September 14, 2004

Memory Problems: A POEM

I may have posted this on the main bulletin boards, but if so, here tis again. If not, here it is for the first time. Enjoy, all you aging baby boomers!


1) Place your car keys in your right hand.
2) With your left hand, call a friend and confirm a lunch or dinner date.
3) Hang up the phone.
4) Now look for your car keys.
Steve Martin

It seems everyone my age is losing,
give or take five years, you name it:
track, keys, sight, hair, hearing,
or hard of it already
from concerts standing too close
to feel the boom bone-deep.
I am glad to report I am not
among the second wave
of deafened boomers
who died -- excuse me, *dyed*
the moussed grey that�s left
purple or pierced something painful
somewhere visible and appalling
just to re-enter dark dens of youth,
punk and grunge, Ecstasy and oblivion...

Frankly, oblivion�s lost all appeal.
And ecstasy too.
Most of us don�t want to be lost
in thought or space,
much less the sands of time.
Yet we�re losing the battle daily, god knows
I am, the frayed synapses sputtering,
guttering, leaving us in the know
for decades, in the dark fumbling
for the light-switch or just a candle
to hold to what we once were.
Today, for example, I �xeroxed� my coffee.

It�s supposed to be good
to know we�re not alone,
that some aging glitterary lights
are dimming too, stars whose names
I�ve plum forgotten, or others,
like John, the gland-dotted yellow flower
all the rage in boomer herbals,
herb for all that ails. Today I couldn�t find
that blankety blank St John-
something-or-other anywhere
to unstick it from my tongue�s
incipient Alzheimer�s.

But fearing Alzheimer�s
is the midlife crisis of baby boomers,
I'm told, so I�m not alone, which is
like saying the elegance of the company
on board a sinking Titanic
should reassure me. I went to �xerox�
my coffee the other day -- or did I
tell you that? What about lunch yesterday
and �those little round green things"
I've eaten for 49 years unworried,
never dreaming the day would come
I�d have to give �brussel sprouts�
a second thought?

Posted by pamwagg at 04:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 11, 2004

Against Love Poems

Let Love Turn its Cheek

Love is a stranger, a curse, a gift
I have not given or taken,
neither in drabs
nor in abundance,
demanding soft collapse of skin on skin
flesh quickened, anticipation
I cannot parse or feel
but as a worm writhing in palms
of human curiosity
the parching sunlit desert
that sucks and kills.

I feel bereft
not of love�s sheer
agony, leisures, pleasures, joy
but of the touch
of earth�s crumbling warmth
wormy between my fingers
the sweetness of gravid loam
buttered with seed,
hopeful root hairs rooting in darkness,
star-nosed moles blindly
snuffling out the delicacy
within each clod.

Love is, if only, a word
twisted, double-tongued,
bladed to cut more than it cleaves,
an avowal of falsity and pomp,
of circumstance always changing,
like lies, rotting fruit,
an overblown cabbage rose.

Send me instead friends
of the aspens� quaking-yellow patience,
spruces loyal-true,
a dark, moon-drowned sky
prickly with stars that neither love
nor claim to know my name.
That will do.
While the earth still slides around the sun
they will neither die for me,
nor remember me when I�m gone.

Let love turn a moldy cheek
and over in its grave.

Posted by pamwagg at 04:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 10, 2004


My twin sister converted to Catholicism just after we turned 50. We were raised Unitarian, so her change of heart shocked me, even though some years ago I�d been baptized by total immersion in the Baptist church and a year later switched to the nearby Episcopal church, where I was confirmed. As someone once remarked, I was climbing the liturgical ladder with each change of affiliation.

But this was different. No way could I go Catholic, or as Carolyn puts it, �all the way,� not in a million years.

Those are the facts. What follows is partly fiction, lies if you will, like Reagan�s that Iran-Contra never happened or President Clinton swearing he didn�t have an affair with �that woman.� But like a novelist, that most able of prevaricators, I lie in order to tell another truth.

The first truth is that Catholics scare me. I don�t mean child molesting priests or those nuns who rule by ruler, but ordinary Catholic church-goers. Their rituals scare me, too, how they finger beads and genuflect, or that mysterious cross they sketch across their chests. Maybe I just want them to be like me, someone who harbors the secret urge to stand behind a congregation and yell, �Fuck God!�

I want to bring them to their senses, but maybe, as Lynnie says, I simply don�t understand.

When Lynnie converted, though, I thought she�d lost her mind. I hoped she was just trying it on, like a new pair of earrings or blond hair. But no, there she was, suddenly a stranger. I hated the crucifix she displayed around her neck, the way she spoke so casually of attending the 5:00 pm "mass" on Saturday night and most of all her talk of Christ, instead of plain old Jesus, the �good man� we were taught about in Sunday school.

So what did I do? I gave her a Bible. I thought if she read St. Paul it would change her mind. Bring her back to a way of thinking I could understand. Instead, she read it, and then read it some more.

I hated her, finally. I stopped speaking to her and refused to take her phone calls. I avoided visiting our parents when I knew she�d be there. Mocking her to my agnostic friends, I called her new faith a cult. There was nothing she could do to please me. The problem was, I wanted my sister back, sane and reasonable, and the Catholics had stolen her, just as Gypsies were supposed to do to little children, in the dead of night. At Easter time two years ago, she went all the way without warning me.

I still haven�t quite adjusted. Oh, I listen patiently, and she does a tremendous job of explaining Christian, or Catholic, doctrine in a way I can both understand and appreciate, though I don�t know how truly doctrinaire it is, how orthodox. But her take on Mary and on the celibacy of priests and even of the continuation of a male-only clergy, makes a certain sense, even if fundamentally all these things horrify me.

But it has seemed to make her a better person, more patient, less materialistic (not that she was into things, particularly, before this) and kinder than she was, though she was already kind and empathic to a fault. It has also made her more self-aware, more self-critical and less willing to accept her faults and failings as simply �part of me and I can�t change it.� Of course, as her twin sister, I failed to see any faults to begin with, but she claims they do exist, in abundance.

But she is in some ways indeed a stranger. I can�t appreciate fully her devotion to the Church or her avid attendance either at mass or at more �extracurricular� church activities. It�s not that I�ve ever thought church should be restricted to a service on Sunday morning and a minor donation during the offering. But like George W. Bush�s poorly concealed efforts to join church and state by funding �faith-based� initiatives, I find Church-oriented pursuits suspect.

Just calling oneself and one�s behavior Christian, automatically, to my mind, makes one a hypocrite. For example, most of the so-called born-again Christians following the injunctions of "What Would Jesus Do?" claim to live by the slogan, cheap and facile as it is, yet don�t do anything of the sort: they are hateful and exclusive, self-righteous and self-congratulatory, eager to cast everyone who doesn�t believe exactly as they do and mouth it in precisely the same words into the outer darkness: �You�re not saved but I am, nyah, nyah, nyah!�

I believe there are truly Christian Christians, those who behave in ways that would make Jesus proud, and Lynnie may be one of them. I don�t know. I certainly support her efforts in that direction. But still, it sticks in my craw to acknowledge the words, �I am Christian,� coming out of her mouth. I find myself wanting to rejoin with all the sarcasm I can muster, �Sure, and Pope John Paul�s a Presbyterian.�

But in fact I'm mostly afraid, afraid I could go all the way too, afraid I could become a Catholic myself if ever she got her hands on me, got me where it hurts and hurts.

Posted by pamwagg at 12:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 08, 2004


Sorry I haven't written but have been too depressed then too sick with nausea, headache and vomiting to do much at all. I promise to resume as soon as I can, but for now know that I am well enough and NOT in the friggin' hospital (the way I was during other silences). 8^)

Posted by pamwagg at 08:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack