There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
Caught between Kerouac and Marilyn spawned in me the language, fearless pain as my mother, wrapped in mink, walked the edge then past as I watched then ducked smashed shards and men wanting to be sucked, degenerating the innocence of life and saints and promises made;
and where is Christ, the Buddha, ohm mani padme ohm when thousands of children die each year in America alone at the hands of their parents caretakers life-takers, when fathers teach their daughters the art of Kama Sutra, how in all this to distinguish any act as wrong, when killing millions in moments preserves the American way and what of generations born in winds of mushroom clouds,born without limbs or eyes to napalm women,what harm in being sucked by unlined skin—
the brain numb too short a time, too soon the blackout ends, too soon Marilyn raises her skirt, her breasts, her legendary grin, too soon barbiturates and lithium and caffeine caffeine—can’t sleep, won’t sleep, bring in the kid—she won’t remember anyway the feel of heels and calloused palms, slip between her unfledged lips like snow, like angel wings, then retreat to the oblivion of drink. What’s sex in this rhythm of hate and fear, in the mutual acceptability of mutual destruction? The Buddha uncrucified cannot exist.
And I know these people, this violence spawned of invisibility, sexuality hiding fungal lingams of death, sublimating the need to think of consequence when consequences surround us not of our own making—why control ourselves when we ourselves have no control in this atomic-Ku Klux Klan-raping world of sawed-off shotguns in the hands of eight-year-olds who need a fix, a blow, enough to know they are alive, enough to dull the tense despair of being alive
but this is my world too and the bombs of mutual annihilation have not yet dropped and I do remember the jazz-nuanced hipster world that spawned me behind Marilyn’s angel grin concealing desperate dreams turned nightmare horrible, and I
we carry these in symbols of anorexic models and crucifixions to bars and steaming baths and schoolyards filled with meth and smack, bliss only in the mind, the body sharp-edged and clutching.
Yet under these streets flow fresh-water streams—chip away with hammer and nail, dig through phlegm-stained concrete with fingers till whitened bone shows through, dig for water to wash us clean, past wanting more cars, more clothes, more love than we feel, dig for truth beyond lies that tell us drugs and sex, shaved heads and tattoos, fast tech will save us for only we can save ourselves yet if each self is saved we will save the world.
Thank you to the editors of Squaw Valley Review Poetry Anthology 2012 for first publishing this poem and to the community and poets who make Community of Writers such a rich and fulfilling experience.
CONFESSIONS OF A NATURE LOVER
Back then I was going steady with fog, who could dance like nobody’s business, I threw her over for a leaf that one day fluttered first her shadow then her whole life into my hand, that’s a lot of relatives, this leaf and that leaf and all the other leaves hung around, I told her I needed space, which was true, without it I’d only be a soul, and no one’s sure that whisp is real, that’s why we say of real estate, location, location location, and of speech, locution, locution, locution and of love, yes, yes, yes I am on my knees, will you have me, world?
(from The New Yorker, May 14, 2012)
One cannot discover new oceans unless one has the courage to lose sight of the shore.
pureed red beet soup with cashew cream heart, photo by Elizabeth
On Feb 13, my friend’s first meal was delivered from Ceres Project, which delivers free weekly meals for people with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses for three months. This profound kindness is only one of the important ways Ceres Project is improving the world and individual’s lives. They also take recipient’s dietary requirements into account (gluten-free, for example); and use whole, health-promoting, organic, seasonal food, sourced from local farms, farmer’s markets and Whole Foods Market. Ceres chefs also teach teens, who prepare the food, how to cook delicious nutritious meals.
Even kindergarteners are involved by making inspiring cards for clients. This is from Max and my friend says, Thank you, Max!
Cancer and its treatment is challenging for anyone as well as a person’s family/caretaker so the primary cook gets a much needed break from the daily grind of doing all the shopping, meal prep and normal clean up, with restaurant-quality meals prepared not only for the client but also for the immediate family/caretaker.
I’m told every bite was delicious! So their health was nourished, spirits raised and their minds and bodies could relax for the night.
Valentine’s Day inspired my friend’s first Ceres meal and proved one of the most loving valentines ever created. In addition to the pureed beet soup they received:
heart-shaped turkey meatloaves with tomato jam, photo by Elizabeth
sauteed red chard with blood oranges, photo by Elizabeth
To learn more, or to volunteer, or provide a tax-deductible donation please contact Ceres Project (PO Box 1562, Sebastopol, CA; 707.829.5833). If you know someone in Sonoma or Marin who is being treated for cancer, please let them know about Ceres Project. Hopefully people in other areas will be inspired to create similar services in their communities.
Wishing you all health and support when needed.
Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.
Human beings, by changing the inner beliefs of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.
What we need is to develop a heart that brightens the world.
Though I no longer have a physical aikido practice, its essence is always alive in me. I love aikido’s focus on recognizing and redirecting energy. Rather than relying solely on our material senses, aikido exercises foster a deeper awareness with which we find openings in an instant to render aggressive movement non-threatening. I imagine that working with energy in this manner may be akin to what birds experience as they soar along air currents.
Compassion is another aspect I love about aikido. Of course we protect ourselves, yet, if possible, we also protect the attacker, thus respecting each person, that we are connected rather than separate.
How we learn to roll and protect our bodies is applicable to other situations as well. I know someone who walked away from a freeway motorcycle accident because just after the car began to shove his motorcycle out from under him, his body curled, rolled in the air and over the car before he landed in a fall he’d done so many times in aikido that reflex saved his life.I experienced something similar when riding my bike in Golden Gate Park. Another rider I’d just met urged me to ride off a cliff in a mini-Kenevil-like jump. Because I resisted, this guy playfully taunted and then demonstrated how to do it. He made it look easy so I rode off the edge – fast.
My bike dropped, nose first, while my body released and rolled like a sowbug, head over heel, through the air before slamming, past the crumpled ten-speed, in an aikido side fall.
After catching my breath I looked at this guy as he continued asking if I was okay though he sounded elated as he described how my body had rolled in the air rather than landing on my head and neck like the handlebars on my twisted bike.
Lucky for me, repetitive training turned into reflex and saved me before my brain could process what was happening. When he said that he’d gotten hurt the first time he’d done the jump, my brain kicked in and I never returned his calls. Why would I want a “friend” who would knowingly put me in danger? There’s enough danger in the world that we can’t avoid.
I look to friends for safety, comfort and to share all the joy we can in this blink-of-an-eye life. Which is how Aikido is like a friend, something that ever reminds me that though I may need to protect myself and others at times, I can do so with an open heart.
Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming….
In the way that Toni Morrison made American slavery palpable and personal in Beloved, Chris Cleave personalizes UK immigrant detention and the cruel indifference of greed in this beautifully written page turner, rich in language and nuance.