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Posts Tagged ‘self-discovery’

Amulet–A Poem

November 26, 2016 1 comment

File:Roman - Amulet of Mithras Slaying the Bull, and the God Abraxas - Walters 42868 - Reverse.jpg

Poems have a shaggy-dog quality; RT never knows just what may show up at his front door next. This particular inspiration began to emerge shortly after a manuscript discussion group featuring some old poetry buddies, a situation well-known among scribblers to produce new work. And it’s been a while since any critter, however shaggy, has come to RT’s attention. And so, with a brief nod of thanks to the muse:

Amulet

*****It’s always 2 o’clock.

You told the lady a lie,

shed the skin of indifference.

The moment will not end,

hissing, sliding, ash ragged in

the air. The cherub is gone.

 

It’s still 2 o’clock, damn them.

They’ve taken your feet, your arms,

your teeth rotten with venom.

*****So what about the fruit?

*****Of course they wanted a bite, naked

down in the hollow of truth.

 

3 o’clock and

the cherub, head smashed, lies

half-buried in sand. The ones that burn say:

How could you? You blink. Those are

your teeth sown in the ground, your words

*****winding across the page.

 

Photo: Amulet of Mithras Slaying the Bull and the God Abraxas (Walters 42868). 3rd century. Walters Museum of Art. WikiCmns; CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.

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Still in the Game–Three Shorts

August 6, 2016 2 comments

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RT has bursitis in his left hip. It’s an occupational hazard for those over 50, and he is treating it with ice and exercise. Unfortunately, he hasn’t found a chair that doesn’t contribute to the problem, but the long-delayed trip to Lowe’s should take care of things.

And in the meantime, he is beginning to work on a new collection of poetry, Naming the Spirit. RT had thought that this would be a relatively straightforward affair, but realities such as grief and a larger and more diverse collection of written materials than he had realized are complicating matters. And maybe they should. Additional materials may be forthcoming, if only to balance out the book’s rather somber tone. Grief after all is a kind of healing.

Here are a trio of short poems, the first two fairly old, and brighter in tone than not.

 

Three Shorts

 

Should I take a shower?

Dirt under my fingernails,

and I feel alive.

 

 

ratty hair—

not many places allow

a man to be beautiful

 

 

shoe laces undone.

deep mud—slipping, left leg splayed…

undamaged at 56.

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Illustration: Shoelace Knot; AnonMoos. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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Walking and the Deep Well of Memory

July 30, 2016 2 comments

Glanum? Ambrussum? Vaison-la-Romaine? Somewhere in Provence, in any case. RT has a distant but distinct memory of seeing an ancient Greek city while on vacation back in the mid-1970s. The site was small and gorgeous, oval-shaped ruins of marble sited among pine trees, not far from the sea. What made the experience especially memorable was the guide’s report of the city’s population, as high as one or two thousand people, if RT recalls correctly. And all of them sheltered in a space about half the size of a football field.

Now, RT, car-less as he often has been in his life, is doing a great deal of walking these days. It takes him about 45 minutes to walk into town by the legal but indirect route. He is actually fairly lucky, since a bike path constitutes part of the trek. At least on this section, he doesn’t have to worry about getting hit by a car. Still, there is something distinctly humbling about walking along the path, which lacks shade trees, park benches, and water fountains, while cars zoom past on the other side of the grass border. His almost daily excursions make him wonder what life would be like if we still lived in pre-industrial communities. Or, to put it another way, could we get rid of cars?

Here are some facts: ancient Rome at its height (population 1 million) occupied about 5 and ½ sq. miles; Manhattan could hold six cities that size. Nearly all Romans lived in concrete and brick apartment buildings (called insulae), some of them nine stories high; apartments of 1,000 sq. ft. (about the size of a modern 1-bedroom apartment) housed families of five or six people. Most of these apartments offered running water. Romans went to great lengths (pardon the pun) via their aqueducts to ensure water quality—and their diet in many ways appears superior to ours. Those who survived into their teens (infant and child mortality were very high), often lived to be 60.

So far, things sound pretty good. Now back to walking: horses were expensive, and carriages for the rich. Though vehicles could be hired for transport (some featuring primitive odometers), nearly everyone walked everywhere.

RT will let readers draw their own conclusions. What remains with him is the memory of a beautiful city in Provence, built to human scale; human-powered; and healthy, communal, and intimate in a way hard to imagine in our own lives. It’s a beautiful day; let’s walk to the store.

Photo: Early 2nd century A.D. apartment building, OstiaNashvilleneighbor. WikiCommons. Public Domain.

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Sifaka!

An upright Coquerel's sifaka hops sideways with its arms at chest height.

In the midst of a serious life transition, RT takes time out for a bit of beautiful whimsy from Madagascar

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Photo: Sifakas are especially adapted to… Neal Strickland. WikiCmns. CC BY 2.0.

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The Five Stages of Falling in Love

February 28, 2016 2 comments

 

File:Tala Birell-Edmund Lowe in Let's Fall in Love.jpg

Status Update: RT’s mom is doing fairly well as she continues to struggle with lung disease. Living in a nursing home is always difficult, but his mom has more or a less adjusted to the challenges. During his most recent visit with her, she told him, “Write another book!”

RT is of course struggling with his own issues as the drama of his mother’s health plays out. Recently, he was looking over the Wikipedia entry on the five stages of grief and was struck by how much they resemble the emotions we experience as we fall in love. RT has been vouchsafed few moments of insight over the last several months, so he felt he should share his flash in the pan:

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The Five Stages of Falling in Love

Denial:  “Are you kidding me? I’m not in love with them! I don’t know their name. We’ve never met. They’re not even a blip on the radar.”

Anger: “Who are you? How can you tell me we’re in love? I don’t like anything about you. In fact, I can’t stand the way you look, the way you smell, your personal habits. Go away! Get out!”

Bargaining: “I know we shouldn’t have kissed. It’s my fault. I smiled and made small talk and then, well, we got romantic for a moment. Look, the whole thing is a mistake, so let’s forget about it. We’ll wipe the slate clean and start over as friends.”

Depression: “Oh my god, we just slept together. We’re really in love. We can’t get out of it. We’re stuck!”

Acceptance: “OK, so we’re in love. Now what do we do?”

Love is like gravity; it is universal and its action continuous. People are always falling in love. There’s no way to stop it. When I recently shared my insight with a friend, they suggested that it applies only to inappropriate relationships. But all love relationships are inappropriate at some level. Nobody is ever really prepared for love or its consequences. At the same time, love is the force that makes us get out of bed in the morning. But now RT is waxing philosophical…

Photo: Tala Birell-Edmund Lowe in Let’s Fall in Love. Publicity still, 1933. WikiCmns; Dr. Macro. Public Domain.

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The Nitrate Angel–A Snippet

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Recently RT was inspired to do a little more research on his grandfather the actor. He didn’t turn up any new information, but he did manage to compose this brief bit for his tentative biography/novel, The Nitrate Angel. (And here is more on Coxey’s Army.)

Panic and poverty—those early memories stayed with him. His father had joined Coxey’s Army, that assemblage of the ill-used, tramping and wending, surging and weaving its way down to Washington. He was too young, even by the standards of the time, to go himself, but the listless eyes and growling stomachs of the other boys, those things he remembered. Later, much later, when his friends, appalled by his grueling schedule, urged him to have some fun, he told them the truth: there is never enough work.

Never enough. He turned his eyes from the Mirror, folded the newspaper under his arm and shoved his hands deep in his pockets, and continued on his way. The day was bitter under a raw December sky, and still the avenue bustled. The terror of war and flu had gone.

“Edward!” someone called out, followed by a clap on the shoulder. It was Hanum.

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Photo: Madison Square, New York City, 1908. LOC Prints & Photos Online Catalog. WikiCmns. Public Domain.

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Storm, Storm, Rainbow

Barrymore_Garbo_Grand_Hotel_042432--WikiPD

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Well, things have been rough at RT’s premises lately. The roughest event was the accident his mother has been living through the last 4 or 5 weeks: at the beginning of July, she fell and broke her leg above the ankle. Now, things have gone well for her and are going better in the last couple of weeks. She had surgery on the day of the fall to repair the leg and then was transferred down to a rehab facility, a good one, as it turns out, in Winchester. She caught pneumonia, but the medical center in Winchester pulled her through with a blood transfusion and the last week or so she’s been sounding sharp and is making respectable progress in the various therapies she is receiving. Her ultimate status is still unclear, but she does seem to be moving in the right direction.

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In related news, mom’s memoir, A Daughter’s Song and Dance, has been making excellent progress. RT is looking for manuscript readers even as he begins to assemble print-ready pages for the first two of the story’s three parts. The book is 260 double-spaced pages, but will be longer when RT has finished adding such minor items as an introduction, and it will contain photos and various ornaments, drawings, and scrapbook material. It is turning out to be a bit of a pot-boiler, but of the classier sort, and certainly mom and I have learned a lot about her childhood, early adulthood, and the times she grew up in (not least of which, for RT, has been discovering that the classic Hollywood film, Grand Hotel (1932) has survived; RT wants to buy a copy & watch).

RT is waiting for reader feedback before he makes any decisions about probable publication dates. He does, though, plan both publication online and via a print run of 50-100 copies. How he will finance the print-run remains unclear; perhaps through a crowd-funding site.

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RT’s other writing projects have not gone away. Working with a prose project like the memoirs and editing a narrative voice as distinctive as his mother’s has given him some perspective on Gilgamesh, and he thinks that when he returns to the poem (as he most likely will after DS&D is published), it will be with renewed enthusiasm. The Dragons of Grammar, a collection of RT’s posts on the informative and entertaining creatures,  may well be the other project that can completed in a reasonable short period of time.

RT’s blogs have also been on his mind now that things are better with mom, and doubtless he once again will be expostulating on his favorite topics and bloggers.

The DoGs send a fond smoke-ring or two in the direction of loyal readers, and RT adds a wink.        RT

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Photo: John Barrymore and Greta Garbo in Grand Hotel. Publicity Still. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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the poems of summer

June 25, 2014 4 comments

The Muse has been fickle of lateRT is continuing onward with his writing/reworking of his mother’s childhood memoir, A Daughter’s Song and Dance, which has been making surprisingly good progress of late, subject to the odd bad signal or two on his emotional railway. But then, a couple of days ago, one of RT’s friends demanded to know how Gilgamesh is coming. Then someone else asked the same thing a little while later. Well, RT doesn’t receive too many requests for status reports on his years-long project to turn the ancient story into English verse, so he allowed as how he was honored by the questions. But the report itself was rather brief: no progress in the last several months, mainly as a result of the memoir showing signs of falling together into a coherent story. 

Where does the strength come from to finish the race? This quote, from Chariots of Fire, RT believes, has haunted him over the years of his struggle with absent-mindedness, and now he has to admit that he has been feeling nostalgia for the decades of his 20s and 30s. The past is with us always, but we can never return to it. Songs that were once brand new on the radio are now being covered as classics by emerging artists, all of them born after RT’s graduation from college, in hopes of attracting more attention to the current hip generation.

I could talk about the unbearable lightness of being, but that would only make matters worse. And seriously considering why RT never became a mega-phenom like, say, Don Henley, is only going to poison his pen. In the midst of this bluesy moment, maybe better help is available from another old classic, the novel Dune. RT has borne with him these unmentionably numerous decades the image of holding back your hand, waiting for the right moment to reach out and grasp the long-desired object. Mastering this art, the art of using time wisely, is one of the chief signs of adulthood. Life isn’t about success; it’s about getting what you need.

Some things are leaving; some are waiting patiently. Knowing where they are and when to engage them is a part of what makes a person greathearted. We’re still in the game.   RT

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Photo: Don Henley. Author: Steve Alexander. WikiCmns; CC 2.0 attribution/share alike.

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death and mourning

File:Emelyn Story Tomba (Cimitero Acattolico Roma).jpg

As difficult as it is, each of us has to confront the reality of death in the most painful way: the loss of a family member, confidante, or other intimate friend. They are gone, suddenly or not, and we confront a gaping hole in our life. A year was the typical period of mourning dictated in more traditional times, and the process can take longer, depending on the strength of the bond with the person who has died.

Recently, one of RT’s friends lost her mother. To encourage the healing process for her and her family, RT made bold to write the following poem; he hopes it helps them in their grieving:

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The dead like gods

watch us, concerned,

listen to our pain,

confer, render judgment.

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Visit our dreams, we ask,

with your warnings and memories.

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Earth and heaven are one,

they reply, the path to

the shining souls rooted

in the sun’s deep night cradle.

The steps are sapphire, they say:

climb with us, like angels–

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******************************side-by-side

******************************soar and glide

******************************in the lapis and gold Heavens;

******************************climb down and

******************************wake in the

******************************day star’s

******************************light,

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their words humming and

*****singing in the dead

*****************dust–

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*****dust of seed and

******************************flower scattered far in

******************************inthe privilege of winds.

 

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Photo: Angel of Grief (1894); William Wetmore Story, sculptor. Protestant Cemetary in Rome. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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RT’s Midnight Madness Salmon Salad

File:Processing salmon fish meat.jpg

the muse of culinary arts recently whispered a few words in RT’s ear as he was perusing the offerings at Walmart, and, late that evening, RT was able to take advantage of her kind suggestions. here is the meal he produced in ten or so minutes:

Salmon and Artichoke Heart Salad w/ Blueberries

1 can pink Alaska salmon (red salmon might be better)

1 jar Reese’s sliced artichoke hearts

1 can Reese’s sliced water chestnuts

1 large box blueberries

garlic salt and curry powder

head of romaine lettuce

In a soup bowl combine three or four forkfuls of the salmon, five or six chestnut slices, and three or four artichoke heart slices. (You’ll notice that Chef RT is not into precise measurements.) Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove bowl from microwave and add two or three leaves of romaine lettuce. Add virgin olive oil, curry powder, and garlic powder to taste. Cover with a couple of spoonfuls of blueberries. Serves one.

well, the romaine lettuce is green, so RT will wish everyone, Happy St. Pat’s Day!

Photo:  Processing salmon fish meat; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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