cafenowhere: teacup brimming with mysterious violet liquid (psychedelic tea)
Poetry Notes for "Aboard the Transport Tesoro"

In November, my poem "Aboard the Transport Tesoro" appeared in Issue 7 of Uncanny Magazine. Now it's available to read for free online or listen to in a podcast.

The idea for the poem came to me on one of the many nights I lay awake in bed, in pain. I'd tried ignoring it, then meditating through it. I'd taken various medicines. I had my heating pad. I'd tried stretching out, scrunching up, lying on my back, belly, side. Nothing helped. To think of something other than hurting, I racked my brain trying to figure out what I could've done that day to trigger the pain. Nothing stood out. Eventually, I started to wonder what I had done, ever, in my life, to bring on this pain. Had emotion metastasized into physical ailment? Had I committed some sin or transgression? Was I being punished?

Pain makes me weird and illogical. (Or maybe that's my Catholic upbringing?)

These addled thoughts intersected with a conversation I'd seen on Twitter, about the difficulty of venerating elders (or ancestor worship) when your family is problematic. How do you overcome (or maybe just put aside) a history of conflict, or even abuse, for a continued relationship with the deceased? Can you ever trust them, let alone honor or respect them?

I wondered which of my ancestors might be inducing my suffering, and what they were trying to convey through the punishment. Only my grandmother seemed vindictive enough, but what had I done to piss her off this time? She held a grudge like a tick with lockjaw, so I supposed it could've been something I'd done in the past. But surely she knew my heart had changed over the years. I actually felt closer and more sympathetic to her than ever before. Maybe she was only acting out? Maybe she was hurting too?

And if I was so adrift, I wondered, how much more complicated could ancestor worship get in the future? With life-extending medicines and procedures, we might know our great-greats much more intimately, for better or worse. I imagined what it'd be like to have a wonderful, nurturing relationship with a great-great, and what I'd be willing to do for her when she finally passed.

Though I was still in excruciating pain, the poem came together very quickly after that. I got out of bed and wrote it down. I don't know how long it was before the pain subsided enough that I could sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I moved a couple of lines and typed it up, and it was done.

I don't see anything romantic about pain or suffering. If it were up to me, I'd have slept pain-free and never written the poem. But I do feel a grudging awe for the alchemy of poetry, which can take something as stupid and pointless as my pain and transfigure a bit of it. From lead to gold seems too self-congratulatory. So...shit to Shinola, maybe.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hangover)
I did not bring up the children's religious dispute with the other mother--although there was an awkward moment when she asked if we were doing anything special for Easter. "J & I are going to a Murder by Death concert," I said. Then felt obligated to explain that Murder by Death was not a heavy metal group (which was weird, since I listen to heavy metal too and see no problem with that) and that Tweetie would miss school on Friday and we'd all get a long weekend.

Um. Yeah.

Anyway, the kids played together after school and got along fine, as usual. Meanwhile, the mother and I talked about my dye job. Then in the evening, Tweetie told me she'd broached the Hell topic with her friend earlier in the day. I was astonished. I thought I'd steered her in the direction of genial avoidance. But no, she asked her friend to explain what she'd meant about her dire warning, and her friend said she'd talked to her mom and her mom said that that was not how it worked after all, and then Tweetie shared *her* family's beliefs.

Um.

"What did you say?" I asked, slightly terrified.

"I told her about the candle thing." 

Okay... That morning I'd told her that J & I believe human lives are like candle flames, and once they're out, they're out. The lingering smoke is the memories and good you leave behind, and the more you contributed to the world, the longer that smoke lasts. I don't know how well that translated in the lunchroom or playground or wherever our kids are having their philosophical inquiries, but I don't suppose this is the worst metaphor we could have representing us. I'm glad I didn't talk about decomposition. Especially since about a week ago, Tweetie and friend were imagining ghosts populating the playground, and I said, "Well, the dead do outnumber the living," which seemed to startle the other mother. (They DO!)

So I praised Tweetie for discussing a sensitive topic so well and told her many adults could not have had that discussion without getting upset or hurting someone's feelings. I told her I was proud of her and her friend. 

And then I had a Kraken Rum & Coke. Whoo doggy!




"On a bender," said the Angel of the Lord.

~~
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (saint dean)
This morning Tweetie told me, tearing up, that one of her best friends at school had said that people who didn't believe in God went to Hell. (Note to new friends: spouse and I are atheists, and we're raising Tweetie to be a tolerant skeptic.)

Initially, Tweetie thought her friend was kidding, but she'd come to realize the girl was serious. She said she didn't know if she could be friends much longer with someone who talked like that. We worked through her hurt and I pointed out that these discussions don't and shouldn't come up often at her (public) school, and that people's beliefs change over time, etc. I think Tweetie's okay now and knows how to change the subject when necessary.

My question is, Am I done? Should I speak to the other child's mother? We get along well, and I think the mom would be dismayed that her child had caused anyone any hurt. Or do I let it go? In the grand scheme of things, I don't know that this incident matters much, and Tweetie's going to have to get used to having a nonconformist family. I mean, I have pink hair right now.

My instinct is to let it go. But I'd like to hear all ideas.

Thanks!

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