Family



Manhood, Personhood

(OK, it's tiresome, coming up again and again,. but)

My mother had polio when I was a year old.

For the next while, I was
shuffled off to her mother and sister.

How my mother and father stitched
a family life back together again,
I don't know...
and they're all gone now.

But anyway

When the family came back together:
four-year-older brother Bill,
Daddy
and Molly
(she was never Mom..
wonder if that hurt,
wonder if it was that because
she couldn't hold us
couldn't do for us,
she could but be)
and me,

Molly was the center of our lives

Because she needed our help
but, most compellingly,
because of her guts and courage,
her spirit and fierce determination
to be alive.

Dad was a hell of a man...
tho in no traditional way.
He was a Renaissance man:
an eye surgeon, a painter, a sculptor,
a writer, an appreciator of
fine machinery, design and art.
No interest in sports.
He did hang out with the guys
in some wicked poker games..
attired sometimes,
in a linen suit,
Panama hat and espadrilles....
the riverboat gambler.
the parfait gentil knight.

He loved his 'Moldoll' passionately
as she did him.
Both visceral artists in their life,
living
their thoughts and beliefs,
hearts and spirits.

But Molly was the pivot of the family.
It wasn't what she did (which wasn't much,
other than to read 7-12 books a week),
but how she endured
with a fierce
determination
and love
and engagement.

And so.

As I came into my manhood,
it was really more of a personhood.
I saw and see nothing special in masculinity,
have no interest in trials or proof
of muscular strength, in
the manly courage.
which seems so pretentious
beside the courage
of the weak.

There seem to be only two trials
that challenge me:
making a difference, pulling my weight,
being true to principle
-and-
the spiritual call
within and beyond
love,
behind and beyond
life.

There is more here than mind or body
male or female.



Condolences


Losing parents is hard;
you're on your own
and the ocean is wide

Some things
you remember vividly:
just where and when
and with whom...
you heard the news:

Kennedy assassinated
The shuttle explosion
9/11

and the passing of your parents

You'd think you'd
hear a ripping sound
feel a pain in your chest
in the moment that they go.

If you're 'lucky',
you're there with them.
Otherwise, you find out later
and wonder how it
was you didn't know,
the world didn't tilt
and darken
that moment

And people send
condolences.

The world is full of
experience you couldn't imagine
until it happens,
many intruiging
some joyous
some disheartening;
but this is grevious

The only consolation is
that they are still alive...
in your memory
and in your life
in your family,
root and branch.

My condolence.
A candle in the darkness.



To my daughter, who's going through a hard patch


You're going through a hard patch.

We wish for ourselves
We wish for others
We wish, oh, how we wish
for our children

Joy and light
Love and spirit

maybe even some money and success
(but that's a mug's game)

But life can seem
grinding and frustrating,
even bleak.

There are pills

They work for some people....
for others, like me, they
don't feel right
they make me feel weird or
like someone else
or have side-effects
(How can your mind feel
greasy?)

Someday they may understand
the mind's chemistry perfectly
Everyone may go shopping
for a new mindset, like a makeover
or a ensemble for a party...
some day...

but right now,
what they've got
can feel like
unhealthy and weird

for all that they just
want to help

I dunno.

I had the
phenomenal
good luck
(or maybe it was just
asking and needing
very, very hard)
to find the
spritual work
that had defined
my young adulthood
again.

Your dear nagging mother
had told me I had to
do something,
I was driving her
(something) and she
couldn't stand it.

Meditation has worked;
enough that she looked
at me the other night
and said that
It had made the difference

It isn't perfect
and sometimes
it's the hardest
thing I do to drag
myself to the
(meditation)
altar.

So to speak,
I have to
not
stand myself up
(at the altar).

I dunno if it
(some kind of meditation)
will work for you.

It might.

Or, just maybe,
losing yourself in
new activity
or exercise.
Blow the cobwebs
out of your mind,

Blow into the
pitchpipe
find the true note
of your soul
and
sing.

They never issue
a manual for
our bodies
or
our souls.

never tell us the
trials

oh sure,
they tell us about the
SATs and MCATs
and dissertations

But the trails of the inscape
is a landscape without path
or signs or maps.

We blaze our trail
and just when we
begin
to be comfortable
(your mothers' favorite word and state)

The cycle turns,
the old trails no longer count
and
a whole new icognita confronts us.

When you are young, you have the juice
to tear into the challenges
with passion

As you age, you must find a resolve and
a hope, a belief
to take its palce.

Perhaps the juice no longer drives you
and that brings some peace....
but now you must drive yourself.

Though Mom doesn't believe it,
it has always been an article of faith for me,
learned from the example of my mother,
who forged each day from a determination
that love and magic could be willed,

that you can demand a life
demand hope,
even joy and love

It is prayer

First you demand a life
and then you accept
what comes, which may be very different
from what you asked for....

but....

almost always,
it will have a magic and light.

Ask....
then listen and open
with new ears and new eyes.

"Life is so a generous giver
can we but open to her gifts"*

*
Fra Giovanni Giocondo



Goodbye, Mother


Goodbye Mother.

I've kept you
long past your well-earned bedtime
burning my torch
for you
over here

You fought your life
with guts and courage.
We enlisted in your war
against the paralysis
which froze your body
but not your heart
or soul or spirit.

Like a roaring tower
of fire, you riveted
our hearts:
Dad and me
Riveted our imagination
to the witness
of your courage.

After some 30 years
of pouring out
your determination
and heart,
an artery burst
and you bled out.

We carried on,
living in the cooling
shadows.  Remembering.

But I can't think
you ever would have wanted that.

You lived passionately
creating a life,
moment by moment.

It was the present
you lived,
that sustained you,
that rivited us.

So:

Mother that I always called Molly.
Who never, after that first year,
could cuddle me
though you did wish.
Who could never make me
her prince, as mothers do...
Who could never show me
how to do cartwheels;
Yours were stilled
when I was a year old.

You gave me different
birthrights:
compassion,
an appreciation of mortality,
of the spirit and love
that can transcend it.
A knowledge that only
they last.

Others transfixing,
alas blighting..
a distrust of the body
turning instead to
the mind and spirit.

Oh, they do have
their strengths,
but unless
they live in
an acknowledged
and
accomplished
body,
unless they are
in
and of the world
they are ungrounded.

You were grounded.
Profoundly

I missed that.

And so a part of me was
displaced
and
sublimated.

How do you sublimate
grounding?

With hunger.
A hunger
battening
and ferocious

But here
I resolve.
To find a way to
ground.
To stop abusing
my self and body
and those around me.
To make a separate peace

To unrivet my childhood,
seam by seam,
to free my self
to free my mother
to free my grief for the world

To embrace me.
To be whole in my body.
To quietly dwell
in respect.

Enough.
Goodbye Mother.
I long ago learned
and over-learned
your lessons.
Trapped you
in my worship and
fear.

Go free.

Yes, there is grief.
But live in the joy there is, too.

Breathe in the pulse of life.



Closing a parent's house


A life
is like an enormous
but invisible
Rube Goldberg machine

that interacts with
with its intangible
counterparts
in the wide world
of existence.

An ecology of sorts.

And when that life
halts abruptly
or
stutters, totters
to a halt
or
disremembers,
in dementia,
its moorings

All the other automata
of the rest of existence
continue
as if it were still
breathing and
responding.

The house
or apartment
is still
full of stuff.

People still call
to talk,
the birds show up
at the feeder,
the meter gets read
and the bills
arrive like the
clockwork
that they are.

But the person
has gone away.

There are
medals in a drawer,
fishing tackle
in the garage,
knitting on the dresser
statues, poaintings, photographs,
lovingly displayed and lit in a corner..


Letters bound in ribbons,
pictures and diplomas
on the walls,
books on the shelves,
pots and spatulas
in the kitchen.

But the magician
has gone away.



Parenting, the race without a finish line

I swear.

Watching your kids grow,
watching them move into
'adulthood'

is like
an endless succession
of teaching them
to ride bikes.

They are forever
wobbling away
from you,
gaining momentum,
sometime falling.

You clench your hands,
you grit your teeth,
you will them upright
with body English,
you pray.

As your parents
before you
must have watched
you wobbling away

and theirs.



The Dancing Bear


If there's one thing
I *do* know,
it's that
I am really, really
unqualified
to talk about
emotions and heart.

Reason doesn't enter into it,
is totally inapplicable,
like trying to wrap a living bird.

Men are idiots
women too
though I
prefer women

I look
at the hottie
too...
 

I'm not dead

But my pattern
from my parents
is faithfulness
in spite of
everything

But I give thanks:
I have never really, really
been tempted
beyond my control
for all that I have tip-toed
around the edge.

At the ashram
at Big Indian,
seeing a wonderful
amazing
Juno-esque
Earth woman...
who, I learned
a few days later,
was married to a
whiny pissant...
I formulated
Dean's Criterion of
Marriage:
Does it work?

Not...
Is it perfect?
Are they lovely together?

No.
Just
Does it work?

Marriage
just as people in
their blindnesses, stupidities, emotionalities, beauties, uglinesses....
are dancing bears.

It is not
how well the bear dances,
but that it dances
at all.