Gosh, postcard, you say that as if it’s a bad thing.
Gosh, postcard, you say that as if it’s a bad thing.
Her eyes are pearl green, like a treasure
Seen through a filter of ocean froth
And the water, brimming and subsiding,
Knows how pearls are built, not born,
From endless repetitions, much the way
The heart, tidal in its attractions, rests
For a moment, between sets–respiration
Like inspiration, an on-again/off-again thing–
And returns to work. But my eyes, denim
And lapis-flecked, flicker in her direction
Hungrily, hopelessly. Only a fly on the wall
Sees my breath catch as she looks away.
So tonight I went with some friends to the vigil for Orlando held in the plaza in front of Boston City Hall, and prayed and held silence and signed the book for our brothers and sisters in Orlando, to let them know we care. I still need to process all that, and I will write about it soon, but for now, a look back to Saturday and what I spent the time doing when I wasn’t either watching the parade or dancing my ass off.
Needle. Haystack. Backbeat.
A sea of exhausted queers, underdressed, rained on,
Milling jubilantly across the plaza. Three flags:
Stars and Stripes, Massachusetts Indian, Rainbow.
Sixty-nine reasons to salute. Save the environment.
Adopt a shelter dog. Get tested. Buy a t-shirt.
Help veterans stop our warring. Eat fried dough.
There on the steps, a woman break-dances to music
Coming from the stage, to the applause of her friends
And strangers. One onlooker, all in black leather,
Turns away. We text and call you, give up,
Then turn around, and there you are at last.
Parking lot block party between tall brick
Buildings echoing the DJ’s words, the backbeat
So deep my bones reverberate. Broken tarmac
And puddles of Bud Lite Lime make a rough
Dance floor, but I’ve lost my friends. I looked
Away for a moment and once again I was
Alone amid a few hundred tightly packed
Tattooed women’s bodies gyrating. Buzz cut
Blue hair bump and grind. Surely salmon swimming
Upriver move to no such background music,
Though the press of bodies must be something
Like this. How then to find four particular
Fish in the struggling river? Wandering the edges
Will not suffice. Only leaping into center stream,
Zenlike, gets it done. I abandon my goal,
My isolation, and finally find what I seek.
Black light disco ball and all the young men
Packed wall to wall and taller than all
My lost friends: I am tired of losing them.
Even more than the vibrating drums and lights
Is the slight pall of sticky spilled drinks
On the floor. All these men so intent on
Scoring block my view as the lights
Scramble my attention. Trying to make out
Lyrics, like making out faces, is too much
Of a chore. Some searches are just doomed
From the start. At least I can still find the door.
Photo by Paula M. Grez.
So a friend asked me to write about last night’s lesbian dodgeball game. There weren’t as many people there as usual, 12 rather than 18 or 24, so we were all playing all the time, up until close to the end when a regular showed up 1) late and 2) with a change of music to allow us to stop playing the game to the rather insipid and repetitive music the radio stations were playing that night. Real disco and old 70s ballads redone with a mean backbeat make for a Much Improved Dodgeball Score. Most Valuable Player of the Week: Sarah.
I have been trying to figure out a good metaphor for this strange game. It’s not like basketball or hockey or even soccer, especially the way we play it. So here is what I came up with.
Jaguars going for the kill.
Monkeys leaping out of three balls’ trajectories at once.
Sweaty women dancing to disco music.
The woman who gathers all of the six red balls and looks
Like a very aggressive tomato salad.
The women backing warily away, hoping not to get hit
When the tomato salad explodes in their direction.
The athlete. The wise-ass. The mom.
The crash as the ball hits the padded wall.
The louder crash as the ball hits the window.
The strength of the window, not breaking.
(Image from Google Images.)
From 1903 to 1908, the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke carried on a correspondence with a young poet who wrote to him asking for advice, and long after, his letters were gathered into a book, appropriately enough titled Letters to a Young Poet. I feel a bit like that young man, putting feelers out into the world to say, “How do I do this thing? Am I doing this right? How will I know?” And I would like to thank my readers who have entered the conversation with me.
As Rilke said, “We would easily be made to believe that nothing has happened, and yet we have changed, as a house changes into which a guest has entered…. [M]any signs indicate that the future enters into us in this way in order to transform itself in us long before it happens” (55). I think this is true, and probably one of the reasons that some changes or discoveries that we make about ourselves end up having either a ring of inevitability or a “D’oh! How could I not have seen that?” to them. Of course I couldn’t see it. You live into your answers very gradually.
So the two things I think I have been attempting to do with this blog is 1) articulate the questions I am learning how to live into, seeking clarity from the articulation on the one hand and feedback from others’ experiences on the other, and 2) make some poetry that can turn the feelings into art, for myself, for the world. Again, Rilke says, “A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity” (20). So a lot of questions and a little bit of art here and there, hopefully good.
A small bouquet that I can share with you.
Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. Trans. M.D. Herter Norton. New York: Norton, 1962.
Late to the Party, I Join the Host
People who say that there is no such thing as bad weather,
Only in adequate clothes, have never spent half an hour,
With a bladder full of tea and a heart full of hope
At a bus stop in an unfamiliar town as the sun sets and rain begins.
Those who say “Go with the flow” have not considered
Such situations, where “flow” is not particularly desirable.
Sometimes getting there is half the battle, whether
You measure this run-in with public transportation
Or your whole life leading up to this: school and gym,
Band practice, college days spent studying in the sun,
The first job, hiking in the Alps, more school,
The teachers who changed your life for good or ill,
Bad dates, good dinners, and all the nights up to that
Moment when the cat patted your face to wake you and
You rose, a different person than you had been
The day before, the decade before, all of it leading you
Here to this wet bus stop trying to get across this
Town (in the correct direction this time) to find the party.
There are many architectural spaces inside my head that frequently come out in my dreams, especially libraries, bookstores, antique stores, museums and opera stages (why opera, which I don’t care for rather than Broadway musicals, which I love, I have no idea). I tend to assume that the Dream Chipmunks in my head are busy all night in the File Room of My Mind, frantically trying to file away the day’s events, conversations, thoughts, daydreams and all the other flotsam and jetsam of my life.
So I went into an online Dream Interpretation Dictionary and looked some of these things up. Most of them are not rocket science. Libraries symbolize knowledge, museums and antiques the things you value. “To watch an opera in your dream represents your quest for the grander things in life…”—okay, this part I totally buy, but this part? “…The dream may also be trying to tell you that you are being overly dramatic in some waking situation” (“Opera”), I really don’t. Further, it says, “To dream that you are watching a musical indicates that you need to be careful not to get carried away by your emotions” (“Musical”).
Now it may just be me, but it seems like the writers here have a bias against musicals. And why would being dramatic or getting “carried away” with your emotions be a bad thing anyway? This interpretation strikes me as being written by a straight WASP male of the old school (i.e., the medieval one that didn’t have women in it). Maybe the opera/musical imagery is telling me that I need to be more dramatic and more emotional. I am an introvert, after all, who has dealt with depression, and having and identifying my emotions has long been difficult for me. Maybe my dreams are telling me to embrace my inner Leo. There might also be glitter involved…
I have been having these kinds of spaces show up in my dreams more often than usual over the last week or so, and maybe that is a result of all this introspection I’ve been doing. Normally, I would expect more teaching anxiety dreams or overflowing toilet dreams, or the even more normal ones where completely random and meaningless things happen (I suspect in part because chipmunk hands aren’t really made for holding onto paper and they often drop things on the floor and then misfile them in their hurry to finish the job before I wake up and go to work).
I suppose what this suggests is that, as useful as such resources are, they are going to share the cultural biases of their makers. In the end, my own intuition about what a symbol means is probably going to be much more useful to me than anything somebody else comes up with.