Shelter and place

Yesterday I had the pleasure and privilege of hearing truly luminous readings from an incredible line-up of California poets: Dana Gioia, Garret Hongo, Robin Coste Lewis, Luis J. Rodriguez, David St. John, and Gail Wronsky. Cartography of Poets, a virtual poetry event presented by Visions and Voices at USC, centered around the ways history and place shape the poetic experience. The idea that writers and their work are shaped by their environments is certainly not groundbreaking — what would Henry David Thoreau be without Walden Pond? — but this event got me thinking about things in a more contemporary, more personal way.

Fires are still raging in the West. California is on fire, breaking records and breaking apart lives. Amidst this landscape, this small reflection by Dana Gioia reminded me of the beauty of our summers:

I can imagine someone who found
these fields unbearable, who climbed
the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,
cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,
wishing a few more trees for shade.
An Easterner especially, who would scorn
the meagerness of summer, the dry
twisted shapes of black elm,
scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape
August has already drained of green.
. . .
And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain—
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.

from “CALIFORNIA HILLS IN AUGUST”
by DANA GIOIA

We continue to shelter in place, and meanwhile, I am contemplating shelter and place, and the way we inhabit both those spaces. Our shelters — the homes we have been confined to and seek succor in. Our places — the solidarity of New York on 9/11, the orange glow of San Francisco’s skies, the hazy rain of ash in Los Angeles, and the ways we shape and are shaped by them. I think of how we are all nesting, all trying to make our homes work better for us — dining rooms becoming offices, offices becoming playrooms, kitchen tables becoming classrooms — and how beautiful the adaptability of the human spirit really is. The way we keep working, toiling, and finding joy in between.

I put up new lamps this week that I love. Something to bring a small joy in a small way. I think I am puttering, not doing much of import, and yet my friend exclaims over how productive I have been. And I think, well yes, I suppose I have. To shelter and find small joys is no small thing, today, yesterday, or tomorrow. I am here in this place, California sunshine streaming through my windows, and I think, I am lucky. I am of this place, I have shelter, and I am learning to find joy.

Exorcism wanted

Brugge, Belgium July 2019

Wanted:

an exorcism of the heart.

A friendly spirit has come to stay 

settled in

made me home

made me

     restless 

     ache

     long for

     wonder.



Imaginings 

haunt me daily,

while this little spirit of mine

stays on

uninvited.



Time to go,

to set me free.

I’ll always remember you fondly

even though

it would hurt less

to forget.



One exorcism

wanted. 


dusk

indigo 2020, Charla M. DelaCuadra

 

dusk

 

the slightest hammock swing 

is enough to let me touch 

the shaded velvet of the night sky encroaching so softly 

upon the world 

and my being.

the earth tucks in for slumber 

deep and tranquil 

the way I yearn for my heart to also 

be at rest.

 

how beautiful contentment looks 

from this sleepy in-between place 

full of promise and possibility. 

wistful fingers reach for it 

just beyond her grasp. 

“If only,” she whispers. 

and the first star whispers back.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

swallow it whole

vintage_portrait_eyes

swallow it whole

 

I’m not eating much

want to be thin

fragile

wanted

and yet

I want to be 

               reach 

               touch 

               have

      it all

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

 

You have my heart

found_camellia

You have my heart.
I’m not sure you wanted it,
but it sits on your desk
(in the corner)
where sometimes it catches your eye
and you remember (me) for a while.
It beats (for you)
but mostly
you don’t notice.
So easy to take
(for granted)
sitting there on the shelf,
gathering dust
over the years.
I can’t seem to ask for it back,
as much as its absence pains me,
because one day
(I hope)
you’ll realize what a
treasure
it is,
how rare and precious
a gift
it is that you have,
(there)
on your shelf,
that you mostly
can’t help but
ignore.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

Matter

acs_0190
Bleu II, Joan Miró

Matter

I could really fuck myself up over a boy like you

(and by “I could” I mean “I am”)

with that slow crooked smile,

that kindness, that quick-witted humor that makes me smile

until you shatter me with silence.

Those stupid beautiful eyes twist me up, make me ache,

make me crave/need/want

as only a book-loving writer of a boy could (and can, and does).

A constant state of yearning is de rigueur as long as you’re here

yet not here, as present/absent as a quantum reckoning.

Oh, honey — you’ve fucked me up bad and I’m off to the races,

off-kilter, off in dreamland as I wait wait wait for you to wake up,

to love me, to make me feel like I matter, am matter, am solidly a part

of that life you keep close to the vest that I so desperately want to inhabit.

Thumb is out for this hitchhiker, this will o’ the wisp black-hole-dense dreamer

who loves you and might even gift you her smile

if you would only open your eyes.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

balance point

acs_0186
Paris, 2019

 

balance point

 

In some ways you are good for me
these turning twisting wider horizons
in which I can feel myself opening
broadening, stretching,
a cat just awoken.

And yet,
it pains me to be in your world and not of it
a phantom voice without sound, only words
adrift in maybes and if-onlys
hopes dashed
feelings bruised
hands bereft
of the warmth
of you.

My heart smiles and aches.
Two sides of the coin
that is loving you
from the sidelines
of your life.

They say perspective is everything.
Perhaps I feel I am haunting your margins
but in your world
I am writ large…

And yet,
there I am
falling into the trap
of maybe,
with steel jaws to crush me
if I dare hope.

I struggle in that vicious in-between.
I am too much and not enough.
You would think I could be enough, be just right —

And yet —
I am both and nothing.

If only I were to find the fulcrum,
that razor of a balance point,
I might finally
be your perfection
writ large.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

Tuesday

sonia_delaunay_colored_rhythm
Sonia Delaunay, Colored Rhythm, 1946

 

Tuesday

 

I’d like to package up my life

all the bits that make it up

and place it on a shelf

in a white box

tied up with a golden satin ribbon —

leave it there

safe

for a while

while I try on something 

new.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

status quo

puig_tiny_figure_and_shadow
Agusti Puig, Tiny figure and shadow, mixed media on canvas, 24 x 18 in, 2017

 

today I rock the boat

ripples in a pond radiate out into my world,

effects unknown but stillness is hoped for

in a far-flung eventuality

where I receive comfort and hope

solace and acceptance

instead of giving until I am empty

pouring myself out into a mold

I have not chosen

until no longer recognize

the shape I have taken

in the name of harmony

cost unrealized until it becomes

too high to bear.

ragged and strung out are my

feelings

soul

breath

a collage I am finally able to view from above

if not with clarity, then compassion

and a small bud of resolve

to pick up the pieces

and reshape them

until the self I so long to be

blooms

even if the glue

must be my own

sinew and bone.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra