Monday, October 30, 2006

Approach

The configuration of your desire, Monsieur, is complex. The beauty of women, how does it move you?

Scent of her kisses, tender cleavage, your lips, the way she holds you in her tiny hands, what it would be like to plunge yourself into her? She in whom you would obliterate.
Lust and bliss, loin and heart adaze. Or perhaps it is frenzy, a blindness?

Do we fall into what dissembles us?
A whirlpool, its swirling whorls,
undressing us,
naked against the onrush.

Is it that we are always approaching what we can never give ourselves to?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Go Backwards Along the Path to Go Forward

Audio Poetry Recording (9:27min): Cable/DSL; or Dial-up.

*If your pop-up blocker is over-zealous, and won't open the SoundClick window, email me at brenda dot clews at gmail dot com, and I'll send the .mp3 file - it's 5.4MB.

Recorded this suite of poems in the Summer, wasn't sure, oh you know the drill, but now, sharing...

More of a drama in this reading, I think. Each poem recorded separately and then spliced, so the readings shift in tone and tenor.

Busy couple of days, and then at a conference on Thursday, where I'm presenting twice, and may or may not post again until after Sunday, but I will write in my notebook, yes!

Listen in the dark, or when you're quiet. The poems in the recording:

1. Ecdysis
2. Technorati Tag Poem
3. Mantra, a Meditation
4. Painting Time
5. Without A Guide
6. What Revelations Are to Come?
7. After Watching Kurosawa's 'Rapsody in August'
8. Sultry Dark Air
9. Heliotropic Coda

(©Brenda Clews)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Flower

Awakening to the self, but this implies a stasis, stability, security of self, that I am knowable to myself; whereas, I'm not. The mystery of unfolding, rather.

Lying on the floor, awakening, our fingers, hands, toes, feet stretch into the world. That stretching continues as we writhe across the dance floor and then slow our movement to a Tai Chi-like fluidity and finally stop. A room of sculptures stopped in motion, some standing, some lying on the floor. We are breathing, is it.

Later, to the music I unravel my sarong and wrap and unwrap it around my shoulders, torso, breasts, and then brave strangeness and wrap it around my head and arms so I am trapped. I dance like a slave trying to find freedom, from the position of stasis, stability, security of a self. I know freedom is terrifying. With nothing to constrain you, fetter, contain, weigh, what would you do, who would you be?

If we could forget about being watched, read, observed, judged, about the unceasing gaze of the other, what would we be, produce, live?

In what ways do we keep each other in check, clipped, chained, trapped?

I struggle with the sarong I have wrapped myself in, pushing elbows against the tight fabric and turning and falling and gyrating in a self-imposed prison. Because the sarong is in shades of blue I am especially reminded of the burqa, of societies which contain the energy of the woman in well-defined boundaries. I am reminded of living mummies, torture victims, Michelangelo's slaves, of enslavement from without; of the woman in the VIII Swords in the Rider-Waite Tarot deck when we are enslaved from within. I dance my life's struggles.

Twirling, fighting for release along the wall, my private anguish become visible. My upper body and head entirely enwrapped, I am enrapt with an invisibility that gives me the freedom to struggle for inner freedom, but the session is over. I peel off the sarong like a ribbon of skin and sit in the circle, wondering if any of us is closer to who we are.

We are newly reunited, this group. A flower of love is blossoming in the room in the centre of the circle and we are its petals. Here we are free to struggle with pain or joy, to wilt or face the sun while being supported by the roots, our deeper connections.

Many of us hug our teacher, who is newly returned and who holds this space of transformation sacred.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cliches

(I may be updating this & the next post in between calls today... they're a bit sketchy still... in this one, for instance, there was a real clash with "the muse" that I could imagine as a "scene" of some sort, we'll see.)

What made the pale suite washed out, drained, anemic? Was it the eloquent executive furniture, the large walnut veneer desks, strategic abstract paintings of desert yellow with some red drips, couches and dried flower arrangements all color-coded in muted tones, a whole suite of executive offices abandoned, places of corporate battles where victories were savoured or wounds sustained, and where profits increased yearly, ever-plundering the populace, until the merger and the redundancy and the emptiness? A commercial insurance company that banked on the stability of the world, drew profits from potential disaster, disasters that could be counted on not to happen but which could be insured against none-the-less. A wealthy world, this --- swish of fine, worsted wool suits, stout bellies and fat expense accounts, of the supremacy of numbers, the tallies of the underwriter who tabulates worth and value and what staving against the inevitability of decline will cost you, enabling an elite business corps to maintain itself, a world of infinitely regressive cliches. One that now lies empty, recently vacated, pale in the cool morning light, surveyed over a styrofoam cup of weak coffee.

What I want to say is that my muse doesn't understand that money needs to be made in order to live.

Afterwards at a cafe, the green tomato on the vine in the window box that ran around the empty outdoor patio next to the red flowering geranium. So sour that looking at it through a closed window made it break open on your tongue, green and puckering, coupled with frilly, vibrant, sensuous red petals.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

interlacings of love

I can feel your presence, mon amour, pressing in on me and I imagine you vividly in this room whose walls are covered in paintings, and can almost see you in the night light, as if you are present and flowing around me, but you are not here and I want to solidify in this moment, and yet I know you are here, like a spectre, because you love me.

It is an odd thing, Monsieur, that I feel loved by those who have abandoned me.
And of course, I love
you
too.

Reading Writhing Letters

When the letters began curling like tiny writhing black snakes on the page,
I lost
the ability to read.
The letters floated somewhere between the paper and my eyes, hovered, hallucinatory, unreadable, and I couldn't catch them or make them form words or sentences through I knew coherency was there, below the

writhing floating
if I could just
make them sit
still.
When it came back, focus, and the words stayed on the page, I read a book a day and didn't stop for 15 years.

I gluttonized on words, gorged.

I pushed myself through tome after tome, hour after hour; I let books open other books; I kept ledgers of copious notes, and dozens of journals.

I read all night. I read with urgency, as if my life depended on it. All of the classics, the 'great' books, 'great' writers, 'great' thinkers. Did I waste my youth reading Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas, Bacon and Shakespeare?

It's all fleeting.

But when the words stayed still, lying in neat rows on the pages, I raced through them. Who knew how long I had?

Evanescence

It is fleeting, ephemeral, fragile --- beauty,
life.
Silence of the deep sleep, death,
of non-being,
eternity,
the norm.

Ouroboros

Monsieur, you have been absent, I thought you had forgotten me. The spelunker of snakes? It alarms you, this imagination of mine.

All my life I have hallucinated snakes.

Even now, they come out of the shower head, slither down my back, small pythons, Black Mambas, always in stone grey or black. Sometimes I become rigid with fear, the hot hissing water.

Ground myself: concentrate on the tiles, the shower curtain, the soap, the wash cloth. Push out sensations of snakes dropping on my head, slithering down my back. Remnants of memories of watching the poor creatures swinging on sticks in the air until their backbones broke and they went limp. It was a game, in a circle laughing.

Terrors of a memory gone awry, misplacing splices of the past out-of-context in the present: I step onto floors thick with writhing serpents, but they aren't real. This phobia of mine.

Freud's interpretation was very narrow; Jung's was better, except that they don't automatically signify psychic fragmentation if they're not dynamically balanced, as revealed in spontaneously individuated mandalas, symbols of wholeness.

Once I did a long research paper on serpents and the winged kind, dragons, in Western art, and explored many mythologies. From Egyptian cobra worship, to Graeco-Roman Medusas, to the Judeo-Christian myth of the Fall from Eden due to the guiles of the Satanic snake, to all the St. Georges' and other Courtly Love heroes fighting all the dragons who had taken over the land and were demanding fresh virgins, to modern day snake cults and Goddess lore, to the R-Complex, or brain at the base of our skulls, the reptilian one, that controls automatic functions.

For me, Monsieur: the power of the Minoan Snake Goddess who holds live serpents in each hand; and the Greek understanding that serpents enable us to enter the mysteries of the chthonic earth itself. They have become a motile symbol of my creativity.

I collect serpent jewelry. Wrapped around my fingers are silver snake rings, silver serpents coil around the tubes that form my dangling earrings, another embraces a crystal pendant that hangs on a chain and falls between my breasts, and my arms are braceleted by silver cobras.

Once when I was young, in a bikini sunbathing alone, a man, himself no more than a messenger, a hallucination, approached, wearing khaki clothes and snake boots, as if out of the African jungle itself, in his hand a choke of snakes that he held over my body, and said, threatening to drop them on my skin, "Will you write?"

My muse is a Lady of Serpents.

She is the Kundalini, the lightning that travels from chakra to chakra in the awakening.

Yes, I have painted snakes, but they don't belong on canvas; rather, they are like the brushes themselves.

Monsieur, I have always known that what terrifies me is my source.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Death of Time

My words silt in the paddies of time, flooded with being.
Time drowns us.

Break out of time: escapee.
Leave the encircling fields of the centuries.

Plummet silence.

Breathe without tracking, calibration, rates, or seizures.

When time stops we die.

Blind Writing

We have eyes, not to see the light, but to cry. Among the animals, only we can weep.1

Not the unblinking gaze of the ever-recording eye, but the pathos.

To undo the autocracy of knowledge, the way light has been used to mean power, imperialism, right, might, truth, revelation, enlightenment.

When we cry, the forms of the world blur and we forget what we have learnt to see. We move by touch, by the feeling under our fingers, by sensitivity, by silently hearing.

I write when I am almost asleep or just waking, when I can't see; I write in the dark.

When we can no longer see the forms around us, we forget the eternal forms, the eternal light. In blindness, we become visionaries.

Weep for the world; weep for yourself; weep because you can weep. Your heart will open; it will be raw, painful, and blissful, ecstatic: you will be the whole of who you are. There will be the other; there will be meaning in the closeness of connection.

We cannot see the images displayed, on view. We must move through life by touch, by scent, by listening. Only then can we see each other - through the veils of our tears. Our tears break down the walls of our imperialisms, our isolations, our losses. Our mourning and our joy: tears. Tears that implore.

When we have become immured, blinded to the world of cast light, our eyes will open to each other, our fingers will touch.
______________
1Jacques Derrida, Memoirs of the Blind: The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins, trans. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993), p. 126.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Tidal Patterns

It wasn't always this way. One upon a time the tide remained high. And there were no clams or seaweed to be found and the Tsimshian went hungry. Raven knew what lay under the blue glistening robes of water.

When he wrapped his blanket of black feathers around his strong shoulders, he flew. His sharp eyes watching, looking. Scanning the edges of the ocean, he found her.

Tightly she held the tide-line in her hands. She wouldn't release the ocean to rhythmically rise and fall on the beach, or draw back from it, leaving washed treasures, clams, seaweed, shells, shiny pebbles.

Why did the old woman hold the tide-line so tightly in her lined, papery hands? She sat in her small house on the edge of the sea, holding the waters in the life-line on her palms. Who can tell from the mass of mounds and lines on her hands how she bid the edges of the great water be still?

Inside her sun-bleached house with closed eyes she imagined the ocean, or perhaps she could see it with visionary sight. She sat, the tide-line, her hands, the one interconnected with the other, like a fisherman's net, weeping tears of salt.

Raven dropped from the sky, a shadow of black feathers. He sat down beside her and groaned, holding his belly, saying he had eaten too many clams. He broke her meditation, and she stood, and went to look at the clams, but he pushed her and she fell. Then he poured sand in her eyes so that she was blinded. Pulling the tide-line out of her hands, tearing the life-line from her, he released the hold on the waters and the tide at last fell.

Crazy old woman on the edge of the ocean of time, time's burden, that weight of life-giving water.

And so the ocean drew back its mantle of blue robes and the people feasted.

There were bonfires on the beaches and a festival of clam bakes that lasted days until everyone's bellies were swollen full of food.

Who was the blind old woman crying on the beach with the torn hands?

Raven in his raucous joviality passing from one feasting party to the next found himself before the old woman, who spoke, "Raven, heal my eyes so I may see again." Raven, trickster-figure, Promethean fire-stealer, knew the Gods could must be bargained with, appeased. He struck a deal: "Old woman of the sea, I will heal you, but you must promise to let the tide-line go twice a day so that the people may gather food from the beaches." The old woman agreed and so he rinsed the sand out of her eyes. Thus Raven ensured the life-lines of the people, their continuity.

In my story, as I walk the empty beach strewn with empty clam shells, seaweed, the detritus of modern civilization, I want to find her, and find out why, the witholding.

I want to know why she denounces me, or those like her.

And take the cawl she has wrapped me in off: to breathe, to see.

But I spin like Tiresias under an unrelenting sun.
Why do black feathers lie strewn in my hair?
My eyes, gritty and sore, are on fire -
I see only flaring volcanoes
A red rage of light;
On this windless day
How did my eyes fill with sand?
My hands bleed as I write.
For what do I weep?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Simple Yoga this Morning

Early this morning I pulled out my yoga mat (a sheepskin bought in 1994 and for which I sewed a case out of peach-coloured upholstery fabric as many years ago), laid it on the floor (a very tight fit since I live in a closet), and did this yoga set: Spinal Flex Series.

I began my day with this simple yoga set for the spine for many years - sure it got boring, but different music every day helped. Today, as I flex back and forth, I feel how stiff I've become, how I need to loosen, to take care of this Sushumna, central column, spine, place where all the nerves, nadis, meridians flow. I feel the weight of what I carry as I rhythmically flex, especially when I get to the 'shoulder shrugs,' eh, let the tension go, let it go...

Each day is new, life is strange, but it keeps going. Perhaps I shall still be sitting on my mat, flexing my bent old spine when I am a centenarian, shrunken, withered, wrinkled, but ever so wise :-)

Thinking of you, I got out my old scanner with the crack in the lid, started it up, scanned these sets at least 3 times to get a clear image. My friend who was in her 30s and had pain in her back that was finally diagnosed as arthritis and had physiotherapy sessions let me teach her this set one afternoon when our then younger children were in school and she marveled at it. A few weeks later after doing the set daily she asked, 'Why don't Physiotherapists teach these exercises? This flexing really works, really helps.'

Are we as young as our spine is flexible? It's okay, I won't go into 'yoga teacher mode' and lecture on the spine. Let's just say that all of the billions of nerve cells in our bodies are connected to our brains through the braid of nerves running through the spinal column. If nothing else, keep this central part of your body flexible, in motion, healthy...



Kundalini Yoga: Guidelines for Sadhana (Pomona, California: Kundalini Research Institute, 1974), p.45-6. For another layout of this set, see Basic Spinal Series, and scroll to the end to read a description of Mul Bhand (root lock) and Maha Bhand (great lock).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

On the Beach

I worked 7 hours in an office without a break (my choice), and it was mostly busy, and then a crammed transit ride and 2 more hours of tutoring my remaining Korean student, and this little piece got written somehow in between it all, oh and begun yesterday at a cafe but interrupted by my arriving daughter. It's a bit garbled, at least it reads so to me. Perhaps tomorrow I shall expand it so it is closer to the scene I imagined - just some days don't allow you the time, and who knows what happens to the tenor and rawness of the images that come flowing out on such days (days of work for which one is grateful, too).



Images collect on the beach like polished pebbles, smooth glass baubles, tangles of fishing wire, water-logged boots, seaweed, shells translucent and sometimes chipped, mollusks and sea urchins, dead, cadaverous detritus, swollen along the glimmering band of sand.

I am sure I will see her on her seawalks. That she will be dressed in a long black skirt and gazing out to sea, grief on her slightly wetted face from the spray of the water on the rocks that she stands on, and something indefinable, lit from within, but subtle, like sunset spilling out of her eyes.

But I don't. The coast is empty.

I am not sure who I am.

Me, her, or you, or a transfigured archetype,
a Medusa-lady, the curls in my hair tightly coiled in the salt spray,
an image-maker.

I watch blue dancers leap and fall into disappearing bubbles of sea foam.

You are the edge of the waves that tip over. When the peak cannot hold itself aloft and falls like a dancer letting go of taut tension and plunging. Or perhaps it is words that fall into froth.

If we are standing at a shore of words that encase the earth like the oceans, that is.

Let me bathe in your words; let me drink them into my being; let our vision be as infinite as the sky-line.

Am I in love with you, and who?

Are you my unbidden,
holy muse.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Medusa

-the early draft of this poem has been removed by the author-

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Polishing the Rocks

It is the problem of the pounding of the surf.

Fear holds me

captive; like the Tarot card where she is bound and blind-folded, unseeing and scared, though all the swords are stuck, blade-first, in the ground.

It's not a question of personal safety, Monsieur. It's a lifelong problem with creativity that I have, she has. Monsieur, I split myself into a third person, a she. That is me. Or her. Does it matter?

If we deconstruct the subject-object construction, does it matter who swirls in the salt spray, its turbulences of disappearing foam?

Who says the invisible be rendered visible
through our perceptions?

I am the subject; and I cannot look upon myself lest I turn myself into statuesque art, lest I turn the Medusa touch on my seeing eye.

An unblinking gaze. The object of the subject is the subject. Only in the self-portrait does the ruin of the self break down. We are decomposing into text.

Into iconography.

Immortal.

Immortalizing ourselves in time: statues, broken rubble of stones amid the hissing of the broiling waves.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Spectre

She is there, walking the sea walls, endless array of black, coats, pants, dresses, and the flashes of red, the ribbon and feather in her black felt hat; or the whiteness of her face against her black hair and the lurid red lipstick.

When she who is a spectre, who is a vision, the invisible rendered visible, a hallucination without reality but a guiding perception of the self, whose look freezes us into self-portraits, whose look turns us into sculptures of death from which the beating warmth of our blood cannot escape, when she looks at us, our unblinking eyes:
The straining eye always resembles an eye of the blind, sometimes the eye of the dead, at that precise moment when mourning begins: it is still open, a pious hand should soon come to close it; it would recall a portrait of the dying.*
Medusa would immortalize us as art. The Gorgon is the muse whose terror petrifies us would we but look upon her venomous, spitting face.

We are no more than statues to the woman in black walking the sea wall, her hair, its tendrils and curls coiling in the salt spray. When we are marble, the pale green veins in the rock, we are bloodless, art. Upon whom she splatters red paint the colour of her fingernail polish: blood, the alabaster skin.

The soul which inclines towards meaning in the fire of life, silenced. Art takes us beyond suffering; the Gorgon creates a stage of unmoving characters who are her silent companions. She laughs at my drained creativity; I know this woman. The blood drains from my lips: I am silenced.

I, mute.

Unspeaking.

Pushing against the seawall with my inner lashing waves. Tears of salt.

Her parrot, cinnabar and virid feathers, mocks, repeating endlessly the soulless words that echo on the sea spray while she laughs.

Don't ask why. Why is there cruelty? Who knows? It is; we are.

I want to become a tidal wave but I withdraw.

How can I describe the figure of jealousy, of derision?

What is jealousy? Who feels it? How do we act from this feeling?

Is jealousy the overweening desire to upstage the other?

To cast them into stones of silence?

I evade her stony glance
with questions.



*Jacques Derrida, Memoirs of the Blind: The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins, trans. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993), p. 57.

Power

In deep structures of power:
  • Who creates the agenda?
  • Who manages the meaning-making?
Who is in control
of the speaking, doing, appearing?

Elements of deep personal power:
  • Privilege
  • Self-knowledge
  • Disciplinary micropractices
Do we comply,
or do we resist?

How do dynamics of power unfold in planned and unplanned organizational structures?

Unlike Surface Power, with legitimate authority, expertise, a referent of trust and commitment, rewards/coercions, associations/networks/who you know, a visibility of coalitions, and a show of flexibility/autonomy, the elements of Deep Structure Power concerns management of meaning, symbols that are difficult to define, routines and rules that are taken-for-granted, unquestioned.

Power is the ability to do.
Power is knowing yourself.
Power is having others believe.
Deep structural power is invisible.

In the Deep Structures of Power, mechanisms of surveillance become internalized.

Dynamics of Resistance:
  • disobedience
  • subversion
  • challenge
  • defiance
Isn't silence
the ultimate subversive
act?

Who creates the story has the power.

Can we re-write the stories,
or abandon them to write new stories?

_____
A weaving of notes found on a scrap of paper from a lecture in 2001 by I don't know who... update: search engines are marvelous: Patricia Bradshaw: "Deep Structures of Power and the Challenges of Organizational Transformation."

Saturday, October 07, 2006

ἄφατος : aphatos, speechless, not speakable

Speechless,
we speak.

It's the making
mute.

Without hearing each other,
how can we listen?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Exile

What if relationships are the primary ordering principle?
What if the way relationships are ordered
clarify, explain, and instruct us on the way things
stand towards each other?

If connectivities are performatives, then the grammar
of the relationship determines its patterns.
Monsieur, you are a character who is invisible, a reference outside the writing for whom the writing is written, your eyes read as the reader is reading. You were conceived as a literary device, and then I discovered we knew each other intimately.

We meet at the edge of the text. These words unfold through the syntax of your absent presence in the writing.

Those of whom I speak are embedded in grammars too. While we are a syntax and lexicon of unique verbal patterns, we are still bound by the rules of a grammar which shapes our relationships.

In her radical pedagogy, the woman who teaches says: "What we must never do:

Patronise, reduce, laud, ridicule, dismay
• Simplify, bowdlerise, censure, censor
• Wield discourse as spectacle
• Wield discourse as power
• Wield discourse contemptuously"

And, I would add, silence each other.

We silence the other in the ways that she says, we humiliate them, and finally by ignoring them. Ignoring them, we remove their voice.

If we refuse to listen, they cannot speak.
If they speak they will not be heard.
We have created a hole in the grammar of our connection
which divests the speaker we did not want to listen to
of a speaking voice that is heard
.

I know, Monsieur: it happened to me. My words formed an uncomfortable anomaly in the grammar of the group. Without an anxiety about the rigors of practice, I was not struggling in the way I was meant to. Given the nature of the self beliefs of the group, I could not be overtly ridiculed; eventually, I was skipped over, ignored. The member who became absent though present. Silence was wielded as a contemptuous power by those who formed an inner circle and who felt there was no other way to deal with me, and carefully, so my diminishing welcome would not be evident to the others. What happened Monsieur? I went into exile.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Remember the Night...

.......................................When, you,
without closure, engulfed me?

.....When I disappeared into your vastness,
became lost in you, lost 'I'?

..... Everywhere you touched, mountains,
valleys, plains, even the ocean in me,
parted, shook, opened.

..... Do you remember how we,
two sighs enfolded in each other?

..... Breath of love. I speak of romance tonight;
forgive me, Monsieur. Afterwards,
we did not speak of it.

..... On the surface of the water that resists
before you fall in, that edge of sweetness.

..... Mon amour, now it is like sitting in a darkened room
with a screen of scenes before us, our hands close,
but not touching.

..... You are so far away.

Monday, October 02, 2006

When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking

I've always had a natural mistrust of the letter e. It was the egg, Humpty Dumpty, who fell off the wall, yolk and albumen spilling viscously. In high school, I adopted the Greek epsilon, ε, and have scrawled it ever since.

e is a very tricky letter, I tell my young students. It's like the e of flea, and jumps clean over consonants and makes innocent vowels sitting there wake up and say their names. a becomes æ. At becomes ate. It's good, that letter e, but it can't jump over two or three consonants, so 'settle' remains 'settled.' And if e is next to c, watch out: e gets a crush, we could say. Then c gets stars in her eyes and forgets to be a 'k' and becomes a sinuous 's.' How do you read 'receives'? Of course, when two vowels go walking, one becomes shy, perhaps bashful, while the other proclaims its name.

Sometimes my young students can't read 'boat' or 'rain' or 'real' and so we jump up and walk around the room holding hands and I say, "We're a boat! I'll be a bashful 'a'; you be a courageous 'o' and say your name!" Are they puzzled? Maybe at first; then the laughter; then they start thinking up words we can play. If a parent looks in, I say, "It's okay! We're vowels marching around the dining room table!" They smile and withdraw politely.

Never mind the exceptions, I say - that's why we have memories: to memorize the exceptions!

I teach phonetically with flash cards that we make together as we travel into the wondrous land of reading. I teach differently to the regular school system of expecting children to 'pick up' reading from a reading-rich environment. Often my students simply memorize stories that have been read to them and are unable to recognize words out of that context. Teaching them phonetically gives them a way in to reading anything anytime. When my little students get tired or on 'overload' before our weekly hour is up, I'll switch roles: "Okay, time for you to teach me!" And I read so badly and make so many mistakes, but all so earnestly, they're laughing almost too hard to correct me, but correct me they do, my beautiful little charges.

My only motive, afterall, is to set them on a path of delight in the craziness of leaping e's, and vowel pairs who are friends, one out-going and one shy, ou's that are yowling, and the super shy silent h's that follow all the w's of every question word, as I hopefully open the world that a love of reading provides.

__________________________
(This little piece shows the barest surface of a phonetic-based reading system. And, yeah, their marks usually rise about 2 grade points; if they were getting D's, after a couple of months of the crazy Tuesday Tutor, we could expect B's; meaning, yeah, it's not just fun but they also learn actual reading skills that they get to keep after Ms. Tutor's a phonetically dim memory...)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Letter from a restaurant

Monsieur, the day is over, I worked at the investment bank, bought a sweater, walked city blocks until too hungry to continue. I am sitting in a corner of a Parsee Restaurant that drew me with an unusual warmth in its Indian colours and curtained light writing to you.

I sit at a small table covered with clear plastic under which a string tablecloth, woven in a loose stitch with an orange central flower radiating out in a circular pattern that stands out from the white stitching, lies. Lifting the glass stopper on a bottle of olive oil, I pour a delicate gold stream over my mostly lettuce salad, and then, from the other bottle, fresh lime juice. When the glass of housewine arrives, it is slightly vinegary, and I wonder if they bottled it themselves. The beef Keba is tender, the white rice is intermixed with yellow orange grains cooked with saffron. On the edge of the oval dish is a stewed tomatoe.

The patrons consist of an older retired couple, two young men in suits talking about business, and two Indian families who sit at tables pulled together. My favourites are a girl and boy, both perhaps 18 months old, whose words consist of 'blaaah...' and 'ma-ma-ma.' I think they are told they are too noisy for the woman in the corner because I am pointed at and they both suddenly turn and look at me with wide brown eyes. I smile, they smile, and then they run around the tables until their mothers grab them and put them in the high chairs. The women each have long shiny dark hair and are young and beautiful and are dressed in new sweats, unlike their husbands in their starch white shirts and office trousers. Throughout the meal, they continue to expend energy tying to quieten the children while their husbands talk. I think of an always-smiling young Parsee woman I met at a job recently and her wedding that week in a dress of white lace; afterwards, she said, she was changing into a mustard honey sari with gold threads sewn through it, the colours of the table cloth and the fragrant rice before me. I wonder about the Parsees in India; my young soon-to-be married friend originally from Sri Lanka, and if the life ahead of her will be similar to the families seated near me.

The young children cannot sit still in silence. I ruminate on what I am observing, mon cher. Why do we feel we have to contain energies that are different to our own? Why do we need to bring others down to our level? Why do we try to silence each other in the ways that we do?

These are questions that are haunting me, as you know, Monsieur.

I watch the fathers' irritation with the noisy children; the mothers' attempts to stop them from crying. What is this process of containing that begins so young?

The waiter, who can barely keep up with the orders, and runs from table to table, and the man behind the counter, who is also the cook, look like brothers. They have just opened this restaurant, on borrowed money perhaps. Business is already going well.

Inflamed

The poem I wrote disappeared. Usually I copy what I've written before posting, but the inflamed belly - perhaps it was the prunes and dried apricots, dark chocolate discs, Guinness draft, muesli and raw sugar, all fermenting until my stomach swelled in pain not unlike the labour of birth - and the late hour, I clicked on the wrong button, it disappeared. Poems can't be rewritten, not like prose can. I'm left wondering if what surfaced from the currents of words will reappear, or, if like a melted iceberg, it's gone, become ocean.

I wanted to post the poem, not talk about the bad night, and enjoy my quiet weekend making my way out into the day today, but I'm aching, light-headed, still swimming in the depths of the emotional disaster last week, the emailing, the words, the decisions, the silences, the loss.

Incomprehensible on the edge of.

Aren't they all edges?

And where is.