A Thousand Eyes

You would need a thousand eyes to see it all.  The garden.   And a thousand ears to catch it all.  Every trill and whistle, every tiny peep, croak,  starting and ending note of every lullaby and every morning song…… Every tiny happy sigh or startled gasp from the tiniest bird or insect flying, crawling or sailing through the leaves and grass, and roses  that are breathing again, at last…

Woke up late.  So late again!  Six a.m. and the world already starting.  Turning.  A little  bit of crazy twirling.  The sky was so blue and the sun starting to come out and didn’t know whether to turn the puffs of sailing clouds peach or apricot or some other baby hue….

I rushed out to water because the rain didn’t come again.  First a deluge and floods and torrential rain that sounded like 10,000 soldiers marching… on my roof.. and the hail, like baseballs…the lashing  and crashing and running to the basement again and then all around the house and basement up and down the stairs to see if it was all still there…

And then, that day walking through the park, just before the storm that evening… walking and it was so still so eerie hot and quiet and even the flowers and the grasses and the big old trees were holding their breath, and the air had that glassiness that seeing things through a foggy mistiness,  seeing and hearing something hidden and dark and where were the birds hiding?  It was a glistening… I was the only one walking all the frightened people were hiding, and the park was mine mine mine alone… like the summer day in that small Russian town in the Nabokov story… that story I read somewhere and cannot find.. for years and years I have been searching for that story, because he captured it Nabokov did…. the perfect summer day in all its sad and lovely bittersweet fleeting beauty and glory.  He captured every sight and sound and human feeling, even that of every rock and weed and evaporating cloud, he captured it even like Chopin, Beethoven, Grieg and all the other musical geniuses never did….. not even Debussey…..and maybe that’s why in the end the favorite thing he liked to do was play chess with Vera in that apartment high up in the clouds in Switzerland….

The front garden how to describe it.  I can’t.  The golds and lavendars and pinks, the mottled yellows with rusty red.  I can’t.  The blues, the whites, the winey black bordeaux claret sun blooded wine rusted dahlias spreading themselves out like exotic slaves on the grassy boudoir floors… I can’t.  And the almost roaring of the purples… just that one lone morning glory sitting at the top of the Delphinium’s second blooming…..

And the sky.  It was blue and I needed to water.  And the sun was yellow like faded lemons.  Then bright again like an Aztec medallion… then faded into nothingness into a swampy mist that covered the entire sky… then the sun came out again.  Then the sky grew higher and higher and was covered in wide and thin grey mists as though Scotland was just born on your lonely little street….. and the sun completely disappeared… I watered and watered and watered for the life of me and the life of things…. oh grow my roses!  Grow and grow and grow and fill the air with your perfume that no other blossom has or has ever known…..

I watered and watered, dragging the long and heavy old green weathered hose like an ancient snake. Dragging it through gravel and stones, rocks and grass, and still the birds hid and then came out on the sidewalks and driveway and the grass and the trees and the shrubs and drank the flowered water…. the phlox are everywhere again.. in every shade of pink, dark and light and mottled and shady and dusty and dusky, and bright as your tiny little baby eyes….. and everything sparkles now it gleams and glistens and it’s moist and fresh and clean and renewed and young and supple and growing and growing again… and the air.  The air!  How can you describe the something nothing that is and isn’t there?

You would need a thousand eyes and ears and a thousand noses to breathe in all the perfume all the water and nectar and mist and tears and juices flowing now from grape and grass and flower from sky and earth and every tiny leaf…

Wordsworth, Longfellow, Tennyson, Burns and Auden, Keats and Byron and even Dylan Thomas’ “Fern Hill”,   William Butler Yeats in the “Lake Isle of Innisfree” did not capture it, and cannot, no one can and ever will …capture all this beauty .. because you would need a thousand eyes a thousand ears a thousand noses and hearts and souls and minds and you would need at least a thousand years to live and understand this one perfect day…..









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When Thunder is Happy

I woke up late.   Late like the rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland”.   Was it a rabbit? I don’t know.  I never read it.  All I know is that it’s very late waking up 7:30 a.m. on a summer morning.

I like getting up at 5:00 or 5:30 a.m. but I don’t make that much.  But I am up  by 5:45 a.m. .   At that time the birds are singing.  The sky is opening.  The flowers are sighing.   The dew is on the lawn and on the leaves of all the shrubs and flowers and trees.  The cars almost don’t exist.  I hate cars going by the garden…..  Like soldiers off to war.

For me it’s always war.  That is how it is.  The news this morning. Awful.  Always awful, and then the images stick in my head for days weeks and months.  Sometimes years.

The only place war doesn’t reach you is in the garden.   But then there is a different kind of war there.  Of mosquitos, bees and wasps, carpentar ants eating your garage, rabbits and skunks and dead mice, mold, wilt and rot. Not enough water, too much water, not enough sun, too much sun.   The wrong colors the wrong shape or size.  Too tall too short too dark too light.  The deep cherry red and yellow and dirty white petunias sort of didn’t work. Sorta Kinda Maybe.  My new mantra:  sorta kinda maybe wishy washy mish mash.  But then…somehow…it all works.

Late and running out with my instant coffee.  Instant coffee, what an abomination.  A “perk” from work.  We got a jar of instant coffee after our session, and like the greedy little person I am I took it.  And then one morning there was no real coffee in the house, no food no real bread even,  and I boiled some water and put the crystals in the cup and walked out into the garden.  Late.  Instant coffee sometimes works.  Remember Maxwell House?   Good to the last drop……

If you wake up too late there is not enough silence and the cars go by and your neighbors see you with your messed up hair and no makeup and your old robe and your purple plastic sandals and your puffy eyes…staring into the garden.. into all the flowerbeds to see if the roses have new buds, to see how tall the zinnias are that you planted a month late (they are about 5 inches high and looking green, wide and happy)….the Russian sage is sending out clouds of lavender and is starting to cover up the path to the house so you have to walk through its musty pungent sagey silver grey leaves filled with bees to get to the front door … unless you have the wits to walk around it and just go on the grass and catch up to the path further on… it’s amazing how many people come to the house and think they have to walk down the entire path … they wave their hands around their heads frantically swatting the killer bees they think will take them down… and they might….

I walked out into the garden then, and it was humid, quiet and gloriously green and fragrant with the scent of grass, leaves and flowers….. so quiet.   The pale apricot day lilies were opening up all around the service berry tree.  The fruit on the trees still hanging on for weeks now and staining the grass with deep purple and blue smashed berries.  The birds seem to have missed them and left them on the tree for me to eat.  I have.  With my gin and tonics, with my morning coffee, with nothing… The tree is filled with masses of berries as though heaven opened up and showered down crates and crates of them.  They hang down heavily on the branches almost as big as marbles.. I have shoved whole branches of berries into my mouth greedily and ate them with my gardener Francisco, and his son, my neighbor Lilly, my friends Alan and Frank and my sister… and the squirrels.. and the chipmunks and the smart birds that know that they are ripe now.. this year most of the birds liked them raw and were attacking the tree late in May when they were just pale pink….

It started to rain small drops that felt refreshing and cool, and then suddenly a hard shower that sent me scurrying inside like a frightened mouse… then the thunder started far away in the distance… calling, calling for everyone to run and hide but I did not want to run away from the garden, I wanted to wander still and look out at the balloon flowers and the masses of larkspur like a frightening blue sky frightening because it is so blue so beautiful like a fragment of someone’s dream. The larkspur is next to a day lily called Big Smile that my friend Madeline gave to me almost a decade ago.. my darling friend Madeline who recently died so suddenly, so unexpectedly, like this summer shower….

Oh Madeline how I miss you now, and think about your breathless voice that always sounded a little like Marilyn Monroe when she was singing Happy Birthday to John F. Kennedy… maybe from all that walking and hiking and gardening and chopping and pruning and planting that you did in that garden far away from mine… your tall, slender figure, that mop of ice blonde hair and your dark lobelia eyes…..you always had rosy cheeks like the Wisconsin girls in the state fairs, you always looked so fresh and milky clean and smooth… telling me to be calm and not fret and worry and just sit in my little garden and look at Big Smile and now the big smile is you and the larkspur has jumped from the gravel walk and grown into a magic pool of blue bluer than the color blue, dancing in the sunlight and treading into lavender, purple, lilac and sometimes even black that black hole of nothingness and everythingness… oh Madeline sometimes I think I feel you smiling down from the summer skies…

The thunder kept on but I stayed in the garden not afraid of thunder or lightning, not afraid of anything at all….

The thunder sounded friendly, the thunder sounded happy, the thunder was a slightly roaring king, his throaty steel grey sky happiness telling me it’s fine this one day to wander in his garden and walk in the rain and get soaking wet and shriveled  up and wrinkled and totally disheveled and disarrayed…after all… thunder in the garden… if you die in the garden struck by lightning or get hit in the head by the roar of thunder’s call, what a way to go, falling down onto the wet ground smelling the watermelon grass, staining your cheeks with the purple berries turning into wine, and landing, maybe, near the pool of larkspur and Madeline’s Big Smile…













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The White Trees of Easter

There was a sea of madness surrounding me or maybe I was the sea.

Then morning, how still, how white, how blue, how beautiful it all was.

Why did I go and buy all those flowers the last minute on Saturday…  white hyacinths, blue hyacinths and a big bunch of yellow daffodils in a pot.  Because there weren’t enough daffodils in the garden, or hyacinths.  There are never enough flowers…

Even after six days of shopping, cooking, baking and cleaning, there was still too much to do and I made everyone work.  Peeling potatoes, wiping spots off glasses and dishes, chopping pickles, mixing sour cream and yogurt for the dressing. Chopping shallots. Cleaning strawberries….   We forgot the mayonnaise in the salad and it was all done already.  There in the big blue and white Italian bowl that I bought for one dollar from a wealthy neighbor.    Such a beautiful bowl.  I would never sell it.  Not for a dollar.   The one with the sea shells on it.. from Jean, who is now living by the actual sea far away…..

I always make the potato salad last so that it is only slightly warm, the dressing light and creamy with just a hint of coolness.  Finely chopped celery, scallions, and even the paprika was already on top.  But we forgot the mayo.  Maybe because by 4:00 p.m. we already had too much of the Sauvignon Blanc, which I especially  bought to go with the asparagus saffron soup. We were already finishing the bottle…. You wanted to just drop the gobs of mayo in but I said ‘ no no no.’  We must take a small scoop of potato salad and mix it with just a few tablespoons of mayo and put it all back in as though we remembered. Sneak it in.  Furtive.  Secret.  As though the potato salad didn’t know.  Then we forgot the sweet pickles, that have to be chopped very fine, almost minced, but not to a mush….

I love those sweet bread and butter pickles and started eating them out of the jar like potato chips.   Ellen said she loved them too and her mother put up dozens of jars when she was growing up.  On a farm.  In Iowa.  That’s where I wish I was, on a farm just waking up and smelling the air… but they would throw me out because I could never get anything ready on time….They had their own pickles and corn, cucumbers, potatoes, all kinds of berries– strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, even gooseberries… and lettuces, sweet fresh chartreuse tiny lettuce… zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants, onions, garlic, squash and watermelons… I dream of farms like I dream of cowboys, clean streams and air…..

I had to stop eating the sweet pickles that were starting to ferment in my stomach with the Sauvignon Blanc…..There was still the other salad to make– tangerines, red onion, arugula and fennel…  I had to make it very quickly, I was running so late…

Earlier you had asked if you could take the bowl of potatoes and peel them in the garden… because the garden was greening the buds firming, birds singing, the white trees starting….some of the leaves already fully formed, speckles of real life, small elongated leaves that could actually ruffle in the wind…. the earth was letting out the dampness from all those weeks of rain, that was now coming out in small whiffs of perfume…that perfume you can never explain never name you have to just go down and crawl around on the ground to smell it like the robins now burying their beaks in the earth looking for worms….oh to be a robin just looking for worms…. The serviceberries had tiny oval buds like sunflower seeds,  the other one was blushing pink…

“No, you cannot go in the garden to peel the potatoes”  I said… as though I didn’t have enough work to do and then have to go and get the potatoes from the garden and find another bowl for the peels which I am sure you would drop all over the grass …..though my mother did that probably, in Ukraine, peel potatoes outdoors, while the freshly washed sheets floated like holy ghosts in the wildflower wind…….. I grated the horseradish in the garden… Good Friday….  so very warm, almost 80 and windy.. and the gardener came unexpectedly and made so much noise for a Good Friday…. While he was out weeding, seeding and mowing I was grating the horseradish on an old-fashioned grater, feeling rather happy, rather free, then feeling ashamed that we were making so much noise on Good Friday…..But the garden has to be beautiful for Easter Sunday.

This morning though.  What a morning.  The earth slept and woke up calm again, after three days weeping… How would you feel if people were staring at their iPhones while you were being crucified?  The woman sitting in front of me at church,  was staring at her iPhone that Friday night … she sang along with the choir and shocked me with the beauty of her singing.. her voice like an angel…. then she would stop during the reflections and check her e-mails……. I tried so hard to concentrate.. but spent a lot of time wondering how my babkas would taste and if they were too dry…. it started raining during mass and I walked home in the warm rainy night alone while everyone dashed anxiously into their waiting cars…..I felt a little something, heard a little something…. smelled the great sky exploding.. sensed something holier than I had a right to feel see and hear….

How cloudy white how terribly old how way too fast everything is budding, like a million multicolored balloons everywhere….. flowering bridal wreaths already…. all of May’s white crabs, pears and dogwoods blooming.  Even the pink ones starting… the forsythia is so confused it decided to stay….I haven’t even started my spring reveries and the time for reveries is over……

But early this morning when I went out, disheveled, asleep, debauched, unkempt, wrinkled, old and tired  There it was  Dylan Thomas’ “.. spellbound horses walking warm Out of the whinnying green stable….” the garden… the misty ghostly garden that more and more is like a fading dream going forever from these promised lands….

There was also the moon.  We spoke of the moon all night long.  That woman in the moon with lips pursed,  sometimes a wobbly O in astonishment, or maybe she was just smelling the flowers in her midnight garden…

Tight buds everywhere like chubby brides popping out of their wedding dress.

And my two trees, they were hurried on by the heat almost drenched in the white froth and then they just froze like the lady in the moon.   They stood like elongated pears bursting inside with some secret fragrant nectar,  tipping into the whiteness into the misty shrouds, the fog of flowers… drinking in long draughts of cool air like water….

The ants came out just as I was finishing the salad.  Why did they come out just then, why?  You said that ants seem clean.  Yes, they do seem clean I always thought that too.  Sometimes when I’m cooking if I get one or two on my hands or in the salad plate and I  accidentally eat them I don’t mind. But when you are having an Easter dinner and the sink and counters are crawling with  hundreds of ants they don’t seem very clean… the worst part is you have to go and start killing a lot of things just before you sit down to eat….

Why did they come out just then?   Why is the world so deeply green why is the river gushing out of my house why am I always in the middle of Noah’s flood why can’t I be the whale that got away… the whale not being always slaughtered but floating far away instead of  drowning in the ocean’s blood?

Guests come and gone, laughter, wine, and sparkling water, Arancina and clementine  Italian soda….. there were no hors’ d’oeuvres it is not traditional to do hors d’oeuvres for Ukrainian Easter….but they probably wished there had been hors d’ oeuvres.. just a little something because some people had gotten up at 4:00 a.m. to read and study and dress and be at church… we couldn’t care less about that we were too busy guzzling all the wine…..

There were babkas  (a bit dry and there was not enough grated orange rind… though I put in two oranges worth…. I should have put in orange juice like my cousin said…..) .. There was sweet butter and Brie, beet-horseradish relish, asparagus soup with saffron, and ham, a big gorgeous juicy ham from some bucolic Wisconsin town, potato salad,  harissa-maple syrup roasted carrots with caramelized lemons, French green bean salad..sausages … big plump garlicky sausages but I cheated and got them from Trader Joe’s instead of that upscale butcher who lied to me about nitrates and gave me a lecture one day on how everything has nitrates…. I took the casings off and fried the sausages and they got golden sizzling brown almost crispy and left pools of fat all over the pan..

It was all good but not good enough… there was Ukrainian modern  (modern meaning less work) cheesecake with strawberries… I was going to cook them to make a strawberry sauce, but my sister said not to cook them but to sprinkle them with a little sugar to release the juice.  It worked.  They almost tasted like real strawberries, but no not really, not like the strawberries my grandmother ate…..

That Moroccan carrot dish would have been fabulous but I cooked it four hours early and got distracted when I was complaining to you about all the work.. I pulled it out just in time but the lemons were charred.. almost black. Then I put it in the oven to warm and forgot about it again when I was frantically making a last minute salad… they were ruined, but one of the guests liked it the best and asked for the recipe… my Ukrainian Easter dinner was not a real Ukrainian Easter dinner.  I cheated at every twist and turn, but in the end it’s always about Mama.  She’s not here anymore.  There is no Ukrainian Easter without Mama.

You told me that you saw all the families in the old neighborhood walking by with their Easter baskets Saturday, walking to church.  All dressed up, polished, brushed and gleaming.  The baskets full of Babkas and paskas decorated with flowers, birds and braids… pysanky.. those intricate Easter eggs… I still have a dish of them from Aunt Irene and forgot to take them out.   Forgetting something that basic that Ukrainian!  I took them out at the last minute and hurriedly placed them on the buffet.  No one even noticed them in the last minute chaos..

I see them now walking to church, the real Ukrainians….. and smell the fragrant yeast raised breads so yolky golden, some with 30 eggs… the real Ukrainian sausages from that grouchy old butcher, butter with delicate etchings of flowers and herbs, magenta beets, long sausages curled up like anacondas….the embroidered cloths from someone’s baba in Ukraine.. some still have their mamas and babas and papas…. the incense.. how I miss the incense at 4:00 a.m. at the old Ukrainian cathedral and coming home with Mama and you.. icy cold vodka at 8:30 a.m.. How hungry we were!  How sleepy!  How grateful!  How bracing and fiery the vodka was and how Mom’s cheeks glowed… How delicious was that holy babka of hers and only now, fourteen years later, do I know.

Then 11:00 p.m. food all put away, suddenly a deafening silence everywhere…. I walked outside for a moment and saw I think a full moon, I think I saw some stars…   Ten or twenty stars, maybe thirty if I looked hard at this 21st century sky.. and went back inside almost collapsing on the chair…  flowers everywhere.. yellow alstroemerias surrounded by huge Casablanca lilies about to open…  the sun surrounded by snow, egg yolks swaddled in their shells,.  There were bouquets of daffodils  everywhere quietly exuding secret scents of longing in tiny puffs of baby’s breath…… I told my neighbor next door that daffodils smell nice and Saturday afternoon we walked around all the daffodils in the garden and stuck our faces in them…. we smelled licorice, lemon, orange, tarragon, mint, someone’s icy apple breath, …. I remembered my mother and how one late spring she walked me around her garden introducing me to all the pansies and touching their little blue and purple heads to show me their faces….

The radio in the kitchen was on all evening and this year all the music was sublime… “Fur Elise”, ” Clair de Lune”,  Chopin Etudes even the rain one .. old recordings of Paderewski playing…. and then Bach and the low voices of the FM radio announcers like  a kindly doctor telling you you’re going to die …

I thought I felt thunder smelled lightening but it was the strong dizzying scent of the Easter lilies opening up just then during a Bach cantata.. just for me, just for me in that sad and terrifying confusion… because something was missing all night long… all week long… something was lost and something was running away and something was closing all the doors and something was trying to open all the windows but couldn’t get in… and something was banging again all night long and something was calling and I didn’t answer…the house still smelled of wax and candle smoke.. the scent of lilies overpowering and the Bach cantata almost roaring through the empty smoking rooms, while the White Trees outside were getting more white more ghostly more beautiful and I could feel them swaying to the music glowing under the moonlight drinking from the heavenly waters falling from the sky…













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The Birds are Singing Madly

The birds are singing madly.  Madly, joyously, outrageously.  If you sang like that I would love you forever.  And ever.   Not once did a bird make me angry, or sad, or confused.  They just are.  Perfect beauty, grace, joy.  Until they shit on your head.

I don’t know why I thought that.  Because it is.   The most beautiful thing will eventually shit on your head.  Things will fall apart.  Things will die. Things will get twisted and turned around in your stomach and head.  Your feet and hands will tingle from nerves.  Mine are doing that now, but it’s my fault.  Coffee.  I drink and drink and drink this coffee until it rots the guts inside.  No more bread, eggs, cheese or pancakes, bacon or God forbid, yogurt and granola, or something dry and hard like Cheerios.

Last night at the grocery store everything stood out in glaring neon. All the boxes, jars, cans, plastic.  Anesthetized food in jars. Slop. Dry. Pellets. As though we are pellet eating creatures now…. everything looked fake, false, artificial. Miles and miles of frozen seafood, burgers, various meats, pizzas and rolls and TV dinners… tasting of seas gone bad….grasses gone astray… I have eaten so much fake food I can’t talk walk think or sleep anymore…..

Walking home in the dark last night…. birds were murmuring in the trees and the shrubs…

All my bones ached last night and the grocery bags were so heavy.  I was wearing those stupid Mephisto shoes that look good but make me fall.  I had to pretend I was walking on stilts all the way home…. carefully, gingerly, like a prowler stalking myself….it felt like cancer.. what happened to my bones!  Then I remembered I told Jane about that article I read that said for stronger bones you should jump up and down forty times a day… Twenty in the morning and twenty more at night… then we jumped right there and then she and I, up and down like teenage girls doing double dutch…. she was wearing sensible shoes but I was in these stupid Mephistos….. I must have shaken up my bones so bad….

It’s Palm Sunday and I should think about beautiful things.  Calm, peaceful, joyous things.   I walked around the garden this morning but it was already late.  The cars were out and people were out…. the feeling of a new world.. the one you get at 5:30 a.m. was not there.  There were large brown oak leaves scattered on the lawn.  The two large trees across the street by the school hold on to their leaves forever… they are large, dull brown and crinkly and all over my lawn.   Because those gardeners yesterday came to do the school’s cleanup and they used those leaf blowers…. the scourge of modern gardening.  They blew those leaves so relentlessly so long and hard and created a tornado of dusty brown wind that blew everything to me.  Just after I washed all the windows, blinds and shutters.   I went  and opened the front door and wanted  to scream my head off at them but I just stared.. they stared back..

It’s Easter week and I have to be quiet, calm and meditative. Peaceful ….but the more I meditate on the way things are the less peaceful I become……

Peace is hard when all you hear is war, bombs, and chemical warfare on men and women, children and babies… little babies dying from nerve gas… What can I do?  Nothing.  I can do nothing, because I seethe inside even at little things, the little things that are inconsequential.  People and their noises.. their daily little life noises…. even dogs and cats bother me… I saw a cat on the way home and wanted to shout  “Bird eater!” but left it alone.. the cat probably felt the same about me…..   the leaf  blowing men I could have blown them to bits… but it’s their job… they barely make $9.00 dollars an hour, they don’t even wear masks and all that dust is going right into their lungs…. one day they’ll have asthma or COPD or lung cancer….or one day they won’t —they will just keep blowing and blowing the leaves forever… and I will keep blowing my mind out…

I could have just given them a rake.  Who remembers rakes anymore? I love rakes.. the quiet sound of rakes… now I have to put it in that memory bank like Sherlock Holmes…

A mass of daffodils are blooming out front.  The big creamy white/ yellow ones… some of the Hellebores  dusty pink.. the little almond tree has hundreds of tiny buds and when it explodes in a big froth any day now I will be happy because it looks like a ballerina dancing on my lawn…

I could have another cup of coffee but that would make three or four I have lost count…my insides already feel like they are rotting out.. I also now have acid reflux from that bread I ate..  from La Brea bakery in LA, that wonderful organic artisan bakery that makes real bread.. Well this real bread even.. is making me sick.. What have we done to the wheat, oats, rye, the spelt and the corn……

Ah, I wish I was a farmer again..  long ago.. a farmer with big fat ruddy cheeks  surrounded by goats and chickens and pigs and cows and meadows… oh don’t tell me about the work, I know about the work, the weeding, sowing, harvesting, pulling and digging back-breaking work of farms and farm life.. how little you get for all that work… ah but the eggs and the bacon and the hams and potatoes and flapjacks and syrup and jams and jellies that old woman made… the sound of the birds that morning the distant whacking of your neighbor getting up early, earlier than you and whacking something.. whacking weeds or grasses or his corn that is rotting in his fields from too much rain..or maybe that old woman is whacking her carpets whacking them to blow the dust out…. remember that?  Whacking things to get them clean.  Soap and water and hands. And maybe an old tennis racket…

I have had too much rain now.. way too  much…. there is a duck pond across the street in the bowl of grass near the park.. duck and geese swim there now and look happy… they glide and gliding is nice reminds me of Joni Mitchell and her river she could “skate away on…”   There are large pools of water around the oaks, maples, lindens and evergreens all over town… large dark pools of water.. I thought the trees might be uprooted or drown.. then when I think of it… I like the water.. dark inky pools of water, cold and deep… I remember last July and August when I had to water three gardens.  My neighbors to the east and west and mine.. there was no rain in July and August no rain at all and I watered and watered and cursed ..what is worse too much water or none at all ?

The birds don’t curse.  They just sing and fly.  Sing murmur chatter.  But they can get out of hand too and fight sometimes… everything fights and fights on this planet.

The man next door is playing basketball and the Thud!  Thud!  Thud!  is getting on my nerves…. bone shattering thuds thuds thuds.. I wish he would thud away to another place… all the ball whacking hitting  bouncing  ball players I wish they would find  another planet all the noise they make with those balls… they and the leaf blowers should find their own leaf whacking ball thudding planet and …

I will stay here with the birds. Invite them to dinner, sing a duet maybe with them… make them tiny bird cocktails.  I will fill the bird bath with Cosmopolitans or maybe Elderberry wine.. Tequila maybe for the crows… birds make good drinking companions.. While you complain and complain, whine and whine about this world and the infernal noise and dirt, the whacking idiots everywhere.. the birds just sing sing sing and maybe when they get good and tired of you they will do what they do best… or maybe they will take pity on you, and tie a very long string around your neck as though you were a kite, and take you far away into the skies, away from this God forsaken planet… or maybe the birds may decide you are not worth it… they may just decide to fly away for good, birds can still fly,  and then flying away as you look up at them longingly, your last hope of escape,  those pretty little birds may just decide to drop something, on your stupid little head…..









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The Moon Saying Goodbye

I should have known how it would be today.   Something was wrong the moment I got up. Fear of weather again.  Blizzards. Snow two feet deep.  Rain and snow, freezing cold and  then sixty degrees.   The sky opening up and falling, falling down on you. I fell down three times this week. I was walking straight up as a pin and the next thing I knew I was on the ground sideways.  Then it happened again and I was on my hands and knees.  A third time it happened at the corner while I was fumbling for that stupid iPhone and it and the purse and I went flying.   My bones must still be pretty strong because I got right up dusted myself off and went on. My knees look like someone whacked them with a baseball bat, but the bruises are so pretty like the dusty blues, purples, greys, and golds of some other planet’s skies…. just like your eyes that winter you fell down and painted a picture of what falling did to you…

It was grey and the snow had already landed. The world white again.  I walked on the path along the park and the daffodils, tulips, and irises were covered in snow.  One daffodil at that Polish doctor’s house was already blooming and now looked sad lying down. Like a what?  A what?  Flowers in the snow are weird.  The last time I remember flowers in the snow completely was May 8 the year my father died.  The snow covered all the tulips and not just the leaves like now. These tulips were already blooming in red, white, pink, and yellow and they were covered in snow.  A robin had died in the garden too. There were drops of blood all the way to the back door.  I have witnesses. They all saw it– snowy tulips and a dead robin who had also just had enough.

Something keeps falling from the roof or maybe the gutters or eaves.  It comes crashing down sometimes like rock or gravel down a mountain. Very early this morning there was a very loud crash like someone coming through the door.  Ordinarily I would fly out of bed and run downstairs to see what the commotion was.  Put up my dukes look for a bat or rolling pin for protection.   I just lay there.  I didn’t even care.  Come in if you want.   Rob me murder me.  Throttle me.  Nothing could batter me any more than this life already has the last few years.

It was probably just the ice and snow, some animal getting caught in it. Gnawing on the icicles, eating the snow.  Rolling around in it like some drug. I would love some drugs. To make everything go away.  I know now why Johnnie used to drink Chardonnay in the morning before he went to work.  He had enough too.  He’s dead now.  I used to give him advice on how to keep going.   Eat better..  exercise.  Walk.  Listen to music.  The best one:  “Johnnie, go out and buy yourself a little plant,  a violet, or cyclamen or geranium and just put it on a table or windowsill and look at it, the beauty of the leaves, the flower shape, the perfume, though none of these have a perfume… water it, nurture it, take care of it…. see how the light shoots through the cyclamen and turns it into a blazing bird…..”   He only loved his cat.   And booze.  Books. And his harmonica.   He couldn’t care less about flowers….I gave him recipes told him how to make simple nutritious foods….. thinking back now I realize how futile it all was… he must have laughed at me or worse, cursed my  hollow advice…. because I understand completely now how you can just drink yourself to death….

Or maybe take a hike into the mountains on a very windy snowy day.  Just walk and walk until you turn blue all over and freeze to death.  Anesthesia. Oliver Reed’s character did that in “Women in Love”. I always loved Oliver Reed.  His big brute of a body and face.  A fighter, who even in real life fought like some hooligan.  Bar fights, women fights, war fights.  Turning blue, walking in that blizzard he looked sort of happy…sorta kinda maybeish…these are not real words…they are fake words…..

I tried to explain snow to a woman I shared a cab with the other night from the opera.  The mystery and magic, the absolutely muted silence of a snowy day, that turns even a very ugly urban street into a panorama of transcendental beauty… a zen dream an ancient breath an earth shattering silence  ” I have had enough of this white stuff”!  she said.     “… enough already.. I hate winter.. I can’t wait for it to be over… I  love the desert… the cactus  they are sooooooo beautiful…..”. Even though we have only had a few days of winter and basically spring for two months…. she bemoaned the white snow and was so adamant about it,  I just finally shut up as the cab rolled on and the snow made everything silent…it even turned the land along the expressways more beautiful  the sky more starry the moon more translucent… the alley we pulled up in behind her house was snowy and white and the trees were in full bud, and seemed to be sighing…

The moon this morning.  I felt something behind me looking at my back, and I turned around suddenly even though I knew I might fall again…. there was snow and ice and melted spots…. the moon — I had to see it, I could feel it watching me… so like Orpheus longing for Eurydice I turned around for a quick look…it was a slice of pale mother of pearl…. a very thin slice pasted on the grey almost opalescent sky but the moon even more opalescent..so thin, as though someone had taken off a piece with a razor….

The moon was tilted back as though someone had given it a gentle shove.. like someone sitting in the garden in the summer on the lawn in a semi comfortable chair and it tilts back a little and the mouth makes a little oops I think I’m falling…. the eyes slightly wide and the eyebrows arched… the moon looked more ghostly more feminine more alive and more sad, just like a little puff of air soon to be gone……

The moon had a mouth and it was definitely open and it was trying to tell me something.     It seemed to be sighing and it almost looked afraid as though all the planets in the sky were heaving as though all the snow in the world will suddenly be falling and everything alive will be drowning… but I kept walking and walking and breathing and I kept thinking  about Oliver Reed and his blue face walking up that mountain the icicles forming on his eyebrows and eyelashes and his lips almost freezing, and even though he was freezing he seemed happy and the moon even though it was slipping away just barely lighting up the sky it appeared to be smiling and shimmering and breathing slowly slowly and almost evaporating into a new shining planet even though to me it was only saying goodbye….















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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 think..my 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.



Posted in Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Ukrainian stories | 1 Comment