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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2 responses to “February Poem Finally Memorized

  1. Peter Storandt

    The missing tool will turn up like your ring did.

  2. What lovely writing. Creating possibility from pain, fortitude from fear, beauty from adversity. This is transformation at its best and most effective. Day by day, step by step, word by word. It is all any of us can do.

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