I am sad.
I am sad that people,
Parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters,
Uncles and aunts
Live out their dying days in nursing homes.
I am sad that
Mr. James walks up and down the corridors
Alarm attached to his ankle
Pushing on every door
Searching for a way out.
I am sad that
Muriel called her adult children too many times last night.
They called the nurse to complain.
I am sad that
Gretchen packs her bags each night and waits for her children to come to take her home.
And Dot wanders the halls for hours until a nurse orders up a sedative.
Dot is agitated she says
But really Dot is just an annoyance
Causing anxiety in her caretakers.
As their surrogate she'll take the sedative for them.
I am sad that
Marge died alone,
And Selma never gets to have a bread stick or a biscuit in the afternoon.
Mr. Powers sits in a chair on the far edge of the room while the young woman raises her arms up and down leading the exercises.
She hollers encouragement in a sing song voice
American patriotic music blaring
His eyes are closed tight, his face in anguish.
I am sad
That he is sad.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I am sad.
Monday, March 23, 2009
The White Museum
by George Bilgere
My aunt was an organ donor
and so, the day she died,
her organs were harvested
for medical science.
I suppose there must be people
who list, under "Occupation,"
"Organ Harvester," people for whom
it is always harvest season,
each death bringing its bounty.
They spend their days
loading wagonloads of kidneys,
whole cornucopias of corneas,
burlap sacks groaning with hearts and lungs
and the pale green sprouts of gall bladders,
and even, from time to time,
the weighty cauliflower of a brain.
And perhaps today,
as I sit in this café, watching the snow
and thinking about my aunt,
a young medical student somewhere
is moving through the white museum
of her brain, making his way slowly
from one great room to the next.
Here is the gallery of her girlhood,
with that great canvas depicting her father
holding her on his lap in the backyard
of their bungalow in St. Louis.
And here is a sketch of her
the summer after her mother died,
walking down a street in Berlin
when the broken city was itself
a museum. And here
is a small, vivid oil of the two of us
sitting in a café in London
arguing over the work of Constable
or Turner, or Francis Bacon
after a visit to the Tate.
I want you to know, as you sit there
with your microscope and your slides,
there's no need to be reverent before these images.
That's the last thing she would have wanted.
But do be respectful. Speak quietly.
No flash photography. Tell your friends
you saw something beautiful.
From the ever-wonderful Writer's Almanac today, also never ceasing to amaze and delight me.
"The White Museum" by George Bilgere.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Egads. How will I ever be able to read all the books I'm interested in? I'm reading two excellent books, right now - "The Experience of Alzheimer's Disease", by Steven R. Sabat, wonderfully in depth, thoughtful, informative; and Parker Palmer's "A Hidden Wholeness", that I'm inching my way through.
I stopped by Changing Aging and much to my delight and dismay saw mention of "The Braindead Megaphone" by George Saunders in the same breath as talk of David Sedaris.
Then Stacey left the following comment on this blog in response to my post "No wonder Carl Dennis won a Pulitzer for Poetry":
"billy collins has a new book out called ballistics. it includes a poem called hippos on holiday. needless to say i'm ecstatic.
So now I'm faced with a quandary - (and for those of you who spent time in New York 40 years ago, and listened to the radio, the jingle "Are you in a quandary, about which is the better laundry? Then try Tribune, try Tribune, try Tribune soon" is now running through your head at the sight of the word quandary. A highly effective ad campaign, I'd say.) Do I go to amazon and order both books right now, using my free two-day shipping option? (Free only because I pay somewhere around $70 a year for the service that encourages me to go to amazon and order both books right now routinely.) Or do I wait until I have the time to drive to Border's, or in a more perfect world, walk to Border's as I would have in the past, when time was a more fluid commodity in my life, thereby doing my part to help keep this actual, not virtual, bookstore alive and well? It means paying more and using fuel and waiting longer and, who knows what else.
And then there's the issue of buying more books. It's okay to buy them, right, to support the authors and the industry of actual, rather than virtual books? And the issue of the other books that are in line, stacked up in my bookcase like planes at LaGuardia, awaiting their turn to be read.
Several years ago a friend of mine told me his theory with regard to spending money. It went something along the lines of, it's okay to have one spending vice - say buying books. Just allow yourself that one, give in to it, enjoy it guiltlessly, don't go too crazy, but don't let the buying spill into other areas. But then there's Reverend Billy's The Church of Stop Shopping and people all over the country, like the group in Berkeley, that have vowed not to buy anything new at all, existing to put me to shame.
A mountain out of a molehill, you say? Order the damn books and get on with your day, for chrissakes.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Cappy gave Julia a bonsai seed. Maggie decided to get one too so their bonsai trees could grow up together. Today, Julia's bonsai was getting a bit of sun and air in the lobby of her building and it went missing. Kidnapped, says, Julia. Julia joked that panic has set in. I say sadness has ensued.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
by Carl Dennis
If on your grandmother's birthday you burn a candle
To honor her memory, you might think of burning an extra
To honor the memory of someone who never met her,
A man who may have come to the town she lived in
Looking for work and never found it.
Picture him taking a stroll one morning,
After a month of grief with the want ads,
To refresh himself in the park before moving on.
Suppose he notices on the gravel path the shards
Of a green glass bottle that your grandmother,
Then still a girl, will be destined to step on
When she wanders barefoot away from her school picnic
If he doesn't stoop down and scoop the mess up
With the want-ad section and carry it to a trash can.
For you to burn a candle for him
You needn't suppose the cut would be a deep one,
Just deep enough to keep her at home
The night of the hay ride when she meets Helen,
Who is soon to become her dearest friend,
Whose brother George, thirty years later,
Helps your grandfather with a loan so his shoe store
Doesn't go under in the Great Depression
And his son, your father, is able to stay in school
Where his love of learning is fanned into flames,
A love he labors, later, to kindle in you.
How grateful you are for your father's efforts
Is shown by the candles you've burned for him.
But today, for a change, why not a candle
For the man whose name is unknown to you?
Take a moment to wonder whether he died at home
With friends and family or alone on the road,
On the look-out for no one to sit at his bedside
And hold his hand, the very hand
It's time for you to imagine holding.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
From the NY Times article about Nina Kuzma-Sapiejewska, a classical pianist who is an expert on Chopin - “We lived in a log cabin in Falls Church, Va.,” she said. “And then a dear friend crashed into my relationship and stole my husband, and the house became infested with bees and I had to move.”
Monday, March 2, 2009
Walking is New York -- a defining characteristic that has kept us a step ahead of other cities. Today, a century after the first subway trains rattled into Grand Central Station and the first automobiles puttered down Fifth Avenue, two-thirds of the journeys around downtown and midtown Manhattan are still made on foot.The article goes on to mention Rudy Guiliani'a silly war on jaywalkers, but what of that. It's not about the war. It's about the dance.
And at full charge. The heart-pumping, exhilarating pace of New York life is no mere metaphor: our purposeful, heel-lifting, almost-running street gait, which Dickens and Whitman noted 150 years ago, has been clocked by 20th-century researchers as ranging from three and a half to four miles an hour. (It zooms to five for passing.
What propels New Yorkers' high-speed feet? I think we rely on a kind of walker's high both to get through the day and to stay alert to the unfolding of our lives. Walking is certainly heart-healthy, so there may be a built-in endorphin reinforcement every time a New Yorker takes to the streets. It's also true that New York has always been a just-in-time city. People here leave themselves only the minimal number of minutes they've calculated as necessary for getting to work or running an errand.
This is not recklessness. People have learned that walking works. Walking in New York -- ''a great dance,'' as William H. Whyte, its greatest student, wrote -- is sustained by unending, intricately interwoven, tiny acts of cooperation: millions of ever-so-slight adjustments of tempo and direction that keep the flow on even the busiest sidewalks from grinding to a halt.
Such teamwork provides its own reward. It's a concrete reminder of all the human collaborations that endure in the city despite the worst disputes and the most bitter misunderstandings. A dash through New York is also like a fast-foward tour through much of the human condition. For 350 years, the city's streets have swarmed with people of every class and culture, and a New York-paced walk, as it scrolls rapidly past the changing scenery, can provide people with a bit of necessary perspective on their own lives.