Give and take

Yesterday’s wind, it took things with it,
The leaves, for one.
Another month, for two.
For three, some threadbare fantasies.
But it left a near-full moon
and rolled out a red carpet
to where I do not know.

(1 Nov. 2009)

Wanted: A life.

Too much info not enough ear
Too much bony not enough rear

Too much quiet not enough shout
Not enough action too much doubt

Too much air and not enough ground
Too much square not enough round

Too much look and not enough find
Not enough body far too much mind

Too much chair and not enough run
Too much laptop not enough fun

Too much keyboard not enough page
Too much screen and not enough stage

Too much restless not enough fill
Too much careful not enough kill

Too much edge and not enough dive
Too much dead and not enough ‘live

Too much water not enough wine
Too much popcorn not enough dine

Too much in and not enough out
Too much teapot not enough spout

Too much worry not enough play
Too much bed and not enough hay

Too much navy not enough red
Too much ancient not enough dead

Too much gravy not enough blood
Too much cleanly not enough mud

Too much cover not enough bare
Too much careful not enough dare

Too much waiting not enough move
Not enough silly too much brood

Too much mild not enough spice
Not enough badass far too much nice.

T.S. Eliot helps this Mexican jumping bean get to essential.

The paring knife of life keeps peeling. In restlessness, in exasperation, on the edge of falling, I keep coming to:

What is essential here?

It is a question both clean and powerful. It moves around the immovable, leaving bullshit in its wake. Sitting in that question is sitting in kindness. Which isn’t necessarily the same as nice.

In the midst of turmoil “what is essential here?” is a beacon, a steadfast light in an otherwise thick mist. It motions me toward a resting place much like airport workers in their orange vests on the tarmac waving a plane toward its spot to park.

Essence. In a time of endless slogans, causes, and preachy propaganda (no matter the side) telling me what’s wrong with me and how its answer will be my sure salvation, I crave expression that is pared of justification and excuse. I crave communication that doesn’t hem and haw or beat around the bush– my bush or any bush.

Essential often looks like symbols and metaphors that tell a story without blah blah blah. Literature that cuts to the chase, without, for even an instant, sacrificing beauty or truth. In fact, one might say truth is essence’s brush, beauty its palette of paints.

Excellent poetry is exactly that. Which brings me to T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets.”

It is the lightest and skinniest book of essential beauty that has ever not weighed down my shoulder. It is sheer inspiration, brilliantly simple and multilayered at once, not an extraneous word to be found.

Even when it circles back around its theme, it is shining a light on something in a new place, or in a slightly different hue. And I am changed.

What Eliot describes invariably speaks to where I am in this ever repetitive but never quite identical journey. He speaks of time. He speaks of seasons. He speaks of beginnings and ends, of birth and of death. Of hope, of faith, of fear, and of love. In short, life. I can open that little book anywhere and be blown to the moon.

Lately, my difficulty has been in waiting, in staying at the still point. Change is afoot (is it ever not?) and the water is murky murky murky. I can’t will the dust to settle and it is hard to wait. What I thought was supposed to happen by now has not –or has it?– and what I thought should not have happened, has –or has it?

Waiting. Sometimes it’s hard for this Mexican jumping bean-girl.

T.S. Eliot’s words come to me right there like warm oil on an achy, tired body. Here is a passage from Four Quartets (East Coker):

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.


To have and to hold are, to be sure, quite different from
to hope and to dream, which are also, to be sure, away —
maybe somewhere with you but away nonetheless,
which is where I sense you, on your own.

I would not bind you to me (if even I could),
nor force anything ahead nor outside its time,
and yet this little pigeon longs for you and home
in one and the same breath.

(Some blessing. Some curse. Who can say?)

Who am I to take where you are away from you?
It’s not wrong, it’s just not here.

In the beginning was away,
and away was with God
and away was God —

I long for a place to come home to,
a mat to stamp my dream-worn feet upon:
“This is where I belong.”

A hook for my coat.
A body to roll over into.
“Pinch me, I am here,” I might say,

or astounded: “It’s you, really you!”
to which you might reply all bleary-eyed, all flesh and blood:
“Yes, now sleep, my little homing pigeon.”

A poem came pounding on my door…

A poem came pounding on my door today and I had to let it in. I asked it for a point and it yelled at me, something about no time for talk.

It told me that my chest will explode if I don’t give it a pen already. And that my heart will shrivel up and die if I don’t let it cry and break, no questions asked, as much as it needs to again and again about how the world is too much and not at all at once, since here I am, still alive and exploding even while the world keeps coming and coming and coming at me, saucy earth woman that it is, in me, through me, to me, all the freaking time.

It’s about how you are me (that’s right, you) and he is me and so is she and she and she. And Dick—that’s right—Cheney is also me, mistress of evasion and hiding that I am. And cheeky Jon Stewart too. And Barack Hussein Obama. Momma that’s right, it said, you heard it here.

And George W. Bush too before you go thinking I’m taking sides for how could I when I am all of them and all of you and it’s all right here inside Iran, which I am, and have been every day I’ve ever held myself back and stifled and silenced and shut things up when I didn’t agree with me, trying all the while to make it look for the world like my shit’s together when really there are burning tires and exploding cars right inside my chest and I na-na-na put my fingers in my ears and numb myself to almost- but never quite fully -death—

For here I am, still, my smile as forever plastic as the bags I self-righteously don’t give myself anymore except for when I do for the trash I justify in my kitchen, because, after all, some stuff just won’t break down no matter how you slice it and dice it and cook it up.

And while I’m at it let me claim pollution of super-sized blah blah blahs of in-consequence except for their numbing effect on a heart fairly bursting if I wait to say how it really is for even one second more.

And before I forget, the poem said, I must tell you that you are also the stupid people in the stupid line this morning, biding their time to pay some stupid fine they can’t afford to pay. And the little boy on his big boy bike trying desperately to make it go with training wheels too low to the ground on account of the hovering mother also called you, not wanting him, by which of course she means herself, to fall.

So that’s me with the attention span of a fruit fly and the world inside.

Where was I anyway? Oh yes, channeling Eliot, something about in the end is my beginning and all that as it seems that through no merit of my own and by what I can only call mercy I find that the trees are also me—

As is the endless spring rain that just yesterday became summer.

So this is how it happens when you can’t get out of your own way: change comes knocking on your door, politely ringing your bell and waiting ever so patiently for you to answer, tick tock tick tock, and then one day, when and exactly why we’ll never know, in some merciful kick of kindness, it breaks down the door of you, the very door you kept meaning to answer, because that’s right: change hasn’t got all day.

Resurrecting my Billy Collins crush.

YouTube Link to video

Naomi Shihab Nye: “nod briefly and become a cabbage”

YouTube Link to video

Death by bursting heart. Or, crushing on Leonard Cohen.

Mercy death

Just the other day I died a little a lot again and again
right here on the floor while Leonard Cohen stole my breath
with his holy irreverence streaming in Live from London

He was the light and the crack and the bird on a wire
I was Suzanne with the tea and the oranges

I was the tear in the raincoat and he was the rain
running unchecked down the stalwart walls of my Berlin
which we took after Manhattan which we happened to be in

And with nothing to break my fall I fell
into the lap of sweet mother darkness,
and I thought: surely my heat by which I meant to say my heart
will kill me if I don’t make me some real fucking love

And unable to bear it for one second more,
and with no one around and with nothing in store
I made love to the world making love back to me
and then Leonard Cohen brought me my tea

If you come upon me in such state on the floor
I have one thing to ask and then nothing more:
whatever you do and whatever you take
for the love of all mercy don’t resuscitate

By me, Heidi Fischbach

Too Many Names (by Pablo Neruda)

(Translation (c) Heidi Fischbach. “Demasiados Nombres” is the Spanish, original title)

Monday tangles up with Tuesday
and a week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
all the names of the days
are washed away by the night.

No one can be called Pedro,
no one is Rosa, nor María.
All of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain within rain.
I’ve been told of Venezuelas,
of Paraguays and of Chiles,
and I don’t know of what they speak:
I know the skin of the earth
and it has no last name.

When I lived among roots
they pleased me more than flowers,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang out like a bell.

Springtime is so long
when it lasts all winter:
time has lost his shoes,
a year contains four centuries.

Every night when I sleep,
what am I called or not called?
And when I awake, who am I
if I was not my self while I slept?

What this means is that just
as we are stepping foot in life,
just as we are newly being born,
let us not fill our mouths
with so many insecure names,
so many sad labels,
so many pompous letters,
so much yours and so much mine,
with so much signing of papers.

I intend to confuse things,
to join them and newly birth them,
mix them up and undress them,
until the light of the world
has the wholeness of the ocean,
a generous vast oneness,
a fragrance that crackles.

I ask for silence (Pablo Neruda)

(Translation (c) Heidi Fischbach. Read Neruda’s original “Pido Silencio” here)

Now if you’d leave me in peace.
Now if you’d get on without me.

I am going to close my eyes

And I only want five things,
five favorite roots.

The first is love without end.

The second is to see autumn.
I cannot be without leaves
flying away and returning to earth.

Third is grave winter,
the rain I loved, the caress
of a fire in a wilderness of cold.

In fourth place is summertime
round like a watermelon.

The fifth thing is your eyes,
Matilde, my love, my beloved,
I don’t want to sleep without your eyes,
I don’t want to be without you seeing me:
I’d trade springtime
for your gaze still upon me.

My friends, all of that is what I want.
It’s nearly nothing and almost everything.

And now if you wish you may leave.

So much have I lived that one day
you’ll have to make yourselves forget me,
erasing the blackboard of me:
my heart was endless.

But just because I ask for silence
don’t go thinking I’m about to die:
au contraire!:
it so happens I am going to be lived.

It just so happens that I am and I keep being.

I will not be dying for within me
grains will grow,
first the kernels that break through
the ground to see light,
but mother earth is dark:
and inside me I am dark:
I am like a well in whose waters
the nighttime leaves her stars
and goes on alone through the fields.

This is about my having lived so much
that I want to live another much.

Never have I felt such resonance,
never have I had so many kisses.

Now, as always, it is early.
The light takes flight with her bees.

Leave me alone with this day.
I ask permission to be born.