Monday, November 19, 2012

A Secret World — A Special Soliloquy

Inside the books...

Is where I find Lulu, in the family room scanning the tall shelves, the hundreds of books. Have you read all of these? she asks.

Ah huh, I nod, just about. Wait, maybe I didn't read Sister Carrie.

Wow! I don't know why I hadn't noticed these before. I never really looked at them all. 

Yes, I say, well it's not a big deal. I've had a half century to read stories.

Lu swipes her paws across the paper spines and smiles, Hmm, true, but it's still a lot of books.

These books have been my secret worlds. Each one of them, with their own special suns and stars, seas and rivers, pyramids, canyons, gulags. They are made from Poof! Just like this multifaceted planet on which we make our home.

Max tells me that it all started with a bubble, or foam, from which things popped. Or fizzed. I ask him where the bubble, or maybe the foam, came from. There must have been air. Was this the kind of foam in which you could take a bath? He shakes his head, up, down, Yup, yup, that's the question! Exactly.

Planets, universes, worlds, or books—the Poof! came from something. May I suggest, a mastermind?

This was the world before Poof: someone, something, yes, a mastermind conceived a plot, a situation, characters, conflict, tension, climax, resolution, catastrophe, revelation, and designed, created, this story within a dramatic structure, along a sweeping arc, born of a secret world, and put it (and run-on sentences, too) out there, in the air, in space, in the universe, on the planets, on Earth, on bookshelves, at Amazon, for us. For our pleasure.

This is true.


This January I will be joining another kind of secret world. For the next two years, in this mystical, somewhat secluded bubble of a world (a/k/a  The Bennington Writing Seminars at Bennington College), I will be working with some brilliant and highly regarded authors, and will be reading no less than one-hundred books. And maybe, writing one. Actually, I'm registered, matriculated, and have already begun the work. January will bring the first of five ten-day residencies over the following two year period. This full-time process, in theory, should culminate with a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing and literature.

I'm pretty excited.

And terrified.

I am not a mastermind, but I'm hoping for a big Poof!

This, of course, will require a lot of dark (or white) space for a while. Not quite a vacuum, but a space with clear, colorless, odorless air in which to breath, void of fiery comets or space debris, or anything that has the potential to crash into my secret world and throw me off course. You know what I mean. It will require many days at the library. Cloistered. So here, my friends, may be my last post for a long while. I won't say forever. But, well, you know I'm no multi-tasker.

Saturday night, Michael and I went out to listen to Red Molly, a girl band (as they refer to themselves), a really fabulous girl band about whom I wrote, in a Frolic, nearly a year and a half ago. They were performing in a small town in Massachusetts. There, in an acoustically perfect coffeehouse, at the very end of the evening, past 11:00 PM and bordering on breaking some serious rules (wrap it up girls—our traffic detail needs to go home!), they sang their final song.

May I suggest.

And this song, I forward to you, a Thanksgiving of sorts, a Thank You. Until I once again emerge from my secret world...


May I Suggest
By Susan Werner

May I suggest

May I suggest to you

May I suggest this is the best part of your life

May I suggest
/ This time is blessed for you

This time is blessed and shining almost blinding bright

Just turn your head
/ And you'll begin to see

The thousand reasons that were just beyond your sight

The reasons why /
Why I suggest to you

Why I suggest this is the best part of your life

There is a world

That's been addressed to you

Addressed to you, intended only for your eyes

A secret world

Like a treasure chest to you

Of private scenes and brilliant dreams that mesmerize

A lover's trusting smile
/ A tiny baby's hands

The million stars that fill the turning sky at night

Oh I suggest
/ Oh I suggest to you

Oh I suggest this is the best part of your life

There is a hope

That's been expressed in you

The hope of seven generations, maybe more

And this is the faith
/ That they invest in you

It's that you'll do one better than was done before

Inside you know
/ Inside you understand

Inside you know what's yours to finally set right

And I suggest
/ And I suggest to you

And I suggest this is the best part of your life

This is a song

Comes from the west to you

Comes from the west, comes from the slowly setting sun

With a request / With a request of you

To see how very short the endless days will run

And when they're gone

And when the dark descends

Oh we'd give anything for one more hour of light

And I suggest this is the best part of your life

Monday, November 12, 2012

Beyond Moonstone and Broken Stone

I didn't tell you the whole story.

Back in South County, along the coast of Rhode Island. The day that I stood on the seaweed and garbage-strewn edge of a chewed-away beach. Sizing it up. Whole chunks devoured. Agape, I stood surveying a wounded shoreline, gnashed and sliced with mechanical precision, a chainsaw steel-toothed-blade slashing. Here you are Lil Rhody: a newly chiseled ribbon of beachfront.

That's what she said to me, Hurricane Sandy, as she flossed her choppers. I listened further. My ears buzzed with the saw's vibration. A tinnitus. Hiss. (I wondered if her steely jaw hurt as much as mine did after a night of vigorous grinding.)

Now exposed a foot or more above the shiny, sabulous floor are three concrete septic tanks. Now an orange net of fencing assuredly tells visitors to not climb wood stairs, to not roam wood decks. We don't know what's safe. We don't know what might give under foot. Or what might topple overhead. And who knows, in this cycle of storms, how long it will take before we are able to tend to this beach's wounds.

Sandy's hiss lingered. Driving Rhode Island's roads I had noticed how all the trees, with the exception of evergreens, in the area and around the state had been prematurely shorn bare. Another reminder that our fall has not been like ordinary falls past. None of the seasons, truly, have been like those past, and there has been, undeniably, altered weather patterns throughout the year, a change in our climate, and I feel the loss. The resulting melancholy that grips me has become inescapable.

*   *   *

Out there, where the continent ends, a mob of seagulls swarmed above the churning waters, in search of... Something. Food. Companionship. Entertainment. They jostled above the smooth-stoned jetty, eyed its pummeling by the wildly relentless surf. They squawked discordantly, and hustled easily through knotty wind, steeling crab-scrap from one another. Scrap is plenty and they are a greedy lot. They are no better than ambulance-chasing lawyers, they are opportunists. (This explains their longevity, as well their repulsiveness.) Go away, you opportunistic kleptomaniacs!

Why are seagulls called seagulls when they are not confined to the sea? In fact, they do not venture far out above the ocean, and very often, they are found inland: at freshwater lakes, in the parking lots of football stadiums or theaters, or at big-boxed shopping centers that sadly occupy corner lots of every other town in America.

*   *   *

But before I'd reached the beach in South County, before stopping by at the Shopping Center in Westerly that I manage, before assessing the damage to a pylon sign, I had visited my dermatologist, Dr. Kirk in East Greenwich. There, I had the angry, seething mole—a mole that had for many summer nights kept me awake, this, the mole from which I could not vacation, a mole that had burrowed into the fold of my right armpit and maddened my mental health—excised, as well as another bothered mole that had, like any good, large-pawed mole, dug itself a home and taken a seat on the backside of the equator of my body. The waistline is not a sitting or nesting area. It is too heavily trafficked by garments of the day and evening. There, fine silks, cashmeres and cottons carouse, and stumble, get caught, on anything in their way. They do not appreciate this. Neither does the no-sitting area. So there, they are hewn down like all the trees or tree limbs that fell just days before. Or like any tree that does not bear good fruit. They are hewn almost precisely like trees, only on a smaller, more sterile scale: a numbing agent applied to the area via syringe not only numbs the mole and its underlying/surrounding skin, but also puffs it up into a small mound so that the now protruding and exposed bugger may be sliced from its nest by a hand-held straight edge blade. It is more efficient, in fact, than cutting the tree, as no stump remains, no inviting perch or tunnel.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Aurora is Rising Behind You

Last week, after Sandy gnashed her way northward, I took a drive down to the town of Westerly at the southwestern tip of Rhode Island (which, it appears, is too tiny to give mention in the Wiki link provided, other than to power-loss numbers), where I manage a small shopping center, and then turned back north, up along Rhode Island's coastline. Our 8,000 square foot center, which is about a mile in from the coast, did fine with the exception of the loss of two south-facing signs on the center's large pylon, but much of the southern coast of this little state was reduced to rubble by Sandy's outer bands of wind and storm surge, and several homes along Westerly's Misquamicut beach seemed to be devoured whole, trace timber crumbs scattered along the shoreline.

The she-storm's aftermath felt oddly quiet. Maybe, though, it was just my mind. My mind taciturn. I could not locate words as I drove past stretches of rough-surf beach and golden farm and tragically but beautifully broken stone walls—all kinds of debris spewed across field and road and beachfront but not a word to be found. I took pictures and made mental notations, wondering how many insurance claims one company can handle, absorb. I would need to make a call myself. When I found the words.

Just beyond the breachway, as I sat in my car at the edge of Wawaloam Drive in Weekapaug, overlooking Block Island Sound, I thought, too, about poetic sequence, in particular mine (you know, the one I'm writing, the theme of which is my expectation of and ultimate disappointment with New England's seasons), how I had developed only a loose narrative in the five poems I'd written to date, and how I hadn't yet written a sonnet. Here, certainly, was drama enough for sonnet, and, well, I must write a sonnet! On my northward drive I turned east toward Moonstone, but when I arrived the beach had been closed off entirely. Standing at the cordoned off gate of Moonstone Beach Road, watching military helicopters whirling across the sky, listening to the ocean's post-Sandy low-pitched hymn, inhaling its aroma, swallowing the romantic pinks and purples of a warm aurora, the silent, wordless current cascading through the narrow valleys of my mind was instantly, galvanically, awakened and I knew at once what I hadn't before fully digested: my poetic sequence was not only about my expectations, my disappointments—how I perceived seasons to be failing in almost legendary fashion—but rather a sequence that speaks to the much larger and universal issue of climate change. And Sandy, this badly behaved November storm, came with her own tale, a growing thematic narrative, one of which might well be called Global Warming.

What had I taken on?

Springsteen's Sandy may never have come back, but I have this woeful feeling that she-storms like Sandy will return with more frequency, with high drama and little romance, and in their wakes will leave the same catastrophic hymn, salty aroma and burning aurora as Sandy. I wonder how this will change the game, what bills we'll bring to congress, which shall pass into laws, and which laws—other than zoning laws which shall certainly be modified to address the rising seas—may be nullified or amended.

(Just this morning, Think Progress posted an article which asks if Sandy is "[...]a 'Cuyahoga River Moment' for Climate Change." Cuyahoga is the Ohio river that, at one time, was known for being the most polluted river in the US. Littered with trash and slicked with oil, it burned several times; it's infamous 1969 burning sparked a number of water pollution laws, including the Clean Water Act.)

What are we taking on?

At tonight's high school soccer banquet, no one seemed to be talking politics (but then again, I don't bring it up). But I know tomorrow, at the polls, I won't be the only voter wondering, and maybe gabbing about, which candidate will address and act upon the very real threat, the course, of global warming. Who will truly be compelled to honor the subject, ask central questions, demand answers, reckon with his presidential sensibilities, and see it through—bringing real action and change. This is much more than politics, and I wonder who prefers writing the poetic sequence over the punchline.  There is an aurora rising behind and above us. Poetry. Pure poetry.