But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves . . .
from Mary Oliver's poem, "Wild Geese"
I don't usually bother with poems I dislike, but I don't like this one. And people send it to me from time to time, as if to comfort me.
I know it's a little nuts, but every time I read it or hear it, as in a yoga class or on NPR, I get stuck on the line about letting the animal of your body love what it loves. That's all you need to do? Really?
And --you do not need to be good?
Then I start thinking--maybe it would work in an etiquette book for vampires.
WHEN I see spruces bend to left and right
Across the line of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some mom's been swinging on them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
I keep thinking about my mother these days . . .
One of the funnier memories . . .
My mother loved to hike. She also loved to blaze trails. And she always wanted a trail to go by spots that offered the best views.
Once, the two of us were blazing a trail in the mountains of Maine, and we came to a rocky outcroppings with a nice view of the lakes and ocean. We couldn't figure out how a way to get from the cliff to where we wanted the trail to go. There was a steep drop-off, and no easy way down from it in the direction we wanted. So my mother decided to lie on her belly, reach over the edge of the cliff, grab onto the top of a young tree--a spruce, I think (some kind of young evergreen), and the tree slowly bent over, depositing her on the ground before popping back up for me.
It was a fun ride. And it became Mom's new "neat thing" that she had to show everyone.
Needless to say, not everyone was as happy with the tree-ride.
When I was growing up, we used to get so many boxes of chocolates. With six kids in the family, we were always pinching them to see what was in the center. When my parents got upset with the boxes of mutilated chocolates, we started operating on them with sewing needles, delicately drilling into the bottoms to see the core. The chocolates were pretty disgusting, even after the most careful needle drilling. It was always a tight moment when the chocolates were offered up to guests . . .
My mother is in her last days now. It's been a few weeks in coming, and as a silly coping mechanism, I decided to do a parody a day for each day she was still here. I had quite a few parodies already drawn and written.
My mother, a school teacher, read me so many poems as a child. I didn't like them, and so, as a bratty way to deal with them, I made up parodies. Once you start doing that, it becomes a habit.
So many dumb, dumb parodies run through my mind.
My mother also corrected my accent and grammar constantly. I remember her once saying, It's not bah-baby. You aren't a sheep. It's rock-a-bye-baby.
With a southern accent, bye, becomes bah.
Now, when I am in Virginia, I hear people saying bah, or rather, ba-ah, to each other as they wave goodbye.
I think I will be hearing her voice in my head even louder, at least for a while now.
Every so often there's another article about how women prefer chocolate to sex. There are also articles that say women who eat chocolate are better in bed. A quick search this morning produced the following quote- A third of women dream about chocolate during the day, compared with only 18 per cent who think about sex, says a new British survey.
There was a study years ago that said British men were dumber after sex. (I wonder if this after-effect applied only to British men?) And another that said 40% of men lie about their sex lives on surveys. Still others claimed that prayer before sex improved performance. About 30% said God never answered their prayers. Women, some studies suggest, rely on chocolate more than men or God.
What is the deal with food photography lately? I was in this coffee shop the other day, and this couple was busy photographing every item of food on their plates. And it was not exactly exciting food. Just black coffee, sandwiches, pie . . . What do they do with the pictures? Put them on the wall?
Hey, look, this is what I ate last night! And this was lunch! But wait, don't go. You haven't seen breakfast yet.
Another album of poetry my parents bought when I was in grade school had a scratchy recording of Dylan Thomas reading "Do not go gentle into that good night." Unlike the Dickinson album, this one was a very powerful reading, almost sermon-like. It reminded me of the Baptist preacher we sometimes heard on the radio and giggled about . . . I would make up parodies, or almost parodies of the opening . . . Any command could become a parody.
Do not pick your nose or wipe on your sleeve
blow, blow into a handkerchief
Do not dip the pitchfork gently into the dung
and hurl it upon the heap
I think the first parody that ever occurred to me was the top one, a response to an album of Emily Dickinson poems that my mother purchased and played for us when we were in grades school. It was horrible . . . This woman with a sickly sweet voice, much like a female Mr. Rogers, recited Dickinson's poems. After listening to the record a few times, I turned to my sister and said, I think I want to throw up! Do you?
The second is a parody of Dickinson's "I'll tell you how the sun rose/ A ribbon at a time. The steeples swarm in amethyst, the news like squirrels ran./ The hills untied their bonnets . . ."
The parody came to mind when I was in high school- with my mother for one of her weekly visits to the beauty parlor. I remember thinking of the steeples of curlers in Aqua Net, the mouths ran and ran, their heads in bonnets . . .
Then there is this quote from Robert F. Kennedy in 1968--when he was seeking the Democtratic presidential nomination.
"Our Gross National Product now is over 800 billion dollars a year. But that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our national wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts . . . the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the GNP does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriage, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud to be Americans."
From Justice, What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel, p. 262
And I thought making money is/was the American ideal.
Times, I guess, they are a-changin'.
When my daughter was in first grade, my mother sent her a bug shirt for her birthday. It was a huge shirt with all kinds of insects on it, and it quickly became her favorite sleep shirt. She liked to pick her favorite bug-of-the night before going to sleep from "Grandma's bug shirt."
Another flower that reminds me of my mother . . . She loved to tell the myth of Narcissus and Echo. The story of Echo always gave me the creeps, of a woman with no voice of her own, with no other wish than to love a man who was only interested in himself . . .
My mother, 94, has been very sick. We thought she might not be with us much longer last week, but she has rallied. Still, she says she is not sure she wants to hang around much longer.
An avid nature lover, hiker, gardener, she has spent so much of her life trying to educate anyone who will listen about the birds, flowers, trees, rocks, and more. Two weeks ago, when she walked slowly on her canes around the garden, she pointed out every tree, bird, bush and flower and asked me if I knew their names.
This drawing is of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit. As a girl, I always loved it when she pointed to Jack, the stalk under the hood of his pulpit.
This Wikipedia article is one of several articles on the Internet that does a good job of describing blog trolls. It seems there are more trolls on poetry blogs lately, just as there are more poetry sites on the Internet that have viruses, including the site famouspoetsandpoems.com.
The general advice, when dealing with trolls, is simply to delete them quickly. Do not respond. And definitely do not click on their links.