This and that

Well, we’re back in Turkey safe and sound and exhausted.  We booked a 3:35am flight from Beirut to Adana, which is a 2 hour drive from our home, instead of flying to Istanbul and waiting there for four hours before catching a second flight here.  We thought we were being smart, but our flight was delayed for two hours, lines at the Beirut airport were longer than lines at JFK passport control in high season, our check-in attendant was apparently a trainee and had a forty-minute struggle to issue Isla’s lap infant ticket…..and so we didn’t sleep all night and arrived home mid morning.

We’d left a single window cracked open, and all the dust in the neighborhood managed to seep in and settle down nicely over the better half of the house, but poor C had to leave for a meeting almost immediately and I was too tired to do anything about it so we just took a lot of showers and tried not to roll around on the floor.

C took an emergency grocery run because I was in that all too familiar delirious-from-fatigue-and-hunger state, and came back with cheese and yogurt and Turkish sausage and nectarines and bananas .  I spent the rest of the day making such steady progress on the bounty that C felt he had to repeatedly marvel at the obvious: “You’re really pregnant!” Between meals I lounged on the couch and mumbled through the books Isla brought over for me to read to her, getting up only occasionally to rinse down her dusty body.

We’re going through gallons of water.  Either Antakya is far hotter than when we left or I am far more pregnant.  It could be both, but I think it’s the latter.  Also, our home in Lebanon is on the ground floor and has air conditioning.  Our home here is on the 7th floor and does not.  Its redeeming factor is the near-constant wind blowing through the open windows.  In theory, I love the lack of air conditioning on account that the world is so economically unjust and I am on the upper end of the spectrum with clothes for all seasons and no fear of hunger and a life of relative security and legal status wherever I go…it’s good to deal with small discomforts, insignificant as they may be.  Not to mention that AC remains one of the biggest air pollutants.  All this information drips through my brain as quickly as the sweat drips from my body, and in a purely philosophical sense, I am content.  Although if Antakya experiences another 110 degree heat wave like the one we missed while we were in Lebanon, my philosophical inclinations may be prone to shift.

Isla’s room was too hot for her to sleep in, so we brought her to our bedroom, which is breezy and cool at night.  She managed to take up the entire middle portion of the mattress, (how is it that toddlers are just as active during sleep as they are while they’re awake?) but somehow we all slept fairly well.  She woke up sniveling and sneezing.  It wasn’t difficult to ascertain the cause, and so I spent five hours scouring the floors, surfaces, furniture and beds.  It feels good to be able to sit down without immediately morphing into human dust rags.

On a related note, C and I finally got around to dividing up the house work.  We’d sort of been tag-teaming it all along, which isn’t the most efficient (or harmonious) system.  Having a precise list of set chores eliminates a surprising amount of brain space and silent wondering and, occasionally, resentment.

On a less related note, my productivity levels are fragmentary at best.  It’s not even that I am bursting with ideas and lack the impetus to follow through; the ideas themselves are scant.  When I start to wonder what’s become of my brain, I often get distracted mid-thought, because the womb dweller has become partial to the following positions:

da vinci

All that to say, here’s to frequent breaks and tall cool drinks at the ready!  Happy thick-of-summer, Apples!

 

 

From Lebanon with love

IMG_2116

-The last month in Turkey was a beautiful tailspin of nice long days with my sisters around, a quick flight up to Izmir for a brief getaway in the small coastal town of Cesme, then another week and a half back in Antakya before we all flew up to Istanbul where we met C’s sister and her friend for week of vacation.  I have to admit that our time in Cesme was dampened by my crazy anxiety about whether Isla was getting enough to eat and whether she was taxed and confused by the total lack of routine.  In retrospect, I think I was the one who was taxed and confused, and there came a point when my sisters didn’t really know what to do with me.  Once I recovered most of my sanity, I could enjoy our month together, which was full of walking and hiking, new sites and sights, a few swims in the clear Mediterranean, nose piercings, home cooked meals and, of course, board games.

-C, Isla and I flew directly from Istanbul to Beirut, where we are spending the better half of the month of July.  It’s not a vacation, but it’s a good restful homecoming.  We’re all still missing my sisters, (Isla acted like she had 2 fairy godmothers at her beck and call), so a family reunion with the other side was a good stepping stone to ordinary life after their departure.  We’re glad to be back in our home for a bit with our own car to drive around in (a novelty that wore off quickly once we’d re-experienced the maddening Beirut traffic situation).  During the past month, I think my body tried to forget it was pregnant so that I could partake in all the activity, but then it suddenly remembered once we arrived in Beirut.  I was hit by that sort of brain-fizzing, verge-of-collapse exhaustion for a few days, and when we went to buy a carseat for Isla I found myself first needing to sit down inside one of the display carseats and then make my way quickly to the exit where I began blacking out and vomiting in the parking lot to C’s enormous concern and the shop patrons’ horror.  It lasted for about 10 minutes, but it was enough to convince me to take it easy for the next few days.

-Isla has become quite a pro at traveling simply because she is now–23 plane rides into her short 18 month life–so familiar with the whole routine; the drive to the airport, the wait, the boarding of the plane, the wait, the takeoff, the wait, the landing, the wait, the exit, the drive to whatever destination her can’t-stay-put parents are schlepping her off to next.  We found these magical little homeopathic chamomile tablets that she takes 3 at a time every half hour or so while we fly.  I’m not sure they put her to sleep at all, but they do seem to calm her down or at least give her a treat (a highly suspicious looking, multiple white pill of a treat) to look forward to.  We’re relieved to see that she is doing better on planes, because we’ll be flying back to Antakya via Istanbul, and then back to Lebanon via Istanbul before the new baby is born.  And then she will turn 2 and graduate from inexpensive lap infant status to full-price toddler, and we will really start to feel the burden of our frequent flyer lifestyle.

-On the inside, I have reached this point where I am heartbroken whenever I think about Isla losing her place as our one and only baby.  On the one hand, I am excited for her to have a sibling, since the entirety of her circle of friends is made up of adults, but on the other hand, I imagine how it will feel to suddenly lose the full focus of our attention and admiration.  Right now, we’re still obsessed with every last thing she does (“She was talking to her reflection in the drain today!!!  Isn’t our daughter the most hilarious child that ever existed??”  I am exaggerating only a little).  I wonder if we will still be as captivated by her, or if we will suddenly be too tired to enjoy it anymore.  In my mind, I worry that she will be utterly sad and confused and lost, and I can’t bear to think about it.  In theory, I know she will be fine, eventually at least, but theoretical knowledge doesn’t always serve any purpose.

-C is in the middle of an unusual temporary work-from-home situation, and I am growing so inordinately attached to his daily presence that I’m not sure I’ll recover when he’s no longer around.  Right now we’re in this oasis of calm where I can leave Isla in the care of her beloved grandparents for a hefty chunk of the day while I write and C works and we take a lunch break with his parents during Isla’s nap.  It’s very serene, and I’m afraid that when it’s over I’ll turn into this frazzled, frustrated, tired version of myself…soon with a baby to breastfeed every few hours and a toddler to feed and entertain.  I know countless of parents have managed this before, but they are Super Parents, whereas I am just a commoner.

-Regarding the impending human, I am still in the relatively easy 2nd semester.  I do not want this baby to get any ideas from Isla about taking liberties with the due date.  Every day I warn the baby to stay put for three and a half more good long months.  Even though Isla’s early arrival made her delivery easier than I ever could have imagined, and she was thankfully fully healthy, it’s not something I want to play around with.  (Watch me eat my words when I am gargantuan, three weeks overdue, and labor for 30 hours to deliver a monstrous 12 lb child).  Fingers crossed that this one arrives healthy and whole.

-Over and out!

 

Back home

-We’re back after a short burst of a trip to the US, which was so chock-full of graduations, my brother’s wedding, dinners and a little jaunt up to Massachusetts for a visit to C’s sister and brother-in-law plus a (phenomenal) LP concert, that we barely recovered from our jetlag before packing right back up and making the return flight.  Still, it was so good to be back in New Jersey with everyone, and we were there when spring had really exploded in greenery everywhere.

-Now that we’re home, Isla’s hearty appetite is back, and I think I can tentatively whisper that she seems to be over her horrible two-month-long picky-eater stunt.  She gave up on being a vegetarian, returned to her carnivorous ways, and is thankfully happy to branch back out to a larger array of fruits and vegetables.  I’ve noticed that I’ve been happier and more carefree lately, and realized how anxious I’d become over tiny I’s selective eating.  She’s such a pipsqueak and needs all the nutrients she can get.

-The temperature in Antakya rose while we were gone, but the winds are still strong and constant.  By some miracle, we can open all our windows and never admit a single mosquito!  The wind blows through the house and keeps us from needing air conditioning.  We’ve just had to do a better job at securing some of the overhead lighting.

-Liz and Celine arrive tomorrow!  Knowing that they’ll be here for almost the whole month of June has made leaving NJ so much easier.  They’re currently enduring a seven hour layover in Casablanca airport.  Romantic location, grueling wait time.

-Next week I’ll be halfway through this pregnancy.  I’m still trying out various ways to prepare Isla for the new arrival.  I am hoping she’ll love her new sibling, after she makes it through the initial stages of denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance of course!

-We’re almost in the middle of Ramadan right now, which means that there’s a cannon that goes off around sunset to signal the start of Iftar, dates are sold everywhere, and families stay up late eating together while kids play outside for long hours, and then everyone wakes up early to eat before daybreak.  It’s a month when the days are sleepy and the nights are celebratory; everything slows because so many people are fasting from all food and drink during the day and then sleeping less at night.  C says you can tell who’s truly fasting by their breath.  If you haven’t eaten or drank anything–or chewed any gum–your breath will become stale and rank as the day draws on.  Piety equals bad breath.  I haven’t noticed this much, but what I have observed is that a lot more people are stopping to give money to beggars in the street, which is sort of what Ramadan is supposed to be about.

-I wish I had a longer visit in the US, but it’s good to fall back into our regular schedule and feel tethered and grounded again.

 

Antakya by month

-In January we move into our new home.  It is bright and cheery, and also very cold for a bit until the gas is hooked up.  In the meantime we drag space heaters around with us and wear layers.

We host a Sunday board game afternoon as a housewarming of sorts, and it becomes a tradition.  We alternate between Settlers of Catan and Game of Thrones, with occasional rounds of Jenga.

We drink lots of fresh orange and pomegranate juice, and I buy huge pomegranates every Thursday at the farmer’s market outside our apartment building.  We have a few interesting run-ins with our neighbors, who are all wary of foreigners.  Month by month, we will win them over.  Isla keeps our same-floor neighbors awake one night with her teething, so I appease them with a batch of cookies by way of apology, and it sweetens our relationship.

I turn 30 the day my brother and cousin fly in for a visit.   We have a great time taking them around, eating lots of good food, hiking up steep mountain trails, visiting the archeological museum and playing games at home.  We’re both sad to see them go.

-There is a lot of rain in February.  Still, the views from every side of our home are stunning.  We are on the seventh floor and look out at mountain ranges from every room.  We eat breakfast together in the mornings and head out for a morning walk together; C to work, and me to drop off Isla at her babysitter’s house for a few hours so I can work on my turtle novels.  They are not about turtles, but they move forward as slowly, and probably with more self-doubt.  One stalls and sleeps for awhile.  Sometimes the days stretch out too long, and I feel lost and wonder and scheme about what I want for my life.  There’s a persistent sense that I should be doing something very specific here, and it’s eluding me.  I’ve been feeling this way for a long time now, but I’m a slow learner.

I print out tax forms and take them to the post office, where no one speaks English or Arabic.  The woman at the desk asks me a few questions and I stare at her blankly.  She goes outside and steps into neighboring shops to look for someone who speaks Arabic.  We stop a Syrian pedestrian and he comes into the post office to translate.  All the woman wants to know is whether or not I’d like the package express-mailed.  I start laughing, and the three of us laugh at the effort it took to request standard mailing.  Isla cries impatiently in her stroller.

At night people use coal to heat their homes and shops, and the air is gritty and acrid.  It will all be clear again come spring.  Almost every building here is topped with solar panels, and C laughs at the juxtaposition of such archaic and modern energy sources.

I fly out to Ankara to settle residency permits for Isla and me.  I visit the US Embassy, which proves useless, and then talk with the notary public, a translator’s office, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the US consulate in Adana.  It is an ultimately frustrating trip, which I’ll have to repeat again in March before we finally receive our residencies.

C flies to Istanbul for ten days.  Isla and I try to keep busy at home.  We have guests for dinner, make a few visits, and swim in an indoor pool.  I join a yoga group and book club.  I begin language lessons with one of our Syrian friends for two hours a week.  He coaches me in Arabic, and teaches me some Turkish when I’m feeling ambitious, and I work through the TOEFL practice book with him.  As a bonus, he helps me understand the ins and outs and nuances of what’s happening in Syria.

On somewhat of a whim, I take a pregnancy test at the end of the month and I’m floored when it jumps out positive.  C had been saying as much, but I didn’t think it was possible.  In the nausea and exhaustion of the first three months, my emotions swing back and forth from excitement to fear and anxiety.  How will Isla handle it?  How will I handle it?  Where will the baby be born?  How many batches of cookies will I be making for all the nights we’ll keep our neighbors awake?  When I sing to Isla at night before putting her to sleep, I hold her close and kiss her dark little head.  I add more songs than usual.  I worry and struggle to sleep at night.  Months later, when I begin to feel better and regain my energy, I am less afraid and more full of anticipation.

-Jim and his friend come for a visit in March.  They somehow end up on opposite jetlag schedules.  Jim wakes up early and takes morning walks around the small city.  I join him when I can.  It’s good to have him here.  We eat good food again and take them around.  We visit the first Christian church built into the base of a mountain by St. Peter.  We have a particularly lovely day driving up to Arsuz and Iskandarun with one of our friends here.   We walk by the sea and then eat a spectacular meal prepared at a small family restaurant.  They set a table outside for us on the shore.  We eat shrimp, salad, and grilled fish.

Campaign trucks drive around every few hours blasting songs meant to encourage people to vote yes in the referendum.  They wake Isla from her nap several times until she gets used to it.  Now, the calls to prayer from nearby mosques have become like lullabies for her.  C goes in to check on her one night and comes back to tell me she’s sleeping in the position of prayer.  We laugh when the call to prayer starts, and think she must be becoming devout.

-April weather is perfect.  Everything is green and blooming and breezy.  Lilacs spill out over fences into the streets alongside honeysuckle and gardenia.  I am constantly sniffing the air.  Swallows dip and slide across the sky all day long.  In Isla’s fifteenth month, she learns to walk, becomes a picky vegetable-averse vegetarian eater, and expands her vocabulary to eight nouns, one verb, and one interjection (la2, which is Arabic for no).  She clings to me more than usual.  Luckily for her, Turks are crazy about babies.  When she gets cranky in a restaurant, the waiter takes her around and shows her the trees in the courtyard while we eat.  When I stop in to the small grocery store across the street where everyone knows us, the woman at the register sits Isla on top of the counter with her while I collect the things I come in for.  We learn that Ayla is a Turkish name derived from the word “ay,” which means moon.

We attend an Easter mass at dawn on the day of the referendum vote.  The street is blocked off by security, and our friend meets us to let us into the church.  Armed guards stand on the rooftop.  Candles are lit by a flame carried from Jerusalem through Syria and up into Antakya.  The chanting is in Arabic, Greek and Turkish.  We arrive home and stay in for the day.  The outcome of the vote is no surprise.  The political landscape here and everywhere colors everything, and sometimes I force myself to break from reading the news for a few days.  Too much makes me feel dirty and stale inside.

We walk everywhere and wander around public parks on the weekends snacking on cups of spiced corn sold at stands.  The produce at the farmer’s market no longer offers pomegranates or oranges.  Now it includes apricots, green plums, fresh green almonds, and heaping buckets of wild thyme.  Chickpeas begin to grow, and people of all ages carry around their green stalks and pop the beans off to eat.  We buy birdseed and fill an empty candle on the window ledge.  It only attracts mourning doves, but Isla loves them and so we do too.

-We spend just two thirds of May in Turkey.  It’s 5:30am here now, quiet and cool.  We’ll head out for the airport at mid-morning and take a domestic flight to Istanbul and then fly straight on to JFK.  I haven’t had a direct flight to the US in years, because it’s not an option when flying out of Beirut.  This will be Isla’s sixth international flight (outside the womb and not counting domestic flights).  It will be the first flight for her sibling in utero.  I haven’t quite packed yet.

Poetry Archives: Mary Karr

I read somewhere
that if   pedestrians didn’t break traffic laws to cross
Times Square whenever and by whatever means possible,
      
the whole city
would stop, it would stop.
Cars would back up to Rhode Island,
an epic gridlock not even a cat
could thread through. It’s not law but the sprawl
of our separate wills that keeps us all flowing. Today I loved
the unprecedented gall
of the piano movers, shoving a roped-up baby grand
up Ninth Avenue before a thunderstorm.
They were a grim and hefty pair, cynical
as any day laborers. They knew what was coming,
the instrument white lacquered, the sky bulging black
as a bad water balloon and in one pinprick instant
it burst. A downpour like a fire hose.
For a few heartbeats, the whole city stalled,
paused, a heart thump, then it all went staccato.
And it was my pleasure to witness a not
insignificant miracle: in one instant every black
umbrella in Hell’s Kitchen opened on cue, everyone
still moving. It was a scene from an unwritten opera,
the sails of some vast armada.
And four old ladies interrupted their own slow progress
to accompany the piano movers.
each holding what might have once been
lace parasols over the grunting men. I passed next
the crowd of pastel ballerinas huddled
under the corner awning,
in line for an open call — stork-limbed, ankles
zigzagged with ribbon, a few passing a lit cigarette
around. The city feeds on beauty, starves
for it, breeds it. Coming home after midnight,
to my deserted block with its famously high
subway-rat count, I heard a tenor exhale pure
longing down the brick canyons, the steaming moon
opened its mouth to drink from on high …
-“A Perfect Mess”

Day 3, and 2017 is already looking interesting

Dear Apples,

It’s only 11:30am, and so far I have:

-Gone to the grocery store with my shirt on inside-out

-Put fabric softener in the washing machine instead of washing detergent

-Failed to do my writing work

-Thrown a plate into the trash can instead of the banana peel on top of it

-Remembered last night’s dream that involved Donald Trump doing a commercial for Kraft cheese that required him to sit in a tub of boxed macaroni and cheese.  (I was mainly confused as to why Kraft believed that this marketing idea would boost their mac n’ cheese sales.)

How’s your day going?  Happy New Year!

For love of words V

Here are some small selections from books I’ve read recently.  More posts like this can be found here. 

Although much of what I’ve been reading in the past few months has made me laugh, I haven’t totally fallen in love with a book in a while.  Any recommendations??

“‘Never trust folks,’ Olive’s mother told her years ago, after someone left a basket of cow flaps by their front door.  Henry got irritated by that way of thinking.  But Henry was pretty irritating himself, with his steadfast way of remaining naive, as though life were just what a Sears catalogue told you it was: everyone standing around smiling.” -Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge

“Angie, leaning her head now against the hallway wall, fingering her black skirt, felt she had figured out something too late, and that must be the way of life, to get something figured out when it was too late.” -Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge

“That was the morning I committed the first sin of love, which was to confuse beauty and a good soundtrack with knowledge.” -Stephanie Danler, Sweetbitter

-“There is never nothing beneath something that is covered.  As a child, I used to cover my face with my hands so that no one would know I was there.  And then I discovered that covering my face made me more visible because everyone was curious to see what it was I wanted to hide in the first place.” -Deborah Levy, Hot Milk

“But smart as the conversation is, it has a strangely repetitive quality.  You never know anybody better–the talk never deepens, but neither does it show the slightest strain, and I’m nothing if not strained to the gills virtually every second.  You enter that place and live suspended in amber like characters in a Victorian novel.” -Mary Karr, Lit

“The bed was warm and ordinary and perfect, and it had been such a long, long day.” -Carol Rifka Brunt, Tell the Wolves I’m Home

 

Antakya, Turkey: First Impressions

Dear Apples,

We’ve moved! (From Lebanon to Turkey). We’re not quite settled; we’re still staying in a temporary guest house because frankly we’ve just been too busy to move into our new apartment, which is only a ten minute walk away.  We’ll use the New Year holiday to continue assembling our mountain of two-dimensional Ikea pieces into the objects the online catalogue promised they were.

I’m surprised by how much I love it here.  The thing about having perpetually low expectations for everything means that I’m almost always startled by my own happiness.  Here are some first impressions and recent happenings.

-We arrive in Hatay (Antakya’s province) at night after a long layover in Istanbul.  I have been breastfeeding Isla the entire second flight without eating enough, so I have a migraine and I’m too exhausted to notice our new surroundings through the taxi window.  C holds Isla, we arrive at the guest house, and he goes out to bring us food.  All I am aware of is the fact that we still have to put Isla’s crib together, which in the moment feels like knowing we need to run a marathon up a steep mountain range without sleeping first.  To C’s amusement, I start crying with joy when he comes home with a huge steak and puts the crib together by himself. (Me through my tears:  “I thought you meant you were bringing a raw steak that we’d have to cook!  But I can eat this right now!”)

-I wake up in the sun and look out the living room window to a view of the bustling center of the tiny city.  The red flapping of a Turkish flag, a mosque’s spire jutting up against the mountain, cars and pedestrians circling a roundabout with Ataturk’s statue in the center.  We go out for a walk and there are so many young people and the sidewalks are crammed with baby strollers vying for space.  You’d think babies would attract as little attention as the squirrels in NJ; they are so commonplace, but no, Isla receives more waves and smiles and admiring words than a celebrity would. We hear as much Arabic in passing conversation as we do Turkish.  We sit down in a restaurant, guess at the menu, and make the happy accident of ordering a breakfast that could feed about five people.

-We find a babysitter for Isla; a Syrian woman from Hasakeh who has one home in Aleppo and another in Damascus.  She doesn’t speak English and sings the Arabic songs that Isla has grown up with.  Isla loves her right away, and we walk to her house every morning where I drop her off, write for a couple hours, and pick her up.  Before I take Isla home, we have coffee or tea and watch the news together and learn the updates on Syria.

-C’s work is urgent and stressful: truckloads of food and winter supplies need to make it over the border into Syria, and war tends to throw everything off course all too often.  There is little predictability.  His office is across the street from where we are staying, and we have lunch together every day.  C and I haven’t done too much cooking for each other since we’ve been together, (I made my own meals and we ate a lot of C’s mother’s dishes before we had our own kitchen) but I have always loved real food and loved to cook.  Now once I day I make a meal for our lunch.  I haven’t found a good volunteering fit yet, so feeding him is my contribution to relief efforts for now.

-I am always homesick around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and so I call my family almost daily.  We celebrate Thanksgiving with a big group of American expats and we eat all the beloved signature dishes of the day including two large turkeys.

-Isla turns one year old.  She is happy here and sings a lot.  We laugh when she starts singing along with all the calls to prayer from the mosques.  She prefers tearing sheets of tin foil into tiny shreds over playing with her toys. She is stubborn and emotive and wonderful.  I think back to last year when her early arrival caught us off guard.  She was so incredibly tiny that we were scared for her, but she’s been a tough little girl from the get go.

-C travels to the US and Isla and I stay and prepare for Christmas by setting up a nativity scene, playing holiday music, making cookies and buying two small cypress trees.  Christmas involves cinnamon rolls, gifts, whiskey, games, and a Christmas Day lunch celebrated with a small group of (mostly Muslim) Syrians.  The evacuations from Aleppo have finished and peace talks are underway.  For now, things seem hopeful.

-I’m homesick for both New Jersey and Lebanon, but I do love it here.  Turkey is less accessible to me than Lebanon; the people seem more guarded.  It might just be my interpretation and the fact that I don’t speak Turkish, or it might be the result of all the attacks that Turkey has undergone lately.

For now it’s so right for us to be here and we’re soaking it up.  We’re in close proximity to a whole lot of suffering and terror, but we’re also amongst brave people and witnessing incredible resilience and humanity and ordinary life in the midst of it.  (I need to expand on what I mean by that in another post.) I know 2016 was a bruiser, but here we are at the end of it, and here’s to seeing what 2017 will bring.

Poetry Archives: Naomi Shihab Nye

“Since no one else is mentioning you enough.

The Arab who extends his hand.
The Arab who will not let you pass
his tiny shop without a welcoming word.
The refugee inviting us in for a Coke.
Clean glasses on a table in a ramshackle hut.
Those who don’t drink Coke would drink it now.
We drink from the silver flask of hospitality.
We drink and you bow your head.

Please forgive everyone who has not honored your name.

You who would not kill a mouse, a bird.
Who feels sad sometimes even cracking an egg.
Who places two stones on top of one another
for a monument. Who packed the pieces,
carried them to a new corner. For whom the words
rubble and blast are constants. Who never wanted
those words. To be able to say,
this is a day and I live in it safely,
with those I love, was all. Who has been hurt
but never hurt in return. Fathers and grandmothers,
uncles, the little lost cousin who wanted only
to see a Ferris wheel in his lifetime, ride it
high into the air. And all the gaping days
they bought no tickets
for spinning them around.”

-“The Sweet Arab, The Generous Arab”

Poetry Archives: Mary Oliver

“Sometimes the desire to be lost again, as long ago, comes over me like a vapor. With growth into adulthood, responsibilities claimed me, so many heavy coats. I didn’t choose them. I don’t fault them, but it took time to reject them.

Now in the spring I kneel, I put my face into the packets of violets, the dampness, the freshness, the sense of ever-ness.

Something is wrong, I know it, if I don’t keep my attention on eternity. May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful.

May I stay forever in the stream,” – Mary Oliver, Blue Iris.