Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Write Now!

So I joined this writing group that meets at a bookstore on 24th Street once a month. I wasn't taken with anything I wrote last month, but here's something kinda nice that I wrote last night.

Soundtrack of My Life

The music that comes to mind from my Harrisburg years is Broadway show tunes, played on a stereo encased in a wide wooden cabinet that matched the rest of the furniture.

The music that comes to mind from my Berkeley years is Laura Webber's folk guitar instruction book, which I wrote to the TV station for, and folk songs that I sang with Joyce Roop and her mother (and her sister, before her suicide). I still remember when we were singing for some people and I began the song alone, an octave too high, and Mrs. Roop stopped and corrected me.

The music that comes to mind from my Santa Monica years is Eric Coates' London Suite, and whosit's Grand Tarentella, that mother put on the record player to enliven our efforts at housecleaning.

The music that comes to mind from my UCLA years I listened to in the music laboratory, which had maybe 20 stations with headphones where you could listen to the assigned music, and I chose to work on my musicianship with the Rutgers University Music Dictation Course. I also sang with the UCLA Madrigal Singers one year, and the Brentwood Church Choir for at least two years, including challenging music like Poulenc's Stabat Mater and Mozart's Requiem.

The music that comes to mind from my law school years is hymns and anthems I sang every week with the church choir, and played on the bass recorder with my tiny hands because I was the only player who knew both the bass fingerings and the bass clef. I also remember singing Britten's War Requiem with the Civic Chorale.

Post-law school, the music that comes to mind includes what I worked on in voice lessons, like the duet from Delibes' Lakme, and what I played on the recorder at the memorial for a friend's mother - a Bach selection that was just a bit beyond my capabilities.

Nowadays, I enjoy whatever KDFC sends my way.

Friday, August 22, 2014

New Poems

I write about what's on my mind. See below.


My legs ache
when I sit too long
in most chairs.
The ache starts
in the backs of my thighs
and steadily grows.
Stretching doesn't help
jiggling my legs doesn't help.
The only thing that helps,
other than getting up and walking,
is propping my feet
on a footrest,
to get the pressure off
the backs of my thighs.

A Few Good Things

My mother learned
a few good things
in those twelve-step rooms,
while smoking like a chimney
and swimming in coffee.
She learned to avoid
getting too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.
She learned to seek out others -
"When I'm alone, I'm in bad company."
She learned the trap of stillness -
"Action is the magic word" and
"Pray for potatoes and pick up the plow."
She learned that you can choose
how to respond to challenges -
"Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional."
She took care of herself
and her sponsees -
her children, not so much.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fun with Haiku and Tanka

Another evening at the poetry class, and I learn that the haiku form, which I've known about since high school, descended from a much earlier Japanese poem type called tanka.

Longer than the 5-7-5 syllable lines of haiku, a Japanese tanka has five unrhymed lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables, but English writers of tanka take more freedom with the syllable count, and mostly produce five-lined poems with lines that are short-long-short-long-long, with as few as ten syllables total, up to the standard size of 31.

Anyway, we had some time to write, and examples ranging from classical descriptions of nature to cynical and angry poems about modern life. Here's what I came up with:

Stomp brake pedal down
Omigod; where'd that come from?
This time, I still live.

White mold on my cheese.
I guess it has been too long
since I cleaned the fridge.

Smallness is Asian
My cars are all Japanese
I'm really quite short.

Sturdy old Bay Bridge,
Rust like cancer in your bones,
Please don't fall on me.

I'm on a Segway
Lean into the turns
Can't seem to shift my weight forward,
My feet hurt too much.
Oh boy, a panic attack.

I can write haiku;
English class in seventh grade.
Tanka not so much
Because I'm used to ending
after the third line.

Naked ladies grow
Next to the Berkeley sidewalk,
Shiver without leaves
But beautiful nonetheless
Even as the blossoms droop.

Why would a cop shoot
A boy with his hands in air?
Bigotry unleashed
Little man with a big gun
His guilt has turned into fear.

Convoy of white trucks:
Humanitarian aid
or troops with more guns?

Friday, August 1, 2014

First Fruits of a Poetry Class

Either I just noticed or I just became interested, but last night I started going to a poetry class that's part of Roke's Feminist Arts festival. It was especially attractive since it includes not only the opportunity to perform a piece or two, but also to have it published in a booklet.

Anyway, we're trying to write portraits of a person, place, or event that reveal the pertinent emotions. My memory being nearly as bad as my imagination, I figured I'd start with something recent that I wanted to write about anyway - the dance at the OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change) gathering that I attended last week. So here it is.

Old Lesbians’ Dance

I had a high old time

the other night

at the Old Lesbians’ Dance.

I duded up,

jewelry and all,

and tucked my stuff

in a fanny pack

to clear the decks for action.

The band played a few songs

I recognized from the 70s

and it was way too loud

for talking.

Most women were eager to dance,

and we danced together or apart.

Scent-free, of course -

this being a lesbian feminist gathering.

At one point, I found myself

dancing next to a petite white-haired

firecracker; we sang

“Rolling on the river”

to each other

on the choruses.

We began to glow

with our efforts

as the evening wore on;

breasts nestled against breasts

during the slow dances.

One partner started

to intertwine her legs with mine,

but my inhibitions


A 92-year-old woman,

looking mighty fine in her

embroidered vest and smile,

leaves her scooter to dance

by attaching one hand to her partner

and the other to her cane.

I surprise myself

by lasting through three or four

dances before heading off

for a cup of cold water

and an upholstered bench.

Women from my past

swim into view,

fellow recorder players

a lesbian studies professor

women from my synagogue

the author of a play I acted in a few years ago

and two others from the cast.

I notice one old friend

wasting the dance floor

by talking with others.

I nip over to her

and plant one on her kisser,

surprising the spit out of her.

There were no snacks,

and I skipped the wine,

but I got plenty high

on the women

and the dancing

and belonging.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

More Writings with Roke

So, I've been to several sessions to create and plan this year's Siren Project adventure. In several writing sessions, the following bits manifested:

Asked to write why I'm involved in this project, I wrote:

I want to make people laugh. I want to share my trials and awaken recognition in others -- surprise, validation, the feeling that I'm not the only one after all.

I want to be clever and wise, and have folks laugh at the cleverness and have the wisdom sneak up on them later.

I want to take cultural narratives of femininity and rework them until they relate to me and my life, letting folks see what a prison they can be and what freedom can look like.

I want to have fun, get to know some women batter, use my theatrical and other experience to help them realize their intentions.

I want to listen to what others have to say and learn from it. I want to hear in what they say something that I recognize as universal and wise.

I want to learn what others see and hear when I speak, so that I can get a true appreciation of myself and my gifts - one that is skewed neither by unfounded pride nor by baseless self-criticism.


Here are two other little bits that came out:

Part of me want to write about my softness fetish - for really soft sheets and towels, for fuzzy plants and my cat's fur. My nearly irresistible urge to pet a cute crew cut - on a man or a woman, or to stroke velvet or fur that's being worn near me.
My theory is that I was seriously deprived of cuddling and holding as an infant, so that now I'm driven to seek comforting contact to make up for the lack.

I also wonder about my thing for silver foxes. From my 30s, at least, I've had a soft spot for women with shortish silvery hair. So much that my longest relationship was with a woman 15 years older than me. I really lost out on mothering as a child, so I'm probably still seeking mothering that I missed. But now I'm the one with short silvery hair. Maybe I can be the mother that I've been looking for.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

It Is Enough

Fairley asked us to write a response to the following nifty yoga poem by Danna Faulds:

It is enough right now
to taste one moment of
peace. Of course I want
more, but at least the
door is open.

It is enough to draw a
conscious breath and
let my hands relax,
fingers releasing their
tight grasp on things
outside of my control.

It is enough to shed a
layer of stress as if
taking off a jacket or a
pair of too-tight shoes.

Ease of being has to
start somewhere.
This breath is my
first step.

Not knowing the yogic context, I responded as follows:

"To taste one moment of peace." This reminds me of an article I read recently about six things you can do in 30 seconds to make you feel better - take some deep breaths, smile, stretch, etc.

The important part, however, comes right before doing anything. It's stepping outside of the badness far enough to see that badness isn't all there is. Getting out of 'helpless and hopeless' enough to see the possibility of things being different, of me being different. Being stuck inside a black cloud, we need something to remind us that somewhere else the sun is shining, and that we ourselves have enjoyed that sun in the past. Only then can we believe enough in the possibility of returning to the sun that we can even imagine doing something that can move us in that direction.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Writing with Roke

I'm joining the Siren Project for another production, a bit like the one I was in two years ago, Mad Love. At an introductory session last Sunday, we had a period of writing to the prompt "In my perfect world, I would ...", to which I wrote as follows:

In my perfect world, I would have a perfect balance of action and rest, of being with others and being alone, of doing and writing about what I've done. I would love myself and not say mean things to me when I'm not perfect. I would love others, and think about ways to bring them pleasure.

I would wear clothes that are attractive and comfortable, and not frayed or stained.

I would pick up a companion for a walk or a meal as easily as I choose a book to read or a TV show.

I would understand politics and make powerful presentations to officials and voters that make this a better place to live.

I would have friends to cuddle with whenever my cat is not enough.

I would be able to share a wise perspective with friends, and be able to hear their perspective on my and my doings.

I would wake up refreshed and eager every new day to care for my body, mind, and spirit, and to get out into the world to play and work with others.

What I really want to say is that my world is pretty darn good right now, but I do tend to isolate myself. I need encouragement and support to get out and be active, and I need to accept that I also need time alone to recharge.

In my perfect world, I would get up in front of audiences and blow them away with my comedic ability and wit. I would sing funny songs that I wrote, and people would understand every word. I would cconvince people that I am whatever character I was playing.

I would go to sleep satisfied with all I did that day.