Harah Frost

Must Include

“The beautiful/wrong side is always listening…” Brenda Hillman

Must include in lessons 4 living…
Both beauty (though you forget and habitually
(one of 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People)
Clamp down on experience like it was a bug under
Your shoe…”clamp down” being a euphemism
For the action you take regularly and where is
The end of this (adjective) sentence? And then
Punctuation isn’t helping me to remember
(ellipsis) that I must include the quiet
Beautiful wrong side of this life period
Exclamation point) and beauty.

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Analogies for Climate Change (series)

Maybe during World War II to sit in a chair in the morning and drink coffee
meant you would also know that Nazis were around and to be dealt with.
Today and tomorrow.

And any line of text you dropped would fall onto ground about to be a literal grave.

The threat is death in three directions, avoidable and unavoidable, the war, the land, the time running out.

And your little feelings are allowed out loud for only a minute before they wither in the heat
like an ear of wheat many seeded, useful once.

Milled you will be too, composted.

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Where Is She?

And there was the half hour before the stretcher came to take me down to the procedure and I had to take a shower with special disinfectant soap and also hair. This sounds simple. Infirm, it is anything but.
I lay out towels, place one on the chair in the shower so I won’t touch flesh to unknowable plastic. I have donned a plastic sleeve that goes all the way up to my shoulder that is supposed to keep the IV in my right arm dry. It looks like a cartoon hand, something Mickey Mouse. It is practically useless. The left hand has to do everything.
I tear the soap packet with my teeth, a single serving, and then have to find a place to balance it so it doesn’t spill while I arrange the wash cloth to receive it. In the middle of massive headache, the whole shower apparatus is new to me. It sports two different knobs and two different nozzles. Thank heaven, I understand red and blue in this context.
In the midst of this project and with water running, I feel a peristaltic action, shall we say. This is good news as it has been five days. I have been preparing for 3 with prune juice, senokot, lettuce, spinach and bulk. The time has arrived.
I make it to the toilet without sitting on my gown though it has draped unhandily and is impeding both hands. I start to feel faint as my stomach heaves. I pull the cord for the nurse. The Aide appears. I say I’m light-headed. She says she will tell the nurse. I sit surprised at how forceful digestion is that it should make me faint. I am right at the edge of “I can deal with this” and “I am losing it and will fall.”
The bowel begins its work. There is a spasm in the gut and a dry heave and a panic. I can’t move because of what’s happening. Once the bowel is done, my head sort of clears as though it has taken every single system working together to get it done. Now comes the hard part.
With a wad of toilet paper in my cartoon hand, I aim toward the back-end of what I know to be me. I encounter all kinds of things. I wipe and wipe. It sticks here and sticks there. I go for more toilet paper. Strings of shit-laden toilet paper leave the body of the bowl of the toilet. Very bad. I topple almost. The plastic hand is covered with shit. I swipe the plastic hand with my left hand full of toilet paper. Shit is everywhere.
I unroll the plastic hand down my arm and throw it in the trash. I take off everything, tossing the gown in the corner. I still have no idea where or how much of myself is contaminated. I stand under the shower starkers with my right hand sticking out beyond the ring of warm water. With my left, I manage to reach the soap and apply it to all places. With both now clean hands I clear my eyes of soap and find the towel, then manage a new gown and begin to clean up floor and toilet seat. The head swims. Everything goes in the garbage.
I make my way back to bed. When someone asks how I am 15 minutes later, I tell them I am fine but there is a mess in the bathroom. (more…)

MacGuffin

In a long complicated dream, shipboard as I recall, at one point, a small, dark-haired lady with pointy chin and crisp, blue, short-sleeved, shirtwaist comes into my room and puts a playing card in the trash basket.

The dream goes on. I think nothing of it. The drama of the dream goes on. At a certain point, it is very important that we have the card. I struggle then remember that particular point earlier in my dream, so go down this hallway, through this ballroom, up these stairs, into this cabin. In a rush I dump out all the garbage of the day onto the carpet and retrieve the one playing card (six of clubs) that I saw in my dream having put it there myself, since I am the dreamer, in a blue shirtwaist.

How strange and wonderful is the mind. You’d think I would know what to do next.

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Black Dog

If I didn’t write about it, the black dog would remain hovering in the mind, alone for days, then would evaporate. In giving it company in the world, on the page, among real facts though, I distort it, the figure of it, into some portent, content, intent.
About 10pm I’d gone to lock the back door as part of going-to-bed ritual and glanced out the window of the garage door, alerted pre-consciously by some movement. The feeling was an immediate curious alertness, and an “ah this is why I came here.” A kind of kismet flashed between me and a black dog who did not look back. No portent, just a quick exultation in the strangeness of it: a black dog, coyote-shaped, with no humans around, snuffling through leaves in the gutter across the street. Though dark outside, the black of its body was denser, moving, four-legged, focused.
I stood stunned, chosen. By the time I got outside to look, there was nothing and then more nothing.

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Quote #6

“Never know whose thoughts you’re chewing.” James Joyce Ulysses p.171 (Modern Library 1934)

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Mean Girls

Plopped down in the fucking middle of the problem always. No preamble. No warning. You showed up all innocent and, like, “I’m ok. You’re ok.” Ha ha. Good luck with that.
You wanted to be part of them. Had driven/flown/walked all that way, had anticipated fun and sharing, the spark of ideas new to you, who could then respond, all alive and eager, tow-headed and about ten years old, no matter what your body says.
Only they got there first. I mean, the fact that they preceded you was the salient one, the one that you overlooked. They were a unit before you walked in asking to join. It was their territory, their sisterhood, and as we know from bee colonies, sisterhood is everything.
So go ahead. Try it again. Walk up in your white shirt with the peter-pan collar, your navy blue shorts, and your single barrette. Go ahead. No one is there to stop you.

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Quote #5

from G.K. Chesterton found in Leslie Jamison’s The Recovering (2018):

“How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it. You would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers.”

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What’s It Going To Be

The brain is so miraculous. That sentence is miraculously banal. When I think of the dreams that go on, have gone on, and of the tracks they run on, and where those tracks might be found. No, I will spare you the recounting of one or two. Couldn’t recount anything anyway since I don’t remember. Something Swedish, with balsa wood, and Jenga, and contention. And that was just one out of three full-length films I wrote and produced during the night.
The thing that astonishes is the capacity. Sometimes the credits are rolling when I wake up. When I said “Swedish” earlier, I meant not only fir trees and light snow but the whole social-democrat streetscape. Gestalt in a single still. Then I wake up and it vanishes, deleted, leaving a blank.
It’s all unreachable once I’m awake. As soon as I attach adjectives from waking life, the feeling of the dream disappears. As though it were a different language and the translation was being boycotted as inadequate, a book slammed shut by the native speaker. The fleeting memory is a page of gibberish that recedes as I grab for it. The arrogance in the conscious mind, the pre-frontal despot, is the thing that has to be swapped out. More humility is required. More submission and quietness. An active lying down and shutting up, a very concrete skill.
How does one coax the dream back when the words you use to describe what you find are lethal to it? Starts with the breath, no doubt, and the only thing I can relate it to is the tack one takes while walking the forest. That is, to look sideways, to lessen the focus not sharpen it with what you think. Lessen the focus, move the conscious mind out of the way to another quadrant. Then the forest begins to come alive with things that were right there in front of you, but you couldn’t see them. Kissed. Graced. Where the mind that “knows everything already” is laid to rest and, no harm done, the door to more worlds is opened. (more…)

Drama

I come to the page stunned by the drama of recent days, the tragedic caste I give it all which I then upend 24 hours later. The tendency is a gift and a curse, specifically a trampoline of large feelings given me by my mother, I believe, not through genes but via the habit of hers of listening to Clifton Fadiman’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on the radio station KQEO in Albuquerque. And listening also in the room was me, a little person, a little tow-headed girl scrambling in the laundry as her mother pulled the shirts from the basket to lay on the ironing board for the slow plank of the appliance back and forth, in front of our sunny glass doors.
This is the perfect emblem. She was so bored with the world (I never blame her for that), she turned to the next best thing and turned on the radio to listen to Leontyne Price do Aida or Maria Callas do Medea, wherein, I learn later, the protagonist kills her children.
What I inherit is the dislocation and distance between the exterior (which is now winter) and the interior which contains the dramaturgy and over-blown sets of The Met. Overlaying it all is a close, smokey, Freudian whiff of murder and infanticide. I often wonder why she was so attracted to that last particular opera. It’s been rumored that she made the trek from our tract house, dragging my construction worker and handsome-type stepfather, all the way downtown for a performance of it. It couldn’t have been a performance with Callas, no way. Maybe it was a movie. Rumor has never made that clear. The whole tale is a mystery and all the principals are dead. Callas. Euripides. Mom.
There were repercussions and reverberations though. What’s left in the now completed brain of the child is the constant feeling in the background of a low-level dread and anxiety. Were it to speak, it would say that meaning itself is almost here, and it’s going to hurt. (more…)