I did the last two of these at Natchaug Hospital this past winter, both of which may be obvious. The first, Under Attack from All Sides, was meant to express how I felt at the time, with the fingers pointing at me literally showing what the voices do, and the red high heel with a hand, strong, hefting that lethal looking spike — well those both belong to a certain someone I cannot name who wants me deader than dead and will do anything in her power to achieve it.
The second of the hospital pieces (I did others, but alas I gave them away and so never did have a photo of them to share…) is the last one posted here, the Ogre that Ate Manhattan, which is written partly in Spanish and partly in acronym. The message is KILL the Orgre that Ate Manhattan, but I figure you don’t need to understand that to enjoy the artwork…Not quite finished yet, but there is not a huge amount left to go…
Finally at the top is In her Hands, which is not done, though it may look it. This is a partly 3-D high relief piece, and partly a flat piece of acrylic painting. In truth a lot of it is optical illusion but not as a joke. The detail shows how her hands are painted onto the globe, not actually three dimentional at all; they just look 3-D because of how I painted them. I need to write more about more “important” things in my life, but for now this will have to do. (Addendum: I realized, days later, that I must have written the text of this very late at night, and possibly after I’d taken my Xyrem, the narcolepsy night time med. Why? Because a great deal of it was so badly spelled and some of it made no or little sense at all. I mostly do that sort of thing, dream talk, if you will, when I make the mistake of trying to write after I have taken my medication and get busy and forget that I am not “with it” entirely…so I am not aware when sense devolves into gibberish! Forgive me, anyway, if I seemed somehow sloppy if not wholly out of it!)
My newest artwork is what I call The Painted Woman, for I think obvious reasons.
It is not meant to be a parody or an insult to any sort of woman, just a study of an overly made-up “older” woman who might drink a bit too much and get loose around the edges when she does. I think it is clear that she has had plastic surgery, though it hasn’t done a lot for her, with her artificially plumped lips, which do not work at all with her boozy aged face that the exaggerated make-up only serves to enhance in the worst sense of the word. If her botoxed brow doesn’t disguise her real age, neither do her drawn-in eyebrows, which is something women do that I never did understand: Isn’t any sort of eyebrow better than the kind that are just a line drawn or painted on? even Frida Kahlo’s eyebrows!
I love those eyebrows, full of character and strength, and the portraits, which could be seen as brave and wonderfully lacking in vanity, I prefer to think Kahlo painted because she saw herself simply as beautiful, eyebrows and mustache and all, and painted herself on that account, not at all “in spite of” her flaws…
That said, I do not believe that my painted woman is beautiful, perhaps for much the same reason that I hope Kahlo felt herself to indeed be beautiful: this, my pictured woman, is not only artificial, she is desperate, pathetic and even tragic…I feel sorry for her, who is, after all, my own creation!
All that aside, the reasons that I have not written are several, including my having to get that poetry book manuscript rewritten and out by the 15th of October (not that I have a chance to win a contest that is judged non-anonymously, but it does no harm to try, so long as it doesn’t tie the book up for the next 6 months…). Then I had that Life Drawing class at the Creative Arts Workshop, which is still difficult for me, partly because I cannot see well, and cannot translate what I see to a large piece of paper on an easel…I don’t have any difficulty with the gestural drawing, the loosening up exercises, actually, I have more difficulty with the longer drawing periods. The trouble is that I do not want to take the time to do a drawing for only 30 minutes that I know I cannot do in that short a “long” period, and also, I find it hard to stand on my feet for that long. The class is 3 hours long in fact, and all of it is standing at easels, while when I do my portraits I mostly just sit in my recliner or at a table with my paints and canvas on a table or at most at a little broken table easel that I bought at the CAW tag sale and fixed myself.
Nevertheless, it has been a good experience, if exhausting. I drive to New Haven then stay overnight and drive home on Tuesday morning. So the night spent away from home feels like a big deal every week, not just a mere evening away…though I could treat it as such, I suppose.
ALSO, Dr C wants to see me twice a week for the time being — actually for more than just “the time being.” It is a very complicated situation that I cannot go into here, but this 2X a week set-up may not continue, I dunno, I would like to, and I know it kept me out of the hospital in October, but but but…I am simply getting very mixed messages from certain people (decidedly not Dr C) about it, and it is hard to know what to do. I sometimes think that it was easier for people to have me in the hospital twice a year, despite their protestations, than to keep me out if keeping me out entails my seeing Dr C 2X a week. It is certainly less expensive to hospitalize me, since it saves money coming out of their pockets ( I am not a drain on the “system” otherwise, because I do not need public mental health services or ask for anything from those strained agencies, for which fact they ought to be grateful…though not for my hospital stays, of course).
But no more on that subject, which is utterly confusing to me and frightening to boot. I cannot bear the thought of ever being forced into a hospital again, where I am ALWAYS ABUSED and BATTERED by the staff, despite being tortured by myself and my own demons already. Even thinking about it makes me tremble…
Will be returning to Wisdom House in two weeks, for another weekend. I hope to write some more poetry, and perhaps “fix” the ms, by writing up an introduction and putting in some divisions between groups of poems, rather than the vague segues I have now. I thought they were obvious, but others do not seem to “get” why one poems transitions to another…So I will group them better, and put what feels like artificial divisions between them. That way, readers will feel there is some shape to the book, a clumping, rather than a thread that one must follow…
There is much I would like to say, but it is already 2:45 in the morning, so I needs must cease and desist and get to bed. I will try to write as soon as I can, but if nothing else, I promise to write when I am at Wisdom House on the 19-21 of November.
The following is a poem I wrote last year, and put one version here then, after I went to a vigil for the organization 350.org, a website devoted to the cause of getting our atmospheric CO2 levels down to 350 parts per million, because that is the level at which life continues to be possible…whereas if we continue to let it go up, global warming will continue to such an extent that life on the planet will be impossible.
But that said, here is the poem, for what it is worth. If it sounds familiar, it is, but I have also reworked and changed a lot of it…
FRIDAY NIGHT VIGIL
Shivering in the wind, we fight to light our candles
as we gather in the darkness of an approaching storm.
But the icy blow keeps snuffing out each flicker
so we just stand, our signs alone aloft to passing traffic,
standing for the stand we take: for the changing world,
for a last chance at change. We smiling stand for photos,
taken from across the streaming street –
and smile into the night, display our handmade signs.
One car beeps, a driver gives the V-sign in support.
But most drive on without a single word or sign
that they have heard or seen a thing, or even recognized
we’re standing here for something save a hopeless cause.
My hands freeze stiff, release their glass and candle with a crash,
a glint of shards, a splash upon the sidewalk. Someone
with safer gloves stoops to sweep the shards away…
I think, How lovely is the world today, even dying.
Though it’s all we have (and lord knows, it’s more
than we can handle) we stand here in this freezing dark
against the darkness and light one candle.
I hope I am not encroaching on Sr Jo-Ann Iannotti’s copyright, by sharing this photo, but if I am I trust she will let me know. In any event, this is one of hers and it is everywhere at Wisdom House. I believe it is a beautiful example (if that is the proper word for it) of the spirit of Wisdom House. Of course, the physical labyrinth, is stunning by itself, but somehow this photo captures the experience of walking it and the process of meditating and “being there” in a way that mere words describing likely could not. Surely, if nothing else, this photo alone is a wonderful way to “advertise” Wisdom House, if it ever needed such a thing. If you can, visit http://www.wisdomhouse.org and look at the virtual tour photo gallery. That way, you will get a good idea of what the place looks like, and perhaps get something of the flavor of people’s first impression. I know that even the first time I came here, despite my misery concerning all that silence, I knew it was a special place…
Jo-Ann says she has no idea who the woman in the labyrinth center is, that it was a fortuitous shot and nothing more. Frankly, though, I suspect getting the photo took more than mere luck, even just to have been there to capture it! It exquisitely represents both the spirituality of this place as well as peace and peacefulness.
Clearly, you can tell where I am: at Wisdom House again, having a good time this time. I only wish I did not have to depart tomorrow.Even though I spend most of my time alone, the mere presence of other people, laughing and talking and obviously having a great time, buoys my own spirits and makes me laugh aloud myself. I think it is great that they are laughing so uproariously, and it is great to see everyone with their doors wide open, people, women my age, sitting on each other’s beds, gabbing like college girls. The lovely thing too, about Wisdom House in general is the absolute faith in people’s basic trustworthiness: NO one has a key to their rooms, and no one seems to feel worried about anyone entering or stealing a thing. I frequently leave my computer and writing equipment right out in the open on the sun porch, without the least qualm, feeling secure in the knowledge that everything will be just as I left it when I return. Indeed, the sense of trust that I know Jo-Ann has in people is infectious, and I somehow know that everyone who comes here is trustworthy at least for as long as they are here, even if they might not be all the time when they are not.
Now, I may be naive, but I too have been known to be overly trusting, and I think that is a better option than not trusting people. At the same time, though, I can be extremely paranoid as you know, and I do mean “at the same time…” I suppose that is difficult to comprehend: I will simultaneously give away whatever I can, if I feel I own too much and yet also feel as if people are secretly stealing from me, taking things I need out from under me, without even asking or telling me, which makes me angry, because I am already generous, and never ask for a single thing in return, but I’m sorry and feel bad to admit it, but somethings I am not ready to simply have things taken from me without my say so! I feel guilty about this, though, as if I am so attached to material things that I cannot part with something that someone else needs more than I do (for why else would someone resort to stealing it???). Why do I need to be so attached to anything, that is, to any mere object? It will never save your life or your soul!
I am drifting though…forgive me.
One great thing about this weekend here is that despite my having slept till noon today (after spending several days before last night with very little sleep, and even last night beginning to fear for my brain and my sanity due to sleeplessness as I was up till 4am involuntarily) I have pretty much gotten the book organized and put together. Now, that means only that I have made the organizational decisions, which is the major part of the problem. But I needs must (!) still go through the actual computer manuscript and change it, to make it conform to these editorial decisions. Not extremely difficult, just time consuming. At the same time, certain poems need editing and some rewriting/fixing. This I enjoy, the perfecting of the lines I don’t feel are quite right yet, but it takes time and energy. (I even have a two relatively new poems to add!) Alas, I will not be able to come up here to take the time for myself to do nothing else. Too bad, as it has been very convenient and much more than that. It has been, well, useful in the sense that I have been productive “to the max,” able to say NO to email and phone calls, not even walking with Diane L or doing laundry or cleaning or shopping, just writing all day. I suppose taking my usual 2 miles walk would be a good thing, but for just a weekend here, I would rather not…And although I brought art supplies just in case, I haven’t even taken out my sketch book, that is how good the writing, and the editing, have been going!
Speaking of the labyrinth at Wisdom House as I did at the top of the post, let me segue into a few words about paranoia: I have not walked the labyrinth, nor even approached it. The closest I have come is to sit at the top of the stairs looking down at it relatively from afar. The very idea of “doing it” makes me feel both rather shy and then scared to do so. I am in fact scare that God might strike me down, should I have such temerity as to try it. I am also squeamish, not sure I could relax and not feel paranoid, not feel so much on display that I could not concentrate or let myself be “unaware of being observed” — whether I am in fact under observation or not.
That of course is the essence of paranoia: it matters not a fig whether something is really happening, it matters not another fig if someone’s really after you or really against you: if you feel it, if your amygdala is working overtime to generate that feeling, the intense feeling of fear that it is meant to generate, well, that’s it. That is how you are going to feel. And “the feeling is primary.” That’s what Dr O told me time and time again. You feel the fear first, and primarily, and then the story or reason for feeling it attaches to it. But if the fear gets entrenched or doesn’t go away, the story,, that is, the brain’s explanation for the feelings of fear only gets more entrenched, because how else can you deal with fear? It is extremely difficult to feel fear unmitigated without somehow understanding it as coming from somewhere, or being stimulated by something, having a cause or reason. The brain always wants to make sense of things, and it does this whether one “wants to” or not.
So even though I am aware of what paranoia is, I have never been able to control my thoughts when it is happening. It is only after the fact that I can, now, sometimes, look back on a difficult situation and with a clearer head understand how I might in fact have been paranoid in my behavior due to my fear- induced understanding of what was going on. It is very very difficult to override such feelings, esp on such a fundamental level.
I wish I could write more now, but I’d better to get back to my writing before I have to get back to sleep. As it is, it is 1:50 A.M. and we — Ann W drove here with me — the other fellowship person — have to drive home tomorrow around noon. I wish dearly it were not so, but there you have it. For now, I will leave you with a poem that will go into the manuscript of my second book of poems, which I call at least for now (several people have been enthusiastic about the title, except my father), LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS. I share it with you now, because while still unpublished, I do not think I will seek publication for it elsewhere, separately…The first one, for my old (and former, but possibly dead now) friend Roland, was previously published, but in a much different version. I apologize if the lines come out with large spaces between them, but the cut and pasting function never seems to allow single spaces… OR stanzas for that matter, as this poem was originally broken up inot five different stanzas but now appears to be in only one long one… The second poem is about Joe, and describes my own encounter with fear of botulism, which has similar symptoms to ALS — so I feared — and my nostalgia for his voice, which I will never hear again, except on his answering machine, and on one or two micro-cassette tapes we made some years ago…
FOR A FRIEND SUCCUMBING TO AIDS, 1980s
This could be your whole life,
thumbing a ride to wherever the cars are going,
the casual, tossed out hellos and good-byes
that turn around the axle of your quick life —
that far, just that far, and then you will stay,
forcing a stranger’s town into the shape of home.
Yet you’ve lived a dozen lives — in the Keys
with the one you finally loved, in western Portugal,
Nova Scotia. Last year, already marked, you spent
the winter in your bed,which just fit in a backyard shed
in Vernon, Connecticut. And there was a life
to accommodate each place, its sweetness and pain.
When we met, you taught me the local architecture,
the difference between Georgian and Greek Revival,
and you thanked me for the poems you gave me.
Then you called late one night, drunk enough to over-
dose. Thoughtlessly, I rescued you, a dying man…
You never forgave nor spoke to me again.
Now once in a while a car slows, pondering
your beard, your emaciation, the known and unknown
risks, sees you finally, and explodes away from the shoulder
where you stand, all its doors locked simultaneously
against those Kaposi’s inflorescences that stain
your dying…Roland, Roland, don’t you know
we all die in shame and alone? We die, perhaps,
not far from home, or perhaps, like you, wandering,