Age trumps…

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Spring.
84°F today.
Some places still
sleep in their winter.
It’s only March.

Spring, on my
dark, warm street.
It’s only 8:30 p.m.
Enough time later for
night’s cool
crocodile breath.

Sprinkler heads won’t
pop-up.
I pull, urging water
pressure on.
Finish the job.

Eureka!
Wet hands and feet.

I don’t shiver.
The day’s warm breath
that warmed the house.
means an easy task.

Nearly 80° inside.
Cooler out now.

“Close the door.”
She says.
She wears
pants, socks, shoes,
blouse, undershirt,
sweater, heavy lap blanket
over her legs,
light blanket around her
shoulders.

“I’m cold.”
She says.

She’s 86.
Age trumps 80°F.

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image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Plumb the depths
dig into the gritty nitty
else  i l q1 r b H  and
all aaaa—zzzz—2222
fall hollow?

Reach no heights;
pale to  f a d e , the flesh
unknown.
So they say.

Dig it up, serve in red
bites, chunks drip,
for drool’s only run where
pain lives.  Apparently.

Risk.  Fly off the rock.
The greater the heaven
the greater the soar,
the greater the fall,
the greater the splat.
Splat.
Splat.

Ah, splat into wisdom’s eye shine
or splat into vapid’s barren desert?

Turn the letter-word-phrase to
a golden, light, even crust on all
sides.  Perfection?

Beauty’s in the eye of
the beholder, I’ve heard.
Still, word’s truths live
tho’ understanding varies.

Does this depth skim
some other’s surface?
Miss their depth?
Is this as
deep as I get?

Perhaps it takes a dig
beyond their deep
to get me.

kitchen visions…

image source:Bing image

image source:Bing image

Knife flies, onions weep,
garlic peel    sticks
Mother cries with throat clogs.

Time flies while Fur Elise sweeps
the keys.
Who knew?
This was no season for angst.

Where is the time kept that perfected
thus?

Sisyphean over and over
around and around, up and down
in and out
marks dread’s thread pulled
over years and ages and days and
minutes to hold in a No. N.O.

Yet, here I am, wheeling the knife
shaping the pieces, carving the chunks
that eases with less than Herculean.

I’m quite impressed
Beethoven, Orff and Bizet serenade
with an flow that marks success.

Smile fills my plate.
Why did I not know it could be this easy?

Birdhouse – by Julienne Johnson

image source:google images

image source:google images

You can’t pick a metaphor with a roller skate key
so I kept my secrets there
hidden under a hammock
where Butchie and I were trying hard to balance
younger then, peaches that still had fuzz — holding tight
the woven grey canvas swinging from the green metal frame
pushed to the farthest edge of our mowed square
far as we can go — you know the rules:
one half-acre of green limit
crab grass, sassy as ever
Kentucky Blue, and dandelions —
yellow crayolas rub ’em under my chin
see if I’m tellin’ the truth —
see — no yellow, told ya so!

swinging but trying not to
so our dinners wouldn’t spill
leaning toward the center of each other
to fill up that empty space we felt there;
I loved being close to Butchie
he was my picnic table
like he hid under
last time he ran away
almost got to Ohio

trembling together that day
still in dirty swimsuits — wet
kids play under sprinklers – sizzling hot heavy Michigan days
but now it had cooled down
little bodies wearing goose bumps
balancing plates on laps
burned green peas and hard hamburgers
a slice of white Silvercup bread on top of tears
trying not to fall into the empty wheelbarrow we watched
out in a field of catsup
that we were afraid to ask for
we kept our eyes on a robin dancing on the wooden handle
while hundreds of Black-eyed Susans
like me — looked for a four-leaf clover
but it was so hard to see through the blur
eat your God-damned dinner or the belt
no pants — again
Dad wore his weapon
had a way with keeping his word

I see the Birdhouse.
Butchie made it with his new jigsaw
a Christmas present
he was only six
so proud of that Birdhouse
he could hardly wait for Dad to come home
Dad left on Mondays and came back on Fridays
eight years of peace in the middle
Hammer! I see the hammer too
rusty with a worn oak handle
blue shingles — orange somewhere

Butchie loved to build things
and I loved Butchie
My Father smashed the whole thing
all on one Friday night
an ugly pumpkin!
only 15 minutes home
I wanted to hold Butchie so he could hold me
Lifesavers from the same package that stick together
but we had separate bedrooms
walls — grey between us — walls
and no crying
wasn’t allowed on the new yellow bedspread
or anywhere else in their house
a night stand stained with maple pushed against the bed skirt
it was hard to see through the plaid — hear them coming
so much dust under the bed

but back to the hammock…
Butchie and I weren’t very hungry for peas and cotton
even the lilacs blooming in the corner knew
we hated our Father
our mother was dying, trying – again
on a rainbow she longed to ride out
red yellow blue — all in one swift swallow
faster than you can crush a ripe wild strawberry
the red must have stopped her… same as before

“Who are you? Please help me. I want my Daddy.”

“It’s me Mommy. Don’t be afraid, I’ll take care of you.”
but where’s Butchie, the lilacs, the four-leaf clovers?

older now, fuzz free, face down, Rolex up on a Persian carpet
his own kids in Jordan Airs — stepping over him
a bridge between two chairs
smashed
cheers — to the Birdhouse.

Julienne Johnson
http://www.julienneART@me.com

Art heart…

The heart lunges, it hungers, it leaps.  I’ve seen it try and pour itself out in saving others or giving to others in a beauty that is unrecognized by the fearful, the hurt, the hungry.  They lash out against the heart’s beauty.  They misunderstand.

I get the beauty, but of course, I compare.  Me to her.  Me to him.  Aren’t I silly for doing that?  What’s to compare?  Their uniqueness shrivels my plainness?  Or does my beauty shine a hue that differs from their rainbows?

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Take the strutting peacock, for instance.  That’s just the male.  The female, the one he’s strutting for is plain and mousey by comparison.  Which begs the question, if you follow, does the male with his bright feathers, tips in bright, bold eyes, think he is beautiful?  Or does he strut because he is ugly until chosen?

Perhaps it’s far simpler.  His DNA is programmed for bright hues and strutting and her DNA is programmed for simple, plain, protective style that melds into the ground cover, hiding there to protect the young, making the nest look enticing to the fabulous, plumed, brilliant, stunning MALE.  And so they choose and so they mate and so the breed continues.

They did what they were born to do.  They follow instinct and fulfill their destiny.  I get tripped up in the search for my destiny versus some other person’s destiny – hers or his; my potential versus hers or his; the choices, the options are myriad.  Too many to comprehend and embrace.  Perhaps that is why I get nothing done and accomplish squat.  Which way to go?  Which dream to follow?  Which heart to embrace?

I ponder and try to reach beyond the sameness of this morning.  Nothing new there; it’s the common challenge as the everyday breathes on all sides.

I call to Mother and she comes to my desk, slowly, her balance steadied by her footed cane.  Sun shines its morning glow through the eastern window with a glisten on the gray streaks in her dark hair.

“I can’t stand here looking at pictures,” she leans on the cane, “I have to get some breakfast.”

“I know,” I rise from my folding chair and help her get seated.  “Just this one; you’ll love it,” I maneuver the laptop so that Mother can see.

My nephew’s wife posts pictures of their two girls, toddlers, on her facebook page.  In this picture, the littlest one grins, every inch of her body covered in happiness, her big blue eyes saucers of joy.  Her older sister looks shyly at the camera, her smile demure, her big blue eyes tentative.  They’re both dressed in ruffled, polka-dot cotton shirts and tot sized blue jeans.

“So beautiful.  I want to squeeze both of them,” Mother reaches up and adjusts the angle of her glasses for a better view.  “They need to come see us again.”

We look at several pictures until Mother pushes herself upright and with careful moves of her cane, returns to the kitchen.  There’s a slight lift to her movement.  She drank in the beauty of two new little lives, health’s glow on their skin, bright eyes, fluffy hair and pint-sized outfits.  She doesn’t feel any better than she did before; it’s the beauty that has lifted her.  She’ll get her breakfast a little easier now.

So shall I compare my beauty to theirs?  To some artist?  Shall I stifle the creativity that I didn’t know was there because it looks different from all others?  I find myself picking at our differences.  I see the lack in my creative well.  I feel drab and useless.  I am ineffectual.  I am not an artist.

It’s no good stopping at that sore spot.  The lack is too painful.  I push on.  I seek the truth.  I dig until I find it.  Or it finds me.  God programmed their DNA.  God programmed my DNA.  I’m not the artist she is or he is.  I am my own artist.  I will take my cue from Mother.  Absorb the beauty, let it escape the synapses of my gray matter to run down my arms and spill out through my fingers.  I will create.

The do…

image source:picsbox

image source:picsbox

I wonder if we choose
cadillac shine with fingers to the keys and
synapsis firing
or do the pistons lift and fall to the unseen?

Fingers filled and colored bright        glued           stationary
where they   float   push    pull
GRASP             reach   tug      despair
d

r

o

w

n.

How they soar to the music and bleed into the camera,
emerge, wholly frac  tured.

I try to wrap my head around that beauty, that strange
drama of pain, fulfillment, Joy.  Driven determination.

They leech into my sleep.
Dreams skate across the wrinkled blanket and
fall into the abyss of sweet and fearful.

“Like a sparrow in his flitting, like a swallow in its flying,
a curse that is causeless does not alight.”

Proverbial sight pierces dark.  Not proverbial until birthed,
right?  I mean, the proverb started somewhere, get it?

Begin the beguine, trip the light fantastic
right down to the drive, the sit, the start, the do, the do, the do.

Was that really so hard?  The barrier releases and the flood
bursts
OR trickles, trickles, trickles,
rains, splatters, downpours, floods;

OUT they spit, the letters, the a, the c, the qu, the z
after one, two, three   Squat.

So, if outside, implore;
if inside, explore
else denying dry DIE crackle and Never have life.

fly high…and sing your song…

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

We lost another one this week.  That makes two in the last eight days.  First, Bob, then Charmaine.  Elderly, frail friends of Mother’s.

People she knew for nearly forty years from church.  People, who were hardy, still working with busy productive lives when she and Daddy first met them.  People, whose lives morphed and changed into retirement, followed by the death of spouses and the total rearrangement of how they lived; people, who once self-reliant, at the end, relied upon others.

Mother hasn’t been feeling well, so I told her the news carefully.  She seemed to take it in stride as part of the everyday markers of her elderly life.  After all, Daddy’s gone too, and he was her mainstay.

Charmaine and Jim retired and moved back to the mid-West to be near their kids.  Maybe ten years ago?  Then Jim got sick and died and Charmaine’s daughter was around to do the caring.  Now Charmaine’s gone.

Bob nursed his ailing wife while he worked full time and then she died.  Mother says he was never the same after those exhausting years.  Is that why Alzheimer’s took over his capable brain?  In the end his daughters had lie to him to get him to leave the house so that they could get him care.  Bob’s gone now, too.

A flurry of birds in the backyard catches my eye as sparrows dart, flutter, and settle on the grass and the green is painted into a polka dot green blanket with hopping browns and grays.  Today’s sunshine reveals a glitter in the multi-layered hues of their feathers.

Squawk!  A blackbird clutched to a swaying high wire interrupts and the sparrows take chirping flight up into the bare oak branches.  Low to the ground, along the fence perimeter, there’s black fur that moves stealthily.  Feral cat.  Could be that squawk was a warning, right?

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

So, those ended elderly lives?  Makes one think; ponder; if you get my drift.  The shortness of their lives doesn’t hold a candle to the song bird, the Cedar Waxwing, trilling on the bare Apricot branches.  Those dudes only live two or three years.  That’s short, my friend.  Or it is when compared to Mother’s eighty-plus-year-old friends that just sang their last, breathed their last.  Well, you get the point.

But, does it seem short to the Cedar Waxwing, or does it seem normal?  They’re born, they’re fed, they learn to eat and to find their own food and water; their instinct keeps them moving ahead, they make music, they make baby birds, they feed them and push them from the nest.  They make more music.  They die.

It’s all perspective.  The light we’re seeing from the stars, by the time it gets to us, those stars have died.  The music of Chopin or Pachelbel, it’s ours because they lived and created, but they’re done now too.  Even so, they left something behind.  So do the stars, so do the Cedar Waxwings.  Their beauty and their songs are captured and saved on YouTube on in some documentary for us to enjoy.

Here’s what keeps crawling around the edges of my mind, “Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Aren’t you worth more than they?”  That was Matthew, a Jesus follower, noting down his observations of the cycle of the birds in the skies above him over 2,000 years ago in Palestine.

Matthew’s been gone a long time, but he caught the truth and left a record of it for us.  It’s life.  The value of life.  The preciousness of life.  Your life.  My life.  The bird’s life.  Ok, I’ll admit it, as much as I don’t like feral cats, the feral cat’s life, as well.  Life.  We see it replicated from one bird to another; one cat to another, one human to another, but it’s a gift.  Matthew said it was a God given gift.  It is.

image: google images

image source: google images

I see that.  I feel it inside.  I’m aware life is a gift and not something I can make or bring into being.  Nor can I control how long life lasts.  Oh, I suppose I could throw in the towel to my life’s fight and find some way to end it.  The problem is that’s only the life that exists in this earthly world; the one we can see and touch.  But, it’s not the soul.  There’s no ending to the soul.  The soul comes from God and he controls its destiny.  I need to remember to hold it in an open hand, because I can’t control it.  Just like I can’t keep that Cedar Waxwing living on forever nor can I predict how long before Mother loses life.  Her life and soul came from God and back to God she will go.  I will go.  You will go.  Take comfort.  God loves you and the soul he gave you.  Meanwhile, fly high and sing your song.

Wind.Rain.Wild

image source:bing images

image source:bing images

The rushing, bustling, whistling sound in the back corner of the house draws me to the half-window of the back door.  The backyard is soggy.  Two streets over, a lone palm tree, at least twenty feet above rooftops and oak and sycamore and elder trees, sways back and forth, five feet east then five feet west.  East and west, it sways.  Near the top of its long bare trunk, the fronds of its grass skirt are whipped up and down and around in a frenzy dance of wind and rain.

image source:parktography

image source:parktography

On the white wall of the garage, the scarlet blooms and green leaves of the bougainvillea normally stretch wide and high, but this dim morning they droop, weighted by the pelting rain; fat drops gliding the hills and valleys of each bloom and leaf, dropping staccato onto the ground below.

At the side of the garage, that spurt of growth from a seed dropped there by some bird or carried there in the dung of the possum or the feral cats has grown tall.  It seemed like a weed at first; its roots unreachable amid stuff stacked behind the garbage cans, so over the months I whacked away at the sideways shoots until today, what I see out in the storm is a burgundy maple, taller than the garage roof.  It sways just like the nurtured and wanted trees in the yard.

Water has washed the paving stone path from the porch to the garage.  The birdbath is full, its surface dappled with rain drops.  Even the squat, sturdy grapefruit tree, leaves fat and steady, fruit ponderous is swaying.  I see no one.  No person, cat, dog or bird.  They’ve all gone to dry ground somewhere.

image source:bing images

image source:bing images

It’s not unusual to hear predictions of rain that never materialize for us.  It’s not unusual for a breeze to change the sky from clear to muddled clouds, while all remains dry.  It’s not unusual for rain in the hills or along the coast to miss us.  It’s not unusual for those same storms to mean mudslides and damage in other places.  Even so, I’m grateful this little valley that is normally spared wild weather has not been passed by this time.  This wind, this pelting rain, they are rare for us.  Exquisite.

The earth, the grass, the plants, the flowers, the trees; they drink, they are washed.  Dry turns to plump and nourished.  Yellowed winter grass drinks deeply, its tint turning even as I watch.

The wind and the rain and the wild storm remind me of a truth.  Each season returns in its appointed time.  The maker of the wind and the rain began it all and so it continues.  I take comfort and rest.  I smile at the wind and the rain and the wild storm.

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

I fill my lungs with washed air.  I drink in the power of the storm.  I open the dry spots of wariness at Mother’s health and find them moistened and soothed.  I feel the deep well of an unknown future start to fill.  I hear the dry crackle stress of hard choices ease into possibility’s supple cloth.  I open my hands and hard tensions untangle.  I watch the hope of a creative spark take nourishment.  I feel the expansion of my spirit.  I embrace the bubbles of joy.  I stretch with energy and settle into hope.  I turn from the window and continue on, cocooned by the rushing, bustling, whistling of the storm.

We don’t live in paradise….

The sounds coming from the bathroom are not pretty.                   Chugging splats                       bubble,

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

plink.
Groan, spray filtering.
The rustle
wait
bustle              wait.
Bemoan;
the whine is wallpapered, stiff and melting.
The smell, oh the smell.
Bemused gave off the bewildering.
Resolve flushed.
Can’t.  No, can’t.

Mother, with great sighs, slowly makes her way into her bedroom and shuts the door.  In my bedroom, pale light filters through the wood blinds on donkey my window.  Gentle, not too bright ribbon.

I lie on the bed, under blue weed covers.  I was sleeping but now that’s gone.  My brain buzzes.  Fine.  So don’t do it.  It’s her decision.  The can’t lets the air out of the balloon to a slow relaxation for her but now I’m wound up.

image source:google images

image source:google images

What’s next?  What to do after that can’t?  Her stress floated down the hall and settled on me.  Too much to think about.  Too much to query to God.  I need some wisdom here, because this impasse is looming large on the horizon, if you get my drift.

The house has gone quiet.  My black sleeping mask is in my hand instead of on my face.  All is still.  Except the racing thought trails of my mind, up over mountains of possibilities down into ditches of nasty consequences of seemingly innocent choices.  It’s all food, right?  What’s the big harm here?  Well, that is the question, isn’t it?

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Pick your poison, Ma’am.  Step right up into the parlor of innocent nutrients.  FDA approved, so what could possibly be harmful?  It’s the amazing machine of the intricate mysterious inner workings of the human body.  Absorb this.  Slough off that.  Change, swish, chug, mutilate, smash, transform, squash, mutate, evolve, utilize, reject and package into that passenger train of garbage that came in and is now garbage headed out.

I know what I’d do if it were me.  Identify the perpetrators and stop giving them admittance.  Mother can’t seem to understand that concept.  It’s food.  It’s her favorite foods.  How could they possibly be causing these difficulties, these distresses?

There’s a straight line connection, but she can’t see it.  What a relief it would be if that connection didn’t exist.  I’d take that world.

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Imagine what it would be like if Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten that apple?  Hadn’t decided they wanted the job of god in their lives?  Everything was perfect before that, so we’re told.  It’s hard to imagine a world where there’d be no decay, no disease, no killing, no hatred, no suffering.

No acid reflux, no food sensitivities, no teeth that break off and require oral surgery.  Sounds like paradise, to me.

Oh well, reality beckons.  We don’t live in paradise.

I don’t know what to do for her, God.  At least you know the body you made and just ‘cause bodies get faulty, you don’t.  My stress ebbs away and I sleep again.  Cell phone vibration and ring-tone startle me awake.  I fish the phone out from under my pillow.  An 800 number.  Not answering that.

No point is lying here.  Might as well see if I can print up a list of foods that won’t aggravate Mother’s GERD.  Maybe she’ll react better to the CANs instead of the CAN’Ts.  Thanks, God.  That dozing helped.  I feel a little closer to paradise.  Amazing what rest can do.

Nuts

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Crunch

cracks

and breaks the

nuts

That bounce in

further splinter,

hard frozen wholes to

Slivers and bites minuscule.

Exchange

from big Full

to tiny small.

I keep losing them, one at a time.  Oh not so many, just a few, you understand, but over the days and weeks and months, it could add up.  I drop one, it bounces out of sight into…Never-never land?  Yesterday, I leaned over the desk chasing the end of a computer power cord and there, on the painted hardwoods, between the edge of the Persian rug wannabe and the tall baseboards, there they were.  Nuts.  Some whole, some ground to bits.  A mouse could live royally behind my desk.