Archive for the ‘my poetry’ Category

Caspar David Friedrich (174-1840), Le Soir (Evening, autumn), 1821

Dear readers and friends,

My friend, Martin, remembering this is the anniversary of Jim’s death wrote me tonight about reading Auden, especially “The Sea and the Mirror.” So I took down from its shelf W.H.Auden: Collected Poems — it was once Jim’s book, one of those he would return to read. I went to where Prospero speaks to Ariel and thought this closest to my condition:

Now our partnership is dissolved, I feel so peculiar:
    As if I had been on a drunk since I was born
And suddenly now, and for the first time, am cold sober,
    With all my unanswered wishes and unwashed days
Stacked up all around my life; as if through the ages I had dreamed
    About some tremendous journey I was taking,
Sketching imaginary landscapes, chasms and cities,
    Cold walls, hot spaces, wild mouths, defeated backs,
Jotting down fictional notes on secrets overheard
    In theatres and privies, banks and mountain inns,
And now, in my oId age, I wake, and this journey really exists,
    And I have actually to take it, inch by inch,
Alone and on foot, without a cent in my pocket,
    Through a universe where time is not foreshortened,
No animals talk, and there is neither floating nor flying.

When I am safely home, oceans away in Milan, and
    Realise once and for all I shall never see you again,
Over there, maybe, it won’t seem quite so dreadful
    Not to be interesting any more, but an old man
Just like other old men, with eyes that water
    Easily in the wind, and a head that nods in the sunshine,
Forgetful, maladroit, a little grubby,
    And to like it. When the servants settle me into a chair
In some well-sheltered corner of the garden,
    And arrange my muffler and rugs, shall I ever be able
To stop myself from telling them what I am doing,
    Sailing alone, out over seventy thousand fathoms -?
Yet if I speak, I shall sink without a sound
    Into unmeaning abysses. Can I learn to suffer
Without saying something ironic or funny
    On suffering? I never suspected the way of truth
Was a way of silence where affectionate chat
    Is but a robbers’ ambush and even good music
In shocking taste; and you, of course, never told me.
    If I peg away at it honestly every moment,
And have luck, perhaps by the time death pounces
    His stumping question, I shall just be getting to know
The difference between moonshine and daylight…
    I see you starting to fidget. I forget. To you
That doesn’t matter. My dear, here comes Gonzalo
    With a solemn face to fetch me. O Ariel, Ariel.
How I shall miss you. Enjoy your element. Good-bye.

In my house during renovation of kitchen, Ian pussycat this evening — does not like to kept in the back half of the house so staring at closed door (cats don’t like closed doors either)

My own feebler effort as I watched:

How does it feel
to be
half a person?

Hard to describe.
I take
up half our space.

I stand there
next to
an alert silence.

My awareness
him, there, unseen.

But people disappear,
all the time,

The thread is to know how
to seek,
find what is lost.

“Where did you go,
you disappeared?!”
I once said to him,

He replied solemnly
“I did not, I
perfectly visible
all the time.”

And now
I am the one
who remains
perfectly visible
all the time.



James Norton and Jessie Buckley as Andrey and Marya Bolkonsky (2016 War and Peace, scripted Andrew Davies)

As you know, I’ve been reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace in the Maud English translation, with the Elisabeth Guertik French translation (La Guerre et la Paix) tucked in just below, and listening to David Case reading aloud Constance Garnett’s translation.

This is an extraordinarily good book: I can see falling back into it endlessly. Among so many other themes, kinds of scenes, characters, arguments about what is history, how large events happen, Tolstoy understands and records death, how the dying die, and how those of us left are split through the soul: in Tolstoy’s description of how Andrey went through the process of dying (Book 3, Part 3, Chapter 32), he seemed to me to capture in words how the person inwardly feels and outwardly behaves. Tolstoy has explained to me what I saw in Jim – but physiological, psychological, mental changes, what I saw in his eyes, the lack of affect,e.g., “his attention was suddenly carried into another world, a world of reality and delirium in which something particular was happening.” Natasha’s grief, “where it is a beloved and intimate human being that is dying, besides this horror at the extinction of life there is a severance, which like a physical wound is sometimes fatal and sometimes heals, but always aches and shrinks at any external irritating touch” (Book 4, Part 4, Chapter 1).

Lily James as Natasha Rostova leaving Moscow, her eyes seeking (same movie as above)

I now know why all 4 films of War and Peace I’ve watched thus far (1955 Vidor; 1966 Bondarchuk; 1972 BBC Pulman; 2016 Davies) felt they must dramatize some of this – though to my mind Davies’s dwelling and Norton’s acting comes closest, there’s nothing comes near Tolstoy and his three translators’ words.

Miss Drake


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This (“Ugly Princess”) is the image wanted for George Eliot’s Romola (by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale, 1902)

The face of all the world is changed, I think
since I first heard the footsteps of your soul.
— Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Dear friends and readers,

This past week I returned to my project of writing blogs on women artists: their lives and work (Joanna Boyce Wells to be specific), and came across this line of poetry, which made me remember Jim in the later phases of our marriage, when we ended up in Virginia and were thrown back on one another; and a picture new to me from one of two new books, Jan Marsh and Pamela Gerrish Nunn’s Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists, both filled with strangely beautiful images and women artist’s names and something of their lives and art. I will be writing from these two books on Austen Reveries for a long time to come. One image from them lit up my mind, of Spillman’s of Dante looking to Virgil to lead him through hell, made me remember how Jim and I used to read Allen Mandelbaum’s translation of the Commedia together now and again: I began to read Dante because Jim loved the Commedia and eventually I taught myself to read Italian so I could read, study and translate women poets of the Italian Renaissance.

Marie Spartalli Spillman (1844-1927, Dante and Virgil in the Dark Wood — Dante to my eyes last night looking like a young woman

I am almost to the end of listening to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as read aloud magnficently mesmerizingly by Gildart Jackson: Shelley’s is an astonishingly original book, with extraordinary for its time new ways of thinking, talking, writing, feeling about death. She was someone deeply griefstruck by loss and life. While indirect (made explicit in Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein film) Frankenstein’s urge to create life comes out of his creator’s urge to bring back those death has destroyed:in the film, his mother, in Mary’s life her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, her babies all but one by Shelley and probably others I don’t know of. Passages like this:

I need not describe the feelings of those whose dearest ties are rent by that most irreparable evil, the void that presents itself to the soul, and the despair that is exhibited on the countenance. It is so long before the mind can persuade itself that she whom we saw every day and whose very existence appeared a part of our own can have departed forever—that the brightness of a beloved eye can have been extinguished and the sound of a voice so familiar and dear to the ear can be hushed, never more to be heard. These are the reflections of the first days; but when the lapse of time proves the reality of the evil, then the actual bitterness of grief commences. Yet from whom has not that rude hand rent away some dear connection? And why should I describe a sorrow which all have felt, and must feel? The time at length arrives when grief is rather an indulgence than a necessity; and the smile that plays upon the lips, although it may be deemed a sacrilege, is not banished. My mother was dead, but we had still duties which we ought to perform; we must continue our course with the rest and learn to think ourselves fortunate whilst one remains whom the spoiler has not seized (Chapter 3, 2nd paragraph).

Lucy Madox Brown, Margaret Roper rescuing the head of her father, Thomas More (1873) — only a mad picture can capture the truth of women’s experience as told to us by Mary Shelley

The monster grieves because he can’t share the burden of his existence with another, he can neither lean on someone or be leant on.

For the course in 19th Century Women of Letters I hope to teach this fall at the OLLI at AU (if they can find parking for participants) I’ll be “doing” Frankenstein with a class, and hope this week to try and then read through Charlotte Gordon’s Romantic Outlaws on the mother and daughter. I daren’t do Romola as it’s too long and erudite: I conquered it, by listening to Nadia May read it ever so dramatically, touchingly on books-on-tape one summer so I’ve chosen a short story, “Janet’s Repentance” and we’ll read on-line if I can find it, and Eliot’s review of Madame de Sable, a 17th century woman of letters on how “the mind of woman has passed like an electric current through the language of French at the time, and began feminism in books.

When did I begin my feminism? what led to my seeing the world anew and comfortingly, strengtheningly, in which I could see a meaningful purpose for me to work through out of which I started to work on women novelists, women poets, and now women artists.

I was talking with two friends, one in her sixties and the other 72 (I am 69) yesterday over lunch about our “feminism” and I said I did not “convert” until the early 1990s because locally the only feminists I ever saw or knew were to me snobbish, exclusive upper middle girls/women. all white, who I saw as ambitious careerists (a no no for me, especially as seen in these girls) who cared nothing for anyone but wanted power and to show off, girls part of exclusive coteries (meaning from which I was excluded), the AP types who went to name colleges. It was not until I came onto the Net (1992) and met other women and came into contact with books that could speak to me that I began to see the good purpose of the movement. Woolf and highly literary women did not speak frankly and directly enough in ways I could recognize my experiences: A Room of One’s Own mattered but only theoretically and about older literary studies. An unearned income of £500 could mean nothing to me.

Then it happened: crucially for me I saw that for the first time I was given a language in which I could talk about what I had experienced sexually starting around age 12; I found other girls had had the same experiences as I (once I tried to tell a girl and after another girl came over the told me, why did you tell her that, now she is telling everyone, and I was shamed, and never told anyone again for years and years); for the first time I didn’t blame or berate myself but saw a system set up to crush me. The book that made the difference was Mary Pipher Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls; also important were Promiscuities by Naomi Wolf and (covering other areas of de-construction written in a language that I could understand) Lois Tyson’s Critical Theory Today: A User-friendly Guide. I used the last again and again in teaching after that (not assigning it as I never taught any upper level feminist or theoretical courses), as a help with my own lectures about books. See Signs, Short takes.

Lucy Madox Brown, Duet (1870)

This is the hardest summer yet. My third without my beloved, the admiral as I used to call him. Summer is hard in ways the other seasons aren’t except at ritual holidays marking passing of time and evoking memory. It seems everyone is having a good time. They go to the beach, take lovely trips, and these sorts of things are not done to see historical or other sites but to be together and happy. I felt left out as do I find many widows. The beach too: I had a strong fit of deep grief when I went to the beach with my friend last January in Florida. I just went to pieces because it is such an emblem of life too. There’s even a term for it: STUG (sudden tremendous upsurge of grief). I watched The City of Your Final Destination this week again for the sake of one line: uttered Laura Linney as the dead man’s widow, though it could have been Anthony Hopkins as the dead man’s gay brother.

How could any outsider
understand this place
or what it was like
to all live here together
or what it’s like now
without him?
— Ruth Jhabvala Prawer, the script outof Peter Cameron’s novel

So for the sake of my heart (literally) I am only going to those few Fringe Festival events that are close by, easy to get to, and classical and good plays I recognize.

Shall I end on an absurd or comic note: I’ve said I stubbed my big toe badly trying to reach Clarycat who appeared to be munching away on one of the computer wires: was in a stinging agony that night, had to take extra strength sleeping pill, lots of spurted blood and what I thought was dry blood sticking out. It wasn’t: it was a broken off big of a piece of wood under my toenail. I had not realized that I’ve been in a dull pain since that Sunday night. The white at the top of the nail was spreading, it was white around the nail (like pus) and it was going a dark dark and shiny red. I thought, maybe I have made it worse by bandaging it to protect it. Made the pressure worse. So I cut a slipper and tried to walk with that. No go.

So I phoned Kaiser for the second time, and it emerged from talk with an advice nurse, I may have an infection. I needed to come in that day. So after teaching, after the above, lunch, garmin plugged in, I drive from lunch place to the offices in less than 20 minutes. Dr Wiltz had actually phoned me and suggested I got to a podiatrist. When I arrive, she takes a look at it and pronounces “you have a piece of wood, a splinter there, no wonder the pressure hurt.” It took only years of study and a specialist to understand what we were looking at. She numbs the big toe thoroughly (more needles) and then clips half the nail off. Blessed relief: pain, pressure gone. For my bleeding disorder she had a new thing: a local coagulant. So now I should get better.

Who would have cats? it’s not their fault. They were being cats. My desk is old – Jim bought it as a present for me in 1970 when I started graduate school and I have lived sitting by and writing on it and now on this computer for half a century. When I stubbed the toe I drove a splinter from one of its drawers into it.

Ing Look (supplied by my kind Net-friend, Sixtine)

My friend, Phyllis, said I had accepted all this pain because I expect to be miserable. That’s funny too. That’s what Austen’s Mrs Dashwood says about Elinor, my favorite character in all literature.

Miss Drake

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Mid-February New Yorker cartoon

Friends and readers,

Above comic subversion, below otherwise:

Susan Herbert does Brief Encounter (click away for Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard & the film)

On this snowy morning over breakfast I read in the Times Literary Supplement a series of modern sonnets “after Shakespeare.” None matched Shakespeare’s usual depth of feeling, apprehension, word play, but one called attention to a sonnet by Shakespeare which connected back to my wish I could be haunted: No 43:

When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright are bright in dark directed;
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay?
    All days are nights to see till I see thee,
    And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

And to be candid, Gillian Clarke’s re-write of Shakespeare’s oft-quoted and apparently revered Sonnet 116 speaks home to me more than Shakespeare’s irony over clichéd assertions.

Pull between earth and moon, or chemistry ,
carries the swallow home from Africa
to perch again on his remembered tree,
the weeping birch by the pond. A star
will guide his mate home in a week, perhaps,
to the old nest in the barn, remade, mould
of spittle and pond-sludge snug in its cusp
as the new year in the mud-cup of the old.
Loss broke the swan on the river when winter
stole his mate while he wasn’t looking. Believing,
he waited, rebuilt the nest, all summer
holding their stretch of river, raging, grieving.
    So would I wait for you, were we put apart.
    Mind, magnetism, hunger of the heart.

My mate is lost, stolen from me, not believing, having no hope, I hold on to our stretch of shared consciousness, our nest. The last three lines (where Shakespeare is often weakest, though in the above 43rd not) are where Clarke is strongest.

February’s Kliban cat

Miss Drake

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John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-93), November later afternoon, Stapleton Park, Leeds (1880s)

Outside an order
I calm within
Yet my soul in shambles

Friends, I wish I could write poetry like this whose lines make beautiful what my haiku condenses:


(after Baudelaire)

The insinuating dusk, friend of all outlaws,
is here like a conspirator or as a wolf will pause
as it lopes; dark and light pass in the sky’s revolving doors,
our beast’s teeth lengthen like white buds in our jaws.

Twilight, old lover, how I still thirst for you
together with those whose hands can say and mean it too
today we laboured, O blue draught that grants relief
to the mind that is tom at by a feral grief:
the dogged visionary with his forehead of stone,
the screen-shrunk wage slave who straphangs home alone.
Meanwhile, in the infested air, astral parasites
rise like any cufflinked puppets of their appetites
and clatter their plumes on the steel-shuttered shops;
no wind perturbs the streetlights gleaming like sucked cough drops,
beneath which bought love’s flame strokes silver foil
as it releases the antennaed horde of those who toil
along the arcana ofcondemned estates’scrawled stairwells
(writhing like a worin in the city’s poisoned bowels
and turning to its own end all that men can eat,
an enemy assuming that victory’S complete).
Now and then you hear the sizzle of an angel’s wing
from striplit kitchens, the streets’ unhuman yipping,
the tack-tack-tick of the wheels in the gambling den
that flashes and dings like a giant playpen,
while the petty criminals, whose line of business
is just as exacting as a suit’s – and work it is –
are outwitting all locks with agile, godlike hands
so they can join the blazing feast and deck their queens in brands.

In this grave radiance, this fatal Now, my soul
recollects itself as the silent pupil of the whole
roaring vortex where dusk is always coming on,
where night’s trap snaps white necks with teeth of iron
and the sick take the exit for the pit (we’re lovin’ it);
the world is an asylum erected by a scream,
in which each evening one less gouches in his meat
in the comer by the heater where the nobles sit:
all who’ve never known unless in dream
the understanding that life’s holy, mere existence sweet.

— Ned Denny

I lack the actuating power
he provided and must endure
the straining to keep

to (as the man says)
“grave radiance
in this fatal Now.”

Or hold fast.
Jim would’ve put it,
That’s all there is, my you.

Portrait of a Young Woman, a fresco from Pompeii, 1st century CE

This was playing on NPR on the radio (my mother left me) while I was writing this blog:

Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto 2, 2nd movement — with a montage of landscapes

Nearby, Ian alert, Clarycat snuggling in:


I turn to do bills, then read Hermione Lee’s Penelope Fitzerald: A Life.

Saturday morning, cool, rainy …
Miss Drake

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Time is killing more of us more swiftly:
since time is become cancer,
cancer moves in to the beat of time itself.

It’s now
Look down and see what cancer is doing
Paulina’s line re-booted

As our air and food, straight chemicals
directly imbibed,
become ever-more polluted,
addictive —

“I am afraid to stop the pills …”
Says one unhappy soul
even if they have such side-effects.

Psychiatrists once soul-healers
deal out body altering chemicals
record-keepers for NSAs, DMVs

It becomes a matter of time
The pollution slowly eats us up —
Bloats us — Corrosive

How many years does this or that cancer
give this or that person. Ninety? 51? Ten?
That is the new question.

Miss Drake

For a 21st century Book of Hours

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Ian late last night

Closing shot of “Cracking the Killer’s Code (2012)

Dear Friends and readers,

I can no longer keep up the disciplined schedule I once did. I used to do a lot of literary work, study films, write to an inner schedule consonant with promised papers, reviews, coming teaching, and yet participate in reading for listservs and beyond that read or watch movies for pleasure. Now I don’t get started on my projects until well after noon.

From my translated poetry out of Vittoria Colonna:

Parmi che’l sol non porga il lume usato

Gone brightness from the air, a light I knew,
gone from the sun and his sister, the moon,
gone from earth; gone Venus silvery star,
gaily whirling rings of shimmering light.

Gone his brave heart, hardened by endurance,
gone the chivalric soul, its beauty and
integrity with all his virtues gone;
the trees are bare, the fields without flowers.

I see troubled waters and air like pitch;
fire has no warmth, the wind lacks freshness;
all things have lost their purpose and meaning.

Since he I love is gone into the earth,
nature’s laws are confused–or else my grief
is such reality is gone from me.

Nella dolce stagion non s’incolora

Gone the gentle colors of the earth’s spring,
gone from her new-born flowers and green leaves,
the lovely scarlet dawn pale, faded, leaves
the serene star-filled sky faintly glimmering …

I find I like sleep — at some point in my 40s I began to see it not as a waste of time, but as a longed-for retreat. I’d cover my head with the blankets and sink back to rest; one day I told my beloved that I felt that tired of life I was beginning to understand how death was a release. I remember he didn’t quite like that. Now sleep is something like oblivion. While I sleep I lose consciousness, and most of the time do not remember my dreams. Each night I dip into a bottle of pills; when trazadone does not work, there’s temazepam.

When I go to bed I hug my body
my arms crossed tight. There is not a minute
in daytime I’m not aware you are not here.
In the gym talking, hearing these women.
Gone from me your presence which lent me peace.
In this silence you’re not coming back from.

L’alta piaga immotal che m’assicura

The dart inflicts the wound that cannot heal,
it widens as the years come and go: spreads,
blood seeping into the skin.

Morte col fiero stral se stess offese

Death, with her savage wild dart, hurt herself
So, angry at me, she picked up her dart,
but saw I’d take the bitter blow silently,
so she gives no more: and I live with her.

I learn what war of life is,
what strange troubles haunt us. She invents
absurd unheard-of pitiless getting
back –abandons me–a life bereft–

Each day I manage around 4 hours of what I call my work. Usually after noon and before 5 when the hard hours arrive. I do find myself looking forward to Yvette’s return. I know I should go for a walk, but do not. Sometimes I can read more, but it must be a genuinely true directly felt text. Need not be a novel. Criticism will do, nowadays especially of film. Poetry by women, occasionally by a man, and Jim’s favorites. I am grateful each time I find a woman’s novel that can absorb me. I got myself Jhumpa Lahiri’s Lowland ….

The inner strength, inner-motivated
gone from me. So I stumble along lurch
from and to this and that. Wishing I could,
waiting until I, stop altogether.

I do a little, when absorbed my mind
forgets, it’s as useful as sleep that way
I’m unaware of time passing I look
up and the clock says you’ve gone though

four more hours. I feel Clary clutching
at my sweater, pants, her paw is outstretched
while I bond with Anna Maxwell Martin
inhabiting Elizabeth Bennet
and as Susan in The Bletchley Circle

Wondering when I will get there at last
Join him by simply being what I’m

Part of this three week’s routine at Dance Fusion Workshop:

There is a there there: Far shot; Rachel Stirling as Millie, Sophie Rundle as Lucy, and Julie Graham as Jean, and Susan from the side … she is often seen from the side in this series


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Dear friends and readers,

Back from subtropical middle western Florida where most of the time I was there the degrees were 60 to 70 (and above) Fahrenheit, with a building humidity, and the skies blue and sunny, the land flat, and the Gulf of Mexico and other waters soft green in color. I left in the freezing rain, and about two hours after I was home, the cold rain, sleet and ice pellets began again. Yet on the whole I was relieved to be home, and not just because I’m happiest and nearest some peace at home. I’d rather live here, cold seasons, autumn hurricanes, summer squalls and all. I love a snowy landscape — albeit from my window. But I do not prefer where I am just for the varied weather and hills.

What did I most enjoy? Most unexpectedly my friend’s sister-in-law phoned a friend or co-worker, Penelope Bodry-Sanders, she had not seen in twenty years and wrangled an appointment to get a sort of private tour of the lemur sanctuary that has been set up near Myakka City. A building housing a library, with a place for students to learn, people to study and talk about lemurs stands next to a 9 acre woodland in which three types of lemur families and groups live. They are pre-siminian, not quite primates, and live in groups headed by a mother, with a father hanging around not far off — and to us walking there they seemed sweetly playful. We watched a ring-tailed group interact,


and stood near “red rough lemurs” climbing trees. In another cage, more sadly, we saw a group of lemurs who are dangerous, aggressive: it seems these are lemurs mistakenly made pets of by human beings and when the lemurs grow older and seek sexual partners with their humans and are rejected, they become upset, unruly, and socially impossible (to the people). So they are rescued, and kept in as good health as possible while they live their single thwarted lives out (prevented from having any further lemurs).

I learnt a lot about lemurs in the conversation afterwards with Penelope Bodry-Sanders (Herself!), a thin youthful (grey-haired pageboy hairstyle) woman in jeans and T-shirt, writing an essay on the center and good people who helped get it accreditation, funding, and students. She said as how it was “very good of us” to take time out from our vacation to see the sanctuary. I replied, on the contrary, that afternoon was a high point for this holiday for me. She then spoke my name (remembered it). I now want to see a documentary film called Lemurs of Madagascar and (on her advice) have bought a book by Alison Jolly on the world of the lemurs.

My friend and I also took a long walk in Myakka State Park. We saw alligators and Amish men fishing, birds of all sorts, herons, seagulls, pink spoonbills:


climbed up a wooden structure to where we could see over the wood, across a swaying bridge


where we could look down the many Palmetta trees, whose trunks resemble pineapples and leaves are stalk-like fans


My friend meant to show me a good time at a famous beach (said to be #1?), Siesta is it’s name: white lovely sand, stretched out blue waters, but I found myself shocked by a an experience of STUG (sudden tremendous upsurge of grief) as I suddenly realized that I had not been on a beach for a at least a couple of years and the last time was with Jim. I remembered how in summers when we were in our twenties and had our dog, Llyr, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings we’d buy croissants, take a tall thermos of coffee and drive to far Rockaway to a beach where dogs were allowed, and spend time there. How one summer when we stayed in a Duke’s hunting lodge (Landmark Trust rental), near Chichester, he drove me and Yvette twice to a beautiful rocky beach near a pier and the two afternoons there playing by the water. I felt for him he was missing out, I who had grown tired of beaches I thought. I felt so bad that we had stopped going.

I suggested we try again a second time at some other famous place (I had ruined the good time, my grief not been understood), this time a beach by a pier and restaurant called Shaky where there is much fishing — schools of dolphins are seen.


I hoped the initial strong had worn off some, and wanted to sit on the beach and stare out in silence as a kind of commemoration to what was. My friend and I have known each other since I was 16 and she 17; we’ve not seen each other for years at a time, but never quite lost touch nor lost our New York accents; we got our first jobs as secretaries together; we went back to college around the same time, both went on to do Ph.Ds (but she in economics and made a lot of money, her husband a bank examiner); I was a bridesmaid at her wedding, Jim and I and she and her husband went out together some while we all lived in Manhattan; she had one son around the time I had Yvette (she when she was 36, I when I was 37, so her son born two years before my Yvette); well she too has been widowed, this past August. We walked onto a dog beach and along the wet sand. She first and then I took shoes off and stood at the edge of the water wetting ourselves up the calves.

We also went out to dinner to a restaurant that was cowboy-like; it’s old and by a river, and has an extraordinary fish menu, with a tall-tale about an alligator as its founding myth. It too said to be famous or at least celebrated; too bad I am bad at remembering well-known names (and showed my propensity to mispronounce and keep mispronouncing once I got the word wrong). At night we watched on her wide-screen flat TV (I have one just like it), the first season of The Bletchley Circle (all 3 episodes over a couple of nights); she had a version of one of the episodes of Elementary, very good, with Jonny Lee Miller as the Sherlock, a kind of Dragnet-intellectual witty melancholy man wandering amid desperate poverty and beautifully-appointed apartments,

While you Were Sleeping

which I had not been able to watch because so over-larded with commercials, we shoverdosed by watching back-to-back the first episode of the first season of Cumberbatch-Freeman’s Sherlock.

Those were the high points. I also saw a Florida I don’t belong in at all.

An Esplanade sales center — the structural elements are characteristic

Gated-communities of houses built in harmony with one another, many overlooking bodies of water from a linai (huge screened porch filled with flowers, if you like a hot tub) all looking so clean and prestigious (in good taste), inside which blocks and blocks are golf areas, pools, tennis courts — not a black or minority person in sight. The supermarkets did have black and minority people working and shopping in them, and I saw many of the same chain stores in the malls as we have here in the Virginia, DC and Maryland area (including the expensive Whole Food chain). No surprise that the vote in these places is conservative Republican; all for Romney, they saw him as an admirable businessman (successful in making money, tons of it), and his infamous speech about 47% of the country as simply true. I couldn’t make conversation without giving myself away somehow and finding myself up against suspicious tones. The Internet much scoffed at — all the while clearly centrally part of these people’s lives. My friends, it will go hard with us if Jebb Bush wins. He will not regard the Internet as a utility, nor a place for liberty of communication, access for information for all.

As I wrote Caroline when this afternoon from my home computer, I was slightly astonished to discover the HOAs at such places are just as neurotically class-conscious, ridiculous over perceived symbols as those where Caroline lives (which I had snobbishly attributed to lower middle class anxieties). Among other things, in the Florida community of rich houses and gardens, you are not allowed to park your vehicle outside your garage if it looks too much like a truck. Neighbors spy on one another and tell the HOA committee heads. Could it be they think property values are threatened? that it brings down the neighborhood. No. “So unsightly.” To my credit I listened silently to defenses of these rules. I took heart — I don’t know quite why — when I got home and looked up the estimated price and taxes of the houses there and those where I live and found the ones where I live are priced higher. I admit I meant to be mischievous when I admitted (openly) that I have a clothesline in my backyard where I hang laundry. I was told laundry is “especially prohibited” in your linai. (You can never tell what people will get up to.) It made me remember Mr Woodhouse hearing Frank Churchill say he knew of people who threw open windows in autumn nights, “well, he never, but then he has lived such an out-of-the-way life.”

For the first time I identified with Miss Bunting in Downton Abbey and began to imagine the distress she probably felt when she returned home from having been berated by Lord Grantham, loudly singled out by him as not wanted there, not to omit her real sense (I am willing to credit her with sincerity) of the injustice of the social and economic arrangements all around her (admittedly not felt as hard in this reactionary costume drama). How do you talk to someone whose outlook is so fundamentally totally at odds with your own unless you erase yourself. And why should you not speak out against harmful prejudiced and just plain wrong assertions at you. Not that Miss Sarah Bunting would not (also) have lectured me, questioned me, made suggestions about how to stop the pain of this ravaged ripping away from me half my self in him, his being gone, I find scarcely endurable.

Miss Sarah Bunting (Daisy Lewis)

My friend told me the character in Downton Abbey she identified with is Tom Branson, for she is originally working class.

It’s not that I did not see from the car another Florida — we drove far and wide to reach different places. I saw fields of people living in trailer camps; old and poorer small houses (home-built some of them), a high school I was told was “all-black” (I have to admit my immediate association was Birmingham it’s 100% Muslim — a new Fogle’s Bookshop opened there other day) and maybe it was. Sarasota is a varied city, with an opera house, a theater, movie-houses (a vast cineplex playing trash and junk mostly, but it has HD ballets from London), a large library, plenty of fast-food places, tall apartment houses. I saw people some call red-necks too, tatooed, country folk. Victor Nunez people.

My friend has a sweet cat, Sophie, grey and white, rescued from a life of abuse, wary and unable to play much, hiding away, but at night coming out, to crawl into my friend’s lap, very sweet and cuddling for love and affection. At night we did have long enough reading times, beginning around 9 a couple of times. Copies of The Economist were about, and I found it easy reading, intelligent, filled with information, many reports and reporters from around the earth. I was able to use my ipad and relieved to watch Amy Goodman and Democracynow.org, and read novels. I finished and think superior Winston Graham’s first historical novel, set in Cornwall, 1898, The Forgotten Story, about which I hope to blog separately.

I was very nervous about traveling back, overwrought again over the boarding pass (which again did not appear in my email), over getting there (as no cabs could easily come into this gated community, buses unheard of), absurd of me. My friend drove me back easily on time, and told me to phone her if I had any trouble and she’d come and help. I needed no help; everyone all courtesy, my bag x-rayed but otherwise I was hardly looked at. But it is ever hard to do, hard to breathe through, to be from home and my sleeping pills did not work as well as they usually do, and I had to resort to two one night to find some peace.


While there in the dawn I’d write sets of verses I put on this blog and have deleted; I have now made a selection from these, toned-down:

For me the hard hours
are between four and five
late afternoon, awake
after many hours
I’ve done what work I could.

I feel his absence in
the silence. I long
to turn to him for
strengthening talk, comfort,
relief, his fun. Stillness

all around me. I can’t
figure out why having
gone out alleviates
this. One cat puts his paw
on my knee and jumps up.

I’m forced to realize
he’s nowhere on this earth.
I let people burn his corpse
and put the ashes in a urn
he chose. What was to be
gained by a corpse
rotting in the ground,
I asked myself. Stony
cold in these freezing rains

For me the hard hours
are when I’m far from home,
marking time until I
can get back. Safe from
contingency, instant

dependence where there’s no
barrier to keep stings
at bay.
       What can I sing?
Memory what’s meaningful.
What is there for me to embrace?

On the beach two days ago
for the first time since he died
and I was overcome with sadness
for him missing the water, the sky,
how long it had been since we had
gone to a beach; the last time in
England, near Chichester.
How many years since we took
Llyr, our poor dog to far Rockaway
on summer mornings.
It is so terrible that I should
be alive somewhere on this earth
and he not with me, looking out.

I was at a lemur sanctuary
today. Friendly families
of lemurs with their unfair
nickname, sloth,
living on 9 acres.
Taken good care of.
How vulnerable they seemed.
For now together.

I find peace in my workroom
when the computer works,
I reach net-friends, in writing,
from somber undeluded
intelligence in books
movies, music with
strong ordered harmonies
to flow through my pulses.
Now that he’s gone who was
the blood that flowed through
my heart.
       Literally too,
for twice he gave blood
Type 0, to replace the Type A
the hospital staff transfused
throughout my body.
My hope to die before him was
not hopeless. I had
some statistics on my side.

I long for deep true endless
sleep. My pain’s source, can be
my buffer against cant
offering wrong advice
I must stop listening to.
Being with others
physically; trips,
scene changes as what’s
tranformative, not so
for me.

I do not think Miss Bunting will marry at all.


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