Category Archives: Rants and Laments

A tale of distraction

I went to read blogs. I’ve missed being in the loop. Don’t want to be a slacker, etc. But, having been away, the computer was off and in bending over to turn on the CPU, a lot of dust confronted me. So I got out my trusty little LED lamp that I keep to illuminate the dark cubbies of tangled cords and went to it. By then a neighbor’s yard crew, already loud, but legal, fired up a second leaf blower — not legal — so, tired of being the in-person enforcer, I leapt up to shoot my neighbor an email asking her to let them know. To control what I could (a helpful tactic in any arena), I pulled out my noise-cancelling headphones only to find that, yet again I’d left them on and drained the battery.

Battery was not just dead, but fuzzy and its corridor of power rimed, so using a bamboo skewer and paper towel, I reamed out the dark compartment. Even a new battery failed to make the green light appear (this, after trying several from a baggie marked, “used but maybe not dead,” a phrase I remembered as “old but not necessarily dead.”)  I donned the headphones anyway and took to standing on tables and stools, because by then the fury of dusting had gone up an elevation to bookcases and ceilings. I worry about falling now. How different from when I relied on balance and agility, sometimes making a long athletic reach, letting the support tip, completely secure in the possible outcomes (“old but not necessarily dead,” indeed).

It is sufficiently chilly and light-less now to want curtains on our back wall of glass, so I hung those and in the process passed a new credit card enough times to want to activate it. Thought it’d be simple. The card had no raised numbers to report to the robot, so I kept pressing “1” for more time and the robot kept asking me if I wanted more time before I’d had a chance to do anything, so ultimately I opted for a call- back. The return call was ALSO a robot, obnoxiously asking for additional numeric selections, a fact I found sufficiently outrageous to begin my communication with “Cookie” by complaining.

“You were calling ME,” I say, as if any big bank gives a shit about customers, a status further revealed (and not countermanded as they might think), by asking me at the close of the call if I wouldn’t mind taking the additional time to complete a survey about the transaction. Are they crazy? Did Cookie not hear how I interrupted her attempt to log my initial complaint in order to abbreviate our exchange? And meanwhile, it didn’t help that the call was necessitated by the fact that I’m an idiot. “Really? I’ve had this card since 1997?” And, who knew the account number was on the back and not raised because that’s how they do it now?Soon I was windexing the transom windows and listening to Pod Save America’s coverage of Kavanaugh — wondering why — what’s enough!— since at this point it’s like listening to my own thoughts I’ve followed the whole sorry story so closely.

What is enough? How many times?

How much coverage is enough or how many times must we go through this very scenario before guys in power figure anything out? Apparently, Anita Hill taught two of these very senators absolutely nothing.

Here, let me remove my imaginary glasses and proclaim what is real.

I plunked into my chair, opened facebook and watched a cute video called, “Fart Out Loud Day” IN ITS ENTIRETY and laughed and that ends this Tale of Distraction.

***

Here are two links that made a positive difference to me this week.

The first is political, but reads like poetry. It pushes the boundaries of genre in an exciting way and gets at where we find ourselves without being analytical.  By Alexandra Petri.

And the other is a poem by WB Yeats, The Circus Animals’ Desertion, referenced in the TV detective show, Shetland, that I’ve been watching. The last lines read:

I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

The River Lethe and Mercy

Lately, I’ve had an overwhelming and sometimes irresistible need to sleep — I’m calling it, “the Helsinki Reaction”.

Imagine my shock upon turning over in bed Sunday morning to see that it was 10:30. 10:30! And WITH A NEW YORK TIMES CROSSWORD PUZZLE on the stoop, no less. That was one thing, but then to polish off the puzzle WHILE DRINKING A CUP OF COFFEE and subsequently lie down and sleep some more?

(K. has the excuse of jet lag. I don’t).

Yesterday driving home from Salem in stop and start traffic with a hot summer sun blasting through the windshield, sleep arose as a weird and disturbing possibility. Oh, to close the eyes for just a second! Just a second. This, even with the AC going full tilt. This, even while listening to Pod Save America — a news podcast that I find addictively funny and informative. It’s not normal, this need for sleep.

Aside #1: Jon Favreau is my pod crush, what with that big, big brain of his and the charming space between his front teeth. A fellow fan warms to Tommy Vietor and though I’m less inclined toward blondes, I get it: all those clean cut good looks in a neat preppy package.

(I made it home and don’t worry I wasn’t really gonna fall asleep while driving).

I’ve ticked through the list: am I coming down with something? (no); is it the Sun traveling though my Twelfth House, triggering the Underworld corner of my Grand Cross (perhaps, but this is an annual event and one I often find energizing); could it be my thyroid? (alas, no– recently checked — which is too bad because it’d also account for a recent 15 lb weight gain); could it be the collision of the dew point and scorching temps? (well, maybe? but I’m mostly inside with AC). Wait, did you say ‘collision’? That’s getting close to the nub of it, I think.

When I turn to the Tarot, “Logic” comes up. Three times. Anyone who has a relationship with a deck knows this means: PAY ATTENTION. But Logic? Logic as answer to the question, what do I need, what can I lean on now for succor and strength?

I no longer view logic as mere sturdy upholder of truth and argument, but rather as a potent gateway to mercy and justice. I can thank former NAACP President and CEO, Cornell William Brooks, for that insight.

Aside #2: At the inception of the BLM movement, or to be more precise, at the time All Lives Matter rose up as a stupid and reactionary hashtag, Cornell Brooks made this elegant argument: If All Lives Matter, then perforce, Black Lives Matter (which is to say, if you believe that all lives matter, you should have absolutely zero problem with the assertion that black lives matter).  Conversely, if Black Lives DON’T Matter, then it cannot be true that All Lives Matter (so if you’re siding with “blue lives” at the expense of black lives, you don’t really believe that all lives matter). In the realm of illogic serving up racial animus, it also bears saying that believing in racial equity does not automatically make you anti-police. (I unfriended someone over that asinine argument).

Is this logic in service of Mercy or Justice?

Aside #3: A recent sharp edit by storyteller extraordinaire and generous beta reader, Deb Lacativa, brought this very question into focus. How are Mercy and Justice different? When are they the same?

To those who’d say, take up the arms of resistance to beat back your stupor, I say, not right this second. Did I mention: I want to go to sleep?

When I input my zip code into Swing Left’s ‘get involved’ page on Monday and New Hampshire came up, I thought, “NO! NO! Not going there again.” Getting high school students down the street registered sounds more like my speed especially because I don’t think my day of canvassing in the fall of 2016 made any difference at all, unless you count settling my conscience (which is not nothing and there’s no reason to assume that 2018 would be the same as 2016, but still… ) Post cards. I’ll write post cards. But only if someone hands me a list.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday’s Indivisible phone call, I listened to others’ laudable efforts — one networking with folks from Free Speech for People (drivers of #impeachdonaldtrumpnow on the basis of the emoluments clauses), another collaborating with Quakers on international measures protecting justice, and a third taking part in a celebration with a faith community that has housed and nurtured a family in sanctuary for a full year. This comparison is only to highlight how fucking tired I feel and not to otherwise feel bad about myself.

Okay, so could it be the dog? (Now you can tell me that I’m being ridiculous). But how restrictive a presence he is — making a trip to the beach difficult, causing a visit to my ailing father-in-law to require more planning than I have the wherewithal for right now, making even a trip to Macy’s in Framingham feel like it’s pushing it at times, for Christ’s sake. That I spend my dog-free hours on trips to Salem is just another indignity of that situation and puhleeze don’t get me going on that (yesterday was a difficult one).

Aside #4: It’s a wonder that a creature who imposes such regular restriction also offers salvation, for there I go, twice a day, out into the neighborhood, always the better for it. And later, there he is, modeling sleeping and relaxing as a Correct Way of Being. And, every time I stand at the cutting board, there are his liquid eyes, such attention affirming that we are connected, that he notices what I’m doing, and that he’s learned how to get stuff from me, all incredibly reassuring somehow, even as I’m also lambasting myself (just a little) for making a food beggar out of him.

So, it has to be the news. Of course, it’s the news. Even for this prolonged and shocking shit storm, the Helsinki Summit came as a drastic and soul-wrecking event.

Part II of this Lament: tomorrow. It’s all of a piece but this post is already too long. I promise it won’t just be about politics. Look for words about coyotes, unintended consequences, and how we construct narratives.

A screen grab from almost a year ago

PS The River Lethe is one of five rivers in Hades. Ten seconds of research produced this relevant passage:

“those who drink from it experience complete forgetfulness. Lethe is also the name of the Greek spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion.”

(picture above by Thomas Benjamin Kennington)

Lament to a prompt

If you’re up for a lament without much by way of sentence structure, here’s my response to a prompt in class this morning (using a bunch of song/nursery rhyme fragments/Catholic echos). I may come back tomorrow and add the text but for now here’s the video. It runs 6:45 minutes. Sorry about the hair that kept bothering my lower lip.

Lament to writing prompt “burial”

These days, I could write a lament or a rant everyday (and some days, every hour). This one was a response to an in-class writing prompt on “things we bury”. At six minutes, it runs a little long (who do I think I am, anyway?). Tomorrow I’ll post the written version.

So just to place this in time. I wrote this four days after the Golden Globes and a few hours before learning about the “shithole countries” remark.

A couple caveats: the business about Oprah running for president is worthy of considered response. In this “Lament” there is merely a tossed off line about that. And though I’m sneering about the black gown business in this piece, I was actually moved and inspired by the solidarity expressed in the gesture.

Footnote: the Western referred to is “Godless“, starring Jeff Daniels and Michelle Dockery. Binge worthy Netflix viewing.

The act of tiny fingers

Here’s a 6.5 minute crude lament from today’s writing class. The prompt was to begin a piece with the line, ‘he steps a foot away and spits’. I stumble a few times and need to figure out how to turn pages more quietly, but hope the mistakes aren’t too distracting.  Please let me know if viewing is problematic. Maybe YouTube’d be better?

Here it is in print (I fix a mistake in the 1st paragraph):

 

The Act of Tiny Fingers

He steps a foot away and spits. His phlegm lands in a glistening lump. He is a master
of distraction and will impose no bounds on his tricks… certainly not propriety or hygiene.

He will steal your dog, rifle through your purse just for fun, and decapitate your peonies some moonlit night in June.

You wake heartbroken at the pink debris, no idea he’d been by.

He picks his teeth and scratches his balls — especially in front of young women — as if those young women didn’t already feel the menace of his maleness.

He’s a ticket to hell. He’s hell itself.

But, don’t take it personally. He will do whatever crosses his path.

Of course he has a predilection for things with slits between their legs — see how even in calling out his sins how his sick cosmology taints our capacity to name ourselves!

But yeah, he’d prefer to fuck with girls or women but boys don’t get a free pass because of course by now you know that our gross master’s magic depends on opportunism.

He’s a sneak, but only for fun because he has the power to impose blatant violations openly. Day in and day out, he commits his atrocities. A fallen building here, starvation mid-Africa, soul-stealing all along the streets of Detroit.

I hope I don’t need to tell you who funds our clever sinner, now do I?

Big pharm, gun makers, gas and oil dealers and all their unmanned, creepy minions. Is it easier to sit atop your high horse, Mitch McConnell’s of the world, when your balls have been handed to you so long ago you can’t remember where you hid them? Did you hide them? A trophy of shame and compromise.

Oh the calls how they come! The justice mavericks need money more than ever and I’m just trying to eat my lunch, watching bad crime show re-runs. The insistent demanding fundraiser wasn’t having my refusal — kept on sputtering her message — Emily’s List! Georgia! 2018!  I stopped being annoyed and became something like amused. But the wallet remained clamped shut until she misspoke (did she mispeak?) and called the Koch brothers, ‘the Cock Brothers’.

At that point, I might’ve handed over my first born. “Just for that,” I laughed, “here’s my Visa number, expiration June 2018.”

It is no glum, exaggerated prognostication to think we might not be here come June 2018.

He grossly clears another load of phlegm and lobs it through time and space so that it almost hits my shoe. Such precision! Such calculation! Of course he’d slobber on my foot if he so chose. I know it and he knows I know it. It’s all a game to him — tally and torment. Grabbing and removing lawmakers’ manhood one minute and violating an anchorwoman the next.

But! But! The predator’s ratings rise — like his purple veined member! Apparently, the dollars of hard working folk and the dollars of companies willing to take a stand don’t matter as much as we’d like to think.

Did he use a microphone? Was it greased with spit?

And you want to call ME gross? Does the reporting of violation constitute violation?

In the morning we rise, no longer unclear about what the matter is. Remember those frosty mornings in November — in that early time of disbelief when you’d wake and scramble through memory wondering, “Now what is it that’s so god-damned awful?”

Oh. Yeah.

The prankster works at all ends of a crisis — first (but not first) mortgage scams denying people of color entry to the middle class, then a so-called war on drugs (the Devil loves euphemism in case you don’t know), then the double, triple standards of education, employment —

Oh Christ! The line of sin is so long just recounting it takes more juice than I possess, but for now think: LEAD. Lead in the water. Not an iffy contaminant, but a known poison with known, documented harmful results upon ingestion, especially to growing brains.

Oh how we worried about paint chips in our 200 year old house! Waited for the blood work. Sighed with relief. Such privilege!

Syrian babies make buffoons cry on television. Or was it the man-baby’s wife-daughter who cried and inspired his missile attack? Talk about compensation! Maybe half our problems would go away if the giant fool could simply (simply?) fuck his daughter.

I am prepared to wipe my shoe if need be.

But am I brave enough to launch a kick — particularly when I am too short to reach any tender pieces above the knee?

The Devil operates in abstractions, too, but revels in the bawdy, the crude, the parts that smell and tug and shove and release. It’s not me reveling.

I can’t even make a gob of spit like that. Is phlegm production related to lying in any way? If so, there must be rows of spittoons in the House and Senate and along the corridors of our formerly esteemed White House.

The overwhelm of destructive might be working — shock and awe, they said, shock and awe. Or was it fire storm? I mix the metaphors — proof in point. When we turn on the news and the most recent, singular, and shocking revelation makes you reach for the clicker, that’s the Devil’s work, too. He wears us out.

Pandora has a place here, too. Let’s ask — how? How? How on earth do we stuff this bile and vitriol and regressive policy back into the box?

Don’t we already pay with pained childbirth and cancer? Must we also suffer as witnesses to the act of tiny fingers turning a clock back decades? Undoing, undoing, undoing.

Oh please, spare us — just go fuck your daughter.

 

Distracted

The presidential campaign continues to distract me. I know I’m not the only one who feels she is in limbo, unable to read or even watch TV much, because of the driving need to consume news stories and op eds about the candidates.

I have to know the latest. This week it was: has Trump finally gone too far (dare we hope)? Maybe it is true, as some say, that he never wanted the job and it’s only a matter of time before he folds (dare we hope?).

Is there any remedy for ‘post-factual’ politics (George Will’s term)? If in fact Trump’s followers are willing to accept belief as fact when it suits their purpose, what place does rationality have? John Oliver captured this dilemma well the week after the RNC.

Does it help to blame Roger Ailes, Fox News, the Tea Party, our education system, or the ghost writer of Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal” (who sounds like he’s practically suicidal for his part in aiding Trump’s ascendancy –described here, in a New Yorker article)? Or to call to task all those lame Republicans who have either endorsed the lunatic or remained silent out of fear of messing up their own political ambitions?

Meanwhile, I also collect scathing condemnations of the ‘purity vote’ which strikes me as another form of being unhinged from reality, but from a place of sanctimonious delusion rather than reactionary xenophobia. Who are these people that cannot fathom that sitting this one out or voting for “Jill fucking Stein” (radio host Dan Savage’s name) is to risk turning our country into a flaming dumpster? Maybe Sanders now regrets waiting so long to endorse Clinton, seeing as how so many of his followers do not seem to understand that they are voting ‘in the real world’ (his words).

Occasionally, I hiss in the direction of Lexington, Mass., which is not very far from here, since that is where Jill Stein is from.

Here’s where I need to cite the best article I’ve read so far about the double standard applied to Hillary Clinton, which doesn’t convert her from crook to saint, but does put the unrelenting attacks against her into a serviceable framework of sexism. Too bad the ‘jail Hillary’ folks don’t give a rat’s ass about facts.

It would be like a circus if the stakes weren’t so high. It might even be hilarious if it didn’t reveal the underbelly of our society and just how wide and deep the divides are between various factions.

I hadn’t intended to write this. But maybe I needed to document this craziness as a way to manage it.

Meanwhile, the mundane business of caring for trees, scrubbing scuff marks off of baseboard, making herb butter, vacuuming up dog hair, and a little bit of stitching keep me sane. Good thing, too.

We removed an ailing Rose of Sharon and took some low hanging limbs off of one of our catalpa. I got some quotes for long-deferred tree work. Since we are going from paying two tuitions last year, to paying none this year, we can spring for this. There are big dead limbs in a chokecherry out back. A maple out front with branches tangled in the wires. A four-trunked maple at the side that is compromising our roof. It will feel really good to take care of these trees.

Lost Orgasms or Zero Faith


Where do all the missed orgasms go? Do they stuff themselves into pelvic bones, later to afflict the unsatisfied with bursitis? Do they congregate in the shadows, behind the bureau, say, to become part of what haunts us in the half light when we are alone and already unsettled? Maybe they fly off like the geese that passed overhead this morning while I was walking the dog, barely visible in the fog, honking their lament.

Their ultimate destination ought to depend on how close they came to deliverance, so that the ones that never even stood a chance would go to one graveyard, while the ones that shunted off to the side seconds before blossoming into shuddering, clamping pleasure would go to another, presumably more exalted, resting place. The really near misses might properly be housed in a mausoleum, one lined with stone-carved lilies and angels. Wouldn’t it be nice to offer your disappointments a bouquet of flowers now and then? I would choose red roses, even if rock n’ roll cliché resided in every soft, perfumed fold.

The sorting of failed pleasure feels like a job for Pluto, that merciless lord of the Underworld. If you recall, he’s the guy who sucked Persephone down from a field of flowers where she had been skipping along in innocent glee, a mere handful of yards from her doting mother. What a way to lose your virginity! I’ll have to go back for clues. Are there any hints that Persephone grew to enjoy her year-long subjugation? Or maybe even that she enjoyed it right from the very first bloody, hymen-breaking start?

Maybe the collective missed orgasms sail down to the Underworld and settle in the young girl’s loins, giving her one thudding, yelping orgasm after another, so that in spite of being held captive by a foul-breathed master of cruelty with no capacity to care for her, she at least has that release – or dare I say — ‘fun’?

Probably unspent female pleasure serves no purpose whatsoever — either noble or trivial. And, think about it, if it could serve some greater aim than the simple satisfaction of its participant, why would it choose a story about rape, where the mere whiff of female enjoyment can be so easily misinterpreted by male listeners, the coercive ones that want to believe in their decency but shouldn’t?

All the skewed notions, why add fuel to the fire? On the other hand, why let certain malevolent others have power over the range of my inquiry?

And while we’re talking about women’s pleasure, how about the cinematic female orgasm? You know the one – the grinding mutual orgasm that takes four seconds and requires penetration only. It’s astonishing how ubiquitous it is. Here’s one of many versions: guy shoves lover up against wall while yanking up her skirt, enters her, pumps four or five times to much deep-throated moaning on her part, at which point they climax together. Four seconds, four or five thrusts of his member. To watch any screen for any amount of time gives the impression that there are lots of women going commando in black pencil skirts having way more fun than I do.

Just to be clear. I have fun. Okay?

I would give almost anything to see that improbably hot detective or that leggy, single mother who looks like she just stepped off the cover of Vogue, shove her lover back, look him square in the eye and ask with unfettered disdain, “Are you kidding me? That’s it?!”

You could call the cinematic four second female orgasm (with penetration only) a male orgasm with tits. But the better view is that the quick, ecstatic humping we see time and time again stands in as pure male fantasy, something akin to the letters published in Penthouse, which even as a fourteen year old babysitter scanning the text surreptitiously, I knew to be pure fiction.

Can you imagine the relief that would flood this planet if women came as predictability, quickly, and with as little reliance on circumstance as men did? In four seconds with penetration only, in other words? Like they do in the movies?

I know women have these kinds of orgasms, and some women have them routinely (and I hope I don’t need to point out that to assert as much would require obnoxious gloating and very personal revelations?) For the sake of discussion, let me say that at no time have I come in four seconds while being pushed up against a restaurant bathroom stall wearing a pencil skirt with no stockings or underwear on. The point isn’t whether these brief climaxes happen or not — I know someone who came while dining out and enjoying a plate of shrimp, for God’s sake — but why that’s all we ever see, time and time again… the one version that just happens to be congruent with male fantasy.

I’m reading a well-written debut novel that features a lot of sex. In chapter after chapter, we are treated to a whole range of ways to have it, to enjoy it, and to be hurt and baffled by it. The protagonist is a privileged, self-destructive twenty-something who wanders through the sordid bedrooms of S&M, but also lies down in a fragrant eucalyptus grove and comes three times while enjoying the great California outdoors. At the author’s reading in Cambridge, her introducer focused a bit on the self-destructive and violent parts in a way that obscured the more subtle experiences described. Leave it to a guy to fail to mention the female protagonist’s multiple orgasms or her bland and recurring let downs.

I wish I’d said, “You don’t have to be a wanton 20-something hell-bent on self destruction to be bewildered or disappointed by sex. Hello? Anybody?!”

Instead, I raised my hand and asked if she wrote with pen or keyboard.

There was some pretty gross shit in there. But still, I’d rather read a passage about a feckless young woman being enamored with the vulnerability of a man’s ass as he walks away from their bed, even if they just shared a violent interchange that I can’t relate to at all than see that god damned four second improbable climax on the screen again. The fact that the novel’s passage is so wholly, explicitly, and credibly told from a female perspective makes it food for the soul. Scene after scene produced feelings of recognition and I doubt that I am alone in this.

The dog I walk does not look up at the passing geese. More and more I’m seasonally confused – remind me – what time of year is it?! He tugs at the leash and lunges, hackles raised, bark, bark, barking his head off at other dogs – sometimes, not always, and never for the dog walker. It’s an at least twice daily reminder that life is difficult. This is the dog I got. This is the life I got.

The embroidered pouch slung across my shoulder once held coins for wending my way – sometimes the change exacted by the ferryman in order to cross the dark river, sometimes as shiny offerings for Demeter when she missed her daughter the most. Now it stinks of beef. I offer up hot dog chunks to the dog in hopes of rewiring his canine circuitry into something friendlier, more manageable, more normal. “Please god,” I say at least twice a week. That I have zero faith in our strategies – strategies paid for with bloody dollar bills, by the way – I can only hope has no impact on their efficacy.

Arriving home, I look out over the still misty ground to what remains of the now abandoned play structure. There, I can just make out the black, spray painted letters that spell out: ‘ZERO FAITH’. Probably scrawled during one of the boy’s passages through middle school. Could be a skateboard brand. Or a song. Probably also a declaration. It makes me wonder: does misery pass through the body’s code, along with hair color and shoe size? Please don’t answer, I already know.

img_2642Notes: This was written to an ‘object prompt’ in a writing class. My object was a black cloth zippered bag embroidered with flowers.

A lament is a bit like a rant in that it resorts to stylized exaggeration. A rant uses the lens of anger and irritation, while a lament is more elegiac. In other words, don’t take this as autobiography. It’s more like sharing a dream.

The novel referred to is, “Wreck and Order” by Hannah Tennant-Moore. I plan to post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon (and maybe here) and so I am ruminating about the novel. I haven’t quite finished, but can certainly recommend it. It is a stunning literary debut.

Finally, after reading this to my husband, he recommended not posting– not because it includes stuff about sex, but because it is so grim. Well, this may be unwise, but I trust all 35 of my readers to hold this a certain way.