Florida, State Your Name

You carry our secrets whispered into cardboard boxes tied tight with candycane twine
(That kind you find in old-time kosher bakeries.)
Tall cakes topped with buttercream flowers in new-fatigue green and suburban-Mustang blue whose
Stemless petals rise above yellow spongey layers with strawberries.
Pure as curbside snow. Pure as little girls with pinch pink cheeks.
Too early for my birthday the trail of a mistake runs upstairs from cheap paper doilies.
Pin striped suit coat and sea glass blue shirttails waving gooodbye, or hello,
(I never knew the difference.)
My hair twisted into a gilded fist as you push my resistance down,
Down into the drowned warped boards.
Raising my right hand, I swear you found a pushover:
A raggedy doll tape and bubble gum, of bare burlap, plaid, and buttons, of red yarn
Covering my torn skin where I stitch myself up and over
(And over to hold myself in again.)
A stray calico cat sits in the window right above your shoulder, startled by your loud heart.
I can still hear you slapping your thigh and then,
Distant laughter cries at your day-old jokes jokes and overtold stories.
Your hysterical, foul, scorn defers a look at me.
I hated you for that minute, then carrying on again I forget you already told me.

My face looks tired, uncooked, undone.
While white hot light sheds the palmetto scrub
Covering the non-natives invading our country- bright boisterously green parrots.
Which fly in on an uncommon flight schedule,
Catching a torrent of wind the turkey vultures wind into a tornado
Turning up higher and faster into the late afternoon rain.
Here, every shower comes in on time right at four.
Bursting open ladies with umbrellas, with daisy dresses, tulip capris, white rose tanks,
Waltzing by the front porch screen doors squeaking,
Slippery dimpled thighs sing together,
All sweet, easy, glide by leaving their perfume behind.
Then zipped into black patent leather hand bags powders, compacts,
Glossy rippled heat waves us in on a 45 degree right angle sun ray.
Show up the hidden mildewed sinews of ductwork,
And the hum of air conditioners masking our words.
Slowly dripping outside busy windows pelted by huge mosquitoes,
Or rain?
(Probably rain cries outside)
Only two minutes, like soft boiled eggs on timers,
Now done cooking. Her eyelashes, false
Newly bred widows sit with spidery eyes,
Single fingers silently making reservations for you.
They reapply the glue, so unkind, that damned humidity.

Never, never, never give up.*

Christmas 2017

In the spirit of enjoying my newly found power of living in the now, not over thinking my tasks or decisions too much, I find a listing worthy of our time and  instead of sitting home asking what to do and not doing much together, we decide it may be fun to head out to see a film. We drop our imaginary swords after a weekend of tension and melancholy leading up to today, Christmas Day.  After purchasing our tickets online, we slipped out of the garage with plenty of time to spare and without the usual tension causing any arguments. So without a hitch, we went out with a playful, familiar affection for one another.

I didn’t allow myself to over think what needed doing, and it all got done. I found myself grateful and comfortable as we drove the quiet holiday road, listening to Mozart. I am more home focused  these days as my current course of chemotherapy has caused my blood cell counts to decline. Compounding this, The C suffers from depression thats holds him locked in our house nearly  every day, sleeping more than he’s awake.

But tonight once he finished dressing, he smelled clean and crisp and looked really handsome and I told him so.  With patience he waited for me downstairs while I took a deliciously steamy hot shower, one of life’s little delicacies and a major privilege of living in a first world country. I dressed up a little bit for him, but for myself mostly.  As someone with gender altering breast cancer, I recommend it highly. If you don’t really feel like getting out into the public, dressing up and putting on a little makeup can help your inside rise to the occasion outside.  It doesn’t hurt, whether you have hair or not, gained or lost weight, became flat chested or had reconstruction, try it. I find needed confidence and The C says, babe, you look really hot. Grin. Blush. He playfully, but gently so as not to mar my transluscent skin, pinches my ass and impish grins and says, what? as I squeal “oh, don’t!” And we get moving to the film.

The Darkest Hour starring Gary Oldman, who by the way OWNED the role of Churchill, engaged us from beginning to closing credits. Big new bonus feature, there’s now reserved seating recliners to kick back and put your feet up in, leather ones, too.  My inner marketeer assumes this phenomenon arose from a study about what makes people stay home instead of going to the theater to see a film. My conjecture: the study found people dreaded mortgage size snack bills and horribly unsanitary cloth-covered, ass numbing seating, originally designed for the Spanish Inquisition’s torture chambers. I can just see the PowerPoint presentation designed to sell the plush, button operated gluteus maxims warming cuddle machines to the theater chains’ operations management. (PowerPoint brain IS akin to chemo brain. I suffered both and the similarities are uncanny.)

Anyway,  The Darkest Hour covers Winston Churchill’s first month to his wartime appointed Prime Ministership governing Great Britain. He’s refused to lead his nation into a seriously precarious position of becoming like France in an act tantamount to surrender. Indeed, he would have accepted this fate had he allowed former PM and war cabinet member Chamberlain’s cowardly and first choice for the prime ministership, Lord Havilland to drive a country into a state that neither man was strong enough to lead. It turns out Chamberlain had only months to live having been diagnosed with cancer.  Me. Havilland drove his agenda as well as the King’s and persuaded Churchill to allow a seat at a table for one, at the so-called peace treaty with Hitler via Mussolini. History would be changed forever, and for not only Great Britain, but for all of Europe. There’s a surprise mini arc in the action that I’ll not give away but you’ll know why if you see the film.

Prime Minister Mr. Churchill, ravaged by lack of sleep and terrible indecision, finds himself unable to conjure the words for a speech he must deliver to the House of Commons regarding the decision to fight or to act with cowardice and surrender.  In an impulsive move, he leaves his chauffeured car running into the station and takes a train, something he’s never done, to Westminster and goes, so to speak underground. There he finds strength through listening to people’s emotional cries of “victory!” in the train car. Men and women who rightly are stunned by the presence of the PM and who represent a cross section of his constituency. Churchill initially went underground looking for a match to light his cigar, but emerged into the rainy day not only with the light for his oral fixation secured but enlightenment for his immanent oration. He finds answers he needs in that moment without over thinking his decision, in the hearts and minds of his beloved nation’s people.

I won’t spoil the ending, but we all know how the US for five long years allowed the punishing of our strongest world ally. Roosevelt got the blinders off very late in the war. Yet Churchill gave many European people hope for a future not ruled by tyrants. Without the navy but with his inspiration his ability to launch an entire force of civilian boats, to rescue 300,000 troops – the entire British military force stranded on the coast of France – waiting for help from across the English Channel.  Those boats were not captained by soldiers, but by regular people brought together, finding strength and bravery from deep inside their hearts and souls. Such bravery exhibited on so many levels boggles the mind and I need more time to digest the strength employed by everyone involved from the King of England, to Churchill, to his wife, to his supporters, and to the boats men living up above the White Cliffs of Dover.

I get chills thinking of the scene. It’s not a film full of CGI or big blasts or comic superheroes or special effects. It’s all in a short time with small spaces containing big exhibits of strength and bravery. Churchill knew that bravery comes not only from a wellspring inside, but from the community with whom we share a common connection. In his case the whole of Britain, in my case a small subset of the blogosphere. 

I know I represent a small subset who communicate via blogs. Here I find the brave and the vulnerable and in turn, this frees me to shed my own fears.  When someone stumbles into a post or poem of mine, and finds my “confessions” supportive,  the support I need comes easily.

At the beginning of this circuitous confessional, I found strong brave ties to a man I never knew. My relatives emigrated to the United States via Ellis Island in New York.  I am here because my great grandparents had the forethought to safely move our families out of the USSR, away from the tyranny that would slaughter Jews by the hundreds of thousands. Because of their courage I never will know  the atrocities of a true bloody ground fought war on a grand scale or the ensuing post traumatic stress disorder of an entire nation.

But we all fight our own wars don’t we?

I feel like my body is a country, my cancer, Stalin and  Hitler (Shitler?), the ground troops like my immune system, and my spirit like Churchill himself. Never, never, never give up. Victory is the only option, cried Churchill to the House of Commons that afternoon. From that scene on a wide screen was another brave heart who imbued in my spirit the strength of the lion himself long gone to find the One universal truth. He showed us the wisdom to listen, not just orate beautiful monologues that drown out the strength of other men and women, be they big public figures or new mothers with babies or blue-collar bricklayers from London.

Or even the small voice of a blogger in Silicon Valley, echoing words into the great web of the unknown. Too much drama? Nah, #fuckcancer.

Home Ode

Stop and go in snow, in traffic, mother
Of course it’s the weather, noneother.
Midwestern December seasonal jokes –
As many as there’s names for Snow in Alaska,
Outcries and inside laughter.

Generously long routes, craning to savor day’s last light,
Good behavior rewarded, we finally turn right —
Towards the porch lit arms.
They wear glowing, wicks smoking, closed farms.
White, blue, red halos dripping, wax tendrils
Waning slowly, gasping on card crowded mantles.
But for one home, at once a sudden single
Moment and no more.
Staring, sending messages,
Minding the change. Her sharp, shrill voice calls:
I’m fine, no really fine, go worry about the environment.

Gulf side store-bought guilty cinnamon sweetness,
She’s now explaining,
(No patience anymore, as though you appreciated it?)
I change. I lay my gloves, toss my driving wet scarf
In the canyon eroded onto the old twin beds.
Returning, in a few moments all slippers and robes,
Old reruns of TV, family, historical arguments
Hidden in revisions and mistakes.
Taciturn remarks about topless cars,
About wild Mustangs and scorching scars.
Carbon, dating with all four on the floor.
Eternal dark hands latch white storm doors,
Snow pushed up on lawnless grounds.
Signs, wired ice knives — shattering, creaking, pointing down
Augers the night of Damocles, whose sword flashes
Screaming in the dark: stop, go, stop and go.

Spring brings black pitch tar steaming fill and rising streams.
He’s certain of the weather, again, I know.
When Minnesota blood runs south via the mouth
Of the Mississippi River byways and embankments,
The answer spits out as ice and precipitation.
The coin fed arcade witch or gypsy — your good fortune in hand.
Our God instructs with tiny gifts of anticipation,
And I, the torch of pain as a paper angel holds her wand
I sing of shame, tuning forks, and rabbit ears.
Why it’s so plainly true, your grin widens coldly, I suppose.
As a frightening hand clocks to and back a metronome,
Heavenly-made answer saves the wost worn.
How wrong, again, or all along, again.

Weather and evening corralled the horses inside.
Our engines idled, cooled, then died.
Suddenly yet expectantly (as ice or apple pie)
Boring holes in us with collapsible eyes —
Like summer left us in an awful rush,
So the bent boys gasped
As tall awkward girls cried.