Pavement Dream

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The cashier in the grocery store knows
your secrets.
So does the young man who bags
your fruit, fish, shampoo,
Together in one thin plastic bag
Groaning towards the floor as you leave, hastily.

If you deserved better you’d have spoken,
you say to yourself.

Two bags please, or even three
Fish is a loner, shampoo will bruise
the tender fruit, the firm flesh.

As it was, you scurried off, head down,
and the parking lot was
reliably busy, and the thin bag
reliably broke,
sending all your contents hard
to the cold ground
for all to see.

Fruit, fish, shampoo.
How to balance all the needs,
all the needing
this
being human entails,
and, because neglect is what you
do to yourself,
the empty, broken bag on the pavement
whispers
How have you forgotten the hungry heart?
Yours, not his. Yours, not hers.

And you’re rushing to pick up your pieces,
fish leaking salty strong perfume,
fruit bruised and crying,
shampoo intact but—oh!—
The wrong kind,
And you’re talking back to the bag,
to the broken, to the hot concrete herself,
saying I cannot feed a hunger
that hasn’t been named,
and it’s a gaping hole, too big
too much, as too much as
I am not
enough, not enough,
never enough,

And the hot, hard ground pushes back
against your tired words,
hits hard with her gray gravelly truth,
yells in a way only Pavement can:
Hey! You tread on my back same
as the others, not heavier or light.
Claim the space you were born into,
use my hard to push
your soft onward, upward,
and, honestly
, she spits,

it only takes three minutes to go back and
hear your heart out in the aisles of the grocery store,
find what feeds her
in the eyes of a stranger, the words
on a cereal box, perhaps the colors
of that Alstromeira over in Floral,
the slowing of your own
footsteps, as you choose pause, and space.

Furthermore, Pavement emanates,
Pay your own way, not hers, not his,
Claim your own sovereignty, damnit,

And then:

Your secrets are not
Secret anymore, no more.

And

Notice in the light of day, Pavement says
(softening now),
scattered on the ground,
fruit, fish, shampoo,
here is space between them,
for love, for rest,
for flowers.

Here is space for more.
Use me, let me ground you.
Take up four f—ing parking spaces.
Says Pavement,

And you realize you never knew
The parking lot swore,

And then you wake
to the sting of your hot bare feet
shedding gravel between the sheets.

 

–Melinda Coppola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Write her

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Bink at the beach, watercolor by Melinda

THE WHY NOT THEN

When my daughter (alias Bink) was younger, sometimes friends or family would say,” Why don’t you write about her?” I was dismissive, back then. So many other people had done that—written articles, poems, a book about their child with autism– and done it well. I just didn’t think I’d have anything new to add. And – more truth to tell – I doubted my ability to do her, and my life with her, justice with my words. And then there was the SLEEP thing. (More about that later.)

Recently, the mental and emotional fog that seems to go with raising a child who has BIG needs, has begun to lift. In the semi-clarity I now sometimes enjoy, it has dawned on me that nobody else has a Bink. I am the one who is most privy to her Binkness, and the world just shouldn’t be deprived of the richness of knowing more of her.

So I have written some poems about life with Bink, and an article or two. There will be blog posts, and, Spirit willing, a book someday. I figure I owe it to the world to make her known, autisms and all.

ABOUT THAT SLEEP THING:

In those early years, ( say, the first twelve or thirteen in Bink’s life) I was weary. That’s putting it politely. Fact is, I was often just barely making it through the days. Generally Bink would go to bed at 8pm, which she called “Owl” and fall asleep within an hour. Often, though, she would wake at midnight, or 1 or 2 am, and be up and wired for the rest of the night and the whole next day. I was flying solo by the time she was six, and it would be years before Superguy landed in our lives. I was exhausted so much of the time. I remember being so fatigued, driving Bink to her educational program and her various therapies and doctor’s appointments, that I’d  open the windows wide to get blasts of fresh air in my lungs and slap my cheeks, bite my tongue and lips to keep myself from falling asleep. I was also diagnosed with mono somewhere in all that haze, but I soldiered on because, well, I had to. Asking for help was never my strong suit. There were many daily rituals to go through with Bink, so that she would eat, and void, and be clean enough and have her clothes on correctly.  The level of energy required to care for her well and keep up with all the paperwork that went with all the appointments, doctors, therapists, school…it took a big chunk of my mental and emotional capacities to keep all that in line. Many days felt like a marathon. I am not writing this to complain per se, rather to explain that I was in no place to write about any of it, during those years.

THE WHY NOW

That was then. The waking in the wee hours, agitated and buzzing with anxiety, gradually faded away. Medications have helped. Along the way she also learned to tolerate being alone in her room for periods of time, or in the living room in front of a video, when she couldn’t sleep. She still gets up in the night, somewhere between two and six times per, but she usually just visits the bathroom and then goes back to her bed. And so, I am relatively rested. And in the ten or fifteen years that have elapsed, even more other people have written poems, articles and books about their child with autism, and done it really well. Still, I am the only one uniquely qualified to tell you about this parallel universe, life with Bink. I think it’s time.

More to come….

 

Melinda Coppola

 

Between Faith and The Cable News

As far as I can tell, we still revolve,
this planet with people sticking out all over it,
around the sun. Seems we still burn, and tan,
and crops still turn towards something in the sky
that glows warm.
Tell me if you know otherwise.

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Art by a teenaged me

No, don’t tell me.
In a year that feels surreal,
in a time that makes it hard to praise
the abundance of good hearts, I praise you. Knowing
in the red marrow of my white bones
it’s all I can ever do.

The curtains fall on precious lives,
musty curtains that fast obscure a score of tragic
demises and all that preceded them; lifetimes of sunrises
and sunsets, love between family members, other love;
partners, friends, a cherished pet.

All these details,
brush strokes in each personal masterpiece,
which every life is, after all.
After all, erased. We forget. We can’t hold
the knowledge that the family of man and womankind is not
wholly kind, that there are deep chemical imbalances on the
planet and in our governments.
We are off kilter, scales tipped precariously,
our hope teetering between
faith and the cable news.
Do you know otherwise?

Street justice: some prefer it to the hot heavy hand
of an unjust judge who claims a blindness as a disability
of privilege, a deafness as a way not to hear.
We turn it against each other,
the judgment. We think the more we talk
the more right we are. We are many, and the many have
much to say, mouthing the words they lately
heard are right, as if to prove to an indifferent world,
Hey, I am not one of them. I am one of you.
I implore you, tell me otherwise,
if you know.

We say things.
We say things like,” Agree with this man, this woman,
this group, or I will not look you in the eye anymore,
will not work with you, will not play with you, will unfriend.”
We say and write these things
when we know in the very marrow of our white bones
this planet with people sticking out all over it,
these people on this planet are in need,
deep need, red need, these people are
in open-weeping-sore need
of more friends, more friending. More.

We feel hopeless, frightened. I am of the we,
and we are sticking out all over this weeping planet
in raw need of more.
Tell me. Otherwise, this I know:

In a praise that makes it hard to time
the abundance of good words, I can only
let them come. And I will, and I do.
I praise you.

-Melinda Coppola

Why Yoga Matters Off the Mat

yoga[1]As I prepare to return to teaching classes next month, I’ve been musing and mulling over new ways to translate the essence of the great big practice that is Yoga. My desire, when I teach, is to reach underneath what you presume Yoga is, or isn’t, and touch your curiosity about your true nature. You know what I come back to again and again, though? There is no real way to explain why your practice changes you. It just has to be experienced.

Yoga is so much more than prescribed body proddery and an opportunity to slow the heck down. The practice is like skin, stretching to adapt to the changes within as we grow and shrink, get taut and then get loose. Mostly, we choose how much we let our Yoga ripple, from that 75 minutes once or twice a week on the mat, outward to encompass moments of intensified awareness: while driving, walking, being with transition to sleep or waking.

We humans can be very good at compartmentalizing, keeping details in their place and honoring divisions between this hour and that, this person and that other one, this insight and that chosen blindness. Yoga practice can weaken the walls that we build to separate ourselves from others and from our own essence. The word Yoga actually means union, to yoke or join.  Body, mind, soul, are not strangers to each other. If we allow, Yoga takes us by the proverbial hand and leads us gently deeper into exploration of what it means to be alive as flesh imbued with something sparkly—call it Spirit or Universal Energy or God or G-d or Goddess.

This – the being alive – is so like a dance. We say yes, then no, we allow ourselves to be led, and dipped and twirled. We hesitate; back into a corner, take a break, decide a different partner will, well, change everything. We’re always dancing with some aspect of ourselves, though, so any coupling or uncoupling just gives us an opportunity to meet ourselves again and again. Yoga as a Way is continually offering up a new window, and the more we peek or study the view the more it begins to look familiar, like a spiral that appears to move outward, yet, when studied, leads in, and in, and in. There is space there, inside. Loads of it. Space and silence and, sometimes, the deepest peace you’ll ever feel.