For Mom

For Mom

Suting

I promise to try and not let the loss of you heavy my steps. Instead, I will find freedom in your freedom. I miss you. You are near me now, but so fast disappearing. You are the glimmer of white in the distance, the sweetness of the ache in my chest. I love you. Pale blossom: your fragrance is sweet even as it leaves me, like a vanishing trace of angels. I thank you for my life itself.

—March 23, 2013

 

This was for Mom. I wrote it last year, but I never posted it here. Today, it seemed appropriate.

When It’s Spring and the Ground is Stirring

When It’s Spring and the Ground is Stirring

I remember living sometimes, when it’s spring and the ground is stirring. I remember people—their footsteps hard against the packed earth. I remember mornings of flower blossoms and seeing girls out in their summer clothes, just slightly too soon. This is life: a fleeting progression from youth to age, just slightly too soon. It’s all we have. And yet, and yet…

It’s not that I wish for more. I abhor the slow track. Spring is the dying time in my mind. It is the heartbreaking loneliness. It is the bitterness of retreat. But that’s not true: what I’m picturing is protracted winter, instead. Like the winters when my parents left me. The ones that meandered into April and then May. Continue reading

Legacy

Dad and me

I was, apparently, a hella out of it baby who slept lots.

Dad died three years ago, this morning. 6:47 am, to be exact. I was awake for it, by some betrayal of my body, staring at my phone as the minutes counted down. The battery died before I got there, cheating me out of the most self-indulgent memorial I can fathom (besides, of course, this). I remember the exact time because I can still hear the doctor’s voice pronouncing it; somewhere, it’s still echoing in my ears. And in that place there’s a pathetic fallacy: eternal late winter without the hope of spring.

But, here and now, I know tomorrow will be warm, at least.

Continue reading

Empire State

empire_state

midtown from downtown

I was out with my friend Frankie the other night. It was just the two of us after a show, which was itself after a party, so it was more-or-less the inevitable time just before you call it quits and find a cab home. We were at a bar. Some Williamsburg special with cut up playing cards festooning the tables. It wasn’t our first choice, but it was out of the cold and we could hear ourselves over the pulse of the jukebox.

“One day, I’m going to miss this,” Frankie told me. It was a thought that had come to him the night previous while walking home in Bayside, so late it was morning. It wasn’t, he explained, just a thought that struck him because he was walking home or because of the train ride before that (or the midnight movie before that); instead it was a strange awareness that passed over him, a pre-emptive nostalgia for being young and in New York. A knowledge that some day all of this will be over.

Continue reading

An Open Letter to Myself

I actually wrote this back in January, I’m pretty sure. But I needed a reminder today.

There is a morning to the way you think.  Even if it’s one that you’d rather not acknowledge for how exposed it looks at high noon.  The world is pitiless: full of sun and harsh against your eyes.

But there is no purpose to your misery.  Your misguided dislike of the universe in general seems justified at first, but then you remember that this is the universe where an old friend was stumbled into you on the train last night: literally falling into your subway car, fresh off the L.  You never knew that he was so close to you.  And his stumble will set off a whole new chain of events in your life.  Then those events will, in turn, branch out and bring to you yet more and more beginnings.    

This universe is the one where you found out that boy you’d written about for pages and pages actually knew your name, which is in itself an astonishing thing.  And in this society you live in, no matter how bad it gets, you at least are allowed a few years to accumulate debt. To get your bearings and think. So use this time, and sit in heated rooms in the winter, and roam the streets every summer, and think about music and sound and other miracles of human consciousness.  Do not be so preoccupied by living that you are unable to see life, for at any moment this could be taken from you, or the Milky Way itself could become lost and ourselves within it—just a speck in the great cosmic firmament.  You, girl, live in an age that is in between that past greatness and whatever it is to come.  There is no better time to be alive.

Hearth

I don't remember what this is called.

A work in progress: one of the last meals Mom ever made. I’d gotten…whatever this is because I thought it looked cool. She thought I was an idiot.

Mom never cooked with measuring cups, or really any tools that told her how much of anything she was using. And diligently, I’ve more or less inherited her style.

My brother-in-law took me grocery shopping on Saturday. We spent 200 USD and the fridge at this apartment was full for the first time I can remember. He seemed astounded by it all but, admittedly, it was at my instigation. This was the way I used to live: shopping happened every couple of weeks and it was for a family of five. A full house, if you will.

I guess I forget that now it’s just the three of us, and we’ve been eating most of our meals outside the home.

Which means I usually eat garbage. While it’s something you think you’re aware of, it struck home again that eating and eating well are such a privilege: food and time are both money.

But I’ve been fortunate enough to have the time lately, and, thanks to my sister’s job, have the purchasing power to buy soybean paste and fresh noodles, fruit and dark greens.

So I’ve been trying to remember what I know (knew?) about cooking. Like I said, I’ve inherited my mother’s style, but I can’t actually remember all that she taught me. And by that I don’t mean just her recipes or any specific dishes, but the things that I learned without her speaking: how her kitchen varied wildly from efficient to scatterbrained; how we used to eat burned meat because she was checking her email and not the stove.

I do wish I remembered more of her recipes. Not really the fancy stuff, but the simple things I sort of vaguely recall from when I was a kid and she’d make dinner for us after coming home from work. She never showed me these things really: there was always time. It wasn’t like either of us were going anywhere.

Strangely, even though I associate most of the cooking with Mom, I think my sister and I learned more specific things from Dad. Mom didn’t suffer fools in her kitchen, but Dad enjoyed teaching us: it meant he didn’t actually have to do any of the foot work. Instead, he could direct us around while we did all the chopping and stirring. That was probably actually the ideal food prep experience for him.

So it’s Dad I remember whenever I make fried rice, following his orders as he (figuratively) stands behind my shoulder and advises me on how much oyster sauce I should use. For Mom it’s more a measure of capturing her spirit. She was an infinitely pragmatic cook: always adapting to circumstance and incorporating new tricks. And even when she found a recipe, she never followed it exactly.

So I’ve been trying to find Mom while I have a fridge full of things to practice on and two or three other people who are forced to eat my results. So far, it’s going well. Most meals have been frankensteined from what I remember and a quick glance online to see what other people are doing. Using this method, I’m proud to report that I have not accidentally perpetrated a poisoning.

I’m sure, at least, that my parents would be proud of that much.

Time Travelers of the Abyss

If you were given the invention of time, then all the clocks would turn to lead and you’d seat yourself among the stars shining like so many atoms misfiring in the moment of creation. If you had the time there would be none. Because frankly the forward press of events frightens you. How much better to knot time into a net and catch moments like so many fishes—only to cast them back to sea. You’d leave yourself only the potential world which is ceaseless and unchanging, bending under the weight of moments that maybe were, but will never be.

You know time isn’t linear, anyway. It is but mostly linear. Things have a tendency to pile up in it: accumulating like so many obstacles at the end of the course. In the crystalline structure of the immaculate world, such things would not be allowed. But we are here: living in a world so stretched at the seams you can practically stick your finger through them. You can see the eyes beyond using them as peepholes: watching from fairer pasture, concerned with whether you’re rationing your moments efficiently.

Sometimes you wish they’d mind their own business.

Oh, but they are. And you are their business. And there’s no way to escape that when you’re only going one way. Clearly, your performance would be much improved with the addition of “reverse.” But that would write away the universe and the spaces and the pockets of it. So that wouldn’t work.

But they still can’t keep you from trying.