The Evolution of the Orgasm, a poem

illustration the evolution of the orgasm

The Evolution of the Orgasm, a poem

Does the new-twinned cell, as it sorts out
one tangled rat’s nest of nucleus

from the other with its slow patient dance
of cytoplasm and membrane, somehow know

the sweet involuntary contraction and release
of its division?  An organism’s inner tension

promotes as well as restrains
total disintegration.  Is each duplicating

mitochondrion frozen fast in the stream
of its own powerful, mindless barrage

of electrons?  Life on a cellular level
is both straightforward and incomprehensible.

Could any physical laws possibly hold
resolute in the embrace of such rapture?

Was the orgasm the means of our worldly
creation, or the end?  Less can be more,

but not in this case.  Is what makes you
come so easily explained?  As usual, let us

personify:  she is rich-skinned, veiled
cool in a white ruffled nightshirt….

Well-muscled, each movement sure, swift,
with only one purpose.  Her hair is short

or long, pulled tight or draped loose,
but the look in her eyes is a steely

constant, it says, I know you. I have always
known you.  I will know you even after

your tired flesh has flown away singing
through the air like a frightened dove,

and your pale, forgetful bones have fallen
into fine dry grit.  In my relentless arms

you will learn to surrender all fears, all
your dark secrets.  Forever and ever

will I love you.  Is it any wonder we dream
of her so often, with such helpless longing?

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Things We Never Said, a short story

img058 alcoholics anonymous big blue book

Things We Never Said, a short story

She was beautiful, as all mothers are to their children, but it was far more than that. Total strangers told me how beautiful my mother was. She was particularly fine-boned and delicate. Her skin was the softest I’ve known, her arms and hands the most stubborn, the most lethal.

Mom was an alcoholic, of course, and the most gruesomely stubborn person I’ve ever known. She went past simple denial and created her own alternative universe. Once, some quack psychiatrist she was seeing told her she wasn’t a “true” alcoholic — that she only drank out of boredom. She clung to that unfortunate phrase of absolution, repeating it like a robot in a variety of situations, until the day she died at 44 from alcoholic pancreatitis.

The only way we ever got her into rehab was when we threatened to call the police about obtaining drugs by false pretenses. She’d call the drugstore and tell them it was Dr. So-and-so’s office, would they please fill a prescription for such-and-such, three refills, please.

She got stiff all over when she drank, not like a normal drinker who gets loose. Stiff, and with a duck-legged walk that made my flesh crawl. I can’t tell you how many times I just let her lay there on the floor where she’d stumbled in a drunken stupor. I couldn’t bring myself to touch her.

If only Mom could have been more like Charity Hope Valentine, the taxi dancer in “Sweet Charity” who, after being pinched, pawed at, fondled, ridiculed, robbed, tattooed, thrown from a bridge, trapped in an elevator, and deserted at the altar, rather meekly accepts the cheery and somehow redeeming gift of a single daisy from a group of 60s flower children, pulling herself out of her misery yet again, and living “hopefully” ever after.

My mother and I both said “I love you,” a lot, and to no avail. Neither of us believed in love. We believed only in self-preservation. Trust was unknown. I have never learned the reasons for staying with another. All I can think of, now that I’m married, is what I’m missing, giving up for the other. How short life is, and how unhappy.

I took a developmental psychology course once, while my mother was still alive. The teacher explained that no child ever actually dreams of killing the mother. Infantile rage exists, yes, murderous anger exists, yes, but the true desire to kill can never be resident in the child’s subconscious. “The instinct for preservation is too great,” she said.

When I told her, later and in private, how I’d dreamed that very act, how in my dreams I’d taken the great butcher knife out of the kitchen drawer and stabbed it viciously and repeatedly into my mother’s fine and delicately boned chest, she shook her head skeptically.

“You didn’t really dream that,” she insisted. “You only think you did.” I didn’t argue. I was still too afraid it might happen in reality to insist that it had happened in dreams.

She was never a very good mother. I was never a very good daughter. After she died, I went to confess my guilt over my record as a daughter once, to an Episcopal priest. “I let my mother down,” I told him.

“No, you didn’t,” he insisted. “You were the child. You had the right to go off and live your own life.” I was angry at him, and never went back.

I still feel guilty about the first time I knew I’d hurt her feelings. She made me a bunny rabbit salad – a scoop of cottage cheese for the bunny’s face, cut up vegetables for the bunny’s ears, eyes, nose, and whiskers. It was adorable. But I hated cottage cheese, and salad. I was four years old. “I don’t like cottage cheese,” I told her.

“Just try it,” she said.

“No.” I refused over and over again. Finally, she ran out of the kitchen, to the bathroom, and I knew she was crying. I sat in the kitchen, staring at the rabbit, not eating it. I didn’t follow her, I didn’t apologize, and I sat there until someone, probably my grandmother, covered the plate with a piece of plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. I knew I was never going to eat that bunny rabbit salad.

I mailed the invitations to my own daughter’s birthday party today. She’ll be four in sixteen days. Oddly enough, all I could think of as I wrote out the cards was how much my own mother would have enjoyed seeing my child, her first grandchild. I know exactly what my mother’s face would look like if she were at the party — lovely, tremulous, inevitably a little weepy. I also know half of my pleasure would come from seeing the tenderness in my mother’s wide brown eyes as together we would watch my little Katie blow out all her candles.

 

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When Things Got Too Weird for Ripley, a poem

Originally posted on Kimberly Townsend Palmer:

illustration when things got too weird for ripley

When Things Got Too Weird for Ripley

Notwithstanding the fact that he still received
more letters every year than anyone on earth,
including Santa Claus — Believe It Or Not —
his sinking fits of despair started to occur

with frightening regularity after the war;
on his way to the far East for the first time
since Pearl Harbor Day, he stood on the plucked
turkey-breast hull of a sunken battleship,

the Arizona, looking down at his well-shod feet
as though the rolled steel were transparent,
as if he could see the innocently disarrayed
skeletons of the young men still entombed within —

Believe It Or Not — his full, delicate lips stretched
over his protruding teeth, speechless for
the first time in fifty-odd years. Oddly, he
couldn’t take his mind off the Tibetan skull-bowl

at home, he felt the hinged roof of the bowl
under his cold, stiff fingers…

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Dear Life…

kimberly townsend palmer:

This young woman is amazing….

Originally posted on Insidethelifeofmoi:

Dear Life,

I’ve been thinking about you a lot recently. I don’t know why? Perhaps I’m on the brink of a ‘slightly premature’ mid-life crisis? Maybe I have reached a crossroads in my life and have no idea which way to turn? The truth is, you have always puzzled me. Just when I think I have it all figured out, you come sweeping in and take me right off of my feet. A favourite pastime of yours. And so I find myself lost in this sea of confusion, with no idea which way to paddle and nothing but darken skies around me, absent a guiding light.

Life, you are much like origami. A clean slate to fold in any way I wish. Simple, or so I thought. I was wrong. With an end picture unknown, the art of origami can prove somewhat problematic. I have dreams of constructing a piece…

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hearts

When our heart breaks, it opens like an eggshell, and if we let it emerge, out comes a bigger, stronger, more forgiving heart… we awaken to Spirit, and understand that love is the only reality.  The rest is illusion.  Only love matters.

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Lilies of the Field, a short story

illustration lilies of the field

Lilies of the Field, a short story

Harry: Boy With Car

In the picture, Harry leaned back on his car, his arms crossed over his chest, tautly, the muscles bulging underneath his white T-shirt. He wore sunglasses and his hair was blown back off his forehead, as if from great speed. The car was a ‘57 Chevrolet, bright blue, brand new. He’d just left his mother’s house to live with a girlfriend, not Joanna — he didn’t meet Joanna for another 10 years. For a long time, he subsisted off a series of dead-end jobs and girlfriends while masquerading as a college student. The women he lived with all had a few things in common: uneducated but bright, a love of dogs, and perky telephone voices. They leaned against him in the front seat when he drove fast and their hair whipped his forehead. He was confident in those days, nothing had ever broken him. He had not yet been given the gift of suffering.

Joanna: The Queen of Grief

Joanna, in a state of grief and intoxication, returning from her grandmother’s funeral, sat in an automatic photo booth in Atlanta, eyes closed, lips pursed, head tilted back, her skin glowing white, her face blurred, too high to be captured on film. She met Harry in the local airport when she got home. He was intoxicated also, and was leaving to report to the Marines. She gave him her address and phone number and one of the blurry photos. He kept the picture in his wallet and called her every day, collect, from boot camp. She lay awake all night thinking about him, reciting romantic poetry into a tape recorder, then sent him the tape. She was disappointed in love before, but only by herself. She was cold and polite while others were warm and fumbling. How did one love another, anyway? She was, at heart, a hermit, but too much of a coward to live as one. It made for a tumultuous love life.

If Wishes Were Fishes

Harry sat in profile on the edge of a riverbank, his hair dripping forward over his forehead, his shoulders hunched, wearing red bathing trunks, and his black boots lying on his crumpled clothing. He refused to look at the camera. A pale straw hat had fallen off his head and lay directly behind him. The day was bright and clear. He was home from the Marines after 8 weeks, having been excused on medical grounds. He phoned Joanna upon his return. He lived in his car until he moved in with her. Harry said he despised her money and wished she were penniless. Secretly, he realized it didn’t hurt that all the bills were paid regardless of what else was happening. He took to collecting glass paperweights, and Joanna bought one for him everywhere she went. Gradually, Harry started to acquire her taste in champagne.

Woman with Drugs

Joanna stood on a wolf skin rug over a floral Persian carpet, in front of a lace curtain. Her dress reached the floor, white, with puffed sleeves, taken in at the waist by a narrow belt with a small bow. She held a sprig of marijuana in her left hand. Her hair was dark red, her lips painted scarlet. Her skin was only slightly darker than her dress and the curtain. Flowers were scattered in front of her feet on the wolf-fur. Harry was behind the lens, mocking the Impressionists. He admitted to himself for the first time that he was glad Joanna had money, though he would still love her if she were penniless.   He was the opposite of a snob — he made Joanna feel guilty that her family had taken advantage of his by accumulating more than they’d needed. The shadow of her money hung over them like a disused, rotting gallows.

Drawing the Line

Harry and Joanna were dancing. He had his arm tightly about her waist. She wore a red hat and looked away from him, over her right shoulder at the ground. He asked her to marry him, and she refused. He kept asking, and in a year she got pregnant and said yes. She didn’t believe in abortion. He began to ask her to put some part of her assets in his name, for the child’s sake. She refused. He accused her of frivolous spending and waste. She took an extended trip across the country with the baby, leaving Harry at home to care for the dogs. While she was gone, he brought a prostitute home and lived with her for a week. The prostitute wore all of Joanna’s lingerie and jewelry, but Harry didn’t let her sleep in their bed. When Joanna returned, Harry had drunk half a bottle of whiskey and vomited on the kitchen floor.

Acquisition

Joanna stood in the yard wearing a blue silk windbreaker. It was bitter cold and windy. Her hair obscured her eyes. Both she and Harry felt like he was taking her picture for a “wanted” poster. The baby screamed while Harry took the photos. In the beginning, Harry had wanted Joanna to make him feel real, rooted, and loved, to have all the accoutrements of material wealth without having to actually acquire them himself. To acquire material wealth, oneself, was such a tiresome prospect. After all, thought Harry, Joanna did not have to acquire it herself, she got it from her family. Now he’d be satisfied if she paid him with a bit of kind attention. She waited patiently for him to commit adultery, not knowing about last year’s whore. Meanwhile, their life in bed had dwindled down to almost nothing. Partly due to his drinking, partly due to her disinterest.

Disposition

Harry sat on a kitchen chair, elbows on his knees, and hands under his chin. He tried to look cute. Joanna pointed the camera at him and smiled, hoping to hide her inner revulsion. The problem was, they never fought about anything specific — they just fought. She wanted Harry to want her in a way better than the way in which she wanted him. A needier, nobler way of wanting — something that would take the whole heart, not just a sad, tacky corner of it, the way she felt wanting Harry occupied hers. Unfortunately, Harry didn’t seem capable of neediness and nobility, no more capable than she. How much money would Harry want, she wondered? She had an appointment with a lawyer in the morning. Joanna had been lonely when they met. If she expected comfort from Harry, she did not get it. It was too bad about the child, it was always too bad about that.

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A Meditation on an Introduction’s Second Paragraph as found in “Nature” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

kimberly townsend palmer:

I wish I’d written this…. <3

Originally posted on KURT BRINDLEY:

Having moved slow and steady through two readings of Nature, with nightly accompaniments of Librivox audio readings that would lull me away to sleep with visions of all the vast universal wonderments dancing in my head, it is now time to sift through my sporadic notes and swirling thoughts to try to make use of what I have come across, as I look to somehow apply to my life all that which Emerson teaches with his complexly simple essays as found in Nature.

However, as I consider such intellectual derring-do, I find myself drawn back to one of the first opportunities for learning the work provides me; one found in a most bold and faith-requiring passage from the introduction:

Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable.
We must trust the perfection of the creationso far as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has…

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