Saturday Morning Noticings

Do you every just want to linger in a moment for a just a bit longer? Today I woke up with a little trepidation since I will be teaching my first public yoga class and while doing my normal wake-up and morning routine (I really wouldn’t call it normal or a routine, but you know what I mean) I was struck by those things that we may not notice until we are noticing, or that may be part of our surroundings but we tune them out for whatever reason. Noticing the unnoticed.

 

The motor of my neighbor’s leaf-blower intermixes, rather discordantly, with the Spanish guitar music that I am trying to decide on for a playlist.

A fly buzzing its last Hurrah: random movements between glass pane and window screen.

The chemical smell of my almost black Sharpie marker molesting my nostrils from where I attempted to blotch out the bright yellow “Nike” sign on my hand-me-down pants.

And the tulip in the windowsill, erect as ever, making no movement, no sound, just standing tall and firm and purple.

Sometimes I feel like that fly, maybe in the throws of postmortem spasm or rigor mortis. Don’t we all?

Which, according to our trusty friend Wikipedia, says that this particular phenomenon, the “Cadaveric spasm, often crystallizes the last activity one did prior to death.” (I didn’t know Wikipedia could be so poetic).

That fly must have been cleaning itself, trying to escape the confines of the cottage, or just chillin’ on the windowsill trying to catch a few sun rays or moon rays before his body lost the life breath we all share.

I slowly sip my coffee, hints of almond milk that I splashed into my mug almost as an afterthought have created a sweet mélange. When I heat my cup up after it grows cold, the smell transports me to another similar-sized cottage where my friend and her family lived (all five of them crammed into a 400 foot square room with dirt-packed floors). I waited patiently on my best friend to be ready. She hurriedly gulped her Nescafé and leche and finally ate the chunks of white bread, now soggy, that had been floating and soaking in the hot drink with a spoon. Then we walked to school.

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Puff the Magic Dragon

The only poem that I’ve written that was actually published was about my dad, whose birthday happens to be today and I think I have now set a precedent for writing poems for loved ones on their birthdays. So, sharing with you all today a poem that I wrote back in college after taking a May Term poetry class with the talented Dr. Rhoda Janzen, a professor at Hope College in Michigan and author of Little Black Dress. It was a remarkable month full of poetry, prose, and playful practice.

Another tribute to my dad today was listening to a radio playlist on Spotify (the free version with AdBlocker on 🙂 using James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James.” In the mix were songs by Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Peter, Paul, and Marry.

 

Lullaby

 

My dad strums us to sleep

with familiar chords,

after his bearded chin brushes

across our faces and

his lips land on our cheeks.

His quiet goodnight kisses leave

the air crisp with Colgate;

cooling the hot bedroom air.

 

We listen to the words he sings;

easing from his mouth

like baby snakes that so

effortlessly crawl up our drains,

and into the tub while we shower.

I shriek with terror and

my dad comes running,

killing the squirming thing

with a machete from the shed.

 

My dad’s words, although effortless,

are not like those slithering creatures:

He sings lullabies and melodies

that linger in the air, just

like the lights of fireflies

that twinkle in the twilight

when day bows its tired head

and night faithfully tucks it in.

 

Puff the Magic Dragon, unlike us,

lived by the sea, but, Goodnight

Ladies, was a song about my sister and me.

We listen, eyes fluttering to a close,

and promptly, drift into dreamland

with smiles spreading like wings

in flight across our cheeks while

Dad keeps on strumming chords

with guitar upon his knees.

 

Rainy days

790b8e18ee5a149d5afd5221401763e4A rainy day in Berkeley gave inspiration to the following poem about how I spent many a rainy day as a child in Argentina. It is kind of weird to translate my own poetry, but I have translated this particular poem into English because I think it’s important for readers  on here that don’t know or understand Spanish to have a taste of the “torta frita” experience 🙂 Enjoy!

Tortas fritas

Las tardes de lluvia

Mirando por la ventana las gotitas de agua

Cayendo desde el cielo

Con certidumbre y casualidad a la vez

Cada uno sabía el destino de los días de lluvia

Buscando nuestros pilotos para pilotar el camino, ya muy trillado, hacia la casa de los tíos

Que en verdad no pertenecía a nuestros tíos,

Sino a Milka, José, y la Abuela—nuestra familia postiza.

La abuela en la cocina preparando la masa

La tía Milka vestida de delantal,

Una toalla tendida de la cinta atada a su cintura,

Cebando mates [ad infinítum]

El sonido de la tele que zumbaba en el fondo a un volumen casi indistinguible contra la lluvia que caía por fuera, servía como un recordatorio del mundo, también por fuera.

–Entren, entren, chicos—nos dijo el tío Jose con un aire relajado coincidiendo con el tiempo.

Nosotros tres, entusiasmados, entrábamos y nos sentábamos en la mesa y les contábamos a los tíos y a la abuela de cómo estábamos y las nuevas del barrio.

Por mientras, mi mamá se alistaba y también se dirigía a la casa de al lado.

La abuela empezaba a calentar el aceite en una olla grande en la hornilla de atrás

La tía cortaba la masa en bolas pequeñas,

Listas para ser amasadas en círculos,

Cortadas con un cuchillo en el centro para freír parejo.

Cuando ya fritas, las tortas compuestas de harina, aceite, sal y agua son simplemente deliciosas

en sí, pero

Untándole dulce de leche quedan más ricas aún.

Mi mamá y los tíos colocaban dulce de kinotos de la última cosecha sobre las tortas.

Y todos comíamos, charlábamos, y tomábamos mates hasta casi que nos dolían las panzas.


 

Tortas Fritas*

Rainy afternoons

Looking through the window at the drops of water

Falling from the sky

With certainty and indifference at the same time

Each of us knew what these rainy days held

We searched for our raincoats and made our way down the well-trodden road to our aunt and uncles’ house

Which actually didn’t belong to our real aunt and uncle,

But to Milka, José, and Abuela—our adopted family.

Abuela was in the kitchen making the dough

Tía Milka, dressed in an apron

With a kitchen towel draped over the apron string tied at her waist,

Serving maté [ad infinitum]

The television buzzing in the background at a volume that was almost indistinguishable from the rain that fell outside, and serving as a reminder of the world, also on the outside.

“Come in, come in, kids,” tío José said with a relaxed air that mirrored the weather.

And the three of us kids entered eagerly, sitting down at the table, and telling our aunt, uncle, and abuela about how we were and the news of the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, my mom got ready and then came over to the house next door.

Tía started to heat up the oil on the burner closest the back of the stovetop

Abuela cut pieces of dough into small balls,

Ready to be rolled out into circles,

Slashed in the center with a knife so they would fry evenly.

When fried, the circles made up of flour, oil, salt, and water are simply delicious

In and of themselves, but

Spreading on dulce de leche** made them even better still.

My mom and the tíos put homemade kumquat jam from the last harvest on top of the tortas.

And all of us ate, talked, and drank maté until our bellies nearly ached.

 

*Pieces of fried dough normally in the shape of a circle.

**If you are unsure what dulce de leche is we need to have a charla/talk about what I have taught you of Argentine culture! Go get some Ben and Jerry’s dulce de leche ice cream next time you are out.

April Family

April is a special month because both of my parents were born in April. It’s interesting for me to think about growing up in a household (as a Gemini) with a ram (my mother) a bull (my father) and two scorpions (the twins). In any case, astrology aside, today is my mom’s birthday and the best way I know how to celebrate her is by describing who she is, by way of her actions.

Upon a quick google search, characteristics of her zodiac actually do a great job of describing her, but don’t worry, those of you not sold on the science of astrology, I will expound on these shortly: determined, fiery, executive skills, born leader, impulsive, headstrong, opinionated, loyal, physical, driven, ambitious.

“My actions are my only true belongings.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh

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Mother with many hands

 

Jean skirt, copper buttons down the front

made it herself

hoe in hand, digging furrows in the soil

planting the tried and true seeds: lechuga, acelga, repollo [1]

experimenting with tastier seeds: sandía, zapallo [2]

hose in hand, nurturing the garden

 

Sewing machine between capable arms

foot on the pedal, moving forward, always forward

crafting us kids matching outfits

even though they would be hidden behind guardapolvos [3]

 

Mateando [4] with our adoptive tios and abuela next door

A knitting needle in each hand, prototyping the next

vest for dad

a sweater for one of the kids

 

Sweating in the heat of the hot chaqueño [5] days

in the kitchen making

family favorites from Ohio

egg noodles with mashed potatoes and gravy

or adopting new recipes and creating versions of empanadas no one had ever tasted before

 

Taking the goat milk from the milkman each week

she on the dirt road, he perched in his sulky [6]

receiving the milk handed down from his rickety roost

emptying the liquid contents enclosed in old wine bottles–

she made yoghurt

in a land where there was only liquid yogur, in hard plastic bags, that she poured on her muesli

with less ganas [7] than her creation that could be spooned quite satisfactorily.

 

Science projects with her kids:

Making piñatas in the laundry room

Raising our own ducks and chickens

Keeping bees, until my dad and the old mallard were stung

pretty hard

 

Always with her hands.

Woman of many hands—Mom.

 

[1] Lettuce, Swiss chard, cabbage

[2] Watermelon, squash

[3] Lab-coat like garments used in Argentina as school uniforms and worn on top of school children’s clothing

[4] The act of sharing mate together; drinking mate

[5] The Chaco province in Argentina is where we lived for a time

[6] Pronounced [sewl key]: a little carriage, used to carry one or two passengers, and as a transport method in rural areas.

[7] Determination, resolve, or will to do something.

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