Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Haiku Trio

Sunday afternoons,
I held my mother’s hands, smiled.
In her eyes words, words.


A mug of black tea, 
hand-thrown. I want to touch it, 
hold it, now empty.    


Her nose burrows down,
the dirt a Petri dish for 
the culture of dog.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

One Haiku

It’s just a short drive 
to my childhood home. Surprise,
there, like memory.

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Saturday, December 09, 2017

Five Haiku

Which brings more peace—dog 
facing me or curled away?
Never mind. That snore.


I walk home from work,
Listen to news as I think:
Pasta? Stir-fry? Luck.


So: “the first dusting.”
Memories, hope, fantasy—
the real snow report. 


All those men, naked, 
having a party somewhere 
without me. That’s right. 


A stranger, a chat
about singers I once loved. 
Still do. But . . . what? Time. 

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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Three Haiku

The orchid wilting.
Found bright on the cold sidewalk, 
weeks ago. Don’t die.


My evening world, home: 
dog’s eyes, tea, laundry spinning.
What happens outside?


Mom was always first 
on my list of prayers. Now 
someone gets her slot.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sometimes at Night

Sometimes at night, I'll mentally enumerate the face-to-face interactions I had, even passing ones, over the previous 12 hours, just to reassure myself I didn't spend the entire day in task-focused isolation. I don't, but it often feels I have. Thus . . .

Today I chatted for a few minutes with S., who came by to tell me an amusing addendum to a story of her ongoing househunt that we'd talked about the day before. 

Our IT guy showed me how to solve a problem that comes up every month but that I never think of forestalling till it's too late. Now I can take care of it myself without bothering him.

I had a brief exchange with an intern about a fact-checking issue, and one or two with the intern supervisor. 

An ex-coworker who's now a freelancer appeared out of the blue as I was stepping out for a walk, and we had a nice five-minute conversation. (When he worked here, we had a more fraught relationship; we get along a lot better now.) I used my witty line of the moment, which I also used yesterday on a colleague while killing time on the sidewalk during a fire drill (witty lines are so rare for me, I have to recycle them): I told both of them I shaved my facial scruff the other day because Harvey Weinstein had forever ruined facial scruff for me. 

The boss swung by a couple times about this and that. A few other short exchanges with other people, both business-related and small talk.

Oh, and I had a phone conversation with a local novelist of some reputation (in fact, the author of a book I remember extremely fondly, though I didn't mention it) who has a piece in the upcoming issue. He was very pleasant and down to earth. A decade or more ago, when my job was very different, my day was filled with calls like that.

Why am I writing all this? I'm trying to get back in the habit of putting sentences together. My muscles are slack, my mind a Ping-Pong ball, and a rather dinged one at that. 

This year I had cataract surgery at age 55. My mother died. (We laid her ashes to rest just last week, four and a half months after her death. I placed them in the niche with my father's, alone there for the last five years.) 

This summer, I got my ear pierced again, the third time for that particular ear, something I've been wanting to do ever since my earring was taken out at the ER after my bike accident three years ago and was never returned.

The other evening, I shaved the scruff. My face is my father's, my brother's (my mother's?), my own.  I've missed it.

It's a start.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

The Five Best Books I Read This Year*

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahisi Coates
A thrilling extended essay on being black in America and the fallacy of whitenessthe best book I've read in years. The sentences are so beautiful as to be lessons in themselves. Coates's compassionate voice combined with not giving a fig who's made uncomfortable hit me with the same force that Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place did more than 25 years ago. 

Odd Girl Out by Elizabeth Jane Howard
My pal at the Total Femme turned me on to Howard's brilliant Cazalet Chronicles quintet a few years ago, and I've since moved on to several of her other novels about domestic life, class, and sexual dynamics in Britain. This is the best of the non-Cazalets I've reada gripping, at times shocking story about a selfish young woman crippled by lack of love and about the damage incurred by her and on her after a married couple takes her in. Perfectly, devastatingly calibrated.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Not the first writer to interweave alternate paths a life might have taken, but the most accomplished I've seen at attending as much to the subtle psychological shifts as to the differing physical and circumstantial outcomes. A wily, moving tale of that infinitely fertile chemistry: England, war, and the 20th century. 

What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
The somber unspooling of a men's-room hookup between an American teacher in Bulgaria and a manipulative younger Bulgarian. Greenwell nails the pulse-driven momentum of a relationship that begins with sex and that develops into a stumbling two-step of neediness and unknowing. 

In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi
Coming to terms with her anger at her late-in-life trans father over his violence and abandonment when she was a kid is as big a task than accepting her as a woman, though it's often hard to separate Faludi's feelings about eachwhich ultimately seems to be the story she's telling: of dualities haltingly resolving into something close to wholeness. 

*Note: not all published this year (unlike many best-of lists). Also, I actually listened to all of these on audiobook, my preferred delivery method these days.

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Friday, December 09, 2016


About six weeks from now, at age 55, I'm having cataract surgery—a procedure more common among people in their seventies and eighties. 

It's further fallout from my bike accident almost three years ago. Turns out that successful retina-reattachment surgery—which I had to repair the detachment that occurred a couple of months after my spill in the bike lane—results in a cataract, because the gas injected into the eye to reattach the retina compromises the lens; it seems that going two whole years before developing a cataract is very, very good. 

Both of my eye doctors kind of "buried the lede," as they say in journalism: All of my careful adherence to the recovery regimen after the retina surgery (sleeping only on my left side—not my right, not my back or stomach—for the first week or two and, during the day, holding my head down to my chest for 50 minutes out of every hour for a week and a half, then 30 minutes every hour for several more days), which I was told repeatedly was to "avoid a cataract," was, come to find out, to avoid an immediate cataract. Until a few months ago, no one informed me it was inevitable that I'd develop a cataract within a year or two.


From the bewildering menu of surgical options and expenses, I've chosen to have my  severely nearsighted vision in both eyes changed to only slightly nearsighted in my right (the one with the cataract) and slightly farsighted in my left. I'll basically use one eye for reading and the other for distance. The result should be that I won't need glasses for most tasks. (The reason to have both lenses replaced is that if I had only my right done, the discrepancy between the vision in my two eyes would be, my ophthalmologist—also my brother-in-law—says, "unbearable.")

When I told my surgeon that the idea made my head spin, he said, "Well, you're basically seeing out of one eye now." Touché. The blurring in my right eye has gotten so bad that do indeed I favor my left by far.

"Your brain will adjust," both doctors reassure me. Even my sister (not the one married to my ophthalmologist) texted me: "I was going to get contacts like that, one near, one far. They say your brain just fills in the blanks, as long as the two eyes aren't wildly different."

In this same text exchange, she and I talked about our mother, who has entered hospice now for the third time in the last year and a half—Mom regains strength, stabilizes, and is "released" from hospice after a few months, even as she can't speak, walk, or feed herself. 

"I feel kind of sad and afraid that when she's gone we'll all be disconnected because so much of our getting together is Mom this, Mom that," my sister, who lives in another city, said. 

"We will have to build a new relationship with each other," I said. "That's what my therapist is always telling me. We can do it!"

She replied: "What your therapist says just made me cry because it sounds so hard."

"I think it will be like my new split vision," I found myself typing. "Our brains will adjust."

I'm not sure I convinced her. It was late, she'd just flown back home after a visit for our mother's 97th birthday (like funerals, sometimes birthdays are more for the celebrants than for the honoree), along with all the attendant caregiving, errand-running, and emotional surge-protecting. She was exhausted. 

But I actually do think we four, we survivors, will learn to see each other anew, perhaps more sharply, and forgivingly—after all, I might end up needing glasses for some things, such as long periods of heavy reading or driving at night. 

Confidence isn't always my strong suit, but in this case I really believe we'll make the compensations our brains and eyes and hearts require and keep going through the darkness, through the light.

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