Sunday, April 30, 2006
Another lovely example of Doing-it-Yourself is Mark Young's new project, OTOLITHS! Check it out! It's bliss-filled! In editor Mark's words:
12.01 a.m., Australian Eastern Standard Time, May 1 2006
It is with a great deal of pleasure (& more than a modicum of pride) that I announce the first issue of Otoliths.
It contains work from Dan Waber & Meghan Scott, Michelle Greenblatt, Daniel f. Bradley, kari edwards, Nico Vassilakis, Michael Farrell, Alex Gildzen, Eileen Tabios, Tom Beckett, Nicholas Downing, Francis Raven, Geof Huth, Andrew Lundwall, Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, John M. Bennett, Bill Allegrezza, Sheila Murphy, Martin Edmond, David-Baptiste Chirot, Ernesto Priego, Laurie Duggan, Reed Altemus, Jordan Stempleman, Irving Weiss, Jeff Harrison, Bob Marcacci, Marko Niemi, Lars Palm, pr primeau, Michael Rothenberg, Jack Kimball, CAConrad, Dion Farquhar, Donna Kuhn, Richard Lopez, Michael P. Steven, harry k. stammer, Thomas Fink & Gregory Vincent St Thomasino, plus "mini-chapbooks" from Jean Vengua & from Ray Craig.
Friday, April 28, 2006
Blurred but Happy in the wine cellar (L to R): Mom, Achilles, Moi and Dad:
My gratitude to John Bloomberg-Rissman for his first (!) hay(na)ku:
Defeat Eileen’s Poetry.
Which we invented
Sad inescapable ass.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
I had it all planned. A candle on this blog through the end of effin' April. Simple. Elegant, even (if Moi do say so myself and Moi does). Melodramatic even, ya?
Then Dad appeared. "Whooooo!" he sez. "Bad idea! Whooooo!"
Succinctly, I replied, "Hah?!"
Gathered wits (what's left of them). Then followed up: "Dad? Dad! What are you doing here!?"
It's all in the translation, Peeps. Dad is now on Galatea: he's returned as an owl. A big ass LOUD owl, at that. I know it's him, in part because the owl's face is outlined exactly like Daddy's. As well as (insert giggle) healthy Dad's belly.
And Dad is pointing out: if I'd continued my plan to end my April posting with the candle, that'd be too melancholic, bespeaking how April bested me.
Well, no fucking way, right?
Besides, I'm happy now. Dad's flying about Galatea. He is IN THE HOUSE, uh, Galatea! Whooooo....Whoooooo...Whoooooo...!
Onward as in, The First Hay(na)ku Anthology is on MidWest Book Review's Small Press Bookwatch for April (they also laud "deft" editing by Mark Young and Jean Vengua).
And Chris Murray posts a lovely hay(na)ku group by Cody McCafferty of Arlington, TX. Chris is right to call these "exceptional", such as this one I dedicate to Dad:
On That Note
resolve a numbness.
And because hay(na)ku news must come in threes: we are mere weeks away, Peeps, from the launch of the first single-author hay(na)ku collection: NOT EVEN DOGS by Ernesto Priego. I've just finished the last proof changes and hopefully I can announce it officially soon.
define Moi Poetry.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Monday, April 24, 2006
To write is to get closer....but also to create distance.
Distance is a way of managing pain.
I wrote as much as I could. I even thought that the funeral itself, with its burial, would be a sort of anti-climax. But no, burial forced up its own reality full-frontally against my eyes. And the tear ducts I thought had dried up by then, cracked forth fresh, copious tears.
I kept thinking, Keep writing out how Dad is dying. At some point, I lost track of why I kept doing it. The writing process ceased being about narrowing the focus to make sure I grabbed each detail while Dad was still alive; it became, what, about reconciling with his death...?
I wrote as much as I could. I wrote it out of me as much as I could. I wanted this grief out of me, out of me.
Form matches content. I woke up the day of Dad's funeral with an emphasized laryngities. Two days later, as I begin to write this, I still can't speak. Speechlessness from a blocked throat. I brought back Dad's ceramic bird collection for Galatea's library, to fly from their painted sculpted poses at night when everyone is asleep -- to fly amidst the poetry. Frozen birds -- but their wings are fluttering within the phlegm-constricted space of my throat. Always sad to see silent poets...
Nearly 30 years of absence can mean one ends up not knowing one's own parent. So many revelations at Dad's funeral, like, during the viewings and funeral service, one person after another testifying,
Mr. Tabios did ___ for me
Mr. Tabios did ___ for my family
Without Mr Tabios, I wouldn't have _____
Mr. Tabios was the first to ____ for my family
Mr. Tabios did ____ for this group
It surprised me when Mr. Tabios did _____
Mr. Tabios did _____
This is the person whom I'd long considered a bad parent? Could such a good person have been a bad parent? How did such a disconnect occur?
The mourning becomes not just over Dad's death, but how disconnections become realities.
A bleeding nose manifests the trapped birds attempting flight.
The Prodigal Daughter learns other things not known because she never spent the time to get to know these things. Like, as a teen, Dad had joined the Philippine guerilla movement against the Japanese during WWII. Later, when Japan lost, he became one of those guarding Japanese POWs, not so much to prevent them from escaping but to prevent them from being harmed by Filipino soldiers and civilians. Among those whose safety Dad guarded was infamous Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita (before he was later tried and hanged for war crimes). How I would have loved to ask him about that, and other things that formed his past.
The mourning becomes not just over Dad's death, but regret over shut doors, over aborted intimacies of sharings.
Birds flutter their fragile wings trapped in a throat that finds it as difficult to swallow as Dad did during his last days.
It's an old story by now -- insert list of philosophers here -- about how the Gaze is a two-way street. How the object(ified) stares back. You read me and now many of you are sending in your condolence cards and messages with the inserted message: I read/see you crying and you made me cry. I know of this effect.
I sat right behind my mother on the front row during the funeral service at my childhood church, a church our family joined in 1969. Many of the attendees long knew my parents as stalwarts of the church. I think they, as much as I, were shocked when my mother crumpled into tears as the funeral service began to end. They had never seen either of my parents ... that way.
It's the fourth time I can remember ever seeing my mother cry.
And so as I wept, too, I stared as well at my mother weeping, then being held by my brother right next to her. I couldn't reach my hand to her back as I needed my hands to wipe away my tears. I didn't want others to see me cry because I was supposed to be the Strong One.
"Be strong for your mother," they whispered. Yes, but...
So many jokes and attempts at humor I made prior to the day of the funeral -- you witnessed some here on this blog. My time of tears was supposed to be over in time for the funeral. Others were supposed to cry, and I was supposed to be, by then, the Strong One.
Nothing prepares, nothing prepares, nothing prepares...for the finality of the casket's lid coming irrevocably down.
My body suddenly a toddler in a white lace dress suddenly clinging against my Dad's torso. My body a baby asking him to feed me sweet, sweet snacks. My body over his. The last whispered "You were the best, Daddy..." My body the last lifting away from him before the casket's lid irrevocably came down.
Nothing prepares. Nothing.
Friday, April 21, 2006
One of Moi's Peeps had written, "I hope you find solace in being there the last week of his life -- so often we don't get that -- just a phone call."
It is SO true that I was lucky to have had a week, actually two weeks, with Dad before he died. But what's interesting in sharing his dying is the profound effect.
I doubt that I'd be affected in the same way -- including as affected -- if I'd had just the phone call to bring me by his bedside just before he died.
Sharing in someone's dying -- no, let's put it as: Dying with someone -- changes you. It changed me.
Which is to say, I have to begin again in Poetry.
Or as Chris said about her own experience (and thanks for the good wishes, Chris), "Losing my mother several years ago was very hard, the stun of grief, as a form of learning-process, although unwelcome, did become a significant aspect of my life thereafter."
Starting over in Poetry: I suspect that Dad has given me yet another ... Gift.
Tomorrow will be Dad's Funeral.
DADDY WAS SHY
Last night, we had the first of three church services to send Dad off. I learned something new about my father from one of his oldest friends, someone who knew him before he married Mom. I learned that, as a young man, Dad was "shy".
Shy. The concept is so against the omniscience I'd once felt so long about him as my parent. For his family, Dad was dependable (a word that also came up frequently last night from not just family but his many friends). That dependability also always made me feel he was indestructible.
Deep within the grief is a form of rage at this betrayal: that gods are destructible. Of course I've long understood this matter intellectually but I'm facing it emotionally for the first time. I need more time to consider this: that it hurts to consider him human...which means, what, that the hurts I caused him really cut?
Meanwhile, another service for Dad tonight, then tomorrow the funeral.
Here is my father as a young man...when he was "shy":
Filamore Tabios, Sr.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
This morning, I woke up with laryngitis.
The Chatelaine turns her red eyes to her Peeps -- who, by the way, now number 70 million instead of a mere 7 million as these posts on Dad have generated the highest number of visits yet to the blog.
Peeps, she sez, that I have laryngitis means the Angels won in their battle to prevent my glorious bod from being inhabited by Dad's ghost. Because why would a ghost inhabit a body that wouldn't be able to speak out said ghost's concerns?
Cut to just about noon today with Mom calling the mortuary. My mom and I had been at the church since 10 a.m. The body was supposed to arrive at 10:30 a.m., giving us time to ready Dad for his "viewing" which officially opens at 1 p.m. From Mom's side of the conversation, I gleaned there's a slight mix-up: the mortuary folks thought the viewing starts this evening, and at one of the mortuary's viewing rooms, not Daddy's -- and my childhood -- church.
I took the phone from frazzled Mom and suddenly my voice was STRONG AND STRONGLY LITIGITIOUS as I reminded them of the right arrangement.
"Half hour," the mortuary person replied, "we'll be there in half an hour."
They were five minutes late but I didn't give them more grief as the 1 p.m. start to the viewing was really artificial. People are more likely to start showing up in late afternoon for the first of three church services for my Dad which doesn't start until 7 p.m. tonight.
But first, we decorated the coffin and Dad. Spreading out the flowers, photos and other funeral accouterments (a figurine of a carabao with children gamboling about it). Before they left, the mortuary folks helpfully showed where there's a drawer embedded into the coffin for more of Dad's doo-daas that he may need in the there-after. My Mom decided to put Dad's wallet in the drawer after she emptied out things that we may still need to settle his estate with the government, like his driver's license, Social Security card, and so on. Mom also emptied out a $20 bill.
"Oh, I feel so bad," Mom said as she watched my fingers deftly snatch the bill and tuck it into my jeans pocket. "Didn't your father have any money but that?"
Something didn't feel right. I watched Mom put back photos of the grandchildren into the wallet. Along with a World War II veterans card....
Hmmmm. Something didn't feel right.
"Mom," I said. "Let me see that wallet. There may be things still tucked into its folds that you're missing."
"Oh I checked everything," Mom protested, but handed the wallet over.
The thing with WWII (and other wars') vets whom I've met, I was thinking, is how they're always storing cans of SPAM or beans into their cupboard, squirreling them away "just in case."
Ah, hah! I thought as my fingers touched something. I pulled it out -- a hundred dollar bill. Hidden within the wallet's many folds for "just in case"!
"Hah!" I proclaimed to Mom as I tucked it next to the $20 in my jeans pocket.
Do I know my Daddy or do I know my Daddy?!!
And now I'm back home briefly blogging before I return to church. I returned to the internet to an email from one of Moi's Peeps. Apparently, he tested himself on THE DEATH CLOCK and said Clock determined he's already supposed to be dead.
Snort out orange juice. Whatta hoot.
Now, of course, this just means you shouldn't believe anything you read in the internet, right?
Right? Right, Right?
I say that thrice for emphasis because guess what I also discovered this morning as I was inserting a book cover of the brick into Dad's coffin? To wit, the Pastor turned to me and said about the book cover, "Oh, yes. That's on your web site..."
By web site, I immediately understood him to mean this blog (see upper left hand corner). The Pastor reads my blog.
Oy vey. The Pastor reads my blog!!!
Shocked, I said, "Oh, so, like, you know that's a persona, right? Right...?"
He didn't say anything....
So, Pastor Neil -- this is my blog persona and "Moi" is not really Eileen Tabios. Okay?
Anyway, one's gotta try...and she looks up glaring at the angels suddenly peeing down at her they are laughing so hard...
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
(--post for Anny)
DAGNABBIT! Sez the Skewy Wabbit! I knew Dad hates it when Moi spouts off obscenities!
So, now, here I am all chilled with a fever.
Filipinos (rather, certain Filipinos) know what this means. It means my body is shortly to be inhabited by the dead.
I already told Mom, "When you hear me blathering out blather, tell Dad to get the hell out of moi body!"
Sip. Orange juice.
I've seen possessed bodies, by the way. One of my early short stories ("Negros") was about such an incident. Published in Bamboo Ridge. Got read in Hawai'i Public Radio. I say all this not to brag but to emphasize, I've witnessed the dead possess the bodies of the still-living...and it's never been an aesthetically pleasing sight. The possessed usually end up, as I said in my short story, braying like goats.
Hmmm. Stubborn Old Goat -- wasn't that what I'd been calling Dad?
Okay. Bring it on.
Meanwhile, Sandy chimes up again (we Peeps with PhDs in parental after-death histories gotta stick together, I suppose), to wit, very helpfully sending over the link to THE DEATH CLOCK through which we may all anticipate when we all are gonna die. Gee--thanks, Sandy. As said CLOCK sez:
Welcome to the Death Clock(TM), the Internet's friendly reminder that life is slipping away... second by second. Like the hourglass of the Net, the Death Clock will remind you just how short life is.
Of course, I had to check my anticipated life on earth. It seems I'm not even going to last as long as Dad -- that the age 79 is my likely demise.
At first, I thought I wanted more just, uh, coz I generally WANT MORE. But then I realized this only means I get to flap those wings sooner. Okay. Whatever.
Bring it all on!
Ah-chooo! That is, AH- *)(^&%$#- CHOO!
Right after Dad died and before the mortuary sent someone to pick up the corpse at the hospice, Mom kept smoothing back Dad's hair from his brow and whispering something to him. At one point, I walked closer to nosily overhear. Mom was saying over and over again to my father, "Daddy. Now I know you're going to visit to check up on me now and then. Do me a favor, Daddy. Visit me if you want but please don't make a sound or otherwise let me know you're there. Because your ghost will startle me and just give me a heart attack. You don't want to do that, Daddy, do you? Visit if you must but please don't say anything, Dad. You know my heart is weak..."
That's a literal translation from the Ilokano, one of the Philippine languages. It's even more hilarious in Ilokano.
This morning, I heard the backyard gate make the sound it makes when it's being opened. Inexplicable since the gate is always locked and there's no one lurking about in the backyard. It's the same sound that my cousins then living in this house heard shortly after my Aunt, who'd also resided in this house, died. I didn't bother getting up from the sofa where I was reading a poetry book to review for Galatea Resurrects (a book that would not have gotten reviewed by me if I hadn't needed distraction in the breaks here between funeral plannings -- this, oh poets, is how you get poetry reviews; find a critic who needs a break from mourning a recently-departed loved one). Not even raising my eyes from the poetry before me, I simply yelled out towards the backyard, "Knock it off, Dad. You're not funny."
Fuck. Actually, Dad better not return as a ghost. If there's one thing that cuts through grief, it is the SUPREME IRRITATION at having to go through the dead's SUPREMELY MESSY files in order to process paperwork for the incredible bureaucracies related to dying (Social Security, insurance, accounts that need to be closed, blah di blah). Dad did not keep good files -- and it's REALLY PISSING ME OFF. Peeps, if you really love the people around you, be sure to update and straighten out your files before you die. Anyway, Dad better not return as a ghost -- having just returned from the Social Security office this morning, I can tell you I am in a mood to YELL at him.
Also from this morning, Michelle emailed this story: "When my grandfather died and the family was at the mortuary by ourselves, my aunt opened the other half of the coffin where my grandfather's feet were and they started removing his shoes. I asked my mom what that was about and she said they believe that if he's not wearing shoes he will not come back. The idea is if they do not want to take the journey by themselves they will come back to bring someone with them. Which of course has not stopped my grandfather from entering any of our dreams or visiting as it were."
Thanks Michelle. It's a timely message. Because another thing Mom forgot to drop off with the mortuary folks are a pair of Dad's shoes. We were going to bring said shoes to our childhood church where the body-viewing (viewing-of-the-body? whatever) begins tomorrow. Based on your story, I'm going to be sure that Dad's feet remains unshod.
Daddy, I love you but now that you're dead, just stay away. You want to stay away, Dad. You fucked up your files BADLY. *()(*_)(*$@@5 BADLY. And why return anyway just to learn that your daughter can utter obscenities?
Okay. 'Nuff of this shit.
Oh, wait -- just as I was wrapping up said shit, Sandy McIntosh emails in response to my prior post:
Thanks for blogging me, even (or especially) under the circumstances. And yes, I would have done something with the items you mention (and may still, unless you copyright them quickly). In Japan [from whence Sandy just returned] I began outlining a poem, "49 Guaranteed Ways To Escape Death." One of them will go something like:
Aunt Jane didn't believe in death. "You'll see. Just go up to the coffin and sprinkle water on his face. He'll wake right up. Take it from me, they always do."
So with your father dead on April 11th, and my father on April 10th, and my brother on April 9th, my calendar for April is filling up rapidly. Now (as I might say in my own poem): Only one person you know is allowed to die per day. After the 356th there will be no more death. Take care of yourself. There are always these absurd things that happen or that people say. My old cab-driving colleague told me that he and his mother went to a wake, and the first thing she said on viewing the deceased was, "My doesn't he look healthy!"
Still running around re funeral preparations. And based on his The After-Death History of My Mother, Sandy McIntosh probably would be able to poem-ize these two incidents had they happened to him.
1) Mom insisting we return to the mortuary where Dad's body awaits. She forgot to give the mortuary folks one of Dad's underwear. I observe that no one will know that Dad wouldn't be wearing underwear beneath his spankin' brand new suit. But Mom doesn't want Dad's ghost to complain about his freezing balls (the metaphor mine, not Mom's....and it is a given that Dad will return as a ghost).
2) Frazzled Mom showing me Dad's neatly-folded boxer shorts in her purse as we drive to mortuary. I say, "Geez, Mom. No bag to put the shorts in?" Nope. After we reach the mortuary, I stay in the car and wait for Mom. I don't want to witness Mom offering boxer shorts to the receptionist -- saying it's for a corpse that's scheduled to be dressed tomorrow.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Congratulations to the following recipients of Small Press Traffic's 2005 Books of the Year Awards, as chosen by SPT's Board of Directors:
John Yau’s ING GRISH (Saturnalia Press)
Aaron Kunin’s FOLDING RULER STAR (Fence Books)
David Larsen’s THE THORN (Faux Press)
Drew Gardner’s PETROLEUM HAT (Roof Books)
Juliana Spahr’s THIS CONNECTION OF EVERYBODY WITH LUNGS (UC Press)
The first four titles, btw, are available at Small Press Distribution, ever-worthy of your support.
When I began blogging, I didn't of course know where it would go. But I also had the thought that if, X years from now (whether that's 1 year or 3 years or 5 years or however some prolonged period defines itself), I was still being read by only or mostly the same people who read my blog on Day 1, then I would consider myself a "failed blogger."
So by failure here, I don't mean shutting down a blog but mean whether I'd come to create a "community" from people who previously were strangers.
If the same people who read me on day 1 of blogging -- my friends -- were still the same people reading me X years from now, then I failed. This was just my own personal blogging standard; some blogs do more deliberately limit themselves to their circle of acquaintances and I'm not privileging my approach to theirs.
But with this personal blogging standard, I'm thus doubly appreciative that people I haven't even met can feel -- rightly -- that they can send their condolences over Dad's death because, somehow, through the e-ether we'd forged a relationship through blogland.
Related to this issue is a note by Mark Young to his newest and latest poetry collection, episodes (xPress(ed), 2006)
A note of thanks to the following who have contributed, often unknowingly, in some way to the creation of these poems. // Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Michele Leggott, Jill Jones, Martin Edmond, Karri Kokko, Tom Beckett, Lauren Young, Jean Vengua, Eileen Tabios, Vincent Ponka, Kirsten Kaschock, PR Primeau, harry k. stammer, Sheila Murphy, Craig Freeman, Leevi Lehto, Didi Menendez, Bill Allegrezza, Ernesto Priego & Richard Lopez.
This note exemplifies how one can build a community in poetry blogland -- in Mark's case, I have never seen him display the pettiness and snarkiness ... and cruelty ... practiced by others. And I'm heartened that his approach also has facilitated his creativity. I look forward to his newest as I've consistently admired his prior efforts.
Mourning is something that makes one give special thanks for the blessings in one's life. Thanks to the poetry community I've found here (both old and new friends -- you all know who you are). Issues of canon formation, marginalization, who the hell is this poet who just won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, snark disguised as objective criticism, et al are simply small change in the value I find in the community we share.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Well fresh hell.
Which is to say, I'm in the midst of funeral preparations for Dad. And I gotta say that, so often while going through the process -- this grieving process -- I separated from my grieving self to observe the goings on. My conclusion? We, as a society (if you will), so fuck things up.
The fetishizations that we go through because we choose to be unthinking in grief. And the industries that spring up to take advantage of our weaknesses!
Like, we bought a new suit, shirt, kerchief, socks, etc for Dad to be buried in. Dad has several perfectly good suits and plenty of shirts. But my mother wanted to be sure he goes off *appropriately*. As I really did hear from Mom while growing up, There are people starving in India ("India" being as well _____--fill in the blank). At the department store, I at least was able to steer Mom to the sales racks even as I bit my tongue. Coz I'll be danged, but of course, if I was going to second-guess how Mom chooses to exercise her grief.
Then the mortuary where we chose coffin and various accouterments. One option (not chosen) was a coffin of polished slick mahogany with ebony insets -- ours for just under $14,000. Huh? Is that really necessary? Then the boxed set of funeral service programs at an outrageous price which I, as being somewhat aware of the printing bidness, knew must have have been an outrageous margin. Then the flowers and sateen banners -- all enjoying a mark-up because they're necessary for what society's been accustomed to as funeral arrangements. The tombstones -- granite options with various etched and inlaid designs at various price levels; granite, even though they won't last as long as the brass options because, aesthetically, granite offers more (expensive) options than brass. Outrageous hourly rates for transporting the body from the mortuary to our church and back to the cemetery. We even have to pay -- overtime because it's a weekend day -- the transporters for their time in attending the funeral service. Let me not forget the ridiculous prices the mortuary charges for buttoniers for the six pallbearers -- shit, I should have just gone to Dad's garden and snipped out some roses. But it's all part of the services the mortuary offered and Mom wasn't going to say No to anything. She even ordered an extra red rose and carnation spray to be pinned against the interior of the coffin lid that will be raised in order to show Dad's face.
Why do we do all go through this? This mortuary and burial business is humongous business. For what? And the trees are felled...
At one point, my brother caught my eye and whispered, "Now you know why I'm being cremated."
Uh, huh, I nodded -- and in that moment, I, too, realized that, yes, someday I also will be cremated, notwithstanding the existence of family plots (including one reserved for me). The whole burial thing is such an assault on the environment and simply, good taste, I thought as I watched Mr. Solicitous Mortuary Man tally the bill. Before I could continue my internal rant, my brother whispered again:
"This guy's father died and the father was cremated. To honor his father's request, the guy took his dad's ashes over to some cliff overlooking the ocean and emptied the urn. He was accompanied by his girlfriend. As they watched the ashes scatter from the strong breezes before drifting, as the father had desired, over onto the ocean's sparkling surface, the guy looked at his girlfriend and observed, 'Good thing the winds blew well for for Dad!'
"Then the guy concluded, 'I guess that was Dad's last blow job...'"
My brother. Sigh.
But I forget -- I should talk, right?
So Moi is blathering this week at Reb and Molly's No Tell Motel with poems I wrote about 8 years ago. I'd forgotten about them and stumbled onto the pack whilst cleaning out some files. Given their nature -- "poeticizing the blow job" -- I thought I'd send it over to that motel where lips are sealed. (I know, awful reverse pun.)
Interesting for me to see these poems since they're from such a different place. Then again, I leave each poem I write...hoping, however, to want to return to them as I would want to return to any poem I love, whether by me or someone else. These No Tell Motel poems -- I return to them and think at myself, Dang if chocolate-covered strawberries don't have a Dark Side...!
Sunday, April 16, 2006
I feel your hand on my shoulder,
the steel of your fingers guiding, and the light --
the light there -- right there, providing.
--from "Silver" by Lorna Dee Cervantes
Thanks to Lorna for her lovely poem; click on above link to see it in its entirety.
And it's true about what many say about "work" -- that it can be a great distraction. So, as regards my literary work, I'm standing up -- stretching -- and catching up with
--this re having added new titles to Review Copy List for Galatea Resurrects
--this re Cutbank (what wonderful company)
--this re Andrew Lundwall's wonderful chap klang
--this re Bay Area Poetics, Edited by Stephanie Young, with release party/reading scheduled for May 21, co-sponsored by New Yipes and SPT, to be held at 21 Grand in Oakland from 7-9.
--this re Pinoy Poetics getting into the Philippine embassy in the Netherlands
--this re Midwest Book Review's review of Menage a Trois With the 21st Century
--mailing out third inventory shipments for both Pinoy Poetics and The First Hay(na)ku Anthology to Meritage Press' distributor, Small Press Distribution....go out there, poems, and spread your love...!
and fondling the fresh-off-the-printer author's copy of my 2006 poetry collection, THE SECRET LIVES OF PUNCTUATIONS, VOL. I (xPress(ed), Espoo). Thanks to publisher Jukka-Pekka Kervinen. Interested in a copy? Let Moi know.
Gratitude to John Dunning whose fabulous book-hunter-cop series provided often necessary respite for me and Mom as we held vigil by Dad's bed. Speaking of which, my Books & Wine Update:
I LOVE ARTISTS: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge
UNDER THE WANDERER'S STAR, poems by Sigman Byrd
MORAINE, poems by Joanna Fuhrman
DO NOT AWAKEN THEM WITH HAMMERS, poems by Lidija Dimkovska, Trans. from the Macedonian by Ljubica Arsovksa & Peggy Reid
EMPLUMADA, poems by Lorna Dee Cervantes
A PANIC THAT CAN STILL COME UPON ME, poem by Peter Gizzi
THE STAMP OF CLASS: REFLECTIONS ON POETRY & SOCIAL CLASS, essays by Gary Lenhart
THE WRITING LIFE, essays by Annie Dillard
RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS, memoir by Beverly Donofrio
THE FACE OF POETRY, Edited by Jack Rogow with photographs by Margaretta K. Mitchell
LEARNING TO FLOAT, memoir by Lili Wright
THE BOOKMAN'S WAKE, novel by John Dunning
THE BOOKMAN'S PROMISE, novel by John Dunning
BOOKED TO DIE, novel by John Dunning
THE SIGN OF THE BOOK, novel by John Dunning
MIDNIGHT, novel by Dean Koontz
GOOD COMPANIONS, memoir by Eva Zistel
A YEAR OF SUNDAYS: TAKING THE PLUNGE (AND OUR CAT) TO EXPLORE EUROPE, memoir by Edward D. Webster
2001 Olivers Toranga HJ Reserve Shiraz
2003 Dutch Henry merlot
2002 Dutch Henry chardonnay
1998 Reverie cabernet
Joel Gott cabernet
Saturday, April 15, 2006
"a parent's death is intricate, majestic, fierce and demanding. what a collision of forces as one feels sad and angry and confused and guilty."
--one of Moi's Peeps
I wrote that poem yesterday (in prior post) where I'd imagined the sense of an old iron key cutting into my palm because a "chatelaine" is defined partly as a "keeper of keys" and, uh, the key to the wine cellar happens to be this huge iron key for a cellar door once used in a Loire Valley chateaux 300 years or so ago.
Well, I woke up this morning with a cut in my palm -- what did I dream and how did the dream cut into my flesh? If one is to hold -- treasure / preserve / protect -- the key, its revelations are painful...?
Meamwhile, my and my family's gratitude to all who've sent condolences, poems, poems, poems -- always, poems! -- and supportive messages as regards my father. Dios ti agngina.
I did wonder at one point whether I should have been blogging about my father dying. But then some of you said it was "helpful" -- that what was happening was about my father but also something quite relevant to your lives. So to those Friends, I hope my words have been as helpful to you as they have been as necessary to me. Yes, Death is universal...and relationships are so fragile. This, we all know, and share.
I'll return to Los Angeles this weekend to begin preparing for my father's funeral on Saturday, April 22, 2006.
I love you, Dad.
A Finnish poet writes to say about the poem's couplet --
To hurt is to
feel is to live.
The surprises that language contains. In Finnish, the word for "light" is "valo." Okay, but why did my ancestors use that word also when talking about pain?
Friday, April 14, 2006
THE GLASS CHATELAINE
Suddenly, the castle
is all glass--
the walls, the roofs
and all contained
within. In her glass
gown she glides
down the long hallway
until she reaches
Glass on glass:
face of invisibility.
as she drops a tear
she cannot see
but hears when
it fragments against
granite turned glass.
"Hearing is the last
sense to die."
But when her hand
falls to her side
and touches the key
hanging from her waist
she feels the harsh
grit of antique metal.
the gritty surface,
welcomes the bite
of rough iron
glass! O, how the hand
its own mind,
an Other for
As when you write
a poem on X, only
to say Y or Z or A.
The familiar path begets
the courage to raise
chin, then eyes
even as she dreads
another glass reflection.
Still not her face.
but what skids the mind
is her father's flesh.
His lips move
to promise, "You
will never crack."
Suddenly, the castle
is again of stone,
warm against her
bare, non-glass feet.
Wooden doors open
along the hallway,
a dog or cat--
happy eyes and oh-so-pink
tongues amidst furs
as warm as red velvet
and her father's gaze.
My turn, she thinks
with her glass brain.
To hurt is to
feel is to live.
My turn, she thinks.
She thinks, My turn!
The thorn-ridden stem
grows into a rose.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
"What am I missing?"
At one point, the Poem took over and suggested its form: a prose poem with 100 sections. Dad looked at that Poem and snorted.
"I'll tell you the form," Dad told the Poem.
The Poem clenched its wingtip to punch Dad, then decided to let it go.
"Whatever you say, Papa," this compassionate Poem said. "Whatever you say."
This is the 102nd section.
"What am I missing?"
I took a shower and returned to the hospital where its bureaucrats have won. Notwithstanding how near death Dad supposedly is, they're going to transfer him to a hospice in Long Beach. It is disruptive -- painful -- to Dad's condition to move him.
At the hospice, it will not be a private room, which made my Mom distressed.
"I'll pay," she said. Plaintively. "I'll pay for the extra space in that double room so that my husband can have his own space in which to die."
Death is death and yet we the living all still conspire to have created and continue to support a society that increases the cruelty of dying.
The hospice center has a waiting list and so could not accommodate our family's request. Fortunately, we will later discover that the other occupant of double room still had not arrived, so that our family was able to retain its privacy there.
I followed the ambulance service's two staffers -- such young, fresh-faced staffers -- as they wheeled my father down from the hospital room to their van.
"Now, behave yourself," I admonished Dad who hasn't moved of his own accord in nearly two weeks. "Don't give these kids a hard time as they bring you to the hospice."
The "kids" laughed. My mother smiled.
I was glad to see my mother smile.
As it turned out, we were glad we moved Dad from the hospital's institutional setting to the hospice. Lovely, warm people who specialized in this service. And the hospice itself was set up as a house, "a home instead of an institution," said the director Yvonne.
It wasn't just set up as a house, but like my parents' house! Which is to say (forgive me Mom and Dad), garishly decorated with all sorts of tchotchkes. And, as I noted to Dad as we opened the window to his room, "Look out there, Dad. The yard is exactly like yours at home!"
Dad, in his retirement, had become quite the gardener.
"Look!" my Mom and I said in sincere excitement. "They even have the same plants as yours: a banana tree, bougainvillea bushes, a bird of paradise flowering right in front of your window!"
When he was still able to speak, my father had insisted frequently throughout his stay in the hospital, "I want to go home, I want to go home."
He could not go home to the house he shared with Mom as my 75-year-old mother was in no position to be a caregiver, even with the anticipated help of visiting nurses.
With hindsight, I think Dad might have thought he did finally leave the hospital and returned home since the hospice was set up so similarly to the house he'd lived in for the past 30 years.
So many days of groaning out, "I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to go home."
Poetry can take you to so many unexpected and wondrous places -- if you let it. If you hang loose. For poetry, I've found it very easy to be a loose woman (pun intended). In this way have I experienced its benefits -- including meeting wonderful contemporary poets in Finland. One emailed:
The Finnish word for "home" is "koti." It derives from the ancient word "kota" which, for instance, the Lapps, or Native Finns, used to call their make-shift homes. Think tee-pee, and you got it. In this sense, home is where you set up for the night. Home is where you light up a fire to keep you warm and to cook your food. Home is about survival and, thus, keeping death at a distance. So, for the Lapps, or any nomad people, home was not real estate, something you built for eternity. Home, then, was only temporary.
Before we left the hospital, a cousin arrived to see Dad. Since Dad couldn't speak to her, she spoke to me. We marveled at how Dad was still alive.
My cousin said, "Sometimes, people take a long time to die because they're afraid.
"Or because they feel they need to say one last thing that they had not yet been able to address."
"Or because they're waiting for someone."
"Ah," I said, relishing the thought I'd kept spooling through my mind these past days. "Like how he couldn't die until we'd seen each other...and reconciled."
Then I went over to Dad's bedside, looked at him, and said as if I knew what I was talking about, "Dad, you know there's no reason to be afraid of death? It's all okay from now on..."
Grunt. Or did I imagine the grunt? Anyway, another Pause.
I smoothed his already very smoothened hair back from his forehead. What am I missing?
"Dad," I said to his (I hoped, still) stubbornly listening ear, "Is there something you want to say? Is that why you're hanging on? What is it, Dad? What do you want to say?"
By the time we settled Dad into his room in the hospice, it was about 2 p.m. I thought of my mother's waning strength and thought to look for food. At Yvonne's suggestion, we ordered take-out Chinese as that would allow me to remain with my parents.
Mom and I continued to chat cheerful nonsense at Dad as we waited for the delivery person. Every so often, one of us would reach over and touch him, kiss him. After the food was delivered and as we placed out styrofoam plates, cupboard containers and soda cans on a desk by Dad's bed, I listed each item that we were taking out of the delivery bag.
"Dad, let's eat," I said. "Remember that 80% of taste relates to smell -- I learned that from wine tasting. So you can smell the food and, through your nose, join us as we eat."
It wasn't until the first bite that I realized how absolutely ravenous I was. Fine, I thought. I'd eat enough for me and Dad.
I ate and ate and ate. What is it with this life force!?! And as we ate, Mom and I chatted and chatted and chatted, still including Dad here and there with various comments. The food and conversation ended with the topic of what Mom would do next once Dad dies.
I did something I had not expected I would do (I would ever do). But as soon as I did it, it felt absolutely RIGHT. I invited her [what frisson in my fingertips as I type this, so unexpected was this move!] to move into my home with me and my husband. For the rest of her life.
Whatever love-hate relationship I have with my father is nothing compared to my relationship with my mother. Still, my invitation felt absolutely right. No follow-up mental shudder. Indeed, after I offered my invitation, I felt ... glad. Glad.
But to my utter shock -- since I also thought this was something of absolutely zero interest to my mother -- Mom looked up from her plate of dwindling fried rice, offered a small smile, and said tentatively, "...Okay."
Utter shock. Which I hid diplomatically by chumping on my third of the largest pork dumplings I've ever seen.
I swallowed, then followed up, "That's great, Mom. Great."
Great. Great! I meant it sincerely: great!
After our meal, we cleaned up so I could bring the leftovers back to their house. I thought I would sleep at the house and return to the hospice in the morning. Just before leaving, I looked back at my Dad. He looked quite peaceful.
I reached over and touched his right foot under the blankets. Squeezing his foot, I said, "Bye for now, Dad. I'll see you tomorrow morning."
I walked out of his room, happy with the peaceful expression on his face.
It took me about half an hour to return to my parents house. As soon as I walked through the door, the phone rang. It was about 4 p.m. I picked it up. It was my oldest brother. He informed me, "Dad's expired."
My father is dead.
This was my father's last meal. He shared it with his wife and daughter:
Sauteed mushroom and sauteed bamboo slices.
"What am I missing?"
Mom didn't discover that my father was dead until about 10 minutes after I departed from the hospice.
But I think he died while I was still in his room. Belatedly, I realized that, along with the peaceful expression on his face, his chest had been still when I last looked at him. While my father was still alive, his chest rose up and down noticeably as his breathing was labored.
Dad -- who always wanted to take care of his family.
Dad, the quintessential Family Man. He couldn't let himself die, I thought, until he confirmed that my mother would be fine. My mother is physically and psychologically fragile, unable to drive, and ever-perturbed by technology (with, for instance, so many relatives having programmed her cell phone to no avail; nor can she ever master how to retrieve phone messages).
The last sense to diminish is hearing. A cousin had told me, "Sometimes, the dying can hear until literally their last breath."
Mom and Dad just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Throughout most of my Mom's life, she'd been able to depend on Dad.
Dad heard that Mom would be taken cared of -- that I would take care of her. And so he allowed himself to stop suffering: he allowed himself to stop living.
Stubborn old goat. He always insisted I am bigger than I thought myself to be. I articulate this as it feels strange -- and yet it is true:
I look forward to welcoming Mom in my home. Home.
Home, like Poetry, is ever in flux. Ever ready to be redefined.
Dad is dead.
Filamore Tabios, Sr.
We are all complicated. So complicated.
Poets -- wait till you meet my mother. At the next poetry reading, Poets.
This is the verse my mother chose to be inscribed on the program for his funeral services:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, not height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
--Romans 8, 38-39
Long live my father.
Daddy is dead.
Daddy is dead.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
I'm alone in my parents' house this morning. Too restless to catch up on sleep. I sit here typing. "Laughing." "Exhausted laughter."
No one hears me but the fallen angels who accompanied me to L.A. Always a poker game being dealt by dirty wingtips in the right corner of any room I enter.
So. Laughing exhausted laughter. As soon as I arrived in L.A., I went to the hospital. I've spent the last two nights next to Dad's bedside.
I desperately need a shower.
He is supposed to be dead by now. He's making idiots of the doctors and nurses who've all foretold his death by yesterday or the day before yesterday. One nurse whispered to me last night, "He's not going to last until morning. Based on my 17 years of experience in oncology, he'll go tonight."
Morning. He's still alive.
The last sense to go, according to another nurse, is hearing. So I think Dad overheard some of the discussions over what I've been thinking off as "the logistics of demise" -- how long he can stay in the hospital once all medical treatment stops, the possibilities of nursing homes, et al. I think Dad overheard this necessary discussion and got pissed off. And now he's clinging on as hard as he can.
Because the longer he lives, the more complicated becomes the logistics of his care. The hospital needs his bed. Nursing care facilities are reluctant to take him because of his infections. A Social Worker tried to persuade my mother to take him home yesterday. Awaiting death is not something covered by health insurance. In my mind, I heard Dad think, "Fuck you all. I'm going to hang on."
Because, really, if Dad just went now, it would obviate this bureaucratic wrangling that has begun.
I listened and observed. And I thought, Good for you, Dad. Do whatever you want. Hang on if you want.
Stubborn old goat, I thought. Then I leaned over Daddy, smoothed back his hair and said out loud to his stubbornly-hearing ear, "You stubborn old goat."
When I left the hospital for some rest in my parents house, I laughed at my dying Dad and said, "Diva Dad. You, Diva Dad. You go, Diva Dad."
Last night, knowing he still might be able to hear, I read to him from St. John's Gospel. I read through the end of Chapter 6, a chapter that ends by mentioning the name of Judas Iscariot.
I interrupted St. John to tell Dad the humongous news of last week: how we've discovered the Gospel of Judas (Elaine Pagels, author of THE GNOSTIC GOSPELS and now in the news over this historic event, was my religion professor at Barnard College). The text reveals that Judas, contrary to his centuries-long reputation, is not, after all, a traitor, but perhaps the greatest of Jesus' 12 disciples. The greatest disciple because, by betraying Jesus Christ, Judas allowed the Son (I first typed "Song") of God to release himself from the constraints of his human body.
I belabored the obvious to Dad, "Constraints of the mortal condition -- that seems apt to learn given what's happening to you, eh Daddy?"
My husband said he'd heard that 90% of health care costs are due to the last 30 days of a person's life. We're not sure about the statistic, but technological progress and demographic trends bear out the impact. Basically, medical technology has progressed such that people are living longer but inefficient health care systems are impeding the population's ability to receive technology's benefits:
Medicine in the United States is enjoying a surge of innovation and creativity that promises continuing improvements in everyday life for millions of people - but it is being thwarted by federal and state health care systems incapable of delivering those improvements fairly and consistently to much of the American public. To be blunt, Americans are living with first-rate medicine and a third-rate health care system. And the problem is getting worse instead of better.
Mostly, over the past two nights by Dad's bedside, I just repeated and repeated and repeated as I smoothed back his hair, massaged his brow, caressed his two eyebrows and that one white hair on his right eyebrow,
"Daddy, I love you. I love you, Dad. It's Eileen, your favorite daughter [he only has one daughter] -- I love you, Dad. You were [shit, I thought and quickly edited to "are"] a good father. I love you, Dad. This is Eileen, your Eileen-doting [diminutive endearment from when I was a little girl]. I'll always be here for you. I love you, Dad. You are a great Dad. Here -- let me massage your ears...
I love you, Dad."
St. John reminded of the importance of Word. Hearing is the last sense to go.
The amount of garbage due to Dad's treatment is incredible. Everyone is required to wear gloves, gowns and masks if they approach Dad. A nurse might be exposed for 3 seconds to Dad as she only needs to give an injection. But that still unwrinkled paper gown goes immediately into the garbage.
They clear out the garbage perhaps 4 times a day from Dad's room, and much of it are these disposable items. I cringe over thinking of the infinite amount of plastic containers generated in health care. My Garbage Project had reminded me of the near-impossibility for plastic to degrade.
One nurse whispered to me, "I collect the disposable stethoscopes, you know. I clean them up and then send them over to ______ [a third world country] where they are used over and over again."
Notwithstanding my cold, I don't bother masking myself before my father. I can't worsen his health. And if ever there's a time for no more masks or barriers between us...
The doctor who'd attended to Dad this weekend, surprised by how Dad continues to live, said that shortly after taking him off all medications, they learnt that Dad's heart is stronger than anyone realized.
His heart is prolonging his life.
Yes, I thought at them all, Dad has a huge heart.
Enough is enough. When I return to the hospital later, I know that Dad will still be alive. Stubborn old goat. I plan to have a chat with his still-listening ear. I plan to say,
Dad, I love you. But it's time for you to die.
The mind skids. How dare I suggest to someone else when death is due. How dare I suggest that to my father!
Suddenly, I feel myself no different from that Kaiser hospital that discharged Dad prematurely, such that he ended up in another hospital branch's emergency room. They'd discharged him in part by following some paper guideline (Medicaid, I think).
Theory is always subject to reality. A guideline is a guideline, not a rule to impose.
Yet here I am believing that it's Dad's time to die as if I know.
What am I missing?
The longer Dad prolongs his dying, the more his loved ones suffer. I know Dad would want to protect those he loves. So what am I missing here?
What am I missing?
Dad's hospital room overlooks a parking lot. But he doesn't know that since he's on the 4th floor. Instead, he only sees the top of a tree rising from said parking lot.
I frequently repeat to him, "Look out there, Dad. It's a pine tree. Just like the pine trees of Baguio City."
Or rather, the pine trees of Baguio City before this mountain resort city in the Philippines became overdeveloped and polluted.
For Dad and me, Homeland ceased to exist years ago.
Yet it seems that dying, too, is a way home.
What's ridiculous about the notion of "home" is how it's often romanticized as someplace warm and welcoming. The terrain of Home is often harrowing, brutal, harsh...the spots of warm welcomes are oases, but often exceptions to its terrain. That is Home, as I have discovered it.
I returned to a home that I thought no longer existed. I rediscovered its existence because Dad is dying.
I'm glad. I feel blessed for having this chance to return. But as I once wrote in a poem, "Everything costs."
Sunday, April 09, 2006
While I was away, my husband hung a new painting in the dining room -- "Soo D'ouden Songen, Soo Pypen de Jongen" attributed to Adriaen Brouwer. I think the Dutch title translates to something that means "Children learn their bad habits from their parents."
But, the good habits, too.
Dad taught me perseverance -- helpful in poetry, and on behalf of those you love.
I keep remembering stray incidents of him helping out the family. How, once, I was in the car with him following my brother somewhere. We got off the freeway onto an exit ramp that ascended. For some reason, my brother's car engine failed and he stopped and started slipping back. Dad swiftly moved his car's front bumper up against my brother's back bumper. Then, gently, firmly, insistently -- he nudged my brother's car up the difficult exit ramp and into safety.
In the less than 24 hours that I am home, I catch up with work. I finish work on the first book I'll publish this year, Ernesto Priego's NOT EVEN DOGS. I format several reviews sent in for Galatea Resurrects' next issue. I add new titles to the list of GR's available review copies...
Which is to say, I thought my last vestiges of vanity died last week as I hovered over Dad's bedside. But this morning, I woke up to a new white hair on my forehead -- I plucked it out. I plucked it out vehemently! What is it with this life-force?
What is it with this life-force?
I am having trouble remembering anything that caused tension between me and my father. But I do recall that, generally, it all began when I ceased being a child. When I started to become a woman. When I began to reveal myself as a sexual being.
What is it with sexuality? This life-force?
When the kind nurses joked with Dad last week, they often reverted to flirting: "Hoy, Tatang -- it's your girlfriend coming," one peroxide-blonde crooned as she walked into the room. "Are you ready to boogie?"
Does it have to be so difficult for a man to see his daughter leave childhood? To become an adult? A sexual being? Whole?
He so wanted to take care of me. But I wanted -- needed -- to learn how to take care of myself.
Separation is an art. We both mucked it up.
Dad will be buried in a coffin. Loved ones often insert little souvenirs or remembrances in the coffin. I plan to insert in his coffin a book cover to my longest book, ENGLISH. Maybe he'll find more affinity with my poems in the next life.
I thought to insert the entire book. But ENGLISH is a 504-page brick. I don't want to weigh him down with my poetry -- just invite him to it.
What is this that I am writing? Is this a poem? If so, then these words form "lines"?
If lines, definitely written by my body on my body. But lines like those cut by the troubled on their skin in order to divert away from the real pain. About 2 million Americans, nearly all female, are thought to be afflicted with cutting, self-mutilation as a balm for pain and anxiety.
"Self-mutilation" as poetics? Amateur-hour, I think, then wonder at my lack of compassion.
But, where is the rapture?
So many poems I've written. So many poems clamoring within to get out. What futility. I am so unnecessary to Poetry.
For instance, from one of the greatest secrets in contemporary Poetry:
let us return to the problem of the missing. in every case and for every individual it is different. for example, there are the missing sequences. a series of steps on the road to life that are somehow bypassed. we may replace them with markers called "demons" or "space." it was soon after breakfast and the light was failing; i remember that. the computer provides a convenient container for such markers. in the absence of stimuli the screen seems luminous and sexy. it may also be that the brain cells have given in to previous remembrances, nostalgia, madness. or simply, it followed a set of tracks into the distance. it seems perfectly logical on the one hand, but there is an other who watches it all slip by without comment.
Beautiful -- and I did not write it.
But my father had only one daughter.
Had only one daughter? Note to self: not "had" but "has" -- he's not dead yet, you dimwit.
My father is difficult.
My mother is difficult.
I am difficult.
Daddy's death has taught me how, from hereon, I can live with my mother easily.
A poet emails:
"Not more than a hundred years ago, April truly was the most hated of months up here in the North. There was no food left from the previous summer, and people died of hunger. The cruel irony of it being that everybody knew help was only a few weeks away when new life started sprouting from the earth. The cavalry was on its way, but would you be able hold on for just a few more days? And, with only a few rotten potatos to share, how would you devide them between the family? Who gets to put on one's funeral suit and who gets to wear it? Then again, April's just a month. It hath no dominion over us because it cannot stop the time. The effort's there, but no, won't happen."
Synchronicity -- my most recent poetry review was of TRANSITORY, Jane Augustine's account of her daughter-in-law dying from cancer. In that review, I'd posited that one can live forever through a poem. But I, as the reader, could say that of Jane's daughter. As the author writing this poem for my father, this result is beyond my control.
I want my father immortal -- hell, we finally like each other!
I want my father immortal, but that's beyond my control.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Returned home to Napa this morning. As soon as we walked into the house, the phone rang. My brother confirmed that all medical treatment has been suspended for Dad and he's now just on pain medication and other treatments to make him as comfortable as possible. The focus next is to find the best hospice care facility for him.
Cut to this afternoon. Phone call. Dad's deteriorating faster than I expected. He may go before he's even transferred out of the hospital.
I return to Los Angeles tomorrow.
This cruel month -- so unrelenting.
I forced myself to face it -- this time, I will return to Los Angeles with an outfit for a funeral.
The same dark pantsuit I wore to my younger brother's funeral just six months ago.
But for my brother, I wore a dark blue blouse, its somberness appropriate for how I thought his life was cut off prematurely at age 43.
For my father, I will wear a red blouse to celebrate life. If he dies soon (note to self: you're still writing "if", not "when"), he will die just short of his 82nd birthday. He has had a long, fulfilling life, notwithstanding the idiocy of his prodigal daughter. Notwithstanding his own flaws. A long, fulfilling life.
Dad is not in pain anymore. I grabbed and hold on to that most important detail.
He's not in pain anymore and, for some reason, neither am I.
Fuck you, April.
Calmness before the storm. Oh, fuck you, April -- bring it on.
I reveal this secret to "You": after one embraces the sun, ice in veins.
Fuck you, April.
$300 roundtrip airfare just to do laundry at home?
Fuck you, April.
But the dogs and cats are happy to see me. They have missed me. Ultimately, $300 is cheap for my overnight stay with them. Fuck you, April, as a dog lovingly pants behind me while a cat purrs by my ankles.
That I return tomorrow is not bad news, you would-be-cruel month. What would have been cruel is if my Dad had continued his somnolence for a prolonged period of time. If he's deteriorating rapidly, it's because he wishes not to prolong his family's suffering. So fuck you, April.
Ice in my veins -- I have embraced the sun. I stare you in your dumb eyes, April. I stare you down.
Cruelty is realizing the significance of my father confusing my name with the word "pain." He is the one who gave me one painless day for a lucid rapprochement, a lucid exchange. He is the one who prolonged his suffering to give his idiot daughter time to erase nearly 30 years of absence. He suffered to give me that day, then suffered to give me a week of touching his body and crooning my nonsense in order to allow me advance healing from his death. So fuck you April who think yourself cruel. Dad bested you. Dad bested you.
A poet emails me, "Your parents' 50th anniversary deserves congratulations, even if your father is not aware of it. (My parents made it to 49 years and almost 6 months.)"
Thank you, Poet. And that's right, April. My father made it to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary. I gave him a goddamn card, goddamit. So fuck you, April.
A Finnish poet offered succor, and noted about my name, "The Finnish affectionate forms could be either Eily or Eileeny. (Or Aili, Aila or Ailiina (all proper Finnish female names), with the "Ai" pronounced as "Ei" (as in "eye")."
I am eye-ing you, April. Fuck you.
Tomorrow, Los Angeles.
Friday, April 07, 2006
My niece said, "You're the one with all the books and five million poems."
And I am also the poet unable to write verse for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. So I did what the majority of the population does -- I turned to one of capitalism's debris; I turned to Hallmark and Company, in this case, American Greetings.
I finally realize the role of factory-made greeting cards. They're not for saying something -- they're for plugging in the gap when one is unable to say something.
The 50th Wedding Anniversary Card. A white and cream embossed card. Blue ink that begins
FOR YOU MOM AND DAD
in curlicue script. The American Greetings card continues with a poem:
"CHILDREN DO NOT REALIZE"
Until we're grown,
we never know
or fully realize
how sweet and kind
our parents are,
how gentle and how wise,
we simply take for granted
from day to passing day
they make for us
in their own loving way...
But then we grow
and finally learn,
the way that children do,
how much their love
has really meant.
they've been too.
And so this comes
with all the thanks
you both deserve
For there aren't
two dearer parents
than the Ones
This Greeting's For!
WITH LOVE AND GRATITUDE ALWAYS
Geeeeeeez. Such sentimental drivel. But I -- the poet with "five million poems" -- couldn't muster anything better.
I don't want to write poems for the dying. I want to write poems for the living.
--a thought quickly followed by realizing my smallness as a poet.
Without his dentures, Dad was not able to articulate clearly the few times that he said something instead of groaning. He pronounced my name as "Ay-yean." He often uttered the phrase "Ayayay" when, it seemed, he was unable to enunciate the Ilocano word for pain which is "Anay."
By the time this week ended, his phrasings of "Ay-yean" and "Anay" rushed into each other so that my name eventually became a synonym for pain.
I have something in common with my mother. We can twitter nonsense for hours. I twittered at my Dad all day, not knowing what he understood. I twittered and twittered as I massaged his brow, his ears (I discovered -- we both discovered-- he loves ear massages), his shoulders, his ankles and his feet.
But he showed he did understand me once when I pretended to complain, "I can't believe you actually got me to lotion your bunions."
Weak cough approximating a laugh.
Then he returned to the embrace of his bleak, dark fog.
This morning, a young man who looked like he was 16 years old came to collect blood from my father. He tapped one vein after another, one already-purple bruise after another. He failed. A few hours later, an older technician was sent to accomplish the same thing. They needed to do a blood test if they were to perform today's scheduled surgery to insert a feeding tube into my father's stomach. I was relieved when the more experienced staffer managed to get the required syringe-ful of blood.
"You must be the go-to person for blood!" I twittered at her.
She smiled but didn"t respond.
I purchased my parents' wedding anniversary card at the supermarket nearest to my parents' house. Along with a bottle of aspirin.
My husband, brother, sister-in-law and nephew arrived in the late afternoon. I was happy he recognized my husband's appearance -- his "white son."
We were all happy he recognized his only grandson's appearance.
Then the hospital staff took him away for the surgery to insert a feeding tube into his stomach. As the operation would take about an hour, we went to a nearby restaurant for dinner.
Over dinner, I updated the family on Dad's status. I said that the doctors told me that it was premature to discuss preparations for his death while he is responding to the treatments for what are treatable, such as his various infections. And with the insertion of the stomach feeding tube, he will begin to receive nutrients and medicines. The doctors had suggested that we at least go through this process of seeing how he benefits from the procedure.
We returned from dinner to see Dad already settled back on his bed and sleeping. Since he seemed peaceful, we assumed that the operation went well and asked a nurse for confirmation. She replied, "The feeding tube was not inserted. They discovered he has three ulcers on his esophagus."
Three ulcers on his esophagus.
I was too tired to act out my anger -- no wonder he couldn't swallow and had been wracked with coughing. It wasn't just infection but ulcers! Which the prior hospital who'd prematurely discharged him didn't discover either. For six weeks, my father was in pain from this source discovered just today. On top of everything else...
No wonder he couldn't stand the "tumor" of the attempted feeding tube through the nose. And he must have doubly suffered whenever the nurses stuck tubes down his throat to suck out the built-up phlegm.
My brother, mother and I needed no further information to agree. It's time for hospice. Hospice means no more medical treatments -- no more jabbing at his body for blood, no more I.V. tubes, no more "physical therapy" defined merely as sitting up, no more breathing therapy followed by throat suctions. Hospice means only making the rest of his life as comfortable -- painless -- as possible.
My family agrees, It is time to let him die...in peace.
I had thought, when buying their anniversary card, that I would have the chance to read the American Greetings poem to my father. He never recovered sufficiently for me to read the words to him.
It's just as well, I thought as I merely handed the card to my mother, what humiliation for a poet with five million poems to revert to reading such sentimental drivel.
Of course I lied: I would have loved to humiliate myself for my father -- to read the most sentimental pap ever printed by a greeting card manufacturer. If I thought it would resuscitate him, I'd even begin writing S.O.S -- "similar ol' shit".
It's amazing, the family agreed. After weeks of anguished suffering, it's as if he recovered just to give his daughter one good day.
Daddy -- all the days this week, even as you slipped further into the abyss, were good days. Good days.
We gave the wedding anniversary card to my mother. She accepted it with much grace. She promised she would share it with Dad "later."
I return to my home tomorrow while the family prepares Dad for hospice. I go back to Los Angeles next weekend to spend more time with Dad. I canceled a May 15 poetry reading in New York. A person doesn't die right away just because s/he reverts to hospice.
Of course, I will go back to Los Angeles earlier than next Sunday...if something happens...
I thought, "Bye, Dad" as I smoothed his brow and patted his hair. If he was aware of my touch, he gave no indication as he continued to sleep. I didn't mind the lack of acknowledgement. In his condition, sleep offered the most peace.
On his 50th Wedding Anniversary, I bade Farewell to my father. Dad. Daddy.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
My mother and I trade half-days staying by Dad's bed in the hospital. On my way home from one shift, I did some grocery shopping for Mom. Her shopping list:
milk -- she noted, "the small size"
chicken -- "a small one"
box of sugar -- "small size"
I don't want to know what it feels like to begin cooking as if one is already a widow.
Morphine. No more frequently than every two hours is advised. But today, they gave the morphine shot to Dad "early".
"Early" -- euphemism for Dad moaning for hours: "It hurts. It hurts. It hurts...."
It. When I asked Dad to specify "It" -- "where does it hurt, Dad?" -- he offers no specifics.
But the message is clear: the All of It hurts.
Blindness is not sufficient morphine for the eyes. To avoid horror, all senses must be dumb. You don't have to see horror -- you can feel it, hear it, taste it... I guess this means it's impossible to avoid horror for as long as one is alive.
I couldn't believe it. At one point during his deliriums, Dad started pleading for, "Ang Inay Ko", "My Mother", several times.
I couldn't believe it. Dad's long-dead mother is the most dour sourpuss of a person that I've ever met. Such power, this blood-tie!
A new doctor got on duty. He reviewed the files and again wanted to recommend the feeding tube through the nose. Again, the nurses tried. Dad again successfully flailed them off. No more "tumor" there, please!
Tomorrow, they will see if they can insert a feeding tube directly into his stomach. His white cell count has returned to normal and he may have recovered sufficiently with antibiotics to allow a new cut into his body.
With the feeding tube, he can be fed nutrients and also medicine that he's not been able to take for the past week.
The stomach feeding tube is the last option. Several times this week, he failed the "swallow test."
Dad's white cell count is now normal.
Tomorrow is my parents' 50th Wedding Anniversary. When I'd first arrived in Los Angeles and he was still lucid, I'd joked with him, "You should at least last to celebrate your 50th."
My brother picked up the morbid thread: "That's something to celebrate?"
Sunday family laughter.
Then the week unfolded into nightmare. The anniversary suddenly became ever more precious for the possibility it would not be celebrated. But now, his white cell count is normal, a feeding tube is scheduled to be set in place, and all of the immediate family will be by his bedside tomorrow.
Still, when a cousin asked how we'll celebrate their anniversary, I could only reply, "I don't know."
My father is alive but with a currently fragmented mind. His wife, his family, his wedding anniversary may be on a shard that's slipped away.
When I became a writer, my first short story involved my father and my childhood home. We lived in a house set atop a mountain in Baguio City. There was a balcony before the front door, from which scenic mountain views unveiled themselves.
In my first short story, my father stood atop a mountain, looking over an entire universe at his feet. His legs strong as trees. His hair black and thick. He stood on a mountain but was as tall as a mountain. And he was so strong there were no gods above him.
Today, I weigh more than my father.
Dad a shrunken bird calling for his long-dead sourpuss mother. Moaning from pain all day long as I said useless platitudes and endearments. How many times did I lie, "It'll be okay."
The nurses are mostly Filipina. That's good, because they all reverted to calling him "Tatang" or "Father" and otherwise speaking to him in Filipino languages. Through my grief and his weak waves at them in moments of lucidity, Daddy became everyone's father, and I their sister.
Even the usually silent woman in charge of mopping floors eventually addressed me after witnessing days of my helpless blather. She said, "You love your father."
The week is ending with that deep cut: a lack of recognition.
He is in too much pain to recognize anyone.
How much of living is spent from the desire to be acknowledged?
Once, today, he did pause his moans and whispered my name. The moment one second out of 24 hours of non-recognition. The moment a gem. Precious, but not enough for me.
Daddy whispered, "Eileen."
Elsewhere, my life unfolds with many blessings. My next poetry book is soon to be finished by the printer. Another poem is translated into Spanish. A painting I bought at auction simply because I liked it may not be by an anonymous artist after all but by a 16th century master (incredible!). Many poets email -- or blog -- their hugs.
I would have thought that I would find these blessings elsewhere surreal -- or unreal -- given how my world narrowed this week to a hospital room, my helpless father on a bed and I a daughter literally sickened by grief. I am surprised to discover these blessings still feel as real as my father's dying.
The blessings do not soothe me when I'm caressing the limbs of my father, trying to reach him through such a dense dense fog. But I do recognize these blessings exist and I am grateful for their existence.
This week has disrupted much of how I feel about Poetry.
My father on his deathbed is as magnificent as he was as a man in his prime, towering over the world, the sky his scarf, and no gods above him.
A human being may be measured by who chooses to be with him as he dies. My father was visited by many this week. More than one turned their visit into prayer services. One man sang an entire hymn to him.
A parent may be measured by who chooses to be with him as he dies. My father is surrounded by all of his family, even this most prodigal of daughters.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Nothing can prepare for your father looking right at you and seeing right through you.
I wondered if his life is going through his mind like an unwinding film spool. Every so often, he mentioned names from long-ago pasts. This afternoon, we realized that a now-dead younger sister meant much more to him than any of us knew. He kept uttering her name, or rather, her nickname:
Mameng, Mameng, Mameng...
I thought, If we didn't know Dad so loved his younger sister Mameng, what else do we not know about him?
This was disconcerting. I know how secrets work.
The nurse explained: Pneumonia isn't just bad. It's painful.
"It hurts to breathe."
It hurts to live.
Morphine. Morphine. Morphine.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
As soon as I walked into his hospital room this morning, he grabbed my hand and cried.
Cried, as if he'd not seen me in years. The memory loss not unusual for someone in his condition.
My mind an open wound.
He wasn't crying from the joy of seeing me, though he was glad -- ecstatic -- to see me.
He cried because, having forgotten I'd been by his bedside for three days, he was relieved -- and grateful -- that I showed up.
How did our relationship get to this point where my own father -- to whom I owe so much --could not feel my love to be guaranteed?
How did our relationship come to encompass so much loss?
The question is rhetorical. I know the answer -- but it is too painful for even a poem.
Pathetic poet. Years of training and discipline to get to the point of feeling one can write about anything and everything, only to learn next that the next lesson is what not to include in poems. It's not about censorship. Or lack of courage. It's about respect.
Respect. One of those items that responsible parents try to teach their children, but which ultimately cannot be taught. It's something whose primal nature each person needs to learn on their own.
Exhaustion. Not just my father, or my mother who is allowed to spend each night with him in his hospital room, her own fragile body stretched out across three non-ergonomic chairs.
My father exhausted the night nurses with whom he fought to avoid having a feeding tube plugged into his nose.
Dad won. Morning arrived with the "tumor" gone.
I thought, Good for you, Dad.
Today, the hospital accommodated my request from three days earlier: to feed my father through the painless I.V.
Once, I was a toddler in a white, lace-edged dress. I sat on his lap. We sat under a calamansi tree. The air was not polluted. Our birthland had not yet been hijacked by a dictator.
He chewed something. Then he fed that something to me. Like birds -- from his mouth to mine.
He loved to tell this story over and over again. He relished the utterly grossed-out "Yuuuuuck" the tale would emit from my adult lips.
Him feeding me like like Mama Bird as I perched on his knee. PInk-edged, white sateen ribbon threaded through my hair. This may not be an accurate picture, but it is my first memory. Him chewing my food, then feeding me.
As he moved in and out of one delusion after another -- a side-effect of the medicines inundating him -- I moved in and out of the bathroom. The day a series of crying jags whose jagged, harsh, guttural -- animal-like -- sounds I sought to keep to myself.
To grieve is to become pure animal.
And now I end the day sick, it seems, as I feel a cold tickling the back of my throat. This means, in part, that I may have to avoid seeing him tomorrow. He is too fragile to be exposed to someone with a simple cold -- his immune systems having been ravaged by cancer, pneumonia, a fungus in his lung and a brain infection.
If I suspend my visit, I wonder if it's to help him heal. Or would the temporary separation be for me: a reprieve from the regret that courses through me in his presence? That racks me over a bathroom sink trying to stifle the sound of helpless sobbing? Of helplessness?
How did our relationship come to encompass so much regret?
Intermittently throughout the day, I swabbed out his mouth with a small sponge. Then I would put Vaseline on his lips so that they don't dry out. But once, after Vaselining his lips, I suggested he press them together. "Like with lipstick," I said, recalling how women often press lips together after putting on fresh coats of lip coloring.
Unfortunately, Dad thought that meant I put lipstick on his lips. And for the next hour-and-a-half, my macho Dad and I traded the same two lines over and over:
Dad: Nooooooo, I do not like lipstick!
Eileen: Oh, okay! No more lipstick, Dad. No more lipstick!
For an hour-and-a-half as I beat myself up for creating a new source of stress for him whose short-term memory has degraded.
Idiot prodigal daughter. Of couse I won't stay away from the hospital tomorrow. Of course I will be there for him, even if it is simply to hover outside his room so that he at least will know that I am there, even if not able to approach his bed. Due to his weakened immune system, all visitors are supposed to be in gloves, masks and robes -- though the nurses had allowed me and my mother to forego such items. Now, I have to protect him from a cold disrespectful for its bad timing -- a cold that would be mere annoyance for most but deadly for him.
When he saw me this morning, he cried from relief that I showed up. I don't know how to accept -- to forgive -- myself for ever having placed my father in such a position.
There is nothing to forgive. He wasn't an easy man to live with. But everyone on death beds become angels. Love someone on a deathbed and that person can even become someone who has never sinned.
He and my mother took me shopping for winter clothes to bring to New York, just before I left them to attend college. My mother suggested what became my ski jacket. He looked at me as I tried it on. I overheard him whisper to Mom, "Shouldn't she get something longer to cover her butt? She will get cold with all that snow."
Regret is arguably the most corrosive acid I know.
What people say in their delirium are often accurate revelations about their character.
In delirium, Dad said to my hovering mother, "The children ...." and he paused to say each of my and my three brothers' names. "The children -- have they eaten?"
In delirium, Dad said, "I don't understand why she likes me."
I asked, "Who?" hoping for a name of some former Sweetheart with which I might later tease my mother who's desperate for relief, even comic relief.
Dad replied, "Yaya. I don't understand why she likes me."
Had Dad been a mischievous boy? And so I asked, "Did you like her?"
Dad, "Oh yes, I liked her, too!"
Then he would purse his lips as I imagined he must have done as a child when evincing pleasure.
I felt such immense gratitude for this long-gone "Yaya" or Nanny who once must have taken loving care of my father.
Again and again over the course of half an hour, Dad said, "I don't understand why she likes me."
And I would always reply, "Of course she liked, loved, you, Dad. You are a good person."
I am sick because I cannot delete nearly 30 years of absence into days, perhaps weeks, of cleaning his mouth, moisturizing his skin and lips, massaging his body, stroking his hair, scratching his nose when it itches.
How long has he lived with the thought that I might not even return to him even when he begins to die?
2:30 a.m. The only one in my parents' house. Sleeping on the couch. A house my parents moved to -- returned to -- just weeks before Dad ended up in the hospital. The same house my family moved to when we arrived in the United States 35 years ago. I was ten years old. Unable to sleep, I look around: the house is so so old.
When I first entered this house, I entered to face an off-season Thanksgiving dinner of turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy: "Welcome to your new country,"
I am alone tonight in this house. It is a familiar feeling. I have often been lonely in this country.
My first day with Dad was a good day -- the best day he'd had in weeks. Me gleefully spouting more than once to family members who'd been there with him for the past months: "Why -- this is not a dying man!"
Family members who delayed as much as they can their suggestion that I visit Dad. Family members who spent years witnessing the turmoils between us. Family members who are well aware of my incredibly pathetic uselessness by anyone's sick bed.
They mostly nodded or smiled silently when I kept pointing out how Dad's complexion had improved to a healthy blush, how his eyes were clear, how he understood all questions posed to him.
Yesterday was the second day -- a reality check. Breathing is intended to be effortless. Breathing is intended to be conducted in silence.
Yesterday a reality check. Are all "yesterdays" reality checks? End a morning with a conclusion: there is nothing noble about suffering.
A day of relapse, turmoil, agony -- nurses shooing me out of the room so they can do what they need to do without worrying about "witness collapse." I leave the room whenever the nurses suggest I do. A day of difficult breathing clearly articulated through the throat's emission of tortured, rattling sounds. The poet knows sound and meaning are not constrained by words dependent on a dictionary. Especially when dictionaries are always written by someone else.
To sound is inherently to mean. O, laboring laboring throat. Effortless breath is silent. Breath should be silent.
A one-hour moment of respite defined as a one-hour moment of painless lucidity. Was a day of suffering worth it for that one hour? For that moment of a shared gaze where mutual understanding prevailed and what was understood was unbroken love? All lives are redeemed by (a series of) singular moments. When does the in-between -- O, labor of breathing, breath should be silent -- exact too high a price?
I left the room whenever the nurses suggested I do. I was glad to spare my sight. It is during the second night on the couch when I wonder whether it would have been better to witness the particulars of difficulty so as to limit the imagination's definition of pain to what actually happened instead of what could have happened. To limit thoughts to a civil war instead of World War III.
Yesterday a difficult day with me instigating the insertion of a feeding tube through Dad's nose. That tube he had called a "tumor."
I am done with night as I type this. Not even 6 a.m. but I am now eager to return to the hospital to learn whether he successfully imbibed yesterday's dinner. If he didn't, I want that tumor out of Dad's nose as soon as possible.
Without a feeding tube, Dad cannot eat. He has not eaten for days, weeks. To eat is to live.
I belabor the obvious: no food, no life. I belabor the obvious to get closer to Dad's reality. I want to be inside his inside, not outside looking at him. But it's easy to want this when I am not yet in his hospital room. When I am miles away in the house through which he introduced me to a new country -- a new set of possibilities.
How ludicrous to think I want to know what he is going through as he lies on a hospital bed, when I was so easily shooed away by sympathetic nurses.
"I am determined to be stronger today"-- that is what I type.
How useless to articulate that intention. Everything else is small when facing the dying.
Yesterday ended with me reading emails from poets: I thank you all, though I cannot respond individually yet. One reminded me that I wrote this in a poem -- "Beginning Lucidity" (Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole):
I don't believe death is the final tenderness for death confirms the wisdom of choices that seek to exalt solitude. I overheard an old lady tell her companion: "One of the unexpected delights of parenthood is the reversal of being put to bed by a child." I have asked many among you whether I am naive to believe love need not be solipsistic. The man I love replied, No. So I have come this far to discover the beauty within a cloud chamber: the traces of intersecting trajectories. For the man I love quoted Emerson as he held me tight: "The health of the eye always demands a horizon. We are never tired so long as we can see far enough." I believe the man I love was telling me: "Do not fear the distance between physical objects. Learn how detachment includes.
A poet reminds: I wrote that. Yes, I did.
Okay, I wrote that by reading through sculptor Anne Truitt's words -- her journal as an artist -- under the license of artistic freedom. But I still chose to write that.
It is still a pretty paragraph. But I had no clue what it meant when I wrote it, and I was okay with not knowing of what I wrote. And I remain clueless as I reread it now -- in the recesses of my mind, I hear a sound that's alien: I hear my father laughing at me.
If my father is laughing at me, this would be the first time he has ever mocked me. It occurs to me that through all our past disagreements, he has never mocked me.
How to be a good parent: no matter what happens, never mock your child.
I want my father to mock me. You have to be alive to mock someone.
Through a day of pain and discomfort, I learned how easy it is to give comfort simply by touching him. I learned it, thankfully, early in the day when, looking at him thrashing about in his bed, I simply placed a palm against his forehead. Swiftly, he relaxed.
Soon, I couldn't keep myself from touching him. Soon, I was giving him a head massage, even as a stray curious finger kept roaming through his hair, looking for that rumored hole in his scalp through which, months back, surgeons had extracted a cancerous tumor atop his brain.
I lotioned his arms.
I lotioned his ankles. Such ugly feet. Ugly bunions. Bunions so ugly they have their own fable within our family mythology. I lotioned those bunions.
Bunions that grew in prominence from when he was a dandy bachelor with dandy shoes of black patent leather back in dandy days in the Philippines. I lotioned those most ugly of bunions.
Or perhaps my father was not being a vain dandy. Perhaps our family poverty didn't provide for much alternatives to ill-fitting shoes. But I prefer to think of my father wearing ill-fitting shoes because he wanted to look good. Those black patent leather -- fake leather? -- shoes his equivalent of the seven-inch heels I wore everyday for four years as a teenager because I thought Beauty required height.
Flying is easier than running at full speed on 7-inch heels over Columbia University's antique cobblestone walkways. I was a college freshman newly arrived from Southern California. I ran across campus on those heels as effortlessly as I breathed. Snow -- new to me, thus unaware of how it makes stone slippery. I flew as I ran on high heels over wet stone laughing at Winter. Clueless, but beautiful.
Beauty always exacts a price. But when shoes define beauty, their price is usually over-the-top. Imelda Marcos while a country collapses. Then my father's bunions. And me lotioning those ugly bunions.
I lotioned those bunions and suddenly realized: I was wrong all my life about one thing -- I am not necessarily useless by the sick bed. Yes, my Dears: All it takes is love.
is love: enough
to love even
with the bunion
go up. Time
now for wings
All it takes is innocence to fly. Which is to say, the dumb can fly. But it is still easier to fly if one is not dumb, particularly deliberately dumb. I know what happened here -- I am writing about my father's illness (make that, my father dying) and the matter becomes a poem. I am not comfortable with this result -- I allow it to stay because this result is me. But it is a result for which I feel some amount of self-loathing.
So much for that avowed seamlessness between poetry and life.
You keep challenging your faith -- that is a (my) poet's role. You have faith by continuing to challenge your faith.