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process: Stokes flow, poetry

May 21, 2016

Yesterday morning I woke up with the first line of a new poem in my head. I spent all day working on it. What I thought would be the title turned out to be an italicized line, setting the stage. I found I had a lot to say on the precipitating event. And some of my lines initially sang.

When I tried to refine my emotions, though, the music of the lines disappeared.  The whole thing turned to mush.

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Certain other poems, generally long ones (like this one), seem to need to be written — or at least grappled with — to alert me of issue(s) in my life that need to be dealt with differently. Things I need to rethink and reconfigure.

The last 1/8 of “Embraceable You” in 2011. The muddy beginning and ending of “Guest of Honor” in 2014. Any of my surreal poems about gender and identity.

Maybe this is one such.

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What can possibly be so compelling about a weekend — admittedly, a traumatic one — that occurred almost 30 years ago? And why did it suddenly seem salient yesterday morning?

Well, I had just finished reading Alison Bechdel’s memoir, “Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama”, in which she seems to have made considerably less progress than I in separating from her narcissistic mother. (On the other hand, she seems to value being at least somewhat enmeshed with her mother.)

= = =

A week ago today, I got a text message from the post office where we have a box, saying that something was waiting for us. I had an idea what that something might be. I ran through several scenarios in my mind, and made tentative plans for any of them. I felt I was as ready as you ever are for communications from people you’re not sure you want in your life.

I was having a really good day Thursday {Name Day!}, so I stopped by the post office and checked our box. There was a paper notice that the item was too bulky to fit.

I had a flash of nerves: some kind of package was a worrying development. I was suddenly not sure I was ready.

But I went to the counter and handed it in.

And received… a local phone book.

= = =

I’ll be turning 50 in a few months. This whole year since I turned 49 has kind of been about preparing to turn 50. Sweeping away old detritus, making way for new growth.

When I was in my early 20s, my mother turned 50. It was her first milestone birthday where I was working, so I could afford to buy her a really spectacular gift. I saved up for months. I bought an artisan made multi-part necklace from a local art gallery store. Somehow, visually and tactilely, it summed up something essential I felt about my mother.

I couldn’t wait to present it to her. I wrapped it up extra special. I was almost too verklempt to talk, as I handed it to her: finally she would understand everything I loved about her!

She didn’t really like it.

She almost never wore it.

Sometimes, when she was out of the house, I would go into her closet to look at it in her jewelry box.

I would wonder what part I did wrong: imagining her as something she didn’t see herself as? Thinking the way a child (albeit an adult child) would celebrate a parent’s birthday would be welcomed by that parent? Maybe I just misunderstood her aesthetic?

= = =

11 years later, I bought an older female cousin turning 40 a showy piece of jewelry. She did seem to like it, but she immediately put it on, even though it clashed horribly with what she was wearing. (It hurt my eyes to look at her in it, in fact.)

When I turned 40, no one in my family of origin acknowledged it in any way.

I’m sure they won’t note me turning 50 either.

= = =

Showy jewelry is meant to be “shown off”; it’s inherently social.

I have a few pieces of gemstone jewelry that I have historically worn for special (social) occasions. When my family of origin was there, however, if they showed any interest in my jewelry, it wasn’t out of aesthetic appreciation, but jealousy. So I stopped wearing the jewelry.

Sometimes I wear them around the house, when I’m alone. Someone loved me enough to buy me beautiful things I’ve always loved — why shouldn’t I wear them?

= = =

Buying myself a showy piece of jewelry to commemorate my 50th is something I could afford. I’ve seriously considered it. But it doesn’t feel right.

+++

In the poem from yesterday, there was a line:

Someone, anyone, will see me.

No one did, that horrible weekend in 1986. Arguably, no one in my family of origin except my mother’s parents (long dead), ever has seen me.

I don’t know if they can, but they turn away in disgust. Or if they can’t.

Does it matter?

+++

I’m an extrovert living an introvert’s life. Except on Twitter, although all the typing and scrolling on my phone exacerbates my carpal tunnel.

And even on Twitter, I’m an extrovert that no one pays much attention to. I only really seem to exist when I’m boosting the work of others, or encouraging them to keep going.

When I speak of my own life and struggles, no one cares. When I’m happy and excited about something, no one cares.

+++

I’ve been researching terroir because it’s important for things I want to write about. But now I think maybe I have missed why it’s relevant to me — organisms fit their environment. They reflect their habitat; they couldn’t thrive somewhere else.

I have lived in a great many environments, but I haven’t thrived in any of them. Yet.

Maryland suits me much better than Illinois, New York, and certainly better than Indiana and Oklahoma. But to the extent that I fit in here, I fit in with the topography, the ecology, the water bodies. I’ve quite struggled with the subtropical climate. And I don’t understand the human beings at all.

Arguably, of course, I don’t understand human beings anywhere.

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