Morning Walk


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We walk quietly through

the shadowed woods listening to

the muffled sounds of  life

rustling in furtive places

my girl looks up at me

familiar expression

on her rough, excited face

confident round eyes

search the massive undergrowth

with unwavering purpose

dark snout moistened with iron red dirt

reaching into the air

her body taught, tail fiercely up

she stands in perfect form

at the slightest snapping of a twig

she cocks her head, triangle scruff ears

honing in

a deer just behind the tree, darts away to safety

while she wraps herself around a sapling

lost in frantic barking

The boy is already in pursuit, his off leash status

allowing him to plunge ahead

I call, but

he has already stopped

the thick tangle of thorny green more than

he’s willing to test

they are different,

the terriors,

he distant and defensive

where she takes the offensive in vocal alert.

She would give chase

until hopelessly lost

he is easily halted by the smallest barrier

Suddenly a man, quietly taking pictures

enjoying an early August morning

I stop

to avoid disturbing his careful composition.

the girl growls

I say “no”

the boy lunges with an unsure warning

The man kneels, reaching out to welcome them

it takes less than a second

small furious defenders,

remorseless hunters,

run to him as if familiar

circling and waggling into the arms of this stranger

for the human affection offered.

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I Went Hunting in Woods


I went hunting in woods

far from my place of birth

To find my love

standing

poised like an animal

smelling the air

ready at the first sign

to bolt

away toward the darker trees

we circled and pawed

no distance from the other

neither sure which way to step

or what to say

nothing     … was the final decision

we were speaking volumes

with every bead of sweat

every glance, every measured breath

time felt held back, the air

snapped like a branch

the animal turned

and did not look back

I emerged from the glade,

knowing that I would hunt again

that same animal

my love

just once to conquer

the wilderness

once would be enough

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I am your Enkidu


I will and I cry, lashing out

to any who might move too close

don’t take another step

stop right there

I am your Enkidu, your soldier of fortune

hired to defend what is indefensible

The day stands out like many, a moment

embedded in memory

a time , a request, a need

you had so many

I agreed to foster you, to keep watch

from the cliff

fires burning, silhouettes on the tower wall

I could not fall asleep for fear you would be taken

into the night, into that emptiness

but I was your Achilles, left with one vulnerable spot

and now you are hostage

carried away on rough roads

cruel bandits, left nothing behind

Now I am your Gilgamesh

wailing your loss

Your Helen, alone

too beautiful to die

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Between Two Mountains Black River Flows


Between two mountains

Black river flows

a raging current

softly traces the night’s

deafening silence

In my dream the place stood bathed in color

the idea of a thought

imagined in my mind’s eye

not cool, but temperate under the dark sun

a place buried in my deepest subconscious

about which I know nothing

why it exists, or

what it means to me

but still

it is there, full and naively alive

not in the least concerned

about my witness

it is there for it’s own

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We are Captains (2)


Are we not Captains, you and I?

Have we not begged our fleet forgiveness, in

the near darkness and the stark light of honest fear?

Have we not watched the tender sky

hover above us like a flag ship, sending unreadable signals from

a distance too far to receive?

Receive them we did.

Did we?

And sending back a reply in the silent heat of

the mid day, did we not lower our shoulders

and turn our heads away?

Too long to wait

for any sign that matters.

…In this vast ocean I am just a drop.

I will wait, as I settle in looking for solid perch.

….In this drop,

I am

an endless sea.

Was I not a Captain?

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Mouth


My mouth is a universe

unto itself.

Where thoughts transform in to words,

into sounds that cannot

exactly express from where they come.

Where delicacies tease and plead with me

to understand their tantalizing possibilities,

to accept their secret gifts.

Where rivers and deserts trade places with forests and bogs,

depending on my state of health and dental hygiene.

Where I proclaim “I”

and what I want and what I don’t want and

who has hurt me, or

made me happy.

Where lips meet teeth

and throat leads to mystery.

Where my silence

takes a form.

Where the shape of the opening

foretells

my mood

my intention

and gives me away when

I most want not to be revealed

where I can map

my life in

lines

and the length of my teeth

Where my birth became in a bleating cry

and my youth

voiced

swelling desires

Where my death will

be revealed

undeniably

in

stiffly closed

quiet.

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I was the world


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“I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw or heard or felt came not but from myself; And there I found myself more truly and more strange.”   ~Wallace Stevens~

 I just finished reading a blog posted by Cristian Mihal on WordPress and it was a wonderful essay on an artist’s need to spend time alone.  It inspired me to contemplate what that meant to me, as a visual artist and a writer.

The need to spend a great deal of time alone is a prerequisite for the task of becoming an artist.  And like so many artists I know, this is a very difficult path to take in life. It is true that we, as humans don’t seem to be very comfortable being alone for too long.  It can make us feel stir crazy and hemmed in.

Yet, I find that when I am alone and creating art, I am at that moment, not alone, but instead in conversation with every person, every thing and every idea that I have ever encountered in my life.  I am entering the currents of my place in the universe and plucking from here and there bits and pieces, raw materials with which to form something uniquely filtered through my own imagination.  I am at that moment… part of a symphony of all that ever was, my possibility becoming an instrument that only I can master.  The sound is sometimes deafening, leading in to a quiet sonata, ultimately becoming a solo, the symphony fading away…leaving me with something new and uniquely mine.

When I’m finished,  I seek out others to share it with. So they too can see and hear what I was able to gather from the void, communing with infinite voices.  It is the artist’s greatest pleasure to relay these messages to anyone who will listen.

Thanks Cristian.

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We are Captains


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We are captains, you and I and

we.  Before we sailed

into

uncharted seas

before we allowed the waves

to break one hundred feet

above our cringing bodies, we

were captains

floating out toward

islands

unknown.  Resting upon soft currents which

lulled and rocked us to

a waking

sleep.

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19


Not too long ago, I was a kid, climbing trees (yes, I really did climb trees), dreaming about adventure, navigating the craziness of growing up…and suddenly I’m here. 53 years old, walking a bit more carefully, dreaming about my 19 year old body, navigating the insanity of survival.

If I look at this from the perspective of myself- 2011, thrashing in the sheets of a hospital bed in the ICU, feverish and hallucinating from the effects of the first emergent (and subsequently wrong) antibiotic treatment I received for fungal meningitis, I could say that my life right now is a virtual walk in the park….I could say that…but…then there’s that memory of myself at 19.

Firm and young and (even though I never believed it like so many of us at that age) beautiful beyond what I could have imagined today, in that way you are when you have nothing but possibilities ahead of you. Beautiful and powerful and strong.

Strong enough to become a bike messenger in the streets of New York City with no experience and no special talent for biking, but so full of confidence and bravado and just enough anger that I took on the cabbies who tried to run me off the road with only my bike lock to defend me.

Sure enough to dominate a massive black stallion, which I rode with reckless delight, silently communicating what I wanted it to do with the power of my strong legs and hands.  An exquisite stallion, 16 hands high, clinging to it’s wilderness with every bit as much will as I possessed in my pounding feral heart. A thoroughbred who would do anything to throw me off his offended back, rearing and bucking, finally rolling over while in mid stride with me still on top of him, my foot dangerously entangled in the stirrup. But my fear did not stop me. The horse would never win, because I always got back on him, 19 and strong and arrogant and sure.

It’s very difficult for me to accept my status. To accept my age. To accept that I am not that strong 19 year old anymore.  I believe so firmly in my life’s “happy ending” potential that it hovers in my mind’s eye,  an intricately imagined future that puts me at the top of life’s achievements.  Beautiful and happy, with a nice round ass, firm young thighs and lovely auburn hair.

The direction that my physical life has taken keeps blotting out that lovely picture.

Shaking fevers, vomiting, wasted buttocks, needle upon endless needle never quite finding an easy vein, the torture of hospital beds which at first seem so lovely and neat, only to become a sink hole of back sweat and muscular pain, waking up intubated, a rigid breathing tube shoved down my throat and the panic of trying foolishly to swallow away the tube, every fiber of my being crying out to breath as I thrash against their efforts to calm me. I will not be calmed when I am being choked to death! Take it out! Take it out now. But I have to wait, for what? for someone qualified to finally arrive and take it out.

I look frantically for my lovely picture. My future, so full of delightful endeavors, is having a hard time loading up into this scenario.

Go ahead. I silently shout a challenge to god/life/fate/chance. I know it will always do what it damn well wants to do.

Go ahead…again. Release your flood of threatening obstacles and painful road blocks! Let your terrible plagues rain down on my fragile sore throat, my empty skin!

I can’t stop looking through the shadows and phantoms toward the corner of this room, where nothing less than the illuminated specter of Joy sits bored, waiting for me to get on with it.  Everything that comes at me now is like a comical wrestling match. As if someone keeps throwing absurd and dangerous objects in my direction…a snarling wolverine….a vat of gooey pasta in red sauce…an alarmingly sharp looking spike heeled shoe…

“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment.First to let go of life, finally to take a step without feet.” Rumi

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Big Bang….


Image This is the image that springs to my mind when I think of how I have maneuvered through the first 30 years of my life.  I see myself as the child from the movie “The Red Balloon” transported through the streets of decaying Paris, or in my case the east coast of the United States,  clinging to a tangled mass of brightly colored balloons.

Unlike the character in the mid century movie, I am not being rescued from a lonely isolated life by an archetype benevolence. For me the situation is less triumphant and more tenaciously survivalist.

For the years leading up to my 30th winter, I found myself clinging for dear life, not to balloons, but to vibrantly colored dreams and ambitions.

My life up to then had been measured by chance and circumstance. I was the middle child of three children, the only girl wedged between two bright and sensitive boys, all of us , like so many children in the world, victims of our birth.

Our mother had been left, abandoned by our mythical wayward father, to raise us alone on a teacher’s salary. Although tenacious in her desire to thrive, my mother was fatally narcissistic, unable to attend to the overwhelming needs of her three intelligent and creative children. Forever asking more than she could or would give, we were left  to raise ourselves in a dangerous and unfriendly world.

As a result we quickly learned the survival skills we would need to carry us into some semblance of an adulthood.

Fantasy and belligerent optimism became my mask and shield.  Unrealistic expectations became my method of transport.  Anxiously clutching a knot of hopeful possibilities, I held my breath with buoyant relief, as fantasies lifted me out of the despair of my reality and into the tempestuous currents of my future.  Currents that, although powerless to affect in any meaningful way, I was thankful for.

Despite years spent helplessly deflecting and absorbing painful collisions with granite hard edges; the “architectural details” of my life;  I was managing to stay afloat.

Until one evening in November, 23 years ago, when that desperate floating carriage that I had fashioned to carry me through my life, came crashing out of the sky like a ball of lead, landing in the corner of a small beige room, where I sat flushed and breathless hearing only the words that no one ever wants to hear.

I was waiting for a test result. Through the exhausted rush of a New York City evening  I had made my way to my doctor’s office.  I had come to her with chronic bronchitis and asthma, nothing too earth shattering for a young smoker who had caught, yet another cold.  She had casually suggested I test for HIV. I agreed, confident that I was beyond the touch of this new illness that I had been reading about in the Village Voice. I was expecting to get it over with quickly, impatient to get on with my long subway ride home, to some much-needed dinner and a well deserved beer.

I smiled in response to a casually spoken greeting as my doctor entered the room.  A small pair of wire rimmed glasses, gave her face a warm and intelligent appearance.  She was easy to talk to and usually had a comfortable presence. Not tonight.

As she sat down behind her desk, she hesitated.  I could see that she was taking her time, mapping out what she was going to say.  Suddenly, I had an overwhelming urge to leave.  I don’t remember if I was breathing when she finally spoke.

“Your HIV test came back positive.”

Stunned, I blinked and continued to stare at her.  Every cell in my body hardened as if to ward off  blows

The meaning of what she was saying forced it’s way through my confusion, and released a flood of sounds so unfamiliar, I almost looked around to see who was making them. But I could feel them coming from me, loud sobs, amplifying the magnitude of my shock and grief .

I looked pleadingly at her face, waiting to hear her finish with some hopeful contingency. But she was busy arranging her belongings, wrapping up lose ends. With a concerned expression distorting her soft features, she tried to console me.

But I was unconsolable. Those words were lurking there in the room with us.  They had no where to go but into the heart of me.  And there was no where for me to run and no one to fight.  The small room had transformed into an amphitheater, the sound of my shattering heart reverberating in my ears.  I sat there looking at my hands, willing myself not to dissolve in to thin air.

” What comes next?” I asked, feeling completely lost and very small. “What should I do now?” I couldn’t look her in the eye. Everything I looked at reminded me of what I couldn’t have, what I couldn’t be.  I felt the way I had as a child playing musical chairs. Someone had stopped the music and in that mad scramble, I had lost.

Some time later, collapsing in to the strong odor of yellow cab upholstery, I watched  through grimy windows, as the streets of the city streamed by in beautiful arcs of fluorescent color.  I felt cast out to sea.

What I couldn’t know during that painful taxi ride home was that my life would continue to go on long after that night.  The vibrant dreams I had clung to during my early years had dropped like a carpet bomb, scattering everywhere, leaving me forever altered. The life I had imagined , I now realized was insignificant.

The hour I spent coming unglued in my doctor’s office 23 long years ago… marked the exact moment in time, when the universe that was my early life condensed into a black hole and then exploded outward, leaving bits and pieces of my identity suspended in space, slowly to make their way back to each other in propitious and new unfamiliar forms.

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