Thursday, September 14, 2017

mother!

my predictions:

lawrence represents the earth, beautiful, innocent (in a sense), giving, caring, protecting, abundant, fertile (as she is with child in the movie). she urges bardem to stop allowing intruders (strangers) into her home.

bardem represents us, humans, takers, ruining mother earth, demanding that she give us more, more, more. we crave more, we search for more, more to life, more to love and take. he is a writer with writer's block, he assumes that the interactions with harris and his wife will help him to become who he really is suppose to be. the intruders who continue to show up is the attention he believes he needs to thrive, to continue with his purpose in life.  he searches in the wrong places.

harris and his wife could represent the addictions or habits that cause us to be the human kind that we are, when they intrude upon us, we take them in and we feed, house and bathe them. we take care of them and give them all our attentions, loving them more but destroying the home of mother earth in the process.

the various intruders who continue to show up at the house are the many things we put before loving the earth. environmental issues such as clearing vast acres of forest just to plant palm oil because the industry demands more, the use of plastic because it's convenient, the waste of food because we just eat too much or don't know how to donate the rest, the bloated food industry in the worst way (we all see how animals are treated).

perhaps we all search in the wrong places. metal for cars, diamonds for cute individual keeping, over fishing for the sake of the saturated industry and its demands. we were meant to enjoy this world, yes, created in abundance for all. but when we take more than we should, the world strains underneath the weight of our requests and she slowly, but surely, dissolves before our eyes.

these are my predictions. let's see if that's how the movie is interpreted.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Saturn

You taught me the courage of stars before you left.
How light carries on endlessly, even after death.
With shortness of breath, you explained the infinite.
How rare and beautiful it is to even exist.

-Sleeping At Last

Monday, September 11, 2017

I told him I was numb and the banners of my
will waved white.
It was straining under the weight of my
constant wishing.
I wanted the world to
yield and wait.
My time was liquid numbers slipping through the holes of
moments unlived.
I was worried about the ground beneath me and the sun in the
sky.
What does it feel like to sleep without
a blanket of anxiety
and
a pillow of concern? 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Standing Still

The graves sat in neatly trimmed rows of stone and cement, pictures fading and flowers wilted. Life went on about them. The street cars rushed by, eyes peering through the windows trying to catch a glimpse of blue lights or mysterious apparitions between tombs. Occasionally a gossiping walker or two held silence as they passed; a superficial fear of disturbing the peaceful dead. In the evenings Fred the grave keeper drove around in his truck tidying the roadway that snaked through the cemetery.

In April the birds’ chorus brought forth floral and fauna which in turn gave way to a luscious forest of green canopies and watery skies. Fred mowed the lawns and kept the place in order. He tended to the plants and bushes that decorated sections of the cemetery, adding mulch when needed and pruning when overgrown. Come September the blood orange leaves fell on the graves coloring them in a fire and in December the fire was doused by a cold white blanket. Fred retired to his homely house down the block and didn’t come out until April.
Adam, however, held his position all year round. A young statue made of granite, Adam was very proud. He was commissioned over the grave of a boy named Nathan who battled cancer for three years. Nathan had a big family; three brothers and five sisters that often visited him on holidays and on his birthday. Adam liked seeing them in their Sunday best with wild bouquets in their hands. Some days, it was just Nathan’s parents who visited. His mother would kneel and whisper a prayer and then tidy up the gravestone. Sometimes she would brush pine needles off Adam’s feet. He would stifle a giggle because it tickled him. “Sometimes I can still hear him laughing,” she would say before leaving.

Adam was in love with Kari, the statue across the way. She guarded the grave of Madeline, a 6 year old girl who died in a crash right at the corner of Valhalla Court and 39th.  Her mother had stayed at the grave site for three days in protest of the drunkard who had killed her daughter. Apparently he fled the scene and the Portland police department had done nothing about it. But Kari watched over Madeline’s grave with loving hands over her heart and eyes up to heaven. Kari was made of marble and had curls that Adam imagined would be golden in color and a dress with ruffles carved in such a way that it seemed to be flowing in the breeze. Some days she sat down on the grass whispering lullabies to Madeline. Some days she plucked flower heads from her surrounding and sprinkled them over the grave. She was the best guardian, Adam thought, even better than himself. On warm, quiet afternoons, he found himself dozing off to the sound of wind through the branches above. When it was sunny, little boys played in the field down the street and he wished with all his stone heart that he could run alongside them, skipping and tumbling on the pasture with sweat on his brows. Adam wished himself to be a human many, many times but he could not bear to part from his beloved Nathan.

One spring evening, Adam heard a singing voice coming down the road. Adam thought it strange; the closer the voice grew, the more slurred the words became. Finally, over the hill he saw the singing man; red hair dressed in black with a white flower over his heart. His shoes were once shiny but now appeared scuffed and worn from his stumbling feet. In his hands he held a shiny bottle almost empty of its amber contents.
“When peace like a riveaah…attendeth me wayyy…” he sung sloppily putting one foot in front of the other. “When sorrows like sea billowwws roll!” Red stumbled past Adam and fell down beside Kari and Madeline, leaning against the marble memorial.
“What…whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to…sayyy…” He paused then gestured to the sky in a striking display of agony calling out the name of a woman named Norah, crashed on the ground and promptly fell into a fitful sleep.

In the middle of the night, Red woke up with a gurgle in his throat fumbling around in the grass for his bottle. It was right beside him but he couldn’t see in the dark. In his exhaustion he fell back asleep and knocked over the rest of the amber. Adam listened closely beyond the low eaves for the sound of breathing in mournful slumber. When he was sure Red was fast asleep, he stepped down from his pedestal avoiding Nathan’s head.
“I’ll be right back, buddy!” He whispered through the blackness. Creeping through the dark halting at every unfamiliar sound, Adam made his way to Kari. She was off her pedestal and stooping over Red.
“Kari!” Adam called.
“Look what he did to Madeline’s grave. He spilt this wretched liquid all over it and now it reeks!” She picked up the shiny bottle and threw it into the distance. They heard it shatter on the pavement. “Boy, I ought to slap him silly!”
“Shh!” Adam placed his hand over Kari’s mouth. Red stirred next to them murmuring intelligibly. They held their position as all good statues should. 

TBC

The sunlight came out in streams from behind the trees. The air was quiet and a slow haze rose from the wet grass. The brush touched the blue paint and glided across the canvas in scattered stripes overlapping washes of pale yellow. Andrea was painting the morning. She’d listened to the rain the night before and felt inspired, waking early to catch the sun in its race across the new sky. She felt inclined to include the red barn in the distance but decided against it opting instead to add even deeper greens and blacks to create a dense forest. The house maid came by with Andrea’s pills and a cup of water. She took it promptly, finished the water and let out a deep breath. She took from the table beside her a notepad and wrote out a message for the maid: ‘I will just have a bowl of oatmeal. Thank you.’ Ten minutes later, she returned with the oatmeal and a silver spoon. Andrea nodded to thank her as the maid set about making Andrea’s bed and gather her clothes for washing. Andrea ate her oatmeal silently staring out into the morning. In the next hour, she would have to descend to the living quarters for piano practice with Ms. Lane and then at noon was lunch with Ma in the courtyard. The rest of the afternoon would be spent studying from her history books and learning to sew a new pattern on the wall tapestry. Andrea didn’t mind sewing but she pricked her fingers often. It hurt when she held paint brushes in the morning. She let out a deep breath again. The air was sweet and fresh and the oatmeal bowl was warm in her hands. She couldn’t wait to finish the painting so she could show Ma. 

Growing Up

Father left when I was two years old and Mother remarried Stepdad. He was already married though, to his first wife. In the Hmong culture, Mother was his lower wife. We all lived under the same roof for some time. To me, those times were hazy summer afternoons spent in the backyard of the yellow Menasha duplex with my siblings. When the ice cream truck rolled by with its irresistible music, we ran as fast as we could to Stepdad in hopes he had some loose change to spare. If we were lucky that particular afternoon, we scored an ice cream shaped like Bugs Bunny with black gumball eyes. My siblings and I passed it around so everyone had a taste and then washed our sticky hands with the green garden hose that coiled all around the yard. Our backyard was huge and flanked on both sides by our neighbor’s fence-less lawn. At the back end there was a wire barrier about 6 feet tall blocking anyone from crossing onto the edge of the construction pit. Even still, we ventured over via a wire cut hole. At the bottom of the pit were hefty yellow bulldozers and dirty dump trucks. Excavators were scattered all over the perimeters of the site. My brothers loved it but I did not. I was afraid of heights but tagged along anyway. Mother took a picture of us kids back there once. We stood in a line; tan faced and wide eyed posing patiently. Ferns were wild and the grass was tall, reaching up to our waists. That was how my little sister became allergic to the red berry bushes in our backyard. Mother used to put tiger balm on it to soothe the hot rashes my little sister would get after long hours of playing outside. The next day, we were right back at it again and in the evening my mother would once again apply that menthol ointment to my sister’s arms and legs. It was a continuous cycle of horse play, adventure and pay-for-it-later’s. 

We lived in a very quiet neighborhood even though our school was just down the street. We walked there every morning, rain or shine. My mother watched until she saw that we were in the school yard with the other kids. I remember being indifferent about school although I did love my 1st grade teacher Mrs. Meshnick. One day she said it was time to rearrange our assigned seats. She instructed all of us to move our desks into a big circle. She chose me to go first so I pushed my desk to the middle.
“Who would you like to sit next to you?” I looked around nervously but I knew exactly who I was going to choose. His name was Shawn and I liked him very much but was too shy to call his name out. Mrs. Meshnick asked the class if anyone wanted to sit next to me. A couple kids raised their hands but not Shawn. So I pointed my finger right at him.
“Shawn, would you like to sit next to Dee?” He shook his head no and I started crying. Needless to say, for one month, I got to sit right next to him.

In second grade my favorite subjects were English and reading and sometimes when I was in the mood, I liked German class too. Mrs. Bauman was a nice teacher. When it was time to learn German, she would knock on the classroom door, poke her head in, wave and call out “Guten tag!” My primary teacher, Mrs. Thompson, stopped teaching, welcomed Mrs. Bauman in and retreated to sit at her own desk. For one hour, Mrs. Bauman took over and taught German. First she pushed her cart full of supplies in through the door and parked it in front of the chalk board. Then she dug into a red bucket full of fabric and out popped a hand puppet with stringy yellow hair which she named Leonard, Leo for short. “Guten tag!” She would call out again, this time with a funny voice.
The whole class answered back, “Guten tag, Leo!”
“Wie geht es dir?” said the funny voice. A couple kids answered “Gut!”, and a few more answered incorrectly, “Danke!” She gathered the kids into a circle and perched Leo right on her knee. 
“Let’s go around and introduce ourselves by saying our names! I’ll go first! Hallo, ich bin Mrs. Bauman.”
“Hallo, ich bin Leo!” chimed the puppet. Then each kid would follow with their version of “Ich bin,” And Mrs. Bauman would cheer, “Gut gemacht! Good job!” And when it came to me, I never said anything. I was so shy of speaking in front of others that it was actually a problem. My preschool teacher thought I was a mute at one point and often spoke to my mother about her concerns. My frustrated mother would yell at me later at home when she caught me fighting with my siblings. “Why are you so loud at home but never open your mouth at school?”
Mrs. Bauman was patient though. She never pressured me or made me feel stupid. Every day she encouraged me; when I uttered nothing she would say, “We’ll come back to you ok, Dee?” I just stared at her as she smiled back with her eyes. Funny though because she never did come back to me. We just started all over the next day.
It must’ve been a very good day when I finally said something. Maybe I felt extra brave or maybe Shawn waved at me that morning. I’m unsure. But when it finally got around to me and Leo called out “Guten tag, wie heibt du?” I replied softly, “Hello.” Everyone turned to look at me, unbelieving. I didn’t cry but I remembered my cheeks getting really hot.
“Yay!” Mrs. Bauman cheered. Even Mrs. Thompson clapped for me. That night I showed my mom the sticker on my sleeve I received at the end of German class that read in bright yellow and pink letters, “Gut Gemacht!”
“What does that say?”
I shrugged and replied, “I don’t know.”

Time can be blurred together when you’re a child. But sometimes, a memory can stick out like a sore thumb. Every week in 3rd grade, my teacher gathered us at the stuffed animal corner and read us a couple pages from the book “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” I don’t remember the story at all but I will never forget the day she brought lemon drops. She said, in this part of the book, she wanted to share a very special treat with us. She took from her purse a plastic bag full of yellow bonbons dusted with tiny sugar crystals. My mouth was basically salivating at the anticipation of how this new candy would taste like. For 15 minutes she read from the book. For 15 minutes I stared at the bag of sunny sweets imagining in every aspect just how it would taste when I could finally plop it on my tongue and let the sugar melt into a syrupy delight.  Finally the moment came when my teacher closed the book and told everyone to hold out their hands. I sat patiently in what we called a pretzel leg, practically drooling all over my shirt. Reaching out like an anxious Oliver Twist asking for more, my teacher placed a single yellow confection into the palm of my hands. At long last I placed the lemon drop into my mouth. It was as sweet as I had hoped, like honey on banana pancakes. I was as happy as a newborn chick. That was until I saw my classmates’ faces turn from pure elation to looks of panicked terror in the span of .7 seconds. I, too, would join them in their lip-puckering demise. I can say that I do eat lemon drops today but the 8 year old me would’ve ran away like Harry from Cerberus.

I learned to ride a bike as any normal eight year old might; with training wheels. One day Stepdad came home with a truckload of used bikes he got from a garage sale. There were three pink ones with glittery stickers and then there were two blue-green bikes. And at the bottom of the truck bed was a scooter; basically a shin-busting skateboard with handles. Now there were six very anxious kids waiting to learn biking and a school playground down the street calling their names, so this is a math problem that wouldn’t take a genius to figure out. My sister was the oldest and it was only right she would get the biggest pink bike. And there were two blue-green bikes that the rest of us girls naturally disliked. That left two pink bikes for the three of us girls. My sisters may have been young but we could figure things out and one thing we’d figure out for a long time was that Stepdad favored my stepsister over the rest of us. She was the firstborn and only child from his first wife. She had light hair, much lighter than our raven black hair. She also had light skin and a fragile figure. They named her Yayoua; white peacock. We didn’t think anything much that Stepdad favored her more because frankly, we liked her a lot too. We saw it as normal. This only meant one pink bike would go to her. My little sister and I decided we could always share the last pink bike but being the older one, I let her ride it when we wanted to go down to the school playground. That summer, I did learn how to bike without training wheels. But I also learned to Band-Aid bruised shins too.

Let me tell you about my siblings as I remembered them when we were young. First there was Mai. She is the oldest and self-proclaimed wisest. Her wavy hair was always parted down the middle into a low ponytail so she looked prim and proper even when we had played outside for hours. Mother called her Owl because she had big eyes. Then there is Pardra who is two years younger than me. She slept anywhere and everywhere and has dimples on her cheeks so she has a very cute smile. She also had very thick blunt bangs all the way down to her eyes and every time you talked to her she would tilt her head back to see you through her bangs. She was both annoying and adorable. My younger brothers followed. Kee loved eating and Chue was mischievous.  My older cousins adored them and dubbed them Chubby and Puppy, the inseparable brothers. I’ve grown to love my half-brothers very much. They went through a difficult time during Stepdad and Mother’s divorce. I’m thankful every day I still got to witness them grow up into teenagers and then adults. They will always be my unsuspecting rock, the glue between two broken families.


TBContinued

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Running Fish

It's been twenty-three years since the meteor hit our home. My mother was on field that day. I often think of what she might've thought a few moments before, how happy she was on the other side of the world uncovering new things. That morning she called Pa sharing news about her discovery and what she could contribute to the archaeological team. Pa praised her and smiled, the kind that said everything was alright and that Natalie was being fed and clothed properly and mother didn't need to worry about a thing. We never saw her again, of course. But I remember in a distant dream how she looked like: green eyes with brown hair brushing her frail shoulders. She wore diamond earrings all the time despite her field of work; I remember how they glinted next to her rosy cheeks. And jasmine. She smelled of jasmine and ocean water. She called me Lee, short for Natalie. Pa hated that name but has not stopped calling me by it ever since we lost her. He was tall and built; a complete contrast to my mother. He also had brown hair, but it was very dark and the gray in his beard stood out significantly against it. His gray eyes hid beneath furled brows and he often walked with a confident stride, fists on his side. He seemed strong but I knew he was broken inside.
“Lee, eat your breakfast please.” I sat at the table staring out the window at the gray clouds.
“It’s going to rain today, Pa.” I pushed the eggs around.
“You don’t have to be afraid. They’re just rain clouds.”
“I know.”

Our kitchen was small and dirty. We couldn’t keep up with the cleaning since we run everywhere: down to the shop, to Ms. Allison’s 5 blocks over for dinner, and 8 miles to my school. We don’t have cars around here. They were banned years ago. There are buses but Pa doesn’t make enough to afford such luxury. Today I had to be at school and we needed a forty minute start so I could get there on time. I don’t mind running, I can run for a long time without getting tired and Pa’s stamina is incomparable.  Ms. Allison said that he could probably outrun the cancer. She’s talking about the global cancer that many eventually contracts at around ninety years old. Even though the energy of the meteor increased the length of human lives by thirty percent, it also emitted a cancerous toxin that slowly built in the bones outward, collecting in tumors that made you toss and turn in the night. At least that’s what Mr. Archie taught in Biology class which was one of only four classes. There was also Math, Reading and Economics. I’m particularly good in reading but Pa wants me to focus more on Economics. “One day, maybe you can be the answer to all this misery,” he’d say on rainy nights.