mamma-land or lack thereof

me

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m not big on holidays. That doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge them; it means I don’t want others to feel obligated to participate on any set day. As my daughter Tara says, “I love you all the days, Mamma.” Yes she does, and she shows it, too.

My mamma has been dead for 17 years. I’m an orphan and regardless of how many years I acquire on my life journey—many many moons now—I miss my mamma’s living presence. Especially momentous happenings, “positive or negative”: my first published article, first essay, when I placed poems into magazines she would have read. Received my MFA. When I published Decomposition. Rant-ology!

She missed Tara’s wedding, her transformation into a fabulous, bright, kind woman (when last seen by Liliana, Tara was a tortured teen, and Dario, the son-eth, was eight), Dario’s smooth teen years, his college graduation, a creative talent in visual and musical arts, the birth of Lucas, her great-grand-baby, who just turned two.

I also miss her when my soul suffers. The poet in me, the writer—it’s what she could always understand even if she didn’t get my neuro-diversity. I was her only daughter and our skirmishes were sometimes textbook; our love, Italian epic.

The last few years of her life, my mamma and I would talk on the phone every Sunday. I lived in Washington state and she in Alabama. The night before she died, this is what I’d put into my journal:

17 November 1996  Sunday evening

I talked to my mother tonight. She’s not doing well. She’d like to die as she feels she has nothing left to do but suffer. She doesn’t understand why she must still be here. I cry with her and feel empathy yet feel helpless to soothe her in any way…The end of our conversation was telling for us both. I said to her that we might be in a better place next week. She said, “I hope I won’t be here next week.” I assured her that it would be fine with me if she is not, and that I will pray for that for her.

The next evening as I’m getting ready for my server shift, Kelly comes up having answered the phone and tells me that my mamma has died of a heart attack; I didn’t go to work. That evening’s journal entry:

18 November 1996  Monday evening

…I say, “Oh that must be what’s wrong with me.” I’d been acting unkindly all day. I was still moved by the conversation with her the night before. Kelly and I went out for Thai food because I wanted to get out of the house. Upon returning, I opened the door and I could smell my mother. I said to Kelly, “Do you smell that?” He said, “Yes, it smells like my grandmother’s house.” “No,” I said, “that’s my mother’s smell. I guess she was here.”

My sweet mother is dead…I will have to be my own mamma now. Can I do this?…

I did and I could. Mothering my own kids helped heal the “hole” of her. But my heart is never completely whole without her.

Happy Mamma’s Day, Mamma.

happy anniversary, you tumors you!

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Five years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and “given” two to five years to live.

I sure hope the biatch who condescendingly uttered her pronouncement when I said I’d try to cure it myself and wouldn’t engage in any of the three allopathic options she presented:

  • cut        (surgery)
  • burn     (radiation)
  • poison (chemotherapy)

reads rant-ology! because it’s just about the five year mark and I’m still lifting weights, doing yoga, writing, hiking, snowshoeing, cooking, kissing, eating, crying, arguing…..breathing…..reading, playing guitar, playing cards, brushing cats, feeding chickens, laughing, ranting and smiling. In other words: living.

Hanging with the aliens—as I fondly call them—is a bit like living with tiny time bombs just under my skin and, yes, one day they could decide to take me out. But not today or most likely any other day in the near—or maybe even far—future. At some point, they may multiply and I may choose differently than I’ve chosen so far. Who knows? But one thing’s for sure: if I had used any of their “therapies” I’d definitely be dead.

I know my own body, thanks, and I listen when she speaks, now and forever. Amen.

Something will kill me, someday, and something will kill you as well. But I don’t make decisions from fear and I don’t make them from my head either, so I’m not going to begin regardless of medical pressure.

Here’s my poem to honor the upcoming anniversary:

Landscape of an Alien Disease

1.

I live with three solid stones

in my left breast throbbing along to my heartbeat.

Some say they’re out

to compose a corpse in my shape.

 

Dwelling with them

is a bit like winning

the lottery. Others hunger

to confer, consult,

nurture. In infirmity

they only want a good look

at what they don’t want.

 

It’s safer to rubberneck the rubble

this life has become. The more I open

my chest, my heart to accommodate

their view, I see their breath

 

flutter shallowly and a quaking develops

as if they spot that toothy crack

of terrain snaking

randomly away from my rock-steady feet,

suddenly eyeing theirs.

 

2.

Cancer can be

like TV: a cop chase and the perp is pressed

by G-forces back to a time where

he felt his free will like dense cool air

just before being delivered

to the ground & hog-tied with hand cuffs.

 

Click channels: a muddy flood snatches homes

from their foundations, snorts trees,

starts a rowdy party of festering cars

sadistically sailing past, some red, some blue.

 

3.

Either way, everyone but me is secure

in their home, snapping off

their sets, rising from easy chairs,

shutting down lamps and heading up to bed.

 

I’m on the run, the head waters still

rising, the cops on my tail,

slippered feet straddling that crevasse

of twisted scenery

as each second spills

into the next and the next

and no one

can predict a thing.

 

can death be just a “penalty?”

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This is not a story about Troy Davis but he begins it.

His story caused a national furor as it was becoming increasingly probable he was innocent and yet—shamefully—was killed by the state of Georgia anyway.

Meanwhile, that same day, in Texas, another man, a white supremacist—Lawrence Russell Brewer—was also killed by lethal injection. Civil Rights activist Dick Gregory held a prayer vigil outside the prison before Brewer’s execution saying, “Christians can’t cry over the crucifixion of Christ and still be for the death penalty.” Continuing, “It’s never all right to kill somebody intentionally. There are people who kill people. They are not the State. They are not the government.” This, Gregory affirmed even though Brewer (and others) chained James Byrd, Jr.’s ankles to the back of a truck and dragged him to death swerving over two miles of asphalt because. the. man. was. black.

Davis, Byrd and Gregory are all black men but that’s not the story either.

This story is about murder.

2010 Gallup survey: 64% of Americans support the death penalty to punish ‘egregious murder.’ Really?! If Gregory can move beyond a ‘personal’ threat (he has black skin so he’s a potential target for others like Brewer) to the higher principle, why can’t the majority of Americans?

I know people who back the death penalty and argue effectively about the recidivism of child molesters, baby beaters, rapists, torturers, serial killers, ad nauseam and want these criminals dead. We do live in a world of common cruelty; I don’t disagree that there are monsters roaming among us. And yet, I can’t feel fine about a large, abstract glob of ‘authority’ murdering others for…murdering others. Geez, I’m against spanking; don’t ask me to ‘bless’ state murder.

I say murder because if I killed a man for hurting, say, my daughter I would be in jail for 1st degree murder regardless of the heinous nature of what the guy might have done.

A small digression here: I often wonder about meat eaters, how many would continue to eat as much meat as they do (or any) if they had to shoot, skin, drain, de-bone, de-feather, butcher, cook and then eat that slab. Be honest—would you?

So, here’s a thought for all you 64% out there in favor of state sanctioned murder. How about we keep the same court system, trial process and sentencing. When the perp is convicted and given the death penalty YOU have to be the one who kills that man. You give him his last meal/s, you lead him to the table or the chair, strap him down, look him in the face, give him the injection, flip the switch.

Once again—be honest. How many of you would still approve of the death ‘penalty’ then?

planet death…and then there are honey bees

Most of us don’t think about the fact that we live on a planet where in order for something to live many things have to die. From viruses to plankton, wood to wheat, from whales to humans someone is the prey and someone is the predator.

There are exceptions: bees make honey but don’t harm blossoms in doing so; ewes, cows, nannies (goats), etc. give milk without bloodshed; fish, chickens, turtles and ducks donate eggs, beautiful ovate/round gifts; a myriad of trees and plants generously award us their edible jewels every season!

One of the tenets of Jainism is that all living beings desire life, not death, and thereby no one has the right to take away that life. Jains feel that all beings “render service” to each other; that’s how they circumvent the act of “killing” plants to eat or accidentally crushing insects while walking.

I’m not a Jain nor a member of any religion though I do hold a pantheistic in view. I’ve been a vegetarian almost all my life and even though I have chickens—my “girly girls”—I rarely eat their eggs. My quasi will, my kids will, my friends will. I still appreciate the girls’ magical benefactions.

So rather than blithely devouring a slab of cow, a curl of pig, or—in my case—grains and veggies, let’s revere all beings’ life forces especially if we’re killing them to nurture us. Them being plants, wood, water but  especially the animals. Let’s honor their offerings of Self for our nourishment and for their earthly service.

Foremost: allow each animal these three H’s: health, haven, and harmony. Empower them to walk this earth living genuine lives before they come to our mouths.