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.

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One response to “February the shortest month

  1. Peter Storandt

    A redefining concluding line–wonderful insight. Musicians tell me they sometimes memorize a piece measure by measure, backwards. What if you memorize a poem from the end to the beginning, line by line?

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