Women Writers

Nose protuding of dog wrapped in lbanket in her open crate.

Isabel in her crate on a cold morning, warm, safe, cozy.

I’m reading Eileen Myles. I didn’t know who she was, until I read an article about a “punk poet.” Two words I’m drawn to–“Punk” and “Poet.” Two words I love.

Later, I come across her own words: “Can I just say for the record I’m not a punk poet? I’m from the working class, I sling the vernacular w style and I’m a dyke.” (Posted on Twitter.)

Well, I don’t know enough, I guess, to understand how being from working class or being “a dyke” makes her not a “punk poet.” After reading Chelsea Girls and I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems, and a number of articles about her and her work, I can understand why she would be labeled “punk poet.” But labels are invented by critics anyway. It’s my understanding that Robert Lowell hated being labeled a “confessional poet.” I’ve never cared for that description of Sylvia Plath either. In some ways, all art is to a certain extent “confessional.” Or you could say “personal.” Art is informed by an artist’s personal life experience. At least, that’s how I see it.

Some people have said to me, “I want my story heard.” I’ve never responded to this whine. I’ve never told someone, “What makes you so special that your story has to be heard?” At the poetry reading and open mic I attendED pretty regularly for three years, this woman described it as “a place where people tell their stories.” When I read there, (featured and open mic) I wasn’t “telling my story.” But it was assumed I was. Sure, there’s an element of personal experience in my poetry. But it isn’t my intention or objective to write about my personal experience. It’s simply inevitable. I am not writing “my story.” Who am I that I need to tell my story? It’s the story, it’s the poem, it’s the writing that matters, not me. My intention and objective is to create art.

At the same time, I do love autobiographies and memoirs. But autobiography is only a perspective. It is a story the way the writer sees it, remembers it, not to mention tells it. A person writing autobiography “creates” her narrative.

Sort of like, what is true really isn’t, or not completely, and what isn’t true (or isn’t meant to be) really is, or sort of.

To me, the story, or the poem, matters more, beyond the person writing it.

Eileen Myles’s Chelsea Girls is described as a novel. In an interview I read, the interviewer asks Myles about “the character Eileen.” I don’t know. Chelsea Girls reads to me like autobiography. To me, Eileen writer was the Eileen in Chelsea Girls. Even if it’s the narrative she creates, and anyone she writes about might disagree with her point of view. “I’m not like that.” “That’s not how I remember it.”

Novel or autobio, I very much enjoyed reading CG. Though there’s some writerly characteristics I wonder about. She writes “me” and “her” when it should be “I” and “she.” I remember seeing a comma when it shouldn’t have been there, and there were times when I thought commas were missing and would add clarity. But it’s my understanding that Myles considers herself an avant garde writer. Apparently, a publisher wanted to edit her work “for better clarity,” and Myles refused. She’s the writer. So, I’m ok with that.

I mostly read men. My most fave writers are men–Bukowski, Raymond Carver, Richard Brautigan, Denis Johnson. But my most favorite women writers are poets: Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop. Of my fave male writer, Bukowski is the only one whose poetry I like. (Well, I love it.)

As for specifically lesbian poet, I really like Eileen Myles. I could never get on the Adrienne Rich bandwagon. The best way I can describe it, is that she just feels too cerebral. Her poems strike me as “creative lectures.” I don’t feel spirit. Unlike Bishop. In her poetry I feel music and beauty–spirit.

What I admire most about Eileen Myles, is that she has lived as writer. Not for fame, not for monetary gain, just the writing. “I wasn’t afraid of being poor,” she says, “I didn’t want to live in a big house. I’m the perfect size for poetry. I can move around.” (Vulture, Sept. 24, 2015) Yet, fame and monetary gain found her.

It doesn’t hurt that Allen Ginsberg attended her reading, that Robert Mapplethorpe took her picture. (That photo is on the cover of CG.) She was an assistant to an ailing New York poet, James Schuyler, who lived in the Chelsea Hotel. I mean, these particulars are impressive. But if she didn’t have the talent, none of this would matter.

Sometimes poverty, hardship, is a price to pay for love of art. The starving artist. And sometimes Fate rewards the hard work. Not always. There are plenty of artists who died penniless.

I’ve come across her name, “Writers to read.” But I ignored it. I don’t always trust opinion. (I tried to read Lydia Davis, The Collected Stories. Stopped halfway through the book.  Really disappointed. A story is NOT one line! ) Having read the article about a “Punk Poet,” I got curious. I’m glad I did. I need to read people that inspire me.  ♣

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Magic of the Moon

Front steps in the dark with blue light shining on them.

5:20 a.m.

I got up yesterday morning at 5:15.  I wanted to see the super blue blood moon. I got up later than I had wanted to. Effing insomnia made me lose sleep again, and I was unable to rise at 4:45 when my alarm went off. But I jumped out of bed when I saw it was after 5:00. I still had time to see the eclipsed moon.

A Super Blue Blood Moon. Man, that’s poetry. Natural poetry. The Universe’s Poetry.

I love the moon, as it is. It’s already special to me. I didn’t want to miss this extra special moon.

I got the flashlight and went out back. I saw a guy two houses over doing the same thing. He stepped onto his deck, on a second floor, and went down the steps into his dark yard, using a flashlight. My flat is a downstairs unit. I stepped out on my deck and with my flashlight checked the yard for feral cats or raccoons. All clear. I switched off the flashlight and looked up at the sky. I didn’t see the moon. Must be behind the house, I thought. I didn’t want to step out into the dark, back yard. Sometimes those feral cats and raccoons leave scat. Ugh. So gross. I wasn’t gonna risk stepping in some. Or a critter might suddenly pop up from behind the fence, and that would surely make me scream out in surprise. And a shot of fear.

So, I come back in and try the front door. No cars at this hour. Or a rare one, anyway. Who would see me standing out in the middle of the street in my jammies and bathrobe, wearing a jacket? At least I was wearing sneakers, not slippers. And if anyone saw me, eff it. It’s a an extra special moon.

I wasn’t sure I’d have a good view of it. It could be behind these tall houses, flats, and apartments, here in The City. (Times like these, I miss living in a small town or even a burb. Where the night sky is darker, stars more stark, the view wider because even a two-story house doesn’t tower up this high. But I’m in love with The City.) I open the front door. Gasp! There it is. Right in front of me. Across the street.

Super blue blood moon above rooftop.

Super Blue Blood Moon

Damnit, it was beautiful.

It isn’t the biggest moon I’ve ever seen. Eighteen years ago, I saw a moon that looked like a huge space ship sitting on the freeway up ahead. I was on my way to work, at 3:30 in the morning. The moon was enormous, white, and bright. The size of this eclipsed moon is a dot, compared to that moon I saw. I arrived at work at the same time as a co-worker. He swiped his keycard, stepped aside and let me in first, smiling like a gallant knight. I said, “Thank you.” Then I said, “Did you see that moon? Wasn’t that fabulous?” He goes, “What moon?” I said, “What moon? That huge moon we were driving toward on the freeway.” He says, “Oh, I didn’t notice. I never look up at the sky.” You didn’t need to look up at the sky. It was a giant, glowing globe on the horizon, as if sitting on the freeway up ahead. It was wider than than the freeway we drove on. Geezus, I hated working as a payment processor, making my bread. As much as Bukowski hated the post office.

The second biggest moon I ever saw, two or three times bigger than this one, was many, many years ago. It was a pale, yellow moon. I was with a poet. Twenty years older than I was. First poet I ever knew. We saw the moon rise up over the hills. It rose quickly, like a balloon. He grabbed my wrist, and he goes, “ESTELA! LOOK!” His tiny, blue eyes about popped out of their sockets. He squeezed my wrist like a tourniquet. “LOOK!” he says, giving my arm a sharp shake. A fifty year old man, excited as a five year old boy. I too was thrilled to witness such spectacular beauty. It was amazing. Literally surreal as a dream. Magical. He’s the only person I ever met who reacted to the moon with the same intensity as myself. I mean, he was, after all, a poet. He taught creative writing. He hated his job, hated teaching creative writing. But he did it for his bread.

white moon lowering behind a rooftop.

Lunar eclipse completing, moon lowering behind a building.

From my view, this moon was not as large as seen in other places. But it was immensely beautiful, nonetheless. And all I had to do was open my front door.

So, sure, there is a scientific explanation for this. Planetary orbits, a specific alignment of sun, earth, and moon, time and space and all that. And the moon changes color (appears to, anyway) because of the atmosphere and wavelengths of light that reach us. These plain facts kill the poetry.

I love the moon. For me, it has a magic energy. A poetic energy.

Hell. Afterward, I felt depressed and lonesome. Maybe a poem will come to me. Or, a better way to phrase that, maybe I can find one to pull out of the well of mystery.

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Reading, Writing, Wondering

I had always said I would never read on a device. I had always said I would never have a Super moon in an overcast sky.cell phone. Well, you know what they say about “never.” As for “always,” it really can’t be projected into the future. You can presume. But “always” is like “a body in motion.” It will continue until an external force interrupts it or redirects it. “Always” is constant only in the past or in the present–always did, always do. Circumstances can change, forcing you to make changes. Didn’t have to before, but do now. Didn’t want to before, but now do. You can change, maybe learn something new that causes you to see something differently; you change your mind.

So, I’ve had a cell phone for about eleven years. Circumstances changed, and I had to get one. Now, I need one. It’s literally a necessity. For me.

The cool thing is that cell phones have changed and improved considerably since I first got one. I’m sure I don’t have to explain that. Most people use them far more than I do. I’m selective about apps. I actually prefer my laptop for most things. But recently I downloaded and started using the Libby app. It’s awesome. I can check out books from the library. Either e-books, or audiobooks. E-books on my computer hurts my eyes. But I don’t have an issue reading from my iPhone, I have discovered, to my delight. So, when I wake up in the wee hours, as I tend to do (I’ve always been prone to insomnia, even as a kid), I don’t have to turn on a light to read. I just reach for my iPhone.

On my laptop, I sometimes listen to audiobooks. I only listen to books when I need to hear the information, and don’t care about the writing itself. Or when I’m not sure I will like the writing/writer. Hearing is easier than reading. When I read, I read for “the word.” The language. How something is written. I look for beauty in the language, in the style. I look for depth in the writer and the writing, the work. If it’s beautiful writing, I want to experience reading it. I want to look at the words. Savor them. It’s interesting, though, because poetry is different. Hearing it read gives it a different dimension. Deeper, further meaning.

I am currently reading My Struggle: Book Five, by Karl Ove Knausgaard. With the Libby app. I started with book 5 (of 6 autobiographical novels, written after his debut novel Out of the World, which I also want to read) because in it he writes about having writer’s block, while seeing his friends one by one get published. He writes about “a shattering love affair,” and also, “his father dies, and shortly thereafter he completes his first novel.” I thought, OK, I’ll bet he has father issues. To my thinking, this book had potential for depth. I’m loving it. I’m so happy to be reading this. I will read more Knausgaard after this.

I came across an article about Zadie Smith, actually, and she mentions Knausgaard. I was intrigued, and decided to check him out. But I also wanted to read Zadie Smith. I’ve seen her name for some time, but hadn’t looked her up. This article made me curious, so I checked out my library. 99% of the time, the book I want to read isn’t at my branch. I had to request it. (Knausgaard is only available as an ebook. That’s why I downloaded the Libby app.) I had already requested Largesse of the Sea Maiden, Denis Johnson (R.I.P 😦  ), posthumously published. I was number nine of nine requests for Largesse. I didn’t expect it all that soon. All the books were checked out, and there were eight people in front of me. What if the readers held on to the book for the entire three weeks. Or passed the due date. I’d have time to read ZS first. I presumed. It only took a couple of days to get ZS. When I went to pick up the book yesterday, the librarian told me Largesse was in too. Came in that morning. 😮 I was surprised, but happy. 🙂 That means I have to complete it first, because last I checked, 46 people were waiting behind me. For all I know, the list has grown even longer. I think it’s cool that people still utilize libraries.

I’ve decided to read Largesse first, continue with Struggle also, as I can during the day, and if/when I wake up during the night, then I’ll get to ZS. I should be able to get through Largesse in three days. I’m not a speed reader. Some people read really fast. I wish I did, because there are so many books I want to read. But I’m not a fast reader. Just not.

I have no idea if I’ll like Zadie Smith’s novels. Some people love them, some don’t like them at all, from comments I’ve read. I’d probably like her essays, though. I did like her responses to fans in the article I read. The only thing I didn’t agree with, was her opinion of Jay-Z. She says his rapping “pours right into your ear like water from a tap.” Not for me. More like water up my nose. Not a fan. At all. And apparently, she had “early dislike of Joni Mitchell” and I gather from the article she considered her low-brow. For me, I dislike Mitchell’s voice, I find it jarring, but I do think she wrote some beautiful lyrics. I love hearing people with beautiful voices sing Joni Mitchell songs. Her lyrics are poetry.

Reading (and music) is a personal experience. Depends on who you are, what you need, what you seek, how you think, how you perceive, what and how you understand, what you know or don’t. And then there’s personal taste. I think vibration has something to do with it too. Isn’t that what the the whole universe is, energy and vibration? We dig a particular vibe, and totally dislike another. And it’s all cool. You know? It’s all cool. Different strokes. That’s all.

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I Begin with the Blues

Corner of backyard deck with planter and birch tree and other bushes in winter.I begin the New Year with the blues.  (I don’t mean the music, I mean depressed. Just to be clear). But that’s all right. I know I got a brighter day up ahead. I’m working toward it.

The end of last year was rough. Two cerebral angiograms. Intravenous brain surgeries. Both went well. I got these two aneurysms treated. The second surgery was a bit rough. I woke up right after, and when they wheeled me into the ICU, my arms and hands tingled and felt numb. My temperature dropped. The nurse ran and got two heated blankets and quickly laid them on me. I got through it all right, but I was left feeling a bit depressed.

Then after going through that, someone in my life was a major asshole. I just had fucking brain surgery, man. They punctured me in the groin to worm their instruments into my brain, and my leg aches like a motherfucker. After surgery, I limp for two weeks (and then some). I’m sorry your life sucks, but right now I gotta sit here with this heating pad on my aching leg and cry a little.

I didn’t say anything. I just took care of myself. I have to let it be, and keep on with my life. I wonder if karma will kick him in the nuts. I feel sad for him. I used to be bitter. Karma kicked me in the ass. That woke me.

The nurse asked me if I had someone to take care of me. I said I did. But I don’t. If I said I didn’t, they wouldn’t let me go. I already got med bills up the kazoo. I didn’t want to be in there more than the one night. I’m not supposed to bend, squat, or stoop for at least five days afterward, but I can go ahead with normal routine, as long as I don’t exhaust myself. Hey, I can do that. I used the dustpan to pick up the dog’s food and water bowls so I could fill them. I placed them back on the dustpan and lowered them back down. I used a stick to slide them on and off the dustpan. I let her out in the backyard to do her business. For the first week, I didn’t pick up her doodie. But she’s only 8 lbs, so it wasn’t really that big a deal. Little doodies.

I’m bummed out, but I’m happy to be alive.

I’m doing a poetry reading in February.  A woman I met many years ago in a creative writing class is promoting her second book, and she asked me (and another guy) to also read. I said, “All I have is my self-published chapbook.” She said, “Well, bring that.” Her book is relationship poems, she told me, and she knows I and this other guy write relationship poems. Mine are dark-humored. “This is a love poem,” I say. Then I read, “You sonofabitch,/You piss me off…” It catches people off guard. They laugh. I like that.

She called a week before my surgery, so it was good timing. I kept it in mind: “I got a poetry reading in February.” Even now, post-surgery. I repeat it in my head: “I got a poetry reading in February.” It helps me get through. Something to look forward to. The thing I love most: reading my poetry. I know it rocks. I love it when people are surprised by what I read, and that they come up to me and tell me they like my work. That feels good. (Sure, on occasion someone doesn’t like it. But that doesn’t matter. That’s just how it goes.)

But I need bread, man. Moola. Ducats. Warm fuzzies ain’t gonna pay my med bills.

I gotta take this a day at a time. Can’t let it overwhelm me. “Don’t stress,” the nurse told me as I got ready to head home. “OK,” I said. Photo of black and sable Chihuhua named Isabel, with her paw on her toy.

Isabel helps with that. She makes me laugh. Earlier today, I got another fat bill in the mail. My heart sank. I went to my room, and lay down. Isabel follows me everywhere. I put her on the bed with me. She loves being on my bed. She goes, “Whee!” (well, her little face expresses that, and her ears point with excitement) and she starts working the blankets with her little feet, front and back paws, bunching up the blankets, grabbing them with her teeth to adjust them, making a cozy, comfy spot to lie on. Or she burrows underneath them. It’s fun to see her do that. But I felt depressed, so I lay there looking up at the ceiling. Tears trickled out the corners of my eyes, and I sniffled. Isabel jumped up, rushed toward me, tapped my shoulder with her little paw, and bowed, giving me that devilish look. That’s her invitation to play. That made me laugh. It made me happy. She’s good medicine.

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“I’m Alive!”

A week ago today, I had brain surgery. But it’s my leg that hurts. It was an intravenous procedure. They reached my brain via my groin. At the fold between my upper leg and my torso, I was pierced and, on the right side of my brain, a coil was inserted into a large aneurysm to prevent it from rupture.

Graphic with yellow background, with red rose, two green leaves and a thorny stem.

Red Rose, graphic by Estela.

My daughter said I was in surgery for 4 1/2 hours, but to me it felt like an instant.

As I was wheeled into the surgery room, a woman asked if I was OK, did I need anything. (I think it was the tech who would monitor my brain waves.) “I could use a cup of coffee,” I said.

She says, “Oh, so-and-so is going to give you coffee. You’ll get your coffee, all right.”

A radioactive substance, to light up the vessels in my brain, and injected anesthesia would be my “morning coffee.”

I was scared, and very sad. I meditated to stay in the moment, to accept my fate.

I was lucky to learn I was unlucky–an MRI inadvertently caught this. Aneurysms have no symptoms. Commonly, it takes a rupture to learn of it. Which can kill you. I’m lucky to live in a time when science and computer technology make it possible to catch them before they rupture, in a time of modern medicine when intravenous surgery is possible. I did not need my head cracked open, my skull sawed through, to access my brain.

I’m trying to remember: there were about five people besides my neurologist. I think there was a nurse in there too. Each one approached me. “I’m so-and-so. I’m the anesthesiologist.”

“I’m so-and-so. I’m going to monitor your heart.”

“I’m so-and-so. I’m going to monitor your brain waves.”

“I’m so-and-so. I’m going to inject a radioactive dye so we can have a clear picture of the blood vessels in your brain.”

“I’m so-and-so. I’m the assistant physician.”

I was asked to slide from my bed onto the bed of this computerized machine. As I slid over, the brain monitor tech said, “Thank you for braiding your hair for us.”

I said, “Yeah. I thought that would make things easier.” (I had gathered my long hair into two braids.)

“Yes, it does,” the nurse said. Everyone was very nice. It didn’t feel impersonal. It was a very positive atmosphere. I had complete faith in everyone. But I was still scared and sad.

It was so science fiction: the computerized machine with a monitor where they would see my brain; the machine monitoring the rhythm of my heartbeat, brain surgery that would be an intravenous procedure. I closed my eyes. A couple tears trickled out.

“OK, I’m going to attach these to you so I can monitor your heart,” the guy says. He pasted the wires onto my body.

“I’m going to attach these to your head so I can monitor your brain waves,” the woman said, and proceeded to paste wires on my head. Then I heard the anesthesiologist say, “OK, Estela. I want you to take a deep breath.” I inhaled. “Hear it goes.” he said. “There’s no epinephrine in this.” (A nurse had told me to tell him epinephrine makes me tremble and feel panicky. I knew he wasn’t going to use it, but I told him anyway. Just to make sure.) I don’t remember exhaling. It felt like the next moment that someone was in my face, saying, “Estela. Wake up. It’s over. It went very well.”

I opened my eyes. I was so happy! I said, “It feels good to wake up. It feels good to be alive.” Then I asked, “Am I on Earth?” I was, of course, being facetious, although, I sort of thought maybe I’d double-check that. He laughed. This was my nurse who was taking me to ICU, where he’d take care of me.

“Yes,” he said. “You’re on Earth.” There was another guy, an assistant, who guided the wheeled bed from the foot. He laughed too.

My son and daughter walked into the ICU room. (My other daughter was waiting for a phone call at home, or at work, I don’t know–she doesn’t live in the Bay Area.) I said, joyfully, “I’m alive!”

“Yup,” my daughter said. “You’re alive.” She texted a friend who’d been waiting for an update. She texted back, “Tell her I’m glad she’s alive.”

I spent the night in the hospital, released around noon the next day. They told me not to bend, stoop, or squat for five days. Otherwise, I could function as normal, but warned not to over-exert or pick up anything heavy. “Can I pick up my dog,” I asked. “She’s about eight pounds. I’d really like to hug her.” I missed her so much. And she missed me. She didn’t eat the whole time I was gone. Good thing I was only gone a day and a half.

Picture of brown and black Chihuahua with her front paws up on the couch.

Isabel (aka Belly). My charming, precious little diva. I love her so much.

“Yes,” my doctor said, “You can pick up your dog. It’ll probably be good for you. But don’t pick up anything else heavier than that.” The limit is 20 pounds, but since I’m a small person, I guess, he told me to keep it under 10. I had mild headaches the first three days, but my leg still aches eight days later. Ugh. And I have to go through this again in a month, because I have another aneurysm that has to be treated. It’s rare, I’m told, to have multiple aneurysms. I’m unlucky, but lucky, and happy to be alive. Even if I’m gonna have med bills up the kazoo.

I’m so glad to be around to enjoy my little Belly. Look at that precious little face. It’s to live for.   ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣


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blue background, image of woman with three red marks on her forehead.

Ailing Estela, graphic by Estela.

I live here in this room. Alone. Metaphorical room, I mean. You, who read this, are here in the room with me, and I’m speaking to you. While you read this, we simultaneously occupy a speck of space in the universe, this vast, infinite universe. I, the physical person, am on the planet Earth. You who read this are on the planet Earth. (Presumably.) That’s all I know.

I feel as if I float in the ether. That is how the internet feels to me, like I’m floating out in space.

The first time I got online, twenty plus years ago, it scared me. I felt myself floating among stars and planets, and I could see (in my imagination) the earth below me. I felt that feeling of being up, that dizzying feeling of height. It was trippy. Surreal. It still feels a bit that way, but soaring (metaphysically) through the air doesn’t frighten me anymore. It feels like my spirit travels in space and around the world. And, really, it does. My spirit lives in these words I write. Anyone anywhere on the planet (with a computer) can read them, and her/his spirit meets my spirit. We meet in space, an intangible place. I like to imagine my words printed into a book, and future humans reading my words. I like to imagine future humans regarding the images I create, my graphics, drawings, paintings.

I am ill. I feel all right, except when I get a headache. They aren’t severe, though I’ve experienced severe headaches in the past. I must say I’m glad I’m still alive, and I hope to live much longer. On November 6, I’m having surgery. Apparently, I have three aneurysms. My neurologist has an excellent reputation, and is a very nice doctor. He explained in detail. I declined to see the images of my brain, so he asked if he could show me pictures. I said, “Yes,” of course. He drew a diagram, then showed me pictures (drawings) on his

Graphic of woman weeping. Black one third down, then gray. Blue lines for hair, green for face, blue tear drops, black line for mouth.

Sad Estela, graphic by Estela.

computer. He was gentle when he saw tears quietly run down my cheeks. I know I’m in good hands. It’s my fate of which I’m uncertain. Who knows what fate will dictate. And that’s what scares me most. I told him, “I don’t want to fear death, but there are still things I want to do, so I want to live longer.”

He said, “That’s why I do this. I want to help people live longer so they can do those things they wish to do.”

There is 3% risk, but not having this procedure increases the risk. My grandmother died of an aneurysm. My niece was saved by surgery, though she has seven, and some are inoperable. A cousin drove herself to the emergency with a severe headache, and dropped dead as soon as she arrived. Like my grandma, my cousin’s aneurysm burst. Coincidentally, the therapist I recently began meeting with, to work on my agoraphobia and anxieties, told me she has an aneurysm and she had this procedure done. “We have to live with uncertainty,” she said. “We just have to carry it.”

I’m more sad than scared, but of course I’m scared. I want to live more deliberately, now.

I have no desire to change the world. The world isn’t going to change. It’ll shift. That’s what it does. Always has. In spite of fools like Trump, Hitler, Nero, or some “old, mad, blind, despised and dying king,” (um, Shelley’s words, in case you don’t know), in spite of some sick or inept misleader (I hesitate to use the term “leader”), in spite of anyone who wants to rule the world (for better or worse), the world continues. You can look up the stats that science claims about the age of the earth and how long humans have been here, their educated guesses. I don’t know that I believe in evolution, and, no, I don’t believe in Adam and Eve either. I believe in some kind of evolution, but not that humans were once monkeys. Humans are humans, and apes are apes. That’s what I believe. (You don’t have to. I’m not asking you to.) I also don’t believe we live in a civilized world. Doesn’t seem very civil to me. People rise to power, and fall. “Civilizations” and regimes rule, and fall. Technologies change. That’s what history seems to indicate. Sometimes the earth wipes out masses, through volcanic eruptions, tsunami’s, earthquakes, etc. And humans keep on keepin’ on.

I believe the world (the universe) tends toward chaos. The Earth came to be, and from what I read, one day the sun will eat it. I read in Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, that the sun will swallow the earth in something like 6 billion years. (Or was it 60? I didn’t memorize the number, but it’s a hell of a long way from today.) As Dr. Tyson says, we are made of the stuff of stars, the same stuff as the rest of the universe. We are stardust. Isn’t that awesome?

I don’t want to change the world, but I’d like to contribute to it. With art. So I do hope it has value. Artistic value. Art matters more to me than anything else. Art is the spirit of humanity.

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A Poet’s Personal Journey

Smiling, yellow sun on light blue background.

“Untitled”– graphic art by Estela.

J was a graduate student when I met her. We were in the same poetry writing class in the mid-80’s. I was an undergrad. (I was in my mid 30’s, divorced, with three children, two teens and a pre-teen.) She is a year older than I am. We were born in the same month, she on the first, I on the last day. (Perhaps that is symbolic only to me.) I just found out that her fourth book of poetry was released last April. I went to the book store to see if they had it. They didn’t; the guy ordered it for me. I’m looking forward to reading her new poems. (It’s on Amazon, but I wanted to support a local independent book shop.) I have her other three books. I’ve read them multiple times.

I also just learned that last year J was named Poet Laureate at the university where she teaches. She writes the most beautiful poetry of anyone I have ever met. Ever. She’s incredibly articulate (her undergraduate degree was in linguistics), very bright, very knowledgeable.

The last time I saw J was in 1990. I was living in Berkeley. I was a grad student attending a state university (that I hated, but it was convenient for me), while she was a post-grad in New Mexico. We went to a book convention in San Francisco. She was going to be on a panel talking about being a lesbian poet and a woman of color. (Her mother was American Indian, though her father was English.) At that time, she gave me a copy of her first book of poems. Actually, she had given me copies of some of those poems when we initially met. I still have them. It was great to see her publish her first book. I hoped one day I would too.

A year after I last saw J, I was having a nervous breakdown.  I was perimenopausal, but I didn’t know it yet. The symptoms had actually begun before my final semester as an undergrad. My doctor said I was too young (41) to be menopausal, when I asked her if that could be the issue. (The lab work showed no markers.) She was wrong. A few months after that doctor visit, I heard the term “perimenopause” on radio news. It had just been coined. Researchers had determined there is a stage women go through before actual menopause. Then they described symptoms I had. Unfortunately, I had quit my part-time job, because of how I felt, and no longer had health insurance. I couldn’t go back to see my doctor. I assumed I’d find work teaching when I got my master’s. Until then, I’d ride it out on my school loans. (It didn’t work out that way.)

Nothing was going right. I wrote a pitiful letter to J’s girlfriend. I’d met her soon after meeting J. She was divorced, with one child. We had lived in the same family student housing, but she’d been a grad student like J. She was (is) a sweet, gentle soul. She wrote back, and sent her (their) phone number. I called, blubbering, like a crazy bitch going over the edge. Which I was. J’s girlfriend was sweet and patient. J was less patient, really, but she suggested I move out there, go to New Mexico. I wanted to. Very much. But I still had one of my three children living with me. My daughter was putting herself through college and working part-time. I couldn’t leave my children, they needed to leave me. That’s how I felt about it. I couldn’t go.

That was the last time I talked with J. I felt my life and myself falling apart. I couldn’t think or concentrate. It was like being caught in the eye of a storm. I just had to hang on until it was over. I didn’t know it would take over a decade. It wreaked havoc with my life. (I didn’t write a thesis; I had to take clerical jobs; but that’s another story.) When it was over, I had to get up, dust myself off, and pick up from there.

The poetry reading and open mic last week (which I attend every month) depressed me a little. Once in a blue moon, there’s a good writer who reads. Occasionally, a writer is amusing. But it’s predominantly mediocrity, and even some downright crap. Some creative writing teachers/professors think the glut of MFA programs has created a glut of mediocrity in (creative) writing. (I hesitate to use the word “literature.”) I don’t disagree with that. Still, I wouldn’t mind having one. It’s still a master’s.

Though I do get positive feedback, I’ve grown increasingly dissatisfied with open mic. If it’s depressing me, it’s time for a change. I’ll probably attend next month, since there are people I like who attend. But I don’t want to open mic anymore.  I’ll have to see what’s next.

I remember telling J, “I wish I wrote like you.”

“I wish I wrote like you,” she said. This surprised me.

“You do?” I said.

“Yes. I wish I wrote like this,” she said, sweeping her hand down the page of my poem. I didn’t even feel I knew yet how to write. It was practice, getting the hang of it. Today I feel I know what I’m doing. It’s up to others if they like it or not. I do wonder what J would think. I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again. She went her way, and I went mine. From her poems, I gather she and her girlfriend got married. I think that’s lovely. Especially, since I remember J saying to me, “I’m not lucky in love.”

At the end of the day, life is a narrative already written. It goes the way it was always going to.

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