Friday, March 1, 2019

A Book Arrives, on Sylvia and Frida, Savage Gods as Winter Mysteries Descend

Three men talking passionately about planned parenthood & access,
noted Emily. 

Riot Girrrrl,  Sylvia,  Caroline,  Frida,  Trotsky, and Frida's azul casa. 

Three men talking passionately about planned parenthood & access,
that was the caption for the snapshot by  Emily.

There were two Emilies in the room.
Austin had had us over for Chili.

JC and Josh were there.
So were countless other scruffy renegade cyclists.

Peter and I talked about Barbara,
Who just about died on her bike.

I’d been riding all day,
To and from union meetings, from Brooklyn to Wall Street, across the  Brooklyn Bridge, by Trinity  Church, where we voted on a resolution about climate change from the international committee, and  back, up Flushing to Williamsburg,
Taking  in the Graffiti as I rode.

I love that graffiti.
Who doesn’t love graffiti?

Talking  at Chili night.

I have Sylvia Plath’s therapists number.

She compared me to  Sylvia Plath.

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want.” Sylvia wrote in her journal.

We all  have that feeling. 
God knows  I have  it. 

I have grudges against Sylvia Plath also said Emily to Emily.

They gave their respective accounts.   

I tried to listen.

But the stories drifted away.

Watching them fly away,
I tried to grasp for them. 

But they eluded me. 

You have to write those stories down.
I implored  them.

But the stories were gone.

We all wrote postcards.

“I was told that its too hard not to take advantage of privileges one has.

But why not?

If I  can get it why shouldn’t I?

You understand?”

I don’t understand. 

But maybe I do.

She was right.
And I shouldn’t gossip.
But I do.

Don’t write it all down.

Maybe Sylvia was  right.

Maybe she saw it coming 
consumed by her dance.

She invited Alvarez over after she
Let go of  Ted.   
Reading poems and  drinking.

“Dying is an art.
Like everything else,
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I have a call.”

Penned Sylvia in Ariel.

It was the  last time Alvarez saw her. 

The Savage God arrived at my door.

Did you order this?
I asked Caroline.

I didn’t order it.

Maybe it was Emily or Caroline?

Not me said Emily. 

Mama wrote her memoirs.

Will and I read them on  Sunday.

The little one and I
Walked to the Museum, through Central Park,
Through history,
Back to Princeton
Back to Brooklyn.
You’ve been at all the  marches in the show.

It was Friday, March 1, 2019 but I was still worried about
What  happened Thursday night at Chili.

Take this copy of the Dispossessed.

Ursula Le Guin's anarchist sci-fi classic,
Noted Austin on his way to Houston,
Offering me a beaten up copy.
I pick one up every time I am at a bookstore,
said Austin as I was leaving.
I looked at the words in the book in  high school. 
Reading it wasn’t really what the experience could be described as.
Back home,
I read the first few pages. 
They seemed like the Berlin wall or the wall the US is convulsing around.
No one wants another  brick in this wall.
Most do not seem to want it.
Ursula wrote:
 “There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.
Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.
Looked at from one side, the wall enclosed a barren sixty-acre field called the Port of Anarres. On the field there were a couple of large gantry cranes, a rocket pad, three warehouses, a truck garage, and a dormitory. The dormitory looked durable, grimy, and mournful; it had no gardens, no children; plainly nobody lived there or was even meant to stay there long. It was in fact a quarantine. The wall shut in not only the landing field but also the ships that came down out of space, and the men that came on the ships, and the worlds they came from, and the rest of the universe. It enclosed the universe, leaving Anarres outside, free.
Looked at from the other side, the wall enclosed Anarres: the whole planet was inside it, a great prison camp, cut off from other worlds and other men, in quarantine.
A number of people were coming along the road towards the landing field, or standing around where the road cut through the wall.”
She was right.
“Like all walls it was ambiguous… a quarantine.”
All week I couldn’t stop thinking of Sylvia.

She’s on our “in our free will astrology horoscope this week”
Wrote Emily on FB, denying culpability with the Savage God.

She didn’t know who sent me the book.

A man walked right at me on the way to Brooklyn Museum.

A stranger mumbling to himself.

I never know if  people are talking to themselves or to me,
or  their phones.

I think he was talking to you, noted Will.

Inside we explored the Americas,
The history we are forgetting, erasing, those secret histories Frida wanted to remember.

Mayan  technologies can teach us, if we open ourselves to them.

If we look beyond the walls.

“I don't paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality.”
Frida Kahlo
All  week  I prepared for my sex class,  thinking about Gayle Rubin
Who recalled wandering through the stacks at library in Michigan,
Chasing Lesbian writers through time,
 a journey that took her from the Midwest to San Francisco,
to the Cemeteries of Paris, 
after  Djuna Barnes and the Nightwood, excavating  secret histories,
lost  life histories.
“…there could be seen coming, early in her life, the design that was to be the weather-beaten grain of her face, that wood in the work; the tree coming forward in her, an undocumented record of time…”

Walking through the museum  and its cross pollinating ideas, I asked Sophia what  she  thought of Frida.
“I adore her, “ she  replied. 
On Tuesday, Daman recalled his struggle with  his own  sexuality.
The  conversation continued over drinks at  Bijans.
Dancing with Thanatos.

Trotsky and Diego  and Frida crossed all those lines.

Richard Cavendish explained:
“After Lenin died in 1924 Trotsky was gradually removed from all positions of influence. He was kept under surveillance, his phone was tapped and there were mysterious attempts to kill him. In 1926 he was dropped from the Politburo and in 1927 he and his supporters were expelled from the Communist Party. In January 1928 he was exiled to Alma-Ata in Kazakhstan with his wife Natalya Sedova and their son Lev. From there he wrote fierce criticisms of Stalin and blistering attacks on opponents of Stalin and Stalinism in the party who had made their peace with the regime.
In February 1929, accused of counter-revolutionary activity, Trotsky was banished from the Soviet Union…”
Walking through the Frida show we imagined those conversations between  Frida and Trotsky in Mexico,
Truth,  beauty, justice,  love, betrayal.

“I love you more than my own skin and even though you don’t love me the same way, you love me anyways, don’t you? And if you don’t, I’ll always have the hope that you do, and I’m satisfied with that. Love me a little. I adore you.”
― Frida Kahlo

Richard Cavendish explained:

“In December that year the Mexican government offered Trotsky refuge and protection, which he gratefully accepted. He and Natalya sailed from Norway aboard an oil tanker and arrived in Mexico in January 1937.
The Trotskys lived in the Coyoacan area of Mexico City as guests at the Blue House, the home of the painters Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo. They were both cheerfully promiscuous and Frida took Trotsky to bed, to Natalya’s dismay. Trotsky depended for money on his publications, help from supporters and the fees he charged for interviews and for holding seminars for students. By May 1939 Trotsky and Rivera had had enough of each other and Trotsky and Natalya moved to a house close by on Avenida Viena. The years of exile, danger and uncertainty had weighed Trotsky down. Ill with high blood pressure and thinking about suicide, he looked back over his life. If he had it to live over again, he wrote, he would pursue the same course: ‘I shall die a proletarian revolutionist, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist and, consequently, an irreconcilable atheist.’
In May 1940 an attempt to kill Trotsky by Soviet agents armed with machine guns failed, but on August 20th a charming Spanish Communist and Soviet secret agent calling himself Ramon Mercader, who had managed to infiltrate the household through a love affair with one of Trotsky’s secretaries, took the opportunity to stab Trotsky in the head with a mountaineer’s ice-axe. Trotsky was mortally wounded and died in hospital the next day. He was 60 years old.”
Frida kept on  painting.

“I paint flowers so they will not die.”
Frida Kahlo

So Trotsky won’t die.

Will and Sophia were on  their way back  to Stockholm.
Its good to meditate, to daydream, he confessed, still sick.
Homesick all these years.

“Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.”
Frida Kahlo

I went  home and wrote and thought about Frida and her broken torso,
Feeling all the pain of the world and drawing it on her cast.
Her colorful dresses and the Azul Casa.

Opened up the Savage God, its sender still a mystery. 

How did she sense what I had been sensing?

 Sylvia confessed:

“…why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited...”

You’re not limited Sylvia!!!
Don’t go.
What did her kids think?
How can I live like Frida lived, in  my casa amarilla,
  taking on a tone of azul?

How can I write like Sylvia, dancing with the sublime,
One foot here on earth, another elsewhere, dancing with Yeats, in whose apartment she dwelled,
With Blake.

All week,  I read bits and pieces of  Alvarez’ memoir/study of suicide:

“The opening is a rather harrowing account of the last days of Sylvia Plath,” writes David Bingham.
“Alvarez knew both the American poet and her husband Ted Hughes and  last saw Sylvia alive on Christmas eve 1962. The events of that night are mired in controversy as Alvarez’s obvious feelings of guilt and vague explanation  of “responsibilities I didn’t want” in relation  to Plath  have led to speculation that he either rejected sexual advances from her or accepted them – either way he is seen as being in some way implicated in her death.  Ted Hughes was furious that Alvarez published details of Plath’s suicide but ultimately his account of her suicide, fascinating as it is, answers none of the questions that have been endlessly raked over since her death.”

None of us really know how much we should say in such moments, as fiction/memoir blur
Fred / Wilma.
Gender and literary binaries,
Declining in significance.

“I knew I had let her down and I knew she knew.  I never again saw her alive,” confessed Alvarez. 

It was  that kind of a week, as the little one and I read Mama’s memoir, Will and Sophia made their way back to Stockholm, Frida’s clothes hung at the Brooklyn Museum, and we wondered what happened to Sylvia?
Christine W. Thorpe

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