Batting off flies with wings made of words

The bottom line is Scary Smart Chicks (SSC) should not be expected to go through life sober.  I try doing a data dump in the hopes of allaying the inability to sleep.  Maybe if I write down all the random thoughts pinging around in my brain, I shall thus conquer insomnia.  So, here are the rantings of a mad woman. 

Nights like this I need Brain Caulk – vodka, Valium, wine, Xanax – at the end of your tether, you reach for the end of the alphabet.  Gaslighted and ridiculed for being right, I need chemical assistance to tamp down the inner homicidal maniac.  Goddess damned MS Word just capitalized Maniac for me – who the hell do they think they are?  How much did they pay for their poetic license and who was the corrupt issuing agency?  Is fear of normalcy treatable with an ineffectual writing career?  And who, if not me, can resist the call of vicissitude?

Just a couple of puffs of the swirling soothing smoke, a couple of sips of fine Alambic brandy and I won’t have to fight, I could let it win.  Then sleep, satiated for a time.

Damn eyelids keep popping open.  Thoughts rush ahead of pen – at least this old school approach – putting pen to paper – slows the words down.  Honestly, I can feel them, the words, crowding out the occasional cloud of calm as they collide in contradictory arguments.  I feel worn ruts in the grey matter of my brain where “you will never amount to anything” and other echoes from childhood go claptrapping along deeply incised wounds.  I try batting off flies with wings made of words.

         “I am loved”

         “I am strong” Flutter byes oft silently repeated, lessening the harmful old patterns, like sticker weeds they have no permanent solution.

HERSTORY

When I was in college, for one of my classes in world history, I was assigned a textbook called “Herstory – the underside of History”.   The premise is that human history has been written by the victors, reinforced by denying literacy to women, and that what we are taught in school – tales of geopolitical conquest, tales of religious wars, that these chapters are actually not that important.  Not to our evolution as a species.  Cultural and scientific breakthroughs, changes in the definition of family, the fall of matriarchies and the rise of patriarchies – these are the truly historical events.  Lines drawn on a map, borders and country names changing as soldiers and warriors bled to crest a hill for the right to rename it – what we celebrate – it is all decidedly one-sided, and perhaps progress towards this goal of complete subjugation of the natural world is actually taking the human race backwards.  The so-called Renaissance was the Dark Ages for woman’s rights – the Napoleonic Code and the blithe assumption that women are chattel was the opposite of a giant step forward for mankind.          

      Conflicted left and right brain working at full capacity in a society willing to accept only on per gender.  Logic reason, intellect, numbers, analytical thinking – not expected from one who pines to take brush to paper and paint EVERY branch of those stark trees silhouetted by the sunset.  Turning a phrase like a lump on the potter’s wheel.  Only I don’t know what shape it is going to take.  How many half-uttered thoughts died aborning’ because some pitiful pre-programmed inadequacy department determined that no-one wanted to hear them?         

     So I take much of what has been written with a grain of salt.  There was a female Pharaoh named Hatshepsut who ruled one of most peaceful and abundant periods in Egyptian history.  Her name was literally erased from history – the hieroglyphics were chiseled out of the stone monuments and tablets, her name was not included in the lists of rulers.  I always picture that chisel and the chunks of stone where once there was wisdom whenever I read an account of the period I’ve been researching for the book.  Important contributions, I assume, will have been left out if those contributions were made by women.

What’s in a name?

Have you ever been asked:  “What’s your married name?  What’s your maiden name?  How can they be the same?”

This question seems so ludicrous.  It stems from a quaint custom, a rite-of-passage which is not, nor has it ever been, expected of men.  For women, however, a public pronouncement of love and commitment to a chosen mate is not enough.  A traditional band of precious metal worn on the left hand at all times is also not enough.  For, I have been told, it is expected that a woman must become an adjunct to her mate, to be put; like property, in his name.

            Let’s examine the common usage.  Take “Mrs. John Smith” for example.  Does anyone LIVE inside that name?  Could be a Rachel, could be an Angela, could be a nobody.  This appellation is Mr. John Smith’s portable label for his current spouse.  It is not truly a name.  Whose house is that?  John Smith’s.  Whose woman is that?  John Smith’s.

            I was born with my father’s name.  All of us children were.  My first name belonged to an Empress, and it is at the top of my resume, stating the necessary gender.  Prior to marriage, I lived twenty-seven years with this name, the one I have always used, the one I am using now.  It has been engraved on name plated, credit cards and business cards.  I can be found under this name in school yearbooks, personnel records, alumni listings and the phone book.  I have fleshed it out and made it ring with memories of a unique person.

            Consider, for a moment, the name:  “Mr. Jane Smith”.  Does it sound ludicrous?  Your first question may be:  “What’s his first name”?  But you won’t have to ask who he’s married to.

            But what last name will the children have?  Why not both?  If one last name must be chosen, why not the mother’s name?  And why is it assumed I will have children?  That leads to another essay altogether.

            I may decide to change my name someday – for convenience, or pure caprice.  But many women have fought long and hard for the right to choose where and when that change may take place.  In the not-too-distant past, it was illegal for a woman to keep her birth name.   Hopefully the change in legislation will lead to a change in attitude.  For the present, however, I will endeavor to gracefully field questions about the impossibility of having the same name after marriage as before.

Where racism was hiding

I dare me to walk the aisles of the nearest Grocery Store
or Big Pharmacy
With eyes wide open
This is where racism was hiding

In the makeup aisle, beiges and pinks masquerade as “normal” tones
In the hair products aisle, all the hair is fine or straight
or thick or curly, not tightly curled either
All the heads on the boxes are smiling white women with European hair,
And Ivory Soap is 99.9% pure

In the health products aisle, beige Band-Aids are “flesh” colored
They are manufactured that way
To escape notice on white people’s skin
But it’s a glaring shade of pale on everyone else’s skin

In the food aisle, Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima still look like house slaves despite the makeovers
Quaker Oats sports the white-haired kindly face of an extreme religious sect
That eschewed violence but would not fight for abolition
Knowing that cruel and bloody traditions will be upheld by cruel and bloody means.

In the cereal aisle, Rice Krispies Snap Crackle and Pop with little white mascots
Lucky Charms leprechaun clicks his hat at
Trix’s white rabbit while the
Keebler’s elves workplace could use some diversity
Good Gaia, even Count Chocula is white – granted he’s a vampire, but still…

In the toy aisle, superheroes are white
Their secret identities safe performing jobs not offered to blacks
No fear of being pulled over and arrested just as they get their costumes on
Crayola crayons label their golden rod pinkish hue “flesh” as well

Renaming as Pervasively Caucasian
Your basic Grocery Store
Like an undeserved Manifest Destiny, it’s baked right in
Leaving indelible marks right behind your eyelids
So like even blinking won’t work

Eyes wide open in a pitiless stare that cracks
my thin veneer of pride and exposes
white privilege underlying brands and mascots and
the images blaring from the boxes stacked high on the shelves
This is where racism was hiding

The Binary Code of Sensory Input

What I imagined just before going to sleep last night was a funnel whose interior, the entire surface was splashed with constantly upstreaming ones and zeroes, i’s and o’s.  Every digital image, every television show, the music we hear, the images we see, all composed of an endless flow of infinite combinations of on and off switches.  The binary code of sensory input.  Basis of our universe.  Proves, doesn’t it, the duality of the universe?  Yin and Yang, light and dark, pistol and stamen, white and black, empty and full.  That is why I cannot, will not accept, monotheism as a healthy interpretation of the world.  Any faith that worships a single deity, be it male or female emerges lopsided.  Uncannily tilting to one side, dizzy, disoriented believers try to remake the world because its inherent duality bothers them.  

A Post Pandemic thought

They all said I’d have it, that moment of hesitation, not wearing my mask inside.  And sitting down at the table at the INSIDE table, and giving my order to the server.  The bus person pouring water that they might have just breathed on.  Chatting amiably about the menu.  No more lip sweat, muffled praise, muffled questions, muffled answers.  I used N95’s when I lived in San Rafael during the California wildfires.  There was a week every year starting in 2015 or so that I needed the N95 to fetch the mail at the end of the driveway.  These cotton doobies wouldn’t help.  They did the trick though, never caught COVID.  I cajoled myself that this restaurant with the doors open was practically outdoor dining already.  We had achieved herd immunity despite those infected with herd mentality.  Whether the rabble are carrying pitchforks or flag poles, the effect is the same.  Chasing humpbacks to Notre Dame or Congress to the basement, somebody riles them up.  In the misty town of Waimea on Hawaii’s Big Island, the anti-vaxxers wave signs and smile.  Some are old enough to know better.  Some are young enough to know better.  Far wrong wingnuts.  Nothing right about them.  

I shall try not to bear grudges, that’s just extra weight, but still, destructo signs waved by would be Skeletors set me off.  Back to a simple meal at an indoor table.  Ahhh.  Sometimes, with the person with whom I’ve shared the confines of our home and our little town for 14 months, I feel all talked out.  We remark upon how the prices have gone up as restauranteurs struggle mightily, even all these months later, to pay their bills.  There are still climate deniers, infectious deniers, election deniers in power, one hopes the houses of government will be cleaned of these awful people like they sanitized workplaces.  After a year of waiting for rents, housing providers and commercial owners sent a wave of evictions like a filthy tsunami.  They would rather their buildings be empty than to negotiate with existing tenants and the homeless encampments occupy chunks of cities with mild weather. 

One step at a time, overcoming that moment of hesitation, and saving up the anger for the Opinion Pages.  We will be traveling soon, no winter colds to be caught that way, we are all masked up for that, as we should have been all along.

Saving Things

Saving things

            Bottles and jars

            Baskets and bins

Waste not want not

I hear the Protestant work ethic

            In the ghostly voices of Catholic grandparents

Sounds almost like a Chinese ideogram

            But they do not save things

Palaces are purged there, the bricks used 

to build houses for a bourgeoning population

Slowed somewhat by the One Child Policy

Here we cannot admit

            The urge to procreate

            Can be destructive – go forth and multiply

or so the Bible Thumpers say

Ghosts of grandparents admonish me with another cliche

Idle hands are the Devil’s playground

            So mine are busy all the time

Wiping and washing and rinsing

            Sewing on buttons and taking up hems

Cutting up rags for makeup removers

Because the store bought ones sting

Placing them gently into 

Bottles and jars

            Baskets and bins

The salt licks of remembered dreams

To see the author read this poem, here is the link to Poet’s Choice on YouTube:

Brilliant but crazy, creative but self-destructive.  You know her.  Her breath comes out like broken chess pieces, all their strategic importance gone, like the dust on an abandoned game board.  Sweat in crevices pooled in the matted hair behind her neck, soaked through, she is imagining the pillow stains – they are salt licks of remembered dreams.   Sleep is always hard to come by, searching for the owner’s manual.  There must be some instructions for nights like this.  Elusive Mr. Sandman, furtive, dispelled from the shadows by the light required to write.  This time for sure, when the light is extinguished, this time, he won’t be coy. 

Random thoughts swirl and spin in the eddies of your mind, Hard to catch, hard to ban They flit or hunker down, looping like audio tape.  Repeating like that scratch on your favorite record that jumps the needle, retracing the same lyric over and over.  Decades later you cannot sing that song without the skip.  Despair is like that scratched record.  You have to get up and lift the arm of the phonograph and place the needle past the crack.  You love that record, those songs of your youth.

Happiness was just there, skittering briefly through neural pathways like mercury without the poison.  You grasp it and work it into the defiant fur of her favorite cat, banking the glowing embers of a warm contentment.  Knowing that even in the land of endless summer, storms will come. 

In the morning you and she will dance to the tunes only you two hear.  She listens.  She lingers.  What a luxury to be heard!  Dancing in the rain, swinging on a lamp post, no longer relegated to the spry guy wearing sensible shoes.  Let go, love, she has put together a mix tape.  Locking in the light with a liberal sprinkling of libation, limbs akimbo they will morph into a mambo.  Enough of loss lessons, love wins by a landslide in this daintily possible tomorrow.

Pajama Free Sleep

Sitting up in the dark, I realize I am naked.  

Since moving to Hawaii, I have had the pleasure of pajama-free sleep almost every night.  

I walk into the bathroom naked, 

pee naked, 

poop naked, 

kiss the cat naked.  

Occasionally I have dreams about trying to find my clothes for an event, or because people came over. 

But what I would really really like to do is swim naked.  

Like right after working in the garden, while I’m all sweaty, like right then, pashoo – dunking in. 

But the house is on a golf course, and close enough to the neighbors, that it is in the public eye so to speak.  

Stupid societal norms

Hate living in the aftermath of those damn Puritans and their unholy fear of nudity.  

I am getting used to the body shape reflected back at me from the bathroom mirrors.

She resembles my mom, all Venus of Willendorf-ey.  

Nice round belly, 

fat arms, 

and pendulous breasts

Fucking gravity keeps rearranging my parts.

I fantasize about living on a farm, surrounded by acreage and not houses, where I could sun bathe naked, too.  

I would still wear shorts and shirt to garden though, the soil here can be very rocky.  

Maybe a yurt – up in the hills.  

I could not say if I am a social animal, 

dunno if I would miss human company, 

we don’t see many people these days, but we do throw a small pot luck every Friday.  

It has been about four decades since I lived alone, but I really don’t mind being alone.  

Sitting up in the dark, there is a reassuring presence next to me, and a cat at my feet, 

It takes a lot to move her, but if I pet her, she purrs.  

The shades are drawn, it’s just me and the rotund naked lady in the mirror getting up to use the bathroom, and nestle right back under the sheets and a light blanket.  No shivers, nor brr brrs, so no need to don clothing. 

I still feel vulnerable, so I moved the metal baseball bat to right behind the bed, ready for untoward noises.  I will fight them sky clad, and boy won’t they be surprised at my naked warrior stance.

STORM IN THE DESERT

These days, I loop between incredulous and compassionate – so much suffering, so much innovative kindnesses, “Like a storm in the desert, like a sleepy blue ocean, come let me love you…”  I press the play button in my head, and all day, I’m a John Denver recording.  Blessing or curse, you choose.

The likelihood that life will resume a normal path is akin to a storm in the desert, and oceans are never sleepy, there is always life underwater, always currents, always movement.  

In my dreams, I wander through big hotel lobbies and elevator banks, and long hush-carpeted hallways, all the grimy basement entrances and dreary lobby restaurants looking dowdy between patrons.  I don’t know why my mind wanders there, sometimes I shop at the dress boutiques, but always, they are too lacey and too frilly and too small, no matter how far back I push into the maximum markdown areas.  When I exit, which is always a trial, it’s a multi-story city scape with mirrored surfaces and inscrutable high-rises.  And I can’t hail a cab, or the currency I am carrying is from the wrong country, but I always have a plane to catch and I always wake up wondering if it took off without me.  I suffer from lost-o-phobia I guess.  Not consciously, but I do prefer printing out the map and directions and tracing it out with my fingers – GPS is not all it’s cracked up to be on an island in the middle of the Pacific.  It adds to there being so much to double-check before departing the house.  And this year, businesses and landmarks are dropping out of sight, but still show up on conglomerating websites that never check their data.  Hours of operation are totally unreliable – people want to work, but lockdowns and months of unemployment make it hard to lure customer-facing workers back to non-shuttered locations.  Maybe the empty lobbies and dowdy restaurants are simply a vision of the future, and lost-o-phobia comes out at night to show me that I am afraid all the familiar places will be echo chambers and dust collectors when I do venture out.  And the currency thing – well at last count something like 100+ countries would not allow American citizens to land on their soil.  So there’s that.  That I think I’m going to tour Scotland next year, that I think I will see wildlife in Kenya, but that all depends on plague numbers, and they keep going up, and what if I land in the wrong country and cannot get home?  Maybe I am not crazy, maybe I am just being honest with my subconscious, that pitiless vixen.