Monthly Archives: February 2010

February Poem Finally Memorized

February 26, 2010 Friday

Well it is another snow globe day here on the island of Manhattan, where the frothy contents whirl around us and settle in peaks on the limbs, ledges and lintels. Although I know how dangerous all the heavy snow can be, trees down in the country and cars crushed by limbs in the city, still it is difficult for me to see beyond the beauty to the snowy beast.

And so I embrace it, and as I do, I realize that denial is a drug I so rely upon. I deny that I am dangerously under-employed and I shuffle papers, do small work, cook and live frugally. I deny that I am aging by rolling in the snow with my toddler goddaughter and I often deny the sadness, which abounds by ignoring the news in favor of literature. I suppose in a way I have sugar coated, or snow iced my own little world creating a haven.

Today I set out on a snowy mission of mercy to relieve my friend Rachel of her over-wrought, cranky to the max, toddler who had kept her up all night. Holly of the goddaughter fame. I walked to the nearby bookstore where we met, Holly pitched a few fits in the kiddy book nook and we retired to the bathroom stalls to repair ourselves before heading out in the snow.

We wended our way home, no fits, just slow sloughing and some giggles in the snow banks; we arrived at the loft, got all our wet clothes off and settled in to make sandwiches. My girl Holly is an eager eater and she chooses a ham and turkey sandwich. I give her extra so she can give turkey to the kitten; both love that. While she eats I ask, “May I try to say my poem from inside my head with no words or reading.” Well Holly gets this notion as she can’t read other than “letter H for H and W for Wicki” but she can retell many stories from inside her head.

And I recited John Donne and Anne Winter from start to finish. Lovely to see someone so small taken in by poetry or the ability to do a constant spout well connected words. Anyway it helps to have an appreciative audience short or tall.

Why is it that February, a month with a mere two days less than others, seems so short. It is as if it were on sale, a discounted month. I look at the number 28 and it seems a sham of a month and yet I am done, all learned, all stuck in my brain.

Yesterday when I told a friend about the project as we rocked side to side on the subway heading uptown to the Guggenheim Museum, in yet another final winter storm, they asked, “ So one poem a week right?”

I thought are they crazy? When was the last time you asked your brain to remember anything? We use our cell phones to dial numbers, nudge us for dental appointments, recall birthdays and cocktail parties. We don’t do any math, let alone remembered arithmetic. Who recalls the eight times table? Spell check unravels the bad appellations we fling out onto pages, and Google is at our beck and call for, who sang that song I like?

In fact search engines have taken over the work our brains used to do. They are even getting smarter in interpreting how we ask questions, sort of acting like surrogate spouses or children. What was the name of that chicken I liked at the Chinese restaurant? Ask and poof, the answer is there. And if it isn’t exact, it is enough to prompt your brain to actually recall General Chou’s.

I do know that rather than feeling freed up from all the computer help, we, or at least I am experiencing a sense of being overwhelmed like never before. I feel useless and fractionalized and unable to focus to achieve large goals. I am experiencing a malaise, which is keeping me in a state of constant anxiety. I feel so behind on what I should know, read, learn, see and earn and yes I feel incompetent as a member of the tenuously linked in generation.

I see my skills of organization, management, listening, cooking, mothering writing as being devalued and at best charming. Why knit or cook or garden when the world can move so much faster in the virtual realm? I have been attempting to find a job, where I can be valuable and give back. I have been at this for years now and I can’t find a place that will hire me. It terrifies and depresses me, and yet my response is a vain attempt to be cheery and helpful in small ways to others.

I hold doors, I give directions to endless strangers, I offer help to friends, and I take crying babies and fitful toddlers. But I am unpaid for months on end and writing it, or saying it out loud makes my hands shake and my heart pound in my chest shooting that sick adrenal feeling of a pop-quiz into my now jelly like limbs.

I know I lived through a personal scandal. Oh my god that was nearly 20 years ago and Martha Stewart, Bill Clinton and scads of others have rebounded. Not me. I see the jobs I had in my 20’s and 30’s and I see me now. I am employed as if I were an uneducated entrepreneurial gnome who has made a buck or two guarding and guiding folks over a haunted bridge.

I do small jobs, all badly I feel. How can I relaunch myself at nearly 60? Negative as this may sound I don’t think I can. I feel my lot is to keep myself busy enough so that I don’t weigh 300 pounds and am not looked at as a pariah and a bigger burden to my family.

And so I make up projects. I am learning poems. I am helping friends with children or editing, or finance. I am particularly depressed today. OK I did learn my poem, it is in my head for when I spin and spin in my own muck and mire, but when I have to work on something like taxes, which forces me to review a less than stellar year, I fear that I spiral down into a chest thumping depression.

I can’t reach out more to my husband, who himself is struggling with under employment, or to my daughter who was just let go from her internet start-up job, or to my son, in his last semester of college, who feels as if he will never get his thesis written and after he graduates, fears there will be no jobs for him or his cohorts.

I want to save us all. I want to wrap us in the warmth of words, or poetry or prose, essays or texts and make everyone feel safe, loved and joyful. But this is not to be.

It is as if the old refts in this old being were annealed.”

As if I have any tool, which can make this, be true. If I do, I cannot find it today. It is a slow turning of papers and a walk through the daily tribulations of 2009 and it is here that I must muster satisfaction.

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George’s Birthday, Washington, not Bush

The exact, the very day of George Washington’s birthday and I see the date and recall with a flash how my mother baked a cherry pie every year for this day. And she told the story of  “ I cannot tell a lie I chopped down the cherry tree with my little hatchet.” I learned to eat pie much better than I learned veracity.

I learned to lie as it kept a sort of tenuous peace in my fractured growing up world and now truth is a state I struggle to attain and maintain. A constant check and cross check. I saw it this weekend when we invited my goddaughter and her parents and itty-bitty sister up to the county with us. What do we tell kids is the truth and what must we fabricate to keep our lives and theirs a tad less complicated. Yin and yang come and go the balance of truth and half-truth and bald-faced lies.

The poem 100 Riverside almost memorized with a memory of the snow

Tuesday February 16 2010

Snow again, but this time huge flakes, like lacy pie pans falling from gunmetal sky and yet not sticking. And so I take my winter poem and walk to jury duty. I love when I can slip in my memory and movement with an errand. Usually it requires schlepping too many parcels back home and so I take the bike, my mule, for that type of excursion. But now it is just me trudging to the Court House.

Walking is, as I have said, so slow. I feel as if I need to be medicated to adjust to the pace, over and over this sensation hits me. And then there is that moment when I just give up. Akin to taking a long plane ride, when there is no way out, no choice but to just surrender. But with flying at the other end is India, the arctic, Patagonia. OK walking to the Court House is not that dramatic, and certainly not that long, but it requires surrender on my part. And there is a line in this poem, which I has eluded me.

I let go, as passivest listeners listen, to sift the city,

The words are tough, but it was the concept of I LET GO, which I couldn’t get. I relaxed, I concentrated, I lingered, and there were a host of phrases, which popped into my head before I cold even wrapped my lips around I LET GO. And so I thought in the snow, let go and let the words come in. Let go and see what is around you.

And I saw the painting on a construction site wall, a fanciful light filled drawing glued to the plywood barrier, I saw a new bakery, with the windows misted and solitary coffee drinkers hunched over steamy cups with a sugary delight. I saw a construction workers disassembling the decorative iron on the outside of a building and carefully numbering each piece as it came down. I saw the faces of the world laid out in the crazy quilt we all love, as it is our city. Wide flat faces squinting into the bins of crabs in Chinatown, a woman in furs with a tote bag, which read hopefully Le weekend a la mer, and I shivered thinking about a seaside weekend right now. There were workers cutting forsythia in a new fancy florist and enormous bouquets being carted out for someone who is not pinching pennies.

When I landed at jury duty I sat between Myrna, up from Orlando Florida, where she moved last year and hence will not have to serve here on the island of Manhattan, and Betty from the Bronx who is a conspiracy theorist who believes no one gets a fair shake and the government has bugged her mail box. This waiting room is a microcosm of the stories, accents, and energies, which crammed my city.

I sat with my poem, which I unfolded and folded; read and recited and repeated the process. The paper is now taped to prevent unraveling in a winter pocket. Betty wanted to know why I had to keep reading it since I had been studying at it for quite a bit. Well I find it hard, and I can’t seem to get it to stick in my head, I shared. Little did I realize that this would unleash another torrent of conspiracy positing the idea that perhaps I too had been infiltrated by the government and they had rewired my brain to be unable to take in new information.  I wonder, is that more or less comforting that the truth, which is middle age?

As I received my notice to return in August, I began to review my poem and I was gratified that the entire second stanza seemed pretty firmly implanted. I rolled it over and over in my quiet mouth taking care to not speak out loud and raise the specter of actual governmental interference. I clomped toward home noticing boots, and new pizza shops and swerving locomotion of pedestrians all the while reciting my wintry poem without having to extract it from my pocket and thus expose the words to the raging elements.

Monday February 22, 2010

The exact, the very day of George Washington’s birthday and I see the date and recall with a flash how my mother baked a cherry pie every year for this day. And she told the story of  “ I cannot tell a lie I chopped down the cherry tree with my little hatchet.” I learned to eat pie much better than I learned veracity.

I learned to lie as it kept a sort of tenuous peace in my fractured growing up world and now truth is a state I struggle to attain and maintain. A constant check and cross check. I saw it this weekend when we invited my goddaughter and her parents and itty-bitty sister up to the county with us. What do we tell kids is the truth and what must we fabricate to keep our lives and theirs a tad less complicated. Yin and yang come and go the balance of truth and half-truth and bald-faced lies.

Thursday February 25, 2010

A magical paper cutter sits in the sky furiously snipping edges from pure white stock and letting it fall to earth as snow. Another snowstorm, which makes me, feel as if I am free from considering walking and eating less.

I write as if and I flash to the final part of my poem where the poet says. AS IF it is what it is. .

I am nearly done with the poem and the month and I marvel at how quickly words come as the month nears end. Is it because all tasks take the time allotted? Is there is learning curve which kicks in and ignites my memory, anyone’s memory when you stay at something long enough?

I am fascinated by the connective tissues of learning work and then how memory degrades over time. I had lunch yesterday with a colleague, (I say she is my same vintage); she is chic, thin and certainly doesn’t want to be tarred with the brush of actual age. We discussed memory. She shared that of late she is terrified of having to introduce people. I know that fear. A random name pops into my head and my own child’s name leaves me cold. I now often say, how happy I am to see someone and ask if they would help me with their name.

This works fine. The embarrassing danger appears when I introduce Jim as Bob, of Jennifer as Jessica. You see I can’t ascertain any difference in those names. I am great with Azikiwe or Miranda or Holly If I have only one in my group then they are burned into memory, but by the time the fifth Amanda, Jane, or Susan appears I have to find a memory trick to lock them in my head. And at the lighting speed of introduction those tricks often can’t be annexed. And so we appear daft or addled.

It is as if the old rifts in the reft being were annealed

My mind jumps, I find that the new words, the poet’s words are drumming in my head and shoving other words out of the way. I like that. When I write annexed, it sends me to annealed in the poem. I was writng a grant proposal, one of the few forms of writng, which is not a lovely unpaid hobby anymore, and the word endeared came to me. I have NEVER used that word before and now I feel as if I own it.

A strange thing has been happening; I keep losing the poem. I left it in my shirt pocket in the country this weekend. I then typed and printed another one out and left it at pottery, and now this morning, as I prepare to walk in the snow crunch to my lunch meeting, I had to print out another copy. I thought I had it while I cooked dinner last night hammering words while I caramelized onions, but today it has vanished with the clean dishes, all vestiges of dinner gone.

100 Riverside Drive:

Waking up at Mari’s

By Anne Winters

The city through her back-bedroom window: a shift-

ing of trash cans ( snow-crunch of galvanized steel), gear

sounds drowned in metal hulls, horns now: one by one to lift,

fine tune, and weigh my home town: here, here!

I let go, as passivest listeners listen, to sift

the city, naming sounds, for named sounds near

or distant make a depth where my too deft

attention – deep and troubled, city too endeared—

can lose itself. Always to arrive, and hear

on such first wakings everything that lives

within me sigh, as if to say all’s well, all’s here.


as if the old rifts, in this reft

being were annealed. – AS IF is what it is. It’s theft

of all that is. And nothing else is dear.

Little by Little the Month Takes Shape

February 9 Tuesday 2010
Home to the city that my poet, of this month is praising. Home where trash- can noises are symphonies and the air is filled with sharp sounds.

I walked today to meet my daughter at a local soup place, not to far, but I noticed I was fast and unangry. Often walking brings up a rage in me. A combination of the sensation that nothing is moving fast enough for me, or that I am the one lugging ballast slowing my very existence because I have to propel myself with forward motion. But today I was treading the edges of happy while under my own feeble locomotion.

I left my girl to walk back to work arm in arm with her sweetheart. Oh I didn’t really have anything to do further uptown as I suggested, I just wanted to give them time to be alone hugging each other on the sidewalk while I scurried home by side streets, my poem slowly seeping into my brain.

February 10 Giant Blizzard 2010

A snow day!! Pottery was canceled; well it is my only school. Sort of exciting to get the phone call from Amanda the pottery teacher, but I love pottery. I haven’t ventured forth today. I wrote. I stayed in bed with my husband; we even went back to bed mid-day to celebrate the snow day officially with lazy-day sex. But now I feel I want to have the wind in my ears and some snow in my eyes so I am going to take a little spin along the river and see the snowy sights.

I want to advance past the first third of this poem. The month is nearing half over and I am still stuck at the head of the poem. I need a word shovel to plow the verbs and vowels into my frozen head.

Saturday February 13, 2010

This was going to be a different set of ideas. It was a long walk by the river lots of words slowly moving into my brain, between thoughts of Valentine’s Day and the Chinese New Year, my year, the year of the Tiger. Instead as I approached my loft downtown, I pulled off my gloves and heard a big brash ping. A metal sound bright, and clear, not akin to the sound in the poem, which was “drowned in metal hulls”, and I thought, that’s weird.

I looked down at the ground and at my hand simultaneously and saw that the wedding ring, which had been my grandmother’s, was not there snug on my right index finger. A cold sadness over took me. Where did it go? How far could it have gone? It was right there, I heard it first hit pavement and now invisible. It had fallen under a BMW parked in front of my house. This could be a diversion on the changed nature of my neighborhood, originally settled by artists now populated and visited by the upper echelons. But my ring under their car, and it was all about that.

I called my son; my husband and we all hustled to sweep and peer under the car. We took strong flashlights and shown them around the under-carriage. We picked up chunks of ice and looked under them. I was frozen from lying on the ground and calling out to the ring, but it wouldn’t show itself.

I kept envisioning a cop show where wise scientists use physics to find trajectories and catch killers. Couldn’t one be found wandering by and his day off and offering services? They would trace the possible circle into which the ring could have jumped or rolled or slithered, we would look there and, Voila Valentines Day saved.

Instead I left giant notes written on the cardboard left for recycling. Wedding Ring Lost
On Valentines Day
I was now one of the tragic Smith Magazine six work love bios, all begun because of the Hemingway fictionalized newspaper ad
Baby shoes for sale never worn.

Now I can’t remember my poem, either one in fact, all I hear is the golden ping of my ring. I hear it clearly and I hope not for the last time.

I am fantasizing a sharp-eyed neighbor who finds it and reads my note, and rings my buzzer, rings with my ring in hand for a Happy Valentine ending. The poems will wait.

Later that day. . .

Well the sharp-eyed driver of the blue BMW outside my loft did materialize and she and her husband came bearing my ring. A wonderful unexpected Valentine’s gift. The buzzer rang as we were bustling about getting my son’s sweetheart ready for her month long foray into India. The washer was spinning and clothes for the trip were piling up on the counter. I thought the buzzer was another attempt to deliver a parcel for neighbors and then there came an unknown voice through the intercom.
“ I have your ring. We moved our car and just like your note said the wedding ring was right in the middle of the car in the snow.”

What were the chances? I went downstairs and to my surprise she looked so much like my niece, Risi all big curly hair pulled into a topknot and smiling. A storybook ending.

Monday February 15, 2010

I got up early, not in the dark dawn but before 7 a.m. a time when I can still feel as if there is day to be stolen and it all is not promised or prescribed. A time when I can read poems, do crossword puzzles, or daydream with cats and coffee and not berate myself for being slothful. Oh do people still do that, even with the diminution of the protestant work ethic? I do. I see that one does not have to possess a weird Christian or Hindu or Muslim religiosity in order to put themselves down for not doing or being good enough or productive enough. It can come from our own personal pushy, judgmental deity, our egos.

How does one find that balance of push and relax? I chide myself for television or the couch. I allow a punitive super ego to override many of my small accomplishments; positive steps, which when viewed as a tapestry can become something wonderful. However I watch them as tiny stitches, and criticize their lack of rigor, or non-uniformity, and so I lose interest.

How can I continue to write, make pottery, play the cello, exercise when my results are so lack-luster? Why not just watch T.V. or eat an omelet; if to try is to fail. Not fail totally, but certainly be found lacking or wanting. When one does not leap into the fray there can be no measured result, either good or bad. Waiting on the sidelines is a non-starter.

Still here I am, up writng, after having reviewed my January poem, sadly to find that even in the short time I have been away from it on a habitual basis, it is fading in brilliance from my soggy memory. The language is reverting to my modern cadence and vocabulary.
I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I did til we loved?
And I make it
I wonder what you and I did until we met?
Really that is a quiz show question, a boring first date opener, not poetry from the sixteenth century. Does my brain grow weeds like the garden, which is not vigilantly patrolled? And the weeds which invade my brain are not buckthorn or bittersweet but sloppy language.

Is there any undertaking, which does not require vigilance? I long to find something that thrives in torpor and neglect. I suppose it is a weedy garden, a matted cat, unkempt hair or nails that seem to sprout as soon as I look away. But to grow a garden of words, a collection of poems committed to memory requires just what the phrase implies.

Committed to memory doesn’t imply just dating memory, or toying with memory, flirting with memorizing a poem. No committed firmly to memory. I hadn’t thought about the depth of the phrase until now.

And so I am glad I reacquainted myself with John Donne’s poem yesterday on my walk home, content that I visited it enough to realize it required a recommitment ceremony rigorous enough so that my brain will not moss it over with a coat of sloppy. Now that it is firmly back, I shall jump into modern love with my February NYC poem.

At the risk of being disingenuous let me say that the walking and better eating aspect of this supposedly linked experiment has not progressed well. I am still as hungry, still snacking or slathering butter and the walking, while intermittent and more frequent, is not enough to stem the tide of full fat cheese, or roast chickens and sweet potatoes accompanied by spinach pies and topped off with Valentine chocolates in profusion.

I vacillate between not caring and being enraptured with the warmth of my kitchen and the love of my husband which lulls me into cooking and eating and sharing more, and the horror that I am killing my knees and hips and heart with my chubby self and devil may care love of butter fat. And there it stands, flapping in the breeze like a lufting flag; one day, OK in honesty, one moment committed to good eating and the next firmly on the side a crème brule and explorateur.

More Memory More Poems in San Franciso for a few

February 4, 2010 Thursday

I have not been able to mind-stick even the first seven words of the new poem into my brain. WHY?

The city through her back-bedroom window:

Words elude me and it seems as if in the last 48 hours my small family has been rocked with disappointment and as my husband described it, “ we are taking a hit.” There are disappointments over work, fear over a college thesis, a much-needed vacation in the sun, which materialized as cold, and rain in Mexico. On a personal level, my constant inability to find work which remunerates me in a way that might make me feel valuable, has left me bereft. And when the disappoint rains, it seems to gather as a storm over the family and I am the hub.

I love that they all come to me, but I know that I internalize the fear and disjointed malaise evinced by each of them. I worry that as we connect, we create a concatenation of discontent amounting to the antithesis of synergy. And so I attempt aggressively to remain a calm, positive center of contentment.  I feel I fail at that too.

This morning I see that all of our disjuncture stems from mismanaged expectations. My husband expected the consulting offer to be more far reaching and lucrative, my son saw his final semester in college as one where he partied and floated, reveling in all his hard work, my daughter expected a vacation to escape a job she finds grinding. When they beamed in to me yesterday here is what we found: a much reduced work scope and thus lower fees for my man; my son spinning at the amount of work he will have to do in order to write a thesis; and my daughter cold and distraught that she wasted her vacation in a freezing cold Mexican winter.  I had a day where I spent hours talking with a colleague and friend with whom I thought there might be some immediate work and alas there was a lunch and more potential.

When I review our problems played against the devastation and destruction on parade in the nightly news or blasting in a constant barrage across my computer, I remember how lucky, how blessed, how beyond transplendent our lives are.

This is the undeniable truth, and yet how do we manage expectations.

Later this same day and a miracle happened, all the people I wanted to see when I go West to San Francisco, are aligning themselves for meetings. There are no over laps, no missed calls, the emails are seamless and with two hours to go I have rendez vous with an agent, friends, an editor I have been attempting to find for ages and rides to and from all the assignations. There are dinners planned and dates proffered and I feel it will all work out.

Why? I have to believe it is coming to fruition because I let go, I stopped squeezing so tightly and opened up my hand and heart to the possibility, rather than what I have contrived.

I just returned from taking a brisk 40-minute walk along the Hudson River hugging my new poem in my sticky paws. Glasses frost on the top of my head and my keys are stashed in my pocket. I took off without phone or money and headed north. I am slow on this poem; I found the beginning slow going with the Donne poem as well. But I blamed it on the archaic rhythm and language, however now I see that modern parlance is maybe even tougher. You see I think I know where this poet is headed with her words and then she veers, as she should, to some place so much better. But I am afraid my memory follows the mundane

I have captured loosely the first 18 words. They describe a New York City world in winter terms, funny as the author is named Winter. But as I walk up the Hudson, which is heaved with ice; I attempt to see this world outside the author’s window. She says there is a sound snow-crunch of galvanized steel and I hear the ice breaking and crashing against itself as I walk. Not the sharp sound of metal trash cans, but a scarier sounds of a deluge, a massive melting.

I walk along the curve of the river; I try to hug as close as possible to the shore, now built up with a beautiful park. But if I look out into the middle of the watery ribbon I can imagine I am here alone with the ancient river. The center it is not frozen, the freeze is a trim at the edge. When a boat roars up the river’s spine is causes ripples to lunge out to us on the shore. The water echo causes the ice to rise and fall, the crunch and crash of ice conspires to create terra firma vertigo. I have to grip the railing and steady myself the imagery is so dislocating.

Finally the river calms and the boats heads south and I turn to follow it home. I am clinging to my words clumsily, but I am overjoyed to have ventured forth in the cold to move before hunkering into the horror that is modern air travel.

I wonder, what would it be like, if all the people traveling were carrying poems to memorize?  What world would materialize if all the commuters on trains and buses were intoning poetry, if those waiting to switch their cars to the other side of the street were taking in sonnets, how would the world be different?

Friday February 5, 2010

It is spring in Berkley California and I am in the midst of it. I hear it had been raining here for ages, but the sun came with me and today I walked between meetings ogling the daffodils in full bloom. What an unexpected treat to vacation in spring while we wait for a snowstorm back east. A long weekend of soft air and colors, a weekend to make me feel lucky in the midst of the ongoing fear about value and finance.

I am staying with new friends who have a big old Victorian house on Bonita Street. All color and charm. I brought a beautiful bowl I made for them as a house gift. When I took it out of my bag it jumped and smashed onto the floor. Many pieces and I gathered them carefully and looked out the window at the ceramic mosaics surrounding the house. Flagstones, sculpture, there is broken pottery everywhere turned into garden art. I suppose the bowl wanted a bigger life than cereal or soup and now it does.

I volunteered to cook dinner for the couple here in Berkeley. Do people not do that I was told. What else could I do after all they opened their home, to a woman who just started working with them, and they both are working until nearly 8 o’clock? So dinner it was. I marched to the market watching and marking well my route. I picked up scallops and shrimp for pasta and after enlisting the help of another middle-aged gal, who seemed as if she could cook, I found the crème fraiche. I bundled all my goodies into my canvas bag, given to me by the host. They are quick on the uptake of the good ecological things here in the epi-center of liberalism. I began to wend my way home to Bonita Street reciting my poem.

But by the time I got out onto the street it was dark and the world looked different so I walked a block to two, gave lackluster attention to the poem and asked for directions. It is strange to recite a poem about NYC as your most cherished home while wending along the streets of Berkeley. It is quiet and nearly suburban here; there are no noises of trash cans, no horn lifting in a cacophony, which rings beauty to, my poet, a native daughter returning to these melodies.

But I felt how much I love my home, my street as I walked back to the Victorian house. The poem I would write would begin with this sound: hollow hoofs clacking, made by the police horse returning after their workday. They mark cocktail hour, they mark dark, or a rush to finish a project. Their feet or lively at dusk as they know the oats await, while at day’s start they plod away from the stable as sodden as any wet commuter at the prospect of a day at the office uninspired.

I know the sounds of the hawks who nest in the trellis atop the neighboring building, I do not see them, but I hear their shrill whistle and marvel that they are here sharing the street with the ponies, my children and me. My cityscape has sounds of escape for me, which hearken to a childhood of country escape and longing to ride, horse or bikes in any spare moment.

I wonder if my neighbors hear the same sounds I hear. Or is auditory memory as selective as what face we recall, the movies we blot out and those we hold dear.

February 8 Monday On flight home

I didn’t walk as much as I wanted to on this trip as I was in meetings thinking, problem solving and having my brain reignited in a delicious way.

What is it about another city? The horizons are changed, the coffee is different, the neighborhoods are closer or further apart and it all lights a fire in my sprit, which was sodden with the stink of the usual. An affair of geography is a guilty pleasure acceptable to all and oh so necessary.

So as I attempted to learn a poem about a woman’s NYC homecoming I was agog in the virtue of another city. As my poet, named Winter, this month talked about snow crunch, I stopped on every walk to smell the aroma of the fully sprouted narcissus or the bowers of miniscule purple posies hanging in the yard where we met to talk internet writng possibilities.

The mimosas was pouring into the street high above the University of Berkeley when we drove switchbacks making our way to the aerie of my friend’s sister, who bestowed the perfect little house to us for my final night. The aroma and fecund moistness of spring was all around me and instead of learning my poem, I blew off studying in favor of drinking in the deliciousness of having two springs in one year. My favorite season come round twice.

I did recite John Donne every night until I fell asleep, pushing my brain to relax into slumber by tricking it to leave the land of problem solving and idea generating and lull into the beautify of a known world. It worked. Every time I began spinning, running on over-drive I applied the balm of poetry and I was soothed to sleep. In my relaxed state I could hear the chug and whine of the train whistles as they wafted up the steep hillside, and I enjoyed the lullaby of a far off church bells or clock tower plinking out clear high notes on the quarter hour. Change of place, and aroma, ambient sound, food and landscape is a powerful tune-up for my imagination, even if it slowed my poetry learning capabilities. I am going to have shake up the speed if I a going to finish this shortest month with a completed poem.

February the shortest month

Ground Hog’s Day and Candalmas Day

The mid point of winter. We all hope that the darkest coldest part of winter is over and we will begin to notice longer light, less frost and an occasional spark of spring. Some cultures light candles against the darkness and others drag a rodent, a ground hog, from his burrow and ask him to divine the direction and duration winter.

Both are about hope.

I attempted to restart my own winter body today by going to a Pilates class. The wonderful and inspired Susan was teaching, she says, “I teach as an offering, take what works for you and leave the rest. It is a practice, not a search for perfection. It is a process, so look at yourself not your neighbor.”  Susan shows the connective tissues work and how to notice your body without judging so harshly. There for you are able to work smarter not harder. I feel so much more relaxed in her class shoulders down and finding my core rather than beating it and asking it to appear. I want to try this same technique with memorizing the poems.

During class I kept glancing at the final two lines of the Donne poem, still not completely done. I need to own this poem before I can commit to February’s modern paene to NYC.

Here is the line I can not get to stick

Whatever dies was not mixed equally

If our two loves be one, or thou and I

Love so alike that none do slacken none can die.

February 3, 2010

A small achievement; I got myself out of bed. I got out of bed early. Really such a pathetic pronouncement. I bounced out before 7a.m. before the world was calling, and the air vibrated with needs or television. I know I need to make small strides, much the same way I am learning the poems.

I stumble miserably when I attempt to ingest and gobble the full poem in one blast. I can’t do it, so why do I expect a book to be written, or a body to be morphed in a single day, or by dint of thought.

But I do.

I am impatient and lazy and hyperactive all at once. How is that even possible?  I see that I both detest my inabilities to achieve more of what I want and then I slide back to feeling as if I am special or talented or good. I feel as if I stand on the deck of a small ship and the waves toss me side to side. My emotional equilibrium is so capricious that it rocks in moments from fine to furious. I am fighting for balance.

I need a mediator or referee to intervene and keep me on an even keel. Yesterday I told a friend, a fellow writer, about the story my former Wall Street boss pummeled me with. I had started working on Wall Street at 42, in the midst of a disastrous break up with the father of my kids. Although we were never married, the unraveling was protracted and vicious. He had been abusive during the relationship and still had ways to get to me. When he, X called, I would meltdown at my desk and my boss Roberto told me I could make this stop. If I wanted it to stop I just had to say the word, but perhaps, he posited, I might secretly like to be so unseated.

What a concept, I had the power to stop something awful. Sometimes, Roberto said you have to be able to stop your own beating. He went on to explain that in the Mafia, a culture with which he was well acquainted, there was a team member who sole assignment was to stop a beat down. This member, the brake, was sent out with the goons to tune-up some guy. The brake’s job was to stop the beating before it got out of hand.

Roberto further elucidated, “ Beating someone is an activity which creates its own energy and often you can not stop. Your brain is on over ride, and the normal mechanisms, which stop us from hurting others, are shut down. You need to become your own brake and stop when you are beating yourself up. Hard I know but I can’t send anyone else into that head of yours.”

I often see that my brain has rambled and rumbled down a path and it needs to be reeled in. I feel this memory project is providing me with a series of literary brakes. When I begin to meander down the road where a woeful exploration of my misdeeds or worthlessness lives, I see that reciting the words, in this case, John Donne’s words happily derail me from my negative thoughts.

In fact I have given myself my own brake in the guise of poetry.

And so today I am ready to move on to the second poem.

100 Riverside Drive /  Waking up at Mari’s

By Anne Winters

The city through her back-bedroom window: a shift-

ing of trash cans ( snow-crunch of galvanized steel), gear

sounds drowned in metal hulls, horns now: one by one to lift,

fine-tune, and weigh my home town: here, here!

I let go, as passiviest listeners listen, to sift

the city, naming sounds, for named sounds near

or distant make a depth where my too deft

attention – deep and troubled, city too endeared—

can lose itself. Always to arrive, and hear

on such first wakings everything that lives

within me sigh, as if to say all’s well, all’s here.

as if the old rifts, in this reft

being were annealed. – AS IF is what it is. It’s theft

of all that is. And nothing else is dear.

I read the poem again after I type it and then I get the idea to see the word count:127 words, so few. The John Donne Poem was 172 a perfect reversed countfor a dyslectic like me as I see them floating in front of me as the same numbers the same count. But I do know that this new poem has fifty less words. A good choice for the shortest month.

>Movement and Memory January 2010

>

 A year of walks and poems

Chapter One January: Makes One Little Room an Everywhere

 This is the year I turn 60. I want to give an overview of the reasoning behind my Movement and Memory Project. I want to find a way to move more and to use my brain. I want to pursue adventures, which are difficult for me, meaning out of my comfort zone either psychologically or skills wise. And so I have chosen to learn to plod a path, slowily walking and memorizing a different poem each month.

 

My fantasy is that at the end of the year I will weigh less in my expanding body, but my brain will be more massive having engorged itself with the words, and rhythms of John Donne or Emily Dickenson, Langston Hughes, Adrienne Rich or e.e.cummings and I will have remembered how to input tiny bits, learning bit by bit, line by line.

 

I will be patient with me as I push to challenge myself. That in itself would be treat enough, but the thought that my jeans might also be a tad looser and my tongue able to incant a poem or / twelve is also a wonderful goad to movement and memory.

 

And now a little back-story.

 I am currently at 59,  BMI challenged, having gained 3 to five pounds a year for the last decade. Oh it was a glorious ten years; I was married to the love of my life and he seems to love me thin, chubby or full out tubby. Our family endured the terrorist attack on our neighbors the World Trade Towers and yes food was my drug of choice to weather that storm. In the aftermath of  911 we lost the bulk of our income to a faltering economy. Our pockets were then more deeply scarred by the ensuing stock market crashes of 1999 and 2008. And here we still are.

 

So I ate happy, scared or sad.

 

On a further note, we have no health insurance, as we canceled our policy in deference to paying college tuition for our kids. We are not unique or heroes, but rather parents who can parse a cost benefit analysis. We are .   .  . touch wood, rarely sick and it was costing nearly $13,000 per year for insurance. We needed that money for college. We got scholarships and pitched in the savings from the insurance premiums and this year our second, and our youngest kid graduates, with honors, if you please, from an excellent college. Why did I tell you this? Because without insurance,  I needed to find a way to get some doctoring into our lives and as the World Trade Center Health Clinic offered us a yearly check up if we would participate in their study. So I signed us all up.

 

This January I went for my second visit and I was told in short everything is great in my burgeoning body save that I am desperately chubby. I weigh  . . . oh really it doesn’t matter, but it is more than I weighed at the end of pregnancy. I go to Pilates, I take yoga, I ride my bike everywhere, but I don’t get enough aerobic exercise and the doctor told me I have to walk. I have to carry my own heft around with me. Not bikiing, swimming, or kayaking , you get it. My stubby legs need to move me in order for me to slim down.

 

I hate to walk.

 

I hate to walk because it is so so so so so so slow. I am used to the speed of the bike. I zoom from one meeting to another with no sweat, no waiting at the corner for taxis or buses; I just peddle and glide. Please note that Manhattan is only 12 miles long from stem to stern and not a hilly town, so it is perfect for biking. I know this provides some exercise, and as the doc said, my blood pressure, lung, kidney and liver functions wouldn’t be so super without the biking, but my body is used to this and I need to shake things up.

 

I live right by the Hudson River, I work as a consultant and I have time to walk. I hate it. I fight it. I don’t get it. All it makes me want to do is make phone calls, hail a cab or return home and get my bike so I can be productive.

 

I am unsettled in my own head when I go slowly; hence walking make me very nervous. So nervous that I want to eat grilled cheese or pasta carbinara or cream of chicken soup. You see where this goes; walking made me want to sedate myself with rich food. All I thought about when I walked was: what I could cook or eat, when the walk would be over. I argued, why did I have to do this ? And what a loser I was for being unable to perform the function of a biped, a simple postprandial or prepandial walk.

 

This was how it was last year when I made this resolution on my birthday and on any other day when one observes their life and vows to fix things. Then became disheartened, because I would fail again and again. But this year I made a different vow, one to better my brain and my body simultaneously.

 

I promised I would learn poems. Learn them by heart, as we said in elementary school. I can still spout some of Hiawatha, Edmund Lear, If, and Invictus. The poems were my 25-year-old daughter’s idea. She wanted to commit poems to memory as a way to entertain herself on her long trudge to the subway. I think there may also be a whiff of romance in her endeavor. Imagine reeling off a lovely poem to a sweetheart as the ski lift climbs, or the lights dim in a train traveling north. So I bought her a selection of poems to memorize and was captivated with the notion for myself as well.

 

The book I liked best, I bought four, was Poem in Your Pocket. It flips open like a notebook and every poem is perforated, so it literally can be removed and tucked into your pocket. I read though and found The Good Morrow by John Donne. It moved me and it made me think of romantic, filial and parental love. I wanted to own it in the pocket of my mind. And so I set about on January 1 to learn it.

 

 

On first blush I thought oh three stanzas, six lines each, a snap. But no sooner did I attempt to memorize that I found myself  paraphrasing the poem. Not reciting but doing a retelling of what it meant, what it intended. I kept changing and rearranging the words to be mine. I made it more modern, more edgy and less beautiful every time. And so I slowed down to a crawl where I could see myself typing the words, slowly in my mind, one line after another. And it began to stick.

 

When I couldn’t fall asleep I began typing,

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I

Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?

And these two lines took me days. I flubbed them and re read and retyped in my moving, oh so fast modern brain and finally they were mine. And I crawled on to the next.

But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?

Or, snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?

 The rhythms were so anathema to any that I wrote or uttered on a regular basis, that every time I said them out loud, or murmured in my brain Or, snorted we  .  .   .

I was calmed and beguiled. Who knew the change would be so immediate? A different set of words, set in different rhythms removed my modern ennui and any immediate malaise brought on by the fact that everything in my 21st Century electronic life was not fast enough to satisfy me. And I imagine the host of other netters, bloggers, overnight shoppers, texters, net workers and instant movie watchers across the globe, nodding in agreement. Faster, more connectivity, was what I craved, and then I bumped into poetry from the late 1500’s; ballast to my blasting brain.

 

The languid pace and the lush language was a balm to my soul. And so I kept on memorizing. But this had not solved my crisis of chubby. I needed to walk to address that. Then I hit on the idea of learning the poem whilst walking. Sorry I had to write whilst.  And today I began.

 

 

 

January 12, 2010

Walking along the Hudson River today speaking aloud, John Donne’s words filling the air as I internalized another three or four lines. Lines running in my head, restated back to forth and the river runs to the West in my vision. I walk looser legs and lighter mind. I walk south and north and home before I know it. No desire for a high calorie treat the words fill me.

 

January 20, 2010

At  my pottery  class I recited the first two stanzas after attempting to tell my classmates what my project was. It was an incredible sensation. The room was all whirling and chatting and I began. And after three lines the hubbub ceased it was tomb quiet and I saw the power of difficult, musical language to engage even an unwitting audience.

 

It was a night when I wanted to move quickly, glaze thrown work, slop on colors or trim the bottom of a large bowl with a clumsy foot, rather than an artful, elegant one which would set it apart and allow it to soar. What I saw was that I can have patience; if I want to. The slow slivers of semi-dried clay were no different being sliced off the bottom of the pot than the way the words of the poem spin slowly into my conscious mind. Word by word they form sentences and coherent ideas. And thin slices of red clay piled up on my worktable until my bowl possessed an elegant curve, which echoed inside and out.

 

“Patience, can be anyone’s, but they need to want it and value it.”

Thus spoke Margaret the wise ceramic guru, and she was right, at least that night.

 

 

January 21 2010

 An interminable press conference at the Italian Cultural Council

And I wrote the first two stanzas from memory as I struggled to stay awake after the first hour of tough Italian and boring translation in a dark room.  A working brain is more likely not to shut down.

 

 

 

 

January 24, 2010

Sunday in the country

I had words with my loving husband. Why do we say that?  All conversation is words, but these words were harsh. It doesn’t matter what my feelings are, I often manage to blurt them in a way, which alienates the listener. The exact opposite of what I want. What I desire is to have my man do things outside his comfort zone, which seems to be sports and a warm house, lots of vacuuming, all the grocer shopping and paying most of the bills. Now please say OH SHUT UP you ungrateful wretch! And you would be right, but I want someone who has ideas and invites me to foreign films or wants to hear the poem I have been attempting to memorize, in my memory and movement project.  It is silly because the project was begun as a meditation or a way to increase patience and now it looks as if I want some notice, at least from him.

 

We were going to take  a walk together, but I got my dander up so much that I needed to take a breather and calm down. I decided to walk up the hill to what I call my office, on Hog Trough Road. I refer it this site as my office because I actually get cell phone reception there. Too often I drive up the hill, it is less than a mile so the admission that I drive is embarrassing and very country. In the city I walk or bike everywhere, but car culture is a swift, pervasive infection. I need to fight it. And so I walked up the hill, walking west and turning north. The opposite of the lines I am attempting to capture.
Where can we find two better hemispheres?

Without sharp North, without declining West?

 

As I say the lines I see myself turning and reversing the directions in the poem and the words gell. I walk in winter gray, but yet mild. My legs are moving freely as if my jeans were larger. All of me waves in the slight breeze. Up the hill I go reviewing the first stanza and as I turn onto Hog Trough Road I see a small animal dead in the road about 25 yards ahead. I know I have to walk by it, and I dread this. I always cringe and stare at road kill. I get closer and can tell it is a mammal, not a snake or bird. I approach, muttering the lines of the poem, and I see the head resembles a round rubber ball, with long ears, a bunny with a profusion of fresh red guts spilling out. Long thick, round strands; intestines are registered. And at that instant I turn to aggressively look at the other side of the road as if a show had begun there. In that moment, a crow flies past me landing on a bittersweet vine and I wonder, “ How do all those guts get so neatly packed inside one tiny creature? How does it stay inside, because when it is laid next to the rabbit, it bewilderingly looks as if it could never be repacked? I wonder what fits inside of me?  And I keep walking up the road; now turning west to the cloud obscured Catskill Mountains. They lurk shrouded and unseen, but there they are in my persistent memory. I increase my pace and attempt to focus on the lines, which are eluding me.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears.

I can see this line, I see my face in my daughter’s eye, I see myself looking into only one eye and the line concretizes in my brain, but the next one with is fraught with convoluted 16th century language and syntax. And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;

 

 As I type this I see I have captured the rhythm and it is nearly in my memory, but only because I repeat it like a nursery school child with a spider song. I do not see it as clearly as the reflecting eyes.

 

I speed up attempting to ward off pounds and I pass the free-range cattle. The bull and his cows all lowing loudly, rooting for winter silage. They are huge, always a shock as they roam close to the road with neither wooden fence, nor electric device. They are held in an orbit by the notion that home is the place we all want to return to because the hay is sweet and the barn cossets us from the wind. I wonder how much life is coiled inside of them? I turn and take my poem back down the hill, carefully, anticipating the dead rabbit and looking to the east where the crow has flown.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 25 January 2010

I had a meeting today with the director of the OP ED project, basically  an initiative to teach women to write op ed pieces and be thought leaders. The founder/leader of the project mentioned in passing about a professor at NYU doing work on movement and memory so I was charged up about my memorization and movement project and want to find this scientiist.

 

As the day wound down, lots of sitting , phoning, long boring adult time, I yeared to walk more, to put new words in my head as I charged along the Hudson River. So in late afternoon I called Rachel, a Scottish transplant and mother to my godchild Holly, to ask if we could have a river walk. I met them in the lobby of their apartment, just as Holly’s bitsy baby sister Pippa melted down howling from the wind. I left Rachel with just one tot to sooth and Holly and I set out bravely. She with a pink scooter and me afoot.

 

I had been reciting the poem on my walk over and realized that although I have 80% memorized I can still mix up the verses, words, stanzas. I made a random, hip-hop sampling of John Donne’s work as I briskly moved along the Hudson. At one point I realized I was lost and stopped to reboot and install the words in their correct order. It was the rhythm, which alerted me.

 

I am still on the final stanza

 

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,

And true plain hearts do in the faces rest:

Where can we find two better hemispheres?

Without sharp North, without declining West ?

Whatever dies was not mixed equally’

If our two loves be one, or thou and I

Love so alike that none do slacken, none can die.

 

This is tough When I walk I can see my face reflected in the eye of another. I get that, but then the rhythms get old fashion and I am lost. I make my own tiny, incorrect adjustments conspiring in such a way that they either tumble out in melodic phrases or I jumble them making them sound modern and harsh.

 

 After I deposit Holly for supper I rush home to dusky dark. I love coming back north along the river singing the parts I know and, because I didn’t bring glasses I can’t refer to the actual poem in my pocket. I back and fill in my mind, a false start and it seems as if it takes no time at all. I am at my door and I didn’t fret or think about butter not for one second.

 

January 28, 2010 Thursday

As I make coffee I incant the final stanza while reading it and then recite the first two by heart. The water boils as if by magic, because no time passes when my memory is so deeply engaged. Coffee appears as the poem finishes.

 

January 31, 2010 Sunday

The last day of the month and I will move on to another poem, and I have to be finished. As I make a salad for supper and the Grammies blare in the background I roll the entire poem over in my mouth silently.

 

The Good-Morrow

John Donne 1572-163

 

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I

Did till we loved? were we not weaned til then?

But sucked on country pleasures childishly?

Or snorted we in the Seven-Sleepers’ Den?

‘Twas so: but this, all pleasures fancies be.

If ever any beauty I did see,

Which I desired and got,’twas but a dream of thee.

 

And now good-morrow to our walking souls,

Which watch not one and other out of fear;

For love, all love of other sights controls,

And makes one little room an everywhere.

Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone.

Let maps to others, worlds on worlds have shown.

Let us possess our world, each hath one, and is one.

 

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,

And true plain hearts do in the faces rest:

Where can we find two better hemispheres,

Without sharp North, without declining West?

Whatever dies was not mixed equally,

If our two loves be one, or thou and I

Love so alike that none do slacken, none can die.