Smoking in the girls’ room, sneaking a drink, napping
Subscribe and Save up to 55%
My mother, my stepfather, my five-year-old brother, and I lived in a sunny three-room tenement in Brooklyn, New York. The walls of our foyer were lined floor to ceiling with my mother’s books, and I read as many as possible, entering a trancelike state in which everything else floated on the edges of my awareness.
People have started offering you desserts in a way they think is casual, saying, “It’s just one bite. It won’t make a difference!” But it does. You can eat certain foods and you cannot eat others, and this is the only way you can feel OK. Losing weight is not the point.
If you look into this sheet of paper, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in it. Without a cloud, there can be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Inter-being” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, “to inter-be.”
Everything that has ever been in this house is alive, in you, in us. We’re going to spread that kindness — the winter fires, the rain splashing in on your bedroom curtains in July, the kitchen’s warmth, the light of the chandelier in your eyes, your moonflowers, your roses, the red in the dogwoods. I’ll give it away again and again and you do the same, you hear?
And sometimes it’s the very otherness of a stranger, someone who doesn’t belong to our ethnic or ideological or religious group, . . . that can repel us initially, but which can jerk us out of our habitual selfishness, . . . and give us intonations of that sacred otherness, which is God.
For the last seven years, my father and I have kayaked a thirty-six-mile portion of Oregon’s Rogue River each August. We run the river in an inflatable kayak, him reading the water and me providing the manpower to paddle the boat through world-class rapids.
The ultimate consequence of my time in the Seed was an overwhelming self-disgust that lingered for years. Everything seemed a mockery of itself. I fundamentally doubted the authenticity of any conviction — my own or someone else’s. I had acquiesced and adopted the Seed’s judgment for a time, and I could not easily disown it.
From my perch twenty yards beneath the cave, I’ve a perfect vantage point to watch the bats emerge at twilight, streaming out of the mouth like musical notes from a horn.
We were poor and could not afford for her the soil of easy growth. I was a young mother, I was a distracted mother. There were the other children pushing up, demanding.
To me a good poem is like a sacred mind-altering substance: you take it into your system, and it carries you beyond your ordinary ways of understanding. I call the nonconceptual elements of a poem — the rhythm, the sound, the images — the “shamanic anatomy.” Like a shaman’s drum, the beat of a poem can literally entrain the rhythms of your body: your heartbeat, your breath, even your brain waves, altering consciousness. Most poems are working on all these levels at once, not just through the rational mind.