We sing Happy Birthday, A gay grid of celebrants, in a non-traditional party, All five participating squares bathed in screen light. Quick to smile, slow to mourn this unknown country. We clap ourselves on the back, no clue where this is going Or when we might return. Time's cycles extinguish candles burning bright. Wax drips fluttering Quite like a guttering flame: always shifting. We might gather in person soon, Seduced by the promise of a wild celebration. But not today. Quiet when it's over, worrying. Waiting, our grand hopes scattered, eyeing the horizon, Watching in darkness for an illusive dawn.
My ninety-year-old mother is getting stir crazy. She says to me:
- I’m too old to be alive.
- You’re too ornery for heaven and the devil knows you’d raise hell.
She laughs. She roars. She can’t stop.
- My mother said the good die young, the rest are too ornery.
That’s my grandmother, who was herself pretty ornery and died at a ripe old eighty-seven. Ornerier than Mom.
Ornery, it’s a good word. A word for times like this when the world is upside down. Time to get stubborn. Find some beans, seeds and flour. Happy for a quinoa stash.
Z.Z. had a sixth sense. A magician, he bungled through many close curtain calls. On a rainy Seattle night, Interpol surrounded the stage where Z.Z. was performing. Once again, he disappeared.
The trickster took a cab to the train station. He caught an express to Canada. Amelia, fetching in black lace, bewitched him in the dining car. Upon arrival, they checked into a Vancouver motel.
Within days, she’d talked him out of his fingerprints, tax returns, and aliases. “Can’t be too careful with magicians,” she said running her finger along his spine. Ten minutes later, the Mounties got their man.
Bert’s Berth, in Sleepy Hollow, is where Ichabod Crane bunks between late night rides. It’s quiet, since Bert’s doesn’t have much in the way of a lunch crowd. Around three in the afternoon, the pub scene starts. There’s beer, stout and ale on tap. Twenty four different kinds of quench, all told. Half are bottled and a third are obscure. Ichabod takes dinner in his room. At ten pm, he slips out. He stops in for a hot toddy around four am. It’s a small group by then. Most of the guys are off their heads. Ichabod fits right in.
Beats and Barts are both slangy guys. Beats hang in coffee houses reading obscure poems. They wear black jeans, and turtlenecks, and maybe berets.
Barts are regular Joes. Not the coffee kind of joe. They dress casual, cool, and colorful. They’re likely to play pick-up basketball and treat everyone to ice cream afterwards.
How can these two men intersect? They’re father and son. Or a woman is involved, one who time travels from the fifties to now. A feminist before feminism found itself. Imagine, she realizes that her poet isn’t woke. She walks into another dimension. There’s conflict either way.
Word Ladder, Death and Taxes, will continue next week.
We left Paris on Easter of 2015, after ten days of being tourists. Though we hadn’t intended to, we witnessed the veneration of relics from the passion of Christ ̶ the crown of thorns, a piece of wood and a nail from the cross ̶ at Notre Dame Cathedral. This is how that happened. My husband and I were standing in an apse, whispering about how difficult it would be for photo recognition software to distinguish between the apostles pictured in the stained glass ̶ their faces are virtually the same ̶ when a deacon indicated we should move and shushed us with a finger to the lip. A little puzzled, we complied. Looking around, we saw a procession moving along the aisle. A priest (most likely the bishop) held aloft a reliquary containing the glinting gold crown. Assistants on either side held the other relics. For about twenty minutes, they moved slowly through the church as people crossed themselves and bowed their heads.
It is this scene that came to mind when I heard on the radio a few days ago that Notre Dame was burning. My first thought was to hope that it was not the result of a terrorist attack. Following the story in the news during the next few days, I was relieved to hear that the fire was accidental. As information has come in, it seems that someone miscalculated. Things got out of control. Often they do. This might be true for political conflagrations as well. If so, let’s hope that we can get those under control and that a respect for the accomplishments of the past can rescue the future. Notre Dame has been rescued and rebuilt several times.
The Easter Week commemorations for Good Friday and Holy Saturday will be held at Sainte Sulpice and Easter Mass will be celebrated at Sainte Eustache. Sunday organ concerts are held each week at Sainte Sulpice, though I’ve never been. The organ at Sainte Eustache is is quite powerful. I’ve heard it. The seating is spartan, consisting of folding chairs. But this is true of most churches we visited in Paris.
The organ at Notre Dame was spared from fire by a stone roof. When we were there in 2015, a sign was posted on a collection box requesting donations to make a few repairs to that organ. Perhaps now that people have opened their pocketbooks to rebuild the cathedral, the organ can be restored completely. This is how things progress, in fits and starts, forwards and backwards, with a crisis often required to concentrate the mind.
The Queen of Hearts did heat some tarts. Baked them in an oven, ten minutes at four hundred then three hundred fifty until brown and bubbly. It was an old family recipe passed down from Aunt Alice before she died and after all was forgiven.
The young Red Queen did vary the ingredients using, for instance, flamingo and mushrooms. That one pinked up nicely, the juices oozing from the vents. Red also made a nutter pie, chock full of died in the wool ideologues. The Cheshire Cat always attended the tea, accompanied by the Mad Hatter. They never grow old.
A heath hike is full of surprises for the observant. Quiet! Do you hear a tittering in the bush there. It’s noisy under that blanket. Don’t be so nosy. Maybe it’s children or birds, in heather or tare, not secretive lovers panting. Imagine hide and seek games or the rattle of empty seeds. Take a minute away from the world. Avert your eyes. Give them some privacy. It’s no more than you’d want on a cool spring day in the middle of April, after the lambs are shorn and before the wool is knit into sweater gifts for the holidays.
The whole thing started when Joe decided to do his taxes. He got himself a mug of coffee and poured in a little Irish whiskey left from St Patrick’s Day. Stirring in sugar, he took a sip and decided it was just the thing for an afternoon of crunching the numbers. He whipped up cream and spooned it on top. Carrying it into his study, he sat in front of the computer and opened his tax software. Three hours later, he was finished. He had a heart attack when he saw the bottom line. His wife blamed the whipped cream.
There’s a buzz in Bezerkeley. Just a fly. Not a contact high. Swatting the pest, I cross campus. The fly follows me.
I took a shower. I say it out loud. That gets a few looks.
Embarrassed, I wave it away with my copy of The Daily. Sprinting through Sather Gate, breathing hard, I slow. Gliding ahead of me across a wide swath of grass, an owl skims the air just inches above my head. The fly tumbles in the jet stream of the bird’s wings.
Psst, a pesky whisper. It’s back. A streak of grey, a flycatcher. No more fly.