Wednesday, February 25, 2009
WE are so tired, my heart and I.
Of all things here beneath the sky
One only thing would please us best--
Endless, unfathomable rest.
We are so tired; we ask no more
Than just to slip out by Life's door;
And leave behind the noisy rout
And everlasting turn about.
Once it seemed well to run on too
With her importunate, fevered crew,
And snatch amid the frantic strife
Some morsel from the board of life.
But we are tired.
At Life's crude hands
We ask no gift she understands;
But kneel to him she hates to crave
The absolution of the grave.
Monday, February 23, 2009
YOUR words dropped into my heart like pebbles into a pool,
Rippling around my breast and leaving it melting cool.
Your kisses fell sharp on my flesh like dawn-dews from the limb,
Of a fruit-filled lemon tree when the day is young and dim.
But a silence vasty-deep, oh deeper than all these ties
Now, through the menacing miles, brooding between us lies.
And more than the songs I sing, I await your written word,
To stir my fluent blood as never your presence stirred.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Stepping outside of my pavilion in Jakarta, the humid breeze feathers warmly across my face. Across the narrow road, a tall coconut tree is silhouetted against the tropical sky, its jagged fronds moving gently in the night air. The stars twinkle slyly above, as I wonder for the umpteenth time how I could have come so far away from my family to live in this foreign place.
Glancing to my right, past the lush foliage, I see the red glow of a cigarette. My landlady is sitting outside of her house. Laughter punctuates the dull murmur of voices emanating from behind the house. Another marathon card game is evidently in progress. It will go on all night. Something white catches my eye on the tree dividing our properties. I notice that she has covered the belimbing, or yellow star fruit, with a plastic bag to prevent the birds from getting it.
Looking up the street, I see the neighbor is ordering noodles from the street vendor. Framed in the glow of a gas lantern hanging precariously from his push cart, the vendor pulls noodles from a steaming vat, tops them with crisp fried onions, pale chunks of chicken, and hands the plate to my neighbor. Somewhere in the darkness, the call of the sate vendor echoes through the night: “Saataaayyyyyy!”
Suddenly, the Muslim call to prayer rises into the blue black sky, propelled by speakers from every mosque in the city. “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!” The eleven o’clock call to prayer reminds me that my bed is also calling. I turn and go back into my house. Shutting my door on Jakarta, I go to bed. jkb2001
Friday, February 20, 2009
My eyes long for a sight of you
Sometimes in passing by my gate
You'd linger until fall of dew,
If you but knew!
Ah, if you knew how sick and sore
My life flags for the want of you,
Straightway you'd enter at the door
And clasp my hand between your two,
If you but knew!
Ah, if you knew how lost and lone
I watch and weep and wait for you,
You'd press my heart close to your own
Till love had healed me through and through,
If you but knew!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
A fog drifts in, the heavy laden
Cold white ghost of the sea --
One by one the hills go out,
The road and the pepper-tree.
I watch the fog float in at the window
With the whole world gone blind,
Everything, even my longing, drowses,
Even the thoughts in my mind.
I put my head on my hands before me,
There is nothing left to be done or said,
There is nothing to hope for, I am tired,
And heavy as the dead.
IN the wild soft summer darkness
How many and many a night we two together
Sat in the park and watched the Hudson
Wearing her lights like golden spangles
Glinting on black satin.
The rail along the curving pathway
Was low in a happy place to let us cross,
And down the hill a tree that dripped with bloom
While your kisses and the flowers,
Tangled my hair. . . .
The frail white stars moved slowly over the sky.
And now, far off
In the fragrant darkness
The tree is tremulous again with bloom
For June comes back.
To-night what girl
When she goes home,
Dreamily before her mirror shakes from her hair
This year's blossoms, clinging in its coils ?
Monday, February 16, 2009
As a young child growing up in rural Wisconsin, life was filled with unique challenges, crossing the road, for example: My mother always told me, “Look both ways before crossing the street. Make sure you watch for cars.” As an obedient child, I endeavored to follow her advice to the letter. My opportunity arose when my brother and I had to walk to the end of our driveway, cross the gravel road, and wait for the school bus. Simple, you say? Not quite!
My mother failed to consider that we lived way out in Washington Coulée. Cars were few and far between. Walking to the end of the driveway, which was half a mile from the house, my brother would immediately cross the gravel road to wait for the bus.
I, however, would hear the voice of my mother: “Look both ways before crossing the street. Make sure you watch for cars!” So I looked both ways: up the gravel road, down the gravel road, down, and up. My brother would be yelling at me to hurry up and get over there, while I stubbornly continued to “watch for cars.”
Eventually, I would see a cloud of dust in the distance: a car! A tendril of excitement developed in my stomach. Mean-while, my brother was hollering at me.
“No! A car!” I replied, one shaky finger pointing at the little puff of dust.
“COME ON! It’s WAY down there!”
“NO! Mom said to wait for cars!” I looked at him as he gestured in the exasperated way that older brothers have.
And so our conversation would go; my brother yelling, while I anxiously waited for the car to pass. The closer the car came, the faster my head swiveled back and forth between my brother and the car, and the more excited I became. Jumping up and down with nervous excitement, I would continue to refuse to cross the road, irritating my brother to no end.
“COME ON!! Get over here!” My brother waved me over like a policeman motioning to traffic. Dancing with the suspense, my stomach tight with panic and extending my shaking hand in the direction of the oncoming vehicle, I refused.
“NO! There’s a CAR!” Panic increased as the car approached. My eyes swung between my brother and the car. My breathing came fast; suspense was building. Finally, when the car was about a block away, I couldn’t take it anymore. As my brother continued to holler at me to cross, I suddenly complied.
“Okay!” I yelled shakily and dashed directly in front of the car. As I was dashing into the path of the oncoming car, my brother suddenly changed his mind.
“NO!” He yelled, his arms frantically waving me back. Of course it was too late, and I was already on his side of the road, the much-anticipated car whooshing past us.
I think this happened a few times, before my brother decided he couldn’t handle the stress anymore. If I saw a car anywhere down the road, no matter how distant, I would refuse to cross until it passed. Of course, I never was able to wait and would end up running in front of it. Finally, he decided that he would have to wait with me. I have vague memories of my brother standing behind me, his skinny arms crossed over my chest. As I strained against his arms, wanting to run in front of the approaching car, I would hear his voice in my ear.
“Calm down. Breathe! Breathe!” He would repeat this over and over, as I wriggled with the terrible suspense of an approaching car. As I was only about 6 years old and completely caught up in the stress of learning to cross the street, I am not sure what my mom was doing during this time. Perhaps she was the one who suggested my brother wait and cross the road with me, instead of allowing me to carry out my death-defying ritual on a daily basis.
Some time later, we moved to a small town where cars were a more common occurrence. You can imagine what effect that had on me! Somehow, thanks to my brother, I survived learning to cross the road. In fact, eventually, he didn’t have to hold me in a death grip in order to prevent me from running in front of cars.
It’s hard to determine why my brother could receive a warning from Mom and take it in stride, while I, hearing the same warning, would become an obsessive lunatic instead. Perhaps you think this is an isolated incident from my childhood, that I really couldn’t be so strange. Little do you know! I have quite a story to tell about how closely I listened to my mom’s warning not to play with matches... But that, my friend, is best left to another day. jkb 2000
Sunday, February 15, 2009
- I knew you thought of me all night,
- I knew, though you were far away;
- I felt your love blow over me
- As if a dark wind-riven sea
- Drenched me with quivering spray.
- There are so many ways to love
- And each way has its own delight --
- Then be content to come to me
- Only as spray the beating sea
- Drives inland through the night.
- Sara Teasdale
- THE perfume of your body dulls my sense.
- I want wine nor weed; your breath alone
- Suffices. In this moment rare and tense
- I worship at your breast. The flower is blown,
- The saffron petals tempt my amorous mouth,
- The yellow heart is radiant now with dew
- Soft-scented, redolent of my loved South;
- O flower of love! I give myself to you.
- Uncovered on your couch of figured green,
- Here let us linger indivisible.
- The portals of your sanctuary unseen
- Receive my offering, yielding unto me.
- Oh, with our love the night is warm and deep!
- The air is sweet, my flower, and sweet the flute
- Whose music lulls our burning brain to sleep,
- While we lie loving, passionate and mute.
- Claude McKay
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Inevitably, a mother is a nutritionist of sorts. Solely responsible for the nutrition of her family, she must constantly be aware of what is or is not entering the mouths of her children. Not only that, a matriarch must be able to realize that a piece of apple, found behind the sofa by a toddler and immediately popped into the mouth, has less nutritional value than a fresh apple. Lest one think that feeding children is easy, try feeding a two year old. The little one sits on his throne, awaiting his meal, only to reject it as unfit for consumption the minute it appears before him. Or he may accept it, only to use it as a flying missile to hurl at anyone who passes by. My own two-year-old child may ask repeatedly for a peanut butter sandwich, but when one is prepared and offered, will scream “NOOOO!” and run in the opposite direction.
Another aspect of motherhood is that through some unwritten law, one becomes immediately responsible for every item in the home, and must be able, upon questioning, to state the whereabouts of the aforementioned item. At any given moment, mother may be asked the location of a shoe, a CD, a book, or even a particular screw. Surprisingly, a skilled mother is usually able to give rough coordinates of the requested item. I often surprise myself in this regard. Once my husband asked me where his flathead screwdriver was. My response was, “ I don’t know! Check in the junk drawer in the kitchen, toward the back on the left.
Other maternal duties include acting as doctor, diagnostician, nurse, and occasionally a pallbearer at the funeral of a beloved pet. Specific methods are used to carry out diagnosing illnesses, or to determine the need for outside help. A touch of lips to a forehead can measure temperature, and a sniff of the nose will diagnose a yeast infection. Observation alone will indicate the need for a doctor, when a child who is normally tearing your house apart, suddenly decides to spend the day lying on the sofa. A keen ear will diagnose a congested cough versus a dry, hacking cough, a hungry cry versus a sleepy cry.
Wisdom is a welcome addition to any maternal role. Knowing when to referee a disagreement between offspring, the exact moment when blows are likely to be thrown, or when all one needs is a hug from the other. An intuitive mother picks and chooses her battles, allowing her eight- year -old to wear a bizarre combination of colors and seasonal garb on occasion if only to prove a point: listen to Mom! Being able to recognize the fine line between disobedience and independence, or naughtiness and sleepiness requires experience, as does recognizing that a little love and affection calms many an intense situation. In addition, it is necessary to remember that childhood is such a sweet, fleeting time of life and that it is important to allow a child to experience all that childhood brings with it, without trying to fix or prevent every mishap--only the ones which jeopardize health or safety.
Keeping a family clothed in school clothes, play clothes, and costumes is another task of motherhood. This includes the occasional sacrifice. I remember my own mother cutting up her wedding dress to make a Cinderella costume for me in time for Halloween one year. Often, she would forego purchasing clothing for herself in order to ensure that we had new clothing to wear for school or a special occasion. Such selflessness is a characteristic inherent to motherhood.
Also inherent to motherhood is doing laundry. Piles and piles of dirty clothes soon turn into piles and piles of clean clothes. Sorting and folding, classifying and stowing are included in the daily routine of a mother. Fighting the sock monster that steals socks, knowing that somewhere in your child’s room is a secret stash of dirty clothes, having an intuitive hunch that your nine-year-old is wearing dirty underwear under clean clothes, such skills come only from experience.
The various hats and responsibilities that weigh upon the chosen few, the mothers, are many. It is through soul-searching, seeking knowledge, and life experience that mothers are created. Good mothers are not born; motherhood is not a built-in talent, but one that is developed. A special place in Heaven is reserved for those who have met the challenge of motherhood; it is labeled a “No Screaming-yelling-crying-whining-drooling-complaining Zone”.jkb 1999
Friday, February 13, 2009
Two fountains from one jet;
Like children of one mother
Our leaping thoughts have met.
We were as far asunder
As green isles in the sea;
And now we ask in wonder
How that could ever be.
I dare not call thee lover
Nor any earthly name,
Though love's full cup flows over
As water quick with flame.
When two strong minds have mated
As only spirits may,
The world shines new created
In a diviner day.
Yea, though hard fate may sever
My fleeting self from thine,
Thy thought will live for ever
And ever grow in mine.