Ear Buds

google images:earbuds

 google images:earbuds

There’s a whole world that travels

from computer or smart phone up the thin

cords through the rubber ear buds

where it bursts into life and dance and frolic

that careens around the gray matter of my brain.

 

I’m wrapped in the swirling strains of Beethoven

and Adele and Liszt and the Beatles and Shostakovich and 60’s Doo Wap,

my imagination freed from the blare of the cooking show

Mother watches on TV, freed to the music,

alive with moods,

images,

words

and letters afloat.

 

The music pulls me into dank, deep forests of

unrealized goals where I wallow, gasping for air,

until weak armed I reach for lofty peaks

of hope in the strife to survive,

until I’m caught and gathered up

on the wisps of daylight

of tomorrow’s possibles.

 

They press glimmers

against the drag of the schedule of care

for this ancient house,

this fading generation,

this memoir to a way of life

that seems stilted to great-great grandchildren;

or to anyone with energy and stamina enough

to venture out into the frantic rush

of the city traffic that’s still alive

in its bustle of existence

and that continues

without either Mother or me.

 

These ear buds keep me tethered

to the expectancy that life won’t always be this.

Be here. Be staid.  Be constricted by age and frailty.

 

The ear bud wires hum,

my ears tingle,

the floating fragments settle

gel and ooze

down my arms

out my fingers on the keyboard

to live again in words on the page.

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Handyman – Protector

image:Mother's flower garden

image:Mother’s flower garden

 

Rock strength rescues fearful female,

bug halts in skitter across the floor,

spider loses its web

faucet leak, blown fuse, garden weeds

coughing carburetor, flopping slapping tire

dead battery, stopped up gutter –

no match for Daddy’s prowess.

 

Yet, not quick enough

or rescue sufficient

for Mother.

She fussed

worried

nagged.

 

Resolution required but patience,

Understanding carved from busy schedule;

Payment a smile, a hot meal,

cool lemonade.

 

Their dance of need and service

swung round and round across the decades.

 

Until he was gone.  Until I stepped into his

too big shoes.  Until I flopped around

unbalanced, sagging

under her “honey-do list.”

 

Her slightest whine, her merest look

should telegraph her need, right?

It did for Daddy.  I demand she ask.

I demand of myself that I wait for her to ask.

 

“Oh, for a man!” she laments when

anything goes wrong.

 

She lost her handyman, her dance partner. I lost

my pillar of strength, bedrock

who had freed me to wander far away,

secure the foundation would never waver.

 

She wobbles without him.

I carry on.

We miss him.

pain and love

Bing images

Bing images

We passed the KTLA5 News van just south of the exit to Isla Vista.  Apparently they were also headed back to L.A.

“Can’t see the water today,” Mother said, her head turned to her window as she looked to the south where the coast was hiding in a bank of clouds and moisture.

“No,” I said.  I looked left to check the fast lane, before moving into it to get around the car that was slowing us down, “but you can’t miss the fact it’s there with all this heavy marine layer.”

Yesterday, the trip north meant short sleeves, air conditioning and sun glasses against the bright sun and beautiful blue sky and water, but today was a long sleeve day, with the A/C turned off and vent air warmed up to 73 degrees.  It was overcast and cool out, 60 degrees at 9:45 a.m.

The Isla Vista murder/suicide tragedy was three days ago.  The town was probably still reeling.  Families decimated and shocked.  People would need jackets or sweatshirts when they took flowers to mark the spot of the tragedies.   And anyway, overcast, cloudy skies made more sense for mourning than a bright, sunny day at the beach, right?  Or maybe the gray sky matched the gray in people’s minds and kept them away from the scene and that was why the News Van was headed back to L.A.

“We never spent time at the beach,” Mother said, her head still turned towards the coast, “I was busy with all you kids, your father needed the car for work, and there was no money or time for trips to the beach.”  She sounded a little wistful at the missed opportunity.

“And when you did get away,” I said, checking the review mirror for a CHP as my speed increased down a hill, “you went to the mountains?”

“Of course,” Mother said in a tone that meant, why would they go anywhere else?  “Your father and I loved the mountains.”

I checked the rear view mirror to see if my visiting brother had anything to add to this trip down memory lane, but he was asleep, his white haired head against the head rest of the back seat, cell phone in his hand, the radio classical music his lullaby.

His week-long visit with his son, daughter-in-law and three grandkids in Lompoc gave me an excuse to talk Mother into taking a trip north.  What a trip of contrasts.  We’d gone from L.A. County to Santa Barbara County, from high rises, acres of concrete, bumper to bumper traffic, houses and small businesses as far as the eye could see, interspersed with strip malls and large shopping complexes, past ocean views, bougainvillea blanketed cliffs and para-sailing and beyond, to rolling green hills sprayed with yellow mustard blooms like dancing sprites over hills and vales that sloped down to the winding ribbon that is Highway 1.

It felt like another world.  It felt like the back of beyond where nothing lived except grasses and hills and dense undergrowth.  It felt hushed and beautiful, fresh and alive.  It felt like another place in time.

It felt nothing like the tragedy and blood and suffering of Isla Vista, where a rampaging, mentally stressed college student had planned for his pain to erupt leaving six dead and thirteen wounded.

Rather, it felt happy.  We found a busy and content family of two school teachers, their two teenagers, a ten year old and a Mother-in-law who just had one lung lobe removed in an effort to eradicate cancer.

They act like they are aware they have each other.   They act like they know who they are.  They act like they understand their place in life.  They act like they will take care of each other.  They act like they will be there for the recovery after cancer surgery; they will be there for each other after my nephew has back surgery this summer; they will be there for my beautiful, seventeen year old great niece as she makes a college choice, they will be there in encouraging my nephew’s wife as she finishes her masters and her doctorate, they will be there to support my nephew as he finishes his seminary work.  It isn’t that their life doesn’t have challenges.  It’s that they are determined to keep their lives simple, hang on to their faith and believe in each other.

How easily that tragic college student with long term self-esteem and mental health issues could have been me, or my brother, or his son, or his daughter-in-law or one of his grandchildren.  I think of the poor choices I made when I was young, that student’s age.  I cringe when I think of how some things turned out. I, too, was a failure.  I’m grateful I learned to move beyond.  I’m grateful there was healing.

I’m grateful, this gray morning, that life has given me time to get it right.  And I’m sad for the destroyed families of those six dead and thirteen wounded.  I pray there will be a way for them to recover; that there will be time for their lives to get it right.  Other than just screaming about guns.  Or knives.  It’s a deeper issue than a tool used for destruction.  It’s about value at the very core of our being.  It’s about compassion and forgiveness.  It’s about finding help when damage eats away at the soul.  It’s about love.

“I saw a whale,” Mother said, her eyes glued to the water, as the fog began to lift.

“Where?”  My brother woke, stretched and turned to his window.

We craned our necks to see the beauty of life that continues on.

Bloom

Bing images

Bing images

Pretty color.
I reach out, entranced.
The thorns prick.
My blood disappears into
the scarlet Bougainvillea blossoms.
I’m not fond of blood.

I slide off
the dizzying height;
past white striations on grey slate
that run southward and meld
with dark cave holes.
Grotesque shaped arms reach
out towards me.

I pick up speed and fly on.
Stop. Ahead.
Where sky
merges with Terra.

“Are you watching?”
She said as she
stirred the gumdrops
into the batter.

Instead of the
promised soar
I lie broken,
my bed a dry creek,
with pillows of brown dust
that billow and settle
into my cracks.
I turn invisible.

Whiffs of orange blossoms
stir the dust, tickle my nose,
and carry me back
to cool spring nights
under the backyard stars
where tiny pebbles in the ground
under the blanket
get on my last nerve.

“Be careful, or you’ll
end up burned,” she
worried.

“I believe in you,”
he smiled.

I was torn.
Caught in the middle.
I couldn’t believe
either of them.

In stops and starts
I ventured out,
flitted and floundered;
afraid to soar.

You’re not promotion
material,
he justified,
ticking off his boxes,
unless you can play
the politics game.

I gripped the ink pen
so tight it bent.
Not willing to
go so far as to
mortally finish
him or me,
I smiled.

A smile that never
reached my eyes.

Open up to the
decay, the
putrid slime
and drink in.
Smile the grin
of the damned
with Bougainvillea red
dripping teeth.

To accept
or not to accept
such an invitation?

I try.
Come on in,
the water’s fine,
they call as they
go down for the
third time.

Why is it not
that simple?
Just finish it.
Just do it.

Some primal urge
to survive wells up,
and drags me back from
the precipice.

Scarred fingers
pull against ragged
crags. Hands reach
out and pull me up.

At last I stand
on the jagged mount,
love healed,
my Bougainvillea bracelet
a scarlet reminder.

The Hole Inside

Bing Images

Bing Images

Couldn’t branch out at tender age
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t risk a verge to the unknown
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t risk propriety’s dress parade
were it not for the hole inside.

Painted on eyes,
colored up lips,
feather soft cheeks
façade for drab,
shriek out for worth.

Couldn’t learn to twirl debris
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t dance in battered sighs
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t sink beneath life’s heft,
were it not for the hole inside.

Painted on eyes,
colored up lips,
feather soft cheeks
façade for drab,
shriek out for worth.

Couldn’t embrace my solitary
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t reach life’s reason
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t find solace in the crush
were it not for the hole inside.

Painted on eyes,
colored up lips,
feather soft cheeks
façade for drab,
shriek out for worth.

Couldn’t escape the putrid pit
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t seek deep healing lift
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t evade death’s cold rattle
were it not for the hole inside.

Painted on eyes,
colored up lips,
feather soft cheeks
façade for drab,
shriek out for worth.

Couldn’t have a far view
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t have found solace,
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t have met the cure,
were it not for the hole inside;

Couldn’t fly on joy’s wings
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t learn love’s embrace
were it not for the hole inside.
Couldn’t have known my soul’s lover
were it not for the hole inside.

Shining eyes clear,
smiling lips and crinkled cheeks,
love and beauty merge at last
with wisdom’s perfect love;
my hole is day by day healed.

Disappearance.3

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

I peel the pages of
memory
like an onion.
Transparent and
dense.

The first boy was cute.
Blond hair,
blue eyes.
We played
tether-ball.
We were eleven.

I moved away,
out of state.
I wasn’t sad.
I had high
hopes. Years
to discover
boys. Right?

Hope was intermittent.
Longing reared its
head; two
pronged with its
twin, loneliness.

Once, I counted up
the boys to men
between grade school
and menopause.

Seventeen.

Most were crushes.
One heated lust.
One love.
One tighly
grasped
dream that
when soured
revealed fake
promises
guaranteed to
disappoint.

Whew! Dodged
that bullet.

Now the seventeen
swim
in a fog that
thickens.
Their draw seems
so far away.
They’ve nearly
disappeared beyond
the horizon.

Is this the meaning
of stability?
This no longer caring,
is this a release
from angst or
just the death of
fertility?

I pry,
I dig,
I concentrate.
I pull at the onion
layers.
I bleed.

Names and times
come.
Feelings pricked
rebound.
I remember the drive,
the longing,
the desire,
the hope,
the fuzzy-headedness;
the frailty
when unrequited –
as it mostly was.

This disappearance
of that urge;
this disappearance
of need, is it
maturity?
Or disappearance
of life?

I don’t kid
myself that
I’ve grown beyond
the need to be loved.

Who has?
Who ever does?

To be honest,
life is easier since
the longings for
boys to men has
disappeared.

I’ll take love
through friends,
through family,
through what I
create;
through the one who
created me and
never left me
for a crush on
some one or
some thing
else.

So, sail away
old crushes
old flames
old loves
old dreams
old desires
old passions
old longings
old pains –
disappear.

I’m fine without you.
I’ve disappeared
into a new me.

Disappearance.2

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

She meets no
strangers;
pulls every heart
close.
Sees every ding
in psyche;
wants to hold
them tight to
stop their leakage.

I need a breather.
I have to get some air.
Just for a moment.
I need to disappear.

Does she think I’m
unfeeling
when I don’t
clasp every waif
to my
schedule?

I need to disappear
to recharge.

He pontificates;
bonhomie
expands.
Every task,
large or small,
he has the cure.
Just ask him,
he’ll tell how it’s done.
Oh, wait,
I won’t have to ask.
He’ll tell me how
anyway.

I’m ok with his
solutions
just don’t try to
make them
my solutions.

I don’t need him
to fix me.
I need to disappear.
Back into my
core.
Solutions are
there.
Solutions
unique for me.

Do they think I’m
helpless?
Can they not see
the strength
that comes
out of my
disappearance?

She thrives on
challenge.
She rises up
to surpass
‘it’s impossible’
naysayers
in their
rational talk.

Does she think
my accomplishment
should rival hers?
Should equal hers?
In effort,
if not in exact
duplication of
the creative?

I need to disappear
into my
creativeness.

There’s no point
to a duplicate
snowflake.

Each
is unique.

It’s their
coming together
their melding,
their disappearance
into the snowbank,
the snow capped
mountain peak,
the ice cap, that
makes them
thunderous.

I’ll come
with you.
I’ll meld.
Just know,
I’ll bring my
disappearance
with me.
Just know I need
my breathers.

I won’t be her
or him.

They’re the
extroverts.
I’m not.

Disappearance
is part of me.