Smash The Box

Last week I spent two quiet nights at my daughter Isabel’s house–hanging around, playing with the baby. We were all under the weather. Our guys were elsewhere–working. We did not much of anything, watching romantic comedies and eating passable leftover Chinese food.
Then Isabel said, I need to smash our box with a hammer but I don’t want to do it alone. Let’s go down in the basement and hit it.
Oh, OK, I said.
But I thought–we’re going to smash the box? I didn’t know that.
But not wanting to seem a behind the curve boomer I followed her down the stairs and put on protective eye wear.

The box is the sculptural element in a piece we’re working on. It will be filled/covered in sonograms and text.
I thought to myself: I wish she’d said “alter” not “smash.
But smash we did.

Eventually scratch, gouge, and stamp. The box’s named appears to be TIAMAT–that primordial goddess of rapid and disconcerting transformation.

When Things Don’t Happen For A Reason

Writer Ariel Gore recently made a good point–to say that a terrible disease has struck someone because they have evil karma (i.e. Rush Limbaugh) is to imply that anyone who is suffering is somehow at fault.

I’ve been plagued by this belief which is rampant in the subcultures I’ve floated in and out of in my adult life.
Here is what disturbs me:
1. The belief that illness–and death–are a punishment, a result of bad actions.
2. The deluded notion (desperate hope?) that being “good” will help you avoid the common lot of humankind.

This certainly isn’t the Buddhism I was trained in, nor the Judaism I was raised in. Both traditions regard suffering as indigenous, and made more bearable through compassionate action. Mind/body split can come from the Western tradition–it inherits from both Plato and St. Paul.

I don’t believe a person suffers illness because of actions in this life or another life. I believe, like Hamlet, that we all suffer from the “ills that flesh is heir to.” This is my philosophy, but also in a way a request for kindness. Many years ago when my husband Robert died as a young man a few people did not endear themselves to me by asking “why?” First of all, how could anyone know? Could this question make me feel supported, or comforted? Quite the opposite.

Perfect health is not a reflection of spiritual superiority. For most of us, particularly as we age, health is a dialectic we can participate in but not ultimately solve.

In a beautiful poem in his book “White Shroud” Allen Ginsberg is sick in bed with the flu in China, a melancholy spot. The last line is–I made a mistake a long time ago. I’ve always taken this to mean that by “mistake” he meant being born at all, into this human world, in a human body. A “mistake” that leads to all that is beautiful–dazzling, frightening, good, bad–in our stories.

Lauren Camp Poetry Posts

From “Apple Wine”

I want to touch grass, to crawl into daylight slowly,
limbs emptying into each grain of sand,

want to seed my body into the earth
until autumn rises, pick tomatoes,

peel the thin layer of promise to a center.
Behind me, I want you:

a handful of smoke,
a garden that whispers, a broken glass, my pulse.

Ten poetry posts on SFCC campus showcase Lauren Camp’s poetry.

I Love This Blog Post From Lucy Moore: guns, protest, and more

My husband and I had gone to the state capitol on a non-partisan mission to see our good friend Levi Romero be inducted as New Mexico’s first Poet Laureate. Levi was honored by the senate and read a wonderful poem about growing up in northern New Mexico, the sights, sounds and smells of those days.
Afterwards, when we reached the front door of the capitol building we saw through the glass door a crowd of protesters, flags, waved and worn, signs, banners and guns, lots of guns. The legislature was hearing a bill on the “red flag” law which would limit the ability of those likely to hurt themselves or others to have access to a gun. There had been a rally of over 500 demonstrating their passion for the second amendment and their right to own guns, and although the speeches were over, there were probably 100 or so still milling around.
“Let’s go out the other door,” I urged, clutching Roberto’s arm.
“No, I want to talk to them. This is our chance,” and he moved through the door. I followed, not wanting to leave him alone, and a bit fearful that the effort at conversation might not go well.

Check it all out.

Still Working on Astronomy Poems

This was written about fifteen years ago–I just re-typed it as it is too old to be on this computer. It was enjoyable to re-visit it. My favorite part is the last stanza, because it is the most meaningful to me, the most direct message to look within. It was published in my book MAP OF THE LOST (UNM Press).

***
Pluto in Riverside

The scale model of the solar system
Spreads across greater Boston
Starts with the sun in the Museum of Science
Mercury in the lobby
Venus on the top floor of the parking garage
Earth outside the Royal Sonesta Hotel
Mars in Lechmere’s Galeria
Where patrons might sip a cappuccino
Jupiter at South Station where the trains depart
With the romantic expectation of arrival
Saturn in the Cambridge Public Library
With Uranus in the branch on Jamaica Plain
And Neptune—across traffic and congestion—
Rests in a mall in Saugus. We don’t really have the time
To spend all day crossing city and crowded suburb
And not in all this rain.
Still, I wanted to see at least one—
Pluto is in Riverside, not that far
From where we’re staying—the smallest furthest plane
At the end of the line.

We start at the diner in Waltham
Over eggs and middle-aged conversation
With your old friends, coffee, home fries
Our parents, our children’s lives
Somehow eclipsing our own
As if or goal were just to survive
And hold up our portion of the human race
Although a different look might cross a face—
Flirtation, memory of romance or anticipation
There’s life in us yet, for God’s sake.
The moment passes, pass the ketchup, salt
The economy is tanked, the government,,,
And do we really know?
And should we stay or go?

We pay the bill, it’s freezing
Everyone agrees,
Sure, we’ll go see Pluto
In the station, at the end of the trolley line.
It’s free, and tiny, this side of the turnstile
I’m disappointed, I’d expected…what?
Something bigger than my thumbnail
A potato-shaped asteroid of a planet
Or maybe its moon, Charon
Or some vision
Of its atmosphere at perihelion
A trans-Neptunian object
Hard to see with an amateur telescope.
There is no tenth planet.

Pluto is named for Hades, king of the dead.
As a kid, I liked that story
Demeter and Persephone
The daughter out picking flowers
Long skirt, long hair, picking anemones
Petaled purple and red.
Then Hades breaks through the crust of the earth
On his black horse, and carries her down
Into the underworld.
At thirteen, I wanted to be snatched
Longing for someone bad to come along
Grab me out of my mother’s white-shingled house
Where she’d yell
“11:30! Don’t forget your curfew!”
Down to Hell I’d go
Amethyst cave, the dead with coins on their eyes
Where blind fish swim through the dry of limestone
Hades, bad boyfriend, I just knew he was coming.
I put my ear to the earth and urged him on.

Half a lifetime later
I dream of my mother’s city, this Boston
Its subway lines and trolley
Where I stand on a platform in a vast space
And when the train pulls in I rush to ask
The dark gentleman in the three-piece suit
“Is this train in or out bound?”
And he answers, before the doors swish shut
And the train drops underground
“Everything here is inbound.”

Poetry While You Wait

I love this project, brainchild of Cheryl Marita and myself. It brings poetry into the Espanola Hospital. Inspiration came from Sawnie Morris when she was Taos Poet Laureate and hung framed poems in waiting rooms. There is also a similar project through a healthcare provider in New Zealand.

To read more, click here.

Launch this Tuesday!If the project continues, I hope to include many more poets.

Most of us have spent times–scary, worrisome, reassuring, but often grueling–in medical settings. Poetry reminds us of our world and who we are. I’m very grateful this project is underway.

Horoscope–Poem by Miriam Sagan

Horoscope

tiny planets fell into the flower pot

the house I was born in appeared in my dreams

the astrologer said my chart showed sensuality—then he kissed me

the caller was anonymous but I was expecting the ant guy

it was raining inside the house

tiny planets rose on my fingernails

the guy was to get rid of ants, not deliver them

it was snowing in the house of money, coffee, and grief

the palm reader said I had a vitamin deficiency

my father said I’d never get into a good college

tiny planets fell like raw sugar into my orange pekoe tea

my friends crossed from the house of reminiscence into the house of regret

ants carried away the tiny planets

and brought one perfect
turquoise bead
to the surface
of the earth