Wednesday, April 25, 2012

these charming men

one of my best friends is a public school teacher.  tonight he related a tale about how he needed to call a substitute for his next day of class; he needed a day to recover.  teachers need to find a substitute at least twelve hours ahead.  he had just been on a trip during spring break to some sunny spot away from the rainy, cold oregon winter, a place with drinking and dancing and sunny days and adult contemporary nights away from runny noses and hands sticky with jam, and he needed a day to recover, to rest before he went back to school.  but in his fatigue, he forgot to call a substitute.  the next morning, the phone rings.  but it’s not his principal inquiring as to where my friend’s whereabouts.  it’s an automated message letting him know that due to weather, school would be starting late, at ten a.m. that morning, allowing him enough time to beg some substitute to cover for him.

later he says the principal once told him he should quit teaching and become a principle because he’s so good with people.  and he is.  i’m sure the principal said that to him, he make a joke, they laughed, and everything was easy for both of them.

he lives a charmed life.

monday night and my friends are watching rupaul’s drag race at shawn’s house.  he graciously hosts us each week at his house to watch a cadre of men wearing dramatic makeup and dresses run a gauntlet of often demeaning or humiliating challenges.  this week each woman has had to dress as a dog.  each man gathered around the television set is some sort of charming.  these men are designers and architects and entrepreneurs and teachers and professionals.  they’re socially captivating, witty, and handsome.  perhaps one or the other may gone through an awkward period in middle or high school, but that possibility is remote to me, incongruous to the man i know today.  my friends are happy, and can somehow seem to glide through life with a wink and a smile.  life seems to come easy to them.

that week, i got a ride home from my friend and neighbor who is a landscape architect.  he has been taking a series of tests in order to be certified as a landscape architect here in oregon.  on the ride back to our neighborhood in north portland, my friend tells me that he had forgot the date for final registration for a last test he needs to take.  he called the office saying, “i knew i could talk myself out of it, or into it, or whatever,” though apparently he did not even need to scheme.  the office would wait a few days to complete the registration rosters, allowing him time to submit his application.

he’s charming and lucky.

at least that how it sometimes seems to me.  as i write this, i am stuck in a job i do not love, struggling monthly to save money and pay from my apartment, unable to travel or vacation, with little time to spend on myself.  i often suffer from social anxiety; the older i get the more i have found i can control my anxiety, however it never ceases.  and i have a stye in my eye, an infection under the eyelid that is causes it to inflame and droop.  the moments in which i feel lucky do not come frequently and do not last long.

the best luck i’ve known may have been finding such alluring friends.  the group seems cohesive, they seem supportive.  they plan great adventures with each other and attend each other’s events and party together and have coffee together.  so even when i am not the most captivating person, it helps to be around those that are, to bask in the glow of their charm and good fortune.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

night poems

nine o'clock at night and the sky is electric blue in the west, fading through midnight blue to black above my head.  soft pink tufts of cloud migrate north, brightened by the last of the afternoon light.  nine o'clock in the afternoon.

i'm listening to john coltrane, cleaning my apartment, drinking water with lemon.  today i have been reading patti smith's memoir of her life in new york with robert mapplethorpe, so i'm in an "i want to be an artist" sort of mood, which the coltrane only enhances.  i read frank o'hara's "meditation in an emergency" as sort of a literary digestif.  i think of my friend elizabeth who gave me this volume of o'hara poetry.

first this:
"Now there is only one man I love to kiss when he is unshaven.  Heterosexuality! you are inexorably approaching.  (How discourage her?)"

then this:
"St. Serapion, I wrap myself in the robes of your whiteness which is like midnight in Dostoevsky.  How am I to become a legend, my dear?  I've tried love, but that hides you in the bosom of another and I am always bursting forth! (but one must not be distracted by it!) or like a hyacinth, 'to keep the filth of life away,' yes, there even in the heart, where the filth is pumped in and slanders and pollutes and determines.  I will my will, though I may become famous for a mysterious vacancy in that department, that greenhouse."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

a letter to my sister

evian -

today i wore a sprig of jasmine in the buttonhole of my blazer, a white star with my favorite fragrance.

do you remember the night blooming cereus?  a flower that blooms once a year for a single night - a large ostentatious bloom with a scent that we could smell a block away.  when we were little, your friend’s parents cut a part of that cactus off to grow ourselves one year, and we potted it in a cement potter carved with angels.  it grew on our front porch at the house in huntsville until someone - a dog or friend of ours - knocked in off the porch into the lawn, squashing the plant.  we did not witness the night blooming cereus blossom until years after, while visiting uncle mike in birmingham.  on southside, the two old gay men who lived across the street beckoned us over at twilight.  i will never forget the fragrance of that flower or the luminosity of that pale blossom.

as a consolation, i suppose the honeysuckle in birmingham is growing.  driving down the interstate, honeysuckle cascades over the red, iron rich hills through which the road is cut.  we would always drive with all the windows open, and the scent of all that wild honeysuckle was surprisingly strong and sweet as we raced down the highway.  i think the fences at our old house in huntsville upon which the honeysuckle grew have been removed.  our parents thought the honeysuckle was a nuisance, but we loved those bushes, carefully tearing the flowers from their vines to tongue those droplets of nectar from stamen.  we told ourselves how sweet that honey tasted.

madre is moving back to huntsville and i would love to visit that city.  i would love to see monte santo mountain, and the old stone structures built there hundreds of years ago.  i would love to see maple hill cemetery and its stone angels and mausoleums and those banks of identical crosses for the unknown soldiers who died during the civil war.  i want to see the old house.  is the apple tree we planted in the side yard still growing?  i think our backyard fences have been removed, and the wrought iron railing around the front porch has been removed.  our roses grew up and through that railing; red, pink, fuschia; the yellow roses that always reminded me of our grandmother, and the yellow roses we would leave on his gravestone every year as in life he had always given our grandmother yellow roses for her birthday.

roses grow well in portland.  there are whole parks dedicated to growing roses, unimaginable varietals, plants with greatly varying color and scent.  we have magnolia trees, with large white blossoms to perfume an entire block.  and the cherry trees have blossomed, turning portland pink and white with flowers.  however, my favorite scent emanates from jasmine blossoms as i walk through the neighborhood.  the small white stars produce such a sweet but delicate scent.

this is not a substitute, and i do long to see portland, to visit our childhood.  and i wish i had a house here in portland in which i could plant roses, to be happy seeing them every day as i leave the house.  and jasmine, to smell jasmine all spring.

i miss you.