Thursday, May 3, 2018

FIDDLE SAYS



Fiddle Says

Play me.
Give me your bones and blood, your bow
so I may remember when sap ran through
me. When my tallest limbs aspired toward
heaven. And my leaves conspired with
light to spackle the forest floor with gold.
When root-weary giants leaned against their
neighbors’ groaning trunks until lightning
delivered, with a crack, its coup de gras.
Remind me how in the darkness creatures
came, cloaked in their hides, to drink at the
stream. The deer came on tiptoe, moving
as one body. Foxes shattered the night with
quick screams. And the black bear’s heavy
tread made me shudder, in case my flesh  
might be ripped by its claws. Show me
how the birds lit on my boughs and gave
me their song. How in springtime tree frogs
mimicked the voice of my heart and randy
squirrels chattered and loved, filling my
branches with play. My shape is awkward.
But tuck me under your chin. If your wrist
and elbow go numb, if your fingers cramp,
play on. A touch of pain sweetens the music.


(Words and images copyright Cathy Larson Sky, 2018)



Friday, March 16, 2018

HELPFUL HINTS FROM IRISH GIRLFRIENDS



All the following advice was offered me by Irish women when I lived in or visited in Ireland. Some bits were related aloud, others I learned by observing.
                                       
                                 ***********

When someone knocks on the door or rings the doorbell, stop everything. Quietly go peek through the side window to see if it’s the priest or someone else you’d like to make think you are not home.

Since he’s given you your lovely house and children, don’t bother to ask where the husband’s been when he doesn’t come home at night.


If he tells you what sounds like a lie, pretend you don’t notice.

If you can’t afford to stand a round, don’t go to the pub with your friends.

If you want to go along anyway, say you can’t drink because you’re not feeling well and you’re content to nurse this wee glass of lemonade.

If you are going visiting in cold weather, make sure your jumper is thick enough to hide your nipples.

If someone tells you to call at seven, don’t phone them at seven. You should show up at seven.

If you have waited for the heater repair man for 3 hours and have to pick up the kids at school and want to know if he came while you were away go ask the cashier at the shop by the foot of your street.

If you have good fortune, hide it. Begrudgers have big ears.

If someone says “it doesn’t matter” if you show up or not and you are caught in traffic and don’t show up expect that person never to speak to you again.

At a music session, if you are asked to sing a song, never say yes. Say “I couldn’t.”


Wait for a chorus of, “Sure you will. Give us a song.” If this response is half-hearted, then continue to demur. If the response escalates to “Go on. You will now. You will" say “I will give it a try” and sing.

If you want to be considered a lady, never say fuckin. Substitute feckin.  Ex: “He’s a feckin eejit” instead of “he’s a fuckin eejit.”

If someone is labeled very cute it doesn’t mean he or she is attractive. It means crafty, sneaky.

If you meet a known cute person at a pub with their drunk mates who’s acting overly friendly and tries to draw you out in conversation, do not respond. This person is trying get you to do or say things they can slag you for, sometimes when you are only steps away so you get a nice earful of it.

If you have this experience, stay composed and say to yourself “Feck you and the horse you rode in on you feckin eejit go get yourself a feckin life or better yet go feck yerself.”


                                                         

Cathy Larson Sky   03/16/2018
all photos by Cathy: 1.Grafton Street, Dublin, 1996  2. Ennis Bungalow, 1994  3. Pub sign in Ennis, 1994  4. Grafton Street, Dublin, 1996  5. Detail from St. Francis Friary, Ennis, 1996


HAPPY SAINT PATRICK'S DAY



Sunday, February 18, 2018

ABOUT ALEX, ABOUT LOVE




His name was Alex. In the 1970s I was a preschool teacher at the Narragansett Parents’ Cooperative School on the seacoast of Rhode Island. Alex needed us in a unique way. He had a congenital heart condition. His parents and his doctors couldn’t operate on his heart until he was big enough to withstand it. He was 3, going on 4.

Alex’s older brother Jess went to the primary class, upstairs, with the bigger kids. He walked with a strut, leading with his chest, arms swinging fisted at his sides. His brown hair was tight and curly, giving him the look of a bull calf. But Alex was small, pale and thin. The tiny blue veins in his forehead and wrists were visible. My co-teacher Sue and I, plus volunteer parents, took turns rocking him in the big chair in the corner of the playroom when he was drowsy from his medication or just having a down day.


“Can you take Alex for a while?”

We’d wrap him in a blanket. I spent hours watching Alex’s face as he dozed with his eyelids half-closed. His eyes were the shade of a midwinter sky, gray and soft. His pupils would move lazily as he dreamed. Was Alex flying somewhere? Love poured from me, from each of us, as we held him. No one ever said “love him.” Nobody had to.

Alex’s Mom was named Mary Ann. She had to work full time, as her husband did, to save for Alex’s surgery and his high medical bills. She trusted all of us to look after him and we did. Sometimes I babysat for Alex and Jess at their home.

This is my sketch of Alex from 1977. He always wore a too-big baseball hat and a turtleneck sweater. 

I left the Parents’ Co-op to do other things. A couple of years later I was at a convenience store and saw Jess swagger by my aisle with a bag of Doritos. Another kid was behind him, a little shorter, but with the same barrel chested, belligerent stride. The image of his brother. I blinked. Alex? 

The kid gave me a blank look. Those grey eyes. He was Alex alright. A healthy, thriving version of the wan boy I’d held in my arms for almost a year. But he didn’t recognize me. “It’s Cathy. Don’t you know me?” Alex walked on. The boys were with their father. They took their places next to him at the cashier’s line, their backs to me.

Little kids forget when they get big. Almost-6 is eons away from almost-4. The surgery had been successful. Alex was well. But I felt ripped off. Where was my reward for my part in this miracle? For all that love? 

I recall the hours I spent with my kids when they were babies, glued to the spot where they slept, never tiring of gazing at them. Maybe this utter surrender to our infants, of memorizing their scent, their sounds, every aspect of face and body is a tribal act. A claiming. We will always be able to identify them instantly, pick them out in any gathering of children. Something else seems to grow from this vigil – a protective urge that refuses to fade, long past the time that kids become adults. Love is probably the best instinct we possess. And it calls on the best in us, often demanding a lot of work to achieve its goals.

I had loved Alex. Warmth and protection radiated from me during those dedicated, daily rocking chair hours. But I hadn’t understood, as a young woman, that the ability to love is in itself a privilege. I hadn’t the wisdom to realize that the Alex-sighting at the convenience store was, in itself, my reward for the time I’d given him. And he had given me. His image seems, in this bleak February, a bittersweet reminder of the power of Love.






    ( Words and images copyright Cathy Larson Sky)


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Our Journey with Parkinson's



Early this summer I shared a poetry reading with a colleague and mentor, Pat Riviere Seel at the local library. We had a few sweet attendees, including my husband, Patrick. I had written a new love poem for him, and as I read it, I looked out at his face. It was completely blank, a strange sort of stare. I kept reading, trying not to take his expression to heart, but it wasn't until his diagnosis not long afterward, that I learned the effect is called "Parkinson's Mask."

We had known that something was wrong for a long time. Patrick's increasing muscular weakness, his fumbling over simple tasks, his depression, what did it mean? We feared it was dementia, so when the neurologist diagnosed him in July we were not unhappy. 

We drove directly to a Dunkin' Donuts and talked over coffee and honey dipped crullers, holding hands I remember saying "At least I am not going to lose you. Whatever happens, you will still be all there. You will be you." I have watched my Aunt Margaret slip away from me because of dementia; she doesn't know who I am any more, and it has broken my heart (as many of you with similar experiences will understand).

As months have gone by we have had time to make room for Parkinson's in our lives. We have been learning as the symptoms increase. Our lives are going to change. I recently reached out for help with You Caring. If you would like to lend a hand, please forward the link  PATRICK'S YOU CARING WEBSITE  to a few of your friends, particularly musicians who know Pat and me, who might be interested.

In love and friendship, Cathy













Monday, October 30, 2017

POETRY FOR SAMHAIN

The poet at Samhain
Samhain is the old Celtic name for All Hallows’ Eve, October 31st




















Dragon of my self-admiration,
the time for roaring is over.
Come with me to winter’s cave.



















If you wish, I will whisper, down
the tunnel of your hoary ear,
praise for your lavender
and bottle-green scales, 
the gyrations of your
your whipping tongue --
but you must be still.

Tame your breath, warm the small
wood creatures below the hawthorn;
observe robins courting the holly tree,
eager for red fruit to soften, mature.

























Marvel while snowflakes float
and whirl, tumble from invisible 
nets in a cobalt sky.

Listen while children sing
in bright, piping voices.

Watch as the light from
their candles threads, winking,
through the groves at midnight.







All of this will happen without you:

The trees, brown sticks in the snow,
will worship the icy silence.





The branch’s trickling song will persevere
beneath silvery panes.











Emerald mosses, soft and wet,
will cling to granite and quartz, 
spread fingers through
furrows in the damp
bark of the leaning oak
who guards the spring.







Poetry by Cathy Larson Sky from her chapbook Blue egg, my heart (Finishing Line Press, 2014) 
Paintings by the famous Sulamith Wulfing
Photos by Cathy Larson Sky, from the family land in Spruce Pine, NC.

 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

LOVE (notes from a weary heart)



I’m not good at love
But I’m not bad at it either
I show up
I try
Maybe that’s all love is


I’ve hurt people who loved me
I’ve loved people who hurt me

Love and hurt seem to

Go hand in hand





Love is hard
An ambiguous art

Where does it live in me?
I can’t find it

It’s a lost continent
Among so many warring 
Places, inside




It has something to do with the color green



And a few times I have
Felt it arrive from nowhere
Most recently,
Outside a hospital gift shop











Love is not magnificent
Like a cathedral
Which cannot be God’s Love

Because I don’t believe
Love can be that big
It seems to work small














No one knows what it is
Everyone knows what it’s not

Not hate
Not killing
Not violence

Not screaming/hitting
(We tell the sandbox kids)


Little boy playing in the sand

I want to study love

And I tell myself I do
But what is there to learn?
More like, how much is there to unlearn?










I wish love could be large
I wish it could be contagious

Like war and
Like viruses

Unstoppable


Romance, Valentine, Together, Couple


Cathy Larson Sky      September, 2017


Thursday, February 16, 2017

LANCELOT VS FIDO

Twice in my childhood I was seriously humped by dogs. Once at a family summer camp. The older girls lip-synched to “How Much is That Doggie in the Window” for Talent Night. I was given the part of The Doggie; my lines, “Ruff Ruff.” As I crawled onstage on all fours, the camp owners’ terrier, Sporty, dashed in out of nowhere and mounted me from behind, clinging and humping while I tried to scurry away.

The whole thing was a spontaneous hit. All the grownups howled.

The second time, I went with my parents for a visit to some new neighbors. We were all in the parlor having soft drinks when I heard a dog whining in the basement. René, their French Poodle, our hosts explained, wasn’t allowed to greet guests. I begged to meet their pet, not understanding their protestations. How could a French Poodle, the popular image on everyone’s swing skirt (second only to the Eiffel Tower) and the inspiration for the Poodle Cut hairdo, be a problem?


Finally the neighbors gave in and opened the basement door.  René bounded up the stairs and made a bee line for me, knocking me to the floor for some frenzied humping. While his owners scolded and tried to restrain him, I scrambled behind the sofa. René broke loose and attempted to leap over the sofa before he was caught and again exiled to the basement. René had the full poodle coiffure but his pompom ears and tail made him even more sinister.



These brief encounters, what did they mean? What was their lasting significance in my life? As I matured, and began the search for love, each Knight in my life eventually revealed his inner Fido, your basic male Homo sapiens, a pronate in search of a supinate. 


Feminism arrived, and it became normal for lovers to assume either, or both, or some variation on the classic roles and postures. But I couldn’t figure out what this acute form of attention really had to do with love. My first taste of one of life’s eternal conundrums.

What do we know that a dog doesn’t know? Aristophanes, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Woody Allen: they don’t know. But they know the question is great material. Love. Lust.

Permutations.



 Are infinite.