Wednesday, February 24, 2016

You were alive during the Vietnam War?

When my daughter was in high school, in an American history class, she studied the Vietnam War. She talked to me, some, about what she was studying. By h.s. she didn't keep me way in the loop but I usually had a general understanding of what she was studying. She might have told me what she was studying inadvertently by simply recounting some social interactions in her day.

But she was interested in the Vietnam War and actually brought it up with me, reciting some facts she had just learned in school.

I responded by extemporaneously sharing with her some of my memories of the Vietnam War. I do not remember, now, what I told her, or what aspect of the Vietnam War I discussed. Not precisely. I think I talked to her about knowing college guys that had been to Vietnam or guys who had been drafted and only gone to college to avoid Nam. I described the night in my freshman year in college when all the guys my age were subject to a lottery. Guys with low numbers were going toi be drafted and being in school no longer spared them from war. This shift was just. It was unjust to let kids who could afford to go to college avoid serving and make only poor guys go.

She listened attentively. Her listening to me attentively slowly waned during her two years in high school. She left high school to start college, on a scholarship, at age sixteen. I don't think she ever appreciated what a huge sacrifice that was for me, realized that by letting her go to college away from home two years early, I was giving up two years with my only child. If I had known she was going to disown me, I would not have given up those two years. And, low, in the fourteen+ years since she left me, I have painfully reviewed the way I just gav away two years with my only child.

Anyway, when I said a few things about the Vietnam War, she said, rapt by whatever I said, "You mean you were alive during the Vietnam War?"

I was surprised she had not done the math, not fully realized I was, indeed, alive. Not onlyw as I alive, but I participated in anti-war marches, of course.

Then I told her about the fall of Saigon.

The fall of Saigon, in April 1975, came up today in my writers' group, triggering my memory of Rosie appreciating me for some moments in 1995 or 1996.

In 1974, virtually no students at my college had televisions in their dorms and ery few students at my university lived off campus.  When Richard Nixon resigned, in 1974, college kids packed into the student union to watch the one television in the union. There were also one television per dorm but those tv rooms were tiny. Most students wanted to be around others at such a solemn time. It seemed ominous to watch the president of the United States resign and it felt good to be surrounded by friends to watch it.

When the whole world was able to watch Saigon fall on television, the crowd in that student union was even greater. The students were all deeply silent and we all stood to watch, even though the student union had lots of sofas and chairs.  Now I am recalling some of the images, of people with their children crowding to get on planes and choppers to get airlifted outbefore Nam completely fell. We listened to tv announcers talk about how Vietnamese who had supported the US were the ones getting out, which, gulp, meant some didn't get out that wanted to.

And we all know that Kissinger set up the fall of that war so that Cambodia would fall into the hands of the brutal Khmer Rouge who slaughtered over three million Cambodians. I don't think I talked to Rosie about Cambodia.

I didn't impress her much by the time she was in high school. And it seems somewhat sad  that it was only the fact that I was alive during the Vietnam War that impressed her. But at least she paid attention to me, listened to me, placed some value on what I had to say.

She sure doesn't place any value in me now.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

some dissociative aspect of the self

Everything in life can be, at one point or another, so damned tricky, especially romantic love.

I don't think I have ever loved anybody; I have loved dissociative aspects of my Self.  I don't love myself very well. I am dissociated, too much of the time, from my own resplendant wonderfulness. When I have loved men, I haven't seen them. I see my projections of my own fineness, my own adorable Self.

Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream is about loving dissociative aspects of one's Self. He nailed the absurdity and the experience of the daffy dissociative.

Another play in which Shakespeare brilliantly presented dissociative love is Twelfth Night, a play also full of human absurdity misinterpreted as love by some characters and by annoyance in other characters.  Twelfth Night is no Midsummer's Dream, in my opinion. Someone once suggested, declaratively, as if his read of Twelfth Night was definitive, that Twelfth Night is about confusing love and power.  After he told me that, I pored over the play and rewatched any movie version of the play I could get my hands on.  I think power is just one dissociative projection some of the characters exhibit in Twelfth Night but I think he got it all wrong and this mistake should have signaled some valuable insights into who he is.  Twelfth Night would appeal to more males than Midsummer's Dream would appeal to those males. Twelfth Night paints the experience of falling in love, both with real people and with dissociative aspects of the self, more seriously but, in my final analysis, both plays are about the sometimes (frequent?) dissociative nature of romantic love.

How to stop? How to change? Is it like getting to Carnegie Hall, needing practice practice practice? Well, at age 62, not thin and not rich, it's not like men are falling over themselves to get a shot with me. I don't get practice.

In a recent conversation with a good friend, after she had told me something about her romantic love interest that troubled her, I heard myself saying "He might be unconscious when he does this and if he is unconscious, I don't think there is anything you can do. The work of love really steps up to challenge us precisely in those moments when our beloved, or our projection of our beloved, challenges our ability to love them around all impediments.

And that last line brings me to a place I can stop:  Sonnet 116. Sonnet 116 is one of Shakespeare's best known love poems. It's the one where he writes 'in a marriage of true minds'. Could he mean that minds are true when consciously awake?  My favorite part of Sonnet 116 is where it says loving another around all impediments is Love.

So far, I have not encountered anyone who loves me around the impediment of being an imperfect human.  Yet the problem could very well be that I confuse dissociative projective love with conscious love that allows me to see the object of my love in clear consciousness.


Gobbledegook? Or just more dissociative projections?!

Monday, February 15, 2016

my love is a hundred pitchers of honey

The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart
Jack Gilbert
How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient tongue
has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not a language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses and birds.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

alone on Valentine's Day

I've posted Anne Sexton's Food poem before.
Food is a love poem, about unfed love. 

As I spend day after day,
in an endless ribbon of hunger,
hungry for love
I note that, lately, I forget to actually eat
I go for long streches without food
checking my glucose
shooting insulin when the sugars rise
sugar, sweetness, rises in my body
even when it is unfed

I think, truly and improbably,
that sweetness, a growing tenderness
rises within me
as I become more conscious
of how hungry I am
hungry for love

When I realize I am ravenous
not until, sometimes,
my stomach has growled for hours
"Oh, I am hungry, I should eat"

It can seem easier to test
for my blood's sweetness
and tend to that sweetness
by shooting up
shooting in? injecting?

When I am able
to convince myself
that I actually need food
too many days of late
I eat the same things
protein shakes stave off hunger
and they are so easy
allowing me to quickly
return to slowly starving
but, with a bit of food,
I can return to starving
for love.

Don't tell me self love comes first
I know that.
I should braise some kale
make an easy green smoothie
with lemon and fresh ginger
I have fresh ginger on hand
I bought it in hope
my hope was that it would
magically inspire me to
make that green smoothie.

A green smoothie with lots of
fresh raw ginger
fresh meyer lemon juice
some frozen fruit for froth
is so easy to make

My fresh ginger
I fear, I suspect
will dry out
and become useless
before I use it
before I feed myself

I starve myself.

The Meeting

Two of us once met
Where the streams of life and death had stopped
Where time stood still.
Today it is so far and away
Now I am sailing alone
My boat is rocking in the storm
I now remember again
How once we met
At the end of the world
Where had descended the heavens.
Forgetting all
We sat there side by side
That day I realized
What sways the blades of grass
Throughout the world
In what delight everything shivers;
In the dark how shine stars;
In what great urge
The breaths of life rush
That day I realized
When we woke up and looked at each other’s face.
Taking your hand in my hand
I kept looking at the sky
We had no words
And didn’t know how our time passed
That day I had realized in my heart of hearts
Where end the meanings of our words
How music rises from the core of the universe
How the pining woods blossom into flowers
These we realized when both of us wept
In endless pleasure.
Then we came to know in what fire
Silently burn the winds of spring
Why the morning sun
Yearns to get lost in everything
Why day and night the river runs
To meet the sea
Why the lightning is hurt by its own light
What game the night plays with dawn
Accepting defeat
All these we realized
When with each other we played
Staking our everything.
POEM 'Our Meeting' ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Saturday, February 13, 2016

feeling the bern in Fruitvale

Yesterday evening, I rode the subway from my neighborhood to the Fruitvale stop in Oakland. Fruitvale is one of Oakland's poorer neighborhoods, almost 'old school' urban. Oakland is rapidly gentrifying but, so far, Fruitvale is still mostly poor, mostly nonwhite (Latino and African American) and, thus, there are no new trendy restaurants and, so far, Fruitvale is relatively affordable, attracting artists. And small presses that hold poetry readings.

A friend of mine was reading so I went to show him support for his writing.

It was a nice enough reading. I write and am more into hearing stories than poetry although lots of good poetry tells stories. And my friend Paul definitely told great stories in the poems he read. Both of the poets last night read poems about love, sex and sex and love, sorta timely given that tomorrow is Valentine's Day.

The best part of my evening was the BART ride there.

I boarded at the Downtown Berkeley train stop and sat down next to a woman who immediately exclaimed "So this 'Feel the Bern' thing is for real?" she had noticed my Feel the Bern button. She said "A girlfriend is always talking about feeling the burn but I thought she had made it up, I didn't realize it was a thing. Can I take a photo of you wearing that button to show her?" 

Of course I agreed to the photo. She immediately sent it to her friend, the friend immediately responded, gushing gratitude just over a photo of that pin. So I offered the pin to the woman next to me to give to her friend. I have more Feel the Bern buttons. I regularly give them away and they regularly draw attention.

People are feeling the bern, ya know?  I don't think the people can beat the establishment, triangulated by the wealthy, those in thrall to the wealthy, those happy with their powerful political positions who, as insiders, know that the voice of the people does not really matter to our elected non-servants posing as our public servants.

I am very discouraged about the state of the world. Offering to give away that button lightened my spirit.

Then the gal sends her friend another text, just of the button, saying "She gave it to you, here is your Feel the Bern button." Once again, the response was gushing.

And, news for Hillary supporters, the woman next to me was African American and so is her friend. I bluntly asked the gal next to me if she was aware that the Clintons think they own the black vote and if she supported Hillary or Bernie.  She said she does not really follow politics, which was a let down. But her friend that now owns that button clearly supports the Bernmeister and she is also AA.

Feeling the Bern in the East Bay . . . .

Monday, February 01, 2016

jumbled memories

I can't wait until the NH primary!!! I got my last graduate degree in New Hampshire so I know that state well. Hell, I know Iowa quite well. I've lived all over. In the Granite State, folks don't truck with bullshit and that's all Hilary has going for her. And in the Granite State, NH, just about everyone has high respect for Vermont.

I couldnt bring myself to live in NH, in a state where all the license plates said 'live free or die' so I opted to live just south of the MA border, equidistance from NH and Vermont. I have good times in my New England years.

I've also had a lot of good times in IA. I grew up in Chicago but I was born in South Dakota, my mom having me there to be near her mother (that was the official story in my childhood, in reality, my mom had hoped my grandparents would take her, newborn me and my older brother Chuck the Fuck who was 18 months old when I was born. When I think of my maternal grandfather, I swear, I always envision him in a dark Druid robe that hides his face and hands, with his left hand silently pointing eastward at the train station after he had plopped my mom and her two babies on the train back to her Catholic marriage. My poor mama. What did a college drop out with two babies do in 1953 if her parents would not help her? She went back to her husband. Eleven months later, my dear, unhappy mom was back in SoDak, giving birth to my Irish Twin Joe, dear little Joe. Once again, the grandparents said it would be a sin to help my mother, now with three babies in her care, leave the sacrament of marriage. Once again, my grandfather appeared at the train station in his hooded druid robes, dooming my mom and all of her children to a whole lot of unnecessary unhappiness. Not that I didn't love my dad. We all loved and liked him more than our mother. His great flaw? He was a compulsive gambler, addicted to betting on harness racing.

When my mom had baby #4 (and she thought she also lost another to a miscarriage and she ended up having 8 full term pregnancies, only six of us 'survived' infancy, my first two sisters died in infancy and oh how tormented I felt, four bruddas, two dead sisters. . . .), mom was far too unwell with baby #4 to travel to Sodak and beg for relief from her parents. It mattered naught to my grandparents that my dad would take his whole paycheck to the track and then leave my mom to figure out how to feed their babies. So mom had #4 in Chicago.

I have never keened in grief more than I did over the death of my first sister, Mary Ann. She lived three months, most of it in an incubatoar. I think the hospital only let her come home a couple days in empathy for me and my, then, three brothers, because in 1960, no children were allowed to visit in hospitals, not even to see their dying siblings.

My mom breast fed Mary Ann, pumping milk all day and my dad, bless him, would come home from work, get the milk and take a bus to the hospital to give it to the baby. I remember begging and begging toi be allowed to go with dad on those milk runs, just to be closer to Mary Ann, for I knew I could not see her. I had a magical sense that my dad might be able to
I sometimes feel that I have lived in more states than just about anyone: born in So Dakota and spent time every summer through college in SoDak, grew up in Chicago, spent time every childhood summer on an aunt and uncle's Indiana farm as a farmed out playmate for my only-child cousin Joy. Joy had an aunt that was a year younger than me, Maggie. Everyone on the farm was expected to help on the farm. Maggie and I were in charge of stacking bales of hay as they fell off the electric loader that lifted them up from the hay wagon into the higher reaches of the barn lofts. It was dusty, scratchy work. We soon learned I am allergic to hay. I was covered in raw, itchy red rashes that often bled but I was expected to go on working. My aunt and my cousin's grandma Rosie who said she was also my grandma urged me to wear long sleeves but I didn't have any. I had packed for hot summer time and no one suggested buying me even one long sleeve tshirt of borrowing one of the male shirts. I pretended I didn't itch. I pretended I didn't feel the endless torment of that allergy to hay. I was so proud to be able to help.

I've also had a lot of good times in IA. I spent time every summer until I married, post law school, in IA, Indiana on a cousin's farm, South Dakota to visit my maternal grandparents (who lived across the ally from George McGovern when my mom was a kid -- I was born in the hometown of George McGovern and was so proud of that when he ran for national office . . . ), college in WI, law school in MN then raised my child mostly in MN but she was born in NE, where I got the hell out as soon as I could, which was not all that soon, for her father wanted to force me to stay near him with our daughter. Sadly, I told him when we separatead that if he gave me custody, I would not ask for anything but the clothes on my back and custody of my baby. He snarled and sneered, reminding my lawyer self that it was against the public interest, meaning few judges would go for my agreement to terminate his parental rights and thereby releease him of child support obligation -- I would have happily waived child support and she and I would have come out ahead economically if he had taken my offer. I spent more on legal fees than he paid, over the next 18 years, on his measly $300/month child support.