Thursday: The Problems of Living in Adobe

Something on the tip of my tongue, corner of my eye, sensation…everything is about to change. But what–is a semester starting, a friend dying, a trip, a return.
I seem to forget a new baby is being born, one which is mine and not mine. I tidy the house. Snow disarranges the street and wind carries empty flower pots dutifully across the yard.
I might receive a message, but it can’t change anything. I’m old, I’m going to die, but not right this minute. Instead I buy J. a caffe mocha and she makes me laugh and laugh. My new doctor won’t make me get any screening tests. But if I did, the feds would pay for it, if the feds remain. In the middle of the night I felt sad my parents were dead because it means I know fewer people, even though they were the most problematic people in my life.
I helped Rich with his laundry and was absurdly pleased when he complimented me for being quick at turning undershirts insideout.
If I am a grandmother I will be responsible for something–and in may ways I have been less responsible.
A woman in a chat forum writes: where do single socks go?
The ants are back–in the bathtub, the kitchen. It’s dead winter, shouldn’t they be asleep.
“They live in the house,” Rich says, which sets me off. WE live in the house. I sympathize, yet squash them.
Waking towards dawn, I decide to go on a Paleo diet. By 7:00 am I am spooning sugar into my coffee.
A homeless man froze to death outside Starbuck’s. I blame no one–everyone.
Yesterday I felt I was in my “old” Santa Fe. A snowy winter. J. at Downtown Subscription. A terrible president. Before we had a daughter. Before you died. When I was young and knew a lot less about the problems of living in adobe.

Spilled Ink

How fun!

Art by Isabel W.S.

Found a copy of Maternal Mitochondria’s art project Spilled Ink in the shelves… If someone tries to buy this, Collected Works Bookstore is going to be really confused! Spilled Ink is a small chapbook filled with poetry, photography, and suminagashi from an artist residency at Wildacres in North Carolina. We had just read Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, and I participated in the community that grew up around the book, sending free copies to people around the world (and sometimes getting weird, awesome book art in return). So we decided that Spilled Ink would not be purchasable, and would mostly be given to people who asked for it… I say mostly because I definitely foisted off a few on my poor friends! So it’s super fun to still find copies of this hidden around town.

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Welcome The Stranger or The Boat Is Full by Miriam Sagan

Did I actually say I wanted to listen to views different than mine here in Trump’s Amerika? Maybe I did, but now I’m regretting it. Because it turns out that when Jews express reactionary views it drives me insane. And that is because I was raised with a certain Jewish chauvanism–Jews fought for justice, and were philanthropic. And in true zenophobic style–more than OTHER people.
Turns out, assimilation being what it is, I can no longer assume other Jews are even liberals. And although this has been true for a long time, I’m still feeling what my friend Ana calls “ethnic shame.”
I have no one but myself to blame. A few too may snow days and I found myself on a Jewish forum, enjoying such questions as “what is good skin care” and “can science and religion be reconciled.” And then the fight about immigration.
So, here are some beliefs that are driving me crazy:

1. My family came over legally.

Probably not totally true. Did they pay for exit visas? My grandmother was SMUGGLED across the Austrio-Hungarian border in a (unkosher) sausage cart. Was that legal? I know many family stories of people lying about their age to get ahead of a quota, pretending to be part of a family group, and more. By 1921-1924 tens of thousand of Jews came in illegally, once the quotas shut down. Some actually, gasp, crossed from Mexico.
Family secrets, and shame, obscure these journeys. I have a relative who could never become a citizen because of these vagaries. I wish people would not assume their families are a vanilla version of “Fiddler on The Roof.”

2. Obey the law of the land.

I actually had someone post that as a comment to me. Well, I live in a sanctuary city and I’m not involved in human smuggling. Yes, that is a Jewish belief. (One never followed by my Menshevik relatives however, who wanted to overthrow the tsar.) I’m not doing anything illegal by sending money to HIAS and Annunciation House and teaching ESL. At least it isn’t illegal yet.

3. We can’t help everyone.

I’m hardly a scholar of Judaism. I’ve studied, but my knowledge is piecemeal (although I know a lot about Marxism). But I do know that as Jews we are commanded to “Welcome The Stranger.” Not ask after the stranger’s legal status.

So yes, now that I’ve vented I’m getting off this Facebook group. It was sort of a failure. My spirituality is a combo of Judaism, Buddhist practice, and ethics. But maybe I’m really just a Menshevik.

And strangers may be angels.

The Slow Salute by Devon Miller-Duggan

Grief, war, honor, loss, and ambiguity are the topics of this collection of poems from Devon Miller-Duggan. As is the question: what is the poet’s experience, and how does the poet understand that?
What Keats called the objective correlative, or the reason/triggering event for a poem, in this case is the death of a young soldier, Sgt. William C. Stacey. As the poet notes, “this is an American story.” Much of the chapbook is elegaic, set in Arlington National Cemetery (“….trees bloom whether you see or not./Every direction your eyes go toward/memorial.) and at Dover Air Force Base. The critic Helen Vendler has said an elegy needs a corpse, and here the corpse arrives among fresh-shaved Marines. Miller-Duggan says:

We went to meet the body.
This is how they come home.
Reader, forgive me.

That poignant request us at the heart of the ambiguity of the work. Forgive the poet for what? Showing us? Grieving? Being unable to prevent the death or war? Simply surviving? No answer is needed, just witness.
The direct experience is interwoven with technical military language, reminiscent of W.D.Snodgrass’s work. But it is the last poem which is the most poignant, the poet a houseguest visiting her friends, his family.

Your dog is glad of someone in your bed who’ll welcome her.
She looks for you anyway.

Elegantly designed in an understated way, The Slow Salute is the winner of the 2018 Lithic Press Chapbook Prize.

Patti Smith

My dear friend Peter Goetz wrote me–
Just saw P & Band @ The Fillmore. Transcendent!
May she & all the other day-to-day bodhisattvas in our midst help get us through the year!

The legendary punk-rock poet can accomplish things on the concert stage that most performers can only dream of doing. And those feats have very little to do with vocal ability or musical talent, although Smith excels in those fields as well.
It’s more about how she can absolutely mesmerize a crowd and get them to believe in the power of music and the community it creates. Listening to this 72-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, one starts to buy into her message — that we can make a difference, we can rise above the evil, we can fashion a better tomorrow.