The baby, G., said her first word. UP. She’s said it several times, unprompted, while doing her funny one armed reach for…indeed, up.
I do like being a maternal grandmother. I feel like an instant authority on the ancestors. Who flushed the dirt out of the baby’s eye, quickly and without fuss? Me. Who is raising her right? Well, actually her parents, but I have my supporting role.
At thirteen months, she does remind me of her mother, my daughter Isabel. My mom used to call Iz the “on-time baby–referencing the On Time Ferry off Martha’s Vineyard (it just ran back and forth to the island of Chappy without a schedule. Hence, always on time.) Iz’s first words were “bye” and “kitty.” She’s always been big on saying adios and just going off when she needs to. As a child she loved the wind, and was a bit like it–coming and going. With G. I thought maybe “dog” would be it. I was not so secretly hoping for “mama” as maternal homage everywhere. But when she babbles and chats, everything is “dadada,” so I guess her father will have a label pretty soon.
When G. was born, I was in the room. Actually, not quite. I told my husband Rich, after several hours of labor–let’s just step out in the hall for a second. I was getting overwhelmed. Suddenly, it was silent. I got worried, stepped back in, and there was a baby, yowling away! I stood by Isabel and gushed, very inappropriately, “A girl, that’s so great for THE PROJECT.” Iz said something like “oh please just shut up.” “WHAT PROJECT?” the attending nurse demanded, looking at me as if I was a vivisectionist. “Oh, you know, the project…” I murmured, as if it was a commonplace.
The “project”of course is Maternal Mitochondria, the ongoing collaboration between me and Isabel.
Here is our latest. It’s a section from the deconstructed book that is part of the sculptural “Tiamat.” This is six altered photographs, now set into two paper screens. (I wasn’t expecting this, but the screens were left over from Tiny House construction.)
Keep a glass of water near your bed.
Who taught me that? To draw the anger out
then spill the water into the earth.
Put tobacco on the earth after you smoke,
he told you, and throw the filter away.
I saw the women of Tesuque Pueblo
sprinkle corn meal at the corner of the plaza
before the dance and after the dance.
I saw the drummers at Taos Pow Wow
touch their hands to their throat
before drumming. I saw the members
of my Temple touch the Torah
with their prayer shawls, and kiss
the shawl. I saw my mother kiss my children.
I saw these things and now I get to live
and act in all these ways as if one way
another bright and glistening day.
The hawk rides the thermals
above the sandy trail
where a horned toad bakes in the spring sunshine
under the blooming yucca cactus
across the trail from the red globe mallow in bloom.
A bit farther down, paw prints from the fox.
When your boot crunches on the trail
between the yucca and the globe mallow
next to the fox prints,
touched the hawk,
so soar and play in the high breeze
on this bright blue April day.
Farmington, New Mexico
Earth Day, April 2020
The poet notes “In response to your invitation earlier this month to join the Pop Up Poetry Party, I send this along.
This is my Earth Day Poem–Contact Tracing– that I planted on a trail in Farmington, New Mexico. All paper, no plastic. Maybe the wind will get it, or better yet, the fox.”
april 15, 2020 in my corona virus journal
will there be ignition in any of these lines
the kind of thing that merges starfish with a vivid cure for isolation
in these hours of stay at home wash your hands wear a mask
nothing sparks mischievous cells like the memory of a caress
not the kind that’s sent by artificial intelligence
but something cellular, an accidental touch of a hand
a look in the eyes so blue as the great upside
from deep in a canyon in Utah
ignition is the thing that makes for magic
one extraordinary brush of touch outside
that moment you understand nothing
but the desire to rush to the easel and smear it with colors
orange magenta red yellow red-orange lavender Utah-red-dirt
you find yourself reading from random poetry books on the shelf
howling at lines that stir the thing deep inside
is this a baking soda volcano from a child’s chemistry set
or is it outside of such play, pencil in hand, brush at the ready
laser cuts or scissor snips, something arises from colored paper
these are not really choices but collisions with searching
as with the world outside, there isn’t a night of sleep
without all kinds of magic inside, within the realm
yet never wholly understood when it appears
This invasion of kindnesses
is occurring: an onslaught
of unsolicited phone calls
by dozens of well-meaners
and do-gooders just outside
and then farther beyond
my inner circle of privileged intimates,
demanding I return their ringie-dingies instantly,
more because they are distraught with worry
than about my well-being
during this elder-orphan’s self-isolation
same with email:
write me now…
I’m a nervous wreck…
don’t ignore my message…
I’m losing sleep over you…
I, I, I,…
Enough interrupted naps
and past-my-bedtime intrusions.
Android and PC alike fall silent.
A new poem dreams itself alive.
Their egos will find another single survivor
The poet says
I recently went on Facebook break, which I announced on my Wall, stating that I was going dark because, “There’s too much poison, and I need the cleanse.” I added this observation: “One of the saddest things I’ve noticed recently on Facebook is all the call to post, share, and copy/paste/share…and how very, very few of those demands include the common courtesy of “Please.”
Upon reflection, I realize there has been something similar occurring in voicemail messages on my cell phone and in my email. Different, but akin, and not nearly as prevelant. But still…. Hence my poem, “Infectious.”
Karla Linn Merrifield has had 800+ poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has 14 books to her credit. Following her 2018 Psyche’s Scroll (Poetry Box Select) is the newly released full-length book Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North from Cirque Press. She is currently at work on a poetry collection, My Body the Guitar, inspired by famous guitarists and their guitars; the book is slated to be published in December 2021 by Before Your Quiet Eyes Publications Holograph Series (Rochester, NY).
My dreams are normally weird, not more so. If they got weirder I’d want to stop sleeping!
Seeing people post “just stay home” over and over makes me sad and alienated–as I’m sure it does other essential workers. We’re all on different paths. I wish there was some acceptance of this. My essential job isn’t scary or high risk–but many are. I’d like to see much more respect for that.
My drawers were already tidy except for the ones that never will be no matter how long I am in lockdown. That is to say, I wasn’t putting things off before and I’m not particularly motivated now.
I don’t hate anyone. I’m creeped out by violent revenge imagery, even if aimed at Trump. I really believe hatred is a poison that will harm me. Anger is a feeling–it comes and goes. It can lead to justice. I don’t mind anger but I truly avoid hate.
I don’t watch television. I never have. Why start now? I didn’t even see the Twin Towers come down until decades later, by mistake, in a motel room.
This isn’t a creative time for me. However, I am writing. And brushing my teeth.
I get dressed every day. And I enjoy it. My outfits resemble what I wore in Japan as an artist in resident a few winters go, in a very cold house. Where the administrator like to drop in early en route from the station. She’d compliment my dark green house dress and lavender cardigan. I’m dressed for comfort, but presentable.
I’m not writing about the pandemic. I’m writing about trauma, isolation, and healing (coincidence?)–a novella I started almost three years ago.
I will avoid a ventilator at any cost. (This pre-dates coronavirus). Twenty-five years ago I had to take my by then brain dead husband off a ventilator, with the help of three clergy people. That was enough to give me a permanent aversion.
I miss everything, mostly the neighborhood–peeking in at the glassblowing studio, shopping the consignment store, drinking coffee at Tune-Up.
I won’t hate or criticize people who act less isolated than I am.
I doubt the Democratic Party can “save” me. I just don’t like politicians. Yes, some are “better” but I’m not looking for a leader or Big Daddy.
I do not understand the epidemic, nor will I claim to. Sure, I wrote an undergrad term paper on syphilis tracing and I lived through AIDS in San Francisco. I’m not an authority, authorities don’t agree, and I don’t need a passing grade. I am holding on to my critical thinking, though.
It seems I’m an extrovert after all.
Safety as a concept has never been real to me–as a Russian Jew, as a woman, as an artist. So I don’t miss it, or aspire to it.
Netflix cannot help my boredom.
Being disabled now is a lot like being disabled any other time–vulnerable, worrisome. Yet a source of strength–I’m quite adjusted to spotting prejudice and to not getting my own way all the time. I want to say it is more difficult to get care–but it is always difficult.
I am living without solutions.
Acceptance is more important to me now than ever. This is not a war. I don’t hate the virus or any pathogen. I hope you, reader, can accept what both does and does not resonate with you. I’m exhausted by self-righteousness and certainty in any camp. Meet me in the gray zone!
And how are you?
This is the poem about Pluto I was having trouble with earlier this year. Now I’m glad it is done, and up at Gnashing Teeth.
we almost got hit
on the road behind the dam
when another car
came out of nowhere
I hadn’t pulled
into then lane
when the driver
took the turn too fast
or, luck saved me,
or a guardian angel
so I could
arrive on time
go to the party
with people not really
you’ve been dead
almost twenty-five years
and I hear
a phone ringing
in a casita
without a phone
To read the whole poem–https://gnashingteethpublishing.com/blog/category/poem_of_the_day/