A ZUIHITSU For the IDES of APRIL “Friday the 13th comes on a Thursday this month.” ~Churchill LaFemme (Walt Kelly) My youngest sister married a widower on a Friday the 13th in Lent. She had to clean the first wife’s clothes out of the closet when she moved into his house. Her choice of a date was criticized. Eventually she and her husband had 7 cats. She died on a Sunday in June, twelve years later. “I soften with my sunshine and my showers/ The heart of earth,” H.W. Longfellow wrote in his poem “April.” It recently occured to me that he was referencing Chaucer, whose “smale foweles maken melodye,/That slepen al the nyght with open ye,/So priketh hem Nature in hir corages.” However, I disagree with Henry’s choice of Zodiac figures: it’s hard to see April as a bull, no matter how wreathed his horns. I prefer Chaucer’s ram. My maternal grandmother died in April. So did two of our cats and one of our dogs. An old colleague of mine just died and another is dying, as is my 101 year old godmother. What’s up with that? It will be warmer than 80 degrees today. If anyone dares say to me that it’s “lovely” or something similar, I might knock them down. Yesterday, I found an enormous blob of springtails in the ephemeral stream that runs through the gully below our house, thousands of them. Tens of thousands of them, with more drifting in. Strangely, they are not considered insects, but Collembola and there are perhaps 8,200 species of them. There can be as many as 300 million in an acre of land. I looked at a few with a hand lens. They are charming little things with six legs and antennae. They appear purposeful, and seem to engage with one another. Maybe “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love” in spring, but it seems old women’s heavily turn to the pains in hips and feet and how gardening gets harder every year. That’s hardly fancy, however. Just simple fact. Five fanciful things: 1. The clay troll I made to guard the pallet bridge over the gully. 2. Mermaids. 3. Dragons. 4. Forty red tulips sending forth leaves in the vegetable garden. 5. Trying to write a zuihitsu on a hot April day.
Category Archives: Humans and Other Animals
O Again: 7. Emmanuel
O Again --£…≥÷¢* 7. O Emmanuel (already) O God-with-us in NICU bassinets and nursing homes and truck cabs and warehouses. God-with-us-now on battlefields and bombshelters in churches and congress (even there). God-already-with-us dashing through the snow on city sidewalks in the bleak mid-winter. O. That’s all. Just O. *(cat typing. Why not here, too?)
O Again: 6. O Not
O Again 6. O Rex* (O dear) No. Just no. No king. It never works. Even so-called good ones. Not even a god because nobody has ever agreed about which, or how. What we need is the desire bit. O Desideratus. O Desire for kindness, O Desire for compassion, O Desire for joy, O Desire for peace. O Desire. Amen. *"King of nations and their desire."
O Again: 3. O Clavis
O Again 4. O Clavis O Key, O keys. I lost my Irish grandfather’s keys on a sidewalk in the snow. O necklace of skeleton keys. But I have his broken clock, and photos of his children glued in a celluloid box. O keys, lost keys. I was afraid of Opa who spoke Russian and German and Polish but whose English was remote. I have his silver and porcelain wine tray painted with plums. O lost Clavis, O Radix lost.
O Again: 3. O Radix
O AGAIN 3. O Radix (misread) O Root. Before coffee, I read: Root of Jesse standing as a sign among the peonies. Huh. People, not peonies. Had peonies once. Tried to do them in because botrytis blight. They kept sprouting. Radix, root, radish, etc. If you plant a grafted apple tree and bury the graft by mistake, the original takes over. Radical thought.
THE ANTIPHONS RETURN: 1. O Sapienta
O Again 1. O Sapienta (Fifty Years later) Holy Wisdom sets things in order. If there is an order to set. If there are indeed things. Moreover, what does it mean to be wise? Premise: Holy Wisdom might show us the path of knowledge. Why would that be a path and how, precisely, might it be revealed? Furthermore, what can be known? O Sapienta: Holy Wisdom. A good night to conceive a philosopher on an unheated waterbed in a cold bedroom. We didn’t have a clue.
JUST ASKING Why do you keep feeding us? We don’t give you much: a few bones, some onion skins, now and then something like a token of pinecones and twigs or a lanyard we made at camp. You’re tired, I know. You look tired. And old. All those wrinkles and cracks. And you don’t smell so good, not any more, not even after the rain. What happened to your jewels— those little birds and buggy things? Are you letting yourself go? I wouldn’t blame you since we don’t seem to care much about how you look, or what you do. And where would you go? And when we’re hungry, where will we? Thanksgiving, 2022
This one from the milkweed growing against
all odds on the edge of my driveway or
one of those rescued from a predator
in Polly’s patch. Remember the story
that one might change the weather of the world?
Maybe not the movement of its wings.
Maybe just the vision: that brave orange
and black animal, fragile against a leaf,
blown across the sky, what it’s like to change
that way, and who knows who, seeing it, will change?
BREAKING THE NEWS
BREAKING THE NEWS by Mary F. C. Pratt This play was part of a 24 hour play festival from "The Garden of Voices," a producer of podcasts like "old fashioned radio dramas." We started at 7 p.m. The playwrights had till 9 a.m. to send the scripts to the producer, and the directors and actors had till 7 that evening to rehearse. The plays were then presented live on Zoom, and will be available later as a podcast. The participants decided on a charity--Planned Parenthood--and came up with some themes that fit in with the charity's mission. I chose these: Generational differences in mentality of what families should be. Young couple deciding if it's the right time to start a family CHARACTERS SUSAN A retired teacher, in her 70s. JENNIFER Susan’s stepdaughter, a businesswoman in her fifties. JASON Jennifer’s son, working the gig economy. In his twenties. SETTING A coffee shop. The present. At “Rise”: Coffee shop sounds. SUSAN is seated. JASON Hi Gram. Thanks so much for coming. SUSAN Not a problem. What are grandmothers for? JASON Cookies? Birthday presents? Moral support? SUSAN All of the above. Where’s your mother, speaking of moral support? JASON She texted awhile ago to say she’s running late. Some meeting she can’t get out of. SUSAN Well, okay then. This will give us a chance to get caught up. I’ve hardly seen you since you’ve been driving that delivery truck. JASON I know, right? Weird hours. But it’s the best job I’ve had for awhile. Anyhow. It’s good to see you, Gram. SUSAN Likewise. I’ve missed you. So what’s up? All you said was you didn’t want to talk to your mother alone. It sounds serious, kid. What’s going on? JASON Well, it is kind of serious. Oh, I don’t know. Maybe we should wait till Mom gets here. SUSAN Why? So you won’t have to repeat yourself, or because you don’t want her knowing that you talk to me sometimes when she’s not around? JASON Ha. All of the above. Can you read my mind? SUSAN Of course not. It’s just that it’s a lot like mine. JASON Yeah, it is, isn’t it? And that’s weird because I’m not even related to you. SUSAN Be that as it may. Your grandfather is related to you, and I’ve been married to him long enough to know how his mind works. JASON Um. Not like mine for sure. SUSAN Exactly. Now what’s going on? JASON Well, you know Darcy? SUSAN Of course I know Darcy. You’ve been together two years. JASON Three. SUSAN Wow, already. But yes, I know Darcy. JASON Well—we’ve been thinking about having a baby. SUSAN You and Darcy? JASON Yeah, Gram. Me and Darcy. SUSAN Of course. You just caught me by surprise there. Your mother will have a shit fit. But I guess you know that or you wouldn’t have asked me to be here. JASON Yeah, she will. And it’s weird because you won’t. Have a fit. I mean, you aren’t, right? And I knew you wouldn’t. And she’s younger than you, no offense. I mean, obviously because you’re her stepmother and all, but. . . SUSAN Well, technically I could be her stepmother and younger than she, you know. If your grandfather had married somebody very young after your real grandmother died. JASON Hey, you are my real grandmother. Cut it out. SUSAN I know, I know. And you are definitely my real grandson. So, real grandson, your mother will have a fit. That’s a given. How about your father? JASON Wbo knows? I don’t care. I haven’t seen him forever. He’s never even met Darcy. All the family that matters is you and Grandpa and Mom. Would it bother Grandpa? SUSAN Of course not. He’s all about live and let live. You know that. JASON Yeah. He didn’t bat an eye about Darcy. SUSAN We’re old hippies you know, sweetie. We invented sex and drugs and rock and roll and shacking up. “Living together without benefit of clergy” they used to call it. How quaint is that? JASON So what happened to Mom? How come she’s so—straight? SUSAN She got religion. And—she rebelled, right? Goes both ways. Our parenting style was pretty casual, to say the least. JASON Yeah, but you married Grandpa. I mean, you weren’t like in a commune or something. SUSAN Okay. All right then. So, Jason, you and Darcy want to have a baby? JASON Ooops. Here comes Mom. (Door opens, JENNIFER enters.) SUSAN Jennifer, over here! JENNIFER (From the counter.) I’m going to grab a coffee and I’ll be right there. Though God only knows I don’t need more. SUSAN Take your time. (To JASON) Okay. You’re on. And no matter what, I’ve got your back. JASON I’m really nervous about this. SUSAN Of course you are. It will be fine. Really. JENNIFER (Comes to the table.) So what are you two plotting? Jason, you look so guilty. And so do you, Sue. What are you plotting? SUSAN The revolution, what else? JENNIFER It wouldn’t surprise me. God only knows we need one. We need something. The traffic on Main Street, even before rush hour, is as bad as rush hour. And the price of gas! And now they want to raise our property taxes again, and for what? And clearly the government’s gone to hell. SUSAN Jennifer dear, we know all about the world. It is a mess. We agree. So let’s not talk about that. We all agree it’s a mess. We’re here because Jason has something to say that’s even more important than property taxes. Jason? JASON Yeah. Well. Um. Mom. Darcy and me are thinking about having a baby. We’ve pretty much decided to. I mean, it isn’t completely definite yet, but we’re pretty serious. JENNIFER What? A baby? SUSAN No need to inform the whole café, Jennifer. It is exciting, but still. This is a family matter. JENNIFER Exciting? Exciting? It’s appalling. Jason! I thought you’d outgrown this business. I mean, living with Darcy without being married, but now this. . . JASON Mom, you’re the one who didn’t want us to get married, remember? You thought it would blow over. Well it didn’t. We really love each other. And now we want to have a baby. JENNIFER But why? Whatever for? With the world going to pieces, and you don’t have a real job— SUSAN When your father and mother had you, Jennifer, the world was going to pieces, too. The war in Viet Nam was going on and on, we all figured the Soviets would nuke us, we were just beginning to understand about how bad air and water pollution were. And, well, my dear, we had no real jobs. Your dad was doing seasonal apple picking when your mom got pregnant. JENNIFER But he went to college. He became a professor. He wasn’t just a—a barrista, or a van driveror whatever. SUSAN When your mother got pregnant, your father was a dope-smoking wanna-be artist, Jennifer, and your mother thought she was the next Edna St. Vincent Millay. I was a budding herbalist, pardon the pun. Your father didn’t go to college until after you were born, after we were married. I was there. I know. JENNIFER But he always told me. . . SUSAN I know what he always told you, and I never corrected him. You were conceived on a commune, presumably by your father. You survived your birth, but your mother, who was my dearest friend, didn’t. And your father never wanted you to know because it was so awful and so hard and because, yes, he managed to make something of his life after all. JASON Wow, Gram. JENNIFER Sue, I didn’t. . . . SUSAN I know. And it’s all right. Those were the best of times and the worst of times. It was crazy, but we thought we’d change the world. We really thought we would. And we really loved one another out there on the farm, and it all sort of worked for awhile. You were the second baby born there, and we were all so happy till your mom started bleeding and we didn’t get her to the hospital in time, and she died and it all just fell apart after that. It all just fell apart. JENNIFER But I thought she. . . SUSAN I know, Jennifer. I know. Your dad and I will sit down with you later and tell you the whole story. JENNIFER Sue. . . SUSAN But this conversation is about Jason and Darcy. And by the way, Jason is not what you call “just a”van driver or “just a” anything. He’s a responsible person, trying to make a living in a hard world. And Darcy is a law clerk, for goodness’ sake. So even though the world is going to hell, they’re as equipped as anybody to be parents. Better equipped than we were, believe me. JENNIFER I don’t know what to say. SUSAN Try saying nothing. JASON Uh, Mom? You okay? JENNIFER I don’t know. I’m not sure. I don’t know what to think. I didn’t know any of that. I thought Dad and Mom lived in a house with a bunch of people when they were in college. I didn’t know it was a—commune. I’m going to—I’m going to the restroom. I have to go put some water on my face. I’ll be right back. JASON You sure you’re okay, Mom? JENNIFER I will be. I will be okay. This is just a lot. I’ll be okay. (Exits.) JASON Grandma! SUSAN Yeah? JASON Is that for real? I mean, all that weird stuff about grandpa and drugs and communes? SUSAN Of course it’s real. You’ve seen the photos of us on the farm. JASON Yeah, but I didn’t know it was—I mean, I didn’t know it was something like that. Mom said it was when you were in college, like she said. SUSAN Sweetie, I told you we invented sex, drugs and rock and roll. Flower power. All you need is love, right? And your grandpa and I don’t talk about it much because—well, we just don’t. It’s our past and it’s hard to get younger people to understand what it was like. Like we didn’t understand our parents growing up in the depression and World War Two. And your kids won’t understand you growing up in the trump and covid and climate change years. JASON Thanks, Gram. SUSAN For what? It isn’t over yet. Your mom will have more to say. JASON I know But thanks just for saying that about my kids not understanding. My kids. Mine and Darcy’s. Or kid. I think we might only try for one. SUSAN Here she comes. JENNIFER (Entering.) There. I feel a little better. I can handle this. Okay. So Jason, maybe you can handle parenthood. It will be harder for you than it was for your father and me, but maybe not as hard as it was for your grandparents. I get that. I think. But Jason—- JASON Yeah? JENNIFER You’re going to adopt, right? I mean, Darcy’s a—man. JASON Yeah, but no, Mom. We’re planning to—I mean we’re thinking about—trying for a biological one. JENNIFER But Darcy’s. . . JASON He has a uterus, Mom. JENNIFER But Jason. That’s—-what will people think? What will— SUSAN What will the neighbors say? Is that what you mean, Jennifer? Is that what you’re worried about? JENNIFER Well, it’s just—unnatural. It’s too strange, Jason. It’s just too strange and unnatural and you just shouldn’t do it. If God wanted men to have babies— SUSAN . . . he would have given them uteruses? Or is it uteri? In this case, Jennifer, that’s exactly what God, or whatever, has done. (Brief silence, and an increase in coffee shop sounds.) JENNIFER Oh. Oh. I didn’t think of that. There’s so much I don’t understand. The world is so complicated. I just don’t understand anything any more. SUSAN Has anybody ever understood anything? Really understood anything? JENNIFER Well, I always thought I would someday. When I got to be your age, maybe. Sue, don’t you understand at least some things? SUSAN Nope. Hardly anything. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. Life goes on. And now you get to look forward to being a grandmnother yourself. That is, if Jason and Darcy decide to go through with it. Are you going to, sweetie? JASON Well, yeah. We’ve pretty much decided to. We were just hoping Mom wouldn’t mind too much. And, well, we’d kinda like to get married first. Do you mind that now, Mom? JENNIFER It will take—well. It will take some getting used to. Seeing Darcy pregnant? Okay. I think I can do that. I always liked Darcy. And sure. Clearly you two love each other, so get married. I think JENNIFER (Cont.) it’s time. My son-in-law, the mother of my grandchild. It sounds strange, but—yes. I can say it. Can’t I, Sue? My son-in-law, the mother of my grandchild! I like it! JASON Thanks, Mom. Love you. JENNIFER I love you, too. And oh! Look at the time! I’ve got to run. I’ve got to get dinner on the table before choir practice. ‘Bye! SUSAN ‘Bye, Jennifer. I am proud of you. JENNIFER Thanks, Sue. ‘Bye. JASON Weird. I all worked way better than I thought it would. What happened? SUSAN Stories work. Perspective works. And love, Jason. Love works. We’re among the lucky ones, you know? Love’s not all you need, but—it’s most of it. JASON Thanks, Gram. SUSAN Any time. End of Play
the world, the flesh
An unexpected poem.
the world, the flesh They did it to me when I was too young to resist: in my name they renounced my skin, my heart, my lungs, my sex, my brain, my little fingers. They renounced my senses, my fears, my hungers, my animal urgency. They renounced the world. The deserts and trees, mountains and seas, everyone who crawls and swims and flies: denizens of the dirt, tigers and dogs and whales. They don’t have souls the story goes, and all that matters is what isn’t. When the trout lily leaves emerged, when the bears came out of their winter dens, when the buds swelled on the maples, every spring we remembered our renunciation. How strange when the empty tomb recalls the garden and the flesh. I repent. I reclaim all I was taught, along with the devil, to renounce. Beginning with this patch of ground where rotting trunks flower out their fruits, where robins overturn the unraked leaves and acorns sprout along the edges of the unmown grass.