Sunday, August 23, 2009

So, about yesterday's quotation. . .

I'm terrible at empathy. I suppose the good news is that I know I'm terrible at it and so I try very hard to do the right thing in situations that require it. Compassion is difficult at times, easier at other times. Mercy is so hard. Were I God, I'd be more Old Testament than New, I think.
And yet I try my hardest to seek justice and mercy in the world - in the way I handle my husband and children, in my efforts in my every day life, in my politics, in my giving.
And this week, the Scottish Justice Minister bowled me over with his admonishment: "Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated." The convicted perpetrator of the Locharbie Disaster (bombing of Pan Am 103) has been released to his home in Libya to die from terminal prostate cancer surrounded by his family. Reactions are mixed - but what I hear often is "Cancer? GOOD. He deserves it." and that no man who perpetrated such an event should be allowed to suffer his end in comfort and with family. Other reactions are more compassionate - some of the families of victims have even signed letters of support for the action. Upon hearing of his release, my immediate reaction was anger and revolt -- however, hearing the Justice Minister speak, I was forced to reflect.
Having watched a good man die of terminal prostate cancer, I cannot say in my heart that anyone deserves to suffer such a fate. And if one does suffer such a fate, I cannot help but believe that those people deserve our compassion (especially of law requires it - as it is my understanding Scottish Law DID).
And finally, the funny thing about compassion is that it is about us more than it is about them, right? Humans don't earnour compassion through good works or high values, they warrant compassion because they are human and they are suffering. Which brings me back, I guess, to the Justice Minister's words -- our compassion isn't reliant on their actions, it's reliant on their suffering. I feel compassion for any man who suffers terminal cancer regardless of his history or actions.
Many disagree. I see their point of view, certainly, but if, as I said before, compassion is about what's best for us (bringing the love), then we should all realize what we're tapping into when we react with rage to this compassionate release. "Good, he deserves cancer" and the thought that he should die alone in a cold jail cell are thoughts that perpetuate our anger, rage, and vigilantism. In the end, is it best for us to perpetuate our own rage or to perpetuate love? The hard answer is to love people, to treat them with compassion and empathy, despite their actions and flaws.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I have been reflecting all week on this:

KENNY MACASKILL, SCOTTISH JUSTICE MINISTER: Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Hell yeah.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Working again

Forgive the hodge-podge henceforth - there will be school-related complaints, poetry writing/prompts, essay work, baby talk, family talk, and anything you could imagine. If it's in my brain it's fair game these days, I suppose.

Today's prompt: 10 things found at an auction

Today is not a poem.
Today is what we found
at the auction:

a broken cane worn soft at its curve
a white cowboy hat, edges turned up by careful hands
turned gray by years of wear,
sized 7 7/8
cast iron griddle for morning pancakes
a box of fabric scraps
once promised as dresses or ties or aprons but forgotten
the wooden vanity, one drawer smashed
by the youngest when nobody was looking
varnish thinned along the curves where daughters
once rested their hands while fixing their hair
two boxes of stationary
a can of buttons of various sizes
a knitting bag, mesh of needles and yarn and projects half finished,
abandoned by arthritic hands
two aluminum fish molds chasing each others' tails
a quiet man fiddling an old flat cap, thumb rubbing a tag gone bare

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Good enough for Live on Monday, but today:


How was your summer they say
by way of greeting,
standard fare as we learn
to walk these halls again.

Fine I return like breath
and after a pause
Hard, I say.

And I wonder: Do I tell them
hard like barren ground,
like a year started with a funeral
that bloomed to two babies lost
before birth, and us now wilting
in the corner unsure of ourselves?

Or do I just smile, lean into
the doorway to steady myself,
make light talk about how
short summers from childhood
have turned abysmally long in parenthood,
how tomatoes haven’t reddened on the vine,
and how the nights, so hot, leave me awake for hours.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cursed madness. . .

. . . in my pickup that finally
chirped then started with a roar
like relief, I did not run over
the black pants as I left home.
Don’t run over the black pants.
- Steve Langan, "The Black Pants"
This house is suffering from a Black Pants-tastrophe. A single, solitary, soft, comfy pair of black pants haunts us. A few years back, I remember Steve telling us about the black pants in the street that inspired his black pants series, and how he didn't understand how a pair of pants would end up in the street in the first place, and that confusion led to the creation of 7 separate poems cataloguing a week in the life of the man who watches the black pants. I shared his curiosity - and often do - when I see pants, a shirt, a stray flip-flop or tennis shoe lying in the street or gutter. Today it was a pair of black leather winter gloves on a busy street in Littleton in August, but no matter - every different day unearths some item of clothing where it's not supposed to be and as it sits in its strange surroundings, you can't help but wonder what brought it there and how.
But now, back to my pants. They are maternity pants I bought 5 weeks into my February pregnancy not because I needed them yet, but because they were soft and nice. I wore them when we went to the hospital to discover there was no baby and I wore them as I bled in March and again last week. So the pants must go. Must die. Must be shredded with scissors and tossed from the car, burned like a bad omen in a ScyFy Channel movie, exorcised from this household to take their bad juju to some other place. The pants must be tossed in the street and the pants must be run over.
And if you see them, please don't listen to Steve. Please run over the black pants.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Life isn't bliss, life is just this: it's living.

"The thing about a hero, is even when it doesn't look like there's a light at the end of the tunnel, she's going to keep digging, she's going to keep trying to do right and make up for what's gone before, just because that's who she is." — Joss Whedon

I'm coming out of the fog. In the past six months, our own private hellmouth (not Cleveland) has opened its gaping maw and tried to swallow us, but it hasn't succeeded. And won't. Because we'll keep going.

I've long wondered if Joss was some sort of nihilist - because the world, his world, is a mean one -- cruel and without meaning. But I had a deep misunderstanding of what nihilism was, to be honest. I thought it was the idea that the world was cruel and without meaning. What it is, in fact, is the idea that values are socially constructed -- nothing is inherent. We create God, we create truth, we create reasons to go forward. We don't do it because it's right, we do it because we decided it was right.

But I think I've come to understand that he's sort of the opposite of a nihilist. Buffy, Angel, Caroline - they do what's right because they know two truths: the world is cruel but there is right in it and right is why - the deep meaning we all strive for - why we're here.

So me, I'm still here. Putting one foot in front of the other with the Season 7 Buffy theme in my head.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Few Stray Atoms Brought Back to the Elements

I've been thinking all day on Dana Gioia's "Planting a Sequoia" ( It is a poem about the loss of his son. I've long loved it - thought it to be the best of all of his poems, convinced that he handles with grace the fragility of the moment, contrasting the powerlessness of humanity with the image of his son feeding the roots of a great sequoia.

Tomorrow I will be planting the small remains of our second pregnancy loss. A bit of a morose topic for some, I guess, and something that I admittedly never understood before our own losses. These pieces, these fragments, they aren't a person - I understand that. I won't bury my child but the idea of my child, the remnants of what could have made and supported my child, the future set out in my mind for that child.

When we had our first loss in March, I hung on to my idea that it was strange and foreign and weird and unnecessarily somber to bury the remnants of a not-child. The gestational sac and small pre-placenta that I passed just before 7 weeks was packed up in the trash and I didn't really think about it until 3 days later when the Eagle Waste truck pulled up, its automated arm reaching down mechanically to lift our 90 gallon trash bin and dump it, unceremoniously, into the back of the truck filled with other people's leftovers, dirty diapers, old newspapers, and yard waste. In that moment I understood it was about ritual not remnants.

And so now, tomorrow, we will have our ritual. I will plant our angel child at the base of my favorite rose bush and I will read Gioia's poem - not with a full understanding, but a glimpse, a shard, a shred, my own few stray atoms brought back to the elements.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lilly sums up the year nicely:

At dinner the other night, she was telling her father her idea for the design on his birthday cake in September: There's a clown, and he's got a voice bubble saying 'I need to puke! Wait, I can't puke, I'm dead!' Then the cake says HAPPY BIRTHDAY! YOU'RE NOT DEAD!

It's always good to have kids around when you're having a hard time, isn't it?

Times like this, I can only think of these lines from Sliding Doors:
You know what the Monty Python boys always said, eh?
What, always look on the bright side of life?

Can anybody tell me how long the inquisition lasted? Because it grows tiresome. . . Oh, Wikipedia (source of all sources for this English teacher) tells me the Spanish Inquisition started in 1478 and was officially banned in 1834. Fun!

Guess I'll put the order in for that clown cake. . . Speaking of cakes, I suggest anyone reading this blog go check out *my* newest addiction: Nothing cheers a girl up like cake: good cake, bad cake, grammatically atrocious cake. Cake is good.
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