Time, Hackers, Projects & Watching

I’m late to the party. It’s been a busy few months.  Time is always my scarcest commodity. I sit down to write today and notice the calendar on my wall is still on January. Ooops!

I’m four months into the new year before starting the traditional New Year blog entry. Okay then, make the best of it. I’ll start a unique tradition of writing my New Year post in April, after having given myself a few months to see how the new year is working out!

Thoughts on a New Year

new yearI don’t do resolutions. I’ve never been very good at them – so it seems ridiculous to set myself up for failure in that way. The popular weight loss/diet objectives are lost on me. I know myself better than that!

The other cliché self-delusions drop to the side and disappear as well – no get-rich-quick schemes, no rearranging my personality, and I’m certainly not going to promise to be nicer to others or better at anything!

Marking time is a way for us to analyze and understand ourselves and our world. The New Year, like a birthday or wedding anniversary, can be a time to celebrate where we are, the gains we’ve made; or it can be a time of sadness, marking the loss of others from our lives or the promise of potential we failed to fulfill or attain. It’s a ritual we love. A way of considering who we’ve been and where we’re going.

So, here’s my takeaway:  I’m satisfied with last year and ready for the remainder of this year. Here’s to a new chapter in the book of me that is still being written. Happy Belated New Year!

A Plague of Hackers

Hackers, who I’m convinced are either the evil Jinn of legend or demons from the pits of Hell, have plagued me relentlessly this year. My Yahoo and WordPress accounts are inundated with Acacia Berry Ad emails or other such nonsense with links that friends, coworkers and readers inadvertently open. So, a note to all, I Will NEVER send you links in an email or post a post with ONLY a link. These high-jinks are the work of evil invaders! Beware and do not open or follow!

bijin-c-g-rhine

I’m fighting this horde of evil attackers as best I know how. My accounts have so many levels of protection that I need a notebook filled with directions to use them!

Several friends have mentioned the linking of various social media accounts as an entry point for the evil Jinn. Others say certain astrological signs predestines one to attack! There are tons of crazy theories out there too! Me? I’m simpler than that, I’m here to use the technology not to spend all my time chasing down the forces of evil.

So, I’m hopeful we’ll soon assign this problem to some of our greater minds for the solving. You know, the same guys who figured out how to kill the zombies. Maybe in the near future we’ll be able to buy a Demon-destroying Hacker Survival Kit. With luck, it might be on the market by the end of the year!

Projects Public and Private

A writer works on projects both public and private.

The Blog is a public project – ideally, a straight-from-the-gut type of endeavor that gains a readership due to style and quirkiness as much as content.

Professional Bloggers may disagree with me, along with those in the business and marketing communities, because they see the Blog as the newest, most powerful form of written media in the modern world. They are entitled to that belief. However, as an old fashioned journalistic writer, I see the Blog as a different entity – one as much about style and positioning as content and relevance. It is immediate, live in real-time, and Public by nature.

Literary or images (16)journalistic work – such as short stories, essays, memoirs, and novels – are by necessity private projects, requiring hours of alone-time staring out windows and writing three sentences a day for months on end.

A good window is well-known to be the number one requirement for a successful writer. Mental illness, alcoholism, and creativity are always fighting for their places in the kingdom hierarchy (and it’s anyone’s guess which of them wins on a given day), but the window is always the King.

I’ve spent the past eighteen months in front of my window working on those private projects. Writing, crafting, editing, re-writing pieces for publication. It is a consummation that continues and makes me realize the need to apologize to my blog readers – forgive me this time I must take away from public writing.

Thank you for continuing to read when I do post – I will try to write a few more pithy, remarkable pieces for your amusement as time permits!

warningWarning! Writer at work! Periods of delirium and a general withdrawal from human interaction may occur.

 

Watching: It’s What Writers Do

I have a new GSM at work who is delightful and funny. (He’s also intelligent and witty…ahem, in case you’re reading this Charles!)

He prides himself on accurately “reading” people and has mentioned this skill several times.  Of course, always a good sport, I felt it necessary to test his abilities.

I asked him last week to share his impressions of me. There were some interesting revelations, but the primary thing he said that struck a chord was that I enjoy 55“watching.”

It was a profound observation because on my “day job” I perform in a vibrant, peacock stage personae. The Colleen of the sales floor a very different person from the Marissa of my writing career. Score a solid point for Charles! Most people are blinded by the false eyes on the feathers and miss the deeper truth of who I am as a complete person!

I cannot remember a time before watching was central to my character. I watch and listen and pay attention to everything. It’s what I did before I ever understood that it’s what writer’s do. It’s one of those “things” that makes a writer different. I believe it might be the most integral and important skill to develop as a writer.

Language, mannerisms, movement — all are necessary elements of story. And all writing is in some sense story. Consider the trend in recent years toward “Creative Nonfiction” in the journalistic realm. Even our news stories are STORIES! We want a little back story, some dramatization of events, and some quirky personal details with our news now, Thank You.

The man burglarized an apartment and stole a necklace, but was quickly arrested by police no longer satisfies our hunger for story.

Instead:

The young man with biker tattoos on his left arm, a sleeve of skulls and roses, stalked the Burrows house for three hours before finally making his move. He pulled the heavy rock from the bag, smashed the picture window in the living room to bits, then crawled inside, snagging his jeans on the ragged glass. The pearl necklace, Mrs. Burrows most prized relic from a long-dead grandmother, was on top of the cherry chest. The culprit snatched it up and ran down the hall and out the back door. He was apprehended a block away by police. A concerned neighbor wburg2ho heard the glass break dialed 911 and reported the incident just in time.

Now that, folks, is news the way we want to read it! We no longer want reporters who reports the facts. Rather, we want writers who make the facts interesting by way of story techniques. This requires the skill of watching, the ability to see the most minute of details, and then the further ability to transfer what was seen by the writers eyes and imprinted in his brain to the reader.

A Writer learns as a child does – by mimicry. A tone or dialect is heard, sounded out, memorized, and then recreated. The details of a scene – the type and location of a tattoo, the style of clothes someone wears, a particular twitch or movement – are noticed, memorized, recreated. The nuances of everyday life, people, and culture are captured and frozen on the page for others to share.

imagesCAW3R9U1

Isn’t it amazing how our eyes watching become the seeing eyes of another?

Isn’t it wonderful that we are able to capture the world inside and outside of ourselves through words. Then, share that with other people regardless of time and place. How very beautiful is the eternal.

Happy Writing, Happy Living… Marissa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death As House Guest

If I met you on the road
Say, at Halloween or Christmas, I
like to think I would know you —
a bright “Ah-hA” moment inside my mind.

But, this is doubtful
and troublesome because
I’m not sure I’d recognize
your presence on that day any more
than I do your absence on this day.

I like to think there is
a quieter quiet; a more solemn
hush to the air when you arrive —


like some new guest who walks
into the house
with his suitcase
to spend the holidays and
he is distinctly there
roaring in his own noises, singular in smell,
his dress-shoes clopping – clikee-clop, clikee-
clop-clop down the hall,
up the steps to stand
on the landing, studiously
trying to decide
which bedroom to enter.

~January 2012

Father Time in Dementia

Who will save us from
this shifting dance within his mind?
This rapid movement, changing beat,
confusing tempo . . .

Tell the garden fairies
to cease their screaming
halt all gyrations until we find
the answer: What is this now happening,
this rollicking-flow-movement within his mind?

Run fast, young lad, and tell the praying ladies
at the universal parsonage . . . increase your praying
and someone call the doctor –
we may need medication this time.

The gypsy ladies must come
dancing to tambourines and golden chimes.
Sing a song of ever ending, hurry,
let’s slay the ghost of Father Time!

Quick! Young lady, bring a silver dagger
and a gold pocket watch five minutes fast
along with a bottle of Ambers whine.
Quick! Sing the song of fast correction
Hurry, we all know he’s lost his mind!

That was close – Yes!
That was close Sir, the clock
has stopped at quarter to nine.
At last we’ve ended the wild devastation
of raging, aging Father Time.

~November 2011

(Just for the fun of it!)

 

for Luck

We have walked these
paths a hundred
times – since my little legs
first stood, learned movement,
learned to walk beside you.

The path,
actually two – defined
in a way that speaks
of distance and history. We
will walk the path well-worn
or
if you indulge me
the one slightly overgrown,
briars lining the edges,
large towering stalks
blackberries in season,
if the day is right.

This path – the second one,
less used, steeper,
with jagged rocks
buried in the dirt
of what is now more gully
than walking path. But
this is where
Grandpa and I checked
rabbit gums for a catch,
he letting me
slide the little door,
up and open,
to peer inside.

This ground grew
my love of rabbits —
I never understood,
never equated the
bait-caught prey
with an animal dying.

The rabbits foot,
for luck,
a joke, because
death
had no meaning to me then.

~~November 2011

nom de Plume

I’ve been thinking about my “name issue” for a few months,wondering how to deal with it, and if I should write a post about it. I’m home from work today, sick, and feeling terrible. So, of course, it seems like the perfect time to address the issue. Who am I – why do I have so many names – and which name should be on my Facebook Profile?

I’ve been a published writer in some form or fashion for the past 18 years. I started writing during my young “hate the world and everyone in it” period that I think most writer’s go through. My writing was good, but often filled with a violent aspect or harsh edge that sometimes involved living family members (the dead ones didn’t worry me so much). I decided to write under a nom de Plume (pseudonym, or Pen Name) during this time to avoid accidentally hurting or embarrassing family, friends, etc. that might read the work and recognize it’s source.

I wrote under the pseudonym, Orianna Tierney, for the first year or two. It was a good experience that allowed me to write in a free, unrestricted manner without self-censorship. I believe a pseudonym was necessary for me to actually step outside self-censorship and write honestly during this time. And, I remain an advocate of using a pseudonym as a means of reaching into your deepest, darkest self to find the honesty for the page. I still believe my writing and growth as a writer are better because I initially chose to write under an un-recognizable name.  My first intense, multilayered works were written and published during my “Orianna” period.

I was writing daily after the Orianna years and my writing quickly grew along with me as a person. The works, primarily poetry and essays at this time, started to grow and change. I understood the development of technique and the expanding substance of my work. The work became more serious and important to me as did the name under which I wrote. I adopted Marissa as my pseudonym in 1995. It was a creative re-visioning of my true first name, Margaret, and my true last name of Owen. So, Marissa Owen evolved as a nom de Plume that felt more real than my real name sometimes. (As an aside, I often contemplated legally changing my first name to Marissa, as I much prefer it, but decided to keep it due to family connections and memories.)

Writing as Marissa felt totally natural, and I came to see the writer side of me as Marissa. Most of my first, truly important publications were under this name. It was the name my writer and poet friends knew, and the one I went by with my editors. And, it was the name used for all my literary efforts. So, in an age before technology, living as a divorced mother and a writer, life was going pretty good and I was content as Marissa.

Then, three years later, in 1998, I met and decided to marry my current husband. It was my first real  “problem” with the name, but this time is was about my last name rather than my first. It took a lot of soul-searching to take my new husbands last name. I went through several months of arguing with myself on whether, and if so, how, to integrate last names. I debated on the, then popular, dash-hyphenating the two last names. After all, my children both had the last name Owen, and all my writing was published under the name Owen. In short, it was a pain-in-the-ass decision.

Eventually I made the decision -love and my desire to always be moving forward won the day. I became Colleen Mullins in real life and Marissa Mullins in my writing circles and and on paper. I had reached the place of perfection, no need to change pseudonyms ever again … and then, ten years later, along came Facebook.

I was introduced to Facebook in 2008. Suddenly, I was pulling my maiden name of Steadman out of the closet and dusting it off. How else would childhood schoolmates be able to find me? It was amazingly strange when I set up an account with my maiden name in the middle – I gave that name up at the age of 14 and never expected to use it again. Again, a very surreal experience.

Many people from school, family members, and old friends have found me on Facebook. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’m very happy to be “reunited” with so many people. BUT, in the last 4 years there have been some changes that lead me to question my use of Name on Facebook. My writings (those submitted for publication in hard-copy and those on the web) are under Marissa. I’ve become addicted to Twitter and am part of a large literary group there under the name Marissa. So, what name is it to be?

Since I would answer to the call of Marissa as quickly as I would answer to the call of Colleen, and since the greater part of me at present identifies with Marissa over Margaret and would never use my maiden name anywhere other than Facebook…

I’ve decided to combine the two, while combining my world of old friends and my current world of writing and life in the automotive realm, it just seems logical for me to go by Marissa Colleen Mullins on Facebook and link all my accounts! There, it’s done! My Facebook is name updated and now you know why! Blessings to everyone – regardless of by which name you know me!~


~What about you? Do you write under a pseudonym? Have you ever thought about it?

~Are your Facebook and Twitter linked? What do you think of Social Media?

~Any amazing stories of Facebook or Twitter out there? Something amazing or uncommon?

~Keep Writing! 

 

One American Soldier (I)


I am writing this a few minutes after midnight on September 11, 2011. The tenth anniversary of an event so tragic and destructive that it is known worldwide simply as  “9-11.”

Almost everyone has a 9-11 story to tell – a pivotal moment when their personal life came to an abrupt halt and suddenly collided  with universal differences, political-religious ideologies, and intentional terrorism.A simple fall day, colored by the blood of family and friends, now defines a generation and its place in American history.

The events of September 11, 2001 – the meaningless destruction, overwhelming loss, intense sorrow, amazing courage, riveting compassion, and dark anger – play through our minds like a Technicolor movie. That day remains frozen in the slow motion replay of my memories just like all other Americans. But, this is not about 9-11 and my memories of that day. This is about one American soldier.

1986: Laser Light Show at Stone Mountain, Georgia

I was listening to the radio a few days ago when the Lee Greenwood song, “Proud to Be An American,” started playing.  My eyes misted in tears as a vivid memory from twenty-five years ago played through my mind. In the Summer of 1986 I was sitting on the grass lawn at Stone Mountain, GA with my then-husband, my two-year-old daughter and my 9-month-old son waiting for the Laser Light Show to begin.

It was our first trip to Stone Mountain Park, following a move to Atlanta the previous year because of a job transfer, and we had a wonderful day visiting the park features and nature trails with the children. We settled down on a blanket on the lawn in front of the mountain and watched a beautiful laser light show (which was a big deal back then!) accompanied by a soundtrack of various songs.

The song, “Proud to Be An American,” began playing, the American Flag appeared on the side of the mountain, and fireworks exploded over our heads. It was a beautiful and inspiring end to the show.

My eyes filled with tears as I looked at my daughter, asleep beside me on the blanket, and then looked into my son’s eyes as he was nursing. I expected the fireworks to scare him, but they didn’t. He kept nursing and staring into my eyes as I sat there with tears rolling down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed by the joy in my life and the patriotic pride I felt as an American. I would never have imagined that, eighteen years later, my son would join the Army and go overseas to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan as a soldier.

 

On August 31, over seven years after the war in Iraq began, President Obama announced the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom with a withdrawal of combat troops. Obama emphasized that U.S. domestic problems, mainly the flailing economy and widespread unemployment, are more pressing matters to his country. The U.S. will continue to be a presence in Iraq, mainly with civilian contractors but also with a smaller military contingent of approximately 50,000 troops. The remaining troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

Read more: Iraq War Timeline, 2010 — Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/spot/iraq-timeline-2010.html#ixzz1XfYUxRyw

 

 

 

Artist: Lee Greenwood
Song: Proud To Be An American

If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘ Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

From the lakes of Minnesota,
to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.

From Detroit down to Houston,
and New York to L.A.
Well there’s pride in every American heart,
and its time we stand and say.

That I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

And I’m proud to be and American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

Fact Sheet: Iraqi War

  • Length of official combat operation, Operation Iraqi Freedom: March 20–May 1, 2003.
  • Deployment: More than 300,000 coalition troops deployed to the Gulf region: about 255,000 U.S., 45,000 British, 2,000 Australian, and 200 Polish troops.
  • Post-conflict peace-keeping forces: About 130,000 U.S. and 11,000 British troops were stationed in Iraq following official end of hostilities, May 1, 2003.About 49 countries have participated in some form in what was called the “coalition of the willing.” At its strongest, the coalition provided a total of 25% of the troops in Iraq. About 13 countries have withdrawn their personnel as of March 2006. Coalition forces remaining in Iraq in March 2006: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom
  • U.S. casualties: Deaths March 20–May 1 (official end of hostilities): combat, 115; noncombat, 23; total, 138. Deaths March 20, 2003–Nov.9, 2006: combat, 2,275; noncombat, 562; total, 2,837. 134 civilian contractors were killed as of June 2006.
  • U.S. soldiers wounded in action: 21,572 (Nov. 7, 2006).
  • American POWs: 8 (6 captured on March 23, 2003, in Nasiriya; 2 pilots shot down on March 24 near Karbala). All were rescued.
  • Coalition casualties: Britain, 119; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 17; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, 6; Slovakia, 3; El Salvador, 3; ; Thailand, 2; Estonia, 2; The Netherlands, 2; Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Romania, and Latvia, 1 each (Oct. 24, 2006)
  • U.S. cost of stationing troops in Iraq: in the first years, it was estimated at $4 billion per month, by 2006 it was $6 billion per month1
  • Iraqi civilian deaths: over 55,000 (according to Iraq Body Count in Mar. 2006)

1. U.S. government figures

Sources: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), CNN, BBC, U.S. Dept. of Defense.

Read more: Fact Sheet: Iraqi War — Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0908900.html#ixzz1XfpJ0xL8

 

 

Today we remember the victims of the 9-11 assault on our shores. Let us also be mindful that the number of deaths resulting from 9-11 continue to grow with each passing day.

It’s been ten years – it’s time to bring our children home!

The Note

What can you  know at thirteen
of letters of love, soft words
of declaration – pouring forth
gushing admiration for
a high-school Adonis?

I was vulnerable, feminine,
soft – everything you’d expect
from a girl-child in love.

Too sappy, sincere, honest,
she told me —
He’ll show it to everyone – No,
not this note. But…

sad-broken humor
the only way to avoid ridicule –
You MUST
play the jokester,
not the lover,
she said.  

(I acquiesced.)

Later, in dark rooms,
I re-read
the first note
that would have told you
I was enamored, in heart-felt awe,
of the boy-man you were becoming.

I thought of old stories –
how we laughed together
as children. Side-by-side,
uncommon neighbors,
toddler playmates – until
the time-memory slipped away
and We were gone.

~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~

Apology was the first step
those few years later – us
technically grown, adulthood –
failed marriages, our own children,
lessons learned and learning —

Living in dark places beneath
burning turmoil, we were Us
for a millisecond, a moment.
— Then, the dark night shifted
fell from place —

The Muses laughed,
threw complication
into the mix, Fate
danced through the shadows
bumping into Us
jostling Me and You — then
the time-memory slipped away
and We were gone.

~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~

We speak without voices —
typed-letters on a screen,
new notes
written twenty years later
in real time.

Now we are friends
as we were playmates – some
strange connective-bond built
in a sandbox —

before we could know
the game we live in,
the jokes Life plays
and the roads we would choose
to follow.

And, I am still thinking
about the note
I should have given you —

 

September 2011

 

Artwork: Chiaro di luna by Escha Van den bogerd. You may find more about the artist and other works here.

 

 

The Art of Seeing

 

 

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. ~Jonathan Swift

If I were going to select one thing that makes the difference in a poet and their poetry, or in the daily life of an average man, it would be the vision with which that person looks at himself and the world around him.

Jonathan Swift, a prolific writer, (best known for the prose masterpiece, Gulliver’s Travels, and considered the foremost prose satirist in the English language*) gives a near perfect definition of (artistic-spiritual) vision when he says it is “the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”

The poet’s true gift is his ability to see these invisible elements and then translate them. An excellent poet will see deeper than the average person. He will use this deeper vision, take in the essence of truth before him, and then use the medium of language to translate what he sees with intense emotion and minute detail. All great and poignant poetry is about vision, translation, and audience.

Poetic Eyes

Imagine yourself as a child opening a birthday gift – you tear the paper off the box and find a large magnifying glass inside.  The very first thing you do is go look at all the things you’re interested in with your new glass. You will see everything as before – but then, in a new way as the tiny elements of these things grow larger and clearer under magnification.

Now, imagine the poet, looking at everything in his world through a magnifying glass. He is already looking at the world around him, but he learns to tune his vision in such a way as to see deeper – as if he were holding a magnifying glass up in front of everything that catches his attention. This is how the poet “sees the invisible.”

Here is an example of detail from the poem, Death in Leamington, by John Betjeman:

She died in the upstairs bedroom
By the light of the evening star
That shone through the plate glass window
From over Leamington Spa.

Beside her the lonely crochet
Lay patiently and unstirred,
But the fingers that would have worked it
Were dead as the spoken word.

And Nurse came in with the tea-things
Breast high’ mid the stands and chairs —
But Nurse was alone with her own little soul,
And the things were alone with theirs./ …..

Betjeman uses a variety of poetic techniques in this excerpt, but pay special attention to his translation into imagery with meaning.

The death in Betjeman’s poem is recorded in slow-motion, each detail carefully carved in the readers mind, each small thing translated to perfection. We see the scene as the poet sees it – with the shared depth of sadness the poet experiences. He brings the moment to life in a vibrant, deep way which changes us, the reader, as we move through this episode with him. We see through his eyes.

Poetic Translation

The following poem is an example of a poet’s ability to use the smallest details, along with connotation, to create a vivid picture and joined experience with the reader. Robert Hayden is a master of experience translation in Those Winter Sundays:

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Hayden sees the past with his father in the new light of his own maturity. The poem explores the coldness (ingratitude) felt as a child and creates a mirroring effect with the coldness of the house.

The reader sees and feels the sadness, the understanding and regret, as the poet drills-down to the simple weekly experience. The poet is, at once, both child and adult speaking to us, telling us his story in a way that brings us inside of it with him. The words are translated into an experience for the reader.

Poetic Audience

A poet writes for himself to large degree. However, he writes in a fixed time and place – each decade belongs to the lingering poetic voices which have named it. This means that a poet must always be conscious of Audience.

The poem cannot exist away and aside from audience. It speaks from a place and time where others live, where history occurs, and the future becomes the past. In thinking of audience, we must bring time and place to the table, and also class, status, country, and world-view.

Audience, in the larger sense, is demonstrated perfectly by Allen Ginsberg in this excerpt from the poem, America:

America I used to be a communist when I was a kid I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over from Russia.

Ginsberg is speaking in and from a particular time in American history. His poems resonate strongly with people of that generation sharing similar experiences. They resonate now in a more general sense or as an example of defiance and rebellion to the status quo for people of a different culture or time.

Culture is a part of poem and audience alike. The following excerpts, by Gwendolyn Brooks and Sterling A. Brown speak with a strong voice that is both living in and speaking from a particular culture:

We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks

We Real Cool
The Pool Players
Seven at the Golden Shovel

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk Late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Excerpt from Riverbank Blues by Sterling A. Brown

A man git his feet set in a sticky mudbank,
A man git dis yellow water in his blood,
No need for hopin’, no need for doin’,
Muddy streams keep him fixed for good.

Little Muddy, Big Muddy, Moreau and Osage,
Little Mary’s, Big Mary’s, Cedar Creek,
Flood deir muddy water roundabout a man’s roots,
Keep him soaked and stranded and git him weak./…../

Brown’s poem about the Mississippi River speaks of a local, rural culture that lives with the good and the bad of the river. His poem tolls a warning while speaking generally of danger and oppression, yet deals specifically with the danger and oppression locally in relation to the River.

A “good” poem is hard to define. There are variances, personal preferences, and socio-political elements that make definition impossible. However, we can see that the hallmark of good poetry – poetry that lasts and brings a voice to it’s people, culture, and generation – is a combination of poetic vision, translation, and audience. The poet writing with strong abilities in these areas will be heard. ~

 “A culture is made – or destroyed – by its articulate voices.”   ~Ayn Rand

 

Art Prints

ARTWORK: Red Rose by Karen M. Scovill, courtesy of www.fineartamerica.com. You can find out more about the artist and view other works here.

*from Wikipedia.

 

 

 

 

 

That One Peach

 
 

There is
that
one peach
over-ripe
battered and bruised
on one side
that I must have —
craving modest
imperfection
as the bite sinks deep
and the juice
rolls gently
down my chin.
The
imperfect things
often hold
the greatest pleasure,
a lingering sweetness
that outlasts time.
I am
a devourer
of imperfection —
leaving
all the perfect things
for someone else.

~July 2011

 

 

 Art Prints

Find out more about the artist at this website.

The 99% and The Battle for America

“Do you not know that there comes a midnight hour when everyone has to throw off his mask? Do you believe that life will always let itself be mocked?“      ~Soren Kierkegaard

venice_masque

We are the author of our own personal truth. We make daily decisions, as the creator, designing and constructing the platform-frame as a foundation to which we attach our personality, build a narrative history, and create a legacy that becomes the unique remembrance of us in the world. We do this as individuals and as the United States of America.

Nationally, as Americans, we love to believe in the American Dream – that anyone can become anything, rising above circumstances and limitations, to become an American success story.  Our history is one of dreamers and dreams being born and flourishing. Our soil grows an independent fighting Spirit that makes us seek more and better; each new generation shoving past its predecessor to become smarter, brighter, stronger, richer, and happier. This is the promise we have cherished since becoming a nation; a promise believed to be our great Destiny. We are a nation built on hope, individuality, and dreams.

But, times are changing, and as New Americans we live in a time of masks. Our politicians are primarily a collective of hidden faces behind picturesque disguises, the national economy still tragically caught within a depression that is masked by the title recession, and numerous negative sociological and cultural changes ignored and denied as non-existent boogey-monsters imagined by an uneducated and panicky lower-class public. The American Dream still applies to 1% of the population, but what about the 99% who have trouble sleeping and haven’t dreamed in years?

Class Levels and the Battle for Education

America has always been a land of class division as much as she would deny it. However, not since the years of open slavery has the schism between the rich and poor been so great. The classes continue to grow in distance from one another, with the realities of one class being almost incomprehensible to the other class. At the heart of these different realities lies education.

The poorer classes traditionally are less educated and less literate than the more prosperous classes. The recent cuts in public school budgets for arts and sciences, the teacher downsizing and layoffs in the public schools, and the current trend toward staff reductions and closing of public libraries is obviously more detrimental to the poor. Likewise, when the fear of government shut-downs were discussed, it was the military and public parks that faced pay cuts and closures – both of which are utilized by and filled with people of poor to modest incomes. The rich seldom need to use these services or join our military forces.

The money and privilege of the higher classes provides advantages beyond what the “average” American can afford. High crime rates, violent acts during a crime, and major drug use are often directly traceable to lack of education and trauma in the home. Deprivation of basic resources and a sense of stability and security, along with unhealthy self-esteem, creates an unbalanced psyche that leans toward mental illness, drug use, and violent crime. While the answer may not be to throw money at the problems once they’ve reached that stage; certainly, no one would deny that our society benefits from educating our children, teaching them to be productive, ensuring that all children have their basic needs met, and are provided a good, basic education.

Education is like medical care: those with higher incomes and more disposable money will always be able to purchase both commodities. Those without the funds to do so lose the foundation of opportunity. We create a society in which violence thrives because higher education, critical thinking, logic and problem solving have not been taught. Instead, people take what they want by forces believing that to be the only way they’ll ever have it. Lack of opportunity, inequality, and jealousy creates violent men and women.

door-lock_small 

In recent years, our public education system has fallen terribly short of its objectives – we do need review and changes. However, cutting teacher pay, laying-off teachers, and increasing class size are not forward-moving steps. Rather, these are antiquated methods that lock doors to keep certain people (classes) “in their place.” An uninformed and uneducated public is also a less powerful public. But, we must beware, because history shows that mob rule becomes the norm when people cannot find voice or power any other way.

 

 Who is the 99% ?

 

There’s a wonderful article by Joseph E. Stiglitz, in this month’s Vanity Fair, titled, “Of The 1%, By The 1%, For The 1%,” that explores the inequality in wealth and class in America. According to Stiglitz:

The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent….While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall.

  

This is a staggering truth – the numbers don’t lie. The rich run the country through wealth and power, and the middle class IS shrinking. Stiglitz goes on to examine this situation in depth, looking at the ruling class and politicians, at current reinforcing rules, and at what this means for America as time passes. In closing he explains a basic truth often forgotten by those in power: As a nation, the fate of the 1 percent and the fate of the 99 percent is intricately knotted together.

The 99 percent could be called the “average Americans.” The men and women who work a job in construction, food service, plants or warehouses, service industries, and myriad other “blue and white collar” jobs. The 1 percent are the politicians, the IT millionaires, the privileged dynasty families, and the other top power brokers in our nation. The 1 percent, like the mythical comments of the French queen, may very well say “let them eat cake,” as the lower classes starve. Again, history teaches us valuable lessons about the abject distance between the two classes and the violence that is possible when the rich and powerful men forget that the poor man has a destiny entwined with his own.   

For the Love of Art and Artists

Photography Prints

I’ve always been a fan of art and artists. Even to the point of marrying one! But, long before meeting my husband, art was firmly rooted in my mind as a flowering garden I would always admire. My first two memories of art as a child revolve around Crayola Crayons and the picture of a horse painted by my mother.

First memory: my Crayola Crayons. I still recall them with great joy (you know, the sixty-four pack with the sharpener in the back)! Unusual names like Sienna, Thistle, Raw Umber, and Magenta conjured up images of a wild, exotic land far away from the rural, humdrum farmhouse of my childhood. I loved coloring as a child, but I could never master drawing.

Eventually, getting bored with coloring and being unable to draw, I went through a spell of melting the various individual crayons and pouring them together in molds to create new color choices. All this under my grandparents watchful eyes, of course, and to the chagrin of my mother and other adults. They would stop by and find me in the dining room with an old cooking pot (donated by my grandmother for the effort) filled with melting crayons on top of the wood stove, the smell of hot wax drifting through the rooms. My grandparents would shush the naysayers with, “she’s just a child.”

“It’s okay. She’s not hurting anything,” was the mantra as they sat watching me stir various colors into tin cans, saucers, and any other makeshift molds I could find. (Just for the record, my grandparents were so darn cool to let me do that!)

Second memory: that cute little brown horse standing in a bright green pasture. I’m not sure the exact age that I noticed the painted pony, but I was young and it was before I started school. It was vivid. I remember asking my grandmother about it. There was a tone of pride in her voice as she explained that my mother had painted it.

My mother had me very young. As a child, I adored her and believed she was the most beautiful creature on the planet. The fact that she had painted this, that she was an artist, made her suddenly mysterious and talented too. I studied the picture often, picturing my mother as she painted; begging to see the picture up close. A request my grandmother often indulged. I would hold it in my hands, staring at each stroke of paint, at the way in which the lines met to create the picture in full.

The picture held great significance because it was the only painting in my grandmother’s house. There were doilies, ceramic plates from various places, trinkets and family photographs on the fireplaces and side tables, but there were no other pieces of art anywhere in the house.

I grew up watching the little horse, trying to draw something that even slightly resembled the horse, or anything “real,” to no avail. The more obvious my inability as an artist became (I couldn’t even manage to get the paint-by-numbers pictures done correctly) the more I admired my mother’s artistic talent. I eventually turned to writing as a way of drawing pictures with words. And words remain the closest I can come to artistry. I am unable to paint with colored pencils, pastels and the like, but I learned to paint pictures with words. And, to a great extent, most of my poems and short-stories and heavy on imagery. I want the reader to see it.

So, loving art and artists as I do, I want to introduce you to a wonderful site: Fine Art America. They have numerous artists with art available in any medium imaginable, as well as offering the ability to purchase original canvas, framed pictures, notecards, etc. They also provide art images with a link for use on blogs that allow you to use the lovely work while correctly crediting the artist. Their mission, per the website says: “FineArtAmerica.com is a social network and e-commerce marketplace for photographers, visual artists, art galleries, and fine art collectors.  Visitors to FineArtAmerica.com can choose from over 1.5 million pieces of original artwork including paintings, sculptures, drawings, mixed media, jewelry, and more!” If you get a chance, please check them out at http://www.fineartamerica.com.

 

.

Book Review> Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee

Harper Lee and President George W. Bush at the...

Image via Wikipedia

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee  

Author: Charles J. Shields ©2006
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
ISBN-13:978-0-7394-7846-2  324 Pages

Fifty-one years after the publication of her Pulitzer Prizewinning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, author Harper Lee is again claiming the headlines. CBS News and the Sun-Sentinel both ran stories this month about President Obama honoring Harper Lee with the National Medal of Arts. Ms. Lee, aged 84, perhaps one of America’s greatest living authors, did not attend the ceremony. Her lack of attendance is no surprise to those of us who have read Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, by Charles J. Shields. 

Mr. Shields writes, in the introduction to Mockingbird, that his book “aims to capture a life but is not a conventional biography, because – despite her novels huge impact – Lee’s writing life has been brief, and her personal life has been intensely private.” Mr. Shields goes on to explain his decision to write the book and the reasoning and research used to compose it. A beautiful and detailed introduction to the book sets the reader up to expect a hazy, distorted picture of Ms. Lee. However, the book is anything but that: clear and concise – weaving together research, commentary, and a warm narrative – the book transports the reader into a journey through life with Harper Lee. The authors desire to “capture a life” is eloquently and meticulously met in the pages that follow.            
                                   

This 324 page book provides a multi-layered picture of the woman that is Nelle Harper Lee: modern-day recluse, prior college drop-out, Pulitzer Prizewinning author, lonely airline ticket girl in New York, close childhood friend and research assistant to Truman Capote, tomboyish girl from the South, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, fervent church attendee, and winner of The National Medal of Arts. Lee, the enigmatic author of To Kill A Mockingbird, is simultaneously defined by these designations while remaining an individual that will not be subjugated to any one title that describes her. 

Mr. Shields, in Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, brings the feisty, Southern writer to life for his readers. She is a woman we can admire and understand. She is an uncommon author uninterested in wealth or movie-star status. She is simply Nelle, an author seeking to explore her talent and write something meaningful about the world and time in which she came of age. To Kill A Mockingbird is no longer just a Southern novel, but is transformed into an inevitable work of art by this writer. Her love of place, family, and the strong desire for empathetic justice fills the book as it fills her life. The clarity of Lee’s character shines in Shields book as he delves into the psychology of the time in which Ms. Lee wrote and the emotional connection she felt to time and place as displayed in her writing. 

Lee’s one and only book, To Kill A Mockingbird, is a book of substantial importance in American literature. It delves into the psyche and behavior in the American South during the period of racial unrest and blatant discrimination that characterized the decades of the 1950’s and ‘60’s. The book was a sensational hit during it’s time as summarized by Biography.com:

In July 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was published and picked up by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Literary Guild. A condensed version of the story appeared in Reader’s Digest magazine. The work’s central character, a young girl nicknamed Scout, was not unlike Lee in her youth…. part of the novel reflected racial prejudices in the South…. attorney,…Atticus Finch tries to help a black man who has been charged with raping a white woman to get a fair trial and to prevent him from being lynched by angry whites in a small town.

Cover of

Cover of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee

The following year, To Kill a Mockingbird won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize and several other literary awards. Horton Foote wrote a screenplay based on the book and used the same title for the 1962 film adaptation. Lee visited the set during filming and did a lot of interviews to support the film. Earning eight Academy Award nominations, the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird won four awards, including Best Actor for Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch. The character of Atticus is said to have been based on Lee’s father. 

The popularity of Lee’s book in the 1960’s demonstrates a somewhat perfect timing in publishing history. To Kill A Mockingbird captured a moment of Southern and national history that would soon change, but her application of the broad themes of good and bad, fair and unfair, to the story created a timeless, universal novel. As an important piece of American literature, To Kill A Mockingbird demonstrates the fight for good over evil in the world, and advances the premise that one person can make a difference if he will only step forward and act on his deepest convictions. 

To Kill a Mockingbird

Image via Wikipedia

 

It is this literary-cultural duality that makes Lee’s work eternal. And, Shields adeptly captures this aspect of Lee, her life and work, in Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. It is an intimately beautiful portrait where Shields artistically draws Lee as a presence larger than the time and culture she wrote about. In the end, his portrait succeeds as he introduces the reader to a Harper Lee that is as boundless and enduring as her novel.

 Sources: 

1. Madison, Lucy. “Obama honors Meryl Streep, Harper Lee, Philip Roth, Quincy Jones and others with National Medals of Arts and Humanities.” CBS News Story online. March 2011. Http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20038421-503544.html (March 7, 2011) 

2. Kellogg, Carolyn. “Harper Lee to receive National Medal of Arts.” Los Angeles Times. March 2011.
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/entertainment/sns-lat-harper-lee-to-receive-national-medal-of-arts
20110301,0,5076637.story. (March 8, 2011)

 3. Harper Lee Biography. “Harper Lee Biography.” Biography.com. March 2011.
Http://www.biography.com/articles/harper-lee9377012?part=1 (March 9, 2011) 

4. The Associated Press. “Harper Lee Writes Rare Item for O Magazine.” Washington Post. June 2006. Http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2006/06/
26/AR2006062601039.html
(March 8, 2011) 

5. Charles J. Shields, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee.(New York: Henry Holt and Co., LLC, 2006).

Reprinted from Whippoorwill: an online literary journal, Spring 2011 issue. Original source at http://whippoorwilljournal.com/issue/whippoorwill/article/book-review-mockingbird-a-portrait-of-harper-lee

Confessions of a Book Lover

Bibliophile ~ A collector of books. An avid reader or book lover.

Okay, I admit it. My name is Marissa and I’m a book lover. They hold a special power in my life unlike anything else.

Books actually helped me choose my new home two years ago. The beautiful, ornate, wood floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the living room made this house a “must have.” My husband understood that immediately when we opened the door and walked into the room for the first time. My “ooh, look at the bookshelves,” sigh caused a laugh and resigned eye-rolling.

We talked about the various other merits of the house for a few days: the huge yard, the wonderful wood deck, the hardwood floors, the large kitchen, and the renovated bedrooms. We discussed it all as if there was a decision to make, but we both knew the decision was a given,that the bookshelves were a “sign” and that this was the perfect house for us.We moved in a month later.

I unpacked boxes of books, loading them onto the shelves, starting in the middle. I suddenly realized that the double bookcases covering an entire wall of the living room were much larger than they looked. I only had enough books to fill four of the ten shelves. I made a mental note of the number of books I would need to fill-up the cases. Wow! Time to start buying more books!  No happier thought than that ever occurs to a bibliophile!

Two years later I am a beloved customer of Quality Paperback Books, Barnes & Noble, Folio Society, and quite a few other book stores and publishers. I’m doing my part to stimulate the economy, keep literature alive, publishers publishing, and writers writing! I’ve made progress on filling the shelves and only four empty ones remain. Those should be filled by the end of the year.

I have more unread books than ones I’ve read on my shelves for the first time in my life, and I am buying books at a faster pace than I can read them. I am a voracious reader and owning so many books I haven’t yet read is an anomaly in my life, but it’s an anomaly I’m beginning to enjoy. The unread books are like fine chocolates waiting to be devoured when appetite demands. I love knowing that those mysterious sweets are there waiting for me. 

Some co-workers were talking the other day, asking each other the imaginary-scenario question: What would you do if you won the lottery for a million dollars? I listened as they all talked about buying houses, yachts, new cars, huge HDTVs, and new computers. When they came to me, the answer was much simpler and more nerdy: I’d go to Barnes & Nobles and buy every book I wanted!

My co-workers looked at me as if I’d turned into a frog, declared this a terrible waste of lottery winnings, and responded with awe-struck gasps of…

“Why?”

“Why would you want all those books?”

“You know they have Nook and Kindle now, you don’t even have to buy real books like that anymore.”

Yes, I do know about Nook and Kindle. I understand that the world of books and publishing is changing dramatically in our lifetime. I hear the news stories, read the blog entries, and listen as the pundits declare an end to hard copy books. I’m listening.

I also realize that very few students need to go to a library, learn how to use an antiquated card catalog system, or pick up a hard copy encyclopedia. They are more likely to do all their research on the web, cite Wikipedia information in term papers, or purchase college essay papers from one of the many companies providing them online for $19.95. My children knew libraries, book stores, and hard copy research for school papers. My grandchildren will have no memory of a time before computers and the Internet.

I remember Windows 3.1, America Online in its great heyday, and the Internet when dial-up was the only access. But, I too am growing and changing with the times, and have made my own personal strides forward into the digital age. You can follow me on Twitter, read one of my several blogs, or view my work as an editor for the online magazine, Whippoorwill. I own three computers, all equipped with wireless access, and the new laptop I purchased came with Nook included. I’m listening to all the chatter about the end of books as we know them, but I don’t agree with the chatter. I am a true bibliophile, and, for a true bibliophile, nothing replaces a “real book.”

I may use online texts, search engines, Wikipedia, and even Nook, but none of these resources gives me the same joy and happiness as a traditionally published book. I will always prefer hard copy, printed and bound books. Books that smell of ink and paper, that sing with crisp pages, offer margins for notes, and can be gifted to others as something very personal and intimate. I love being able to return to the same beloved books again and again, rereading pages that hold important revelation or insight, opening to a favorite section and participating in the dialogue between writer and reader.

We are old friends taking time for a chat. Each book on my shelf is like a precious relationship, a voice and persona I am acquainted with, one that I know. The writer lives in those dry inky pages, is resurrected as I hold the book in my hands, listening to his voice flow from the pages. Old notes, highlighter marks, and red-ink underlines are reminders of our journey, of time we have shared on other lost days.

I willingly embrace the new mediums, resources, and tools available to writers, readers, and the world at large. However, as a book lover, a person in love with and addicted to true “hold-em-in-your-hand” books, I think it’s important to remember that change does not always equal demise.

The world is a big place. Traditional book publishing may go through deep changes during the present decade, but I believe the world contains many closet bibliophiles like me who will continue to love books, want books, need books, spend too much money on books … and keep trying to fill their bookshelves with assorted books, a source of sweet chocolates to be devoured at their leisure.ß

 

Reprinted from Whippoorwill: an Online Literary Journal, Spring 2011.

 

 

 

Impossibility

When you have said
all the words I need to hear
and told me everything
in warm whispers, except
“I love you.” It won’t be enough.

When you have given me
flowers, apologies, soft
sentiments and fresh hope
in softest whispers, but
haven’t said “I love you.”
It won’t be enough.

When you have told me the
truth about who you were
becoming who you are, and
have lulled my heart with
dream-songs. It should be,
but it won’t be – enough.

When you can tell me
in quiet-tones, face-to-face,
eyes-to-eyes that you love
me, I will know that you
see me clearly for the first
time. But, it won’t be enough.

When you can love me
across the miles of time
without hiding in the silence;
when the pain apart defines you
through the essence of my absence,
and your soul recognizes the loss —
then, and only then, will it be enough.

 

Alabaster Altar

I cried hot deep
bitter tears – a sacrifice
upon your alter,
ravaged broken body,
cold marble against
warm skin – as I lay
weeping.

Degradation and
humiliation built
these walls
that hold me, but
I remember the
story of the Phoenix
and suddenly find
myself turned to ash.

Doves lift in flight
from silver tree limbs
where gods and demons
frolic, awaiting the
trial in court, where
an alabaster altar
still gleams – ready
for the next sacrifice
of bloody atonement.

How Time Builds

 

Isn’t it strange how time builds

these houses we live in

with regret, confusion, un-knowing turned to stone?

 

Did you hear the workman start clearing

the land for construction when you were young

and I was younger – a child at your knee?

 

Did you taste the brick masons mixture

of grief and fear used to season the mortar

for the foundation as we argued away the years?

 

Did you see the man pass by with his chisel

and saw and boards and nails for the walls

as you grew older as I grew older too?

 

Did you feel the dark shadows as the shingles

were nailed to the beams of the roof

while we huddled – divided by our growing identities?

 

Did you know our houses would share memories

and history and tears and people

without sharing a common doorway for meeting?

 

Isn’t it strange how time builds

these houses that define us

with regret, confusion, un-knowing turned to stone?

Poetess

– for D

I am that soft-furred gentle-eyed prey
that makes the predator move to running.

I am the breeze that drifts through quiet nights
to twine through tree limbs and shadows.

I am the river that rolls silent and steady
as its deeper self carves away the rocks.

I am the bright pink streak of sky
riding the deep clouds in the last rays of light.

I am the gypsy angel of your song
concealed in the mist and the answer is yes.

I am the soft roll of current pulling you
into a vortex of bright light and water.

I am a light-voiced bird singing melodies
at the twilight start of morning.

I am flesh and blood and bone and mind.
I am eternal vapor and presence and hope.

I am a woman who hurts and hates and loves.

I am a prophetess, a seer. I am a poetess
who will write the truth of our story
in each sad and beautiful line.

Regret

Regrets are bitter-bright emotional remnants that hit us with pain and sadness at each recall.

When I was younger, I ran around screaming that I would live my life in such a way as to be free of regrets. My image of the rocking chair on the porch did not have me sitting there feeling bad about the past. I perceived a more enlightened view – one in which I understood that the life I led was my own, built to create the individual I was intended to be. There was no room in the picture for sadness and regret over the past. The past was simply the pavement of the road to the future.

In that vein of thought, I quoted the catchword of the day, “Carpe Diem,” and determined that I would live bravely. I would attempt things I was sure to fail at, I would try things that seemed unusual and “not for me,” and I would be courageous when my instincts told me to fear. This philosophy led to some interesting exploits and adventures, especially during my twenties, as I rampaged through the world on my glorious mission.

But, I would “LIVE!” And, of course, I did live loudly, boldly, tenderly, and attentively for many years. I was very good about writing letters, remembering to send birthday cards, and doing minor niceties for those I knew and loved. I cooked Thanksgiving dinners for the neighbors, took in several stray and injured animals, and donated to numerous charities and worthwhile causes. I also lived vibrantly loud. My hair was the whitest-blonde available in a bottle, my magazine writing was a battle against injustice or a call-to-arms for the downtrodden, my poems spoke of grief and loss from the depths of my soul, and my relationships included people from every scale of life and living. I was trying new things, tackling new fears, overcoming old phobias, and living wide-open and unashamedly. (Dying my hair black was courageous, but BAAAD! And maybe I should have waited on the tattoo…and I probably shouldn’t have moved to Florida….) My internal fears became a propelling force moving me ever forward on the road to becoming…I was LIVING!

And, then, when I was in my late thirties, my grandmother died. It had been several years since I’d seen her. She developed Alzheimer’s disease right after our last visit. She was the second grandmother to experience the devastating disease. And, me….Miss. Courageous, I hadn’t been able to deal with the loss a second time. I had stayed away because the pain of who she had become in the illness overpowered my memories of who she’d been healthy. I needed to have the memories of the healthy, strong, wonderful grandmother she’d been. The only woman I’d ever known who I truly believed knew every answer that mattered. I lived at the other end of the state then, I was busy, life was moving forward – it was easier to pretend she was at home and life was normal for her, as it had been. She was frozen in a happy time and place in my mind.

Burying her was not as difficult as understanding that she was gone. There would never be another letter from her advising me to do the right thing and to trust God. She would never cook pigs-in-a-blanket for me again. I would never be able to drop by and talk with her about my confusion, or enjoy the beauty of her humming as we were hanging out laundry. Those things were over. In reality, they had been over for years, but they had remained a memory-possibility in my mind until the casket disappeared into the ground that rainy day.

Death has a way of ending the lies you tell yourself. It also has a way of reminding you of your own truth. I left her funeral with a sense of regret that I’d never known before. I was ashamed of my cowardice, my unwillingness to overlook my own pain to be there for her. The self-reproach was only made worse as I realized she would have forgiven me, would have understood and not been angry or hurt at my inability to see her so sick. She had a strength within that enabled her to love and forgive others unlike anyone else I’ve ever known.  I was her granddaughter, my mind screamed; I should have been that strong too.

And there it was…regret.

 

 

Wolves at Battle

The Story of Two Wolves (from Ego Dialogues )

A Grandfather from the Cherokee Nation was talking with his grandson.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.”

“One wolf is evil and ugly: He is anger, envy, war, greed, self-pity, sorrow, regret, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, selfishness and arrogance.”


“The other wolf is beautiful and good: He is friendly, joyful, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, justice, fairness, empathy, generosity, true, compassion, gratitude, and deep VISION.”


“This same fight is going on inside you and inside every other human as well.”

The grandson paused in deep reflection because of what his grandfather had just said.
Then he finally asked: “Grandfather, which wolf will win?”

The elder Cherokee replied, “The wolf that you feed.”

I was talking with a co-worker this week about the works of Einstein – about a book I’m reading about his life and how his thinking developed into what became a new realm of understanding in Physics. My co-worker, an ex-attorney and current car salesman, kept giving me a mind-boggled look as if to say, “Why the hell would a car saleslady be so into physics? It just doesn’t mesh.” That odd look from people is common and normal to me now. I don’t really think much about it…why? Because I’ve come to believe in the unique complexity, the abstract opposites and elements of duality that exist in people…all people, including myself.

The people I meet no longer fit neatly into categories and sub-categories as they once did. When I was twenty it was easier. My thinking was simpler then…like the child of five…people were good or bad, mean or nice, happy or unhappy. Life has changed me, my thoughts, and my perceptions of others beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Most of the people I meet are an easily read book – compilations of various chapters and verses, mixtures of traits and opposing habits that fall outside of easy one-dimensional definitions. There are those who behave badly in general, but have a deep capacity for kindness and gentleness to those they love. There are those who are generally kind and easy to get along with, but are cruel and vicious to those most helpless and close to them. A very bad man in the eyes of many once lay next to me and told me what a good man he knew he was – there was equal truth in both observations. The mirrors around us reflect who we are in various moments – good and bad, angry and calm, broken and strong. The truth is not usually which or the other but both. Human beings are an odd mixture of duality.

So, you’re asking, where are you going with this? Well, it occurs to me that, like the parable above demonstrates, we often forget that both wolves exist within us. The story of the two wolves is really the story of being human. I like the image of the wolves for its simplicity – the wolves are always present together, always fighting, each one jostling for the top spot, seeking to be the one in control. “Which one will win?” It’s the age-old question, isn’t it? What side of us will triumph? What side of us is stronger? Truly, the answer is just so simple, isn’t it…which side are we feeding? The wolf we nourish is the wolf that leads…the winner has been fed, and fed, and fed…we have given him nourishment while the other wolf dissipates, grows weak and weary, as starvation sets in.

And then there’s the one final obscure thought that hits me: It’s only natural to want to live, survive, be in control, be the stronger of the two. Neither wolf dies easily.

In dreams awake

Written December 2008

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.” – Thoreau

How you have learned to play me, beautiful one.

It was in the first glimmer of green eyes, brightly-lit and seeking that you captured my attention. Sway, roll, movement like a ship undulating on the tide in harbor – a sweet, delicious turning of the mind in ecstasy as each thought creates – tension, heat, vibration, force, tenderness.

Truth hides in the raw, wet, throbbing stream of the mind…In the depths of gray darkness, where dreams come to life and distant voices scream silent wisdom inside shadowed minds – THERE, I heard your voice. Your voice speaking in its soft, deep timbre of melody and vibration near my face, against the creamy flesh of my breast, beside the slow pulse beating in my throat. I could feel your breath against my face as words came flowing like slow, tender water.

Anchored in my gray-dark sleep, I felt your words move into the depth of my hearing, roll across my skin, felt them tumble across my breasts, slip down across my stomach, to slide within the sacred places, sheathed and protected. You were so close in that moment – the warm, moist tremor of your breath across my skin as tender lips trailed…you moved through me as dew across lilies in the early morning hours. Your voice, dear one, woke me from deepest sleep with clarity.

For R Rilke,

The poet R.M. Rilke has probably had the greatest impact on me of any writer. These poems were written in gratitude to him during 2005. © 2005 under Marissa Mullins.

Like Love

The Great Gift given

was not as simple

as your words.

Rather,

Like Love,

The emotion created by them.

Such simple little things

To grow such beauty

Out of stagnant air –

Fresh breath to a new

Century unlike the one

You came from.

We are Different –

Too busy, too smart, too …

We cannot perceive our own

Needfulness, do not realize

How Badly we need words

Like Yours –

Beauty flowing across

A white page of time.


It was all in the speaking

I look to where you saw —

wonder at the common tune

which seems to play itself

on both our instruments:

music goes on forever in our minds.

I see – here, there

A common chord. Same song

Sung by different voices

Years and times apart.

You are part of my heritage,

German Poet –

Souls and citizenship in common.

I would have liked

To meet you, have come

To know you, believe

We must be friends.


In the Quiet

 

 

 

in the Quiet (2006)

It is not unlike brokenness –

This feeling of having emptied myself

Into you, only

To find that you were already full

Unable to hold more.

 

I know of mistakes

That they are the “after-things”

The regrets and guilts of the next moments

Seem hidden in the times before.

 

I should apologize — for

 

The fact that you asked and received

 

The truth is it hurts

And that dismal pain reminds me…

I’m still breathing

It will be okay.

The world keeps moving

They keep talking

And I find in the Quiet

Moments of wonder

At the how and why of it.

 

Time-Lapse II

A few more relationship poems from 2005.  ©2005 under Marissa Mullins.

Legacy: Untitled 6

I do not know the Truth you ask for.

It has no movement in me –

no belonging, no place of being.

The rivers of my mind flow

past the rock where you stand.

The stone beneath your feet

feels real to you, each rough-hewn,

jagged edge cutting

into the souls of tender feet.

It is sway and movement only –

To me. A place of displacement

so minor in my essence –

I am river – flowing, churning,

moving forward past the rocks,

moving around, in, across.

My Truth is a place of

moist current, trembling water,

that cannot make itself

a rock, a twig, a pond.

Why do you stand on that

which bruises and cuts you?

Can you not still swim?

Do you now fear the water,

that river which once carried you,

moved you, safely flowed you to

a new destination?

You have left the water,

cling to the jagged rock,

paralyzed and held immobile

by fear. You forget yourself.

The Truth – You are a river too.

You were born of Water.

Untitled 7

The answer that you seek

needs creating. It cannot come

to live in places of light – or

it will be changed, will lose

the darkness that names it.

We are always seeking what is lost.

Truth is that things drift

into invisibility, become

the essence of something else

because our definitions change.

It once meant “this” now “that”

or “the other” –

Truth will not be contained,

molded, shaped, limited

by our definitions.

It has a grander beginning

with the First and Only. Truth

does not betray Him as we do.