Aramink

Engaged with the World

Tag: love

A Midget Comes to Chigger Hollow

Midget truck drivers didn’t show up in Chigger Hollow every day. In fact, there weren’t any midgets at all in Chigger Hollow, so when one did show up it was momentous.

The semi pulled into the parking lot of the Chat ‘n’ Chew convenience store about 4:30 in the afternoon. Norma Rae started a fresh pot of coffee. Usually truck drivers could be counted on to buy a couple of cups, even if it was late in the afternoon. Hearing the water begin to drip through the grounds of the Biff Brand coffee, she perched herself back on the duct-taped vinyl stool behind the counter and went back to her True Confessions magazine.

Out of the corner of her eye Norma Rae noticed a woman coming into the store. The woman was followed by a child. Norma Rae didn’t take much notice because the State Trooper from up at Possum Grape had told her in casual conversation that women and children don’t tend to be convenience store robbers. Men were the ones to watch out for, and if a man came in alone, followed by another man, and neither one parked where she could get a description of the car or the license in case of their quick getaway after a robbery, she should take special notice and ease the handle of the shotgun close to the edge of the shelf underneath the counter.

Popping the top on another Coke Zero Norma Rae turned the page in her True Confessions. “I Was a Teenage Pasta Wrestler” looked to be an interesting article. The picture of a pretty girl with a pouty mouth, who looked for all the world like Rhonda Sue Ellis, the valedictorian of Chigger Hollow’s Class of 1995, just with blonde hair, was inset on top of a black and white photo of two women completely covered in ragu and grappling with each other to the cheers of abnormally handsome young men who hung on the perimeter of the wrestling ring.

The woman came to the counter with a large cup of coffee and a package of chewing tobacco. Without looking up, Norma Rae scanned the two items. “Four eighty-seven,” she said, holding her hand out and sneaking another look at the black and white photo. Was the woman on the left wearing a top? Was that a mushroom in the spaghetti sauce or were her nipples hard from the excitement of the contest? She took the five dollar bill from the customer and handed her a dime and three pennies. Norma Rae was well into the first paragraph of the article when someone cleared his throat.

She looked up. She didn’t remember seeing anyone come in after the woman, and she had been alone in the store. She peered over the display of breath mints and beef jerky but didn’t see anyone. She went back to True Confessions.

This time a cough made her look up. No one was standing at the pay counter, which stood as high as her ample chest when she wasn’t sitting on her stool. Norma Rae remembered everything Danny Kitchens, the State Trooper from Possum Grape, had told her and she eased the butt of the shotgun toward the edge of the shelf below the counter.

“Hello?” she asked uncertainly.

“How much for two drumsticks and half a dozen biscuits?” a man’s voice asked. Norma Rae jumped.

“Drumsticks are eighty-five cents each and biscuits are five for two dollars,” she said. It must be a short guy, because he was apparently hidden behind the tall display of Slim Jims. She moved off her stool and peered around the display. She didn’t see anyone.

“I want six biscuits, not five,” the voice said.

“Six biscuits are, um…” Norma Rae cursed herself for forgetting where the calculator was kept. She was terrible at math.

“Are they the same price whether I buy five or if I buy, say, three?” The voice seemed to be getting impatient, but Norma Rae still couldn’t figure out where its owner was standing.

“Well, no,” she replied, her tone conveying her obvious opinion of such a dumb question. “Five biscuits are two dollars. Three biscuits are less than that.”

“So are three biscuits a dollar twenty?”

“How should I know?” she snapped. She stood on the foot rest rung of her stool and leaned out over the counter, hitting her head on the cigarette display above the cash register. “Damn!”

A cup of coffee appeared at the check out counter. Norma Rae leaned out again. This time she ducked. The voice belonged to the kid. No, to the midget. The kid was a midget.

“I’ll have to ring it up to get you a total,” she said, staring at the man. Despite his stature he was the most perfect specimen of virility Norma Rae had ever seen. Muscular arms reached up to slide a package of Mentos onto the counter next to the coffee. The arms were attached to a wide chest bulging with well-chiseled pectorals, which were clad in a tight navy blue t-shirt.

Norma Rae could not help but let out a breath of amazement. “Oh, wow,” she said eloquently, her eyes wide with awe.

“What, you’ve never seen a dwarf before?” the man asked. His eyes had narrowed and his lips curled into the manliest sneer Norma Rae had seen since Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” video on MTV.

“No! Oh! I mean, I’m just surprised is all,” she managed to babble.

“Are you going to let me buy chicken and biscuits?” the Perfect Specimen demanded.

“Oh! Yeah! Um, do you want spicy or traditional southern?”

“Southern. And I want six biscuits.”

“Do you want any mashed potatoes or turnip greens with it? Bessie Maydar makes the greens and they are to die for. She mixes in just a little mustard greens and some hot sauce while they’re cooking and they come out good enough to make you feel born again without ever going to church.” Norma Rae knew she was babbling but she couldn’t stop. Now why did she tell this Perfect Specimen of Virility Bessie’s secret ingredients? Bessie had sworn her to secrecy on the back porch while they were each into their fifth margarita one night. And “born again?” Where the hell did that come from? Norma Rae was Seventh Day Adventist, and except for the occasional cuss word she was true to her faith.

“How much?” Evidently this Perfect Specimen of Virility was on a budget.

“Ninety nine cents.”

“Not a dollar?”

Norma Rae shook her head. The power of speech was rapidly exiting her brain the longer she gazed on his biceps.

“My name’s Norma Rae,” she said. Then she realized that not only had the Perfect Specimen of Virility not asked, but that he seemed surprised that she would even share the information.

“I’m Willy,” he said.

“So do you want the greens?”

“Okay, fine. Two drumsticks, six biscuits, and a side order of greens,” said Willy the Perfect Specimen of Virility.

“That’s five forty five,” said Norma Rae after punching the order into the cash register.

Willy gave her a ten dollar bill. She gave him change.

“Are you going to get my food?” Willy finally asked, and Norma Rae realized that she was still leaning across the counter staring at him.

“Oh, god!” she exclaimed, hopping down from the stool. Now she was really embarrassed. She had taken the Lord’s name in vain in front of the Perfect Specimen of Virility and she was acting like a dummy. Shit! She hurried to put the chicken and greens in a Styrofoam container, and put six biscuits in a small paper bag. She climbed back up on her stool and leaned out to hand the container and the bag across the counter and down to those wonderful waiting arms, which she could imagine wrapped around her in a bear hug so tight it would make her groan.

“Can I get anything else for you?” She asked hopefully.

“Nope.” Willy reached for the coffee and Mentos, arranged his load, and headed for the door.

“Wait!” cried Norma Rae.

The Perfect Specimen turned around.

“Come back soon,” she murmured weakly.

Willy the Perfect Specimen nodded solemnly and went out the door. Norma Rae didn’t even realize she had failed to charge him for the coffee and Mentos.

to be continued….

Romantic Scene

“I’m lonely,” Minna admitted.

“So am I.” He didn’t look at her, but looked away, beyond the trees, down the path to the valley.

“I didn’t like living with the children’s father, but I’m still lonely for a man.  Crazy, isn’t it?” Her words were thoughtful, musing. She let her sewing drop to her lap, stilling her hands. Instead of following his gaze, Minna looked the other way, down to the sparkling lake that fed the crops and watered the livestock. They were both quiet for several minutes.

“Do you know what I miss?”  Minna’s voice had a dreamy quality to it.

Unnoticed by her, Ben had leaned back into the grass and was watching the clouds and they took on the colors of late afternoon. He turned his face toward her now, seeing that her chin was in her hand, her eyes glazed in her daydream.  Startled by how young she looked with wisps of hair escaping her braided coil, he could only stare. In this light, her hair looked like flaming silk of scarlet, gold, even platinum.  Her face, normally creased with worry and sorrow, was unlined. The angle of the sun softened her colors and melted them into swirling hues that echoed the sunset. He longed to paint her.

“I miss kissing.”  Minna continued, and seemed to be only peripherally aware of Ben’s presence and completely oblivious to his attention. “I miss really, really kissing. I miss those deep, enthusiastic, passionate kisses that only new lovers kiss. I miss touching. I miss the feel of fingertips brushing against my skin.  I miss kisses that take my breath away and a light touch that makes me shiver with anticipation. I miss him taking my face in his hands, looking deep into my eyes, tangling his fingers in my hair…”  Her voice drifted into silence.

Ben drank in the shading, the shapes, the colors.  If he never saw her like this again, if she never opened her soul this way again, he had to remember it.  He had to keep this moment in his heart and his mind. He willed her to continue.

“I miss romance,” she said softly. “I miss that feeling of being desired by someone.”

Ben let out a breath, long, steady and low.

“I want passion all the time,” she continued. “I’m greedy for it. What’s so sad is that it only happens at the beginning of a relationship. Every relationship I’ve ever seen gets to the point where the passion fades, and there’s nothing there but habit, complacent routine.”

Belying his assumption that she didn’t remember he was there, she suddenly turned to him. “I want the kind of passion that happens when he comes home and I’m standing at the stove,  and he comes up behind me, gently moves my hair aside and kisses me on the neck. I want to lean back against him and close my eyes and savor the feeling of being loved and wanted.”

Her breath came fast. “I want the passion that happens when I touch his shoulder as I walk past, and he reaches for me and pulls me into his lap.  I want the kind of passion that happens when he says he’s going for a shower and he pulls me in with him, then we bathe each other slowly and carefully, with serious attention to every inch of skin.  I want the kind of passion that happens when he wakes me in the night just because he wants to touch me, and wants me to touch him.”

Ben’s eyes widened.  His lips parted.

“I want passion that stays,” Minna said fiercely. “I want passion that is just as physical as it is emotional.  I want to desire, and I want to be desired.  I want to feel my skin become electric under his touch, to yield to his touch, to open my heart and my soul and my body to him, to give him every drop of what I have to give. I want to trace the outline of his body and feel it respond to me.  I want to watch him sleep next to me. I want to wake up because he is watching me sleep. I want to be in his heart, and I want to give him mine.  I want to drink his essence and know that he drinks mine, too.  I want to be his passion, and I want him to be mine.”

We’re Going to China!

smith-jack-maggie-groves-2.JPG
Jack and Maggie

I’m going to be an Auntie Anne again. Or maybe a godmother. I’m getting another baby from China, and I’m sending her home with my best friend.

As some of you know, almost two years ago I traveled to China with Jane and Rich and got Maggie, their first daughter. Maggie’s full name is Margaret Lili Anne… yes, she was named after me. Why?

It’s complicated.

Jane came to work for me in October 1994. I was just back on my feet after my first bout with cancer. Thanks to Gloria, her predecessor, my solo law practice was able to hobble along for the six months I was at home. Almost as soon as I returned to work full time, Gloria told me she was moving back to Virginia. I was devastated. I was losing a phenomenal legal secretary and the woman who had kept my hopes for my business alive. I was our primary breadwinner at the time, and without Gloria I can’t imagine how bad things would have been for us financially. Jack was three years old.

Gloria assured me she would find me a good replacement for her. I despaired. She smiled at me in the cooly confident way she had and told me not to worry. Worry? I had to rebuild my practice and train a new assistant at the same time, making sure the bills were paid, while still recovering from cancer. What, me worry?

We interviewed several people. Gloria handled most of the questions. For some reason, I remember Jane’s interview but not any of the others. Maybe it’s because Jane was such a superlative candidate for the position.

Jane had worked for a part-time municipal judge who had an active law practice in her home town, which was about 45 minutes from Little Rock in the Ouachita Mountains. “The commute will be long,” I remember saying.

“I’m moving to Little Rock whether you offer me this job or not,” Jane replied with determination.

I explained they type of practice I had. It was a general practice, and I handled a little bit of everything. The complex things I referred to lawyers who did those cases more frequently, or I associated the lawyer on the case and let him do most of the work. There were lots of divorces and post-divorce matters, settling estates and probating wills, writing wills, advising small businesses, creating corporations, the occasional car wreck, real estate transactions, evictions for landlords we represented, leases, paternity cases, boundary disputes, juvenile delinquency, custody cases, and child welfare cases. She’d be exposed to almost everything but securities work and adult-sized criminals.

“Not a problem,” she said. “That’s what my boss and I do now.” She had worked for this lawyer for six years.

During my conversation with Jane, Gloria excused herself then reappeared with a cup of coffee. She set it carefully on my desk, then turned to Jane.

“I want to hire someone who will take good care of Anne,” she said to Jane. “That means bringing her coffee, calming clients who are upset, screening her calls, and making sure her parking tickets are paid.” That last bit was not a joke. Someday I’ll tell about the parking tickets. It’s a subject for a completely different blog.

Jane smiled. “Right now, I pay my boss’s bills for him, arrange for babysitters, screen his calls, and handle the calls from the defendants in municipal court who think they can talk directly to the judge. I’m used to taking care of my boss, and I think he will tell you I do a good job. Call him and ask him.”

I will do that, I thought to myself, an I’ll check these other references, too.

Gloria and I were both impressed with her. “That’s my replacement,” Gloria said as Jane left the building.

I called her references. First was Jeannie, a lawyer in her hometown I knew from some volunteer work she had done in Little Rock’s juvenile court while she was in law school.

“Jane can’t spell her own name,” Jeannie told me, “but she goes the extra mile. She knows what to do and when to do it. She is the person I go to when I have questions about cases.”

“You don’t ask her boss?” Jeannie and Scott, Jane’s boss, were sharing office space.

Jeannie snorted. “Why would I? Jane does all his work.”

Next I called the insurance agent whose office was next door to Scott’s.

“Jane is the best lawyer in Morrilton,” he declared.

I laughed.

“Really,” he insisted. “She writes all the wills for my clients. I send them over there and Jane fixes them right up. I’m really going to miss her.”

I called Scott. Jane had said I could, and the current employer is no better person to give an assessment.

“She told me she had interviewed with a lawyer in Little Rock,” Scott said ruefully. “I guess this means I’m going to lose her for sure.”

“You don’t want her to leave?”

“Lord, no! She’s the person who runs my practice! I’m not going to find anyone to replace her anytime soon.”

“How’s her work?”

“She’s fantastic. She can’t spell, but that’s what spell check is for. She writes my letters, takes care of my clients, and makes sure I know where to be and when to be there. She does it all.

“I can’t keep her here as long as the big city lures her. I think there’s a man,” he confided.

Offering Jane the job was definitely not a mistake. Over the last 13 years we’ve had our ups and downs, but not with each other. She’s become my best friend, my confidant, my cherished girlfriend. She’s my right hand and my left brain. She’s the reason I have time to write the occasional blog.

I’ve sent her to paralegal school and announced on Friday afternoons that we needed to go see a chick flick. Our husbands wouldn’t take us to them, so if we wanted to see tear-jerkers we were on our own. Every once in awhile we’d take the morning and go for pedicures. It’s not all about work. The work gets done, though.

Jane and I celebrated our tenth anniversary together with a trip to New York without husbands or children. We saw shows, went shopping, and played tourist. Our families vacation together in the summers. We go to the beach as soon as school gets out for a week. She is like my sister. In fact, people often ask us if we’re sisters. We’re both short, plump, and have dark hair. We laugh. We are sisters in spirit, we tell them. We are good judges of each other’s moods. We can finish each other’s sentences. We laugh at each other. We are not at all alike, but we complement each other beautifully.

After years of fertility treatment, Jane and her husband Rich, who she met a year or two after coming to work for me, were finally able to have a son. After that, though, the fertility treatment was frustratingly ineffective. She became pregnant twice and miscarried. Her doctor told her he’d keep doing the in vitro, but he doubted it would work. Jane and Rich had spent years and tens of thousands of dollars on fertility therapies. It was time to look into adoption. I was relieved. All those hormones made her into a raging monster. I was glad to put up with it, though. She put up with me, after all.

Jane was terrified of adopting a child through a local agency or through the state. Practicing family law, we were all too aware of how badly wrong things can go, especially when the birth parents start fighting each other and drag the adoptive family into it. Several high profile adoptions going wrong cemented Jane’s resolve to adopt internationally.

Jane came to work one morning and solemnly asked me if we could talk. Their health insurance didn’t cover the fertility treatments and they had borrowed money to keep trying to have a baby. Although they were steadily paying the debt off, and had already paid a significant amount, there was still a lot left to pay. If they were going to adopt, they needed to borrow money.

Jane outlined a repayment plan to me, and I agreed. I would have agreed whether she had a plan to repay it or not. This baby was important to her, and I had the power to make it possible. I told her that day that I didn’t expect repayment. This was something I could afford to do and something she needed. There was no way I could, or would, refuse her. She insisted on signing a promissory note. I never got around to drafting one. Jane is important to me.

China seemed to offer the best program. China’s been exporting girls for decades because of the law that allows each family only one child, and the Chinese preference for sons. They began the long process of applying for approval from China.

From the time they made the decision and started gathering paperwork, it was a year before they were told that Maggie was waiting for them in Guangdong Province, the place we used to know as Canton.

“We’re going to China!” Jane exclaimed joyfully.

“Not without me, you aren’t,” I told her.

That’s right. I tagged along when they adopted her baby girl. In fact, one of my very first blog entries, before I started writing regularly, was made from China.

Jane and Rich’s family still wasn’t complete, though. About six months after we returned from Guangzhou, Jane told me that she believed there was another Chinese girl who would be calling her “mommy.” This little girl’s name would be Kennedi. Kennedy is a family name on Jane’s side.

They started the paper chase again. All the documents that had been gathered for the Maggie’s adoption were out of date and had to be replaced. Jane got busy and replaced them and sent them to China. The debt from the fertility treatment is almost paid off, and Jane and Rich have paid all Kannedi’s adoption fees to date with money they have managed to save.

Jane called me today, in tears. We only work two days a week now. She spends lots of time at home with Maggie, who is now two and a half and acting every bit of it. She is able to pick her son, Cade, up from kindergarten every day.

“We got the referral,” she said. I barely understood her she was crying so hard.

“Tell me about her!” I demanded.

“She has a cleft palate.” We expected this. This time Jane and Rich had requested what the Chinese refer to as a “waiting child” – one with a birth defect or some other special need that prevents them from being the most desired for adoption.

Jane and Rich specifically asked for a child with this particular birth defect. We can have it fixed here in Little Rock at Children’s Hospital. One of our clients works for a local doctor who specializes in this surgery, and makes regular trips to China to donate her time and skills doing the surgeries there.

“We haven’t got the last of the fees saved yet,” Jane told me. They hadn’t expected the referral this soon.

“You know that’s not a problem,” I told her.

Once again she outlined a repayment plan. Once again, I will forget to draft the promissory note.

I’ve spent the afternoon staring at the pictures of a very pretty baby. Yes, she has a funny smile, but that smile will be as perfect as it ought to be shortly after we get her home. She’s bald. She’s 9 months old. She lives in an orphanage near the border of Tibet. If only she was actually in Tibet!

Jane and I are going to get Kennedi without Rich, this time.

We’re going to China!

Prufrock and Other Observations

When I was in college I took a class in poetry writing. I had this crazy idea that I could do it at least as well as many out there, and better than quite a few.  I enjoyed doing it, and kept at it for a number of years, until the responsibilities and depressing reality of marriage and work stole my muse.

How arrogant was I when I thought I could write?

Let me tell you just how arrogant I was.

I was arrogant enough to think I could improve upon the great Thomas Sterns Eliot.  In my arrogant delusions of grandeur, I believed that Eliot’s whiny Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock needed improvement.

I was just the gal to improve it, too – I knew exactly the elements it needed. It needed a dose of realism, I thought, and not just anybody’s realism, either. It needed the realism of a twenty-something wise-ass. After all, I had the real skinny on life. At the time I wasn’t bogged down by the silly responsibilities and obligations that get in the way of people with families and jobs and mortgages.

Imposing realism on an unsuspecting, conventionally-oriented public takes open eyes and open minds and open hearts! And back in the early 1980’s there wasn’t much that was more open than a female college student’s legs. (This before AIDS. Herpes was incurable, but not fatal. We had antibiotics for the rest. So free love, baby!)  Yes, I was a college student then.  Don’t assume, though, that just because I was in high school and college in the late 70’s and early 80’s that I lived a life of drunken debauchery.  Oh, dear me, please do not assume that!  Wait until you have gathered proof.  I mean, faced with incontrovertible proof I won’t deny it.

Oh, and, twenty something years later, I must really, sincerely apologize to Mr. Eliot.  I promise, honest, swear on a stack of Bibles and on my father’s grave, that this poem is not really all that autobiographical.  And I’ve changed since then.  I’m a middle-aged matron now, the sainted mother of a teenage son.  I’m a virgin, really….

Here it is: my morning-after tribute to J. Alfred Prufrock.  Or whatever his name was.

The Morning After the Love Song

Let me see now, how can I,
While the sun is still belly-low in the sky
Like an ancient whore in a back room,
How can I, from this strange room through this strange street
Make my retreat
And forget the stops nearly made at cheap hotels,
Leaving behind me the oyster shells,
The memory of a night of lust and heat
And of nearly making it in the back seat?
It leads me to an overwhelming question…
I dare not ask why I did it;
I’ll never admit it.

Beyond the door the paperboys come and go.
I think they know.

The yellow stains upon the windowpanes
Are nicotine stains on the windowpanes,
Smoky stains from nights like the last,
Lingering in the light that comes through the windowpanes.
Smoke belongs in chimneys
To be sent out over the roof at night,
Boiling slowly out of the house
Not to block the windows’ light.

Of course there should be a time
That a window’s light is blocked,
Like at night when I try to sleep.
That is the time, but not the only time,
For a room to be dark and its door locked.
There’s also the time when we procreate
And the time when our hands
Reach for ourselves (when we masturbate).
Time for me. Time for me.
I have time for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before finding the car’s key.

Beyond the door the postmen come and go.
I think they know.

And now is my time!
Do I dare?  Do I dare?
Do I dare escape and descend the stair?
I am pinned under him by my own hair!
How can I move? How can I squirm
Away from him?  I wish he’d turn!
Perhaps slowly, slowly I can squirm…
Do I dare
Disturb his sleep?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will keep.

Oh, I remember them all, remember them all:-
I remember the evenings, mornings, afternoons.
I have measured my life by the length of afternoons,
From long in the summer to short in the fall,
From one television season to another
Secrets from myself I have yet to uncover.

And I remember the shows; I’ve watched them all –
The shows that catch you and force you to follow
Their silly stories and repetitive prattle.
I’ve watched them all, I’ve watched them all
Until my mind has begun to rattle
And my mind and spirit have become hollow
Secrets from myself I have yet to uncover.

I have known arms such as his, known them all
Arms that are muscled and bronzed and bare
(Arms that have me trapped by my hair!)
Is it his smell or perhaps his undress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along beside me, or arms that call
Secrets from myself I have yet to uncover
Because my mind has begun to rattle…

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirtsleeves, leaning out of windows?
If I had a pair of claws
I’d have torn my hair and scuttled away at dawn.

It’s almost afternoon, yet he sleeps so peacefully!
I attempt to peel away his fingers.
Asleep … he’s still asleep, the malingerer,
Stretched out in this dirty bed beside me!
Do I, after a drunken night’s nap,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have agonized and squirmed and prayed,
I have seen a vision of my room mate opening the door with a snicker,
And in short, I am dismayed.

And could this have been worth it, after all,
After the drinks, the oysters, the drinks,
Among the lounge lizards, among sone talk of him and me,
Could this have been worthwhile
To have bitten off my arm with a smile,
To have squeezed myself into a ball,
To roll myself toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Magdalene, come from the bed,
Come from a stranger’s bed, and I’ll never tell you all –
I left one with a pillow under his head…
I shouldn’t say anything at all
Nothing, nothing at all.

And could this have been worth it after all,
Could this be worthwhile,
After the broken romances and cooling of passionate heat,
After the gothic novels, after the dreams of skirts that trail along the floor –
After all that, and so much more?
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern could cast a light to expose me
Would this have been worthwhile
To expose myself to me, and tell myself all,
To look in the lantern’s glow and say,
“That is not me at all,
“Not what I meant to be at all.”

No!  I am not Ophelia, nor was I meant to be;
I am almost a harlot, one that will do
Anything to swell my own ego, start a scene or two,
Opposite the virgin; no doubt an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Easy, uncautious, not meticulous,
Full of high living, but a bit obtuse;
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow bold… I grow bold…
I shall be out of his place before out of bed he has rolled.

Shall I leave my hair behind? Do I dare as bed springs screech?
I push away the white cotton sheets, the white-sale-special sheets.
I can hear the children calling, each to each.

I do think they will call to me.

I have seen them playing stickball in the streets,
Taunting their playmates and strangers who dare to pass
As traffic becomes heavier and their Mamas go to mass.

I have lingered in this filthy bedchamber
With its walls splattered with dirty reds and browns
‘Til children’s voices have waked him, and he frowns.

The Gift

She was gift-wrapped just for you
in the prettiest paper she could find,
and tied with a ribbon to match
the shade of her eyes.
Her small box was taped
securely shut.  Inside
she was laid in a bed on soft, white tissue
because she was fragile, and might break.

One of many packages
under your tree she waited
for you on Christmas morning.

When you opened her
you cast aside the green ribbon,
and admired the paper, careful
not to rip it.  With scissors
you sliced the box’s tape and
said the tissue bed was nice.
You pulled her out, then with your
scissors casually snipped out
her heart, dropped it, and crushed it.

Villanelle

We sat and watched the leaves, and children played
In parks where flowers bloomed and grass was green
We didn’t know for how long we would stay

To wait for autumn’s golds to turn to gray.
We clutched each other’s hands while sunlight streamed.
We sat and watched the leaves and children play.

We two were trapped by habit.  Every day
We begged for freedom calmly in our dreams.
We didn’t know for how long we would stay

Together, but there was no easy way
To break ourselves apart and still not bleed.
We sat and watched as leaves and children played.

The tangled paths we wove along our way,
We thought, would give us something to believe.
How long, we didn’t know, but still we stayed

To hide in desperate lies, to learn to pray
To something other than what we believed.
We sit and watch the leaves, and children play.
We don’t know for how long, still we stay.

Departures

Tonight, I’ll level this house.
But now, to save myself, here’s a hemlock
created to keep me sane:
Valium soaked in tequila is washed away
with an Alka-Seltzer chaser.

I sit alone in a red room
Waiting for your punch line.
Your joke is not funny
And I sip the cocktail
Designed to fill me with venom.

You cleared your throat last night
In your sleep you rolled over,
Embraced your pillow.  Morning came
And you said you loved me,
Pretending I didn’t feel you
Touching her as you touched me.

Today I asked about the girl in your pillow.
You shrugged and looked the other way.
You tried not to smile as
Icicles grew around your teeth.

I take another poison swallow.
It shudders through me like primed gunpowder
And I wait to explode.

Allegory (of a Climbing Rose)

Autumn words mean September sighs
And December saying, “Sorry,”
As snow begins to cover any bare essence still blooming.
You’re trying too hard
To brush  flakes off the dying stems of roses
That pricked us when we admired them.

In springtime we planted this vine
To symbolize our love
(And to cut down on the florist’s bill).
You said to be tender with the vine;
Touch, caress the leaves but not the petals.
And when you weeded around its roots
It stabbed you
Held you
Until I could pry you loose.

Then in summer
I helped you nourish it
Because we feared drought
And we had to protect the symbol
Of our irony.

We became proud of an achievement
That should have come naturally,
And the exhibition of our vine became vital,
Just to confirm our suspicions that
Vines like ours are made, not born –
Then, of course, the petals began to fall away
One by one
Until nothing was left
But several brown extensions
Where you will finally allow
The snow to gather.

Ambition

DAD1 magnify

I love this old photo of my dad as a toddler. The expression on his face is so recognizable! His sense of humor and his devilishness beamed through his personality even when he was a little guy.

Because of my father, I make a great effort to be the best person I can be.

While this may not extend to wearing makeup every day, it does extend to the quality of the work I do and the interactions I have with other people.

I am ambitious. I am generally motivated by the need for achievement. I expect the people around me to be motivated by this need for achievement, too, and I am dumbfounded when it appears they are not. I have lost respect for people close to me who lose ambition or who claim to have it but just don’t work for it.

I desperately want my son to be ambitious enough to achieve the satisfaction of at least moderate success so that he can lead a productive, happy life. Being productive in society is vital to finding satisfaction and happiness, I believe. I don’t think we have to contribute to charity, volunteer at soup kitchens, or invent a new vaccine to be productive.

Parents are productive when they give their children values, structure, and education. When they teach a child how he or she may succeed, a parent is fulfilling his obligation to his child. Possibly one of the most productive things my dad ever did was to imbue each of his children with the confidence to surge forward, to try. He gave us the courage to fail and then to try again.

He loved to quote this poem to us:

 

It Couldn’t be Done
By Edgar Guest

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it”;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.


Sometimes, ambition counts more than actual success. Trying matters if the effort is an honest and assiduous.

I quote Yoda’s “Try? There is no ‘try.’ There is do, or do not.” But the truth is, Yoda’s maxim really only applies when “do” or “do not” is a choice. It applies to turning in homework. It applies to keeping the house clean. It applies to meeting reasonable deadlines. It applies to yard work. It does not apply to playing the guitar perfectly, to making A’s in math, or to mastering the nuances of the Force without a mentor to demonstrate how the force can be used.

I have to make sure my determination and my belief that others should share my ambition doesn’t cost me my close relationships.

I think it cost me my marriage, in part. I could not understand how my husband seemed to have so little interest in personal achievement, especially as bright as he seemed to be when I first knew him. This was not a failure of his personality, it was simply an aspect of it that I found unfathomable. I failed to recognize this characteristic of his for the destructive force it could be – not to me personally, and not to him because it simply WAS him, but destructive to our relationship.

I lost my respect for him because I perceived his lesser drive to achieve to be a shortcoming that he refused to address. For a long time I did not understand that he couldn’t change it, and why he really had no interest in changing that part of him. But just like my drive and ambition are an integral part of my personality, his are an integral part of his personality. He and I simply don’t manifest our desires for success in the same way, nor do we consider “success” to be of the same importance.

Even when I later came to understand that his level of ambition simply WAS, I could not regain the feelings I had for him before ambition became a defined problem for us. I just didn’t feel the same. I didn’t love him any less, but I recognized how mismatched we were and how frustrated I was by this one aspect of his personality. Recognizing that his level of ambition simply WAS didn’t help me to accept it, because I just didn’t approve of it for someone so close to me.

People with ambition take on projects and see them through to the end. We have ideas, we start planning and collecting information, we put the people and materials together, we oversee the work, we build the ideas up and take them to the next level, and we run the course of things. We don’t quit before we succeed. We are focused and determined. On the rare occasion when a project sputters out or doesn’t work the way we intended, we chalk the failure up to experience and move on to the next idea. We are Movers and Shakers.

Shakers, the people with the ideas, need the Movers to gather the committees of people who can actually make the dream a reality. The Shaker explains to the Mover what the goal is, and perhaps explains a couple of steps along the way. The Mover listens to the idea, considers how to implement it, and puts together a team of people and materials who can get the job done.

Movers direct the Managers and tell them what the Shakers’ ultimate goals are. The Managers are perfectly willing to carry out instructions, but Managers don’t have the innovative ideas. They can take a vision, though, and make it a reality.

Some people are the Craftsmen. They can take an aspect of an idea, hone it to perfection, beauty and grace, and incorporate it into the great scheme of things.

Some people are the Data Entry Operators. They are willing to help and work hard by organizing things or putting them in their places.

Others are the Drones, who are not interested in the work they do but can be counted on to perform adequately and then to put their energies into other aspects of the greater whole: the community or their families.

Each type of person is vital to the operation not just of a business, but of a government, of a society, of a community, of a family. Every person plays every role at one time or another, but the dominant roles they play often are a result of their personal ambitions.

Compatible relationships are those in which the level of ambition are complimentary or alike. A Mover and a Shaker can do well together, but a Shaker and a Data Entry Operator don’t necessarily communicate in the same language. I cannot and will not say where my ex-husband fell in these categories I’ve described. Most likely he fits into more than one depending on the task at hand, just like everyone else. but he and I did not communicate very well when it came to ambition and work, and thus we were frustrated together.

This isn’t the only reason we divorced. There were so many other reasons. This is only one contributing factor. We were very frustrated by each other. I am so glad we parted when we did rather than wait until our frustration levels with one another were so great that we could not remain civil. I treasure my relationship with my ex-husband. It is a sparkling emerald to me – not the hardest or most perfect stone by any means, but a beautiful one that can be clear and bright as well as shattered or murky.

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