I’m Still Alive

I’m still alive,
unlike several
people in my stories,
those I loved
or half loved,
and I’m at the intersection
of Juanita Street
and Paseo
yellow leaves blowing
as the keyboard intro
to “Super Freak”
comes on the car radio,
and for one moment
I have the intense
although possibly misguided
insight
that this
is the greatest song
ever written,
and for that
one moment
it’s true,
because who doesn’t love
the kind of girl
you read about—
and then it all floods in
all the other songs
I love
and also believe
to be the greatest song
ever written,
and I wonder
who the fuck am I?
and really
I don’t know.

GIFTING UNDER PRESSURE by Terry Wilson

I heard Terry read this truly hilarious piece at SFCC on Thursday and am really happy to present it here now! Enjoy!

 

GIFTING UNDER PRESSURE

All year long, but especially at Christmas time, I receive in the mail often ten catalogues per day. Victoria Secret used to be one of my favorites with its tight, low necked sweaters and hip-riding jeans. But once I turned 50, the names of the catalogues changed. And I admit, those low-slung Victoria Secret jeans make my kidneys cold. Also, the deep V-necked sweaters cause repeated sneezing. But still, all of a sudden, now I’m getting “Soft Surroundings” (as though I can only handle surroundings that are cushiony now) and “As We Change” which may as well be “As We Crumble into Dust” because the outfits are not very hip OR cute. Don’t get me started on “Arthritis Today” and “Plantar Fasciitis Quarterly.”

But enough of my trials over catalogue shopping—and yes, I know this is a First World problem. The real agony of December comes in trying to buy gifts for my husband, Mark. I realize there is too much pressure around the holidays for gift giving, though I love offering someone I cherish an amazing present that maybe he has been dreaming about. Still, Mark’s birthday is three days before Christmas, so that’s two occasions in one week that I need to shop for. I used to get him books and music, but he now purchases books and music on his ipad, and i- phone. It’s not like he’s a fussy guy, but he‘s 6 foot two and has long arms, so I can’t get him shirts from any other catalogue but Territory Ahead which provides clothing for the long, tall guys in our lives.

“What do you want for your birthday?” I ask him.

“I don’t need anything,” he says.

“How about a couple shirts?” I ask him.

“I have enough shirts,” he says.

“But some of your shirts have holes in them,” I say.

“I like the holes,” he tells me. He is no help whatsoever.

I mean, I’m no fashion plate, given that I have curly hair and wear orthotics but when Mark goes on an airplane (which is often since he travels for work) in order to keep warm but also have that layered look, he wears three shirts on top of each other. If Tim Gunn from Project Runway saw him, he’d kill himself.

“Honey, why don’t I buy you a sweater?” I ask him.

“I don’t like sweaters,” he says. “Too itchy.”

Last year Territory Ahead ran out of most of the shirts he agreed he might want, so I was forced to get Mark something I thought might be good for him—a small battery operated device that helps him keep a straight posture. Or would, if he used it. He’s supposed to glue it to his collarbone and every time he slouches, it gives him a small electric shock. It was not a big hit.

And I have tried more creative approaches—I have taken him to concerts for his birthday but those choices are not without risk. A few years ago I treated him to Carmina Burana at the Lensic in December, just before Christmas, and the weather that day was in the 20’s, with snow blowing, etc. We settled into our seats at the Lensic but either I had not dressed warmly enough or the Lensic had not paid their heat bill—it was about 50 degrees in there. Thus, for the whole performance, Mark and I huddled together and held hands tightly. The musicians were passionate and magnificent, but afterwards we both had sore hands, fingers, and wrists. Mark said it was a hand holding related injury.

It seemed safer to buy his gifts from a catalogue.

I have tried Hammecher-Schlemmer, (heated gloves cost $200 though, too expensive.) I tried Orvis (“the sleeves are way too short!”) and I’ve even resorted to What on Earth’s catalogue which was a win one year with a sweatshirt that said, “National Sarcasm Society. Like we need your support.”

A definite low point was last Christmas when I bought Mark a box of bacon flavored toothpicks and a yodeling pickle. Though I have to admit I bought myself a yodeling pickle also. I carry it around in my gym bag—it used to be in my purse until the thing started yodeling in my Voice class and sounded better than I did.

Our cats are somewhat easier to please than my husband. I bought him a Trump voodoo doll last Christmas, but our two cats decided it was their toy and ripped it apart, fake blonde hair and all. They’re very political.

To summarize, over the years, I have given Mark massages, dinners out, dinners in, cooked by me—though I am not a great cook, unfortunately. I purchase raspberries, oranges, spinach for Mark each time I go grocery shopping to make sure he eats healthy, especially after his recent heart surgery.

“There’s a wall of spinach in here!” he says when he opens the fridge some days.

Let’s face it—there are no perfect gifts. I would like to create or buy or even put on lay away some incredible substance or product that would fight death, that would guarantee that my sweetheart and I would both live long and prosper. A gift that could guarantee that every moment together is filled with love and understanding, with no difficulties, no disappointment, no grief. That isn’t too much to ask, is it?

But hey! I did find the most amazing gift for Mark this year! Moisturizing gel socks that help repair cracked heels! They don’t exactly stop time, but they do hydrate the feet with an aromatherapy blend of lavender and jojoba oil! His feet will be pampered daily, and they come in pastel colors! I think I can get them on Amazon Prime.

Me Too

Me Too

Recent events—the Me Too movement, the accusations against powerful men, their firing (or in the case of certain Republican candidates, nothing) was something I was avoiding. I didn’t think my survival of a violent felony was appropriate for Facebook. But now, I’m starting to cheer up. I’m getting happier and happier. I don’t care if I liked an actor’s work, or Garrison Keillor. Why?
Well, it’s something called feminism. Which insists that my survival is tied in to the survival of all women. As are my concerns. As is my fate.
I came of age as a writer in Boston in the 1970’s. It was an open assumption that older men preyed on young women in the poetry and literary world. In this way, these worlds were no different than the 42nd Street Port Authority Bus Station where pimps accosted me every time I stepped off a bus from Jersey. I grew up with the combat of the street, and accepted it. I couldn’t accept the misogyny of the poetry world so I sidestepped it. This wasn’t the only reason I didn’t become a “real” academic and essentially identify as indie—that’s my personality and my path. But I knew from the first hours at my first writers’ conference that fawning over skanky old (sometimes drunk) famous guys was never going to be my thing.
None of this is news, and none of this affects my personal relationships with men. I don’t ask the question—are their good guys—because I differentiate between individuals and patriarchy. I’ve loved my husbands, my male mentors, my nephews, my son-in-law, my male friends, and many men under many circumstances. I don’t fear or criticize them because I consider myself a good judge of character and I don’t confuse those I’ve chosen to be close to with famous powerful men whose values are loathsome. And why would I? Various counter and subcultures I inhabit have provided unlimited and excellent opportunities for men be care about women and equality. To be honest, I never expected that emphasis from Garrison Keillor.
Misogyny limited the women of my generation. The endless expected unexamined daily harassment of women in all the artistic fields certainly destroyed some careers before they ever began. If the firing of predators makes my cohort—creative class women—safer, then I am one hundred percent behind it.
Frankly I think the rest is just smoke and mirrors—an apology for behavior which is immoral and illegal. I don’t care if liberal leaders go down, or if I find out William Shakespeare was hitting on his interns. I grew up knowing this behavior was pandemic. Maybe it will become less so.

Poetry Garden

Let’s just say you have just bought .2 acres off of Agua Fria in a zone 3 residential neighborhood in Santa Fe. (Let’s say you are me!). And you don’t yet know exactly what the city will allow, or how much budget you have. But you have a vision to put up a poetry garden–text installed in numerous ways on this wild sunny lot. How would you hardscape? Would you add a little house or ramadas? Would the feeling be wet or dry?
For the moment–and this is that last moment–let’s leave practicalities out it. Please go wild! I need your fresh ideas, most particularly about how to put poetry text INTO a setting.
Soon enough I’ll be limited by realities, so now is time to dream.
Thank you! Do post below in comments section.