Thursday, August 27, 2009

Live As If You Mean It


There's this woman that works in Walgreen's down the street who is so deeply unhappy it stuns me.

It's the thing you notice first about her, that and her size. Then you notice her voice, nasally and depressed. When she speaks, it drops an octave or two at the end of every sentence, as if she's let it go into a deep dark well and doesn't care if she ever hears the splash. She just doesn't care. I think she feels that way about her whole life, really, as if it were an unwanted and diseased baby and someone dropped it on its little head and she doesn't care to pick it up, to comfort or to heal it. I can't tell if something bad has happened to make her this way, or if she is this way by nature, born to be miserable and not wild at all.

Sometimes I worry that I am secretly as morose as she is, but then I laugh and shake my head. Once, maybe, when I was 17 and pregnant, rising at 5:30 a.m. to go to work at Dunkin' Donuts, I appeared that miserable. I was exhausted and worried, serving people with such tiredness and lack of care about what I was doing, not looking into the faces of my also weary customers. One brave woman reprimanded me at 7:15 a.m. one Thursday morning, she really did: "Can't you smile?" she said sharply. "We come in here for our coffee," and here she looked around at her fellow coffee getters, "a little pick-me-up before work and we don't want to be greeted by your unhappy face." Or words to that effect; it was such a long time ago who can remember the exact words, but it stung and embarrassed me and stuck with me for a long time.

She must be, if I have to guess, in her mid-20's, this woman in Walgreen's, but her energy, her movements, are of a tired old woman who has seen so much of life that it's worn her out and now she's just waiting for it to end. Even her hair is tired, some thinning no-color grayish blonde. I can't tell if she dyes it or was born with it that way, the sense of listlessness endemic to who she is.

I say the polite thing as I get to the check out counter: how are you, I say, being casual and a bit wary, because I know how this goes. "By tomorrow at this time," she sighs, "I will have worked 33 hours this week," and she looks into my face for some response. I just look at her. What should I say? Any sympathy I might genuinely have for the many hours she's been on her feet is swallowed up, is swamped by her oozing self-pity. I feel no sympathy for her, because she has too much for herself. She wants you to commiserate with her, co-sign her displeasure at life. She never asks how I am, she just sighs and tells me how she can't wait to get out of work and go home.

She never once has anything hopeful or cheerful or cheering or enlightened to say. She is never anything but tired and unhappy and self-centered. I hope I am never like that, not for two lousy (additional) minutes, ever. She's asleep on her feet, sleep walking through her own life all the time, and she doesn't even know it, she can't see it. I want to shake her, tell her to snap out of it, to wake up! This is your life, honey, for God's sake, no one but you made it this way, all those little choices you make every day make it this way. Do something about it if you don't like it. Get up tomorrow morning and be a different person if you want, a cheerful person, one with hope and a sparkle in your eye, a dream in your heart and a kind word for your neighbor. Do what Hitch said and start every day like you mean it, with passion and pride and intention. Fake it if you must, my dear, until it becomes real. And smile once in a while. Just try it -- it won't hurt, I promise. I bet it won't hurt one tiny little bit at all.

August 27, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Woods


On a walk just this morning

or maybe it was yesterday

a little gray rabbit shot into the path

and skittered and scattered

away ahead of me

its little white tail bipping and bopping

like a little motor on a boat

pushing it faster as if the rabbit’s life

depended on it

on speed and escape

and on getting away from me

which it didn’t.


The pond at the center

of these woods

is full of life -

dragonflies and skate bugs

and birds I’ve never seen

or heard before

and turtles aligned

like sentries on a log

resting and absorbing sunlight

and butterflies and bees at its edge

doing what they do best, which is

flitter and flutter and gather nectar

not hurrying or worrying

and staying out of each other’s way,

mostly, and with a flurry of buzzing wings

they apologize

when they bump into each other.


An army of frogs afloat on the water

serenely waits for brunch to fly by

because it’s that time of day

while other frogs chirrup and bark

yes bark, I mean it,

bark warnings to one another

leaping from the bank or the log

upon which they rest

leaping headlong and artlessly

with big noisy splashes

into the dark murky water

to hurry away

from danger

which is me.

August 17, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Brush with Divinity


In this dirty dark bar room

with the music too loud

my ears begin to ring

as a prelude to tomorrow

and the damage inflicted

by modern technology.


The tall guy I came with

has too much to drink,

knocking back shots 

at an alarming rate,

and swaying on his feet

he reaches for the door jamb

to steady himself. 

He bumps someone gently

in reaching for support

and since he's not a mean drunk

he apologizes profusely:  

“Oh shorry,” he says,

“Sho shorry.”


A new band takes the stage

the one he's raved about

the one we are here for

and the husky voiced woman 

voluptuous and pale

tattooed and wild haired

sexy in that grungy way

without really trying to be

sings and plays guitar

and sways to the beat

her eyes firmly closed

as if she is alone in the room

with her most intimate thoughts

but doesn't really give a shit

if she's not.


And the men in the room

are clearly drawn to her

invisibly strain toward her

wanting her, I swear

to notice them

come out of her trance

make contact with them

acknowledge they exist

see their love for her

see their lust for her

they don't really care which.


I tell you in all honesty

without any embarrassment

that I stand in that bar room

in that dirty dark bar room

and nearly weep in the darkness

because  ~ I know it's crazy

I really do know this ~

but their longing 

it seems to me

is that great human longing

to be one with the Other

the longing for Spirit

the longing for connection

the longing, I just know it

to be one with God.  


But the music plays on

and her eyes stay closed

and the bar room shuts down

and the people wander home

and none of them know

they don’t really know

how close they just came

to the Divine.


August 10, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Adrift on White Pond


Like the five-pointed star
that I am
I let myself float
on the water as if 
it were sky
held up by forces
I cannot control or see
or, I confess, 
truly understand.
Aloft and adrift on the water
I am an angel
my wings spread
my invisible feathers billowing out
from me, 
and I rest. 

I rest on the surface
of the water
knowing in my heart
and deep in my soul
deep in the core of my being 
that I am the water
that holds me up
I am that angel
with the powerful wings
I am that five-pointed star
that floats in the sky.
I am made 
of the very same material
as everything in the universe
there is no real difference 
between me and the water
between me and the star
between me and that angel
I long to be.

I float and drift 
knowing everything 
I touch and taste 
and feel and smell
knowing everyone I miss 
 ~ especially you ~
knowing those I love and 
can only imagine
that we are all the same
we are all one
there is no real difference
between any of us 
except the form we 
opt to take 
and the adventures 
we decide to embark on
and the lessons 
we choose to learn 
and the lessons
we choose to teach 
and yet

I know in my bones 
and in my heart
which is also your heart
that we are all the same
and yet so very different 
and we are all
so fiercely 
oh so very fiercely!
deeply, unequivocally
and irrevocably

August 1, 2009