Wednesday, September 27, 2006

never stops.

the fun, that is. tomorrow dodge starts. my head is feeling better, like it has a slipper in it and not a construction worker's muddy boot.

i've you haven't got the picture of what dodge is, let me break it down for you:

three fourteen hour days and one eight hour day of poetry. some music and a bit o' storytelling (poetry's closest cousin). so from 8am to 10pm, thursday through saturday, i'll be sipping that sweet nectar.

my girl will be in tow the first two days. a young aspiring poet at such an event is pretty cool. though she might not call herself an aspiring poet, sometimes it is easier for others to see what we are than we ourselves, right?

bly will be there, doing that rumi crap as the matriarch says. i dig hafiz so, i'm looking forward to hearing bly's rumi.

i'm also taking the time to do the women's poetry sessions. women and poetry, women in praise of the sacred.

there will be open mics each day, and i hope to make it to a couple on saturday and sunday. there i can read my stuff that is too, um, edgy for the church crowd. there i can read the stuff i'm really writing now. we'll see how it goes. if i even get the chance.

i can't even imagine what it will be like. i'm so excited. but i'm also trying to get better and not think too much about it. just focusing on getting well.

if you'll be there, i'll be at the poetry center table on poetry row thursday and friday on and off. do say hello. saturday, i'll be wafting around from one flower to the next drunk on words.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

loving you.

it doesn't take a genius to figure i'd get sick being perched on rocks in wafting skirts and flip flops in the snow. so i spent the better part of yesterday in a medicated sleep. but a conversation i had over the weekend brooded over me.

worship as art is a precarious thing. i've only taken the peformance role three times now and it doesn't seem to be getting any easier. i trust, that if the Lord would have me dance it will all work out.

judith took my coffee captive, and bade me go where i would not. to sessions. i followed her and all ends well, i got to dance for the close of the session. those three minutes nearly killed me. my lungs felt like they got gridlock and my throat couldn't open fast enough to suck in the air.

i exited the room before the dance ended because i don't like to be there for the kindly remarks afterward. (i feel the same about when i read poetry. i just leave.)

so i manage to avoid people, because i just don't know what to say when they tell me whatever it is they want to tell me about the dance. by dinner time, i'm feeling myself again.

so i sit at the feet of a female poet. who looks at me and says,
i loved watching you dance.

thank you.

i could see your soul. and i loved watching every move you made. i don't even know you, but i love you.
her eyes were welling up as she spoke. she continued,

i thought, i should be worshipping, but love is worship. so i just loved you as you danced. you must have studied.

i've had no formal training.

you must have absorbed it from watching others then?

no, i don't watch others dance.

then your intuitive dance is beautiful. your lines just flow. some of your moves are those of trained dancers.

i just smiled and listened. i've never really had anyone say these kinds of things to me in real time, face to face. it felt like a God moment.

like He was looking back at me and saying,
daughter, i love watching you dance.

Monday, September 25, 2006

the good reverend greysquirrel

the first thing i did when i arrived at st. malo, was climb the mountain (or hill) behind the retreat center. i splayed myself out like a lizard across an obliging rock, and listened to nothing.

yellow, golden, amber, pomegranate aspens were waving in the breeze around me. it was so silent, i could hear the clapping of the aspens in the breeze. the rattle of their leaves to the wind. i would have stayed there forever, perched on that rock, if i could.

but since i could hear the hum of the a/c kicking on, i went higher.

snow flurries began on the road up, so i was being painted with beauty the entire time.

now at the peak of the mountain (hill), i found yet another obliging rock whose contours fit mine. i splay out in the other direction with arms outstretched looking up to the crystal blue sky, which was being overrun by clouds. the bare brown mountain peak just beyond approved of my presence.

nothing. absolute silence. there i stayed for about an hour. snow flurries descending, perfect in their uniqueness.

since i was wearing flip flops the entire time (i had tennies, but i like taking my shoes off), i discovered why flip flops are not the recommended footwear for ascending or descending mountainous hills. very slippery. i didn't fall. but i did obtain a bit of mountain sage, which i carried with me. i haven't had my hands on fresh sage for years. i wore it in my hair, on my clothes, and carried it with me the entire weekend. breathing in the sweet healing scent.

i ascended the mountain one last time and found my obliging rock again. it had snowed that night, barely, just a dusting really. so the glint of jewels was everywhere. i perched upon the rock and sat. wept. prayed. listened to no thing.

even in my room at night, there was utter silence. i had asked for no roommate so i could revel in the embracing silences. and so i did.

after about a half hour, friday morning. the good reverend greysquirrel took the pulpit. he lectured me on the etiquette of the forest and the nature of God. chirping and squeaking, barking and grunting, he said his piece for about five minutes. and then skitted off through the forest with a pine cone.

i sat a bit longer, then returned to the world of artisans i was there to mingle with.

i, the richer for my absence.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

before the sun.

before the sun arose, i was writing a poem. wholly feminine.

i was also confiding in a friend that i am no longer disinterested in publication. that i can feel it coming near. hear his footsteps in the hall, the heavy breath of one who has come far and needs to rest.

and i am afraid.

this, my last entry before i ascend the mountain comes at a time when i am ready to change my voice, my life, my work again. i'm willing to let it all go. to slay it and watch it burn if need be.

i'm ready to move forward and become.

and i am afraid.

as i try to contain in words the distance this year has brought me. i find none suffice. they are all too simple and i still don't see the distance. i can't have an objective perspective about a life i'm living.

and i am afraid.

this inability to distil my experience into so many words. to mete out my experience in whiskey glasses to those who frequent this bar shakes me. perhaps that's the way of it. to have an experience that cannot be contained.

and i am afraid.

psyche's labors consist in part of containing an uncontainable font. the source of life which flows from hades to the world, the river which feeds styx. i need an eagle's help here. someone to swoop down and carry this crystal vessel beyond the terrors, to risk it all, for me.

and i am afraid.

to receive such kindness, one is greatly indebted. and i cannot repay. cannot even ask for such kindness. psyche fell often to despair and contemplated suicide. but each time a wise counsellor came and instructed her in the way. who will be my reed, my pan, my tower, my eagle? who will tell me to carry two loaves and two coins, to not trouble about pity in the underworld for it would ensare the soul.

and i am afraid.

the sun is rising now, and i must be about my labors.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

disturbing silences

excersizes in silence, i've mentioned in the past. where i silence my words. that is not nearly enough any more. i generally don't have a lot to say, verbally, and don't say much. unless, of course, you ask the right questions. very native that way.

but now i'm acutely aware of the noisy ways i conduct myself. placing a pen on the table with a slight echo. walking through the apartment and the floorboards creak. lumbering up and down the stairs to the washer.

what's so different,
my best friend asked.
didn't you make that kind of noise in texas?

i said,
but there, the silence permeated everything and seemed to absorb my noiseiness. here, i don't want to disturb what little silence there is.
because some moments now, just moments, sometimes five or six consecutive, i can hear myself think.

then a car alarm goes off (one was sounding in the adjoining parking lot, so fun to live near parking lots), and i got this idea for a poem. about how i'd like to go out there and beat the car with a two by four but then i'd likely get locked up and be put in a cell with a large talkative woman who goes on and on and on never allowing me a moment's peace. i'd kill her in my frustration and be there for life, and a long string of talkative types would cycle through, i'm sure.

seems that's the way of it. talkers need someone to listen (i do too on occassion, believe me. but it makes a difference to me who the person is listening). some folk are indiscriminate about blathering on and on. they seem to ask questions to hear themselves answer. their opinions are paramount.

i don't have many of these types of people in my life, thank God. but i notice, my husband isn't a real talker either, so he gets around people and they just open up. spill their guts. but that is a different kind of talking, i think.

so back to my conversation with my best friend. she said,
what is the difference between there and texas?

i dwelt in silence there. i try to create silence here. it ain't easy. i fail most of the time because of my loud habits and lifestyle. but i am noticing how my noise pollution, not of voice, but of action can be curbed. i can emulate the nuns who move silently through the cloister.

closing doors with a gentle click. lighting up stairs with their sensible shoes, and i don't think it is the shoes that make for silence, but it is the way they carry themselves. the way they conduct themselves throughout their lives. very mindful.

they prepare the eucharist without sound.

they do most everything without disturbing silences.

that is my aim. to silence my offensive clamouring. to shut the dampers of my internal furnance which blazes on and on churning me so fast through my days that i can't slow down and contemplate my actions and control the sounds those actions create. to be as mindful of my actions, as i am now, of my words. to emulate silence. and live silently, even amidst clamour.

nuns are my model here. i always aim for the stars.

Friday, September 15, 2006

despairing humility

it has been a great while since i've picked up merton. i've wandered so far away from his writings, now that i return, i find them familiar, a kindred. a mentor. a friend. i'm glad to be back. in thoughts in solitude, he writes:

Teach me to bear a humility which shows me, without ceasing, that I am a liar and a fraud and that, even though this is so, I have an obligation to strive after truth, to be as true as I can, even though I will inevitably find all my truth half poisoned with deceit. This is the terrible thing about humility: that it is never fully successful. If it were only possible to be completely humble on this earth. But no, that is the trouble: You, Lord, were humble. But our humility consists in being proud and knowing all about it, and being crushed by the unbearable weight of it, and to be able to do so little about it.

How stern You are in Your mercy, and yet You must be. Your mercy has to be just because Your Truth has to be True. How stern You are, nevertheless, in Your mercy: for the more we struggle to be true, the more we discover our falsity. Is it merciful of Your light to bring us, inexorably, to despair?

No--it is not to despair that You bring me but to humility. For true humility is, in a way, a very real despair: despair of myself, in order that I may hope entirely in You.

What man can bear to fall into such darkness?

merton peers into my soul with these questions. for i have found falsity abounds. pettiness, abounds. sloth, abounds. all those godly attributes i strive after elude me. and i am left begging mercy. holding a tin cup in hand at the King's gate. unworthy, while at the same time sitting in the seat of honor at His table and feasting on abundance. the perplexing dichotomy cannot be remedied by will or effort. but by grace alone. i understand this.

merton's words further affirm something i've felt stirring in me for days.

it has been no secret the noise of this place would part me from my sanity if i let it. but i have often wondered, if meditation and solitude can only exist in "right" circumstance, or if they are not intended to actually right circumstances.

the peace we carry does not mean we live in a peaceful world. the joy we carry does not portray the joyous world. but perhaps, we carry these things to impart them.

i have long believed impartation to be a necessary and right conveyance for the gifts of the Spirit. but i had only understood it insofar as imparting gifts of which i was confident i've received. namely: writing, dance, etc. but i've always held, because we don't receive a gift, doesn't mean it was not given.

all the boon of heaven is at our disposal. all good and perfect gifts come from the Father of Lights, who has gifted us in spiritual places with EVERY heavenly blessing. so, if we have all the gifts all around us, maybe giving the gifts is key to receiving them. maybe.

joy has eluded me. silence, evades me. but is this their doing or mine?

i think it largely mine. the fault is my own. God has gifted these things to me. i have yet to receive them. perhaps, because i have yet to give them away. you cannot give away what you do not possess (a line i have lifted from merton who says: you cannot give up what you do not possess. he speaks of renunciation).

so in this place of noise. uncertainty. seeming chaos. i can rest in the gifts of God to me and draw them out for others. how this will look in actuality, i have no idea. but it is something that makes a great deal of sense.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

her hand

it was such a rushed trip to nyc this time, that i didn't feel myself wandering of eye and thought as much.

last time we had six hours to reach our destination (which is just enough time for me to meander to the locale), this time, we were leaving on an earlier train (lower fares) and altered our plan to be at the park with other actual children. so ground zero was out, especially after the explosion and uncertainty.

we leave the tiny park and start heading uptown.

across tiny cement triangles of curbs and lights. i could hear the subway rumbling beneath us through the grating in the floor, i just had to find an entrance. we walked about three blocks and found one tucked behind a newsstand. if i actually read the paper, such a ny thing to do, that would have been the perfect place to acquire one, just like in the movies.

the houses in the area we were at were what i guess you'd call brownstones. the ones they use in the movies. nicer looking than the giant towers of humanity (the kind i knew i could not live in).

so, we're walking and the people are not standing out to me much this time. truly because i had to get to where i was going and back to that train in such a truncated period. i didn't feel free to just contemplate anyone.

down in the subway, i'm looking all over to see if i can acquire a map. when i hear a man ask,

que necesitas?

a map.

oh, over there, behind the trash can.

i have long since stopped being offended that people talk to me in spanish. at least i know what they are saying. some folk, are so fluent that i hardly understand them. i do stammer and try to speak back to those real native spanish speakers, but it is a challenge for many reasons i won't get into now. mostly, i have trouble accepting myself. that is the biggest challenge of them all.

this guy, (i didn't ask his name and i wish i had) was about as tall as i am. perhaps a couple inches more. so not a towering mass of humanity, but substantial. he was about twice my size and wore a messenger bag across his powder blue t-shirt. he explained to me that the train we were taking had so many stops, and a few other things before we got to penn station. but then i realized times squre was just a stop beyond and asked my girl if she wanted to do lunch there again.

which of course she did. i did too, it's nice when we agree.

so this guy is talking to me as we're waiting on the platform, and the trains are blazing by, so raucous. metal grinding on metal, the whoosh of air, recycled a thousand times over air, the exhaust of the breaks and momentary pause for on and off loading of passengers.

the guy would stop talking when the train came, which was nice, because i couldn't hear him. i don't know that you ever get used to those sounds, but some must because people seem to be about their business pretty routinely down there. reading, jumping on the train and off at the right times. while i, like a neurotic ferret am twitching and searching for the right places. but it was only my third time on the subway.

the guy boards with us, and he is nice. giving me adequate space. he wasn't intimdating in the least, a good soul, i'd call him. he had native qualities, and i asked him if he was tribal. he said,

which elicited my telltale, huh? look. i had no clue what that nation was.

puerto rican.

ah, yes.

that explains a lot. the spanish for one. people exited the subway and we sat across from each other. he tried to converse with me from there, but couldn't so he moved next to me.

native puertoricans are tainos.

ah, when you hear the word tai, you think thai. or at least, i do. but i knew that wasn't right.

he told me about toys r us in times square. and of course, my girl lit up like a roman candle.

there's a ride,
he said.
just to warn you.
he's describing this ride in detail. a small ferris wheel with different cartoon characters.

do you have children?

no, he said. but i take my nieces and nephews there. it's expensive having kids. i am trying to get myself established before i have kids.

what is your day job?

it was, midday after all.

i'm between jobs right now.

ah, don't get down.
i said.
it's hard, but try to keep postive about it. it will turn around.

yeah. i'm pretty positive. i hope to have my own apartment by november. i've sold water, maps, jewelry. anything to make a buck. i should be going back to school.

i said.

it's hard, in some ways, to encourage strangers. but when they are kind and open up it makes it easier.

our stop came up, he never said where he was going, so he got off with us. and said goodbye on the platform. i for one was grateful for the escort. but we ascended the stairs into times square.

there is so much activity there. we ate on the fly as we were walking to toys r us. you know i wanted nothing to do with the place, but i was willing to take a stab at enjoying myself.

so in we went.

the place is three stories tall. the ferris wheel is in the center, like a mall atrium. we didn't go down to the bottom level, that's where my girl said the "boy's stuff is."

so we quickly found the faeries and hello kitty stuff. and looked around there.

the taino had warned us to watch the time, because, he said,
you'll be in there forever if you're not careful.

so we lit on outa there and headed to penn station.

in the many wrong turns we took, we passed this one lady down in a subway station. she was old. wearing what looked to me like a housedress. she had on tennies which resembled slippers, and a black cane. her hair utterly grey, gathered into a loose bun. her eyes unfixed, she stood against the wall with her hand out.

i can't tell you how many people we passed in the city who were asking for money. rastafarians, young greek guys, hip black women. all collecting for the homeless. very few moved my heart. but this woman. with her hand out like that. just standing there.

even if i knew she walked out and climbed into her bently with jeeves and buttercup her pet pomeranian. i had to give her something. so i stopped and found what i could.

i put it in her and and she said,
thank you.

and stood there. we left, because we were in the wrong subway station. we were about a block east of penn station, which isn't a subway at all, but those are detail we had to find out. i had figured since we exited penn through the subway, there must be connecting corridors from adjoining subways. but that wasn't true. because we weren't that far. even when we were just a stone's throw from penn's entrance, the subway never adjoined penn in a location to let you pass through, which makes sense i guess.

we found our way, eventually. got some bad directions, but kept searching. we'd left early enough. and found our way to an earlier train and just rode home with ten thousand stops. some construction workers drinking red bull in brown paper bags who peppered their speech with the f word. and every now and again, they apologized for it. which was kind.

all in all, a joyous sojourn. even though harried.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

everything stinks

it stinks mom,
my daughter kept saying, i would reply,
welcome to new york, everything stinks.
and by the grins and chuckles i heard from passers by, i probably wasn't too far off the mark.

standing at the subway station, looking at the black muck on the walls and ceilings, i thought, there is really no way for them to ever get this clean. Lord knows what you get in your lungs down here breathing.

a friend i met recently told me, he went to the doctor and got an xray. his lungs look like a smoker's. the doctor asked,
do you smoke?

no, never.
he replied.

do you live in the city?

he said.

ah, city lungs.

that they have a name for it, should not surprize anyone. but that it is as bad or worse than a heavy smoker is pretty tragic. considering how many people out there must be huffing and puffing around town with citylungs. i try not to think of this as i watch the half hour buffer for us to get to the museum from penn station tick away.

we are joined on the platform by a young tattooed couple. she was shapely, not overmuch, not artificially, but healthfully. he was strong and wise. his arms had all kinds of designs, sleeves, as they are called, but i didn't want to stare. that's the thing, i get so interested in observing people i act like i'm at the zoo and they are in cages.

so our train finally, finally arrives. we had to catch the E train downtown headed toward the world trade center. where the young couple were headed. we needed to get off a stop earlier, at spring street.

i found a map, got my bearings, and got off at the right exit. they followed. the conductor stuck his head out the window and said,
catch the next E train
as he pulled away. they shouldn'ta got off but they followed me. and we were running late so i couldn't stay to apologize. i felt terrible.

we walked an entire city block to varick and couldn't figure out where we needed to be. so the person we ask says,
i have no idea.
(which at least she didn't just give us some random directions).

so we literally run back to the subway and find spring street (which was my first mistake, not finding the street we needed to begin with), turns out, we ran around 3 sides of that city block and across two streets to the location. we were wiped when we got there. both of us huffing and puffing, you know, i'm no runner. my kid even less.

the tour had begun, but apparently we didn't miss much. we were at the nyc fire museum and they had a faces of ground zero exhibit going on. my beloved and i had agreed telling our girl about 9/11 before going into town was not the best idea, since she was so young when it happened, and we hadn't enlightened her since.

but on the train that morning from jersey i said,
now baby, there may be some words you don't understand. twin towers, 9/11, 343. i'll explain those to you later.

she looks at me with her precious innocence,
i know about september 11.

i said,
where did you find out?

now this is always a precarious time when questioning children and reporters. will they reveal their sources? so i tried to keep the tone jovial.

tell me baby, i'd like to know.

my friends told me last week.

really, what did they say?

she told me they told her one building fell into the other and they both fell down.

i explained the whole situation to her. everything. i told her where she was, where we were, all that happened, and why we didn't tell her.

she said,
i wasn't going to tell you because i didn't think you knew.

i said,
you can tell us anything. and you'll be surprized by what we know.

we also talked about pearl harbor. and she was asking questions but i could only provide spotty info. so i said,
we'll have to read up on it.

meanwhile, we're headed into the big city and i'm trying not to scare the kid.

we read all the placards on the ten foot (if not larger) photos of the faces of ground zero and she was very sad. but it was a good experience.

so we're at this park with the homeschoolers, and hear an explosion. silence and then the glass of the windows rumble.

we all jumped. the moms in the park who were clearly from the area, said,
don't worry. it's nothing. construction. they demolished a building.

but that was not where i wanted to be any longer. it was freaky. and we'd just come from the museum. i was talking to a lady there who said,
that was not okay, just having that noise and the moment of uncertainty.

she told me she doesn't watch the news anymore (since 9/11, she lives in the city), or read the paper, or ever look at the cover of the times. her daughter was one year old when it all happened and she hadn't told her either. (which made me feel a bit better) but i really hadn't thought about living in the shadow of it. wow.

my dear female minister friend told me she went out into the community and reassured people. she is a very reassuring presence. but i can't imagine what it was like actually living through it. she lived in queens then.

more later, i must away. peace.

Monday, September 11, 2006

peeled grapes

went to a poetry reading for the matriarch yesterday. she read for about an hour. it was great. i'd not heard her for such a concentrated length of time and i see why she is so well received. one of the things she said was,
i tell my students if they are going to write, to be like peeled grapes.

i've never been too far from that ideal, so i am encouraged.

when i walked into the venue, i didn't say hello. i just took a seat. got out my map to chart my way home, it was in south brunswick, an hour and a half drive down. then, parked myself in a chair and awaited her arrival.

hey, suz!
she said, with a big smile when she entered the room.

i can't tell you how comforting that is to hear. someone entered during the reading and sat behind me, leaning close and whispered something in my ear. i told her to come and sit beside me.

my husband has this habit of standing behind me and talking. he did it when we met, he still does it today. it kind of vexes me, because i can't see whom i'm talking to.

so this sweet girl sat beside me and suddenly i have absolutely nothing to say. silence takes over.

they opened the mic after the matriarch, but nobody wants to read after the matriarch, so i did. i had a poem i wanted her to hear. i said,

[the matriarch] told me to stop hiding behind metaphor,
so i wanted her to hear this.

and when i was done, she hugged me and said,
you did it honey.

i was thrilled. and the sweet girl beside me took the mic and performed a lovely spoken word piece.

i introduced myself to the organizer after and said,
poet introductions before you hear the work, don't mean much.

and the talk turned to dodge. the sweet girl returned and we hit it off, planning to hook up at dodge and get to know each other.

suddenly, i'm not feeling so lost. seeing the matriarch reminds me of everything i want to be. she is an academic, but doesn't agree with the intellectual disjointed incoherent poetry they made fashionable.

i told her, it is so nice to hear someone accomplished not telling young poets, be like me. be like me. she says constantly,
root your work to actual things. write of your experience.

i spent more time laughing yesterday than i had in a great while. see, i can be ungrim. i just have to be around the right crowd. this is my crowd.

the organizer of the event asked if i am published, and i said,
i don't.

he said,
you should.
and we talked about it a bit.

who knows what God will do kids. who knows.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

an army of five

so we got more milkweed but had a stowaway and another hitchhiker on the underside of the leaves. we named one stowaway, the other, sir drops a lot. (this was suggested as a nickname for half-leaf, but he all ready has a name, so it was agreed upon to dub the little bitty one we just acquired sir drops a lot).

i moved the whole army of caterpillars outside so i didn't have to infest the house with aphids, which were all over the plant we had just acquired.

the thing about half-leaf is, he straddles the atlantic seaboard. mr. picky used to stand upsidedown under a leaf. half-leaf tends to mount his meal. he starts somewhere around maine, and works his way down through new york, over into pennsylvania, down through the carolinas, all the way to florida and across to the ole miss.

he would then move to the pacific, eat his way through washington, oregon, and idaho, devouring the dakotas and ole miss all the way down to the gulf of mexico. very systematic.

yesterday was his roaming day. he was trying to find a place to pupate. so i kept putting him where i wanted him to be. (when i first saw him in the morning he was still on the roof of the mesh enclosure i had around the plants, a collapsable hamper, actually) none of them were moving and i thought he was going to pupate right then. until i realised it was too cold. so i put them in the sun, and half-leaf zipped around like he was turbo charged after that.

ultimately i had my way, he got still and settled on the underside of a leaf, last night around 8 i went down and he had dropped into the tell tale j

stowaway and littlebit molted, dropping tiny casings of chitin. and their little faces remained yellow for about a minute or two until the black stripes came in.

sir drops a lot's whereabouts are unknown.

i will likely spend much time today checking in on the progress of half-leaf. watching him squirm out of his mortal coil.

mr. picky's wings are developing nicely. you can see them taking shape through the gentle green walls of the pupa.

what i thought was a yellow stripe is actually tiny yellow dots, which do look more like gold than yellow. and i've come to discover pupa in latin means gold.

such terrible wonders abound. yesterday was a good day indeed.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

half-leaf and little bit

when we get things we tend to get them in three sizes. daddy, momba, and renee sized. so mr. picky is in a chrysalis now. and his two compatriots, half-leaf, who has a curious habit of eating one half leaf at a time, right down to the vein. and little bit who is tiny and still making little holes in the leaves. they do this until they get larger.

mr. picky used to flag the leaves to stop the flow of milk. eating just enough of the stem to bend the leaf down and stop the flow to eat the entire leaf from the underside right across the vein.

tuesday afternoon, mr. picky was still hanging like a j, but moving his mouth like a newborn wanting milk. i returned later, to find him completely green and his skin nearly sloughed off. he was squirming around like he was trying to get in (or out) of a girdle. ever tried to put one of those things on ladies? this little guy dropped off his outer skin and antennae and was left a long green sour apple jelly bean looking specimen.

inside the pupa, he continued to undulate and girate. like he had a hoola hoop in there. the pupa twisted many, many times on that tiny silken string and it elongated and retracted, ultimately becoming a standard pupa. it got yellow dots and a yellow horizontal stripe on it which my girl said looked like gold.

half-leaf, meanwhile is defoliating everything he can. he is huge, probably twice as big as mr. picky was when he chrysalized (or pupated is the right term, i think).

little bit was the size of a half-inch of angel hair pasta (for not liking to talk about food, i sure use it a lot in my descriptions, eh?). now, he has doubled in size and looks to consume all the remaining food today.

we must get more.

i awoke this morning and was shocked. the chrysalis hangs on a stripped bare stem which has been eaten around entirely. everything above is gone. they moved on to the next leaf. there must be some unspoken code amongst caterpillars, don't dislodge the chrysalis of others (or do unto others as you'd have them do unto you). imagine that.

so the feast continues. the search for food begins in earnest. and we wait wondrous transformation, the emergence. the rebirth. from death to life. though mr. picky hasn't died, he is no longer mr. picky. he will become what he was meant to become. something glorious that will waft away upon the breezes.

and i for one, can't wait to see it. i'm told by my girl it takes 9 to 15 days. won't be long kids. won't be long.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006


so i spent the day retrieving mr. fussy eater. i realized, last thing i needed was another particular eater in the house. but i got three now.

yesterday my beloved and girl got more milkweed.

the first time i found him he was on the wall, crawling up to my johnny depp poster. i would have laughed if he made it to the moustache or nose!

the second time, on a cloth rose my daughter left on the table. the third time, he'd just begun his escape.

when i picked him up, he would curl, so fat and squishy, into a ball. i kept thinking he was looking for more food. for a little guy, he sure ate a lot in three days.

but mr. fussy didn't want to eat. he kept roaming around. i kept returning him to the foodstuffs. turns out, he's looking for a place to be still and silent. to center himself before he dangles down from a pad of silk.

late last night, i went to check on him. there he was hanging like a j

he's got the most delicate longhorn antennae. his rear looks just like his head and when he gets spooked, he tucks his head under his front parts and gets real still. with his tush up in the air. since that is the part usually revealed by the stem of the plant, it makes a great deal of sense.

there are at least three other monarch caterpillars i know of, saw them walking home from the library yesterday. we're getting greedy now. but we only had four days with dear mr. fussy. so now i've got to get him a friend.

he's still and silent, feet in the air, like peter (as a poem i wrote once says).

his antannae aren't wafting around anymore, and he is just hanging there waiting to become. to metamorphosize. very inspiring. to have that time come upon you and yield to it. i hope when my time comes, i yield.

that i can let go and dangle, until the change is complete, and i can fly.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


on the walk to the library my daughter spots a monarch caterpillar. how she saw it, i don't know, it was tucked under leaves of a plant by the road. i stopped and said,
oh, how sweet.

for you see, i'd always wanted to do a monarch butterfly life cycle, but never got the chance.

on we went, and i assumed my position in the corner chair.

not moments after i began reading, she appeared with a pile of books.

let's go mom.

go, we did. he was not on the plant anymore, so we stood there and searched.
there he is!
my dauther exclaimed.

we got him and the plant he had been on when first we saw him.

we brought him directly home and started to think about how much this guy would eat over the next few days and weeks. depending on where in his life cycle we found him.

he's rather large, at least an inch and a half. his little antennae blowing in the breeze as we brought him home on a stick. he clung to it and rode along without complaining once.

we set him up and began our search in earnest of what we needed to feed this guy.

as you likely know, monarch caterpillars eat ONLY milkweed.

i searched the internet and found the plant we had, until i saw a picture of dogbane, which is commonly mistaken for the plant we need.

and i remembered a dream i had back in college.
an apache family had adopted me, i think they were trying to manipulate my brain. and one night i dreamt of my dear friend's brother. i told him and his sister of the dream, their brother looked at me and said,
you're milkweed, i can tell just by looking at you.

i never understood this dream, but the brother in my dream was the herbalist of the family so it was curious he was the one to say it.

we parted ways many years ago, and i've not thought of them for a great while.

now, in need of milkweed, the dream comes to me.

i could identify milkweed in texas. but here, i just wasn't sure and the little striped sock of a guy wasn't eating. he was just still. as if he were ready to cocoon.

i debated all day about whether to set him loose or wait it out to see if what i've got is actually milkweed. but he wouldn't eat and i feared the worst.

turn him loose,
i was told, by dear friends.

i didn't want to kill him, but my friends telling me this little life was now my charge ramped up the anxiety for me to astounding levels.

i didn't know what to do, so i, after much confusion and anxiety waited. it couldn't be long until the little guy told me if i had milkweed or not.

he started eating some time around four. devoured an entire large leaf by six. he's not in a hurry by any means. but at least i know i've got food for him for the next few days.

i woke up this morning and he was still eating. pooping. doing what nature mandates.

and i wrote a great many angst laden poems.

the milkweed situation is kind of like my life. the problems are obvious to everyone but me. everyone seems to be able to identify the milkweed of my life, but i have no clue what it looks like.

so this adventure will cause me to learn to identify some of the milkweed, and hopefully watch another life come into being, a transformation. but winter is coming soon, the chill has begun. the migration soon upon us. he needs to change soon, or overwinter encased in silence.

this little life now my charge. what lesson does he have to teach me?

Friday, September 01, 2006

corner chair

there is this wooden rocking chair, with thick magenta cushions, gold diamonds bedeck these cushions. they are not fastened to the chair by any means so when you rise, they fall. very selfless that way. laying themselves down again and again for strangers. this chair sits in the lounge type area of my library.

it has a fireplace, coffee table, and six chairs, two rockers, four teal hard library reading chairs. i prefer the rocker. and when i arrive, the rockers are usually flanking the fireplace. i move the one i want to sit in, to the very corner where the plate glass windows meet.

i turn it around so have a view in two directions of the yard, right into the swaying trees. i sit in this chair for hours at a time. reading, writing, watching.

sometimes, poems find me there. waiting on the edge of a dream. sometimes apollo. sometimes, just silence.

many times i have come to that chair with nothing, and left, hands full of words.

scurrying to the computer, i send them on. out to my people. the readers of my poems.

i am not one who waits, who plants forests like so many squirrels with their cache of nuts.

i am one who deceminates poetry almost as fast as it comes to me. i like to see it fly upon the breeze, over the tree tops, out of my hands. release it just as easily as i found it. or it found me.

it is nice to have a place to be found. when i come to this chair, sometimes it is occupied, a little girl was the last person i had to wait out. she had on dirty white sandals, a board book in hand. and her back turned away from the windows.

they have stopped rearranging the chairs after my visits and i often find the chair in the same location as i left it last. where the plate glass windows meet. though facing in. away from the trees.

i knew if i sat close to the little girl, being a strange adult i could drive her away, intimidate her with my presence. adults think this way, i am no better. but she was in my chair after all.

so i sat beside her, her brother occupied the other rocker, so i could not sit in it either. her mother called from beyond the foyer, and she reluctantly yielded the corner chair. which i promptly turned around and watched my trees.

how possessive we become when we are familiar with a place. like the third pew on the left in church. it is where i sit. for a clear, unobstructed view of the priest offering the sacraments. people have apologized for taking this, my pew, at times. and i say,
no, no. change is good.

but i lie.

if i do not have time to unwind. to sit in my chair, crosslegged. and rock myself into my wakingdreamstate, then i just get up and leave. usually my girl drags me away. sometimes she gives me hours. sometimes moments only. poems do not compress themselves into moments. sometimes they need to be coaxed out of silence by the gentle sway of a few trees and a rocking chair. sometimes they reward my silence with their presence. sometimes they do not come at all.

so i go to the chair in the corner today, hopefully, just as the library opens, when it is most quiet. and there i will rock and tend my waking dreams as a gardner his roses. there i will find the muse, perhaps she'll speak.