consuelacooks

cooking, poetry, and unapologetic intense moments in a life

Category: getting old

12:06 AM, Irma, Fire and Verona.

It’s 12:06 Am and there are quiet hours at Gatito Vito’s salon except
there is no quiet to be had, but vague ethnicity and troubled
dreamers wondering where supper is next week and where the
next handshake will emerge in this orange drowned town north of Mississip-

And fire burns and ash churns and so many foxes and hawks find silence
in cubbyholes and sand traps made for scorpions but now they house
refugees of fur and far and hope and wet and the new world in spades
and Trump(s) and storms, cataclysms, conundrums, holes of comfort.

There are not enough water bottles to sell, enough aid, not enough
purifiers, too many diapers to hold feces, piss of fleeing babes,
not enough gas to fuel the flying multitudes. It is dangerous, you know.
The storm will come, you know. It is here. IT IS PRESENT. It’s now the

bedfellow you needed to look in the eye, only the electric is gone and
the water is red with cruiser escapes filmed for the pleasure of
so many internet wanderers, and they know their time is limited, so
precious this time they have to bear witness to it all, bone and marrow,

and we write each others’ books, we do. Like some kind of Victorian
journalist, bearded and boheme. Finding the chinks, the holes. and
calling it all for scandal. It’s a business, these days, the scandal.
it’s all we can do to keep up, to sleep and strum, to remain upright and

here we are, at the cusp of eternity wondering who we can be in the wake of it
all, is all, is some, and we love each other don’t we? Don’t we? Or rather yet,
Do we hope for the moment we understand melody again? Do we pine to wake
and know that we have become enough, and the screen is safe to close?

Your body surges with the cancer, looking for a sweet spot, and you, warrior, let it
know the eye is near, and it will have to stay the interest until Tuesday. You
smooth tiny Evan’s hair with promise as you board windows, knowing the wind
cannot rival this year, this trial, this manifest of scars. It is a day, a week of

wheat from chafe, light from stark, wonder from womb, and tender lullabies.

 

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“Every man’s memory is his private literature.” ― Aldous Huxley

The Four Agreements are:
1. Be Impeccable with your Word
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best

I learned about the Four Agreements one summer while working in the Berkshires from my friend Tom. A Toltec Shaman named Don Miguel Ruiz published them in a book in 1997. Tom would often climb a nearby mountain and play a flute.

This was the same summer my best friend’s stepfather was hit by lightning in his canoe, along with his nephew, both killed, and drug to the bottom of a lake in Ocala by alligators, only to later be identified by dental records.  This was the same Summer I once again gave servitude to a company I worked for, as, starstruck I listened to it’s elders for guidance, hoping that they would give me wisdom on how to grow up. I just wanted someone to tell me things like, “Don’t do drugs.” or ask if I knew where babies came from. No dice. I learned much about being a teacher, figuring things out on my own, and how to allow heroes to step off of the pedestal every once in a while to give them a break. Heroism was as exhausting for them as my need for a hero was for me.
This is the same Summer I slept only hours a night, seeking solace in the people who lived  most extremely. Everything was liberally done. Including damage. Facebook reminded me of this Summer today.

Facebook loves to remind you of things, and also today it reminded me that three years ago today I was in the Giants stadium in San Francisco. I took a job with a theatre company out there, being hired with stars in my eyes by a beautiful, charismatic, brilliant leader.

I will remember a few things about that place:

Mount Tamalpais : I climbed and climbed and climbed. I was searching so desperately for some warmth in this place I had come for work. I mean, there was no way for it to live up to expectations, and the self loathing, reinforced by leaders, was verbose. Mount Tam was a metaphor for the EXTREME sadness I was feeling, the worthlessness I had assigned myself. I was trying to get up and out, trying to see the world more clearly.

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The Pacific: Never have I walked so much on a beach. Never have I thrown so many questions to a body of water. And never have I considered pulling a Jeff Buckley more than in these weeks.

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Fort Point : The production I worked on took place here, and inside the walls you could find the signatures of all the men who were at the ready in the 1800’s for a war that never came. I learned every curve, every stone, every ghost.

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Golden Boy Pizza,  John, and Jamie: I knew already that I loved one of these yahoos, and the Jamie came later, brilliant, with a madman’s eyes, a poet’s heart, and a sailor’s soul. These two gentlemen, the patterns of good men, unknowingly kept me alive these months.

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The Giants : By God, they might be the most disappointing team in MLB right now, but they were a glorious constant then. There was nothing like sitting against a redwood in a forest with a game being funneled into my ears. There was something to root for. There was a home team. Watching a no-hitter in that stadium was the highlight of my Summer.

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Facebook also reminded me:

Nine years ago today Michael Jackson died.

One year ago I was on Peak’s Island saying poetry to a new crowd.

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Seven years ago, I was getting ready to perform at the Eno River Festival in North Carolina with Rebecca, still eating fire, still being a Carolinian and a Nickel Shakespeare Girl.  Still loving and being in love with one of the best friends I ever had, and ever will have in this life or any after.

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Four years ago I was cooking for a family in the Berkshires for side money alongside one of the dearest, most rock-hard strong women I have ever known.

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They became dear to me -to us- this family, and we became family to them. Sadly less than a year later, the patriarch took his own life, just like his father before.

 


One year ago my friend John was playing Lear in our show Dark Rooms. He knew he was dying, even then. A few weeks later, he was gone, and we were rehearsing a play he financed-literally his dying wish- about the first poet and the first prophetess. We spoke his name every day, and did our very, very best every moment. People came. People fell back in love. People fell in love for the first time. People grieved.

 

I am grateful for all of this, painful, joyful, wince-worthy, and formative. I hope I’m getting better at the four agreements. Thank God there won’t be a test.

“The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject… And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them… Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced.”
― Seneca, Natural Questions

 

 

How many synonyms are there for affection?

On a Saturday morning, effortless
We were 18 year-old forty somethings.
unmistakable giggles
stories of bloodsheds and watersheds
bedheads, retreads, some reds and blues and my God
the unsaid, the apparent, the ready the resonance.
The path of the empath, the love swelling scenes of midnights and
florida forlorn kids, pounding those warrior days with
what it took to keep breathing amidst the certain uncertainties that
left us breathless, those crazy albatross pains
the colic of adolescence, the way we wove
our secrets into each day
and let them set with humid sun, burning in
shades of city and wreck.

Our sides were burning with want, all of us.
All we knew was heat and water, spaceships and tree swings.
We were bred for this. This. This
shade of indigo. some desire of the unmapped, the
Chartless seduction submerged in the
sweetest trust of childhood playfellows
now with the most minute of wrinkle lines.
the new breath of honey
A lexis of kisses, lost loves,
car payments and some self-examination:
really the only true distance, you know?
I can’t explain the pull, I don’t need to.
The propulsion, palpable, makes it easy.
The conversation, easier.
The same eyes, mouth, and laugh
The history of us, the heart journey to Mercury,
Mars, Africa, Eden, Abyss of
trying to figure the fucking thing out.
the solid ground under our feet we can stand on
hearing a familiar voice, (one I adore)
without losing  balance
without trying to qualify why we find it comfortable to stand still.
why it’s enough to understand the shape of your hand
and remember it in mine while singing together
on some stage at 16 feeling our feet under us, even then.
Even then, even now, the ease is all.
The curiosity is filling the cat.
Willing travel, and a feeling of flutters.
A thought of a what-if-butterfly kiss
a hand solidly resting on the low of my back.
a slow dance in some music hall, or a walk in the rain.
or maybe, just a hunt of Memphis Town, and a friendly tour guide.
I really don’t have any idea what this urge is.
I’m not going to question. I’m not going to shove it down.

The clearest expectation for us all now is to stay alive until we don’t, and find each others’ eyes. We find the hand and hold it tight for dear life, because by God, it’s time. We laugh and eat days and nights, and sing songs loud.

All else is time, and all is all.
And it’s short, you know?
how we touch, how we hide, where we can get to, and where we are to go.
the thing is, mostly of most,
to admire someone and wish them with you
is to see the underside of the Gods.
The places they secret away for the most amorous and best mortals
The ones who will carry on the work of
loving like they did, the Gods,
The demigods. The deities, The Titans, the giants, and the poets.
With Athenian chastity,
The patience of Daphnis and Chloe, waiting for the storm, wishing to be whole
Writing us, sans plot
Charting the path with Artemis-like precision,
(Catch and release, catch and release)
We imagine the Aphrodite in us, sweet friend.
Thirty years seem to speak volumes in the silence.

Or perhaps just a day, a breath of what it feels to be home.
laying on that stage.
staring up, looking at our broken lights,
wishing we were more in control of our life, our bodies
wishing for a slower dance, another field trip
another bus ride, another chance to sing songs
in the chorus room at lunch.

Maybe we are just laying on the stage again.
Humming songs in seraphic harmony
Getting those goosebumps we did
When we knew that our sounds,
mine and yours,
made us more immortal than any God
more beautiful than a Magnolia,
bursting in wet bloom.
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Dreaming big, and dainty, winsome, poet-honey.

Sometimes its the sound of it. The way it drags across skin, sand and other deterrents
Sometimes its the perfect way it slides into spots, unaware
Sometimes its the way it shoves down into the horizon, plowing day into inky black
Sometimes its the way it slows me as a walk out Midtown door in morning time

Last night I dreamt of someone next to me
In t-shirt sheets whispering instructions
On how to get to Mexico. It wasn’t so very far.
Completely unlit we only shared territory and exhalation
Wilting blue covering head neck chin and so forth
We vaulted the window with unseen pinions,
Alighted in some desert place.
I could see who it was then.

I was surprised you followed me here.
My compromise for Mexico was justified and
the scorpion dancing the jig, told me
we didn’t have far to go
You picked a far off orange tree for rest
And my palm was traced by your forefinger, unique
“-comer de mi boca, comerme mi peligro.”

It was a subtle kiss when it landed. Thirty seconds or more
We were less than an inch lip to lip.
Then the distance closed,proximity was everything
It tasted of three things:
ice, lime and sweet honey.
You whispered a small prayer, there, over my eyes
some Latin ditty meant to seduce
( Your hands rested in chastity on my sunburned knees)
(My hands, aching, did not rest, but remain good at heart).
When my lids lifted back over my eyes, of course, you were gone.
Gone to some other dream, I suppose.
Ginger, freckled, Sandman.
And again I was in some foreign place filled with wet trees
And fog like fingers, alone.
The sun was makin his descent, and I heard some creature moan for moon

Call me back. I ‘m gonna be baptized
By that rain, hold it holy, like the Grotto, in my hands
and pray for economic mercy, digging in the dirt mercy,
medicinal mercy, theatrical mercy
I’m gonna burrow my black head into those metabolic fantasy trees
I’m gonna have to be sucked
sucked into that river again
where I have to swim for light
where I have to find my feet, lashes, breasts
again.
skin brown, freckles ablaze, muscles sore, time snarled
and tree after tree after mountain after hipster after hippie after sea to shining sea after California, Oregon, Mount Saint Helen’s, Memphis, Portland, Chicago oh

Oh, oh.
I’m with you
I’m with you
I’m with you in charred remains of great lands
I’m with you in bunk beds
campfires, estranged houses
under those crazy stars with the bugs that light in symphony for us
splash me in that rain, get me wet up to my hazel eyes in it
drown me in what is right in front of me,
teach me angel ways
Cataclysmic lovers, poets, carnal midnight madmen
I love you
(And god’s fingers are here
lipsticked in drag-queen red,
howling a sticky ballad
every celestial vein)
(And those crazy Thracians!
Philomel in her hut,
having those things done that he did
and then  all becoming those crazy birds)

Maybe we can do that
become those birds– when we get the nights back,
When the explosions stop.

Just so you know,
the house in our dream was made of glass,
each several window blown sugar,
each strand of sugar spider webs,
each web the finest dew line,
each dew line the stuff of dreams
I have the smell of it by my bedside,
It produced tributary tears in the getting of it,

To report an outage, call quickly.
And wait. Wait.
It will assemble. And things will be free of bands of paper, case, and cage.

But I knew it was you, Velour bottomed and cat cradled
vehicular comrade and cloud kissed
Street sweeper of The brave new world!
You spoke in tongues and the bribes were left unanswered
And the bush burned and tomorrow came
And I tasted hope metallic on Soft palette
It swam with so many other sweet things
The treble of your solitude suicide in my ear, your eager million dollar hands on my face, the halo of pursuit in the covers, the dim light of morning and
Beethoven only a whisper and a promise away.
This was the stuff that the cinema can’t even catch
It housed too much paint and long fire to be funnelled into in any dark room
It canvassed a field somewhere in some land sans gravity, eloquence, and
Free of heat and cold where rivers run pure plasma attacks and fish leap to the sky

And
Just
Keep
Going going was the night in the way of the bells and the grand ball
Where ladies dance and Gatsby he watches and documents from a balcony somewhere
And you and I took our time
We took it and woke up alone with possibility in our beds
hope on our porch
light, that blue light, los latidos del corazón,

the light of what you touch is what we have,
air we heave,
world we grab: mashed in dirty fingers, stuck in beards, lost in sheets
The here and the danger,the four days,the sound of a whisper
Etched here
in blues

on the palm

of my hand.

 

Even on my tallest day I still can’t reach the damn light bulb.

The lights in my kitchen in my ugly puppy of an apartment here in Memphis are slowly, one by one, going out. While I love the high ceilings in this quirky pad, I am, and will always be, 61 and three-quarters of an inch high. No amount of staring straight up will release these dead bulbs from their elusive sockets. No matter what surface in my apartment I put under me, I can’t reach. I cannot WILL them out. They will not be swayed by smart rhetoric. Even yelling has not worked. Ignoring them has no yield either. I’m just dumbfounded by the hilarious metaphor of it all screaming in caps,

“YOU NEED TO LET SOMEONE IN”.

A ladder would do the trick, or possibly scaling the stove to fridge and then a 3 foot reach… but seriously? If you know me, you know that both of these ideas are just nucking futs.

I’m easing in. Last night I welcomed new friends by means of games, fire, and loud music. Today I receive friends by reading at the Spartan City Poet’s May Day. Tonight I participate in some small way as an actor in a rehearsal. Tomorrow, more immersion, more opening, more tooling around exploring this city with new eyes that are reminding some of my new Memphian pals why they stayed here, and why it’s beautiful.

Mid forties are super weird. You kind of can’t make up excuses for your behavior anymore, lest you just fall into the category of the non-evolving. It’s exciting to REALLY love people in a deeply grounded way. It’s trailblazing to speak with a whiff of authority about your experience, particularly when you’ve made the maverick move of waiting to dive in with folks until you can see past the fog of craftily and attractively packed baggage you have accumulated over said forty plus years.

“So when you are sitting with a new tribe in a tiny lounge off of Madison,  the music is good, and the laughter is the whitest of noise, you can believe that none of this, not one part of it can be done alone, Carmen, so shut up and listen to me. Let someone come over and change the damn bulbs. Everyone is taller than you anyway.” – The Universe

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Μου λείπεις

There is an art to missing people, I believe. It is quiet, it is active, and it is slow. The layering effect of it is staggering; the amount of energy a human has to love, and the expansive room humans have to invite more and more people into that space of nostalgia. Just when we believe we can’t do it again, we fall in love with people, we dote on moments, we make heroic even the most tempestuous of friendships in their absence. We expand and romanticize the briefest of possible flirtations. Each time we engage in hatred or discrimination we fight our most basic desire: to be home. To find resonance. To dwell in the familiar, whether it be tangible or no.

Two toddlers on a swing-set in a park don’t give a shit about Donald Trump. Or a hijab. Or a prayer. Or whiter teeth. Or even what they are named. They want to together feel that sensation in their bellies when they are suspended by the swing, inexplicably in the air, caught  by physics in a moment of shared ecstasy. That’s as real as it gets. Distilled. While all of these other things come into play later, this one moment is the fodder for remembrance.

So, I’ve been remembering. And doting. And breathing through it: the painful birth process of change. It’s baffling, swollen, pulsing, and pushing, and it’s going to happen whether I like it or not.

I’m happy to say, my life has been full of swing-sets.

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Secondary leaves, Or mid-life growth spurts

It’s been a solid three weeks since my little life began here in the deep south. In that time, I have figured out the GOOD grocery store, the BAD date sites, the BEAUTIFUL garden walks, the WILDLY FRUITFUL yard-sale neighborhoods, and the inevitable MIRROR UP TO NATURE that is alone time. All of this, of course, yields incredibly useful information, albeit sometimes with great discomfort.

There has not been great success personally in raising things from seed in my life. I am a scavenger of disposed-of plants behind grocery stores, and while those forgotten plants usually live in the world of dry, old, or ugly– I try to revitalize them and bring back some of the good old days of green living. But from seed? There was a pitiful tomato plant once. It yielded one lone tomato, about an inch in diameter.

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It was a momentous occasion. My friend Caitlin and I divided it in two and ate it with panache, as we did many beautiful meals in that dearest old stinky house we occupied in Pittsfield Massachusetts, so many moons ago.

But, due to Memphis dirt, divinity, dedication, decidedly good counsel, and delicious Tennessee light, we have secondary leaves.

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There does seem to be life here. In so many forms. The relish of fellowship, the love of music, the surge of urban art, the evolution of plants, neighborhoods and organizations, the REBIRTH of itself, the phoenix-like qualities of those who are marginalized –the sheer TENACITY of this resilient city is infectious on so many levels.

On this precipitous Friday, we look into that mirror, and rest with the ghosts who are becoming most transparent.

We wish them well, and they fade into thin air, like smoke.

“All things are engaged in writing their history…Not a foot steps into the snow, or along the ground, but prints in characters more or less lasting, a map of its march. The ground is all memoranda and signatures; and every object covered over with hints. In nature, this self-registration is incessant, and the narrative is the print of the seal.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The running list of what I love about Memphis

Memphis is like no other place I’ve ever been. I won’t and can’t explain the feeling, as it would be diminished with language. It is lush, delicious. The days of alone time are very trying , but the moments of shared experience are unique and spirit-full. If there is a Holy Ghost, I swear he lives in Memphis.

The List:

IMG_20170507_082813190Midtown Laundry

You might say, “What the hell?”.

This place gives ample conversation, entertainment, the occasional prayer, and the inevitable communal belly laugh, and at 7 on a Sunday morning, I always see the same folks.

My favorite, my friend, 74, who lives on Spring, who always reminds me that if God lets her live another month she will be 75. She always touches me, invokes a short prayer, and gives me the updates on her health, her neighborhood gossip, and praises my moth tattoo. I’m pretty sure she is a deity of some sort.

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Overton Park.

Dogs, picnicking lovers, families laughing, lush forests, art, and a formidable playground.

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Magnolias.

They’re from the Jurassic period.

Literally dinosaur flowers.

They smell of fear, lust, surprise, gentility, and fire to me. Also, my friend Marquis is on that list- he’s one of my favorite things too. This was his first magnolia.

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This little Hippo.

Her name is Winnie and she is a baby. She is at the Memphis Zoo. Her Mom’s name is Binti. Hippos are descended from whales, and can grow up to 7000 pounds. They can run up to 19 miles an hour on land, and can open their massive jaw a whopping 180 degrees and muster enough force in them (along with incredibly sharp teeth) to crush an alligator. Their name means ‘Horse of the River’. They cannot swim or float, but can trot on the river bed like a horse, and when they need to resurface (about every 8-9 minutes) they push themselves off of the bed. They are the deadliest animal in Africa. Number one. Superlative. It doesn’t get deadlier, unless you’re a mosquito, an elephant or a black mambo. I love hippos. Can’t explain it.

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Memphis Rain.

I love it. I missed it. Thunder is a lullaby. Also, Ella is the best, and I wish they were here a lot. And their partner Mark.

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Caritas Village.

The Mission: ‘To break down walls of hostility between the cultures, to build bridges of love and trust between the rich and those made poor & to provide a positive alternative to the street corners for the neighborhood children.’ It’s a miracle of a place. Smack dab in the middle of Binghampton. I met 4 of the warmest humans in Memphis in that place, and I can’t wait to return.

Burke'sbooks

Burke’s Books.

There is no better spot to sit, read, and think. It has survived depressions, prohibition, two world wars, a civil war, the turns of two centuries, hipsters, hippies, hip-cats, the Beats, surf rock, the British Invasion, baby boomers, Gen-Xers, Millennials, and 27 presidents of the United States of America. There is really no telling if any of us will survive the current leadership, so I’m not including his reign in this endorsement for a rock-solid staple of Memphian destinations.

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Company d

Company d of Memphis, Tennessee, is a nationally recognized dance company of young adults with Down syndrome under the artistic direction of choreographer Darlene Winters. I was able to spend some time there, talk about possibilities, and meet some of the dancers. They were stunning. I hope to spend a lot of time here.

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My falling-apart-leaky-noisy apartment.

I feel safe in this ugly puppy of a building, which is no small feat in this town which lives up to its dangerous reputation on a daily basis. I’ve never laid eyes on my landlord, I had to work for two hours with a knife and a hammer to pry open one window, I’ve had two shelves come crashing down in my kitchen, and there are so many haphazardly laid layers of paint on everything in the apartment that I’m sure each room has lost a square inch. I live below two 22-year-old newlyweds who are very energetic, emphatic walkers, and late-night vacuum-ers, and although there is a washer and dryer in the basement, I feel like I’m in a final scene out of the Blair Witch Project when I descend those stairs, so I seek other laundry facilities (see Midtown Laundry). Vito loves the wide open space, and I have had a number of opportunities to have folks over already. My Basil and Cilantro are growing. I am sleeping (Maybe too much sleeping). I love my job and the people who I work with each day. I BELIEVE in my leaders. I TRUST them.

 

I don’t have those pals that I can be quiet with yet, but I’m getting there. I’ve only developed two or three crushes. I’ve only scanned the animal shelter offerings twice. I’m slowly extracting melancholy and injecting in some hope.

 

Baby steps, people.

Smart Plum

triple beats

grasping stolen stillness

in quiet, I study your hand:

considerable, grand- with spacious reach

seizing language like lunch

curly, coltish, sublime and saporous,

in quiet, I study your jaw

the sideways eye that follows

the forehead forward, fallen,

quenched, and satisfied

by a subtle sonnet.

In quiet, I study your spirit.

Gordian and elaborate, made of sea water and a daughter’s nose

a balance over a tall height,

a mosaic motley of ambrosial sentiments

you, a modern Daedalus,

me, a smart Plum,

smattered with freckles, replete with

elemental fascination, soft pining

wishing for some touch,

wanting more time, or just

another day to write you a poem

another like this

a simple message

from a smart plum.

 

Pearls and All

It was thirty days

and the bludgeoning tide took them

soldiers of all heights, weights

varying degrees of manhood

some completely buried

some with gentle wives

Some with ghosts walking door to door

talking of love, light, gentler things

 

It was all strange

 

The way they decayed in the bare light stripped them of all humor, memory

those mouths in frozen fear forever

thinking the thoughts that would

categorize them for all days.

 

I knew one, one day.

He listened to Joy Division and talked

of how Morrissey was a depressed fuck.

How he probably never enjoyed a thing. Even touching a girl in privat-er parts.

We watched a fiber optic flower for the night,

 

sneaking in

stolen corridors of forlorn

Florida Houses, not yet sold.

(This would determine our juvenile record, you see)

We would forever be remembered by these rebellious acts.

By this fire,

and that theft. We fucking loved

being us.

 

But now sweet- we remember you by the heat and decay

the way you smelled after three days

mouth wider than the Joker,

showing teeth for the enemy

as you both stare into the dark rooms.

The dark rooms We never arrived at simultaneously-

The ones that called your name on any Winter day.

You shouted, dear one.

You shouted without audience.

Funny that,

we dressed for the occasion, you and I.

 

Pearls and all.

 

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