Friday, July 20, 2007

Lacemaker

In a moment words will appear from which everything unravels.

Or begin with an explosion of lace.

Lace that is white, or whitened with the sun's steaming. Looped, twisted, braided threads, sewn with sharp needles, shaped like a cutwork of leaf veins in the sky. Finely-woven stitches, not broken or lost. Florals in white; sun-rises in white; waves in white. Spider webs of lace floating, an organic garden of cotton and linen and silk.

How many fine stitches I see everywhere.

Seams of perfect clothing, backs, shoulders, arms, waists, hips, the tight stitching of form-fitting shoes, the interlapping folds of purses. Fabric. Like skin. Woven tightly or loosely. Draped, tucked, formed, fitted. The soft velvet of the armchair in the cafe in which I sit, rounded, plush.

Colours in swathes, patterned. Different attire for different scenarios. Layers of warmth or mere covering if it's cold or hot. Whether a garment can open or close or covers in one swoop. Pieces of cloth fitted to hold the shape of the wearer. Clothes that adhere, drape, flow for sitting, walking, sleeping, dancing.

Looms and sewing machines and bobbins. Billions of miles of thread around the world. Stitching, this way of composing, holding together, covering ourselves, these metaphors, textual narratives.

What if I don't want to take a stance? What if I don't want to weave a garment out of these threads? A story out of all the stories filling my mind? If "Narratives, or more precisely plots, synthesize reality," (Snaevarr) can I exist without telling a tale of myself to you, or even to myself?

The flow of language like clothing, fashions that encase shaping how we present ourselves. Can we be naked without the speaking that stitches the world together, seam by seam, reams of bolts of cloth, patternings?

What was lost in the scrap lace pile, discarded, worn-out, old, the remnants, unraveled in the tears and rips, bleached out by wear?

How do I hem these words so they don't fray?

Shawls of Shetland lace are knitted first in the middle and then out to the edges and is so fine it can be pulled through a wedding ring. Can we marry ourselves to words that knit us to ourselves, each other, the world?

Social customs inform the attire of any given era and shape the body, but does the weave of worsted wool or soft cotton follow the curves and hollows of the skin and shape the wearer?

Or are the words we clothe ourselves with what we hide under?

Presentation and fashion. The way I compose myself every day; every piece of writing. Gathering myself in this historical time, a product of my age.

All the stitches of the world held in syntactical rhythms of meaning, social fabrics.

Is that why we want words to unfold in comfort from us? Wave-white words wedded. Words that aren't performative; that are dream-like, real.

Unraveling, I came to this, and I can't obscure it, truth, death, the words of the lover, and she who knits, knots, tapes, crochets, sews the world into being with her openwork, the lace maker.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Little Dancer Sketch

BrendaClewsDancer-Sketch

14.5cm x 22.5cm or 5 3/4"x 9"; india ink sketch on archival paper coated in acyrlic matte medium

How long ago did I do this little sketch? It must be months. I taped it to a small board and it's still awaiting a fast wash of paint. Since it'll only take 5 minutes to paint, perhaps it's that I have to be in the right 'zen' frame of mind to finish it?

And when is that going to happen?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Burning Star

Writing stopped its ceaseless flow and I don't know why. Something occurred in my interior life that jolted me severely and I lost the imaginal figure who fired my desire to write. I'm shifting, transforming, unable to see or know what's ahead. The shock remains. I am sundered, unsure. Is it that the star came too close?

But perhaps the point is the obscurity, confusion, incomprehension. Inside this burning star where I blindly feel exploding energy without graspable form.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Lacework

When I came back to writing, a simple image. Proustian, perhaps, but I shall let the lace unravel. It's taken me back to my grad school days, at the little apartment in the Annex area of Toronto I rented after the university year had begun and almost nothing was available.


I
t could begin with lace.

Lace that is white, or yellowed with the sun's steaming. Threads that are looped, twisted, braided, sewn with sharp needles, shaped like a cutwork of leaf veins in the sky. Finely-woven stitches, not broken or lost. Florals in white; sun-rises in white; waves in white. Spiderwebs of lace floating, an organic garden of cotton and linen and silk. Threads weaving the world...

That hangs over the door's casement glass.

On the hot Summer's night I pass the house that resembles the one that I remember.

The same brickwork, windows, placement on the land. Perhaps the orange lilies are descendants of the those when it was a boarding house and I lived in the kitchen become a bachelor apartment in the little room out back without insulation where I put my bed and had visions.

Upstairs the Vietnam vet who once a month shrieked for hours at the guerrillas in the napalm drenchings of his mind. He deserted what could never desert him. He became a Peeping Tom and I kept my curtains shut at night, long, deep burgundy red velvet curtains, redolent with smoke and cooking oils, that were there, perhaps, from the house's inception.


-

He only looked in the window once, at night, it was very dark, but I knew who it was. I was writing in a journal, non-stop writing that I did every spare moment. My hair was blonde and long and curly. When I lifted my knees on the couch to hold the book while I wrote there was an audible gasp -though I wore shorts- and he ran away. That was when I began keeping the long, dark velvet curtains shut, and I told a man who had lived in the house and who knew about the man who shouted at the air for hours every month or so and we agreed he was a bit crazy but harmless.

Once when I went upstairs to see the kitchen that my friend used his door was open and he was lying in the middle of his large bed without a shirt on, fat, big white belly and a fuzz of dark chest hair, tortured with memory, flashbacks, fury, the incendiary mess of the Vietnam war, a victim of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and he looked very hot, it was a Summer heat-wave, and sorrowful.

The look on his face at seeing me peering at him was a surprised interruption of an unending tangle of thoughts that always occupied him. Perhaps he received a government cheque every month and paid his rent and got drunk; perhaps that was when the shouting began.

It was like he was yelling at a commando, someone who didn't do what they should have done, or didn't look after everyone as they should have, an unending invective of recrimination, scattered words, repetitive, without coherency.

The whole house shook with his shouting. It was from a place of such deep pain no-one ever called the police. Or complained to the landlord. Canada was a safe haven from the American obsession with a pointless and horrific and endless war. It's hard to imagine that he felt we were taking care of him, but in our own way we were.

Of course, in those days, the door didn't have an exquisite, expensive layer of lace, it was bare.



Monday, June 04, 2007

Pleasure and Happiness

"But if one begins by having pleasure, it is like knowing how to swim: one never forgets it." Helene Cixous

Now I wonder if the half an hour of "happiness" last night, and this morning, of allowing myself to feel as pure a joy as I could, which is not easy, wasn't an evocation of 'pleasure' rather than 'happiness.' I took great pleasure in the mystery and miracle of breath, body, experienced an inner ecstasy of being, of those I love, and the unfolding of my life and talents, indeed, for moments, this happened, but was it a sensual pleasure of loving life rather than deep happiness?

It was in the range of the orgasmic, that kind of ecstasy, but not localized or specific. It was like I let my brain produce all the high endorphins, neurotransmitters of ecstasy, and my mind was filled with light.

But happiness? I sought to allow what a full and complete happiness would be like. My seemingly huge issues and problems and worries kept nagging at the edges, but I was able to fully immerse or emerge in a field of pure joy for long moments and the minutes passed quickly.

I wonder what happiness is? I know what pleasure is, that indeed I do, but happiness?
Pleasure may be independent of life circumstance; happiness surely never is.

We can profoundly enjoy the moment, savour the pleasure of a flower or a smile or the kindness of a heartwarming act, but the trajectory of our lives, our underlying contentment with our lives, our feelings of accomplishment, of being a vital part of thriving communities, does savouring the way the wind blows over the water on a languid Summer's day affect any of that?

Is there a difference between pleasure and deep inner happiness?

And yet I felt profoundly ecstatic when I let myself...

Sunday, June 03, 2007

blindgaze

blindgaze

"blindgaze," 2007, 32cm x 25cm (12.5" x 9.75"), oil on acrylic matte medium, india ink, paper.

Playing with a sketch from a lifedrawing session last Fall - perhaps not as fluid as my figures usually are, but I enjoyed melding colour... I had forgotten how sensual paint is, especially when spread by your fingers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pale as a Moonflower

Slow breath. Dark bulky sweatshirt, folds and creases rising and falling. Inside you are elsewhere. Floating where it's frayed. Trying to be where it doesn't matter, except it does. Electrodes taped to your chest and abdomen, I watch with the machines, count the depths of your breath. Most of the night I hold your hand, or rest my fingers by your arm. I never take my eyes off you, your closed eyes, the way you are distant and so very close. I understand the frailty; I wonder when a love of life will bloom like dawn across your consciousness. How did we come to this impasse, my love. How do we turn from it?

He is there, loving, bereaved, regretful, angry, guiding you through. Eventually he lies on the cold hospital floor, resting his aching body, while I keep watch. Unwavering my eyes never dimming. The love doesn't go out for an instant, not the whole night through, nor the next day as the watch continues. Unevenly breathing, heart rate fluctuating, I trace every motion on the monitor, its steady throb, the green cursive lines of your life on the screen.

You are a nexus of love to me, a fibrillation of love, your sweet and willful spirit. What pulled you to these depths, what despair swallowed you?

In the long, slow night I fill you with a radiance of healing. Strong warrior luminescence, but I see how the drug invades your mind, the way it overruns your brain like a parasite offering a light sparking like fool's gold, rendering you helpless. You lie prone, barely breathing, too nauseous to move, nearly insensate.

Do I count the minutes like prayer beads?

Each breath a gift, a reclamation of your stolen spirit.

Late the next day when you rise you are pale as a moonflower, slow and unsteady. How can I protect you from what claws at you from within?

When you are mesmerized by death how can I call you back from the underworld, dark realm of Hades?

Your lips are the colour of the narcissus Persephone plucked and followed like a red star into the gaping wound of the earth. You are too young and innocent for what has been thrust upon you.

You have gone with him now, and I pray you are both safe.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Spaghetti Straps are Verboten

Perhaps it's the scapula, or maybe it's the clavicle that's more dangerously libidinal. The scapula is a beautiful bone. A half white wing, a bone that billows over one edge like a wave, a molded piece of clay shaping into a musical instrument, a flute or a set of pan pipes. It's a bone caught in the moment of undulating. It arches from the spine in two melodies, the supraspinous fossa and infraspinous fossa, and the notes slide concavely. The upper part of the scapula is so thin as to be almost transparent. Is that why we can't show the shoulder's delicacy of skin? Or is it the delicate angles of the claviculae that arrest? I once met a woman whose criteria for dieting was until her clavicle bones showed in their sinewy slender grace. Is it the soft shadow of the cleft between the clavicles, or the rounded caput humeri of the humerus, the shoulder bone? Those pectoral girdles are certainly enticing. What drives men to distraction about a woman's bare shoulders that necessitates rules being created about covering them in the corporate world?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Dance of the Solar Wind



"...behind thought I have a musical core. But even further back there's the beating heart. The deepest thought is, then, a beating heart." (Clarice Lispector, Stream of Life, 36)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Appearance of the Glass Blowers

Presently I am immersed, cannot appear clearly. Leaves unfurl in the Spring; who knows how they make the immovable movable, unwrap and flutter in the wind. Fresh, opalescent green. Discovering the sun for the first time, before the caterpillars come, or dry spells of Summer to dim their colour. I write blindly, onto a blank screen because the system can't keep up. The Windows 'hourglass' blinks furiously. It's trying to save me as I write, but so slowly that I write onto a white screen without words; in minutes they will appear. Is that me groping along the white pathway, waiting to appear? When will I, and how to, even in time-lapsed words that foreshadow.

Is love loving me in ways I cannot comprehend. I watch glass blowers, hand-held poles, in and out of the furnace, pure sand from the ancient ocean bed in the middle of the continent, melting silica, forged into light-filled opacity, interior glow, thickness of transparencies, an art. In the furious alembic, boiling at thousands of degrees, coming out to dip into colour, to swirl in a shape, pushed back in to melt for the setting. What experience is teaching, the unfolding of the path, understanding that can glow in the display case for the film that is showing me myself.

Or you. Whoever you are. That I cannot know. What your secret of unfurling is.

On this quiet, cool day, buds are pushing inside, like tiny, green, scrunched wrapping papers. And flowers will unfurl from my head: a flower woman, lying under the earth which is wrapping and unwrapping me. The furnace of sun. In the interior, on the dry ocean bed with the pure sand, its perfection for melting into glass. No, I didn't step onto a shore strewn with tiny natural glass bits but it moved through my vision and fell in beads glittering on the beach. Alchemies of light. To embed light in the density of earth. The earth becomes light through the shining, the way you shine through me like the sun shines through the crystal blown by the glass blowers holding the melting.

Can I become the glass through which you look illumining the world with your light?

Even typing these words that cannot see until they appear?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Reunion

Reconnection with what is familiar. Like deja vu, only not the strangeness of the unexpected familiarity of a memory that doesn't exist. Rather reconnecting to memories evoked by what has accompanied one through years of living. Scratched perhaps, a little tacky, needing refinishing, but redolent with the past.

As I unpack, my past unfolds before me like one of those cut-out stand-up books of children's illustrations. From each page something springs forth that's newly found. It might be as simple as my Tibetan-patterned duvet or as complex as a filing cabinet of old journals.

The distant rocking of the subway coming into the station in the earth below is like a dim thunder traveling through the soil into my bones. It's simultaneously a rocking, comforting sound and electric. If I am sleepwalking through the days it's because I'm mesmerized by the dream that life is.

It's not just unpacking my household but a voice from the past that's shaken me from the insomnabulism of settling into sameness. I'm re-entering who I am as a different person.

Writing is like scrying, perceiving the deeper truths. I could throw alphabets like yarrow stalks into the air and see how they land, or toss Tarot cards with their symbolism over the bed, or my Chinese coins with their holes in the centre six times and read the prognosis of the I Ching, or hold my blue lapis lazuli pendulum with its fine gold veins by its silver chain and see which way it swings when I ask the secret questions.

We have fiction because life would be far too strange without fabrication.

I survey my boxes of books and clothes and furniture and writing and paintings and am stunned that I still have everything.

How does what we thought was lost become found?



Is reunion a reciprocity that is inherent in existence? Not just breaking apart, the entropy, but 'coming together' itself as a process. When what is familiar returns to its original relation. Or is it that I cannot lose what's mine? I am surrounded by what I have collected. And with this collection comes an identity that I was shorn of when I had nothing.

It's miraculous, yes, but also about reception and acceptance.

We know time and space bend. Was it always curving so that while we thought we were traveling apart we were actually flying towards each other?

I don't mean to speak in riddles, but with reconnections and reunions on different levels I am reverberating in the strangeness of familiarity.

What was past becomes future. Time and space nestle within their own mysteries. I find my past opening like Chinese boxes as I magically find the trail that led to here.

Memory becomes living heritage and I feel I am bequeathed such gifts by a younger self. How to fathom the depth of the love of this deeper reunion?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Shapes of the Phantasmagoric World

I couldn't bear the incoherencies. I wanted writing to fall neatly over the world like a well-made garment, to drape, with tucks and darts, flowing and fitted. But only stitches, bare basting.

Then your visionary eyes, blue like the sunlit sky of the ocean where you fly, composed of brilliant blue light. It's all I can see of you, nothing else remains.

I couldn't establish which seam of thought to follow. It became filled with complexity. Though the simple euphoria of being still existed. How long would I stay where I was? Updating Excel files was a type of work that left me time to write discreetly. Not secretive exactly, but hidden. I don't think anyone cared why the honeybees were abandoning their hives.

Huge chocolate-dipped strawberries, a slice of white cake layered with whipped cream icing lying on its side on the plate, everything dusted with icing sugar, confectionery moments of an office birthday. And fat peonies with rays like white suns, elegant purple irises, labic pink roses, lots of green foliage, bouquet of celebration in a clear glass vase.

A warm, continuous block of radiant energy pours through the window's glass. It adheres to the straight lines of the steel frame but wraps me in a duvet of light. I nap in the sunlight at the food court. This view of sun falling down concrete stairs, rare in the office complex, basking.

Despite the euphoria, the way events take their own momentum once you started the motion, how organized it was, I was ignoring the deep and unsettling crisis that moving is. I knew by the unconscious behaviour of my body, its bleeding, its red tides.

Stress releases deep, unsettling sediments, the systems of the body run awry, raging flow of hormones as I near menopause. While Muslim women pay French doctors to have their hymens re-sewn.

The world moves in on me. My nights spent moving, unpacking, exhausted, muscle-aching, but high, ecstatic. Eyes tear in gratitude. Impossibilities become possible.

My back aches with a pulled muscle and every four hours I take extra strength Ibuprofen. My belly is full of thunder, but the bleeding stops and desire resumes itself in writing.

It wasn't that writing could not occur; it was that no point had occurred. It was from the point of no-point that the writing came, weaving its way from the centre of a spiral in linear circles.

Is it that I bear no apparent relation to myself?

What translates my sensory information into you? With your eyes that are lit from within. That I remember from memory. Sometimes I see the pathways that you passed through, like the embroideries of jets in the sky that have been sewn in smoke.

In the deep interiority, alternatives are indistinguishable.

Or am I only interfering with myself, like the photons in the quantum eraser?

Do I contradict the identity I want to project, leaving a disabling sense of being exposed, when I blush, or stitching words together, write?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A gentle and quiet euphoria

Every morning I awake in the unfolding petals of my beautiful life, my head cushioned on a soft down pillow, and I let go of everything except the ecstasy of living. Perhaps it's years of meditation, but slipping out of the slipstream of thoughts, letting anxiety go, isn't hard. Being in the joy of living, the breath, the beating heart. At night I try to go to sleep in the same state, relieved of my life so I can embrace and affirm it. I am in love, of course I am in love. How could I not be?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

How Writing Renews Itself

Impasse with writing. Editing bits of, and only on whim, the last 4 books I've drafted. Considering structure, flow patterns, what the passage might be like for a reader. How much I wish to reveal and conceal of my life. What sorts of connectives and links the story of the stories needs. If it feels intuitively right, I go with it; otherwise, I keep working, trying different image patterns, polishing.

The flow patterns of the people walking past that I sit and watch from a bench in the underground concourse tunnels. Converging motion of intention. Routes. Auto-locomotion of the body, legs and limbs. The women in their high heels seem crippled in their motion, though they compensate for the tilt forwards, the way it bends the spine forcing it to balance to an unnatural gravity.
Brenda ClewsWhen I dance I can't wear heels. Bare feet is what I like best, and a black danceskin, and a small skirt - a silk sarong or large flowing scarf to tie around my hips. Maximal freedom.

Sometimes with dancing I become tired of my range of movement, feeling that I've explored that particular phase fully. Every phase includes all the previous ones, so the overall range is larger now, and each new phase lasts longer than its predecessors, but I still reach impasse. It gets heavy, onerous. The same range of motions. Nothing new. And then I stop dancing. Wind becomes stone. Bright sun on fields retreats into a cave. I curl into myself. Months go by, sometimes a year. When I begin again to dance it is like a new person being reborn. The way my body stretches into new motions and new interpretations of life's interweaving tapestries is often surprising to me. There is a new phase to explore, and it is joyous.

I've written upside down and inside out and in every imaginable permutation of the present phase of the way I string words together. I've stretched as far as I can in this lexicon and syntax and grammar and particular image patterns and sets of theoretical concerns. I feel like I'm tracing old maps. So I tinker with editing my manuscripts. This is how I spend my writing time now, and it is useful and good, cultivating and honing, while I wait to see how writing renews itself in a new phase.

These are only working titles, and could change. Instead of doing a PhD, this is how I've spent the past few years. Living on temp work and a little child support, seeing my children through their teen years. There are paintings too, but here's my little list of writings:

  • This Way of Falling Into What Is Receiving Us - 1986-2007 - about 100 pages, including paintings and dance
  • Book of the Dead - 2004 - about 50,000 words
  • The Move - 2005 - about 50,000 words
  • EnTrapped WOR|l|DS - 2006 - about 20,000 words
  • Poetry - 2003-2007 - about 50 pages, or more, including photopoems
  • Mountain of Seeds - 2007 - in progress, about 10,000 words
    • On the Strange Coherencies of a Life

      What of what hasn't happened yet?

      I want to write this story, the story of what hadn't happened but then did, but I surely cannot impart the sense of strangeness and wonder it elicited. Still, I shake my head in surprise.

      When I returned to Toronto in 2005 I came without a job or a place to stay. All my household goods were stored by the moving company in Mississauga. For the first two months I stayed with an acquaintance. My compass spun wildly. Everything was open. The only magnetic centre was the school my daughter wished to attend, and for that we had to be in area and from out of province, since enrollment was over capacity. I did a specifically focused extended mediation on where I would live (meditation a significant part of my daily life for 13 years now). Because I don't want to reveal exact whereabouts, let me call it Albion, after Blake's 'primordial man' from his prophetic books. In the meditation it came that I would live on Albion Ave. That is a very expensive area, but there is a lot of student housing, too, so perhaps an older apartment in one of the large houses? My dog and I walked up and down that street over and over that Summer as I tried to fathom where the meditation and reality might meet. All that came of it was communing with some fabulous old oak trees and a sense of which side of the street it would be and what specific block it would be.

      In an email on the 29th of August, 2005, I wrote:

      "Albion figuring so prominently in my psychic life at present, that's unruly... it's been so insistent that I've been looking for accommodation on a street in Toronto called Albion Ave... how strange that you mention this word... I've been waking up and going to sleep with "Albion," and walking up and down the street here that bears that name, being one with the massive old trees, wondering what the pull is, what it means, why this word is so prominent in my consciousness... hmnnn...."

      Nothing on Albion, but I found an affordable apartment just inside the school cache area that worked for us, moved in with two suitcases of Summer clothes and my computer (which I had sent by UPS separately), found everything we needed came to us (which was miraculous in its own small way), created a small lodging that never really became a home but sufficed, missed my son who was now living with his Dad, and puzzled over the Albion Ave intuition. And I've often walked on that street and felt rather silly, me and my 'intuitions.' I do get carried away.

      Meanwhile, I was fighting with the moving company, who nearly doubled the monthly cost of storage from what they had agreed on in Vancouver to when my household goods arrived in Mississauga, and I had refused to pay them anything at all. I was also writing "The Move," about the uncertainty I was living in. At one point I thought I had lost everything, clothes, furniture, books, all my writing and paintings. When I let go of the need to hold onto my 'stuff' I found I was able to negotiate with the moving company. We eventually agreed on the original monthly amount and so I paid them a lump sum for the year that my goods had been in storage with them and my brothers and children and I moved everything from Mississauga to a storage company about 10 minutes from where I live. For the last 6 months I have been looking for better accommodation, to have a home again.

      Nothing. It began to give me a daily headache, the looking. The Winter went by. Nothing quite right appeared. Some definite possibilities, but a 'no dogs' policy, or a tenant who decided not to move after all, those kinds of things happened. I was ready to give up. I ended up with an agency due to fatigue with the process of looking at screens and screens of ads daily. A unit came up not far from where we are living now, and while it was adequate, it wasn't quite right, but I was resigned to taking it. We had to move to a larger space.

      Last Monday I went in to sign the lease when the office opened so I wouldn't miss too much time from work. As I talked to the rental coordinator, he mentioned that another unit had just become available, and it was unusual since people rarely moved from this building. It cost a little more since it's electric heat, but he said the location might work very well for my daughter's school.

      Where is the unit?

      You guessed it.

      Albion Avenue.

      I signed the lease without seeing the apartment. That's how deeply I trust intuition. When my daughter and I looked at it later that evening we were quite happy with it. The bedrooms are very small, but there is light and enough space and the location is perfect. It'll be a good space for working, writing, painting, and for living, I can feel that. It's on the side of the street that my intuition indicated in 2005, and a stone's throw from a cafe that I 'saw' us eating breakfast at...

      Last night I took my dog to the small townhouse and said to her, "Home..." She sniffed the door and looked slightly puzzled but happy. Sort of like me. And then I thanked every one of the massive old oak trees as we walked up the street that we will soon be calling home.

      Thursday, April 12, 2007

      Heart Tones

      My heartbeat woke me. My pillow soft, the darkness of the cold Spring night, beneath covers, warm, hours of luxury to think, imagine, slip into underlying streams of thought, fascinated by wondering, exploring routes and trajectories, ideas and sensations, memories and future possibilities, yet sleep is crucial, work tomorrow, and so a mantra over and over, for stillness, to locate the cliff-edge of drowsiness, to fall into it. Why is it so loud, this beating? Blood filling with oxygen, the network of arteries, arterioles, capillaries and veins. Diastole and systole. I hear it in my left ear drum. It pulses, throbs with a steady beat. Pluck out the earplug. The clock ticks too loudly; my dog snores slightly. Squeeze the foam and push it back into orifice of ear. The steady thumping of a sea of blood thrown like a metronome against my inner ear. Usually I can't fall asleep on my left side because my heartbeat is too loud. But the thuds of heartbeat are loud no matter what side I lie on. How am I to dim the sound when it is inside me? All night, my beating heart keeps me awake.

      At 5am I rose, let the dog out, made coffee, cooked sausages, eggs and toasted a bit of pumpernickel bagel. I read an email that caused me to Google Rilke, read some of his poetry and part of one of the Letters to a Young Poet. I imagined living at Chateau de Muzot, a small stone tower, where Rilke finished the Duino Elegies. How he carried them like a long delayed pregnancy, until, finally, they poured onto the page. Then I wondered if wax in my eardrum was causing a sensitivity to the inner sound of my beating body. I rose from Rilke to look for the Clary Sage oil. On the shelf of chaotic items, reading glasses, lip balm, books, papers, Tarot cards, sable paint brushes, I find it, tip my head, let some drops slide in to massage the ear drum. The pounding of blood through the heart is muted, distant, normal.

      Later when I consider what to write, I remember the heartbeat in the night that kept me awake. Muscular organ of renewal. Ventricles and passageways. Central chamber for the maintenance of everything.

      How do I approach it. Mortality, the thundering heart.
      __________________
      Qualia, or the subjective response to sensations of the body, is the subject of this piece on the heart.

      Tuesday, April 10, 2007

      A Bouquet of Unopened Bulbs

      A woman walks across the square holding in both arms a large bouquet of unopened bulbs, the top of the clear cellophane wrap in which they are encased is unfurled and open. Like wet paint strokes, the brush flat and full of green paint at the base of the bulb and thinning to a point, dozens, or more. One could not know from across the way, sipping afternoon tea. The imagination looks for corollaries: domes of Persian temples, fat and ready to open; sepals the colour of Green Tara; or Celtic sidhe, mounds, hills, where the fairy folk live who love beauty and wealth, fertile, magical, of the realm of promise.

      In the resurfacing of the Zocalo in Mexico City in 1790, Antonio de Leon y Gama discovered the greatest archaeological find of 18th century Mexico. Twin stones. A statue of Coatlicue (she of the feathered skirt of serpents) and the Great Aztec Sun Stone.

      She is Teteo Inan, Mother of the Gods.

      For centuries prior to finding her, Mexicans laid flowers on the square for the Mother of the Earth. She was never lost, only hidden.

      I'm writing to you as if I were tearing the snarled roots of a colossal tree from the depths of the earth, and those roots were like powerful tentacles, like the voluminous nude bodies of strong women wrapped in serpents and carnal desires of realization.1
      Because the tourists who are in the news were kidnapped in the Danakil Depression it blisters the rotunda in which I sit, and I am twisted in the stunted roots of the dragon trees with broad-leaves and a stout trunks in the lowest place on earth. A festering place, 371 feet below sea level, lava oozing upwards, continuous fissures and hundreds of earthquakes each year, sulphuric pools, salt flats and salty lakes, unblinking sun, a scant few inches of rain a year, highs of 50C in the dry season.

      Slow currents under the lithosphere, at the centre of a triple junction fault in the Great Rift Valley of Africa, with a seafloor spreading centre, moving at the rate of 1-2cm a year, Dankalia will submerge into a new sea in 10 million years.

      How can the woman with the unopened flowers in her arms walk on a floor of lava? Magma wells up from the mantle, bones from the necklace of Coatlicue emerge as Australopithicus afarensis. She comes from under the earth. They find her in a gully in bits. She is a sky dancing with diamonds.

      Can I dance with a hominid with one hip, a sacrum, a rib cage, a lumbar, a humerus, a femoral cranium? She is 3 feet 8 inches tall, 65 lbs and 3.2 million years old. She looks like a chimpanzee but walks upright. Lucy is a connecting link in the evolutionary story, and she was found in 1974 by two anthropologists, Johansen and Gray, near the Awash River, near the hot fields of basalt.

      Buried earth mothers of the earth.

      The shiny basalt floor of the rotunda heats and cracks as white-enamelled cast iron tables fall. I lay myself on the earth and lay the fresh, green, living, vibrant closed buds before me and they burst into multi-coloured bloom.

      ____________________
      1Clarice Lispector, The Stream of Life (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,1989), p.13.

      Monday, April 09, 2007

      Papilionoidea

      You have no idea who you are. Razed, skinned, muscles exposed, then stripped to the bone. Marrow beating inside the sheath where you melt. Reorientation of neuronal patterns, old connections gutted as you renovate yourself from within. When the new circuits activate and energy flows, your thoughts aren't the same. A richer depth, a deeper resonance. You're more complete. New perceptions of the world and your relationships unfold like visionary wings inside your chrysalis. One day I'll see you gliding over the plains, an angel.

      Tuesday, April 03, 2007

      A Creation Story


      The Creation of Adam is a fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo Buonarroti circa 1511.


      Otherwise it would all happen at once. Our births, lives, deaths. In an instant, a tableau of everything. Time slows it, lineates it, notches it. We experience ourselves event by event. We attempt to feel the fullness of the great expanse in our awareness of the moment, pure, insightful.

      Time is a way of perceiving: measuring our lives, our moments of meeting, that we age. We are time travelers touching each other as we pass by. We know the wholeness of which we are a part; we reach for each other, our feather-soft breaths.

      Is time an interpretation carved out of the undifferentiated? And space a way to spread it out, a place to live? The way we are separated in our individual beings. How our egos map the terrain of the unknown. Ropes we grab to cross the ocean of raw life. Without fixing ourselves in time and space, as coordinates, would it fly apart?

      My pathway to you who are reading this was always known. Who you are is inherent in the writing. Destiny is not predetermined but the unfolding of the moment in the wholeness of everything that has or will ever exist. Does it spin on the tip of Zeno's Arrow?

      In my image-creating mind, time is the crumbling sand beneath my bare feet as the ocean pulls it away.

      Time is the rhythm of each day, activity by activity. At night, fatigued, we let go.

      In meditation, I knew I'd left time; not a euphoria of timelessness witnessing the flow of time, but absence, non-being, not in the learned experience of time.

      Perhaps death is a closure of time, where it ceases.

      Time is the energy I have

      for living.

      Thursday, March 29, 2007

      A little unfinished painting...

      BrendaClewsWomanPaintingMarch2007

      While I did this little India ink sketch and oil painting before seeing Susie Burpee's dance performance, "The Spinster's Almanac, A Cabaret of Solitude," this March in Toronto, down at the Distillery District, and though the figure in this is Victorian, there is something about her...

      So I composed these words, I wrote them on the back of the painting in pencil, that were mostly a response to Burbee's performance, to perhaps add to the tiny painting (maybe 9" x 5") in handwriting:

      Nails claw inside the breaking shell. Spinster's Almanac. Miss Haversham. Dance of downy feathers, beating heart, aloneness. Only windows seen or seeing. Escape into the confinement of solitude.

      Only my hard drive is full, and I can't take a better, more in-focus picture and upload it, or even one with the scrawled words on it until I rectify the situation, sigh. I'll upload the finished little painting whenever.

      Wednesday, March 28, 2007

      Inkspill in Red

      After the simplicity of my friend's encouragement -why not, he said- I tried again to go deeper in my writing of my present bodily experience. Sharing the little piece (that's taken all morning to write, sigh):

      No meditating on stopping it. I'm not appreciating deeply enough. For having it. This bleeding, useless, without sense or logic on the part of Nature. At fifty-five years of age it is only a bodily remembrance of the fertility that is past and now becomes a path of greater communion with my womanness, a spiritual deepening into an intimate, private being alive. On the morning of the fourteenth day, still the flush of blood, is it that I deny its importance, denigrate it, lament how weak I feel, how awkward it is in the work world, how strange at my age to flow so redly and opulently? Not that I seek to valorize it. Just to become comfortable with it. After forty-two years of continuous monthly menses, except during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and during the last year when it's been sporadic, I wonder if I have fully accepted my female body? Can I arrive at gentle acceptance near the end of many cycles? Acceptance without celebration or lament. Is-ness. This visceral reality, scarlet wash of haemoglobin on the white moon cloth. Ache in my belly, hidden tides. Loving my womb, inner bulb of fire. Its tender blood vessels.

      Sunday, March 25, 2007

      Observing the Observer

      Observing, naming, creating stories gives reality to our perceptions of the universe, which is creating itself for us. Observing the world causes it to shape itself into a reality for us.

      In the current issue of The American Scholar, Robert Lanza, a proponent of Biocentrism, which builds on quantum physics, writes, "the laws of the world were somehow created to produce the observer....the observer in a significant sense creates reality and not the other way around."

      Hmnnn.


      If subatomic particles are "watched" traveling through a barrier (in the famous experiment, a box with two holes), they behave like tiny particles, and go through one hole or the other.

      If they're "not watched" they pass through both holes, like waves.

      But no-one sees this.


      Quantum waves are never observed, only inferred from the behaviour of unobserved particles.

      Quantum waves are waves of probability, statistical predictions, not material waves, hence nothing but a likely outcome. Outside of an idea, the wave is not there, it's nothing.

      Since it's not observed, can't ever be observed, it's not "real."


      Nor does the particle have any definite existence, until we observe it.

      It gets worse. Quantum waves merely define the potential location a particle can occupy.

      But it's all probability!

      It isn't an event or a phenomenon, but a description of a likely event.


      Dear reader, my golden muse, I shalln't take this anywhere at the moment. Only let me ask, rather than 'how are you?' and 'what's going on?', what's in your quantum fields these days? ::grins:: Tell me about your entanglements over virtual tea!

      Saturday, March 17, 2007

      Krishna was a Butter Thief

      Logic is tiresome, like madness. The brown suede cover of my pocket calendar, the one in which I write, was the back of a cow once. Tanned, dyed, stretched. I will not make a metaphor out of this. It was the book that I bought when I promised to jot notes, any notes, regularly. Pencil swatting words on the fly. Discreetly. Grab at slips of thoughts before they slip away. It's the layer below the layer. A veiny map of words pulsing with blood. A cow's shroud, but see, there I go. The skin of a cow covers my book. The skin that was composed from soft grasses that were nibbled and mulched through four stomachs until the ingredients could be usefully used. To make skin cells. Dermatitis of words. Scribbled suede.

      It is the hair that seems wrapped on a bone, that sticks out at jagged angles, that I like best. She pushes the mail cart like a hospital bed. Back and forth, three times a day, every day. Slow, cow steps. Bovine mail delivery. I must get cows off the mind. Really, as I sit at the desk looking for something else to fix my attention on, the telephone cord, wrapped in that circular pattern, is interesting. How do you press rubber wrapped around a line into that shape?

      Black and white spots today, a vest. Soft fur, brush it. Which is a lie, but it fits with the metaphor I refuse to make. Gibberish. Someone has gone out the door, someone will enter it, and I must watch all the time in case anyone has lost their pass or needs access, like a visitor, or a courier. My fingers race over the keys until they sound like a clickety cart. It's Friday and almost everyone is gone. I shift my eyes back and forth, checking my environment, people walking by. Am I seeing myself? What do I look like? How many people do you have to see before they blur? Into cows in fields bovinely chewing cud, walking bags of internal organs pulsing. We're walking herds. It must be environmental sterility that's making me this way. I cannot discount the effect of where I am. I'm not sure where these cowslips of thought are coming from. Inside the clover of my hair.

      When I was a cow I had no time to give milk. All my attention was on my hooves. And then I ate grass until the cows came home. It was very good, if I recall. The gum that I chew is green. It's St. Patrick's Day. Do cows mind snakes? Cows don't get agitated often. I'm not talking about bulls. Mama cows. The ones mooing on the hill. Everyday I eat a fresh baby spinach salad that I make myself. With thinly sliced onions and fresh mushrooms, and liberally sprinkled with salted sunflower seeds, flax seeds, slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, and perhaps cheese cubes. Milk squeezed into solids and dried. Feta cheese salad dressing thrown and tossed until all the baby spinach leaves are coated in oil and dark green. Then I chew, slowly, while all my stomachs digest. They tell me that eating green leafy vegetables with an oil and vinegar dressing is good for us. It keeps us our minds agile.

      Really, my hooves are the most interesting part of my anatomy. Everywhere I've been is remembered in them. Look at the indents. See the continents. It's time to move up the hill. I'm being rounded. Milked.

      Sunday, March 11, 2007

      The day illusions fell

      This prose poem is dedicated to that magnifique intellectual and poet par excellence, John Walter. Some of the lines in this piece came from a comment I left at his moving poem, Nepenthe. It's also dedicated to my close confidant, Kaj, who received this prose poem as a voice mail message when he didn't answer his Treo, and for which I was generously thanked. Thank you, such beautiful men...
      And to Sky, whose photographs and writing of the flowers in her garden inspired the imagery of the last paragraph, so sumptuous they ebulliently began blossoming over here.



      Early March 2007, Toronto

      Wednesday, March 07, 2007

      Oh, those years on the earth...

      It's my birthday, the double high-five. Nothing special, but I did buy a silk dress which I am wearing at work. Perhaps I'll try to compose some images and see what might emerge from them. It's a difficult day for me, began at 5:15am with sadness, but I'm being brave... and trying to make it like any other day, ignoring the undercurrents, their deep swelling. It's not the age - I celebrate that, seeing myself as only half way through. But, oh, losses, family, really my Dad, such a long time ago now, the ways in which one is honoured, cherished, treasured and loved. Being born was the best and worst thing that ever happened to me, and can I say that after all these years? Does anyone understand this? It's not an easy day. Tomorrow I will probably go to a performance in celebration of International Women's Day with some women friends and celebrate quietly then. Oh, should I post this?

      I'll update this as I write it. Please forgive how blatantly emotional.

      I woke early, tears in the darkness.

      Ironing the black silk dress with cream polka dots like full moons, a few ruffles over the bodice. It ties at the waist. Underneath a silky black chemise with a thick hem of lace that falls below. Since it is Winter, and cold, a wool shirt, the weave, a light-weight worsted, slightly stretchy, in black. An aquamarine pendant surrounded in diamonds, a birthday gift, the last one, from my father before he died.

      I remember him on this day, the day he celebrated me, more than I do on the day that commemorated his birth.

      The day moves into its heaving. Why can't it disappear into an ordinary day? By evening grief wears itself into memory again.

      There are beautiful wishes from friends, and later perhaps my mother, and perhaps my brothers will call, my son certainly will. Only my Dad cared about birthdays, and not his, he wanted no special attention. None of us care that much about birthdays. Only why the slide into grief, the remembrances. As the years have gone on, it's gotten worse, too, missing someone who died 23 years ago now. To acknowledge it as a day of grief? How very odd indeed. Therefore I want to hide the truth of what day it is. You understand.

      The day of life, remembering death. Mourning amidst quiet celebration of the day one embarked on life, commemorating the day of emergence, the rhythm of the passing years.


      Later now, and the evening mellowed... sitting with my daughter while she does homework, working through things with our banter, the light on the table glistening, her hair, her high cheek bones, enjoying her beauty, sparkle, and one of those soul-baring talks with my brother while she walked the dog, and talking for nearly an hour with my son by phone, so gentle, so wonderful, these simple pleasures, such blessings. In the end, I am a family woman.