Cat Calls

 

for Super Guy

4 am, the favored time for felines in this house;
to dance a catty jig across my soft belly,
scale the cliff your side-sleeping body makes
as it juts, dark and warm, one shoulder
reaching towards the ceiling which,
if I squint my sleep-eyes just so, looks
quite like a February sky.

She slides—the cat who loves you most,
the one-eared gray
with a face like Mona Lisa—she slides
gracelessly into the valley where your neck
and shoulder meet, landing
with a small thump, and you half sigh,
breath paused as if considering,
in your dream state, the wisdom of rousing
to shoo away the one
who has attached herself to your heart,
whose paws and claws have daily
and nightly worn a path
through your resistance,
laying claim to the continent of your body,
staking out the exact place
where she anchors her nose to your neck.

This is the muted drama of our lives,
a home whose floors and walls have been
downright humbled by five
felicitous four-leggeds,
a house that swirls with fur,
No matter how hard I try,
I say to guests, but truly
I have given myself up to it—the wee hour wails
and squeaks and the sure way the littlest one
dashes under the bed at the slightest
nearing footstep, and the uninvited
company in the bathroom,
where sets of big eyes
green, golden, brown,
watch my ablutions
with what feels like bemused
tolerance with –perhaps – a side of love,
thought it might be anticipation too,
‘cuz it’s always
almost dinner.

 

–Melinda Coppola

 

Seeing Through

I am so pleased to share that the poem below was published on the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review yesterday!  If  you want to see the actual page with the Editor’s choice of photo, and check out Song of Eretz Poetry Review in  general, click here:

 

Seeing Through

Melinda Coppola

In the summer, after rain,
over mint iced tea this time her weary
eyes, careless gray hair fell, heavy,
onto drooped shoulders. The blouse
so inappropriate, I thought, seeing
right through it. A woman should
wear a nice bra at least, I thought, seeing
right through.

I hadn’t wanted it, this awkward date.
She’d caught me off guard with her call.
These days I loathed forced smiles,
cheeriness that smothered the bare
truth of my life. Avoided Let’s have coffee
at all costs. Off guard.
I tried not to look again at her
tasteless I thought again bra
that wisp of a blouse on one her age
seeing through it. Right through.

Focused now on her thin lips, feeling
downright mean
I made to-do lists in my head
as she went on and on trying
to reach a point, perhaps, or find words
…died….I heard her say
murdered in his apartment. They think
my heart skipped a beat
it was a random burglary he
shame crept crimson into my selfish
was to be twenty the next day.
Her eyes bore holes into my skin, words
peeled away my feeble layers. Seeing right through.

-Melinda Coppola

Poets Notes: This piece sprung up from the surprisingly rich ground of mild depression, fertilized with distraction and the human tendency to make assumptions about others without actually entering their story.

In the old country

Albert Tromara,
my father
1926-2001

 

 

“In the old country….”, he began
and she thought,
he’s confused again, he wasn’t there…
and she remembered all
the stories he told of growing up in Roxbury,
only son of Albanian immigrants who worked hard
in the bakery, and he as a boy
worked alongside them.

On a rare afternoon off,
he’d join the others, first generation kids
from assorted old countries,
and they’d make do,
roll balls of twine
to play softball in the Boston streets.

“We worked hard, but life was simpler”…..
and she thought about how the contrasts were starker,
juxtapositions hard-angled and that now
the greatest discipline was to keep
from having too much, too many things,
to have just enough
in this land of cheap goods,
such irresistable colors
and ads all imploring
buy me! I alone shall
make your life complete!

And then her heart began to ache
and she was missing him, missing him,
and then she looked up
realized she was talking to her husband’s father,
not her own at all
for he was dead fifteen years now
and this one, this sweet
old man speaking in a thick accent
did hail from the old country,
or one of them, and
she took a deep breath,
fixed her eyes upon him
and began to listen.

 

Melinda Coppola

 

The Feather and the Leaf

 

Picture this: it was cold, and I stood among trees. Many, many trees. I looked up, and there they were. A feather and a leaf, floating through the air, not quite up or down but sideways, lifted along by some gusts of coldish wind. Could they be friends, and traveling together? I ruminated on this while formulating interview questions to ask them about their roots and their journeys, specifically this one.

Before I continue, true confession: I know the language of forks and plates and furniture and random other things considered to be not-alive. These so-called inanimates communicate clearly, and I happen to hear them and usually endeavor to fulfill their simple requests, like placement in drawers and cupboards and being allowed a good slant of afternoon sun. It’s the least I can do, given all they do for us. There are many stories there, but they must wait for another time. Stories are good at that, have you noticed?

Anyway….

I was thinking, that day among the trees, that the language of feathers and flying leaves might be beyond my reach. Oh, I feel pretty sure that if I’d studied their languages when I was young, I’d be able to bridge any communication gap now. Like so many things, though, I put away my forest fancies and my birdy songs when I was oh, so young. The bigs told me other things were more. More important, more acceptable, more real. And so, like littles everywhere, I abandoned my whimsy and denied my fairy genes.

There I go again, with the digression thing. It happens all the time; words arise that just must be written and as I honor them I lose sight of—well, in this case, I lost sight of the feather and the leaf. They disappeared around a corner, between a few big trees. Which got me to wondering if I could ask the trees if they’d seen them. Which got me to wondering if I could learn the language of trees. Which brings me here, to this writing, and gets me wondering if the Grammar Police will ticket me for starting multiple sentences with Which.

So much of life is attitude, and so much of attitude is belief, and so, so much of belief is faith. And so I, mid-life and of the flesh, stood rooted in my sturdy shoes that day in the damp woods, feeling just a tickle of breeze tingling my scapula in just those places my wings tried to sprout so long ago. There are scars, I’m pretty sure, on the spots where I ground my little back against the walls of my room, rubbing out the tips of feathers that came once, thrice, six times before they gave up. My thoracic spine is a graveyard, I realized then, and a longing arose to unearth those feathery thwarted things, to sing them back to life and learn finally and just in time how to fly. And (sorry Grammar Police), I chose right then and there to follow this desire as it leads me down a path or up a hill. I decided to let myself rise and feel a gust of coldish wind carry me and my new old wings along to the place where feathers and leaves might be friends, where we would and will play in the wind and commune a bit, and talk of many, many things.

–Melinda Coppola

My Calling

gifted cairn

From an Inky Path writing prompt “ Writers Manifesto for Hard Times”, about finding your own unique contribution to addressing the challenges of our times.

As I was finishing this, I received a call from my daughters day program informing me that a planned trip to swim at the JCC
( Jewish Community Center, for those who are unfamiliar) was aborted due to a bomb threat.

—————————————————————

My Calling

My revolution is a quiet one.
It stems from seeds planted by spirit
before I was born. It leafs
only with the good rain of compassion
that sometimes tastes like tears. It blooms
only in the rich, common human soil,
the ground trodden and tilled by millions of sisters
and brothers who have one heart that beats
in its own time, just like mine.
Just like me.

My struggle is one tiny flexed muscle,
so small and slow it is easy not to see it.
My fight is not a fight,
rather it is a realized intention
to shut up and listen,
listen with the ears of my heart,–
that waiting garden, — so
I might then sing and chant and poem
exhortations,
urge others to quiet and still
that they may hear
that they may hear
they may hear
truth.

Listen, listen”,
truth hums in time with heartbeats,
we are one we are one we are one
and what we do to each other,
we do to ourselves.
What we visit upon ourselves
we foist on others. Let it be worthy.”

And when I am all used up and
my bag of gifts is empty,
when my body gives itself
to the fire or to the earth,
when my small voice becomes
an integral part of the great OM
which is the song the Earth
hums as she spins through space,
my piece of the great revolution–
(which I hear from my heart is all of life)–
my peace will be revolutionary.
Post script let them say
let them say
She did what she came here to do,
she shut up and heard
what it was she was called to,
what she was called for,
what she was called to be,
and though it was tiny
it was her own kind of mighty,
it was her own kind of fierce.

 

–Melinda Coppola

 

 

CAThartic

Leroy and Olive, Ruby looking on

Leroy and Olive, Ruby looking on

 

“Comes a time, “ said the first cat, when you can decide to be different than you were. You can stop scratching at the window, scheming to find a way to get back OUT THERE. You can stop re-living , over and over in your head, the pleasures and perils of running free, looking for cover, trying to keep warm, prizing yourself with baby rabbits and chipmunks and mice and voles.

“You can decide. You can settle into sleeping all day in a sun patch on a soft carpet. You can spend the eve stalking the four corners of each room and pouncing on bugs and worms and little bits of leaf that found its way in from the garden. You can learn to love the predictable plate of food, half crunch and half fish-smelling soft mash. You can decide to trust the big clumsy humans who demand little, really, except a small patience and tolerance of a head scratch, a lap pat.”

The other felines looked, half-listened, began licking their paws in preparation for a preen.

“Point is,” the first cat said, “the big bright light comes every morning, and the big soft dark pushes it away every eve, and you can be new if you want to, because the old bright is over. You can decide how to be. “

 

carly-12-16-12

Carly

carly-girl

-Melinda Coppola

Welcome, Winter!

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Solstice 2016

On this, the shortest day of the year in my part of the world, I have a confession to make. I’ve been swirling, these darkening days, around and around like a pile of dry autumn leaves. Allowing myself to be picked up by the loudest winds of fear and unrest, carried this way and that, and spun around until I am dizzy. I’ve been letting this happen. And, because I know better, and because I sometimes ask others to know better, it seems appropriate to re-publish something I wrote for my Yoga students a few years back. It goes like this:

How to Welcome Winter

Listening is a dying art and science. Let’s listen to ourselves for starters. We begin to complain about the shortage of light. It is so much harder, we’ll say, to slip in the walk/the run/the gym/the sunrise Yoga, almost impossible, we’ll agree, to Get It All Done. The Holidays, someone will whisper, and you or I will nod gravely and point out the circles beneath our winter eyes. And if we pay attention we’ll hear ourselves repeat the litany of insults that Winter has hurled against us, has slid underneath our skin. It’s so cold, we’ll say to anyone who’ll hear. We’ll find new ways to explain the way the damp chill invades our very bones and how even the car groans when the key inquires about a ride to the market. The market! The lines are long, the fruit is pitiful, the prices prick our sense of decency. Damn the season. You know the one, the one where we are supposed to Joy! and Cheer! and Buy! our way to a healthy economy and happier family and friends.

Stop. Hear yourself. What is it your body needs at this time? Your mind? Your soul? We drown out the true voice within with our very human tendencies to complain and rail against what is. WHAT IS. We know, don’t we, that no amount of protest will raise the temperature, coax the daylight to linger a little longer, or stop the incessant cultural noise that exhorts us to continue on without change as if there wasn’t this season called winter. As if the natural call to slow it down, get a bit more sleep, find refuge in quiet practices….as if there was no wisdom in that.

Winter wisdom doesn’t whisper. When we listen, winter wisdom belts out it’s songs with bold baritone vibrato, sharp and clear in the frigid air. There’s a foot of snow on the ground–stay in! It gets dark earlier; go to bed earlier too! It’s cold outside-eat warm nourishing foods! I am winter, season of introspection. Go within; meditate and bear witness to those seeds sleeping under the frozen earth. They will bear fruit in their time and your worry will not hasten their germination! At least that’s what I hear winter saying, when I really listen.

You faithful Yoginis and Yogis are likely to have a more highly developed ability to tune in and really listen to physical, emotional, mental and spiritual selves. That is, after all, a huge part of our practice, isn’t it? The witnessing without rushing to judgment, the respect for natural cycles and our place within them? This season, let’s do it differently. Let’s go slow as if this is the most natural thing there is. Let’s remember that we are enough, we do enough, and that the gift of being present with ourselves and each other is truly the greatest gift there is. That’s when we can begin to pay attention to that spark of light that flickers in you, and you, and you. We recognize it because it lives within each one of us, and we are mirroring each other. It’s the great grand NAMASTE, the honoring of the divine and universal light and life force in each other that emanates from one source, call it what you will. And that, my friends, is the essence of Bhakti Yoga; our devotion, yours and mine, to what created and sustains you and me and everyone else. It’s highly personal and universal at the same time.

I think winter is a beautiful symbol for the going within that is an essential part of the process of realizing who we are and what we are here for. I also think that’s a run-on sentence, but I digress. What do you think?

Take care, stay true to what grounds you, stay well,

Melinda

 

CHASING A CHEESE BALL MOON

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December, Massachusetts

This time of year in New England, it’s pitch dark at 4:30pm. I’m working on accepting this gracefully, though I do stray from intention a few times a week into cursing-the-darkness mode.

Last Wednesday, shortly after the early blackness descended, I was navigating the narrow curves of North Street, wondering if every town, in every state/province/territory,  has one—a North Street, that is. I reminded myself to slow a bit, and breathe; trying to time the art class pickup just-so, not early as this creates distress for Bink, not late as that has its own kind of dissonance. Autism is timekeeper and taskmaster in her measured life, and thus in mine.

Pickup complete, we made our way towards home, my voice soft and even as I announced the bright seasonal lights strung across a porch, snaking ‘round a pole, or illuminating an inflatable Santa or snowman bouncing on a lawn in the evening breeze. “ Don’t care. Not pink.”, she muttered. Hmmm. Last December she would chirp excitedly, “ Colorful lights!” as we’d pass the seasonal luminary flourishes. I heaved a sullen internal sigh. I really like watching her change as she gets older, but I’m a bit deflated with this latest assessment: no pink lights, nothing to see here, folks! There are precious few pink Christmas lights, have you noticed?

BUT THEN,

we rounded a corner and there it was, an impossibly huge golden moon hanging low in the sky, fruit-like. It dangled temptingly behind tree branches, then just above the highway. “ Look”, said I, “ The moon is huge tonight.”, and she, who finds no beauty in a sky without pink, she, who is finished with a zoo in moments if there are no bunnies, pink pigs or yellow ducks, she, who shuns so many of the flora and fauna that decorate our world because “not interesting” –- that very same she exclaimed, “Cheese ball!”. The hairs on my arms stood on end under my winter coat, and my mind percolated with delight. A shared interest! Super Guy and I do try to nurture any inclination she shows towards the natural world, and we often look for common ground. He and I can be a bit passionate about the moon, but Bink has not shared that, ever.

We tried to keep the cheese ball in our sights, Bink and I, as the car slogged through the traffic that can be the bane of crowded eastern Massachusetts. The lights—Christmas ones and traffic ones and the neon signs that have settled and bred along the main route—were competing with the cheese in the most irritating way, stealing its glory.

We finally turned into the street that leads to the street that leads to our street, and the cheese floated a little higher in the sky, seemed even brighter and more golden. I pulled the car over and grabbed my iPhone, trying to capture a picture of this enormous and other-worldly orb hovering so close to our mundane street. Bink followed suit, pulling her own iPhone out of her very pink purse and taking a pic or two. Still with me, she was! More percolating, more joy tugging upward, then, at the corners of my mouth. Alas, within the limits of phone camera technology, the photos captured none of the magic. The cheese ball looked like another of the many streetlights. Damn the lighted streets! Then I caught the irony of it, having been unhappy with the darkness just an hour earlier. Had a little laugh at myself, I did.

Glancing at Bink’s face, I could see that I was losing her. She was already checking out of this rare interlude of shared excitement about something, anything. “Let’s try , I said brightly, “ to follow the cheese and see if we can get a better picture!” Taking her silence as assent, I swung the car back onto the road and we made our way through the little maze of familiar streets, keeping the cheese in sight. I drove to the darkest end of street I could find, with cheese ball leading the way. There, behind some apartments, I knew we’d find that odd field of interesting, tall, reedy things that look vaguely like cornstalks in October. Here the golden cheese ball moon stood out in stark relief against the very black sky. I parked the car and we both got out, pausing just a few seconds to enjoy the sound of wind as it moved through the wispy reedy things. I made a quick note to find out what they were formally called, these rooted instruments of the field. Bink was making a low, throaty sound which I knew to be impatience. Any moment now she’d tell me she needed the bathroom. I took a few quick iPhone shots of the cheese floating above the crispy reeds in the still-early evening sky. Not stopping to check them out, we were back inside the car and off towards home.

Home. We got to the bathroom in time ( a constant theme in our lives). The photos remained unimpressive. Bink was, umm, uninterested in them. No matter, for these are the times that sustain me; a rare delight shared by my daughter, a reminder of the humor and wonder and joy of being alive, chasing a cheese ball moon through the neighborhood on a cold, black, early night. God, I love my life.

-Melinda Coppola

 

Important Things

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Almost 8 am, a Wednesday
on a highway east
of where most live, a man
slowed his big semi
to an almost halt.

8 am attracts the big crowds
on a weekday, busy highway east
of where most live
yet west of work, and they,
trafficking in Important Stuff To Do,
lit up angry this bright morning,
forced to slow and stop behind a man
with a farting jake brake,
big rig lumbering to a crawl.

A dozen horns shrieked, indignant.
At least as many middle fingers
hopped to attention, and words
too coarse for this poem
hurtled from sneering mouths,
all that vitriol pointed towards a man
on the crisp cusp of 8 am
on a highway east
of where most live.

Crowds wild, rig halted,
fingers flying, sharp curses
thrown like spears towards
a Wednesday man at 8 am
who stole precious moments
from the angry commuters
to save the lives of seven turkeys;
two big ones and five littles,
who deigned to cross
the 8 am river of cars
driven by important people
with Such Important Things To Do.

–Melinda Coppola

Dear November

 

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Dear November,

It is a month of tributes to poetry, 30 poems in 30 days in some circles. So, being a bit amiss, Miss Construed, I write a letter instead.

You are special to me, 11th month, in your own glorious, necrotic, achingly beautiful way. I mean, each page in the book of numbers we call calendar, each page, is rich with grief and pleasure, memories of arrivals, and departures, and years of holding on tight while the New England leaves were letting go. But you hold more in your numbered boxes, 30 in all. More happy, more sad, more than some moon cycles combined. Letting go, dear month, is not as easy as the fall flora would have us think.

For starters, one tiny towheaded boy arrived to two Albanian immigrants in Roxbury, MA. It was your 28th day, year 1926. Do you remember? He came up amid hardships, I was told, the kind that I have never known. He came up against violence, I’m told. That I did feel, and see, echoed in my own book of numbers. And from that,

One grown woman, ( that would be me) who thought herself ready, pledged herself to one grown man, who seemed to need my care and want my heart. Your 4th day, year 1989. Does that tickle your memory? There was audience; most invited, like Love, though a young Fear and his wisp of a friend, Worry, also slipped in. Towheaded 1926 dressed up as balding-headed middle age and walked me down the aisle. I matched my step to his. Too fast, I noticed. I sped up anyway. And from that,

1992, your day 15, gave us a child. She was not the only pregnancy, just the only one to make it out of me alive. Did you have a hand in that, November? She was perfect, and there was joy. 1926 and 1989 seemed pleased.

Things got broken along the way. Things often do. 1926 finally learned to let go, and pieces of him became soil, and leaf, and flower. 1989 fell hard and cracked wide open. There are scars, but they are tough and fibrous and have served me well as I raise up one fascinating young woman. She has been, well, sort of dissed by this time and place. She is called dis-abled, she is dis-affiliated with what society calls normal and her very being dis-allows anyone else’s notion of what she should be. A few who claim to love her have so dis-tanced themselves from her that they have essentially dis-appeared. She, though, has dis-assembled my expectations of motherhood, sometimes in the most delightful ways. She will dis-abuse you of your understanding of how words are used, if you let her. She is dis-arming, full of surprises and an innocence that shines. She also dis-tills my meaning-of-life questions in a way my poems never quite do.

And so, November, old friend, you have grown big in my small incarnation. I celebrate you well, the way I wish we all rejoiced when someone dies because we are happy for their soul, because we know they have graduated from the toughest school there is. I salute you and bow down to you for gifting me with the ability to love beyond measure, to mourn and wail and clutch grief way too tight, and then to breathe deeply and let go like the leaves you coax to their next fertile phase, the ground growing rich under your sanguine discipline.

-Melinda Coppola