Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Brimming Over

When I answered the phone and heard, Ms McCarthy, we would like to offer you the job, the floodgates of adrenalin opened. Every cell in my body stood up screaming, I got it! I got it! The pounding in my chest came close to being painful and the room suddenly looked bright yellow. My hands trembled, my breathing dropped to shallow. For some moments, I stood by the phone, unable to sit down or swallow. An hour later when I told my boyfriend and best friend, the excitement had not faded. I felt moved to kiss his hands, to utter endearing phrases. But I was impatient for these feelings to settle down into relaxed self satisfaction, what I think of as happiness. I felt now I had the starring role in my own life. My old striving self annihilated. A new, true, unique, worthy and beautiful self has just hatched. All the leaden banalities of life have been blasted away. I wanted to enjoy that transcendence. But my body was so slow to quiet down, my wild thoughts, my strange sensation of déjà-vu couldn't be suppressed. Brimming over like this, excitement felt more like terror, like witchcraft. It left me vulnerable, it could be taken away, or may not bring transcendence, and if there was simple joy in this, it could dissipate, or some dark misfortune could arrive as the price for it. My "happiest" moments have never felt subtle or pure. Great pleasure is always accompanied by nearly suffocating anxiety. Could nature have designed happiness to be a flickering candle in the mind? Because happiness can't be sustained, indeed could interfere with survival in a dangerous world. Where life must operate with caution at all times lest the lion leap out of hiding. Or we step on a python, eat a poison leaf, walk into a trap. Is that why the rim around the beautiful saucer, that upper edge of the abyss, stays lit with a dark glow?

Thursday, May 16, 2013


My mother always says the man’s a fool so it comes 
as a surprise, how surely my father drives through 
the maze of streets in New York City. He makes no 
wrong turns, asks for no directions, 
consults no maps. From the back of our Rambler, 
four children thrust heads into the beeping horns, 
into the streams of cars and buses that waver
and wobble forward like penned cattle, 
and there’s my father driving calmly right through 
all that mayhem as if he enjoys it. He even points 
things out to us. 
See, that's the Stock exchange. 
Over there, that mansion, Andrew Carnegie lived there. 
Just like that, all the way to Long Long Island 
without a single hitch. 

It is late afternoon when we arrive at his mother’s
beach house. After miles of dried Indiana clay, 
the glittery Atlantic ocean stuns, an amazing sight, 
a planet in itself, etched in gold. But what I see next 
stops me in my tracks: rising from the whirling water, 
armies of black-shelled creatures as big as geese
with feathery claws and snapping tails, and eyes with 
pouches like purses, are crawling over sand, 
whiskers twitching, toward us. 

We scramble up the porch squealing, beating 
on the door, we are banging, we are yelling, 
we are crying, but my father’s only swaying, he is
pouring, and his mother’s saying Francis, 
you've had enough, and the ice is tossing in the shaker, 
the vodka’s splashing and I am understanding 

my father’s not a fool, he’s a drunk.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Jump

As a kid, nothing was more exciting
on a sunbaked afternoon
than a jump off the diving board
at the neighborhood pool--not a dive,
I didn't how to dive--but a good jump,
Like a jump from a tree into a river,
A clumsy jump that  began with a rapid waddle
to the end of the board and then a gangly leap into the air,
one hand plugging my nose,
suspended for an instant like a dolphin,
quickly gulping a mouthful of breath, holding it,
and then a long, slow plunge,
my burned body finally
breaking the cold water,
the delightful shock of submersion,
sinking lower and lower,
losing my weight, my direction,
my hearing, all my heat,
my burning eyes wide open,
the taste of chlorine,
the breath bursting from my lungs,
And then a gentle moon landing,
my butt touching the bottom,
And then bouncing up and down
against the concrete, and then
pushing my butt against that hard floor
to catapult me back up toward the white sky,
my long brown hair floating like seaweed,
hair slipping into my mouth,
my fierce splashing upward,
and just before my face breaks
through the water,
the warm pee between my thighs,
without blushing because no one knows,
no one will ever know.