Archive | Quoth the Raving

Split at the Root: Part I

untitled by Chantal Joffe

If you have taken this rubble for my past
raking through for fragments you could sell
know that I long ago moved on
deeper into the heart of the matter

If you think you can grasp me, think again:
my story flows in more than one direction
a delta springing from the river bed
with its five fingers spread
–Adrienne Rich

This is a story I began writing when I was 34, the last age of Ute, whose story this really is. I am 49 now, and what were cracks in our country’s landscape then have become continental divides. But deep in the soil of this stolen land, the rot was always there, threatening to poison us all.

I knew Ute in 1998. The temperatures were already climbing. Justice as always was only truly available to those deemed human by the Founding Fathers (such a small percentage of us). Rodney King was not so far in the rear view mirror, but had already been obscured in White America’s memory by OJ in his white Bronco,  launching the whole of reality TV culture in that one uber-televised police chase leading finally to Donald Trump’s White House.

As I write this, there is no stable ground—only lethal virus, lethal white supremacy and capitalism. Righteous fury in the streets, dangerous dybbuks in the spreadsheets. I have been sick too—not with COVID but a urinary tract infection that has bloomed into my kidneys and triggered every trigger I didn’t know I still had.

My ability to filter toxins is completely maxed out.

The first day I experienced these symptoms, a first draft of Ute’s story fell onto my desk. It had been securely pinned to my bulletin board for more than a decade but on that overly warm May day, the printout suddenly dropped onto my desk.

I felt sicker.

The summer she and I knew each other, I was 27– the age when you either step into the path of adult life or die. Back then the curse of 27 wasn’t discussed as it is today. Nothing was. The Internet was still in its infancy. When I needed information I went to the library or called up a smarter friend. When I needed companionship, I showed up in people’s bedrooms. When I needed help, I prettily cried Uncle. Continue Reading →

Venus on 42nd Street

Outside the deli
Primroses and daffodils
I open my coat.

I was reminded of this haiku as I ventured out for my walk super early this morning—the only time to honorably unmask outdoors. It’s my favorite entry from the Haiku on 42nd Street project, which took place in 1994, right after I arrived in New York and then-mayor Giuliani closed down all the deliciously seedy Time Square “theaters” (read: pornhouses). While normally bustling 42nd Street was still a ghost town, local poets had their way with all its marquees. These interstitial moments in history offer such stubborn, sad beauty.

My Corner of the Sky Inside

It was a beautiful morning full of the bittersweet longing that defines middle-age, regardless of whether you’re coupled up, family’d up, quarantined up. I woke before the sun, made strong French-press coffee with cream, finished reading my detective novel before springing into the day. Maneuvered mini-car Minerva over the bridge to pretty-pretty John Lindsay park from which I walked miles and miles up the Manhattan side of the East River–steering clear of the runners (oy vey), nodding at all my fellow masked travelers. On a patch of waterfront grass as far from the madding crowd as you can find on a NYC morning, I flopped down to pray and meditate and swan in soft unkempt sun. Only a particularly curious squirrel crept up, and she kept a respectful distance as I pulled down my mask and breathed in big big air. By then it was 9 am so I cruised over to the Tompkins Square greenmarket to fetch gorgeous spring produce (strawberries! ramps! mint! pea shoots!) and mediocre peonies (even mediocre peonies are peonies) before scooting home, Roberta Flack pouring out of the speakers. Back home I baked skillet cornbread and pickled watermelon radishes while jabbering on the phone with a friend about a disappointing love.

From a corner permakitten watched through greenly slitted eyes–judging my backsliding as only a feline can judge.

Now it’s midday and I’m already worn out and at loose ends. That’s not pandemic. That’s the sadness that finds us in all the places quotidian pleasures can’t reach. You know: those corners we just don’t feel held. Come mid-life, only the foolish believe those corners fully disappear.

So, dear ones, no nonchurchy church this afternoon. This is a day for reception rather than inception–for rest rather than rigor and wonder even when you can’t wander. Mary Oliver wrote: “My job is loving the world.” It’s all of our jobs, really. Love up your corner of the sky today. I suspect I’m poised for a three-hour nap and a to-go tequila cocktail. Then next Sunday (5/24) we’ll Sky-Inside together. Mark those calendars: (5/24) at 1pm on Rubyintuitionbk IG Live.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy