Insomniac: Stage IV

Morning yawns and stretches its arms  
To part the curtains of night.
Tired midwife to light from
From her expectant horizon
The earth inches towards her morning.
Clean, cool fingers weave threads
Of sweet perfumed wisteria and more
Unnameable long forgotten blooms.
Clean and combed through dew damp air.
Buds nodding on their stems,
Draw blood from my veins with thorns
Like cat claws after a scare.

Suddenly clouds burst and showers fall
To save dry backyards and crops
Now cut away from the view unguarded
From natures reach over treetops.
Lost years and fences already raised
Desperate for mending and tattered.
Puddled earth evicts worried worms,
Plucked by late rising birds from their
Broken homes.

While in my solitary confinement,
Within an escapable white picket fenced
Yard, I wave farewell to school busses
And to the workers who clean up the world.
Alone to remember cubes and corners
Push pinned photos, plaques of platitudes,
Email boxes and bustling buildings
Where tight schedules and bright slides
Bore like radiation into the heads of
Departments of the thoughtless and benign.

My wooden porch now a port of call for
Rain long overdue for such late afternoons.
I’m stuck in an everlasting April spring day.
As sprinklers timed soak the lawn
The sun’s last rays motion with
Long, scolding fingers at
Now unknowable faded faces
Trapped like tonight’s fish for supper
In this morning’s papers.

Laid out on a communal table
Where wisdom and innocence
Convene to discuss the current
Events of still births and deaths.
Hands engaged with wild gestures
Waving forks and spoons for effect -
Interrupting pointless chatter to flatter
And cut meat from a fatted calf.
Everyone silenced by politeness,
Knifing right through the heart of the matter.

The evening’s news flickers
Behind the puffery of shades
Hiding shadow boxes inside windows.
Like a sober fly in a glass of whiskey
Wet wings legs spinning drowned
The hands of its god take it down.

I walk with solitude as she unwraps
Her arms thick with compassion
Beckoning me inside for consolation.
Using one wave to cast away
Anyone who might see me crying.
We sit together on a dark park bench
Watching every creature under suburban
Skies that all fit on a single broom stick.
If no one bothers then no one counts
Things yet unseen, like angels
Atop a pin head. Yet we must believe
That stars still sparkle until the dark unveils
Who’s home and left behind
To sing unearthly cries of grief.

Arched branches bow green
Soft leaves shake and flow
From willows left weeping
While night whispers to me:
Please save us all.
As the trees fade to black,
Wind whips at my face.
From the fringes, howls
Break into my mind.
I can no longer breathe
hidden and weak
In the between
With these heavier things.

The Way Home

Look from the sidewalk into this home with me as we casually stroll our neighborhood, walking off supper.

We’re wearing masks. Not the kind made of wool sparing our noses and ears from frostbite, but a necessary covering for our noses and mouths. Hold my hands. It’s chilly outside, yet our breath stays neatly tucked inside the cotton hand sewn white facial protection from this last years’ pandemic. Will it never end, I think, as you think, simultaneously. How right Jung really was: the psychological mechanism that transforms energy into a symbol beyond verbal explanation. The mask forever imagined as a representation of all things bad in this world of ours, yet the symbol of doing the right thing to protect ourselves, everyone really, from spending another year inside a pink bubble.

We stop and look at one wildly decorated house, just a block from home. It’s brighter every year. Out in front of the neighborhood show-offs – I’d swear I don’t recall the Santa’s sled pulled by eight reindeer lit brighter than Krakatoa upon their newly tiled roof last year. We gaze amazed by the amount of careful work her husband puts into their gaudy block blinding display year after year. His wife is healthy and kept news of her recent negative mammogram results from us until one of their teenagers slipped and told our son when she saw him at work at Trader Joe’s. He said he was happy for her but he felt like she was showing off like her mother was better than his somehow, and he hugs me and heads to grab his keys. He spends the night at his gender fluid partners house nearly every night now. It won’t be long before the feathers in the nest begin taking off in the winter wind – no need anymore. But my thoughts digress so easily these days don’t they?

The family sees us gawking at the red, green, gold, blue, silver, and energy efficient extravaganza replete with articulated waiving snow people (political correctness applies to snow sculpture, does it not? I make you laugh as I consider creating a phallus to stick on Frosty the Snowman to adjust his anatomically correctness. You wait and then look away from me, the unsightly scene, frown and say you’ll miss my laughter.) From inside near the fire and 12 foot fresh cut tree decorated in peacock colors, the ten of them wave at the two of us. They wave very vigorously, almost too happy. Too many people inside. Unsafe.

We near our own home, slightly darker than in years prior. There in the picture window, framed by white flocking and boughs of pine and LED bright white lights stands a family. How sad, we think as the woman looks slightly disheveled, her hair very short, purple circles under her eyes even visible from 200 feet away. They cannot see you. It’s dark outside and light inside. Don’t linger long.

It’s a usual sight, should one be an onlooker into a Norman Rockwell painting, except it’s cut, burned, and poisoned without any a big deal being made of it by the family serving the terrine of food. The green tree’s decorations not quite right to those people in the know – still the comments will come, “it looks great,” as you reluctantly send some phone photos to your friend across the county. It looks fine. Fine for someone whose lost the spigot out of which flowed her usual unstoppable, unwavering holiday energy due to cancer. Breast cancer. Very metastatic breast cancer.

In the window three people look at the tree. It’s slightly slanted to the right. The gifts, wrapped only in the paper and plastic bags in which they left the stores they were purchased or the postal service boxes in which they arrived, sit on the apron around the base of the fresh Douglas fir. The fluffy white skirt appears backwards even to a stranger looking in on the scene. She forgot how to arrange it at the bottom of the tree. And the tree’s scent is unusually faint to her this year. The sense of smell she once used to catch musty odors under a bathroom sink, or determine the right amount of cinnamon in a pie is no longer useful, no longer part of the five senses she once controlled. This year her nose missed the lack of nutmeg in the pot of apple cider. No one dares say a word. It might be her last pot so who can forsake her as they would have before the diagnosis.

You look harder and notice there’s only one car in the driveway where there were two before. There hangs a plain but fresh green wreath on the front door. No lights outside and only a few strands inside lighting the top half of the tree. The halfway point is a marker of sorts to the point at which she ran out of energy. There’s an envelope under the tree in a Manila envelope showing off scans brightly lit of her body like a Christmas tree. Stable disease as a gift to her son and husband this year.

And it’s these pictures we will look back upon next year to remind us we were either better or worse off then, now. But the untied apron strings of you and your reluctant teen sous chef who’d rather be on Instagram or Tiktok keep him held safe to your heart for a while longer. We never do know, so sad so true, how long it will be before those independent souls free themselves from the kitchen; yet he will always remember how you showed him to cook, every holiday when he recalls to his own family, “my mom showed me…” and you live longer than that day this year. That day recalled in the coming years ahead.

We look down at our path to the front door of our home. I hope to see many many more evenings like this one. Such tricky business – to create an image of life as we know it and symbols that we all can understand – and we pass the test, looking “good” having so much energy for someone who’s terminally ill. Yet it’s not for those of us who remember every year’s commentary on the beauty of the wrapping paper, the decorations on the tree, the scent of the combined dishes at the door to greet every visitor. This image painted from memory of better days, healthier times is merely that: a facsimile of those memories.

We know how different this years’ preparations, meal, and decorations are as we shift our weight from one foot to another, one arm to the other, fewer people but the love, the love, the love is all that really matters and all anyone remembers. All those “things” represent the love. And we are set free of the resolute duty of the ties which bind us to the responsibility of yet another year of stuffed stockings filled with love.

Wasn’t that always what we really meant anyway?

Community Born of Solitude

Maybe it’s the pressure of all the rain washing the clay away from the roots of the fir trees along the border of our land. Behind it, a horse trail runs parallel to the front of the house. Four weeks have passed since any horse and rider trotted by, leaving our cat with his head crooked to the right or the left, wondering just what the hell that big dog is doing carrying a person down the street. How undignified. He’s not seen a horse before. He’ll see one again.

It’s all about perspective. This entire global debacle, even from the cat’s point of view, indelibly changed the daily regimes of everyone, everywhere, with everything we do. Normally my writing calms me down. And it is. As I write these words my cracks that just began showing this week slowly begin to close, like a scar forming on an open wound. It’s not that I go out a lot during flu season anyway but the point is now that I can’t. Not that in any event I had to I still can’t.

My husband’s psychiatrists office was out and he was without medication adding to the super amounts of stress-ure (stress and pressure) on us. It’s been resolved and he’s better and stabilized. But it’s fallout that none of us suspected being told late in the second half of the game that we should get extra prescription medications. Our Walgreens was robbed twice by violent offenders who threatened the lives of two pharmacists in broad daylight to turn over the pain killers and opioids. I’m short 60 tablets as a result of not enough to fill up my entire prescription.

The cracks are showing. I suspect the months that will have ensued by the time COVID19 finishes raping, pillaging, and marauding our world, our scars individually and throughout entire counties and continents won’t soon fade. Like after a radical mastectomy.

Post traumatic stress disorder won’t spare a soul even in some small way.

Anyone who took advantage of others financially or emotionally or otherwise shall find a fresh form of hell that awaits them. Probably in this life, too, if you believe in that kind of thing. My take on karma is people who do terrible things walk this world looking back over their shoulders worried about what’s coming after them, rather than looking forward so as not to trip over something – missing fresh opportunities or stumbling over things in their paths and falling flat on their faces. Anything from small instigative acts like hoarding eggs up to exceedingly serious and life threatening acts of deception. Lies involving propaganda, and in this case concealment of the whole truth so everyone can prepare accordingly. I do not believe it’s as all bad as it was projected to be, albeit too late in the game to save New York. Sadly this virus carried by many who remain home without symptoms will be measured in numbers of the sick and the dead. This is the kind of thing I like to call “social treason.”

Social Treason

“Social” etymologically defined best on Wikipedia. Which makes sense because of the social input to the definitions themselves:

“Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary.” And treason, but in this case a phenomenon known by those fans of the inscrutable, infinitely quotable, late Douglas Adams as Somebody Else’s Problem, or SEP:

SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem. That’s what SEP means. Somebody Else’s Problem. The brain just edits it out, it’s like a blind spot.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams,

The books narrator explains:

The Somebody Else’s Problem field… relies on people’s natural predisposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain. If [he] had painted the mountain pink and erected a cheap and simple Somebody Else’s Problem field on it, then people would have walked past the mountain, round it, even over it, and simply never have noticed that the thing was there.

Ibid.

Sometimes we don’t want to see what may hurt us, and I think in the beginning of this coronavirus crisis in the United States we suffered from SEP. Now, realizing it’s our problem too, we are becoming depressed as a social organism called a “community.” People kidding themselves into thinking by hoarding toilet paper or hand sanitizer the resulting soft walls will provide m protection against what’s lurking on that head of lettuce they brought in their reusable bag from the green grocer.

We are alas, a global community. It’s a small blue planet. Some of the inhabitants may feel lonely and scared right now. Uncertainty is like SEP at times. But far more frightening than not seeing is overthinking what’s not known or not seen.

But I’ve seen so many good things happen too. Offers to go to the grocery for neighbors who are home bound. Seeing face masks for the medical workers abc grocery store workers and those deemed necessary for basic survival. And I read about people talking to one another, eating meals together, having walks with their spouses. Betcha there are a lot of babies born nine months from now.

I hope I’ll be around to see the upside of all this. I know it’s been difficult on us but also made my husband understand he can do way more than he thinks without me. Is it a good thing? I suppose a dry run for when I’m no longer here couldn’t have hurt, or maybe it hurt more than either of us want to acknowledge.

SEP saves the day.