Monday, May 31, 2004

Sunday, May 30, 2004

And Heartburn.


Green nubs along the saw-toothed leaf-edge seemed
like buds, like leaf from leaf begotten, pure
as parthenogenetics. But she knew
that nature doesn’t improvise. It sticks
to code as if it were a covenant
sap-signed and sealed. This was disease. Squatters
invaded, liked the digs and set up house,
happy as spirits in a pig. The gall.


Transcendental Etude VI

In her spotty and remote religious education there hadn't been a big emphasis on glossolalia. No one ever had, to her recollection, risen from the pews of Andover's West Parish Church and spoken in tongues. It would have been, at the very least, unseemly. In fact, a few years ago, she'd had to look up "Pentecost," completely unclear on its origins and significance. She'd been amused by Peter's rejoinder to the skeptics: They can't be drunk. It's nine o'clock in the morning ! And she'd liked the image of how people of all the disparate languages could understand what was being said -- as if the sign had been short-circuited and pure significance were pouring through, the antithesis of Babel.

She herself was tongue-tied. A quiet child. "Paula should," read all her report cards, "participate more in class." She hated the sound of her voice. Hated social gatherings, and the need to engage in small talk. Maybe that's what attracted her to Merton and the Carthusians -- all that blessed silence.

She'd seen a video of young people speaking in tongues. It had made her vaguely queasy. Like faith healing. Holy swoons. Revivals. Snake handlers.

In her imagination, a blank-eyed face looms: Have YOU accepted CHRIST as your personal savior ?

She sat in her car outside the gray stone church. Main Street, this long holiday weekend, was practically deserted. One block down the slightly dilapidated steeple of the Congregational Church dominated the ecclesiastic skyline of upper Main Street. It was, for the first time in weeks, a beautiful Sunday morning, cloudless, breezy, delightfully cool. She watched as a woman ducked into a basement entrance of a nearby office building. A small sign read Boston Meditation Group. Sunday Morning, indeed.

She took what was becoming her accustomed place in the sparsely populated pews -- right side, back, behind the dark pillar that announced the hymns. At the doorway, the combination of candlesmoke and organ music had given her a little Proustian frisson. A la recherce du Church perdu, indeed. How could she have lost something she'd never truly possessed ? True, she'd been baptized. She even remembered it. She was eight, her brother a toddler. They'd given her a Bible. It was inscribed: June 12, 1960. She still had it. The binding was a little worn, and, in college, she'd scribbled notes throughout Job (she'd written a paper) and doodled an unfortunate bespectacled and berobed preacher at the end of Ecclesiastes, saying "Man is but a vain beast. Vanity of Vanities. Oh my." He was, her label announced, "Koheleth, president of the Alexandria Anti-vivisection league." What was that all about ?

The organist -- she learned later he was a last minute ringer for someone sick -- fumbled his was through the prelude as she arranged her texts -- BCP, hymnal, bulletin -- and tried to compose herself. She felt uneasy. An intruder. An interloper. Conspicuous. Full of bad faith. A poseur. A fake. An imposter. Inauthentic. But she was trying. Sincerely. She'd gotten a book. The Anglican Vision. She'd learned about Vera Scudder, a Wellesley English professor, marxist, social activist, lesbian, devout and contemplative Anglican. An Episcopal Dorothy Day.

"This is impossible," she thought, squirming on the hard pew. "What am I doing here ?"

Sooner or later, she knew, she was going to have to deal with Jesus. She pictured him plopping down on the pew next to her, wearing an "I (Heart) Jesus" billed cap. Grinning at her. Jesus Christ, gadfly.

But for today it was the apostles. And the Holy Spirit. The priest, a wonderful and fluent speaker, precise and clear, gave his sermon from the aisle. He looked impressive in his white beard, white robe and red, pentecostal stole. He talked about the Holy Spirit and oneness. That was fine, practically Buddhist. And then, about mission. Mission ? Was the "E" word about to be spoken again ?

"What am I doing here," she thought again. It was a sincere question.

She entered the queue to communion, still fretting. The tall, stately man with Parkinson's was in front of her again. Plus another man wearing oxygen. She thought about incarnation and affliction. And compassion. Feeling together. Suffering together. God and humans. Humans and Humans. "In" Christ. All part of the Logos.

Suddenly, a seeing eye dog -- a big, quiet, German shepherd in a leather harness -- trotted out of a pew and headed toward the altar. Looking for its master.

She smiled. Could this be a sign ? A sign from dog ?

Someone, something, to evangelize her out of her blindness ?

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Earthly Delights

Spring Wildflowers, Charles River, Waltham, Massachusetts




Cow Vetch


English Plantain

(?) Foamflower ... No ! Laurel !

Grape Hyacinth

Ground Ivy


Little Starwort

Purple Deadnettle


Star of Bethlehem


White Campion

Wild Madder

Yellow Iris

Yellow Rocket

Friday, May 28, 2004

In Praise Of Little Words

I like the idea of baseball more than I do the game itself. I admire how it differs from the sports that are modeled on war and messy battlefield face-offs. It's more like a board game -- Parcheesi or Sorry, to cite two favorite childhood examples -- where the players propel counters around a track in a race to arrive home. Home. The cozy, safe, family-invested hearth. I loved those board games. The bright little game counters seemed like little people, and the home squares their dwellings. It was more like playing house than playing war. The competition seemed almost incidental.

When I opened DeLillo's Underworld some years ago and noticed the first chapter was about baseball, my heart sunk. "Baseball is so BORING," I thought. Within a paragraph, I was hooked, and rushed about for days raving about how I'd just read the best thing I'd ever read, maybe the best thing ever written. Maybe baseball wasn't so boring after all.

No, it is. But maybe that's one of its virtues. It has its own clock. One must adopt its clock, go with its clock, inning by inning. All nine or maybe more of them. Or, further subdividing, half inning by half inning, as in the top of the fifth or the bottom of the ninth. Eighteen, then. As in holes of golf. Baseball's more like golf than like football, except golf's geometry is linear and golf is really boring. The avatar of boredom.

But what I mostly admire about baseball are the words. The curt, punchy little anglo-saxonisms. This, I'll admit, is odd coming from someone who, just yesterday thought, listening to Arvo Part's Summa, Maybe I should memorize the Nicene Creed in Latin ! Or the woman who once wrote a long series of poems based on a list of the most exotic words she could fine in the OED Etymology Dictionary.

Baseball says:

The bag. The mound. Bat, ball, bunt, strike, fly.

But I especially like "The Bag" and "The Mound."

And, of those two, "The Bag" is my favorite. DK think's it's the hard "G." That could be. We won't explore the Freudian angle.

Last Easter my dear mother, looking up from dessert, said:

This is nice pie.

I have spent the past few months trying to figure out what about that phrase is so delicious, so sweetly funny, so pleasantly absurd, so ridiculously endearing.

The word "pie," like the word "spleen," has always seemed to me intrinsically humorous. I've always liked the bit of invective "Shut your pie hole," combining as it does two nifty monosyllables -- pie and hole -- into a totally satisfying and descriptive bit of slang. Cakehole's a little more genteel. Pie, ever so slightly vulgar. Cake, refined. Hole -- well, res ipse loquitur. As one might expect, I also love "pound down" for "eat."

Pound that down your piehole !

"This is," replies my mother, sweetly, "nice pie."

Thursday, May 27, 2004


Today Joan Vennochi, at the end of one of her signature Globe op-ed pieces -- turgidly unreadable prose, phobic avoidance of taking any editorial stand beyond the banal middle-of-the-road, and gratuitous Kerry bashing -- achieves a new rhetorical low in her attempt to smear the Democratic presidential hopeful. Her topic is a press luncheon hosted by Ted Kennedy. After portraying the Kennedy dynasty in a "Whatever happened to Baby Jane" light,

Everything looks the same, but everything is different. A beauteous but creepy movie lot is all that is left of Camelot by the sea.

and making a cheap shop at Kennedy's weight,

...I did not press the Massachusetts senior senator up against the buffet table to interrogate him further...

and expressing her usual horror (be nice ! be NICE !) at the very idea of someone taking a principled stand

On the Senate floor, Kennedy said, "Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management -- US management." Such rhetoric is inflammatory, to say the least.

she concludes

It is delicate politics for Kerry. How do you embrace what is left of the Kennedy magic but escape the Kennedy ghosts from Camelot and Chappaquiddick?

I bet even Karl Rove hadn't thought of pinning Chappaquiddick on John Kerry.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Transcendental Etude V

She was idling at a traffic light on her way home from work. She'd never quite managed to wake up that day, and bedtime was fast approaching. The brief alertness that had followed her third cup of coffee had long since faded, and her brain was idling at an even lower rpm than her Honda. NPR was droning on, washing over her like the rain that had fallen intermittantly all afternoon. Dull, dull, dull. What was the Buddhist phrase ? Sloth and torpor. The hindrance of the hour.

Something, suddenly, caught her eye -- a bumper sticker, plastered below the window of the minivan in front of her. One of those iconic yellow smiley faces -- the perfect circle, the two blank eyes, the broad, lipless grin -- was ogling her through her windshield. Beside the message:

Smile ! God loves you.

She cringed. Was this the wife of I (heart) Jesus man driving the kids to evening Bible study ? She'd had a strange dream the night before: on the high and grimy window sill above her bathtub were two pure white china statues, Christ and Mary, and three white votive candles.

She'd related the dream to her husband.

"I don't know, PT, are you sure you're not going to become born again ?"

"No, of course not."

"You didn't say no quickly enough."

"No ! I can't stand that pentecostal stuff."

"Then some kind of Catholic."

"No. I couldn't be Catholic. I hate their ideas about sex and gender."

"A Jew, then," he persisted, invoking his own never-firmly-embraced and now-long-abandoned tradition.

"Well," she ventured, finding herself in safely hypothetical theological terrain, "What would you do if I did become a Jew ?"

"I'd be weirded out," he replied, chuckling and walking away.

The light changed, and she followed the grinning icon -- :) -- through the intersection. "God loves you" was one of those unassailable theological givens that just did not compute. Never mind the byzantine algebra of "Jesus died for your sins." What was she doing in church anyway when something so basic seemed incomprehensible ?

Was she the apple of His eye ?

Did she live beneath the shadow of His wing ?

She liked the psalmist's metaphors. Apple of His eye: Love as gaze, as distance, as look-but-don't-touch. Not, significantly, apple of His mouth, which, like most terrestrial "love," would simply be a version of hunger. And wing -- hadn't she seen a goose and her brood on the riverbank just days ago, a half dozen yellow downy gosling jostling for space quite literally under her wings ? A different type of terrestrial love. Maternal, altruistic. But still biological. But the psalm reads shadow of His wing -- again, love-at-a-distance.

But, it suddenly struck her, isn't "love" itself, as a characteristic of God, a metaphor ?

And, if so, for what ? She re-read the text.

God loves you.

Metaphor, or, perhaps, simply a part of speech, a bit of grammar. An ambiguous copulative.

The minvan took a right at the next light. She turned left, envisioning a line of purely apophatic theological bumperstickers. Like the one that did and did not grace her own theological bumper.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

The World's Largest Female ... Republican ?

When I read that Japanese Knotweed is the "world's largest female," I felt a proud frisson of sisterhood. Sure, I also read about its aggressive and malignant invasiveness, but still, passing the vast and burgeoning banks of it near the river, I've felt a secret feminist kinship.

When I first began doing the river walk back last fall I admired the ubiquitously pendant golden seeds.

They're pure decoration. All the reproductive action goes on rhizomatously, subversively, underground. When the grim municipal reaper came through late fall and crewcut the luxuriant pathside, he did not spare the knotweed. Its resemblance to bamboo -- its hollow, segmented stems -- became quite apparant.

When the spring floods came, thickly packed flats of knotweed stems logjammed the inlets.

And, when the waters receded, up rushed the season's new crop of knotweed.

Then more.

Then more.

Then more.

I have been admiring the thick, green, red-specked stems, and the crimson veined new leaves, and note that, in the space of one month, many of the plants have grown taller than me. One helluva powerful woman, that knotweed. You go girl !

But Joseph Duemer , whose yard is apparantly menaced by the stuff, politicizes it differently:

... (knotweed) can grow to eight feet tall & is pollinated by flies because the flowers—small, white, sticky clusters—smell like death & defecation. Knotweed is the Bush presidency of invasive species: utterly worthless but inexorable, without even aesthetic value. ...

He's right, of course. I admit it. Knotweed plays havoc with the landscape, overwhelms less assertive species, muscles in everywhere, stinks, encroaches, consumes, overwhelms, pushes itself blindly across the planet playing out its imperial agenda of domination -- much like the non-floral Bush that's doing its political death and defecation thing in the White House.

OK, then. Knotweed, like W. is worthless and inexorable.

But maybe, unlike the president, just a tiny bit beautiful ?

Saturday, May 22, 2004


The end of my favorite limb of the river path comes out across the street from a low, stucco building that formerly housed a company whose name, emblazoned in magnificent 3-D metal caps across its facade, was

Q U E E N S C R E W.

Unfortunately, the business folded before I thought to photograph the wonderful sign. Renovations are underway. The windows are covered in milky plastic, and someone has unfurled a flag in a odd lamination between the panes. It looks incarcerated, suffocated, pinned down like a beautiful, living moth. The pResident's personal lawyer, Mr Gonzales, has called the Geneva Conventions "quaint." The nation recoils in utter horror and dismay at what has been allowed to happen in our name. At what has been done in our name. At the elective war that our unelected leader has undertaken, a war based on lies and wild ideologies and incompetant assumptions. Where are the flowers and the chocolates ? I keep hearing Robert Oppenheimer's lament "I have become death, destroyer of worlds." I keep hearing our pResident's lipsmacking boast, "I am a war president."

DK saw an even better sign on a bike ride yesterday.


All up and down our street small signs have been appearing: Save Sacred Heart Church. The Church of The Holy Armadillo apparantly has its head on the diocesan chopping block.

There's downsizing afoot; the church is selling off properties to pay for fifty years of covering up priestly crimes against children.

Is there a way out of this great darkness

and confusion ?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Scenes From A Marriage Bunker

Yesterday, according to the Globe, Governor Mitthead once again "kept a low profile."

Let's call it what it is. He's in hiding. Hunkered down in his marriage bunker, the hastily retrofitted MEMA command and control center in Framingham. If this is not a Massachusetts Emergency that needs Managing, what is ? He's been poring over rogue marriage license applications. Plotting his next discriminatory salvo. Injunctions ! Against the clerks ! Because (cue the loathsome spokesperson)

The Governor cannot pick and choose what laws he enforces.

The stench of the 1913 law is overwhelming. A dead fish. An outlandishly over-ripe cheese. A corpse. The Governor has been squirting it with Febreze.

"Can't we keep this thing somewhere else ?"

"No, sir. No one else will have it."

"What about Finneran ? He's strong-arming his boys on the hill to cut its repeal amendment out of the budget bill. Can't he keep it for awhile ?"

"No, sir. Remember your deal ? He makes the repeal go away, you keep custody of the..the..thing. You know."

Mrs. Romney had put her foot down. "Get that unGodly thing out of my house !" He'd stashed it in the Land Rover for a few nights, but the windows had steamed with a greasy yellow miasma whose phosphorescence had prompted a visit from the Belmont neighborhood association.

"I must say, old chap," Arthur Fonebone-Betwixtbetween said, affably, "the Rover's looking a bit peckish."

The Governor's back hurt. He'd slept on a broken army-issue disaster cot. The damned thing had been off-gassing mercilessly all night. The press was nipping at his heels. He needed a haircut. His GI man had tripled the dose of his Little Purple Pill to no avail.

"We need some SUPPORT, here." he whined. "Can't we get that Phelps guy on board ? You know, that nice minister from Topeka ? Make sure you get out there today and issue some statements, something about how I don't have the luxury of picking and choosing what laws I enforce."

"Uh, sir," his spokesman muttered, looking up from his cellphone," we've just received word that there's a crowd of 10,000 people on the statehouse steps."

"Finally ! Decency triumphing at last, Eric ! Marriage is for manly men and womenly women ! I knew they'd come around ! "

"Uh, no sir. It IS a bunch of men and women, married couples, but it appears they're, um, asking to be arrested. Making a mass confession of some sort -- claiming they've all violated Section 34 of Chapter 272 of the General Laws -- they claim they've all committed the abominable and detestable crime against nature ."

"What the heck is that ?"

"Uh, sir..." He whispered in the Governor's ear. The gubernatorial cheeks turned scarlet.

"Omigod, people actually DO that ?"

"Well, sir, remember Bill and Monica ?"

"Well I'll be cornswoggled. So that's what they meant by blow job ! I always thought it was that, um, cigar thing. Say, is that cigar thing legal in Massachusetts ?"

The Governor brightened visibly. There was hope. There was always hope. "Put Tom Reilly on it. Or maybe Finneran can have his boys amend the anti-smoking law..."

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I've Installed A Little Spigot On My Left Side Expressly For Splenic Venting

It was hard to hold back the tears when watching the local newscasts yesterday -- happy tears for once -- at the sight of so many long term couples, many with children, finally allowed to wed. How can anyone witnessing such joy possibly continue to object to broadening the right to wed ?

Every time Dubya opens his mouth he brays about people who "hate freedom" -- and yet, paradoxically, here we have a quantum increase in the amount of freedom in the world, and Dubya take sour umbrage.

"Marriage is between a man and a woman," he sniffs. Another one of of his stock phrases, issuing forth in predictable reiteration as from a doll whose string is pulled.

And today the Mitthead has reportedly asked several city clerks to submit to him all the applications they approved yesterday so that he can cull out and void those given to out of state couples. Invoking that nasty little KKK of a law (circa 1913) designed to prevent interracial couples from marrying in Massachusetts when their home states had anti-miscegenation laws. A law so historically odious and repugnant that just the thought of it still being on the books would send any decent Governor to the legislature with a plea that they repeal it immediately as a defilement. But no.

Talk about raining on the parade.

I'm sure one of his loathsome spokespeople are ready to lament how the Guv can't pick and choose which laws he enforces.

I'm still waiting for Gubernatorial Enforcement Squads to show up at Fenway Park and enforce that old statute against dissing the ump. There are plenty of other statutes that aren't enforced becuase they are outmoded, unconstitutional and downright silly. Like the one about contumeniously disrespecting the Holy Ghost. Or having oral sex. Or living together before marriage.

I'm sick of his disingenuous claims about "enforcing the law."

What he's doing is campaigning. Pandering. Sucking up to Dubya and the RNC so blatantly that he's violating all of the remaining anti-sodomy laws at once, oral and anal, not to mention contumeniously disrespecting human love and devotion.

It can't be said too often: Faubus, Wallace, Romney.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Gubernatorial Reflux

This is a joyful, historic morning. A victory for love, commitment and civil rights. Important legal protections will be extended to all families who desire them.

Meanwhile, the governor broods dyspeptically in his manse. His "loathsome $150,000 a year spokesperson" (damn, I love that epithet, RiaF,) pours him another skim milk with Pepto chaser. The governor has agita. Waterbrash. Pyrosis. Serious heartburn. Even the little purple pill whose makers so generouly donate year after year hasn't touched it. This travesty has happened on his watch. Desite his best efforts. Herculanean efforts.

The "loathsome $150,000 a year spokesperson" reassures the Governor that those heroic efforts have not gone unnoticed. Will not go unrewarded. Nor will his own, he hopes aloud. Why just this week he has uttered one of his most brilliantly stirring remarks, the one about what next, will those uppity Provincetown clerks let ten year olds get married ?

It's about time Massachusetts has done something progressive. It's certainly been coasting on its "Massachusetts Liberal" laurels all these past years under the Weld, Cellucci, Swift and Romney administrations. (Weld's liberal stands on gay and lesbian issues were in stark contast with the rest of his cut taxes, screw the poor, teach prisoners the joys of busting rock agenda.)

And schadenfreude is sweet.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Transcendental Etude IV

The acolyte, a sturdy, blond crewcut boy of about 14, stood in front of the sparsely filled pews and said Look around. There is room for more here. What is the solution ? We must evangelize.

She cringed at the "E" word, associating it with well-fed, over-confident Republicans, and empty eyed doorstep proselytizers asking, "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior ?" The last time she'd attended church with any intentional regularity was when she was the boy's age. Her parents had long lapsed, so she'd walked the quarter mile to West Parish each Sunday, Bible in hand, avid for something she could not even articulate to herself. Salvation, resurrection, the Kingdom, the second coming -- it had all seemed impossibly complex and implausible. So she gave up.

It had taken nearly forty years -- a Biblically resonant number -- to get her back inside a church. And then only to perch skittishly on the edge of a side pew, burning with self-consciousness. And things weren't looking good. First, the bishops of this particular denomination had declared they could not permit its priests to solemnize gay marriage, putting the unity of the Church before all else. And now the "E" word. What was she doing there ?

Stay with your own tradition, the wise and kindly Teacher had advised.

But how ? she'd fired back in her imagination, It's so theistic and mediated ! After all, she'd spent her desert time investigating texts and practices that promised experience of the One, the Absolute, and that meticulously deconstructed the illusory and unsatisfactory nature of the phenomenal world. How could she possibly cope with a Trinity ? The old image of the fish on a bicycle kept occurring to her.

The wise and kindly Teacher probably smiled.

On the other hand, even the sparest of the systems she'd admired was rife with ritual and structure: robes, chants, ceremonies, refuges, lineages.

Maybe, she thought , all religions are simply languages, different ways of articulating -- expressing, participating in -- the mystery of being. Christ is, after all, the Word. The Logos. Spoken out of the divine fullness.

She'd tried to explain Christ to her skeptical and dismissive spouse, lapsed from a very different tradition.

Look at Christ as the incarnation -- God taking on suffering flesh -- what a symbol of love and compassion ! -- Christ is the living emblem of how we all participate in the Godhead --

Well, yes, but how many Christians actually see it that way ? Don't they simply want a way not to die ?

He'd be appalled if he knew where she'd snuck off to these past few Sunday mornings. She could hear him now. Church ? You're kidding, right ? Why ?

A very good question, dearest. Why, indeed.

In the resonating wake of the "E" word, she squirmed on the hard pew. She'd awakened that morning hung over with anxiety from the preceeding day. Mundane stuff, nothing mystical or ontological. Worries about her son and husband. About work. Old and new guilts. Her shortcomings: her hardheart. Her irrational resentments. Her selfishness. Her isolation. Her peevishness and childishness. Things she'd dismissed as mental constructs, devoid of intrinsic being. She'd brought it all with her to the dark, chilly sanctuary, and, once again, the morning had darkened, and the rain fell.

Then it struck her. She'd been playing a role. Telling herself a story. She was playing the spiritually sophisticated intellectual condescending to her own tradition. Who could teach those evangelizing, I (heart) Jesusing Christians a thing or two. What arrogance ! She felt ashamed. She sat there humbled in her brokenness, her lostness. She was the pilgrim, the petitioner, the wandering child.

Later, at the church door, the Priest remembered her. She identified herself a little: a visitor, from another denomination. Welcome, he said. Take your time. When you're ready, feel free to call with questions. Come as often as you need to. Find quiet here.

She thanked him, and slipped out into the rain.

Transcendental Etude III

Variants of such moments had come upon her since childhood, moments when the world seemed strange and unfamiliar, a dizzying newborn sensation, an ictus of jamais vu. After awhile she'd come to live with the mild accesses of disorientation. She's come to call them "the strangeness," and found descriptions in psychiatric texts and existential novels that reassured her they were within the continuum of human experience and not some menacing visitation unique to her. Sometimes, still, looking in the bathroom mirror, she is overtaken by the paradoxically familiar strangeness. Who is that ? Who am I ? How peculiar it all is ! How peculiar that the most ordinary thing -- being itself -- should feel so strange !

Life, of course, quickly resumes its ordinary face. She disengages from the gaze in the mirror, washes her hands, and moves on to the next task, blaming her temporal lobe, Sartre, stress, diet, Republicans, whatever post hoc propter hoc excuse seems cogent at the moment.

Who would have thought the strangeness could grow even stranger ?

She was sitting at her desk between patients. It was the depths of Friday afternoon. The afternoon caffeine boost had yet to kick in. Suddenly everything seemed to shift. The focus blurred, the gain was turned down. The digital image fractured, the zoom changed.

Everything seemed equivalent, absolutely fungible. Cut from the same cloth, made of the same stuff: membrane and ion. A diabolical synesthesia. Text reduced to one gutteral syllable of want. It was almost, but not quite, a transparency. More like a threadbaring, a wearing thin at the elbow points of being. Desk, pen, chart; the footfall of the roofers overhead, the slatted sunlight throught the blind; cool breeze and tobacco smoke through the window; boredom, anxiety, irritation; headache, dirty coffee cup; each thought, sensation, perception all the same, undifferentiated brain stuff, from love to terror, from trash to art, from self to beloved.

She covered her face with her hands, covering the world's and her own nakedness in one oddly prayer-like gesture.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Bag Lady

I was at the river with my plastic bag, picking trash. It was hot and green, almost lushly so. My hands were sweating in my new Walgreen's garden gloves, hideous little contraptions made of some improbable, unpleasantly nubbly plastic. They felt like little ovens.

The path was remarkably clean. That's not to say there were none of the usual artifacts from Dunkin Donuts and Poland Springs. But not too many. Cookie and chip packets, candy wrappers, newspapers, bottle caps, styrofoam peanuts -- I scooped them all up, gazing warily at the burgeoning stands of poison ivy. Surely picking trash earns merit points to keep rhus dermatitis at bay.

With my growing load of detritus, I went down one of the several small paths to a riverbank clearing. There I found a whole case full of empty budweiser bottles, and a field of scattered bud cans. Plus some empty snack food packets, and one pink plastic tampax applicator. Parked neatly in the weeds of the pathside was a shopping cart, freshly pinched from the adjacent mega-grocery store, Little Debbie World, which obviously had been used to transport the brewskies to the party lair.

"Swine," I thought, and tried to find compassion for the drunken litterbugs. It was tough. I imagined scrawling the word in the mud with a stick: S W I N E. "They probably can't even read," continued my brain, deeply enjoying -- in fact wallowing in -- one of its favorite kilesas, aversion.

With its load of empties, my bag was full and heavy. I'd have to turn back. Then there was the matter of the shopping cart. There were three options. I could leave it there, limiting my self-defined mission to picking small trash. Of course, chances are it would end up in the river sooner or later. I could phone up Little Debbie World and try to describe the location of the cart and hope they would send someone to fetch it. Or I could push it out myself. The choice was obvious. Plus, I could use it to transport the heavy bag to my car.

This, of course, gave my brain an even more amusing topic.

Omigod, what if someone sees me pushing the cart, they'll think I'm a bag lady picking up empties for nickels, I really do look like an undernourished derelict in these ratty sneakers and these baggy jeans, they'll think I stole the cart, maybe they'll arrest me, I really do need to buy some new clothes, gawd I hate shopping, oh no look a bicyclist, is that a pitying smile she's giving me, she really does think I'm a homeless derelict pushing my shopping cart through the woods, maybe she'll see the gardening gloves and realize what I've been doing, who am I kidding, what if the cart boy at Little Debbie World thinks I've pinched this cart, if he even dares to suggest that I'll tell him off, yeah, I'll tell him I'll bring the cart back where I found it, how would he like to fetch it from the poison ivy laden riverbank ? I'm no bag lady you little twerp I'm a DOCTOR ! See my Hallmark Health parking sticker ? Wanna see my license ?

And so on and so forth.


Greed, hatred, delusion.

Just pick it up.

Just let them go.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

I Do Like The Image, Though, Of The Mitthead With A Pink Mustache

On Monday, unless Federal Judge Tauro gives credence to the arguments of some deep south "Liberty Council" homophobes who have slithered into town to try to stop it injunctively, same sex marriage will become legal in Massachusetts.

Governor Mitthead has been swilling Pepto Bismal -- no, I take that back, has been popping the proton pump inhibitor of his and his physician's choice as I'm sure his health plan's one of those Carte Blanche ones -- to quiet the dyspeptic angst he must feel at the prospect of it. Heck, he's had to ratchet up the other two pieces of his platform: his "foolproof" plan for restoring capital punishment to Massachusetts, and (now that the merest glimmer of financial upturn has occurred in the state) cutting taxes. God forbid he should restore services to the poor.

Homophobia, death, and enriching the already rich.

Gives new meaning to the phrase Bush League, eh ?