Empire State Building
Twenty years ago we finally went to see the sights,
riding the train through flashing dim green suburb,
glassy sharp-edged slum, the skin stretched
pale and tight over your fine cheekbones —
you didn’t really know how to be afraid of death,
simply of heights and under-grounds:
you wanted always to be on the surface of the earth.
Your demise was still an abstraction,
discussed in the evening while sucking cool mints —
the natural order of things. I dragged you
all the way to the city under the water from Hoboken,
then marched you up to the roof of what was the tallest
building in the whole world when you were young.
I haven’t been here since it was built, you said,
and though the blood sank to your innards in panic,
you kept walking; I kept pushing and pulling you
forward, propelling your solid weight like a cart
loaded with spring lambs. Your hand, soft
wrinkled palm, roughened fingers speckled white
around the knuckles, gripped mine, but I showed
no mercy; I was forcing you to confront the bitter
end ahead of schedule. I was being cruel
to make you go look at the thin sparkling air
of the heavens and you knew it. But later,
my love, as you lay sweating, heavy and motionless
in your bed as though carved of wood, deprived
for weeks of even the common decency of words,
weren’t you glad you went with me once more to the top?
Filed under beauty, compassion, courage, daughter, daughters, death, empire, enlightenment, eternal, eternity, faith, family, fear, grief, heart, hope, human beings, humanity, kindness, loss, love, mama, memoir, mortality, mother, mothers, mourning, mysterious, poetry, soul, spirit, spiritual, spirituality, transcendence, transitions, tribute, truth, universe, wish
(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.
Filed under absent father, acceptance, addiction, adolescence, adult children of alcoholics, adultery, alcoholism, anthem, anthropology, apologia, apology, appeals, art, art history, baby, baha'i, beauty, bible, birth, black, blood, born again, boys, buddhist, Catholic, charity, child abuse, child neglect, childbirth, childhood, children of alcoholics, christian, civil rights, compassion, courage, death, development, dream, dreams, earth, enlightenment, eternal, eternity, everything, evolution, faith, family, father, fatherhood, fathers, flowers, for children, forgiveness, friendship, girls, god, good, graduation, grief, he, health, heart, hindu, history, hope, human beings, humanity, humor, jesus, jewish, justice, karma, kindness, law, life, logic, loss, love, mama, man, manhood, manifesto, maturity, men, mitochondria, mortality, mother, mothers, mourning, museums, muslim, mysterious, nature, parenting, paris, passion, peace, personal responsibility, personification, poetry, politics, pregnancy, prose poetry, rastafarian, redhead, regret, relationships, Saint Teresa, science, sex, sisters, soul, spirit, spiritual, spirituality, spring, transcendence, transitions, travel, tribute, truth, universe, warmth, wish, woman, women, wood, world, zoroastrian
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.
Filed under courage, faith, family, hope, human beings, humanity, identity, life, loss, love, maturity, mortality, mysterious, nature, poetry, relationships, science, sisters, soul, spirit, spiritual, spirituality, transcendence, transitions, tribute, truth, universe, woman
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.
Filed under beauty, birth, blood, buddhist, compassion, courage, development, dream, dreams, eternal, evolution, forgiveness, hope, human beings, humanity, identity, karma, kindness, life, logic, loss, love, manifesto, maturity, mitochondria, mortality, mother, mothers, mysterious, nature, passion, peace, poetry, relationships, science, soul, spirit, spiritual, spirituality, transcendence, transitions, travel, tribute, truth, universe, warmth, wish, world, youth
August 14, 2016
Oprah’s Closet, an essay on priorities
It’s Super Soul Sunday on OWN, Oprah’s personal TV network. She sits with an author on a self-help book & discusses how, she, Oprah stands inside her walk-in closet & decides it’s not making her happy anymore.
Assumption number one: we, the viewer, can stand inside our closet.
Assumption number two: we, the viewer, are far enough ahead in the game of “net worth” to be able to discuss whether or not our large walk-in closet makes us “happy.”
Oh, Oprah. And just as I was just about to feel really good about you & your legitimately valuable achievements again! I mean, come on. You name EVERYTHING after yourself, and then justify it by saying it’s inspiring others to reach what you define as their “full potential” or some shit.
What the fucking fuck? Seriously? You just snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. Who gives a fuck about whether their closet makes them “happy?” Oprah, when did you get lost?
Priorities. Resources. Allocation. Social goals. Civilization. Society. Government. All people are created equal, and deserve at least a level playing field. A level playing field. Let our society make sure that every child starts the game on a level playing field. What we agree upon as humane. HUMANE treatment for humanity. Imagine that, Oprah!
Forget your closet! Let no child go hungry; unwashed; unloved; uneducated. Let no child languish in the care of a family which cannot care for them. NO child. Not just yours. Not just some theoretical children, in the abstract. Real, live, actual, living children, sitting in their living rooms, none of which should be scary, or dirty, or smelly, or empty. We are all equally entitled to the resources of this particular planet. And any other that anybody reaches.
Ain’t nobody owns the moon. Or the sea. Or the stars. Or the air. Or the water. But they WOULD LIKE TO. Therein lies the problem.
Filed under charity, child abuse, child neglect, childbirth, childhood, children of alcoholics, civil rights, compassion, dream, dreams, essay, evolution, for children, human beings, humanity, hypocrisy, identity, justice, karma, kindness, law, life, logic, love, maturity, mortality, personal responsibility, politics, rant, soul, spirit, spiritual, spirituality, transcendence, transitions, truth, Uncategorized, universe, war
The Analysand, a short fiction
“I’ll take your word for it,” she said.
She remembered long-forgotten moments; instances of innocence, of confidence, of hope. Her analyst wanted more from her than pages in her journal, more than frozen images which may… or may not… have actually happened. Four bundles of smooth, shiny, purple rope lay on the coffee table in his office, four beautifully coiled bundles, bound & tied with intricate, ceremonial knots. His eyes met hers; bright blue lamps of inquisitiveness and Inquisition.
“Where do you get that kind of rope?” she asked.
“I make it,” he said. “I dye it with Tyrian purple and condition it with organic beeswax.”
She kept her face neutral; curious. She’d had enough of fake tourist traps for a dozen lifetimes; boring main highways hadn’t ever led her to anyplace she’d want to stay in for long. And the sun rises even after the darkest night. And the sun sets after the sunniest day. Night has its own charms. Her wounds were on the inside… and his? His… would be healed by helping her heal her own. The rope laid on the table, gleaming & inscrutable. Her favorite violin, a Bergonzi, sat silent & helpless on her lap.
She’d been dead so long; she’d wanted her to speak for herself for so long. Her mother had treated her like anything but a daughter; pupil, instructor, heathen, missionary, ghost, confessor, beggar, heir, therapist, patient. So strike a pose; strike a deal; strike a match. What difference does any of it make: preserving body & soul is not good enough; nurture your body and your soul. Peace arises where all paths meet; crossroads for weary travelers. Fevers can burn you up. Water can heal. She put the violin back in its case.
“Okay,” she said. “It’s worth a try.” She stood up off the couch and took off her clothes.
Dr. Zhu tied her up gently, kissing her as he did. Yes. He started at her ankles, and bound her up like a trussed bird. And then he helped her lie down on his soft purple couch and began his work. Where you find the water of life, is home.
Filed under adult children of alcoholics, birth, child abuse, child neglect, childhood, children of alcoholics, compassion, courage, daughter, daughters, death, development, dream, dreams, evolution, family, fear, forgiveness, grief, heart, human beings, identity, ignorance, karma, loss, love, mama, matricide, mea culpa, mortality, mother, mothers, mourning, museums, mysterious, personal responsibility, regret, relationships, sex, short stories, soul, transcendence, transitions, universe, war, woman, women
Kimberly Townsend Palmer
(originally published in Burning Word)
Doctor’s Report: Patient A, a short story
Patient A is a living museum of femininity, and serves as transitory evidence of extensive neo-geo-psycho-socio-eco-political movement. Designed and built in the second half of the twentieth century, she first gained philanthropic prominence with a cynical, witty, overeducated man eight years her senior, Charles F. She stayed faithful to Charles F. for six months, but the intriguing tales of his former romantic partners, then numbering in the several hundred, irretrievably seized her imagination. She left, and never looked back. She shops for new men the way other women shop for new shoes.
She invariably rejects both the too-easy conquest and the too-stubborn resistance. Every season countless men flock near to witness her fleeting, hormonally-induced states of passion, and observe for themselves her classic “XX” architecture.
If it seems that everything has already been said about Patient…
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Filed under acceptance, anthem, anthropology, appeals, art, art history, beauty, birth, blood, daughter, daughters, dream, dreams, eternal, eternity, evolution, faith, fiction, girls, history, identity, justice, karma, kindness, life, logic, loss, love, personal responsibility, prose poetry, relationships, sex, short stories, soul, spirit, spiritual, spirituality, transcendence, transitions, truth, universe, wish, woman, women, world