Late Autumn Visit to an Old New England Home

It’s time again to visit the old New England home.

Quirk N Jive

The quaint New England village

in mid-October.

Antique shops, country stores.

White-steepled churches

set against the backdrop

of fall’s spectacular display

of crimson and gold foliage

And the old New England home.

Her porch adorned with cornstalks and pumpkins.

Her flowerbeds full of yellow and rust-colored mums.

Arrogantly she stands.

She knows her admirers.

How they delight in her unassuming

beauty.

So simple.

Tasteful.

Smart.

She leaves her admirers to wonder

whether she is listed in the registry

of historic homes.

No one

not even she

acknowledges that her charms will fade

with the dropping of the leaves.

*

Be patient.

Wait a bit.

Four weeks perhaps.

Then visit again.

This time

go on in.

Meet her.

Push open the door that doesn’t quite want to give.

She’s not easy, you know.

Hear the creak of the plank floor as you step inside.

Smell the mothballs

and the scent of doorknobs

touched too many…

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Today

Today the light shone-the sun beaming through a clear, blue November sky.

As I walked I thought of Mary Oliver and her words:

Do you need a prod?

Do you need a little darkness to get you going?

Let me be as urgent as a knife, then,

and remind you of Keats,

so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,

he had a lifetime.

* From Oliver’s “The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac” which is published in her collection Blue Horses, The Penguin Press, New York, 2014

But today I don’t need the darkness.

It has done its job.

It has been my constant companion and I am grateful, for darkness has helped me to see this

this beautiful day.

And all I can think is,  “Live.

Live.

It is the only thing you haven’t done;

not really.

Perhaps you tried, but

only in the space of shadows.”

A lifetime should not be reduced to a blot on a page.

The story is elsewhere

on clean, white paper.

written in a pen that doesn’t bleed.

The Chair Downstairs

The chair was out of place. The design was early American, so it did not fit in with the rest of the room’s Ikea aesthetic. We used to keep it upstairs in our bedroom where I paid it little attention-probably because it functioned as a catchall for our laundry and was usually buried under mounds of clothing. But, when we needed extra seating to accommodate guests, we brought it down to the living room and placed it near the bottom of the stairway where it remained, standing there dignified but an outlier, small and stiff, like something an 18th century scholar would sit in as he pored over musty books, straining his eyes to read by the dim candlelight.

Rarely did anyone choose to sit in the chair-I assumed because it looked so uncomfortable. But there was something else about it-a quality of being already occupied, as if one would need to whisper into the air, “pardon me, but mayI have that seat now?” if she wished to use it. At night, when I’d turn off the lights, I’d dash upstairs, not wanting to be left alone in the dark room with whatever sat in that chair. I could feel its gaze though, watching me take my leave, and when I’d wake during the witching hour, I’d think about the living space below and wonder.

Eventually we moved, but we did not bring the chair along with us. Whatever company it kept, I was finished entertaining.

 

Sleepless

Awake

for no reason, and a thousand reasons.

Hours pass, dull and quiet

this endless night.

Turning inward

I seek an image to cling to

hoping that it will pull me downward into sleep.

There are many.

But there is one.

I set my eyes on it.

Feel where it is.

Where I am.

A warm place that I breathe in

as I sink into the sand

and gaze towards the glare of a yellow light

that obscures a picture

that disturbs

and comforts

and beckons.

Then the house creeks

and the image is gone.

And I lie there

sleepless.

 

 

A Warm October

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I waited for October’s chill to chase summer away

but instead she brought heat

a sick heat, like a fever.

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I watched the leaves, which should have ignited like flames of gold and amber,

shrivel, die and fall to the ground

then crumble under the feet of passersby who might or might not have noticed

that something was not quite right.

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In my lawn I noticed the squirrels

which should have been busy preparing for winter

forget what was their purpose

unaware that nature, although herself unburdened by the dictates of her own laws,

does not forgive those who ignore them.

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And snakes-I saw two on my morning walk.

One, a baby, I would have crushed underfoot

had I not noticed something wriggling across the pavement.

Another larger green serpent had been flattened by a car

at the end of my neighbor’s driveway.

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Night might well have been day

as I lay in bed, damp and awake.

And that thing that was wrong

began to push through my skin

leaving impressions

like slashes of a beast

on my chest.

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And, as the rest of the world rattled,

here it remained still

quiet

hot

October, insisting

like a ringing in the ears

that something was not quite right.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer’s Last Days

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It’s just me

and you

and

the lake, still like a glass tabletop

the crickets, their song both beautiful and desperate

the sky, darkening a bit earlier each evening.

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At last, just us.

After a season of endless chatter, just us

and

the lapping of water upon the sand

the lonely drone of the plane passing overhead

the watersnake skimming the shore, seeking the sun’s warmth upon his back.

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Everyone else has gone.

They’ve abandoned you.

To avoid the inevitable goodbye?

Perhaps ours is a shared sadness.

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Perhaps that is giving them too much credit.

Perhaps they are just selfish.

Having wrung from you all the pleasure they could get,

they have walked away

without a thank you

without a backwards glance-

you now a distant memory

and, like all memories of years past,

soon forgotten.

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But you and I,

we are good.

Let us sit here together for as long as we are able.

I will miss you my friend when you are gone.

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For now, let us enjoy this perfection of

silence and still

sand and sky

water and me

with you.

 

Anxious Days

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Some days, trees are not trees

and I am not me.

I am a misplaced thing-

a small pile of sand on the second shelf of the china cabinet

next to a stack of teacups;

a single goosebump upon the arm of a woman sunbathing;

a nit on a bald man’s head.

I am contrary to the order of things-

a vortex running counter to its designated direction-

and everything pulled into my universe becomes contrary too.

Mothers tell bedtime stories about the souls’ of the damned.

The whispering breeze becomes the discordant notes of the organ master.

Day becomes night

and trees become demons.

*

On anxious days

everything stands in defiance of God

and fear prevails.

 

 

 

 

Summer’s Burden

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This poor life-we demand so much of her.  Give me happiness.  Give me success.  Give my children happiness and success.  We place upon life’s shoulders the burden of impossible expectations, expectations that she cannot possibly fulfill, and then we, feeling so entitled, label her a disappointment.

We have divided every year of life into four seasons, each functioning to help us achieve fulfillment. Autumn must bring vibrant beauty to inspire us and cool temperatures to prepare us to head indoors and begin creative projects and academic pursuits.  Winter, with her storms and frigid air, isolates and keeps us inside.  She rids us of all distractions so that we may keep our heads down and continue working undisturbed.  Then spring comes to tease us with her sweet air and gentle breezes, letting us know that the time has almost come to move away from our desks.  Her’s is a balancing act-keeping us focused on our work with just enough wet weather and gray skies to finish what we have started, but also alerting us with her blossoming flowers and vibrant greenery that the days of toil are coming to a close.  Then summer…..

Summer, the happiest of all seasons, has the greatest responsibility-to give us rest and in giving us rest allow us recharge. By lying out on sandy beaches and listening to waves lap upon the shore, we are supposed to quiet or minds, yet, at the end of ten weeks, we also expect to emerge better, clear headed and knowing how we should march forward into the coming year.

Sometimes, however, life does not cooperate and sends summer to us a bit weaker than we remember her in the past.  We lie in the sun, but our bellies still quiver with worry.  We sit quiet, but our minds do not rest.  Summer’s long days seem to race faster than winter’s short ones.  And now August has arrived.

August has arrived, reminding us how quickly time moves.  We are now faced with the task of figuring out the answers to all the questions-the answers that summer was supposed to bring. We now must race to the sound of the cricket’s song, which will grow increasingly louder with the passing days, and find the answers before fall is upon us-all the while hiding our disappointment in summer, in life, and perhaps if we have leaned anything, in ourselves.

 

Poem About My Mother Written at 11:26 Last Night

 

Last night, I recalled a beautiful moment from my childhood between myself and my mother.  This memory seemed to come from nowhere.  My husband had returned late from work, and we were standing in the kitchen, talking about something I cannot even recall, and suddenly, there it was, this memory.  It was so vivid; I abruptly (and rudely…I am sorry Giorgio) broke away from our conversation, opened the computer and began to write it down.

I don’t often remember the happy moments with my mother, so I felt an urgency to record it, to find a way to preserve it, so that the day my memory fails it will not be lost forever. I wrote about a time so long ago, but that last night felt so close. As I wrote, I felt and heard my mother as she was then.  I felt myself  as a small girl, cradled in the arms of her mother.

I wrote with longing for my mother as she was in that moment and with sadness for what could have been and was not-she had so many dreams for how her life would be.  Mostly, I wrote with love. As I wrote, I felt the same love I had for my mother when I was so little.  It was pure, not tainted by anger and resentment.

When I was done and just before I hit publish, a thought struck me.  Once I hit publish, once I send this out into the world, into the blogosphere, what if the memory disappears?  What if I had just transferred it from my mind to the computer?  The brain’s capacity to retain and retrieve is limited.  What if our minds are inherently lazy, unwilling to fight to keep memories that have already been wrapped up neatly into text and boxed into notebooks and computer screens, happy to free up space for the lifetime of more memories that will clamor for a place in the mind’s limited storage facility?

And what of recalled and recorded memories? No matter how hard we strive to remain true, the written word is never as pure, as real as the actual memories and feelings we hold within us.  Those are invariably filtered as we strive to match feelings to words and translate the unspoken into a code of letters and commas.

Last night, I did not want to lose that memory of my mother, to send it away in a document that couldn’t possibly express what really was and what I really felt.  I prefer to keep her, as she was that night so long ago, close to me, in me, in my memory.  Perhaps, years from now, when my capacity to recall becomes so diminished that my memories begin to escape, then I will hit publish.   Until then, I will remain the keeper of that moment.