Peter Cottontail, et al.

My mostly abandoned bullet journal tells me that today is Corona Day 26. I think that means it is the 26th day my children have been home from school. I have remarked to several folks lately that time has changed to being marked by either awake or asleep, and coffee time, twice daily. Though the second is never as satisfying in reality as in imagination.

I felt uncomfortably aggravated today. A woman I know sent around a text message I have deleted that ran something like this: I know we are all crazy with Zoom calls and homeschool and (etc., etc.). Reading her message I thought, this sounds exactly like something she wrote a month ago (I know we are all crazy with carpool and soccer, etc., etc.). NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. I refuse. I REFUSE. I’m not gonna do it. You cannot force me to be manic during my quarantine with your stories about how hectic everything is and how manic we all are. About doing it all and having it all or whatever expectations. NO. Also, if you sent me an email about a recipe exchange or an uplifting women’s empowerment exchange or any kind of email exchange where somebody is going to send me 25 somethings, I’m not doing it. I’m sorry I didn’t respond. (Thank you, very much, for being my friend.)

I also saw this a couple of days ago:

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Later in the day I went online, to AmazonSmile, to frantically try to purchase something to put in an Easter basket. I’ve got nothing. No eggs to dye, no candy, no cute bunny-themed trinkets, no seed packets, no spring-themed books, no bubbles, no furry-animal covered pajamas. My kids were engaged in some undetermined and unusually/suspiciously quiet activity, and I was furtively trying to find things to put in my shopping cart that would arrive no later than Friday.

And as I looked at the sweatshop-sewn pajamas, having just watched John Oliver talking about fast fashion the previous night, this aggravating rainbow meme came to my mind. I took the items out of my basket.

This is a part of normal that is not worth rushing back to. I ordered each child some ‘grown-up’ watercolors, like mine, and a new sketch book. We have some plastic eggs in the attic and I have a few bits of candy leftover from Valentine’s Day (and yes still from Halloween) that I can put into the eggs. We have not been able to obtain white eggs, we will dye the dozen brown eggs we already have. We will use them to make deviled eggs afterwards but will not be able to share them with Libby’s family this year. The children have enough. And we will take the money we would have spent for the bunny-themed trinkets and use it to feed people or ease suffering in some way in the world.

I can’t change the world. I can’t make it the way I wish it would be. But I don’t have to follow the script. I can do it differently.

I drafted a letter from the Easter Bunny to my children. I have done nothing with it but here it is.

I’ve written a bunch of poetry this week (no poems are yet titled). Here are three poems:

#1

Opening the door to the built-in dining room cabinet
the one a realtor says gives character to an old house
with cracks in the basement
and a fireplace, still full of six-year-old ash,
a feature of such potential when first we imagined
our cheerful family
a baby and toddler, then,
round the glowing hearth

I remove, one by one, the Waterford goblets
a matrimonial gift, heavy and crystal,
the candles reflect like water on a sparkling day
on the one night each year we set them on the table,
half-filled with a cabernet franc or a zinfandel.
They glimmer there next to the Wedgewood, hand painted,
from my great-grandmother’s table,
the sterling candlesticks, carefully polished once each year
by my father for just this occasion.

I think it is their weight,
and also that they were store bought,
not parricide, grandmatricide, treachery,
a regret
a reminder of naiveté
a token of guilt
or a glint of anger.
What was the script?
An old-fashioned sitcom
that never looked anything like the truth?

Love purchased the Lismore nouveau,
wrapped them in thick white paper with a silver ribbon,
sent them to my parents’ house
from which they traveled to a multitude of apartments
and finally, the seventh packing,
to these cabinets
where most days they rest, shining decor,
unobserved, perfectly safe.

But on days like today
with no quiet moment,
when there is no space
and so much undone
I imagine holding a goblet
heavy, smooth, and cold
and one by one
my arm raises and, with all my strength,
they burst upon the limelight wall
no jubilation, but subtraction
one. crash. less. crash. thing.

I sweep them up,
shards in the trash.
I wait all week for the truck to come.
The bin is empty.
The cabinet more bare.
My fury spent.
Two hundred shelves
sixty-eight drawers
thirty cabinets
and four closets.
Only hurling crystal
the large bowl on the fragile stem
will bring pleasure
like biting into flesh, hard.

Not today,
I walk to the sink instead
the lunch dishes aren’t going to wash themselves.


#2

Not yet evolved from feeling thirst, my mouth or lips seek satiety.
The origin of what I need second only to oxygen, a mystery.
I was not born here and even back home
never thought to ask, where is the source of my life
which was then the Cahaba and now the Potomac.
My lips or tongue or cheeks,
when I am aware, infrequently,
send the signal and my hand moves a lever,
a brief sound of rushing and then relief
mixed sometimes with fear
of chemicals with names I cannot pronounce
or don’t want to.
After a day at the river’s edge we tell the children:
use soap.
I didn’t know they were bathing in the same water
we were trying to rinse off
where the snow melt and the stormwater
carry all of the other molecules,
not the two Hs and one O
but the other letters,
the ones we employ to keep going on like this.


#3

Tonight, loading the plates
medium face in on the left
smallest face in on the right
large in the back face in on the left
bowls behind the medium plates
I thought about Charles Dickens, father of ten,
served breakfast each morning at his tidy desk,
Mark Twain’s wife.
I thought of Jane Austen,
childless,
relieved of household duties by mother and sister,
of Charlotte Bronte
George Eliot
who based on the arrangement of their facial features
were provided educations superior to women of their day
when their fathers assumed they would never fulfill god’s intended destiny for our sex
instead they would teach little boys who might rise in the world
who, rich or poor, would not cook a meal
would not wash the dishes
would walk out with the other men
smoking a pipe
while the women, hidden and silent
slower or faster
bled to death

They cut my first child out, upside down and maybe it would have killed me at a different time, but not now.
Not quickly.
Not slowly either.
I have a dishwasher, and I don’t have to churn my own butter.
So what?
I’ll need to be my own fairy godmother
find my pumpkin
bake it into a coach.
And then what?
Intending no harm, Nick shared
goddam Bertrand Russell
“By death, by illness, by poverty, or by the voice of duty, we must learn, each one of us, that the world was not made for us, and that, however beautiful may be the things we crave, Fate may nevertheless forbid them. It is the part of courage, when misfortune comes, to bear without repining the ruin of our hopes, to turn away our thoughts from vain regrets. This degree of submission to power is not only just and right: it is the very gate of wisdom.”Fate will forbid
Fate does forbid
Fate has forbidden
But not all.
So, back to the ball
I get there,
full of my own power
that grew the pumpkin and baked the coach
that sheltered the mice and the lizards and kept them from the poison in the water
my dress is gentle armor
woven from thousands of blossoms that
I’ve tended with soil I’ve nurtured
with egg shells and coffee grounds I’ve collected to nourish this dead clay back to life
At the ball so much sparkles and shines
look what we can do what we’ve done
what we make what is possible
I pick up a lyre
I’ve learned how to play and I sing a song
with my lined eyes and imperfect complexion
the bits that bulge that haven’t always
and the bits that flop that didn’t used to
In the song we see the tables so full
and the glistening candelabra
the latest coaches
the fastest horses
and we figure out
what
we figure out
how to stop
to stop
and
slowly
quietly
lovingly
care-fully
to start.

I don’t lose a slipper,
I never needed one in the first place
just to find a way
uninvited for so long
still not invited, but maybe allowed
to get to the ball
to pick up the lyre
and,
without losing my head
by blade
or by ancient script,
to sing


In other news: I cut matching mohawks for Dave and Sam over the weekend. Maggie’s hair is also now ‘boy short’ (she wanted a mohawk but Dave convinced her otherwise. I was not far from a mohawk myself, let’s see how long this thing lasts). Otis is eight months old and weighs sixty pounds. He has taken to sleeping at the foot of the stairs during the day – I think this is so he can be as close as possible to as many members of the family as possible. We are reading The Fellowship of the Ring with the kids at night. It’s the best part of the day (after coffee). Dave is teaching the kids how to bird watch. We are getting some new perennials for a few garden beds we expanded over the weekend (we won plants at our school’s auction the weekend before the quarantine began). The kale we planted is going gangbusters. Other seeds have been ruthlessly abducted or disturbed by cheeky squirrels who don’t yet know how frequently we plot to eat them.

My friends, we’re doing the best we can. Please take good care of your gentle hearts, which may be hurting a lot right now. It won’t be like this forever and someday we will hug each other again. Read something beautiful, breathe outside, chew your food, and do your best to stop reading so much news. Love to you all.

3 thoughts on “Peter Cottontail, et al.

  1. Love your words. You have a command on letters and structure that I long for. You inspire me to be to do more. Thank you!

  2. So much to love about this post. I’ve been reflecting a lot on what our return to “normal” life will look like, too. I think your letter from the Easter Bunny needs to go to all people! Then there’s the poetry…all so good, thanks for sharing.

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