Robins on Top of the World

The phone rang early this morning and I ran upstairs to answer it. Phones ringing in the morning or late at night are disturbing…….  I don’t have phones in every room and haven’t bothered to learn how to use my iPhone yet. So I have to run upstairs and then am breathless for a few seconds and sound like my own disturbed speechless stalker…

My old cell phone was just fine but now it’s lying on my cluttered desk dead and useless.   I have all sorts of gadgets all over the house to remove, recycle, restore.  Old cell phones and chargers, old remotes, old TVs old DVD’s.   One set of batteries I think has already disintegrated in the remotes… I may blow myself up when trying to open them again…they don’t make user manuals anymore for phones and you have to go online to figure out how to use them, or some of us just know….. not me..

No one answered the telephone and I kept saying “Hello…hello… hello…” I could feel someone on the other end….. I dreamt about an old friend last night.  A weird, disconcerting, disturbing dream about vague comings and goings, strange conversations and awkward moments, all involving me and all interesting to me, but if I told someone the dream they would fall asleep after five seconds…. maybe it was my old friend the one whose friendship I snapped off like the end of a crisp young asparagus… and threw the stalk in the compost pile… she was mean one day too many and I couldn’t take it anymore…. maybe it was the IRS maybe that old man I see in the park who lets his dogs run wild and do their business everywhere they want .. I called him a jerk to his face…. maybe that psycho I dated years ago who lived in a filthy house and used dishwashing liquid for his bubble baths….  he was so very good-looking and knew it, smart and talented  .. I thought I could overlook his filthy house…. He told me only poor people like me despised his filth.  All his rich friends never noticed it.  I guess they were too smart too clever too hip, too busy listening to Lou Reed or Nico whispering in the darkness…. I learned to like Lou Reed and Nico too.. but I liked them less after knowing the man in the dirty house.

When I ran upstairs to answer the phone and heard the voice that was not there I went to open the blinds and saw two robins on top of the arborvitae just sitting there… in all their beaky fat orange robin glory… their beaks pointing south, they sat like statues and I stood there like a statue too… March is when the robins usually show up, but now you sometimes see them in February even in the dead of winter… where do they go where do they sleep, eat… in my arborvitae!

They stood on top of the shrub as though it was a slate floor.  But it was a feathery arborvitae thick and dense now after seventeen years…. reminded me of Jesus parting the waters… he could stand on anything….   The birds were perfectly still but one every now and then turned its head like Jeff Bridges in “Starman”.  Actually Jeff Bridges was copying birds in that movie, but these birds looked more like Jeff Bridges than birds.. quizzical, wondering, pondering and then one would turn its head completely around and stare at me… really stare… then they started dipping their heads  down and pecking at something and I realized they were eating the arborvitae. Who knew they ate the piney  feathery prickly arborvitae… the very tips, they must be tender and green, taste like bird asparagus or onions or chives.. It was breezy out and the breeze ruffled their feathers … just a little at first and then the orange and grey and black feathers all over their bodies were moving… Their chests were heaving in and out and one bird’s heart seemed to be beating so hard and rapidly I thought it  was about to explode …..

I couldn’t stop staring at the birds and was amazed that all these years they ate these shrubs which have been growing taller and wider, actually slowly obliterating my view outside, darkening the house inside more and more.  I knew they hid in them especially deep in the winter, the cold freezing days of January and February… remember them? Sometimes I came home at night in the winter and the shrubs would be singing..literally the whole shrub throbbing with sound….. full of dozens of  birds singing like silver bells to welcome me home.

Sometimes peering inside the bushes from my living room windows I would see dozens of birds.  Robins, finches, sparrows, wrens, cardinals, all sitting there in the dark or sleeping maybe thinking…

A third robin popped out of the arborvitae and it looked so strange just its head popping out of the shrub like Howdy Doody….the three robins just sat there peering out at the sky from their living hotel… and me staring there transfixed as though I had never seen a bird..

Now I know they eat these shrubs.  It’s food, sustenance and keeps them warm and dry and safe probably from predators like those hawks I see sometimes…. I think of all the big houses going up here and the gardens getting smaller and smaller, all the shrubs and trees disappearing too.  All the shelters and food for these birds. All the green will be gone one day and the birds will be gone too.

I have the house to clean, bills to pay, tax receipts to gather, and ponder over, my life to try to bring back from disarray, but I stare and stare at the robins as though they are three wise men…. I notice the frame of the window needs painting …it’s chipping, and there are tiny mold spores forming… I thought I just washed all the windows last month and they were fine… like my bones/veins and the blood running through it all …  but it’s really tainted, tired and old….

The birds stare and stare at the sky and open their beaks as though to speak to sing… they cock their heads and I know they are listening to something someone outside of this shrub this house this town… in a few seconds two of them fly abruptly away to the roof of the school across the street and start playing in the gutters. I’ve noticed birds love the gutters.

I won’t clean today won’t look at bills  won’t do laundry won’t go grocery shopping  won’t write, won’t try to practice the piano won’t try to learn how to use the stupid iPhone or what to do about the old TV the old chargers and all the dozens of electrical crappy junk things waiting to be disposed of.

I will pack a suitcase I will put it in a corner and I will wait for the phone or maybe the doorbell to ring and three big fat robins will be waiting there and I will finally understand what is in their eyes their little beaky heads and throbbing breasts, and I will understand once and for all when they say “Come on we’re ready.. time to fly away.”


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A Sea of Roses

I’m trying to think of things that would make me feel better today. There are so many reasons to feel joy yet joy is slow to come. Thirty degrees today and snow falling. Have not seen snow since December and then it was not real snow just a dream that vanished.

A sea of roses would make me feel better. Pink ones, white ones, yellow, cream, orange, icy lemon and red ones.  Red roses no longer thrill me when I see them in florists or if I happen to get a bouquet.  They look too red too bloody too dangerous almost funereal. They sometimes turn black at the edges or don’t open at all and look like tiny wet shriveled bird carcasses.  Remind me of that big grey squirrel lying on the ground in front of that big Elm on Ridge Road. The construction crew probably accidentally killed it or maybe that squirrel was as shocked as I was to see another monster house go up so soon so greedily so big and wide on that tiny lot.  Maybe it just died of shock.

Roses though. Red ones deeper than Bordeaux deeper than your bloody heart deeper than your scarlet lips… there in that garden.. the rubies you were searching for the roses you saw with your gorgeous mother decades ago when Detroit was a small quiet village for Slavic immigrants. The fragrance of those roses trailing up that arbor on the street during our walk.  And our hearts thumping thumping thumping at the beauty of roses in that garden. In the botanic garden if you see a really dark red rose your heart does stop.  Like a black hole endlessly wrapping you around its seamless space hurtling you to a chemist’s shop threading all your sighs like Marquez did in “A Hundred Years of Solitude.” The red rose smells like solitude like souls in purgatory like lost soldiers children nomads in the desert… slightly acrid sharp winy… old ladies sometimes wear rose perfume….. young ones smell more like peonies…. but a really red rose a really fragrant one explodes in flavors and sights and smells that you can never ever know or see or capture… it becomes finally an ephemeral thing like these snow flakes falling like a soul expiring like that squirrel dying and no one sees it but says “Ugh!” on the way to work.

Red roses are like ambergris floating in the sea like whale’s blood like your veins throbbing and the rivers of blood aching to get out.

Joy perfume was like that. You God the roses… captured in a bottle. One hundred fifty dollars worth… at the time.. and your fingers tremble at the sight you can hardly open it and sticking your wiggly rabbit nose right in the bottle you smell oldness antiquity dust and dirt and desert and crumbling bones… old lady smells of pent up sorrows and smeared lipstick and cakey powders and thinning hair and wrinkled skin and you sigh trying desperately to smell that rose.

The snow has stopped and I don’t know why the snow has reminded me of roses…

The daffodils are at least five inches high in some places… I hardly glance at them too scary to see them in February.. the lilac is even more frightening… small green leaves like in May.

My head aches my heart hurts the oatmeal was awful and stuck to my ribs… I almost had a glass of wine for breakfast don’t care because summer winter fall spring is a mess a tangled scary confusing tortured mess.

The snow keeps falling though and always reminds me of souls stars black holes clean water …

I watch cowboy movies all day long all day long to forget everything.. rifles and cowboys the simple rights and wrongs and women in long dresses…

But sitting here now looking out at the frozen garden which just two days ago was thawing like it does in April… I would be happy if I saw the birds in the birdbath the daffodils smiling…. some of them smell like lemons… I would love a clean glass of water, a pure tiny strawberry like the Kings of Aranjuez ate… or the old hatted ladies of Wimbledon… I would be happy if you and I were playing tennis again in Chopin Park surrounded by apple blossoms and running, running, running home to the endless gin and tonics and mom and dad happy sometimes in the little garden and mom running up to us and shouting “Oh look the roses the roses the roses!”

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Miracle in the Birdbath

It’s the dead of winter still.  Or maybe it’s spring…. About twenty-eight degrees today and will be warmer later. And tomorrow it will be fifty. It’s easy to be confused now about the seasons.   Winter and spring are all mixed up. Daffodils and snow.   Lilacs turning green in January.   Rain and thunderstorms instead of snow drifts.  A cause for celebration to some and lamenting to others.   The confusion is the worst.  The unsettling feeling the lost feeling the dazing of all things that once were clearly understood.

I’m still in my robe.  What’s new.   It used to be “I’m in the garden… what’s new?”  And I realize that for the last couple of years I am not in the garden as once before…… I don’t spend hours sitting there and reading, writing, dreaming……. the garden is weird these days… things growing that should not be there .. or too soon or too late.  There are still piles of leaves outside like in November..  and too many noises…. dogs that never stop barking…. baseballs and basketballs thundering and flying hitting the ground in big thud thud thuds……. sometimes you just want things quiet very very quiet…

If I didn’t know better I would swear it is late March.    That time when dozens of birds fly in and out of the garden like they’re on drugs.  They fly back and forth in a frenzy almost like my brain now back and forth and back and forth  …. maybe they are just hysterical with joy.

If I was in a very lonely place, a dark and lonely place,  a deserted place, or even a bright and sunny place early in the morning… and if I had a choice of what or who to see, a person or a bird…   I would choose a  bird.

My mother once told me that in her village in Ukraine if you were out wandering and got lost, or were coming home from work or school, miles away from home, from any town or house, and you were walking on that lonely road, and if you saw a person you would jump for joy.   You would have someone to talk to, to walk with, or to help you if you needed aid.  Here in this town in this city in this village in this country if you see someone late at night in a deserted place, or even early in the day… you run hide escape.  Get your gun!

The definition of insanity they say is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result.

I watch birds now.  Over and over and over again.   There are two bird baths outside.  One is an inverted large turquoise pot with a ceramic saucer upside down and another saucer right side up.   The other bird bath is an old concrete broken down stand and bowl but still with traces of the leaves and flowers and old designs on it.   The one my sister and I bought when my mother was still alive. When joy was still alive and well.    It was so heavy so big and beautiful and ancient looking.  It took all our strength to walk it over to the end of the garden under the Serviceberry tree and place it there… It is crumbling now and I placed a large plastic faded green saucer on top of the crumbling stand….. even though it’s warmer than usual this winter, at night it still gets cold and in the morning the water in the baths is frozen and the birds have no water…. I have been going out and pouring water on top and it slides off the ice and stays in little rivulets so there is a little water at least for the birds.

I saw the black-capped chickadees out today or maybe it’s Juncos…— I think it’s them… soft grey with black and white markings near the eyes.. very quick birds flitting around the garden like it’s spring…just the sight gave me a spark of joy quick and light as a molecule…… secret and dark like an amoeba like the little ghostly sighs and whispers flitting in and out of your spirit soul psyche whatever you want to call the miasma of your soul brain heart searchings…

This is it now.   Friends sending me articles and quotes and anecdotes about activism brain pickings for the soul, things to do and read, to fight the evil injustice venom insanity of these times…. things to write and say to senators and representatives and presidents of nothing…..

I just delete delete delete it all. I look out the window to the garden instead….

I took out my big red pot that I make my Christmas Eve borscht in.  I filled it with fresh cold water and  walked out onto the frozen grass of the garden…. scaring the chickadees for a few seconds and I filled both crumbling bird baths with water and then walked back inside and turned around for a moment to face the garden.  A big fat orange robin appeared suddenly… such is the miracle of water and a simple bird bath …… it was splashing around as though it was a warm summer day….. in the bird bath that still had a thick layer of ice in it…. it was splashing with joy with delirium splashing and bathing and cleaning itself getting ready for some great party some great reckoning or maybe just telling me that spring is really coming…

And in a matter of seconds the robin and the chickadees were gone, completely gone as though bird and garden never existed.  It was a moment in time, a moment that happens over and over and over again.. And with birds, the moments last, the joy lasts forever in the little scarred brain in my frazzled head.

I just turned around again as I was finishing this… turned my head to look again out into that garden…. like I have done for seventeen years….. three little birds in the bird bath now, some kind of wrens and Juncos splashing about… another on the ground pecking at something dead and frozen… something singing deep in the ground, calling…. my joy is crazy and delirious and complete now…. birds and water are all I need….





















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Infinity Cake

Let me count the ways to infinity.  Stare at the sun until you see the Aztec god and his gold crown blinding you. Like that day the dazed young queen marched a thousand steps to oblivion.  Heaven was rimmed with blood.

The sun disappears suddenly in a cloud burst of rain and a tiny lizard hides in the leafy dark of a banana tree, feeling suddenly the slight hiss or whisper of something crawling down on him in the dark, the golden coils of a giant snake are glinting, curling down in the slithering dance of Rapunzel’s golden locks.

How long the infinity of fear battling joy, infinity of math, of someone watching snowflakes falling.  Infinity is losing yourself in the slow white tumble of the winter sky  the line of whales like tiny ducks in the distance fleeing the vast ocean for the open skies.

Infinity is this faded oriental rug– the dull roses, greens, and golds, the dusty footsteps of these eighteen years, the back and forth of front and back.  And finally the door into the garden, running still with beating heart, the sound of a robin calling .. spring is always now… summer winter fall the endless spring the endless winter of all things the endless sky of endless moons and stars the endless search of  tired eyes.

Someone put a tiny Madonna on a ledge in the abandoned rock formation in the deserted park.  A two-inch cobalt blue Madonna it sparks a kind of infinite joy when I walk by and I wave hello save me and goodbye. Then someone takes it down and someone else puts something back. An angel or a tiny Jesus Mary Joseph back and forth and back and forth …the tiny cobalt Madonna is still there….

Infinity are my footsteps in this park two decades now, and it almost feels like infinity almost feels like infinity…the almost there almost there of things is almost lost.

Home has no rooms no windows no doors nothing but the frost thick as Royal icing thick as buttercream thick as curdling milk cooling in the stream thick as icicles forming on the windows of this room.

Winter 2014-15 I felt infinity even more, infinity of sorrow infinity of madness infinity of freezing to death in my own house.  I never finished the frost poem my fingers were too cold.

Infinity of shame to see this mess I’m in.  When you walked into the kitchen and found bags of sugar, flour, spices, lying dusty on the counter… butter I set out days ago to soften but it was hard as rock in that freezing room… I was about to bake a cake for you….

This house was built in 1939 when infinity was clear, the infinity of nothing infinity of sorrow infinity of misplaced arms and dreams infinity of wrongs never righted infinity of war, yes, the second war was not really a good idea either my dear…

Bang bang bang the oven may break down any day now. You said you saw a flashing “F3” sign that meant fuck you fuck you fuck you. I never heard you swear before, it sounded good.  The oven, furnace, fridge and boiler too will all be gone gone soon.  Bye Bye.

This cake I want to bake for you, this American cake from the pre or post Civil War I can’t remember now file, of home receipts as they used to be called,  from some woman deep in the south who just woke up crying…. Sunshine cake it’s called, or sometimes General Robert E. Lee cake…..he liked lemon and orange too….. She would need a strong constitution, wipe her tears and get up in that freezing room,  build a fire and wait three to four hours for the right temperature,  scrape down the sugar loaf or cone and  beat the sugar and butter for a full hour with her bare hands, but before that she had to soften the butter with her freezing fingers……..  float eggs in water or hold them up to the meager candle to see if they were fresh.  Had to check the flour too, sometimes they put in rotting peas or corn or dying little bugs…..

Then then then infinity was new snow was white spring was spring and winter came.

I’ll bake you a cake today infinity cake to show my infinite love for you my infinite joy in the flowers of your soul your brilliant mind your wide open heart your calmness in the face of fire and frenzy and sickness and death misplaced desire the infinity of virus and germs and dirt and war.

My infinity cake my sunshine Civil war cake is like a Randolph Scott cowboy movie. Old  and new, pure and dirty, good and evil, totally delicious. Butter, eggs, milk, lemon, orange, vanilla, and Grand Marnier, a remnant of the great bakers post French Revolution who baked sweets after all that fighting… In memory of the ridiculous Kings and Queens who devoured delicate sweet meats, elegant bon bon things, all those sugary daydream nightmare confections in layers and tiers filled with marzipan flowers that got so much better so much more refined after every bloody war…. to sweeten the tolling of the bells for the rolling heads that dropped into your overflowing baskets of weary blondes brunettes and red-heads all wearing the crown of thorns…. the bitter orange flavors will make your head spin your heart beat wildly like an Aztec girl climbing the 1,000 stairs to her death her birth her reign her funeral her baptism her infinite fox trot waltz tango rumba and the grand finale all girl mariachi band laced with flowers and frills and thrills and all of them swaying swooshing rolling their hips back and forth like the seas of Ahab like the lumbering white blue and black leviathans all going for the infinite the ultimate the apocalyptic the great waves of ocean filled with the brit the bric and brac of ocean flowers the ocean is the water the ocean is the sky the ocean is this rolling field of wheat Rapunzel’s golden hair like your dead gold teeth your brilliant smile the sum of all the gold coins all the golden crowns of all the golden gods shining shining.

And Ahab finally gets his whale and the whale finally gets Ahab and you my dear will finally finally get this cake that I have been thinking about dreaming about salivating for pining moaning and groaning and opening wide the big mouth of dripping frozen icicles for… the cake will be golden with lemons and oranges and eggs from sunny bright-eyed chickens and fresh thick cream and milk will flow from golden pitchers washed in the golden streams and liquors from far and wide will perfume each perfect spongy layer, and it will be called Sunshine Cake the cake of smiles and dreams and hopes and joys and you will eat it and you will never ever question infinity again…….


via Daily Prompt: Infinite






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Ukrainian Christmas Missing

Like a missing person it seems I will never find Ukrainian Christmas again.  It is now  almost gone completely, even from my memory.  How to bring it back again?  I can’t even find a real Ukrainian person to talk to. Like the ones I saw once in Ukraine, so long ago.   Near a brook, in a meadow, in a forest, in the small thatched roof house where we took refuge from the rain, the young family priest playing an accordion… while his braided wife beamed and passed around the cherry wine…. and then the same priest again at the well one morning,… my mother said it was good luck… the scene like something from a Gogol story..I remember still the taste of homemade cherry wine….

Snow?  There is no snow. It is forty degrees today and the irises seem to be rising from the fermenting ground, the daffodils are peeking out, in and out they have peeked now for a month and a half. Several irises bloomed last month in the park across the street.  Large citron colored ones that looked good enough to eat. Everything around them looking almost wintry, because it was late autumn after all, and there they were, like something out of “Alice in Wonderland.”

There is no Christmas tree this year.  Nor last year.  Sad, because I love Christmas trees.  More than people.  They are lovelier to look at, smell better,  make the house cozy and warm, add magic and mystery in a silent way like only deep forests can…..make me happy and transport me to other places, happier places, happier times.  They don’t talk nonsense, yell,  whimper, cry or complain. They just are.   Beautiful, fragrant things that never need a bath.

Every morning I would turn theChristmas tree lights on, before I made the coffee, and later, cup in hand, sit and stare and smell, breathe every single needled pine from every forest on earth in every wild and silent place left, silent like a monastery in the clouds, where they bake good bread and tend their quiet gardens. All the Chartreuse in the world could not give me the exhiliration, the quiet thrill of that tree glowing as though with a thousand hearts, like gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and the lights… ruby reds and auburns, magentas, all the shimmering clarets and Bordeauxs in cut glass goblets, all the kissed lips under the crumbling mistletoes, the old and new, the shiny and tarnished golds of ancient Venetian masks, like a painted dowager forgetting what party she was going to.

Ah the smell of the Christmas tree, especially when it started to dry just a little….. slightly sweet, powdery, woodsy and piney like an old sacred forest…. and the antique elf ornaments, the faces impish, slightly wicked,  half-smiling in the dark glinting corners of the tree, their sharply etched features like the Chinese man holding up my red lamp. More alive than me, beating like a throbbing heart, pulse pulse pulse goes the  red flaming room like a fire that doesn’t hurt or scare, just warms you through and through, and scatters rose petals up the stairs that you follow to the dark and dreamy alcoved sanctuary of quiet dreams and peaceful sleep.

I made Ukrainian borscht with mushroom dumplings again. Like my mother did.  But instead of a few hours it took two days.  My only Ukrainian gesture. Because, it is just too hard to make the complete Christmas Eve dinner of twelve courses, or even seven or eight which my family once did.  Too hard to make it right.

I am either too lazy, too unorganized, too Americanized, too materialistic, too lavish, too stupid or too thrifty… that it never works anymore.  Making the hundreds of dumplings with different doughs that often are so stiff I break my back rolling out the sheets.  Then after all that rolling, the dough still so stiff I have to take each individual dumpling square and roll it out three or four times until it is pliable enough to fill and seal with the savory mushroom filling.

Or the varenyky, the dough always works but the shape, the thickness the savoriness of the filling are always off.   Too much salt not enough salt, not enough pepper, not enough cheese, too much dill too little dill, too much oil, not enough oil.  This time it was the egg yolk.   My aunt told me the yolks made the dough tough but I ignored her advice and put it in because the woman in the Ukrainian cookbook said so. It had to be authentic, but now I know it never will be, because I am not. The woman who wrote the cook book could put the yolk in and it would work, it was probably a pure yolk from a happy singing chicken who gladly gave up this yolk to make her Christmas Eve varenyky.

I no longer sing and dance when I cook.  I swear and fume and storm around the kitchen like a whacked out stampeding elephant.   Sometimes I swear so much I feel deeply ashamed, even though I am alone in the kitchen.  I feel someone there watching.  I almost hear her sad breath, see her swollen red puffed eyes….. Can’t you do this one thing this one thing with joy and gladness? Food does not taste delicious if you make it when you are angry or mean or cursing.  Or, if your hands are not manicured and clean, if the floors are dirty or the windows and blinds dusty, if the bathrooms do not sparkle, if the beds are not made if the floors are not gleaming if the house is not flourishing with flowers and the tiny lights of the tree do not sparkle.

I started the kvas late…a mixture of fresh beets, coarse salt and sourdough bread that you start at least a solid week before making the borscht.  It adds a deep bordeaux color and a tart slightly sourish taste.  I made it 8:00 p.m. Sunday night the week before Christmas, so that meant I had to make the borscht on Christmas Eve. I used organic cheesecloth to cover the big punch bowl that I placed in the cold sunroom.

You have to tie the cheesecloth around the fermenting liquid with string.  I had no string and looked up and down the house in every drawer, shelf, pantry and even in the medicine cabinets.  How can a cook have no string?    I finally used a rubber band but trying to get it around the wide punch bowl was hard and it kept snapping almost hitting me in my frowning screwed up face, landing in the red liquid and I had to fish it out.  This organic cheesecloth got very frayed when you cut it, and little strings  of cheesecloth fell into the liquid and I had to fish it out.

Christmas Eve.   The week earlier I had lost my house keys while shoveling a foot of  snow… for some reason I kept them under my gloved hand so as not to lose them.  Dropped them somewhere in the overflowing banks of snow.  I had left the door open so was not locked out, but I worried about the keys lying somewhere in front of the house.  I spent an hour looking for them, retracing my steps, and digging up shovelfuls of snow along each and every path and throwing them up in the air to see if my rattling keys came tumbling down. Nothing.  They may turn up in a squirrel’s mouth in spring. Soaking wet I longed for a hot bath and ran upstairs to find the hot water just tepid stepped inside the bath and took it cold… ran out with wet hair damp clothes and had lunch with friends and drank too much ate too much talked too much complained too much…..worrying about my keys… if only I could find my keys…

I have been sleeping late, am always tired and crabby, and nervous. From what?  Nothing.  I did nothing.  I worried about my family, my job, the new government, (if you can call it that)… sickness and death, murders and mayhem again and again, and the weather always hovering above my head like a helicopter, a noisy, rattling mess of tubes and wires and iron and blades, screeching like some monster from the deep from the depths of heaven or hell something we made that will swallow us all up one day. With pride.  That it got rid of the stupid little beings.  Like those weird jumping spiders in the basement, they look like those flying killing machines in “The Terminator”  or those mechanical Daddy long leg spider things in the B sci-fi flicks. Killer spiders, killer mosquitos, that is what I have flying around in my basement now.  No one can tell me what they are… no one knows…. I know …they are tiny devils to make me insane…..

If only it would snow the trauma would be gone.  Yes it would.  If it snowed forever and buried this sad and sorry earth once and for all.  Make it clean again.

I’m waiting for the handyman to come because I have an outside dripping faucet that won’t stop dripping water.  I forgot to shut off the water supply to the outside faucet and now too late .. icicles forming on the house outside but not as icy white as those forming in my head my heart my soulless soul……. these fingers typing out these slanderous worlds are icicles too.

The borscht took hours to make Saturday, Christmas Eve.  Four different pots of vegetables and stocks to cook and to run through sieves and the sieves are not fine enough so I run them through coffee filters and they drip drip so slowly into the bowls.  The liquid from dried wild mushrooms are the worst.  You have to rinse the mushrooms at least five times  even after they are cooked… the cook book author does not tell you this but you have to do it otherwise there will be lots of sand and grit in every mouthful you take…. I rinsed them five times…. then the wild mushroom stock had to be sieved three times through coffee filters…..

Then, if you are not insane by the time all the liquids are sieved, the beets grated and put into the vegetable stock pot, and then drained gently so as not to cloud the broth, then you pour them all together like a witch like an alchemist like a crazy cook like a screaming vampire.  The kitchen a magenta blur of bloody spots like a murder has just taken place…. and the borscht is in the red pot and it is the deepest darkest most gleaming ruby liquid it scares you… emerging from the dark cave of your culinary treasure troves of memory and lust and greed and dust and sadness and all the mad tears you cried over mom and dad and crazy long dead friends and lovers and cousins and sisters and murdered ones…

The pot is so heavy and the fridge upstairs broke down just in time for the holiday and you have to walk the fourteen steps down into the dank and deep basement filled with decades of books and food and records and CDs and tapes and diaries and notes and recipes and magazines and the Christmas ornaments and decorations and trees you forgot to bring up.

Forgot?   How can you “Forgot”?    Forgot.  I forgot to make the kvas in time I forgot to go to church for midnight mass, I forgot to take the walk to see the hundreds of luminarias on the sidewalk on Christmas Eve I forgot to give to my favorite charity I forgot to make the flourless nut torte with the mocha frosting and I forgot to make the varenyky and I forgot to make the compote and I forgot to clean the house and I forgot to call my friends and I forgot to hold my tongue and I forgot to pray and I forgot to resole my boots and I forgot to shut the water off and I forgot forgot forgot my heart my head my mind my soul.  Soulless.  You can not have Ukrainian Christmas if you have no soul.



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“Into the Mystic”

I don’t know why I am writing about dinosaurs and Van Morrison, kicking his legs on “The Last Waltz”.  These are pictures from a thousand years ago.  He was singing “Caravan”.  He was so chubby, almost busting out of his tight pants, thrusting his legs so fiercely into the air, like a baby who doesn’t want to be born.

All those voices from long ago remind me of snow falling. Dancing, twirling, acrobats of a trillion souls. A snowflake perhaps fell on the squishy green snout of a dinosaur, roaming the world, causing earthquakes with his great trampling feet.  But the air going into those dinosaur lungs was clean, pure and sweet, like these snowflakes falling now from the inky sky.

It’s almost pitch dark and still I shovel piles and piles of snow. It is covering every inch of my house, every corner, windowsill, ledge and eave.   The roof looks like it will collapse from the snow.  Where are the little elves to come and shovel it off for me?  The snow so heavy it obliterates the Christmas greens, the holly, the cedar, the evergreen,  the spruces, the dogwood that I so painstakingly arranged in the window boxes and doorways.  Everything is being pulled down low to the ground, big clumps of snow everywhere, hanging on everything… looking like ice cream for giants…..

Christmas cards will be late again this year, the house disheveled again this year, like my messy half cut hair, my head like a pineapple, a bunch of holly like the Charlie Brown  ragged Christmas tree… my eyes bulging, lids puffed up from too much drink?  food ?  sleep?  There were flowers still in September, October and even November, so many that I gathered all the pots of blooms in late November, put them in the garage thinking I would bring them out again,….they are now tiny pink blue yellow corpses littering the once clean floor….

I just came home from a party, a lovely lavish party for very special beautiful accomplished people… the biggest of the year the biggest I will ever be invited to ever again past or future, it was very big, had the most sumptuous buffet I have ever seen, surpassing even Cinderella’s anguished soot filled dreams…

I ate and ate and almost died at the trifle bowl.  A large cut glass square with mounds of  soft whipped cream slathered with lemon curd above and beneath, the sponge made by angels in heaven…. the layers of sponge and cream studded with blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and the tiniest freshest strawberries picked by someone in a  hobbit’s dream…. oh the swishing of the flavors in my mouth, the clouds swirling there with the fruits of paradise, like the house of Vermeer, where only the choicest, the tastiest, the fluffiest most velvet texture in the mouth would do for the man in the silk scarf sitting at the head of the table staring and staring at you……as though he was dressing your lips for heaven….

The luscious food went down the many passages of my throat like silken lozenges of  violets of rose petal jam of apricots kissed by a thousand suns and whipped into froth for Kings and Queens….

I spent so much time at the buffet I missed all the speeches.  I missed the King and the Queen and the distinguished company of tuxedoed men and women standing with their smartphones catching every last piece of breath on every word and then goodbye and there was still the eggnog and brandies and cognacs and more champagnes… there was so much champagne I wanted everyone to go away and I wanted to drink all the champagne and visit each and every bedazzled room with the portraits of the long and the great but not forgotten..Lincoln was there flanked by two gingerbread men and there was even a room full of candy cane dolls about to dance the “Kentucky Waltz”.

My dress started to feel tattered and torn, my lips withering from the fine wines and champagne, and the salty taste of the salmon still on my tongue.  The silky salmon with the cornichons, capers, and lemons, the perfect disks of crunchy golden brown potatoes like the tiniest latkes, bowls of creme fraiche and sour cream.  We missed the jumbo shrimp and the rich claws of crab sitting in the huge crystal bowl.  It was so lavish so rich so extravagant I was afraid to go near it because I wanted to stick my whole face in it and eat all the shrimp and crab I never had…. oh the pristine waters where they spawned…..

I wish all the brocaded, jeweled, and sparkled ones would go away.. oh I wish I was in Isle au Haut, I wish I was in Wales, I wish I was the old aunt who drank the elderberry wine in the corner of Dylan’s house and everyone laughed at her, the lonely wrinkled face and rosy cheeks because she was having a little fun, she ran outside into the snowy cold garden and started to peep and squeak like a full throttled bird….

I wish I was a dinosaur trampling the earth with his gigantic feet roaming the jungles the ice the savannahs or maybe at the bottom of his obliterating feet. I wish I could turn into a six pointed star falling from the sky or floating forever and never having to wave hello or say goodbye.

I wish I was me in another world I wish I didn’t have to hear about all the pain and suffering 10,000 miles away.   I wish I wasn’t afraid to  say “Merry Christmas” or  “Happy New Year”,  I wish there were telephones that still rang and people ran to answer them, the tiny voice coming through the lines always bringing good cheer.

I wish I could go into the Mystic with Van Morrison, I wish I knew the sages of old I wish I knew how to battle this new terror that grips my heart and very soul.   I wish I knew my soul I wish I had a soul I wish I could speak to my soul or that it would just go away.  That it would speak or shout or whisper or just take me save me fell me call me if only for a little while deep in the mystic land of far away.

It’s so cold today and still,  the sun bright neon yellow and it is a cold sun and the park is lovely but frozen, and the paths are full of ice, snow, cracks, crevices and leaves. Where are all the birds, and why do the dogs always bark and bark like banshees without end?  Oh where are the birds, where do they go, how can there be enough leaves, eaves, hollows, and shrubs to hide them all.

The river at the bus stop was clear and flowing, a few large blocks of thin ice like islands seemed to beckon me to go and sit, to lie and float away… it looked cold and clean and underneath I saw what I thought was a long carp a very long carp, or a pole, a young slender tree trunk like an old birch,  a long leather belt, a huge brown bone, a weird midwestern river snake about to jump out and grab me and take me down to the very depths of the cold water.

Oh I wish it would snow now again even after shoveling and shoveling and breathing and working and worrying all Sunday about how to get it all how to get all the white the fluff the frosty freezing six pointed star away from the house so it would not swallow me up.

This is a tundra now and I walk all bundled up like a Baba Yaga, or one of those Russian wooden dolls that go on forever and ever… a babushka all swaddled up going to Siberia… I bought a six-foot long three-foot wide scarf to protect me this winter and walking through the silent frozen park I hear something small and sweet, tinkling, like water somewhere, falling from an outstretched branch, a hand, a foot, and it’s very high in the frozen white blazing neon sky, and it is clear and pointed and fragile like a snowflake like a dinosaur, and it is beyond human understanding beyond human understanding how something so tiny, sweet and slender, made out of nothingness, could fill the park the air the sky as though it too was going into the mystic…..


A Daily Post Prompt

Posted in Bus Stop Stories, Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Sausage, Eggs, Honey, Maria Callas

I don’t know why I am writing about sausage, eggs and honey, accompanied by Maria Callas singing “The Gypsy Song” from the opera “Carmen”.   I don’t know why the eggs didn’t break this morning as I was holding them above the skillet tapping them with a knife.

There are different ways of breaking an egg and it depends on what you are making with that egg, what you are holding below them.  A mixing bowl a pan a little dish? One chef suggests just tapping it on a flat surface like your counter or table.  He said it works every time.  Not for me, the egg just ends up having starburst tiny lines all over it and then when you try to get the egg to split and spill its contents it is a mushy eggy shelly mess.

When I crack the egg on the side of the bowl sometimes it works and sometimes not.  My favorite way is to tap it with a butter knife along its middle.  It usually works, the egg comes out whole and the shell does not disintegrate.

I have been eating too many eggs. I love eggs.  Over easy, scrambled, poached, soft-boiled like M.F.K Fisher loved:   boil your egg very gently until the white is cooked and the yolk still runny and silky smooth.  The perfect sauce.  Then put it in a small bowl, add a pat of fresh, unsalted butter, a sprinkle of coarse salt, and a few cracks of fresh pepper. Heaven!   Unless you hate soft runny things.

I bought too many eggs over the Thanksgiving holiday, thinking there would be recipes calling for many eggs.  There was just one and now I have two cartons of eggs in the fridge that must be eaten.  By me. What is better than eggs, toast, and bacon or sausage, potatoes maybe, all crusty brown and creamy soft inside!  Jam or marmalade, steaming cups of black coffee with a little cream…especially leftover vanilla infused whipped cream from Thanksgiving’s pumpkin pie…… floating on top of your black coffee and then falling down your throat like melted clouds.

Today is a cold, to some bleak morning, most of the leaves gone on the trees except the four across the street by the school, almost intact, still in shades of yellow, red and green, almost complete like persevering humans.  The peach climbing rose in the garden is still clinging to the rose arbor, the leaves green as Irish clover.

The gardener came yesterday to finish fall cleanup… picking up the rest of the leaves, scooping up the wilted mushy piles of hostas, cutting down the last of the snapdragons in the window boxes…  they were not ready to go, still sending out blooms though faded and pale. I wanted to keep them, thinking they would send out a burst of color like snapdragons often do late in fall.  But we cut them down to make room for the Christmas greens.  I should have put the greens in yesterday or the day before when it was prematurely warm.. 50’ it’s in the 30’s. Soon the dirt in the pots will be too hard and I will have to pour hot water over them and then try to stick the branches in, making what should be a wonderful happy chore into a frustrating cursing thing.

Yesterday, walking through the park, I could have stayed there forever….. the Bald Cypress’ scattering their needles in pools of thick brown velvet. I almost wanted to fall down and sleep there … the hybrid oaks like massive sculptures still holding on to their long crinkled leaves … the large yellow irises that sent out premature buds and  bloomed a couple of weeks ago like they do in June… with huge chiffony flowers.. are now lying in yellow puddles like the egg yolks I ate this morning.

The maples, the lindens, the willows in the nun’s garden….. the newly planted trees with their feeding bags like horses in the meadows….  thistly horned prickly fuzzy twigs and branches, seeds and pods of all the flowers and grasses, crinkling rustling singing late autumn songs….. the trees all seemed to be sighing, trying to tell me something. If I listened close enough I might be able to fathom what deep secret they are hiding. Trees have deep secrets, that I know.

The grass still green as summer… the white arbor holding up the last remnants of the autumn clematis, some clusters of purple asters still blooming..  the voluptuous drying hydrangeas everywhere thick and brown like caramel crunch, coffee with too much cream, like crispy browned onions in the pan.

The sky grey, pearly, and distant, the clouds perfumed with the scents rising up from the ground, all the disintegrated flowers and herbs shooting straight up to those golden towers lingering there like night jasmine in a summer garden.  Sometimes you can feel it all waiting. Waiting and sighing. Waiting for us all to behave, to start fresh, or maybe to just end.

I couldn’t rake the leaves this year, the first time in 17 years.  The gardener had to do it.  He was noisy, a bit sloppy and his pants kept sliding down his behind showing his naked skin looking cold and weird in the fading garden, the 35 degree weather.  And that noisy blower and gasoline smell….Then he asked me if he should use a rake.  I said “Yes, please.”

I love raking out the garden even if it takes hours and hours…. the slow sure raking of the jeweled leaves, some matte, some shiny, some leathery, others thin and translucent like the skin of an old lady tucking herself into bed…… this orderly putting away of summer’s charms gives me peace, a sense of direction, of calm, of seasonal balance… putting my mind and body right, at ease.  Just to take a breath of frosty autumn air, tinged with all the faded dying things, yet full of luscious fragrances like apples baking in the oven, exploding with all of nature’s buried charms.   The leaves in every color, the gleaming grass still smelling of summer, showing the imprints of my happy feet… the scent of burning incense, the violet smoke, the ruby sky, the piles of leaves on the curb like my harvest, my grain, my wheat, my barley, corn and lentils to make my very own Ezekiel bread…. the hard tack of sustenance to keep me going. Like eating raw earth, shoving it into your mouth with insatiable desire to stave off hunger, sickness and death, the coming cold and gales of winter.

The eggs I got out of the carton this morning were very small perfectly oval eggs, brown  and “organic” meaning eggs like the ones our grandparents or maybe great great grandparents ate.  I tapped the egg and it didn’t break, not even a tiny hairline crack.    I tapped and tapped.  Nothing.  Then a shiver of fear and loathing came over me, that there was something inside of the egg. Some slimy blood-washed tiny creature who did not want to come out… fearing a beak or a little leg peeping through I almost tossed the egg, then just tapped harder and it came— perfect round yolks surrounded by a firm, pellucid albumen. The shells harder than any I ever saw, almost a double shell, one brown and then another layer like insulation.  Against the cold the ugly, the poison, as though that egg wanted to stay inside.  I looked at its perfect shape and reluctantly threw out the shells, hard as porcelain.

I fried the eggs in butter marveling still at their perfect shape and size.  I made white toast –a sometimes aberration–  put three fat slices of sausages in a cold pan, the kind you use in stuffing for a turkey, almost reeking of sage and loaded with salt… I  drizzled the toast with honey and ate that rich fatty buttery salty breakfast perfumed with the honey of a thousand flowers.

Then suddenly I heard a voice, it was Maria Callas on the radio. A sultry velvety voice full of longing and pain.  Even her happy songs had a little pain. She looked like pain, like beautiful Grecian pain, like a vase found in some archaeological site sill intact but just holding on, fragile, delicate,  and tough yet about to shatter into dust…. her long regal nose, her dark coiling hair falling down her trembling shoulders…those painted Cleopatra eyes… always searching for her Anthony searching and searching.  They said her voice was one of “perfect imperfection”.  Velvety in the middle, steely and almost shrill at the top and the high notes were “shrieks”.  But the drama, the emotion, the passion was unparalleled.  Her voice was life itself.

I remembered  a story I heard about her… this beautiful, famous, rich artist, the companion of Aristotle Onassis, who at the end of her life was so lonely she only wanted  a little dish of ice cream… after walking home with a friend in New York after a dinner party. He was about to go home to his wife and children and she spied a gelateria on the corner and asked him to please go in with her, she didn’t want to go home…. could they just have a little dish of ice cream…. She was so lonely then, already losing her voice…. a dish of ice cream is all she wanted.

And now, listening to her singing the “Gypsy Song” from “Carmen”,  I eat my eggs and toast and honey and I want nothing, nothing at all.


























Posted in Always the Garden, Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Uncategorized | 26 Comments