Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The neat nest

I'm neat.

As in, I put things away.

It wasn't always so. In grade school they used to call me Templeton, after the pack rat in Charlotte's Web. My mother was the inventor of the rule "there must be a clear path to the door in case of fire" which I passed on to my children. When I would drop stuff willy-nilly wherever I happened to be standing, I'd tell her I was leaving little reminders of myself. To which she replied, "you're just afraid we'll forget you if you don't leave your crap all over."

Ah, the wisdom of mothers.

Mom was not too far off-- now that I have no one I need to remind of my existence I find things go where they belong as soon as I'm done with them. It's effortless, really. Cleaning becomes actually cleaning, not just putting stuff away.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

17 + 40

I remember high school in two groups-- the wild ones and the responsible ones. Freaks and jocks.

There isn't much wildness left after 40 years, but there is satisfaction and wisdom and a kind of underlying joy at lives, if not absent disappointment or brimming with success, at least appreciated and understood. Which I suppose is what we mean by "wisdom."

I suspect that some of the wilder ones just don't do things like high school reunions, but they're missing something precious. They are missing learning, finally, that the things that bind us are more important than the things that separate us. They don't get to see, in stutters spaced 5 years apart, the girl shining out through the woman, or the gentleness in the boy's eyes that you mistook for indifference or weakness, before you learned to be wise.

Monday, October 7, 2013


Tears are like breadcrumbs
Impossible to follow
when you want to go home

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Someone else's war

The war against Iraq was launched on the eve of my son Seng Lim's 17th birthday.

He has grown to manhood while men his age trained and fought and died for an evil and illegal policy whose aim was the personal enrichment of a politically connected elite.

He never had to think about it.

Seng graduated high school, and went to college. He actually went overseas for six months.

On a cruise ship, playing piano for British vacationers while his compatriots, all men born within 5 years of him, sweltered and died in the desert heat.

I don't blame him, and I'm speechlessly thankful that I never had to worry about him dying, or losing a limb, or his intellect, or his mind. But it isn't right.

Just like in "my" war, Viet Nam, the children of the elite (that's me, and probably you as well), did not have to worry about dying overseas. And more than my war, where there at least was the fiction of the draft, he and his peers did not even have to think about it. There was literally no chance that any of them would ever pick up a gun, much less a uniform except by personal choice. As far as I know, none of them did.

I believe that this has broken our society. Young men and women should be asked, in fact should be compelled, to serve their country in uniform-- as teachers, in community service, and yes, in military service. I'm willing to bet that, like Viet Nam, if more of the college girls and boys had had to serve, fewer of all of the ones who went-- the ones without the choices or the cultural excuse to stay home-- would have died.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

You threw us away
Yours and mine now separate
Ours just midnight tears

Friday, March 29, 2013

Do not pass Go

I met Wei in college.

We actually got together in 1976 when we had just turned 20, but he pursued me for a couple of years before that, and I have a flashbulb memory of him from 1973, when we had Theater 101 together.

This was freshman year, and I was supposed to be a Theater Tech major, but the idiot registrar had assumed that costume design would be in the art department, and had put me down as a painting major. I was taking every theater class that allowed non majors so I could switch, including this survey course of famous plays.

I ended up not switching because I discovered that I really hated theater people. (Isn retrospect I realize what I hated were freshman actors. I remember them as an amorphous mass each attempting to outdo his neighbor in ironic quirkiness.)

Except I remember Wei.

I did not meet him then. I met him sophomore year, after I'd put theater behind me. He walked into Chorus and I thought oh crap the theater people are following me.

And they were, at least that one was. And he kept following me. For almost 38 years.

Until 6 weeks ago.

Two days before Valentine's Day Wei told me was leaving. No discussion, no excuses, no passing Go and collecting $200. We had not been fighting, or sharing unhappiness. He was Just. Done.

Yesterday he moved out.

And that is that. Thirty-eight years gone in six weeks. It's like having your skin peeled off layer by layer, slowly. I don't know if Wei is feeling this as well, because he won't talk to me. A very wise friend has interpreted this as a kind of emotional intelligence-- easier just to cut it off sometimes, to leave the game.

I think it could have been saved. But two people make a marriage. When one of them stops following the other, the game is over.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I wrote the first two verses when I was pregnant with Seng. It describes them perfectly.


Seng is an ocean
Deep and shallow still and moving
With shores that stretch beyond sight
And fingers that reach up the strand
And retreat
Back to deep
To the hidden large and constant universe

Nga is a sea of tall grass
With roots tangled anchored
To the ground
And stems that stretch for the golden sun
And wave and reach for
They hide the small and private things of the earth
with sound and movement and mystery

Wei is the night sky
Far and sparkling faint lights reaching down
Bright as pain at the source
Soft as mystery to the eye
There is no end
There is no start
Deep beyond imagining and twinkling patterns
Moving across life

Xan is the deep black soil
Holding roots water living things
Nurturer and shroud
Feeding crumbling and flowing
Wrapped around rocks, grass’s anchor
Ocean’s edge
As far from the night sky as dreams