The Freelance Dilettante

what i want to be when i grow up

Confessions of A Teenage Fungus

I just peered into the past today.

In my 20s, my then-partner had ten years of my poems tape-bound into a thick volume.
10 years of poems, ranging from 1982-1993. That covers ages 13-24, prime poem-producing years, to be sure. This volume, entitled Confessions of a Teenage Fungus,  contains around 350 poems.

Looking back over this array of writings, in many different styles, with many different influences (Duran Duran, Richard Brautigan, e.e. cummings, The Cure, Sylvia Plath, et cetera…), I can’t help but having a lot of different reactions. Of course, there are many, many cringeworthy moments within (especially in the early years…ouch!) I am sure I could have a brilliant moment (or ten) in the Mortified spotlight with some of those. However, what surprises me, is that not all of this work is actually that bad.

Young me was experimental. Creative. Passionate. Funny. Sexy/Dirty. A little crazy. Uninibited. Unafraid.

Where did she go?

Where is the girl who wrote:

tonight
is like a perverse
fish
that sucks my
toes
when i am sleeping
before kissing
soft thigh insides.
then the fish
noses its way
upwards to
onion ring heaven.

Sometimes I think she was fooled along the way into thinking her way of seeing things was juvenile (in other words, not good enough.) She was lured into the idea that her writing had to have some sort of sophistication that she could never quite capture. So she generally just stopped writing.

I’m not a sophisticated poet. Like most artists, I’m riddled with anxiety and self doubt. I know my poems don’t all suck, but I can never decide which ones suck less than the others. A poem I love one day will seem hopelessly flawed the next. So I keep them all, a resplendent, somewhat awkward and haphazard bouquet. I throw them to you, and they scatter. Enjoy!

A poem from every year, 1982-1993. You can laugh. You’re welcome.

Ode (1982)

I’m a maid in silk brocade
And you’re a pirate bold
You’ve chanced to meet a Spanish fleet
And have taken all its gold.
*
I’m your kin with ebon skin
And you’re a drumming man
To your beat I move my feet
In the pounding tribal dance.
Oh, I’m the one who’s come undone
And you’re the one above
For you’re the man and I’m the fan
And you’re the one I love.

*  I removed one stanza from this poem (“Ode”) because it is racially insensitive to Native Americans, and includes a term I would not use today. I understand “ebon skin” is also problematic for a white girl,  but I only include this poem at all because it is the best example of my poetic skill at thirteen. It shows a decent command of internal rhyme, and I’m proud of that. My other poems show similar skill, but they are all love poems to Adam Ant (who, over the years, could have basically earned a doctorate in cultural appropriation.)– this one is too, but it’s not as obvious as the others.

Matter of Time (1983)*

It’s so quiet outside
No sound, it’s inane
An abstract vision resides in my mind
An unknown soldier calls out my name
A kiss of a movie whisper
Rides on a full wind
And a warm adoration
Is within my head
It calls to me
Fulfilling conscious fantasy
And the sands swirl seductive
On the grassy plateau
As the oceanic, paradoxic
Tidal winds blow
The verses don’t rhyme
The cracks don’t align
Your being’s not mine
It’s just a matter of time
Until you realize
The look in my eyes
Is only for one
My heart is replete
My eyes, wet, persuade
The soldier draws a breath, life’s complete
Beggars whose starving cries persuade
As a fire glows bright
In a heart all alone
And caresses a stranger
A flower full-blown
Crying “nevermore”
Down upon a storm-wreaked shore
And emotion is forgotten
As you call her to you
The pictures psychedelic
On the wall in my room
The verses don’t rhyme
The cracks don’t align
Your being’s not mine
It’s just a matter of time
Until you finally know
The physical show
Is only for you
It’s just a matter of time
It is
Just a matter of time
Until you’re mine.

*And the obsession turns to Duran Duran, when I channel Simon Le Bon, and cop his sweet, sweet style.  It’s pretty creepy/stalkerish, I know, but I’m 14. And I obviously own a great dictionary/thesaurus.

A lot of times my poems are lyrical.  I have written lots of songs.

Dancing When the Bomb Drops (1984)

Dancing in the deep gray mist of yesterday
My life flashes before my eyes
Surreal pictures, of rural suburbia
Apathy tinged with sympathy’s lies.
Trying to rid myself of yesterday
I cut the pictures on the dotted lines
We’re dancing in the shadow of the
mushroom cloud
We’re closing our ears to the people’s cries
And someone has dropped the bomb on my life
Is there a reason for this blinding light?
It can’t be love — there’s no such thing, you see
It just couldn’t be, it wouldn’t be right
Dancing when the bomb drops.
Happy with our lives so changed by yesterday
In screaming silence, I reach for more
Nothing but a rather obscure sarcasm
That clings to me, dancing outside my door
(Dying outside my door).
So why forget the solemn joys of yesterday
When tomorrow is a time we’ll never see?
Just delve into my life of anti-reality
And love again as one with me.

The beauty of ’80s songs was that they really didn’t need to make sense or have deep meaning. I was pretty good at that. 🙂

In 1985 I had a short lived (likely because I wasn’t sure it was requited) crush on this boy. The crush was basically due to the fact that he had red hair and his mom washed his clothes in Gain. (It’s an aphrodisiac drug, people!)

Your Hair (1985)

your hair glows like copper wire
like fire, like precious red hair
which it is to me
your eyes are a beautiful golden brown
(like mine)
and long-lashed
and I love your face
because it’s so knowing and
nonchalant
and accepting (well, sort of)
and I love your mouth because
whenever I see it I think of you kissing me
in the men’s bathroom at
OMSI
and I love your freckles, every single one
(especially the one on your lip)
and I love your hands
and the way your ears taste
and the way you hug me and
the way you look at me, smile, and say
“you’re full of shit.”*

* “You’re full of shit” was his standard response to any compliment.

Ironic (1986)*

my tongue is like
a monkey dick
in your ear
(or so you say)
but you
work in a
pickle factory
so, if i were
you,
i wouldn’t talk.

*no real irony was expressed in this poem, but, unlike Alanis Morissette, that was intentional.

Eight Steps (1987)

1. take him
gently
by marionette strings
that pull at
yearing loins
2. look through his
eyes like portholes
3. draw him
angular
to your body
in quiet blue chalk
4. feel every moment:
pounding internal drumbeats
hard against soft
close but not
close enough
5. taste the silent question
then answer in kind
6. let 2 limbs become
one
like slender birch trunks
7. guide hands to dark
hidden
soul corners
8. open the door

Samsara (1988)

dark
a wild Taoma night
nervous
we walked side by side
I slipped my hand into
the pocket of
your Daddycoat.
easy
calm
we moved
past streetlamps
and American Luxurycars.
sitting quiet
I held you and we
talked.
funny, I didn’t realize
we were so
alike.
We live many lives.

Lioness (1989)

for such a vicious fuck
you have a sweet kiss
barely a whisper
then the plunge
you tickle my skin
ten bruise my womb
breathe on my breast
then tear at my hair
if you were a female
you could be a lioness
for all the fire
and tenderness in there.

Barbara Sophia (1990)*

When Barb talks on the phone
she paces the floor
her nylon-clad thighs
whisper secrets.
She laughs into her salad
when I make obscene
gestures with a fork.
She does the
orgasm
and I do
the bedsprings
to get
the neighbors
back
for screwing all night.
Sometimes we go driving
the wheels caress the Tacoma
dark backroads.
music licks our eardrums
and Barb’s red-nailed hands
tap at Simon’s steering wheel.
But tonight
baking muffins
(imitation flavor
with
falsified
blueberries)
I hug her in the kitchen.
“Sadie,” she says,
“I wish you were a man.”

“Barbara Sophia” was the first poem I had published, in the Crosscurrents Review.

I can’t seem to find a poem specifically dated 1991, so here are two poems from 1992.

Anniversary (1992)

was it five?
five years since
they met in the supermarket
over fresh fruit
before it became
the fashion
for thirteen weeks they met this way
same time each week
pretending it was a coincidence
inspecting the peaches
choosing frozen entrees
reaching for the same head
of lettuce
thirteen weeks
before he kissed her in aisle four:
Campbell’s soup
her eyes locked on Tomato
they began to shop three times a week
and to buy exotic items
they noticed things
he bought eight grain bread
she preferred the cheap stuff
they both liked chunky
they both ate meat
she liked the smooth, square
planes of his face
his strong hands
he liked the way she
filled her clothes
the way her smile worked
-just a second delayed
five years
the wheels of their carts
growing squeaky the bag boys
growing into managers
they changed stores
but she comes back sometimes
remembering
his scratchysoft cheeks
the electricity in his kiwifruit eyes
his laughter like the mane of a lion
heading for the checkout
she detours down aisle four
to pick up some Tomato.

Race Memory (1992)

Deep
In my soul
I carry the memories of my people
The harsh rasp of knuckles on washboard
The clang clang of hammer on spike
The slow roll of earth beneath plow
The easy rocking of mother and child
I feel white skin, burnt under hot sun
Stained with rusty kisses
A race of redheaded Celtic warriors
Of black-haired fairies, moon worshippers,
and saints
In my father’s eyes I see peasants and kings
I hear my great-great
great grandfather’s voice
In the sweet ringing of fiddle and dulcimer
In the rumbling of trains.

Clio (1993)

There are
somewhere in your greenbrown eyes
faint images, wisps of Clio
scents of Egypt and menstrual blood.
Time floats from your hands over my skin,
rough from the Irish sea;
smashed on the rocks
the muse dances,
dances
dances through history into the stories you tell me.
Late at night our skin moves
you over me you inside me and I’m
grasping for you again.
The lights dance over us like the golden eyes
of Egypt
and I’m making love with Pharaoh’s queen.
Somewhere in the distance lies the woman,
under the rough cheek, undr the firm hands
under the amber voice
the muse calls
the anima awakens.
An incarnation ago the animus stood,
bold and dark on the cliffs of the Irish sea.
Then I took my lovers with unleashed fury.
then I dashed them against my body
with the force of a howling gale
with the knowledge of gods.
Now we are trapped by years and distortions
calling out to us from the past;
our bodies free us, together we are whole.
The man the woman what does it matter
within whom the aspects lie…
All that matters is that when I kiss you I
feel the sands of Egypt slide over my skin
I taste your blood on my lips
I feel history devouring me
I love you with the force of the sea.

 

Advertisements

Making it Mine

C9252DBD-3D0E-4FB8-A47B-74698936C293My “new” car is my husband’s old car; it just worked out that way. I now drive the same car as nearly every middle aged Indian man in San José. A gray (or silver) Honda (or Toyota, or BMW), which it makes it nearly impossible to find my car in any parking lot, including the one in my apartment complex.

My old car, which was once new, but is now totaled and sitting in a wrecking yard somewhere, was blue and sparkly and decorated with a variety of lively bumper stickers. My husband hated my car because he couldn’t drive a stick, and because I listen to NPR and he’s a Republican  (who voted for Obama, however, so I will assume he did not vote for Trump, although he didn’t volunteer and I didn’t ask. Either way, he has to listen to my wild liberal rants nearly daily, so I figure that’s penance no matter what.)

I was away this past weekend, and he drove my car because, for some reason, he doesn’t want to drive his bright shiny new one. This has got to stop. I have to fully lay claim on my new car, which I have yet to name. This, I suppose, should be the first step. This car is an old man. He dodders, he doesn’t stand out. He has a hard time getting up enough gusto to merge. He deserves an old man name, like Harold. In fact, I am sitting here trying to think up something better, and I can’t, so I guess that’s it:  Harold.

Even though my car is an old man named Harold, I’m not going to let that stop me from making him MY car. I am programming NPR as station #1. I am putting feminist and peacenik, and other “crazy liberal snowflake” bumper stickers all over his slow, gray ass, and I am pushing that arthritic pedal to the metal until I reach 60 mph, goddammit!

I have already started gathering my bumper sticker collection. In fact, I just got the ones pictured above from an awesome site: PeaceSupplies.org . Peace Supplies is an independent media project out of Tucson, AZ. They provide printing resources to progressive groups, and have a huge selection of stickers, t-shirts, signs, and other fair trade products.   It’s a great place to shop if you like stuff like peace, or justice, or equality, or the Earth. I know I do, and really, everybody should. Even old man-cars like Harold.

 

 

We’re All Confused Here.

Just realized my “race/ethnicity” was listed as Asian/Indian on my medical records.
Fixed that.

Carlos, Carlos

In the last year or so, kids at my school  have started to play this game called “Charlie Charlie” which supposedly exposes the presence of paranormal entities by putting two pencils in an X shape on a piece of paper with “yes” and “no” on it (or sometimes without the paper at all, if one is trying to be sneaky at school) asking a question, and waiting for the the top pencil to move in a creepy way, like a makeshift Ouija board. It’s silly.

Anyway, since some say the game originated in a Spanish speaking country (perhaps even Spain itself, where it is called  “Juego de la Lapicera,” ) I figured the  game should more accurately be called “Carlos Carlos.” I have explained this to several children, but they look at me as if I am sort of insane, which, truth be told, is pretty accurate.

Anyway, there happens to be a handsome man in my Spanish class named Carlos, who I pissed off (inadvertently) when I asked him what his real name was. I mean, everyone else in our class uses a modified name. Sarah and I are Sara, with both “as” sounding like  “ah.” Our handsome  friend Raman goes by Ramón. My other handsome  friend Mambwe goes by Alejandro* (And yes, it’s true, all the men in my Spanish class are very handsome. We’re just a spectacularly good-looking group, I guess.) Anyway, I met Raman and Carlos about the same time. I don’t know a lot of Indian guys named Ramón (at least not from Tamil Nadu), so I asked them what their “real” names were. Carlos, indignantly said “Don’t I look like a Carlos?”

Oops my big foot in my fat mouth…again.

The next week, partially out of sheer humiliation, but mostly due to feeling like crap on a plate, I skipped class. Still, I couldn’t hide in a cave forever, so eventually I humbly crawled back to class, where I found out that Carlos had seemingly forgiven me, and since then, all is cool. In fact he’s a really cool guy.

So thank you, Carlos,**,  I will admit freely that you not only look like a Carlos, but you are now the one I will hold up as an example for all future Carlos identifications. Hence, if anyone else ever asks me if they “look like a Carlos,” I can say “no” without hesitation or embarrassment.

* He’s unique
** if that *is* your real name…

 

 

 

 

Writing

Today I wrote two important e-mails and a loving PM, which totaled at least 750 words. And some Facebook ranting of course. I also did Spanish homework and worked in my planner. Other things were procrastinated on. Procrastination is my greatest talent. I am a genius at procrastination. Tomorrow, perhaps, I will get to more important things, such as my rabbit’s impressive pile of poops. Now, however, I am going to bed, because the longer I stay up, the more I crave cookies.

 

Inspiration takes Frightening Forms

So one of my ongoing goals is to write 750 words a day on something, anything, as long as it’s not a tweet or a Facebook post. This might be a challenge, as my creative sauce has been low for the past couple of years, and I fear my imagination-brain has shriveled to dried-pea size in the meantime. With the whole 1% inspiration-thing lacking, the 99% perspiration hasn’t been forthcoming, either.

No doubt I often wax inarticulate* on Facebook, and I’ve posted dribs and drabs on this blog or another, but most of whatever I have has been frittered away on Netflix and stuff-my-face and Amazon spending sprees into the wee hours of the evening. Idle hands are the Devil’s gateway into his real playground: the Internet-shopping-mall.  I have enough clothes, and shoes, and baubles, and mp3s, and makeup to satisfy a small suburban middle school, but I don’t have what it takes to feed my soul.

Why is that? My husband would call it “laziness,” but I might call it “depression brought on by complacency”, an inertia which allows me to resist the restless call of my spirit to the creative endeavor. Even when I do answer the call, I get lost in the woods before I ever find the path. I read something inspiring, I pull out my colored pencils, I find a notebook, I pull up one of my four blogs, and then…ptttht.

It’s both frightening and fascinating  to me that the thing I think just might pull me out of this tar pit of banality is the fear that the despair brought on by the incoming government might just kill me. And I’m relatively safe, being white, middle class, educated, employed in a career  with less ageism and sexism than most (even really ancient** women like me can still teach), middle aged, and unable to bear children. I don’t know what it’s like to be a person of color, or a transperson, or a person with a disability. I have my intersectional challenges, but it’s been a long time since I’ve faced any overt discrimination, or have had to fight or fear for my life. I’m not living with a target painted on the back of my hoodie, that’s for sure.

Still, I work with children. Children who are mostly from immigrant families. Families who live in fear because of the vile, hate-mongering, lying, sexist, bigot, fascist, orange overlord-wannabe that nearly half of our country voted for. Most Trump voters didn’t have to look into the eyes of a terrified child on November 9; a child afraid that his family would be torn apart, or that she would be treated like an enemy because of her religion, or like “less than” because she is female. My colleagues and I, however, did. We had to assure these children, with matching tears in our eyes, that we would do all we could to protect them, to fight for their dreams, to fight for justice, and stay strong…together.

So here I am, rambling on. I have met many others of like mind in the last two months, mostly women, but not all, with powerful minds, brazen hearts, and unquenchable determination. They have helped me realize that I can’t stay in my hole, hiding, and let destruction rain down on this country, (or break it apart from within, as the case might be.) Some people I know*** say it won’t be that bad, but I disagree, and I’d rather take my feelings and whip them into a frenzy for justice than “wait and see” if it can finally break me.

At the political action meeting I went to last night, someone mentioned that, as activists, we need to find what we’re good at, and do it. I suck at making phone calls. I have a terrible phobia, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get over it. I mean, if I can’t call my own mother more than 5 times a year, I doubt I can call 500 lawmakers. However, I can write, and I can speak in public, and I can march, and I can sing protest songs, and I can support causes with my bank account, and I can educate myself and I can fight. I will fight, and if you need me to, I will fight alongside you.

*thank you, Mike Hoefner, for the most useful phrase.

**according to my students. I assure them the only reason I have gray hairs is because they give them to me.

*** And by “people” I mean the guy who is snoring next to me right now.

I M*A*S*H* With You

Image

I can’t tell you of the joy that rose today in my heart, watching my husband play M*A*S*H* on my iPad. Although he was a bit confounded by his proclaimed “red and violet” wedding to Naomi Watts, with 333 attendants, a “robust” honeymoon in Bangalore, India, and consequent settling down into a shack in Tokyo Japan with their 2 children, as he spent a hard working life as an Oil Tycoon (and she as a Movie Reviewer) until he retired at 4,152 years old, it was beautiful and amusing thing, watching him involved in the process. “This,” I told him, “is how eight year old girls plan out their futures.” He seemed slightly annoyed. “There are better algorithms,” he said.

Note: For those of you who don’t know, M*A*S*H* was not just an awesome TV show of the 1970s and ’80s. It is also a game, explained here.

The Olden Days, B.I. (Before Internet): Music Edition

ImageSo, This year I decided that I am finally going to listen to all my vinyl record albums on my record player, because otherwise, why have them? Well, at least that’s my husband’s opinion. (He doesn’t like all my books, either, but too bad. I reduced from fourteen bookshelves + piles down to three, well four…okay, five plus piles..for him, and the rest are nonnegotiable.)

So, I’m listening to music. This is especially true because I currently have laryngitis and since I can’t sing along, I can only listen and dance in my kitchen like a fool. (Seriously. I’m a good cook, a fantastic kisser, but a really lousy dancer. S’truth!) Sometimes I’m worried that the cute guy across the way can see me and is thinking, “What the hell is that crazy middle aged lady doing in there ?” But then I realized I don’t care, and continue.

One of the things I realized during this process is that I used to be a lot more spontaneous. When I was in high school, I would regularly go down to the record store to loiter, perusing the British and Japanese imports of Duran Duran albums and staring glassy-eyed at the posters on the walls, trying to look cool in the way only a ’80s rebellious Catholic High School girl could.

The best part, of course, was the used record section. My favorite record store was Dudley’s, which was located across the street from the public library in downtown Portland. Their “used” bins were always filled with promotional albums, which clearly bore this label:

Back then, you could buy a used record, mint condition, for a couple bucks. A lot of these records were not ones heard regularly on the top 40 radio, or played so often on MTV that they made it onto the Network TV booby prize, “Friday Night Videos.” Of course, this was before YouTube or any form of the interwebs was available to mere mortals, so basically (especially if one wasn’t cool or flush enough to have cable) we were going in blind.

I dove in. I liked to buy records where I liked one song, or based completely on the cover art, or the name of the band. Some of them were gems, others? eh, what’s a couple of bucks? This is how I discovered Suzanne Vega, who didn’t really hit it big with most people until her second album, “Solitude Standing.” I was amazed by her first album (self titled) and I have listened to it countless times. I forgot to take a picture of it, but she made a video in 1985 for her song, “Marlene on the Wall”  Her themes are tragic: isolation, loneliness, fragile love, abuse, but her voice is filled with tender, cool detachment, which pulls the listener into her stories without being overbearing. I have identified with these songs in so many ways at different times, it will always be one of my favorite albums.

Another one of my favorite albums is “Primitive Man” by Icehouse. Image

I  discovered this awesome Australian band completely by accident. Since then, I’ve heard the song “Great Southern Land” in the soundtrack of half a dozen movies, which I think is perfect, as it (along with the novels “A Town Like Alice” and “The Thorn Birds”) exemplifies my fantasy of what Australia is truly like. (In other words, ancient and filled with aboriginal mysteries, ranchers that look like Bryan Brown, and priests who look like Richard Chamberlain.) Still, the album is fantastic, yeah, a few of the songs are pretty typical ’80s fare, but the album was worth buying on CD, that’s all I gotta say.

I was going to post the video for “Great Southern Land,” but the video is stupid; just the lead singer walking around in the desert singing a magnificent song.  What I suggest is that you listen to the song while watching this documentary with the sound off (and then going back and watching the documentary afterwards, because it looks pretty good.)

I have a bunch of great finds: Lene Lovich, Propaganda, Prefab Sprout, Lords of the New Church… however, my best secret find was a duo who I just googled a few seconds ago, only to find out that one of them lives in San Francisco. Oh, I’m totally going to stalk him! (Just kidding, Jonathan Lemon, don’t put a restraining order on me.) This, of course, is the album to which I am referring:

Image

Jesus Couldn’t Drum: Errr…Something About Cows.
Did I mention that I love cows? Also, this record contains the following playlist of songs:

ImageImage

Come on, any record with songs like “Tedium of Lettuce,” “Wooden Chicken,” and  “Freudian Nightmare” is going to be worth the risk. (Hint: you can still get a copy for a good price on e-bay, if you hurry. 🙂

I have at least one more, but I’ll save that for another post, because it’s a doozy.

These days, I’m nowhere near as spontaneous. I Google, and YouTube, and cherry pick songs, and rarely buy albums based on cover or song titles. Partially because the days of the cheap used record are long gone. I have bought albums on the strength of one song (The Killers, Roseanne Cash’s latest) and a couple because I heard a great interview or review on NPR. (Old, old, old, I’m getting old) I buy a lot of world (okay, Indian) music.
Honestly, after living for a long time with partners who don’t really like my music, I am just happy to be listening to it again, and to be dancing in my kitchen, like I don’t give a damn, for the entertainment and/or confusion of my neighbors.

Cannon Bile

My Anni and I gang up on our Monkey, and he and Autocorrect call us names.

Murder, Sweet Green Murder

Things got a little out of hand on Vegetarian Night (with D.B. Myrrha). Click the pic to see more.