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Thursday, 14 February 2013

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

"You must like the soft twilight, and the long evenings when we shall be alone; and you must read to me the books I love, and you must not teach me to think that the world is hard, and dry, and cruel--not yet." --The Small House at Allington

Holding Hands is a Lovely Thing

Just before the month turned to February my new friend AS sent me a link to a short movie that reminded him of a story I had shared, and it made me think of a valentine--that it was a valentine, though it was still January; that my story was a valentine; that I hope to send valentines always.  Love letters every day in some small way or another, the extension of a hand to another.  Blogger, playing coy, has decided to only permit me a link in the very last sentence of this entry, and I invite you to scroll down, slowly, and all shall be revealed.
In a notebook I've carried with me from show to show, a notebook I bought as a teenager in Roycroft artisan, Leonard Robinson's, bindery in East Aurora, NY, I wrote amidst the technical notes for Camelot (Don't move until/Exit before him/Turn around on) "Holding hands is a lovely thing."  The theatre in Houston was more vast than any other space I've performed in, and darker too.  As we started to live in the theatre, I allowed my hand to be held.  RP would take it from the wings, and I would follow him from the darkness into the light.  On stage it would go dark, and I would find his hand, and let him lead me off, a squeeze as we parted.  Exiting stage right into the black, Dawn's hand was waiting extended for mine, and I would take it as a child, let her guide me, dress me.  Holding hands onstage I thought of times I wished my own had been held offstage.  My hand on top of TS's in ritual medieval form, I would flutter my fingers upon his to say goodbye as we passed into the wings.  I can enter and exit myself, I can lead and not follow, I can change my clothes on my own (for the most part).  But I am very happy for opportunities to relinquish, to return my hand to one offered--whether it be an actor's, a manicurist's, a stranger's on a train platform.  There is care here, there is meaning here; I am not afraid to hold hands, and I look for places to let mine rest.  I often photograph my hand.  My hand that looks like my father's and my mother's, and my grandmother's.  My hand that wears rings, and my wrist that wears ribbons.  My hand that pets cats, and pours glasses of champagne, that rolls dough, and arranges apple slices just so.  I want to make things with my hands but most of all I want to hold yours.  

Friday, 11 January 2013

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

"Power and will are the gifts a woman most loves in a man."
                                        --The Bertrams

Thursday, 10 January 2013

How the Body Approaches What it Yearns, or A Pearl

When the end was near, I remember I saw a house,
Yes, a house, as I ticked off the deaths this year.  
The house boomed above me woven in task,                         
A watercolored war I drew, artist.  
I want to know what the body knows,
How plants are trained to work for man
And the sweet, firm pressure of grasping
Where property ends.
Rising above touch mixed as batter,  
The ribbon and the rolodex, the names of the men.
What happens here spins the keys that fray
From my spine: untie me with the soft etching
Of a vapor in my torso.
Feel, I have no idea what is impossible and
I want to know what the body knows.
In an instant, yeast proves my abdomen,
Perfume washes my ribcage, and I bury you there
With your smoke and your sweat, the lungs of your face,
Until my fingertips have made a golden map of your throat.
Ring, earring, necklace, I lace around your cuffs and collars, oh
I drew this, artist, I am the lady of this house, my body
Knows I want to unfold my limbs like a telescope
To the space between your breast and your gut
And taste your waistcoat
And your beating heart,
And eat at the paint of that sketch
You made of my house.  

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

For Guenevere, after Aracelis

My heart is tangerine leaves and calligraphy,
whole cloves and a pistachio nut,
incunabula and skeins of lace.
I wanted to write a poem for a woman, and a wife
I used to be
that would make you long to rub the fabric of my petticoats
between two fingers,
break a harp’s string strung with little yellow birds,
fold paper with bone and make a crease.  
In my muslin rucksack I carry:
wrist ribbon, skirts, leather boots, cinnamon.
Tools for binding books.
I carry names with immoderate love
like a house that stands the test of time.  My house
has marriage trees out front, spiny forest trees out front
where violets grow.  
My heart is May Day, an illustration with a dainty hand
My poem has one eye open and its fingertips in a song
My house was an ocean and now it is a mountain range

Monday, 31 December 2012

Weekly Wisdom From Mr.Trollope

Who does not know the way in which a man may set himself at work to gain admission into a woman's heart without addressing hardly a word to herself? --Marion Fay

Countdown to Begin Again

A couple of nights after Christmas there was a storm. I had tried to go to bed at a more reasonable hour than most nights; it was 1:30 in the morning.  Around three A.M. I woke to a clap of thunder and a room illuminated by lightening, and I was up.  I read a chapter of a most lovely Trollope novel I recently started: The Small House at Allington; I worked on a couple of lines of a new poem; I ate a clementine; I turned to the internet.  Facebook is a snowy world at night, something on pause, or what a slow reverse looks like if it were moving forward. Held aloft like an icicle trying to form on the end of a warmish nose.  A few nights earlier, I had been awakened by cats, had signed on to the FB to find two other people up in the night--awakened by a total of five cats.  Three humans up in the night go to Facebook with their plight (Click here). The two other humans don't know each other; only I saw this particular pelmanism forming on the screen: there is a companionable loneliness in coincidence, and I believe in it.  It is sometimes inconsequential, like cats and humans in the night; it can be meaningful, like a grasping of hands or a virtual embrace.  The newsfeed ticks on, counting time.
     On that night a couple of nights after Christmas, when there was a storm, I turned to my computer to play me some music.  I was searching for a song, something so right for the middle of the night--Paul Simon, handsome and young.  I was searching for a recipe, something beautiful that tastes as complex as it looks.  I was searching for a story, something else that couldn't sleep, so I could share.  I was pleased to encounter this, one of my favorite Simon songs about sleeplessness but sung by a fan, Simon standing behind her, guitar in hand while she played his music.  This was the moment to take back to sleep: an image, an encounter, an idea like a dream in a hand, something that counts backward to how we learn to play music, how we learn to tell stories, how we learn to re-imagine the future. Pages that turn in any direction to keep you moving forward, sleep that is interrupted only to give you more dreams, storms that sound like something from more places on the map than just your bedroom.
Today, on New Year's Eve day, I will be at The Morgan Library, my sanctuary in this city.  Its glass and its stone, its blonde, modern wood and its dark panelled library, its cash registers and its vault.  It is a good place to be as the year begins again, to spend some time with the ages, spend some time in the place I last saw my grandfather alive, spend some time with the optimism of paper--living and dead and always useful.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Weekly Wisdom From Mr. Trollope

"Love desires an equal."  --The Duke's Children

Meet the Breeds

Your fur, your paws, your unbiased tongue;
flesh and fingernails, the sweep and the scrape of introduction.
Pounding the wrong way down city streets
in rush hour.

It is body language that sings her elegy;
friend and foe, the friction and the frisee of first touch.
Instructions read: keep your palm down and 
extend toward nose

It is enchanting to meet you;
wrists and ribbons, the perfume and the clasp of ownership.
Imagined arms, legs wrapped around
soft upturned bellies.  

Monday, 17 December 2012

Silent Night

I've been thinking about children this week, and not saying much--it's hard to know where to move in the face of so much grief.  Recently, I've taken to making Sunday a day where I record my day in pictures, and I share those photos on various social media outlets as I see fit.  The Sunday of this particular week, I paused.  These quotidian things, what place do they have in a world shown in such startling negative image, I thought.  I decided, eventually,  to carry on, to give myself a gentle push and expose my film, and my little world to the light; in a picture of my girlfriend's child on her fifth birthday, wearing the crown of silver leaves I sent her, in a picture of the dough I rolled out to feed to my friends, in a picture of a poem that means something to me.  These little joys are my way to leave space for hope, for beauty, for kindness in the face of injury.  
Children have surrounded me this week--in each instance, an act of creation; I watched children perform in a play, I looked on as my little cousin and her friends presented a puppet show at a Chanukah dinner, I saw that little girl put on a crown and become an ice princess for the day, and I was in the audience of The Nutcracker, surrounded by children, on stage and off.  I've danced in Nutcrackers too numerous to mention but even after I hung up my pointe shoes, the ballet beckons me; it's a celebration of sorts for me when I go--of youth and memory, of dance and the treachery of ageing limbs.  I wear my hair in a bun.  I wear a dress.  I wear ballet flats.  And so do the little girls around me with their mothers and grandmothers--all of us celebrating.  We think of  The Nutcracker as a holiday story, about a toy soldier, and a seasoning of ethnically inspired dances.  Sometimes that is indeed all you see.  But I have a favorite Nutcracker; it belongs to the American Ballet Theatre, and it is rather new as ballets go.  In it, I see the real story: the struggle and the bittersweet of growing up.  A girl has a doll, and the doll becomes a live boy.  He is her cavalier, and she loves him.  They travel together to a land where they meet their adult parallels, and we watch the woman Clara and the man Cavalier dance as only men and women can; they partner.  He supports her, lifts her, carries her as she soars through her life.  When Clara wakes up from her dream--a little girl in a little bed with a little doll, she wakes to find both men, young and old at either end of her bed.  She makes her choice, and runs, arms outstretched for the grown man, who quickly disappears.  She is too young.  She turns and finds that now the boy is gone too.  The time for men and love is still the stuff of dreams for her, and she holds her soldier doll as she returns to sleep.  It is precious, this life of hers; what she holds and what she dreams and what she dances.  And so I look around the children in my life and in my own dreams, and dance for them and with them, still seeing fairy doors in tree trunks while looking both ways before we cross the street.    

Friday, 14 December 2012

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

There are some achievements which are never done in the presence of those who hear of them; catching salmon is one and working all night is another.

All Men Were Sailors

He gives waiting a new name,
letters cracked before some waltz
between the inky wisps of
offspring’s breathless consummations.

She’d say the man came from the sea,
deliberate flesh sweeping the dawn.
Mermaid’s tears they say save drowning men;
experts at watermarks on--

wait--paper from the trees that sip on mystery
and useless homage.  A communion
by breeze, passing by like
forfeit of worry in the storm.

He gives waiting a new name: outside,
what hopeful knowing shakes for that flesh,
his flesh, and three ripe bruises.  Waits--
for the letters of my name, land-locked,

and searching for the sea.

Like faith, I am everywhere and always
different: I could live in any house, sigh
my pages over many shores.  I could
give waiting a new name.

My sea secrets inhabit more my ancestry, anatomy,
I am precise, and fineness form.
Forgotten is a long, long time, and
when you think about it,

the things you crave--wait--gasp
and swallow everything
to recreate the world.

She’d say--I came from the sea--
as if leaving open shelves could heave
her stories into waiting caves.