Wednesday, October 31, 2007

LET IT BE

was the 45 playing
on the record player
at someone's house
when I was kissed
for the first time.

Nicky went to another school.
His lips were wet and soft
in the dark closet
after the bottle pointed to me.

When Bob Dylan first heard
"I Wanna Hold Your Hand"
he thought the Beatles were singing
I get high
instead of I can't hide.

He brought marijuana
to the Beatles for the first time
and they were
basically stoned
for all of Beatlemania.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Prayer

Release me
from the things that stay
transfixed in visions;
they pierced my virgin heart.
Abandon
the cloistered dreams,
a token of an ancient memory,
those omnipotent one-time words.
Omit
from my seedy cognizant mind
that which now hurts me
and others. Surround me,
offer me
something new, replaceable,
rebirth of my singular realm.
Send
inpetus to my slackened thoughts.
Gift me, love me,
in lieu of my unrestrained years
and that which I can never repay
to anyone.
I will rest in my imperfect peace.
Forgive
me in grace,
and I will stand anew
in all that I am created
and exist to be.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fire in the Sky

This poem was recently published in the journal Poet Lore.

The trip from one industrial city to another
took two hours, but as a child, it seemed like forever.
We knew we were getting close to our cousins
when the shallow Ohio hills evolved
into Pennsylvania mountains and out of the
car window there were clusters of railroad tracks,
twisting, converging in a massive puzzle.

We followed the Ohio River, wide and
forbidding in the tiny town that sat
across from the inhospitable steel mills.
In the summer, the dirt falling from
the sky collected in gutters and grew weeds
and grass there and in the winter it blackened
the snow before it touched the earth.

The surrounding sky was perpetually sallow;
neutral from the belching towers
of fire and foul smelling smog.
The filth from the smoke stacks brought
a paycheck to its workers, but caused children
to come in from playing with black hands and
feet and begrimed faces and clothes.

At night I would leave whatever bed I was
sharing with one or two cousins to see
the sky that was lit up orange with the angry
fire that discharged from the mills all night long,
and listen to the howl of the trains
and wonder how anyone could sleep
with this beauty and brilliance outside,

the view at one forbidding and
inviting to innocent eyes.
The flagrant polluting of the earth
was eventually halted and the mills torn down.
The fiery combustive sky dissolved, the jobs lost,
the houses sandblasted of their scorching,
the heavens clarified and colorful,
and the children were clean.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Marriage

Today is my parents' 54th anniversary. Wow. That's along time to know and love someone. It has caused me to reflect on marriage. I have had two of them, and enough time has gone by that I can look on this statement with some clarity instead of shame, embarassment, bewilderment, horror, anger or sadness. Yet, it still surprises me.
It has taken me many years to accept that I am divorced and I have decided that divorce is something you never recover from. Never. You can get over feelings and thoughts of your former spouse - but you never get over the loss of your life dreams, the grief over your failure or the way it affected your children. The impact lasts forever. Divorce sucks and I would not wish it on my worst enemy.
Having said that - I now reflect on these two distinctly polarized eras of my life. The first marriage came much too early in my life. I was convinced that I was a mature adult, but I was not. Neither was he. Nevertheless we ventured through the wilderness of young adulthood together- we struggled to find jobs and create a life out of nothing but dreams. We exhausted ourselves trying to make a home out of a rundown house. We shared the ultimate joy of a daughter and a son. But we were not able to distinguish reality from the mere picture of a perfect family. We tried for 15 years and that cannot be ignored. Those years, I now understand, were equal in value to anything in my life now. It was my youth.
Now I am married to someone whose deep love, passion and friendship I treasure and appreciate. He raises the bar on integrity. He gives me space to grow and be a better person. And he will journey with me into old age. (Could this be the bigger challenge?) The second time around as not necessarily been easier, but the rewards have been countless. In our parents we see the security of a long life together and we are committed to that. We can also see the changes that aging will bring (but when we look at each other we strangely look as we did on the day we met).
One marriage was my youth, my past, my parenting years. And this one - this one is my future. I value them both and only now can embrace what they both have meant to me. I do, however, acknowledge envy for those of you who did it right the first time. If you did, please recognize how you have been blessed. You don't know the pain you have escaped.
Amy Grant has a song with the lyrics - if you find someone who's faithful, if you find someone who's true - thank the Lord. He's been doubly good to you.
So Happy 54th Anniversary Mom and Dad. God's been doubly good to you.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Lucy, Andy and Dick

During any channel surfing session I will always stop at an I Love Lucy, Andy Griffith or Dick Van Dyke rerun. I'm sure I've seen all of them many times. Some were in reruns when I was a child! For a long time I asked myself why I still loved them. Why is it a warm fuzzy to see those familiar faces? Why are Lucy and Dick and Barney still so funny? Why is Andy still the best darn Dad and sheriff ever? I think I know why those shows feel like a winter-day-wrapped-in-a-crocheted-afghan-sipping-hot-chocolate. It's because it takes me back to a much simpler time. A time which was, quite literally for some of us, a care-free childhood. The fifties and early 60's are idealized in my mind as the perfect era to live and raise children. Life was simple, jobs less stressful, houses uncluttered with useless crap. We didn't want much then because there wasn't much to want.

Now we are totally dependent on technology to make it through every day. This sometimes frightens me (I write on my blog before sending it into cyberspace).

When Lucy and Ethel got in double-trouble they didn't have the frustration of roaming cell phones or crashing computers. If Laura Petrie burned the dinner there was no McDonald's or Pizza Hut down the street to rectify the situation - and Dick was still hot for her no matter what. Opie learned a valuable life lesson from a slingshot and a baby bird - he did not learn it on the Internet, nor did he miss the lesson while he was busy inside being killed by a video game.

I am now completely aware that those shows allow me to experience a world of simplicity that will never exist again. They also bring back a memory of watching them at home on the black & white TV on Christmas vacation and then doing the same with my own children (probably huddled together under a crocheted afghan in our drafty house).

I'm OK with progress and I love the fact that I can reach my kids any time on their cells - but I think it's OK to miss the old days and to still laugh at Lucy and Barney and Dick. But I never did like the Beaver - did you?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Llamas

I have a belief that we all need to surround ourselves with as much beauty as we can.
To some beauty might be the clothing department at Nordstrom's or the multitude of shoes at DSW. It might be hearing the crowd at an Indians game or the organ in a Mozart mass. Your personal definition of beauty is what gives you peace - what you yearn for.
But I'm talking about something as small as taking the more scenic sidestreets on your way to work, burning incense or a candle you like to smell, looking at photographs of people you love on the wall each day. Hug the beauty instead of the ugliness the world can rain on you daily - on the radio - TV - newspapers - co-workers - whatever.
On my drive to work I have found a way to go past a small farm with llamas and a pond that almost always has a blue heron motionlessly stalking a fish. I planned it that way and I like looking at those sights each morning before I spend a day in the noisy, boisterous atmosphere of an elementary school.
Here's a poem I wrote about llamas:

The llamas look hungry
as I drive by at 7:45.
They linger at the fence
waiting for their plop of hay,
a clutter of absurd necks and brown pop-eyes,
an incongruous sight as the highway looms ahead.

Daily I teach children
who have never seen a llama,
who don't know they live by a Great Lake,
or a great zoo where llamas display
their silky coats, their piebald wools,
their pancake eyes and paintbrush eyelashes.

These children have never seen a blue heron
like the one standing in our lake all day,
would not recognize the houses
where two parents help with homework,
street corners where they stand at the bus stop
to wave goodbye each morning.

As I drive by at 4:05 the llamas huddle
under sheltering boughs in the drowsy spring rain.
They must not like the smell
of their wet wool sweaters.
I wonder if, they too, want to spit at me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

SEX (now that I have your attention)

Someone recently called me an all-around good girl. So here's my little poem about sex . . . .



Like Breathing

The going down inflated her to the hopeful bursting
with the unison of their animated transaction

the throats belched out shooting stars like
winning lottery tickets raining from the ceiling

there was a secret bouncing from between sticky surfaces
wallowing in silent places, reassembling them

as milkweed for the caterpillar or oxygen after a severed cord
there was nothing left to do but breathe

Monday, October 15, 2007

Never was a Cornflake Girl

I am fascinated and a little envious of people who are blatantly and successfully doing what they were born to do. Individuals given such an obvious and inflated gift that they had no choice but to use it and share it with the world. I think Tori Amos is one of those people. My daughter and I continued our tradition of experiencing our favorite music together this weekend at Tori's Madison Square Garden concert in NYC. (I really hate the way the word awesome has been abused and I rarely use it - but sorry - it was awesome! )
I discovered Tori around 1990 when I was in the middle of a life crisis. Her music gave me permission to be angry, to be a woman, a human being. It was like years of therapy in a CD called Little Earthquakes. I became obsessed with every word, every piano cord, every nuance of the CD. If women had balls - hers would be the biggest. She never sells out, is never mainstream in any way - musically, visually, spiritually. She crosses generations. When she sang Winter my daughter and I held hands and cried.
Tori can do anything with her piano, she can do anything with her voice - they are one artform. Her music has taught me, healed me, and I believe, inspired my poetry. We spent two hours, with thousands of other Toriphiles, and drank in the emanations, the vibrations, and the beauty of the music.
I hope I don't sound like a celebrity worshiper, because I am anti-celebrity if anything. It is just a great experience seeing and hearing someone do what she was born to do.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I Love New York

I am sitting here in New York City - well actually Astoria, Queens - with my beloved daughter. For the last two days we shopped in Manhattan till we dropped and now (as of the fifth inning) we are watching the Indians kick butt. I got to chat with the glorious fashion designer Betsey Johnson. We bought my Italian hubby Italian cookies in Little Italy (and he'll get the ones we didn't eat.) But the highlight was watching Tori Amos sing her beauty for two solid hours last night at Madison Square Garden. Life is good.
Oh! they're playing Cleveland Rocks on the TV - but I'm rambling - a good dinner, a little too much wine and great people will do that to ya. More tomorrow when I come back to the real world.
Kate fell down and got four boo-boos.

It's all good (except the boo-boos - but it was funny.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Schools are Not Prisons

There was a school shooting in Cleveland yesterday. A troubled 14 year-old boy with two guns. The media was zealous to place blame. It made me think because I work in an elementary school and we experienced a "lock-down" last year when an unknown person was seen in the building.
Setting: Doors always locked. A camera at the front door to buzz in visitors who are instructed to sign in at the office (up a flight of stairs and on the other side of the building) and wear a visitor's badge. Staff carries key fobs and are not to open doors to visitors. Emergency procedures in place and practiced.

Picture this scenario: 8:45 am - Bell rings, teachers bring classes in (300 kids) from outside where many parents are milling about. In the office phones are ringing, announcements being made, students are going to get their free breakfast, the copy machine repairman has arrived, volunteers tutors are signing in, college students come for service projects, late students need a late slip to get in class, the milk delivery is here. Teachers are herding 20-25 children through the hallways. The principal is dealing with two boys who were fighting on the bus. A parent comes to register a new student.

Could someone walk in unnoticed as students were entering? Yes. Could someone walk in behind the milk delivery person? Yes. Could a child leave the door open at recess after going into the bathroom? Yes. Could someone who buzzed in never show up at the office? Yes. Could a teacher busy looking after 25 first graders tell a stranger to check in at the office - and could that stranger (or even familiar parent) just have lost custody of his or her child and want revenge? Yes. Could that person have a gun? Sure. Could a ten year-old find a gun at home and try something he saw on TV? Yeah.

A school is not a maximum security prison. It is a busy, bustling place where people come and go all day.

Should we pay close attention to troubled children and teens? Yes, yes, yes.
Should we wonder where they get guns. Absolutely.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dreadlock Man

It's not really a dreadlock - it's more like a dreaded lock. It lives on a man I've seen a number of times at our local Borders. From the front he's an older ex-hippie college professor-looking guy. But his hair is a single, foot-wide solid chunk of hair - down to his ankles. No kidding. Whether things live in it is not in question. It must be a heavy burden in more ways than one.

I imagine time got away from him and now he doesn't know what to do. He can't live without it. Like a bad habit that's so engrained you're not even aware of it. Or how some people don't see the Christmas wreath on their door in February or the red bow on their mailbox in March.

I'm not really judging - everyone has the right to their hair.

Has anyone else ever seen this dude?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

All I can say today is: GO TRIBE!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Surrender

A therapist said to me - after hearing the details of my dilemma - sometimes you just have to surrender.
What the $#%&*?? I'm paying you $150 an hour for that!

Surrender sounds like a weakness, but in reality it takes an enormous amount of strength to actually achieve true surrender to something that you believe unfair, unjust, wrong - whatever it is that you're cemented to heart and soul.

Surrender is the hardest lesson I've learned.
I pray a lot. And when God tells me to surrender through His silent screaming voice in my head - or He sends a human messenger - what do I do? I fight and scream and kick and have tantrums, for months, maybe years. I have to go to time-out repeatedly and still I do not get my way.

Thrice

When I am rinsed of my duality
a small piece of purity appears
in my soul, on my skin.

1. Sometimes in life you just have to surrender
he says, and then I revolt in a bloody sound-off to God.

2. I Surrender All - the singer sings from the box
in my living room and in a providential moment
I listen, slack-jawed.

3. Sunday morning arrives. Yes, Mary surrendered.
And I halt my inner tantrum. I get it.

Abandon, acquiesce each living second
until it hurts a lot less.
It was never up to me anyway.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Spanking the Yankees and other October Thoughts

Yes, the humble city of Cleveland is reveling in two nights of YANKEE SPANKING! Greater Cleveland is actually a great place to live.( If you're reading this from afar). We have outstanding cultural venues such as the Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland Museum of Art, respected universities and hospitals, a beautiful lake, and an emerald chain of parks surrounding the city and suburbs, among other attributes.
But I digress.

October has always been my favorite month. Today I felt a sadness and atugging on my soul. I needed something. All my life I have been in a hurry and I don't know why. The faster I can get something done, the better. Even as a very young person I sensed the brevity of life and felt a sense of urgency to achieve and experience everything without wasting precious time.

Today - Saturday - chores - a dirty house and piles of laundry. I admit I got most of that out of the way, but then - then I looked out at the back yard. My eyes took in the same beauty of nature they see everyday. But today I walked out and laid myself down on the hammock that's been hanging forlorn and empty all summer. Mercifully the neighborhood lacked the cacophony of noises usually emanating from humans and lawn equipment (Oh the peace before the leaf blowers). I stilled myself and suspended my sad thinking. Now in a meditative state - a warm breeze nudged yellow leaves off their lifelines to sail past me like so much confetti. I was renewed in the mindless moments of staring up at the sun-speckled leaves. Instead of thinking, planning, praying - I just shut up and listened.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays - Soren Kierkegaard

Be faithful in small things, because it is in them that your strength lies - Mother Teresa

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

My Mother's Art

She does not compromise what she alone sees.
The generosity of her hands on the canvas or the piano,
the counterpoint of her brushstrokes and her voice,
the walls become a pastiche or hold a rhapsody.

Moving through eras of little expectancy, rising up
out of her service, when her world turned to face
the sun she did not rebel but floated forward
and now beauty exists where there had been voids.

We are juxtaposed in the choir lofts for decades
and still there are songs we haven't sung.
When her fingers were on the piano keys for me
my small voice strained to equal the passion,
the music eternally suspended in me.

What my mother can do always has a future
without a murmur of leaving it behind.
So I understand what I can become, what I must become
for the infinity of mothers and daughters
for her mother, for my daughter.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Charlotte's Website

(In honor of all the spiders decorating the outside of my house. You have to know the story of Charlotte's Web to get this.)



Charlotte A. Cavatica here, your host. Today on the webcam you will see my guests: Wilbur Zuckerman, his wife Fern, Mr. Templeton and Mrs. Goose. Fern, Let's start with you.


Charlotte that's a lovely silk suit you have on, and I love the eight dreadlocks.


Thank you. I make all my silk threads. I catch all my own food. That's how I stay so trim, but once I was fat like Wilbur.


Yes, my husband has an eating disorder called Slops Addiction. He can't stop eating the leftovers in his restaurant!



Mr. Templeton, you work for Wilbur. Is this true?



It sure is Charlotte. Wilbur is SOME PIG.



Mrs. Goose, you also work at the restaurant. What do you observe?



Mr. Templeton has repeatedly stolen my egg dishes to tempt Wilbur off his diet. He's a RAT!



Wilbur, I suggest my all-insect diet. I'll give you a free copy of my book. Will you try it?



I will, Charlotte!



We will invite Wilbur back to see how much weight he can lose on the Charlotte A. Cavatica all-insect diet.



Well we're back - let's bring out Wilbur Zuckerman. Wilbur has lost 100 pounds on my all-insect diet!



I have a surprise for Wilbur today. I stayed up all night spin. . . I mean makting the sign above your head Wilbur. It says TERRIFIC! Because that's what you are!



Thank you, Charlotte. I miss eating my slops, but with your insect diet I will be a winner at the Weight Loss Fair next week!



Guests, I'd like to announce that I'm starting a family. You may have noticed the huge egg sac that I have. Five hundred and fourteen babies! Wilbur, you have been a HUMBLE guest.



Charlotte I will miss you when you're gone, but remember everyone - you can buy the diet book and see pictures of the babies on Charlotte's Website!

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Road Less Traveled

I found The Road Less Traveled, a book by M. Scott Peck, in 1991 in the middle of a turbid life-crisis. The entire book was a revelation to me at the time. It was a 300 page, $10.95 hand-held therapy session. This is the first paragraph:

Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult - once we truly understand and accept it - then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.