Thursday, October 3, 2019

Rain is Not

NOTE: On this rainy day in October, 2019 I'm reprinting a long list from 2011

This list was started on Wednesday afternoon, December 7, 2011, in the periodicals room at the New York Public Library, 5th Avenue at 42nd Street. I finished it on Saturday morning, December 10, at Emma's Writing Center in Ithaca, New York. My inspiration was Lynne Tillman's poem, "Flowers," which was part of the Library's exhibit "Celebrating 100 Years."

Rain is not curious, romantic, mischievous, insolent. Rain is not a locked door. Rain is not worried, twitchy, literate, bossy, funny. Rain is not a good correspondent. Rain is not tiresome, egotistical, hungry, itchy, bored. Rain is not a cheerleader. Rain is not abusive, late, cheeky, polite, intolerant. Rain is not a gift giver. Rain is not impatient, neat, over caffeinated, artsy fartsy, giggly. Rain is not a picky eater. Rain is not frugal, discouraged, cramped, whistling, whispering. Rain is not running away from home. Rain is not doodling, dreaming, reliable, paranoid, grumpy. Rain is not a fan of garden gnomes. Rain is not blameless, dishonest, indiscreet, thirsty, forgiving. Rain is not a Scrabble player. Rain is not chocolatey, smarmy, chatty, vague, particular. Rain is not holding on by a thread. Rain is not surprised, near-sighted, calm, confused, lost. Rain is not taking violin lessons. Rain is not ambidextrous, rich, embroidering, zany, accessorizing. Rain is not concerned with moral ambiguity. Rain is not sloppy, arrogant, wasteful, alphabetical, licorice. Rain is not ignoring library overdue notices. Rain is not gossipy, absent-minded, tap dancing, accident prone, rude. Rain is not blowing out the candles. Rain is not well-coiffed, clumsy, sneaky, childish, fidgety. Rain is not able to count backwards by seven. Rain is not nosey, anonymous, self-conscious, coughing, warmongering. Rain is not the next Fred Astaire (or Ginger Rogers, either). Rain is not shy, cuddly, old fashioned, tantrumy, irrelevant. Rain is not a role model. Rain is not sleepy, entertaining, disappointing, clingy, stubborn. Rain is not living in the past. Rain is not superstitious, proud, pushy, verbose, jumpy. Rain is not a team player. Rain is not grammatical, political, phony, laced up, vain. Rain is not saving up to buy anything. Rain is not solitary, cluttered, forever, melodramatic, docile. Rain is not afraid to mix plaids and polka dots. Rain is not photogenic, permissive, trendy, embarrassed, confiding. Rain is not listening to a word you say. Rain is not lonely, social climbing, dieting, regretful, spiteful. Rain is not good at meeting deadlines. Rain is not vacuuming, preaching, cheating, pregnant, butterscotch. Rain is not looking to start a revolution. Rain is not fantasizing, plotting, star gazing, anticipating, sentimental. Rain is not searching for the final piece of the jig-saw puzzle. Rain is not cranky, nervous, mealy-mouthed, broken, knotted. Rain is not refusing to ask for directions. Rain is not dithering, queasy, undernourished, victorious, distracted. Rain is not teetering around in high-heeled shoes. Rain is not introspective, brassy, lazy, plastic, married. Rain is not a rock star. Rain is not mathematical, grieving, bruised, constipated, matchy-matchy. Rain is not a bargain hunter. Rain is not innocent, moody, telepathic, bleeding, breathless. Rain is not trying to make a good impression. Rain is not religious, crafty, shedding, fashionable, careful. Rain is not a floozy. Rain is not athletic, multi-lingual, stoical, rebellious. Rain is not tall or short. Rain is not lipsticky, squinty, observant, secretive, studious. Rain is not hiding from anything. Rain is not waffly, conforming, attentive, paisley, gnarled. Rain is not a good luck charm. Rain is not envious, reactionary, fickle, complaining, higgledy-piggledy. Rain is not a distant cousin. Rain is not timid, quarrelsome, allergic, young, apologetic. Rain is not the one who walks off in a huff. Rain is not polyester, tomorrow, finger paint, quotable, Xeroxed. Rain is not always losing a mitten. Rain is not inappropriate, hypnotized, zaftig, stalking, undressed. Rain is not a gargoyle. Rain is not diplomatic, gambling, pierced, disappearing, calligraphy. Rain is not trying to make a good impression. Rain is not masquerading, punctuated, poetic, grateful, over. Rain is not another way of saying something else.

Monday, September 30, 2019

How To Knit a Pair of Socks

This is a re-posting from August, 2011

Assume you know everything you need to know. Don’t bother getting a pattern. Don’t think about the correlation between needle size and yarn ply.  Don’t ask anyone for advice. Especially don’t ask your mother, who is an expert knitter.

Go to a discount store and buy a skein of the cheapest yarn you can find. Don’t even know if you’ve chosen wool or some sort of acrylic. Don’t think about the meaning of the word “blend.”

Assume one skein will yield one pair of socks. Choose the color lime green. Base your choice on the fact that you don’t especially like the color lime green. Consider the reality that all your favorite socks, in your most beloved colors, mysteriously vanish in the laundry. Resolve that these lime green socks will be with you for the rest of your life.

Cast on.

Immediately realize you don’t know what those two words mean. You understand them individually: cast — the people in a play; on — on the bus, on time, on your mark. You could go on.

Sit and ponder what you need to do in order to “cast on” in a manner appropriate for knitting. Remember all the times you’ve heard people use that phrase. Think of your mother. Stop thinking of your mother. Think, instead, about your friend Julie Pinkus.

Picture her in the dorm room you shared 43 years ago. See her surrounded by balls of yarn. See her hands manipulating knitting needles. Hear the click click click of the needles. Force your mind to see exactly what it was she was doing with her hands and the yarn and the needles.

Realize you cannot force your mind to do anything.

Feel despair. Really feel it. Wallow in despair and discouragement, and also in disgust. Wallow a little bit more. Just a little bit. Remind yourself not to overdo it; you don’t want to step on the down escalator and wake up in the pit of depression. Not because of knitting. Not because of the lime green wool (or non-wool, as the case may be) that is sitting in your lap. Not because of the two knitting needles that, with a bit of creativity, you could easily put to some good use.
Think about the many things you could do with these needles. While you are thinking, transform the skein of yarn into a ball and throw it on the floor. Call to your cat. Observe her delight as she pounces on the yarn and rolls it from one end of the room to the next.
Take the knitting needles and plunge them into the soil of that huge plant you don’t remember the name of — that plant in your living room that’s been listing to the left for six months. Prop the leaning stems against the knitting needles.
Go to the kitchen and get a piece of string from the junk drawer. Tie the plant stems and the knitting needles together. Realize this would have been a good use for some of the lime green yarn, but tell yourself it’s too late now, the yarn is covered with cat spit and you’d rather not handle it too closely.
Think about what a good day it’s been. Your cat is happy, your plant is happy, your mother is happy — because she doesn't know what you've been up to. (If she did know, she'd wonder where she went wrong with you.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Stay Open at the Top (dedicated to Jackie Mott Brown)

This is a revised version of a post from years ago

A while ago I attended my first art class since junior high school days

"Look with new eyes,” the teacher urged
"Colors don’t have to make sense"
"Don't be afraid to be tacky" 

"When you think you’re finished, it’s just the beginning" 
“Stay open at the top”

Scattered across the table were tubes of acrylic paints —
bold reds and pretty pinks
lime green and forest green
a yellow so lemony it made my teeth hurt
orange and eggplant
sixteen shades of blue

I freaked out

Then I pulled myself together and
painted a bright red spiral in the middle of my canvas

It looked like a squiggly piece of pasta

A few minutes later I
painted a few yellow circles
next to the red pasta

I painted lots and lots of circles —
the full moon
over and over and over
The woman sitting next to me looked over at my canvas
“What beautiful suns,” she said
And I said “thank you”

I felt like the little prince in the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
when he draws an elephant being digested
by a boa constrictor and the well-meaning
relatives mistake it for a drawing of a hat
But I didn’t correct my sister-painter
because she had used the word beautiful

She didn't say “you stink at this”
and for that I was grateful
even though my moons
would now be suns forever more

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

I Hold Nothing Back

This is a piece I wrote many many years ago . . . .

Sometimes when it’s really late at night and I’m lying in bed and I can’t sleep, I worry. I just let myself go. I hold nothing back. I worry about my life and everybody else’s life, including people I don’t even know, and after I’ve worked myself up with all this worrying I realize I am totally 100% awake and then I worry about how I’ll ever fall asleep and I worry about what will happen to me if I don’t fall asleep and soon my head hurts from so much worry and I realize I have to force myself to think about something else and sometimes all I can come up with are more worries which, naturally, doesn’t help, but other times I wise up and hit upon something useful.

Which is what happened just last night.
My head was throbbing from all my worries but I turned on the lamp and reached for my pencil and notebook and started to make a list of everything I could think of that would describe a person who had more worries than I did, a really peculiar, verging-on-unsavory type of person, and this is what I came up with:
Cannot pronounce the letter P
Feels faint at the sight of a strand of spaghetti
Was once engaged to a man named Pinky Carbunkle (had to call him Inky)
Has worn only purple underwear since the age of 12           
Won a blue ribbon 3 years in a row for her beet marmalade
Knows absolutely nothing about anything
Writes the “Misery” column for the local newspaper
Stores her diary in the flour bin for safe keeping
Had 6 brothers who all died under mysterious circumstances
Steals catalogs out of her neighbors’ mailboxes
Carves unidentifiable profiles out of olive pits 

Then I was so tired I shut the light and went to sleep and this morning I felt refreshed and rejuvenated —creative, even — and only mildly troubled by the memory of a dream about getting a ticket for sitting in a car that wasn’t moving and trying to reason with the police officer who said “Is that so, little lady, is that so?”

Monday, August 19, 2019

pink-icing cupcakes

pink is the color of cupcake icing
neither strawberry-flavored
nor raspberry
something in the almost-cherry family
but not quite cherry

pink is the color of cupcake icing
that doesn't taste like anything real

my mother never bought
pink-icing cupcakes
and she never made them herself

that would require
a working relationship with an oven

(and an oven
that worked)

but in any case
she wouldn't buy
pink-icing cupcakes
for my birthday
or my sister's birthday

because she had an aversion
to the color pink

it wasn't a pre-feminist thing
it’s just that she had certain likes
and certain dislikes

and she disliked colorful colors

my mother liked brown
any shade of brown —
taupe    sand    sienna    bark
chestnut    tan    almond    camel

if it was brown
my mother approved

so we would have had chocolate-icing cupcakes
if we were having cupcakes

but we never had cupcakes

we had cheesecake ….

…. from the deli

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

rowing our boats

sunday morning,
my sister and I
sit on the bedroom floor
and row

we miss summer camp
but it is
only October

our room is cold
but still
we put on our bathing suits

we use wooden rulers for oars
and sing “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore”

my sister asks me to braid her hair
and I do
even though it is pixie-short

she asks if we will have
roasted marshmallows
at the cookout that night

i assure her we will

everything is possible
before our parents wake up

two young girls
rowing our boats
on the lake of dreams


Note: This is a revised version of a piece written many years ago

Monday, July 8, 2019

blueberry picking at high noon

the radio said expect a breeze
but there isn't one
and only my baseball cap
for a slice of shade

i'm wearing a pale gray silk blouse
so silly
but at least it is lightweight

i pick from one bush and then another
not wanting any one spot
to grow too bare
always moving
but moving

bees buzz nearby
dragonflies mate
then whizz away

it's important to be careful
and not separate families

these 3 berries look like sisters
i pick them all
so no one feels rejected
or lonely

here: a mom, a pop, 6 little babies —
plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop
into the bucket they go

filling it up to the brim
taking time
there is lots of time to take

and on the table
next to the cash box
a pitcher of lemonade
cold and sweet
and only 50 cents

on the way home
eating berries
my fingers don’t turn blue 
my tongue doesn't turn blue
not even my teeth turn blue

a perfect afternoon

and there were no bears 

 Note: this is a revised version of a piece written many years ago