Category Archives: science

Giant Redwoods, a poem

illustration muir woods 2

Giant Redwoods

(Statements in italics taken from Ethics, by Baruch de Spinoza)

Look farther and farther toward thin blue sky, until the green feathery tops of the trees are like the northern pole on some dream planet.  Put the anger back in its bottle. These trees are generous.  Hatred can never be good.

Your carsickness from the ride up the mountain begins to fade, leaving behind a breathless, weepy echo not unlike your first religious fervor.  Hatred is increased through return of hatred, but may be destroyed by love.

When have you not been afraid?  The random can be scrutinized for meaning, the puzzle solved, when surveyed long & carefully enough.  Anything may be accidentally the cause of either hope or fear.

These trees have plenty of time.  As a child, you stared at Jesus’ sad face for hours, wishing you could marry him  — wondering what it was that made him love you.  Could you sacrifice yourself for the sins of the world, if it was that simple & necessary? Cathedrals turn us small and vulnerable again, for reasons both blessed & cursed.  Devotion is love towards an object which astonishes us.

Vague, starry eyes like yours feel at home here; the air is weighty, burdensome & solemn. You’ve loved trees before; this is different.  These trees have plenty of time – more time than you.  If we love a thing which is like ourselves, we endeavor as much as possible to make it love us in return.

Your nerves are suddenly frozen, by the unaccustomed richness of perfect light.  Your guide is tall & slender, hesitant to speak.  Her mother has the tattooed forearm of a Polish Jew of a certain age.  The knowledge of good and evil is nothing but an idea of joy or sorrow.  Sorrow is [a hu]man’s passage from a greater to a less perfection.

These trees have plenty of time.  She touches your wrist, and for a moment, you, too, want to grow taller, leaving the surface of the earth behind forever.  Shyly, she picks up a tiny pinecone, smaller than a toy.  You both laugh when she tells you this is their seed.  Joy is [a hu]man’s passage from a less to a greater perfection.

These trees have plenty of time.  And all around, their wise, fallen, hollow bodies litter the ground like the bones of saints.  Childlike, you understand a wish to die here, never to leave this hush.  They’re only trees – your neck bent back as far as it will go; only trees, yet wondering if the giants can hear your thoughts.  Love is joy, with the accompanying idea of an external cause.  Love and desire may be excessive.  When the mind imagines its own weakness, it necessarily sorrows.

Is there anything we have less power over than our own tongues?  These trees have plenty of time, growing wise as the Buddha, in their silence.

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Conjoined Twins, a poem

illustration-conjoined-twins

Conjoined Twins, a poem

Her entire pregnancy was uneventful until the second stage
of labor. Mother pushed and pushed, but we babies could not
budge. Surgeons came, made quick cuts necessary to disengage
us from the womb — found our joined skulls, an impudent topknot.

Mother wouldn’t let them separate us, she said the risk
outweighed the benefits. We learned to walk as best we
could; I, the taller, faced front in hopeful arabesque
while Sister followed. She didn’t mind, droll legatee

of my cranium, girl I never see. Despite our closeness,
we live in opposite ways; I view her face only in mirrors,
with my one good eye — our skin melts together, flawless,
pearly. A nice thing is, we never suffered night terrors.

We have never been alone. When they say, look, Siamese
twins, I want to scream. That is not the proper name for
our arrangement. Sister says, let them talk — I think she’s
crazy to let it pass, but I don’t say that. A big furor

won’t help at all. One trick we are good at is peace.
Negotiation has been our forte since that first incomplete
division; the moment each cell refused the other’s release.
We have minds of our own, thank god, and life is sweet

when you know where you’re bound. I go off to work,
Sister goes too. I sing while I type up my data, she reads
her mysteries, we break for lunch. My boss goes berserk
every once in a while; he’s got the same kinds of needs

for perfection we all possess. The one worry I have
not tamed is which of us will die first. I hope
it’s not me — how would she walk? I am the brave
one, the one who catches bugs. I would try to cope

without her. Once, in the night when she fell sick
with the flu, I held her until the shaking stopped,
until the fever broke. I wondered then, all dyadic
jokes aside, what if we had been cut apart, clipped

early into two separate forms? If it ever comes, will life
on my own be any easier? I’d save some of her long hair,
for sweet remembrance. She’d be a sharp phantom pain, a wolf-
gray stone with my birthday — my head a floating solitaire.

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Notes From The Unconscious, a poem

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Notes From The Unconscious

Run me languid over a rusty road,
and you behind, laughing to pursue…
Take only my smooth love chain,
kiss me softly, without injury.

I am essential and lusty…
I will drive through it for her leg diamonds,
and use him at those bare places.
To sea and gone were the sweet peach thousand.

The blood goddess is frantic…
She knows how hard loving is.
All delicate language has arms of iron, so
sing elaborate love from your tongue.

How have I dreamed sordid roses?
Rob them of a tiny pink eternity….
As bees nuzzle, so shall I dive into you,
and sniff your scent like a mama bear.

A man I used to know lives less than anyone
under wool suits. He rips up rocks
as meat, then he must finger petals.
He has no idea this is happening.

For years, I floated bitter in a black lake…
I said, please, no beating,
leave out the ugly juice,
don’t make me drink any more.

No one listened. My eyes turned
red like woman vision…
I am still weaker & falling,
after death, beauty may ache raw & blue.

He let a void crush what we incubated….
Did it in my white bed.
One milk moan from an infants’
fresh red lips, haunting me forever.
Boil away the mist with lick power.
Heave away or use an apparatus….
Near the TV, these fiddles cry for feet
to dance and obliterate pain.

Our sad summer was like a repulsive
shadow of fluff. I floated like a dandelion seed.
But winter could recall a sweet day chant
with cool water, trips to the country like lazy sun…

Did the purple smear on the wall show size?
Why can the mad beautiful boy shake?
I watch a friend produce a luscious lie.
None trudge after me, but time will swim easy…

Blow your smoky symphony,
my green cloud angel,
and put the sacred blaze against a woman,
melting her like caramel.

Dirt will come and time bring ice,
so heal your broken voice, shed the marble
surrounding you like a deep bone prison,
while I bleed champagne.

Ask your heart to squirm, remember
the ship of spring, seek air blue kisses,
pierce the morning, know the color of liquid
magic, speak in a velvet stream, and love me.

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How Art Thou Received? (a prayer for refugees)

How Art Thou Received? (a prayer for refugees)

Imagine: suddenly, without warning (because that is how war arrives) you are a war refugee! Simply running away from being murdered. And how are you received when you can finally stop running, when you are out of range of the guns, the bombs, the blood? No countries to take you. No one to feed you. You are a skeletal pawn in a skeletal game.

Embalmed corpses declare war on the living and fight for their “territory” against other embalmed corpses using armies of young people; embalmed corpses feeding on fresh, young blood.

I know something is very wrong, somewhere. It must be addressed, and addressed properly. Our prayer, our incantation, our spell to heal, must be more powerfully crafted, more distilled, more essential, than was the horrid spell we are trying to break: a tradition of might over right, strong but wrong, a spell of ignorance which has caused so much harm, and is trying to do more… powered by the love of power, the love of control over people.

The scarred parts of the heart can be replenished; the broken parts, glued; the weak parts, strengthened; the fear assuaged, the pain relieved. But the desire to change, to truly alchemize oneself, spin that straw into gold… the gold of the sun… the silver of the stars… the red planet… the North Star… primal navigation by looking not at the ground, but by looking up, to the sky… that kind of desire doesn’t visit often.

If you want to know where you are going, be sure your map is accurate, or at least doesn’t kill you. Migrating birds know this. Power & Liberation. Slave & free. Joy & Suffering. High & low.

Craving slaves, some are trying to roll us back to serfdom, only they can use our own science & technology to rape us! Serfdom: tied by birth to land. You are a pawn, a source of income; in thrall to your Lord and Master. Freeing serfs is always a struggle. Brute force arm-wrestles the human race, and brute force often pins people to the mat, but… you cannot keep people down for long. The oppressed will continue to spring up and defend their inalienable human rights. All people are created equal: including our ancestors, who existed long before the self-anointed first “private property” owners. Human beings are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, yes? The earth cannot belong to any one of us. Period. We own this planet. All of us.

 

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September 5, 1980, a letter to my Nana

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September 5, 1980

Dear Nana,

I am sorry I didn’t send you a birthday card on time. I didn’t forget, I bought a card and addressed it and put a stamp on it and everything, I just neglected to drop it in the mailbox. And since it was late anyway, I figured I would just save up some money and get you a present to go along with it. So just prepare yourself for an extra-special present. I won’t give you any hints, either. So just sweat it out.

Everything is going just fine. My job is going well, except the work is not all that interesting. But at least I have plenty to do. Mr. Perkins is in Canada right now, doing some work for the Canadian government, so that’s why I can write this letter at work. Because there’s not all that much to do.

Has Mom gotten me an application for the U. of Fla.? I’m going to apply to U.C.L.A. also. Then when the time comes I will have two options. But no matter what I decide I will be home for Christmas. So don’t worry about that. I wouldn’t miss another Christmas with all of you. I’ve already missed two. So no more.

I almost got a dog the other day. They keep dogs at work, two of them, and there was this other dog that started hanging around. He was a stray and he was really skinny. Then about two days ago he showed up limping. His hip was all out of joint, and he was scared of everybody. So I told Mr. Perkins about it and he said that if I could catch him and take him to the vet’s that he would pay the bill if it wasn’t too much. So I caught him by feeding him and then grabbing him. I took him to the vet’s and they X-rayed his hip but it was too badly crushed and it would cost over $300 to fix it. So we had him put to sleep. I felt so bad about that. I cried and cried. You know how I am about animals.

I have decided to major in prelaw. It’s a big decision but it’s something that I want to do. A lot of reasons persuaded me. And besides, lawyers run in our family. This is the fourth generation – your dad, mom’s dad, and my dad, and now me. I’m the first woman to do it. It’s about time the women in this family took advantage of their brains. Grandpa Geremia says that we’re smarter than all the men anyway.  Look at Mom!   She’s got a lot upstairs, and the only reason she didn’t get a chance to take advantage of it is because she’s a woman and women are the ones who get the short end of the stick always. I’ve really been getting interested in promoting women’s rights lately.

Throughout history, men have had all the power. And I’m tired of it. I heard on the radio that women comprise 53% of the population, yet in the Senate there are only two women. 2 out of 100. That’s certainly not even close to equal representation. Women don’t even get respect. At work here, I’m treated like some cute little girl who is just learning to tie my shoes. And I resent it. Of course, I don’t complain because I need to get along with these people, but I resent it all the same. I read in a book called The Women’s Room that “people may hate niggers and Puerto Ricans and Chinks, but at least they are afraid of them. Women don’t even get the respect of fear.” And it’s so true. Look at you, Nana. You have the makings of one hell of a politician in you. You’re a terrific leader. You have charisma. But you haven’t done it. Maybe because you didn’t want to, but maybe because you were afraid. Oh, I don’t know. Remember when they wanted you to run for City Council? You could have won easily. You could still win. I think you ought to do it. After all, Reagan’s over 68 years old and he’s running for public office.

By the way, do you know what I’ve heard about Reagan?

  1. He believes in astrology.
  2. He accused Carter of being in cahoots with the KKK when he himself refused to address the NAACP.
  3. When he was governor of California, he wanted to cut down the Sequoia trees in the parks because he thought that “once you’ve seen a tree, you’ve seen a tree.”
  4. He set troops out to quell student protest when the students had stated their pledge of nonviolent demonstration.
  5. He’s against abortion even in cases of rape. True, not many women who get raped conceive a child due to the trauma of it, but it does happen. And why should a woman give birth to a child of rape?

True, Carter is in many ways no better than Reagan. But I don’t want to vote for Carter, either. I want to vote for Barry Commoner. Barry Commoner believes in solar power, he wants to bring back the railroad system as a form of mass travel, he doesn’t believe in war and huge military budgets for no reason, and he believes in letting people come first in government. He believes in the nationalization of the energy industry. No one is perfect, though, and I realize that campaign promises are sometimes just that, but I feel that Barry Commoner is a better candidate than either Carter or Reagan. But he’s not perfect, either. I’m not being swayed by some Godlike figure or anything. He’s just an ordinary person.

Let’s talk about the nationalization of the energy industry for a moment. (Don’t I sound grown up, Nan?) Did you know that one of the reasons nuclear power plants are becoming more widespread even though they’re so dangerous is that the oil companies own all the uranium minds? The reason no one has developed solar power yet is because the oil companies can’t buy the sun.

Let’s face it, sooner or later we’re going to run out of everything – coal, natural gas, oil, even uranium. The only thing we will have for billions of years is the sun. Everything on this planet was created by the sun. The oil was made from algae deposits that were fueled by the sun. The sun is a clean, safe source of energy. So why don’t we use it? Because it’s also free. There’s no way to rent sunlight because it’s free. No one can own it. So the people who control this country, i.e., the huge conglomerate corporations, aren’t too thrilled over the prospect of unlimited amounts of free energy because they’ll go bankrupt.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against free enterprise or anything. What I am against, though, is when the profit margins of Exxon go up 200% in one year. That’s going too far. Profit is fine, but 200%, when the whole world is being squeezed dry because of the high prices of fuel? That’s un-humanitarian, and disgraceful.

Did you know that Nestles, the chocolate corporation, also manufactures infant formula? In third world countries like Nigeria and India and the like, they were telling uneducated mothers that infant formula was superior to mother’s milk. At precisely the same time, doctors in this country were finding out that mother’s milk was in fact the best thing for babies. That nothing was superior for infants. But did Nestles stop telling them that? No. Their profits in this country were going down because of the drop in sales, so they had to make it up somewhere else. By fooling poor, uneducated, starving people. That’s the kind of thing I’m against.

I guess I’m getting more political in my old age.  That’s why I have decided to major in prelaw. So I can do something about the things that I feel are unfair. Or at least I can try. Like I said, I’m not against free enterprise. What I am against is exploitation and un-humanitarianism.

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Mr. Rogers Visits Koko the Gorilla, a poem

illustration mr rogers visits koko the gorilla

Mr. Rogers Visits Koko the Gorilla, a poem

 

Koko was clearly in love with him.

He was the human equivalent

 

of what in her world would be a male silverback

& I think she would have adopted him into her tribe

 

in a heartbeat. She took his shoes & socks off

& tickled his feet & pressed them to her own.

 

She kissed his hands & groomed his face & hair

with her fingertips. She wanted his gold cufflinks

 

(to remember him by) & you could hear the anxiety

in his voice when he said “My grandfather

 

gave those to me.” Really, really hoping

he was going to get away still possessing

 

his treasured cufflinks. What if Koko

had insisted? Would Penny have been able

 

to talk her out of it? Distract her to something else?

Mr. Rogers seemed nervous but in awe

 

at the communion with such a “being,”

as he called her. She flirted, playing

 

peekaboo with him, her large eyes knowing & coy

from underneath a cloth covered with pictures of kittens.

 

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Eleven Random Questions, and please submit your own answers as replies!

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ELEVEN RANDOM QUESTIONS

What do you think of keeping a journal?

The real issue here is not that of how journal writing affects all the other forms of writing.  There is much to be said about journal writing, both positively and negatively, and probably all of it is true at one time or another for all writers who face changing circumstances over the course of their writing lives.  Sometimes journals can help our other projects, sometimes they can’t.  Each person’s situation is best handled by themselves.  The real issue here, the issue that has people so stirred up, and rightly so, is the fundamental arrogance displayed in both the “writer” Jimmy V.’s original essay condemning journaling out of hand, and his later condemning replies to any and all responses proffered to him.  Arrogance of the intensity he displays has always been a substitute for actual wisdom.  This truth is one of the fundamental truths of human nature, and I am not the only person to realize it.  “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”  (Bertrand Russell)  That, little Jimmy V., spoiled rotten “writer,” is the central issue you should concern yourself with.

 

Which celebrity would you like to bitch slap?

Dr. Laura wins by a light-year.  I only slap those who’ve been guilty of slapping others.  She’s angry and cruel and gives just plain bad advice to her callers.  I listen to her all the time to remind myself how wise and kind I am by comparison.  King Solomon, she isn’t.  She’s a one-note piano with a bent wire.  She sounds like she needs heavy meds, and pronto!  Wouldn’t we all just leap at the chance to come back as her husband or son?  I’d rather be eaten alive by a swarm of rats.

 

Do you remember your dreams?

I remember my dreams often, but not every single night.  My dreams run the gamut of emotional response — from terror to euphoria.  I write down most of the dreams I remember.  They are usually very long & complicated & sometimes make perfect sense but sometimes don’t contain the slightest thread of logic.  My favorite dreams are the ones I call “therapy dreams.”  Often, when I’m upset or angry with someone, I’ll dream about that person & act out my feelings in the dream & achieve some sort of resolution which flows over into waking life & is vastly superior to any traditional therapy I’ve tried.  I’ve done everything in my dreams — flown without mechanical aids, been wonderfully fluent in foreign languages, had phenomenal sex with friends & strangers & celebrities, lived as a member of the opposite sex, written best sellers, killed people… my dreams are in many ways the best part of my life because they’re absolutely limitless in scope & action & intensity.  Sometimes dreams are a lot more “real” than real life & more enjoyable.  Surrealist dreams are the most interesting — upon waking I always try to puzzle out what was the link between seemingly unrelated events or objects.  I’ve even accurately prophesied the future in dreams.  I tend to think it’s because the subconscious is free to express itself rather than any supernatural explanation.  We’re just that smart when we’re not weighed down with all our conscious baggage.  Thanks for asking about dreams!

 

What’s your Wu-Tang name?

Contagious Specialist

 

What’s the deal with long hair?

You’re right, it is 40.  Not 30.  Sometimes long hair can make the face look thin & drawn, but that’s also true for teenagers.  Some of them shouldn’t have long hair.  On the other hand, I’ve seen old ladies in wheelchairs with long fluffy white hair & it can be quite charming.  I think if you look good with it, who cares what the rules are?

 

What are five good things about springtime?

1.  Getting the taxes filed & out of the way

2. Wanderlust & regular lust & spring fever

3. Plants waking up & showing off & intoxicated

4. Putting the hand lotion away till next year

5. Birds, bees, butterflies & bikini underwear

 

What are your irrational annoyances?

Noise, noise & noise.  Ungrateful children who view me as their maid.  Children who, rather than empty the trash, stuff the can so full you can’t get the bag out.  Children who leave dirty dishes & empty snack containers scattered around the house.  Children who are, currently either at the movies or sleeping.  Thank you, God.

 

Does springtime make you horny?

Nope.  For me the season of lust is definitely winter.  But then, I live in Florida.

 

Why do you love your pets?

I love my pets because they’re far less demanding than my children.

 

What do you think of the name game?

I have a former sister-in-law who collects unusual names.  A couple of her favorites are Shithead (pronounced Shi-THEED) and Lemonjello (pronounced Le-MON-jello). Also PsalmCIV (pronounced PIZUM-siv).  These are actual legal names, no joke.

 

What do you think of magazines with articles titled “Ten Steps to a Killer Orgasm!”?

I used to read Seventeen as a child… then read Glamour as a young woman… then read Mirabella as a grown-up.  It figures Mirabella went bust, it was the most intelligent in a sea of dreck.  Redbook was pretty good until they quit publishing short fiction. Jane’s okay, but too young for me.  I hate Martha Stewart but her magazine’s got the best art direction, I think.  And I like when she runs those articles about 27 varieties of tomatoes, or whatever, with a poster illustration.  Gourmet is an old classic, still living up to its past.  Vanity Fair has great writing & an eclectic subject matter.  Rolling Stone & Sports Illustrated also win for good writing that crosses subject lines.  I find I don’t have enough time to read all the magazines I subscribe to — they languish in piles.  W is nice just for the outsized format but their writing is negligible.

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