July 3, 1947 — May 30, 2017
July 3, 1947 — May 30, 2017
Musician Ronnie dies away and
cousin Leslie cannot say
how or why God calls
us there beyond the billow:
Sad friend Sarah’s dying dog
gets fed prednisone so life extends
a month perhaps as sibling Robert
hiss-pierces sister’s heart and venom
seeps down hanging veins while
curly-haired Amy sings and weeps
for a brother who died well before
he was newly felled yet somehow
in the face of grace I can make
the smallest case for the naught
we become after we hear our knell
when I find myself impelled
to tell some sighing students
“a series comma is more common.”
Did you know that scorpions, the oldest
animals on Earth, appeared 430 million years ago
and have not changed a whit since they walked out of the sea
so they could molt in peace?
Humans have been known to freeze these animals over night,
thaw them out in sunlight the very next morning, and
watch slack-jawed as they scuttled merrily away
in search of their next prey.
Some hardly need air to live because they
can will their metabolisms to a near naught and
have been known to survive
for as much as a year on a single meal.
With eight arthropod legs, a scorpion can outrun you once he has you fixed in his sights. And, should you find yourself face to face with this ancient creature, do not think for a minute that there will be any reasoning with him —
no matter how reasoned your entreaty may be.
Take the note I recently wrote the scorpion who some might call sibling:
my words, it appears,
fell deafly and drear
on salt-wet ears.
by Ann Iverson
Even near the very end
the frail cat of many years
came to sit with me
among the glitter of bulb and glow
tried to the very last to drink water
and love her small world
would not give up on her curious self.
And though she staggered — shriveled and weak
still she poked her nose through ribbon and wrap
and her peace and her sweetness were of such
that when I held my ear to her heart
I could hear the sea.
Sunday Morning Early
by David Romtvedt
My daughter and I paddle red kayaks
across the lake. Pulling hard,
we slip easily through the water.
Far from either shore, it hits me
that my daughter is a young woman
and suddenly everything is a metaphor
for how short a time we are granted:
the red boats on the blue-black water,
the russet and gold of late summer’s grasses,
the empty sky. We stop and listen to the stillness.
I say, “It’s Sunday, and here we are
in the church of the out of doors,”
then wish I’d kept quiet. That’s the trick in life—
learning to leave well enough alone.
Our boats drift to where the chirring
of grasshoppers reaches us from the rocky hills.
A clap of thunder. I want to say something truer
than I love you. I want my daughter to know that,
through her, I live a life that was closed to me.
I paddle up, lean out, and touch her hand.
I start to speak then stop.
In a previous post, “I Think I’ll Forego Exposure Therapy,” I wrote about my fear of garbage disposals and hinted at my wobbly relationship with retaining walls. While these fears mean little in any world other than my own (and certainly mean less-than-little when compared with genuine life-and-death fears so many people endure day in and day out around the globe), I was trying, in my own adorably sardonic way, to get at something larger, deeper — and more relatable: that we all of us are inhabited by irrational fears that arise and withdraw seemingly of their own volition.
Where they reside when they are not making mischief is a great mystery. And even more interesting is why we have ended up with our unique configurations of fears in the first place. (Granted, though, that dread of being eaten alive seems a very reasonable terror if you happen to live in close proximity to tigers that enter your village at night in search of food.)
But fear of clowns? Or fear of parakeets, trees, rain, the color yellow, belly buttons, the pope, the number 13, beards, and holes — all well-documented phobias. From whence do these come? And what purpose do they serve individually and collectively?
Although my irrational fear of garbage disposals tilts in the direction of delusion because mine is clearly a false belief about the power these gadgets have over me, I actually live outside this belief and can laugh at myself whenever the fear tries to take hold.
For those who live with psychosis, however, these fears and delusions are all too real and intractable. Without early intervention and treatment, they daily live with what can be debilitating delusions, hallucinations, and other symptoms — with the onset of these symptoms typically occurring in those who are between ages 16 and 25.
Having worked since last summer with young adults in this age range who have experienced their first episode of psychosis, I have seen firsthand that, if treatment begins early, there is every hope they can be spared a lifetime of disability and can go on to live fulfilling, healthy lives.
For resources about first-episode psychosis programs, click HERE.
I have a confession to make: I am petrified of garbage disposals, and nothing I do to try and erase, or to at least minimize, the panic I feel when I flick on the switch allows me to enter my walled off, inner townhouse, where the persuasive Ms. Terror lives with her eloquent companion Mr. Delusion. If I could just get in the front door, maybe they would let me talk some sense into them.
Of course it is possible to argue that the fear is necessary because, without it, I would have pulverized a hand and a forearm long ago had I not known to flick off the switch prior to thrusting them down a slimy grinding chamber to retrieve rattling bits I well knew didn’t belong anywhere near the disposal’s most fearsome part: its blades.
And it’s those blades, you see, that terrify me most because I have this belief that there is nothing I can do to prevent my hand from finding its own way down an activated disposal even if I don’t give consent. So each time I discover that my digits and limbs are still intact after I’ve used a disposal, I breathe a sigh of relief and think I’ve forestalled calamity once again.
Perhaps I won’t tell you about my decades-long fear of driving next to cement retaining walls.