This holiday season,
I devote myself to
the Power, the Glory, and the Honor
of you, Almighty God,
who contains within you:
and sparkly lights,
and pineapple tarts and peppernuts,
the joy of homecoming, of belonging, of a family’s embrace,
the sunny splendor of Christmas in California,
the contentment of a belly full of brisket and curry and creamed corn,
the freedom we find in ritual.
And also and still:
and big box stores,
and loneliness, and bland turkey,
the pain of separation, the quicksand of nostalgia,
the squalor of greedy hearts,
food that’s the fruit of another’s suffering,
rigidity that causes cracks.
I give thanks for it all,
and say, Tis the season to attend.
Because Brother Thay says that true understanding is the essence of love.
Which requires us to look deeply and well.
And You may be The All,
but You are not always The Most High.
who Art in Heaven
(and in our daily struggles),
Hallowed be thy many names.
December 2, 2013 No Comments
This morning I made coffee in my stove-top espresso. It was early, and still dark and quiet, which made the ritual especially satisfying: Unscrew top from bottom. Dig fingernail under metal lip to fish out aluminum filter cup filled with yesterday’s grounds. Knock against inside of the trash can to empty spent coffee. Rinse. Fill bottom chamber with water to just below the small escape valve. Replace empty filter cup, funnel tail first, into the bottom chamber. Spoon in fresh grounds. Don’t tamp, smooth in circles with the bottom of the spoon. Clean the edge. Check top chamber. Rinse if residue remains. Rescrew. Place on smallest burner. Turn heat on high.
For me, this is meditation. And this morning, in the emptiness of motion, memories came up: of myself as a young student, not yet 20, and living in Madrid, of dinners and strong coffee, old cathedrals and ladies in furs, jamón ibérico and patatas bravas, late night botellón, early morning park runs, friendship, sex, shame, heartbreak, and reconciliation.
They bubbled and gurgled in quick succession and I drank them down:
The candy shop on the corner near our apartment above the metro at Manuel Beccera where I bought coffee candies, cappuccino for me and sugar-free for our beloved bear of a Spanish literature teacher, who was on a diet but loved hard candy and was obsessed with the sublime;
Shivers of arousal and disgust at our short, virile, grey-haired professor who led us through the halls of the Prado, sketched Velásquez and El Greco at the front of the classroom, then offered to paint our portraits (sí, desnudo) in his home studio;
Stopping in for sweet gofres after class; late lunches with family, dipping crusty bread into meaty cocino and spooning roasted peppers and olive oil onto whatever was left; late night maria biscuits with nutella;Pressing my feet against the foot of my tiny bed in our tiny room just before falling asleep, with my dear compañera de cuarto just a hands-reach to my left;
Wild eyed teens in the belly of the Metro waving their arms and yelling “CHINA CHINA” (pronounced CH – EE – NA) as I disembarked and walked toward the escalators;
A feverish trip to Granada on an overnight bus, baggage turmoil, a tiled hostel with a stern host, a foggy morning at the Alhambra;
Flirtation; more flirtation; flamenco partners; late night whispering and laughing and fumbling and gasping; jealousy and blame;
Crisp air and Christmas lights sparkling all the way down Gran Vía; stopping in to buy fancy tights at El Corte Inglés; and
Learning to make coffee for our crazy host family in the small metal “poor-man’s” espresso pot.
I missed my friend and roommate Sarah. I wondered whether my awareness then was as reflective and reflexive as now, or more unfettered and flowing. I wondered which was better, then decided that, if anything, they were just different.
The little pot I have now has utilitarian grace. It’s made of dull aluminum which doesn’t shine, but more-like glows under warm kitchen light. It is angular; decahedral, to be precise, and not uniform from top to bottom, but cinched at the waist where the top and bottom pieces join. It consists of three pieces, the bottom chamber (the boiler) where the water starts, the top chamber where the coffee ends, and the metal filter funnel in between. The water in the bottom chamber heats to boiling and creates steam, which forces the surrounding water up through the funnel, through the coffee grounds, into the collecting chamber up top.
This pot lost its handle in a forgotten accident, which doesn’t affect coffee-making, but does make it difficult to pour. To add insult to amputation, it then lost favor to two small, simple Vietnamese phins (cup-topping coffee brewers). Recently, a wiser roommate resurrected him and he resumed his place in the morning rotation. It was really just a matter of keeping a thick towel on hand to grasp the hot pot to pour.
I’m glad to have him back. The phins are shiny and easy to use, but they also seem as if they’ll always be light and young and uncomplicated. Perhaps this other pot has the kind of comforting sturdiness that comes with age.
October 9, 2013 No Comments
“My love is sweet,”
I’ll gobble you up
like a Hostess cake
I didn’t really want in the first place.
You go bankrupt.
I hoard remaining stock in the attic.
It makes me ill to think on it.
Sweet is sweet.
feed me tannins and
Suck my mouth dry.
February 12, 2013 No Comments
Who are we
and how did we come
to be these bodies
in this place?
What right do I have to feel unworthy,
How can it be authentic,
when I don’t (won’t) feel?
What if my authentic
Therein lies Suffering.
Unless, I guess…
I am you,
your Suffering’s mine
Because I act, not of body-feeling,
but tugged by invisible
threads that tie
Your reverberation in turn:
Fish bone in my throat
and disapparates to phantom feeling that I
February 10, 2013 2 Comments
It’s been nearly two years since the small wild thing began to visit again. At first, he was crafty. He snuck in without my noticing, drawn to residual warmth from being close to loved ones; he crept into a grey-blue dewy mornings next to my coffee and fried eggs; he materialized with tiny sharp fangs behind bracing wind, the kind that makes you suck in sharply and feel alive. He was skittish at first, came and went as he pleased. But over time, the little animal (call him Love or Affection or Yearning) started to linger.
The feeling is familiar, like something I lost and learned to get by without, but haven’t forgotten. At first I didn’t think I wanted to remember what it felt like to love that way, but something in me decided I did, and I (weak soul I am) put up little protest. So when this wild feeling came around, instead of turning towards Business At Hand, I started to feed him a little daydream or sweet memory and he grew bolder.
The warm, growly fellow is now a regular guest, barging in at inopportune moments, associating himself with people and situations where he doesn’t (yet) belong. Last Saturday morning, out of the blue, he nestled up inside me, filled my belly then chest so he couldn’t be ignored. By the time I got home, he’d dug his claws into my throat til it was hard to breathe and my eyes got wet. I curled up in bed for the afternoon and placated him with poems and nostalgia.
It worked, but it’s clear this soft, fierce little orphan creature needs more to thrive.
For now, we’ll make do with brisk mornings, writing, the ocean, more red wine than is typical, listening to good music (gongs!) with our eyes closed, and lavishing attention on people and things who make us feel deeply. When the going gets especially rough, we’ll feed ourselves on busyness.
November 25, 2012 2 Comments
The handsome man
discussing freight from Missassagua
the gentle creaking of the luggage bins,
the sweet steel-on-steel-swoosh-rumble.
The train cries: “I’m here, I’m here!”
He doesn’t hear;
nor see the gold glow broken
by streaking shadows of swallows diving down down between rows of corn
miniature from lack of rain.
What will his barge carry?
Containers of cream from the jerseys out to pasture?
Red barns filled with sweet hay?
A mountain of Queen-Anne’s Lace?
Blue flossy clouds painstakingly piled?
A hawk on a wire calls my attention, but
quickly restakes his claim.
Shop talk marbles plunk into blue upholstery behind my head,
together with certainty
we plunge predictably forward.
August 26, 2012 No Comments
… inspired by responses to a series of haphazard library bookstack photos I took last month and a timely note from Mr. Tan.
August 20, 2012 No Comments
The air is hushed between going and coming.
trips down my spine and hangs
on the air.
off my fingers,
off my blue suede moccasins
into a puddle under the desk
where I would be working
if it weren’t for
the big space
one thing and another.
Fill the room with belly laughs to keep from sighing.
My virtue is not patience,
but what is good just
won’t be rushed.
May 10, 2010 2 Comments