Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesday Poem, Patience


I can't sleep.
People chatter, dogs bark
The world blurs into the distance
Darkness walled in by stone
Beaten by voices, over and over
With fire and ashes nearby

I want to speak
My voice disappears, my strength vanishes
All right! It doesn't matter!
This world dislikes being spoken to, I don't care

The river water turns to ice
And life is life no longer

I do again what I did before
Close my ears, close my eyes
And wait for the calm that has to come.

by Chairil Anwar, Translated by Burton Raffel and Nurdin Salam

Anwar, an Indonesian poet, was born on July 26, 1922 and died on April 29, 1949.

In writing about his work, James S Holmes says -- 
     "In his later years, at any rate, Anwar took his poetry like his life, where he found it: in anthologies or on the waterfront made little differences. And to the last he was overflowing with schemes and projects. In April, 1949, he told a friend that he wanted to go to Macassar, across the Java Sea on the island of Celebes, to note down sea chanties from the Buginese sailors. He had plans to translate Garcia Lorca. And he was thinking about the possibility of a trip to India and Europe."

In some way, this book came into my hands years ago. It's disappeared and reappeared a number of times, including last week when it took leave of me for a few days after I was so happy to have found it's splattered self while I was doing the systematic read-and-dismiss of books on my shelves during my vacation on the island of bed. 

Now I'm not entirely certain why his work appealed to me,(though I know why this particular poem was so relevant to my brooding thoughts which did not include any vision of the calm that had to come) but it did. As did the work of Denise Levertov. And much, much later, toward recent years, the poems of Raymond Carver.

Tuesday Poem, Patience

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Badge

I hope I'm equal to the badge. I got it on Tuesday and soon, hopefully, I'll be able to help Monica with small tasks. Right now, all the walking to her barn and then to see friends I haven't talked to in months was slightly, a little more than slightly, more than I could manage without losing the next day to back and leg problems. But it was well worth it.

And there's a goat on the other side of her shedrow, quite friendly, very fat, more gorgeous than Goatie who often slept in different stalls in the barn that Pam Angevine, a trainer, was in four or five years ago. He would prance and butt. This nameless goat pranced a tiny bit, but seemed fairly amenable to my presence. 

I'd like to have a goat and some chickens. As my grandmother said, "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride. Actually, the badge, which allows me access to the backside of the local racetrack, is my prize possession....I guess dogs and a daughter aren't possessions, so you know what I mean. It allows me to eaves drop and converse. So, I got to talk with Monica who is my adopted daughter (though the paper work hasn't gone through and her mother would put up a big fuss), saw a lovely 10-week old Boxer puppy that Timmy Kirby, a taciturn trainer whose father had the Thoroughbred training business before him, had given his son for his 13th birthday, sweet square face, soft fawn fur.  And got to wave to Ronnie Prince, an exercise rider, and talk with Jim Greene, "Well, well, wait long enough and look what drags along..." (who with Shirley Edwards started the 8th Pole for health care and substance abuse problems on the backside) about the possibilities for slot machines which will improve the economic conditions at the track, something that folks have been waiting for, often hand-to-mouth, for the last six or seven years. 

I feel embarrassed that I have amassed so much material about the goings on with the folks on the backside, interviews I was allowed to make, photographs I was given permission to take, permission slips that everyone signed. Hopefully the guilt about this will start to push me along. That would be a good project for the next year. Guilt has to be useful for something...

Right now I've just been trying to get some semblance of my life back. Chris moved my bed back into the tiny bedroom that has no heat in the winter, the couch back here in the workroom, a little of the clutter managed, the bathroom floor washed. Now comes the kitchen. And then the management of much, much more clutter. But I don't care all that much. I'd just like to be writing again.

"Blue Latitudes" was so fascinating that I slowed down toward the end of it, surprised and disappointed when I got to the last page. I couldn't have imagined caring about Captain Cook or a youngish (forty-something) writer following the course of his expedition with a rather often drunken Australian friend (I would have imagined being turned off by massive, endless descriptions of drinking in Australia, and almost every where else Cook landed, since I think too much about the children of these drunks (if they have them), the damaged livers, the waste of money, but I found a streak of acceptance in my cold soul and enjoyed his fascinating writing, as detailed about the hazards Cook's men faced, as were the descriptions of  the folks he met along the way, his observations about the inevitable devastations that early European explorers brought to cultures they deemed inferior. 

I liked the writing of Tony Horwitz so much that I bought several other books on Amazon. com, one cost a penny plus postage. 

Though I'd tossed out all my Feynman books before in one move or another, I've just  bought replacements. This one doesn't add much except a longer story about his first wife which is admittedly very touching. I'm glad to have it, though reading it was like gobbling dark chocolate. 

I'm trying not to be cranky that I'm not walking well yet...... crankiness is a waste of time. A friend, who read the blog, agreed that I really don't have the energy to teach that six week class this summer. I was grateful that he weighed in on what is a very hard decision. Giving up. Giving in. Not accepting the challenge. But if I'm truthful, he's right. I don't even have enough energy for my own work to matter very much. Even my frustration is dulled.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Not Quite Me?

I am not quite me and am not even sure that I have enough energy to hope to become me again, but maybe that's because the end of prednisone brings it's own problems. Neither of my doctors know much about that, but if you look on line, it's pretty clear that being on it has fewer pitfalls (including the possibility of being effected mentally in a way that was, for me, a glorious high) than getting off it. The list of list of things to watch for once you're weaned off it is unpleasantly long.

I don't want to remain this person who would prefer to lie in bed, reading. And finds the idea of blogging, much less completing this attempt, very foreign, almost impossible. The old me loved to blog and found it quite easy to patch words together. Now I'm struggling for a decent sentence. But this is NOT complaint, but observation of a long process of becoming sick and recovering. 

This week I forced myself to get up at what was once my normal time, 6am, rather than sleep until 9, preferably 11. And I started working on the computer, the first work I've done since the middle of February, editing an insane poem I'd written about my experience last summer, working on the backside of the local racetrack, washing water buckets and making up the feed for 3-5 horses. It's a piece I love, but right now I'm not sure that the love is justified. At any rate, I decided to change it into a prose poem, only 109 pages. (Insert gales of laughter here at the audacity of this no-body thinking she would write a something  of that length and have a hope of anyone reading it...)  But at least I was working!!!!!!!!!!! And for that, I was grateful as I can be in this dull state of mind. 

This week, I managed 4 days during which I was up, often out, functioning for 12 hours. Tottering a bit, but not lying on the bed. On the 5th day, that bed looked awfully good and I understood that it was longing for me and obliged its need.

But things have been happening anyway. My friend Susan edited the poems that will appear in a chapbook and told me not to fret terribly that I didn't know how to spell Klimpt (is that the right spelling?) and Gauguin. (Oh, misery!) Who knows when the chapbook will appear. It was accepted over a year ago, but at least it's now copy edited! 

Another friend scolded me mightily for not telling him  that there are some of my daily self-portraits (1972-73)up in a current show in the Museum of Modern Art in NY. I knew about it because Susan, bless her heart, called me up to tell me that she'd seen my name in the review in the Times. (Evidentially you can see the images on the MOMA website, though I'm not going to look them up right now. MOMA bought some work, and I'd donated other images, some time around 1973.)

I've never been too excited by things like this, though as two friends pointed out, THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT and WEREN'T YOU LUCKY TO BE  MENTIONED when there are a 100 (I'm not sure if this is true, but maybe it is) women photographers in the show. And I am lucky.  I will ask the friend who scolded me and told me to make some use of this opportunity what to do.

But now that I've edited the poetry into a prose poem, I'm at a loss, drained. What can I do except read and go to the movies, an easy drive that I can manage. (Observation, NOT complaint. It's remarkable to be able to drive and to be at the movies again!) 

So, I've seen "Exit Through the Gift Shop," a film that I believe was edited by Banksy. It certainly tweaks the art market very cleverly. Unfortunately, a lot of the footage was taken by a Frenchman (if any of the narrative is true) who swirled his video camera around with terrible casualness. Both Krissy and I felt sick because of the sloshy quality (I closed my eyes for much of the film, but still know that I liked the premise a lot).

I saw the Air Doll by myself. Usually I'm sort of fruity about ideas like having a central character be a sex-doll, but everyone was so tragically (and somewhat realistically) alone that I found this Japanese film very touching, as well as quite beautiful. (The actress who portrayed the doll was remarkably poignant.)

I wouldn't have been unhappy if I hadn't seen The Secret in their Eyes, except that the male actor has a remarkable face that I could have looked at for hours.

"The Outlaw Sea" awakened me to a broader level of disaster -- pirates on the open sea and the ecological catastrophe of ship-breaking on the shores of India. 

The essays of Jeremy Bernstein were pretty interesting to read after Richard Feynman, though I certainly didn't really understand them. 

I couldn't bear to read more than the first quarter of "Eleni," a well-researched book about the murder of Nicholas Gage's mother in the Second World War, her sacrifice to save her children. 

I was annoyed by Donald Hall's book of poems, though the first few pages provoked some interesting early memories and thoughts about my own writing. 

All of the books have been borrowed from my supplier, Warren. (Some day I will go to the library again. When?)  Now Krissy is borrowing books from him since she fell in love the M. K. Fischer and "A Year in Provence" that he'd lent me.

Oh, well, we'll see what happens. I think I have to face that I won't be able to teach the six week, three morning, summer Photo I class that begins in mid-July. That means I'm entirely done with teaching. 

Hummmm. What next?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tuesday Poem, Unaccountably, walking

Unaccountably, walking

past a portly museum guard,
up wide steps, noticing a small, polished penis
(uncircumcised) on a glistening white marble statue,
I am transported, a wood table with attached benches,
seated opposite Bobbie, shriveled, gray,
knit cap pulled over wisps, stubble
mustache, faded flannel and soiled pea coat.

If she talked, she said, "I was a kid. Alone
in the wagon. Waiting for my uncle. The horse shied.
The cart tipped. All the fruit spilled."
Sometimes she shifted a word here, Watertown
or market, added an angry father there, but the gist was
being alone, a child, the fruit spilling.
"It was not my fault."

Bend forward, shuffling a worn deck, laying the seven-card
solitaire pyramid, she muttered softly.
But if the Queen of Hearts appeared in that first dealing,
the set-up of the game, she began a loud,
uncontrollable incantation against the one, the evil one,
who laid a curse on her.

Every evening Bobbie accepted a bar of soap, folded towel
and the striped pajamas
shelter staff kept especially for her. Undressing behind
curtains, no one saw her wizened form, sagging
breasts, dark nipples, shriveled penis, dried sack.

Nothing about the gleaming Bacchus, carved in 1863
by William Witmore Storey, American,
should have reminded me of the old Armenian,
homeless hermaphrodite.

In a month or two, this should be published in a chapbook, "Magritte's Rider," by www.puddinghouse.com.

For more than twelve years, while I was teaching, my relaxation was working the occasional 3-11 shift in the woman's unit of a local shelter. It was a remarkable experience for which I was very grateful. Now my relaxation is going to the backside of the racetrack which gives me remarkable stories for which I am very grateful.

I apologize profusely for not having kept up my end of the blog-bargain, but hopefully I'm back to doing that, looking forward to reading all the poems and my usual cast of blog-character's entries.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Perfectly Reasonable Deviations

I have tried not to buy more books since I plan to move in the next few years and my task is unloading, not acquiring. But I found myself on Amazon, buying three of Feynman's books, second hand, partly because of this quote -

"One of the first interesting experiences I had in this project at Princeton was meeting great men. I had never met very many great men before. But there was an education committee that had to try to help us along, and help us ultimately decide which way we were going to separate the uranium. This committee had men like Compton and Tolman and Smyth and Urey and Rabe and Oppenheimer on it. I would sit in because I understood the theory of how our process of separating isotopes worked, and so they'd ask me questions and talk about it. In these discussions one man would make a point. Then Compton, for example, would explain a different point of view. He would say it should be this (italics) way, and he was perfectly right. Another guy would say, well, maybe, but there's this other possibility we have to consider against it. So everybody is disagreeing, all around the table. I am surprised and disturbed that Compton doesn't repeat and emphasize his point. Finally at the end, Tolman, who's the chairman, would say, "Well, having heard all the arguments, I guess it's true that Compton's argument is the best of all, and now we have to go ahead."
     It was such a shock to me to see that a committee of men could present a whole lot of ideas, each one thinking of a new fact, while remembering what the other fella said, so that, at the end, the decision is made as to which idea as the best -- summing it all up without having to say it three times. These were very great men indeed.
    Page 109, Richard P. Feynman, Adventures of a Curious Character, with Ralph Leighton.

(My appreciation puts aside all question of women not having been players in this particular setting, of nuclear warfare as well as of oil spills, environmental hazards, the state of our economy, greed on Wall Street, etc., and just concentrates on a meeting during which no one has to repeat himself to have been heard.)

and one more quote -- In physics the truth is rarely perfectly clear, and that is certainly universally the case in human affairs. What is not surrounded by uncertainty cannot be the truth." from the introduction to "Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track," a beautiful collection of Feynman's letters edited by his daughter.  

While I dislike the word truth, in this context, I really appreciate it. Oddly, the quote reminded me of my struggle for tenure during which a tenured friend from Woman's Studies carefully removed any hint of reasonable doubt from the text I had written about my teaching, scholarship and service. I knew she was right and that one is not allowed to express even an ordinary amount of self-deprecation or reflective musings in presenting oneself to any of the committees, but I just hated to submit to this cleaning up. However, I needed the job. 

We had our first cookout which Krissy and Chris managed. My friend, Monica, a Thoroughbred trainer who has returned for this season at Suffolk, brought over Mariska who is just a year and a half and the most delicious little girl! And then the next day, Monica ran a horse in the 5th and we went out to see the race (she knew the horse wouldn't do well) and I finally got to see Clemente again. While I've always prided myself on understanding folks whose native language isn't English, Krissy is far better at understanding his fantastic stories, I'm sad to say. He's the most charming fellow....and, as usual, snuck up behind me, grabbed my neck and I screamed. He gets a great kick out of this.

I figured out how to deal with physical therapy. I just lie and tell her whatever she wants to hear. But I am better and if it weren't for having done too many of the prescribed exercises I'd be back where I was four or five weeks ago, walking a bit faster.  But what the hell....   One more dose of prednisone tomorrow and we'll see how the body does on its own. And when I get up to speed. I'm dreaming again, after a long reprieve that must have been due to the illness so all night I try to find a job, try to get back to teaching or accepted somewhere else and wake up worrying, slightly depressed... But we live in hope.........