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Monday, 28 December 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

Remember, I do not recommend motion at all. Repose is my idea of life; repose and grapes.

A Woman of Questionable Morals

More than once, the name of the man who is perhaps my most favorite author has caused some confusion and a little apprehension.  Trollope, you say?  You like trollop(e)(s)?  You are a trollop?  You like to read trollop-y novels?  And if you take away the chapters on Parliament or the chapel, his books really are somewhat trollopy, like a nineteenth century version of a modern day romance novel.  I mean, who hasn't day dreamed of Phineas Finn, his blond locks gently blowing in the breeze, his waistcoat snugly enveloping his muscular chest while he stands in the House of Lords, his star rising in the world, only lacking a good woman to love. When I read this blurb in the NYT Arts, Briefly, I thought that a personal ad is a pretty great forum for both Trollope and trollops alike:

Sharon Gless to Play a Trollope Fan
Published: December 27, 2009

The actress Sharon Gless will star in a new play by Jane Prowse, based on the best-selling book “A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance” by Jane Juska, Playbill reported. It tells what happened when the author, a semi-retired high school English teacher, placed a personal ad in The New York Review of Books in 1999 that read: “Before I turn 67 — next March — I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.” The play is scheduled to begin previews on Jan. 5 at the Theater Artaud in San Francisco, where it will open on Jan. 16 and run through Feb. 7. Ms. Gless, the star of “Cagney and Lacey,” had the lead role in the recent film “Hannah Free,” about a love affair between two women.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

Someone has said that grief is half removed when it is shared. How little that someone knew about it! Half removed! When it is duly shared between two loving hearts, does not love fly off with eight-tenths of it?

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Leave Some Mark More Than Water

Yes, the sweet firm pressure of grasping
sees the outline of a face where property ends.
You landed, looked around, took samples with your fingers,
put them in jars.
There is a territory that welcomed you, invited you in;
mine which is yours, and yours,
that belongs to--

I have searched the inky electronic wisps
of your personality, tried to establish
a correspondence.
Halted scents and words nowhere,
this land is fertile, it wants to please.
Careful what you leave there
and what you take away.
It sees how it feels things ought to be,
traces the tidal lines as they rise and fall.
You are lucky enough to be welcomed in,
and you, you should--

If you have somewhere you have to be,
miles away, chairs to sit in, cars to pack,
grocery stores new promising,
buy someplace that's worth inhabiting.
This province will be imprinted;
watercolored, framed, gonna hang it on the line.
She floats deeper when it's fresh, not preserved
in your salty, fitful worries.
You see the flag firmly in the ground, but know that
you are wishful thinking,
if you think you've left some sort of--

Yes, exciting, isn't it? to live your life on the land?
Sure lines of bones, skin, earthy dust.
Say it, say it, ask for it, take a drink.
Just go far enough to find your way back and
land here, anywhere, divided pastures
that make a mile to the ocean.
Wander in a pattern you always wanted to learn
that can be followed, charted,
dreams and anchors.
Damp towels, toothbrush drips, deep sea divers
finding footing on the floor.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

A man when he wishes to use burning words should use them while the words are on fire.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Body is a Sacred Garment

     The clothes that I loved most of all were the paraphernelia of my life as a dancer. Tights: with back seams, holes in the sole so you can roll them up, runs, dirt, and traces of light pink blood after pointe work. Leotards: delicate straps, low backs, graceful necklines. Chiffon skirts that sit just so, satin shoes and canvas shoes that take on the form of your foot. Elastics and ribbons you sew on yourself. Leg warmers worn up to the thigh, sweats rolled down low on the hips, knit sweaters that drop gracefully over a shoulder. Beautiful fabrics, dirty from work and sweat. The dressing of a dancer reveals the body it covers--something so beautiful, and strong but overworked, and strained, thin, exposed, abused even. I remember staring in the mirror during barre; I was wearing a new light blue leotard, not yet bearing any traces of the patina of class, and seeing my hips for the first time as they started to take shape, pressing the palm of my hands into them as if that would send them back a couple of inches, back to where they came from.
     Watching dance, I marvel at what the human body is capable of. And struggle with the cruelty inflicted on the body in the pursuit of art. La Danse, the filmed document recording scenes about the Paris Opera Ballet led me to wonder over the physical ideals achieved in dance: the men, true embodiments of the ideal male form. Muscular, tall (dependable for a lift). The women, desexualized, stripped of the softness of the female form. The same work creating virility in one and stealing femininity from the other. Strange that there's no real antonym for virility.  I think these disparate physicalities must have something to do with the nasty nature of the dance (ballet) world--one of the reasons I left it behind and moved onto dance forms that welcomed other bodies.
     Diagnosis of a Faun, a new ballet at La Mama, has gotten a lot of attention for having been choreographed for an actor (the faun) with cerebral palsy, a man who'd never danced before, and who, through this choreography and choreographer, has found new and different ways for his mind to speak to his body, making new movement possible. This ballet revealed its world in the handicaps of all of its dancers: an older man who never danced before performs a pas de deux with a ballerina, an actor dances for the first time, a dancer acts for the first time. The trappings of the world around them--high heels, doctors coats, pointe shoes and tutus--don't matter half as much as the fact that they all need each other to move in space. The old man's body shakes as he supports the weight of a tiny woman balancing en pointe, and she leads him through the steps, saying out loud what dance is meant to imply, saying what she needs and what he needs to do to help her. It seemed so beautiful to me to see in dance--a language of such physical strength--the kindness of one body to another, devoting themselves to one another for a common purpose. Why are you dancing?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

When I Think About a Woman's Heart

When a man loves a woman, he'll get in the car and buy her friend a pack of cigarettes
in the middle of the night.
He'll walk back in with the box rolled in the sleeve of his t-shirt.
Her friend will say "If he loves you, he'll buy me a pack of cigarettes."

Small familiarities, I never knew
why Zelda knew she'd have to quit her "chummying."
But now I do.

In the stillness of a look I captured
the watery sadness of your little self--
painful and aching and if you could you'd take my hand
and run like you did so unexpectedly that first time.
Puffed up and blown large and wild,
an insistent presence.

When a man loves a woman,
he'll look at her while she reads out loud,
his eyes the smoky intensity of cloves and birch bark,
the kind you tear, thin and soft, and see it roll.
Someone walks in and feels without knowing
they've interrupted.

Inclined toward masculinity, I didn't know
that making you feel sure
would make me doubt.
But she did.
I stopped as time swirled,
a soft pocket I hadn't been able to find
welcomed my little hand. I'd hold you there and pressing
take pressure away.

When a man loves a woman
he might watch her as she sleeps
and think "I could give her half my heart"
and not miss it.
She might wake up and think "what can I give to him today?"
and he wouldn't wonder how to get it.

Other eyes speculate
when a woman loves a man.
See what they want they won't have, a
powerless power, no choice to choose.
That's mostly what I think about
when I think about a woman's heart.
Walking on telephone wires, the physics of dance
balancing the birthday gift sunshine and the mercy of the storm.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

'But the men-cooks are the best,' said Nora ... 'All the things that women do, men do better. 'There are two things they can't do,' said Priscilla ... 'They can't suckle babies, and they can't forget themselves.'

Sunday, 6 December 2009

How do People Stay Warm in the Winter?

The last time I wanted to fly, really fly
you were in your twenties and my heart beat on its own.
You can see how it was:
look at that girl, her suitcase.
An arsenal of shadows waiting to board.
A piano stool that spins, stairs that creak with every pulse.
If you put your foot aganst the inside edge
your parents won't wake up.
Miles were nothing when my heart beat on its own
but then you like to see your name on the tag of your coat
and you want to stay at home, or at least,
on the ground.
Film negatives: pebbles in a Queens cemetery
viewed from above;
the world turning red, a first kiss on the front porch in a rain storm
when he brought you home.  Crystals on a window ledge,
screen door slamming, sitting on the radiator,
eating an egg.
There is a way to move through the hallways
when you're afraid of the dark.
Travel like that for a while, back to wall, hand outstretched,
shadow of yourself in your rearview mind.
There is a destination, a trip I will take
that beats in my breast like falling snow,
like a name tag in a coat from long ago.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Civic Slackers

 I laughed so hard I cried when MCW described to me the ridiculous performance he undertook to get out of serving on a jury last week here in Brooklyn.  A second degree murder case--surely not a pleasant experience.  I've been called to jury duty twice; the most recent time was in Manhattan, and the case would have inevitably been a boring one, someone suing a large company.  In the voir dire, I merely voiced the (maybe untrue) fact that I had very strong feelings about tort reform, and I knew I was home free. M on the other hand thought he'd go about it a little differently, and act like a crazy person.  Rolling his eyes, sighing audibly, looking around in a furtive manner.  He was called for questioning as luck (whose?) would have it, and when asked by the prosecution if he might possibly know anyone involved or related to the crime or the trial, looked around the courtroom, fixed his gaze on the man to his right and said "well, you look familiar judge."  They tossed him out.
     The first time I was called to jury duty was the summer after my freshman year of college--I'd postponed it three times while I was, first, out of the country, then second and third, at Sarah Lawrence.  I reported to the beautiful courthouse in downtown Albany, the only one there that day who looked (and most likely was) under 25.  I remember the case I was questioned for, involving a man who had hit someone on the head with a vacuum cleaner--not an easy image to forget.  Drugs were involved. But what I remember most was a shocking insight into other peoples' lives--and not those involved in the trial, but my fellow potential jurors.  We sat in the jury booth and the questions went down the line:  "How many children do you have?"  None yet. Two beautiful daughters.  My wife and I were never lucky enough to have any.  I remember turning to look at the man who answered last.  I can still see his profile in my mind, and feel the lump in my throat as a human story took shape in front of my eyes.  Of course, there are few greater parallels to the theatre than that of a court room, and the sober, moving reality of this human drama is something I think about with some frequency.  One sentance, one answer, hundreds of questions.   I recently read my mother's blog for the first time--she's not as prolific as I (full time job, what's that?), and I think she rode my coattails on the whole American Girl thing (I guess turnabout's fair play), but I thought her post about her time as a juror was really poignant, and here's where you can read it: