There is something embarrassing about death.

April 2, 2017 § 4 Comments


If you forget to lock your car and it gets broken into, indignation masks embarrassment. You have, in a way, issued an invitation.

Die, and it provokes the question, what door did you leave unlocked? How did you invite death in?

Perhaps the dead look forward only, but if they glance back, that unlocked door is probably easy to see.

Too much sugar, cigarette smoke, a failure to look both ways, a blithely ignored message written into the genes, a job too stressful.

If only…. I sure wouldn’t do that again.

But dead is rather final.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Living in ordinary time.

March 5, 2017 § 4 Comments

img_7303_edited-1“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

T.S. Eliot

***

“Ordinary time” is a liturgical term for the seasons between the church’s designated periods of penitence or rejoicing.

Ordinary time: when the faithful practice their faith with no added fervor, self-scrutiny, or elevated purpose.

In borrowing the term I take it out of its religious context and apply it to life—and by that I mean, not Life, but life in the lower case. Lower case life is where we spend most of our time.

Extraordinary time, that is Life, is when we make those bursts of flight that give loft to every life: falling in love, having a child, earning a degree, receiving an award, bowling 300.

dscf3841
Ordinary time does not leave a trail of shiny objects we have to dust, letters appended to our names, a credit scrolling on a wide screen.

Those are cairns that sit solemn in the grass while the world goes about its ordinary business.

Ordinary time passes without fanfare. It minds its own business.

« Read the rest of this entry »

The Bears on the Stairs.

February 26, 2017 § 2 Comments

bear-2

****

There is a place at the top of the stairs,

that’s a favorite haunt of nighttime bears.

They park their butts so fuzzy and wide,

two across and side-by-side.

****

Sis and I sleep unawares,

guarded safe by those bears on the stairs.

Lulled by the music of grunt, rustle, groan,

we sleep secure; we are not alone.

« Read the rest of this entry »

The restless arrow.

February 18, 2017 § 4 Comments

arrow

If I were to represent our species with a symbol it would be an arrow. The direction of the arrow is unimportant; that changes quickly and often.

The important thing is that an arrow is going somewhere with all possible haste. And so are we.

Our existence is made manifest, validated, and given importance by how quickly we fly toward a destination.

But the goal, once we get there, is not a steady state, not a resting place. The arrow will move on, taking aim at another target, another must-get-to place it will fly right past, hesitating just long enough to check the accomplishment off the list.

Then onward!

arrowsWe aim for “there,” but “there” never becomes “here.”

“There” is a moving target, so we spend our lives in transit.

The sense of arrival is fleeting. Few rest on the laurels of a goal achieved, few rest, period.

 

I figure things out as I write, and looking at that last sentence I see I inadvertently revealed another side of the arrow-flight that is human endeavor.

We equate arrival with rest. And what is rest for?

« Read the rest of this entry »

When I’m with you.

February 12, 2017 § 6 Comments

img_1203Who am I?

That depends.

My alone-self is relaxed, and as comfortable as a pair of well-worn jeans, entertained by quiet thinking, making a little music, leaving a trail of words across a page.

Who am I in company? That depends on the company.

It’s not that I am a mirror, vacant until you step up, but I respond to you.

Together, we create a dance that is not the freewheeling dance of all-alone. We cue each other. We synchronize.

Depending on you, the shift from the inner me to the public me can be slight or profound, but it always happens.

You do it too. You change for me as we turn toward each other.

No one is unyielding, unresponsive. No one is, under all circumstances, a single, monolithic self. That would be as impractical as wearing one outfit for all occasions.

Now, think of the people you are closest to: parents, children, spouse, best friend, colleague. But don’t think of them with you. Think of you with them.

Who do you become in their company?

img_0923

Unlike a brief encounter with a stranger, that one-off in which we hold a door or honk because that idiot hasn’t noticed the green light, our encounters with those we know well come with a history, an unspoken set of rules. Over the years a shared vocabulary has been established.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Back at you, Dorothy Parker.

February 4, 2017 § 1 Comment

dorothy-parker1-1I had never even heard of a response poem until I went to this year’s great annual gathering of English teachers, the NCTE conference in Atlanta.

It was the final day, participants slumped in their seats and thinking of the trip home, when a high school  poetry troupe burst onto the stage. They were there to talk back to existing poems with poems of their own.

Those conventional, mostly-dead poets wouldn’t know what hit them if they had heard these teens rap back at them with fervor, sass, conviction, and a barrage of words.

We all sat up straight in our seats–this was great!

So what is a response poem? As soon as I got home I asked the great god Google for the details.

And the oracle said, a response poem can answer another poem, or mirror its structure. It can update it. Steal an opening line and go from there—all’s fair as long as the poem responds in some way to the original.

Now that I knew what a response poem was, I had to test drive one. Before taking on something heavy like “Ode on a Grecian Urn”  I pulled up this Dorothy Parker poem: « Read the rest of this entry »

My catalog of you.

January 29, 2017 § 9 Comments

trike1

Claudia, Chris and my mother.

You and I go way back.

Way, way back.

I know you through a trail of moments that shine like a comet’s tail all the way to the horizon.

Vanished moments, vanished days?  None are really gone. They’re all right here in my catalog of you.

Versions you have outgrown or discarded? Got ’em, right here. Preserved as if in amber. The you of right-now is the hardest for me to see because I view you through the lens of all the yous I have known over the years.

I carry with me at all times, the scrapbook of you–I can open to any page.

Old? You’re not old. I’ve known you young and that’s who you are. What wrinkles?

matthews-classIf you are my best and oldest friend I still see you with chapped knees, waiting with me at the school bus stop up north. Remember up north? We’re still from there although it’s been years.

We don’t see each other all that often. Family and work obligations. You know… We are arrested at some point in the past, back when we had time, back when we were close.

That’s who you are to me, and who I am to you, still a couple of kids at the bus stop, or college roommates, or student teachers at the same elementary school. We could pick up that thread easy, if and when we get together.

« Read the rest of this entry »