For what?"

or

"Why?" 

or

"How?" (The hardest question so far, from Mrs. Crumpy down the block.)

"Like this," Rosemary had said, and exaggerated her squat, "Just like this and watching as best I can."

"Good girl," Mrs. Crumpy had said, without the usual follow up Why? (An adult question.) or That's stupid! (From another kid.) Not even a snort or a manufactured smile, or the worst, a meditative "I see..." when clearly they didn't. 

"Good girl," Mrs. Crumpy said. "You're paying attention."

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

To Be Alive


    Her hands ached, both of them. From the clenching no doubt--unclench, then clench; fist, tight fist, really tight fist, then the ease of the muscle and tendons loosening, lengthening, becoming four fingers and a thumb again.

  

  She liked thinking about what she couldn't see, but knew was there--the bones, veins, tendons, and the hundreds, no thousands, millions of organisms keeping her alive, whole communities of bacteria, viruses, even fungi, getting up when she did, well, most of them, she assumed, while she made a cup of coffee, waited for the paper, checked email before the day really started.


    She woke early so they had to too, the day shift at least, the ones who kept her eyes lubricated, her head upright, her blood moving and warm. When she got up, the fungi were up too...if they even slept.

 

   Her back hurt in the morning these days--diminished help from the invisibles or the inevitable protest of age? Well, at least, she, and they, weren't dead. That was the best quality of pain: it was uncomfortable, even painful you might say--ha ha--but she and her multitude of organisms were still alive, still kicking. She should be grateful....and she was, even though she generally rebuffed any order or even suggestion that she express gratitude for discomfort. It was life...and then death...pain--discomfort--disappearance for them all.

 

   Well, enough of that. She stretched her fingers..and both thumbs, rubbed shea cream on each knuckle, spread the length of every finger, admired the soft glow of the massaged skin, made a fist, a second fist, and said, Yes, we will all live another day.


Halleluja!

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Bot Luck


   "It's going to rain today."


"It doesn't look like rain. The sun is shining."


"Barely. And I see a cloud."


"A cloud?"


"Well, more than one. A couple.


"And that is why you think it is going to rain?"

She laughs. "No, of course not. My phone says it's going to rain."


"Your phone?"


"Yes. The weather app on my phone."


"So you trust a square you can't communicate with more than the two eyes--and brain--you were born with?"


"Well, it knows more than I do."


"It?"

"The Bot it. The Bot who puts information on our phones. You know, the automatic information transmitted to us--all of us--and mine says 'Present location, rain 90%.'"


"And the eyes and brain you were born with?"


"You already said that. My eyes can read the very clear message, and my brain interprets it. Accurately, I might add."


"And what do your eyes see when you look out the window?"


She walks over to the kitchen window, makes a show of peering intently across the back yard, then left, right, then up...just as the first drops of rain begin to fall, and, in celebration and affirmation, the first clap of thunder.


"Thank you, Ms. Bot," she says, not loudly, but calmly and without the inner smirk showing on her face.


He is silent for a full minute, then says, "Well, you've always been lucky."


"Yes, I know," she says. "Married you, didn't I?"

Monday, May 27, 2024

Skipped Generation

    Marianna was shy, quiet, reserved, but she knew how to pay attention. That's what her mother had said. "You are always there, paying attention. Watching, but silent. Too silent."


Mariana didn't know what that meant..."always there!" A bother? In the way? Her mother's voice was kind, but controlled, when she said that, on the edge of appreciative rather than condescending or critical, so Marianna guessed, no, knew it was a compliment, well, almost a compliment, something her mother had appreciated about her or, at least, could bear.


Not that she was perfect. Oh, no, that had always been clear. You would be so pretty if you.... or Women that make something of themselves always.... and, once, Speak up! Say something, anything--Spoken too loudly, almost a shout. Marianna wished now she'd been able to say, "I'm just thinking or I'm not good at that or I'm trying, or, more truthfully, I can't.


She was used to herself now, and had a life, a partner, a job, a few friends and, best of all, a chatty, witty daughter who talked all the time, even before the sounds coming out of her mouth were more than syllables, her babble practice for the stream of language that eventually emerged--opinions, joy, anxieties pouring from the music of that little girl's mouth.


"Do you ever stop talking?" Marianna asked once, overwhelmed by the flow of language from a tiny girl's mouth. Her daughter looked up in surprise and behind the surprise, was hurt--or was it embarrassment, a feeling Marianna knew well.


"I love listening to you," Marianna said. "Don't stop now!" 


She took a breath, her daughter took a breath, and chatted on, and then following, after that and well, guess what? .....How her mother would have adored this child, this tiny child, this impossibly wonderful little girl who always had plenty to say, even when nobody was listening.


Friday, May 24, 2024

The Other Way

     Too much coffee, not enough toast described his breakfast perfectly. His daily menu left a hole in his  stomach, a caffeinated black brew that sloshed when he stood up, and dissolved the crumbs of toast, white toast, before it reached his gut.

    "Too much coffee," he said aloud. "That's what's wrong with me."

    "Nothing wrong with you," the young doctor had said. "Heart sounds good, lungs doing their job. You're going to live to be a hundred," he'd said, and then laughed as if that would be a good thing. Who wouldn't want to be a hundred, get your picture in the paper, and a birthday card from the president?

    He did not want to be a hundred, did not want another 12 years sloshing around his flat. She'd always called their apartment their "flat" although he'd pointed out, more than once, that there was nothing flat about it. The walls were a glossy hue of undulating golds and greens--her choice; the table was round and the backs of the chairs, curved--his handiwork.

    "And," he said, always the clincher, "We don't live in England."

    "But we could," she would say. "Or should. Even ought."

    "But we don't," he'd thunder. He knew now that his voice was too loud, especially when he was irritated or adamant. "We don't!" he'd said more than once.

    "But we could!" Her come back, always, not as loudly as his, but just as sure. "We could."

    A silly argument, one of those pointless back and forths they'd practiced for years, almost a call and response: I'm right and you're wrong. Or maybe it was just I'm me and you're you. Not really the game they pretended it was, but a statement of the obvious: he was he and she was she.

    Now he was alone and could do whatever he wanted.

    Yippee!

    But...

    (There's always a "but.")

    But it was so much better the other way.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

The Better Question

She heard the chirping before she saw the birds, baby robins in the nest she'd watched their industrious mother build, strand by twig by stalk with, Miranda was delighted to notice, a few strands of the blue yarn she'd scattered on the lawn for the birds and their nests...to make a house a home, she explained when Robert, her next door neighbor, asked if she was expecting the night fairies do weave all that mess into something.

She'd resisted correcting his word "mess" into "100% organic wool sheared from highland alpaca known for their calm disposition." 

"It's for the birds," she had said,  but he harrumphed off before she could explain that it was for their nests. The yarn, the alpaca yarn, was a bit of softness and beauty, not a mess.

His last words, shouted before he slammed his door, "Birds don't eat string!"

Poor man. She knew too well the signs of misery and dissatisfaction, been there herself when nothing was beautiful and everything a problem, designed to confuse her, trip her up, make her or something (there weren't any someones then) she cared about miserable.

She thought of knocking on his door, telling him what she'd learned by being quiet, by sitting--alone--and she, like Robert, was alone, but sitting alone at her front window and watching the world emerge before her very eyes brought her joy every day.

"You can do it at any hour," she'd say, "Morning, noon, or night. It's my time to be outside of myself and in the world without moving, to see the beauty we were born to."

She rehearsed the words in her head, silently, twice, imagined his harrumph, his perfected scowl, even his slamming the door. The more she thought about him in the little, perfectly groomed house, not a fallen twig on the sidewalk or a scratch on the smooth grey clapboard siding, the more she knew she had to do it.

She play acted the scene in her head: her timid approach, the too soft knock on the door, him flinging it open and shouting, "What?"or "We don't want any...or...."

But if she had a cherry pie in her hand, or even a plate of cookies, it might please him, might slow him down enough to see what she offered.

"But why bother?" she thought.

"Why not?" she said out loud, always the better question.

~

Two days later the perfectly washed plate appeared on her porch with a one word note: Thanx. 

Best he could do and good enough. Good enough is always enough.