Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jack Gilbert: The Dance Most of All

I do not intend this blog to become one long obituary or saga of ills, but one must celebrate the passing of greatness and those things that tug at the heart.

So Jack Gilbert died last Sunday in Berkeley, at 87, after a struggle with Alzheimer's.
[Reminding me of Oppen, also of Berkeley, also taken by that ravaging disease, but at 76.
I am pretty sure the longer struggle with Alzheimer's is no cause for celebration.]

From the NYT' obit:

Mr. Gilbert, who won the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1962 for his first book, “Views of Jeopardy,” and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2005 for his fourth, “Refusing Heaven,” was a peculiar figure in the contemporary poetry world in the sense that he wasn’t exactly in it. A restless man who traveled a great deal, lived frugally and occasionally lectured or taught to support himself, he spoke and wrote with enthusiasm about life in the world, without failing to acknowledge its terrors and miseries. 
Famous for eschewing fame, he did not go to writers’ conferences or cocktail parties, gave readings sporadically and did not publish a great deal, either. His output over a half-century included a mere five slim volumes; his “Collected Poems,” which Knopf brought out earlier this year, squeezed the entire oeuvre into 400 pages. Reviewing it in The New York Times, Dwight Garner called it “a revelation, almost certainly among the two or three most important books of poetry that will be published this year.” 
With their blunt-force assertions, their challenging irony, their earthy sexuality and their embrace of life as a big, messy possibility, his poems were for many readers both serious and accessible, connecting to their own feelings of having to endure in an often cruel, unfair world. 
“On the rare occasion when Jack Gilbert gives public readings — whether in New York, Pittsburgh or San Francisco — it is not unusual for men and women in the audience to tell him how his poems have changed their lives,” The Paris Review wrote in 2005. 
His work is redolent of place: Pittsburgh, where he grew up, or San Francisco, where he lived in the 1960s, or Mexico or Greece or Denmark or Paris or other places he called home at one time or another. His poetry expresses a worldview genuinely of the world. One of his best-known poems, “A Brief for the Defense,” opened with these lines about the need to accommodate oneself to tragedy:

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies

are not starving someplace, they are starving

somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.

But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.

Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not

be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not

be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women

at the fountain are laughing together between

the suffering they have known and the awfulness

in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody

in the village is very sick. There is laughter

every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,

and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,

we lessen the importance of their deprivation.

Jack Gilbert's last book, "The Dance Most of All," was published in 2010 and this poem, I think, is my favorite, as of now:

He was no Oppen.  Oppen, as his mind got all snarled, gnarled, and shrunken -- I always envision the Alzheimer's brain -- the autopsy still being the moment and means of diagnosis -- as a dried up, beyond chewy pretzel that can no longer hold onto its big grains of kosher salt -- Oppen took to nailing his poems to pieces of wood.

He probably did the same with what I might jot on a Post-It.  "Buy juice but not the kind with food coloring or cane syrup but not too pricey either.  And yogurt, some Kroger low carb vanilla and peach but also some lowfat plain.  The fake sugar in the blue packets, not the pink."  This is what happens when you haven't been in a grocery store for a long long time but you still want what you want and you need to help the people helping you to get it right.

Or not.  I think Oppen stopped eatting.  I'm not sure Gilbert ever did. Eat much, I mean.

Oppen typed, I believe.  Gilbert wrote in big block letters, messy, but with remarkably few corrections.  The pages I have seen photos of looked like the graphic production of a frenetic fourth grader, the poetry flitting across the parameters of the lined paper -- clearly a big tablet of writing paper, with traces of the previous indented.  How often I have read that he was frugal.

"Ovid in Tears" absolutely spanks Marianne Moore's "Poetry." At least today, when it is cold, and pewter. and the gardens in which the brain of Ovid weeps are as far from imaginary as can be.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"generosity. be generous.": A Repost

Originally published Monday, October 19, 2009

does the universe conspire? (no, i think not.)
damn. this is another of my many blog posts that is pure therapy, a poor recalcitrant woman's version of therapy -- following the one terrible rule that -- once writ -- nothing can be taken back.
i just don't *do* "universe" well. there are few who can do it well. martin luther king, jr. did it well.
my favorite? "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." see? see? what did i tell ya? king did a good "universe." he was probably thinking, "heck yeah! you can quote me! who said it? who said it? that's right -- i said it..."
i like to think that maybe he looks around, furtively, then pumps his right arm, and cries: "SHAZAM!"
martin "captain marvel" king!
so, no, the universe does not conspire in serendipity today. rather, the arc of my emotion -- it is fiendishly inclusive. there is nothing, nada, zilch that does not relate, if that's how i want it.
it's as simple, i suppose, as "whose blog is it, anyway?" if you want it simple, you could think that.

at 11 am, i sometimes watch ER reruns. lately, they've been approaching mark greene's death, that beautiful episode in hawaii.

it's a fiction. it's a t.v. show. he gets to die as most of us would like, a dream death. i think that as i lay dying, i'm going to insert myself into that scene. wouldn't that be a gas? i'll probably be alone on some cracked and yellowed linoleum, brain dead, gifted with nary a thought!
also, i am pretty sure i'll be leaking. stinky, maybe with a joint or two having exploded. dare i dream of immolation? i am one of those who *believe* in spontaneous human combustion.

an airy room, sun, wind, ocean. a porch that wraps around. sand, herbs, a little tiny baby. all the natural forces gathered to usher him out. his death has a great soundtrack, too. YouTube is constantly putting out the fire of unauthorized vids -- disabling the audio. it's rough 'n tough, YouTube.
i rushed out and bought israel's cd, with the "somewhere" medley. a friend also gave it to me as a gift the next week. brother-unit grader boob burned me a copy for christmas. it seemed to make me come to mind.

so mark greene gets to leave on the wings of that incredible lullaby.

it's only 11:34 am, in marlinspike hall, deep, deep in the tête de hergé (très décédé, d'ailleurs).

yes, the archduke announced yesterday an amendment to the name of the land, this delightful country where i am so blessed to be. from now on, marlinspike hall is nestled in the tête de hergé (très décédé, d'ailleurs). it has a good mouth-feel, it rolls in la bouche.

ah, so he has just seized... always a milestone, don't cha think?

elizabeth says; "maahhhk, you need a cat scan and a full workup!" i giggle.

then begin to weep again, as he says, "i don't wanna go back home. it's beautiful here, isn't it?"

yes, mark! stay there. opt for that!

then the anger rises again... i want to opt for that, dammit. and quick.

before my mother dies.

yes, before she exits, stage left. exeunt (because she shouldn't go out alone.).

do you know how much i owe my sister lale? unqualified, my sister. not half-sister. not sister-of-the-next-batch. not sister-who-blurts-out-everything. just sister.

i was thinking on that as i wept my way around the kitchen. cleaning. like a crazed woman. unfortunately, not a crazed cleaning woman... as in, someone who effectively gets the jobs done.

i smear.

rachel just lied to her dad.

"remember when i used to sing you to sleep?"
"no {all sullen-like}."

he doesn't stop, he knows better. she had a dog. there was a balloon. she had a grandmother.

"i don't remember, i don't remember any of that stuff. it's not important. it's useless boring useless crap, a dog named dudley? stop talking to me about it."

so it looks like pancreatic cancer, ain't that a bitch? i think myself so evolved, i think i know it all. i was happy to hear "pancreatitis," happy to think, well, good, now we know, now we can treat it, now she will get well.

i pushed to the back of my brain the thought, "why in the world would she have pancreatitis?"

it is NOT for sure yet. it will be for sure on wednesday. two days left to pretend. to practice saying "mother." "mom." it just sounds foreign.

now, lale. la-le. lollylolly! i can say "lale" all the livelong day!

back to smearing around the grease and dirt in the kitchen (the Medieval Kitchen, my favorite. but have you ever tried to clean a medieval kitchen? the spit alone has inspired centuries of baked on, smokey crud. mr. clean is a useless twit in our kitchens...)-- back to lale, my sister, what a neat, nifty person.

without her? i'd not be in touch with tumbleweed. i'd not even know he was alive.

without her? i'd not know, and perhaps, not care, that mother is [likely] dying.

i'd not entertain the notion of family -- beyond the beloved grader boob. this aunt, that uncle, those nieces and nephews galore.

okay, so there is some suspect parentage going on -- babies without fathers, teenagers of indeterminate mothers. who cares? at least all those people have been busy living.

i applaud them, i applaud you -- if you've been busy living.

"generosity. be generous."

those are the words mark leaves his daughter.

a brilliant legacy. it speaks to me, as i've not been generous but still have been blessed by those who -- effortlessly, it seems -- are. those who are. generous.

mother's late husband, necip -- easily the most generous man i ever met. he'd have been a great dad to have... and it thrills me, sometimes, to think of lale receiving that gift from him. he would smile to know how well she was schooled, how hugely giving is her good heart.
i promised to call again later today, as she said she was struggling "to keep [her] mind straight, in the right place."
i am going to give this sister thing a shot.


"...comment dire autre chose, autre chose que l'ímpossibilité de dire, comme je fais ici: moi, je signe..."

Billy Long, Rest In Peace

Billy passed away at 10:03am this morning

Castle Bridge, connecting Caldwell and Burke Counties in Western North Carolina

Guest Book for Billy Long – Online Guest Book by Hickory Daily Record and 

Billy Bradford Long GRANITE FALLS Billy Bradford Long, 57, of Granite Falls, passed away Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, at his home. Billy was born Nov. 28, 1954. He was a veteran of the U.S.Army, having served from 1973 to 1980. He is preceded in death by a brother, John Long; and his parents, Dale and Getty Long. Survivors include his wife, Joyce Williams Long; mother-in-law, Olivee Williams; sister-in-law, Jeannie Williams; brother-in-law, Michael Williams; three daughters, Misty Bentley and family friend, Michael Sebert, Christy Casco, and Shawna Williams; and three grandchildren, Brian, Aric, and Christopher; his brothers, Tony Long and wife, Linda, Gary Long and wife, Lisa, and Roger Long and wife, Damaris, of Conover; and Libby Silcox, and daughter, Jessi, of Hickory; and many nieces and nephews. There will be a memorial service held at a later date.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veterans' Day: Update on Billy, an Ignored, Mentally Disabled, Dying Vet

*Billy Long passed away this morning, Tuesday, November 13, 2012, at 10:03 AM*

to help them: click HERE
to see all posts about billy posted previously on this blog, click HERE

Grandson Brian telling Billy, "I love you."

Billy Long served seven years in the Army before being diagnosed with schizophrenia.  He was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer several months ago, in a pretty dismissive fashion.  Sent home with hospice care, his family, mostly Joyce, his wife, has cared for him every minute of every day.  The hospice nurse comes twice a week, and an aide comes to help bathe him..Joyce is not accustomed to "help," so I am not sure she is getting all that she could.  Unlike the perfect rest of us, she suffers from pride, and like so many from a disadvantaged background, she does not trust easily.

Billy got much worse this week, talking to people not there, often talking to his oldest grandson, Brian, for whom he served as a father figure.  Brian is having a very hard time, as are the other two grandkids -- who all live with Billy's stepdaughter Christina in the apartment next door.

Billy is now unresponsive.

They have no money, and Joyce, also disabled by fibromyalgia and severe osteoarthritis, will see her disability income cut to $80 a month when he dies.

And this disabled vet, who served while suffering (and one must conclude, *obviously* suffering) from a disability, is being ignored now, just as he was ignored when he served his country.

Joyce's daughter Christina started a FundRazr online to help with the co-pays and ambulance charges that they were assured were not going to be charged -- for the car they had to buy to get back and forth to hospitals and ERs -- for the gas -- for the nightly meals of hot dogs -- for the nutritional drinks that were Billy's last meals.  (The reason the FundRazr campaign is in Christina's name is that Joyce does not have a bank account.)

I went to Joyce's Facebook page this morning and read:

Was up all night with Billy, he was very restless, talking and mumbling all night. Now he is unresponsive since 9am this morning. When he passes there will not be a funeral for him, back in August when he went into Hospice care he signed papers for Body donation even though its not what he really wanted to do, so Christina started a fundraiser in September to maybe get help for a funeral, and some of his and our bills together, he was hoping to be able to change his mind and have a real funeral, But for THIS VET WHO SERVED HIS COUNTRY, there will be no last minute miracles as the fundraiser didnt get the results he hoped for. Today is VETERANS DAY and it is still not to late to help, there are quite a few bills related to his cancer, so if you can please visit the sight below and donate what you can:::  via

It's too late for Billy.

It's not too late to help Joyce -- who is raising her sister's daughter (and has since birth), and still caring, in many ways, for her two adult daughters, and those three handsome, talented grandsons.

I'm begging you now.  To help them, click HERE.

Happy Veterans' Day

Billy in the Army

Billy Bradford Long GRANITE FALLS Billy Bradford Long, 57, of Granite Falls, passed away Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, at his home. Billy was born Nov. 28, 1954. He was a veteran of the U.S.Army, having served from 1973 to 1980. He is preceded in death by a brother, John Long; and his parents, Dale and Getty Long. Survivors include his wife, Joyce Williams Long; mother-in-law, Olivee Williams; sister-in-law, Jeannie Williams; brother-in-law, Michael Williams; three daughters, Misty Bentley and family friend, Michael Sebert, Christy Casco, and Shawna Williams; and three grandchildren, Brian, Aric, and Christopher; his brothers, Tony Long and wife, Linda, Gary Long and wife, Lisa, and Roger Long and wife, Damaris, of Conover; and Libby Silcox, and daughter, Jessi, of Hickory; and many nieces and nephews. There will be a memorial service held at a later date.

From Time's Newsfeed (and *MORE*): "Where Did All Those Racist Anti-Obama Tweets Come From...?"

Where Did All Those Racist Anti-Obama Tweets Come From? Here’s the Science

The racist social-media comments that greeted Barack Obama’s re-election on Tuesday ran the gamut from the ignorant to the hateful. Now a group of academics at the Floating Sheep blog has taken some of the worst statements on Twitter — which the group calls “some of the nastiest tweets you might possibly imagine” — and projected them onto a map of the U.S. The result? Nine of the 10 worst states, by number of racist comments, went to Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the Nov. 6 election.

The researchers — the blog is run by geography scholars mostly based in the U.S. — selected hundreds of racist remarks from the final week of the election campaign and correlated the geotagging information embedded in them to the states they originated from. Alabama and Mississippi scored worst, with eight times as many racist tweets as the national average, according to the study. Georgia, North Dakota, Louisiana, Tennessee, Missouri, West Virginia and Minnesota all ranked three to four times above the national average in terms of prevalence of racist tweets. Among those 10 states, only Minnesota voted for Obama.

(MORE: The 15 Most Memorable Tweets of Election Night)

Read more:

***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***

The genesis for posting this lead-in to the Time's article was prompted by anger at those sub-radar sheep racists who suffer more from narcissistic personality disorder than any sort of racism endowed with insight, folks such as my oft-cited... THE LOON.  I could choose a myriad, dozens, lots -- though some were deleted, and a wretched few "apologized" for, usually in terms of "I hope I wasn't MISUNDERSTOOD.." -- you know that old trick.  But I will just pick the one that I can't get out of my head, mostly because she's so blithefully innocent and naieve, like a cobra getting ready to sink its fangs into the tender skin of The Republic:

@oreillyfactor Sympathizers of Illegals endeared by @realDonaldTrump assertions that POTUS one of them & in USA illegally. Many anti-white.

She prides herself on her intelligence, on her insight, and gives -- in support of inbred genius -- the same examples over and over and over and over again, mostly in the form of grievances against corporations who "stole" her ideas.  I imagine you could do a search with the terms "seaangels14," "pixiku," "pinkmimosabloom," and the SEARS corporation to get an idea of what I mean.  Well, she's infatuated with Jim Sears of The Doctors TV show, so that might take up much of the more recent entries... Anyway, she's a rogue genius who invents broad, general, pretty common ideas and then accuses corporations ("people too!") of stealing them, thus denying her some sort of recompense that usually amounts to a demand for a house in Oklahoma, or a head-to-toe makeover for herself and her husband.

She is, I should remember, clearly ill, and one of the key signs of her illness ramping up its engine speed, pulling out onto the runway, and readying for a death-spiral of a takeoff, is the mention of SEARS ripping off her home makeover idea or President Clinton (extramarital oral sex in the Oval Office is obviously less of a Joel Oversteen Sin than being black and not Amerikan) and his "endorsement" of her educational reform notions.  It could just as easily be a good strong rant on "illegals" to The Donald or Joe Arpaio or maybe the genteel Southern bitchslap of sending The President of the United States a recipe for her favorite African soup.

But she did achieve a kind of fame, of which she is doubtless unaware:  making it to a database of "questionable" tweets to Barack Obama maintained by some bot employed by the University of Iowa research project:

8/25/2010 3:14 AM @BarackObama I was asking @DrPhil if maybe 1st dates should be to donate blood since donated blood is tested for STD's, Hepatitis C, & HIV.*

This collection reflects Political Science Professor G.R. Boynton's research of how new media trends such as microblogging and streaming video are transforming the way people exchange political information. His collection of campaign videos is available in the Presidential Campaign Videos collection. He writes about his ongoing research on his website.

Professor Boynton's project studying Twitter received the Center for Research Libraries' 2010 Primary Source Award for Research for his innovative use of primary source materials. His Twitter data is archived here in csv and xml formats.

At least I'm not the only one noticing.  She'll fall back on the fact that I've admitted to bullying her.  She'll never understand what I intend by "bullying" her -- noting her poorly-honed nonchalance at what I consider treasonous utterances.  Okay, well, at least, terroristic threats.  All right, maybe just PROFOUND bad taste?  What I absolutely fail to believe is what would render my close attention to such "apolitical" and "naive" public utterances -- that she is so disabled as to not be responsible for them.  That's easy enough to discern by her patterns of attack, remorse, semi-recant, and then, pretty swiftly, some sort of slightly altered restatement of her original racist, classist, xenophobic attacks -- all the more acidic for her cover as an unrecognized genius of a Texan Domestic Engineer.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Looking For A Way To Make A Difference?

I can tell that my repeated requests for you, Dear Readers, to donate to the FundRazr campaign on behalf of my friend Joyce's dying husband and her essentially destitute family have apparently stirred you to the heights of apathy.... I have my sneaky means of finding these things out, such as how the total amount of money raised to help them stay flush in food, basic shelter, medicine, and gasoline hasn't risen above $62 in months.

Sooooo.... if you are looking for a way to feel a little better about your skinflint selves, here you go:  FundRazr will feature her effort to get some money to make Billy's last days somewhat easier this Friday, in honor of Veterans' Day.

About  "With FundRazr you can raise money for Anything. Anywhere.
Disaster relief, personal fundraising, group, non-profit, organizations, schools, churches, family, politics, causes, health, animals, accident, charity, legal, memorials, education, veterans, arts, entrepreneurs, celebrations, events, community, travel, volunteer..."  Right now, of course, their home page features the myriad needs created by the monster storm Sandy.

Billy's page can be found HERE. It was set up by one of Joyce's daughter's Christina.  It could be better if that family had Mad Men skills, but they're kind of busy having hot dogs for dinner every night. Billy served his country for seven years, then was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  He's a smoker, and was diagnosed with end stage lung cancer just a few months ago.  There will be no "estate," only debt, and there won't be a windfall of veteran's benefits or life insurance.

So, please, help this family out.  All three grandkids have money-sucking illnesses -- from ADD, stunted growth, and migraines,  to Arnold–Chiari malformation and psychological issues from stress, poverty... and well, isn't that enough? Joyce also juggles the fiery combinaions that come with a family stricken with the genes of addiction, that lead to narcissistic compulsions to lie, steal, beg, and generally ignore the needs of this struggling sister, daughter, aunt, and mother.

So, Sweet Reader:  Advertise that FundRazr compaign for Billy and his family!  Tweet it!  Make yourself a sandwich-board sign and stroll about your town with insouciance and affected panache! By helping Billy die with dignity, you help Joyce carry on, you help those kids, you plant the notion of a seed that people really do care.

Confuse the public tomorrow -- they'll be expecting an inundation of blither and blather about Obama and Romney and the inevitable congressional battles -- bring them up short, reboot their tired brains with information about how to actually effect real, tangible change:  by helping Billy die with dignity, by chipping away at the medication co-pays and ambulance bills, by helping Joyce finish raising her sister's child, and serve as the stability in the lives of her own biological daughters' lives, and her 3 beloved grandsons.

You can pray all you like.  Send purple, pink, sea foam green balloons with sweet wishes inside up into the ether to choke birds and litter the landscape.  Grace the universe with good thoughts.  Make a vow to help the next needy person you trip over on the sidewalk.

You can also donate a dollar.  Use user-friendly PayPal.  Steal a buck from your Aunt Mathilda's purse. Tithe 10% of your casino winnings.  Go bet on the horses!  Swipe your kids' Halloween candy and sell it back to them, a dime a Skittle.

Billy has taken a turn for the worse, as of last night.  He cannot think clearly due to oxygen debt, despite them pumping in O2 as fast and as at high a rate as they can.  Though he's dropped an awful lot of weight, he's still a big guy, and I am very scared at the thought of him getting up and falling.  Joyce is there alone, with only her teen daughter in the apartment to help.

The nurse today heard no breath sounds on one side, and very labored, diminished ones on the other.  Billy rambles, thinking he is talking to his grandson Brian, for whom he has essentially served as father.

All the nurse could do was order some Ativan and advise Joyce that there would now be more bad days than good, and that he'd not likely make it to Christmas.  Personally, I think that was a pissy bit of not-much help, but I've never worked as a hospice nurse, never stood before a harried, harassed  stretched-to-the-max woman who is running on empty.

Okay, so your own life is tragic -- your own stories would chill my spine.  But you're smart, you're something of a techie, you're good-hearted.  Find a way to get people to go to the FundRazr page on Friday (or any day, duh!) and remind your own sweet crowd that we are all in this together.

You can even use the old "six degrees of separation" thing, though that's probably a bit tired.  I'll leave it up to you.

I would not want to be accused of being bossy or telling you your business.

P.S.  Somewhere in the margins of this blog is an invitation for you to leave traces of yourself here.  I've always meant it.  I know your stories are supremely important, your needs as soul-devouring as can be.  I've been blessed to share in some of your great moments of happiness.  It's sadly typical that I may never have thanked you -- for whatever trace you've left, even those silent electronic breezes that sometimes take my own breath away.