Category Archives: Rants and Laments

Rant or Lament?

Can’t tell if this is a rant or a lament. That may be evidence that I badly need to get out of the house and go camping or it may signal something about this extraordinary age. Probably both.

That’s when I got the idea about sleeping out in the forest: pine needle pillow; pricks of stars visible through the jagged, vertical pines; shadows. Hoots and cricks, some scary, some soothing but all better than the eternal thrum of the AC system and its chill result. What are we? Slabs of meat in the walk-in cooler waiting for the sous chef to grab and fry? The heat knows no bounds. Or at least, previous bounds exceeded. 90, 91, 95, 97. Even the dog gets tired after a block.

I drape my bra on the back of my chair — convention set aside. Where am I going anyway? I can speak to a neighbor at the lot line with my arms across my chest.

The deck at night offers no alternative because of all the AC generators littering yards nearby, thrumming into action at regular intervals. Plus traffic two blocks over. You don’t hear traffic in the daylight because of all the suburban sounds of improvement and maintenance — yawing, sawing, polishing, blowing, hammering, trimming, and trucks, trucks, trucks.

The place of my birth always lies to the north or west. Where I write in community in August quite nearly on top of my birth town and so the geography speaks to home as little else can. When no single school, no single neighborhood, not one state, even, claims your history, let the rolling hills and the clinging mists at dawn speak to home. Those hills. Old, old mountains. Not the majesty of young upstarts like the Rockies, but the soothing ancient rolls of tree-covered dirt and stone. That’s where I’d like to sleep.

After a long solitary walk away from the conference center’s line of Adirondack chairs. A creeping fear of bears. A constant look-out for the bite of a tick. Scraping through damp grasses until shadow and branch take over. What happened to our primitive selves — the musculature of the hunt, the wary nervous systems of vigilance?

We’ve been scrambled. First by too many interior hours, then by a wicked remove from food sources and now by the glowing blue light of our devices. How many sleepless nights do I succumb to the news feed — holding the phone above my head, working my arm a little, my thumb a lot, knowing the whole while that I’m entering an insomniac’s hell — a damnation so complete that it might keep me awake until the early doves start calling out to each other and the passerines twitter with their timeless chatter. If the eyes manage to close at three, the continued scroll under the eyelids represents a modern form of torture — not just for the delivery system with its pituitary-disturbing glare, but because of the tsunami of terrifying content.

We are fourteen Reichstag fires into the creation of a fascist state. We are frogs, boiled, boiled, boiled. We are pretend pundits, all, twittering our outrage in fear and pretend hope that something, ANYTHING, we do might forestall the total collapse of the Republic.

How much, then, I might prefer the clicking rattle of a venomous snake or the crackling approach of a large mammal to lying in bed in the glare of news. Dying riddled with poison or after being mauled by a bear, alone and in pain, somehow more right than the accretion of damage to our nervous systems wrought by today and tomorrow’s political fuckery, which of course is not merely political, but personal. DID 1970’S RADICAL FEMINISM TEACH US NOTHING?

So okay, those circles of advocacy were hideously, egregiously white, but now here we are all, arms extended to any and all who would prefer liberty, or let’s say “so-so democracy,” to kleptocracy, hoping to grab each other and sing, not unlike the yellow-shirted moms in Portland trying to protect protesters with their bodies, which is what good moms have always done — tried to protect their young with their bodies. Look how they turn the BLM chant into a lullaby — “hands up, please don’t shoot” — knowing how the nasty, cameo-clad soldiers must not be angered and really, must be soothed.

I’ll sue, you’ll sue, the AG’ll sue, the ACLU will sue — but the delays and the chances of meeting a radical, unqualified right winger on the bench grow by the minute. We’re frogs. We’re boiled. Our organs are near to exploding.

Let me walk, therefore, barefoot on rocks still warm with summer sun and risk disturbing a rattlesnake. Let me enter the deep, cool shade of the forest and lie down there as the sky inks black. Let me be surrounded by the old sounds, even if bringing ancient fear with them. Let me lay my head in the bracken ferns, aware that I crush a few fronds for my comfort, but prepared to do so to save my soul.

  • Collage above made sometime between Zimmerman’s acquittal and Michael Brown’s death.

White Woman Rant and To Do list

This is a long post, only partially a rant.

What a razor’s edge: judgment!

Step forward! Shut up and listen! Step back! Silence is violence!

The voice of the hour responds: try being Black for a half hour.

Marshall your hatred and your good person biases and give them license, or don’t, for the hatred and biases both good and bad need no license. They like to go rogue. They operate on the sly. The rotten impulses will thwart and harm another’s soul, a Black person’s soul, whether you grant them permission or not. Being otherwise decent has nothing to do with it. Do a little reading for Christ’s sake.

So why must discrimination law require demonstration of INTENT? So bogus. Such a loophole.

So many ways to pose as ally, whether silent or speaking up. But, oh hallowed white person with every advantage coded into your DNA, silence from your earthworm lips surrounded by freckled skin prone to burning, no no silence is not acceptable.

Shout loud and clear and worry about getting it right and redeeming your moral points later.

(This business of hoping to earn badges toward redemption is not just a White Woman thing, BTW, it’s a very Catholic thing. So — fucking crucify me on two counts).

History shall condemn us if we do not, oh darling freckle-faced politicos, put our bodies on the front lines, yes, even our raggedy, lumpy bodies and yes, even during a pandemic. Protests? Maybe not. But calls and donations, yes. I’ve said it before.

TODAY: I shall call my reps in support of H.R. 51 — a bill regarding Washington, D.C.’s statehood. Why don’t you, too?

TODAY: I shout out the importance of all those down-ballot races. It’s not just the protests shrinking the response time between racial murder and indictment, it’s Black mayors and Black DA’s and Black police commissioners. Progressives of all races.

I long for the day when progress is measured by the absence of Black bodies gunned down by police and not by the swiftness of justice.

TODAY: I shall rest in the satisfaction of a Supreme Court acting like a court and not like an adjunct of the Executive (even though I’m inclined to move straight to dread about the tax case and did just that yesterday). In particular, I say HALLELUJAH AND FUCK YOU to trump for Neil Gorsuch authoring the LGBTQ opinion.

Have I lately been so satisfied by a court’s result?

(Well, yes, Judge Sullivan in the Flynn case. I CANNOT wait for him to sentence that traitorous ass).

TODAY: I shall finish one of the books by a Black author that I purchased in support of a week of buying Black writers (Instagram) (‘course, I’ve been doing this for years, letting myself buy bestsellers penned by Black writers LOOONNNG before they come out in paperback). Today? Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John. It takes place on Antigua where Kincaid grew up and incidentally, where Eliza Lucas Pincnkey also grew up.

The Solstice is nigh (she said). With Leo on the ascendant, and a problematic 12th house, this time of year always comes as a kind of relief to me, a psychological blossoming as well as a literal one.

I will also make two more masks. The elastic I ordered back in March finally arrived. These two will be birthday gifts for a Cancerian friend who is coming over tomorrow to write POSTCARDS to Florida with me. If she’s lucky, I’ll use some of the batiks that Tina sent me.

They say the postcards make a difference, but what do I know? What do any of us know?

In the category of things that surely don’t make a difference but that make ME feel better: this week I sent a postcard to the White House, saying, “You’re Fired!” as part of a campaign to get millions of people buying stamps because — you know — ahem, absentee ballots, the Constitution, the USPS, Jeff Bezos.

I also made a complaint to the Virginia Bar about William Barr (OK impeachment might be out of the question, but can’t somebody disbar the fucker?)

Since this blog is PATTERN and outrage, here’s some noodling from this week, done in anticipation of some hot pink threads from Deb (due to arrive any minute).

P.S. Don’t give to the Minnesota Freedom Fund as I recommended a bit ago — they’ve been SWAMPED by donations! A wonderful problem for them. Also in case you don’t know, don’t give to anything Shaun King is rustling up. He’s reviled by many of the Black woman I follow on Twitter.

PPS. I do not mean to hassle those who are taking time to absorb things and order their thinking and staying quiet. I can’t tell you how tentatively I posted our Hearts for Charleston quilt on Instagram yesterday, it being the 5th anniversary of the Mother Emanuel AME massacre.

Food, news, and a rant

Snowflakes wander to the ground this morning and put us in mind of another April Fools Day, when two feet of snow fell. We couldn’t open the front door. It seemed a grand joke from Nature.

Who feels like joking now?

What will people discover isn’t so necessary when this is all over? D’s biology class resumes this week, but online. No lab. Surely hands-on science won’t fall by the wayside, but maybe all those corporate, in-person meetings?

The snow must be over, for the skylight is a blue rectangle.

Problem: a very bland fish chowder. I’m considering a remoulade to add flavor. NOTE: Jars of roasted red peppers make fabulous quarantine food, especially when fresh vegetables run low.

My next grocery delivery isn’t for another ten days and I’m almost out of onions and celery! Lettuce for two salads left, maybe. I must wage my war of emptying-the-fridge and relying-on-the-pantry in silence, otherwise K might take it upon himself to grocery shop.

I really don’t want him to go to the grocery store. I know people are making different decisions about this, but avoiding the store is a way to avoid worry.

Put another two ways: I really want my husband to live; I really don’t feel like dying.

Leave it to my friend DT to get to the heart of any matter, even if harsh truths are involved. ESPECIALLY if harsh truths are involved.

“What’s so bad about dying,” she asks in a recent phone call. “Why are we so afraid of it?” After a pause, in which perhaps she thinks about the recent arrival of another granddaughter, DT adds, “But, I have so many reasons to want to live.”

Another friend’s brother is on a ventilator. In Florida (no comment — rant comes later). She’s remarkably sanguine about it. She’s married to a doctor, which makes me wonder if the medical perspective is generally less hyped-up with avoidance strategies. My brother’s going grocery shopping, that’s for sure. His partner is being exposed in a Los Angeles ER and coming home. What’s grocery shopping compared with that?

My roasted pepper remoulade will feature garlic, salt, and olive oil. Can you picture the pretty red swirl in the creamy soup? Plus a sprinkling of chives from the pot out by the garage.

A plane passes. Earlier, an ambulance. Hong Kong’s numbers rise again. Talk of asymptomatic carriers who never get sick. K quips, “I’ll bet China doesn’t want to call Hong Kong theirs NOW.”

We see clip after clip of ER doctors describing war zones, their eyes wide with sadness. We see field hospitals being erected in Central Park and in various arena around the country. And still, the Partisan Dicks of some Red States stand their ground in a vicious display of macho-trumpism (oh, sorry. Is macho-trumpism redundant?) How can their decisions be allowed to govern when their toxic allegiance will literally kill people?

It’s no metaphor when Nancy Pelosi says trump has blood on his hands. The Boston Globe says it, too. Blood AND sputum.

Among other things, trump demands that we re-invent language, for surely “callous disregard for human life” and “lack of empathy” don’t quite capture his epic willingness to let people die.

We are still running the heat. I look forward to a short-sleeves day.

I’ll keep you posted on how the food challenge goes, as the vegetable bins empty and the onion bowl reveals only a littering of rust-colored, papery skins. The challenge appeals to me — something about my farming ancestors? A potato-blighted, starving past, perhaps. But seriously, this is a fight I’m equipped to fight. For so many, I lack all skill, all stamina.

A friend once said to me, “In a barter economy, you’d be a queen.”

It was a compliment, I know, but at the time also stood as an indictment about how I just couldn’t manage to make money or survive in the corridors of business.

Offspring: a poem, a lament

Speaking of offspring, here’s a lament written during the summer writing retreat.* I can’t remember what the prompt was — maybe something about emptying your mind?


Golden rod tug slightly in a breeze. Higher up, the rustle of maples. And everywhere: insects. Bees and flies and stinging pests. How sweet it’d be to merely lament the season coming to a close and not the earth herself melting, collapsing, churning, with the Ring of Fire activating quakes up and down the coasts on either side of the Pacific. Which one will open up under Brentwood, Pasadena, Korea Town, and Studio City and gobble up great edifices of society not to mention, people: Brother, Son? I could never have been the mother who said, ‘No. Do not go.’ And even if I had been, he’d not have listened which is how it should be, but still — a bigger worry added to the usual worries.

And then there’s the plains of Nebraska, the river banks along the Mississippi, the lower reaches of Missouri — should so much land be under water?

And how can the potential destruction of, say, one American Western city compare to all of Greenland’s ice melting, Paris and London frying under a merciless sun? Or colony collapse, the bees giving up the ghost, along with whole caveloads of bats, unable to fight the poisonous fight any longer, tongues and nails, slab and tourniquet. What place, then after?

When we look at the data, we also look away, preferring to note how a grasshopper landing not five feet away says something about summer ending and the memory of other summers ending — times when bikes, hoses, pools, bare feet were the signifiers. Our poor brood when little watched nature show after nature show offering up news of habitat decline and species extinction and people wonder why millennials are anxious?

We wonder why the young refuse heirlooms of any kind, but especially have no interest in the Rosenthal china, the Royal Doulton, the Strawberry Wedgewood. ‘Will we have a home or air?’ they wonder — the inability to afford the former a trifling but inescapable concern compared to the latter.

‘We have ten years,’ they keep saying, trying and failing to sound the alarm. ‘Ten years’ means something different to the young than it does to my aging ears. Gone are the days when insects present as cute and annoying pests. Not when closer scrutiny might reveal how numbered their days are. How connected they are to everything else.

Even if we all rowed in the same direction, what a monumental challenge! But with lies the prevalent currency and corporations granted all ascendancy, we first have to clean house and by then — I’m sorry, the thought is there — mightn’t it be too late?

How many monarchs migrated to the milkweeds, those perennials standing proud and erect, proper in their heliotropic course, casting lozenge-shaped shadows, offering praise to sun and nourishment to caterpillars? How many? Less than last year? A tenth of the year before?

It’s easy to shrug at the extinction of some two-toed sloth or a miniature lizard with nocturnal habits literally never seeing the light of day, but what about ALL of the passerines? Polar bears and reindeer? What about us? If we’d cared more about the two-toed sloth all those years ago, would we be better situated today — able to enter the “Wild Kingdom” programming, sponsored by Mutual of Omaha and hosted by some hokey and corny know-nothing, instead of learning about floating islands of plastic the size of Delaware and about Colorado burning for half a season?

 

* It turns out that the response to the prompt mentioned yesterday became a chapter in the book (working title: •Blood and Indigo•). That means I’m precluded from ‘publishing’ here (seriously, with 100 hits a day?) What would happen if I ‘published’ it, left it up for ten days, and then tagged it private? SShhh

Sharon Olds poem, published in Atlantic Magazine.

Jesus in the rubble

After the debris had been lifted and carted away, all that was left of the little yellow house was concrete — an impersonal litter devoid of any indicia of 40 or 50 years of living. I told myself that I would hold dear whatever little sign of life I found. Don’t ask me why.

First, I spied a disk of nylon tulle, scarlet against the grey debris like a splash of fresh blood. How did it survive when so little else did? During one of my trespasses, I’d come upon a pile of these in the basement — leftovers from a baby shower, perhaps? They were the perfect size to load with pastel-colored candies and tie up as a favor.

hipstamaticphoto-566341937.775817But mostly, there was rubble. No hemp. No copper. No stray nails. Nothing. When I squatted down near where one of the basement doors had been, however, I found four more things.

There was a hank of black cord, a padlock, and a dead mouse. I used the tulle to pick up the mouse. I would bury it later.

img_9538-1The house triggered thoughts about our predicament. Most of us operate under the shared hallucination that more is better, but developers and corporations do so with a vengeance. The old calculus of cost-benefit analysis (long-term consequences be damned) these days means risking the future of our planet.

The almighty dollar will float like limp lily pads when a super storm floods the new and enlarged basement. Money in the bank won’t slow the storm surge when a torrential, 100-year-storm hits. And, by the way, when will we stop calling storms that happen twice a year, ‘100 year storms’?

The almighty dollar won’t buy our grandchildren a future when water becomes the new oil and Ted Turner’s descendants own the Mississippi. Money will be rendered conspicuously useless in a barter economy. What do stocks and bonds mean to hoards of refugees fleeing drought or civil war? And when the pandemic comes, bleach will be the precious commodity.

Maybe the empty lot, still forlorn and naked in transition, suggests that you won’t want to live in a post-capitalist disaster zone — one bottle of bleach and a beaker being enough, if you catch my meaning.

The empty lot speaks to the break down of bodies, since we too will crumble into anonymous debris. But while the decay of flesh falls within the natural order of things, conspicuous and reckless consumption does not.

New lives will occupy this square of land —  lives of sorrow and triumph, pettiness and valor. Will they act as if we can consume and invent our way out of climate change? Or will they be willing to look at hard truths and buckle up? Am I?

And then, I found Jesus in the rubble. A piece of maroon felt about the size of a quarter appeared at my feet. I flipped it over to find Jesus. Half a scapular. This and the dead mouse somehow became emblems of ‘radical hope.’


A crescent moon winked through the branches as I walked home. The air was crisp. With a dead mouse and half a scapular in my pocket, I pulled an airing quilt off the yew in front of my house. After the grey debris and feelings of regret, the colorful patchwork moved my tired and clamped heart. This was yet another emblem, wasn’t it? One of love. One I hope will survive as a minor but meaningful legacy.