I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes

I have accepted that things change quickly and abruptly in my life, but sometimes it’s just ridiculous.

I came home on Sunday feeling something close to quaking joy over the weekend I’d just spent. By last night, it was all turned on its head.

It was weird to me to see Tam standing on my doorstep. He’d never come to Inverness before. I should have known something was wrong. I was tensed up enough already; Alec hadn’t answered his phone in two days. So that was the first thing I asked him about, even before what he was doing here.

“He’s left, dovekie. Left the city, certainly. Outwith that, I don’t know. He had no choice.”

Which explained why Tam thought it was time for a visit in person. Most of the time I hate having my Moon planted in Virgo (and in the 3rd house as a bonus), but sometimes it’s a good thing. Aries isn’t the sign of controlled emotions, but when I truly decide I’m not going to lose my shit, I don’t lose it. Not in front of anyone else, at least. (Pluto all tangled in that mess probably doesn’t hurt that, either) When I’m alone is better. So I decided there wasn’t going to be any shit-losing, and told him we should probably call it a day instead of drawing out the death. I’ve been here before: Triangles that suddenly find themselves with two legs fall over.

“So you’re trying to rid yourself of me before you even ask why he left?”

I told him what experience has told me, the hard way: When the center goes, the parts it was propping up can’t stand on their own any more.

“You think he was the center? You’re the only one, then. From where I’m standing, it’s still here. I’m looking at it.”

I told him I’d be fine, and I can take care of myself. That’s usually what I end up doing. It’s not such a bad thing to be able to do.

“Aye, and you can love yourself, too, and that’s good. But it’s not the same thing at all. I’m not going anywhere. My life isn’t…the way his is. I want you to do something for me: Come back to Glasgow. To stay.”

Oh, nope. “So when it all blows up, I can be homeless on top of everything else?”

“You’re not angry with me. Stop playing the part.”

I swear to you I’d belt anyone else who talked to me like that. Not him. “Fine. Then what about this being my house? I own it. And I love Inverness.”

“Do you not love me more?”

Ow.

“Why are you certain it will all blow up in our faces if you come to me there?”

I explained. It took a while. When we got to astrology, I literally drew diagrams.

When I was done, he waved at the pile I’d created. “Tell me what’s the part of it all that says it has to be that way every time and forever.”

There isn’t one, not really. But there also isn’t a part that says it can change, or how to change it.

“Then make one. I’ll help. You could find your own place. That wouldn’t make me happy as I could be, but it would be so much better than this.”

“You never had problems with this arrangement before.”

“I had them. I kept my mouth fucking shut. How do I prove to you that I won’t leave you if you’re not where I can stay with you? You’ve got to know how I feel about you. I know I don’t talk about it much, but I do. Just come and be closer to me. We’ll find out what it is we are.”

“I’m who I am, and who I am doesn’t live well with others.”

He chewed it all over for a while, then grabbed me and pinned against the couch. Oh…purr. I love when he gets like that. “You’re who you are up until it starts to scare you, aye? Then you back off just as hard as you can. Right, then. You are coming home to me. And you’ll stay. It’s where you belong.”

“And when you bail, too?”

“I’ll not. You’ll see it in time.”

“And when I flip out and panic instead?” The other half of the equation of my life.

“Then I tell you again you’re staying. And remind you why you want to.”

And then he literally slung me over his shoulder (<em.strong…*sigh*), carried me to the bedroom, and reminded me. In great detail. If only that solved everything. But I’m more than old enough to know it doesn’t.

It was the next morning before we talked about why Alec left. For his sake, I’m not going to go into details. I’ll just say this: He had a good reason, and he’s not in trouble with the law. For those of you who know much of my past, I am having one hell of a flashback; it’s just that I’m not the one who left this time. I decided not to lose it again. It just seemed too horrible, crying over someone else right there in front of him.

In the end, I made a bargain with him: I’d read with him sitting right there, and put the LWB in his hands so he could more or less read along. I’d ask Maman if there was any sense at all in doing this. And if she said in so many words that I needed to get it in gear and move, game on.

The answer was an unqualified ‘get it in gear’. No other information, just YES. He didn’t even need the booklet; there was nothing to interpret.

I keep my bargains. I’m not enthusiastic about living in Glasgow, but maybe it can be about who, not about where. Him, of course, but the unusual family I never expected I’d have, too. Maybe they can all conspire somehow to keep me from getting the city fits for however long I’ll be there. I’m not going to let myself harbor illusions about how long, not again; it hurts too much when the bubble bursts. Each day as it comes.

I’m scared, but I want to be with Tam for as long as we have, and I want to be useful to people I care about. If trading a city I like for one I don’t is the price for those things, it doesn’t seem too high, not really.

I had my cry after he left. A good, long one, with plenty of yelling and cussing. I’m going to be such a fun apartment-building neighbor. And then I got myself together and went out to Culloden. I had a hell of a lot of explaining to do. I’m leaving, and the man who apparently held the key to reaching them no matter where I am is gone. I didn’t sense any response, positive or negative. I don’t know what to make of that, but all I can do is just keep doing what I’m doing. Second-guessing is how I cut my own throat every time.

Mostly I just hope Alec didn’t know there were problems on the way last weekend. I’d rather think we all had fun with no idea of any of that. I want that to be how we said goodbye; maybe he did, too. And I hope he’s all right.

I’m ready for some guidance in all this. I’ve made my decision, but I have a lot of new territory to steer through, and I’d like some help. I had some trouble getting it, until I realized why.

I asked Maman for some further guidance, and got a garbled message, with cards that seemed to be in the wrong places. It took a couple of hours for it to dawn on me: I went to Maman for advice, and Alec was always her biggest point of interest in this thing. There was other advice to seek, and maybe who answered most clearly would tell me things, too.

I tried Brighid, and got a similarly jumbled message using a different divination method. Then I tried Kuan Yin. Direct hit.

She said to sit tight through all this change — physical and spiritual — to meditate and stay centered; the chaos will pass. She also counseled, as she has before, to remember that home is within me, not anchored somewhere outside me; home, in other words, is what I make it. She says the time has come to share my knowledge and skills to the benefit of others, and I know there are others waiting in Glasgow. Oh, and that I need to not overthink my emotions rather than feeling them. Again. Always.

She also reminded me of something, by another route: Whatever’s happened since, the poem I wrote before I came here was for and about Tam. I was writing poems for him before I even met him. Surely there’s something in that.

I know it doesn’t make any sense in context. It’s just a song I go to when I want to wrap music around me and feel snuggled by it….

(photo: card from reading, for illustrative purposes)

Wet

I enjoy writing abecedarian poems. This one started with one line that didn’t have a home. I put it in the appropriate place, and the poem grew up around it, made of a little gem lore, a little outright fantasy, and a little science.

Wet

Azurite, when wiped with a damp cloth, turns the perfect
Blue of the skies you remember spread out over
Childhood birthday parties and baseball games.
Don’t forget the law of the jungle:
Everything’s better when wet. Think of how you
Felt when you withdrew from me —
Glistening, sated and so much better than when you were
Hard and angry-red with unmet need, before
I took you in where it’s warm. And wet.
Just think: How much fun would a clay sno-cone be?
Keeping a red-eared slider in a tank of playground sand?
Looking at high tide on a sea of rush-hour traffic?
Molding surfboards to ride on goodbye waves?
No, they cry out for moisture in their milieu,
One and all. Lapidaries wet their stones so they can
Price them twice as high on the promise of potential.
Questioning the value of wetness never enters the equation,
Really, not for the stonecarver, the lover, or the stranded
Sea creature that is more brilliant in water and
Turns wan and faint in sunlight. Hurry. Hold it
Underwater again, watch it awaken and reveal a
Vivid secret life as rich as a virgin’s dreams.
Wetter is better. That’s science. Consider the
Xenotropic virus that comes from a world of burning
Yellow sand and finds itself unable to take hold among the
Zooplankton inhabiting the bathypelagic zone of the sea.

(2017)

(photo: Wikipedia)

Six Places to Look at a Blackbird

Wallace Stevens was the chief influence on my wanting to become a poet, and he’s inspired a few of my poems, as well. I’ve responded a couple of times to the poem that made me want to be a poet, “The Idea of Order at Key West.” This series is in response to his more widely known “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”

The places are Argyll (Scotland), Minnesota, California, Louisiana, Colorado, and Texas.

Six Places to Look at a Blackbird

Red hawthorn berries,
Scattered green apple slices,
And seven blackbirds.

A red-winged blackbird
Clinging to swaying cattails
In patchy March snow

In white-rimmed epaulets,
A tricolored blackbird
Among ten thousand

In the cypress tree,
Copper wash on iron gray —
A rusty blackbird

I check my life list —
The yellow-headed blackbird
Buzzes and gurgles.

Four Brewer’s blackbirds,
Fantails flicking for balance,
Open mesquite pods.

(2017)

(photo: Wikipedia)

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Dime

“Money is a kind of poetry.” — Wallace Stevens

And some kinds of money are poets’ wives.

Adolph Weinman, the designer of the Mercury dime (pictured above) and the Liberty Walking half-dollar, was primarily a sculptor. In 1913, he sculpted a bust of his upstairs neighbor Elsie Stevens, wife of lawyer (and not-yet poet) Wallace Stevens. Several sources say Weinman later used that sculpture as a model for his dime design, and possibly — though with less documentation — for his half-dollar, below.

A bit of disambiguation: The figure on the Mercury dime isn’t Mercury. It’s Liberty, the Roman goddess Libertas; in her case, Weinman said the wings on the cap symbolize freedom of thought. The odd-looking cap itself, a pileus, is traditional to Liberty, and appears on both coins (without wings on the half-dollar), as well as on the original sculpture. Weinman said the one the model wore was made from the top of an old pair of stockings.

And the original? A photo certainly does make a strong case for at least the dime.

Note: The photo of Elsie Stevens is rotated relative to the original so that it faces the same direction as does the figure on the coin.

Hoodie

I don’t write political poetry generally. I’m not a political person, and I’m even less of one here, where I can’t vote. Not to mention that even the best poets in the world very often write spectacularly awful political poetry; it might be the hardest subject to tackle, save religion. But a prompt to write an epistolary poem to something non-human unexpectedly kick-started this poem. It didn’t stay an episotolary beyond the first draft, though.

When I handed Alec the third draft (something I’ve only ever done for one other person; usually no one reads my drafts) his response to it was “Jesus fuck.” I thought I was probably on to something.

A bit of help for my fellow Americans out there: Hoodies (the jacket) don’t carry quite the same cultural weight here that they do there. And that bird up top is a hooded crow, very commonly called a hoodie here. Hunners means what it sounds like it does.

Hoodie

It’s not just the funny-sounding words — bonnet,
Rubber, lift, outwith, neds — that mean different
Things to me, or nothing at all. It’s the cultural
Cachet of clothing that challenges translation —
Of the hooded sweatshirt I put on against a light
Spring rain without morphing into a young black
Man looking for some no-good to get up to.

No, I stay what I am — a middle-aged white woman
Who can put her hands in her pockets, and no one
Opens fire when they come back out full of cracked
Corn. I scatter it for the birds who share a linguistic
Lineage with my fashion choice, and I gain a shade
Of the rogue by feeding these pests, who die by the
Hunners every year, in black and with their hoods up.

(2017)

(photo: Wikipedia)