Sungawuni

Adventures of a Crazy Dog Lady


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Is Anybody Using This Chair?

“Is anybody using this chair?”
she asks, slim smooth hand
already grasping the thing
by the scruff of its neck.

Of course I am using that chair
at this table for two,
crowded against a friendly wall.
That chair supports
both past and future—
only the present sits empty.
Tony, for one, is due,
my fellow birthday-holder,
the man whose cellphone
remembered to invite me.

This intimate table’s surrounded
by forty sky-happy people I don’t know,
chattering, clattering friends in a future
I may not ever enter.

Have you watched old men or women
converse in a corner
with companions only they can see?
“We save our adulation,” I tell Spence,
“for writers whose characters stay mute—
talk to me later.”
He hands me the leash; kisses my cheek;
signals Grey Dawn to lie at my feet
and heads out the door to tomorrow.
A veil of smoke curls ‘round us both
as Tony slips into the empty seat,
the chair that nobody was using.
His phone lies embedded in hand or in groin—
I can’t tell which—re-telling his life
like a jaded journalist.
Our vaporous talk barely parts the clouds
and his glass disappears
faster than smoke.
I pay; then pace home,
Grey Dawn beside me,
nudging my knees.
“Every birthday,” I tell him,
“every birthday,
I occupy more chairs.”


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Ordinary Courage

Receiving somebody’s blog on the nature of direct action, I seem to hear the megaliths of destiny moving around to better positions. I’ve long said that ordinary courage requires witnessing and, for some, telling what was seen. As I contemplate the writing of Pale Criminal, the final book in The Falling Sky Trilogy, the mind keeps straying to drastic actions certain characters might take to deal once and for all with the psychopathy stalking their lives. Naturally. Suddenly I get it: the three stages of ordinary courage needed for the conquest of evil are witnessing, articulation and direct action.

The third level may be required of us if we are to stop idiocy like the Enbridge pipeline. Frightening idea. I realize anew how much I enjoy being alive. How much it takes to risk one’s only life for a cause.

White Birds: dreams for dancers traces the stages of courage symbolically. At first, the victim of abuse is barely even a witness: she becomes disembodied before the abusive act is fully perpetrated on her. In the second, third and fourth dreams, she moves from seeing her disembodiment to recounting her story; from telling the tale to daring to change her form. In the final dream, she moves from shape-shifting to taking the direct action that ends the evil. A warrior may not always be successful in eliminating evil, she learns, but the roles of victims and accommodator are surely insufficient.

In Broken Sleep, chronologically the first book in The Falling Sky Trilogy, Paul and Zack, reluctantly shaken out of the comfort zones of their professions, become witnesses to Jane’s story. Zack, the son of Holocaust survivors, can do no more than witness. Paul, son of a successful survivor of the Greek underground, takes action with compassion. Matt, to appearances the all-round American star of the American Dream, takes action as he sees fit — for your own good, of course. As for Jane, just as no one knows precisely what happened to her father as a POW, neither her friends nor we the readers find it easy to predict what she can or will do.

La Chiripa is all about articulation, the telling of lies that encourage the ongoing evil, and the courage it takes to tell the truth. In Guatemala, that courage is only beginning to break through what is called “El Silencio”, the silence that rules after 42 years of CIA-sponsored violence. The wonder of PIra is that somehow, in spite of — or perhaps because of — her mother’s victimization, the child is fearlessly articulate. That is why readers love her as she carries “La Violencia”, the bigger half of the book. That is also why readers love to hate Matt as he carries “El Silencio”, for in his fearless telling of his actions there is no love, no compassion, no right but his own. He’s his own private CIA, over and over again.

You see, the bad guys will always take action until their evils can stand futile. “All that is necessary for evil to take over the world is for enough good men to do nothing” — or something close to that. We must be alert to the moment when the ordinary courage of witnessing and truth-telling is no longer enough. To the hour of direct action.

Is it any wonder that the prospect of writing Pale Criminal scares the hell out of me?


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the morning after WORD

The morning after a book event, the effort required to crank up a writer’s life is simply too great. I take refuge in the simple and mundane…and single-image poetry.

 

six a.m.

At the hour of silver and gray,
before tricky color seeps into the day,
a crimson electric curve cradles the kettle,
a smile of reassurance:
shortly there will be
hot tea.
Humanity persists.


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Stranger Skies cover reveal and giveaway

My daughter, Katje van Loon, is releasing a new book in October: Stranger Skies, book 1 of The Borderlands Saga. Today is the cover reveal, so I’m helping out.

StrangerSkiesebookcoverPress

A goddess’ fall from grace leaves her on an alien world, devoid of her followers, trapped in a mortal body. Should she strive to regain her godhood or accept her mortality and find love?

Silva, Queen of Wolves, Lady of the True Woods, seeks her only friend Etan, who, along with other deities of the Council of Divinity, has gone missing for reasons unknown. Her search traps her on a world where the wolves have lost faith in her; she becomes a mortal woman whose remaining powers could brand her as a witch.

Through the chaos of war and the turmoil in her own heart, Silva can’t escape a persistent feeling: that her fall was not an accident.

Enter to win an ARC ebook!

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A Day Late–excerpt from novel I’m currently writing

Personally, I prefer to spend as few of my days as possible in Waikiki—or anywhere on Oahu, for that matter—but it was Spence’s wish to revisit the Arizona memorial and old Honolulu, if any of it was still recognisable from World War II. In those far off days, he trod these streets as a scared and very young navigator with the U.S. Navy. Of course, the place is no more familiar to him now than his grizzled muzzle would be to one of his shipmates from the Lexington, had we run into any of the old geezers at the ritualised visit to the memorial to the sunken Arizona yesterday.

The presentation proved as tedious and self-serving as my last visit to a church. Its only entertainment value was the barked instructions of the young lieutenant or whatever he was, dressed head to toe in traditional white and gold, to the women visitors to cover their bare flesh—Show some respect, Ladies! I stood off to the side with MJ, who was seething with teenaged fury as much over being told what to do with her body by some male as by the glorification of the American past pouring into her ears, wondering if allowing this smarmy version of history into our lives was really a good way to celebrate Spence’s birthday. Dion and Lili weren’t impressed, either—“I’m terminally bored,” as Lili put it. It was no surprise the kids opted to hang out at the hotel this morning while Spence and I ventured into the wilds of Waikiki, telling ourselves we were open to the new while really looking for the past.

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Fireworks

Today’s Natural News newsletter reported the recovery of the Gerson Tapes, which apparently had been missing. These recorded interviews with cancer patients by Charlotte Gerson, director of an alternative-care cancer institute safely located out of the US, reminded me of a long-ago contact with cancer in a child.

It was a heart-breaking case. The kid had been sick for years and doctors had prescribed a transplant. The issue that seemed central was the child’s right, at 16, to decide on her medical care. Socially, it looked like a battle between well-meaning parents bent on natural treatments and doctors bent on the miracles of surgery. Legally, it revealed a black truth whose revelation surely contributes to the death of idealism in lawyers: our government in paying lip service to the needs and rights of children is really most concerned with saving face. Covering its ass. If something is going to go wrong, make it the fault of parents or lawyers or doctors–not the government.

As more and more of our youth develop cancers in an increasingly toxic environment, these dreadful scenarios take place on stages still cluttered with the outmoded yet terrifying scenery of the legal rights and duties of competing professions, businesses and administrations, while before our eyes children sicken and die. The junk of western civilisation plays no small part in preventing good health.

I was so upset, I wrote a story. You may conclude, on reading it, that anyone so naive as I would have done better to avoid becoming a lawyer (or perhaps that lawyers shouldn’t write stories). Going over it today, I feel the tears pricking my eyelids again. I still believe in informed consent, for children as for anyone–the hard part is getting there with clarity and truth, love and compassion. Informed consent entails the practice of rigorous selflessness by all concerned, other than the patient.

Chrysanthemums always remind me of that.

Here is Fireworks.

“Can you get me out of here for the fireworks?” The kid interrupted my lawyer-ese in her thinned voice, throwing back the blue hospital blankets in bravado. I saw the pencil legs, a tarnished brown, and the unused bird-claw feet.

Hers was the kind of bated-breath request my eight-year-old made. Not what I expected from the blistered mouth of this yellow scrawn of a girl. “The Symphony of Fire?”
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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly-wugly Worthday

Tomorrow’s another birthday, likely to be spent in a state of moderate terror triggered by a single expression caught on the face of an ultrasound technician yesterday.

Normally, I like my birthday. It was always the last or second-last day of school, which meant it came with a built-in sense of joy and release for all participants but not quite too late in the year to secure an adequate number of guests for a party. As the possibility of partying became occluded with adult issues, like sick elders, kids’ graduations, or transitions like moving and traveling, I salvaged that day as Mine, All Mine–one day a year to spend as it pleases me and no one else. On the whole, people respond favorably to that claim–after all, who doesn’t need at least one day a year to please oneself?

Thus the past couple of dozen personal anniversaries have compensated for lack of festivity by being Splendidly Useful, days at whose ends I am once again on the right side of that adage, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Along with a generous snort of a precious liqueur like Mangalore or Ginger of the Indies at the close of My Day, I take a deep breath of courage for the next year, grateful for another chance to become who I ought to be. The Dutch housekeeper in me is mollified once more. Birthdays have become worth-days.

The last day of my sixty-third year could be an ugly-wugly one. It could, for that matter, be the last one. There lies my life, waiting to be Examined by the ultrasound of my intuition, blinking back tears of dread as it senses the look on my face while I wield the new and improved version of that instrument.

Last year’s cancer tinkered with my intuition machinery, showing me many more layers of knowing than I had guessed existed in the human psyche. What a shock to realise that the organism already knows everything! You are your own Ouija Board–ask only the questions whose answers you can face.

Maybe I mis-read the expression on the face of that ultrasound technician. On the other hand, she didn’t respond to my question about whether she was looking at the pancreas (Pancreatic cancer, I gather, is almost as quick a final solution as a firing squad). And then she decided to “do” the kidneys.

Oh, scheize…. The kids start howling the minute she asks me to turn onto one side. The pain is only a faint echo of what they endured during their ugly time, the years of domestic terror when Rescue Remedy must never be out of reach. That unique pain would kick me in the back so hard, I’d have to pull over, administer the RR, and just wait and breathe until my vision was no longer red-limned and the ears no longer crackled like a forest fire.

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