Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Nathan's piece in the 2019 MN State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition

Ponce de Leon?
16" X 24" Durst Lambda Print

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012

further Present Narritives


When you're made unemployed

watched pots do boil.

hand-rehemmed pants are satisfying; so are new ones. Making things and buying things fill the days.

you get things & make things you've been putting off for years.

it's easier to think yourself into feeling bad than to think yourself into feeling good; but it's easier to work yourself into feeling good.

you understand you were curt & rude after you've been curt & rude (but at the time you seemed reasonable —to you.)

some things can be irritating: people you live with, neighbors, children, politicians & actors, drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, clerks & customers, people you don't live with, computers & telephones, anything digital, anything mechanical, pets, weeds, rocks, dirt....
no matter how hard you genuinely recognize some things will inevitably become, when they do, you'll think and feel (in startled shock and disorientation) "Shit, this is hard."
Understanding this doesn't help.

forgiveness might help, but so might revenge.

you'll likely get through it. 'til then, focus helps; but so does food.

careful, or you'll get broke

and fat.

Louise sings Obradors

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Alley Cat

Powderhorn Park, Mpls, Mayday Festival '12

from Present Narratives


This can opener doesn't work.
I've tried adjusting the antenna every which way.
I've tried taping the threads with Teflon.
I've tried augmenting the maple pegs with stainless steel screws & mahogany caps.
I even added an additional tablespoon of cream of tartar.
Still, its only output is silence & a field of blue;
The damn thing simply won't turn over.
I took it to two jewelers, a hardware store & a Batteries Plus franchise;
None of them could even get the back off
(let alone being able to tell me how deep to dig the hole, or how often to water it.)
I guess I'll have to resort to the tried-and-true:
A plunger, then a snake, then anhydrous sulfuric acid.
I just have to remember be careful.
This is three-phase I'm dealing with here.
If I pound too hard, I could get a 480 volt handshake.
Oh well. I have to hurry & get it fixed.
I need it to barbeque the sushi for dinner.
Some friends are coming over to discuss
Darwin's Black Box1 and Genesis.2

1 Behe 1996
2 God -4004


The black hole on the other side of the door–
A hole through a ten-by-ten-inch, wire-reinforced window-pane–
A pane meant to keep someone from slamming into someone on the other side
when it's unlocked;
but to keep someone on the other side  when it's locked–
And let me be metaphorically clear, right off:
This black hole isn't Death (or Birth);
it's not the Unknown (or Regret)
it's not Loss (or Gain) or Failure (or Success);
this hole isn't Pain or Fear or Want or Ignorance
or the Future or the Past.–
The black hole on the other side of the door
–It's night; the office lights are mostly off;
the concrete slabs are cavernous & cool.–
The black hole on the other side of the door
–As we disassemble and move the last of the files & equipment,
as we move all this old stuff to a new place–
This black hole on the other side of this door
is silence within a great array of noise;
is a satisfying, specular void.


I have thoughts; you have thoughts.
Let 's call them god;
We can share these god-ideas.

Three things: the earth, the air, the sea;
These things are god;
We're made of god, god 's what are.

All living creatures reproduce themselves.
Creation 's god;
The god-process allows that all live things endure.

I can think upon notions I've never had & can't explain.
God will be these notions;
They pass between us that we can know god.

I will die & yet I know things still will be.
God is continuation;
What I know can be known hence.

Much has happened long before my birth.
God is the sum of all that 's been;
God is that I am of our past.

I become uncomfortable –I guess I'm scared–
When I apprehend that I will cease;
The moments when I can ignore my end is god.

I suppose there 's a cognate for god in every human language.
That we're able to compare between us is god;
We can discuss god & other things.

All sane persons want to reach outside themselves.
God is communion;
We know god as us.

God is our image.
God is our hope;
God is our reason for waking up each day.

Not a guy, nor a spirit, nor any thing (nor no thing),
God is an opinion, a desire;
It is as real as if it really were.


International Peace

I finished bagging my groceries
& was pushing my cart out to my little 4x4.
(A four-by-four? No, I don't think it's testosterone poisoning.
I spent my youth & formative years
pushing cars out of the snow;
I'm too old for that now.)
A young Somali couple walked by me.
Her, two paces behind him.
She was telling him something.
She repeated the same thing at least twice.
I have absolutely no idea what she was saying
–I'm embarrassingly monolingual–
except that, from the expression on his face:
He'd heard it before.
He knew she was right.
& he knew he'd hear it again.
There ARE some things that practically transcend culture.
The world would be more peaceful
if we paid more attention 
to those of us that are women.


A Compact

When listening, with Richard Leppert1,
To Renèe Fleming2
Singing Sergei Rachmaninov's3 Vocalise4,
I knew everything I knew was only a moment;
I knew nothing I knew would ever surpass
Understanding that someone5 else6
Heard what I heard.
We can only be alone.
It's good we can imagine it otherwise. 

1 a scholar
2 a singer
3 a composer
4 a song
5 anyone I consider
6 everything other than me


Little machines smaller than a pocket calculator
                                          or a Zippo lighter
                                          or an ink well
                                          or a mango pit
                                          or a baby's foot–
People plug these devices
into the earholes in their head
to listen to absent people
& ignore present people
by filling their mind
with talk or play or song.

Consider a vast room –say a warehouse floor–
where the din & drudge of the task at hand
can be filtered out
by people, by plugging themselves
into separate little machines
together. Together they are
mostly unaware of place, of each other.

I bought an MP3  player today;
I wanted to be a part of my community.


Though feral cats have taken food from a plastic spoon I held
And though imperious toms have only growled a little when I petted them as they ate
And though mostly-wild queens have come to our back door when they're pregnant & hungry
And though everyone in a couple of extended families of outside cats nuzzles & purrs
At Louise when she's feeding them –but won't let me near them when I'm not;
I still never really accepted that they only liked us –initially at least–
Because we gave them food.
Until I noticed my friends at work & me
Eating free pizza at a company party
As we bunched about the pizza boxes until they were empty
And laughed & grinned & told stories
And wiped & licked the tomato sauce from our lips & chins.



As we walked down the hallway with but one bare, unlit incandescent lightbulb hanging on two zinc wires with only remnants of cracked, brown-black insulation, in the center of the ceiling with palm sized, thick, rubbery flakes of oil-based, lead-filled paint attached by cob webs & sticky dust to the yellow-gray, raw plaster beneath, with almost no noise from outside the collapsing corridor except an occasional rusty honk or collision, some swearing, a bit of sporadic gunfire, then silence, time collapsed away from us like the out-leaning walls that surrounded, with a tentative, nervous hesitation and almost longing, until each of our steps anticipated a finish, a completion, a resolution, yet harkened recursively to the step before, and that to the step before that, until all our walking became a wanting and until all our wanting became a needing, and until all our needing became a beginning that ended in nonsense and violence and easy confusion, until all we had left was each other or at least what we thought was each other, for in the near-darkness of that uneasy passageway, the first of us saw little and anticipated much, and the last of us saw only a back before them, and remembered what they could, and only those in the middle were seen and could see, or so they thought, because they could only assume someone behind them saw them and knew they saw them, though there were our relentless steps inside the silence, so we could all infer, or we could each infer while assuming all the others inferred also, that we weren't alone, that we were making progress down the hallway together and that, at some point  in some time in some place that lay before us we'd step out of this conduit to an ending and emerge somewhere into some place in a moment that was the beginning of a less worn & confusing & just less old –and maybe safer, but perhaps much less safe also–  surrounding that could give us some hope, or even just some need to continue wondering as we walked down the hallway.

50. When you're made unemployed

watched pots do boil.

hand-rehemmed pants are satisfying; so are new ones. Making things and buying things fill the days (but you feel empty.)

you complete stuff you've been putting off for years (but you feel incomplete.)

it's easier to work yourself into feeling good than to work yourself into feeling bad (but it's easier to think yourself into feeling bad than to think yourself into feeling good.)

you understand you were curt & rude after you've been curt & rude (but at the time you seemed reasonable —to you.)

some things can be irritating: people you live with, neighbors, children, politicians & actors, drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, clerks & customers, people you don't live with, computers & telephones, anything digital, anything mechanical, pets, weeds, rocks, dirt....
no matter how hard you genuinely recognize some things will inevitably become, when they do, you'll think and feel (in startled shock and disorientation) "Shit, this is hard."
Understanding this doesn't help.

forgiveness might help, but so might revenge.

you'll likely get through it. 'til then, focus helps; but so does food.

careful, or you'll get broke

and fat.

Present Narratives 48.


My mother
knit me a sweater
with big wooden buttons
about 45 years ago.
Finally –too ragged to wear–  I cut the buttons off
and kept them.
I bunched up the sweater
and stuffed it
inside a cardboard box
so some cats could stay warm
in the winter.
I'm amazed
at how carefully they arrange it,
with one sleeve
poking out of the hole
that serves as the entrance
to the box.
I pushed it back in a couple of times;
they always pulled it back out.
Just one sleeve.
Several litters of kittens
Have been born on that sweater.
My mother would have approved.
She liked cats.
The sweater is pretty encrusted & fragrant now.
I'll probably toss it
and replace it with a clean towel or something.
But not yet.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Graffiti Police

The City Of Minneapolis CLEAN CITY COORDINATOR sent us a GRAFFITI ENFORCEMENT LETTER demanding we paint our garage door within a week.  
Paint Outside in Minnesota in December!?
Besides, we liked the tag.

This was Nathan's response to them:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Nathan Wins 1st Prize at MN State Fair Fine Art Exhibition

David Little (Curator & Head of the Dept. of Photography & New Media at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts), the Juror of Photography at the 2010 MN State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition awarded Nathan the blue ribbon for his picture, Fair & Fowl, of Louise & a brown leghorn rooster.
Mary Abbe (Fine Arts Reviewer at the Minneapolis Star Tribune) wrote "...The show opens with "Fair and Fowl," a prize-winning photo by Nathan Viste-Ross of Minneapolis, who captured a straw-hatted woman gazing dolefully at an amazing rooster. A truly magnificent creature, the caged bird appears to be at least 3 feet tall with sharp eyes, a flaming comb and wattles, golden feet and glorious russet wings tinged with blue and black. By chance the woman's blue shift and long reddish hair are the same hue as the bird's plumage, enhancing the sympathetic aura that seems to surround them...."

Thanks David. Thanks Mary.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Plaid Sunset

Plaid Sunset
Oil on canvas
30" x 48"

from present Narritives

 life study #2
oil on canvas
 38" x 58 "


What 's this? A 5 x 7 of Michael taped
To the plate glass between a 5 foot banner promising
Bombay Sapphire gin for $18.99
and bunting hawking Leine's (Leinenkugel) beer below five bucks?
Cashier-of-the-month, perhaps?
Although our conversations have been telegraphic
–long enough for him to ring a couple bottles of wine,
or gin & fino, maybe scotch, beer occasionally–
His quiet demeanor –presence– makes me feel welcome here.
He's asked me how I liked what I was buying
–his manner showed he wasn't selling; he was curious.
Once, I asked him what he drank.
I think he mentioned something clear: gin, vodka or the like.
The writing above the picture says: "In Memoriam?!"
There's a newspaper clipping below his photo.
It records the death date, names survivors, says they're sad he's dead.
"What happened to Michael?"
"He choked to death."
"That 's it?"
"It was a freak accident."
"How old was he?"
"Yeah. I know. That'll be eighty-seven fifty-six.
I'll get you a box."
"No box, please. Just a bag."
"Have a good night."
"You too."

"The house was 24 feet by 18 feet on the outside
with 2 rooms upstairs & 2 down;
The studs were rough-milled oak.
A curtain on a wooden dowel separated your grandparents bedroom
from the other downstairs room.
We slept –seven of us over the years– upstairs.
It was already framed-in when Mom & Dad bought it;
Later, they attached a lean-to as an entryway,
and a trailer onto the southeast corner, as a kitchen.
Each year, in the fall, we'd bring in an upright-wood burner
to heat the whole place
(but not very damn much if you were upstairs & it was 20 below.)
I remember when Dad drove the well
–I was only 5 or 6, so I couldn't help, but
I watched (and talked constantly, I suppose)
as he pounded the point down, day after day.
He hit hardpan and the pipe hardly seemed to move for hours.
It was a lucky effort, though;
He tapped into a subterranean lake.
During the 30's drought, we watered everyone's stock
from a dug well in the same aquifer.
D'you remember the windmill?
It was still up when you were growing up.
Your Uncle Jim finally replaced it with an electric pump.
Climbing 30 feet to grease the axle of a windmill
Is a pastoral & picturesque pain-in-the-ass, isn't it Jim?"
"Yeah, but, you know, looking out the window now,
I'm kind of sorry we had to take down the old windmill.
It's like when we finally tore down the old house:
The neighbors brought their tractors, came to help.
There must have been three-, three-hundred-fifty horsepower there that day.
We wrapped the house with chains and tried to pull it down.
The chains broke.
With saws, we cut the house in half
and dragged it to the field to burn.
I guess I should have moved it to the woods
so the grandkids could see it
–it would have made quite a playhouse.
But a guy didn't think of those things then.

on Michael Pollan's
The Omnivore's Dilemma

The grasses feed the cattle.
Cow manure feeds the maggots.
The maggots feed the chickens.
Cow dung & chicken shit feed soil.
The soil feeds the grasses.
We thrive within the circle;
Birth & death entwined.

Oil feeds corn.
Corn feeds cattle & chickens & us.
The circle is broken.
There is only death.

Those three squirrels
systematically harvesting a mulberry tree,
checkered with black & red berries,
patient, intent, relentless,
yet always jumpy –cats need food, too–
remind me: I need to buy some new socks.
I wonder if squirrels get weary sometimes, too?

The wind scared my mother.
She grew up along the eastern coast of the United States.
Her stories about the 1936 & 1945 hurricanes were relaxed but,
When it was storming
she always tried so hard to be in another room
–or at least to comfort & reassure us
if we needed her to be there in that moment.
She didn't want to pass on her fear
of the air.
It didn't work.
So now, I'm above average scared of the weather
but below average scared of women.

I’m going to John Mitchell’s funeral Friday.
John Mitchell was a poet.
Poets like funerals.
They like the spectacle & array of origin, boundary & denouement;
They like the way death lights upon a moment & makes it real.
I feel like a bit of an opportunist –a ghoul–
inspired by his death to write a poem.
But then, all poems exploit death.
Death gives poems vigor & purpose.
So, as long as proper gratitude is expressed,
I guess it’s o.k.
Thank-you John.

My initial wife grew up on a farm
A few miles from Rochester, Minnesota;
A place with 10-foot snowdrifts & 30-foot topsoil;
The growing season there yields prolific, though conflicted, crops.
So I, an urban fool, made her a seed-starting bed:
2 x 4's, insulation board, & a heater cable from a catalog
(She always made time for gardening, even as she attended medical school.)
Well, that match didn't work out well (or perhaps it did.)
In any case, we parted & she left the seed-starter.
My final wife is urbane.
She appreciates horticulture;
But devotes all her time to playing Bach, singing Scarlatti,
And brushing her visions across a canvas.
In 20 years, she's never used the seed-starting bed.
So I finally decided to take it
--And a couple thousand pounds of project refuse from our basement & garage--
To the landfill.
It seemed a pity to toss this thing I'd made, unused;
So I decided to call Robin & Beth:
Robin, who makes furniture that 's elegant & pristine & perfect,
Even though he spends what any reasonable person would consider
All his time passionately teaching --inspiring-- college students;
Beth, who embraces the Earth on her farm,
Even though she spends full days preparing high school students
To face the likes of Robin.
They both have full-time lives teaching nascent people
How to think & behave;
But with an energy that seems exhausting to me,
They touch the Earth directly
Helping ewes yean & vegetables grow
On a little farmstead near Vasa, Minnesota;
Where the land isn't quite as fecund as in Rochester, but it's still good.
That longing for Earth's touch is mostly Beth's;
But Robin's longing for Beth makes the extra work mostly o.k., I guess;
But that's another poem entirely.
So I called Robin & Beth
To see if they'd like a seed-starting bed.
(My god, the heirloom tomatoes they give us each summer are almost erotic.)
I thought they might have some use for my simple incubator.
"It's made of 2 x 4's & insulation board."
"Oh." (His 'oh' was inflected by a deep familiarity with me.
I like to make rude structures from dimension lumber & industrial hardware;
He crafts exquisite lampshades from mahogany, stained glass, & copper foil.)
"Here, talk to Beth."
Beth told me how a seed-starter heats the bed to 60 degrees;
And how they keep their basement well above that
To accommodate Robin's fingers when he's crafting wood.
Beth told me --with Southern manners & Cosalish sensibilities
(She grew up in the Carolinas and grew some more on Vancouver Island as an adult.)
She told me --after thanking me for my gesture, for my offering, for my consideration--
She told me "No."
(I think I heard a breath of relief in the background.)
I've kept this thing I've made --unused-- for almost 30 years.
It's always seemed --perversely, I suppose--
Like I should save things I've made,
However useless they are.
Well, finally, I've thrown it out.
Though I did remove the store-bought heating cable first.
I thought I could make something with it eventually.
I hate to throw out a perfectly good heating cable.

chicken breasts…
Stilton & Cheddar & Havarti & Leerdammer &…
oh yeah, Feta…
red cabbage & romaine & apples…
uh… salami… and there was one other thing…
what was it?
a- b- c- d- e- f- g- …
garlic. that’s right.
I wonder why I seem better able to remember things alphabetically?
are recollections keyed like a database?
I doubt it.
I think we make computers analogous to us; but not like us.
each breath compares to the wind;
but pressure from a muscle diaphragm
is nothing like the pressure from the sun.
we’re of the Earth; but we're not like the Earth.
memory might be the center of all this.
perhaps it is the only thing there ever is.
every 'thing' else really is a motion:
activity & relationship.
remembering love is about loving;
but it isn't love.
allusive recollections
–what's connected to what–
–who did what when–
–and always, of course, why–
can be satisfying, satiating, terrifying, entertaining,
or just something to do;
but a gesture
and then a response
is a creation beyond anything I can possibly remember.
a reason to live.
living is mostly remembering.
now, what was the other thing
we wanted to eat for dinner tonight?
oh, that's right.

What things are there that I share with everyone?
We all know blood, warm flesh & faces; longing, fear
(for none would live too long if they were satisfied;
we need a present hunger, always there.)
But what –beyond urge– can be recognized?
I think I know a kind of place where you've been, too:

In my grandmother's upstairs hallway,
The door
leading from one bedroom
(the one with twin beds painted with turquoise enamel)
to one of its porches
is open.
It smells like the tide is out
(unsubmerged clam holes vent growth & decay.)
The music box downstairs
with pinned, brass reels bigger than my forearm
is playing a bit of a Chopin waltz
over & again
but is always missing the same, few notes
where the salt air has green-rusted away some of the pins.
There's a scattering of sand on the hardwood floors
along the edge of the runner running the length of the hallway.
From where I stand, I can see the outside spigot
for washing off our feet after a swim;
But my brother & sister & especially me (because I'm the youngest)
often forget to rinse off our feet
before tromping through the house to change clothes in our bedrooms upstairs.
The sand scrapes between my toes;
the air tastes moist & salty.
No fabric in the house
–towels, bedsheets, curtains, rugs–
is ever quite dry in the summer.

Every time I smell mildew
I return to that eidetic place –shared place– for a moment.

"This damn light is always red for…"
{oh fuck! no! no! turn! no!}
{it is like slow motion... he's lilting over the handlebars... oof, that bounce off the hood hurt like hell... I wonder if he'll die? shit... over the roof... and she's sliding under the wheels... no? good. she missed.}
"my god."
{light 's green. should I pull over? i don't want to –i know it's not my blood or my pain but blehishugheewblah!– but should i? i don't have a cell; i suppose i could...wait...five cars have already pulled over... three people are calling for help... i'd just be in the way... good –or not, i guess. today, i'd rather be lucky than good}
"Oh good. I'll be on time."
{as if that mattered a shit.}

"Could I have the first slide, please?"
{let's see, it's four o'clock. if I can finish by five, with 20 or 30 minutes of questions –as long as there are no assholes in the crowd…}
"The first slide, please?"
{...i should be able to get out of here by quarter of six…}
"What? Deleted? o.k."
"Forgive me. I'll just hook-up my Mac. It won't take a second."
{which is going to seen like three hours to me and everyone in the audience.}
{the concert is at eight. it's fifteen minutes from here –i can make it in ten.}
{stupid assholes. they knew which slides I needed yesterday.}
"The handout you received at the door…
{oh please don't be temperamental & make me look like a fumbling jackass}
"...outlines the essential point's I'll cover today..."
{ 'outlines the essential point's' ?! as opposed to what, idiot? 'meanders about the trivial gossip i'll spew forth'? just shut up & connect the machines.}
{oh no. rustling papers. they're bored already. god, i hate machines. no, no you don't. you love them. shut up. focus. where 's the damn plug? ah here.}
"There. Good. Today, I'd like to talk about time. But not the time of Einstein or Planck or Heisenberg, but the time of Wallace Stevens and, in spite of what some –Stu Hameroff, a few others– would like to believe, they're not the same, they'll never be the same, they can't be the same."

My white, feral kitten-cat with a black mask
–Pagliacci, Bozo, Peter Criss–
comes closer when I call-out "Bandit!"
Smart cat.
She knows I've brought food.
It's a good reason to like someone.
Ah, but today, her first sight of a scarlet cardinal
has distracted her. She ignores me & calmly rivets
her gaze upon him: fascinated, dangerous, splendid.

"I am dead."
English verbs can't really ever get it quite right.
I might be overweight –or skinny;
I might be brilliant –or stupid;
I might be writing or walking or eating or dreaming or fucking or just thinking;
I certainly am alive;
But in spite of the evolutionary directive/imperative
to consciously & unconsciously,
to completely & obsessively,
to primally & primarily
avoid death
as if it were a thing or a place,
I can't.
And when I don't
–as, of course, we all won't–
I won't be dead.
I just won't be.
Un-be? Dis-be?
I don't know what the emotional solution might be.
Maybe ignorance.
Maybe lies.
Any solution –thanks to evolution– will always be a little uncomfortable
for the living (As opposed to whom?
There's the language problem again.)
Perhaps the only linguistic solution is a poem within a poem:

I like to sit in a lawn chair
Watching the feral cats in my back yard
As they like to sit –even in the snow, sometimes– and watch me
Until some outside thing ends the moment
And one of us leaves.

At Mealtime

"I’m worried about Hillary."
"She’ll be alright, Mommy."
"Were you going to eat all that tunafish, Bandit?"
"You've got a pile in front of you Cassius."
"She's six months old now..."
"What's that?!"
"oh, I guess it's nothing. Just one of them emptying their trash."
"...munch, munch, munch..."
"...munch, munch, munch..."
"...munch, munch, munch..."
"...munch, munch, munch..."
" I was saying, she's six months old now..."
" Did you want all that Salmon Feast, Pretty?"
"No, I suppose not. Go ahead."
"Leave her alone, Cassius. You haven't even finished the Seafood Supper in front of you."
"It's o.k. Mommy. I'll eat when he's done."
"Good kitties."
"Why does he keep saying that?"
"I don't know. They're not very bright. Why would he keep observing 'kitty, kitty, kitty' each time he sees us? Like it's a new discovery each time."
"It's true. But he does bring food. So why are you worried about Hillary?"
"It's Tommy."
"Oh. Well, yeah. He tried to hump me yesterday. His left ear will match his right one if he tries that again too soon."
"But Hillary is so little; so delicate."
"She's tougher than you think, Mommy."
"(Sniff, sniff) Why does he keep bringing us fish. I don't like fish. I like turkey."
"You should just be glad he brings us food."

At a Mailing House:

"What's this? A thousand letters of apology for sending out premature late notices?"
"But from a collection agency?!"
"Oh...I guess those must be good bad-debtors..."
"...As opposed to bad bad-debtors?"
"Kind of like someone who beats their children, but says they're sorry afterwards."
"Like my father."
" ."
" ."
"Sorry, I forgot."
"It's o.k. I'm used to it."

That reflection
of a bridge in still water
is also a bridge
made from the same trusses & deck
I can only imagine.

As she deftly flicked the bits of shell and membrane
onto the crinkled sheet of foil she'd neatly flattened
after eating the tuna salad sandwich it held,
she glanced up at the clock –four minutes left–
and decided to save the hard boiled egg
for her last break.
Though it pleased her not at all,
she'd grown used to the inane blare of All My Children's
mysterious strangers, miraculous cures & evil avatars.
It made it harder to chat, but
she now preferred the aggressive silence the television enforced
before she had to return to man the folder for a few more hours.
She'd heard, at full speed, it generated 90 decibels or more.
She was used to that too, now.
Besides, what was there to talk about?
The weather,
the (new, old, lacking, promised, eliminated) employee incentive plan,
kids & pets,
foot-base-basketball scores,
"Glad it's Friday." "Yeah."
"It's Monday." "Yeah."
As she deftly burst & jogged the reams of paper, fed the folder,
then packed the tri-fold leaflets in cross-stacked, twenty-five page lifts,
she glanced up at the clock –two hours left–
and decided to save the next job
for tomorrow.

I’m listening to Mahler’s 5th Symphony today
because it was my mother’s favorite Mahler symphony
and because we might take our 21-year-old cat to be euthanized tomorrow.
As Louise & I discuss Bear the Cat’s dying
(She can’t stand now.
She doesn’t sleep curled like a cat anymore;
she sleeps –or just rests & stares across the floor–
sprawled, full length,
like a dying animal.)
we keep trying to decide what is humane, what is kind, what is good
–what we want.
Louise says she’d really like Bear to revive.
Mahler said “Nobody understood it.”
“I wish I could conduct the first performance fifty years after my death.”
Our friend Beth said “You have to decide how much is comfortable for you.”
“Either way, at the end, she’ll stop breathing and that will be uncomfortable for her…”
“…it just might not last quite as long at the veterinarian.”
My mother had a pretty good run; almost 80 years.
She never wanted to linger at the end & she didn’t.
She told my sister “I just don’t want to lose my mind.”
We just wanted her to be the same as she was before.
Bear doesn’t seem to be uncomfortable;
So Louise decided to let her decide
when she would die.

It was a good death.
We’ve spent the last few days taking turns
(though Louise was really the devoted one & I helped a little)
trying to make her comfortable.
She couldn’t really stand or even move much any more
so we rolled her over, side to side,
when she tensed up or looked pained.
Every few moments or hours she tried to get up
but her worn and withered, old muscles
just couldn’t raise her.
So we’d caress her, hold her, calm her back down.
She hasn’t eaten anything or drank much for three days.
Wednesday, Louise said she thought we were at an end.
She lasted four more days.
She had a strong heart.
Finally, today, she just laid quietly with a quiet look on her face.
Louise called to me from beside her:
“It’s happening now.”
We both held her.
Her breathing slowed.
Her legs twitched & seized a bit.
She shivered, gasped a little,
then she relaxed & withdrew.
She’s gone now. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

After Leonardo

photo by Nathan 
of a painting by Louise 
after a painting by Leonardo
& a moth

Louise, last week at work a six-inch moth
Lit on the gray, block wall next to my bench.
It's northwoods not rainforest here; and so
I was surprised  –that this exotic thing
With wings of indigo, gold, brown, black, rose,
Was here at all and, further, here it chose
To light beside me on a warehouse wall–
Until I realized the palette of each wing
Matched hue for hue the nearby painting you had shaped
(Displaced here, too: on stark concrete, lush oils and cloth.)
I tried to catch it so that I could show
You what your art had drawn; but it escaped.
Today, I couldn't have imagined what I'd find:
The moth returned –and died– by beauty of its kind.