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Archive for October, 2010

I have to go shopping for work today. We do this thing every year for the holidays – we all join together in a big fuzzy, happy circle and are assigned a category, or in my case two, and pick ten of the best gifts, the best items in the valley and I go to the stores like a little elf because if I tell them I’m from the newspaper they will devour me with ugly crap like troll beads they’re pushing to sell. I’m sure none of what I just said makes any sense at all, but I have a headache and my sink smells like beer and it’s cold and windy outside. I’m looking at all the red leaves on the grass and wondering if I should rake them or leave them. Or maybe I could shake the tree where they come from so the inevitable will happen already. I’m wondering what sort of view I’ll have when all the leaves fall, what I’ll see differently staring at the same hill and houses or what my backyard will look like with snow in it and if it’s a graded enough hill that I can ride down it on a yellow saucer or maybe a red one or maybe we won’t even get that much snow anyway and it will look like snot on the streets.
We are going over to a friend’s place to make beer: porter to be exact. He’s making soft pretzels and the boys will boil all their yeasts and hops and barley and they mentioned chocolate. i say yes to chocolate beer.
And now it’s too late for secret shopping. That will wait have to wait. Beer comes first.

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Sometimes I start shaking. When I have conversations down to the bone. It starts in my legs or my arms, gets into my core or maybe my core starts shaking first, I’m not sure. Those small puppies without sweaters – think of that. Except I’m usually bundled up because I hate being cold. I could be driving home from a great conversation. In the dark, city lights, street lights, green lights, red. It could be a hard conversation – discussions about issues I don’t want to talk about. I’ve always prided myself on being honest in my writing. I suppose that’s why I found writing. As a kid what was a pen saying to me that nothing else could? It’s no wonder I was drawn to something that required truth. But even before I consciously knew there were unspoken boundaries I wrote. I wrote poems about my best friends and poems about my hamster dying. But I think the first poem that did it, the first poem I shared with a teacher was all the things my dad promised me when I’d go to his house that I didn’t get. It wasn’t just the horse, the McDonalds, the toy. He was good at giving money and candy. It was the fact that I was freezing, that my feet were always cold, that I’d sit uncomfortable in the corners of the couch because I was too afraid to ask for anything. I was too afraid to tell him all the things I wanted and needed to tell him.
And so I’d get home, go to my room and cry and shake because I had no where else for it to go.
Writing is as natural as breathing for me. And telling the truth, being honest in writing – well duh.
I never really acknowledged that I was a shaker until maybe 2 years ago when I really first started writing the poems of my childhood. I knew I did it, but I never really cared to ask why or to understand it. It was like going to the bathroom, changing your underwear, picking your nose – it was something I did in private, a part of my body and a part of me that no one else saw. It wasn’t until a friend asked me how I got all of that energy out. What I did with all of that silence? It had to have an outlet somewhere. I would shake, I told her. My entire body would shake. Up until then I thought it was just a weird tick. I’d never really given the thought air.
What I realize now is I had been writing the same poem since I was 12 or 13 years old. I wrote different things of course, but I always came back to the same ones. The ones about silence, screaming. the ones about my heart exploding, the ones about freedom, the ones about wishing my dad would die so I’d know why I was feeling so much pain. I didn’t know where it was coming from. I felt maybe death – everyone feels pain after someone dies. I needed a reason, something solid to place it in. And I internalized it all. I didn’t rage out, I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t drink or runaway or sneak out of the house. It was just my poems and me and finally a therapist for a brief period and sometimes my aunt, sometimes my mom, sometimes a friend. But mostly my poems and me.
I don’t feel like I have to write about those things anymore in my poetry. Or if I do I can get past the blinding pain I felt and write about them honestly with myself out of the way. I can, i hope, look at them as they were. I know I don’t carry so much of that weight anymore.
But the shaking. i still do that. I’ve learned to start writing about the things that scare me, the things that flat out terrify me, the things I never talk about. And I suppose the shaking is one of them. I’ve never given it the proper time in the light. Speaking honestly is hard for me. Telling people what I need and hearing the things that they need – that’s still hard. It’s awkward and my mind goes blank and I’ll stare at the wall and someone will have to push and say “what are you thinking.” And then I’ll have to push and actually say it. It can be exhausting for me. It feels epic to try and change generations of skirting the issue. It feels a little overwhelming at times. But I want to try, learn from my writing self how to speak the truth. And perhaps at some point the two can sit down and have a flat-out conversation.

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The radiator whistles like it’s being attacked by a bear. I had dreams I was rebuilding something, a hammock even though a perfectly good hammock already existed, I was rebuilding the frame, connecting all the pieces, taking them out of the box, laying them on the wet grass and putting them back together again.
I kept listening for my alarm this morning in the darkness. And when it went off I slept for 10 more minutes, tiptoed downstairs to surprise the coffee already made and turned the lights off, closed the doors to not wake a soul. If I could write in the darkness with only my hand as a guide, I would. I don’t care when the lights come on if it’s all crooked and sideways and running off the page. Words should be running anyway. I’ll buy them all sneaks or wings or whatever they want. Maybe even a chocolate bar. It’s almost Halloween and I don’t have a costume. I’ve been trying for months to wiggle out of one. I’ll throw it out to the squirrels and the bunnies and hope they take pieces of it with them down in the dirt, keep my bulbs company until spring.

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The valves in my father’s heart keep needing to be opened by doctors. I’m not sure what this means really. If it means his body is closing down or if it means he’s fighting to keep it open? He knows the signs, the pains in the chest. If only my awareness were the same. If only we all had doctors to open our hearts.
My dad has been around hearts for most of his working life. He’s a perfusionist which means he mans the machine in open heart surgery that keeps the heart alive, the lungs too but I’ve always been more interested in the heart aspect of his job. He let me watch once – take your daughter to work day. I remember the tinge of burning flesh when they cut through the chest of an old woman. I remember her old white wet then dried paper hands. I remember the clamps grasping onto her ribs like caged leeches with knived teeth; them bracing open the bones like we are connected with hinges, like our ribs are trunk tops. And then the heart. It sat in a bloody pool in the body, how small and slow it was moving – how unlike a heart it actually looked, molded into the body and covered in layers of fat and skin and blood and muscle. A deep red, raw mess – cooling pudding in a bowl.
My father’s job was to cool the heart, to slow the beating. He let me flip the switch. That’s all it is – a switch – and this machine recycles the blood, pulls it out of the body, cools it and puts it back in. And slower and slower and slower until the heart is breathing like soft rain. I always found it interesting that my father saw hearts all day long and I could never really show him mine. He’d get glimmers at best and then I’d close up. Perhaps I needed stents as a child, perhaps he needed them too.
I found out yesterday that my dad had to get more stents placed into his heart last week. Last May they placed 2, last week the placed 3. 2 to replace the stents from last May that had collapsed, one to open another valve. Since they don’t remove stents – the tissue grows over the foreign objects – he now has a total of 5.
I’ve gone through a slow series of feelings about this. For most of the day yesterday after I had received the news from my cousin (this is how news travels with my dad some of the time) – I wasn’t too worried about it. Dad considers this an oil change and for whatever reason he didn’t think it was a big deal to tell me or my cousin about the procedure. She found out through her boyfriend through another cousin in a chain with quite a few missing links.
I consider my cousin my only sister. We grew up together in my dad’s house. Well she grew up there and I came to visit, but we both “grew” together. We have one of those families that doesn’t really talk very much, at least about feelings and things of hard importance. I found out yesterday as well that when my cousin’s mother died no one even told her her mother was very sick. Without taking her story or trying to tell it – my cousin told me that she asked to see her mom in the hospital not knowing it was going to be the last time she ever saw her. She was barely a teenager. She was the one who had to ask. How often we find ourselves doing so much of the work to keep connected.
Families have secrets and unspoken walls. I know this. And still I wonder why? Protection seems like bullshit. We can’t protect each other from much of anything in this world. So is it fear? Apathy? Is it an inability to open? Do we all get selfish in our own lives, lazy to the people we know will always be there? How much time passes before we all stop knowing each other? Before one of us dies or is lost forever?
I’m not any better. I don’t call. It’s hard to travel, expensive to travel. My family is scattered around the country like seeds. I hear news from all different people, from all different outlets.
I’m confused about my dad most of the time. How to feel, how not to feel, when to feel and what. I almost didn’t want to call him last night because I didn’t want him to hear me crying and after the news had settled – it took about 4 hours for me to feel something about it. Taking 4 hours to feel was an odd feeling for me. I usually feel quick and hot and instantly and then settle- this time it seemed to happen in reverse. But I wasn’t sure calling him if I would be comfortable having him hear me cry. It wasn’t something I wanted to reveal. Mostly what I said was that I was worried about him – which seemed like enough from me. And I cried to my cousin, to a best friend, to my boyfriend – to people I feel comfortable revealing myself to in that way.
My Dad is on a plane to Hawaii today. I know he wouldn’t be able to fly if he were really in trouble. My love for him is love with something attached – love with stents in it, love that needs a little extra help to stay open. And I guess we need as many as it takes to keep it pumping.

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Unconditional Love: Stories of unconditional love between parents and children, and how hard love can be sometimes in daily practice.

I advise maybe not listening to this at work – if you’re anything like me you will be sobbing at your desk which I find myself doing far too often.

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helmet

It’s unseasonably warm today. record warm. I wonder what it’s going to do to the leaves. If it will turn them forward or back, prolong fall and beat winter off with a stick. I’ve been keeping an odd pace these last few weeks. Working on Saturday and then working again on Monday, but working later. The lights are flickering, I miss the gum on the sidewalk just in time, my walkway to the office was blocked by construction and i stood like one of those maniacs in front of a steamroller or a train and taunted him. Not really – it was much less dramatic than that. I walked in front of some guy in a truck smashing asphalt and he stopped – what was he supposed to do. I didn’t realize until I was in the middle of the street that it was blocked off. I cursed them anyway. And the girl who parks in the spot that isn’t hers. There’s a dull sort of humming above both my ears, in my head. For two days now it has felt like I’ve been wearing a helmet, but not the helmet itself, the feeling you have after you’ve been wearing it for a long time, the feeling like it’s still there, the feeling like you’ve been waving all day in the water at the ocean and when you close your eyes you can still here it, still feel your body floating in the surf hours after you’ve left it.

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