adulthood · authenticity · inspiration · letting go · poetry · transformation · uncertainty · vision

Who’s Next?

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“Creativity requires the courage to let go of
certainties.” ― Erich Fromm
This is the quote of the day relating to the daily
meditation I’m doing through the Oprah/Deepak 21-day challenge.
Strangely or not, it’s what I was writing about in my
morning pages before I logged into the meditation. The idea of uncertainty, of
letting go of what’s known. And how very close to that I feel right now.
I found out yesterday I didn’t get the job I was in several
rounds of interviews and mock sessions for during the last two weeks. And all
for the better, I think. In fact, I’d reached out to an old schoolmate I’d seen
on LinkedIn had worked there to ask her thoughts. And when I wrote back that
they didn’t hire me, she wrote: You are better off. That place is a shit hole.
So there’s that!
But, this morning as I reflected on where I am, with the one
avenue I was pursuing more actively than others cut short, I find myself
without an exact destination. Which is where in fact I’ve been, but I’ve been
distracted with the possibility of this employment.
What brought me to considering the question of Who’s Next
was my bringing out an old reader packet of poems from an undergrad course I
took. I’d brought it down a few days ago; I was 22 when I took the class,
finishing up from the lost semester when I’d been otherwise engaged in a padded
room.
The day after I brought the packet down, a friend of mine
mentioned teaching again, putting together a C.V. (a teacher’s resume) and
syllabus. I went online to higheredjobs.com yesterday to poke around and see.
And again, I sort of went all blank about it. I see titles like Professor of
18th and 19th Century Romanticism or of Rhetoric, and I call myself
uninterested and unqualified.
And then after a while of poking around online anyway, my
computer overheated and shut down on me, which was probably for the best!
But, today I opened that packet labeled Twentieth Century
Poetry II, and I read the names and poems of Robert Bly, Gwendolyn Brooks, yes, even the
ubiquitous Plath. I read my margin notes, and was amused to see that my
handwriting looked as it does now.
I was interested in the poems, but I wasn’t sparked. These were the
dreams and longings of a different person. The person who ate these poems up,
who devoured and analyzed and waxed prosaic marginalia.
I remember the classroom I was in when we read Spenser’s
Faerie Queene. I remember being the one student who was really intrigued by his
epic traitorous, political poem hidden in monarch-approved meter. I remember the classroom where the professor
told us stories of the poets’ lives, who’d met who and exchanged letters, the
relationships behind their lyrics.
I remember the room for my make-up semester, on a different
campus, since my cohort had graduated. The computer lab where I wrote short
stories and saved them onto the new smaller, square floppy disks that were
actually hard.
This morning I reread the same works that meant so much to
me then, a woman who felt she had no voice, and poetry was a quiet art that
could conjure hurricanes, that could release those that were teeming in my
body.
But, I don’t feel it in the same way now. I of course want
new generations of students to hear tales of those smoky rooms where creativity
was incubated and smile in camaraderie at Spenser’s thinly veiled subversion.
But, I don’t know. Is it me? Is it me now?
There’s a quote from a Yogi tea bag I have taped over my
kitchen sink, along with all the others I felt necessary to collect. It reads:
Empty yourself and let the Universe fill you.
I haven’t ever really known what that meant, or how to do
it. I haven’t known how to let go of all I know, of all my plans, of labeling
what I know and feel and have done as relevant or useless. I haven’t been able
to answer the call of that tea quote until today.
I do feel emptied. I
feel emptied of direction, of specific ambition, of perspective on myself. But it’s not a negative
feeling.
I feel like a student in a new class, but one I don’t know
the course title to. I don’t know which of my skills will be useful in this new
class, what of my knowledge will be relevant.
I don’t know if I’ll need a paintbrush or a calculator, what I’ll grow to learn, or who will be my teachers. I don’t know who else I’ll meet in class, and who I’ll
never see again. I don’t know the iteration of myself who will be called upon to
show up here, or who will be created from being here.
I only know that this nameless class is the only one on my course schedule
for the foreseeable future, and that perhaps at the end of it, I may be able to
answer what iteration of Molly is next.

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intimacy · poetry · relationships · sex

pome.

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Tour de Coeur
Here.
  Place your
fingers — Here.
   Lower your
head, breathe and

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  press them in.

Do you feel it, soft and
  warm and — I’ll arch my back 
  pliable. How
the muscles shift around you,
learning you, too.
  Here,
Lay your head here, and I’ll
  breathe, not freeze
  as you
explore the hidden
edges and ridges.
I will try 
  to
keep my eyes open
while you read my collarbone like Braille.
8 6 14

authenticity · connection · disconnection · poetry · theater

"Person-To-Person"

Of course it is a pity that so much of all creative work is so closely related to the personality of the one who does it.

It is sad and embarrassing and unattractive that those emotions that stir him deeply enough to demand expression, and to charge their expression with some measure of light and power, are nearly all rooted, however changed in their surface, in the particular and sometimes peculiar concerns of the artist himself, that special world, the passions and images of it that each of us weaves about him from birth to death, a web of monstrous complexity, spun forth at a speed that is incalculable to a length beyond measure, from the spider mouth of his own singular perceptions.

It is a lonely idea, a lonely condition, so terrifying to think of that we usually don’t. And so we talk to each other, write and wire each other, call each other short and long distance across land and sea, clasp hands with each other at meeting and at parting, fight each other and even destroy each other because of this always somewhat thwarted effort to break through walls to each other. As a character in a play once said, “We’re all of us sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins.”

Personal lyricism is the outcry of prisoner to prisoner from the cell in solitary where each is confined for the duration of his life.

[…]

Of course I know that I have sometimes presumed too much upon corresponding sympathies and interest in those to whom I talk boldly, and this has led to rejections that were painful and costly enough to inspire more prudence. But when I weigh one thing against another, an easy liking against a hard respect, the balance always tips the same way, and whatever risk of being turned a cold shoulder, I still don’t want to talk to people only about the surface aspects of their lives, the sort of things that acquaintances laugh and chatter about on ordinary social occasions.

I feel that they get plenty of that, and heaven knows so do I, before and after the little interval of time in which I have their attention and say what I have to say to them. The discretion of social conversation, even among friends, is exceeded only by the discretion of “the deep six,” that grave wherein nothing is mentioned at all. Emily Dickinson, that lyrical spinster of Amherst, Massachusetts, who wore a strict and savage heart on a taffeta sleeve, commented wryly on that kind of posthumous discourse among friends in these lines:

       I died for beauty, but was scarce
       Adjusted in the tomb,
       When one who died for truth was lain
       In an adjoining room. 


       He questioned softly why I failed?
       “For beauty,” I replied. 
       “And I for truth,the two are one;
       We brethren are,” he said. 


       And so, as kinsmen met at night,
       We talked between the rooms,
       Until the moss had reached our lips,
       And covered up our names.

Meanwhile!I want to go on talking to you as freely and intimately about what we live and die for as if I knew you better than anyone else whom you know.

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, preface to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1955.

community · connection · courage · encouragement · poetry · spirituality

Connect.

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I haven’t much to say today, so I’m going to pull a Melissa
and give you one of my favorite poems.
I first heard David Whyte on the carride home from my annual
women’s meditation retreat perhaps 5 years ago. My friend, in her new and
exciting Mini, maybe even with the top down, decided we were a little too
altered at the moment to listen to music on the drive down the mountains of
Napa, and so put in a CD of David Whyte. I’d never heard of him. Or his Irish accent. Or the way he repeats his own lines when he recites
them, the way he pauses to savor and emphasize words. But, I did that day.
The next time I heard the poem recited, it was in the
hospital, maybe a year and a half ago. The same friend brought a slightly battered, second-hand copy of the David Whyte book named for the poem. The nurse that
day, with her Hawaiian flowerprint scrubs and her own Aussie accent, saw the gift exchange and exclaimed her own
love of David Whyte. So I asked her to read this one aloud to us, and
reluctantly, shyly, she assented. It was so still and lovely in that room then.
When you get a chance to hear him, do it. Till then, reading
will suffice.
            Everything
Is Waiting For You
            Your
great mistake is to act the drama
            as
if you were alone. As if life
            were
a progressive and cunning crime
            with
no witness to the tiny hidden
            transgressions.  To feel abandoned is to deny
            the
intimacy of your surroundings. 
Surely,
            even
you, at times, have felt the grand array;
            the
swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
            out
your solo voice.  You must note
            the
way the soap dish enables you,
            or
the window latch grants you freedom.
            Alertness
is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
            The
stairs are your mentor of things
            to
come, the doors have always been there
            to
frighten you and invite you,
            and
the tiny speaker in the phone
            is
your dream-ladder to divinity.
            Put
down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
            the
conversation.  The kettle is
singing
            even
as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
            have
left their arrogant aloofness and
            seen
the good in you at last.  All the
birds
            and
creatures of the world are unutterably
            themselves.  Everything is waiting for you.
                    David Whyte. listen. (start at 1:19; so good!) read.

beauty · love · poetry · writing

Grandfather/advised me:/Learn a trade/I learned/to sit at desk/and condense/No layoff/from this/condensery ~ Niedecker

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For reasons unknown, I reached for the book of “Modern
Poetry” that I bought for a class during my undergrad days. It lines my shelf with the
Norton Anthology of Poetry by Women, one by Langston Hughes, and even a book on
Greek Mythology that I haven’t wanted to part with in the 10 (jeez, can’t
believe it’s been such a short time!) years since undergrad.
Maybe part of this memory-lane path was struck by my friend’s
photo on Facebook of an abandoned shopping cart in New Brunswick, New Jersey,
where I spent my undergrad years. Maybe I just wanted to read some poetry this
morning.
It was interesting to me in grad school, one of the teachers
asked us, poets all, if we had any books of poetry at home. My shelves, besides
those few relic anthologies I rarely look at, pretty much housed some novels and a bunch
of “spiritual” books.
I kept a few of the mandatory books we were required to
purchase during those two years at Mills, and even found myself going to the
poetry section of the bookstore once, purchasing from titles alone, Mary Karr’s
Sinners Welcome and one with this lovely
title:
            If
there is something to desire,/
            There
will be something to regret./
            If
there is something to regret,/
            There
will be something to recall./
            If
there is something to recall,/
            There
was nothing to regret./
            If
there was nothing to regret,/
            There
was nothing to desire.
by Vera Pavlova.
Tell me that’s not a great title! And message.
Poetry is a strange thing to “read.” There are some books you want to read page after page, because it does read like a novel, and you
are impelled forward through the pages of the “story,” the landscape.
But, much of poetry insists that you sit with each piece,
each page for longer than 30 seconds.
Much of poetry, in my own limited estimation, calls you to
allow the words to melt like a fine piece of dark chocolate. You sense the
bitterness, the sweetness, the texture, the mouth-feel. You turn it over and
under your tongue, attempting to pry all the secrets out of this square bit of
matter before it is gone. And afterward, you notice around inside your mouth
where the taste remains, what it reminds you of. If you “liked” it.
Poetry is like that.
A marathon, not a sprint. An 8-course meal, not fast food.
Here is a piece from Pavlova’s book I shall choose at
random, because I actually haven’t read the book, though I bought it two years
ago – because poetry requires that time, and most times, us modern folk won’t
allow it. So, here’s to taking a moment to savor the delicacy of language:
Eternalize me just
a bit:
            take
some snow and sculpt me in it,
            with
your warm and bare palm
            polish
me until I shine…

coffee · frustration · gratitude · Jewish · poetry · progress · work

Normal Functioning Levels

In an effort to “put my needs first,” I’ve decided to change
this to a weekly, instead of a daily, blog. So, Sunday will be our day
together, folks. Two buses and an 8:30am clock-in time will make weekday
blogging a little bit like killing a wildebeest before breakfast – highly
unnecessary.
So, I have a job. ! This past week, starting on Wednesday, I
began working in the front office of a synagogue in Berkeley. This, will be an
adjustment. Honestly, my commute was easier when I was crossing the bridge!
But, I have a job. I needed one, and now, finally, I have one. I’m still not
clear on wtf it took so long to find one. It certainly does fall into the “underearning” category of a job “below my education and skill level,” but, then again,
the first bit of advice in the How to get out of debt… book is **Get A Job, ANY Job** So, I have a job.
It’s not going to be that bad either. There are a lot of systems in
place that are way wonky, i.e. ten-step processes, when they could be 3, but
that’s sort of why I’m there. In the rest of life, usually when I want to help
others streamline things in their lives or make them better, it’s usually none
of my damn business and I get to practice holding my tongue and trusting they’re on their own path. But, luckily, here, it very literally is my business, and so, I’m going to get to organize
and streamline, and “correct” what’s really silly.
That’s part of the advantage of coming in to a new place,
you see things that other people haven’t noticed, really, in years. Why do you
click these three things instead of this one? Oh, I don’t know, it’s just how I
was trained, so that’s how I do it. Why is there an old, dusty dead Foreman
grill in the kitchen – does anyone use it? I don’t know, it’s just always been
there. WHY do you print off paper
calendars of the entire year for the weekly staff meeting that barely get
glanced at, and then thrown away?… So, I do get to come in, with fresh eyes,
and be like, whoa, uh, this is stupid.
That said, there are going to be a lot of advantages to this
job that are not monetary. There’s a pre-school, and this week, the little kids
were getting their intro week, so I got to see all these two and three year
olds come in the front door, all nervous or excited. I got to encourage them.
There’s a very sweet, wise-ass kid studying for his Bar Mitzvah who comes to
hang out almost daily with the youth group advisor, so we get to wise-ass at
each other. There’s a piano in the chapel off the main sanctuary that once I
get keys, I was told absolutely, I could come in there and play during lunch.
It’s not a bank. That’s an advantage. It’s a synagogue. This
means people coming in looking to volunteer; retirees looking at the gift shop
for cards or mezuzahs. Kids coming for Hebrew school; adults coming for Torah
study. It’s a community that I’m getting to become a part of. And that’s not
something every job has at all.
Even though, I’ll tell you, I was highly disappointed that I
didn’t get the Marketing job I wanted, (and I got a letter from the IRS this
week saying that I owe them money from 2010, likely because I didn’t report my
student loan money properly), this isn’t going to be that bad. Am I still going
to be living a bit meagerly? Likely. It’s not a high paying position in the
slightest. Is it more than minimum wage? Yes. Am I waiting tables? No. Am I
making sales calls all day, like one of the jobs I interviewed for? No.
It could be worse. And, it can only get better, I suppose.
Mostly, I am glad that my stress hormones are in retreat.
Returning to normal, without the barely contained underground river of how
am I going to pay my bills???
I slept
almost the whole day yesterday. It’s like, with the stress in retreat, the
whole system floods with a great big PAUSE, system shutting down now, crisis
averted. Yesterday I woke up, ate breakfast, thought about going to the farmer’s market,
and climbed back into bed, waking up 4 hours later. Took another mini nap
after trips to the library and grocery store, cooked dinner, watched a dvd, and went to bed at a decent time.
I needed it. Obviously. I’ve been stressed, man.
In that/this period, though, I’ve also started to do some
other things. I’ve begun to soak my own chickpeas to make hummus from scratch.
I’ve begun to marinate tofu so that I can bake it. I bought quinoa from the
bulk section at a way cheaper price than anything packaged. All of these
organic, all of them cheaper than buying ready packed or ready made.
I’ve really enjoyed doing this. Experimenting with different
flavors in the hummus, roasted red pepper (jarred, but one day, maybe my own),
garlic, pine nuts, lemon. Using the tofu marinade to pour onto veggies I’ve
steamed to go with them. I’m getting healthier in my eating habits. More
interested, and more creative. Part of that creativity was borne of necessity, the need to buy things cheaper
as money has run out during these months of unemployment.
Coffee is no longer in my cabinets. This makes me awfully
sad. But, it’s not good for me, so I’ve been reading, so it’s going the way of
the dodo. That, I will miss. But it’s not like coffee’s moved to England, and
I’ll never see it again. I did, indeed, get some decaf with some caf this week.
There’s just nothing quite like the texture of coffee.
One place I had coffee was at the poetry reading on
Thursday, at which I read my rather explicit new poems. I didn’t preface them
by saying the experiences described were mostly not current, which I sort of
wish I’d said, as what will people THINK of me??, but it all went well. I got good feedback on my work. The words
“bold,” “brave,” and “funny” were thrown around. I’m glad I read the work, even
though I was nervous about it. Every time I perform, it makes me want to do it
more, and again.
I wasn’t able to “get it together” to make broadsides of the
poem I wanted to, but there will be time for that. I had a few other things on
my mind this week!
All in all, it was a highly emotional week. The anticipation
of whether I was going to get the job I wanted. Interviewing for it at 9:30pm Sunday night via Skype and finding out at 11pm that I hadn’t gotten it (the other girl had more “proven experience”). Waking up
Monday morning, knowing I was about to accept a job that has the same title and
pay rate as a job I accepted 5 years ago. Calling a friend to ask if I could ask them for more money. Crying, mourning the loss of where I think I ought to be, and
what I ought to be doing. The loss of my ability to save on any significant
level so that I might move back East some time this century.
And then calling to ask for more money, not getting what I
asked, but a token amount more than what they offered. The new chaos of
commuting to a new job. The first few days of a job when everyone is still
evaluating you. The knowledge dump into my brain from the girl whose job I’m
taking and training with. The highly anticipated poetry reading where I was
bold and brave and scared as fuck. And the crash, like air let out of a
balloon, a deflating of all the energy, worry, and stress as I crashed out
yesterday.
There are still going to be challenges, of course. This is a new job. There’s a lot to continue to learn, and
the girl I’m replacing leaves on Thursday. I still
do have some financial issues to contend with like the
IRS letter, and the fact that I don’t get paid till the 15th. But,
by the way, I did sell my electric guitar and the amp for the price I never
thought I would get (thank g-d for asking for help). So, it will be ok. But, I
still feel deflated. I’m going to need time to bulk back up and refuel to normal
functioning levels.
Til then, and in order to get there, I will TRY
to be kind to myself. Get out of my head, and my own problems. And be grateful, if even for a moment, that I am finally employed at a job that is far from atrocious. 

balance · community · poetry · work · writing

We Have All Overpacked

hey dudes. burning candle at both ends, with early work commute, and late night job hunting, so, please accept this poem in place of today’s blog. it’s what I read at the “spiritual send-off” graduation ceremony two weeks ago. imagine me being emphatic. xo,m.

                     * * *

There is a train departing shortly.
All the people in this room will be
on it.
This is lucky because you have
overpacked.
You have brought
scarves
and sweaters
and knitted hats.
You have anticipated your journey
will be wintered
and icy
and hard.
Your neighbor has also overpacked.
His suitcase is filled with
stilettos,
and boas
and a katy perry mash-up.
He has anticipated his journey
will shimmy with ease
and levity
and laughter.
As you look around this room,
each person comes here overpacked –
with ideas
with plans
with scars.
Each person with
a dream,
or prayer,
or plea.
Each of us comes here hoping
we’ve prepared for our journey
properly.
Hoping we’ll
have enough or
be enough or
do enough.
Hoping that everything
we’ve put in
and gone through
and let go of is enough
to move on from
here.
But, I am sorry to tell you,
we haven’t got everything we need.
See, I need your feathered boa
to remind me
not take myself too seriously
 – and that glitter is a verb.
You need my winter boots
to help you walk through that one
moonless night.
The person in front of you would like to know
if you have a bandaid she could
use,
or a book that you love,
or a love that you lost.
The person behind you would like to know
if she could borrow your arms for a
minute
so you can enclose her in an
embrace
— something none
of us can pack.
There is a train departing shortly.
All the people in this room will be
on it.
And this is lucky because we have
all
overpacked.
May 2012