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Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

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Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Community, Confessions, and Cyberspace

I bring up the topic of confessional writing and blogging – poetry and prose that expresses the personal. I bear my heart on my sleeve in some of my posts – those who know me can track my personal issues through some of these posts. Those that don’t may suspect the personal issues, but why should they care? And really, why should those who do know me? These posts are issued into Cyberspace – my thoughts, my feelings set adrift in some sort of quasi community. After all, who reads? Who responds? Who knows? Does it matter? – the eternal question.

We’ve discussed this in my writer’s group – the wave of confessional poetry in the 60s and 70s as the personal became the political, and the glut these days of memoirs – some written by hip people in their 30s and which comprise really just a collection of witty and well-written bits – yet make no larger connection to the world and so leave me with a “so what?” and others by folks who have “important” stories to tell – have stories that do connect to larger issues in life, yet the stories fail on some level because they are not well-written.

Back to confessional poetry – or poetry that can smack of sentiment (as in my just-moments-ago I Dreamt of You post and past Charlie Poems posts). My concern is that though it’s often important for me to work out “issues” and feelings through my writing, can the work appeal to a larger audience – or rather – an audience? (And there's another issue - who is the audience in Cyberspace?) In some way, can I transform what is for me a very personal experience – and yet one that is also universal in its truth and reality – into a piece that connects on a deeper level with a reader – that becomes art – not just narcissist revelation? I think I often fail in that endeavor – half of what I write I never post. And I think even in what I post, I often fail to move beyond the self-centered and into a world that shares humanity in a fresh or compelling way. There’s a difference between wearing your heart on your sleeve and moaning, wailing, revealing your angst just to reveal it and creating a common and beautifully expressed capsule of the experience for others to share and connect to.

Oh what am I saying in these tortured sentences? I post my work – my poems, my social critiques – in cyberspace as part of a blogging community but is it really a community? Who comes by to call? Who responds? I check out other blogs and sometimes comment and then check back –and perhaps a conversation gets going – a back-and-forth dialogue embedded in the comments on someone’s particular post. But is this a real community? I might check out someone who has posted on my blog, or who has commented on a blog I visit – poke about and see – who are they? But do I know? Can you tell? Because I write and advocate for writing as a way of thinking, learning, sharing, connecting, I should be able to say – YES! Words reveal who you are and join you to a larger community – but I am not sure that is so. I am not so sure that blogging democratizes writing (nor am I sure I want writing to be democratized – hmmm – there’s a topic for a whole piece, eh?) or builds bridges between worlds or collaboratively constructs knowledge and understanding.

This post makes no sense, rambles and loops back on its self, yet I’ll release it out into the void nonetheless.

I Dreamt of You

I dreamt of you last night.

Your kiss a gaping mouth.

Your finger, running up the length of my thigh,
felt as nothing.

Yet we made love.

I saw the hole in your heart
and ached for you.

© Birdstory Publications 2005

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Ramble on Separation of Church and State

Former president Jimmy Carter appeared on the Daily Show last night (a repeat from November), pitching his book, Our Endangered Values (see the NPR interview - not the Daily Show interview - for a more in-depth discussion of Carter and his new book: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4984885). Carter spoke of the closing of the divide – the tearing down of the wall – which separates church and state. He says that the fundamentalism of religion and the fundamentalism of politics are merging. This merger endangers our basic American beliefs.

Our country was founded in a certain religious belief structure. “In God We Trust” our money declares – though that seems rather odd in these days of rabid over-consumption. And the Declaration of Independence, one of our most “sacred” documents, explicitly states that men (ok – let’s include women here too!) are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

But this does not lead to the assumption that church and state should necessarily mingle on an every day basis, nor that church beliefs, assumptions, dictates should form the primary basis for our government. Carter said he believes the saying, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.” The two are separate. This humble man of integrity, who is deeply religious, believes that Church and State must maintain a distance, must keep separate households.

Months back I read an article about some married couples who choose to live apart – one couple profiled in detail in the article live across the street from one another. Perhaps we should do the same when it comes to Church and State. The Church can of course be next door, or across the street, or down the road, from the houses of government – and the two may meet, talk, share a meal, perhaps a rousing good roll in the hay (well, perhaps not…), but even if they live side by side in townhouses, with one common wall, they should not tear down the wall that keeps them separate. Let them deal with the reality of walking out the front door and down the path to knock upon one another’s doors. Let them share a bottle of wine over dinner and then return to their own homes.

But the metaphor here is not apt, for though couples may choose to live apart, they are still a couple, married, and they may be very close. How close do we want our government to religious practice and belief? And whose practice, whose belief?

I caught briefly a snippet of a Barbara Walters show on heaven the other day. It was mindless dribble for the most part, so I changed the channel; but a friend tells me she caught a part which quoted both born-again Christians and fundamentalist Muslims. Both groups believe that if one doesn’t believe their way, one is going to hell. And both groups are surely, firmly convinced of the righteousness of their stance. One person quoted said that hell was being burned, then being removed from the fire only to be placed back in and burned again – over and over.

Why would one want to believe in a god that would burn you over and over because you did not believe in him in a particular way (or for any reason for that matter)? What causes such absolutist thinking – such an emotionally and socially charged, cruel, narrow outlook on the world?

If that is truly the way it is – if I must believe as the fundamentalists say or risk going to hell, and be burned over and over again, then I choose to stand on the mountaintop, stick my finger in the air, and cry out to God, “Fuck you! You want to burn me – here I am. Come and get me you fucker!”

And I also choose to stick my finger out to those who would destroy the very thing they proclaim to love – our country – by tearing down the wall that divides church and state.

Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s – and unto God what is God’s.

And for a different take on being endowed by the Creator – check this out:

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Judeo-Christian Angst

"so this is Christmas..."

The week before Christmas and I find myself stuck in the angst, the poltergeist of the holiday. Yes, my Sante Fe white icicle lights hang from my balcony, my home is decorated with cards, and candles, and pictures of my children when they were young and Christmas seemed fresh and new. A short, fat, lovely Noble pine stands in one corner of the living room, twinkling with more white lights and ornaments which upon examination could tell a story about the progression of my life and my family's. In between insomnia and sleeping late, grading papers, reading the news online, negotiating another piece of a my dissolution settlement, I run Christmas errands and wonder why I bother. I shop for gifts for family, order crab for the big dinner on the 25th, check the linen closet (do I have enough clean sheets, blankets, pillows, towels to accommodate all the guests?)and pick up Albertson gift cards and some toys to donate to a local nonprofit organization. I make this donation every year - but I am not convinced this year that it matters. I am not convinced that my own observance of the Christmas myth helps the world in any way - and I've always been a big believer in the ritual re-enactment of myth as a way to affect change, make a small but cosmic difference. But it's not working this year. I'd like to cancel the family gathering, take back the presents, tell the nonprofit to give it up - their work makes no large difference in the world - we are all just putting our thumbs in the dike, pretending that what we do on a small scale ripples across the universe and perhaps bounces back to us.

I run around trying to collect what little bits of light I can - those little bits of light that spilled out when the great silence grew even more still and quiet, then drew in on itself until it could draw in no more and then exhaled - long, slow, cracking the world wide open, spilling air and illumination all about - but in jigsaw puzzle pieces that make no sense. But I know as I scurry to and fro, trying to collect the strands, that I am making a mess of it. I step on this bit of light here, tarnish another bit there. And the pieces I collect don't seem to fit together and I can't find anyone who has any pieces that match mine. My acts of kindness, my engagement with the world seems meaningless, irrelevant - ineffective.

Does it matter? No. Yet despite fatigue and cynicism and despair, I do what I do. Like the character in Joan Didion's book, Play It as It Lays, I know what nothing is but play anyway. Why not?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Good news about Iraq? What Does That Really Mean?

In a letter today to the SF Chron (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/12/16/EDG7RG8FGU1.DTL&hw=letters+to+the+editor&sn=001&sc=1000),Chuck Huntington gives us some “good news” about Iraq.

He provides us with uplifting figures about the number of schools renovated and under construction. That’s good news. But I’d like to know what gains have been made in gender equity in enrollment. The most recent data I can find comes from a 2004 Unicef report (http://www.unicefusa.org/site/apps/nl/content2.asp?c=duLRI8O0H&b=279482&ct=258055) that points out that although enrollment in Iraqi schools has increased since 2000, 2.4 million of the new enrollees in the primary grades are boys, while only 1.9 girls have been enrolled.

Huntington cites as well encouraging employment figures from Iraq. Yet a June ’05 report from the Washington Post tells us that employment (or rather unemployment) is the second most pressing problem in Iraq and the current unemployment figure as reported by the Iraqi Labor of Ministry stands at 656,437. According to figures from the United Nations, unemployment stands at 27%, though it’s probable the figure is closer to 50%.

And finally, one more piece of “good news” that Huntington proclaims – the status of Iraq’s “independent” media: 75 radio stations, 180 newspapers, and 10 television stations. Given recent accounts of so-called “news” stories which the US Military has placed in the Iraqi media, one wonders to what extent the Iraqi media is “independent.”

But, Huntington tells us, his facts and figures are solid and can be verified by …you guessed it, The Department of Defense’s website http://www.defenselink.mil/

Facts and figures without context and comparison are useless. What do these numbers really mean?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What Happens When You Suck Peppermint from a Strange Man's Mouth

Stiletto heels tip-tapping across the floor, she moves swiftly to the grey-templed stranger sipping schnapps at the bar, steps into the place between his trousered legs and sucks the peppermint from his mouth.

I like this stiletto-wearing woman. She is bold. She went to the schnapps-sipping man as though guided by a honing device. I'd say she went to him like a moth to a flame but that is too cliche and besides, the moth is a fat, dull-colored, bumbling insect and the woman is curvy, voluptuous, and no bumbler. She is sure and swift - as an arrow to the bullseye is a better simile, yet also cliche. But that is indeed how she went, straight and sure, to the schnapps-drinking man with the graying temples and the sexy eyes.

Yes, he has sexy eyes. With crinkly lines fanning out from the corners. He has a preppy look to him, except for the slight dark stubble that graces his jaw and chin. The woman likes this look, because of course, I want her to. I want her to want the juxtaposition of a clean-cut, all-American preppy and the rough, stubble face of a stranger.

His tongue and mouth taste like peppermint but the rest of him tastes like salt. I can't explain how I know this, but I do. And she wants more than his peppermint-stick kisses. Or does she? Yes, she does. She wants to unzip him, right there at the bar and suck him until the bar patrons applaud and he is left weak and exhausted. But I don't really want her to want him weak and exhausted - he is not that type.

When she sucks him, he comes. But while he is coming, does the bar full of strangers watch not what she is doing, watch not her pink tongue sliding, gliding, nor her red, soft, slick lips sucking, but instead watch the full-weight of what that sucking and licking means to him, does to him? Watch the pleasure move across his face? Watch the sure, strong line of his jaw begin to soften, his eyes begin to close ever so slightly? Or is he the type of man who can mask his face at a moment like that, stare brazenly, assuredly, nonchalantly, into the eyes of patrons who watch? I'm not sure yet what measure of man he is, or of what measure I want him to be. There is something dangerous, intriguing about a man who looks with clear, keen-sighted, steady eyes into the widening eyes of strangers while a woman sucks almost but not quite all the juice from his cock.

When she has finished, when she has tasted all the peppermint and salt she wants, she looks up at him and he knows exactly what to do, exactly what she wants, what I want her to want, what I want him to want. Of course he does. He shuts down the bar, sends the gasping crowd out into the night where they stand, faces pressed to the darkened window, watching. Strong and purposeful, moving with virile grace, biceps rippling underneath his soft, white dress-shirt, he lifts the woman up and sets her on the bar stool, leans into her slowly, slowly. Bites her lower lip, gently, gently.

Then he pulls her dress smoothly up and over her arms and head and tosses it aside. The crowd at the window watches transfixed as the dress, cream-colored silk with a pattern of small, delicate pink petals and muted green stems flutters effortlessly, gracefully to the bar room floor. The crowd catches its breath, licks its lips, tasting the salt of its own saliva and watches as the silk floats in a slow, silent, exquisite descent and lands softly on the dusty, hardwood floor of the bar. As it lands, the crowd inhales, and turns its eyes once again to the man and the woman.

Firmly, smoothly, he spreads her legs wide, runs his hands over her taut thighs, up and around her quads, feeling her tension, her definition. Now the man eases into the woman, fills her, as she sits on the bar stool in her silk bra and see-through panties with the strategically placed opening, her back arched, arms stretched out along the bar counter, her slender, shapely hands with their short-cut, French-manicured nails gripping the rolled edge of the bar, head tilted back exposing the graceful line of a neck adorned with a simple, silver chain.

When they are done, he pours her a drink and she savors this last lingering taste of peppermint.

Birdstory Publications 2005