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Never enough rain, never a long enough night

It rained through the long night, the thirteenth longest night of the nearly discarded crumpled year.

Polly didn’t put the kettle on. I did but couldn’t wait for the whistle so covered dry tea leaves with not-boiled-tap-water while listening to the swish/slosh of car tires; to pauses, to spatters, driblets, sprinkles, sprays, swash. In bed with Eleven Chekhov Stories, also an as yet unwritten, unaddressed, unstamped foot-high pile of UNICEF holiday cards, each escorting a white companion envelope. Please don’t let this night end!

The newly minted international air mail stamps (green succulents) are as ugly as the last issued (golden moons). Now this annual ritual can begin to the sway of falling rain. Having braced against nostalgia’s bite, I pen unimaginative greetings. To Zagreb, Vancouver, Richmond, Surrey, Bangla Muna, Marrakesh.

Not yet dead friends, almost lost friends, in touch friends, unreported dead friends, diminished friends, new friends, aspiring friends, altered friends, adored, detoured, distasteful, irritating friends. A phrase or two dashed-off in pitch black ink to each. To Paris, Castlemaine, Ballybane, Berlin, Rouillac, Carry le Rouet, London, Ramat Hashaion, Hoorn, Faulück,Haarlem, Pedeli, Garrelsweer.

Always alert in case viperous wistfulness that might creep from between my toes or coil and strike from the toe of newish German shoes. On some cards go longer notes in navy blue ink. To St. Pierre de Plesguen, La Rippe, Krasnoye, Jerusalem, Hydra, Cumbria,  Folkestone, Finchley Road, Den Haag, Stabekk, Plavdiv, Edinburgh, Malahide.

More tea made, poured, drunk; this cup burning hot. A pause to admire the bracing petit point rain, its tap-tap tap-tap, fresh droplets pooling. Cards to Eindhoven, Düsseldorf, Katnataka, Stroud, Celerina, Berkout, South Pender Island, Isle of Wight, Tromso, Nea Smyrni, Sydney. Entering my room in her usual haste, Anne Frank peaks in unexpectidly, shakes a lean index finger, reiterates her own words “…dead people receive more flowers than the living because regret is stronger than gratitude.” “Indeed” I concur, a kindred spirit who may not have a Ph.D. in regret as she must, but surely has a B.A.

Trading the blue sharpie for a lively orange, am running out of words. There’s Unterstammheim, Staten Island, Studio City, Green Valley, Los Angeles, Chicago, Westin, Glen Cove, New York City, Foothill Ranch,  Santa Cruz, Sunnyside, Anahola, Sheffield, Morgantown, New Orleans, Boca Ratan, East Hampton, Upper Darby, Huntington Beach, Venice, High Falls, Maplewood, Cupertino, Santa Fe, Concord, Santa Monica,  Cambridge, Miami, Woodland Hills, Pacific Palisades, Millford, West Hollywood, Encinitas, Encino, Carlsbad, Gloster, Cumberland Fireside, Fairfax, Penn Valley, Minniappolis, Indian Wells, Sag Harbor, Brooklyn, Redondo Beach, Santa Barbara, Hampton Bays, North Bennington, Rutherfordton. 

In the park below, dead wet butterflies impersonate fallen leaves. Were I outside, ink would run, stamps curl. The rain rolls down the window’s glass while my nest remains toasty, dry. As the kettle heats more water, I check to see if a lidless sharpie (black, blue, or orange) has bled ink onto the saintly duvet, the holy sheets, the virginal nightgown. I await a whistle. To my left, Chekhov blissfully levitates. Night time is nowhere near the end. “Yes, Anne, nostalgia has laid its cheek against mine, nine parts sweet, one part regret. Regret can dampen gratitude.”

Short straw

He drew the short straw. Blanched. His task unwelcome. She picked the long straw. Blushed. Her task uninvited.

Poem by Samuel Beckett, translated by Samuel Beckett

they come
different and the same
with each it is different and the same
with each the absence of love is different
with each the absence of love is the same

elles viennent
autres et pareilles
avec chacune c’est autre et c’est pareil
avec chacune l’absence d’amour est autre
avec hacune l’absence d’amour est pareille

Either way this (or another) task promised an ordeal. A weight. A heavy weight. A slow but soggy/steady, suffocation dragging dawn the whole way to dusk. The nightly bowl of soup sipped on the low couch, smelling like Dead Sea Soap – salt, sulfur, tears.

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” 

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Lullabies for babies round-the-world

[12 hours of lullabies for babies]

Ecce Puer⊗

Of the dark past
A child is born.
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.

Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!

Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.

A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!

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 “Welcome Wee One.”⊗⊗

O ma darlin wee one
At last you are here in the wurld
And wi’ aa your wisdom
Your een bricht as the stars,
You’ve filled this hoose with licht,
Yer trusty wee haun, your globe o’ a heid,
My cherished yin, my hert’s ain!

O my darlin wee one
The hale wurld welcomes ye:
The mune glowes; the hearth wairms.
Let your life hae luck, health, charm,
Ye are my bonny blessed bairn,
My small miraculous gift.
I never kent luve like this.

[⊗ behold the Young Boy, James Joyce, February 1932]

[⊗⊗ by Jackie May, Scotland’s National Poet, 2006]

Didn’t get around to

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re-reading Alan Bennett’s Untold Stories 

promoting NNJ, PE, TWWBMBFTD or EITLR

finding Japanese publisher for ASF

the gym

the beach

John Le Carré’s The Pigeon Tunnel

going through cd’s, dvd’s, vcr’s, Playbills, maps

weeding the garden

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polishing tarnished silver wear

visiting the cashmere sweater shop in the center of the earth

Georgi Gospodinov’s The Physics of Sorrow

Mihail Sebastian’s For Two Thousand Years 

 

 

climbing twelve flights of steps instead of taking the elevator

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climbing the ladder to nowhere

knitting booties for the unborn

biking beside the river

preparing curried pea soup

thinning file folders

Shakespeare in Central Park

falling in love

falling out of love

Curt Leviant’s Kafka’s Son

washing the kitchen floor

drinking from the Fountain of Youth

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“Still, there was always the feeling

that one would

get around to being young again.”

[from – “Recalculating” – The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg]

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Trolls bite ankles and wrists

Worse than mosquitos, discord-sowing, antagonistic – provocateurs in gnat-like swarms – trolls have been biting at my ankles, my wrists, at the tender bottoms of baby’s feet. They’ve been whining in my ears nonstop, have made a feast of my peace of mind and proven to be immune to swats including stinging slaps.

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They swarm in ceremonial formations, also hit-and-miss randomness. Regardless of how many chairs I pile on top of one another, I can never seem to get high enough, or far enough away from the grating whine that clings to the atmosphere, the very air I’m breathing. Like sticky spider webs, gooey against my cheeks, these trolls also occupy both ends of my table.

Is evasion even possible? Bohumil Hrabal, in his novel Too Loud a Solitude, wasn’t optimistic, though I haven’t yet given up entirely.

[*Am substituting troll for mice in this extract as they are interchangeable in this case]

 I was so worn out when I got home that I lay down on my bed fully dressed, and lying there crosswise under the canopy of two tons of books, I looked up through the dim light coming from the street and through the cracks in the shelves, and when everything was perfectly silent I began to hear the gnawing of  troll teeth, hear them working away on the books in my heaven, and their ticking sound terrified me, because it was only a matter of time before they made a nest, and a few months after trolls make nests they found a settlement, and six months later they form whole villages, which in geometric progression grow together within a year to make a city, a city of trolls capable of gnawing through boards and beams with such skill that before long – yes, the time was not far off – it would take no more than a loud voice or a careless touch for the whole two tons of books to come down on my head and wreak vengeance on me for all the bales I’ve compacted the trolls into. Anyway, there I lay, half asleep, overwhelmed by the gnawing going on above me, and as usual when I drift off, I was joined by the tiny Gypsy girl in the form of the Milky Way, the quiet, innocent Gypsy who was the love of my youth and used to wait for me with one foot slightly forward and off to the side, like a ballet dancer in one of the positions, the beautiful, long – forgotten beauty of my youth.

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Hrabal and my paternal grandmother came from the same small city – Brno – part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire pre-WWI, now in the Czech Republic. (Joseph Roth was born there too.) Hrabal fell out of a window and died while feeding birds. Or perhaps he was pushed by trolls? Or mice? Or leapt to escape all oppressive viscousness…

Salt, pepper, mustard, vinegar

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Early one sunday morning in the middle of the 1950s, my parents piled us kids (there were three of us at the time) into the back seat of our second hand two-tone green and white Nash Rambler. We set off for Jones Beach. A small mountain of Tuna salad sandwiches had been prepared and wrapped with wax paper; carrots had been pealed and cut into sticks, also wrapped, along with sticks of cut celery. A box of cream-filled Hydrox cookies had been tossed in with the rest along with a bundle of white paper napkins. Oh and paper cups. Of course my father drove while my mother, regally beside him, rolled up a section of the NYTimes so as to bat us into submission if we either touched the food bag or began fighting with each other.

My father’s dark hair was cut in crew-cut style, stood straight up from his scalp, while my mother’s (also dark) hair was shaped into what was called a ‘pixie’ cut – short, wispy, choppy – causing her to be likened to the singer Keely Smith. (‘That Old Black Magic’ with Louis Prima.) Both my parents wore eye glasses with clear frames. I hoped someday I too would wear eye glasses. They liked getting an early start, so we were well along on our journey by seven. The road was almost deserted. My older brother had just explained that the four seasons were named salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar and that, when the moon and the earth fought with each other, both high and low tides were the result. He was two-and-a-half years older, was learned, knew much I didn’t yet know, so I took whatever he told me as gospel.

My parents knew the route by rote, drove it often to spend a day at the beach, swim, read, while we kids dug for clamshells. During other seasons we also went to the beach. Rather than visiting the ocean, we’d roller skate, play archery or fish for coins that had been tossed into a shallow fountain for luck. I’m not sure if we were on the Meadowbrook State Parkway with it’s many cloverleaf interchanges, or on the softly looping Northern State Parkway, when – up ahead, beneath an underpass – we encountered a police car parked, its spinning roof light blinking red. A uniformed policeman was indicating with his arms that we were to either stop or slow down – I no longer remember which. Of course my father put his foot on the brake.

Ahead of us, upside down, lay a car much like ours, but cream-colored. The tires were still but we saw small blades of a turbine or rotor lazily rotating in the front of the underbelly. On the tarmac beside the overturned car, was a torso shape and head covered over with a brown blanket. Creased trousers legs and brown shoe-wearing feet were left sticking out.

My father steered our car toward the lane into which the policeman motioned us, inching foreword. I held my breath in fear that our car might run over and crush the fallen tomatoes and didn’t take a breath until we’d passed the site and were picking up speed. As far as I could tell, my father hadn’t squashed even one lonely, still-edible tomato cast plumply in the road.

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In the late 1960s, I traveled from New York to Southampton, England on the old Queen Elizabeth with my small son. Each afternoon, after lunch, I’d drop him at the children’s playroom in Cabin Class where staff would look after and play games with him for a few hours so I could … could what? What was it I’d do for those childless hours? I’d drink golden, anise-flavored Galliano at an empty, deco-style bar, or would wander the wooden decks, stopping to watch natty passengers playing shuffleboard. A few times I even played a game or three – pushing the weighted yellow (or black) disc along the polished wood with the long cue, heaving it forward to slide into a marked space without touching the frame in order to built up a score. I was good at sports at the time.

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Later, after I’d fetched my son, he’d regale me with whatever he’d done, or a riddle he’d learned. What is a turbine? he querried, suppressing a giggle. I don’t know, I confessed. He made me wait, said, Think! or, Try to guess! and when I came up with nothing, he splashed me with his bubbling boy’s voice, informing me, “It’s something an Arab or a Sheik wears on his head. Then he laughed so hard, tears filled his eyes.

If I remember correctly, he repeated this riddle countless times during the next four seasons. He repeated it during an unseasonably cool salt while we were at the Crofton Hotel, Queensgate, London. In early pepper, after moving on to the Hotel Alexandre on Hans Christian Anderson Boulevard in Copenhagen, he continued retelling his joke. Over and over again, he hadn’t wearied of the Arab or Sheik. And still hadn’t, through much of the following rather mild mustard we spent living outside of Copenhagen at Pension Patricia, on Strandvegen, near to the Kings Deer Park. There, on a brightish day, from a slip of sandy shore, Sweden was visible.

I was considering a return to New York around the time damp vinegar was nearing its conclusion. We had begun dreaming of and discussing sunny salt-time, imagining trips to the beach, clambakes too. About that time he added a new riddle to his repertoire. He first told it to me on a white ferry going from Stockholm to Helsinki. I thought the name of the ferry – ‘Bore’ – was hilarious, had begged for extra cobalt-blue plastic carrying bags with ‘Bore’ imprinted in bright yellow from a duty free shop as souvenirs. My son let me know that he didn’t think a ferry named ‘Bore’ was at all humorous. It was possible he hadn’t yet learned the word, or, on principle, preferred being the joke-teller while I remain the joke-tell-ee.

During that entire dark day the wind whipped, hissed. Looking over the railing toward Finland, I could see nothing through my tinted glasses, there was zero visibility. When evening came, we took seats at a blond dining table. This would be the final meal of the voyage, as we would dock quite early. After pondering the elegantly printed menu, we gave our choices to the waiter. It was then that he slyly inquired, What does the word ‘benign’ mean, mom? What, hon. I asked, and added, feeling the ship quiver, It’s not the earth or the moon for sure, there’s nothing benign about them tonight. He didn’t make me suffer too long, eyes aglow, he splat out, ‘Benign’ is what I’ll be after I’m eight. Get it ma? I get it, I answered, slapping myAttachment-1.gif-98 side.

Then, a nasty quarrel broke out between the unseen moon and the sloshing sea-soaked earth because our ferry commenced to rock, creak, agitate. Soon our tomato juice cocktails (mine with a shot of vodka added, both garnished with sprigs of mint), were deposited in front of each of us by our waiter.

Before we could take a sup, the ‘Bore’ reared up. It seemed to pause in midair. I caught my breath. Time stood still.

A lifetime or a second might have passed before the ‘Bore’ flopped noisily against the surface of the sea jolting everything and us too. Forks, spoons, knives slid onto the floor, glass shakers filled with ground winter and coarse spring did too. Our juice-filled Waterford tumblers spewed over, tainted the crisp linen tablecloth with pulpy, red juice before crashing to the floor. The menus that were embossed with the Cunard Line logo also fluttered onto the roiling wood floor face down amidst fallen silver, bone China cups and broken saucers. To our surprise, our empty stemmed (also Waterford) schooners (meant for wine or beer), hadn’t cascaded off the table. Instead they’d tipped over onto the tablecloth and were rolling in red goo in circles .Attachment-1.gif-99

 

 

In the dark, on the conch

IMG_5955It was pitch black outside when we woke at four. I made coffee while my guest from Santa Fe dressed, finished packing. We sat together on the conch (couch) sipping from our mugs – mine was the Tower of London, my guest’s, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Fifteen minutes before the arranged appointment, the driver rang to say (in an almost indecipherable language) he was downstairs. Waiting. I told him we’d be down in ten minutes so we might sip and say our last bits and pieces.

I hoisted a canvas carry-on over my shoulder while my guest donned a dungaree jacket, pulled up the handle of the dark blue roll-away, followed me down my mirrored hallway, through the fireproof front door. The roll-away ker-plunked along the silent foyer, onto the elevator – ker-klunk, ker-klunk – rolled across the faux-marble lobby – rr-klunk, rr-klunk – into the dark along the cement sidewalk – gr-klunk, gr-klunk – to the curb. The street was deserted, eerily silent. The shiny black car had double-parked, its brake lights blinking. Seeing us, the driver popped the trunk, hurried out in order to lift my friend’s things into it and to opened the rear door saying something indeciferable. One final farewell before the door shut. Red tail, along with bright white headlight beams were activated as the noiseless car shot away, turned left onto an empty avenue. Was gone.

I was totally alone in darkness, on an empty, tree-lined street. The ker-klunk, ker-klunk made by small wheels on various surfaces had kindled a gush of memories – so many departures – pre-dawn – plunged onto dark, silent, deserted streets. dragging a suitcase behind me.

Like:

The early hour I left a Münhen pension, rolling my luggage five blocks along leafy sidewalks to the Hauptbahnhof, my heart racing with fear of the ghosts of long-ago.

The early hour I climbed down the tall stone steps as I left the Tempi Hotel in Monastiaki, Athens. It was four a.m, – boom-plunk, ker-dunk – my heavy case bumped along the irregular, ancient, cobbled, walking street. Deserted, of course. Reaching the Tower of the Winds, I turned onto Perikleous where I saw, with relief, idlers from the night lingering, laughing, embracing, still drunk.  I was anything but alone as I made my way to the Metro.Attachment-1-6

I once sat shivering on my suitcase under a sliver of moon among a clutch of travelers at the Port of Split, Croatia, sipping a bitter black coffee from a tiny plastic cup. The fishy waters of  the Adriatic Sea lapped in time to Neal Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline. (Have a listen and you’ll hear it too). How sweet the lulling music of Split sea-side. Soon a white ferry would un-melt out of the darkness to take me to Trieste (or was it Ancona?).

One time I tugged my suitcase through damp winter darkness along a narrow snow-covered (uncleared) street, beside a canal in Amsterdam. The wheels of the roll-away got stuck in deep patches of wet snow – sww-clunk, shy-slap – again and again, while fat snowflakes floated down, wetting my already cold cheeks.

Back upstairs on my conch (couch), still warm coffee remains. I can’t help but notice that, while I was gone, my conch produced a number of iridescent pearls. They lay in a cluster, cradled against a crease in the fabric. They’re warm to the touch when I clasp them, smooth in the palm of my hand. Dawn has begun to creep across the rooftops and water towers outside the window; the birds are waking and whistling to each other.

As the sky lightens, the pearls surfaces shimmer just as moiré silk or rippling water might. Attachment-1.gif-88Lines from another ‘break of dawn‘ song of departure comes to mind –  from Don’t think twice, it’s alright‘ – Bob Dylan, songwriter.

…Well it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
Ifin’ you don’t know by now
An’ it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
It’ll never do some how
When your rooster crows at the break a dawn
Look out your window and I’ll be gone
You’re the reason I’m trav’lin’ on
Don’t think twice, it’s all right
And it ain’t no use in a-turnin’ on your light, babe
The light I never knowed
An’ it ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe
I’m on the dark side of the road
But I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say
To try and make me change my mind and stay …..
No …  I’m lying!  I’ve never wished to ‘change my mind and stay‘. With or without a palm-full of warm pearls, I remain a citizen of ‘the dark side of the road.’
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the smell of young tomato vines

I’ve got a patch in a communal garden across the street. In it is a rose bush that came from a small cutting taken off an aromatic climbing rose belonging to my friend Lily (now dead) that flourished for years on her terrace on the Isle of Hydra in Greece. It’s miraculous annual flowering reminds the olfactory me of the many thousands of happy days and nights on that terrace. (photo left) Also thriving, a small cutting brought back from Plavdiv, Bulgaria, last year, gifted by the Kovachiva Family, my generous hosts. It’s a thirty leaf Bulgarian rose bush and, so far, two sublime pink roses bloomed last year, and three this year. (photo right).

Also growing in my little patch: Various fragrant herbs, beets, carrots, tomato plants encircled with wire cornucopia-shaped frames. My friend Liuda and I went down to weed a few days ago. As neither of us are real gardeners, we did our best to

IMG_5755IMG_5760distinguish between plantings in early stages of growth and weeds in who-knows-what stage. We did fairly well except (I fear), I pulled up and threw out fistfuls of young cilantro along with weeds and other detritus.

Because I slept deeply last night, I didn’t know if any of the predicted rain had fallen. This morning I went down to water in case my garden was thirsty. While waving the green hose with my thumb covering the nozzle to control the spray, I was overcome by the aroma of my juvenile tomato vines; an aphrodisiac alternative. From the moment I inhaled what was offered by these growing vines, I became happy.

As the recent rainstorm ends, the silvery late afternoon light is reflected in high-rise windows across from me, I’m happy still. A startling discovery: A cologne is available as a spray, a splash, a body lotion, a roll-on perfume, a massage oil that is called ‘Tomato’ – the brand is Demeter. Further: Plush Hermès manufactures signature candles that smell like arugula, cucumber, watercress, mint, basil, lemon.

Smells

by Christopher Morley

WHY is it that the poet tells
So little of the sense of smell?
These are the odors I love well:

The smell of coffee freshly ground;
Or rich plum pudding, holly crowned;
Or onions fried and deeply browned.

The fragrance of a fumy pipe;
The smell of apples, newly ripe;
And printer’s ink on leaden type.

Woods by moonlight in September
Breathe most sweet, and I remember
Many a smoky camp-fire ember.

Camphor, turpentine, and tea,
The balsam of a Christmas tree,
These are whiffs of gramarye. . .
A ship smells best of all to me

As long as I have my nose, I need never be sad again.

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Banging heads against the wall

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What I was told to do by my mother when I was a child:

Geh shlog dein kup en cant!

(Go bang your head against the wall!)

I didn’t know if she was kidding so I’d study the off-white wall, or the striped wallpaper. Did she mean my forehead? Or the crown of my head? At other times I heard her say about her children (and other irritants in her life):

Ich darf es vi a loch in kop!

(I need it like a hole in the head!)

I was a pilgrim, had not yet fallen on my sword, with time I became attached to:

a belted trench coat (yellow)

a pair of cotton shorts that fit like a glove (dark blue)

sandals from 8th Street (brown leather)

dark glasses

Sodium Pentothal (laughing gas or ‘truth serum’) at the dentist

the telephone

joke-telling (with a crib sheet of punchlines in my wallet)

nail-biting

smoking

splitting hair-ends

Pucci underwear

For years I thought a ‘theater critic’ was a ‘theater cricket’; was on guard against piety; kept my hand-wringing private. I once said ‘crap’ in class instead of ‘crop’ as in

The crap harvested in Italy is …

causing embarrassment to burn like fire for the next twenty years. While reading Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories – one after another, all sixty stories – I encountered the pouring, sipping, inhaling, identifying of cognac:Attachment-1.gif-84‘Cognac, my dear Dr. Watson. Here, smell for yourself. The odor is unmistakable. South African Cognac.’ With a dismissive gesture of one hand he announced, ‘This case is closed.’

As I’d never heard the word said aloud, in my mind, phonetically, I imagined it was pronounced cog-nag. When, finally, I was old enough to order what seemed like an enticing, strong-smelling drink, I asked for:

‘A tulip-shaped glass of cog-nag please.’

The bartender scratched his head, gave me a blank look. I had no idea, for a very long time, which one of us was stupid.

The deep pockets of my trench coat held:

cigarettes (Kent or Kool)

one house key

one blank check

matches (a book of)

a pair of dice

I knotted the coat’s belt. Never would I simply thread the belt through loops and secure it with its metal pin inserted into its belt hole. The arrival of winter meant putting away the beloved sandals but I’d get away with wearing them for a month or two before it was noticed. Then, with a sigh, I’d be told:

Kaizer iz nit azoi toib vi der vos vil nit herrenAttachment-1.gif-85

(There’s no one as deaf as he who will not listen.)

It’s true, I wasn’t listening. The affection for those hand-made leather shoes trumped frozen feet. I was called stubborn; also pig-headed; was a case of:

self-will run riot.

Mother was right.

When old age visited, then came to stay, my mother had long ago stopped peppering her speech with technicolor Yiddish. Few in her inner circle remained who understood. Wanting her children to assimilate into American culture, she hadn’t made any effort to pass on her parents’ colorful language, the language of her childhood and theirs. Nor had we children made any effort either. It was a mistake.

The last thing she said to me a few days before she died was said in English:

‘You never change.’

Finally, I was listening. Unfortunately I haven’t yet figured out what she meant. We had been sitting together on aluminum lawn chairs in a pleasant garden at the assisted living residence into which she’d moved the year before. Without regret. Without tears. She didn’t look back even once when she walked out the door of that apartment on the sixteenth floor where she and my father had lived together for more than forty years. She took with her:

a red easy chair

on which she always sat and read the New York Times, Vogue, Saveur but left:

a wedding dress and matching hat (pale blue)

a prom dress wrapped in plastic 

a Singer sewing machine,

a PhD thesis and diploma

cookbooks

rugs

an Underwood typewriter (black)

Ferragamo shoes

boxes and albums of photos

My sisters’s and I cleared out the apartment and disposed of everything after she was gone.

Ein mama dergreykht mer vi a hundert lerers

(One mother achieves more than a hundred teachers)

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Calm

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Memorial Day Weekend about to kick off. Recollections prickle, musical first, icons like Come On Baby Light My Fire, (the Doors summer of 1967) and (much later), Every Time We Say Goodbye (Annie Lennox, 1990, from Cole Porter’s lyrics), reminders of buoyant times long gone. As pre-summer peeks around the corner, that familiar wave (as always) rolls in. It’s book-ended by Labor Day Weekend on the other side, what was unrolled inevitably receding (re-rolled wave), leaving nothing much except a song with wet sand stuck to it. At the time of those wonton summers, my dancing feet never touched ground, nor did I leave footprints or impressions behind; my bare feet crushed no insects, attracted no flies.

On this Memorial Day monday, the rain started pre-dawn. Short stories of  Tanizaki Jun’ichiro (Red Roofs and Other Stories) beside me in bed, open at the second story – ‘A Night in Qinhuai’. The accompanying music: Birdsong and pattering rain. A text arrives from Paris:

I. entered this world at 7:30 this morning.

He is sleeping on my lap very peacefully now….

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My precious friends have their baby at last. A healthy boy given the name of a great Bulgarian leader who led a peasant uprising in 1277, an inspiration to freedom fighters everywhere. Lines of James Joyce (‘Ecce Puer’) vaporize as tears leak  –

…A child is born;

With Joy and grief

My heart is torn.

Calm in his cradle

The living lies.

May love and mercy

Unclose his eyes ! …

Overriding Joyce, a song that’s engraved on my life-light, wails. It’s a song for all seasons. I listen, volume turned up, drowning the birds, also the squishy raindrops. It’s meant to welcome this tender newborn of Bulgarian/Scottish mix. The song was written by Barry White, below it’s performed by Barry with, yes (I’m not kidding) Luciano Pavarotti. You’re My First, My Last, My Everything. Welcome future friend. image-8