Friday, February 13, 2009

Leonard Cohen: ANTHEM

I found myself singing this to myself this of Leonard's greatest songs and a beautiful way to follow my last two posts. 


The birds they sang
at the break of day
start again
I heard them say
don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yeat to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
the holy dove
she will be caught again
bought and sold and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
that's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent;
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
yeah the widowhood
of every government--signs for all to see.

I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
a thundercloud 
and they're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring...

You can add up the parts 
but you won't have the sum
you can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
tha's how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

One View of Julie

This is a poem I am working on about my sister. 

She was a beautiful child
Irish colors of copper and green
a face you always remembered as dimpled
though it wasn't 
an upturned nose

We loved dolls, Julie and I
hers blonde, mine, dark,
Snow White, Rose Red,
She the beauty, me the brains

Then came the injections
blood sugar tests
syringes in the bathroom
clearing of sweet things from the cupboards.

A shift happened.
Dad, the doctor; Mom, the nurse.

the glazed-over eyes and slurred words
sweating, shaking, 
foretold trouble
we quickly got orange juice or candy
and watched her slowly return
like an image coming back into focus
and then the relief that it was over
but she was disobedient
and it would come again

and she pulled out her hair
growing back in a little crown
my mother's mouth a thin, straight line
as she cut long strokes with scissors
trying to make it right
but it wasn't

i don't remember 

her looks got her boys
her mouth, attention
Irreverent, funny, drunk
Julie didn't give a rat's ass, it seemed.

A trail behind her of jobs
told us to keep our advice
told us to fuck off
she had married boyfriends she met at church
she had medical bills 
because the diabetes was taking its toll
and she had to run faster.

This disease makes your little veins burst
and your feet go numb
and your eyes go to hell
and your bones get brittle
and your nerves don't tell you when you broke your ankle
until your eyes insist that the angle is wrong
lying there on the kitchen floor.

Your body races toward old age.

She had a heart attack.

Near the end, Thanksgiving
She traveled here with Dad,
He the doctor, she the patient,
On the ride up, already, Julie zones out
(stubbornly refuses breakfast once again)
He hauls her into the restaurant
the waiter calls 911
"it's ok, I am a doctor, give me some orange juice"
My old dad dealing for the millionth time with Julie

It happens again at midnight
I hear her screaminG: 
in an unholy voice
a cat howl
a ghost howl
so loud
my feet lead me to her

she is drenched in sweat
Dad looks weary in his pajamas
we wait for the orange juice to work
In my terror I yell at her with all the love
         i can muster
and I hold her and rock her
I hear her voice in my shirt:
"I don't want to die"

Nothing we could think of could stop these things from happening.

Three months later
My dad knew she was gone before he got there.
Only the cats greeted him, skittish, hiding.
I got the call.
I remember, I remember 

Her old boyfriend was in the doorway
at the funeral
people from church
all of us sickened, sickened

cleaning out her apartment
excavating the layers
witness to the life and the aftermath:
evidence of
hastily shoved furniture to fit the gurney
sheets dragged off the bed
medical supplies
dishes in the sink
surprising, sweet touches
an unfinished needlepoint:
"A Sister is a Friend Given to You by God."


It was one of those friendships that happens fast.  I met her through another friend and there was something about her that intrigued me, that I found sort of exotic and quirky.  She agreed with me that we had some things in common and what followed were get togethers for food--she always brings food to people, wherever she goes, a charming and sometimes maddening habit, since she can't afford it--and increasingly, serious talks about some issues with her new husband, with the old husband, with the three children with the old husband.  
Cracks began to appear in the relationship after a few months, and I am pulling back a little. It is more a matter of staying with myself than with staying away from her.  If relationships are the stuff of life, then navigating through them is the task that requires the greatest skill and has the greatest potential for pain--receiving it, and causing it in others.  
I love to read Buddhist stuff because the message is-believe nothing, understand that things are not good or bad, they just are.  There is a story about a young man who becomes crippled, in a wheelchair. Then, the general comes riding up to the farm, looking for soldiers, and they leave him behind, and he can stay with his family. So, being crippled is bad, and it is good. It all depends.
I feel that way about cracks. They are an indication of growth and change, of softening, of movement.  A crack in a pot is not so good. A crack in the ice could mean that spring is coming. Cracks are what happen when trees grow, and from the cracks we get the beautiful texture of bark.  Cracks in the sidewalk create opportunities for small plants to grow where they otherwise wouldn't.  Cracks in our armor and defensiveness create the possibility of movement toward each other.  Cracking up can mean we're enjoying a good joke or losing our marbles.

I felt some cracking in the veneer of my art work this week-breaking through some walls that I thought defined the edges.  This, of course, is the great enemy of creativity: thinking that you know the size of the room you are in, when in reality, there is no room.  

Sunday, February 8, 2009

february thaw

What a glorious gift this weekend has been-the oppression of the cold air and the ice underfoot has lifted, long enough to venture out sure-footed for a walk with Bella, camera in hand and joy in my heart.  Bird sounds. The smell of dirt and old leaves, recklessly unearthed by snow plow blades.  The glorious sun in the blue sky, shining through the trees and landing on the snow, sometimes casting a satin sheen, and in other, slicker areas, an icy glow.   For Bella, a cornucopia of smells and puddles to drink from. Today, the windows are open and the curtains pushed back. This is one time when being reminded of impermanence has been a cause for celebration!
Yesterday, I began a new adventure with some other women who are also interested in creativity and the spiritual life.  Organized by my friend Kim, a writing teacher, author, and passionately humanitarian friend, there were five of us brought together in her warm and peaceful home. I was a little nervous as I looked around the room, even though I knew all but one of the participants. Sherry, my old friend and fellow art teacher, is one of the more giving and thoughtful people I know. Jeanine, another Hope professor with maintains an air of the urban life she and Andrew left behind when they moved here long ago, and a sparkle undiminshed by MS.  And Jennifer, who I had met a few minutes before making tea in the kitchen while we loaded our plates with hummus and veggies. She writes music and children's books and has a soft, reflective air about her that I was drawn to right away.
Kim led us in readings from diverse spiritual traditions with common themes. The point of this curriculum, she told us, is to bring us together; it is being taught worldwide, among the learned and the unschooled, everywhere. The exploration of the arts follows the study-we wrote in our new journals about what the "composted" thoughts from our discussions yeilded in our hearts and minds. I look forward to our next meeting, which I will host. I spent hours this morning making art from my journal notes. Like the thaw outside, my creativity is warming and moving, flowing forth. It feels good.